Anne Rulo: Speaking Events

As promised, here’s the follow-up to when I shared about marriage speaking events with my husband. And, speaking of my husband, I would like to take this opportunity to officially blame him for all this. I had no intention of speaking in my career. But, then he started doing it and sucked me in. He’s that kind of guy, always visioneering for others, and, before you know it, you’re doing things you never thought you would. Fair warning, if you ever meet him he’ll likely try to talk you into dreaming bigger.

My Journey To Speaking Professionally

Okay, with that caveat in place, I wanted to share where this adventure of speaking has brought me. As a backdrop, my formal training is as a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. My grown-up jobs have been in the Division of Youth Services, working with adjudicated youth with tough backgrounds, and in the Wellness Center at Westminster College, working with college students on whatever difficulties brought them in. Additionally, I have been in some sort of lay ministry for 20+ years either through Young Life, FCA, the local church, or by association through my husband’s role as a teacher and coach.

Anne Rulo Speaking

Speaking Topic: Suicide Prevention

I speak on two mental health topics most frequently, the first being suicide prevention. I kind of stumbled into this at Westminster College when I became a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) trainer. That certification allowed me to speak with students and staff each semester on suicide prevention. Fast forward and I have now taken those frequent engagements, my own training and experience as a therapist, and years working with young people to speak with educators and students 6th-12th grade about this difficult topic. The feedback I get most often is that this training helps people understand suicide/suicidal persons in a more compassionate way and feel better equipped to know what to do/how to respond if they find themselves or someone else in a mental health crisis. Click here to bring this presentation to your group or school.

Speaking Topic: Burnout Recovery & Prevention

While this is a topic I speak on frequently as well, it has developed more recently. The Covid-19 pandemic, the prevalence of hustle culture, and 24/7 digital access have created a uniquely intense environment for burnout. And while the overall concept is applicable to all, the primary audiences I speak with are teachers and administrators. The impact of these factors on those in helping professions such as teaching is particularly profound. When I meet with teachers and administrators we explore the concept of burnout, how elements of our education system tend to lend themselves to burnout patterns, and how both individuals and the system can operate in different ways to promote wellness and recovery. Click here to bring this presentation to your group or school.

Speaking Topic: Women’s Events/A la Carte

There’s no succinct way to describe this last section so, I’ll borrow a concept from the restaurant industry and label it a la carte. In addition to the two subjects above, I typically speak several times each year at women’s events or non-profit organizations. These events range from the intersection of faith and mental health, motherhood/parenting, women’s faith topics, grief, creativity, etc. And while these may vary in title, anywhere I speak I carry a torch for living your experience with vulnerability, authenticity, bravery, self-compassion, and connection with others. Click here if you are interested in chatting with me about this type of speaking engagement for your group or organization.

To close, while speaking was not on my personal agenda for my career, it has been such a blessing for me and, hopefully, those I am able to share with. I am grateful when people gain knowledge through these experiences, but especially when that knowledge translates into bigger and better compassion for oneself and others. Click here to explore any of my or my husband’s speaking topics, testimonials, or to listen to podcasts that will give you a sense of the kind of humor and approach we bring.

Tim & Anne Rulo: Marriage Event Speakers

I’ve been writing and speaking for quite a few years. In that time, sometimes I get to talk about fun stuff and, sometimes it’s about tough stuff. But, today is a first because while the topic itself isn’t difficult, the angle is. I’m talking about myself, my husband, and what we do as a job sometimes. And, while people in the biz will say “it’s not self-promotion, it’s offering your gifts” until the cows come home, I expect I’ll still always feel a bit awkward about it. So, here we go, bring on the cows.

Tim Anne Rulo Marriage Event Speakers

Top 5 Things My Husband and I Love About Marriage Events

  1. We get to talk about how we got started. By this, I mean we get to talk about how, over a decade ago, a couple who was supposed to lead an FCA Coaches Marriage Event event had to back out of a Sunday morning session. In a moment of complete naive compulsion, we went up to the director and said, “Hey, he’s a coach and I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist. Want us to fill in?” That next morning, we gave our first talk/comedy routine and we were hooked. We really enjoyed caring for others in this way.

  2. Our bent toward vulnerability is welcome. I don’t know why, but Tim and I don’t seem to have many airs. I don’t say this to be prideful, I say it to tell you that I am the kind of girl who owns what she’s not good at (i.e. cooking) and, as a couple, we regularly wear sweatpants to the store. Personality-wise, this seems to translate as marriage speakers who are real about how awesome marriage can be and how messy it can be sometimes too. At the end of one of our talks a few years ago, a man came up to us and asked if either of us were “in recovery.” If you know anything about the addiction community, this was a huge compliment. He had asked because we were so vulnerable.

  3. We are qualified. Ooh, that was hard to type (can you hear the cows?) but, it is true. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and my husband is a coach. And, while that makes us particularly relevant to coaching families and organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, we have also presented at several churches. We know what it means to have a marriage under pressure, to actively work on the quality of our marriage and communication, and I have the training/theory/education undergirding what we share.

  4. We are funny, apparently. I don’t necessarily get why we are funny but, I will tell you that people laugh quite a bit at our events. I’m fairly sure they are laughing with us. Maybe sometimes they are laughing at us. No matter, you can rest assured that when we speak we come with humility, ridiculous personal examples of marriage mishaps, and in-the-moment pivots for situations like that one time when I busted myself in the teeth with a microphone and the other time I fell off the stage (true stories).

  5. We aren’t afraid of the awkward stuff. We talk about struggles, we talk about arguments and apologies, we talk about sex, and in faith-based spaces, we even do a little chitty-chat-chat about the concept of submission without anyone in the room imploding. We answer questions in real-time and hope no one films it for YouTube. Marriage is sacred and has sacred hard questions. We always hope to hold space for that.

So, there you go people. I have self-promoted myself and my hubby because our 2023 calendar is filling up and, as awkward as it is to talk about ourselves, we really do love to love on couples. If you are interested in chatting with us about coming to your town, church, or organization for a night, overnight, or weekend, we’d love to hear from you. Click here for the link to our speaking info/contact info.

PS – If you are interested in what I speak about on my own (i.e. faith, mental health, the intersection between the two, suicide prevention, educator burnout prevention, etc.) tune right back in here next Thursday. The cows and I will be back with more information.

Do We Respond to Mistakes with Compassion?

I get a big kick out of noticing something new-to-me in the Bible. And, it really makes me smile when it comes out of something I’ve heard, read, or even seen depicted countless times. This phenomenon of the “living word” (Heb. 4:12) is both fascinating and a great encouragement to keep reading and studying because you never know when something is going to take on a new light.

To begin, let’s check out this familiar story:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” ~ Luke 15:3-7 (NIV)

The ninety-nine. It’s a story many of us are familiar with. The whole idea that Jesus would take off into the wilderness to recover that one lost sheep is something that has comforted generations of Christians who were all at some point “the one.” However, while the story of Jesus going after the sheep is fantastic, it wasn’t until now that I noticed the way He chose to bring the sheep back…

…joyfully on His shoulders.

  • Not yelling at the sheep for wandering off.
  • Not forcing the sheep to walk as penance.
  • Not mentally whipping her for being so stupid.
  • Not with sarcasm as an escort.
  • Not with harsh consequences so “maybe she’d learn her lesson.”
  • Not withdrawing His affection.

…joyfully on His shoulders.

Anne Rulo Do We Respond to Mistakes with Compassion

I don’t know how this strikes you today. One obvious application is to consider our attitude toward others who have wandered. Those for whom perhaps we’ve gone out of our way in terms of effort, energy, or resources to try to bring them back to safety. Like maybe your kid, maybe a sibling, maybe a friend, maybe…whomever.

But, in addition to applying Jesus’s example of grace and mercy for others, I want you to consider one other person as well.

You.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I know this is being read by people who readily dole out grace and mercy to others in spades. But to yourself? That’s harder.

  • Because we get so mad at ourselves for wandering off again.
  • Or treat ourselves poorly to “make up” for yet another mistake.
  • Let our minds pile up with critical words.
  • Mock ourselves with internal sarcasm.
  • Or withdraw hope and affection because, somehow, we still think it’s our job to fix ourselves.

My dear fellow human, may this bring you freedom today. In Jesus’s own words, He told us His wandering sheep are not only valuable enough to chase after but precious enough to carry “joyfully on His shoulders.” You are no more meant to save yourself now than the first day He carried you home.

No matter what may be struggling with, I hope it is from atop His broad, capable shoulders. It’s the only way we are ever supposed to get there.

Enjoy the ride and feel His joy.

Anne writes and speaks regularly about living out authentic faith with compassion. Check out more writing in her blog or her speaking here.

Photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash, used with permission

Start Slowly

Writing over at The Glorious Table about the value of starting slowly when it comes to new habits or difficult environments. Also, truly enjoyed this opportunity to share one of my all-time favorite memories with my Mom. Read on for a preview below or link to the full post here.

When I was fifteen years old, I received a rather unconventional—not to mention memorable—driving lesson from my mom. That winter, we’d had a stretch of bad weather, and everything was covered in snow and ice. But after the main roads were cleared, Mom drove me up to our local high school parking lot. Because I went to a really big high school, the parking lot was also really big. Even so, for a fifteen-year-old who had only been driving on a permit for a few months, it still seemed a bit intimidating.

Once we arrived, she stopped somewhere in the middle, and we crunched our way around the car to switch seats. Once I was in the driver’s seat, she told me I was going to spend some time in this environment to learn how to drive safely in winter weather.

Um, OK, Mom. Let’s be reckless on purpose. What could possibly happen?

Anne Rulo Start Slowly The Glorious Table

Well, as much as it may seem like I am building up to some disastrous scene, this whole adventure was an absolute blast for me and a big parenting victory for Mom. I didn’t crash into any of the light poles, the outer walls of my high school remained unscathed, and not a single scratch or dent ended up on the vehicle. Instead, what I gained were memories of laughing and hollering with her as she taught me how to get a donut started and how to straighten it out, how to build up enough speed to skid and then allow the car to slow down without slamming on the brakes, and how to do a “slick check” after starting, rather than assuming I knew what the conditions would be. I took away valuable information from that one unconventional day of training with my mom.

I share all of this to say that while a donut or skid is certainly possible while driving in the snow, one of the most important lessons I learned that day was not about stopping. It was about starting. It’s the awareness that getting going is sometimes the hardest part when conditions are difficult. And while this is true of cars, it can also be true of people. The way we start can determine how, or even if, we get going at all.

Why Starting Slowly Is Sometimes the Best Way Forward

In this first part of the year, so many of us put our minds (and efforts) toward starting anew. Maybe it’s a health goal or a financial one. Maybe we’ve started a new reading habit or prayer routine. Regardless, whatever you’ve started, you may have found that when you’re making a difficult change, starting out quickly doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere. Instead, you just feel like you’re spinning your wheels. What gives?

I don’t mean to over-spiritualize the beginnings of change. And yet, so many of the difficult changes God brought about in Scripture were not instant. They were gradual. They were realized after years of people waiting and being faithful. And, maybe, the most important realization is that this was purposeful. God did not ignore the pleas of his people to “hurry up” because he’s mean, busy, or dismissive. He allows things to take time, sometimes a long time, because he knows it’s in the waiting, in the patience, in the perseverance, that we truly grow.

To finish the full post link here.

One Word 2023

I know it’s kinda’ trendy but no matter, I’ve been intentionally picking a “one word” for a few years now. In truth, I really enjoy the process on the front end. And, I also enjoy seeing how it plays out on the back end. Here’s how it’s gone so far:

(2019) Kindness. I believe this was my first one. And, I think I chose it because my kids were 7 and 4, kinda’ driving me bonkers.

(2020) Enjoy. The irony of seeing this printed on my desk throughout the pandemic was obvious. Also, it fit. I don’t know if ever before or ever since we will have the chance to pause and enjoy one another as we did that year.

(2021) I have no idea. I’m telling you this because I’m continuing to work on perfectionism and it is humbling that I can’t remember. We moved. We survived. I’m counting that as a win.

(2022) Simplify. I’ve learned that picking a “one word” and applying it takes practice, just like anything else. Last year was the first time I actually took action steps, intentionally “simplifying” what I gave my energy to and how many things I allowed myself to consider “doable” in a day. It was wonderful and effective. That is until I forgot for a bit this fall and overbooked myself. Oh well, I’m glad for the guidance at least most of the year.

Anne Rulo One Word 2023

So, now for 2023. I’m often amused by this process of discernment. To start, I try to buckle down, pray, concentrate, etc. Sometimes this yields fruit. Sometimes, nothing. This year, it was definitely nothing. So, I gave up for a while. When I tried again, it just felt like an echo chamber of last year’s “simplify”, as though I were reading a mental thesaurus. So, I gave up again. I share this to emphasize this is not always a quick process.

Finally, the other day, I heard a phrase that I know wasn’t me because I definitely thought the “word” would be far more sophisticated. Instead, this little phrase came through loud and clear, “Chill out.”

Chill out. How about that? But, as soon as I heard it, I knew it made sense. I thought a bit longer, and now, it’s narrowed down all the way.

For 2023, my one word is “free.” Ahhh.

The reason I say this fits is that, after years of change, it seems our family is hopefully in a place we will stay for a while. But, the years leading up to this were hard for this typically unanxious and confident gal, leaving me more internally skittish than I used to be. I’ve prayed to be “free” of this more times than I can count. To that end, this year’s word feels less like my own declaration and more like a gift. One I am so very happy to receive.

Of course, I can’t predict how “free” will play out. Goodness knows, I learned that lesson when “enjoy” came along. But, I do know that it feels like love and permission from God to “chill out.” There really are so few things that are worth getting worked up about. Life is often so much more simple than we make it out to be. And, we really can be free of so many things that rent space in our heads, try to weigh us down, and keep us afraid.

Free. I love it. In fact, I’ve gone ahead and started using it and I’m really enjoying it.

For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor. 3:17

Blessings to you all in 2023.

One of the Best Gifts I Can Give My Children is Other People

The other day I found myself watching a bunch of children take part in a celebratory dance party. There were balloons, glow sticks, loud, crazy music, and loud, crazy children. Because that’s what kids are supposed to do sometimes. Be loud and silly. And, as you can see from this failed attempt to get a still shot of my daughter, she was having the time of her life.

So, how did I find myself at a loud, crazy dance party with tiny humans? Well, I’ll tell you.

Anne Rulo One of the Best Gifts I Give My Children is Other People

Last summer, I did a quick search for “local children’s theater.” It quickly turned up Itsy Bitsy Broadway, a local theater program for “young performers and young audiences.” Sign-ups for the fall production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe were open. As I had been looking for an outlet for my creative, free-spirited, theatrical daughter, I signed her up immediately. We were both pretty excited.

Our first time at the theater was the fall open house. There were snacks and drinks, plenty of stuff to play with, and memorabilia from past productions. After a few minutes, the director entered the room. It took me about 2.5 seconds to recognize I had made exactly the right choice.

This gal was all things I am not. She came in exactly as you might think a theater-loving person would. Loud, demonstrative, and speaking with great expression in a slightly British accent. She welcomed us and then led the kids off for a tour. I followed behind quietly.

Quickly, they all disappeared backstage. I could hear them going through the green room, dressing rooms, and then walking behind the permanent set. As the director still had her microphone on, I heard her say something about going through an on-stage door to get out. Then there was some rattling, a little laughter, and the director with fantastic fake distress, “Oh no! The door is locked. Yell for help! Yell for help with drama!”

I smiled.

I’ve never encouraged my kids to do anything “with drama.” But, that’s exactly what my expressive, creative daughter needs sometimes.

Other People Are Essential to Our Children’s Development

You know, when my kids were younger, being around women like this made me question things. As an introverted, less “playful” Mama, I wondered if I was not “enough” somehow. I would see the way other Moms enjoyed their kids that seemed so different from my own experience. I mean, aren’t Moms of small kids supposed to really like kids? I liked mine, but I was far from the stereotypical “kid person.” Truth be told, I still am.

Years later, that old question of my “enoughness” still tries to pop up sometimes. But, now, it gets batted down by the truth of what I’ve experienced as I’ve embraced the gift of other people in my children’s lives. Instead of feeling inadequate, I am now grateful for the Moms who have my daughter over, sending her home loaded down with crafts. Instead of feeling like a stick in the mud, I love to watch my kids with their teachers and coaches as they play, making silly voices and faces. And, instead of thinking I have little purpose sitting quietly in the back of a children’s theater dance party, I am intentionally creating a mental reel of images, watching my daughter dance her heart out with her new friends.

To my fellow Mamas who sometimes fall prey to this same question, “Should I be everything my kid needs?” Our answer should be a firm and confident, “No.” The talents and gifts of those around us are not a threat to our value. Rather, they are simply additional lights, brightening the runway our children are traveling before someday, they take off. Frankly, I want every one of them lit so they can see best where to go.

That day in the theater, when my daughter finally tired from all the dancing, she knew exactly where to find me. In the back, sitting quietly, ready to welcome her when she was ready. She climbed in my lap, sighed, and said, “Mom, this was so much fun.”

I am so grateful, sweetheart. Please go, spread your big creative wings, I’ll be right here watching.

PS – In this same vein, here is a poem I wrote years ago. Thanks to all those in the village helping raise my kiddos. I am grateful for you.

For more poetry from Anne link here.

Anne speaks and writes about motherhood often. For more on her speaking link here.

James’ Encouragement to Us: Leave Distraction and Cultivate Faithfulness

I have the incredible privilege today to share one of the days of my James devotional study, When Faith Does, in Christianity Today! I have included a brief preview below or you can link to the full post here.

“Distraction, maybe even more than rebellion, is often what gets in the way of us living out our faith.” ~ Anne Rulo

James' Encouragement to Us: Leave Distraction and Cultivate Faithfulness Anne Rulo Christianity Today

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:22-27)

Maybe it’s just my personality, but the Bible makes me laugh sometimes. Occasionally these giggles come from the text, like when the disciple John competitively points out after the Resurrection that he “outran Peter and reached [Jesus’s] tomb first.” Other times it’s from how the words reflect my own special brand of ridiculousness. Today would be the latter.

I don’t have to look far to see how I recently lived out verses 23 and 24 as “someone who looks at his face in a mirror and…immediately forgets what he looks like.” Except my example was with my husband. Yesterday, I looked him straight in the face while he told me exactly two things to remember. Ten minutes later I sent this text: “I have no idea what you told me before you left.” While I’d like to claim this was an exception, it wasn’t. Like many of us, I often live in an unfocused, rushed, distracted state.

To read this full post, link here.

Link to When Faith Does or my other studies here!

Christmas Plus One

Writing over at The Glorious Table with a special “Christmas commissioning.” Please see the preview below or link to the full post here.

I come from a really big family. With my Mom as one of eight children and my Dad as one of five, every Christmas I knew as a child was filled with more people than I could usually see in one room. Now, years later, we don’t have quite as many people, but between myself and my sisters, there are still seven adults, nine children aged ten and under, and several others who are in and out throughout our days together. Whether Christmas past or Christmas present, each holiday is full, loud, and a little chaotic, but always full of love and lots of people.

I share this because, at some point during the pandemic, there was a time when our larger family couldn’t gather. Granted, this was for Thanksgiving, but the same experience applied. I had never known a major holiday when I would not be with the extended group of people I loved. An hour and a half from my childhood home, for the first time ever, I contemplated what a “small” gathering would look like. Of course, I was grateful for our safe, healthy little group of four, but it was strange to consider what it would look like to manage the meal, make memories, and be without my extended family.

A day or two shy of this particular Thanksgiving, a friend who lived nearby called me. She said she knew I was unable to be with my family, she and her family had talked, and they would love to welcome us to their family’s Thanksgiving if we could come. As she talked, my internal experience was mixed. I was grateful for the invitation, but I was still sad to be missing my own family. Ultimately, I said yes, asked what I could bring to contribute to the meal, and that was that.

On that Thanksgiving Day, my friend’s family included us in everything. This was not just showing up at mealtime and leaving after. Instead, we were invited to arrive at any point, join in the preparation of the food and fellowship, and hang out afterward. In addition to burning the one dish I brought to contribute (good grief), I remember being sad and missing my family but being grateful that someone else asked me to be a part of theirs. I think because I’d never “needed” a family, being invited to share someone else’s gave me perspective and gratitude I’d never had before.

Anne Rulo The Glorious Table Christmas Plus One

Here is what that experience brings me to. What if, from this point forward, we prayed about what it might look like to have “Christmas plus one?” I realize this would look different for each family (and it doesn’t have to look perfect!), but I think there might be a great blessing both for us and for whomever our “plus one” might be. Maybe it’s a family member, but one who is older and in a nursing home and would love to join us for a few hours. Maybe it’s a neighbor who doesn’t have family in town, or family at all. Maybe our plus one can’t come for the entire experience but would love a warm meal and some memories with folks who want them there. Maybe it’s a coworker who is pulling a holiday shift and can’t travel to their own family but could make it in time to open presents with yours.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve all got a “plus one” we can invite to be a part of things some way, somehow.

To read the end of this post, link to The Glorious Table here.

The Modern Challenge to Set Boundaries Around Work

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a group of teachers about burnout. They (and I suspect many people who follow me here) tend to be caretakers. Empaths. Those who are the doers of tasks and providers of support not only at home but at work as well.

Many of us (no matter how much we try not to) find quite a bit of our identity in how hard we work or how much we’ve given. Of course, done in a healthy way, this is how we honor the gifts and talents God has given us. But, as with anything, our greatest strengths can all too easily tip over into weakness, resulting in a slow-developing state of burnout.

Anne Rulo Modern Challenge Boundaries Around Work

One of the major contributors to modern burnout is the ever-increasing reduction in social or natural boundaries around work, paired with the difficulty of enforcing them. Depending on how far back we think, there used to be boundaries around work that were hard to avoid. Pre-social media, our only interaction with work could be an email or phone call. Pre-cell phones, we had to fire up our desktops or be near a landline. Pre-internet, our only interaction could be a phone call. Pre-phones, we couldn’t be contacted until we returned to work the next day. And, pre-electricity, we had to stop our frenzied pace once the sun went down.

Can you imagine what it would be like if life set a limit on work, instead of us having to do so? Because the sneaky truth is, the effort to enforce the boundary can be as exhausting as any other part of it.

My fellow empaths, givers, and service providers (who also tend to be people pleasers 😉) we have to figure out how and where to set boundaries around work. And, maybe even more importantly, we have to come to peace with doing so. There may be an initial tension when we set a boundary. But, over time, we will eventually begin to reap its rewards and come to the very freeing conclusion that our perpetual work and availability were not what allowed the world to continue spinning.

In short, you are both more and less important than you think. When we let the former exist with the latter, we will finally be able to set the boundaries around work that honors the natural rhythm meant for our humanity. Rest on.

Handling Our Stories with Grace

As a therapist, I cannot share what a client tells me without written consent. Over the years, this confidentiality has allowed me to hear incredible, unspoken pieces of people’s stories. I know much of why they came was because I was legally “safe.” But, being the person who received that kind of information was always a privilege.

As Thanksgiving approaches, and we will be around dinner tables potentially sharing our opinions, these stories have been on my mind. Stories of babies not raised, devastating addictions, difficult marriages, promiscuous or dangerous years, suicide attempts, records they hope no one ever looks up, jobs lost, people hurt, behaviors they are ashamed of, secrets held, lives once lived…or lives they still do.

Anne Rulo Season Handle Conversations with Grace Stories

What I wanted to share is that people who carry shame don’t always look like it. They look like our next-door neighbor, the person in front of us in the carpool, the uncle across the dinner table, or the friend we made at work. And, they are listening. They are listening for opinions spoken as facts, criticisms of groups or people or behaviors, dislike, or even hatred for “other”, a lack of compassion for choices other than our own. And, they are trying to figure out who they can trust.

I know that receiving vulnerable stories is not everyone’s role. But, what I also know is that statistically, if someone is looking to connect, share, or possibly heal, they usually don’t seek out a professional first—they seek out a friend or family member.

If we want people to come to us with their stories, we have to make ourselves safe receptacles. This does not mean being opinionless, but it does mean being “clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12) so that people know they can come to us and experience love. After all, we are called to give out what we have so lavishly received for our own “stories.”

This holiday season may we remember it is so important to season our conversations with grace. Because we never know whose story is in the room, may we clothe ourselves with compassion and grasp the privilege it is to earn the right to hear someone’s journey.