The Conversation Connection

As my husband and I sat in a local coffee shop, we began a conversation with a young business man. The emblem on his shirt causing us to wonder what his line of work was. Just one, simple, inquisitive question opened the door for a fascinating conversation in which we learned that he was a financial planner who loved Jesus and used his line of work to represent Christ to those in his sphere of influence. A friendly conversation took off from there as we sat on common spiritual ground.

His passion rose to the surface as he expressed that he had been coming to the realization that often what we desire comes to fruition as we connect and have community with others. As we minister to others, we not only meet their need; but somehow in the process of giving, our own desires are met as well.

Stepping into the conversation

This has been a season of giving for me as I seek to live presently and fully out of each opportunity that God brings my way. I am learning to tune-in and hear beyond what people are saying on the surface. This closer look brings me to a place of discerning what people’s deeper issues and often real needs are. Most often the root concerns are left hidden in what is unspoken.

I know that I can’t meet everyone’s needs; but I believe that showing a genuine gesture of kindness or stopping to listen can be a start in ministering to them in the broken places of their lives.

I often ask myself; “Am I so wrapped up in my own concerns that I don’t consciously look beyond myself to see the needs of others?” “Do I guard my personal time so closely that I become stingy, self-centered and protective of what I consider to be mine?”

The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Philippians:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.

Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests,

but also to the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:3-5

Starting the conversation

“I’m just not a good conversation starter!” I have often used this as my excuse to stay comfortable in my own-little-world; but the more I learn to embrace and live out of my own authenticity, the more I feel that I have something to offer others.  

In living out of my uniqueness, I can enter a conversation out of who I am and not worry about trying to present myself in a certain light.

As I enter the life of someone else through a conversation or a kindness, I find that the blessing is two-fold. I am blessed in the giving and they are blessed in the receiving.

Everyone likes to be noticed and kindness goes a long way in viewing others through the eyes of Christ! Evoking a conversation on top of that is often a bright-spot in their day!

After expressing to a friend how timid I felt at starting conversations, he told me; “Just be inquisitive! What strikes you as interesting about the other person? Ask them about it.”

Creating conversation opportunities 

Sometimes a meaningful conversation will start in areas that we often consider to be mundane.

  • A genuine smile is a great conversation starter!
  • Holding a door open and wishing someone a blessed day.
  • Stopping to acknowledge someone’s pet.
  • Drawing attention to something unique a person is wearing.
  • Asking about a book they are reading.
  • Finding a common ground of interests. (children, a hobby, education, health, a job, decorating, spiritual growth, food etc.) 

Creating common interests 

Not being a natural conversation starter, I often rely on areas of personal interest to get the conversation going. Lately for me, this has been essential oils, healthy eating, noticing that the other person has lived with chronic pain, or discovering what book the other person has just read.

Designing and creating unique handbags from leather is also a passion of mine.  I have always liked to sew and re-create things from reclaimed fabrics. When I see someone with a leather journal, an interesting leather pouch, leather earrings or a unique leather coat; I am instantly drawn in and feel like I have something in common with them. This has often become a conversation starter for me.

  • What are your interests, hobbies, life experiences or dreams? Look for ways to use them in starting a conversation with others.

Conversing Christ through our actions

“Not every acknowledgement will yield a fruitful conversation

But every genuine act of kindness will minister –

Even without a word being spoken.”

 Linda Jane Dingeldein: Different by Design

 

Asking the hard questions

  • What is one tangible step I can take today to reflect the love of Christ?
  • How can I intentionally minister to someone who has a physical need?
  • Am I willing to risk leaving my comfort zone to touch the life of someone who is suffering? How?
  • Is there someone I feel compelled to walk along side of through a hard situation?
  • Am I too wrapped up in my own troubles that I have become oblivious to the true needs of others? If so, how can this change?

So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.

Matthew 7:12

As I think of living each day purposefully in God’s presence, I am much more conscious that I must set myself aside and intentionally consider others. Whether it be a verbal conversation, a listening ear, a simple act of kindness or journeying alongside of someone who is struggling; this is the way of Christ.  

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:1-3

Let’s take time to reflect

  • How might we intentionally step into the journey of someone else’s life today?
  • How might we make the effort to enter into a caring conversation with someone else this week?
  • How might we choose to reflect the love of Christ with a simple act of kindness?

It is my prayer today; that each intentional act of mercy extended towards others, will bring them one step closer to understanding the love of Christ. 

May the Truth of God’s Word break through a life-time of captivity and offer liberation to free hearts that are bound in sin and deception.

May we risk, entering a place where suffering dwells; giving of ourselves for the long-haul. Not a momentary fix; but an offering up, a pouring out of ourselves to enter a place of deep grieving. A place where we leave self behind and live fully-present as we think of the needs of others.

The question is…

How will we make the effort to offer up our unique selves to be the hands and feet of Jesus today?

Prayer Response:

God, right now I have a lot of my own needs to work through; but I long to touch others with the love of Christ. Help me to see beyond the place where I am at and to lift my eyes to the hurts, problems and pain of others. Show me what I can do to make a difference in someone else’s life today.

I know, that it is in giving to others that I will receive a fresh joy to walk my own personal journey. Open my eyes to see the needs of others around me. Give me the courage to risk and step towards them with compassion and love. May I minister to them in a way that encourages them by becoming the hands and feet of Christ today. Amen

(Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 3:13; 1 Peter 5:7; 11 Corinthians 12:9)

LINDA JANE DINGELDEIN: DIFFERENT BY DESIGN
LINDA JANE PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Linda Jane Dingeldein acknowledges the beauty of God’s creation in the crisp splendor of autumn foliage.

Stop the Masquerade: Unveil the Masks

 

 “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Oscar Wilde 

Unveiling the Masks

By continuously covering up God’s good and perfect design, we are shouting out the message; “God, your masterpiece is not good enough.” “God. You messed up when you made me!”

As Christ followers I don’t think any of us would really believe that message; yet we subconsciously say it when we masquerade as something we were never meant to be, in order, to gain the appeal and approval of others.

 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

Do we really believe that we are God’s master-design; His finest work?

We are the design of perfection, created beforehand that we would walk in Christ Jesus. We contain His stamp of delight and approval.

We are lovingly marked by the signature of the greatest Artisan this world has ever known. He knows us intimately, and He calls us precious, beloved, daughter, friend, royal priest, holy and chosen.

We need to look back at the endorsement that God places upon us and not allow this world to stamp and squeeze us in its mold to find validation and approval when we already have it in the loving eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can only live with passion and purpose if we allow God to scrape, lift and peel back the layers of the masks we have been wearing.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalm 139:14

The masquerade must stop!

Personal Reflection: 

Think through the following questions. 

  • How is God speaking to your heart right now?
  • How have you been portraying someone other than the one The Master Designer created?
  • What would it take for you to live true to the design God made you to be?  

Living with purpose and passion 

“In masking your greatest potential and passion,

you steal the reflection of Christ

from the world around, you.”

Linda Jane

Different by Design 

God created us to reflect His glory. When we cover up our unique differences we cover up God’s special and perfect design. There is only one you; and the world needs you to be the woman who God designed, so you can point the way to Christ.

It is God’s desire that each of us live fully out of our own potential, purpose and passions to reflect Christ to the world around us; and to be an encouragement to the body of Christ.

We veil our talents, creative skills and gifting from being used to its full potential, when we disguise our true-selves. As we live out of our God-given design we will live rich abundant lives that are free of people pleasing, posturing, and posing as something we are not. We become truth-tellers and obedient to Christ’s call for our lives.

Exhaustion, discouragement and discontentment can often set in when we continuously live as someone whom we were not made to be. A tremendous stress is placed on us when our heart longs for freedom; but we continue to hide and masquerade.

Is it possible that we cheat ourselves and others from knowing and receiving our true selves as God intended, when we hide behind our man-made disguises?

Christ calls us to freely give; but we cannot, if we are covering up what needs to be given – Ourselves!

Our masks cause us to live as if the lie is truth. In so doing we snuff out the voice of the Master who says: “You are Precious in my sight.” “You are the apple of my eye.” “You are the Beloved of God.” “I created you in my image. I gave my life for YOU!”

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”

Don Miguel Ruiz  

Unveiling the masks

The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He is not just coming to maim us, trip us up; but to wipe us out. He is going straight for the juggler vein. The life-giving vein.

As woman of faith, designed by God; unveiling our masks means we must know who we are in Christ. These truth messages will set us free. The belt of truth will become our weapon against the enemy who seeks to steal our joy, rob us of pleasure in ministering out of our Christ-given gifts, paralyze us with fear, cast a shroud of shame and guilt over us; and keep us from bringing God the glory He demands and deserves.

As we gain confidence in knowing who God is, we will entrust our masks to Him, to lift and peel away. Throughout this process we will begin to have renewed confidence that God is the One who validates us. God is the One who gives us worth. God is the One who will lead and guide us in the right pathways to take. God is the One who does not treat us as our sins deserve. God is the One who calls us friend, the apple of his eye, precious in His sight and His beloved daughter.

As our confidence in God grows and we change the lies into truth messages, we will find that we no longer need to pose as someone we are not. A new joy comes in, embracing who we are in Christ Jesus and enables us to minister out of who God created us to be. Different by Design! 

“People cannot endorse who I am.

God gave me His stamp of approval and that is enough for me.

I am God’s Masterpiece!”

Linda Jane

Different by Design

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 

 God created us in His image. God gave His life for each of us. God paid the highest price for us – because he knew our worth.  May we praise Him as we are fearfully and wonderfully made! 

“Who we are looking for is who is looking.”

 Francis of Assisi

Prayer: 

God, help me to hold out to the world the person you have created me to be. You have given to me passions. Help me to have the courage to let go of the masks so that I can again be that woman of passion.

May I learn to live freely in this world with no apologies of who you made me to be. You tell me there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, so help me not to cover my mistakes, hide behind a mask of guilt and shame that you never  placed upon me.

You came that I might have life and experience it abundantly. When I live in hiding it is exhausting. It is living a lie before the world and it tells everyone I am ashamed of who God made me to be.

I am sorry God that I have felt shame for the woman you created me to be. Teach me how to embrace my talents, gifts and passions and hold them out for the world, so they can see Christ in me the hope of glory.  In Jesus Name ~ Amen 

Prayer scriptures taken from: (Romans 8:1; John 10:10; Proverbs 29:25; Genesis 1:27)

Nobody brings to your team, your ministry, your home, your church or this world the set of skills, talents or gifts you have. You are not a clone of anyone else on this earth. God designed you, just the way you are for a special purpose and for His great pleasure! 

Linda Jane

Different By Design

Photography by Linda Jane Dingeldein

As no two roses are alike, we are not a clone of anyone else!

Take pleasure in being the person whom God created you to be.

May you be the fragrance of Christ to the world around you.

Photo’s taken at the Hong Kong Flowers Market.

 

 

Fear of Authenticity: Listening to Wrong Messages

When we are afraid of being seen for who we really are, we create appealing façades to hide our true-selves.

We learn to promote someone who is likeable, agreeable, valuable and desirable. And we cover over areas we consider to be flawed, blemished or that may be rejected. 

In this process of masking we learn to deny God’s standard to live freely out of who He created us to be and we appease the standards that we think others are setting before us; leaving us vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.

  • We often deny our true ideas or opinions
  • We hide our real feelings and emotions for fear that we will be discredited
  • We fear that if we are truly known, we will not be accepted as valuable
  • We accept tasks that are above our abilities – to prove ourselves useful
  • We place ourselves under a high degree of productivity
  • If we have pushed ourselves too hard to please others – we will put on other masks to compensate – to get the job done with a standard of high perfection

“The greatest fear is being found out as a fraud 

and our authentic self rising to the surface.”

 Linda Jane

 Different by Design

Fear causes us to hide; but it also causes us to stand watchful and alert. Like a centurion, we keep guard over our masks to keep them from slipping, for fear that someone may find out that we are not as capable as we are projecting ourselves to be.

Why do I wear masks?

We can discover why we wear masks by asking and answering the following question. 

What do I want others to see and think about me?

  • I am beautiful
  • I am put-together
  • I am caring, kind, compassionate
  • I can do what needs to be done
  • I can do what you need me to do with excellence
  • I am enough, I am valued
  • I am not alone
  • I am a part of something bigger
  • I am at your disposal to please you

If we feel that there is a gap between what we want others to see or think about us, then we often put on masks to span the gap and portray something other than who we really are, or other than what we are capable of doing.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe”

Proverbs 29:25

Fear’s Messages: 

When we are fearful we begin to believe lies. We often rehearse these lies until they become messages that are etched deeply upon our hearts, minds and revealed in our actions.

Remember, the enemy of this world masquerades as an angel of light when he is full of darkness and there is no light in him. (2 Corinthians 11:14)

The list of lies we tell ourselves can be extensive. They can come from a childhood experience or an action we did as a teenager or young adult that stills causes us shame. As we grow older and continue to rehearse these lies, they just become more grown-up sounding; but the root of exposure and fear is the same.

 

With our masks in place, we begin to shield others from what our true emotions are saying. Eventually we can become numb and unable to name or identify the emotions we are feeling.  

 

Personal Reflection:

Read through the messages below. Choose one message that personally resonates with you. Can you identify when this message rooted itself in your heart and mind? 

“I am so stupid. I’ll never get it right.”

“If other people really know who I am they won’t accept me.”

“There is no way __________ could love me with the shame in my past.”

“God can never forgive the things I have done!”

“If I could just get it together, __________ would pay more attention to me.”

“If I make that choice, they are never going to approve of me.”

“If I work harder, read my Bible & pray more; I’ll be worth something to God.”

“If I work as hard as __________ then I will be a valued member of the team.”

“If I take these mask off now everyone will know that I have been a fraud!”

“I need to do something to make __________ proud of me.” 

“Wearing masks is wearisome.

After wearing them for so long

we often forget where the mask ends

and our authentic self begins. “

Linda Jane

Different by Design 

 

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Prayer: 

God, I recognize the masks that I wear. I admit that I am afraid to be authentic. If I take off my masks I risk feeling exposed and possibly lose the approval of others.

God, help me to remember that you are always with me. I don’t need to be afraid of what others think about me. My fear of others will always lay a snare that trips me up; but when I trust in You, LORD, I am safe. 

God, your love for me is perfect. You love expels all fear. Thank you, God, that you loved me first, before I could even think of doing good things. I cannot earn your love. Your love is unconditional, not based on what I do or don’t do.  

God, wearing masks is wearisome. You tell me to come to You when I am weary and burdened, and You will give me the rest I need. 

God, thank you that I can come boldly to you and find rest from this act of pretending to receive others approval. You are gentle and humble in heart and with you I can find the rest that my soul needs. I come to you today God and lay my masks at Your feet. I desire to live out of my God-given uniqueness. Different by Design. Amen! 

*Prayer scriptures are taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible
(Joshua 1:9; Proverbs 29:25; 1 John 4:10,18; 1 John 4:19; Matthew 11:28-30)

 

Linda Jane Dingeldein: Different by Design recognizes the uniqueness in each of us as we celebrate the season reflecting Christ’s birth. 

Photographs were taken by Linda Jane at the Hong Kong Flowers Market where the wondrous smell of pine boughs, and sight of pointsettias took my mind back to Pennsylvania Christmases!