Don't Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It's Popular

Don’t Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It’s Popular

I don’t have YouTube downloaded on my phone. 

Any app I use regularly (with the exception of social media in an effort to deter use) is downloaded. Any app I even use semi-regularly is downloaded. So what is the logical conclusion here? That I don’t watch YouTube videos regularly. 

And that conclusion is correct, much to the confusion of many of my friends. 

If you remove the percentage of my friends who use YouTube simply for entertainment, I am still left with a high number using it as a means of education. Learning new recipes, makeup tutorials, music lessons, academic lectures – you name it, they’re pulling it up. 

We could look at podcasts in the same way. My friends (along with the rest of the planet) are avid podcast listeners. It’s very normal to hear a thought from them begin with, “I was listening to a podcast and…” 

For a long time, I felt oddly guilty about the low number of YouTube videos I watched and podcasts I listened through. On the surface, that would seem like a weird thing to feel guilt over. But when a learning method is popular, when a lot of the people you’re surrounded by are into it, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I must do this thing or be looked down upon.” 

Or maybe it’s not that extreme. Maybe it’s more like the interactions I’ve had where you’re asked all sorts of questions on your thoughts about a YouTuber or podcaster…but you’ve never heard of any of them. 

It’s taken me a while to be okay with the fact that while I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts from time to time, that’s not how I learn. I had to figure out what works for me. 

And I have! I don’t naturally turn to podcasts or YouTube videos to teach me something. Instead, I pull up instructions and do it. I talk about the things I’m trying to think about, learn about, or develop my opinion on with other people. And my favorite: I write about it, and use the research process behind the piece I’m writing to fill in the gaps. 

If you don’t learn best through audio or visual, don’t hop on the video or podcast trends just because they’re popular. Put that time into learning the way that works FOR you. You may not have answers to all the questions lobbed at you during parties, but you’ll certainly be in a better place educationally for it. 

My Top 5 Wellness Hacks

It’s not a secret that an overwhelming amount of Americans have health-related resolutions. Whether that be weight loss, gym time, drinking water – whatever it is, someone has committed to it (and probably already broken down by now). 

You’re not going to see me writing for goop or Well + Good anytime soon, but for several years I’ve tried to lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. Here are 5 hacks you can steal that help me get there: 

1. Don’t Force Yourself To Do Exercise You Hate

Don’t read what I’m not saying – I’m NOT saying that you should always avoid a hard workout. What I am saying is that if you’re continually forcing yourself to do a type of exercise that you despise, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining it in the long-run. I have hard power yoga workouts, hard lifting sessions, and hard boxing rounds just like I used to have hard runs. The difference? I love the first three and that motivates me to power through – I HATE running. 

2. Write Down What You’re Eating

This is harder than it sounds to keep up, but it’s one of the best mindfulness and accountability tools I rely on. Whether you’re using a program like Noom, tracking your macros, or simply keeping a food journal (I’ve done it all and turn toward different things in different seasons), it will keep you honest. And, it will help you identify gaps. Need more water? Vegetables? Fruits? Eating out a lot more than you thought or picking up junk food frequently? Now you’ll know. 

3. Have A Backup Plan

On an ideal day, I would be hitting the gym at 5:15 am for a workout class or at 6:45 am for a lifting session. In reality, if I’m not signed up for a class that will ding me if I miss, it’s a toss-up whether I get that early workout session in. And that’s okay – I’m working to prioritize sleep as a key part of my health and well-being. Instead of stressing, I always have an alternative plan. Maybe that means I’m working out at home; maybe that means reserving both a morning class and an evening class and knowing I’ll make it to one of them. Whatever it is, don’t let a missed alarm derail you – have a plan B. 

4. Keep A Cute Waterbottle Around 

This is so cliche it hurts, but so effective it can’t be left out. If you have a water bottle you like looking at (for me it’s my sticker-covered Hydroflask), you’ll be more likely to lug it around with you and drink enough water during the day. That, and you’ll be less likely to leave it places. 

5. Decide Your Food “Musts” and “Passes” 

This varies by season, but it’s helpful to create food indulgence rules. For example, I know that I am never going to go to a party or celebrate a birthday where there is great dessert and not eat some – doing so would feel like deprivation and these are uncommon enough events that it is totally worth it to me. On the other hand, I will always pass on soda and drinking my calories, and rarely bring home cheap desserts. I know what my indulgence musts are, and I know what I can pass on, and while I don’t always stick to these rules, they’re very helpful in the long-run. 

Are you going to try one of these in 2021? Or do you have tips of your own? Tell us in the comments!

Rebuilding Stronger in 2021

I’ve had two words on my letterboard for the last couple of weeks: 

“Rebuild stronger.” 

(Actually, right now it reads, “Rebuild sronger.” My sister pointed out that I was tired when I spelled it out and missed the t, and have yet to add it. Full disclosure.)

Each glance at those two words is encouraging. Why? Because 2020 broke me, broke us down in every way possible. But in 2021, we can rebuild even stronger.

I always pick a word or phrase to return to over the next year, and “rebuild stronger” is what I’ve picked for 2021. It would be easy to simply say “rebuild” and to work on returning the status quo. But what if that isn’t where we need to return?

For all the atrocities it has contained, 2020 has done a very good job of making all flaws, whether in our personal lives or our society, exposed. It has ripped down a curtain, exposing everything that was not serving us well and all the areas where change should be encouraged. And 2020 in its very essence will alter the way work and life and community function in the future. 

2020 broke us down, but we shouldn’t be rebuilding back to 2019. Instead, we should take a good long look at what life looks like right now and what it should look like at the end of 2021. 

What habits and practices no longer serve you and should change? What does your workflow need to look like? Your wellness routines? Your financial management?

How should your spiritual rhythms and habits be rebuilt to urge you more toward Jesus in the new year? 

Psalm 71:20 says, 

“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.”

We have been broken, but revival and restoration are around the corner. It’s time to rebuild and to rebuild stronger. 

How will you rebuild in 2021?

Words from Ephesians 5 for Thanksgiving 2020

But Instead Let There Be Thanksgiving

What passage from Scripture makes you cringe? I’ll give you one of mine – the word “cringe” is even scrawled in the margins of my Bible next to it:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

-Ephesians 5:3-10, ESV (emphasis mine) 

Wow. I find myself swallowing a little harder every time I read this passage. There are so many places where I have partnered with the dark in my own life, and it often seems innocuous enough that I don’t even see what it’s doing. 

But while this is a weighty passage and reveals a lot about what Jesus followers let slip into the cracks of their life, there is a part that has always struck me as an odd choice to include. Read back through the above passage. See what I bolded? 

In the midst of commands to get rid of sin, a seemingly oddly placed command is given: “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.” 

At first glance, it seems like an odd shift from speaking about sin, to urging thankfulness, back to speaking about sin. But when you think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Have you noticed that when your life is full of joyful gratitude, the dark lure of sin fades a little? 

I find it extremely hard to praise God for a beautiful morning and then curse my neighbor the next second. 

There’s a weight of conviction that comes when you praise the goodness of God with a family member and then slip right into a conversation laced with jokes that make it look like you don’t know him. 

A universal truth is that one becomes what they behold. Behold the goodness and glory of God constantly, and your life will start to align with his. And, from this passage, I think another truth can be implied: You’re drawn toward what you meditate upon. 

Think deeply about what makes your heart grateful and watch yourself be pulled away from dark lures toward the light of Christ. 

This Thanksgiving, turn toward Jesus and strive to put aside the sin that clings so closely. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 

The 5 Stages of a Social Media Detox

Social media impacts the mind the same way a slow I.V. of poison impacts the body. 

At least, it does for me. 

Whether social media has such an obvious negative influence on you or not, I think everyone benefits from a social media detox. I regularly try to step away from social media for a day or two a week for my own sanity, but my brain and soul need a longer detox at least once or twice a year. 

If this isn’t something you’ve done before, let me walk you through the five stages that come with a social media detox: 

RELIEF

After the buzzing happening on Facebook and the fighting happening on the dumb bird site and the overhyped and overfilted life posted on Insta, deleting apps from your phone will feel like RELIEF. Suddenly, the political conversations you have will happen in person (and hopefully with a lot more civility). You can live in a moment instead of taking photos of it. People will just have to compliment your new look IN PERSON. Anonymous trolls would have to do a lot more to get your attention. The relief feels good. 

ANXIETY + EXCUSES

This is the most difficult part of a social media detox, and it highlights the very reason why you start one. The timeline is different for everyone, but it sets in at some point: A slight buzzing anxiety that you’re missing something, which leads to ridiculous reasons why you should log back on. Power through, it gets better. 

TWEETING IN YOUR MIND

If anxiety and excuses are the most difficult part of a social media detox, this is probably the most humorous part. This is the point where your brain starts coming up with incredible social media content. Seriously – I have come up with my best tweets before remembering that I couldn’t post them. I have taken amazing photos that didn’t end up on Insta. This too shall pass. 

SURPRISE

I love the moment when you realize that you’ve been off social media for a while and for the last few days…you HAVEN’T MISSED IT. It takes a while, but that surprising realization feels good. You recognize that you don’t need it, and it doesn’t need to dictate your day. 

PEACE

And finally, the best stage of a social media detox: peace. When the notifications stop coming, when you’re not constantly reaching for your phone, when the anxious twitching and longing for false connectivity fades away. The goal of a social media detox is not to simply step away – it is to reset. To reset with less dependency on your devices; with a clearer head; with a calmer heart; and with a better focus on Jesus. 

Let this be your encouragement to step away from social media for a bit – it’ll feel weird, but it’ll be great in the end.

You calendar could be your new favorite tool.

Why Your Calendar Could Be Your New Favorite Tool

When I was in college, the calendar on my iPhone raised some eyebrows. It perfectly color-coded and divvied up my life, from waking up and heading to the gym in the morning to getting ready for bed at night. It allowed me to make sense of all the homework, classes, work schedules, and social events that I was juggling. 

After I graduated, my weekly schedule got much more predictable. I wasn’t juggling multiple jobs and classes anymore. My work schedule was the same every day, and most events in my life happened on a weekly or regular basis. So, I abandoned my color-coded calendar. 

It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I brought it back. COVID-19 took away any regular routine I had for a very long time, and I was left floundering. Even now, with some of my schedule returning to normal, working from home and adapting to this pandemic way of life has taken away a lot of the external rhythms and routines that allowed me to function regularly. 

So, I brought my iPhone back out and plugged my week in. 

When I was heading to the gym. 

When I was writing. 

When I had appointments.

When I had meetings.

When I was working. 

When I had church gatherings. 

It all got entered back in. 

And you know what? I realized that I missed having this tool in my life. 

People who like flexibility may protest trying out a calendar habit like this. It may seem like it’s too rigid to allow for freedom. But having things laid out so clearly actually provides a lot more flexibility. 

You can move things around as you need while still  knowing that everything is accounted for and written out. You can meet a friend and know you’re not missing a meeting. You can schedule out convenient times to run errands because your calendar shows you where you’ll be and when. 

I thought that when I was out of college, I wouldn’t need a calendar like this anymore. But in getting rid of it, I got rid of my favorite tool. Life is a lot better with having such a clear-cut schedule back at my fingertips, and if you don’t already do this, I would suggest you try it out. 

You may just find it’s your new favorite tool.

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!

signing of the declaration with text

What Can Hamilton Teach Us About Learning?

For the past few weeks, one word has taken over the internet and the dinner table conversation across the country: HAMILTON. 

An on-demand world means that Broadway has now entered our living rooms, and the release of the live recorded production of Hamilton on Disney+ is the most recent development. However, this one show isn’t set apart simply because of its innovative music or diverse cast, but because it is based on historical events. While not perfectly factual, it documents the beginning of American independence by focusing on one Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. 

(Full disclosure, I have the soundtrack playing in the background as I write this. The music is VERY good.) 

Now, there are certainly people who watched Hamilton and took it at surface level. They watched it, were entertained, and then turned it off and walked away without another thought. And that’s okay. 

But the musical sparked curiosity in the minds of others. What were the actual political stances taken by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Why was Angelica so excited about Common Sense by Thomas Paine? After rapping about it so much, what role did the Marquis de Lafayette actually play in the French Revolution? 

In this capacity, Hamilton serves as a case study on learning. It doesn’t matter what form knowledge comes in – what matters is what is gained from it. If having rap music on repeat can drill important pieces of American history into our heads, all the better. But maybe we all can learn much through not only music, but movies, poems, art, podcasts, or anything other than lengthy books. 

To be sure, we should always fact check what we are learning, no matter the source. Alternative forms of learning can often take artistic liberties that make the facts less precise. But once we make sure our facts are in order, these resources are wonderful tools in growing our understanding of the world. 

We live in a culture where constant learning is undervalued. If things like Hamilton can help change that, we should be all for it. 

Kelvey's April - June 2020 reading picks

The Quarterly Reading Roundup: 2020 Q2

Anddd we’re back! As you know, this year I’ve started a new series (but can it really be called a series when it only occurs four times a year?) that highlights some of the best books I read every three months. 

Here are my picks from quarter two of 2020: 

The Vanishing American Adult by Senator Ben Sasse

To be totally honest, I’m wrapping this book up right now. But Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is not only my favorite person in Congress – he is also an amazing author and historian. His diagnosis of America’s coming-of-age crisis is analytical and accurate, and his ideas on how to chart a new course are phenomenal. As a young adult, this book has left me not only thinking about how I want to raise my future children but how I can set a better path forward for myself even though I’m already in my twenties. 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

I am desperately in need of grace at every single moment of my life, and Wilson writes for those of us followers of Jesus who are thankful that Jesus has it all together because we know we never will. I don’t usually quote Amazon summaries, but a line about this book (from the Amazon link above) was accurate: “For the believer who is tired of quasi-spiritual life hacks being passed off as true, down-and-dirty discipleship, here is a discipleship book that isn’t afraid to be honest about the mess we call real life.” 

50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe

To start with just a small critique, the targeted audience for this book is obviously pastors and many of the people featured are pastors most of us have not heard about. However, even with that knowledge, this book was extremely encouraging. I loved being able to read short biographies of so many giants in the faith, and have resources listed if I wanted to learn more about specific figures. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so we should allow their lives to urge us on. 

What books are you reading?

crates with white text

Let’s Take Ideas Out Of Their Boxes

Okay, pop quiz. What box would you place the following ideas in? 

The best solution for hate speech is more speech, not less. 

Demilitarize the police. 

Excessive and wasteful taxation is theft. 

Climate change is a real problem. 

The right to bear arms shall not be infringed. 

Drug legalization/decriminalization would lead to a more equitable criminal justice system. 

Religious liberty should be protected. 

Immigrants built America and we should knock down barriers to legal immigration. 

Free markets lead to freer people. 

Okay, what boxes did these check? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? 

I don’t know – I pulled them all at random from a box titled “Kelvey’s political beliefs.” 

Have you noticed that shoving ideas into strict boxes makes us reluctant to pull from the boxes that wear labels we don’t like? We prejudge the idea based on what it falls under instead of on the merit of the idea itself. 

Instead of right or wrong, factual or nonsensical, reasonable or radical, we let the labels do the talking. And these labels often make us swerve away from an idea if we deem it too out-of-step with the rest of the boxes we like to dig through. 

And you all know the feeling of agreeing with an idea that is boxed in with a label you don’t like. You cringe a little bit, wondering, “Did I really agree with something that ____ thinks?” 

We like our boxes because it takes the hard work of analyzing ideas one-by-one away. It’s much easier to sort boxes than it is to sort all their contents. It allows us to lazily claim whole boxes as our own instead of pulling together a worldview composed of individual ideas. 

Let’s make things harder on ourselves. Let’s think some more. Let’s take ideas out of their boxes. They were never supposed to be labeled and sorted like this anyway.