Quiero Practicar Mi Español Contigo

You’d think that knowing how to speak Spanish and speaking Spanish would be the same thing.  For me, however, the sole ability and the ability to apply are completely different matters.  I’ve already demonstrated that I am a person of inaction.  Moving requires feelings of competency.  Similarly, knowing another language is much different than practicing and using another language.

Before I completely tear myself down, I do have a pretty good command of the written Spanish language.  I could read cell phone instructions or how to measure baby formula correctly in Spanish with very little problems.  In fact, in college I tested out of my last semester of Spanish II in order to graduate fairly on time.  My professor, luckily, did not make me speak any of the language.  It was all written and I remember doing well enough.  Enough to pass and graduate, that is.

Now it is seven years later.  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to use the language.  I’ve worked with native speakers when I was a legal assistant, taught ESL students, and now work alongside native speakers again.  The most I’ve been able to say is “gracias,” and quite meekly, as usual.

The only explanation of my fear, I can weakly try to attribute to my innate shyness.  I’m a person who, how shall I say this, is diffident.  Did I mention that I observe things also?

In all actuality, the native speaker I attempt to converse with would probably be flattered that I was trying to use his or her language instead of assuming he or she would love to struggle through a conversation in English with me.  I have a strong feeling, however, that the only way to overcome my fear is full immersion.  I need to be given no option to rely on English.  I need to put mi los pies forward and march in la direción of the nearest tienda o supermercado o país de español.

After reading David Platt’s Radical: [etcetera], I realized mucho gusto ir a la pais de español y ofrecio la palabra de Jesuchristo.  Why else would I still be able to remember simple conjugations from my high school Spanish classes?  This task has been on my heart for a month or so, but I’ve always wanted to use my Spanish.  If I can find the money, and childcare, to make it a possibility, I will drop my net and go.

We are not given gifts to squander.  God plants in us skills to utilize for his glory.  I may be muy tímida, pero “todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalice” Philippians 4:13.

One Year Task: Part II

In The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, the author finds herself, despite having people in her life and things to keep her happy, in a “midlife malaise – a recurrent sense of disconnect and almost a feeling of disbelief” (2).  Rubin decided that she would begin her Happiness Project as soon as she had the time, but that time never came.  She then came to the realization, “when life was taking its ordinary course, it was hard to remember what really mattered; if I wanted a happiness project, I’d have to make the time” (3).  In this realization she decides to dedicate an entire year to making herself happy. 

In her book, Rubin divides each chapter by month of the year, with each chapter divided by areas in which she addresses particular goals of happiness she wants to incorporate into her and her family’s everyday living.  In addition to details of her own family’s experiences, Rubin includes current psychology that provides concrete backing to her subjective know-how.  Some of the gems of her knowledge follow:

One goal is to go to sleep earlier. Rubin writes, “the average adult sleeps only 6.9 hours during the week and 7.9 on the weekend – 20 percent less than in 1900.  Although people adjust to feeling sleepy, sleep deprivation impairs memory, weakens the immune system, slows metabolism, and might, some studies suggest, foster weight gain” (19).

Information like this thrills me.  My husband will be the first to tell anyone that I love to sleep.  I can sleep three to four hours in the afternoon and still go to bed at nine p.m. and sleep to six a.m. when I wake up for work.  For others, who, like me, do not need extra sleep, Rubin provides more evidence for other happiness increasers.  She tells us further in chapter 1, that “people who exercise are healthier, think more clearly, sleep better [YAY!! More Sleep!!], and have delayed onset of dementia” (21). 

Exercise motivation is a hard task for me, as evidenced in my earlier blog post, “Desk Chair Jockey.”  However, since dementia runs in my family, my great-grandmother having died from Alzheimer’s, I have become even more inspired to exercise – and I’ve felt happier – which has made me less disgruntled and kinder to those around me, especially my husband and kids.

In chapter three, Rubin also challenges herself to “enjoy the fun of failure.”  For the author, and myself, “fun” and “failure” are typically not in the same sentence.  However, Rubin finds her happiness increasing as she becomes more accepting of this possibility of failure (79-80).

Rubin’s most influential advice for me thus far has been her goal of “lightening up” in April.  This goal is broken down into “Sing in the morning,” Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings,” Be a treasure house of happy memories,” and “take time for projects” (Chapter 4). 

I have a whiny son.  While he annoys me to no end with his early morning whining, on-the-way-to-school whining, waiting-until-last-minute-to-put-on-shoes whining, picking-up-from-school whining, “I-want-a-drink” whining, my-sister-is-in-my-space whining, getting-home whining, “I-want-candy” whining, “no-I-don’t-want-to-eat-that-for-dinner” whining, “no-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed” whining, “sing-me-more-songs” whining, and “wait-until-I-fall-asleep-before-you-leave” whining, he has legitimate reasons for doing so.  He is the only boy with one older and one younger sister.  Our youngest is also six months, and as our pediatrician told us, our son is reverting.

No wonder Rubin’s advice “Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings” struck a chord.  It is so easy to blow-up and get irritated by the whining, but if I just turned around and told him, “I understand your feelings,” his frustration melts away.  Rubin quotes that “studies show that 85 percent of adult messages to children are negative – ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ ‘don’t’ – so it’s worth trying to keep that to a minimum (99).  I have been consciously attempting to remember to not do this negative messaging with my son.  It isn’t fail-proof, but he has been more positively responsive when I have been interested in his feelings.  It’s funny how the simplest things seem like brain science when you aren’t putting them into practice, but once you attempt and succeed, you wonder why you never thought to do it before.

I’m still reading this book, which is advantageous to you, because it would be more valuable of an experience for you to read this #1 New York Times bestseller, than to just read quotes and my opinion.  However, I hope that I’ve given you a legitimate curiosity into Rubin’s year- long pursuit of happiness, and that you will pick up this book at your next available opportunity.

One Year Task: Part I

If given a year to accomplish one single task, what would it be?  At the beginning of each new year, as the crystal ball drops and we count down ten seconds less of our earthly lives, we resolve to lose weight, be kinder to others, live peaceful lives.  Yet, how many of us actually live up to the challenge?  In the following novels, there is a call to action and follow through.  Let’s examine the different ways one can change an entire year in his or her life and change for the positive.

The following are some radical quotes from David Platt’s book Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  Initially, readers may see the need for some change in this book.  However, upon further reading, they see drastic measures that need to be taken in order to live up to the Great Commission Jesus gave all of us in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”  Platt gives the following to show us God’s will for us to touch other nations besides our own.

  • “What happened at the Cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus’ hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon his soul…God turned away because he could not bear to see your sin and my sin on his son” (35).
  • “It’s [7 billion] and counting…this is the population of the world.  According to the most liberal estimates, approximately one-third of the world is Christian.  These estimates include all who identify themselves as Christian, whether religiously, socially, or politically.  Likely, not all of them are actually followers of Christ.  But even if we assume they are, that still leaves 4.5 billion people, who, if the gospel is true, at this moment are separated from God in their sin and (assuming nothing changes) will spend an eternity in hell.  Again, 4.5 billion.  And most of them live outside the United States.

How we might possibly be able to ignore our potential outside of the United States upon hearing this kind of conviction is beyond me.  And yet, I am guilty of claiming that going out of my community is not necessary, that I can make “as much difference here, as anywhere else.”  I am also guilty of claiming this reason, but still not making a difference in my community.  If most of these unreached peoples are outside the U.S., then that is where I must go, to make “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).  Platt instructs those of you that are in the same boat as me, to walk out on the water by,

  • being “radically abandoned to Christ, [you are] simply to let your heart[s] be gripped, maybe for the first time, by the biblical prospect that God has designed a radically global purpose for your life.  [Platt] invite[s] you to throw aside gospel-less reasoning that might prevent you from accomplishing that purpose.  [What would it be like for all of us] to spend all of our lives for the sake of all of God’s glory in all of the world” (82-83)?

In a short story at the end of Platt’s chapter on “The Great Why of God,” a member shares the real purpose of the money we store up as part of our American Dreams.  She states,

  • “God has blessed me to show his love to Domingo [an elderly man whom Jamie saw come to Christ in Guatemala that week].  God has blessed me to show his mercy and grace to children in Guatemala. That is why God has given me income and education and resources.  God saves me so that the nations will know him.  He blesses me so that all the earth will see his glory! (84).

If you’ve ever wondered why you were blessed with money, food, or a roof over your head, and others weren’t; you can find your answer in this woman’s story.  It is for our blessings that we must share with others.  There are 4.5 billion others that us top fifteen percent could take care of easily by giving our service and sharing our resources.  How can we turn our backs otherwise?  According to Platt,

  • “the logic that says, ‘I can’t do everything, so I won’t do anything,’ is straight from hell…[therefore,] this, Paul says, is the key to being free from the deadly nature of wealth and possessions.  Give.  Give generously, abundantly, and sacrificially” (130).

Imagine if the 2.5 billion Christians in America gave sacrificially to other nations.  What would the starvation rates decrease to in a year?  What would death rates decrease to in a year?  What kind of potential attitude shift might occur in America today?

Many times, when tasked with accomplishing something in a year, people are afraid because they are given no directions on how to implement this kind of change in their lives.  Platt offers a series of steps, which guides the reader towards starting afresh by living out the gospel and sharing it to other peoples.  Chapter nine, titled “The Radical Experiment”, gives five steps to accomplishing this goal.

1.            Pray for the entire world

2.            Read through the entire Word.

3.            Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose.

4.            Spend time in another context.

5.            Commit your life to a multiplying community.

The best way to find out what Platt means by these steps is to read the book!  It will transform you!