In the First Decade of Adulthood

28 things I learned about life in the first decade of adulthood. Written on my 28th birthday as advice to my 18-year-old self.

9-minute audio

 

  1. Life is not a multiple-choice test with a secret answer key; it’s a chapter book of choose your own adventure essays. Write often, and edit as you go.
  2. Living in Truth is always better than living in desired perception. But truth seekers, take note. When you pray for God to “wake you up,” buckle up for a wild ride, because reality is truly a thrill.
  3. Good things come to those who ask. Ask God for wisdom. Ask for the sale, the scholarship, the secret recipe, the side story, and for sermon clarification. Do live curiously. But don’t ask Google your most haunting questions at 2 am.
  4. Remember the big picture always wins the fight, after all, it is bigger. That said, the best way to steward the big picture is by showing up—consistently, and often awkwardly—to the small picture, also known as, the present.
  5. Learn to enjoy the paradox of living fully content where you are, while simultaneously longing, and pushing forward to where you want to go.
  6. Coed companions can create a fun and healthy balance to your social life, but when in doubt, define the relationship. Instead of complaining about being led on, take responsibility for your heart, and ask where the ship—friend, relation, or otherwise—is headed.
  7. Satisfying relationship closure is an inside job. Don’t put your well-being on hold as you wait for a grand Olympic style closing ceremony: those only happen every two to 4 years, anyway. Instead, redirect your energy to repairing, recuperating, and returning to the field when ready.
  8. Willpower is important, but annoyingly, and scientifically, finite. Sometimes the best thing to do is muster up just enough internal motivation to reach out to the right external structure. Tackle fitness challenges with friends. See a therapist to get unstuck. Or do as I am with this very post, and set a deadline with monetary consequences.
  9. If you feel lost, follow your stomach. Start by devouring some curiosity crunch for breakfast, and next, pay attention to your upset stomach. Which injustice makes you want to puke? What testimony makes you slightly queasy to share? Who is the person that gives you butterflies? Walk boldly in the direction of your nausea, although try not to literally hurl.
  10. Asking for what you need is not dramatic. On the contrary, ignoring your needs, or holding others accountable to unspoken expectations, can lead to a full-fledged dramatic emergency down the road.
  11. Learn to differentiate between physical, social, and spiritual needs. For example, if you suddenly feel like you have no friends and need to attend a raging party, check to verify that you’re not suffering from a bout of hangry thoughts–completely curable by bowl of cereal. Or, if you devour large bowls of rice whenever you feel empty inside, try filling yourself with scripture and prayer first. Finally, if you instinctively head to the prayer team after every tough week, consider that sometimes you need friends more than prayer, and go play at the sand volleyball courts instead.
  12. Friends and family are more important than chores. But since everyone has to cover their survival basics, bond over mundane activities whenever possible. Crank up the beach boys while washing dishes with siblings, wheel around the grocery with your classmates on a study break, or discuss difficult debacles while folding laundry adjacent to a roommate.
  13. Once you leave home, try to separate love and logistics when you go back to visit. For example, set aside some time to talk about your health insurance, and then put the paperwork away and enjoy a leisurely Sunday breakfast together.
  14. Abandon the search for permission. It turns out, you already have it.
  15. Failure, heartbreak, and disappointment are undeniably painful experiences. However, when weathered well, these storms serve as rocket fuel for growth. Keep your heart tender, and trust that you will come out on the other side with more compassion and wisdom than you imagined.
  16. Regard attention and focus as precious forms of love and generosity. Pay the highest dividends to who and what matter most. It helps to turn off notifications every once in a while.
  17. Whether homework, or professional projects, the majority of multistep wiki-how productivity hacks are accurately summarized by the titles alone of Steven Pressfield’s, and Jon Acuff’s respective books, “Do the Work” and “Finish.”
  18. Quality coffee is good for the mind, body, and soul. It also has a point of diminishing returns. Manage your energy by drinking responsibly, and sleeping when you’re alive.
  19. Don’t allow jealousy and comparison to distract you from your own hero’s journey. Harry Potter conquered evil at age 17, but Frodo Baggins didn’t defeat evil until he was 33. In other words, everyone has a unique timeline.
  20. Scrolling—through everyone else’s Facebook posts and Instagram stories—is not a legitimate evening past time.
  21. Feedback from trusted sources can take you a long way.  To be powerful later, you must be willing to expose weakness, today.
  22. The parking police are real, not merciful towards small town folk. Unless you want to allocate a budget for parking tickets each year, ask Siri for regular reminders.
  23. Fashion fouls. a) It’s illegal to wear socks with sandals. b) Leggings are, supposedly, not pants. c) Despite the advertisements, Lash Boss mascara does not actually result in triple voluminous self-esteem levels. However, crying with a friend while dressed in leggings and fuzzy socks, can be quite healing. In which case, a good waterproof mascara can help you feel better about looking more human than racoon.
  24. You are good enough, and pretty enough. Case closed. These are not interesting ongoing mental debates.  Now, go spend your energy on more important life questions.
  25. While revelation might feel like a bright beam of knowledge and euphoria shining straight to your heart, the actual breakthrough part, is not nearly as glamorous. Typically, a breakthrough happens when you face a familiar fork in the road, and make a simple connection with God. Aha! you realize, the last 4 times I turned left here, and it wasn’t good. So today, even though everything in me still feels like turning left, I’ll choose right. In that moment, an old pattern breaks and a new one begins.
  26. Between ideation and creation, there is a gap of hesitation. Shorten it. Perfectionism never delivers on its promises. Better to drive one idea all the way home to the imperfect finish line, than ponder in paralysis about 99 others.
  27. Stay playful. Not every aspect of your life has to function in service of saving the world, or meeting a personal development goal. Go ahead, and race across the swimming pool, sing, stargaze, bike through crunchy leaves, and take a taco Tuesday.
  28. Don’t chase after comfort and happiness. Instead eat a main course of connection, truth, beauty, courage, healing, humor, metaphors, and understanding. And then, quite often, happiness comes as a delicious side dish.

Thanksgiving 2017 Pregame

The Trudelle Thanksgiving pregame email, and meal sign-up roster.

Dearest Family,

Congratulations! On behalf of the Trudelle holiday coordination committee, I would like to formally offer you a spot on the roster for TEAM-T-GIVI-2017! Are you ready for it? Autumn leaves are dropping like Taylor Swift songs; the ground is crimson and crunchy underfoot, and the daylight is ever dwindling.  Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, toddlers and babies… We are now just one week away from the Thanksgiving tip-off and you are in for a treat!

Our team captains, Mama and Papa T, have spent their offseason acquiring comfy home-style accommodations in the Portola Valley Olympic village, for all attendees. From the recruiting end, Laura Newton and Joanna Trudelle gave birth just in time to bring our team’s newest additions, Caleb and Austin, to their first Thanksgiving’s outside of the womb.

For the pre-game national anthem, and inevitable spontaneous sing-along, we no longer have to flounder in search of the right note, because this year we’re bringing in the up and coming Piedmont choir vocalist, Kiera Gray, to cue us in!

As far as the press goes, unfortunately, even the iphone X won’t be able to capture all of our prime time memories, but don’t worry. Rumor has it, Orion Gray is a walking Wikipedia well of knowledge about drones. That said, if a flying video camera catches you in the middle of a midnight snack, simply wave politely, and get your head back in the game.

Training Updates

Regularly lifting heavy weights, and an even heavier Purduian class load, our very own,  Johnny Trudelle, is traveling coast to coast, in hopes of going coast to coast, at the family festivities.  Please give him a warm and hearty California hug.

Throughout the summer, our former defensive MVP, Erika Gray, increased her multitasking skills to such a degree, that she can now guard multiple stove burners simultaneously, in a wicked 2-3 zone. Personally, I prefer to guard the Nantucket style cranberry sauce in a  man defense, but to each their own. Whatever your defensive preference is, though, be sure to watch for reverse layups to the upper shelf dark chocolate stash. Foul if you must.

As for my other siblings, Peter and Marie Trudelle have been spotted before dawn at 24-hour fitness, 5k training in secret by climbing the Stairmaster to heaven. Speaking of, for those of you racing the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, the family track will be available at your convenience for strides or intervals.

If you don’t plan on running anything—perhaps you just gave birth, or maybe you prefer to run after the ladies—no problem. Stroll the Olympic village with the 1001 questions book, join Kristi Koltavary and Shane Curran for a quatro canine adventure, or walk hand in hand with Lily Newton at 1/5 of your normal stride length.

Substitutions and Rest

In the Olympic village, we also take rest and recovery very seriously. If you happen to grow weary with all the physical activity, we got you covered. Jump-shot-Jesse-Newton can reboot your energy with a cup of full-bodied, full court, french press coffee. In the case that you feel faint,  however, please see Gyongyi Koltavary on the sidelines for a blood sugar test or a tasty snack.

For all the new parents of the group: if chasing your baby ever leaves you winded, just make the universal sub signal—pull on your jersey—and one of the aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents will let you catch a breath on the bench.

Manners Matters and Fowl Territory

Simply put: manners, matter. In 1995, Peter’s sweater caught fire on Christmas Eve as he reached over a dinner candle for another helping of cold cuts. This year our appointed referee, Richard Zucker, won’t hesitate to blow a shrill whistle for the red cabbage reach.  In the case of a jump ball on the bubbly water, possession goes to the emptier glass. Also, texting during the feast is considered an automatic technical foul.

Offensive Fouls

Despite my long-standing efforts to keep our table conversations pleasant and philosophical, I’ve come to accept that many of you actually revel in controversy and heated debates. I’m sure it’s all in good fun. However, in the event that you knock another player off their feet in offense, Richard will call a charge. Take a 30-second timeout to cool off if you need it. And, if you’re trying to draw the charge, plant your feet and stand your ground, but don’t fake injury. After all, this isn’t soccer.

Dinner Defense

Even though Erika has earned two-time defensive MVP of the stove, a zone defense, quite frankly, has proven ineffective for our kitchen. See what happens is, we end up triple teaming the pumpkin loaf and letting gravy take the back door. Guys, that’s weak sauce.

This year, in the latest locker room meeting, Coach Papa T called us back to a traditional man to man defense. “How does man defense work in the kitchen?” You ask. Well, it’s like ABA basketball, of course! You get on the court—aka the google doc—and CALL the food you plan to guard. Let’s shoot for clean communication here. It should sound something like this… “I got the pecan pie!! Johnny, who do you have? Marie, the rice was on fire last quarter, stick on it!”

Give and Go Team Work

If you feel uncomfortable cooking alone, find a partner and try the give and go technique. For example, if you’re unsure of how to pick a quality sharp cheese, take Andris Koltavary to Draeger’s and he’ll give you a complete history of Humboldt Fog.  Struggling to lift the turkey by yourself? Biceps Brian Gray will happily help you get the bird out of the car and into the kitchen.

To end with a quote: “Everyone is special in their own way. We make each other strong. We’re not the same. We’re different in a good way…We’re all in this together.” Yes, you guessed correctly. That’s Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez from High School Musical.

**What would you like to bring to the team table this year? Take your pick from one of the options on the google doc attached.**

Until tip-off… hugs and high fives. 

Love,  Chrissa

Thought Leashes

4 mind training tips for thinkers, dreamers, innovators, and intellectuals, to stay focused and use their thoughts well. 

The Border Collie Connection

Border collies are a Scottish, English breed of herding dogs, renowned for their intelligence, energy, curiosity, and stamina. Their love of challenge makes them some of the world’s best sheepdogs, and most loyal sporting companions. They do not, however, make for easy, docile household pets. Without a direction or task, border collies grow dangerously restless, and take out their energy by digging holes, barking at neighbors, or chasing cars.  While perhaps not obvious at first site, the personality of a border collie has a striking similarity to that of an active-minded human. In her book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert illuminates the connection. As she sees it,

“possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet; if you don’t give it a job to do, it will find a job to do—and you may not like the job it invents.”

Indeed, for many deep thinkers and innovators, simply existing with one’s own company can be an experience, both as fun, and as challenging, as living with a border collie in a small house. Despite the inevitable difficulties, never resort to locking your imagination in a kennel for a lifetime of mental repression. Instead, use the tips below to train your mind like a border collie, and play to your strengths!

Tip #1 Feed the Beast
Why? Your mind is hungry

Border collies have big appetites, and sharp teeth eager to devour the food onsite. Without proper nourishment, they either wither into a state of depressed starvation or chew up the couch. As such, if you have a ravenous intellectual appetite, and a mind constantly hunting for something to tear apart, then you must feed the beast. Otherwise, you might start chasing your own tail, chewing on your own problems, or gobbling up trashy TV.

Be intentional about feasting your mind on good things. Devour books, discuss podcasts, study languages, learn skills, listen to clever song lyrics, observe art, or simply follow a curiosity trail as far as it will take you. Also, keep a bone in the back of your mind to gnaw on, for times of extended boredom. I find interesting quotes and new words a great way to prevent myself from getting “mentally hangry.”

Tip #2 Give it Something to Chase
Why? Your mind is active

For hundreds of years, border collies have been bred to chase. When focused, they will charge non-stop in a valiant effort to herd sheep and catch far-flung frisbees. Much to the dismay of many modern owners, however, the chase instinct cannot be trained out of their DNA. Lacking an outlet, they may attempt to herd cyclists, squirrels, cars, or even small children.

When it comes to chasing, most innovative, project driven people, have a similar instinct. That is, when we want something, we really want something, and we will work like a dog to get it. The catch, however, is that not all pursuits are positive. Sure, it’s possible you spend all your energy pursuing dental degrees, personal weightlifting records, and solutions to global health problems. But given your nature, it’s also quite possible, that you expend your energy chasing uber-EATS ice-cream trucks and troublesome members of the opposite sex. Or maybe you even chase the former with the latter.

Regardless, you will end up chasing something. To channel your instinct to charge, find a captivating project that stretches your limits, and then get after it. Build a treehouse, write a book, compose a song, train for a 10k, or launch a website. Whatever it is, once you set your mind to it, the options are endless.

Tip # 3 Get a Leash
Why? Your mind wanders 

Some dogs are tame enough to roam anywhere off leash and return whenever their owner calls. But border collies, even the friendliest ones, are curious creatures and notorious escape artists. Off leash, their curiosity can lead them to explore poison oak patches or water from impure sources. While they do need space to run free, at times they just need a short leash. And so do our own thoughts.

See, if left unchecked, the same imagination that allows you to create companies from scratch can also become self-destructive. Watch for the gradual slippery slope space out. Maybe your mind wanders back to the embarrassing work meeting, last week. Or maybe you start wondering why Tyler Tinder failed to show up for your second date. Then, before you realize, you sit captive as an audience member to a self-made mental movie with the tagline, “Unemployed and Unloveable”—the vivid motion picture autobiography coming to theaters in 2020.  These are dangerous rabbit holes to travel down, but thankfully, you don’t have to give up daydreaming and curiosity altogether in order to stay sane. Instead, identify your trigger territories and keep a thought leash at the ready. That way, you can let your imagination explore, and simply reign it back to the focus path whenever necessary.

Tip #4 Breed Responsibly
Why? Your mind is fertile

Responsible breeding is an important aspect of both dog ownership and creative mind ownership—especially for those prone to absorbing surrounding stimuli like a sponge.
The words and suggestions you internalize now will most likely give birth later, whether in the form of art, or a manifested reality. That said, if you have a particularly fertile mind, then be intentional about who you think with. Now, this does not mean we should all live in microcosms among those who share the exact same viewpoints. Actually, the ability to respectfully disagree and juggle opposing ideas can widen our perspective and sharpen our character. However, considering the law of averages, you will become the company you keep. The ideas, advice, criticisms, or comments, that others speak into your life, act like tiny seeds which bear fruit for good or for bad.

Choose your close pack wisely.

Alas, now that you have these training tips on hand, it’s time for your border collie get some exercise. Your mind is powerful, so use it well!

Transformed and Thankful

Over the last 2 years, God has blessed my community with the most excellent leaders. Here’s a personal letter of thanks, and a story transformation, to one of them.

Dear Eric Knopf,

I remember on the first day of our preach and teach class, you explained to us that the ultimate purpose of teaching, is to bring transformation. Immediately, that statement stirred a question inside of me: When does a preacher ever get to witness the accomplishments of their goal purpose?  Sure, you might hear about revelations after a sermon, or job promotional breakthroughs in a facebook post.

But transformation? That’s less glamorous, harder to articulate, and consequently, far less broadcasted. In my own experience, transformation occurs first internally, far before the seeds of teaching take root and bear fruit into a larger external reality. It happens behind the scenes, inside the heart and mind—almost on a cellular level of the soul—before then affecting the hundreds of tiny decisions and actions which influence the course of our lives, and those around us.

Then, right in the middle of our class, it dawned on me. In the context of your intended purpose, the majority of the fruits of your labor, are invisible! Most occupational endeavors, or passion projects, don’t work this way.  For example, when a veterinarian neuters a cat, they can see tangible proof that the “proper pruning” has taken place, and rest assured knowing the cat will never do something stupid like run away to find a mate. But a preacher just doesn’t receive that same type of immediate gratification or rest assurance.  So Merry Christmas, here’s a story about behind the scenes transformation….

Memory Lane Moments

Every year in December, I take some time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months. Shuffling through journal memories like a card deck, I reminisce over event highlights and ponder over any potential character changes. This year something unusual happened. When I looked back at the journal entries of last year, I could hardly recognize myself inside the lines of my archaic thought process. Indeed, sometimes I get so caught up in racing ever forward, that I forget to acknowledge the distance already covered, and more importantly—those who walked with me on the journey.  

Quarter Life Back Story

To offer some background, in the months leading up to my discovery of the Epic Life community (spring 2015), I rode a train headed straight for a land of deception and disaster. Of course, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but now, looking back almost makes me cringe. Without the right environment and mentorship throughout those critical quarter-life years—my natural personality trait combination of intellect, innocence, and curiosity, could have easily led me down a harmful, (and much less than epic) of a life path. In fact, it was already starting to. See at one point…

  • I was intellectual enough to read Tim Keller or CS Lewis for fun, but too doctrinally insecure to face questions without riding an emotional roller coaster of “crisis Christianity.”  Some people told me to stop thinking so much. Others suggested that God had me in a “natural spiritual wilderness.:
  • I was naive enough to stay rather oblivious to the existence of evil in the world, yet sensitive enough to feel bogged down by its weight. Thus I often lived as a victim, unequipped and frequently blindsided by life. Also, I had a habit of picking myself up with songs containing very theologically debatable lyrics.
  • Lastly, I was curious enough to gravitate towards controversy, although not always discerning enough to know when to flee. For example, if a guy were to tell me that the whole of waiting until marriage concept was actually a common Biblical mistranslation of the phrase sexual immorality, my response would be something like “really? So tell me more about your theory.” I know your eyes just rolled back into their sockets while reading that, but no worries, cross references before conspiracy theories!

Who are These People?

Thankfully, I immersed myself in the Epic Life community at the perfect time, and the potential spiritual wilderness train wreck never occurred.  The cool thing is, I didn’t have to undergo some huge personality makeover, I just became really curious about better things. Such as:  

  • The undeniable fruit in the lives of the people on leadership.
  • The authentic and fun friendships, which seemed to defy all existing stereotypes of post -collegiate social life death.
  • And of course, God’s truth—which was now being unveiled more clearly than ever before in your sermons.

Gratitude Induced Insomnia

It was actually a slight problem at one point because so many light bulbs of revelation came on at once that I had trouble sleeping. I didn’t mind, though. The occasional onset of gratitude induced insomnia seemed a small price to pay for more truth and freedom.  I no longer lived terrified of making “salvation deal breaking” mistakes, or googling my way to confirmation bias and confusion. When I didn’t understand something, I simply told siri “remind me to ask Eric Knopf about x,y,z, later” You have a unique ability to explain complex concepts in simple understandable ways, while still conveying the depth and context of scripture. It’s informative and instructive without being cliche or condescending.  As my doctrinal haze began to clear up I found myself tolerating, and then even welcoming, discussions with people of many different denominations and other walks of faith.

Identity Discovery

Unsurprisingly, the more I learned the truth about God’s character, the more I learned about my own identity as well.  Long before I started coming to Epic Life, I knew God was calling me to share my writing with other people. However,  I had no plans of actually doing anything about it in the near future. Paralyzed with lies about incompetence, I refused to share a word. For a short time, I really did think I could get away with ignoring that one calling—maybe try listening to God in some other areas—and continue along as a slightly disengaged observer of life. But as it turned out, that wasn’t an option.

First of all, the prayer team kept bringing up “having a voice,” or “writing for others,”at what I considered to be very irrelevant times. Since I didn’t have much previous exposure to the prophetic, I used to respond by saying things like, “hey nice prayer. But just wondering, have you been talking to other people? Like about my secrets?” I know. I can’t believe I blamed the prayer team for gossip either. Gradually my heart softened, and my mind opened. Finally, last December 2015, when you challenged us to reach 1000 acts of kindness, I reached a tipping point and thought,  why not join in? I mean, everyone’s doing it, and I’ve always wanted to start a blog anyway.  By the time the kindness challenge officially ended, I no longer required permission to walk in obedience and keep going.  

“Vulnerability Hangovers” and Holding Back

Later, in April, when I stepped on stage for the first time to share a testimony with the community, an internal barrier shattered.  It’s been a year of much blogging, breakthrough, and discovery, ever since. I will admit, it has not always been easy. In honesty, sometimes the new concept of vulnerability felt so terrifying that I thought I might throw up on multiple occasions. However, when my “alive meter” kept skyrocketing, and my inbox flooded with responses from encouraged listeners and blog readers, I realized that holding back would always be the scarier life choice.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like right now had I continued along the same trek of seeking out quaint churches and trying not to be too curious. It’s not like I was in danger of joining a gang or selling drugs, but there are other kinds of character tragedies. Most likely, I’d just be a “pretty nice” person with a couple of secrets and a lot of unused potential. While that’s not even close to the will of God, at most other churches, I could have easily gotten away with that lifestyle. But of course, I am so glad I didn’t!

Full Circle Unfoldings

Last year when I sent you and Camille that long Christmas card letter, I remember ending with a line like this: “I have a feeling, or perhaps it’s a Holy Spirit intuition, that this is just the beginning.”  Oddly, I wrote that note before joining leadership, and before the spontaneous post service Q and A, and before ever taking part in princess stories and park strolls with Scarlett and Maverick. And yet, it must be a (mind of) God thing, because I just knew there was, and still is, much more to come.  That being said, I had no idea how the unfolding would play out so delightfully in reality.

I never could have imagined that 6 months later I’d be swinging from jungle vines at the Green Papaya in Costa Rica while discussing the gospel of Mark among friends and fish tacos. Or, that I would spend the early mornings of my family vacation devouring the pre-published edition of “The Will of God,” while discussing Theology (without stress) across from my brother as he worked on his own Theology essays.  Also, I definitely never thought I’d end up in a living room full of people eager to learn how to teach, during the rainy Monday nights of October.

Speaking of, it was during that class, that I gained an even greater awareness and respect for the work you put in, in order to deliver quality sermons week in and week out. Even though you deem your message content as mere leftover “bread crumbs,” giving away good crumb’s requires a diligent kneading of one’s own daily bread. It’s a privilege to take part in a community where the leaders freely dust everyone with such high nutrient density breadcrumbs. Seriously, thank you so much for all that you do to positively influence so many of our lives.  I am forever grateful to have been a part of this ministry.

2016 was quite a year, but now I am even more excited for what’s to come!

Love, blessings, and declarations of favor.

Chrissa

“The Best is Yet to Come”

Live Testimony Audio from 3/2/2017 at Epic Life.

Speech Transcript 
It’s good to see you guys and I have a confession to make. In my last testimony, I told a story, about the time I moved to Sacramento, “a couple years after college,” to go back to school. What I conveniently forgot to mention, back then, was that in those “couple years after college,” I got expelled from my other school. Let’s dive into that blip on the radar screen. It’s late August of 2013. 

I am feeling relieved, and also, I admit, a little smug, that I finally know what I am going to be when I grow up: A Doctor of physical  therapy. Getting accepted to grad school was a big deal, so I arrive on the first day excited ready to roll. I imagine the next 3 years are going to be full of stimulating discussions, study parties, and extra time for creative research projects.

Well, it wasn’t like that. In the first round of midterms I get flattened across the board, in all 8 classes. That’s  not the only problem. By one month in, I cannot help but notice, that this profession (as a doctor of physical therapy) is not what I expected, at all.

I feel like a bride walking down the aisle, gearing up to dedicate my life and get married to this career, that had seemed really cool in the lead up stages. Except now, the closer I look, the more turned off I get.

I briefly entertain the thought, that maybe I’m making a big mistake, here. Then I  cut the thought out of my mind. I already wrote the tuition check! I tell myself this is standard cold feet; it’s time to get work, and rescue my grades. 
Highly motivated by the fear of failure, I give it my all: I spend my early mornings in the labs, and my late nights roaming the streets of Alameda!with flash cards. And of course, I pray. “God, please do not let me fail.” I say. “But if I am going to fail, or if you don’t want me here, I would rather you make me sick, it doesn’t  look like my fault.”…. Be careful about declaring bad theology!

The night before the first final exam, out of nowhere–I get violently ill. I take the finals anyway, and a couple hours after the last exam, receive an email summoning me to the dean’s office. I walk in, and sit down, and they hand me a box of Kleenex.  

“Well Chrissa, we know you tried really hard, and you came really close, BUT…” They go on to inform me that I failed two classes, one of them by two tenths of a point, and the consequence is expulsion. Expelled? I think to myself. That kind of stuff isn’t supposed to happen to me. 

But it did.

That afternoon I say goodbye to my classmates, pack up my apartment, and drive to my parents house. Awake that night, I try to reconcile with how it was that I could pour so much of myself into something and still miss the mark. Naturally, I have some disappointment to deal with, here. But  I want to get over it, already. So after the Christmas vacation, I set my eyes on a different school in Sacramento, and divert attention and hopes elsewhere

Part 2: The Bachelor 
Okay. Here’s another confession. I cannot stand the Bachelor TV show. Contrary to popular assumption, it’s not because I think it’s too unrealistic. Based on my early/mid twenties dating experiences, I find it a little too realistic. Basically, after grad school, there’s a dramatic dating elimination hunger games going on in my life. All the contestants are stalking each other on social media. Girls are crying; guys stressed because the girls are crying: And I am in the arena, praying for wisdom, because I’m so confused. But when my prayers are answered, I realize, Oh, this  is not complicated.

Simple math. If the sum amount of my pain and your stress, are consistently greater than that of my happiness and your peace—it’s just not a good fit. 

With my new found logic, I exit the the bachelor hunger games arena—but not scratch free. 
Part 3 Disenchantment: 
Not only am I torn up, but I start to wake up to a disenchanted reality full of deferred disappointments. In my experience,

 The longer you stay drunk by the comforts of a lie, the worse the hangover is when you wake to the truth.  

I feel like I went to sleep in Disneyland, and woke up in a Linkin Park music video, that keeps reminding me “I tried so hard and got so far, and in the end it doesn’t even matter.”

I look back over the last 3 years—what was supposed to be the big launching into real adult life— and I see failure and heart break.

 In addition, I have an overwhelming awakening to the concept of choice. I recognize that even with good intent, I don’t always make good choices. Mistakes are painful and I’d rather not make them anymore. Thus, I decide I’m going to work really hard to not to make any wrong choices.

Part 4: Refinancing the Heart 
Unfortunately, I don’t trust own decision making mechanisms, anymore, so I’m on the hunt for permission and validation. I want someone to tell me what the right answers are, and give me some reassurance that I’m doing a good job at life.

But I don’t get this reassurance. And even when I do it’s not satisfying; it never feels like enough. Because I never feel like enough. Then, God gives me an analogy.

My heart is like an economic system, currently on the brink of bankruptcy for 2 reasons. 

 a) My identity stocks are owned by 95% earthly shareholders.

b) My self worth is outsourced in either performance or people.

I have learned: Acquiring the value of our self worth, has to be, a passive income inside job between us and God. Only then can then can we operate in freedom and generosity.
So I go about refinancing my heart, and continue my quest of making only right choices.

Part 5: Constant Vigilance
My next approach, is one of constant vigilance. I believe that if I can simply gather enough information, analyze the situation to (near) death, and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible—than I can outrun the unknown , escape criticism, avoid mistakes, never get hurt, and excel in all my endeavors. 

For a little while I think I have a high functioning undercover strategy working out for me—until I get coffee with Eric Waterbury. He looks at me like an X-ray and says “if you keep doing this, your life will stay small, but it has the potential to be powerful.” After the denial wears off, I see he has a point: my constant vigilance is shrinking my life and faith. 

See, FAITH as defined in Hebrews is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance in what we CANNOT SEE. But, indirectly, I have been saying to God. “God, here is my circle of trust. It’s roughly the size of a human eye—so that limits us to  what I can see. On a good day it expands to the size of my head–meaning only what I can think of. God, I want break through! But don’t break my borders.” 

MEANWHILE, on Sunday, Hillsong United comes on, and I’m belting out “Spirit lead me, where my trust is without borders.”

Once again, I am convicted. 

Part 6 The Central Story
Finally, a few months ago, I reach a point where all of these convictions converge to trigger the question:

 “Is this the kind of story I want to tell with my life?”

Everyday—whether I document to my diary, or post to Instagram—my actions, beliefs, and decisions are telling a story—for which only I will be held accountable for at the end of this life.  

If I’m honest with myself, the central themes of my story right now, look like…

Mistake prevention, perception management, sin avoidance, social media upkeep, and, idea hoarding.

I  don’t read this genre for fun. In literature and film, great stories never start, or end, with flawless characters, or perfect plot point destinations. A great story happens, when a character wants something, badly enough that they are willing to face fear, doubt, and conflict, to fight for it. Also, for a story to work, it needs an element of uncertainty. Otherwise, we would no longer feel compelled to turn the page, or click next episode, at one in the morning. 

As the dots connect, I realize, that maybe, achieving perfection is not the purpose of my life story. In fact, maybe, the goal of not making any mistakes, IS the mistake. That’s the very thing my keeping my real self, and all my ideas, locked inside and away from the world.
Also, if I really do ask the Holy Spirit to lead me down a path that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, or no mind has imagined—then I simply do not have time to live a story limited by the fear of failure.

Part 7 His Kingdom Come 
Presently, in the process of letting go of perfection, my vision has improved – both near and far site. I can see present reality more clearly—because I am no longer afraid to look at it. I can also see my dreams for the future more vividly—because, I now aim to choose curiosity over despair, when facing the not yet charted transition territories.

 There was a time, not too long ago, when I felt crushed by the weight of the “not yets.” I asked God: ” How do I deal with: the people not yet healed, the hungry children not yet fed, the debts unpaid, my stories not yet published, and the deep longings of my heart not yet fulfilled? These questions used to haunt my story. Now these questions drive my story.

 I have accepted that between reality and dreams, a gap in some form, will always exist. Afterall we are here on earth and NOT yet in heaven. But now I see that inside the gap is our invitation to carry forward the greatest story ever told. 
 It’s a battle, where we face darkness with torches of light; 

an adventure, where we slash through thickets of lies with swords of Truth.  

And it’s a romance, of God’s outrageous, everlasting love for us. 

    Alas, together in this story, we rally, with patience and urgency, for His kingdom to come and His will to done. 

 You guys, the best, is yet, to come!

The Rise and Fall of Trash Club (revised edition)

The second edition story about the time my older brother, Peter, hacked the family chore system by sucessfully  recruiting his siblings to do the chores for him. 

Growing up in the Trudelle family, household chores served as necessary, and nonnegotiable, part of the experience. For most of us, that is; my older brother Peter was a born negotiator. The day Peter discovered his natural salesmanship skills, he determinedly sought to crack the chore system. Speaking like a true aspiring entrepreneur even before middle school, his vocabulary already included words like ‘outsource,’ ‘delegate,’ and ‘market value.’ Now, I’m pretty sure he only used the term market value while trading his basic lunch bag for another kid’s country club deli sandwich—in order to better fuel his recess four square game, of course. But sandwiches aside, Peter always managed to have a lineup of strategies: especially when it came to housework which he regarded as highly unskilled labor.

When he first pitched the idea of employing us younger siblings to do the chores for him, my parents denied his request. They believed a child’s chore motivation should arise not from bribery, but out of a supposedly natural desire to contribute to one’s family. Vetoing cash payment plans, they stated that any chore assistance given would only come through the form of willing collaboration. Of course, they said this assuming no child in their right mind would take on extra chores, just for fun.  Unfazed, Peter kept scheming.

Approximately a week after the denied parental proposal, Peter approached Marie and I, ages 5 and 8 respectively, to hand us each a postcard.  “Look what came in the mail today,” he said, trying to sound casual. Immediately, Marie and I stopped everything to focus. In elementary school, personalized snail mail usually meant birthday invitations, or delayed Christmas cash from relatives.

“Welcome to trash club?” I paused, already bewildered by the first line.
“It’s official,” Peter enthused. “Check it out! It’s a club, where you take out the trash. The headquarters are in Boulder, Colorado and they are offering you guys free membership, with benefits.”
“Wait, Pete. Are you a member too?” Marie asked.
“Yup, I’m actually the Portola Valley branch manager, and the club functions remotely, so you guys will be working for me.”

Just as I’m sure he planned, Marie and I felt honored to be included in such a limited and exclusive club. Gullible and enthusiastic, we jumped at the opportunity to sign up.
Peter had also tried recruiting the other siblings, but with them, he had no such luck. Laura guarded her homework time with utmost seriousness, and Johnny was barely old enough to give verbal consent, let alone speak. This left Steve, the eldest of our clan, shaking his head in jealousy and disbelief at his younger brother’s unfair success at escaping his chores. However, by the time Steve voiced a complaint to our parents, it was too late.

Within two weeks the trash club skyrocketed with success like a Silicon Valley start-up company. Every Monday night the three of us met for a brief meeting before scattering throughout the house to collect the trash and recycling from each bedroom. Reconvening once more outside, Peter would hoist the large trash bins onto an old wheelbarrow, and then we trekked the long driveway pushing the garbage in front of us. Following the street side drop off, Marie and I could cash in on our premium membership benefits. Our favorite was the secret wheelie ride back to the house.

Technically, the wheelbarrow was intended for transportation purposes only. However, we decided it better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, and let the technicalities slide. With Marie and I double stacked in the wheelbarrow, Peter pushed us back home as fast as he could while quoting Robin hood, and shouting, “who’s driving this flyin’ umbrella?!” To close the weekly meeting, Peter gave us one gumball each, and a high-five for good measure.

As the weeks continued, the group’s positive enthusiasm kept climbing. Marie and I received encouraging postcards from the “headquarters,” and Peter started leading tailgate parties before each meeting. Strutting throughout the house like an inspirational coach, he blasted Jock Jams—and, also songs from Jurassic park—from his portable stereo. “Who’s excited it’s Monday?” He would ask, in a booming radio announcer voice. “Best day of the week! Welcome to trash club. Let’s get this party started!”

Enchanted by the club’s exclusivity, the wheelbarrow ride, and the special gumball treat at the end, Marie and I were loyal and satisfied club members. We thoroughly enjoyed the club while it lasted, however, the trash club start up company—like most bubble cultures—eventually, burst.

One week during the wheelbarrow ride, as Marie and I laughed with adrenaline in our veins, and the wind in our faces, we dared Peter to go faster. Stepping up to the challenge, he kicked his sled-push sprint into another gear. The wheelbarrow, however, was unable to handle the speed on the turn and tipped sideways leaving all three of us to topple onto the pavement. Marie and I slowly stood up trying to hold back tears and Peter’s face grew paler by the moment.

Taking a walk of shame back inside, we attempted to sneak into our parent’s bathroom for a quick mending of our scrapes. We should have known this already, but our house was always far too small to keep secrets, and we bumped into our Dad in the hallway. As expected, he wanted to know why we were holding Band-Aids and Neosporin in our hands. This, in turn, prompted a family discussion about the trash duties.
“Pete, is it really that hard for you to take the trash out by yourself?” Dad asked. “I mean, Chrissa already has other chores, and Marie has barely been introduced into the rotation.”
“Nah, it’s not that hard,” Peter said. “I just don’t really like doing it alone.”
“Maybe the bins too heavy, for him.” Mom suggested, in genuine concern.
“Eh, they’re fine,” Peter said. “I lift the bins by myself, anyway.”
“Well, what is it then?” Dad pressed on.
“It’s just…I’m kind of…” Peter began speaking and then trailed off.
“I’m afraid of the dark.”

Books (and other sources) of 2016

read or listened to...

*A couple days ago I posted a table of contents of my own written work over the last year. Learning, reading, and sharing sources are some of my favorite ways to connect with others—feel free to leave a comment below!

Theology and Christian Life

The Will of God- Eric Knopf
Changes that Heal- Henry Cloud
Love Does- Bob Goff
Safe People- Henry Cloud
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years- Donald Miller
Every Good Endeavor- Tim Keller
Scary Close- Donald Miller
Blue Like Jazz- Donald Miller
The Screwtape Letters- CS Lewis
Present Over Perfect- Shauna Niequist
Leave Yourself Alone- Eugenia Price
The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness- Kris Vallotton
A Spirituality for 2 Halves- Richard Rohr, Paula D’Arcy
Dreaming with God- Bill Johnson

Thinking and Creating

Linchpin- Seth Godin
The Virgin Way- Richard Branson
The Gifts of Imperfection- Brene Brown
Daring Greatly- Brene Brown
The Story Teller’s Secret- Carmin Gallo
Creativity Inc- Amy Wallace, Ed Catmull
On Writing- Stephen King
Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott
Big Magic – Liz Gilbert

Switch- Chip and Dan Heath
The Paradox of Choice- Barry Shwartz
Focus- Daniel Goleman

Young Professional Life

The Defining Decade- Meg Jay
Adulting- Kelly Williams Brown
The Opposite of Loneliness- Marina Keegan
Start- John Acuff
The Highly Sensitive Person- Elaine Aaron
The Disease to Please- Harriet Braiker

Fiction/ Memoir

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr
The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
Eat Pray Love- Elizabeth Gilbert
Little Failure- Gary Shteyngart
The Sweetheart Deal- Pauly Dugan
Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

Other Sources…

The Epic Life community, Bridgetown church (on identity and vocation part 1, part 2, and part 3), Jesus Culture Sacramento,  commencement speeches, Donald Miller at Wheaton, Matt Chandler of the Village Church, Caroline Leafcognitive neuroscientist, Francis Chan,  30 days of genius series  on creative live, Brian Picking’s magazine, Forge Church old testament podcasts.

2016 Table of Contents

 Blog Posts by Category

God

  1. How to define your relationship with God so it’s no longer complicated
  2. What does the phrase  “it’s a God thing” actually mean?
  3. Looking for a godly spouse? Watch out for these theological red flags
  4. Crisis Christianity explained through medical metaphors.
  5. Is your relationship with God driven by love or fear? 
  6. Thoughts on perfectionism, God’s Grace, and black and white thinking.
  7. Ten ways for people with over-active minds to stay focused during church.
  8. The unseen connection between  Mario Kart, and the Kingdom of God
  9. The four things people hide from in life.
  10. Memorizing scripture through song lyrics: part 1 and part 2.
  11. A Ferrari analogy to explain our extraordinary power in Christ
  12. How not to worry about tomorrow by thinking of yourself as a 5th grader.

 Relationships

  1. How to tell if a guy likes you,” and why females should stop googling this question.
  2. A story about relational competition explained in terms of US history, kale salad, and cake.
  3. Should height or love at first sight, be deal breaking factors? I don’t think so.
  4. A few words on drama, introverts, invisibility, and the importance of staying authentic.
  5. Whether single or dating, use the famous 8 slice pizza strategy to enrich your life.
  6. Stop obsessing about the idea of someone, and let other people show you who they really are.
  7. Four common myths about women who wait until marriage to have sex.
  8. The connection between quidditch and relationships. Are you a seeker or a snitch?
  9. Whether gasping for Oxygen or exploding with sparks, it’s time to clarify the chemistry concept. 
  10. Before you get lost in translation again, read the comprehensive guide to texting men.
  11. A story about the time I asked my older brother for relationship advice.
  12. Should women play hard to get? Here’s a poetic opinion on the matter.
  13. Reasons for the increase in gender segregation in young adult church culture.

Creativity

  1. Find out the 14 commonalities of great thinkers summarized in the 30 days of genius series.
  2. Maximize decision-making energy by viewing your mind as a volleyball court.
  3. The case against waiting around for inspiration. Really, creativity is a boss.
  4. Make your life about verbsnot nouns.  
  5. Struggling with writer’s block? Consider writing delirious, creating a tent, or dictating on a walk.
  6. The idealist’s guide to surviving and thriving in the real world.
  7. Strengthen your communication by eliminating these 4 words from your vocabulary.
  8. A story about the “6 characters” driving my train of thought.

Young Adulthood

  1. Hangry, object permanence and other ways adults act like toddlers
  2. The dark side of the millennial generation’s obsession with nostalgia. The topic is covered in both paragraph and rhyming form.
  3. Reframe the negative emotions of transitions with this bay bridge analogy. 
  4. Eat chocolate chips, tell stories, ask questions, and take your babysitting/parenting to the next level by using my “Socratic sitter” method.
  5. Live with integrityor snowplow down the mountain.
  6. Is social media comparison making you feel lame? There’s a reason for that.
  7. People lacking boundaries will fear both engulfment and isolation; they resemble novice Marco Polo players.
  8. The food pyramid of the average young professional.

Student Life

  1.  Reasons your best friend, class rival, and class crush all make for great study buddies
  2. A story about the time I tried to explain the grad student experience to a professor via analogies of chocolate cake and hypothetical motherhood.
  3. What it would look like if track athletes practiced in the same distracted way that college students studied.
  4.  Studying in coffee shops for prolonged periods of time is bound to bring an interesting encounter or two.
  5. Ten ways to understand your friend’s breakup situation and study for your next anatomy/physiology test at the same time.
  6. poem of encouragement for physical therapy test takers.

Trudelle Family Stories

  1. The unusual story of how my parents met, became teachers, got married, and ended up at the Priory (The most read post of this blog).
  2. An “ordinary” morning in the Trudelle house. 
  3. How my older brother managed to rig the family chore system.
  4. Why the Trudelle’s are obsessed with bubbly water.
  5. A peek inside a family road trip car ride from the year 2000.
  6.  The profound effect my grandmotherNanuka has had on my life.
  7. The speech for my sister Laura on her wedding day.
  8. The email of “Costa Rican cupidity and flaming torch jungle runs which sent me to Central America just 48 hours after sending.
  9. The 2016 Christmas promo email.
  10.  A poem for my niece on her first birthday.
  11. If streets could talkthey would sound like this poem of hometown memories.
  12. Tales of running beginnings and my first cross country coach

 

The Starbucks Sonnet

Part 6 of the Java Journals: a series which documents my various coffee shop encounters during 2016.

 

Sometimes I wonder in disbelief about how I always managed to recruit study companions during exam times. Mostly because, my circuitous style of mastering content leaves all participants subject to stories, metaphors, and weird mnemonic devices.

For example, one day I insisted my Starbucks study group trio speak only in British accents. Twenty minutes into a rather posh pop quizzing session, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. A young man with light colored hair stood there; unfortunately, that’s about the only detail I can remember. He possessed such a stealthy demeanor that by the time I noticed the paper note in front of me, he had already made a swift and silent exit of the premise. The study group paused in curiosity as I opened the paper to read his untidy scroll. It began,

 “Your voice as melodious as an angel choir. One word is all it takes to light a fire.”  

Wow, I thought. Maybe an accent section of my audio blog would increase the inspiration levels of my listenership.  I kept reading. The poem commenced with the event of our lonely souls merging for a lifetime of happiness, and concluded with an invitation to text. To be fair, I did appreciate his employment of the good old ABAB rhyme scheme, however, I just couldn’t agree to add fuel to this fire.

Partially because, completing a lonely soul is a tall an order—and not in the Starbucks sense of tall. Also, I felt like a fraud. See, this mysterious man, more than anything else, liked my voice. Apparently, my voice reminded him of a goddess, lit a fire, and “instilled a strong craving.” Perhaps in normal contexts, these could serve as flattering compliments for someone who sings, writes, or speaks. But in this case, my vocal chords sent a misleading signal. I realized the only voice he could have possibly overheard was my fake British—posh with hints of cockney, to be specific—accent explanation of PNF stretching.

Thanks for stopping by the Java Journal series. Click on the following links to read more  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5,

Java Journals pt 5- “The Zone Interrupter”

 

Part 5 of a 7 part series documenting my various encounters during coffee shop visits of 2016. Find Part 1, part 2 , part 3, or part 4 here

Okay, I’ll admit it; I have a weird personality contradiction on occasion. On one hand, I’m typically easy-going and enjoy a popcorn style of conversation that heads further down the rabbit trail than towards the main point. On the other hand, when I work on written projects, I enter a black hole zone of fierce focus, and secretly wish it was socially acceptable to stamp a “do not disturb” sign on my forehead; interrupters be warned.

October 2016 6:50 am

On one of the first brisk mornings of the season,  I clutched a steamy holiday spiced drink and felt nearly giddy about the hour of creativity ahead. To combat the demands of my full schedule later in the day, I had intentionally carved out a block of much needed uninterrupted writing time. With a notebook on one side and coffee cup on the other, I opened my laptop and dove in. My concentration didn’t last long, however, as 10 minutes later, someone sauntered up to the table without me noticing him.  “Yo. You cool if I sit here?” He asked. Involuntarily, I gasped. Now, I like to think of my acute startle response as a sign of advanced reflexes which will help me survive a zombie apocalypse, or win the hunger games; but most of the time it’s just embarrassing. “Uh, sure.” I said, slightly flustered, “go ahead.” He wore a lanyard name tag from a local community college and looked like he probably competed in the shot-put event of track and field.

My eyes couldn’t help but scan the numerous vacant tables surrounding us; I was not in the mood for small talk with strangers. He, on the other hand, most definitely was. Acting as casually as though we had planned to study together, he plopped down in the chair directly next to me and turned into a pitching machine of questions. “Are you having a good day?  What are you working on? Are you a doctor? Are you in school? Is that a caramel macchiato?” Random inquiries pelted me like nerf gun bullets and I experienced a taste of my own curiosity medicine—just at the wrong hour. Attempting to focus again, I adjusted my glasses. “Are you like–really smart?” He asked. I shrugged, “Ehh. Not really. I just look smart.” As to where this odd response came from, I don’t know, but I took it as a sign to begin planning my exit. Thankfully the exit strategies turned out to be unnecessary, as seconds later, the barista came to the rescue. She called out his drink, and to my relief, he had ordered “to-go.”