Recommendations No. 1: Podcasts

There are a few things teaching me how to be more wise with my time right now:

  1. Sticking to my social media time limits (usually.)
  2. Writing down mostly reasonable goals with a box beside each one so I can feel the satisfaction of checking it off when I’m finished.
  3. Podcasts.

Let’s talk about number 3. Podcasts are helpful when I need to get fresh ideas, hear a different perspective, or be challenged to try something different. It’s like reading-ish while doing laundry. Feeding the cats. Driving to work.

Lately, before I reach for Spotify or turn to the next preset, I consider a podcast. I’ve been listening to several, trying to find what is adding value to my plans and dreams right now. So far, there are two specifically that have been a tremendous help to me. They’re very different, but hey, maybe you need that too.  


Work and Play with Nancy Ray

In a world that teaches me to want, the message of not wanting or comparing refreshes me. In a culture that makes me work until I’m burnt out, her ideas embolden me to do it a different way.

This podcast released on a Wednesday, and I listened to all 3 available episodes back to back on that Friday morning. The sun was rising, and I sat in my parents’ driveway scribbling notes in my journal as Nancy Ray led me through honest questions and wonderings. I don’t know how long I sat in silence after that, hands wide open to whatever Jesus needed to entrust or take away from me.

This vulnerability woven into her testimony – wow.  

Nancy steps into a place of gentleness, calm, and peace. When everything else is loud and vying for my attention, Nancy’s words are kind and patient. She’s not yelling at me and she’s not trying to make me change my mind. She’s not loudly boasting in herself. She’s not reprimanding me for living flawed. Actually, she’s encouraging me to be okay with the flaw and to discover something from it.

There are no bells and whistles or frills. Just the honest, kind, gentle truth. Nancy truly believes that we were made to live joyful and content lives. In a world that teaches me to want, the message of not wanting or comparing refreshes me. In a culture that makes me work until I’m burnt out, her ideas embolden me to do it a different way.

The premise of Work and Play is that our entire lives are split up into two main categories: work and play. And the hope of this podcast is that we could learn how to honor God and care for ourselves in both of those places by learning the balance.

One thing that Work and Play is helping me to consider is my “rhythm of life.” Nancy walked me through how to listen and know where and how to schedule times of rest – true, life giving rest – in my routine. My daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routine.

Actually, it’s because of that message that I started this blog post at the library on a Saturday morning. That’s one of my rhythms of life birthed out of her podcast: dedicating an entire morning to getting coffee by myself and nestling in at the library to write without a time limit. June will be the 3rd month that I’ve given this a try. I’m excited for that.  

That morning I listened to Nancy for the first time, I made a list of things I want to start prioritizing. I thought about what I need to listen to God and do my job well on a daily basis. I considered how I can make time in my marriage to be with Travis every week. I was challenged to think about what I can do every month to help me reach the goals God has for me, and to even consider what I’m doing every year to refresh my vision.

Nancy will tell you all about the story of God placing the Contentment Challenge, a commitment to not buy anything unneeded for 3 months, on her heart and how that changed her family’s life. She’ll open up about the story of choosing to close her business, and how some decisions are good for us but bring a great amount of hurt.

And as you listen, you’ll be inspired by this woman of faith who knows what it feels like to trust God to navigate the complexities of life. She’s a mom and a business owner, but even if those aren’t your titles, you’ll be encouraged that this message is for you too. If you want to live hard at work, but not compromising the rest in your soul, then this is for you.

Nancy Ray is a teacher and a curator. She navigates life questions and circumstances, gleans as much wisdom as she can, and compresses it in a way that a listener can relate to. Her heart is passionate for helping others walk through their situations. She goes ahead of us to do the work of finding reliable sources and ideas, and then brings them to us simplified and relevant to our conversation.

This one is for the weary and the hopeful, the dreamers and the goal-setters. This is for the ones who desire to work not for money and prestige, but for fruit; for the people who believe there is more to life than working tirelessly and that play is more meaningful than doing nothing.


The Moth

Maybe the only way we’re ever going to learn how to deal with people we’d rather turn away from is by being willing to sit long enough to hear them.

Would you believe me if I told you about a man who believed he would be the first black president? And then left that dream when he became a teacher and took in a homeless student?

Have you ever listened to an exoneree illustrate the scene when his daughter found him in prison, and worked to release him? Have you ever felt the pain of knowing she was a toddler when her father was wrongfully forced to walk in the guarded prison doors, and was a twenty-something when she finally saw his release?

What about a nurse who saved a man’s life when his guts started falling out of him – literally. Surely that’s a story you’ve not heard before?

This is only a glimpse of The Moth.

This podcast is dedicated to storytelling. People from all walks of life – rich and poor, old and young, funny and sad, gay and straight, hopeful and cynical – take a stage with nothing but their words. No notes. No outlines. No help. Just them retelling a true story from their life in front of a real audience.

I don’t know an exoneree, a man with a twisted colon, or a Korean adoptee. Nor am I any of those titles. But because of the stories people in those places have chosen to share, I understand a little better. When stories are told boundaries are tested, and differences dissipate. Titles and classes fall to the side. And suddenly, we’re humans together, experiencing heartache and sickness, love and joy together.

Storytelling captivates our senses and speaks a language that our humanity was made for. I know this because:

  • God created plot, and Jesus spoke to us in stories.
  • I feel different after hearing a well-told story.
  • Someone came up with the really cool idea to talk about what happens to us when we engage in stories.

Storytelling changes us. We’re wired for this. One valuable thing we can do for ourselves as we navigate our humanity is lean into the stories. Being willing to listen to others, and to feel something for them, cultivates a sense of wonder and admiration for people. It opens our eyes to our complexities. It prods us to make more room at the table.

And honestly, even if it’s not a story we’d agree with, it’s worth listening to. Maybe the only way we’re ever going to learn how to deal with people we’d rather turn away from is by being willing to sit long enough to hear them. If we can gather the courage and find the grace to sit through something we’d rather ignore just because of the title, we’ll come out richer for it.

Disclaimer: The Moth deals with some topics that I don’t believe in. I’ve not heard a single story that reflects my worldview. Also, the people cuss. I personally prefer not to use my words in that way.

Nuance: (n) a quality of something that is not easy to notice but may be important.

Example: The entire human experience.

But, I’m not going to shy away. I can’t. Listening to even those stories – the stories I’d rather not hear or argue with – helps me tremendously. In this space, I don’t have to prove a point to them. I just need to come with open ears. And as they speak, I find commonalities. I hear their humanity in every word, and even though we are different, I see the art of God in them. Even if I think they are wrong, the way I feel about that is transformed when I hear the vulnerability of their words; suddenly they become someone that God created and knows even now. That changes everything.

Listening to someone doesn’t mean I’m agreeing with them too. What it does mean is that I’m respecting them, loving them, showing compassion, and humbling myself. And who in this world can’t stand to work on those areas of life?


What do Nancy Ray and The Moth have to do with my work of serving refugees?

Everything.

I’m working with tough, yet fragile, people. These people have been through a lot, and part of my role is to step in and be a safer place for them. When they’re having a breakdown, when they need a friend, when they just don’t know what to do next, my job is to be there.

But I cannot expect to do that job well if I’m not caring for myself. I have to recognize my limitations too. If my life is all work all the time, then I’m only training myself to be exhausted and worn thin. I’m not really ready to serve, because I could break at the drop of a pin. And I have before. Actually, just a few months ago, I cried on the job for the first time in my entire career. I was tired and emotionally raw. I hadn’t rested my soul and my work suffered.

On the other hand, if my life is only playing and taking breaks, then I’m going to be resentful when it is time to get to work. I’m going to miss out on the chance to achieve a job well done. I’m going to miss out on innumerable chances to make a difference. Those are risks I can’t take either.

So, I need balance. Work and Play is inspiring me to find that balance. It’s centering me back to the plans of God by showing me how to seek Him in my work and rest. Nancy’s experience with Jesus inspires me to know Him better too. And in a day when there is much to do, decisions to make, people to invest in, mistakes to be made, I need every calm reminder I can get to teach my soul to be at peace in the midst of the chaos.

And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this mantra of this blog is the belief that stories are powerful. Stories are what have shaped my entire career. Stories are what transformed my thinking about the refugee experience and moved me to empathy for this cause. I’ve needed The Moth to help me remember that.

Stories gave me heart for my work. I could do my job without heart, but I would suck at it. It’s taken years, and continuing, to learn how to listen a little better. But every time I do, I see more of God in this world. My heart grows a little more understanding of humanity, and a little more forgiving toward the mistakes. And suddenly, being a human is less right and wrong; it’s nuanced work of the complex soul that Jesus comes after.

Maybe you’re not a social worker or a teacher.

So what if you’re not in the trenches with local refugees and immigrants? May I be so bold to assert that wherever you’re at, this is relevant to you too?

Regardless of your assignment or worldview, you’re not exempt. You’re in need of true, life-giving rest so that you can show up ready to work. You’re in need of work because deep down, whether or not you feel it, you want to work. You want to make a difference and feel the fruit of accomplishment. You want to know your perseverance is for a purpose.

I think it’s possible you also want to understand people more. But it’s hard. Oh, today with all of our anger and picking sides, it’s so hard. Maybe our first step to learning how to disagree with respect and mindfulness is to simply learn how to listen to stories not our own. Not to pipe up, but to simply listen.

In these ways, and many more, our humanness makes us the same. There are stories to be told, voices to hear, people to befriend, and work made to help us bear the weight of the world a little more. Don’t hesitate. Listen. Rest. Play. Pray. A story could change you too.

You’ll be richer for it too.  


Podcast links below. Let me know what you think!

  1. Work and Play
  2. The Moth

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