How God Gets Our Attention

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Discovering God's Plan

The month of May just zoomed by, as I was crazy busy with adjusting to summer vacation with the kids at home, my part-time job, and everything that goes along with that.

Honestly, I’ve been doing a whole lot of “looking in my house.”

How God Gets Our Attention

Thinking over the last six weeks or so—as I take a step back from the busyness of life—I see some clear markers of what God has placed under my nose to get my attention:

  1. I’ve been presented with several different freelancing/contract work opportunities that offer some exciting, long-term benefits.
  2. I’ve been “cut loose” of some responsibilities that had previously demanded a lot of my time (which would have hampered time I could spend on #1).
  3. My husband has some exciting things going on right now with his work.
  4. God continues to feed my soul, as we worship at a new church hearing awesome weekly messages, many of which have focused on the same ideas I put forth here: God has a unique purpose for you as part of his bigger story.

I also believe that God continues to prune and chip away at the peripheral things that don’t matter, in order to make room for the things that do. Of course, these things that he prunes include sin, but sometimes they also include “good” things.

It’s hard to say goodbye to things that are good but have become idols: relationships, comfort, predictability, smooth sailing.

Another thing I’m trying to learn is the difference between things that I enjoy and am interested in, and the things to which God is calling me. This is hard. Super-hard.

For example:

  • I’ve always enjoyed school and learning, and I’m a terrific student. I thought I’d be a great teacher.
  • I’m a terrible classroom teacher.

I love the whole world of Internet marketing and social media strategy. I keep trying to wiggle my way into these business endeavors, but I can’t quite find my niche. Right now, I’m trying to decide if I just need to persevere or if God is trying to turn me around. I think I’d be a great niche blog site owner—with a targeted “product” to promote and sell—but I’ve been trying to discover what that may be, examining everything from pantyhose to door knobs.

Nothing’s really working out. Nothing is presenting itself as viable. Nothing excites to the point of I can’t imagine myself NOT doing it. And the last thing I want to do is “force” myself into a business endeavor—committing time, money, and resources—when I don’t see or sense a clear affirmation of what I’m doing.

For now? I wait. I continue to turn over and move the rocks that God places in front of me. Maybe I’ll find something underneath one someday soon.

But if not, I do know one thing: casting aside the rocks in my path just clears more space for me to pursue God. A clean path to Christ guarantees a greater access to him.

And God’s plans for me far exceed anything I could imagine or pursue myself.

God’s plans for me far exceed anything I could imagine or pursue myself.

Photo Credit: CountryDreaming via Compfight cc

Do You Know God’s Call for Your Life?

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“I sensed God was calling me to the mission field.”

“We really felt God was not calling us to leave just yet. We felt there was more work to be done.”

“I’ve always felt called into teaching.”

Have you heard people say these types of things when they’ve been discussing their life’s plans or work? Maybe you’ve said those things yourself because you have a clear idea of  “God’s calling” on your life; I hope you do!

I’ve got to tell you that mine has been rather muddy for most of my life. Lately, more and more of God’s call is coming into focus for me and my family, though, and I can tell you what’s helped us to better figure out where to go from here.

How You Can Determine God’s Callingfile0001525508692

1. Look in your house. Really. Walk through the rooms and halls of your house. What do you see? For so many of us, we choose to ignore the very callings that stare us in the face. Family, work, skills, gifts—all of these things show up in our daily lives, if only we’d recognize them for what they are: God’s nudge to say, “Hey! This is the way I’ve equipped you; get to work using what I’ve given you.” Pantry full of food and pots and pans? You may be missing God’s call to begin a meals on wheels ministry, a catering business, or to become a nutrition counselor.

2. Embrace your passion. What has God put you on the planet to do? What has God gifted you to do that only you can do? Now—go do it.

3. Seek the person of Christ. One of the most transformational aspects of Jesus is that he did not simply embody good, wholesome characteristics like kindness or truth, as you and I may do. No. Jesus IS goodness, truth, love, kindness, self-control, and more. When we are hidden in him, our relationship is more than mental ascent. We possess what he possesses. We have access to the Father and his power through Christ! Stop and think about that. We have access to resurrection power.

4. Get yourself out of the way. Believe that his way is far better than anything you can do on your own. Now, move over!

5. Accept and celebrate that this life is temporary. We are just passing through. God’s calling—whether it’s exciting, boring, dangerous, or mundane—is not for your comfort, your success, or your fame. God’s calling is to advance his kingdom and impact others’ lives. Period.

6. While you may live out several callings at once and many throughout a lifetime, you are always required to abide by one above all others. Your highest calling is to be an instrument of God, doing his work.

 

Interview With Alyssa Avant, Author of FaithLeaps

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FaithLeaps

 

Today I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 7 of the Virtual Blog Tour for FaithLeaps: The Christian Mom’s Guide to Passion, Purpose and Profits by author Alyssa Avant. On the last stop of the tour, Alyssa visited Rosann Cunningham’s blog at Christian Supermom.

Below is the great interview I did with Alyssa about FaithLeaps.

Why did you write this book? Alyssa

ALYSSA: I was inspired to write this book several years ago, as I was attempting to navigate the overwhelming journey of working from home.  I had taken a “leap of faith” and quit my part time job and really needed to make an income from home.

Through trial and error, I found my way, but wished I would have had a guide or friend to help me along the way. There is also the issue of passion and purpose, which ultimately is what this book is about.  Yes I talk about working from home and ways to do that, but a stronger theme throughout this book is finding one’s passion and purpose and ultimately profiting from it (not necessarily financially).

What are the two or three main ideas you hope readers take away from FaithLeaps

ALYSSA: There are several main ideas that I hope readers will take away from FaithLeaps.  One of those is that we are all created by God with a God-given passion and purpose.  It is important, I believe, for us to identify and explore that passion and purpose.  Secondly,  I hope that readers will take away from this book that God enables us and can work through us to help us to accomplish our dreams and desires.

[Read more...]

My Word for 2012: Receive

2012 Mayan Calendar

(My friend, Jamie at BlondeMomBlog, posted this cartoon with her year-end post.
I had to borrow it for mine. I love it.)

It’s a new year—the perfect time for reflections and fresh starts.

I’m a real sucker for cliched rituals like that.

And so, I look back and look forward.

I started this blog one year ago with the greatest of aspirations. I wasn’t completely sure where it would take me, but one thing was foremost. I was devoted to being intentional.

Intentionally, Chris and I set goals for our family surrounding faith, family, and finances.

And unlike most New Year Resolution Resolvers, I actually held to a state of intentionality for much of the year. In fact, I consider it somewhat of a triumph that I was at least still considering intentionality as I closed the door on 2011. I was intentional enough to at least assess my success with goal-setting.

Drum roll, please.

You know what? Most—if not all—of those “goals” I set about faith, family, and finances were not reached. In fact, most were woefully missed. As in not just “come up a little short” but more like “the target was way over there.” And I’m not being negative, just realistic. You know what this tells me? That simply having intention isn’t enough to cause change.

Hmmm.

I have a theory. I think that most (if not all) “success stories” are “accidental.” (And by accidental, I actually mean God-orchestrated.) Hard work? Intention? Determination? All of those are simply by-products of calling and God-given talent.

I think everyone has something (or a few things) that he or she is created to do. As imagers of God, we are creators. I think everyone comes hard-wired to do/be a unique something/someone. Period.

My particular temptation (for whatever reason) is pursuing everything under the sun. I see the possibilities in all things and try to fit my square peg in a round hole. No amount of “intention” or “determination” can change or improve something that doesn’t exist.

This fall, I attended the PCA International Women’s Conference in Atlanta. My friend, Nancy Guthrie, was the speaker and was absolutely fabulous. Anyway, one of the most important things I took away from the weekend was the idea that God was calling me to a special place. (And that wasn’t the topic of Nancy’s talks but was something I found to be kind of a residual effect of my learning and listening.)

He is calling me to a posture of reception. Of listening. I have always been praying and seeking his guidance about what to do. I believe he now is calling me to simply be. To watch for his moving. To identify his signs. To become still in order to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit.

So, I enter 2012 with one word: Receive. And I’ve got to say that we’re only a few days in, and it’s tough. My mother is dealing with some health issues associated with recovery from breast cancer, and our family is navigating some sticky relationship issues. And yes, I still need to address faith, family, and fitness, just like last year.

But I come to 2012 in place of cautious expectancy with no agenda except to wait, watch, listen, and receive.

 

 

I’ve Looked in My House and It’s a Mess

This is not anything new, really. My house is always a mess.

By “house” I mean both my physical dwelling, as well as my mental/emotional/spiritual “house.”

And I straddle sanity between enjoying the permission to be unstructured with the overwhelming desire to “get it together” and get it cleaned up.

The first few weeks of school have been hard for us.  We’ve been dealing with all sorts of broken household appliances and behavior and sleeping issues with the kids while just managing the daily stuff, too.

Trying to juggle it all brings me to wallow in the low-grade guilt that I haven’t kept up with my blog or other online projects. But then of course, I begin to wonder, Why do I feel guilty? Is it awful or earth-shattering that I haven’t blogged on schedule?

I’m pooped.

And I’ve made a really hard decision. I’m turning everything off for a while. I love writing and I love dreaming about having a successful blog/online business. But something is wrong with this picture. When I start hating The Pioneer Woman because she has her own TV SHOW coming out on The Food Network, something is wrong.

I’m hoping that “pulling back” can reveal the truly important stuff.

See, I am not structured. I am not. I am not predictable nor routine. I live by a loose rhythm, I guess you’d say. Which is OK. I think it would be more OK if I just embraced it and sought the positives instead of always beating myself up that I’m “not doing so-and-so.”

And that’s what happens when I see The Pioneer Woman’s TV show promo or read posts from my blogger friends who homeschool their 15 children AND maintain three blogs AND have a book deal in the works. I just start the inner pummeling: If you really want to be successful, write books, have an online business, you’ve got to get with it, young lady. Nothing’s getting done while you’re sitting here playing Words with Friends on your iPhone.

And as true as that may be, I also realize that somewhere in a crucial and important way, it’s NOT true. Because it’s really dishonoring who I am. (And, oh, I’m a dang good Words with Friends player.) The problem is that I don’t know who I am. I know that I don’t thrive in this structured, you-must-Tweet-every-10-minutes-to-stay-viable-in-online-media world, but beyond that? Really—who am I? And what gifts do I bring? And really? What makes me happy?

What makes me happy?

Well, what doesn’t make me happy is jealousy, self-loathing, self-criticism, and constant regrets.

So, I’m off to discover how I can capitalize on how God made me. Why he gave me the gifts, talents, and preferences that he gave me. You know what? I think I’m facing the fact that I don’t think he wants me to be Blogger Extraordinaire OR homeschool my 15 children (kidding! I only have 3, but I don’t think he wants me to homeschool them, either—at least not right now). But I also know that I can’t hear from God when I have so many competing voices and pictures of “success” constantly bombarding me.

So, here’s my plan:

  • I will post here when I feel like it. Not sure what that looks like. I hope you’ll stick around but I totally understand if you ARE a structured person and like to hear from your bloggers on a regular basis. That’s just not me.
  • I’m going to unsubscribe/stop reading the “Blogger Barbies”—those “perfectly coifed” ones to whom I’ll just never measure up. It’s just not healthy for me. To the “Blogger Barbies”: I don’t fault you. I just think that I have an incredibly difficult time looking at you and your accomplishments from afar without comparing myself and obviously, we are differently gifted. But I can’t see that right now, so I must go away for awhile. I just can’t take any more posts in my news feed about how you made an entire clothing line from your discarded newspapers, traveled half-way around the world to minister to starving children, or stocked your freezer with (healthy! organic! made-from-veggies-you-grew-yourself!) meals for the next six months.
  • I do have a few ideas of upcoming projects that I hope to complete. I have at least one eBook in the works, but I’m not sure when/if it will be finished. I’m working on it and have a loose time frame for it. That’s exactly where I want to be with that. :)
  • I need more glitter in my life. Much to the chagrin of my children, I’m setting out to fill my life with glitter. Because? Glitter makes me happy.

I hope I haven’t come across as too gripey. I’m just tired of being a slave to my own emotions and suffocating behaviors. Enough. I’m ready to enjoy my positive attributes and really seek earnestly the ways that God has planned for me to live, work, and play.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you have traveled this road and discovered something new about yourself.

Thanks for reading.

I’m off to buy glitter now.

What Dressing Your Truth Has Taught Me

Yesterday I wrote about my discovery of the Dressing Your Truth program.

Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned through the program.

First, I’ll let you know that I’m a Type 1: a Bright and Animated woman. My nature is to be bubbly, optimistic, bright, animated, random, fun, and cute.

Yet I have lived for so many years degrading these tendencies in my mind, squashing my nature, and being subconsciously miserable because I wasn’t “living my truth.”

I was always an outstanding student. Somewhere in the middle school years, I decided (or was told) that cute, bubbly girls were stupid. More than anything, I’ve always wanted people to think I was smart. So, I set aside my Type 1 attributes, in an effort to be perceived as intelligent. Actually, I think I’ve always felt I had to “prove” to everyone that I was capable and smart because I thought I needed to compensate for—what I perceived as—my youthful looks, my short stature, and my less-than-authoritative voice.

In high school, I decided I wanted to be a television news journalist. I believe now that I chose that career because there was just enough “excitement” for my Type 1 nature but was “legitimized” by the seriousness of professional journalism. In my mind, I equated seriousness, scholarship, and success with Type 4.

And so with everything in me, I tried to live as a Type 4. Type 4s are structured, highly organized, direct, and precise perfectionists. I think because these are such opposite qualities of my Type 1 “fun” characteristics, I put them on a pedestal of sorts and think that in order to “get it together,” I need to be a Type 4—that somehow I’ll have arrived if and when I adopt and practice these Type 4 characteristics.

And so, this tug-of-war has characterized the last 20+ years of my life.

No wonder my twenties were miserable, as I shuffled through career choices. Television news was not a good fit for me because of the deadlines. Every day, I had to meet frequent—sometimes hourly—deadlines that proved way too suffocating and really, somewhat boring.

Motherhood has been another trying area for me. Again, I’ve brought my assumptions that a Type 4 mom is the “best” with clockwork-type schedules for chores and parenting. I have tried to pour myself into these molds. They work sometimes for awhile. But eventually, I just become bored with the monotony and predictability.

I’ve always enjoyed school, and now I know why: Change of classes, teachers, and classmates, just when the topic starts to bore; and freedom to design your day by choosing times and topics for classes. Freelance writing and editing is another great fit for me. I have a variety of topics on which to work, and I set my own schedule to meet a deadline. I can work when I want, dressed the way I want, anywhere I want.

I’m a Type 1 mommy, and now I’m working to re-embrace those God-given tendencies. I’m working to discover new ways to do “old” things, so that I’m happier and more productive. I’m trying to let go of my “I should/I need to” inner-dialogue that has for so long judged me and pointed out my “flaws.”

This program has brought so much into focus for me. Why I act the way I do. Why I’ve felt inferior and unfulfilled. Why I truly succeed at some things yet find others terribly difficult and unsatisfying.

And Dressing Your Truth has given me a way to express the inner on the outside. I am loving discovering the visual expression of my true nature. It’s spilling into every area of my life. Chris says that I’m smiling and laughing more.

If you feel like you’re missing something but can’t put your finger on it, I encourage you to check out this program. Once you’ve spent some time with Dressing Your Truth, come back here, tell me your Type, and how it has affected your life.

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Discover Dressing Your Truth

During my “blogging hiatus,” I discovered a terrific program that has truly turned around my life! I have hesitated to talk a lot about it here because, frankly, some of the principles are a little bit unorthodox and not entirely compatible with biblical Christianity. (And in all things, I must follow biblical principles.)

Nevertheless, I’m going to let you know about it because I do believe that so much of the program displays God’s truth and his glory in its entirety! You know that God’s truth is God’s truth, regardless of the “container” in which it resides. So it is with this, I believe.

And so, allow me to introduce to you Dressing Your Truth. This program is a “personality profile” program like no other. The creator, Carol Tuttle, has identified four types of people, based on the four elements of matter—the roots of all living things: nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon.

To me, it makes perfect sense that we would mirror our Creator, finding similarity with other elements of Creation in this manner. While some may say this degrades humanity or pits it “lower,” I disagree. We humans are the ultimate expression of Creator God’s work, but we still have a connection with the rest of the created order. We are creatures, still, after all.

(As somewhat of an aside, I believe that in an effort to keep Christian orthodoxy intact, we have chosen to ignore the “supernatural” aspect of our faith. We mustn’t forget that there is an “unseen” aspect to our relationship with God. C.S. Lewis reminds us that we are not bodies with souls; we are souls with bodies. That mentality of the spirit/body/physical connection dovetails nicely with the Dressing Your Truth program.)

Anyway, Carol goes on to identify women according to their Type and their “natural expression.” So, for example, a weeping willow tree has a different “natural expression” than, say, a mighty oak. Is one “better” than the other? Is one more beautiful? Is one more or less of God’s creation?

The answer, of course, is a resounding No! Yet we women have allowed the fashion industry and Hollywood dictate to us the “degrees” of beauty, femininity, and worth. We as women tend to view one (or a couple) of the Types as “better” or “more beautiful.”

The entire program (and philosophy, if you will) is the most refreshing and accurate thing I’ve encountered in a long time—maybe ever! It smokes the other personality profile and color-matching systems, with the possible exception of the Enneagram. Carol offers many free components for you to try out at her site, and there are low-cost aspects for you to explore, so that you can learn your Type. The entire Dressing Your Truth program is more of an investment but completely worth it. I have spent hours soaking up all the posts, videos, and audio recordings at the site and have yet to exhaust them all! The program was my Mother’s Day gift this year.

Please check it out to discover more about yourself and the way that God created you. I’ve also included a link below to a site featuring Carol’s 7 Fashion Myths Exposed information. Tomorrow I’ll tell you more specifics about my personal journey and how God has taught me things I never knew about myself.

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The “Look Inside” Mentality Will Change Your World

What’s In Your House? Weekly Link-up

Oh, friends.

I’ve been doing a lot of “looking inside my house” lately.

I made a commitment at the beginning of the year to change some things that I didn’t like about the way I was living life. Primary was to strengthen my relationship with Christ and pursue him more doggedly. I was also determined to find ways to feel better and work smarter (within the framework of God’s will and guidance).

Have I perfected this? Absolutely not!

Have I persevered and am I making baby steps every day? I think so.

I’ve decided to slightly change the direction of the weekly link-up. I still want you to link-up (if you want to), but just write about whatever you wish. Look inside your house, your heart, your garbage can—whatever.

This “look inside” mentality is changing my world. That’s why I want you to try it, too.

A look inside my heart reveals a deepening need for my Savior. A look inside my pantry reveals too much junk food. A look inside my computer reveals a love and zeal and gift for the written word.

I hope you get the idea. Looking around, inside, and up and down is something I don’t often stop to do. I’m way too distracted with “junk” to actually notice what makes me feel good, productive, and helps me meet my goals. I’m way too satisfied with cheap imitations of happiness to pursue something deeper, more meaningful, and more glorifying to God.

So, each week, I’ll simply challenge you to “look in your house” in whatever way works for you. Just take inventory, dig deeply, sit quietly. Listen to God. Listen to your body. Listen to your family.

Are you really and truly “stuck” in a rut? (I have been.) Do you feel as if you’ll never break free? (Yep. Me, too.) You know what?

Life doesn’t have to be a rut.

I have been taking an online whole life cleanse course from Lisa Byrne. I signed up almost as an afterthought. Thankfully, God prompted my husband to encourage me and assure me that though it was a monetary investment, it would produce results that the whole family would enjoy.

It has been incredible.

Once I’m finished with the course, I’ll post an entire review for you and instructions about signing up for Lisa’s materials. She’s a busy mom, so she knows how to teach to busy moms.

One of the main benefits of taking the course has been learning more about how inundated my life—physically, emotionally, spiritually—is with “junk.” Noisy, useless, bankrupt, deceptive garbage. It poses as nourishing and satisfies for a short time but then leaves me hungry and tired—whether it’s food or media or culture or self-seeking efforts.

For me, the real way and best way to a healthier and more satisfying experience is by Christ. Through that filter of Christ, then, I’m liberated to explore ways to break through the bondage in the other areas of my life.

So, take a look inside, write your post, then link it below.

What’s in your house that’s informing you?

_________


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Do You Know Your Limits?

I was a little bit surprised to hear some words come out of my own mouth the other day:

“I know my limits.”

To which my husband replied, “Yes. But it’s taken you a while to get there.” (And, for the record, I am still a work in progress and struggle every day. The difference now as opposed to this time last year is that I’m more aware of the process.)

Finding and respecting limits of mental, physical, and emotional reserves must be an intentional process. Our fast-paced culture will not slow down for us saying, “Oh, I’ll wait right here with my demands until you can cope with me.”

Our responsibilities, concerns, and obligations will suck every last ounce of goodness out of us if we aren’t careful.

This past year has been a crucible for our family; all sorts of challenges have produced great periods of fiery heat and those impurities are melting away. Some of those impurities include my delusions that I’m super-human with limitless ability to love, serve, and work.

What about you?

  • What would happen if you faced your limits—and respected them?
  • What would happen if you surrendered to the inevitable and instead of fighting it, you embraced it as God’s perfect call for you?
  • What if you delegated responsibilities to others who enjoy and are good at them?
  • What if you concentrated on doing one or two things to the point of greatness instead of spreading yourself too thin?
  • What if you got enough sleep and laid off the fast food?
  • What if you prayed more and spent more time with God?
  • What if you pursued meaningful work within your gift and skill set?
  • What if you simply eliminated destructive distractions and instead focused intentionally on living in Christ?
  • What if you refused to be controlled by the tyranny of the urgent?
  • What if you looked around your house to notice God’s blessings and sincerely asked him for guidance in being a steward of his creation?

Dear readers, I pray that you (and I!) would prioritize and recognize that some things are just more important than others in this life. We deny God’s graciousness when we equivocate temporal “stuff” with everlasting souls.

Keep pushing decisions and responsibilities through that grid of priority and continue to evaluate. My guess is your limits—those beautiful boundaries of protecting restraint—will become vividly apparent.

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photo: Jenny Rollo

Work That’s Meaningful: Work Within Your Gift and Skill Set

I realized something cool the other day. I have a built-in check to evaluate whether or not I’m working within the parameters of my true gifts, skills, and talents.

In my previous business pursuits—everything ranging from data entry and broadcast journalism to school teaching and direct sales/referral marketing—I’ve tried super-hard to convince myself and everyone around me that I was good at my work.

Now—I don’t know that I’ve ever been completely rotten at a job (OK; maybe one or two), but I do know that I have struggled with jobs simply because they weren’t a good fit.

But I never wanted to be reminded of those struggles. No. I constantly sought validation from my husband—and other family members—that I was good at the job. I really wanted to hear, “You’re good at that. That’s a good fit for you. I know you are going to be successful,” and so on. And when those comments were not offered spontaneously, something triggered the doubt center inside. That’s when I’d “fish” for compliments and encouragement, knowing that I wasn’t very good at that pursuit and that some (or many) aspects of that business endeavor drained and bored me to the core.

The other day, Chris spontaneously told me how much he is enjoying this new blog, especially the podcasts. Those words of unsolicited accolade meant so much because I knew he meant them.

And? I had a hard time believing it. Really? I thought.

So, when I find it incredulous that someone would tell me they think I’m doing a good job; when I find it unbelievable that someone finds my work helpful and I actually have so much fun doing it, then I know I’m onto something.

Are you working within your gift and skill set? Or does work feel like a struggle, a bore, or an insurmountable challenge? Are you fishing for compliments? How do unsolicited compliments offer validation and encouragement?