Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February's Three Little Words

Well, it's February now, so I suppose its time to move my thoughts and plans for 2015 (as promised) out of my head and into the writing realm. I've been "prepping" this post in my head for weeks now, as I tend to do, and realized that the things holding me back are exactly what I want to overcome this year. My good friend and blogger, Natasha Red, challenged her readers to choose a word to define their hopes for 2015. She chose three words, so I'm taking that liberty too! My 2015 words for the year are:

Author and researcher Brene Brown says, "we live in a culture with a strong sense of scarcity." Living as Americans, this is hard to imagine, but from the moment we wake up, our focus is on what we don't have enough of. "I didn't get enough sleep." "I don't have enough time to eat breakfast." "I don't have anything to wear." "Have I done enough to please my boss today?" "Have I worked enough hours?" "Did I spend enough time with my spouse?" "Did I get enough exercise today?" The list never ends... If we are not careful, the time/money/days/opportunities will slip away, right in front of our eyes. I for one do not want that to happen. I want everything I do to have a purpose. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) I want my work to be intentional. I want to be intentional about building relationships, developing and nurturing friendships, and strengthening my marriage. I want to make things happen, not let things happen to me.

This word - enough - is a mantra in itself that helped me a lot through the latter part of last year. It is a Biblical truth that I so often lie to myself about. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14) I am more than enough, made in the image of God. I don't have to do anything to be good/successful/smart/beautiful enough. I just put a sign on the wall in my bedroom that reads, "let whatever you do today be enough." One small word, one huge impact on the way I talk to and love myself.

Another gift I received from Natasha Red was awareness of an incredible product I'm just now diving into, Lara Casey's Power Sheets. One of Lara's themes is, "progress, not perfection." Yes. When I set BIG goals, like I'm doing this year, I have to focus on so much more than the end product or the ultimate picture. Instead, I must look ten steps ahead (not ten miles) and make daily/weekly/monthly progress towards my goals. Progress is encouraging, it's nurturing, it drives me to keep moving towards good goals. Perfection is paralyzing, unattainable, and discouraging. "Progress, not perfection."

Moving forward this year, I plan on sharing, more specifically, my monthly breakdown of "goals with grace" for 2015. I want to create accountability as well as choose faith over fear by writing down what I'm working towards. For now, here are some overall goal themes I've set for 2015:

  1. Let God's word be a lamp unto my steps. I'm striving to spend every day in the word, and read through the entire Bible this year. I'm following a chronological plan on my phone app to help keep me on track, but I'm also journaling along with my reading for thoughts, application, and questions.
  2. Get back to the basics health wise. Eat more vegetables. Drink more water. Do more yoga. Integrate more essential oils into my life. Go to be earlier. Nothing complicated, just good old tried and true healthy living.
  3. Use encouraging words. With myself. With others.
  4. Put my marriage first. Weston and I have already started a fun new habit of scheduling a lunch appointment together once a week to make sure we are intentional about our time together.
  5. Pursue the passions God has placed in my heart. I'm starting to set and stretch for some professional goals that align with the strengths, passions, and desires God has placed in my heart. To start, I am regularly praying for Him to give me opportunities to do so. Faith over fear.
  6. Spend less, give more. In pursuit of a simpler life, I'm looking for opportunities to give the gifts God has entrusted us to steward away, while minimizing the worldly clutter in my own life.
  7. Read more books that interest me. For the past 22 months I've had my reading pretty much laid out for me. And while many of my graduate school material was very interesting, I'm looking forward to keeping that learner habit going once the books stop being assigned.
  8. Use our home to bring glory to the Lord. From the moment we decided to move, Weston and I both agreed that we would do so only under the intentional practice of opening our home to serve others and build fellowship. We're off to a great start, and we plan to have many more parties and dinners here with family and friends each month.
  9. Blog well and blog more often. Each time I meet you here, I am fed. I hope that sometimes, I feed you. God has given me a gift and a thirst to share my words, and I'm going to do it more often and more purposefully this year.
  10. Find a work rhythm. Working from home with a flexible schedule is still very new and different to me. From designing a better work space to learning to better block my time and schedule, I want to get into an efficient and effective work groove.

2015 is going to be a BIG year. It's the year I'll graduate with my masters degree (9 more weeks, but who's counting!). It's a year I am putting goals out there, BIG goals, and taking daily steps toward achieving them. It's the year I move past daily to-dos and into the land of BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). It's a year for growing physically, growing spiritually, and growing personally. It's a year to walk closer to God, pursue His will passionately, and push aside my own fears for faith. 

What are your words for 2015?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lessons Learned, A Look Back at 2014

I realize I'm about a week late for true "end of 2014" reflections. However, those of you who know me well know that reflection and goal setting sometimes cause me a bit of hesitation (okay, I tend to freeze in my tracks at the thought of them, paralyzed and unable to go on). However, lately I've been getting really excited about some BIG goals for 2015. Before I go on, however, I felt it only fair to reflect on the past year, and year filled with some BIG stuff, and the lessons learned that got me to this place of excitement. So here you go, what I learned/am still learning from 2014 (if you want the Readers Digest version, just go for the bold):

At some point, your lifestyle will catch up to you. Achievers are a crazy breed, We sprint and cram and say yes and pull things off on little sleep with loads of energy, and in doing so, feel like we are checking off some sort of golden to do list. Almost as another challenge to conquer, people like me feed off of the frenzy. For more than a quarter of a century, I didn't know how to describe myself as anything but a perfectionist - a term that I'd literally ingrained into my own identity, losing sight of what it even means or why I'd want to be one. And last spring, the crazy chase finally caught up to me. Returning to work after a week at the beach vacation, I suffered what I would later learn to recognize as a panic attack. Me, the girl who could do it all (in heels with a smile), had hit the wall. In the stillness, and the panic, I heard a voice saying, "you can't keep running at this speed." I firmly believe that God knew I'd never slow down without being knocked off my feet, and I'm incredibly grateful for that moment that I believe changed everything for me.

("But he said to me,'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power 
may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Seeing a therapist does not make you crazy. I always joke that my mind runs more than my feet ever do. As someone with input, learner, and achiever as strengths, I tend to process information constantly. Furthermore, with communication as a top strength, I actually think in narratives (or blog posts), which while that may sound impressive, can be exhausting. While running through life at warp speed, I found myself so exhausted that I had nothing left to transfer the thoughts in my head to conversation. I couldn't even talk to Weston at the end of a long day about anything meaningful, I was just frozen. Unfortunately, the thoughts didn't stop, they just built up like books on a shelf in my mind until I thought the shelf would collapse. And then, I found a good Christian friend/mentor who also happened to be a Licensed Professional Counselor, and for the first time in my life, I felt free from my own thoughts. Now I've thought about talking to a counselor for several years now but was always hung up on the stigma that talking to a therapist was for people with "real issues," which of course, as an achiever I couldn't even consider thinking I had (ha!). I didn't need someone to help me manage my stress, I could do it all. Well I now know that a) that's a fallacy in my head and b) even if I could, it's a lot more fun with someone walking alongside me.

("Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." Ecclesiastes 4:9).

Talk to yourself like you're someone you love. Before this last year, I'd never thought much about the idea of positive self talk. To be honest, I thought that sounded like some hippy-dippy kumbaya mantra. But one day, someone called me out on this and flat out said, "would you say that to your best friend?" The context doesn't really matter, the point was, I had just been made aware that the way I talked to myself was no way I'd talk to a friend. The messages I'd been repeating over and over were not healthy and were not in line with the Gospel at all. The Bible assures us that we are, "made in the image of God," (Genesis 1:27), so as I was telling myself I wasn't _______ enough (insert smart/good/strong/creative, etc.), I was essentially criticizing God's creation. I was throwing out God's promise that He made me to be ENOUGH. It was time to find some new mantras!

("But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." Matthew 15:18)

Being busy is not something to brag about. At what point did we decide as a culture that working long hours on little sleep with no break for lunch was honorable? When did we begin to define our identities solely by what we do for a salary? Who decided that how we spend our time can be arbitrarily deemed worthy or unworthy based on a predetermined classification system? The longer this goes on, the more we believe it. Trust me. When I considered making a career switch which some might consider a "step back" I struggled for months with what other people would think. Don't I have to have a reason not to work overtime and strive for the top of the ladder? What will they think? One of my favorite, lesser known, Tim McGraw songs is "Who Are They?" I've go to agree with my main man Timmy that we build up this idea in our heads of what other people will think and say, and what I'm finding out is a) usually people don't care as much about what's going on in our lives as we think they do and b) I'm not living for them anyway!

("Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will." Romans 12:2)

There are the same 24 hours in each day, for everyone. If you don't control your time, it will control you. There's a lot to be said about being intentional, but I'll get to that more in my goals for 2015. What I learned this year is that there are things that just happen and things that don't. Deadlines for work, homework assignments for school, meetings, networking events, conference calls, lunch appointments...those things seem to just happen, and what doesn't is spending quality time with those we love the most. You see, I'm married to a very patient, empathetic, loving, non-confrontational man who wants nothing more than for me to be happy. In between the perfect storm of all these factors however, I lost sight of the fact that I had unintentionally pushed him to the back burner. I didn't mean to, of course, but I'd lost control of my time. I'd said yes to too many things. I hadn't made our marriage, and my husband, a priority. I'm grateful for a good friend and an opportunity that helped me realize this before it was too late.

("For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:34).

A good actor leaves the stage while the audience is still clapping. In August, I left a job I'd once described as my dream job. I walked away from Springfield Ballet, and many people (including my family and some close friends) were caught off guard and wondered, or are maybe still wondering, why I really left and if doing so was a "smart" decision. The decision to leave a job I truly loved did not come easily or without extensive prayer. Being trusted with an executive level position at just 23 years old was a huge privilege, and a huge responsibility, one I never took lightly. During my 3.5 years in my role, I stretched for and reached impressive milestones and celebrated much success. I worked with a great team and grew to love the dancers and their families like they were my own. But it was the right time to go. I planned and strategized my exit carefully, and when a good friend and industry mentor told me, "a good actor leaves the stage while the audience is still clapping," I knew I'd made the right choice at the right time.

("There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." 
Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Sometimes the last thing you want to do is the thing you need the most. I hate yoga. Well, I hated yoga. I had the idea in my head that I would never get into yoga because it stood for everything I wasn't good at: being quiet, being still, being in the present moment, clearing your mind, slowing down...not to mention the thought of adding heat to a workout was my own personal hell (literally). However, during my September sabbatical when a friend pressured me into giving hot yoga another try, I literally fell into the safe place I needed most. I found a place free from competition and comparison, a place where the emphasis is not on results but on the process, and a retreat from the stress of life that was taking its toll on me.

("Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope." Romans 5:3)

So there you have it - a little glimpse into what the world and the Lord have been teaching me over the last 365 days. It's been a big year, but aren't they all? I've always said, "have no regrets," because I firmly believe that something can be learned from every experience. God never promised that all things would be good, just that He "causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for them (Romans 8:28). I'm still waiting to see the "aha" for some of the moments from last year, but I know that because of the things I lived through, I've learned, grown, been challenged, and been inspired to make 2015 count. What are you taking away from 2014?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Starring Role or Supporting Actor?

Did you know the phrase "always a bridesmaid, never a bride," was coined in 1925 in a Listerine advertisement? It's a phrase we've probably all used at one time or another, without giving second thought to where it came from. Beyond its literal translation, its definition implies describing a person who's potential is never fulfilled. Leaving something on the table. Not cashing in on the hand you're dealt. A good supporting actor, but not star material. Use of the word always seems to insinuate that the personality trait can't ever be shaken. Are some are born to be indians, never to be chiefs? Just as a person is either an introvert or an extrovert, are we destined to either sing lead or sing backup?

Over the last 30 days, I've had the privilege of having a front row seat to watch someone else's dream unfold. In my new role at Loehr Chiropractic & Acupuncture, I'm a part of an awesome team that supports the vision and dreams of one entrepreneurial doctor. Not that Springfield Ballet was my dream, by any means, but in my previous role, I carried out the dreams of a founding Board no longer involved in the day to day operations of the organization. I was in the driver's seat. After my career transition, some might argue I've gone from a starring role to a supporting part. A bride turned bridesmaid. A chief turned indian. But here's the thing I'm finding out. Following your own dream, or sharing in someone else's, are equally emotional and equally rewarding experiences. 

Growing up, my mother (a retired speech/drama teacher) always told me, "there are no small parts, just small actors." Now, I know there were times when I rolled my eyes and assumed that this only applied when you didn't get the part you wanted! It went in one ear as a sugar-coated consolation prize, and out the other with a chip on my shoulder. The more I study leaders and teams, though, I think she was right. (This is what happens as you get older, right? You start to realize that maybe your parents did know what they were talking about...) Without a good tribe of indians, who needs a chief? And without a lead singer, the backup singers are out of business. God has gifted each of His children with unique gifts and talents, but unless they are combined, they aren't fully effective. 

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously;if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)

Clearly, God has given us gifts, talents, strengths, and functions. Being in the starring role is not a gift, it's one way to use a gift, but not the only. God allows us to use our gifts in starring and supporting roles, sometimes in the same year, heck, sometimes in the same day! So my challenge (to you and to me) is this, let's define success less by a title and more by an impact on our communities and the people we interact with. Let's applaud the whole band and celebrate the whole cast of characters...our Heavenly Father sure does!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Coffee Houses - Hold the Coffee

I have a serious love affair with coffee houses. This may not seem so strange, except for the fact that those of you who know me know that I don't like coffee. I don't like mochas, or lattes, or anything "coffee-ish" really (unless I'm going to a) fall asleep in class or b) fall asleep on the road, and then I'll drink it out of necessity. There's just something about coffee houses, however, that brings comfort to my soul. 

I've been using the Time Hop app lately to see daily reminders of pictures and thoughts I've posted for the last six or seven years. The pictures are fun, some should never resurface, and all serve as a good reminder that what you put on social media is NEVER going away! Back to coffee houses though. The other day, a post popped up from several years back that read, "Sits in coffee houses and talks to college women about Jesus - how do I get that on my business card?" See? Love affair with coffee houses.

As I sit in one now and think about just what it is I love so much, a few thoughts come to mind. First, they just seem peaceful. For the most part, coffee houses are pretty slow and quiet. (**I've been to the original Starbucks in Seattle, and NOTHING about that place says slow or quiet, but I digress.**) Likely, this stems from my love of libraries - literally my FAVORITE place to sit during college, just getting swallowed by the silence that is so hard to find in our noisy lives. Speaking of college, I also LOVE coffee houses because they're normally filled with college students (in downtown Springfield at least). From the moment I graduated and started traveling as a Leadership Development Consultant with Pi Phi, The Lord has continued to develop a deep passion for college students in my heart. While that is a topic for an entirely separate post (or series of posts), just sitting and observing and listening to the students around me is comforting. Often, I'll just sit and silently pray for the students I can see. I pray for their growth and development, their safety and health, and their hearts. Satan is thriving on college campuses, and oh how they all need our prayers. Strong coffee and strong prayers.

Coffee houses also tend to be a breeding ground for learning. Surrounded by people with laptops and books, it's like (silent) music to my ears to watch the knowledge absorption happening. I can think of few better places to sit and read, even if it is a Strategic Management textbook! Maybe part of the reason I'd be a student forever (if it paid better!) is that I subconciously equate that with spending a lot more time in coffee houses!

Besides learning, coffee houses are the perfect setting for relationship building. Whether it's two young lovers on an afternoon date, new friends who've just barely met, an informal job interview, or a budding mentorship/discipleship relationship, what better place to gather than a quiet coffee house filled with soothing scents and warm beverages? There's a lot of learning and a lot of loving going on.

Some people are serious about their coffee! Just search for coffee quotes on Pinterest and you'll get endless amounts of t-shirts, mugs, and word art expressing the java obsession. I have to confess I'm not one of them, but...if there's a shirt for loving coffee houses? Send one my way.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why (I imagine) Getting a Masters is a Lot Like Having a Child

Having been married for 4+ years now, and slowly but surely approaching the upper end of my twenties, I (not so shockingly) get asked frequently when we're going to have children. Not so much by our families (my father-in-law knows better ever since I told him asking that question was like lightning at the pool, every time he asked, I restarted the clock!), but by concerned citizens who must be very worried that our fabulous genes won't get passed on (hey, if I get teased, I can dish it back, right?)! Lately, I've begun giving a response that I do in fact have a child - it's name is a masters degree - and I can quite convincingly compare the two. So, for your entertainment, here are the Top 10 Reasons, I imagine, Getting a Masters is a lot like Having a Child:

  1. Since beginning my masters, I've gotten a lot less sleep. Masters work keeps me up at night, babies keep people up at night. Or, if I try to go to sleep, I instead typically lie awake thinking about what masters work I should be completing. I'm not making this up - the black circles under my eyes and my bloodshot right eye are proof.
  2. Masters degrees are expensive. While (thank goodness) not quite the cost of raising a child for 18 years, still not chump change. To raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18, it will cost a middle-income couple just over $245,000, according to newly released estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  3. I cannot neglect my Masters degree. Without a lot of care and attention, it would die. Babies require quite a bit of attention too (so I've been told).
  4. My masters degree is aging me. Since beginning my masters, I've gotten reading glasses, developed horribly slumped "computer" posture, and experienced a plethora of aches and pains. Kind of like my mother telling me I was giving her grey hair!
  5. Some days I love my masters more than others. My mom used to tell me, "I don't always like you, but I'll always love you." There are definitely days (and nights) when I don't like this degree, but for some underlying attraction, I keep on trucking.
  6. I'm proud of my masters degree. I image the day I get that hood and the letters MOL after my name, I will shed a few tears. The kind of tears moms and dads shed at their child's graduation.
  7. I celebrate little victories along the way. With the completion of each project, test, and class, I celebrate a little bit. Like first steps or first words, each credit hour is a small but significant victory!
  8. This masters degree has put some serious strain on my social life! Many evenings have been spent at the computer or parked in front of a book instead of out to dinner with friends. Weekends at the lake have been encroached on as I holed away with a textbook while everyone else was having fun.
  9. Sometimes corrections are necessary and well-deserved in a masters program. Sometimes you get an A, sometimes you don't. When I was briefly running this theory by a friend of mine who's a wonderful mama to three little people, she exclaimed, "thank goodness I don't get a grade in parenting, some days I'd get an F. But, the good thing is, the next day, I can start all over!"
  10. Despite the sleep deprivation, anxiety, expense, sacrifice, and difficulty, in the end, I know getting my masters will be more than worth it. Nothing worth having comes easy, right?