Unity of Thought, Word & Action

This week as I was reading from several leadership books, I came across the above definition of integrity.  Integrity is the unity of thought, word and action.  I was struck by that definition.  I usually think of integrity in terms of someone holding to high values, maintaining a position or set of values.  This definition struck a chord.

My word of the year is consistency.  As I read this new found definition of integrity I could not help but think about my own quest to be consistent.  It seemed to me the two were suddenly one and the same.  I desire to be consistent in my thoughts, words and actions.  I want to be true to the values I profess to hold, the passions I say I have, the priorities I have chosen.

So, in the end does being consistent lead me to integrity?  Or is integrity being consistent?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that word unity changes everything.

I have been in a very difficult leadership position as of late.  It has strained friendships, brought tension into my home and seeds of doubt have overtaken my mind.  It is easy in those times to want to push back, fight, bring people together in thought, word and action.  Five to six years ago that is exactly what I would have done.  But here is the truth.  I can not control other people.  I can’t cause someone to love something the way I do.  I can’t persuade someone to see value in someone or something.  I can’t force people to do what they say and mean what they say.   As I watch those who say they understood and desired the same things I did, step back, distance themselves from me, I am reminded that all too often we abandon our words, thoughts or choose a different course of action.  We live in a world where there always seems to be the desire to have a winning group and a losing group.  We live in a world where people desire to be right for rights sake, or seek to avoid any conflict at the cost of abandoning their morals and values.   I cringe at the divide that has been created and I know it to be wrong.  Unity.  The only way for anyone or anything to succeed, to grow, to develop, to be true.

I heeded the words of my wise husband this weekend and stepped back from the situation. I was raw.  I was alone.  But as I stepped back I realized my only real choice, the only thing I could really do was check my own behavior.  I am very sincere in my desire to see a holistic, full beyond measure approach to this particular thing.  I believe and value the legacy left by so many who plowed the fields, paved the way so that this thing could exist.  I didn’t take this leadership position to be right.  I didn’t take this leadership position to build a kingdom or to pick a side.  I took this leadership position because I believe that people can come together, can create programs that develop whole beings.  I believe in grace and I know my God to be greater than all that is within me.  To be consistent then I have to continue to show grace, I have to continue to extend an open invitation for all to work alongside each other.  I have to continue to put myself out there, knowing I will be hurt, disappointed, fatigued.  I can’t choose a side, even when others want to make me.  I can’t seek to win at the numbers game, but have to stay focused on the purpose, the calling.

This place I am right now is hard.  It is worth it though, because I desire to grow more consistent and I know this is but a learning opportunity.

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I have access to the Master Teacher, the Christ who knew no sin yet bore the world’s.  The God who can be trusted, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  May this journey to be more consistent make me more like Him.

 

Do You Need to Go Off the Grid?

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, Snapchat, Internet scrolling etc…  The digital age is indeed a blessing.  We have information readily available.  We have immediate access to current events and up to date information of family and friends afar.  Creative inspiration is at our fingertips.  However, with every blessing can come pitfalls.  Those very digital sites holding information and hope, can capture our attentions for far too long.  We can move in a matter of seconds from seeking creative inspiration to spiraling into a depression feeling inadequate, less fortunate etc…   As easily as we can access others and their information, we too can be accessed, often leading to increased obligations, some not really meant to be, yet in that digital nano second we say “yes”.

The week before Thanksgiving found me in a state of mess.  Fortunately I live by my own mantra – keep lots of white space.  As a result emergencies or unexpected events don’t cause as much havoc in my life as they used to – when I lived full throttle, filling every moment of every day.  The white space in my life and on my calendar affords me room to deal with the unexpected.  However, sometimes life throws us more curve balls than we could ever imagine.  Not only that, but sometimes the things we are involved with present to us all sorts of appealing opportunities.  I was in the midst of both – the unexpected and the allure of many good things.

I have found the longer I practice Sabbath living, a more simplified lifestyle, the more my spirit and body react to the “mess”.  The tension mounts in my neck.   My eating habits change and my stomach doesn’t act the same.  I lose focus.  What can be my best traits begin to compound and become my worse traits.

Have you been there?  Are you there now?  Do you feel yourself slipping into the abyss?  Don’t let it go any farther.  I have found the best solution, really the only solution is for me to unplug, go off the grid.  I don’t quit taking care of business, but I give myself permission to quit answering email, stay off social network sites, limit phone calls.  I change my voice message on my phone, I set up a vacation notice on my email…  That is what I did the week of Thanksgiving.  It was fabulous.  Not only that, but the world did not come to an end.  No one called me angry.  No one called claiming an emergency.  It was o.k.

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The week afforded me the opportunity to breathe, to let go, to focus.  I still had a lot to do, but I was able to get back to that which mattered most, my “best yes” tasks (as Lysa Terkeurst would say).  I was able to pull back from a difficult situation and in prayer and reflection see it for what it was.  A set-back, not a disaster.  A matter out of my control and not my responsibility.  I was able to fill some of the white space with the tasks that bring me energy, fill my spirit:  coffee with my girls, brunch with my best friend, a good book by the fire, decorating and setting the Thanksgiving table, and baking.  When I engage in those things that bring me joy, nurture my spirit I find I can more easily recognize my “best yes” tasks.  I can more readily see the good in life.  I hear the still small voice of my Savior telling me, “this is the way.”

Sometimes the plan is there.  The plan isn’t wrong, we have just lost site of the plan.  Stepping back, going off the grid creates the quiet in which we can think, be reminded, enjoy.

 

Step Back- To Find the Way to Move Forward

It is hard to believe the holiday season is here.  Time marches on.  School started and I welcomed it with open arms.  While I relish the lazier days of summer, opportunity to step away from the schedules, I am always ready for back to school. Ready for the new schedules.  Ready for structure.  The structure and the schedules can fill up, and if not careful, the schedules crowd out everything else.

I found myself there a few weeks back.  Not just there, but feeling overwhelmed.  Then a small health issue and time was not enough.  The instinct for most of us it to push through.  I tell myself to give a little more, wake up a little earlier, go to bed a little later, skip lunch, say no to the home parties/social events.  No one wins in that.  Fatigue, frustration, loss of focus-that is all to be gained.

The only way to move forward is to take a step back.  It’s the counter-intuitive thing to do.  I step back.  I block off some time each day for a few weeks.  I have to stop.  It is not until I stop I can see what has consumed the time, the days.  It is not until I stop I can assess the time and the activities, knowing if the pieces fit or are indeed too much.  Those moments are for figuring out what is real, what is clutter.  Those moments are for taking time to go back to my true loves-making the time for that reminds me who I am, the life I have, and how to move forward becomes clear.

I talk about “white space” a lot when I talk about managing time.  White space gives me opportunity to breathe, to take in life, but they also give me opportunity for the unexpected.  When life becomes overwhelming, the plates can’t all be juggled and kept spinning the white spaces become the moments of clarity.  The white spaces are on my calendar and in the schedule I keep.  But spiritually, the white space is when I am still-the moments I quit telling God and instead I release it all and wait for Him.

BeStill

Step back in a moment of nothingness to be still, to find the way to move forward.

#NOCOMPAREDARE: My Business

This month Mary & Martha has challenged women to a “No Compare Dare”.  It is a timely message for me.  And as I have followed others within the company, consultants, and their customers in taking this dare, I am reminded how quickly we as women can become discouraged or defeated by the simple comparison game.  Satan knows his way into our lives, and all too often we allow him to take hold.  I am guilty.

I Peter 5: 8-10 says, ” Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings, and the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you suffered a little while, will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” NIV

In my organizing business my partner and I spend time working with our clients regarding their time management.  One of the things we try to impress upon them is the importance of being aware, self-controlled.  It is important to know how time is spent, to know how one wants to spend time in order to meet goals, and then make adjustments.  Life can’t be lived on auto-pilot.  Discipline and self awareness are key to being organized.

One would think that because the above is such a part of my “message” to clients I would not struggle personally with the comparison issue, but oh how I do.  In fact, even just yesterday I allowed satan a stronghold in my life, my business. Yesterday I lost two clients (one lost her job the other decided to sell her home in lieu of getting it organized) and had a potential client decline our services in favor of another.  When you are a young business, still building, those kind of things seem HUGE!  Immediately I began comparing- to others in the organizing business, to friends running their own businesses, etc…  The thoughts in my head became negative and self-defeating.  Did I lose the jobs because I failed to be alert?  No.  Did doubt, fear and discouragement set in because I failed to be alert?  Yes.  I allowed my thoughts to wander and instead of focusing on what was true, bowing my knee in prayer, I opened the door for satan to begin his whispers.  I didn’t resist.  I didn’t keep my thoughts on the truth.  Fortunately I have within my circle women who hold me accountable. In one simple text a dear friend, and business owner I admire snapped me back to reality.  Her words were not harsh. They were simple and straight forward.  They were spoken in love and with authority.  In that moment I became aware.  I suddenly became alert, seeing what I had allowed to happen.  I didn’t just snap out of it.  No, when we let satan in, he’s hard to remove.  He isn’t some little pussy cat, no he is a roaring lion.  He is on a mission.  No, it takes faith, it takes strength and fortitude to make him leave.

My business is my #NOCOMPAREDARE focus.  How do I keep satan at bay?  The same daily disciplines that keep me focused on the truth, on my priorities.

  1. Rise early and let His word (scripture) be the first thing to enter my mind.
  2. Sit in stillness allowing His word, His thoughts to permeate my mind.
  3. Pray for His will.
  4. Pray continually, with all thanksgiving.
  5. Be honest with my sphere of influence so they can hold me accountable, speak truth into my life.
  6. Be alert throughout the day to shifts in my thinking, my mood…

I dare you.  I know you struggle.  We all do.  The comparison game.  It’s so easy.  We are bombarded with messages, with visuals via Facebook, Instagram, television, radio, stores, friends…  None of us is immune.  It will happen.  We just need to be alert, to capture the thoughts before they take hold, remembering that satan is the author.  Let truth prevail.

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Battling Failure

It is Monday.  Yep, it is a Monday.  I had big plans for today.  A great blog post, clean house, some advanced cooking for the week completed, research for an organizing project…  Big plans for a big week.  Instead, I literally got knocked off my feet and my day derailed at 6:00 a.m.

I have two dogs.  We have a love hate relationship.  Most days I love them, but Monday and Thursday when I am cleaning and handling home maintenance I hate them.  This morning, the cute white one, decided to attack the front window with vengeance and bark her head off.  Now mind you, I had yet to get my first cup of coffee drunk.

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I ran to the window, sandwich bread and knife in hand, to politely “shoo” the dog away from the window.  About the moment I took my last step toward the window, the “lovable” black and white, thirteen year old, I guess now partially blind, dog decided to join in on the barking chorus and lunged straight through my legs.  The leg already in mid air was propelled into the air forcing my other leg up off the floor.  Sandwich bread and knife went flying, as did the rest of my body.  I have a bulging disc in my neck which I am acutely aware of.   In a moment of panic I decided it would be best to try to twist my body, as if at this age I have any control, and land on my side so as to avoid any further neck injury.  I have no doubt it looked as ugly as it felt.  I landed instead flat on my side, elbow and knee slamming into the hardwood floor.  My neck popped as I tensed the muscles trying to keep my head upright.  All I can say is that in an instant I became aware of every muscle in my body.  Throbbing pain.  I really didn’t want to cry.  I wanted to fling two dogs out the window.  Instead I cried. Mostly because I had fallen and couldn’t get up.

Have you ever been there?  That moment in time when something bad happens, a mistake, a misspoken word.  You go straight to negative, angry, bad.  The hopes of the previous moment are gone.  Your confidence, your strength.  It flees. It so often amazes me – how quickly I can go from good to bad, how quickly I can begin to feel like a failure, the one person who can’t get it together, get the tasks done, spare the moments for the friend, laugh, find time for the hobby that feeds my soul.  Been there?  How is it I can get there so quickly?

I have battled the pain all day.  Truth be known I have battled the ugly thoughts all day – not about the dogs, not about anyone, just about me.  I have battled the urge to give in, to declare defeat.  I have battled the tears of physical pain, mental fears and heartfelt hurts that Satan so quickly reminds me of in these moments.  But I chose to push through today. I didn’t get it all done.  The exercise meant to help me push back on the infringing age 50 got set aside.  I could have stopped and stayed right there.  There have been times I would have.  Frankly it is easier.  It’s not beneficial though.  No, giving in to the fear of failure, the lost hope, the darkness never helps.  How do I push through?  I focus on what I can do.  It wasn’t a lot today, but it was something.  I made those calls to friends I knew were struggling needing a word of encouragement.  I read back through the cards and notes I keep in my “special box”, words of encouragement from friends,clients and acquaintances.  It’s hard.  Pushing back, pushing through takes strength, commitment.  The pain is still here.  The tear still appear in an instant. But, the darkness is lifting.  The lies brought on by thoughts of failure I are pushed back.  Truth sets in.  It slowly heals, like a salve gently pouring over the wound.

Friend, if you have had a terrible, no good, very bad day, stop and regroup.  Remember who you really are.  You are here for a purpose.  Mistakes will happen.  Falls will occur (let’s just hope not brought on by a dog).  You learn.  You keep going.  It will hurt, it will be hard, but you are worth it.  You were made to make a difference.  You were made in God’s image, His child.

I am probably going to hurt more tomorrow.  And I have a feeling I am still going to be thinking negative thoughts about these two stinking cute dogs.  But the darkness of failure has passed.  I’m learning.  I’m gonna keep going.

“Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes-It’s Impact, My Thoughts

If you are a recovering perfectionist like me, I highly recommend “Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes.  It was an easy read.  It grabbed my attention in the first few paragraphs.  Not just because I am a recovering perfectionist, but I am a woman.  A woman who seeks to serve God with all my heart, mind and body and yet feels like I miss the boat all too often.

“Love Idol” was a fresh perspective.  I have never thought of how my drive to seek approval, perform (do for others), maintain order etc… as idols.  Yet Jennifer Dukes’ analogies were dead on.  Not only that, but she very openly discusses the impact these “love idols” can have on our families, especially our daughters.  It’s not just the perfectionist tendencies, ALL of us have “love idols”.  For some it may be more about holding one’s self out as the nurturer, playful woman who puts others above tasks, chores, performance.  It can often even be our service or ministries.

An idol is anything that captures our hearts, our minds.  We begin to think more of those things than we do God.  As we focus, our efforts become more about our ways, our plans, our thoughts than His.  I know, stings a little doesn’t it!?!

I recommend this book.  In fact, mine is on loan right now to a young mom.  It is an easy read, but a thought provoking read. You could get through it in a day or two, but I recommend taking it chapter by chapter and pondering.

My take aways:

1.  God continues to use writings, friends, music to remind me of the need to slow down, step back.  I absolutely will not find God in the hurried days of a cram packed life.

2.  I am uniquely gifted and created.  He has a purpose for me, one He will allow me to fulfill if I watch and wait.  Life is full of seasons, and in due season my gifts and talents will be used in various ways and in differing amounts.

3.  There is no doubt our families come before our service, our ministries and our work.

4.  The comparison game is dangerous and deadly.  Too often, I am comparing myself to my own too high standards, not so much to others.  I need to release those self-imposed standards.

If you are interested in the book or learning more about Jennifer Dukes go here:

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/love-idol/

Not Enough

I looked at my husband through eyes filled with tears.  “I can’t do this any more.  I have nothing-I only hear the message, ‘You are not enough'”.  In that moment I felt drained.  I honestly felt like any ability to extend grace, love generously, even think, was gone.  I had two discontent teenage daughters pecking at me, I had not been able to take care of something my husband needed done, I had received a message I wasn’t spending enough time with my mother, I had not called my mother-in-law and thanked her enough for Christmas (according to my father-in-law), I was behind on laundry, I was out of groceries, and my business had not met my expectations for the month.  The day before I had also received a call asking that I take a large leadership role in a ministry engaging women in our state.  While I desperately wanted to serve in this way, to engage again in ministering to women through a structured ministry, I knew beyond question my answer at this time was to be “No.”  It wasn’t what I wanted the answer to be.  In fact, I wanted to ignore what I knew to be true and say “Yes.” I was disheartened by the clear direction to say “No”.

It was a melt down  moment.  There was nothing my husband could do.  There were no “Sorry mom” statements big enough. There was no deleting the messages.  The only way to say “Yes” was to act in disobedience.  With wisdom my husband simply took the girls on to their respective activities, never saying a word.  And I, well I was left to fall into a puddle of what felt like complete overwhelm and despair.

Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to God.  I didn’t know what to pray.  Yet, I didn’t want to be angry.  I didn’t want to feel defeated.  Joy.  That was supposed to be my word for the year.  Only weeks into the new year and Joy felt like a universe away.  As I sat there motionless, empty, 2 Corinthians 12: 9 began to play through my mind.  “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect (complete) in weakness.”

I am not enough.  That is the truth.  I can not do it all.  I can not, in my own strength, be all I need to be.  I am not enough.  I am not complete.  There was nothing to do in that moment but to release the emotions and lean into His grace-grace that is sufficient for me.  A part of obedience is not only doing the stuff, but it is the letting go and leaning in.  It is the acknowledging.  It is the accepting.  I am not enough.  The message didn’t need to be defeating-that’s what Satan would like.  The message simply needed to be an accepted truth that would prompt me to act in obedience, leaning into Him, His grace, allowing Him to complete me, to strengthen me.

” I am not enough, but His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness.”  That is the message I need to let run through my mind.  That is the truth.

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