Power of Knowing Who You Are

The pursuit of balance, organization, goals… The advice abounds, yet the pursuit seems to never end.  We find ourselves starting over, starting again, wondering if we are even on the right path, capable, able.  It can be exhausting, and in the midst of striving to achieve, life passes us by, we miss the moments, we miss becoming.

woodenpath

Two young women have approached me in recent months asking me about my career path, how I managed family, career, success.  Questions like this never come easy, because I find most of us don’t see ourselves the way others see us.  I struggled to answer.  I have never had a career path, real career aspirations.  No doubt early in my career I did, but as life began to emerge those quickly faded.  Marriage, the desire for children, building a home and a life with family, those have been my aspirations.  Managing those well have been my priority.  The career, the opportunities before me now, those are icing on the cake.  I like to think they are the result of a life well lived, an opportunity to be who I am, not tasks, not plans, not rungs on a ladder.

As I sought to answer both women with honesty, seizing the moment to influence another this is what I shared.

First and foremost, be who you say you are and be who you are no matter the circumstance.  I am a Christian first and foremost.  Every decision I make flows from a place of faith and I seek to align my decisions with the Word of God, His precepts, His ways.  How I make my decisions, who I desire to be doesn’t change based upon my role.  I am who I am, and that is simply a woman of faith seeking to serve God.

Second, do what you say you are going to do.  Commitment, honesty, integrity-traits lost in a world where power and position, being a “company” woman/man pays bigger dividends.  Yet commitment, honesty, integrity are lasting.  Doing what we say we are going to do has lasting impact, builds relationships, builds trust, builds reputation.

Finally, do everything you do with excellence.  Excellence is not perfection.  Excellence is not about being right, or being the best.  Excellence is about being your best and doing your best.  Excellence is about caring, caring that the product you produce reflects the very best.  In a world where outputs and outcomes reign, those who influence, those who create impact, will stay the course.

The words above may seem to simplistic.  They aren’t the words of advice I would have shared in my late twenties/early thirties.  But they are the words I live by.  I am not a wife, mom, community engagement officer out to achieve.  I am a wife, mom and community engagement officer because that is who God has called me to be.  Those are the opportunities He has given me.  My only desire is to be who I am and influence others.  That is my secret to staying focused and organized.  When you know who you are and you focus upon influence (relationship with others) it’s easy to know what matters and what doesn’t.  It’s easy to stay motivated.  It’s easy to to release the future and focus on the next step.

Years ago, a mentor passed this anonymous poem along to me.  It became a part of my life mission.  I keep it with me at all times-it finds it’s home in the front of my planner.  I share it with you, hoping it encourages you, helps you settle upon the woman you are.  The plans, the tasks-they will all fall in place.  But first, YOU.  Your power will unfold as you embrace who you are.  Who you are matters more than what you do.

956562c8af1c119c8418256a0a4f276d

*If you follow me on Facebook you know I had an opportunity to celebrate this advice with one of my daughters.  I have spent 19 years giving my daughters this same advice, and it paid off.  My daughter, a freshman, was given the Greek Life Woman of Integrity Award.  I am so proud of her, so thrilled she is learning to live the “who” over the “what”.

Advertisements

Are You Ready?

Easter is my absolute favorite holiday.  I love the anticipation:  Lent, Holy Week-pondering all that my God and Savior did for me.  It is also the season of renewal, “spring cleaning”, fresh starts as nature’s green bounty begins to emerge.  The colors, the song birds, the crisp air, all representative of new life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the doing:  cleaning base boards, washing exterior windows, running errands, planting perennials, thatching the grass, preparing Sunday’s Easter menu.  But oh how sad, if that is all we prepare for.

This year I ask myself, and I ask you.  Are you ready?  Are you ready to really give your life to Christ?  I don’t just mean a one time faith decision proclaiming you believe in Jesus Christ the Son of the one and only God, Jaw-eh.  Are you ready to submit to His will, to accept whatever is required of you to serve Him, to be used by Him to show His majesty and power to a fallen world?  Christ’s agony in the garden, asking His Father to spare him, to remove the cup, but then bending to His Father’s will was not just for our salvation, but is an example of how we are to live-broken, submitted, willing.

I want to be willing.  I no longer want the circumstances of my life to dictate my feelings, my responses.  I want to live yielded.  I want to be ready.  I know to do that I have to remain disciplined to begin my day with Him, girding myself with His truth, prayerfully yielding each day to Him and remembering that the only true calling on my life is to live obedient to His Word.

Are you ready?  If you have never chosen to accept Christ as the Son of God, would you consider that today?  There is no hope, no life without Him.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  He is our hope, our only way to God the Father.  New life comes through the shedding of His blood on our behalf.

If you are a Christian, would you join me in preparing for all God calls you to?  Will you submit?  Be willing to be ready.  Sunday is coming.  Sunday is not the culmination and should not be our one “big” day of worship.  Sunday is the beginning.  He died.  He rose again.  He walked among His disciples and then ascended into Heaven. leaving us with the power of His Spirit.  May we be ready to live victoriously for Him all year and may our churches be filled.

Embrace being Invisible

I love to read.  I love to learn.  As I have made this transition back to full-time work and have sought to effectively lead an office through re-organization, reading and learning have been vital to my success, but more importantly vital to my emotional well-being.  My reading and learning must be balanced.  I can’t just read about management practices or leadership skills, I have to feed my spirit.  My whole self has to grow in order to be effective and healthy.

I recently read “Unseen” by Sara Hagerty.  (http://sarahagerty.net/unseen/)  Initially I thought this book would have nothing to do with my leadership, but would be a good read for me personally.  I was wrong.  Creating change, leading people through reorganization is all work done quietly.  A great deal of it is work the leader must do in the hidden spaces.  It is being faithful to show up, to keep moving forward, to wait patiently on others to begin to see and take hold of the new mission.  It is the unseen work.  It is prayer.

“Unseen” is an authentic book.  Sara Hagerty shares what many of us would never voice to another.  It is a vulnerable read, but it will stir your spirit.  As I have led, I will be honest… I have wanted kudos, a pat on the back.  That hasn’t come.  I have felt discouraged, wondering if the mission to engage others in service to meet the needs of our community would ever resonate with anyone outside our office.  But reading Sara’s story challenged me to dig deep, to deal with the reality- Who am I living for?  Is my identity wrapped up in what others think?  Those aren’t easy questions to answer.  The truth was painful because the answers didn’t match what I say I live.  I say I live for Christ, that my identity is in Him.  Yet, all too often, that is not the reality of how I live.  “Unseen” has reminded me to focus on who I am, the relationships with those around me, and believe I am where I am to serve Him.  Being obedient to Him.  It has reminded me to stop in prayer, breathing in His word, when doubts or frustrations rise.  It’s about our focus.  When we focus on what the world cannot see, we live free from the need for worldly success.

There is something freeing when we embrace being invisible.  Being the best version of me is all that matters.  I am the best version of me when I am focused on Him.

Don’t Plan Your Week, Guide Your Week

I love organization:  calendars, baskets, hooks, notebooks, planners, colored pens, labels, label makers… the list goes on.  It is in my DNA.  The first born.  Type A.  Disc profile C.  Perfectionist.  Scheduler.  The list could go on, but I am sure you get the drift.

My bent towards organization hasn’t always been my friend.  In fact, it has often been my enemy.  I may appear on the outside to have it all under control, to be gifted and skilled at juggling life’s demands.  On the inside though, it has often been a different story.  The expectations grow and with them the voice in my head pushing me to perfection, telling me “I am not enough”, “do more”.  The anxiety driven by the fear I won’t keep it all together.  The laser like focus keeping me from seeing opportunities and moments around me.  The pursuit all consuming and confining, leaving little room for vulnerability, allowing others to help.  It can be and has been exhausting.  It can be and has been my worst attribute.  But, it is also a gift.

So how do I keep the gift from becoming my demon?  I embrace who I am.  I am created in God’s image, to serve Him and to be reconciled to Him, engaged in the daily ministry of reconciliation.  He is a God of order (simply read the story of creation).  His Word provides a road map.  I am bent towards organization and in His sight that is good, it is just as He desired it to be, just as He created me to be.  However, I have to remember, managing my life:  my things; my activities; my people, is simply a tool to be used to serve Him.  I can’t let it become about CONTROL.  Yes.  Too often  my pursuit of organization is more about my attempt to CONTROL, than to be and serve.  I have to remember He is in control, and my attempts to manage are simply a part of a process.  He teaches me, He guides me, He directs my paths.  CONTROL is the demon.  When I use my talents and my gifts to follow His direction, I relinquish CONTROL, and He is in control.

Maintaining the balance isn’t easy.  The past has taught me.  I have learned to spend less time planning, and more time simply developing a road map/a guide, full of white space, breathing space.  The white space and breathing space give the opportunities to stop, to pray, to listen, to adjust.  My life is fuller.  The pursuit is no longer for perfection or control.  Instead, the pursuit is for relationship, obedience with the One in control.

If you, like me, struggle with this balance, here are a few tools and tricks I use.

  1. I LOVE my Cultivate What Matters planner.  This is not a weekly or daily planner, but a great tool for setting yearly goals, determining what matters most and then cultivating habits to bring it to fruition.  If you haven’t checked this resource out, head over to https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/.  I am not paid to endorse, this product.  I genuinely LOVE and USE this product.
  2. I am a recovering planner addict.  I have spent more money on planners than I ever care to disclose.  Seriously, it is an addiction!  I still struggle.  Each November my Facebook and Pinterest feeds fill with cute images of beautiful planners, stickers, pens etc.  My heart races and I begin to think, “what if…”  I am pleased to tell you though, going on THREE years strong, I have stuck with my Planner Pad planner.  It isn’t all sparkly and cute.  It is practical.  But the layout works for me.  It is a weekly planner format that allows you to “funnel” your tasks, beginning with broad categories, moving to daily priorities, and ending with time specific tasks.  You can find out more by going to https://plannerpads.com/.
  3. I set aside about an hour every Friday to create my road map for the following week.  This helps me focus on the critical and important Friday and keeps items from falling off my radar, as they get moved to the following week.  I am able to assess how much white space I have and make necessary adjustments.  A packed schedule only leads to stress and stress minimizes productivity.  Leave room to breathe, to be the boss, wife, mom, friend you need to be in the moment.  Leave room to run back into God’s presence, seeking His guidance.
  4. Pray.  Years ago, while reading an Emilie Barnes book, I began to practice the habit of praying over my calendar daily.  I am not 100%, but the weeks and months I am faithful to this habit, I am amazed at how my plans change, the resources that come my way or the amount I am able to accomplish.  I am able to view the items in my planner as simply a guide for my week and the unexpected aren’t viewed as distractions, but as opportunities.
  5. Last but not least, I remind myself the goals I have written, the filled in to do lists, are simply guides.  I can’t plan for the future, for I am not in control of the future.  I can establish guides for myself and I can take one obedient step at a time.  When things go awry I remember I am not in control.  When tasks build up or remain undone, when there seems to be no movement toward a goal I step back and reassess.  More often than not, I simply need to make an adjustment, either in my routine or my schedule.  However, sometimes the pause, the prayer helps me see the goal was something birthed out of my desires, and is not a part of His plan.  Sometimes the goal needs to go away.  Sometimes I need to scale back and focus on some small part of the larger goal.  Sometimes I need to ask for help.  Adjusting is better than quitting.  Adjusting is better than making futile plans in pursuit of perfection or control.  Adjusting is bending to His will, growing in faith, growing in relationship, growing in His image.

 

Survival of the Fittest: Thanksgiving Style

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Hallmark version of the holiday emerged victorious in all our homes?  Instead, for many of us, it turns out a little more like “Christmas Vacation.”  The reality is, even with the best laid plans, executed with grace and efficiency, people are a part of the holiday and, sadly bring to the table emotions and baggage.  Maybe that is not your experience, and if not, I pray you know how blessed you are.  For me, the family strife seems to creep its way in, no matter what I do.  This year, proved no different. An ongoing volatile relationship exploded once again, and to round it all out nicely, the dreaded stomach virus has over the course of a week taken immediate and extended family out one by one.   It’s given new meaning to “survival of the fittest”.

I have a tenuous relationship with my mother. There are many reasons for it, most a result of life circumstances in and out of our control, her struggle with depression, and an innate desire as a daughter to want to fix things, do enough to obtain approval, maintain peace…  For years I allowed those desires to almost consume me.  I took on every need, every disconnect and feverishly sought to find a solution, a way to mend the fences.  In the end though, I did little more than take on another person’s anger and dissatisfaction. I was changed and in return able to do little to create change.  Last year, all things came to a climax-yes, at a holiday.  It was devastating.  It was painful.  It was terrifying.  It was the end of me, and the beginning of truly learning to let go of the things that bound me and learn to live freely in Christ.  I look back now and wonder why I didn’t let go earlier.  Why I didn’t realize that the struggling was not a part of my spiritual growth, but more a battle to hold on to “earthly ways” and a failure to trust God.  Beth Moore, in Breaking Free says “..the most debilitating loss for a Christian is not the loss of a loved one, but the loss of faith.”  It is hard to admit a loss of faith.  Too often we think of it in broad terms-walking away from a relationship with Christ.  If we look at it in broad terms we can protect ourselves from having to face the harsh reality of our spiritual condition-the lack of faith.  As a Christian it is heart wrenching to come to terms with a faith problem, yet anything binding us/oppressing us is just that.  So, while I hated last year’s events, they were the beginning of looking deep within myself and coming face to face with my lack of faith issue.  And so, this year, through much prayer, quiet reflection and pursuit of God’s word, He has begun to restore.  The relationship with my mother is not restored.  It may never be fully restored, for some of the work is hers to choose to do.  He has begun to restore me, free me to live abundantly as the person He created me to be.  He has shown me cycles need not be repeated.  He has shown me I must trust Him to see my mother through her journey on the path she chooses.  He has shown me I can not live “for” others, but can live freely “with” others.  And as happens when we let go, have faith, He grows in us the very image of all we have hoped to be.

As for the stomach virus, well, not much to learn from that.  Life happens.  Sometimes you just roll with the punches.  You get back up, you clean up and carry on.  In the end, we all survive.  Some of us may not grow or seek a new path, but some of us will.  We survive, but more importantly we chose the path less traveled, we get through it and we thrive.