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.

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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.

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*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”.

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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.

Tending to Me

Female Strength_Photo by Justyn WarnerPhoto by Justyn Warner

As I prepared to post tonight I couldn’t help but think, “How many times am I going to say ‘I’m back!’?”  This blog has been through many transitions.  Some simply following life changes.  Some related to business ventures.  Others, a result of comparison.  Ouch.  Admitting the last hurts.  Yet, it is the truth.  At some point don’t we all fall prey?  And that is okay, so long as we recognize it, acknowledge it and return to our true self.

This blog began as an outlet, a personal space to think out loud and connect.  I have been amazed and blessed by the connections made, the lives touched and blog friends who have in turn touched my life.  It is not a business.  It is not a platform.  It is simply the sharing of my story, a place to be creative.

A year and a half ago God answered a big prayer.  I wanted and needed to go back to work.  God provided beyond anything I could have thought possible and in perfect timing.  My girls entered their Senior year of high school (yes, if you are new to the blog, I have twins).  I was just months away from 50.  Lots of change, lots of big life moments.  In the midst of that an opportunity to go back to work full-time doing what I began my career doing, an opportunity to return to my non-profit roots, my love for service.

It has been a transition.  Those Senior girls graduated and ventured on to university and cosmetology school.  We gained a new dog-child (graduation gift for said daughters rarely at home).  Full-time work, taking an existing office unit, and leading it to adopt a new mission, new work.  At times I have doubted my capabilities, I have felt inferior.  At times I have wondered, “Why me?  Why here?  Why now?”  Finding my place in a big, complicated, not so healthy bureaucracy going through its own restructuring and leadership changes, has not been easy.  But this is what I have learned-know to be true.  I am capable.  I am prepared for this.  I am strong.

Life is good.  Life is lived to the fullest when we are stretched and beyond ourselves.  God doesn’t just provide the opportunity and walk us to the open door.  He leads us through the door and stands beside us ready to meet our every need.  The hours spent with a personal trainer 6 months leading up to and 6 months after I began work were not just about my physical strength and health.  Those hours were about learning to push myself, trust my trainer and my capabilities.  Those hours were as spiritual as they were physical.  Those hours taught me the importance of self-care.  Serious spirit, mind and body self-care.  Tending to me has helped me cultivate the habits and skills I need to be the person I want to be, reflecting Christ at home, at work and in my community.  Tending to me has helped me see who I am in Christ, to embrace the me He created in His image to do His will.  Tending to me has helped me love others, to risk, to forgive and to release.

So, this isn’t “I’m back”.  This is “Hello, I’m still here.”  Lessons are learned to be shared.  Life is lived to be shared.  That’s what this blog is all about.  It’s me, sharing a little bit of me, hoping as I continue to tend to me, you will be inspired to tend to you and the things we cultivate will begin to blossom and bloom into a life we never imagined- lives full of victories, joys, hardships, losses.  Lives lived to the fullest.  Lives shared.

You Can Have it All, Just Not All at Once

This week I have been doing a little evaluating of my current life.  Back to full time work, two girls graduating high school, a home to manage, friends to see…  As I pondered my own frustrations, disappointments, I also saw a post from another hard working mom asking if there was such a thing as balance.  Another young mom messaged me asking how I managed, what could she do different.

As women we all struggle.  It is hard to be all the things we want to be.  Sometimes we have choices, other times the circumstances of our lives dictate whether or not we have choices.  As Christian women the struggle can run deep.  Not only do we hold ourselves to the standard of the world, but we hold ourselves up to the Proverbs 31 woman and create expectations we often can’t meet.

Going back to work at age 50 is a completely different experience from that of my 20s. It’s not better, it’s not worse.  It is just different.  Experience has taught me.  Struggles with anxiety and fear have moved me.  As I thought about the questions of dear friends, as I pondered my own momentary frustration I was reminded that today matters.  What I choose today is what matters most.  Who I am today affects my tomorrow.  I cannot be all things to all people at all times, but I can be who I need to be today to the persons God brings across my path.  I can choose today to return home from work and turn my attention to the ones I love most, preparing food, washing clothes, caring for their needs. There is not a lot of time for relaxation, for outings, for extra time with friends.  But that is okay.  All too soon the girls will be gone, their adult lives unfolding.  I will no longer have the chance to wash their clothes, light a candle to say welcome home, cook their favorite meal.  When that time comes there will be more time for friends, for personal rest.

Life is a journey.  Spiritual growth is a journey.  I can have it all, just not all at once.  Each season brings new opportunities.  Each season requires saying no to some things, so others can be cherished.  As I read back through scripture I am reminded the Proverbs 31 woman lived a full life.  She too experienced and lived her life in seasons.  And most of all, I am reminded that what God desires I learn from her is her character traits- patience, love, perseverance, joy, hope.

Remember.  God has you in this season to do His work where you are at this time.  You won’t be able to do it all right now.  But over a lifetime you just might have the chance. Be patient, love well, persevere, and hope in the future.

 

Proverbs 31:10-31New International Version (NIV)

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

Breathing,Breaking,Beholding

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I took a break from the blog.  I needed to step back, to really push through to the other side.  I began this blog as an accountability tool for myself.  It then morphed into an opportunity to share about my passion for home and organization, along with spiritual lessons.  Then one day, it just seemed there was nothing to say, my thoughts were dark and anxiety and bitterness were becoming more a way of thinking and living.

Somewhere between facing some changes in our finances, ongoing extended family relationship struggles, approaching the empty nest years, I began to spiral.  My thoughts were consumed with the “what if”…”why didn’t I”… “why does she” questions.  It seemed that nothing in my family relationships would change, and that depression and anger would continue to steal from our relationships.  It seemed at age 49 there were not many prospects for entering the workforce, engaged in something I was passionate about, creating a new identity for myself outside of motherhood.  The chaos of the world seemed to only confirm what I feared.  I was tired.  Anxiety woke me at odd hours, my chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on it, and breathing was hard, shallow.  Fatigue kept me from moving, doing and too often the end of the day found me sitting face to face with regret, angry at myself for letting the worries win.

I would like to tell you that during my morning quiet time or a church service God spoke, pulled me from the pit.  I’d love to tell you about a “burning bush” moment, but that is not my story.  Instead, it has been a slow process, one that began with a desire to exercise, strengthen my physical being, burn off some steam.  I have slowly climbed my way out of the pit, dragging my body up the muddy hill, pushing, pulling, crying, laughing.

I joined a local gym and signed myself up for personal training.  I did it without talking to my friends or family (yes even my husband, which I do not recommend if you are on a tight budget).  I decided I had to do something on my own, for myself.  I needed to make just one small decision and just do something.  I am not going to lie.  I did it with a little bit of rebelliousness.  It has been amazing!  In a matter of thirty short minutes the trainer can push me through exercises that cause my heart to race, my muscles to ache and my body to sweat.  Learning to use equipment I didn’t know existed, pushing myself past that moment of “I can’t”.  At the end of each session with the last count done and the high five slap a sense of empowerment, accomplishment set in.  What I thought I could not do, I could do.  In fact not only could I do it, but I could do more than what was expected. Pushing myself physically, having someone to speak truth as I pushed, hurt, struggled, got me over the hump.  As I began to see and feel the difference in my physical being I began to realize how much I had let Satan fill my mind with his lies.  I realized that while I was a good Baptist girl who read her bible every morning, attended church and bible studies, I was not letting God’s truth fill my mind.  I was choosing to believe the lies, the distorted messages of Satan and it had and was robbing me of life.  I was focused on all that I didn’t have, on the hard parts of life and was ignoring all that I did have, all I had access to through Christ.

What began as a journey to renew my physical body has become a journey to renew my mind.  I have taken every negative thought captive and wrestled with it, searching out God’s truth.  Some wrestling matches have lasted months, while others stop and start. Some matches I have won and God’s truth reigns.  Everything about us, our thoughts and our actions, rest upon what we believe.  I believe I am the daughter of Christ, made in His image.  His Spirit resides in me and gives me access to His power, the power to overcome, to live free.

If you are struggling I want to encourage you.  Step back, breath, take a break and behold God’s truth.  Let each Word sink in.  Release the lies.

The funny thing is not a lot about my life has changed.  The truth is, I haven’t really changed.  I am still me, the girl I have always been, with the same personality, talents and gifts.  Depression and anxiety still have a hold on a family member.  My girls are still headed to college.  My husband’s business is still recovering from the economic crisis of a few years back.  I have had friends bury children, walk through divorce, and lose jobs.  The difference is what I choose to believe.

truth

 

Hire the Babysitter!

We had a great weekend.  Saturday we hosted a baby shower for one of the girls’ former babysitters.

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Back in the day, I taught 8th grade girls’ Sunday School.  I had an incredible group of young girls, whom I grew to adore!  No one prayed harder for me to overcome infertility and have a baby.  No one prayed harder for the babies growing in my tummy.  And no one, beat any of those girls to the hospital to visit the fragile premature little girls laying in the nursery.  Two young girls in particular captured my heart.  They had the most amazing friendship.  They became our duo babysitting team- from 9th grade through 12th.  We were blessed.  My girls were blessed.  I think they were blessed.  One of them has a cute little 5 week old baby boy. The other, well, she is soon expecting a beautiful baby girl, and therefore a fabulous tea party themed shower this weekend.

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Decorating and preparing was so much fun.  I pulled out two old quilts-one made for me by my grandmother, the other one quilted by my great, great aunts.  They served as the perfect backdrop for a moss runner, candles, roses, greenery and some touches of crystal and silver.  Making the table, were the vintage pink dishes left to me by mother-in-law just before her death early in my marriage.  She was a soft-spoken woman of grace.  Each time I use those dishes I think of her, how much I know she would have treasured her grand-daughters and I smile.  We ate, presents were opened and by the end, there was an explosion of pink!  The dad’s, grand-dads and dads to be showed up to load the “loot”.  The real visitin’ and eatin’ began.  I loved it.  I loved watching my own girls, just now the same age as the two babysitters were when they began working for us. Life had come full circle.  It hit me with joy, mixed with a tinge of sorrow-sorrow time passes so quickly.  Most of all though, I was struck by what an incredible blessing these two young women, now mothers, have been to my family.  I stood back as the new mom let each of my girls hold her precious son.  I watched as the four of them laughed, talked about his little nose, attire and life in general.  I laughed as they talked about the soon to be mom’s nursery.  Then, it seemed to hit both these young women.  Almost in unison, they looked at me and asked, “How old were they (my twin girls) when you let us babysit them?”  “A little over six weeks,” I replied.  The response was comical.  Within seconds they were both talking a little louder and as if in total astonishment!  I found myself being reprimanded.  “Were you crazy?  We were 14!!!!  You left us with your six week old babies?  What were you thinking?”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  There in front of me stood the six week old baby girls-now 15 years of age, standing taller than their mother!  Alongside them stood the nearing 30 young women who were once the sweet 14 year old babysitters.  Obviously all had survived.  Obviously all four are bonded for life and still crazy about each other.  For a brief moment though I did wonder what in the world I had been thinking.  Or maybe I hadn’t been thinking.  Maybe I had been nothing more than a crazy, sleep deprived, in need of adult conversation new mom.  I am not denying that in part describes me, but the truth is I intentionally asked those sweet 14 year old girls to take care of my just over 6 week old babies.  I waited a long time to become a mom.  Six years of infertility had kept me on an emotional roller coaster, friends had come and gone, my marriage had been tested.  And in God’s timing, in His way, He had chosen to grant us twin girls.  The pregnancy was difficult, they came too early, I hemorrhaged shortly after delivery, and for several days I don’t think anyone felt confident all three of us were going to survive.  But we did.  During those years of waiting and even during those difficult days awaiting their coming home, I vowed to give them back to God.  I determined to surround them with as many faith filled people as I could.  I vowed to be their biggest advocate, but to not hold on too tightly.  I knew they would need someone besides mom and dad to “watch”, to talk to, to trust.  So in those early days, yes just past six weeks (actually I think it was closer to 9 weeks), I purposed to let those two, sweet, 14 year old girls become a part of my girls’ lives.  I purposed to encourage what I knew would one day be a mentorship and a friendship.  Crazy, maybe.  But as I said, in the end all survived.  Two young 14 year old girls got to spread their wings.  They got to share with me, borrow shoes for prom, and seek advice.  I gained their mothers as life long friends and mentors.  Now, my girls have two sweet, young moms to share with, borrow from and seek advice from.

The baby shower was great.  Greater yet though was seeing life come full circle.  If you are a young mom or dad doubting, wishing you had some time alone or with your mate, to you I say, “Hire the babysitter!”