What did I expect?

It all started with a little conversation with a woman who embraces life with gusto. We found out our birthdays are one day and 11 years apart. She asked me what I had planned for my birthday. She had 3 separate parties planned. I said, “Wow! We don’t really have high expectations for birthdays.”

Then, I thought back to my 35th birthday when I took it upon myself to grab life by my rules. I was embracing the fact that we were at the end of our quest for fertility, and I said, “I am throwing myself a dinner party and will choose to celebrate!” After the prior conversation, I made a decision a few weeks ago that I would take charge of making something happen on my birthday this year instead of being passive. Life is what you make it, right?

Well, I tried to make it. I decided we would go out with some friends of ours for a birthday dinner. I sought out babysitters. One by one, no one was available. And then, I began writing this script in my head. (Spoiler alert: this is why you do NOT practice having unexpressed expectations .)

Expect: to consider probable or certain; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; preparing/envisioning for—Hope; anticipate, await

I said…”well, we can work on a girl’s night.” However, guess what I had envisioned in my head? It went a little something like this: Greg had really scheduled one of these babysitters “who couldn’t make it,” and we were going to go as planned but it would be a surprise for me. Y’all. We don’t really do surprises in our family. We don’t do manipulation (I learned this at 23 the first time I stormed out of a room and was not followed). We try to say what we mean. Why in the world, did I think the rules had changed?

I dared to expect, but I told no one. I tried to put it together, and I expected a different outcome when things did not go as I planned. Instead of dealing in reality, I kept basing my hopes on a script I had made up. As I was recounting this story later, my friend, Beth, said–“you normally do not do this!” Yep–but I did it with abandon this time.

Because we had planned to go to dinner earlier in the week, I told Greg to go to buy tickets for the Avengers movie on the morning of my birthday while I was with the boys. In an attempt to seize the day with my boys, I thought we could go downtown. I reached out to several people to see if they were up for tagging along, and no one was available. Most people I know plan ahead, so I could not fault them for my lack of foresight. Our plans were amended, and we went to Chick-fil-a for the boys to play outside, and then, Greg met us to take them home while I had some “me” time. Usually I am elated to have some alone time that is unscheduled. However, because I had set my expectation on the hope that my birthday would somehow be filled with people, I came up lonely and disappointed.

Y’all, I kept digging the hole deeper and deeper with the false narrative. “It’s okay because tonight…” I came home “in my feelings” realizing that I had set myself up. So, like any good 7 on the Enneagram, I took up a paint brush and painted a wall and changed around a room. I cannot control the other stuff, so, I chose what I could control. I was mad, lonely, frustrated, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I ruined my own birthday with my attitude.

As I was cooking dinner that night, I began to fight to take back the narrative. I began telling myself what is really true instead of my feelings. My feelings, based on a false narrative, had hijacked my joy. I had been riding a rollercoaster of self-imposed self-pity.

What did I remember was true? I have a beautiful family with boys that awakened me with flowers and a card (that their Daddy provided for them) as my birthday began. I have a husband that is real and true and faithful that doesn’t play games that joyfully gave me time to myself. He is a rock for me. I had a day of sunshine and warmth and flowers and the hope of Spring that I chose to ignore. I have a Mother-in-Law that thoughtfully sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers. I had the privilege of affording Chick-fil-a and watching my boys have fun and care for others as they played. I have hope in Jesus because of His work on the cross and life He lived. I have a home that I can be creative in. I could go on and on.

The last thing that was true? I had the privilege of leading a women’s growth series the next morning where we would discuss relationships, vulnerability, authenticity, and gulp, expectations. “I get it, Lord.” My life had been a lab for what we were going to talk about. My heart was tender, and I was reminded of this fight we have in relationships. We can allow our desires and our expectations to run rampant and to leave us in a constant state of disappointment, resentment, loneliness–poor me. We can write an impossible script that we are hoping will come true that is completely unrealistic and false. In doing so, we keep ourselves stuck, and we miss out on the true joys and the true growth. We can become a victim of our false thinking. Let me assure you of this, the control we have in life is in how we think and respond to things. With the truth of God’s word, the Spirit and the hope in Christ, we can live with a lens of adventure and expectancy that do not have our limited desires and narrative as the end all, be all.

Was I still tender and sad the next day? Yes. Did I have hope in something beyond circumstances? Yes. Did I get together with a few friends that Sunday night to pull away and celebrate time together? Yes. And, I appreciated the simple joy of doing so…

That friend that drops truth bombs…

We all have that friend that is not afraid to say what they think. When you want to know the truth, you call them. When you ask “how do I look or how does this communicate,” you are ready for the real answer that does not tip toe around feelings. If they are healthy, they can be a great gift in helping you grow. If they are not healthy, they can be a dangerous grenade thrower. If you don’t have a healthy friend like this, find one and know that they are not against you.

We might also be able to identify friends who do not want you to tell them the truth. They do not say this out loud, but you know from experience that they want to hear what confirms what they think and feel. In fact, life often seems to work for these people because they get their way because people do not want to deal with the consequences of shaking up the person’s reality. You just learn to avoid or go with what the person says to “get along.” The person has no desire to change because things are “working for them” in this unhealthy structure.

I would dare say that we have a culture of people who have their hands over their ears, and more and more, we are encouraged to tip toe around each other. We are not practicing healthy truth telling. Because of our own fear of reactions and cost, we say nothing or we say empty, nebulous things to make people feel better about their lives. Sometimes we call this love and kindness, but is it really?

People pleasing is my natural talent, and what worked for me in childhood does not serve me well now. It is empty lacking in reality, substance, meaning or value, and it’s about my comfort. So, I have been on a journey in adulthood to practice true kindness and love which means I do not always tell someone what they want to hear. I have realized, through study of God’s word, that people pleasing is actually deceit.

Deceit–The act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid; fraud: the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth, cunning, craftiness; behavior that is deliberately intended to make people believe something which is not true

In a quest to not offend (which is getting harder and harder to do), we say nothing or say something so fluffy that it dissolves like cotton candy in our mouths. Let’s all get along….hmmm…what is the real substance and point of that besides our comfort for a moment? When we put our energy there, we are not focusing on things that are true and life-giving. We are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while some really evil and costly and devastating things are going down in our lives and the lives of those around us.

The more I am in God’s word, the more I am aware of the pitfalls of evil that I have adopted as “good living” in our culture. I need the truth told to me, and His word is truth, grace, hope, love, righteousness. I am transformed by His grace and teaching so that I may take courage to bring that kindness to others. His word reminds me that we are in a Titanic situation and that we are so blinded by our sin and desires that are actually devouring and destroying us instead of bringing true freedom and life. We are deceived. In fact, The Enemy, Satan, has a nickname–The Deceiver, The Father of Lies. We gobble lies up because they feed the desires that are within us. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

We have to recognize that there is an enemy within and on the outside. The one on the outside knows how to entice us in all the right places. All the letters to the churches in the New Testament warn about the people being deceived by false teaching. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) So, think Elizabeth Holmes style fraud–it looks great, seems great, seems legit, but it’s all a lie. We are warned to be active in guarding our minds and hearts against it. “Let no one deceive you with empty words…” (Ephesians 5:6) And…surprise, surprise, our culture and human nature were called out long ago with this warning “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears (to hear what they want to hear) they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

I have been wrestling with how to enter in and use the voice God has given me. Seriously, I am filled with fear and want er’body to get along. I am selfish and don’t want to deal with push back or conflict. How’s that for honesty? How’s that for my straight-up sin? When I get perspective from the Spirit teaching me from God’s word, I can see the world and myself with a truthful lens. It is then that I see the hearts of friends and family and strangers and myself being deceived into thinking evil is good and good is evil. It is then that I get my desperate need for grace (favor that I did not earn). It is then that I can love others in a way that is courageous and thinks of their needs above my own need for comfort and being liked. It is then that I know that I want people to taste real freedom and real redemption, and I want to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, strength….and words. So, I pray I can be one of those kind and courageous truth-tellers that you can trust. I will struggle and forget, but He is faithful to remind me to guard the trust He has deposited within me.

How much does it cost?

How many times a day do we ask the question “how much does it cost?” Usually we mean a monetary amount. In fact, I daresay that we rarely examine how much a decision will require of us to invest in all areas of life.

Cost: the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object; Loss or penalty incurred especially to gain something

Nothing is free. Everything we choose to do is at the cost (expenditure) of something else. We make decisions everyday that cost us time, energy, focus, presence, and those decisions, add up to the sum of our lives. What we choose to walk toward and embrace in those decisions make up the essence of who we are. We want something good to be without cost, and we cannot wish that into existence. Give me that donut and a size 2—yes!

We do not like natural consequences because we do not want there to be a cost for our actions. In fact, we like to pretend there are not. (Hello spending more than we make and incurring debt or living as a victim to circumstances instead of taking control of our response). Even in parenting, it is harder on us to let natural consequences fall because we want to shield our children and ourselves from pain. How many times has a natural consequence punishment been incurred on my sons where it cost my comfort? All. the. time. Is it worth it to follow through? Absolutely. What might cost my comfort, convenience and lifestyle freedom at the moment equips my children for adulthood where they cannot shirk the cost. When I give into my call for comfort in the moment, I cost my children an opportunity to mature and to grow, and it costs me the habit of perseverance.

This morning, I was reading from the book of John focusing on the the week before Jesus was killed. I was haunted by these words: “Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus said in John 12:25 “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees, they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12: 42-43

They were afraid of the cost to their standing, to their comforts, to their lives. See, if we take Jesus words to heart, we have to consider the cost of following Him.

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Sobering words not really given at the altar call, huh? There are several streams of “christianity” in our culture that tend to center on man’s felt needs rather than God. One stream says God will give you what you want, fill you up, make you the best version of yourself, and give you your best life now. How does that fit with the scriptures above?

One says we have no problem within ourselves–listen to your heart and follow it–God accepts and celebrates you as you are. Where do we find that message written in His word? What about repentance and a turning from what was before?

In those streams, there is seemingly no death to self. In reality spoken in scripture and in our hearts, no one seeks God. He comes to find them, to restore them by the death and resurrection of Christ and to transform them into His character with His love and His grace. His Perfectly Righteous and Loving Son came to this Earth suffered and died taking upon himself our sins, being separated from His Father, and defeating death and the ENEMY. This is true abundant life. This is countercultural. This Christ-life pushes the buttons of the culture and is offensive. This Christ-life shakes the core of our natural tendencies and causes us to look beyond ourselves for strength. This Christ-life replaces our heart of stone with a heart of flesh that grows more and more to be like Him surrendered to His beauty and heart. We find ourselves in Him by losing ourselves.

It is very clear in His word that there will be a rub with the world because the world and the culture are not seeking after God. They are caught in a prison seeking after self, their own pleasures, their own gains. It doesn’t seem like a prison, but once eyes and ears are opened to Grace and Life, we are changed fundamentally at the core of who we are. We are faced with a choice daily to seek after the glory of God or the glory of man. The cost in the present in seeking the glory of God is high. It will affect every portion of your life for the glorious good, but it will also alienate you from the praise of mankind. Seeking after the glory of what man thinks of you is easier in the moment, but the cost is great in the end.

So, my question today…for what are you counting the cost…now or later?

For a beautiful picture of the heart of man and the transformation brought by what Jesus did on the cross over 2000 years ago– Read Ephesians 2:1-10

Friday Fives: Surprises in Adult Life

I used to look at adults and think they had it all figured out. It seemed adulthood was rather boring. And then…as all things, I entered into adulthood where there are surprises around every corner if you are watchful. Oh to be a life-long learner.

  1. This past year, I have felt and understood and been overcome with the pursuit of the Love and Grace of God so distinctly. There are times my love can grow cold and rote, and I live forgetful of the awe and majesty and wildness of God. He is not contained in my understanding. I cannot outrun Him. I am His by His decree and by His work, and I am held and matured by His love. His love and goodness endure forever. He continually draws me back to Him–sometimes gently, sometimes fiercely. Always with my good and His glory in mind. Therefore, He is where my soul rests.
  2. I am more broken and weak than I ever thought possible. The point of my life is not to cover that up, but it is to press into Him. It is To share the beauty of favor that I do not earn and cannot spin. I get to share that with others. Growing up, I was striving for perfection in acting a certain way. My brokenness was there, I just did not face it. Grace=Freedom Self Righteousness and armor=Prison of my own making
  3. I am a yeller–gulp. Aka, parenting and shepherding children is dang hard. It strips you down to studs of your foundation to show what’s really there. Thankfully, I have a great partner in which to parent alongside, and we each have a child that tends to lean toward our own brand of personality. It’s an hilarious experiment of madness:). Greg and I always say “our children are not boring!”
  4. The 40s have out trumped the other decades! I think it’s the freedom of getting to the point where I know my limits and I know myself in a truer sense of the word instead of trying to meet the impossible expectations of others. Hopefully, I am moving from roles I play to the person God has created and called me to be. There is great freedom in being me. I am learning that I disappoint people, and that is part of life instead of the gravest sin. (which I realize has always been my unwritten mantra) Maybe God has to drain us of the energy of our 20s and 30s in order to see this reality. There is a lot more laughter needed as time goes on!
  5. RF has been one of the biggest surprises. I have learned that I can learn new things, grow in things outside of my box, have an outlet for fun and relationships outside of my traditional roles, be a provider financially, and lead in my own way. I can do hard things! That’s what we say to our children every week, and God has shown me that over and over again in my business. Truthfully, I examine every year to see if is is where I need to be investing my time. I wrote a list the other day of gains and losses instead of pros and cons. When I speak about the gains, I don’t think of a car (which I am thankful for) or the financial provision (which I do not deserve but is VERY helpful for our family) first. Because, if you know me, I am not driven by money in the long haul. I reflected the other day about the outlet it has been to be me during a season of raising littles where you begin to feel like you are a robot on a treadmill. It has been an outlet for me to travel, to adventure, to remember what it is to laugh and to have fun, to see growth in areas monthly that I cannot trace in other areas of my life, to grow in confidence in speaking and leading, to shepherd women I would never know in my bubbled off world, and to share truth and encouragement. All I thought was I am going to swallow my pride and sell some skincare in order to help my family financially until I could do something more respected to serve others with my giftings. Jokes on me…God can use us anywhere, we just have to keep our eyes and hearts open.

Analysis Paralysis

Are you ever just paralyzed?

You know you need to get moving in 10 different directions. You understand that, and yet, the sheer volume of purpose and energy needed bring heaviness to your limbs and a panic response in your brain and heart.

Sometimes we do not know where to start just that we “should.” I “should” do as well as that person who seems to be so on top of “xy and especially z.” 

Our mind and heart are full of noise, full of the misplaced panic of “should,” full of unrest…

How do we move?
*We stop. We get off the thought treadmill. *We still ourselves before the only One that can guide us and bring peace and rest to our heart. *We acknowledge our need, yet again. *We ask Him what He thinks, what He purposes and what lies of “should” we are believing falsely.
*We look at the gifts in front of us, the opportunities to experience joy in the simple when we quiet our mind.
*Instead of running ahead in panic, we choose to take our thoughts captive in the moment thinking “what is true, right, good, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy in this moment?”

Truthfully, I have been sitting at my computer in panic about what I should do to lead my business this week, about what I should feed my family, about what changes need to be made to help my son(s), about where I should start to tackle the mound of stuff all around me. I am pretty dense, at times, because I forgot my starting and ending point and the One who directs everything for my good and His glory.

Peace has moved into my heart simply by practicing what He tells me to practice daily and every moment—“draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” 
“Remain in Me, Jennifer. Apart from Me you can do nothing l(paralysis).” 
“Remain in Me…You will bear much fruit, lasting fruit, if you remain in Me.”

Today, I am thankful for a Savior and King who graciously leads me as my Shepherd that continues to be gentle and protective over a sheep that often forgets, often gets panicked, and often runs away.

NOTE: This was in my facebook memories from last year, and guess what? I sat in the same thoughts as last year yesterday. The same things on my list were pressing and important. The same God calms my heart and whispers His presence. This year, however, I anticipate my triggers more. I know in my mind that things will be okay–nothing is an emergency that feels like it. I know He is teaching and guiding me and caring for me so much better than I can plan. He is gracious (giving me unmerited favor) and merciful (not giving me what I deserve) everyday. I thank Him for the incremental growth–for ways He has grown self-awareness in me, for ways He has brought grit.

5 Words

I have a big pile of different projects, notebooks, skincare products, paints and random McDonald’s toys on my dining room table. Every time I walk past, I shake my head and say “that’s what my brain feels like right now.” So many thoughts that need a day or ten to be sifted through, tidied up, discarded or clarified. Familiar, huh?

I had no idea as a little girl that a woman’s mind was so full and frustrated. I was about imagination, adventure, fun, and caring for others in the moment. There’s a part of me that pines for that simplicity while the other part knows there can be presence in the chaos and purpose in the journey. It involves continuous intentional work to get there, and it goes against the grain.

So, on the cusp of a new season for our family, as my youngest will be going to Kindergarten, I am asking questions and reflecting when I get a hot minute. Words going through my mind…

  1. Stewardship :The Careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care Stewardship is one of those words that used to just have the connotation of money in my mind. As I look toward 44 one month from today, I see that time and resources and head space and intention are limited. I see the speed in which my children are growing and learning, and I gulp knowing that I have a finite time to shepherd them. So, this word drives the intention of the next words. Life is to be spent wisely, and I am accountable for that.
  2. Invest: To involve or engage especially emotionally; to make use for future benefits or advantages I have spent the significant portion of my time investing in my little boys lives and in building a business in the last 5-8 years. More so, the attention has been on my boys. It has been a blessing, but naturally it has brought a lack of diversity in my time investments. I want to be thoughtful about how I will invest my time, our resources and my energy and talents. Investments are made to yield growth. Investment choices cost you in other areas, as well. Questions I am pondering before investing: 1) In this pursuit, what is the purpose eternally for others? 2) In this pursuit, what is the purpose for provision for our family? 3) What will this cost me? Where do my strengths and joys come into play in the midst? What’s drawing me to this? Will participating bring enjoyment which then benefits other areas of life? 4) What fruit will this bring? 5) Is this the BEST use of my time? You only have so many resources to invest which brings me to:
  3. Balance: to bring into harmony or proportion Just because I can does not make it right to do it. Sometimes just one more good thing tips the scales to chaos. A huge lesson I have learned while living with a Chronic Illness and Sensory Processing in my family (as well as being a 40-ish mom of littles ) is that energy is limited and nothing expended is free. When I push the margin, everyone pays. So, I have to say “no” more often than “yes” to extras. And, here’s the deal, people will spend you as much as you make yourself available. Often, people will use guilt and shoulds, but you are the one who gives that control or shuts it down. This new season coming up will provide more margin in my headspace and in my schedule, however, it can easily be filled with the busy and unfruitful. My family is still my greatest place of stewardship. If what I am doing for my sake is costing them every week, I need to check myself. There are seasons…and this season is short in the scheme of life. Sometimes it is as holy to say “no” as it is to step out and say “yes.” Are you busy or are you investing purposefully? And…it might not involve saying “no” to everything, but it might be saying “yes” with boundaries to time. then, to what purpose am I seeking this:
  4. Purpose : Something set up as an object or end to be attained Now, I know the ultimate purpose given to me is enjoying God by Glorifying Him. That is a litmus test. However, I can be doing a lot of “good” things that are not done with a heart purpose of bringing the beauty and glory of God to bear. My narrowed down personal purpose; helping others come alive–in Jesus, and in every other way. I have a LOT of opportunities to help others come alive. As a person who leans to the tendencies of a 7 on the Enneagram, I love new ideas and can brainstorm all the possibilities. So, up to the words above, I have to see how this stewards well in life, have to examine the investment and see how it is balanced. I examine the purpose first. Here’s the trick, though. If we don’t dig into the real purpose we are doing something, we can fool ourselves. When I am signing my child up for something, is it about their best interests to come alive and to know God and to develop into an adult or is it about a need of mine to be met? Is this for my convenience or is it for their character? Do I teach them about the all-consuming beauty of the Lord in the investment or is is vacuous? Do I feel pressure because of the choices of friends or is this best for them? When I am deciding something I need to examine if I am making a comfortable decision or a surrendered decision. I have to see if it best fulfills my purpose. And then…I am examining what I am doing and will do to weigh if it’s fruitful:
  5. Fruitful : producing good or helpful results; productive; conducive to an abundant yield Everything produces something good or bad or even pointless. It’s the cause and effect deal. The choices I am making lazily or purposefully today in parenting or business affect tomorrow and the next day. It’s the simple truth. Farming is the perfect example of this. Good soil, tilling, seeds, watering, and pruning will usually bring a good harvest (dependent on God) There can also be rotten produce from bad and unbalanced investments . The question haunting me daily is how the decisions Greg and I are making in raising our children will help grow them into productive adults. That brings a different investment, balance and purpose than just placating their desires. We are entrusted to steward, and thankfully, the grace and power of God are with us because of His faithfulness and love. I also examine how I lead my Rodan + Fields Team–where is this pointing them in character, in heart, in production? What fruit will it bring?

So, here’s some self-disclosure. If you have known me for any amount of time, you know that I am not afraid to make changes. I am laying it all out on the table right now. What fruit is coming from areas of my life? What is out of my purpose? What am I asked to steward? Am I choosing Balance or Busy? Nothing is sacred.

I don’t want to awaken to my life ten years from now without this examination lived out. Because of comparison and assumption and critical opinions (some we ask for and some are unsolicited:)), we can easily question if we are doing what is best in the season we are in. So, In encourage you to not live life on autopilot. Find ways to open up this discussion within your close relationships, take time to examine your heart along with me. Then, we can cheer one another on as we live and steward and give grace on purpose

Turn me off…

Life is unbelievably noisy. We live in a constant state of anxiety and go.

This morning, as my brain and heart raced on the road to nowhere, I declared “I’ve had it.” Done. Ever feel that way? As a mom, wife, business owner, and responsible human being I cannot just declare “done,” but it signals I need a new way of being for the day.

So, I turned everything off.

TV background noise–off



Social media scroll–off

I put the laundry away in silence. I started packing for spring break in silence. It felt weird, and then it felt glorious as I began to own my thoughts. They were less abrasive, less urgent, less threatening, and less out of control.

As an Enneagram 7, I am learning that my tendency is the seek the next thing to fill my thoughts and hands to distract me from the pain that bubbles up in my heart. I am realizing the most brave and holy thing is to create the silence, to calm the noise so I can fully respond to God in joy and pain. It feels counterintuitive to my flesh, and I begin the process like a toddler screaming in the middle of Target. However, if I don’t turn it off consistently, I destroy myself and others around me. With quiet, I remember that most things are not urgent, that I am not failing as badly as I think, and that there is great beauty in simplicity. It is here my soul detoxes, and I am reminded that my true source is God.

What about you? What do you to do to turn off the assault of life and information? What do you tend to do with your painful places?

I encourage you today to be brave enough to turn the noise down and listen to what is really there, and share it with a friend.

I see you…

I see you finding your way in the world. I see you weaving through thoughts, doubts, experiences to find your voice.

I see you bounding through a park with energy, spunk, empathy, and imagination. I see a freedom of owning who you are with no regard for what others think. I see you unaware of what you look like on the outside by living from the inside.

I see you awakening to the thoughts of others. I see you beginning to shrink back for fear that people will point out what is different in you. I see you losing inner confidence in a world of glossy pictures. I see your shoulders slump to protect your heart. I see you defining yourself by what amounts to smoke and mirrors.

I see you performing, learning, practicing, and growing. I see you gaining competence. I see you flexing your strengthening muscles. I see you looking to the needs of others to serve and to encourage because you know what it is to struggle.

I see you stepping into the new to lead, to stretch, to protect, to inspire, to create, to administrate, to nurture, and to empower others. I see you more and less confident with each new step. I see your wings flopping and popping from the cocoon. I see you proud and hiding all at the same time.

I see you believing you have significance. I see you embracing change. I see you embarking on a life long adventure.

I see you dying to yourself to serve another. I see you learning sacrifice and mourning and embracing the loss of freedom. I see you intentionally stepping into love. I see you toughening from the inside out. I see you strong, soft, vulnerable, gritty.

I see you spinning all the plates. I see you calling the plays. I see you learning what to let go and what to embrace. I see you leaning in.

I see you feeling invisible everywhere while you keep life going. I see you tripping while trying to be all things to all people. I see you answering to what feels like everyone everywhere.

I see you letting go and embracing what is reasonable. I see you learning to set boundaries. I see you mourning the loss of who you were and trying to figure out who you are. I see you needing a minute to catch your breath.

I see you renegotiating your life. I see you feeling lost and yet hopeful. I see you embracing yourself like never before. I see you laughing in the midst.

I see you trying new things with spunk, empathy and imagination. I see you shaking off the expectations of others. I see you finding your voice in a more authentic way. I see you shrinking back from being small and choosing to spread your wings.

I see you when you feel invisible to a world that falsely values youth. I see that you are strong, purposed, wise. I see your beauty that is from the inside out. I see you use your voice to embolden others to use their voice, to impact the world, and to live for what matters.

From girl to Woman, I see you.

the need in lead

There is nothing that makes you NEED to deal with your junk as much as being a leader. Whether it is in your family, an organization, a team, a business, or a small group, there are various ways we lead. It is fun to start something, but getting into the midst and dealing with people and maturity–that’s where the hard work begins. When you see what is being duplicated from your leadership…it can be disheartening if you are not living and leading in awareness and growing in maturity.

From our earliest days, we experience being led. I was a pleaser and wanted to be a good part of the class, choir, etc. Generally, I was in a very safe environment with people who cared about my best interest. In my 40s, I just realized the ongoing tape in my head as a child became “do not disappoint people.” Leaders loved me–ha. However, that is not a healthy narrative to be building my life upon. Seriously–it is quite a dangerous standard to be working toward setting up some really unhealthy patterns in life, leadership, and relationships. I did not know how to draw boundaries. This is the reason I am passionate about helping my children and those I lead in teams to learn that boundaries are good and healthy.

Lessons in Leadership:

At my first school counseling job at 26, I was in an urban school where there were 950 kids with more needs than I could fathom. I walked into that job with a calling to serve, to minister, and to help. From day one, I took ownership, and I wanted to be helpful to teachers, students, and families. Adrenaline pumped high every day as I walked into the building and triaged many situations and people. I could tell you some unbelievable stories as I am sure you could from your experiences. There was NOTHING boring or mundane about that job.

Spoiler alert: I burnt out. I worked with someone who was tired and did the minimum, and I tended to overcompensate for him. In the first year, I was asked to lead the whole school’s reaccreditation, and I said yes because “don’t disappoint!” Every day there was a special case and a child in need to consider, and I was drowning. I remember the very day that I was examining a student record in the record’s closet when a special ed supervisor from downtown confronted me about a boundary I made with these words–“I thought you were on the side of the kids–you really disappointed me.” You can understand why that moment is clear in my mind to this day. It was the first moment I started to practice having a voice. I said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot do it all and do it well. Others have to be held accountable to stand up and take ownership.” The glowing reviews she used to give me abruptly stopped, and she had no use for me anymore. In that moment, I noted that I did not want to be a leader that leveraged guilt and pressure in an attempt to control people. I walked away from that job burnt out with nothing left.

In the summer of 2003, I began leading a group of young college women. Tuesday nights in my home were a learning lab for leadership and love. I learned to lead out shaping curriculum and offering a vulnerable place for questioning and sharing. Questioning and sharing are messy and unpredictable and require flexibility and courage. My skills improved over time as they started very shaky. Prior to this, conflict was a four letter word to my “never disappoint” soul. I believed the lie that I could perform my way out of it, and this group was a place where real relationships were happening–thus conflict could not be escaped. We had to learn to deal with one another in truth and grace instead of pretending it was okay or just ditching the relationships.

In my limited experience leading groups before, It was never long term, and That tends to keep vulnerability to a minimum. With the learned mantra of “never disappoint,” it was not safe to be vulnerable. However, disappointment was part of the program because I could not be enough for everyone, nor should I be. (and because I did not know what I was doing!) The less it became “about me,” and more it became about them there was the power of group members befriending and experiencing one another separate from my relationship with them. That was a win that I want in every organization I lead. I learned the joys of leading through transitions. Saying goodbye is never easy, but, again, I learned it was not about me. Our group grew deeper as I learned not to be afraid to ask for commitment and to draw boundaries. It felt risky, but it proved to be a wise decision.

This relational learning was not from a book or a manual. It was an experience in perseverance by showing up week in and week out when I was stressed and tired. When there is no one to defer to…its an opportunity to practice follow through. I made mistakes, and I was shown gracious love in the midst. That group ended 11 years ago, and it was heartbreaking to let them go. I believe we all walked to the other side as different people.

What have I discovered about leaders? An organization will take on the healthy or unhealthy concept of the leader. All of us have our junk–every.single.one.of.us. The more self-aware we are, the more we can grow into more healthy patterns of leadership. It takes humility and teachability to be a healthy leader…and I will follow the humble so much more readily. I can sniff out insecure in a leader. From my experience, it always ends up being all about that person, their power, their fear, and their patterns and not the best of the organization.

Leadership creates culture, and I long to be in healthy thriving cultures. Are their patterns of fear, control, and shame in the culture? Is there a culture of collaboration, vulnerability, and empowerment? Is it a culture where mistakes are feared or where it is safe to try new ideas? I have experienced both as an employee and as part of organizations. I have also felt the pull of both when leading others.

The journey never ends in growth as a leader, and it is important to keep our hearts and heads in check. Is there vulnerability and transparency or is there control and a preferred narrative? Is their empowerment or micromanagement? What is the pattern of our leadership bringing within our homes, organizations, ministries, and businesses?

What have been your lessons in leadership?

Glossy or Matte?

We live in a world with images of the woman next door, her home, her kingdom, her power. Branding, lighting, taglines, followings, messages…tools to promote that can also enslave.

We have filters at our fingertips. Truthfully, people can present themselves any way they want in our digital age. In fact, the pursuit of promotion in this culture actually changes people from the outside in. It’s a subtle reverse metamorphosis.

What if the things that we think give us power and influence actually are hijacking our freedom? What if it’s all a lie? What if what we are promoting is not really there? Smoke and mirrors and emptiness…

Glossy, alluring, enticing, inviting us to want what they have–influencers portray a virtual life. We buy the tickets to get there…only to get to the festival and see the portapotties, the chaos, the fear. It’s selling a lie that we are believing as the truth. (Fyre festival documentaries, anyone?) Glossy is not real.

I want Matte. I want texture and divets. I want to enter into the real. I want to call b.s. on what you are portraying because it is going to devastate and destroy you.

Initially, this wrestling in my heart came from a reaction to how the game is played on Instagram. However, it’s true whether you are on Social Media or are in Amishland that we choose how we present ourselves. We choose Glossy or Matte. We are branding ourselves from Social media to our small towns to our churches.

We choose where we focus and spend our energy. We are building the wall of gloss or we are digging into the real. Where we choose to turn our heart slowly makes us what we are…

This painting represents what is really to be explored and shared behind the gloss. It’s messy, but there is real life there. Opening yourself up to others and admitting what is really going on in your life brings opportunities for real growth and real impact. In fact, it opens your heart to hear that you are in need of the One who will change your heart and mind and bring you freedom from the glossy prison of self.

We can easily live our lives on the surface, and look what we are missing. Is it scary and risky to dig deeper? Yes, but it can bring true life, and it is worth the pain. I promise.

As I have been wrestling with these thoughts, The Spirit just keeps whispering words and giving me visions of concepts of paintings. I have no idea what I am doing, but I am listening to and exploring the direction. I don’t have a formula for anyone, but I know it takes courage to break through the gloss.

I was an expert at gloss growing up. Look and perform this way, hide the doubts, please the people, don’t examine too much. As I have walked out the journey into the Gospel and into authenticity, it’s taken work and courage to punch through the gloss.

There are threads torn and it doesn’t just affect me. What I have found is that there are others who long to live that way, too. There are safe places to punch together and to talk about real hope and growth and life. The more we do that, the less gloss we desire. Our covering is in Him filled with color and the texture of matte and adventures that actually bring more growth and life and freedom.

The more we walk in this life, the more we see the gloss is a picture of this world that doesn’t satisfy like we hoped and wanted. We have a choice to see it as it is or to keep chasing the lie and gooping more on… (Gooping is the technical term I invented for how I painted the top of the first painting:))

We show what we really believe about the Gospel by how we walk this out. Is there really no condemnation for those in Christ? Then I can risk the punch. Does He really mean that thing about abundant life? Then I can trust His process instead of gooping the gloss. Am I really covered in the righteousness of Christ and by His death and resurrection? Then, I can walk in confidence not in what I look like to the world but who He is making me to be.

What do you desire? Where are you pouring your energy? Most times, all that glitters is NOT gold.