Saturday, March 21, 2015

Shche...what?!

Oh! That glorious emotion that sweeps over you when you're struck with epiphany! I love it. To live for those moments of profundity.

There's a word for that feeling. It's shchekotiki. "The feeling you get when you finally figure something out." We're not a hundred percent sure how it's pronounced but we're loudly proclaiming, "Shek-oh-teekeeeee!" anytime there's a revelation over something we've puzzled about together.

Yeah, we're not sure if our revelation is spot on or skewed. So, after the initial burst of shchekotiki, we're serving up a large glass of milk and the proverbial humble pie, ready to make hypotheses, test assumptions, experiment with ideas.

I met a woman on an airplane not too long ago. She was seated next to me and I would describe our meeting as most serendipitous. (We're still in touch, exchanging business and marketing ideas!) During the course of our conversation she told me about her membership in a Mastermind group. Now, I had heard about these groups that typically cost anywhere from a couple thousand to as much as six thousand dollars. Nevertheless, I still had a bit of sticker shock when she shared that she paid $10,000 for about eight months of membership into this group.

Intrigued by this concept, I did some research. The idea of a Mastermind Group was introduced about 75 years ago by Napoleon Hill in his book, Think And Grow Rich. The thought is that two or more people meet on a regular basis to brainstorm ways to conquer challenges, colloborate to accelerate success and achieve huge goals.

Huh. That sounds like friendship.

Come to think of it, it sounds like that first Mastermind Group... 12 disciples... assembled by Jesus. And the cost? Heh. It must be some kind of crazy successful, world-changer deal because it's this all-in thing where you surrender all your earthly ideas in exchange for... stuff that stretches clear into eternity.

I'll tell you what. You're invited over. I'll make you a cuppa and we'll collaborate. We'll call it a Mastermind Group. We'll dream together. Hey! We'll even draft out business plans. We'll discuss analytics. We'll make marketing decisions. We'll talk psychology and technology. We'll mull over the present state of the world and brainstorm ways to make an impact. We'll exchange information. We'll challenge the status quo. We'll question why and ask what if. We'll identify the mountains that need moving. And we'll cover it all in prayer.

We were made for this. For purpose. For collaboration. To bring about justice. To reach out. To inspire.

And, sure, we'll relish those moments of shchekotiki. We'll smile and give each other one of those trendy fist bumps. But goodnessgracious! Let's keep moving forward! We have Resurrection Power living inside us! We have work to do!

Who are you collaborating with these days? Who is in your Mastermind Group? Who are you pouring into, investing in, inspiring and challenging? Who is investing in you, asking you the hard questions, calling you to accountability? Who is praying with you?

Shchekotiki!



Grateful for...

289. ...relationships that won't let me settle.




Saturday, March 7, 2015

Last Opportunity! Only 48 Hours Left!

There are a few things that I'd love to know I only had 48 hours left: signing papers on the sell of our house, a nagging sinus infection, the finishing touches on a major writing project. But mostly, I want time to linger. 

The whole world seems topsy-turvy these days and here in our home, we have this sense of urgency to live "on mission." To seize every moment as an opportunity. To do meaningful work. 

"One question for you," one of our people in our Life Group scoots to the edge of the sofa and leans forward, "what is something your family can do to change the world?" He's 10-years old and his question leaves us all quiet while we absorb the possibilities.

Yes, to change the world. "Last chance" to seize this moment and make it count. And the next moment. And the next. 

There's a new book out. It's creating quite the buzz. (To say that everyone is talking about it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but, goodness, my blogger friends, Claire*, Carol*, Ruth*, Michael*...to list a few, are all promoting this book.)   My friend, Jeff*, wrote about living your life's calling. The book is, The Art of Work and you can get it practically FREE right now. All you have to do is send him your name, address, and pay the shipping and he'll mail it to you.

The Art of Work  is "about discovering your true calling -- that thing you were born to do." In typical Jeff Goins style, he engages readers with stories from his own experiences as well as stories of others who have found and embraced their callings, are doing meaningful work... and are changing the world as a result.

I'm almost half way through the book right now. One of the coolest parts of this offer is that as soon as you order the book and pay the shipping, a downloadable PDF version of it is available immediately. 

Anyway, this is the season our family is in at the present: 

LeRoy loves his job as TAP (Transition Assistance Program) Manager, assisting military in the transition into civilian work life... helping them discover their calling! 

I'm working on writing projects and home educating the children. 

Eli came home from the International ALERT Academy for Christmas break and was advised by orthopaedic surgeons not to return to training until he makes a full recovery on his shoulders. He dislocated both shoulders at different times while going through Basic Training and his shoulders are wonky ever since. Prognosis: one year to 18 months of physical therapy with the possibility of surgery somewhere in that timeframe. 

Isaiah still works at Cinnabon and is getting ready to pursue training at ALERT Academy. He leaves on March 27th for Basic Training. 

Ezekiel just got his first job working at Starbucks and is having a blast. He plans to work on getting dual credits for the next couple of years as he simultaneously pursues a high school diploma and a Bachelor's degree. 

Israel is chasing her dreams of entrepreneurship and is inundated lately with jobs for caring for children. She's studying leadership and pursuing her love of theater.

I admit, we're in a rough season. We're pursuing potentially daunting projects. We're stepping into our respective callings. Wanting to change the world. Writing a story worth telling. We try to rally for one another but have way too many moments when we give in to the daunting and turn on a movie, watching someone else's story instead. 

I keep hearing Eli's encouragement, "Remember, Mom, it gets harder before it gets easier."

I'm super excited about Jeff Goins' book. The rally cry to discover your calling and live a great story.

With the opportunities we have. In the next 24 hours. And 48 hours. And all the hours.



*These people are my friends, not because we hang out and have coffee together, but because I like them -- literally... on their FB page, or we really are FB friends, or they send me emails with the greeting, "Hello there, friend," or they've noted somewhere either in their blog or their website that they consider me their friend, or we've communicated via email, Skype, or I've taken a course they've offered or read their book. And since I believe them...


...Now to get back to work on my forthcoming book on what happens when you believe (nearly) everything you hear...  

Friday, January 23, 2015

How to Get a Backstage Pass *It’s Easier than You Think


...Invite them over. Yes, to your house. Yes, it works. No, I’m not joking.

(Taking them up on their invitation to their house works, too.)

My phone tweets to notify me of an incoming text. “Would you like to come over for coffee or a cocktail?” I can’t help but smile. I was hoping I’d get to meet J’s dad and stepmom. This friend who I met only a few months ago, she tells me her parents are coming from the States to visit and well, I tell her I’d love to meet them.

We arrive in the late evening. Her husband is standing at the stove, stirring melted chocolate in a pan as we make our introductions and J offers drinks. LeRoy takes a coffee. I decide on Gluhwein (traditional hot mulled wine). And then, as smoothly as pouring coffee or mulled wine or stirring melted chocolate, the conversation flows.

I find myself sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning first toward her father. He laughs when he tells me that his day job and his passion are two different subjects. But I’m interested. He says he’s a salesman by trade, has sold in various capacities for over 30 years. I ask him to share his salesman’s advice on life and he chuckles congenially. But it’s when he shares his lifelong passion for music that he lights up. A recording artist who writes his own compositions, he tells us stories of past projects and shares his dreams for the future. J leaves the room and when she comes back she hands me a gift... a CD.  

After a while, the conversation turns to her stepmom, an early childhood specialist. She shares her stories about her work in training teachers to teach better. Ah! I am in the thick of this and again, I am leaning forward, forgetting to sip my wine which is cooled to lukewarm by now.

She says she’s in her sweet spot in her career. That it doesn’t feel like a job she’s going to, but something fun she gets to do every day. She tells us how she gets the teachers she’s training to slow down, engage, interact. She helps them tweak their teaching style and curriculum in order to create curiosity in the children.

She shares a case study with me and she doesn’t realize that her words are revelation to me. Insight that I tuck away in my mind and my heart, figuratively filed and highlighted under the heading, “How To Connect With Your Child’s Heart.”

This last week, we invited people into our home five out of eight days. And it’s not because I have the “gift of hospitality.” (Anyone who has ever spent time with us in our home will testify that I’d benefit from a good course in the Art of Homemaking and Hospitality. I’m finally remembering to offer guests a drink when they arrive. Usually. Okay, occasionally. But I feel really accomplished when I remember this little detail.)

I read recently about this lame man who was carried to the Beautiful Gate every day to sit and beg for alms. How long did this go on? Did he ever consider that one day he might receive healing? What were his highest expectations?

In his wildest dreams, did he imagine that this one day… two men would walk by and speak a Name that would change the possibilities?

And yet, he gets a backstage pass. And in the encounter, he’s healed. His need exchanged for healing.

     If people are all that’s eternal…

            If relationships are all that I can take with me into eternity…

And all that matters in all these moments is the heart that opens wide to give and receive.

In my wildest dreams... that in all the interactions with another... the encounter, His Name whispered, comfort offered, victories celebrated... possibilites mentioned... dreams dreamed...  

this meeting up backstage.

Our Life Group gathers at five o’clock every Sunday and this time it’s our turn to host. So we add the extensions even though I’m sure we’ll scatter throughout the dining and living room. Yet, here we are, around the farm table. All of us. And I breathe gratitude for the long table and shared food and this glimpse into Eternity.

And this community? It’s a privilege indeed, this backstage pass.

There’s the birthday evening when beloved friends joined us to celebrate 16 years of Ezekiel’s life.

And another evening spent getting to know an adorable couple we met recently.

And the Saturday spent with sweet J and her littles and a family we hadn’t met yet, but I invited them over… because I met the mom briefly and was so enchanted that I just had to get a backstage pass. To spend time. To hear her story.

I’ve never had a backstage pass with a multi-millionaire. At least, not that I know of. I’ve never held a conversation with a celebrity. I’m pretty sure, anyway. And yet... I get a backstage pass with the Creator of the Universe every morning. He lingers long with me, shares His heart and listens to mine. And He heals the lame parts of my life.

And, you. Thank YOU for all the countless moments when you’ve opened your heart…   for giving me a backstage pass into your life. For allowing the exchange of ideas and art and inspiration and LOVE and HEALING to be a part of our friendship.

I am grateful

288. …for you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Let's Not Worry About This Party

These moments. All of them.

The moment in which we had a meltdown in our marriage last week. That was after LeRoy number-crunched, tallied totals and, well, hundreds of thousands, millions, gjiillions of dollars later... Then, we decided not to worry about it.

Like the moment on August 11 when we received the call from friends who hoped to purchase our home. Everything fell so neatly into place a couple of months earlier. They had buyers for their house. We secured legal representation. House inspections were done. Earnest monies paid. The closing date was set for August 20, four days before our departure for Germany.

Until their would-be buyers called to say they were out of the deal. That they didn't want to buy our friend's house after all. Which was the contingency for them to buy our home.

So, we went to their house for dinner. And they told us the theme for the party was, "Let's Not Worry About This!" Indeed.

And it was a perfect, worry-free night. Because they put chicken with fancy spices on the grill... which continued to catch on fire in spite of best efforts to use the squirt bottle and then the garden hose. (Wait. 60% of their house was in boxes, ready to move. Now that I think back, I'm not sure they could find the squirt bottle. I think we had to immediately go to the garden hose.)

The bees refused to be left out of such delicacies as Blackened Chicken, so they hovered over our plates hoping we'd share. The chicken was delicious and, sweet Bella, she decided to divert the bee's attention with a special mixture she put in a baggie on the middle of the table... which leaked everywhere. Everywhere.

And the bees weren't interested. Ah well, there was plenty of napkins for the cleanup -- Christmas napkins since they were the only ones to be found.

A few minutes later, the children played happily nearby while the parents finished eating... until we heard a pain-filled shriek coming from Bella who had caught her toenail on something and... well, I'll spare my friends who get queasy, the details. Suffice it to say that it's a blessing to have worry-free parents on hand. Why, I wish you could have seen it! They brilliantly applied triage to Bella's toe like it was the most natural thing in the world. She was smiling in no time, her toe bandaged, and we decided to get ice cream around the corner. No worries.

You know what? I've seen enough to know that these earthly matters are just. so.

not.

important.

Well, painful toenails are important. But when it's handled by the experts...

And ice cream is great anisthetic for these situations.

We're a little discombobulated on a surface level. Sure, there's a few material details to figure out. Yet, in the grand scheme of things...

...in light of Eternity.

We went downtown to Kaiserslautern with a tour guide today. Sabine is a brilliant historian and storyteller. One story she told was about the Stolpersteine -- "Stumbling Blocks." Do you know about this Holocaust Memorial? The more than 27,000 4-inch square blocks placed in front of homes throughout Germany and Europe that begin with, "Here lived..."


We visited Synogogue Square where candles burned in remembrance of the 400 Jews who were victims of Kristallnacht -- "Night of the Broken Glass." On November 9, 1938, throughout Germany, Nazis took to breaking the windows of shops owned by Jews. Sabine said it was reported that on one street near where we stood, the broken glass in the streets came to the ankles. 



How appropriate that we went on a historical field trip on Veteran's Day. Many moments throughout the day brought to mind the courage and sacrifice of our troops, then and now. These moments that speak into all the moments and offer the gift of perspective.

The priceless perspective that we live in a broken world where there's pain and injustice but that Grace pours in through all the disappointed, intimidated broken and I can choose the difficult thankful. That Joy poured in and thanks poured out are the triage for our souls.  It's what Ann Voskamp calls "the broken-hearted hallelujah."

It’s over the face of the deep and the hearts right broken that God hovers close.  
It’s the broken-hearted He binds up, swaddles near, the weak that He wields as His strength.
                                                                                                                ~ Ann Voskamp 

And in my moments when house deals fall through and numbers intimidate and there's an all-out argument between siblings over the last of the Doritos, I breathe thanks.

Germany celebrates November 11th, too. But it's not Veteran's Day here. It's St. Martin's Day. Tonight in the villages, children will follow a man riding on a white horse who is wearing a red royal robe. They'll carry lanterns and watch as he approaches a beggar sitting alongside the road, barely dressed in this frigid cold. And they'll celebrate compassion and kindness as they witness the man on the horse give the beggar his robe. Brilliant.

It's a "Let's Not Worry About This" Party because, in the whole expanse of the world and all the shattered glass hearts, and the temptation to forget the silly house and bills and the Doritos and... goodness sakes, let's go save the world...

We're granted the gift of an entire month of courageously offering the hard thanks. And I think -- I'm pretty sure -- giving thanks is where saving the world begins. This moment right now is the grace-moment. Redeemed. And the next moment, too.

And the next.

And when we decide not to worry,

...but we do our best and we feel it isn't much...

This.