Saturday, May 23, 2015

For When There's So Much, Part 2... And Your Heart Beats Wild

...Yeah, my heart is beating wildly as I type these words. I'm here alone at the office (aka: the farm table in my dining room), so the responsibility for answering the phone falls on me. My friend, she notices.

"Is this Sharon?" more surprise than anything in her voice. I affirm that yes, it's me. "Oh! I'm so used to one of your staff answering the phone!"

And there it is. I smile long. This long-held dream in my heart, played out in this season...  the vision of LeRoy and I, multi-millionaires, my entourage of assistants helping to keep me on track, organized, moving forward in our corporate vision.

And how does it feel, you ask... to be living the dream...

So, I'll share soul-deep... and this is cliche, but it's much more difficult than we imagined. Much.

As in, dude! we just returned from our little spy mission and the people living in the land are giants -- not the meek and gentle kind, either. Heh, not exactly looking forward to Crucial Conversations with those folks. In fact, why don't you get your machete and help me cut up these grapes and pomegranates we brought back. The whole area flows with milk and honey and these bountiful crops... like the whole GMO debate hasn't reached this region or...

[Enter two spies who are decidedly not going along with the consensus]

...then again, considering the God we serve, it's easy to see why He's giving us this land. I mean, it fits His character.

I was reading along, caught up in the rhythm of lyrics when this one gave me pause,

"Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, 
As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 
When your fathers tested Me; 
They tried Me, though they saw My work
For forty years I was grieved with that generation, 
And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts, 
And they do not know My ways.' 
So I swore in My wrath, 
'They shall not enter My rest.'" 
                                                      -- Psalms 95:8-11 

Wait, go back. That part right there... though they saw My work. And then, [pan camera to reveal council of men sitting around a fire, eating mammoth-sized figs...  MONTAGE: showing quick succession of 10 plagues, parting of Red Sea, provision of hydration, ready-to-eat-whatisits, meat, protection, God Provided Satellite directions in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, shoes that never wear out, laws to keep them in peak physical, mental, and spiritual condition...] hold on... they're sulking?!

Though they've seen His work, 83% of the group is willing to settle for well-we-got-pretty-close and we can make do with the land outside the Promised Land.  I'm sorry... did I miss something?

And I have to confess, we're battling moments in which we can't imagine how we're going to defeat giants and take the Land Flowing With Milk And Honey. But God in His mercy and faithfulness -- and wrath -- is relentless and his kindness-that-leads-to-repentance keeps pulling us out of that mire and muck.

Over and over and over, He plays the montage and the litany reveals his sovereignty. We're told to go take a land that's already promised to us. That when we're overcome with a multitude of anxieties at the thought of what lies ahead, that His comforts will delight our souls. (Psalm 94:19)

And how to take giants like 350,000 and 36,000 and 28,000 and a measly (in contrast anyway) 5,885. Not to mention 21 to 30 million.

But He's already promised us the land.

And we've seen His work.

And we know His ways.

So all that's left for us to do is go back to the beginning... to repent of pouting, replacing it with proclaiming. To shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Yeah, it's better to go sit next to the two heroes of the story, their confidence in the Lord, the great King above all gods, ushering us into worship of the One Whose hand holds the deep places of the earth; the One Who owns the heights of the hills and the sea; the same God who formed the dry land.

But that one decision, the one not to settle for well-this-is-close-enough, to join the minority two and believe that our battles won't be in vain...  That whole thing about to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

So, yeah, we're living the dream. Multi-millions in grace gifts. An entire family on mission together. Leaning evermore into His tender mercies while moving toward the vision.

And if we've seen His works,

and we know His ways...

If we've received much,

and much is required...

...yeah, my heart is beating wildly.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

For When the Journey Gets A Bit Overwhelming... And There's So Much...

“Mom, there’s so many things I want to do in life.” He finishes his declaration and we sit quiet for several moments. I don’t want to interrupt the sacred. I wait.

And in the silence, I can see a younger version of myself.

Lain out on my belly, propped up on one elbow, copying pages out of books because I wanted to write -- oh! how I wanted to write! -- but I didn’t know what, so I alternated between reading and reproducing words already written. 

The entirety of my formal education hadn't even begun with numbers, yet in the space between K and 1st, I absorbed story. And while I heard children playing outside, absorbing sunshine, I absorbed syntax and cadence, practicing perfect placement of script across the page. Yeah, perfect, because there's just something about the way the uppercase A plants two feet perfectly on the line with the tip of his head nearly, but not quite, touching the line above him. 

And it's interesting how we don't know what we don't know in the moment and that whole thing about hindsight. Ha! How hindsight culminates into trickles of insight.

My boy waves his arm for emphasis, as though all the experiences gained in a lifetime of 19 years is swept across the table before him. “There’s so much…” His voice trails off and I study his expression. Like he doesn’t know how to finish the sentence because he doesn’t know where to begin. How to find his footing.

And I have nothing to offer because I remember when the whole world beckoned and the sky was the limit and the stark realization of the battles to wage on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. No, we’re on holy ground. Better to bite my tongue.

I’ve spent his lifetime speaking over him God-sized destiny. Isn’t that what us parents do? So yeah, everything in me wants to lay out for him – for the umpteenth time – his royal heritage as the son of the Kings of Kings, bestowed not for his benefit, but for a mission, a purpose… and I can sense my thoughts trailing off, too…

I can see glimpses of how that whole thing about being knit together in the womb…

How my propensity for daydreaming and wondering has translated to these grown up years of interest in neuroscience, developing an insatiable curiosity to learn how people think, forever trying to solve the world’s enigmas. And I won’t stop asking people questions -- lots and lots of questions -- because filling the air with ideas and theology, intrigue and... story... it’s one of the most romantic ways I can imagine to wile away a life well lived. This whole concept of entering into and engaging with another's story borders on intoxicating.

Looking back, if I could speak into the soul of that younger me,

…regarding all that lead and ink and paper, the cramp in my hand and...

how one day I’d fill journals that mingled copied quotes and Holy Script interspersed with soul's deepest cries, desires, and joys? That I’d drive my husband and children plum crazy with the gzillions of "important scribbles" on the backs of envelopes and receipts, napkins and my son's math assignment, stacked in piles everywhere.

Ha! I’d tell my younger self to roll with it. Yeah, just roll with it. To let it be part of the journey and adventure. To embrace this day. And, well, when in a few years, like almost 20 if I’m being honest, when my son sits across from me a little dazed – gaining momentum only to come to a sudden detour will do that, you know – I’ll sit quiet with him. Because, well, there’s so much…

And I don’t want anyone telling me “Life is a journey…” blah, blah, blah. But, it is, isn’t it?

The cool thing is that law of reaping and sowing. How that I’m reaping the fruits today from seeds sown over four plus decades.

Eli’s eyebrows are furrowed. He’s deep in thought. For every high school graduate, goodness, for every young college graduate for that matter, the world beckons and the sky’s the limit and I want to tell him, “Hey Son, it’s more important than ever to be brave. Use the clues – the harvest of almost two decades – and pursue today’s adventure.”

Jon Acuff writes in his book, “Start.” that we don’t have just one purpose, one job to do here on earth. He writes, “When you were young, your right hemisphere or ‘right brain’ was in full force. It was the guy in charge, and it was the part of your brain that embraced curiosity and adventure and was constantly unafraid to ask Why? and Why not?

Somewhere along the way, we start looking for safe. We learn from experience and become a little more risk averse.

So I’m trying not to panic while in the throes of launching a website, writing a book, reaching out to those in my sphere of influence. And I want to tell Eli and every other young person to keep taking steps, no matter how small, keep moving forward!

Heh. The hardest person to lead is yourself. Yeah, about that. So I keep quiet. Take a tiny, almost imperceptible step. Am tempted to be paralyzed by fear, (far too frequently). Lean into Grace. Rely on the promises made by an unfailing, faithful Father.

Acuff continues a little further into the book, “You’ve got today, and today is all you need to start. The rest will come into view as you go.”

So another thing I’d tell my younger self? Keep on copying. By hand.

I suppose that seems random. But you see, I’m six months into a project. And it’s pretty much changing my life…  Every morning I’m reading five chapters in Psalms. Come to find out, if you read five every day, you finish the entire book of Psalms in a month. Well, once I set out to achieve this goal in December, I started over in January, and then again in February. Here I am in May, and I’m on my sixth time reading through the Psalms.

Here’s the best part. I’m copying passages, oh, sometimes just a verse or a phrase, but other times, entire passages. There in the quiet space before anyone else is awake, I’m absorbing Syntax and Cadence. Renewal and Glory. Truth and Dreams Reawakened.

With the added bonus of “optimal efficiency” in my brain? Whew! Yes to that, please.

"...scientists are discovering that learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn “functional specialization”[2](link is external)—that is, the capacity for optimal efficiency. In the case of learning cursive writing, the brain develops functional specialization that integrates both sensation, movement control, and thinking. Brain imaging studies reveal that multiple areas of brain become co-activated during the learning of cursive writing of pseudo-letters, as opposed to typing or just visual practice.

If I could whisper destiny into all the seemingly insignificant nuances... all the detours… all the times when fear knocks at the door… and I CAN whisper destiny… I MUST

It resounds triumphant…

Life is a pilgrimage. A journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place… (dictionary.com)

Here we are in this moment, our strength in the One Who knits us in the womb, our hearts set on out-of-the-womb pilgrimage, going from strength to strength. (Psalm 84:5,7)

You’re right, Eli, there is so much.

Walk with me a little while?

One step.

     And then another.


*[Cue me leaning over my steaming cuppa joy, sincerely wanting to hear your heart’s journey.] What’s your #1 single biggest challenge in your pilgrimage right now?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Power of Influence

Have you ever wanted to tell someone of influence, thank you? I mean, face-to-face? Shake their hand, look them in the eye, and whisper thank you? Yeah, I feel that way a lot. In fact, if you're reading this, it's likely you are one of those whose influence has strengthened, grown, challenged, and encouraged me.

There was this Dreamer's Retreat, Jumping Tandem, that I attended in Nebraska. I know I mentioned it a while ago. Did I mention what happened after we parked the car and entered the lobby? How we were greeted by a woman who crossed the room, arms out wide, caught us up in her embrace, giddy with enthusiasm to see us? Like she'd waited all month for our arrival.

"I'm so glad you're here! How was your trip?" You know, when you're greeted with all that love and joy splashing all over you, goodness! even if the trip was difficult (which it wasn't), we were so taken that we stammered out some standard nicety. "Wonderful!" She continued to engage us with her eyes, her smile. "There's a gift bag for you and you can let these ladies here," she motioned to two women standing behind a desk, "know that you're here. They'll give you your room key. After you get settled, you're welcome to come hang out with us."

My friend and I walked down the narrow hallway toward our room. "Do you know who that was?"

"No, but wow, she's super welcoming," I said, turning the key in the lock.

"That was the organizer for this retreat."

I looked at her with a blank stare. Who? A little embarrassed, I confessed that I didn't know hardly any of the names speaking at the retreat, that I hadn't followed their blogs, that I had somehow stumbled on "Dreamer's Retreat" and signed up because, well, of course... a retreat for dreamers. Just tell me where to send my money.

But, oh, that initial greeting? Yeah, that gal Deidra*, she's for real. Some people splash love and grace all over those blessed to get near enough to get splashed. Turns out, she'd put together an entire retreat full of people who splash Love and Grace.

I remember the first time I met someone of deep influence. She was a fellow dreamer and I had read several of her books. I wanted to thank her for influencing me to say Yes! to whatever Jesus said, to the audacious dreams of changing my world, to showing me what it looks like to let Jesus love people through me... for teaching me to love the word Impossible. But how to get past her entourage. They surrounded her, sweeping her out of the conference room after her last talk. I followed them out the door and as they ascended the stairs, I timidly said her name, shyly hoping she wouldn't hear me and that she would all at the same time. She did.

She stopped, one foot on the next step up. "C'mon Ann, you don't have time. You have a plane to catch." But she simply held up her hand to them. Gently. Boldly.

She descended the stairs to engulf me in an embrace and whisper, "I love you." Then she touched my cheek, her deep blue eyes speaking gospel, like a mother who wants to make sure her message is understood.

Is that how it was with Jesus? His entourage constantly trying to protect Him? Trying to keep Him on schedule? Attempting to keep His time with other adults sacred when actually it was the sacred who His entourage kept at bay? The sacred whom He took up in His arms to bless.

Ah, I think I'm getting a clearer picture! How amazing that moment when the woman reached out to touch the hem of His cloak and He stopped the entire procession to dialogue with her.

This whole thing about loving people with some kind of crazy, audacious love right in the moment. Greeting strangers like they're the most important person you've seen all day. And, {oh! be still my beating heart!}, the sheer joy and romance of interacting with our spouse and children and loved ones this way!

I have a friend here whom I wish you could meet. She'd greet you like she's been expecting you all along. Betty would probably hug you and she'd certainly smile, her usual greeting, "God bless you," splashing grace that soaks all the way into your soul. I'm both taken and taken back by her bold love. Every interaction with her is an invitation to engage in meaningful relationship. To love intensely.

What if we engaged deeper? What if we allowed Jesus to love people through us? What if we embraced the responsibility to make people our priority?

You bear the mantel of influence in someone's life... what if you embraced them today -- figuratively or literally -- and spoke love and grace over them?

I'm so glad you're here! 
                         
I love you! 
                              
God bless you!


*Deidra Riggs releases her new book, Every Little Thing: Making A World of Difference Right Where You Are this Fall. To read more and get pre-order information, visit her at Jumping Tandem Blog.




Saturday, April 11, 2015

How To Make Corporate Business Meetings Fun

The question, Join me for a cuppa joy? is synonymous with collaboration with colleagues.

Colleagues, friends, sisters. Entire families. It's all the same.

It just is. It's always been this for me.

And our meetings? Of course, there's usually coffee or tea. And ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. Some of them earth-shattering, world-changing, genius stuff. Sometimes it's a little more ordinary. The meetings are almost always full of inspiration and laughter. Yeah, sometimes we cry. Because sometimes, life is super hard or disappointing. Or both. So we bear each other's burdens. Right? And we share resources. Sorta like donating vacation days when someone in the company goes through a crisis.

I know a couple of colleagues who, when I visit their corporate office, I feel as though I just stepped into a world-renowned spa. Their easy-going manner, tell-me-all-about-you interest in my life, gourmet lunch (I'm so serious! Every woman ought to be spoiled with women like these in their lives!!), vision and professionalism are profoundly challenging and inspiring.

Because I'm so passionate about this responsibility, this corporate gig known as parenting, I actively seek out and stay open to teammates who are gifted and skilled in areas of expertise in which I need to lean in and learn.

Oh goodness! Now I'm rambling. And I'll keep on rambling if I don't force myself to stop right here. Anyway, we spent the day yesterday collaborating/hanging out with some of our people (who I so completely adore). The conversation was thoughtful and invigorating. The food satisfying, (Israel's homemade coffee cake is melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness!). We shared stories. We laughed. A lot. I mean, a lot. We problem-solved. We dreamed. We discussed ideals. We went for a walk with our daughters to the park and watched them roll down the hill.

Then we joined them.



Annnnd I realized that it's been way-too-many years since I've rolled down a hill...



And, well, that was long overdue.

There are way too many women who are lonely (one is too many in my opinion). Moms who are experts at a gzillion different things. Moms who are gifted, skilled Artisans with life-giving wisdom and knowledge. So, what if we invited one another over more often? What if we collaborated and gave of our resources and cheered for each other and cried together and held hands during chemotherapy and encouraged each other's kiddos? What if we gathered in the boardrooms (aka: the kitchen, dining room, backyard...) to exchange recipes and marriage advice and child training tips and fitness goals? And what if we lingered long to imagine what could be, to pray, to offer a hug when there are no words? 

Do you have friends who you're sharing life with? Friends who love you no matter what? Real life, show-up-on-your-doorstep, here-let-me-get-you-a-cuppa-joy friends?

Will you leave me a note in the comment section and tell me about your friendships? What would encourage your heart most regarding friendships? (Oh, how I wish you were sitting here with me in my living room or at my dining table right now! I'd get you another cuppa and we'd eat chocolate -- or salad... whichever one fit the week -- and we'd figure out together how to run our corporations... and make the world a better place!)