I was reading a story I wrote a few years ago and wanted to share it with you. Although the setting was for leadership teams, I believe everyone is a leader in one way or another. A mom leads her children, a dad leads in his job. A woman leads by the example she sets for her neighbors, a young adult leads by holding back words they think but don’t say. In life, you are either a leader or a follower. Let me encourage you to be both. Enjoy this story today and be thinking about what areas of your life you are a leader. -Jennifer
I read an article on Leadership Freak by Dan Rockwell the other day talking about growth. Here is what it said, “Growth isn’t an accident. We grow on purpose or not at all. You’re stuck if you can’t identify the leadership behavior you’re developing today. If you can’t describe it, it isn’t happening.”
I think of how many times in my day and week I am just making it through. I am not aiming to grow, develop or invest in myself. Dan’s words ring true to me today. If I am not intentional about growth, it won’t happen. It is a simple concept and yet difficult to do at times. It is much easier to lead and develop others than it is yourself. I can think of several areas of my life right now that could use some tlc. How about you? Are you growing in your leadership or just leading others?
Here are a few of my personal favorite ways to invest in my own leadership:
- Figure out who your favorite authors are on leadership and read.
- Follow a blog or two on leadership.
- Attend a local leadership conference.
- Take advantage of any church conferences on leadership in your area.
- Seek out a mentor to meet with periodically who can be honest with you and give input into your leadership.
- Spend time with your closest circle of friends. Getting to know them and learning from them is a great way to grow your leadership. Let your friends push you and challenge you in new ways to grow.
I am sure there are many more ways but these are just a few to get your mind thinking. You are a mighty force as is, but can you imagine all God could do if you continue to grow our leadership skills? Praying for you today as you lead others and take time to invest in your own leadership.
Living day to day-
I am a planner. I like to mull over ideas, think about what could be and map out every possibility (both good and bad) that could happen. I like to think of myself as prepared for the worst and it will be a blessing or surprise if something wonderful unfolds instead. Life isn’t always predictable though and you can’t always map out and plan what is to come. I have learned God is funny that way. Just when I think I have figured out my plan in life, well, life happens. Plans have to change and sometimes I can’t foresee what the future holds. At times these feels may bring anxiety or uneasiness but in this season of my life, I am finding it rather freeing. What would normally cause me worry and wonder has brought about a new surrender in my soul.
There is a realization I am not in control nor do I desire to be right now. Big life changes and events are happening all around me and I feel like they are swirling and trying their best to distract and derail my faith. Yet I am finding a stillness in the midst.
Why in the past have I worked so hard and used so much energy on trying to control what is out of my control? I believe it’s a lifelong struggle. It’s also been for me, a lack of obedience and faith. I say I believe and trust God but then ask myself, can he really…..(fill in the rest). At times I let my prideful, independent self, take over and take charge because I am self-sufficient.
Self-sufficiency takes so much energy, emotion, time and effort. It can be exhilarating for a time and then becomes exhausting. God had a different plan when he created us. He wanted us to rely on him. To allow him to carry our burdens, allow him to take charge of our lives. It’s been a lifelong learning process for me.
Why am I sharing all of this with you today? Because I believe I am not alone. I feel God saying some of you might have those same struggles in your life. Maybe you are in a season right now where you aren’t overwhelmed or maybe you are. I believe there is strength in sharing our weaknesses. I believe the leaders and moms we know may be struggling with the same things. I believe we can encourage one another by living authentic lives.
Living day to day-
If you have kids, you are familiar with the phrase “Parent Teacher Conference”. You get a note home or an email asking when your preferred time to meet is within a few days they have set aside. You make your first, second and third choice. It is probably me, but they never were at a convenient time. Either way, I juggled after school activities with taking off work early to go by and hear about how well or not my kid was doing. This year is different and I couldn’t be more happy. I’ll explain in a moment.
At this point in my life, I’ve been eligable to attend for 17 years in a row. Let me pause for a minute to make sure and clarify (because we have to do that in todays society). I am very much a supporter of my kids teachers. I homeschooled a couple of times in my life with our oldest two and have the most respect for them. I believe they are underpaid and overworked. I think they have less of a voice in the system and still SHOW UP FOR WORK. I couldn’t do it and am so thankful they do.
Now, let me also say, parent teacher conference has always been a dreaded time for me. Not because I didn’t want to talk to the teacher, but because I never knew what I would need to hear. Some people call this a pessimist but I call it a realist. I really believe my kiddos are human. I believe they aren’t perfect and that neither am I. I also believe that learning to be kind, compassionate, Jesus followers trumps an ACT score. Do I want them to do well academically? Yes, of course. But to the detriment of their emotional health and confidence, no.
To me, each of my kids is different. That is good and that is how God made them. I want to celebrate and advocate for them to be who God made them to be.
A few years ago one of the twins, Izzy, had a teacher who was great at communicating with us but seemed more pressured or worried about test scores than we were. We had already been down a long road with Izzy. A story for another time but here we were with a diagnosis of Tourettes and always feeling the need to explain our child to every teacher and coach. We tried to send a letter and make note when we meet teachers at the beginning of each year. We also check in during these Parent Teacher Conferences to see how she’s doing with her peers. This one particular year though I had my last nerve pinched. I try really hard to be as compassionate and passive as I can but I was out of those words and had to lay out my honest feelings with this teacher. I debated sharing this but feel it’s part of me being vulnerable and also hoping to give encouragement to other moms out there just trying to do their best for their child. Here is what I sent the teacher after she requested her sixth parent teacher conference with me that year…..(name has been changed)
Thank you Ms. Smith for the update. We do want to be made aware when Izzy is not completing assigned tasks.
With that said, we believe at the beginning of the year we tried to set you up with information that would help you understand Izzy and who she is. Compared to most of the children in your classroom, she has probably had the most early intervention and testing for diagnosing her syndrome. She’s had special education therapy’s in preschool, been tested multiple times in elementary and diagnosed with Tourette’s after two years of trial and error on different medications. We have been told she is average (from her tests). We are okay with that. We understand as a teacher you want the best for your students and for them to achieve the highest marks on tests and be able to learn the maximum amount required by the state in a year. We want the same for Izzy. But what we want more is for her to be compassionate, humble, kind and respectful. We have worked very hard over the years to turn a very upset and frustrated child into who she is today. In fact, most people would not even realize she has overcome so much unless they have known her over the years. We see this but realize you have not had the opportunity too. We like to focus on her progress more than what she isn’t doing well. She responds much better to “catching her doing good” verses pointing out what she is lacking in. Does this mean we don’t have consequences? No. In fact, we try to be as consistent with discipline for the things we are aware of such as your email today. She has consequences for not doing her homework and loses privileges. There are times Ryan and I are passing with our work schedules and may not be following up daily with signing her reading log. Ryan is in Little Rock serving on the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling this week. I fly out for work next week. We do our best but may not always check all the boxes with every child if they do not initiate it. At this point in her life, we are not concerned about her ability to be a successful student even if it’s just “average”. Could she do better having us sign a reading log? Yes, but we are not sure having a sixth meeting this year is going to be productive for either of us. If you feel she is lacking in a way that is holding her back from learning, then we suggest meeting with the principal to discuss our options.
Ryan and Jennifer Martin
I will admit this isn’t how I would prefer or have ever since addressed a teacher. But I know my child and I know what limits she can handle.
This brings me back to this weeks Parent Teacher Conference requests. Now that the twins are in junior high, I have 12 teachers that have sent me their google sign up sheets. And for the first time I have been able to reply that my husband and I will be out of town visiting our daughter at college during that week. So far all of them have said have a good time and the twins are doing great. Praise Jesus! This doesn’t mean I’ll be skipping out of them in the future but it does mean that right now, my kids are doing okay. They are thriving in a world that has been very chaotic this year and loving school. This is largely in part because of great teachers. Izzy is now old enough she took over the role of sharing this year with each of her teachers about her Tourettes. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and how kind and receptive her teachers have been. I expect there are still bumps ahead but I am celebrating where we are now and a little victory dance for a well scheduled college visit.
God gave us the kids we have. Each of them with all their differences. I have doubts at times I am the best mom for Izzy. But God reminds me over and over He chose me to be her mom. Do you have a child that tests you or has an obstacle they may need to overcome for life? Guess what? God chose you to be their mom. These kids of ours shape up and grow us far past the first 18 years. Let them. Let them grow us and shape us into who God wants us to be. And along the way, tell someone else they are doing a great job. I promise, we all need to hear it.
Living Day to Day-
I’m 1 in 8 and 1 in 4. Something I don’t think about daily anymore. It was something I thought about hourly for a while. This week I have seen so much awareness for infertility and infant loss. Something I am very familiar with. Some details have faded but the memory of the feelings don’t. My first miscarriage came after we had our first child Morgan. New Year’s day I went to the hospital in immense pain knowing I was pregnant. I quickly learned the pregnancy was ectopic and had ruptured in my tube. I was rushed to surgery and in a blur was released the same day to go home. Three hundred and 364 days later, Katie was born. I’m not lost on the timing or the way this part of my year was bookended. What started with the greatest loss in my life at this point, ended with one of the greatest joys.
After we had Katie, we needed a break. She was spit fire and 100% energy. When we did decide to try for one more, we instead lost three in a row. Crushing blow after blow. To complicate the whole thing we almost always had to use fertility drugs to get pregnant. The routine had become familiar but the emotional rollercoaster was draining and expensive. When I had lost all hope, Ryan said, “let’s try one more time”. My reply was, “you better make it a good one”, too which we now see the results of our twins, Gabby and Izzy.
A big part of my story after I had Katie was finding like minded friends. Moms in the same season, going through the same thing. None of us had it all figured out but we were doing our best or wanting to do our best. Those friends in that season were the hands and feet of Jesus for me. They jumped in with flowers and meals during those losses. They knew I would be sad and loved me anyway. Their company was a soft place to fall when everything else around me seemed to be spinning. Those women knew me and my desire to have more children and walked the journey with me.
We each have a story about how we became a mom and the variations are all different. Being a mom in and of itself is a binding factor. It might be through adoption, through In vitro, through a surrogate or all natural childbirth. Mine included an ambulance ride, emergency c-sections and long stays in hospitals. (That’s the part I leave out when talking to a pregnant mommy!) But it is all what makes us a mom. The joy, the pain, the love and the loss.
You have a story too. One day God might place on your heart to share your story in just the right moment when a friend needs help and encouragement. How to love someone through loss is hard, but what an opportunity you have to love and minister to someone who doesn’t know Jesus or the hope he can bring them. They just might need a little help learning how to share their story too.
Reflecting day to day-
At the beginning of spring I got an email telling me about what sounded like a really good deal. If you know anything about me, I’m all about saving money and having fun. It so happened a new Top Golf facility was opening in my town. Let me stop right here and give you a little bit of my golfing background…..putt putt. That’s about it. I’ve been on a driving range years ago and remember the frustration that built as my husband was patiently trying to encourage me to hit what seemed like a mosquito towards a button hole many yards away. It was no fun at all! After that, I had no, zero, interest in playing golf, learning to golf, watching golf, well, you get the picture. That is until. It’s a missed word most of the time but it has a lot of meaning. The definition or meaning of until is this: up to the time when something will happen or become true.
It wasn’t until I got invited to a place called Top Golf that my interest was peaked. The setting was a team building outing and I went prepared to have my best team player attitude along with it. I tend to be one who prepares to lose as to avoid disappointment. So off we went whacking at this little bitty ball that comes rolling out from the machine. In a short amount of time I felt myself having fun! It shocked me. I think the most joy was found in being with my team, laughing and just trying. None of us were LPGA hopefuls and the environment and friends cheering each other on made it so much more enjoyable than the driving range years ago.
So back to the email about the really good deal. It was promoting the Summer Fun Pass at Top Golf. I did the math and even if me or my family went three times, it would pay for itself. So, I took the plunge. Even with Covid pushing back opening dates, by June I found myself with my whole family enjoying the fun. It didn’t take long either before something pushed me to aim higher.
Now I didn’t have any aspirations of actually playing golf on a course but I thought, what if I could try to just hit the ball and make it go in the direction towards the hole? Anyone who actually can golf is probably laughing hysterically at me right now. That’s okay. I was laughing too. It sounds so minuscule but was like Goliath to me. The task was a bit daunting but then, I like a good challenge. Each week I committed to going and practicing. It’s kind of cheating because the holes are huge and if you can get anywhere near one, you get points but I wasn’t play with friends at this point, I was by myself just trying to learn. How do you stand? How do you lean? How do you hold the club and swing to hit that little thing? How do you make it look like you aren’t just playing extreme putt putt? Would I be able to get it in the air and consistently land it in one of the targets? I’m sure the staff (who some started to recognized me) were wondering all these things for me as well. Bless my own heart.
There was one thing I had going for me though, until. I was determined to aim for the targets and hit enough balls until I got closer. This reminds me so much about my walk with God. I am sure He looks down and wonders if I’m even aiming at all but I am reminded we are running a race with an until in mind. We know we will never be perfect but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to stay on course and walk the narrow road. It requires dedication and remembering what we are aiming towards. We do this with goals in life and seasons of life. We aim until we either accomplish the goal or need to move to the next target. How frustrated would golfing be if you couldn’t move to the next hole until you got a hole in one? I would never make it past the first one. But that’s not what life is about. Sure it’s nice to hit a hole in one so to say every once in a while but it is the lessons learned, the persistence, consistency, determination and dedication that keep us moving forward.
The progress I have made in golf is small but for me, worth celebrating. More so than not, I can hit it in the direction I want it to go. When I remember to do all the things that help me stand, grip and swing well, I come much closer to the target. Same for my relationship with God. When I fellowship with other believers, spend time with God in prayer, scripture and worship, I am much closer to Him than when I don’t.
Friends, I encourage you to aim until. Keep up the good work and keep striving for the next target. Don’t allow yourself to get tripped up in perfection but remember it’s the time spent and journey that get’s you to the target.
Living Day to Day-