Leadership

The shot I didn’t want!

Yesterday I received my first (of two) COVID shots. It was the Phizer one. The shot itself was no big deal. It didn’t hurt, sting or burn going in. No after affects as I waited 15 minutes in a chair 6 feet away from other lucky recipients. But this wasn’t MY plan.

That seems to be how life goes a lot of the time. Our plans don’t pan out. I remember thinking I wanted to see for several months how it went. My plan was to watch and wait. Feeling pretty healthy and at low risk for complications if I did get the vaccine, I wanted to let others go before me. My dad is 84 with a serious heart condition and at risk for a stroke. He’s waiting for his turn to get a life changing procedure. If anyone should be vaccinated in my mind, it was him. My brothers and I have been trying to bubble wrap him to keep him safe so he can get this done.

I remember saying back in April of 2020, I am going to get COVID. I was prepared and wasn’t afraid. And I waited. And waited. Yes I wore my mask, washed my hands and followed all CDC, ABC, and EFG guidelines. We sheltered the first few months and then slowly, when I felt safe and we had more information, ventured out into the world for some social distancing events. We had a daughter who graduated high school during the pandemic and moved to college across country during it.

Having suffered from depression and anxiety on and off in my life, I knew one thing about being an introvert, I can’t stay isolated too long. It’s dangerous for me. Mentally, physically and spiritually. So I prioritized my mental health and did what I needed to do, in the most safe way possible to take care of me. Selfish, yes. But at the cost of others, no. I did my best to follow the rules. (It’s a type A and enneagram 3 kind of thing. #rulefollowers)

I think if COVID has taught us nothing else, it’s that everyone’s needs (emotionally, physically and spiritually) are different. These needs should also be respected. I am not asking anyone else to follow the same path I am, nor do I judge others for the choices they make to take care of themselves. It’s part of what God gives us, free will. Now I don’t think anyone should be reckless with their free will but there are so many long term effects this pandemic is going to have on not just me, but my family and friends.

Being in the mental health field has its advantages during a time like these. I need to practice what I preach and also show compassion for those who are suffering. While some fields are shrinking, the need for mental healthcare is not. It’s hard to hear and see the stories of individuals and families struggling. The blessing of COVID is that seeking help is becoming less taboo and more of a proactive step in creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Which brings me back to why I got the shot yesterday.

I don’t know what all is in the vaccine, if it’s going to work, if it’s safe or if I’m going to have some sort of longterm side effects from getting it. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. That is not who God made me to be. He gave those gifts and talents to other people. So I chose faith yesterday. Not in other people, but in God. I trust that in order to do the work He has called me to, I need to be around people. And right now, for me, that means a shot. What else I do know is, I am someone who needs to be with my family and friends for support, encouragement and strength. I am someone who is in an office that has people I do not know coming in and out a public door. Many are desperate for help and they need more than a virtual telehealth visit can give. I am running a business that encourages, leads and guides women in their day to day lives and I want to see them face to face this coming spring. Therefore, I will do what I need to so that others feel safe around me. The vaccine isn’t about me. It’s not about what I want right now or giving me comfort. It’s about the gift I might be able to give someone else because I’ve taken a step, that was offered to me for free, to get a vaccine that will prayerfully eradicate this horrible virus.

My choice doesn’t have to be your choice. But we do need to choose compassion and understanding as well as respect for those around us. Last year was hard, this year needs to be full of Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Living day to day,

Jennifer


I Get To…

As we approached the stoplight I could see we weren’t going to make it to turn left.  According to my husband Ryan, we missed it because the people in front were “poking along”.  I looked at him and remembered a phrase my dad used to always tell me as a little girl in the same situation. Out loud I said, “We get to be first!”.  Ryan looked over at me and said, “We do huh?”  Me: “Yes, we get to be first next time” (insert cheesy grin on my face).  Ryan: “We get to”(said a little puzzled but reflective).  This obviously wasn’t the mindset he had or quite frankly I usually have in these situations.  I tend to react just as Ryan did by feeling we missed out.  For whatever reason it never dawned on me until that moment the optimism and lens my dad viewed life.  Instead of seeing missing the light as a missed opportunity, he turned it into a game of sorts and opportunity to be the one who goes first next time.  The heart attitude is drastically different between the two responses.  One is sad while the other is happy.  

I often challenge my leaders and clients to view potential goals, challenges and sometimes mundane tasks as “I get to” opportunities. Think about this with me for a moment.  What would happen to your attitude and heart if you said, “I get to call a leader today to check on them” verses “I have to make a call so I can get that over with?”  I ‘get to‘ offers encouragement to someone who may be feeling overwhelmed. I get to leave an encouraging voicemail for someone who may have only heard discouraging words that day. I get to share some information with someone who may have too busy to pay attention to resources available. Even in the mundane day to day chores it can work. I get to do laundry so I can wear my favorite pants tomorrow. Can you see the differences in outlook?  The way we choose to view our circumstances will impact not only ourselves but those around us. 

With my dad, I always thought going first was the best position to be in. It was much more desired to be first in line verses the last one to make it through the light.  I’m not sure where I lost my enthusiasm for going first but this Christmas season, I want to find it.  I want to view life’s moments as “I get to” and opportunities to “go first”.  Will you join me?

This weeks challenge, take a look around and see who you can get to bless.

Living day to day-

Jennifer


Shattered Dreams

The words themselves evoke sadness but the story it tells is all but sad. When I was younger I remember looking upon failure as something that would be humiliating and crushing. In our youth we strive to reach the top and avoid the pitfalls along the way. Skip forward 20 years and failure has been my greatest friend and teacher.

Growing up I avoided dreaming big. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I really didn’t see myself as having the ability to do more than get married (God willing) and have kids. (The greatest accomplishment and joys in my life I must say!) But the concept I could pursue personal dreams, have a successful job and make an impact on anyone wasn’t even a thought. If it was a thought, it was quickly squashed by my other thoughts of not being worthy, capable, or enough. I guess you could say I had really low self esteem. Internally I was a ‘woe is me’ girl (which still rears its ugly head). Not only did I not aim high, I just didn’t aim at all. Until.

It’s amazing how powerful we are as human beings. Did you know we have the ability to influence those around us? (read here) It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that fact clicked with me. I was the recipient of someone who said ‘have you ever thought about’, and ‘I think you would be good at’, along with ‘I believe in you’. Just a small nudge unleashed a 15 year journey into leadership development and organizational management. I returned to college to finish the degree I started (after having the twins!) and decided the risk of failing was worth not trying at all.

I began dreaming. I think we can all agree that 2020 has knocked the wind out of us at times and slapped us around a bit. Learning to surrender (read here) has been a forced lesson of sorts. For many of you, like me, we lost our jobs (read here) and in the moment of believing we were living our best lives, things didn’t just fail, but shattered. I sat in sadness and disbelief of it all for a while. The process of processing was necessary and painful. Yet through it all, God spoke loud and clear! (He had my undivided attention.) What I thought was lost wasn’t really lost at all but was about to be found. I needed to take some of my own advice (read here) and realized God didn’t give me the gifts, experiences and dreams for one adventure. He expects me to use them even in the midst of shattered dreams. I read this week a quote that explains so well where I am at today.

“Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. Shattered dreams destroy false expectations, such as the “victorious” Christian life with no real struggle or failure (or the perfect marriage without work). They help us discover true hope. We need the help of shattered dreams to put us in touch with what we most long for, to create a felt appetite for better dreams. And living for the better dreams generates a new, unfamiliar feeling that we eventually recognize as joy. Our pain will always have a purpose. It will not go away, but it will do its work. It will stir an appetite for a higher purpose – the better hope of knowing God well enough now to love him above everything else…and trusting him no matter what happens.”

– Dr. Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams.

What I once thought might be the greatest contribution in my work life is now replaced by God saying, it was an improperly valued dream. God doesn’t want us to be limited to one adventure. He wants us to dream big again and again. So that is what I’m doing. Dreaming, creating and finding so much joy in the process. I now have hope in my next adventure. I also am acutely aware it could fail. And I’m okay with that because if you don’t try, you will never know what you might have missed out on.

Living day to day-

Jennifer


Keep Growing

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-

Jennifer


Learning to Surrender

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-

Jennifer


Aim Until…

Top Golf Northwest Arkansas

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-

Jennifer


Stepping out in faith

Most of my audience and work in ministry has been done inside a church or organization with very little external reach. I was totally okay with that. In one sense, it felt safe and I was a bit protected. I cheered others on to leave the walls of ministry and to go out into the world and make a difference. In fact, I LOVED when I could see someone with so much more potential than I had. Now I’m not trying to put myself down but I feel like at 45 years old, I know myself now. I know what God has and hasn’t called me to do. I’ve learned to say “no” when others wanted me to say “yes”. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not in order to advance or gain position. Ambitious, yes, but I PRAY it is never to the point of sacrificing others or out of pressure to perform.

I realize today a few things I don’t want to give up in this next season of life.

#1 – Writing. I may not be a novelist like my brother, but writing helps remind me of God’s goodness in the little day to day moments in life. Encouraging others is a blessing to me. I hope I can do that in a small way through sharing stories.

#2 – Teaching. I love the word of God and feel like there is so much to learn even after 45 years. I believe every women has influence and we can use that influence in our homes, community and world if we pursue the Lord and follow His will for our lives.

#3 – Speaking. Nothing replaces the intimacy of being together with people. To see someones face, interact and encourage women has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. I will love on you with the word of God.

As I step out in faith, I have found myself in a position I have never been. I am not a self promotor or loud gong. I have never felt the need to do more than the work that was set before me. But I am available in this season to step into new places and walk by faith down a new road. I feel God nudging me to do what I love for His glory. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. More than anything, I can promise you I will take you through the deep and not just shallow waters. It’s the little moments in life I don’t want you to miss. Let’s do this together! You can find me on Facebook, Youtube and of course here.

Stepping by faith, day to day-

Jennifer


Pause and think twice

Remember when I told you all about our drop off for college kid #2 this year? (See: 1000 miles) Okay, it really was only two weeks ago. As I was sitting down to continue discussing parenting adult kids and actually answering the questions I posted last week, the phone dinged. As it has gone the last two weeks, I hear from Katie most mornings. It’s usually a quick chat as she goes to class or grabs breakfast. This was different. Whether it’s distance, change, loneliness or just plain not feeling well, she was more down. As with any time one of our kids call, we have options.

First, let me just go back to last weeks blog post. (See: Control or Influence) Did you catch last week how I really didn’t give any practical advice on parenting adult kids? I gave one of the keys that gives us the ability to parent them, influence and trust. You may have been left scratching your head and thinking, this wasn’t helpful at all! I believe a foundation is always necessary to build anything of substance. The beauty of relationships is it’s never too late to invest in them and to build or rebuild upon the foundation. Now before we get too much further into this story, let me just say, I have not gotten it all right. In fact I have missed the mark in parenting and how I’ve handled situations with my adult kids more times than I like to admit. It gives me though the first piece of advice I would give anyone for their kids.

Tell your kids how you’ve messed up or missed the mark.

I feel like I have built more credibility by admitting my shortcomings and failures and asking them for forgiveness. I don’t do it often enough and if our kids (and us) can’t learn from them, then what is the point? This requires sometimes we share with our kids the less flattering sides of ourselves. Now this doesn’t mean you dig up all the dirt you can and have a uncomfortable conversation but try to remember what it was like when you were their age and use your experiences to share in God given moments.

This brings me back to today and college kid #2. Following a few texts we got the phone call. If you have ever sent your kid to college you probably know the call I’m talking about. It’s not the “I can’t find my class” or “Where do I wash my clothes?”, it was the tone of her voice and what wasn’t said.

Immediately, I made myself pause and think twice.

More than anything, brains or beauty, I want and prayed my kids would love Jesus, follow His will for their lives and be kind. I want them to work hard and have compassion. I want them to be independent but humble enough to accept help. When Morgan went to college I knew I would need to back off and be quiet. Encourage her, yes, and even give her a nudge once in a while. She swam since she was 8 years old so her transition to college included being on the swim team. For me, that meant I knew she would have an instant group of friends. She would have routine and be busy enough to keep her going through the adjustment of going away. Or so I thought. She called crying over FaceTime several times a week. Who created that anyway? SOOOO painful to see her cry so much and watch her struggle. And that’s what we did. We didn’t call her, we waited. And when she did call, we watched and listened. Sure we would encourage her to hang in there and tell her it would be okay but we didn’t go rescue her. I always paused and thought twice before and during our conversations. Why? Because I am a fixer. I want to rescue you from danger (or anything perceived as such) and make things all better. There were even times (sorry Morgan) that I didn’t answer the phone and handed it to my husband Ryan. It was so hard on my momma heart.

Three years later and here I am again. Katie’s on the other side of the phone and I paused and thought twice. I suggested a walk and Starbucks (because doesn’t that make everything better?) but I held back asking leading questions like “are you unhappy” or “do you want to come home”.

My job now as a parent is to let my kids live their lives. Encouraging them while pausing long enough to think twice before I speak to them. Am I telling them what I want them to do or am I guiding them to help them make the best decisions for their lives?

Our kids know how we would answer most questions. Sometimes they are looking for an out and other times they need us to parent them in a way that encourages their independence and affirms what feels so daring to them in that moment.

Build a foundation of influence and trust, admitting and apologizing when you make mistakes, and pausing to think twice. For anyone sending off their kids to college, these are the lessons I’ve learned and things that have helped me to along the way.

Living day to day-

Jennifer