No Excuses: The STUFF that Hard Conversations are Made Of

So this is one of the excuses I’ve been most afraid to tackle: being afraid of hard things. When I sat down and tried to narrow that category into what specific hard things I was afraid of and why, one of the things I came up with was having difficult conversations with people that (I feared) had the potential to result in conflict… ones that I feared would mess up a relationship with someone I love and care about if I wasn’t careful enough. I’d avoid them altogether because I didn’t want to do them if I felt I couldn’t do them well.

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to overcome these excuses over the past couple of weeks since I started this challenge. And let make sure that I make this clear- this is not something I’m good at… but I am learning. One of my biggest issues as an introvert is that I’m a “stuffer.” I “stuff” my feelings- good, bad, and indifferent. The problem in doing this is that, even though I think I’m keeping the peace in a relationship by keeping my feelings to myself to deal, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Image“Stuffed” feelings create a whole bunch of unwanted “stuff” you don’t intend for in relationships… it clutters them up like the things you toss in your “stuff” drawer because you can’t quite decide where to put them or what to do with them.

Over time, you’re left with a mess of unrealistic expectations, warped perceptions, festering frustrations, and more. Because the thing with feelings is that they can lie. Left unexposed and “stuffed” under the surface, they can grow into bigger lies and warp our perceptions of people even further. I’m learning that it’s best to address them as soon as possible and not put them off for the “right time”… because when you’re afraid, that “right time” will never come. And it’s always the “right time” to be right relationally with someone. (click to tweet)

And that’s the ultimate goal, right? Not that I prove that myself or my feelings are right, but that I end up being right relationally with the other person. When I have these kinds of uncomfortable conversations, it gives me a chance to prove that I prioritize the person, and not my problems. It gives me a chance to put the other person and their feelings above what I’m feeling – because I value the relationship. It gives me a chance to trust them in a deeper way… and allow them to trust me. Doors become open for understanding, healing, and grace to invade. And hopefully, our hearts and our relationship end up in a much healthier place.

No Excuses: Making time for ME

I’ve made the excuse time and time again that “I don’t have enough time”… especially when it comes to much of anything that has to do with me taking care of myself because I’m so busy taking care of other people and other things.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been slowly allowing myself to become more and more drained. I’ve watched as the demands of home and work have begun to swell up to my knees and I’ve known it’s not good. Not knowing where to turn or who to reach out to, I just continued running on empty while my plate grew more and more full. The problem was that there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about this increasing flood of demands. I’d been in seasons like this before. So even though I knew I was wading in dangerous waters, I thought I could handle the deep as I had in the past. “Things will work out and eventually settle down,” I thought. But, as they say, “New levels bring new devils.” I was wrong. I underestimated myself and the different level I was at. I’m no Navy SEAL when it comes to treading this much water for this long.

My body has its ways of letting me know that it’s not okay: moodiness, forgetfulness, fatigue, bouts of depression, a decrease in appetite and swollen lymph nodes all clue me in that I’ve not had enough rest to balance the workload I’m carrying. I’ve always said I would never become that workaholic:

  • that workaholic who neglects herself with a lack of sleep, a lack of time spent for personal enrichment, a lack of family time, a lack of nutrition and healthy habits.
  • that workaholic who never knows when to stop or knows how or when to say “no.”
  • that workaholic who has low self-esteem and sense of personal worth because she draws far too much of it from what she does instead of from who she is.

And yet, I’ve become that person. Because I’ve made the excuse that I don’t have time for me. That I’m not important enough to take care of. Yes, that may seem pretty pathetic, but I promised in my post a couple of weeks ago here, to be as transparent and authentic as possible in my attempts to blow up my excuses that have been hindering me for far too long.

So here’s what I’ve done to help remind me that I’m worth taking care of too: I’ve begun to keep a list of the things that I know breathe life into my soul and that bring health and nourishment to my mind and my body. I call it my “Just for Me” list and it reminds me…

I’m a steward of me before I’m a steward of anyone or anything else. (click to tweet this)

At some point, the lack of time spent caring for myself will ultimately impact those I hope to care for, serve, and lead. At some point, I know I’ll end up empty when I need to be pouring out love, compassion, care, and grace. Because I’ve not allowed myself to have the time to be fueled up with them first.

Just for MeOver the last week, I’ve made it a point to make time to do a few of the things on my “Just for Me” list and it’s helped me a lot. Things like:

  • Buying myself some fresh flowers.
  • Inviting extended family over for a good, home-cooked meal I’d prepared and going above and beyond to make our time spent with them feel special.
  • Listening to worship music or pod-casts during the time I am doing menial and mundane tasks.
  • Reading blogs by other faithful leaders that I admire and am consistently encouraged and challenged by.
  • Reaching out to a friend for prayer and counsel.
  • Stepping outside to just enjoy the fresh air.
  • Taking the time to encourage and appreciate the people who have influenced me in my life.
  • Soaking up God’s Word spoken over me as I listened to my Bible app “reading the Bible to me.” Because sometimes the ability to close my eyes and fully focus on and absorb the Words being spoken is just what I need. Changing up my regular devotional times to narrow my focus on the Psalms, reminding myself that even their author who was one known to be a man “after God’s own heart…” who, in the midst of his personal battles also battled regularly with a downcast, weary soul in need of refreshing, provides me with hope.

There are more things I have on my list that I know will help me to remain grounded in who I am and, more importantly, Whose I am. And I cling to promises found in the Word of God to find hope and refreshment for my weary soul.

What about you? Do you ever struggle to make time to take care of yourself? What’s on your “Just for Me” list that helps rejuvenate and refresh you?

No Excuses: The Importance of Having a Plan B

Photo Credit: Chris Ziegler

Photo Credit: Chris Ziegler

As I’ve gotten settled into our new neighborhood over the past couple of months, I’ve discovered there are quite a few ways to get to work and school from my new house. While my preferred route is more direct, it oftentimes has a considerably high amount of traffic and ends up taking quite a bit longer than a less direct route. Lately, I’m also discovering that there is more than one way to reach my goals as well: there’s, of course, the steady plodding, more direct way… and there’s the way that seems to take FOR.EV.ER. that still gets me there in the end. I realized something about myself this past week: many times I give up on taking the next steps to my goals just because I missed a mark or I because the way I tried something didn’t end up working out right the first time around. I’m learning that I have a greater chance of setting myself up for success when I set myself up with a few different options in how to reach my goals. For instance, I’ve had a goal of blogging regularly for quite some time and have yet to realize that goal. When I realized that my excuse for not writing more regularly was because I would frequently miss my window of opportunity to write for one reason or another, I decided to eliminate this excuse by finding alternate ways to write. You can read more about why I’m doing this here. I realized I hadn’t been consistent in writing because I limited my window of opportunity to a specific time frame on a certain day each week. When things came up and I missed that specific window of time for one reason or another, I got so frustrated and discouraged with myself that I had a harder time wanting to try again the next time around. Take, for example, this particular blog post you’re reading now: I had planned to draft this post during my day off last Friday, when I knew I’d have a quiet house, which, for me is an ideal writing environment… however, I woke up that morning completely exhausted from a 13-hour work day the day before and my day filled up quickly with other household duties. I knew that I had missed my margin of time and energy I needed to write. Instead of getting discouraged and saying, “Oh well, I blew it again,” while waiting for another Friday to roll around before doing much else about it, I decided to figure out a back-up plan to make it work. I began to identify some other opportune times for me to write and switched my normal routine to make a margin for what I’m striving for: a consistent writing rhythm. I blocked out some time on my Sunday afternoon instead, when I normally go grocery shopping and take my Sunday nap. My “Plan B” helped me get creative and out of the box in my thinking. Instead of spending time out and about grocery shopping at a couple of stores, I simplified my list freed up some time by setting up a grocery delivery from Vons instead (with a promo code I got in my email for free delivery… yay!). Since I have a hard time writing when everyone is home and hungry, I asked my hubby to handle lunch with our kiddos so I could head out to settle into some caffeinated serenity at Starbucks and write. This was huge for me, even thought it was off the beaten path. And the best part? It actually worked. And it motivated me to be creative in finding additional ways to reach some of my other goals too.

I figured out there was this myth I was buying into: that ideal conditions were the only way for me to do what I needed to do. The fact, however, is this: ideal conditions are rare. Waiting until conditions are perfect keeps you from making any kind of progress at all.

Progress is pretty important. It means you are one step closer in getting from “start” to “finish.” If you wait for the perfect time to make any progress, you won’t make much. (Click to tweet this!) While I can’t always reclaim my routine, I can choose to revise it or reinvent it. The more I do this, the more I realize that there’s an inner flexibility and adaptability that’s developing in me that is enabling me to accomplish more and not get as discouraged when things go awry. What about you? In what ways do you adapt when things don’t go your way? Do you have a struggle with starting or in taking steps toward your goals? What’s stopping you?

Nine Weeks to No Excuses: A Journey to Bring My Resolutions to Reality by the New Year

My 9-year-old daughter helped me to glean some valuable perspective recently. The other day she was hanging out in my office at work and happened to notice my At-A-Glance yearly wall calendar. After she quietly studied it for a few minutes, she quickly exclaimed, “There’s only 9 weeks left this year!”

In utter disbelief, I quickly retorted, “No, there’s not.” 9 is such a small number. It’s a single digit. Surely there’s more time left in the year than a mere 9 weeks. She must have miscounted. As she insisted, I turned around and proceeded to count the weeks, thinking it would be easy enough for me to prove her wrong. Unfortunately, as I counted the weeks left until 2014, I realized she was right. And I was wrong. Only 9 more full weeks are left in 2013.

And it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

I can’t slow the time down despite my disbelief in how fast it goes. I need to redeem it. NOW. (click to TWEET this)

Why in the world this truth decided to hit this 28-year-old square in the eyes by this once-newborn-now-9-year-old I’ve been entrusted by God to raise and who is growing into a young woman right before my eyes, I’ll never know. For whatever reason though, it did. So the next day I sat down with this sobering truth stirring my heart and scratched away in my notebook what I hope to do in these last nine weeks of 2013 that I feel will carry me into 2014 with no regrets. It’s those things in my heart that I’ve been procrastinating using whatever excuses I have given them that have been nagging and gnawing at me…

  • the hard things
  • the things I’m afraid to do
  • the hard conversations I need to have
  • the things I have put off until I “have the time.”
  • the things I put off until “I have the money” or “this or that.”

And so, I think I’ve finally reached the place where the nagging and the gnawing has gone far enough. It’s been eating me up inside and I’m ready for it to stop. The excuses which have exhausted me will hopefully reach their end. I’m hoping to knock them out over these next 9 weeks. I hope to share this journey here. I am praying to have the courage to be as transparent as possible and to have the endurance to really see it through. So check in with me and keep me accountable… please.

The Bible reminds us that wisdom comes when we number our days. It reminds us to use our days wisely because they will pass quickly.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” [Psalm 90:12]

ImageIt’s my hope that as I number my days from October 29 – December 31, 2013 I’ll find the courage to be able to face my excuses head on and find the heart of wisdom I desperately need to help me make the most of my days. I want to face 2014 with no regrets and live the life God has for me in all of its fullness.

If you decide you’d like to join me on this journey and tackle some of your own excuses, please tweet me here or reply in the comments and let me know. I’d love to partner with you and swap encouragement and stories. So here I go. Let’s do this.

Stuck on the good stuff: How a little bit of change could get you from good to great

If you’re not seeing the results you want, it could be time for a change. There are times when it’s completely obvious that something’s got to change… especially when that change involve something that’s not working…

… but what if everything appears to be doing just fine or going good?

Sometimes, in order to take your life or your organization to the next level, it could actually be time to pull the plug on or make an adjustment to something that appears to already be working.

… Because sometimes you don’t need to do things better, you need to do them differently in order to achieve those desired results you never imagined you could attain.

If you settle for the good stuff, you’ll rarely stumble upon your greatest potential.

There is a temptation most leaders will deal with at some point or another – to stick with the status quo and keep on gliding along while things are going good… or to choose not to settle for good things when greater things are at stake. Because if you stick with the way things are, you’ll eventually become stagnant. You’ll wind up stuck. Your organization will become boring. Worse yet, you’ll lose your effectiveness over time because you will eventually fail to remain relevant.

An effective leader strives to continually make things better by being mindful of the seasons, deciding to when and how to make strategic changes to simplify in certain areas when necessary in order to maintain the integrity and values in which they are rooted. It’s when a leader does this that they’re preparing themselves and their organization to be propelled into a season of growth.

pruningWhat it boils down to is the principle of pruning… and it doesn’t take a green thumb to pull this off. It takes someone with boldness and courage to ruffle a few feathers. It takes someone with the wisdom and foresight to do what it takes now to make a few strategic snips in all the right places, in the right timing, for the sake of spurring on a season of more fruit later.

Yep, you might have good success, good fruit now. But are you willing to do what it takes to take yourself or your organization to the next level of growth? Pruning can be painful, but it is indeed necessary if you want to make yourself or your organization produce more fruit. What good thing are you willing to give up in order to gain what is better?