Facing It

I’ve got a workout buddy that I meet at the gym twice a week. He’s far more experienced (and in way better shape) than I am, so he leads our workouts. I just sit back and pray that I’ll make it through them. He knows some of the things that I want to work on, so he includes workouts that will be best for getting done what needs to get done.

Our gym isn’t the most up-to-date facility, the equipment works fine, but it sure could use an update. There are free weights and a few machines. There are exercise balls, spinning bikes, floor mats, and other things that enable us to do what we need to do.

But there’s one thing in the gym that makes me cringe every time my buddy goes to get it…..

THE WHEEL OF DEATH

 ab-wheel

Maybe you’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve used it before. Maybe you have the same look of shock and horror on your face every time that you come across it.

I remember seeing these things when I was a kid four hundred years ago. I guess you can’t improve upon greatness…….or pain.

As much as I hope that the ab wheel would just disappear from our gym, I also know what it does to me when I use it. It works my core and if I push myself, it should flatten out that 40+ tummy of mine (operative word there is “should”).

When we met at the gym the other day and we pulled out the wheel of death, I couldn’t help but think about the things that we try to avoid. Most of us will try to avoid some things that aren’t good for us or that will harm us. Some of us will avoid things that we know might be good for us but for which we find ourselves with a great aversion towards.

The fact is, there are some things, regardless of how we might react to them, that are good for us, at least in the long run. They might cause pain and agony in the short term, but the long term benefits will far outweigh that pain and agony.

Nope, we can hardly ever see it at the time. Who really likes to subject themselves to such pain?

I’ve been astounded at my observations of how this mindset extends so much further than the gym. When we face things that we don’t like, we simply run away. Let’s find a safe place where we can go so as to avoid the things that we don’t like. Let’s find a way to create a safe zone where nothing distasteful can enter.

But what happens to the growth that might have occurred in us had we had to face what we didn’t want to face? What happens to our resolve? To our sense of conviction? To our ability to hear opposing viewpoints? Do we really grow if we only surround ourselves with the things that we like?

This isn’t a recommendation for everyone to go hang out with the complete opposite of yourself, but it is a pondering of just what this does to us. I imagine that if we run every single time that we are faced with some kind of offense or opposition, we’re probably not moving much further from the space which we are already occupying. We’re not going to grow, to mature, to develop. We will be destined for mediocrity.

Sure, this breaks down at some point, I’m sure it does. There are certain topics and ideas which I want to avoid extreme opposition. I’ve wrestled with them and think I’ve come to rest on a good conclusion. But if my conclusions are really as sure-footed as I think they are, shouldn’t I be okay with a little wrestling now and then?

When I go back to the gym and that Wheel of Death is lurking in the closet, waiting to inflict pain upon me, I hope I don’t run. I hope I give it a try, because ultimately, what it will do to me will be far more significant and beneficial than if I simply were to tuck my tail and run away. 

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Strengths Based Marriage

The Clifton StrengthsFinders assessment is used to assess the top five strengths of an individual. While everyone has all of the 34 signature strengths themes in the assessment, everyone is unique in the combination of those strengths that make up their top five. While there may be others in the world with the same combination of strengths as you, the probability is fairly small. Understanding your strengths is key to growth and development.strengths-based-marriage

StrengthsFinders’ emphasis is to focus your energy and efforts on the strengths that are your top five, the strengths where you have the most capacity for growth and development. Focusing on your bottom five strengths is actually an exercise in futility as you not only focus on areas where your capacity is at the least but it also takes the focus away from the areas where you have the greatest capacity.

As a certified Strengths Communicator, I was very interested to read “Strengths Based Marriage” by Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey. As I’ve studied strengths, I have been curious to know how those strengths affect and impact our relationships with one another as well as the various roles which we fill in our lives. Evans and Kelsey look at marriage from their areas of expertise as marriage counselor and strengths expert, respectively.

They begin their book with an introduction to strengths, which is helpful for those who have not had significant experience with StrengthsFinders. I imagine that most people who pick up this book will have had some experience with StrengthsFinders to even open the book. The standard assessment for StrengthsFinders simply gives one their top five strengths yet Evans and Kelsey talk about the top ten and bottom five strengths. In order to get the full assessment with all thirty-four themes, the price is significantly more than just the standard assessment. Many books that talk of StrengthsFinders include an assessment code, something that this book does not include. It would be helpful to at least include an assessment code for the basic assessment and give the reader an understanding of the cost of the full assessment, even possibly offering a discount code for the full assessment.

Evans and Kelsey tackle each subject from their respective expertise, dividing each chapter into two parts, from a marriage counselor perspective and then from a strengths expert perspective. They share out of their own experience and give some practical examples of how strengths play out in their own marriages. They also share from their experience with various individuals and couples that they have worked with in the past. For those who are unfamiliar with the language of strengths, they use the language simply enough to be understood, in my opinion.

While there are times when they seem to repeat themselves, I think that “Strengths Based Marriage” was a good book. The authors offer practical steps toward improving communication, bringing healing, and strengthening a marriage. If nothing else, this book could help couples become more self-aware and more intentional and observant in their relationships.

The authors are realistic in their use of strengths as well, never claiming that the language and application of strengths can act like a “magic bullet” of sorts to bring complete healing and restoration to broken marriages. As Kelsey writes, “What I am trying to point out is that our strengths act like lenses, coloring the various activities of our lives and making us choose one thing over another.” StrengthsFinders is simply one more tool to help communicate and possibly improve relationships. The relationships that this book addresses are marriages. Whether your marriage is on the rocks or doing well, “Strengths Based Marriage” can be a helpful resource for improvements.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Always Someone Smarter

As I’ve gotten older and become more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve seen the benefits of team. I’ve seen just how important it is to build trust in a team setting. I’ve also seen just how important it is to put aside any jealousy and animosity if the team is going to be healthy and succeed.

I’ve worked with StrengthsFinders over the years, but over the last 6 months, I have been diving in deeper as I have become a Strengths Communicator. It’s given me the chance to work with people on teams in order for them to better know their place with the talents and strengths that they have. When we come to understand our strengths as well as the strengths of those with whom we are on the team, we can grow much more effective and efficient.

I remember playing on sports teams in high school. There was always the inevitable “showboater” who wanted to make sure that it always became about him. Most coaches wouldn’t fall for it, and were usually turned off by that kind of behavior. But as I moved to the business world and even the church world, I began to see that same mentality play out among people. People wanted to make sure that they always got the glory for things and were never satisfied until they had achieved it.

But I’ve experienced something so much greater when humility penetrates that team and makes its way through all of the team members. People begin to look beyond themselves to see the bigger picture. Instead of trying to attain things for themselves, they’re looking at what will benefit the team. How can I ensure that the team will experience success? What can I do to make sure that we are all moving in the same direction?

Within the church, the motivation for the bigger picture should be even greater. It’s not about ourselves or even our individual churches, it’s about the Kingdom of God. Jesus laid out the bigger picture in Matthew 28 and when we miss it, we take the focus off of growing the Kingdom and plant it firmly on ourselves.

If we’re smart, we come to the realization that there is always someone smarter than us, stronger than us, better at something than us. IF we aren’t careful, that can rock our world and plant a root of jealousy among us. But if we look at it as being part of the bigger picture and serving together on a team, we can move much faster towards achieving our goals.

I used to be intimidated by others on the same team who had different gifts than I have, but then I realized that there were gifts that I had that were specific to me which they didn’t possess. It’s about knowing your place in the big picture, knowing what you’re good at, and knowing how best to use those gifts which you’ve been given.

Some people think that holding onto things and monopolizing information or functions actually affords them job security. I’ve grown to realize that the opposite is true. If there is something that I am doing and someone else comes along who does it better, how willing am I to give that task up? If I hang on to it because I am afraid that I will no longer be necessary, than I’m not really confident in my own abilities. But, if I realize the potential of someone else and can lead them to doing something better, I actually prove my worth by encouraging them, leading and coaching them, and allowing them to live into a potential that someone else might not have seen.

It’s amazing the opportunities that I’ve had which have helped me grow. I hope and pray that I will always look at people on my team as assets rather than threats. When I’ve had leaders who have known their own limitations, I’ve been much more productive. I hope that my leadership can flourish in grow in the same way.

Why Am I Talking?

don't talkI’ve always considered myself a fairly decent listener and have even been told that in the past, but as I get older and gaze at the list of responsibilities that lie before me, I find myself rushing through things and multi-tasking to get everything done. Sometimes I’ve made cursory reads of emails and missed key and important points in them. Sometimes I’ve read through things with action items and proceeded to forget all about those items. Sometimes I’ve had a conversation with someone and as soon as I hang up the phone or walk away from the table, I’ve left whatever meaningful pieces were to go with me right there on the table or hanging on the telephone line.

Now, this isn’t an every day, all the time thing. It’s happened enough for me to see it as unacceptable. I haven’t found myself in trouble because of my lack of attentiveness to things, but I don’t ever want that to be the case. As I’ve assessed the situation, I’ve realized my own need to be mentally present wherever I am. If I am reading an email, be present. If I am on the phone, be present. If I am talking over a meal, be present.

During my sabbatical, I went through some training to become a Strengths Communicator. If you aren’t familiar with StrengthsFinders, I would highly recommend checking it out. It has been a very helpful tool for me and for others to find out the areas in which strengths lie so as to focus energy on those areas. Like any assessment, it’s not foolproof or perfect, but I have seen its impact on many people, not the least of whom is myself.

One of the principles that we talked about during my training had to do with listening. The instructor said a good acronym to remember is “W.A.I.T.” which stands for “Why Am I Talking?” It’s hard to say just how many times that has popped into my head since the first time I heard it nearly two months ago. Over and over again, as I find myself in conversations, the urge within me is to start talking, to fix a problem, to fill the space, but sometimes, that space doesn’t need to be filled, sometimes that problem doesn’t need to be fixed, at least at that moment. Sometimes, all someone really wants you to do is listen.

It’s too easy for me to be in the midst of a conversation and be thinking about what’s next. I can too easily find myself planning out the rest of my day and slowly tuning out the person sitting across from me. But the act of listening is not just about physical presence, it’s about mental awareness and intuitiveness as well. Listening is an act of the ears and act of the brain, we need to process what we hear, which is virtually impossible when we’re moving on to other things in our minds.

I’m a talker too. One of my strengths is communication and part of the way that I process information is by communicating. But I am finding that there are other ways to communicate than simply speaking. I’ve kept a handwritten journal during my sabbatical and have filled nearly the entire thing in those three months that I was away. It’s proving a training ground for me, a mental gym, if you will, where I can practice my thinking and communicating without having to burden anyone else.

I’m not there, I haven’t arrived, this is still an area of growth for me, but I’m conscious of it and I’m working on it. I need to do a better job of listening, to my friends, to my wife, to my children, to the people in my church, to all of those with whom I connect. I’m a work in progress, but I’m grateful for this insight to set my eyes on and move forward.

Grace

I’m two weeks into my sabbatical and I feel like so much has happened in that short amount of time. Some of my days have felt like two or three days combined into one. I’ve had some great conversations, some great experiences, some great rest.

My wife and I spent nearly four years in a place not too long after we got married. My wife had married an engineer and then I was called to be a pastor. It was a big shift for both of us. That call involved a move far away from our family and all that was familiar to us. I was green and inexperienced in the new world in which I found myself. I made mistakes, I spoke too quickly, I offended, I probably thought that I knew way more than I really did.

When things ended in that place, there was hurt, there was anger, there was confusion, there was uncertainty. We didn’t know for sure where we would end up, but God did. He opened the door for us to a new place. We left behind many great friends and I felt like I was leaving a bit of my heart there as well. We had made an investment and to leave it all behind was hard for me to do.

This past week, I spent some time with some of the people who were part of our experience there in that place. I’m not even sure what words to use to best describe the meaningfulness of that time. Healing. Growing. Learning. Moving on. Grace.

Grace.

It’s a word that came up in our conversations and a word that I continue to go back to. If we are truly growing in our faith journey and in our spiritual depth, grace should be something that naturally pours from us. We shouldn’t tout that we have grown up in the church and been Christians for 40 years and then fail to exhibit grace. We shouldn’t expect grace to be given to us and then refuse to extend it to others. Grace has been given to us and to whom much has been given, much is expected.

Grace.

I feel like I experienced an immersion of grace over the last week. As conversations took place and we shared, I felt that grace and I was so grateful for it.

I still have many weeks to go as I move through this sabbatical. It’s always hard to come hard out of the gates, it can easily set your expectations high for what else is to come. But I don’t think I should worry. Much of what I have experienced over the last week was not planned, at least by me, but I know that God orchestrated it, he made it happen, he gave me the privilege of experiencing it.

This is going to be a fun ride!

Room to Grow

I sat down with a friend after a Bible study the other day. Although we hadn’t planned on a conversation, this friend is one who I am always willing to engage because of the wisdom and insight that I get from him every single time that we talk. My constant prayer is that I can live my life similar to his in the ability to never leave any person the same as when I met them. I know that the work that is done is the work of the Holy Spirit, but to be used and available and willing is a huge part of that.

As we sat and talked about some of the things that we are experiencing in our lives, I had an epiphany. We were talking about people development and watching people flourish and grow or remain stagnant and plateau. God has grown me an awful lot over the years in that my automatic response when I would see someone who would remain stagnant and plateau was to blame them for their laziness or lack of initiative. I’ve come to realize that there’s another side to the story.

While there is a responsibility on all of us as individuals, leadership plays a key and important role in helping others develop into who they were created to be. Sometimes, people find themselves in environments where they are not able to develop for one reason or another. It could be that those who are supervising them are lacking in self-confidence and keep things close to their chest, not freely doling out responsibilities for fear of losing their own self-worth and identity.

As I thought about it more, what stood out to me was that there are times when there are people that we lead who need to have their boundaries and limits expanded far beyond what they would normally expand them to themselves, if we don’t recognize the need to expand these boundaries and limits, we may be stifling growth.

It’s easy to see this from the perspective of parenting, at least to me it is. As children grow older, responsibilities need to increase and as those responsibilities increase, the amount of freedom that is given to them should increase as they show their ability to fulfill those responsibilities. If there is an imbalance at all, there are a variety of scenarios that can play out.

1) Increased freedom with no increased responsibility

I feel like I see this all the time. Parents will constantly give out freedom to their children without requiring more responsibility for that freedom. When this happens, we perpetuate the entitlement that has become endemic to our culture. If we don’t increase responsibility when we increase freedom, then we will end up with lots of children (and people) walking around who expect things coming their way without them giving anything in return.

2) No increased freedom with increased responsibility

Here is the recipe for stunted growth. When children (or people) are asked to do more and increase their responsibility while not being given increased freedom, they will become frustrated and will most likely stagnate. Everyone is knit together differently, so there’s no magic formula to see at what point someone stagnates, but it will happen eventually. I would hazard a guess that there might be a very small segment of the population that might still flourish despite the lack of freedom that they are given, but the overwhelming majority would end up becoming complacent and remaining the same.

3) Increased freedom with increased responsibility

This is the “Win” of all the scenarios. As responsibility is doled out and given, so is freedom. As someone proves themselves capable, so they are given an increased amount of freedom. That increased amount of freedom will (hopefully) spur them on to better things and to become better themselves. Growth should take place, in theory, as they begin to see the progression and the relationship between responsibility and freedom.

This realization is a huge thing for me. As I raise my own children and as I lead people whom I lead, it is essential for me to realize this relationship between responsibility and freedom. Having three children of my own, I have already seen the vast difference in their personalities, so it’s also essential that I not embrace a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy towards them. They are different, the process may need to be changed and tweaked accordingly. It takes energy, it takes investment, it takes time. I am not a patient man.

I’m curious as to whether this theory resonates with others. Like I said, my own experience with children is only nine and a half short years in the making. My experience in leadership is longer, but it’s only been the last few years that I have looked more intently at it. So, what do you think? Do you see the connection and relationship between responsibility and freedom? Are you tracking with this? Does it make sense?

3/3/00

Every year on this day, I can’t help but thinking what happened in the year 2000. On March 3, 2000 (3/3/00), I asked my wife (then girlfriend) to marry me. I’ve blogged about it before (see here), but every year, I am astounded at just what happened that day.

Now, my marriage is far from perfect. If I’m honest, I can see my own deficiencies and inadequacies come through. I see my faults and foibles, my sins and missed marks, but there is something about marriage that shows me a picture of God.

We were made for relationship. God did not create us in order that he would have something or someone to play with, robots to heed his every command, or groveling servants who simply obey his every whim. God created us to experience the relationship that had existed between the persons of the Trinity from eternity past. Marriage gives us a picture of that when two people come together to make one.

All too often, we can look at our marriages and think that they are there to fulfill our every wish and desire. We want what we want and when we don’t get it, we think something is wrong. But the longer that I am married, the more I see my own selfishness, the more I see just how deep it runs, and the more I realize that marriage is about being changed and transformed. I’m not who I need to be, but I’m moving in that direction……I hope.

I got married a little later than my peers. It’s not that I hadn’t had relationships that had been serious before, but I just don’t think I was ready or in a place where marriage would have been viable had I not waited as long as I did. I fear that my marriage would have ended in divorce had I got married earlier than I did.

But on March 3, 2000, I was given a gift. She said, “yes.” She said, “yes” to an engineer who eventually became a pastor. She said, “yes” to a home that was only a few minutes away from family but eventually was a half a day’s drive to family. She said, “yes” to not one, or two, but three kids. She said, “yes” to walking alongside me when I buried not one, but two parents. She said, “yes” to an adventure that would lead us to North Carolina and Virginia. She said, “yes” to watching her husband be beaten, battered, and bruised by those who claimed that they were striving to be like Jesus.

In front of a small group of friends and family, I asked her to marry me and she said, “yes.” We celebrated the next day with our family, a few months later at a party with a larger crew, and fifteen months later, we were married.

There are many days when I look back and I wonder what I did to deserve her, and then I realize that I didn’t do anything, that’s grace. Many days I wonder how much more she can put up with, and then I realize that’s grace too. As I wrote in the song with which I proposed to her, “Your love makes me more than I dreamed of, more than I wished for or ever thought I could be.” Every day I get a picture of God’s grace through the gift that he has given me in my wife.

Like I said, we’re far from perfect. We both have issues, I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t have issues, but we’re moving through them. It’s not been an easy road, but the journey has been rewarding and the changes that have taken place in us are not of this world.

I celebrate the gift of grace that came to me through a woman saying, “yes” sixteen years ago. She’s said, “yes” every day since and in that “yes” is a gift that I experience every single day.

I love you, Carebear!

The Emotionally Healthy Leader – A Book Review

emotionally healthy leaderPeter Scazzero and his church, New Life Fellowship, have emerged in the past decade as models of how to navigate through the world of church, leadership, and spirituality in an emotionally healthy manner. Scazzero started with “The Emotionally Healthy Church” back in 2003 and followed up with “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” in 2006. In the midst of his sharing about his own experience, in 2010, his wife wrote “I Quit,” the story of how she had drawn the line when she could no longer put up with the emotional unhealthy ways of her husband’s approach to life and ministry.

Now Scazzero has written “The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” In this book, Scazzero shares his experience of understanding and embracing limitations (your shadow), of finding ways to lessen stress and tension, and of moving towards allowing yourself to experience better emotional health. Early on in “The Emotionally Healthy Leader, “ Peter Scazzero writes about a time in his life where he, “always seemed to have too much to do and too little time to do it,” a place that many of us have probably come to in our own lives. Scazzero shares not only out of his successes but, more importantly, out of his failures.

Scazzero shares examples of emotionally healthy and unhealthy leaders both through biblical examples as well as examples that he has encountered along the way. According to Scazzero, unhealthy leaders are those who have low self-awareness, who prioritize ministry over marriage/singleness, who do more activity for God than their relationship with God can sustain, and who lack a work/Sabbath rhythm. These four characteristics frame the rest of the book as Scazzero asks the reader to answer questions about facing their shadow, leading out of their marriage/singleness, slowing down for loving union with God, and practicing Sabbath delight.

It’s important and essential for leaders to practice emotionally healthy leadership by allowing themselves to be transformed in order that they can help in the spiritual transformation of those whom they lead. Scazzero emphasizes the need for analyzing success properly, not embracing a “bigger is better” model but pushing for deeper and more significant success. He writes, “When it comes to the church and numbers, the problem isn’t that we count, it’s that we have so fully embraced the world’s dictum that bigger is better that numbers have become the only thing we count.” Scazzero stresses the importance of who you are rather than what you do and how being with God improves your emotional health more than doing for God does.

A key point that Scazzero highlights is the need to address and face conflict rather than sweeping it under the rug. Too often, leaders (especially spiritual leaders) will adopt a “don’t rock the boat” approach as long as things are moving along. Scazzero points out the need to ask painful and difficult questions for the sake of everyone involved. If the “elephants in the room” are not addressed, the church and its leaders will need to pay a significantly higher price later on.

Scazzero takes the reader through the journey of self-discovery towards emotional health. He discusses the idea of facing your shadow. As Scazzero describes it, the shadow is, “the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors.” Scazzero talks of the shadow side of some of the gifts that we have, things that most of us use to our advantage that can easily be used to the detriment of others if we are unaware of them. Scazzero says that, ““…we have a stewardship responsibility to honestly face our shadow.”

Throughout the book are various exercises designed to help the leaders move through these various areas towards emotional health. He talks about the importance of establishing a rule of life, a means by which one can stay consistent and maintain a healthy balance between life and work. One of those things that he sees as essential is the establishment of a weekly Sabbath to incorporate necessary rest into one’s schedule. The surveys and assessments include questions that can help the reader move towards healthiness in the areas of facing and addressing their shadow, leading out of their singleness/marriage, growing in their oneness with God, and practicing Sabbath rest.

The book is divided into two halves: the inner life and the outer life. After walking through the four essential questions that Scazzero lays out regarding your shadow, your singleness/marriage, your loving union with God, and your Sabbath, Scazzero moves on to how these things play out in ministry. He discusses the importance of planning and decision making, of culture and team building, of power and wise boundaries, and of endings and beginnings.

2/3 of the way through The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Scazzero writes, “We share openly about what God is teaching us – in sermons, staff meetings, private conversations, and with members of our small group.” I would say that may very well be the secret of his success: his humility. Scazzero leads from his strengths but is not afraid to confront, identify, and share his weaknesses and limitations. His humility is evident and he never comes across as a “know-it-all” but rather as one who wants to share his own struggles in order that others can avoid the same ones. He shares from his heart out of a desire to see others avoid some of the same mistakes that he has made in his life.

Since Scazzero has been writing books for the last decade, the honest and reflective insights that he shares have been incredibly helpful to me. Having grown up in the home of a pastor and now being a pastor myself, what Scazzero shares is not something you can get in a basic seminary course, although it should be. Learning and embracing what Scazzero shares is essential and life-giving for those who are willing to take the time.

I think that “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” is not just a good resource, but an essential resource for any pastor or ministry leader who wants to really see the kind of transformative growth to which God calls us in both ourselves and the people we lead. If you are serious about seeking out emotional health and aren’t afraid of embarking on a journey of renewal and restoration, then you need to get a copy of this book.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Net Galley. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Missed Opportunities

I sat in Starbucks, typing away on my computer and waiting for a meeting that would eventually come. While I sat there, I did what I do so often in public places, I watched people. It’s a fascinating endeavor. As I soaked it all in, I suddenly realized that the two baristas were flying solo, they were the only ones there.

I guess it had occurred to me while I was standing in line upon coming through the door, but the point was hammered home to me as I sat at my table and watched the steady stream of customers walk through the door and wait.

The two baristas went about their work, trying their best to move the line along and fill every order that walked in. I didn’t notice any frustration or anger on their faces. I noticed them working diligently to accomplish what needed to be accomplished.

During moments when the line had tapered down, they caught their breath. I heard them talk about how they couldn’t believe what time it was already. They bantered back and forth with a general sense to the outsider that they got along fairly well with each, even enjoyed working together.

My meeting occurred and I even pointed out the somewhat impossible task that these two baristas had inherited through no fault of their own. Not long after, I left, not thinking about it again until this morning.

As my body woke me up way earlier than any human should have to get up, I made my way downstairs to go about my routine, and in the middle of that routine, my mind went to those two baristas and I realized that I had missed an opportunity. I had missed an opportunity to let them know that I had noticed what they did.

Sure, I pointed out their feat to my friend and I applauded them in my mind, but I didn’t acknowledge them to their faces. I didn’t take the time to tell them that I had noticed how they worked together, how they hadn’t complained, how they pushed through a situation that could easily have brought them both down.

I felt like I should have said something to them. I felt like I should have affirmed them to let them know that someone had noticed. I felt like I missed out on this opportunity.

It seems that life could easily be made up of missed opportunities, whether intentional or not. IF we are rushing around, we can easily miss things that are going on right in front of our nose. We may be preoccupied with something in our own life, we may be selfishly focused on whatever it is that we need to get done right at that moment. And in those moments, we might fail to seize an opportunity.

I’m realizing that sometimes, it’s not always preoccupation that takes me away from these opportunities, but it’s a general cowardice and fear. A fear that people will look at me strangely and wonder why I did what I did, why I noticed, why I took the time to notice.

But isn’t that what I would want? Wouldn’t I want them to wonder why I was doing this, why I had noticed what I noticed?

I’m praying for boldness. That was my honest prayer this morning as I thought through what I didn’t take the time to do. While I noticed my own missed opportunity, I gave myself a break and realized that while this may have been a missed opportunity, I have been seizing many other opportunities that I may have once not taken the time to seize. It’s all about the growth and forward motion, right?

The other thing about missed opportunity is that it’s not wasted if I notice and I make a change. Like I said, my observation of what I had missed pushed me towards action. You know, there is a difference between a missed opportunity and a wasted opportunity. Wasted opportunities don’t do any good while the missed opportunities might end up shaking us awake to the point of realization.

I’m praying for boldness and waiting for the next opportunity to come my way. We’ll see what happens when it comes!

Embrace the Journey

I keep realizing just how infrequently things go the way that I would like them to go. It’s been a hard process for me to not only come to that conclusion but to also embrace that as a way of life. Life just has a way of throwing wrenches in our gears and things rarely go according to plans. I know that I’ve quoted a wise friend here before, but it bears repeating to share that her motto was, “Embrace Plan B.”

I like to have a methodology and a process to things. People might not realize that about me when they observe what seems to be a haphazard approach towards things, but it’s the truth. I would like to say that my approach isn’t haphazard so much as it is organic. It’s a process with flexibility that I’ve learned to embrace over time, probably after many iterations of frustration and pain.

How often I’ve started projects that I thought would go a certain way only to find that they’ve taken sharp turns off of the course that I had planned for them. It’s too easy to get frustrated when this happens, at least it is to me. I like what I like and I don’t like to get thrown off course. Who does?

But I’m learning to embrace those times when I am thrown off course. After all, if I believe that God works all things together for good, I’ve got to trust that detours are sometimes the means to an end result that’s better than what I had thought out or planned. Detours might lead away from a potential danger or distraction. Detours might end up at a better destination than I thought, a destination that I might not even have known.

It’s still a process for me, a slow-moving journey towards growth. My anxiety still easily rises when things don’t go the way that I had planned, but I’m still moving, even if it is incrementally.

I feel like I’ve been taken off course over the last few weeks. I’ve been focused on things that are important but not things that I would always choose to be focused on. I find it hardest when it doesn’t seem like there is movement in my life. Those times when it doesn’t seem as if there is movement though, there usually is, but it might not be as fast as I would like it to be, or in the direction that I thought that it would be.

In the end, when I look retrospectively at a particular section of the journey, I usually find that the end result was the same or better than I thought it would be. I usually find that what happened in the midst of the journey might not be what I would have chosen, but it certainly ended up better than I would have thought. It’s those times that I need to hold on to and remember every time that I find myself in that same place again.

I’m still a control freak, no amount of detours seems able to change that, but at least I’m learning to give up control at times, or maybe it’s that I’m realizing that control is simply an illusion, something that I try to convince myself that I have to make myself feel better. If I really think that I’ve got control of a situation, it probably just means that I’m missing something important along the way.

Yes, it’s a journey and I’m taking it day by day. Just like the tides, there are ebbs and flows. Sometimes it feels as if it’s all coming at once and other times, it seems that there’s a peace and calm that allows me to relax and enjoy the moment. I’m doing my best to embrace the journey because in that journey is where I actually find the things that I need the most.