maturitas cafe – best of 2012

I would love to enjoy a steaming cup of black coffee with you at a comfy, warm cafe. We could talk about so many things – work, family, teams, marriage, life! We might laugh or cry or philosophize, and share advice or struggles or funny stories. We might disagree about a topic or empathize completely. No matter what, I know we would end our visit grateful for the time together.

Until we have that opportunity, I am grateful for the chance to connect this way. THANK YOU for reading and leaving your “likes” and your comments. You have challenged me and encouraged me this year. You have led me to new blogs, new ideas, new friends. I appreciate you very much and look forward to learning more together in 2013!

In case you are new to this blog or might have missed a post, here are some of the top (most read) posts of 2012. Feel free to look around at the archives too. Remember every post is available in English and Spanish…

eng top 5top five English posts:

today’s modern woman – pick any two

cleaning house, cooking meals and a greater cause

are you dangerous?

communication styles

tips for long lasting friendship and marriage

sp top 5top five Spanish posts:

la motivación y el ánimo

lo que aprendo de una venta de garage 

¿hay mágia en los equipos?

¿tienes la actitud de gratitud?

limpiar la casa, cocinar y una gran causa

You might also enjoy reading a little about me and why I started this blog:

coffee as a way of life      why a blog?

 Thanks for joining this journey! 

Please let me know… what was your favorite post this past year?

leadership is hard

hard leadershipI been discouraged about leadership lately. Every time I think about it; I think of the word – hard. Leadership for me has been hard: hard work, hard on my health and relationships, hard on my emotions.

Leadership is hard when I start…

The inevitable learning curve – so many unknowns, so much new: people, partner inter-relationships, systems, policies, standards, expectations, schedules. Insecurity. Comparison. Uncertainty. So many questions: Can I do this? Will others respect me? Can we accomplish the mission? Where to start? What are the first steps? Where can we find some quick wins?

Leadership is hard in the process…

Constant crisis. Problems. Challenges. Never enough leaders, resources, or funding. Bad attitudes, resistance to change, gossip and back-biting, team conflict, long hours, extra meetings. I struggle with setting boundaries, discerning my – and others’ – responsibility, balancing my heart and my head in decisions.

Leadership is hard when it’s over…

It is hard to watch others take over – with new ideas, other ways of doing things, different values. It is hard to watch prior co-workers struggle with the change, feel less valued in the new systems, lose their positions and their jobs. I have no authority or influence, but I still have concern and care. I observe from a distance – powerless, frustrated, trying to trust and believe the best, knowing I need to move on.

Days like today, I don’t want anything to do with leadership.

… and then I remember… leadership was also hard for the Greatest Leader of all time.

He had difficult, humble beginnings. He didn’t have my confidence issues, but He did have to prioritize His work. He experienced all kinds of conflict in the culture, society, and with His co-laborers. He dealt with others’ immaturity, character issues, and lack of integrity. He got tired; His leadership finally got Him killed. And then He had to leave the job to others who didn’t appear ready. They didn’t continue to do things like He did.

… but that was all part of the plan.

Yes, leadership is hard. The trick is to expect the hard parts, rather than trying to escape what is difficult. The key is to face into the challenges and grow up to handle them. Hard isn’t necessarily bad.

And remember, when we lead, we are in good company.

What do you do when leadership is hard?

loving (this) Christmas

I have always loved Christmas.

Christmas
My parents created Christmas traditions full of wonder and surprise. Christmas didn’t arrive at our home until Christmas Day… because Santa brought everything! After the little ones set out Santa’s cookies and milk and went off to bed, Mom and Dad began the gargantuan, all-night task of filling the stockings, setting up and decorating the tree, assembling the toys, and placing the mountains of gifts in individual piles. I don’t know how my parents ever functioned the next morning, but I know steaming cups of coffee were essential as the children tore into the over-stuffed stockings on Mom and Dad’s bed. When we finished opening our stockings, and Mom and Dad were semi-awake, we anxiously crept down the hall to wait expectantly at the closed living room door. After an eternity passed, Dad slowly opened the door to the magical world of Christmas! I can still feel the awe of that first glimpse of the huge, glittering tree and the enormous collection of bright, shiny gifts that waited for us.

With my own family, Christmas came with greenery and berries wrapping staircases and pillars, outdoor lights on the awnings and windows, and decorations in every corner of the house… entertaining, rice bags to keep out the cold, cut-out sugar cookies decorated in varying styles of creativity as young children grew to teenagers, and traditional cinnamon rolls eaten leisurely on Christmas morning while we opened stockings and gifts one-by-one. We also had a big tree – but we sanely began a new routine of setting it up with everyone’s help weeks ahead of time. Since we lived in Mexico, we sometimes added Christmas Eve dinner, hot chocolate, and late-night piñatas. Christmas Eve candlelight service and a collection of nativity scenes helped remind us of Jesus in the midst of the craziness.

This year, we live in Orlando, Florida in a small apartment. Most of my decorations were given away in the move; the days-long decorating tradition lasted only a few hours. It is warm and sunny outside; snowmen and frosted trees seem strangely out-of-place. There are no children at home, no stockings to fill, no piles of gifts under the tree, little motivation to bake sugar cookies that we shouldn’t eat.

So I wonder… what is Christmas really? Is it children’s delighted wonder at glitter and toys? Is it pretty decorations, gift shopping, and favorite foods? Is it special family time, traditions, or church services? All are good, and through the years I have enjoyed it all… but none are the true essence of CHRISTmas. This year as so much of Christmas normal has been stripped away, I realize that I have actually received a wonderful gift — the opportunity to focus intentionally on Christ: His story, His life, His example. There are so few distractions, so there is more peace and more time to learn from Him. I know we will attend parties and events, shop some, and bake (to give away :)), but I am especially excited to spend quiet, not rushed, special times with Jesus this year. I think this may become the kind of Christmas that I love most.

What do you love about Christmas? 

looking in the wrong place

I want to do something worthwhile, valuable, important. I want to leave a legacy. In an earlier post, I wrote about my discouragement and concern that I hadn’t left the culture change legacy that I wanted in the organization. Over time, the organization took on a different look, a different personality, and I felt like a failure…
Where was the legacy?

The other day, I was processing this struggle with my husband. The more we talked, the more I came to realize that I was looking for the legacy in the wrong place. I wanted an environment, procedures, and structures to display our influence after we were gone.

I think now that the organization simply provided the “front” for the work we wanted to do; it would not be my source of legacy. I believe I find my legacy in the people I worked for and worked with, in the changed lives – nurtured, grown, changed, empowered, hope-filled… in the environment we built to work from.

Perhaps the “temporary” place we created was never intended to last forever – maybe we built it as much for us as for others. It served an important purpose for a time. It provided a context for us to work out our calling… while we were there.

I am not really very concerned about turning organizations around. I do want to bring a positive influence, and I do hope to lay a path that makes it easier for others to follow. I think that I am more passionate about turning lives around. And that, thankfully, I did get to do from my leadership position.

Some of those changed lives will lead to generations of change. Many will use their influence to create and multiply environments where others can grow. Their changed lives mean changed families and changed businesses, and contribute to changed cities… and eventually a changed world! I feel more encouraged with my search… maybe my legacy is not so quickly and easily visible, but it is definitely a legacy that was worth the effort.

Where do you want to leave a legacy? Are you looking in the right place?

working against the tide

Do you ever feel like you are “swimming up-stream”? Have you sensed that the door you hold open has a strong tension-spring that will slam it shut as soon as you let go? Have you ever felt like your hard work and passions are like a sand castle that is completely washed away when the tide comes in?

I have been struggling a lot with those kind of feelings the last few weeks. In a past leadership position, I gave my best effort to bring about a culture change that I believed in strongly. Some of what we encouraged was team leadership, women valued and developed equally with the men, integrity in character and finances, and a willingness to honestly evaluate results.

Together with my husband, I tried to lead by example; brought in resources and training; honored those co-workers who demonstrated the values we cherished, and celebrated the environment and growth that resulted from our efforts. It was hard work, there was resistance and personal attack, and we paid a price physically, emotionally, and relationally.

We were also incredibly blessed with encouragement and support from partners, mentors, and the thrill of changed lives. At the time, I thought the dream of healthy relationships and a healthy organization was worth the pain.

Sadly, today looking back on that time, I question more… so much of what we “built” is gone. Many things are different; environment, people, results… I wonder, did my hard work really accomplish anything? Was the up-hill climb good for only short-term, superficial change?

I have learned a lot about working as a leader. Now I need to learn about letting go. I need to live with the tension between desire for a legacy… and contentment with having given my best when it was my turn.

Do you have any tips for me? What do you do when your hard work is washed away?

feeling lost

I got lost three times on the way home from the airport. On the way there for the first time, I wrote down the three highway #’s and took duplicate toll money from my wallet, so that I would be ready for the trip home. The difference was that on the way there, next to each highway # sign, there were others that directed me: » » » AIRPORT. In contrast, on the way home there were no signs that said: » » » Terry’s Apartment. They only mentioned exit East/West or North/South… and although I had the highway #’s, I had no idea which direction would take me home.

Have you ever felt lost? A new city? New job? New life-stage?

Getting lost is just part of being only two days in a new city. The newness of a move also includes no food in the fridge, chaos of boxes everywhere, meeting new people and finding new places, exhaustion and uncertainties. I am really grateful for the few special, sentimental items we brought with us – pictures, blankets, pottery – that make this new apartment feel like “home”. They help bridge my old life to my new life; they add security and continuity to my transition.

What helps you handle change? Do you continue traditions, pack special mementos, visit familiar restaurants? 

I know intellectually that it can take a year to feel at “home” in a new place. Emotionally I want it to feel like home now! I am trying to implement a few healthy practices to help with the change…

Laugh: I’m learning to laugh at myself, at the new adventures gone wrong, at all I don’t know… and laugh with others, making new friends and good memories. Some tears are inevitable, but I can find reasons to laugh too.

Let Go: I’m trying not to compare the old with the new. I figure it’s OK for me to miss special people and places, but I need to give this new place a chance. It will feel different for me – not as good in some ways, but maybe better in others. I want to keep my eyes – and my heart – open for the “new and improved”. 🙂

Learn: I have so much to discover – new best practices, “insider” tips, local haunts… If I take the initiative, observe, and ask a lot of questions, I bet I’ll find a lot of great treats and treasures in this new life.

How do you look forward to the “new” in your life?

how much is enough?

I’ve been back in the US for about a week now. At times I have felt at home; other times I can’t help noticing the differences and feeling like an alien in a strange land. So many things here are bigger, cleaner, more organized and more modern. Streets are smooth, aisles are wide, packing spaces are huge.

On the other hand, people seem busier. They “eat and run”. They are constantly connected to their technology – even in the middle of our conversation. I have to remind myself that is normal behavior here and not get offended. People have SO MUCH STUFF, but they talk about always wanting more. My mind wanders to the memories of children without shoes, one room homes without indoor plumbing, adults who don’t know how to read…

A few times I have been literally overwhelmed by the number of options available. Shopping at Walmart with my sister caused me a few “I’m freaking out!” moments. Rows and rows of cereal, cheese, coffee and bread varieties. I stood completely jaw-dropped in front of the ice cream doors… how do you ever decide? How many kinds of ice cream can there be?

My next shock came as we filled our cups at a new touch screen self-serve soft drink machine. There were about 16 first options on the screen: Coke, Pepsi, Danzini water, Powerade, Rootbear, Sprite, Lemonade, etc. … but each of those choices led to a second screen with five to eight additional options: cherry, orange, vanilla, raspberry, lime, cherry vanilla, caffeine free and more!! … and of course, you could mix drinks if you wanted… a practically infinite number of combinations! How many different drinks could people want?

Anther day we visited a craft store. Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations are already available… next to the red, white and blue for the 4th of July. Innumerable candles, baskets, ribbons, silk flowers filled my vision. The scrap-booking aisles took my breath away… so many stickers, papers, buttons, and miniature decorations!! How many paper options can a person need?

It seems I keep asking myself, how much is enough? Ask my husband, I tend to really like options. I don’t believe nice, decorative things are bad… even God created many beautiful parts of creation that don’t have a defined useful value… they are just pretty and display His glory. I don’t believe it is somehow more inspirational to live poor. I think many of these options I am experiencing demonstrate incredible creativity, ingenuity and a desire to make things better and meet people’s needs. But, sometimes there are obvious gluttony, selfishness, and entitlement attitudes present…. I don’t have an answer, but I am asking the question.

What do you think? How do you know… How much is enough?

changes, changes everywhere…

We are only four weeks away from our big move. There are boxes everywhere and less furniture in every room. We have resorted to taking digital pictures of most memorabilia; old toys are going to new homes, and the mountains of paper that stuffed file drawers are shredded and out in green bags for recycling. There is only a bare minimum of dishes in the kitchen and only a few options of clothing in the closet.

It is surprisingly refreshing to simplify and limit choices. I guess that is a good thing because although the choices are few, the changes are many…

geography change

We are still considered by some as strangers in a foreign land, but Mexico has been our home for almost 20 years. We have never fully adjusted to the driving antics, and we have developed no affection for the speed bumps on every block. We struggle with upper class entitlement mentality and heart-wrenching lower class poverty. We will never accept the corruption, or the drug wars, or the human trafficking. BUT… we love Mexico, and we will miss so much of life here. We will miss the vibrant colors, the incredible tacos “al pastor”, and the piñatas for every party. We will miss the dogs on the roofs, the smoking volcano, the boys who wash our windows while we wait for the light, and fresh mangos.

job change

This is actually a change that has me a bit nervous. We (my husband and I) have been “in charge” for a while now – team leaders, directors, boss. We basically determine our schedule, our priorities, and where we will work. I like that. In our next job, we will work for someone else, there will be office-presence and dress-code expectations, and  I believe that will be a good test of character for me – maybe that’s why I am nervous! I hope that I can live out security in who God has made me… and not covet a job title.

life-stage change

We have spent most of our married years preparing for this day – releasing our wonderful children to the world – and we are very excited to work and travel freely together… but it will be different. I “think” we will like it, but just like geography, each life stage has its pro’s and con’s. We have lived with chaos and action and people around our huge house ’til all hours. What will we do with the quiet?

relationships change

We . will . miss . special . people .  We have made friends here who are like family. Those folks have stayed in our home, owned keys to our house, and proudly taken advantage of “refrigerator privileges”. They have danced on the back patio, helped us celebrate holidays, corrected our Spanish, and loved us through hard times. They have shared a part of their heart with us, and we have given them a piece of ours in return. They know us well, but some we will never see again…

It has been good for me to realize that every life phase, location and style has its blessings and its challenges. Each new place can become “home”. Each new stage can become the norm… and friendships can last across time and miles, even as we make new ones. Change is part of life – not always easy – but better to embrace it than to fight it.

What changes are you facing?  What do you do to embrace change?

a place to belong, a place to become

We are finishing 17+ years of ministry in Mexico; we are sorting through our stuff, passing the baton… and my husband has been putting up (very) old pictures on Facebook. Some of those years of ministry were amazing – incredible growth, excitement, impact. As I reflected on that time, I realized we were living out our values. Those values are still relevant today as we move forward…

Faith: We all trusted God for big things and took steps of faith. We moved our family – with four young children – to a different country and started something new where there was nothing. We led an international team; many of them had also left their comfort zone and moved from their homes. Students took steps of faith to begin a relationship with God even when they faced family and friends’ rejection. Staff and students shared their faith boldly with others, took on new responsibilities, asked God to take charge of their future.

Where is God asking me to take a step of faith?

Development – Growth:  We committed to growing in community and building others to be all they could be. We prayed for our teammates and disciples, and created and followed through with semester plans for basic teaching, experiences, retreats, summer projects, etc. to provide an environment for growth. We worked in teams and shared leadership often. We moved out of the way and let others lead. We invited in teams from other places. We learned from them; they learned from us.

What am I doing to develop personally and those around me?

Effectiveness – Fruitfulness: We cared about results. Effectiveness meant fruit of changed lives – for eternity. We evaluated our goals and progress regularly – individually and organizationally. We asked for feedback from others and willingly changed the format of the meetings, tried crazy ideas, invented new materials. Sometimes we did something different to compensate for a weakness, sometimes to adjust for incredible growth. We did not settle for status quo.

Have I done an honest evaluation lately? Do I need to make some changes for greater effectiveness?

Unity: Our work on campus had incredible unity in purpose and personal relationships. Different cultures, backgrounds, fields of study, ages came to learn and grow together. Our early theme was ” a place to belong, a place to become“. Our teams of staff and students worked hard, side by side to create amazing skits, parties, outreaches, and conferences for a vision and passion bigger than themselves. Students sacrificed their time and money for each other. New people were welcome and deep, authentic, caring, long-lasting friendships came from studying the Word, praying, …and eating and playing together!  

What am I doing to build unity with my team or my organization?  

Integrity: Along with all the fun, there were also tough times. We confronted lying, bribery, immorality, interpersonal conflicts, suicide attempts – temptations and spiritual battles of all kinds. We did not ignore, hide, or excuse any behavior that might be a seed of division between people and God. We taught that God cares about every part of us; we cannot have sin in one area without it affecting the rest of us. We tried to live that example also.

Is there an area of my life that lacks integrity?

How would you respond to those questions? How do you make where you work or minister a place to belong and a place to become?

(**If you were involved in the ministry, please share with us what you remember!)

what I am learning from a yard sale

We are moving after almost 20 years in the same place.  My home has been a haven for four children and countless visitors and long-term guests. For many years, it was also an office for the national campus ministry and a home-schooling headquarters. The back patio was “party-central” for hundreds of fiestas and cook-outs.  We served to up to 50 people for Thanksgiving dinners, and snacks, meals and desserts to 1000’s more.

We have been so blessed in this home.  We have laughed and cried and fought and forgiven. We have studied, played, worked, and prayed. We have grown in understanding God’s grace and truth… there are so many memories!

… And we have accumulated A LOT of stuff!

Our yard sale is a big one… almost everything will go. All the children are growing up and moving on with their lives.  We no longer hold an important position in the ministry here, and it is time for a change… well, lots of changes.

I am learning in the process.

First, stuff is just that – stuff. I can really let go of almost anything.  Some things “sting” a little to let go; with others it is so fun to watch them bring joy and provision to someone else.  We will keep a few special things for each child and some personal items… but most everything else will go. We don’t need nearly so much stuff, especially in this new stage of life.  A good friend reminded me again that God has provided so perfectly through the years – that will not change – He will provide in our new place as well.

Second, change is good.  It is refreshing to go through a “cleansing” like this and be reminded of what is most important. I don’t ever want to get too comfortable where I am; I want always to take challenging faith steps that cause me to depend on God. I want to continually learn and grow. I don’t ever want to depend on things, or a certain lifestyle, or even people; letting them go, trusting only in God for my needs, is good for me. I don’t want others to depend on me either; I want them to depend on God. Change is good for them too.

Third, it is OK to grieve what is past and what is lost. Investing and building into people for eternity is why we were here. Looking back at the transformed lives is satisfying and encouraging, but those special people are also what is hardest to leave. I will greatly miss dear friends – some I will probably never see again. That is painful, and there will be many tearful goodbyes. I have finished the “full-house” stage of life – it was a blast while it lasted, and I will miss it, but it is time for others to fulfill that role. I get to take the pictures with me… and the memories have engraved themselves on my heart forever.

The future is full of hope! The future is unknown and uncertain; it will certainly differ from the past.  But I can face the future with peace because I know that God’s loving-kindness is new every morning (Lam 3:22-23), and He has good plans for me. (Jer. 29:11). When I look back on all that God has done before – His provision, His care, His direction – I have no doubt that He will be intimately involved in my future. So… take it all away! I am ready for something new!

How about you? Do you have too much stuff? Does it hold you back? 

How do you handle change? I’d love to hear from you!