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?

truth matters

road sign for the town of Truth or Consequences, NM
© Alamy-Jonathan Larsen

Henry Cloud, in his book, Integrity, writes that many people lie… actually most of us do, in some form or another.

How about the little “white” lie answer to, “How are you doing?” Do I say “fine” when I’m not really fine? Or if someone asks me, “So… how did I do?”, do I give them honest feedback or do I respond with a generic, “Great”? What about when someone wants me to “fudge” on a recommendation letter, or a stats report, or a financial designation? Do I “help them out, or do I tell the truth?

Cloud states, “People of good character are people who can be trusted to tell the truth.”

  • Truth about myself – I’ve heard many times to consider reality as my friend. It doesn’t help to hide, avoid or deny reality – especially about myself. One powerful element of leadership is self-awareness, understanding my strengths and weaknesses. If I don’t contend with my weak areas, others will. I don’t want to be the fool who’s not really fooling anyone except myself. Although it is not easy for me, I am learning to seek out truth – ask others (husband, co-workers, boss, friends) for an evaluation, request feedback about my leadership, apply what they tell me, and seek help where I am weak.

      Will I pursue the truth?

  • Truth about others – I’ve written before about my desire to please others and be the “nice guy“. It is hard to tell people the truth when it may hurt them, but there is a big difference between a surgeon who causes pain while saving a life and a murderer who causes pain when taking a life. The pain itself is not bad – intent is what matters. I am learning that I sometimes have to tell someone a painful truth in order to help them mature, change, or make a wise decision. If I use tact, care, empathy, and respect when I speak, the truth pill is easier to swallow. The temporary pain is for their good; if I withhold the truth because of my fear of rejection or negative reaction, I have put my comfort ahead of their well-being.

      Do I care enough to tell the truth?

  • Truth about my world – In our ministry, we used to do an honest evaluation of our progress every school quarter. We would look at the stats numbers and consider the brutal-truth information they provided. We would celebrate where we were doing well, and we would prayerfully adjust our plans and activities wherever we were missing the mark. Cloud calls this assimilation and accommodation.

The world is changing at breakneck speed. If I am not willing to let go of the “way we’ve always done it”, or if I mislead investors with a sugar-coated story that conceals the real numbers, or if I intentionally tell my teammates only a partial truth about my actions, I – and the organization – will never be able to grow to meet the demands of our reality. No growth = death.

      Am I willing to respond to the truth?

___________

Do you struggle with telling the truth?

What helps you remember that the truth matters?

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!

are you dangerous?

I first saw this Creed in Judy Douglas’ post: Are You a Dangerous Woman? on her blog:  www.inkindle.wordpress.com              (Thanks, Judy!)

It was written by Lynne Hybels, writer, speaker, and wife of Bill Hybels.  She wrote it as the “Dangerous Women Creed” and it is presented below as it was printed in 2008 Synergy Program.

Although it was written specifically for women, I believe it is powerful for any person!

Dangerous Women Creed:
Dear God, please make us dangerous women.

May we be women who acknowledge our power to change, and grow,

and be radically alive for God.
May we be healers of wounds and righters of wrongs.
May we weep with those who weep and speak for those who cannot

speak for themselves.
May we cherish children, embrace the elderly, and empower the poor.
May we pray deeply and teach wisely.
May we be strong and gentle leaders.
May we sing songs of joy and talk down fear.
May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us,

and righteous anger energize us.
May we strike fear into all that is unjust and evil in the world.
May we dismantle abusive systems and silence lies with truth.
May we shine like stars in a darkened generation.
May we overflow with goodness in the name of God and by the power of Jesus.
And in that name and by that power, may we change the world.
Dear God, please make us dangerous women. Amen.

I want to be dangerous.  How about you?

what can we learn from iMentor Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs had an incredible impact at Apple.  What principles can we learn from him? I stumbled on this challenging presentation at:  http://www.beatthemonster.com/blog.  Some great advice for any leader!

1. Follow your heart – “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

2. Make a dent in the universe – “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me… going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

3. Think different – “Kick start your brain. New ideas come from watching something, talking to people, experimenting, asking questions, and getting out of the office!”

4. Sell dreams, not products – “Your customers dream of a happier and better life. Don’t move products. Enrich lives.”

5. Make products for yourself – “We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.”

6. Say ‘no’ to 1,000 things – “It is only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.

7. Keep it simple – “That has been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end, because once you get there you can move mountains.”

8. Go for excellence – “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

9. Break the rules – “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules… because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

10. You only live once – “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

**One more thing: “Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.  Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”  Steve Jobs

________

What advice would YOU give to a leader?

how to transition well?

Change happens. We (my husband and I) just finalized a National Team transition. It has been a long process, and we have learned a few things along the way…

Plan the transition.  (I realize this isn’t always possible, especially if the transition is due to a crisis, but when you can…) A good transition is well thought through. We prayed and asked others to pray with us. We organized the process with an educated guess as to how long the steps would take, and stuck to the plan. We announced the coming transition with anticipation. We involved others in the process. All of this made it easier for us to move peacefully towards the future; ensured that the new leader entered his position with less stress, and helped to avoid confusion for others during the transition.

Consider the loss.  Every change – even those for the good – creates loss. Transitions shake stability, change relationships, and adjust structures and job descriptions. Others in the organization wonder how the change will affect them – and don’t like the answer. A good leader will validate this reality, take time to grieve their own losses, and coach his/her people through the process. We communicated early and regularly with everyone we thought of who could be affected by the changes. We met with mentors to process our own thoughts and emotions. We had meetings with those who work with us to ask how they were doing with the changes and what were their concerns. This personal side of the transition is often overlooked, but it is a crucial element of a successful transition.

Pass the baton.  It is important to pass information and relationships to the new leader. In the past, we have entered “blind” into new positions – no information, no alliances, and no training. We were left scrambling to understand, to “catch on”, to figure it out ourselves. We wanted something different this time, so we worked hard to be organized and invested time so that we could train well, pass files, answer questions, and connect new relationships. We clearly defined the timeline for change of authority and responsibility. We invited the new leaders to our home to process their personal concerns and questions. At the office, we talked through the general vision, the people, the finances, and the day-to-day details. We presented the new leaders to our partners. Our plan allows us to personally “coach” during the next months, but the new leaders have successfully begun to lead with clarity and confidence.

Let Go! We experienced pressure to stay longer in the position and pressure to extend our transition timeline because others hadn’t prepared well. Sometimes we were the ones “holding on” when we saw things happening that we didn’t like, and we wanted to maintain control and influence. God told me clearly… “Don’t do it!  This is not all about you.” Others will only grow and take leadership if I move out-of-the-way! We just finished our national conference, and for the first time in many years, we had no responsibilities for the event. You know what? It was a great conference! It is humbling to admit that we are not needed, but it is also an exciting indication of a hopeful future.

End well. Make sure the ending is not an escape from unresolved conflict. Say good-bye well. Express appreciation to those who partnered with you. Take time to evaluate. We worked with some wonderful people. We were part of some great accomplishments. We also experienced a lot of painful criticism and conflict, and we had to leave many of our dreams and plans unfinished. It has been good to process though all of this – forgive others and ourselves – and be able to trust God with the future!

I know I have a lot more to learn about transitions. I would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences. What do you think are the elements of a good transition?

a time for every season

photos from morguefile.com

We all go through change. We grow up; we get older. We have babies; our children leave home. We meet new people; we lose loved ones. We upgrade; we scale down.

Some changes are our choice; some changes are forced on us. Some changes are excitedly anticipated; some are greatly feared. Just as the seasons continually change every year, so are “seasonal” changes inevitable in our lives.

With every new season, something ends in order for something new to start. I am going through a change now – a transition in my job. It is actually a planned change, and mostly I am looking forward to it. I started reading Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, in order to prepare for the change, but now I wish I had read it a long time ago.

Henry Cloud writes that necessary endings in our lives are like pruning for plants – a requirement for living and thriving. Pruning can cut away dead wood that is only taking up space, sick or damaged wood that is draining energy from the plant, and even healthy wood that is just too much for the plant to sustain. I know pruning is positive and important for plants… this book is helping me to see that necessary endings hold the same benefit for me.

I am learning that it is “ok” – even good – to help a non-performer “move on” to a different job; it is helpful to re-distribute resources to the vibrant and growing areas of the ministry; it is healthy for me to leave certain responsibilities of my job to others, so that I can focus and flourish in new endeavors.

Necessary Endings has convinced me of the normalcy, the expediency, and the purpose of change.

What about you? How do you feel about change? Do you struggle to make necessary endings in your life?