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!)

be part of a movement!

My organization believes strongly in movements, but I rarely meet anyone who has ever actually seen one or been a part of one. I have had the privilege of being a part of two – one as a key player, in the other more of a mentor/coach. Those experiences were exciting, invigorating, fun, messy, fulfilling and a lot of hard work! They were dreams come true… and I’d love to help with many more. As I was doing reading for my MA, I read a chapter on movements in The Courage to Teach, by Parker J. Palmer.  It outlined four stages of movements that I recognized right away. I think understanding them might help us see many more movements in the years ahead.

Stage 1 – No more divided life

Movements start when someone decides, “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live a life externally that is so different from my heart convictions.” In ministry that means I will follow God’s heart and do whatever,  go wherever, it takes to win ______ (fill in the blank: women, students, professionals, students, athletes…) to Christ… because that is what He has called me to do. However that might look in my circumstance and with my gifting, I won’t let discouragement, fear, busyness, small children, organizational disinterest or criticism by others get in my way. I will not blame anyone else nor the organization for my lack – I will be true to myself! We will never see God build more spiritual movements, if we don’t individually get to this place in our heart.

Stage 2 – Support in community

The next step is to take our mustard seed of faith and conviction and share it with someone else; admit to another that I want to be and do something new. It is too easy for our enthusiasm to die away without encouragement from others. Community could be our family, our team, a few friends – any other like-minded cohorts. Our community gives us mutual reassurance (“No, you’re not crazy.”), a common vocabulary for our vision, and often skills and training necessary to make the dream a reality. Working together in a healthy, dynamic team is one of the most synergistic parts of a movement.

Stage 3 – Go public

A true movement doesn’t hide behind closed doors and manipulate its people in secret. A true movement shares its vision and resources with others, seeking feedback for improvement and partnership for impact. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to stay small and private, but then we would miss the opportunity to challenge and influence others, and we would miss the blessing of working with and learning from others. Receiving  feedback from others helps us to avoid self-righteousness, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency… and helps us become more Kingdom focused.

Stage 4 – There is nothing better

Once we actually begin to experience the fruit of spiritual movement, there is nothing more inspiring! The out-of-control multiplication, the true life transformation in our disciples, the character growth in ourselves – all bring a sense of satisfaction that says, “It is so worth it! There is no price I paid that was too great, no prize you can offer that would be worth more.”  I don’t want to invest in anything less.

Have you been a part of a movement? Please tell me about it! I’d love to learn from you…

running for my life

runner free digital photo Sura Nualpradid
My birthday caused me to consider how to best invest the next years of my life. Often good physical health contributes to reaching other dreams, so I got motivated to lose some weight and increase my running routine.

In the process, I learned about reaching other life goals!

  • Getting better takes time – I am not a patient person; I prefer instant results. However, I am learning to persevere and trust the process. There were weeks when I wouldn’t lose one pound, and I wanted to give up, but if I kept doing the right things, I would finally see the weight drop. I often want to quit in other areas of life also – habits I can’t break, changes I can’t make, or relationships that aren’t working like I want. If I stop trying, I guarantee not getting better… but if I give it time, doing the right things, I just might get results!
  • Getting better takes hard work – I have never really liked to run. For me it is just plain discipline. Some days I feel pretty good; some days my feet feel like lead. Often, if I push through the first discomforts, I start to feel better and go farther than I initially thought I could. No great athlete achieves success without consistent practice, lots of sweat, and often pain. Neither will I get better – personally or professionally – without intentional effort. I have found that an honest evaluation (like a 360) and a personal development plan, accompanied by a coach or mentor, can help me grow and improve. 
  • Plan for hard days and easy days – A training plan allows for “pushing for distance” days and rest days. Going all-out every day will inevitably lead to injury and burnout. Life is similar. There are days when I have to give more than I have to handle a conflict, help someone, or get something done on time, and there are days when I need to rest. Without the rest, I don’t have the energy needed for the tough times, and I am resentful and tired. When I am regularly refreshed and rejuvenated, I have the stamina and strength to give the extra effort – even when it’s hard.
  • I am unique –  My husband can eat a lot more calories than I can and still lose weight. But, I am not my husband, and my weight-loss plan is not the same as his. Nor is my exercise plan the same as his… nor is my life plan the same as his! I need to stop comparing – and complaining(!) – and figure out what will work for me. Often I want to “cut and paste” someone else’s gifts or abilities or experience into my life, but God has a singular, individual plan for me. 
  • Getting better gets harder – Many people can run one mile or lose a few pounds. On the other hand, keeping weight off or running a marathon is much more challenging. As much I as would like to have earned an easy road due to past accomplishments, that is not how real life works. Instead, the older I am, the more responsibility I get, the more leadership I take on… the harder it is to get better! There is no “downhill” slide. It will always be “uphill”, and I don’t want that truth to surprise or discourage me.
What are principles that help you reach your goals?

how is my “wake”?

I have been reading Henry Cloud’s book, Integrity, and evaluating the integrity of my leadership.  Here is a quick preview of the first two chapters of the book…

Cloud starts off summarizing some important requisites for success in this world:

  1. Have a set of Competencies – I need to be good at something…or various somethings… I will need to learn and have abilities to offer to my family, my job, my world.
  2. Be an Alliance Builder – Leaders who are successful understand the importance of creating and building relationships and partnerships…making a bigger impact through mutually beneficial alliances.

As important as these two points are, Cloud writes that the most important element to successful leadership is Integrity – which he defines as the ability to meet the demands of reality.

He also defines integrity as “having the character to not screw up” – saying:

who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.

… so integrity is more than just not lying or not stealing…

Henry Cloud challenged me to evaluate my integrity by looking at the “wake” I leave behind me (like a boat leaves a wake behind as it moves through the water).

The wake has two parts: task and relationship, basically what do I accomplish and how do I deal with people in the process?

These are some of the questions he suggested that I am using for evaluating how I am doing in my integrity:

  • TASK: Are goals being reached?  Is there growth/progress in the organization or in my home? Is our mission being accomplished?  Are tasks getting completed? Are new ways of doing things being introduced and perfected?  Is there a stronger reputation for the work and the ministry? Do we have better systems and processes? Cleaner operations? Are profits being made, finances being raised? Is my house in order, my kids learning new things?

…Or does my task wake look like: un-reached goals, disorganization, chaos, inactivity, loss of focus, resources and money loss?

Performance and results tell us a lot about a person.  Results matter!

  • PEOPLE: Are people more trusting after working with me?  Are they more fulfilled as people? Have they grown as a result of associating with me?  Do they feel that I encouraged them?  Did they learn from me?  Are they inspired to be more and do more?
…Or does my wake leave people: wounded, hurting, manipulated, angry, feeling put down, devalued, unappreciated and inferior?  
And the key question:  Would they do it again?
Being in transition right now is a great time for me to look back at my wake and see how I’ve done… I have to admit, it is a bit scary to honestly consider where my lack of character or integrity may have negatively affected my results and/or my relationships… at work and at home…
On the other hand, it is worth doing since, as Henry Cloud says:
“All of us can always change and be better.”  
I am asking God help me grow in my integrity.  How about you?  

coffee as a way of life


As I started research for this blog, I learned a bit about coffee… and I’ve decided that I want my life to resemble a strong, rich cup of coffee…

Getting the beans to the cup is a process. The coffee berries must ripen on the bush, just as I must “ripen” – mature (hence the name for the blog!). Since the coffee plant and berries are often attacked by numerous pests (over 900 beetles, mites, snails, etc), care is essential – special treatments, environment management and pruning. I, too, often experience attacks during my maturing process and need to protect, change, and “cut” in order to grow. It is an investment in the final product.

Workers harvest the seeds (picked – traditionally by hand, fermented to remove the flesh, and dried), and then roast them. This reminds me of God choosing me and taking me through my life’s trials and “fires”. Roasting is done using different methods at varying degrees depending on the desired flavor… Isn’t it interesting how God has individually designed each of our lives, since we are each a unique creation.

The berries are next ground (a burr mill uses revolving elements to shear the bean; an electric grinder smashes the beans with blunt blades moving at high-speed; and a mortar and pestle crushes the beans… sometimes I feel like I am in a burr mill or mortar!), and finally brewed. Don’t you find that the most authentic and attractive people have been “broken” and “washed” through the experiences of their lives?

Finally the coffee is prepared and enjoyed in a variety of ways – often together with others…bringing energy and pleasure to many. I, personally, like mine black and bold.

How do you like your coffee?

What is it that you want to represent your life?