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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Robbed of Joy?

Ever since I chose my new year's resolution... or more aptly as it feels... it chose me... I have been attuned to the word 'joy'.  When I uttered those words... " my resolution is... I choose joy"... My mind like the tide of water in a creek rounding a boulder has been flowing, swirling, and spinning off tide pools of their own.

What is joy?

How does the pursuit of joy affect other dimensions of a Spirit led life?

There are other questions that indeed deserve a blog of all their own, but lately I have been faced by circumstance after circumstance in the lives of those I love and my own of joy burglaries.  Friends robbed of their joy.  They and myself challenged to pursue joy when it is so easy to feel slighted, targeted, offended, and often times resentful.  We may claim these as fruits of justice.  That what has happened in our lives or someone else's life isn't right.... The sentiment may follow... "We DESERVE... "

Whether in personal life or professional life, I see instances where the joy burglar has left his sneaky fingerprints.  The evidence undoubtedly points to his involvement.  The name of this joy burglar?  He is one of a bandit of many, but I think he may be the ring leader.  His name is Ego.

Let me be the first to raise my hand and admit.... I have been burglarized by the Ego Bandit.  Heck,in the past I've just opened the door and let him right in, if we're being honest.

I catch the thought that opens the door and it could sound anything like this...

... If only they knew such and such, they would act differently

... Why am I always the one....

... I must defend such and such from so and so, because such and such way that I know is best...

In so many ways it can sounds harmless or even like a good plight to fight, but when it comes down to it I really think my ego stands to be the victim, and it causes me to act in ways that land in the category of self preservation.

The die of humility must be cast.  I think its why so many of us find comfort in the old hymn It is Well with my Soul.  When do we come to a point where it's the end of our will?  How do we differentiate contentment and humility from just losing our invested interest and disengaging?  Its a bigger battle... its a harder battle than the one that wages for my Ego.  So often I fall easily into the trap of defending my ego.  Its a spirited fight and something that is just so easy to engage.  Putting one's ego in check, even if "rightfully so" is a much more strategic and challenging war.  Its more than about the battle, its a longer term impact, and thus my use of the word "war".  At the reality of it, I have to ask, do I want to fight in the here and now and, or am I willing to defend my joy from being stolen by strategically checking my spirit, embracing humility, seeking and giving grace.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Resolution | The Journey to Joy

Several months ago my friends and family joined with me and my husband on a fun little endeavor... the naming of our second child.  What began as an open call for suggestions took on a life of its own and played out as a four region bracket that should go down in baby naming madness history.  Campaigning, sleepless nights, and facebook stalking were all discussed side effects from family and friends who really made the whole experience really fun and quite the ... experience.

What it taught me is that life is more fun when people can join in on the journey.

A couple of days ago I caught GMA and one segment discussed top New Year's resolutions and how to keep them.  The best way people could keep them were by making their decisions public.

Badda bing badda boom.... here we are.

The last five years or so I've had the unique experience where a word comes to me.  It's not a word I usually use in my every day vernacular, or even particularly a word that is part of my constitution.  If anything, its just the opposite, and I'm challenged by it.  I can talk more about those experiences at some other time, but all that is to say that in the last month the password is JOY.  After the last few years of words like Abiding or Grace, its like rain on a hot Texas day, but my experiences with even these other words cause me to know joy won't likely come in an outright rainbow.  Its likely going to be something learned through perseverance of some kind.  I like to think I'm finally picking up a little on what God's been laying down after a relationship all these years.

While my resolution comes in the form of a word, I decided I'd phrase it to make it more "resolutiony"... I choose joy.

So here's to the start, here's to the unknown, here's to the year ahead.  Here's to the journey to joy.

Friday, May 29, 2015

My Hobby

Not long ago, I was asked a question about my hobbies.  I went through mentally what were things I had done in the past.  It was a reach into the past before I was able to come up with what seemed an acceptable answer, however I wasn't satisfied.  Was it just that I'm a mom with a young one that I don't invest in hobbies anymore?  Do I waste my time vegging out to the boob tube, rather than investing in something I really like?  Or perhaps its that my interests for hiking and the great outdoors aren't just something readily accessible...  Or MAYBE I'M BORING!  Oh goodness, what if I'm boring?  Maybe I've just given up?

I'm laughing at myself now ...

I am pressing myself and trying to explore new things in Hobbyland.  I recently purchased a pre-owned table and have engaged in the undertaking of refinishing it and recovering all the seats.  I've learned through the process, that I can do it, I'm hoping I can get the job done, but this isn't necessarily my next hobby.

I was reading a little yesterday.  It's a book written by the creator of the Dilbert cartoon.  He talked about how when he was young there were certain activities he would engage in.  One such activity was riding an old motorcycle.  There were many times he ended up laying the bike down, or flying off of it in a field that he came to the conclusion, the risk just wasn't worth it.

Another activity was drawing cartoons.  He'd find himself drawing all the time... in the dirt, in the snow, in class.  He'd oftentimes take great risk in doodles on the teacher or bullies that were bigger than him just to have the chance to draw and make some of his fellow classmates laugh.  That;s when it hit him that there has to be something to what you invest your time and interest into and the associated risk that you are willing to take.

This has helped me frame my hobbies in a whole new light.

I recently watched a clip online featuring my friend, Mike.  There is a full clip of his presentation, but for a taste, here's the 3 minute link.

It was only a matter of time before my mind hit what I like to call "the playground".  Mike talks about uncharted territory. He shares about being solutions focused and the ability to spot patterns.  I love uncharted territory and live to breathe that crisp clean air.  As Mike was able to state it, I saw a lot of similarities in myself, but if anything in collaboration and connectivity for a solution.  There have been times when I saw the benefit for the greater community to launch an endeavor for a solution, and it just comes to me so easy.  And risk?  What risk?  Maybe some of that was undertaken in my younger days and perhaps I was a bit naive to put myself out there like that in public, politically, or never asking what failure could look like.  However, this is simply just a rush.  It's too much fun to be had to think we can invest our time and labor and the result could be... for example- the development of young professionals in feeding a community's leadership pipeline, or perhaps in charting a new territory, collaboratively, to meet the transportation needs of a county in ways that hadn't been tried before.

I will be the first to admit, the things I do or undertake, the full idea is never owned just by me.  That's part of my hobby... I love gathering the players, coming up with something greater than I ever could come up with alone, empowering others to meet their potential while making relentless progress towards whatever problem we are tackling.  But the reality hobby isn't just problem isn't to put my name to some solution... My hobby, as it turns out, is the journey.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 Challenge

This past weekend I had the honor and privilege of hosting seven young ladies in my home for something my church puts on called Disciple Now.  Each of these wonderful 7th graders came with such sweet, different, funny, and great dispositions.  Though out the weekend, I got to follow these young ladies on their own journey, attending with them different services and engaging them in a local service project.  We had times for them to share what's going on in their world and its amazing to me, in what should be such a simple age, how complex life is already for these sweet girls.  Some reported dealing with bullying, others said some of their peers are already engaging in alcohol, some are standing for their faith in situations where they are getting called out, and another sweet girl lost her mom to complications from cancer this last year.

All weekend I looked for opportunities to put an arm around them- to encourage them, and let them know how happy I was to have them for the weekend.  I'm hopeful to continue my relationship with the girls and have the joy of watching them become young ladies, and if possible provide them with encouragement.

The weekend's speaker's name is Austin and he's from the Denton area.  I'm so thrilled I was able to go with the girls twice to hear him speak.  His stories of passionately living up to the call Jesus has for his life was challenging to say the least.  I've really been thinking about the stories he shared about people passionately loving other people and sharing the gospel in parts of the world where they suffer serious consequences for doing so.

I'm so thankful to live in a community that is embracing, but how do I push the envelope?  How do I not get comfortable?

In the last two weeks a man committed suicide in his car by parking on the rail road tracks less than a quarter of a mile from my home and on a near by street a three-year-old boy was killed by his mom's 20 year old boyfriend.

My heart is grieved.

These are my neighbors.

I'm not sure what the future holds, but I have been challenged not just to love my community through involvement in the local chamber or in sitting in positions that allow me to speak into the future of the community.  These hands, these feet are called to love like Christ.  I have to personally love people and at the same time look at the systems of a community that can breathe life into the lives and situations of my neighbors, no matter if they are .5 a mile or 10 miles from me.  I also see the importance of empowering others, whether that be through ASCEND, my engagement at church, or hosting a special dinner in a friend's honor. What if we truly love?  What if we authentically encourage?   Don't we grow into a stronger and more loving community?

That is my hope for 2015.  For my friends, for those I come into contact with in the community, and for these precious 7th grade girls.  I hope that I can love them all well, and that in the end, we will be there for the child who is bullied, the man who has lost his hope, to encourage the 20-year-old with patience and love, and to support those who have lost.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


I have about 15 minutes to get out what's been swirling in my head, so I apologize if this isn't my most thoughtful or well written post.  As a working mom, I find that you have to just seize the moments you've got.

Matt and I got back from Banff a couple weeks ago.  It was an incredible trip I had been wanting to take for years.  We got to see and do so much in the short amount of time that we were there.  What is always apparent to me as we go on these hikes annually is how nature does draw me closer to God.

This trip seemed a bit steeped in worry by a few of the people I was with.  Yet time and time again I saw the soft whispers of God's timing and care for us in the everyday.  It happened enough times to catch my attention and realize there was so much more than coincidence that I began to sink down into this understanding and peace that in a way that many people say que sera sera, I was ready to hand the next stage, the next adventure over to God and see what he was going to do next.

Monday is giving me the opportunity to put this new found freedom into practice in the everyday.  Matt and I several months ago began working with a financial planner, and included the need for life insurance.  As Matt received the standard pee in the cup test, the results came back that he failed.  We were assured this happened on a semi regular basis and were moved to the two day test, which surprised us a bit when Matt failed again.  We again were told this wasn't uncommon and we'd just need to go into a doctor to get a written excuse note for why things seemed a little off.

Course my sweet husband isn't exactly what I'd call procactive, so it wasn't until he had strep throat and began seeing blood in his urine that he scheduled that visit.  At that visit, I armed with the results from his previous tests, the doctors saw him and determined through their own tests that this may be more than a bad sore throat.  Matt was put on antibiotics but given a slew of symptoms to watch for, and if exhibited, would need to go to the ER.

We scheduled a visit with a kidney specialist.  After their first visit, she put Matt through a series of blood work and imaging of his kidneys, and a follow up visit was scheduled.

Monday we had that follow up visit and Matt was casually given the diagnosis of IGA Nephropathy.  A common, unfortunately uncurable, kidney disease.  She tried making us feel better that most people are able to live decent lives and only a few people go on to a more serious stage.  Later in her conversation she clarified that only a few was actually one-third.  (A few more than a few in my books).  Dr. Google went on to confirm that about 1 in 4 within 20-25 years need a kidney transplant, which led to my innappropriate joking that Matt and I better get started on having more kids so we'd have some viable options for a donor.

So here we are... Thursday, and I'm being given time and time again to recognize the moments in life where God whispers.  And the funny thing is, once I'm listening for the whispers, His presence is made known in such clarity.  Time and again, things that only God and I share come through in a word someone says, some encouragement given, many times unrelated to one another or from others who don't know our full story yet.

Well, I've got two minutes in my 15 to crank this out, so I'll leave with this.  I'm challenged today to pause.  I pray.  I recite the Lord's prayer in song form that we've done at church and am challenged so much by the words - Your kingdom, come quickly.  Your will be done the same, on earth as it is in heaven.  Let Heaven come to earth.  To fully relinquish my will, my worry, and rest in the arms of God.  To pray that as in Heaven, His will be done here, for my family, for those I love.  May it be.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the Making

Today I had a meeting 4 or more years in the making.  And I note how if had I sought out to create this meeting four years ago, it would not have been what it was specifically today.

In my own past, I've walked down the path of doctors and illness with family members.  When your loved one's life and quality of life swing in the balance, there seems to be a black hole that can suck all your attention, energy, and stamina into it's focus.  It takes so much of our own focus, prayer and a sense of community to help keep us from traveling to conclusions about the future.

Today, conversation flowed over coffee, as I reached out to three of my friends.  I met each of them in a special way over the last four years, and God has allowed our paths to cross, I feel, very purposefully.  Through each of their own journeys, I am seeing a common strand- strong women who are given a challenge.  Rather that wallow in self-pity over very serious and some life-threatening diagnoses, they are rising to the top of their game.  Not only are they engaging in their respective areas of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or Friedrich's Ataxia, but they are reaching out through advocacy to empower the greater community with knowledge and support.

Four years ago, the stories of the three women I brought together today did not carry, for lack of a better term, the richness that they did this morning.  In the last 4 years, we all have had our own mountains and valleys to climb, and although the experiences were shared in an hour and a half's conversation, one could not synthetically create the passion or connection these women share.

Its a constant reminder that the richest experiences in my life, are not the ones I could foresee.  They are not the ones I could plan out.  Even given the partial picture I can see of what was accomplished this morning, I could not have orchestrated myself, my own experiences or perspective nor those brought to the table by my counterparts.

This morning's conversation reminded me also what it means to truly be.  To quit talking through the politics or hypotheticals of community building.  I want to partake in this morning's kinds of earth moving dialogues.  To bring people together who will be better for having known one another.  To build stronger and faster from eachother's stories to help more people.  To participate in this kind of "community building" I feel something substantial has been set in motion.  I hope to live each day like this- feeling that I am truly completing the work the Lord has laid out for me.  I am reminded that my future is in the making, entrusted to God for the valleys and mountains I must go through to have the most fully lived experience.  By investing fully in this granted moment, I live a fulfilled life.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April showers, brings what for May?

April has been a little of an anomaly and really great at providing opportunities and challenges.  I was the guest speaker to a great group of students in Texas Lutheran University's Intro. to Social Entrepreneurship.  This was a great challenge and  reminded me of when Rebecca Powers came and spoke to my own leadership class not too many years ago.  I remembered how her personal testimony became so powerful to our class, so I led off with my own story and then shared about Children At Heart.  The students asked engaging questions for most of the hour and 45 minutes that we had together, and I appreciate the graciousness of the professor who I think is pretty cool- she has a law practice focused on nonprofits- cool right?

I also had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for the Professional Women of Williamson County's luncheon.  It was their year-ending culmination luncheon in which this year they presented over $10,000 in scholarships.  It might have been the shortest keynote ever given- I was scheduled only 10 minutes to speak, as they wanted to highlight each of the young women also receiving scholarships.  I focused my time on talking about how we each in every word and deed are writing our own stories.  These stories will serve as reference points for some, and for Wesley, and maybe others, the story serves as his identity and heritage.  I encouraged each person in the room to live their own best story.  After hearing a little of each of the young women's bios I was so impressed and thrilled to have shared a common thread with them, as a former recipient.  If this is what home grown in our community means, then I know we are doing something right.

I also may have been pursued for a leadership position for another nonprofit in our community, and the prospect was really an educating experience.  I was able to ask myself questions I haven't asked in a while.  Questions that also push norms of what can it mean to be an engaged mom and invested in your career...

Whats funny is when you consider career advancement as a newish mom is something I didn't really expect.  What I mean is the liberty in which acquaintances feel the freedom to remind you that motherhood should come first, or even some who would suggest now as an ok time to "slack", because you'll not get this time back and no one would notice (I WOULD).  I won't argue with that.  I make a very concerted effort that between the time I have from getting home until my son goes to sleep- he has 100% of my attention.  I just think what is weird is that people feel pretty free to tell me this stuff, but I'm pretty sure no one has ever approached my husband to remind him how fleeting childhood is.  It's not a real complaint... just weird stuff people do.

And that's April... looking forward to seeing what May brings!