Day 358: Melting the plastic

Today, my daughter-in-love and I went to a conference at my sister’s church. It was a long day, and despite my long to-do list, I’m so glad I went. Lots of times when you go to church events, people only show their perfect sides.

  • “How are you?”
  • “I’m great! How are you doing?”
  • “Things couldn’t be better!”

There was none of that today. It was real. People, who had been in the church a long time, some of them grew up in church, shared their stories of struggles and imperfections, and yet told of finding God’s love despite the choices they’d made. It was so refreshing to be amidst people who didn’t have it all together. People who admitted their pain. Who weren’t afraid to break down in front of us all. And then to love them as they were was just an added blessing. No judgment. No casting stone-y stares.

There’s something about that kind of genuineness that is contagious. It takes out defenses and knocks down walls that we’ve built up in case we have to show our plastic sides. And that allowed God’s spirit to blow over the group in a fresh way.

I met a kindred today. She was one of the speakers and at a break time, I spoke with her for a few minutes. I asked her if she would be one of my first guests on my podcast that I’m going to start working on as soon as I hit my 1-year blog goal. She said that she had been talking to God about doing a show like that, but didn’t know how it would all come together. It was a God-thing. Who knows where it will lead, but it was stepping out on a tug at the heart, and God showing us both that we could do more together than if we were isolated.

I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

DAY 358 HOMEWORK: Is God telling you to do something? Step out on faith and watch what happens. We don’t have to know the big picture yet. Just take it a step at a time and that’s enough.

 

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Day 357: A promise kept

A few weeks ago, I met a lady at my International Association of Business Communicators’ meeting. She is also an IABC member, but she lives in Dallas and was just visiting Nashville for a conference. Her name was one I’d never heard before, but I thought it pretty: Elke. Maybe she said it was a Scandinavian name. I immediately connected with Elke during the networking part of our meeting, and then when we took our seats, she had her things next to mine. Serendipity. I felt a sort of kindred connection.

I had to leave the meeting early that day, but I found out in the little time we had that she runs a marketing consulting business. She had been in the corporate world for 14 years and decided it was time to go out on her own. We exchanged business cards and promised to connect again. As I usually do, I LinkedIn with my new acquaintances the next day. Elke wrote back right away and she set up a time to call. The day of our phone call, she emailed me and said she was sick. We kicked our meeting back a couple of weeks. Usually, that’s an indication that someone really isn’t going to follow up with you. I didn’t know for sure if she would call.

The time for our call came and went; she didn’t call so I thought that would be it. But a few minutes later, the phone rang, and “Elke” popped up on the caller ID. We chatted comfortably, way beyond our allotted time. She gave me ideas, and I gave her ideas. The conversation was so pleasant, and mutually beneficial. She’s definitely someone I will connect with again.

DAY 357 HOMEWORK: Often we meet people we feel comfortable with, and we say we’ll get together “soon,” but then stuff gets in the way, and we forget, or we put it off for so long that we chicken out. It’s time to stop that pattern. If you connect with someone, follow through. Don’t wait for the other person. You initiate the second (or third or fourth) contact. It may not build a strong friendship, but it might. At any rate, if you connect with someone, there’s a reason why, and a follow up conversation will give you a chance to know more.

Day 356: Plan. Step. Repeat.

I spent a little time today cleaning out some files at work. I’ve been at my company almost 11 years, and it’s easy to pick up information that you “want to read” but then you never get around to it. I was reminded of that today. I may have made my trash can too heavy for the cleaning crew to carry out tonight. I still have some sorting to do, but it sure feels nice to get rid of some of the clutter [which I need to do more of at home, but that’s another blog for another day!]

Anyway, I found some really interesting papers that I had stuffed in a folder, and it was good to pull them out to remind myself where I’ve been, and what things resonate with my heart. A few years back, I worked with an executive coach and I found tons of material that we had gone through together that confirms areas where I am strong and areas where I need improvement. If we don’t keep that sort of thing in front of us, it’s easy to forget. And maybe it’s comforting to forget.

One of the notes I found talks about individual development plans. We want to keep improving every day, right? Here are a few tips I adapted:

  1. What ideas bring the best value and will make the most difference?
  2. Create bite-sized goals.
  3. Do something, even if it’s a 5-minute progression, every day.
  4. List the obstacles. Name what is holding you back so you are aware.
  5. Get feedback on your progress and find a kindred to support you.
  6. Reflect on what works and what doesn’t.
  7. Teach what you’re learning to someone else.
  8. Repeat.

Sometimes we get held back because the goal seems impossible. Overwhelming. Unreachable. But making a plan and finding just a few minutes a day to move the plan forward can take us places we never dreamed of going. Look at me…I’m just a few days away from my goal of blogging every day for a whole year. I would have never imagined I could actually do this, but bite-by-bite, one day at a time, I’m making it. May something here inspire you.

DAY 356 HOMEWORK: Spend a few minutes and think about step #1. If you get on a roll, do #2 too, so you can start on a journey of progress tomorrow.

Day 355: Ah! That breeze!

The winds of change are blowing, and while I don’t know where they’re blowing me, I know that the breeze is whipping at the leaves as they swirl about the sidewalk, and it tells me that something different is on the way. It’s something I can feel, but I can’t put into words.

I’ve been praying for a new direction and I know that whatever is coming will have to do with writing. Friends from near and far have been encouraging me, sometimes out of the blue, and the timing has been impeccable. As I pray, an audible answer comes from those surrounding me. It cannot be coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence, except when I need a provoking word to describe the Providence of God.

It feels a bit like I’m a toy boat bouncing on the cresting waves in the sea. Sometimes I ride the wave high, catching glimpses of the new land; other times, I am pushed under by the dysfunction that surrounds me, especially at work. With a job I love and corporate politics that annoy me as much as the daily news, at times I am clearly enthralled. At times, I am simply confused.

I understand; that’s life. Up. Down. Up. Down. A great job mixed with problems. It’s got problems because there are people, and where there are people, there will be both misery and joy. And while I am in no way motivated by money, money is essential for living, so to let go of something “safe and secure” in favor of something that is more fulfilling, and that allows time for helping others and breathing in the breeze, that is faith. That is leaping. I’m not quite there yet. But something is coming. I’m excited to watch it unfold.

DAY 355 HOMEWORK: What is your “safe and secure”? Is there something God is calling you to let go of, even if it defies conventional logic? There can be a fine line between faith, and foolishness. Yes, God provides if you let go of something solid, but you have to be prepared for a struggle, so be confident he’s calling you to it first so that you can handle any struggle coming your way. Then, pray and ask for wisdom. God will give it to you as you ask (James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you). Finally, keep making kindreds along the way. You’ll need the guidance, and the prayers.

Day 354: 70 x 7

I’ve been reflecting a bunch today on forgiveness and grace. Of getting “what we deserve” vs. being set free. Of following through on that one line in The Lord’s Prayer that says, “and forgive us our trespasses [or debts] as we forgive those who trespass against us [our debtors].”

Those words are easy to memorize and repeat back, but they are much more difficult to live.

What made me think about it was in sharing so many stories the past few days with my little brother. Many of those stories started out with “Remember when…” and they would trail off down one of the many adventures we lived.

Sometimes a memory that wasn’t as pleasant would surface. Maybe it was a mean teacher, or a bully in the neighborhood, or maybe it was someone in our own family who made us mad at one time or another. What I got to thinking about was that those negative memories were pulling up things that hadn’t been forgiven. If those things had been forgiven, the story wouldn’t be there in the same negative way. Maybe they were minor issues, and didn’t seem like they needed forgiveness, but if it’s stirring up a feeling that is any part negative, bad, or sad, it’s worth forgiving the person for whatever part they had in it, and then letting it go…remembering it no more.

That’s what Jesus does when we ask his forgiveness.

In some ways, holding on to the unforgiveness makes for a more interesting story. We all want to show how we overcame feeling slighted or wronged. But forgiving those trespasses, and letting them go? Sure, we’d have fewer interesting stories to tell, but just maybe our stories would be filled up with the funny and positive instead. Maybe our hearts would be freer, and maybe we would set the trespasser [or debtor] free too. It may not be what they deserve, and no one’s saying you have to be around that person, but there is freedom in forgiveness. And going back to The Lord’s Prayer: we’re forgiven in the same measure as we forgive, so if you want to be fully free in forgiveness, you have to fully forgive, even those insignificant trespasses.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 (The Message)

DAY 354 HOMEWORK: I have to believe Jesus wasn’t saying to humiliate ourselves by letting someone stomp on us over and over again. It’s not forgive and be a doormat. I believe Jesus was saying this to Peter to help his raging mind to become more calm. Peter, you’re going to mess up again and again, and I’m going to forgive you. Go and do the same. 

Try this: If a negative thought about someone comes to your mind, forgive that person. They don’t have to be sorry, or even asking for forgiveness. This is your gift to yourself. See if you don’t feel freer. If it pops up again, hit repeat and do it again and again until you can finally let go in freedom.

 

Day 353: Music City Mayhem

Today. Sunny and 70 degrees, with an ever-so-gentle breeze. It was glorious day to be off work, and in Nashville, running around town with my little brother and my daughter-in-love.

We were looking for photos that represented Nashville, and collecting image textures for design, so it was an excellent exercise in creativity, looking at everything through new eyes.

It’s funny how a row of boots in a store can represent a whole culture. Or how about a grate in the sidewalk crammed full of cigarette butts? Each image told a story, and though I wasn’t behind the camera on this day, my eyes were taking in the scenes in pixels instead of as a whole. Vibrant colors. Grungy urban alleys. People, people everywhere…even on a Monday.

We stopped mid-afternoon at a hole in the wall that advertised “the best burger in town,” and it was as incredible as they said. A girl was sitting on a stool in the other room, singing and strumming her guitar, accompanied by her friend from New Jersey. They were good, but I was wondering about how it must be, going out to play on a Monday afternoon in a burger joint that is mostly empty…is there a music future for someone so talented in a sea full of talented fish? In any other community, a singer of this caliber would have been a star, but without the Music City place to shine. Such a paradox!

The hostess had been in Nashville all of three weeks. She came from Maine, and when asked why she came? She just fell in love with the city. Surprisingly, she wasn’t a musician. Nashville has a huge draw; the population is changing daily as people flock to the area.

We hung around town until after rush hour died down, and then headed for home. I have a feeling I’m going to sleep well tonight with almost 10,000 steps logged and so much fresh air and sunshine.

DAY 353 HOMEWORK: Don’t forget to talk with the people around you who are serving you or working quietly. You never know what kind of story you’re going to hear, even if it’s connecting for just a few short minutes.

 

Day 352: A good combo

Certain people pull creativity out of me; my little brother is one of them. Whenever we’re together, our minds seem to feed off of each other and together we come up with some pretty good ideas. He’s super creative in ways that I’m not, and I’m creative in ways that he isn’t, so we’re a good combo.

I took 12 years of piano lessons, but somehow he got the beautiful keyboard skills. He used to be a pretty horrendous speller, but he’s turned out to be a great writer. He’s got vision for photography, videography and audio production. It seems there’s not much he can’t do. He dreams big, and inspires me to dream big, too.

I’m enjoying my few days with him and I’m glad his family could give him up so that we could dream together. As we work together, I’m excited to see what concepts unfold.

The other day, we were walking around a local arts store looking at all the exhibits and wares for sale. We came up on some colorful signs made of acrylic, and the ones we were most drawn to were the Dr. Seuss quotes. Here’s one we saw from “Oh the Places You’ll Go”:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

I think that’s one of the things that I like most about my little brother [besides his quirky humor]. He has brains in his head, but he also has feet in his shoes, and he makes me want to get up and move. Hopefully you’ll hear more about our creative endeavors as we work on them.

DAY 352 HOMEWORK: None for tonight. Have a restful evening!