The Way He Came

12 Dec

Growing up, we always had beautiful packages under the tree.  My dad would spend hours, usually on Christmas Eve into the wee hours of Christmas morning, wrapping every gift, making the bows look just so.  I don’t think the man believes in gift bags!

While I enjoyed the beautiful wrapping and the effort my dad put into the pretty packages, the greatest gift I’ve ever received did not come in ornate wrapping.  The hands down, greatest gift I’ve ever received, was delivered in a dirty manger wrapped in rags.  The greatest gift of all time, in the plainest of wrapping.

The fact that He came is mind boggling to me.  The forethought and love demonstrated by God, that He saw you and me and knew we would need a Savior and went to such great lengths to make it happen.  It’s amazing!  He came which is such a gift, but the real kicker for me is the way He came!

The royalty of Heaven left His home to fulfill His Father’s plan.  Born in the middle of the night, in a little town, in a cave and placed in a bed of straw, wrapped up in rags.

I don’t know about you, but it’s probably not how I would’ve thought to make my entrance on the scene.  I probably would’ve picked something with a little more pomp and circumstance, ok a lot more 🙂  I’m here to save the world, let’s party kinda thing.

The way Jesus came speaks VOLUMES to me.  The way He came, shows me that He came to serve, He came in humility, He came motivated by love.  The way Jesus came reminds me that I should do the same.  Show up ready to serve, in humility and motivated by love.

It may not be flashy or feel glamorous but it will make an impact that lasts far beyond some fancy wrapping or a grand party.  So thankful for the Gift of Jesus and the way He came!  Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Are We There Yet?

31 Oct

As a child growing up my family would make an annual road trip to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins. I always looked forward to our visits and time with them was the highlight of many of my summers.  Although, I loved being there and spending time together, I did not enjoy the 9 hour road trip! I was ready to be there before the family car left the driveway!  If teleportation was possible, I would’ve preferred that route.

I got bored in the car, tired of sitting, I could hang for a while by coming up with games to play with my brother and sister or sing some songs to entertain myself, but I just wanted to get to our destination already!  We didn’t stop when I wanted to and sometimes we stopped when I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t read because I would get car sick.  The car was too stuffy sometimes and other times I would convulse because of the frigid air coming through my dad’s rolled down window.  I didn’t really enjoy the process of getting to our destination.

I’ve come to realize that my attitude towards life has at times been fairly similar to my attitude towards my childhood summer road trips.  So little of life is spent at the finish line, a great deal of it is spent on the journey getting there.  What would be different if I learned to enjoy the process of getting there and didn’t wait to celebrate until I arrived at my intended destination?  Instead of being solely focused on the end goal, what if while heading that direction, I enjoyed the ride?

You see, most of life is the journey, very little time is spent at the finish line.  Daily life is spent preparing, working, failing, trying again, moving forward, taking two steps backwards, failing and trying again.  What a shame to not embrace the journey when it comprises most of my limited time here on earth, when it’s where I spend most time in relationship with others, when it’s where the growth happens.  If I only focus on the arrival, I’ve missed out on a lot of sweetness along the way.

Instead of asking, “Are we there yet?”  I want to learn to soak up the goodness on the way!  Anyone ready for a road trip?

A Small Piece of Yarn

3 Oct

I am thrilled to have a guess blogger on neeserisms, my very own AMAZING niece and her great insights…

I learned to knit when I was living in the orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It took me about one month to learn.  One teacher taught me the basics and I remember offering my food to friends in exchange for their help teaching me.  I have been knitting now for over 6 years. One thing I have learned through this skill is that one small piece of yarn, when put in the right person’s hands, can be transformed into something useful and beautiful.  This illustrates what it is like if I put my life in God’s hands.  No matter how small I may feel, He can use me to do great things.  

Yarn comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors.  Each one can be used for a different purpose.  When you start a knitting project it is important to select the size, shape and color for what you are wanting to create.  There is one type of yarn that is best to use to make a scarf and another type of yarn that would be best to make a bag.  As the artist I get to choose what I think is best.  God as the creator of this world and the controller of everything gets to decide who is best to use for his purpose.  He may use one person to help the poor and another to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time.  He as the artist knows which of us would be best to use for each of His plans.

When you begin knitting you start with one small piece of yarn.  You use your needles to knit it together into rows.  You knit back and forth adding rows until it gets to be the size and shape you want it to be.  A small piece of yarn turns into a scarf or a blanket or socks.  I can relate to that small piece of yarn.  I may be small but if I put myself in the Father’s hands and be patient, He will slowly and carefully knit the details of my life together to create something awesome and beautiful.  I just have to be a willing piece of yarn. 

Once in a while when knitting a scarf I have made a mistake and missed connecting the yarn to the right row.  Sometimes I do not realize my mistake until many rows later.  If you want the scarf to be beautiful, last a long time and serve its purpose you must go back and correct the mistake.  In order to correct this you have to undo all the rows until you get to the point where you missed the connection.  This is true to real life.  When we rush through life and do not connect deeply with God, we make mistakes and our life begins going off course.   Sometimes things start to unravel and we have to allow God to correct and restore us.

When you see a small piece of yarn I hope will remember its importance.  The same when you see people who may seem insignificant.  No matter what our size, shape or color we have great potential if we choose to put our lives in the hands of the Heavenly Father ­ the master artist.  He can take our small pieces, our brokenness, our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful, something big and something amazing. 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” –  2 Corinthians 5:17  

Yeshi

 

We Don’t Treat God’s Work Like This

26 Jul

The evening before 7th grade school photos my Grandma thought it would be a great idea to have her live in care taker perm my hair.  Given the fact this lady had evidently gone to beauty school at some point in her life and I wanted to look extra special for my pictures, I went along with Grandma’s idea, which made her super thrilled!  The next day, I had my new black sweater picked out, a little blue eyeliner for that WOW factor and well, as you can see my fuzzy black hair to match!!  I HATED this picture, I actually would’ve said until last night, “I hate this picture” when for whatever reason (He knows) God brought it to mind and a memory that I had not thought of since the 7th grade, which has been about a good 30ish years for me.

How many of you can agree that the junior high years are not easy?  That would be an UNDERSTATEMENT!  For 7th and 8th grade, I went to a private school, looking back, this was a complete God send as I honestly, don’t know that I would’ve survived my high school years without having some of the life-giving influences that I received during this time.  I had a couple of teachers, that for whatever reason, just made me feel (they probably made everyone feel this way) like I was somebody special, like I had potential, like I had something of value to bring to the table.

My 7th grade teacher was Mr. Newman.  Just saying his name in my mind makes me smile because he was always such a wonder to my 12-year-old brain.  I have a sneaking suspicion, he’d probably be a wonder to my 40 something year old brain as well 🙂  My 7th grade self would describe him as very tall and lean, he was a runner.  I always thought off him as quite a brainiac, a real deep river, although, I considered him humble as well, so I know he would not think of himself in such terms.  I would say Mr. Newman was a bit odd, but odd in the best senses of that word.  Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware or not, but there are certain men that can wear turtle necks and certain men that cannot, Mr. Newman could rock a turtle neck!  He could be very serious, but uproariously funny!   He made history come alive like no other teacher I’ve had and I loved when he would read to the class, because he would do so in different voices and accents and sometimes he would make himself laugh, I mean really laugh!  There were times he would make himself laugh so hard that he would roll in fits of laughter on the floor!   There were a couple of times I wondered, “is he gonna be ok?”  I think he enjoyed keeping us on our toes.  He seemed so passionate and had such deep convictions but yet had this other side that just let loose like no one I’d ever seen.  He held himself to a high standard, I saw that he pushed himself to learn and grow and had a thirst for doing so and it made me want to do the same.

It was nearing the end of the 7th grade year and our yearbooks had been passed out.  Of course, we all wanted Mr. Newman to sign them and he made sure to give each student’s hand written message undivided attention. Several were gathered around his desk waiting their turn for his autograph and now it was my turn.  He was flipping through my yearbook and OOPS!  I forgot I had done that! Shame hits me!  Mr. Newman, of course turned to the page of my school photo, the one I hated.  My heart sank as he looked down at my fuzzy hair picture to see that I had taken ink pen and crossed my face out.   I hated that picture, I hated how I looked, but now Mr. Newman’s disapproval on top of it was going to shove my junior high self over the brink!

The response was not what I anticipated, Mr. Newman locked eyes with me, put one hand on my hand and gave me an intense look and I knew he was very serious.  It is difficult to describe how he was able to do it, but somehow he was able to communicate to me in a very authoritative yet loving way, and he simply said, “We don’t treat God’s work like this”.  That moment hung there for what seemed like an eternity, he smiled at me, and I nodded my head in a “Yes sir, I understand Sir” type nod.  He signed my yearbook and we moved on.

Even now, I am overcome with emotion as I think back on that moment and I think there are probably a few reasons why:

  • I need to hear the reminder again, “we don’t treat God’s work like this.”  Maybe, even more importantly, I need to hear it in the same way I heard it then.  Not something else I’m doing wrong, or another person I’m  disappointing, but instead I see you, I believe in you, so “no more”.
  • I’m so thankful that God sends people into our lives to speak truth and life and encouragement!  People who can see things in us we don’t see in ourselves, who believe in us, when we don’t believe in us.  I soooo desire to be that in the lives of those I touch!  What a gift we give, when we see the goodness and potential in someone else and simply tell them, encourage them and believe in them!  It’s life changing!!
  • My Grandma passed away in May of my 7th grade year so regardless of how I feel about the picture, I’m glad I let her have her way.  My teacher, Mr. Newman passed away in 2010.  I wonder if they’ve had a chance to meet?  It makes me smile to think 🙂

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

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Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change – A Book Review

20 Jul

Pivot Leadership Author, Angela Craig grabbed me right from the beginning with a great dance step analogy to explain the basis of Pivot Leadership (For you sports minded folks, she’s got you covered as well).  Now, I’m no dancing queen, but I do have rhythm and my high school friends will confirm that I can do a mean electric slide 🙂  You see when you pivot, you are not flying across the dance floor, one foot is firmly planted while the other makes a turn, a turn that changes your position.  This analogy set’s up Angela’s tool box of a book perfectly.  She is not touting an “Extreme Leader Makeover Edition” or asking you to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but she shares with a passionate voice how small changes can actually make a monumental difference in your leadership impact.

I’m sure if you’ve tried your hand at leadership, you will agree, it’s not for the faint of heart!  While the majority of times, it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of my life, there are times (shocker) that it can be the most draining.  I have found that managing work is one thing, that’s actually the easy part, its leading people where things can sometimes get messy.  Pivot Leadership does a wonderful job speaking to real life, front line, leadership challenges.  What do I do when the workload demand is insane but caring for the people I lead should be my priority?  I’ve been there and messed that up.  Then there’s the always challenging topic of communication, for me lately, I’ve been attempting to focus on how I’m listening.  Am I listening actively or listening while rehearsing my reply?  How do I make those I lead feel when I’m listening to them?  Am I present, really present?  Am I engaged?   Do those I’m listening to feel valued?   I’ll put this in the “I’m improving” bucket, with plenty of room to grow.  Angela’s authentic personal stories and lessons learned made it easy for me as a reader to identify areas of strength and of weakness in my leadership.  Even more exciting, each chapter provides practical tools and exercises to implement, those “pivot” steps, that can  change our leadership trajectory for the better.

Whether you manage in the public sector like me, run a non-profit or are a business entrepreneur, if you desire to use your influence to make a difference in the lives of others and want to be equipped with some practical means of doing so, then this book is for you!  If you desire to continue to grow in your leadership skills so that you can make a positive and lasting  impact in your world and you want to hear about it from a true believer in the potential of others, then you need  a copy!  This book is not a dust collector!  It is brimming with tools, practical applications and valuable insights that both you and I will refer back to often as we continue to hone our dance…, I mean leadership skills!  Speaking of dance though, I have a feeling Angela could probably hold her own with me on the electric slide?!  I’m ready to pivot any time you are 🙂

Pivot Leadership: Small Steps…Big Change is available for purchase through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You can also purchase and find out more about Author Angela Craig by visiting http://www.pivotleader.com.

PIVOT LEADERSHIP Cover Display Mockup

The Birthday Lesson That Never Ends

2 Jul

My birthday will soon be here and just happens to coincide with another little holiday called Independence Day.  Most of us more fondly refer to it as the 4th of July.  I can remember as a little person probably around the age of 5, feeling rather impressed with the big deal so many people made about my birthday!  I mean, a lot of people were in on it and not just my family either.  The neighbors, the whole community, people on TV, my birthday was kind of a big deal!   People would celebrate my special day with BBQ’s, picnics, parades and even fireworks.  I didn’t really care for that part so much, so I stayed inside the house with my grandparent’s dog Gizmo, but I thought it was really cool they blew up stuff on my account, cause no one else I knew got that on their birthday.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, when I was enlightened to the fact that the celebrations weren’t in my honor.  That in fact it had nothing to do with me and a lot to do with some federal holiday called Independence Day, something about parting ways with Great Britain and a declaration of independence and well, what I painfully realized is, it’s not about me!

I wish I could tell you friend that this birthday lesson was the first and only I needed on this subject of “life is not about me”, but the true story is this, I have required frequent life long reminders.  You see my “me” side is very strong.  It is quite demanding and it can throw an all out fit when it doesn’t get what it wants.  I want so badly to say that as I turn 40 something, I have it mastered, but I don’t.  If anything, I am more keenly aware today, more than ever, on just how “me” centered I can be.  I want it to go my way, I want the credit, I want it easy, I want to feel good, I want the desired outcome, I want, what I want and when I want it, thank you very much!

Now I could be rather frustrated with myself (and have been frequently and often) and the fact that I have not attained Mother Theresa like selflessness thus far in life, however, that would just waste more precious time, there was only one her, there’s only one me and there’s only one you.

Here is what I want to focus on as my birthday is quickly approaching…God who taught me lessons at age 5 continues to teach me lessons today.  No matter how many times I try to make it about me instead of making it about Him or others, He continues to love me, extend grace to me and give me another opportunity to grow.  I am most like Him when I serve, when I take the road less traveled, when I take the high road, when I apologize first, when I give without expectation.  He is teaching me that the times when I become less, when I am weak, that’s when I really let Him shine!  It is through His patience to me and His kindness that I can be courageous enough to be real, even if its ugly, cause He loves me and that’s what it’s about.

Loving Him, Loving others, that’s what it’s about.  It’s simple really, but extremely difficult to live out with “ME” hanging around.  “Less of me, more of You Lord”, sounds like a good birthday prayer or every day kinda prayer for that matter.  I have a feeling I’ll be working on this birthday lesson as long as the Lord gives me birthdays 🙂

Painful But True,Your Comfort Is Not God’s Priority

13 Mar

My Pastor made this statement in a recent Sunday sermon, “Gods agenda is not for you to be happy and comfortable. It’s for you to be Godly.” That statement did not tickle my ears, but I recognized it as truth, truth that I need to embrace.

This is the thing, I like comfort A LOT.  I like stretchy pants, a warm cup of coffee in my hand, perhaps someone to entertain me, kicked back in my easy chair.  I mean who doesn’t, right?  Yet, if comfort is not God’s priority then I’m thinkin’, it probably shouldn’t be mine.

It reminds me of the time my mom, took my younger sister, brother and I to get our vaccinations for school.  My sister didn’t like shots and when I say didn’t like, I guess I mean, they evidently terrified her beyond all reason!  My mom told me I should go first to show her it was fine, so I took one for the team.  My sis still wasn’t convinced, so our little brother, took his turn and represented well.  Jig was up and there was no more stalling.  It was at this point that she threw her arms and legs around a pole in the center of the room bear hug style and resolutely refused to let go.  My mom was unable to command, pry, bribe or sweet talk her off of that pole.

You see my sister, was clinging for dear life to her comfort.   My mom was not prodding my sister into doing this because it gave her joy to see the tortured look on her daughter’s face or because she enjoyed the audience that my sisters display was attracting.  She was asking my sister to let go of the pole and let the nurse have her arm because she felt it was best for her, even though she knew it wasn’t something my sister would enjoy (that’s putting it mildly).  My mom gave it her best effort, but the four of us walked out of that health clinic that day and only two of us kids had the vaccination paperwork we needed to register for school.  I believe there were reinforcements in the form of Dad, that got involved to see the shot through the next time around 🙂

Although, shots never bothered me, I can definitely identify with my sister.  I cling to my comfort as well.  I hold tightly and refuse to let go, and I have even been known to give God ideas on how I’d like to see things go, a few suggestions on what may work best.  I will plead, cry, dig my feet in because I don’t want it to hurt!  I don’t want it to be hard!  I don’t want to be disappointed!  I don’t want to fail!  I want to be happy and comfortable!!

How about you?  Have you been unwilling to do what you knew you needed to because it wasn’t going to be easy, because it would require pain and sacrifice, because it didn’t come with a guarantee that everything would turn out the way you want?

I may be a slow learner, but I am just now grasping the fact, that my comfort and yes, even my happiness are not God’s priority.  He sees the whole picture and to be quite frank, it is a good day, if I can see beyond me.  God did not put me on this earth to make sure I was happy and that life turned out just how I want.

Does that mean He doesn’t care when, it’s hard, when my heart is breaking, when I am fearful?  He absolutely cares!  But, He loves you and I enough to focus on the end game.  He loves us enough to see beyond the feel good in the moment to the greatness that He’s called us to.  He loves us so much that He looks beyond the temporary of this world and focuses on the eternal.  God allows discomfort in our loves because it grows us, it makes us strong, it teaches us who He is.  It draws us closer to Him.  It deepens our trust in His ability and His heart for us.  Does that make it easy?  Absolutely not.  Does it make it worth it?  Absolutely, YES!

He never wastes our discomfort, He uses it to grow us and to make us look more like Him!  Embracing this truth, is helping me to loosen my grip on my desires for a happy, comfortable existence and grab onto what God is asking me to do, even if it’s hard, even if it’s painful, even if it requires endurance, because He knows what it is going to take to make me all that I was created to be.  I’m thinking that’s something worth leaving our comfort zone for!  You in?!

“Gods agenda is not for you to be happy and comfortable. It’s for you to be godly.” – Pastor Leif Holmes