Ready. Set. Go!

I’ve had incredible, jaw-dropping opportunities in the last few years. When I reflect on all the things that have happened, all that has been offered, I’m at a loss! How could one person experience all that?!

I show up to a lunch with friends and end up with a job. I walk over to say bye and someone tells me they want to hire me. I show up to coffee to volunteer for an event and am offered employment. I mean really, this happens to people? It’s puzzling and each time I’m in awe of the range of possibilities of what can happen. It continues to stretch my mind.

As I reflect on the countries I have been to, the organizations that I have worked with, the people that I have met, I realize this. The going happened when I was ready and set. There are moments that I have tried to race without being equipped. Being in track and field in high school gave me plenty of learning opportunities for that. I was on the field team. This was my way of avoiding the running side of things. Then, there was the ambitious coach who wanted everyone to be conditioned to run. I was out of breath the first lap but then it went on… for hours… for days. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t set. But I was told to go… and I didn’t go very far.

I have done many things that I wasn’t ready for. It was slow and it was agonizing and it was frustrating. However, I have done just as many things that I was. In all of those things, it was due to the conditioning before I had to get set. It was the getting ready that allowed me to get set into place and it was the setting that allowed me that jump start to continue. When my heart was set on learning and getting all that I could in this very moment, I realized that it prepared me for the setting that may happen tomorrow or years later. Take a breath and capture this moment so you won’t miss out on all the go that is coming. What is it that you’re being readied for now?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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Creating Margins

I know we’re more than halfway through 2017 but I’m going to reflect on my 2016 for this post. If I could characterize my 2016 in one word, that word would be busy. Now, I’ve always done a lot of things. However, I don’t know if I had experienced busy-ness until last year. I ran from one meeting to the next, one thought to the next, one building to the next, as if my life depended on it. However, if I had paused and created some margins in each of those moments, I think I would have come to the realization sooner than I did. The world will not fall apart because of something I did or did not do.

The demands of the world are pretty high. You can easily spiral into the endless loop of haves and needs whether that is what your boss tells you he/she needs, your coworker, your family, yourself, you name it. You get into these highs of go-go-go and then you’re at a loss when you don’t have to be in that environment binging on everything you missed or feel that you have missed. Perhaps I’m not as smart as the rest of the lot but this is how this endless cycle of a year looked like for me.

While in the past five years, I had learned to breathe, to step away, to remove myself before I get sucked into that busy-ness. Actually, I was forced to learn it. I was a missionary living in different cultures that was driven by a different beat, a different pace of life. Between each assignment, I was given days to reflect and to think to allow myself the breathing room to exhale all that has just happened before I inhaled what was about to happen. Then, America happened. America is a go-getter country. There is a reason we stand out in the world and we’re called leaders in so many areas. We’re constantly competing, innovating and at the precipice of breakthrough of the next best thing…as we see it.

However, this…never…ends. If we don’t create margins for ourselves, we will continue to be defined by the demands of the world and what we put on ourselves rather than just be. There is a freedom to our being for ourselves and for everyone around us. Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace at Work says it this way, take a strategic pause between activities to remove what is unnecessary and to make time for strategy, innovation and vital reflection. In the midst of busy, when is our fun? We lose our joy when we give in the insatiable demands of never enough. But it is in those margins that we learn to think beyond what is seen.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. Genesis 2:2

This is who I said I am

I was one of those kids who wanted to get their little hands into everything. I wanted to be a part of everything. I wanted to be in the “in-crowd” but I didn’t want to be excluded from the “outsiders”. I floated from group to group and was accepted by every group but never identified with one group. Then, there were my personal habits. I could be watching tv, listening to music, doing my homework all while chatting with friends. I always loved multi-tasking and really, I felt pretty invincible in some respects.

Then, last year happened. As everything unfolds and I reflect upon all that was, I have come to realize who I am and who I am not. I may have touted that I could do many things. Actually, a friend who was a boss called me out on it last year. I had told him that it was my specialty to be able to do what I do, jumping from task to task, having much on my plate. Then, I lived out my reality on how much I couldn’t do what I thought I could. Over the years, I have grown to be very passionate about all the things I do and what I feel like I have been called to. With that much passion, I couldn’t work for a corporate firm, a church and a non-profit all at once. It was as if my heart was getting pulled in every direction while my body and my mind were nearing exhaustion.

The words that I had spoken came to haunt me each and every day as I struggled to get things done. My mind jumped from graphic design to vendor relations to budgets to scheduling volunteers to social media to solving technical issues to designing systems to event planning… and that was only a part of my life. I wanted to be driven by my passion but how could I be? Where is my passion and where is my focus?

At any point in time, we can think that this is who we are. We can tell the world, this is who we are. Then, there comes an opportunity to live out the who you think you are. It is then that the rubber meets the road and you find out just how much you know you. I had a chance to live out who I thought and who I said I am. I learned, I am not. But really, what better way to learn the things I am not than to go through it. That discontent drives a hunger in you to release that tension and find what satisfies.

Enjoying the good things

NY Style inspired pizza with a Hannah twist

NY Style inspired pizza with a Hannah twist… Really, yum!

The other night, I made some good ol’ New York style pizza. As a native New Yorker, we’re very particular about our pizzas. I’ve learned to love other styles just as much but please don’t call it New York style if it isn’t. It’s gotta have the right sauce as well as the right amount, with cheese that is delicious, gooey and stringy when you bite into it and just enough dough to balance out the rest of the pizza. Now, my pizza as much as I call it New York style, had a few elements just a little different. Part of it is that I’m still learning, part is that there are some uncontrollable factors and the other part is that I love new creations. As much as I love New York style pizza, I know the best is in New York and I’m ok with them keeping that title because it gives me an awesome thing to look forward to when I’m up there.

Now, I’m in the lovely Rio de Janeiro of Brazil. It really is a beautiful city. May be one of the most naturally beautiful cities I have ever seen. Anyway, in every culture I travel to, I see the limitations of what people know is good. As a seasoned traveler (I’m self-titling that one but perhaps not fully attained to some standards), one thing I really miss is some of those really awesome things I have had around the world. Perhaps its the alfajores of Peru, the empanadas of Argentina, the pasta of Italy, an American juicy burger, bread and cheese in France…Mmm! Whatever it is, the diversity just doesn’t exist when you leave the States but really, the States do not even begin to compare with the real thing. So sorry America, but olive oil is better in Greece no matter what you try (but I do hope that you/we get it right!).

So when I start to meet people and get to know people, part of the love I have for them is for them to experience some of the awesome things that I have. If I can replicate the awesomeness that I once enjoyed, it is a great way to share it with them. I have worked on recipes not for my own sake but so that someone can try the best they have ever tasted even if it is better than I have ever tasted. On top of that, what is better is when you get to enjoy it with them. It’s like you have this memory with them and no one can take that away from you. Sharing the memory you once had, allows you to bring those closest to you into the secret places you have. So the other night, when I was making that pizza, knowing this is one I can do very well regardless of the tools I have or do not have such as fennel (not readily available in Brazil), I was sad to learn that one person had a meeting and another was skipping dinner. It was one of those moments where I knew it was going to be a great one to share, the one I wanted to see as they experience something I love for the first time. The one you know they’re going to say something great but you just want to capture the moment.

This is the kind of passion I want to carry with everything that I find is good. I want to keep looking for better and greater things but I want to have a heart to share the good things with those I love, that I may share in their great experiences. How wonderful it is! What do you love to share?

The Heart Message

Some Brazilian friends who I know we share much heart language

Some Brazilian friends who I know we share much heart language – They hate this picture, but I love it!

I have been immersed in a number of cultures as of late. Translation, it means I am in the midst of many languages, many accents and needing much translation. Throughout the years, I have been learning something very signficant. Many times, when your hearts are in alignment, translation is unnecessary and interpretation comes naturally. Words become superfluous and understanding sets in.

I am so grateful of all the experiences that I have had in the last few years. I got to say, that at first, it was quite frustrating not being able to understand what was being spoken. I felt like I was in the dark a lot. As an American, we just have to know things, right? However, the more I was in these unknown situations, the more I felt comfortable not knowing what I did not need to know. I started to get a feel for what was and wasn’t important. I learned through this that we spend a lot of our time talking about things that really don’t matter on a heart level. Now, it is frustrating in the other extreme. I rather be left in the dark about some things especially ones that I can’t feel your heart in.

I feel like I can feel that moment that someone starts to share their heart. It’s like I need to lean in just a little bit closer, try just a little bit harder and tune in just a little bit louder. You don’t have to ask me if I understand because if I don’t, I will ask you simply because I feel like this is something I want to know and something I want to share with you. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t quite get all the words but somehow I understand completely. It’s like my internal being is saying: heart message received.

In all of my travels, I learned that relationship is the reward to be valued. At the end of the day, experiences are great but they are greater when they are shared with those you love and those you grow with. I want my heart message to be received no matter where I go, who I am with and what langauge I am speaking. What’s your heart saying these days?

Being a work in progress

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One of my favorite irons in the world

It’s been an exciting ride for sure. But you know when you get to those junctions and realize that it’s been kind of a blur. That’s where I feel I am at right now. It just feels like I’ve done so much but not enough at the same time because I haven’t always stopped to smell the roses so to speak. It’s in those very moments, though, that you can see how much you’ve grown. It’s so easy to get focused on the wrong thing when you’re going so fast.

I actually love high pressured situations. I love problem solving and you need to have problems in order to solve them. It’s not always true as depending on which meters are getting pushed, I have a higher tendency to go the wrong direction. Hey, what can I say, I’m a “work in progress” as my friend Wendy always says. However, I think Dwight L. Moody hit it on the nail when he said, “Character is what you are in the dark”. Whether that means you are alone or stuck in some high stress position, when you get squeezed, it so shows on you what’s really inside.

As a consultant, I’ve had an incredible opportunity to witness, experience and encounter a plethora of scenarios. It’s always been really interesting and intriguing. Can you tell I get excited about the human psyche? Anyway, I have really been pressed to learn about boundaries in the last few years. They’re important. In Great Falls, Montana, we have certain intersections that have no indication of who will go first when approaching that intersection. That means at any given moment, a car could blow through. It’s scary. When there are set rules that are recognized by the people, a safe atmosphere is created. As Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. Charles Townsend say in their book, Boundaries, “You need to know where you end to know where the other person begins”. Lacking a sense of self awareness will push you beyond your limits real quick. That means you will be one hot-tempered individual, often unpleasant if you’re in that pressure cooker environment.

Working with people, it’s a science. It’s so intricately complex what comes up and out as a result of hanging with people that are not like you. I’ve heard it said that when something bothers you about another, it’s usually because that very thing is rising up within you. That poses a very interesting theory. Could it be that opposing situations are not actually what it looks like but rather an indicator for areas that we can improve in our own lives? Recently, I had one of those moments. You know, the moments where you say something absolutely profound and say, “thank you Jesus!”  I said to this friend, “When you’re car is leaking gas, you can’t blame the road for stealing your gas. You have to check out your tank and fix the hole”. People are not your enemy. Other people can’t make you feel anything. You choose it. If someone is exhausting you, it’s not their fault you don’t have the emotional capacity to be with them anymore. You’re spent. It happens. Be bold and say no. It’s ok. No is a valid choice because if it wasn’t, yes wouldn’t be an option.

So let’s call it like it is. We’re not perfect and we aren’t getting anywhere closer blaming others. Let’s allow the character shaping process in ourselves to continue by admitting when and why things bother us so we can continue to progress.

Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

You don’t need a title but perhaps you do

My dad getting access to my office as a visitor!

My dad getting access to my office as a visitor!

When I was working as a consultant, I used to hear that book title fly around all the time, “You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader”. I do agree with that because leadership is simply a characteristic. Some people have it and some people don’t. No matter who you are, whether you have it or not, you can get it and you can get more of it. However, many people try to find their identities, who they are, in a mere makeup of letters. They strive their whole lives in an ambition for a title. They think that having one they will finally arrive at their destination. I think this is a severe misconception of what a title actually is and what a title actually does.

Now, I’m serving as an “intern” at a church in Montana. That’s a title. I don’t really find my identity in it nor do I derive any bit of who I am as a person from that title. I don’t mind when people call me by intern and when people don’t call me by that title. I could really care less. I’m not offended either way. I was the same when I was working as a consultant. When I got promoted, it required a new title by company policy. I felt pretty jazzed and grateful that I’m fulfilling this new position but it didn’t make me any more or any less of who I already was.

A lot of people think they need to have access to get a title but that’s completely backwards thinking! Titles aren’t an ends to something but a means to it! Titles actually give you access to what you are supposed to be doing, what you’re called to do. Yeah, your destiny! Titles equip you and give you a means to arrive at that next destination. For example, since I am an intern, I have access to the church’s projected calendar, the pastor’s office even while she may not be there, the passwords for the computers, etc.

So, while I’m not hung up on my title, I’m not opposed to them either because I know its value as a currency to get what I need. There have been people throughout the history that have misused and abused their titles or hurt others by giving them the wrong title. While titles may seem insignificant, it has a significant value in its appropriate context and when it goes wrong, in a very inappropriate context. My title as “intern” really has no value outside the church I serve in, if it did, I might have to question the weight I’m giving this title upon my identity.

Titles carry with them a weight of responsibility and a destination map. Let’s not be so frivolous with how we give them out or how we hold them.