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.

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

Inheritance is a funny thing

As my mom would call this picture, like mother like daughter. Sou and I on our "hang out in town day".

As my mom would call this picture, “like mother like daughter”. Sou and I on our “hang out in town day”.

My mom says I write about Sou and the organization too much but let’s be honest, that’s been my life this last month and a half. It’s been an honor to be here and get to be a part of all that’s going on here. I’m always surprised at what God can do in such a short amount of time. Sou feels like a mom to me and I’m pretty sure (from her words) that I feel like a daughter to her. I often think, her daughter, also Hannah, and I are either the same person or they just miss her a lot as I seem to remind them of her.

Last month, I read through Deuteronomy, which is a book very intriguing to me. If laws aren’t about the letter but about the Spirit, then, this book is exactly what will perplex you enough to discover the Spirit as it is a book of laws. It talks about how Israelites were going to get an inheritance that they never earned because really, how do you actually earn an inheritance. Inheritance is about relationships and what flows from those relationships.

I probably should have learned this from my own family but it’s when you are taken out of your own element that you can start to see the very things you are missing. I feel utterly blessed because it’s true, I’m standing upon the shoulders of the leaders here. I don’t have to discover all over again what they have already gained and what they have already learned. I think any sort of successful business is probably like that.

It’s especially in the small things that I get to see this. For example, Ted and Sou have gone through their struggles and hard times where they did their own dishes, cleaned their own house, built things from the ground up so to speak; however, now their operations with FCOP International have grown so large that they had to delegate some tasks. But if I’m frank, from what I’ve noticed, the people that are completing the tasks don’t do it for money or some kind of earthly reward, they are simply expressing the depths of their hearts and their gratitude for all that they’ve done.

So, back to my point, I’ve been here and I don’t always have to do my own dishes, have to cook or have to clean my own messes. It’s not because of their (the workers) love for me or what I can offer but what has already been afforded to them through Ted and Sou. They have treated me like a daughter and so now I get to reap the benefits. What did I do to afford this? Absolutely nothing. I just lived as who I am, daughter of God and somehow that afforded me additional earthly parents here in Cambodia in the stead of my parents back in America. Because Ted and Sou have loved and trusted me, it’s like they can do. Relationships are funny but for that reason inheritance is even funnier.

I’ve had a great life inheriting from others things that I myself have not earned. I had food and places to live based on the earnings of my parents. I went to college to get degrees by what others have researched and already discovered and tested. I went into companies that were already established. My resume is built upon people and organizations that have already done the hard work, so to speak. It is in realizing what kind of inheritance you are gaining that you truly know the right starting point and your projection of what is to come. Also, then, you can truly appreciate all that you have instead of focusing on all that you don’t have. If you know me, you know I hate rework, so why take the time to do redundant tasks when you could be propelling forward?

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers… with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant..take care lest you forget the Lord” – Deuteronomy 6:10-12

If you want something done right, do it yourself

 

Sou showing us how dragonfruit cutting is done

Sou showing us how dragonfruit cutting is done

Ok, let me first caveat this with your way isn’t always the only way and your way isn’t always the right way. Also, what works isn’t always right either, it’s just enough.

So this past week has been slightly frustrating. Incredibly rewarding but frustrating nonetheless. I have been on the phone with at least eight different countries and many parties were involved in this whole shindig. We were setting up for a large international conference and there were so many odds and ends details that needed to be settled when it came down to the wire. I was working with the hotel, the tour agency, the church organization and the organization I was working with.

Many moments, it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen and at the same time, it felt like not enough. Information was sporadic and held in too many places making it incredibly difficult to find out what I actually needed to know or even know what I needed to know. It’s amazing and an utter miracle that we pulled this off in such a short amount of time. The event went seamless and no one even noticed the little mishaps. However, I find that when you are working in a spirit of excellence and doing all you can, there’s an incredible grace to cover those mistakes.

Anyway, back to the subject. Many times, we either had a lack of information, misinformation or miscommunication. In the end, what I found is that even if I delegated the job, it wouldn’t have been done right simply from lack of training or an inability to communicate accurately how it needs to be done. This is where that funky title comes from.

You can’t ask someone to do something that they have never seen before or you are a sure winner of disappointment. Just like children grow up learning from their environment, everyone is the same even when older. Life is a learning process. We are continuously learning. We need our environments and the people around us to teach us the way things are done and done right. There are levels of right and of excellence so make sure we are all growing in that as well with the people around us that know more and have experienced more.

So that brings me back to the point, if you want things done the right way that you know others have not experienced, make sure you’re the first to try it out. Show others what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Demonstrate the fruit of the results. Make it a replicable process but also one that allows growth in another by allowing them to input their creativity to make what you have given them even better. This is where I have trouble with internships. Many people need an extra hand that they don’t want to pay full price for or even at all, not an intern. An intern means that you know how to do their job better than the interns do. You have to be a teacher, demonstrating all that needs to be done. An intern means you have learning that is valuable for them to get from you! So let’s get real. Don’t be frustrated that someone isn’t doing something right or better, simply show them the higher road!

“let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” Proverbs 1:5

The secret to the happiest kids on earth

I have been privileged for the last week and will be for the next few months to be working with FCOP International (web redesign in the works). I’m astounded for all the things that are happening through this organization. Right now, they care for 3000 orphans and 600 local Cambodian staff. Talk about large-scale! They’ve had over 15,000 children come through their homes (there’s 106 of them)! Almost all of them are passionately following Jesus and are productive members of society restoring health and wealth back into the Cambodian nation. I love their model and desire to see each person healed in body, soul and spirit. Their love is absolutely extravagant and incredible.

What really surprised me was how they married the secular with the Christian. Oftentimes, there’s too much of one or the other. But really, when we consider “let Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we have to remember that heaven is supposed to appear on earth. There are what seems like a million micro-enterprises and some greater enterprises (many in the works). I love how Paul recommends to the Thessalonians to be laborers and be a light to society. This is what they’re doing here. Each home has micro-enterprises that help sustain them when we don’t have enough donations come through. It’s a large scale operation that needs a lot of money. There are projects that need to happen to bring self-sustaining to be a reality here. We have large scale operations in the works that can produce enough revenue when up and running to support every home and not depend on a single donor barring any natural disasters.

I came here thinking, I have so much to give and I want to give it all. Yesterday, we visited some homes in the river (yes, in the river). I got to play with many children, and seriously, they are the happiest kids on earth. I have yet to visit a home that I haven’t felt that way about. Sure, you can tell which ones are newer. They’re a little bit shyer and perhaps a bit more aggressive. However, you look at the other kids and you know their fate. They will be so full of love that those things will not last in their hearts. I left the houses realizing that I came here to give but really, they have so much more to give than I do.

I was surprised at the authority and respect that the kids give to the organization leaders. They affectionately call the leaders, Ted and Sou, Big Pa and Big Grandma or Big Ma (I guess that depends on the age of the children). I have yet to see children in tattered clothing or famished beyond recognition. They are treated like normal kids but according to Cambodian standards, they are treated even better than that. They run each home like a real family having a caretaker for every five children. These caretakers are often widows who have nowhere else to go. Yesterday, we were handing out the apples but lovingly, Sou would correct the children as she desired each of her (yes, she considers them her own) children to have manners and respect their elders. They joyfully and lovingly accepted the correction. Wow, how many kids have we seen do that on the first try!

The impossibilities are a reality here and I get to live in that reality everyday. What a joy that is! What a joy to even participate in what they are doing here. Family really makes it a difference. Our hearts make a difference. Sometimes we focus too much on the objective that we lose sight of the people before us. But really, it’s the people before us that gives us parameters for the goals that we set and in the midst of pursuing their health, welfare and wealth, our goals become a reality.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27