Life, In One Simple Thought…

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If lay people cannot find any spiritual meaning in their work, they are condemned to living a certain dual life; not connecting what they do on Sunday morning with what they do the rest of the week.  They need to discover that the very actions of daily life are spiritual, and enable… people to touch God in the world, not away from it.  Such a spirituality will say… ‘Your work is your prayer.'”…  Your daily work is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped you to do it– no matter what kind of work it is.

~Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor

This.

This pretty much sums up Urban Hallelujah, and how I want to live my life.

My husband left today for Atlantic City after being away all last week, which comes on the heels of multiple events the weeks prior.  He is tired and his spirit is exhausted.  Yet somehow, through the hustle-hustle this part of the country demands, there has to be a way to connect it all back to the One who gave it to us in the first place.

So I picked up Tim Keller’s book (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City) and am reading through.  It’s tough, his style is just like the business world– practical, factual, non-emotional or flowery… Almost scientific even.  But then he quotes one of my favorite movies, Chariots of Fire and I’m engaged: “You can praise the Lord by peeling a spud, if you peel it to perfection.”

This week, may I peel my “potatoes” with “perfection”, knowing that true perfection is made only in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  May his glory be revealed both in the beauty of a gentle sunset and the sorrow of receiving bad news.  May I remember His abundant provision and care, rest as a true daughter of the King, and hurry through nothing.  May I be proud of my calling today, without worrying for what it may be tomorrow and peel every so-called ‘potato’ with delight.  May my daily work be an “act of worship to the one who called and equipped me to do it.”

May I remember to whom I belong.

And whatever you do, in word or deed,

do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him.

~Colossians 3:17

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Dreams Change

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What happens when you look around at your life and can hardly recognize yourself?

When the life you dreamed of while you were in college doesn’t even mirror the slightest that your everyday mundane now calls you to, what is the appropriate response?

What do you do when you are so knee deep in a different story than the one you would have written for yourself back in high school?

And…

Wait for it…

What if you are completely okay with it?!  Content with it even?!  Dare I say happy even!

Let’s give ourselves permission to be okay with changed dreams.  Let’s whisper a hallelujah in knowing that they’ll most likely change again.  Let’s let out a sigh of relief– relief that it’s okay to do something we didn’t originally dream of.

Last week I read the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg.  You probably know her as the COO of Facebook and the ever popular TEDTalk feature a few years ago.  She’s many women’s hero right now.  I loved her book; I hated her book.  Reading that book made me realize how different my dreams are today then they were 10 years ago.  But this post is not about that book.  It’s about dreams.

It’s about how sometimes dreams change; about letting ourselves be okay with that and embracing the new dreams springing up inside.

I used to dream about being a really “successful” working woman.  I dreamed about wearing heels to work and working on “important” things.  I followed that dream.  I had fun.  I enjoyed it fully.  Yet slowly, things changed.  It wasn’t overnight, but wow, this life I live today isn’t what I dreamed of back then.  My life is not exactly what my 20 year old self would aspire to be.

And… gasp…

I’m still happy!

The internal struggle still exists.  While reading Sheryl’s book, I missed the projects and office drama and people and thrill of bringing product to marketplace and helping customers and everything in between.  At the same time I read “Let Me Be a Woman” by Elizabeth Elliot and longed for a simpler time, an Anne of Green Gables kind of simplicity.   How is it that these two worlds can exist in the heart of the same woman?

Dreams change.

My 20 year old self would not recognize me.  She would probably judge me.  She would feel bad for me.  She would wish she could write my story differently.

I would smile at her and tell her it’s okay that dreams change.  My dream will not always be to stay at home with my toddler.  She will grow up, God willing.  Dreams change.  My life today is not what I dreamed it would be back then but it has transformed into my dream right now.  My life today probably isn’t going to be my dream of the future.  I’m sure I’ll be ecstatic to be done with diapers and “wee sing” and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!  Yes, I hope my dreams change! 🙂  Even so, while I am here, I want to embrace this stage and be fully here, eyes open, fists open, taking in and giving my best to what’s right in front of me.

Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky says it so well:

One of my own personal struggles is a temptation to always look ahead to the next thing, idealizing the other-ness of what is not rather than embracing the essence of what is. That’s not always bad, but it is a delicate kind of learned art to be able to look ahead while also celebrating now, to imagine what could be without discounting what is.

As I’ve been reading in the gospels lately, I’m reminded of how personal, present, and local Jesus was when he was here on earth. He didn’t teach about roads he hadn’t traveled on or cultures he didn’t live among (even though as all-knowing God of course he could have). Instead, he chose to sit with neighbors in neighborhoods, to walk with them in celebration and in grief, to eat meals and use the stuff of meals – bread, salt, wine, fish – in his conversations. He spoke of the future because that’s why he came, but he didn’t do so at the expense of the present.

Let yourself be happy in your current dream.  Don’t waste happiness and joy wishing for the dream of the past or future.  Dreams change.  Embrace it, girlfriend.  Believe it or not– some dreams are not timeless.  Like some friends or seasons or fresh basil some will come in to your life for a period and then they will leave.  They will play a part in your life for a moment or an hour or a few years and then they’ll quietly transform into something completely different.  Dreams change.  It’s okay.  You don’t have to justify it to anyone.

Dreams Change.

Just go with it!

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Do Something Already

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Every time I had a run in with him, I called her.  My business hero, my career mentor, my friend.  She always gave me great advice.  She made recommendations that actually worked!  She listened to my sob stories.  She was my shoulder to lean on.  She gave me confidence that I could handle whatever he threw my way.

“He” was someone at work who couldn’t stand me.  He looked for me to make mistakes and seemed to love to let everyone know about them.  He watched for opportunities to let me fail and gave me a piece of his mind every chance he had.  He complained.  He argued. He justified.  He drained me.  And I was his manager.

I would call her, and she would make it better.  She would give me pointers for things to say and do to encourage a better working relationship and performance.  She coached me, she held me accountable, she made me better.  She listened so well.

The one day, she said it.  It was a long time coming but it was still hard to hear:

“I’m done with the (insert name) situation,” she said.  “You need to either do something permanent about this, or stop talking about it.  I’m so over you about him.  Do something already!

Because I trusted and respected her, I didn’t get offended.  I received her words with a knot in my stomach knowing she was right.  I had to stop talking about it.  I had to stop complaining about him.  I had to quit my bad habit.  It was time to do something about it.

I guess I got lucky, because the very next week he quit.  He walked into my office and said it would be his last day.  End of story.

I was reminded of this particularly awkward time in my work history when I was journaling last week.  I wrote “I’ve been talking to you about this for years, Lord.  When are you going to show up?!  When are you going to do what I know is within your will and is what I believe you are calling me to do?  Why won’t you act?!”  And suddenly as soon as the words had hit the paper I realized that this thing that I’ve prayed for what seems like forever was suddenly like that person that I used to stress out about at work.  And maybe God was just like her, telling me to stop whining and talking about it and to just DO something already.

Sometimes God sweeps in, rescues by fire or wind or the parting of the red sea– and sometimes He gives us the authority to swim across the river.  It’s as if He’s whispering, “Do something already!”

There are some things in life that are not a mystery.  It is not a mystery that God wants you to tell the truth, remain faithful in your marriage (aka don’t cheat!), be generous, love your neighbor, etc…  The list can go on and on.  These are not mysteries.  These are God’s will. We can compare our SWAT analyses and we will always come back to the same result: these are God’s will.

Do something already.

Sometimes I pray and pray and pray, ask and ask and ask and I am like that man in that fable that is asking to be rescued.  The man looks up to heaven, seeing the rain pouring down and asks the Lord to save him from this horrible flood.  A fireman comes to the door and says he’s there to help evacuate the neighborhood, and would the man please let him escort him out.  The man replies, “I am waiting for the Lord to rescue me.”  So the fireman leaves, the man crawls up the roof as the water rises higher and higher, and a boat comes along to save him, but he tells the captain of the ship “the Lord’s a comin’!  He’s going to rescue me!”  A little while later, a helicopter comes and drops a ladder!  Again, the man looks up to the pilot and says, “The Lord is coming to rescue me!  Go on!”  Finally, the man drowns and he meets God in heaven and asks him, “Why didn’t you rescue me?”  God just chuckles and says “what did you think the fireman, the boat and the helicopter were?!”

DO SOMETHING ALREADY!

Get on that boat, climb up the ladder and go with that fireman.  Do something!

I get it, Lord.

I know you want me to do something!

Now, please… In all honesty…  WHAT is it you want me to do?!

I am annoying myself just writing this post!  I’m impossible!  I pray God doesn’t give up on me and roll his eyes in frustration.  But I’m serious… I know He’s calling me to act but I’m not exactly sure where or how or what I should be doing.

I feel like that fourth grade girl playing softball at shortstop.  The ball flew my way and I knew I had to do something with it but I just didn’t know where to throw it.  If I threw it to home plate I could get a runner out possibly, but maybe I should just throw it to first base and get the hitter out.  Or maybe throw it to third?  So I did what any fourth grade girl who isn’t good at softball does.  I threw it at the fence and played it off like it slipped out of my hands in the wrong direction!

I knew I had to do something with that dang ball.  I heard people telling me to throw it to first, to home, to third!  I knew I had to do something already!  I just didn’t know exactly what was the best move so I threw the ball AT THE FENCE!

Lord God I do not want to keep throwing balls at the fence.  Oh please protect me from throwing my life at the proverbial fence!

Do something already, but please…  Not the fence.

When I am faced with the knowledge that I’ve got to get moving but I’m not sure what to do, I know I should do the thing in front of me so that at all costs I can avoid throwing my ball at the fence.  But it’s hard, I’m not gonna lie!

Do something already!

But what?! 🙂

Have you ever felt similar?  Have you ever felt called to act but not sure exactly what you should do?

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For all You Workhorses…

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This snow we get in the northeast is kicking my butt!

There was a week where I didn’t leave the house for four days.  Four days!  I needed to grocery shop but I refused to greet 3 degree air so I became ultra creative with chips, broccoli, cheese and tuna.  Ew, I’m grossing myself out just thinking about it!  The snow has been a complete thorn in my side because twice now I’ve canceled trips to the city to visit Krista because of this darn cold weather.  And I’ll admit, I’m a baby.  If it’s below freezing, I’m staying in.  With my jacket on ha!

My hubs has had a snow day or two during this awful polar vortex too.  I thought it would be fun, that we’d be like kids who couldn’t go to school.  Unfortunately the business world still functions when there is snow, go figure?!  He was seriously on the phone or on his computer the entire snow day.  They say Vegas is the city that never sleeps, but I think New York, New Jersey and Connecticut must be the same because people burn the midnight oil working out here.  It’s gotten me thinking back to when I was working out of the home (because we all know being home with a toddler is work too!).  I was career minded; focused on working hard and smart.  I was driven– working my way up, albeit tripping a few times as I took each step.  I loved the working life until I took on too much.

A few years ago, I was drowning in my job.

As I mentioned before, I’m not one to slack off; I always always always work hard.  That’s one of my strengths.  That strength can be my biggest vice, though.  At the time, that workhorse within me took on a little too much and I felt completely worn out, overworked and overwhelmed.  I was drowning, and even this strong swimmer didn’t know how to get herself to shore safely!  My career was always extremely important to me and I feared I would look bad to executive management if I didn’t man up and just take it all in stride.  Inside, however, I wanted to quit.  I was ready.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

I eventually did talk to my boss and he let me hire help.  Thank goodness!  I hired two additional people to my staff and immediately I experienced the reprieve that delegation can offer.  I was motivated again and excited to take on more.  But then I got pregnant and moved to New Jersey and now stay at home with my baby– oh the irony!

As I’ve watched the fast paced career world out here spin well into the wee hours of the night (and yes, I know, east coasters aren’t the only ones who work long hours or have crazy deadlines.  But there is something different about the working world out here, I can’t explain it!), I’ve realized there are universal things I’ve learned from my experience managing projects, people, deadlines and budgets.  Whether you work in suburbia or in the big city, I think there are some  things that just “work”.  Here’s my go-to list for project management for all you workhorses!  This list isn’t by any means all-encompassing, but are things I’ve learned that have worked for me. 🙂

1.  Create a project brief.

Creating a project brief can be a lot of work, but if it’s done well it can really add a ton of value to the project as a whole.  The brief (document, outline, etc…) is just an overview of what the project is and it’s major components.  These may include the goal for completing it, how much it’s going to  cost, the schedule, the team members involved, and the impact to the customer (the customer could be five year olds if your project is a birthday party!!!).  Once your brief is complete and approved (many times executive management will want to sign off on things like this) you are ready to meet with your project team to review the brief and answer any questions, which leads me to my next point…

2.  Clearly communicate roles.

During your overview of the project brief, it’s important you lay out basic roles at this point.  Sure, details will change and tasks will be added or taken away, but responsibility and accountability should not.  Who is ultimately in charge?  Who approves things?  Who is the liaison with vendors, who is the one implementing?  Defining roles from the beginning ensures there’s no confusion on who is accountable to what.  This has proven me to be a huge success factor to getting the people involved in the project on board and supportive as they understand their role and commitment level.

3.  Establish a budget and a schedule.

Knowing how much the project should cost and what the implementation/planning schedule is critical to a successful launch.  For some projects, if you implemented flawlessly and on time but were over budget it’s a failure.  To others, the timeline is more critical.  Make sure you understand what the costs are going to be and plan accordingly when creating your budget.  Picking a number out of thin air won’t do you any good; do your research and figure out a number that makes sense for the schedule and the pieces that need to be knit together.  Also, understand your schedule and when you are ahead or behind.  You won’t understand the impact of your decisions unless you can tie them to how they will affect the schedule and/or budget of the project.

4.  Keep an up-to-date issues list.

Many projects require testing or approval prior to implementation.  Keeping an issues list will help you keep track of what currently needs attention and can aid you in knowing what action to take next.  Keep your vendors, team and management aware of any significant issues and the progress you’re making.  Designate one team member to update it so you don’t have multiple people duplicating issues or adding or deleting things.  This also helps to eliminate millions of little emails flying back and forth.

5.  Never assume…  EVER.  Did I say never assume?  I meant NEVER.  EVER.  ASSUME…!!!

One project I managed was coordinating the switch of one web host to another (I know, boring!!!!).  This meant copying every single URL, image, landing page, blah blah blah from the current host to the new web host.  I wasn’t the one copying over any of it, I was simply managing the moving pieces.  Work with one vendor, then the corporate team, then our new web team…  The thing is I don’t speak web lingo.  Drop that file where?  HTML code whaaaaat?  Link this source to fdalkfdsalfmjdk is what it all meant to me.  I assumed one group knew what the other group knew because I sure as heck didn’t know.  Wrong.  Don’t ever assume someone knows what’s going on.  Keep people informed and ask questions about the things you’re unsure of.  Get everyone in a room so there’s no “I thought… He said… She said…”

6.  Establish an implementation strategy.

As you are moving closer to the date you go live with your project (or event, or product for that matter) understand how you are going to implement it.  Write it down.  Collaborate with your team and management (keeping in mind to maintain clear roles and responsibilities!) to define how you are going to get this done.  This part of project management goes hand in hand with laying out an appropriate schedule.  Are you going to have a daily conference call to track the progress?  Or are you going to manage it by email or spreadsheets?  However you decide, be certain you and your team understand how the implementation should go which means planning way ahead before the actual live date.  What testing needs to be completed, at what point can you expose part of the project to management or others to gain feedback, etc…  Define a strategy for how you plan to get your product, event and/or project on the road with smooth sailing.  On implementation day the last thing you need is for someone to say “I can’t…”  You should be thinking of those things now and also preparing to ensure everyone can.

7.  Debrief, then move on.

After you’ve finished the project, take some time to sit down with your team and debrief.  Talk about what went well, what could have gone smoother, some ideas for next time and evaluate each piece.  Without a legitimate debrief it’s hard to go back and remember what exactly was done successfully.  The next time you go to plan a launch of an event, product or project you’ll have a clear idea of what was completed before, and the victories as well as the pain points to avoid for next time.

All in all, project management is fun.  I enjoy knitting together moving pieces to create something better than what was there before.  But it is stressful.  It doesn’t have to be perfect though.  Or maybe it does (depending on who you work for!).  Thankfully I’ve worked with a very forgiving teams!  Distinguishing between what’s critical to going live and what are pleasantries that would be nice to have is important.  Don’t aim for perfection.  Someone will always find a flaw in your work!  Have fun, drink lots of starbucks and breathe.  If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be on your way to a successful project!

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