When You Win An Award

A couple of weeks ago, this crazy thing happened.

This lady I’ve never met contacted me and told me I’d won an award I didn’t know about.  It turns out someone had nominated me, and I had been selected, as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Houston for 2014.

My heart stopped momentarily and my stomach did a complete flip.  Because that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Then I may have running screaming down the hallway to tell my co-worker, and I may have even danced a little jig in front of my boss’ boss.  (Is that how you type that?  Because it’s not boss’s boss, but it looks wrong the other way.  Sheesh.  Rabbit trail.)

I got details about the awards celebration and the magazine and the deadline for headshots and bios and what not.  I called my husband with the news who was so impressed that in response to my yelping he replied, “what rank were you?”  When I noted it was just a compilation of the top 50 women rather than a ranking he pressed, “well, don’t you want to know your rank?”  (This is why God brought us together.  My husband is completely unfazed.  And that is really good for me.  And my kids still won’t eat their spinach so clearly not much influence there…)

The awards celebration and press release and all that craziness happened this Sunday.  And there are a lot of things that have historically happened when God is gracious enough to open a door like this for me.  I’d get sort of full of myself, wow, look at me, this is pretty dadgum impressive if you ask me, umm-hmm.  That’s the God’s honest truth.  I used to think these things made me awesome.  I also used to think the absence of these things made me not so awesome.  I would also do a lot of comparing.  I’d look around at the other people in whatever award mix or recognition group and see some real or perceived skill or talent they possessed that I did not.

So I stopped.

Not cold turkey.  And not perfectly.  I still looked around at the women on Sunday and nearly fell out.  Heck, my friends and co-workers who came to cheer me on could have been honored too!  But my worth does not come from whether or not I pick up another killer award this year.  Nor does it come from being completely unrecognized in any given year.

There’s this wonderful hymn I grew up hearing my grandparents sing.  The chorus says, On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.

That’s the truth.  Everything else is completely unpredictable.  Whether or not you’ll be deemed the best or the worst on a swinging pendulum of outside perception is no way to live your life or determine your value.  You have to find your solid rock to stand on or else you’ll spend your career chasing the imaginary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So yesterday was just gravy.  Goodness and fun and light.

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I spent it grateful for the mix of colleagues and family and dear girlfriends (even darling Kristin from Minnesota, whose birthday surprise you’ll read about later) that came together just to toast this fun recognition.  I am no more successful or worthy today than I was last month.  And I will be no less successful or worthy next year when everyone’s forgotten my name.  (See, I have written your name on the palm of my hand.  Isaiah 49:16)

On Being Brave

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There’s a theme out there in the blogging world about selecting ONE word for the new year ahead.  I’ve never done it.  I’m not doing it this year.  But I love the concept.  If you had to capture all you want out of the year ahead in one word, what would it be?

For me, as I have written earlier, my word for 2015 would be brave.

Brave as dressed in entirely new clothes.

Brave as being rather than doing.

You see I’m a doer.  It turns out being takes far more courage (for me) than doing.

When I wrote a God-sized Dreams link up post last year at this exact same time, I wrote about wonderful stuff but it generally involved doing.  I did not envision just being one year ago.  I envisioned doing.  And so I did.  I thought I was brave this year by working on a second book and taking more significant assignments at work and speaking on bigger and brighter stages in front of hundreds of women and leading an organization with an increasingly national profile.

That was not actually all that brave.  It was good, don’t get me wrong.  God opened those doors and I am grateful for every single one of them.  But what God is teaching me, in these hours we’re spending together, is that brave MUST look different this year.

It takes more bravery for me to offer a dozen neighbors cookies in my front yard that to stand on a stage in front of a thousand women.  It takes more bravery for me to read bedtime stories every single night I’m given with my children this year than to finish writing my next book.  It takes more bravery for me to wake up early every morning and work out so that I can lose weight and be a healthy momma than to attend dinner parties with “the important people.”  It takes more bravery for me to spend less and live “smaller,” than to gain everything but lose my soul (Matt. 16:26).

It will take a mighty act of courage, with significant assistance from my patient Heavenly Father, to focus on my influence within my property lines than my influence within my city or state or anywhere else.

I studied the 40 Day Prayer Circle Challenge by Mark Batterson this fall, and in it he writes about drawing a circle of prayer around the area you most fervently want God to work.  Then he uses this beautiful image of how God draws a circle around us:”Long before we woke up this morning and long after we go to sleep tonight, the Holy Spirit was and is circling us in prayer.  And if that doesn’t infuse us with holy confidence, I don’t know what will.  But it isn’t just the Holy Spirit who is interceding for us; the Son of God is interceding for us as well.  They are interceding for the will of God to be accomplished in our lives.  We are double circled.  They are circling us all the time with songs of deliverance.” (Day 15, Draw the Circle)

He wants His work to be done in you even more than you want it!  I could just visualize that 2015 is the year God is drawing a circle around my family and saying, Here.  Here is where you stand.  You stand in this circle this year.  I have a plan for you.  But it will take you being brave to trust me that I can accomplish it while you stand right here in a circle that might feel a little small at first. 

I wrote for God-sized Dreams, “God sometimes requires us to lay down our dream, even the dream He placed on our heart, in order to know him more.”  I want to be brave enough to do that.

He must increase, but I must decreaseJohn 3:30

The line in a song by Francesca Battistelli resonated in my core, “I don’t need my name in lights, I’m famous in my Father’s eyes.  Make no mistake, He knows my name.  I’m not living for applause.  I’m already so adored.  It’s all His stage.  He knows my name.”

You see, it’s all HIS stage.  Thousands of articles have been authored  by media specialists and blogging experts about the size of your platform (aka your stage).  Your reach is supposed to grow and your name found at the top of every search engine.  But it is His stage.  I only need HIM to know my name.

So my God-sized Dream for 2015 is for the size and shape of my stage to just so reflect Him.  The stage may look, from the outside, smaller and less bright, but oh friend it feels so brave and big to me.

 

Linking up with God-sized Dreamers today:

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The Best Yes Study: The Final Yes

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You did it!  You made it through to the very last installment of our walk through Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes!

What was the single most important lesson you learned?

I’m not sure, it’s a hard one for me, but I sure loved Chapter 8 on release and Chapter 5 on every assignment not being MY assignment.  Probably the most important reminder was the power of a small no in Chapter 11.  And then today.  Whoa.

We tackle the final two chapters right here at the close of the year: Chapter 18, When My Best Yes Doesn’t Yield What I Expect, and Chapter 19, We Make Choices Then Our Choices Make Us.

Do not miss Chapter 18 if you have ever walked through disaster, crisis, heartbreak, or failure.  Let this give you hope as we enter the new year:

Let this unexpected happening point to your strength, not your weakness.
Maybe you’ve been entrusted with this.  Not cursed with it.
Chapter 18, p. 221, The Best Yes

Whatever the hard thing is you are facing, do the next right thing right in front of you to do.  No matter how much it hurts to do the right thing.  She quotes President Theodore Roosevelt as saying, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing.  The worst thing you can do is nothing.”  {===>Click To Tweet}

I could not put the message to you any better than Lysa did herself:  Friend, you are strong.  You are persevering, tough, able to bend without breaking, willing to be humbled to the point of humiliation, not blinded, a hunter for wisdom, a praying-through-it woman, a courageous gal, one who wants to learn the deep dependence of following hard after God Himself…From that cracked open-heart place, a God-breathed strength will rise. Rise. Rise. (Chapter 18, p. 225)

In Chapter 19, she closes by commending us to mix together all of the wisdom we have picked up along this journey – day by day, decision by decision.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  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.  James 1:4-5

So share your thoughts?  What will you be taking into your new year as you strive to offer respectful nos and best yeses?

The Best Yes Study: From Insecurity to Courage

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We’re almost through!  Thank you ladies for hanging in there with me.  Hopefully you’ve picked up as many useful tips as I have and can really implement them as you choose your yes and your no in the coming New Year.  Today, we’re looking at Chapters 16 (The Panic That Keeps You From Your Best Yes) and 17 (The Very Best Yes) of Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes.  {If you’ve missed some of the study, just click on leadership topic on the right hand side of this blog, and you’ll see the series; because we know that smart leaders offer smart nos and yeses.}

We lead off today’s study by identifying panic that can hold us back.  I’ve struggled with fear on and off my whole life, but it really reared its ugly head once I had kids.  Well fear, or panic, can encompass more than just worrying about our family, “People can drown in things besides water.  You know where I see this most often? A woman’s insecurities.  It takes courage to say no.  It takes courage to say yes.  It takes courage to change the unhealthy patterns of our decision-making.  And anytime we need to be courageous, our deepest insecurities can make us want to back down from change.”  (Chp 16, p. 194)

Does that resonate with you?  I know the voice inside my head can shout down many a best yes decision out of fear or panic.  Here’s the reality and what Lysa identifies.  We do not have a fixed set of skills that never expand or grow.  Yet often we believe that’s true and that our limitations constrain us from achieving what we really want most out of life.  Instead, and research bears this out, we can grow because we have potential.  Wherever we are today and whatever we do, we have potential beyond that we currently exhibit.  For those of us with a faith foundation, we know that we humans have limitations but that our God does not and His freedom and power can give us exponential growth potential.

Lysa’s tip to embrace the growth mind set over the fixed mind set is to eliminate “but” from your vocabulary.  Nothing good ever came from that little word being used in our personal storyline.  “I want to speak, but I’m not polished enough.”  “I want to lead, but I don’t have the connections others do.”   Transform “but” into “therefore.”  “I want to speak, therefore since God laid this passion on my heart He will give me the words and the ability.”  Lysa uses scripture to empower her therefores; this is one of my favorites, “I am a child of God, therefore no weapon formed against me will stand. (Isaiah 54:17)”  (Chp 16, p. 199)

Then, in Chapter 17, Lysa shares a story of a broken heart and how brokenness can impact our Best Yes.  We’ve all been there and had deep heartache, and in those sad or angry or anguished places we overlook the forest for the trees and don’t choose a best yes response.  She shares, “Hard places can so easily make us want to default to using our feelings rather than wisdom as our guide.  That’s not the best time to make a decision.  At least not alone.  In those moments when we feel swept away in a current of fast-moving feelings, we need to pause.  Wait.  Let someone else be there as a voice of clarity.”  (Chp 17, p. 208)

I can’t tell you how often I have used this strategy.  Certainly there are times I haven’t.  But so often my core group of wise and savvy girlfriends step in to show me restraint and help me make a wise choice rather than an emotional one.

Do you have a person or people you can go to?  If you don’t, cultivate a relationship this year with someone whose judgment you trust that you can turn to for perspective.  If you do, then thank those people this season and make sure you are provide them wise counsel as well.  Make sure your “go-to” friends have gone through hard seasons as well and can appreciate the challenges that making hard choices in hard times brings.  Also, make sure they are not the folks that just agree with you.  You need wisdom in these seasons, not a rubber stamp of your emotions.

I leave you with the scripture shared in Chapter 17 that remind us that wisdom often grows from these hard seasons – I’d love to hear what connected with you this week:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  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.  James 1:2-5

 

The Best Yest Study: Yes to Presence

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Friends, bear with me.  I feel like I’m sliding in here at the end.  I’m a little behind what with all this Christmas wonder :)

Today we’re on Chapters 14 and 15 of The Best Yes study, and we’re moving from how to say no to how to know when to say YES!  Wahoo – the yeses!

This wisdom laid the foundation for the insight to come: “We want big directional signs from God.  God wants us to pay attention.”  (p. 170)

It’s true, right?  We often seek out some big clear signal that the right yes is staring us in the face when often the answer is more subtle, but the answer can be just as clear if we’re centered and willing to pick out the indications along the way.

Lysa quotes the optimistic and insightful Bob Goff from Love Does, “The brand of love Jesus offers is more about presence than undertaking a project.” (p. 172)

What should you say yes to because it requires you, uniquely you?  Your presence.  What should you say no to because it requires you to add to your ever growing to do list and any human could be substituted for the job?  It’s a project.  Think about the things that require your presence.  Being a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a colleague, a whatever it is, fill in the blank.  Doesn’t that help you get a little clarity over your best yes?

Be present with a heart bent toward love and daring to look at what’s been placed right in front of you…Refuse to get tangled up and held back by what you don’t know.  And most of all, know who you want to be and take the next step that points you in the direction of that character quality.

I close with some of the beauty from Chapter 15, The Thrill of An Unrushed Yes.  I don’t know if you welled up reading Lysa’s reminiscing over moments with those she loves most and her unrushed yes, but I did.  She’s right.  Sometimes it is the smallest yes that can make the most impact.  Tonight my kid’s exclaimed, “this is the best day ever!” because I served crackers and cheese and apple slices with our cowboy stew.  Y’all, I just made dinner and a pretty basic one.  I came home early and didn’t even have time to make cornbread to go with our stew because I was baking for the school Christmas party.  But we sat there to the simplest meals and talked about our days, and it was the best yes I’d offered this week.  I had a competing offer.  I could have been elsewhere.  I would have missed that.  One more of their “best days!”

Lord knows I do miss plenty of that.  I didn’t miss it tonight.  As a Type A planner girl, I’m actively changing my focus these days to build space in my life for the unrushed yes.  The best yes.

Lysa sums it up like this, “This isn’t natural to me. I’m a task girl. I like accomplishing things. I like the thrill of moving forward, creating momentum, and getting stuff done. But the more I choose to pause and talk and really connect, the more I discover the thrill in the sacred spaces of relationships. Leaving room in my life for the unrushed yes strengthens the fabric of my relationships so they can better withstand the wear and tear of everyday life.” (p. 181)

What about you?  What best yes can you offer in this season that is all too often filled with frenzy and lists of things to do?