The 40 Day Un-challenge

field1

I don’t know why every time around my birthday I end up in challenges or learning seasons.

Two years ago, 39 days before my 39th birthday, I embarked on the 39 Things Challenge inspired by an article in the New York Times about how we needed so much less STUFF to live on that we actually use.  I went back and read through all of those pieces of the challenge and saw how I had grown, but then how I have allowed all the stuff back into my life without any hesitation.  It reminds me so acutely that I can do anything for a few weeks, but it is going to take a lot more work, a lot better new habit development, and a lot more relying on God to actually get where I am trying to go: less stuff, more faith.

One year ago, I ventured down the 40 Days to 40 Journey.  I felt like there were some big things ahead (I had NO idea, this year has been an absolute whirlwind), and wanted to spend time focusing ten days each on being a better mom, a better wife, a better worker, and a better person.  Some of the stuff stuck.  Some of the areas I’m actually worse today than I was a year ago.

I don’t have any grand challenges this year.  Not until I can learn how to keep the new habits engrained and thriving.  Instead, I’m joining a good friend of mine’s church (virtually, they are in FLORIDA!) as they embark on Mark Batterson’s Draw The Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge.  The idea is to draw a circle around a promise God has for you, and then pray regularly, every day for 40 days, about it.  Because all too often we pray about something and then fail to keep after it, and we forget to recognize God’s hand as it appears in a situation we prayed about.

I don’t have something specific I’m praying (yet).  I all too often fail on more specific ideals I plan or target.  I love that the introduction to the challenge gives you the permission not to know: Pray about what to pray about.  God will reveal a promise, a problem, or a person.  Then circle whatever God has prompted you to pray for with the same kind of consistency with which the earth circles the sun.

I’ll admit, I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch.  As I mentioned, due to a fair amount of travel this month you won’t hear a lot from me in the next few weeks, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  In this season of struggling, I’m craving the quiet.  I’m ready to hear what’s next.  So no grandiose plans for this year’s 40 day challenge.

I started Draw the Circle yesterday and read from II Samuel 22 as my prayer.  There’s a powerful excerpt in the middle of the chapter that, if nothing else, I’m praying.  Each Bible translation says it a little differently – this is my favorite:

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (ESV)

 He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (KJV)

I have this picture of a wide open field.  Fighting uphill to finally encounter the vista.  And regardless of the words used for the place you reach, each version concludes with the reason why God brings you to this spacious open place: He delights in you.  He delights in me.  I can certainly pray, even without certainty, for a spacious place for the next 40 days.   

 

Photo Credit: Mike Cattell

Fashion Fridays: Transition Flawlessly Into Fall

Today is the first of four Fashion Friday guest posts from real world fashionable career women.  I met Shavonnah through the Women’s Energy Network and she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met in real life.  You can’t help but love her because she has an equally beautiful soul.  Delighted to introduce you to this remarkable, fashionable, friend:

September – it’s a great month for so many reasons:  school is back in session, the holidays are far enough off to render pleasant thoughts instead of the panic-stricken ones that creep in around mid-October, and the weather starts to take a pleasant turn toward cooler temperatures.

While September brings all good things I mentioned above to mind, it can also be one of the most awkward and nerve-racking times of the year as it relates to our wardrobe. Technically, fall does not start until late September, the 22nd to be exact, and depending on what part of the country you live in, September can mean temperatures in the 60s and 70s or 90+ degree temperatures and humidity you can slice with a knife. All these factors make September one of the trickiest month for dressing ourselves well.

Below are some of my favorite summer-to-fall wardrobe transition tips:

1.  Layer with Love.

Still steamy outside, but freezing in your office? Want to wear your chic summer work dress a few more times? Learn the language of layering.

Layering is a great way to transition your wardrobe between seasons. Be sure to choose fabrics that lay well together, meaning thinner, closer fitting layers that do not bunch or wrinkle if separated multiple times a day.

shav1

2.  Befriend a neutral. 

Neutrals are great in that they can be mixed in with any color and can even serve as nice staple instead of a standard black or brown-colors we typically wear a lot of in the colder months. To transition from summer to fall, start mixing warmer neutral colors into your late summer wardrobe to get a few more weeks of wear out of them.

shav2

3.  Play with “pops” of color.

This September summer-fall transition period is a perfect time to wear those bold colors that were summer staples a few more times before tucking them away until 2015. Transition flawlessly into fall by mixing in brightly colored accessories or wardrobe pieces that pop.

shav3

While September can be a challenging month due to the transitions seasons (or the lack thereof), if approached with a fresh perspective, you can turn September into your chicest month of the year!

shav4Shavonnah Roberts Schreiber is a Senior Marketing Manager for IHS, Inc.  Additionally, Shavonnah is a principal at the boutique personal development and coaching firm that she founded in 2012, SNR Creative. She is a fitness enthusiast who is certified as a personal trainer and in sports nutrition. Shavonnah has a passion for helping others live happy, healthy and whole lives. Shavonnah has led numerous organizations, including Emerging Leaders, the Women’s Energy Network, Houston Young People for the Arts, and many more which led to her being featured in the Greater Houston Partnership’s national Houston: the City with No Limits campaign.

 

Wordless Wednesday

10576981_10201635992261042_6423368104535127889_n10523319_10201649805646368_3841801152788808071_n

Leadership Flashback

I am simultaneously excited about, and dreading, this month.  September is always fun month – the start of fall, my birthday, back to school, etc.  But this month is packed with travel.  I’m in Austin this week, then at the end of next week I head to Alaska for over a week (work with a little personal trip to kick it off), and then I get back to Houston for a week before flying to D.C.

I knew well in advance that would mean I’d need some help here on the blog.  So while there will be a handful of new posts from me, there will also be some wonderful guest posts (including every September Fashion Friday – can’t wait to debut this week’s!) and a few of my past favorites.

This leadership post, entitled Leading Past The Fear, ran last March and still rang true to me today when I was sifting old posts:

Today, we’ll tackle when leading, or the chance to lead, has you shaking in your boots.

When I interviewed Diane Yu from NYU for the book, I appreciated her candor.  The first thing she shared with me was a that leadership IS HARD.  Not for the faint of heart.

There’s this idea that leadership is all success and prestige and honor.

But leadership can mean loneliness, hard decisions, intense pressure, and tremendous responsibility.

Fortunately, she went on to say that you should still lead if given the chance.  Just go in prepared for what’s ahead.

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to lead in a way and within a timeline that was completely unexpected for me.  Do you know what my reaction was?  Nausea.  Fear.  A strong desire to step back and say, “no thanks, I’m not ready for this.”  My closest friends were encouraging me and cheering me on while I was ready to tuck tail and run.

The opportunity, on its face, was exciting.  But there was some quantifiable risk that accompanied the opportunity.  Unpredictable personalities and an unknown outcome.

Some days, you feel ready to tackle those challenges with abandon.  However, given the fact that I’d had to tackle a fair number of new leadership opportunities this past year, this challenge just left me tired.  Ready for a little of the familiar.  The low risk way of life despite the low return.

I took the challenge anyway. 

As you know if you’ve read this blog at all in the past, I am a strong believer that these opportunities come from God.  Not as a result of luck or timing or karma, but because God has a plan for my life and this is part of how He would like to use me.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t say no to certain opportunities.  You absolutely MUST say no to certain opportunities so that you can make room for the yeses that matter.  This was a yes that mattered.  This was a yes that, if I took it, could show others that God can do big things.  Because there’s no way, on any normal timeline or in any normal circumstances, I should have this opportunity.

So I said yes.  I still felt completely nauseous.  I still do.  I’m still shaking.  But with great (smart) risk, comes great reward.

BTE With A BFF

My mind doesn’t shut off.  It just runs and runs and plans and lists and analyzes.  It’s actually getting worse with age instead of better.  It’s why I have a hard time falling asleep.  Like that movie How Does She Do It All where she just lays there in be making lists.

One thing shuts my brain off.

Loud live music.

I love going to concerts but because of my nutty schedule, friends with fewer time on their hands, a limited “extras” budget, and the kids, I don’t do it very often.

However, my best friend always gets us tickets to see Better Than Ezra at House of Blues when they come through town.  I’ve been going to BTE concerts since the mid-90s in law school in Nashville when they first hit.  They’re from Baton Rouge and they played the HOB Friday night before the LSU game in Houston on Saturday.  It was a zoo!  An absolutely wonderful, loud, hysterical rockin’ zoo.

We got there just before they went on in our skinny(ish) jeans and high heels and dark eyeliner just like we’ve been dressing for concerts for ages.  As the familiar music filled the room with drums shaking the floors and crowd belting out the lyrics, my brain turned off.  All I could think or hear or feel was the music.

bte

bte1

There was this moment when they started singing a song from their album which will release next week called It’s Gonna Get Better.  Let me tell you, there’s something about shouting “It’s Gonna Get Better” with a room full of strangers.  It’s been a hard couple of weeks and this was like medicine:

 

On this Labor Day, I’m grateful for a break from the labor and an opportunity to turn back the clock a couple of decades with my best friend.