Still Shining

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Photo credit http://www.strangefarmer.com image 192375

    We moved from one of the cloudiest cities in the world to one of the sunniest. That’s taking some time to get used to. It’s dry here. One thing I always thought was mystical was flying in the clouds. Not just flying through them, brushing over the wings of the plane and this feeling of just being able to put your hand out the window and touch them-that alone is incredible.
     No, not that. I’m talking about the mystical phenomenon of flying through a rain storm and after a few minutes of turbulence and grey clouds, in the blink of an eye be thrust into unhindered sunlight. I’m not sure if you’ve had that experience, but it really is something that I have come to cherish. I always get a bit excited when it’s raining out on the tarmac before we take off because I know that my reward will be the bright shining sun in just a little while.
     Life is not all unicorns and rainbows and whoever tells you that is not living in reality. No matter if we are the 2% elite in the world (i.e. the USA) or in complete and utter chaos (Syrian refugees)- life is hard. Life is difficult. Life a lot of times has seasons of complete chaos and darkness that just don’t make sense. That’s just the way it is.
     Out of college I worked with high school students for a few years. I had my share of walking through kids who lost their mom unexpectedly in a car accident, or lost friends due to suicide. This not to mention with eating disorders, bullying, broken hearts and teen pregnancies. Moving into a new career path from there working with university students and older adults, it seems as though those types of issues never went away or even got worse. They just were.
     One thing I have been reminded of lately is that no matter what kind of storm is surrounding my life, no matter how dark the clouds, how often the lightening strikes or how loud the thunder is, above the clouds the sun is always shining. There is a hope, if we chose it, that lasts beyond any of the current situations we are in. It has nothing to do with powering through or positive thinking. It has everything to do with believing and trusting that things will get better and change. For me, this hope is based in faith in my God. This hoping is an active and conscious choice.
     I would love, LOVE to tell you that I’ve mastered this and no matter what, I’m always hopeful that things will get better. But, I’m not. I haven’t mastered it. I go through moments and very long dark seasons, where I’m not hopeful that things will turn around or change. So, why do I continue to hope then? Because my personal experience and what I’ve seen in my friends’ lives who have chosen to hope is that it does turn around, usually in ways we never thought it would. For me, choosing to be hopeful has left me with greater self awareness, deeper relationships and more opportunity for influence in the world around me. Choosing despair or hopelessness, has always left me with victim mentality, aimless wandering and sulking all of which equal broken relationships.
     There is always a choice. Maybe not a great choice, perhaps not a good choice, but you always have a choice. I hope you chose to recognize the sun above the clouds, still shining.
I’d love to hear your stories. Please comment where you’ve seen hope or hopelessness in your life. And, thanks for reading.

Why It Won’t Always Help to Look for Peace Within Your Circumstance

Great post by Mike Foster on the Storyline Blog. Definitely worth the read.

As always, I would love hear your thoughts. Conversations are always a source of learning more about ourselves, our culture and each other!Source: Why It Won’t Always Help to Look for Peace Within Your Circumstance

Most people have heard of The Serenity Prayer. It goes like this:

“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

What most people don’t know is that the prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr in 1937 and that there’s a second half to the prayer that is commonly left out.

It says, “Living one day at a time;  Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”

We’ve been putting too much pressure on ourselves to be okay with change.

When our dog dies, we get laid off, our youngest child leaves for college, or we find out we have to move, we are not serene. We are not strong. We are flustered, confused, sad, and angry all at the same time.

Simply asking God for peace and strength during life change will not make us instantly cool with whatever comes our way.

We have to turn our prayers into perspective.

Like the second half of the Serenity Prayer, we have to see our small struggle as a part of a big story. This shift has to happen for God to do something different with our lives. There is something we have to learn today to understand tomorrow.

We cannot handle this change, but our God can.

To find contentment with change, don’t look for peace within the circumstance.

See your messy, beautiful life through the eyes of Christ.

When Reality Hits-“Oh, Crap!”

   So, Christmas. Ahhh Christmas. If I had a house or could string up lights outside, you could equate me to Clark Griswold. Starting as early as Iris let’s me, I will play Christmas music non stop. I have my own set list that I very rarely sway from of nothing but the classics. I have my movie playlist, some of which I watch only once a season, and some multiple times a week. Ahhh Christmas.
     I grew up on a farm and we always had a lot of snow in the winter. We’d decorate trees on the outside of our house, and wrap the fence that lined our drive way in big white lights. It was an old farmhouse, so the ceilings were quite tall which led to us getting large Christmas trees. There is a magic that revolves around Christmas-family, snow, lights, seeing your breath, the surprise of Christmas morning, music dedicated to this one event and of course the reason we celebrate in our household, the birth of Jesus. The hype is part of the fun for me. Many radio stations will play holiday tunes non stop the weeks leading up to the 25th. Stores are decorated, cars are decorated and there are Christmas concerts everywhere. It’s great.
     And then there is the 26th of December.
     A day that for me at least, is a massive buzz kill. Suddenly, the radio stations go back to playing what they were playing before Thanksgiving. No more tv specials, no more parades, no more big family or work get togethers. It all kind of ends..and people just complain about the winter weather from that point forward. The magic is gone, reality hits.
     Oddly, I feel the same way after reaching some big accomplishment, meeting a big goal or attaining a major strategic point. Whether it be developing a team, opening a business or getting the nod to start a new project, the magic and charisma built around the moment leading up to that is gone. Casting vision is something I love to do. I love public speaking, I love sharing about what’s on my heart, the vision that I or my team has created for the future, the strategy of how to get there-it’s all fun for me. But, when the point comes and it’s time to start, the small pinhead of fear turns into a a major chasm in my chest. “Crap, they are counting on me. How in the world are we going to be able to continue on with what we’ve accomplished? My credibility could go out the window if this fails.”
     I can get by on my own, pushing down the fear for a little while. But then it starts to infiltrate every aspect of my life. I either crumble and become uber controlling or I become paralyzed about what to do next. At least these are my two defaults. And by every aspect I mean family, friends, work, spiritual, emotional and physical. Thankfully, I have people in my life who I’ve surrounded myself with who can call me on these things. They tell me when I am in a downward spiral and can speak truth, encouragement and gentle correction into me.

One  way  is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful

     One major way I (usually) can put that feeling in it’s rightful place is taking a moment, pausing and then being grateful that I have the privilege to do it. Whether it’s taking on a multi-million dollar project or getting to run the meeting for the day, being grateful for what we have, the opportunity given, the trust others have in us and the relationships intertwined with each of these is something that can calm us down and focus on the next step or two that needs to take place for the vision to come to fruition. At least for me, this helps me to not become controlling and it also helps me to not become paralyzed.

     Another way is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am

     Another major way that I, again usually, can put this feeling back to it’s correct size is to stop and take a moment to remember who I am. I am not defined by the job I have, the title I’m given, the role I have at a company. I’m not defined by my salary, standard of living or stuff that I have. I’m not defined by a comparison of me versus someone else. For me, first and foremost, I am defined by what my God says about me. Second, I am defined by those things I chose to embrace about me. No one can ever take any of those things away from me. When I take a moment, pause and reflect on those, suddenly that overwhelming, let down, buzz kill, paralyzing, over controlling, “oh crap” feeling dissipates, or at least minimizes back to a proper size. Reality seems much clearer, attainable and enjoyable.
     These aren’t the only things that help. I did say “usually” because sometimes there are other parts I have in my life that help me to refocus and not get caught up in panic mode.
     The last, but massive influence is people. Like I mentioned earlier, I have people in my life who speak truth into me. This is the single most important gift in helping me realign myself as to what reality really means. Without the myriad of relationships I have that surround me, there is no way I would be where I am today. This way is not in the “usually” category because I am constantly calling on and asking for input from others. It’s a part of my rhythm and community I need.
     These are just a few things I have done and learned to do in my life when reality hits. Maybe they’ll give some inspiration and insight into what you could do in yours. If you have any thoughts on this or ways you deal with reality, please comment below!

One of The Best Things You Can Do With Your Irrational Fears

I’ve mentioned before about my great respect and gratefulness for recovery programs and ministries based on the 12 Steps (and I’ll write more in the future about my journey there). Irrational fear is something that paralyzes the greatest leaders, the strongest of people and the heroes we often look to. But overcoming them can be difficult.  One way to is in this  post on the Storyline Blog by contributing author Andrea Lucado. Please check it out. Leave feedback, I’d love to dialogue with you!!

Source: One of The Best Things You Can Do With Your Irrational Fears

Vision and Stepping Off the Edge

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Photo credit / source: blog.scout.me
     Creating is fun for me. Shooting off ideas, getting a picture in my head of what it is or will look like and then taking the time to begin creating. It’s interesting, it’s exciting. Most often, it doesn’t end up looking exactly as I had drama or pictured it to be, but it definitely has my fingerprints all over it. It’s fun.
     After Iris and I were married, I started to build furniture as a hobby. All of these things haven’t been great in any sense of the word, but they were cool and enjoyable for me. A butcher block table, a corner table, a pallet headboard and so on. At some point I would get frustrated, perhaps it was the 13th trip to the hardware store or maybe I measured way off and it just didn’t line up. I was frustrated because it was turning out how I wanted it to be, how the picture in my mind looked. And probably the more frustrated thing, I was laying out my dream, my vision for the world to see-Iris. I wanted it to be perfect, no flaws, no structural issues but yet still have my DNA.
     I began a process about six years or so ago, of creating my personal mission and vision statement. It was a difficult time for me as I was also in the search for who I really was. My post “Footprints” tells a little bit more about what I was going through during that time. It was a process that took almost two years, with a lot of thought, reflection and guidance from a few people I highly regarded.
     But, once it was done, once the energy of writing, mulling it over, thinking every word through, I was relieved and excited. This was the grid I would filter every opportunity in my life through.  Part of me growing in my leadership gifts and abilities was to begin to share the very part of who I am with those around me. Thinking nothing of it, I began to with a few of those over me. But the reaction I got was of disinterest, feeling threatened and non-empowerment. Obviously, not what I had hoped for.
     I learned in that moment to hold this passion, really this part of me, a little closer to my chest. Had it been three years before and I would have never let anyone into my life to see this part of me at all. But, thankfully, good friends encouraged me to just be a little more careful of who to share it with and how much to share.
     I read a quote by Gay Gaddis from an interview she had done with Brene Brown. Gay is the CEO and Founder of T3, the largest woman-owned independent advertising agency in the country. She said “ you have to create a vision and live up to that vision. There is no vision without vulnerability.” I resonated with this tremendously and I think she is right. To simply have a vision is one thing. To share that with others is a completely different level of exposure to those you share it with, and the world. To have a vision for what you want to accomplish or do in your life is a great thing. It provides purpose, self-understanding and a grid to filter out things that will distract you from that purpose. At the same time, if you never share it with others, it is nothing more than a dream you had one night or a regret at the end of your life.
     When you first have the thought that this is your vision or mission, your purpose for your life, it is always good to bounce that off of people who know you. People who really know you. And, people who you trust (which I would say if you trust them, they ought to know you well). They can help to refine and clarify what your heart is telling you. And most importantly, they can encourage you. But, if you never share that idea, that thought, you will never truly know if that was your purpose. You will never have the encouragement to try that crazy idea or focus on that one thing that you excel at. One word of caution- when something is that close to your heart and you share it with others, you are giving them a chance to speak into your life. You are making yourself vulnerable. That does come at a price. They could stomp on it or, it could be a moment where you’ve dove into a deeper friendship with someone than you’ve ever experienced.
     Without vulnerability, without stepping off the edge of making known that very thing that strikes a cord in your heart, you will never know if that vision can come to fulfillment.
     Dive in-I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Pausing

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     I like to move from one thing to another fairly quickly. It’s been a bit of a struggle of mine. It’s easy for me to live in the future. Having a vision, mission and constantly working and reworking the strategy to get there, is always exciting. And because it’s exciting, it’s easy to “live” there. The normal, mundane things of everyday life seem to not be as exciting as the “what could be” dreams and ideas constantly running through my head and on paper.
     About two weeks ago, I was with a very good friend of mine. He was more or less my business partner in the city and country we had just moved from. I saw something in him, was drawn to him, believed in him and hired him on to roast coffee with me. I believe, I intuitively knew from day one that Andrei would be the one whom I could hand this business over to, though I didn’t know it at the time. It turns out I was right.
     We were hanging out at a cafe he had helped design and was selling our/his coffee at.  The thought of this being the last time we would ever meet and hang out was lingering in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t-check that- I wouldn’t engage it. Though in many ways the model and strategy of the business business to train leaders, had accomplished much. But, the fact that financially, it didn’t take off like I had hoped or thought it would left me wondering “what had I done, what kind of lasting impact had I made.” It was hard not to go there and I have found myself going there at times still.
     So, because of this, I tend to live in the future. I don’t laugh when I say this-Step One is the step that you start to step out of your denial, and for me in this particular case, it is stepping out of the denial of not engaging when it’s hard. The Steps (12 Steps to be exact) are important to me…but that’s another post.
     After the normal chit chat of what coffee he was roasting, the subtle notes in the flavor, catching up on life, etc., Andrei told me to pause. “JB, don’t ever let anyone say that you failed. Don’t ever take to heart and believe that you were a failure and your time in this place, in this city was wasted.” I looked towards the ground, began to tear up (also quite normal for me), and just gave a simple, but polite,  “mmmhhmm” of unbelief.
     Andrei began to list the people, organizations, relationships, businesses and hearts that I had impacted, that our business had impacted for the good the past five years we’ve known each other. “You gave each of these people and places inspiration to do what they were afraid to do. You showed them what risk was and suddenly they began to believe they could do it to. You have positively impacted a group of people that may have not been otherwise…and you helped bring me out of the pit I was in.”
     I would be lying if I didn’t say I was more than welling up at this point (I am as I type this). What he said was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment and exactly what my heart was longing to hear to squelch out all doubt. Don’t get me wrong, this is not about building me up and there are times in our lives where we need to focus on the myriad of details in the future that come with a big move, or job transition, event, etc. But, when we constantly live there…that’s where the danger lies and we begin to lose the beautiful gift that we have…the gift of the present.
     Andrei challenged me in that moment to simply pause “(simply”, that’s funny..). He stopped time, helped me to pause and reflect on the legacy I was leaving. It caused me to engage in the present. It caused me to acknowledge not only what I was feeling, but that I had friends, true friends who we were going to miss and who were going to miss us. Pausing and reflecting. We need these moments in our lives to help us remember what we’ve learned, how we’ve learned it and who we learned it from. Just a suggestion,  take 30 minutes in the next couple of days to just pause, reflect and engage in what you’ve accomplished, the relationships you’ve impacted and the legacy you’ve left. Take a small step in engaging your past…you’re worth it!

Behind The Mountain

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     A couple years ago we had the opportunity to live in Alaska, just outside of Anchorage. We were living in a valley surrounded by mountains. I had a standing appointment every Friday to go and hike up a ridgeline or a peak. The view down the other side was usually incredible with it’s own set of trails, different terrain and view.
     The picture above is from my balcony window of the apartment and city we just moved to last week. The mountain you see is just one in a series of mountains that create the north and south borders of the city. A panoramic shows how incredibly beautiful it really is. I can’t wait to get out of the city to backpack and hike.
     I watched a documentary a month or so ago about photographer  Sebastiao Salgado. The photography and cinematography was incredible. He made a comment that has stuck with me since then. He said, “behind each mountain there’s a story, there’s something to see.”
     Like I mentioned earlier, we just moved to this city and country a week ago. We left the country we had been living in for ten years, and the city for the past five, to come here and develop leaders. Pretty exciting. But, with another language to learn, new friendships to form not to mention the basics of learning a new city, new culture, where to buy milk…it can seem daunting.  It can, and at times does, feel like a massive mountain to scale. I love backpacking, but there are often times when I’m on the trail, look up towards the summit or pass I’m aiming for and have a moment of “oh, wow, that’s going to take some time and energy to get to…am I up for it?”
     Then I fall into a rhythm, the excitement of what lies ahead and the knowledge that there will be a feeling of accomplishment at the top kick in, and I just go for it. The mountain I am looking at ahead of me is challenging. I have an idea of what we’re in for based on the last ten years and it won’t be all fun. But, behind that mountain there is a new view, a new story to hear and allow to unfold. Even the road to get there will have it’s own story. But, that’s what it is all about, right? The tears of joy and pain, the hardships and perseverance learned, the relationships formed and forged are worth it. It does take courage to climb the mountain of whatever you’re facing. But, behind the mountain lies a new valley, peak, forest and view.
     Leading others in the midst of this is difficult, but it’s also a tremendous privilege. They get to see you as a human being who is honest about what they are facing. They get to see a real person that they can connect with…and follow. Honesty and openness while leading, especially uphill, are things that need to be modeled to those in our sphere of influence and those we are leading. It’s something that can only be learned by watching. That is an incredible lesson to learn.
              And continue learning for a lifetime.