I can see it clearly now – the fog has lifted

#TuesdaysinLeadership on a Wednesday?  That’s crazy, Alicia.  Sorry friends – my real life got in the way yesterday.  But I’m still posting because last week’s podcast episode was too good not to process over here.
This last episode of Lead Stories Podcast was called Vision in Real Life and in it Jo and Steph discussed ways that we cast vision for our areas of leadership and in our lives.  It’s a great episode if you’re wondering how to really hear your vision from God, if you’ve heard it and wanna know how to start, and if you’re needing to remember your vision.
One of the questions that Jo and Steph proposed in helping us find our vision was what do you find yourself drawn to/investing (blogs/books/podcasts)?  Like when you’re doing the scroll through Facebook or Instagram, what types of things stop you or what topics do you frequently find yourself reading about?
I’ve always had a bend toward community.  I find it fascinating – what makes good community? Why can finding it be so hard?  What can we do to cultivate it? What do we do when it’s hard or it hurts?
Over the last several months I’ve found myself deeply drawn to reading through comment sections on political/emotionally charged posts.  I know that comment sections are often filled with a lot of nonsense and that the internet is often not a place you go to have your mind changed.  But I find myself seeking out places where people are ready to enter into the conversation.  It’s so infrequent to see a space where people can come with differing mind sets and really hash it out.
I dream about settings where we can sit around a table, everyone getting the chance to make their case and then trying to find a common ground.  No matter the topic – race, sexuality, politics, worship styles, personal conflicts – I wanna sit around a table and talk it out.
One of the reasons I wasn’t able to post yesterday is because I was asked to be a part of a panel of youth pastors.  After the panel we were milling around with everyone and I got into a conversation about how to provide resources for navigating the switch to becoming more multiethnic.
It was like a light went on inside of me.  Some dark corner that hadn’t seen light in a while was suddenly illuminated.  In the church we are looking to become more multiethnic.  Leaders who aren’t overly vocal about it off the bat come across like they don’t want it – like they are okay with their mono-ethnic culture.  And yes there are leaders that feel that way.
But there are other leaders too – those that want it, understand the need for it but are stuck in the frozen place of not knowing how to walk forward.  The times or places where they’ve tried inviting in other voices in have resulted in challenges.  They want to work through it but something may be standing in the way.
It was great to have the start of that conversation – because we only had time for the start.  But to say – yes, I hear you and I don’t have the resource per say but I wanna hear more.  I want to find a way to have this conversation in a safe place and to lay it all out on the table.
Let’s talk about the good, the hard and the how to move forward.  Could I offer up some books for you to read, people to follow to hear stories – yes.  But isn’t it better for us to discover it together?

What’s been on you heart recently?  What topic do you find yourself drawn to and how does that speak to your vision?

Impossible things in Your name shall be done

I preached yesterday through my life verse and the verses surrounding it.  It’s a sermon that’s been building in me for the last several years as I’ve lived into the truth found in it.  You can hear the full sermon here.

For I am confident of this, that God who began a good work within you will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
-Philippians 1:6

I’ve been carrying around this nesting dolls metaphor since last September when I first heard Shauna Niequist talk about it at Belong.  She was talking about how, as we live life, we keep putting identities on top of ourselves.  But she pointed out that the first identity – that smallest little nesting doll – is that of child of God.
What she said immediately resonated with me and confused me at the same time.  But, Shauna, I wanted to say, I had a lot of identities before I claimed the one that is Child of God.
I wandered a long time (relative to my short life) before I really encountered this Triune God that I gave my life to – so how can that be the center of my identity?  In my own mind, I was already firmly established at 16, so when I added Jesus into my life, he was the new layer put on top, not the base.
Then I looked back on my early life and there are these moments that I don’t really understand.  I came to the realization that God was there all along – alive and at work in my life.  Even before I had a name for him or space in my life for him.
My 2016 word for the year was alive. Last January I wanted to be alert to where God was at work all around me in my day to day life.  I wanted to be aware of him.  I didn’t realize that much of that task was going to be seeing where he had been alive in my past.  Where he had intervened on my behalf long before I knew it.
I’ve reoriented my whole life around this call that God placed on my life.  And yet I still was viewing my identity in Christ as something I put on as a teenager.  I hadn’t really allowed it to be the core of who I am.  It took me the last several months between when I first heard this metaphor until when I preached it to realize what I’d been missing.
In the spring of 2007, I had graduated from college and was heading off to intern at a church half way across the country.  One of my mentors at the time gave me a card with Philippians 1:6 written in it.  She was encouraging me on my journey, telling me to keep going because God was the one at work.  I still have that card and this verse became my life verse.
I see it now in a much broader light.  This God, the same God of Israel, the same God who sent His Son, the same God who revealed himself to Paul, the same God through centuries of Christianity.  The same God that found me as a broken hearted teenager.  He’s the God at work in me, in those around me and in the world.
This past December one of my students texted me asking for my favorite verse.  I sent her this verse without really thinking why she needed it.  A couple weeks later I found out.  I opened my Christmas present from four of my HS girls.  In it was an ornament with the words “Carry On” and “Phil 1:6” on it.  They told me they were at an art fair and saw these ornaments.  So when they heard my verse they looked it up and summarized it as Carry On.
Two simple words that mean so much more than they seem to.  When we claim our identity in Christ, we carry on his work in our lives and in our world.
So let’s claim that identity together this year.  We are children of God, accepted as forgiven family members.

step out of the sun because you've learned

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  Starting on Christmas day, I was in Denver for a week soaking in some much needed family time with my crazy crew.  Then it was off to New York with the Goddaughter for her first trip to the Big Apple.  Then she came back to Chicago with me for another few days of R&R in my abode.
Now here we are, two weeks into 2017 and no new posts over in my corner of the internet.  But no worries my dear friends, I have been making some big plans for this space.  I’ve been dreaming and processing over what 2017 is going to bring to this blog and I’m excited for the future and the type of posts I’ll be bringing to ya’ll.
But before we move forward into the new year, I always feel the need to spend a little bit processing the last one.  This year I found a great resource through Lead Stories Media  called “Hello, Goodbye.”  So today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership is going to be talking through how this process went for me.  (If you go to their page and subscribe to their newsletter you can download this great resource to process your last year and the new year alongside me!)
As I listened to the first episode of this season’s Lead Stories Podcasts I realized how great this tool is.  Jo Saxton has been doing it for years and explained the history about it, so go listen to it if you wanna know more about it.  But the basic idea is to spend some time with God and ask Him what you should be saying Goodbye to from the last year and what to say Hello to in the coming year.

Goodbye 2016

fullsizerender-2 Overall,  2016 wasn’t bad for me.  I never posted this Best Nine thing to my Instagram, and it’s not entirely representative of my year but I guess it’s what people most resonated with in my feed.
But even this slightly misrepresented collage makes me remember that this year was filled with the highs and lows of life.  I know a lot of people for who 2016 was a heartbreakingly painful year.  Saying Goodbye to 2016 wasn’t a sad thing for them.  But for me it was a mixed bag.  I had some great moments, some life changing moments, some career defining moments and some great personal highs.  But I also had some hard truths that I had to face, some painful decisions that I made or were made for me, I walked alongside of some grieving friends and grieved the loss of those who have made my community home.
Overall though, there are things that I’m saying goodbye to in order to move forward in my path toward Shalom.  Among the things I say goodbye to are:
I’m saying goodbye to insecurity.  Through my time with God in the last few weeks I’ve realized how much I’ve held myself back because I think that others can do it better than me.  But as I continue to process who I am and how I was created I’ve realized that it’s time for me to own this story that I’ve been given and start stewarding it a little better.
I’m saying goodbye to bad habits.  Procrastination is a real struggle for a lot of us.  I am saying goodbye to being disorganized and not prioritizing my time well.

Hello 2017

As I move forward into this next year, one of the things I would love to do is to write more.  To start documenting this life I live both here on Striving for Shalom as well as in a private document that could some day take the shape of a book.  Insert shocked emoji face here.  I’m serious, I think I want to write a book.  It’s taking shape in my head, we’ll see where it takes me.  But for now you’ll see some things popping up here that have more of a semblance, a relation to one another.
I’m saying hello to my word of the year : Fall.  There’s this verse in Job, that I discovered through Shauna Niequist’s book Present over Perfect:

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.  He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.
 – Job 37:5-6

Shauna expands on the verse in her book and talks about how God doesn’t ask the snow to do anything other than fall.  And to the rain shower to be a mighty downpour.  She encourages her readers to find the thing in life that falls out of them, something so enjoyable, so easy that it just pours out of them.  This next year I want to focus on the things I’m so passionate about.  I want to let go of the idea that I have to be everything to everyone and simply be who I’ve been created to be.  The thing about snow is that it does it’s one thing and it doesn’t need to do more because God also created rain and sunshine.  Snow just gets to be snow – to fall from the sky simply and beautifully.
Last year I spent a whole year looking for where God was alive in my life.  Watching what he was doing and now that I’ve seen how much he is at work in my life and the life of others around me, I feel like now my focus is on filling the space that was created for me.  If I believe God is alive and at work, then he is alive in me and has created me to fill a space in this life.  I don’t need to fill the space of others, but rather just my own.  So my word for the year is Fall.  We’ll see what/how that takes shape this year.  But I’m excited to say hello to being present in my life and in my ministry as exactly who he created me to be.
So there you have, we’ve said Goodbye to 2016 and we’re ready to say a big Hello to 2017.  Let’s see what you have in store for us in this year.