Make this chaos count

There’s that Theodore Roosevelt quote that floats around, especially in that area of the internet specifically created for Christian ladies, that says “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  For the most part I go along with it because in reality, it’s really true a lot of the time. We usually use it when we’re talking about how we shouldn’t compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others.  The phrase “Stop comparing your behind the scenes to their highlight reel” comes to mind.

And that is very true and something that is buried deep within us that we need to watch out for because it’s rooted in insecurity, not truth.  

But there’s another side to that equation, also buried deep within us, rooted in pride.  You could call it competition. You could call it vanity. Galatians 5:26 calls it vain glory or conceit.  It’s almost like we choose to compare our highlight reel with someone else’s behind the scenes that relationship has given us access to view.

Once, early on in my ministry career, I was in a conversation with a colleague.  I had just come out of an odd meeting with a denominational leader and I was looking to debrief.  I recounted my meeting to my colleague and told her of how this other leader had told me to pursue a position that I thought was way out of my expertise.  I thought the whole thing was ridiculous but wanted to process it with someone who really knew me.

As I told her the story I remember feeling simultaneously flabbergasted and hopeful of some potential in myself that maybe I wasn’t seeing.  I paused for her reaction.

“It’s sad to me that it seems like our denomination is skipping over my generation for leadership opportunities.  It’s like we’ve been forgotten.”  

It’s my earliest memory of professional competitiveness.  I was being perceived as a threat, even if the actual comment being made wasn’t necessarily about me at all.  The problem is that I internalized it. I believed the lie of scarcity being fed to me in that moment.

I took that lie of scarcity into my future interactions with other women in ministry.  I began to feel that competitiveness whenever someone got an opportunity that I wanted, that I thought I deserved, or that lifted them up.  I let it grow deep down inside of me until it took over.
I had to take a hard look inward to realize what I was doing and how it was breaking my relationships with my female colleagues.  Being a woman in ministry is hard enough without adding in a factor that pit us against one another. Here are a few ways that helped uproot this vain glory in my own heart and how I keep it at check.

Do some looking back at moments that defined my value. Looking back at my ministry career, there are moments where God revealed my calling and my gifts.  It came through lots of venues and through lots of people. I sat down and took an inventory of all those moments.  Fleshed out the spaces where God had called me to lead and how I felt in those moments. There have also been a lot of moments like the one I described above, where I questioned my value because of someone’s words or actions towards me.  I sat down and wrote them all out as well. Naming them removed their power, praying through them made me realize what were lies and what was truth.

We have a tendency to deny our hard moments because they shouldn’t define us.  And they don’t have to define us. But they do have power, and it’s only by naming them and taking their power away from them can we overcome those lies.  Once we’ve done that we can replace them with the truth. Because a bandaid of truth won’t heal a wound that hasn’t been cleaned out.

Stay connected to God through his Word.  Once we’ve done the cleaning out, now we bandage the wounds up with truth.  For me that has been through reading the scriptures that have given me life and purpose.  Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:12, Psalm 139. Scriptures that I’ve memorized to help me stay connected and reminded of who God has created me to be and how he has walked alongside of me.  

Gut check your feelings.  Plenty of times I hear news from friends and colleagues that is exciting for them and disappointing for me.  That feeling doesn’t necessarily go away. But it doesn’t have to take over my thought process. When I feel that way I do a simple gut check for myself.  Why does this person’s success make me feel a certain way? Is there an area of my life or ministry that is disappointing to me?

Often times, I’ve noticed, I feel that feeling because I have an unresolved issue in my own life/ministry.  It’s the whole “grass is greener on the other side” mentality. Most of the time whatever that other person is celebrating isn’t necessarily something that’s right for me, but I feel jealous because of my own frustrations.  This gut check has become an easy way to identify areas that need working on.

I also tell a trusted person about my feelings.  I have a couple people who will let me name my own selfishness and pride to them.  They won’t let me wallow in it but they know that for my process to be complete, I need to say it out loud before I can let it go.  So these few trusted people will let me say it, without judging me, and then gently tell me to move through it.

Genuinely cheer them on.  Even if I feel a certain way about the news, I force myself to cheer them on.  I make it a practice to name why I think this opportunity is great for them. To be able to say it in my head and heart makes it possible for me to cheer them on publicly and in person genuinely.  Even if it takes a journey to get myself there, I try my best to genuinely cheer them on and encourage them. I have never wanted to inflict the kind of pain I felt that day I described above. But I know that I have, so when needed, I apologize and use my words to encourage them.  
The lie of scarcity tells us that there’s not enough room for all the amazing women (and men) that do the work that we do.  Competitiveness is born out of this lie. Being competitive isn’t necessarily sinful, but allowing it to fester to the point where we put other people down or make them feel less than us is sinful.  We have to be able to name that sinful pattern in our life in order to break it.

How have you seen competition rear its ugly head in your relationships?
What work do you need to do?
Have you let competition break a relationship with a colleague?
Who do you need to seek forgiveness from?

time to check in

I’m a bit behind because I was gone for a week at a pastor’s conference followed immediately by a MS retreat.  Because of that I’m also behind on my listening to Lead Stories Podcast, so today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership will be looking a little different.
Last week I got to spend a week in Louisville, KY for our denominations annual pastor’s conference.  The theme of the week was leadership which was exactly what I needed to hear about.  As I’ve been listening to Lead Stories and engaging conversations surrounding leadership, I find myself trying to pour into myself but not quite knowing how to go about that.  I didn’t have a game plan per say.  I had thoughts and different topics to write about, but nothing to really pour out into my own life.
Then I went to Louisville.  I entered a weekend of learning alongside of a group of youth pastors who are a combination of new friends and dear old friends.  I found a new tribe among my peers in my area.  I invested in some relationships that needed that extra foundation.  After the weekend of youth workers connecting, the hotel filled with more pastors from all over the US and Canada.  I entered into convos with friends who have known me for over a decade and with those I’ve never met before.
I’m taking away a lot from the week, a lot of things to process in my life.  But one of the things I’m taking away the most is the need to be more intentional with those around me – my colleagues.
I need to cut the phrase “We should hang out” and actually plan times to be with people.
I need to read more books on leadership and challenge myself more.
I need to be praying (more) fervently over my ministry areas.
I need to be pouring into others in leadership – mentoring and guiding.
I need to be poured into from others in leadership – mentored and guided.
So I guess this post is more like a declaration of intent – I’ve found the holes in myself when it comes to my leadership and I’m figuring out how to fill them up.
Where do you need to fill up?  How does that look in your context?

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?

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.

I ask thee to stay close by me forever

I’ve been working through this document put out by the Lead Stories Podcast on wrapping up 2016 and looking forward to 2017.  One of the activities it leads you through is to read Psalm 139 and reflect.  As I was reading, one particular verse leapt off the page at me, here it is in context:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.  
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
-Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV)

Yesterday morning at church our kids dressed up to help us tell the story of Christmas.  We had angels, shepherds and one cutie little cow.  As I was helping hand out costumes I was making some last minute alterations to the costumes for our littler angels.  Before you get too impressed – this simply meant I was cutting the fabric to make the dresses shorter.  Nothing fancy, just a pair of scissors and a rough estimate of how much I wanted to take off.
For some of the pieces it was easy – make a snip and then tear it the length of the fabric.  In other cases I had to cut through seams or hems.  The former was easy because if you cut in the right direction, the fabric just tears in a straight line.  The latter was more difficult because seams and hems are strong.  Hems especially are meant to withstand some tension.  They are made strong because of the style of stitching and folding.
So when I read this passage, the word HEM jumped at me.  I thought about cutting the costumes yesterday.  I thought about how hems are meant to protect our garments.  Being hemmed in by God is an act of protection.
The whole psalm is about how well God knows us.  How even before we were formed he knew the days of our lives set aside for us.  This section at the beginning talks about how he knows our rhythms.  As I read it I knew that God was saying to me: I know it all. I know the stress of this season, the busyness of your job, the movement and the stillness.  Before you even call out to me, I know.  I hem you in and I place my hand over you.
He has hemmed me in.  He has sown an area of protection around me and inside of that he lays his hand upon me.  He reminds me with his touch that he’s here.  He’s always here.  He is Immanuel – God with us.  God with me.
I’ve often felt in the hustle of life that my life is uncharted.  There’s no plan in place, everything I know and love can change in an instant.  It all feels random how I’ve made it here, to this place.  But today as I was reading this beautiful psalm, that I’ve read probably 1000 times, I realized that my life is not uncharted.  It’s known.  Not by me, but by Him.
And as the psalmist writes – that knowledge is too wonderful for me. Which means two things to me – this knowledge (my life plan) is actually too wonderful and too high for me to attain.  I cannot know it all now, I must keep moving forward knowing that He has it mapped out.  But also it brings up that joyful feeling when someone you care about shows you they care too.  That God would love me that much.  That he would know me that well.  That is a feeling of joy that I simply cannot hold in.
So in this season of advent, I’m realizing what I’m waiting for.  I’m waiting to see how my life will unfold.  I’m waiting for whatever big thing is on the horizon – good, bad or indifferent.  And for the next week at least I’m going to live into that waiting with the knowledge that it’s not completely unknown.
I’ve been hemmed in by the Creator of the universe.   In all circumstances he is there and his hand is upon me.  So I echo the line from Away in a Manger that I used as the title for this post –
I ask thee – stay close by me.  Forever.

Say You Won't Let Go

It’s time to bring back #TuesdaysinLeadership!  If you’re new(ish) to my blog, this series is where I discuss a topic of leadership in response to a podcast that I’m currently digging – the podcast is called Lead Stories.  It’s a podcast where two amazing women discuss topics and questions surrounding leadership.  This week we’re going to take a look at Season 01: Episode 44: The Leader Behind the Scenes: Who are Your People?
This was exactly the podcast I needed to hear this week.  I love this discussion and it prompted me to step out of my comfort zone in one of my relationships.
In their discussion, Jo and Steph both let us in and told us who their people are and how they connect with that group.  When you’re a person in leadership, you need people who have your back and who get you.  You need relationships with people that care about you and challenge you.  It’s something I always acknowledge that I need but have struggled having it.  Part of that is due to transitions in life, my people have moved away, I’ve moved away.  It’s created continuity issues.
In this conversation, Steph brought up the idea of having a DTR with your people.  We use that term in romantic relationships where you sit down and have that awkward conversation about what you both want and need and whether that can happen together.  But Steph said challenged their listeners to have that DTR with the people you are hoping to count on, otherwise you may go to lean on them and they won’t be there – like a failed trust fall.
I’ve never thought of that before.  To actually have a face to face conversation with someone I’m hoping to have some level of vulnerability and trust with, to invite someone to become one of my people.  I love this idea of putting out there what you need and asking what the other person needs and then agreeing to a level of friendship that works for those needs.
So that begged the question – what do I need?  I had to do some soul searching and praying to know what exactly I was in need of in my relationships.  What am I looking for beyond having fun with them and compatibility.  Here’s what I came up with:


I’ve shared about this here before but I have some level of trust issues.  I’m working through it but sometimes they still rear their ugly little heads.  So loyalty is something I prioritize in my relationships.  Here’s how I define this characteristic: loyalty in relations someone who has my back through thick and thin.  It’s someone that I can take everything they say and do at face value and not question if I’m getting the ‘real story.’  In a world where gossip sometimes disguises itself as telling a story or processing a situation, I need my closest relationships to be people who will have my back.

Grace and Accountability

I am in no way perfect.  I don’t lead perfectly, I am not a perfect friend, I may be a perfectionist but I often fail at that too.  So something I look for in friendship is both grace for when I will inevitably screw up and accountability to push me to be better.  No one wants to hear that they messed up but I need my friends to tell me when I’m being too stubborn or when I need to take a deeper look at why I do what I do.


Again with the trust, there are times I need to talk about things that need to stay between me and my people.  I’ve been burned in this way before, and it might be because I am so open with my own life.  But I need my friends to know that my story is mine to tell.

Respect and Attention

This one sounds weird – but again it comes from having known the opposite.  I want to have friends who are willing to truly listen to what’s going on in my life and ask about it.  Too often I’ve had friends who ask me about something but then don’t really want to listen.  Or immediately tell me about something they experienced rather than listen to my full answer.  I’m an external processor and I need my people to be those willing to deep dive with me.
As I listened to Jo and Steph talk about who their people are and how we can identify our people – I realized that before I could even identify my people, I needed to ask myself what I needed.  That’s why I made this list.  Then, as I made this list, I realized that those who I already called my people already contain these characteristics.   It also led to a conversation where I invited someone new in.
Friendships are a tricky thing, especially for those in leadership.  But when we are honest with what we need then it may be easier to define who can be our support system.  It’s great to have clear expectations for our relationships so that we know if we are asking the right amount and if our people can feel like they can provide for them.
Also, obviously this is a two way street.  You need to ask your people what they need from you so you can provide that for them.  But it starts with you –

what do you need from your people?

she is messy but she's kind

The last two weeks of Lead Stories Podcast have been about empowering women.  They shared a couple of interviews with women who are leading in some cool ways down in Florida and this week they shared five tips on how to empower women.  For today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership I thought I’d share some stories of how I’ve been empowered by others.
One of the tips that Steph and Jo shared this week was to know the people you are empowering.  Jo shared a story that instead of asking her to speak, someone once just put her in the program.  This person knew that she would overthink the ask, so they went ahead and put her down.  This person was a good friend and knew her well enough to know that would be okay.
I’ve <thankfully> never had that happen to me.  But I’ve had people take a chance on me, give me the opportunity to do something a little out of my comfort zone that ends up being a great gift.  Two years ago I was contacted by the director of one of our area camps, asking me to come be the pastor of the week that summer.  It would include speaking 5 times and just generally being available to the staff and campers as a pastoral figure.
I was really nervous.  I had never done something like this, even though I’ve always dreamed of it.  I’d love to speak more than I do.  I believe it’s a gift I’ve been given – to be able to communicate God’s Word in an accessible way.  But at the time I was pretty fresh into my first full time pastoral role.  It’s hard to break into the speaking game, especially as a young woman.
But this camp director took a chance on me.  He has known me since I was in high school.  He was on staff at my home church for a year and we ended up serving in the same conference.  Even though he had never heard me speak, he was asking me to come be a part of what he was doing at camp.
It was an incredible week.  It really helped me as a speaker not to mention it was really fun.  The director continued to encourage me and has asked me back to speak twice.
Sometimes as women we have the tendency to second guess ourselves.  We wonder if we really are good at specific aspects of our jobs.  Opportunities arise to us and we consider turning them down because we are not sure we are qualified.  This is why it’s so important to have people in our lives that speak truth – truth from God – into our lives.
I’m so thankful that there have been a series of people who have taken a chance on me.  Who have given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise to help grow in my skills as a leader.  This is not limited to speaking opportunities, I’ve been given opportunities to be a behind the scenes person at events or to help speak into parts of retreats.
I’m still learning how to do this well for others now.  I want to be able to take my own influence and empower women as well.  It’ll come with time I am sure.  But I think God for the people who have walked before me, blazing the path for women in leadership and then have turned around to help me along the path.

Who’s empowered you lately?  And who could you in turn empower in your life?

what if I don't wanna be like you?

It’s time for another installment of Tuesdays in Leadership.  (New working title)
I mentioned our Confirmation Sunday in my last post.  We had 11 students be confirmed, which is a record for our church.  Each of the 11 stood before our congregation and shared stories of their faith journey.  They did so in a language all their own – some through video, dance, pictures, drawings, words.  It was a beautiful expression of God’s beauty in creation.  Each of these students was created by God, called by God and are answering that call in their own unique ways.
Last week’s episode of Lead Stories Podcast was on finding your voice in leadership.  Jo and Steph talked through resources to help leaders find and use their voices.  So I thought I’d write a little about what it looked like to find my voice as a leader.
I’ve written before about how I feel like I’m a bit of an outsider.  I’ve had a hard time finding a place where I feel completely comfortable – completely able to be myself. I can name some of that as coming from my family of origin, some of it comes from being biracial, some of it comes from moving around a lot and honestly, some of it comes from being a pastor.
This made finding my voice as a leader difficult.  I struggled with confidence, which I know realize is something we all struggle with – or at least most of us.  I so wanted to be like these women I admired – real and fictional – who seemed to just know who they were.  I always struggled to figure it out.
I struggled the most when I went to seminary.  I was so unsure of myself and my call.  I knew I was called but I was so intimidated by my classmates who seemed to have this unwavering faith in themselves.  I remember writing in a paper how I questioned whether or not my voice mattered.  I got the paper back a week later and my professor had underlined that sentence and in the margin he wrote, “Your voice matters.”
The real story of finding my voice is found through the mentors I have had in my life.  Men and women who have pointed out moments of leadership and told me that I mattered.  In some of my most formative years the message I received over and over again contradicted that important message.  I never felt like I fit and therefore I didn’t matter.  I’d place my trust in something or someone and get my heart and spirit broken.
This new message of people telling me that I mattered, that what I had to say was good, that was new for me.  During that time I started to root myself in the Creator.  I was learning how to look at my story and see Him more than I saw brokenness.  I started to see that being an outsider gave me a unique perspective.
I found my voice not by trying to fit in but rather by accepting that I never would.  I didn’t need to find that community that I fit into, I needed to find a community that loved me for the person I was – both created by God and shaped by my experience.  I had to learn that comparing my misfit life to others wouldn’t make me happy.  My voice was found in accepting myself and accepting who God was calling me to be.
Just as Jo and Steph shared some things they’ve learned along the way, here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way:

Guard your heart

Not everyone around you is a safe person.  I’m not saying this to be cynical, but rather to say that when it comes to leading others – it can be a lonely task.  There’s a fine line between being a vulnerable leader (which is important) and being a hot mess.  Sometimes finding and keeping your voice means limiting the people who get to see and speak to your whole heart.

Root yourself in God

We can do nothing apart from Him.  The sooner we see that he is the one who we should focus on the sooner we will be speaking his truths.  Find what works for you as far as being rooted in him and make sacrifices to do those things regularly.

Let others speak truth into your life

I’ve had some amazing people say some really hard things to me.  They are trusted advisors, people who know my heart and have walked the journey with me.  They don’t sugar coat it when I need to hear it.  Because they have walked the journey with me, it doesn’t hurt (as much) but rather inspires me to do better.

Broaden your perspective

Read books.  Listen to podcasts.  Attend conferences.  Even if an opinion differs from your own, listen to it with an open mind and allow it to speak to you.  Sometimes a challenging person will allow you to see God clearer and change you or keep you where you’re at.
I’m still fighting for my voice everyday, but these are just a few things I think I’ve learned from this journey.  What about you?

Where are you on this journey to finding your voice?

you didn't have to be perfect – not in my neighborhood

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been listening to a podcast called Lead Stories with Jo Saxton and Steph Williams.  Each episode they spend time talking about leadership and answering questions that pertain to leadership.  It’s been a great addition to my rotation and sparks a lot of interesting thoughts.
So in my desire to blog more, I’ve decided to try and do a weekly response to their podcasts that I’ll maybe call Tuesdays in Leadership … for lack of a better name.
Last week’s episode was all about defining leadership and then Jo and Steph asked each other about their earliest experiences with leadership.  It was really cool to hear both of them tell their stories about when and how they began realizing they were leaders – that they had influence over others.
A common thread for the two of them was they had people who pointed out their leadership skills from early on.  Whether it was parents or members of their faith community, they had voices telling them that they were leaders.
Looking back at my early years – it was obvious I was a leader.  I grew up on a street full of kids where I was on the older end.  In the grand scheme of being a kid, it’s only natural to look to the oldest (and loudest) kid as the leader of all the kids.  And I took that role willingly.  I got us all into varying amounts of trouble by pushing the boundaries our parents had set for us.
In those early years, I can see my parents trying to redirect my leadership skills – but as a rambunctious kid it felt more like they were squashing me.  I saw being a leader as a bad thing because I often got punished for it.  In my childhood mind I couldn’t see that they were trying to teach me to use my influence well.  That my punishment was more about my behavior than about my ability to get the support of the neighborhood behind me.
I didn’t really start getting it until I was in middle school.  I had just started dancing and doing theater when the owner of our Performing Arts Center started putting me in charge of little things.  It started with sweeping up or taking stock in the store and built up to helping run the younger kids’ rehearsals.  She invested in me, teaching me how to teach others.  How to be encouraging, how to be stern but not too strict.
Fast forward a few years and cross the country a bit, after I started attending church regularly, I got another chance to lead.  The children’s pastor at my church asked if I wanted to teach Sunday School.  To this day, it blows my mind that she picked me – this 17 year old from a dysfunctional family who had just found Jesus to teach a bunch of Kindergarteners.  I had a small class and it was all mine.  That year was so formative for me.  It started me on the path of ministry that would eventually lead me to here.  Pastor of Christian Formation, calling out leadership in my own students and trying to find ways for them to shine.
Fun fact – those Kindergarteners that I taught are graduating from high school this year.
The thing I love about this podcast is that they continuously go back to the idea that we are all leaders.  We all have influence over others in some realm.  As parents, as older siblings, as friends, as leaders in the church – in unconventional ways and formal ways.
So I encourage you all to think through your earliest memories of becoming a leader.  Who took a chance on you?  Who encouraged you and showed you how to lead?