Why I’m Listening to Jerry Seinfeld

With barely three weeks left until school is out for the summer, many of us will begin transitioning into a different kind of daily schedule, one where the day-time agenda shifts. I will still do my work, but the pace will slow and we’ll all settle into a new kind of rhythm together.

New Rhythms

I wish I could say I glide gracefully into the summer schedule, but the truth is I limp and fight my way through this transition every year. This year I’m accepting that it will take some time to settle in to the slower pace and the constant presence of small people. But I’m also going to learn on purpose in whatever ways I can. For example.

As a writer, a part of my self-imposed job description is to pay attention to the world around me and the world within me and then to see how they connect.

I am always listening for reminders about focus, about saying yes to the right things, about remembering what I do and, even more importantly sometimes, what I don’t do. Teachers are everywhere as long as we’re willing to learn from unexpected voices. Yesterday I found a teacher while listening to an interview Alec Baldwin did with Jerry Seinfeld.

Alec points out that, with the success of his TV show in the 90s, Jerry could basically do anything he wanted to do now, be as big as he wanted to be. Here’s a peek into the conversation. (From Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwinoriginally aired October 14, 2013 on WNYC 93.9 FM)

Alec Baldwin: You could have your own channel. The Jerry channel.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, but I didn’t take that bait.

AB: Why?

JS: Cuz I know what it is. I know what it is, that’s why.

AB: What is it?

JS: You can’t pull that over on me! Cuz I’ve sat in all the chairs, I’ve been in all the rooms. I know what it is. Look, Alec, you’ve been there, right?

AB: Yes!

JS: You can’t trick me into thinking…

AB: Thinking what?! Share with the people.

JS: …that that’s good.

AB: That’s not good why?

JS: Because most of it is not creative work. And not reaching an audience. You wanna be on the water? How do you wanna be on the water? You wanna be on a yacht or you wanna be on a surfboard? I wanna be on a surfboard. I don’t wanna deal with a yacht. That’s a yacht. Some people want a yacht to say See my yacht.

***

This morning, I read an article by Dr. Shelly Provost called How to Tell If You’re Following Your Calling or Just Feeding Your Ego. It’s good, you’ll want to read it, but the gist is here:

“Your ego fears not having or doing something. The lifeblood of the ego is fear. Its primary function is to preserve your identity, but it fears your unworthiness. As a result, ego pushes you harder in order to achieve more . . .

A calling expresses itself quietly, through the expression of subtle clues throughout your life. It is unconcerned with you attaining or accomplishing anything. Its primary function is to be a conduit for expressing your true self to the world. What you do with that expression is less important.”

And then, the most revealing statements from the article: “Ego needs anxiety to survive. Calling needs silence to survive . . . Listening to your life and discovering what it’s asking of you is your calling and it requires more silence than most of us are comfortable with.” (read the whole article here.)

In other words, your ego reacts to fear while calling responds to reflection. Both can be important, but the question is which is moving you forward? Which is motivating you in your work?

***

The connection of these two ideas is loose in my mind and given more time, I’m sure I could flesh it out fully. But blogs aren’t necessarily for fully-fleshed out ideas, at least that’s not what I do here. As I consider these two teachers, Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Provost, here’s what comes to mind today.

Ego always has one foot on the shiny deck of an imaginary yacht, the promise of power and acheivement holding her strong above the water.

Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.

Here are some questions I ask to find out if I’m letting my ego get carried away:

  • Do I know I need margin but am afraid to take it?
  • Do I want to say no but am afraid of what I’ll miss?
  • Do I want to say yes but am afraid I can’t pull it off?

Ego speaks loud in the chaos — impatient, competitive, and scared. Calling rises up from the silence — focused, generous, and free.

My Husband the Pastor

John graduated from seminary and got a job working in youth ministry right before our wedding. For the next twelve years, he took the trips, led the studies, planned the games, taught the lessons, scheduled the concerts, met with the parents, baptized the believers, prayed with the doubters.

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He celebrated the graduates, grieved with the dying, and sat with those they left behind.

A lot of the job was hard. Some of it was life-giving. The best part for John was the people – his fellow pastors, the students, the volunteers.

That’s the part we miss the most.

Eight months after John left his job, I’m sharing at (in)courage an update of where we are now, along with two important lessons no one ever thought to teach us. Join us there?

simple thoughts on faith and leaving

Many of you have written me kind notes of encouragement since I first shared with you about why my husband is quitting his job. Your emails, comments, (and even some letters!) have been cool water on dry days for us. Today, five days before his last day as a youth pastor, we are encouraged, thankful, and filled with hope.

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I have wanted to update you on how things are going as it relates to John’s job and what comes next, but before I do that there is something that has been rolling around in my soul and I’m unable to move forward in writing or in thinking until I find the words to express some thoughts regarding this transition.

Since we announced to our community and to the public that we have made this Very Big Decision to quit our perfectly acceptable job with our perfectly regular paycheck, we are never sure exactly how people are going to respond. But there are some common themes to most of the responses we hear:

You have so much faith.

You are brave.

You are an inspiration.

And every now and then, we also hear what people say behind our back to friends and relatives: What in the world are they going to do?!

I think I love that one the most, because I know that’s really what many are thinking but they worry it will offend us if they say it to our face.

I understand where people are coming from when they say all these things. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and don’t want to take away from the genuine and heartfelt support people so kindly offer. But I wanted to take a few moments and point out some of the unspoken assumptions that might hover invisibly over words like “you’re brave” and “you have great faith.”

There is a part of me that gets a little squirmy with the implication that we have faith in greater measure just because we are leaving a job.

It’s true, faith is often required to leave a job.

But faith is also required to stay at a job.

“I’ve never attended a ‘steadfast obedience’ party at work. I’ve never been invited to a ‘staying put’ get-together. I’ve never heard of a ‘sticking around forever’ shindig. And I haven’t for one simple reason: We live in a corporate culture that celebrates people who leave and ignores those who stay.”

Jon Acuff, Quitter

We have to be careful not to point to outward actions as the only implication of an inward reality. You can’t always tell from an outside glance what is happening on the deep level of the soul. Over time, theses realities become clear. But be careful to elevate those who seem to be making noticeable decisions that have obvious impact over those who make small decisions in quiet corners with little noticeable impact at all.

All movement requires faith no matter how big or small it may look on the outside – whether you’re stepping into the unknown or stepping into the same thing as yesterday.

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John and I have have been praying for over two years about what might be next for us. For two years, we have quietly waited, listened, and stayed right where we are. During that time, no one said we were brave or had a lot of faith because there was no action to point to as proof. But those years of waiting and listening were necessary for the movement happening right now – the kind of movement people can see.

Maybe your movement is small right now, too. Maybe you watch as others around you seem to be making “big moves” and have “great faith.”

Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.

So yes, we are leaving a job. And over the next few days, as kind friends and curious bystanders send us off and say some of these lovely words, John and I will receive them with gratitude and beg God to filter words of praise for us through the person of Jesus who did only what he saw his Father do and said only what he heard his Father say.

May it be so of all of us no matter how big, small, or ordinary our next steps might be.

it’s time: a movement for our generation

This may be only the second time in over 7 years that I have posted twice in one day. But I really wanted to get this post up tonight, partly because I’m tired of writing it and re-writing it in my head and partly because I just can’t wait any longer to join in. This post, to me, feels incomplete. But maybe that’s the point – and also this is what happens when I write at night. Fair warning.

November 2011 through January 2012 was a delicate time for my family. John was on sabbatical, which for us at the time was the polite way of saying if your husband doesn’t stop doing ministry for a few months, he’s going to burn out and it is going to get ugly.

gather

We closed ourselves in for a time and allowed our souls the space they needed to settle into the shape for which they were made.

It was during that time I read Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. As I read her words, I realized that even though she wrote in my language, her words were in some way foreign to me. One concept she introduced me to was the breathing prayer.

“The breath prayer . . . does not come primarily from the mind, which is where most of our words come from; the breath prayer arises from the depths of our desire and need. It is powerful because it is an expression of our heart’s deepest yearning coupled with the name for God that is most meaningful and intimate for us at this time.”

After reading her words, I spent time in silence to discover my own breath prayer for that time in my life. I took the name of Lord Jesus and coupled it with words from a prayer by Ted Loder, words that were especially meaningful to me during that tender time of our lives. And so I began to pray these simple words:

Lord Jesus, Gather me now to be with You.

Whatever that means for this moment. Whatever that means for my life. Gather me now to be with You in my anxiety, in my happiness, in my fretfulness, in my vocation.

Gather me now to be with you.

Last year, that prayer was deeply private for me. It still is. But I believe the Lord is in the process of smoothing another layer of that word upon my soul.

Gather.

But now, not just gather me.

Gather us.

***

This word came up again when I heard from Jennie Allen a few months ago. Years ago, she had a vision – a deep in her bones desire to gather and equip our generation. She hasn’t been able to shake it. She hasn’t wanted to shake it. You can read her tell it on her blog.

It seems that desires that come from the heart of God are a fire to warm the whole Church, not just one person. This vision – to gather and equip a generation – is beginning to have skin.

You can read more about the details here, but the simple truth is it starts now, with you and with me, breathing in Lord Jesus and breathing out Gather us now to be with you.

Christ in me is the most powerful and miraculous reality that exists in the universe. And so is Christ in you.

If you are made in the image of God, what does that mean for your family, your community, and the world?

If Christ lives within you, how might he want to come out? 

If God is real, then what?

These are some of my questions. You can read more questions here and here and here. You have questions, too.

Some gatherings don’t happen in person. Some are a gathering of like-mindedness and vision and a linked-arm agreement that God came down to come in. And now he wants to come out. Of you and of me, the Church. What might that look like for you personally and for us collectively?

We want to talk about these things, in person, online, in prayer.

We want to talk in our living rooms and our classrooms and our kitchens. We want to talk on stages and in pulpits and on the park benches while we watch our kids play. We want to talk about them with you in Austin, Texas on February 7 -8, 2014 – to ask questions and wrestle and to do it together.

And then we want to stop talking and we want to move. That statement terrifies me. But let’s move anyway. Let’s move into the lives of those around us as the women we fully are – awake and alive, equipped and armed with the Gospel. Let’s take the time to accept the shape of our souls and then have the courage to share it with others.

IF

I’m joining in. What about you? To learn more, visit IF:Gathering.

Lord Jesus, Gather us to be with you.

why you need to tell someone how scared you are

The pool opened this weekend so the air smells like burgers and coconut sunscreen. I spent the weekend fully clothed in my lounge chair – most days it was too cold for me to swim. But it’s never too cold to people-watch and one of my favorite places to do that at the pool is down by the diving boards.

diveI watched my son fly off the low-dive, swim to the ladder, walk fast back to the diving board line and fly off the end of the board again. He doesn’t even think about it.

But that isn’t the case for some. While he made his rounds on the low dive, I noticed a little girl – maybe 8 or 9 – standing at the end of the high dive. She wasn’t jumping.

Instead, she stood there looking around for another way down. She bent her knees like she was preparing, but quickly stood up straight again.

Bend, straighten, repeat.

After a few tries like this, other people began to notice her and it wasn’t long before all eyes were on her. Her dad appeared from the crowd shouting encouragement and waving a thumbs up.

It happens a lot at the pool – some kid gets scared at the top of the high dive and everybody watches from below. Secretly? I kind of love it. I don’t love watching scared kids – I love watching scared kids jump. It never gets old.

Someone started to clap. Soon, everyone was clapping, cheering her on. We could tell she desperately wanted to jump, but I heard her say faintly, “It’s too high.

She couldn’t do it and slowly climbed backwards down the ladder.

My heart sank for her. But you know what else? My heart sank for me, too. I wanted her to jump. I don’t know this girl personally, but I understand her fear.

Ten minutes later, I saw her climb back up. I nudged John next to me, “Look! There she is again.”

She seemed more determined this time, standing on the edge. She bent her knees same as last time. And again, she straightened back up.

Crouch . . .

Stand.

Crouch . . !

Stand.

jumpThe crowd began to clap again, this time with more energy. Several people from across the pool started a countdown – 3 . . 2 . . 1 . . and with one slow motion crouch, she flung herself from the end of the board, arms straight above her.

As she fell, we all whooped and hollered, our collective happiness coming from a genuine excitement for her. I know she heard us before she hit the water.

Here’s the thing: kids jump off that board every 30 seconds and nobody cares. They turn flips and touch their toes and they do it 10 times in a row.

But it isn’t until someone hesitates that the crowd gets involved, even a crowd of strangers.

With a little more than a month left in the only job John and I have ever known as a couple, I feel like we are not only standing at the end of a diving board, we’ve decided to go ahead and set up a tent there on the edge.

Last week I spent some time with the other pastor’s wives at our church. They were kind to gather in the midst of a busy month to spend some time with me and say goodbye. As we sat around the table eating pimento cheese spread on crackers and a delicious chocolate cake with my name on it, I cried as I shared with them my excitement as well as my fear.

They prayed for me, and in a very real way, I felt like I was standing scared at the edge of the diving board. But I had a profound awareness that for those moments, these women were a tiny crowd around me, encouraging me to jump.

If I hadn’t told them I was afraid, they may not have known to cheer.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I want you to know something about this group of women – these other wives and I are not best friends. We don’t have Bible study together or go on vacation with each other’s families. I like them, I respect them, I love to spend time with them. But we hardly ever see one another and it honestly would have been easier and more comfortable for me to not let them see me cry.

After that evening with them, I reminded myself of this: Don’t insist your encouragement should come from a particular person or group of people. Be open to receiving God however (and through whomever) he may want to show himself.

Sometimes it’s good to let them see you sweat even when it feels awkward. Fear seems to grow in the darkness of isolation. But when you expose it in the light of community, it tends to lose power. Sharing my fear is often the path that leads to courage.

So here’s to climbing up on top of diving boards and being honest about how terrified we are. May you push through your insecurity and fully admit your fear. And may you be open to receiving the kind community of people there waiting to cheer you on.

3 questions to ask yourself before you change the world

Change the world is a tired, over-used phrase. I know that. But you know, we could say the same thing about “I love you” so I’m just going to go with it. These three questions are for anyone who wonders if it might finally be time to do something – write, teach, move, speak, listen, join, or quit. They are questions that help me – but maybe your questions are different. I’d love to hear what they are.

3 questions

In an interview Jeff Goins did with Seth Godin, he (Seth) said all his books were a result of his being frustrated by something. (By the way, raise your hand if you have ever called them Jeff Godin and Seth Goins – I mean, really. Could their names BE any more similar?)

Seth: “For me, I don’t wake up in the morning saying I need something to write about or I owe the world a book. It’s totally fine with me if I don’t have anything. If I’m gonna name something or if I’m going to bother going the year long trouble of writing a book, it’s because I’m frustrated. The only reason I do any of this is because no one else has done it in a way that I think is going to push an idea forward that I think is worth addressing.”

I’ve thought about this for a while and compared what he says to the way I feel about why I write or explore an idea.

I wrote Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful because I saw myself in the girls in our youth group. Jesus didn’t seem to be an answer to real problems in their lives. He was only an example to follow when they wanted to be good Christians.

This gross distortion of the Gospel broke my heart and made me mad. Are we teaching our students a compartmental salvation? And am I partially to blame for that?

So yes, frustration was the first spark of my motivation.

Being frustrated didn’t make me qualified or ready. But it did wake something up within me, something that compelled me to move, something that made me want to get ready.

The frustration rolled into a compulsion towards change – passion to communicate a message, to move into the chaos of the questions even if I didn’t have all the answers.

But being frustrated about an issue and compelled to do something about it won’t sustain the message for the long-term. For me, what really keeps me moving is the hope of something better.

In my experience, when I am frustrated and passionate without hope, I’m vulnerable to cynicism. If I don’t have hope for change, despair creeps in and I want to give up.

Am I able to peer behind the mysterious curtain of the present and catch a glimpse of what could be?

Am I willing to move into the darkness even though I don’t feel fully qualified or confident or prepared?

These are important questions for me to ask about the work I do. There are plenty of things that frustrate me. But that doesn’t mean I am called to tackle them all. It’s only when I sense all three of these motivations working together that I begin to accept I might need to explore an idea, a thought, or move towards influencing change.

Frustration wakes me up.

Passion gets me moving.

Hope keeps me going.

What about you?

What frustrates you?

What compels you?

What do you most hope for?

Maybe these questions will help you define and refine your goals, your dreams for yourself or for others, and your desire for change.

A quick thanks to you for your kind comments, emails and prayers regarding my last post. John read some of your responses as well and afterwards he looked at me and said, “Wow. A lot of people are in transition.” So here’s to waiting, to believing, and to seeing what’s next.

what a hundred lifeguards taught me about my calling

No matter how much I wish they didn’t, my children love to go to the indoor water park. I can’t think of a worse invention on planet earth. (Besides maybe anthropomorphic rats. And canned cheese).

I have an idea! Let’s build a bunch of slides in a huge, dark-ish gymnasium. Then let’s crank the heat up to 275 degrees and add lots and lots of water. 

indoor water park

For hour upon endless hour, we walk around in our bathing suit without even the perks that bathing suits usually offer. You can’t get a tan because you’re inside. You aren’t motivated to cool off because it’s the middle of winter and you’ve been cold for three months. Not only that, but you’ve just realized your suit is super snug because the last time you wore it was August and now it’s the end of winter and oh yea, I have skin and oh no, it’s white like paste.

The first time we went to one such place, I was all geared up for what they call “fun” – wore my suit, sported my whiteness, braved the Totem Towers. But half-way through standing in line on wet steps with my shivering children, I realized I was miserable. Not to mention the fact that the man behind me was exactly eye level to my be-hind.

As I tried to angle myself into the railing, (both to have some kind of covering from my line-mates behind me as well as to protect my frontal area from the giant bucket of water that emptied itself every sixty seconds), I caught a glimpse of the chair section over to my right.

That’s right, the chair section. Row upon endless row of lounge chairs.

That’s when I realized the secret to the indoor water park, the secret more experienced mothers obviously already knew: don’t wear your bathing suit to the water park.

It sounds lame and party pooper-ish. I know. But this might be one of those times where it is appropriate to pull out the whole I carried you for nine months inside of me so now Daddy has to take you down the water slide.

And so, on our second visit to water hell, I came armed with my new-found wisdom in the form of a Sarah Addison Allen novel and a pair of long pants. Even though it was 275 degrees with air thicker than a Low Country summer, I managed to enjoy myself.

But I couldn’t focus on my book. There was too much going on, too many people to watch. The most fascinating among them were the lifeguards.

For all the ways the indoor water park disappointed me, the lifeguards nearly made up for it. These were no whistle twirling, chair lounging, teenage flirting type of life guards. These people were serious and focused – more special ops, less High School Musical.

First, there were a ton of them. Second, they each had a whistle in their mouths – Popeye style – and an orange life raft tucked under their arm at all times.

But the most compelling thing about these lifeguards was the fact that they were not only always on their feet, they never stopped moving.

It was as if they were each assigned an eight foot length of the pool. No more and no less. They were responsible for those eight feet and anyone who swam within them. They paced their assigned distance back and forth on the edge of the pool, eyes never leaving the water.

It was impressive to watch, as much as I hated to admit anything impressed me at the water park.

Their job wasn’t to watch the whole pool – just their assigned corner. Besides, there were eight more lifeguards spaced out perfectly around the pool, each doing their job, responsible for their small section.

pool chairs

Possibility can be as overwhelming as it is inspiring. At first it can feel terribly exciting to imagine anything is possible. You pin adorable posters in super cute fonts to your dream board on Pinterest and actually believe some of them. Until you sprint flat into the wall of your own limits in the form of lack of time, lack of energy, comparison, competition, and distraction.

Could it be possible we have it wrong? That the gift isn’t in believing we can do anything but in knowing we can do nothing?

Could it be possible that your limits – those things you curse and hate and wish were different about yourself – are not holding you back but pointing you forward?

It seems to me when I finally recognize my inability is when Christ shows up able within me.

But he doesn’t equip me to do every job possible, he equips me to do the job meant for me.

If you’re willing to face your inability, you might see something you desperately need to carry on – your limits can be a gift, showing you what is outside your circle of influence and responsibility so that you may embrace and focus on the small part that belongs to you and only to you.

Could it be possible that the reason we are so overwhelmed is because we are focused on the whole pool, forgetting our eight-foot assignment?

As I watched those lifeguards, a phrase my dad often says came to mind – You just focus on your corner of the pool. 

I know what he means now – You have a job to do and it won’t look like mine or his or theirs. It looks like yours. It isn’t the whole pool, but it’s important. The fact that you can’t cover the whole pool at once doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have the wrong goal. It also means you need other people  around you to do their job, too.

Do you know what is in your corner of the pool? Do you recognize your eight foot assignment?

one thing we’re waiting for (and why it’s time to stop)

Real talk. Last night I had a dream that the people in charge of the Women of Faith conference called (in my dream, they were called Women of Courage, but I’m going to go ahead and make an assumption) and they wanted me to join their lady tour.

And y’all? In my dream, I really wanted to do it. As in, I called up Jennie Allen and was all Wussup, girl?! Because I’m cool like that.

When I woke up and realized it was a dream (and also Women of Faith, not courage) I took a little time to figure that dream out.

I realize there’s a risk in telling you this dream because now I worry you all think I harbor a secret desire to speak in arenas.

I do not. But there was something about that dream that I couldn’t shake after I woke up.

I met someone once who is all dreamy (as in, she studies dreams, not that I want to date her) and she said the main thing to pay attention to in a dream isn’t so much every detail, but the overall feeling of the dream.

And so when I woke up after that Women of Faith dream I was struck with the feeling that lingered with me — it was the feeling of being picked.

Sometimes don’t we just want to be picked?

I know you think I’m gonna be all, But God picks you!

I’m not. I mean, God does pick you. He totally does. But there is sometimes a disconnect for me between God picking me as a child he loves and God empowering me to make an impact in the world around me.

My husband went to hear Seth Godin speak in Tribeca this past summer and you know what the theme of his talk was?

Pick yourself.

It’s an important message to me. Because even though I know as a believer that my identity is solid in Christ, if I don’t decide to believe it for myself then it won’t impact the way I love, the way I live, or the way I work.

This past year I’ve struggled through the writing process more than I’ve ever struggled before. I’ve been working through a lot of self- doubt and discouragement and it’s affected my writing voice – somewhat here on the blog, but more so in the book I’ve been working on.

Two years ago, Seth wrote a post called Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked:

“Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

When I filter that statement through the reality of my life in Christ, it becomes even stronger. Have I been given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind? Yes? Then what else could I possibly be waiting for?

Last weekend, I wrote this for you in my weekend post:

Go ahead and take time off from your self-doubt for the weekend. May the break be so freeing that you decide to make it permanent.

You know why I wrote that? Because I desperately needed to hear it. And I took my own advice after that. I made it permanent.

I decided that the self-doubt isn’t really working for me.

I decided that this book I’m working on for you is important.

I decided to have courage because really, what have I got to lose?

I picked myself.

What about you?

when full rooms make your knees shake

The room is packed to the corners with women, every round table nearly full with familiar faces. She introduces me quickly and I stand at the microphone, perusing the room.

Those girls were at our wedding. That one back there volunteers in our youth group. This one works at my kid’s school. There’s our pastor’s wife, my mother-in-law, the women who drove from Raleigh. There’s some friends who go to a different church, some girls I went to college with, a few women who work at LifeWay, college students home for summer. Surely they can’t be ready to graduate? Aren’t they still 16?

I begin to talk the way I do, hands moving too much, eyebrows raised to the ceiling, open. I am nothing if not open. And that is why I will later come home and close up in a ball, tightly sealed, quiet.

My hands shake remembering. I knew it would be a bit more difficult to speak in a room full of women I know. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotion of it. I didn’t cry, although a few times I felt like I might. It was a little like heaven, all those women gathered in one place, women I knew or used to know. Women I wished I knew better.

It also felt like something else, something of fear and self-awareness, of hiding under a big round table. Something of running away.

Three weeks ago I stood in front of a room filled with writers and speakers and strangers. I had fun there, felt sure of my calling there, spoke words and didn’t replay them.

But last week when I shared stories with a room made up of friends at my very own church in my very own neighborhood, well. I haven’t yet recovered. Being in the right place doesn’t always feel that great. Sometimes it feels terrifying, unsure, small. But small is a gift I haven’t stopped giving thanks for. I have tasted the miracles that come from weakness, from inadequacy, from a hard leaning into a source outside of myself.

This morning I read in the book of John, right there in the beginning, how the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. I know this Word is Jesus, that the Father was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him and through Him. And then John 1:16 sings truth in black and white, lifts off the page and colors my whole kitchen with light.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”

We aren’t the only ones who lean. This word grace means favor. A kindness. God, freely extending Himself to us, giving Himself away, leaning toward us. He leans toward us. 

I would still prefer to speak to a room filled with strangers. Isn’t it obvious why? It is easier to manage their opinions, to control what they see, to stay distant. To speak among friends is to risk rejection, fingers pointing, exposure. But this risk is worth it if we want to grow in community and be challenged to live what we say we believe. Is Christ really sufficient? Have you really received His fullness? Does grace really multiply?

My earthly eyes see full rooms that push me to my introverted knees. The Spirit begs me to see a different kind of full — fullness of heart, fullness of spirits made one with God, fullness of Emmanuel. We are not alone. Grace upon grace.

I close my Bible, consider the gifts, stare out the window three minutes too long. The words fullness and lean are still on my mind. I don’t have neat conclusions. I will carry these words with me into the day.

the day networking died

I attended my first professional conference when I worked for a local university in their Disability Services department. I was the sign language interpreter coordinator and I flew to Chicago to learn more about the craft and meet other interpreters around the country.

I was 12 weeks pregnant with the twins at the time so one of my most poignant memories of that conference was throwing up in the hotel bathroom and getting up early to walk to the Starbucks around the corner so I could have some orange juice with ice. But there are other things, too, and one of them was the pressure and anxiety I felt to make connections. Rub shoulders. Network.

I don’t remember any of the people I networked with. I remember my roommate Stacy who brought me tea when she knew I wasn’t feeling well. I remember cold orange juice. I remember lonely. I remember my husband on the other end of the phone, offering acceptance and comfort in the midst of a difficult week.

Looking back, I’m not sure why I felt anxious in the first place. It was a bunch of sign language interpreters, after all. But every profession has their own celebrities and none of us are immune, I guess.

Still, I couldn’t wait to get home.

This past weekend, I spent some time at a conference for writers and speakers called She Speaks. My editor and I led a session where we offered 12 truths to know before you write your next book. This is the fifth year I’ve attended this conference. The first year I went as an attendee. Every year after that, I’ve gone as a speaker.

I really love this conference – the women who run it and the women who attend it are lovely, kind, humble. Still, in environments like this, aren’t we always on our best behavior?

People ask questions like how to grow your readership and how to build your platform and I find myself wanting to offer a hug and also fling heavy objects across the room.

Here’s the thing: You are a person and I am too, and we desperately need each other. We eat tuna on rye and have bushy eyebrows and we hold our hearts together with smile-shaped band-aids and a handful of Oreo cookies.

Pass the milk, please. I can’t do this without you.

After writing on this blog for six years, having my first book published a year ago and preparing to launch my second book in six weeks (six weeks!), there is one thing I’ve learned about myself. I’m lousy at networking. It’s a corporate word and I’m not a corporate girl.

But I’m pretty good at making friends. And I’m an expert at being myself. After doing this for a while, I’m learning that’s really all people want anyway.

We can be professional without being stiff.

We can be influential without being preachy.

We can share our stories without being self-centered.

So let’s learn how to make friends, build trust, pray, listen. The world doesn’t need more networks.

How have the people in your life earned the right to influence you?