Rewinding Grace

What a treat it would be to live grace so fully that all that could be seen in us is love.

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responsibly responsible

How do we know when enough is enough?

Responsibility is not an easy task. In life in general. In leadership. Responsibility takes us outside of ourselves and creates within us the weight of pushing on for another’s sake. Responsibility tends to account for the group, the team, the whole big picture rather than our measly little corner of it. Responsibility says, “I’ll do it!” When the head or heart may be saying, “I most certainly will not!” It brings the balance.

Since I have begun a career life, I continually cycle through thinking about being in a different job or position. I can never seem to excitedly line up my passion and my day to day work for more than a year. I do stay in jobs for about five years, but somewhere after the shiny gold leaf has worn off, I begin spinning a nasty cycle of thinking how great something else would be. I thought my first real job I got after college would be the end all. It was at a non-profit, exactly where I wanted to be, this was IT. I could responsibly learn to live and pay bills and rent and be a very responsible grown-up. And then everything changed. I got married, and my spouse wasn’t in love with his job, but out of responsibility stayed. So when he urged me into my current job, responsibility took over and I said yes.

By saying yes to responsibility, I gave freedom to my spouse to explore other options and leave a place he had had enough of.

Maybe we know enough is enough when our responsibility takes us elsewhere. Responsibility makes us uncomfortable so that others may experience comfort.

As a leader, responsibility is nothing if we do not fully understand why we do what we do. In a relationship we know why. It’s that unspoken bond, that thing that can’t be put into words, that everything and nothing at the same time. We wouldn’t dream of not carrying responsibility.

My leadership is driven by my belief in serving others and creating a meaningful workplace. I will challenge anything that goes against that core belief of mine. I believe that others deserve their best life, they deserve to know how to uncover their own meaning in their work, and people deserve the freedom to make their own responsibility. I guess I feel responsible for others responsibility.

So when is enough, enough? Maybe it is when we stop feeling responsible because someone else has decided they should be responsible for us.

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gathering at the table

I’ve been doing more of a personal leadership search lately. That part about grace that forces you to grow and be accountable. Various things I’ve seen recently around social media have caused me to revisit and research my thoughts on church and how my faith fit into the picture. And I’m talking my faith, as in my own personal view of being a follower of Christ, not the Christianity I was brought up to believe.

I will go Christianese for a moment and say that I do believe one of my, maybe my only, spiritual gift is faith. I’ve known that for a long time, like forever. Because it is in me and I know. It’s my gut instinct that tells my heart yes this is true and no this is off and needs some exploring.

A post caught my eye the other day as I did my every-so-hourly Facebook stalking that distorted my face into disgust. And a realization hit me. I think I do not find the position of the modern day pastor biblical. It struck me that I have never felt very spiritually connected to a single pastor….ever. After leaving home and being forced to follow my own true faith, I have been slowly uncovering that my God is shown to me through each person I encounter, the nature that surrounds me, it is a sum of all that is present in my life at any given moment.

Some time ago I wrote: What if I could live grace so fully that all that could be seen in me is love? When I reflect on that, like truly, deeply concentrate on it, I find that it is my personal statement of faith. Grace is God allowing the unperfect me to be holy. And love is the why.

Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,
    proud, or rude.
Love isn’t selfish
    or quick tempered.
It doesn’t keep a record
    of wrongs that others do.
Love rejoices in the truth,
    but not in evil.
Love is always supportive,
loyal, hopeful,
    and trusting.
Love never fails!

That’s big stuff.

In researching some about the early church, I came to find that the bad taste in my mouth about pastors was not unfounded. The early church called for elders. Emphasis on the plural. Not just one person leading a group of followers, but a group discipling a group. A community talking, living, growing together. Those elders – or spiritual mentors – guided others toward spiritual maturity.

It is difficult to be selfish when you are part of a group, a team, a tribe as the hip kids are calling it these days. When everyone relies on the person next to them it becomes much less of a pulpit / pew line of fire and more of a gathering together at the table.

What I am learning in life is to recognize those moments where I am the elder and where others are the elder to me. I am learning to guide my life through my call to serve, to lead others, and to fully and richly experience my connected life with God. I am continuing to consciously choose love.

It’s small steps.

It’s sitting together at the table acknowledging everyone’s shitty day, finding the humor, and realizing that this is church.

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I wanna dance the tango with chance
And I wanna ride on the wire
‘Cause nothing gets done with dust in your gun
And nobody respects a liar

So, goodbye for a while
I’m off to explore every boundary and every door
Yeah, I’m going north

And I wanna know where children would go
If they never learned to be cool
‘Cause nothing’s achieved when pushed up a sleeve
So nobody thinks you’re a fool

So, goodbye for a while
I’m out to learn more about who I really was before
Yeah, I’m going north

Up where the hunted hide with ease
Under the arms of eyeless trees
Up where the answers fall like leaves
Or when your love is all I need

Yeah, I’m going north
I’m going north
Yeah, I’m going north, yeah


Heard this song the other day and the lyrics hit me. A heartsong for my life. It reminded me of the journey I’ve taken, starting back that summer after high school. I knew life was changing, needed changing, and Lord only knew how much I would change.

“I’m out to learn more about who I really was before…”

I always felt like I was on the outside looking in growing up. I always had places to fit, but I never truly felt like that was my end all, my true belonging. Since leaving home and literally going north, I have discovered my true belonging…and it is ever growing and changing and molding its way around the community in which it is placed. I am very much a lone soul and I will always have places to fit, because I know now that it is in my soul’s best interest to carve out my fit. When I etch into the stone walls around me I create home, peace and a forever love for that picture in my journey. I leave one stone for the next, and leave behind the best possible story in that hieroglyph in my life.

“The quest for change is an adventure…It introduces you to yourself.” The Leadership Challenge by, Kouzes & Posner

Along my change adventure I have been introduced to myself as a leader. Sometimes I think this is why I felt so on the outs. Always seeing more and not knowing how to handle it. Now I know that it was the challenge that found me and continues to find me. Only now I open the door to the opportunity, whether or not I truly know what I am doing. It’s about willingness to take risks and fail and learn and grow. And it’s the best.

Growing your natural leadership is about accepting challenge and change, embracing it, wrestling it and coming out the other side tattered, torn and victorious. I believe I have been bestowed a divine gift of leadership, and sometimes that is terrifying. It’s a lot to know what to do with. How to share it, nurture it, use it for good and not evil. No, I fully believe I will influence for the better, but everyone takes missteps.

“Up where the answers fall like leaves…”

It is ironic that my life’s question came from the South and my answers have been found north. Again, the challenge of the adventure of change. In my constricted worldview I thought for certain……………………….

{…divine moment…song starts playing…no literally Pandora started playing it for me…}

…I thought for certain I had a handle on the answer and that was going to eventually lead me to travels abroad, mostly south, doing very expected things. That’s never how it works though. At least not in my case. I came north and suddenly I could breathe, I could be bold (although that is still a work in progress), I could finally explore who I had been all along. I could say that taking things at face value left me feeling trapped, hindered, lost and unfulfilled. And I didn’t find arguments, only people and events that continued to build my knowledge and courage and spirit.

My life’s question was: how will I serve? I’ve come to learn that serve didn’t mean what I thought it meant. In my expected journey it meant literally dedicating my life – like missionary work and that whole thing. What it actually means is how my life of service shows me who God is. The more I serve, the more I love. I come to know God by simply living the radical belief that love is the end all.

There is a gravity and a necessity I find in leadership and in influencing change. It is a beautiful pairing of refining yourself as you refine others.

So I’ll keep going north.

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start here

“One rarely knows where to begin the search for meaning, though by necessity, we can only start where we are…” – Anne Lamott

Meaning. Why. Why? Passion.

We have to believe what we are doing is meaningful. I love that sentiment. Sometimes I think maybe everything in life is just a stepping stone anyway. It’s all about growth and pursuing more, deeper, so that your life can be lived out more fully.

I believe that we create our own meaning. Others can add to our meaning, but no one can take our meaning away. We make choices every day about how we will react, view, process, handle, understand or change each situation we are in.

Here’s how my meaningful life began. Spring break 2000. In the dirt of Mexico I committed to live a life of service. I was torn from the familiar and asked to be a part of something new. My eyes were opened to faith, community, love. Boundaries were pushed. Lives were changed. My life changed forever. Fast forward to 2006. Landed my “life’s purpose” job. I grew, I struggled, I committed to making the most of the situation I was placed in. I learned that you should always throw yourself 100% in the game because you are building your future. Then in 2010 life turned upside down. A job I wasn’t meant to have. And then I learned about stability and failure. I grew stronger and I have reached goals I would not have reached without moving.

Then here I sit today. Learning to lead. Remembering to make purpose out of my life, to create meaning.

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Growth. The first step to leading with grace. Without growth the process of grace is impossible. Growth recognizes failure, which breeds new beginnings, and in turn a pathway for creating a learned habit of grace.

Growth in the terms of the habit of grace does mean failure. Because growth is learning, and we do not learn without failure. Without failure there is no success. And how do we measure growth? …yeah, success.

So why is grace a learned habit via growth? Because those failures are marks of lessons in our journey. We have to mess up, fall down, lose control, and do it all over again before our minds and hearts connect.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of growth lessons lately. It’s taxing. It’s refreshing. A year ago if I were to make the mistakes or missteps I have made recently, I think my spirit would have been crushed. It has taken time and a learned disconnect from my emotions to be able to sit and say, I’m so glad I went through that because now I know how to, and that I can handle it. I am also sure that it is no coincidence that I have been reading about failure and advocating for small wins. That is the divine grace from which my growth is healing to my heart.

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what’s it all about?

What does it mean to lead with GRACE? I think it is an awareness of the need and desire to embrace growth. A leader cannot be effective without that personal awareness and sense of self, and also the ability to accept and develop personal change. A leader must often ask for, encourage or negotiate change in others, so without the capability to direct oneself in the same way, a leader will be seen as hypocritical, disingenuous or untrustworthy.

A good leader accepts responsibility and takes on responsibility. This display of humility in some cases and ownership in others reflects greatly on a leaders ability to handle and manage stress, to maintain honesty and ultimately the loyalty of those being led. This roles into accountability – the measure of trust, of integrity. An accountable leader “walks the talk,” they show up and are present for their followers. An accountable leader can admit and accept failure, circling them back to growth.

Commitment is essential – to a leader’s vision, to their team, to a task, to the results produced by their direction. Commitment is the grunt work, the labor and perseverance, the dedication, it’s the “I’ve got your back” positive attitude.

All of these together combine to excellence. When leading with grace, excellence is always the end result.

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as we are

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey writes, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are…” In the mundane day to day, I had forgotten how to soak in my inspirations. How to use my inspirations to move my world to what I intended it to be. Jobs beat us down, routine beats us down, that continual lapse of time that rushes by and we forget that that time is called life. Taken over by that steadfast treachery, I was seeing the world as constricting, confining, bent to always be conformed around the job and routine that keep life’s practicalities afloat. But what about coloring outside those lines?

My attitude and my behavior shape the paradigm in which I live, and in turn my paradigm is the source of my attitude and behavior. And what if my paradigm was grace?

How would my attitude and behavior look if I truly embodied grace? The willingness to open myself to change, to take ownership of that and commit to allowing it to seep into my everyday actions. Grace does not allow for confinement or the mundane. It is fluid, growing, moving and shows us the gem of inspiration in all that we do.

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foreknowing the unknown

Writing is a chore. Which is why I’ve been so infrequent with it. Which is why I am challenging myself to make a go at it.

See, I have all of these wonderful ideas floating in my mixed up, indecisive and beautifully crafted brain – it’s just putting them to good use for others that is hard. But today I read something. And it asked me: what are you doing when you feel most beautiful?

Let it sink in.

I am beautiful when I am sharing my mess of words. I am beautiful when I am sharing my purpose to speak into the lives of others. I am beautiful when I am sitting here in this coffee shop typing up a new adventure rather than reading about someone else’s.

A year ago I tried to start writing again. As you can see by the wealth of postings that was a less than heroic attempt. When I opened it up today it was like seeing a roadmap I had given myself before myself even knew there would be a street I was looking for. Through the summer I’ve been reading and exploring my leadership philosophy: GRACE.

Growth, responsibility, accountability, commitment, excellence.

…And rewinding to the place that is now. So stay tuned. Perhaps something will resonate with you…and with me for that matter.

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a re-post

“It is here, my daughters, that love is to be found – not hidden away in corners but in the midst of occasions of sin. And believe me, although we may more often fail and commit small lapses, our gain will be incomparably the greater.” Saint Teresa of Avila

I love that in the midst of trial there is always learning. There is always good. It is in our distress and failure that God reaches out and says, ‘Peace my child, I have already saved you from this.’ I wish I did not neglect this love so frequently. A friend once wrote to me, ‘Put your heart on the line so that it hurts more than you want, so that your joy can be that much greater.’

I fear that these lessons and times of love do get tucked away in the corners of our perfect lives…which I suppose would mean that we rarely let ourselves experience the magnificent reality of grace. We were brought up to look so neat and tidy. The thought of love being for the broken sinners is a great church story, but when do we do it? When do we practice it selflessly? We might donate money, make a meal or give an ackward smile to the beggar on the street, but how many times do we ask for the stories of the poor and needy? Better yet, how many times do we listen?  This is our failure. Our failure is that we judge based on the world’s standards, when we shouldn’t be judging at all. We were simply called to love. Those “occasions of sin” could be people rather than instances of wrong-doing.

What a treat it would be to be able to live grace so fully that all that could be seen in us is love.