"What do you want to accomplish in this season?"
It's lunchtime and I am washing dishes - the most menial and mindlessly comforting household chore. Standing at the half-empty sink with my cell phone on speaker and my hands full of white suds, my mind goes blank for a second. An answer wells up in my throat, but it is not the right one, so I swallow it whole.
The epiphany comes slowly, as with all self-realization. "I don't think I know ..."
And then it hits me. I'm wandering.
It's a blessing, really - of that I'm fully aware. This season is unlike any other I've ever experienced. I work in the peaceful quiet of home while my toddler is in school during the day. Our living space is clean. The laundry (mostly) done. Home-cooked meals are a reality for my family (at least three days out of the week, because who am I kidding - I'm no Super Woman!) I take naps, meet up with my mom for lunch, and have mid-day conversations (like this one) with girlfriends. I am free to do whatever I want most days, my work schedule permitting.
It's nice, but believe me I'm not bragging, because it's also a bit dangerous. The sudden lack of discipline and pressure to make things happen, has left me feeling aimless. Plus, I'm pregnant, which has re-introduced a heightened level of emotional sensitivity and overall fatigue that frequently deduce me to my bed, a bowl of cereal and Netflix.
Meanwhile, my dreams wait patiently, like books on shelves - dusty and dormant. All the while, I am moving to the next thing, hurrying along, spinning my wheels, and never stopping to truly assess ... what am I really accomplishing? I want my freedom, but I thrive in structure, and in its absence I have been winging it, which is not necessarily awful. Just not totally efficient.
In the middle of my wandering, aimless, soon-to-be-despair, something happened. Something unexpected. The most thoughtful of gestures.
"I ordered some PowerSheets for you," this same girlfriend revealed a week or so before the package arrived on my doorstep. "They were on sale and I thought of you."
PowerSheets. You've probably never heard of them. Neither had I. But at the recommendation of this particular friend, I'd recently finished Lara Casey's part-memoir, part-life coaching book, "Making it Happen: Surrender the Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose." It's hilarious to me now because I've never really enjoyed (or explored for that matter) the self-help genre. But boy oh boy. I ate that book for lunch.
It was full of ... I don't know "real." A kind of real I wasn't expecting. I thought a book about making things happen would diagnose my wandering as mere laziness and try to cure me with a list of cheesy steps, but surprisingly, most of it was Lara's story. And I've always been a sucker for a good story.
I won't spoil it here, because it is actually worth the read (or the listen if you're an Audible junkie like me) but in sum, it's about dreaming while broken. And finding God in the rough patches. And not letting fear keep you from all the things He has put in your heart to do. I found my own story somewhere in her words, even though my heartbreak was of a very different variety. I did not know her pain specifically. But I knew the feeling of being stuck. The feeling of wanting so badly to make a move and feeling paralyzed by the village of liars in your head.
I'll admit - I put the book down three-fourths of the way through, just as the heart work (read: hard work) was beginning. Mostly because I was too tired and cynical to journey through a self-moderated workshop of introspection and goal-setting. So my friend - being the sweet, thoughtful, friend that she is - sent the workshop to me. And because it was a gift, and because she thought enough to invest in me, I made the time.
From the start, there were good signs. I'm a sucker for good packaging, and when I opened the plastic-wrapped box addressed to me, the translucent binder and gold foil paper inserts lured me in unexpectedly (what girl doesn't love gold foil?!) As I flipped through the well-designed pages, all I could think was how I couldn't wait to find the perfect set of gel pens to get started. Before I read a single page, I could feel the excitement of Christmas creeping in my heart, even though it was only June. I felt the anticipation of change that only Spring can bring, and the hope normally reserved for the New Year. It was more than a gift. It was a fresh start. A second chance. I'd chosen "Grace" as my word for the year without making a single resolution, and I'd thrived on grace from January through June. But now I needed to learn another word. Guts. I desperately needed to make a move.
Once again, I was nervous. I sat with my pretty binder and my carefully selected color gel pens and got to work. Surprisingly, it was work. There was a lot of reflection, and I found that I'd actually forgotten a lot of what happened last year. The struggles were not lost on me - of course, they were top of mind - but the blessings totally caught me by surprise. When prompted to reflect on what I was grateful for within the past twelve months, I drew a huge blank. It took trolling through countless emails, texts and social media posts to recall the many adventures I'd somehow forgotten. Among them:
- The return to work after being home for a year with Lincoln
- My first "Director" position!
- A solo vacation with Lincoln to Atlanta
- A week spent with Musa in Jamaica
- An epic surprise birthday party with my closest friends (planned by my thoughtful hubby!)
- Seeing Cicely Tyson + James Earl Jones in "The Gin Game" on Broadway in NYC!
- Staying in The Waldorf-Astoria (which earned me a check on my bucket list!)
- Lincoln's "no-seizure" diagnosis from Children's Hospital
- Reviving my consulting business and building a steady stream of client work
- New friendships!
- Renewed commitment to prayer
The list went on and on (I have nearly two full pages!) and I found such joy in remembering, and in reliving all that God had allowed me to experience and accomplish. How many times over the past year had I thought I was going nowhere, doing nothing? And look at all God had done in and through me in a year's time!
"Wow, you did have a pretty epic year," my husband said smiling, when I read him my list in bed one night.
Then, there were the lessons I learned from what didn't work last year, which were equally, if not more important:
- Don't be a martyr. If something isn't working, be loud and vocal, and EARLY!
- Find identity in Christ. Not in my work, or in others' approval, or even my own ability to meet my expectations for myself.
- Give Christina more GRACE. (She needs it!)
- Take care of myself. (No one else will do it for me.)
These blessings and lessons were the motivation I needed to jump into planning. Eagerly, I set out, working through page after page of the PowerSheets. It was an arduous, but exciting process. At times I felt silly, but I learned a lot about myself, and I vowed to finish. I was surprised that the process took weeks, not days. But heart work is often the most time-consuming kind. By the end, I'd produced eight goals for the next six months, each with three or four action items to help me get to where I want to be:
- Practice self-care regularly.
- Love Musa well.
- Be more intentional about loving and discipling our children well.
- Write more!
- Organize my business.
- Redesign our kitchen, living room + dining room.
- Work with Musa to implement a new financial management system for our family.
- Prepare for the baby on the way!
I wish I could explain the relief I feel at just having outlined the things that truly matter to me in this season and taking concrete steps to make them happen. In my line of work, I thrive on knowing and understanding my clients' objectives and putting together a plan to move the needle, but I'd never really effectively done that for myself (like the hairdresser who never does her own hair, or the nail tech whose polish is always chipped.) But all that changed this month. I actually have a plan. Go figure!
It's July, and there's the slightest chance that you're like I was - feeling a bit aimless. Maybe your list of New Year's Resolutions is collecting dust somewhere in a journal. Maybe you didn't even bother making any resolutions (no judgement). Or maybe the thought that the year is halfway over freaks you out because you're not really sure what, if anything, you've actually accomplished this year. Are you lacking direction? Inspiration? Clarity?
Here's the thing, I'm learning after all these years, friend. Every day is a fresh start. You don't need to wait for a New Year. Or a Monday. Or the first of the month. Right now, you can stop, take inventory of where you are and set a new trajectory. God has given you everything you need to follow the dreams He's put in your heart. I'm not suggesting that you are in charge of your own destiny. I think phrases like that are way oversimplified. I am suggesting though, that if you feel like you're going nowhere, you at least figure out why and get back on track.
By now you've guessed that I highly recommend Lara Casey's PowerSheets (the six-month set is only $25!), but the truth is you really don't need to spend any money to figure out what you want to accomplish in this season of your life.
You just need to start. Today.