The Every Day Leader: Lessons From the Farm

Summer is officially here!  It seems like school just started and now is officially out.  The kid’s are home, the farmer markets are in full force and the lawns need to be mowed more often. 

It is one of my favorite times of the year!

Growing up on a farm, I am a bit biased when it comes to the farmers market.  There is nothing that can compare to a fresh, home-grown vegetable.  So much preparation goes into making that produce the very best well before the seed even gets into the ground.  The soil is prepared and tested to see what nutrients it is lacking even as early as the fall before.  Once the soil is ready, the planting begins. There is care to watch the external elements of weather and ensure there is proper sun and moisture.  The farmer makes sure to keep the animals, bugs and weeds away so that no harm can come to the plant or the fruit at any stage of its growth.

I wonder if we as everyday leaders put as much thought into our lives as the farmer does for his plants.  The farmer is very intentional in the care and protection to get the best fruit. 

How are we at taking care of ourselves so that we may be our best as leaders?  How do we prepare ourselves to face the day before us?  Are our hearts in the right place?  Physically, are we getting the rest we need and the right nutrition to be our best?

Often the business of life pushes us to sleep less and eat on the run.  What about exercising?  It seems that these are all things we plan to get to, but just can’t seem to fit in our schedule.

There are things that hurt our relationships, steal our time, drain us emotionally and physically and cause us to not be our very best.  Are we aware of those things? Are we on top of the things we need to know, constantly growing our leadership and other skills?  Or is that something too, we always mean to get to, but can’t seem to find the time.  Even financially, are we so worried about our finances that it affects other areas of our lives? 

Being intentional means taking a look at all areas of our lives and being willing to make necessary changes.

Just like the farmer knows what needs to happen to get his best produce, we too, as intentional leaders need to be mindful of what things produce our best work and allow us to be our best selves.  It is our best that allows us to make the most impact with our lives! 

All of these things are about living a life of intention.

A life that longs to make a difference. 

The life of an everyday leader.

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The Every Day Leader: Weathering the Storms

The Midwest is known for its flat lands with hardly any trees in sight.  So when I moved to the South I was in awe of how many  trees lined the landscapes.  You could not turn from one side to the other without seeing trees!

When a tree has a strong root system, the deep roots provide nourishment and allow it to survive heat, wind, and storms.  It will even stay green, exhibiting life and vitality because of the strong root system that provides the moisture and nutrients it needs from deep within the ground.  In contrast, the trees that grow in clusters often have their roots close to the surface; their trunks are thin as they compete for vital nutrients. They are often the first to fall in a storm.

Intentional leaders will never know their strength as a leader until they have weathered the storms. They will never know what they are made of and how far their roots go down until adversity strikes and they are put through the test.  How are you when the unexpected happens? When someone attacks your character?  When you have lost what is most important to you?  How do you respond?  How we react is based on how strong our foundation is.   How we respond reflects the very character of who we are.

Character comes in being rooted firmly in who you are and knowing what you can and cannot do.  If it is your integrity that has been attacked, are you quick to set the record straight or can you rest, knowing that truth is all that matters?  If the unexpected happens, do you accept it with grace, knowing that God is in control or do you fall apart?

Maybe you haven’t thought about the foundation of your life, because you have never had to.  Living as an intentional leader means living everyday using all that has been given to us to the fullest.  It means thinking ahead.  It means being ready for the storms.   It means being strong.  It means knowing who you are.  It is living everyday a life of intention, a life that makes a difference.

Live intentionally.

Build a strong foundation and withstand the storms of life.

The Every Day Leader: The Suitcase

There is something about old suitcases that just draw us in. They could be on display at an antique store or being used, no matter what, they always seem to get our attention.  So often we want to know the stories of their travels through the generations. It was not that long ago that trips took great planning, and the mode of transportation was on rough dirt roads as the horse-drawn buggies pulled both passengers and luggage to their destination.

Today we have it much easier.  A trip can be planned on the spur of the moment and still be enjoyable. We can check destinations, weather, activities, and so much more on our smart phones. Everything we need is  instantly at our fingertips.

As I write this I gaze at the old suitcases decorating my hallway.  These old suitcases moved my family long ago.  Yet, I am reminded that suitcases  can also symbolize much more than just travel, they represent the change in our lives.   For many of us change is difficult, we would rather hold on tight then let go and take the risk.

Today our lives are constantly in motion.  Yet when it comes time for a change do we know it is time to move on? Often times we remain where we are in our lives simply because it is comfortable.  Does it feel safer to avoid risk? Perhaps we have a new idea but fear it may not work, so we stay quiet.  We wonder how much of an impact we alone can have.  So we remain just as we are.  The road of change feels different.  Being safe feels better.  Less risk is easier.  So we do nothing. 

I love the story of Moses.  A man who stuttered, yet led the people out of Egypt.  An everyday man who was willing to be obedient.  He traveled. He led.  It meant big change and it was risky.   He was willing to step out, accept the risk and see what happened.  Our history books are filled with everyday people who have been willing to do the same. 

How about you?   The suitcase is just the reminder.  You  may already know if it is time for a change.  Deep down you know.  A career change?  Finding purpose in your life?  A relationship?  Reaching out to another?  Perhaps, you have found it easier to stay put. To keep the suitcases all stacked up nice and neat just like I have in my hallway.  They look good, but are serving no real purpose.

What will you do?  Living a life with intention is a life that searches and asks the question, what should I be doing differently?  How can my life count?  I like the reminder of the suitcases.

I want to be that everyday leader that is:

Willing to pick up and go

To move when necessary

To make a difference

The Every Day Leader

I recently was asked to speak to a group about a nonprofit that I am an Executive Director at. As I looked out at the group of ladies I was about to share my story with, I realized the audience was much different then what I had anticipated.  Most of these women were all older than me, had managed through life’s issues and weathered the storms.  I quickly realized I would need to rethink just what I was going to say that could make a difference.  In a room full of wisdom, life tragedies, joy, heartache, families, and everything that goes with living, I wondered exactly what I could share that they may not have heard or known. What could I say that would impact their lives?

As I talked about watching my grandkids play and dream of their lives when they grow up, we all had the opportunity to…

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The Every Day Leader: Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.  For some of us this is a great day that reminds us of the incredible love we have had from our mother.  It may also remind us of the gift of our own children. 

Yet for some, this day may bring memories of sadness due to a loss of their mother or child. It may be sadness for not having a relationship at all or even having a strained one with their child or mother.  Maybe it’s a hurt from having an estranged child.  Whatever the reason, Mother’s Day can be a day that reminds us of a heartache that is all too real and testifies to the messiness of life.

My mother gave me an amazing gift… unconditional love. The gift of having someone love you and invest in your life in a way far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I think back and I never doubted the love of my mother, no matter what, her love was there for me regardless of what I did.  She modeled before me what true love was.  It was through that example that I was able to model this  to my own children.

I have met many who never grew up with the kind of love that I had from my mother, yet God has blessed their lives by giving them this incredible gift of love by another.  A person who was willing to invest in them, love them, teach them, train them, hold them accountable, pray for them, listen to them, encourage them, spend time with them, and be there no matter what.

These individuals are our every day leaders. They have chosen to invest in the lives of another and make a difference where they can, instead of selfishly holding back.

How about you? Is there someone in your life you can invest in? Someone, who would benefit greatly by your time, guidance, and wisdom? Each day God gives us opportunities all around us to be used to make a difference. Imagine the impact you could have on just one life if you lived intentionally, willing to pour yourself into another.

Investments take time, it could be just one hour a month or an hour a week, but the rewards are eternal.  The time you take can change a life forever.  Is this not what we are put on this earth for?  God calls us to connect with others, to walk with them on their journey of life – no matter what that journey holds.

Making an investment in the life of another will come at a cost.  It will cost you to be vulnerable to another, real and authentic. It may mean having to confront in love when misunderstandings happen.  But in the end, it will be a cost well spent. You will not be disappointed.

 I challenge and encourage you today to seek out that person to invest in.  Your investment could be life changing!

I want to be that person. I want to be the one that intentionally seeks out someone to pour my life into knowing that the gain is far greater than any loss.

 

The Every Day Leader: Hijacked!

Hello Friends,

I have a confession to make… I just hijacked my friend’s blog. I had to brag a bit about my amazing friend, Cathy, who is the really great leader that writes this blog week after week.

Holly Gerth once said the characters in life that may seem ordinary on the outside are far from it when given some time and a welcoming place, all kinds of wonderful starts flowing through them to you.

You find out how they came to be who they are.

Tonight, during a late night chat between working on projects, I learned all about how my friend grew up on a farm. I learned that life on the farm teaches you to work hard, do good, and care for family and others.

By the time we said good-bye I realized my life had changed and I had just gotten swept over by a whole lot of wonderful. Really knowing someone requires: our hearts, schedules, authenticity, vulnerability, and trust. I will be forever grateful my friend shared all of those things tonight.

Leaders and Mothers seem to have a lot in common. At times both seem to be a thankless job, at times the road seems lonely, and at times the task ahead seems insurmountable.

Today, on the dawn of Mother’s Day, I thank all of you Mom’s for giving of yourselves every day.  Know that you have the most important job of all.

I have gotten to watch my friend lead a medium size non-profit. I have also learned that she raised 4 phenomenal kids. I have had the pleasure of meeting 3 of those kids, they are AMAZING. I have seen her mother so many others: those who don’t have a mom that come her way, those who have lost their children and some who have lost their mothers.

I have seen her impact and change the lives of those around her every day. Isn’t this what leaders do? Isn’t this what mother’s do?

Today I just wanted to take a minute and say… you are doing a great job Cathy. You are an awesome Mom. You are an awesome leader. You have poured your heart into everything you do and it shows in the people you lead. You have impacted many and we will forever be changed because of it.

Your making a difference, not just in your children and grand kid’s lives, but in your staff and clients lives too. And mine. Your legacy is your heartbeat of compassion that will live on in the lives of all of those you touch daily. It is your smile that encourages the staff to press on when they felt they had no energy to go one step further. It is the stories of life on a farm that inspire faith, hard work, and hopefully homemade donuts.

You have challenged all of us to come up higher, be better, and be excellent in our service to others.

I trust you. I know that you have my back. I trust your judgement.

I believe in you. I believe you are changing lives, the community, and soon the world.

I am honored to follow your lead. So step out… take that first step… towards something new.. you are not alone.

I say thank you to those who have stayed the course, thank you to the leaders who are brave enough to have a vision, to cast that vision, and to lead with integrity that we may follow.

Thank you Cathy for doing all that and more. Thank you for being a friend that pours into others. Thank you for being a leader that I want to follow, a lover of Christ and a lover of people.

You are an AMAZING leader! A leader that leads every day with intention.

Sincerely,

The Baggage Handler

The Every Day Leader: The old typewriter

I remember the old typewriter in the attic of the old home I grew up in.    Our home was filled with stories, memories and great things. As I grew up, I expected to write my own story, just as I used to write things out on that old typewriter.  I had grand ideas that life would be filled with all great things, just like life was like in the our old home.

As children we always think that life will  be good, that somehow hard times don’t really happen. Wasn’t the American dream  for everyone and anyone who would work for it?  To obtain this dream all one had to do was work hard, treat others right,  always do good and one would be rewarded  This was the script I knew.

Yet somehow life didn’t turn out quite like that.   There have been messy and unexpected things happen that certainly didn’t follow the script I wrote.  Instead life holds things like death, divorce, cancer, prodigal children, job loss, shattered dreams, broken promises, depression and burnout.  What do we do then?   It seems the script needs to be rewritten, so we jump in to make that happen the best way we know how.

I set out to rewrite my script to make a happier ending.  Somewhere along the way in the midst of the hard times of my life, I realized that God was doing great things in the middle of the messes.  He was showing me something different.

I learned that each day is a gift given to me. I can choose to influence others or I can choose to isolate. I can choose to love even when it hurts or I can choose to build walls because of the hurt. I can choose to use the gifts and skills God gave me to change the world or I can choose to build a life of materialism with things that I cannot take with me when I leave this earth. I can choose to make a difference in one life each day or I can choose not to invest in anyone – leaving no legacy behind me.

I choose to believe that the Lord orders my steps. That He alone is the author of my story and the ending is yet to be written. Life is like the back of a tapestry, threads going every which way entangled with one another, but at the end when you turn the tapestry over an amazing picture has been woven. The hardships of life and all those things that seem like they should NEVER be a part of the script actually shape us, build us, and develop deep character in us. Without those times we would not see life the same.  Those  experiences are powerful in our lives, even if we can’t see it at the moment.  It is all these things, the good and the bad shape us and allow us to see others in a different light. Often, our stories are the encouragement for others.

I no longer look at that old typewriter the same way. I no longer rush to rewrite my ending to the script.  Instead it serves as a reminder that life is about surrendering to the One True Author of our lives.  For it is He alone who is writing the greatest story of all and using us for His glory.

How will you live your life?

I choose this day to live a life with intention, to embrace every day, to let go of my script and pick up His.