The Every Day Leader: Reaching out to a messy world

This morning before the sign was flipped to the “open” position at our nonprofit agency, I had already spent ten minutes on the phone with a grieving father, and another twenty minutes with a mother who spoke only through the sobs of losing her adult son.

The sadness, the guilt, the loss…it was more than either of them knew what to do with, it was all-consuming. For years addiction had consumed their son and virtually destroyed their marriage. Now, here they are talking to a stranger, thanking me for caring for their son, knowing that we had befriended and helped him during his time of need. Immediately following that conversation I moved to another with an older gentleman, at the opposite end – facing the winter season of his life, who had lost all of his family relationships from mental illness and bad decisions.

Struggling. Lonely. Searching. Longing for life to be different, and yet, feeling there is not much hope of it actually being different. He was wanting, more than anything, to simply have someone just willing to talk with him.

In both of these situations, life took unexpected twists and turns. Life got messy. All of these folks walk their journey alone, feeling like they don’t belong.

I wonder how many others walk it alone?

How often do we assume everyone is okay and that they have someone to rely on? If we realized how many people we see each day that are alone and hurting, would we be more willing to reach out and care about them?

I wonder if we only knew, would we act differently? Would we take more time out of our busy days? Would we take the time to speak and truly care how someone is – to make eye contact and see the hurt? I wonder how different our world would be if each of us lived this way.

Next time you see someone, no matter where you are…take the time to care.

Isn’t that what we all strive for, to know that we matter to another? Our business, our non-profit, our life…we strive to know that what we do matters, that we matter. I know that when I take the time to simply listen, to care, and to pray for those who are hurting, it is in those moments, I know that my life matters.

As Every Day Leaders, it is the little things we do each day that can leave a lasting impact. May we never forget that every moment really does matter!

The Every Day Leader: Not Quitting

Did you see Penny Palfey, who at age 49, was attempting to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys?  I was amazed at the incredible drive and endurance she displayed even though she wasn’t quite able to make it the entire distance.  As I saw clips of her swimming hour after hour I wondered just how she did it. 

 

There are days when everything seems to turn out much differently than planned. 

Life gets messy.  On those days there is a fleeting thought that…

I just can’t do this

I am ready to quit

 If we are honest with ourselves, there are probably many times that many of us get discouraged on the journey we each face.  There is the unpredictable of life,  we may be hurt deeply along the way, life just wears us down and entangle us at times.

Finishing the race feels overwhelming

Everyday leaders know that quitting is not an option and neither is running away

 We know that there is purpose in going through the journey of our lives.

 We know that even on the hard and long days we have the chance to make a difference. 

Where are you on the journey? 

Are you in the middle of one of those long and hard seasons of your life? 

Are you wondering if you can make it?

Hope is an incredible thing.  When we hold onto the hope for tomorrow we are renewed.  We can take that extra step, we can run a little farther, swim another mile, knowing that each moment offers a new beginning.  Each moment is a new opportunity.

 Don’t give up 

Hope for tomorrow 

 The Every day leader intentionally makes a difference. Intentionally chooses to keep going and to hold on to hope.

The Every Day Leader: Inside Out

 

Remember getting cotton candy?  It smelled so good you could almost taste it before you ate it.  It was such a treat for me as a kid.  It only came around one time a year at the county fair.  I always looked forward to it!  But every time I got it, I was almost always disappointed because it would disappear so quickly.  Sometimes it seemed to disintegrate before it even made it to my mouth!

How about biting into what you thought was a chocolate chip cookie, but turned out it was raisin? 

Clearly, what is in the inside does count!

Have you ever heard the saying “it’s what ‘s inside that counts?”

Have you ever met someone, who as you got to know them, you discovered that they are not the person you thought they were?  Much like the chocolate chip cookie!   It  may seem to be someone who cares on the surface, but when the time comes when you need help, they are nowhere to be found.  Perhaps they speak some great words, but like the cotton candy, the words come across empty – nothing more than hot air because their behavior doesn’t align with their words.  

What are you like on the inside?  Do your words match your actions?

Everyday leaders  are consistent.  They know that who they are on the inside is important.  They know to be a leader of influence means that people can trust WHO they are as a person.  It is not their position, their money, or any other thing.  It is because who they are on the inside matters.

How would someone describe you?

 Are people surprised when they get to know you? 

An everyday leader lives a life where the inside and outside are the same.  They know that being your best self matters, so that you can make a difference. 

Everyday leaders lead a life of consistency,  choosing to live intentionally as they invest in the lives of others.

 

 

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Finishing Well

I have known my friend for years, full of life never without a positive word to say.  As long as I have known him, he has always lived  a life of intention.  The older he got, the more he longed to use his life to impact others.  He was not a leader by position.  He did not have money or power or even prestige. 

But, he was an every day leader that has had an impact on my life.

Today, he looked so different.  The life is gone and his body is struggling as he battles cancer.  Yet, I know without a doubt, that my friend has peace.  He has peace where he is going and how he has lived his life.  Did he make mistakes?  Absolutely.  Yet he did not let those mistakes dictate how he lived.  He understood the secret to learn from the past and celebrate the journey, but not allow it to define him.

Every day leaders must make those kinds of choices each day.  We are all given one life.  Each day we are alive we have the opportunity to make a difference, to use our lives in such a way that we can end the race knowing we have given it our best.  We will be able to say that we understood that every moment God has given us matters.

Moments matter

It is up to us how we choose to live them.

Have you ever met someone who had a great deal going for them in their life, but when you got to know them they were consumed with bitterness or anger or maybe even apathy?  Once you get to know them, you quickly learn that being around them is not something you want to engage in…at least for a long period.  They have not learned the secret of embracing life, running the race with endurance, and making the moments count.

We all have that choice to make.  If we are not intentional to make that choice, we will one day realize that life has passed us by and we really did make a choice.  It just ended up to be the choice of passivity, the choice of coping instead of choosing.  Ultimately it is the choice of living life or allowing life to pass by.  One day we will be at the end of the race.

What choice are you making?

I am thankful my friend chose to be an every day leader.

The every day leader, living a life of intention.  Making choices to embrace all that life has to offer and being intentional about finishing well.

 

 

 

 

 

The Every Day Leader: Resourcefulness

re·source·ful (adjective): able to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations and difficulties

The old braided rug stays in the kitchen.  To most anyone else, it is nothing more than just that.  What I see is the memories of crocheting scraps of material all sewn together with my grandmother. We spent hours tearing up the scraps, sewing them together at the ends and rolling the long strips into a ball.  That took place before any crocheting began.   It is nothing more than a rug, but it symbolizes much more.  The rag rug was something made out of left overs.  Scraps, from things that would have been thrown away.

Like so many things back then, you learned to be resourceful.  If your shoes became worn, you used those shoes to play or work in.  If your clothes wore out they became a quilt or passed on to another.  We grew most of our food, and made sure that we canned and froze and saved for the winter months.  We did this because we couldn’t always afford to buy new things. 

 It was a different era back then.

Though our world is much different today, I learned valuable lessons from the days back on the farm. Lessons that have carried over throughout my whole life.  One of the most important lessons came from this rug, the lesson of resourcefulness and being a good steward of what has been given to us.

There are times in our lives when we will be forced to be resourceful. Times when things turn out different from what was planned and we are left with having to make a beautiful rug out of scraps. It is at these times that we learn who we are and if we have what it takes to make it and succeed.

When the unexpected happens do you panic?

Do you spend more time than necessary trying to deal with it? 

Do you take out your frustration on those around you? 

Every day leaders working to be prepared for new or unexpected situations; intentionally making a difference in the lives around us.

 

The Every Day Leader: Freedom

Fourth of July celebrations are often rolled out in a grand fashion to celebrate America’s freedom all across the country.

Many times there is a local symphony that performs, with each instrument fine-tuned for their unique purpose and moment in time to play. The performers are musicians who show exceptional ability and technique, striving to be perfect in their performance.

Our lives are like that symphony.  We all have specific parts to play, with specific gifts and talents. When we excel at our gifts and our strengths, just like the musicians, we allow ourselves to be part of the bigger picture.  When we use these gifts and strengths as every day leaders to impact others, the beauty of our lives explodes in vibrant color and song like a 4th of July celebration.

For the lives we touch… freedom and hope is given.

There are endless resources available to help each of us to discover our passion, our gifts, and our strengths.  Once we discover these, it is up to us find the best places to use them. 

We must CHOOSE.  We must choose to discover who we are and where we fit in.  We all have a place to be used, our lives  to count and that special place in the symphony… the symphony of life.  There is nothing quite like knowing who you are and operating and living in your sweet spot!

Make a difference with what you love to do.

It takes all of us to make up that beautiful song, orchestrated perfectly to make a difference. Together.

The Every Day Leader, Living a Life of Intention. Choosing to find our strengths and talents living and operating in OUR spot in the symphony of life.  Making a difference in the lives of others.

The Every Day Leader: The Hands of a Father

I grew up seeing these strong hands fix so many things on the farm. They were the hands that were always there to help when I needed him.  These hands were hands that gripped a strong cup of coffee as he talked with a neighbor. They helped out in the community and comforted others.

These hands, these very special hands were the hands of my father, gentle yet strong.

I admire my father; this quiet man lived his values out and modeled them every day. He showed us what integrity looked like, how to be trustworthy, what it means to have a strong work ethic, and how to build a strong foundation in your life.

He showed us that people always came before things and that being a person of your word should be valued above everything.

Who I am today is due to a large part of my father’s influence and what he modeled to me growing up. The life lessons have never left me and have shaped me and made who I am.

I won’t be with my father this father’s day.  We live over a thousand miles apart, yet I pray he always knows the impact that his life has had on me.

My father, an everyday leader, making a difference and impacting lives.

 Happy Father’s Day! 

May all of  you fathers be an every day leader to your family and those around you.

The everyday leader.  Choosing to live a life of intention.

 

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.