Mayhem Monday: No Need to Plan?

It’s New Year’s Eve–so, how did you fare?  How did you score on the scale of success this year? Did you rack up? Achieve big dreams in 2018? Or, as you tally up your points, do you find that, like me, some of your plans are still “loading”?

I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that the more plans I make, the more those plans fall apart! I wonder if it’s better not to plan. Perhaps I should just fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens! But, ancient wisdom says “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” As I flip through old notebooks and scribbled notes, I see great ideas that have fallen by the wayside.  I sigh as slips of paper slip off of my night stand, symbolic of dreams deferred.  Who can deny the rough realities, ideals that intersect with conflicting interests and desires that drag on but don’t deliver?  I have yet to discover the secret to seeing them through—how to push plans from ideation to three dimension. I get close, but no cigar…

Nicole Walters, entrepreneur

Or, at least, that’s been my mantra. Then a friend sent me a link to Nicole Walters talking about her new podcast. I love Nicole Walters. I’ve been following her off and on for a while now. Some call her “ScOprah”–the successful entrepreneur who quit her 6-figure corporate job live on Periscope and launched her own (now) 7-figure company. She’s a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you! She’s such an amazing, confident, fearless woman who doesn’t waste too much time planning. I mean, she plans, but she doesn’t. What I love about Nicole is that she’s successful because she doesn’t allow planning to keep her stuck in one place. She moves forward with her plans and lets God do the rest. And you know what? She’s found AMAZING success as a result.  Her story is not new, though. 

What I realize is that what God is doing in Nicole’s life He’s been doing for ages.  You see, He has this habit of showing up in ways that can’t be explained in human terms.  Throughout the Bible there are examples of Him demonstrating His power in just the opposite way and at just the opposite time than people expected. In Genesis, he gave Joseph a dream, then sent him into exile. In Exodus, the Hebrews endured oppression for 400 years only to be dragged into the desert by an 80 year old shepherd! During the time of the Judges, he chose a woman, rather than a king, to defeat the Canaanites and a boy, Samuel, to be his prophet! Over and over again God turned the plans the people had upside down, then did something completely unbelievable just to show them who was really in charge. Yet, in every situation, he also turned what looked like defeat into amazing success!

So, as I think about the many plans that I’ve begun, then abandoned, and the many ideas that I’ve been too afraid to pursue, I realize that it’s because I’ve been relying on my own abilities. I’ve been waiting until the perfect time, until I had the perfect resources, and until everything was perfect in my estimation. But I think I’ve been looking at it all wrong. The better question is what do I need to be doing, regardless of whether my planning is perfect?

Plans or no plans, 2019 may be the year to move ahead in faith and see what amazing thing God wants to show us that you and I could have never imagined!

What do you think?

Proverbs 19:21

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Mayhem Monday: Get Back in the Game!

I slump onto the step out of breath, sweat drips off of my chin. My heart pounds like a bass drum.

“You okay?” It’s a familiar question.

“I’m fine,” my usual reply. I just need a minute.

A pause.

A few seconds to catch my breath then I’ll begin again. I’m not much of a long distance runner. You won’t see any selfies of me on social media from the Boston marathon. But I do believe in the hard push, even if it’s short bursts. I recognize the health benefits of interval training which involves high level intense activity for short periods of time followed by short recovery periods. This kind of exercise works for me. I get bored with doing one type of exercise for an extended time, so I like knowing that in 5 or 10 minutes I’ll get to do something else.  It’s also motivating to know that even if this exercise that I’m doing right now is difficult, I only have to endure it for a little while, then I’ll get to rest or switch to something else.

As I consider this rhythm with my exercise routine, I can see how this also works with other aspects of my life and work.

There are times when every day is a push. I’m running from one thing to the next, hardly able to catch my breath, and I feel as though my heart is going to jump out of my chest from all the stress!  But then there’s that blessed rest at the end of the week, when I can collapse on the sofa and do absolutely nothing for hours. Hallelujah!

The problem comes when I pause too long. The rest has to be long enough for me to recover from the work, but not for my muscles to get cold. Although the weekend rest is relaxing, if I sleep too long on Sunday, it will be that much harder to move on Monday.

If I’m being honest, I’d have to say this Monday blog has suffered because I’ve overslept.

I use that term ironically, because I’ve hardly been asleep, though.  It’s just that this creative work has been pushed to the side by the day-to-day grind. So much so that every time I’ve come to the writer’s desk I’ve stared at a blank computer screen that merely stared back at me! Sometimes there are no words even when the words are there. They float around, but refuse to settle down. There’s so much to say, yet nothing to be said. I’m stumped by second-guesses, muted by mobs of doubt and distracted by distant deadlines. So, it has been easier to let the Mondays go by.

A pause? A few seconds to catch my breath?

That’s what I tell myself. I need to re-group. Think about what I’m doing, and what’s my plan moving forward? But, long breaks are detrimental to progress. If the creative muscles aren’t exercised they will weaken.  The difficulty I’m having now won’t last, but neither can I avoid the difficulty too long. 

I know this as I claw my way back to the writing desk! My head is still as empty as it was a week ago, my fingers still crooked on these keys, but I can’t quit! Creative work is work–it’s not easy. But nothing that is worth having ever is. If I am ever going to perfect this craft I must continue to work at it, and the only way to work at it is to work it. It’s like exercise. You don’t do it ‘cause you feel like it, you do it until you feel like it, and once you feel like it, you’ll keep doing it!

After a moment or two, I wipe the sweat with my sleeve as I begin another round. Rest time is over. Time to get back to work!

Cover photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: Are You Stronger Than You Think?

They had no idea how afraid I was.

I could hear their voices down below, encouraging, cheerful—and their laughter. For them, this was all fun and games, but I was terrified. I wondered why I had agreed to do this. Why did I think I was up to the task? But I was stuck now. It was too late to turn back, yet I was uncertain of the way forward. I was in such a narrow spot and couldn’t see the top from my vantage. My heart was pounding and I regretted keeping on the flannel-lined hoodie.  The heat crept up my neck like mercury in a thermometer. Then I heard his voice beside me.

“Do you want to quit?”

In my mind I screamed “Yes!” But I couldn’t bring myself to say so out loud.

“Come on, you can do it!” I heard them saying.  Their confidence shocked me.

“You can do this.” He added to their assurance with his own quiet push.  “All you have to do is…”

Of course, “all I have to do”—easy for him to say. Everything is easy for him! I’m the one who struggles. I’m the one who lacks confidence. Now here I am, on the brink of something, wavering and uncertain.

It’s so typical of me.

To linger in that liminal space is always dangerous. While you waver you give yourself time to rehash all the reasons why you should quit.  You recount all the things that are against you and all your weaknesses that make this present challenge impossible.

How many writers, or artists, start their great masterpiece with great excitement only to hit a wall and convince themselves that they aren’t talented enough to complete it? How many projects have you started, then quit because it got too hard? And when you get to that point, how easy is it to get distracted by the success of others?  “It’s no use, we think to ourselves. Why did I ever think I could do this? How did I get here anyway?”

“Do you want to quit?”

“Yes!”

But, there’s a crowd of people waiting for your book, your article, your story, your song, your poem, your gift—you can’t quit now!

“You can do this” says the quiet voice right next to you. That soft, encouraging voice that you love. “You’re stronger than you think and you’re closer to the end than you realize.”

No, it’s not easy, but you’ve come too far to turn back—you might as well muster the strength to push forward.

I finally decided to push past my fear.

And when I did, something amazing happened. I pulled myself over the ledge! It had been just above me all along.  The cheers of my supporters erupted all around and I had to fight back a little tear–I made it!  It wasn’t just a physical challenge. It was a mental challenge, symbolic of every mental battle I’ve ever fought.

Perhaps you need to hear this as much as I do: the success that you think is out of reach, is not. You just have to be brave enough to go for it. Your insecurities may be drowning out the assurances of loved ones, but you can decide to push past the fear.  Move first and the mind will follow.  Stop doubting and start believing that you ARE strong enough! It is at the point of your greatest despair when you will find that you are the closest to a turning point—if not the very summit that you’ve been seeking! Just. keep. climbing.

Happy Monday!

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Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash