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: 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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Mayhem Monday: A Good Reason to Sneak Out on Your Spouse!

Marrying an even-tempered man had its advantages, but sometimes it made her crazy! Although they rarely argued, Janet often felt like she was going through her emotional experiences all alone–with someone who wasn’t affected by them. Mark saw change as mere, matter-of-fact occurrences unworthy of comment or discussion. What, then, should Janet do with her comments and expressions? So often she wanted to express herself, but found that when she did the people in her house—not just her husband, but her children too—looked at her with puzzled, annoyed or amused expressions and shook their heads. As if to say, “here goes crazy mom again,” overreacting as usual.

Nevermind that so many changes in her life were happening so fast and she didn’t like them, but Mark seemed unphased. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t get him to join her in the amazement.

“Look at these pictures from 20 years ago!” She would exclaim. “Look how young everyone was!”

No reaction.

“Oh my gosh, can you believe our daughter’s going to college already!”

Barely a blip on the radar.

“Wow, it seems like just yesterday we brought our baby home from the hospital, now look he’s almost taller than me!”

“Yep.”

Janet’s a writer. Mark’s a scientist.  For Janet, these important life changes are intertwined with her creative work and an important part of how she processes everything that is going on around her.  So, when she writes something she’s especially proud of, she naturally wants to share it with her family. Of course, her family is politely supportive, but, when you’re the creative and emotional one who sees the world in metaphor and they’re the logical, matter-of-fact types who see everything in black and white, once the creative piece you’re sharing extends beyond a couple of sentences, a glassy look comes into their eyes and there’s a sound of birds chirping in the distance. The chirping stops, abruptly, when she gets to the last sentence, and, of course, everyone smiles politely and says “that was very good,”  and she’s appeased, but empty, because she and they know what’s true.

It’s a lonely life.

You’re emotional. You feel things deeply. You “read” the world and people like a book and think about life and seasons in ways that others don’t. When you try to talk about those things, people look at you and listen, but they don’t really see you or hear. When conversations begin and you join in, they stop, or shift, or shut down, because you bring an entirely new perspective that no one thought of, or considered. They move on and leave you with your thoughts, unengaged.

It’s just our lot as creative thinkers.

But, maybe there are others who are like us who can appreciate the significance of the change happening all around, who will “oh my gosh” and “wow” and “amen” along side us while digging into the deeper meanings of those experiences and help us process them. It is not strange that we should need this, even if those around us do not. It is not strange that we should desire to discuss and write about and display our emotions in response to the world we experience, even if spouses do not. But, what we need is a space to do so that is free from the disparaging gaze of those who don’t understand, because the disapproving eye has so much power over the soul. Their disinterest makes us second-guess ourselves and their wrinkled brow squelches our light.

We will inevitably live and/or work with those who function outside of our mental space. But, perhaps it will stretch us in some way, make us work harder, think more…it will certainly give us something to write about.

Yet, in order to do our work, we must sneak away…for the sake of our souls, we must find a safe space, maybe even a secret place…and, if we can, a like-minded group. Forget about the people in your house! They might love you, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for your writing life. Find a writer’s group—even one online! But you mustn’t let go of your pen.

Shhh, even if we have to keep it secret, whatever we do, we’ll keep writing!

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