Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dream Is Dead

I once wrote an article about my attempt at running a few years ago.  I still meet people who say upon meeting me, "aren't you the one who runs."  To which I have to say, "Well, I did.  I mean, I do, kind of."  I've enjoyed running off and on throughout the years.  I have this dream, this hope, that one day something will switch inside of me.  I'll be the amazing runner, able to run 5ks or more and I will lose all of this weight, as some of my friends who have found a love of running.

I've just never actually had that happen to me.  With my recent little tumble down the stairs, I now have very little meniscal cartilage in my right knee and I have to face a new reality.  Running is probably not a good idea moving forward. No more trampoline exercise classes I'd started doing recently.  It's just not smart for the future.  There are a lot of wonderful other things I can do but as a colleague was recently talking about his hopes of running a marathon, I realized I have to let some dreams die.

As I have grown and changed as a person I have had to allow some dreams to die.  I recently wrote about a season of life in which I had "to grieve the person I was never going to be."  I had this vision of what I would become when I grew up and that vision never became reality.  Something much more wonderful came in its place, but I had to allow the other dream to die and give myself space to grieve it's passing in order to move on.

People have to do that sometimes.  Face reality and grieve the loss of what will never be.  Organizations too have to realize when the future is not what they thought or face the fact that the future will never look like the past.  Something more wonderful can spring forth but sometimes we have to let dreams and visions die.  We have to give ourselves space to really grieve but then we can let hope spring forth and allow something new, something different, maybe even something more wonderful than we could have imagined, be birthed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Slowing Down

"Wow, you did good..."  Words you do not want to hear from your orthopedic doctor as he comes into the examining room after looking at your MRI.  Especially not when he is shaking his head and smiling.  If I am going to do something, I guess I just do it all the way.  Including injuries.  Three weeks ago, I woke up late because I was exhausted and did not set my alarm properly the night before.  As I was walking downstairs, carrying my dog in her crate (as I always used to do), I was thinking about a million things and I fell down the stairs.  I'm not sure how it happened, but I destroyed my meniscus on both sides of my knee beyond repair and cracked my bone.  On Friday, two weeks after the accident, I had surgery.

I feel like I have lost an entire month of my life.  October feels like a blur because for a large part of it, I have been having to take it easy.  I'm writing this from my bed, with my knee propped up, hooked to my ice machine.

I'm learning that it is not so bad to be the slow one in the store, the neighborhood or around the church.  I get the chance to speak to more people and more people speak to me because I don't look like I'm in such a hurry.

I'm learning to let people help.  My parents have had to stay with me for much of the last month to help me.  Everywhere I go, I need help because I just cannot do it all.  I have been pleasantly surprised by humanity, with the rare exception, as I've had people open doors for me or offer extra help and concern.  I need to allow others to take care of least occasionally.

Vulnerability is not easy for leaders.  The truth is that some we lead will never be able to fully connect with us until we allow them to help us.  We must wear our confidence and our competence in a manner that allows our humanity to show.  We cannot be authentic leaders without our humanity.

So...take some time to slow down.  Let someone else go first.  Slow your pace.  Allow someone to care for you.  You never know how much it may mean to both of you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Giving What They Want

My little dog, Sophie, has been sick off and on for the last six weeks.  Last week when I took her to the vet, they ran some tests to discover that she had pancreatitis.  It is a very painful disorder that required her to stay over night at the "hospital" to get things under control.  Once a dog has pancreatitis, they are likely to get it again, unless you change their diet.  She now has a low fat food that is made to be easier to digest.  No more people all.

As we drive back and forth to the church I work in, often I would share little bits of my food with her.  She's not really interested in too many people things but she did like meat.  Yesterday when I was eating some sausage links and my eggs on the way to work, she perked up in the backseat with the sweetest little face.  It was like she saying, "Ok, I'm ready for my share of your breakfast....any time now...."  I had to say to her sweet little face that she couldn't have any.  It would make her sick.

It's true that often the things we want are not good for us.  I think this is probably very true of my relationship with God.  I'm wanting, pleading sometimes, for things that God just knows is not the best for me or that this is not the right time for.

This is true in leadership as well.  Often as a leader, we get a lot of pressure to give the people we are leading what they want.  A good leader, however, can recognize that what a group really needs may not be what they want most.  A good leader is willing to stand in the anxiety between desire and need, even if it is more difficult.  I have said that sometimes a leader can measure their effectiveness by the increase of passive agressive behavior in the organization.

May we have the wisdom and discernment to recognize what others need and the courage to offer only matter how unpopular that is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saying No

I was talking with a coaching client recently and challenged her to think about what she wanted to say yes to in her life.  What were the most important things and people and opportunities?  What were the important pieces of her job?  She'd been experiencing some health problems and had to re-enter her job and her life slowly.  We discussed what was in her life that was taking her time but were not things she was really passionate about.  They were good things but they were extras.

I challenged her to say "no" to some things in her life. And then I found myself saying, "You know, saying "no" is a spiritual discipline."  I don't know where it came from but once the words were out of my mouth, I realized how true they were.

Saying "no" often does not feel good.  We hate to disappoint, we hate to be the ones to say no.  Sometimes it takes faith to say no.  You do not know that another opportunity will come along but you know this one is not the right.  It's easy to feel valued and important if we are always available and saying yes to everyone.  However, if we say yes to everything in our lives, we miss out on what we are really created, gifted and called for.

In coaching we know that to say no to some things means that you are able to say yes to others.

What do you want to say yes to? How can you practice the spiritual discipline of saying no?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Slowing Down

The last few days have been about slowing down for me...but you probably guessed that from my entry title.  It started with my computer.  My mac book pro, which is usually a trooper, started running ridiculously slow.  By Thursday, I would click on a web page or a program I needed to open and had time, while it was loading, to complete other small projects.  I just could not get in a hurry.  But night though, I became aware that something was very wrong.

After speaking with an IT friend, I learned that part of my problem was that I had ridiculously low crazy, scary low memory.  I had to go through my music library and start purging music.  I spent two and a half hours on this project!

By Friday, I was working to back some important know, like my sermon for Sunday and my doctoral dissertation.  I spent some quality time with the apple geniuses that evening and after working on it for about three hours, they finally found what was wrong.  I'm not an IT person and so I don't really understand what was wrong, but it's fixed.

But, then yesterday, while driving home from a board meeting in Greensboro.  I got stuck in crazy traffic over and over and just had to sit.  There was no need to get in a hurry.  So, by last night, I was embracing the slow thing.  I took a long hot bath with a good book and a fun drink.  I found an app that actually has helps guide your breathing so you slow down. Kind of like meditating...and at first, I thought, this is ridiculous.  But after five minutes of slowly breathing, I felt amazing!!!!

At a recent conference I attended, we discussed the idea of Sabbath as being a day when you do not rush.  You may get things done, but the crazy pace of life we normally experience, is noticeably missing.  There is a faith that what needs to get done will get done, and so there is a peace to your actions.

So.....slow down.  Take a few deep breaths...literally...go do it now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Vacation State of Mind

Last week I was on vacation.  This time last Monday, I was on the beach and playing in the waves. It was glorious.  In the first few days, I realized just how exhausted I was and how much I needed rest.  A person really should not be using eye drops to get the red out of her eyes every day to cover up how tired she is.  (especially when her father is an optometrist and has been told all her life that the extra chemicals are bad for you)

Throughout the course of the week, I really separated from work.  I did not touch my dissertation paper.  I just relaxed and read a silly book by one of my fav chic lit authors.  Played with my niece and nephew.  Took naps.  It was lovely.

On Thursday, I had to step back into the real world to handle a situation at church. It was a situation I needed to be aware before Sunday morning rolled around but after about a fifteen minute phone call the situation was handled.

I realized though that if I had been at home, this little matter would have likely occupied my thoughts and actions for an entire day, at least. I'd worry over making sure I handled it just the right way.  Calling everyone that might be involved or affected.  It really was not that big of a deal but it was something that needed to be handled. Just not something to be obsessed about.

My problem is that I take myself too seriously sometimes. I think that if I don't respond just the right way everything will fall apart.  Which is ridiculous.  I am not that important but I put myself under the pressure to make sure I get it just right.

So, I'm trying on a new mindset. The next time I feel myself getting sucked into something, dwelling on a matter, I am going to ask myself, "How would I handle this if I were on vacation?" Would it need the attention of entire days and numerous phone calls or would it be handled simply, hoping for the best.

So, today, join in me in finding ways to listen to the waves right where we are and asking the question, "How can we take on a "vacation state of mind?"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Little By Little

Well, I guess you can always tell when I am overwhelmed with my life. My blogging goes silent. When I'm not sure how to function through each day it is hard to know what to say to anyone. You know, we you feel like you are keeping your head above water, blogging just does not seem to take priority.  Plus, if you were to blog about any of the things that were overwhelming you, it would just mean you would have to face them head on.

The last few months have been a lot of transition, keeping my house clean hoping it will sell, traveling between Smithfield and Raleigh (45 minutes if you're interested) and starting work on my official doctoral proposal and dissertation project. This is part of why I wasn't writing here, because I really needed to be writing on that. But I wasn' was just too overwhelming. When life feels overwhelming, it is difficult to begin something else that feels overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to make the decisions, take the first steps, when we are overwhelmed with the big picture. Especially when the big picture feels larger than life. I'll admit, many of times, fear has frozen me in one spot. When it comes to relationships, job changes, big decisions of life, etc. it is often just easier to stay where we are.

My doctoral work brought on this larger than life fear. My project is to create a program for women in ministry for them to come together, monthly conference calls and individual coaching calls. The purpose is to provide leadership, theological and personal development for these women while creating networks of lasting support. I've been talking the talk about this project for years now as I've worked through the program. I've talked with organizations about having this become part of their offerings in the future, putting it under their umbrella and with their stamp of approval if it is successful.

But here has been the problem...what if it is not successful? What if I've been able to talk the good talk and it just flops? What if I'm not smart enough to write the big paper (really a book) and lead this program? What if no women are willing to be a part of the project? I really do believe God called me to this, gave me the heart and vision and so believe it will be just what it is supposed to my head. My heart, though, has been full of fear.

However, three weeks ago, I started with just an hour a day. Rather than getting overwhelmed with the whole kit and caboodle, I just started taking it an hour at a time. I've written an hour a day for the last two weeks and now I have written thirty three pages written. I've collected a list of names of potential participants to contact....but mostly importantly, I took the first steps.

Any big change or challenge, any time we step out on a limb or take a risk, it's easy to let fear paralyze us. We have to find ways to break the big project down into small steps. What is the next immediate thing that needs to be done? Even when we know this is the right decision or the potential joy that lies ahead is worth the risk, the fear can keep our firmly planted. The truth is though, anything worth having is going to make us a little afraid.

What is your next "little by little?" What big challenge lays before you? How can you break in down into the smaller parts to keep from being overwhelmed? What is it you really want but are too afraid to step forward to make happen?

Monday, April 30, 2012

New Beginnings

It's been awhile since I've posted anything on here.  It's been a busy few months.  If you don't know me personally, on February 5, I accepted the call to be the pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Smithfield, NC.  I spent February and March transitioning out of my position in campus ministry, a ministry I'd been a part of in some way for eighteen years and a campus minister for almost nine, and got my first house ready for the market.  I had great aspirations for lent but the truth is, I really wound up trying to survive the lenten season with all of the transitions going on in my life.

I began at Sharon Baptist on April 1.  I knew I was doing the right thing, was certain this was where God was leading, but honestly, I was not sure how I felt about leaving campus ministry.  I wasn't sure if I was ready to be the pastor of a church.  I found myself thinking, "What am I doing?  What if I don't have what it takes?"

But it's been incredible.  I know we are still in the honey moon phase of our relationship (the church and me), but I love being a pastor more than I thought possible.  Here are some of the things I love.

-  I love preaching.  I love "hosting" worship each week, welcoming people into the sanctuary and a time of worship.  I love offering prayers over people.  This is not very eloquent...but it's such a big deal. I get to step in on their behalf and communicate with God directly for all of us.  It is an incredible responsibility.

-  I love the children.  I did not expect for the kids to take to me so quickly.  I love that a three year old crawled in my lap at an event on Sunday afternoon to snuggle with me and have a tickle fight.  I love that one of the four year old girls in the church was so excited I was coming that she was announcing it to everyone, including random people in Walmart, that they were getting a new pastor and her name was Charity.  I love that a seven year old has nicknamed me "PC"...Pastor Charity.  I love that a four year old boy would say a prayer in church because, "If Pastor Charity asked me to do it, then I will."  It such an incredible opportunity not just for me to feel loved on, but an opportunity for them to feel loved by me and then see me offer prayers for them, preach and lead worship.

-  I love how I am using all of my gifts in ways I didn't know they could be used.  Only in the pastorate would one afternoon find you kneeling in the halls of a nursing home holding the hand of a woman who doesn't know who you are (and sometimes who she is), lead a Bible study discussion that night, have lunch with a well known business man in the area the next day (a lunch that is interrupted by a phone call from a gubernatorial candidate) and then go sit on bleachers into the night cheering on the softball team.

I love how God is using every part of me for this role.  I love the people of Sharon Baptist Church already.  I am excited to see what God has in store for our future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Body and the Spirit

So, I have a confession to make.  I've fallen off the band wagon.  In one of my earlier posts, I admitted that I was a food addict.  Naming that out loud was hard to do, but made a huge difference for me.

My life has been crazy since about November.  I lost my grandmother, then got a really nasty cold and then came the holidays.  In the middle of all of this, I interviewed and got a new job!  I'm incredibly excited (and overwhelmed) to be the new pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Smithfield, NC starting April 1st.

The truth is though, I did not handle all of this stress very well and I slowly started turning to food to make myself feel better.  It started harmlessly, as I learned how to make many of my favorite Christmas treats gluten free.  But when the stress started coming, I could not stop the eating.   The more I needed to escape the stress, the more junk I ate, and the worse I felt.

Tomorrow marks the start of the season of lent in the church.  It is the season to make sacrifices.  It is a season of deep reflection to remember what Christ gave up for us.  As a tradition, christians give up something or take on a new discipline to encourage us to focus on Christ and his sacrifice.

These next forty days mark the end of my time in campus ministry.  I've been involved in campus ministry since I was seventeen.  Not only will I take a team to Manhattan for a mission trip, help set up student leadership for next year and try to leave a job well, but I will also be getting my first house ready and putting it on the market to sale and transition into a new position as pastor.  I wasn't even sure women should be pastors ten years ago.  While I am excited about the possibilities that are ahead, this is an overwhelming time.  My normal response would be to continue eating to make myself feel better, sleep as much as I can, and avoid making the time for exercise.  

This season for lent I commit to make intentional choices about the food I eat.  There will be some good eaten in Manhattan...I mean, really....but I will make good choices about what and how much I eat.  I commit to exercise every day.  This is not just an exercise to make myself feel better (a reason many choose to commit to something or give something up for lent) but I commit to honor my body and honor my soul while I do it.  I have downloaded a number of sermons from Itunes U to listen to or will listen to sacred music.  The purpose is not just to be healthier but to combine the body and the spirit...which I believe honors the lenten spirit.  How will you unite body and spirit?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I have a confession to make.  I recently decided to give online match making another try.  I am nothing if not an optimist.  I'm happy with the improvements I've made in myself personally and physically and thought I'd give it another whirl.

One guy came up in my search and I thought he seemed interesting, nice looking, etc.  He seemed normal in his profile so I sent him a brief message.  That may seem forward for a girl if you've never done online dating, but if you just wait for guys to contact you, even in the online world, you won't communicate with many people.

His first message claims me to be adorable and that he keeps looking at my picture thinking, "is she really still single?"  It also says that he is quitting match and asks could I personally email him.  My radar go up that there is probably something fishy about this but since I'm trying to keep an open mind and a lot of these date sites do specials for a free weekend during the holidays to suck us in, I decide to just set up an email account that could not be traced back to me.  His second message claims that my eyes are like the "eyes of doves by the rivers of water" and "their dynamism is what makes them unique." If you know me, you know I have a low tolerance for "bs" and my bs meter was rocking off the charts at this moment.  I do have great eyes but seriously.....

He then tells just enough generic information about himself, including the fact that he and his mother were watching TV and saw a ad and she asked him to sign up.  That was a month ago, and unfortunately he has lost his mother to cancer in that Nigeria.  Because that's where she lived by the way, Nigeria, which he says is very nice except for a recent uprising that killed about sixty people.

In case you're wondering, I will not be communicating with this individual anymore and so glad I trusted my gut!  I feel certain forthcoming emails would continue to praise my "adorableness" but would also follow with pleas for some kind of money.  I'm sure I'd hear that he would pay me back when he was back in my area but he just cannot access his money because he's in Nigeria...and I couldn't strand him in a foreign country, could I?

Seriously?  Does anyone fall for this?  The sad thing is that women must be falling for this.  I know it's probably not just one man, it could be a woman or a whole group of scammers creating a profile and messages such as this.  If it wasn't working, they wouldn't be doing it.  What about our society is so broken that people can get away with this?  Why are women so desperate to hear how lovely they are, they will believe words like this?

When I was in Japan, we did some work in a train station.  While we were practicing English with those moving around, a group of well groomed young men caught my attention.  They had stylish hair and wore nice suits.  I was told they were waiting for young, beautiful women that were coming off the trains.  As I watched, they would surround the women and walk with them.  I was told they were complimenting them but also going beyond that to say sexually inappropriate things to them.  They were assaulting them verbally.  Can you imagine just trying to make it to your next train and being surrounded by a group of men, all trying to break you down by speaking unthinkable things to you.  These men were supposedly recruiting for "restaurants."

In the US, it is not always so blatant, but we have created a world where women's beauty is supreme.  Still in 2012, if a woman is not attached to a man, there is something wrong with her.  It is tough to be single and know that many are wondering what is wrong with you.  In the church, we emphasize the roles of wife and motherhood to a level that if a woman isn't a wife or a mother, she is nothing.  Her salvation is in those roles and so what happens if those roles don't come along?  While we may not preach that abuse is acceptable, women will put up with the unspeakable in order to hold onto what they have.  So many women feel they need some legitimacy in this world.   They need someone telling them their eyes are like the eyes of doves that they will do anything to have it.

There must be a culture shift! We have got to start treating women with more respect and value them for who they are as individuals! Women have got to stop being competitive and, even catty, with one another and step forward to create a world where we support other women.  Men and women have got to start being so hard on women.  We have to create a world where women can succeed.  Women, we have to stop being so hard on ourselves, and love who we are right now, not ten pounds less or at a younger age.  We have to find our value in our gifts, calling and passion. are amazing just as you are!  Spend some quality getting to know who you are and what you bring to the world.

What will you do today to create equality?  What will you do today to encourage a woman?  What will you do today to help a woman discover her own individual worth and live up to her God-created potential?  What will you do to create a culture shift?