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Thoughts on January + Hope for February

Here we are on the first Monday of February, and I’m trying to turn down the volume on all the pep talks going around social media. Seems like everyone is feeling the new month, new week, fresh start vibes and I’m over here wondering if my to-do list will just hold on a second.

My first month of 2015 wasn’t inspiring on paper but man oh man did I learn a lot. I’m all about honesty, so I want you to know I’m not always right and I don’t follow my own advice. Remember my post about self-employment in December? It seems like I forgot my own words after January began. So here are my lessons learned from January:

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset1. You can be good at self management in the workplace, but take away all the structure and you might fall apart. Maybe not, but probably. The good news: It doesn’t have to continue to be your story. There’s always a chance to choose something else. Also really important: falling apart doesn’t mean you failed.

This was me in January. My flexible work schedule turned into working in the evenings and on the weekends because I said an enthusiastic YES! to everything else. Yes to coffee with friends, yes to helping friends with things during the week, yes to extra tasks that didn’t pay my bills, yes to biking the river trails all afternoon, yes to writing blog posts, etc. These things were awesome, but they cost me big time. To catch up with my work in January, I had to work 6 days and 50+ hours last week. And I’m sitting here on February 2nd, the Monday after the catch-up week, exhausted and spent. Lesson learned. February: saying the intentional YES! and the brave NO.

2. Mornings start and end quickly when you work from home.

All of the sudden it’s 10:30am and you’re daydreaming about the things you might eat for lunch. At my desk job, I had already completed 3 hours of work by 10:30am. At home, it’s a good day if I’m 2 hours in. It’s easy to dilly-dally, pour more coffee, run a quick errand, or spend 30 more minutes cuddling your pets in bed. I work best in the morning, so my February self is getting out of bed by 8am every day unless I’m sick. Lesson learned.

3. I questioned my abilities a ton and didn’t know what to do about it.

I told you guys to get used to cheering yourselves on. Apparently I need to listen to my own advice a little better. More than three times in January I received a few weird emails and my whole day was rocked. I didn’t have a recovery system. I wasn’t rooted and grounded in my faith, listening to what God says about me and says is true. I thought completing my to-do list made me valuable for that day, so when things took a turn another way or people didn’t respond well to what I was producing, I didn’t know what to do. In February: mindfulness, belly breathing exercises, and starting from within… not relying on what is external to dictate my well-being. Lesson learned.

4. I am rich in life. IMG_5392

This wasn’t a part of my December post, but something I learned on the eve of my 25th birthday in January was that my life is SO RICH and all the striving I do can halt because what I’m seeking is all around me. Continuing in February: gratitude lists, practicing presence, and celebrating the richness of life – from afternoon sunlight on the porch to really good tacos with Marcos, to flying on two wheels and sipping iced coffee next to people who truly know me. Those are just a few of my favorite things that happen almost every day. Like I said, rich life.

What did you learn in January? What are you hoping for February?

Owning it in the silence

It’s really fun to be in the brainstorming stage of a dream.

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It’s exciting to think of what could be, and it’s even more fun to quit your full-time desk job to pursue it. Some people don’t get it, but others say you’re brave and inspiring and so you keep going. Then things wind down and time goes by and people are silent. You’re faced with the reason you did it in the first place and you either have to own it or fold.  I’m finding that the hardest part is owning it in the silence.

I’ve watched people launch print shops, photography businesses, and clothing companies. I know none of it is simple, but I’ve found myself thinking, At least people understand those things. They see how those things could fit in their lives, so they follow along. They buy a couple things. They support the business owners. And this is where I get stuck because I pump up my thoughts until I’m going nowhere and getting nothing done. I buy into the thought that my life would be easier if… and these thoughts divide me from the people who probably understand best.

It’s true that a lot of people have never heard of life coaching or don’t understand what it is. And that might be because of the thousands of ways that term is being used in the business world these days. A lot of people don’t see how it connects in their lives, so they say things like, that’s cool for you. And they probably mean it, but I hear the reservation in their voice. The that’s not for me belief. And then the silence comes. That’s when it’s hard to own my dream.

I’m realizing how important it is to believe in myself as I navigate this new self-employed, business owner role. This is my dream, so no one is going to do it for me if I decide to fold all my cards one day. I can’t rely on other people to be the fuel of my fire because it’s not their dream. They honestly don’t care that much. I care way more than they do, and that’s how it should be. I can’t fault them for that, and I can’t ask them to care as much as I do.

Creating a business from scratch is hard. Turning the brainstorm sessions into action items that actually get done is tough. And it’s amazing how God meets me in the silence. The most beautiful part of dreaming is when things just feel right. When intuition meets reality and it is so beautiful. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few years — about how I’m wired and how my heart beats for specific things. I don’t think this is an accident. I don’t think it’s just happenstance. When things get silence, I come back to that. I come back to the heart and soul that God created and gave me. And the strong spirit that’s alive in me.

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So when I put myself out there, when I tell people what I’m doing, and when I ask questions on social media about coaching, I know that I am not the outcome of these things. I am a woman who has a dream that’s worth trying out, whether or not it lasts five years or the rest of my life. I have things to offer this world and God wants me to be a part of things here. He wants me to join him in loving the world, and helping people see the strength that He’s given them inside of themselves. That He thought it was an amazing idea to create them, so beautiful and true. So when the world gives me silence, I’ll know that God is rooting me on. He’s given me strength within myself to take the next steps and keep this heart of mine alive, connecting the dreaming with the doing. 

Things might shift and move, and the brainstorming might take a slight turn… but I’ll always have to come back to myself. I’ll always have to own it in the silence.

Be true: How I am Welcoming 2015

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetI had every intention to start the year off running. I’ve been sitting on a “New Year” post for over a week now. It went from my thoughts on resolutions to a word of the year to reflecting on 2014. My thoughts felt unfocused and from a place of,  “I should write about this” rather than a desire to share what’s on my heart and mind. I’m learning that sometimes my intentions aren’t connected to what’s really going on. So instead of running, I’ve just been trying to pick out some tennis shoes the last couple of days.

It’s January 3rd and I’m equal parts unprepared and excited. A mixture of anxiety and gratitude and peace. I don’t have a clear list of goals and I’m not sure about a lot of the details. And truly… I’m doing just fine.

If there’s something I’ve learned from everyone’s blog posts and Instagram captions this week, it’s that we are all so different and we need different things.

10805584_10152568070933575_4540120006265937573_nMy husband gave me a giving key for Christmas that has “be true” engraved on it. It brought tears to my eyes, and it’s perfect for this season. I’ve been trying to think of a “word of the year” because everyone’s doing it and it sounds like a lovely idea. But I realized that I don’t like to think of the year as a whole when it comes to words that guide me and inspire me because seasons change… so I started thinking of the first few months of 2015, and the words chose me. The key says “be true” and that’s what I’m rolling with right now. Be true to who I am, be true to who God made me to be, and be rooted in the truth of God’s promises. When I’m nervous about something, comparing myself to others, or worried about the details, I remember the key around my neck. I just know if I’m true to who I am and what God says is true, it will work out. Everything will be okay.

I’m entering a new season of working as a consultant, tackling new projects, and starting certification to become a life coach. There’s a lot of uncertainty, but I feel an overwhelming sense of security. Sure, I have my moments of wondering if the numbers will add up and if I’ll actually be good at all of these things, but peace always comes back. For me, this is directly correlated to the amount of time I spend in quiet moments, meditating on God’s word, and journaling out my thoughts and emotions. These things connect me to my true self and help me understand who I am. They’re a game changer when it comes to my actions that follow. When I don’t do these things, I often act from an insecure place, tangled in shame I haven’t processed or the pressure I feel to be a certain way.

Being true in this season means taking plenty of breaks, 10863813_10152582214788575_4410402103936903087_opausing to process, and continuing to experience life through words. It means telling the truth more often, engaging in vulnerability in an effort to build honest relationships. It means spending more time on the things that make me whole and continuing to create a life that aligns with my values. Less me, more Jesus. It means clinging to the things I believe are truth: God loves me, I am not on accident, my life is soaked by grace, everyone is golden, and we are not the things we accomplish.

I don’t know what you do to welcome the new year. I don’t know if you set goals, decide on a word, let things go, or don’t do anything at all.  But I hope you find peace in whatever you do.

Working From Home In Your Twenties: Less Pajamas, More Discipline

I’m 24 and self-employed. It’s pretty surreal, to be honest, and I’m learning a lot about how people view self-employment and some important aspects of it. When I first told people that I was leaving my state job for consulting, a lot of people responded, “So you’ll be working from home?! Lucky!” And honestly, yes. I completely agree. I am blessed to be able to have the freedom to work when I want and where I want. But their reactions made me cringe a little, and I even wanted to defend myself. I wanted people to know I wasn’t lazy! That I would actually be working from home! That I might actually get more done at home than I got done in my cubicle every day, and in less time. I’ve been working from home for a couple months now because of an adjusted schedule I had with the state. I had to learn how to manage my schedule on the one day a week I didn’t go into the office and on the weekends, in order to fit my consulting hours in. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but I realized it worked for me.

Another reaction I thought was interesting was that people were surprised. They acted as if I was climbing Mt. Everest with no training. It’s amazing how many people think they are stuck, that they don’t have a choice. It’s also amazing how many people think things just happen overnight. I didn’t get to this point in a matter of weeks. My two office jobs after college (and actually, college itself) trained me for this and taught me a lot about the working world. Choices I’ve made in the last year led me here, and a lot of it was hard. I want people to know it’s not easy, but it’s also not Mt. Everest. For me it was like a really long beach hike that led me past some difficult inner-obstacles and tested my endurance. Small steps got me here, not gigantic life-altering choices. You have these small choices, too. Everyday.

So while you’re thinking of pajamas, snooze buttons, and not showering until 3pm, I want to shed some light on self-employment with six things I’ve found to be important:

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1. You have to manage your time. Time management… I think this is included in every job interview I’ve ever been in. Yet, a lot of us are so bad at it. When you’re a consultant, your time is money. If you don’t get any work done in an hour, you can’t bill for it. But at the state, if I just sat in my cube for an hour it would still count. (I’m not advocating for people to do this, I’m just saying it’s true.) The private industry is a little more cut-throat, focused on production, but you’re still under someone else’s management — not your own. As a consultant, you don’t have a set schedule. You have to create your own. Do you work better in the mornings? Then get up and get going. And don’t get distracted by your snuggly dog who likes to sleep in. It’s great to be able to work when you want, but here’s the kicker: you actually have to do it. There’s no one keeping tabs on you, making sure you get into the office on time and stay until the clock ticks 8 hours.

For me, this works really well. I don’t need anyone managing my time to get work done. At my first job out of college, I was commended for “managing up” (also not advocating this). When I left, my boss told me they had to find someone who could manage multiple projects and themselves to replace me. This is when my eyes opened up — I might be able to do this. I moved on to another cubicle job instead of going to consulting then, but I needed that last cubicle job. I needed to see that I could survive in a new role — tackle a whole new set of skills, communicate with a variety of people, and work independently 98% of the time.

2. You will question your abilities, and you need to know what to do about it. You’re in charge of yourself, remember? So no one is giving you bi-weekly updates about how you’re doing. You’re the expert, and that’s why your clients hired you. Wait, what? I’m not an EXPERT. Yes, you are. They wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t capable of this. Keep going, and know how to do your research. No one is training you. You are a one-stop shop for the skills and products you offer, so practice it, grow in it, and own it. When you deliver a product they want or you help them meet their goals, they will probably say thank you. But it’s definitely not a bi-weekly thing, so get used to cheering yourself on. For me, this meant knowing how I’m wired. I value connection and affirmation is important to me. Since I’m not getting that from a boss or colleagues, I needed to figure out how I could make those two things a part of self-employment. Or what I needed to do to keep myself motivated and connected to my work.

3. BeIMG_2502 gracious with yourself. It’s not an easy transition, so give yourself some slack. You’ll make giant to-do lists on pretty notepads because you’re so excited to be out of the cubicle… but even shiny notebooks don’t make work glamorous. And most of the time, you need to tone down your to-do list. Be realistic, pay attention to when you are the most focused, and then build your days around that. The beauty of working when you want to is that you can pay attention to your body and mind, and get the most out of the two! It’s pretty awesome.

4. Making a deadline is really important. Most of you are probably thinking, DUH. But let me tell you how often deadlines got pushed back in the office, how many people were “out” and couldn’t get to it… so we had to wait another week, or two. And everyone had the mentality that it was just how things worked around there. When your clients ask for something and you tell them you’ll deliver it by a certain date, it’s best that you deliver. Your job quite literally depends on it. As a consultant, you are competing for your spot. They hired you for a very specific reason, and there is far less job security in this market. Which brings me to point 5…

5. The job is risky. You have to find your own work, land the contracts, and please your clients so that they will keep you in mind for another project, or pass good words around about you. There’s an uncertainty of how many hours you’ll get in a month, or if the contract will continue. So you have to work your butt off and be kind. Trust me, those two things will get you far.

6. Make time for yourself and your loved ones. This goes along with number one, but it needs its own place because it’s that important. When your time is now money, you will start checking your emails in bed and checking stats while you wait for a table at the restaurant. As a consultant, the line between work and play is thin… but you need to make it bold and clear. If you set aside two hours to get coffee with a friend, honor that commitment and be sure to also set time aside for work so you keep the balance. You can make time for both, but keep them separate.

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Some of the work I do involves my mom because we’re on the same team for a project. We have to be clear when we plan to talk about work when we get together, and when one of us needs a break from it. If every time we hung out we talked about work, it would put an unnecessary strain on our relationship. I also have a different schedule than my husband, so just because I can work anytime I want doesn’t mean I should do that. I need to be aware of his needs, communicate when I need to work longer hours, and be sure to unplug when we’re together. I might think, I have no plans this Saturday, I can get lots of hours in! But my husband has that day off and I’d be ignoring him all day. If a deadline is approaching, I communicate that. If it’s not and I can be flexible, I unplug and be present with him. It’s all about communication, figuring out what works for you, and creating clear working hours.

I’m not claiming to know all the tricks of the trade, but those are some things I’ve found important so far. If you’re self-employed as well, I’d love to know some of your thoughts in the comments. If you have questions about self-employment, I’m all ears!

Gratitude & Freedom

This is the fifth and final post in the series: How I got here. 

I’ve talked about a few things so far: coming to terms with how you’re wired, vulnerability, understanding your needs, dreaming in doubt, finding your tribe, and making moves. Tonight I want to talk about gratitude, and how it’s been one of the biggest movers and shakers in my story. Over a year ago, my friend gave me the book 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Ann’s writing is poetic and strong. Her gratitude that came from the aching of her bones produced joy and it just made sense to me. The practice of giving thanks every day for all of the things in between the mountain tops produced a clearer and more joyful heart — yes, I can connect those dots. Ann doesn’t write about trusting God likes it’s simple. She doesn’t recite a verse and hope that it would persuade me to have hope. Instead, she speaks from her desperate heart. She tells us of a time when all she seemed to feel were ugly things, and how writing down the gifts in her life made the light come to life. And she found freedom. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

There is, of course, more to her book… but you’ll have to read it. And then start writing down all the things you are grateful for only to find light come through the cracks of the darkness. Trust me, you’ll see.

I think that this process works because we are pausing to recognize the light in our lives. And our hearts yearn for light. We want love, connection, fulfillment, purpose — all of these things are light. Darkness shuts us down, makes us weak, and paralyzes us. A great night with friends makes us feel alive, a coffee date with a loved one feels like a weight lifted, and a long drive in the country while your favorite album plays makes you feel like you’re flying. When we pause to write these things down, document the moments or the things that add light to our lives, we are letting our souls breathe. When we are mindful of God’s grace and point it out in our lives, I think we’re participating in life as it’s meant to be.

After this season in my life, I see that gratitude brings freedom and freedom is where we belong. Freedom doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t mean everything is going well, and it definitely doesn’t mean I have nothing more to work on.

It means that I am not bound by those things. It means grace defines my day, not shame or striving. When I open my eyes to the grace, make gratitude lists, and take time to pause, I can make choices in freedom instead of reacting to shame.

IMG_2501I still find myself striving. I still define my success by hours worked and to-do list completed. I still view my life through the eyes of others and spend time wishing a thousand things different. It’s human. But then grace happens to me. And all I can do is put my tired hands down, rest, and let go of the saboteurs I’ve put on pedestals in my head.

I’ve had this post planned out for four weeks now, but it’s been so hard to write. Not because it’s difficult to share but because it’s so hard to explain.  Perhaps all I can say is: start being mindful of the things in your day that make you smile, write them down, and see what begins to happen.

Finding our tribe, vulnerability, and being clear

This is the fourth post in a series: How I got here.

Part of coming to terms with how I’m wired is letting other people in on it, too. It took finding my tribe to realize why I was pushing people away for so long.

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I’m really into connection. It’s high up on my list of values, and there are no areas of my life where this does not apply. It’s why I’ve felt let down by bosses and I have to check my expectations at work. Why I have felt sad at the end of a long night in a crowded room. It’s why I don’t get people who joke all the time, and why empathy comes so easily to me. I guess you can say it’s how I’m wired. And when I came home from my bike trip, there was a chasm between myself and the group I belonged in before I left. Things were fuzzy, and the vulnerability that brings connection felt impossible. No one understands, I lamented over and over again. While there is some validity to that statement, it only got me farther away from human connection. Thank God that He knows me, and He gave me the few who spoke through the, no one understands, by trying to do just that.

I had changed, and this meant things outside of myself changed too. As it’s been happening, it’s taken me awhile to understand. About every 6 months or so, I look back and feel like who I was the season before feels so far away. And that’s a good thing. Who I am, and who you know me to be, isn’t going to become unrecognizable. But I hope to always be growing, learning, and becoming whole. Grace has a funny way of making that possible. It’s pretty incredible.

A lot of my young adulthood was spent wrapped in insecurities. I acted upon them, I was ashamed of them, and I spoke from that place in my heart — about myself and about others. It was highlighted in the fist few years of my twenties, when my circumstances were a bit chaotic. I wanted control but couldn’t get it, and this made me really insecure. I’ve been growing out of that little by little. I feel more sure of who I am, regardless of circumstances, and more sure of how I want to live — of who I want to be. And for once, it’s based less on who I admire and more on who God says I am.

be trueI’ve been finding out that this makes for good relationships. Having confidence in who you are at your core, and being honest about the parts of you that are messy not only makes for a healthy marriage, but friendships and family too. It really is that simple — bring yourself to the table, every day, and honest relationships will blossom.

We started going to Society Church back in May, and I remember telling Marcos to not have our expectations too high, that it might take a long time to feel a part of the community and that we shouldn’t give up too soon. These things were not for him, they were for me. I was so scared. I didn’t want to feel a chasm again. I didn’t want Marcos to feel like he didn’t belong, and I didn’t want any of it to be hard — I was over things being hard. I told Marcos (and myself) all these things so that if it went terribly wrong, I wouldn’t be let down. I would be ready for all the hard stuff. I guess I wasn’t over the whole control thing.

A few awkward conversations later, and meet-and-greets spent sitting in our seats — and we have a tribe. We just kept bringing ourselves to the table. We didn’t get up at meet-and-greet and try to be these outgoing, extroverted people who wanted to strike up conversations with strangers. We didn’t over-volunteer for things just to feel a part of the group. Those are things I would’ve done three years ago. Instead, we just kept showing up and participating in the ways that spoke to us. And then this really beautiful thing started happening — people started showing up for us, too. I don’t want to speak for Marcos, so I’ll just talk about the ladies.

I remember going to the women’s small group on a Wednesday night in the summer, so fearful. But I knew that I had to show up… and keep showing up. And then just six weeks later, about fifteen of us sat around a table outside of Temple Coffee saying things we love about each other. I was nervous, because how could women I hardly knew (remember, I’m all about connection) have things they love about me? They spoke words about me that I hadn’t even said out loud. Words that hit my heart and filled it with so much gratitude and love. They saw me, and for the first time in my life I felt like I could truly own everything they said. It aligned so well with how I’m wired, because I was honest about who I brought to the table — all unfinished and messy. I really was all those things they said. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Wednesday night outside of Temple Coffee.

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I’ve had the privilege of getting to connect deeper with a few of those women and be able to call them friends. As I continue on this journey in vulnerability and honest relationships, I have found myself in the same patterns that stained old friendships. The difference: this time I’m trying to be clear. I’ve recognized the pattern in me, and I say it out loud. I say what I need, and I explain why I acted a certain way. I apologize more often, open myself to vulnerable moments on the regular, and ask for help when I know I am weak. These are all parts of me showing up in ways that I would’ve been too prideful or ashamed to do before. It’s been incredible to see that this isn’t because of my own strength, but because of God’s grace in my life.

These women have been gracious with me, offering their honest selfs too. They’ve accepted apologies and spoken genuine love into my life. They see my mess, shine light on their own, and make me comfortable to be who I am. Insecurities still creep up all the time. Like when we’re all together and they’re all really funny, and I’m not. Or when I hear the voice in my head that says I have nothing to offer, or belittle myself for being too young, too fat, too emotional, etc. You get it. But the honesty and grace in these friendships are louder than any insecurity or shame.

The ideal image of a tribe, community, or whatever you want to call it isn’t anything you can fit into an instagram post or even this blog post. I spent a lot of time wishing for something like that, but I got something different — something crazy beautiful. I think I spent a lot of time distancing myself from people after my bike trip because I didn’t know who I was, and the me they were connecting with didn’t feel completely true anymore. I was changing. The only way back to connection was vulnerability and doing a lot of inner-work.

Bringing myself to the table, showing up for others, and living in grace is the richest life I’ve experienced. I hope you know what that’s like. Living an honest life is hard work — I still work on it every day — but it’s always been worth it.