Category Archives: new beginning

Monday Morning Moment – a Snow Day and an End-of-the-year Leadership Checklist

Monday morning. Quieter than usual. 11+ inches of snow has closed down much of the goings and comings of Richmond life today.

Although we know it’s not really a gift of time, snow days sure have the feel of a free day. Work still goes on for some (thank you all in the service industries), but for others we will catch up another day.

Today I am working on Christmas cards but they can’t be finished until husband Dave and I do our end-of-year reflection. We both look back separately, over the highs and lows of the year, and then come together to write a summary for our Christmas newsletter.

[If you hate those newsletters, just throw them in your recycling. They are probably more for the sender as the receiver…so the good has already been done. Happy Christmas.]

Dave works for an international organization. If we had kids or grandchildren at home, he may have just called it a snow day as his office, like many others in the city, is closed. However, because much of his day was already scheduled conference calls with people in different parts of the US and the world, he could work, from his office at home.

I say all this to emphasize how challenging it is to do any sort of review of the year…even on a snow day.

Still, year-end reflections are such a positive and productive activity, both for ourselves and for our workplace.

By year’s end, we are often just trying to appease the tyranny of the urgent. The dilemma is that a work life of putting out fires rarely puts in place barriers that can prevent further fires.

A year-end checklist used by leaders in concert with their direct reports can make a huge difference in accountability, employee engagement, evaluating practices, and planning for the next year.

Otherwise we live and work in the insanity that comes when we don’t block out time for reflection, evaluation, celebration, and development or planning.Photo Credit: Twitter, Seven Quotes

We think we’re doing all those things…but are we?

Below, you will find five links with five different end-of-the-year checklists. Some are longer than others. Some require deeper reflection than others. They are a nice mix written by brilliant thought leaders. [two have the same title but they are very different, by two different leaders].

Tomorrow, I will post my favorite points of the checklists below. Today, maybe you would take the time to look at them, like me, and come up with a checklist you would use…or one of your own making.

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Lolly Daskal (2018)

15 Things to Top Your Business Checklist for the new Year – Forbes – 2017

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Marcel Schwantes (2016)

A Great Leader’s Year-end Checklist – Les McKeown – 2012

A Leadership Checklist – 10 Things to Do Right Now to Make it a Great Year – Terry St. Marie (2010)

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

5 Friday Faves – Leaning Into Relationships, Year-End Review, Coco Guitar Arrangement, Attention Management, and For Better or Worse

Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.

1) Leaning Into RelationshipsDr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.

“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” Robert Waldinger

Lean into relationships.

TED Talk – What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness – Dr. Robert Waldinger

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better – Liz Mineo

2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay

This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.

Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry.  His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”

That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.

3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.

It is Remember Me by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The film depicts the story of a young Mexican boy seeking both his destiny as a musician and peace with his family’s past. Lots of skeletons and spirits in the film, as it focuses on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). I may have to watch it now.

Here’s Beyond the Guitar‘s lovely arrangement of Remember Me:

4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”

Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”

You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”Oliver Burkeman

Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives – Oliver Burkeman

Are Smartphones Making us Stupid? – Christopher Bergland

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills Writer

5) For Better or Worse – Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.

As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.

She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.

Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.

His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.

Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.

Bonuses:

Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.

Quote:  “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis

Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)

Monday Morning Moment – A Word of Wisdom for the New Year – Holding Onto Good Employees

Photo Credit: Forbes

It’s the end of the year…anyone who is able is grabbing those vacation days and running with them. Probably few people are reading leadership posts this week, but even on end-of-year time off, I still think about the workplace. Occupational hazard (so to speak).

Thinking about the coming year always sets momentum for change for me. Not just wishful New Year’s resolutions…but actually taking strategic steps toward some change or another. When I came across Ron Carucci‘s post this week on leadership, he got me thinking about what keeps us on our jobs…and what causes us to pull away.

Thinking about work, we gravitate to what challenges us more than what satisfies us. Having interesting work, close colleagues, and a good boss would be a wonderful way to start the new year. If that’s your situation, then you should be off sipping hot cider, head in that new book, or playing games with your grandchildren.

If the challenges of your job are causing you to rethink whether to stay or look for other work, take some time to evaluate what is it that would put you on such a course of action. Having a job at all is no small thing. Go slowly in changing course and know, for sure, why you would make such a change.

There’s a cliché that surfaces in leadership articles (like the ones linked below) which speaks to the reasons why employees quit. It goes something like this: “People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.”Photo Credit: Pinterest

Bosses have their own struggles – balancing the bottom line with keeping their employees equipped and engaged. It can be complicated to keep the customers, employees, and investors all pleased with their efforts and the product/service provided. Still…it is those in leadership that have the onus of keeping the best employees on the job.

So much has been written about this, because losing good people is hard on everyone in the workplace. Carucci talks about the three types of power that bosses wield: positional, relational, and informational. Using their power, managers can do much to assure fair treatment throughout divisions, to invest personally in individuals and teams, and to keep information pathways open and multi-directional. Read more of Carucci’s advice here…and here.

I’ve had some great bosses across my career – bosses that made me want to stay even when the work had become too hard or too same and colleagues had become too wearisome (or maybe it was me). There were times I stayed because of my relationship with that boss.

One of those bosses was Mary Florence Woody. In my first job after graduate school, she was the director of nursing of an 1100-bed inner-city teaching hospital. I interviewed with her for the oncology clinical specialist job. In my mid-20s, full of youth and confidence with little understanding of how much I didn’t know, I presented myself to this great lady. She was a giant in nursing in those days, and for all of her career actually. She asked me big questions that day and listened deeply, and somehow I got that job. It was a tremendous launch into a profession that was very kind to me.

Photo Credit: WHSC

Ms. Woody gave me some great counsel that day. She told me not to let my youth or inexperience define me. “If you determine to get to know and revere the people and their work, at all levels, then respect and regard will be returned to you.” Over the whole of my seven years working there, in the role of educator and practitioner, I did as she had advised. Mopping up spills, delivering food trays, making beds, troubleshooting equipment, rounding with physicians, nurses, dietitians, and chaplains. In whatever capacity the patients were served, I tried my hand at it. Not always well…but with persistence. That’s how I learned how valuable each person was on the team…and it helped me have perspective on the piece of care I provided as well.Photo Credit: Massey

Mary Woody helped me from that first day. Did we hang out together? Absolutely not. She had enormous responsibilities and time constraints, but she communicated what mattered.  Ms. Woody cared about her employees and it was obvious to all of us. She also let us find our own way, but not without applying her position and influence on our behalf.

Was I a “keeper”? Not sure…but I never had to guess whether Ms. Woody had confidence in me. She did…and the strength of that kept me out of the ditch for months into that new role. In fact, opportunities came my way that I could never have imagined. Thanks to Ms. Woody and other colleagues like her, I left that job to teach at Yale University…having so much more to offer than before.

All that to say what? When we look to the future as to whether we stay in a job or leave for another one, we must reckon with what matters most to us. There is no guarantee we won’t find a similar set of circumstances in the next job, so there’s that…

I hope you’ll read the Carucci, Bradberry and Myatt articles below. They all resonate with the same message, just different aspects of it. What can make a difference in keeping quality personnel on the job? Care and control are the critical components – more caring and less controlling. Something we can all consider in the new year…whatever our position…

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

Hold onto that resignation letter for a bit.  What would compel you to stay? When the right next job presents itself, take it…absolutely …but know for sure why you’re leaving this job. Then leave burning as few bridges as possible…like Jon Acuff advises, “Make sure you leave with one finger raised high: your thumb. As in, ‘Thumbs‑up guys. Thanks for letting me work here. I’m off to a different adventure, but you guys are awesome.'”

If you stay, maybe you can influence others by genuinely caring for them and by letting go of some control yourself. If your boss struggles in these areas, she could learn from you. Who knows?

Happy New Year…done with thinking about work for today… Bring on the apple cider.Photo Credit: Foodie Misadventures

Bad Mistakes That Make Good Employees Leave – Travis Bradberry

9 Things That Make Good Employees Quit – Travis Bradberry

10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You – Mike Myatt

Addicted to Distraction and the Possibility of Restoring a Longer Attention Span

Blog - Addicted to distraction - diygeniusPhoto Credit: DIY Genius

Recently I was at a training event in a remote area where I had no cell phone service and limited internet. It meant I went through stressful training and at the same time experienced a forced exile from screen time. I don’t even have to tell you which was more challenging.

Growing up in my generation was very different than now – playing outside until dark, talking for hours on the phone with friends, falling asleep to the comforting drone of Mom and Dad talking and laughing in their bedroom down the hall. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film October Sky, it makes me think of Dave’s growing up also – playing in the woods, biking everywhere, building rockets, hunting and fishing.Blog - Playing Outside - jeffs60sPhoto Credit: Jeffs60s

We are enjoying different advantages now for sure…I wonder how our grandchildren will one day describe their childhood. Having computers and the internet have been amazing assets to our lives. The dilemma is when our screen life becomes more engaging that our real life. When “Facetime” replaces face-to-face time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to see people via phone. For instance, friends of ours who got married recently had a small wedding, BUT they had a friend live-stream the wedding and all the rest of us got to “be there” via Periscope. Saw the kiss and everything. 2016 March 5 - Megan & Brian Wedding Kiss

There is something to be said about all the electronic capabilities we have today. For sure.BLog - Addicted to Distraction - littleredfrenchPhoto Credit: LittleRedFrench

The problem is when objects take command of our lives. These screens (phones, TV, computers) eat up so much of our day. Also, what about when we start exchanging real time relationships with the barest minimum associations via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? When a friend decided to go off Facebook, I was bummed… At that time, she lived 6 minutes from me. Not like my friends in Morocco or Egypt where I depend most on Facebook to keep up with them. She lives right here in town. We can have real coffee’s and real talks on the phone. Sigh… I had pretty much relegated keeping up with her to social media. Now we’re back affiliated only in real life where I might need to call her. Imagine.

I’ve written about this before (here) and want to manage my life better in this area. Multi-tasking was always something I thought was a strength, but now, getting older, it hasn’t helped me develop much of an attention span (see Charlie Munger’s thoughts on this here). It makes sense that thinking long and hard on something would have a powerful impact on our success or decision-making. Focus. Concentration. These are the things that have suffered in my life with all the distractions.

Kyle Pearce wrote a small piece on being distracted and introduced me to the work of Nicholas Carr (who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us). The 4-minute YouTube video below describes some of what he writes about:

Besides managing the distractedness in thinking, memory, and processing information, I want to nurture a habit of deep conversation. Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) writes about this and gives me hope.

Blog - Distracted - conversations - quotesgramPhoto Credit: QuotesGram

Turkle admits she loves computers because they have helped her make tremendous strides in writing, but they are not people. She writes as if she’s reading my heart. This disconnected connection we experience with one another is so illusory.

“Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” – Sherry Turkle
Here’s my hope and vision – to re-learn how to really be connected with people, including myself. To practice solitude. To quit living the excuse of being distractible. To learn how to think and work deeply, and to remember how to have deep, thoughtful conversations again.
I’m not prepared to stop using my phone for information, nor am I able to quit using the internet as a resource for work and life, but it’s entirely possible to restrict connection time.  Also, it’s exciting to think of how I might use that time I waste on the internet to actually be with friends and loved ones…to read more books…to rediscover what is right in front of me in real life…to know what it’s like to have (and enjoy) a quiet mind.

The good news is that the process of withdrawal is simple and the healing is spontaneous; because it is only the continuous high volume consumption of mass media that is keeping us sick. So, at root, the detox programme is merely a matter of Just. Say. No.” – Bruce G. Charlton

What might the next generation be like if our grandchildren are nurtured in this way? How can we help them have such mental muscle and true sociability that they could avoid being addicted to distraction?

It’s something to think about…off-line. Gone to find a real face and give that face my full attention.

Distracted? This is How the Internet is Changing Your Brain by Kyle Pearce

Multitasking – Giving the World an Advantage It Shouldn’t Have – Farnam Street Blog

Are We Addicted to Distraction? by Sophie at LittleRedFrench

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – originally written in 1985, brilliantly prophetic of the future (updated in 2015)

Bosna Market & Deli – Great Food and a Flashback to Old Friends and a Distant War

photo

We have all had those days…when a bite of food can take you back and sometimes a far off. Here’s my flight of memories from today.

I am intrigued by all the international restaurants in our city. When a new one opens, it’s always appealing to try it, at least once. Bosna Market & Deli has been open a few months, and finally our son, Daniel, and I pulled in to check it out for lunch.

We loved it right from the front door. A sign was posted on the door different than any restaurant sign I had ever seen:

IMG_4302

Right there we wanted to be customers.

3706256IMG_4303IMG_4305

This being our first time, the sole attendant (may have been the owner; wish now I had asked) helped us make our selection. We chose a cheese burek and a spinach burek.

Blog - Friday Faves - Bosna Market Deli (2)

The cheese burek took me back to our sweet years in Cairo, Egypt. It reminded me so much of the filo pastry filled with cheese (or meat and cheese). There it is called goulash (picture below).Egyptian Goulash - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As I ate that Bosnian savory, my mind linked this experience with a taxi ride in Cairo, years ago. It was during a time that the US had made some unpopular political decisions in the Middle East, and being American could lead to lots of awkward conversations. We still felt very safe but having learned Arabic we were often drawn into conversations where we were asked to explain our government’s decisions…as if we could.

In that taxi, that day, riding with two young Egyptian friends, the taxi driver launched into conversation with them first, and then, when he saw I was understanding, he included me. World politics rose to the top of the conversation, and, seeing I was very definitely foreign, he asked where I was from.

Before I could answer, one of my friends whispered to me in English, “Tell him you’re from Bosnia!” What?! I knew he was very animated and didn’t like America so much right then…but why Bosnia? She answered for me. Later, they told me that everyone was sympathetic toward Bosnia because of the war and that I wouldn’t have to talk about America to an unsympathetic Egyptian man.Blog - Sherine, Debbie, Heba

Other than seeing news reports on TV and online, that was my first occasion to confront what it was like for the Bosnians. It was the first time I even thought about them, to be honest, I am ashamed to say. The war was over by then, and it was confusing what really happened [I have since read much more about it].

Using the Bosnian nationality was to give me a break from being judged as the rich American that day…how strange was that?!

Then a few years later, when we were living in Casablanca, Morocco, I had the great blessing of meeting and becoming friends with this captivating Bosnian woman. She and her husband immigrated to Morocco after the war. We met through an international English class which I facilitated. All us women had so much fun together, swapping stories in English, Arabic, and French sometimes.2007 - June -- Amal, Meryem, Semsa, Fatima, Terri & Lizzy

Our Bosnian friend also had fun stories…but when the conversation turned to her experiences of the war, we listened quietly…to unbelievable acts of hatred from one people toward another. The Bosnian Muslims were victims of a severe ethnic cleansing, and the losses they experienced were beyond imagination.

[Sidebar – enjoying the Bosnian lunch back home with my memories stirred, I wanted to refresh my memory of the war, so read online awhile about those terrible atrocities…and the stories of kindness from strangers.]

Mallory Merda wrote a series of articles on a Bosnian family for The Sentinel, the local newspaper of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After the war, Bosnian refugees settled in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea. Some however came all the way to the US. One couple, Semsa & Zehrid Alic, with two small boys, settled many years ago in Carlisle.

You can read some of their story in Merda’s articles (link below)…the accounts are fascinating and thought-provoking. The Alic boys are now young men, and the family is American. There is still the horror of war in their memory…and the cost of it lingers. There stories are like so many others – people displaced from their countries, their families, the lives they had before. How glad I am that they had sponsors in the US, just regular people like you and me, who helped them, loved them toward a new life here…a different life and a new beginning.Blog - Bosna - Semsa Alic & Family - SentinelPhoto Credit: The Sentinel

So this is how my mind works…distractable at best. Where it takes me in a day is sometimes where this blog goes.

If you have a Bosnian restaurant near you, you are in for a treat. Our food today was magnificent, and we will be back. I am hoping the next time to hear something of that Bosnian family who own the restaurant, here in Richmond, and of their journey to this hopefully peaceful place.IMG_4327

As we enjoyed their savory “made fresh every morning” food, I hoped they have experienced love from their neighbors here. I also hope they know that, now that we know what happened, we won’t forget either.

Bosna Market and Deli

Semsa Alic Finds Her Peace After Surviving Bosnian War

Farewell to Bosnia – See entire series of blogs on Bosnia – Genocide Prevention

Mostar - Dont forget - Alan GrantPhoto Credit: Alan Grant

IMG_4310

Monday Morning Moment – Change at Work – Moving Forward and Letting Go of the Past

IMG_3135

For two years, I had the extraordinary experience of writing for a work team put together by the president of a company to develop something really new. It was a phenomenal and humbling experience for me to observe a small and capable team taking a vision and fleshing it out for the broadest application possible.

The conference room had whiteboard walls where big ideas and wild possibilities were sketched out. Then the conversations expanded, adaptations were made, others (both inside the company and out) added ideas, and a process was born that could have tremendous impact on the company’s overall mission.IMG_3140

However…things can change. The budget tightens; the team breaks up; the company gets sold. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Sometimes, a work has to be put on hold or transferred to the hands of another team or… fill in the blank.

One by one, the members of the team take other jobs, retire, or move into other assignments within the company. It happens.

The white boards go white again. The cubicles are cleaned out. The name cards are removed. The phones ring elsewhere. The mail is diverted to other places. IMG_3122IMG_3120IMG_3121IMG_3138

Is it as if this great creative thing never happened? Absolutely not!

One day, it will be the next right time, with the next adequate resources, and with the next trusted team. Never having to start at ground zero again…because of this team…and this time…and the work brilliantly accomplished together.

Moving Forward (2)

Somebody will always be the last person out, but each takes their memories with them…their experience…the wisdom gained…the relationships. Those are not left behind or placed in boxes. Those intangibles are the most real gains of our work lives.IMG_3128

In the long-running TV comedy series, The Office, Dwight Schrute watered the plant. No one noticed until he left the job, and the plant began to die. In the finale of the show’s last season, his office mates replanted it outside.IMG_3117 What a great metaphor in thinking about the varying gifts each of us brings to our jobs. At times, in our workday world, we don’t realize all that our colleagues bring to the team or company…until they are gone (re-assigned or in a job/situation elsewhere). It’s a good thing to remember and celebrate…and then…there comes a time when moving forward is the order of the day.

[Sidebar: To that precious one who did keep the plants alive for this team, all the others are still living and relatively healthy. Sorry about this one. Thanks for all the beauty you brought to this office.]

While going through this process of chronic transition, a friend has recommended a great book by William Bridges: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Bridges talks the reader through the three different phases of transition and gives practical strategies for dealing with these sometimes confusing and painful times.

“We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.”   – William Bridges

I have a little desk toy that when you press it, a nasal electronic voice sounds “Moving Forward!” It is exactly what we needed to do, and we’re doing it.Moving Forward

You can only look back for so long. At some point you have to move forward. Moving forward is a good thing… Besides getting on with our life and work, it gives impetus to let go of whatever would hold us back whether good or bad. We learn from both and take both with us moving forward…hopefully in such a way that we celebrate what was good and we take heart in and wisdom from whatever the hard experience we leave behind. We move on.

In this last day of packing up and moving out, two little team-building signs from a by-gone era surfaced in the bottom of a drawer. The irony wasn’t lost. IMG_3137For you who were on this team and any who find themselves in a similar situation, I’m cheering for you. You, indeed, are great! Of course, no team today can ever really claim to be creators of a ground zero innovation or body of work. For sure, we all stand on the shoulders of giants

I wrote a series of articles on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over – Rescue Monday, reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. [Two pieces are referenced below.] Acuff gives great counsel to anyone struggling in the process of moving forward. I’d like to close with a couple of his quotes on moving forward.

“Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude. – Jon Acuff

“Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really… I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.” – Jon Acuff

What has helped/is helping you to deal with a current (or past)  disappointing work situation? Please share your story in comments below.

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

Do Over – Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck by Jon Acuff

Transition: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

The Challenge of the Prolonged Neutral Zone Era – (Insight from William Bridges, Managing Transitions) – Really good synopsis on this troublesome prolonged transition

Blog - Look Back, Look forward - Nourish the dream

Worship Wednesday – That Was Then, This Is Now – Josh Wilson’s Song of Jubilation

Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was Then 2Photo Credit: 95.1 SHINE FM

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.2 Corinthians 5:17

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36:26

Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. – Isaiah 43:18

To be truly forgiven is like no other experience. To know you have wronged someone and that person doesn’t just minimize it, repress it, or sweep it under some proverbial rug…but truly forgives you. To be the recipient of such complete, grace-filled forgiveness transforms a person.

God transforms us through taking all our wrongs against Him and, through His Son and by the Holy Spirit, He makes us right. Transformed into children of the One True God. We are no longer the same persons, even, that we were then. Not now, and not anymore.Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was ThenPhoto Credit: Pinterest

Do we struggle with sin still? Yes. While we live, we struggle, but with a heart and mind changed by a loving, righteous, all-wise God. We don’t live in perfection (yet) but we live in the strength of the Lord.

Thank God we never have to go back to the way it used to be.

Josh Wilson wrote a song that describes this so well – the then and the now. Worship and celebrate with me, singing or meditating on his song. Hmmm…this is more a song of jubilation than contemplation…so sing it out, if you know that forgiveness. If not, it’s still available to you. God draws us to Himself…hear His voice.

We used to hide from the light
We made friends with the night
We were headed the wrong way on a one way track
Going nowhere fast

We got used to the dark
We thought this is who we are
And we figured that we were just too far gone
But we were wrong

‘Cause love came running like a river
And we got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
Your sins are gone

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now

We’ve been remade by grace
We’ve all got new names
And nothing we do could ever change
What He did that day

When love came running like a river
We got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
And you belong

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then

If we turn and confess every unrighteousness
He is faithful and just to forgive
Oh, so turn and confess every wrong and regret
And see what it means to live

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now
‘Cause that was then and this is now*

*Lyrics to That Was Then, This Is Now by Josh Wilson

YouTube Video – Josh Wilson – That Was Then, This Is Now

YouTube Video – Story Behind That Was Then, This Is Now

Story Songs – New Release Today’s Review of album That Was Then, This Is Now

That Was Then, This Is Now – Audio CD – Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson Website

YouTube Video – This Is Now by Casting Crowns (Thrive CD) – following the story of the Apostle Peter

Monday Morning Moment – Last Monday of 2015 – Begin Again

Blog - Mondays with Garfield - Jim DavisPhoto Credit: Garfieldh8sMondays

Here we are on the last Monday of 2015. The last Monday of the year. For some of us, there’s a collective deep sigh! We made it through this year of tough Mondays. Celebrating…quietly.

Over coffee this morning, we talked about the huge build-up to Christmas, and how today, in comparison, is almost a let-down. I don’t feel that way at all. On the Monday after Christmas, I feel satisfied and hopeful. Christmas was wonderful…even with the heart hurt of not having all our children with us and my dad states away in assisted living. Hard things are always strewn across even the best of holidays.

We rejoice in what was good and hope for what can be in the year ahead.

That’s how I also feel about this last Monday of the year. We didn’t deal with a terrifying diagnosis but we have friends who did. We didn’t have to grieve the loss of a family member but we grieve still the great loss of dear friends this year. We went through extraordinary change (in work and community) but thankfully kept those relationships. We did not suffer joblessness and do not take for granted the great blessing of gratifying work.

Work this year was oddly harder than any year I can remember. Some situations in life we expect to be hard – like the adjustments we made living cross-culturally, and like the year my mom died. This year was an unexpected hard.

In a season of chronic financial leanness and a year of organizational change, including planned and necessary downsizing, we still have a job. Months of “just keep doing what you’ve been doing” may now be winding down to make way for new direction and engagement. We breathe deeply the air of new possibilities in the days ahead.

Although there is nothing innately powerful in a last Monday of the year or the coming first Monday of 2016, the idea of a fresh start energizes us with hope and anticipation. This ending and beginning do stir our hearts and minds to begin again…

In 1970, a film was released entitled Scrooge. It was a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The old curmudgeon Scrooge was very well-played by a 30-something Albert Finney. As I look to this Monday and the next, his song “Begin Again” came to mind. If you have never seen it, watch the YouTube clip:

In thinking of finishing out this year at work, and looking to 2016, I hope you also can celebrate whatever victories and mercies you experienced this year. In looking to 2016, I pray you have anticipation of what comes. If you’ve had a hard year, too, then you are even more equipped to take hold of whatever comes.

Scrooge, in his song above, thanked “the world” (1:42) that he was able to begin again. Odd line really. I thank God for another opportunity to begin again – this day and all the days given to us ahead.

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”Psalm 34:8

Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney – available on Amazon.com

YouTube Video – Scrooge with Albert Finney (1970)

Monday Morning Quarterback – What a Sunday of Football!

Monday Morning Moment – Marking Lives Well-Lived, Work Well Done

2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 004Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross

There are no ordinary days, nor are there ordinary lives. This morning, Monday, November 2, is a day I want to mark as an opportunity to celebrate extraordinary lives. Yet, how is that even possible? People who live for grand causes and for God Himself don’t look for celebrations or accolades. What do we do then when we want to stand in ovation and clap them back out onto the stage for an encore?

Celebrating retiring colleagues is best done by those who know them well – who have watched them through the most difficult times, seen them push through seemingly insurmountable circumstances, resonated with their joy in the simplest triumphs.

How do we mark lives well-lived and work well-done? I don’t have that answer yet…except to express personal gratitude and to live and work in the shadow of these who went before…to steward well their example.

For today, I will enter into that process of puzzling over how properly to celebrate the lives and work of those “finishers” who have done well to fix their eyes on the goal…right through. It doesn’t feel enough, but for today, I join a great cloud of witnesses, so grateful to see how it is to finish well.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

As I sort this all out, I would be grateful for any stories you have of celebrating work well done and lives well lived. Following  are some quotes of those who finished strong or who, living still, are living well.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C. S. Lewis

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk*

“When we are at the worst times of our lives, when we are battling with something, or struggles, whatever it may be, when we are at our highest point as well, when things are going really well, we want somebody to comfort us and be there for us and to say, ‘Well done.’ That’s Jesus!” – Russell Wilson*

“Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin*
“The pinnacle of the fulfillment I can ever experience for my spirit and soul is to hear from the Lord, when I see Him face to face, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.'” – Nick Vujicic* Blog - Well Done - Nick Vujicic
The Apostle Paul, in an encounter with Jesus, was completely transformed from a life of murderous, religious zeal to a life of complete surrender to God (something altogether different). He speaks of living life, and finishing well – likened to fighting a good fight or running a race to the finish.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts 20:24
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8
2015 Nov - Blog - Lilias Trotter - Well Done 002Photo Credit: Lilias Trotter, Parables of the Cross
For us all…there is still a race to be run.
“My legacy doesn’t matter. It isn’t important that I be remembered. It’s important that when I stand before the Lord, He says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. I want to finish strong.” – James Dobson*
“It is finished.” – Jesus, from the cross (John 19:30)
Blog - Well Done - Parables of the Cross - Lilias Trotter