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Lessons Learned from my Back Surgery

black wonder womanThere is nothing like 2 months spent flat on your back to give you a new perspective on life. My world quickly went from vertical to horizontal in a matter of days when I discovered I had a collapsed disc in my lowest lumber. I found myself deeply impaired, lacking the ability to walk, drive, pick up my kids, cook or do much of anything else. I was stunned. My initial response to this news was to just keep pushing through. I treated my acute back pain like anything else in life: If I just give it the old college try I will eventually conquer it, right?

So that’s what I did!  I just kept trudging along waiting for deliverance from my pain but changing nothing about how I operated. I would rally my entire might to lift myself out of my car. Once I found myself upright, I would stand there with my head lifted to the sky for a moment, as if to beg God for one more ounce of strength.  For any normal woman, this would be a sign that somethings gotta give but not for me! Besides Wonder Woman had just come out and I was ready to defy the odds with sheer willpower.

Have you ever tried and tried and will power just wasn’t enough? I finally came to a point that putting one foot in front of the other was not sufficient and it was there that I broke. I was scheduled to make a presentation that morning and my only focus was to get there and make it happen. But the fatigue of chronic pain and the emotional toll of being totally helpless, finally had it’s way with me on the side of a road in South Dallas. I sat there in my car crying big ugly tears. There was a man parked in a black truck and I could tell he was looking but I didn’t care. My tears came from the depth of my soul where I usually store them away so no one can see. But this time they erupted from my hiding place and I couldn’t quite figure out how to turn off the faucet.

It was in that state that I cried out to God pleading for him to answer. It’s not that I hadn’t prayed for God to alleviate my pain before, I said my prayers and asked for relief every day, maybe even every hour. Even still, it was a passing prayer, maybe one in which I just spoke the name of Jesus as my prayer. This time I came to God exasperated from not hearing his response. I couldn’t take it any longer and the veneer of self-sufficiency that had masked my prior prayers fell off as I sat and wept that day.

Discerning the voice of God can be a tricky thing sometimes as He speaks to us in many ways and primarily through his written word. But it was this moment in that still small voice, I could hear the Lord say- “Go to the doctor RIGHT NOW, emphasis on RIGHT Now.” that was all the permission I needed to let go of the helm I was so desperately trying to steer. I crumbled like a toddler held in her father’s arms. I needed God’s approval to stop trying to fix my pain and get help. It took several days and 2 failed attempts to return to work for me to accept my superior’s approval to let go too, but I eventually got it there. From then on it was a whirlwind of diagnostic tests and appointments. Soon enough I found relief through surgery and I couldn’t be happier that I stopped when God told me to stop.

Maybe you are going through something, where you feel the weight of the world crashing down on your shoulders. Sometimes our trials feel like a boulder that we fight to push uphill; with every passing second and each slip of the foot its possible, that boulder could overpower you with its great force. We often wear our hands to the bone while making little progress. When someone steps in and says “let me help,” we cling to the success we’ve had; we point out how far we have come with the bolder and with the end in sight we feel that a victory may be cheapened by accepting a helping hand.

What I learned from my back surgery was this… accept that hand. Help does not make you weak, help signifies that you are strong enough to realize your own limitations.

 

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My kids are with my husband and they are ok

My mother was a stay at home mom.  She is college educated as a teacher, and smart as a whip, but when she began to have children she decided to stay at home and invest in us. I am forever indebted to her for her sacrifices.

Even at an early age I knew the benefit I had in my mother. If I left my lunch at home, she was at the school to delivery it. She knew my teachers and they knew her. She was president of the PTA. She always had dinner on the table. She was with us to drop us off from school and pick us up after. She was present and I was blessed.

I, like most little girls, wanted to be just like my mom. I was driven in school and set career goals but I knew eventually I wanted to be a stay at home mom. But when it came to be my turn, it just didn’t seem like a good fit for me.

I had a bit of an identity crisis as I returned from maternity leave the first day.  There I was with my 3 month old baby bundle, it was like 6:30 am in the morning. I am not a 6:30 am type of girl. And here I am at this ungodly hour with a smile plaster across my face. I was gripping the steering wheel with excitement! I was ready to return to work.

I no longer had a pull to stay at home and quit my job. I honor those who do but it just didn’t seem like what was playing out in my own life.

I do full time ministry which means that I work Sundays, some Saturdays, some evenings and I am generally on call for just about anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I prioritize my family, I cook dinner almost every day. I hug and kiss my babies, I teach them, walk with them, train them, pray with them and invest in them daily. But the difference is that when you may particularly expect to see a mother with her children, mine are with my husband.

There are several Saturdays that I kiss my son and daughter set them up in the bed with my half sleep husband and put on a movie to give him just a little bit more rest before they are ready to really get moving.

Sundays are a work day for me. I am either, teaching or training, planning and greeting. There are many times I can steel away for a service and nestle in next to my husband and hold my baby girl to my chest as we listen to the sermon. I wish I had more times like that but the times I do have I cherish.

Most Wednesday Nights my husband puts dinner on the table and I get home after the babies have gone to sleep. I admit sometimes I listen for them to stir so I can pick them up and rock them. I do miss them something terrible throughout the day.

When I am out and about on my job people ask me all the time “Where are your kids?” I get things like “Christen I am starting to believe you don’t have children.” I honestly feel like I need to have a shirt made that says “My kids are with my husband and they are ok!”

I get this question all the time and I wonder, “well do people ask you where your kids are at when you are at work?” Do they assume they are not safe and cared for because they are not up under you as you go from task to task?

Men and Women seem to be perplexed about how I can do what I do. My answer is always the same, by the grace of God and the consistent presence of my husband.  I can’t do what I do without him bottom line and guess what he is ok with having to fill in the gaps on my behalf.

As we face a culture of fatherlessness, my kids are blessed to have a father. Not only are they  blessed to have a father but they have a father that is actually willing to change diapers, cook and clean and bring the kids to church on his own. But yet somehow that is not enough!

One day after explaining to a group of people, how my husband is the key in allowing me to play my role, there is yet still the push that if I am not the one cooking on a Wednesday night, if I am not the person who is watching Saturday morning cartoons, if I am not the person who dresses them for church that somehow my family is missing out. Some how I am not fulfilling my call as a mom.

So this is my challenge and my response. My kids are ok, in fact they are more than ok. They have the love of their mother and they have the love of their father. They know what it is for their dad to comprise what others view as traditional gender roles for the sake of this children. They know what it is like to be rocked to sleep by mom and by dad. They know that my husband has cleaned up their vomit, cleaned up their poop and cleaned up their tears. They know that this whole God thing isn’t just something that belongs to mom, but that dad on his own volition and his own will leaves the house on Sunday morning long after I have gotten up. He baths them, he dresses them he cooks for them he packs extra clothes for them, he brings bottles and snacks for them. He manages to get two toddlers in and out of the car by himself and sits in church, often without me by his side, because this God thing is not just my thing, but it’s his priority and he is passing it on to my family.

So next time you wonder where in the world my children are, they are not wandering the streets. They are with their dad and they are ok.

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Oh great another team building thing at work

team-building-580326You know the drill, they call in a consultant and you meet up with your co-workers for bagels and coffee. You throw around colored feeling balls with emojis on them. You do a personality indicator test and your are told that you’re a mole or a rabbit, an lion, a D, I , or L M N O P.  You have a box lunch and you end the day writing a letter to your future self about professional goals.

Most of us have been there with any organization right? Well our number came up yesterday and I was expecting a cookie cutter version of Kumbyya, instead what I received was mind blowing, face melting, awe inspiring collaborative training! I have to remind myself not to judge a book by its cover!  My team had the honor of being trained by a highly talented consulting group (no I am not getting paid for plugging them). J. Spooner Consulting  the same organization that has done team building for NASA’s Orion Mars mission! (How freakin awesome is that I have been trained like an astronaut so that kinda makes me one).

If you are anything like me you have a great experience one day and learn a lot of things and then you forget them all. So I write in order to not forget. I am really writing this for myself but if you’d like to come along with me that’s cool.

Here are some major takeaways I must remember to apply in my personal and professional life I learned at my astronaut training yesterday:

  1. Be a Trust Builder! Relationships in business, ministry and all of life cannot function without trust. Show yourself trustworthy and be willing to take the risk of trusting others. If you are building trust you may have to take a hit but true trust builders can handle it. You continue to extend trust and typically break through to a person once they have let you down and you give them another chance to prove themselves.
  2. Self-Confidence and Self Esteem! These are paramount for collaboration! One’s ability to produce has less to do with what their management thinks of them, and more to do with what they think of themselves. However management can reinforce how one negatively views themselves.
  3. In light of #2 be a confidence and esteem builder! Be careful to not undermine the confidence and esteem of your team members. It is so easy for us to unconsciously cut down one another.
  4. Don’t be Hitler, Be Martin Luther King! You may have heard that both Hitler and Martin Luther King had the same leadership and personality profile in most systems, but what made the difference is their motivation. One focused on self aggrandizement and one focused on the collective building of all people. Motive is key!
  5. 80% of the Work force is underutilized and underdeveloped! People who have been labeled average typically produce average work and never push to the next level. The difference between a sub par worker and an exceptional worker is typically building self esteem, confidence and trust. Almost anyone can be taught skills, but its harder to teach self worth.
  6. Don’t Hold your Cards Close to your Chest! It is counterproductive to work as a team while practicing secrecy and hidden motives. Over communicate your intentions and needs so as to not leave room for misinterpretation. Ask questions and be truthful. If you decide on a plan of action do not hold a secret plan B behind your back because people can smell dishonesty.