Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perplexed...Not in Despair


Function: verb
1 : to surround with an army so as to prevent escape : BESIEGE 1
2 : to subject to troublesome forces : HARASS

And so it goes. Not that I'm surrounded by an army. Not that I'm unable to escape. More that I feel a bit as though I've been engaged in this or that type of combat almost constantly since the week's beginning.

Battling my will.
Battling my temper.
Battling my ego.
Battling my fatigue.
Battling my insecurities.
Battling my fears.
Battling that plank in my eye.


At first, I was tempted to blame it all on outside attack - an untimely combination of happenings and circumstances joining forces in Operation Unnerve Andrea. Hence, this pitiful thought of being beleaguered. And then I realized: isn't it perhaps that I have walked through a basically normal set of days, and the struggle has existed primarily within my own boundaries?


Nonetheless, the war rages on. May the Lord answer you when you are in distress... On the drive home, my unsettled spirit was jumping from one irrationality to the next, and I was day-dreaming of rescue. ...may the name of the God of Jacob protect you... Too often I've attempted my own rescue. Never has it held up. Some trust in chariots and some in horses...But lately, He's been showing me just what a relief it is to trust. To trust Him. To hope in Him. ...but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. And there it is. 

Now this I know...When I wake up in the morning, I'm sure to have another fight on my hands. ...the Lord gives victory to his anointed. And a bag chock full of new mercies.

And that, my friends, is good news.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We Do Not Lose Heart

Yesterday I led some of our staff through the first half of a triennial strategic planning session for our organization. We split the staff into two teams (dubbed Alpha and Bravo) and scheduled two off-site planning sessions, one for each team. Alpha Team met yesterday and was responsible for drafting the Purpose Statement, Core Values and Vision Statement. Our Mission Statement is already written, otherwise that would've been in the mix, too. Next week, Bravo Team will be tasked with creating Goals, Objectives and Strategies. By the end of this process, we should have a fairly workable strategic plan, and then we'll get to move into some focused team building with our staff. It's an exciting time in our agency's history, to be sure, and I'm looking forward to the progress we see in the months to come.

I Have a Dream

After we walked through our Mission statement, considered our Purpose and identified our Core Values, it was time for my favorite part: the Vision Statement. I was so excited (and a little nervous) to see what our folks would name as our vision - as the ultimate in achievement for our organization. I tried to give the team as detailed an explanation of vision statements on the front end as possible, and I think I might have even gone a little overboard. You know, really, a vision statement can be summed up as: a description of the ideal - the pinnacle of what we want the organization to be in the future. What is the ultimate for us? Where do we want to be?

Easy enough, right?

Right. I'm pleased to report that, despite my bumbling definitions, the group did a bang-up job of drafting our vision statement. I'm very happy with what we have, and I think they are, too. You know, the interesting thing about a well-written vision statement is that it's not just this ambiguous bag of words that you toss into the air because all of it sounds pretty. Is it meant to be inspiring? Yes. Is it meant to be lofty? Absolutely. But it is also meant to be relevant to the journey. A truly valuable vision statement will provide guidance to members of the organization as they make decisions, it will remind them of why they are about they business they are about, and it will compel them to focus on what lies ahead, rather than what is behind.

Inside Out

So, we wrote this beautiful vision statement, and after seven hours of training, talking, list-making, thinking and debating, we were ready to call it a day. I headed north to pick Livi up and get to worship team rehearsal. I grabbed the songs we're doing on Sunday and fired up the playlist. As I listened to the various lyrics - words of ultimate commitment, faith and surrender - all I could think was: how can I say all of that? Do I really mean this stuff? Does my life reflect that I have a right to speak those words? Maybe I should tell Dena to take me off the schedule...until I can, you know, be perfect.

Then it hit me. No one can say these words and have them be 100% true in the present. Because in the present, we are mortal beings, bound by flesh, torn in the struggle and stained with all of humanity...human.

But it's still the Vision, I heard, and I realized the Truth in what I'd spent my day teaching. In remembering that a vision statement is a perfect-world picture of who and what we want to be in the future. A declaration that guides us from one day to the next as we endeavor to reach the ideal. Is that the key? That echoing these words reminds me to strive ever onward, upward? That, full well knowing I will not achieve absolute holiness in my handful of human days, my steps can still be marked by its pursuit? And by the conviction that this is the best of all journeys?

I relaxed. I took a breath. And I belted out words that are meant in deep, deep places of my soul. Places that this broken down skin cuts off at the pass far too often. And I kept singing because I know that this perfect-world picture of ultimate surrender, ultimate commitment, ultimate trust - it's not just a pretty painting hanging on a wall somewhere. It's my future. It's the vision that is held for me. And the wonderful, amazing, blissfully beautiful thing about it is that I can trust that I will get there. My agency may never completely and fully realize its vision. Google probably won't 'develop a perfect search engine'. Toyota most likely will not 'provide the best customer experience and dealer support'. But one glorious day, my reality will at last, meeting face to face, I am Yours, Jesus, You are mine...

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

2 Cor 1:21-22

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Think on These Things

Fear has been trying to set up shop here for a while now. At the end of last month, it looked like the big day had finally come. Fear was going to live here. Move right in. Grab the sleeping bag out of the tent, ‘cause baby – we’re laying bricks on this foundation now.

I’d like to blame technology and the amount of information we’re able to instantly access at any given moment. And CNN and Twitter and Steve Jobs and Jim Cantore and iReporters everywhere. But I can’t. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s my wiring. How I’m built. I’m sensitive.

In April, when the storms began, I learned how to quickly access the information needed to help keep us safe. If I can just outsmart the wind... So I glued myself to the iPad, constantly switching between Twitter and The Weather Channel, checking radar, watching the #arwx stream, and cussing TweetDeck for being such a gimpy app. A single clap of thunder and I’d fire up my own little command central. As you can imagine, this begins to wear on a person.

Then the storms became Osama bin Laden and bin Laden became a beheaded British woman in Spain and she became the flood victims and flood victims became the world, all of us, battered, beaten, dying. I read pain, and I’m present. I feel it in my bones.

By mid-May, I was in despair. Only once before in my life do I remember feeling true hopelessness. It lasted about ninety seconds, and it was the most miserable emotion I’ve ever experienced. And now it was beginning to seep in through tiny little cracks in the wall. I was so tired. How long, O Lord?

And how can I live here without fear swallowing me whole and alive?

I pen the questions and they hang there for eight days, until this:
“Sitting at my desk doing that weird woman thing where u sorta laugh & cry @ same time. @AmandaMoJo just [sent] me a pic of her sis-in-law’s brand new baby girl. Precious Ava Hope, born in Missouri today. Oh, this world is filled w/so much pain & destruction. Our souls will only be war-torn and weary if we do not also stop & behold ‘whatsoever things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely…’ His mercy is w/us.” @BethMooreLPM

My eyes shoot open wide, and it’s all relief, the way a wanderer feels when he finally sees home’s lights. Whatsoever things! It’s the remedy. It’s always been the remedy. I breathe thanks and feel the heaviness begin to fall away. I fill up on truth and nobility and starve myself of reading pain. Later that week, I write my thanks, and a friend calls to say he’s read them, and he needs help cultivating gratitude. I want to laugh until I cry. Knowing that “72 hours without CNN” is not the answer he’s after, I somehow manage to find a story, and I hang up shaking my head at these gifts, all of these precious, crazy moments swirling together in this lovely life.