The Point of the Journey

 

the-point-of-the-journey

If you’re completely confident in how you lead and know without a doubt that you were made for this, you should be writing this blog post. Unfortunately, I’m the one writing… so this probably isn’t going to help you.

The rest of you, welcome to the party.  If we were meeting up at a coffee shop, I’d grab you the ottoman or another chair so you could put your feet up because I know you probably just need to take a load off. So for the next few minutes, I invite you to do that.

Journey. It’s a deliciously inviting word, but it has hints of “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!”, doesn’t it? Journey means something will be uncovered or brought to light… That there will be a destination- something new.

Here’s what I think I’m coming to terms with about my leadership journey:

What I’m discovering is that the something new I am uncovering… is me.

I know this sounds so silly at first, or even prideful or self-focused, but stick with me.

Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar to this, but maybe you worked with a person (or had a parent or friend) that said something that marked you in a way you didn’t fully realize in the moment. It seeped in over time, replaying in odd moments in your memory, and dripped into your way of thinking about yourself and what you were made for.

Perhaps you had a strong desire to grow, to be a “better leader,” to really make significant impacts on the world and people around you, to have your contributions be accepted by the leadership of the place you serve…. So you got to work… reading, learning, listening, and taking in all the Ted Talks and best-sellers you could handle. Only to realize that the picture of leadership you were learning about and that was being praised felt like a bad pair of jeans on you. It was tight and loose in all the wrong places.

Perhaps you’ve always been a bit of an odd duck. You’re not quite on the same journey as your peers, or you think or process things uniquely from the rest of the people you serve with. Maybe you’re young and on an older team, maybe you’re older and serving on a younger team. Maybe you’re a woman on a mostly male team, or vice versa. Even more than demographics, maybe you’re recognizing your personality and strengths are so unique that you’re not sure how to fit on your team. So much so, that you’re wondering if something is just wrong with you.

Friend, I’ve been there. All three of those paragraphs are microcosms of portions of  my leadership story. Here’s a piece of truth: I’m still discovering what the learnings are from some of those situations; but, I am discovering that what has always been true about my leadership journey to this point is that God is doing a new thing and He’s working it out in me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned, and I’m trying to let them seep into the deepest places of my being. I hope that they give you space to reflect on your own journey in new ways:

  • In every way, the One Who made me is the only One Who gets to name me. (Isaiah 43:1, Psalm 139)
  • Regardless of age, shepherding/leadership is a gift I am entrusted with; to neglect it OR to attempt to fashion it into something I deem respectable enough is to waste something supernatural. (1 Timothy 4:12-16, 2 Corinthians 5, 2 Corinthians 12)
  • Value comes from Whose I am, not what I do/accomplish.
  • Leadership is lonely- I need the people in my life who will ask and have been given freedom by me to dig into how things really are.
  • My personality (or flavor) is a reflection of my Creator. To leave it out of my leadership ends up being awkward for everybody. In fact, embracing it gives those around me the freedom to bring all of themselves to the table
  • Real joy is never simple or easy; it’s fruit from seeing that God keeps His promises and learning (through hard things) that He can be trusted. It’s ok to lead with joy- even if people misconstrue it for naivety. Leading with joy is an act of worship, so it’s about God anyway.
  • Saying yes to keep everyone happy is more about my need to avoid other’s displeasure than it is about actually loving them well. No can be just as loving as yes.
  • Fear and doubt are liars, and God’s plans rarely make sense. Leave fear and doubt where they belong, and keep moving forward confidently into your calling.
  • True leadership brings about newness, and God is doing a new thing in me each day on my leadership journey.

Friend, these are all things I need to repeat to myself daily. I’m not sure where this found you today. Maybe you’re more confident than ever in your calling, or maybe fear and doubt have been nipping at you since you stepped foot out of bed this morning. Regardless, I am praying that you go forward from this moment allowing truth to be louder than lies. Knowing you’re journey has a beautiful point- your newness… your ever growing reflection of the One Who calls you beloved. And that stunning reflection brings Him lasting glory!

Cheering you on- always.

Michayla

Mirror

Just last night, I sat sharing with a friend about how I’ve noticed something really interesting peeking through in my little two-year-old’s personality.

Our little guy can be hard on himself when he fails or can’t figure something out. You see it all over his face, and can hear it in his sweet, perplexed little voice as he sighs out, “Ohh, mess.” (Where he got that phrase, I’m not sure.)

“I just don’t know how it’s possible for him to already be so hard on himself. I’m really trying to figure out how to help him take things in stride, but struggling with how to help him grasp it… that it’s absolutely fine to not always get things right.” I said.

We went back to our emails, and then it happened. That stomach-twisting, nauseating feeling that rises up when the fact comes rushing at you that you’ve dropped one of the many plates you have been trying to keep spinning perfectly. I missed it. I made a mistake. I failed at something that was my responsibility, and it crushed me.

For the next almost five hours (going well into 1:00 am), I beat myself up. Replaying the steps, finding where I failed, speaking demoralizing words to myself about how I should have that all together, and determining all the ways I will make sure I never ever ever fail again.

Oh, Michayla. Oh, mess. 🙂

And then, in the stillness of that 1:00 am pity party, the words I shared earlier came ringing into the stillness. I just don’t know how it’s possible for him to already be so hard on himself… 

mirrorA figurative mirror came and planted itself in front of my heart, and I realized that as much as I feel like he couldn’t possibly notice, he is already watching how is momma handles things like failure.

And then, now that I was willing to hear the truth, more beautiful words softly rose and reminded me once more, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I wove you together, I saw you, and have ordained all your days- your moments… the past, right now, and all the days to come for you. My thoughts toward you are vast- they outnumber the grains of sand. I’m here when you rest. I’m here when you wake. I’m the kind of God that kneels down to where you are, and speaks over you the truth of WHO you are… and daughter, I alone determine your value. Remember, you were won with a great price.” 

It’s more than helping my son learn how to handle failure, although that is an important and vital life skill. It’s really more about helping to drive deep into the fabric of his being an understanding that his identity is wrapped up in who Jesus says he is, not in what he does or doesn’t do. Not in how he performs. Not in what people think of him when he succeeds or when he fails. Not in anything he or any other person can say. Only in Jesus.

In order to shepherd his heart to grasp the beautiful freedom of this truth, and hold firmly to this for the rest of his days, then I need to be ever mindful to shepherd my own heart through moments of failure. 

Friend, I don’t know what this week has been like for you. Maybe you have had the deliciously beautiful taste of success today- my prayer is that you celebrate like crazy and spread the joy! We are cheering you on. Maybe you have felt like you’re barely making it this week, and your soul is in some desperate need of R&R. My prayer for you is that you’ll find at least 15 minutes to steal away to some quiet place, and let the Word remind you the truth of who you are. (And I kinda hope that a manicure or at least a great cup of coffee finds its way to you, too. 😉 )

Let’s close the books on this day remembering we are under grace, too. When we fail, we own it. We learn from it. We release it. We keep moving forward.

Not only because others (especially our littles) are learning from us, but because it reminds us our value isn’t in performance, but in what has already been ascribed to us. 

He is already pleased with you. He alone is the perfect one. We don’t have to chase perfection- our energy is much better spent embracing His words and work in our lives on this sanctifying journey.

Peace to you, friend.

Hugs!

Michayla

On Your Way

Dear beautifully strong woman who happens to be a college freshman today,

There’s something awkwardly wonderful about beginning something. The anticipation, the nerves, the newness, the opportunity, the possibility, the questions… it causes us to reflect, dream, hope, worry, hope again, and be filled with the truest form of wonder.

Beautiful friend, welcome to a new season of life. While it may seem like life or the great part of your story is really just beginning in this moment, or at least that is what some might tell you, can I offer you perspective?

You’re already on your way.

While this is a new season, it’s not the beginning of your life or the start of the best part of your story. God started dreaming up all of it before your parents even knew you existed, so your story has been well underway! If you think back over the past 18 years, you have had quite the twist and turns, the ups and downs, the hard times, the good times, the unsure times, the laugh so hard that you couldn’t breath times… In all of this, your heavenly Father has been preparing you, delighting in you, and He has been protecting you.

Any pressures you feel today to “make the most out of college” because you hear they are the best years, don’t feel those. Every day leading up to now, and every day after college are equal in their opportunity for you to fully embrace all of who you are as a daughter of God. 

It’s ok if your journey is different. Embrace your uniquenesses.

It’s ok if you miss home. You’re blessed to have roots that your heart finds its way back to.

It’s ok if you switch your major. Follow His lead, and chase down what fires up your heart.

It’s ok if you don’t get the grade you hoped and worked for. You did your best- really.

It’s ok to have fun and enjoy the community you are surrounded with. Love the newness of the people you meet, and throw around kindness like it’s confetti.

It’s ok to say no to a date. It’s ok to say yes, too. Don’t compromise.

Where you’ve been, and where you’re going is something He is more than acquainted with. You’re a daughter of a King Who desperately loves you. As He was placing the stars in the sky, YOU were on His heart. If there was one thing I would invite you to do in this new season, it would not be to “make the most out of it.”

FullSizeRender-3It would be to dream bigger and dig deeper. There is more that He wants to do through you than you could ever fathom. Your soul is meant to be rooted in His presence- so seek Him out, beautiful sister. Dig into His Word. Find Him in prayer. Listen to the Spirit. Learn from His people. Discover Him in unexpected places. Pause awe-struck in the moments you recognize His work. You don’t have time to waste being bored.

Ask Him to show you what He’s actually been unfolding already. He will. He wants to. You’re story has already been well underway, and this could be the time you see some of the ways the disparate lines are starting to form a picture.

So, pressures off, dear one. You’re not left with a pressure-filled “make the most of it” here. Only an invitation.

An invitation to continue. To dream dreams. To dig into more of what it means to be you- because of the value that He has ascribed to you (a chosen, beloved disciple of Jesus). To give your soul what it was made for.

You’re already on your way. I’m dying to see where your story goes next.

Love and hugs!

Michayla

 

 

Now

gate_path_summer

I’m a Christ-follower. I’m a Millennial. I’m married. And I’m a parent. If you asked me what concerned me the most today as a Millennial parent, it would be this:

The discipleship journey of my son and his generation.

Our inability to address the issues raised by Millennials and their relationship with the rest of the church has now found its way into how Millennials now parent. We have great hopes for our kids, but precious few examples today of what authentic discipleship is. It seems the connection is yet to be made between the fact that the current state of Millennial’s and their relationship to the church  (which got a lot of buzz a few years back with the release of the Barna Group’s book, You Lost Me) are the results of the past 20 years of church family dynamics, children’s ministry, youth ministry, and parenting. If one follows the history of the past 20 years, and listens to what research is telling us, it’s apparent we have lessons to learn… but more importantly, for those who are brave enough, a future to change.

If we keep doing what we are doing, we won’t get more of the same- we’ll get worse.

Of Millennials  who grew up in the church, 59% have dropped out. (You Lost Me, David Kinnaman).

This is a problem, right? What does this mean for our sons and our daughters?

Discipleship has to be talked about in a new way because it is a new day.

Prioritizing programs over presence and relationships has not worked. Knowing a child’s name and what is stirring in their souls is more important than acing the system. What if their boredom  or need for entertainment is because we are bored, too? This generation has far more in them that God wants to do through them than we could ever imagine. But they need to see us embrace this first.

Millennials, it is time for us to dig deep for ourselves. It’s time for us to prioritize our own discipleship journey. Our own God-closess is the best chance our kids will have to see what it looks like to be His.

We’ve craved authentic community, and for the church to be a place we are at home. What if we asked the real questions? What if we moved in and made it home? What if we had the humility to ask for guidance, but also the courage to cast vision for what we hope for our kids? To require the future of discipleship in the life of the church be talked about, thought about, and acted out differently.

It’s time for us to fumble and try and fail and try again at developing the real, God-focused relationships we perhaps caught glimpses of growing up. It’s time for us to find those people we need to sharpen us, and to speak to our kids the truth we ourselves would speak over them. Our kids will need their voices desperately. It’s time to seek out what we crave- we are made to be one body, but the body we grew up experiencing felt segmented, divided, generational, and programmed. Let’s do the work of cultivating community.

It’s time for us to ask better questions, tell greater stories, and to invite each other and our kids into the wonder of God at work … in us, and in the greater story we are all a part of. To go to the broken places, and say, “Me too. But God…” To go to the least of these, and say, “So am I. But God…” To let our kids go beyond the screen to places where all their senses are engaged, and their hearts are gripped by what is possible… by all God has dreamed up for them.

It’s time for us to embrace our identity as disciples so that we might speak over our kids the truth of who they are, and what we whole-heartedly believe they CAN do now. We have the honor of inviting them to go farther, higher, and deeper than we ever will. What if it looked like multiple generations learning from each other, loving each other, praying for each other, knowing each other, serving each other, and listening to each other?

It is time we fall in love with His Word for ourselves. We have to seek His voice and be so rooted in His presence that the natural overflow of our time in His presence spills out over on to our families and this generation. They would see a community who wrestles with the hard questions of culture, science, and sexuality. They would see a church deeply anchored in the hope our souls have been given.

Resistance to new conversations about what discipleship could look like in our churches is more about fear than “holding ground.” Millennials, let’s be humble, but let’s be brave, too.

What I’m not saying is that everything about the past 20 years in the life of the church has been for nothing or that it was all wrong. The Lord is on the throne, and He is leading His people and NOTHING will stop His church. There a countless men and women who have shown us more of what Jesus looks like, and have poured their lives out on behalf of us and their love for Jesus.  Yet, we also learn from the past and the present as we seek His guidance for the future, don’t we?

I had the opportunity to sit down with a legend a week ago… A man who has faithfully served the church, families and children for decades. I asked him what he was most hopeful for for the future of children’s ministry and the next generation.

“First, let me share what I’m afraid of. We are drifting as a church. Scripture is no longer the source of our breath and our foundation for life. We prefer books by people we know the names of. I fear we might fail to grasp what God has offered to us. But therein also lies the hope- that a generation would be marked by God-closeness… to be so close to Him they embody a love for Him, His Word, His presence, His voice. If we could be willing to embrace the adventure of discipleship for this generation, well, that would change everything.”

One look at my son and my soul is undeniably stirred.

It’s time to change everything.

Today

She looked really embarrassed. Her sweet little baby girl appeared to be not even two months old, and was crying loudly. This beautiful momma apologized to her friend having lunch with her as she stood up to bounce her little girl and “shh” in her ear.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she kept glancing over at me as I was busily working at my corner of Panera that day- my headphones in, making calls, and answering emails.

After about ten minutes, baby girl had settled and was peacefully resting in her mother’s arms. The incredible mom was scarfing down the remainder of her lunch- from experience, I’m sure she was trying to eat as fast as she could to leave before the next crying spell hit.

As she was packing up, she looked over at me and said with a wince, “I’m so sorry!”

I smiled, pulled out my headphones and said, “Oh, please don’t say that. I was actually just thinking about what a great mother you are.”

Her expression let me know she didn’t feel like it in the moment.

“You know, my son used to do the same thing. I know the moments and sometimes the days can feel really long, but it is only a phase… and it goes fast. She’s an amazing and beautiful little girl. She’s doing great. And so are you!”

She smiled, “How old is your son?”

“Almost two.” I said, starting to tear up.

“And it’s been fast?” she wondered out loud.

“Yes. Very. And he’s the greatest gift we have ever been given.”

She looked down at her little one and smiled. Then her eyes met mine again.

Dandelion_sun“Thank you.” she sighed like she was letting out a breath she had been holding for a while.

As she walked out the door with her friend and her little one, I reflected on how fast the days really do go by. Our days are unique- each one an opportunity for our roots to go deeper in to His presence and all He has dreamed up for us. Each one an opportunity for our lives to help the ones (especially the littles!) around us to get to know Jesus a little bit better. And they matter. They matter because we have eternal vision.

Friends, mothers, fathers… I don’t know the pace or rhythm you’re sustaining right now, but let’s soak up those smiles, those giggles, those drawings, and the messes on the floor (because they mean something fun happened…usually 🙂 )…and let’s make sure that in the crying or fits, we breath and let mercy drown our own frustrations and impatience. Let’s be gentle with our own hearts as we seek to guide theirs to the Father. And in our plans and goals and lists, let’s make sure we linger long enough in today to savor the whimsy and the wonder it holds.

“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” Psalm 65:8

Hugs!

Michayla

Dirty Knees

If you ever went to Sunday School, you likely remember the flannel graph (can I get a witness?) of the story of the man born blind from John 9. The one where Jesus mixed some dirt with his spit and made mud (the boys loved this part), and then put it on the man’s eyes.

When I dig into John 9 now (sans flannel graph), after wandering a little bit further down the path of my discipleship journey since sitting in Sunday School, I’m enraptured by this encounter.

dirt-textureThis man has been treated and told from the beginning of his life that there must be something horribly flawed in him that he would be born blind. Imagine growing up in the dark, not only physically, but also emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

He passed his days begging near the temple. He knew the Scripture. He had been listening. My guess is he probably also asked- maybe not out loud, but certainly in the quiet of his own heart- “Why?”. A lot.

Now imagine a hot, dusty day. A day like the one before. Another day of sitting and begging. And then he hears something. Jesus’ disciples ask Him about the man’s blindness… was it his fault or his parents fault? To which Jesus answers a glorious, “Neither.”

Imagine the blind man’s heart pounding as he hears Jesus kneel down- His knees causing the gravelly dirt to crunch as He moves in even closer. “This happened,” Jesus speaks, “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Imagine the way the blind man holds his breath as Jesus spits on the dirt in front of Him and listens as Jesus is moving the dirt around. Then imagine the way he startles as Jesus gently holds his face with one hand, and rubs his eyes with mud with His other hand. I bet he didn’t know what to feel in this moment. Would you?

Jesus tells him to go and wash, so he finds his way to a pool and washes. And imagine… seeing light for the first time! Trees. People. Everything. sunshine

The healing of his blindness was a miracle. Unheard of. It was a gift. However, I think the greatest gift this man received was the truth of his identity. This Jesus- the One Who found this man and proclaimed that he was set apart from the very beginning to be used to display the glory of God- is the same Jesus with the same GREAT news for you, too!

There is a God who knew you before the light was separated from darkness… a God Who dreamed up a beautiful purpose for your story here on this earth, and friend? He is the kind of God who doesn’t walk past you. He is the kind of God who stops and lovingly gazes down at you sitting in the dust. He SEES you. He is the kind of God who kneels down, and lets the dirt and rocks dig into His knees as He inches closer to where you are huddled. He is the kind of God who whispers truth over you as He touches your face with great tenderness.

He is able to heal and bring to life what has faded and seemingly turned to ash around us. Oh friend, I don’t know where you are tonight or what the state of your soul is… I sure hope that you’re thriving as you live out of the abundance of your identity as a disciple of Jesus, but, if you’re not, may I speak over you the words Jesus spoke over this man? Would you take them as your own?

That ache deep down in your soul, the questions that feel like waves slapping up against your face as you struggle to stay above water, the words that you are using to define yourself by that are not meant for you… nothing about this is actually what you think it is.

You are here so that you might be a magnificent display of the glory of our Resurrected King!

This place you find yourself in was never meant to be your ending. This place is an opportunity you’ve been given to look into the face of the One kneeling in the dirt right there with you, and let Him wash over your soul. This place is where we embrace that every facet of our life as an occasion for the manifestation of God’s glory and His purposes- even in our suffering. This place is where we realized that it is not in spite of our weaknesses and brokenness, but because of our weakness and brokenness that He is up to something marvelous (something the world can look at and be dumbfounded!).

So, what’s the most beautiful part of the story of the man born blind?

After he was miraculously healed, and after the Pharisees grilled him repeatedly for information about Jesus, this beautifully mysterious Savior sought him out again. (The blind man never got to see Jesus after he was healed- he had only heard Him.)

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks.

Fervently, the man begs for the answer to the question. Instead of telling him simply, “It is I.” Jesus responds in a way that acknowledges what is now a miraculous gift this man possesses- his sight. “You have seen Him. It is He who is speaking to you.”

And the man’s response is one I invite you, dear friend, to declare as your own confession: Lord, I believe!

Fellow disciple, we have been given purpose from before the beginning. The God who gave us this purpose knows us, seeks us out, and is infinitely worthy of our worship! Whether it’s with Him kneeling down in the dirt with us, or standing and gazing afresh into His face for what feels like the first time, your soul can rest there in His presence. Tonight, may our hearts be filled with wonder as we draw closer to Him- the One who makes the blind see.

Hugs!

Michayla

Make It Sing

I had that feeling in the pit of my 11 year old stomach that you get when you know your teacher knows you didn’t really master what she asked you to… anyone else remember that feeling?

After finishing a feeble attempt at a song I still can’t remember, I sat still- looking ahead the sheet of music in front of me. The silence was deafening. Because I couldn’t take it anymore, I turned and looked at my teacher. She was just sitting there grinning back at me.

“You didn’t like this song, did you?” she quietly asked.

“Not really.” I mumbled, shifting awkwardly on my piano bench.

sheet-music“Michayla, great musicians can take ordinary sheet music and make it sing. I think you can make this sing.”

The look on my face must have given away that I wasn’t picking up what she was laying down. So she tried a different approach.

“You are in choir, right? What makes a song incredible to listen to? A vocalist captivating?”

“They make people love it, too.” I answered, thinking of Mrs. Falbo from my children’s choir not only drilling excellence into us, but love for the music itself. She made sure we loved it enough that we could bring the audience along with us.

“So what would happen if you could take this ordinary piece of music-book sheet music, and loved it?”

I shrugged. It was an ordinary piece of sheet music. Why should I love it?

“If you can make the ordinary sing, imagine what you could do with the extraordinary.”


Imagine.

It’s an ordinary Friday. The end of an ordinary week.

Or is it?

I’m interrupted with a question: How do I make today sing? 

And not just doing things better. Not dropping everything and going to do something that seems spectacular.

No. That’s too easy. Too obvious.

Today would be extraordinary if I… if you… if we could shower people with the love of the One we love. So right now, I’m looking at a young woman who is cleaning tables like a rock star here at Dunkin. I’m going to smile, tell her thank you, and on my way out, I’m going to put a tip in their tip jar. I’m going to notice people today, and be mindful of what their spirits need.

And what about you, friend? How will you make today sing?

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

And friend? You are loved. Hugs!

Michayla