making things happen monday : the final lesson

Here is the crux of Making Things Happen, at least for me:

You have to be willing to let go of what you want to make happen.

Case in point:

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my apartment, working furiously on blogging and emailing and job searching and to-do listing. I had a pile of projects to get done before the night was over and I was bound and determined to finish them. Friday Night Lights was on in the background and I was perfectly content to productively wile the evening away.

I looked up from my laptop and noticed that the sunset was casting gorgeous colors on the bathroom shower tile. I had an internal debate about whether or not to Instagram the scene (“It’s so pretty!” “Really, no one wants to see your shower.” “But the colors!” “But seriously…it’s a shower.”) and decided in the end to snap a quick picture and post it:

Done! Pretty! Back to the to-do list!

But I couldn’t help but look outside at the sunset…wondering what it really looked like…not just what it looked like reflecting off of bathroom tile. I’d look out the window and then get back to work. And then repeat. And then repeat. There was this nagging feeling that I should do what’s most important: value the real beauty, not the productivity.

I knew I wanted to go see the sunset. But I did not want to go see the sunset, for a laundry list of reasons. Namely:

  • I did not want to leave my apartment (hello, have you seen Tim Riggins?!)
  • I did not want to leave my parking space and have to find a new one
  • I did not want to stop progress
  • I did not want to take pictures and have to edit them after
  • I did not want to make the effort

In the end…the sunset won. At the last possible moment I ran out of my apartment, out to the car, and drove up to Cobb’s Hill to see this:

A gorgeous sunset over a city I love and a memory I’ll have forever.

I was so glad I made the effort.

So to review, what I wanted for myself was this:

What God wanted for me was this:

Clearly, we have a winner.

When I get stuck inside of my own plans, I get left with only what I can do for myself. What’s easy, what’s comfortable, what’s right in front of me. That night, all I wanted was to check things off of my to-do list. I was content with a shower stall sunset.

But when I respond to what’s tugging at my heart, to the things that God gently guides me to, I get so much more. SO much more! Things I never could have dreamed on my own. I’ve always loved the verse from Ephesians that reminds us that God is capable of doing “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” It’s so true.

It’s important to do the hard work to make things happen – to have a plan, to take action steps, to look fear in the face, to have big dreams. But I think it’s most important to allow plenty of room for God to make things happen for us – immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

making things happen (not) monday : big action steps, big lessons

I’ve been making things happen over the past few days! Just not a blog post.

BUT…I decided to tackle the boulder that has been wedged between me and most of the other things on my to-do list: getting the pictures on my laptop under control. This is my action item that I’ve been dreading for MONTHS (literally…in fact, almost a full year), and no matter how many steps I broke it into, I just couldn’t get started.

It’s a beast for two reasons: 1. I have about 15,000 pictures that were never sorted properly – including 4 weddings where I accidentally didn’t remove the cast-offs from the keepers – so sitting down to go through all of them feels about as appealing as sitting in on a calculus class. 2. I need to move my pictures off of my laptop/external hard drive because I have no space left on either. Because I had no idea what I was doing when I started working with RAW files and no idea how to fix it once I figured out what I was doing my originals are all over the place. And now…I have no idea how to organize everything. 2a. I also have no idea how to transfer my photos to another system without turning my pathways into knots and my face into contortions.

Amen.

Taking on this item is the epitome of The Challenge: JUST DO IT. Mostly because it’s ridiculous that I’ve been avoiding it for nearly a year and also because it really is standing between me and a thousand other things – all of which require hard drive space and pictures that I can find and use.

So I dove in.

And look what I found!!!

All of my favorite long lost photos! These are some of the first pictures I ever took (and those people above and below? some of my favorites, too!):

I found myself saying over and over again, “OH, I love that one!!!” and remembering exactly how I felt when I took the picture and saw it come alive on my computer screen for the first time. Buying a real camera and taking pictures was a transformational experience for me. I saw God’s love through the beauty of His creation at a time in life when love and beauty felt few and far between. Every picture was magic. I cried when I got my first set of prints back! I saw everything in a new light, and I loved it.

You know what I realized when I saw these old pictures…reluctantly? They’re better than the ones I’m taking now. It’s soooo true. It doesn’t matter that I have 3 additional years of experience, better equipment, and more time on my hands to shoot, because somehow, I forgot. I forgot what it feels like to take a picture and not be afraid of making a mistake because all I did in the beginning was guess and make mistakes. I forgot what it feels like to not see something I “have” to shoot for the blog or for a job, but to see God’s love in the beauty He chooses surround us with. I just plum forgot that I really, truly, LOVE taking pictures.

I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. It’s part of the ebb and flow of creative endeavors. And having high and lows means that I have a maturing relationship with photography, not a stagnant one. But remembering why I loved taking pictures back then helped me see why I haven’t loved it in awhile: photography was, and is, the way I see God’s love in action. When it becomes anything other than that, it becomes less than what it was intended to be. It loses it’s redeeming power.

What a tidy revelation tucked into an action step!

It’s these little lessons that make doing the hard work worthwhile, sometimes even more than the work in and of itself.

(P.s. If any of you know how to mitigate this photo transfer situation, I’d pay you in a lifetime supply of baked goods if you could help me figure it out. For real.)

ALSO!

Have you signed up for The Challenge?! If not, here’s your chance!

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

Time is starting to run out, so let’s get moving!!!

making things happen monday : rest

Want to know a surprising key ingredient to making things happen?

Taking a break from making things happen.

For real.

It sounds counterproductive. How can you make things happen if you aren’t spending all of your time and energy making them happen? It’s something that sounds soft and lazy when in the context of “work,” but isn’t it true in every other area of life?

Can you run hard for 12 hours straight without stopping for fuel/water/air?

Can you use your cell phone for days and days without recharging the batteries?

Can you drive your vehicle for weeks at a time without stopping to fill up on gas?

Clearly, you can’t do any of those things. You can’t run for 12 hours without stopping. You can’t leave your cell phone off the charger for a few days and expect it to work. You can’t drive indefinitely without eventually needing to stop for gas.

So why do we think we can – and should – work, work, work, without ever stopping for a real break?

There’s a reason why God created the whole world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. There’s a reason why keeping a sabbath, one day to do nothing but recharge and reconnect with the Lord, is a priority all across scripture.

If God rested, and if He commands us to rest as well, why do we feel so guilty about it? Why does it seem like a luxury, not a necessity?

Perhaps in the healthy spirit of entrepreneurship, our culture has gone one step too far. Perhaps we’ve taken a good thing (hard work, big goals, big achievements) and turned it into an object of worship, an identity. There seems to be a certain pride associated with being busy and exhausted. If you are neither of those things then you must not be working hard enough, or so it seems.

This conversation isn’t meant to be an indictment. Trust me, I’ve been the president of this club, and sometimes (too many times) I still sit on the board of directors. But I know that for me, when I find my identity in how many hours I work and how spent I am, my priorities are way out of line. When I find worth in what I can do in my own strength, not what the Lord can do through His strength, I become self-focused rather than God-focused, and that just messes everything up.

Taking a true rest is an exercise in humility and faith for me. Do I really believe that if I honor God’s commandment to take a break once a week that He will provide the time and resources to get all my other “stuff” done? Do I think that I am wiser than God and can more effectively expedite in 7 days what He can do in 6 days? Do I really want to surrender my time, my schedule, my to-do list, my life to Him?

This is why rest is so important. It’s so much more about surrender than anything else.

But it’s also important because humans are not robots (insightful moment of the day – you’re welcome). We can’t continually move at full speed ahead without burning out. There is so much truth in this quote:

“Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” – Ovid

To really make things happen, you have to take regular, beneficial breaks from making things happen. Daily, it can be scheduling time for a walk outside or connecting with a friend. Weekly, it’s taking one day a week to truly rest. Monthly/yearly, it’s about getting away from your surroundings and refreshing your perspective with a new place or experience.

This weekend, I took this theory to the bank. It started out unintentionally, but I ended up spending most of the weekend recharging from a long couple of weeks. Here’s what that looked like:

dinner with lauren at this month’s new Rochester restaurant – post (and rave) coming soon!

saturday morning breakfast with the gilmores

fueling my fire for color by spending some time creating palettes on colourlovers.com

getting my favorite ice cream (bruster’s graham central station!) with smash

buying this season’s first strawberries (!!!)

watching the best thing in (non-NFL) sports : game 7

spending sunday afternoon in kitchen productivity, mass producing meals for the rest of the week

taking multiple long walks around my beautiful neighborhood in the perfect almost-summer weather

Not pictured but equally beneficial: catching up on my favorite blogs, reading bits and pieces of a few magazines, spending time with the Lord at church and on the drive to and from, connecting with people I love on skype, pouring buckets of sweat into P90x workouts, listening to new and old music, just all around loving life.

And you know what? I feel abundantly better than I did a few days ago. It’s the miracle of rest. Give it a try and watch it work wonders!

ALSO!

Have you signed up for The Challenge?! If not, here’s your chance!

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

Time is starting to run out, so let’s get moving!!!

making things happen monday : jars

If you take anything away from these Making Things Happen Monday posts, you might want to take it from this week’s post. These changes are so easy, but so effective!

I don’t even remember how this idea came about, but right after I came home from MTH I made these two sets of jars.

Set #1: Distraction Jars

I often find myself on internet rabbit trails that stem from not being able to make a decision. I don’t know how to finish a blog post so I find myself on Amazon looking for new water bottles. I don’t know which email to answer first so, clearly, that means I should watch a clip from SNL on Hulu. Don’t want to pick a time to schedule a meeting? No problem! I have 87 unread items in Google Reader to keep me busy until I finally decide on a time and place.

Distractions are the yeast that spoils the whole batch of dough.

If ALL of the time I wasted putting off simple decisions were compiled…I don’t even know where I’d start with all of the free time I’d have. I’d probably go straight to Pinterest to look around for a few hours because I couldn’t begin to decide how to use it all.

In an effort to curtail this bad habit I cleaned out two candle holders and put them on my desk. I put a handful of clear stones in one and left the other empty. Now, when I’m sitting at my desk working on something and find myself drifting off into a distraction of any kind, I take a stone from the full jar and put it into the empty jar.

There’s no point system. There’s no reward for a day with no stones in the empty jar. I don’t believe that the earth will open up and swallow me whole if all of the stones from the full jar move over to the empty jar in the course of one evening. I’m not trying to bring back the good old days of 1st grade marble jars.

But what happens is that I’m forced to physically stop mid-distraction and refocus. I realize that I’m just avoiding making a decision. I ask why I’m avoiding the decision. Then…I MAKE A DECISION.

Because seriously…I’ve wasted too much time and energy being chronically indecisive.

And then at the end of every day, I reset the jars so that one is full and one is empty so I have a fresh start for the next day.

This system really works for me. Try it out and see what you think!

Set #2: Truths and Lies

As someone who has a naturally overactive mind and who lives alone, I think I think a lot of thoughts. A LOT of thoughts. And while some of them turn into great blog posts and others into riveting emails and non-riveting Word documents, most of them are just fluff. And a good percentage of that fluff is toxic.

Fears and doubts and insecurities. In short: lies.

So I cleaned out two mason jars and put them on an accessible shelf. One for lies, and one for truth. Whenever a thought enters my mind that is a bold-faced lie, I write it down and put it in the LIE jar.

But whenever I read a verse that strikes a chord or receive encouragement from a friend or hear a song that lifts me up, I write that down and put it in the TRUTH jar.

At the end of the week, I trash what is in the LIE jar. Dramatically. There is crumpling and tearing to pieces involved.

The slips of paper inside the TRUTH jar, I keep.

Sure, it’s a little laborious. Perhaps it’s a little over the top. But there is something powerful about writing things down. The lies look ridiculous on paper. They lose all their power. The truth shines!

When I’m faithful about keeping up with both of these systems, my days go much, much better.

ALSO!

Still want to sign up for the mini Challenge? There’s still time!!! You have until the end of June to participate by doing the following:

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

You can do it! You’ll love it! Your life will be different and better! You’ll get a lifetime supply of frozen yogurt!*

*Which is only true if you’re me and you eat enough frozen yogurt to make it seem like a lifetime supply anyway. But the other stuff? Totally true! So get started!

making things happen monday : little fires

One of my favorite steps in The Challenge is making a list of what fires you up – the things that ignite a spark in your life and make you feel alive. Given my general enthusiasm for…everything…this was a tall but enjoyable order. Here’s the abridged version of my final cut:

scripture
love
Romans 12
color
beauty
light
creating
breakfast
coffee
photographs
typing thoughts into words into blogs
long runs
long walks
long weekends at home with Mom and Dad
snow
sunrise/sunset
being outside
s’mores
sweaty workouts
arugula/spinach/field greens
shoo fly pie
brownie sundaes
nouns
laughter
speaking truth out loud
praying alone out loud
country music
driving with the windows down
driving while having a revival-style worship jam session in my car
encouraging friends and strangers
Sundays
football
Gilmore Girls
magazines
healthy food
design
mentoring
Pennsylvania
the Packers
soft serve ice cream
road trips
flying
finding new restaurants
ESPN
NFL Films
The Food Network
cookbooks

The challenge for me isn’t knowing what fires me up. Clearly. If you have an hour or seven, I’ll be glad to tell you all about the things I love most about life. And, for the most part, the challenge isn’t even doing these things. As someone who veers on the creative side I have a natural tendency to cover all of my spaces with things that inspire me. I also have a natural tendency to protect time to invest in the things on the list above.

The hard part for me is consistency. Because, well, life is inconsistent. If I have a day with lots of free space I will jam-pack it with everything above. But on a normal day with lots of normal things – work and workouts and meals and bills and just LIFE – it’s hard to remember what’s on the list unless it’s starring me in the face.

So I decided to make it stare me in the face every day. I started lighting little fires to fuel the big bonfire above.

What can I realistically do daily to stoke little fires in my life? I can have time and space for the Lord. I can create a beautiful room that I want to live in. I can quit trying to work during breakfast and use that time to flip through magazines and watch ESPN (more on this coming soon!). I can commit to a workout program that makes me to sweat every day (another coming soon!). I can spend a free afternoon in the kitchen cooking to my heart’s content.

But probably the one thing that has made the biggest difference required the smallest commitment:

I can walk around my neighborhood every night, even for just a few minutes.

On almost every night since I’ve come home from Making Things Happen I’ve kept to this commitment. Because it encompasses SO many things that fire me up – time spent outside, the beauty of old houses, tree-lined streets, and nature in full bloom, perfect temperatures, long walks, peaceful quiet or thoughtful reflection or upbeat music, taking time to slow down and really SEE the gorgeous nouns in my life after paying more attention to the verbs during the workday, just taking time to be rather than do.

Sometimes these strolls start out cranky. Begrudgingly. Sometimes they end that way too. But 99% of the time, I come home markedly improved. More peaceful, more joyful, more grateful. And just plain happier.

It’s totally worth the 5 – 50 minutes that I probably would have spent on the internet instead. I’m getting something so much better in exchange.

So, friends, what fires YOU up? And what can you do to sustain little fires in your life (and roast a few marshmallows while you’re at it!)?

And Just To Review:

You can still sign up for the mini Challenge here on the blog! Here’s how to participate:

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

I can’t emphasis what a game-changer this is. If you are a student, a mom, a business owner, a summer vacationer – if you are a human and you want to live life well – you can greatly benefit from the lessons you’ll learn from The Challenge! If you are serious about making the most out of every single day of your life, this is a really great place to start.

Ready Set GO!!!

making things happen monday : bedroom makeover

My apartment is pretty tiny. I mean, if you are living in a dorm room or in a third world country (some might say the two aren’t entirely unrelated) then it’s practically a mansion. But if you are a 26 year old living in a city in America, it’s tiny.

My bedroom has always been the most neglected space in my apartment because I spend the least amount of time there. I basically just sleep there because there isn’t room to do anything else.

But not anymore!

While I was at Making Things Happen I realized that a big stumbling block in my nightly productivity was my workspace: the couch. Usually once I’m in for the night I settle in on the couch with my laptop and a disc of Gilmore Girls and/or Friends and/or Friday Night Lights with the intent of going gangbusters on my email/blog/big to-do list. I’m productive for about 5 minutes. After that, it’s distraction central. Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Oh, I love this part! Hey, I’ve been meaning to Google that. What’s new on Pinterest? What’s new on Lover.ly? I haven’t refreshed Twitter in awhile. Wait…what was I working on?

And so it goes.

But one of the most valuable things I took away from The Challenge was how to kill distractions.

I had a few ideas in mind for killing distractions, which I’ll be sharing on future MTHM posts, but the biggest game-changer was creating a new space.

New Space #1 : The breakfast/prayer window seat


I really wanted to create a space that would just be for mornings – time spent with the Lord in prayer and reading and time spent with my beloved breakfast. My former routine was to wake up, roll out of bed, put as much of myself into my daily devotions as possible while sitting on my comfy couch in the half-dark, then charge into getting ready for the day. Once I sat down at the computer with my breakfast I’d turn on ESPN and power through as much work as I could get through before running out the door at the last possible minute.

Not exactly a tranquil start to the day.

My college roommate and I bought that little blue couch during our junior year and it’s been a staple ever since. But it wasn’t really being utilized in my bedroom before (here is where before pictures would have been ideal…but when I get an idea for a project, it’s all systems go…no time to document!); it was basically an extra laundry basket since it’s where my workout clothes would usually land.

So, after playing a LOT of Tetris with my bedroom furniture, I finally came up with an arrangement that would give me the space I needed to actually have a bedroom and also include a side space for mornings.

People…I LOVE this space!!! It’s literally the best thing I’ve done since I’ve moved in. Even better than the chalkboards! It’s convenient to start every day here because I can literally roll right out of bed and into the window seat = no excuses. I love opening the windows and starting the day with fresh air and bird songs while I start the day off on the right foot with God. Then after getting ready and making breakfast, I come back to the window seat to eat and flip through my long-neglected magazines. I’ve imposed a no email/blogs/screens rule – I even pack my laptop away in my bag for the day the night before so I don’t have the option! Because ESPN is a critical component to my DNA I do still listen to Mike & Mike on the radio or watch it on my phone, but luckily my iPhone is wise and will only let me watch ESPN if that’s the only app I’m using. I don’t even have the option to multitask while getting my daily sports fix. It’s wonderful.

I can’t even tell you how much better I feel leaving my apartment every morning. Such a good change.

New Space #2 : A colorful new workspace!

As I mentioned above…the couch just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore as a workspace. I knew as soon as I sat down every night it would be a downward spiral into distractions. I also knew that my white walls were driving me crazy (renting = no paint allowed). So I killed two birds with one stone and created a space that will make me happy and keep me focused.

I used a block of scrapbook paper from Michael’s and went to town on the walls. I wanted a sweeping wave of color and I think that’s just what I got! The paper is attached by sticky tack and it’s held really well so far (about 2 weeks later). This paper project literally took me no more than 45 minutes and cost less than $10…and the result is a brand new room that I LOVE to be in.

This is my new place to sit at the end of every day (I’m sitting here right now as I type this post!). I try to block out at least one power hour a night in here so that I can have one focused hour of blogging/photo editing/emailing/job searching/whatever is on the to-do list for the day. And then whatever time I have left before heading to bed can be used to catch up on my favorite distractions – namely, blogs – guilt-free!

Environmental distractions? Conquered! It was such an easy change, but it’s made such a difference!

Now…how about YOU??? What changes could you make to your environment to make your life a better place?

And when are you going to start The Challenge??? Make it today!

making things happen monday : the challenge

Dear friends,

You need to start here.

And then you need to do this.

No, really. You need to DO THIS!!!

“This” is The Challenge. Some of you old timers will remember when I did it last year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Challenge, it is basically a take-no-prisoners guide to freeing you from what holds you back and setting you up for success in life and business. I honestly can’t say enough about how effective of a resource this is. It was such a help to me during the summer of crazy last year when I was working more than I was sleeping/eating/living, but now having gone through it again in preparation for attending Making Things Happen I feel much more familiar with the course work and able to put it into practice.

SO…in the next few weeks on Making Things Happen Monday we’ll be talking about how I’ve been implementing the Challenge into my real life, specifically:

1. Why I put 30 pieces of scrapbook paper on my bedroom walls and why I’ve been rearranging every room in my apartment.

3. Why I don’t eat in front of screens anymore. (Of the electronic variety. I have no ill will attached to screen doors or windows.)

4. Why I have a new use for four mason jars.

5. Why I decided to only have two arms instead of three, the extra being the one that holds my cell phone.

And so much more!

Even though I did The Challenge last year and did it again before Making Things Happen I know that I could definitely benefit from doing it again. So I’m diving in for a third round to really soak it up!

And I’m looking for a few brave people to come with me.

People…I want this for you!!! I so desperately want you to experience how much of a difference adhering these principles to your life will make!

And because I really, really want this for you: I’m going to give you a present if you do it.

That’s also called a bribe.

But it still counts as a present because I really want to give it to you.

Here’s the deal: ANYONE who completes The Challenge over the course of the next 5 weeks will receive some good old-fashioned personalized encouragement/congratulations in the mail from me. And one person will win a Fabulous Prize Package. Just like The Price is Right! But your estimated value in cash and prizes will not be Showcase Showdown worthy. But feel free to jump up and down anyway!

Here’s how to enter:

1. Comment on a Making Things Happen Monday post from now until June 18th saying that you are participating in The Challenge.

2. You will receive an email in return to cheer you on!!!

3. Comment again on a Making Things Happen Monday post when you complete all ten steps of The Challenge, and include a note about what Action Steps you are taking to Make Things Happen/implement The Challenge into your daily life.

4. Everyone who completes The Challenge will receive a congratulations packet in the mail AND be entered to receive a Fabulous Prize Package!!! The prize and it’s winner will be announced on the following Monday after The Challenge is complete, June 25th.

Got it? If no – contact me with any questions. If yes – get moving!!!