When The Original Plan is the Best Plan

We spent the month of June doing some house renovations. As the girls grow and play differently, our playroom also changed. Housed in the formal dining room, the playroom sat at the center of our home for over three years. I could read on the couch and watch the girls play or make dinner and peak in on them from the kitchen. It was an ideal spot for creativity and imagination.

It was also always a mess and a source of stress as I tried to find a space of peace in our home. Play, by nature, isn’t tidy or organized but it felt like an overwhelming task to keep it presentable. We knew that one day we wanted to finish a large and mostly unused storage room in the basement but that was in the future. Until a friend asked, Why not just make the unfinished space into the playroom?

IMG_9066I won’t go into all the details, but that’s just what we did. We cut a hole in the basement wall, opening the space to the finished part. My dad painted a bright and welcoming mural on the concrete wall. We covered the floor in mats and moved all the toys downstairs. It’s still an overflowing mess but it’s out of sight and feels more contained. IMG_9655

We changed the playroom into a library/study. I love that the center of our home is filled with books. We kept the legos and blocks upstairs and it’s still clearly a home with kids – an entire bookshelf is devoted to their books. But it’s also much more reflective of the grownups who live here, too.

I had a vision for the paint color for this new study for more than nine months. This was a hope and vision and I kept that color swatch taped to the wall to remind me that one day, the playroom would be reclaimed.

IMG_9703We went to Lowe’s and I told the woman behind the paint counter exactly what I wanted: One gallon of light yellow and one gallon of that same yellow, mixed 50% lighter. She looked at the swatch and said, That’s too complicated. You’d better choose a darker color. What about this? She pulled a swatch from right above mine and suggested using the lightest color on that as our contrast. Quickly convinced that my vision wouldn’t work, I agreed, we went home, and painted a light orange under the chair rail and my envisioned yellow above it.

Immediately, I knew this wasn’t what I had imagined. It looked like an orange and yellow wall rather than a yellow and slightly lighter yellow wall. I thought maybe I just needed to live with this new color scheme and I’d fall in love. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it; I had my parents come and we held artwork against the new color. I knew I couldn’t live with it.

So, we went back, bought the paint I originally wanted. (This time, I talked with a woman who said, Yep! We can do this!) Frank spent another day painting and immediately, I loved the color. I saw my vision appear on the wall and knew I would love spending time in this room.

As I rearranged furniture, hung pictures, and finally settled into a chair to read a book in this space, I knew I had made the right choice in repainting.

Sometimes, we do need to live with something unexpected and it turns out better. This happened with the paint color in our bedroom and I love the unexpected color so much more than the one I had thought I wanted. Sometimes, in life things go unexpectedly and, in hindsight, those switches in plans are so much better and richer.

But sometimes, we need to fight for our original vision. Sometimes, when we’ve thought and planned for months, that path is confirmed and set. And it’s ok to go back and readjust to make sure we’re on that right path.

As a planner, I need to learn to hold plans loosely, to let the journey take me to unexpected places, and to remember that I am not in control of every single detail of my life.

I also need to remember to trust my own instinct and to remember that I am an intentional person. That I rarely make quick or spontaneous decisions and so, when things don’t go as planned, I need to pause to really evaluate if it is a good new direction or if I need to recalibrate.

I love our new spaces. Right now, the girls are busy in their playroom while I write. The other day, I read while Bea spent an hour building a castle in the study. Our house feels more calm and intentional. And I learned that I can trust my well-planned vision.

How do you balance holding your plans loosely and trusting your instinct? Has there been a time when you’ve needed to recalibrate back to the original path?

Trust God And Do the Work

I was part of an interesting discussion on platform building in one of my Facebook writing groups. This particular group is populated by Christian bloggers so the discussion was mostly around promoting one’s work without promoting oneself. Many people said that they don’t promote but trust that God will put their words before the people who need to see them.

debby-hudson-544369-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Maybe it’s because, after four and a half years of blogging, I’ve recently decided to make more of a platform-y effort. For a variety of reasons, I want to start moving this from a pure hobby to the potential for something more. So, I’ve created things and followed steps and started plotting more intentional ways to engage with online communities.

About a month after I first started blogging, all the established and serious bloggers declared that blogging was dead and they were done. Similarly, about a month after I decided to start being more intentional about creating a platform, an established blogger-turned-author-and-podcaster declared that platform building is dead and that we just need to enjoy the work. I suppose if I had several popular books under my belt and a loyal and engaged following, I’d feel similarly.

Two things have come to mind from these recent experiences.

First, we are all on our own journies. I need to remember this in so many areas of my life. So, to the established and successful author, I say Yes! Stop building your platform! Sit back and enjoy the years of hard work! And to the new blogger, just getting the courage to take words from journal to a public space, I say Yes! Enjoy the process and don’t overthink it! (In fact, read this piece by Richard Beck on the anti-platform. I love his unique perspective because he never played the game.)

Second, trust God but do the work. As someone with perfectionistic tendencies, I like to practice. I didn’t mind blogging quietly for years before starting to get serious. But once I decided to get more serious, I appreciate people helping me understand what actual next steps are. And so now I’m taking methodical steps to do this next phase right. (Or as right as anything can be.) I love learning from those who know what they’re doing, especially in areas I don’t know anything about. I love having a plan and trying new things. I don’t think it means I’m any less trusting, but I’m learning that trust and hard work are not mutually exclusive.

In MOPS last week, we focused on Hebrews 12:1-3. The verses are about running the race set before us and keeping our eyes on Jesus. The part that hit home for me are verses 1b-2a,

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I know that I’m taking this out of context – that it’s about a faith community and the idea of living out our faith. But I needed to hear this in my own writing journey, too. To remember that this race is marked out for me. That I don’t need to compare myself to the race others are running. I’m trusting that those markers make sense for my journey.

I’m thankful for the writers who have gone ahead – who have created platforms and systems that I can learn from. And I’m thankful for writers who are alongside me and who remind me that we’re all doing this a bit differently, and that’s what’s so beautiful about creative endeavors in the first place.

I feel like this is a conversation that goes beyond writing. How do we build our businesses and retain trust and integrity? How do we balance trust and hard work? What gives you inspiration?

What did you say?

Let’s make a wise choice, Bea.
What did you say? Why?

Hey Bea, it’s time to head out.
What did you say? Why?

Studying for her next round of questions
Studying for her next round of questions

I could keep going, but that’s what our conversations are looking like these days. You would think after living together for three years plus nine months in-utero, Bea would trust me a bit more. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say things rarely happen the first time I ask, even when doing something quickly would benefit Bea. (Hey Bea, want a cookie? -What did you say? Why?)

I know that 99% of this is the age and phase. Part of it is Bea figuring out her own opinions and ideas. Part of it is busyness – I think she truly doesn’t hear me sometimes. And part of it is just the eternal why stage. It’s like her response is automated, without any thought behind it.

As frustrating as it can be to constantly (constantly!!) hear What did you say? Why? I wonder if that’s how my relationship with God can be. When an opportunity comes along or a gift is given, rather than being thankful and recognizing a blessing, I ask, What did you say? Why?

Maybe I need to remember to trust a little more, to live life a little more faithfully, and to assess my own questioning nature.

Do you respond to situations quickly or do you stop to ask questions?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Celebrating Strong Women: Fear, Love, Strength

Kathy picOur Strong Woman this week is Kathy Swigle. Kathy is a connector who first invited me to MOPS and then encouraged me to start blogging. Kathy is a Denver Native who loves God, her hubby, her girls, emerging urban leaders, sports, coffee, writing, having fun, & working at her church. She hopes to move from fear to freedom in this lifetime! Currently, she is pursuing life-coach training and public speaking opportunities. She blogs at Coaching 4 Calling.

First Comes Fear, Then Comes Love, Then Comes Strength…

Strong women jump out of airplanes, do stand-up comedy, smoke cigars while speaking about literature in swanky uptown bars in New York City, and run successful corporations. Right?

Strong women don’t cry all night because they are afraid of the decision they just made to move into an inner city neighborhood. Strong women don’t ask for people to pray for them because fear is consuming them. Strong women don’t wait until their upstairs neighbor gets home at 3:00 am to finally fall asleep because now they feel safe. Or do they?

Much like the Ugly Duckling saw only its flawed exterior and was shocked when it had transformed into a beautiful, majestic swan, I only saw my fearful self, crying out to God and wondering why I had chosen to move into the ‘hood.  I wasn’t strong or brave. I just loved the kids I worked with and wanted to live nearby to understand their lives and world better. But somehow in the process of being fearful, I became strong.

I learned to trust God’s word that said he would protect my coming and going. I recently read my journal entry dated a few days after I moved in. “Tonight was pretty scary. As I was getting out of my car, I heard multiple gunshots which at the time I thought were fireworks but unlikely since it was December.  I became nervous and ran inside my apartment. Later, the news reported that a man in his wheelchair had been fatally shot 25 times just three blocks from my apartment. Supposedly, the victim’s arm stayed extended as he pointed his weapon at the police and they continued to shoot at him.”

But as I reread my journal and think back to those days, I know the Lord was right by my side showing me His love and asking me to love my neighbor. He’d say, “I love you, my child. Don’t be afraid. You have so much joy and radiance and it will be shown to your neighbors. They need love. Will you love them?”

One afternoon, my new neighbors said hello. I found it funny that the first thing they said to me was, “Hita, (Spanish for daughter), we ain’t rapists or thieves or nothing….

It was both endearing and disturbing, but each morning Antonio was there to say, “What’s your story, Morning Glory?” We would catch up on life and wish each other a great day. 

Through multiple positive interactions with people in my neighborhood, I began to trust and develop caring relationships.  I began to learn the truth of “perfect love casts out all fear.” I began to view everyone, even people I probably shouldn’t have, as safe loving children of God who needed love and some TLC.  Looking back, I can see that I was transformed into a woman of strength. I took risks, prayed with honesty, and loved well in the midst of being a fearful little soul.

After living in my little apartment a few years, I bought a home in the heart of my neighborhood, taught at one of the toughest inner city schools in Denver, and mentored many children. My scared little soul blossomed into a fearless and strong one!

People often tell me they think I am strong, but I wish they could know that I freak out when I think of wearing a dress and looking pretty out in the real world; that I shake like an earthquake before I get up to make an announcement at church; that I’m terrified to blog but really want to be a writer and speaker.

Do you think that’s the case with all of us? Whether we jump out of planes, lead others, or live in a community as a minority, I’ll bet there’s fear involved. Rhonda Britten, author of Fearless Living, says, “You’ve heard it said a thousand times, when it gets down to it, there are only two emotions: fear or love.”

So, what’s your fear? Do you only see your Ugly Duckling fearful self right now? What risk would you be willing to take to overcome that fear and be transformed into a Strong, Beautiful, Fearless and Loving Swan?

This post was edited by Kelly Ann Compton: kkddt@comcast.net.

Serendipity

Frank and I were traveling in Botswana over Father’s Day in 2011. Our group stopped in Francistown for shopping and stretching so we decided to find an internet café so we could send our dads an email. As we waited in line at the Western Union to pay, we heard the couple in front of us asking to transfer some money to Denver. On a whim, I exclaimed, “We’re from Denver!” This led to a conversation with Sheunesu and Susan about what they were doing in Colorado. It turns out, Sheunesu was headed to a conference with Youth for Christ, the organization he worked for. We have been longtime supporters of missionaries with YFC, and the conversation continued to narrow the world. We exchanged email addresses and continued on our journey.

A couple months later, Frank picked up Sheunesu from his hotel a few miles away and we chatted over dinner in our backyard. It solidified a friendship of encouragement and gave us the opportunity to support the work of Sheunesu and Susan in Zimbabwe. Even though we haven’t been able to travel back to Africa, and they haven’t been able to visit Colorado, we keep in touch through email and Facebook and I look forward to the day when we can take our kids over to see them.

I was reflecting on the various serendipities in life. When I first had Bea, I knew I wanted to join a Mothers of Preschoolers group. Our church didn’t offer one, so I had been Googling MOPS in the area, just assuming I’d go to the one closest to our house. In the midst of searching, I met a woman at our library’s Book Babies group. She encouraged me to attend her church’s MOPS group, only about 5 minutes from our house. I did and connected with an amazing group of women. Funnily, I didn’t see the woman who invited me until months later. She is the Children’s Pastor at the church, so usually didn’t attend the meetings. A year later, I was in her minivan on a road trip with some other moms to the MOPS annual MomCon in Kansas City. We laughed that neither of us had been to Book Babies since – our conversation must have been divine intervention.

Even when Frank and I met, it was on a snowshoe hike with a group that neither of us had attended before and neither of us went to after that day. We just happened to decide to get up early on a Saturday and were in the right place at the right time.

On the day we met
On the day we met

Serendipity… Divine intervention… Coincidence… Whatever it’s called, I love those random, seemingly chance encounters that shape the course of my life. Thinking back on the incredible friendships I have because I took a small risk has renewed my desire to live life with intentionality and daring. As someone who loves control and planning, I’m learning to trust the unknown moments and embrace the risks.

What are some chances you took that have shaped your life? Is there a random moment that turned out to change your life?