What I Learned While Waiting

When I left my job in events to go to work for the church I chose it in large part for how it would impact my personal life.  After 4 years ‘on the road’ feeling like I couldn’t commit to a bible study, missing weekends with my friends, flying in late and out early from family vacation, and having to flake out on plans last minute because there was just so much to be done for our next event – I sensed that I needed a shift that would allow me to be there for my family and friends over the next few years.

Hindsight being 20/20 I know that was the Lord’s perfect timing because in my years at Grace my sister went from 1 to 4 kids, my Dad changed jobs, my parents moved, my younger sister went from Clemson to Calfornia to Chicago to Dallas, and for the first time in my adult life I think I might have had the least chaotic of the lives in the Christensen crew.  I got to be part of it.  I’ve spent so much time with nieces and nephews, I fixed up my house, I took the architectural boat tour and saw a Cubs game in Chicago, I’ve seen almost all of my Dad’s home games since he came to Miami, I flew literally around the world to visit a friend on her year long adventure in Australia, and I even got to return the moving favor by helping my Mom move my parents from one apartment to another.

I never could have done this if I had taken any of the other available career options I had when I left events.  Grace gave me the freedom to excel at my job but also to be really wholly present and available for the people I love in what was a really intense season for us.  It makes me weepy with gratitude to think about it.

What I haven’t spoken about much is that at the same time I had this incredible other opportunity that I turned down because while it seemed to be a dream come true for me, it didn’t feel like the right season to be that selfish with my time.  I remember telling myself as I turned that job down to serve as an assistant for the 2nd time in my career that someday it would be my turn to chase my dreams and all the people I was putting it off for, they’d be there to cheer me on.

I was right.

This week I finished my first week at a new job.  A job with so much opportunity it makes my head spin with delight.  I’m having to study harder and work longer than I have in years and just like I knew I would: I am loving it.  See the truth is, I love the grind.  I thrive on challenge.  I want to win and excel.  But I learned a really valuable lesson by being willing to wait.  I learned balance.

When I look back at the early years of my career I shake my head at the girl who didn’t know how to make a single boundary.  Who barely slept, consumed way too much caffeine, and lived on sheer will and ambition while working 2-3 jobs to pay off debt and get ahead ‘quickly’.  I don’t regret those choices and I sure as heck am thankful I did it before 30 because I’m not sure I could work 3am-6am and 9-5 everyday to do it now. (This is 30).  But what I lacked was the ability to balance what I wanted with who I wanted to be and I paid a price for that.  A price with my health and a price in my relationships.

The 4.5 years that followed, working at Grace, I found ways to fix my former shortcomings in relationships and ‘have it all’ even if it meant a little less of some things to make room for a little more of others.  I know that is invaluable as I finally take that big leap back to the ‘for profit’ world in a bigger, more demanding role.

This week I felt like Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses when at the end of the movie everyone she worked so hard to be there for showed up for her when she needed it.  This week I took this big, scary leap into a demanding (and rewarding) new career and the people I love most all cheered me on.  With presents, meals, phone calls, texts, and visits they overwhelmed me with encouragement.  The time finally feels right.  But more importantly, I have the ability and the desire to balance it.  I’m ready to pursue my career dreams with the support of my tribe but not at their expense.  It is truly the best feeling.

 

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Welcome

Good morning from the beach.  I’m officially in retreat.  Last summer I invited my 2 best friends to run away from real life for a few days of peace, quiet, and introverting together on the beach at my parents while they’re away.  Unfortunately only 2 of the 3 of us were able to make it back for year 2.  But it’s my first day and I’m not sure if I’ll write (publicly) every day or not.

The last time I was here, on Dania Beach, was Mother’s Day weekend.  My parents, a family friend, and I sat down to a big post church lunch (steak, potatoes, salad, bread, etc).  We served our plates and as we began to cut our steaks the friend turned to me and asked, Becs, are you a good cook like your Mom?

Before I could respond honestly and say that no one can cook like my Momma my parents tripped over each other responding for me.  My Mom said: all of our girls are GREAT cooks, way better than I am.  Just as my Dad was saying: Becs is a great hostess, you should see how nice she keeps her place and how many people she has over – she does a great job.

I looked down at my steak and blinked back a few tears.  The two people whose hospitality I admire most in the world had just gushed about mine.  I imagine it’s how my Dad feels when Peyton Manning or Reggie Wayne say he’s a great coach.  Is there any higher compliment then the best of the best saying you’re one of them?

Everything I know about hospitality I learned from three people: my Dad, my Mom, and my friend Nancy.  Nancy’s house was the house EVERYONE wanted to hang out at growing up.  Unless, of course, they were hanging out at ours because, well, we had jet skis.  But if I wasn’t teaching myself new tricks on the jet skis at my house, I wanted to be at Nancy’s playing SimCity with her kids and getting invited every.single.time to stay for dinner.  She never made a big fuss about it just: stay for dinner?

These three people made me long for the day I’d have a place of my own so I could be as fun and welcoming as they are.  In one of the sweetest gestures ever, Nancy was my realtor when I bought my first home.  The woman I want to be as a homeowner helped me find the perfect spot to start my journey.  It means that much more to me as a result.

I was reminded this week how simple hospitality can be.  My parents were headed out on a three week trip and while they were set to be away, my friend and I would be borrowing the condo.  As she hurried around packing and preparing my Mom called to say she’d restocked the drink fridge, set out the coffee, and she was leaving car keys in case we needed a car to get around.

Being hospitable doesn’t have to be complicated.  It just has to be inclusive.  In the same way Nancy use to stick her head into the playroom where we had 5 computers going on Sims and say: stay for dinner? We can make our homes feel like home to those who come.

Hospitality is contagious.  As I packed my own bags to fly, uber, and show up on my parents doorstep for some TLC I found myself setting out the pool key and texting my bible study: pool key is on the counter, come use it.  I made sure there were drinks in the fridge and clean pool towels and I locked up smiling that the next person who came in, wouldn’t be me.

My Mom is an amazing cook and she keeps the cleanest house I’ve ever been in (and I say this having lived with her for 18 years so if she’s had a messy day, I should know about it).  My Dad is the warmest, most inviting person ever (maybe partly because he doesn’t have to do the cooking).  They make everyone feel like family.  And over the years I’ve watched hundreds of my Dad’s players and coaches come for a dinner or a holiday and want to come back again.  Some even joke that when they retire from wherever they’ve ended up since, they’ll come back to Thanksgiving or Christmas….and they’ll be welcomed.

‘Only a life lived to the service of others is worth living’ – Albert Einstein

As for me and my house, we’re focused on serving others well this summer.

Oh the Places You’ll Go…

In the true spirit of treating others how you want to be treated, I’m not leaving you hanging for long on my next steps.  I meant what I said yesterday, the post needed to stand alone.  But I love the opportunity to share with multiple people at once because sharing, in detail, good news one-by-one can be overwhelming.  So this seemed like a good way to share my good news well.

It was 9:30 on a Friday night and I was on the couch watching Netflix with my friend (and coworker) Jessie.  A text came through from my sister, Rachel, with a screen capture of a Facebook post.  One of her friends from undergrad at UF was looking for an office manager for 2 new businesses opening in the Tampa area.  She said: I’m not sure if you’ll be interested but I thought I’d pass this along.

We decided it was worth my having a chat with him, so I e-mailed over my resume and a copy of the Predictive Index (a business style personality profile).  I quickly knew I was going to like Dr. Walker when 10 minutes later my phone rang.  I answered and he was calling himself.  He asked if I had a few minutes and I found a quiet spot and he literally phone interviewed me.

The next morning I got in my car and drove 2 hours to Ocala to meet with him and his business partner in person.  3 hours of interviewing and I was back on the road feeling even more excited about the opportunity.  The job was so much more than I’d hoped.

Now that it’s mine I can tell you what they’ve customized it to be for me.  Monday-Thursday I’ll serve as the Tampa and Lakeland Office Manager & Patient Experience Coordinator for Ethos Health.  This means, I will present the care plans and cost to the patients after they’ve met with the doctor or nurse practitioner.  On Fridays when I’m not in the clinics they’re going to let me use my love of data (developed over my years at Grace) to help analyze with their leadership to determine our next locations (the goal is 200 clinics).  I will also help with analyzing their training techniques and helping train corporately for their clinics as we grow.

Immediately, I felt like part of a team.  The three of my future bosses/coworkers that I’ve had the chance to talk with so far have been unbelievably welcoming and admitted they were all really hoping I’d join up.  I’m grateful for the opportunity and feel honored that I got picked.  We open Tampa/Lakeland in combo the first week in August with Sarasota and Sun City Center to follow a few months later in the fall.  It’s the opportunity to be part of a ‘start up’ and get some ground level experience but with tried and proven entrepreneurs who have succeed in multiple businesses already.  Also, those of you who know me well will know how much it means to me to have found my next big opportunity with the added benefit of being able to stay right there in Tampa – where I feel most at home.

What gets me excited about the job? One, I get to wear scrubs.  Hasn’t every non-medical professional thought at least once that basically wearing pajamas to work would be the best?  Exactly.  I’m excited to try my hand at a little bit of ‘sales’ for the first time in years.  Many times over the years I’ve thought office management would be a great fit for my skill set and I’m going to gain experience there.  And when they said: we’d like to use your Fridays for data I almost cried with joy.  Already they were looking for my strengths and passions and trying to make sure we use them.

In my five years at Grace I have always known and been very honest that I believed one day the Lord would call be back to the business world.  I tried to use my time surrounded by Christians wisely, growing and soaking in the wisdom of others.  But my heart has always been for the unsaved.  I hope to be a light to every patient who comes through the doors of our clinics and to any of my coworkers who don’t know Jesus yet.  I even have the added bonus of being able to do so with my bosses/owners being believers themselves!  So it seems the best of both worlds.

I will welcome all the prayers as I step into and learn my new role (I start July 23rd).  Jokingly I told my Mom the other day I’m the schmuck of the group – everyone is brilliant and experienced.  But I am truly excited for this new opportunity and hope that my passion for people and my love of challenging work will make me a success.  And if you’re ever in need of some knee specialists, look me up!

I was incredibly touched by the number of readers and the sweet response yesterday’s blog received.  Thank you for cheering me on in this new season.  Your words have been a blessing and an encouragement.

xo.

 

A Graceful Goodbye

Closing a chapter is tough.  Finding the right words.  Finishing strong. Moving forward.  Keeping ever in the back of your mind the good, the hard, and the rewarding of what came before as you embark into new territory.

I walked into my bosses office, sat down and said: I’m leaving.  Now let me explain.

So for you all, I’ll do the same…

I’m leaving my job.

In just a few short weeks my time at Grace will come to an end and I will put on scrubs for the very first time and join a new team.  This is both exciting and overwhelming. In some ways, even a little sad.  It’s like binging on Netflix.  When a good season ends and you’re sad to see it go but you’re also excited for the next season which will start in 17….16….

Five years.  I have spent five years now at Grace, where I followed a former coworker.  I left All Pro Dad to follow Pastor Doug to Grace as his assistant.  A year later I would take a promotion and move departments – pouring my blood, sweat, and a whole lot of tears into improving our database, writing our policies & procedures, and doing away with a lot of ‘we’ve always done it this way’s.  That work has been my baby and I’m feeling really honored to pass it on to someone new who I hope will take it even farther than I have been able to in my time.

In a serious state of OCD I’ve spent the days since my decision geeking out about all the things I need to do at Grace, to prepare for Ethos Health, and around my house.  My lists have literally given birth to lists.  Maybe baby was the right word to call this thing because I’m doing some serious nesting.  But this morning I took a time out to write some very important thank you’s to the people in my life who helped me overcome my fear of the unknown and leap into something that has me giddy with excitement.

Overwhelmed with gratitude I sat this morning and wrote a handful of thank you cards, starting with my boss.  The woman who saw something more in me.  Who gave me a chance.  Who pushed and challenged me.  Who gave me feedback that truly grew me.  And who let me grow and even eventually outgrow.  When I told her my time was up she said: we knew this was coming.  You’ll be great.

To my friends, who rode the roller coaster of emotions with me in the interview and decision process – I owe you big.  Change does not come easily to me and my irrationally high fear of the unknown and tendency to be risk a-verse have to be incredibly annoying at times.  But you all have graciously still been my friends and encouraged and even prodded me from time to time.  Thanks for continuing to tell me I can and will be great.

For my coworkers who literally killed my phone battery with encouraging texts, e-mails and phone calls when we told the staff this week – I’m thankful for your kindness, your encouragement, and yes – I will miss you too.  For the friendships that I’ve made in my time at GFC and the people who have loved me (and my family) through some of the hardest seasons of my life – I’m eternally grateful.

To my sister who found me the job – I owe you one.  Not just for finding this job but for being the person who from the day I was born to today has had my back, believed in me, and loved me well.  You’re not only the best big sister anyone could hope for, you’re the best friend.

This transition of seasons has me truly, wholly grateful.

I promise to share more details about where I’m headed and what I’ll be doing in the days to come but I do not want to detract from what I wanted to write here today.  These five years deserve there own post.  Or maybe a 300 page book.  But for now, a post.

Thank you thank you to all the people who have walked the last 5 years with me.  I promise to work diligently and passionately to make you proud of me in the years to come.

 

Why You’re Welcome Here

If you watch me in a meeting where I’m passionately analyzing data or hollering about how our background check process must.protect.the.children…you will not imagine me to be a crier.  I’m a doer, a go-getter, and what some like to term ‘a fireball’ (I hope not a lose cannon but maybe a little of that too).  The truth is I’m soft about certain things.  I cry in my sister’s mini van every time I have to say goodbye to my nieces and nephews before I board a flight home.  I cry with joy when a friend I’ve been encouraging meets a goal.  Frequently, I cry over football games won or lost.  And I cry very consistently when I think of how the Lord has blessed my home.

This week as I prepare to begin hosting yet another bible study that needed a home I wanted to share a little about this journey.  I’ve lived in over 25 houses and apartments. No my parents are not gypsies but the football coaches kid life had some drawbacks.  The media, for one.  And the completely unsettling feeling of starting over and over and over again in new places.

Adventurous spirit or not, that was tough for me. I get really attached to people and then we’d pack up and leave.  It was exhausting.  It was emotional.  More often than not I really hated it. So when I finished college and chose Tampa to be home I wanted a house of my own.  Details aside, I was young, dumb, and mostly broke.  So I credit the purchase of my first home at 24 to a fantastic realtor, a floundering housing market, the work ethic to work 2 jobs, and supportive parents.  The Lord gave me favor in all of those categories and it’s the only way this place would have been mine.  I purchased it for almost exactly 1/3rd the price of the previous owner (I am still sorry for their misfortune).

If you’d stepped in then you might have called it a fixer upper but I would have called it a dream home.  It DID need some love.  The carpet had been ruined by the previous owners pets and apparently they’d had a very hungry bird who ate all the blinds.  I kid you not.  I had enough furniture to furnish exactly one room: my bedroom.  Which meant everyone sat on the floor until I saved enough for a couch from Craigslist.  And the first week I laid on an air mattress in the living room (waiting for said carpeting to be replaced) and told my Dad this was the best thing that had ever happened to me.

It’s been 9 years since.  This condo looks entirely different and the furniture has come a LONG way.  In fact, I’ve had to make the rule: one in means one out.  Truly I can say with 100% honesty what hasn’t changed is the way I feel about this place.  It’s my own little miracle.  The place the Lord so perfectly orchestrated to be mine. Over and over and over this has been true.  The housing market rebounded and made me look like some kind of real estate genius as my newest neighbor paid more than double what I did.  I wake up at least once a week with a big grin on my face.  I still love it here.

From the get go I committed that this place will serve the Lord.  Every guest that enters I want to feel at home.  I genuinely try to treat everyone like family.  My close friends all have a  code to get in and borrow the pool or something out of my closet.  It’s housed book clubs, bible studies, and temporarily a high school youth group.  It once housed a year long roommate and I haven’t kept count but I’m going to guess about 500 people between dinners and game nights.

To be honest I catch some serious lip for being too trusting and open.  I shouldn’t let my friends have access.  I shouldn’t invite so many ‘strangers’ to my table.  I should stop treating workmen like family when they come to paint or fix or replace.  I should stop letting bible studies meet when I’m not even home.

To all of this I say: you’re probably right.  But in 9 years I’ve never lost a moment of sleep over any of this because it doesn’t totally feel like mine anyway.  I trust that the Lord has and will ultimately take care of this place for as long as it’s ours (mine and his).  It’s never taken a dollar of damage in any of the hurricanes.  When all of South Tampa flooded enough to require boats, we were dry.  And while I don’t think I ever make ‘stupid’ choices about how to be a homeowner – I don’t worry.  I just fling open the door and welcome everyone who enters with the same mentality: welcome home.

There have been some really sweet seasons here.  I’ve laughed (a little tearfully) at how many people with bigger, nicer, fancier homes have come here and said: I just want to live here!  It’s so great.  It IS great.  It’s simple and cozy and absolutely nothing fancy about it and I love it all the more for that.  Even my own Dad said the first time he visited (2 years after I purchased it): I would totally live here. (Note: I did not invite him too).

I regularly pray that when people come here it will feel like a sanctuary to everyone who enters.  Over and over people report that they just can’t put their finger on what it is they love about being here but I know – the Holy Spirit hangs out here. Even last month after I profusely encouraged my flooring guys to make themselves at home I came home and realized they’d eaten leftovers out of the fridge and my heart soared – this is what I pray for.

When people describe me they always mention that I love to cook.  The truth is: I do not love to cook.  What I love, is to entertain.  So I will slave away in a kitchen all day if it means gathering people around the table and having genuine community.

I was recently asked about this by a friend.  How as someone who likes to do things at a certain level, do you get to the place of being welcoming even when you don’t have time to make it dinner party level.  I try to give thoughtful answers to good questions so I thought about that for a while afterwards. The truth is I learned a long time ago to ‘stay ready’.  It’s next to impossible, for me, to keep my house (or really anything in my life) perfect but I try to leave each morning with it ‘good enough’ to bring someone home with me.  This is my way of never turning away someone who wants to borrow the pool on their day off, or stop by and grab a clutch for an event that night.  It encourages me to invite, to share, and to welcome.

May the next 9 years or 9 homes, whichever these next few seasons include, teach me even more about hospitality. My small group is studying biblical hospitality and making room for others and it is an incredible reminder to me of how far I have to go. And may no ones cautions ever make me forget that it’s never really been mine anyway.

 

 

 

 

Do

In 2014 I spend several months writing commands for my life as I focused on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live.  They’re back in the archives if you ever want to revisit them.  I was actually writing quite a bit more back then than I do now.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I was sharing a lot more of my writing then than I am now.

From time to time I go back  and reread those commandments because they still ring oh so true today.  One of my favorite commandments (I stole the commandment idea and the title for this one from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project) was: Do What Ought to be Done.

I closed the blog post explaining is with these words and they continue to be one of my favorite paragraphs I’ve ever put down on paper: And so the 5th commandment was born – do what ought to be done. Not what’s easiest. Not what’s fair. Without consideration for the poor or good behaviors or intentions of others. Just simply: do what ought to be done. When it it’s costly, when it matters most, and even if no one else does – do what ought to be done.

The healthy part of these commmandments is that they’re written to apply to me.  You can drive yourself crazy worrying about the bad or wrong decisions other people make but the truth is, just making sure you’re doing the right thing is enough work.  What I love and go back to over and over about this blogpost is this: when no one else does.  There will be days that feel like no one else will do the right thing but who I am on those days matters the most.  They define my character.  My character cannot be compromised by the behaviors or even the intentions of others – it has to be consistent.

When it’s costly and even when no one else does.

I shared just this week the story of the only class I ever failed in college.  I once failed a class for standing up to a professor.  In 20ish years of education he was the worst teacher I ever encountered and the horrible, hateful things he said to his students haunt me to this day.  Finally, one day, I took a stand.  I’ve earned a lot of A’s in my day but that D meant more than years of A’s combined because I did what ought to be done even when it cost me.

When I am tempted to defend or guard myself instead of doing what’s right I have to come back to this post, to this commandment.  I have to remind myself that I wrote it for me and that who I am in these moments matters most of all.  Sometimes doing the right thing will be thankless and humbling. It will frequently be horribly unfair.  Those are the grades that should make the fridge.

When it’s costly, when it matters most, and even if no one else does – do what ought to be done.

Adjusting the Sails

Creature of habit that I am, change always comes with an adjustment period for me. In preparation for what I knew would be a tough season of work I spend several months deciding how I would adjust my personal life, my travel schedule, and my routines to maximize the time and energy I would need to give to be successful at our database transition.

Then, for months our committee worked really hard and I personally helped clean up, migrate, and adjust 1.5 million attendance records and about 100,000 people profiles.  I’ll let you imagine how much work that was.  Then, through circumstances we couldn’t control – the new system just didn’t work out for us at this time.  We pulled the plug.

I’m driven by a desire to succeed at what I do and I’m so afraid of failure I sometimes miss opportunities.  So you can imagine how this decision weighed on my type A mind.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned the last few years though it’s this: success isn’t always the outcome you expect.  If we’d forced ourselves forward with the wrong system that wouldn’t have been a success.  If we’d converted only to have to go through this whole process again the next year, that would have been a failure and a struggle.

Perhaps success is knowing when to readjust your sails.

Taking the entire weekend off of work and even e-mail I spent time with my Mom, even leaving my phone in the car.  I recharged and I thought about this next chapter as we essentially ‘go back to the drawing board’ and begin again to make choices for the future. I’m reminded of all the times readjusting my sails has drastically saved my future…

In college, I took a break from pursuing my faith and I paid some consequences for that.  Just before graduation I realized I was discontent and had grown increasingly selfish.  I readjusted my sails and by the time I graduated I’d made some necessary changes to get back on track and to reprioritize.  I wouldn’t be here today, in Tampa, working for a church if I hadn’t.

After college I was learned the ropes of a new career and I quickly realized that despite having grown up under the tutelage of two of the best money managers in the world (my parents) I still had no idea what I was doing and I wasn’t getting ahead.  I signed up for Financial Peace University and again I had to readjust sails.  I laid out my budget, I got honest about my spending and I said: if I don’t make a change now I’m going to get too far down the wrong path to make it back.

Within the year I had taken a second job, paid off my debt, and prepared to buy a house. I bought a house almost exactly a year after that financial course and I’m sure if you’ve ever done this you know how much you learn about expenses when you own a home.  As in: everything costs more than you think.  But having adjusted the sails in time to get ahead instead of further behind I knew how to tackle this next set of obsticles and as I continue to work towards being debt free with my home by 35 I can tell you – I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t started there.

All my life I thought I wanted to work in football.  To follow in the footsteps of my Dad in some way (though coaching seemed out since my Dad reminds me when I have bold opinions that I don’t really know that much).  I took a fun, fast paced event job traveling the country and putting on events with NFL teams.  I loved it for a season and then I quickly realized that level of stress did NOT love me.  You’ve probably read me share previously the toll that took on my health eventually because I couldn’t master the idea that events of thousands of kids are chaotic no matter how much planning you do.

When I decided to leave that job I had an incredible offer at a financial organization that paid so much money I wasn’t sure what to buy first.  Just as I prepared to accept I got a call, out of the blue, about working for my church.  I literally laughed in my prayer life that week: surely you don’t want me to give up all this money to start all over as an assistant, again.  But he did.  Almost 5 years later I can’t imagine where my life would have gone if I’d said no to this calling.  The Lord put me here for this season and I have grown and moved and developed as a result. Though I must give Him full credit for that sail adjustment – I was planning on a house with a mote and maybe a Range Rover.

So as I prepare to embrace this next chapter and probably experience some decision fatigue in the coming months I’m reminded of this: success is knowing when to adjust your sails.  When to call it.  When to make changes.  When to pause and ask for advice. Perhaps most importantly of all: success is making the right decision for the involved parties even at the expense of your own time and effort.

On the other hand, failure is refusing to redirect.  It is going too far down the wrong path because readjusting is hard and humbling.  It is making decisions for the wrong reasons or avoiding making them at all.

May we all know when to adjust so we end up at the right destination.