What Makes You Brave?

a guest post from author and leader friend Nicole Unice

brave enoughMy leader friend Nicole Unice is a pastor, author, podcast host, wife and mom. I have recommended her most recent book, Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free, so many times I asked if she might be willing to share a bit more with you on what it looks like to be a brave enough woman and leader. 

I signed her book but then she lingered for a moment. The sun was settling down for the night, but her eyes were bright as she put her hand back down on the table in front of us. “Does it work?” she said. I hesitated, not sure what she meant. She repeated her question. “I mean, did it work for you? Are you brave?”

I was signing her Brave Enough book so I should have had a great answer, but I actually did a double take when I thought about her question. Her question was incredible important because this woman was really asking: “is this true?” She wanted to know if she could actually, really, truly “get over her fears, flaws and failures to live bold and free” as the subtitle so audaciously claims.

If we really lived like this kind of courage was possible and accessible to us, our lives would be different. If we really believed God not only loved us, but also was deeply interested in the people He was making us to be, we would be changed.

When the truth of God’s love combines with the courage to be our real selves, it can explode into a glorious freedom—the kind that changes a person permanently.  But God’s chemistry set is a little different than ours—in all kinds of beautiful ways. For weakness he gives strength. For failures he gives freedom. For brokenness he brings healing. He loves unexpected combinations that bring beautiful results.

And so I looked into those bright eyes framed by a darkening sky and I answered, “yes, it works. But it won’t be the way you think it will be.”  Here’s some of the characteristics of a brave-enough woman:

  1. Brave Enough Women love grace. They love grace because they know they desperately need it. They have seen their ugly side and they want to deal with it, but they also know they don’t have the ability to do so. Brave enough women don’t just like the idea of Jesus, they actually realize how deeply they need someone to fix what’s broken inside of them.
  1. Brave Enough Women give grace. They make a daily choice to lean toward the truth of themselves as declared by God. Fully flawed but deeply loved, extremely limited but completely free. Armed with that truth, brave enough women are letting God change their hearts about the people around them—even the ones they are really angry with, disappointed in, frustrated by, and sick of. Especially those ones.
  1. Brave Enough Women get in the race. They aren’t interested in being spectators in life. While they sometimes want to pull the covers up over their heads and hide until Jesus returns, they pray for God to give them strength and put both feet on the floor the next morning. Brave Enough women know that getting in the race is hard work, but ultimately rewarding.
  1. Brave Enough Women take a break. They recognize that limits are given by God, and they recognize their own pride that’s often at work when they live beyond them. Brave Enough women realize that resting when the house is still messy, playing hide and seek with their kids instead of finishing that last email, and finding joy and wonder in every day despite the difficulties of this life is a tangible sign of trust in their Heavenly Father.

Courage isn’t about living a pain-free life. It’s about the grit to live the hard stuff with joy. Courage doesn’t mean we aren’t scared of anything—but it doesn’t mean we aren’t paralyzed by it.  So to answer my friend’s question: yes, I believe it works. Yes, I believe Jesus gives us courage that changes us from the inside out. And yes, I believe with all my heart that it’s possible for me, and for you, and for every woman out there who says “I want to be brave enough.”

Nicole Unice is the author of Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free. The book also has a companion 8-week DVD study. Follow Nicole on Twitter (@nicoleunice) and find out more about Nicole’s ministry and speaking schedule at nicoleunice.com

The Most Important Question We Need to Ask (and Answer)

forest looking up by kim danielAs leaders, we ask all kinds of questions.

We ask for an update on the project. We ask about the health of a loved one. We ask for a reference. We ask if this is really the best way to move forward. We ask how we can help. We ask if we can rearrange our meeting schedules. We ask where she got those great shoes. We ask about kids and carpool and referrals for roof repair.

But the number one question we neglect to ask is perhaps the question that matters most:

How is it with your soul?

Maybe we don’t ask this question because we don’t really want to know the answer. Maybe we don’t ask the question because we don’t want it to be asked of us.

Maybe it’s because you’re in a spiritual desert of sorts. Your soul feels dry and you haven’t felt God’s presence or heard his voice in so long. You’re afraid if you admit this to your friend who appears to be a spiritual giant that she’ll judge you or throw her Bible at you or not have a clue what you’re talking about. Or maybe you’re afraid you won’t know how to respond if your leader friend is feeling the exact same way.

It’s easier to not ask. To not invite the accountability. To not be vulnerable. Believe me, do I ever get it.

But what if we dared to go there?

What if we invited a few of those close leader friends who love Jesus and want to bring glory to Him with their lives and leadership, what if we cared for the soul of our leadership together?

What if we checked in on each other’s souls like we check in on each other’s roommates? What if we cared just as much about the spiritual strength of our leadership as we did the next advancement opportunity? What if we prayed for our friend to encounter the Comforter as much as we try to comfort her ourselves?

What would our leadership, our teams, our organizations look like then?

Who can you ask to join you on this journey? Who can help you care for the soul of your leadership?

For a few other posts on this topic, check out the soul care series.

 

 

Lent and the Leader: 4 Resources for the Journey

Celtic Cross in cemetery in Oban, Scotland*This is an updated post.

About this time every year, the soul of my leadership longs for Lent.

More than just a “spring cleaning for the soul”, the 40 day Lenten season invites me to not only repent and renew, but to re-focus on the One who is at the center of the Easter celebration; and hopefully the center of my life and leadership. I love Henri Nouwen’s description:

Lent is a time of returning to God.  It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace, and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us without really finding what we desire.  Only God can give us what we want.  So we must be reconciled with God … The season of Lent, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.” 

I’m reminded today, on Ash Wednesday, of my first experiences with Lent. Growing up in a Baptist church, I was always curious about my Methodist friends who would come to school on Thursday with ashed crosses on their foreheads and the sudden willpower to give up chocolate for Jesus. I never really understood the why behind the “giving up” or “taking on” aspects of the season and what it had to do with real life.

Awhile back, the Bible church where I was on staff introduced this beautiful tradition to the congregation. I chose to try it out by giving up my habitual Starbucks visits. As I was driving to work one morning after a long, sleepless night, I pulled into my usual Starbucks rationalizing that I really needed that double tall skinny vanilla latte to get through the day. I felt my Father gently reminding me this was why I needed Lent; to return to the One who was the true source of all I needed to not just survive my day, but thrive in my leadership.

Whether you are familiar with Lent or brand new to this season, I challenge you to join countless other Christian leaders around the world during these 40 days. As Ruth Haley Barton says, “the best thing you can bring to your leadership is your own transforming self.” My prayer for this season is that God would mold, shape, and transform us that we may lead out of the strength of our soul.

The following are 4 Recommended Resources for your Lenten Journey:

  1. Lent Challenge with Margaret Feinberg: this year the loved author and Bible teacher is encouraging us to read through the Gospels.
  2. The Transforming Center: Author and leader Ruth Haley Barton and her team have pulled together a variety of resources for leaders.
  3. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross: a reading plan developed by the thoughtful team at She Reads Truth.
  4. Lent Guide from Irving Bible Church: a free download with readings journal space from the pastoral and creative teams at Irving Bible Church. 

 What will you do to help you strengthen the soul of your leadeship during Lent?

How will you intentionally draw near to the Savior this season?

Leading with Joy, Even When It’s Awful

I looked through tear-filled eyes at the mighty women around the table and knew I would never be the same.

Our broken hearts grieved the unspeakable horrors that had just been spoken. Stories of lives ravaged and broken by violence, sickness, and poverty. These women had not only witnessed the devestating effects, but had lived them, too.

After hearing their stories, I expected my new leader friends to feel defeated. The numbers were too big, the problems too complex. I expected them to be filled with bitterness and hopelessness at the injustice of it all.

What shocked me more than their stories was their joy.

morethanwhimsyTheir eyes lit up and their voices filled with delight as they spoke of a young leader stepping up or God’s provision for a new microfinance project. They oohed and aahed as they passed pictures of their children and grandchildren. They grinned sly smiles when they shared how they worked around broken systems. And oh how they laughed great big belly laughs as they watched me try to learn their dance. (It was quite comical.)

Joy was more than a feeling: joy fueled their resolve and their fight.

And over the course of a week in a small guest house in Nairobi, these strong women led the charge to fight back with joy as we prayed, and strategized, and banded together to make a difference in the lives of women in Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Sudan.

These leaders taught me the power of God’s joy in life and leadership.

fight back with joy coverMy leader friend Margaret Feinberg shares the power of joy in her latest book, Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. Through vulnerable storytelling, a difficult diagnosis, and a good dose of humor, Margaret reveals how joy is more than whimsy. It’s the weapon you can use to fight life’s battles.

I’ve recommended and shared and gifted Margaret’s books countless times over the years. If you’ve ever struggled to find joy in the middle of the awful, ugly, hard, pick up a couple of copies of Fight Back With Joy. (You’ll have a friend you need to share it with, too. Trust me.) You can find out more by visiting Margaret’s website, checking out the bible study trailer, or ordering the book here. Check out #fightbackwithjoy on Twitter, too.

Leader Friend, I’m praying you are encouraged to choose joy for the battles you are facing today. Whether personal or professional, your difficult struggles have never met a weapon quite like joy.

Overwhelmed Schedules and Our Best Yes

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

overwhelmedschedule

Overwhelmed Schedule?

With school back in session and fall activities and programs and projects all launching, a peak at your calendar can lead to a heavy heart and even heavier sigh.

“Oh NO. Why didn’t I say no?”

I remember heaving a particularly heavy sigh one fall as I stared down my insane schedule. Fall was supposed to be a season of fresh starts and exciting new chapters and yet I was walking into it exhausted and full of dread. My schedule was overloaded with too much work, too many commitments, too many expectations and too many responsibilities.

Failing to say “no” had led to no margin. No rest. No fun. No relief. (The worst no.)

My overwhelming schedule had squashed my spirit and THE Spirit. There was no leading from the strength of my soul; there was only surviving. I couldn’t hear God’s voice speaking into my life and leadership because of all the noise blaring at me from every urgent meeting, last-minute request, family need and upset volunteer.

Ever been there? Are you there right now?

“The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.” Lysa TerKeurst

By saying yes to every request or demand, we are saying no to the people and priorities that take us closer to the woman God is creating us to be. We are saying no to our very best yes.

Leader friend, deciding to never say no to anything is not just a work-life balance issue; it’s a soul care issue. By deciding that kind of life isn’t life-giving in the least, we can decide to focus on our best yes every day. Life-giving indeed.

We’ll dive more into the how of a sustainable schedule with healthy boundaries and focus in upcoming posts. For now, I wonder, how is it with your soul?

How have you seen this play out in your own life? Please share in the comments below.

New York Times Bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst has written a new book about finding your Best Yes.  You can grab a copy here.

Leading Out of the Overflow: Soul Care Series

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If you’re like me, sometimes you give and give and give to your team, your boss, your family, your friends, until there is just nothing left. You’re bone dry. Empty. Depleted.

Ever been there or is it just me?

A couple of years ago, I shared a 4 part series on Soul Care for Leaders. Because we can’t lead out of emptiness and because we can’t lead apart from God, I shared a few of the lessons I had learned trying to do just that. I thought it would be beneficial to share all the posts again, in case you find yourself in that empty place in your leadership, today.

Our God wants us to live and lead out of the overflow.

I hope this series will point you to the Source of strength more sustaining than a triple shot of espresso. He wants to overwhelm us with overflow. If we’ll come to Him over and over again for a refilling of His grace, His love, His patience, His peace, will splash over the edge and onto those around us. And isn’t that what our team really needs from us?

3 Ways to Leave God Out of Your Leadership

Leading with God Part 1: Abide

Leading with God Part 2: Rest

Leading with God Part 3: Dicernment

4 Ways Leaders Can Bring the “Holy” Back to Holy Week

stockvault-stone-cross-117451Holy Week and Easter Holiday Week are not synonymous. The hubbub of the holiday often hides the holy. All the egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, special lunches, great sales, new outfits, pastel Peeps, cute crafts, and jam-packed church services can crowd out the risen Christ. Your company doesn’t give you a day off so you spend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday evenings frantically shopping and baking and coordinating instead of preparing your heart.

And if you lead at a church or ministry? Not much better. Months of planning, last-minute changes to implement, pressure to make it the “best Easter ever!”, traditions to uphold, people to please, sugar-crazed children to corral, and insane work schedules are hard on the leader’s soul. Helping everyone else experience the sacrifice of our Savior and the reality of His resurrection can sometimes lead to feelings of emptiness and guilt for missing Him yourself.

So what’s a leader to do? The following are 4 Ways Leaders can bring the “holy” back to Holy Week:

  1. Simplify your schedule. Say no to attending three Easter egg hunts in one day. Say no to spending the whole week working on your infamous fifteen course brunch. Say no to adding those eleven labor-intensive details into the worship service that nobody will notice but your family because you have to work all night to make it happen. *Sigh.* Simplify your schedule and make some space for connecting with the King of Kings. 
  2. Soak in silence. Turn off your email alert. Silence your phone. Stop talking/meeting/listing. Simply sit in silence for a few minutes each day. Stop doing and just be. Be fully present in the presence of your Savior. Be listening for the Holy Spirit’s whisper. Be still.
  3. Slowly read Scripture. Read a different translation or listen to the audio version of the familiar story to bring a fresh account. Imagine what it was like to be one of the women witnessing the crucifixion or rejoicing at the resurrection. Meditate on one of the following passages: Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-20.
  4. Say thank you. You can count your blessings in a gratitude journal. You can sing your heart out making someone else’s words your song of thanks. Or simply make “Thank You” your breath prayer for the week. Saying “thank you” shifts your perspective and lifts your eyes to meet His.

What about you leader friend? What ways have you found to care for your soul during Holy Week?

Julie Pierce is passionate about two things: empowering leaders to change the world and pursuing pie perfection.
Julie is a leadership coachconsultant and communicator
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Little if Questions Call for Big IF Prayers

sad about ice creamAs a leader, I thrive on asking questions.

Focused questions get me to the source of a sticky situation. Thoughtful questions spur on an intentional conversation. And powerful questions coach others into their potential.

But it’s the nagging, doubt-filled questions that can trip up my leadership. They hang around in my head after all is said and done. They catch me around the corner as I walk toward something new. They leave me feeling unsettled, unsure and flat-out scared.

“What if this isn’t as good as I thought it would be?” “What if I’ve made a terrible mistake?” “What if I’m not cut out for this?”

What if, if, if…

These are the “little if” questions. Filled with doubt, this line of questions chips away at my confidence and has me second-guessing my calling. This line of questioning calls for “big IF” prayers.

As in: IF You are in this, God, our efforts will be more than enough. IF You are lighting the way, I will follow the path. IF You have begun this work in me, I trust you will be faithful to complete it.

Unlike “little if” questions, “big IF” prayers are bold and filled with faith. Big IF prayers are expecting answers from the One who holds dearly all of our dreams, plans and purposes. As the author of your leadership story, God would love to hear your big IF prayers for your leadership today and for all of your tomorrows.

What little if questions in your leadership call for big IF prayers today?

 

 

 

How to Recover from the Leadership Crash

02_getty_rm_photo_of_crash_test_dummy_in_wrecked_carIn my last post, I talked about an experience common to my leadership: the crash. In short, the crash is a physical and emotional adrenaline hangover of sorts. This wall of disillusionment and doubt seems to slam into me out of nowhere after wrapping up an intense initiative. Even my successful accomplishments can seem dismal in the middle of this perspective-shattering collision.

Ever been there in your leadership?

In the Bible, we see the story of a prophet named Elijah who had poured out until he was spent (1 Kings 17-19). His significant season of “successful” ministry was met with a death threat from the queen. So he runs for his life (literally) and retreats to the wilderness. And there in the wilderness, under the shade of a broom tree, he crashes and recovers.

In this story, we see Elijah do three things that would serve us well in our own crash recovery: he sleeps, he eats, and he listens for God.

  1. Sleep: Go to bed early. Sleep in. Take a nap. Give yourself permission to get some extra shut-eye and let your body and mind rest from the hard work.
  2. Eat: You may not be eating angel food cake like Elijah, but you can plan ahead for a nourishing, no-extravagant-effort-necessary meal. For me, this looks like indulging in a favorite comfort food or dining out at one of our go-to restaurants (you know, the one where the wait staff knows our names, and we always order the same things).
  3. Listen for God: Carve out time for activities that help you connect with your Creator in a meaningful way. Listen for his voice, and look for evidence of his care.

At this stage in my leadership, I can decrease my recovery time by intentionally preparing for the aftermath of the crash. A little TLC does my leadership a world of good.

What about you? How do you recover from the crash? What helps you refresh and refuel?

How will you strengthen your soul this year?

devotionalIn my last post, I asked how you will invest in your leadership growth this year. I offered three steps (and lots of resource recommendations) to get you started in creating and implementing your own plan for growth.

But what about your spiritual growth? The soul of your leadership? How will you care for, cultivate and strengthen your soul this year?

As spiritual leaders, our souls are at the very core of our leadership. Just like with our physical bodies, when we neglect to strengthen the core of our leadership, we risk further injuries along the way.

Pull away from the day-to-day this week, and consider how you will care for your soul this year. Make a plan, and schedule it in your calendar. The following are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Schedule a regular, weekly Sabbath rest.
  • Participate in a spiritual retreat. Maybe a silent retreat or a retreat sponsored by your church would be just right. (I loved my time away a couple of years ago at Laity Lodge in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.)
  • Dive deeper into the Bible with friends through a small group Bible study at your church or with neighbors. (Not sure where to start? Try one of these studies from my friends Dr. Sue Edwards, Margaret Feinberg or Dr. Jackie Roese.)
  • Memorize Scripture verses to help bring to mind truths you want to apply.
  • Try out a new-to-you spiritual discipline. Read Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership or Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton for introductions to several practices.
  • Partner with a certified Spiritual Director to accompany you on the journey.

How will you strengthen your soul this year? Share your approach in the comments below!