Today is the five year anniversary of a conference that changed my life unexpectedly. The five-year mark has made me feel reflective, and it has made me realize how much … Continue reading How Jon Acuff impacted my life in ways I didn’t expect
Category: The Start Experiment
New Chapter and Healing from the Previous One…
I began a new chapter in my life this week – moving from unemployment/temporary work to a new, “permanent” position.
I had a difficult time in the weeks leading up to this new beginning as I was unsure of whether or not I should have accepted the position. It didn’t have anything to do with the job or the employer itself – it had everything to do with a “fear of commitment” in regards to jobs that I didn’t know I had developed. It had everything to do with past scars caused by some awful supervisors that I’ve had in the recent past. And it also had everything to do with the fact that this isn’t my “dream” – this isn’t what I feel so passionate about, and I was afraid that taking this job would prevent me from further pursuing that which God has placed in my heart. Essentially, I was afraid of what might be around the corner and I was afraid of making the wrong decision.
From the very first hour of my new job I began to see that the negative things about my past job are nonexistent here. From the smallest to the largest things, God has redeemed my employment situation. I also began to see that I had built a wall around my heart during my last job that was preventing me from being excited/feeling blessed about where God has brought me now. I didn’t realize that I had done this, but God is using new experiences each day to slowly remove one brick at a time, which is showing me just how high the wall had become. Still, even now, I am having a hard time letting myself be excited and letting myself just accept that God has brought me to a place where I am needed, wanted, affirmed, empowered, treated with respect, included…
Looking back (hindsight is 20/20, after all) over this past summer, there is no doubt in my mind that everything God allowed to happen was incredibly intentional:
May 17, 2013: Laid off from HE&R (SO THANKFUL!!!!), beginning a time of solitude, reflection, unknown, and healing.
At the same time, Brennan and I are beginning to feel that we shouldn’t be “regular relief houseparents” at the Milton Hershey School anymore due to family/church circumstances…we begin praying.
June/July: Able to do photography for Christian Retreat Center‘s camps because I was laid off, reminding me of my love for photography.
June 25: Jon Acuff sends out an email/blog post/tweet about joining him on an adventure and I accept.
Brennan and I decide to try to become “emergency relief” at MHS which would allow us to be home each weekend (unless called) and would allow us to still be involved with the students.
July 15: “The START Experiment” begins…my risk was to focus on self-discipline after several months of not-so-subtle nudging from the Lord…
July-August: I realize through the START Experiment and the accompanying community what my dream job really is and I begin to pursue it. I start Essential Harrisburg and begin sending my portfolio to potential organizations.
I also interviewed for this new job at MHS in August.
We are told that we wouldn’t be allowed to be “emergency relief” due to the number of couples already in that status. I also find out from HR a few days after my interview that I cannot accept a potential job offer from MHS if we are still “regular relief” because of the number of hours I would be working.
We are faced with an incredibly difficult decision to either quit or stay on as “regular relief”…
One Sunday, while covering a student home, my supervisor “just happens” to come by and I am able to pour my heart out to him regarding all of this and our desire to stay on with the school as houseparents.
We find out on September 3 that we have been granted “emergency relief” status…and an hour later, I am offered the job that I later accepted.
September 12-17: I had the incredible privilege of attending “The START Conference” in Nashville, TN and finally got to meet some of the amazing friends I made through “The START Experiment” and was able to further clarify my “dream” and made some connections with professionals in that field. AMAZING. I came home filled with energy, excitement, peace, and even more trust in what God is doing behind the scenes.
Our God is not a God of coincidence. Nothing that happened this summer is a coincidence.
If I had not been laid off…if I had not accepted Jon’s offer of adventure…if…
This new chapter of life is still very new, and my future is still very “fuzzy” and obscure, but I already feel so at peace.
I know that God has placed the dream in my heart to travel around the world, taking pictures and telling stories, and I have no doubt that He will bring that to fruition in His timing. For now, I am going to do my best here, at a job about which I am passionate, telling the story of Mr. & Mrs. Hershey and their incredible generosity and legacy, while waiting for whatever God might have in the future.
The Start Experiment, Round Two: Day Nine
Today, one of my wonderful fellow “Starters” posted something that almost made me cry because it spoke directly to my heart.
Know what isn’t the only reason you’re not working for your dreams? It isn’t always your fear that is preventing you from being successful. Sometimes it is your unwillingness to sacrifice. You’ve got to decide today that the pain of staying the same and not chasing your dream is costing you more than it would to chase it. — Ashley Revely
Oh my. Between that and the email that Jon Acuff sent to those of us in Round Two today, I feel broken. In a good way. I forgot my journal at home, so I decided to just blog about it since I’m sure that others feel the same way and might need this encouragement.
Jon’s email today talked about not just settling for “jobs” when they’re not something that makes us feel alive and when they’re not part of our calling. I have done that my whole adult life. Every single job.
Funny “coincidence” that after I read that email I headed to an interview for a job that I could do and could do it well. But, it has nothing to do with the passions in my soul and my new-found mission in life. Same with the job I interviewed for last week. In fact, I honestly feel that accepting either of these jobs would be detrimental to my dream. Interesting what a new perspective can show you.
Ashley’s quote doesn’t only apply to my dream, though: it also applies to weight-loss and health. Before our wedding, perhaps because I had a goal, I lost 20 lbs and worked hard at it. I felt GREAT and loved what I saw in the mirror. I felt thin. After the wedding, I gained it all back PLUS some because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice things along the way. I’m realizing now that the cost of staying the same is far more painful than chasing my dream and working hard.
Today I’m going to break both my dream job and my dream of weighing 45 pounds less into simple steps and look at WHY I’m failing at weight loss. I know that most of it is due to lack of preparation and planning, but some is still due to laziness. What will it cost to pursue my dream and what sacrifices are necessary? I am thinking that any sort of permanent job is at the top of the list. I’m also thinking that getting up at 5am to ensure that I have plenty of focus-time will continue to be a must.
What is it costing me to stay the same? Joy, peace, self-image, contentment, passion.
What might it cost me to change? Time, effort, maybe financial sacrifice, trusting God a whole lot more.
The pain of staying the same is DEFINITELY costing me a lot. It’s time to sacrifice things that are standing in the way so that I can fully pursue what I am called to be.
The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day Three, Part 2
“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Tonight I attended a meeting of the Harrisburg Social Media Club after being invited by a fellow Start Experimenter who lives nearby. I went on behalf of Essential Harrisburg in hopes that I could learn more about how to utilize social media for my “business” and do some networking.
I assumed that it was going to be like a class where we all sit quietly and learn. I had no idea that they would ask us to introduce ourselves and our organization! So, in front of 30 strangers, I introduced EssentialHarrisburg.com and gave a brief description. That was slightly nerve-wracking – but not because of the public speaking element. Up until that moment, my website had existed only on Facebook in “safe” circles: friends, family, and the Start Experiment community. Now, there are strangers–businesspeople in the surrounding area–who know about it and could possibly check it out. And in the moment, I briefly questioned whether or not I even belonged there…whether or not my idea had value in the world. Fear strikes at the most inconvenient times. 🙂
This is exciting, but it also reminds me of how much work needs to be done to generate quality content. Also, I need to get business cards. I wrote that down on my to-do list last week and spoke with a friend about creating a simple logo for me…now I am very aware that I need to get those done as soon as possible so that in moments like the one tonight, I have something tangible that I can hand out to keep the idea fresh in the recipient’s mind.
I also sent my portfolio and an application to a missions organization tonight to possibly help them out with photojournalism. I’m pretty excited about this organization because they offer very unique service opportunities that would be perfect for Brennan and I to do together.
This thing is real. It is actually happening.
The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day Three
The further into this Start Experiment I go, the more I am filled with wonder and anticipation at what God is doing in my life and in my marriage. The second round is already proving to be more amazing than the first, and I think part of that is simply due to the fact that I have been able to figure out my dream. The other part is that this community of people continues to grow closer together and the momentum continues to build. We’re all in this together.
So far, I am 4.5 lbs down from when I started this project, which isn’t impressive considering that it has been a month. However, I wasn’t as strict as I wanted to be during the first round. I admittedly didn’t try as hard as I should have. But, that has changed. I have newfound determination.
To give myself a visual goal, I hung a dress on my closet door that I want to wear on our anniversary. I currently cannot fit into this dress, but I love it. I really want to wear it on November 6th. But, in order to wear it, I need to lose probably 20 more pounds in the next 83 days. That is a little over 11 weeks from now, and if I lose the recommended 2 pounds per week, I can lose more than 20 by then. That will be about half of my weight-loss goal.
So this is my audacious health-related goal: to lose 20 pounds by my anniversary so that I can wear the black dress.
The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day One
It begins again: 24 days of focused and audacious dreaming and risk-taking. Round One of The Start Experiment brought me such freedom and courage, and I am beyond excited to see what happens next.
My risks for the first round were focused on self-discipline (physical and spiritual), and I am going to continue those elements through this next round (and hopefully for the rest of my life). I will continue to eat clean, exercise, blog, and spend time with God each day.
As a result of the connections made in Round One, I was able to focus in more on what my dream is and what it is going to take to make it a reality.
I asked myself this question: if I could do anything at all for the rest of my life, regardless of whether I made money or not, what would that be? And the answer is this: I would travel around the world and take pictures in order to tell the stories that need to be told (i.e. missions, disaster/response, capturing God’s Creation, etc.).
That led me to create Essential Harrisburg. I realized that, through this new blog/website, I have an opportunity to grow my skills, increase my audience, share my city with the world, and use this as a way to serve the city in a new way all without having to fly anywhere. I needed to Start somewhere, so I decided to Start in my own backyard.
This leads to what I am risking for round two. The theme is “Audacious” and we were encouraged to be radical, to be risky and do something that really scares us. So, here’s what I’m going to do:
- Continue to work on self-discipline risk from Round One.
- Focus on writing a minimum of 3 posts a week (which includes photography) for www.essentialharrisburg.com in order to generate content like crazy so that I can approach someone from the City to connect with them and share my goals.
- Make contacts with people who can potentially help me obtain my dream job of being able to get paid to travel and do photography/missions.
- (the audacious one) Actually send my portfolio to a potential “employer” and not be afraid of rejection.
The next 24 days are going to be amazing…I just know it. I can’t wait to see what God does through this!
Essential Harrisburg: My New Project
On July 30, 2012, I put a note in my brand-new smartphone (my first one) about a new project that I thought about starting:
One year went by, exactly, before I thought about this idea again. I totally forgot this note existed, and I only found it because I went to leave a note about the same thing.
One thing that the Start Experiment has taught me is that procrastination needs to no longer be part of my life. This is a huge example! A year ago I had an idea to jump-start my “dream” and I totally forgot about it. Who knows where I could be right now if I had Started right then?
Essential Harrisburg is now up and running, and I have probably a year’s worth of content already lined up! I’m trying to find my style and my voice, but I didn’t want to wait until it was perfect to Start. I can always go back and edit along the way 🙂
Please check out EssentialHarrisburg.com and “Like” it on Facebook! Follow it on Instagram #essentialharrisburg 🙂 Spread the word! Send in ideas for content (must be locally owned and operated places only–no chains). I’m so excited to spread the word about my community and learn even more in the process.
The Start Experiment: Reflections
Today is the last day of round one of the Start Experiment, and it has been a great 24 days. Did I perfectly meet all of my goals? No. But that wasn’t my objective. I set specific goals that all revolved around one thing: self-discipline. And I do feel that I made progress toward that goal!
Over the past 24 days, my desire to read my Bible each day has increased. I’ve been working through 1 & 2 Chronicles and have been excited to see what’s going to happen next (since I love history and haven’t read these books in a while, it makes sense that I’m excited!) 🙂 I’m loving watching God’s plan unfold and these stories have taught me some valuable lessons for where I am in life, too.
I haven’t lost much weight, but I have made progress in being more aware of my food choices. We’re working on not having anything that isn’t “clean” in our house, which forces me to cook with only “real food” and nothing processed. We have made it to the gym at least twice a week since we joined, and we’re going to be increasing that each week. Our goal is to go 5 days a week eventually, once our schedule calms down.
I also made progress on my “future” dream of being a travel photographer by creating “Essential Harrisburg” and beginning to generate content.
The road to self-discipline is still long, but I am excited to continue this process. I know that it will enrich my life greatly and will help me to be a better Jesus-follower, a better wife, and a better future mother. This experiment gave me the momentum to “Start” and to stop procrastinating!
I’m looking forward to the second round of The Start Experiment because life will be much less hectic during this round. I went on vacation, started a temp assignment, had my parents here, broke my main camera lens, and had many other disruptions to my “normal” schedule, and that made it difficult to find my groove.
If you’d like to join the second round, you are invited! Registration is only open for 24 hours, so join now. It’s not overwhelming and the daily tasks are simple, yet challenging. The encouragement from the Start Community is unmatched and I am LOVING the interaction in our Facebook group.
To join in, take this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StartExpRound2
The Start Experiment: Days Thirteen through Fifteen
All in all, I’m doing “okay” with my goals. Bible reading has been the easiest to keep! I gained a pound back this weekend, but that’s to be expected given the circumstances (see below).
I’m quickly finding out that it will be harder to be strictly “clean” eaters in real life, so I’m learning to figure out the best possible options when it comes to meals. Every other weekend, when we’re at Milton Hershey, I will face this…I don’t always have complete control of the menu and what we are preparing for the kids, so, like this weekend, I can’t eat completely “clean” or even healthy food unless I bring it from home. That isn’t to say that the homes aren’t normally stocked with healthy options! MHS is big on being healthy. But, many times we’re forced to improvise with what we can find in the house during the summer, and that typically means processed foods. It’s all good, though, because that’s life and that’s how our culture operates, and I need to learn to work with what I am given.
One of the girls in our home this weekend wanted to bake something so I tried it afterward…truly, I immediately could feel the sugar running through my body and did NOT like the feeling. So, even though I caved and ate sugar, I learned a valuable lesson from it. I believe that these moments will help me in the long run as I strive to completely eliminate refined sugar from my diet because I am learning to recognize how sugar feels and to remember that I don’t like that feeling.
I wrote a separate blog post about what I read in my Bible reading today…what an encouragement that was to just “Start” a new life and not look back…not let fear tell me that I’m going to miss out on so much or that life will be worse without sugar/processed foods. I know that God wants what is best for me and I am going to choose His best over anything else.
The Start Experiment: Choosing Destruction Over God’s Perfect Plan
In my “One Year Bible” the Old Testament passage today was from 2 Chronicles 25. It has been fascinating reading about all of the past kings of Israel and Judah and how they followed (or didn’t follow) God’s leading. In today’s passage, the king was following God but encountered fear when presented with a message from the Lord that required significant sacrifice.
For context, at this time, the nation of Israel was not following the Lord but the nation of Judah was. King Amaziah of Judah was building up his army so that he would be prepared when battle arose (which it often did). He surveyed his available troops and found that he didn’t have quite as many as he wanted to have; so, he hired men from Israel to join his troops and paid them 7,500 pounds of silver in exchange. That’s quite an investment.
After this, the Lord sent a messenger to King Amaziah to warn him to not bring in troops from Israel and said that if he added those troops he would surely fail in battle, no matter how well he fought. Essentially, the Lord said to not have anything to do with Israel because He knew what was best in the long run for King Amaziah and Judah.
v.8 If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.
This brings us to the verse that struck me this morning:
v.9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”
The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
Let’s sum this up. Amaziah hears from the Lord that if he continues with his plan he will be destroyed by the Lord Himself. His first thought is about the money that he invested and what he will lose if he follows what the Lord is telling him to do, not on the fact that the Lord is saving his life and the lives of his troops from certain destruction! God knew the hearts of the people of Israel and knew that it would be worse for them to infiltrate the army of Judah and spread their influence than to just destroy them all. So he has two choices: be destroyed and waste your investment, or be saved and waste your investment.
From our perspective this seems so ridiculous. We look at Amaziah and think, “What a moron! Be grateful!” But, if we think about this in simpler terms, we realize that we all do this. We convince ourselves that we “need” whatever our temptation may be and we don’t want to give it up because the sacrifice seems to be too great.
For King Amaziah, it was manpower and money. For me, it is sugar. I love ice cream. I love chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that is genetic. When faced with facts like a family history of diabetes, being overweight, knowledge that the longer I wait to reform my lifestyle the harder it will be, it seems like it should be as simple as deciding not to drink alcohol was (due to family history of alcoholism)…but it isn’t.
If I take the verses above and put them into my context, here’s how they would read:
If you keep allowing sugar and unhealthy eating be part of your life, you will be defeated by your desires no matter how well you fight.
Lesa asked the man of God, “But what about all that I am going to miss out on? I will be giving up so much!”
The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
In the moment, when presented with ice cream on a hot day, or chocolate everywhere I go in Hershey, it is so hard to remember the greater gift that lies ahead if I will just submit to a healthy lifestyle: weight loss and self-confidence, a longer life (in theory) because of my body being healthier, being a better example to our future children about what is really important in life, and most importantly, honoring God with the body He has given to me and keeping it holy and set-apart… Instead, all I can think about is what I am giving up in the moment. When that is my focus, it is easy to cave into the justifications like “You only live once!” or “Just this once, it won’t happen again” and eat that ice cream instead of exercising self-control.
Giving up refined sugar is hard. It is everywhere. But that can’t be an excuse for me to give in to temptation. There ARE ways to avoid it, even though it feels like I’m making a huge sacrifice. Fear tries to tell me that this is just too uncomfortable, that it isn’t worth it, that I can wait until tomorrow to start this…but the Voice of Truth says that the God I serve is greater than any of these things that my brain (and the world) tells me are desirable and worthy of my attention.
The New Testament passage today was from Romans 12, and this passage fit perfectly with the one above:
v.2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s Will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to give up something that will cause destruction in the end just because of what you have invested in it, or because of how uncomfortable it will be in the moment to let it go. God is greater than anything you are struggling with and He can give us FAR better things in exchange if we will just follow Him!