Don’t Dream Big: Why Hindsight Doesn’t Have to be 2020

I’ll be honest.

I’m really tempted to write a reflection post about the past decade. Where I started, where I’m ending, the ups and downs along the way…yada, yada. With so much to say, the piece would essentially come down to the right filter. As you know, rarely do I sugarcoat content through rose-colored lens or Panglossian takes.

However, with many writing such pieces these days, I want to go in a different direction. Instead of recapping seismic shifts and lessons learned the hard way, I want to discuss ways we as vocational leaders can seize the year ahead.

For many the miles we’ll walk in 2020, but far few the moments to stay ahead of hindsight. Why not break the spell of the typical by committing your ways before pursuing them?

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Wherever you’re at right now, know this…

While it’s my heart you embrace humble beginnings1 as fresh intimacy with God, it’s my hope you relish them to purify your idea of success.

Eventually, we’ll discuss how this looks in greater detail. For now, let’s go back to our initial question and dive in…

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If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a go-getter. You like to read, research, explore the unknown…all the while creating original and/or improved work for the world to enjoy. At times, you may be more inclined to sacrifice construct for the sake of benevolence or governance. Either way, you’re a dreamer, a stargazer hoping to experience something bigger than you. And it’s no secret why. After all, everyone is equipped with a unique smorgasbord of gifts and skills for such a time as this.

The problem is in our pursuit of impact, we often lose sight of that ‘why’. For instance, we may desire a certain level of influence, but forget the reason it exists…or pursue a goal with pure intention, but in the hustle, neglect what defines our singularity. If either resonates, first off, know you’re not alone. But secondly, receive peace and request wisdom this side of whatever you’re contending for.

‘Cause truth is: Often, we pray for the plunge, not when and how to plunge. We plow our plans for ministry, but not our hearts for it return. And the crazy thing is…it’s not like any of us are looking to sacrifice abiding on the altar of achievement. It’s not like we want our divine inspirations to overwhelm all modes of operation. Yet, when push comes to shove, chances are we rather balk than bask in the face of Immanuel God. Why is it when Giver meets gift, we rather run with our ambition than consecrate our passion? If we believe we’re loved by God and that His loving power resides in us, wouldn’t it make sense to sanctify His way over our own? Or are we scared of what we want to be yes’s being no’s we can’t understand?

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I don’t know about you, but as the clock hits a new decade, I’m slowly realizing something I wish I would have gotten a long time ago…

In the fine-tuning and pruning of life, we should see the big picture as more important than a big dream.

What is the big picture, you say? In short, it’s knowing our discovery of God has a root system to our ‘loved by God’ identity. Like any root system, growth and fruit come at the watering of its source. The question then becomes, ‘What is the source and how do we water it?’

For starters, the source is our Creator and our relationship to Him – the eternal and perpetual reality we’re constantly pursued. As for the water? Not only is it more than a John 15 buzz word, but the Master’s way of grooming our hearts as we seek His. That one-of-kind wellspring connection when God casts perfect light on imperfect objectives revealing our aims for what they really are. Ideally, whatever dreams we have are overflows of having committed our time and stilled our mind.

Yet, even on the go, there’s never a time we can’t ask God to invade our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. As I’ve learned during my career, some of the sweetest times with God are those staccato moments when He prompts an invite into what we’re doing. Like a shot from leftfield, He never stops guiding us to His goodness, to contemplate His compassion in the midst of chaos. Perhaps this is why the Psalmist was so confident in His soul being nourished regardless of circumstance2.

Granted, I get this is easier said than done. My thought is…

If we see our big dreams as pieces of a bigger picture, we ultimately invite God’s power into our perspective – more specifically, to fix His hold on what He’s purposed us to do.

Thus, in a sense, I’m encouraging you NOT to dream big…

IF it means losing sight of the big picture.

One more point before wrapping up…

As vocational leaders, switching big dream with big picture can look a number of ways within the flow of our calling; however, if I had to pick a unifying resolution for us, it’s this…

Before we set any initiative, mission statement, or resolution…heck, before we even purpose them in our hearts…let’s get with God so He can refresh, renew, and reset our minds3.

In this way, we can retreat with God to know what He wants to write on the whiteboard of our hearts.

Sounds simple in theory, but like most January topics, it requires intentionality. Accordingly, for next time, I want to discuss what following the deliberate and well-thought-out plans of God looks like in 20204. For when we acknowledge the foreknowledge of God, only then can we properly prostrate our hopes and dreams before the throne.

Stay tuned…

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)
  2. Psalm 19, 23 (ESV)
  3. Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
  4. Acts 2:23 (MSG)
Photo creds: Kanban Zone

Year in Review: A Look Back at 2019

**Scroll down for our HGF 2019 reflection pod**

When you think back on 2019, what immediately comes to mind?

CF: There are three answers to this question: The first and most obvious is Milo. His arrival into the world, no question, was the highlight of the year. The second and not as obvious is the phrase, “finished strong“. Granted, this was part of my 2017 answer, but it’s arguably been more applicable this year. Last but not least is the phrase, “hope realized“. As my next post will attest, I can’t recall a year where I felt so spiritually buoyant amidst great uncertainty.

LF: On the surface, one would think everything that happened this year involved situations I’d already experienced. But under the surface, everything that could wrong did go wrong, be it pregnancy, work, ministry, etc. That’s just how the year feels at first glance. Glass-half full, I’d say everything that could be different was different in 2019. The need for grace and deeper trust has rarely been so high from what I can recall.

What were some of the highlights/defining moments?

CF: Apart from Milo, I’d say our anniversary/missions trip to France, starting a TDOT Bible study, getting ordained with Messenger Fellowship, and the transition to Foundation Group round up the top four. Come to think of it, it’s crazy how my former employer fits into half these spots, but this only testifies to God’s brilliant and timely plan. Also, while this fall featured one of the more turbulent stretches we’ve known, the way we came out of it…I’d say was defining for our family as a whole.

LF: France, definitely. Losing two clients due to their need for in-house support. A very challenging pregnancy that impacted every area of life. Frankly, there were many defining moments this year, but most of them were taxing, testing, or both. Quite the opposite from last year.

How would you compare this year of marriage to years prior?

CF: From the onset, I sensed a leap not only in my understanding of intimacy but my appreciation of the little things. Call it a serendipitous surge, I feel 2019 has been our best start-to-finish year from what we were able to grow and persevere through. Obviously, as a newly crowned family of five, quality time and discussion are limited so expectations have to adjust. But this is offset knowing we’re pouring more into our co-workers, clients, and the kids under our care.

LF: This year had some of its sweetest moments for sure, some hard, some adventurous. Really a little bit of everything. All in all, the more life has put on us, the more refreshing the teaming has been despite its twists and turns. Blows my mind we’re almost to seven years already!

What lesson from 2019 are you eager to apply in 2020?

CF: God not only gives us everything we need for goodness and godliness but faith and fearlessness. As I used to tell LEGACYouth, when you abide in Christ, the way to ‘yes’ becomes clear even if the way out isn’t. This is especially true in the midst of great pain or confusion. We may be blindsided by disappointment, but trusting God books our next appointment.

Also, this is more awareness than lesson, but 2019 really exposed the fact I’d rather serve God than be close to Him. My halftime reflection piece unpacks some of this further…

LF: Resting in my weakness and learning not to strive. I had to learn these lessons the hard way this year, but I’m excited to build off them next year. I guess anytime you find yourself wanting to acknowledge weakness in a ‘You got this, God, I don’t‘ sort of way, good things will happen. One more reason to be flex and flow when things don’t go how you want them to go.

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What has surprised you the most?

CF: In few words, the setting of adversity. While it’s no surprise the year had its ups and downs, the places we found support and the places we didn’t were far and away the biggest shock to me. We’ll see how much shaking we experience as a family in 2020. For now, it’s nice to know the two places I spend the most time are places I love to be.

LF: In general, I agree. Perhaps not to that extent, but I see where you’re coming from. I’d also add there were many answered prayers this year, but it’s hard to classify them as surprises when all is said and done.

What do you hope you’ll be saying at this time next year?

CF: “Hello, Davidson county!“, “You have questions about the Charleston Principles? Yes, I can help with that!“, “Welcome, Cameron and Lyssah. We’ve been expecting you.”
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The Right [of] Way: A Farewell to TDOT

It’s a cold day [at TPAC] as I take this final skyline glance.

Vacancies once held now seven years of vibrancies starring back at me. Crazy how a city can reflect what you already know – the fact life is a highway built on and by dust…the cold yet beautiful reality that life is a vapor because it was spoken into by such.

Still, the question remains…

 How can one possibly capture a septennial’s worth of growth? Or put into words a spiritual journey equivalent to a Sahara crossing with one camel and a military canteen?

Whatever the answer, I won’t shy from letting words fly given this post is ultimately a testimony to God’s sovereignty. As such, I encourage you: Don’t read this as a summary of one man’s odyssey, but a synthesis of God’s faithfulness to transform.

Prologue aside, let’s dive in…

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When I started with TDOT Finance in April 2012, life was a bull market. From Lyssah to LEGACYouth to graduate school, everything seemed fresh and exciting. For the first time in years, I was enjoying all aspects of life – a stark contrast to the brutal four years preceding.

Yet, by fall 2013, many of these facets began to settle. While most things ministry and marriage-wise were flourishing, the same couldn’t be said about work. After a “promotion” from Budget to Payables, I struggled not only adjusting to the position but having to be in it at all. Unlike the two generations of Fry’s before me, I couldn’t support my family through pastoral ministry alone. Consequently, I often clocked in already feeling like a failure…like I didn’t belong.

And so, I vilified the culture, my 7-3:30 reality a necessary evil disguised as a reincarnated Matrix.

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On the surface, I was pressing on, but deep down, I was defeated, a prisoner of my own narrative. To be free was to be out, but I had no escape plan. Just a spray of mental splinters reminding me I had nothing to offer.

For years, I believed the lie my value couldn’t be realized at TDOT. While I was able to return to Budget by summer 2014, by then, the early stages of depression had settled in. Driven by lingering guilt from past seasons, it was clear the fight to tame my despair was not being helped at work. If anything, the lack of voice and professional development only compounded the problem. Perhaps had I not compartmentalized my ‘loved by God’ identity, these voids wouldn’t have hindered the way they did.

Either way, by January 2015, my disdain for the work culture had finally trickled into disdain for certain people. No longer could I emotionally separate the two. Like a house divided, my joy was one-sided with each day an elevator countdown and a prayer against hopelessness. Long gone were the days I could thrive; I just wanted to survive.

And yet, life was fantastic behind the scenes. For starters, all things family and LEGACYouth continued to bloom – the best years coinciding with the worse years at TDOT. I was coming off a solid two year run at MTSU where I received my Master’s in Education: Instruction and Curriculum. And to cap it off, after hitting three years in youth ministry, I was had started working towards my licensure with Messenger Fellowship.

However, the major plot turn came during spring 2015 when I started to sense God’s call to create a written resource for vocationals¹. At first, I questioned if this word was from God given the timing made no sense. Not only did I feel disqualified, but emotionally unprepared to tackle such a task. Who was I to say ‘yes’ in light of where my heart was at?

But looking back, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised considering…

  1. Even in our darkest hours, God is faithful to stir in ‘content’ despite our discontent.

  2. It’s often in the places we’re snake-bitten where God wants to deliver healing and entrust authority.

At any rate, after months of underground writing, His Girl Fryday published during summer 2015 to a humble following of 25 followers with biweekly posts and a podcast launch a few years after. But for TDOT, the key takeaway was the big picture – the fact God would use a special project to erode my heart of stone and transform it back into a heart of flesh. After all, it’s hard to stay mad at the marketplace when marketplace people represent your target audience. I guess that’s why they say, ‘God is without a sense of humor’.

Flash-forward to January 2019 and my heart is three years softer towards all things TDOT. Granted, there were some tough days; however, the inner maturation was now at a point I could daily choose joy, declare gratitude, and receive rest. Having learned a new rhythm of releasing, rarely did I carry anxiety into a new day. By God’s strength and power, I was being renewed regularly and refreshed in the mundane.

By early February, a new assignment had emerged, this time a Bible study open to all TDOT employees. As the Lord assured me, the inner man was ready to lead a charge that hadn’t been attempted in over two decades. A drive I would have laughed at four years prior, now a Spirit-led operation to plant a community of God’s presence. Using a mix of His Girl Fryday and Messenger Fellowship/Commission U content, I began to translate church-speak discipleship into digestible vocational dialogue. Though attendance rarely hit double-digits, the study would ignite a few more throughout the James K. Polk building. At last, the final chapter of my seven-year TDOT journey was complete.

By now, I bet you’re wondering…

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And to that, I’d reply: The point is the story itself and the source it comes from. The way I see it, God permitted my TDOT landing so I could learn how to abide in a place I didn’t fit and love within a culture I didn’t understand. Along the way, I discovered how much more Jesus I needed…how I couldn’t possibly love and lead without His daily presence manifesting as sustaining power. I also tasted the bitter dregs of indifference, resentment, and what it’s like to project insecurity onto those mirroring your own struggle. If only I received correction without assuming gracelessness, no question, much grief during my time at TDOT could have been spared.

Still, when I look back on my TDOT tenure, what I’ll ultimately remember are the seven wonderful years I had to grow in my professionalism. Could have I been sent to more trainings, webinars, and conferences? Yes. Was it difficult being a travel specialist getting to send people all over the country without being able to join them? Absolutely.

Yet, at day’s end, all this is moot.

For many are the miles, but few are the meters to loving your neighbor. Much is the work, but much more are the people who work it.

Therefore, whether we’re CPA’s or ASA’s2, remember what matters is faith, hope, and love channeled through attitude, integrity, and legacy. The road may not always be easy, but as long as we stay the course, the freedom and ripening we crave will come.

As for now, I relish this moment to say, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ not only to my TDOT family, but every breakthrough, confrontation, and endeavor that has occurred the past seven years. What started as a single man looking for occupational and financial stability has ended with a family of five finding spiritual and vocational stability in the places that matter most.

One line ends, another begins. No question, I’m on a higher precipice thanks to what I learned here.

‘Til next time, here’s to the next and the undeniable truth that the best is yet to come…

Selah.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. Particularly those in ministry and marketplace simultaneously
  2. Admin support assistants
Graphic creds: Skyscrapercenter, Alchetron

Staying Strong in the Void of Calm (October Recap Ed.)

I admit: I have not been in a writing mood this month.

Baby Milo, new job prospects, freelancing gigs, totaled car, family health issues…no question, there’s been much to handle in recent weeks. But amidst the turbulence, there have been silver linings – rays of strength in voids of calm. And while there’s much I don’t know in this state of processing, what I do know is we often discover new levels of courage during life’s greatest challenges.

So for today, I want to get real, raw, and a little freestyled about what the past month has been for me and family.

‘Cause truth is: Our response to crisis and unforeseen trauma is crucial; yet, it’s our heart towards God in the midst of chaos that defines whether we see Him as a momentary provider or persistent sustainer.

Real quick, before I forget: If you’re reading this and feel outside your comfort zone, rejoice! You’re probably doing something right or better put, right where you need to be. Be at peace, receive the calming of the seas within, and don’t look back.

That said, let’s dig in…

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As mentioned, October was a roller coaster month with memorable highs and freaky lows. The fun and games started back on October 7 when Lyssah was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Coming off this appointment, we were only mildly concerned knowing we were close to Milo’s due date, not to mention we now had a valid reason to designate ministerial assignments. What we weren’t ready for was the nasty stomach virus spreading through our family starting with Everly then me, Caeden, and Lyssah respectively. While the bug left me quickly and unscathed, the same could not be said for Lyssah.

I’ll let my October 10th post do the talking…

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As you can see, the episode ran a gauntlet of fear, mainly preeclampsia and early induction. Thankfully, while our collective nerves had been rattled, none of these issues verified. Despite the modest scare, the event was now mellowing to background prologue. Surely Milo’s labor and delivery would be uphill in comparison…

Birth story recap: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2019/10/25/birth-story-staying-strong-in-the-void-of-calm/

Long story short, strength had gained momentum heading into Milo’s birth weekend thanks, in large part, to our surprise emergency excursion; however, this impetus could not have happened without deferred fear and supernatural strength adrenaline. For instance, throughout the Dickson Tristar ordeal, I’d often catch myself wondering, “How am I doing so well amidst this turmoil? I should be freakin’ out right now. This is unchartered territory. I don’t how to handle all this!” Yet, time and time again, I’d land on a familiar tune, beating into heart as if it had been on loop for days…

Don’t just ‘not stop’ and keep going, but stop making sense of my strength…and just receive it.

Ahhh, just receive it. Sounds easier said than done, right? Like fortune-cookie wisdom disguised as solicited sarcasm or oversimplified commentary on complex theology. But as the ‘tune’ advised, when ‘try’ and ‘do’ become excluded, the right option becomes an effortless decision, and perseverance is made practical, who’s to say receiving divine strength has to be challenging?

As Lys and I discussed with our doula, sometimes abiding in Christ is simply allowing God to prop us up when falling seems like the only option. Even as waves of crap are hitting the fan, by recognizing the proximity and sovereignty of God, we can experience a higher confidence never thought possible. Granted, it may seem counter-intuitive at first; however, as embracing God’s strength in weakness becomes rhythm, it’s not long until we find rest and rise to our aim.

For example, when I crashed my car in a four-vehicle accident a few Friday’s ago, I could have easily catered to disappointment wondering ‘why me‘ or ‘why God‘; however, having exercised my focus to ‘help me‘ and ‘help God‘ in prior troubles, my dependence was locked into gratitude.

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Of course, sitting in a totaled car on an interstate median is never fun. But again, as the Spirit reminded me, it can be when you count your blessings and declare praise knowing you and God’s best are still alive. Come to think of it, I wonder why we often say, ‘it could have been worse‘ when to use it implies a contrast of an inferior outcome to the worst possible one. Shouldn’t we go the other way and gauge reality through the ‘new’ that is to come?

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Whatever the case, whether you’re walking through hell or a level of purgatory, what ultimately matters is knowing a) you’re perpetually loved by One who has your front and your back and b) even in your darkest hours, you can worship through staccato cries for help.

As for how one stays strong in the void of calm? Frankly, there are many ways, but perhaps the shortest and sweetest one is this: Draw near, surrender fear, pray on the fly, don’t wonder why…just rely. Again, this takes years to learn and is handily theorized outside moments of stress; however, by committing to these steps ahead of the heat, you’ll be primed for God’s power during it. Like conquering any temptation, the winning move doesn’t start at the point of testing, but well before it (more on this in a later post).

For now, I’ll conclude with this: Though this breakthrough may sound basic to some, for the first time in forever, I’m pressing through pain without making sense of it, content in knowing what I don’t immediately understand will eventually be understood. And while I get the value in devotionals and specialized guides on handling conflict, there’s something to be said when God shows up in a fresh way, does an expanding work in your heart, and it’s not contingent on whether or not you ask for it.

He just shows up and pours in…because that’s who He is.

Selah.

As mentioned in my last pod, Lys and I will try (key word) to air a new pod on all this before 2020. Until then, feast on these verses (ESV/AMV), receive them whether or not you’re in a storm, and know if all you got is, ‘Help me, God‘, ‘Hallelujah‘ or ‘I need you, Jesus‘, God considers it a fragrant offering.

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

Psalm 107:29-30 – “He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.”

John 14:27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-9 – “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

Psalm 46:10 – Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.