It Is Finished…

August of 2010 I was driving back after a very long week “vacation” that was actually a fun and tiring week of taking a bunch of “my” kids to the beach. On the way back the driver, who was also one of my co-workers and I were talking about school. He was in school, and I was gladly not. But, in the exact moment he asked if I would ever go back to school, I said something along the lines of no, but knew that God instantly was telling me yes, I was in fact going to go back.

Not long later someone else asked if I would ever consider going back to school. I said no, I had no reason to go back, I mean, after all, I had been working as a Director in my field for the last three years, what would a degree do to help that situation? But, in that moment I knew God told me I was going back.

Throughout the course of the next week or so God and I had the conversation several times, each time I said I had no need for school, and each time, He told me I was going to go back.

I cried.

I began looking into schools and programs, but firmly decided that it was likely to not work out because I was absolutely not going to take the GRE, and I had no interest in getting a masters degree in the same area I had an undergrad degree in… I needed something that sparked my interest if I was truly going to pull this off.

So, I searched… and searched.. and searched..

All the degrees looked the same, boring.

I finally decided I was probably going to settle on an MBA, because it seemed to fit with my communications degree.. But, I was bored at the idea of getting an MBA, my predominant thought over and over as I continued my search:

“everyone who has a communications degree gets an MBA, I don’t want to be like everyone else…”

Somehow, I stumbled upon a duel masters degree program that combined an MBA with various other degrees, and it did not require a GRE test to get into nor did it include a dissertation.

I felt like I was cheating the system, but I also felt like two masters degrees were better than one (no matter how you look at it). So, I chose the program that combined an MS in Leadership with the MBA because it looked the most interesting. Plus, it was the two degrees that would combine with my communications degree to be the most ambiguous education that offered the widest range of job opportunities.

And then, all the financials went through and two weeks later I was starting my first class.

A week after that, exactly what God told me would happen happened, and the week of my two-year anniversary at my workplace I found out that I was going to need a new job by the two-year anniversary of when I was verbally told by a former boss that I would be given two years. So, not only was I starting a two and a half year program, I was also looking for a new job.

Yet, somehow, through it all I was completely secure because I knew that God had informed me two years prior that this would happen, and it did, so I was not at all surprised.

I applied for more than 70 jobs in less than a month, and prayed that the Lord would give me exactly one option so that I would not freak out, but have clarity on where He wanted me to go. I got one call back, one interview, and one job offer. So, I packed everything I owned once again and moved to the DC area to live with four girls I did not know in a fabulous house.

The first 10 months in DC sucked. All I did every day was go to work, go to the gym, then sit on the couch for 5+ hours doing homework. If it were not for one of my fabulous roommates I would have ate cereal for 10 straight months for dinner… The only thing I did that changed this routine was going to church on Sundays. And, man did I love that church. It was the least involved in a church I had ever been, and it was the most in love with a church and its mission I had ever been. But, the worst part was that I had no time to be involved, and that weighed pretty heavy on my heart.

Thankfully God knew what He was doing, and around month 9 He sent me a friend from where I used to live. And, while we were not super close, but merely in the same group of friends, she quickly became one of my very best friends. I would never have thought before that we would get so close, but in literally a couple short months she had secured herself as not only a trustworthy friend, but someone who I could depend on for being challenged, gaining perspective, laughter, silence, adventure, inside jokes, and someone who figured out my heart and shared it. Pretty quickly our Sunday’s consisted of church, food, movies, reading, and me doing homework.

Always homework.

After about a year in a half I realized that I actually loved DC. I loved my life, my friends, the atmosphere fit me. Except I had to get a new job, so I began looking and praying a lot for God to open doors and make it exactly clear… And, that He would not ask me to leave DC.

Three months later He opened a door wide open, and I asked Him to close it.

We spent 12 straight hours talking.. Ok, really I spent 8 hours talking.. or rather yelling, then he spent the next four hours overcoming my fear and anxiety and just gave me peace. It was singlehandedly the most intense 12 hours of my life.

And, throughout the process of all of it.. there was always more homework and another class to make it through… It was so overwhelming that I stopped counting classes and weeks in the classes, and just focused on getting things done.

I injured myself pretty badly just before I moved, which created an interesting stress on me because I absolutely had to ask those around to help me. I felt like God was telling me, “I will move you to Michigan.” So, I packed very carefully so I would not injure myself more, and I did more homework, and I cried, almost every day for a month…

Then I moved, started a new life somewhat near where I had grown up. I began working, and working, and working… And then, I would go home and do homework, and more homework, and more homework… Then for kicks and giggles I did consulting work on the side, as if I was not busy enough. And, somewhere in there I got a Great Dane puppy, and he took up pretty much the rest of my time. (How does someone with a family go back to school?!)

That was my life for seven months.

For an extrovert like myself, it was an incredibly difficult growing experience. I have no actual idea how I pulled it off, and I have no idea how I did not meltdown more than I did. I have never experienced so much alone time, and surprisingly never reached depression due to it… But, I also have never been in a position where I have spent so much of my time praying. Pretty much if I was not actively using my brain capacity for something, I was praying over something else.

All I kept thinking was, I just have to make it through these last couple classes and I will be golden. I worked and did homework like a crazy person with the perspective that I could endure it long enough to get through the last of the classes and everything else would all become easier and just sort of fall into place. I would have time for a social life, and I would be able to make a new fabulous group of friends, and I would soon have no more homework due.

The key trait that allows me to pull so much of the stuff I do off is, I work hard, and I work long in order to accomplish the task. Working long and working hard was the really the only reason I made it through the last two and a half years… That, and a lot of praying, a lot of crying, and a lot of support from family and friends.

So, today, I posted my last discussion board response, after having turned in my last paper yesterday, and I am done.

It is finished.

I am fairly uncertain and a little nervous about how God is going to use the education, traits, skills, and prayer time that have taken place over the last few years for the next few…

Should prove to be a crazy adventure for sure.

Stepping Into Dancing…

I have begun looking into the possibility of heading to Seminary in the fall. I have two main motivating factors:

1. If I am going to truly do this “full-time ministry thing” as a career, it might help if I have more education in the realm of Jesus and religion in general!

2. I will need a new/larger vehicle soon, and I cannot afford a car payment and loan payments at the same time… So, staying in school is a good way to differ my loans while I pay off my car at record speed!

I am well aware of the slight ridiculousness of my reasons, but I also tend to be a go big or go home kinda person, and I pretty much always choose to go big… No, really, I do.

This past week, I began checking into various programs, and decided I will likely pursue a Master of Divinity because let’s be honest, it is among the higher levels I could get. Which sadly means it is a three year program (noooo!!!). However, I might be able to get between a semester to a full year off due to my MS in Leadership degree I will have completed in April (woot woot!)! So, off to visit a seminary I went last week.. And, while the courses seemed incredibly interesting, and a couple of the professors seemed amazing, I was less than excited about the other students I encountered.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that a lot of Christians are very conservative, but I was incredibly discouraged with the degree to which the students exuded their identical conservativeness. — I also realize that I am making a pretty judgmental statement when I say that… However, I was very overwhelmed with the level at which everyone (and I really do mean everyone) I encountered seemed the same. Like carbon copies of each other.

Which left me with the thought: “WHO ARE YOUR PEOPLE!?”

In ministry I feel like we have two distinct callings:

A. Minister to people like you.

B. Minister to people dramatically different than you…

Or possibly third variation C. At various seasons in your life both A. and B. are your calling.

But, what struck me when I was in a room with about 40 other students; who theoretically are in seminary to be the next generation of Christian leaders, and that they seemed… boring and exactly like each other.

Never in my life have I been in a situation like that… It was such an overwhelming feeling that it is actually hard to describe accurately.

Again, I am well aware that I am taking a fairly judgement position on all of the students I encountered, but I cannot help but feel as though Christians will miss large swaths of people if we forget to be exactly who God has made us to be!

We were not created to be like each other, each of us are created unique!

When we step into the uniqueness of who God fashioned us to be, we are exhibiting His creativity and diversity.

I also recognize that there are a lot of people who do not yet know who they are, and/or have not yet become comfortable in their own skin… But, it was very discouraging to be in a room with so many other Christian-leaders-in-training and feel like I stood out like a sore thumb simply because I did not look nor act like them. — I know that this is a viewpoint based off of 30 minutes, but never in my life have I been so overwhelmed by a feeling based off of a group of people around me.

I left feeling like although the program/education itself would be amazing, I did not fit, and the other students would not be “my people.”

Conversely, I went salsa dancing for the first time last night since August, when I injured my hip/leg, and since moving to MI.. Which means, it has been almost six months since I have danced last. I was a little unsure of the location and venue, but after quite a bit of online research, it seemed like one of the better places to go, especially by myself for the first time… And, while it was different in regards to the type of venue I am used to, the evening was perfect. The other dancers were fantastic, and I was asked to dance on a very regular basis despite being a new face.

My first lasting thought was, I am ridiculously out of shape. But, I was incredibly pleased that my hip and leg did not give me too much of a problem. I was also thrilled that I had numerous great dances, and, more than a few patient leads as I re-figured out my rusty and careful dancing.

At one point in the evening, I sat watching everyone dance (one of my favorite things), and I realized that I felt more at home with these diverse looking people moving to the rhythm of Latin music, than I did with a group of people aiming to learn more about the God of all… — In that moment, my heart broke. Not for myself, but the students I encountered last week. My heart broke because in the 30 minutes I spent with them, not a single one exuded an understanding that in Christ we have an infinite amount of creativity and uniqueness at our fingertips. In Christ we do not have to fear being who we are…

We all look different, love different, and are drawn to different styles because we were meant to show the diversity of our God with those things.

We were meant to point to the God who is creative enough to make an endless number of galaxies that each look different, while simultaneously creating billions of people each unique and different.

It always amazes me the things I learn or am reminded of when I go dancing.

In a perfect world, we were meant to each be unique, created to move to the rhythm we hear in our hearts, and encouraged to express what touches us, all in an effort to glorify I AM.

So Over It…

I am so over school.

Seriously, I am having the worst time motivating myself to do my homework… as in currently I have a paper to write, and instead I am blogging. Awesome.

I recognize that a large part of my aversion to school is that I have 1 week left of this class and 2 classes left until I have completed my double masters! (woohoo!!) — Which, I keep explaining to people sounds way more impressive than it actually is.

I also realize that part of my struggle with motivation is that I have been putting in a crazy number of hours at work the last few weeks, so homework just feels like added stress and like it is taking time that I would rather be putting into work… Which I guess is a good thing that despite the number of hours, I still would rather put my time into work.

On a slightly different note.. I when I took this job I was told that my work would cover me getting a Masters of Divinity.. I sorta freaked out when I was presented with this.. I mean SERIOUSLY… Who needs THREE masters degrees?!… No. One. I informed them I would not really think about it until I had completed these two degrees in May. However, I have been letting the idea ruminate in my head, and turning over all of the possible outcomes of getting an M. Div. or not.

I have narrowed it down to two basic ideas:

  • If I am going to pursue a life of ministry (which I obviously love) then an M. Div. makes complete and perfect sense.
  • However, if I am not planning on or even thinking I am going to pursue a career in ministry, it would make little to no sense to pursue another masters degree, let alone one in divinity.

These might seem like “duh” conclusions.. but, it gives me a pretty clear direction to pray… And, if I am being totally honest, I am not really sure I could pull off getting an M. Div… And, before anyone can scold me, I am being totally serious, and not selling myself short I promise. The reality is I have always had fairly easy classes to bs — hence why it is 10:30 and I am blogging instead of writing my paper. I can write and do homework for most classes easily, especially if it is even remotely close to my field of interest or career… The few classes I have truly struggled with were math related….. or I did not care two licks about, which coincidentally were the only two religion classes I had in my undergrad. But, in all of my classes I have not once had to do serious research or write extensively about things I do not already know a decent amount about.. which, if I pursued an M. Div. I would have a lot of classes I am not sure I could handle or do well in… Not to mention the time involved would be much more intensive than the classes I have had to take to get my current double masters… And, seeing how much time a few of these classes have required I am not sure how I would swing it!

Basically, I have not come to any final conclusion. I have no doubt that God will make it pretty clear one way or another how it will all work out and what He wants me to do.. Thankfully I am not feeling stressed about it, just mulling the possibilities over in my head…

I have begun to plan out how my dad could get the same degree with me!.. I think that might be the only way I survive and make it through haha… But no, seriously.

Pause to be Thankful…

In the midst of the chaos and flying emotions that are my life right now, I wanted to pause and list a few things that I am so thankful for, and mention a few things that have reminded me of how awesome God is.

I have amazing friends. I know I say this all the time, but seriously, they make me a better person, and keep me sane.

I passed my Managerial Finance class with a C!.. Ok, not exactly something to be gleeful about, but trust me, I am beyond excited about the grade and being done. Stupid class I will never have to take again! (If I ever am called by God to go back to school again, shoot me if the classes have any higher level math skills required in them!)

I am getting a full day to do nothing on a beach with one of my best friends this weekend. I am pumped and beyond thankful for the time to decompress and listen to the waves.

I found an apartment last weekend when I was home that is amazing. I am so excited to be able to paint, hang things on the wall, and get the Great Dane I have wanted for a couple years.

I was able to talk with my soon to be boss/pastor about a few expectations with my job, and we are on the same page which is a relief, and very exciting… But, it also is allowing me to begin to gather ideas and become inspired again about possibilities.. I am really excited about this job.

Spending a few hours laughing with friends is always the best medicine for my aching and overwhelmed heart.

I am so thankful to get the chance to be closer to my family.. Regardless of for how long, I will relish this opportunity.

I am always amazed, humbled, and thankful when people trust me with their stories.

I am really looking forward to the whirlwind of seeing and hanging out with people over the next month!.. I am not at all excited about saying goodbye to them, but I am really looking forward to seeing them all.

Last weekend, I got some much needed time with my siblings and parents (all individually), and I love that I left the weekend reminded of how amazing my family is.

In the last two weeks, I have crossed off SEVEN answered prayers on the 3×5 prayer cards that are on my bathroom mirror.. And, only two of them were prayers for myself.. I love when I can see God moving all around me!

Despite the whirlwind that is my life right now, I am so thankful for all the ways I am being blessed.. I am even more excited and amazed by what God is doing, and I love that I can see how things are falling into place that I have been praying about for years..

What an amazing time right now..

April’s Randoms…

I keep starting to write a blog post, and then either sit here blankly staring at my screen or clicking other tabs and quickly escaping my blog to peruse other places on the web… What I find bizarre is that I have a whole lot of things to say (as always), but somehow in the last month I cannot seem to separate them into topics or themes to concisely write about.

So, I gave up trying to mold my mind to fit my blog, and decided I would just share some of the randomness going on in my life lately, and thought I would share a few of the more intimate thoughts too… because it is what I do on my space.

I FINALLY officially started my business (nope the website’s not up yet.. it has to be perfect!). You see.. I am getting a double masters degree currently.. One of those masters degrees is a Masters of Business Administration. Do any of my classes include “how to start a business” nope. Not a single one! So, as a lot of what I am doing is trial and error in terms of the best places to do the paperwork, the best lists to follow, the best people to talk to, the best programs to use etc..etc.. It is really hard work, but thankfully I am learning a lot, getting overwhelmed a lot, and talking it through with lots of friends! I am really excited to start this, and I am officially registered with a Tax ID number (EIN), and a business certificate to do business in VA!

I have discovered that while I do a lot of things, I am really one of the laziest people you will EVER meet when it comes to things I do not view as “fun”.. Say laundry, dishes, making my bed, reading the Bible or filing paperwork in a timely fashion. Oye.. I need to find a system and routine that works for me.

I have the BEST idea for a practical/techy calendar… The problem is I have no idea how to actually create it because I am neither technical nor educated in engineering… So, I will hold onto my idea until I can find someone who can create what I want.

A friend of mine is getting married this weekend, and I am both amazed at how God works, and rejoicing in the celebration and commitment that is going to take place this weekend!

We found a new roomie to move into our house the beginning of May! We are excited but going to miss the roomie that’s moving out.. and maybe slightly dreading the upheaval it will bring to our house as one girl moves out and another moves in.

I. Want. To. Travel. So badly. A couple girlfriends and I are starting to make plans to travel to Costa Rica for Thanksgiving.. there are a lot of cool things to do there!.. So, in preparation, we are beginning to save now so that our finances are in order and do not require a dip into savings or credit card!.. However, I would really love to head back to Africa soon.. or go to Europe soon.. Basically I want to travel around the world a lot in the next couple years…. We shall see I guess.

I have been doing a LOT of thinking lately on “community” and I realized that while everyone needs it in some form or fashion, I genuinely love, thrive, and cherish it when I find it. I love creating community and it really bothers me when it is absent. I thoroughly enjoy creating a place where others have the chance to choose to become a part of a community, and I find entertainment watching it grow… I am really.. REALLY thankful for the community that has sprung up around me over the last few months. So. Blessed.

I have been thinking lately (for whatever reason) how different life will be in a year. I will be finishing up my last class and getting ready to graduate from grad school. I will hopefully be in a new position in my career, and I will likely be living at a different residence than I do now (although the reality is I will likely still be in DC), not to mention with any luck I will be more established with my business and have a decent (but manageable) number of clients!

I have been asked by several people lately if I would consider leading a small group this summer, part of me is definitely interested, another part is worried I would not be able to commit the time needed, and another part is completely unsure of what I would do the small group on.. soo, we will see how that one turns out I guess…

While I have a dozen or so more things bouncing around in my head I will leave this list here for now…

The Business…

I have gone and done it now!…

I finally decided on a name for my business.. and now I have applied for and gotten the paper work I need to move forward! So, what am I doing?.. Consulting. Sorta. Let me walk through it a bit…

I love talking to and helping new and small businesses. I really enjoy talking to business owners and hearing about the things they are doing, that they are passionate about, and the various aspects of their livelihood. However, more than that, I love helping them. The idea that a person can start a business and make it successful or know everything they need in order to make a profit is just silly.. Especially when it comes to marketing, advertising, communications, social media, and even sometimes basic business things. Yet, at the same time, more often than not they just cannot afford to hire people to fill these roles, and subsequently they end up wasting a whole lot of time and money trying to make their business succeed…

aka… They work longer and harder instead of smarter.

So, the business I am starting is a consulting business.. but a little bit more intricate and involved than that. There are three components essentially, but there is established flexibility to accommodate anyone.

The first component is the business that needs help.. I want to get to know them, get a feel for their company, their goals, products, services, mission, values, market, culture.. all of it. I want to start with getting a real feel for who they are and what they are doing. Once I feel I have done that, I will be able to start putting together suggestions and priorities for them.. Whether that is a marketing plan, a business plan, a photographer, web designer, graphic designer etc.. But, because I will be working with new or small businesses the key will be their budget and me figuring out a way to fit what they need within their budget… Which means it will likely turn into a monthly plan of what priorities should get done with the budget they have for each month. The thing that I would actually like to do at this stage is be as involved as I can in this process, including the executing portion.. For two reasons… The first being, just handing someone a plan to follow is fine, but the chances of it getting done and getting done well are slim. And second, while I can give them all the coaching possible on how to do this, it is not what they went to school for, nor are passionate and excited about. So, I will be as involved or uninvolved as they would like me to be… Or that they can afford.

The Second component actually is to include the network of business contacts and friends I have or will make in my life. You see, I know hundreds of people across the country (and some around the world) that have amazing talents, education, skills, passions etc.. And, a lot of them are running their own small businesses.. Some in photography, graphic design, web design, copy writing, videography, accounting, consulting etc.. My goal will be to create a network with these friends and colleagues, get the best possible deals from them that I can, and then use them to provide the services the original client needs. However, the cool thing with this will be that the client will be able to choose the ones that match their style instead of just choosing from one that may not be a perfect fit for their style or business. Then, what will be happening in this stage is that the businesses of my friends and colleagues will be gaining additional business (and while it will be at a reduced price, it will still be business), so I will be able to help them as well.

The third and final component is that I will create a list of recommended charities, and the first 10% of the income (not profit) will go to the charity of the original business’ choice. They can certainly choose their own charity if they have one they support or like in particular, but I will also work to create my own list of recommended charities that they can choose from. So, while the money will be donated by my business, it will be in honor of the business I am consulting for.

You see, my goal is not really to get rich so much as, this is a way for me to do what I love.. I will be able to grow as I am able (especially seeing as I have a full time job and have a year left of my double masters program), but I will be able to eventually grow this into whatever I want or am able, from anywhere in the world, AND I will be able to do what I love.. helping others succeed. I will be able to help them attain their goals and passions instead of struggle with things they know little about or cannot afford full time. Plus, it will be fantastic experience for me!

More to come as I begin to put all of the pieces together!

Starting Something That Matters…

This is essentially my “Part 2” of the review for Blake Mycoskie‘s Start Something That Matters book I just finished reading. The first review was my thoughts on the book itself (which I loved, and seriously I recommend you get it and read it!) , this is going to focus more on the impact the book has had on me, and the way in which I plan on working towards starting my own something that matters.

But first, a little background…

I have been in my career field for around 7-8 years now, I have known that I want to be doing exactly what I have been doing since I was 15 and my uncle painted a gloriously magnificent picture in my mind of what Communications/PR/Advertising (and business) looks like… exciting, energetic, fast paced, hard, challenging.. and mostly just different and adventurous all the time. So, almost 13 years ago I settled on this as my path. All throughout college I knew what I wanted to do, I got a degree and worked in my field throughout college, graduated and jumped right into my field and have been in this field of study ever since… A little over a year ago I felt like I was supposed to go back to school (*tears*), so I have been pursuing a double masters in Business Administration and MS in Leadership.

I have worked in jobs that I loved, hated, was apathetic about, or incredibly passionate about. However, I have always loved helping those who have small businesses or new businesses understand things about communications, marketing, PR, advertising etc.. It has always struck me as sad and frustrating because they typically do the best they can, but there is no way new and small businesses can afford graphic designers, communications people, web designers, etc.. So, I love helping them where I can with whatever I can or at the very least directing them to the friends I have in the particular area they need help in. Essentially I have been doing some form of consulting for five or so years now.

So, while reading Start Something That Matters, I began thinking, why am I not actually pursuing consulting?.. I love it. I love everything about consulting… It is different every day, I get to help people with my skills, I get to network, I get to learn, I get to give business to my friends who are in various different fields.. but mostly, I love the fact that I get to help new or small businesses succeed, which makes a huge difference in the lives of the employees and their families.. The trickle down effect is astronomical!

One of the things that struck me the most about Blake and his approach to business and the philosophy’s behind TOMS is how much he truly mixed profit and social responsibility. However, the social responsibility is really what sets the business side apart and makes it successful. The loyalty that is built when a business makes social responsibility one of the main goals is amazing to read in his book, and confirmed for me that everyone wants both of those things, to do something that has a greater purpose and provides/pays the bills. So, due to this, and the fact that I 100% agree with this in my own life and my own desires, the first 10% of income will go to organizations of the “clients” choosing (even before bills are paid).

So, my new business will look something like this… You are a new/small business, you are struggling, need help with a website, advertising, etc.. but you’re working on an extremely tight budget. You would hire me to create a package that works for your needs.. after we have spent a decent amount of time building our relationship, my understanding of the needs and goals, I would coordinate with the various professionals (who all have businesses of their own) to help with the specifics needs of your package (web design, graphic design, photographer, videographer etc..) and you would then pick the ones with the styles that match your own tastes… We would work out the payment plan/options, and you would pick which charity you want your 10% going to (everyone has favorites)… but I would of course have a list of my favorites to choose from just in case (because I know so many people who work for amazing charity’s as well). Then, I would commence to working to help your business succeed.

My something that matters is helping new and small businesses succeed whether by consulting for them or with them, while also supporting charities that make a difference.

This is a slow process to get this started and going, but I am pumped… Especially since I can start and grow this slowly while I am still working full time and getting my double masters (oye vey.. clearly I don’t have enough to do). But, I now have a purpose behind the double masters and the things I am learning working for a national organization, all of these skills will be vitally important later.

Currently I am working on finding a name that captures my idea (feel free to send me any ideas you have), then getting the business squared away both legally, identity wise, and the look and feel of what I am doing (I cannot start a business claiming to help others without first following my own advice and getting websites and things)… Then (and until then) I will also be working on building my network of experts and professionals to partner with me (let me know if you’re interested in partnering with me and joining my network). And of course, lots of prayer will be taking place in the next while for this whole thing.

Should be exciting!