From Resolutions to Reality – Two Helpful Guides

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I quit my job 12 days ago, on the winter solstice – the shortest, darkest day of the year. This was a bold but deeply calculated move.

For months though I’ve had my eye on January 2, 2017, knowing it was the first business day of my new venture – a new company, a new book, new blog, new direction. It’s all very exciting. It’s also the first day in three years I wouldn’t go to the office. And that’s just tricky.

Wisely, I decided January 2nd should be tightly managed.

So, I got up at 5:30, studied, took the dogs for a walk, they found stray dogs hiding my in my barn, so I dealt with that. Then I took a shower, shaved my legs, got dressed, put on makeup and dried my hair.

Minus the stray dogs, that’s a typical morning for me – when I had somewhere to be.

I still have somewhere to be.

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What I plan to do in 2017 is essentially a mountain of resolutions, but if I don’t put my boots on and climb it every day, it won’t get climbed.

Of course, how many times have I set out on a grand climb in January, only to be lying in a hammock in the grassy foothills by Valentines Day?

But this year, I’ve been training with a couple of smart people. What they taught me, they can teach you, so you can climb your mountain.

Ready?


#1 Marie Kondo – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Last fall, people were raving about this Japanese woman’s little book on organizing stuff. I bought it, read it and said, “Right. Let’s do it.”

By applying her simple criteria for deciding whether or not to keep an item –  a book, a blouse, a file of papers – I cleared at least half of of my belongings out of my house. Here’s the before and after of my kitchen I posted on Instagram.

Clutter steals mental energy, which I need right now, and the trick is not to organize better, but to have less stuff.

Kondo’s approach is simple:

Take every piece of clothing out of every closet in your house. Everything. Then hold each item, one by one, in your hands and ask, “Does this bring me joy?”

If not, put it in a pile and take it to Goodwill, so it can bring someone else joy, which is joyful in itself. All the other questions about fit, style, cost and someday are irrelevant. Joy is the only criteria.

When I did this, I took 200 hangers of clothing out of my closet and put about 80 back. It’s astonishing, embarrassing and freeing all at once.

Can you see the benefit of this exercise? Particularly if you plan to do something radical like quit your job and start a new company? There’s a reason high level people wear the same things every day.  It frees up their decision making for more important things.

Clutter, physical and psychic, drains us. Get rid of it and use your brain for something else.

#2 Steven Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 

Covey’s book is a classic for a reason. My favorite thing to emerge from it is his advocacy for what he calls “Quadrant Two Time.”

Look at the graph below and decide in which quadrant, or on what tasks do you spend the most time.q

Are you in a crisis? That’s quadrant one – a combination of matters both important and urgent. Sometimes life is like that, but if you’re there all the time it’s worth asking why.

Do you rush from one meeting to the next, unsure what you accomplished? That’s quadrant three, the combination of urgent and not important tasks. A nasty precursor to life in quadrant one.

Or do you lounge around in quadrant four consumed with non urgent, non important things like Facebook and Netflix. Are you trying to decompress from your time in quadrants one and three? I get it but….

Now look at quadrant two – home of not urgent but very important tasks – the place where contemplation, deliberation, dreaming and planning occur. How can we expect to execute big plans if we spend no time plotting how to go about it?

I now book quadrant two time into my calendar every week.

Sometimes it gets hijacked by urgent things, but whatever. This practice is where my new business was born. It’s also where I plan how I want my life to be in 20 years, ways I can improve my marriage, and what I can do each day to help other people. Covey has some great resources to help you in the same process.

Friends, it’s not unusual to consider our big dreams, it’s unusual to act on them. With regular, deliberate climbing.

focus.pngSteven Covey and Marie Kondo are two reasons this blog is going to retire soon. In its place is a whole new world of creativity, encouragement and resources to help you get to know the God who created you, so you can figure out what he created you for.

If that sounds interesting, subscribe to this blog to stay in the loop with our rollout, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s to new beginnings. Yours and ours!

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On Releasing The Lion – The Esther Project

The Esther Project volunteers

One of the loveliest things to come out of the Esther Project was watching dozens of Africa Mercy crew members show up on their days off and not just pitch in, but cut loose and play.

On both nights of Easter weekend, the dock was lined with crew members like mother hens, each with three or four girls tucked under their arms, chatting, giggling and practicing their Malagasy.   Two of our teenage crew members, Wesley and Bendik, students in the Mercy Ships Academy, created the world’s greatest playlist and DJ’d a dance party on Saturday night.

The girls danced for a while, but I could tell they were exhausted. Most sat on the benches and watched our HR director dance around with his flashing red and white bicycle lights stuck to his glasses. Tanya made that even better by holding her iPhone up to illuminate the disco ball. The girls swarmed Kern, our new programs analyst, and mimicked his super suave moves.

Surely that deserves a video. Don’t you think?   At one point, dancing with my Swiss friend Sandrine, I yelled,

“Are we at a rave right now?”

Nodding, she confirmed we were. I had trouble sorting out how to kind of be at work and at a rave, next to the ship with a bunch of kids running around. No matter, it was all caps AWESOME.

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Josh and Ruben should be so proud.

As I’ve said before, when you are one of 140 children living in a foster home, rarely is anybody standing by to take pictures of you doing something cute. That’s why on every one of our four field practices at Akany Avoko we included some photography project. The girls never get enough of this.

Stepping it up from just snapping a selfie and showing it to them, Aussie crew member and brilliant photographer Justine, with her helpers Stace and Ivanna, took each girl to their makeshift photo studio and took proper portraits of them. Then they stayed up all night printing and laminating them.  They came out looking something like this.   Easter morning, after Chaplain Nick prayed powerful and prophetic things over the girls’ lives and futures as Malagasy cabinet ministers, Justine, Stace and Ivanna handed those photos to each girl, one by one.

It’s a little/big thing that says, “You matter.”

Then there’s Becki. She actually works at the base in Texas but has been on loan to the Africa Mercy for a few months.    Becki has a passion for global mission work, but she’s also a supply chain master. She filled the gap when, for two weeks before the girls arrived, I was off the grid working in the capital city. I was super grateful for that, but Becki also had a vision for the staff of Akany Avoko who came with the girls for the weekend – the six women who probably got five minutes of sleep the whole time.

She wanted to tell them they were like pearls of great price, so she hustled six pearls from somewhere and made these beautiful cards to go with them. Super Tom will deliver them in a few weeks when he visits the girls in Tana. After that, Becki cracked on with a down-to-the-penny spreadsheet of the things supplied to us by the Ship’s galley, like this stuff.   You know, it’s like we all have two jobs around here. Our day jobs and what we are really doing.

I said that to the Africa Mercy’s deck and engineering department yesterday. Of course it’s incredible all the work they do to keep the big girl floating, running, cooled, and safe, but that’s just their day job.   Their real job, and that of anyone following Jesus like they mean it, is to release the roaring Lion of Judah everywhere they go: Staff meetings, airports, engine rooms and Walmart.

Romans 8:11 says we have the power that raised Jesus from the dead, alive on the inside of us: Power to do big heroic things, like when Dr. Gary removes a massive tumor from a grown man’s face, or when a crew member speaks truth, apology, and grace into a department riven by strife.

When we release the Lion of Judah, the enemy flees before us and we capture his territory. That my friends, is our real job as followers of Jesus Christ.

My friend Lisa said, she thinks we as crew got more from the Esther Project girls than we gave them. I think that’s just what happens when you are at play in Kingdom of God.

What I know for sure is, I loved that crew before they showed up and backed our crazy little project. I struggle to express how I feel about them now.

By the way, this is what it looks like to fly over the Africa Mercy with tears in your eyes.

Mission Accomplished – The Esther Project

  The Esther Project girls pulled away from the dock in Tamatave, Madagascar this morning through a wall of heavy, warm rain. Because it is Easter Sunday, and our weekend was such a breathtaking success, that seems more than right.  

My friend Stacia stood with her arm over my shoulders, as the last girls boarded the bus, and said:

“Look at this. It’s beautiful.” 

Academy principal Dave saw that comment break me in two. He walked over, took the tail of his shirt and wiped my whole face with it. Which, if you know Dave at all, is exactly something he would do.  

I could prattle on about all this or I could run the highlight reel. 

Ready? 

This is Captain Jan.
 He was an early and vocal supporter of The Esther Project, and this morning was discovered during a routine stowaway check in the van headed back to Tana with the girls. He’s since been returned to the bridge. 

Yesterday, when we toured the Africa Mercy, Captain Jan and Second Officer Eric let the girls take the helm, which they could barely see over, sit in the Captain’s chair and try out the big binoculars. 

One of the girls had this to say about the experience:

“Our Captains are very handsome.”

I’m not sure what’s funnier about that statement, the handsome part or the use of the possessive “our.” Clearly, The Africa Mercy is the girls’ ship now, but her Captain and Officers too? 

 Incidentally, Jan recognizes he is saluting with the wrong hand in this picture.  He would want you to know he was also holding his phone. 

Speaking of amazing guys, here are another two – Ally and Tom. These are the greatest servant hearted fixers of all time, from shower facilities, to communication gaps, these two are all the grease you need. 

  
Oh and here’s something we learned about showers: Teenage girls like them. 

Especially when you give them a bag with shampoo, soap and a fluffy new towel, right when they get off a ten hour bus ride.  That creates certain expectations, such as: Where are the showers you didn’t think to provide.  

I freak out about stuff like that, but Tom just gets his tools and rigs up three new showers, which work great until our new field security officer Pennie notices a small leak. As she goes to fix it, the shut off valve comes off in her hand. If she lets go, we have a fire hose in the bathroom. Here’s a video of the experience I know she’s dying for me to post.   

Oh yes, and speaking of water, we had it everywhere, especially in our makeshift Hilton, aka: the warehouse on the dock. The Queen Mother of all hospitality, kindness and detail, Lisa Svatek, collected and placed every bucket and bedpan she could find so the girls’ mattresses wouldn’t get wet from the leaky roof. A few did, but even rainy season can’t diminish this level of cute.    

 Are you wondering what happened to all those Pom Poms?

   
Maybe by now you’re thinking, just how did we manage a beach trip and pool party with all that rain? Excellent question. 

  

We didn’t.  The rain stopped.    

If you’re me, and planning an outdoor event where rain is certain to spoil your plans, you pray whiny, beggy, cajoling prayers, that basically sound like “Lord pleeeeeeeease. Sun. Ugh.”

The sun never came out at the beach. It was overcast, without a drop of rain.  

But listen, our baby girls live at 5,000 feet and can’t handle sea level sun. Had it been out they would have melted. Plus, the beach would have been packed with people. As it was, we basically had it to ourselves. In addition, had that storm not blown through, the ocean would have been calm enough for swimming, which we didn’t really want for safety reasons. They were happy just to splash in the waves. 

God knew all that before I did.   

How often, after praying for something I don’t get, do I assume the Lord just didn’t answer? Why can’t I trust that He sees what I actually need and is eager to give it to me?

 
Africa Mercy crew will tell you, that you have to get a coconut at the beach. It’s critical. This vendor saw a significant spike in his daily revenue.  

  
And by the way, do these swimsuits look familiar? Remember a year ago, when we took the girls swimming in Tana? An American donor bought them new swimsuits. Isn’t it starting to seem like someone is behind all this?

Can your heart handle one last story and picture?

Madagascar is a tropical island nation and native tropical fish swim all around the dock.  Kneeling there you can see dozens of varieties. It’s a giant magnificent aquarium.  

  

They were doing this when Principal Dave, the one with snot on his shirt, plucked a few urchins from the water and let the girls hold them, which of course prompted squealing.

 
 
This morning before they left, one of the girls got up and spoke to everyone through the translator. She spoke quietly and had to compose herself.  Among a few other things, here is what she said:

“We thank you because now we can see how much you love us.”

That, my friends, is complete victory. Thank you to all of you who worked and prayed and paid and planned and trusted that together we could bring a little more heaven to earth. 

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