Every Last Drop

What do you intend to do with your life?

That’s a question that gets us looking forward and outward, isn’t it? We think of those dreams in our hearts that seem just out of reach or what we wish we could be doing a few years from now. Very rarely does it ever get me talking about what I’m doing now–like, today. In fact, how often do we find ourselves walking through the days, weeks, and months of our lives in what almost seems like an unconscious, monotonous biding of time? It’s what I call living with the Someday mentality.

Someday, when I’m making enough money, I’d like to be generous and donate my money or time to X-cause. Someday, when my life is less busy, I’ll go back to school and get that degree in that area of study that I’ve always been interested in. Someday, I’ll start that blog that I’ve been thinking about starting. Someday, I’ll volunteer. Someday, I’ll write that book. Someday, I’ll do that thing.

I was a Someday girl for a very long time. Like…a. very. long. time. It never quite felt like the right time to do the things that I wanted to do. Even when it did, I’d second guess myself right into inaction, often by falling into the trap of comparison. For example, I started a blog a few years ago. Actually, I should say I “started” a blog a few years ago, because I posted about once every 4-6 months (yes…two-three times a year) and I never really kept up with it. I became a slave to comparison, and NOTHING kills creativity and confidence like comparison does. You know what I mean, don’t you? That small (but loud!) voice that says what do you have to say that’s so important? Isn’t she saying it better than you could? Her blog looks better. She’s much prettier. She’s got more friends than you do–she’s way more popular! Do you really think you have what it takes? I struggled with it for a while until I just gave up. I thought to myself, someday…just not today. Someday.

The issue with a someday mentality is that it makes us forget that life isn’t an arbitrary stringing together of events; there’s God-purpose in every day! The Someday mentality is the opposite of the Every Last Drop mentality. The heart of the Every Last Drop mentality is that every single day matters. NOT that we are perfect everyday, but that we use the grace that’s for today, today. What does that mean? It means not trying to store it up for later (i.e. someday) or for when all our ducks are in a row. Right now is the time for something and we’ll only live our “every last drop” life if we use today what’s meant for today (which makes room for what’s to come tomorrow).  It means that we live each day with a sense of intentionality and an understanding that there’s no such thing as wasted time because our time is valuable. All of it! It means living life with the goal that when we are face-to-face with God, we can say, “I used it all, Lord. Everything you poured into me, I used it all.”

Firstly (and its really important that we hear this), living an every last drop kind of life does NOT mean trying to do it all or be all things to all people. Sometimes we get so caught up trying to do everything, and we get so busy being busy that we miss the main thing! My Pastor often says, “If the devil can’t kill you by getting you to do bad things, he will distract you by keeping you busy doing good things.” Come on somebody! *praise hands* Neither does it mean living an Instagram-inspiration life where we only speak in affirmations and smile. Living an every-last-drop kind of life is more about creating margins in our life that allow us to live with deep-rooted intention. So, while “every last drop” can sound a lot like “doing more,” oftentimes its just the opposite. It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes doing less, in general, allows us to do more, in particular. It lets us be more intentional with our time and with our lives. It lets us be more purposeful.

in·ten·tion·al
adjective
  1. done on purpose.
pur·pose
noun
  1. the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.

By definition, living our every-last-drop (intentional) life means: living a life that reflects what we were created for/the reason we exist!

A few weeks ago I was offered a new position at my fairly new job that would place a higher demand on me in a few different ways. It would also come with a raise and a few perks. Coming out of a very full season at my old job and going into a more restful and restorative one (a season that is undoubtedly God-ordained), I struggled with deciding what to do. The restfulness that I’ve been experiencing has been making room for me to be more intentional with being a part of building our church (my life’s passion) and is giving me time to invest in some heart-goals, like my writing. I knew that the perks of the job would be good, but ultimately I had to make an intentional decision to turn down the offer and honor the margins that this specific season is creating in my life.

It’s not always easy–we’ll be faced with tough choices, especially in this world full of options. One thing I’m certain of, though, is that the end result will be beautiful and oh-so worth it. I know there will be very full days ahead, but for now, this is the season I’m in and I’m choosing to get out of it everything that I’m supposed to. These margins are giving me space to grow in ways that is making me fruitful now and is also setting me up for my God-purposed future–readying me for what’s ahead.

Recently, I caught a glimpse of a taxi cab that had the words “Always Ready” painted across the side and it hit me like a ton of bricks (the words, not the cab). You see, these words are at the very center of the Every Last Drop mentality!  They reminded me of Jesus and how he’s always ready to forgive, always ready to embrace and always ready to refresh a weary soul (thank God for that!). Jesus was always ready, because he lived every single day of his life here on Earth with intention! He truly gave every last drop because he made every day count by living with his Earthly purpose in mind.

When we truly begin to understand that God has purpose for our every day lives, not just our “someday” lives, we learn to take hold of the moments that we have now. We learn to live our present with intention which in turn keeps us ready for whatever’s ahead.

With that in mind, I made a list of things that I want to be intentional about so that I will always be ready to live this every last drop kind of life. I’d love to share a few with you.

I want to be:

  • Intentionally kind. Always ready to treat people with kindness, even when (especially when) it means swallowing my pride. 
  • Intentionally generous. Always ready to be a giver when it comes to my life, my time and my finances.
  • Intentionally loving. Always ready to love. Everyone. Even when they seem unlovable. Especially when they seem unlovable. 
  • Intentionally encouraging. Always ready to look for opportunities to refresh those around me.
  • Intentionally graceful. Always ready to practice patience.
  • Intentionally forgiving. Always ready overlook or let go of offenses.
  • Intentionally welcoming. Always ready to live life with wide open arms.

It’s a tall order, I know. I’m constantly falling short and I’m sure will take me the rest of my life this side of eternity, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:12 :

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

So, friends, I’ll ask you again: what do you intend to do with your life? Because it all starts with what you intend to do with today. Are you living today with your purpose in mind? How can you get every last drop out of today?

Grab Growth by The Horns: Part 2

Late last year a coworker friend of mine randomly gifted me a tiny little plant with little yellow flower buds. It was the cutest little plant in this tiny planter. I named it “Buddy” (don’t judge me). Buddy was adorable–the little plant that could. You should know that I don’t really have a green thumb. In fact, I’m kind of a plant killer (again, don’t judge me). I try to keep them alive, because I honestly LOVE plants and nature, but God knows, I’m just no good at it!

Anyway,  I watered Buddy every couple of days, but over time, he began to blend in to the general scenery of my desk space. I would forget to water it and slowly but surely, the little yellow flower buds that I loved so much began to dry up and wither.

One day my coworker noticed the state of Buddy and gave me a pretty good scolding about being careless about maintaining Buddy’s health and growth. This cute little plant with sweet little sunshine buds was now all skimpy green branches with not a bud in sight.

As I think of Buddy, it’s impossible not to draw the parallel between its growth and maintenance and the growth and maintenance of my own heart. You see, just like we need to tend to a plant by watering, pruning and sometimes replanting into deeper, richer soil in order to maintain its growth, we have to tend to the health of our heart to maintain the health and growth of our lives.

In my last post I talked about three characteristics we can be developing as we grow healthy, strong roots. Now, I’d like to share three things we can constantly be doing to maintain our healthy growth now and as we move forward into all that God has ahead for us.

1. Heart Checks: You can only gauge the health of your heart if you check it constantly. The Bible says that “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), and it also says in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our heart because everything we do flows from it. A healthy heart is paramount to healthy growth and healthy leadership.

Here are a few ways we can maintain a healthy heart: checking it with The Word (which is a mirror-James 1:22-25), having accountability in our lives (people who we trust to be honest with us and with whom we can be fully transparent, people who we are humble enough to take correction and direction from), and being teachable.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to gauge the health of our hearts:

-How do I react to correction from my leader/boss?

-How do I handle conflict or confrontation with someone I’m leading or leading with?

-What have I been learning lately?

Teachable people are great leaders because teachable people learn and people who learn, grow. If you haven’t been learning lately, you’re probably not doing a good job of being teachable/growing.

5. Be a Branch. Being a branch is all about being rooted in relationship with God. He’s the vine and we’re the branch. We grow and we bear fruit only when we’re attached to him. There’s a twofold point I’d like two make here, so forgive me the multiple metaphors. We know that a branch without a life source (vine/tree) withers and dies–that’s why we must remain connected to Jesus, the Vine, thriving in his presence. Also, the branch doesn’t get to choose the type of fruit it produces. Follow me for a sec…a lemon tree produces lemons from its branches and an apple tree produces apples from its branches. Now, we’re all called to bear GOOD fruit, but the way we do it will look different. A lemon tree branch can’t say, “I’m tired of producing lemons, I’d like to produce apples now.” I’m being facetious about apples and lemons, but the Bible puts it this way:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 (read 12:12-31)

Understanding that there are different members of the body and we each have our role in the Body is absolutely crucial to healthy growth and healthy living. Why? Because God wants us to flourish in the unique ways that he’s prepared for us and in the gifting that he’s given each of us. Also, understanding this makes us effective leaders because we are able to identify and build up these unique things in those we lead. So be rooted in relationship with God through reading the Bible and prayer, but also identify, develop and exercise the unique gifts that he’s given you. Steward well what he’s given you so that you can grow and bear the good fruit he would have you produce in yourself and in others.

6. Savor the Seasons: We do this by learning the lessons in the space that we’re in now. I’m full of metaphors today, so here’s one more for the taking: I like to think of every life-season as an actual season (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring). Each season has its own defining hallmarks. For example, what is Fall without Pumpkin-spice everything? Or hello late Spring aka strawberry season! Get where I’m going with this? I don’t expect to have good pumpkin bisque in the summer, because it isn’t the season for pumpkins. Savoring our seasons means getting out of our current season exactly what we should be getting out of it. As much as I wish we could skip ahead to Spring, we have to get through the Winter first.

The good news is that God doesn’t waste our seasons and there are lessons to be learned in the Spring as well as the Winter. Although every season may not be pleasant, don’t be quick in trying to move on because you will miss out on the benefits to be gleaned from where you are now.

Single? It’s a season (maybe one that will last your lifetime–hello, people with the gift of celibacy!). Financially tight? It’s a season that could very likely be the perfect time to pick up some financial planning materials and learn ways to steward whatever you do have, even better. Married with young children? It’s a season. They’ll grow and go to college and maybe have families of their own one day, but right now as you change diapers at 2 AM, what can you learn in this season? Interning at a law firm with your heart set on making partner one day? It’s a season, be faithful in it, be excellent in it. Your excellence in the small things will open doors for greater things!

Excellence isn’t about the task at hand. Excellence is a character trait and a state of mind–whatever we set our hands to, we should do well and as for the Lord. Whether small or large, glamorous or mundane, visible or behind the scenes, making the most of our seasons is part of stewarding our seasons well.

The Bible says there’s a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Regardless of the season we are in, let’s take time to glean and take time to grow. Not every season is a fruit bearing season, but every season has its designated purpose. Some seasons are for sowing, some are for sprouting and others are for reaping.  Here are some questions we can be asking as we find ways to savor our season: 

-God, what would you have me learn in this season?

-God, how can I steward this season well?   

-God, how can I help/serve someone else in a season like mine?

Friends, growth is good, but growth without maintenance will not be long lasting, and like Buddy, our progress will quickly start to wither. The truth is, God is behind our growth. Growing is his heart and will for us. The deeper our roots, the fuller our branches are with his fruit. Your life matters because what God has in store for you will bless not only you, but those around you. So, we don’t have to try to do it all on our own, he’s got us! By consistently presenting our hearts to him for pruning and watering, by remaining attached to him like a branch to the Vine and by learning what he’d have us learn in every season we may be in, we can continue to grow and flourish into this bountiful future he has for us!

You’ll also be happy to know that Buddy is doing very well. He was recently repotted and is growing strong. He’s even got a few new yellow buds coming in!

Grab Growth by The Horns: Part 1

This month we’re talking about building healthy foundations for growth and leadership.

“Healthy things grow!” Wise words from one of my pastors that has stuck with me throughout the years. It seems obvious when you think about it, but it’s something that we can easily take for granted. I know I have, especially in those in-between seasons where I’m not quite where I want to be yet and it feels like I can hardly see any progress. It’s easy to lose sight of the purpose in our present when we’re overly focused on the potential up ahead, but there’s something to be said about growing as we travel along from Point A to Point B. We want the big, full, exciting future, but being prepared for it often means growing deep strong roots in our present. In other words, being well equipped for what’s ahead means building a healthy foundation now.

As leaders, we want to be the type of people who are constantly stretching our capacity and are leading others in growing at a healthy pace, as well. You may be saying to yourself, “I’m not a leader,” but whether it’s a team, a family, an organization or just yourself, you are a leader.

As Christians, everything we do should in some way point people to Jesus; it should be making a way for others and producing fruit that isn’t just good for ourselves, but beneficial to others. In other words, leadership.

So, how can we make sure that we are growing and making the most of the process? I’d like to share three characteristics that, like roots, set a strong foundation for healthy growth. While these principles are general enough to be applied to anyone, as a Christian, I want to look at them through the lens of faith.

1. Patience: for yourself and for others. Have you ever heard of the term growing pains? I’m sure you have and even if you haven’t, I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced it in some way or another. Growing isn’t easy and most times its not fun. It can look a lot like standing over a pot of water and waiting for it to boil. Its laborious and it takes long. As un-fun as it can be, patience is essential to healthy growth. Why? Because nothing healthy grows overnight. Healthy growth takes time and it requires us to be well rooted. Whether its growing in a skill, growing in a relationship or growing in a role of leadership–growing takes time and it takes staying power. We need to learn to give the Holy Spirit time to do the work in ourselves and in others. Sure, God can do a miracle and turn things around in one day, but he probably won’t, because he’s more concerned with growing our character and stretching our faith. Growing in character and capacity takes time and time requires patience, so that means sticking through the oftentimes difficult “waiting” period. The Bible puts it this way in Romans 5:3-5:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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2. Humility: One of the best ways to stay humble is to constantly remind ourselves of the BIG PICTURE. When our view of the big picture (i.e. God’s plan–the gospel) is healthy, it’s hard to not be humble. The grandness of God’s plan and the fact that he has chosen us and allows us to take a part in it in any way completely baffles me!

Stay humble by remembering these three things: BY God, FOR God, THROUGH God. We’re saved and chosen BY God, not by our own merits, but by the finished work of Jesus Christ (i.e. it’s not about me). We’re called to serve FOR God, not to bring glory to ourselves, but to make Him known to all (i.e. it’s not about me). We’re empowered THROUGH God’s Holy Spirit in our lives to do what he’s called us to, we can do nothing apart from him or in our own strength (i.e. it’s not about me). See the pattern here? Do you want to grow your capacity and expand in your personal growth? James 4:10 says:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

3. Submission: a ten-letter word that often reads like a four-letter word, if you know what I mean. It’s the control freak’s kryptonite and the insecure leader’s Achilles heel, but true and Godly submission is an essential ingredient to healthy growth. You’re only required to submit when what someone else thinks or decides conflicts with what you think or want–otherwise, there’s nothing to submit to. Submission, then, is a practice of both humility and faith. Humility to follow the lead of someone even if we don’t necessarily fully understand, and faith that in practicing obedience, we’ll be doing what is correct (submitting to someone in authority over ourselves).

A healthy person knows that it isn’t always about having the last word or being right. We may not fully understand what God is doing or what a leader is doing, but having the humility to follow (and lead) is key to healthy growth.

Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalms 143:10

Healthy growth doesn’t just happen; growth has to be tended to. It requires intentionality, time and deep, solid roots. Let’s grab growth by the horns today by building ourselves up with patience and humility as we submit to the process!