by Marti Jackson
I’m sitting on my front porch in Northern Kentucky chuckling as I write this post about leading yourself well. For almost two weeks, I have had this writing session on my calendar. Planned out in detail for everything from fresh iced tea to a light sweater in case it magically becomes November. I’d like to say that I am dressed in my finest professional casual attire, leather tasseled shoes, and some additional southern fineries surrounding me, like oversized plantation fans or sitting in an antique restored wicker rocking chair.
Instead, the truth is that I am hunkered down below the front bushes, hiding from my neighbors, wearing a baseball cap with my medusa hair shoved up underneath it. Having already returned to my children’s school for the second time to take a forgotten lunch, and running additional errands, the reality is my morning has slipped away and I’m mentally working on list number four of to-dos, to be done. Today.
I have found that this morning is a great example of what leadership sometimes looks like for the leader. You have this picture perfect idea of how you should lead, what you should look like doing it and just generally being beautifully Instagram worthy. Instead, you find yourself derailed by the needs of others you lead (or love) or overwhelmed by the unexpected. Lists get longer and longer and you find yourself tired, worn out and trying to dig deep for some awesomeness.
Here are two things I do to get to a season of leading myself well.
Yes. This is the number one strategy of Lead Small and a cornerstone for Sunday mornings but it also applies to us. Failing at this one has consequences beyond an individual experience. There will always be something that needs to be done. However, you will not always be able to do it unless you are willing to sacrifice other roles you are called to. There will be moments when you need to decide if work, ministry, or a project is allowed to take time, value or momentum away from something else important like a relationship or other interests. (Check out Andy Stanly’s book, Choosing to Cheat.) Multi-tasking is not your friend. Say it with me and accept this as truth. It is an ability that while highly praised, is covertly just busyness on steroids. Whatever is the largest part of your life stage right now—ministry, work, school—it will turn into a giant packman if you let it. Jesus spoke to Martha about her busyness over choosing to sit with Him as Mary did. This wasn’t Martha versus Mary, death match BC. This was Jesus saying to her to come and learn from Him, spend time with Him, be present with Him. Be present with God because it is good. Be present with the people you are called to love and who will love you back if you put down the phone and learn to stop working. There will always be work to do but you need to care for your tribe, your peeps and yourself.
Be aware that seasons change.
We have heard this analogy so many times over the years that I am officially declaring it churchy, or part of the church world language. I think it’s horrible when we say that someone has moved into the winter season of their life. Stop that. It’s creepy . . . and sad. Instead, I think of how every year in many parts of the world, there are four distinct seasons of the year. I love autumn but this past year it just went so very quickly. Heavy rains moved in quickly, sweeping all of the leaves from a 10-mile radius into my yard. Even quicker, plummeting temperatures froze them to said front yard. For the next five months. No matter how much I love fall, when winter was here I needed to move on with that season regardless of the month or time of year. It’s the same with seasons in ministry. There are times during the year when we will be called upon to do much. Easter, Christmas, back-to-school, to name a few. What I caution myself on daily is to not remain in a season of reactive sprinting. Every six weeks, I evaluate how I am responding to the needs around me. Where am I along the proactive versus reactive timeline? How much margin do I have in my life or with my time? Am I wrongly treating people like an inconvenience? Just as I would not climb into the two large trees standing in my front yard and begin to staple leaves back onto the limbs and call it fall; I cannot respond the same way all year long as I do when the genuine uptick in participation happens. Don’t treat every season the same, you might miss the beauty of the one you’re in.
Marti Jackson is married to her high-school sweetheart Michael Jackson, yes…really! Together they have three awesome kids and live in Northern Kentucky. Marti serves as the Children’s Minister at Lakeside Christian Church, a multi-site church who loves Jesus, and loves like Jesus. Follow Marti on twitter at @Marti_Jackson.