Friendship

On Borrowing Bravery

July 23, 2015

We are going to be asked to do hard,

The first year I started blogging, I did a series on fear. A lot has changed in the years since writing that series, and I no longer battle the same fears that used to plague me. God has taught me a lot about what bravery looks like, and blessed me with numerous friends over the last hand full of years who have encouraged me, and pushed me to do things I might otherwise not have. Recently, I was thinking about this, and remembered a time God used my friends to help me face one of my fears.

When I was 16 a friend pushed me to the top of a mountain. Within mere seconds of setting my feet at the top, I fell all the way down–literally from the top, to the bottom.

Let me explain.

The morning we gathered our belongings and suited up for a ski trip in the hills of Pennsylvania started off like any other cold Virginia morning. The church parking lot hummed with the chattering of anxious kids, spouting off about what amazing skiers they were and which mountains they planned to attack first. I felt like a coral fox, sporting my Mom’s melon colored snow suit from the late 80’s and her “Wookie” boots she’d picked up while we had lived overseas. (These boots were so rad. They were covered in long, white goat fur) I’d even matched my nail polish to my snow suit. Obviously, I had my priorities in order.

When we arrived at the ski lodge after pairing off with some friends, one of the guys I was with asked me to ski with him. As we made our way to the lift we needed to catch to the top, I watched as we passed all of the signs for the green (beginner) and blue-level courses (intermediate, for you non-skiers).  At this point, despite the frigid air, I started to sweat. “Where are we going?” I called to my friend who conveniently blocked the sign to the mountain we planned to ski.

 

Join me at Allume for the rest of this story.

 

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GraceTable

The Greatest

June 29, 2015

I’ve wanted to achieve greatness for as long as I can remember. For years, the drive surged from the dark underbelly of pride that scratched and clawed to be let loose. It was an ugly desire–baring nothing good or wholesome about it.

I think the desire for greatness is not altogether bad. The desire to succeed has driven many a person to become world-changers in their own right. The conviction that drives creation and improvisation, in and of itself, is not a wicked thing. The trouble arises when we misuse our gifts, misunderstand our purpose and mishandle our desires. The trouble is, we forget the One who equips and calls us to such labor. Like the disciples, we want the glory apart from suffering.
Let him who is the greatest among you

In Luke 22, Jesus is gathered with the disciples at the Last Supper when they begin to argue about which one of them is considered the greatest. As Jesus prepares to head to the cross, the 12 are concerned about which one of them will be remembered above the others. At first read, I balk at their audacity. I can’t imagine sitting beside the SON OF GOD, bickering with my friends about who among us would be considered great. But my inability to imagine the audacity of this scene only stems from my pride, because as quickly as I have that thought, I recognize that the only reason I cannot imagine it is because I have already claimed my own greatness over that of the disciples. I would never do that, I presume. And in that quick twisting of thoughts, I find myself there at the table, tossing my own name in the ring for greatness.

Come read the rest of this over at GraceTable. 

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Growth

For All The Girls Who Don’t Feel Like They Measure Up

June 12, 2015

I spent the whole day outside with my kids in the yard. They splashed wild in the inflatable pool, while I sat under the umbrella working and reading. With the heat nearing 90, I came inside to change into something cooler. After trying on a couple of things that no longer fit, I felt the waves of discouragement begin to roll over me. This body is not what it once was.

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Giving up on the sun-dress idea, I reach instead for my swim-dress (yea, so I have become THAT mom) It’s stretchy and it fits. I put it on and stare long at myself with critical eyes. Standing in front of the mirror I hear the whispers begin inside. My eyes travel the landscape of my reflection to all of my “trouble spots”. It seems the peace negotiations with my body rage on.

I have looked into glass and felt utter contempt for this tent, this skin that houses these bones, this heart. I have flipped through magazines and felt nothing other than the weight of obvious inadequacy, as I stared empty into airbrushed beauty. I remember the difficult years of middle school, of being small and late to bloom, I remember the dreaded feeling of changing in the locker room in High School, of hiding in stalls to change clothes.

Hiding.

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I remember countless hours spent reading ‘girl’ magazines only to set them aside and feel completely disgusted for all of the ways I failed to measure up.

I remember friends sucking down diet pills and trying to survive on just an apple all day. And while I never did these things, I abused my body in other ways. I told myself horrible lies about who I was. And I believed every single word. In the past, I have let all sorts of other things define who I am.

That was a long time ago. And despite being all grown up now, the struggle continues to wreak havoc on my heart. Everything has changed yet this issue continues to haunt me. I have a husband who loves me and children who say they “love me so much their hearts are bursting with love for me”, and isn’t that something? Even more than this, I have a Heavenly Father who created me in his image, and for years I have spit back at that image. I have held up hands and refused to look at it. I have cried and hated that image for all it’s human flaws and snags.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

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This frame, this body, is a greenhouse of sorts, and in it. seeds have been planted and sown and grown, it has expanded and contracted to hold safe inside, the life of four other human beings. I have looked disgusted at it, and thrown rocks at it. I have smashed greenhouse windows with my negative thoughts about the shape of this body.

Yes, this body has acted as a greenhouse, a sweaty, hormonal, space that has been filled and emptied, it has endured the long uncomfortable seasons of growth but isn’t it supposed to be a temple? Isn’t there supposed to be a place for the Holy Spirit to dwell within? I would no sooner walk past a temple, and pitch stones through it’s stained glass windows, or call out as I pass by that Holy place, how ugly I think it may be. Not ever. Yet when it comes to this figure, I don’t even hesitate. I hurl rocks of cruel words as if my life depends on it some days.

Your still so big.”

“Your middle is so smooshy.”

” Your legs are thick”

“Your arms are flabby”

“Look at your thighs! “

“You are not good enough.”

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While I know these are the poisonous lies of the deceiver, still some days, they fall like truth on my ears. I hear them, I repeat them and I believe them. I have used them to assault myself, as a twisted form of motivation to eat better, run more, lose more weight–to somehow encourage myself to be good enough.

No More.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

I know that when the assault threatens to begin, when the lies creep up, I am reminded that they are in fact, lies. I can find a great number of encouraging words to replace them with,

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

How can something created in the image of the Father be anything less than magnificent? God has created an entire world that blossoms beauty everywhere, under every stone, and behind every tree, this whole incredible creation, a reflection of his magnificent glory. We have defiled his works, we have mutilated what he originally created and saw as “good” and done our best to re-make beauty in our own image.

But our ability to define beauty, our ability to create beauty, doesn’t even compare to the work of the Master. We are finger painters to God’s Michelangelo. We can only know real beauty, real worth, through knowing and defining ourselves through Christ.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

All of the stones I have thrown, all of the various ways I have afflicted injury on my own heart, all of the lies I have swallowed and taken as nourishment are easily defeated by the truth that is found in allowing Christ to define me.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19

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This body I have, however imperfect, or soft, or round or lumpy or weak, weather it’s too pale or too freckled, legs too short, weather the tag in my jeans is an 8 or an 18, (and I have worn both) It is none-the-less a Temple to be kept and honored as such. This flawed skin and sometimes untamable hair is all a gift created in the image of the Father, for his glory. The deceiver would have you (and I) believe otherwise. The world would have you believe otherwise as well. But our worth, our value, comes not from either of these sources, but strictly from the one who made us.

What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him-and in seeing him, become like him. 1 John 3:2 (Msg)

The only one who determines our value, the only one who has a right to, is Christ Jesus.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

 



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Growth

Stretch

May 28, 2015

It started when a friend emailed asking for a guest post and mentioned my photography as part of the post. And then within that same week, another friend sends me a bold message telling me in essence to own what I do, when I play with my camera–to remove that word–“wannabe“.

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These nudges out of nowhere stretch me in a way I felt unprepared for. This encouragement, completely off my radar.

It’s safe to say I’m not alone in finding it difficult to wear some labels honestly.

I feel so much like an impostor most of the time.

Yet, some titles sit somewhat naturally. I teach–I’m a teacher. I raise children–I’m a mom.

We don’t seem to wrestle with the obvious ones, the ones that people can’t wager an opinion on. I drive–I’m a driver. I read–I’m a reader…

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It’s different with art. How many of us are willing to call ourselves artists?

 We’re waiting for that mystical qualifier. Sometimes, we’re waiting for a particular person to crown us with the title, too timid to claim it ourselves. Afraid of seeming prideful. Afraid of being discounted, busy outlining our numerous disqualifying factors.

In a very real sense, none of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do His work, to bear His glory. ~Madeline L’Engle

But what if there’s no grand coronation? What if you wait half a lifetime or more to be who you really are?–What then? Without outside confirmation, are we liars in calling ourselves writer, painter, photographer, poet?

I hope not.

If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own. ~Madeline L’Engle

What if God calls us to an art purely for His pleasure, and not for the stamp of approval of the world–will we own it? Will we hold the pen in our hands, and smear paint on the page purely for His own pleasure and worship?

Some titles hang awkward around our shoulders, it feels like a stretch to remain upright, to get comfortable in what feels uncomfortable.

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I’ve said that calling myself a writer, or a photographer, (even though I do both of those things), feels a bit like wearing a dress I can’t afford while pretending I can. I love the way it looks, I want to wear it well, but I’m afraid to cut the tags.

But today, here’s what I propose:

If you get this– if you feel awkward, or silly or uncomfortable wearing that title that feels too big for you, wear it any way.

Your gifts and talents are hand-crafted in you, for the ultimate glory of God. He picked them out specifically for you and while you wrestle with your worth, and the clanging symbols of the world, who shout you down with their faithless pessimism and  bitter cynicism, you cling to the cross. Remember, you are made for THIS.

You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art, of doing what comes from deep within you and touched something deep within me. ~Emily P. Freeman

So own it. Be who God has made you to be.

Your gifts and talents are hand-crafted

Glorify God every time you write or paint or dance or sing or bake or skate or swim–and when someone asks you about how you do what you do, point them in the direction of the Kingdom.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

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Obedience, Sacrifice, Surrender

Same Old Story

May 12, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I held a microphone in my hand and told my messy-pride story to 150 of the most gracious women, who laughed at all the right moments, and caught their breath with me when I fought back tears. I prayed (begged) God to keep me from completely dissolving when I told my story, because–are you ready?– it hurts my pride to stand there and sob in front of the room.

Ha. Yeah. My pride.

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It’s the same old story with me, every time God has opened the doors for me to speak, it’s this story He asks me to tell. It’s my redemption story–well, really, it’s the story of how God grabbed me up from the pit. It’s all His doing. Lord knows I tried (and failed) at saving myself.

He’s saving me still–

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Before I left for the event, I was talking about my pre-speaking jitters with my friend Deidra (a woman of incredible grace and wisdom) and she told me, “we get to be terrified, so God can be glorified”. When I told her I didn’t have anything written down for my talk, I heard the understanding confidence in her voice as she told me that she regularly speaks without notes or outlines. She relies on the Holy Spirit, and we laughed at the insanity of it, and marveled in awe of how God has always come through.

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God met me there. I spoke without notes, because I know the story God asks me to tell well–I ought to, I’ve lived it. It is little more than my testimony. I did weep, but God was merciful and held my tears back until after the event, when I was alone in my car.

Bless Him.

For years I didn’t think I had a story. Because my life lacked some of the shock and awe of the testimonies of my friends, I believed I had nothing valuable to contribute in the realm of redemption tales.

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What’s the big deal about a “good girl” finding Jesus? (That’s what I told myself). What I’d lived blind to for so many years, was how being a “good girl” had inflated my pride, I mocked the Pharisees all the while oblivious to my own likeness to them.

Pride is a filthy beast–a dragon that can only be slain daily by the Host of Heaven.

Lately, when I think I’m done telling that story, God props open another door and says, “tell it again”. I admit, sometimes, my shoulders sag. Little bits of my pride begin to glow and smoke,  “Really?–that same old story?” I ask Him.

In my mind I see Him nod. In the repeated telling of how grace continues to transform me, cool water is poured over the embers of my self-righteousness that threaten burn still.

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When we keep talking about the goodness of God, we remain tucked in the safety of His shadow.

The only true version of the story is the one where God is the rescuer. We are never the hero of our stories.

My flesh remains ever-eager to spin it a little to the left. I’d rather not reveal the ugliness of my past because I don’t want you to judge me. But in pretending it wasn’t as bad as it was, I risk cheapening the grace that has been afforded to me, and nudge God from the center, fighting Him for the glory.

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Because God is continually renewing us, we need to continually tell of His mercy. The truth is, as much as I fear having to divulge the depths of my depravity before God cracked me open, redemption stories are beautiful, and worthy of re-telling.

In telling of His goodness, the choke-hold of shame is loosened.

Every opportunity to share about the grace of Jesus is a gift.

Monica and me

My dear friend Monica drove for a couple of hours to be there that night.

Whatever your story is, keep on telling it. Let it be a consent reminder to you of how God continues to save you.

 

*My dear friend, Monica drove I don’t know how many hours to sit at the front row table and encourage me that night. Monica had just been in the hospital undergoing painful but critical treatment for her ongoing health struggles. SHE was the face of Jesus in the crowd for me that night, her generosity unbound, and gratuitous. You can get to know Monica HERE.

 

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Faith, Obedience

Hold The Door {My Declare Conference Podcast}

April 23, 2015

Several months ago, the beautiful women behind the Declare conference reached out to me, and invited to serve as the keynote speaker at their conference this summer.

The invitation came as a complete surprise on the heels of returning from Refine {the retreat}. This opportunity is an outlandish gift, and a divine opportunity that I never saw coming.

One of the challenging lessons God continues to teach me about is humility. If you’ve read my book, you know some of this story already. You know how I’ve battled pride and how God has transformed me through His generous refining process. At Refine, God asked me to be a “door holder”, which comes from Psalm 84:10. It’s been a year since God pressed this message into my heart, I am still learning what this means. Already I can tell you that the journey so far has been astounding and beautiful. god repeatedly reminds me that when we serve in the specific places and ways that he has called us, the burden is lighter because He enables us to do the work. The freedom that comes through obedience is life-giving.

I am both excited and completely humbled to be traveling to Dallas in July to help hold the door for the attendees and share a message that God has burdened my heart with for a long time.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Heather about some of the ways God has asked me to step out in faith over the last several years. You can listen in HERE.

I pray you are encouraged and inspired to step into those places where God is calling you. Let me know if I will be seeing you at Declare. I’d love to give you a hug in July!

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Community, Giveaways, Women Of Faith

You Are LOVED: Women Of Faith

April 22, 2015

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. ~Jeremiah 31:3

Do you need that reminder as often as I do?–To be reminded that God LOVES you. The truth is He is CRAZY for us–loves us unto death.I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need to be reminded that they are loved on a regular basis.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend Women Of Faith in Columbus. It was my first time at the event and after 2 days of preaching, teaching, storytelling and worship, I came away from the arena stuffed full of inspiration and goodness that I hadn’t even known I needed.

I came away from that weekend reminded that I am desperately loved by a God who would do anything to draw me closer to Himself–reminded that He has done everything, including dying for me.

I needed that weekend more than I ever knew. It changed me, friends.

Changed. Me.

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Women Of Faith is currently hosting their LOVED 2015 Farewell tour in many cities across the country. I’m sharing a little more about my experience today over at GraceTable.  

Women of Faith has generously invited you, gracious readers, to enjoy a $20 discount on your ticket purchase to an event in a city near you. Simply use the code, KH20 at checkout.

Finish reading this post at GraceTable

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Books, Faith, Obedience

On Making Space

April 21, 2015

Standing at the sink in the pre-dawn light this morning I caught myself staring at the mulched patch in the back of the yard–all that remains of the old Ash we had chopped down last year. It had stood tall all of the years we lived here, and many before. This house has stood here well before we did, carrying within her boundary lines, an unknown history.

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We’ve spent a decade making our own history here. Our story, rolled into the paint on the walls, bits of it buried by our children out there in the yard, beneath the shadow of the now missing Ash.

For all of the years my babies were babies, they played beneath her upraised branches, in the cool of her summer shade. We loved that tree, even when we knew she was dying–eaten slowly from the inside out by a parasite. For the longest time, we couldn’t see the damage that was being done.

Silently, she stood dying, while we laughed and played and lounged under her covering.

Now there’s just space. A scar in the dirt is all thats left from where her stump was ground right out of the earth. Just a few chips of mulch in brown contrast against the fresh spring green.

Ash Tree

Of course, this isn’t really about a tree. God used the remnants of that old tree to remind me of the burden of dead weight in my life. He reminded me that growth sometimes means a cutting away.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

Standing there in the dim light, pressing against the countertop, gazing out at the space left behind, I remember the grief of my sons as the men chopped at her limbs and carried bits of her off. My middle boy stood angry at the same window watching, with a deep set frown and tears brimming.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4)

We didn’t have a choice. The tree was diseased and in time would eventually crumble. Her weakened limbs had already become a hazard in the windy afternoons, breaking free and crashing to the ground without warning. My mama imagination always saw the potential for one of those limbs to crush one of my babies, and in a minute, I’d have burned her to the ground for such an occurrence.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

So we carved her out and made space for something else. Space for games of tag. Maybe space for a chicken coop. Maybe space for soaking up sun where light had rarely reached.

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We cut out the thing that carried disease, that posed a threat, that deep inside, was no longer living and we grieved the loss, and trace the scars from where it had been.

Life is like this. So often we willingly live burdened decaying things that need to go.

We’re holding on to the memory of what was unwilling to face the truth of what no longer is.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:9)

Pruning seasons are never fun. The hard work of cutting away the dead breaks our backs, breaks our hearts–leaving scars.

It’s true, we won’t be the same without it.

We will be better off.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

It’s part of the process.

Let it happen.

And then, let it go.

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Let go of the things that hold you back, that pose a threat, that are no longer fruitful. Make space for new adventures, new callings, new visions and dreams of things you do not yet know.

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1)

Christin says, “You can let the past define you or confine you. Or you can let it refine you. You can also choose to let it go… and leave it behind you.”

These days, as spring unfurls in the yard, and we work tirelessly to clean out our house, I feel the steady sweep of God’s hand, clearing away the dead things, making room for new life. He’s calling us to lay it down– the stuff that so easily entangles. the things that have become too important to us–the things we don’t think we can live without.

Leave it behind you.

That’s what he’s saying.

Let. It. Go.

and LIVE.

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*This post was inspired by my friend, Christin Ditchfield’s new book, What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free From The Power Of Guilt DiscouragementAnd Defeat. Get it. Read it. Be encouraged. {This is an affiliate link}

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Allume

See You At Allume

April 14, 2015

Allume friendsIn the last several years, I have been learning the value and beauty of allowing God to orchestrate my calendar. Last year, while I wanted to attend the Allume conference, I felt absolutely compelled to attend instead The High Calling retreat, and following that *feeling* led to several divine appointments that once I was there,  I knew God had planned all along.

This isn’t the first example of this happening for me. God has been prompting me for years, regarding my schedule–it’s just that I haven’t always listened to Him.

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I can be such a slow learner.

This year, as I prayed about the Allume Conference, I knew the Lord was saying “yes” to it for me this year, and honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be going back. It’s been 2 long years since I have been around those whom I affectionately dub, “my people”, and I am eager to hug some familiar necks and enjoy the physical fellowship of my (mostly) online friends.

If you haven’t been to Allume before, I want to encourage you to pray about attending. Ask God if Allume is on your calendar this year.

I’m sharing 6 tips for attending Allume  over at GraceTable this week.

Read the rest HERE.

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Allume, writing

How To Succeed

March 24, 2015

Keep your eyes on God_Allume

It’s 4:30 when the alarm goes off. Admittedly, I am a morning person but even at this hour, I groan at the thought of getting up. Most days it’s closer to 5 when I finally roll back the clovers to make my way to the coffee pot, and the couch for time in prayer, and the Word.

This is how most days begin partly because I like it this way, but mostly because I need it this way.

This time in the quiet with God, before the day stacks up around me is what helps me focus. This time of communion with my Maker is what centers me before my looming to-do list has time to knock me sideways. Any hope to succeed in my day starts here.

We live full lives. Most of us (ahem) don’t have a lot of margin in our day. There’s not enough whitespace and in the steady flow of things that need to be addressed, handled, managed, sorted and processed, it’s easy to lose our focus, to get distracted, to forget why we do what we do–and how we ought to do it.

Join me at the Allume blog for the rest of this article

 

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