Lessons Learned from My Time Away

For those of you wondering where I’ve been, I’m happy to debunk the probable rumblings of me getting lost on a hiking trail along the coast, or choosing a life of minimalism in the Sierras. I’ve been here all along, but have stayed silent due to an unfortunate cocktail of overwhelm, perfectionism, and professional ambiguity. It’s safe to say I’m a little embarrassed by my disappearance from this journal the past four months and can’t believe it’s been over a quarter of a year since I hit that “publish” button.

And when I finally sat down to let my fingers type freely, I felt like I didn’t have much to say. What do you do when you have four months worth of words in your head but you feel like they’re insignificant? To get me out of this self-made creative funk I made a list of things that have taken place in the last four months. All the highs, lows, and moments in between. What originally felt like random words flung together later turned into a trail of breadcrumbs leading towards another joyful takeaway for this journal.

As I evaluated all that had happened in the last four months, I realized there were some common themes that showed up. These themes are my lessons learned from my time away, and they’re waiting for us below.

When you feel like progress is lacking, get out of the trees and look at the forest.

One of the saddest tendencies for us as humans is our inability to recognize long game perspective. We want overnight results and instant gratification. We punish small growth for its lack of big, more dramatic progress by refusing to affirm or acknowledge anything less than our set expectations. But forward progress, whether it comes in the form of an inch or a mile, is still progress. If we don’t take a second to get out of our own way to see the forest from the trees, we’re going to miss out on some pretty incredible moments worthy of celebration.

I realized this nugget while trudging through the first half of January. I felt sluggish, unmotivated, and wasn’t sleeping well due to my constant fixation on past regret and feelings of ineptitude. But then I stepped back from those impatient feelings to take a look at the forest of the past year and what’s still to come.

In twelve months time so much had radically changed. Professionally, I went from writing a few short devotions for Wheat and Honey Co. to helping launch the first Bible Study for the online shop, which also happened to be my first to author. And as I write this, we’re set to roll out another large product this month, and more this year. Personally, my husband and I are the closest we’ve ever been, thanks to extreme amounts of vulnerability, grace, and laughter. We’re growing towards becoming the best of friends, and we’ve had more fun in the past two months than we’ve had in the past two years. And even on the hard days that still happen, I can’t help but stop and recognize how far we’ve come and how much we would’ve missed had we given up all those times we wanted to.

The point is, if we get stuck with a limited belief or perspective of our current situation, we have to make the conscious decision to take a step back to get a full look at how far we’ve come, all the good being done right where we are, and the incredible moments to come.

You do your best work when you’re unafraid.

As I looked at my list of personal and business goals for 2019, I acknowledged that in order to move forward and really accomplish what I have on my heart, I’m going to have to ditch fear of failure and other people’s opinions and trade it for courage.

Fear, especially the fear of looking like an idiot in front of other people is something I’ve struggled with since I was a little girl. In all my life, I’ve never wanted to be the one to take the game-winning shot. Heck, I even got nervous shooting in warm-ups because I was afraid of someone seeing me miss. And while I don’t play mediocre high school basketball anymore, I still find myself consumed with the internal pressure to be perfect, which makes me pause before trying something new or attempting to get better at something I needed to work on. But what I’ve come to realize is some of my greatest moments have come at times when I’m not afraid of falling short.

The basketball game in high school when I scored my game high? I had the worst cold of my life and was doped up on medicine.

The blog post with the most views on my old site? I typed and published the vulnerable words after a wine night with my sister.

The project I’m most proud of in my writing career? I turned in the final version before I had time to think about the potential backlash or negative feedback.

A friend and I were having lunch a few weeks ago, and we talked about her upcoming opportunity to speak and tell her story in front of a group of Christian women. I can attest, her story is so inspiring, but I completely related to the fear she was experiencing. “What if there’s someone in the audience who has seen me make a mistake and they discount me or my intentions?”

I think we’ve all experienced that feeling of imposter syndrome at some point or another. That overwhelming fear that we’ll be called unqualified or someone will call us out for our missteps. But it’s how we choose to move forward after that feeling that sets us apart from the people who play it small. You can have the perception that you have it all together, but the sacrifice for your safety will be your God-given potential. But when we’re unafraid and trust that God can work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) including our failure, mistakes, or disqualification, we are free to grow into who He created us to be in His image.

At some point, we have to choose whether we’ll be driven by the ONE person who might call us out for our shortcomings or the ONE HUNDRED (or more) people we could inspire or help by courageously pursuing our goals and dreams.

Life’s too short to be a martyr.

Shawn and I recently made the decision to move from California back to Oklahoma, and while I’d like to say it was a hard choice, in reality it was one of the easiest decisions we’ve made as a married couple. Sure, we prayed about the decision and watched God open the doors to make the move, but there was still that little voice inside that said: “you didn’t give California a fair shot.”. And that voice wasn’t a liar.

We’ve straddled the fence of our roots and our new state since day one. We’ve racked up the Southwest points to travel back to see family and friends often. We’ve still called Oklahoma “home,” which is a big no-no if you’re trying to plant roots. We’ve kept our University of Oklahoma football tickets in spite of living 1,600 miles away from the stadium (okay that was always a non-negotiable.) We both recognize that we’ve had a short-term mindset of our time on the West Coast.

And while we could’ve stuck it out in California for the sake of making up for lost intentions, I believe life’s too short to stick something out that’s not working simply for the sake of martyrdom. God gave us self-awareness for a reason, and when we slow down long enough to take inventory of what’s working and what’s not, He gives us free will to prayerfully and intentionally act upon that information. I don’t think He wants us to feel stuck just for the sake of saying we did it.

Because there’s freedom in knowing your future is secure in the Lord. We know that if He wants us to come back to California in the future He’ll show us and make it happen. But for now, we’ll simply stand thankful for the time we did spend here and look forward to a future filled with new experiences and opportunity in the Midwest.

The longer you wait, the harder you make it on your future self. Just start already.

This blog is a fantastic example of this lesson for creating momentum. I had plans to continue writing and publishing to this journal in November. November quickly faded into the craziness of December, which sped into the newness of January. The longer time went since publishing the last post, the more pressure I put on myself to really get it right, leading to the mental equivalent of the fetal position. When we procrastinate doing something for the sake of perfection or just making it easier on ourselves in the short term, we create major limitations and hardship for our future selves.

Sometimes the effects of our hesitation are physical. The longer we wait to “get back on the wagon” after a holiday season of missed workouts and heavy meals and leftovers, the harder the physical challenges will be once we start again.

However, most of the time the hurdles and hardships of procrastination are simply mental. With each passing day and to-do put off, we add another brick to a growing wall of dread. And by the time we finally get around to tackling the task, the height has gone from a knee-level retaining wall to an indoor climbing gym.

So, how do we scale the physical or mental wall in front of us?

We have a special term in the Jolly family called the “Jackie Waffle.” My parents' first dog’s name was Jackie, and growing up when my mom would use her old-school Belgian waffle maker on Saturday mornings she’d always feed the first waffle to Jackie. She knew that the first one wasn’t going to be great because it would either be too undercooked, or too burnt. She needed to know how to adjust the temperature to get it just right, but she had to have the Jackie Waffle to know for sure.

When you’re dreading getting started, give yourself the permission to have a Jackie Waffle, friend. Don’t place your expectations too high, and don’t hold yourself accountable to its success or failure. Take it for what it is, an experiment to adjust accordingly, and just start already!

As I settle back into healthy routine and rhythm for writing, I’m most thankful for you being here. I’m so appreciative of your time and your ongoing support for me to keep going and growing. I hope you’re able to apply some of these lessons learned from my last four months to your own life, and you find this journal as a positive space that breeds inspiration and intention for your faith, health, and personal growth.

So many virtual hugs from this side of the screen to yours! As always, feel free to drop a note in the comments below or shoot me an email with your thoughts. Here’s to the next four months of lessons learned, just with more ongoing documentation along the way.

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Joyful Takeaway: You can have the perception that you have it all together, but the sacrifice for your safety will be your God-given potential.