Travis and I just started a brand new thing. PLI, which stands for Pastoral Leadership Institute, is going to be a wonderful part of our growth for the future, for ministry and mission, and for helping us to focus on the things that are most important. We spent a week in Colorado in intense learning activities, talking about our goals, values, gifts, and strengths, and how all of these come together into a vision and purpose for ministry, both as individuals and as a couple. It was incredible. I learned so much about myself and, more importantly, how to move forward because of who I am.

In the two days I’ve spent since I’ve been back, I have felt more energized and purposeful in my work and ministry than I ever have. It’s exciting to finally structure my day around the way I function best! I finally realized that data and tasks are not ever going to be areas that excite me, but that’s ok. I can still accomplish the stuff I want to get done by attaching a “why” to each item. I realized that I often have a to-do list full of things that are easy to neglect, because I forget to look at the real reason that I do them. Now I am intentional about attaching a “why” – and if I can’t, I am eliminating it from my to-do list!

Sometimes that’s a bit more challenging. There will always be things I don’t want to do that I need to do. Things that contribute to the overall work of ministry, those administrative tasks that tend to annoy and irritate me. This helps me to zone in on which ones are most important.

The first thing I’m letting go is watering my plants. Let’s face it, I do not have a green thumb. The only reason our dogs aren’t totally neglected by me is that they bark and jump and demand to be noticed. If they slept in a corner all day I’d probably forget we had them, too. This is one of the hardest things for me to let go of – why? Because the plants we have were gifts at Samantha’s funeral, and one of them is a sad, sorry looking orchid (because of my neglect, not because of the plant itself) that we paid to have repotted into a lovely looking pot. Between the guilt of the gift and the guilt of the money, I’ve been holding off on getting rid of them. I need to either pass this task off to Travis (if he wants it) or release myself from the burden of owning plants. It’s who I am, and that’s ok. Maybe I can repurpose the flower pot. Any ideas?

I hope to continue to share more about this journey as we go through it. But right now I thought I’d give you a tiny glimpse into some of the things I’ve discovered about myself.

As a result of one of the exercises, I found these to be my values:

  • Truth/integrity: Honesty and living as a real person matters a lot. I only commit to what I can do and I avoid people who say one thing and do another.
  • Serendipity: Joy is important, and so is rolling with whatever comes.I am open to the unexpected and seek joy wherever I can.
  • Inclusiveness:I often think about the ways we might unintentionally exclude others. I ask questions about programs, worship, education, etc. when I am concerned that they might leave someone out.
  • Reflection: I need time to process and reflect. I find rest and refreshment from the time spent in my inner world processing things, through blogging, prayer journaling, or other similar pursuits.
  • Courage:I will defend things that are important to me and stand up for what’s right and for the truth. I will also tell my story without fear and be myself without worrying about judgment.

Most of this I knew intrinsically before. Integrity has almost always been on my value list before. But the biggest surprise to me was Serendipity. I spent a lot of time in the past trying to force myself to be someone I’m not – serious, organized, methodical – and I never realized that I was ignoring who I really am. I am spontaneous and I love to point out the humor of a situation. I don’t do well with rigid structures, and my desk will always be messy. But admitting who I truly am gives me the freedom to work in the way that is best for me.

This is the beginning of a wild ride. I am so thankful for the gift of PLI.