A year ago during my annual end-of-year reflection, I didn’t hear any specific goals from God. Instead, I heard him tell me to just be available for whatever he had for me in 2015. As it turned out, that included the illness and death of both my mother- and father-in-law.
This year, God has given me clear direction: “I want you to leave leadership.” Since early October, this message has been unmistakable. I do not sense that he is asking me to give up influence per se (after all, that flows from who we are, not just what we do), but definitely to let go of the focus and field of leadership, at least for a time. The corresponding message I’ve heard, from Psalm 46:10: “Cease striving and know that I am God.”
So, that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know if this is a temporary “letting go” or a permanent “leaving,” but I’m OK with either. I am giving up a number of responsibilities and positions and declining new opportunities and invitations. I will stop blogging on leadership, although I’m keeping my old posts available on this site.
I have no idea where God will take me in the months ahead but I look forward to listening, learning and following.
On the Journey,
Just over ten years ago in January 2005, I worked with a business coach who had me write down my dream for what I wanted my life and work to look like in ten years, in the form of a “vision story.” I chose to write from the perspective of January 2015, in the form of a belated Christmas letter.
About a month ago, I took another look at what I wrote. It was very cool (and, honestly, a little freaky) how prescient my vision was ten years ago. Remember, I wrote this when my boys were just 5 and 3 years old. Here are the prognostications, followed by the reality:
- “Taylor is our lanky sophomore and just got his driver’s permit a few months ago….he keeps us busy with his musical and dramatic endeavors….He continues to charm us with his bright smile.”
- He’s 5’11”, got his permit as predicted (and his license last week!) and is a regular performer in various choirs, plays, musicals, and vocal teams. And yes, he still has the same bright smile.
- “Jamison turned 13 in June and is becoming an all-around athlete, even joining Mom & Dad on some of their runs. Fortunately, he’s still not too old to give mom or dad a huge bear hug.
- Jamison ran a 5K with me a few weeks ago, works out with his friends, and still accepts and gives very strong hugs.
- “The majority of my time is spent teaching in a group setting via teleclasses, workshops, seminars, conferences, and college & seminary courses. My teaching has also led to increased writing and vice-versa.”
- I wrote this before I ever taught a class and when I had just written a few columns. Now I’m an official leadership teacher and writer.
- “I travel 6-8 times a year and we usually turn some of those into all-family trips.
- OK, that estimate was on the low end of what has been reality the last few years, but when I wrote the vision I was traveling maybe 1-2 times per year. Dave and the boys have indeed joined me sometimes, as when we combined a teaching trip to Denver with a family vacation to Breckenridge.
- “We have finally been able to realize our dream of starting the Ward Foundation for leadership development, and the boys continue to learn both the joy and the ‘business’ of philanthropy.”
- I am so excited that we are in the process of setting up various charitable vehicles to fulfill these dreams.
- “I work from home and set my own schedule.”
A few things in my vision were off-base — Taylor a nature expert? Family camping trips? — but the majority of the vision has become reality. I am now working on a vision for the next ten years, dreaming and praying about what God might have for me between now and 2025.
What do you want your vision story to look like?
Just because you can do a lot of different things, doesn’t mean you’re called to do those things.
Just as a need does not constitute a call, neither does ability commit you to activity. Say a long-term yes only to those things for which you feel a clear calling in your heart.
A week ago I was able to fly to Denver to reconnect with dear friends and meet some new ones. I enjoyed lots of great food, a gorgeous day in the mountains, a steady stream of stimulating conversations, and of course plenty of laughter. I came back extroverted-out and physically tired but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually challenged and renewed, with a journal full of reflections and ideas.
Who are the people who fill your tank? Make sure you know who they are, and then make sure you make time for intentional connection, whether they are local or long distance.
Did God call you here?
If He did: Are you leading and serving, confident in that calling?
If He did at one point, but you’re thinking about leaving: Did He call you away? (Don’t make a move until you’re clear.)
If He didn’t: Start paying attention to what He tells you. Do what you can to redeem the situation, or follow His leading elsewhere.
(This wise question from a new friend kept me at Denver Seminary when I wanted to transfer because I was homesick. And that new friend eventually became my husband.)