Browsed by
Author: jenzug

Throwback Thursday and The Epidemic of Hard Working Women

Throwback Thursday and The Epidemic of Hard Working Women

Everyone is talking about Hillary Clinton’s “health scare” from this weekend, but not in a, “Gosh, I hope she’s doing okay,” kinda way.

No, they’re talking about her pneumonia diagnosis like it’s the key to uncovering her secret robot chromosome the doctors have been hiding for all these years.

Even if she does have a secret robot chromosome, how could that possibly be a bad thing? It would certainly explain a few things.

But whatever, I’m so over the drama. Anyone who knows mankind knows this is what happens when men get sick:

This whole pneumonia thing is a non-story, and the attention it’s getting is maddening.

It’s only recently that I’ve actually taken a beat to rest while I’m sick, and that’s because I can. Before? I couldn’t. Because I couldn’t. It was literally not possible for me to be sick. And I even have backup.

Back in 2008 I got the flu, and Bryan couldn’t take time off to help me because he was on a deadline death march. Netflix didn’t exist yet, or at least it didn’t have streaming. The kids watched Finding Nemo and PBS shows while jumping on me as I played dead on the sofa.

It was ugly, but I soldiered on. Here’s a slice of that week, brought to you by my weird need to document life like it’s a mashup of The Notebook and The Truman Show:

I give The Flu the finger and start my day with two Advil and a cup of coffee, laying helplessly on the couch as I wait for Advil to kick in. I’m staying ahead of the pain.

When it does kick in, I clean the bathroom. I spray the entire thing down with Lysol, including all the door knobs and cabinet handles. I spray all the door knobs in the hallway. I spray the front and back door. I spray the couch. I spray my chair. I spray the phone. I shut down my laptop and give it a good rub down. I scour the kitchen with Lysol All-Purpose cleaner with bleach. My nostrils are now burning, and my children are growing extra toes, but my house sparkles (read the full post here).

(That is quite an epic post. You should really read the whole thing.)

Twelve days later I was diagnosed with pneumonia. After a week of coughing all night, I had a scare where I couldn’t inhale after coughing, so I went to the doctor.

She prescribed an antibiotic, and I said, “Can I go running tomorrow?”

And she said, “Don’t be stupid.”

So yeah. What’s the big deal about pneumonia?

Friday Link Love: Distress Signals, Current Protest Culture, and a New Podcast for West Wing Fans

Friday Link Love: Distress Signals, Current Protest Culture, and a New Podcast for West Wing Fans

Link Love BadgeA collection of interesting things I found on the web this week.

 

How Facebook Live Became Our New Global Distress Signal

I love how this article begins with a story; a metaphor that helps us understand the significance of this moment in time and how technology is once again poised to save lives. It used to be that inner city black men disappeared and no one outside their universe knew it. But today, in this moment in time, technology like Facebook Live makes it possible for anyone to send out a distress signal.  It’s the tide that raises all the boats, so to speak.

“…She did not trust the justice system to investigate it,” the article says. “She used the only tool at her disposal — she turned her camera on not to share her pain, but to cry out for help. ‘I wanted everyone in the world to know that no matter how much the police tamper with evidence, how much they stick together … I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that the people could see.'”

For Philando Castile, Social Media Was the Only 911

“Victims of police shootings have no authorities to call, no higher-ups to summon. In these situations, police are witness, assailant, and first responder—all three. Throughout history, that fact has left victims with little recourse.”

“…But Reynolds’ live video was different. Not just a documentation of what happened, it was also a real-time cry for help. Unable to call the authorities as she watched her loved one slip away, Reynolds instead called on the public.”

Fresh Air Interview With Kenya Barris, Creator of Black-ish

I listened to this podcast while on a walk last night. I particularly loved his comparison of his generation’s approach to protesting with that of his kids’ version of protesting. Here’s a quote:

Now, my kids and their generation … [when the] Trayvon Martin incident happened and my daughter came in and I was like, “How do you feel about this?” and she was like, “We’re really upset. Kids I know are protesting.” I’m like, “That’s awesome. What are you doing?” And she said, “Look, we’re doing it on Instagram.”

And she shows me this Instagram picture and it’s just a black frame … and I’m like, “OK, so where’s the protest?” She’s like, “This is it. Look how many people are putting black on their Instagram.” I realized, this must be the most low-rent protest I’ve ever seen in my life. I was like, “I can’t get a small trash can fire? I don’t know, like,anything?” It really showed me the generational difference.

“I can’t get a small trash can fire?” Both funny and not funny at the same time. Also the reason I never change my Facebook profile photo to “show support” of whatever current event we’re sad or angry about in the moment. It feels trite and disrespectful to the seriousness of the situation.

The West Wing Weekly Podcast

Okay, now to lighten it up a little in here. THIS PODCAST! I discovered it just today and listened to three episodes while I did some painting at our rental property. It’s hosted by Josh Molina, who plays Will Bailey, starting in season 4, and another guy named Hrishi who’s a fan and a friend of Molina’s.

It’s literally an episode by episode recap and commentary on the show, with special guests and insider information, AND IT’S AMAZING. If you’re a “Wing Nut,” as Molina calls us fans (himself included), you have to listen to this podcast. It’s a delightfully fantastic break from real life.

Photo Credit: @HrishiHirway
Photo Credit: @HrishiHirway
Throwback Thursday: 2010 & The Trouble With Relaxing

Throwback Thursday: 2010 & The Trouble With Relaxing

I’m in my eleventh year of blogging. That’s 142 in Web Years!

In the early days my blog was a journal through grieving and postpartum depression. It’s interesting to go back through old posts and remember what a mess I was, but also how connected I was to myself.

I feel disconnected now. Unmoored. On autopilot. It’s nice to go back and remember a time when I felt things more deeply, even if those things were painful.

But let’s not talk about that now. Let’s be funny instead!

I found this post from the year I started working again. The kids were little, it was summer, and I worked from home. It was a bunch to juggle, but at some point I decided to take a break, despite the long list of All The Things still undone. Here’s what happened:

I felt like a half-chewed carcass in the desert, fighting for my life as five three-foot vultures circled around me, waiting for me to breath my last. They weren’t even doing anything – they literally were standing around in the living room while I laid (layed?) there reading.

To find out what happened next, you can read the whole post here.

Book Review: The Nexus Trilogy

Book Review: The Nexus Trilogy

A friend once declared that my husband, Bryan, is from the future. And it’s true, he is.

He sees the beginning of things and understands the likelihood of where it’ll end up — like that season in 2005 when he’d go to geek gatherings in Seattle with a video camera and say, “Have you heard of this thing called YouTube? I think it might be important.” (A chain of events that eventually lead him to help the first ever Ignite Seattle turn into a worldwide movement).

I got the same vibe from author Ramez Naam when I read his three-book series, Nexus, Crux, and Apex, set in the year 2040.

Ramez Naam at Ignite Seattle, 2008; Photo by Randy Stewart.
Ramez Naam at Ignite Seattle, 2008; Photo by Randy Stewart.

The Scoop

The story is built around nanotechnology and the ability to connect our brains with computers. Then imagine the ability to build software on top of that technology — an app store for your brain, if you will.

Need to calm your anxiety? No problem. There’s an app for that.

Lost an arm? No problem. We’ll connect your prosthetic arm to nodes in your brain so you can make it move just by thinking about it.

As you might suspect, there is conflict over whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, communicating telepathically with my mom, who’s had a stroke and is no longer verbal, sounds fantastic.

On the other hand, my brain could be hacked and used to control my body to do something terrible.

In Context

I read the first two books many months ago, but I was reading Apex recently as people boycotted Target for their transgender-friendly bathrooms, and Donald Trump’s destructive rhetoric rose to power, and Hillary Clinton was absolved by the FBI of her email scandal, and the Orlando night club was shot up, and Alton Sterling was killed, and Philando Castile was killed, and eleven Dallas police officers were shot, leaving five dead.

These were interesting times to be reading a global, political, science fiction thriller, as fiction and real life seemed to be running in parallel.

In real life, I was consumed by articles and videos related to human rights issues on race, sexual orientation, and gender identification. In fiction, transhumans — those with nanotechnologies in their brains — faced discrimination, oppression, and other atrocities.

In real life, I watched the Facebook Live broadcast of Philando Castile’s girlfriend following his death — the first time I’m aware of that this live feature was used to broadcast an incident like this. In fiction, I read of people broadcasting protests worldwide, in real time, using connected networks from their minds.

I also read about political scandal, inciting rhetoric, and roadblocked policy changes, all while tracking with similar issues in real life.

On a day when I was too distracted by the Facebook Snowball Effect to get much work done, I was reminded of this passage from Apex:

Carolyn Pryce watched the screens, transfixed. It was blowing up. Everywhere. Maybe Shanghai had started it. Maybe something else. But now… Every shooting, every explosion, every brutality someone on Nexus captured went viral. They ricocheted around the globe. They fed more violence, enraging protesters, driving police to more extreme measures. It was a feedback loop. White noise. The whole thing going to a screeching caterwaul that was going to break the windows of civilization.

As my Facebook feed exploded with articles and conversations about the chaotic world around me, I realized the character of Carolyn Pryce was witnessing the futuristic Nexus Snowball Effect.

My Takeaway

As I mentioned earlier, the series takes place in the year 2040, when my kids will be in their 30’s, and I’ll be in my 60’s. The nearness of that time frame is one thing that made the books so exciting for me. I can imagine using nanotechnology in my lifetime. I can imagine my son, Thomas, who’s firmly planted in the YouTube and virtual reality generation, grasping the benefits of it while also being cautious of its achilles heel.

But in Naam’s future, some things never change. Politics is still politics. Corruption in leadership is still a thing. People who are different are still marginalized. Policy still doesn’t change hearts. In other words, we’re all still very human.

But that shouldn’t leave us hopeless.

In Micah 6:6-7, the narrator asks (my paraphrase), What can be done to please the Lord? What can be done to bring about change? The prophet Micah reminds his listeners that we already have the answer. In verse 8 he says quite poetically:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

That’s how we maintain our humanity in a changing world.

My takeaway from this trilogy is that technological advancement is inevitable, and I’d rather be on the side of understanding it than fearing it. But I will always be an advocate for humanity.

Friday Link Love

Friday Link Love

Link Love BadgeFresh Air Interview with Tony Hale
I started watching VEEP on Netflix this year. I’m only on Season 2, though, because the characters on the show are so awful I can’t handle watching more than a couple episodes at a time. In this way it reminds me of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — hilarious and awkward and OHMYGAWDTURNITOFFALREADY.

Bryan sent me a link to this interview because I love the Vice President’s body man, David, played by Tony Hale (who also played Buster on Arrested Development).

(As a side note, Terry Gross had never heard the term “body man.” But DUH. Charlie was body man to The West Wing’s President Bartlett, and Marissa was body woman to The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick.)

In this interview with Gross, Hale talks about the anxiety of being between jobs and having nothing to say when someones asks, “What’s next?”

Bryan and I used to joke about this, how it’s less awkward in social settings to say you’re currently “freelancing” rather than admit you’re unemployed. In both scenarios you’re looking for work, but freelancers are better story tellers.

modern day cowboy

Hale also talks about contentment in a way I relate to. Here’s a quote from the interview:

When I was on “Arrested Development” – I really learned a massive lesson from “Arrested Development” because here’s a show that was so well-written and so funny and the cast was so great and I really did love being there. But I remember getting it and it’s all I ever wanted. And I remember it not satisfying the way I thought it was going to satisfy.

And it really freaked me out because it was my dream.

And then when I got it, and I’d given that thing so much weight and it didn’t satisfy, it really woke me up that if you’re not practicing contentment where you are, you’re not going to be content when you get what you want. And it really scared me.

Raise your hand if you relate!

*raises hand*

This American Life: Tell Me I’m Fat
Lately I’ve been struggling with the tension between acceptance of my 40-something never-going-back-again body and wishing my “real body” would return. Do I care about my weight? Or do I just want to be healthy? In this episode of This American Life, both questions are addressed, and you also get another dose of the contentment vibe.

Redefining Balance

Redefining Balance

A few weeks ago was the Autumnal Equinox, and I happened to be at yoga that night when I had a DUH moment.

On the Equinox, daylight and darkness are nearly equal. By God’s design, the Universe doesn’t achieve balance for a season or a year or a lifetime — just on that one day.

Do you know what this means?!

Balance isn’t a lifestyle.

If God chooses to maintain balance for a mere 24 hours, why do WE work so hard to live an entire lifestyle of balance? Wouldn’t it be healthier to find contentment in the lopsided reality of the world around us?

I personally have a hard time seeing beyond the chaos I’m in right now. It’s always going to be this way! I whine. But it’s not always going to be this way. Yes, maybe life is a little lopsided right now, but in just a little while the world will tilt into balance, and I’ll find relief until it tilts out of balance again.

It’s a rhythm I can count on when times are desperate and I need a little hope.

Balance is a signal of change, not an example of permanence.

When we hit the Equinox, we can’t hang on to those long, wandering days anymore. Fall brings back a natural rhythm to our lives, and we need to leave the carefree days behind us. But then, just as we’re despairing that Winter will never end, the Spring Equinox tilts us back into those carefree wandering days of summer again.

When I feel overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m doing too much. And I’m trying to do too much because I want to hang on to everything. But the momentary balance of Equinox encourages me to let go of something for a season so I can embrace whatever the new season has for me.

And based on my experience, those things I let go of usually pop up again in a season yet to come.

For example, my kids are older and more independent now. They have new and different needs than they did as toddlers and younger elementary school aged, but their independence affords me my own independence in a way I haven’t experienced since before I had kids. My reality has new challenges, but it’s tilting in a new direction.

Balance ushers in the {new} New Year.

I’ve always thought of Fall as the real New Year. My kids are back in school, my clients are back from their summer time off, and I start setting goals and routines into place for the coming season, both personally and professionally.

Things that are stressing me out

Not too long ago I had to make a list of Things That Are Stressing Me Out Right Now. My brain was filled with worry and conflicting priorities, so I wrote it all down in hopes that the piece of paper would carry my worries away.

Unfortunately, my paper was not a magical problem solver, but at least I was able to see clearly that I was hanging on to too much and that maybe it’s time to make a change.

If you read Galatians 5:22-23 in The Message, the narrative describes how living God’s way develops a “willingness to stick with things,” and that “we find ourselves involved in loyal commitments.” But in the previous verses, we read about the horrible consequences of trying to get our own way all the time — like “small-minded and lopsided pursuits.”

This irony resonates with me — the more I try to hang on to things, the more flakey I become. But when I sit down and remind myself of who I am, where I’m going, and what I need to shed to get there, I become more resolute in the Mission God’s called me to.

Abundant life is found in the full tilt.

And finally, I leave you with the idea that perhaps God didn’t intend for us to be “in balance” because he wants us to lean full tilt into him for everything. Paul says in Ephesians 1:

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

Jesus wants us to feel abundantly free — not just barely free and hanging on for dear life — so he provided everything we could possibly need as we tilt into him.

What are your thoughts on balance?

(This is an edited re-post that originally appeared on my business blog.)

This Is Not a Women’s Group

This Is Not a Women’s Group

Okay, it kind of is.

I’ve been involved in the church my entire life — born and raised, plus my parents were both on staff of our very large mega church in the midwest — and as a result I feel a bit of fatigue when it comes to church programing like YOUTH GROUPS and WOMENS GROUPS.

But at the same time, I see a need in my own life to know and be known by other women. And when I talk to some of you, I hear the same thing, because we have experiences and challenges that are unique to our gender, regardless of All The Things that makes us different.

Maybe our first order of business when we get together will be to rename ourselves something without the word “women” or “group” in it — something like The Astronaut Wives Club, only not specific to astronauts or wives or clubs that are exclusive.

Or maybe…

A Gathering of Females.

Or…

Real Talk With People of the Same Gender Who Are Not Men.

Or….

I Barely Made It Out the Door With Pants On What More Do You Want?

(Branding is not my core genius, as you can imagine.)

But this is what’s been on my mind lately: Spiderwebs.

Yup. It’s the time of year when we all do that special dance as we walk through a face-level spiderweb or wake up to a big striped hairy creature on the headboard above our pillow and you have to put on your glasses to realize it’s not actually a cat.

Spider season gets me thinking about the webs we weave inside our head.

What lies do we catch in our silken threads to wrap up and consume over days and weeks? How do we untangle ourselves from these lies and clear away the spiderwebs?

My desire for meeting up is to encourage each other, be real, and connect Jesus to our everyday thoughts and actions. We can do that for each other, which would be great, because I’m not an expert at this.

For instance, here are a few lies I trapped in my mind-web as I think about coordinating Lady Camp (nope, that name doesn’t work either):

  • I have no idea what I’m doing.
  • I will drop all the balls and disappoint everyone.
  • People are going to find out I quote scripture mostly as, “It says somewhere in the Bible that…” because I can’t remember where anything is.
  • Which leads to occasionally attributing a Grateful Dead lyric to scripture.
  • Then I will be revealed as the fraud I am.

There you go — welcome to my web. I can’t wait to hear what’s trapped in your web!

Join me on Monday, September 28th at Denny Park Lutheran Church as we talk about the stuff of life and remind each other that “It’s in Christ we find out who we are and what we’re living for” (Ephesians 1:11, The Message).

6:00 Prefunk — Doors will open early if you’re coming straight from work or just want more time to hang out. Bring a dinner with you or mooch off someone who brings extra.

7:00 Main event (mud wrestling is postponed until further notice).

Keeping Up With the Tweenses

Keeping Up With the Tweenses

I’m trying to figure out how to write about the perils and joys of parenting a ‘tween girl without completely mortifying her.

When my kids were little, blogging connected me with other moms I related to and made me feel less crazy, and it was therapeutic for processing stressful issues in my marriage.

I miss that feeling of connectedness that comes with writing openly about my emotions — connectedness to myself, mainly. Which is weird. Writers are weird.

For me, blogging makes me step back and observe my situation from a third person perspective. Knowing that I’m about to write something that involves my child, husband, friend, or anyone else I’m in relationship with, I need to consider how a public record of that story will affect the other people in it.

I’ve always believed in only telling my story, from my perspective. It’s not right for me to tell Ruthie’s story, or Bryan’s, unless we agree to it. So every time I’m tempted to write something scathing, I am convicted in my heart to rethink the story I’m believing about the situation, and explore how I can take more responsibility for my own emotions.

I think this has helped me tell truthful stories while respecting others around me.

So here I am, setting the reset button on blogging about all the piles I’m standing in as the mother of a ‘tween girl and nine year old boy.

(My, how they grow fast.)

20141029-105104.jpg

So here’s where I’ll start…

I’m learning that parenting requires fluidity. I’m more like an ancient stone statue that’s cracked and pooped on, weathered and beaten, but relentlessly unchanging.

Last week Ruthie declared that she hated her headphones and threw them on my desk. It was less cut and dried than that, but just imagine dumping a bucket of water into a box full of cats and you’ll have an idea of how she responded to the unsatisfactory headphones.

A few days later she saw them sitting on my desk where she’d dropped them and said, “Hey, these are cute! Are they mine?” and took them back, proving that if I just don’t engage the drama, it eventually blows over.

This fluidity between likes and dislikes is a pain in the ass for parents like me who want to coast on the stability of a templated life.

“What do you mean, you hate broccoli?? For the last six months broccoli is THE ONLY VEGETABLE YOU’VE EVER EATEN. Now I have to think of something else healthy to feed you??”

*groan*

I really enjoy being lazy and not having to solve problems all the time. Problem solving is exhausting. I have great systems set up in my home that, if followed, would parent for me. Most of life can be managed with a check list and a reward jar filled with candy.

But my kids are not robots on auto-pilot.

Recently I was at a meeting to help plan a coat drive and free lunch for the homeless later this month. The lead organizer’s name is Oliver, and he was describing a lunch scenario in which our “guests” are seated at a table by a “host” and served a plate of food by a “server.”

I was perplexed.

“Why don’t we just set up the food buffet style and have them go through a line?”

Duh.

Lines move faster and we’ll get through the crowd more efficiently.

Oliver put his pen down and looked at me.

“I know a line moves faster,” he said. “But these guys stand in a lot of lines. I want to provide a place where they can sit and be served.”

I smiled and nodded, feeling a weight lifted off me that wasn’t just about feeding hundreds of people efficiently.

Oliver’s desire to love people more than process opened my eyes to just about everything that I let frustrate me about my little offspring and their ability to derail my best laid plans.

Life is fluid. People are important. Stone is overrated.

The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp

The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp

A friend shared this post on Facebook awhile back, and it resonated with me:

When folks gather around a system of shared beliefs, the price of acceptance in the group is usually agreement, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being right. Unfortunately, this often creates an atmosphere of fear and performance, which in turn invites conformity.

But when people gather around a shared need for healing, the price of acceptance in the group is usually vulnerability, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being real. This tends to foster an atmosphere of safety and participation, which in turn invites community.

via The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp.

I’ve always gravitated toward vulnerability, so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m drawn to all kinds of relationships, regardless of racial, socio-economic, or religious perspectives — though I’ve never quite put my finger on describing it this way until I contemplated the above quote.

As I reflect on my relationships — both intimate and less so —  the common denominator in most of my friendships doesn’t appear to be a specific culture, belief system, or even Jesus.

I think I just like people who are real.

You can be real about being gay or straight, you can be real about believing or not believing in Jesus, you can be real about being rich or poor — just be real, and we’ll probably be friends.

The Story of How Mars Hill Church Broke Up With Me

The Story of How Mars Hill Church Broke Up With Me

I love Mars Hill.

I began attending in my late 20’s, way back in the 90’s. I served alongside Mark Driscoll for many years as a volunteer, and eventually became his assistant. It was an exciting time for all of us. We put the first .mp3’s on the Mars Hill web site, the foundation for today’s podcasts that reach so many people around the world. We restructured the website in an era before “content marketing” was a thing, putting fresh content on the homepage every Tuesday. We wrote our own music and arrangements because we believed that we were sub-creators of God, our ultimate Creator.

Mark Driscoll mentored me alongside other young men and women who served at the time, and my life is better because of how he connected a theoretical gospel to my real, practical, every day life.

Prior to my time at MH I wasn’t doing anything meaningful with my life, nor did I have a plan or a vision for finding something meaningful to do. I’m thankful for the push MH gave me to try my hand at ministry – to fail, to try again, and to iterate through to what I eventually understood was my calling, which is to mentor, write, and facilitate conversations that help connect disparate groups of people.

We used to read books like The Celtic Way of Evangelism and Resident Aliens. These are books about living in and loving the culture, about influencing the culture with the Gospel rather than separating ourselves from the culture and building walls that defined us vs. them. 

As a young woman who grew up feeling disconnected in an evangelical churchy church, these books and the mission of Mars Hill helped me realize I wasn’t called to service within the church, but to the marketplace and to the culture. I was meant to live among, work along side, and socialize with the people around me in this city. 

As the years went on, I became troubled by cultural lines drawn in the sand regarding yoga, teen vampire books, Obama, and the characterization of a “Richard Simmons hippy queer Christ.”

The church that once sent me on a mission to the culture slowly became a hinderance to that mission as Bryan and I fielded questions from non-believing friends about why this Jesus Mark talked about sounds more like Glenn Beck and less like the Jesus we keep talking about. They were confused. One atheist friend said something to the affect of, “You (Bryan) and Jen are the first Christians I’ve met that I can’t dismiss, yet I don’t understand [insert inflammatory topic voiced by Mark on twitter] – that doesn’t mirror this Jesus you keep telling me about. “

This was the beginning of the end of our time at Mars Hill, when I realized we were spending more time defending Mark’s careless words and less time addressing the true stumbling block of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ himself.

The final straw for me was when Mars Hill Central pulled all programs from the Downtown Seattle campus that were unique to the mission of that neighborhood — like the Christmas coat lunch, for example. It was at this point that I realized Mars Hill had completely abandoned the original mission its name was founded upon from Acts 17 where Paul demonstrated love for the culture, blessed the culture, and used the culture to reveal a path to Jesus in a way that people could understand and connect with.

This was Mars Hill’s inspiration back in the day, and this was the life work I was called to. But the mission to contextualize the Gospel to a specific neighborhood culture (which I understood was the original vision for localized campuses) gave way to branding a universal Mars Hill entity that was common at all locations (think: Starbucks for churches).

I grieve Mars Hill’s departure from my life over a year ago, because I loved my church and I thought we’d be on mission together until I was old and gray. I thought my participation in building the mission of Mars Hill would be a legacy left for my children and grandchildren. How foolish I was to put so much faith in a human institution led by sinful men (as I am also sinful)! The true legacy I leave for my children is a love for Jesus and his Word, and a pursuit of a true Gospel community. 

I will always love you, Mars Hill, like a school girl remembers her first crush. But I choose to continue forward on the mission God gave me through your influence, even if you choose another direction.

Late Bloomer on a Learning Curve

Late Bloomer on a Learning Curve

I recently had lunch with Amy Balliett, co-founder of Killer Infographics. It was great to meet another female business owner and get a little pep talk from someone who is now experiencing growth, but started out struggling, just like anyone else.

It was just what I needed.

Earlier this year I realized I make an extremely unlikely CEO. I took a talent insight assessment test to map my behavior and motivators, and it revealed that I’m a very passionate person who is loyal to a great leader and/or a great cause.

In other words, I follow well.

But instead of feeling discouraged by this epiphany, I found it to be a huge relief. It explained why I kept waiting around for someone else to tell me what to do next to grow the business — I was that someone else!

The assessment also helped me understand my strengths, and now I’m on a mission to improve my areas of weakness.

office with a view
I spend my evenings studying up on strategic planning.

“The two most important attributes of effective leaders are their abilities to predict and to delegate.”

This quote is from Verne Harnish in, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, a book that Amy recommend I read.

Turns out that I’m terrible at both of those things. I’m a control freak, and I prefer observation over prediction.

But the ability to predict and delegate is not an impossible thing for me to learn, and maybe my first big act of delegation is to give someone else the job of predicting!

The point is, I’m passionate about helping people and businesses tell their stories, and I love running a small business with people I love. With my strengths shored up, I’m ready to tackle the learning curve so I can be who I am and do what I love, successfully.

Many thanks to Amy for her pep talk, and to Shandel at True Life Coaching, who provided the talent insights assessment and interpretation.

This Is What Happens When Bryan Makes Me Take a Vacation

This Is What Happens When Bryan Makes Me Take a Vacation

I’m currently in Las Vegas.

Sorry, I should have started with a little more pizzaz…

JEN ZUG DOES VEGAS!

(If “does” is code for “reading a book in various locations within a one block square radius,” then that statement is totally accurate).

I might be the least Vegassy person I know, but I am nonetheless enjoying myself, not to mention that when I got here, I saw this guy for the first time in over a week:

20140529-103414.jpg

He is here on business as part of the core team at UP Global that is hosting the UP Summit. Holy cow are these people amazing! Over 500 enthusiastic, motivated, smart, and extroverted people from around the globe who are all excited about infecting the world with their startup culture.

The summit started Thursday, so after a few days of lounging around the pool, I’m excited to be learning and connecting with some great people.

Speaking of lounging around the pool…

20140529-103444.jpg

After arriving late afternoon on Tuesday, Bryan had a dinner meeting to attend, so I went down to the pool to read my book. All the lounge chairs around the pool were taken, but there was an entire section of empty chairs behind a red chain and I was all, Maybe that chain is just to make sure people fill up the other chairs first – like they sometimes do in church to make everyone sit toward the front – so clearly it’s okay for me to sit here now that they’re all full.

Well, apparently I entered a restricted cabana area. But a kind young security guard with a rather large walkie-talkie said that if I book a day in advance I can get this area for $100 cheaper!

Cheaper than what?? I didn’t ask, because that would have blown my cover as someone who goes to Vegas all the time.

So I apologized for not seeing the chain earlier (when I stepped over it) and moved to a chair in the non-cabana area. At that point I realized the $100-cheaper-than-something price gets you a cool mist spray from above, which the chairs in the regular area don’t have. This is an important detail, mind you, because it was 100 degrees as the sun was setting.

I totally felt like I was sitting third class on the Titanic, about to sink into heat stroke while first class guests are misted with a dewy spray.

20140529-111307.jpg

To prevent my nose and the part in my hair from burning in this unrelenting sun, I wanted to bring a hat to Vegas. The trouble is, I don’t have a cute sun hat, nor did I buy one before leaving.

I do that sometimes. I sabotage my intentions by doing absolutely nothing about them.

Here’s a fun experiment. Take a person who is never alone and is terrible at making decisions and drop her off at the airport alone with a backpack and a ticket to Vegas. You know what she might do? She might step into the cutest airport store ever to try on hats for wearing by the pool in her swimsuit, then become paralyzed because do you buy the practical hat you can wear with anything or the fun hat you can only wear by the pool because nothing else in your suitcase will go with orange plaid?

Keep in mind this person agonizes over the purchase of a single pair of shoes every four years or so because that one pair of shoes has to last for at least one Presidential term, be comfortable, and look equally good when worn to the grocery store or “out on the town” (do the kids still say “out on the town” or am I showing my age?) because GOD FORBID this person spend the money to buy situationally specific shoes for herself. At this point the odds are stacked against the fun hat or buying both hats because HELLO: one hat to rule them all until the next presidential election.

To be safe, this person might phone a friend, as it were, by texting pictures of both hats, and this friend might be completely unhelpful by pointing out all the wildly cute things you can wear with the orange plaid hat, causing your utilitarian, depression-era-frugal mind to explode from all the irresponsible ideas being suggested, but when faced with the possibility of what could be, you turn around and walk all the way back down Concourse C to exchange the practical hat for the fun hat, but not before trying them both on again several times, then walking out of the store with the practical hat again, the one you bought in the first place that represents all that is the opposite of dropping a woman off at an airport alone with a ticket to Vegas.

Here’s the hat I ended up with:

20140531-111741.jpg

My final lesson learned was the next morning – Wednesday – when went back down to the pool around 11:00.

I’d brought my sunscreen with me and began rubbing it all over my legs, arms, and chest. I’m sure applying sunscreen is a sexy experience for some demographics, but those of us with a lot of surface to cover and minor difficulty with flexibility, it probably looks a little like a giant bear trying to relieve an itch by rubbing up against a tiny tree trunk.

It was not a very flattering experience trying to get sunscreen all the way around my thigh. How else can you do this except by throwing your leg up in the air while rubbing yourself in areas that aren’t normally included in your public appearances?

(YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THE VIEW, FELLOW SUNBATHERS!)

If you know of any YouTube instructional videos on how to do this, I’d appreciate a link.

Needless to say, from that point on I applied sunscreen before I left the hotel room.

My vacation awkwardness leads me to consider two action points:

1) I need to go on vacation more often, or

2) I should never be allowed to go on vacation ever again.

Friday Link Love: Be Vigilant

Friday Link Love: Be Vigilant

Link Love Badge

Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Mom
I heard this interview in the car on the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend, and it’s delightful. Please take 13 minutes to listen.

Here’s my big takeaway from Toni Tyson: Be vigilant.

She said it was a full time, 24/7 job to help her kids navigate through life as a black family in the city. There were many instances when Neil was discouraged from pursuing opportunities, either because he was black or because someone didn’t think he was smart enough.

She said when things came up, they had to “get on it immediately,” and that it was a constant vigilance to keep her kids focused so they didn’t grow bitter.

As a parent, I don’t deal with race issues, but I deal with tween girl drama, raging hormones, gossip, insecurities, identity issues, and the like.

I immediately connected with Toni Tyson’s description of being a vigilant parent and “getting on” that stuff as it happens. It’s emotionally exhausting and time consuming, and sometimes I wonder if other parents think I’m a little too involved, but it’s an investment in their character I trust will pay off as my kids get older.

So often when I hear or read interviews like this about amazing people, I feel inspired for a moment, but then I feel discouraged because my life doesn’t come close to measuring up, and there’s little about their story that I can connect and apply to my own situation.

I felt differently about this interview.

Toni doesn’t come off as some kind of superhero with superhuman character strengths or qualities that I can look up to and appreciate but never attain. Rather, she comes off as intentional and vigilant with a side of discernment about people.

And that’s something I can relate to and act upon.

A Manifesto For Hurting People (and those who don’t know what to do with them)

A Manifesto For Hurting People (and those who don’t know what to do with them)

The song Stereo Hearts shuffled into the mix today – that’s the one where Adam Levine sings the hook. These lyrics jumped out at me:

Furthermore, I apologize for any skipping tracks
It’s just the last girl that played me left a couple cracks
I used to, used to, used to, used to, now I’m over that
‘Cause holding grudges over love is ancient artifacts

These lyrics caught my attention because of 1) people around me who are hurting, and 2) people around me who are inconsiderate of hurting people.

It’s just the last church that played me left a couple cracks.

1) People who are hurting.

Please guard your vulnerability. Don’t close it off or shut it down, but guard it carefully. I recently saw Brene Brown interview with Chase Jarvis and she talked about her List. She carries a list in her wallet of people whose opinion matters to her, and when she starts to feel the weight of criticism and shame from others, she pulls out her list to remember who her Truth-tellers are.

If you have been hurt by someone and choose to tell your story, there will be some people who don’t believe you, who don’t think it’s that big a deal, who think you’re crazy, and/or think you should just let it go or otherwise be quiet about it.

If these people are not in the trenches with you or on your List of trusted Truth tellers, fight for your sanity and let go of their criticisms.

If you’re hurting, your record is gonna gonna gonna gonna skip a little for awhile, and some people just won’t get it.

2) People who are inconsiderate of hurting people.

Stop it.

Just… stop it.

Stop telling people that it’s gossip to share their personal story.

Stop cultivating a culture of shame and suspicion around people who are hurting.

Stop dismissing the pain hurting people feel without listening to their story first hand.

Stop assuming that hurting people have a divisive agenda.

Stop minimizing the pain of hurting people by explaining away the circumstances of their experience.

If you are in the presence of a hurting person, you have the opportunity to:

listen,
show compassion,
express empathy,
encourage,
point them to the healing work of Jesus and his holy spirit,
…and shut up about everything else.

If you overhear the story of someone’s pain, you have the opportunity to:

call or write that person to ask how they’re doing,
listen,
show compassion,
express empathy,
encourage,
point them to the healing work of Jesus and his holy spirit,
…and shut up about everything else.

Hurting people are gonna gonna gonna gonna skip a little for awhile. What they need most is your patience and presence while the cracks smooth out.

Here’s the Brene Brown video in full (with Bryan being a total fanboi in the front row):

On Being Understood (or not)

On Being Understood (or not)

20140401-115905.jpg

This Sunday in church, some friends read Psalm 139 as a meditation to start the service. It was a friendly reminder from the Lord that even when I feel misunderstood and unheard, he knows my thoughts even before I say them out loud.

I struggle with a child-like need to be understood, and nothing derails my day more than the inner turmoil that comes from being unable to explain myself.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be understood — especially by those close to me — but the lie I believe in the midst of it is that I have the power to win people over to my point of view if I could just make them understand.

Sometimes I can’t see that my point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t convince a listener that their point of view is wrong. Sometimes I can’t get anyone to listen at all. But I’m learning to say what I feel needs to be said, then release it into God’s hands.

I’m learning that, for me, the hardest part of following Jesus is being content that his unconditional love and intimate knowledge of my inner thought-life is enough.

It’s a painful, heart wrenching lesson, and each time I release the burden I feel like a child who wails in that instant her hand opens up to release the string of a balloon. She panics as it floats away, but then is mesmerized by the way it dances in the wind and floats against the blue sky.

It really is a beautiful thing to let go of a burden, if we can just open our hand and trust the wind.

Hearing Psalm 139 read out loud on Sunday felt like Jesus speaking audibly to me. I know your heart, he said. Let me heal it for you. Trust me that I can comfort you more than you realize.

Here’s an excerpt of the full passage:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord , you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.