make zoom great again

As our perpetual state of lockdown, locked out and varying levels of restrictions drag on – the constant refrain we are hearing is how people are “so sick of Zoom“!

I put it to you that people aren’t sick of Zoom, they’re sick of bad Zoom.

I recently attended an online, 80’s themed, Murder Mystery party for a friend’s birthday! It was such a clever night and a great way to celebrate our friend while still in lockdown! We all had a character and most of us dressed up (costumes are easier online because they don’t need to be transportable and they only need to be from the waist up! No pants or shoes to match your costume? No worries!! PJ pants and ugg boots it is then!!). Each household had readied snacks and drinks. No one was complaining about being on Zoom! Saturday night at 8pm for a couple of hours and Zoom was our best friend.

People aren’t sick of Zoom, they’re sick of bad Zoom!

So what makes Zoom good or bad? Bearable or intolerable? Fulfilling and productive or life-sucking and downright depressing? Here are a few of my observations and thoughts.

A MEETING THAT SHOULD BE AN EMAIL IN PERSON SHOULD STILL BE AN EMAIL IN ZOOM-LAND

Don’t assume that a team’s desire to be together will override the frustration we all feel at being in a meeting that should have been an email. Endless recitation of facts, details, calendar items and reading through text heavy PowerPoint slides is not what meetings are designed for and are not a good spend of your Zoom-credits. Meetings exist for relationship building, collaboration, learning, vision casting and role assigning. Send the details ahead of time or circulate them for reading afterwards. Too much information sharing translates to a monologue that is hard to sustain in a physical room let alone a virtual one.

ZOOM TIME IS DIFFERENT THAN REAL TIME

There have been multiple studies and papers released about the realities of Zoom-fatigue. It takes greater effort to remain focused due to audio differences and the reality that our computer’s other open tabs and notifications beckon. We are more self-conscious and aware because we are more visible to ourselves and others than we would be in a physical meeting space – we consequently expend energy managing our appearance, body language, facial expressions etc more than is necessary in real life. There’s less “collective effervescence” – the experience of laughing together, rapidly exchanging ideas and energising creative interactions – because of the clinical need to take turns to speak and the inevitable annoyance that comes when audio intersects and gates. We are more sedentary – less likely to adjust our sitting posture. And a multiplicity of other factors that mean an hour on zoom costs us more than an hour in real life.

If you would normally meet for an hour, meet for 45mins. Normally present for 30 mins? Try 20.

Clearly communicating (and adhering to) the proposed timeline of a meeting will also help participants pace themselves and increase their capacity to remain engaged for the entirety of your time together.

ZOOM MEETINGS REQUIRE STRONG LEADERSHIP

Even more than in real life, whoever is hosting the meeting must work actively to maintain control of the meeting. Establishing and communicating expectations about how this meeting will function is important. Having a clear sense of flow – minimising down time between segments or presenters, reducing talk about the mechanics of the meeting, and making definitive statements about transitions between topics or modes – will help a meeting feel more in control and purposeful. In real life, we can use body language, non-verbal clues, physical actions, facial expressions and other means to demonstrate we are wanting to move on. This doesn’t translate so easily to Zoom and so it takes more effort to keep tight reign of oversharing or meandering contributions. But it is essential for maintaining the engagement of the entire group.

The size of your group will determine what degree of “free-flow” is manageable and helpful – whether microphones should be muted or open (for example). Leaders should feel the liberty to request participants to make changes for visual or sound quality purposes (Turn the radio off. Tilt your screen up a little. Close the curtain behind you.). Who is in your group will determine how much ‘power’ you give participants and how much you restrict to host privileges. The more interruptions that come because of mismanagement of the meeting dynamic the more frustrated and fatigued participants will become.

ZOOM SKILLS & ZOOM BUDDIES

Zoom has customised their platform to have multiple functions that can make meetings more dynamic and a more accurate replica of in-person gatherings. Whiteboard, breakout rooms, chat function, screen sharing, split screen viewing, emoji responses and other options are great for changing up the presentation mode and inviting interaction. However, they can be hard to navigate while maintaining a helpful dialogue.

“And the o….therrrrrr … thiinnnnn …ggggg … I’ll just share my scre … oh, nope, …not that .. and yes, the other thing is … ”

You’ve all done or heard a version of this. The more practiced you are in the engagement of these tools and the more advanced preparation you do, the smoother these things will flow. But if it is at all possible, I recommend traveling in pairs! A co-host who can mute the person whose dog has started barking in the background, or rearrange breakout rooms to accommodate people who’ve joined the meeting late, or interject with appropriate questions or comments participants have made in the chat allows the presenter to keep full focus on what they are communicating or on listening fully to the contributions of a participant.

VIDEO ON OR OFF?

Research indicates that having the video muted increases the energy and longevity of participation for group members, but it reduces the feeling of engagement for the presenter or leader of the meeting. It can also impact the feeling of shared experience if not all members are visible on the call. What are they doing? Are they fully engaged? Have they gone to the bathroom? Are they doing other work?

This can be detrimental to the accountability and commitment of team or group environments. If there is disparity between perceived engagement in a group it will be hard to reach consensus or for participants to conclude a meeting feeling it was effective or productive. This can quickly diminish engagement from participants – why should I have my camera on when others don’t?

A quick statement of expectation from the meeting leader is helpful to establish expectations. “It’s fine for your cameras to be off for this next segment …” or “Can I have all cameras on just while we sort out our decision on this?”

Likewise, narration from participants can bring understanding and build (rather than erode) trust. “I need to have my camera off right now because my child is doing something in the space I’m in” or “my internet is lagging so I’m switching off my camera to hopefully see yours better”.

Some notes for you, the presenter, it’s important that participants see your face well lit and well positioned (not up your nose!) in camera. And research also indicates that seeing your hands is helpful for trust and engagement from participants. If nothing else, the movement you generate on your screen will help re-engage and keep engaged those watching you. Be sure to toggle quickly between shared screen and your video screen to maximise involvement.

EMBRACE THE ZOOM!

As much as it is a distant second place to real life gatherings, Zoom has afforded us a level of relational connection and ministry/work functionality that we would not otherwise have been able to experience during these last 18 months. I would go so far as to say I LOVE Zoom because it allows me to replicate my work contexts and output in a way that means I’m still employable (!) and I am still actively engaging my gifts, skills and passions.

It is what it is and where it is for the foreseeable future. We would do well to embrace that reality and work to maximise its offerings rather than perpetuating the frustration of both attitude and experience.

In my world, Zoom has opened up opportunities that would not have existed for me in real life. Participation in multiple overseas conferences, workshops and forums. Learning from ministry leaders and key thought leaders of a status and location that would be otherwise inaccessible. Maintaining relational connection with family and friends through shared meals, celebrations and online experiences. I love Zoom!

**THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT**

Make sure you laugh! Do what you need to in order to elicit laughter from the group. Even if you can’t hear it or they can’t hear each other – psychologically we know that our brains associate laughter with comfort. We are more likely to recall a meeting positively if we have laughed at some point – even if the meeting itself was weighty or long. Laughter releases happy hormones that increase wellbeing and shift attitude. Do what you gotta do!!! It can take an inordinate amount of effort. It can seem frivolous or time wasting. It might be uncomfortable to deal with the silence (or the sound of your solitary chuckling!). But it is well worth it. Make laughter a goal of every gathering you are part of.

How about you? What steps might you take to Make Zoom Great Again and maximise it as a resource to us while we navigate these strange and challenging times?

be like eleanor – women helping women

Over the weekend I watched the series “First Ladies” on SBS. As the title suggests, it’s a documentary that highlights six wives of American Presidents; the different ways they filled their roles and the impact that resulted.

Amongst all the amazing humanitarian, peace keeping and world changing causes the various women gave their powerful voice and influence to – there was one incident in the story of Eleanor Roosevelt that struck me profoundly.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest serving First Lady as her husband, President Franklin D Roosevelt, was in office for four terms (1933-1945). Out of office her list of accomplishments continued to grow – she appears to have been a remarkable woman – aware of her influence and privilege and determined to use it on behalf of those with less.

One action she took when she first became First Lady was to hold her own daily press conferences. Due to her husband’s illness and her seemingly infatigable capacity and passion, she was an incredibly active part of the Roosevelt presidential reign. The American and global press were keen to know her daily movements and the causes she was involved in. So, she agreed to daily access for the press. However, she only allowed female reporters into the room.

At the time, women were excluded from the President’s press room and so she decided to make the opposite mandate for her own. As a result, news outlets were forced to hire female reporters if they didn’t want to fall behind on the news coming from the First Lady’s office.

What a glass ceiling shattering move! Whatever efforts were being made at the ground level to open doors for females in journalism at the time were instantaneously catapulted to a whole other level of opportunity and experience. Undoubtedly, it changed the landscape for women in journalism from that time forward. It was only 10 years earlier that the American Constitution was amended to give women equal rights to men. This was an incredibly progressive act that had immeasurable immediate and ongoing ramifications.

This right here is how to use your platform. This is what it means to be aware of your privilege and influence. This is what it looks like to recognise that when you get an opportunity it doesn’t stop with you. This is what happens when use your power on behalf of others.

I wanted to stand up and applaud her (and I might have were I not so comfortably ensconced on my couch!)!! It’s women like her that have made a way for women like me … and it made me conscious again of the way we make for those coming after us.

Not only did Eleanor Roosevelt make it to the Whitehouse. She made sure her making it enabled others to make it also. This is true leadership. Another First Lady, Michelle Obama, elsewhere in the series says, “When you walk through the door of opportunity you don’t slam it shut behind you, you hold it open!”

I reflected again on the many who have held doors open for me in my lifetime. And those that did it for them to make that possible. It’s easy to become frustrated by the slow pace of change or the entrenched ideologies and practices that close doors or fortify them to be almost impossible to open. It can be disheartening. But I can do something. I can chock open a door. I can invite more people in. I can sponsor opportunity. I can use my voice – however singular it might be. I can create space. I can pull up a chair. I can be like Eleanor!

learnings from counselling – it’s called trauma

2020 was a year of unprecedented change and challenge for many. (And also the highest ever recording of over-used terms like unprecedented.) So much was disrupted and there was an incredible amount of grief and loss experienced by people in various ways and to differing degrees. All of this at a time when many of our regular mechanisms for processing grief and loss were unavailable – which only served to cause more grief and loss. In fact, experts are predicting a grief bubble is still to burst as people come out from under the immediate threat and the need to ‘just keep going’ and start to feel the full extent of the losses they’ve experienced.

In May-June I experienced a specific (non-Covid related) life event that was devastating for me – personally, ‘professionally’ and relationally. Living alone and in various stages of lock down and restrictions meant it was a particularly bad time to face something so deeply impacting. I needed my huggers and my ‘bucket holders’ (you know, the ones who can handle the messiness while you word-vomit all the things that are clogging up your brain and heart). And also, the nature of the event meant there were sensitivities around who was able to know what I knew or who would be adversely impacted by what I would share – therefore caution was required.

So you just soldier on, right? It wasn’t good, it hurt, I felt disappointed (and all manner of other feelings) but there was work to show up for and things still to be done and people experiencing far more dramatic and challenging life circumstances than mine.

So you just soldier on.

By November the world around me was starting to open up again – shops and restaurants were functioning, the “ring of steel” around metropolitan Melbourne was opening up visitation to and with my family, work was readjusting and churches were starting to gather in person again. But I found myself feeling stuck.

I was struggling to get excited about social outings (yes, me!), feeling the affects of not having a home-church community, experiencing anxiety when I went out in public spaces, fearing or avoiding interactions and conversations, crying too much, sleeping poorly, reliving negative encounters in my head and rehearsing potential future ones. Stuck. It was an unfamiliar and decidedly unenjoyable place to be.

I thought about counselling. I’d never done that before. I thought about it out loud to a friend and the energy behind their response was strongly positive.

A friend once said “If anyone ever offers you a breath mint – take it!” You never know if they’re just generous sharers or are offering it to you for a reason! I think the same is true for friends or family who are enthusiastic about you going to counselling! 🙂 So I booked myself in.

When I sat down for the first session my counselor asked me why I was there. I bumbled my way through a brief summary of the event/s that happened and the various and numerous ways I’d been impacted. I shared how I was embarrassed by the way I was (or wasn’t) coping with it now – some six months later. And the counselor interrupted me.

“It’s called trauma!”

What you have experienced (and are now experiencing the ongoing affects of) is trauma.

Broadly defined, trauma is the response to events that are distressing or disturbing. There’s not really objective criteria for determining which events will cause trauma response. In fact, two people can respond differently to a shared experience. Trauma might evidence itself through flashbacks or intrusive memories, somatic or physiological symptoms (such as those responses associated with the “fight, flight or freeze” mechanisms, brain fog, increased heartrate, feeling hot or cold, gastrointestinal problems, headaches etc), negative thoughts or feelings, general changes in arousal responses, insomnia or oversleeping, emotional dysregulation, substance abuse, anxiety, or depression.

There’s also the phenomenon of ‘vicarious trauma’ which is experienced by those in helping roles or professions. Where, over time, the continued exposure to others’ stories and experiences of trauma builds up to overwhelm a person’s ability to cope themselves – impacting their own physical and emotional wellbeing.

To varying degrees, we all face “distressing and disturbing” events regularly. If we are emotionally healthy and functioning within our own range of normal, we are able to adjust and adapt to circumstances around us with reasonable agility and resilience. Bigger events of loss, threat, conflict or uncertainty move us to the edges of our capacity to cope and the longer we hang out at those edges the more likely we are to start experiencing and exhibiting the above symptoms of trauma.

It turns out, that ‘soldiering on’ probably wasn’t my best strategy. In fact, pushing past emotions and feelings was probably doing more to exacerbate the trauma impact on my physical and emotional wellbeing. Prolonging its disruption to my life and perpetuating unhelpful coping strategies (or avoidances) rather than naming and owning my experiences so they could be more appropriately processed.

“Give yourself a break.” was the basic learning from session one. Acknowledge your trauma, give yourself permission to not be ok … then we can start to work on healing and recovery.

an interruptible life #choosinghowtolive

As I’ve previously shared (read here), at the end of 2019 I started to act on the sense of calling to relocate. I’d been living and working in the same community for close to 20 years and with a change of job came the option for a change of location – so I started looking to move to Geelong.

There are LOTS of things to consider when you look to make a move like this (price, size, style etc) but as I was processing all of these things, the sense that grew to a conviction for me was that it wasn’t just a matter of choosing where to live but how to live. If I’m starting with a blank canvas and almost every option is on the table – what is going to be the overarching framework for how I decide? And the question reverberated, HOW do I want to live?

A primary motivator for the move was to locate myself more intentionally in proximity to people I want to do life with. I want to live within walking distance to a community hub of shops and activity that will allow me to play and shop locally. I want to live in a location that is easily accessed by others and where I can develop relationships with my near neighbours (after 17 years in my previous home I didn’t know the names of anyone in my street!). I want to have a home that allows me to host and nurture community through shared hospitality and warm inclusion.

There was a great picture emerging of what would be possible, and I found the perfect home to facilitate this lifestyle, but also realised that none of this would happen without intentionality and a readiness to live a different way.

I needed to live an interruptible life.

As I said, in my previous home I didn’t know any of my neighbours. I was right into hosting dinner parties and ministry events and stuff but I was also really guarded about my own down time and home time. And so, confession time, on my days off I would go into advanced sloth-mode. I don’t keep a super clean house at the best of times but there were no cares given about my house on my days off. I would try and stay in my pjs all day. I’d eat a lot of food straight from the pan or from the packets and then leave it strewn across my loungeroom. I’d leave shoes, bags, clothes, dishes … whatever … wherever. If I did have people coming over I’d do the massive power tidy (or the morning the cleaner was coming I’d do a sprint around the house collecting stuff – anyone?)! So, often, I’d be at home, and someone would come to the door and I’d look at myself and I’d look at the house and I’d look at the time annnnnd … I’d mute the tv and I’d silence my phone and I’d hide. Not just from people wanting to sell me solar panels – from friends! People I knew!! (Don’t worry – you can’t judge me more than I judge myself!)

So, when I moved into my new place – where “living in community” was going to be a guiding premise and I was set to be intentional about “choosing how to live” – I added to my mantra that I wanted to live an interruptible life. That I would always be ready to answer the knock at the door. That I wouldn’t be caught out ashamed to show my house or my face and miss an opportunity to connect with people or respond to need.

I got super practical about it. I bought new, matching, presentable kind of pjs. So that, even if I was in my pjs it wouldn’t stop me answering the door. I keep my house more ‘visitor-ready’ and I keep working at having more margin. So that when someone knocks I’m not already late to something or cramming for a sermon or report that is due in 10 minutes!!!

True of my determination to live a more connected life and of any desire we would have to bring our best offerings to our families, neighbourhood and broader communities, is that busyness (in our hearts and minds or in our calendars) is the obstacle. Often times, we are not interruptible because we are tired, harried, rushing, stretched and overwhelmed. Living an interruptible life requires intentionality.

SLOWING DOWN

On one side of my house, my neighbour is an elderly lady who lives alone. She barely leaves her house. I lived there for weeks and weeks and never saw her. When the first lock down hit I bought some chocolate and put it in her letterbox with a note introducing myself and offering to help if she needed it. The chocolate went from the letterbox – and I hoped it was to her – but I still never saw her out or got the chance to meet her. Until one day I was running out the door, late to an appointment, and as I walked down the steps of my porch I saw her at her window. Finally!!! And (shameful confession) I pretended I hadn’t seen her and hopped in the car and drove off. In my defense, it was because I didn’t want to do the “Hi I’m Kim can’t talk gotta dash!” as our first meeting. With a bit more margin in my life (leaving 5 or 10 mins EARLIER than I needed to rather than 5-10 mins late!!) I could’ve stopped and chatted, made the introductions and still made it to my appointment on time.

For many of us, the thing that makes us so un-interruptible is that we are moving too fast and have zero margin. We may need to slow down our schedules so we are more ready to see who God puts in front of us and respond to those opportunities as they arise. To leave margin, have a more open schedule, not timetable every last moment so that there’s no room for the spontaneous or responsive, to not be running late or so tight to time that we need to pretend we don’t see stuff in order to keep things moving forward. Being able to stop for a conversation on the street, or to help someone take their groceries to their car, or to linger at your front gate to talk to a passing neighbour. There is no shortcut for just being present.

your single friends need you (probably more than you need them)

A few years ago I was sitting with my housemate and we both got a text message from a married friend. She was letting us know that she’d had some medical issues arise. There’d been some preliminary testing that was either worrisome or inconclusive enough to warrant further investigations. So she was going to have more tests done and was asking for us to be prayerful.

My friend and I both thought to respond in the same way and I sent a message back including “I hope you have some friends journeying this with you”. We later discovered that this was considered to be a strange kind of response. There she was informing us as her friends and inviting us to be part of the process – why were we questioning whether she was including her friends? Ultimately as a married person the need to contact friends was triggered far later in the process than it might have been for a Single person. A Single person who is experiencing negative health symptoms would probably contact a friend straight away. A Single person would seek the opinion of a friend or family member to know if they should go and get that checked out. A Single person might let a friend know that they’re going to a doctors appointment and perhaps even invite them to come along. So by the time further testing was required a Single person may have included their friend/s a lot more in the process. The reality is that for the married friend she had been processing all that with her husband up until that point.

Single people can have different expectations and requirements of friendship.

For a Single person, their friends are the entirety of their network of advice giving, problem-solving and listening. For those who are married and in a family environment a friend serves a different purpose. If circles of trust were to be drawn a spouse might find themselves at the very core and then friends at varying stages of distance in the widening concentric circles. For a Single person without a spouse at that core, often friends are drawn into a place of higher trust, of higher reliance; of higher connectedness.

What this creates is a potential power and need imbalance in friendships. Where the Single person requires more of you than you require of them. Where your name would be listed closer to their inner circle than their name would to yours. A friend of mine recently recounted a revelation she’d had of this when her Single friend asked her to come around to look at her new flooring. She thought it was an odd request until she connected with the fact that she would have had numerous interactions with her husband over new flooring and not felt the need to tell others – whereas her Single friend might not have had any engagement about her floors with anyone else. Perhaps a trivial example, but a helpful illustration of the different experiences.

This plays itself out in many ways, including socially. Where a planned social gathering might be additional to your weekly social calendars and fuller household, it can be the entirety of a Single person’s social connectedness. Where a cancelled dinner or a lack of invitation might result in you having a more quiet night at home, for a Single that could equate to being completely alone.

My friend Nancy and I talked about this recently as we sat across from one another at dinner. I made the observation that I needed that interaction more than she did. She’s married and is also a mum and as we talked some more she reflected, “I don’t think I had ever really considered how much my relational tank is filled incidentally and how that shapes how many friends I need, what I need from them, and the time and space I have to give them.”

What that means is that a Single person needs to maintain a lot of relationships to ensure their input and output are sufficient to experience the human connection we are built for. Even for me, as a highly extroverted and socially and relationally competent person, that can be EXHAUSTING! There’s a lot to balance to ensure that there are enough of those once a week, once every fortnight, monthly catch up types of relationships to spread across the day to day of life in order to keep the relational tank at a healthy level. That need makes us vulnerable. There’s great risk attached to this reality that we probably need you more than you need us.

Singles, identify and own this reality. You need others. It’s risky. It’s exhausting. It takes intentionality and purpose but you can create the kinds of relationships that will allow you to give and receive the love, belonging, serving, fulfilment, purpose and joy that you need.

And for you non-Singles, maybe you could do a self-audit like my champion friend Nancy, to recognise the level of relational filling you operate out of before leaving your house or making any extra effort. It might increase your sensitivity to the needs of the Singles in your world and grow your understanding of the neediness they experience and the risk they take to stay relationally engaged.

they win • you win • we win (the power of fundraising)

In December, I donned a dress as the “uniform of an advocate” to participate in the dressember campaign. Every day for the month I wore only dresses. The rules are clear – no skirts, dresses – with the exceptions of activewear, sleepwear and a uniform if one is required for your work.

Founder, Blythe Hill, started the movement in after hearing about the issue of human trafficking (listen to her TedXtalk here) and desiring to be part of the solution. She started as just one but now the movement is “a community of international advocates utilising fashion and creativity to help end human trafficking”. To date they have raised over $5m!

Social media has provided a platform for increased capacity to raise funds and awareness for a plethora of causes. In fact, sometimes it can feel like there’s an overload of people seeking support or finances. There is no shortage of need and no limit to the creativity of people seeking to get cut-through in a crowded platform.

But I am a big fan. And that’s because of the multiple layers of impact and change that are realised through fundraising.

THEY WIN. YOU WIN. WE WIN.

Everyone wins!

they win

The most obvious winner in any fundraising process is the recipient of the funds! Organisations the world over are financially resourced for their endeavours for change. Research is commissioned, staff are released, consumables are purchased, people are reached, enterprises are launched, education is provided, lives are saved, campaigners are energised and real difference is made possible.

Through ever-increasing processes of accountability and community pressure for transparency and integrity around the appropriation of monies raised, people are able to give confidently and often see the stories of immediate impact and transformation.

Even the very act of liking or clicking-through on a post about an event or a cause can translate to financial support as corporate sponsors respond to the potential for increased public (positive) profile.

you win

The general premise of a fundraising event often pivots on a participant sacrificing something of personal value. Fasting from food or technology, participating in a gruelling physical activity or moderating one’s dressing habits all require a degree of sacrifice and personal cost.

It’s hoped and/or assumed that this physical stretch will fuel a degree of personal engagement with the cause that’s being championed.

For me, the daily task of facing a restricted scope of choice when dressing for the day is a prompt to remember that even in that very moment there are millions of women across the world who have no choices at all. Children are capture, abused and exploited. Labourers are working at threat of their own lives. I have autonomy. I am spoiled for options. I am free.

It’s a great way to stay mindful of your privilege and to be prompted to gratitude for your own circumstances when you are caused to step outside your comfort zone, to give something up; to act without personal reward.

we win

A while back I decided on the practice of giving to every campaign that came to my attention on social media, in my workplace or church. Every one.

I am wealthy. Like, actually rich. And before you get excited about hitting me up for a loan, chances are pretty high that so are you! (If you earn the average Australian salary you are inside the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world!) And every time a fundraising campaign comes to my notice it’s an opportunity to check that reality again. And I welcome the challenge to my otherwise well-developed ability to think only of myself and to want to keep what’s “mine”.

The amount I give is inconsequential, and sometimes it’s probably quite literally inconsequential in terms of the difference my meagre offering could make – but I win every time I am given the choice to choose others over myself.

We win as a society when we are allowing ourselves to be oriented towards the other. To consider those less fortunate, to champion those attempting something they couldn’t do without outside support, to encourage those seeking to make the world a better place; to give voice and advocacy to those who might otherwise not be heard.

So, do Safe Water September, or Frocktober or Ride-around-the-bay. Read books, walk laps, sleep on the streets, play Ping Pong, wear your footy colours to work or wear a dress (or tie) every day for a month. Do something.

And commit to give. If it can’t be your money, give your support, your influence, your like or share, or the time to become more educated on a cause that addresses a need in our world.

They win. You win. We win.

reflections on gratitude (2019)

I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Jar for several years now. It started as an intentional practice to invite ongoing joy into my life and as a discipline to choose to filter a day through the lens of what it was rather than what it wasn’t.

(You can read about the why here – disciplines of gratitude)

My Gratitude Jar is a collection of small, dated pieces of paper sorted by month and waiting for me to write a reflection for every day. My practice has been to do it as part of my end of day routine. To pause and think of a couple of sentences worth of things to be grateful for. Sometimes the words flows freely and the page is too small. Sometimes the blank space is something of a taunt as I sift through a weary or sad heart to find something to write. I’ve found over the years that just the act of walking past its spot on my dresser is enough to activate the mechanism – and even if I don’t write it down, my heart is turned to gratitude. The habit of that has been a gift to me. As my friend Mel says, “I’m grateful for the gratitude.”

At the turn of the new year it’s time to dive in and read them back. I love to gather them in groups to see those things that get some more regular mentions – names that are repeated, evidences of themes and affirmations that are finding deep roots in my soul, the number of times I can be “surprised” by something before the language turns to that of expectation or acceptance.

2019 was a year of stark contrasts for me and my notes reflect the extremes. There were so many aspects of my life in 2019 that were beyond anything I could’ve imagined but simultaneously this ran parallel with times of deep loneliness and grief.

From the highlights column – some general themes.

Loving my work –

I am so grateful for a work context that has such a healthy and empowering culture. Not only do we get to do meaningful work together, we also celebrate well and have heaps of fun. I feel highly valued and appreciated, and totally resourced to be a blessing to all those I meet and minister with. I constantly reflect on how perfectly Kimmy-shaped this role is – where all of my gifts, skills, passions and experiences are utilised and where there are no limitations to exploring all God would lead me to do and be.

Amazing ministry opportunities –

Both inside and outside my BUV role, I am grateful for all of the ways I’ve been able to minister this past year. I’ve been in some great locations – locally, interstate and overseas – and in a variety of contexts – podcasts, preaching, workshops etc. I’ve spoken to some fabulous groups and been honoured by the trust of others expressed in mentoring and one-to-one moments. I’ve been encouraged again and again by the continued ministry impact of my book as it keeps finding its way to the ears and hearts of those most needy of it. I saw the amazing impact of the KidsHope relationship (and did the sad farewell to my special friend as well as ending my 13 year involvement in the program). I was blessed again and still by my involvement in the Arrow Leadership community.

Friends & family –

I regularly marvel at the high caliber of people I know. As I travel the country (and parts of the world) I am convinced I know all of the best people in those places! I say it again, you should be my friend just so you can know my friends. I am truly blessed by those who invest into my life, welcome me openly and allow me the privilege of loving and serving them. Amazing people who nurture my soul by seeing, knowing and championing me to be the best Kimmy I can.

We also welcomed a new niece-husband, 2 niece-babies and a nephew-fiancée into our family. It was so great to christen the new home with a family Christmas gathering on Boxing Day. So exciting to fill the space with stories and memories and laughter.

A refreshing church –

In 2018, it was prophesied to me that OneHope would be a church of refreshment. That I would go out (to minister beyond my previously understood boundaries) and come back to be refreshed. And that has definitely been my experience. I’ve been so blessed to truly find a home amongst the people of OneHope. A place to exercise my ministry gifts and capacity with maximum impact. A place of honour and embrace. A place of relational engagement across generations and with a diverse spread of people. It wasn’t an easy process – settling in a new church is hard work! But the rewards of persistence have been many. I’m excited for what this next year will hold – especially now that I’m living 2 mins from my home campus.

Baking and making –

There was a repeating thread throughout the year around my love for baking and making. I love the process of creating (made in the image of a creator God!) and love, love, LOVE the opportunity to bless others with what’s produced. I need to do more of it. Does anyone need some cupcakes? Or a crocheted something?

Adulting –

I did some pretty grown up things in 2019.

Like renovate my bathroom, toilet, en-suite and laundry. Of course, I didn’t actually do any of it – but I did do all the deciding and 100% of the paying!!!

But it turned out to be a well-chosen investment into the value of my home that facilitated me buying another property in Geelong. Again, I didn’t do much of the actual things but, again, I decided and paid!

#choosinghowtolive underscored all of that process. I’ll reflect more at another time on all of the aspects of lifestyle and posture that God laid on my heart that have culminated in the new iteration of The Tent (read here why I (happily) live in a tent).

The process of decluttering (I estimate I reduced the amount of things I own by more than half!!!!) was a sometimes traumatic but ultimately rewarding process. I’m glad to start here free of a lot of unnecessary things and having blessed a whole lot of others with items they’ll be making much more use of rather than them sitting in my cupboards (or in piles randomly scattered throughout the house)!

From the lowlights side of the ledger.

I struggled with living disconnected. My work was over there and my church community was over there and I was in the middle. After 18 years of living, working, churching and playing in the same area it was a massive adjustment. And, ultimately, I was just sleeping at my house. It did pretty much zero hospitality – which is what it was consecrated for – and not enough hosting of life, activity and ministry. Sure, some of that is just geography but with it came some grief for all that had changed and had been lost – and some hurts that still attach themselves there – that made for some pretty low times.

My health was a challenge. “The change”, as we delicate women-folk might reference it, has been a significant physical challenge as well as an emotionally difficult thing to process.

Also, on reading back through the gratitude notes, I’m reminded of the battle I (largely) lost to regain my confidence and rhythm in writing. It was going to be my year for getting back on the writing horse, but I didn’t manage more than a few rides before I was bucked off – and for the most part, I didn’t even mount up! I could keep the analogy going but that would be like flogging a …

gratitude in 2020

So, the jar has been reset. The first 7 days have been logged. There is great expectancy as things rev up for the new year.

My usual questions for end of year review

  • How is my relationship with God?
  • How are my relationships with family and friends?
  • Am I remaining open to “relationship”?
  • What new things have I learnt or experienced in ministry?
  • What “project” did I complete?
  • How is my health and fitness?

..are all mostly answered in the above reflections.

I’m excited for new opportunities at work and in ministry. For a new local neighbourhood to explore. For a new era of “Tent-life” to unfold – including an extension and some extensive renovations! For improving health and fitness. For deepening relationship with God and with my family and friends.

I will keep inviting and welcoming joy into my life by CHOOSING GRATITUDE.

you are more than what you look like

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come off a platform – after preaching, singing or leading – and the first comment to me has been something about my appearance.

Sometimes it’s almost comical the people who will make a determined effort; interrupt a conversation, come from across the room, or wait patiently to get the chance to make a comment on my dress, my shoes or how I’ve styled my hair.

After a recent preaching engagement, at the end of a very detailed and authoritative review of my outfit (the colour, the suitability of the style to my figure and the context, the appropriate choice of sleeve and hem length, my choice of accessories, and even my fingernail colour) someone said “Oh, and what you said was good too.” I replied “I’m glad to hear that because I spent many hours working on my sermon and far less than that on my outfit selection!”

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate others’ appreciation of my appearance. I do put a fair amount of thought into it. Presenting from the platform requires a bit of thought for females. Not being over or underdressed while being mindful of potential distractions – ribbons coming untied, frills flapping, earrings clinking on headsets, necklaces reflecting light, bracelets that jingle, hair that moves … all of the things. Not to mention tech related issues like having a collar for a lapel mic to clip to or a waist band to hold the wireless pack. And of course, the general goal is to look “good” when we’re out in public, so no one is above the affirmation that she’s succeeded.

In my experience and observation it’s only women who do this to women. Men will very rarely comment like that to a woman. And I’ve not heard many stories of men receiving comments like that at all. In fact, in a recent gathering of leaders, the females were sharing some of these experiences and the men in the group were incredulous to discover this was even a thing.

Ladies!! Why do we do this to each other?

Can I suggest something of a self-audit and some further thinking before we’re tempted to perpetuate the narrative that our appearance ought to be what draws greatest attention and reflection?

  • Before (or instead of) commenting on a person’s appearance – offer meaningful encouragement for the function they performed or the presentation they offered. Pause to purposefully reflect on what you observed, received or appreciated in what they shared or did and tell them that! We’re all fighting fears and self doubts to get up before a group of people to speak (or present) and we can be one another’s greatest advocates in standing up in the face of them.
  • If you do want to comment on something aesthetic – make sure you emphasise the insignificance of it in comparison to what they’ve given of themselves in presentation or preparation. Add it as your “by the way” rather than making it the headline news.
  • This used to be a point of comic reflection for me. I’d roll my eyes as I recounted another story of smiling graciously as someone gushed over how well my shoes coordinated with my dress after I’d poured myself out in a sermon or worship time. But the more I speak with women who are struggling to find their place of comfort and authority in upfront roles, the more I see this as a tool to sow doubt and to cause us to take our eye off the ball.
  • Let’s get intentional about our peer support and advocacy by keeping the main things the main thing.
  • (Suggested replacements for “you looked great” include – you looked comfortable, confident, radiant, joyful, expressive, strong, or welcoming or you were articulate, dynamic, compelling, knowledgeable, gracious, or convicting or thank you for what you brought, how you prepared, your vulnerability, or your authenticity or good job you for overcoming everything that presented itself as an obstacle to you getting on the platform!)
  • how to RECEIVE feedback 4of4

    A culture of feedback is one that nurtures a healthy level of trust, self-awareness and continuous growth. Groups and teams where feedback is asked for and given with clarity and in grace will thrive together while supporting individual flourishing. The final piece of the picture addresses the posture of those receiving feedback.

    Don’t be defensive!

    The first (and potentially most important) consideration when receiving feedback is to regulate our natural response to defend ourselves. In our words, our posture or our facial expressions (especially for those who, like me, have a particularly ‘loud’ face!) we can communicate a reactivity or negative response that will derail the effectiveness of the process and potentially cause that person to hesitate to give feedback in the future.

    Look for what is helpful (even if it’s delivered badly).

    Our tendency is to hone in on the points of feedback that are incorrect or communicated poorly. When a reviewer uses exaggeration (such as always or everyone), when they are aggressive or dismissive in their language and tone, or when they make comments that you know to be completely untrue we have a choice in how we respond. The most productive option will always be to find what is true and helpful in what they’ve said and allow that to teach us. There will always be fault to find in the delivery but your choice to overlook that for the purposes of the growth potentially contained in what is being shared will firstly, nurture that healthy feedback culture and secondly, lay a stronger foundation for addressing any changes you might suggest to their mode or method at a later time.

    Clarify and identify.

    Ask questions to be sure you’ve understood what the reviewer is meaning to convey. “When you say that the presentation was hard to follow are you referring to the structure of the notes, the order of the content or another aspect?” Don’t walk away with disclarity. It essentially means the feedback has been wasted. You don’t know what you can do differently in future (to course-correct or continue to improve) and the reviewer’s time has been without purpose.

    Be sure to quickly identify points of the review that you can agree with or acknowledge fault in. Apologise for anything that was missed or that had implications for others. (Eg, “I’m sorry I forgot to mention …” “I’m sorry my disorganisation impacted other things.”)

    Say ‘thank you’!

    Even if the feedback has been difficult to receive, thank your reviewer for giving it. Thank them for the risk they’ve taken to share, for the time they’ve taken to articulate their perspective and for the part they’re playing in your ongoing development. Expressing appreciation will keep them on the journey with you.

    Circle back.

    You don’t have to implement every bit of feedback you receive. Some of it can be readily discarded; some will need to be verified and validated by others. When you do take some feedback on board be sure to let the reviewer know that you are  (eg “After your comments I’ve started doing that a different way.) and what the implications were (eg “My team have noticed a real difference”).

    This can be the most effective culture shaping step in the process. When individuals feel the benefit for themselves and when teams and organisations notice the impact collectively, there will be a natural drive to repeat the process. The culture of feedback becomes self-perpetuating once people recognise that, without it, they will be missing opportunities for greatest productivity, excellence, development and impact.

    READ THE REST OF THE SERIES :

    let me give you some feedback
    how to ask for feedback 2of4
    how to GIVE feedback 3of4