This year, more than at any other time, as the founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization, In Reach, Inc., it became more apparent that I needed to take better care of my emotional and spiritual self. In the midst of my organization being awarded the largest grant in its sixteen year history also came a tremendous headache with the funder. A headache so enormous that I am surprised my brain is still intact. But this story is not about them. It’s about my personal journey to stay focused on the path I set out on more than 16 years ago to improve the lives of children and youth.
This brings me to the season of Lent.
I have never participated in Lent. I’ve always thought it odd that people give up things like chocolate, Facebook and other seemingly meaningless things, to me. I did not think that that was what Lent was truly about. Not understanding Lent through what I was witnessing from others and apparently not really paying attention in church, I usually did not give too much thought to it. However, in the midst of the challenges of dealing with that one funder and having increased feelings of burn-out, it became clear to me that I needed to make a lifestyle change. Finally, I understood the role Lent could play in this decision. I am all about lifestyle changes. If there is something I need to give up, it would have to have real meaning. I began reading about Lent so that I could understand what I was about to do.
“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection,” I read. For the first time, it was clear to me. I knew what I needed to give up. The lifestyle change I needed to make so that I could continue doing the work that I love. The work I believe I was called to do. I would give up anxiety. Anxiety. The thing that makes my heart flutter and while spiritually I try not to question God’s plan, I certainly find ways to stress myself about events that I do not control and never will.
I started reading two plans in my YouVersion Bible App – Lent Journey and Preparing Our Hearts for Easter: A Lenten Devotional. I was wholeheartedly in. Never had I felt as committed to giving up something as much as I had felt about giving up this one. Anxiety is not my friend. He brings me self-doubt, unrest and negativity. Three experiences I can’t afford in my line of work where my behavior influences so many others.
Next, I began to change how I work. Really this time. I reorganized my work day with emphasis on better managing my schedule, time and energy. Leadership is difficult and certainly operating a small nonprofit organization is no cake walk. Trying to convince people to care about and support people that they do not know is not easy.
Finally, days after the season has ended, I feel I have made progress. More importantly, I am on the right path to keep doing so. I still have more work to do; however, I know that since I believe in God, a greater being, I must act. He requires me to do so. Here, on this Easter, as I give praise for what has been done for me through Christ, I will have courage, faith and a lot less anxiety so that I can continue in the footsteps before me as a leader in my community and the lives of people I so deeply care about.