Alison Marie Smith

Life, Leadership & Spiritual Formation in Lonely Places

Month: September 2014

Leadership & My Backyard Vineyard

In our backyard, there are weeds, overgrown bushes, holes made by the previous owner’s dog, and an infestation of morning glories (a seemingly cute flower that is actually an invasive weed). The kindest comment I can make is that it is a work in progress.

But there are also a few unexpected beauties. In the spring rhubarb grows in the back corner. A cherry tree and pear tree produce fruit each summer. And a vibrant grape vine wraps itself around our fence, extending its reach each year.

Grapes!Last weekend, I could smell their sweet elementary school-juice-box fragrance from the driveway; it was time to harvest. No longer a dull green, they were a deep shade of indigo. With sheers in hand and a large bowl tucked under my arm, I got to work. As I was snipping, a few of the bunches-  green or barely light purple- weren’t ready to be picked. Others were on the verge of over ripening on the vine; another day and they would have been mushy and useless.

As I filled my bowl, I sensed God urging me to pay attention in this ordinary moment.

The harvest is indeed plentiful right now. Many of these bunches are ready. But some are not. Be mindful and attentive, harvest only the ones that are ready. Leave the others to me. 

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When a Hiatus is Needed

Every year from August until September my normal routine gets disrupted. Normally I hate it.

This is only a fraction of water we labeled!

This is only a fraction of water we labeled!

The first month of classes is the most strategic time to be on campus. Students are more open to new relationships and commitments than any other time of the year. Thus, I spend much of my time manning info tables, passing out fliers, sticking labels with a list of our events on hundreds of water bottles, leading planning meetings with my leaders, and following up with students who filled out contact cards.

During my first four years with InterVarsity, I would abandon most of my favorite “extracurriculars” during this time.

Often, I wouldn’t exercise at all. I’m too tired.

I also wouldn’t take days off. But my students need me!

I was consumed by anxiety about how events would go. Everything was on my shoulders. God was maybe on the sidelines but I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying or doing. September would end and I would be depleted and exhausted.

Leading without balance and without dependence on God is rarely effective and never sustainable.

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