guest post

Girls rising. A poem

Danielle Strickland Headshot.jpg

Danielle Strickland

A Guest Post

First, a word from April.

Danielle is a justice warrior and communicator to her core. She wrote these words on her website earlier this year, and I asked if we could share here in response to her podcast episode released earlier today. She lives and breathes leading people to live with wholeness.

I dream of this for all our warrior girls, too…

This poem was written as I dreamt of all girls rising towards the sun.

Towards the sun. 

Like a young girl rising at dawn, a warrior. 

I fight. To be Free. 

Wandering through the meadow, I search. 

For. A sign. 

Show me where to go, to live. 

A life. full.

Take me to the place, to see. 

A whole. World. 


Peace. Be still. 

My beating heart. 

Like a thorough bred I run, free. 

Jump. The fences. 

Run baby run, so no one catches you. 

Be. Me. 

It’s all I have to offer, this wild gallop. 

It is. Enough. 

Don’t look back or even think it. 

Go. ahead. 

Hope. Be fueled. 

My swelling dreams. 

Like a sunflower raised to meet the sun, alive. 

I rise. To be full. 

Lifting my head to turn my gaze, to the one. 

Who gives. Life. 

My life open to your rays. 

I breathe. Light. 

No space for fear, anymore. 

Open. inhale.

Life. Be full. 

My whole life. 

Creating a Personal Strategy for Relational Energy

Ashlee Eiland - Ezer + Co.

Ashlee Eiland

A Guest Post

First, a quick word from April.

Ashlee Eiland - The Global Fringe

In this week’s podcast episode, Ashlee Eiland talks about transition and loss. Even while she’s in the messy middle of her own massive transition, she speaks to what’s been necessary for her to find clarity and lead herself toward wholeness.

Ashlee wisely connects our internal wholeness journey to her capacity to externally navigate challenging circumstances. It’s easy to not value caring for your body in the midst so much instability, but Ashlee reminds us how critical it is.

In the following article she takes us deeper into managing your energy, which becomes even more important in chapters of transition and loss. Designing a personal strategy to manage your energy (even more important than your time) will unlock you to new levels of self-leadership. This article first appeared HERE with the author’s permission.

As a communicator, one of the best questions that was ever asked about my preparation process was: How are you managing your energy?

Up until that point, I’d spent most of my time focused on crafting great content and visuals versus paying much attention to how I was physically preparing myself to deliver that content.

I came up with a strategy that included a commitment to how I’d manage my physical energy before, during and after each sermon or presentation. This strategy included great sleep at least two consecutive nights beforehand, eating well, and then being intentional about my activity and outputs immediately after I stepped off a stage. That one question has made a world of a difference in how I prepare, deliver and debrief my messaging.

Energy is what makes us effective in our workplaces, homes and personal relationships.

For years, great thinkers have been asking leaders like you and me questions like this to help us tweak and improve upon our personal effectiveness—all of which, at their core, require some sort of energy management.

Whether the strategy helps us manage the operational and strategic legs of our businesses and organizations—or our emotional and physical energy as we seek to become our best selves, energy is what makes us effective in our workplaces, homes and personal relationships.

But there’s another type of energy management that plays a key part in how we look at our personal effectiveness: relational energy.

This time, the question came from a former manager as we were both headed home from work:

How’d you end your day today? he asked.

I paused and let him know that I’d sent a few e-mails to volunteers, had organized some files and then had met with a student who was a part of our ministry.

How’d you feel after your meeting with her? he asked.

I thought it was interesting that he’d only singled out my meeting with the student. With curiosity, I responded: It was pretty taxing, actually. She’s going through a pretty hard time—and even though I’m glad I met with her, I’m pretty wiped out.


He latched onto my response right away and turned it into a teaching moment I’ll never forget. He shared this wisdom:

– In addition to what I do (my outputs and managing my operational energy)
– And how I do it (tapping into my emotional and physical energy)
– I had to start paying attention to who was a part of my daily rhythms.

Our relational energy, if we take the initiative to think it through, could exponentially maximize the energy we have to exert in other areas of our work.

Because paying attention to the strategy of who was a part of my day could have a major impact on the energy I bring to other parts of my work and ministry.

Our relational energy, if we take the initiative to think it through, could exponentially maximize the energy we have to exert in other areas of our work.

By paying attention to how human and relational interactions could potentially make us feel before we engage them, we can—at least sometimes—strategically order our days to give us the perfect recipe for maximum energy.

It works like this:

1. Take a quick self-assessment.

When do you do your best work or thinking as an individual contributor? If you’re like me, your best thinking happens in the early hours of the morning, before e-mails start to fly or the patter of small feet can be heard overhead.

2. Protect that time with your life.

Do not—I repeat, do not schedule any meetings—even with people or teammates you enjoy—in the span of those hours. I’ll never schedule early-morning meetings before 8:30 a.m. I spend 4:45-7:30 a.m. either working out, writing or spending quiet time alone. It’s the most productive time of my day, and the time when I receive the maximum input of energy that I can then use throughout my day.

3. Take inventory of your week.

At the beginning of your week, look at your calendar. Take note, not just of what you have to get done, but who is a part of those meetings. Are they team meetings? One-on-ones? Go through your calendar and either mark or color-code each block of your calendar with green/yellow/red based on the energy you feel that meeting with either give to you or require of you, given the people who are involved. For me, team building meetings or learning sessions were always green. One-on-ones with core volunteers were usually green or yellow. Performance improvement conversations were always red.

4. Look at the overall pattern of your week.

Are all your “red” conversations in one block on Thursday? If they’re all before lunch time, you’re going to be tanked. Take time to either re-shuffle or intentionally add in “green” blocks of time that give you rest, rejuvenation or other positive inputs of energy so that your net average of relational energy is at least “yellow” at the end of each day. 

5. As much as it’s within your power, end your day on green.

If you have complete flexibility over your schedule, do what you can to end your day with a meeting that brings you life—either because of the people involved or the personal energy it re-deposits. If you end up going straight home or to the gym afterwards, it’s a sure-fire way to guarantee that, at least most days, you’re aligning your relational energy in a way that sets you up for maximum energy and effectiveness over the long-haul.

Having worked in human resources, operations, youth ministry, creative programming and adult ministry, I can tell you this: my work was always important, but I never knew just how important my relational energy was to how I was doing my work.

Whatever work you put your hands to, my hope is that it’s life-giving, productive and makes a difference in the lives of others. If you’re like me and truly believe that people are both the greatest why and how, let’s serve them well by bringing the best of all our energy.

Super Bloom

Grace Kim - Ezer + Co.

Grace Kim

Guest Post

First, a word from April.

Grace is a warrior. The transformation journey inevitably includes pain. I wish it didn’t, but it does.

Sometimes that pain guts you. Sometimes that pain looks like a caterpillar liquifying in a cocoon and coming out an entirely different thing. Sometimes pain is a guide toward more wholeness. This has been Grace’s story.

I humbly asked if she’d be willing to share about the deepest pain of her story because 1) our whole story matters and 2) pain is often the process where our power is transformed into something supernatural.

May her pain guide you toward increasing wholeness.

We had never taken a vacation with one child and not with the other. To go somewhere just the three of us seemed awkward, foreign, incomplete. We had been a family of four, reduced to a broken family of three. If Dragon couldn’t be there, I didn’t want to see beauty. I didn’t want to acknowledge sunshine. I knew that going anywhere would be painful, that it would be hard to make new memories without our son.

I thought back to the last time we had all left home together. It was in late August two years ago earlier. We had gone camping after a busy summer during which Dragon had spent mostly away -- summer school at Johns Hopkins, summer camp in the Angeles Mountains, water polo qualifiers. Now, we were finally together as a family, on a camping trip to Yosemite, a place our family had visited many times and that we loved. Dragon had invited his friend Justin to join us -- the first vacation for which we had allowed him to invite a friend. The two boys pitched their tent next to our big family tent. That first night in Yosemite, after a dinner of barbecued steaks and salads and s'mores, we said our goodnights and the boys went to bed. At 4:45 that morning, while we were sound asleep, a massive branch from the Black Oak next to their tent broke off and dropped 1,000 feet and crashed into the boys' tent. Dragon and Justin were killed instantly.

My Dragon. My first born child. My son, and my sun. My funny, smart, sarcastic, handsome, sweet 14-year old son. Gone.

To keep living felt unbearable. During the following days and months, I faced the seemingly impossible task of relearning how to wake up, and stay up, in a world that no longer included Dragon.

Every place had become forbidden: if we had been there before with Dragon, then all I could think about was what it was like when we had been there with him. If we hadn’t been there before with Dragon, I didn’t want to experience it without him. Why should I get to go on living, experiencing new things, seeing beautiful places, I asked myself, when my son could not? It was easier to stay at home, where the stabs of pain passing by his room were predictable and familiar. Plus, if we didn’t leave home, maybe no one would be killed.

The wildflowers in the desert love the water, but because of the drought, the spring bloom has been sparse. This year, the rains finally came. This year, they said, it would be a Super Bloom.

I’d always wanted to see the desert wildflowers. I live only two and a half hours away from Anza Borrego, a wide and shallow desert valley surrounded by mountains, and one of the best spots in California to see this springtime spectacle. But I’ve never made it out there, never made the time to step away from work or the kids’ sports schedules or even my homebody laziness. Even last March, hearing that the wildflowers were on their way, I thought about it for a moment, then remembered that Dragon wouldn’t be with us. I refused to think about it again. So, when I heard this year that Anza Borrego was expecting its biggest bloom in a decade, I didn’t expect to be tempted. I thought I had put away my adventure hat. But for some reason, this year, when the desert called, something within me responded.

I convinced my husband, Daniel, and our daughter, Hannah, to go with me. We left home early in the morning. When we got out to the desert, we were met with fields of yellow, purple, and white. We admired the teddy bear cholla. We wandered among the sand verbena. We hunted for magenta cactus flowers. I brought my camera and Hannah brought hers, and we photographed first the landscape and then one another. Awed by the desert in her beautiful dress, I sat down among the flowers. Daniel came and sat down behind me. Yellow desert sunflowers carpeted the entire valley and nibbled the bottom edge of the distant foothills. Together, we marveled at the abundance and beauty bursting forth from this dusty land. Together, we missed our dead son while enjoying the wonder of our living daughter.

Ezer + Co. - Anza Hannah
Ezer + Co. - Anza Hannah

Later that afternoon, driving around the little town of Borrego Springs, we stumbled upon a meadow of gigantic, wrought-iron statues. We found ourselves face to face with a fire-breathing dragon who had made his home in the desert sand. And here, standing in front of this iron dragon, I felt our Dragon with us, in spirit if not in person. New memories started melding with old memories in this once-barren land. When I later texted my friend Mary a photo, she texted back, “Perfection. A Dragon rising up out of the earth. So meant to be.” It was a magical day -- elemental, full of heat and sun, fire and water, sky and life.

Driving home, we passed grazing cows in a grassy field. Their black and white bodies beckoned. I instantly thought of Dragon, how, during our road trips, he never failed to open his car window when we passed by a field of cows. He’d pop his head out and moo at the top of his lungs at the grazing bovines: MOO! MOO! MOOOOO!

He did it for years. It made me laugh every time.

Ezer + Co. - Anza Dragon

Leveraging my Power for Her Benefit

Robb Gossen - Ezer + Co.

Robb Gossen

Guest Post

First, a word from April.

Partnership with men is essential if we are going to see more good on earth as it is in heaven. We weren’t created for competition. We were created for shared ruling, governing, filling, and multiplying (Genesis 2). Sharing the voices of allies is important to me. Men who use their power and privilege for the sake of women is vital if we are going to experience true partnership.

Robb is an ally. Recently he called me to talk about his white privilege. He’s doing his work for the sake of those of us who’ve been marginalized and muted. Robb hires women. He uses his budget to provide coaching for women. He invites women onto leadership teams and speaking on stages. He partners with his wife in her work. And he’s raising a daughter to be a warrior. If you’re a women, may you find a Robb in your own life. If you’re a man, may you leverage your own power for her benefit.

Over the years, I have been blessed to take part in a variety of learning collaborations that have stretched me and allowed me to grow into the leader I am today. For this I am grateful. I love being a part of different learning and coaching collaboratives that push me toward being the leader I want to be.

One thing I have learned through these opportunities is that not everyone has had the same advantage, particularly women.

When women in my area of influence are encouraged, even provided the space to flourish, the organization as a whole gets better. Their life experience provides viewpoints and experiences that I lack but bring invaluable insight to me and the rest of the organization.

I love serving in a church denomination that has always been supportive of women in pastoral leadership. Even within this structure, we don’t always do a great job of providing these growing and learning opportunities to women. In my current context, I am honored to serve alongside several women who are mighty preachers, pastors, speakers, and leaders, and yet, at times, they remain limited in their opportunities to learn and grow. This is why when I see opportunities, I need to do my part in making sure these opportunities are both known about and resources are provided to make it happen.

Given my platform and role in our denomination, I have intentionally chosen to invest in these incredible women that I serve alongside. It is encouraging and life-giving for me to use my privilege and power so they can flourish as doors previously closed are now opened to them.

One question that I continually come back to is:

What I am willing to invest so that another might thrive?

When the table expands and more voices join us, our conversation, our dreams, our value becomes more robust. This does not happen, though, when we continue to perpetuate a boys club mentality and scarcity mindset.

This commitment, however, does not come easily or without cost. Resources must be reallocated to help fund the necessary development. When intentionally choosing to invest in the lives of these women, it raises the water level of our organization which, in turn, makes ALL of us better. It requires that I use my position and privilege to make it happen. My leadership does not lessen because I choose to support another both vocally and with the needed resources. On the contrary, my world expands, my leadership grows, and my influence becomes greater but not for the sake of myself. Support women brings a whole new perspective to the table. While our denomination has always seen women as leaders and pastors, we still have a long way to go to continue providing development and growth opportunities for women.

At some point, those of us in leadership positions (which equals power!) must release our grip on this idea that if those on the fringe are provided the opportunities to develop their voice, confidence, leadership skills, then we will lose our ability to lead and influence our worlds. That’s a scarcity mindset. There is enough to go around.

Whether its resources or leadership opportunities, choosing to embrace the truth that there is abundance when all receive the chance to thrive, leads us to a more whole vision. When we choose to leverage our power, our position, our resources, we learn more about ourselves as well as the explosive growth waiting beneath the surface of the women who work alongside us every, single day.

Mahala - Ezer + Co.

Feet, Ocean, + Freedom: Why I Needed This Coaching Group

Megan Kallenbach - Ezer + Co.

Megan Kallenbach

Guest Post

I was standing on the edge of the road looking down at the water. As I strolled the path, I felt the wind gusting through my hair. The sound of the ocean was roaring through my ears. As I sat down to look out and embrace the moment, I had this thought: ”I just have to put my feet in.” That thought and feeling wouldn’t leave my body until almost instinctively I headed for the shore. I’m not sure what made those thoughts come to me. Maybe it was the desire to wash away the last season of my life. The season that broke me and rebuilt me all in one. I felt like I was a phoenix that rose from the ashes.

Before I started this journey, I was a broken woman, barely surviving. You see, I was in this journey to motherhood through unconventional means. In January of 2018, I became a foster mom. In February, I got placed with the best little baby girl the world has ever known. For awhile, I felt on top of the world. I was leading three ministries through transitions, I was a mom for the first time, and I honestly felt like I was rocking it all. Of course, we know that things never stay that way. My church had decided that I was not the person they were looking for to continue leading the ministries, so they started to look for someone else. They found that person and unfortunately I felt a tension in that relationship. It wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t my fault; it was the result of a bad situation overall. Shortly after that, I got a call for a little toddler, in which that “yes” turned my next season into one of the hardest I have ever experienced. All of a sudden, I was bearing the weight of disappointment and the feeling of being overwhelmed in a constant state.

Realizing I needed help, I heard about this Women In Leadership Cohort. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I realized I needed something. The trajectory I was headed was not good for me nor the children I was caring for. So I signed up. That single moment changed everything for me.

I remember going into the first retreat so broken. I wasn’t sure the ladies would like me. Heck, I didn’t even like me at this point. I was stressed and overwhelmed and that was a baseline for my life. I remember people always saying, “I’m not sure how you do it.”; meaning be a single parent and work full time. Truthfully, I’m not sure how I made it through those first months either. It was clearly Jesus and coffee, because there was no other way. Parenting is hard enough, but parenting trauma is harder. Then factor in that I was in a position at a church that I loved so much but wasn’t happy anymore. It was a tough season. As April asked the hard questions and gave us room to search our souls, I began my wrestling stage. When I finally felt like I was ready to give up, life shifted. A job opened that seemed like a dream and I began my crawl out of the space I was in. Parenting was getting easier and routine began.

By the time we got to the second retreat, I was in a completely different place. Noticeably different. Even the other ladies could see the actual physical changes in me. Hope. I had hope. But I wasn’t done yet. I needed one more thing: forgiveness.

As my feet touched the water, I breathed in and out, thinking of the people, the hopes, the promises broken, that I needed to forgive. I felt the tinge of cold surge through my whole body. I felt alive. It was time to let go. Let go of it all. The journey was long and hard but it brought me to this place, this moment. The moment where I could look back and see the faithfulness of God. The point where I could let go of those hurts and decide to wash it away in the salty, cold water. In that moment, it was like I let Jesus Himself wash my feet as He said, “I am here, I love you, well done my faithful servant”. Then, as fast as it started, the moment was gone and I was on a plane back. But I will forever remember that moment. The moment I felt free.

first shared on Megan’s blog:

Thoughts from Megan after our first coaching retreat:

Our next coaching group starts September 24-26th. If you need to shift your self-leadership investment like Megan did, say “YES” to yourself and your leadership.

Have some reasons (aka excuses) about why you can’t say yes right now? Megan personally paid for her own coaching group experience. Single momma of 2 foster girls, working full-time in job that was strangling her soul. She found childcare for her foster daughters. She sacrificed financially to make it happen. Her transformation mattered that much to her. She’s a new woman as a result of what she learned and did in those 6-months.

Say “YES”. You are worth it.