Things We’re Learning – Lesson 4: Community

Wow – we miss all of you guys a lot!!! Friends, co-workers, family everybody. That has been the hardest part of this trip; definitely harder than any of the mountains we’ve climbed, or the questionable beds we’ve slept in, or the lack of showers. I miss each of you individually, but I’ve come to realize that I also miss community in general, having people.

IMG_4335I read an article once that talked about the most reliable factors to predict the happiness for an individual. Unbelievably, the most reliable factor was if they had a friend that lived on their block. It shocked me at first, but then I thought about some of the most content and happy times in my life and it was when I lived next to door to one of my best friends, Angie Jacobus. Rick and I talked about it and decided that, had Will and Angie not moved to another area of Dallas, it would have been a much, much harder decision to sell the house, and leave to travel the world… it might not have happened at all.

Not to say “It’s all their fault,” but maybe a little 🙂 Beyond just having friends, there is huge value in proximity – being located physically close. I mean Skype calls are fun and everything but it’s a lot more fun to meet the Carpenters up at Whole Foods for tacos after work. To be part of peoples lives on a daily basis, and have them be a part of ours.

We’ve been thinking about this and discussing it for the last few weeks and noticed a few things. First off, God created us to want community and calls us to seek it out. Secondly, even taking what the bible says about community out of it, human beings are just more successful when they have their people. Think about the most successful fitness and weight loss programs: Crossfit (group workouts that create strong bonds), Weight Watchers (group encouragement and accountability), even the new 21-Day Fix program is setup to have a coach and a group of others that you do it with. Think about the 12-step programs like AA, they are based on having a group of people that you share with, get encouragement from, have accountability to; there’s human connection.

P1190769That being said, we have decided that wherever we wind up living at the end of this trip, one of our top factors, if not the top factor, will be community. Not in the “good schools and nice parks” sense, but a place where we can authentically and deeply connect with people. And that those people live near us. We have been joking about having “meet and greets” with the neighbors, maybe having a “meet for coffee/wine” hour to get to know the neighbors, before we consider renting or buying a house. Community is just that important.


Things We’re Learning – Lesson 3: Mentality of More

Mentality of More: Overstuffed

Mentality of More

Mentality of More: Overstuffed

I have discovered that I have a mentality of more. The answer is always “yes” to more. I didn’t ever notice this back at home, but it’s stood out to me in surprising ways as we’ve been traveling and I think that’s because it’s not the default answer in other countries. I think it’s bit of an American thing.

In America, the answer is always “yes” to more. Why? Because why not. Because I can.

One time it hit me was when, re-packing, for our Annapurna trek, or really any 6+ day trek we’ve done. We only wanted to bring minimal stuff since we were carrying it farther than across town, so we cut down and left the other stuff at a guest house in Pokhara. I had such a hard time paring down. My internal dialogue was going “well what if I want to change clothes? what if that shirt is dirty? what if that top is too warm, but that one isn’t quite warm enough? what if it’s raining, but not that cold? What it’s its raining and cold? What if I want to wear something different at night when we’re just hanging out than what I wore during the day?” I’m so used to “well, why not bring it?” that’s the default. Because I can. But packing for Annapurna was different, because I couldn’t bring it, because I couldn’t carry it up the mountain! And you know what? I was fine. I was great in fact. I was so much happier with less to think about. What if I flipped my paradigm? What if my default answer was “Less! Simplicity! Because why not?” instead of “More! Because why not?”. What if our default was single item, instead of combo meal? What if our default was one car, instead of multiple car households?

How about the simple, minimalist life? No need for decor. No fifty outfits in the closet. Not because I can’t carry it up a mountain, or can’t afford it, or can’t get it. But just because, why should I just get something or have something because I can?

I heard a podcast the other day with the challenge to own less than 100 things. That seems really extreme, but something I’ll be thinking about.

Less is more

Things We’re Learning – Lesson 2: Overthinking Kills

Over thinking kills your happiness.

Definitely an “in progress” one for me; I’m really bad about this.. so this post is short 😉

Things We’re Learning – Lesson 1: Keep Your Gratitude Higher Than Your Expectations

Keep Your Gratitude Higher Than Your Expectations

Keep Your Gratitude Higher Than Your Expectations

I have to give Ray Wylie Hubbard credit for that quote. It was a quote that Rick and I liked before we left, but it’s become even more meaningful to us since we’ve been traveling. It seems whenever we go somewhere with high expectations, thinking it’s going to be amazing, we are disappointed. And then I remind myself that really I am just grateful to get that experience, whatever it is. Expectations can be our worst enemy – not just in travel, but in marriage too! And gratitude is such an easy thing to get lost in the shuffle. It’s something I constantly need to focus on to keep it at the forefront. When I spend my energy being grateful, instead of getting all excited and hyping up my expectations, I always end up happier and enjoying that time.

We are very thankful for Scott Kedersha. He is awesome! We are extremely grateful for his per-marital ministry for helping us understand how gratitude and expectations play out in our lives. We’ve seen it be even more prominent as we’ve traveled.

So for Chile, we’re just thankful that we get to go… no expectations. I’ll keep repeating that in my head for the next few days  🙂

Thankful for Brinker!

Random topic, right? Since I’ve been gone from Chili’s for almost five months now? I just couldn’t help sharing this though. While in South Sudan Rick and I were asked to give a few business education seminars to the Seed Effect local staff. I immediately felt under qualified for the task and wasn’t sure where to start. Scovia, the In-Country Director for Seed Effect, was kind enough to provide some general ideas to get me started (like time management, attitude towards work, humility and feedback, etc). And as soon as I got to working on the power points, so much of Brinker’s Culture of Accountability came flooding back, and I was on a roll!

DSC_0124But still, I was really nervous when it came the presentation day because this isn’t exactly an ideal environment: 1) I’m no training expert, 2) English is not my audience’s first language, 3) MASSIVE cultural differences, 4) Most of the team does not have any other business experience or education. How the heck is this going to translate?!

But I knew that the concepts I was sharing were some of the most impactful to not only me, but Chili’s Team Members in the field, people across all departments of the organization, even my non-Chili’s friends and family. So I dove in!

DSC_0155 I was able to share the concept of Big Rocks – with a visual demonstration and all! The visual demonstration really resonated with the team – and they totally go it. When it occurred to me to share Big Rocks, since it is the most impactful idea in time management that I’ve ever come across, I thought it was so cool that there was actually a demonstration that I could pull off while presenting in the middle of nowhere South Sudan with zero supplies! What does every village in every country have? Rocks, pebbles and sand (well, more like dirt, but close enough). So after taking a machete to a couple of water bottles, and having most of the staff think I’m a crazy lady running around gathering rocks and dirt – picture “Excuse me Eivans (our driver), could you stop again please? Those little rocks are the perfect size! Tinate” – we had a presentation!

DSC_0171I also got to talk about how Feedback is Priceless. Open, constructive feedback is something that’s hard to come by in the U.S., but in other countries, where offending someone can often be repaid with rocks being thrown at you, or a swinging machete, it’s even rarer. Fortunately, the Seed Effect team is amazing and has a solid Biblical foundation, so introducing giving and receiving feedback was a concept they took to immediately. In true Tony Bridwell style, everyone paired up and practiced “What feedback do you have for me?… Thank you for the feedback”. And committed to asking for and giving feedback in regular weekly meetings.

DSC_0165We talked about ensuring that all teams goals were aligned around the Big Rocks, then setting clear expectations, aligned with your Big Rocks. And how to talk your team through “The Why’s”. And then we got to talk about giving recognition and practice it – Dom Perry, you would’ve been proud!!

Beyond the presentations I spent some time talking with the leaders about leadership (it all start with investing in your leaders), managing a team, ownership and accountability. As I did, it made me realize how much of the Brinker culture had become ingrained in me… in fact, Drew asked, “So do you have like reference materials, or do you just have all of this memorized, or what? You quote it all exactly.” To which, Rick laughed and said, “Yeah, I can quote it all too… we use it at home, too” and then Rick went into how Experiences lead to Beliefs, and you have to give some one new Experiences to shift them from C1 Beliefs to C2. For those that don’t know, Rick never actually did work for Brinker, although there may be some debate from some people… 🙂

DSC_0110It’s funny that I didn’t realize how ingrained it was, but even having not been around it for months, Brinker’s culture is part of who I am now. It’s a set of tools that will be invaluable all of my life, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had to be part of it.

…To respond to Drew’s question, after I laughed for a minute, I said “No, no reference materials and no crazy memorization… everyone at Brinker just lives it out everyday. From the CEO to the servers and every person in between. It’s just how you live at Brinker”

And Drew replied “Do you know how fortunate you are to have worked for a company that has that kind of culture and training? No one has that.”

Well, I truly thought I always appreciated it, but being away from Brinker for a bit, and then getting to share the invaluable lessons of the culture with others makes me realize even more how special it was. And makes me incredibly, just over the top, grateful for the opportunity to work there and learn from the best leaders. I’m forever grateful to the leadership as Brinker who took time and energy to invested in the culture and invested in me – Thank You!!!


Merry Christmas

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. 2 Corinthians 1:20a Merry Christmas 2014.


God brought us a long way (figuratively and literally) this year from our comfortable, steady lives in Dallas, to a nomadic life often not sure where we’ll be spending the night. We are learning more and more everyday to trust Christ in everything, He is the answer.

From wherever we are to wherever you are,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

What I’m Learning So Far: 3 Months of Travel

What I'm Learning So FarWe have been traveling for three months now. As predicted, it feels like it has flown by! When we were preparing for this trip, we thought through what we wanted to get out of it, what we wanted to learn, how we hoped it would change us and grow us. It was intimidating to come up with those big scary goals, and it was impossible to say how we would grow. But almost daily as we are traveling, Rick and I find ourselves talking about something we’re learning, or something we had as head knowledge, but is really sinking in now.

So I figured I would share a few of those thoughts. As I got into writing this, it turned into a MUCH longer post than I initially thought. So I’m breaking it up into a series of them. Here’s the first installment, in no particular order:

1) Stop Spending Your Energy Looking for The Best

You’re better off making the most of where ever you are, than trying to figure out where you should be. I’m really bad at this. Like really, really bad.

I’m learning that with perpetual travel like we’re doing, you are basically constantly in planning mode. It’s very different from a vacation – where it’s super fun to plan, you spend weeks or months learning about a place, what to see, where to stay, eat, what are the “can’t miss” things there. But when that’s everyday, it’s gets really overwhelming and there’s just not enough time. I can’t plan for the next country we’ll be in because I’m trying to figure out where the heck we are right now, what we’re not supposed to miss, where we’re sleeping and how we’re getting from the train station to somewhere that’s not in the ghetto. So if I let it (and sometimes I do), every moment of every day could be spent planning where to go next, what to see – and even if you have time to do any of those “best things” at that point, you have no energy to because you’re beat down from all of the researching.

Confession: I am TERRIBLE about this!! (And if you knew me back in Texas, you’re probably nodding along that I was terrible about this at home too) What’s worse is that I’ve dragged Rick down into this habit with me – he didn’t used to do it – but I’ve brought him to the dark side. And this habit is what starts the majority of our frustration and fights I think.

As I’m writing this, God is definitely speaking to me, “Liz, why do you think you do that?…. Hint, hint, is it because you struggle with control? Is it because you too often forget that I have a plan for where I want you to be and when I want you to be there? Do you forget to trust my timing and hand on you?” Yes, nailed it, God!

You’re better off going to one of the first places you find, it may be mediocre or flat out crappy, but you’ve saved yourself a ton of stress and you actually have energy remaining to enjoy it. That goes from the smallest things, like the restaurant you’re eating at or which temple to visit, to the bigger travel things like which country in Southeast Asia to go to or which island to stay on.

There’s a danger to always looking for, seeking out the best, always trying to figure it out and get to it. I’m an addict though. I always want to figure out what the best option is and go for that one. But it’s easy to miss where you are when you’re mid-super-research-and-planning-extravaganza looking for the best. And certain moments in a mediocre place can be so much more fulfilling, memorable, and meaningful than the time you would spend in that perfect place. Make the most of where you are, instead of looking for the best place – I’ll be working on this one for the next leg of our journey.

Learning - Good Luck

2) I Don’t Have To Have It All Figured Out

Actually I only have to have a very, very little bit figured out – Who God is, and who I am to God. Everything else will work out, as long as I’m focused on those two things.


3) Learning What I Like: Mountains, Countryside

Being free to be where I want, having those options, has helped me to realize things I enjoy most. Previously, living in a city, I kind of assumed that I liked getting out into nature, the country, just because it was different that what I saw everyday. But now that we are bouncing around between cities and more rural places, Rick and I have both found that we really like being out in nature much more that being in even the most interesting and beautiful cities. Not a huge break though here, but good to know. I’ve also determined that I’m a mountain person. I’m just happier at altitude and with mountains as my backdrop. Even when I’m at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world I would rather be in the mountains. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn more of these innate preferences as we continue the journey.

PS – For Rick, definitely countryside over city. He could do beaches or mountains, definitely not as strong of a preference as me, but he leans towards mountains.

Learning - mountains…well that’s probably already too long for one post, so I’ll stop there and pick up in another post.