You Don’t Get to 10 Staying at a 10

I spent this morning in a planning meeting for the 10th anniversary celebration of Ashley Ridge Church – say what?!

That’s right, we’re coming up on 10 years in January of 2020 and we are going to celebrate BIG! (If you’re reading this, make plans now to be in Summerville on January 12, 2020 for worship – no excuses.) That being said, the 10-year anniversary for me and Ashley Ridge is actually only a week away. Planting Ashley Ridge Church became my full-time job on July 1, 2009.

I have so many thoughts and emotions about that last sentence. I look back on the 27-year old mother of a four-month old with varying amounts of cringe, pride, and laughter. If only she knew then what she knows now…bless her heart.

Before I go any farther, let me say this – I would do it all again. I have been changed by what I have seen and experienced and I live to tell with every breath I have left that I have witnessed the resurrecting power of the living Christ powerfully and unmistakably. I want the world to know the Jesus I know and I can’t wait for the next 10 years to unfold!

But, Lord, have mercy, I am tired. This 37-year old mother of a 10-yr old and 7-yr old with 15 years of full-time ministry, 14 years of marriage, and 10 years of church planting/leading under her belt is worn slam out. And I think I know why…

You can’t live every day and every season at a 10. Living at a 10 means keeping the throttle the whole way down at all times, always driving, always accelerating, never letting up on passion or progress. It means blowing through yellow lights and ignoring red lights. It means advance, advance, advance, always making sure the line is going up and to the right. And if it’s not, pushing harder and staying up longer to figure out how to make the correction.

Goodness knows I have spent too much of the last ten years trying to stay at a 10. Goodness also knows my husband deserves many medals for sticking around. I bought all the way into the idea that we should pray like it depends on God and work like it depends of me…I mean us…I mean me. Ah, there it is…staying at a 10 is a product of working like it depends on me.

(Is now a good time to talk about Ashley Ridge’s mantra – the ol’ Life is Better Together? Y’all see how funny God is, right?)

Fortunately, I have had some amazing mentors and friends step in along the way and call me on my crap – and y’all, forgive the term, but that’s what it is. It’s arrogance and ego wrapped into a tidy martyr-syndromed package and don’t let any other people-pleasing perfectionist tell you different.

As we near year ten, I’m learning more and more that building something to last means getting out of the way, learning that my 10 can be more effective when I use all the levels intentionally and strategically. So, here are a few tips:

  1. Pace yourself. As a runner, I know that I can improve my overall pace by learning to slow down a little in the first few miles so that I have more to give for all of the miles. In running world we call this negative splits, and I’ve struggled with it for years. You know what finally helped? Finding good people to run with who are better at this than I am. People who have different perspectives and can pull back in moments I’m tempted to push forward knowing it will serve all of us better in the end. So, pace yourself, or better yet – find the best life-pacers you can and invest in them, trust them. We call these people friends.
  2. Value rest. My second kid decided around the year one mark of his life that sleep was way over-valued. He decided the middle of the night was the perfect time to hang out and build relationships with anyone he could get to. He believed we were better together…always. And, oh, it hurt. Mostly because he fooled us in the first year into believing we were sleep experts on this second-kid go-round. We would spend the next five years of his life learning how wrong we had been. We read all of the books and tried all of the hacks and nothing worked. As he continued to thrive and hit all of the milestones on time or ahead of time, our pediatrician told us that some kids just don’t need as much sleep. (No, we didn’t fire him.) In the meantime, I conveniently began using my kid’s lack of sleeping as an excuse (or a cover-up) for my late night obsessing and working. Anyway, long story short, I decided at the end of last year that I was tired of being tired. I invested in a better pillow, bought a giant pack of Zzzquil to help correct my broken sleep patterns, and started going to bed a lot earlier. Turns out, I’m a better human with more sleep. Going to zero for a few hours maximizes the hours I spend at a ten. All of this is obvious to everyone – we just have to do it.
  3. Remember it’s not about you and it never has been. And if you can’t remember that on your own, back to finding those high-quality friends and giving them real permission to speak that truth into your life as needed.

I never could have imagined these last ten years or scripted anything that would have come close to the reality, but man, I am grateful, and I want ten more, and another ten after that. So here’s to the level 5 vacation days and the level 7 catch-up days and the level 1 opportunities to remember how desperately in need I am of the grace God so freely gives.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I’ve learned in the last, or dare I say “first,” ten years in the months to come!

3 Comments on “You Don’t Get to 10 Staying at a 10”

  1. Andy Stanley says this : “Leaders instill courage in the hearts of those who follow. This rarely happens through words alone. It generally requires action. It goes back to what we said earlier: Somebody has to go first. By going first, the leader furnishes confidence to those who follow. “

    I am so glad you went first Jenn, not only courageously stepping out to found ARC, where many of us were then able to find community and encounter and/or rediscover Jesus, but also stepping out to be a courageous and vulnerable learning leader and set the tone for many of us to follow your lead. You instill courage in my heart, as much if not more by your example than by your words just as Andy describes and I know I am far from alone.
    As someone who went from the “back row,” literally and figuratively, eightish years ago to a much closer seat in the present day, I can say it has been not only a joy to watch Ashley Ridge and you grow, it has been a true blessing for me as a person, a leader and a Jesus Follower.
    10, 8, 5, 2, 0 – you are a leader among leaders, at any speed, each and every day.

  2. Jenn Leigh Williams, we serve a mighty and awesome God. I believe He will provide you what you need (when you need it) to succeed and go the distance which includes wisdom and understanding.

    I have been where you are now. Traveled that road many times. Learned some of Gods lessons the hard way and still learning others.

    I feel connected to ARC and haven’t even crossed its threshold, sampled the bathroom mints or heard the first musical note or drum beat live. However, I am looking forward to it soon!

    I am not one of those few individuals that were with you in the very beginning nor likely to be with you at the end. But, just maybe one of those individuals that will be there along the path of this amazing adventure to help you and ARC reach the next level.

    At your convenience, would like to meet with you and discuss how I can assist you, ARC and its many important ministries.

    Derrick Horres

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