Monday, December 5, 2016

Reflections on my Sabbatical

Sabbatical already feels like it was a million years ago (almost as long as it's been since I last blogged!). Still, I felt like I would be remiss not to pause and reflect on what God did in my life between July and October.
Honorable mentions: photography, sleeping, and packing (kinda)
By far, the greatest gift that sabbatical brought was merely having time to myself. Being in a work environment where I'm rarely alone, and still adjusting to being married (I love Pat but I'm still an introvert!), I was so grateful for the many hours during the day when I could be still, be quiet, and just be.

Four of the ten books I read during sabbatical.

Bookworm

As I was planning my sabbatical I created a much-too-long reading list of books that I've been wanting to read for a while. I ended up reading nearly 3,000 pages (10 books) in three months. I could probably say so much more about each of them but here are a few thoughts on the ones that impacted me the most:

Quiet, by Susan Cain
Having always known I was an introvert (though as a child I didn't know the term for it yet), this book was incredibly affirming. While modern American culture favors and praises the charismatic, quick-thinking extrovert, I've always wondered if that meant I was less than or not enough. Reading Quiet helped me understand that I have a lot of gifts and strengths as an introvert, and that in fact our world is a better place because of people who think deeply, prefer to listen rather than speak, and are inwardly driven.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, by Ruth Haley Barton
Interestingly, this was the only Christian book I read during my sabbatical (other than the Bible of course). Similarly to Quiet, this book reinforced for me the value of solitude. Using the model and story of Moses, Barton describes the rhythms and practices that are essential to care for one's soul in the midst of exhausting, demanding ministry life. While reading this book, the Lord brought to mind a few personal situations that I hadn't had time to deal with emotionally or spiritually before. Having read this early on in my sabbatical, it helped set me up to continue using my times of solitude to rest, be with God, and hear from him, and to commit to doing that daily as I returned to work.

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
I've been a Brené Brown fan for a while, ever since I was introduced to her widely-viewed TED talk. I was excited to read more of her work and chose this one based on reviews and recommendations. It was a pretty quick read and while there was quite a bit of repeat from other content I've seen of hers, what I took away from this book was that vulnerability is actually a display of strength, not weakness. But vulnerability is also inconvenient, disruptive, and scary. But are we willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of having relationships that are honest and real and courageous? According to this book, I would argue yes.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
Ed Catmull is the CEO of Pixar and this book is all about how he fosters a creative culture at Pixar. Other than basically just wanting to move to California to work for Pixar (don't worry, I'm not going anywhere!), the book was so insightful and inspiring as I transition to being a leader of creatives in the ministry I do. It felt like the perfect book with which to finish my sabbatical. Again the theme of vulnerability and admitting what you don't know came up, and to me this meant that in order to empower people to be creative and take risks, I as a leader need to model that I don't have all the answers, and that we're on a journey of discovering new things together. In an environment when there is often a lot of pressure to go with the safe, easy, or cost-effective route, this process can be pretty challenging. But I think when we allow ourselves to fail and make mistakes, we end up learning a lot and discover even greater creative achievements. That is the kind of journey that makes me want to get up every morning and go to work.

Some random stats from my sabbatical

The Unexpected

Of course there's a lot more that happened in that three months, but I wanted to write about just one more thing:

Pat and I bought a house!

Our new home!
This was for sure the most unplanned part of my sabbatical. We had started the house-hunting process in early summer, but had no expectations that we'd find anything this year. However, in mid-August our offer on a house was accepted! We closed September 30 and officially moved on October 9.

Needless to say this hugely affected my sabbatical. Instead of doing all the things I had planned, I ended up spending quite a bit of time packing, cleaning, unpacking, and more cleaning. After we officially moved I felt especially restless, with my home space more disorderly than normal, and without any of my regular routines to fall back on.

Even in the midst of that struggle, I reflect on three things. First, my deep gratefulness for a house. Pat and I never thought that we'd be able to purchase a house in the near future, and God's provision in many ways has surprised and blessed us beyond our imagination.

Second, I think that beyond our move, September and October was actually a pretty chaotic time. There were some family situations, some close friends who moved away, Pat broke his nose (five days before we moved), and InterVarsity was going through some major PR issues regarding the organization's stance on sexuality. All of that made those days and weeks even more chaotic and disorienting -- it wasn't just our move. Reflecting on that, I now think it's okay that I felt restless and unproductive. It seems like when things change, it happens all at once! Maybe it was God's grace that this all happened during a time that I had more time and space to process it all.

Lastly, I reflected a lot on my tendency to measure my days by productivity. I have always known this about myself, but having many days in the last month of my sabbatical where the most productive thing I did was getting showered and dressed, I felt like God was reminding me that productivity is not what gives me worth. There are days when I can simply enjoy being me and being unconditionally loved by a God who sees me not for my achievements or efficiency, but just for being his beloved daughter. While I know I will always be tempted back towards "productivity", those last days of sabbatical will always serve as a reminder that my value comes from Jesus, and in that I can truly rest.

Reentry 


It has been about a month since my return to work. Being in a new role, adjusting to organizational restructuring (due to having a new InterVarsity president), and continuing to settle into our home, have all kept me pretty occupied. There are days when I almost forget that I had three months of rest, and days when I question, was it really that helpful?

I suspect that it will take time for me to truly glean what God would have me glean from my time on sabbatical. And meanwhile I will patiently listen and wait.


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Thank you to Pat, my ministry partners, and my team, all of who supported me and made my sabbatical possible. I'm grateful for you all and glad to serve alongside you in ministry.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Story About a Handbook

I just realized I haven't blogged in almost four months! What have I been up to, you might be asking?
Well, there's really only one way to answer that: URBANA!
The final cover design for the Urbana 15 Handbook! The conference theme this year is "What Story Will You Tell?"

It's hard to believe this is my FIFTH Urbana, and my third one with the twentyonehundred team. That also makes this the third time I am designing the Urbana Handbook. Wow.

It seems like every time, I start out optimistic about how it's going to go. After all, with each Urbana I gain more experience on the process, learning what works and what doesn't, how to be more efficient, how to solve certain design problems, etc. However, I seem to always set myself up for disappointment because the Handbook is the most stressful project I work on in any given three-year cycle. And Urbana 15 has been no exception.

One thing that I've realized though, is that even as I work to see God work in the lives of others--in this case, the thousands of people that will attend Urbana--God seems to always want to work in me too. He's kind of all-knowing and all-powerful that way. (SIGH.)

Here are a few reflections on what I've learned during the past 2 months of working on this massive project:

 

I am not a patient person. 

I already knew this about myself, but it gets highlighted when I am waiting for content that never seems to come on time. On the Myers-Briggs 2, I am off the charts on the "early starter" category under Judging. It makes me really anxious to wait until the last minute on anything. I'd rather give myself plenty of time to complete a project. But when you don't have control over the timeline, this normally-good trait can cause a lot of angst, frustration, and even bitterness. Which leads me to another revelation...

A few shots of the hundreds of pages of drafts that has now creeped onto the empty cube next to mine.

I really like working alone. 

As a designer, this can be a great strength. I am self-motivated to work hard and always get things done on time. However, it can also be very difficult, especially when your project affects thousands of people, with literally dozens of different hands touching parts of the content. Where to put a specific mark on a map, which way we are spelling the word "theatre," the new title change for a seminar, a phone number or room number correction. These details are all determined by different people. And it is MADDENING!

Working on the Handbook forces me to work with several different people, and I don't like it. It's not that I don't like the people... it's just that because we're all people, we have different personalities, work styles, communication styles, etc. And so it makes for a really messy, complex, inefficient (which we know is pretty much equivalent to sinful) process.

 

But messy is good for my soul.

As much as I hate the mess and come home at the end of work days exhausted, drained, and frustrated, I know that God is using this process to teach me about patience, being more understanding, and communicating how I'm feeling even if that feeling is not a good one--all things that make me more like Jesus. So, as painful as it is, I am learning to be grateful for the experience (one that God seems to want me to have every three years; I guess I need to re-learn a lot of things!).

One of the more tedious aspects of the Handbook: marking and numbering every restaurant on a map so people can eat lunch!

God cares about details.

One way that I have particularly felt God's care for me in this process has been through reading through the book of Exodus in the past month. Now, after the Golden Calf/Ten Commandments drama, most of us tend to see the rest of this Old Testament book as really boring. Who wants to read about the cubit measurements of the Tabernacle? Who cares that each curtain had 50 loops on their top edge? Why does it matter which specific jewels get attached to the priest's robe?

However, as I've been working in details like adding commas and "the's" and spelling out the word "California" about fifty times (seriously, are ALL our speakers/leaders UC grads?), reading the chapters of Exodus has been such a good reminder of who God is. He's a detail-oriented God! So much that he would spend a good 15 chapters telling Moses exactly how to construct his Tabernacle.

And just like the artists who were appointed to create each piece of the Tabernacle, I, too, am creating space for God to be worshiped. I am helping thousands of people encounter God in a significant way. It may not have seemed glamorous when Bezalel's hands were cramped from cutting stone day after day, or when Oholiab's fingers were tired of sewing all those curtain loops. It was definitely not fun when I had to renumber 150+ seminars when they decided to change the numbering system half way into the process. Or to have to change the layout of the bio section because new people were added in at the last minute. (And don't get me started on the Oxford commas!)

But the bigger picture is that all these details add up to something that God sees as beautiful worship to him. Because with the use of the Handbook, students will be able to find their way around Urbana, select seminars that will equip them to be missionaries in every sector, and connect with organizations that are the perfect fit for their passion. What I'm doing really matters. And I am glad for that!

What appeared on my screen the day before the final file was due.

This is spiritual work.

On Thursday afternoon, approximately 24 hours before the final file was due to the printer, I came back from lunch, and my Handbook file, which I had been working on for two months with no problems, would not open. The file had somehow become damaged and would cause the software to crash every time it tried to recover the file. After restarting my computer, it still did not work. I asked my teammate to try opening it on her computer, no success. I tried a few other things before panic started to set in. Because, you know, of course, of all days and times, technology would choose RIGHT NOW to fail on me.

Normally I feel sheepish about those emergency prayers that we usually only send up when we haven't studied for a test. But this time, I felt like God might understand. 

There was simply no way I would be able to recreate a 210-page file in one day. It just would not happen. In desperation I prayed, God, please help.

When my husband came down to my desk for morale support, I had a brief meltdown with lots of tears and what was probably the closest thing to heart attack I've experienced to date. And then I called our IT Help Desk. After a little while, they were able to recover the file. Our network backs up twice a day, and the most recent back up had happened just half an hour before the file crashed. So I only lost about a half hour of work! The momentary crisis was averted!

PRAISE. GOD.

It occurred to me that this was not a coincidence. The enemy knows how important this handbook is to the success of Urbana. And he also knew that the day before it was due was probably the worst time to cause panic and stress. He certainly put forth a very good effort to cause this project to fail. But God prevailed. Again.

What can often seem like insignificant, tedious, hard work, can often be the places where God shows up in the most surprising way. I am reminded of God's intimate relationship with his people, even while he also has the power to affect thousands. Because while I know this Handbook will ultimately be used for the largest missions conference in North America, it has already been used in my life. And no one but God and me will ever know. Well, except you, if you've made it to the end of this blog post.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Elusive Brand Book

I've been wanting to share this for quite some time but I haven't felt like I was allowed to. Well, we're on the cusp of releasing an intitial working draft of the Brand Book, so I think it is safe to show you  a few sample pages! 
These pages help define the InterVarsity logo and the proper ways to use it. In my years of working as a designer for InterVarsity, I've seen all sorts of ways the logo has been used (or not used at all!). And it's no wonder, because we haven't done a very good job of helping people know how to use it properly! So these pages describe color, shape, spacing and placement. There are also a lot of examples of what NOT to do based on things I've seen. 
Other pages will help define our design guidelines for things like social media (square) images, email headers, website layouts, color palette, fonts, and a lot more! Seriously--I think it's going to end up being like 100 pages. Yikes. But, hopefully it will be a really helpful tool for our team and for our staff and students!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Ministry Logos: Before & After

Remember those ministry logos I was redesigning? Finally, they have all been completed! Here are the final versions along with the old versions.

Black Campus Ministries (BCM):

Before:

 
As you can see, we are moving away from including words or acronyms in the mark and rather having the ministry name explicitly included underneath the InterVarsity logo. This works to better align the new logos with each other, as well as have a clear and consistent relationship with the InterVarsity logo.

Graduate & Faculty Ministries:
Before:

GFM previously had many different marks to label each of their separate ministries. For simplicity and consistency, we decided to create just one new mark for all of GFM's ministries.
 
For the GFM and ISM logos, we have also updated colors so that they are much more relevant to current color trends and stay in line with InterVarsity's brand of colors.
 
International Student Ministry:

Before:


Whether or not these are all the best decisions, I am not sure. But I do know that consistency and clarity are helpful in good communication, so that is what I am aiming to do!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Unsexy, but Important

Normally I like to share about projects I'm working on that are directly related to student ministry because it's easier to communicate how my job connects with transforming lives with the Gospel. However, over the past few months and in the coming months, there's one major project I'm working on that, well, in so many words, is unsexy.

A glimpse at my work flow for the new Black Campus Ministries logo


Branding
"Brand" is basically a person or group's reputation based on public opinion. It involves what people think about them or associate with them (high-class? fast? cheap? great quality?). When it comes to a company or organization like InterVarsity, a large part of how you inform the public and shape that brand is by your visual standards. Think about Coca-Cola, Apple, or Nike. Immediately you can picture their logo and products. That means they've got a strong brand that helps you associate certain values with their organization.

When it comes to a non-profit ministry, we don't necessarily have products, but we do have a mission along with a set of values that are integrated into everything we do for that mission. My job as a designer for InterVarsity is to help shape the way our brand is communicated visually - using logos, colors, fonts, specific layouts/proportions, etc.

Exciting huh? 
My progress on the new Graduate & Faculty Ministries
Why It Matters
Despite the decidedly unsexiness of my current work, I think it is very strategic and important to be developing a more cohesive and consistent brand for InterVarsity. Why? It helps the public associate what they see and hear with who we really are. And who we are is an organization committed to seeing students and faculty transformed by the Gospel. It's a compelling mission, but can get confused if we're not clear and consistent with how we communicate it. By using a better standard of visual design, we're making Jesus more accessible to the very people we are trying to reach. We are giving our alumni and ministry partners a clearer reason for continuing to partner with us. We're telling our story more effectively.
Work on the new International Student Ministries logo


So, despite the fact that I will never be able to directly connect my hours of work on logo design and template layouts to any measurable results of students coming to faith or ministry partners joining our ranks, I press on.

Thanks to all of you who have been a part of me getting to do this important, albeit unsexy, ministry work.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Starting Something New

 
Welcome banner I designed for the Greenhouse entrance at Ambition 15
In January, over 700 students and staff gathered in Tampa, Florida for Ambition 15, a conference geared towards equipping students to start new ministries, either on their own campus or on a new campus where there is no current InterVarsity work.

Signs I designed to help direct students in the Greenhouse
I worked with the conference planners to help create a space at the conference called Greenhouse. It was an interactive, hands-on space designed to help students take their God-given vision for a new ministry and give it 'legs'. Coaches and training tools were available for them to start planning out how to get the word out, how to gather partners, how to lead, etc.

Designs of stickers and a tshirt that InterVarsity staff wore around Greenhouse to identify themselves
 

One of three double-sided "canvases" (worksheets) used to lead students through the process of developing a vision, finding partners and making concrete plans for the new ministry they want to start.


The conference awarded 8 students with a planting grant, $1000 and a coach for 6 months to get them started. These students included a young woman named Kat, who, as a student with disabilities, never truly felt accepted at her school until she encountered the InterVarsity chapter. Now she has a vision to begin a small group for other students with disabilities so they can also find the same love and acceptance of Jesus.

Pray that God would take these seeds planted at Ambition and grow them into flourishing new ministries so that more unreached places on campus would be impacted by the Gospel.


Friday, November 21, 2014

What happened at Price of Life?

Wondering what happened at Price of Life in October? Here's a brief snapshot. Thank you for your prayers and support in this life-changing event.
click to view larger