Monday, December 2, 2013

Your Inner Circle--Who are You Listening To?

Yesterday, Sunday, was the first day I've had to myself in months.  Literally months.  I couldn't tell you the last time there was not a house full of people, riders needing something, work to be done (well, I still have a ton of work to do).  Yesterday only Jamie was here, sadly confined to his bed with an apparent bout of malaria.  Coach and the team are in Egypt, no where near Cairo, for the Continental Championships this week.


I went looking for a sermon on Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and although we did have a small celebration on Thursday, I still felt as if something was missing.  I am thankful, very thankful, I was just craving something more, perhaps a recharge.  While searching one of my favorite preachers websites, I came across this sermon from one of his young pastors, Michael Kelly, "Who are You Listening To?"

Considering the end to my week last week, I clicked on the link and began listening.

If you have a little time, take a listen, it's critical to your future, your growth, your quality of life.  If you don't have a little time, make some.

The premise of the sermon, based on 2 Chronicles 18, the story of Jehoshaphat and King Ahab, is about who you allow to influence your life.  Your friends.  

We have all heard the admonition, "Change your friends, or change your friends," or "Take the top five people in your life, and you will be most like them".  

Pastor Kelly starts with, "Who and what you listen to influences what you say and do."  These are your friends.  Who occupies your inner circle?  Where you are right now is based on who you've let into this inner circle.

Several years ago I had a deadly inner circle.  Several years ago I did things which were wrong, which I knew were wrong, I hurt people I loved and I was spurned on by the people in my inner circle, my "yes" men and women.  I take FULL responsibility and am not saying my friends made me do it, however, my friends, my inner circle, did not share the values I knew I had been brought up with, honesty and integrity.  They were secondary to them.  They became secondary to me.  During that time, I was delusional, I thought I had great friends because I had many friends, people I could always "hang" with.  I shunned time alone thinking I didn't have friends if I had to spend 6 minutes by myself, working on myself.  

Whoever you ally yourself with, you allow them to have influence in your life.


You are not strong enough to run with a poor inner circle and be okay, you will not be.

Some people, myself included years ago, do not want to have friends who challenge you, who ask you the tough questions.  Do you surround yourself with people/friends who will openly and honesty disagree with you?  Who have the guts to speak up and say that's not it, that's not okay?

If those people are not part of your inner circle, you need to change your inner circle.

Today my inner circle is smaller but exponentially more valuable to me as a work in progress.  They challenge me not only in my vision, my goals and my desire to learn and grow, but more importantly in my view of right and wrong, my ethics, my honesty and integrity.  They are mostly people I have met over the last 4 1/2 years in Africa, years I have worked diligently on myself.  I have asked myself the tough questions.  Today I look back on who I was five years ago and who I allowed to influence me and I cringe.  It is so black and white now.  I now have a better core of friends back home as well.  I remember having lunch at Mt. Charleston with three girlfriends I ride with back in Vegas.  It was after my divorce, they are friends with my ex as well, and they looked me straight in the eye and wanted to know the truth.  It wasn't about the dirt and gossip, they wanted to know if I was someone they could trust with their friend, my ex.  They asked me tough questions.  I answered them honestly.  I spoke of the pain I caused.  I did not sugar coat anything.  These three women are still my friends.  

Here is a good question to ask yourself when considering your inner circle.  

Do you still go forward even after you've been made aware of the truth from a real friend, from someone who has told you what you don't want to hear?  Because, what we don't want to hear is exactly what we need to hear.

Sadly, this work on yourself, and culling your inner circle, needs to be done by you and sometimes you just don't see it.  I know, I've been there.  This week I had an incident with someone I really do care about, unfortunately, I challenge this person.  I have said the tough things, I have disagreed with them.  I have challenged their choices.  Not because I want to control them, which is probably what they think, but because I truly care.  I care more for them then anyone in their current inner circle.  But they cannot see that…..not now, maybe never, hopefully it won't be the case forever.  This person heard me say to them, their choice in "friends" was not wise, and it was confirmed by two others who have lived in this culture for as long, if not longer, than I.  We have experience, we have witnessed it first hand.  The response to our words of caution, "yeah, I know, but it feels good, it's what I need now."  Your life will be a mess if you keep with the wrong inner circle.  You will try to fix it by being careful in the mess.  It never works.

Here's the truth….this person will not attract the goodness of life, of true friendships while they are running with what feels good now.  The only way to stop the cycle is to push the current inner circle out and work on themselves.  

Pastor Kelly ended the sermon with "folks who have the most to say are the ones who have the scars to prove it."  I have earned my scars in the arena of the inner circle.  I know how good life can be with the right people in your inner circle and I also know how BAD life can be if the inner circle is filled with yes men and women, with people who have something to gain by the advice they give you.  

I am blessed to be surrounded by a dynamic, honest, truthful and challenging inner circle.  They make me a better person every day.  

Ask yourself today…..

Who are you listening to?

Who do you need to quit listening to?

Who SHOULD you be listening to?

What do you not want to hear but need to hear?

Whose advice are you resisting because you don't like the person giving it?

Thank you to those of you in my inner circle….you know who you are!  

(You know I love you Mel!  Anyone who would do this twice and still love me and laugh is a friend for life!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Dear Italian Friend…Mjrka

I Love ITALY…. love Italians, love the language, completely enamored with all things Italian.  Most of all I love the photos taken by an Italian photographer, Mjrka Boensch Bees.  Mjrka has been with us all five years of the Tour of Rwanda.  I see him generally once a year.  In 2012 I saw him twice, he also photographed the Tour do Rio.  

His photographs capture the essence of the Team, of the Tour of Rwanda….of us.  

2009….my first year in Rwanda, Director Sportif for Team Rwanda….fear, panic, trying to figure out what I was doing…my friend, Hilary in the background.  He captured it all.

2011…one of my favorite shots...

2012 at the Tour do Rio… of our best…last…memories with Jock, Max and I.  Max left a few months later.  We were hanging out on a jungle gym before the start of a race.

2013…and the most FAMOUS and loved photo I have from Mjrka….Valens win last week in our home town.

Thank you Mjrka for being there every year documenting our lives…our work, our team.

To see more of his work from the Tour of Rwanda 2013….fall in love with Team Rwanda and the country of Rwanda…