Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Time for Adventure

Written by: on January 11, 2024

I was not a reader in early elementary, didn’t become one until I discovered the fantasy section at the local library.  Battles between angels and demons. Tolkein’s orcs and elves.  Legends of dwarves and fairies.  When I discovered Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, I was hooked on the written word – at least in the third way words can be viewed according to Adler and Van Doren, “some aspect of things that we can understand by thought but not observe through our senses.”  The way words created worlds in my imagination was liberating.  That sense of freedom, intoxicating.

Of course, I had to learn how to read other genres which helped me through my higher learning and now as a working professional. Exploring knowledge through these types of readings doesn’t always bring back that childhood thrill of adventure, but Adler and Van Doren show how I can skip to the good parts and dig for the best treasures in my readings.   

Writing, on the other hand, became a fascination the moment I was introduced to the subject. First, it was just the look of it.  I was educated during a time when they still taught cursive lessons every day.  The roundness of the letters, the fling and swirl and all the curls seemed so playful, like doing cartwheels and somersaults on paper.  When I won my first writing contest in the fourth grade, I earned my first moment of recognition. The adulation was a new feeling, a blessed relief from the opposite feeling of shame that came from being the only Black girl in school.  Finally, I was seen for something else; my thoughts mattered, and if I got them in the right order I could move from loser to winner with the flip of a cursive letter. I discovered in that moment that I had agency in something – the manner in which I process and express my thoughts. 

My process today may be called by some as overthinking or obsessive compulsive.  It takes me a long time to be satisfied with a single paragraph. The process is often interrupted with ADHD, especially if I’m just free flowing. Digressions through so many rabbit holes can be maddening.  More challenging is writing in the right environment.  I can write fleeting notes anywhere, but committing to a routine of writing more meaningful thoughts and putting them in order requires the right spot for an extended period of time.  

Time is the thickest barrier for me.  In order to get to permanent thoughts – rather than just writing lists of things to do – I have to write my thoughts all the way out. That can take 2-3 hours. To get those thoughts filtered and edited for publication is another 1-2, depending on word count. Finding uninterrupted time like this is hard to find: single mom of 12-year-old boy with special care needs; founder and CEO of a small nonprofit; community caretaker of cooperative living space for young adults; full-time employee at statewide nonprofit agency.  Add to these roles and titles, I must also overcome other, more biological barriers. I’m no spring chicken.  I’m starting to feel my body in ways that are most certain to get worse in time, (which does, in fact, feel like it speeds up as you get older.) Fortunately, Ahrens offered valuable knowledge I can use to power through the reading and writing requirements for this new doctoral journey.

If I were to measure my skill level at taking notes it’s probably at two levels: 

  1. my mom’s way – which was either fleeting lists of things to do, or random, disconnected thoughts scribbled in cursive on napkins, post-its, or permanently slipped into her mixed media art.  
  2. the standard way – taught in school, the basic skill used for professional trainings and such.

I approached the material this week starting at the 2nd level, engaging the resource that best fits my learning style: audio-visual. I watched the Ahrens video, while attempting to enjoy the outdoors and reach my 6,000 steps per day.  I realized quickly, “This won’t work.  I need to be taking notes.”  So, next day, I brought the book, a highlighter and a pen to the gym and tried to make it work on the treadmill.  As I started taking notes, I realized, “OMG, I’m taking the wrong notes!”  The more I read, I felt relief pour into my usually very anxious belly. “This is might be easier than I thought.”  

The smart note way gave me insight into a problem that has kept me from being more productive in my writing.  “The time consuming part is not the actual writing, it’s finding the right order.” Trying to put my thoughts in linear order has always been the real challenge. I don’t think in linear fashion. I think in cursive. Trying to order such thinking is like trying to round up a flock of chickens in a coop.  Ahrens affirmed the way I naturally think without judgment, while giving me a system to order those thoughts for greater productivity, turning my vague world of thinking into concrete actions.  One idea, one note, same format. This feels precise without constriction.  You can think whatever you want, just get those thoughts in order.  It’s okay that your thoughts are everywhere; capture six throughout the day and flush’em out in the evening.

Further, this system allows me to capture elements of my mom’s way too – especially those random notes that always left me confused because I didn’t understand the context.  Ahrens has a place for them too.  I’m still trying to get my technology up to standard for the purpose of my learning, but once all that settles I’ll be able to download Obsidian.  In the meantime, I’ve started reigning in 3-6 thoughts per day. 

I’m noticing the greatest challenge thus far is the additional processing in the evening.  During the winter season, I’m done for the day by 6p.  Both my brain and my body start to shut down.  My ability to process anything is reflected on two screens, my phone and the TV. With blurry eyes I scroll through comedy reels, clips of dance moves, and POVs = visually recorded random thoughts of others organized by Facebook’s AI algorithm. In the background I’m listening to reruns of NCIS on Netflix. That is my natural self.  This program is going to require that I rise to my spiritual self.  Clips of scripture are pouring out of my heart right now but it’s after 6p and I can’t remember the book, chapter or verse. Something about “wings of an eagle” and “will not grow weary” and “I can do all things.”

This first week I was able to push through old habits until Thursday morning.  The plan was to get to the spot and go through my notes, put them in order and finish up a final draft by the time my son came home from school.  What happened was the exact opposite.  My body made me sleep.  When I finally got moving late afternoon it was getting dark outside. But that’s how adventures begin, I suppose.  Gotta figure out the ebb and flow of the tide and try to ride the waves accordingly. 

The first step in adventure is to make the time.  Then, get all your materials and tools together.  Next week I’m supposed to add a member to the crew.  I have ideas for a coach so at least I don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring that out.  Take a look at the map, it looks like we are set to sail by the third week. Once I’m set out to sea, it’s all a matter of faith – in the captain, my fellow adventurers, and the promise of discovery at the end of the adventure.  I’ve added Ahrens words to my list of chants as I row, each thought a stroke. Enjoy the process.  Every thought counts.  

 Random thought: Did I mention I’m absolutely terrified of the ocean? Catalog under “bible verses for fear.”

About the Author

Erica Briggs

11 responses to “Time for Adventure”

  1. Noel Liemam says:

    Hi, Erica. I like that idea you mentioned about capturing all the thoughts of the day and just place them in order at the end of the day. I find myself doing that like having all random thoughts throughout the day. And now I will try that practice of leaving time at the end of the day to try to organize them and see how they related to each other.

    Thanks Erica!

  2. mm Kari says:

    Erica, you captured me with each word. “I think in cursive.” Is this a copyrighted phrase?! I love it! This beautifully explains how I think, too. Like Noel, I am inspired by your discipline to capture and order a few thoughts a day. I am thrilled to be a fellow voyager with you on this adventure!

  3. Julie O'Hara says:

    Erica, I’m with you on determining the new rhythms that will serve me during this season. Thanks for encouraging me with your work today.

  4. Adam Cheney says:

    Great post and I agree with Kari that the ideas of cursive were captivating. As you spoke of your struggle for taking notes after doing some of the reading and being an audio/visual person I wonder if you have tried taking audio notes? Jennifer keyed our group into the “Otter” app which does audio recording and will even transcribe them for you. After I have meetings, great discussions or listen to a good podcast, I take audio notes for myself. I know that I won’t get to write it down right away and I don’t want to lose the idea so I take a brief audio note for myself. I then move the transcribed version to my note system. It is not a replacement but rather helps me capture the notes in the moment.

  5. Daren Jaime says:

    Erica! Thanks for sharing your insights! I was really struck as to how you detailed your notetaking process—it is the synthetic blend of both the methodical and the practical. Your emphasis on processing resonated with me, as it’s a two-edged sword for me—sometimes leaving me caught in a delayed time trap.

    Also as a fellow audio-visual enthusiast when it comes to note taking, I have often pondered if our processing differs from others in terms of retention and note-taking. My iPhone’s notes section is filled with over 4000 entries with many sermons but even more notes. I sometimes find myself questioning if I truly captured the essence or did I overdue it in the notetaking. I think I am guilty of the latter. Time will truly tell and be the ultimate judge, unpacking this over the semester. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

  6. Chad Warren says:

    Erica, I completely resonate with the challenge you mentioned of your body and brain shutting down at the end of the day. Finding new and healthy rhythms during this season seems paramount for my own survival. I find I can not do things the way I have been doing them. This program is forcing me to figure out some inefficiencies and also finding the margins in my day. You mentioned having some ideas for a coach, what are some of those?

    • Erica Briggs says:

      I have a mentor I used to work with when I was a principal at an alternative high school. She helped me both with the work of serving in that role as well as my own wellness while serving. I think she will keep me on track with both while doing this research.

  7. Elysse Burns says:

    Erica, I appreciated learning more about your early introduction to reading and writing. Thank you for sharing. I hope you still have that fourth grade writing contest award!

    Two words really stood out to me at the beginning of your post, freedom and agency. I feel that throughout my academic journey, I have lost these. I am the cookie-cutter student. However, after reading Adler and Van Doren and listening to Ahrens, I feel this doctrinal training will help me rediscover freedom and agency. However, it is going to take some retraining and discipline.

    Similar to your thoughts, it takes me a lot of time to be satisfied with a paragraph and it takes me ages to get out my ideas. I would like to grow in these areas throughout the program.

    I look forward to seeing the many ways we grow throughout this journey. I will be praying you can get all your chickens in the coop.

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