“It is awfully hard to be brave, when you're only a Very Small Animal.”
- A. A. Milne (from Winnie-The-Pooh)
In these shifting sands, I often feel like a Very Small Animal, just one pinpoint among the many, many stars. The reality is that dreams shift and shatter, and yellow-brick roads sometimes lead to dead ends. Sometimes life is a quick drop, a sudden stop. And what do we do? We can look up into the blue sky and wonder who is watching. We can glance over our shoulders to see if anybody saw when we fell down and skinned our knees. We can wipe away that glimmer of a tear because there just isn’t time right now. We can yell at the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.
There are different types of fear. We fear letting people down, failing, falling, and basically appearing foolish or incompetent. Basically, we fear the unknown. It’s a survival instinct. Here’s one important lesson to realize: humans, inherently, are not psychic. Humans are limited in that way.
The good news is that the unknown is not a monster. The unknown simply doesn’t exist. The unknown is your projection of a possibility. It’s not fact, it’s not verifiable, and it’s probably not even what may occur.
Projection avoids the present. Appreciating the present eliminates fear. Let’s walk through it step by step.
I have always liked the movie Elizabethtown. It is the story of a man, Drew Baylor, whose great invention at a shoe company craters and he is fired; while he rigs a contraption to commit suicide, his sister calls to inform him that his father had a heart attack and died. Yeah, yeah, it sounds sad, whatever. This is the platform from which he falls, however, and the audience takes the journey with him, through facing failure and its wretched aftermath, new love, and fresh beginnings.
“You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery,” Claire Colburn says in a note to Drew. “Enjoy it, embrace it, discard ... and proceed. Sadness is easier because it's surrender. I say, make time to dance alone with one hand waving free.”
We see Drew dancing under some shade trees after scattering some of his dad’s ashes along the road. He cries.
You can dance and cry at the same time.
It’s about glorying in the moment rather than expecting a projected triumph.
At one point, Claire says to Drew, “We are intrepid. We carry on.”
Regardless of what we hope for, project, or dare, what IS exists. And it’s stunning.
Call it a web, a journey, a path, or a plotline, humans navigate this earth and their time on it. The more difficult the landscape, the more you see of your true self. Amid the bouquet of options, I can see yesterday’s selfish flippancy, the materialistic cravings, the immature belief. I can see yesterday’s shaking flesh, the whimpering muscles. But I can also see how these challenges, these opportunities, they work like a sieve. Through the emptying out, an instigation of firmness builds within; as the complaining sifts out like powdery flour, a more solid hand steadies a tangible faith.
Not so long ago, God breathed out life upon the universe. He pieced together billions of people with billions of opportunities to thrive in a life greater.
The God who made us has us here to learn more about his security. He is secure, he is able. He is intrepid. As a believer in him, he resides within me, therefore I am secure, I am able, I am intrepid. There’s no better place for me than where I am right now. There’s no better place for you, either. You’re in this time and space with me, and we can reflect on the delightful present of our reality.
You breathe air.
You blink with bright eyes.
Your senses ignite, your hope flares, and you are now more awake to the possibilities of freedom — the possibilities of life, beautiful, perfect, as it is, right here, right now. How do you feel without expectations for what should be, and is not? How do you feel knowing that the story you’ve been beating yourself up for does not exist, nor should it? ‘Should’ does not exist. How does it feel to accept that the slow car in front of you is supposed to be slow? How does it feel to accept that you have the opportunity to wipe gum off your shoe in front of your child? How does it feel to receive the incorrect order at the drive-thru, and know that this is the moment for which you’ve been preparing? You get right now to be your best self. You get this one moment to drop your pride, speak with humility, and act in kindness.
You get right now to choose how to act.
Three kinds of business exist: Your business, My business, and God’s business. Your gift is this one reality to mind your business. You don’t have to mind mine or God’s. You can’t mind God’s business. (Seriously, would you want to? No thanks.) That’s why it’s his. He gets to deal with the stars, the natural disasters, and the mass of humanity as a whole.
“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you’” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
See, God IS minding his business, which includes us. He won’t stop. He will never leave or fail us — he’s with us, he’s within us, he’s around us. So we’re secure on that end. Be strong, be courageous, do the work. I manage my business. You manage your business. And we rockin’ it. We magnificent.
Intrepid means ‘fearless and bold.’ Plucky. Dauntless. Resolute. We are intrepid. We carry on. It’s our business. And remember, you got yours, I got mine! We manage the events as they piece together before us. We have nothing to fear. We have nothing to complain about. Don’t assume some other scenario than what you currently have could be better. This one moment is the best option. (Spiders and all!)
Small animals? Maybe our bodies are small creatures compared to the stars. On any ordinary day, are our souls woven into the Spirit of the King of Kings, the Creator, the manager of the stars? Yes. Able to do the work? Yes. Dancing with one hand flying free? Oh, my dear, yes.
More on this coming soon. <3
I received some pretty harsh reviews of my books the other day. And by harsh, I mean crushing. These people did NOT like my books. Being a perfectionist, and one who has spent years investing in these stories, my heart flung itself outside of my chest and into a hole in the backyard and I came thiiiiiis close to hanging up my apron. The typewriter was in the garbage.
But as they say, the truth will set you free.
I went seeking. My inner voice said all those nasty deviled egg phrases about how I lacked any talent and I should give up and everything is pointless and what the heck have I been doing if I can’t get people to like me or my books…..or… me.
Byron Katie came up with some questions to use in situations where The Things don’t seem to be going your way and your thoughts are running away. 1) Is this thought true? 2) How do I feel when I have this thought? 3) Who would I be without this thought?
Still after working through these questions, I felt doubtful. What if the critics were right? What if my books were unbelievable, boring, “dragging on and on,” and confusing? Ah! The answers came in various forms, and one big answer came from the show Arrow. Because a lot of great answers come from superhero shows (They do!): WHY are you doing what you’re doing?
A lot of problems can be solved with that question.
I’ve sorted through why I write for years and haven’t always known my answer. I write because I can’t stop. It makes me so much more than happy. And my books are not really, "me." They aren't all I have to give. A person does not have children in order to receive praise. So then the same applies to books.
Friends, I came to these conclusions about critics and books. I think they’ll apply to you, regardless of your goals or projects:
1) If you ask for criticism, you’ll receive it.
As I started out with my publishing process, I was told to get reviews, get reviews, get reviews. Send it out, pay for reviews, enter contests; the more people who read it, the more people will see it. If it doesn’t say ‘best-seller’ or ‘award-winning’ then no one will read it. This is in part true. However, any person who reads any string of words can criticize them and how they are put together. There is no perfect book.
As a writer, as a creator, you are not perfect. And try as you might, your best work will not be good enough. The truth hurts, but that is what it is. You’re not perfect, your work is not perfect, and someone better climbs the rope ahead of you.
This does not mean you don’t do your best. If you read my books, you’re reading my best shot. I give my readers my 2000% best. I spend hours plotting, replotting, editing, sharpening, revising, and revisiting. What you see is my 100. Maybe they're not perfect, but my books got heart.
Look at the challenge as a chance for gratitude. What can you learn? Who can you be now? Once the rafters have fallen, what can you build? Use the fear, the criticism, and the hate to see how you can be better.
The trick is to know that criticism will come. Expect it. Take the facts and use them to make you stronger. Expect people to ignore you and walk away. Expect the worst, and prepare for the storm. Be someone who can get hit and stand up straighter. Getting hit hurts. You’ve got to lift heavy and scrape away the blood. Be someone who can get rejected and still has self-respect, self-love, and fortitude. Be the hero who takes the hits others cannot.
2) There will always be someone out there who won’t like you.
a. If you want a template romance, you’ll hate my books.
b. If you want light-hearted, easy fiction, you’ll hate my books.
c. If you want predictable plotlines and characters, you’ll hate my books.
d. If you love adventures, you’ll enjoy my books.
e. If you like twisty plots, relish unpredictable storylines, and totally dig characters who have to go through hard decisions and rough landings, you’ll love my books.
f. If you are willing to grow with my writing and my characters, you’ll love my books.
g. If you want characters who inspire you to be better, if you want characters who make some poor choices, if you want characters who are not perfect, you’ll love my books.
h. If you like a good moment of BEING, a moment where you feel and taste and see and hear and experience the essence of LIFE, and can accept that in the middle of any scene or location, then you’ll love my books.
3) It’s my freaking story!
My circus, my monkeys. If I decided to kill a character, I had a good reason. I won’t write the same story as you, and that’s the magic of stories. My characters needed me to tell it this way. I did right by them.
a. If you don’t like it, are confused by it, or wanted it to go a different way, let’s talk about it. But you didn’t write this story. I did. Did I make you think? Fabulous. That's the win.
b. I want to hear your opinion. And hopefully you’ll hear mine. This is the fun part of stories.
c. If my stories inspire you to write it a different way or to add to it, then I did my job.
4) The critics may not be your audience.
Find your tribe. Find your village. Your village will love you regardless.
The people who stick with you, those are the hearts and minds who really count. Because they see the truth of what you have to offer, and they love it. So appreciate it, love it, thrive in it. Tell them thank you. Name (hero) characters after them.
5) Your Why Is Your Why.
a. I am not writing for the critics or the naysayers.
b. I do not write for applause or for people to talk about my abilities, good or bad.
c. I do not write books because I want to be a bestseller and make a million dollars. (Although I like eating and wearing clothing.)
d. I write because I love playing with words. I use a lot of them. It’s my passion.
e. I write because I love stories. I love characters and their abilities to be more and to inspire us.
f. I write to make you think.
g. I write because I feel most alive when I can put my creative thoughts on paper. Something about the process of creating a situation in my head, the challenge of putting it down on paper, the ordering of words makes me feel like I’m solving a riddle only I can unlock.
h. I write because I’ve learned some hard lessons and I think others can benefit from them. Jesus used stories to help teach. So he’s my example.
The “why” can change over time, and the why can be hard to pinpoint. But it’s vital to your survival in this task you’ve got to do. Find it and keep it ahead of you. The why keeps you on track when the critics wave their torches.
6) Readers’ opinions show where they are as people.
Sometimes they aren’t ready for a certain book. Sometimes it’s just not their style. Sometimes it wasn’t what they thought they would be reading, and perspective changes everything. Don’t rely on someone else’s opinion.
7) Good and bad are subjective in terms of writing and storytelling.
There are levels to it, but ultimately, one critic will disagree with another. If multiple readers have similar issues, then take that and use it as a lesson in how to write better or improve. But you can’t get better if you just give up.
8) Awards Are Stupid. Art Is Not.
Amy Poehler attended numerous award ceremonies for her roles in “Parks and Recreation,” one of my favorite TV shows that I have been watching and re-watching lately. Her character Leslie Knope is one of the most inspirational to me. TO ME. To tiny ol’ me. Do I matter? YES. Does an award matter? NO. It’s a symbol of someone’s opinion. Stupid! Leonardo DiCaprio had my heart and always will for his roles in various movies. He’s forevermore my Romeo. When did he finally win an award? Once he was in some really gray, dramatic survival-bear-eats-him-or-something movie. Ugh. Stephanie Meyer and her ridiculous Twilight story. “I wrote down this dream I had and then it was a blockbuster and then yay it’s a whole franchise of movies. I wasn’t even trying all that hard.” Just crazy. Good for you, Mrs. Meyer. But I LOVED reading those books the first time around. She captured the feeling of a first love. There’s something huge to that gift. Fast and Furious movies, superhero movies, the Step Up dancing movies, those are movies I can watch any time and they inspire me. They don’t win awards, the writing and acting isn’t always top-notch, but WHO CARES. I prefer the movie I like, and I usually don’t prefer an Oscar winner. Those Oscar winners are depressing and you know you don’t like watching that either when you’ve had a stupid day. Art is for entertainment. If it entertains, then it is doing its job.
9) Critics Can Be Bought.
Anyone can pay for a review. Anyone can pay to buy copies of their books and become a best-seller (well, the rich people can. Now accepting sponsors.). Anyone can pay for this or that or bribe or buy.
Who. Freaking. Cares. About. The. Numbers.
Numbers can be bought or bribed. Again, the numbers go back to who has the resources or the scandal or the ability to straight-up lie.
10) Who Really Counts?
Does each reader count? Yes. Does one review and one opinion count more than another? Not really. If a person likes a book, then yay! My biggest excitement about books is talking about them with people. If my books get your attention enough so that you want to tell someone about it or ask me a question, then that is the most validation I want. I really just want to share these stories with friends so we can sit over coffee and chat about them. Why did she do that? Why didn’t she do this other thing? What if that other guy was better for her? What if this other thing happened instead of that other thing? THAT is why I write. For the up-late-at-nighters. For the lonely. For those needing a win. For the seekers. For the desperate. For the lost. For the coffee dates. For the questions. For the readers’ investment. For the thrill of the story. For the happy endings. For the entertainment.
You are valid. Your opinion is valid. If we differ, okay, but let’s appreciate that about each other. I’ll always offer you an extra serving of grace if you need one. Even if you don’t return the favor, okay. This whole ‘life’ thing we’re doing requires a sword and a shield. I got those. Hopefully we can share them today. Don’t listen to the critics. Don’t listen to the whispers of despair. You do you, and you rockin’ it.
In working with Clean Reads, I've gotten to virtually meet some cool people who write great books. One author, Sara Turnquist, has written some historical romances which I wanted to share about because I enjoyed reading them so much. So these books are Kadee Carder Ink verified, in that you can trust that you'll enjoy them. Five stars! After reading these stories, I had to reach out to Ms. Turnquist and ask her some questions. She graciously answered my questions and I wanted to share them with you. She’s put a lot of thought into writing these books and I adored hearing her take on the backstory.
For your reading pleasure, here's two quick book reviews and a fun question/answer sesh with Sara Turnquist!
Now let’s chat about "Hope In Cripple Creek." I ABSOLUTELY adored this book! Imagine if you combined “When Calls The Heart,” by Debbie Macomber, “Anne of Green Gables,” and a Kate Alcott historical, and you've got this delightful story of a girl following her heart, even when it forges into the wild unknown. About halfway through I just started grinning and almost couldn't stop, except a few times when my eyes widened in shock. I couldn't put this one down. Romance, heartache, a headstrong heroine, and some twisty characters who don't know how to keep their hands to themselves, the bunch of them make up the fascinating little town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The challenges that Katherine faces really spoke to my heart, and I think a lot of women will appreciate the struggle and how she manages it. It's a quick read with great pacing, lovely characters, a fun setting, and I wanted it to be longer. Grab this one RIGHT NOW. You will love it.
“A Convenient Risk” offers a tale of love lost, tricky relationships, and redeemed hope. Amanda is one hot mess. She cries a lot, she doubts her worth and parenting abilities, and she finds herself making out a TON with a super hot rancher whom she can’t seem to read. Ms. Turnquist provides a sweet story with swoon-worthy kisses, entirely relatable characters, and some brilliant (and, fun fact, historically based) plot twists. Through a winding road of risky business deals, unnerving country living, and lovely sunsets, “A Convenient Risk” provides readers a memorable story of second chances worth their weight in gold.
Directly from Sara Turnquist:
1) Have you been to the places where you set the stories? Or, What made you place the books in these locations?
Other than through Google Maps/Google Earth, I have not visited these places. I did a great amount of research on them.
For "Hope in Cripple Creek", I was looking for a city in Colorado for the last great gold rush to that area. I asked my husband, who lived in Colorado for a short stint, to give me the name of a small town in Colorado to set my story in. He offered up "Cripple Creek". When I started researching this town, I found this whole history of this great miner's strike that gave me my secondary story line. Love when that kind of thing happens.
For "A Convenient Risk", I knew that I needed to anchor this story brewing in my mind somehow in time. I wanted it to be in the late 1800s in the west...and that sparked my interest in a renowned outlaw. Billy the Kid's timeline worked out with my story's timeline. For that reason, I placed the story in Arizona as Billy the Kid was in Arizona in the late 1800s. But I chose a small town, Wharton City, for the story to be set in to fit in with some of the events pertaining to Billy the Kid's timeline and my own story's needs.
2) What kind of research did you do for these books? How long did it take to write them?
This is a time period I am somewhat familiar with due to books I have read and TV shows/movies I have seen. However, I that is not really primary research. So, while I rely on that for a general feeling/tone of that era, I researched when I needed details. Research for novels, as you probably know, has to be reliable. Especially since anyone can post anything on the internet. Wikipedia is a great place to start, but I would not consider it a reliable source. The bibliography on Wikipedia are great resources though.
3) Where did you get the ideas for your main characters?
"Hope in Cripple Creek"...I'm not really sure where these characters came from. I'm sure they are pieces of personalities of characters I have read and seen in other characters, but I cannot point to one place and say, this is it.
"A Convenient Risk" - this is a different story. A friend of mine loves to visit cemeteries for the interesting history there...just go with me here. We found a set of tombstones that appeared to be where a woman had married a man much older than her, he died, and then she married a man closer to her own age. It intrigued me. It was a marriage from the early 1900s. I wondered if that first marriage had been arranged by her parents or a marriage of convenience for monetary reasons. But then I began to think about second marriages and the way we tend to remember people who have passed on sometimes differently than they really were...in a glassed over sort of way. We tend to remember the good times and gloss over the bad times. Is it difficult for a second husband to compete with the memory of a first husband when the wife tends to gloss over or forget the bad times altogether?
4) What's your next project in the works?
I rarely have only one project going on. I have a book coming later this year, called "The Lady and The Hussites", that is a sequel to my debut novel "The Lady Bornekova". I just this past week turned in my last round of edits (proofing edits). This story continues to follow my characters into the Hussite Wars (the religious civil wars in the Czech lands in the late 1400s). I am also working on my backlog. "Trail of Fears" (about the Cherokee Trail of Tears) and "Among the Pages" (about the Women's Suffrage Movement) are getting covers this summer and edited for release early next year. I am also starting to plot my first Biblical Fiction (or Historical Fiction set in the Biblical Era).
So reader friends, if you’d like to grab these lovely romances, I highly recommend them. Seriously, go get Hope In Cripple Creek. If you have a heart for adoption or caring for the weak, you’ll adore it. If you need a refreshing romance that's hot but not too spicy, grab A Convenient Risk. And check out Ms. Turnquist on her blog: http://saraturnquist.com/ She’d love to connect with you!
What if we didn't measure life in years or days or months or pounds or inches or dollars? Imagine if we measured in deep breaths and hope and smiles and hugs and satisfaction and realized potential?
What if mankind's existence and success was based on something other than making money or having the newest tech? What if it was about knowing the song of the seas, seeing the colors of the sunsets or the trees in the autumn, or tracing the path of the stars, or merging with the heart and mind of the great Creator? Perhaps, and indeed, it is.
Symbols do not accurately display sense and touch and the way your heart lifts to music. Numbers, strokes of a pen, do not convey the beauty in a glint of sunlight tumbling across the pages of a worn novel. Numbers are boundaries. Numbers are limits. Numbers are the accounted for, known evidence. Numbers are not possibility. Possibility cannot be accurately predicted or stored or weighed.
Sometimes those reports come in, filed away, showing numbers and lists and detailed accounts of What Has Been or What Is or What Lacks.
Find a way to laugh in the face of lacking. That’s how you fight dread. That’s how you wrangle unsatisfied expectation. During my third year of college, I spent a lot of time running. I worked out almost every day and I ran every day. I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was going. I ran to flee the doubt, I ran to escape what I called The Hope Monster. Terrible name, I know, because I’ve never said the name out loud before, because how ridiculous and lame does it sound? Who is afraid of hope? Who is afraid of possibility? Oh my friend, it’s a masked fear. It's not the hope we dread, it's the darkness behind it. At that point in time I was realizing I didn’t know what I wanted To Do with my life, who I wanted to be with, and in fact, didn’t know who I wanted to be. (I’m still figuring that out.) As I ran, I fled the unknown. But you cannot outrun the unknown. It’s always there. Fortunately, the unknown does not have to be scary. The unknown does not have to be a dizzying whirl of delightful, uncategorized options.
We rage against chaos, against fear, against lacking. We fight with shields of faith, with a bright smile founded in love, and supported by hope. We pierce the darkness with love, with knowledge of One who loves, and who makes a way for light.
Train hard today to fight the battles you need to win tomorrow. You don’t know when they will come, but they are coming, so hustle. In fact, you don’t know if tomorrow even exists. So: hustle. Now. With whatever tools you possess.
Grit cannot be weighed or measured. Kindness flutters freely, weightless and yet encompassing each soul brought to this realm. Our finite minds cannot contain it but we can control the portion we give to others. And it too cannot be priced, or proportioned, or marginalized.
The numbers don't matter. The numbers don't make a soul free. There's one number to keep track of, and that number is spelled Y-O-U. You do your freakin’ best. You keep trying. You work for good. You believe in the good you can do. You trust the omnipotent Creator, so vast we cannot comprehend his size or merit or reasoning, and walk as his treasure. He gave you life, which is the most valuable thing we have. We cannot originate it. Only the great Creator can. You, living creature, are a rare commodity in this enormous universe. With every breath, every blink, every swallow, every rippling beat of that tenacious, miraculous heart, you are an asset. You are a priceless addition to the cosmos. A delight. The whole cheesecake. With the sprinkles on top.
So the fight is against the doubt. The darkness ebbs in, marauding as numbers and limitation and broken gadgetry. In the same way you cannot contain sunlight, so too hope saturates. It floods the earth, in every bright smile. All it takes is one. One.
And one by one by one into infinity we unleash the torrent.
If I just gave up, would anyone care?
What if I don't Make It?
What if I can't find my niche or that answer that I'm hoping to find?
"It’s never too late to run away." That’s what one purple alien told his traveling companion as their vehicle crashed to the ground in the movie Home.
The hubs and I have discussed the idea of success a lot recently. What is success? Can success be measured, weighed, wrapped up in a package, or defined by some shiny statue? Is success a framed certificate or a dollar amount on a paycheck? Maybe it depends on the initial goal and the motivation behind that goal. Some people find success as simply getting out of bed in the morning. I been there, I hear dat. Some people find success on a brightly lit stage, dressed in a formal gown, with their hair all did fancy. Does success exist in One Moment, in One Shot?
Success can be found anywhere along the road. Success is the moving forward even though the ground seems to be shaky and the air very thin. Success is the unfolding of light within a dark realm. Success is dancing wildly on a grassy patch of grass, finding hope and delight in little achievements. Success ought be sought with joy, flung freely, and named frequently.
Small bricks build strong walls, if layered well and often. Little steps matter.
I guess it’s okay if I fail, because it was small. And from that "no," from that, "well, not right now," that, "um, uh, I think it...uh, I like this, um..." stuttering stumbling happenstance, we learn, we reconfigure, and we re-examine.
It's okay if your goal is big. Love your purpose, love your goals, and love yourself in the process of achieving them. Carry on with a smile and a coffee cup in hand. Believe in moving forward and finding opportunity.
Because since I acted out scenes in my parent’s hallway, sweeping floors, pretending to be Cinderella’s twin sister who was left behind because she was the awkward, shy one who lost her first love to a band of local pirates, well, I guess I wanted to just create stories. Maybe act them out.
Definitely share them.
I’m still learning how to communicate and share my stories. That walk is a daily exercise and one that will continue until I am done with words. But words, silent words on a page, have always been the way I found my footing and guided my pencil out of the maze.
Words do not need to be everybody's purpose. This sapphire globe runs on the fuel of mankind's creative genius, endowed by such a Creator himself. We have been gifted so generously with dirt, wood, sunshine, far away worlds, unseen heavens, numbers, letters, song, sound, touch, and dream. All ought re-evaluate what their souls whisper so desperately for. Are clenched fists and coiled ambition shoved into a box in the attic?
"Mohamed 'Mo' Farah is a Somali-born British distance runner... Farah earned Olympic gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races, and repeated that double victory at the 2013 world championships... In February 2015, Farah set his first world record by running 8:03.40 for 2 miles indoors."
Runner's World. <http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/mo-farah> Accessed February 16, 2016.
Mo Farah was pictured with a surprise look on his face after winning gold at the most recent Olympics. Noted by thousands as an inspiration and a true Olympic legend, he is adored and yet has been made the subject of many a comical moment online. An entire Tumblr page has been created about mofarahrunningawayfromthings.
The race is tough.
The race is long.
The race pushes, pulls, and separates.
I looked into Mo Farah while researching fun encouraging memes for one of my online classes. College can often seem like a sprint, and for some it is an ultra-marathon. Single days in normal life may seem like sprints or ultra-marathons. Let’s face it. I’m a mother of a two-year old. Sometimes minutes seem like ultra-marathons.
The race builds endurance.
The tenacity carries physical achievement.
The maze offers surprise.
Mo Farah may have been surprised at his success with a comical expression, but he holds that gold medal as a record of his accomplishment.
One day, the time will come when that next fork in the road stumbles upon you. You'll have to decide if you want to get out of bed, drive that boring route, or to pursue the next goal. You’ll have to decide if you want to write another stupid query letter, finish another paper, change another diaper, put away those darn dirty dishes one more time, or just start digging holes.
Digging holes can be fun.
Watch out for lies, though, because they will make you think you should dig holes instead of build houses. Turn that hole into a basement. And keep going.
Not all runners get a medal. Heck, most runners don’t make it to the Olympics. Is there a person within fifty feet of you? Then that person probably runs. Is he in the Olympics? No. Does that mean you stop running? No. Doesn’t matter how he runs. It matters how you run. It matters how I run.
I’m guessing Mo didn’t run away from his fears though, and just kept running forward.
Finish strong, finish on your knees, finish covered in mud, finish glistening with fairy dust, but finish.
I’m honestly not sure how God falls into the equation and how your heart will seek him, and which answers will help you keep on. This level of the building is where we learn to give him glory when the lights go out, there are holes in the floor, and all the doors are locked from the outside. Hey, he’s there with you though. "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). So don’t worry about running away alone, or moving forward alone. You’re not alone. There’s that.
Darkness settles into bones with a soft, creeping, withering stare. Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes not. Don’t be afraid to shake it off, throw it down, or carry it along for the ride and let it blink blindly in the sunlight. The darkness only weighs in the nighttime. Now, because it is night, and my mind whirls tumultuously, I can sit in my dim office, type out some sense, and add one more notch in a void where notches are free and pay even less. But it’s there, it’s loaded, it’s available, it’s another rock on the pile. It’s hopefully another connection to someone else awake in the night wondering if it’s too late to run away.
It’s never too late to run away.
But hold tight if you need to. See if you can hold out any longer, or feel around in the dark one more time, and make one more round. Extend a hand and call out, and see if anyone else is in the room with you. I bet there is. I know there is. And I bet that a hand is attached to that Creator who made you, and that hand wants to hold yours. Even in the dirt. Even as we make our way through the maze.
“You’re just like me, a big nobody!”
Her squeaky voice echoes through the cavernous hall as the “evil stepsister” and “evil stepmother” begin their new indentured servitude in the palace, dying cloth and washing laundry.
Lately, this remarkable phrase from the movie Ever After keeps ringing through my ears, rattling around in my brain, and prattling about before my eyes. I’m just a big nobody. I can’t make it. I can’t do it. I need to be satisfied with my small life. Just step away from the computer and go clean up the kitchen, as it is covered in a thin coating of grime. At times I’m unsure if my brain is lying or if it is being honest. Am I trying too hard? Am I wanting too much? Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing what God has planned for me?
Caught in a lie. I’ve been caught between a lie and a truth for most of my life. Too many speakers at too many podiums have made me think that God has a specific timeline for me to follow, a specific list of To Dos and To Not Dos, and I simply have to trust that the right thing will happen at the right time.
Well, I have decided I don’t believe this anymore.
I have decided to have a little faith in who I am. I have decided to take my faith in God’s sovereignty, my belief that he is good, loving, remarkable, and dwells in me, and have a little faith in myself, too.
And I’m sticking by my decisions.
By God’s grace, I was raised by loving parents, and have been well-educated. I pushed through four years at college, and then pandered around trying to figure out what I wanted from life, and after folding four billion and a half church bulletins, I noticed that I was inclined to daydream and dawdle, and just wanted to tell a good story. Whether the story was about real life or not, I didn’t care, but The Time seemed to slip to the side and Life truly felt real when I was engrossed in the slithering and sticking of words upon the page. By God’s grace, I was accepted into a Master of Fine Arts program for creative writing, and the words began to pile up. Here we are four years later. By God’s grace, I am what I am.
I falter and flail, but my God is near me all the time. I shared this message with my daughter this morning, because her memory verse from Bible Drill last night was Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in God.” When I learned the verse as a sprightly twig, (ha, I wish I’ve ever been a twig. Let’s go with it.) I learned a rhyming version, “When I am afraid, I will trust in thee, Psalm 56:3.” Rhyme works, my friends. A friend told me recently that she thinks I am brave. This idea makes me laugh, and yet makes me hopeful. Am I brave? Can I be brave? Can I DO THIS?
Can YOU DO THIS???
There is this deep, inner tugging, a wrenching of my darkest hopes and fears, intermingled in a chewy, doughy pretzel. What does it take to Make It? And can I do it?
You will be left behind.
You will miss out.
You will fall.
You will say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
You will sleep in late.
You will laugh at the wrong time.
You will reject the wrong person.
You will forget what you promised yourself.
You will step in somebody’s old gum and, or, dog poop.
You will get a late start.
You will get fired.
You will lose out.
You will lose big.
You will be tempted to lose hope.
Don’t lose hope.
Be sure of God.
Be of good cheer.
Be who God can make you be.
You will be forgotten by ‘people’. You will be left behind and alone. You will feel small. You will sit in the dark silence and think there is nothing better and it cannot get better.
You are right.
The sentence continues on, my friend.
God is love. God is the beginning and the end. He is wider and deeper than we can even fathom or discover. That God made you, loves you, rescued you, and waits for you to dwell in his shadow and act in his power. There is nothing and no hope without God. If you believe that he is the great I Am, then you have his spirit in you. By pursuing his heart, your actions will give him glory. Yes, he has prepared some good works for you and I to do, and he placed those deep in the corners and essence of your heart. By fulfilling those good passions, you shine a spotlight on his person.
Whether he placed in you a desire to help people medically, scientifically, in a classroom, in a dentist’s office, in a cubicle, in a laboratory, at a lake, by a pier, on a mountain, on a weight bench, or under the ocean, those myriad talents make this world diverse and interesting, and a fully encompassing picture of his creativity that he has shared with us.
I want to tell a good story. I want to help you live on the brighter side of this shadowed universe.
Bigger than the “I can’t,” is the “I Am.”
Maybe your goal is small, maybe your goal is astronomical, but listen to the power rather than the doubt. I am royalty. Are you? It’s time to own that and act like that.
If He placed your talents and passions inside of you, then be assured you can use them for good, and for His glory. How do we ensure we are acting for God’s glory? We can’t always see that part of it. That’s where I struggle, because I am but one tiny part of the masses. God can take even my smallest efforts and make them flourish. He is the one who directs the lightning in its path, remember.
“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4). That Rock is in you, so let your heart be hardened to the doubt, yet open to the light.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Peter, also known as The Rock (do you think he looked anything like Dwayne Johnson???) was one of those people who had full confidence in himself and his Author. He struggled with humility, and I think we all do. I often have too much humility and then find myself behind proud of that. So silly. Now, that’s a twisted web. Don’t think about it too much because your head will begin to thud in a dull panic. Peter follows this strong sentence with another: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith” (1 Peter 8-9a). Even here, God reminds us to be strong. If you feel like you can’t achieve your goal, you may be trying to accomplish too many goals, may simply lack conviction, or just need to shiver off that dead outer skin of childish faith.
So chuck anxiety out the back door and toss a lit match upon that spurning lie. Then lock the door. Do what you can today to get another step closer to that dream, that goal. Instead of aching for more, be the lightning that crosses the sky.
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