The black and silver sequins on her shirt reflected the stage lights. A sparkly bracelet on her ankle flashed a jaunty twinkle, a hint of what was to come. The recorded piano thrummed alive in the background and Christian Faith began to sing the Martina McBride country hit song Anyway. Christian balanced in the wheelchair, buckled in snugly, never once flinching or holding back a breath. Her confident smile allowed only one message to be relayed that evening at the Texans Got Talent contest:
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang.
Sing it anyway.
Yeah, sing it anyway
(Martina McBride, Anyway)
You know what’s pretty amazing about miracles? They often happen right in front of your eyes and you might not even realize they’re happening. You know what’s important about recognizing miracles? They remind of all the good, all the light, in this life.
A small water bubble welled up in the corner of my eye. Her words continued to echo around the auditorium. Christian’s heart and talent brought down the house.
She has an amazing story to tell and allowed me to send her a few questions to share with you.
Read along and meet one amazing spirit who reminds us that no matter the outcome, no matter the challenge, no matter what if… do it anyway.
Do you have a particular name for what makes you physically so unique? Have you been able to find a community of others who offer support?
The medical term for my condition is called Amelia. Basically I was born without all of my limbs not including my small leg. I do have a friend who happens to be quite similar to me but with little difference. Her name is Niki Browder. She’s 36, and we have a lot in common.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day I guess you could say is just like anyone else’s except for the simple fact that I might need to work a little harder to achieve daily activities like primping and others like feeding myself. I do everything with my foot. Just like others I’ve adapted to life in my way. I’ve created a unique lifestyle.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced?
You would think that I’ve come against some huge challenges in my life, but honestly I don’t think that I could ever tell you of a time where I’ve absolutely dealt with something huge that I couldn’t handle it. Everything I’ve ever desired to do in life I’ve accomplished with Faith and a strong mindset. My family has always been so supportive as well, and they’ve helped me accomplish so much in my 22 years.
How long have you been training vocally?
I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. When I was younger I used to watch my grandfather sing. My whole family is musically proficient, so it wasn’t that hard to pick up on. I did however take vocal lessons from the ages 6 to 11, so I guess you could say I’ve had some experience.
Are you doing anything currently to pursue singing or another career?
I am pursuing a career in the music industry. I’ve taken some online courses with Berklee College of Music, but unfortunately I wasn’t financially capable to finish my studies with the school due to my grandfather becoming ill. My family has to pay for occasional medical bills, and other sorts of needs he has. I do however look forward to furthering my career in any way that I can.
Have you written any of your own songs or are you more of a cover artist?
I’m a Singer/Songwriter, so I have written some of my own songs. A few of my originals are called Forever Reign, Oh Holy King, Stop Sign, Can’t Change Me, Falling in Love, Daddy Owns a 12 Gauge, The Middle, Mama’s Little Girl, Daddy Hold Me, Mama Said, Done Deal, and so many more.
Have you participated in many talent competitions? What type of musical gigs are you currently finding?
I hope this doesn’t appear too boastful, but I have won so many talent competitions in my life that I have lost count. The biggest competition I have ever won was at 17 years old in Stamford, Connecticut. It was called Talent America, and I was competing with people from all over the U.S. and parts of Africa. I brought home the 1st place win, and it was one of the greatest thrills in my life. I was scouted by all kinds of agencies at that time, but felt as if I was still a little young to start my career officially. I had offers to move to Nashville and New York, but felt that I wasn’t fully matured enough at that specific time to take on a huge task in my life such as the one I’m pursuing although now I feel that I’m highly capable of doing so. I do get paying gigs at weddings, restaurants, charity events, etc.
Do you have a favorite song or artist?
I love music so much that I would have to say I don’t have a favorite song or artist, because I’m open to each song I’m exposed to as an artist. I like all kinds of music, but my favorite genres would have to be Christian, Country, Bluegrass, Pop, and R&B.
Why is singing so important to you?
Singing is so important to me, because from the time I was a little girl it has been the easiest way to express myself, and I think it has become an essential part of who I am as a person. I’ve been singing all of my life.
What is the hardest thing about singing/performing?
The hardest part about performing is knowing at first that everyone is not always gonna be open to me, because I’m different, but once I open my mouth and sing then everyone becomes enlightened to me as a person.
Do you have a verse or quote serving as a reminder for what you hope to accomplish?
I look to all of God’s word to find hope, but Luke 1:45 is one of my personal favorites. It says “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” I know that God has a purpose for my life, and I’m trusting in Him to continue molding me into who I’m supposed to be.
If you could say that you have one thing in particular you'd like to leave as a legacy, what would it be?
I want my known legacy to be the woman who served as proof that with Faith you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, and I hope everyone will know me as the woman who set the perfect example of how EVERYONE is special in their own way. We are all masterpieces of The Most High God!
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to the younger me it would be, “Never doubt yourself, because you are so strong!”
Listen to some of Christian's performance at Texans Got Talent 2018:
“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.
“We’re coming with you,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus. “Men,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?”
“No,” they answered.
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.”
So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish.
The disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
We discussed this story in my LIFE group yesterday morning at church. One guy said, “These guys were professional fishermen. Jesus died, they didn’t know what to do, so they went back to what they knew: fishing. And they didn’t catch a single fish. Can you imagine how tired they were? Can you imagine how hard they had been working, and how frustrated? Or were they even working hard at all, since they hadn’t caught anything?”
At that point I busted in and added my two cents. We don’t know how hard they were working, but you can’t just a fisherman by how many fish he’s caught. Especially if Jesus wants to make an example out of him. Especially if Jesus needs him to learn a lesson. These friends of Jesus needed to see more of Jesus’ provision, his presence, and to realize their calling. They’d been following Jesus, but when he died, they didn’t know what to do. They knew he’d risen again…but did they know what to do with that? I guess not. They went back to fishing. They went to the work they knew. They got in the boat.
The twelve disciples of Jesus had different lives after he came and left. We know that Judas was out of the picture at this point. Seven of them worked in that boat.
Another guy asked a great question, “Where were the other four?”
I don’t know about you. But I’ve been working hard. I’ve been pushing and charging and lifting and doing and going and cleaning and scrubbing and continuing. I’m tired. I’ve been working all night, but it feels like I haven’t caught anything. I guess I’m in the boat, waiting on Jesus. At least I’m not on the sidelines, or just not in the picture. I’m ready to go. I just need to cast my net in a new direction.
Chill out. You’re waiting on Jesus.
Maybe you’ve been working, busting it, and are tired. Maybe you’re worn out and weary. Take heart. Jesus is there. Maybe you’re sitting on the sidelines, disappeared in the crowd, shivering under a blanket, terrified. Don’t be one of the four missing the meeting. Come on. Jesus awaits. He’s got this great job for you to do. He will bring the strength to accomplish it.
Being unsure of the next step doesn’t mean you stop in your tracks. Jesus is walking on the beach, waiting just for the right time, to cook you a fish breakfast. Yum-o! Maybe those disciples needed a night in the boat, busting it, to appreciate the light streaming across Jesus’ face. They needed the empty nets to appreciate how many fish he brought to them. They needed to wait on Jesus to understand HE was providing their fish, their fulfillment, their fruition. At just the right time.
“Here be dragons to be slain, here be rich rewards to gain;
If we perish in the seeking, why, how small a thing is death!”
It’s release day for HERE BE DRAGONS! My heart’s roaringly thunderous inside my chest. The pressure, the epitome, the culmination of months of work—no, years of work—leading up to THIS one moment…it’s finally here. Are you ready?
Breathing life into her awoke my own resolution to restore others. Saylor didn’t know I’d revived her. She didn’t know for months, and during that time I traveled across our blue sphere and back to her recovering form at Fort Story, Virginia. Little blonde firecracker. Changed my life.
Sergeant Merritt Steele sat beside me on the cargo plane carrying us to Camp Kissinger, located deep in the heart of Australia’s Outback. “Sorry to see them go,” my co-commander noted, a slight tremor in his blue eyes. I knew he meant more than he said. He’d connected with Saylor, her sister Micah, and the McConnell family during our three-week leave.
Neither of us knew when or if we’d see them again. But that was life as Echo Company of the Alliance Military Guard, and we held that knowledge closer than our body armor. Never quit. We defeat. Let the enemy fall, come what may. That’s what we did, that’s what we were, and not a single one of us doubted it.
Not even when we landed in a war zone.
(HERE BE DRAGONS, Chapter One Excerpt)
Are you living in a war zone?
Fiction shows us how to deal with our non-fiction. We can read these characters’ stories, see their pain, feel their journey, and tremble as their spirits quake. We get invited into their space and see the world with its crumbles, heartache, and power. Fiction’s miraculous. Fiction offers a gift of escape, of courage, of grit, of shuddering through temptation with the hero. Are you facing some serious shadows? Are you hearing the grinding of bones in the distance? Follow Tucker into the heart of the Outback.
Where are the heroes?
A friend of mine recently said she wondered where the heroes were. The current trend for stories is that they often feature a strong heroine—and while I am ALL about a strong heroine, and inspiring girls to believe in themselves—I also believe we need to encourage boys to protect, to serve, to lead humbly, to explore, to create, and to forget stereotypes. Be inspired. Be fearless. Be wise. Be the hero.
Temptation leads us down paths where we consider retreating or cheating, or complaining or blaming. Well let me ask you, can fiction teach us to face the shadows? Can fiction show us the glory in the fight for life?
The amazing thing about HERE BE DRAGONS is it’s only $4.99 on Kindle Unlimited AND if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for FREE! I’ve had several readers who’ve provided feedback, and what they’ve all said is how much they enjoyed the ending--do you need a great ending? HERE BE DRAGONS is currently only available as an ebook, until I sell 100 per my publisher’s contract. Help both of us hold that book in our hands. We need to grip this, to flip through these pages. Connect with a free trial of Kindle Unlimited and download your copy of HERE BE DRAGONS and soar through those Australian skies with Tucker and his rag-tag crew of Guardsmen.
What is HERE BE DRAGONS about?
Alliance Military Guard sent the order. Sergeant Tucker Thompson acquiesced. Hopping on a plane to his long-lost Australian birthplace, he's been charged with his toughest mission yet. Thompson must rally his company of soldiers to prevent a new generation of weaponry from breaching the world's borders.
Readers love HERE BE DRAGONS! One reviewer stated:
“On the surface, this novel is a good dose of sci-fi and futuristic drama. Deep down, the realistic characters, with their daily struggle, not only for survival but also for understanding their sense of purpose in life, meets the need of young adult readers who, similarly, are seeking a meaning of life. The message is clear: work hard, stay the course, and look for the good in everyone and everything. Life can be good.” (Emily-Jane Hills Orford)
Are you wanting to add a great book to your reading list for 2018?
Grab HERE BE DRAGONS today. I’ve seen those dark days, those dark nights. I’ve felt the gripping fingers of desperation slipping around my neck in the trenches of writing, amid crying children, tight finances, broken down cars, endless mounds of papers to grade. I’ve scraped by on my knees and had to carry heavier weights than I thought possible. But you know what you find in the darkness? You find the light. You find the people who help, the people who stride through your front door with chocolate and coffee, and the people who truly believe all of which you’re capable.
You need to believe it, too.
The stories you tell yourself in the dark, those are the ones that stick with you.
You have the opportunity to build upon the bricks of shattered dreams and mortar of confusion, and turn it into an empire. What do you do, what do you tell yourself, when the lights go out?
Some may beg for light. Others may beg for relief, beg for some give in the take. Others may bury their faces further into the miry pool.
Something I’ve learned in the dark places: there’s always someone around to bring in the light. There’s always someone around to absorb the spilled tears, to carry the weight, and to offer a square of chocolate. Death brought confusion. But, ultimately, life wins.
You see, people are intrepid. People do seek life and life fully. There may be a lot of dark, but the warriors for light rage on. They cannot, they will not rest, until the light shines over the horizon. You see it among the darkness: a sparkle, a spark, a crack of hope against all odds.
The people who feed the darkness, they are confused. They are trapped. They are prisoners enchained by lies. They are enveloped by the monsters who devour them.
Another lesson? The hardest battle may be around the corner, trapped in the tunnels, snarling against the bright light you carry. Be prepared. Be prepared for anguish, be prepared for a cold chill to grasp for the warm light. Be prepared to fight with courage, with kindness, with tenacity, and grit. Expect among the war cry a song of hope to emerge. Be the singer. Be the strong arms carrying the weak into the night. Be the grammar joke, when death is on the line.
Bang the war drums.
Rattle the cages.
Here be Dragons.
How did your #DauntlessDecember go? Mine flew by, I’ll tell ya! You have twenty-four hours to grab your free copy of the ten free workouts in the Alliance Military Guard Training Guide with your pre-order of HERE BE DRAGONS (Do that right here!). While we wait for that to release, I wanted to offer you a story of hope for the new year.
Amy Purdy's caption on an Instagram photo posted last year displays a twenty-one year-old girl in a white hospital gown, with a resilient smile on her face. She'd just had both of her legs amputated below the knees. Her words rang true then and they ring true now.
"In fact when I was wheeled into surgery, I gave myself three goals. 1. To never feel sorry for myself. 2. To snowboard that year and 3. When I figured this mess out, I vowed to help others. And I'm proud to say, that I accomplished all of them and ended up going further than I ever could have imagined. I didn't just snowboard, I won a medal in the Olympic/Paralympic Games. I didn't just help others, I have become one of the top requested motivational speakers in the country and started my own organization @adaptiveactionsports. But most importantly... I never ever gave up on myself. No matter what your circumstances are, don't ever give up on yourself. You are important and your contribution to this world and humanity is needed. You can be whatever you want to be. But there isn't anyone who is going to figure it out for you, you have to figure it out for yourself."
Battling meningitis, losing both kidneys, her spleen, and the hearing in her left ear, weighing eighty-three pounds, and at a two percent chance of survival, Amy Purdy proved to be one resilient cupcake. That same year she strapped on her snowboard. Three years later she earned a bronze medal in the snowboardcross at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. She’s continued moving forward, joining the Dancing With The Stars cast in their eighteenth season, which is where I first saw her dance with partner Derek Hough. I rooted for her every step of the way, gasping when she’d whirl around on the floor, and as Derek would toss her around like a graceful puppet. She held her own, all the way to runner-up. I voted for her, I gotta say! She never earned a score less than an 8 during the entire run.
Amy has spoken on TEDx talks and her speech has become the example from which others are advised to learn in order to present their speeches; she also has a New York Times bestselling book. “Borders are where the actual ends, but also where the imagination and the story begins,” Amy said in her TEDx talk. “Instead of looking at our challenges and limitations as something negative or bad, we can begin to look at them as blessings, magnificent gifts that can be used to ignite our imaginations and help us go further than we ever knew we could go.” Other accomplishments? She went on a speaking engagement tour with Oprah Winfrey, drove a pace car in the Daytona 500, and runs Adaptive Action Sports, a company which helps athletes compete in action sports. She had to create her own gear in order to continue snowboarding, and has used that knowledge to help others. She’s currently on track to compete in the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang in 2018.
Amy’s TEDx talk asks viewers, “If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?” She said after she left the hospital, she had to let go of the old Amy and embrace the new Amy.
You’ve got to admit, we humans like a good hero story. We like a guy who rises from the ashes. You’ve got some button—some button that engages your fears, your failures, your darkness—and you’ve also got the ability to quell them. The Not Good Enough seeks you to serve you. How will you greet it? How will you create your story? The building action drives those decisions you make. You get every opportunity to be the hero.
“There's no need to be perfect to inspire others,” Amy wrote on an Instagram post. “Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.” Perhaps you’re sitting on the living room floor, staring at your laptop, illuminated in the dark, just like I am. Perhaps your insides have been trembling in fear. We rise. We rise up fearless, borderless, and creative. Perhaps you’ve been training your whole life just for this incredible moment. This new moment where you embrace your new day. “It’s not about breaking down borders. It’s about pushing off of them and seeing what amazing places they might bring us.”
See Amy’s TEDx talk here: http://amypurdy.com/speaker/
During the 1988 Calgary Olympics the world saw the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and also where Eddie “The Eagle” soared into last place as a famously unsuccessful ski jumper. The media called him, “Mr. Magoo,” and “a heroic failure.” At the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics, Frank King, organizer of the Olympic Committee stated, “You have captured our hearts. You have broken world records and you have established personal bests. And some of you have soared like eagles.”
Michael “Eddie” Edwards spent three years of his childhood wearing plaster casts on his legs after a noble yet unnecessarily dangerous risk blocking a soccer goal, damaging the cartilage in his knee. He wore thick glasses. At the age of thirteen he began downhill skiing, and by the age of seventeen he had advanced on the British national skiing team. He decided to pursue ski jumping due to lack of funding for the costly downhill skiing. He traveled the European ski circuit in his mother’s van, utilizing second-hand equipment. He earned money doing odd jobs, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, and working in hotels. The Italians gave him a helmet, and the Austrians handed over a pair of extra skis. His boots were too large, so he wore six pairs of socks to fill the gap. “When he broke his jaw, instead of paying to be treated at a hospital, he tied it up with a pillowcase and went about his business” (The Guardian). Edwards received news he qualified for the British Olympic Team while staying at a Finnish mental hospital—he’d booked their accommodations for the cheap cost of one pound a night.
Edwards was twenty pounds heavier than the other ski jumpers, and barely scraped by the minimum qualifications for ski jumping. But he was the fastest ski jumper from Britain.
At the 1988 Olympics, fellow Olympians watched as Eddie smashed into a glass door at the airport, crushing his skis and ruining some of his gear. But despite all these difficulties, Eddie persisted. The media ran with his story and ridiculed him. Fans adored him. They rooted for the underdog. He participated in all three jumps, and scores landed him absolutely last place. According to Wikipedia, “In the 70 [meter jump], he scored 69.2 points from two jumps.” Next to last place, “Bernat Sola Pujol of Spain scored 140.4 points. Winner Matti Nykänen of Finland had 229.1 points.” Underwhelming results didn’t stop him from showing up and jumping to the best of his ability. And the whole crowd rooted for him.
See, we love an underdog. We love seeing someone dedicate and overcome. We love to see the guy who doesn’t give up, no matter what.
In 1990, the International Olympic Committee even made an “Eddie The Eagle Rule,” raising the minimum qualifications. As People magazine stated, “stricter qualification rules were imposed, making it nearly impossible for Eddie the Eagles of the world to ever make the Olympics again.”
Edwards sold the movie rights to his life story in 2007, and production halted on the movie until the right people fell into place. In 2016, the movie “Eddie The Eagle,” starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman hit theatres, which is where I first saw this fantastic story of heart and grit. We all have our Eddie moments. Ever been wearing six pairs of socks to fill someone else’s boots? Are you out of your league? Are you underprepared and financially incapable? <Raises hand.> Eddie braved it all and didn’t look back.
Even considered a “heroic failure,” he still went to the Olympics, man. And he was mentioned in the closing ceremony address, to thunderous applause.
Maybe you’re dreaming of big things and great stories. Maybe you’re stuck facing overwhelming odds against you, and fears which leave you crippled in your spot.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to soar.
I’ve been getting some feedback from readers, which I LOVE, by the way, and wanted to chat about some of the themes/topics/plot points in my Young Adult trilogy, Insurrection. I’ve seen several comments about how in the third book, Indelible, the fact that (spoiler alert!!) Saylor listens to Breame and works with him is upsetting. Readers want Saylor to make better decisions than that! Readers want heroes/protagonists to make the better decision. Readers want to see protagonists DO BETTER THAN. Am I right?
Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
But seriously, have you ever, especially in your teens, made the decision to go against what you knew deep down to be right? Were you ever in a hard position where you didn’t know what was right or wrong, so you tried your best, but found yourself in what seemed like the wrong place at the wrong time? Have you ever found yourself listening to the lies of fear, hate, or doubt wandering about your brain?
Well, friends, this is what I want my readers to really ponder. I’m excited you questioned it, so that we could have this discussion.
Sometimes we listen to our demons. Sometimes we listen to our doubts instead of our faith.
Sometimes we listen to the crowd, or the false news, or the scary whispers, instead of finding the truth from the Commander. Sometimes we make the decision to go into the tunnel instead of letting the bombs blow up the mountaintop.
I wanted Saylor to face some hard decisions and waver. I wanted her to have to rally. I wanted to let her take a wild risk that turned out a bit sour. Why? Because I wanted to give her a chance to redeem herself. I wanted to give her Commander a chance to let her know the truth about who she was, who HE was, and all she could do. Saylor needed to see the darkness so she could choose the light. Too many spoilers there? I don’t know.
Additionally, I wanted to let readers get to know Wellington Breame and judge him for themselves. Was he a big, fat liar? Or was he a pitiable genius? We can’t often deal with our enemies until we’ve met them and named them.
Saylor needed some impossible moments to realize her full power. Could she have done that if she'd "made the right decision"? Sometimes there is no "right" decision. The right decision finds us. The right decision helps you realize your full potential, because it's exactly the decision you needed to make to be better.
Until next time, readers! Leave a comment, review, or a question on my Subscribe page! I’d love to hear from you! Choose the light. <3 Happy reading!
Crucible: a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new (Merriam-Webster.com). What’s your crucible? Are you there?
My kids and I dove into a Bible story the other day, where God rescued his people from Pharaoh’s impending doom. He’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and Pharaoh allowed them to leave captivity. The people left, headed home, facing days and nights in the hot desert, following a pillar of fire toward the unknown. They ended up on the sands of the Red Sea, a body of water flowing for miles in both directions. And then Pharaoh and his 600 men and their raging chariots raced to recapture them. The Israelites freaked out then, as I think most of us would. They projected their fear, they cried, they whined. And God replied, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14:15-16). Essentially, God told Moses to tell the Israelites they couldn’t go over it. They couldn’t go under it. They couldn’t go around it. They had to go through it. And to stop whining.
Just like the classic picture book of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,” the adventurers had to face a challenge bigger than they understood.
You, oh incredible wayfarer, will face challenges bigger than yourself and bigger than you understand. It’s the plight of mankind. It’s your job. Don’t ask, “Why isn’t this easier?” Ask instead, “How can this make me better?”
The good thing about these challenges is that they make us into our best selves. Challenges aren’t just part of the story; they’re the story.
1) Challenges show us God’s bigness.
On this tiny planet, as this one tiny soul, I often don’t see the big picture. I’m one puzzle piece, you’re one puzzle piece, and sometimes we lose sight of the whole puzzle and all it entails. But God’s there, with this big love for us. In the fire, beside the wide sea, and under the grinding weight of the mortar’s pestle, God stands right there in the middle of the crucible beside you, with the strength, grace, and power to go on. He’s an endless source of strength, and he offers it to his people. In these challenges, we get a mere glimpse of how he can fuel us.
2) Challenges teach us gratitude.
“My struggles are my own unique manifestations designed specifically to give me the opportunities to love and accept myself fully” (Jill Coleman). Seeing a challenge, obstacle, or hardship as an opportunity to raise a hand in gratitude teaches stability. Accepting challenge as a chance to love is part of why we’re here. The apostle Paul mentored his friend Timothy with these words, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Being grateful in adversity proves faith. How much faith do you have? How grateful are you for the rain? How grateful are you for the wall you just hit? Are you grateful for who you are so that you can be in this place and time to face this challenge? Are you ready?
Practicing intentional gratitude exhibits a willingness to level up.
3) Challenges make us stronger.
“In the days of the sailing vessels, this is the way they chose a tree to make a mast: They did not go to some sheltered place where the trees were protected from the elements. They went up into the mountains where the soil was thin and rocky. They found a tree that had been buffeted by the storms and beaten by the winter winds. That tree, that hardened tree, they cut down for the mast of their ship. So suffering hardens and strengthens us” (Robert Shannon).
In being a wife and mom, I’ve found strength to be a power. Maybe that sounds silly, but I feel like there’s still a big train of thought out there than women should be soft and weak. And I’ve never been able to be that. I love lifting heavy weights and pushing limits, because when I lift those heavy weights, life feels simple and free (and super sweaty hot). I love the feeling of picking up my twenty-pound weights and not struggling to do so. I love being able to do interval sprints and not pass out dead on the ground. I love that with a consistent daily grind over the years, I’ve built up my strength in a tangible way that I can see for myself and nobody can take it away from me or deny it. I love that now the effort has proved itself. In the beginning of trying heavier weights in my work outs, I couldn’t hardly finish a twenty-minute workout, the fifteen-pounders made me just about fall flat on my face (maybe they did one time), and the idea of ‘sprints’ was absolutely laughable.
But now. Now I know that trying harder challenges means I win. If one of my kids ever needs to be carried? I can carry her. If I need to help someone carry something? I can help. If someone else cries out, frustrated, saying “I can’t do it,” well then I CAN say, “Yes, you can.” Because strength manifests itself. People are drawn to it. People want to overcome. People want to be the mast of the ship, carrying their people home. Or, at least I do. I bet you do, too. And I’m excited about tomorrow’s opportunity to try again.
Are you grateful for the workout?
4) Challenges teach us courage.
Being that mast on that ship? Where will it take you? Oh my friend, it carries you into the vast unknown. With each challenge you face, with each fear you mow down, you build up a portfolio of proven records. It all builds up.
Never once did the authors of the Bible instruct or show the necessity of fear and letting it win. No, in fact, the Bible displays the opposite. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God made you powerful. God made you loving. God installed within you a sound mind. He dwells within you, and you are worthy to take on this challenge. Maybe you just needed to hear that. Very often, the things you fear are the paths you need to take in order to be your best self.
5) Challenges offer us a life greater.
“You’ve got to try this new show!” “You’ve got to get this soap!” “You’ve got to visit Venice; it’s beautiful!” In this context, a friend will probably be recommending something to you because that friend cares, with enthusiasm.
You’ve got to take on this challenge, because on the other side awaits a life greater. You’ve got to do these hard things, so that you see the beauty in the madness. Don’t miss this opportunity for greatness. Don’t miss these steps, small or scary as they seem. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What’s your best life? Being in God’s will. What’s God’s will? For you to intentionally live a life grateful for the challenges he presents to you. No better path exists than the intentionally joyful path. You’ve got no reason to be sad or to complain or to give up. When you hit a wall, look up. Look around. Celebrate what IS, because it’s a glorious adventure.
There is only the journey toward God’s heart. And this journey is a life greater.
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.
What are you waiting for?
Waiting. The waiting game. The waitlist. The weight gain. Ha ha.
Being a writer is like being a lego door piece. You think you’ll be part of constructing a house or some sort of car. Instead, you have to be flexible. You have to be willing to end up in pieces, as part of any sort of building, or even closed in by other bricks. You’ll be used in a manner you never imagined. When I sit down to work on writing a book, I have to consider all of the other aspects – promotions, advertisements, and ways I can convince people that my words are worth paying for. Super fun. (Translation: Super bummer.) Just because I like constructing stories doesn’t necessarily mean I like to harangue people about buying them. So I’m waiting for one person to like how my cover looks and fancy my blurb, and then another, and then another.
I’m waiting for the people who need my story to find it.
Several of my friends are waiting to adopt or to get pregnant. If you have a child you’d like to be rid of, I know a girl. Hit me up. Winky face. The waiting for a child holds countless expectations and preparations and crushed heartbeats. Waiting for a child to arrive brings out the worst in a person, and ultimately the best. Waiting for the people who need us gives us time to become the people who need them, in more ways than we ever know. That person you’re waiting for will challenge you and maybe drive you to your limits. Take this time to store up knowledge, aptitude, and perseverance. You’ll need it.
How’s that job market looking? Enjoying the grind? Is your boss awesome? Do you want a boss? Do you want to be your own boss? Are you also binge-watching Netflix and hoping for some more employable skills to come your way? I getcha. Heartbreaking is the journey through Indeed.com.
Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re holding still. The term ‘waiting’ insinuates a lacking. Lacking what you want, unable to fulfill, incapable of movement. But let’s change that. Waiting needs to be constructive. Waiting is the training period.
Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re useless. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’ve got no purpose. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re faulty.
While you wait, take time to rest.
While you wait, take time to hustle.
While you wait, take time to clean up. Clean up your house, clean up those projects you’ve been avoiding, clean up your spirit. Clean up your game. Clean up your focus. What do you really want? Will you be ready when the waiting ends?
While you wait, strengthen. Go to the gym. Go for a run. Go for a walk -- every single day.
While you wait, enjoy the scenery.
While you wait, take time to dance.
While you wait, jam out to some awesome music.
While you wait, act in gratitude.
On Monday, I sat at my computer and had nothing to do. I didn’t have a class to teach, a project to work on, no deadlines, no due dates, no nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.
Some ‘nothing’s are good. Some ‘nothing’s are bad.
I DON’T DO LAZY WELL. DOES ANYONE DO LAZY WELL?
I’m a task-oriented, obsessive compulsive, driven, crazy kid at heart. My first job at a dry cleaner’s illustrated the importance of Always Doing Something, because there’s always something to do. Don’t let Joe see you sitting around! Find something to do!
And I’ve been given the gift of having a hearty work ethic. It’s in my genes. My people were at the Alamo, folks. We were settlers and foragers and builders.
Turn and burn, people. Move it, move it!
There’s always something to do. There’s always something to work on. There’s always something to improve.
But on Monday morning, I had nothing to offer and no spirit to shove onward. I think I experienced all the seven stages of grief on Monday as I sat at my computer. I binge-watched a Hallmark show on Netflix, ate a lot of chocolate and key lime pie, and … I colored. One of my fabulous sisters gave me a coloring book and this fancy set of colored pencils for my Christmas gift, and honestly I thought it was a neat thing but didn’t know I’d use it because I’ve been so incredibly busy and I keep myself busy. I like busy! I like bustle! I like it, honestly, because if I stop moving then I have a hard time starting back up. Starting back up is a whole new monster in itself, yes?
While I colored, I yelled inside. I was mad at myself for my lacking, mad at Everyone Else for having what I wanted, mad at the faceless masses on social media who seem to accomplish things I'm not, mad at my pencil sharpener for being dull. Mad at the coffee for being bitter, mad at the writers of the show script for being so blasé, mad at myself for having chosen WRITING ABOVE ALL USELESS THINGS to do for my vocation! I felt useless. I felt pointless. I felt like, at my core, I lacked essentiality.
“I got a homesick heart but a long ways left to go
I've been doing my part but I ain't got much to show…
These days are tough, these days are long
Sometimes it's hard, you carry on
But I hear a voice singing and I know it's true
I got dreams that keep me up in the dead of night
Telling me I wasn't made for the simple life
There's a light I see, but it's far in the distance
I'm asking you to show me some forgiveness
It's all for you in my pursuit of happiness
Singing, oh, happiness.”
NeedToBreathe penned these inspiring lyrics and I listened to the song several times yesterday. Oh, that we may show more gratitude for these waiting periods. Maybe you want to move on, move out, move up, move laterally, move in, move less, or move more. This life is a package of unconditional realities and unmanageable circumstances.
You’re doing a good job.
Among these unmanageable circumstances, we’ve got a box of Legos full of parts. Big, long ones, short singles, flat skinnies, and the awkward three-prong. Some of us sit in the box waiting much longer than we expect or hope. Maybe you expected to wait. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’re a red three-prong, and the Maker needs a red three-prong, and he picks the red three-prong across the box. Of course you’re fully qualified to fulfill that red three-prong role. But now’s the time to enjoy the lego box. You’re not broken. You just need to hang out until the next three-prong slot comes along.
I don’t know all that you’re going through. I feel like you want more, or less, and maybe can’t get where you want to be just yet. That’s hard, yo. This morning as I prepared for Day Three of having no To Do List, I cleaned up my kitchen, which led to laundry, which led to cleaning the living room, which led to more dishes and then dishes usually leads to blogging somehow. I don’t have any new words for you to hear, but there’s a big heart behind the ones I do have.
The heart is where all these matters twist and shout. Underneath the waiting, there’s a heart wrestling with something deeper. Waiting can be great, honestly. You get to chill out, there’s a sofa, and lots of television to watch and books to read. We all say there’s never enough time, so in the waiting, we get to fill our time how we like. But in the waiting, those ribbons of heartbreak tangle and snarl even the most patient of us. Maybe you feel as if you’ve done something wrong. Maybe you feel afraid. Maybe you feel unprepared or bored or restless or exhausted. Oh, you know you feel exhausted.
Here’s an idea. Whatever you are feeling, act in the opposite. Are you lonely? Go find a friend. Text. Call. Hug. Feeling tired? Go for a walk. Feeling afraid? Go do something thrilling. Feeling broken? Seek the one who has made you whole.
“There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face.
And I know that it’s the presence of the Lord.
Sweet Holy Spirit. Sweet Heavenly Dove.
You’re right here with us, filling us with your love.
And for these blessings
We lift our hearts in praise.
Without a doubt we’ll know
That we have been revived
When we shall leave this place.”
~ Doris May Akers ~
In this waiting period, you and I, we aren’t alone. Don’t give up. Be a Lego door. Be your proud three-pronged self. Be useful in ways you’ve never imagined. Don’t just fill time to fill time. Fill your time with unconventional joy.
The people who need you are waiting, too. Live now in gratitude of all you do have, and the people who need you where you are, as you are, right now. Celebrate. Defy despair.
And while you wait, be your best self possible. Bust out the fun music and dance around the living room, waving your arms like the awkward three-prong you are. Cause you’re pretty amazing. You’re the best awkward three-prong I know.
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.
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