Have you felt overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up? How many times have you waited, unsure, hesitant, when faced with a decision? Is that ache in your chest old yet?
I’ve had that deep ache in my chest these past few months (years?), and I’ve done a lot of seeking. A LOT. I got tired of the ache. Instead, I tooled up. I learned that I can sit there sad, frustrated, burned out and cynical…or I can take action.
Did you know that you have incredibly powerful tools right within your grasp, and you are on the verge of walking through this mysterious, fabulous door to unknown new worlds? Oh, yes you are.
I hope that doesn’t sound too scary….actually, maybe I do. Because fear masquerades around you, calling you out. Are you ready to stop being afraid? Do you even realize when you’re afraid?
I used to think I was pretty brave until I looked at how I was going about my business, hiding out in the shadows, taking the safe path, and venturing only when I was sure the next step would find firm ground. Even putting this book out is the entry into a nail-biting, murky realm for me, but I firmly believe these tools are essential for us and we don’t even realize we have them. But they’re right there.
Opt in for an adventure to discover purpose, tenacity, and to build your empire. Even the most ordinary of humans can do impossible things. The elements of storytelling are tools to help us understand our purpose and to build a life greater.
My latest collection of seeking and soldering has led to a 150-page guide and workbook to help you change your mindset to change your life. Within these pages of KINGDOM COME we discover the three protocols every hero satisfies in order to fulfill the mission. You’re the hero in your own story. Transforming into the hero may be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it will be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Here we discover the ultimate objective in understanding and experiencing the combined unity of these three tools in your hero story. Get ready to travel the vast horizon of the hero plot line and forge new paths toward your legacy.
Available TODAY from Amazon, in paperback and ebook, you too can join the adventure. Come on, friend. I’ve taken some of these steps myself, and it’s beautiful over here. Let’s get crackin, together. Click here to purchase your copy right now. Only $1.99 in ebook and $6.99 in paperback, you’ll have my crazy little stories about life and how all these problems around you serve as the real excitement you’ve been seeking. The chapters are short and the questions might make you squirm, but I’d rather be out there on that sunny mountain than stuck, waiting for air. Here’s your fresh breath. From my heart to yours.
What does becoming a champion entail? It’s a methodical, ongoing trek toward a goal. It’s a pushing forward, regardless. It’s upward and outward, every day, showing up, and breaking boundaries.
To be honest, it was his turquoise shoes I noticed first. Then, it was his superhuman pull-ups.
One day about a year ago, maybe longer, one guy at the gym did these massive pull-ups I’d never seen with my own eyes in person. He was using the regular squat/pull-up rack in the gym, minding his own business, but with a forty-five pound weight chained to his waist. After a couple reps of those, he went and added to the pull-ups, where he extended his arms down, above the top of the metal rack, shoving his body closer to the sky. That move is known as a muscle-up.
I blinked several times after I saw this the first time, wondering if anyone else at the gym noticed it, but around me the treadmills continued to buzz and the lifters by the weight racks studied the ground by their sneakers. (They were not turquoise.)
Another day, I took to the treadmills in my warm-up and, across the room, this bar lined with multiple forty-five-pound discs begins raising off the ground, the black steel bar itself beginning to bend in the middle. I counted I think eight of those discs plus some smaller ones. I don’t math, but then saw who was owning that bar. And nobody else in the gym even glanced up. He continued deadlifting that grimacing bar, but those hands stayed steady.
I just had to find out what motivated this guy to get up, show up, and lift up. What do you tell yourself when you’re lifting hundreds of pounds? How do you continue to shove against the grain of the earth when all it’s doing is trying to knock you down?
I think I asked him, “How much weight was that?” and he simply shrugged, non-committal, with a, “That was only four-fifty” or something to that effect. What. And then I have no idea what came out of my mouth because math… and I’m intimidated by most humans, especially ones who can lift four times my weight with a shrug. But then he said, essentially, “How you handle the gym demonstrates how you handle life.”
And I knew that my friends and readers needed to hear his story and perspective.
Need some motivation? Go find Travis Cadenhead on Facebook and Instagram at CadenheadKinetix. He’s a personal coach who offers online nutrition and fitness programming. Travis has worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes.
If you’re intimidated about those first few hesitant steps to bettering your life and wellness, then take a moment to rush forward. Success and victory aren’t as far away as they seem.
Here are just a *few* of his recent resume triumphs:
2014—Texas Raw bench press record of 402lbs at 198lb bodyweight. (U.S. Powerlifting Association)
2015—Pig Iron Classic Powerlifting meet. 1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
2015—Bend the Bar (USPA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2015—Unleash the Beast (MSA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2016—Clash of the Barbarians (USPA) powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class, best overall lifter, and a top 30 total pounds in the Nation and Top 4 in Texas.
Includes raw lifts of a 705 lb squat, 440 lb bench press, and 672 lb deadlift. 1819 lb total.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
Has your jaw hit the floor yet? I know! How does someone become a champion like this, and stay hungry yet humble? I think it has to do with the shoes. And probably also the commitment to persevere.
1) How did you get into Powerlifting/lifting heavy?
I started lifting during Junior High School for athletics although I didn't take it seriously until I was a senior in high school. It was an outlet for me; I could let out all the energy and aggression I had in the weight room versus somewhere else. I’m confident I would not be where I am today if I had not found weightlifting. I am an adrenaline junkie (fast cars/bikes or whatever to get a thrill) and quickly got addicted to the adrenaline factor of heavy lifting. It may seem crazy to a lot of people, but I love the mentality of "100% effort, give it all you got, get it or die trying." I believe the attitude I, and many others, have developed in the weight room transfers to other aspects in life also.
2) What motivates you to keep lifting heavy? When you’re at the bar, and the weights feel like they are too much, what do you do mentally or physically to continue working?
I always strive to be the best athlete I can be. I hype myself up by trying to do more reps or weight than before. I don't want to be normal and never wanted to be. If a thought comes into my head that I cannot do something, I remember the last time I had that thought, kept trying and accomplished the goal. Fear is not something God created us to have, so I bring that to the table when I am training.
3) What approach do you take to fitness and nutrition and mindset?
Fitness is very important not just physically for me but mentally. It’s been a part of my life for over a decade and I would be lost without it. I do set schedules for specific exercises/training depending on my goal at that time. I train to be a well-rounded athlete. I am always thinking about what I need to do to get better; that includes weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastic movements, running, jumping, agility, conditioning, and martial arts.
What we put in our bodies is everything. I believe a lot of the diseases nowadays is from the Western type diet most Americans eat. Instead of eating foods with anti-inflammatories and plenty of micronutrients, the American diet is loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats which cause inflammation in the arteries, have insufficient micronutrients, vitamins/minerals, and cause diseases like diabetes and heart disease, etc. I believe eating foods loaded with anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, micronutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, along with exercise, will help prevent and reverse a lot of these diseases.
4) What is your strategy for setting goals? Do you set specific numbers and work toward them or how do you decide what your results will be?
I like to set extreme goals. I am either all in or not at all; I have no in between. When I have a goal that is very extreme and hard to achieve, that is what drives and motivates me to keep moving forward.
5) For the regular person who’s afraid of stepping inside the gym, what’s one piece of advice you’d offer?
Don't be intimidated. Not everyone wants to be extreme in the gym or a competitive athlete. Everyone has different goals and levels of fitness. Starting a consistent fitness regimen is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It is never too late to start. As you get older fitness training will help you keep your muscular structure, it will make everyday functional activities more manageable, and you will be able to do more desirable activities (hiking, biking, playing with kids, etc..).
6) What is one piece of advice you’d give your teen self?
I would tell myself to learn more about functional training rather than just getting bigger. Bodybuilding like most young men want, without functional training in their routine is not practical. You will look the part but will probably lose athleticism.
7) What is one thing you’d like to leave as your legacy?
I want people to remember me as a Godly man. I want to help people live a more positive life physically, mentally and spiritually.
8) What kind of personal training do you offer, and to whom?
I offer online nutrition and fitness programming. I have worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes. I desire to work with anyone who wants to live a healthier more functional lifestyle, to athletes who wish to increase their athletic performance.
How you act in the gym demonstrates how you act outside the gym. I wasn’t raised in the gym and didn’t start loving the place until I was a mother of two littles and lost my connection to the outside world, and gained a lot of baggage in the process. What about you? Are you ready to feel better inside and out?
By pushing the limits, by digging in harder every time, the reps get easier, the reps simultaneously get harder, and also get more enjoyable. The reps equal results. You want to be the champion? Want to move freely, to do the good work you need to do? Hang in there. Don’t give up. Put in the reps to do your work, and continue pressing on regardless of outcomes, regardless of conflict, regardless of the weather or how you feel about them. If you’re hitting a wall, try aiming for a new one. Reps equal progress. The progress may be slow but all progress counts every single time.
How much do you want it?
Go get it.
And go check out Travis' Insta for inspiration and making new strides toward your tomorrow.
Connect with Travis online:
Facebook: Travis Cadenhead-CadenheadKinetix
Did you know that sprints are the number one exercise to fight belly fat? About two years ago I began sprinting. I began with a ten-minute timer and have worked my way up to twenty minutes. I set the timer for twenty minutes and run as fast as I can from thirty seconds down to zero, walk for thirty seconds, and hit it again on the following thirty. Most of the days I've shot across the pavement with my jogging stroller, baby in tow, throughout sun, slushy puddles, and wintry clouds overhead. Last weekend was a first -- I went out on my own, the four-year old preferring to stay inside and watch cartoons. So my soles rammed against the concrete, amid potholes, leaves, and burning sun. While salty drips dribbled down my temples, my brain got to whirling.
Why do we commit? Why do we give up? How do we keep going? What do we do when we want to cave, want to decline, want to bow out? Do you call in sick, or do you buck up and slam the toes against the cold ground?
Here are my thoughts from my run last weekend. Hope the encourage you and inspire you to persevere, even when the winter clouds tumble down.
5 Tips for Committing (Life Lessons I Learned From Sprinting)
ONE: Do it for you and no one else. Make it your business to fully follow through your commitments.
You agreed to do the thing. Own your choice and dive into enjoying the work, offering your best capabilities, and hanging in until you no longer need to do the work. You control your action and attitude. Build your own excitement and fulfillment in the work. If you look at a job or task and tell yourself you are doing it because someone asked it of you, or you are “out” of something if you don’t do it, then that takes you out of your business and out of your power. Take hold of your capability to do the work you chose to do. You could be doing something else; you will eventually be doing something else. While you do this job, do it because you know you can do it and better the lives of others in the process. Look at your task as an act of service, for others and yourself.
Find something to be grateful for in the work and look for the opportunity to learn and engage your inner warrior. Consider this a time to build your tool box.
TWO: Employ grace for your season.
When I first began running, I pushed my forty-pound daughter in the jogging stroller. I’ve grown accustomed to shoving the burden ahead of me, with a slot for my water bottle and my phone to blast the tunes. But you know what? You can run so much faster without a stroller.
What baggage do you have? What season are you in? Have grace with yourself for whatever season you’re in. Do your best right now and keep working toward the coming season while celebrating the current one. Avoid comparing your story to someone else’s. One day you may be sprinting clear and free, no stroller, no handbag, no accompanying soundtrack. That may be relieving or intimidating. Regardless, employ grace for your season.
Whatever season you are in, whatever baggage you are dealing with in your commitments, allow some wiggle room. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. As Jess Glynne sings, don’t be so hard on yourself. Run your race. Dig in to your sprints. And allow time and space for the extra weight you’re pushing along the track. If you insist on running full force and physically cannot do it, then don’t commit to doing more than you can handle. Be honest to the people with whom you’ve committed and allow space for the stroller. In the long run (especially the long run!) everyone will thank you for the honesty and grace you employed. That’s wisdom.
THREE: Set time limits.
Committing to something for an endless amount of time overwhelms most people. Deep in the trenches of life and stress and sinks full of dishes, even the heartiest soul considers giving up. So prepare to invest in your activities by committing for a certain time. Maybe it is a twenty-minute workout, three times a week, for six months. Can you do that? Maybe it’s to do something for thirty days. Can you do that? Maybe it’s to say, “I will do this every Monday for one year.” Can you do that? Specify your time limits and purpose your expectations.
Now, let’s level up. Extend the time. Extend what you think you can do. Add five seconds. Add a day. Add a couple inches. Many runners slow down at the end of the race. Expect the race to last longer. Place your mental finish line farther than you think you can go.
In my research into training and military exercises, I came across some videos instructing how to punch. Set your feet, own your placement on the mat, and punch through the punching bag. The strongest punch doesn’t aim for the front of the bag; the strongest punch aims for the back of the bag. Use this same strategy for your commitments. If you know that you can commit for six months, allow for seven, mentally. If you need to run a race, train by running farther. Don’t just end where everybody else is ending. Punch through to the other side of the punching bag.
Set yourself up to win by setting your expectations and accountability limits. Own your limits, and then blast through them. Intentionally focus on specific boundaries, and then go one step further. The only limits you have are the one you set for yourself. Detail them and raise the bar for yourself, for you are stronger than you know.
FOUR: The smoother the ground underfoot, the easier it is to stay upright.
How much do you believe in yourself? Do you have a solid foundation, confidence in your competence to do the task?
My neighborhood is apparently packed with crumbly streets, leaves, potholes, and rocks. And I’ve trekked over them for years. One street recently got the nice treatment and it’s smooth, black, and freshly tarred. The difference between running over the potholes and on this one fresh slab of smoothness suddenly illuminated a truth: you can run faster when the road’s clear, when there are no rocks in your shoes or on your path. While you can’t take the obstacles out of your path, you can believe in your abilities, your path, and your journey. What kind of foundation are you treading upon? Doubt in yourself serves as a pothole. Doubt in your capabilities, letting the fear creep in? That’s like running with a spike in your shoe.
Avoid comparing your road to anyone else’s. Your journey has a twisty, windy path with obstacles built just for you. The obstacles will help you get faster and stronger – are you moving ahead, one step at a time?
Get the rocks out of the way. Take the grime out of your shoes. The road will have obstacles and twists and hills, but you’ve got to trust your feet and find your own smooth track.
FIVE: Decide what story to tell.
What’s the story? When the plot has a great story, readers stick around to the end. This step consists of basically finding your “why” but maybe you haven’t personalized it enough or been intentional with it. What’s depending on this seven years from now? Twenty-seven years from now? What brought you here from seven years ago?
How do you know when to end a commitment you’ve made? Think about the ending of the story. Many times I’ve thought about giving up on my sprints before the time expires, shutting down my writing career, or just not going to the gym because I’m not “feeling it” that day. But then I think about the story I want to tell about it. How do I want the story to end, and what will make a satisfying ending for this task I’ve committed to doing? When I’m happy with the ending, that’s when the task has been completed. Not all stories have happy endings, but I’m determined to serve the character I will be in seven years. She needs me to follow through right now. I’m not sure why; but in seven years I’ll get back to you and we can chat about it. What story will you be telling in seven years about your commitments? And how will that story end?
Take a step back and consider the lives at stake, the risks involved, and what kind of story you want to tell about following through with the commitments. Maybe you just need a change in perspective to see how important this ability to persevere and commit will forge you into the hero you are. Go, hero, go!
Sprinting along the streets in my neighborhood, wobbling along with my jogging stroller, gasping in the sizzling Texas air, has offered me a wealth of knowledge. I’ve released some stress, some sweat, and gained some inspiration. Now it’s time to level up.
Run as fast as your dirty silver sneakers will carry you.
The timer’s running.
How will you commit to your promises? What story will you design? Are you running for yourself or in the name of something greater? Are you excited about the pavement? The gritty pathway awaits. I’m right here too.
What's your perseverance level? I want to know how well you consider yourself someone who perseveres and what it would take to get you up a level.
Clickety click HERE to answer this three question quiz. And please share! It's anonymous and I think we can all take a few minutes to inventory our skillset. Hope you'll join in the fun! I'll post tips and tricks so we can all work together on this crucial tool of the hero toolbox.
Kristin Hernandez may be considered a first-year teacher, but she’s spent years preparing for such a time as this. Nominated for the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year award by her superiors, this teacher has a colorful story of hope and courage. She not only instructs her students in using their numbers and letters, she lives as an example of defying the odds and overcoming obstacles with some elbow grease and a hearty spirit. Kids need more than numbers and letters; they need examples of grit.
Hernandez attended Howard Payne University as a full-time student while working multiple jobs to pay her own way, and support herself through four years of fees, tuition, bills, groceries, and rent. Crushing tunes in the music labs and studying within the education department’s paneled walls by day, she spent her nights cleaning with a janitorial company, volunteering at church, studying, and other miscellaneous tasks to earn the occasional dollar here or there. Nights were short, days were long, but her intrepid nature commanded the years. In 2015, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with a Music Minor.
Immediately after graduation she applied to East Elementary, where she was hired as a Computer Lab Aid. While the position offered the opportunity to connect with teachers and students inside the walls of the school, the full-time hours provided part-time salary. Regardless of the restrictions this placed on her, Hernandez maintained a positive environment within her computer lab, assisting in multiple tasks and projects in addition to her required duties, all with colorful posters on the lab walls reminding her students of all their possibilities. She began the process of testing for state mandated certifications. The following year she moved into the classroom as a Third Grade Teacher’s Assistant, where she worked one-on-one with students, particularly when the teacher required maternity leave in the second half of the year. In her third year at East Elementary, in a buzz of gumption and gusto, Hernandez finally finished the state-mandated certifications and was hired for the shiny position of Third Grade Teacher. Ever since, she’s been filling the role like a champion.
Anybody who stumbles across Hernandez receives an authentic, heartfelt hello, and focused attention. “I teach for them,” Hernandez said. “I teach because I get to watch them discover things and grow. Some of them need all the love I have, some of them need the knowledge, and some of them just need the structure.” Students, current and previous, run up to her whenever and wherever, and offer a genuine hug. “They make me feel alive, and I end up loving every single one of them as they walk into my room.”
She not only offers honest, straight-forward instruction but unique, applicable tools for her students. “It’s so satisfying to see them years later, to see them grow into their own talents, and still remember I was a huge part of their lives for that one year. I get to receive the love back that has been poured into them. I get to see some special moments parents don’t, and that is so valuable to me. I get to see them overcome their biggest struggles, to watch them choose to be kind instead of mean, to watch them laugh, to watch them gather new perspectives on life, to decide who they want to be that day. I teach so they know all of those things they may or may not get at home, and enjoy it with them. The group of people I love grows every year, and it’s more rewarding than anything else.”
Even amidst the required mounds of roll calls, testing, paperwork and form-filing, she finds time to encourage her students. She shows them to pursue their education and how to tenaciously tackle life’s challenges. She lives it every day right before their eyes. And that’s some of the best education possible.
Want to make a difference in someone’s day? Vote right now for the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year. One simple click provides a vote. Here’s your opportunity to support a hard-working teacher who truly deserves this award. Simply click here and select the dot beside Kristin Hernandez – Brownwood East Elementary.
“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
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.
“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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