The past couple of weeks have been intense. They’ve been crammed with work, play, writing, reading, and people. So many people. After thirty-something years around them, I’ve come to realize and acknowledge that the more I’m around people, the more aware of myself I become. It’s draining to be hyperaware of your actions, word choice, tone of voice, and movement. What’s more draining about it is that I realize most people aren’t even paying attention, and yet there’s this creative spark inside of me that whispers, “But, what if they are?”
And so I overanalyze, overthink, and afterwards, rehash. Exhausting. The more tired I become, the more this exacerbates itself.
So this weekend was the epitome just waiting for a bang. I’ve been working with multiple people doing the #PitProm pitch contest (more on that in a coming soon blog!) and on Sunday morning, found myself among the team of people practicing the music for the church service.
I love to sing.
I love it, but I’m more of a back-up or ensemble singer. I’m no Taylor Swift. #ThingsIKnow #BTeam. There are times when people don’t make it to the practice at the last minute, and usually it is somewhat of an annoyance but no big deal. But yesterday, I wasn’t feeling it. I *was* feeling overwhelmed, tired, cranky, and in need of coffee. My voice kept cracking, I was kind of bloated because I had eaten pizza and a doughnut on Saturday, and I was receiving emails and notifications for work that I needed to keep up with. The nagging thought that I am tired but I show up so why don’t others too??? kept going through my head. I was out of my element. Out of my power. Can you see it? Charlie asked me why I wasn’t singing, and it was quite obvious I wasn’t singing because I was the only one other than him that should have been singing. I snapped at him, “Because I don’t know the song.” Eh. Wasn’t a great response, but what got to me was my tone of voice. I heard myself being so mean. I heard three-years-ago me answering.
You know what’s hard about working on yourself? Sometimes you miss the mark. Sometimes you find yourself not responding how you want, but you can’t seem to navigate the new waters in the new self, and judgmental snarkiness rolls out instead.
If you were ever wondering about this chica over here and what the struggle really is, well, I saw it this weekend.
I left the worship center, tears in my eyes, a mixed bag of emotions. My loudest thought was, “What if everyone expects me to react like this?”
I used to react like that. I know it. But I’ve made the effort over the years to be better. To react better. To be the kinder, more gracious person in conflict. Doesn’t always happen. But maybe my biggest fear isn’t actually responding badly, it’s what the other people think. Do they find it shocking, and therefore they are concerned about me? Or do they shrug and sigh, “Typical.”
You know what? I can’t determine what anybody else but myself thinks.
So when I drove to my quiet house, the hush wrapping around me like a fresh breeze, I sifted through the thoughts. I sorted the “why” and the “how come” and the “you stinks” and the “always” and the “never” and the “they should” or “I can’t” and settled on the one thought that got me straightened out again: I control how I react.
At the time, I was having trouble controlling the crying. Because as a female, that’s just part of the project. Insert tears here. They’re in there, they come out, you deal.
I needed to get back into my element, where the REAL ME resided. The real me, my heart and soul, knows I’m not based on ill-will and frustration. I needed to get her back at the helm. The tears, the “what if” thoughts were hijacking my reality. The thoughts you think? They’re not all true. Don’t listen to the false ones. Find the truth.
The truth was and still is this: I’m an amazing critic. I am so good at judging. I rock at finding the things that need to be improved and then implementing a plan to fix them. I am SO GOOD at that. I can order around people like tomorrow depends on it. It’s a great skill to have when directing plays, leading public relations campaigns, teaching classes…but it can be quite difficult to live with inside my head when I dwell on planet earth.
Since I’m one of the best versions of me when I’m critiquing and making lists….I sat down at my computer and graded an essay. Yes. I sipped on my coffee, gave notes on essay writing and compositional form, and when I stood up fifteen minutes later, I was a new person. No…I was my real person again. I got back in my element.
Once I refreshed my makeup and drove back, I apologized and explained what was going on. And you know what? We had some laughs. People chuckled. We related over past challenges and similar stories. The words were wrong on the screen. “You are the hope to the hopless and broken.”
You know what? At times we are hopless and borken.
But then there’s time to get back up again.
Three steps to getting your life back when your emotions or the situation hijacks you and your "not good enough" triggers you:
1) Take a break.
Relaxation, resting, and taking a break are the fastest way to resetting your entire body and mind. We stress ourselves out too often. This is the first and most important step to getting back on track. Think of a train derailing. What if the train just kept chugging forward, off its rails? What a mess! No! The train needs to stop so it can be hoisted back on the rails. Turn off the engine. Step away from the tracks. Take a break and breathe in deeply for at least several minutes. Be alone, be quiet, be still.
And while you’re quiet, hush any lying thoughts or voices. They don’t belong. Criticism doesn’t help, so take a rest from it as well.
2) Get back in your element.
Sometimes we call this “power.” Be in your power. Do the thing you love most. Do the thing that brings you joy, bliss, most importantly peace, and reminds you of why you are here on earth because of how much you enjoy it. Do the thing you’re good at. Do something you’re good at.
How do you know what your element is? What’s your power? Well, you need to know yourself first. If you don’t know what this is, then take some time to get to know yourself right now. Shut off your phone, go outside, and walk for an hour to begin figuring it out.
3) Trust your tribe.
You cannot manage other peoples’ perceptions. That’s not your business. Manage your own perception, your own mindset, your own abilities, and do your best. Apologize when necessary. Own who you are. Own that you’re learning. Own the opportunities and challenges. The people who love you will stick around regardless of the outcome.
We all have our lessons to be learned. The important thing is to learn them. We have the tools, so make time to use them. I know that I'm not three-years-ago me. She wouldn't have taken these steps or even known there was a problem snapping at someone how I did. Now the lesson is the thing. Because life is the thing. The getting back up is the thing.
If you feel this story and need your own set of tools to build your best life, get crackin’ reading KINGDOM COME, a reminder of the hero you are and the empire you were built to create.
Can you relate? I’d love to hear back from you about a time when you found yourself emotionally out of your element and what you did to get back on track. Feel free to hit reply with your story and tips!
I have some fabulous conversations with my college besties. Here's a transcript from a conversation we had the other day about accomplishing goals and realizing dreams. Hope you'll read through and be encouraged.
Part of me sometimes wishes I hadn’t started the journey of my book writing, because I feel like I can’t get anywhere near the level that I want to be, which is just having the book in my hand. It’s so far away. Most people around here don’t even understand that they’re published. They ask me, “When are you going to get those books published?” And I say, “They are published.” But then they say, “No, but when are they going to be published?” They don’t know what an ebook is, or they don’t read ebooks.
If I had not done all this book stuff, if I had not gone forward in pursuing what I really wanted to do—and I honestly cannot say “I felt God calling me to do it,”—it was just something I really wanted to do. It was this NEED, like this need to eat, I had this need to write this story out.
Truthfully? I wouldn’t ever go back, honestly. The biggest frustration is that I can’t get them in print, and that’s my biggest frustration, internally. But getting to where I am now, that has changed me completely from inside to outside. I’ve had to face some of my darkest demons, and I’m not even on the other side of it, but I’m in there. It’s given me such empathy and sympathy for the people who are in the trenches of doing hard things, and even just struggling to be alive. It’s opened my eyes to crushing heartbreak. And I had known it before in high school, when my cousin was murdered, I mean it’s not like I’ve been completely sheltered all my life. I’ve seen really hard things. So even going through this has been this whole new eye-opening experience.
Explore the things you are most afraid of. Explore what you really want to do.
What if God did not have one thing in particular for you to do? What if he had a whole bunch of things open for you? And what if he says, “Pick any of them.” And many of them may not lead to success, but they’ll make you better in your pursuit of them. Usually you will find those jobs in the things you are afraid of. So where you hesitate, I say pursue it.
What other people think about you should not influence the things you do. If you have a passion and a desire, then you follow that. Because God has given you that. He allows you to have fears so you will come alive once you embrace them. Now I’m not saying go crazy and do anything illegal or dangerous, but even if it is dangerous, it could be something life-changing. Like sky diving. Wear that parachute though.
What I have found in exploring all-of-the-things with my books, the fears that I used to have, the fear of failure, of being laughed at, of being a joke, it never looks like you think it’s gonna look in the middle of it and on the other side of it. And you truly can do more than you imagine. And it will always look different than you think.
Branch out. Try something new, something hard. It’s super uncomfortable, and totally worth it.
“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.
"That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden.
And then you realize how obvious they've been all along."
- Madeleine L'Engle
Mrs. L’Engle is my favorite author. She has a way of turning phrases, turning pages, and inspiring my deepest breaths. Her writing packs a punch, if you will. What writing do you remember? Why do you remember it?
No matter what you write, use all those glorious tools in our writing tool boxes to create your best writing possible. I’ve provided a checklist, which will help you quite a bit, but I want to extend this thought to you:
Make your writing memorable.
How do you do this?
One way to make writing interesting is to move up a level from the basic sentence. Re-think ideas and make them personal to you.
How do we identify “basic sentences”?
In my own writing adventures and self-editing, I have found some tricky words that make me stumble, stutter, and fall into lame sentence writing.
Here is my list of Boring Words:
Make your own list! What words do you use too much? What words do you use incorrectly?
Sometimes these words are helpful. See right there? But I am aware that I used ‘are’ and know that possibly I could use something more effective. What is a more effective word than ‘are’?
Question your writing.
Each sentence offers possibility or boredom.
Avoid cliché and instead create your own word pictures.
Here is an example of a way to make your writing interesting:
Example: Having my sister come for a visit was heaven on earth.
Example: I like when my sister visits.
Those sentences are okay and whatnot. Sure, they convey a basic idea. How can they be more interesting, detailed, intrinsic, and thought-provoking?
Revised Example: Having my sister show up on my doorstep, one bright smile and hearty hug, greeting me with her unique flair and cinnamon scent brought tears to my eyes. Her presence was chocolate cupcakes. Her hug crammed the room full of sunlight. Her smile filled my soul with bubbly, pink sweater fuzzies.
See how that helps you experience the sister?
You would write this sentence completely different from me. How would you get to your version of this revised sentence?
Start by re-thinking what is your ‘heaven on earth’? What makes you happy?
If you are inclined to write, “I liked doing that,” instead explore the why and what behind what you were doing. What did ‘like’ feel like? Your ‘like’ is different than mine, and isn’t language the beautiful tool to explore how it compares?
This is where imagery meets metaphor. This place is fun. This is one reason I love writing.
Example 2: Have a good day!
Revised Example 2: May your day be sunny, life-affirming, and lined with laughter!
Example 3: The baby cried, looking so sad. There were no words to capture his wail.
Revised Example 3: Shadows shimmied away from the wailing toddler, his bald head wrinkled red with frustration and hunger. Tears dripped in large droplets down his scrunched up cheeks, pooling with sighs and hopelessness in the gnarled blankets by his feet. Paci had disappeared.
Give life to inanimate objects. If one object seems too difficult to explain, then illustrate objects or people’s reactions.
Give an object personality. Is it warm? Soft? Cheerful? Threatening? Prideful? Scornful? Lonely?
I hope you can take these ideas and carry them with you into all of your writing. Pack these ideas up, put them in your wallet, and take out as often as you need.
Warning: Be careful, as this, if taken to heart, will change your communications forever. People will suddenly pay attention because you wrote or said something interesting. Be memorable. Use those gifts God has given you to communicate light, power, and passion to the darkness.
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