Break Time

Sometimes we need a break from being courageous. Just a little one. Just the simple gift of some needed space to breathe and grow. Then, once we’ve had time to get comfortable with our newest stretch marks, we can get back in the saddle again and try out our newest roar of courage.

Who are the courageous?

All of us. 

We are all getting up every day, putting on our badge of courage as we leave our homes. We go off in our cars to days unknown, filled up with hope, fueled up with faith, and fired up with courage. You may not even realize it, but it’s there residing inside of you.

Ambition rules our agenda, but courage leads us through it. It’s how you get through the day. Some of us don’t leave the house—some work from home, some keep company with pain from illness…some face the day fighting battles beyond the ordinary. Yet we are all bravely facing the things which propel us forward in this contest of life.

In some way, big or small, we all march on. We do the hard things. We say hello to the stranger at the grocery store. We sweat just a little (or a lot) under the pressure from our jobs. We blunder through social gatherings. We enter the hospital doors for one more treatment. We give our kids the tough love they need to grow into responsible, kind adults. At the cafe, we ask for a table for one. We show up to write. We show up to comfort. We show up to help out.

We. show. up.  That takes courage.

But even the brave need respite from the battles we face each day. Runners needs recovery days. Workers need weekends. Mamas need a day out with her friends. Dads need their time in the hammock. Kids need to play.

The warriors that we are need rest to gain strength and perspective. In the reflection of the place where courage rose, wisdom is found. When the hard thing is done, recuperation is needed for the mind, the soul, and the heart.

So breathe today. Deeply.

Forget about the scary thing that lies ahead of you for just a little while. Don’t let it rob you of your sleep. Don’t let it steal your confidence. Don’t let it blind you from the beauty that is within your current view. Seek out the person who is waiting for you to connect with them. Drink in the scene of the rolling hills that may surround you, the trees… and the listen for the sounds of the red-tailed hawks screeching among their feathered families. Shake off your your burdens and give them to the Lord. He is there to take them from you (Matthew 11:28-30).

As you rest, recall how far you’ve come and tally up your triumphs. Remember at the core who you are and tell yourself it’s okay to take a break for however long you need. You’re not perfect, you don’t always have to be the strong one, you’re allowed to stop and breathe.

And then, once you catch your breath…when you’ve reflected, and begin to make new plans (or shore up the ones you’re still feeling called to pursue)…get back into the hard things that make you stronger and wiser and able. The world needs you. Stay strong. Carry your courage all the day long. And remember you are loved just as you are, brave one.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

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Hope Says…

I know hope.

Hope says, “Give me that challenge…I’m not afraid.”

Hope says, “I’ll persevere, and I’m not going to give up.”

Hope says, “I may fail today, but I’ll show up again.”

Hope says, “You can’t catch me…wait—maybe you can.”

Hope says, “Let me take your breath away.”

I know hope, and hope knows me.

We’re inseparable.

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An Image of Frustration

A man is shaking his fist at the indigo sky.  The horizontal lines gripping his forehead cram together as if it’s stuck in a trash compactor. The tight corners of his mouth dive down deep to meet his jawline. Tears pool and threaten to sprint past his hollow cheeks, dripping onto his shirt…his eyes are hauntingly desperate, his brow defeated with sweat.

But I see his strength in the bottom lip that quivers, like a table about to buckle because it’s been loaded with too much weight. As he struggles to yield to the hope which still exists within him, he breathes deeply and closes his eyes.  This torrent too shall pass.

For all those who are frustrated today, hang in there. Breathe. Pray. Choose to shake it off and focus on something that will make you smile. Or even better, something that will maybe make you laugh. Look for it.

The Lord says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

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Be Relentless

This old dog can learn new tricks. I know that’s been said before, but it’s very relevant for me right now. And if you’re reading this, you also may be in the pursuit of something big that you really want.

I mention dogs because, well, I have this dog…and she’s been driving me crazy. To the point where I’m embarassed. You see, I’ve been learning that it’s probably MY behavior that has caused her to be so naughty. Well, let me just take that in for a minute. Yikes.

Here I am, a forty-one-almost-forty-two-year-old educator being told by professionals in the dog training industry that I need to learn how to be a leader in order to have a well-behaved dog. A leader. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but to me? I want to go hide! I’m a teacher! I AM a leader….but apparently, I have some work to do.

I remember a year ago saying, “I want to write, but I don’t want to write about my DOG!”. As if writing about dogs wasn’t a respectable topic for authors. But you know, they also say dog is man’s best friend. Having an amazing dog prior to this current one, I can surely declare that is truth. At least for me. And I don’t take best friends lightly. So maybe there is something important about writing about dogs, after all. I still don’t want to write about ’em.

Well, in any case, the good Lord is certainly putting me in my place teaching me some perspective when it comes to what I’m learning through this dog that is making me want to scream. And tear my hair out. And giving me permanent scars. Seriously.

That God-sent perspective is this: In order to make this animal mind, I am going to have to be relentless. RE-LENT-LESS. And I LOVE how I am learning this through our 11-month-old fur baby, because let me tell you…I’ve been believing I am relentless, but this whole puppy experience is teaching me that I have just been kidding myself.

This lesson bleeds through so many other areas of my life, and I think that is why I am feeling uneasy about it being called to attention. My bluff has been laid out onto the table. My game is over.

It’s time to play my hand a little differently. A little more…alpha-like. 🙂

If I don’t want my life to be run by this couch-ripping, wrist-gnawing, tornado-fleeing dog, then I’m going to have to be more persistent than I usually am. I’m going to have to be more consistent than I am used to being. I am going to have to raise. the. bar. when it comes to my expectations.

And ohhhhh doesn’t that remind me of my writing habits??? Yup.

And, yikes—in the classroom, doesn’t that make me think of the class line that I let get loosey-goosey or the handwriting that I let slack? Mmm-hmm.

The people who know me very well know that I am very hard on myself. And they may tell me that is the case here.

But I want more.

I want to accomplish things with my writing, to help others through it.

I want my students to learn good habits and make outstanding growth…even more than before.

And I want my wild dog to behave so that we can enjoy her and, in turn, she can enjoy us.

So the task at hand is to be constant and unceasing in this pursuit at dog training, in teaching, and in writing. To not give up so I can hold my head up high and say, truly, I am a leader.

The reward will be so much greater than any kind of regret.

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Achieve Your Dream: 10 Things To Help You Along the Way

What dream is on your heart? What do you hope to achieve? Do you wish to accomplish something that seems so big—so outside the box—but you just don’t know where to start? I know the feeling!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about 10 things we can do in order to help slay that goal of ours, whatever it may be:

#1) Acknowledge it—Know your goal. What is it? Write it down. Make a list of things you will need to do in order to accomplish your goal.

#2) Declare it— Tell people! Speak it out loud. This might seem scary, but it will challenge you in amazing ways you never imagined. Be brave and ask for help if you need it.

#3) Embrace it—Willingly and enthusiastically come to terms with the fact that it’s likely going to take a good amount of effort and patience to get to where you want to be. You will learn so much on this journey you’ll be on!

#4) Keep things in motion—Set small deadlines for yourself along the way. This is so helpful! Whenever I stop setting dates to accomplish the tasks I need to complete to reach my goal, I usually get distracted, uninspired, and off-track. In addition to deadlines, keep things moving along by learning more about where you’re headed. Find podcasts, websites, and read books about the topics related to your dream.

#5) Let it rest if you need to—Grit is a good thing, but sometimes we need to take a breather and be okay with releasing a goal if it’s just not turning out the way you hoped. Learn to listen to your heart…and if you feel pulled in a different direction, then go for that instead. You’re allowed to change your mind. 🙂

#6) Give yourself grace—If you encounter a mishap, make a mistake, have a set back, or stop working towards your goal, don’t beat yourself up about it—just get right back up again and get back to it if it’s still something you dream of achieving. We are too hard on ourselves. You’re still cool!

#7) Be yourself—It’s likely there are many other people in the world with the same goal in mind as you. That’s okay. Don’t let that stop you. What you’re doing comes from you and there is no one exactly like you. 🙂

#8) Be proud—I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little shy when it comes to my dreams. Sometimes I wonder if they are silly or outrageous. I’m not working on my goals in order to make money, but think on this whenever you get that uncomfortable feeling that your idea is goofy or even maybe unworthy: Beanie Babies, Chia Pets, Snuggies, and Slinkys. Yep, those people made millions.

#9) Find encouragers—This is one of my favorites. There are people out there who are ready to root for you. Find them! Make a list of who is in your corner and refer to it in those times when doubt might set in or when you feel like you’re going at it alone. It’s such a powerful thing to realize that you are not alone and that many, many people want the best for you and want to see you succeed.

#10) Pray about it—Above all, pray about your dream. Is it something you feel God is leading you to do? Does it keep you up at night? Does it keep coming back to you even when you think you might not be equipped or qualified to accomplish it? Does it feel right, even though you might be scared to try? Pray for wisdom. Pray that He will help you discern the things which He has put upon your heart rather than the things others might be pushing you to do. Pray for courage and strength. You’ve got this!

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Forgiveness

Do you forgive others swiftly? Is it easy for you? For me, it depends on the situation. In my head, I know Jesus instructs us to be forgiving, but honestly sometimes my heart just isn’t willing to do it right away. If ever.

It takes courage to forgive someone.

It takes vulnerability.

It takes a heart full of grace.

For the most part, I’d say I am quick to forgive. If someone cuts me off on the road, I might find my temper flaring, but a few minutes later I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe they have to rush to the hospital,” I tell myself. “Maybe their wife is in labor!”

If someone I consider a friend doesn’t invite me to their party, I usually don’t fret long about it. “I’m sure there’s a good reason…maybe they just wanted to hang out with a different set of friends tonight.” And I go off and do my own thing, or join someone else.

But sometimes the wound is deep. Sometimes the protective bandage you wrap around your heart is wrapped so tight you’re afraid to let it unravel. So you keep it bound without letting go. “I’m just not ready,” your mind whispers to your heart when it calls on you to release the tight binding.

The problem is, when you don’t tend to a wound, it can fester and get ugly and become ten times worse than when it started. A heart can’t beat freely if it’s being squeezed with contempt.

About five years ago, someone close to me hurt my feelings badly. And even though many times I’ve read the verse below when Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone—and Jesus’s answer equates to 490 times— I’m still struggling with it to this day.

We’re so quick to point the finger. To declare we would never do such a thing or treat people in such a way. But if we take an honest glance at our past, not one of us has never hurt someone in some way. Maybe not physically, maybe not intentionally…but feelings get hurt…betrayals…the loss of a temper. Each one of us at some point in our life has had the need to be forgiven by somebody. We are human. It is going to happen. We cannot avoid it 100% no matter how faultless we aim to be.

I strive to be kind, but I know I’ve fallen short and I’ve been fortunate to experience the forgiveness of others in the past. I hope that grace has been extended to you with your mistakes, as well. And so, if a day comes when I expect forgiveness but don’t receive it, if I ask myself when that time comes, “Why won’t they forgive me?”…well, all I can do is look in the mirror and see a heart that is also battling to forgive.

Some injustices are horrifying, and some offenses are seemingly unforgivable. I often watch the news in disbelief at the atrocities of many conscienceless members of society. How could we possibly be called to forgive them?

In those moments, I try to remind myself that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to be okay with what they did. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go unpunished. It doesn’t give the green light to stay in an environment that is physically dangerous or emotionally hurtful.

It’s just that, by forgiving, we are to let go of the anger and resentment we feel towards that person. In large part, it’s an act of freeing the bitterness inside of you so that it doesn’t sour your soul.

In the bible, Jesus himself forgave those who were crucifying Him on the cross (Luke 23:34). Those who were driving the nails into his palms and ankles, those who bloodied His head with a crown of thorns…those who left him on a cross to suffer and die. If He could forgive them, surely I can work on forgiving those whom I need to also forgive.

Forgiveness.

Not easy, but not impossible.

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” -Matthew 18:21

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Permission to Relax

It’s okay to rest today. To put your feet up and wrap your hands around a warm, steaming mug of coffee while you watch the clouds drift by outside the window.

It’s okay to escape today. Cuddle up with a soft, fuzzy blanket and escape to another place and time inside of a good book or a long anticipated movie.

It’s okay to put something off today. Save an item (or two) on your list of things to do and add a thing (or two) like a slow, easy walk while taking in the brisk, life-giving air around you.

It’s okay to rejuvenate today. Listen to some music that you loved when you were a young thing, back when you danced like crazy in your room…back when Saturdays and Sundays stretched so far and wide you would memorize whole albums in a day.

It’s okay to sleep today. Take the opportunity of a non-work day to sleep in a little…or nap a little…or make some chamomile tea or go find that lavendar sachet that will help you snooze a little. You’ve worked hard. Your body and mind deserve some rest.

It’s okay to play today. Grab a board game, make a fort with the kids, bake some cookies, or do some last-minute shopping with friends. Do something you love. Something that will lift your heart.

Stop that work that you’re doing. Look all around you and really see what is there. Listen. Take a break. Breathe. You won’t get this day back ever again, so take a little time to do what you love.

How will you enjoy this day?

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