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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Crushed By Gentleness

In a harsh world, where everybody is hyper-focused on their hustle, there are those of us who need the gentle space…a cavern of affectionate calmness. The need to be wrapped in rock-solid arms of comfort. The desire to be so still you can hear the heartbeat of the one who holds you.

We, who fear of not being good enough, who work so hard not to be underestimated but still believe we never seem to come up to par, just need to be completely crushed by the gentleness of arms that will hold us up until the tide of self-doubt and fear recede. When the waves rush over us, the busyness, the overwhelm, when we are barely breathing…we need the solace and the sympathy….we need a savior’s rescue.

It could be a vice we turn to, sometimes friends and loved ones answer the call…or it could be Jesus. I want to choose Jesus. The One who rescues every time. The One who is a refuge. He is waiting, and all I have to do is call on Him. He cares not if I am the best or the strongest or the one who has all the answers. He cares not if I am thick or thin, impulsive or cautious, ready or not. He just loves me so…and he loves you, too.

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 11:29

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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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The Crime of Perfectionism

Me? A perfectionist? No way. 

That was how I used to think. Until about a year ago, I’d never really investigated the word perfectionism. In my mind, that word was reserved for people who were already perfect and, well, I surely was not. Inside or out.

Yeah, I actually believed perfection was attainable.

Then, one day while browsing the aisles with my latte, I picked up a book at Barnes and Noble for the title alone. You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth. While most of the title words were black, the word “already” was printed in bold red, as if it were saying, “Yeah, that’s right, you see me correctly. I’m saying you, yes YOU, are ALREADY amazing. Dare me to prove it to you.” Intrigued and downright hopeful, I bought it, took it home, and snuck it into the bathroom where I escaped into the first few chapters during a long, warm bath.

I was being sneaky about it because it was embarrassing to THINK myself amazing, let alone showcase to anyone who saw the book cover that I might also agree that I was. I did not want to be labeled as conceited. Yikes!

Inside that book, I met “Ms. P” (a.k.a Perfectionism) in Chapter 3, and I saw myself in her description. All or nothing. Never good enough. Every failed attempt hammering yet another nail into the coffin of “Unworthy”, rather than seeing those failures as growth experiments which honorably coexist with “Worthy”. When I read this poem by Gerth, it finally dawned on me that I had been a perfectionist all along. Here, take a peek:

Why You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

by Holley Gerth

I know Perfectionism.

She calls my name and says,

“You will never be good enough.”

And sometimes I listen.

I cower in a corner.

Or I endlessly run.

But it’s always about fear.

Then these words stop me in my tracks,

grab me by the heart,

and invite grace to speak instead:

Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)

I don’t have to be perfect.

I only need to be perfectly loved.

And I am.

So are you. 

A reminder from 1 John—a truth—that we are loved by God. And that is what matters more than trying to do everything perfectly. In fact, that love sets us free.

Well, after that, for a good while I threw “You are amazing” around all over the place, like great splashes out of a giant fountain of love. Sticky notes on my mirror and in my car, posts on Facebook, on little chalkboards in my classroom, texts to family and friends…all little dashes of truth to everyone (and myself) who might need it. Reminding them that they are amazing just the way they are…and me, too. Because many of us get all caught up in what we think we ought to be or who we think others want us to be. Trying to please everybody from here to there and everywhere.

But forget that. We all fall short, and that’s just the way that it is. Of course, we still strive to do our best, but we must keep in our sights the reality that mistakes happen and it’s okay. We also can’t spend every hour making the perfect this and the perfect that. We must make room for balance. And we will go through seasons when we run low on patience, compassion, and friendliness. In light of that, I find myself humbled by the reminder that God extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those whom He loves…for I will need it all continually.

One of the areas of my life where perfectionism still seizes me greatly is in my writing. I want to write. I lovvvvvve to write. I want to either help or entertain others through writing (I don’t know which yet)…but I struggle. I have daily battles with thoughts of “no one will want to read that”, or “no way should you share that”, or “you’ll never be able to tackle an actual book, because you don’t know what you’re doing”. Perfectionism tells me “you don’t know enough” and “you’re not qualified to write that”.

Yacks! No wonder I haven’t returned to the book that’s on my heart. I’ve let that way of thinking rob me of more than six months of action. I put my book in a drawer after finishing the first draft and have. not. touched. it. since.

Recently, however, I was reminded to safeguard my good intentions by shaking off those threatening thoughts. I saw a shared post on the Higher Purpose Writers Facebook page of a quick little “perfectionism reality check” written by professor and author, Brené Brown. As I read it, I got to a part that literally stole my breath: “it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.” So true.

Something in me ignited and caused me to comment on that post. A realization was born. “Perfectionism,” I typed with certainty, “is the culprit that puts up the imaginary black and yellow caution tape around my writing desk, cordoning me off from my creativity…leaving me too often with regret. We can’t let perfectionism rob us of our joy, so we have to fight back by taking action. One of my second graders often tells the kids very matter-of-factly, ‘when you’re feeling nervous, just do it scared’. Oh, how I wish I’d had that wisdom at age 8.”

(Even now, I have doubts because I’m not sure writers typically quote themselves as I just did, but…whatever! LOL)

Then I offered this quote because it always sets me back on track:

“Ditch the self-defeating tunes in your head and upgrade to life-giving thoughts.” -Trish Blackwell

It’s time, isn’t it? To shake off those thoughts that imprison our dreams. To stop sabotaging ourselves with our unreasonable expectations. The ones that kidnap the joy and satisfaction of accomplishing great big things. Or even great small things.

So…go do your thing. That thing you’ve been putting off. Just take the step and get it done. Baby steps, giant leaps…anything that gets you closer to your dreams. Someone will want to read this. Yes way, should I share this. You and I may not know what we’re doing or know it all, but the world’s got resources out there—we can figure it out. We are qualified to speak what’s on our hearts because we have been enrolled in Life 101 this whole time. And remember, God is with you…He wants us to live abundantly so that we can, in turn, be a light for others.

You’ve got this. We’ve got this! Let’s do this.

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P.S. Please remind me now and then. 🙂