To All of Us Who Are Charting Unknowns

The crickets are in full chorus, and, for me, that’s always a sure sign of the approach of fall.

In all its breathtaking beauty, pristine skies, and warm color, fall overtakes summertime, yet I struggle to say goodbye to our Canadian summer. With fading flowers, shorter days, and cooler nights, September will bring with it the new school year and the added challenges due to COVID.

We’ve already seen so much change and made so many adjustments. I’m amazed at our resiliency to face unknowns and navigate countless uncharted routes. How we’ve persevered and continued to try new things is remarkable. How we’ve kept going and reaching for our dreams despite uncertainty or loss is inspiring.

Stepping into new and unknown territory, or continuing forward on the current climb, can be unnerving. We want to know the route in advance, to have all the possible unknowns nailed down, to make sure we don’t get derailed. But in truth, we can’t and don’t have to. All the planning in the world can’t ensure a perfect outcome or ideal conditions.

Being courageous or trying new things doesn’t mean a lack of fear. It means treading forward onto new ground despite fear. It means with every step forward we tramp over fear until we have reached our destination. There may be some detours, some tough climbs, some falling rocks, but we stay the course, undaunted by the fallout.

Don’t be fooled. Trying new or hard things swings the door wide on fear, but what if we renegotiate our thought life and say that fear’s proximity signals we are on the right track? Its arrival means we are stretching ourselves and reaching and learning and growing. We are moving forward, conquering the rough bits, and refusing to atrophy.

Mistakes? Bring them on! They too need to be rewired in our thought process. Our brain will expand through missteps, and we will grow more sure-footed. Mistakes—or wilderness wandering—is often preparation for future treks. Through them, we learn to trust God more fully, we grow in wisdom, and gather more grip for the next hard thing. Wrapped in His forgiveness and grace, and increasing in confidence, we will lunge forward, like a cliff climber reaching upward to grasp the smallest rocky outcrop that seems almost out of reach.

Before we know it, we are challenging others to try hard things or to join us in ours. Then one bright day, we pause to check the map and discover how far we’ve come. We smile because at that moment we realize that although it wasn’t easy or perfect, we scaled the unknowns and arrived. It was worth the climb, and more than that, we are no longer the same as when we began. We are stronger and wiser, and our character has grown.

Somewhere along the journey, fear—overshadowed by courage—became a bystander.

My courageous step forward this fall is beginning to write my third book. Fear is lurking and eager to heap on discouragement. But I’m choosing to believe that it’s a signal I’m on the right track. I’m reaching and moving forward despite imperfections and unknowns. Each written word is a step forward in my climb, my journey, and I trust its completion will be worth the effort. After all, my word of the year is Fearless! And while that may not mean a complete lack of fear, I can definitely fear-less.

As you approach this fall, with its many unknowns and invitations to fear, be reminded that with every step forward, you are not only moving ahead, but also growing, learning, and developing. It’s not about the absence of fear, or fully controlling the conditions, it’s about taking one small and courageous step at a time and enjoying the view.

May you be enfolded by the grace and mercy of the Father, trusting that one glorious day all the twists and turns of your journey will make sense.

“The way we deal with uncertainty says a lot about whether Jesus is ahead of us leading or just behind us carrying our stuff.” ~ Bob Goff

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Pep Talk for Creators

If you’re anything like me—and it seems most creators are—you have an innate need to create and are happiest when doing so, but it’s a consistent struggle to cultivate conditions and space to create.

Life is always creeping in, like weeds in an overgrown garden that threaten to strangle out the beauty and take over the fertile soil of creativity. Our job is to take back ground and wrestle out the rubble, to continue to uncover and propagate beauty—both for ourselves and others.

Our back garden crowded with Echinacea. One of my favourite places where I get to create beauty.

Like a weedless garden, perfect conditions are an illusion. It will never happen. But you already know that. There will always be handfuls of reasons to put off starting, real or perceived hedges that form barricades too tall to peer over. But the truth is that you just need to begin. Where you are. Right now. Today.

Though ideal conditions are imaginary, the struggle to create is real and you must garner courage and silence the inner critic. Take fear hostage and dump it in the corner for a timeout. Then wade through the weeds, jump the hedge and skip off to a quiet place to create.

What is it that you’ve been putting off?

Is it that novel you’ve been thinking of writing? That painting you have in your mind to create? The garden you’ve been dreaming about designing? What is that one thing you have been imagining? The idea or concept deeply embedded in your soul like a sacred seed yet to be birthed and watered?

Here is what I’d like you to do:

  1. Pick the one thing you’d like to create
  2. Choose a realistic deadline for its completion
  3. Break it down into manageable bits
  4. Schedule time (just like appointments) to do the steps needed to tackle it
  5. Tell someone that you are going to do it
  6. Start it
  7. Keep going
  8. Finish it

That list sounds simple enough, and it is. The hardest part may be #6 followed closely by #8. The only thing standing in the way of starting right now is you… and your thought life. Everything seems more difficult before beginning, but like a garden full of weeds you’re going to need to get dirty in order to unearth beauty.

We excavate all sorts of excuses. Things like: I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I don’t want to get dirty. I need more training. It might not turn out as well as I hope. It’s too big a task. So and so is more skilled at this. I may fail (whatever that means). Not to be insensitive, but who cares?

You create for you and if you’re fortunate, it may impact another soul for good—it usually does. But even if your creation remains between you and God and never sees the light of day, that’s enough.

At my book launch. There were times I wondered if my novel would ever be published.

I believe nothing in life is wasted. Even those things that seem futile or rather unpleasant at the time. These types of uphill climbs help us to grow more sure-footed and create fertile ground for wisdom and character—priceless treasures that no amount of money can buy. But I suspect a few other priceless things will happen if you start and finish your project…

  1. You will gain a sense of pride in its completion
  2. You will learn and improve for the next project
  3. You will have greater confidence from having reached your goal
  4. You will have enjoyed the process
  5. Your creation may bring joy, beauty, and hope to yourself and others

I’m cheering for you—cheering for myself too—in the midst of the weeds and towering hedges. Despite our fears and imperfect forms, I’m encouraging us to start. To stop putting off what we could be doing this moment, or directly after reading this blog!

Schedule time to show up for your craft, to show up for yourself. Pull out the paper, the clay, the canvas. Open up the instrument case, the computer case, or the suitcase. Tell fear it’s off duty… then create!

“…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.”

Exodus 31:3-5

30 Things You Need to Hear Today

Dear Fellow Sojourner,

I’ve made a list of some things I want you to hear… you know how I love lists! Maybe it’s the additional introspection of recently becoming a grandmother that incited the list (in case you’re wondering, I’m warming up to the name Nana).

Holding Monty - 11 days old

It could be that I’m a mom and can’t help but bequeath my vast wisdom to my children, and grandchild! Of course, the obvious is that my blog’s purpose is to offer encouragement to those—you included—who may stumble upon it. Whatever the case, I’m hoping this list will provide a few important life reminders that we can all stand to hear from time to time.

Here goes, in no particular order except the last one!

  1. Stop stressing.
  2. You have overcome 100% of your worst days.
  3. You will get through this.
  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  5. Stop worrying about what other people think of you. 
  6. Start caring about what God thinks of you.
  7. Don’t ignore your pain. It has tons to teach you.
  8. Write down your worries then hand them over to God.
  9. Pray all the time, even about the smallest things.
  10. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s walking forward despite the fear. 
  11. You don’t have to feel happy all the time.
  12. Feelings aren’t always an accurate representation of reality.
  13. You’re going to make mistakes. 
  14. Forgive always—yourself, others, and, if necessary, forgive God.
  15. Look for beauty. If you can’t find it, create it.
  16. Cheer for, pray for, and bless others—especially those you dislike.
  17. Be thankful for everything—even the hard bits.
  18. Comfort rarely builds character (or anything for that matter). 
  19. Be patient. Change doesn’t happen overnight. 
  20. Talent only goes so far. Nothing replaces effort.
  21. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.
  22. Just start.
  23. Don’t judge. Everyone is scaling an invisible mountain.
  24. Be kind to everyone, including yourself.
  25. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word.
  26. Give hugs. Receive hugs.
  27. There’s only one you.
  28. Keep going.
  29. Find things to celebrate!
  30. Trust God.

Now you’ve read the list, why not start at the top and pick one a day to focus on during the next 30 days! And if you’re looking for me, well, I’ll have my hands full.

Holding Monty 2 - 11 days old

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you’re amazing! Imagine what God thinks of you! xo

Click here for a copy of my daily devotional, Soul Focus.

Click here for a copy of my novel, One More Tomorrow

Story Tellers

Everyone has a story.

Each story is sacred and beautiful and composed of both broken and glorious moments. We carry these stories like artwork scrawled into our souls: a vast array of imprints and scars, beauty and brokenness. Like fingerprints—like us—no two stories are the same.

Stories are made to be told. To be heard. To be understood.

shutterstock_781011856

Yesterday, I had a book signing in our local mall. My favourite part about book signings is the people and the stories they share. At signings, or other times when I explain the theme of my devotional (Soul Focus: Trials), I’ve had the privilege of hearing various stories from other’s lives—precious and profound stories. Continue reading “Story Tellers”

Unknowns, Courage, and Creativity

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A photo of my author copy the day it arrived in the mail.

Tomorrow, my debut novel launches. 

I’ll be honest, a cocktail of emotions are brewing at the moment. A hearty mixture of excitement, nervousness, and outright fear of failure. It feels rather like I’m about to fling my heart out into the world hopeful it won’t get flattened. It’s always that way when trying something new, don’t you think? Maybe even more so with creative pursuits because a part of you is sewn right in with it.

Yet, where would we be without the kind of courage creating requires? Without those brave first strokes of ink or paint, our bookshelves would be barren and our walls unadorned of colourful masterpieces. There would be no music to make us merry. No architecture to take our breath away. No sculpture to stop us in our tracks. No gardens to still our souls. No chocolate—I go too far! Our beings would be bereft of nourishment without people answering the creative call.

I admire the courage of creators, those who bring life to their ideas despite the naysayers and critics. I applaud those who keep creating, keep trying, and keep overcoming obstacles to do both what they love and what gives them life. I’m inspired by the ones who continue to show up and don’t give up even when their inner critic won’t shut up. I’m grateful to those who pursue their gift as a gift to others.

But it’s not easy. 

As a recovering control freak, unknowns make me uneasy. The blank page—that sacred inhalation of breath before beginning—is crowded with both possibility and nightmarish uncertainty. And right now, I’m on a new precipice of uncertainty and in desperate need of exhaling.

But there’s hope. I’m considering reframing my concept of unknowns. Instead of attaching fear to them, I’m thinking of renaming these unknowns “new firsts” and viewing them as dynamic opportunities to explore something new. 

So let’s say it together: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.

Feel better? I do… for now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m standing at the book launch trying to wax eloquent about my book! I’m slowly easing into my “new first” by only inviting family and friends to the launch. I’m going to take that nervousness I feel toward introducing my book to the world, and all that goes with it, and view it as a dynamic opportunity to explore something new. 

I wonder, do extroverts require this much reflective self-talk? And at what age did I begin to be unsure of creative pursuits? But that’s another blog.

What it always comes down to is a conscious effort to hand over control. It’s not a one time fix. It’s a trust thing, and for me, there’s only one who can be entrusted with it—God. The unknowns, ahem, I mean the dynamic opportunities to explore something new are also an exciting chance to grow closer in my trust journey with my Creator.

So let me expand my definition: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new and trust God more fully. 

Boom. There it is!

I hope you’ll join me on this trust journey. Let’s do this!

_______________________________________

  1. Do you have a fear of the unknown?
  2. What creative pursuit have you been putting off for fear of failure?
  3. Breath in, breath out, and begin that sacred journey trusting God every step.

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919
Available September 17th, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

 

Shielding Ourselves From Hurt

Untitled design

The bad news is that we’re not going to be able to protect ourselves from getting hurt in this life (but you already know that). But boy, do we try! 

We dislike pain and avoid it at all costs. We don’t care to repeat it—ever. Though we may not articulate it, in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt again, we often manufacture a protective piece of armor. We use these shields in an attempt to keep others out, or at least keep them from getting too close.

Our shields take different forms. We might assume an arms-length shield where we keep people at a safe distance. There’s the tough-guy shield nothing can penetrate, or its close model, the overconfident shield that exudes control. Some hide behind a porcupine shield, ready to expel missives at the slightest hint of hurt. While others hide inside a box shield becoming disengaged, closed-off forms of a former self. Others assume the surface shield emitting an everything’s-perfect false facade.

Each shield is a fearful and futile attempt to protect ourselves from facing the uncertainty and vulnerability needed for authentic relationships. No matter which model of shield we assume, it blocks us from the exact thing we most need. Love and intimacy. 

The hurts we experience rip us wide open. Like a sucker punch in the gut, they rock us to our core and bring us to our knees. We think we won’t manage the next breath, let alone the next step. But our shields don’t help us. They hinder and hurt us even more. Not only do they steal from the fulness of relationships they also keep us from finding healing.

A shield is a lie that prevents us from the freedom to be found on the other side of our pain.

When we are torn open, light can pour in. And though perhaps not the reason you ended up on your knees, it is a pretty decent posture for prayer. The tears washing over your cheeks could be the start of a soul-cleansing you would have never thought possible.

But not if you refuse comfort. Not if you shield yourself from love.

Because no matter what has happened. No matter how horribly you’ve been hurt. Despite how used or abused or rejected you’ve been, or how much you’ve inflicted harm on others as a result of your own hurt, there’s a place for all of that pain.

It’s found at the foot of the cross.

It’s found at the feet of the one who loved you so entirely that he died for you. The one who loves you more than anyone ever could. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

All the pain you’ve ever experienced as a result of the thoughtless or intentional actions of others can be brought to Jesus. He won’t undermine the pain or treat it carelessly. He understands it intimately because he died for all of it—all the sins of humankind—past, present, and future. 

In dying for this sin, he defeated it and offers each of us freedom from not only the harmful sins of others but from our own sin. God’s love is pure and trustworthy. When you give him your heart he will not damage it, he will renew it. He is both able and faithful to heal the broken bits of our lives. His miraculous love soaks into the deepest places and reaches our deepest needs. Nothing to compare to the limitless love of Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 also tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them.” It seems we have a part to play. And so we take courage. We set down our shields. We turn our backs on our fearful hiding.

Ironically, the lowering of our shields ushers in the kind of love we desperately long for—complete, unconditional, unearned love—the kind of love only God provides. When we drop our protective measures, admit defeat and our desperate need for this soul-saving love, God meets us in our pain, he joins us in our wrecked and ruined circumstances. We no longer have to suffer or survive alone.

Since God has promised to go with us and never leave us, we can take his outstretched hand and move forward into the hope, healing, and wholeness Jesus died for. We only look back to see how far we’ve come. Instead of our fearful shields, we’re engulfed and secured in God’s healing love and protective peace.

Now, when we’re mistreated and rush to raise our shields, the balm of his heavenly love soothes us and reminds us to be courageous and keep our guard down. We feel the hurt, but we also understand how it feels to be forgiven, and so we forgive others just as he forgave us. God’s remarkable love gives us the courage and strength to love others more fully and unconditionally, and to be loved more fully ourselves. 

Little by little, and sometimes all at once, our pain dissipates. And somehow, God miraculously takes all that was broken and makes beauty.

In the end, we don’t need the shield. We need the Saviour.

_____________________________

  1. What sort of shield are you using to protect yourself from getting hurt? Is it working?

 

 

 

 

Applauding Failure

shutterstock_489435382When approaching something new we can be so afraid to do something wrong—or be bad at it—that we not only procrastinate, we never even try. We can be paralyzingly afraid to fail. But hear this: you don’t have to be perfect, or the best, you just need to do your best. Even before that, you simply need to begin.

Nike’s tagline was perfect: “Just do it”. We can be immobilized wondering how to start, afraid of all the unknowns, fearful of what others think, and particularly afraid to fail. It takes courage to try something new and step out of our comfort bubble. Though starting is the hardest part, starting over is where the battle is won.

If you fail—good. I mean it. Failure is sooo good. Making mistakes is the way we learn and grow. Failure builds the grit we need to keep us from quitting. Mistakes aid humility, form us into authentic human beings, and fuel compassion for others. Failure inspires fortitude and ensures we appreciate the gift of arriving at our goal.  Success is sweeter because of the skinned knees and bruises we received while missing the mark. If we aren’t failing it’s possible we’re too comfortable, or even standing still.

Just because you failed, it doesn’t make you a failure. Quite the opposite. You linked arms with bravery long enough to try something difficult. You reached high enough to be breathlessly uncomfortable. The hard things you dared made future tasks less daunting. Accomplishing the seemingly unreachable made the next challenge that much easier. Through it all, you didn’t allow failure to define you.

So you, wildly gifted you, step out—as often as needed. You don’t give up. Each day you pluck away at one smaller aspect of the larger task. You don’t know exactly how you will accomplish your audacious goal, but the fire fueling the inspiration refuses to be extinguished. In spite of the unknowns, the crippling feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure, you don’t quit.

Soon you realize that you’ve completed that marathon, decluttered your home, started your own TV show, saved untold lives, raised a house full of kids, are running your own business, have written that novel, and are celebrating decades of marriage. You’re blissfully surrounded by supportive others on their unique journey, and are championing them on theirs. More than that, you’re deeply grateful for everything—even the failures, of which every single one you survived.

All because you showed up, and didn’t give up. You tried when you were tired, and kept on though you worried you didn’t do it well enough, or fully enough, or were the best for the job. You smiled when you could have cried, because you knew its warmth would lend strength to another. Each day, no matter the mountain, you put one foot in front of the other, drawing from a pool of faith and hoping that—by the grace of God—your efforts would compile to make a dint of difference. That somehow you would scale the summit.

And though it wasn’t the end goal, you got acquainted with your true self. You grew to like your own company and recognised that you’re enough. That the effort was enough and that no part of it was wasted. The failures were the fabric of the journey; all of them forming a depth and richness that much sweeter for the mistakes. Anything lacking, all the stumbles and scraped knees, God somehow stitched together with the golden threads of his love.

So here’s to all the times you could have quit but didn’t. The times you could have listened to the naysayers but plugged your ears. The times it would have been easier to remain on your rear-end in the dust-riddled remains of your pride than risk rising. The times you could have retreated but carried on weary and battle worn. Here’s to not letting go of your vision and for having the heart to start in the first place.

And here’s one more encouragement. Think of the sculptor. He sees the sculpture while it’s still a hunk of stone, then sets about the painstaking work to reveal it one chip at a time. One small manageable piece. And think of you: still in formation; bravely chipping away one small task at a time, hewing you closer to the completion of the larger one. Or, as one of my pastors used to say, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Mile by mile it takes awhile.”

Whatever it is, just do it!

_____________________________________

  1. What mountain or obstacle are you facing today? Is it a tangible task, or something you must overcome in your thinking?
  2. Pray for the courage and strength to do what needs to be done today.
  3. Break it into smaller pieces, and tackle one small bit at a time. Show up, do your best, and, just as the sculptor, keep your vision in mind.

 

 

 

 

A Word of Encouragement for You Today

spring flowers

Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.

I pray…

That you would always keep your joy and wonder.

That you would continue to dream big.

That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,

Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—

Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.

If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.

Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.

Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.

Fight fear with faith.

Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.

Keep trying hard things.

If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.

Love.

Be patient and kind to yourself and others.

Forgive quickly so you remain free.

Choose to remain positive—

Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.

When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.

Avoid comparison.

Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.

Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.

Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.

Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—

Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;

The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.

Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.

God is your help and is cheering you on.

He has a plan.

Trust Him in everything.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

________________________________________

  1. What discouragements are you struggling with today?
  2. Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.