I’m so excited to share a guest post today on (in)courage.
You can read it here –
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Author & Speaker
There was an informal question being posed at work a couple weeks ago.
“Why do you think we desire to be great?”
I had to pause a moment. I thought maybe it was a trick question. Perhaps I’ll sound arrogant if I admit that I want to be great. Maybe I should say that I don’t care about being great, but that I just want to be a good person. I mean, I’ve just been getting to know these people, I don’t want them to think I’m a conceited jerk.
But then I thought, I do want to be great!
Don’t we all?
Greatness is something that can get mixed up with fame, tangled with recognition and associated with pride. But really, at the core of all of us, isn’t there a desire to be great at what we do? Who we are? What we share with those around us?
I want to be great because I care about the things that have been placed in my hands and my heart.
I want to be a great mom because I love my children.
I want to be a great wife because I care about my marriage.
I want to be a great daughter, sister, aunt because I value family.
I want to be a great friend because I’ve been given relationships that are important to me.
I want to be a great employee because I’m passionate about my work.
I want to be a great leader because I care about the things that have been entrusted to me.
I want to be a great writer because I want to grow in my purpose.
All of these things flowing from what has been given to me from my Maker.
Why wouldn’t I desire to be great, when I’m following the greatest?
Why would I want to waste away and settle for less than that potential?
The opposite of great, is terrible.
That’s definitely not part of my future plans.
Great can sometimes seem like a hollow word. We use it for shoes, movies, a good cup of coffee, paint on a wall, an exciting new restaurant or a book we read on vacation.
We use it as a descriptor, not as a goal.
At the core of greatness, is the effort it takes to get there.
Great is defined as having ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average. There’s nothing wrong with normal or average. But we don’t have to stop there. We can work hard to make the things we care about mean more.
I’m always aiming for great, and whatever comes after that.
True greatness, that flows from the right places can be measured by the effects and the impact that it has on those around us. It has the potential to move from a word to an action.
Greatness can be cultivated from within but how it flows is what matters.
If we care about greatness for ourselves, we’ve missed the point.
Care about being great because what you do and what you care about matters.
It’s ok to want to be great.
Dear younger me,
A few words of wisdom from the future.
If there is anything keeping you up at night, go and deal with it right away. What robs you of sleep can consume your waking hours. Running away from difficult conversations and possible confrontation seems like the easier path, but it really leads to a more difficult journey.
Don’t wish away any moments or seasons. Even if they feel hard and you don’t understand their purpose. Everything that happens in life is part of your story, and there is hope even in the middle of the deepest pain and greatest challenges. You might have to look harder to find it, but that makes it even more precious.
Love your family even when it gets messy. Family is where you’ve come from, and the legacy of what you leave behind. It’s never perfect, it’s usually complicated and it takes work. Love through all the chaos, show forgiveness and extend grace.
Learn that your value is not based on the reflection you see in the mirror, the size of your clothes or how you compare with others around you. Embrace who you are, and the unique gifts that only you have. Don’t let your self-perception rob your potential.
Don’t give into the denim overalls trend. Comfy as they may be.
Love people around you even if it feels inconvenient. Be extravagantly generous. Make it your goal to be known for your love. If you feel prompted to do something for someone, don’t hesitate. Surprise people with love when they least expect it. That’s beautiful joy.
The dream that’s deep down in your heart? IT’S POSSIBLE. Take the lid off any limitations you or others have placed on your life and keep working hard. When you want to give up and you think your plans are ridiculous, remind yourself that you are no quitter and that you can do ALL things. And again, work hard.
Learn to laugh when you have completely and awkwardly embarrassed yourself. This will happen a lot in your future so you might as well embrace it.
Make time for yourself. Go sit on the beach. Drink all the coffee. Date your husband. Adventure with your kids. Watch the sunsets. Spend time with your friends. You matter, so treat yourself that way.
Don’t worry about what other people think about you. You can waste a lot of time thinking what you think other people think, who likely aren’t even thinking about you at all. Focus your thoughts on what is above.
Finally, be kind.
Say thank you.
Spend time with your Maker.
Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
I wish I could have told you all this in the past, but it’s never too late for the future.
With much love,
Your older self.
This place was my favourite place. The old house that told many stories through all its creaks, secret doors and peeling layers of wallpaper.
A little bit scary, but mostly awesome.
I’m affected by the visual and I like to imagine.
This was a great house for me.
My favourite spot was the treehouse. I’d always wanted a secret lair surrounded by branches. I’d try to keep my brothers out, and I’d retreat with my stack of books and get lost in other worlds. These were the years of Harriet the Spy, Famous Five, Encyclopedia Brown and the rest of my favourite childhood reading adventures.
My memories of home in that little town are so powerful and strong, it was my safe place and sanctuary. I still dream about that house. Yet that season was also a deep time of rejection. It’s not easy to start over, it’s hard to be new and for my young heart it was a painful place when I had to go outside the brick walls and leave my beloved treehouse behind.
I still remember the dagger-like words, what I was wearing and places I stood. Hate that was thrown.
So I created a mental escape. Every night in bed, I’d imagine this machine. It was like a slide. I’d start at the top as myself, then when I came out on the bottom I was whoever I wanted to be.
I’d imagine myself beautiful.
I’d imagine myself popular.
I’d imagine myself loved by everyone.
I’d imagine myself not as myself.
Those daydreams helped me cope.
Life went on. We moved again. I grew up. I worked years on overcoming hurts from the past, knowing there is healing for deep wounds. Yet, somedays the past pops back in for a visit and tries to take over the future.
I’m back on that playground, the biggest misfit the world has ever seen.
Where is my slide?
Do you ever find that inadequacy can creep in slowly? Envy sneaks in and tries to rear it’s ugly face? Hurt slaps you in the face when you least expect it? If you’re not careful soon you’ve gone down a rabbit trail of perfectly filtered Instagram life that is unattainable. Or, you look around in social settings with the inner observation that the whole world is so much better than you. You put on past pain like a pair of glasses that affects the lens through which you see.
You have missed out. Your endeavours have been a joke. You don’t belong. Nothing good ever happens. Why do I even try?
This is the lie of our culture.
That we are not enough.
As a result we waste time and energy on thoughts and feeling that rob us of joy and cause us to miss our own significant moments. We let our past experiences affect our future destinations.
Don’t get stuck in that place.
I’ve have a little secret, one that I’ve trained myself to do over the last couple years. I don’t do it naturally, I do it intentionally. It takes effort and commitment, but I have learned I can control the way I think. When I feel that sting or pang I can change the course of my thoughts, I can adjust my focus.
I look doubt and rejection in the eye. I know who I am
Give inadequacy a swift kick. I can do all things
Stomp my foot hard. I won’t get stuck here
I am exactly who I’m meant to be.
Fearfully and wonderfully made.
Living life where I’m called.
With purpose set out before me.
Trusting the One who gives me all things.
Pack the slide away and don’t hide in the treehouse. Instead, be all that you’ve been created to be. Learn to celebrate others in their journey, while at the same time embracing the places and spaces where you are.
There’s room for all.
We are all enough.
There’s a candle on our kitchen table. It’s supposed to hold a treasure inside so we burn and burn it every night and we look and look for the gift. At first we just enjoyed the candle but then things started to change. I’ve noticed that we don’t care about the flame anymore that burns so steady and bright. We used to love the simple beauty of the light, but now it’s just a means to get to the prize.
Missing the beauty of the light as we impatiently wait.
Dismissing the flame that’s required.
Willing it to burn out so we can get the treasure inside.
The other night things got taken to a whole new level. Impatience won. Knives were inserted into the wax, digging around – trying to get that prize. No one willing to wait for the flames to burn anymore.
As I watched, a whisper came to my mind.
Remember what was first ignited in your life.
Don’t burn so fast to the next thing that you miss the beauty of the light.
We are taught to pursue, to strive, to go after big. None of those things are wrong but often in the pursuit of our future dreams we forget about our past influences.
Where we started. What we were passionate about. What inspired and shaped us.
We burn through life as quick as we can.
Often we leave things behind that we need for the road ahead.
In what would seem to be a time-travelling season of life, I find myself back in a place where I once was. It’s my past, but also my present. It’s completely different yet totally the same all rolled into one. As I look out the windows, open familiar doors, stand in places flooded with memories and drive down roads that lead to places etched in my mind – there’s a beautiful peace that floods over me.
This is a gift.
This is not going back.
It’s part of going forward.
There are things here that I need.
So I embrace it all, and it’s like a millions gifts to my heart and while my dreams going ahead are still bigger than life, they are more sweet and precious because they are being mixed together perfectly with the deep places of the past. Where my heart first began to burn, where light started to shine bright. There’s new that comes from the old.
All mixed together, beautifully combined.
Embrace the beauty of the light as it burns.
Shine as you go after your treasures.
Value and protect the places of your heart where your dreams and hopes are buried deep and let them come alive again.
The past is needed for the present.
It’s all part of the future.
Necessary for the journey.
I remember the days from long ago…
There’s a sweet girl. She reached out in her last days. Memories of roots that ran deep, times when her heart was full and she believed. When the end was near, she called out again.
She asked, “Why?”
I said I didn’t know.
I don’t understand these things.
She said, “I’m scared.”
I held her hand. In the face of pain and hard questions sometimes words seem hollow. In my shaky voice, I shared where my hope comes from. My faith that has seen me through many storms. The unconditional love that has rescued me. I sat beside her and looked at the childhood posters on her wall of kitty cats, puppies and sparkly stars and my eyes filled with tears as I thought about full circles, deep pain, planted seeds and love in broken up places.
That was all.
A few days later she was at peace.
Her pain gone.
And I’m full of thanks that I got to sit beside her.
Grateful that I entered her life again, even just for a short time.
That was perfect grace.
Since then, the question rings in my mind.
It’s the question asked in the middle of it all. When pain is right smack in the face, and things are closing in. It’s whispered it in the dark loneliness of night when it’s all too much to bear, and fountains of tears have been shed and hearts faintly beat from dry parched places.
We see those we love slipping away. We feel helpless and full of pain.
We feel like life is not what we planned or hoped. Our dreams seem lost.
We’ve been hurt and rejected and kicked to the curb. We feel unwanted and unloved.
We want to stand on a mountain and scream to the world
Somedays the heart is just so full of things that hurt.
There is no perfect life.
But in the middle of it all there is perfect peace.
Peace that runs down. Peace that overflows and mixes with grace. Peace that is tied to a hope that is our anchor.
Anchor of the soul. Strong and secure.
That anchor holds fast. The storms, the wind and the waves will come.
In the middle of the why,
we hold on tight.
He is steadfast.
He is strong.
He is our peace.
He is our grace.
In that small room that represented a lifetime – there were hard questions. No real answers.
There was also peace in the middle of flowing grace.
In the middle
He is there.
I have always found great significance in seasons. I fully embrace the one I am in, and dive into whatever is approaching. That’s why I always extra-love the start of a new year. There’s nothing more motivating to me than a clean slate ahead, a story waiting to be written. Even today, I am finishing up one of my writing goals for 2016 (I am the poster child of procrastination) before the calendar turns in a couple days.
I have been thinking over the last couple weeks about 2017 and what goals I want to set for the days ahead. It’s a brand new season for me in many ways, and I’m so excited that I actually can’t sleep at night. However, through all my goal setting exercises and blue sky dreaming, I realized that there has been a shift in my perspective for the year ahead that’s been deeply shaped by the year that has passed.
It’s not so much about what I do.
It’s about who I want to be.
In a world full of dreams, ambitions and spotlights – in this next season of life I care more about who I am, than what I do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m passionate about what I do. But I think more and more that who we aspire to be on the inside, will naturally spill over into the other areas of our life.
Our excellence in what we do, will flow from who we are.
I want to shine kindness.
I want to be investing in others.
I want to be serving.
I want to be supporting people in my life.
I want to be present in the moments that matter.
I want to be building legacy.
I want love to define all that I do.
As I reflect on the events, circumstances and tensions that have polarized and in many cases brought destruction, pain and anguish to the world around us in the past year – I often wonder what could ever bring change. What could transform our world? Even as I think about the situations in my own life, I am often at a loss at how to walk out the days ahead.
I don’t have the answers, but I have my faith that gives me hope. I can pour out goodness, kindness and hope in my little corner of the world. It’s not always easy, to love without exception. It’s often inconvenient and messy, but so is the world we live in.
Let’s meet the mess with love.
We all can’t influence nations and kings. We can’t make everything right for everyone around us. But we can be pouring out in our corners. If enough corners are filled, then love starts to spread. Hope starts to rise. Change comes when we care about who we are on the inside, and we let that influence all that we do.
Care about your corner.
Because the greatest is love.
And in the darkest days, love shines through the darkness.
This year, I’m still going to be active in the things I’m passionate about. I’ll write and create, and dream. I’m always going to think big and pursue excellence. But I’m committed to deeply caring about who I am in the little corner of the world where I have been placed, and I’m going to love in that corner like never before.
Not focussed on what I do.
But how I love.
In my corner.