I’m so excited to share a guest post today on (in)courage.
You can read it here –
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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.
My Christmas wishes this year are pretty boring. A stock pot, and a cheese board. (Apparently my current passions in life are soup and cheese and I’m ok with that) After numerous requests from my kids for “a list” I mentally went through each room of our house, considered my closet and honestly came to the conclusion that there is nothing I really need. Of course there’s always things I like, and I might actually buy myself a real pair of warm winter boots on Boxing Day but all in all I’m very satisfied and content.
There is more than enough.
After walking through significant seasons over the last couple months, I feel like I’ve already had Christmas. This year I’ve received all the presents I need. Deep gifts of healing, restoration, hope, precious times, overflowing blessings and moments that I can’t even put into words. I can close my eyes and replay them all, and it’s the most beautiful movie ever.
I’ve received so much.
And I want more of that. More significant life. Life that changes and challenges you. Life that makes you turn your insides out and decide who you want to be. Life that pushes you beyond yourself and your own desires and breathes into your heart that it’s ok to just to be you. That you are enough. That He is enough and that the gift of your life is really about how you love.
I want more of those gifts.
So I made another list for Christmas.
Memories and moments
Family and traditions
Hot chocolate and cookies
Adventures and fun
Surprises and blessings
Kindness and compassion
Forgiveness and peace
Laughter and joy
Movies and popcorn
The minutes, the days and the hours go fast. Life changes and throws you things you never expected. What’s under the tree is temporary, but the moments we create and go after live on.
A holiday birthed from an eternal gift, should celebrate what’s everlasting in our lives.
I’ll happily open gifts with my family this Christmas. I’ll sit with excitement around the tree, and be thrilled when I get my new stock pot. (I really like making soup!) I’ll also reflect on the year behind and all the gifts my Maker has given me that could never be wrapped up. Gifts that could never be placed in a box under a sparkly tree.
Gifts from my everlasting Saviour.
Who has poured out everlasting moments,
With His everlasting love.
I remember when we were kids and my dad would pull out the slide projector to show us some old pictures. We thought it was so cool as he placed the slides so carefully in the round tray and then set them on the machine. We’d all sit around and he’d click through them and we’d watch the snapshots go by.
Moments from the past.
Looking back over the last few months, I feel like I’ve been in one of those old slide reels. I haven’t lived days as much as I’ve lived moments. The kind of moments that are seared onto my heart and have literally brought change of perspective to my life. I could easily pick out dozens that are etched into my mind. Moments showing joy, laughter, family, pain, beauty, connections, surprises, reflections, goodbyes – and the list goes on.
So many moments.
We don’t always value what happens in the little moments. Yet, in the fast pace of life, moments are the key part of living. When we don’t embrace them, they slip away. When we don’t appreciate them, they pass us by. When we fail to recognize what happens in the small, we get lost in the big.
Our moments matter.
Sitting in that dark room as a kid, watching and listening to the reel click – I remember saying, “Slow down! I didn’t see that one! You’re going too fast!”
I didn’t want to miss those moments then.
I’m determined not to miss them now.
The pursuit of big and grand can’t compare to authentic life lived in small moments. Small is really what matters, big is overrated. All the things that I thought were important that I had to go after – none of those things compare to the precious moments I’ve captured over the last months.
The moments still to come?
Each one will be valued and the snapshot reel will grow. Pictures of life, of love. Portraits of joy and even of pain. That’s all part of living. The moments that we capture in our heart affect the choices we make as we go forward.
What we value in our moments, sets the tone for our living.
As I feel this season ending, I’m gently gathering up my precious moments and minutes. I’ve started to label them for safekeeping, listed them for future reference. I’ll slide them one by one into my picture reel, not too far away so I can pull them out when I need them again. I’m glad I was looking and listening. I’m so thankful I stopped to collect them and that they didn’t pass me by.
Those moments will always be just a thought away.
New ones are on the way.
Another reel ready to be filled.
Small moments combining to make purposeful living.
I remember learning to write in school and we always had to make sure we kept space at each side of the page.
“You need a margin,” the teacher would say.
I always wondered why? Why couldn’t I just write all the way to the end of the page?
So I would, and I’d get reprimanded.
I liked my pages full.
I’d get my work back and it would be all scribbled over in red pen, I couldn’t read it or understand it. It was such a mess, I’d be so frustrated. Then I got it.
Space to revisit. Think things over and consider changes. Review. Input. Edit. Make room for improvement.
No margin means no space.
When there’s no space, everything is a mess.
For the last month I have been in transition. It was an unexpected one, but I generally thrive in change and in this season I decided right from the beginning that I was going to make it about the things I often felt I had no margin for. I am often stuck in the place where the space is slim. Trying to do all the things I know are so important and not wanting to let anything slide. Feeling guilty almost all the time and not wanting to let people down. Often rushing through precious moments because I only have so much room on each page and the pages felt full.
I decided to make a purposeful shift.
Time for space.
In my last month of margin I have lived life to the fullest. I’ve gotten up every day and walked in the morning, I’ve spontaneously painted random things in our house, I have joyfully picked up and driven my daughter to school every single day, I’ve cooked and enjoyed making dinner, I have baked countless loaves of pumpkin bread, had a clean house, I’ve met up with friends for coffee, stayed up late and watched Gilmore Girls, I’ve finished my manuscript, I’ve gone after some crazy dreams, walked in the rain, had some great ministry conversations, hung out with a cute toddler, spent time with God, went to my nephew’s hockey games, I’ve made memories with my mom, sat on a cold windy beach and listened to the waves, I had a craft night with a friend, celebrated another friend’s birthday, gone to the grocery store in leggings with holes, I’ve created fun care packages for my son at school, made 4 different kinds of soup, packed lunches for my husband, I’ve bribed my sister-in-laws with dinner to paint my house, gotten addicted to the steps counter on my iPhone, and the list goes on.
I am living the wonderful life of margin.
My pages have never been so empty, yet so full all at the same time.
Sometimes our pages are so crammed that we leave no room for the things in life that give us joy. Right now, I’m basically just one big page of fun and I know that it won’t last forever. I can’t live in this season indefinitely and I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I have decided that what has brought me joy in this season, I need to protect in the next one. It’s been life-giving, it’s filled me up in places that were going dry.
I didn’t choose this season, but it’s been an incredible blessing.
An unexpected gift.
There will always be things in life that demand our attention and responsibilities. In the times when your pages start to feel full, remember to make space. The things that you value, the legacy you are creating, the people that you love and the moments that matter truly happen when you leave room in your life.
You are the writer of your story, you guide the pen and you set the margin.
Value it. Protect it.
There will always be things that you have to get written on your page.
Make sure to leave space for the things that will go on even when your chapters change.