Monday, February 27, 2012

Dream Big - Set Goals

"You cannot always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes you must dare to jump."
In high school, I was a proud member of the Poteet Pirate Band. State Champions. But we weren't handed that title. We had to earn it. My band director always challenged us to beat one adversary above all others: Poteet High School. If we could beat our own record, our own previous best, then we would truly succeed.

Before we marched at the state competition, we had to advance through several other competitions. Second best wouldn't cut it. We had to do our best at each successive competition. We won state that year by tackling one goal at a time.

No dream is achieved over night. The past few weeks, I've explored the path to making a dream a reality:

1. Identify your inspiration
2. Believe in yourself.
3. Build a team to encourage and challenge you in your pursuit.
4. Set a succession of goals.
Currently, I am working toward publishing my first book. I used to think it would be an easy process. Boy, was I WRONG. I've realized there are a series of steps I have to take before I will get from unpublished manuscript to finished masterpiece. So, I've set goals for myself to hopefully get from A to B:

Write daily.
Read a variety of books from classics to contemporaries in my genre.
Establish a network of others in my field.
Seek advise and direction from those already established.
Commit this path daily to the Lord.
Polish, polish, polish.

All these goals are within my power to accomplish. They not only get me from A to B but help me improve for the next book and the next. When I focus on a published book, I lose sight of the steps I need to take to get there. When I look at all of the goals at once, I grow overwhelmed. When I focus on what I can do today to be better, I take another step closer toward my dreams.

I can't control the end result, but I can do everything in my power to be prepared when that final step is presented. There is never a perfect time to change your life. Sometimes you must dare to jump. What daily goals can you set to place you one step closer to your dreams? What patterns need to be established? Start today!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dream Big - Write For the Soul

This past week, I attended the Write for the Soul conference in Denver, Colorado, orchestrated by the Christian Writers Guild. After several days of workshops, appointments, classes, and meal sessions, I am officially brain dead. And ready to get to work.

This was my second time at this conference, but this year, I had a network of familiar faces and a completed manuscript. My mentor, DiAnn Mills, and several of my classmates constantly challenged and encouraged me.

My mentor, DiAnn Mill
These two qualities go hand-in-hand. Without constructive criticism, I won't improve. Without encouragement, I won't continue. I'm thankful for these people the Lord has placed in my life. A "no" to grad school became a "yes" to a path I never knew existed.

Every dream requires training. Training comes from those who have already traveled the path you are now trekking. Quality friends and mentors are defined by their authenticity and honesty when it could hurt the most. Without these character qualities, we get multitudes of auditions on American Idol of those who have been falsely complimented their entire lives in regards to their perceived talent. Sadly, I enjoy this spectacle of reality TV.

So, here are a few take aways from the conference. Training for me to put into action...
  • All my failures, God saw as stepping stones. - Don't quit. Keep learning, and be persistent.
  • A burden to pursue a calling precedes the command but must be followed by surrender. Only then can I make an impact.
  • Never pray for a way out of the challenges for it is the challenges that make us strong.
  • There are 2 kinds of people in the world: artists and those who are supposed to put up with artists. - Ha, I loved this! Which one are you?
  • A good story gives the reader something to learn about, think about, feel about, and dream about. - That's what I want my writing to be.
  • Inspiration with manifestation leads to destination.
  • It is not the degree of success that matters but the application. I must maintain a clear idea of my destination.
  • Hollywood has created a lesser image of the hero. I want to remind others of what heroism truly means. "Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes." Disraeli
  • Don't let your ministry outgrow your character.
Some of my classmates
For inquiring minds, I met with several agents and editors to pitch my book. Interest was expressed and portions of my manuscript will reach them by the end of the week. I have no idea where this will lead, but the Lord knows my steps. I'll keep you updated with this process! Click "join this site" on the sidebar to get the latest!

I also found out that I am a finalist in the Women of Faith novel contest. My novel reached the top 30 contestants out of 660 manuscripts. Whether or not my novel proceeds further, this gave me an incredible boost. See the value of the smallest bit of encouragement?
Do you have a team of friends and mentors around you, supporting your dream? How do they make you better? Leave a comment below!

Friday, February 17, 2012

In These I Delight

On Fridays, I link up with the Gypsy Mama and other writers to write purely for the joy of the craft. Currently, I am attending a writers conference in Denver and am feeling the inspiration. Ready for five minute Friday?

Today's word?

It's the simple things that make me smile. That make me feel content, capable of conquering any situation...

It's the sunrise that peaks over the Dallas skyline. Every evening sky is different, and I'm reassured that I serve a master Artist who is IN CONTROL. I feel small and smile because my Father is big.

I become the character in my favorite book. The clock ticks past 3 am, and I don't care because tomorrow is Saturday and my queen size bed is my greatest companion.

It's the hot chocolate and sappy movie or Michael Buble song coming from my computer as rain pounds the roof and window.

It's dinner or coffee with a friend or a phone call or card in the mail just because. Feeling loved. A hug from a loved one when they don't know I need it. The feel of adventure when I board a plane to a new state or country. Identifying an accent. Remembering my many years of French.

The sanity I feel when I make a list and then proceed to check off every item. Score! It's the 10,000 words that were brought to life on page today. A character the Lord placed in my head who now has a voice, a name, a purpose to hopefully point others to Christ.

It's the prayer with someone broken and then watching the Lord do something big. The holidays with family where I know I am safe. Loved. Home.

It's the Sunday afternoon naps with my dog laying beside my bed, his presence a comfort.

The varying pitches of my parents' laughter. The moment I know my brother and sister are coming home from college.

In these I delight...

"But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord." Jeremiah 9:24

What do you delight in today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dream Big Part 2 - Believe in Yourself

Due to technical difficulties, aka my computer crashing, my dreams post is a day late. So sorry, but I'm excited about these posts, mostly because if they don't encourage anyone else, they are challenging me.

Last week, I talked about how inspiration can spark the pursuit of a dream. This week, we will turn inspiration into action. Without a doubt, to convince others to aid you in pursuing your dream, you must first believe in yourself. 

This weekend, I had tenth and eleventh grade girls at a DNow. It amazes me that after only a few short years of escape from high school, I forget the struggles and complexities of this stage. On our long drive back to our host home, we turned the music off and talked about dreams.

"What would you do if there were no limitations, no one to tell you that you can't? How do you feel the Lord has gifted you?"
Silence. Awkward silence. Thankfully, I've been trained for this. So like any good counselor, I told them no music until they spilled their guts.

Mission accomplished.

One by one, I was amazed that several of them had already been told their dreams were impossible or impractical. I wanted to scream at the adults that were already crushing young dreams. What the Lord truly calls us to is NEVER impossible.

So, meet Gideon. He belonged to the least important tribe and was the least important in his family. By his own admission. In his fear of the conquering country, Gideon is wasting his time at a menial task in an attempt to keep it from his masters. In the midst of this, the Lord appears, sits in front of Gideon and says, "The Lord is with you mighty warrior." (Judges 6:11-15)

This is one of the many, many things I love about the Lord. The Lord knew He would use Gideon in a mighty way as a warrior for His glory. He knew Gideon's credentials, looked past them, and saw His dreams for Gideon - who the Lord would make Him. From insignificant to a warrior.

Now, how are you feeling about yourself? I serve a God who sees the weak and impractical and makes them strong and possible. Don't sell yourself short! The Lord is in control and is fashioning you for His glory. Believe in yourself. Believe in Him. Then, sit back and watch the magic happen.

Still doubting? Check out Melanie Amaro. My new favorite vocal talent. She's a girl with a dream. And the best part? She's trusting Jesus with the results. I love that combination.

© X Factor
Melanie began at the bottom of the totem pole, like Gideon. But she didn't stay there. She went on to win the X Factor and become America's next star.

What limitations do you need to surrender this week? What dreams are you dreaming? Check back next Monday for more on dreaming big. I'm trusting the Lord with my journey. Will you? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on facebook! Let's encourage one another!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do You Trust Me?

Every Friday, I link up with the Gypsy Mama and other writers to write for five minutes flat. We write because we want to, not because we have to. We write for fun, for joy, for discovery. Today's word?


It was that game we played as kids. A friend stands behind us, arms extended, ready to catch us before we hit the floor.

Do you trust me?

A rejection letter comes. And another. Then another. Twelve in all. The floor is ready to embrace my body, desperate to enforce my failure. But a voice whispers,

Do you trust Me?

My best friend leaves. No explanation. Harsh words and a hurried retreat. Blame cast at my feet. A life time of memories acquire a bitter shade. Pain doubles me over. My hands shake. I've never hurt this bad, never been this angry. But still that voice...

Do you trust Me?

Death and sickness overwhelm those I love. I know it's not my end with them. Called home before me. Their job complete. No more pain. But I am not in my pain-free home yet. I still have to live this life without them.

Do you trust Me?

They've walked down the aisle. Most of my friends before me. I celebrate each one, so thankful for the men and women standing next to them. Godly spouses who love the Lord. Follow Him. But in my joy, I wonder, when is it my turn?

Do you trust Me? 

Do you trust I have a bigger plan? Do you trust I hold you in My hand? Do you trust I take the silver to replace it with gold? Do you trust My plans for you yet untold? I made you special. I fashioned each part.

When you can't understand the why, TRUST that I hold your heart.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dream Big Part 1 - Inspiration

Every dream begins with a spark of inspiration. 
My dream to write began in my third grade class with an assignment to create our own Dr. Seuss story. By the time I was finished, I had asked for several more pages to complete the assignment. My trees were white and made of cotton candy, the sky was pink perfection, and the houses were so twisted and creative, no architect could come close to creating them. It was brilliant if I do say so myself.

Whether you are in art or business, science or literature, you derive inspiration from something or somewhere. Have you ever identified it? Do you know what makes you tick, what encourages or enhances your best ideas?

In essence, what is your muse?
If you've never identified it, then let me challenge you this week....make a list of things you love to do, that spark your passion or make you think, that spur you on to do what you are good at. Odds are you will identify the source of your inspiration. Seek that source when you feel bone dry on creativity or drained from work.

Here are a few things on my list....
-Music - Praise music, country, pop, and even the crooning tunes of Sinatra or Buble help me relax and send my wheels spinning.
-Nature - Get out of the house or office! Life is best lived outside of four walls. The Lord made everything beautiful, so go enjoy it! I'm always reminded that there is something bigger than me or my circumstances.
-People - Spend time with those who make you smile, encourage you, and challenge you.
-Photography - I have to get creative through another medium. I am a visual person, so pictures of places I've been or people I see hold a thousand memories, ripe for the beginnings of a new scene or story.

Lee Brice's "Love Like Crazy" perfectly sums up how I want to live my life. I painted a canvas with the lyrics to display on my desk. Every time I see it, I'm reminded to keep going and keep writing.

© Lee Brice
It's your turn! What inspires you? Comment below or follow me on facebook or twitter and start a discussion there. Identify that muse and start pursuing your dreams. Whether you are 15 or 75, it's never too late!

"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

Check back on Mondays for more on Dreaming Big!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Minute Friday - The Real Deal

Every Friday, I link up with the Gypsy Mama and other writers to write unfiltered, unedited for five minutes for the pure joy and discovery of the craft. Today's word....


We gathered in the parking lot between our apartment buildings. An old man in prime physical condition huffed by on his 100th lap for the day. He would become a dear friend by the end of the summer.

Twenty-three of us in navy shirts in the Colorado evening. Strangers in a foreign state. Sojourners in her mountains. Conversation was stilted and awkward, a blur of names and smearing of new faces.

Who would have thought?
Who would have thought that an up and coming government genius would room with the guy who disliked government and favored communal living? Who would have thought a Yank from New Hampshire would become the best of friends with a Midwesterner and Southern Belle? Who would have thought a guy with a rough and liberal past would look at the guy who favored traditionalism in all things as a brother?

Who would have thought?

Because of differences, we were forced to be vulnerable, to find common ground, to accept the flaws, and embrace the quirks to live together, study together, hike together, grow together, and love together.

Few friendships are ever truly authentic. But on uncommon ground with foreign people, we were real.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Change on the Horizon

Henry van Dyke once said, “Use what talents you possess. The woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” On that note, it is time for some change around here. The blog experienced a new makeover recently, and after hours of trial and error with coding (which I have no idea how to do), everything is finally functional. I could have thrown a party. I was so proud of myself!

I love a challenge, especially one that I know is within my ability if I just push myself. Every year since I began this blog, I have had a theme. In 2009, I went from the mountains of Colorado to the desert. In 2010, I wanted to understand the love of the Father. Last year, I explored the great I AM to better grasp His character. It's time to revamp the theme for 2012. Since I launched my website last fall, three words have come to define my life and the ministry I desire to have: DREAMS, ADVENTURE, HOPE.

I believe God is a God of big dreams and desires to do big things in and through us. He designed each of us for a purpose and gifted each of us uniquely.

I also believe every day is an adventure. As Robin Williams said in his portrayal of the infamous Peter Pan, "To live would be an awfully big adventure." I have purposed to look for the adventure in the small things, like getting lost in Dallas (which happens weekly), as well as the big things, such as traveling Europe (which doesn't happen as often as I would like). The Lord desires to give us an abundant life, and with Him, every day is new.

© TriStar Pictures
Too many of us have bought into postmodern philosophy that there is no hope. It was programmed into me in school, but I refuse to acknowledge that we simply get through life and then die. There is a different end to that story, and it is eternity with Jesus. No more night, day, pain, tears. Paradise worshipping the King of Kings awaits those who trust in His death, burial, and resurrection. There is hope for tomorrow and for a thousand tomorrows.

So, this year on the blog, I will focus on dreams, adventure, and hope. I'll use my journey and the journeys of those around me. I'll tackle dreams first, and it is a topic near and dear to my heart. I also attempt the adventures of vlogging, linking with other bloggers, and who knows what else. Bear with me. I have exciting plans in the making to transform this space. But I want to hear from you!! 

If there were no limitations, what dream would you pursue? Leave a comment below and feel free to get crazy!