Monday, November 25, 2013

Erasing Your Excuses

In high school, my band director erased "can't" from my vocabulary. We were a championship band, first in the state for 4A high schools. He delighted in giving us the most challenging routines and music while watching us rise to the occasion and tolerated nothing less than our absolute best, knowing that our greatest potential often lay just below our valid but weak excuses.

I remember more than one occasion, trying and trying to get a note set correct and failing miserably (in front of people by the way). After the fifth time, I quit trying.

"I can't do it."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I can't do it, Mr. C."

"I don't understand that word. Try again."

It's amazing what you come up with when that word isn't an option. I'm having trouble. This is hard. How in the world do I do this? I don't know how. But not one of those gives me the option to stop trying. And every excuse carries with it the opportunity to discover a new journey in the struggle.

He never let me quit in the classroom or on the marching field. Slow down, sure. Take each note one finger at a time, yep. But NEVER quit. Because he knew I could if I set my mind to it, no matter the challenge.

Success lay just below the "I can'ts" just waiting to come to fruition with the acknowledgment of "I can…somehow." And that lesson has shaped my writing journey. Rejections became detours. "Can'ts" became other challenges to conquer. I determined that I wanted it much more than I feared it.

I go much farther when I purge the excuses from my system and just try. I've never seen anyone who valiantly attempted ever epically fail. They just find a better option to pursue as they try again.

Talent and giftedness may come naturally to a point. But success as a result of those abilities NEVER comes without hard work and a willingness to push past rejection, defeat, and redirection. As soon as you purge the excuses, the talent blooms, and it's only a matter of time before others outside your circle begin to notice.

Where do you need to erase "can't" from your vocabulary?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Wings and Roots

Joining a flash mob of writers over at Lisa-Jo's for Five Minute Friday. Today's word?


It's a season of growing pains. Of feeling so uncomfortable in my own skin that I want to crawl out and escape and then realizing that's exactly what I have to do to be free.

My inclination is to run. To hop a plane and fly out of here to some exotic destination unknown where my only responsibility is exploring, adventure, discovery. To get deliciously lost on some back road or in a culture I've never been exposed to before.

But that's not my calling. My shoes have cement and the people around me stand strong. They refuse to let me run. Because running, flying, would be easy. Roots are tough and familiar all at once. And blooming from those roots, even tougher.

My book comes out in just over two months, and I'm terrified. And excited. And amazed. And...too many emotions to fully understand or identify. All I know is God is good. But that's my heart on the page, lined up for critic and friend to love or abuse in the most intimate way. It's a piece of me never seen before.

And with it, these growing pains tug me from my skin, push me to meet people I'd never consider, write from my heart, raw and real. And I'm learning to fly in the midst of a season of stretching.

Because vulnerability comes at the cost of losing our shell. And I'm learning to soar in the midst of my fear, becoming more me than ever. And I'm learning that the best part about this season is the ability to grow wings and soar while maintaining my roots, the core that makes me beautifully who God made me. No matter where I may fly, I know where to return if I ever begin to lose myself.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Asking God "Why?"

Four years ago, I stood alone in my apartment raging at the Lord, asking Him "why?" Why did He allow this? Did He not care about me? Why did I feel such incredible pain and rejection? Why did I feel all alone?

This morning, I stood in my room getting ready for work, struggling with the same question after receiving an email about friends in a heart-wrenching situation. "Why? Sometimes I just don't understand."

I was thankful to discover this morning that my questions didn't come laced with bitterness and anger as they did four years ago. I think at one point I bought into the lie that God is a genie in a bottle that gives me good things and when he doesn't, there's something wrong with Him and He doesn't care about me. I never, ever would have admitted that was what I thought. Man, reading that now, it reeks of pride and entitlement. God doesn't owe me anything.

So this morning when I don't know what to pray and every encouragement or sentiment seems trite in light of this tragedy, I pray the only thing I know is consistent. I pray scripture.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. Is. 55:8

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nah. 1:7

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thess. 4:13

My bitterness years ago was more an indication of my heart than God's heart. His character has never wavered since before He created man and called us the pinnacle of His creation. What strikes me is that He called us that knowing that we would reject Him, question Him, and run from Him.

The thing I've learned is that God's goodness is not measured by my circumstances or feelings. It is based on His unwavering character and it is woven throughout His word. The same book that says He is sovereign and good when bad things strike is also the same book that says He is comforter, healer, peace, joy, and that He is about His glory. That also means that anything that comes our way is for our good, even suffering.

Does that taste bitter? I know it does to me. How the heck is losing a child or a spouse or contracting a deadly disease for our good? I can only tell you what I have seen and heard, and without a doubt, those people who claim the name of Christ and walk through those circumstance emerge like gold in that refining. It sucks. It feels like their hearts are physically being ripped from their bodies. But HE IS DOING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL in the mess and tragedy.

I can't prove it to you. The thing about arguing the goodness of God is that you don't believe it until you CHOOSE to taste and see that He is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him (Psalm 34:8). If your world is crashing in, try reaching out to Jesus. He is a Father that comforts, renews, restores, and walks through the trials with us. My suspicion is that if you are in the midst of a storm, you have nothing to lose. His character has never been disputed by those who walk with Him.

As I stood before my mirror this morning, aching for the pain my friends are experiencing, I was comforted by this: that my why is not a question of God's character but more confusion and anticipation of how God is going to restore this incredibly broken situation for something beautiful. I am CHOOSING to trust Him, because I know He is trustworthy. Will you?