Dangerous Men

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of the minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” - T.E. Lawrence

Dangerous men. I started this month with a huge dream- to hit a rank in my company that I’ve wanted to hit since this time last year. The dream was huge and the goal was bigger than myself. I knew it would take dangerous things. I knew it would take more work than I had ever done in my life. I knew it would take more out of me and require more of me than I had ever given. But I also told my team that I was “big with belief” and “pregnant with purpose”. I just knew we could do it. My team hit that goal last week and I’ve been reflecting. I’ve been thinking about last month and the magic of it. And I wanted to write it all down so I wouldn’t forget. This is not some treatise on the ins and outs of hitting your goal. It’s just my experience and the things I want to remember for myself. Because there will be other goals. There will be bigger dreams and higher things I want to reach.

  1. I started this month and I worked from the very first day like it was the last day of the month. I busted my butt on November 1st like it was November 30th and it was the last few hours. I talked to more people, put myself out there more, learned more in the first few days of the month than I ever have. It was exhausting. I was literally pouring myself into bed each night. I had nothing left. I had talked, typed, photographed, scanned. I had done it all. And I was loving it. I was more in tune with my downline and my friends than I had ever been. We were strategizing, praying, encouraging on November 15th like it was the very last day of the month.

  2. There were two days when I wasn’t sure if I would do it or not. Those were horrible days. I’ve never given birth but I imagine it was like what people describe as the ring of fire. Like you know you’re getting ready to push something huge out, like you’re getting ready to birth something amazing and miraculous. You’ve worked so hard but you also know you are not in control. Something bigger than you is in control and all you can do it ride the wave. I hated those days. I was snappy and emotional and I yelled at my husband over stupid mistakes. It didn’t help that my period came in those days and Thanksgiving fell in those days. Again, things I had no control over. All I could do was just ride it out.

  3. When things happened and it was clear it was going to happen, it happened so fast. Again, I haven’t given birth but I imagine it’s the same. When you reach that point, there is no going back. The wave is strong and its heading this way- you just ride it. Those last few hours until I finally hit were just like that. I knew it was happening. I could see it. It was amazing but I still was not in control. I couldn’t slow it down or speed it up. All I could do was wait and watch.

  4. When we hit GOLD, I was at a therapy appointment with my son. It was an ordinary thing, except it wasn’t. I walked out to my phone literally BLOWING UP with notifications and alerts. Something amazing had happened and I had completely missed the actual changing over. That’s the same way it happened last time I hit a huge goal. It’s like my whole career trajectory has been this story of “I know you think it’s about the goal, but it’s really about the “you” you are becoming in getting to the goal”. The me I am becoming is a mom who is more empowered to seek out other resources for my children. I am more empowered than ever to do what is right for them and to ask questions and seek help. Toby has some things he needs help with. If our story was different, he probably would be medicated by now. I really believe that. But this career gives me the luxury of observing him, of stopping and waiting and learning to see him and not his behavior. There’s this sign in his therapist office that says “Feed the roots, not the leaves.” The leaves are Toby’s behaviors. The roots are that he needs vestibular and proprioceptive input. He needs those. So we’re seeking out ways to give him what he needs and I missed seeing that G pop up next to my name because I was learning more about that.

  5. I’m ready to keep running. I hit my goal yesterday morning but I was still working yesterday evening because my friends are still chasing down their goals. My friends are not done yet and the great part about being a team is that I am invested in their goals too. I want them to win and I want their families to have freedom. I want them to be dangerous men and dream dreams in the day. I want all of these things for them.

Let’s be dangerous men, friends. Let’s stare down the fear and win. Let’s do the thing they said we’d never do. And let’s do it with grace and ease. Let’s do it together.

The World Needed You

*this post originally appeared on my old blog on 10/10/2016

I was just thinking this morning that sometimes, oftentimes, the world is loud and obnoxious and we feel like we have things to say and share and things that are just burning inside of us and then we have that voice.  You know the voice.  The one that says that the things we have to say don't matter.  That annoying voice that attacks you in your sleep and tells you that your voice doesn't matter.  It's the voice that tells you that your words, your heart, that deep and longing desire or passion that you have, that they don't matter.  If you listen long enough, it will actually have the nerve to say that you don't matter.

Guys- it's all lies.  As a former coworker used to say "lies and propaganda."  It is.  It's all lies and propaganda.

Here's the truth.

There is a God and He created you.  You.  That's right.  He created you and before you drew your first breath, He had a plan and a purpose for your life.  If you don't believe me, find a Bible and read Jeremiah 1:5 and Jeremiah 29:11.  

He had a plan and a purpose for your life.  He has a plan and a purpose for your life.  And that plan and that purpose involved the deep desires of your heart.  Those things that keep you awake and stir your soul and make you laugh and make you cry.  He created all of that.  And He planned and purposed all of that.  He created you and He created you for that.  That book that you want to write.  That art that you want to make.  That child that you're holding that you want so desperately to raise and nurture.  That business that you want to start.  That mountain that you want to climb.  That- all of that- He knew it.  He saw it and He created it and He says it is good.  And when He says it is good, what else do you really need?  You don't need my permission or their permission.  He has given you permission.  He has spoken these things over your life.  He has created you and fit you for this purpose and for this need.

Guys, when he looked out at the world on the night you were conceived, He saw something missing.  He thought that the world needed you.  In ALL of your you-ness.  He looked out at the stars and the planets and all of the hurt and joy in the world and He thought that the world needed you.  So the next time you feel that longing, the next time you feel that stirring, lean into it.  

The God who created the stars and the planets created you and He thought that there was room at the table for whatever it is that you have to offer.  He doesn't think that your message is too small or that it's already been said.  He doesn't think that anyone else can do it or write it better.  He created You.  And He created you to live out His calling for your life.  He created you to live out the passion and the purpose He designed for you.

Don't shrink back.  Don't belittle yourself or your calling or your passion or your desire.

Embrace it.  And embrace Him.

Thanks for reading and please know that I am praying for you.  As we lean into this thing together.  As we follow hard after Him and as we lean into who we are and Whose we are.  I'll leave you with this quote by Emily Freeman.  

I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are.

Me either, Emily.  Me either.  May we be those people.  May we grow into those people.  May we raise those people.  People who know who they are and Whose they are.

Hard and Holy and Humbling

I never dreamed that adopting a little girl who was African American would change my life the way it has.

I never dreamed that something as seemingly simple as doing her hair would change me the way it has.

I never dreamed that I'd cry over my feelings of inadequacy or that my husband would get frantic calls from me because I couldn't get all of the pureed banana out of her hair.  (It really happened people.)

I never dreamed that in confronting my hair-styling inadequacies, I'd actually have to confront my parenting inadequacies.

I never dreamed.

Today, we put Alivea in the car and drove her an hour away to a sweet lady's house who patiently sat with me and my husband and explained Alivea's hair to me.  She lovingly washed, conditioned and detangled her hair.  She sectioned it off and asked me to feel how soft it was. She twisted it and dried it and explained exactly how I should care for it tonight and tomorrow.

No judgment, no looks of disdain or disbelief that I hadn't figured this out in the eight years that she's been my daughter.

I have to be honest and say that Alivea's hair has been a huge stumbling block for me.  And not just in the expected "oh gosh, I have to do her hair again" but in the "oh geez, we have to go to Wal-mart. How does her hair look?" way.

We get looks and not just looks because she's black and we're white but looks because I don't have her hair figured out and sometimes it lays funny and we do our best and we always tell her her hair is beautiful even when it lays funny and isn't braided as tight as it should be.

It's been eight years of learning and more money spent on hair products than I've spent on my own in my thirty-six years.

It's been eight years of lots of movies and tv and lots and lots of fruit snacks on hair day.

It's been eight years of learning the difference between conditioners, leave in conditioners, clarifying shampoos, plating and braiding and all of the other lingo that this white girl has never had to understand.

But you know the biggest thing- it's been eight years of humbling.  It's been eight years of asking and learning and driving to other people's houses and late night calls and text messages and blogs and friends bringing me samples from hair shows and lots and lots of Youtube videos.  It's been eight years of admitting that I don't have it all figured out.  And I don't know if I ever will.

I have friends I might not have had all because I am white and my daughter is black and I need help with her hair.  I have learned more and I've cried more because of this experience.

I hope when Alivea is twenty and we're looking back through pictures, I hope Alivea can see love. Her hair might not look awesome in every picture.  I guess that's just a burden of childhood that we all have to bear.  (I have my scary perm pictures and my bowl cut pictures.) But I hope she can see love.  One day when she has a little girl of her own, she'll understand.

In the meantime, this process is changing me.  The work is hard but it's also holy and it is oh, so humbling.

Preaching to Myself: FEAR

I was driving in the car with my kids the other day.  I didn't even know that Alivea was deep in thought until she asked me a question that I have literally thought about every day for almost a week.

It's a question that I hope I think about every day for the rest of my life.

She looked at me with her deep brown eyes and asked "Mommy, how do you face your fear?"

And my heart stopped.  I mean not literally but I did gasp a little.  I stammered for a few seconds.  I'm not sure she really noticed.  It was like my mind was blank.  I didn't know what to say.

I knew what I wanted to say.

Oh you just go for it, baby girl.  You don't need to be afraid.  There's nothing to fear.  
But I knew that wasn't true.  The world is full of things we should be afraid of.  Every episode of the nightly news tells us that there are scary and bad things out there in the world.

Natural disasters, wars, evil people.  There are so many things to be afraid of.

I knew this wasn't the kind of fear she was talking about, though.  Something else was bothering my little girl and I was drawing a blank.

I managed to force out an answer and it went something like this

You pray and ask God for strength and then you have to do the thing you are afraid of.  It's okay to be afraid but you have to do it anyway.  

The particular thing she was afraid of was really simple and really not scary at all, in reality. But to her little 8 year old mind, it was terrifying.  It had given her nightmares for a few days.

She looked at me and she said, "I think I need to watch it again with you and Daddy".  My friend had shown her the Thriller music video by Michael Jackson, the whole thing, and she was a little freaked out by it.  I agreed that watching this video again with her Daddy and I would be helpful.  Her Daddy and I could point out the costumes and the makeup and that would make things easier for her.

After I had solved her problem, I was left with my own.

Why had it been so difficult for me to come up with an answer?  And then it hit me.  It's been a really long time since I'd faced one of my fears.  A really long time.

Remember when you were a kid and it felt like every week you were facing a new fear.  You were afraid of sleeping in your own bed, but you conquered that.  You were afraid of riding the school bus, but you quickly got used to that.  You were afraid of the mean third grade teacher, until you realized she wasn’t so bad.  You were afraid the boy wouldn’t like you, and then he did.  You were afraid the girls at your new school wouldn’t like you, and then they did too.  You were afraid you’d never get asked to the dance, but you were.  So many fears.  And we faced them all.  And we survived.

I think facing fears when we were younger was so much easier.  We didn’t have a choice.  We had to go to school.  We couldn’t choose our teacher.  We couldn’t choose a lot of things.  We just had to do things.

At some point as adults, I think we stop facing our fears.  At some point, I stopped facing my fears.  Life got comfortable and I just settled in.  And then I had a conversation with my eight year old that woke me up.

You see, I have these dreams and these desires in my heart.  I have these things that I know God has placed inside of me, these talents.  And I am so afraid to use them.  I am so afraid to take risks and take the steps I need to be obedient.  I am so afraid.  I'm afraid of ridicule and judgement.  I'm afraid of criticism and failure.  I'm afraid of success.  I'm afraid of messing up. I'm afraid of following a dream and having it all fall apart.

About a year ago, I started to do some research on one of these dreams.  I spent a morning at the library reading books about this dream and researching how to make this dream come true and I came home and I told my husband there was no way.  It was too hard.  I was too afraid.  I found a work around.  I found a shortcut.  Something that I felt would produce the same product.

But it didn't.  Because I didn't really face my fear.

For a while, I was really proud of myself.  I had done something.  I hadn’t just sat still.  But then the nagging feeling came back again.  Because I still hadn’t faced my fear.

On the one hand I did something that not a lot of people have done.  That's all well and good. But in my heart I know I still took the shortcut.  I did the easy thing. I did the thing that didn't really open me up to criticism.  I took the path that didn't leave me open to judgement.  I took the easy way.

I don't want easy.  This thing, this dream, -it's one that brings me to tears.  I actually told my friend the other night that if I don't do this thing I know that I'm going to get to the end of my life and I'm going to regret it.  I just know it.

So tonight I'm preaching this to myself.  I'm looking at the little girl inside of me and I'm saying

You pray and ask God for strength and then you have to do the thing you are afraid of.  It's okay to be afraid but you have to do it anyway.  

That’s the huge life lesson, the legacy, I want to leave my daughter.  I want her to know that she can attempt anything.  That the dream and the deep cries of her heart are there for a reason and that she can try.  It’s not selfish or conceited to believe in yourself and even if she’s scared, I want her to try anyway.  I want her to do it anyway. 

Bravery is not the absence of fear.  The dictionary may not agree with me but I think bravery is when you’re afraid and you do it anyway.  Officially, brave is defined as being “ready to face danger or pain; showing courage”.  That means you have to know that the pain or the danger exists.  Bravery is not denial of the facts.  But bravery looks at the facts and says I’m doing it anyway.  That’s what I want to teach my daughter.  I want her to know the courage to look at your dream and to look at the pain or the perceived danger that lurks there and to just jump.  

Permission to be Creative

Come close.  Real close.  I have a secret.

(I'm a creative.  I'm a creator.)

What?  That's not a surprise.  Sorry.

Seriously, that label.  Creative.  Creator.  Artist.  Writer.  I've struggled with it for years.  

I can't tell you how many times I had the thought that I have something to say and then the very next thought tells me that it's not worth it.  The thoughts tell me that someone else has already said it. That their blog post got way more views.  That they already have a podcast about that.  

Do you hear those thoughts too?  Do you give in to them?  

I do.  Too often.

And then I had this thought the other day.

That maybe, just maybe, those thoughts that I think- those ideas that I have and those dreams that I dream- that maybe they're not mine.  Maybe they never were.  Maybe I was given them for a time. Maybe I'm just a steward of them.  Maybe I'm not supposed to worry about page views or book sales or social media followers.  Maybe I'm not supposed to be concerned with those things.  Maybe I'm just supposed to write, to create, to be creative.

Do you ever feel like that?  I hope so.  Because I'm talking to you.

Lend me your ear for a second.

You, the one who's worried of what other people will think if you write what's been on your heart.

You, the one who's written hundreds of pages in a journal and just needs the courage to show it to one person.

You, the one who's been doodling in a notebook and you really wish you had the guts to enter your drawings in that art contest.  

You, the one who wants to start a blog but you have no clue where to start.

You, the one who wants to start that business with that idea you came up with in the shower the other day.  

Listen to me. Take the leap.  Take the chance.  It's words on a page.  It's ink a canvas.  It's keystrokes. That's all it is.  

But maybe, just maybe, it's something more.

Maybe it's your story that will touch someone else and give them the courage to share their story, which will then touch someone else. You have to think of it like that.

You have been given this one life.  You have been entrusted with these few breaths and these few synapses firing in your brain.  Use them well.  Steward them well.

I'm giving you permission to call yourself creative.  I'm giving you permission to call yourself an artist.  You have my permission to call yourself a writer.

Maybe you don't do it for a job.

Maybe you don't have many social media followers.

Maybe only one person reads your post or sees your art.

Maybe you don't ever make the New York Times Bestseller list.

Maybe your work never ends up in a famous art gallery.

Maybe you never sell a painting.

But maybe you do.

And maybe, just maybe, there's someone on the other side of your computer screen who needs to hear what you have to say.  Maybe someone in your town needs to read your article in the newspaper. Maybe someone will be blessed by your art.

But they can't be if you don't ever take the leap and take the chance.  You have to do that first.

That leap, that chance.  It's necessary.  And it's worth it.

You are worth it.  He is worth it.  The One who gave you those thoughts, those dreams and those ideas.  He is worth it. And He thinks you are worth it.

That's why He gave them to you.

So go, be creative.  Make something.  Write something.

Let your brave begin.  Today.