The safest place to be in this world is in the fire with Jesus.

Let’s talk about fire today.

Here’s some context about Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, which had taken over Jerusalem. They had acquired all the Israelites, but the king had the bright idea to not let a good thing go to waste so he scoured the Israelites for the brightest Jews to bring back with him to his place in Babylon. That’s how Daniel was discovered.

Daniel was chosen because he could interpret the king’s dreams. He went from a slave in captivity in Jerusalem to sitting at the king’s table in Babylon overnight. But then he recruits three of his buddies and they get to come along for the ride as well.

Everything was going well. King Nebuchadnezzar liked these boys. Things were good.

But there’s always some haters. The powers to be went to the king one day and informed him the three boys weren’t bowing down to this giant statue made of gold in the center of Babylon as the king had ordered. He called the boys in and I imagine he tried to coax them into it a little bit. The bible doesn’t tell us all the side conversation here but I just like to believe Nebuchadnezzar was like, “Listen guys, I like you all. Just do what you’re supposed to do. Bend a knee to the statue and keep the peace or I’m going to have to make an example out of you.”

One of my favorite moments in all of scripture happens in Daniel 3:18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Boomshakalaka!

I love their confidence. They loved the king. He had given them so much, but they understood that he could take everything from them except Jesus.

Nebuchadnezzar was obviously an Enneagram 8 and saw this as a challenge. He told his people to fire up the furnace and actually told them to turn it up seven times hotter than usual, just to add insult to injury.

Come on guys, you know those boys were scared. It doesn’t matter how confident they were, they had to be questioning what on earth they were giving up.

But have you ever heard that voice in your head that just tells you to “keep the peace?” It’s tempting to protect all you’ve worked for – whether it be reputation, relationships, resources, etc., especially if all you have to do is blend in and follow the rules.

The boys were thrown into the fire. And God didn’t put the fire out.

If you stop there, it sounds like a pretty depressing story. It sounds like God forgot about them. He left them hanging.

But then….

There was a fourth person in the fire.

Jesus.

Jesus never says we won’t walk into fire. In John 16:33, He tells us,

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Instead, Jesus meets the boys in the fire. And while He warns us that we WILL have tribulations in this life, He also assures us that He will always meet us in the fire.

What if Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had decided to bend a knee and do what the king they actually respected told them to do? They had everything they could ever need or want. They were “set” for life.

They would have missed out on meeting Jesus.

Too many God-given dreams are thwarted because we get a little success and then we spend the rest of our lives making compromises and trying to protect it.

What if we all lived our lives like the three boys did? Where we were unafraid and unashamed to put God first every single time? Where no amount of success or privilege was tempting enough to compromise on the reverence and love we should hold for only God?

Most likely, you aren’t bowing down to golden statues, but maybe you’re so engrossed in Instagram in the mornings, you miss the sunrise. Or maybe you are obsessed with finding a spouse that you’ve stopped relentlessly chasing after God’s heart. Or maybe you want to build you business so bad that you have forsaken His kingdom.

More than at any other time in history, we are bombarded with people, things and ideas that are keeping us from being exactly where God wants us. When we follow God, we choose to be thrown into the fiery furnace.

The safest place in this world for you and I to be is in the fire with Jesus.

If God has given you a calling, playing it safe and not being willing to fight for that dream might as well be a slap in the face. His plan for your life involves fire. Dreams take work. Work means trials and tribulations.

Fiery furnaces create champions. You will always be stronger for what you’ve been through.

The story He is writing through you is yours. It’s time to own it. Take some risk and step into the fire to meet Jesus. He’s waiting for you.

Is the calling God has placed on your life a writing project? Join me next week (July 22-29) for Winning at Writing Projects: A 7-day email course for writers.

We will cover big ideas, practical steps and lots more. No matter where you are in your process, I guarantee there will be something for you to learn to get you a few steps from where you are.

It’s completely free but it will never be free again so don’t miss out on this opportunity. Sign up TODAY.

What you will get:

  • An email from me everyday next week (July 22-29) with ideas on writing, including practical steps to move along in your process and things I actually do in my own writing process. 
  • Access to a private Facebook community where we can all learn from and encourage one another through the week and beyond. 
  • One-on-one access with me if you have specific questions or need help getting unstuck on your personal projects. 
  • An invitation to give me constructive feedback at the end of the course so I can continually enhance this course for others after you.

Registration ends on July 21 at 11:59 CST, and the first email goes out on Monday. I’ll see you there!

Day 12 of 730 – 718 blog posts to go!

Never give up.

Never. Give. Up.

Five months ago, I was disappointed because my coach said made me take a break for a few days from the gym while I saw a cardiologist and had a few tests run.

A few days turned into a few weeks. A few weeks turned into a few months. A few months turned into almost half a year.

Don’t think for a minute that disappointment ever left me. I tried to sugarcoat it. I tried to stay positive, trust God and respect the process. But really, I was always just really disappointed.

The timing sucked. Coach and I had just discussed a new season in my fitness journey that week and I was on fire and ready to take on all kinds of new goals. I even posted a blog post about it the same day my health went sideways. Check it out here.

I felt like a racehorse that just left the gate, only to hit a mud pit 20 yards in. Every step took more effort than the last. I felt like I was going nowhere fast.

I had a coach who wouldn’t let me give up. He made me keep getting up everyday and doing whatever the next step is. The next appointment. The next test. Rest, nutrition and water in-between.

I spent the majority of these last five months not worried about my health and safety at all. I was worried about one thing, and one thing only. My active lifestyle. I went into every appointment and begged every doctor to give me a clearance letter. I even convinced two doctors to give them to me, even though I clearly was in no shape to resume normal activity.

I was frustrated for most of this season because I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it yesterday.

I finally got the test I needed last week and got a diagnosis this morning.

Can I tell you guys something?

I’m incredibly glad we never gave up. Returning to my active lifestyle is going to be so much more fun now, not having to worry about all the things it could have been. Not only that, but how much more gratifying is a reward you have to wait for?

I now have a diagnosis, with a treatment plan and a guarantee I’ll get back to SAFELY living my very best active lifestyle in a matter of weeks and feel good doing it.

So today, I have two very simple things to say.

  1. Have people in your corner who won’t let you give up on what really matters. It can be your spouse, best friend, neighbor, pastor, boss, a mentor, a parent or your physical therapist. It really doesn’t matter who it is. But just find some people who won’t just go with whatever you want to do, but will challenge you to invest in what really matters.
  2. Never give up. Doesn’t matter how many hours or dollars you feel like you have wasted. Trust the process one more time. I talk about not giving up on your goals a lot, but make sure you’re not giving up on reaching your goals THE RIGHT WAY. Don’t cut corners. You’ll miss the journey, and you might not even end up at your intended destination.

I’m an author and an athlete, so sometimes I write about fitness stuff. What’s your writing goal? Book? Blog? Business plan? Website? Sermon? Screenplay? Regardless of what it is, I want to help. You still have until a few more days to join the Winning at Writing e-course. No matter where you are on your writing project, you’ll get practical steps to take you a little further in your process.

What you will get:

  • An email from me everyday next week (July 22-29) with ideas on writing, including practical steps to move along in your process and things I actually do in my own writing process.
  • Access to a private Facebook community where we can all learn from and encourage one another through the week and beyond.
  • One-on-one access with me if you have specific questions or need help getting unstuck on your personal projects.
  • An invitation to give me constructive feedback at the end of the course so I can continually enhance this course for others after you.

It’s completely free, but it will never be free again. You know what that means? Get signed up. Now.

Sign up here.

Day 11 of 730. 719 to go!

It’s time to win at writing.

If you’re anything like me, you have a bunch of big dreams and hustle. I keep finding myself in the crosshairs of ideas and clarity. 

You know what happens when I find myself there?

I freeze. 

Perfectionism overwhelms me. The wrong voice wins. And instead of reaching my audience with the great content I’ve produced, it sits in a folder on my desktop that might as well be named “Great content nobody will ever see.” 

I recently took a time audit on how much time I spend writing with the intention for people to see it. I found out some startling statistics. For every 45 hours I spend writing, someone else sees 750 words of content. That’s ridiculous. 

And the saddest takeaway from that data is that it proves I don’t believe in my own message enough to practice what I preach. 

My brand is theoretically based on confidence and authenticity. 

Except I don’t share the authentic content I come up with from a place of confidence. 

So how can I expect you – my audience – to be inspired to pursue all you have been created and called to be with confidence because of my story if I won’t share my story with you?

In a recent conversation with my editor, we discussed that I don’t share content because once I hit send/publish, I lose control of another piece of my heart. 

Control. 

That’s the problem. 

Actually, if I’m honest, the real issue is the ILLUSION of control. 

See? I’ve spent my life having very little control of most things. So how do I cope with that? I give myself the illusion of control. 

I have convinced myself that I can still make people believe the narrative that I write great content as long as they never actually see it. I control the perception. I also convince myself that all my ideas are incredible ideas because I haven’t kicked them out there to see if they fly yet. 

Guys, I know how stupid this sounds. Trust me. 

I also know that if we are all honest, I’m not the only one. 

How many of you are out there not living in the middle of your God-given dream because you’re afraid that if you release whatever it is inside of you to the world, you will no longer have control over it. You’re afraid of the criticism, the rejection, the failure. 

So what if we jump off the cliff together? The world needs our ideas. The world needs to see us hustle after our dreams. The world needs our blog posts, songs, podcasts, videos, DIY projects, recipes, online courses, businesses, books, designs, inventions or whatever other awesome content we have to bring to the table. 

The world needs it. But so do you and I. For instance, I know I was created to write books and run races. It’s the passions God gave me to do my part to stitch the world back together. You have your own passions. If we aren’t living in the fullness of pursuing what sets our souls on fire, we aren’t living in the full capacity of the dreams God gave us. We aren’t stewarding what we have been given well. We aren’t honoring Him. We aren’t doing our part to sow into His kingdom. 

So how do we do that? How do we surrender the illusion of control?

We get quiet with and listen to our Creator. Find your version of a prayer closet. For me, somewhere outside with my ear buds in, listening to worship music. I get a bottle of water. I close my eyes and I just let God talk to me. That’s an important step. I believe we miss so much in prayer because we spend all the time talking. I try to spend intentional time in silence, solitude and surrender with Father God and let Him just love me. 

We tap into the best version of ourselves. Find whatever it is that makes you better. For me, it’s consistent personal, professional and spiritual development. I read and listen to a lot from people who are doing the things I want to do. I can’t be the best version of myself by myself. I purposefully surround myself with people who force me to be better than I think I am capable of. It all started a few years back when I started calling them “Team Felicia” but it stuck. Team Felicia loves me exactly where I am but too much to let me stay here. They refuse to let me settle for good enough. They daily remind me that mediocrity is selfish. 

We spend time planning things with specificity. Get a notebook out and write the plan down. I sat down this morning with my notebook (I use Evernote). Right now, my main project is just to post a new blog post every day for 730 days. That’s a lot of new blog post topics, and I’m already feeling the pressure of running out of ideas on Day 10. This morning, I created an editorial calendar for my blog for the next thirty days along with some minor projects I want to throw out to the world and see what happens. My plan may change as time goes on, but at least I won’t find myself at a loss for ideas on any given day. 

We celebrate when we win. Most likely, your goal is YOUR goal. If it isn’t, let’s find a new goal you are actually passionate about. When you create your own goals, you’re the boss. That means you get to decide what counts and how to celebrate it. During my 730 day blog challenge, I am celebrating every published blog post with an X on my calendar. It’s a little thing, but I love streaks, and then I get to watch the data roll in from my website and all my social media profiles as I watch that content find its way onto screens of people everywhere. I celebrate certain analytics with a cup of my favorite coffee from Honest Roasters, or with an hour by the pool, listening to an audiobook. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate your win, just make sure you do. It’s one of the most important things you will do. It’s not enough to just celebrate the beginning or the end. You have to keep the momentum up in the middle. That’s where it really counts. 

I want to invite you to join me for a 7-day email course all about winning at your writing projects. I know the process can be tricky to get started or to know exactly how to make a plan.

This course is only seven days long and will take you a few steps down the road from wherever you are. We will cover the basics of how to win at writing like finding what to write about, more focused time to write, how to get your content in front of more people and so much more.

It’s completely free, but registration ends Sunday, July 21 at 11:59 CST. Sign up here and the first email will come at you Monday, July 22.

Once you’re signed up, be sure to join the private Facebook community (you’ll get an email with the link after you sign up), and introduce yourself.

This is the ONLY time this course will ever be free. It’ll cost you real dollars next time so don’t miss out, and make sure to invite your friends to join you too because doing things with friends is more fun!

Day 10 of 730. 720 days to go!

Simple Gratitude #1

Sometimes, I just want to say thank you.

Here’s my simple gratitude list for today:

I’m in awe and wonder of a God that loves me infinitely more than I can even imagine. That not only sent His son to take my place on the cross and rise again for me, but also left me with Holy Spirit and longs for relationship with me. One of my favorite characteristics about God right now is His creativity. Looking around, I’m just infatuated with how beautiful the world around me is, and that He created it for no other real purpose other than for us to enjoy looking at the world we live.

I’m on my knees in gratitude for my community. I don’t even know where they all come from but there are so many people who love me so deeply, so truly. People I can laugh with and cry with. People I can lean on. People who have my back even when I don’t know it, and who will fight for me in ways I don’t even know to ask for.

I’m beyond words for the beauty of my story. And that my past doesn’t have to be my future. That I get to transform the pain into a huge purpose to reach and inspire others facing the same lies I had to kick in the teeth.

I’m also thankful for sunsets, dogs, fresh vegetables, coffee, freedom, technology, air conditioning, writing, worship music and nurses who can put an IV in like a champion.

Gratitude will change your life every time. If you need a shift in perspective this week, stop and think of three things you’re thankful for. I promise that it will change things.

What are you thankful for today?

Day 9 of my 730 day blog challenge.

Are you taking care of yourself well?

Living a well-balanced life takes work, friends. One of the very practical things I had to learn in the last few years is how to take care of myself.

Everyone has their own ideas of what self-care looks like. Some will say it’s about sleep and exercise. Others say it is spending time in silence and solitude. Spending time with friends and family. Practicing hobbies and other mentally-stimulating activities.

The truth is everyone is right. In as few of words as possible, self-care is taking care of yourself well.

Physically, that looks like taking care of your body.

Sleep isn’t just about getting “enough” sleep. It’s about getting good quality sleep. Here’s some really simple (but not so easy) tips for good quality sleep:

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday.
  • Get an old-fashioned alarm clock and sleep with your phone in a different room.

I have an app on my Apple watch that automatically tracks when I am sleeping and the quality of my sleep. Every day, my phone tells me how much sleep I got, but that number doesn’t matter. What really matters is how much QUALITY sleep I got. It’s backed by a month of data that the days I am not operating at my optimum are the days I don’t have a sufficient amount of quality sleep.

Physical self-care also includes getting adequate exercise and fueling our bodies well with well-balanced meals consisting of premium foods. If you have four hours a day to scroll through social media, you have 30 minutes to hit a gym and another 30 minutes to spend preparing and eating quality food instead of drive-thru junk.

Mentally, that looks like taking care of your mind.

You don’t need a diagnosis to need to take care of your mind. Mental health is for everyone. Here’s some practical tips for treating your mind well.

  • Spend adequate time stimulating your mind with constructive hobbies.
  • Stay curious and spend time reading, asking questions and discovering new things.

One of the most critical things I do for mental health is meet with a therapist on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. Maybe it’s your pastor or your dad. Whoever it is, let it be someone who will love you right where you are fiercely but will also love you too much to let you stay that way.

Relationally, that looks like taking care of your heart.

Relational health means investing in spending quality time with your friends and family. It means going on date nights with your spouse long after you’re married and intentionally calling your long-distance friends for no reason. It means giving your kids your undivided attention when they need you.

Here’s some practical tips for practicing good relational self-care.

  • Plan social outings, but also leave room for spontaneous hangs.
  • Diversify your social circles with lots of different people from different settings and backgrounds.

Because I spent so many years sacrificing my own heart and health to take care of others, I have to be very intentional to let others be my friend as much as I am theirs. The reality is none of us are an island. We need to be poured into if we want to have anything to pour into others.

Spiritually, that looks like taking care of your soul.

Spiritual health means investing in your relationship with God and developing in your assurance as His son or daughter. This comes with time and trust. Just like any relationship, the more we invest in our walk with God, the stronger that bond will be. The stronger our walk is, the stronger our faith will be. The stronger our faith is, the easier it will be to surrender what we cannot control to God and approach life from a place of calmness and clarity.

Spiritual self-care isn’t just about prayer and reading our Bibles, although those are great spiritual disciplines and will absolutely help in our becoming spiritually healthy. Here’s some practical tips for developing solid spiritual self-care.

  • Spend some intentional time every single day taking in God’s goodness. Look at the sunset, watch the birds, listen to the babbling brook by your house. Appreciate the magic in God’s creativity.
  • Make gratitude lists daily. Live in a state of appreciation for all God has and continues to do for you and those in your life.

I’ve developed a few routines that bring me closer to Jesus on a constant basis. I spend time every single day in prayer, but I actually spend a portion of that prayer time in complete silence. I might play some soft worship music in the background but the point is to sit in complete silence and solitude and let God love me. I imagine sitting by Him with His arm around me and he’s just speaking life into me. He’s admiring me and telling me how much He loves me and has a plan for my life far greater than I can even imagine.

Let’s work toward taking care of ourselves so we can take care of those we love better. And then let’s take a shot at loving one another better.

I’ve shared some of the things I do for self-care in this post but some others I do on a regular basis are below. What do you do for self-care?

  • I love spending time in coffee shops. I will spend way too much money on a cup of coffee as often as I can just so I can sit and write in coffee shops. Sometimes, I will invite others to join me. But more often than not, I’m by myself and I have been known to spend 12 hours in a coffee shop before. More than once. On the days I do, I am filled up.
  • I’m a writer so I love to just sit and spill all my thoughts out on a blank canvas. About 98 percent of what I write never meets anyone else. I just enjoy the process of writing. Why? Because it allows me to get my thoughts out of my own head and brings me to a place of calmness and clarity.
  • Meal prep helps me to be very intentional in fueling my body properly. I used to pay someone else to prep for me, then my nutritionist taught me what I should actually be putting into my body. Now I enjoy the process, and the food actually tastes better because I cooked it. I’ve actually developed a love for trying new things and seeing how tasty I can make the healthiest foods.
  • I love to read, listen to podcasts and watch talks/sermons online. I listen to audiobooks while I’m in the shower and cooking. I listen to podcasts when I’m exercising. I follow a lot of leaders, entrepreneurs, authors, etc online and I enjoy keeping up with their latest content.
  • Serving others feels me up. I have been known to get this out of balance and serve others more than I serve myself, but at the very root of my serving spirit, it feels me up. Serving others allows me to get outside of myself and feel good about making someone else’s life easier.
  • About once a week during the summer, I enjoy spending a bit by the pool. I might spend 20 minutes or a few hours, but I always try to soak up some sun. The sun actually gives us Vitamin D, which will always make us feel better.
  • Lately, I’ve learned that dogs fill me up. If you have pets, you know what spending time playing or cuddling with them can do for your overall emotional well-being. I’ve actually started house-sitting on a fairly regular basis just so i can spend time with dogs. Dogs release all the endorphins!

Are you taking care of yourself well?

Dreams are nothing more than wishes unless backed by a willingness to invest and trust in the process.

Understanding the root of why we do, or want to do, something is critical to knowing we are operating with intentionality.

Team Felicia likes to play this game with me often:

When I say I feel a certain way, or I want to do something, the person on the other side of me will ask, “why?”

And once I’ve answered that question, they’ll ask why again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

What my therapist (or whoever is asking me) is trying to get me to do is get to my root why.

Because once we can understand my fundamental motivation, we can assess if I’m operating from a healthy place. Or even from where I want to be.

Sometimes I find that I feel a certain way just because I think I’m supposed to feel a certain way. Or that I want to do something because I want to prove myself to people who don’t matter.

But sometimes, we uncover something magical. We find a piece of me I never knew existed. It’s like digging for treasure in bedrock sometimes.

A few weeks ago, my fitness coach asked me to do this same exercise to get to my why for my fitness goals. It took days but we finally got there.

Because I love the adrenaline rush that happens when I do something I didn’t know I could, and do it well. I love pushing myself beyond mediocre and into excellence. I love to accept the challenge, and prove I’m better than the challenge. I want to prove to myself and the world that diagnoses and prognoses are for chumps and overcoming obstacles is for champs. I want to inspire other people with the simple truth that they were created for so much more than the “good enough” life and my avenue to do that is to share my journey of finding confidence through fitness – that if I can do it, they can too.

Since then, I haven’t needed extrinsic motivation to do the things I know I need to do to build toward my goals. I haven’t even needed accountability. After a year of fighting to not do things I don’t particularly enjoy like strengthening exercises and stretching or sleeping enough, I actually look forward to doing those things every single day now. What changed? I got to my fundamental motivation, wrote it down and I wake up every single day, read it and can’t wait to follow the plan and build closer to doing the things I want to do.

While I was doing that exercise for Coach, I was also having the same conversation with my editor about the fundamental motivation for another dream on my heart. It didn’t take as long as the fitness goals process but I discovered a beautiful why for my goals of publishing NY Times bestsellers, speaking on huge stages and ministering to a broad audience.

We often fall in love with the idea of a goal, or the finish line of a goal. But we don’t really want that thing (for the right reasons anyway) if we don’t WANT the process.

I’m not saying we absolutely have to love the mundane of the process every single day, all the time. But what if we did? What if we loved the bricks and drywall of our homes as much as we loved the finished product?

What would that look like?

I can tell you what it looks like for me.

I’ve become a decision-maker and not just a problem-solver.

Problem solvers find the answer to what they need to do. Decision makers do it.

I was known as the personal branding ninja in college. I even almost went to work for a branding agency in St. Louis without even a degree. I have owned businesses in helping people market their businesses.

But I haven’t consistently done the things I know I need to do for myself in ten years. I’ve just been waiting on them to just happen because I just want to get to the finish line.

Unfortunately, we haven’t invented teleportation yet to get us from Point A to Point B without any time or effort. Similarly, we can’t just dream big dreams and then wonder why we aren’t seeing them get realized when we don’t put in the time and effort to get there.

So in the last few weeks, I have actually buckled down. I put together a branding strategy plan, which is fancy terminology for I made a list of what I’m going to do and when. That’s right. I told myself what I have to do, and I’m holding myself accountable to actually doing it.

See, God’s promise is I will help a lot of people through my story. He’s given me the dreams of books and conferences and a tribe of people who go to the ends of the earth to find more people to inspire.

But He won’t just give it to me. I have to put some faith in those promises.

In the same breath as the promise, He’s asked me to be bold. To trust Him. To steward what He has given me right now.

He won’t let me see my dream of a NY Times bestseller published until I can be faithful to just publish on the platform I have right now.

He won’t say yes to me speaking at Catalyst or 10x or Orange or Story or anywhere else until I can first speak to the people in my life right now.

He won’t bless my businistry (business & ministry) with millions until I can love the ONE right in front of me well.

But it’s hard to be faithful in the little things sometimes, right? We want to see results. Big ones. Now.

That’s not how it works.

Remember that why I talked about earlier? I had to sit down with that why and my actual calendar. I had to decide what my real goals are and if what i was spending my days doing was getting me closer to my goals.

The truth is they weren’t. Not really. So something had to change. Or several somethings, actually.

One of those things is I’m going to practice my skill everyday for two solid years. I’m going to work on becoming an expert in my craft by committing to publishing a blog every single day for 730 consecutive days.

I have zero expectations out of the next 730 (723 now) days and blog posts. All i want to do is get better at writing, blogging and being consistent.

If you know me, you know I struggle with consistency. It’s my biggest flaw in many areas of my life. I start off well. I finish well. I struggle in the middle. Why? Because I give up when it isn’t fun anymore. When people stop paying attention. When there’s nothing to celebrate.

But not this time. There might be days I write 300 words at 11:50pm, but it counts and I will still publish every single day.

And I’ll actually do it. Why? Because I know my why, and nobody can argue with that. Not even me.

Because my story changes lives. God gave me this story because He knew it would change family trees and rewrite legacies. He let me survive it all and redeemed the trauma so I could look someone else in the eyes one day and know I gave them hope to overcome whatever they are facing. My story is a mirror that reflects God’s truths about who we are as sons and daughters of a God who loves and treasures everything about us. I live to coach people into the light. I want to be the reason someone reads a book that stops them from giving up, or hears a talk that inspires them to take a proactive step into freedom. I want people to see my story and know that if I can do it, so can they. 

Pick a goal. Find your why. And then ask why again. And again. And again. And again. Then take that information and solve the problem (if there is one) of figuring out what to do to get closer to your goal. Then develop a plan. Then MAKE A DECISION to follow than plan.

Dreams are nothing more than wishes unless backed by a willingness to invest and trust in the process.

IT COUNTS!

One week ago, I made a commitment to myself to post a blog every single day for 730 days. I’ll write a post later on why I chose two years and all the other things you want to know but here’s how I almost failed today.

It’s 11:08pm CST and I am just now writing this sentence.

“Why not what until tomorrow?”

“I’ve already failed.”

“Nobody will read it until tomorrow anyway.”

See, that’s the voice in my head that tries to tell me if I’m not perfect, I might as well not even do it.

That’s dumb.

News flash: I’m human, and life doesn’t adhere to my goals all the time.

I had a treadmill stress test today, which made me very sick and I needed to lie down and rest. That’s okay.

My electricity went out for several hours because a dump truck hit several utility poles down the road. My friends and I went to a nearby city to escape the heat, have dinner and catch up. That’s okay.

I found out the family I have been on call to housesit for is getting on a plane tonight and is headed to meet their sweet new addition on the other side of the country. I had to come home and pack and get ready to head to their house tomorrow. That’s okay.

My goal is to simply post a blog every day. There’s no requirement on word count, time published or anything else. Just post a blog. That’s it.

So even though it’s going to be midnight before this gets posted (I’m hoping I’ll beat the clock by a couple minutes anyway) and probably tomorrow before anyone reads it, IT STILL COUNTS. I still get to check my box off for the day. The streak is still alive.

If you set a goal, you are the boss of your goal. You get to decide what counts and what doesn’t. Fire the critic and hire the coach.

So, I’m choosing to celebrate this as my sixth consecutive day to post. It’s not deep and profound. It’s authentic.

AND IT COUNTS!

What does love require of you?

One of the most defining moments of my life began to unfold two years ago today.

I laid in a dark room on the third floor of the house I was living at in complete isolation and depression for a few weeks. I had a back brace on from an auto accident I had a few weeks earlier, and I felt useless. That was inevitable since I got every single ounce of my worth from what I did.

I spent about a week making lists of everyone I knew in my life. I thought carefully through each one of them and one-by-one, checked them off my list as I became sure they would get over my death quickly. I completely convinced myself that I would make their lives easier if I just took myself off the game board.

I was completely okay to die. In fact, I was ready to die. I didn’t see it as an act of selfishness. Actually, I thought I was about to do the most altruistic thing I had ever done.

I wanted to make the world a better place. I wanted to make the lives of those who were having to “deal with me” easier. It was all I had to offer them. It was an act of love. That was my why.

I thought through everything. I justified and rationalized the entire process, start to finish. I researched my facts, and was at peace. I was ready to meet Jesus and hang with my dad.

I even convinced myself I would be remembered for the high points of my life, not my final choices.

I had a file on my computer desktop with instructions and wishes for my arrangements.

Thank God He intervened.

Looking back, the series of events that took place on July 10, 2017 didn’t make a lot of sense. As I fell deeper into my own hole of darkness, a rescue squad was coming up from the bottom of that hole.

I refused to reach up and grab the rope above me, but I had no choice but to be caught by the loving arms below me.

It was the night that a somewhat new friend made an intentional choice to get messy. She said yes to getting in deep with whatever God was about to do in my life. In the natural, she should have run while she still could. But she stayed and she walked alongside me for the next 18 months, much of which was pure Hell for her.

It was the night my pastor honored his own promise to always be there, and to love me well, no matter what. He would have been justified to wash his hands of my chaos. He had already dealt with it for two years at this point. I had looked him in the eye only seven months earlier and promised I would never want to kill myself again. I broke my promise. He could have easily broken his. But he didn’t. He dug his heels in deeper. And to this day, he remains steadfast in his commitment to not abandon me and believing in who I can be.

That night set a new season in motion.

I began to crumble that night, and over the next weeks and months, demolition would continue until there was nothing left. I was an empty shell of a human being. I didn’t have the strength to walk on my own two feet for several more months.

Conversations better known as interventions would drive me to be prostrate before God and the rest of the world, completely broken and exposed. The pain of vulnerability pierced my soul in ways I didn’t even know were possible. I finally collapsed under the weight of the shame of not being able to hold it all together anymore.

I spent three days in a mental health facility, which was nothing more than an appointment between God and I in an empty room where I got to finally feel and be honest about the emotions of 27 years of chaos and pain in my life.

As I reflect on that day two years ago and the days since then, I am humbled by the miracle I am living in.

I remember time and time again how God would answer prayers in the midst of my desperate cries for help. All He wanted was for me to ask for help, which I had never done before.

I’m at a loss for words over the people I barely knew who stepped into the chaos of my theater and asked to be characters in my story at their own risk.

I’m in awe of a church that had my back when it wasn’t easy, and the price they were willing to pay for my healing and redemption.

I’m on my knees in gratitude for the resources it took to get me the help I needed through motive-transition therapy, based on God’s truths. And the way God drafted the world’s two greatest humans to lead me through that journey, who continue to choose to do so even today from a place of love, humility and grace. My therapists are the real MVPs.

I’m forever indebted to the authors whose messages rang in my ears through my recovery. One of the books that met me where I was right in the middle of my process was Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker. Books by Louis Giglio, Brene Brown, Kyle Idleman, Dr. Henry Cloud, Chip Dodd and Erwin Raphael McManus changed me. They rescued me in the early mornings and late nights during my rebuilding process.

Depression and suicide ideation are the real deal, guys. I’m not here to sugar coat either of them. You’ll never see me minimize or dramatize either one. They’re real and more people are struggling than we even realize.

I won’t post a website or a toll-free phone number as resources if you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of depression or suicide. You know where to find those. Hint: Google is your friend.

What I will do is beg those of you who can’t wrap your heads around why or how anyone could get so dark in a world full of resources to pay very close attention to the rest of this post.

I’m serious. Turn off the TV, go into an empty room and read these words with an open mind and humble conviction.

I struggled with suicide ideation for 12 years because when I told my parents I tried to drown myself in the creek on our property as a freshman in high school and I needed help, they laughed at me. And when I told a trusted leader in my life a few years later, he shrugged me off. A pastor prayed with me once, and a counselor handed me some literature on self-care and releasing endorphins.

I found myself trying to figure out how to die more times than anyone who loves me would be comfortable with.

Why did nobody take me seriously?

Because I didn’t look like someone who was ready to die.

I was the strongest person you knew. I appeared to be wise beyond my years, committed to kingdom work, way ahead of the curve in the success game, extroverted and well-liked, full of humor and ready to laugh at any joke – especially the ones about myself. I was involved in everything I touched and seemingly led with stability and conviction.

I didn’t look like suicide, and because I didn’t look suicidal 99 percent of the time, I was clearly mistaken the one percent I said I was.

People accused me of just trying to get attention.

Guess what? They were absolutely correct. I was starved for it.

God created us to NEED attention. It’s a divine need. When we don’t get it in healthy and constructive ways from the people around us, we will stop at nothing to get it. There are no limits. No rules. There’s us and there’s starvation. That’s it.

If you grew up in a safe and loving home with a Mom and a Dad who met all of your divine needs from the moment you were conceived and they raised you up to live a balanced life with rich relationships and an assurance of who you are as a child of God, you can’t possibly understand what attention deprivation looks like. It feels foreign to you. It isn’t like anything you have ever experienced so it doesn’t even feel possible.

Your lack of understanding is actually justified. I can’t expect you to understand a language you’ve never learned.

Growing up, I was physically and emotionally abandoned from the womb, and abused in every way throughout my childhood and adolescence.

I also lived in a constant state of chaos from before I entered the world until just a few years ago.

Chaos was my natural habitat. Before I got into recovery, I physically could not survive outside of my natural habitat. It would have been like a fish trying to survive for long out of water.

When you put the desperate need for attention with the natural ecosystem of chaos, you get a ticking time bomb. You get a really unhealthy person, desperately trying to satisfy their own needs in a world that won’t stop long enough to do it for them.

You get a kid who is willing to create chaos to get the attention she needs.

You get a kid who has run out of options and thinks the only solution is to go big AND go home.

Suicide is on the rise today because more and more people are living in the isolation of their own despair and nobody seems to care. Eleven-year-olds are killing themselves because nobody is meeting their needs. Veterans are convincing themselves everyday that their best days are behind them. Celebrities and CEOs are succumbing to the reality that it’s lonely at the top. Teenagers are lost in a sea of comparison and have nowhere to turn but social media and Hollywood.

And I’m not just talking about people on the other side of the tracks or the country. I’m talking about people you know and love. They’re imprisoned in their own complexity. You aren’t helping by assuming you know what their motives are, or knowing what their motives are and dismissing them.

So how can you be a part of the solution?

Dig in.

It’s going to take work. And probably some of your resources. But definitely a piece of your heart.

You’ve got to ask yourself what love requires of you.

Pray first, but prayer isn’t the only thing you do when you care about God’s creation. I am going to let you in on a little secret – when you’re praying for your neighbor, coworker, classmate, etc, you’re probably the rescue squad God is looking to send to them in their pit. You have a catch in your spirit for a reason.

I would have followed through that night had it not been for the person on the other end of a text conversation who was very attentive to detail. She actively listened to what I was saying and immediately responded in the moment by reaching out to my pastor. She wasn’t wrapped up in her own world. She wasn’t flippantly listening to me and dismissing my language with a sigh.

Loving God means loving His people. Loving messy people where they’re at takes faith. And a lot of it.

The psychiatrist I saw two years ago understood I needed more than to be told I was loved. I needed to experience love. Love from God. Love from people. Love from myself.

I stayed with a family for three weeks after my breakdown. They didn’t know me very well at all and they had three young kids. They left me at their house all day, everyday while they went to school and work.

Shortly after that, I met a couple who would become very close friends. The first time we went to lunch together, he picked up the bill. It felt like torture to let him.

When I moved into my apartment a few weeks later, all kinds of people showed up. From the time I picked the truck up until when I dropped it back off, it only took about three hours. And my bed was put together.

Inviting strangers to stay in your home, giving them rides, purchasing a meal for them or helping them move furniture up two flights of stairs will cost you. It’s going to require you to give money, time, energy and a piece of your heart.

Not a single one of these people knew for sure I wasn’t going to take advantage of them. None of them knew I was really going to get my act together. None of them knew I would stick with counseling and get all the help I did and become a completely new person. None of them could tell the future. None of them were guaranteed I was worth it. It was a risk.

But they said yes to my mess anyway.

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on therapy in the last two years, but those three hours a week wouldn’t have mattered nearly as much if it weren’t for the display of God’s love I was experiencing all week, week in and week out.

Those people weren’t family or people who had known me for years. Many of them didn’t know me at all, or maybe for a few months. None of them were “qualified” to handle me.

They still said yes.

The yes was the difference. When I EXPERIENCED an entire community taking risks to show me how well I was loved for the first time in my life, I finally began to understand what love was.

So you’re praying for, listening to and loving on messy people right where they are. What’s next?

All of those are so significant to being a part of the solution, but this last one is critical to the process.

You have to cheer for the messy people in your life. Notice I didn’t say to cheer for them when they win. Nope. You wake up everyday and you sow into them. You speak truth and life into their lives. You clap for them when they succeed at the big things and the little ones. You rush to pick them up out of the dirt when they fall in the middle. You make posters and take pictures and send them cards and like their Facebook statuses.

And you keep on doing it forever. You make sure the messy people in your life know that you are ALWAYS in their corners. Don’t hear me wrong. Don’t enable and get taken advantage of. Your involvement with messy people will evolve with seasons. I am not still sleeping on my friends’ couch. In fact, I sometimes go months without talking to or seeing them. But I still know they have my back. I know I can call them in a heartbeat if I need something.

When you approach messy people as “projects,” you have a start date and an end date to the life of your relationship. Don’t do that. People are not projects. They’re people. And their mess isn’t a hazard. It’s their life.

Just to reiterate – you don’t continue to sacrifice for someone who isn’t willing to help themselves, or who puts you or your family in danger. In these cases though, you don’t have to write people off. Your investment just may have to look different.

Authentic love has to require something of you if you want to maximize your impact.

Here’s why this is SO IMPORTANT.

I’m deep into my recovery process. In fact, I’ve crossed over to the other side of the river in a sense. I’m enjoying what we call “the new day.” I have a toolbox full of God’s truths, strategies and processes I use to help navigate all kinds of situations

I can honestly tell you I have not even thought about killing myself in the last two years. Actually, just the idea of it feels so unreal to me now that I am so far away from it.

I’m not on medication. My “sobriety” is dependent on knowing I’m not alone. It’s in knowing my worth.

Take a guess at one of the ways God displays His love and affection for us every single day.

Through each other.

So if you really want to be the piece of the puzzle that someone needs to help discover who they are as a child of God, love them like God does.

We are going to fail each other. It’s a promise. We are human. I’m not compelling you to be perfect. I’m asking you to make some sacrifices and give of yourself even when it hurts so that someone else like me can experience the power of God’s love through you. God doesn’t stop loving anyone. Not ever.

Loving messy people well is a lot of trial and error. You won’t always get it right. But if you really want to love all the people in your life really well and especially the messy ones, get to really know them and find out how you can best help them. There are situations you cannot help on your own. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Know how you can help, and do that well.

One last thing – it is never too early to help, but it is too late way too often. Don’t assume someone who is only starting to drown knows how to swim. You could live to regret it.

What does love require of you today?

To anyone who made it this far and you’re where I was two years ago, all I want to say is we need you. Tomorrow needs you. Reach up and grab the rope above you or collapse into the arms below you, but don’t give up. You are seen, known and loved. I value your story. There’s hope. Hang in there.

Build your faith on the solid rock of God’s truths, not on the sand of your own.

You are likely familiar with this story about Abram and Sarai in Genesis.

God promised him a son. And not just a son, but he promised him to be the father of many nations. His descendants would outnumber the stars, and would be a holy people who loved and served the Lord all of their days.

It didn’t make sense in the natural. Abram and Sarai had been trying to conceive for years. They were past the child-bearing age. They wanted to trust God, but it just didn’t make sense. Keep in mind they didn’t have 66 books of history to see where God had been faithful for thousands of years.

As nothing turned into impatience turned into disappointment, they began to construct their own ideas about what God actually meant when He said they would have a son.

We gotta hand it to them – maybe they were thinking proactively. And being good problem-solvers. Or maybe they were second-guessing themselves. Maybe they heard God wrong? Maybe He even forgot about them.

Maybe what He meant to say was that Abram would have a child through one of Sarai’s maidservants? I mean, technically that means the son would still be his. Maybe they needed to be open to creativity.

They fell for the distraction.

If you know the story, they messed up. Hagar gave Abram a son named Ishmael. Sarai later became pregnant and gave life too Isaac. To this day, the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are fighting in the Middle East. Why?

Because Abram and Sarai did not honor God and wait on the His perfect timing.

I don’t know about you, but Abram and Sarai are not alone.

Many of us are fighting the same battles as they were. We are asking ourselves the same questions.

Did I hear God right?

Is that really what He meant?

Did God forget about what He told me?

We know the dreams God has placed on our hearts. We know what the word of God says. But the evidence around us is painting a very different picture.

This applies to all kinds of dreams but can I just speak directly to us business owners/entrepreneurs/creatives for a moment?

The world will throw a million different opportunities at us. A lot of them will sound really amazing. Some of them might even “technically” fulfill the vision God gave us.

We are creatives. We are problem-solvers by nature. Here’s the thing. We are not His personal assistants. God doesn’t need us to solve any problems in His schedule.

God ALWAYS means what He says.

Ignore that temptation to accept “close enough” to the plan and just see what happens. The moment you fall in that trap, you’re taking a detour to experiencing the fullness of all God has for you.

Don’t let Satan distract you with grand opportunities. I’ve fallen for it. Others have too. You would be amazed at how creative I can get when justifying a new idea as what God actually meant when He gave me the vision on my heart.

It never works, by the way. It never satisfies the void that only the fulfillment of the dream I know God put me on this planet to do will.

Good things aren’t necessarily God’s things.

It comes down to faith. What is your faith rooted in? Are you trusting the promises God has for you, or the current circumstances you find yourself in?

Trust me when I tell you I get how easy it is to look at the circumstances around you and question the plan. But the thing is – the circumstances are a part of the plan.

The mess is the root of the message.

There’s purpose in the pain.

Your testimony will come from the test.

When writing books, I have to tell the whole story, not just the good parts. Why? Because nobody likes a story with no drama. Dreams are born out of vulnerability.

If you know the dream in your heart is a promise from God, your very first step has to be to build your faith in that promise. His promise. His truth. His word.

If you and I want to see the thing God has promised us come to fruition, we have to build it upon the solid ROCK of God’s truth, not on the sand of our own. It might take years to see God’s promise fulfilled.

The promise God gave Joseph took 19 years.

Chances are, you and I haven’t been waiting decades. But if you have been, remain steadfast in the promises of God and do not be shaken.

What’s is God’s promise you’re currently building your faith on?

Your season of disappointment is actually an appointment with Holy Spirit.

In 2018, I joined (and committed to) Crossfit. I also met my physical therapist, who would not only help me overcome chronic knee pain and get back to doing all the things I love, but also later became my coach. I also met my nutritionist, who temporarily wrecked my whole life and taught me to like black coffee, avocado, salmon and life without dairy.

I was having the time of my life.

As I became stronger physically, my confidence soared. For the first time in my life, I even called myself an athlete.

A while back, Coach started saying he felt like my physical journey was more a part of my life story than I gave it credit for.

I tried the idea out, and fell in love with it. So much, in fact, that I began writing my second book about discovering the heart of a champion. The book reveals the process God has used to build character that helps me win in life.

While I drafted many goals for 2019, some of the ones closest to my heart are the physical/fitness ones.

I want to continue to build muscular strength and develop my running skills. And be able to do it all consistently well and without pain.

So it should be no surprise that it wasn’t too far into 2019 when my life changed. My active lifestyle disappeared before my eyes. My health continues to deteriorate. Disappointment set in from day one.

And the emotion visits often.

I believe whole-heartedly that my physical journey is part of the master plan God has for my life. Of course the enemy turned his focus to an area I was relentlessly pursuing the heart of God in.

Can I be straight with you?

I trust God’s plan. I do. I know He knows what He’s doing. But sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I just get discouraged and disappointed.

It’s a rollercoaster.

The thing I have to remember in my continuous state of surrender is that this season of disappointment is actually an appointment with Jesus.

The moments I begin to believe the lie I’ll never be active again are the opportunities Holy Spirit has to correct me, and further develop my champion’s heart.

Something is wrong with my body. There’s no doubt about that.

But much more tragically, something is wrong with my heart.

And I mean, there is definitely something wrong with my physical heart but I’m talking about my spiritual one.

This season of disappointment has been one long appointment with the ultimate Heart Surgeon.

I literally hate the word “rest.” Don’t believe me? Ask my coach. Or my doctors. Or my friends. Or probably anyone I’ve spoken to in the last five months.

I physically hate it.

Everything in me says rest is a weakness.

I don’t nap by choice. I don’t go on vacations. I don’t sit down and take a break. I don’t even rest between sets when I’m in the gym.

My Apple Watch tells me to breathe more than it should probably have to at almost thirty years old.

But every single time I’ve had an episode in the last five months, I’ve been told to rest. That’s not a coincidence.

Rest supposedly has healing properties. That’s still debatable because I’ve slept more in the last five months than I have in five years and I’m still sick.

(I’m kidding…kinda.)

I get the uneasy feeling that I continue to be told to rest because I need to fully grasp how important sleep is if I’m really an athlete.

Sleep is important, but you know what is even more important.

Rest.

It’s a state of not being in motion – physically or mentally.

Rest is an act of bravery in a culture that praises busyness.

It’s to give our bodies and minds a break from the rat race we call life so it can reload for another day.

It’s not rest. It’s reloading.

Think about a water gun fight. What begins to happen as you get lower on water in your gun? Your water pressure begins to die down. But when you STOP and take a moment to put more water in the tank, you get full power back.

Seems like common sense.

You might even be rolling your eyes at me right now because it seems so simple.

You’re right. It is simple.

But it isn’t easy.

How do I know? Because if it were easy, you would rest more too.

I continue to have to surrender to God’s plan in this season of a mystery health issue, disappointment and continuous rest.

I have to release control sometimes moment-by-moment that this interruption in reaching my goals is ordained by the Creator of the universe. He *probably* knows what He’s doing.

In fact, God moves in the rest.

You might not be dealing with a serious and complicated heart problem but maybe you’re in a season of disappointment right now. Maybe you go to sleep every night frustrated that nothing changed that day. I want to say three things to you:

  1. It’s okay to feel disappointment, but I encourage you to remain steadfast in surrendering those moments to Holy Spirit. In the surrender is where you’ll find growth. Growth equals change.
  2. Take a moment to reload. Do it consistently. Eight hours of good sleep each night. A day of Sabbath each week. A weekend off each quarter. A week of vacation each year. Whatever it looks like, REST. In those moments of rest, you will find inspiration and clarity to do the next day, week, season even better.
  3. This season of disappointment might feel like it’s the whole story of your life right now. It isn’t. I guarantee it. It won’t feel like that forever. Eventually, it will feel like a chapter. Then a page. Then a paragraph. Then a sentence. And a word. And eventually, maybe even a freaking period. Don’t give up. Continue to take steps. And celebrate even the small victories. They matter.

Hang in there. You and I are gonna get through this. Jesus says so.

%d bloggers like this: