The Story Behind the Sweat

Scales can be jerks. You can work and work, burning off everything you ate and more, only to stand on the scale and look down, a drop of sweat sliding down your nose, plopping over a big, fat number.
What? Your face gets hot…your heart starts pumping fast again. You step back and look in the mirror. Eh? You go home, shower and pull on your favorite pair of jeans. Tight. Too tight. Okay, maybe that one area is better, but…what the heck? You go to the bathroom and stand on your scale because the one at the gym, and your pants must be taunting you, right?
But, no. To the mirror again, you notice the seams pulling, the stitches near to popping and realize you won’t be able to replace them for several more paychecks.
What’s to show for all that hard work? Slow and sure, your fist comes up and you shake it at God a little.
You work so hard. So. Hard. At the gym, at your office, in the classroom—whatever this is for you, but the results look nothing like you expected.
Does the effort mean nothing after all?
What’s the point?
You eye the couch, the TV, the Netflix remote, but something calls you. A whisper flutters from above. At the mirror again, something does look different. Your jeans are tight, yes, but you look better in them. Your short-sleeve shirt is digging into your arms, but look—what was too soft is now firm.
You bend down to pick up that darn box you don’t have room for, and move it out of the way to get a better look. Wow, that was easier.
So much easier. Maybe God draws your eyes to the mirror again and says, “Yes. There’s more of you.”
“What? There’s supposed to be less. I worked for it. Isn’t that what you led me to do?”
Maybe He answers, “But you’re not supposed to believe for less. Don’t aim for less. You were made for more.”
“But my pants. The scale. This isn’t at all what I expected. What’s going to happen?”
“Better things, as long as you keep your eyes on Me, and not your scale.”
So you take a breath, and keep going.
Happy perseverance day. Every day.

Reach

 

I went to elementary school in the 80’s when bullying was thought of as an elective. That meant if someone elected to pick on you and you complained to the teacher about it, you would be promptly reminded how close you were to the end of the day, and with that, the teacher turned away as if that small nugget of counseling was all they had to offer. I suppose it was.
Wuzzle was the nickname of the girl who tried to strong-arm me on the bus. She was stocky to my slight, bronzed to my pale, and thought I’d be an easy target on which to display her superiority.
But this was the country where cowboys could speak the language of artists, and ballerinas could be both feminine and beasts. There are fewer limits where there are fewer assumptions.


So as she tried to pin my arms down, I remembered how my ballet teacher told us that dancers were some of the strongest people in the world because we weren’t reliant on machines and steps to sculpt our muscles—we used what we had—our own bodies. Sometimes we forget the value of what we already have.
In ballet, you not only hold your arms up for the majority of the class, but you reach farther than you came in reaching, and use them to frame a story for the audience. What’s not obvious is the effort it takes just to hold your arms up for an hour, and the strength it takes to rise to your toes time and again.
With all the stretching, ballerinas’ muscles don’t bulk up as they would if built in the gym, so this way, they not only reach beyond their limits, but the work that goes into the dance doesn’t get lost to the story.
Wuzzle gave up after a good ten minutes. My arms couldn’t be pinned by an amateur elective-taker. Reality for those who judge without looking a little deeper. But our struggle wasn’t for nothing—we became friends after that, and chose to sit by each other on the bus from that day forward.
I try to remember that as I face struggles—what do I already have in me? Will I let myself reach a little farther…because with the spirit in me, I can. So can you.

Blessings for your Tuesday.

I’m offering a few of my books free for a few days–The first two in The City of Light series, YA dystopian fiction.

Go here for Wake

Go here for Wild

A Christmas Carol

I saw Jesus in the gym the other day. An old man—somewhere around 90—walked in with his cane, laid it on a treadmill and walked a good ten minutes before sitting down to rest. He braced himself, hands on knees and pulled in several minutes of oxygen. Then, one by one, he challenged most of the weight machines, setting them to 70 pounds. Biceps, lats, etc., sitting down to catch his breath after each set. Lastly, he cradled a free weight and did sit-ups, then grabbed his cane and left. I believe my jaw was resting on the top of my treadmill by this time. This was two days before Christmas.
A man with Down syndrome pedaled away on one of the exercise bikes while watching a repetitive news station left on from a previous gym-attendee. He said not a word, but just slowly spun his feet around and around. While leaving, he glanced over at me on the noisy treadmill, grabbed his medical helmet and left.
The entire 45 minutes I was there, a man laid on the floor, yoga mat under back, and feet up on an exercise ball. “My back hurts”, he said—”one of those tough days,” while doing random sit-ups and stretches. Sometimes, he stayed still for several minutes at a time, then started again.
I was just trying to get in one more good workout before winter break kept me hair-pulling busy. It’s been a year. Good stuff, busy stuff, stressful stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten so little done with my creative projects. Sometimes I daydream about finishing my book, or dipping my brushes into a tub of paint. I’m not all the way me without it. But my kids needed me more this year, and it’s been a good thing. Family comes before the art, Always, and raising kids is a full time ministry. I saw the fruit of my efforts, however small. But when you’re called to more than one ministry, the activities get a little muddy and as many of you know–exhausting. By the time holiday season rolls around old man fatigue knocks on the door.
But as I observed those champions in the gym that day, I could almost hear Jesus saying, “The amount of reps don’t matter, and the way people see you doesn’t matter, but the perseverance does. Faith does. Success is in the not giving up.”
Were those men my three Christmas ghosts? I don’t know. But I heard the message, and I’m pretty sure Jesus said the message wasn’t just for me.
Maybe this one’s for you today.
Blessings and strength for 2018.

Dreaming

I hate today. I’m on the couch as I write this, sipping out of a water glass my sweet four-year-old can’t fill quick enough. This is the first time I’ve had a fever since I can remember, and I’m unproductive. What a waste. A big, fat, ugly day filled with piles getting bigger, research not getting done and muscles getting flabby. I consider my weights in the closet—the ones I haven’t used nearly enough because the past few months of busyness have leached a good portion of my time. I curl up under my tea-sloshed blanket and scowl.

I don’t have time for this.

I sift through my email and social media. Everyone seems to be thinking about success today. What is it, really, and how do you know you’ve found it? Am I supposed to consider this as I camp out on my couch, not getting success done? I click on another blog and there it is again.

I just finished reading a book on the meticulous ways to map out a novel before beginning writing—“this is where you find success”, the author said. I think I yawned 2.5 million times before I was half-way through. I couldn’t give that book away fast enough. And extreme organization is a great way to suck the life out of a story if that’s not how you’re wired. I’ve tried it. Success is not found in changing the way God wired you.

Several years ago, someone insinuated that I needed to go back to school. My job didn’t pay enough, it wasn’t prestigious enough, and they insisted I would find success in getting a degree like theirs. They said my idea of advancing in the arts was unrealistic.

Says no one who dreams big.100_3848

Thankfully, I ignored them—otherwise I would never have completed and published my novel (and since then, that person’s priorities of prestige and $$$ ended up landing them in a world of hurt). Success is not found in a bank account or in the opinions of others.

My daughter keeps a notebook everywhere she goes—in the car, on her bed—being a sensitive soul, she needs all kinds of creative outlets to express herself. When her glass is half-empty a little too long, I encourage her to write about the things she’s thankful for. Somewhere along her words, she finds her answer—and I find mine. I pick up the paper she handed me before school this morning and delight in her wisdom on the art of ballet. Here is a condensed version of Chloe’s rules for being a successful ballerina:
Be good.
Keep your back straight.
Don’t bend your knees unless your teacher tells you to.
Keep your balance.
Have strength, courage and Faith.
Never give up.

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There it is—in the word she capitalized—Faith. That’s where success is. I think many of us feel like a good portion of our time is spent in between Good Friday and Resurrection Day. It’s dark, confusing, and feels like all we have invested our time and energy into has been sealed inside a dark tomb—going nowhere fast.

When success comes, it looks nothing like we thought it would. There are scars. The steps we take from now on require strength, courage and a whole lot of Faith. But someone carries those scars for us, and He’s not the product of human realism. He’s supernatural.

So there’s the answer. Our only option is to dream big.

What is your dream?

Dreamscape: A Climb

There’s always a new thing to learn. Sometimes its fun, this new venture, and God is so gracious to give the tools to get started.

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Things start a bit wobbly, but with a smooth path the breeze sends me a kiss.

A hill stands in the way, and I pump my legs until they burn.
They ache and tremble with the effort,
So I rest, and try again the next day.
And the next,
and the next, until that ache turns into solid strength.

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I can go against the wind now, and there’s joy in that.

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When I think of the next mountain, I realize that my best tools are the ones made through the pain.

And I begin again.

He gives strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31