Tag Archives: encouragement

The Opera Singer

When I was growing up, my dream was to be an opera star. I had musical talent and could hit all the right notes, so my dream wasn’t that far-fetched.

These days, though, I use my creative abilities in writing. My goal is to increase the joy, peace and happiness in the world, which is probably a bigger dream than becoming an opera star!

All the lessons learned while developing my voice have helped me throughout my life. It isn’t easy putting your best out there and having your voice coach criticize it. While the goal was always excellence and becoming a little better each week, the criticism still hurt. I wish I could say the switch to writing has changed all that, but it hasn’t. It is defeating to polish a piece and then have my critique group or an editor cut it to shreds.

No matter what your dream, here are some of the things I’ve learned while pursuing mine.

Criticism is a given. To get better, you have to accept risking failure. Gather a tribe of people who support your dream and listen to them. As both a singer and a writer, I’ve had to manage my self-talk, otherwise I would have abandoned all my dreams along the way. When someone outside of my inner circle offers criticism, I have to ask, “Is it valid?” If it is, I fix it! If it isn’t, I forget it. Don’t let someone else’s opinion of yourself keep you from fulfilling your dream.

Dreaming means risking failure. There were times in my singing when the notes weren’t always on key, or I mispronounced a word while singing in a foreign language or when I just didn’t have the right breath control. But to succeed means you must look failure right in the eye and tell it, “You will not have my dream!” Don’t let the fear of failure stop you in your tracks. God gave you this dream and if you let the fear of it hold you back, you’ll miss the fabulous adventure God has created just for you.

Some dreams might not come true. The hardest part of working towards a dream is knowing it might not come true. Sometimes our lives change so radically our dream evaporates or our dreams vanish because God has a much better one in mind. I’m not saying the death of our dreams doesn’t hurt. It does! However, if you hold onto a dream when God is directing you elsewhere, you’ll miss the shining new opportunity God has in store for you.

Always remember, God has something better coming for you.

Any age is just right for a dream. It’s easy to say I’m too young or I’m too old to live my dream. But those are lies.

Esther was probably just a teenager when she became a queen. Yet, she saved her people from destruction. Joshua was approximately 70 years old when he became the leader of the Israelites and led them into the Promised Land.

No matter what your age, you are never too old or too young to pursue whatever dream God sets in your heart. Who knows – maybe this your such a time as this (Esther 4:14) moment?

If you have a God-given dream in your heart, keep going. Passionately pursue it. The journey will have times when the going isn’t easy and sometimes your dream may have to change before you reach the end of your trek.

But I promise, in the end, it is always worth it.

Torment, Torture and Terror

I started envying people who live in grass huts. Everything they own, everything they need in a small, compact place.

Our home’s closing date was looming just as large as the piles of stuff waiting to be sorted, packed or disposed of. When did we acquire so much?

move 001Never did I realize how taxing it would be – emotionally, physically and mentally draining – to pack up a house. Three weeks were filled with torment, torture and terror because it seemed impossible to vacate our home on time. Even a week and a half after the sale, I want to chase the quiet and just relax, but despite having the burden of packing lifted, my to-do list is long. It feels like it is constantly screaming at me, “Keep working. You have too much to do to relax.”

I am tired – down to my bones tired. I wish I could say I am also fine. But I’m not…really.

Life goes that way somehow. One of my greatest talents is organization, but I’m so disorganized right now along with being completely tapped out. I’ve been running on empty for too long.

My ever-growing to-do list probably looks similar to yours. Tell me, do you cross off an activity only to have it replaced with two more things? Somehow, you make a conscious decision to slow down, to enjoy life instead of being project-minded, to linger and enjoy, but then life crashes in and speeds up. In the end, it drags you along – like a raging river, you just can’t control the force.

There is a promise in the Bible I need to hear and believe, even more than I need a really long nap. You might need it also in the beginning of this New Year. Matthew 11:26 – Come to me all you who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest.

I can’t honestly tell you the last time I slept well, but I can tell you I need rest. Come to Me and rest. Oh, how that word delights my soul right now: rest, rest, rest! What a gift from God. When I meditate on that verse, it is if He is standing right next to me saying, “I see you. I know you are tired. I know your body aches from all the work. I know you are trying to give your best to others in the middle of a chaotic time. But it is time to rest in Me.”

God provided so much during that time of hurried packing, cleaning and worrying. One of the greatest gifts was amnesia. No kidding. So many pleasant memories permeated that house. My heart was pained selling it. I dreaded closing day, of walking away from the joyous life lived there. Yet, when that day arrived, when the time came to drive away from the house one last time, I have no memory of it. Seriously!

It sounds silly, but He provided a means to slip away from our home without an emotional upheaval. And once we got to the hotel where we spent the last night in Chicago, there was time to savor the beautiful, crazy, loving memories of that house. God provided. It is what He does…it is what He did…it is who He is.

Just as He did mine, he understands your struggles. He sees you trying to make ends meet, of rising early and working late, of the questions you have – the ones that keep you up at night. He knows when you are scared, unsure and nervous. Still, He is always there beside us. We need only let our roots sink deeper into Him.

“Come to me,” He says.

In the midst of the disorganization, the exhaustion and the uncertainty, I’m resting in Him.

And all I can answer is, “I’m coming.”

Lessons from Your Favorite Christmas Songs – 3: Count Your Blessings

The best part of the holiday favorite, White Christmas, is when Bing Crosby, in his baritone voice, sings Count Your Blessings to Rosemary Clooney.  The advice is ageless: “When you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”

Everyone’s story in 2016 contains victories and defeats. Even if yours was countyourblessingsmostly packed with victories, most are hard-fought and include moments of difficult work, questioning if the end would ever come and times of despair when it all seemed too difficult. The defeats come with their own set of worries.

Christmas is usually thought of as the season of comfort and joy, yet the world is not exempt from sorrow during this season. Perhaps life has changed dramatically for you. A cherished relative or friend might be missing from the celebrations. Maybe you fear being alone. Or the time brings back painful memories from the past year – things you wish could be undone, but can’t.

Remember at the first Christmas, Jesus wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, thought she had been unfaithful and wanted to break off the engagement. Probably to calm things down, Mary’s family sent her to live with her cousin, Elizabeth, for a while. And just as Mary was getting ready to give birth, the couple had to travel on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a distance of about 90 miles. Mary gave birth in a stinky, cold stable with only Joseph to help. Yet the Light of the World made his grand entrance as a little baby. The glory of that night could not be held in. Angels sang, shepherds and wise men came to visit because hope, true Hope for the world, was born.

Life will always be less than ideal, so it is wise to count your blessings. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, rejoice in what you have. Rather than arguing with your family, praise them for the gift they are. Rather that wishing for better circumstances, embrace God’s plan for your life. And rather than walking through suffering alone, depend on the hope Jesus gives as He walks through the valley with you.  Christ’s birth brought healing and promise to the entire world – no matter what the ache or longing, the sorrow or suffering.  That is the best blessing anyone can receive.