Risking the Awkward

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Do you ever hold back from doing a certain thing—something you either want to do or feel like you should do—because you feel awkward? I certainly have. And truth be told, most of us probably fail to act on good impulses time and again.

Not long ago, my friend Elaine at Peace for the Journey wrote a blog post called The Unspoken Blessing (well worth the read, by the way). It made me think of the many times I’ve left words unspoken—usually because I would feel awkward speaking them. I left a comment for Elaine and told her this:

“One of my heart’s desires, Elaine, is to encourage others. . . Even so, I miss times of speaking blessing into the lives of those around me. I’ve noticed sometimes that happens because the other person isn’t really comfortable with receiving spoken love and blessings — and so I hold back at times so neither of us feels awkward. I need to risk the awkward.”

If you’re like me, you need to risk the awkward, too. We need to go ahead and speak words of love even if it feels unnatural in some relationships. We need to voice our admiration and let it be an encouragement. And sometimes we need to offer words of comfort even when we’re afraid we’ll say the wrong thing.

Sometimes we need to risk the awkward in even more uncomfortable situations—like when it’s time to confront or to hold someone accountable. We also need to risk awkward rejection at times in order to be a witness for the Lord. Of course, it’s best to enter situations like these with much prayer, depending on the Spirit’s leading throughout.

Risking the awkward applies not only to our words but to our actions as well. Sometimes we hold back on acts of love or service or gratitude because we’re afraid—afraid of looking silly or offending or that our overtures will be unwelcome in some way. How many opportunities have we let slip by us?

Is it time to set our fears of rejection or personal discomfort aside and risk the awkward, in both word and deed? If we do, I think we’ll find that most of our fears don’t even materialize or that the results are much less uncomfortable than we’d thought they’d be. We’ll probably even receive welcome and positive responses. And then we’ll wonder why we didn’t do or say certain things earlier.

How about it? Let’s risk the awkward!

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

*When was the last time you risked the awkward?

*Flickr photo by Freddie Peña, Creative Commons License

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out next week. Sign-up is free and to the right!

Fear of Success: The Plague of What-ifs

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Have you ever been afraid of success? I know that question my seem odd at first glance, but as wonderful as success sounds and feels, many times it arrives with a whole new set of challenges to be conquered and/or skills to master.

I recently returned from a top-notch writers conference—the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference in Muskegon, Michigan—where I took a few important steps toward success. While there, I got to meet individually with several publishing professionals. A few were very interested in my book project and asked me to send them either the proposal and sample chapters or the manuscript. Yay, right?!

As exciting as these steps forward are, the what-ifs of actual success—and the steps getting there—also scare me a bit. What if those who requested my materials end up saying no after taking a closer look? Is more rejection ahead?

If someone does offer representation or a book contract, what if I make the wrong decision about that particular agent or publishing house? After signing a contract, what if I’m not able to meet the deadlines for edits or future books? What if I’m not able to do the edits to their satisfaction?

And it doesn’t stop there. The what-ifs keep coming. What if I’m called upon to use new skills while getting the book ready for publication or while marketing it? What if I have to go way beyond my comfort zone to market the book? What if my efforts aren’t enough? What if the book fails to sell as well as the publisher wants? Bottom line—what  if I fail?

In order to stop the runaway what-if train and keep my fears at bay, I must remind myself that if God opens the door for success, he will equip me to do the work. He will direct me and help me each step of the way. The same God who has faithfully walked with me to this point will continue to walk with me in the future. And he is enough for whatever comes.

How about you? Are what-ifs plaguing you today? Yours may not even be related to success, but the principle still applies. God will be with us come what may. And yes, he is enough.

“. . . ‘Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you . . .’” 1 Chronicles 28:20

*When have you been afraid of success? Did things work out okay?

*Flickr photo by Trekking Rinjani

Shattering “Never Haves”

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Hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail for the first time in my life.

If you’re like me, you have a mile-long list of things you have never done. I’m talking good things here. Noble or interesting things. Fun things. Daring things. In other words, life experiences. And even though I’ve lived well over five decades now, there’s still a lot of life that I’ve not yet experienced. A lot of things I’ve never done.

I’m happy to report, though, that during our vacation I shattered some of my never haves. On the way home I go to thinking about how many new experiences I had racked up during our time away and decided to make a list. With each item I recorded, I realized how cool it all was. Not that the activities themselves were all so extraordinary—just that I felt really pumped to have done so many new things for the very first time in my life.

Here are some of the never haves in my life that I can now say that I’ve done:

*Finally traveled east of the Mississippi. We spent time in Tennessee and even made brief appearances in North Carolina and Kentucky.

*Visited the Smoky Mountains National Park. Absolutely beautiful.

*Straddled two states at once—along the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Smoky Mountains National Park.

*Hiked on the Appalachian Trail. So happy to join the company of those who have done this.

*Saw a couple of bears in the wild. I wanted to see a bear while in Tennessee bear country, and my wish came true our very first morning.

*Followed a bear in an excited-but-extremely-unwise attempt to take some photos. Am thankful the Lord was watching over me!

*Ate at a Bubba Gump and a Johnny Rockets. My taste buds are happier for having visited them both :)

*Ate corn fritters—and were they ever yummy.

*Saw an American Idol winner in person—David Cook!

*Drove go-carts. And not only that, but drove go-carts with American Idol winner David Cook in our group of drivers. If I remember correctly, he left me in his dust :)

*Enjoyed a family-only worship service with my parents, my sisters, and all our families.

*Attended the Grand Ole Opry. They put on a superb show. Highly recommend it. During a backstage tour, they also took us out on stage where we got to stand on the famous circle from the Ryman Auditorium where all the performers have stood throughout the years.

*Acted as navigator in Nashville while Don drove. Quite challenging since I had never been there before this trip! :)

*Drove through the area where the Ohio River meets and empties into the Mississippi.

Pretty neat, huh? Some of these things I hoped and planned to do, but some were complete surprises. And now my world is larger simply because I shattered some never haves. I wonder what will be next? Can’t wait!

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things . . .” Psalm 98:1a

*What are some of your never haves you hope to shatter soon?

*Photo by one of my family members

*Don’t miss out on the “Back At It” Giveaway. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. Aug. 28. Details are in my Aug. 15 post.

Free Flying Leaves, Free Flying People

I love to watch the autumn leaves—and not just for their colors. I love to watch them fly as well.

The leaves of fall are free flying. They’re not bound by a must-follow route or a set of rules. No one tells them to drop at a perfect 90 degree angle—or any other angle for that matter. Each one is different. Each one takes its cue from the wind at the moment it falls.

Some fall headlong, landing right below their former homes. Others venture a few feet away as they drift gently through the air before finding a new resting place. Still others fly like crazy on the wings of a major wind gust, soaring as never before, looking like frolicking birds—up and down and all around, going great distances before running out of breath. Yes, autumn leaves are free flying.

Kind of makes me want to do some free flying myself. Anyone else?

The good news is we can. As believers in Jesus, as children of God, we can free fly on the wings of his Spirit living within us. We can abandon ourselves to his leadership, whether on short straight paths, lilting walks, or adventures of a lifetime. Following the Spirit, we’ll soar as never before.

We can also free fly on the wings of encouragement. Sometimes all we need to be spurred on to try something new or go after a dream is the confidence inspired by a friend or family member who is cheering us on. Sometimes all it takes is a little push. We then find ourselves free flying and loving every minute of it.

Other times it takes a little more. It takes a major gust of courage to launch our flight. The ride holds out hope of great and mighty things—but only if we’re willing to take the risk, only if we’re brave enough to step out of our comfort zones or battle whatever problems are trying to hinder our flight.

As the leaves free fly around us this autumn season, let’s ask ourselves if we’re ready to do a little free flying ourselves. Let’s abandon ourselves to the wings of the Spirit, let’s fly on words of encouragement. Let’s be bold and allow courage to carry us to new heights. Let’s free fly!

“. . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17b

*How have you been free flying lately?

*Flickr photo by hipea

**Also, the Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is still underway. Details are in my Oct. 17 post and sign-up is to the right. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

Go Big

Are you a risk-taker? I tend to choose a safe bet over a gamble, but every now and then it’s good to take a risk. There are times we need to go big. Times we need to try to jump the sun.

In a recent blog post, Hope Clark, founder and editor of FundsforWriters.com spoke about writers remaining in their comfort zones, writing what’s easily published, and dodging the big magazines. She also spoke about being proud of writers who dare, and it reminded me that I need to try to go big sometimes.

Since I had noticed just such an opportunity in another of Hope’s blog posts a few weeks ago, I decided to give it a try. So this afternoon I submitted an essay to The Smithsonian magazine for their back page humor column.

Now, I know it’s a long shot. I know there is only one back page per month and that my seasonal piece will have an even smaller chance of acceptance than most others. I also understand that many times you have to have the right connections, and I certainly don’t have those. But I also know it will never happen if I don’t try. Things don’t get published that don’t get submitted. And who knows? Nothing is impossible.

Is it time for you to take a risk? Is there an area in your life right now where you need to try to go big? Maybe the time has come for you to take a long shot, too. Don’t find yourself regretting some day what you were afraid to try today.

And remember, we have a heavenly Father for whom nothing is impossible. So join me, won’t you? Let’s go big with God. I bet we’ll make Him proud.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

*Flickr photo by aramolara, Creative Commons License

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is still underway. Details are in my Oct. 10 post and sign-up is to the right. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!