Tag Archives: dreams

Was that you? Sitting behind me in a London pub?

I’ve been wrong before, but I don’t think I am this time. I think we had dinner next to each other in London once…

 

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This computer feels so foreign in front of me and my fingers are having trouble dropping syllables at the speed which they did before. I am in Africa and due to my poor internet connection I have not been posting or even trying for that matter.

Today is different though.

I am working hard to get a wi-fi signal because I am aching to tell you something. Something I’ve wanted to say since that evening in London a few days ago. I was sitting at a table with my family in central London waiting for our fish & chips when I first heard her start talking.

“Really? What is it that you like? Please tell me.”

She was sitting behind me when she said it to the man across from her. I couldn’t help but keep listening.

They had been discussing painful childhoods when she pulled out something from her purse. It was a poem – several pages long and typed. A poem inspired  by her experiences in a broken home. I stole a glance behind me at their table pretending to reach for something out of my own bag.

She watched eagerly as the middle-aged man read her words through his wire framed glasses. I wondered how long she had kept that paper waiting for the right moment to share it with someone. Finally he put the pages down and told her that he loved it. That it spoke to him – another who had a similar experience with a dysfunctional  family.

The woman then rambled off all her excuses as to why it wasn’t wonderful. She didn’t study poetry and never even took a course. Immediately she discounted all the value she had handed him on that paper.

Again, he insisted that he really did like it. Sheepishly she mustered the courage to ask the question we all are dying to ask.

” Really? What is it you like? Please tell me.”

I didn’t hear much of their conversation after that, but those words lingered as I ate my dinner. I heard my own voice in her question – the voice of so many of us. Your voice.

Forget the vague descriptors. Drop the token encouragements. Shoot me straight. What is it your really like about me? About what I offer? 

Our flight out of London to Cape Town left at 9pm. After my kids fell asleep I sat there in the dimly lit cabin thinking about her question again. My thoughts began to drift to you guys.

You wild dreamers with your passions scratched on pieces of paper and your ideas stored in your 140 character increments. You entrepreneurs with the risky streak just waiting to bust the world wide open in the most beautiful ways. Those of you who love big because people and their stories are the fuel for your generous souls.

All of you to some degree sit across a table from someone and give them your piece of paper. And deep down inside you wonder. Is this really valuable? Does this really matter?

And while I sit here halfway around the world from my usual keyboard, I want to be the person sitting across the table from you saying “yes. it matters very much.”. 

I’d reserve a booth for months if that pub would let me and you could each come and tell me your scribbles on pieces of paper. The things that anchor you to the most authentic parts of yourselves. The legacy you imagine within your most sincere daydreams.

I want to hear them and tell you in detail what makes you so unique. All the ways you carry greatness in you. How your story holds eternal value and unimagined potential. I’d tell you not to be embarrassed about what you’ve put down on that piece of paper. It’s pure gold.

Maybe one day we can rent out all the pubs in London. Cram through their doors and find our seats at worn tables. There we can share our stories together and pull out our papers from our own bags. Answering that lingering question – what is it you like? About me. About this dream. Is it really a thing of beauty?

Until then, I pray you find a friend to sit across from. Together sharing the secret papers you carry around in your bags. Answering each other’s questions of value. And if you don’t have a pub partner to meet up with – then hear it from me.

Those stories you carry, the ideas you create, the product of your handiwork. They are needed. They are powerful. They are a thing of beauty. Really.

*** I go great with your morning commute, lunch breaks and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar and get posts sent directly to your inbox.***

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Celebrating the wrong direction and a 3rd Birthday

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photo via

Grab your party hats, your streamers and your beverage of choice! Today is a day of celebration at Lark & Bloom. It is actually a trifecta of celebration to be clear.

It is the end of our Uncomfortable January series, this blog’s third birthday and a day to embrace and enjoy the truth that at times our risks don’t turn out the way we want them too – which is a good thing more times than not.

Three years ago today, I was sitting in a quiet house with my husband out-of-town and my kids sleeping in their rooms down the hallway. Boxes were accumulating with our move from Seattle to California just weeks away. My head was spinning with emotions and tear-shedding was no longer enough relief. I had to get these thoughts out.

I sat down and wrote the very first blog post at Lark & Bloom. I had failed at one blog before – mostly because I only wrote a single entry then never posted again. Another blog? Do I really have anything to say this time?  I decided that I probably didn’t have anything worth saying, but I went ahead and set one up anyway. My friends were scattered around the world, and I was experiencing a massive life transition. Lark and Bloom was created that night as a means of processing out my thoughts so my friends could read them and stay connected to me between sparse phone calls.

Except that isn’t what happened. Very few of my friends actually read my blog, which is totally fine, because you came. You showed up to hear my words and talk with me about the world and all that it could be. We have been able to dream together, grow together and connect through this space.

This blog failed at its original mission, but it has morphed into something far more wonderful. Readers from around the world bring their beautiful stories and dreams that are truly inspiring. This community is something I never knew I needed – something I never imagined.

Had I known the bigness of what I was getting myself into three years ago, I most certainly wouldn’t have ever typed out that initial post. It would have terrified me.

This month I have heard stories of what you guys are doing in response to An Uncomfortable January. You are risky and bold. Living life – big or small – with intention.

And this is what we are celebrating today. Taking risks that lead us to unknown destinations.

When I kicked off this series a few weeks ago, I talked about being risky in 2014.

You have dreams in your heart worth chasing,  goals that are begging to be accomplished, and ideas to create. There is a person worth developing in you and a narrative all your own that deserves applause. That is worth risking on in 2014.

But there are days we will head in the wrong direction – and we celebrate those too. Respecting the fact that we were brave enough to venture off the path in the first place, embracing the lessons to be learned in the process and acknowledging the little victories along the way.

Maybe we didn’t end up where we wanted to or with the people we intended to be with. The full picture is rarely in focus when we start out. Step by step, the journey becomes a little clearer. In the end, we look back and see the meaning in it all. The guidance of a God who knew the whole story before we even began.

Sometimes where we end up is far better than where we were headed. —> click to tweet

There is destiny within us that we aren’t even aware of yet – destinations never dreamed of. Our lives are bigger than we know. That is why we simply start by taking the little risks  – knowing that these baby steps will eventually cover miles.

Years from now, we will gather with our families in our living rooms and share the stories of our adventures. The distant lands we walked upon, the space we created, the humanity we embraced, the feeble love we offered, the careers we built and the relationships we established. Stories that cause little tots eyes to light up and remind all those within earshot that their lives are meant for something bigger.

We may not end up the richest or most famous, but we will be full because we did what we were put on earth to do. Dreamt the dreams, walked the roads and cried the tears.  Cakes will be baked to acknowledge the milestones along the way and friendships will be forged that enable us to cross the distance ahead.

Here’s to the ones who take a chance and the ones who celebrate going the wrong direction. We aren’t afraid to succeed and we aren’t afraid to fail. Cause we’re risky like that in 2014. 

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014, Whimsy

From Army Ranger to Fashion Photographer

It is the final stretch of An Uncomfortable January, a series dedicated to taking risks. Today I am interviewing one of the riskiest people I know. Ian was an Army Ranger and risked his life for our nation (insert a standing ovation for all who have served our country) and is now a fashion photographer.  Today he is sharing his thoughts with us. Spoiler Alert: His answer to #7 is pure gold.

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Self Portrait Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Takada 2012

1. I’ve known you for about 5 years or so, but why don’t you go ahead and tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Ian. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I grew up there my entire life in a home with my twin brother and wonderful mother. When I was 18 I joined the US Army to pursue a career in the military. I am now a combat veteran finishing my education in the arts. I am also a fashion photographer. I’ve been married for five years now to my beautiful wife, and I currently reside in Santa Barbara, California.

2. My husband has a flag that you carried on a mission when you were an Army Ranger. What made you decide to go through such grueling training and put your life on the line for our country?

To be honest, I had no intentions of becoming a Ranger when I enlisted. It was something that I chose to do because I felt that I was subject to greater leadership. Before I became a Ranger I was with a conventional Army unit, where I had been mistreated and manipulated. I decided that it was time for something greater. Something better. I had learned on my base in Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington (formally Fort Lewis) that 2nd Ranger Battalion resided there.

I had no idea who Rangers were or what they did, I just knew that those men were held to a greater standard than I was. I called the Ranger Regimental liaison (recruiter) and told him that I wanted this so bad and refused to be a part of my current unit. Two weeks later, I had orders for Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

My time spent in Georgia was amazing and at the same time soul shattering. I had just gotten married to my wife Muka, and it would be 4 months before I saw her again. She was motivated to push me through because she knew that I could be a better soldier. Once I had an understanding of what it was to be a Ranger while going through RIP, I could not turn back, regardless of how brash my training was – physically and mentally. I knew this was something I had to do.

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Me shooting in Santa Paula, CA 2013

3. What did it look like for you when you were deployed? Was it a 24 hour threat?

Unfortunantly, because of my role as a Ranger I was held under SOCOM regulations, therefore I cannot go into specific detail about being deployed as a Ranger.

However, what I can say is, we are deployed for a specific amount of time in a foreign country. Given tasks to complete in a timely manner. Our capabilities backed by our training is what allows us to commit to such dangerous and vigorous tasks. Other units in the Army coin us as men who are excited to run towards danger. There is a real reason for that. A Ranger is a mentally tough and highly skilled soldier, therefore whatever task is given to him, he can shoulder it and prevail no matter how difficult the task is. This is what we believe, its in our Creed. There is a phrase given to us: Sua Sponte. It means “Of their own accord.” This phrase is the mentality of your modern-day Ranger, and its used on the battlefield and in everyday life. We are men of our own accord, not because we are told to, but because we choose to be.

4. Whenever someone is working to achieve a goal or dream there are risks involved. Some good and some bad. How did you learn to differentiate between the risks that were worth taking and the ones that weren’t?

The way I see it is, you never really know the risk at hand until you take it. When you take a risk it is taken because of a certain gain. Whether that gain is personal or for others, you take it because you know the potential outcome and that’s what you strive for. The risks I have seen men (Rangers) take in order to accomplish something, it was out of selfishness and gain for their men. So that they shall prosper, not just the risk taker himself. Risks are worth taking if there is a good deed that comes out of it. I believe that, and I know a great number of men who believe the same.

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

5. Most of us are not taking enemy fire in the pursuit of our goals, but we do have lots of other things that can serve as deterrents or distractions. How did you stay focused on your goal when you were getting push back?

I wasn’t always taking enemy fire either when taking a risk haha! However, our role as humans, as people who inherit the Earth, is to prevail and fight our lives as we see fit. I have had many distractions in my life, in and out of the Ranger battalion. Even in my own marriage I have been distracted with things that only I have wanted to do, not thinking about my wife. And the older I got, I was able to identify them more.

Most of the time you fail because of those distractions but it is up to you how bad you want those accomplishments. Being selfless is one of them. Your accomplishment doesn’t just affect you. It also affects others around you whether they are near or far. Your deeds are a reflection of you. If you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure, but when you look back at your failure; what was it that you could have changed? What were the lessons learned from that mistake? This is how I continued to stay focused as a man, a husband, and a Ranger. Now I am a photographer and guess what? Those same distractions reappear, but I have been able to identify them, and work through those obstructions.

Self Portrait 2012

Self Portrait 2012

6. One thing I love about you and Muka is that you are dreamers. After you were finished with the army, you took another risk and started a photography business. Becoming a Ranger, owning your own business, moving cities…you guys have tackled some serious dreams so far in life. What would you say to people who have a lot of things they want to accomplish in life but doubt if they can do them all?

Do them! When we decided to up and leave Washington, we said, “Hey, let’s just leave Washington.” We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the risk, but we knew the outcome. We knew it would mean happiness and joy. We knew it would mean marital development. I still remember what Jady said when he married us, “Your loyalty towards one another will allow you to defeat all odds & you will become better people every day.”

This is something we still stand by to this day. We know that we will have to be loyal to one another, that’s how we have accomplished so much. You have to learn to be loyal. Not only to one another but to yourself as well. If you cheat yourself, what makes your think you aren’t easily capable of cheating and deceiving others? Loyalty to yourself is a huge factor in gaining success because the biggest thing that backs loyalty is Truth!

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

7. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom on being risky and chasing your dreams?

You know I’ve been getting the word “wisdom” thrown at me a lot lately! As humans, we take an everyday risk. We take risks as soon as we get up in the morning. As soon as we walk out of our front doors to start our daily lives. My mother was a very wise woman, and before she died she specifically told me, “When I leave this place (Earth), you better not sit here and mope around like it’s the end of the world. Go forth and live your life, and live it every day, because tomorrow is never promised to any of us.”

Those words are something that everyone needs to hear. Fear is what kindles in most of us, which is only natural because it is human nature to be afraid. However, the Enemy is what backs our fear. We must never fall for tricks of the Enemy. You have to foster a strength that you never thought you had. You have to engage your issues with power and trust in yourself.

You have to know that failure does exist, but it does not last forever. —> click to tweet

I have failed many times, only to realize that success was just a few steps ahead of me. I always knew that if I could muster the strength to overcome my obstructions, that would conquer my everyday problems. Don’t hold back, don’t hold grudges. Forgive people. Love people.

There are many who have died holding on to evil and deceit, unfortunately they have left what they have held onto for others to burden. Leave a legacy. Make something for the person who comes after you, so that your legacy may have no age or expiration.

Be happy. You’re alive!!! You are loved, whether you want to believe it or not. Last but certainly not least, believe in yourself and be yourself. Believe that you are worthy of greatness so that you may leave a trail of greatness!

– God Bless and Rangers Lead the Way!

Ian E Robertson

Visit Ian’s website to connect with him and learn more about his work–> ianrobertsonphoto.com

*** Lark & Bloom goes great with your morning commute, lunch break and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar and get posts sent directly to your inbox. ***

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Filed under Faith, Guest Posts, Uncomfortable January 2014

Your Shoes Are Too Small

January at Lark & Bloom is all about getting uncomfortable and taking risks. An Uncomfortable January has been fantastic so far with posts about the risk of staying, the risk of leaving, the risk of loving to name a few. Today’s post is one I actually wrote several years ago but fits this series so well. So, lets get barefoot and risky people.

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You have probably heard about foot binding. It was an ancient Chinese practice which involved wrapping a young girls feet so tightly that they were prevented from growing. It wasn’t uncommon for the bones in the feet to break when their feet were bound. Often times severe deformities resulted, infections set in and girls even died in the process.

The confines of the shoe and the bandages created a handicap that women had to live with for the rest of their lives.

So, why am I telling you that you shoes are too small? You are most likely not Chinese and there is a 50/50 chance you aren’t a women either. But, I bet your shoes are too small too. How do I know?  Because you have big shoes to fill.

Just like little kids feet, we need room to grow or we get distorted and walk with a limp. Why are your shoes too small? Because your dreams are meant to grow bigger. God’s destiny for your life is meant to increase and the fruit we produce is meant to be abundant. Our destiny is to grow.

If we live in the limitations, fears and comfortable places of a previous stage then we begin to get ingrown. We believe a lie that we don’t have anywhere important to go anyway. So, who cares what shoes we wear? Our dreams press against our capacity and we feel inverted and confused. We need new shoes for new seasons.

I need to be regularly putting on larger shoes. Making sure that I have room to wiggle my toes and grow into them as God increases in my life. After growing and risking for a while, there won’t be room anymore. On with another pair. More room for dreaming and advancing. More capacity to run in roomy shoes.

We bind our own feet to often. We are afraid to get bigger.

“What if I walk this road alone? Id rather just wait in this place and grow into these shoes when I get married.”

” If I walk out no one will follow me. They won’t trust what I bring to the table.”

” I just got comfortable here. I don’t want anything to change.”

or the ever popular

” I’m not gifted. I don’t have anything to grow at all. I’m just meant to watch other people do the cool stuff. I observe, others participate.”

Except a funny thing happens. The tissues and fibers of who we are keep expanding anyway. Even when we try and stay in the same old shoes. It begins to get uncomfortable.  Eventually we just sit down and stop going anywhere. It hurts too bad. The longer we sit the greater our disfunction grows.

And that is where a lot of us are. Sitting on a curb waiting for our feet to stop hurting. Dreams, calling, destiny, capacity… they are all pushing against the boundary begging to be let loose. Risking again on love. Risking again on pain. Risking again to breathe.

And then a fabulous thing happens.

When we are rubbing our stubby toes wondering what happened to our lives, Jesus comes. Tells us to stop being so scared. Stop being so comfortable. Stop thinking we can’t walk any further. He puts these enormous shoes before us. The shoes of Heaven that contain limitless hope and strength. We are terrified to put them on because we know we can’t fill them. Not only that, but our little feet are tiny and tangled.

We forget that Jesus is a healer. He touches deformities and they straighten. The skin and bones go back into places and the painful sores go away. He puts the too-good-to-be-true shoes on. The kind we dreamed of wearing when we were little children.

Maybe your new shoes look like a relationship. Maybe they look like a new business venture. A move to a distant land. The revival of a dream that has nearly expired. Could be letting go of a fear that has held you back and controlled you. Leaving behind an old identity for a new one perhaps.

All of us have new shoes waiting to be worn onto fresh ground. But we have to risk taking off our old shoes, healing the deformities we have and putting on bigger shoes that will support our new dreams. It can be scary, uncomfortable and oh-so insecure. But I think we can do it guys. ‘Cause we are risky like that in 2014.

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The Risk of Pursuit

Just when I thought I was getting comfortable with being risky, my friend Jonathan Gulley sent me his guest post for An Uncomfortable January. I’ve known Jonathan since I was a kid and have a deep respect for both he and his wife. This past year they have taken extreme risks and I asked him to join us this month as we talk about being risky in 2014 in order to do what we really want to do and become who we want to become. I think you will like what he has to say. Take it away, Jonathan.

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2013 was a huge year for my family and me. It started out like normal. Every New Years Eve, I come up with my one word for the year. I got this idea from a book and really like it. This word helps remind me of the main thing I want to be about for the next 12 months. Doesn’t that sound like an awesome idea? I like it so much I’ve thought about getting it tattooed on my body, but didn’t especially like the idea of 50 words on my skin between now and the time I die.

Last year, my word for the year was ‘Astonished.’ And no one was more shocked than me that after 10-15 years of being in full-time ministry, starting a wonderful and vibrant church in Chicago-land through one of the most amazing and dynamic organizations on the planet that I would hang up my ministry cleats, move cities and churches and change professions. Now, some have thought that I must be having a quarter life crisis. Others have wondered if my reason stemmed from some beneath-the-surface relational fallout. But though people mean well, what makes this journey so crazy is that the opposite is true.

All of my brothers and their wives are in ministry with this organization. Most of my best friends are somehow tied to this church community around the world. On top of that, as far as I know, I don’t have any enemies in the organization. So why, if you have influence, history, a church and staff that love your leadership and well-cultivated relationships over many years with the same tribe, would you leave all of that and embark on a journey with few particulars?

Because, in the words of John Legend, “[she] is crazy and I’m out of my mind.” Just kidding. I just felt God leading me to risk everything again and head in a new direction. Plain and simple! Plain and difficult!

One of the things I have learned in 2013 is that new beginnings are exciting to talk about but they require enormous iniative and energy. Maybe that is why in 2014, my word for the year is: ‘Pursuit’. I believe in order to start anew, I must devote this year to applying myself to the pursuit of people and opportunities like never before. Easy, right? I am not so sure.

No matter who you are, regardless of whether you like the adrenaline rush of risk-taking or not, to pursue or be pursued takes a truckload of courage. You better believe the moment you put your heart on the line, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, passivity, and in my case, self-protection will claw at you and try to talk you down from being the pursuer you were born to be. If that is true then I believe the largest risks we ever take in life are the risks we take on relationships. Starting a new job in a new culture is a risk. Finding a new church community is a risk. Marrying that person you love but have only known for a short time compared to the years you’ve been born is a risk.

Being a change agent, one of the hardest things for me to do when someone responds wrongly towards me is resisting that urge to change them into someone I’d like to be around. Now, this is something that I’ve never liked about myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love change.

I love dreaming about seeing God-sized change happen all across America, in every industry, and neighborhood. But sometimes I would like to change people more than love them…especially when they are hard to be around.

My Uncomfortable January and the next 11 months are devoted to offering warm pursuit towards those who are colds towards me. Yikes! The risk of pursuit is a risk I will need help with for sure. How about you? What relational risk are you willing to take this month?

*** Lark & Bloom goes great with your morning commute, lunch break and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar to have posts sent directly to your inbox. ***

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The Risk of Staying

I sat at my desk in December with a scrap piece of paper and a red pen. As I began to plan out my blog for An Uncomfortable January this was the post I knew I had to write. 

It isn’t the glamorous one or the post you will have come looking for on your own. If we were in high school, this  post wouldn’t be the dreamy guy all the girls have a crush on or the really funny one that made the rounds at all the parties. Instead this post is the friend you know you need – the one who keeps things balanced and in perspective. Like the friend in high school who talked me out of getting a flower tattooed on my foot when I turned 18. We need those people.

Two years ago my husband and I left our ideal lives on the West Coast to come back to my mid-sized hometown in Texas. It just about killed me. There was no thrill to being here – I knew this place and it knew me. For better or worse. Things weren’t uncharted or fresh and – to be honest – I have a slight addiction to experiencing new things. I could easily spend my life moving on from one thing to the next in the pursuit of adventure.

I missed living in a big city with all of its foodie eateries, endless shops and unique neighborhoods that provided afternoons of exploration. Living in a place that people came to spend their vacations provided a sense of gratification. When I packed up boxes to load on the moving truck it felt like I was packing up every other exciting opportunity and sending it off for someone else to live.

Fast forward two years.

I attended a funeral  several months ago at the church I grew up in. Surrounding me were people I had known since childhood. Memories began to swirl as I looked at the faces around me. Playing barefoot in backyards trying to catch mid-summer fireflies. Late night conversations by the lake dreaming about glittery futures. Airplane rides to foreign lands together. The flood of shared experiences made my lips curl and eventually break into a full-blown smile.

These people and this place. We hold each others secrets and stories. Maybe staying here isn’t so bad after all.

So many of us idolize risk taking as a daring adventure that sets big dreams in motion and launches us to exciting destinations. Hello, didn’t you see Eat, Pray, Love? ( don’t see it. I didn’t like that movie actually )  In my life I have traveled to over twenty countries and have numerous exciting stories to share. I’ve risked big and made a home on many limbs.

Right now though, I am learning a different type of risk. The risk of staying. Don’t be fooled – in many ways it is the most uncomfortable and risky thing I have ever done.

Staying is giving up all the other “what ifs” in order to hold onto what already is. It is choosing to commit and therefore cut off other options. You forfeit the ability to just take off when things don’t go as well as you planned. You risk being bored. Ultimately staying requires the kind of bravery that cultivates instead of fluctuates.

This month some of us need to risk by going further and others need to risk by going deeper. Maybe you need to chase your dreams or maybe you need to plant your dreams. There are times and moments for both.

I love big skylines at night and streets buzzing with tourists. But I also love this place I’m in that is on the brink of something amazing. And I’m gonna stay here a while and help build this city into what I believe it can become. ‘Cause I’m risky like that in 2014.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Going Places, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, Uncomfortable January 2014, Whimsy

Dying to Live

January

I am beyond excited to run full on into our Uncomfortable January  series. Examining what we want and taking the risks getting there is what this month is all about. I could think of no better way to start it off than by getting really uncomfortable with the reality that our life is short. And we are taking risks because we know that another opportunity is not guaranteed to come our way.

I’m happy to introduce you to my friend and our first guest in this series : Robert Fuller. He is a master storyteller, igniter of laughter, and very much a dreamer. Robert writes at Fuller Stories and is going to remind us today why we are risking big in 2014…because we are here now. But not forever.

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Lets start out with a simple fact : I almost died last summer.

It’s safe to say few things are as risky as standing on the precipice of death.

I’d gone in for a standard hernia surgery and ended up with a gnarly post operative infection that inflated my abdomen to almost Jabba-like proportions (gross, I know.) The doctors were perplexed (never a good sign), and pumped me with so many antibiotics I languished in hazy delirium for days. In the process I underwent two additional surgeries that left me with a gaping wound the size of a butcher knife on my belly. I looked straight out of a slasher movie – like one who wouldn’t survive.

As I lay there with all those tubes and i.v.’s and beeping machines my mind began to ponder the possibility of my demise. Who would teach my children about love and courage if I was gone? Who would write them stories at night, their eyes wide with wonder before drooping toward sleep? And what of my wife? She’d always told me she could never love another man if I left the earth before her. But I found myself hoping she would not be alone for the rest of her life. And what of me? Was the curtain to be closed so soon? There were so many things I wanted to do. So many dreams left unrealized.

In that moment of agony, when everything seemed ready to be stripped away forever, I could only weep. But my tears came not from fear, or pain, or anger, or despair. But gratitude. All I could think of was how good God had been to me. That He’d given me thirty-seven years of blessing: a rich childhood, loving family, friends upon friends, adventure, joy, laughter, love, children, and most of all, Himself. My life had been a gift. And if this was all there was to be, I was thankful.

But, as this post attests, I did not die.

My fever abated as the infection was driven back like a vanquished horde. Soon the doctors were smiling (always a good sign) and I slowly returned to the land of the living. My recovery would be a long one, considering the gaping chasm on my abdomen. But I was alive. There was breath in my lungs. And the curtain hadn’t closed after all.

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This experience was a crossroads for me. A kind of wake up call. In the following weeks (when I wasn’t high on pain meds) I thought much about how I wanted to live in light of my survival. So in honor of the New Year, I present my top ten lessons learned from almost going to the grave. May they propel you to greater heights in 2014.

1. I am not the center of the universe. As obvious as this sounds, I need reminding. Selfishness is a plague.

2. Timidity is not humility and confidence is not pride. How do I help the world by being so paranoid about looking arrogant that I don’t take initiative with things I’m passionate about? As long as I’m loving, who cares?

3. Fear is not your friend. It might seem a protective ally, but the only thing fear will do is keep you hiding in your foxhole. It will tell you not to do anything that rocks the boat. It will convince you to play it safe. Lame.

4. Consume less, create more. Instead of trolling on Facebook or being on YouTube or obsessing over Pinterest…add something to the world. Write someone a note. Cook someone a meal. Write a poem, a story, a song.

5. Failure is an option. Face it… you will fail. And the more you risk, the bigger the failures will be. It’s a promise. Whoever said that failure wasn’t an option was either delusional, or a flat out liar. If you want to do anything in life more than watch T.V., of course failure is an option. But giving up is not.

6. People will fail you, give them a break. Make forgiveness your bottom line. Giving grace to others is a pleasure. Try it.

7. Spend time with those who love you. There will always be more work to do. More rooms to clean. More money to make. But the best moments are spent with friends, family, and children. I will relish bedtime with the kids, for one day they will be gone. I will take my wife on dates, because let’s face it. She’s hot.

8. Journal. If not for yourself, then at least for your kids. Document your life for someone down the road. It will change them.

9. Never underestimate the power of laughter. People take themselves way too seriously. Help them. Tell a funny story. Play a prank. Poke fun, in love.

10. Live like it’s your final day. Who will you talk to? What will you say? What are you waiting for?

If it all ended now, what are the things you wish you would have done? So, then. What are you waiting for? 

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Filed under Uncomfortable January 2014