This is your year to stop being afraid. Join me.
I heard someone say recently that failure is an important part of character development. That failure, in some form or fashion, is inevitable...and it's what you do with it that can cause the most personal growth.
It reminded me that this whole adventure with my stray donkey and the book that followed, was a result of my husband's and my journey through failure. The years of the Great Recession were brutal for us. Our business, which relied heavily on the housing market, was hit hard. And even though we could blame the sluggish economy for our failure, in the end the "why" didn't really matter.
All we knew was that our dream had all but died, and we had bills to pay.
It felt like a big, fat failure.
And you know what, when you're in the midst of one failure, it seems that all your other failures stack up like airplanes coming in for landing at a busy airport. One after the other, the missteps, the bad choices, the poor timings, the forgotten birthdays, the cross words, the burnt dinners...they pile on relentlessly.
During those years (yes, years) I found it difficult to hold my head up. Everything felt heavy. I napped often. It's one of my coping mechanisms.
The worst part is that my past failures made me afraid to try anything new. I mean, why bother? I knew I'd fail at the next thing, too.
I was stuck.
Eventually, I knew I needed to move past this failure thing...but how?
One of my favorite stories about Flash is the time he discovered a greatness inside him he didn't know he had. The incident happened right when I desperately needed inspiration to change.
Flash had been hanging out with the cows in the neighboring pasture. The cows were on one side of the fence, chewing cud and looking bored, while Flash was on the other side keeping them company.
One day, another neighbor's three horses got loose and Tom rounded them up and put them into Flash's pasture for safe-keeping until their owner could bring his trailer over and take them home. These horses were BEAUTIFUL! Sleek, shiny, elegant equine specimens.
Flash, my dusty, shaggy donkey, suddenly looked up from his cud-chewing friends and discovered that he had company: three gorgeous stallions, who pranced like ballerinos around the pasture.
I watched as Flash had a choice to make: stay with the cows and watch the greatness of these newcomers from the sidelines, or join in with them and do some of his own dancing.
It only took a moment for Flash to make his decision.
He would run with the horses.
The horses pranced.
They circled and spun.
Flash circled and spun.
Flash...well, he didn't glisten. He magnetically collected all the dust the horses kicked up.
He looked ridiculous out there, with his short legs and choppy mane and oversized head.
But he didn't care.
He was running with horses.
He'd found greatness, and that's all that mattered.
That picture stuck with me.
In a golden moment of donkey greatness, I realized that Flash discovered the key to moving past failure. That afternoon, he focused on the things inside him that made him great: all the chromosomes he shared with horses (62 of them!) and he ran with them. Perhaps all this time he'd been focused on the one set of chromosomes he lacked - the one set that differentiated him from horses - and settled for a life of mediocrity with the cows.
I suddenly saw that I'd been so focused on the things I lacked that I'd given up pursuing anything great. I'd given up on trying.
I'd given up on excellence.
And I realized I'd been going about things the wrong way. Perhaps instead of trying to move away from past failures, I would try moving TOWARD something, just like Flash did that day.
And that something was:
Excellence, I found, is a state of mind that made me sit up straighter and pay attention to details. It said,
I can do better.
I can go the extra mile.
I can put away the clean dishes.
I can exercise today.
I can limit Facebook so that I have time for what really matters.
I can take on a new goal.
Maybe you're struggling with failure today. Maybe all your missteps and mistakes are flooding your mind, making you feel stuck.
Let me suggest:
Today, instead of focusing on all the things you lack and all the "reasons" you shouldn't try anymore, simply move toward excellence.
Focus on doing the best job you can on that thing that's in front of you.
I'm not talking about perfectionsm, I'm simply saying that each day, it's possible to embrace doing things better than we have before. We can intentionally choose which things to let go of and which things to apply ourselves to. We can take a couple of goals and work on doing them well.
Move toward something.
Why not? I'm willing to pursue excellence. How about you?
What is one thing that you can do better today? How can you apply excellence to your day? How can the pursuit of excellence help you move past failure?
On Tuesday, five boxes of my book arrived on my doorstep, accompanied by angelic music and a shaft of light from the heavens.
Okay, maybe it was just the UPS man honking and shining his headlights, but it felt like a heavenly moment nonetheless.
All authors talk about "that moment" when you see your first book...and I must say, it was a bit surreal. I breathed deeply and then screamed, "Flash is GLOSSY!"
I didn't get a chance to show Flash until yesterday. I found him in the bluebonnets, a perfect backdrop for a grand reveal:
"Look, Flashy! It's YOU on the cover!"
And see, there are pictures on the INSIDE, too!
Notice the back cover? I LOVE the ears!
"Read to me, Rachel! This is a great story!"
Flash LOVES his book! He gives it his stamp of approval.
I'm incredibly proud of how the book turned out. Flash looks like he could simply step off the cover and into your life. Re-reading the stories and lessons inside reminded me again how God uses inconvenient interruptions, (like stray donkeys) to do amazing things.
I know He is going to do amazing things with this book. Only a couple more weeks before it hits the bookstores, but already people have been preordering it like crazy.
What do you think?? Would this cover catch your eye in a bookstore? Would your mother like this book for Mother's Day? I think she might.
My Grandma Raaum used to have an unusual magnet on her fridge. It looked like this:
I asked her about it one summer day because it puzzled me.
"Oh, I finally got a Round Tuit so I stopped putting things off. Now I can get things done licketty split!" she said with a laugh. "A-round to-it....do you get it?"
Today, I'm giving YOU a Round Tuit....a virtual one.
It is a circular object giving its owner the ability to get done everything that would have otherwise been put off to a later date. Some say it has magical powers, but I can't verify that. All I know is once you get a Round Tuit, you feel invincible.
Now, you can finally say you got a Round Tuit.
It really feels great to be able to say that.
So....what have you been putting off?
What is nagging in the back of your mind each day that you know you should finish?
Yesterday I put my Rount Tuit to work and got my vehicle license plate renewed....it had expired and I was living in fear of getting pulled over by the police. Boy, it felt awesome to finally get around to it.
Maybe that circular object DOES have magical powers after all!
Driving is suddenly delightful again.
Now that you've got a Round Tuit, how will you use it?
If I was going to pick a Song of the Day, I'd choose: I Get Around, by The Beach Boys.
Hey, I wonder if that thing you've been putting off can be done within the space of this song? Ready, Set, GO!
In less than THREE WEEKS, this will be on bookshelves:
The past few days have been just FUN, as things are really starting to happen. On Friday, I got this text from my publisher:
The books, the beautiful hardcover books with that darling cover, are in. the. warehouse.
Rumor has it that I will receive my first REAL copy sometime today.
And then, I got word that Publisher's Weekly has given Flash a STARRED REVIEW. After I picked myself up off the floor and rubbed my eyes a few times, I read the words slowly and out loud:
Flash: The Homeless Donkey Who Taught Me About Life, Faith, and Second Chances Rachel Anne Ridge. Tyndale, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4143-9783-2
Artist and designer Ridge’s business was tanking, along with her attitude and emotional well-being. So why, Ridge wondered, would God have a bedraggled donkey show up in her driveway, adding to the stresses of her family? While it didn’t make sense to keep Flash, as he was lovingly dubbed, Ridge and her family made room for the poor wandering animal in their hearts and home. Ridge figured out, sometimes the hard way, how to properly care for Flash, and as she paid attention to his needs, she learned a whole lot of positive lessons about herself, her faith, and her life. Ridge examines some of life’s most difficult issues with insight gained from sharing a home with an equine personality, summarizing lessons learned in pithy statement that conclude chapters (“Be a service animal; “Make things right with others”). Readers will be clamoring for more of Flash as soon as they digest the last story in this powerful and uplifting memoir.
Agent: Ruth Samsel, William K. Jensen Literary Agency. (May) Reviewed on 04/10/2015 | Release date: 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink
Y'all. I don't even have words. This is such a big deal. I'm just....grateful.
Yesterday, my dearest friend in the world, Priscilla Shirer, came over and we filmed some promos and a very special video IN MY BARN! With Flash. Shhhhhhh......I'll be giving you all the juicy details about that in the coming days. You won't want to miss it!
I love this picture of Priscilla and me:
Finally, these arrived in the mail:
I felt a bit lightheaded when I opened the package, because this means it's really going to happen. I'm going to have a party, y'all.
And you're invited.
If you are in the Dallas area on May 9, Flash and I would love to see you! We will be signing books, eating Flash's favorite snacks, and generally be celebrating! You can find all the details here....the event is free, but I need you to sign up so I know how many carrots to bring!
Come and do a happy dance with me! And kiss Flashy on the nose! In person!
We have a bunch of exciting things planned for the next several weeks and I don't want you to miss any of it!
As always, you can preorder Flash so you'll have a copy as soon as it hits the shelves.
When my kids were younger, that mood would start evaporating the closer we got to bedtime. We'd start the nightly rituals of finishing schoolwork, finding clothes for tomorrow, getting bedtime snacks, brushing teeth and getting into pajamas with PLENTY of time to spare.
But somehow, the clock always passed the appointed time and I was no longer a happy camper.
But children are just like adults, in that they are often overwhelmed by the size of the mess they've made and have no idea where to start. They sometimes need outside help to either get them started, or keep them moving.
Occasionally, I cleaned my older children's rooms as a gift to them. They did not expect me to clean it, and if they did, they'd have another thing coming. But the delight on their faces to see a vacuumed floor and a made bed with the teddy bears on it, made me see that they too, enjoy a gift of service when it is done with love.
What are YOUR favorite tips?
We were sitting around the table awhile ago and the subject of recurring dreams came up. Do you have those? Oh, my...our repeating scenarios had us laughing, all of us comfortably pushed back from the table and satisfied with good food.
But I dreaded going to bed that night.
I was sure my vivid nightmare of STUMBLING ON STONE STEPS AND BREAKING MY TEETH OFF would haunt me once again.
Yeah, that's my recurring dream. Fun, huh?
See there is something about TEETH that horrifies me.
I often dream of having loose teeth...like ALL of them about to fall out of their sockets so I have to hold them in place with my tongue.
And I'm usually needing to tell someone something very important and it's impossible to talk.
I shudder at the thought.
My husband's nightmare was sliding down a banister and having it turn into razor blades.
The kind that are so sharp you don't feel it until you are sliced to ribbons.
My son has dreamed of stepping on a cactus and trying to pull out the spikes, only to have them magnetically get sucked back into his feet, over and over again. Only a kid from Texas, or one who watches too many Loony Tunes, would have that one.
Not all recurring dreams are bad. My grandmother was famous for dreaming of being able to fly, usually several feet off the ground. She could twirl and do somersaults, but usually she just swam through the air.
I can only wish that was my recurring dream.
It's always nice if you are just conscious enough to change the ending of a dream....or go back and re-do parts of your dream. This can work sometimes, but often backfires when you are unable to get out to the rut and you just keep doing the same thing over, and over and over.
Life itself sometimes feels like a recurring dream.
Get up, change a diaper, get kids breakfast, break up argument. Change a diaper. Find sock. Break up argument. Find shoes. Change a diaper. Break up argument.
Over and over.
Wake up, fight traffic, go to work, get home, make dinner, watch TV, collapse in bed. Repeat.
Do you ever feel that way? I do.
Fortunately there are things you can do to "change the ending" of your time warp.
Today, get out of your spinning cycle.
Do something DIFFERENT.
Find a way to change things up.
Break the mold.
Step out of your routine.
Dare to live with a new mindset!
You don't have to maintain "different" all day, but just for a few moments, think a new thought.
React with a fresh attitude.
Take an alternate route home.
Try a new coffee flavor.
Take a chance on friendship, set a goal, or simply take a deep breath.
You choose which part of your life you want to change...and then start making some of those GOOD dreams come true!
Start with one small moment today...and see what happens.
Just for grins: do you have a recurring dream or nightmare? Does it involve loose teeth? Flying? Cacti? Let us know what your crazy dream is!
And...what will you do that's different today?
"Start where you are."
The index card pictured above is on my fridge, right next to the Domino's pizza magnet, and the A1 Septic Service magnet ("We're #1 in the #2 Business!")
I only keep important things on my fridge, obviously.
The index card has been there since I began my book-writing journey, or should I say, since my husband gave me the ultimatum, "Either write the book or stop talking about it." Wow, the people you love most can be so cruel sometimes. I guess he got tired of my pipe-dreaming and butterfly chasing and decided it was high time I actually did something.
"Okay, I WILL!" I was hurt by his lack of sensitivity to my need to think about it for another month or two.
So I sat at my computer and cracked my knuckles. Stretched out my fingers and prepared for inspiration to flow.
Wait. First I need a cup of coffee.
Why are there so many crumbs on this counter?
I'll just wipe it down.
Then I'll get back to my desk.
After I put away the dishes.
It's amazing how busy you can be, without actually doing anything.
Starting is hard for perfectionists, even Messy Perfectionists. We want our first attempts at everything to be flawless. So we strategize, and make lists, and assemble tools, download software, watch youtube instructional videos, research....all in the name of planning.
But all that planning means you're never actually doing.
You see, perfectionism is procrastination's best friend.
Which leads me to another great quote:
Seeming to do is not doing. (Thomas Edison)
That one really hurts me. But it kind of nails my M.O.
Busy, busy. Not really doing anything meaningful. Not actually starting that thing that's so big. That thing that's important. But I sure am busy, planning my perfect assault on the mountain in front of me.
Writing my book meant I had to start somewhere. I had to throw some words on the pages and write some bad chapters. I had to quit making outlines and doing research and simply....begin. I had to start where I was, which was overwhelmed, scared and unprepared.
That's a perfectly good place to begin. It's exactly where most great things are born.
What are you putting off starting today? Are you telling yourself that you're working on it, but deep down, you know you're simply "seeming to do" instead of "doing?"
Today, simply start where you are.
Stop tiptoeing around the edges and testing the waters. There will be no better time to start than right now.
Start that decluttering you've been putting off for years. You really have enough Pinterest pins on organizing...now, just do it.
Start that new resume. You don't need to research new formatting and perfect fonts.
Start that painting. Make a bad one.
Start that flower bed. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Start that load of laundry.
Start that blog.
Start that book.
Start that business.
Start that Bible Study.
Start that degree program.
You name it...but simply start.
This is the day to begin.
Question: What will you start today?
I want to know.
The trees here in Texas are a glorious shade of bright citron. The new leaves are unfurling in the spring sunshine and putting on a beautiful display for all to see. As an artist, this is eye-candy for me.
I love leaves. And trees. And seasons. And forests.
A few years ago, Tom and I found ourselves in Colorado in the Autumn. I was absolutely enchanted with the aspen forests, displaying their glorious fall foliage on the mountainsides. It seemed like each turn of the road revealed new vistas of the trees in blazing colors - golden, orange, red, green and yellow. It was as if they were on fire!
All I wanted to do was get out of the car and walk into one of the forests so I could experience it from underneath the incredible leaves.
One day, we spotted a perfect forest to explore from a vantage point on roadside pull-out. Through our binoculars, we looked across a wide canyon at a blazing hillside, and discovered that a dirt road wound right though it - and after consulting our map, we decided to take a hike there the next day.
I couldn't wait to get inside that solid mass of color!
The hillside we spotted from far far away. I wanted to explore THAT forest...the brilliant one right in the center, up high.
And when we got to the interior of that golden aspen forest, it was indeed...absolutely breathtaking. It was a cathedral of trees: quiet, except for the rustling of the leaves above, and there was an incredible sense of wonder that enveloped me as we stepped into the sanctuary. Within seconds, I stopped in complete amazement and turned in all directions.
"Ohhhhhhh...." was all I could say.
I could hardly take in all the beauty.
The floor of the forest was so much more open than I'd expected! There were huge spaces between each white trunk, leaving room for a soft undergrowth of grasses and shrubby plant life. We followed a meandering little animal trail, and admired the towering trees that formed a solid canopy above.
I remembered how, from our far-off vantage point the day before, this forest looked so massive and formidible, I couldn't see any individual trees.
But from here, right up close, I could see how each aspen had its own space - each had its own uniquely patterned trunk - and it was only waaaaay above my head that their branches touched and interlocked to create their shimmering cathedral ceiling.
That day I was reminded, in such a beautiful way, how in life, vantage point makes all the difference.
It is so easy to miss the forest for the trees....or get so wrapped up in the trees that you miss the glorious forest they are creating.
I took a deep breath of the crisp air and thought of how many times I've been so focused on the obstacles I've faced that I've missed the grace God was providing for me to get through them. How I would get so tired of the daily tasks of motherhood that I failed to see the progress that was happening right before my eyes as my children grew and matured. Or how sometimes I still get so overwhelmed with the enormity of my problems that I fail to see the individual steps I can take to solve them.
I am forever thinking tasks are so big, so intimidating, that I don't see the small, simple things I can do to accomplish them.
Forests. Trees. So often I'm blinded by one for the other.
Today, let me encourage you to change your vantage point.
Perhaps you are facing something that seems just too big to handle and you can't make any sense of it all. Or maybe you have a vision for your life that feels unattainable, unreachable. You can see the solid mass of forest, but not the trees it will take to make it.
Maybe you are stuck in the daily-ness of raising children, a difficult health situation or a job that seems pointless - trees that are blocking your view from a glorious canopy just above you.
I challenge you to step back from your life for just a moment and ask God to help you see beyond it to the to the work He is doing.
Allow Him to give you wisdom to see the forest - or trees - that will make all the difference in how you view your circumstance.
Changing your vantage point will give you a whole new perspective and will lighten the burden you're carrying because you'll be able to see a bigger picture.
Trust Him to show you the details you've been missing, and to give you a grand view of what He is creating in and through you.
His beautiful plan for you is unfolding....and you've got a front row seat.
“A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.” A.W. Tozer
My question to you: how will changing your perspective transform your world today?
I'm talking about "learning to let go" at Raising Generations Today.
If you're struggling with the things you should have done better while your kids were little, or you're just wishing you could hang on to that young adult a little longer, I hope you'll find some help here.
Pop over and say hello to me over there! Raising Generations Today is an awesome group of encouraging women, endeavoring to help moms in every part of their mothering journey. There is even a conference coming up this fall!
I'm honored that they've asked me to share my thoughts on raising teens and young adults, as well as the "empty nest." The blog world is strangely quiet about these important years, and I know I'm not alone in searching for encouragement and help during this phase of parenting.
Join me! I'm Learning to Let Go.
It's Holy Week, and I'm distracted by a lot of things: work, unexpected events, an upcoming book launch, my hair that needs a root-touch up. An art installation has gone long, cramming this week's thoughtful meditations on the sufferings of Christ into a Cliff-Notes version.
I hate it when this happens.
Last night, we got home late from the said art installation (I know, on Palm Sunday) and ate our pizza in front of the TV. There was a little phrase that had been going around in my head all day, and after awhile I left PBS's episode of Selfridge to go look it up.
"Behold, your King."
Behold, your King. Now, where did that come from?
Turns out, I wrote about this very phrase several years ago on this blog. I think I needed to revisit it. And what perfect timing for this week.
It all came back to me with startling freshness. Behold.....
My king, on a donkey.
But allow me to let you read my thoughts from that post in 2009 by starting here, in which I bawled my head off in a big, ugly cry....
And finished here: Zechariah 9:9. Here is a little excerpt:
...the donkey here is significant, not only because Jesus fulfilled this prophecy literally, but because a king riding on a donkey would be a ludicrous sight! Why, his feet would almost drag on the ground as the lowly beast of burden carried him along! A king on a donkey clearly shows that He comes in peace and gentleness. He is down at the level of the people, where they could touch Him and speak to Him, not up on a high horse or imposing chariot. Jesus took the humblest of creatures to make His triumphant entry.
So typical of Him.
He tenderly leads, carefully rules, and graciously uses the lowliest for His glory.
What a King.
Maybe your week is looking like mine: busier than you'd like, and no way to really change that.
Maybe you're trying to get into the spirit of Easter and all the remembrance and holiness stuff, and it's just not working for you.
Let me suggest this: simply meditate on Jesus. See, in your mind's eye, a king on a donkey.
Gentle, righteous and merciful.
Approachable and kind.
Loving, and bringing peace.
This. is our King.
Oh, that we could open our eyes and truly SEE Him.
Behold, your King comes to you.
I'm praying for you this week. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Easter week, and I'd love to know what you think of when you envision your King in this way.