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Five Minute Friday: Last

I didn't know it would be the last time I got to talk to him.
I didn't know it would be the last time I told him I loved him.
I didn't know it would be the last time I hugged him.
I didn't know it would be the last time I saw his smile.
I didn't know it would be the last time I heard his laugh.
I didn't know I was about to enter into a world where last defined my relationship with my dad. Saturday will be 17 years since I said my last goodbyes to my dad. It was a horrible, freak accident that took him from my family too soon. He was young, happy, alive. And then he wasn't.
I still remember being there when his last breath left his body. When his heart beat for the last time. When the last sparks of his life faded away. I remember every tear, every sound, every color in the room. I remember the pain on my step-mom's face, but the bravery there, too. I remember being held by my mom, tears falling down her own face. I remember wanting, more than anything for this to not be the last time.
I have the last card he wrote me still. It is surrounded by my two favorite pictures of my dad - his senior year of high school and shortly before he died. His handwriting is still familiar and  I can still hear his laughter and influence in the way my siblings talk, in the way they live their lives, in the passions they have. He lives on in the lives we all live, but some days the lasts are the things I remember the most.
I will miss him always, I will love him until the stars fade from the sky. I will regret the firsts he never got to experience with us, and I will cherish those last memories, good and bad, for as long as I live.
I hope beyond hope that in his last moments, he knew he was loved, knew he was surrounded by those who knew him best, and knew that with his last breath, he was telling us that he loved us, too.
I miss you, dad. More than you know.


I'm Risking More...than Yesterday!

One of our recent #StartExp challenges was to really think about a time we failed, write about it, and then let it go. That is not an easy challenge! If you're anything like me, you'd much rather forget your failures or missed opportunities than think about what happened. But, I am determined to take this challenge seriously.

So I thought about it.
And thought some more.
And pondered.
And wondered.
And got sadder.
And got more introspective.

I realized something. I haven't really ever failed - at least not big. Sure, I've made some bad choices, did poorly in some classes, messed up - - but something that I would count as a failure? I was having a really hard time coming up with something. The closest I got was basketball in the 6th grade. There are things I don't do well (sing, dance, sports to name just a few) but totally fail? I don't know. Is my inability to lose weight and keep it off long-term a failure? Maybe. But I'm getting it more and more under control.

And then I realized that I didn't have a good example of failure, which should have been a good feeling. But, it just made me sad because I realized I haven't had an epic failure...but I've also never had an epic risk. My mom said recently that neither of her kids are risk-takers, and I think she's totally right. So then I realized something completely not profound, but shocking to me - my lack of failure is my biggest failure.

The only way I can overcome that is to take bigger risks - so, in that spirit, I am putting my big Start dream out for the world to read right now. Over the course of a few weeks I had several people comment on the fact that they thought I had a nice speaking voice, was well-poised and had a good way of delivering information. I am comfortable in front of a group of people and on stage, and I'm learning to take compliments, so I said thank you and smiled when the first person told me I should figure out how to do voice over work. And then the next person said it. And then another. And then another.

So, here it is. I'm looking into ways to get some voice over work and explore what recording books on CD might look like. I've joined a website for people looking for this kind of work and have researched what a couple different books on CD companies request for possible voice talent. I'm working on what I would include on a demo CD or site and have been practicing voices in the car on my way to work. I'm so excited to pursue some of these things. And, if I fail, please let me fail because I risked big instead of failing because I never risked at all.



The Personality of a Starter...

A somewhat unexpected side effect of being a part of the Start Experiment: feelings of inadequacy.

As I look through the groups and boards, there are all these people with all these huge dreams, plans and goals. There are people willing to quit their jobs, move their families and do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true. There are people with passion and drive and community. There are people who seem to be living, breathing, dreaming and exploring the power of truly "punching fear in the face" and starting something new.

And then there are people like me.

People who have some idea of what they'd like to do, but aren't quite sure what it will look like. People who are still too "logical" to just risk everything. People who enjoy the feelings of security that come with a stable job and a "safe" life. And then I start to wonder if I'm the wrong type of person for the Start Experiment. Am I just the opposite of the kind of person that Jon Acuff was looking for when he launched this experiment? Am I the stick in the mud instead of the person willing to do whatever it takes to live their dreams?

I am always excited to hear people living out their dreams. I am inspired by people who know, without a doubt, what they are supposed to do. I want to be that person, but right now I'm not. My Start Experiment may turn out to be a whole different journey than some people - my journey might just be about giving up my need for comfort and giving into the unknown.

Remember at the beginning of 2013 when I said my One Word for 2013 was Ready?? Well, here I am, seven and a half months into the year, and I'm still learning lessons on what ready really means...stopping some things, starting other things, learning more about who I am and where my life's journey is taking me...

Maybe I'm the right kind of person for the Start Experiment after all.



Small is the new Big

5 Minute Friday is a weekly meme created by Lisa-Jo Baker.
Not Big.
Not Enough.

For years, I have associated small with not big. It's a word about little things of little importance. It is a word about things that aren't going to make a difference or change a life. It's about things that don't matter and won't matter. But, lately I've been thinking something new.

what if small is the biggest word of all?

All things start small. All big ideas begin with just a moment of brilliance. All great speakers speak in front of a small group of people first. All dreams begin as whispers of something more. All big things were once small.

Movements don't begin with thousands of supporters.
Performers rarely start out on the world's biggest stages.
Faith doesn't begin with huge changes.

Life starts small.

Small babies, born from their mothers, grow to make an impact and change the world.
Seeds become plants that flower and give us beauty, food and comfort.
Single words on the page flow together and create prose.
Small changes lead to bigger and bigger changes.

Small is the beginning, not the end.

Small is not a bad word; it doesn't mean something is of little importance. It means that something is just beginning to take shape. That small something may grow into something that changes the world. Instead of starting with the big stuff, start with the small. Begin with the little things and let the big things take shape on your journey.



Fear, Failure and the Future

I'm on day four of the Start Experiment with Jon Acuff, and I'm already feeling the pressure and internal struggle coming. Start is all about getting off your bottom, getting moving, and doing something already. I get that, and I'm excited to do it or I wouldn't have signed up. But, I'm not going to lie. There is real, honest, fear in doing so.

What am I afraid of?

I am afraid of failing.
So far my life has bee incredibly, increasingly ordinary. I have carved out a good, calm and loving existence in the world. I have made a home with my husband, work a job that challenges and inspires, and enjoy the people that have come alongside me in my journey.

Those are all good things. But there is a difference between good things and great things. Great things require risk. Risk requires being willing to fail. Failing means standing up, dusting myself off and starting over. And those are all scary. Because it's been a long time since I've really risked like that - if I ever have. While I'm sure there is so much more my life could be, I am happier and more content than I have ever been. So, why would I change that?

I am afraid of staying the same.
I once heard that as long as you're alive, you still have something left to do in the world. If you're breathing, the plan for you isn't over. And, since I still have a heartbeat and breath still fills my lungs, I am just as afraid of staying where I am as of failing. Because my life is wonderful, but what am I missing out on because I'm afraid to take the next step? What am I not doing because I am afraid to submit that article for publication, complete that demo reel or accept that leading opportunity? What am I settling for when I am called to not settle for the world?

I am afraid of dreaming too big. And dreaming too small.
Have you ever wanted to do something so crazy that you didn't know whether it was worth doing or not? Is there such a thing as a dream that is too big? Sometimes I feel like I go for broke and then have no idea how to get there. So then I scale my dreams down to something smaller, and smaller, and smaller...until there is nothing left but my normal life. I struggle so much to make my dreams attainable that I forget that maybe, just maybe, they're not supposed to be so easy to achieve.

The next 20 days are going to be interesting. I'm excited to see what happens, where I go from here, and how I feel about fear and failure at the end of this experiment.



Changing the World....And Myself

What happens when you put 200 girls between 4th and 12th grade in a room, along with 100 volunteers and 50 moms? The simple answer? Something powerful.

This is the third year that I have served on the One Girl Conference creative team and spent a weekend watching how God can move mountains and change the hearts of girls in just moments. One Girl, based on the book One Girl Can Change the World, is all about empowering girls to be confident and smart while knowing they are deeply loved and beautiful. Throughout the years, One Girl has evolved from something I did just because I got to write and perform some dramas to a part of who I am.

This weekend, I sat in the back of the room and watched as girls went from strangers to friends. I watched as small group leaders, some still teenagers themselves, wrapped their arms around hurting girls and told them they mattered. I watched my friends lead worship through singing, playing and tech work. I watched as the shy, quiet girls came out of their shells and as the talkative ones quieted themselves before their creator. I watched adults pouring themselves into the 24 hours of the conference by providing smiles, hugs, food and a place where these girls could feel safe. I watched breakout leaders shine as all their preparation paid off. I watched lives be changed.

I cannot help but wonder what will happen next for some of these girls. Will they go home to their families different? Will they be strong enough to let the rough parts of their life not take control? Will they remember they're beautiful when people say they're not? Will they love those that maybe they ignored before? Will they remember the stories they heard this weekend? Will they be challenged to be different because of what they experienced? Will they come back next year, ready to be filled up again?

This year, perhaps more than any other year, I saw what this conference means and what it can do in a messed up, crazy world. I remembered that there is a reason why we're called to tell our stories and to help everyone know that they matter to us and to their Creator. I was reminded that, just for a moment, I can be the encouragement that a young girl needs to get up the next day and keep on living her life.

One Girl might be geared for younger girls, but every year I feel like it is also for me. I cannot wait to see what happens next - where the One Girl road will lead. I am blessed to be a part, however small, of something that is truly changing the world. From the first moments we started planning, I knew this year had the potential to be something powerful. And, all our hard work paid off. My hope and prayer is that those precious girls always remember how unique and beautiful they are; and that the world doesn't drag them down too many dark roads.