Daring Greatly

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

2014. The end of one thing and beginning of another. For some it came with a sigh of relief symbolizing a chance to start again, an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past year, a shot to re-evaluate and re-calibrate. For some it was a sweet parting that left a smile on their face, joy in their hearts, and hope on the horizon. For others it slipped away too quickly and took with it unfinished business, unrealized dreams, and unmet expectations. Regardless of the feelings you had at midnight on December 31st 2013-the condition of your relationships, the status of your goals for the year, the dreams dashed or realized, the fulfillment or letdown or heartache you experienced over the course of 365 days-the clock ticked on and brought us into a new year. Time knew no compassion and slowed for no man. It ticked on unhindered by the beings that measure so much of their lives by it. Time. It is constantly the thing we work against, that limits us, that we can never have enough of. And yet it is the yard stick by which we measure our progress and fulfillment and accomplishment.

Jesus had 33 years on this earth. 33 years. Today, we’ve barely begun by 33. At 33 you might have just gotten out of the starting blocks with a career, a family, your financial stability. 33 seems so limited. So how did 33 years lived by one man make an impact that has never and will never be overshadowed by any other life? Because he dared greatly.

I don’t know that any other quote has struck me to the core so swiftly and damaging as Mr. Roosevelt’s above. The challenges presented in his words are bold enough to motivate me to fight lions, to jump off a cliff, to get into a boxing ring. Anything but stand on the sidelines. But at the core of these statements I know he’s not talking about feats of human strength. His challenge is to pursue relentlessly passions and dreams, to find the heart of life at the bottom of your poured out soul, to leave everything on the field, to make every effort regardless of the certainty of the outcome. Forget time. Measure your life by the amount of it you give away, the greatness with which you dare to live it. Time was no limiting factor for Jesus Christ because he leveraged every second with daring love, compassion, and grace. It didn’t matter that he only lived 33 years because it wasn’t the time he spent with people that made a difference. It was the love with which he loved them, the forgiveness he was willing to extend with one word, the grace that he lavished us with when we didn’t deserve it.

In 2014 I want to dare greatly. To leverage every second in a relentless pursuit of Christ. I need to stop looking at my watch, waiting on the time when my life will start and things will be the way I want them.  Like I said, there’s no fulfillment in a ticking clock, no compassion, no encouragement, no love. This year is about getting into the arena whether I feel equipped or not because the adventure of my life awaits me there. Join me?


Supposed To…

The words “supposed to” have become like deadly bullets that cripple me into a state of complacency and limit my potential to live freely, love deeply, and experience life fully.

I have this deep desire to do things because I am truly compelled to do them not just because I should. I’m not saying I’m going to stop doing all the things I am “supposed to” do. I’m just saying I want to be able to really stand behind them and tell you the reasons WHY. I want to love the Lord because I can’t live any other way, not just because I’m supposed to. I want to do what scripture tells me to because I am responding to God’s love in the form of obedience, not just because I’m supposed to. I want to pray because I’m craving to talk to my Creator, not just because I’m supposed to. I want to love people because I’m compelled by God’s love for me, not just because I’m supposed to. I want to stand for meaningful things not just follow what I’m supposed to do.

My mind has been reeling around this thought for a while now. A life lived by supposed to won’t amount to anything deep or meaningful or convicting. A life lived by supposed to will be forgotten. There were a lot of things Jesus was “supposed to” do and say and be as the Messiah according to the people of Israel. He wasn’t what they thought he was “supposed to” be. He was more. He didn’t do things that he was supposed to do according to the will of the people. He did the will of the Father. And thank God for that. Had he lived life by the supposed to’s, we’d be without any hope and without any life.

Some of our supposed to’s are bad. These ones are results of a lack of conviction. They are results of succumbing to the status quo. They are outcomes of identity crisis and unfilled voids. These are the ones I need run from.

Some of our supposed to’s aren’t wrong. They might be really great. Those are the ones we should dig deep into and build up a heart foundation underneath. When your heart becomes invested in those supposed to’s they change into want to’s. Want to’s are better because they are active choices. I think active choices are proof of your love or your care or your concern or your passion.

Think about all the things you do because you’re “supposed to.” Now filter them by asking yourself why. Jesus didn’t live a supposed to life. And neither should we.

Be Awesome.

As I was driving home today, or should I say crawling slower than a baby in molasses, I was gripped with a deeply seeded fear. “What if my life ends up like being stuck in traffic.” I know where I want to go and I know what I’m passionate about but what if it just takes forever to get there or what if I never get there at all. I want my life to be awesome.

Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to say they lived every single second and they wouldn’t change a thing? The song “I Lived” by One Republic was pretty much the Creek Tribe’s anthem this summer. We sang it hundreds of times and every time it was at the top of our lungs and with complete belief that living life like that was possible. Not just possible, but in those moments we were actually doing it. It was our life mantra for 2 months, the words we lived by. I haven’t listened to that song much since the summer to be honest with you. I guess it makes me a little sad. It’s a little depressing to try and belt that song out when you’re stuck in six lanes of traffic if you know what I mean. (Sidenote: I am going to a job that I love so that makes the traffic bearable.) Maybe it’s all this time I have commuting to work that’s got me in this flustered state, but I’ve been reflecting on the reality that we only get one life. That’s it. And it will go by faster than any of us think. One shot to leave an impact. One chance to leave the world better than when we came into it. One opportunity to love people. One, short span to live in a way that will convince others to make a decision that will change their eternity. It should be awesome. It was meant to be awesome. What excuse would ever be good enough to make us settle for average? This evening I got home and decided I should do something productive with my time so I casually picked up the book Jon Acuff gave to all the WinShape staff this summer at staff training. It’s called “Start” and the cover reads “Punch fear in the face. Escape average. Do work that matters.” Ok Jon. Teach me how to punch fear in the face Rex Kwon Do style.

In the first chapter he paints this picture of what our world is like today and why it’s so easy to just be awesome and live an awesome life versus an average one. Today we, and when I say we I mean everyone-not just 20 somethings like me, WE have opportunities to literally change the world. I don’t mean do a few nice things for people and skate through the rest of life on that high. I mean really change the world. We can reach thousands of people with technology and social media today. Thousands. And we can follow our dreams.

One reason I love working with high school girls so much is because I want to be the person that tells them they can be anything and do anything they want to do long after they’ve grown out of the imaginative world they used to inhabit as a 5 year old. They CAN be a doctor. They CAN start a company selling items they’ve made with their own hands. They CAN go to cooking school. They CAN change the world. I want them to find someone who believes in them in me. Maybe that’s all we really need. Someone to tell us we CAN again. Not a world that tells us we can’t. If you’re reading this, I think you can do that thing that will make you happy. I think you can have a job that you love. I think you can travel the world. I think you can stand up for what you believe in. I think you can overcome any circumstance. I think you can make a difference. As I’m writing this God is telling those things to me; I can do those things too. He believes in you more than anyone. He gave you those dreams in the first place. Having faith means that you keep trying and trying and trying even when you fell like God doesn’t hear you or isn’t listening or is even rejecting your request (read Matthew 15:22-28). As cheesy as this sounds, I just want to go after those dreams. I have lots of stuff I want to do, things I want to accomplish, goals I want to reach. I think I need accountability to keep reaching for them. Maybe you do too. So tell someone a crazy dream you have. I dare you. I think I’m going to take the cue of some good friends of mine and make a list. Be on the lookout. In the meantime, just be awesome.

We Stand.

I’ve put this post off for a long time. Partly because I didn’t want to think about the reality of what I was writing and partly because I had no idea how to do justice to the person I was writing about. But the time has come. Because I need this and I owe it to her.

21 days ago I was laughing and reminiscing as I cleaned vans with some of my dearest friends at camp. We were carefree and full of life, basking in the goodness of the Lord as we reflected on the Indian summer we had spent together. 20 days ago I said goodbye to a community of people that inspired me, lifted me up, fought alongside me and changed me. With the full assurance I would see them again soon, I hugged them tight and drove away. 12 days ago a devastating thing happened. A thing that ripped all of our hearts out and stole the breathe out of our lungs. 6 days ago the prayers we had prayed so diligently and desperately were answered in a very different way than we all had hoped. And it felt like the whole world cried at the loss of our daughter, sister, niece, friend. Last night, broken hearted, weak-kneed, and still unbelieving we came together again to celebrate a life well lived. Hundreds of people wept, laughed, and praised God for the life of a girl that changed us all. It was all we could do to stand. But we STOOD. Stood and praised the God that made, loved, and freed Julia Grace Tarter.  

As I took my seat and listened to the band sing “Reason to Sing” by All Sons and Daughters, I heard the words my heart had been fighting all week to express. I needed a reason to sing. I needed to be with people who were searching with me. We sat, hurting and exposed. And then a video played showing parts of Julia’s journal. 2 days before her accident she had written an entry that begun with the truth that Christ is enough. It hit me. THAT is the reason I have to sing. Christ is enough. He will always be enough. No matter what condition we come to him in, he is enough. His grace is enough. His love is enough. His healing is enough. His Word is enough. As our celebration of Julia got underway, we were asked to stand in worship. I’ll be honest, it took all that I had to stand. My knees felt like they could buckle at any moment under the weight of the pain and confusion I felt and still feel. But we stood. All of us. And we lay our broken hearts before the Lord as we thanked him for the 20 years we got with Julia. With tears steaming, we turned our eyes to the Lord and that was ENOUGH. That was all we needed to stand. And I’m convinced that if we keep our eyes there the peace will come.

I’m not ready to run a marathon. I’m not at the place where I can think about her and not be sad. But I can stand. And that’s a start. We can all stand. In any storm this life brews up, we can stand. Why? Because of the hope we have in Christ.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

He has overcome the world. Julia overcame this world. I can overcome this world. You can overcome this world. Just stand, eyes fixed on the Victor. Julia won because she lived freely in the victory Christ had already won for her. Even in death, she won. This girl has inspired me to live in that daily the way she did, to love people the way she did, to love God the way she did.

So. I’m choosing to stand. On the truth that Christ is enough, the hope that I will overcome this world, and the assurance of life abundant I have in Him.


An interesting thing I discovered about the wilderness is that everything is so real. That may sound like a very elementary thought but it was revolutionary for me and for my time as a Creek. Think about peanut butter. My mom was a choosy mom and chose JIF (clearly the best of all peanut butter). As I got older and went to college, I tried to be a smart shopper and buy store brand items when I could but one thing I could never compromise on was peanut butter. I tried but it just wasn’t the same. It was just an imitation of the real deal. Out in the woods you’re surrounded by realness everywhere you go and if you’re being fake or putting up a front, people can see it from a mile away. You become just an imitation of the real deal.

There was something about being in God’s pure creation that made me drop the façade. I found that I couldn’t hide the condition of my heart form the Lord any longer. It was divided. It wasn’t fully his. Over the course of the past year I had placed my faith in relationships and in myself and my ability to lead and love. Daily I was surrounded by mountains and rushing rivers and weather and so many things I didn’t create and I couldn’t control. And it all beckoned me to worship the Lord and to give him all of me. Because I, like that mountain and like that river, was created. Created for a higher glory than my own. All those elements were at the complete and total submission of God. Displays of his splendor. And that should be me too. So what separates me from a mountain or a tree or a breathtaking view? A heart. And what I discovered about my heart in particular is that I hadn’t been loving the Lord with the wholeness of it. To be in total submission to God and to be a display of his glory I needed to love him with my whole heart.

I can tell you there is a battle for our hearts. This was something that my tribe became very aware of this summer. As the Lord worked in our lives and in the lives of our campers, we learned about the active role we play in fighting the enemy and in fighting for one another. In Waking the Dead, John Eldredge says “the story of your life is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.” Everyday I think I’ll have to surrender whole-heartedly to God. It’s not a one time deal. But I’ve learned this summer that pursuing God whole-heartedly is the only way to love Him and it’s the only way we’ll make it through this bloody battle called life.

“Then I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”  Jeremiah 24:7


Process. Process. Process. That’s what everyone keeps telling me to do. And that’s what I’ve been preaching as well. I’m standing on the other side of an incredible, challenging, life-changing summer and its overwhelming to think of all that’s happened. Where does a verbal processor like me begin to talk about all that I have experienced over the past 2 and a half months. I pride myself on being able to craft words into expressions of my heart but at the moment all my words are failing me. So, that’s where the creation of this blog stems from. A desire to document and explore all I’ve learned coupled with the inspiration from a few other friends who have also created blogs to share their stories. And that’s what this will be, a medium for sharing stories and discovering matters of the heart. My heart to be exact.

“To a believer, nothing is more important than loving Jesus with all of your heart. How each of us needs an undivided heart that is GUARDED by the testimonies of our Lord. A whole-hearted commitment to the Lord and His Word will put our lives together.”

This beautifully captures the truth I’ve learned this summer and the thing I think I was lacking before this summer: an undivided heart. I can see how over the past 2 months God has captivated my heart once again. He took my brokenness and unfaithfulness and lured me into the wilderness where he spoke tenderly to me. He wrote a part of my story this summer that has opened the eyes of my heart and given me testimony that will guard my heart. And not only did I get a new part of my story, but I watched him write chapters in the lives of 4 of my closest friends and 42 beautiful, high school seniors. Each of their stories bear witness to the good, faithful, compassionate nature of our God. These chapters have changed the direction of our lives and we will never be the same.