I am a dreamer.
Both in seeing possibilities in any situation, and also at night.
Last night I had a dream that felt so vivid, it took me a bit to shake off when I woke up. Have you ever been there?
I couldn't figure out why in the world I would have had the dream. It seemed so random, and made me think I was just over-tired.
And then it all started to make sense, in a symbolic way.
I don't know if I've ever done this, but I'm going to share what the dream was, and what came to me after the fact.
We have a huge hedge line at one side of our property. We also have a few trees. They are all pretty special. One was a gift from my mother-in-law, one a gift to my wife from the kids and I, and another that our kids climb in, swing from, and our hammock hangs on.
I came outside to see chains wrapped around the base of the hedge line, and a large red truck pulling them out by their roots. Now, this might not seem odd when you first hear it. However...it is when you hadn't hired anyone to do it...and someone just pulled on to your property and started ripping them out.
I walked further out onto the lawn, and as I glanced to the right, two men were walking towards me dragging the tree that my mother-in-law had given us. It's a large tree, probably 30 feet in the air, and a trunk sturdy enough to climb if you were a kid. They had cut it at the base, and were hauling it away.
And then came the small sapling of a tree that our kids and I bought for my wife, on mother's day. It's an adorable white magnolia that stands only 4 feet tall so far. It's tiny. But it, too, was cut at the base.
I spent the next several minutes in the dream trying to sort out why this had been done. I confronted the men working, and none of them seemed to care too much, or offer an explanation that made much sense.
After finally getting an explanation that didn't offer any real answers that made sense, I began to wake from the dream. As I was coming to, I realized one more thing was happening as I did.
Drifting in and out of being awake, still in the dream, I was laying on my side weeping, holding the small white magnolia tree that had been cut down...that we gifted to Cara. My arms were wrapped around it, as I lay there trying to make sense of why someone would do such a thing with tears rolling down my face.
I started my day. But the dream kept popping into my mind like I was supposed to do something with it. Like it was begging to be understood. Like there was a lesson in it.
And within the hour it started to come into focus.
1. There are times in our life when something needs to be pruned. We've tossed around the idea of removing the hedge line on our property because it requires a ton of maintenance, and seems to have issues staying healthy after the winters. It's hard to keep up with, and generally causes more issues than the time spent on it is worth. It looks great once in a while, but generally is a beast to manage. Huge prickers constantly pop out of it, and snag your clothes if you walk too close to it. Vines choke out the one end, and a few random weed trees have started to sprout from it, that need to be removed.
*Do we complain about the circumstances that need "pruning" in our lives, or actually do something about them?
2. There are times in our life when something is taken from us that we have absolutely no control over. One day it's there, the next it's gone. It is beautiful to look at, think about, and reminds us of the love we've been given in relationship. And then...with no explanation it's vanished.
*Are we honoring the relationships in our lives with every ounce of what we can bring to them, or taking them for granted like they'll always be there? Not being dramatic...just realistic. Can we be a better friend? A better family member? A better community member?
3. There are times when we need to put things in proper perspective. We need to understand the frailty of life. We need to focus on the things that are precious to us, instead of wasting out time, energy, and resources on the things that frustrate us.
*Are we focusing on the most important things, or running in circles preoccupied with urgencies that aren't really emergencies?
We have windows out both sides of our home. Many of them focus on that hedge line. The ones on the other sides focus on the gifts given to, and received from.
The view we have in life depends on where we stand.
The perspective we focus on is a choice.
I'm wondering today...
I'm reflecting today...
What needs to be pruned, and cut away in my life?
What needs more of my attention, and a posture of appreciation?
All that from a restless dream.
I hope somewhere in it is a seed of hope for you. I hope your own personal wonder and reflection reminds you of who, and what truly matters the most to you.
Life is fragile.
Life is shorter than we'd ever imagine.
Life is also a beautiful gift.
When we see what is right in front of us, everything else comes into focus.
-Prune with a purpose.
-Pour into the hearts and lives you've been blessed to do life with.
-Plant a seed of hope in someone else's life.
I hope in some small way I've been able to do that for you.
Look at the first picture I shared today, at the beginning of the blog. You'll see my story in it when you look closer. You'll see the vibrancy of the flowers on the tree my mother-in-law gave us. Beyond it in the blur is the small magnolia tree for my wife, the hammock, the climbing tree, the swing set for the kids...the reminders to me of who matters most. The reminders to me of what matters most.
Today, I'll look at the windows that face the view of the last picture I'm sharing...where everything in it has a clear focus to it.
Today, a restless dream helped this picture come into a deeper, clearer focus in my life. What might come into focus for you after hearing it?
And that hedge line? It will get the pruning that is long overdue. I'll be thinking of you, as you find what needs pruning, too. Lord knows we all have something. Figuratively, and literally.
Three letters can say quite a lot.
Depending on how they are arranged, they say something different.
Shared one after the other they are incredibly significant.
How we say something is as important as what we say.
When we know who we are, we will know what to do.
Let's think about this in the context of team.
Should we win at all costs, or for a cause? At all costs might help us achieve the win, but we'd be sacrificing something too valuable along the way. Honor. When we tackle a task as a team, for a cause, we are doing it for something bigger than ourselves. We can start to get a glimpse of what it means to be there for one another.
I recently read a book this summer that talked about the greatest qualities in a captain. One of the characteristics they lauded was winning at all costs. To push the boundaries. The examples they gave, and began to explain away as acceptable because it was within the boundary of sport, shocked me.
And I'm afraid that is the world we are living in. It's the world we are raising our kids in. It's the world that says it's ok to taunt, trash-talk, and berate an opponent. After all, we are only "getting in their head". What we miss is that we are also getting in their heart. We are showing them that HOW we say something, and what we say matters not, as long as we win.
We are living in a time when WHO we are in sport is separated from WHO we are in "real life". I'm afraid for a generation who thinks this is normal, healthy, and ok. My heart breaks as they will grow into adulthood thinking that winning at all costs makes them a champion because they "gave all they had".
In the process they will have given away something more important.
I haven't held a medal, trophy, patch, or plaque that is worth that.
And if we continue to make excuses for behavior like this in sport, what's to stop it from being repeated in academics, vocation, and relationships?
If excuses for behavior like this becomes our currency, we'll have raised a generation that experiences emotional bankruptcy.
Part of this journey is teaching the next generation that we value accountability. We value honor. We value service. We value stepping in and sacrificing our preference for the good of the team. We value standing up for ideals, and for those who can't. We value hard work, no excuses, and pushing through tough times.
I've coached for nearly 20 years.
There has never been a greater need for our generation...the parents...to stand shoulder to shoulder and raise the bar. It's one that must be lifted higher. And in order to do that across the board, it will be heavier. It's one that can, should, and will be done...if it's done together.
To be clear, I'm not being cryptic about any one situation I've experienced as a coach. I'm not writing today based on my current coaching position. I'm writing this because it's been on my heart for a long time. I'm writing this because something deep in my heart senses that this whole thing might be getting away from us more than we care to admit.
We look the other way far too often. We pretend like our kid(s) couldn't possibly be involved, or part of a problem. We have forgotten that we too were once kids. We too needed direction, guidance, and yes...discipline.
I can sum up the greatest need our children have in one word:
I can sum up how we as parents should see our next steps in one word:
To hold our ground. To teach from our failures. To instill honor. To model service. To live humbly. To demand respect for their elders. To teach them to make eye contact when speaking. To teach them to say please and thank you. To listen. To hold doors. To go last, letting everyone else receive before we take. To arrive early. To put in an honest days work. To sweat for something we believe in. To stand tall in the face of criticism that's unwarranted. To believe the best in people. To be consistent in our effort. To admit when we are wrong. To take ownership of our shortcomings.
The list could go on. It should go on. And at the end of the day, it should spur us on. To live a life that honors others above ourselves. To admit that how we say things is as important as what we say.
And when it's all said and done, if we look around and see a generation of disrespect growing, we need to own that it's coming from seeds we've planted.
Put another way...
We put the entitlement papers on their desk to sign with our approach.
I think it's time we rescinded that offer.
I think it's time we do better.
If you already are, I applaud you, and look forward to learning from you.
In the meantime, I'll be using what platform I have as a coach to teach as many things off the list above to every group I have the honor to coach. Once in a while I'll run into a person here or there that thinks I'm too optimistic and idealistic. Forgive me if that not only doesn't bother me, but rather inspires me.
I'm staying the course.
I'm taking the opportunity to hold my ground and teach accountability.
If I can help one more student-athlete to discover WHO they are, and help them to unleash their God-given potential?
That's the win I'm after.
This is why I coach.
If you feel frustration where you are, cast a vision for where you are going. Not everyone will buy in. Not everyone was meant to. That's ok.
I was going to tweet that thought just now...then I paused.
I felt like it needed to be unpacked a little bit.
Here is the heart behind it:
There are times when there is a resistance to something we feel passionate about. Instead of seeing that as the reason to stop, it just might be the time to see it as a confirmation that we need to press on.
Here's the thing...think about any time in history when something happened that was full of significance. Most every one of them came with a healthy dose of resistance.
Breakthroughs require pushback.
New ideas will be met with naysayers and doubters.
Change that excites you makes others uncomfortable.
Pushback, naysayers, doubters, and the general feeling of being uncomfortable can be filed in one drawer in your journey to accomplishing your goals...
I say file, because I like to keep all of it around to refer to from time to time. I like to see what people said I couldn't accomplish once I did. Not to bring it back up and throw it in anyone's face...that's arrogance. I save it there so that the next time I am tackling something I have a reminder. I let my past encourage my future.
Where are you today?
Can you relate?
Do you feel frustration where you are at? Perhaps there is a distraction(s) that is creating the weight of that frustration. That weight is lifted when we start moving forward and casting our vision onward.
And, yes, it's true. Not everyone is going to feel the way you do. Not everyone is as passionate about what moves you. Bill Hybels calls it your "firestorm of frustration". Taking the one thing you can't stand to see stay the way it is, and creating change. Create better. Create a future that reflects the joy in your heart of what it would look like to see the task accomplished.
Steven Furtick once said, and I paraphrase, "Don't rush to the door to beg someone to stay, get there first to hold it open so they will leave faster." If someone doesn't want to be there, stop begging them to stay.
There is a phrase I use that I share with any team I work with.
At first it can seem direct, maybe even harsh. But it's just the truth.
For you. For me. For all of us.
We are invited, not needed.
Today...take a deep breath. Look around. Are you reacting to your current circumstances, or responding to your opportunity?
Amidst your current frustration, cast your vision.
Be ok when someone walks away.
Once that dust settles, now you can really get down to the business of going and growing. You've got the team around you that believes in you.
The first invitation you must accept is the one to yourself.
That your idea matters.
That your heart is full for a reason.
That your vision has meaning and a purpose.
Once you accept that invite, let the pursuit begin.
We can't wait to see where it takes you.
And so that you don't feel like you are in this alone?
I'm heading out on a new journey of my own right now, too.
We'll talk more about that another day.
Today is about shifting our perspective from seeing our current challenge as paralyzing frustration, to the moment in time when everything changes.
A watershed moment.
A moment when we embrace our calling, and start casting its vision.
Look at the picture I shared in this post today.
It looks a lot like our future.
While everyone else is getting run over by them, jump the wave. You'll be a little closer to your goal every time you do.
The wave is symbolic of your next challenge. It's excuses. It's pushback. It's doubters. It's naysayers. It's the change others don't want any part of. It's your chance to put them all behind you.
Bend your knees.
Take a deep breath.
I can't wait to see where the journey takes you!
And when it gets hard along the way?
Turn your frustration into your fuel.