Playing in the Rain

Playing in the Rain

I was meeting one of my good buddies early one morning this week at a coffee shop to catch up on life and sharpen iron before the days activities began.  The alarm woke me up a little before 6AM and as I rolled out of bed I heard the rain hitting the roof.  When rain hits Atlanta you might as well double your commute time… never fails.  I hurried my morning routine, pulled out of the neighborhood and headed to the interestate.  Not a mile down interstate 400 did I see the sea of red across all 6 lanes as commuters begain tapping their brakes.  Frustration settled in a little but I turned on some music to help pass the time.

Breakfast was at one of my favorite spots in the Perimeter area, a French-style restaurant called La Madeleine.  I’ve been going here for close to 12 years.  A mentor of mine invited me there for the first time in my final semester of college as I was looking for my first job.  Before 7:30 in the morning it is filled with the movers and shakers of the business world.  As I left the restaurant I was surprised to hear a piano being played and looked next to the front doors.  There was a young girl wearing headphones and was completely lost in the music as her fingers danced over the keys.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a piano donated to the restaurant and sat outside for anyone’s use.  I chuckled at how long that must have been sitting there without me knowing.

I got in my car and rolled down the windows so I could hear her play – it was beautiful.  I wished I hadn’t had to jet for another meeting.  It would’ve been nice to sit there and listen to her a little longer while the rain came down on my windshield.  As I drove away I started thinking about her playing that piano in the middle of the rain and was really encouraged.  It was 8AM on a Tuesday morning.  Wet, rainy, drab, and grey.  Most of us (myself included) can begin to look at the day through a negative lens when the weather is unfavorable.  Not for this girl.  She was lighting up that parking lot with music and probably touching a lot of lives.  I have no idea who she was but I’m grateful she was playing that piano.

It reminded me to create beauty even when situations and circumstances are unfavorable.  It doesn’t take much most of the time… just a little creativity and having the right positive mental attitude.  I don’t know what season you find yourself in as we head into the holidays but maybe we can all take a little lesson from this girl.  Go play in the rain and inspire beauty and joy despite what might be going on around you.  It’s silly, now that I think about it.  That piano may have been there for years and I’ve walked right past it.  I can’t play a lick but now that I know it’s there, I might have to go play a few keys the next time I go to breakfast.  Is there a “piano” you need to play over the holidays?  Don’t forget to play in the rain.  And the great thing is, the sun always comes back out again.

-SD-

Do You Have Room for Me?

Do You Have Room for Me?

Recently I had someone I wanted to try and meet up with and they couldn’t. It got me thinking about how much we max out our lives and then can’t find time for people. So as not to confuse you that this was a one time ask and during the end of the year, I was asking this person back in August for a get together they couldn’t make until January.

I had another person recently tell me; “You want us to be friends, but we just aren’t.” Ouch. That one stung. Hard.

As I jump into the holiday season of busy schedules and with more excess but not enough bandwidth I was reminded of another person who possibly was so busy, (even serving people) that he failed to see what really matters. The person I am talking about is the inn keeper in the Christmas story. I believe not having room, is one of our generations biggest struggles. So as I thought on this I did a study. What I found was fascinating.

I knew that in Jewish culture hospitality is one of the utmost and highly important aspects of their lives. I had always been in awe of how the children’s version of this story shows a mean person shouting “no room!” at poor pregnant Mary. How could someone do this to a pregnant woman? Most especially someone who is from such a culture of hospitality.

I personally would have offered her my own bed. I would have! And then I got to thinking about last years Thanksgiving where I housed 17 people in my home for four straight days. I had air mattress everywhere and we had blow ups literally in closets. I spent so much money on food we had to cut back for three months after that. Then I hosted an extended family potluck gathering on the Friday after thanksgiving for over 32 people. Whew! I was so busy I failed to really see anything past what was physically right in front of me. I also didn’t really get to enjoy it either. Is this how the inn keeper was when Mary and Joseph arrived?

It was census time, so he was already hosting and probably had been for a while. The scripture clearly states there was no room. I wonder if there was just emotionally no more room. Tired, exhausted, and in need himself his capacity for one more thing was not possible. One more thing was just not in his wheel house.

Luke 2:7:

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

I found out that the Greek word, used here is kataluma, which means “lodging place”not “inn”. For example, in Mark 14:14, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples in an “kataluma”.

Joseph wasn’t turned away necessarily however, the “inn” was probably someones home more than it was a hotel. The inn keeper’s upper room was already full. I don’t believe this person was being mean on purpose. They just didn’t have any more physical or emotional space. Oh my, does this speak to our “first world” problems!

How true is this during the holiday season. We have room for stuffing and turkey and Christmas presents but have no capacity to help feed the forty-million people who die annually from starvation and malnutrition, (roughly 7 Jewish holocausts).

Who in your life is begging for room in your heart and you are already so busy and so full that you can’t see it? A question I often give to my clients when they are looking for mentors is:

“Do they have the time and energy to invest in you?”

It might sound harsh but so many people do not have the capacity anymore, whether by choice or circumstance. Sickness, trauma, and job loss are all circumstance that steal our time from relationships. But so does watching six different TV shows, keeping up with social media platforms, online shopping for things we do not need, and playing gaming systems for hours on end. In this dilemma we find many of us are missing out on something really extraordinary when it comes to relationships. Our capacity to love and to see need is being COMPLETELY wiped out.

Back to the story we find something else. There wasn’t any space in the upper room. But what about the family room? What about where the inn keeper slept? Did this person even ask the other guests if they minded sitting on the pillow cushions in the main room for a little while so the woman could deliver her baby? My guess is no.

Mary ended up giving birth in the “garage area,” of the then Jewish home. This is where people kept their animals. The Savior of the world was right in front of this particular individual and due to being so maxed out, exhausted, and full of his own life he fails to see. The feeding trough in those day’s was not the pretty little baby bassinets we make in our manger scene these days. They were dug out dirt holes in the center. The feeding area that was built into the floor of his home ended up holding his King. The very king this inn keeper and his ancestors have been praying for, for generations was lying in his personal dirt hole for his animals.

pexels-photo-1652555

Who are you giving the bottom hole in your home too? The last dirt and grimy place you have? Jesus was born in the middle of lowly, busy, hectic, everyday life and that is so very beautiful! But, what isn’t beautiful is the detail of who missed it. The irony is not lost on me. Are you and I missing the real life people in front of us because we have allowed ourselves to have no room?

An exert from our book An Exceptional Romance

“When we are spinning out of control like this we will never have the bandwidth for what God has laid out for us as the greatest gift…

My husband and I say it often when we speak.

“Busyness will ALWAYS be the death of romance.” – Kate Dahlin

We are missing out on the biggest romantic story in all of eternity when we are so full we fail to see God’s people right in front of us. As we step into the holidays my question is…

Do you have room?

 

+ statistics found in book by Jen Hatmaker 

Believe

Believe

The Holidays roll around and with it a word. Sometimes whispered sometimes punched out on a Polar Express Ticket and sometimes shouted out by a toddler. The word is “Believe”. It is suppose too evoke a kind of magical awe in the individual saying it and encourage them.

IMG_9062

But what if it is hard to Believe? What if you’re scared? What if you are going through something really hard? What if you don’t like the way the belief is playing out? What if stepping out of the boat and being brave causes you to sink, to never recover? Fear is the enemy of trust and belief. When we choose this over faith we will always miss out on the magic of the season God has called forward for.

My Daughter said something the other day. When she said it I could see fear rising up. She was thinking about getting old just like her Great-Grandma. She was grappling with belief. She is six years old.

“Mommy, when you die will you be buried in the ground or in Heaven?” 

“Daddy, How can Jesus be in heaven and in our hearts at the same time?”

Belief is beautiful. Faith is trust. And as we come into the holidays it seems everyone has an abundance of it. But sometimes believing is hard. It carries weight. In the Bible, there is a story about a man who had incredible faith and obedience. But he also grappled with fear. Let’s take a look at the story of Abraham.

Abraham wanted a son. He had begged God for one and had even tried to manifest it in his own way. Apparently, patience was not a virtue for him. Yet, in the middle of all of this we are told Abraham was suddenly overcome by fear.

I love this part of the story because anytime I feel lead to step out in a “new way” or a “big way” or in a “trust way” fear comes knocking! This story helps me realize that this is not a new thing but a very old one that all of us face.

Genesis 15: 1

The Lord’s Covenant With Abram

1After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield, a

 

Here we see that God instructs him to not be fearful. To walk boldly because He is his shield. He is protecting him. He literally is a piece of armor infont of him. God was telling Abraham that he was covering him in all the right places and that He would survive this and not only that but that Abraham would thrive!

Proverbs 30:5

5“Every word of God is flawless;

he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Are you in place in your life where you don’t think you’ll make it? Has life’s battle field caused you to be beaten down. Are you questioning if you are bleeding out spiritually, emotionally or physically? Do you feel like you are laid bare before the battle field?

God told Abraham that he was covered in all the right places and that he was in a vital spot to survive.

Genesis 15: 4-6

…your very great reward. b

5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring d be.”

6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He was a credited in righteousness because He believed! He trusted God’s hand was at work and that He would accomplish what He said He would, period the end. That is it, nothing else. If you have a battle going on and you are hustling so very diligently are you trusting in God that he has you covered in this season? Have you picked up your shield? Your war may not end but you will be protected by God himself!

As you think about the nativity, Jesus, faith and Mary’s trust, this season I hope it gives you courage. That you remember that in your season you too can be credited in Righteousness. All you have to do is, Believe! He is able!

Romans 4:20-24

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

IMG_9060

How To Pack Perfectly So You Can Have A Perfect Trip!

How To Pack Perfectly So You Can Have A Perfect Trip!

 

In the last year and a half we have been to Africa, Colorado, Italy, Canada, California, Scotland, Kentucky, Disney World, New York City and the Beach five times. I am not saying this to boast but to explain how much washing, laundry, and packing I have done!

To learn how to do this efficiently and well for each trip is a feat! Each location is different, so different things must be brought.

I have a system that is fail proof! I believe in this system so much. I believe in it even more after a trip where my sisters gigantic suitcase was siting next to mine. I realized that my little carry on had brought triple the amount of shoes as her case had and it was for the same trip. So without any further fluff here is my system.

#1. I start with the weather. What is it going to be and for how long? I usually don’t pack a lot of extra because I am of the mindset if I need something extra I can usually buy it, (Unless I am camping). For the most part when I travel I usually like to save space for souvenirs and shopping.

#2. Always invest in good luggage. If you travel a ton it is worth it!

ADC78FFB-3E3F-4DAF-9103-CC1FE5BAEF51

#3. Shoes!!! This might seem backwards but I start with shoes. If I am headed to New York and walking but want to look good I know that is diffrent than the beach or to the horse track. I create my outfits from my shoes first.

#4. Lay out all outfits. Visually this helps coordinate and make sure you’re not bringing all one color but that you can over lap shoes or a hat. I Always bring workout gear and a swimsuit; no matter what!

08B1B127-0876-43F8-AB3B-EC6B6881B5E7

#5. Toiletries are key. I usually pack my flat iron, downy wrinkle spray, bra stickies, detox foot pads, a hair mask, an eye mask and fiber supplements along with ibuprofen. This is my travel stuff not my everyday. I also always carry roller balls of “peace and calming” or “stress away” because you never know what smells or issues you will run into!

3DB8A819-F706-4EE4-AE33-AEB14D800229

#6. I repeat this process for every single person and then if you have the kids in the picture I allow each one to pick one toy and one book to bring.

Happy Travels Everyone!! Enjoy your holiday season to its fullest!

Season Change

IMG_5741.jpg

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  -2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)

 

I’m sitting in my office today watching the last of the rain pass and admiring the beautiful bursts of color in the trees that seems to have manifested overnight.  The cloudy weather has only amplified the colors and made them more exquisite.  Yellows, hints of orange and burgundy, deep maroons, and brilliant reds.  Make no mistake, there is still a lot of green out there.  The transformation has started earlier for some than others, but they’ll all get there eventually.

What season of change do you find yourself in today?  Is it a good one?  Are you waking up with a bounce in your step and refreshed energy because things seem to be going your way?  Maybe you acheived a big goal, paid off some debt, closed that large deal, found some news friends, got some great news from a doctor, or seem to be excelling in work and ministry?  Or have you been caught off guard and find yourself defeated, exhausted, and frazzled?  Financial woes, a job loss, family dissension, marital strife, a sudden illness or health setback, spiritual exhaustion/fatigue, moving and loss of friendships can have a significant impact on our outlook.

Here’s the good news.  Everyone goes through change – no one is immune.  It may be easy to look around at everyone’s “perfect life” and wonder why you’ve been dealt all the bad cards.  But you know as well as I do, that is all a lie.  The book of Ecclesiastes talks about this alot.  The author, Solomon, came to the conclusion that there is nothing new under the sun and that everyone is impacted both positively and negatively.  This isn’t very comforting when are are in the valley.  It’s also not very comforting when you are on the mountain top either.  Kate and I have had to deal with thoughts of fear during the times when things are just going our way.  Afraid that we are one phone call or email away from something going awefully wrong.  We kept wondering, “how long is this season going to last before the bottom drops out”?

We need to be reminded and take comfort in knowing that our point of reference and “hope” is not in what we see around us.  Our achor is Christ.  He will use these season changes, if we allow Him, to mold, shape, and transform us into His glorious image.  What does that mean?  We will begin to reflect the attributes of God more in our life, despite what is going on.  Instead of FEAR, we will be prone to PEACE and rest.  Instead of WORRY, we will TRUST His goodness and timing.  Instead of ANGER, we will sense JOY welling up within us – even when there is not natural reason why it should be there.  Instead of JEALOUSY, we will find ourselves CONTENT with all things.

God’s image is much more glorious than anything we could ever possibly create on our own.  Yielding to his Spirit’s power will not only empower us to walk through whatever season of change we find ourselves in, but will also radiate beautiful colors to those around around us.  I sometimes think about God in heaven looking down on His children.  I wonder… might he possibly see all of us, in our various stages of change and transformation, like the autumn leaves that we see in the midst of fall?  A glorious and beautiful bouquet of all shapes, colors, and sizes.  He’s smiling at you, and he wants to radiate through you.  All you have to do is let Him.

 

-SD

 

No Longer Legal

No Longer Legal

On one particular “girl nights” this past summer I played one of those question games where you get to know people better. Things like, “If you were a unicorn what would you do?” or “If we were all in a fire who would be best equipped to handle the exit strategy?” All of these questions were really funny but the answers made them even funnier! This little game however led my husband and I to use one of the questions in a very different capacity.

As most of you know, we speak, write and encourage couples on relationship success, lifestyle, and high performance living.  One of the questions on that specific night loaned itself to some incredible insight.

IMG_2946

“If you could make one legal thing no longer legal what would it be?” 

The answers on the night of that ladies trip were broad and humorous. What was interesting was that this particular question sat in my mind for a while. It kept coming back up for me but in totally different ways. It caused me to think further and more profoundly on the matter of what we choose to allow to dictate space and ideas as ok in our lives.

The thought that I kept coming back to was, what we allow to be “legal” in our lives that shouldn’t be. Things we absorb and the things we deem ok. These ideas and concepts that  for whatever reason we just take as fact and acceptable. They are not good, right, or beneficial in any way. Things  and phrases like “marriage is hard,” verbal assault under the blanket of “constructive feedback,” violence in any form, hate, malnutrition. All of these things are things we should deem “No Longer Legal.”

When I rattle off this list most of us would say we would love to have all of those things eradicated from our lives.  Yet, personally we malnourish ourselves all the time, we hate any and every single opinion that is different from our own, and we orally assault ourselves with negativity that we would never ever let anyone else say.

So I ask again, What legal thing should you make no longer legal in your life? Not in any way should you accept this, not from others or from your self. Choose to say enough.

Things like:

  • verbal assault
  • hate
  • negative venting
  • gossip
  • malnutrition
  • substance medicating
  • rudeness
  • judgement
  • unhealthy thoughts that don’t serve you
  • negative feedback
  • arrogance

None of these things are loving. And like Carrie Underwood says: “We believe that in the end love wins!”

Creating Exceptional standards for what we are going to allow in our lives will help us to live more fully! So what standards are you making for yourself and for your relationships?

Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
+++ If you enjoy these concepts and would like to have Steve and Kate as special guests on a podcast, blog, or to speak at an event near you go checkout An Exceptional Romance for further information on how to engage with these authors!

For the Love of Books and Relationships

For the Love of Books and Relationships

 

 

I heard once that 82% of the world has at least one book idea, some have many more. Only 20% of people move past that phase and go on to the next. To write it and to publish. I am one of those stats. When we first started on this journey, we never thought it would be what it is today. We are humbled and over joyed!

I claim myself a writer. A blogger. And an avid reader. However my blog is a small audience and my claim of “writer” was because I write almost everyday in a private journal. I read but I am not as fast as I would like. I have more books in my “want to read” list as much as I have actually read. I have files on my computer for novel’s and book ideas.

Ann Lamot would say “mostly its all trash.”

I always dreamed I would write a book and have it published. Floating out there in the world  of “one day”, I could also claim the title that I was a “visionary” and a dreamer too. It was just a dream and a far off one at that. One of those pie in sky, may never really happen kinda things.

One day on a date, my husband who encourages me the most pushed the button of one day to “lets make it today”.

We cannot tell you how thrilled we are to have this small part of our journey written down! Initially, this was going to be written for our children. Just a small snapshot of the things, we believe, that can set you up for the best romantic relationship possible.

As we continually talked about the content to friends, publishers, and young people, we were encouraged to write it for more than our two kids. We heard from many that despite hundreds of relationship books out there, the need is still great. 

It is a short manual of sorts. We wanted this book to be a quick read and a powerful punch that anyone could get a hold of and use for their benefit. Our viewpoints are Biblically based, infused with real life stories, and has a culturally informed premise. We offer feasible life application that ensues success as you cultivate something unique in your relationship. By choosing to walk out the concepts outlined in this book, we hope to help inspire by empowering you in your romance. 

This is our journey of a dream. From the idea all the way to full on published authors. We hope it inspires you on how you too can put your idea out into the world!

  • Write. We started on napkins at a restaurant high top but the point is just get it out from your head and make it tangible.
  • Ask someone if it s a good idea before moving forward. We talked to some very strategic people in our life to make sure this was something they thought would be good for us to venture into. You need to find someone who can be fully honest with you. “Is it a good idea? Is this the right time? If nobody likes it would you still write it?”
  • Write more. Once you have decided to go all in on it, write. Then write some more. We started with a motivational speech really. That became our introduction. We took some of our blogs on the ideas and concepts we wanted to elaborate on and then wrote a proposal. After that we wrote and wrote. Lots of it was not used. Ans we wrote on chapters that ultimately we shifted and had the other write instead. Be prepared for this.
  • Have a co author or accountability partner. I would not have ever put it out there if it wasn’t for my husband. It would still be sitting on my desk unedited. he on the other hand would probably have never started the process. Having someone to be accountable to made all the difference.
  • Create a cover design. We spent some time really thinking about the design and look we wanted for our book. If you want it to grab people make sure it would grab you and of course that you love it!
  • 99Designs. We took our ideas to a company that then formatted 100’s of different ideas for our book and paid the extra money to make it happen. this was by far one of the best ideas we did! They formatted it for paperback and for kindle versions. We recommend them to everyone!
  • Meet with as many authors and publicist as possible! Ask lots of questions. We ended up meeting with over six different authors and four different publishing houses to learn as much as possible about this process and all the different approaches you can take.
  • Edit. This is my least favorite part. personally. I am horrible at editing. It is time consuming and reveals my flaws like nothing else.
  • Have a friend edit. Pick someone who will comb through it and kindly give you feed back. Preferably someone who is excellent at grammar.
  • Higher an actual editor. This is not a step I would ever skip. I know that there are many places now where you can just upload your work but if you want it to be done well and to be an enjoyable read for more than just your mom you must choose to invest in professional editor!
  • re-read. As you do this you will go through so many emotions! You be so proud and then you will thing everything you wrote is garbage! Just read. Make some notes think about it and talk to your co-author or the team behind you.
  • re-write entire sections due to the re read.
  • Find a publicist and launch as well as you know how. You only know who you know, and what you know. A pub-list can help you reach wider than that. Do your best and allow God to use it however it is suppose to be used. Don’t fret about sales, reviews, or the fear of being buried in a saturated market. You did your part. Continue to do so and leave the rest to God.
  • CELEBRATE! After everything it is hard not to get wrapped up in the next project or relive the relief that it is done. Do not forget to give yourself the acknowledgment of your accomplishment!

If you are interested in reading our book or supporting us in anyway with this project go to Amazon, Lulu.com, Or Barnes and Noble to order your copy today!! You can use any of the links above or go to An Exceptional Romance and order your copy today!

  • We hope that you will pass this book out to friends, co-workers, and small groups. Use them as birthday, wedding gifts, and Christmas presents. Help us sell books. It’s that simple! The only way new writers are ever heard of is by people like you and me shouting about it. By doing this you are supporting writers, the reading world, the publishing industry, and relationships everywhere! The hope is that this book will encourage, equip, and give life!

Thank you for your confidence and support in this project. We are honored to see how our simple story and thoughts might bless others to do the same things in their romances and with their dreams.

Happy Reading!