Red Cardinal Life: Why We Are Made to Stand Out

He didn’t know how beautiful he was. The red cardinal bounced from branch to branch, twittering, and looking around himself as I stared at him. His bright red took over the green leaves of the trees. He looked both regal and vulnerable; his color screamed, “Look at me!” while he seemed tiny in comparison to the tree he was perched.

I refused to look away. Birds never stay still for long. I didn’t want to lose him. His color was riveting, and he had my full attention, for just those few moments.

And he didn’t even know it.

He didn’t even know I stood there gazing, caught by his beauty. That I ignored my morning coffee in my hand, steam rising as I hoped he would bounce closer.

I realized then, isn’t he like me? Aren’t we all like him? Beautiful in our own way. One of a kind, stand out from the crowd type of people, yet we don’t even know it. We don’t realize how amazing we are. We don’t realize how special and unique our vision, our gifts/talents, our personalities, our passions make us in comparison to everyone around us.

Not a single person on earth is made to blend in. We were all made to stand out. In our humanity, we don’t have defense mechanisms like some birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, and sea creatures that make us blend in to our surroundings. We were born with thoughts and feelings that make us unique compared to everyone… even our siblings who may have had all the same inputs as us.

Our bodies, minds, and emotions are uniquely ours- uniquely created. We have influence over our families, friends, and coworkers around us that nobody else does. I look up to some women in my life who look down on themselves and the same may be true for me as it’s easy to get caught up comparing.

“I’m not like her.”

“What do I have to give?”

“I’m plain compared to that person.”

Going back to the birds all around me on the porch that morning, besides just not realizing all the time that we are each uniquely crafted with inherent beauty, it’s the differences that make the world so much better. I thought of how a woodpecker is different than a cardinal. They don’t compare. They just live. And both are beautiful and unique.

If we were to drop our defenses, stop trying to blend in, and just live beautiful in our own right, how would the world look different? Maybe we’d spend more time talking to people around us rather than scrolling on our phones. Maybe we’d go for that promotion at work, rather than talk ourselves out of it with negativity. Maybe we’d apply for a business license, taking our side gigs to a new level of work.

Unlike the cardinal who might never realize his beauty, let’s step into the fullness of all we are meant to be and able to do. Let’s let confidence over fear carry us to the next “thing” in life. Let’s stop trying to blend in and recognize how intrinsically valuable we really are, owning our gifts and capabilities in the process.

Let’s be okay with standing out. We were made to!

Creating Our Own Clouds

Photos by Chris Lawton and frank mckenna on Unsplash

I’ve learned recently something all too true, and somewhat scary… we often in life create our own clouds, our own pain, our own drama.

There was a situation recently where I had a choose to do or not do something regretful, and unfortunately, I didn’t choose wisely. I chose a chaotic storm of events that has filled me with sadness and grief ever since.

What was I THINKING?! I’ve asked myself for weeks. Not that I condone living in regret and shame—there is no reason to replay a series of bad events over and over. But I did and do need to process alone and with those closest to me—what is going on and what led to me making one bad decision over a different good decision?

I created my own clouds, my own STORM really, and didn’t have to.

But then, I realized the hope. I didn’t have to.

I actually had the power to not walk into that decision. I had the power to choose differently. Which means I have the power to choose differently the next time.

Sometimes when there are clouds over our lives, clouds that keep us bogged down, we need to recognize that those painful things that “happen to us” aren’t really happening to us at all, but are a series of choices that we could have made differently. And when we can realize that difference, we become empowered.

We become empowered to see joy in pain, to learn, to walk through the steps of making the wrong right again.

Creating clouds and storms can honestly grow us, if we let them. It’s time to recognize we have a choice and to let those painful things change us into more wise and mature people. Kinder. More loving.

Storms, clouds, and chaos. It’s time to stop worrying about what we did wrong. Or for some it’s time to stop playing the victim. Instead, we need to see where we have control, and need to take control back into our own hands, learn from the pain, and let sun shine on us again.

The Death and Life of a Single Seed

Planting, weeding, digging in your garden or flower bed… Typical summer activities that I’ve been doing more of recently and they reminded me of a conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She was talking about planting seeds in her garden, and how a seed, being covered with soil, is almost like a burial. Then, in time it transforms completely, and becomes something new. The seed, now a seedling, breaks out of the earth into new life.

This is a beautiful picture.

A burial. A death. Transformation. Life.

We ourselves go through many life-changing, transformational events. And often these events begin with a “death” …an end of what was before we see the light of positive change and growth. New seed coming through the earth.

Examples of this could be relationships, bad habits, or a big move from one city or country to the next… before we see fruit of change and new life, there is often a death.

Death doesn’t always mean the end. It doesn’t always have a final say. Like the burial of a seed in the ground, life takes root and hold in that dark place and THEN we see it, popping from the earth slowly through the growing stages and taking full force of color, life, and fruit.

But what I didn’t realize in conversation with my friend, that occurred to me recently is: the new life only takes root and produces beautiful fruit under the proper conditions. That little seed needs water and soil for nutrition and growth, and energy that only comes from the warmth of the sun in order to grow and change. The seed will just stay buried, dead in the ground with no hope if not for the beauty of perfect conditions that help move it from one stage to the next.

I think it’s the same for us as humans moving through the world. In order to take root for the new life waiting for us after each burial, we need the proper conditions to thrive. We need kindness and love from and for others. We need self-care and forgiveness of self and others. We need warmth from family and friends. Without these things, we may just remain stuck, buried, or live with anxiety.

Assess where you are at now in life. Where are you in the death to life to fruit producing process? Maybe it was the change of having a house full of kids to being an “empty nester”. Is this new stage in life something you can thrive in? Or will you remain buried with memories in the past wishing to have things as they were?

Maybe it’s the end of a job. As you move on to the next thing will you transition well with excitement and joy, or will you carry resentment if the old job didn’t end well, or fear of the future as you move on?

Seeds of life that carry fruit for the next season will need to go through that burial process. And maybe you won’t see light right away. But the key is to build the proper conditions around yourself to make that transition possible.

Maybe you’re in a season of thriving. The seed you buried cracked and grew. It’s producing fruit and you know you are just where you need to be in life. That’s a beautiful thing. Sow into the people around you and be sure if they need fruit, shade, and someone to lean on… your life can be a safe haven for others. You never know when you might hit a winter cold and need those same friends around you to walk you through the change if it happens.

Seeds, death, life… change, transformation, fruit… beauty, healthy conditions, pouring into others. There are seasons of burial and change and the process can seem daunting, depending on where you are at. But there are also seasons of fruit and life. Joy to be had. Life to be lived.

I’ve had many hours to process when working in the yard/garden through the warm months of spring and summer so far this 2021 year, and I’ve been able to reflect on not just what is happening in the stage of life I’m in, but also the conditions to be able to walk through it well.

I need to pour into healthy relationships and practice forgiveness of self and others if I’m to break out of the tomb into the new life I’m looking forward to next. It’s only with the proper soil conditions and water to help me grow that I know I can move up and truly transform. And I know I’ll be able to. Life is coming… I’m breaking out of the soil I’ve been “buried” in. Planted in. And as long as I keep that soil well-watered with the forgiveness to let go of what was, my next stage and phase will get here, just like spring planting always yields summer fruit. This is my picture of the beauty of the death and life of a single seed and the transformation that’s coming.

Permission to BE in BEING

Anyone else feel tied up and tight with pressure from self and others? Well this is your sign to take steps of freedom to just BE… Sometimes I feel caught in the past, or worried about the future, or like I’m chasing something that I don’t desire or want anymore, and I forget that I am allowed to BE in process as I do life. And I know others may feel the same. This is my note to you to embrace the freedom to BE.


Today, my friend, I release you.

I release you to relax and take a deep breath.

I release you to enjoy the short, good moments that you have on this earth.

I release you to do what you LOVE.

I release you to not just work for the sake of work, money, prestige, or something else that is an unstable foundation, but to work toward something you love because of passion and JOY. You were created with a personality and preferences on how to spend time and what hobbies and work you would pursue.

You, dear reader, have been put on this earth for a purpose… multiple purposes I’m sure, as seasons come and go and you move down your path and walk of life.

I release you to not stay caught up in what you DIDN’T do and HAVEN’T yet done, but in where you are in this moment of life; enjoy it.

I release you to have faith that you are where you are in life because you are supposed to be here right now.

I release you to not need to force yourself to hold onto past ideas that you claimed over yourself, or that others may have spoken over your life.

I release you to allow yourself to change.

You, dear reader, are a “being” a human being in BEING and you must allow yourself to BE. You must allow yourself to change. You are in process from what was to what is to what will be and change through the process is inevitable.

I release you to stop striving to be perfect.

I release you to go for a walk and take a break.

I release you to cry, even.

I release you to give yourself permission to be and breathe and relax into today, your purpose, what you love, and the inevitable change that’s coming as you just BE….

Today, dear reader, my friend, I release.

“Put the work in now.”

“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”

A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.

Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.

Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!

What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.

I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.

The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)

My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.

Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.

Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.

However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.