Real Life Stories

Theme:  Stepping out in Joy – Living an ALL IN life

One sunny Saturday my husband and I were walking into the grocery store.  As we walked toward the entrance I noticed a beyond cute little girl who was about 4 years old walking out of the store holding her mother’s hand.  This child was decked out in all her favorite gear.  She was sporting a little pink skirt with another layer of pink tutu over that.  The dual layers of skirt were matched with her little pink shirt accented with her pink cowgirl vest.  All these sweet layers of pink were topped with pink stars floating in the sky but grounded by her pink hair band.  Completing her perfectly pink attitude was her show stopping pink cowgirl boots and the skip she infused in her step.

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As I was digesting this delicious little perfectly pink child, I felt nearly speechless and completely enamored.  I tugged on my husband’s sleeve and said just look at this ca-ute little child skipping on out to the car happily holding her mom’s hand with no care in the world while sporting all her favorite pink pieces that exist in this world.  Now that was a complete picture of joy.  Everything about her presence spelled joy.  That child was most definitely ALL IN!


My husband’s response was thoughtful, deep and succinct, “that little girl does not even know that judgment exists in this world.”  How true.  How beautiful.  How sad.  What exactly is the life message I’m experiencing here?


Can you imagine this complete package of ALL IN joy?  Can you imagine that joyful spirit discovering judgment?  Have you ever had a moment when total joy or elation lead to a later feeling of judgment or disappointment?  It is difficult to avoid these moments in this world.  It’s what you decide to do with the information that makes the difference.


You can decide to ignore the judgment, avoid future risk of judgment, become bitter or angry about what others think or say, retreat into a space of unexpressiveness, accept that not everyone comes from a place of joy, feel sorry for others who live in the space of judgment, pray for those who are not in joy.  There are so many choices of how to respond.  Sometimes it takes a series of experiences before our joy becomes clouded.  Sometimes it can be one significant event that can rob joy.  Here is one thing that I know.  I know that only I claim my own joy.  Only I get to decide whether or not I allow others to take it.  I also get to decide if I am going to hang out with people who will affirm my life of joy or if I hang out with others who are calloused to joy and linger in heaviness or gossip.

Have you ever experienced a moment, an event, a powerful awareness, a vision like this little child all wrapped up in joy from the inside out?  Have you ever paused to ask yourself, “how does this change the way I live my life?”


I decided the moment I witnessed that small child stepping out in her pink cowgirl boots that wanted to begin living my life toward that kind of joy, that kind of confidence, that kind of innocence yet completely present.  I decided I wanted to share that story over and over again.  Do you remember what it was like to get up in the morning, put on all our favorite gear and just step on out with your care-free, ready-to-greet-the- world attitude?  Of course, this child had the security of holding her mother’s hand.  As you get older what serves as your security to simply be yourself?


Does security mean avoiding risk and playing it safe?  Or does security grow by actually taking risks?  Does security mean controlling every outcome?  Or does security grow as we learn to let go of the outcome?  Does security come from only our own means?  Or does security grow from encouragement and affirmations from others we love and respect?  Does security come from knowing every answer?  Or does security grow with faith?  Who is in your life affirming you?  What are your core beliefs?  What keeps you centered and grounded?


As an adult, how do you eliminate the insecurities that hold you back from living ALL IN?  First you have to admit that you “have them,” these insecurities.  You have to learn how to identify them.  Then, you must conquer them!  Conquering begins with the step of identification.  For example…


As I dwelled over the statement about judgment for months after my husband and I saw that little girl I realized that judgment was something I was not only sensitive too – I was dishing it out in large portions.  ouch.  This was a very painful awareness.  I had been judging others based on my expectations of who or what they “should be” and giving myself credit for who I intended to be.  I thought everyone around me should be perfect because I expected myself to be perfect.  I liked things done the way I liked them to be done.  Does this make the way others do things WRONG?  Of course not, but I was unable to see this when living in my small world of judgment and, yes, control.  Control is judgment’s best friend.  They often live very close to one another.


Judgment hurts the people we love the most the deepest.  This awareness is a painful one.  Speaking from my personal experience, I realized that I was cutting to the core this amazing husband of mine who supports me and loves me through all he does.  Even so, I felt that nothing he did was ever really good enough.  Is there anyone in your life who might receive unjustified judgment?  Is there anything they do right?  Or are you expecting perfection?


A very wise friend shared with me once that her mother always said “if everyone around you is a jackass, you better look in the mirror.”  You know, at the time she shared that with me, of course, I never ever thought about myself in that mirror.  (By the way, that would be called denial, judgment’s first cousin.)  If you are surrounded by people who frustrate you maybe a quick check in the mirror before your start your day or walk out the door could be a good thing.


As I was so very focused on moving toward what I thought was the ALL IN joy-filled life – plenty of money, great business success, moving to our dream house on the river – it seemed to me that my husband was not doing enough to help me make this all come true.  So what did I do to change HIM so we could have all those things?  I stomped on his heart.  I chipped away at his self-esteem once sentence at a time.  And I loved him!  How confusing must this have been to him?  How confusing it just is.  Do you think that this changed our situation for the good?  Do you think it brought more success?  Do you think there was overflowing romance?  All I can say is that I needed a mirror.


How did I move from judgment into embracing gratitude for all that I have and all that I am, gratitude for all who love me and for all the gifts that have been given to me to be used to help others?  Not the gifts wrapped up in pink packages with pink bows but the gifts from God that are given to us when we were perfectly created.  I did not make that shift overnight and I did not make it without an intentional decision to live a more fulfilling life.


A couple of months after seeing that little girl at the grocery store, I began reading a book that changed my life dramatically, Mathew Kelly’s “7 Levels of Intimacy.”  There was a sentence that within this book that jumped of the page as I read, “Nothing kills intimacy faster than judgment.”  I remember that as soon as I read that line, tears began to stream down my face.  I came home that night and embraced my husband and said, “I am so sorry.”  Ken looked at me puzzled.  I told him that I was just beginning to realize how much in judgment I was living and that I was chipping away at his strength when he did not deserve that from me at all.  I cannot tell you how long we must have embraced one another both in tears.  Ken being the gentle man that he is forgave me.  He also said, it was almost becoming “not worth it” to hang in there.  The pain that shot through me when I heard those words from the lips of this love of my life is unexplainable.  It was like a dagger but it was an important awakening.  It was time that to look in the mirror.


About a month went by after this conversation and turning point in my life and our marriage and Ken asked a very traditional question.  So Rob, what do you want for Christmas?  In my mind, there was only one answer.  I spoke out that answer with great joy – I’d like to have some pink cowgirl boots.  I’m ready to step out in joy.  Christmas day was amazing.  I opened up 2 gifts from my husband.  The first was 3 inspirational books.  He chose these books just for me without any input from me.  He just found 3 perfect books straight from his heart to mine.  And then, gift number 2, I opened with hope and anticipation.  Could it be…?  Yes indeed, the most spectacular pink cowgirl boots I had ever seen.  As I write this, I’m wearing those boots for inspiration.  Inspiration sent from my heart to yours.



When you began this chapter “Living an ALL IN life,” what came to mind for you?  What does living ALL IN mean to you?  Did you think, sure I could live ALL IN – if only…?  Or did you think, I was just not meant to live ALL IN?  Or did you think I am ALL IN!  Perhaps you have some questions about how you can move toward an ALL IN life of joy and purpose


For me, ALL IN does not mean having it all together.  It no longer means being perfect or being more or better than anyone else.  It means using my gifts fully.  It means living in alignment with my heart.  It means living in a way that my thoughts, words and heart are all congruent.  It also means living every day in gratitude.  Grateful for all that God has given me.  When this is true then true joy exists within me.


So if you want to begin moving toward living life ALL IN… how do you begin?  Waking up daily in gratitude is a really good way to begin your everyday.  In fact, scientific research tells us that it is impossible for our brain to be grateful and worry at the same time!  How awesome is that?  Having that small significant nugget of information was huge for my life.

At night I used to toss and turn with worry about the next day or what I did not accomplish or do “perfectly” that day – when I learned about this scientific fact that worry and gratitude cannot exist simultaneously in our thoughts, I began to repeat gratitude statements as I would fall asleep at night.  This also conditions our brain to wake up in gratitude.

So, do you choose to be grateful?  Do you choose be grateful right now for all the good that is in your life already?  Do you choose to be grateful for the opportunity to change or move away from those things that are not so good?  We have the opportunity to choose – hundreds even thousands of times each day.  I challenge you to choose joy, choose gratitude, choose love, choose humility, choose confidence and choose to wear your pink cowgirl boots!!


Take a moment and decide right here, right now…

Today I choose to…






Then… say out loud, “as I take each of these steps I will celebrate the progress of living my life ALL IN!  I am living an intentional life and my path does matter!”


Remember, celebration does not have to be expensive, extravagant or require large blocks of time.  Celebration can simply be shouting, sharing your progress with another in your life who will affirm you in your accomplishment.  Celebration is key to creating momentum in your life.


So, go ahead and celebrate.  I’m proud of you for stepping out onto your ALL IN path of life in your pink cowgirl boot attitude.


This is a day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~Psalm 118:24