The Hard Truth About Being An Idealist

Do you have a dream? Do you think about what could or should be? If so, you may just be an idealist who longs for Utopia, a heaven on earth where perfect peace and justice reign.

It’s not easy being a dreamer.

At some point people and the world will disappoint you. Leaders cheat. Gunmen take out dozens of unsuspecting people in the blink of an eye. Friends speak harsh words to one another, wounding each other at the core. Families rip apart over pain and betrayal.

Good people suffer at the hands of other good people, making us wonder why we say they are “good” in the first place.

Broken KeysAnd when an idealist encounters the heart-wrenching, back-breaking, soul-searching painful realities of life, they begin to wonder, “Why bother dreaming of something better? It will never happen, anyway.”

Friends, that’s one reason why some of the beautiful idealists you know are so often depressed. I know. When I realized that I wasn’t the ideal me I wanted to be and I didn’t have the power to make the world the ideal world I believed it could be, I gave up trying.

Why bother with futile dreams?

I have a special place in my heart for dreamers.

I talk about this more in my upcoming book UNFROZEN, but there came a point where I had to find a deeper truth to sustain me through the heartache of life. It came down to this:

No amount of joy in this world could overcome the heartache of never achieving the ideal. But being a living, breathing display of God’s love to the world…now THAT was something I could live for.

While I am usually frustrated with anything less than the ideal, it’s often that frustration that motivates me to stand up and make a difference in the world. I see potential everywhere. Nothing and no one is without hope, until my world crushes in on me and I stop believing in dreams.

Idealists have a very difficult choice to make.

Don't believe too much in your dreamsWill we refuse to acknowledge the pain of this world? Will we succomb to the heartbreak and get lost in the loss of what “could have been”? Or will we sacrifice our need to make everything ideal so we can offer who we are to the world anyway?

Sometimes it’s easier to settle for being happy over making a difference.

Sometimes it’s easier to give up.

But not you. You have it in you to let go of your need for everything to be ideal so you can offer the best of who you are to make the world a better place, anyway.

I created something to give you the opportunity to discuss what it means for idealists to face the hard truth.

Download this discussion/reflection guide for Disney’s Zootopia.

Emergency Cancellation

Choose Love Anyway

Do you ever do something spontaneous and exciting? This week I made a last-minute decision to sign up for a workshop in Nashville. It’s the kind of workshop that could help me clarify the way I talk about my message now and for the future work I do. I would get to confer with business leaders and expert storytellers to help me make the most of what I am offering. I’ve been hungry for something like this for months and this was finally the right thing at the perfect time.

UnknownA couple of days ago I took off on a 3 1/2 hour ride to Denver so I could fly out the next morning. After a restless night sleep, I was up and on the shuttle by 4 a.m., ready to embark on my little adventure. That’s when I took this picture to send my kids.

I feel bad for the unsuspecting girl in this picture. She has no idea that she’s about to be really disappointed. A few seconds later I checked my email and saw this headline: Emergency Cancellation. Sure enough, the workshop team had to cancel our gathering due to a family emergency.


When you get news like that at 4:00 in the morning it feels a bit like waking up from a dream. Surreal. Disappointing. This wasn’t ever real, anyway.

I took my zombie self to the ticket counter and cancelled my flight. An hour later I heaved my bag up the stairs of the shuttle, lowered into the chair and finally spilled the tears pooling in my eyes since I got the news.  There’s nothing like a vacant bus, driving away from the airport under the early morning stars, to usher in a moment of grief. Back at the hotel I wiped the tears, thanked the gruff bus driver and headed home.

Decision Time

There came a point, post-tears, where I knew I had a decision to make. Will I choose to love in this or not? Writing is good for me, if for no other reason than that I think about you in moments like this. Will I live what I say I believe or will I give into the temptation to cover, hide and blame? I handled it differently this time than I would have a few years ago. Perhaps you recognize these things in yourself.

My Choice:

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

  1. I let myself cry. I didn’t deny the fact that I was disappointed. I didn’t throw my tears onto any unsuspecting person around me, but I was honest with myself and God. I cried my little heart out on the way back to the hotel and then released myself from over thinking my sadness after that.
  1. I own my decision. It’s tempting to say all kinds of disowning comments when things don’t go as planned. I could say “it wasn’t meant to be” or “maybe something bad would have happened if I would have gone.” But there is no way of knowing what could have happened had I gone, because I didn’t go. I could say, “I must have been wrong about this opportunity, since it didn’t work out,” but I don’t believe that. I own my desire and pursuit of this little dream, whether I get another chance to go or not.
  1. I am not defensive. I had to explain why I felt the workshop was a good idea when my husband and I were deciding whether not I should go. Ultimately, he was very supportive and we made the decision together. (We make all decisions like this together.) However, years ago I would have felt like a fool for proposing such a thing and then being “wrong” because it didn’t go as planned. And when I feel like a fool, I act defensive. I would have walked into our home with a chip on my shoulder even before seeing him. But I didn’t this time.

This time was different. This time I let myself cry, I owned my decision and I didn’t get defensive. And you know what? I am still a little sad about the whole thing. But I am not carrying around additional pain from holding back tears, forsaking my decision and acting defensive whenever I talk about it.

This time, I choose love.

Which of these three choices is the hardest for you to make when you feel disappointed? Why? (They’re all hard for me!) 

Answer in the comments below or on the Facebook post.

How To Get More Out Of Movies

...and life

What questions and expectations are in your mind as you enter the theater to watch a movie? Are you asking if you’ll like the movie? Do you expect action or romance? Do you ever wonder what gift the movie has to offer you?

I get a lot out of movies and I love to talk about them with others. And when I say I get a lot out of them, I’m not messing around. I declared that Frozen literally changed my life and I’m not even being sarcastic. (Read about that here.)

Abstract ThoughtDespite my self-declared distinction as a “writer,” I prefer the movie over the book every time. It might have something to do with the fact that I think in shapes and vague images and have a difficult time imagining elaborate descriptions, so I skip to dialogue. The “Abstract Thought” room as depicted in Inside Out is a perfect example of what happens in my head.

But I love the movies. I don’t have to focus hard on imagining, so I can just think and feel. And that’s where the magic happens for me.

Open Curiosity

Let’s look back to Les Miserables which came out in December of 2012. I recorded my observations about why I got so much out of the movie at that time, but the concept of open curiosity applies to every movie…every life.

Considering the many criticisms I heard regarding the quality of singing and singers chosen for the Les Mis, I was surprised the noticable lack of musical precision did not bother me as it often does. Instead, I was lost in the moment, inspired with every note. This is why:

  • Curiosity.

    Rather than participating as a critic looking for certain elements, I came to the theater wondering what the experience would be like. Curiosity is an interest that doesn’t expect a certain answer. There’s no subtle demand to wondering…no agenda. Just the question.

  • Openness.

    In my curiosity I didn’t guard my emotions like I often do when I don’t know what to expect. Instead, I gave myself permission to trust the filmmakers to draw me deep into a story and experience that took me to the depths of despair and up to the power of grace and love and redemption.

I realize that other directors may have set a higher standard of musical excellence. Other actors may have interpreted the characters differently. Other cinematographers may have chosen different shots or angles or lenses… But in the middle of the film, I wasn’t thinking about what they should have done to give me a different experience. I was experiencing. I made a mental decision after the first imperfect note to trust the artistic choices of the filmmakers and enter into the experience they were offering.

In the end, I was overcome by hope and desire. I sensed God’s presence with me – His love for the world – the great need for His light – a desire to love another and “see the face of God”.

Criticism Is The Safe Path

Why is it so tempting to view to view our life, others’ lives and God’s interaction in our life with a critic’s eye? I wonder if it’s partly because we are afraid of the unknown. We want the security of knowing everything will work out for the best, so we try to figure out how to make life work out for our idea of best. Rather than being curious, we are critical.

I can’t believe he said that!
What was she thinking?

Viewing life as a critic allows us toLive Dangerously pull out of the experience (where it is quite dangerous since who KNOWS what might happen) and close off our emotional responsiveness. From this seat in the house, we do not have to feel vulnerable or sad because we can be angry that someone did something differently than we’d hoped. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was ourselves. Maybe it was God. But there must be someone to blame. Rather than being open, we are closed and cynical.

In The End

Granted, I knew the plot of the Les Miserables story. I knew it was going to be miserable. I knew the misery would be redeemed in some way. So perhaps the fact that I knew the end of the story made it easier for me to remain open in the middle of despair.

I don’t know how every story will end here and now. People will get hurt. Some will feel tortured. I will die, though I don’t know how or when. There is ugliness, despair, misery. It’s awfully hard to feel hopeful when I don’t know what might happen in the end.

Or don’t I?

The thing is, if I consider what the Bible says and believe there is a bigger story…
if the end is one where justice and love rule side by side…
if there is a greater goal than happiness here and now…
if the whole world is in the pains of childbirth as the New Creation is born…

If my story is not the end…

If my story contributes to the greater Story…

Revelation 21:4-5
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

If this is the end, can I trust God in the middle of the ups and downs of my story?

Open curiosity or closed cynicism?

What do you want to ask of the movies? What do you want to ask of life?

Be More of Who You Are

Be More Of Who You Are

I have a friend in Wisconsin who recently discoveredChristina Klausen her great love and talent for knitting. She’s made some amazing things this winter! I adore this picture of the smile on her face coupled with the display of her fabulous craftsmanship. Chris has found something special – a way to express her strong attention to detail, perseverance and love for her family.

There was a time I thought I would find those things in knitting, too.

Eight years ago when we lived in Wisconsin I was pregnant with our first child and exploring what it looks like to be a homemaker. My friends were particularly adept at the art of homemaking. I was inspired by their passion and ability to garden, cook, sew and…knit. I didn’t have much interest in these skills until the reality of motherhood began to hit me. As my baby bump grew I felt an increasing desire to imitate my friends so I could create a similarly homey atmosphere for my little family.

I went to the store and purchased knitting needles and yarn. One of my friends taught me the simplest knot and started me off on my very first knitting project. It took a couple of weeks but I was excited to see the scarf grow from the labor of my hands. I finished and held my triumph before me, then realized…scarfone end was twelve inches long and the other end was six! I have no idea how I lost so many stitches! I looked at it and just started to laugh. My knitting project was quite similar to all my other projects requiring precision of hand: a hot mess! I made the instantaneous decision that I would never knit again.

My declaration was not made out of embarrassment or defeat, I simply accepted that I am not made to pay detailed attention to projects I do with my hands. It was an empowering, exciting moment. In minutes I was at my knitting mentor’s home, surrendering my needles and yarn.

And I never looked back.

My heart swells when I see friends in their game – doing their thing. I celebrate them, learn from them, benefit from them and am inspired by them. But…

I don’t need to be them.

Through trial and error I continuously explore what it means for me to be a homemaker. Now that I’m not nurturing tiny children, I’ve found that I can nurture a garden. I enjoy cooking healthy meals for my family. I write. I think. I have deep conversations. And I throw parties. When I focus on developing my strengths that are highlighted in these activities – rather than tying myself in knots knitting – I feel more alive.

This morning my friend and Strengths Coach Laurie Hock led our small group in discussion about our strengths (take the Clifton StrengthsFinder here). With her guidance we are all beginning to understand how things that have made us feel different, weird or wrong in the past may actually be our brightest and most unique contributions to the world. She offered this very important point: “You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you are.”

Another friend, referring to her small stature, said “The idea that we can be anything we want to be is not true! I will never be a great basketball player (no matter how hard I work at it)!”

You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you are.

I could have spent my entire pregnancy working on knitting a scarf with equal ends. But what interests and strengths of mine would I be neglecting to develop or offer as I trudge through the effort of becoming simply proficient at knitting? I ended up spending that time painting items for the nursery and reading.

Here’s the thing:

I could huff and puff on my weaknesses and end up with a nice bunch of party balloons but no energy left to party.

Or I could apply effort to developing my interests and strengths and find that the fire I ignite fills a hot air balloon that brings the party to the sky!

Hot Air BalloonsSo here’s to you, my beautiful friend who knits up in the clouds! 
I will meet you there with ideas and questions.

You will offer me warmth. I will offer you depth.
And together we will make a home for the world.

For more information about Strengths Coaching and Speaking, contact Laurie Hock through her website She has helped me tremendously in the past few months as I’ve begun to step into my calling.

Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your follow here (sign up for email updates on the side or bottom of your screen) and on Facebook (Andrea Joy Wenburg). If you find this post helpful or inspiring, I’d love it if you’d share it with your friends!

What are your interests and strengths? Are you willing to offer them?

Let’s meet in the clouds!

Click to Read this related post: Stretch Into Who You Are – like it’s your JOB!


Andrea Joy

Your Voice Matters

I know what it’s like to choke back the words that rise from my guts – for all kinds of reasons. I know what it’s like to hush myself or BE hushed by someone else. Sometimes I hold back because I assume others will judge me in the same way I judge them. Gut-check! Let’s all agree not to do that, shall we? Let’s strive to look deeper than the surface of what people say to hear what they’re really trying to say.

Your Voice MattersThere are certainly times when holding back is wise, but friend, what you have to say is important.

I ran into some deep friends this weekend who shared various thoughts about what I’ve been writing and their own experiences. Their words stirred passion in me to say what I want to say today and ideas of what I might want to say in the future.

We can do that for each other. We can stir up wonderful things…

If we don’t hush.

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to cry

The pain throbs deep and doesn’t subside

With silence

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to leap

The joy flips you over and you only tumble

With silence

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to think

The curiosity bubbles and hope only fizzles

With silence

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to preach

The passion is fire and doesn’t inspire

With silence

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to speak

Justice rolls like a river and is only a trickle

With silence

Don’t hush my darlin’

It’s OK to care

Your love soothes and and moves and is sadly unused

With silence

Speak from your guts. You’ve got them. What do you want to say?

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