Are You Doing What Really Matters—Today?

Are You Doing What Really Matters--TodayDo you ever wonder if you’re living a life of purpose? Do you ask yourself if the routine of your daily life will matter in the end? Maybe your career has lost its luster and you dream of something more fulfilling. Perhaps you’ve just received a diagnosis that means your life is going to change indefinitely and you’re thinking, “I’ve had it! I’m ready for something better.”

This past week one of my daughter’s friends was absent from school for a couple of days. Emily was concerned and called to check in on her only to discover that she had been hospitalized and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As Emily began relaying the news I could only imagine how this mother was feeling—shock, fear, and the overwhelming desire to do whatever it would take to protect her daughter.

We called the next day, and they told us she was able to receive visitors. Halting our usual routine of chores, homework and other activities we drove 45 minutes to visit Emily’s friend. Driving to hospital I thought, “This is what really matters. Today, this is what counts.”  We brought flowers, sugar-free candy and a card. But more importantly than that, we brought the gifts of encouragement and friendship.

Are you doing what really matters today? You may be too tired to realize it, but sometimes it’s those seemingly ordinary things that can lead to extraordinary purpose and meaning.  Can you be faithful in the small things that have the potential to change a life?

Listening to your child talk about their interests. (Yes, even when it’s politics. Someone help me!)

Emailing an encouraging word to a friend or family member.

Bringing a co-worker dinner during a stressful time.

Sending a card to someone who is sick.

Offering your presence in a time of grief.

We make a mistake when we allow the urgent details of the day-to-day routine to blind us to the prospect of making an extraordinary difference in the individual life. The simple gifts of a listening ear, a kind word or a gentle reminder of truth are incredible opportunities to live a life of purpose.  This is true regardless of the situation we find ourselves in—a stay at home mother, teacher, business owner, minister, entrepreneur or retiree—we all have a life that is worth living because we all have the chance to do what really matters:  Love, encourage, pray for and connect with people.

Stop waiting for the ideal circumstances to make your life count and go live life on purpose!

How can you reframe your thinking about your day to day life and see the extraordinary opportunities in the ordinary routine?

For further reading on finding your purpose check out: Pathway to Purpose by Katie Brazelton.

Redefining Success

Redefining SuccessThe definition of success has changed over time.  I know this because Webster’s first definition of successoutcome or result—is listed as obsolete.  Success is not simply defined as a favorable or desired outcome, but also the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. Eminence? Really?

Our society tells us that we must achieve riches, approval and be well-known for our achievements in order to be considered successful. The desire to be chosen above others is nothing new.  We see this throughout the Bible in the relationships between Cain and Abel, Saul and David, and eventually between the disciples of Jesus.

What is Success?

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them … 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-22, 25-28 (NIV)

The mother of James and John saw an opportunity; she saw that her boys had the potential for success. So she reached out to grab it for them. But Jesus patiently taught another way. Just as He challenged this mother, He challenges you and me to lay aside our expectations and live the life of a servant.

But often we have allowed our minds to be patterned after the world’s way of thinking.  We grasp for success—for ourselves, for our spouses and for our children. We do it when we say,“Oh, there’s so much potential for success!” when we could be saying, “There’s so much potential to be humble, compassionate, strong in character, rich in grace and full of love.  There’s so much potential to serve.”

If we have redefined success before why can’t we redefine it again?

Success=Service

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant… Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)

How can redefining success change how you view your purpose in life and how you interact in your relationships every day?

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Stubbornness—How’s That Working for You?

Subborness How's That Working for YouStubbornness. Maybe I’m weird but most of the time I like being stubborn. It can be a positive trait—I’m persistent, I persevere, I know what I believe and I rarely give up. But sometimes stubbornness doesn’t work for me. What about you?

I recently read an article by Tricia Goyer entitled “Surviving the Strong-Willed Child” (I encourage you to read it.  It is well worth the time!) In it she describes her experience raising her strong willed daughter and she mentions focusing on her daughter’s love language as a way to build a bond that lasts. If you’ve never read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman,  the idea is that we all speak a specific love language—a way that we receive love—either through acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time or gifts.  Many times we are giving love the way we prefer to receive love.  The key to making your child feel love is to understand how they receive love.

As I read the article I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit: Your stubbornness isn’t helping you love your daughter. It’s so easy to love the way I want to love—through physical touch and acts of service. This is where my stubborn nature is not working for me.   As a parent it is my responsibility to make sure that the message of love is getting clearly expressed to my children in an effective way.

We can say we love one another but often that is not enough. We need to show it with our actions.  Sometimes we need to lay down our stubbornness and be willing to go out of our way to love those around us. After reading Tricia’s article I asked Emily to take the love languages test online. Her love language is quality time.  Armed with this information, I planned a fun-filled day with my daughter. It didn’t really matter what we did, it just mattered that we were together.

Emily“This is the best day ever Mom!” I think her face says it all.

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 (NIV)

Has stubbornness prevented you from loving those around you? How does understanding others help us to love them well?

 

Are Your Thoughts Working Against You?

Are Your Thoughts Working Against YouAm I the only one who immediately thinks that someone has died when the phone rings late at night?  Instantly my heart starts beating fast and my thoughts run to places they probably shouldn’t go.

The phone rang recently just before midnight right as I had just drifted off to sleep.  My father was officiating a wedding in a remote area in the foothills. It’s a beautiful location, but to get there meant driving along a pitch black, curvy, narrow road that could make almost anyone car sick.  My mom had fallen asleep only to be startled awake by the deafening silence of the empty house. My dad was over an hour late and he wasn’t answering his phone.

I tried to remain calm for my mom, but instantly I pictured my dad having a heart attack.  In my mind’s eye I could see him: slumped over the wheel of the car and careening off the road into oblivion. My second thought wasn’t any better, as I wondered if his blood sugar had dropped. Again I pictured him: alone in a parking lot with no one to help him as he slowly slipped into a coma. My thoughts were careening into their own oblivion of hopelessness as I wondered what we should do.

What do you do when your thoughts run down the wrong roads—the roads of fear, shame, unforgiveness, gossip, self-pity or pride? We have a couple options:

We can leave our thoughts unchecked and unguarded,

leaving our minds in distracted chaos.

OR

We can captivate and guard our thoughts, focusing our minds on truth.

During that call from my mom I had a choice—continue down the road of fear or take my thoughts captive. I quickly spoke the truth to myself; God alone knows the number of our days. He is our safety. He is our refuge. He is our comfort.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

My dad was fine (it was his cell phone that was dead!). The wedding party had decided to take extra precautions when traveling down the winding mountain road and everyone caravanned together.  It just took a little extra time to organize everybody.

Sometimes it takes us a little time to remember what is true and to realize that we have the Holy Spirit’s power living in us and enabling us to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

When do your thoughts work against you? How do you take your thoughts captive?

If you want a daily reminder of the truth check out my devotional: How to Love Your Crazy Family–52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days.

Changing People—It’s Not Our Job

Changing People It's Not Our JobOne day driving along in the car we heard Emily mothering Ben with her usual enthusiasm.  Michael said, “Emily, you’re not his mother. It’s not your job.”  She sighed, loudly.

“Well, if you don’t want me to help make him a better person, fine.”

We did what any normal parents would do:  We laughed.  A lot.  Emily is so honest.  She really thinks she’s helping Ben. That’s part of what’s so funny. The other part is that we’ve all been guilty of this.  I know I have, especially with those I love the most.

Help me help you.

Do it my way.

Can’t you see where you’re so clearly wrong?

If he would change then I would be happy.

If she would stop doing…then we would have a better relationship.

But changing people is not our job. Unfortunately, that’s the way we approach many relationships. We hit a bump in the road and immediately think: If they changed, things would be perfect. Our motives for “inspiring” this change are usually less than pure. Be honest and ask yourself why you want your friend, your child or your spouse to change?

For your own comfort?

So they’ll be more like you?

To avoid conflict?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting growth in our relationships. Our mistake is the desire to BE the instrument of change. The truth is that we can only change one person—ourselves.

Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11says it best…

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT)

Let’s allow God to transform our hearts so that we will overflow with the love that only He can give, then will we have a profoundly beautiful love to offer to those around us. I’m convinced that we will be less interested in changing people when we love them the way Jesus does.

Have you ever tried to change a friend or family member? What happened? 

Made Over—Indonesia Part 4

Made Over--Indonesia Part 4What do you think when you hear the words “made over?”  A renovation? A redo? A change? A fresh start? I can’t help but think of all the TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s that were obsessed with the before and after beauty makeover.  The before picture presents a tired woman with no smile, no make-up, flat hair, a baggy sweatshirt and faded jeans. After the makeover the woman has a big smile, a high fashion hair-cut and color, perfectly applied make-up, fresh off the runway clothes and an attitude to match.  These makeovers were all about the drama.

When Pastor Korie Taylor told me the theme of the women’s conference in Indonesia—Made Over—I knew it would inspire women from all faiths to attend. Who doesn’t love a good makeover? The real goal, however, was to treat women as the precious daughters of God that they are, and to make sure they knew that the makeover could be from the inside out.

ICA provided beautiful gift bags, a glam bar (complete with make-up and fake eye Made Over 2lashes), makeovers, speakers on home design, make-up, hair, personal style as well as sessions by Angela Craig, Korie Taylor and me on hope, perseverance, identity, leadership, redemption, and a life made over by God.

I saw women of all faiths come and hear the message of Christ’s ability to redeem our lives and make us new. Throughout the weekend I witnessed the power of God heal hearts and change lives. As I prayed with each woman I was reminded that whether I am in Indonesia or America the deep needs of our hearts are the same:

To be loved (Romans 5:8)

To be seen (Psalm 139:13-18)

To be heard (Psalm 116:1)

To be forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)

To be free (Romans 8:1-2)

The good news is that through Christ we have each one of those needs met. He loves. He sees. He hears. He forgives. He gives freedom. And He gives these gifts lavishly as a Father to His children.

Our lives are Made Over by a personal God who knows each one of us by name.

Do you need a “life makeover” today? How can I pray for you?

Made Over 3Special Note: If you missed my last three posts about my trip to Indonesia you can click on the links here:To Trust or Not to Trust—Indonesia Part 1 

A Lifestyle of Generosity—Indonesia Part 2

My Crazy Family—Indonesia Part 3

 

 

My Crazy Family—Indonesia Part 3

How to Love Your Crazy FamilyIf you’ve known me for more than ten minutes then you know that I don’t pretend to have it all together. I have a crazy family, and it’s not always sunshine and lollipops—that would be boring! Life hasn’t been simple for Michael and me through our 19 years of marriage.  We definitely have a few challenges:

A take-charge personality (I’ll leave you to guess which one of us has that little gem), bipolar depression, ADD, someone who’s pretty opinionated, and two children who know their minds and aren’t afraid to speak them.  I wonder who they get that from?

But honestly, those crazy moments pale in comparison to the good ones because we have a few really amazing things going for us:

Commitment

The ability to laugh at ourselves

Supporting one another’s dreams

Unconditional love

We didn’t start day one of our marriage with all of that figured out.  However, learning from God, from trusted professionals and from each other has been a tremendous gift that just keeps reaping benefits.

My crazy family is one of the biggest reasons I can go on trips, like my trip to Indonesia.  Most people ask, “What will you do with your children when you’re gone?” The ornery side of me wants to say, “Well, they have a father, so…”

But honestly, it’s Michael’s incredible unconditional support of my ministry and my dreams that enables me to say yes without reservation.  He’s willing to take time off work to make sure everything runs smoothly at home.  While I was in Indonesia I received all kinds of funny emails keeping me updated on the homefront. When Michael heard that people were fasting and praying for the trip he sent me this message:

“I decided to fast shaving and showering while you are gone. I was fasting deodorant but the dog refused to sit with me, so I gave that up. The kids say they miss you and love you. I miss and love you too.”

Needless to say I can never take myself seriously with Michael.  He keeps me laughing and I love it.

Building a marriage and raising a family is challenging. Our spouses and kids see us when we are at our best but they also see us at our worst—sick, tired, hurting and angry.  We all face different struggles in our relationships but if we can learn to:  commit, laugh, support and unconditionally love, we will discover that crazy families can be indeed be crazy successful.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)

Which one of the areas above do you want to commit to work on in your family relationships?

Special Note: Are you’re tired of trying to love on your own, stop and allow the devotions from How to Love Your Crazy Family to fill your heart with the truth that Jesus redeems our lives, even through the crazy, painful times and has the power to transform us from the inside out. Buy today on amazon for just 4.99!

 

 

A Lifestyle of Generosity—Indonesia Part 2

A Lifestyle of GenerosityDuring my time in Indonesia I was surrounded by profound generosity. Indonesians live a lifestyle of generosity that is difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it first-hand. A friend even privately messaged me before I left: “Hide it away in your little heart.  It is more than what you will find here.”

Yet, I still found it hard to imagine. I know many generous people. My parents being some of the most generous! I grew up watching them give to missionaries, prisoners, even hitchhikers.  (YES! My dad was known for picking up hitchhikers and offering jobs or a hot meal.) I saw my mom welcome family, church members and even strangers into our home with regularity. What could compare to that?

I soon found out that it wasn’t about comparison.  What I witnessed was a lifestyle of generosity that permeates the Indonesian culture. We were surrounded by it from time we landed in Jakarta until we went home.

A Lifestyle of Generosity

Ronald…who escorted Angela Craig and me through customs in Jakarta’s airport (something that can only be done in Indonesia, he said!) and took us to and from the airport. He made sure we were safe and well taken care of at a sacrifice of his time and convenience.

Korie and JohnPastors John and Korie Taylor and the ICA Staff…we thought we were coming to serve ICA by speaking for the conference, but at every turn we were showered with love and care.  Angela and I were astonished to find each staff member—male and female—working hard to make this conference a success.  Whenever we complimented one person we would hear them say, “No, you should see what Mai is doing…what Nardo is doing…what Tracy is doing.” Their liberal generosity extended to each member of the staff and church.

John's OfficeSjany, Wijaya and family… who hosted us during the entire trip.  And when I say host, just imagine the most wonderful, generous, thoughtful people you have ever met and multiply that times 10 and then you will get some small picture.  They made sure we survived the jetlag—with plenty of coffee! They never let us carry a bag, go hungry or wonder what we were supposed to do next. Their kindness went beyond expectation as they gave of their lives, their time, their presence and their finances. May God bless them for their thoughtful generosity!

airportElvin and friends…who showered us with precious gifts from her business and brought friends to see us off at the airport.  These women took time out of their day—their work—to honor us generously with their presence, their appreciation, their love and lots of pastries as we waited for our departure.

The Christians at ICA…their desire to share the good news of Jesus with their friends and family, to speak their stories of hope and redemption and to generously give their love freely to those around them inspired me to imitate this lifestyle of generosity.

You and I have the amazing potential of living an average 80 years on years on earth. That is 29,220 days! The question isn’t if we will leave a legacy but what kind of legacy we will leave?  Will we live a lifestyle of generosity that:

Gives from the heart:One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24 (ESV)

Gives to the stranger: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

Gives with sacrifice: He, who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice.” Jeremy Taylor

You might not live in Indonesia, or even travel there, but you can live a lifestyle of generosity that points people to Jesus—the ultimate giver of every good gift.

How will you start living a lifestyle of generosity today?  Let’s share our ideas in the comments below!

 

To Trust or Not to Trust—Indonesia Part 1

tracy linda and usThe day before I left for the ICA Women’s Conference in Surabaya, Indonesia I went for a bike ride with my family.  Now, before you picture the perfect family riding along forested trails laughing and smiling, let me say that it was a little more like this:

 

Wait for me! 

Move it or lose it.

Did you see that? She almost ran me off the road!!! 

No I didn’t!

Yes you did!

I’m thinking: Great! I hope this isn’t my last memory of my children.

At one point we were all lined up in a group of four, Michael in the lead, then Ben and Emily and me, bringing up the rear.  Michael and Ben crossed the street, and Emily followed quickly behind them without looking to see if there was any oncoming traffic.  I was so irritated.

“Why didn’t you look for cars Emily?”

“Well, Ben and Daddy crossed, so I crossed,” she retorted.

Without even thinking I said, “Emily, you have to look for yourself!  You can’t trust anybody else!!”

Almost before the statement had left my lips I regretted it.  What am I teaching my daughter? Trust nobody? Where did that come from? Here I am, ready to fly thousands of miles to Indonesia—the flight alone takes a measure of trust, especially with the unpredictable world climate.  Beyond that the trip would require me to trust people I had never met, to trust my own strengths and ultimately to trust God with the unknown.

Are you struggling to trust?  Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a loved one, or disappointed by your circumstances.  These experiences can leave us to wonder how wise it is to depend on others, or to question whether it is good judgment to trust God. I understand these feelings—I’ve felt this way. After a very deep and profound betrayal I wondered if I would ever trust anyone, even myself. But God is faithful and started to heal my broken heart the minute I asked Him to. And throughout my time in Indonesia I experienced another layer of healing that is allowing me to trust Him even more.

Angela H. Made Over ConferenceOn the first night of the Made Over Woman’s Conference I taught a message entitled “Refreshed by Hope.”  Many times hope seems to be an elusive desire.  We all want it, but we rarely grasp the power of it and how it can drastically change our lives. The Bible most commonly uses the word trust in association with its definition of hope.  It comes up most frequently in the books of Job and Psalms. One book describes pain and suffering, the other praise and worship. And hope is the common thread throughout them both.

But how do we begin to hope in a God that we’ve only heard about?  How can we hope in God without knowing Him personally?

Psalm 62:8 says: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”(NIV)

Looking out into the faces of the beautiful Indonesian people I saw men and women that were reaching out to God as their refuge and their hope. In the sea of faces I would come to know those who were facing heartache, devastation, death, failing marriages, infertility, persecution and hate. It was my joy to see those very people choose to trust God in spite of, and because of, all that they had been through.  I saw people who had never heard the good news of Jesus experience His love up close and personal and reach out to Him in faith.

What would I say to my daughter today as we head out to ride our bikes?  What would I say to you?

You can trust others—even though people aren’t perfect.

You can trust yourself—even though you’ll make mistakes.

You can trust God—He is our ultimate refuge and strength!

terima kasihLook for Indonesia Part 2–September 4th!! 

I can’t wait to share more pictures from the trip and all that I’ve learned.

Flying to Indonesia!

Going to IndonesiaSpecial Note:  I’m flying to Indonesia to speak for the Made Over Women’s Conference!  As you read this I will probably be heading to the airport with friend and fellow speaker Angela Craig. If you haven’t heard the story behind the trip to Indonesia see the video and the text below.  Thank you for all your prayers!

Have you ever felt like God was planning your life behind your back?  That’s exactly how I felt as I sat in a Sunday morning service this past November listening to missionary John Taylor speak.  While watching a video of John and Korie’s work in Surabaya, Indonesia I had the unmistakable sense that I would soon be seeing it first-hand.  How or why I had no idea.

When the service ended Korie approached me and asked me how I was doing and mentioned that she had been reading my blog.  I could hardly believe it!  We talked about our families and out of nowhere I said, “Do you know the story of Michael and I and our discovery that he has bipolar disorder?”  This isn’t my usual conversation starter.  In fact, I rarely bring this up.  But it was almost as if it fell right out of my mouth.

Korie’s eyes watered.  She said that there are women in her church struggling in their marriages and also those who have husbands with bipolar disorder.  “Would you ever consider coming to Indonesia and speaking for a women’s conference?  We’ve never done an event like this before but have been praying about who to ask and would love for you to come.”

It was my turn to cry.  How could I say no?  I knew God had prepared the way.

The following week, while talking with Korie about the details, I asked what she thought about having my dear friend and fellow minister Angela Craig come and speak at the conference. Little did I know that she had spoken with Angela earlier that week and had secretly wanted to ask her to come but was afraid and felt shy.  Korie was beyond excited!

The beautiful story of Angela’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury comes at the perfect time for the church in Surabaya.  Their own Executive Pastor Poedji has  suffered through a terrible car accident and spent a month in a coma (Click here to see more of this story).  While he is facing a daunting journey of reclaiming his former abilities we are thrilled that Angela will be able to encourage both his family and church during this pivotal time.

We all live to the glory of God and know that ultimately His grace and mercy will be evident through this struggle.  We can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John:

“This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 NIV)

While in Indonesia, Angela and I will be providing leadership training, speaking for the conference, as well as speaking for the Sunday morning and evening services.  We are so excited to see how the Lord has put all of this together and are confident that He will provide the strength and wisdom we need to serve.  We are investing in the women who will be coming from Surabaya, Jakarta and surrounding areas to seek God and learn more about training up leaders to serve Him.  We hope that you will invest with us—through prayer—as we go.