5 Keys to Regaining Purpose

5 Keys to Regaining PurposeA couple of years ago I was in Seattle attending a writer’s conference. At the end of the night I hopped in the car to drive to my aunt’s house for the evening. Having been there several times before I wasn’t concerned about getting lost, but before I knew it that’s exactly what I was. After about 30 minutes I found myself stuck on a pitch black, one-way street, ready to bowl over a cliff into the ocean. Fortunately, I had my cell phone and my husband navigated me to safety.

Shortly after this embarrassing incident—which I told to nobody—I purchased a cell phone with GPS capabilities. I never wanted to find myself off-course again. It seemed to happen so quickly, and yet I knew there were several times where I should have pulled over to get directions (it’s not just men who don’t ask!).

The same is true for our lives. It can be easy to lose our sense of purpose amid the demands of family, work, friends and community. At times we live simply reacting to the next crisis or organizing this week’s to-do list. It takes courage to live an intentional life! We must engage our wills and choose to regain our purpose.

Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:17 (NLT)

5 Keys to Regaining Purpose

Own Up to Where You Are: Come to God with honest confession—I’m off-course. I’m too busy. I’m lacking purpose. I’m concerned that the outward me isn’t matching my inward condition. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8 (NIV)

Find Your Soul Connection with God: Dallas Willard writes that “You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you were not made to be self-sufficient.” (Soul Keeping by John Ortberg) If you are exclusively focusing on achieving and doing you will never have time to connect with Jesus. Connecting with Jesus isn’t a “coffee chat” before you dive head first into your day. Connecting with Jesus is acknowledging you are not meant to live independently of Him and living in His presence daily.

Identify Your Strengths:  It’s time to recognize your unique gifts and strengths! God has designed you with exceptional qualities that will speak to your purpose. The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. 1 Corinthians 12:2 (CEV) For more on this read this post and watch this video.

Identify Your Boundaries: Are you a people pleaser—saying yes when you should be saying no? Are you a perfectionist—unable to move forward because you’re waiting for the ideal circumstance? Are you playing the blame game—unwilling to take responsibility for the correction that needs to happen in your own life? Are you plagued with fear—is fear keeping you from acting on your calling? You can regain your purpose more effectively once you identify your boundaries.

Embrace Community: It’s pretty difficult to live out our purpose of glorifying God when we live in isolation! Let’s move out of our comfort zones and live in community. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:5 (NLT)

How will you take the first step in regaining your purpose today?

God Uses Unlikely People to Do Unlikely Things

unlikely

Throughout the Bible “God uses highly unlikely people to do highly unlikely things that have a highly unlikely outcome.” (Christine Caine)

 

 

  • Moses, with a speech impediment, demands that Pharaoh would free his people from Egypt.
  • David, a simple shepherd, who would lead Israel as King.
  • Peter and Andrew, uneducated, fishermen who spread the gospel around the world.
  • Paul, a former persecutor of Christians, would write much of the New Testament.

Is today any different? I don’t believe it is! God continues to use highly unlikely people to do highly unlikely things that have a highly unlikely outcome.  You and I are those unlikely people. We have the opportunity to take our lives and make them count for eternity.

Watch this incredible message by Christine Caine and be encouraged to “stop having a scarcity mentality and start having a sufficiency mentality.” God is more than enough for whatever you are going through and will provide for your needs!

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Are you ready to make each day extraordinary? What “unlikely thing” do you want to believe God for today? I’d love to pray with you! Comment below.

Stop Feeling Frantic and Change Your Pace

Feeling Frantic Change Your PaceAre you tired of feeling frantic? You know that desperate, panicky, uptight feeling that makes it hard to concentrate? Those days when you wake up tired because there are just too many things for one person to fit into one day? We all have busy times, but we were never intended to sustain that kind of breakneck speed long term.

A few weeks ago I felt that edgy tension that settles in your neck. I knew I needed to change my pace or I was headed for burn-out. I was getting enough sleep and exercising at least 5 days a week, but I still found myself handling my daily responsibilities of work and family with frustration and distraction.

One of the biggest changes in our schedule this year is that both kids are staying up later. Michael and I no longer have our 2-3 hours every night to talk and just be together. Realizing that part of my frantic feeling was simply missing that alone time, I asked my parents to take the kids for the weekend and we did a mixed vacation/staycation for Michael’s 40th birthday. We spent one night and two days at the coast and one night and one day at home. It was so relaxing to change our pace—no work, no kids—just us.

Sometimes we can’t get away completely but we still need to change our pace. That happened last week. Work was crazy!  I needed to write 3 sermons, 2 blogs and work on the new design for my website.  To top it off, my parents are moving and needed help with their garage sale and just for fun we decided to have a birthday party for Michael in the middle of all of that!  Add to that my usual schedule of driving the kids around, helping with homework, our weekly get together with our friends from church and something had to give!

Michael looked me in the eye Wednesday night and said, “You know we need to cancel our plans with our friends tomorrow night. It’s just too much.”

“Oh, I don’t want to be a flake!” I said. But, by the next morning I couldn’t deny he was right and we cancelled our plans.

Life is not a performance! You can make the choice today to change your pace, learn to slow down and live life on purpose.

Change Your Pace and Slow Down

My favorite things to do when it’s time to change pace and slow down:

  • Take a walk somewhere beautiful—beside a river or under the canopy of towering evergreens.
  • Drink a cup of tea in a china tea cup.  It tastes better, just trust me!
  • Write an encouraging note to a friend.
  • Listen to old music while you cook dinner (my favorite is Pandora’s Dinah Washington Radio)
  • Cancel your plans, stay in your jammies and don’t answer your door or your phone!
  • Go for a bike ride in the rain.
  • Take a nap!

We can all handle a busy week or two when we have a goal in mind. Sometimes we even have busy seasons but they don’t need to be frantic and full of fear.

Let Go of your Fear of…

  • Missing Out
  • Messing Up
  • Letting People Down

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Are you feeling frantic? What are you going to do today to change your pace? Comment below!

Recommended Reading on Changing Your Pace:

  1. Margin-Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson
  2. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa Terkuerst

 

 

Are You Living in Peace? Part 2

Are You Living in Peace[2]In my last post I wrote about the difficulty of living in peace when the world around us is often in chaos. We struggle on an even greater level when that distress happens within the four walls of our homes.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NLT)

The synonyms for peace are:
Friendship
Love
Reconciliation
Unity
Amity

Am I doing all that I can to live with a spirit friendship, love, reconciliation, unity and amity? And if so, what would that look like in a practical way? Am I reaching out to build bonds, to foster companionship, to offer understanding, deep love, harmony and goodwill in my relationships?

If not, I might be nurturing something that is quite the opposite of peace.

The anonyms for peace are:
Disagreement
Hatred
Discord
Agitation
Disharmony

One antonym for peace actually surprised me:  Hatred.  I immediately thought, “Wait, does this mean that failing to live at peace with people can actually lead to hatred?” But then I remembered a time when I was feeling so agitated, so frustrated, and so distressed that hatred felt almost normal, and honestly justified. Hatred can sneak up on you when you least suspect it and it isn’t pretty.  This is what we cultivate when we fail to work for peace.
Living in peace is more than resigning yourself to making peace for some kind of greater good. Living in peace is having an inner peace that circumstance can’t touch.  It’s a peace that we seek and pursue and ultimately it’s a peace that is given to us by the grace of God.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)

How will you do all you can to live in peace with everyone today?

 

Are You Living in Peace?

Are You Living in Peace[1]Living in peace is easy…when everything is going your way. But what happens when your life is interrupted by the less than serene realities of everyday life? Is it possible to live in peace in the middle of a chaotic world?

At times it feels as if there is a “peace-stealing” event at every turn. If it isn’t the threat of ISIL infiltrating the U.S. borders, it’s the reality of Ebola crossing the oceans and, as my son informed me last week (with a look of horror), China has now surpassed the United States as the largest economy in the world.

Sometimes we can sweep those unsettling feelings under the rug because they don’t seem to affect us in a personal way. But if you’re anything like me it’s the conflicts within my family that can send me careening off the pathway of peace. My natural inclination is to address the problem head on. Conflict doesn’t really bother me; I’d rather get things out in the open.  Here’s how a likely confrontation might play out in my mind:

“Look, you’re creating a lot of tension in the family.  Here’s what you’re doing wrong: __________. Here’s how you can make it right: ____________.”

OR

“Listen, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve made a list of all my complaints. If you could just go over them, initial here and sign here, here, here and here, promising to never do them again, I think everything will become more peaceful!” 

As much as I would love it, most situations aren’t solved through contract negotiation.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  My husband used to dread any conversation that began with me pulling out my 3×5 cards. All kidding aside (except for the part about the cards, which I actually used to do), at times I secretly imagine that everyone just does what I say, making everything perfect, right? It never really happens that way and maybe that’s for my benefit in the end.

Are you facing a less than peaceful situation right now? Is your stomach in knots as you wonder how things will turn out for you and the ones you love? Difficult times have the potential to keep us zeroed in on our primary purpose—to bring glory to God. (Romans 11:36) That’s why it’s so important to examine our connection to God and His word while endeavoring to live in peace.

Seek Peace 

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14 (ESV)

Have you ever come to God with your list of complaints and demands and left feeling less than peaceful?  Although we can confidently present our requests to God, at times it’s appropriate to stop asking and just be.  This removes any sense of anxiety from our prayer life. I’ve found deep, lasting peace in meditating on God’s word, thanking Him for what He’s done and resting who He is.  We find peace when we know the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Are you living in peace today? If not how can you change from frantic prayer to peaceful prayer? How can praying God’s word give you more confidence?

Coming Monday, October 20th–Are You Living in Peace? Part 2

Parenting: The Bittersweet Stages

BenandI2006The other day I leaned over and gave my nearly 15 year-old son a kiss on the cheek. I’ll probably remember that moment for the rest of my life because his face is now rough with stubble. I’ve gotten used to his deep voice and his tall, lanky body. I’m even accustomed to him talking on the phone in his room and not needing help with his homework.  But there was something about his rough face that made this mother feel like we had entered a stage of parenting that would forever change me and my boy—my boy who is turning into a young man.

More than a week later I still feel a bit teary. During this stage my son will learn to drive, graduate high school and start down the road toward adulthood. It has me thinking about all the moments we sat reading Goodnight Moon, Winnie the Pooh, Nancy Drew (yes boys like them too!) Encyclopedia Brown and countless others snuggled together on the couch. Or the times I comforted him when he was sick and tucked him in at night.

BenandI2014It’s different now. He tells me his little secrets—things about himself that he doesn’t always share with others—while we drive along in the car, and I wonder how I could be so blessed to have this young man for my son. He bends my mind and asks me to consider the possibility of time travel, politics, world religions and God.

I’m wondering how I’ll face this bittersweet stage. I can’t help but consider how my mother faced it with me.

She gave me space to learn and grow.

She spent time talking and praying with me.

She intentionally spoke truth even when I didn’t want to hear it.

She built in beautiful rhythms of life—weekly church services, family dinners and celebrations.

She never accused and always believed the best.

She took delight in me—loved all my jokes, loud laughter, just loved me!

This is what I want to do, for Ben, for Emily—throughout the bittersweet stages of parenting.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (AMP)  

How are you facing the bittersweet stages of parenting? What is one choice you can make today to embrace change and be in the moment with your kids—whether they are in your home or grown?

Why I’m OK with Failure

Why I'm Ok with FailureFailure happens.  Not just for some people, but for everyone. The question is will we choose to have an optimistic outlook about failure. Are you OK with failure? Or are you hiding your failures in an attempt to look perfect? Let’s get real and be honest. Failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

I’m No Donna Reed

ApronI might look like her in this apron, but I’m no Donna Reed.  If you don’t know who she is, then  we’ll just say I’m no Martha Stewart.  (If you don’t know who that is then I can’t help you.)  That apron is purely for inspiration. I like eating more than cooking, so I’m inevitably forced to get creative in the kitchen.

Feeling particularly industrious one day I decided to take the roma tomatoes from my little garden, peel them (this took forever!) and make marinara sauce. I put the tomatoes, onions, peppers and various Italian seasonings in the crockpot to cook on low overnight.

Trying it the next morning it tasted bitter, so I added a little sugar (my Grandma always put a little sugar in EVERYTHING!) and some more seasonings. That night at dinner I served my family ravioli and “marinara” sauce. They were silent as they ate and after I took one bite I said, “I’m just gonna throw this out there.  This is the worst sauce I have ever tasted!”  We all started laughing.

And that’s not my only homemaking failure:

Making liquid hand soap:  This was a great idea from my sister Alison. But mine was too runny, or too thick, it dried out your hands, and squirted you in the face coming out of the pump. I’m not kidding!

Making laundry soap:  I got this idea online. I was determined to make this work because it’s incredibly cheap.  But, no luck. It turned all of my whites a dirty yellow color—back to Tide and Downy for me.

Baking soda:  Just in case you’ve ever wondered, baking soda is a necessary component in BAKING. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Failures CAN Lead to Success

Usually we tend to cringe when considering our failures—especially when they’re more painful than simple homemaking mishaps.  Failing the people we love most can be heartbreaking, but don’t give up.  Failures CAN lead to success.

“Failures are the fingerposts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis

Angry Outbursts or Unkind Words—an opportunity to build relationship through honest repentance and kindness.

Misplaced Priorities—a chance to consider your values and learn to set boundaries.

Getting Fired—an opening to passionately pursue your strengths and develop perseverance.

The path to success is often peppered with mistakes and mishaps.  Facing the adversity of failure will enable you to cultivate resilience, creativity, maturity and character.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Ultimately, failure can lead us to the realization that true success is in knowing the depth of God’s love for us and sharing that love with others.

Are you ok with failure? How has failure lead to success in your life?

5 Insights from my Reader Survey and What They Mean for You

5 Insights from my Reader Survey and What They Mean for YouIn September, I launched my first Reader Survey. I have to admit that I was a little nervous and wondered if anyone would want to take time to fill it out.  I knew I would benefit from your help so I sent the survey out and held my breath. I was pleasantly surprised by the response.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Ultimately, I think it benefits you because it helps me improve the content I create and to understand my audience in a better way.

Here’s what my “reader profile” looks like:

  • My typical reader is a married (82%) female (97%) between the ages of 25-54 (76%).
  • She is college-educated (88%) with (53%) having an undergraduate degree or higher.

Based on your comments I’ve come to these conclusions:

  • Personal stories: The overwhelming message from all of you was that you love the humorous, relatable, everyday, personal stories. I don’t think there will be a shortage anytime soon—look out, more to come on my crazy family!
  • Keep being honest: When I asked, “How can I improve my blog?” you said, “Keep being honest.” I appreciate this so much because there are times when I think, Ugh! This really makes me look bad! Do I really need to share it? The answer is YES!  We all struggle and there’s no quicker road to despair than pretending you’re perfect when you aren’t (and by the way no one is!)
  • Don’t try to please everyone: Some of you said that you loved the “quick read” and others said not to be afraid to “go deep and write more.”  That’s tough! I guess I’ll just have to go with my gut and realize that as much as I would love to I can’t please everyone.  That being said, maybe the “go deep and write more” means I need to write another book?
  • The heart matters: Several of you reminded me to “continue to write about the things God places on my heart” and to “guard my heart.”  This reminded me of Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) A great prompt to keep close to the source of all life and inspiration.
  • Keep on keeping on: When asked what subjects you liked most it was almost a five-way tie!  Overwhelmingly the survey let me know that I am headed in the right direction. I am truly humbled by your kindness!

What does this mean for you? I’m taking your input seriously! My purpose in writing this blog is to empower each one of you who are looking for authentic encouragement and Biblical perspective for our imperfect lives; so that you may know there are No Ordinary Days, only extraordinary opportunities to live with purpose and meaning.

Special Announcement: I noticed that a few of you had some technical or aesthetic advice about my blog.  A new design is in the works and I can’t wait to show it to everyone! Feel free to leave your comments below and thank you again.

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?

2014 Reader Survey Closes on Saturday: I would love to get your feedback so that I can learn how to better serve you with my blog! If you haven’t responded to the brief survey please click here. Your input is so valuable to me!