4 Reasons the World Needs You to Find Your Calling AND Your Focus


Today, I’m tired. For the last week, I’ve burned the midnight oil and set my alarm to wake me early while compensating for my lack of sleep with long runs and coffee consumption. Because now that I’ve finally given my thoughts an outlet, I’ve been nearly consumed by them. I’ve begun to focus on getting better at something I’ve known I’ve been called to do for a long time: write.

The tiredness has been worth it all though. I’m finally getting through all the fits and starts and beginning to find a steadier rhythm. This challenge has been necessary for me not just in how I process my world through the medium of writing, but in how good it has been for my soul. The challenges that Jeff Goins has issued so far through the Intentional Blogging Challenge have not just been pertinent to my blogging, but to something greater God has been doing in my life that I believe He desires to do in yours too.

Maybe you know what your calling is. Maybe you aren’t sure how it’ll turn out in the end. But today, I want to encourage you:

Just do it. Begin.

What would happen if you decided to just start taking steps toward that thing you’ve been putting off for one reason or another? What do you stand to lose? What could you stand to gain? What would happen if you just jumped in and began going after it at a steady pace in your race toward the finish line? Well, I’ll tell you what’ll happen. It’ll begin to energize you and fulfill you in ways you never realized. And guess what? You might just make it. At the very least, you’ll be a whole lot closer to that finish line than if you never began at all. It’s time to stop watching and to get in a lane … your lane… and go.

F O C U S.

Once you determine to go after your calling, you can bet there will be struggle. You can bet there will be distractions that will vie for your time and attention. It will be at that point that you will need to decidedly bring everything you do into the crosshairs of the call of God or you will find yourself repeatedly getting sidetracked and even sidelined from watching that calling be fulfilled in your life. Whether you’re a leader of an organization, a homeschooling mom, or a student trying to determine your major, narrowing your focus can eliminate stress, keep you in your lane, and can actually make decisions for you.

4 Reasons Why You Need to Find Your Focus:

1. Focus forces us to isolate and target the specifics and doesn’t leave room for randomness or excuses to categorize our life. It helps us learn to take aim. It makes us define what we are striving towards. It simplifies and puts purpose in our steps and schedules in order to make it happen. It helps us find out just how serious we are about what we are taking aim at and helps us discover the lengths we are willing to go to eliminate whatever excuses are keeping us from taking aim at our target.

2. Focus changes our perception of the present moment and helps us stay in alignment with our target through how we are living now. Narrowing our focus helps us clarify our decisions through the lens of where we want to go. It causes us to take a close look at ourselves, our calendars, and our behaviors. It helps us narrow our pursuits and better prioritize our time, our resources, and energies with more clarity as they come into the crosshairs of our calling. We can begin funneling our efforts into a singular direction instead allowing them to be scattered wherever the wind will take them.

3. When we force ourselves to focus, we can face the hard things at full speed and allow ourselves the freedom to let go of lesser dreams and lesser things. For us to be able to give our undivided attention to the right things, all things need to divided and put in their proper place. The most difficult things to give up are the good things. But when we look at the good things in light of the greater thing, our perspective shifts and we learn that we must let go of those as well. This increases the intensity and efficiency at which we are able to operate when we finally let go of lies and excuses and begin to establish truth and order in our lives. We learn to say, “no,” to the wrong things or even the right things in the wrong season. This enables us to say, “yes,” to the right things in the right season. And to let seasons run their course.

4. Focus helps you realize that your calling is not about you – it’s about the community you were called to influence with it. Your life is a precious gift to be lived with purpose and calling. Yet, the calling God has given you was never about you, as you may or may not have already discovered. Your calling is for the purpose of influencing the community around you in the very short time you are here on this earth. Yes, your calling is a grace that God has given you to be able to steward well the gifts and talents you’ve been entrusted with; the goal is to be found faithful. They are called gifts and talents because they are currency. Currency to be well-invested and spent on behalf of others. They are to be used in conjunction with the call of God that we all share to impart His extravagant love to the people in the world around you. Because when you refuse to chase that calling and when you keep your gifts and talents in the closet, unfocused and unused, you are not the only one missing out. The world needs you. Your influence is irreplaceable.

So whatever your calling is, whether it’s to lead well in your home and raise a healthy family, or to lead well in your business or ministry, remember that there is only one you. Remember that the world needs you to keep going. There are people you are called to who need what you can invest in them with the currency of time and talent you’ve been given. So today, I press through the tiredness, because this fact keeps me going, keeps me writing. What will it inspire you to focus on today? Take a moment to share with me in the comments!

No Excuses: Fear of Failure


There’s a little white flag tucked away in the back of my mind that has begun to taunt me since I originally started this series on my blog: fear of failure. A fear that at some point, I’d have to give into defeat. That I’d have to bow down in surrender at some point to one excuse or another. I’ve had notes scribbled in a notebook and in my heart waiting to be transferred to this page, but I just. haven’t. been. able. to. get. them. here.

But I made a decision not to let my failure to meet a deadline or a goal or expectations or whatever to define me. I’ve realized I will make mistakes. Yes, will. I’ve taken the “if” out of the equation and there’s so much freedom in admitting to myself (and yes, even others) that I will make mistakes. Because no, I’m not perfect. And, you know what? There is a difference between making mistakes and failing.

I’m reminded of an introspective moment I had several months ago as I watched my daughter compete in a school-wide spelling bee. I could hardly contain my excitement for her to have reached this level of competition after working hard to study and develop a talent she clearly possessed. I wanted to watch her excel. I had such confidence in her. I, like the other parents in the room, wanted my child to succeed so badly… to win, of course. But more than that, I wanted her to try. I wanted her to do her best. And ultimately, as I watched her, what brought me the most satisfaction was watching her stand up straight and tall with a smile on her face, putting aside her stage fright, and trying her very best in the faces of judges and an audience that would ultimately witness her successes… or failures.

As a mom, I wanted her to seize the opportunity and see how far she could run with it. And I couldn’t have been more proud than when she misspelled a word that I knew she knew and, instead of getting upset to the point of tears like other students upon elimination, she smiled and sat down with the same confidence as when she started. She handled what others might consider failure with such poise and grace that I couldn’t help but be reminded to do the same.

The judges and audience didn’t just witness her successes or failures; they witnessed her confidence and character in the face of them. She didn’t fail because she made a mistake. She tried her best and didn’t make it onto the next round, but that’s just it. She tried. She gave it her all. And when the mistake came, she didn’t allow it to deter her or affect her confidence. And that, my friends, is a sure sign of success, not failure.

And that’s why I’ll continue to write. unafraid. Because I will make mistakes. I will have my share of judges and audiences. And ultimately, it’s my character whether in view or not, that I want to develop… more than any talent I could ever possess. Because I know He is watching and He sees my efforts and looks upon me with joy and satisfaction for having tried.

So go after that thing that taunts you. Go after it with all you have, unafraid of what some would call “failure.” Because the only way you’ll fail is if you never try. Allow yourself the freedom to mistakes and learn from them. Allow nothing to deter you from keeping with whatever it is He is calling you to do. Try and try and try again until you get it right… and even if it takes awhile, never give up. And when you do, your character will shine.



There is just no excuse for poor self-discipline. It’s something that you just can’t mask. And you just can’t tame it except with a lot of hard, hard work. And if you don’t tame it, this tiger will rip you to shreds in every area of life it is given the freedom to prowl.

Taming it, however, takes the kind of hard work that no one sees. Because it’s the kind of work that takes place in your mind. It’s the work of overcoming the agony of starting when you think it’s gonna kill you or pushing along even when it’s inconvenient or you don’t feel like it. The kind of work that goes mostly unnoticed. This kind of lack will lay hold of you and lock you in a sense of defeat until you strangle it with the urgency of action.

Last year when I started this series, there were two key areas in my life that I had a lack of self-discipline: exercise and writing. Unfortunately, without my discipline in one area, you would never know how I’ve progressed in the other. And I’m hoping to link the two now. Because I have progressed tremendously over the past several months in one area… And, as you can guess, it’s not with writing.

I’ve become a runner. Yes, I can say that now. Because I run. I do it. It’s become a part of who I am and how I live my life and process the world. There’s a key thing I’ve learned in establishing a regular routine of running that will hopefully begin to unlock my potential in writing consistently and it’s this:

just do it.

photoDo it when you don’t feel like it. Do it when the inspiration is absent. Do it when no one is watching. Do it when there are no accolades. Do it when it’s hard. Do it when you don’t think you can.

And keep doing it. Over and over again.

When the alarm clock goes off and you don’t feel like leaving your warm bed to press into yet another struggle of determination, you do it.

When the words don’t come or they don’t come out right, you do it.

When no amount of great effort seems to produce the results you want and hope for, you do it.

Because the battle of discipline is in your head. It’s a decision you have to make with your will. And then you teach your actions to follow.

In looking at the stacks of journals I’ve kept in the past, I’ve noticed that in the last couple of years I’ve dwindled off in keeping them… I’ve also noticed my fits and starts in blogging over the past few years… Not to mention my flailing attempts at writing a book.

I have finally seen how a lack of discipline crouched and pounced on me in seasons of busyness and transition and change. It nearly destroyed my identity and calling as a writer as I believed the lie that I couldn’t write. That there just wasn’t time. That I couldn’t cause words to fill a page. That I couldn’t start again. That I had blown it too many times.

But it’s time to denounce those lies and believe the mercy that’s available and the strength to press onward in my areas of weakness. And the best way to do that is by believing the truth and acting on it. To take captive those thoughts that have led only to inaction and lost destinies and lost callings and lost ground. Sacred ground I’ve been called to take. Sacred thoughts I’ve been called to think: timeless, penetratingly powerful truth instead of lies. To struggle and win… and no longer struggle, roll over and die.

And so, unashamedly, for the umpteenth time, I’ve decided to start again. To write again. To allow God to resurrect and restore this part of me that I’ve allowed to live in defeat instead of in discipline to the truth I know. I’ve determined that I am still a writer. It’s still in me, even though it’s been in hiding for far too long. This my calling, my destiny. I choose to forcefully believe His truth and displace the lies. To allow His truth to take fresh ground in my mind and overturn and overthrow the lies that have trapped me in defeat. I will show up each day with pen in hand, with blank screen in my face, in discipline. With each word on the page, I will write. I will do it. There is no excusing the fact that I am a writer.

No Excuses: The STUFF that Hard Conversations are Made Of


So this is one of the excuses I’ve been most afraid to tackle: being afraid of hard things. When I sat down and tried to narrow that category into what specific hard things I was afraid of and why, one of the things I came up with was having difficult conversations with people that (I feared) had the potential to result in conflict… ones that I feared would mess up a relationship with someone I love and care about if I wasn’t careful enough. I’d avoid them altogether because I didn’t want to do them if I felt I couldn’t do them well.

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to overcome these excuses over the past couple of weeks since I started this challenge. And let make sure that I make this clear- this is not something I’m good at… but I am learning. One of my biggest issues as an introvert is that I’m a “stuffer.” I “stuff” my feelings- good, bad, and indifferent. The problem in doing this is that, even though I think I’m keeping the peace in a relationship by keeping my feelings to myself to deal, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Image“Stuffed” feelings create a whole bunch of unwanted “stuff” you don’t intend for in relationships… it clutters them up like the things you toss in your “stuff” drawer because you can’t quite decide where to put them or what to do with them.

Over time, you’re left with a mess of unrealistic expectations, warped perceptions, festering frustrations, and more. Because the thing with feelings is that they can lie. Left unexposed and “stuffed” under the surface, they can grow into bigger lies and warp our perceptions of people even further. I’m learning that it’s best to address them as soon as possible and not put them off for the “right time”… because when you’re afraid, that “right time” will never come. And it’s always the “right time” to be right relationally with someone. (click to tweet)

And that’s the ultimate goal, right? Not that I prove that myself or my feelings are right, but that I end up being right relationally with the other person. When I have these kinds of uncomfortable conversations, it gives me a chance to prove that I prioritize the person, and not my problems. It gives me a chance to put the other person and their feelings above what I’m feeling – because I value the relationship. It gives me a chance to trust them in a deeper way… and allow them to trust me. Doors become open for understanding, healing, and grace to invade. And hopefully, our hearts and our relationship end up in a much healthier place.

No Excuses: Making time for ME


I’ve made the excuse time and time again that “I don’t have enough time”… especially when it comes to much of anything that has to do with me taking care of myself because I’m so busy taking care of other people and other things.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been slowly allowing myself to become more and more drained. I’ve watched as the demands of home and work have begun to swell up to my knees and I’ve known it’s not good. Not knowing where to turn or who to reach out to, I just continued running on empty while my plate grew more and more full. The problem was that there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about this increasing flood of demands. I’d been in seasons like this before. So even though I knew I was wading in dangerous waters, I thought I could handle the deep as I had in the past. “Things will work out and eventually settle down,” I thought. But, as they say, “New levels bring new devils.” I was wrong. I underestimated myself and the different level I was at. I’m no Navy SEAL when it comes to treading this much water for this long.

My body has its ways of letting me know that it’s not okay: moodiness, forgetfulness, fatigue, bouts of depression, a decrease in appetite and swollen lymph nodes all clue me in that I’ve not had enough rest to balance the workload I’m carrying. I’ve always said I would never become that workaholic:

  • that workaholic who neglects herself with a lack of sleep, a lack of time spent for personal enrichment, a lack of family time, a lack of nutrition and healthy habits.
  • that workaholic who never knows when to stop or knows how or when to say “no.”
  • that workaholic who has low self-esteem and sense of personal worth because she draws far too much of it from what she does instead of from who she is.

And yet, I’ve become that person. Because I’ve made the excuse that I don’t have time for me. That I’m not important enough to take care of. Yes, that may seem pretty pathetic, but I promised in my post a couple of weeks ago here, to be as transparent and authentic as possible in my attempts to blow up my excuses that have been hindering me for far too long.

So here’s what I’ve done to help remind me that I’m worth taking care of too: I’ve begun to keep a list of the things that I know breathe life into my soul and that bring health and nourishment to my mind and my body. I call it my “Just for Me” list and it reminds me…

I’m a steward of me before I’m a steward of anyone or anything else. (click to tweet this)

At some point, the lack of time spent caring for myself will ultimately impact those I hope to care for, serve, and lead. At some point, I know I’ll end up empty when I need to be pouring out love, compassion, care, and grace. Because I’ve not allowed myself to have the time to be fueled up with them first.

Just for MeOver the last week, I’ve made it a point to make time to do a few of the things on my “Just for Me” list and it’s helped me a lot. Things like:

  • Buying myself some fresh flowers.
  • Inviting extended family over for a good, home-cooked meal I’d prepared and going above and beyond to make our time spent with them feel special.
  • Listening to worship music or pod-casts during the time I am doing menial and mundane tasks.
  • Reading blogs by other faithful leaders that I admire and am consistently encouraged and challenged by.
  • Reaching out to a friend for prayer and counsel.
  • Stepping outside to just enjoy the fresh air.
  • Taking the time to encourage and appreciate the people who have influenced me in my life.
  • Soaking up God’s Word spoken over me as I listened to my Bible app “reading the Bible to me.” Because sometimes the ability to close my eyes and fully focus on and absorb the Words being spoken is just what I need. Changing up my regular devotional times to narrow my focus on the Psalms, reminding myself that even their author who was one known to be a man “after God’s own heart…” who, in the midst of his personal battles also battled regularly with a downcast, weary soul in need of refreshing, provides me with hope.

There are more things I have on my list that I know will help me to remain grounded in who I am and, more importantly, Whose I am. And I cling to promises found in the Word of God to find hope and refreshment for my weary soul.

What about you? Do you ever struggle to make time to take care of yourself? What’s on your “Just for Me” list that helps rejuvenate and refresh you?

No Excuses: The Importance of Having a Plan B

Photo Credit: Chris Ziegler

Photo Credit: Chris Ziegler

As I’ve gotten settled into our new neighborhood over the past couple of months, I’ve discovered there are quite a few ways to get to work and school from my new house. While my preferred route is more direct, it oftentimes has a considerably high amount of traffic and ends up taking quite a bit longer than a less direct route. Lately, I’m also discovering that there is more than one way to reach my goals as well: there’s, of course, the steady plodding, more direct way… and there’s the way that seems to take FOR.EV.ER. that still gets me there in the end. I realized something about myself this past week: many times I give up on taking the next steps to my goals just because I missed a mark or I because the way I tried something didn’t end up working out right the first time around. I’m learning that I have a greater chance of setting myself up for success when I set myself up with a few different options in how to reach my goals. For instance, I’ve had a goal of blogging regularly for quite some time and have yet to realize that goal. When I realized that my excuse for not writing more regularly was because I would frequently miss my window of opportunity to write for one reason or another, I decided to eliminate this excuse by finding alternate ways to write. You can read more about why I’m doing this here. I realized I hadn’t been consistent in writing because I limited my window of opportunity to a specific time frame on a certain day each week. When things came up and I missed that specific window of time for one reason or another, I got so frustrated and discouraged with myself that I had a harder time wanting to try again the next time around. Take, for example, this particular blog post you’re reading now: I had planned to draft this post during my day off last Friday, when I knew I’d have a quiet house, which, for me is an ideal writing environment… however, I woke up that morning completely exhausted from a 13-hour work day the day before and my day filled up quickly with other household duties. I knew that I had missed my margin of time and energy I needed to write. Instead of getting discouraged and saying, “Oh well, I blew it again,” while waiting for another Friday to roll around before doing much else about it, I decided to figure out a back-up plan to make it work. I began to identify some other opportune times for me to write and switched my normal routine to make a margin for what I’m striving for: a consistent writing rhythm. I blocked out some time on my Sunday afternoon instead, when I normally go grocery shopping and take my Sunday nap. My “Plan B” helped me get creative and out of the box in my thinking. Instead of spending time out and about grocery shopping at a couple of stores, I simplified my list freed up some time by setting up a grocery delivery from Vons instead (with a promo code I got in my email for free delivery… yay!). Since I have a hard time writing when everyone is home and hungry, I asked my hubby to handle lunch with our kiddos so I could head out to settle into some caffeinated serenity at Starbucks and write. This was huge for me, even thought it was off the beaten path. And the best part? It actually worked. And it motivated me to be creative in finding additional ways to reach some of my other goals too.

I figured out there was this myth I was buying into: that ideal conditions were the only way for me to do what I needed to do. The fact, however, is this: ideal conditions are rare. Waiting until conditions are perfect keeps you from making any kind of progress at all.

Progress is pretty important. It means you are one step closer in getting from “start” to “finish.” If you wait for the perfect time to make any progress, you won’t make much. (Click to tweet this!) While I can’t always reclaim my routine, I can choose to revise it or reinvent it. The more I do this, the more I realize that there’s an inner flexibility and adaptability that’s developing in me that is enabling me to accomplish more and not get as discouraged when things go awry. What about you? In what ways do you adapt when things don’t go your way? Do you have a struggle with starting or in taking steps toward your goals? What’s stopping you?

Nine Weeks to No Excuses: A Journey to Bring My Resolutions to Reality by the New Year


My 9-year-old daughter helped me to glean some valuable perspective recently. The other day she was hanging out in my office at work and happened to notice my At-A-Glance yearly wall calendar. After she quietly studied it for a few minutes, she quickly exclaimed, “There’s only 9 weeks left this year!”

In utter disbelief, I quickly retorted, “No, there’s not.” 9 is such a small number. It’s a single digit. Surely there’s more time left in the year than a mere 9 weeks. She must have miscounted. As she insisted, I turned around and proceeded to count the weeks, thinking it would be easy enough for me to prove her wrong. Unfortunately, as I counted the weeks left until 2014, I realized she was right. And I was wrong. Only 9 more full weeks are left in 2013.

And it hit me. Like a ton of bricks.

I can’t slow the time down despite my disbelief in how fast it goes. I need to redeem it. NOW. (click to TWEET this)

Why in the world this truth decided to hit this 28-year-old square in the eyes by this once-newborn-now-9-year-old I’ve been entrusted by God to raise and who is growing into a young woman right before my eyes, I’ll never know. For whatever reason though, it did. So the next day I sat down with this sobering truth stirring my heart and scratched away in my notebook what I hope to do in these last nine weeks of 2013 that I feel will carry me into 2014 with no regrets. It’s those things in my heart that I’ve been procrastinating using whatever excuses I have given them that have been nagging and gnawing at me…

  • the hard things
  • the things I’m afraid to do
  • the hard conversations I need to have
  • the things I have put off until I “have the time.”
  • the things I put off until “I have the money” or “this or that.”

And so, I think I’ve finally reached the place where the nagging and the gnawing has gone far enough. It’s been eating me up inside and I’m ready for it to stop. The excuses which have exhausted me will hopefully reach their end. I’m hoping to knock them out over these next 9 weeks. I hope to share this journey here. I am praying to have the courage to be as transparent as possible and to have the endurance to really see it through. So check in with me and keep me accountable… please.

The Bible reminds us that wisdom comes when we number our days. It reminds us to use our days wisely because they will pass quickly.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” [Psalm 90:12]

It’s my hope that as I number my days from October 29 – December 31, 2013 I’ll find the courage to be able to face my excuses head on and find the heart of wisdom I desperately need to help me make the most of my days. I want to face 2014 with no regrets and live the life God has for me in all of its fullness.

If you decide you’d like to join me on this journey and tackle some of your own excuses, please tweet me here or reply in the comments and let me know. I’d love to partner with you and swap encouragement and stories. So here I go. Let’s do this.