The Power of Story

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Today I’m privileged to be featured as a guest blogger over on This Is Your Story.

I’m sharing about the great purpose our stories have in pointing others to the life-transforming message of Jesus. He knows our stories well and it’s His Words that have the power to craft our lives into something more than we could ever imagine. Our time on this earth is brief. In light of this perspective, the greatest legacy we can leave behind is a life that makes Jesus known to others.

So head on over to This Is Your Story and read more in my guest post, “Something Bigger.”

The Art of Work: That Time I Used An Entire Highlighter On A Book

book@2xEvery last drop of ink gone. Yes, you read that right. An entire highlighter used up. And I don’t think I have ever used a highlighter this extensively on a book before… except my bible. Okay, lots more in my bible. But still…

We all want to discover what we were meant to do, what we were born for. I recently had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Jeff Goins’ latest book, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do as my first read of the year.

Upon receiving the book, I poured through its entirety with highlighter in hand, illuminating the immense value within its pages which resonated so deeply within me. And I imagine you might feel the same way upon reading it. It speaks to something I believe we all have deep down inside, something we hope and pray that we are brave enough or diligent enough to pursue: our calling. It’s what drives us to discover a path that will lead to a greater purpose and that dares us to chase something of significance, despite all of its twists and turns, that will be remembered long after we are gone.

“… sometimes it takes a wake-up call for us to see that this work we’re doing is more significant than we realize.” – Jeff Goins

Here’s the thing I love about this book. It’s packed with stories and practical principles gained from the lives of everyday people like you and me. Jeff weaves together several incredible stories about people in all walks and stages of life… people like you and me who are right in the throes of discovering and living out their callings of various kinds… and weaves them into a tapestry that vividly illustrates how our legacy is intricately linked to a lifetime of choices made in taking small intentional steps… choices which much must be made in the here and now… choices to continually submit to the oftentimes messy and chaotic process that will eventually reveal something significant in the portfolio of our lives.

“Sometimes all the little things in life aren’t interruptions to our calling. They are the most important part.” – Jeff Goins

Each chapter of the book is based on a theme, some specific characteristics commonly observed in people who’ve found their calling. Like a trusted friend who’s been there, done that, Jeff shares the wisdom he’s gleaned from his research, as well as from his own personal experience.

“We can trust that legacy follows faithfulness. There is always a deeper story.” – Jeff Goins

Whether you have an inkling of what your calling might be but are still trying to figure out if it could possibly be more than a hobby, or even if you have no clue what you are meant to do, Jeff provides insight into what the path of living for a larger purpose looks like and provides practical steps you can take to discover your own.

“When we talk about finding a calling, we’re not just seeking an activity. We’re looking for an identity, an understanding of who we are. We want to be complete, to make sense of the story of our lives… It is, in a way, a journey of becoming.” – Jeff Goins

This book spoke to the many questions I’ve been pondering for years and to the very real internal struggles I’ve had in pursuing my calling. It got right to the heart of why I could never seem to narrow my calling down to just one thing. It validated my struggle in feeling so compelled and so driven and yet also feeling like what I was striving for was so hard it would make me want to quit.

It’s helped me make sense of why different pieces of my purpose have seemed to shift and change over time, coming more into focus and developing greater clarity in different seasons of my life. It’s brought me comfort in reminding me that there’s probably a good reason why this path has taken me in different directions I would never have imagined for my life… a path that’s been marked by many highs and lows, obstacles and failures, unexpected blessings and miracles.

“Success isn’t the goal; legacy is.” – Jeff Goins

Yet as I read this book, highlighting so many sentences, even full paragraphs marking my many “aha,” head-nodding-in-agreement, “I need to remember this!” moments, something clicked in me and I realized that I was not alone. I became increasingly aware that I’m on the right path towards living my life’s work that is my calling… and that the wide range of emotions and experiences I’ve had in pursuing my calling are not unlike many others trying to make sense of their journey as well.

As Jeff so gracefully and eloquently describes, a calling is “rich and full, but difficult.” He hashes into the facts of life beyond your comfort zone in order to leave a legacy behind that matters. He keeps it real with the much-needed reminders that you’ll need a painful amount of diligence to get your farther than your passion ever will and that, if you’re doing it right, you will be tempted to throw in the towel. He pushes you to press through your mistakes and failures, embracing their valuable lessons and seeing them as pivot points to push you forward:

“Failure is the best friend you will ever have, if you learn from it.” – Jeff Goins

“Sometimes a calling isn’t a means to a more comfortable life. Sometimes we don’t pivot in the direction of personal success but toward even greater pain. But here’s the catch: a calling will always lead you to a life that matters, one you can be proud of… what lies at the end of the road is a prize that money can’t buy and a legacy the world won’t forget.”  – Jeff Goins

Ultimately, our calling is more than a career. It’s a portfolio of our life’s work, our magnum opus. And the work of a calling never ends because it’s something we leave behind. Hopefully, it’s a legacy that matters.

I wish I could share with you the many valuable nuggets I was able to glean from reading this book, but from the looks of my empty highlighter, you’ll have to read it for yourself or this blog will become much too long.

The Art of Work released last week and it’s already selling like gangbusters for good reason. If you don’t know Jeff, he has one of the fastest growing blogs on the web and has quickly become an expert on chasing your dream the smart way. He’s been an inspiration to me personally as a writer and I have greatly benefitted from his online writing communities My 500 Words and the Intentional Blogging Challenge, both of which inspired me to write a bit of my own on the subject of why the world needs you to find your calling and pursue it.

If there’s one thing I know about Jeff after following him for some time, he’s very generous in how he goes about trying to get his resources into the hands of as many people as possible. Right now is a great time to get the book… it’s 40% off! Also, if you get the book this week, he’ll flat-out GIVE you $250.00 in bonuses. This is a great time to pick up multiple copies!

I would highly suggest getting a couple of copies at this price because once you read it, you’ll want to have a few on-hand to be able to give away to people you know who need to be encouraged by its message. After reading the book, I picked up some extra copies, which I’ve already given away, and plan to definitely pick up even more extra copies to have on-hand to give away in the future, especially as graduation and birthday gifts this year. This book would also make a great book for a study group or reading club as it has some discussion questions and practical exercises available in the appendix.

So what are you waiting for? Be brave and take an intentional step today towards living a life that’s rich and full of purpose, even if it’s difficult. And if you need some encouragement along the way (and you will!), make sure to pick up this book (along with all the bonuses!) today!

Buy your book + claim your free $250 in bonuses by clicking here.

What steps have you taken recently on the path to pursuing your calling?

When the Silence Speaks

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If you’ve noticed, there’s been a silence here… a blog suspended in what appears to be a standstill. But if I could just take you behind-the-scenes and beyond this space, you’d discover that this silence has not equated to stillness. Behind the scenes there has been much wrestling with words. There has been much in motion…

Much like the quietness of snow falling has been this silence. You can’t hear it. Yet there is no stillness about it as it falls steadily, snowflakes and flurries settling upon the soil until suddenly there is beauty covering the earth that is impossible to miss.

This is what has become of my writing in the last two months within the silence here. From my view, the silence speaks of the exchange of motion I’ve been trying to make for many years now. In seasons’ past, silence within this space has spoken of times when the writing failed to come… or when I failed to come and write despite the busyness or challenges of life. By the grace of God, this hasn’t been the case this time.

This blog has been a step toward a bigger desire and dream buried within my heart that’s been waiting to be birthed for some time now. For years, in fact. This space has served as somewhat of an outlet for those birth pains. The more I would write here, the more the birth pains for this dream would increase. Until recently, I decided there is ultimately no choice but to give way to them.

This is why the silence in this space speaks so loudly to me.

Silence doesn’t always speak of a void. It can also speak of a filling.  (click to tweet)

Instead of speaking of forsaking the writing itself, of a goal not yet reached, of steps backward (like in the past), it actually speaks of very much the opposite… It speaks of a great exchange… of a greater wrestling with words than ever before to bring this dream that God deposited in my heart long ago one step closer to reality.

As I’ve finally chosen to yield to the pushing, to embrace and lean into God and allow Him the freedom to direct the creative process within me, what’s been locked away in a place of conception in my heart has finally begun to take shape and form. Like snow falling quietly in a flurry, the book that’s been so long in my heart has slowly begun falling onto pages in a frantic flutter of writing.

And I can’t wait for you to see it soon.

ENDURANCE: Finding Strength and Beauty in Your Toughest Seasons

Light in TreesIf you take a look at the environment around you, you’ll discover evidence of the season you are in. Here, the trees are beginning to shed their golden leaves, strewn this way and that by the winds of change. Crisp mornings are slowly creeping their way in and many mornings are clouded in fog. The moist air that sometimes carries a frosty bite, also carries the scent of rich earth, cedar, and pine. And rain. Lots of rain. The exchange has begun.

It’s a season in which we exchange the long, carefree, sunny days of summer for the shorter, more structured and scheduled, cold and rainy ones. We fit our beds with flannel sheets and cozy blankets and our feet with warm socks. We bring out the coats, the mittens, rubber boots and scarves and pack away the shorts, the tanks and sandals which are no longer needed. We use this season to winterize our wardrobes and our homes.

From the very beginning, our world was structured and ordered around time and seasons as part of God’s design. Life is not only lived from moment to moment and from day to day, week to week, and month to month. It’s also experienced in seasons. Without seasons, we know that any form of life on this planet would be consumed by extremes; either scorching insatiable heat or bitter numbing cold. No form of life could be sustained in such a formidable environment.

Seasons come and go without any effort on our part. They are a natural part of life we all experience. And it’s our choice how we respond to them. There’ve been many times in my life when I thought I’d never make it through a difficult season… and I did. There were also times I wanted a smooth-sailing season to never end. But it did.

Over time, I’ve begun to develop a greater sense of awareness not only to the changing of seasons in the natural environment around me, but also in my personal and spiritual life.  I’ve discovered that understanding your seasons while choosing not be defined by them, is a valuable key to unlocking the perseverance needed not to give up or get stuck in a difficult one. It empowers you with the endurance needed in order to stay stronger longer.

E N D U R A N C E  > >  STRONGER LONGER

Seasons change. They come. They go. And sometimes, the transition is so subtle you barely notice it at first. Other times, a season may have been so hard and seemed to go on for so long that you feel you can’t possibly bear to go on. In those times, it’s important to remind yourself that even your toughest season will not be the end of you… if you learn how to respond to what it wants to produce in you. When you grab ahold of this truth, you’ll find a new strength and assurance that will keep even your toughest seasons from stopping you or sucking the life out of you. You’ll realize that it’s your toughest seasons that have the ability to grow you the most… if you’ll let them.

EMBRACE THE BEAUTY OF YOUR SEASON

In years past, I dreaded and even resisted this time of year when we’d exchange summer for fall and the long rains would return. But this year I’m ready. I’ve come to realize that there is a beauty about this season. And in every season, for that matter. You just have to know where to look. And know that it’s ultimately the rhythm of our seasons and how we yield to what they require of us that will position us for endurance.

Each season has its own natural flow and when we don’t heed the wisdom of working with the seasons, we’ll pay the price of working against them; sheer exhaustion, discouragement, and possibly even exasperation and disheartenment of those we influence. The value of your season is determined not only by your ability to ascertain what lessons you need to extract from it, but also by your ability to exert effort into what is expected of you. Sometimes we don’t move beyond our current season because we haven’t allowed it to accomplished in us what is needed in order to run its course.

Speaking of running, when I complete 5-8 mile long outdoor runs, I’ve noticed that I have an increased ability to endure longer distances when the course of my run isn’t just one long straightaway… or a seemingly going-nowhere run on the treadmill. It greatly helps to have a turn every so often in each leg of the course. With each leg comes a different set of scenery, each unique. Setting my focus on completing each smaller goal, each leg of my journey, makes the distance seem more doable for some reason.

If I were to run the same distance as a straightaway or on the treadmill instead of in the course of 2-4 legs of twists and turns, the distance seems unendurable. The time seems to drag on and on without my ability to divide it up between short-legged distances.

There’s just something about seeing that turn up ahead that gives me courage and hope to keep going and not give up; an intentional focus that supplies strength to my struggle that with each leg completed, I’m one step closer to my finish line. Knowing that one leg is completed stirs in me a fresh stamina and gives me the perseverance to keep pressing on toward the next leg… and eventually the finish.

Seasons are much like the legs of the years in our journey. With each leg I complete, my focus builds, my confidence builds… I think to myself, “If I can just round that corner, I know I can keep going.” When I’m tired and it feels like I just can’t go another step, I remember my commitment: to make it around the next corner. And the corners build and round to help me finish well.

Endurance is not developed overnight or through one season. Endurance is a tricky thing to learn because it’s developed over being faithful through multiple seasons. And usually they’re difficult ones. They’re hard. They are the ones that tempt you to give up or quit. On more than one occasion.

And if, like me, you hope to make any kind of impact with your God-given influence, you’re going to need to learn how to function well regardless of what season you are in, to pace yourself and to live your greatest potential in every season.

Take some time to note and embrace the beauty around you and within you. Each season has a beauty all its own. Whether it’s the warmth of a newfound friendship, a new perspective or fresh strength, a rock-solid word of encouragement on a rough and wearisome day, or a glimmer of hope in the beauty of a sunrise that seemed just for you… What hidden beauty have you discovered in your toughest seasons?

What To Do In Seasons of FOG

There have been seasons when a gentle, quiet fog has hovered over the landscape of my soul. All I can clearly see are my feet and the few steps in front of me. I so badly want to see the horizon of where I think I am heading, but instead there is only mist. Instead, I can only focus on my breathing, my heartbeat.

And then, when I’m quiet enough, God begins to speak to me in the quiet of the fog, “Trust me and keep walking.” And yet that is all that I can do. The eeriness of the shapes ahead shrouded in soft mist makes me uneasy. Uncomfortable. And yet, I walk. I walk with cautious steps ahead, even though I am unsure of the twists and turns of the path that are only uncovered as I continue to move forward.

“Stay close to me,” He says. “Don’t deviate from your trust in Me. Continue to hope… without caution or care… because I am with you.” The steps may not get easier but I’ve learned to keep pressing.

We don’t stop doing what we know to be right just because everything doesn’t look right or just because we don’t have full view of what lies ahead.

Our own lack of clarity does not need to create a crisis. God ultimately has a crystal clear perspective and nothing ever obstructs His view. A mind kept in perfect peace is one holding on, steadfast and strong, believing and trusting a God who is near. It’s a mind hoping unswervingly in the One whose hope for humanity caused Him to love so extravagantly. It’s a mind fixed on Him that recognizes there is no need to wander or worry. It’s one that stays focused on Him even while vision may be clouded.

God’s character doesn’t change just because our view of what He’s doing does. (click to tweet)

Eventually, the fog will fade and you will have a clearer view of where He’s taken you, even if you don’t realize it in the process. It’s not your responsibility to know. It’s solely your responsibility to trust, and as a result of that trust, to simply take that next step.

F O GSo keep pressing into Him for His every Word. Keep moving forward, even if it’s only an inch at a time. This path will keep you close to Him. Desperately close to Him. And remember that in the uneasiness He is there. And when it’s unclear where you are going, remember Who it is that’s taking you there.

We need to realize the fog is not to be feared. The fog is not our enemy. Rather than resent the fog, decide to embrace it. It’s like a soft filter which keeps us reliant upon His grace for each next step. It causes us to slow down. To listen well. To wait patiently for Him. To not be so distracted by what surrounds us that we miss opportunities right in from of us to love extravagantly with same love He has for us.

Because when you fully trust Him when you can’t seem to trace what’s He’s doing, you find purpose in the moments where you are and don’t waste them with worry. Or fear, or regret.

Trust Him deeply to make sense of it all and to make your path rich with purpose.  Because eventually the sun rises and the fog lifts. And what was once hidden becomes made clear.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (The Message)

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.


NOTE: This post is part of a series about eliminating excuses and living a life with no regrets. Check out more in this series:

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

NO EXCUSES: The Importance of Having a Plan B

NO EXCUSES: The Stuff that Hard Conversations Are Made Of

NO EXCUSES: Making Time for ME

NO EXCUSES: Discipline