Saturday, December 31, 2016

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

I am so pumped up about 2017 and one of the main reasons is that this week, after checking out a few things on Pinterest, I learned about a couple of tools and rediscovered an old one that I think are going to help me and my team ROCK 2017. So, here is my list of things that I'm excited about in 2017, including those three things, not in any particular order.

1) Bullet Journaling. Please tell me, people, how this could have escaped me?!?! I can't believe this has been a thing for over a year and that there are websites, and Instagram and YouTube channels, and Facebook Groups, and pages of items you can buy for it and I never knew about it. And the thing is, it is SO ME! Not the artsy piece, but the tracking piece. I have been making little boxes in excel spreadsheets and coloring them in as a motivator to achieve goals for several years. In fact, I'm thinking that maybe somehow this whole thing was my idea. Ok, not really, but it could have been cuz I started doing it years ago. Anyway, I have ordered my first one and it's coming in a couple days and I am busy planning how this tool is going to transform my life.

2) Infographics. I've seen a few, but until a couple days ago, I didn't know it was a thing. I didn't know there were websites that made it easy to make them, or full websites on how to. Again, how did I miss this? These are going to transform several things in my life -- marketing my books, inspiring my team, marketing my speaking and training, improving powerpoint I use to influence others.... I messed around and made my first one yesterday and I am so excited about this I can hardly contain myself. I woke up in the night thinking about my next one.

3) Kanban and Trello. Ok, so the kanban isn't new to me, it's something I learned about a couple years ago, but it, combined with Trello has been a great task accomplishment tool for me. Trello is a web site and if you are interested in learning more, let me know and I'll invite you to join. The more people I invite, the more months of free premium membership I'll have. And if you ask me to invite you, I'll also answer your questions about a kanban and how it can increase work productivity.

4) New Hires at work. During the next six months we are going to be replacing some key positions and I am excited about some of the candidates who have applied. We are just a few players short of a "dream team" in a couple of my departments and I am really looking forward to working with some new hungry, healthy, smart people (read "the Ideal Team Player" by Lencioni if you want more information.

5) Our strategic plan at work. We have a strategic plan that we have been working on all fall that we are presenting to the board on January 17. It is slowly transforming us all into better leaders and helping us to execute our wildly important goals with more accountability. (see the 4 Disciplines of Execution by McChesney).

6) My kids making plans for significant progress during the coming year. Please pray for Tony as he heads to Job Corps on January 9th. Pray for Dominyk as he attempts to enroll in Technical College for the Spring Semester. Pray for Salinda as she is waiting to hear back from a great job that she would really love. And pray for Leon and Sadie who both are dating really neat kids who we love and don't want them to lose.

7) Renewed energy, enthusiasm, and plans for the coming year. I have been in quite a funk over the past several months, but I am facing 2017 with a great deal of motivation to make changes in my life and to fill my time with worthwhile things. The whole year of me getting used to my job was one cataclysmic event after another -- things that involved what I interpreted as personal betrayal, situations in which I was manipulated and lied to, and a lot of spiritual warfare. I feel grateful to God for the strength to make it through this and am determined not to repeat some of the same mistakes I made last year. I may have lost a few battles this year, but I'm still standing!

I hope that you are excited about the coming year, but if you aren't, there is one more thing that I am looking forward to.

8) Baby Steps Out 2.0. Five years ago I created a blog for folks that are really in a slump in life -- something to help them get out of the slump. I'm going to bring that back for the first 60 days of 2017. I hope you'll stay tuned. I'm going to blog about it and give an introduction today and then repeat it over the next several weeks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Risk It!

Exactly a year ago today I got up really early and Dominyk, Quin (or golden retriever/lab mix) and Gizmo (RIP) packed into the Equinox with everything we would need for the coming month. We headed for Virginia.

At that point in time we weren’t completely sure that Bart had a church here in Virginia, meaning we didn’t know where we were going to live. We had yet to sell our house and didn’t know if we were going to need to buy one. There were so many uncertainties that we truly felt like Abraham who “left, not knowing where he was going.”

But a year later we couldn’t be more grateful that God brought us here. Sure, 2016 has been a year like none other we have ever had. It has been a crazy ride at work and our family life has had it’s ups and downs. But God has provided so well for all of us, miracle after miracle. We love our jobs, we love our church, we love our parsonage, we have made great friends.

That’s not to say that we don’t miss things about Minnesota (thought the weather isn’t one of them). There are people that we miss, places we miss, and definitely grandchildren who make our hearts ache with how much we wish we could be with them. But God has been incredibly faithful.

I’m sharing all of that with you to say this: If God is calling you to step (or skydive) out of your comfort zone, don’t hesitate. If you are sure He wants try something new, go for it. Don’t let fear hold you back.

I read a quote this morning that resonated with me:

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” Dennis Waitley

As we look towards 2017, ask God what risks He would like you to take.

This song is definitely a song that is my heart beat. I hope you will make it part of your constant life song.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Feel Poured Out?

I read this passage this week and I have been thinking about it for days. I don’t remember reading it ever before, though I must have as I have read the Bible through many times. But this time it really struck me.

Isaiah 58:10-11 says:

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. ESV

I don’t think this was a promise…. In other words I don’t think God is saying to us, “pour yourself out for the hungry, satisfy the desire of the afflicted, so that you will have your light rise, your gloom dissipate, your desires satisfied, your way guided by the Lord, your bones strong, and feel like a well watered garden whose waters don’t fail.”

Instead, I think that Isaiah is letting us know that if we find ourselves at that place — that place where we have poured ourself out for others…. when we feel spent, dark, gloomy, scorched, week, and parched — that God shows up… He shows up to light our darkness and gloom. He comes to satisfy us, to make us stronger, to water us so that we become like a spring of water that never fails.”

I don’t know how you feel about 2016. Maybe you feel like it was a train wreck. If so, claim the words above for 2017. Maybe you have poured yourself out at work or at home for those who are hungry for love or for those who are afflicted. I know it certainly applies to adoptive and foster parents and to those who work in the helping profession.

But guess what? If you are feeling those things, that means that God has, does, and will show up. Count on it.

When things get dry during the coming year and there are times when you feel parched, check out this song…..

God’s river will be there…. to set your feet dancing, to feel your heart with cheer, feel your mouth with laughter….

Upward and onward!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sometimes We All Feel Like Mary

I don’t know what it’s like to be a pregnant teenager. In fact, I don’t know what it is like to be pregnant. I don’t know what it is like to be Jewish, or to live in the years B.C., or to have to ride a donkey for my transportation. I don’t know what it is like to draw water from a well, or to have to travel far away by foot to pay taxes.

None of you know most of the things above, though some of you have been pregnant. Some of you don’t even know what it is like to be a woman. But my guess is, that in some of the most difficult times in our lives, all of share the feelings that the songwriter expresses in today’s song in an attempt to convey Mary’s heart.

“This job is too big for me! Why did you choose me? I’m not sure I can do this! I feel so alone! Are you sure someone else shouldn’t have been the one to do this?”

God chose Mary to literally carry His son … in order for Jesus to be born human, He had to have a mother and grow inside another human. So Mary was chosen to carry His son.

Even though it isn’t in a physical way, God has also chosen us to carry His son… to be the one who introduces Him to others.

Whenever I hear today’s song so many of the words resonate with me.

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Finally, my heart cries out with Mary:

Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy

The melody of the song, washes over me every time I hear it. It is beautiful.

And as a Christmas bonus, there have been two Christmases where we were anticipating the birth of grandchildren, and they were great reminders that Christmas is “all about the baby.” If you are new to my blog or don't have a photographic memory, blog entries then you might be interested in checking these out.. The first one was written in 2009 and the second one a year ago.

Monday, December 19, 2016


Christmas is almost here — that day that turns December into a fast-paced, to-do list driven, party explosive mayhem. But as I have been encouraging all of us to do over the past couple weeks, I want to remind us of the power of the word Emmanuel.

Up until the birth of Jesus, God was far off. He didn’t show up often in the Old Testament, and when He did it was a scary thing…. As I mentioned last week, He was a God to be feared.

For over 400 years there was silence… between the writings of the prophets and the coming of Jesus, and all that time the people of Israel waited in anticipation for their Messiah.

And then, suddenly, the angels announced that the wait was over.

Because that far off distant God who should make us tremble in fear, came to us. Emmanuel, one of the names of Jesus, means God with us. God. GOD! with, yes WITH us. You and me, every day, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Within us, next to us, surrounding us.

God’s plan was to come to us through Jesus, and to have Jesus transform us so that WE could be light in a dark world. We are His only plan. He came to shine more brightly in us for the transformation of the world.

Today let the words to the Come to Us wash over you. If you have never heard it, it is gorgeous and you should definitely listen.

You've come to bring peace
To be love, to be nearer to us
You've come to breathe life
To be light, to shine brighter in us

Oh Emmanuel God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us

You've come to be hope
To this world
For Your honor and name
You've come to take sin
To bear shame
And to conquer the grave

Oh Emmanuel, oh God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything

Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us

You are here
You are holy
We are standing
In Your glory

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us

Our Deliverer
You are Savior
In Your presence
We find our strength
Over everything
Our redemption
God with us
You are God with us
You are God with us
You are God with us

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Ultimate Game Changer

If you happened to have taken time over the past few weeks to do an intense study of the book of Leviticus you would know that the law was NO FUN. I can't even imagine remembering all of the various laws that were supposed to be followed, much less actually following them. There had to have been such a burden following a God who seemed so picky and so ready to punish those who screwed up.

But as you know, the law was there for a reason. The law was there to show us that we are not perfect and that there is no way to be "good enough" to earn God's approval. That was the whole point.

God was making that point because He had a plan. He was going to send Jesus. Jesus was going to pay the price for us so that we no longer have to fulfill the law. We no longer have to worry about being good enough because there is nothing that we can do to make God love us any less OR anything we can do to make Him love us any more. Why? Because LOVE has come.

The tiny baby in the manger is not just a fun story that we retell every Christmas. This child was the ultimate game changer because Christmas began God's plan to free us from the law that resulted in sin and death and set us free.

A God who was perceived as a God of judgment who enforced all kinds of little rules through Christ unveils that He is indeed a God of mercy and grace.

Love has come for the world to know... that hope had begun when the God of glory, who is full of mercy sent His Son,,,

Monday, December 12, 2016

Are we Faithful?

In case you missed it on Facebook, our dog Gizmo died Saturday morning. He died without us having to take him to be put to sleep, which was a good thing, but it was a surprise and we didn't really get to say goodbye. I am definitely not a pet person... in fact, we got him 13 years ago because my sister-in-law convinced me that he would eat that scraps that fell from the table. At that time we had 9 kids ages 7-17, so it was a necessary investment. He did a great job of it too, by the way.

But wow, was that dog ever a faithful friend to Bart. He immediately claimed Bart as his person (if you know Bart, you know why) and he was very much his companion. They spent hours and hours walking together over the years on trails and sidewalks in every town we lived in. Most recently he was a bit too old for the walks (the dog, not Bart), but he was still happy to see us. It was sad to watch him grow so old -- he couldn't really see or hear any more and he had Cushing's disease, so he was always hot, hungry, and thirsty, but he was still right there with us. It was a hard weekend.... I was sad, but I was even more moved by the grief of my husband and children. The dog was as faithful as they come.

This weekend when we were singing "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful," I started thinking about who the song was written to. Obviously it was not written on that morning.... so it had to have been written later. So I realized that it was written to us -- to all who would come after as followers of Jesus. It wasn't to the general public, but to us, those who know Him and need to be reminded to head to Bethlehem at least once a year to behold the King of Angels. The reason for the journey: To adore Him.

It's a busy time of year... and we can get all caught up in the wrong things. In the midst of our parties and parades and gift exchanges and the consumption of the best food ever.... I have a few questions to ask of all of us.

1) Are we faithful? Are we, like Gizmo, eagerly awaiting every opportunity we have to spend time with our Master? Do we wait with baited breath for Him to say, "Would you like to walk with Me?" Is our every moment filled with a longing to be with Him and serve Him in whatever ways we can?

2) Are we joyful? I have to confess a lack of joy the past couple weeks. Sometimes the holidays can be overwhelming and the last emotion I'm feeling is joy. But the song calls us, the faithful, to come joyfully!

3) Are we triumphant? Triumphant is defined as "having won a battle or contest; victorious." Are we claiming the victory that is already ours in whatever battle we are facing?

This Christmas, I want to take that trip to Bethlehem as one who is truly faithful. And I want to take in joyfully, putting the stress and the tensions of this time of year to the side and experiencing the Joy that comes to the world because Christ is born. And finally, I want to be triumphant.... recognizing that I am already the victor in whatever battle I'm facing because of this tiny baby who grew up to be my Master, Savior, and Lord.

Join me?