Community and Influence: It’s Not About the Pebble

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“Every life comes with an expiration date” said the acquaintance in line as I waited close to 3.5 hours to say my goodbye’s to a good friend who tragically lost her life in a boating accident. “This certainly isn’t an ideal situation” he said as the awkward conversations continued to magnify in this extended visitation. Ha - ideal…death is never ideal!

I spent a lot of time thinking about Megan’s dash in those hours as I looked at her remembrance card that read 1986-2014. I thought about the memories I not only had with her but with all of my loved ones, friends and family who had reached their expiration date. It’s hard not to imagine your own dash in those moments. Will I leave the type of legacy or impact that they left? How will I be remembered? It’s not a coincidence that many of my articles are purpose centered or ‘difference’ driven. Life really is short. It’s not just a cliché. Knowing this, shouldn’t our life mean something?

I reflected on all the times I may have stood in line at the supermarket thumbing through my social networking sites on my Smartphone when just inches away there was an elderly woman just looking for a little social interaction…and I missed it…knowing full well that she was probably closer to her expiration date than I. I thought about the comments my dear grandmother would make as too often my cell phone seemed to take precedence over our relationship when all she was hoping for was an uninterrupted conversation with her grand-daughter; and those missed opportunities are now gone because she is gone. The choices we so often make without realizing the effect or the regret we may later experience because of those decisions. Sometimes God shows Himself during the most in-opportune times and we either seize the opportunity or we miss it.

I have reflected on those moments more often in the last 6 months than I ever have in my life. The average person is not thinking about their dash; they are not thinking about how their decisions will affect their relationships with people; they are not thinking about their expiration date.

The anxiety (or urgency) I generally experience on a daily basis has disciplined my awareness to the people and situations I am in and with so much un-anticipated grief around me I can’t help but slow down and reflect on what is truly important. I spent some time last night looking out over the waters of a beautiful landscape thinking about my friend’s whose lives had just expired realizing that my life could end in an instant just like theirs; understanding that I too am faced with an expiration date.

While sitting in my silence, I reached down towards the pebbles below and tossed one into the calm waters that reflected the bright setting sun. The ripple practically stretched for miles as I discovered the metaphor that God was revealing to me in that instant. It didn’t take long for me to understand the parallel that even just one pebble could stretch further than I ever thought possible - if thrown into a large body of water.

Imagine this with me if you will:

ripple effect 2Pebbles are small acts of kindness we do for others and the body of water is our community. If we have a small body of water wouldn’t it make sense that even multiple pebbles thrown into a small body of water would only extend as far as the body of water that it’s thrown into? Everyone will leave a ripple effect. But the difference in the ripple will be determined by the number of people you’ve influenced…NOT just the number of pebbles that you toss into the water. Which, metaphorically speaking, it doesn’t matter how much influence you have in one person’s life or how many small acts of kindness you make in a small community, if our ripple only extends to as far as our body of water reaches then it’s only logical that our impact eventually stops once that ripple reaches the shoreline.

Knowing this, I would rather focus on the size of the body of water rather than the number of pebbles thrown. Most people have no problem helping their friends and family or the people they already know, tossing more and more pebbles into that same small community. But wouldn’t it make sense that if we want to increase our influence and impact more people’s lives, we have to look outside of our current circle of friends and family?

ripple effect 1The next question may be, how do we gain such influence? That’s simple – servant leadership. The people who have made the biggest difference in my life were complete strangers to me before they decided to extend their body of water, increase their leadership and serve others. They are men and women who looked outward from their own circle because they knew that it wasn’t about the size of the pebble or the number or pebbles, they knew it was about the size of the body of water and ‘the people’ they were led to serve. Men and women like Orrin and Laurie Woodward who choose to extend their body of water and serve on a daily basis, not because they expect something in return, but because they care about people and the purpose God has for them in helping people.

What I love so much about the LIFE Leadership community is that it’s a platform to extend our body of water and our influence so far and so wide that our ripple effect could essentially echo into eternity. I have been blessed to meet and befriend so many people that were complete strangers to me prior to being associated with the LIFE community; and conversely people have befriended, helped and influenced me in more ways than I can even describe. And in all of our interactions we have been granted a mission to pay it forward affecting another person’s life and potentially, their legacy.

When Jackie Lewis reached the finish line, 100′s of thousands of people across the nation were affected by her life and her message and she continues to change and impact people’s lives today. Because of her love of people and her servant heart, Jackie’s ripple and her legacy will continue to extend for generations and I am certain she is reaping a boundless reward in Heaven today.

But certainly the best example of influence is Jesus. We have a model of servant leadership in Jesus Christ that has directly impacted and changed lives for thousands of years and His ripple continues to span across the globe. It is because of Him, that we have any influence or ripple at all. His influence is eternal and it’s the type legacy we should all live our lives striving for.

Life is short. As my mentor Jill Guzzardo says, “We don’t have a 1,000 years to do this…”

Live your life so that when you die you continue to live through all the lives you’ve changed.

Love,

Kristen

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Fight

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Phil 3-14

The Christian Life is not a playground, it’s a battleground.

So today I will give no place to fear or failure, I will not accept a trace of apathy in my attitude or actions.

I will reject complacency and embrace the greatness that God has planted inside of me.

I will waste no opportunity to glorify God and maximize everything he has entrusted to me.

I will fight.

My battle is not against flesh and blood but against a spiritual enemy who opposes me.

So I will draw the battle lines and face my enemy with a bold determination.

My enemy fights against me because he fears me, every time I resist him he must flee.

And every time he reminds me of my past, I will remind him of his future.

I will make no excuses but through every obstacle I will find a way.

I will not procrastinate my progress, I will not defer my destiny, I will not waver when I’m weak, I will not cower when my circumstances take a turn for the worse.

Because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

I will fight.

Even if I lose the battle, I will win the war because I am more than a conqueror for Him who loves me.

I will reject the lies that echo in my mind telling me that I don’t have what it takes, that my best is behind me or that humiliation awaits me.

The devil is a liar!

And my God always causes me to triumph through Jesus Christ my Lord.

I will fight.

I’m unashamed to represent a kingdom that is unshakable, no one will be able to stand against God’s plan for me.

All the days of my life, with my God I will advance every truth.

With His help I will scale every wall.

Though my enemies surround me, my God surrounds my enemies.

Though they may come at me one way, they will flee seven ways.

Because no weapon formed against me will prosper and every evil thing that rises against me I will condemn.

I will fight.

My heart is steadfast, my purpose is immovable, I am always abounding in the work of the Lord and my potential is unlimited because a limitless God lives within me.

I will fight.

The Cross is before me, the world is behind me.

I’ll never turn back.

I’ll never give up.

I’ll never settle.

I’ll never stop short.

I will work towards the mark for the prize that is already mine.

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.

Neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate me from my God.

And if my God is for me, who can be against me!

I will fight!

~ Pastor Steven Furtick ~

Love, Kristen

‘Potential’ Regrets

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For several weeks, since the weather has actually started to feel like Spring, I have utilized every opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. My new routine has been a 6am early morning walk through the streets of Waukesha where I listen to worship music, drink coffee, think, pray and ponder. It’s taken me about two weeks to map my route as I get bored with the same scenery every day. So each day I choose to start in a different direction to add some variety to my morning.

In sticking with my routine this morning, even on the weekends, I decided to go a little bit further and walk a little bit longer than usual. I spontaneously started in a westward direction, coffee in hand, breathing in the purity of a new day. Pacing at a fairly slow and relaxed speed, I took in my surroundings and enjoyed the splendor of a beautiful daybreak. These early morning walks have been a great therapeutic addition to the chaos of life; reminding me of how beautiful life is and how much I appreciate being alive. These walks have allowed me to think more deeply about my purpose and also pray more faithfully to the God who created me.

cemetery

However, this morning’s walk was much different than the rest. I was familiar with the streets and I was familiar with the area but I was not familiar with my surroundings. As I paced leisurely around this large open land I couldn’t help but notice that I was circling around a cemetery. I had driven these streets daily; I had even walked and ran these sidewalks several times before. But today was the first day I recognized the significance of my location. I abruptly halted my leisure pace, turned the volume all the way down on my music and sat on the edge of where the grass meets the pavement of a fully populated graveyard…the sun was just rising and there was hardly a civilian or car in sight.

In any other situation I would have sped up my stride in order to get away from the area; cemeteries have always creeped me out. Probably because I watched too many horror flicks growing up. But this time I was convicted to stop. And not only stop, but sit down. I gleaned at a distance to some of the plots where real people’s bodies lay at rest. I couldn’t help but think of my own loved ones whose bodies lay still underground in a similar plot just in a different location. It reminded me of how precious life really is and how much the sunrise meant to me today, because for the souls I was sitting amongst, they couldn’t see it. And someday, I wouldn’t be able to either.

I could not muster the courage to walk through the grounds but what I could see within close proximity of where I was sitting were the names of people…and underneath the names were their birth dates and death dates, separated by a dash. A while back, Chris Brady produced an incredible LIFE leadership audio titled “The Dash” and this talk has always remained etched in my mind. However, it wasn’t until this morning, that my dash first became real to me as I sat in the silence of that land.

I had a conversation with a friend just yesterday who I was introducing LIFE leadership to and ironically our conversation consisted of the very topic I am writing about today. God’s timing is so amazing.

Her paraphrased words were, “once the initial sting of my death wears off (to my loved ones), I wonder who will actually miss me or remember me? Will I have made enough of a difference for people to continue talking about me after I am gone…?”

Such a powerful question that I believe very few people ever ask themselves. And I am proud of her for asking it. Are we afraid to ask ourselves that question because we don’t want to accept the fact that someday we are going to die? Are we afraid to ask ourselves because we don’t want the responsibility and pressure of doing something important or significant with our lives? That was definitely me. For a long time I naively believed that my dash would last forever…as long as I didn’t think about it. And if I didn’t think about it then it didn’t matter if I accomplished anything important each day. I was successfully getting myself one step closer to death safely.

As I sat there this morning, looking at a field of hundreds of stones, I thought about all the people who had the potential to do something great with their lives but may have never had the courage to ask that question. Names forgotten…people forgotten. They went to the grave with ‘potential’ regrets; their lives ended and so did their legacy. Sadly, buried beneath the soils around the world and even blocks from our homes are people who never accomplished their dreams because they never had the audacity to pursue them: songs that were never sung, books that were never written, words that were never spoken, lives that were never touched, inventions that were never designed, plans that were never acted on, ideas that were never shared, stories that were never told and purposes that were never fulfilled – people who naively believed their dash would last forever. People who had the potential to leave a powerful and lasting legacy, but ran out of time. I know this is not very encouraging but I sure hope it is motivating.

Change

I reflect back on certain seasons of my life where I didn’t have goals, I didn’t have a purpose and I didn’t have a dream or a cause I was chasing after…they were very depressing, insignificant, boring and unfulfilling times of my life. I just imagine if my dash ended in the midst of my complacency – how would I have been remembered then?…scary thought. I thank God that those seasons didn’t consume me for several years but that He was patient with me in my temporary darkness. Sadly, for many Americans, this type of lifestyle is ‘normal’ and ‘common’ and often people don’t even realize the insignificance of their life because they are being deceived into thinking that it’s all okay; and they live this way for years…sometimes their entire life. But, it’s not okay. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

I feel a major sense of urgency as I write this…not just for myself but for everyone I come in contact with. None of us will ever escape death. As Terri Brady said on a recent audio, “there is a too late…” And as George Guzzardo says, “there is a finish line we will all eventually cross.”

The question is, will your life be buried and forgotten with ‘potential’ regrets or remembered and talked about because you lived your life well and made a difference?

Blessings,

Kristen

Patience and Hope: There is Always a Calm After the Storm

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“…He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45

Most of the articles I write are born out of personal experiences. When a crazy idea or experience emerges, I then reflect on whether the information will be helpful or relevant to whoever may read it. Usually it will take days, weeks or months for an idea or experience to be a complete; however, this one took just hours.

storms 2

Sunday afternoon I was reading a book at my usual spot down by the river. The sun was shining, a warm breeze cooled the Wisconsin air as husbands and wives paced side by side for their afternoon walks, father’s and son’s cast their fishing lines into the raging river hoping to reel one in for a picture, avid runners clocked their times as they hit each mile marker. It was a beautiful day.

It wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in and I felt the first rain drop hit my nose. In seconds people started to flee towards their cars to shelter themselves from a potential heavy rainfall. I couldn’t believe how quickly an active and friendly area soon became an empty, dark and desolate landscape. I froze this moment as I sat and witnessed this and began to connect and relate this scenario to real life…how the physical weather carries a similar connection to the mysteries of living. How sometimes we can go days, weeks, months and even years experiencing ‘pouring rain’ with little hope that there is a misty calm approaching; or sometimes how our life can feel like one big gray cloud that never seems to rain and never seems to shine; or sometimes how people run and hide from potential rain when most of the time it’s never as bad as they anticipate.

Let me relate this to my own personal journey. Anyone who has experienced any major challenges understands the pain associated with losing patience and hope. For the past 18 months I have gone through a cycle that I can honestly say has been the most challenging, painful and stressful time of my life. I thought I knew struggle prior to this rainfall but my perspective has significantly changed in the last year and a half.

It was around 2011 when the warm and bright sunlight of my life started to turn into gray clouds. I was anticipating a storm I just didn’t know how bad the storm would be or how long it would last. I was living a very happy, healthy, purposeful, financially stable lifestyle with a thriving business and a passionate pursuit to make a difference… when subtly gray clouds started to come in. I wasn’t surprised. Life is full of unexpected challenges. However, these gray clouds seemed to be different. They weren’t real obvious at first and I continued to live my life as if the clouds weren’t there – like I would get a headache and call it ‘stress’ or I would have a sleepless night and blame my coffee obsession. The physical pain of life never really bothered me. I was used to physical pain. I was a competitive athlete for over 18 years. I’ve blown my knees out playing basketball multiple times, sprained my ankles more times than I can even count, have had concussions, jammed fingers and black eyes from elbows to my face…my bones pop, my muscles ache, it’s just the reality of being a former athlete….so the little daily abnormalities never raised any concerns for me.

But, it seemed very quickly the scattered gray clouds grew denser and darker. My personality and attitude began to change (for no clear reason). I was more edgy, unapproachable, negative and distant (or so I’ve been told). It seemed like I was having more bad days than good days. The physical abnormalities I had experienced for years were starting to frustrate me…a lot! It wasn’t long before other areas of my life started to get increasingly difficult. A rough batch of roommates/tenants created financial strain and extra stress, a good friend would quit my business (and I would take it personal), a fight with a family member created unresolved tension and conflict, a prior 30 minute headache turned into three days with no relief.

thunderstorms

My gray clouds quickly turned into scattered showers. It seemed like in some areas of my life things were still going well but in other areas things were just beginning to fall apart. Of course in the moment we don’t see these things as gray clouds or scattered showers. We live each day and thank God for only 24 hours because it means we can start fresh a new day; but some of those ‘new days’ seemed to be no different than the previous. I would wake up with every intention to have a positive attitude and outlook but then on the way to a meeting I would get a speeding ticket or I would get a phone call that someone close to me just passed away; pretty soon those ‘clumps’ of days turned into weeks of unending scattered showers. It didn’t take long for an unexpected raging storm to drench my life.

Ironically Wisconsin has been hit with several days of heavy rainfall. Even as I write this the thunder is rolling. But on Sunday afternoon the analogy was so clear. I could see the clouds getting darker in the distance. I could see the rain a few miles out. However, I could not predict the downpour that was about to take place. That’s what happened in 2012 when the downpour of my life hit me without warning. Sometimes, if you are lucky, the rain dissipates before it reaches you. Sometimes it moves in a different direction and someone else gets hit with it. In my case, God pointed that rain in my direction and I was not prepared to take shelter.

Looking back I can see that the scattered showers were actually warning signs from God. Either I would listen to the warning signs and do something about it before it got worse or I would have to accept the fact that heavy rain was coming my way. I’ve also learned that sometimes God has to go to extremes in order to wake us up and/or teach us something. Again, anyone who has experienced heavy rainfall for any extended period of time knows what I am talking about. I am not referring to the one or two bad days a month where everything seems to be going wrong. I am referring to the continual ‘bad days’ …and worse, not being in control or having a solution for those days.

I could argue that probably 90% of the time most people have a choice on whether their day is going to be filled with sunshine or filled with rain, just by their attitude. During most of my scattered showers, there probably could have been more days of sunshine if I would have just chose to have a better attitude. But, it seems like 10% of the time (in life) there are those moments that even a good attitude usually can’t improve the situation (i.e. grieving the loss of someone you love, serious illness, abuse, marital stress, financial disarray, etc, etc). That 10% is what I like to refer to as the ‘raging storms’ of life.

It’s in times like these that our trust and faith in God is most important. Without going into any major detail I can say with certainty that the heavy rainfall I experienced these last 18 months have been, without a doubt, an enormous test of faith. From a car accident that left me lifeless for over a month, to an inoperable brain tumor diagnosis, to major treatment decisions such as 6 weeks of radiation and several months of chemotherapy, to multiple days and weeks at a time of physical pain and sickness, to financial stress due to large medical bills, to almost losing my house, to watching team members and friends walk away from their dreams, to a healing that left me relieved but completely lost, to financial collapse, to depression, to loss of hope, to another brain tumor diagnosis, to the loss of my last living grandparent, to a family collapse and a 3rd brain tumor diagnosis; it has been a period of pouring rain with very little sunlight. I guess the old saying is true, “When it rains, it pours.”

And yet, even though it is still raining, I can finally see the sunlight beaming through the clouds. I can’t even count the number of times I thought the heavy rain would never end; that I would never see the light of day.

All of us experience different heavy storms in life and most people experience storms multiple times throughout their life, even for extended periods of time. It’s a very challenging and confusing place to be. And sometimes the storm hits you even when you try to seek shelter but often times there is no shelter at all. The storms of life are meant to change your landscape. If your landscape isn’t changed in some way, then it probably wasn’t a storm.

If you are being drenched right now, I want to encourage you that things will get better. There is always a calm after the storm. But in the meantime, here are some things that have helped me have patience and hope in the pouring rain:

  1. Stay positive - Always be the light in a dark room. You can’t always control your circumstances but you can control your attitude in those circumstances. It helps to surround yourself with a community of friends and people who are encouraging and uplifting. LIFE Leadership has been that community for me.
  2. Stay busy (with your priorities) – Keep your mind focused on the things and people who are important to you.
  3. Do things you enjoy and are passionate about - Even when you don’t feel like it, force yourself to do it anyways.
  4. Don’t complain about your problems or your bad day - The more you complain, the worse it makes you feel.    BUT…
  5. Communicate with trusted family, friends or mentors - The storms of life should never be handled alone. Guidance, support, encouragement and love is so crucial. But make sure to communicate those struggles only with those closest to you.
  6. Serve Others – Help other people make it through their storms and you will likely think less about your storms.
  7. Pray – Spend time communicating with God.

There are a number of other ways to overcome the raging storms of life and these are just a few that have helped me. I pray that if rain is pouring down on you right now that you cling to the hope that there IS a calm after the storm. There is a rainbow coming. There will be sunshine again. It’s just part of the process. Be patient. God has a plan for the rain you are experiencing and He wants you to use this experience to glorify Him.

Sunday afternoon when the rain came pouring down, I just sat there and let myself get drenched. It made me feel more alive than I have felt in a really long time. If you have ever been completely drenched from a rainstorm you understand what I mean – you can feel every drop, the chill runs through every vein in your body, your heartbeat races just a little bit faster than normal and it practically takes your breath away. It was the first time I was able to thank God for the raging storms in my life because it meant that I am still alive. It meant that no matter what happens to me in the pouring rain, there is ALWAYS calmness, rainbows and warm sunlight to look forward to – whether it be in this life or the next! Stay strong when rain pours down on your of life (because it will) and hold onto the hope that someday we will get to experience eternal sunlight forever with Jesus.

SUNAgain Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Love, Kristen

Our Life is a Ministry

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“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

When I first came to the Lord back in 2009 I felt enormous pressure to share the message of Jesus. My life had changed so dramatically that the thought of someone living a single day without the hope of Christ terrified me. I felt I had a responsibility to share this message with every person I came into contact with. However, my naïve and ignorant understanding of the gospel proved that what I felt in my heart would be a more challenging task to accomplish than anticipated.

My story is much different than most for the mere fact that I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions of what Christianity actually was. I had no religious or spiritual background, no prior experience with the church and very little influence in my associations growing up. So, when I started to learn Biblical principles taught through personal development books and audios through LIFE Leadership, and surrounding myself with people who were living out these principles, it caught my attention. I started to witness and meet people who were actually married…and happy! I started to make friends with people whose passions didn’t involve partying, living for the weekends and substance abuse but loving and serving others (with no hidden agenda) and chasing after dreams.

That quick transformation from Christ-empty to Christ-full changed everything for me. Anyone who has experienced this revelation knows what I am talking about. But, with this transformation came an urgency that I had never felt before. And it’s the feeling of urgency that inspired me to write this article.

When I mentioned that early on I felt an overwhelming pressure to spread the ‘good’ news, I was not exaggerating. I went so far as to sign up for a mission trip overseas, write and send out support letters and plan time off (which I eventually never went on – a story for a different article)…learning you don’t have to cross oceans and borders to serve God. When I was teaching in public schools I felt determined to convert my students because I couldn’t live with the idea of them growing up and going through life without Jesus (like I did). I even remember a very specific conversation with one of my high school sophomores who challenged me regarding sin, eternity and salvation and her belief that there can’t possibly be a God – which was a belief that she concluded on the basis of her peers who were all professed atheists. Later learning that their belief was developed without ever hearing the Truth (just like me)… never hearing the story of Adam and Eve or how sin entered this world, let alone the story of Jesus. Of course these kids didn’t believe; most of my students came from broken homes with no Biblical or moral foundation. How can one possibly believe the Truth if they have never heard it?

I realized in those early experiences of attempting to play ‘God’ that WE (humans) cannot convert people into believing in Jesus no matter how excited we are, no matter how knowledgeable we are and no matter how deep Jesus is rooted in our hearts. Only God can ‘convert’ people. Sometimes he has to break us completely or back us into a corner and bring us to our knees in order to turn to Him; sometimes He has to put the right person or mentor in our path; sometimes He has to give us worldly ‘things’ like materialism or status and then take it all away in order for us to realize how meaningless those things are; sometimes He has to challenge us in the things we can’t control – like an illness or loss in order to put our faith and trust in Him for the things unknown.

My own experiences in attempting to analyze and understand God’s plan (which is a contradictory statement because I don’t understand and never will in this life) opened my eyes to how God might be using me to serve Him.

I started this article stating that when I first heard the Truth I felt pressured into thinking I had a responsibility (as a believer) to share this message of Truth with everyone. While this is a very true statement, it certainly isn’t realistic (if we are referring to words). In time I have learned that the message of Truth isn’t always what is spoken, but what is practiced. Most often our message of Truth is revealed in how we live our lives; in our daily interactions with people, in our attitude, in our behavior, in our choices, in our compassion, in our service, in our love and forgiveness. In fact, that’s exactly what led me to the Truth in the beginning. It was the people I started to surround myself with who lived their life as a ministry rather than trying to act like a ‘minister.’

Recently, I had an experience that helped to confirm this revelation reducing some of the pressure I have always felt in my heart. To ‘speak Truth,’ that is powerful…but to ‘live the truth,’ (no matter what the situation or circumstance)…that is how you really spread the message of Jesus. Let me elaborate:

This past Friday night was interesting but not out of the ordinary. Let’s face it, I am getting used to the attacks and finding them quite humorous (after the fact). However, this one caught me by surprise. I had gotten home late and was preparing for a moving sale the next day and was running out of time. It was raining outside, my house was a disaster and all I could think about was how much I still had to get done. I remember one of my neighbors (on the left) telling me that I could borrow some tables for my sale. So as I am walking outside in the rain, complete darkness, the neighbor on the right immediately shouts from his garage as he is smoking a cigarette (and I am standing in the rain), “So you’re moving?” To which I responded…”well, not tonight (slightly sarcastic and jokingly).” Quickly finding out he was not in a joking mood. From there he proceeds to share rude and inappropriate comments regarding my decisions (under the influence of alcohol of course) eventually raising his voice and yelling at me for 15 + minutes (His words cut deep as tears started streaming down my face). I was speechless. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But I stood there and let him vent – at the expense of my emotions…without responding. Eventually I told him to ‘have a good night’ as I walked back in my house and continued my emotional meltdown – not understanding what just happened (and…never getting the tables I needed).

10 minutes later I hear a knock at my front door – around 10pm (I thought it was him). It was his wife. She came over to apologize for his behavior. While I was clearly upset (as the tears had not ceased), I did all I knew I could do which was to hug her and tell her that it was all okay and that I forgave him.

She continued to say, “NO…NO. How can you possibly forgive Him? Don’t forgive him. He needs to apologize. That was completely unacceptable and he does not deserve your forgiveness without a personal apology.”

I tried to tell her, “But Sue, I forgave him before I even walked back into the house. These tears are not from his words. These tears are just from stress. He just happened to stop me at a really bad time.”

She would not accept the forgiveness for her husband’s actions… (but it didn’t change what I felt in my heart). I’ve known this man for 7 years and I know he did not intend to hurt my feelings like she thought he did.

So, Sunday morning came (two days later) and as I pulled around toward my driveway after church he and his wife were outside. (Before Christ I would have gone around the block a few times and waited for them to go in the house in an attempt to avoid any confrontation or conflict). But this day I had no problem pulling in the driveway. I smiled out my drivers side window at them (like normal) and as I got out of my car, Brad (the neighbor) says, “I am so sorry…I am so sorry. I did not mean anything I said. I was drinking. You are wonderful. I completely understand if you don’t forgive me, but I am so sorry.” All I could think to do in order to show him I forgave him was to give him a hug and say, “No worries, I forgive you. Nothing to be sorry about”… and we both walked back into our homes and the issue was resolved.

Love 2

God IS forgiveness. If we forgive, we are revealing Him. My neighbors didn’t know my beliefs. All they knew was that a very ugly situation could have gotten much worse had God not revealed Himself through me that night. That is what I mean by living the Truth. (But please don’t take this the wrong way, this is not about me or what I did. This is about what God did. He sent His son to be nailed to a cross so that WE would be forgiven. He loves us that much. If He can forgive us, in all our mess and sin (often without apologizing), what right do we have not to forgive each other).

I am learning that even in the chaos of life, God is always calm. If we really have Christ in our heart then the best way to reveal Him, is to live like Him. Not just when it feels right or comfortable. Not just when things are going well. Always. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Be unaffected by circumstance. Do not let it control you. Do not be mastered by it. Do not let it get you down or determine your misery or joy.” This life is not easy. But, if we live it like it’s our ministry, expecting pain and struggle in the process, while continuing to serve, love and forgive, despite our circumstances, then we can never say to ourselves…I should have done more. There is nothing more we can do. The urgency we feel to ‘speak truth’ to everyone we meet is resolved in ‘living the truth.’ Continue to reveal Him through our actions and love people like He loves us; that is our ministry.

Love,

Kristen

Look Up!

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While technology, in essence, has shrunk the world and brought us closer together, it’s also threatened to push us further apart. Being intentional in controlling the use of our handheld and lap devices is essential in leading a more meaningful life. It is true, I have read many articles pertaining to the use of technology and relationships mostly because I need a staunch reminder myself to Look Up. Recently I stumbled across this video that stopped me in my tracks as I had my ear buds in sitting at a coffee shop looking at You Tube videos on my Smartphone. Ha – God has a good sense of humor. But, I pray that upon watching this video you will be encouraged to put down the Smartphone and Look Up at the people and world around you. We miss out on so much when we let technology rule our lives. 

Enjoy!

Love, 

Kristen

Related articles:

Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of Busyness – Terri Brady

Leadership Soft-Skill: Building Relationships – Orrin Woodward

Leaders as Heroes – George Guzzardo

Relationships – Chris Brady

Delivered: An Encounter with Jesus

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This is an original poem that I wrote last night. Sometimes amidst my sleepless nights my best thoughts come to me. I’ve been having a lot of those lately and thankfully God knows how to re-direct these thoughts into constructive words that will glorify Him. I pray this poem touches your heart and allows you to be reminded of the love He has for you!

God Bless,

Kristen

Delivered: An Encounter with Jesus

A sound so faint I could not hear,

The whisper of this voice.

“I want to talk to you my dear,”

“…Although you have a choice.”

Confused my thoughts begin to race,

“What do you want with me?”

He answers, “look upon my face,”

“I’m here to help you see.”

 

“You’ve been lost for far too long,

I’ve watched you from the start.

You need to know where you went wrong,

so you can accept me in your heart.”

 

“My faith is weak, my trust is low,

I don’t know what to do.

I need a Savior, this I know.

How can I follow you?”

“My love is free, I offer grace,

Your sins have been forgiven.

I have delivered you from this place,

But you need to change your livin.”

 

“Lord, your timing is perfection,

I need you so much now.

I do not know my own reflection,

I’ll follow you, but how?”

 

“Study, grow, pray and live,

A life that glorifies me.

Serve and love and always give,

So others, too, will see.”

“But Lord the sin, the struggle, the pain,

How do I remain strong?

Life is hard, it’s often insane,

It all just seems so wrong.”

 

“I offer strength, just look to me,

You are not alone.

I overcame the struggles, you see,

Turn and call on Heaven’s throne.”

 

“God the Father gave salvation,

to every soul on earth.

When I was sent to the cross I saved the nation,

For every human since birth.”

 

“This isn’t your home, trust me, there’s hope,

In Eternity that lasts forever.

Heaven is real, hang on to the rope,

Look to this Truth as your lever.”

 

“Jesus, I love you, I’m grateful you’ve came,

to share this Truth with me.

I know my life will never be the same,

At last, I can finally see.”

 

“You will sustain me in your love,

with what I’m going through.

Your promise fits just like a glove,

I am victorious in You.”

By: Kristen Seidl

Part 5 (Brain Tumor Sequel): Draw Closer to God

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Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Recently I have been studying the story of Job. Anyone who knows his journey in the Old Testament knows that he was one of the most faithful of all biblical figures in that time period and his story is marked as one of the oldest books in the Bible. For those who don’t know the story I am going to briefly summarize a portion of it for you now.

Job had a very good life. In thinking about LIFE leaderships 8 F’s I would say Job ‘had it going on’ in all eight categories. He was strong in his faith – he worshiped God in everything he did; and all other categories were exceedingly abundant. “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” Job 1:2-3

While Job was not perfect (but he was darn close) Job knew that he was a fallen man and was very humble despite of all his blessings. He always knew Who to give the credit to. “Then the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8

JobGod loved to brag on Job because he was the model man for all of God’s people. Satan didn’t like that and was sure that Job was only faithful because he had been blessed abundantly. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” Job 1:9-11

God sets out to prove to Satan that Job is not righteous just because he is being blessed.  God challenges Satan telling him, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” Job 1:12. Job lost just about everything; his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, and all of his sons and daughters, but remarkably he did not lose his faith in God. What was Job’s response? “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’  In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” Job 1:20-22.

Job’s reaction during such a trial is so encouraging. He never lost faith. He worshiped God, he said that he came into this world with nothing and will return with nothing, the Lord has taken away all he had except his wife and even his wife told him to “curse God and die” and Job continued to bless the name of the Lord (Job 2:9).  In all of this, “Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong!” Job 1:22.  Satan must have been angry at Job’s response.  Job suffered unjustly and yet he did not blame God.

There is a lot more to this story. I encourage you, if you have not read it, to learn the intricate details of Job’s faith despite all of his challenges and even more, learn the ending. This is a very basic summary describing Job’s faith but I share it with you today because it is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of the Bible; and here is why.

I am reminded that even though the story of Job is so old, it is very much applicable and comparable to most people’s lives today. Let me be very clear that I am not saying people’s lives today can even compare to the sufferings of Job, but his story is a measure of struggle in our lives and allows us to examine our own faith. For example, when everything falls apart (whatever that may be for each person) does one curse God and blame God for their suffering or worship Him and draw closer to Him in faith? Those are the questions I continue to ask myself as I examine my own circumstances.

For those of you who have followed the journey regarding my brain tumor last year, you already know that by God’s grace and love and the support of amazing people in my life, I was healed last August. At the time I closed the book on that story and attempted to put the pieces of my life back together when everything fell apart. I just knew God was faithful. I knew He had a plan. And to my amazement His plan was carried out in one of the most miraculous ways possible. Looking back on all the intricate details of that journey and how each decision was carried out and examining God’s mighty hand throughout all of it, I am humbled that He gave that story to me. But, while I thought that story was over, God must have known it was just the beginning. Just another reminder that we can never predict God’s plan.

In a follow up MRI in late January I was told that there is another tumor – different diagnosis from the first but similar location, but it is benign. I didn’t quite react as foolishly and fearfully as I did the first time knowing that my options were completely different than the first time around. In knowing this diagnosis and realizing that God led me to homeopathy last year through amazing friends in LIFE leadership, I have decided to choose the homeopathic route again, completely trusting in Jenn and knowing that God is in control of this outcome as well.

HomeopathyHowever, in addition to the most recent diagnosis in January, just this past week at a recent appointment I was told that another tumor has been spotted near the back of the brain, attached to a nerve. This one is described as malignant. Yes…cancer. So now there are two. This recent news has forced me to think about my entire journey so far and in doing so it has also allowed me to re-examine my faith; hence why I started this post with the story of Job.

The very essence of this has certainly caused me to think deeper about life but beyond that, it has forced me to draw closer to God in searching for answers and accepting the reality that this is serious… but not fatal. Why? Because I have one of the wisest homeopathic specialists in the country working with me and I have a very powerful and mighty God. I know with certainty that God did not cause this to happen. This is not God’s fault (so non-believers get that out of your head), how could I possibly get mad at him? The reason things like this happen isn’t because of God, it’s because of sin. God didn’t create sin and He didn’t create evil. We (humans) did – way back in Genesis. God only provided a Savior (when He knew we would be faced with injustice and suffering) in His son Jesus Christ to overcome all the sin and evil of the world – even brain tumors..yes Jesus died for me so that someday I could live eternally with him, tumor free! Even if not in this life, I have hope that this plague isn’t forever… all because of Jesus. And for that I will always thank Him and draw closer to Him.

God is the hero, not the villain. In fact, it’s an even stronger reason why our relationship with Him is most important – especially during challenges. One day those challenges will cease to exist. One day we will know why bad things happen. But until then all we can do is what we know God has given us the power to do – trust in Him, pray, love Him, live for Him and draw closer to Him. Because in the end, our relationship with Him is what will really matter.

So with this recent news I thought it would be fair to ask this question:

Has an obstacle challenged your faith?

Has a terrible loss of a loved one burdened you to the point of giving up? … If so, draw closer to God.

Has a difficult relationship with someone in your life torn you to pieces? … If so, draw closer to God.

Is your health on shaky ground? … If so, draw closer to God.

Are you faced with a financial challenge that you can’t seem to overcome? … If so, draw closer to God.

Are you questioning your purpose? … If so, draw closer to God.

Are you lonely? … If so, draw closer to God.

Are you afraid? … If so, draw closer to God.

“For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

 

Love,

Kristen

(Sequel to Part 4: God’s Plan is Always Perfect)

 

The Hourglass

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Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think about the day’s events and just wonder if all of this is real? I have to pinch myself just to make sure that I am alive. It’s on nights like these, when my mind will just not shut off, that I reflect on how strong God made man to be.

grandmaThis past Monday I had to bury my grandma. She was my last living grandparent and a woman who stole my heart while she walked this earth. We had a very special bond that I believe very few grand-kids develop with a grandparent. I never imagined living my life without her and now that she is gone, it has made each day just a little bit more empty. She lived her life as a reflection of who Jesus Christ was. She was self-less, loving and forgiving. She lived a full life into her late 80′s and fought all the way to the end. Just moments before her passing she still had the strength to make the sign of the cross as the priest prayed over her. A woman who is living life eternally with the Creator of the world, she has left a legacy behind to all those who were blessed to know her.

In the meantime, during all the events of my grandma’s passing I was thinking about and praying for a very special lady who has also made an imprint in my heart as well as thousands of other people’s lives, LIFE co-founder, wife, mother of four and friend to many – Jackie Lewis. When I heard of her worsening condition Sunday evening I fervently prayed that God would heal her. Each day that went by her condition continued to worsen and by Tuesday evening we were praying for a miracle. In those days I have never prayed so much or cried so much.

jackie-quoteI believe Jackie’s fight brought 10′s of thousands of people closer to Christ in just a matter of days. And in her last 12 hours people literally put their life on hold to lift Jackie, the doctor’s, her family and friends in prayer in hopes that a miracle would happen. Communities around the world were consumed by her story, her fight and her faith. People who have never believed in anything started to pray and began to have faith and believe in a higher power. People who didn’t even know Jackie were crying out to God for a healing. While Jackie may not have been able to physically see the impact that her fight was making in thousands of people’s lives in those days, I am certain that as she looks down on us today she can smile and know that she is still in this world by the legacy she has left behind in people’s hearts and souls.

hour-glassIsn’t it interesting how God has a timeline… or hourglass (as my friend and mentor George Guzzardo likes to say) for everyone’s life. We don’t know how much sand is left in the hourglass; but what we do know is that one day, our last grain of sand will reach the bottom and it’s what we do before that last grain falls that makes all the difference. We would all like to hope that our sand moves slower through the hourglass so that we can live a long life into our late 80′s, just as my grandma did. But that isn’t always the case. We see that in a woman who went Home to be with the Lord at 32 years old and realize that the hourglass is so unpredictable. We recognize that we have no control over the speed of the sand that falls. But what we do know is that Someone is in control of that hourglass – and it isn’t us.

Jackie lived on this earth for 32 years and while we may not understand why she was called Home so soon – we can know that she made a difference in more people’s lives than most people do who live a full life. Not only did she impact thousands of lives while she was living – she changed even more lives while she was dying. We can never claim to understand why God does the things that He does but as I reflect on all these events this past week, I can say with certainty that He does have a plan and His plan is always perfect – despite what we want to believe or the confusion we often feel as we live in this world.

I pray that everyone who has been affected by Jackie’s story uses it as a reason to live a life of significance and purpose. Very few people leave the type of legacy that Jackie has left behind but I believe we are all capable of leaving that type of legacy. God knows what He is doing. He is waiting for us leave the type of impact that Jackie did. He is waiting for His people to draw near to Him and pray like their lives depended on it. To fight for their place in Heaven by living while they are alive and being an example of Jesus’ presence in the world. That is what I know my grandma did and that is what I know Jackie did. While the grains in their hourglass were completely different, their legacy was very similar and they are both being rewarded in Heaven today for who they were when they were alive. They are celebrating today with all the angels in Heaven who did not waste their hourglass.

What a gift we have to know that Jesus Christ has saved us for all of Eternity. We don’t have to fear death. We don’t have to worry about the last grain of sand in our earthly hourglass. We can leave that in His hands. Our hourglass in Eternity with Jesus is never ending and that is the hourglass we should be striving for in this life.

Hugs and prayers to everyone who is mourning the earthly loss of Jackie Lewis, Ann Mardoian and any other angels who left this earth to be with Jesus. God gave us the strength to overcome these earthly losses and use them for His glory!

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50

In Christ,

Kristen

Veritas Vos Liberabit

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The hinges of the flood gates were weak and the salty downpour was a constant threat.

I was at the point where anything had the potential to tip me over.

I’m normally not an emotional person, so being in that state made me feel unstable, vulnerable and weak.

I lay in bed trying to figure out what’s wrong with me? Was I subconsciously drowning in my own self pity, fearfully questioning the next chapter of my life?

Perhaps, but something uglier was going on.

I had been feeling defeated, judged, worthless, guilty, ugly, unstable and selfish; and as a result my behavior and attitude reflected my thoughts.

Old habits that I had been freed of years ago were resurfacing, and lies I no longer believed were echoing in my ears and directing my actions.

As I lay crouched up on the couch staring into the fake embers of my gas fireplace reliving a day of selfish behavior and meltdowns, the ugly whisper returns:

…you haven’t changed one bit now have you?

…what a waste of a life you have had.

I was reliving the lies of my (misunderstood) purposeless past.

For months I had been believing these lies, indirectly forcing me to question my existence and calling.

When eventually one morning I woke up to a quieter whisper, gentle but firm.

It bid me to start writing about the lies that I had been hearing.

truth

When I was finished with that, I began to pray for change, truth and clarity.

I paged through the bible looking for verses that would bring light to my darkness and suddenly I found myself filling my page with words of freedom and hope.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5

“Truth shall spring up from the earth and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” Psalm 85:11

“Little children, let us not love in theory and in speech but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

And, my favorite:

John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

…And just like that the lies had lost their sting – in fact these words empowered me.

It makes so much sense now. Of course Satan would tempt me into believing that I am worthless and purposeless. He is the complete antithesis of truth and life.

The chains that had been broken five years ago when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior were already stripped from me and no lie, no matter how believable, could ever reconnect those chains.

Ironically, just a couple days ago I was diagnosed with another brain tumor – different from the first. Were some of the emotions I had been feeling linked to this subconscious but ultimately true reality? I may never know. But what I do know is that God does have a purpose and a plan. And despite the recent news, I am confident that one day I will have the answers. But until then, my hope rests in His truth and His word.

…”For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus is freedom and He is truth! And it is by His grace that we have been set free from all the lies, sin and pain of this world.

For the rest of our lives we will be surrounded by situations and lies we can’t explain but the truth is that if we don’t receive them, they can’t have power over us. Remain faithful, live courageously and arm yourself with the Truth as your sword and shield as you go out and battle the deceit and trouble of this world.

(In Latin) Veritas vos liberabit – The Truth Shall Set you Free 

 

Love, Kristen

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