There IS a Too Late: What I’ve Learned From Regret

I hate the commonly used motivational phrase, “it’s never too late…” because it fools people into believing that they have forever to: start over, be happy, quit an addiction, forgive, mend and restore relationships…(you fill in the blank). Truth is, there IS a too late – and I believe we’ve all been shaken by this reality at some point in our lives. So, rather than tell you something you already know, I thought this article would be best suited as a reminder.

A few days ago, my cousin sent me a picture text message of a thank-you letter I had written to my Uncle almost 10 years ago (in college). I don’t even remember what the “gift” was for, but evidentally a simple thank-you, was not enough. When I re-read the letter (that I don’t even remember writing), I couldn’t help but get emotional with the words I’d candidly written to my Uncle, but didn’t actually live-out. Here is the letter:


Prior to this communication, my family had been torn apart by broken promises, grudges and unforgiveness. I personally wasn’t involved in the drama, but I was influenced by it. So much so, that up to that point I hadn’t talked to my Uncle in nearly a decade.

I always wanted to make things ‘right’ – I think this was my attempt; but it wasn’t enough.

Another decade has passed. 20 years. Dang it. Now, it’s too late. 

How many times have we told someone we miss them, or we love them, or we care about them, or that we will be there for them but we never really show it? Ugh. Guilty.

Meaningful words said carelessly are about as empty as not saying them at all.

I believe I meant what I said, but it’s likely he didn’t believe what I said.

My Uncle Ken was diagnosed with cancer last summer. It had metastacized all over his body and he was given 6 months to live. It was incurable. So, in early October, just weeks before I had moved to North Carolina, my cousin Kyle brought all the family and friends together to celebrate his life, while he was still alive. At that point, all the drama from the past and unresolved conflict disappeared for a day. It was as if, for a moment, people actually cared. Yet, for those of us who had waited, it was too late. 

RelationshipsMuch to my naïve faith, I didn’t think October 4th would be the last time I would see him. He passed away two months later on December 8th, 2014, at the age of 66.

In this relationship, or lackthereof, I failed. It may be an extreme example, but proves a point.

Admittedly, I have thought about him more in the past 10 months than I ever did in the last 20 years.

Regret is an odd emotion because it comes up only upon reflection. It lacks urgency because its power lives in the past. However, it also creates urgency in the present when its sting hurts the most.

Although painful, when acknowledged, regret is also a good teacher.

Regret that leads to repentance:

When I experience regret, it’s usually because I feel guilty about something. In the case of my Uncle, it was lost time, empty words and promises and allowing circumstances to stand in the way of a relationship with him.

To repent is to admit when you are wrong and accept personal responsibility for the wrong-doing while confessing the sin with an attitude of remorse. A conscious decision to make a change (stop the wrong-doing, turn away from the sin, etc) is then required in order to make a humble request to God for forgiveness.

(Reference Luke 15:11-24 on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son).

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9

Regret that leads to action:

Another major component to my regret is because of the things I didn’t do. Again, in the case of my Uncle, I never picked up the phone and asked him to go to lunch. Ever. I never dropped in on him to see if he was okay. I simply never made an effort to show him I cared.

When it comes to relationships of any kind, I am now consciously aware of how important it is to act. Dieter F. Uchtdork says it best:

“True love requires action. We can speak of love all day long, we can write notes or poems that proclaim it, sing songs that praise it, and preach sermons that encourage it but until we manifest that love in action, our words are nothing but sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

If there is one prayer I ask God for every day, it’s that He would use me in some way that will help someone else. Even just one person. I believe that in order to live without regrets, our daily goal should be that we are conformed to the image and character of Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Each day is a character test that I know will never be perfect (until Heaven) but a test I pray I never fail at. For example:

When you tell someone you love them, do you show them too? (Romans 5:8, John 3:16)

When you tell people you are praying for them, do you really pray for them (or even better, pray with them)? (Matthew 26:36-56) 

When you serve someone else, is it done so joyously, with no selfish ambition? (Philippians 2:3-4)

The true test in life isn’t necessarily living without regrets, but rather living with Godly purpose all the days of our lives. I’d venture to guess that if we live a life of purpose, we will never have regrets.




I Grow Up to Be a Loser! (Another Lesson on Perspective)

In exactly one month I will be 30 years old. Where has the time gone? I made a plan 5 years ago on what I wanted my life to look like today and looking at it, nothing turned out as I had planned. I don’t have the husband or the freedom or the money or the time or the cabin or the kids I had dreamed about. Why? 

The KidIt reminded me of the 2000 movie, The Kid, where Spencer Breslin who plays ‘the kid’ says to Bruce Willis (his older self), “So, I’m forty, I’m not married, I don’t fly jets, and I don’t have a dog? I grow up to be a loser!!”

Sometimes we feel like a loser when we look at our life and it’s nothing like we imagined. To think, in the last 5 years:

I dreamed of meeting my soulmate…

…But I remained single instead.

I dreamed of having children…

…But I was diagnosed with a brain tumor instead.

I dreamed of having a cabin on a lake…

…But I live in a small apartment instead.

I dreamed of being financially independent…

…But I went bankrupt and lost my house instead.

It’s so easy to get caught up in loser thinking when all we see is loser results. I will be the first to admit that I threw a lot of loser-pity-parties because nothing was going the way I wanted it to go. But all it did was lower my self-esteem and rob me of my joy each day.

But there comes a time when you have to accept things for what they are and move on. The past is already gone, so it’s a waste of time to keep living in it. I’m almost 30. It feels like I have spent the last 30 years concerned about what happened over the last 30 years, when I should have been thinking about the next 30 years. After all, time is not slowing down!

All the times I had prayed, why is nothing going the way I want it to go? But I never stopped to hear His reply.


And I’ve realized that God will only allow what He has willed for our life. So if things aren’t going the way we planned or wanted, it doesn’t mean that we are a loser or a failure; it just means that God has us exactly where He wants us and He will use us exactly where He has us. It doesn’t mean that those dreams will never come, it just means that God hasn’t willed it for us right now. (And He has His reasons for it!)

Dr. Sam Gordon (a guest pastor at Colonial) said, “We can be too big for God to use but we can never be too small.”

Which means we have to change our prayers. Instead of asking why? We should be asking how?

Lord, how can you use me in this situation? How can I do a better job of glorifying you in my actions today? How can I live with purpose in what you have willed for my life right now?

Changing my prayers has made a significant difference in changing my perspective. Asking how (instead of why) has helped me to clearly see a purpose for my life right now. In fact:

I may still be single…

…but it’s given me the time and flexibility to focus on serving more people instead.

I may have had some health challenges…

…but it’s given me a deeper faith and a more compassionate heart to love others who are hurting instead.

I may have lost everything…

…but it led to a life transforming move to North Carolina instead.

I may still be child-less…

…but it means I get to pour all of my love into my friend’s children instead.

When we look at our life through God’s perspective, we realize that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28) and that “the testing of our faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3). Seeing our life through God’s lens is crucial for moving past “loser” thinking. If you feel like your life is not where you thought it would be, I pray that you would ask God to show you how He can use you for His purpose right now. …And wait for His reply…



Perspective: Through a Child’s Eyes

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” Abraham Lincoln


One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country for the sole purpose of showing his son how it was to be poor. They spent a few days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

After their return from the trip, the father asked his son how he liked the trip:

“It was great, Dad,” the son replied.

“Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh Yeah,” said the son.

“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon…”


“…We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others…”

“…We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “It showed me just how poor we really are.”

Too many times we place value on the wrong things: materialism, credentials and money. However, the things with the most value have no monetary price: relationships, memories and love. “Poor” is the man who thinks he is rich and has no relationships.

Sometimes it takes the eyes of a child to remind us what’s important.



Change and Faith: Mile Mark 3-1-6


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I could finally see the wreck from a distance; cars were backed up for miles on this long and curvy one-lane road and when the scene first appeared at the base of a Virginia mountain-side, I gasped–not at the sight but as I noticed the mile mark—3-1-6.

NC1Almost two years ago I had made the decision I was going to move. God had been giving me confirming messages through prayer and scripture and by this time it wasn’t a matter of if…but when. My pending thoughts on moving were a conversation between me and God so when I eventually revealed the news to my friends, family and business partners (about 6 months later), conflicting opinions created controversy.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

It had been a tough year. No, I take that back. It had been a tough three years; periods filled with beautiful peaks and very deep, dark valleys. Pain. Fear. Loneliness. Defeat. The valleys seemed to last so much longer than the peaks and it wasn’t as if moving to a new location would change that reality; however, I believed that the new scenery would help me to see the beauty even in the valley. Needless to say, I wanted a fresh start–somewhere else.

I think so many people are afraid of change because it’s so unpredictable. But isn’t life unpredictable? It doesn’t matter if change happens to us or because of us, it will still happen. I decided that if change was going to happen to me anyway, I was going to embrace it and in fact, create it.

A current and prior health train-wreck and financial train-wreck had left me very hopeless for months. Just because we know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, doesn’t mean we are immune to negative thoughts (or the enemy’s attacks). Actually, I’ve come to realize that the bigger the faith, the bigger the target. So watch your back and be prepared for anything. And instead of delaying the inevitable (change happening to me-as a result of circumstances), I decided to be proactive—and hoped to create something positive from it.

So last June of 2014 I sold and gave away all my belongings (by that point it was just meaningless baggage I wanted to leave behind), moved into a vacant condo (that a friend graciously let me stay in during my transition in Wisconsin) – with nothing but the necessities, and I began my search for a new “home.” I vaguely give specifics of what was happening during that time because the details aren’t important for this particular article. However, please don’t misinterpret the message because the decisions, circumstances and changes were far from easy. Change is never easy. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next, I didn’t even have a plan (not recommended) but surprisingly I was calm and at peace with whatever it would be.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

…And As God always does, He aligned a location (North Carolina), a place to live, income opportunities for financial stability, a church home AND people; my, how He aligned me with amazing people! All in less than 30 days. It was home. (God honors our faith. See Hebrews 11:6)

Jordan Lake

Now, being eight months into this “fresh start” in North Carolina – a location that had never even crossed my mind when I first thought of moving, but now can’t imagine being anywhere else… I can finally look back and see God’s hand in ALL of it! Praise be to HIM!

I think sometimes we mistake the challenges God gives us as punishment or persecution, rather than opportunity. I spent a lot of time being mad at God because of where my life was at – and never really looking inward at myself and the opportunities for learning or growing from those challenges. Lesson repeated until lesson learned. UGH! I lacked faith. Sure, from a distance it may have appeared that I was faithful, trusting and obedient. But God knows our hearts. And admittedly, my heart was timid, frustrated and scared; and my inaction proved it.

It’s a humbling experience when God’s grace meets our pride (and selfishness) and we finally realize how helpless we are without Him. We’re usually faced with two choices–continue doing the same things as we were – and it will usually get worse, or surrendering and giving Him the power to control our destiny (or destination in my case) – and it will usually get better. I knew I had to start walking in faith and asking Him to show me the way, lead my steps and pave a path…if I wanted things to get better.

And He did!

...But, it required me to take action, to take the first step!

…and walk by faith… 

The irony of it all was that the verses that kept popping up in my Bible reading prior to the move all had the numbers 3-1-6 in them! Even the bracelet that I wear today as I write this post is the well known verse John 3:16.

Coincidence? Hardly.

john 316

It was as if He wanted me to stop and see mile mark 3-1-6 during the 15 hour trek as confirmation that where I was headed was part of HIS plan (not my own). All the challenges that I used as excuses for not stepping out in faith for so long were now erased when I took the first step…and God made a way–just as He did when He sent his Son to the cross as a living sacrifice for our eternal redemption:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

A life-transforming move to the South may not be in your future (like it was for me) but I pray that you embrace change, walk by faith and trust Jesus who will lead you towards an amazing “final-destination” — in Heaven.



Hope Outlasts the Passage of Time


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“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

You never see the hard days in a photo album.


This Easter was unlike any other that I have experienced. On Good Friday, I attended an evening service at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC (my new home state and home church) that brought me to an uncontrollable and emotional breaking point. I have never been more present or have experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence in such a way as was shared through the message and music of that evening. The tears continued to roll down my cheeks as I drove home in silence thinking about my Savior’s crucifixion on the cross that evening over 2,000 years ago. Was the overwhelming emotion because I imagined how alone He must have felt during those final hours? Was it because my heart was broken at the thought of His pain and those who loved Him and had watched Him suffer? (Thinking about the people who I love and are suffering)… Or was it because I felt guilty that He had endured so much for someone as unworthy as me. Whatever the cause, it’s irrelevant, and “thank you Jesus” were the only prayers I could repeat as my heart filled with gratitude for what He had done on my behalf.

I reflected on years past when Easter was not about Jesus, it was about a bunny. For nearly 21 years I did not attend a church, nor did I understand why Easter was even celebrated. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know…I was just ignorant to the Truth. You see, like most families my parents would hide a fully stuffed and decorated Easter basket for my brother and I to look for on Easter morning, then later in the day my family would get together and we would eat a bunch of candy, feast over a big meal and fellowship with one another – joyously partaking in the celebration of _________________ (What??) (…a beautiful Spring day?…Sunday family time?…a yellow bunny that hides baskets and doesn’t actually exist?) Sure, I have great memories of Easter from years past, but were they really “Easter” memories or just “family” memories that happened to fall on Easter Sunday?

This Easter was quite different though. I moved to North Carolina knowing that things would be much different during the holidays and would not leave the same kind of “family” memories as my childhood remembers. But, I wouldn’t change any of it because I now celebrate the true meaning of the day.

When I called my mom after the morning church service, she reminded me of how different it is not having anyone to celebrate with anymore. To which I thought, are you more sad about being alone this year or not understanding the real reason for the holday? Truth is, if you don’t know WHY you are celebrating, it doesn’t matter how big your family is, or what traditions you have, there really is no point. But, I empathized with her because I, too, have a heart of sadness in the passage of time that has dramatically distorted the image of my family photo.

Death, divorce and drama throughout the years has not only left the few of us who are still here alone…but sad at the result of this present time. My mom stated, “I never saw my life like this.” …I was silent…knowing she was right. We never imagine our lives to change as much as they do and as quickly as it does. I see this beautiful and happy family 25 years ago (shown above) and don’t even recognize the photo anymore (shown below) – same picture in 1990, dramatically different reality in 2015:

broken family

You never see the hard days in a photo album.

It reminds me just how temporary this life truly is and how much of it is NOT in our control. So many things happen with the passage of time that, of course, we can’t possibly predict how things will turn out. But, there is one thing that remains unchanged and even outlasts the passage of time…and that is the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I went for an afternoon walk by myself after Easter church service and clenched the cross around my neck thanking Jesus for the hope He has given me through His death and resurrection. Because, despite the pain and sadness of my past and even the loneliness that easily consumes me when I stray, Christ always manages to fill my heart with joy as I think about a future with Him. That is WHY I celebrate. That is why I continue to smile through the hard times. That is why I can accept the reality of my current family photo and still be grateful for my life as I celebrate Him. Because Jesus reminds me (especially on days that are meant for Him) that it’s not about ME! And the more I live that truth and meditate on that hope, the easier it is to surrender my past, accept my present and live a life that will glorify Him for my future!

I pray for you who have a similar story and struggle with your faith…because I have been there. I pray for you who are alone during the holidays and don’t feel the presence of God at your side…because I have been there. I pray for you who are going through hard times right now and don’t know the hope that a future with Christ holds…because I have been there.

And I want to encourage you beyond my own experiences because, it’s not about me. Christ has been there too….He overcame every obstacle that we will face in this life. He even overcame the scariest and most permanent obstacle of all….death. That is why we celebrate Easter! He overcame it and you can too! Time will continue to pass, our lives will continue to change quickly and dramatically, our family photos will look nothing like they used to, but one thing will remain the same, unchanged, always – and that is the hope we have in a life with Jesus when we use our life to glorify Him. And if He is all we are left with in the end, then He is all we really need. 

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:24

Prayers and love to you,


To Obey…or To Stray: Let Down Your Nets

“Because you say so…”

fishing 4I LOVE to go fishing. In fact, when I moved to the South I left several items behind and even sold the majority of my belongings; but my fishing pole was not one of them. Since I was born I’ve had the “fisher(wo)man’s gene” in my blood. Both of my grandfathers were die-hard fishermen and I like to refer to my dad as the “amateur-professional” who would fish day and night all year round if the bitter cold Minnesota winters allowed it.

For years, my dad and I and good friends Jessica and Dave would all go fishing over Father’s Day weekend. We loved the experience of sitting on the boat from sun-up to sun-down reading, listening to country music, talking and CATCHING fish! We would make it interesting most days and throw in friendly competitions: Who caught the most fish? Who caught the biggest fish? Who caught the last fish? The winners didn’t have to clean the fish, cook or do anything the rest of the night. After 12 or more hours on the water in the hot sun, doing nothing sounded amazing! Unfortunately, I never knew what that felt like. My dad influenced me to love fishing; however, I must have missed the lessons on catching. No matter how determined I was (changing hooks/lures, changing fishingpoles, changing bait, moving to different ends of the boat, drifting, anchored…didn’t matter), I stunk at catching! My friend Jessica would fall asleep with a book in one hand and her pole in the other and she would get a bite…and then wake up and the fish would be on her hook! It always made me laugh!…as I sat there struggling with my seaweed covered lures.

I remember asking my dad on several occasions what I was doing wrong. He would say “give me your pole…” and he would teach me the proper way to set the hook, feel for a fishing 2bite, etc. I remember one time he was actually showing me a new trick he learned and caught a fish right there during the lesson. Most of the time, though, I recall not listening even when he told me to do something. For example, he would say, “they are biting on this side of the boat, come over here and sit in my spot” …and I would stay right where I was – pretending not to hear him or respond by saying, “Okay, one minute.”…and I would never move (because it was more comfortable or because I thought my spot was better).

“Because I said so!” Words that were easy for my dad to use in teachable moments or to discipline or even to protect. But such challenging words for my conflicting and stubborn heart to obey.

One day Jesus said those words to Peter and John. Not exactly word for word, but that’s what He meant.

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

Peter and John had been on the open sea casting their ropes and hauling in empty nets all night. Other than algae, seaweed, and a few bits of trash, their nets had brought in nothing. No fish. No income. No food to feed the hungry mouths that depended on them back at home.

As the sun made its way over the horizon, the discouraged men washed their nets on the shore. Then Jesus, the carpenter and teacher, followed by a hungry crowd, asked to use their boat as a platform.

He got in Peter’s boat, pushed away from the shore a bit, and began to teach the crowds sitting along the beach. When He had finished teaching, He turned to Peter. “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).

(I can just imagine Peter’s thoughts: C’mon who is this guy? We’ve been fishing all night and have caught nothing and here comes this carpenter telling us how to do our job.)

“Sir, we’ve fished all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, we’ll do it.” Luke 5:5 (emphasis added)


Ecuadorean Purse Seiner Hauls Nets Full Of SkipJack Tuna, But With Visible Bycatch Of Juvenile Bigeye Tuna, Juvenile Yellowfin Tuna, Black Marlin, Spanish Mackerel, Wahoo, Triggerfish, Mahi Mahi, Green Sea Turtle and Olive Ridley Turtle.Peter and John rowed away from the shore and hoisted the freshly cleaned nets one more time. Just then, the God of the universe who created the fish and the seas whistled for the schools of fish to head for the nets (that’s how I imagine it!) The fish filled the nets like teenagers pouring into a rock concert.

Peter and John must have laughed. I would have. The catch was so large that the nets began to break. They couldn’t even contain all the fish. (Luke 5:6-7)

Can you just imagine the size of their eyes, the drop of their jaws, the strain of their muscles as they pulled in such a blessing? Not only were Peter and John blessed because of their obedience, they called their friends in to enjoy their bounty as well.


“Because you say so…”

Notice what Peter did after he hauled in the miraculous catch. He left it all behind and followed Jesus to become a fisher of men. (Luke 5:10-11)

That was the real catch of the day. How silly we are to think that the true blessing was simply financial gain or instant gratification in those moments. Peter had financial gain with this incredible catch, and yet he left it all behind to follow the One who pursued and caught his heart.

“Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (It was a simple request—nothing earthshattering).

Peter had no idea that obeying Jesus would lead to such an all-encompassing life-changing experience. Our little acts of obedience may do the same.

What “nets” do we need to let down in order to catch the blessings that God has coming?

Don’t look for the seemingly big showy acts of obedience to get your name in heavenly lights. People might be impressed, but God won’t be. Respond to His daily nudges and obey humbly as you let down your nets faithfully into the deep unknown waters of life.

God Bless,


A Grateful Heart Doesn’t Need a “Restart” Button


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Has anyone ever thought this? …I wish I could change the status of my life like I change the settings on my computer or my cell phone.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have uttered these words under my breath. “If only my life had a restart button, I would do so many things different.”

“… I’d do this better… I’d manage this more appropriately…I’d be more intentional regarding this…I’d make better decisions regarding that…”

When my grandma was dying she quickly started to fade into dependence on others (and God). In her final weeks and days, she lost her independence and her ability to take care of herself, but she never lost her spirit. My grandma was always so strong and independent; she rarely asked for help and even lived alone for an additional five years after my grandpa had passed away…without transportation, technology or a “restart” button on her life. She enjoyed quality time with friends and family (especially with me!), loved to cook, sing, dance, read her Bible, pray and bring joy to others.

The last week of her life I remember having a bit of a crying spell. I knew her time was coming to an end and I just couldn’t bear the thought of living without her. I remember our last conversation so clearly. She was sitting in her recliner at home, weak and frail but looking for the strength to stay alert; and somehow God gave her the capacity and ability to talk with me for nearly an hour – fully “grandma.”

I asked her: “Grandma, whatcha’ thinking about?”

She said: “Kristen, I didn’t think it would come this soon.”

Trying to fight back tears for nearly an hour, I asked: “What do you mean? What does it feel like?”

She looked me square in the eyes and said: “…it feels short. I remember my childhood, my wedding, the birth of my children and every event that brought me joy throughout the years. When I am alone, I think of all the good times. It makes me grateful. None of the hard times even matter.”

I just remember sitting there holding her hands, looking into her eyes, trying to embed the feeling and image of this angel woman who changed my life, into my heart.

I asked her, “Is there anything you wished you could do over?”

She responded confidently (as she always did for as long as I knew her), “Nothing. I loved my life. It wasn’t perfect but it was the perfect life God had for me.”

If there was ever a time that someone might want to hit the “restart” button on their life, I’d think it would be at the end. And as I reflect on this conversation with my grandma, I am convicted and reminded that no matter how much I sometimes want to “hibernate” or “shut down” or hit “restart” on my life, that I am just wasting time being ungrateful for the current status of my existence; fully perfect in its beautiful mess because it’s the life God gave me.


I often wonder if I was asked those same questions would I respond in the same manner. Would I answer with a grateful heart or a regretful heart? Would words of wisdom flow from my tongue or a sense of weariness flood from my heart?

I believe that in order to be grateful at the end, we must first learn to be grateful at the start:

Grateful when we start a new day…

Grateful when we start a new chapter in our lives…

Grateful when we face new challenges…

Grateful …ALWAYS…

A.W. Tozer once said, “The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful than we will ever be able to comprehend.” (This promise alone leaves me filled with gratitude!)

God didn’t give us buttons to push in order to change our life, He gave us His Son.

In that same conversation just five days before she passed away, I joked with her and said, “Well grandma, it looks like you are going to get to see Jesus before I do.”

And in a quick wit that served her well to the end, she teased with a twinkle in her eye, “Are you jealous?”

We both smiled with tears in our eyes. She knew that I knew she would be okay. Selfishly, I didn’t want her to go. But, I am grateful that she had a relationship with the Son who saved her life for eternity. Because of Him, I will get to see her again someday.

Don’t pray for God to change your situation or your status, pray for God to change your heart…to a heart of gratitude.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and gives hope for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie



Remembering my best friend and guardian angel: 

Ann Mardoian: March 26th, 1925 – February 23rd, 2014



Top Quotes at the 2015 LIFE Leadership Summit

The 2015 LIFE leadership summit did not disappoint! I am leaving here inspired and proud to be a part of such a purposeful organization. I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights and quotes that came from the hearts of the leaders who graced the stage this weekend. I pray that these words leave you hungry for leadership and thirsting for your dreams! Enjoy!

God Bless,


(This is Part 2 of the weekend. To read Part 1 check out Claim Your Victory in 2015)

life coaches“Are you doing your best with what God gave you?” – Terri Brady

“High achievement is as much about the challenge as it is about the victory.” – Chris Brady

“Being a leader is who you are, not what you do.” – Claude Hamilton

“You can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.” – Bill LewisLaurie Woodward

“Use your obstacles as an opportunity for change.” – Amy Marks

George and Jill“Achieving your dreams takes time, but it doesn’t take forever.” Jill Guzzardo

“He who controls the fools gold, controls the fools.” – Orrin Woodward

“It’s not your circumstances that determine where you are, it’s your thinking.” – Tim Marks

“You will never be rewarded for more than your commitment can handle.” – George Guzzardo

“There are only 2 things you can do when someone says you can’t do something – prove them right, or prove them wrong.” – Chris BradyChris and Terri

“Make the creator of the universe your partner in business.” – John Stahl-Wert

“What we do with our time makes up our life.” – Dan Hawkins

“There is no such thing as a problem without a solution” – Dan Castro

Bill Lewis“In America you were born on third base. Get up and run home!” – Bill Lewis

“Commitment is the glue that binds your goals.” – Lisa Hawkins

“You make 35,000 decisions a day! Why not make one that can help change your future!” – Steve Scheibner

Chris Swanson“Just because something happened yesterday, doesn’t mean it has to effect you today.” – Chris Swanson

“The moment you don’t think your future is brighter than your present, that’s when you will sell it out.” -Claude HamiltonClaude and Lana

“Most people spend less than 20 hrs a year learning about freedom, yet many wonder why it’s in decline. Don’t fight upstream. Instead, turn it around.” – Oliver DeMille

“I was so concerned with not looking poor that I was rapidly making myself poor.” – Laurie Woodward

“You may be beaten up but you aren’t beaten.” – Chris Swanson

Orrin Woodward“Your business will only get as big as the shadow of your character.” – Orrin Woodward

“If you are struggling with the person in the mirror, remember that’s the same person Christ died for.” – Venkat Varada

“Wealth is not a sin, it’s a responsibility.” – Terri Brady

“It’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man.” – Chris Brady

“Danger is real, fear is a choice.” -Bill Lewis

“The first business asset you should invest in is yourself.” – Orrin WoodwardLisa Hawkins

“Hope and faith have to be given away. They can’t be taken away from you.” – Lana Hamilton

“Whoever serves the most, profits the most.” – Claude Hamilton

“If you want to win at anything you must first identify your ‘hot button’ then dance all over it.” – Chris Brady

“God had to take me down completely before He could lift me up.” – George GuzzardoDan Hawkins

“So often, we ignore the reality of God’s judgement.” – Dan Hawkins

“We don’t use people to build our business, we use our business to build people.” – Claude Hamilton

Claim Your Victory in 2015


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Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who loved to complain about their problems? I have. In fact, I have been on the giving and receiving end many times. Often, our natural tendency is to think negatively about ourselves.  Negative self-talk is nothing more than the enemy’s voice entering our subconscious mind in order to defeat us. When we focus only on our problems, we willingly let the devil win over God. I heard from a friend this weekend at the LIFE Leadership summit that when we complain, we commit over 150 sins. This changed my perspective tremendously realizing that when I complain, I transparently expose my ingratitude (to others). Ugh! …A tough reality to swallow. One of my favorite quotes that reminds me of this topic is by Terri Brady: “Suffering is not a competition.” So many people wear their problems on their sleeve like a badge of honor.

The 2015 leadership summit has been specifically targeted at an audience who has experienced deep adversity but who have chosen to overcome any obstacles in order to claim their victory. I believe that God gives his biggest battles to his strongest soldiers and the iWireless Arena in Moline, IL is filled with some of the strongest men and women that I know. But, even the strongest among us fall down sometimes. I love that the theme of the weekend is directed at leaders who understand the uniform of leadership is thick skin (Chris Brady) and the armor for handling adversity is knowing and pursuing your purpose. LIFE coach George Guzzardo said last night that “People without a purpose will never understand what a person with a purpose is doing.” God is bigger than all of our struggles and problems and has equipped each and every one of us to overcome our challenges in order to fulfill our destiny.

Guest speaker and best-selling author Dan Castro quoted what God promises in scripture that “there is no such thing as a problem without a solution.”

Dan Castro

Guest speaker and leadership expert John Stahl-Wert said, “We are not the captains of our destiny but we can communicate with the captain of our destiny.”

John Stahl-Wert

I love that Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady created a culture of leaders and over-comers who, when they fall down they get back up…again and again and again. The LIFE leadership community is unlike any other organization in the world because it is filled with people who embrace their struggles and use their adversity as fuel to influence and help more people in order to live their God-given purpose. Amy Marks encouraged the audience to “use your obstacles as an opportunity for change.”

There is no greater feeling in the world than experiencing a victory after you have fallen. Everyone has a pending victory in their future; and everyone experiences setbacks. The question we need to ask ourselves is, will we have the courage to continually overcome setbacks and claim the victory that awaits us?

God Bless,


(This is Part 1 of the LIFE leadership summit re-cap. Stay tuned for Part 2!)



More Than Words: What Autism Taught Me About “Unspoken Encouragement”

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

God is so amazing! I often find myself reflecting on my current path as a means to understand how God is able to use me in certain situations. When I moved down to North Carolina a few months ago I never anticipated being on the path I am currently on – in an immeasurably good way. The friendships I have been able to forge in such a short amount of time leaves me feeling grateful each night my head hits the pillow.

me and RickyOne of the surprising friendships I have begun to develop over the past couple of months is with a 14 year old boy who has Autism. Each morning I am with him I am reminded of just how well God knows me. He couldn’t have picked a more perfect child to put in my path.

This little boy has an insatiable passion for music – you will usually catch us jamming out to George Straight, Chris Young or Beethovan (in that order!)…but our favorite being Amazing Grace by Alabama…as we worship the King and shout “Amen” and “Hallelujah” (arms reaching to the sky) because we both love the Lord! This little boy also loves to hug (another favorite of mine!) While his words are limited, it is not uncommon to hear him whisper, “I need a hug…” with my response always being, “how did you know I needed one too?” He is one of the most loving and caring teenagers I have ever met.

While I could go on and on about how much this little boy has blessed me, the greatest reward I receive each day by serving him is encouragement.

When I think about the true meaning of encouragement, I immediately think of specific words or phrases I use to uplift or support HIM… “Great job!” “You are doing so amazing!” “You are so smart!” “I am so proud of you!”

In fact, if you were a fly on the wall during my sessions with him, you would hear these phrases quite frequently and directed towards a specific task. “I am so proud of you for eating three bites of your turkey! You are such a big boy!!” (He hates turkey lol).

I used to think that I didn’t need encouragement – that I was “self-motivated.” HA! That is funny! We all need encouragement. But, children with autism REQUIRE it! It helps them stay focused and on task and even more important, it reminds them just how special and amazing they truly are!

Because of the frequency of my encouraging words, I often find myself being more encouraged each time I encourage him. Why? Because it’s sincere, it’s from my heart and I mean it. I never encourage him without a smile on my face. Again you ask, why? Because he will think it’s fake. Just like a typically developed person, kids with autism are very perceptive to facial expressions and feelings. They recognize when you hurt, when you are angry, when you are sad and….when you don’t care.

How many times have you been encouraged by someone and it felt “insincere” or “fake.” Having taught in several different schools, I noticed this a lot; teachers who attach sarcasm to their encouragement. Or a boss whose words often feel discouraging even though they intended to encourage you. How motivated would you be if the encouragement you were receiving was phony? Sadly, in the special needs field, this happens a lot as caregivers seem to think the child ‘won’t understand.’

But I digress. The point is, the more we encourage, the more we are encouraged! And it’s more than words that encourage; it’s how we say it and how the other person responds to what we say.

Are they responding positively or negatively?

Does it really make you proud? (How does it make you feel when you say it and they accomplish the task?)

When I work with him, never do I hear the words “I am so proud of you Ms. Kristen.” But yet, every day I leave him feeling more encouraged than when I started…EVEN on the bad days; I don’t need him to use words to encourage me. It’s what I like to call “unspoken encouragement.” And it’s really easy to receive too…all we have to do is give! No need to wonder if the other person really thinks you are amazing. You will know it but how they respond and how it makes you feel when they accomplish what you encouraged them to do…even if it is just eating three bites of a food they don’t like or reading a book from “beginning to end.” In fact, unspoken encouragement is about the only type of encouragement I know of that you can receive and be in complete control of.

Even though he doesn’t always like the tasks on his schedule or the choices he is given, him and I are buds. I encourage him in the little things and the big things. I show him love and I mean it. And I am always encouraged because even on the bad days he still calls me, “My Kristen.”

Encourage often and you too will receive encouragement.

With love,


(Permission to use his photo and story was okay’d by mom.)


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