How LIFE Leadership Saved My Life

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Sometimes a personal testimony is the most powerful form of belief we can offer people. I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time in anticipation to share how incredibly valuable my involvement with LIFE leadership has been over the years. I often get asked by critics that have known me a while why I am still involved with this company; somehow they still seem to think that this is just a business to me. I pray that this post clears up any confusion for those people.

Anyone who has been involved for any length of time (whether it was during company changes and transitions or the launch in 2011) would probably agree that it’s rather challenging to put into words the impact this organization can have on your life over time. In fact, it’s been such a challenge to formulate this piece of writing because the real blessings are so intangible and hard to express in written form.

I wanted to stay away from any sort of financial discussion because one of the misconceptions critics believe is that because LIFE leadership is a business, “money must be all they care about.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is a very lucrative, successful company with hundreds and even thousands of members experiencing incredible financial success due to their influence in the lives of others, making money is certainly not the companies purpose. But, for those members who treat it and build it as a business they will achieve business results. But I digress. All you have to do is read Orrin Woodward’s highly popular blog or best-selling leadership books like The Leadership Train to understand the incredible business formula and system for LIFE leadership.

The idea behind this article was not to talk about a business but to talk about a purpose. I believe the purpose of LIFE Leadership was organically developed years ago when a group of men and women bonded their convictions through years of struggle trying to create a better life for themselves in less-fulfilling projects, eventually realizing that the real meaning of their struggle came from serving others and helping people grow.

Orrin recently tweeted, “A great life is the reward received when you give your life in service to others.”  Now that sounds like a worthy cause and purpose! But even still, I have to wonder if Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady planned to create a company 20 years ago that might otherwise save people’s lives in the future? It’s not like we have the cure for cancer here – our products are books, CD’s, meetings and people! How could that type of commodity actually save lives? And yet, it has.

Let me explain:

LIFE Leadership is built on a foundation of four important categories of development. Without these four components, a member will not experience the full value that someone like myself and many others have been able to experience over the years. Even the absence of one of these components can be detrimental to ones personal journey. Actually, because these are so important I thought that the most effective way to organize my writing would be to break down specifically through these categories how my involvement with LIFE Leadership has actually saved my life.

1) READ

LIFE booksBack in 2006 I picked up a book at a leadership convention titled The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I was young (about 20 years old), naive, a non-believer and very lost. No one had known at the time that I was struggling with an eating disorder, family challenges and other risky behaviors. I had always heard since day one of my involvement that reading was an important habit to develop if I ever wanted to be successful someday. I must admit, I was not a reader. In fact, it took me 2 years after getting involved to read a book from start to finish. This happened to be that book. The title of it caught my attention because at the time I had no sense of purpose. So what better way to discover something that was absent in my life than to gain wisdom from an author who may be able to help me. It did help me. In fact, I didn’t realize at the time that the first book I would ever read on my personal development journey would someday lead to my salvation in Jesus Christ.

Over the years I have read hundreds of books across multiple categories of personal and professional development genres. LIFE Leadership prides itself on delivering some of the best published content in the market so that people like myself can foster the necessary skills to develop internally so we can help other people externally. I could probably write a book just on the impact habitual reading has had on my life. It is one of the most powerful but under-utilized tools to success. In fact, it is so powerful that the information in books can actually save your life. I know it did for me.

2) Listen

CDsI started this article stating that a testimony is often the best form of belief we can offer people. One of the first audios I remember listening to that helped me realize the impact of listening was an older version of LIFE Founders Tim and Amy Marks story, Superman. Not only did I relate with Amy’s struggles but with the challenges Tim experienced growing up without a father present. The story is very familiar. This amazing couple taught me something that was extremely critical early on; that the script and story of our lives does not have to be a reflection of our past, but that we can write a new story. Our past does not have to determine our future.

Having always struggled with self-worth and control issues, I realized that the thoughts I constructed in my own mind were the most lethal form of self-destruction on my personal success journey. I knew that I would never become successful in anything if it was left up to my own thinking. I needed to change my thought process dramatically (not with the use of medication therapy, but through CD therapy). I became an audio-aholic listening to several CD’s a day just to keep myself out of my own head. Over the years that habit has created a hunger in me to want to share this information with everyone I meet. When people see stacks of audios in my front and back seats and in bins scattered everywhere throughout my car I am no longer embarrassed but proud of these resources. It is because of listening to these audios that I am still here today. In fact, my own bad thinking almost cost me my life; and listening was a direct path to saving it.

3) Associate

associateWhen I first got involved with the community building industry that has now become LIFE leadership, I completely fell in love with the people. There is just something different about hanging around with people who have a passion to grow personally and who want to make a difference. As hard as it is to believe, there are a lot of people in the world who don’t care about these things. I learned very early that who I hung around with would directly reflect the results I would have someday. I have always wanted to become like the people I respect so I have made it a priority in my life to surround myself with people like that. Even today, the association is my favorite part of all four of these components. Why? Because it’s about relationships. It’s about bonding. It’s about developing lifelong friendships. It’s about community.

Throughout this (already) two-year brain tumor battle if I didn’t have the LIFE leadership community I know for certain I would not be here today. Even through the most painful and challenging days I have looked forward to my Tuesday night meetings, monthly LIFE live seminars and quarterly leadership conventions. I believe having hope is about having something to look forward to even amidst the most difficult days of our lives. Not only do I have eternal hope in a life with Jesus someday but I have hope here on earth every time I get to associate with this incredible community of people. I always have something to look forward to. The relationships I have been able to foster among this organization has led me down paths medically I would have never had the opportunity to navigate. For those reasons alone, LIFE leadership has saved my life. However, all medical aside, the association has also allowed me to discover a purpose that I never knew existed – offering people hope (in a Savior) while pursuing real lasting friendships with other believers as we all journey toward Heaven together someday. To think, this crazy community and association of leaders is influencing people for Jesus – and saving lives for eternity!

4) Mentor

The final component and I could argue the most important! Since I was a freshman in high school (15 yrs old) I have been blessed to have a mentor – someone who has been able to guide me not only in basketball (at the time) but also in life. His name is Dave Chatmon and he is the direct reason I am involved with LIFE leadership today. He somehow convinced a very stubborn, shy but competitive girl to get involved in this industry at 18 years old that I would have never joined in a million years if it wasn’t for the trust I had in him. Today, I get to call him a business partner, a mentor and a friend.

baptismThe wonderful mentors I have been fortunate enough to work with over the years in this company are a true blessing from God – specifically speaking in regards to Dave Chatmon, George and Jill Guzzardo and Orrin and Laurie Woodward. There is absolutely no way I would still be here today if it wasn’t for these men and women and their servant hearts. Mentors help behind the scenes in ways that friends are not even qualified to do – they take on some of the heaviest loads of pressure in our lives but offer love, support and constructive direction towards better decision making in all aspects of our life. If you have a mentor, never ever take them for granted. Your mentors are some of the most selfless, loving and wise people you will ever meet. These mentors that I have mentioned above have directly, in their own specific way, saved my life and I am forever grateful for them every day of my life.

So there you have it. LIFE leadership may not the cure for cancer but it certainly is the cure for hopelessness. This is not just a business to me, this is my purpose – to lead people to truth and hope. It’s why I still do it. It’s why I will never quit until God calls me Home! It’s saved my life a countless number of times and I pray that it saves millions of lives (for Jesus) as we continue to share the message of leadership and truth across the world.

How has LIFE leadership affected your life? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

“It’s not just a business with a purpose, it’s a purpose… with a business.” Orrin Woodward

God Bless,

Kristen

 

Everything is Going to Be Okay

It often feels like life moves in a million different directions and just when we start to get comfortable with one path, God throws us another curve ball to change-up the game.

The text message I received from a friend shortly after the incident said it all, “Gotta love God’s reminders of what is important.”

I had seen the man out of the corner of my eye as I was making my transaction at this local bank. Just days prior I had opened a new account due to my recent move. It wasn’t minutes later when the shattering of glass from the front windows and doors echoed screams and cries that still make my heart race as I write this. I saw him…he was holding a gun and a baseball bat.

“Get down!!!!”…were the only words I could think to yell as I witnessed the glass shatter in front of me.

In a matter of seconds I darted towards the closest office I could see, grabbing the woman’s arm who had no idea what was going on, as we crouched fearfully under a desk in an attempt to hide. However, the clear glass window exposing the office made this attempt almost pointless. I had fumbled with the door knob hoping to secure it but much to my terror there was no lock; so I crouched as low as I could behind the small desk garbage can. The woman who was crying and shaking to my right was mad at herself for not having her gun on her. She muttered angrily, “…what’s the point of conceal and carry if I can’t carry my gun into a bank for situations like this!!”

The woman to my left, who aligned her body perfectly parallel with the wall underneath the desk, was immediately on the phone with 9-1-1.

…I realized in that split second response that I had left all my belongings on the counter by the teller. I didn’t care.

(“Gotta love God’s reminders of what is important”)

…I had never felt so helpless…

So I started to pray…

…”Please Lord, protect us.”

…”Please Lord, protect us.”

…”Please Lord, protect us.”

The prayers from my mouth became louder as I heard the 9-1-1 dispatcher through the phone. I held the other woman’s hand and said, “We are going to be okay, everything is going to be okay.” But, in that instant, I only imagined my life ending.

As soon as I heard the office door open I almost threw up. It’s amazing how our bodies respond physiologically to fear. Even though I knew everything was going to be okay, I still feared the worst.

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But, when the office manager opened the door and said, “He’s gone,” I had never felt such relief. None of us could even stand up because we were shaking so bad. As we all slowly made our way out into open territory I couldn’t help but empathize for the others who were stricken with equal fear; tears streaming down their faces, terrified bystanders, concerned employees. I had never seen anything like it. Time had stopped. Work had stopped. Hugs were shared. Witnesses were questioned. Phone calls were made.

(“Gotta love God’s reminders of what is important”)

As I have reflected on this incident in the last 24 hours the urgency of my writing became great. Nothing bad happened. No one died. No one was hurt. But, I believe everyone who was there will never forget how they felt…and how it shook their world.

And I ask myself today, will it change them, like it has changed me?

…Will it change how they love others?

…Will it change how they live their lives or prioritize their time?

…Will it change their behaviors?

…Will it change what they believe or how they practice what they believe?

As I crouched underneath that desk assuming the worst, I still believed that everything would be okay. I was terrified, but I believed. I knew that if my life ended in that moment, that I would be with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But… did they?

Charles H. Spurgeon once said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

It’s not enough to secure our own salvation. Yes, as a believer I know one day everything is going to be okay. But, will everyone be okay?

It’s hard to live your life in the same manner when you understand the timeline of life vs. eternity. And yet, everyday I fall short of not serving more or loving more or praying more or leading more. I just wish in that instant I had the courage to ask those women under the desk with me if they knew Jesus. But…I didn’t. I was only thinking of myself.

I just wonder what it will take for more believers (like myself) to speak Truth into the world and not care so much about what the world thinks. If I knew I was going to die yesterday, why did I care so much about what those women would think? That may have been God’s one opportunity to speak Truth into their lives by using me… and I blew it. Shame on me for not standing up for Him!

God’s purpose for us is so big and often we forget that He is the only reason we are here. Shouldn’t that reality equally shake us?

(“…Gotta love God’s reminders of what is important…”)

This incident has stirred my heart and shaken my core. I just wonder how many times God has awakened me to the reality of how short life really is and how big my purpose is but how many times I have wasted those reminders by only thinking of myself. I am so grateful for the peace I have in my heart in knowing that everything is going to be okay in the end; but that doesn’t eliminate the urgency of wanting others to have that same peace too. 

That is all.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Love,

Kristen

Life: Heaven’s Waiting Room

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“Have you ever done this type of work before…?” The facility director asked with optimism.

“Some, but not professionally.” I responded. “…But I love doing this kind of work.”

I was desperate to find something during a critical transitional time so it didn’t matter what type of work I would be doing. 3rd shift CNA-type work was acceptable as long as it filled the need I had been looking for.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I took the position. I had one co-worker tell me, “This can be a disgusting job if you aren’t used to it…” My only thought was, what’s so disgusting about caring for others? It wasn’t the job or work that bothered me. These were human beings, people who had families that loved them and a life story. Another co-worker said, “Don’t try to get too close to the residents….places like this are where people come to die.”

You are kidding me right? What a heartless thing to say.

But, many did die…on my watch.

After spending some time with the residents, I began to wonder what their lives used to be. People change drastically when they grow old. Being a caregiver on the graveyard shift left me ‘getting to know’ the residents mostly through their pictures. In one of the pictures was a resident dancing in the arms of her husband with her eyes closed, smiling with such an infectious bliss, one would think it was the happiest moment in her life. But she deteriorated fast; it was painful to watch her in a catatonic state, barely blinking and not moving in her bed. That was very common on the memory care unit I was primarily assigned to.

After merely a few hours working in the facility, I could feel how lonely most of these people were. I find it too difficult to imagine how friends and family of a deceased resident could recall their fondest memories at the funeral while completely omitting the time they left the resident by themselves when they needed company the most.

On the random occasion when I would pick up a day shift, I noticed it was not uncommon for a resident to sit quietly by themselves looking out the window waiting for love and interaction with someone who cared to give them time. “This is Heaven’s waiting room…” one nurse said, as I remember a time sadly gazing at the woman who always kept her Bible and cross close to her side in the wheelchair with a lonely hollow glare in her eyes. However, her soul was anything but hollow.

…Heaven’s waiting room…? I thought…

Isn’t life a ‘waiting room’ for Heaven?

I imagine being ‘one of them’ – completely dependent on someone else to take care of me; how it must feel to completely surrender your independence because you just can’t do it on your own.

I remember back when I realized I just couldn’t do it on my own; when I needed to surrender my independence to The One who I could completely depend on. I wasn’t elderly, and I wasn’t needing someone to feed, dress, change and bath me. Actually, I needed more than that. I was in need of a Savior; a rescuer. Not a caregiver.

From the perspective of time, Heaven is eternal, everlasting, never-ending. Life is not. We enter into it about as fast as we leave it (and often the same way). God knew it would be that way; He knew it would be temporary, which is why He provided a Savior in Jesus Christ as a bridge to eternal life. He knew that in His waiting room we would experience fear, anxiety, anticipation, questions, anger and frustration. But he also knew we would experience courage, peace, patience, joy, purpose and love. He knew that some people would spend less time waiting than others (realizing that people who pass early in life just had an appointment with Him much sooner than the rest). And while we may not like that reality (right now), it isn’t the last time we will ever see them, because we have an appointment with Him too, someday – which will bring us back to them.

“Death is a lot less scary when you have something to look forward to…” I remember whispering in her ear when she was approaching her final days ‘in the waiting room.’

It was hard not to get attached. I love(d) these residents dearly.

residents

Every interaction was a reminder for me not to take my days for granted. Boy was that ‘desperation’ job a blessing. And as we sit in the real ‘waiting rooms’ of life, faced with the unknown of our present (and future), we are reminded of the promises God has for those who love Him:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith, be men (and women) of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

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

…and always remember in the waiting rooms of life that there is nothing ‘unknown’ to God.

Love,

Kristen

The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

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A few years ago I was having a conversation with a man who had sparkling silver hair and ‘stress’ marks (aka wrinkles) from the thousands of people he’s served throughout his life. His profession was Teacher and Coach but his expertise was in sharing the truth (in love). There are certain people you meet who cross the boundaries of co-worker or acquaintance and start to influence you in ways that only great friends and mentors do. While I only knew him for a short time via employment, he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received.

At the time I had been dating a person who I really enjoyed spending time with, however, this person was missing some of the qualities that were really important to me in a relationship – it must have just been a physical attraction because I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. My wiser and older friend Mike (who, at the time, had been married over 40 years) frequently tended to ask me personal questions – so he knew me quite well; I believe he found satisfaction in counseling younger people who were naïve and inexperienced in life. I was 24 years old at the time, so I qualified. In any normal circumstance I would hesitate to elaborate on anything personal unless there was a foundation of trust in the relationship. But, Mike was different. He had earned my trust.

I had expressed to him the challenges I was experiencing in connection with the man I was hoping to pursue a relationship with. In my communication with Mike he asked me three very specific questions (as if this wasn’t his first conversation counseling someone on relationships):

1) Does this person challenge you in a way that makes you want to be better?

2) Is he passionate about something important?

3) Does he love God?

He said (paraphrased), “Imagine I am standing on top of this desk looking down on you who are standing on the floor. I want you to get to ‘my level’ but I can’t physically make you unless you have a desire to stand on the desk with me. It is nearly impossible to raise someone up to your level (i.e. change them, force them to grow or be where YOU want them to be). You can influence them by your actions but you can’t force them to change. In fact, what usually happens is the person standing on the floor, by default, will often lower you down to their level, causing you to go backward instead of forward. Negative influence is just as powerful as positive influence. People can always rise to a new level, if they choose to, but you can’t make them rise. If these qualities are important to you and these are the exact qualities missing in his life, then you may find yourself fighting a battle that you will never win.”

This made so much sense to me because the key missing ingredients that created a disconnect in any potential future with this person were the very things that Mike was explaining. Understanding that the things that are important to me (personally) are a good indicator of the qualities that attract me to others. I have always known that association matters, but this visual changed everything. In fact, since that conversation I have not only been able to define what I am looking for in a future spouse but in every relationship I have with people; realizing that Mike offered me some of the best advice I have ever received.

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This example is very true of all our association – not just in searching for a spouse. Of course none of us are perfect. I am not searching for the perfect man, just a man who makes me want to be better by his example, has a passion for similar interests of importance and loves the Lord. But the point being that it is critical to surround yourself with people who also display all the qualities that are important to you. For me, it is people who have a hunger to grow with a passion and a purpose. LIFE Founder Orrin Woodward is often heard quoting, “You become who you associate with.” Whether that is a potential spouse, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a business partner, etc. The worst thing that can happen is that you ‘get off the desk’ and stop growing and developing in the important things because of your association with a negative influence. That is why I love my association with LIFE Leadership. I am challenged to grow daily, I am surrounded by winners who are humble and hungry and I am mentored by men and women who love the Lord and are passionate about things that matter. I make it a priority to surround myself with people who have these qualities or are seeking to have these qualities because my priorities all fall under the umbrella of these three exact questions. I pray that you have a clear idea of the qualities that are important to you and that you never settle for less in your relationships than what you expect of yourself.

God Bless,

Kristen

Imperfect People: Part 1 – Confronting Critical Crossroads

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“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14

Every day we are presented with hundreds of choices that we must make, many of them seemingly unimportant but all of them unique to us; our attitude, appearance, lifestyle, food choices, career, scheduling, priorities, conversations, entertainment, living situation, relationships, financial decisions, etc. And we all eventually reach a point where we’re standing at a crossroads and have to make a decision on which path to take. I believe we are awakened by our own imperfections at these crossroads. It is when we feel the most vulnerable, uncertain, confused and afraid. We want to make the right decision but suddenly we are faced with the dreadful, uncontrollable feeling of fear: The unknown. What others may think. Making the wrong decision.

We are all imperfect beings with imperfect answers, acting on imperfect information for causes with imperfect results. We are bruised by our past, the stress of living in an imperfect world, our hearts heavy with constant disappointment; we feel small and insecure, often questioning the direction of our path and the intent of our actions, even as our hearts are enlarged by the humanity of our mission.

crossroad

For many, it is in these critical crossroads circumstances when we experience overwhelming pressure. Sometimes there are multiple paths that make decisions even more challenging. Sometimes we are paralyzed by fear so we sit down at the center of the crossroads and do nothing. We want God to do it for us… we want Him to audibly tell us what to do – ‘give us a sign’ or ‘confirmation’ and when He doesn’t we get frustrated and give up. It is also at these crossroads when we are tempted by sin; when our discernment and judgment is most crucial. Sometimes we are deceived by our own ignorance and if we aren’t careful we may find ourselves strolling aimlessly down a path that we didn’t intend on traveling.

I felt convicted in writing this because of the many times I have stood at these crossroads wanting to take the ‘easier’ road, but knowing it may not be the best road – but choosing to have more faith in myself than in God because it appeared safer than the alternative. In fact, my most cowardly decisions were always made when I listened to my own advice. The fact is, He doesn’t want us to travel these streets alone.

I believe God uses people to help us face these crossroads; to prevent us from constantly listening to ourselves and taking the ‘easy path’ – which is rarely the correct path. He knows our imperfections better than we do and He knows we can’t do it on our own so He provides mentors as friends and advisors to see things that we don’t see; to offer experience that we don’t have.

The word mentor means: An experienced and trusted advisor.

Jesus Christ is the perfect model of mentorship and He provides wisdom to His followers (you and I) in the form of scripture, prayer and experience so that we may be able to choose the right path…and not just the easier one – which our imperfect selves are so inclined to do. LIFE Leadership founder Orrin Woodward recently tweeted, “A mentor’s role is to help people discover where they are ignorant of their own ignorance.”

Keep in mind, our mentors are not perfect either. They are fallen sinners just like us. But, the right mentors who have the results, wisdom and experience to advise can offer the right perspective which can lead us down the right path. A mentor is often the very thing we need in order to make the right decisions. So now when confronting critical crossroads, instead of taking my own advice, even when it seems easier, I choose to seek a mentor who can offer guidance throughout the journey. These are some of the questions I must ask myself:

1) Do I have enough humility to recognize and admit when I need a mentor?

2) Am I prepared to listen and apply the advice my mentor suggests?

2) Am I willing to accept responsibility for the decisions and the path that I take, regardless of the outcome or advice I receive?

Sometimes the path still isn’t clear, and that’s okay… it doesn’t always mean that it’s the wrong path. It may just be possible that God is using our ‘crossroad’ circumstance to strengthen our faith. He may just want us to choose a path and put our trust in Him along the journey.

Thankfully, no matter what crossroad we are confronted with, we always have hope in the destination because of a perfect Savior who died on the cross for our imperfections. So when our path appears to be blocked, unclear, confusing or unending we can be reminded of the perfect path Christ has for those who choose to follow Him.

“Stand at the crossroads and look, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

Love, Kristen

 

 

Human Kindness Overflowing

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“Never look down on anybody unless you are helping them up.” Jesse Jackson

I am filled with gratitude today.

I’m sure I am not alone when I assume that many people are fed up with the negativity surrounding social media, news stories and natural conversation in the public. It seems that the drama of negative news poses entertainment for some people who can’t find positive things to be conversational about.

Early this morning I spent some time at a local small town coffee shop. So small that they only accepted cash for purchases. Being someone who rarely carries cash I proceeded to pay for my coffee with a debit card and quickly found out that they didn’t accept electronic transactions. I felt bad because I wanted to support their business and wanted the convenience of not having to search for another venue. The bill amounted to only $2.25.

The conversation went something like this:

Them – “No problem about the payment, can you stop back later to pay?”

Me – “Probably not, I won’t be able to get back here before you close tonight.”

Them – “Well, when is the next time you are in the area? We’ll square up then.”

Me – “I can stop back tomorrow morning. Will you be here?”

Them – “No, but I will just write your name on the receipt and you can just pay whoever is here.”

Me – “Really? You trust me that much?”

She proceeded to take my receipt and tape it to the wall; and mine was not the only one up there.

Them – “Yes.”  (With a smile)

…(And of course I will be dropping off my ‘payment’ – with interest, tomorrow)!

Human kindness is an expression of the heart that can’t be bought or sold but can only be given freely through our actions. The fact that this coffee shop believes in trusting people is an ACT of kindness.

Action includes some kind of self-sacrifice and therefore generosity on our part. I have been the receiver of so much kindness lately that it has encouraged this posting. Have you received any kindness lately worthy of sharing? I would love to start a feed of positive postings surrounding the good things people are doing in the world.

Please share in the comments section below.

“Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

Love, Kristen

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The Silver Lining – Our Worst Brings out His Best

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‘Beneath every cloud there is a silver lining’ is a phrase I think of all too often when faced with challenges. I received a text message from a friend a couple of weeks ago regarding her job loss. Her response to this difficulty was, “it’s okay, this just frees up more of my time so I can build my business and spend more time with my children.” This perspective encouraged me and helped me to see how God often uses challenges for good.

Of course, if you are reading this in the midst of a major set-back, I know it’s hard to see the silver lining. But please keep reading. I was going for a walk this morning marveling at the beauty of God’s creation when I noticed an airplane far off into the distance. Within seconds the plane disappeared. Clearly it had flown through a big patch of dark clouds that interrupted the plane’s route. I can only imagine the turbulence the passenger’s on that plane were experiencing as I was watching from a distance in the calm of my morning walk. I thought about the enormity of this vehicle transporting hundreds of passenger’s from one destination to the next and how from my perspective in that instant the plane appeared as nothing more than a spec in the sky. But for the passenger’s on that plane, experiencing that turbulence, I am certain those civilians were just praying for the ‘turbulence’ to go away – they weren’t thinking about the silver lining.

The silver lining principle is nothing more than having the right perspective. As I watched that plane literally disappear into the clouds I immediately recognized the silver lining God was revealing to me. Up close, our challenges may appear big and overwhelming. But, from a distance they are nothing more than a dot in the universe. I imagine God looking down on us as we battle the decisions and calamity of such stress in the midst of these trials and His response, “(my child)…For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” Romans 8:18. Therefore, we must look to Him when faced with these tests in order to gain the proper perspective.

This analogy reminded me of the story that Glavin Reid shared of a young man who had fallen down some stairs as an infant and had shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life with one surgery after another. But at 17 years of age this young man made the comment that He thought God was more than fair with him. When Galvin Reid reminded him that he had practically lived his whole life in hospitals, he asked the young man, “How can you say that God is fair?” He smiled and said, “God has all of eternity to make it up to me.” In our sufferings, it helps to see things from an eternal point of view and know that our pain has no comparison with the joy and glory of living eternally with God. In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.

silver liningWe will never be able to avoid the tests and trials (the clouds) that come at us in life. But, having the right perspective will offer peace and encouragement through the turbulence. There is something so magnificent knowing that God already knows the solutions to our problems. We may not understand them but God does. Our worst brings out His best.

I pray that you choose the proper perspective and see the Son beyond the clouds and the light that illuminates the silver lining through the turbulence.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Love, Kristen

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

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