You plus 10

What do you want your life to look like in 10 years? Who do you want to become?

My husband and I have been asking ourselves these questions thanks to Bob Goff. If you’re not familiar with Bob, he is full of life, wisdom, and whimsy. During one of his messages, he spoke about asking these two important questions in order to inform our current decisions.

I recently made the decision to leave my corporate job to pursue a different, non-traditional path. I have a passion for writing and for women’s ministry, and have always dreamed of becoming an author. I did not take the decision to quit my job lightly, but felt God consistently nudging me to make a move. I’ve worked in sales and marketing for 10 years now, why would I leave something so safe? What are people going to think? What if I don’t have what it takes?  But I couldn’t deny the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It was as though I was elbow to elbow with him, and every day he nudged a little more.

Have you ever felt these nudges? It’s so easy to ignore them isn’t it? We like to play it safe, especially when it comes to our careers. But what if there’s more for you? What if what makes you glad and the talents God has gifted you with are meant to intersect?

I haven’t met Mandy + 10 yet, but I hope she’s cooler than ever, full of life, and fabulously brave. I hope she’s stronger in her faith. I hope she’s written a book or two and that she’s gained a fabulous community along the way. I hope her marriage is thriving; filled with unconditional love and joy. I hope she can look back on her decisions with a heart of gratitude. Most of all, I hope her maker is proud of her.

So, in any area of your life, whether its your career, relationships, health, and more, what do you want your life to look like in 10 years? Who do you want to become?

When we Sit, we Forfeit

“I need to tell you something.”

He had my full attention. As I stood in the middle of a hot, humid gym, I looked into the dark brown eyes of a friend. He nervously wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead, and slowly began to speak.

“Mandy, the Lord has been nudging me all day to remind you of something. I didn’t want to listen, but I told Him that if I saw you today, I’d tell you. The Lord wants me to remind you that He lives inside of you. You have joy in your heart.”

My eyes began to tear up as I let his kind words of truth sink in. His heartfelt obedience was a clear reflection of the words we read in James.

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22 (NLT)

I don’t know why doing what God says can be so challenging at times. We fight, wrestle, and run until we think we’ve escaped what God is calling us to do. We negotiate. We overthink. We believe that if we sit on something long enough it will eventually go away. Like pushing down an air-filled beach ball in a pool of water, over time, the ball resurfaces.

But here’s what I’m learning to embrace: when we sit, we forfeit.

When we sit on a nudge or command and choose to push down the promptings God places on our hearts, we forfeit stepping toward a God-ordained opportunity. If my friend would have walked away from what the Lord was placing on his heart that day, he would have forfeited an opportunity to remind me of who I am in Christ. I would have missed out on receiving a gift of godly encouragement.

What I love about God, is that even when we choose to forfeit, He doesn’t stop offering opportunities to keep trying. He’s not a one-and-done type of Father; He’s a redeeming Father. Opportunities resurface, and whether we boldly run with them or not, He waits with open arms filled with forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

As you begin your day today, and every day, know that chasing God-ordained opportunities beats forfeiting. You may be the precise vessel God wants to use to start a church, grow a business or simply encourage someone. God, in all of His goodness, will help you where He leads you. Your influence has impact.

GUT PUNCHED & FANCY FREE — TAKE 2

Earlier this year, I felt pressed to do a fast. I shared previously about how completely selfish I was… how completely selfish I am… because, let’s be honest, I’m still working it out all day, err’day.

After me and Jesus settled the issue of when I would fast, we had to tackle the what. I knew He was asking me to give up food. Not just certain foods like I had previously done, but ALL foods. Ugh. I wanted to pretend like I couldn’t hear Him or feel His nudge on this one. I began reasoning with Him… again. As if the second round of reasoning would yield a different result than the first (I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of insanity).

My excuses this time?

EXCUSE #1:

I have kids. Have you met them, God? I need all the energy I can get in order to take care of them.

EXCUSE #2 (And one that I use often):

I’m just not sure I’m “called” to give up ALL foods.

EXCUSE #3:

Every time I have tried to give up all foods before, I have never been able to follow through. I inevitably break my fast within a matter of minutes to hours. So how in the world do I think I am going to be able to do it this time??

His response? “Why don’t you ask Me to help you?”

What? Ask You for help on something that I’m doing for You?! That just doesn’t seem right. I wouldn’t ask a friend for help on something that I was doing for her.

I’ll be honest. In all of my years of following Jesus, in all of my years of hearing about fasting and participating in fasting, I never once thought to ask the Holy Spirit to help me with it.

Oh friend, how often we do this in our daily lives (or at least I do). We begin doing things for God and forget to ask for His help. I am so often guilty of this. I feel like I should be doing it all by myself since it’s for Him, but that’s not what He’s asked us to do. He wants to help us. He wants to do things withˆus. He wants to do things through us.

He made it very clear in a talk that John recorded. You can find it in John 15:4-5.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The thing is, I knew this truth. I had even given a talk on it just a few months prior! Most of us who are Jesus followers know this truth, yet we seem to forget it or not give it the seriousness it deserves. Jesus wants us to bear fruit and do great things, but He doesn’t want us to do it apart from Him or without Him. He wants to do it through us.

If we don’t ask Him to help us and stay connected to Him, we can do nothing. That hurts to hear sometimes, because I like control, and I like to work hard and achieve things. I also really do enjoy doing things for others. So when I am doing things for God, I like to achieve it on my own. But that’s not how He’s designed it. And boy, is that freeing.

So whatever you’re doing. Whatever you’re working on. Whatever the daily grind is for you. Whether you’re mom-ing, wife-ing, running a business, working at a business, blogging, writing, designing, creating, serving, leading — don’t do it on your own or in your own strength. The only thing that will yield is exhaustion and frustration, and eventually, you may throw in the towel. Instead, if you’re a Jesus follower, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. There is no situation or struggle or mediocre task that He doesn’t care about, and that He isn’t willing to help us with.

So what are we waiting for?

You Are Who You Invest Your Time In

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
Jim Rohn

Prior to moving to Nashville, the act of investing money was something I thought about doing when I was a “grown up.” Spending was much easier than investing, and candidly, it still is. I saved, and made deposits here and there, but I didn’t create a solid plan for my future. I casually thought, I’ll deal with investing later because I have plenty of time. I’m young! The problem with dealing with it later, is later comes sooner than we think. How we spend and invest our money at any age matters when it comes to our future.

The same is true with our time. Who we invest in, and who we spend our time with matters when it comes to our faith.

When I read about Jesus’ life on earth, I’m reminded of how he intentionally loved and invested in his 12 apostles. He spent time with countless people, showed love to everyone, and engaged with people left and right. However, he focused in on his 12. I love how Jesus chose men from various political backgrounds, geographies and trades to be in his innermost circle. They were all different, but had the shared value of knowing Jesus was the real deal.

What I also love about Jesus, is he didn’t lose sight of investing time in his Father even with the weight of humanity on his shoulders. He dedicated time to pray in solitude so he could better invest in his 12. Jesus disconnected to better connect. Our closest relationships can look like this too.

Investing in our fruitful friendships reflects the way Jesus loved and still loves; without an agenda, with pure intentions, undistracted, with an unlimited amount of compassion, forgiveness, grace and humility. It’s making a promise and keeping it. It’s going through life, including the hard stuff, together. It’s small, regular deposits into the relationship, even if it’s just a text message, cup of coffee, or phone call.

The return on our faithful, relational investments comes in the form of a deeper faith, companionship, eternal hope, and joy. These are our long-term, lasting dividends. God created us for his glory and for each other; side by side, facing the cross together.

Spending time with people is not a bad thing. However, I think it’s the difference between creating temporary, socially fulfilling relationships, and deeply connected, long-lasting relationships. Like money, our time investments are what prepares us for the future we want to have. Our careless spending is what can get us in trouble!

Here are some helpful reflection questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Do I share the same values as the people I am investing time in?
  • Would I ask any of the friends I am investing in for advice?
  • Am I investing time in someone because I want to be socially accepted, or because I genuinely love and care for them?
  • Am I spending time with a group of friends out of convenience?
  • Am I investing time in people out of a fear of being alone?
  • Are my 5 closest friends raising my average or lowering it?
  • Am I raising someone else’s average?
  • Do the people I spend the most time with encourage me in my faith?

Life can be richly fulfilling, full of hope, and inspiring when we invest in the right people along the way. Ultimately, Jesus invested in all of us when he died on the cross for our sins. He is the perfect example of a loving investor on earth, as well as in Heaven.

1st and 10

Do you ever wonder why certain people can go through horrific tragedies, devastating loss, and long periods of time with no good news with a smile on their face? How do they do it, right?

I think the answer is found in gratitude.

In 2017, Kevin Queen became the lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. One of the first messages he preached was about the importance of expressing gratitude, and he offered a practical way to grow in our joy regardless of circumstances. His practice is called the 1st and 10. It’s beginning each day by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. We flourish when we are grateful. If we don’t express gratitude, it doesn’t exist!

In the same way we practice eating healthy, working out, or writing, we can practice saying thanks to God. There’s always something to be grateful for even when we don’t feel grateful. Starting each day with a thankful heart sets us up for a day (or at least a morning!) filled with humility and joy. And who doesn’t want more joy, right?

Here are a few ideas to get you started on your 1st and 10:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Your Spouse
  • Your Story
  • Your Gifts
  • Music
  • Sunshine
  • Coffee
  • A Delicious Meal
  • Your Pet
  • Encouraging Words from a Friend
  • An Unexpected Compliment

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” So, what are you grateful for today?

Prioritizing Rest in a Busy World

Disconnect. Recharge. Slow down. Focus on being present.

If you’re like me, these are lines you’ve heard from well-meaning friends, authors, speakers, and influencers more times than you can count. I typically acknowledge them, but politely move on to the next activity on my to-do list. Who has time to slow down? We have a laundry list of things that need to get done, right? But after years of half-heartedly giving rest the time it deserves; it finally has my full attention.

We’ve all looked into the eyes of tired friends who have let their lives and schedules get the best of them. I ache for them. I ache because I know the struggle of feeling like you have nothing left to give at the end of a long day. I know what it feels like to lose sight of your purpose. I ache because nobody wants to dig themselves into a hole of emotional, spiritual, and physical depletion, but I think we arrive at this destination more times than we’d like to voice.

Several months ago, my husband and I spent time in a secluded treehouse just outside of Charleston. There was no Wi-Fi, spotty cell phone service and no TV. To some of you, this sounds like a nightmare! For us, it was a peaceful, welcomed dream. I went into our treehouse experience knowing the tech-free details, but had no idea how much God was going to teach me through them.

The silence, stillness, and rest were medicinal; healing my heart and mind in ways I didn’t realize needed healing. My eyes were opened to my deep need for more regular, undistracted down time in everyday life. After entirely too many years of rushing from one activity to the next, I finally understand the richness and power found in prioritizing rest. It’s sacred.

I realize our day to day life requires more from us than just resting – not every day is spent in a treehouse with no Wi-Fi. I get that. But what if little by little, 5 minutes at a time, we begin to prioritize stillness? What if we schedule rest in the same way we schedule working out, going out to dinner or seeing a movie? What if God desperately wants to grow us through stillness?

If we can muster up the courage to give rest our full attention, we will save ourselves the pain of having to climb out of the physical, emotional, and spiritual holes we dig. Stillness has a way of bubbling up fears, but it also has the power to breed clarity and centeredness in spite of our fears. We are broken, but we are loved. For every fear that bubbles up, God has a pointed truth to pop it.

Jesus bravely restored in stillness with the weight of humanity on his shoulders. My hope in sharing this is to encourage you to bravely restore too. I pray you have the courage to prioritize rest in a culture that is always on. Most importantly, I pray that through your brave moments of stillness, you remember your purpose and return to it often.

 

3 Ways to Lead College Students Well

Did you know that over half of the number of students entering into college will walk away from their faith? Yes, you read that correctly. Over 50%. That statistic breaks my heart and ignites a spark of motivation too. You and I have the power to lower that number! If you’re involved in college ministry, or you’re interested in jumping in, here are a few big ideas I believe will help us lead well.

  1. Show up consistently.

The easiest way to build connection and trust with college students is to simply show up for them consistently. Offer to take a student to lunch, coffee, or simply check in via text to see how their week is going. Invite them to church or your church’s college ministry, yes, but if a student is hesitant to come, that’s okay. Through prayer and consistency, God will move. You may be the first stepping stone in a student’s long faith journey – don’t give up!

  1. Show up with care.

I once heard a college student say, “I’m not a Christian. The Bible is 3,000 years old. How can I believe in something that old?”

Many times, students are incredibly misinformed about Christianity. They think faith is about a book, not a person. They think Christians are loud converters who hold up signs at public events and yell through megaphones. Some students have horrifying pasts, parents who neglected them, or have heavy tragedies to process. They don’t believe God can love them or that he’s even real.

It’s our job to show up with care – to show them that Jesus was gentle and humble in heart. Students don’t need another friend; they need a guide they can relate to. Be as authentic as possible. Validate their feelings and questions, and kindly equip them with truth.

  1. Show up for yourself.

For some students, you may be their closest example of what a Christ-follower looks like. No pressure, right? It’s a gift, but also a heavy responsibility and honor. If you’re consistently pouring out love to students without taking care of yourself, you’ll likely face burn out. Show up for yourself by prioritizing faith in your own life, and allow others to walk alongside you. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

Andy Stanley once asked, “What is the faith of the next generation worth?”  and after a short pause, he answered, “everything.”

SLOW YOUR ROLL, GIRL – Pt. 2

The last time we met here we all suffered from a hard reality check that we are not in control and that rest and Sabbath are more about Him than us. If ya’ll still like me enough after that to continue, I want to share with you one last thing that God has been teaching me about rest.

And sidenote, if you still think that you ain’t got time for this funny idea called “rest”, let me tell you something.

1. I feel ya, girl.

Most of the time, the Holy Spirit still wrestles with me to stop and push the breaks for even just a few minutes… Okay, let’s be real. I’m the one wrestling with the Holy Spirit, but I digress.

2. Sister, this is something God is wanting us to take more seriously than we do.

And with that, let me tell you the hard truth He hit me with not long ago…

| WE CANNOT DO THIS ALONE |

Life here in Western culture often feels like it’s going faster and faster. We have multiple plates we’re juggling, multiple ways of receiving information, and multiple ways to be contacted. In the world we live in and because of all of the responsibilities most of us are attempting to balance, it’s extremely hard to shut it all off and simply get away, even if for just thirty minutes. Lunch breaks are another time to catch up on what we missed while we were at our jobs, and evenings are times when we catch up on laundry, dishes, home repairs, emails, or side hustles.

I was driving down the road the other day, having a little wrestling match with God (we have those occasionally, because I’m stubborn). I had been feeling depleted and exhausted but had so much work to do. I knew He was asking me to steal away some time with Him and simply rest and be. But I felt like there was no possible way for me to do that. I flat out told Him, “I cannot afford to do that.” And the Holy Spirit immediately whispered back to me “You cannot afford not to.”

#micdrop

And sidenote, I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit would have totally done a literal mic drop had He been holding one.

Wow. The wrestling immediately seized. I gave up trying to wiggle and fight and struggle. I surrendered. He was right. I may feel like I can’t afford to take time to rest, but the truth is that I can’t afford not to.

“I may feel like I can’t afford to take time to rest, but the truth is that I can’t afford not to.”

And can I remind us for a minute, that Jesus Himself would go away to lonely places to rest and pray? Why we think we can do it differently than Jesus did, I don’t know. But we do, don’t we? Or is that just me?

Not only were our bodies not designed for going full-force, full-speed ahead, 24/7, but we also will never be able to do what it is God is asking us to do if we don’t stop, breathe, and rest in Him. We have to prioritize spending time with Him and resting in Him. If we do not, then sure, you might be able to do a few things He has purposed you to do, but you’ll be exhausted, burned out, and miserable. Oh, and it may take you FOREVER to get there, because, friend, it’s hard to climb a mountain on your own.

We were never created to fulfill our purpose on our own or within our own strength. If we were, God wouldn’t receive the glory for it… we would. HE wants to fulfill HIS purpose and plan through us. We just have to unplug from our tasks and the world around us, even for just a moment (including all of you who feel like you have “zero” free time… though I beg to differ), and plug into Jesus — the One Who can and will recharge us, strengthen us, empower us, and fulfill His purpose through us.

We can’t do it on our own, nor should we.

So how about this week, we accept the challenge (because it is a challenge) to take moments of Sabbath throughout the days ahead. To flip our focus back to the One Whom everything really does depend on and allow Him to replenish us, so we have something actually worthwhile to give.

I am asking us all, myself included, to hit the breaks and slow down some before we run right past our purpose and straight into the ground.

We can do this. And, friend, we have to.

SLOW YOUR ROLL, GIRL – Pt. 1

As a wife, momma, employee, volunteer, and leader the word “rest” sounds like a cute little fairytale someone made up. Or maybe a joke? Something to tease us with and keep just out of our reach.

I don’t know about you, but I am a doer and overachiever. I’m not proud of it. I am just competitive deep down to my core. Secretly (or maybe not so secretly), I find my value and worth through recognition and striving to accomplish things. If I sit down to take a break, I make sure no one is watching. I close the door. I’ll even pretend like I’m doing something if someone sees me resting! Why? Because I feel guilty when I slow down and stop. I mean, come on. No one ever tells you what a good job you’re doing at resting!  When I stop for even just a moment, I hear a voice in my head that tells me I’m lazy or that I’m never going to do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be.

In other words, rest?? “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe you don’t feel like you have time to simply breathe and rest.

You can’t slow down or little mouths won’t get fed.

You can’t slow down or the bills won’t get paid.

You can’t slow down or your dreams won’t come true.

Goodness, what an exhausting way to live. I can say that, because I’m right there with you. In fact, if I’m being honest, I am sitting here right now at 10:47 at night writing… about rest… instead of actually resting (and now bowing my head in shame).

But listen closely, friend. I want to share some truth with you over these next couple of blogs that God has been hitting me in the face with lately. And you might want to sit down. This could hurt.

| WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL |

Sorry, hun. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are not in control of everything. The whole world, including yours, does not depend on you. And the whole world, including mine, does not depend on me. And, man, do I hate admitting that. Because let’s be real, it’s nice to be needed!

I recently read about Sabbath and it got me thinking about why God even set it in motion.

Growing up, I never quite understood Sabbath. I thought it was merely a day off for lazy people or a nice suggestion. Sadly, it never occurred to me until a couple of months ago that rest, though it’s required for many practical reasons, is also a posture of the heart. Rest is required so that I can flip my focus. Sabbath is not having a break-time so that I can acknowledge the work I have completed thus far. It’s acknowledging the work that God completed long ago through Jesus on the cross. It’s acknowledging the victory that God has already won and all that He has done for us.

Rest reminds me that I am not in control. It is not up to me to do it all. It’s already been done. Yes, we have responsibilities. Yes, God has entrusted us with purpose and tasks. But for doers like myself, we can often get so wrapped up in those things that we begin to raise ourselves above the One Who gave them to us. We begin to think that we have to “go-go-go” and “do-do-do” or nothing God wants to happen will get done. Oh, friend. We could not be more wrong. God doesn’t need us to do anything. He can do what He wants, when He wants. His plan does not depend on you and me. Yes, He wants us to join Him in it, but hear me on this — His plan does not rise and fall with how much we can accomplish. And it’s important we know that. Otherwise, we begin to elevate ourselves above the Creator without even realizing it. See, when we begin to operate in this way, our trust in God providing for us decreases and pressure on ourselves increases. Rest is a way for us to remember Who’s hands really do hold the whole world (that would be God) and who’s do not (that would be you and me, friend).

“Rest is a way for us to remember Who’s hands really do hold the whole world, and who’s do not.”

And though it can feel like a punch in the gut to realize it, it is so incredibly freeing. It is such a relief to stop for a moment, take a deep breath of fresh air, and know that it’s okay if we do. In fact, it’s encouraged.

CONFESSIONS OF A PROCRASTINATOR

Hi, friend. I’m Gabbi, and I am a procrastinator.

Seriously. It’s bad. For instance, I am sitting here staring at a pile of laundry that has yet to be washed or put away in over two weeks… That’s right. TWO WEEKS. I couldn’t tell you the last time I vacuumed our rugs or mopped the floor (probably should actually own a mop first. Making a mental note to put a mop on my grocery clicklist).

But it’s not just the not-so-fun things I put off. I am always waiting until absolutely necessary to do what I need to do or even what I want to do. It’s weird, and I’m working on it. Maybe you can relate.

So when I was reading the other day, I was struck by a statement that Jesus made. On this particular day, Jesus had done a ton of stuff – taught people, healed people, was being followed around by people. He was a busy dude. After all of this, Jesus got up early in the morning and went somewhere to pray. During His “quiet time”, the disciples came and told Him that people were looking for Him. What was Jesus’ response? You can find it in Mark 1:38.

He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that’s what I came out here for.”

This really stood out to me. Jesus didn’t let busyness, tiredness, or an interrupted quiet time distract Him. He knew what assignment God had given Him here on this earth, and He wasn’t about to put it off.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this has really challenged me. So I want to ask you, and myself, two questions:

  1. What did you come out here for?

What’s your purpose? Yes, we all have the same overarching purpose – to love God, love people, and make disciples. But how we go about doing that is different for everyone. So what’s yours? Is it starting that small-group in your home, starting that business you’ve always wanted, writing that book, working from home, staying at home? If you’re unsure, PRAY!

You can also check out some of my blogs on purpose where I give you some tools to figure it out!

  1. Are you doing it?

Are you taking steps toward what it is God is asking you to do? Even if they’re small. Have you made that phone call, done that research, reached out to that person, written that first paragraph? Whatever it may look like for you, are you actually taking steps toward the purpose He has given you?

I am convinced that in my life, procrastination is often due to one of two things: busyness or fear disguised as busyness.

Chances are, if you’re breathing and have a family in any capacity, you’re busy. Now, busy can be good. Busy taking care of our families, busy in school, busy at our jobs, busy serving. All good things! But so many times, we let busyness become a distraction or an excuse. We forget about the dreams God put on our hearts because we are distracted with busyness, or we say we don’t have time for the assignments God has put on our hearts because we are busy.

There are other times that we use busyness as a shield. We’re afraid of what would happen if we began pursuing the dream God gave us — we’re terrified of what people will think or we’re simply scared of failing at the assignment altogether. So, instead of taking a step towards Jesus, we hide behind our “busyness”.

I want to encourage all of us to take a page from Jesus’ book.

Are you scared of failing?

Do it anyways, because that’s what you have come out here for.

Are you afraid of what people will think?

Do it anyways, because that’s what you have come out here for.

Are you unsure of yourself?

Do it anyways, because that’s what you have come out here for.

Is it easy? No, but the best things rarely are (take childbirth for instance… unless you have an epidural, which I did… twice). I want to challenge each of us to take the next few days and really think. When we’re doing laundry (which I should probably do) think about it. When we’re washing the dishes, think about it. When we’re in the shower, think about it. When we’re driving, think about it. What is God asking each of us to do? What is our assignment from Him in this season of life? What is your assignment from Him in this season of life? Let us identify it, write down steps we can take towards it, and, then, DO IT.

Because, friend, that’s what we have come out here for.