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When we began For the Girls International it was all very intimidating.  I knew that God had prompted the idea but I had no idea where to begin!

I remember one afternoon being so frustrated with trying to figure it out on my own. My head was swimming with ideas that weren’t really coming together.  In my frustration I decided to do what I usually do when I am overwhelmed or stressed out…

I went shopping!

As I was wandering around Pier 1 Imports I was praying in my head. Sort of thinking/praying. My thoughts were, “God if you want me to do this, I am going to need you to show me what I need to do.”

And then, in a split second, I had one of those moments where the rest of the world stands still and you can hear the angels singing the Halleluiah Chorus. There, in front of me was a display with four individual mugs with writing on them.  When I saw them they read like marching orders to me: DIG DEEP, GET REAL, THINK BIG, and DON’T PANIC!

Those four phrases became the building blocks of the journey that God was taking me on.  I had to DIG DEEP to really get to the core of who I am in Him.  He has called me to be more transparent about my life than ever before because real ministry happens when people GET REAL and share their life experiences with their real God.  He has challenged me to THINK BIG and I have to remind myself, “DON’T PANIC!” when I feel like I am in over my head (which is quite often!)

My point is that God will speak to you in your language and in your style right where you live.  He doesn’t speak to everyone in the same way. God knows me and he knows where to find me ~ even if it is in the mall! And He knows where to find you!

Sometimes His voice is still and small ~ sometimes His message is loud and clear but He promises to direct our path.

Ask him today to speak to you ~ you may be pleasantly surprised where and when He chooses to get your attention.

Isaiah 30:31
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Jesus answered, It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. ~ Matthew 4:4

Upon arriving home from work, my husband will often walk through the door and head straight to the pantry or the fridge claiming that he’s “starving.”  It always makes me laugh because he owns a restaurant!  He has total access to the most yummy chicken made in America (not to mention the waffle fries and milkshakes) yet he will go through an entire day surrounded by food and forget to eat! When I ask him why he didn’t grab something while he was working his reasons are usually that he was too busy or he got distracted.  Thankfully, he is not nearly as grumpy as I am when I don’t eat.

When I skip a meal I get very irritated. My blood sugar drops, I feel lightheaded and I can’t think straight.  I feel weak, I have very little tolerance and I am not a lot of fun to be around.   My husband has come to recognize the symptoms and will say, “Feed it!” indicating that I am acting like a monster. Once I get something nutritious to eat I become a much nicer person.

Sometimes we go through periods of life when we feel like we are dry and shriveling up spiritually and can’t think straight.  We have access to life giving sustaining spiritual nutrition at our fingertips but because we are busy or distracted we don’t eat!

These days there are so many ways that we can feed ourselves the word of God.  There are devotionals and bible reading emails you can have sent right to your inbox.  There are podcasts to listen to on our drive to work in addition to the good old fashioned paper copy of the Bible that we could and should pick up each morning (preferably before we start our day.)  We really have no excuse.

This is not intended to be a guilt trip, I promise, but we if we want to grow (and not become grumpy and irritated) we need to eat!

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight ~ Jeremiah 15:16

Every one of us is called by God to be a champion to someone.  It may be a small circle of people in your home or city that you have influence over or you may be called to a larger platform or foreign country, but all of us are called to shine the light of Jesus and serve each other in love.  As we move forward to accomplish what God has called us to do it is inevitable that we will encounter opposition.

1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 

One of the greatest weapons the devil uses in order to discourage us is the temptation to compare ourselves to others.  As we look at the accomplishments, abilities and gifts of others compared to our own, we can often begin to feel small and worthless if we feel that we don’t measure up.

When God called Gideon to lead a major battle and defeat a huge army he immediately felt inadequate. There were many other men that were much stronger than he was, but God chose him and called him “a mighty warrior.”

Satan will try to throw as much doubt as he can at us to discourage us from becoming all that we were created to be but the word of God tells us in James 4:7 that if we resist the devil then he will flee from us.

Every morning as we begin each new day we must believe that there is a devil who wants to make us shrink so that we are ready to resist the lies, the accusations and the temptations he sends our way.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Eph 6:16

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

Last night For the Girls International had our Summer Girls Night Out and it was FABULOUS!!

We played upon a theme that has been rolling around in my brain (a scary place) for several months now.  It all started after I watched Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland.  The movie itself was entertaining and so creative (which I love) but it was the parallels to my spiritual journey that came bursting from the screen that really captured my attention. You can read all about it here…and here…and here !

Alice was the champion that the residents of Wonderland had been waiting for. She was very hesitant to accept the responsibility because she didn’t feel qualified or equipped.  When Alice decided to embrace her destiny she knew it would require going into battle to defeat the Jabberwocky.  This was no small task and the odds were not in her favor.  As she stood there with the hideous monster towering over her she said, “This is impossible” and the Mad Hatter replied “Only if you believe it is.”

Alice then remembered something her father had taught her and she said, “Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Then she lifted her sword and began to count them out loud.

This journey of life takes on so many twists and turns that at times it is hard to navigate.  At times God requires us to step out and overcome fear and obstacles in order to fulfill a calling or begin a new venture.  Sometimes we just need strength for the day to live victoriously and free!

There are things I need to believe every morning before my feet hit the ground if I am going to be able to handle all that life throws at me.  And so…

The Six Impossible Things I Believe Before Breakfast

1. There is a devil who can make me shrink.

1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

2. The word of God can make me grow.

Jeremiah 15:16
When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight

3. God can talk.

Isaiah 30:31
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.

4. Fear can disappear

2 Tim 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

5. There is a place called heaven

Psalm 27:13
I would have despaired had I not known that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

6. I can overcome!

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

In the next few weeks I will be expounding on each of these points.  So stay tuned.  You can subscribe to receive these posts directly to your inbox by putting your email address in the box that is in the top right corner of this page under Follow my Blog by email.

I love to interact through the comment section so comment away! I hope you are celebrating your MUCHNESS today!

This past weekend FTGI took a team of 10 women to NYC to join N.Y.S.U.M. (New York School of Urban Ministry) for their Extreme Makeover Weekend.

Our day at the shelter got off to a rocky start.  We were dropped off at the shelter and we offloaded the supplies that had been packed for us.  It wasn’t until after the van had left that we realized that we did not have the correct supplies.  In fact we had very little of anything.  (Our supplies eventually showed up but not until over an hour and a half later.)  On top of that, the shelter we were assigned to had fewer residents than we expected.  Disappointment and frustration began to creep in.

It was then that our team had to take a step back and really examine ourselves.  We had to remind ourselves that we did not travel all that distance so that we could feel good about how many people we served or how well we executed the plan.  In fact it was not about us at all!  It was about the precious women that were in our midst. It was about the “now” moment.  I was so proud of our team as I saw them come to that realization and take a giant step over themselves to reach out to the women that showed up.  And as they did, love broke through and before we knew it there was laughter being shared and and stories being told.  When the supplies eventually showed up, the pampering began.  As the beauty treatments were administered something even more beautiful was delivered. Hope.

The scheduled ministry at the shelters was the primary reason we went. The unexpected ministry that took place was what happened inside each team member’s heart as we were blessed and humbled by those we went to minister to!  And then, as if all of that was not enough, there was something that happened to us as a team that was and is priceless.

We were able to experience what Paul wrote about so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 12.  We were able to get a taste of what it means to be the “body” of Christ. Our challenge now is to remember that everyday we have the opportunity to use whatever gifts God has given to us to benefit those in need around us.  And when we do that, hope grows and love wins!

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 

1 Cor 12:27

There are certain phrases in the Christian community that are quoted so much that I almost feel like I’ve built up a sort of immunity to their potency, simply because I’ve heard them used so many times. 

“For such a time as this…” is one of those for me.

I’ve heard it used and quoted so many times that I have a tendency to let it go in one ear and out the other.  But yesterday morning I was reading the book of Esther and for some reason, as I read it in context, it jumped off the page as if I had never heard it before.  It moved from being a bit of a cliche (for lack of a better term) to being alive with power and purpose. 

Esther was an orphan being raised by her older cousin, Mordecai.  The king of their land, after being humiliated by his wife and basically dethroning her, was in search of a new queen.  The king’s advisers went to him with a proposal.  Their idea was to go to each province and gather the most beautiful virgins, bring them back to the palace, give them beauty treatments for a year and then let him pick the best of the best for his new queen.  Then I read a verse that made me laugh out loud.  It said:

“This advice appealed to the King, and he followed it.”

Um…. yeah??!! Can’t really imagine him refusing that one.

Anyway, Esther was obviously beautiful but the story tells us that not only was she beautiful but she had a great sense of humility about her which helped her to find favor with those around her.

To make a long story short, Esther was chosen to be the new queen.  The king did not know this but Esther was a Jew.  While she was living in the king’s court she learned (from Mordecai) that the king had approved a conspiracy to kill of all the Jews in the land.  Mordecai realized the timeliness of Esther’s recent placement in the palace and encouraged her to appeal to the king to save the lives of her people. But, (and this is a big BUT) in order to do this Esther would have to go to the king which was not permitted unless you were invited, admit her nationality, and risk her life of comfort and luxury in hopes that she could save thousands of lives.

It was at this critical decision making time Mordecai floated out this pivotal and emotionally charged question and said, “Who knows that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther decided to rise to the challenge and  responded by saying, “If I perish, I perish.” Such courage!!

I’ve heard this phrase thrown around a lot but often without the gravity that it deserves.  This was not about Esther rising to some position of power and influence but actually the complete opposite. It was about Esther realizing that her position was really not about her at all but about the thousands of lives that would be saved.

There are a lot of people anxious to have a position of influence but would they still be willing if it meant risking every comfort that they know…even their life?  (I’m asking myself too…just so you know!)

Doesn’t seem as glamorous when you read it that way.  But what a beautiful display of courage to aspire to! The crown, the *bling*, the position, but along with it…the risk of total exposure.

Who are the people in your circle of influence you have been called to reach out to?  Would you be willing to risk total exposure if you thought it may save a life?

I would love to hear from you…feel free to comment :)

Still harping on the Alice in Wonderland theme…

 ________________________________
At one point in Alice’s journey when she consulted with Absolom, the Blue Caterpillar, about which way she should go, he answered her sharply saying,
“I can’t help you if you don’t even know who you are,
 stupid girl.”
Ok, so that was a little harsh but there was truth in what he said.  You cannot know where you are going until you know who you are. 
It is most important on this journey of life to establish who we are; perhaps even more important, is to know where we derive our sense of self from.  If we don’t, we run the risk of falling prey to the pressure of other people’s standards and hopes for us rather than charting our own course.
This is definitely a process, one that we must keep revisiting throughout our life.   Every different stage of life presents new challenges and new temptations to let outside influences define who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and where we are going. 
It is usually when we are completely fed up with trying to measure up to the world’s standards or the opinions of others (no matter how well-meaning they are) that we really dig in to find out who we are and where we should be going.
I love how Alice expressed herself in the movie when she finally reached her breaking point.  She said, exasperated:
“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told where I must go and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is *my* dream. *I’ll* decide where it goes from here.”
Oh my goodness!  Can anyone relate?? I have felt exactly that way before with the possible exception of being stuffed in a teapot, although I’ve definitely felt like that too!
Alice finally decided that she was her father’s daughter and she was going to let that be her guide. She was going to begin following her own instincts.
This is something I have recently really come to embrace.  The fact that, because I have the spirit of God living inside me, I can depend on Him to guide my every decision and not stress out about whether or not I am veering off the “right” path. Here are a few verses that I rely on. 
Acts 17:28 says (and I love this…)
“In Him we live and move and have our being.” 
That pretty much sums it up.  That is where we live and how we move…IN HIM.  If you know that…if you really know that, and base your decisions on that reality ~ it will guide your every move.  
And one final promise to tuck deep inside your heart ~ Isaiah 30:21
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

So trust His voice and get on with your journey!! The best is yet to come.
When Alice arrived in Wonderland for the second time there was some debate about whether or not she was “the” Alice that they were all waiting for.  They were anxiously anticipating her return because they knew that she was going to be the White Queen’s champion on the Frabjous Day making things right in their world by defeating the Jabberwocky.
Yes, I realize this all sounds a little bit ridiculous but stick with me for a minute.
When she meets up with the Mad Hatter he immediately assures his friends that she is indeed “the” Alice.  He says that he would know her anywhere.  But after being with her for a little while he notices her reluctance to slay the Jabberwocky, a feat that would save them all from the terror of the Red Queen’s rule. He notices that she no longer has the fighting spirit she once had.  This is how he tells her.
He looks at her sadly and says, “You’re not the same as you were before.  You were much more…muchier.  You’ve lost your muchness.”
It is a funny way to put it…but have you ever felt that way?  Like you have lost your muchness? Life has beaten you down, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t muster up the energy to keep getting back up? But deep down inside you just know that your muchness is still there somewhere!
This is point where Alice was when the light went on and she began to realize that the people of Wonderland needed what she had to offer.  That light began to grow inside of her pressing her forward.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 puts this idea into context for us.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
And so regardless of our present circumstances we must reach down deep and get our muchness back because the world is waiting for it!
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.  2 Cor. 4 16-18

My daughter and I recently cuddled up on the couch and watched Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. I’ve seen it before but for some reason this time I saw so many parallels to the journey of life and faith. So,  I thought it would be fun to write about them this week.

From the opening exchange between Alice and her father I was hooked.  Alice was having nightmares and delusions and asked her father if she had “gone round the bend.” His response was, ““I’m afraid so…you’re mad; bonkers. Off your head…but I’ll tell you a secret…all of the best people are.”

I have always had affection for people that are just a little wacky.  Wackiness is often indicative of an eccentric personality or an entrepreneurial spirit both of which I find inspiring and fascinating.

I found Alice so endearing. Perhaps I identified with this unconventional and often defiant young girl and her quest to become all that she was meant to become.  It was not an easy journey to say the least, but one with many twists and turns, much like life.  I loved her spunk and tenacity.  She was not always sure of who she was, nor was she confident that she had what it would take to fulfill her destiny, yet she displayed an enormous amount of courage from the very beginning.  It was her courage coupled with curiosity that led her down the rabbit hole to ultimately discover her identity.  And every step of the way she was becoming more and more her self.

Alice had a sense that there were great things in store for her.  She carried her father’s free spirit inside of her but she was being pressured to settle for a life of convenience.  However, just in the moment that she was “supposed” to accept the marriage proposal that would “supposedly” mean that she would be taken care of financially and live a carefree life, a rabbit in a waistcoat showed up and challenged it all.  She recognized the interruption as an invitation to embark on an adventure. Instead of settling for the status quo, she followed the rabbit all the way to Wonderland where she would realize an inner strength and resolve that she didn’t even know she possessed.

I think we all have times in life when we may be tempted to settle for the path of least resistance or the less scary option. But we have our Father’s spirit inside us pushing us to believe for the impossible.

Alice’s father in an opening line in the movie said, “The only way to achieve the impossible, is to believe it’s possible.”

Is there a path you should be following even if it goes against all reason?  Is the Holy Spirit nudging you to follow Him down a particular road?  Say “Yes!” to the invitation to embark on the adventurous life of faith marked out for you. It’s only impossible if you believe that it is.

Start Here.

For months I had been having visions of starting something.  For years actually. I could see it. I could taste it. I was growing more and more impatient.

I knew that there were lots and lots of women struggling just like me to find their place.
I had just been through a very trying time of feeling like I had lost, or was losing, my identity.  It lasted longer than I would have liked, but through the process, I felt awakened to the suffering of other women. We all face challenges maintaining our identity because of all the different hats we wear.  Coming through the experience, I felt called to take what I had learned through the process and reach out to others that may be struggling.  I was a woman with a mission burning inside of me, and I was ready to go out and change the world. 
But instead, I was working as a Marketing Director for my husband’s business.  I knew he needed me there, but I could feel myself itching to move on and start living out what I now believed was my “calling.”  I became very frustrated.  I didn’t understand why I felt so impassioned to reach out to women of all ages and walks of life and start this ministry when I was not free to do so.
On my way to work one day I vented my frustration to God.  The whining session sounded something like this:  “I just don’t get it.  You’ve given me this passion, but I feel like my hands are tied. I just wanted to get started.” And I felt Him challenge me by saying, “So start.”
I started to list the reasons why I couldn’t, and I heard that still small voice say, “Start right where you are.”  I thought about it for a bit and realized that I was surrounded by women every day and that I could look for opportunities to encourage someone right where I was.  I adjusted my attitude and asked God to give me an opportunity that day to do what I believed He was calling me to do in my current situation.
When I got to work I overheard a conversation that a young girl that worked for us was having with our manager. The young worker was disrespectful, and I needed to step in.  I asked her if I could speak with her and gave her some gentle instruction about submitting to authority even if you don’t agree with everything they say or do.  I told her God would honor that and it would serve her well to learn that lesson now.  (I had the liberty to do that because I knew that she was a believer and was striving to live by biblical principles.)
She didn’t looked thrilled with me, but before I left that afternoon, she asked if she could speak with me.
She shyly said something to this effect, “Every time I am around you, I feel like I learn something.  Do you think it would be possible for us to meet outside of work for coffee every now and then just to talk?”
That was the day I learned the “Start Here” principle. No title. No logo. No fanfare. I just needed to start.
Can you relate?  Are you there right now?  I’d love to hear your story! 
Feel free to leave a comment!
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