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Do you ever feel guilty about pursuing a dream God has placed upon your heart?

I’ve heard women say things like “Who am I to have a dream?” or “Shouldn’t I be content with my life? Why does there have to be something more like a dream or a calling?”

I wouldn’t say it’s being selfish to pursue a calling that God has placed on your heart. I would say it’s being  obedient. If a calling is truly from God, to not pursue it is to not believe He will equip you to where He has called you.

Although God calls each of us to faith, obedience, and to share the Gospel with others and make disciples of new believers, I strongly believe God also has a specific calling for each of us, as well. And that calling – or dream – is as unique to us as our fingerprints. It’s woven onto the fabric of our hearts. And I believe God has dreamed of the day we would each discover that dream and calling He’s placed on our lives so we can live it out for His glory.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (NASB). The word “workmanship” in that verse (the New Living Translation uses the word “masterpiece”) comes from the Greek word, “poiema” where we get our English word “poem.” So, a more literal interpretation of the first part of that verse would be “We are God’s poem” – His unique expression of Who He is and the great things He can do. So, when you are living out the calling He has placed on your heart, you are showing the world Who He is and what He can do through you.

One of the reasons we can feel guilty or selfish about pursuing a dream is because we can confuse God’s calling on our life with our own personal desires and ambitions. While the pursuit of  our ambitions can result in the neglect of our loved ones and compromise of our values and convictions, the pursuit of God’s calling on our lives will never require disobedience or compromise. Nor will God’s calling require you to “go out on your own” and act independently of Him. God always calls us to a greater dependence on Him so that we realize we can do nothing  apart from Him  (John 15:5).

So how can you be sure a calling is from God in order to pursue it guilt-free?

  1. Your calling is something that glorifies God, not you. Most of us have ambitions or goals of what we’d like to accomplish, but is the motivation for self glorification or that God be exalted? I talk with many people who dream of publishing a book for the notoriety, the “extra income” (both of which rarely result from publishing a book, by the way), and even “a sense of accomplishment.” But a calling from God is always beyond ourselves. It’s not motivated in our own ambitions or what we want to accomplish, personally. It’s about the One who is whispering to us what is important to Him. And it’s about responding to the One who has given us certain abilities and is waiting to bless us and others through our surrender of those abilities for His renown, not ours. The “fruit” and end result of God’s calling on our lives is that He is glorified, even if we suffer.
  1. Your calling is something God controls, not you. I’ve also heard from many people who are frustrated with their inability to “achieve the dream” or “pursue the calling.” But where God guides, He provides. He often calls us to something that is beyond us so that we have to depend on Him in order to accomplish it. If you are striving to achieve your dream at what seems like all costs, then perhaps it is your dream you are chasing and not God’s dream for you. When God calls you to something, He leads and you follow. Let Him open the doors rather than trying to push through them, yourself.
  2. Your calling isn’t always the fun thing, but it’s the right thing. When we follow Christ, we aren’t promised continual blue skies and unlimited happiness. To the contrary, Jesus said following Him involves denying ourselves and picking up our cross. That means we will suffer at times. You and I offer refer to our “passion” when we talk about a calling. And yet the true definition of passion is “a willingness to suffer.” It means we will experience situations that cause us to depend on Him all the more. But there is a deep joy that comes from the peace and satisfaction of knowing we are in God’s will.
  3. Your calling is something you must do in order to experience peace. I know many men who are pastors today but never sought that position. They never said from the time they were young “I want to grow up and be a pastor.”  In fact, like Jonah, many of them initially ran from the assignment until, like Isaiah, they were finally able to say “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  When God is the One calling you to a task there is no choice of a “yes” or “no” on your part. There is only the question “when” – when will you surrender and when will He determine that you are ready for the assignment?  I often tell others God’s calling on your life is something you must do whether you are paid to do it or not. You must do it if you are to experience peace. You must do it in order to be obedient.

If God called us to live safe, manageable lives, then we wouldn’t really need Him, apart from saving our souls and letting us sit it out until we are called home to heaven. Yet God wants to do through you what is beyond you. He wants to receive glory from how you live your life from day to day, exhibiting the life of Christ through your mortal body.

Listen for His call, obey His voice, ask Him how you can glorify Him, and then step out in faith. A great adventure of living out His call on your life awaits. Pursue that calling – guilt-free.

Confused about what your specific calling or dream might be? Put the puzzle pieces together through the exercises in my book, When a Woman Discovers Her Dream.

Today I got to thinking about a concept: More Jesus, less selfie.

It goes against everything that’s modeled to us in this world.

We are constantly told “Look out for you,” “Invest in yourself,” and “Love Your Body.” I’ve even seen t-shirts that say “Love Your Selfie!”

I, personally, have bought the lie that I need more of everything else — more time, more money, more energy, more creativity, more motivation, more exposure, more of a “following.” Yet the only thing I really need more of is Jesus. And I definitely need less of me.

For a long time, it’s been half and half in my life: Half Jesus, half me. But Jesus wants me to be all Him. He isn’t interested in a dual reign or a joint partnership.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

You cannot serve God and self, either.

Jesus also said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).  But how do you and I deny ourselves today in a society that is constantly urging us to put ourselves first? How can you and I, like John the Baptist, live by the motto “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?

We can do that by reversing the way we naturally think and act. It means putting Christ in the place where we would normally put ourselves. It means having:

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Lose Yourself QuoteIt is quite popular these days to be on a search to find yourself. To pull away from friends, family and the rest of the world in pursuit of who you REALLY are.

I’ve talked with a few women lately who are in the throes of trying to find themselves. They are, in a sense,  looking for their purpose, searching for their identity, determined to no longer be what the world expects them to be.

This search sounds virtuous on the exterior. “Good for you,” we might say in response, trying to be a loving, supportive friend. But on the interior it is a futile quest.

We can find neither our purpose, nor our significance apart from our Creator and His purpose for us. We have been created to love God and enjoy Him forever.

I remember when I was trying to find myself  during a few short months of my college years  by living outside the lines, apart from the rules, wandering, rebelling.  It didn’t take me long to realize that without Christ in my life, I was SO lost…and apart from Him I am nothing (John 15:5).

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Me&CarolynRosser

Mrs. Rosser, right, taught me to love Jesus and His Word when I was just 5 years old. She is the first mentor I remember having.

Do you ever think about the kind of legacy you will one day leave?

Now that I’m older (I hit half a century this year!)  I think about it more often than not. And while I used to think it amounted to how many people I spoke in front of or how well known I might become,  I realize now that legacies are made of something much simpler…and often less  noticeable.

The people who leave a lasting impact on this earth aren’t the ones who made lots of money or lots of headlines. They are  the ones who took the time to serve others and left imprints on individual lives…one at a time.

I had the opportunity to speak in my home town this past weekend –in the same church I grew up in. It was the place where I first learned of Jesus, was baptized, and grew in my knowledge of God and His Word.  I had been back many times before to speak, but THIS time I got to thinking about legacy….and I got a visual of how “what goes around comes around” in the name of Jesus.

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weddingphotoHugh&CindiThis week my husband and I will celebrate 26 years of marriage. More than two decades ago, we told each other “I do” in front of family and friends. And after all these years, Hugh is still putting up with me. 🙂

I could be all gushy and say “I can’t imagine my life without him,” but honestly speaking, sometimes I have imagined that. And those are the times I am reminded that marriage isn’t — and never has been — about me. It’s about the One who called me to live, work, and serve alongside this man to accomplish God’s will for His glory.

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3 questionsDo you find it difficult to say “no” when an opportunity comes your way or someone asks you to do something?

Well, you can’t live your dream if you’re continuing to rescue one situation after another. By knowing where your “yes” is, you can more easily say “no” to the things that might actually be distracting you from living the dream God has placed on your heart.

Here are three questions to ask, from When a Woman Discovers Her Dream, that will help you recognize what you’re being called to do, as opposed to something you’re trying to rescue:

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shootforstarsHave you ever been told your dream is unrealistic or too far-fetched? Has anyone ever implied that you have been shooting too far above what you’re capable of or what’s possible?

I, too, once thought Who am I to think God would have something big planned for me? But God knows the desires of our hearts. And if there’s a big dream on our hearts, it’s very possible that a Big God put it there and plans to hand it to you to remind you just how big He is.

Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23) and “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it and nothing will be too much for you” (Mark 11:22, The Message).

God wants to do through you what is beyond you. That’s how He gets the glory for amazing things you can accomplish with your life. But here’s the key: It doesn’t take an amazing person to accomplish amazing things. All it takes is faith in an amazing God who can accomplish the impossible.

If God is laying a big dream on your heart, here’s how you can recognize it and be prepared to move when God says “go.” read more

Dream_book_cover_FJ3LI remember feeling very discouraged that I would never be able to live my dream.

My husband, a young Bible college graduate, had just turned down a job in a nice area of Orange County, CA where he would’ve worked as an associate pastor for the son in law of my favorite Christian author. That was supposed to be my connection, my “open door” into the world of Christian publishing. There went my quick ticket to realizing my dream.

But God often does something completely different than we expect when it comes to opening the door to our dream.

My husband, Hugh, instead took a pastoral job at a tiny church in an out-of-the way community on the back side of the desert.

For six years I wrote and taught women’s Bible studies at this tiny little church and wondered, at times, if God had forgotten about my dream to write books.

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IMG_20140411_125453Do you feel you can never achieve your dream because of your past mistakes?

Whenever women tell me they don’t deserve to live their dream because of where they’ve been or what they’ve done, I love reminding them of something. The Dream Weaver, who put that dream into their hearts, is also a Master Artist — One who specializes in taking the corrupted canvases of our lives and repainting them into magnificent masterpieces.

And if you happen to be thinking, I’m more like God’s practice piece, than His masterpiece, consider this….

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IhaveaDreamDid you love doing something as a child until someone else, perhaps unintentionally, killed that dream in your heart? Were you at one time living your dream until a hurtful comment or negative situation made you walk away regretfully?

My daughter, Dana, was only 4 years old when another child who was a little older than her told her she didn’t color well. For several months, Little Dana apologized every time she picked up a crayon and began to color, convinced that she couldn’t stay within the lines and she would make a mess. Once we noticed how she was beating herself up because of one critical comment, we poured on the encouragement every time we saw her pick up a pen, pencil, or paintbrush. (We even bought her a bucket of sidewalk chalk and told her to boldly color up the neighborhood!) After more than a year of constant praise, Dana finally gained confidence once again in her ability to create.

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daretodreamWould you classify yourself as a dreamer? Or a realist? You can be both. But don’t cheat yourself out of dreaming.

I believe God has whispered a dream on every one of our hearts. And I believe that dream is closely connected to something we’ve always wanted to do. But so many of us are afraid to dream…or we don’t believe we have a right to.

The first step (in my “Ten-Step Process to Discovering Your Dream“) is: Admit You Have a Dream.

The second step is this: Give Yourself Permission to Dream.

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woman-rejoicingAre you living out your dream?

For years, when I would ask women that question, I would often get a blank stare in return.  Finally, after writing my book, When a Woman Discovers her Dream, I finally know why.

I have found that those who haven’t yet discovered their dream (or never even thought about having a dream) usually have one or more of these things in common:

  • They are the oldest child (or oldest girl) among their siblings and never got a chance to dream because they were too busy caring for their siblings.
  • They weren’t encouraged to dream or achieve when they were a child.
  • They began pursuing their dream at one time, but gave it up (or forgot about it) when they were wounded through a negative comment or circumstance connected with that dream.

Might any of those situations describe you? If so, it isn’t too late to discover — and live out — the dream God has whispered on your heart.

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Some children come out of the womb, it seems, with big plans of what they want to accomplish with their lives. For most, however, it can be a mystery — a secret worth pulling out of them.

momgirlThat’s where you and I, as parents come in. You may have one child who’s a dreamer — — she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Yet, the other may take a while to develop creative abilities or academic interests. But by watching, and praying for wisdom to help cultivate that dream God has placed on their hearts, we can be there to be the wind beneath their wings when it’s time for them to fly.

In my newest book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I outline six steps to encourage your daughter to discover and pursue her dream (and I believe these steps can apply to our sons, as well):

1. Let Her Explore

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Are you struggling to know if an open door is from God?

Just because an opportunity presents itself, doesn’t necessarily mean it is heaven sent. woman standing in open door

In last week’s blog, I talked about the faith and courage to walk through the door that God is holding open for you. But one of my readers asked how you can tell if God is the one opening the door. It’s a great question and one worth considering.

Sharing from my experience, and principles from God’s Word, here are three ways to tell if that  open door really is from God:

1. The Door that God Opens will Never Contradict His Word.read more

Do you ever wonder about your purpose, especially when life is not going according to plan?Purpose Sign

Jeannette emailed me recently and said:  I would like to know what is the purpose of my life when I’m disabled, single, can’t work, can’t drive and am 50 years old.

Our purpose in life can be a mystery if we are equating it with happiness or fulfillment, or thinking of it in terms of work, productivity, or a career.

Our purpose does not always equal “the life we’ve always wanted.” Nor does it automatically mean “happiness” or even “fulfillment.” However, there IS a sense of joy and fulfillment that comes from knowing we are living out God’s intended purpose for us.

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Time FliesA married mom of two daughters, ages 2 and 6 months, asked me for advice on those days when she has a hard time just getting up and getting going.

I remember those days, feeling life was taking a lot out of me. Feeling my child was needing so much from me. And, at times, feeling I had so little left to give.  I survived those days by taking some advice from  Moses in Psalm 90:12. It was a simple prayer of his that refocused me on what was most important and warned me not to wish away that season of life too quickly:   read more

WomanjugglingCall it my “dysfunction” but I used to try to please everyone around me. Life is less stressful, I thought, if everyone around me is happy. Yet, trying to please everyone is one of the key ingredients to feeling over-scheduled, stressed, or burnt out.

There is only one of you. And there are millions of needs, causes and jobs out there calling for your attention.  There are demands on your schedule every time you turn around. Therefore you must know Whom you are trying to please so you end up doing only those things He calls you to do.

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woman-rejoicingIf God called us to live safe, manageable lives, and to do only what we could in our own power, then we wouldn’t really need Him.

He often calls us to do something extraordinary that we couldn’t do without Him. Yet, sometimes we settle…for just what we think we can do. And our dreams stay small. Years ago my prayer became “Don’t let me limit myself to just what I think I can do. Expand my vision to include all that I know You can do.”

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If you struggle with wondering what your purpose or calling is, think about ways you can put God on display.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

That verse tells me that not only did God ordain long ago the good works you would live out, but He sees you as His masterpiece — His work of art — His unique expression of who He is. That means God wants to put us on display to the world so all can see what great things He can do through you and me.

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