Be Mean

be mean

 

….about the vision, that is. 

Wondering what I’m talking about today?

Vision. Tenacity. Determination. The ability to finish the race God called us to.

Whether you are a pastor, a leader, a parent, or an employer, you started with a vision.  We all did.

  • Pastors want to shepherd and disciple a group of people.
  • Parents want to raise God-loving, integrity-filled children.
  • CEO’s want to run purpose-filled, profitable organizations.
  • People want to accomplish their goals.

All of us have a vision of what we want to do and who we’d like to become, yet few of us stick to it over time. Even after short-term success, visions tend to blur, drift, and fade.

  • Pastors get sidetracked with people’s agendas and well-meaning ideas.
  • Parents get lost in demanding daily routines.
  • Organizations drown in red tape.
  • Our goals are forgotten as we address day-to-day minutia. 

Can you relate? I sure can. After 21 years in ministry, I can testify to countless times my vision for a particular ministry or group was threatened to drift away from what God originally tasked me to accomplish. Even as a parent I can feel the pull to get off course and pay more attention to a busy schedule than to the spiritual growth of my kids.

The bottom line is vision fades. We forget why we do what we do. We mean to do something specific, but we drift off course. 

That’s why I think we should be mean! We should mean to do what we do! All of us – in every role we have – should be mean about the vision God has given us. We should be intentional in our leadership! That kind of intentionality requires consistency, commitment, and yes, courage. Trust me, you need a lot of that last one. Being mean about your vision…sticking to it….saying no to some good things in order to say yes to the best things….not pleasing everyone all the time….making some tough calls….well, that’s rubber meets the road kind of stuff. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But, here’s the payoff: life, passion, growth, success! When we resolutely stick to the vision God has given for our lives, our ministries, and our families, we flourish! And so do the people around us. Accomplishing what we set out to do brings satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentedness. That’s much better than drowning in daily minutia, don’t you agree?

My husband’s next book, Be Mean About The Vision, will help you protect and preserve what really matters. It launches April 19th, but you can pre-order it now. If you’ve ever drifted off-course or if you’d like to prevent it from happening, get this book today.

Don’t wander in random directions. Be mean about your vision. About the vision God has for your ministry and family. About the vision God has for your life. Be intentional. Be resolute.

Be mean about the vision!

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My Life Preservers

th“When we arrived in Macedonia there was no rest for us. Outside there was conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.” 2 Corinthians 7: 5-6 NLT

Have you ever felt like Paul? “Outside there was conflict and inside there was fear”? There are times in life (sometimes those times feel more like seasons) when we face uncertain circumstances or unwelcome conflicts from the outside world which make us fearful of what our future holds. Pay attention, however, to what calmed Paul’s spirit: the arrival of a friend. If you read 2 Corinthians 7, you’ll discover that Titus arrived with a good report on the spiritual well-being of some mutual friends. Although his circumstances had not changed, the encouragement of a trusted friend brought Paul confidence and joy.

Friends, we cannot always change our circumstances. Life will throw us curveballs, and we must deal with them. Yet, if we’ve invested into Godly friendships, the people with whom we surround ourselves can help buoy us! They can help us keep our heads above water.

Are you investing into friendships with other believers? You need it! So do I. God often uses other Christians to motivate us, encourage us, and love us. And, yes, he also uses them to steer us back to the right path when we’ve been knuckleheads.

The next time you deal with conflict on the outside and fear on the inside, confide in a trusted Godly friend. Don’t tread those waters alone. Let your spirit be buoyed by the arrival of a friend!

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Don’t Be A Quitter

Did you know that 2 Corinthians is actually Paul’s 4th letter to that church? Since I’ve been obsessed with Sherlock on PBS, I guess I’ve put on my own detective hat and discovered a bit of Bible trivia. 

Paul spent 18 months ministering in the city of Corinth, a very cosmopolitan city. Both Jews and Greeks lived there influencing one another with their ideas of culture and religion. After Paul left, he learned the Corinthians were struggling with immoral behavior, so he wrote a letter to the church which has since been lost. That was letter #1. The Corinthians wrote a letter in return asking for clarifications on conduct and church rules. Paul responded by writing a letter we know as 1 Corinthians. His next letter (#3) to them was also lost, but his 4th letter is our book of 2 Corinthians. 

In each letter Paul not only encouraged the Christians in Corinth, but he confronted their sin. Time and again, Paul must have been disappointed in their drama and struggles. He taught them, invested into them, and spurred them on….only to travel to another city and learn that the Corinthians were listening to false teachers and struggling with immoral behavior. What’s more is that a few of the Corinthians began to doubt Paul’s authority! I can imagine Paul’s exasperation over their lack of maturity.

If you are a parent, I bet you can relate to Paul. We train our kids to act a certain way, and then we are shocked to see some of their decisions, like running crazily through a friend’s house or making a poor choice at a party. In those moments, we might feel disappointed or even angry. I’m sure Paul felt the same way on some level.

Here’s the kicker: Paul didn’t give up on the Corinthians. He didn’t wash his hands of them when situations grew tiresome. He didn’t stop loving or encouraging or fighting for them. He could have gotten defensive when the Corinthians doubted his authority. He could have become offended when they forgot all that Paul had already done for them. He could have grown tired of their immaturity and chosen to put his attention elsewhere.

He didn’t.

He didn’t give up, give in, walk away, get defensive, or become offended. He kept doing what God told him to do! Even when difficulties – physical AND emotional – made life tough, Paul kept fulfilling the mission God gave him.

Friends, that’s the key to resiliency: KNOW YOUR MISSION. When you know your mission….your purpose….you won’t give up in the hard times! Our ability to recover quickly from difficulties is found in the understanding of our purpose.

What has God asked you to do? Whatever it is, keep doing it. When – not if – life gets tough, when emotions get bruised, remember your calling. Paul did, and God used him to change lives. What could God do through you today?

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The Pep Talk You Need To Hear Today

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of our constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 NLT

Paul could have been a great coach, I think. These verses sound like a locker room pep talk before a championship game. His words conjure images in my mind of athletes who push themselves to their limits….who sacrifice long hours of training….who suffer injuries, but play through…..oh, to be that kind of Christian! Oh, to be that kind of leader!

Think about your life for a moment. In what areas do you push yourself? My mind wanders to my friend, Jill, and her dedication to physical fitness. In our workouts together, I am always impressed with her ability to perform every move with power. She squats lower, lifts more, and performs more repetitions than I ever can. Well, I take that back. I could do them, but I choose not to. When Jill pushes herself, I often take shortcuts. I often fail to really push myself.

Paul described something of vastly more importance than our exercise routines. He shared that he had been pressed, knocked down, perplexed, hunted down, and that he suffered, but he wasn’t crushed, didn’t quit, didn’t feel abandoned, and he kept going. He pushed himself to be the man God asked him to be.

Sounds like Paul had incredible stamina and endurance. Sounds like Paul had a clear understanding of his purpose and mission. Sounds like Paul knew his goal. Sounds like Paul kept his eyes on the prize.

How can we do that? As Christians or leaders, you and I aren’t often met with physical resistance like Paul. Yet, we encounter situations that make us want to crawl into the fetal position and hide awhile, don’t we? How can we prevent those “pressing” and “perplexing” circumstances from driving us to quit?

My answer is going to sound cliché. You might be craving a 3-step process to overcoming adversity in life or ministry, but I’m not offering one. The key to being a resilient person who doesn’t quit is this:

Stay close to our Father. Take every need to Him. Talk to Him often. Know Him and His ways through Scripture. Discipline your mind to be God-centered. Rely on His strength. And begin to view life as something you tackle….not something that tackles you!

Why should we do these things? Paul answered:

“For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 NLT

What could that “immeasurably great glory” be? What “joys” could last forever?

  • The pleasure we’ve brought to God because we’ve obeyed him. 
  • The refinement of our character.
  • The example we’ve lived before others.
  • The people we’ve influenced for God.
  • The mission we’ve accomplished with our lives.
  • The consequences we’ve avoided (and helped others to avoid) because we’ve chosen God over our own desires.
  • The celebrations in Heaven when we’ve chosen to deny ourselves and follow God.

My mind can’t even begin to comprehend the rewards that will be ours in Heaven if we’ve been good stewards of our time, gifts, and ministries here on earth!

Today, friends, push yourselves. Be Paul’s kind of Christian today. In the face of confusion, don’t give up. In the face of trouble, be unbroken. If you get knocked down, get back up again. Not with your strength, but with God’s, for He never abandons you when you are living for Him!

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Free Webinar: How To Build A Healthy Staff Culture

I’ve been married to a pastor for 22 years which means I’ve been a sounding board for all kinds of staffing issues from hiring/firing to getting the most from each team member. Oh sure, we plot and plan together for ministry strategy, events, and the spiritual growth of a church, but accomplishing our plans would be nearly impossible without the help of a talented, healthy ministry team.

If you are a pastor’s wife, you’re a sounding board, too. You’ve probably counseled your hubby through staffing conflicts, frustrations, and challenges. Sometimes you’ve sided with him. Sometimes you’ve played devil’s advocate to help him see another point of view. Those conversations are valuable to our husbands…and to our churches.

Let me share with you a few more valuable conversations that every pastor ought to hear.

My husband, leader of Courage To Lead, a coaching resource for pastors, asked some GREAT leaders this question:

How do you build a Healthy Staff Culture? 

Shawn had insightful conversations with these men, and the info they shared was incredible.

Sam Chand has been coaching pastors for years, and he’s full of wisdom. Sam has mentored Craig Groeschel, Chris Hodges, Brian Houston, and many others. He is the author of Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code.

Larry Osborne pastors North Coast Church in California, speaks at conferences, and coaches senior leaders across the country. He is the author of Sticky Church and Sticky Teams.

William Vanderbloemem runs the premier church staffing company that was just named one of the best places to work in America.

Chris Brown works with Dave Ramsey Solutions and is the host of the True Stewardship Leader Podcast.

Layne Schranz is part of the Lead Team at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Al. He is responsible for leading and guiding their 14 campus pastors, and he knows how to build and maintain a healthy staff culture.

These men have insanely practical things to share. If you or your husband are involved in ministry leadership, you absolutely don’t want to miss this. 

Here are the quick details:

Webinar:  Building a Healthy Staff Culture

Date: Wed, Feb. 17

Time: 12 pm CST (1pm EST10am PST).

Time Conflict? Don’t worry! We’re sending out the on-demand replay link to everyone who signs up for this free training.

Click here to reserve your spot! 

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Follow Me

follow meA few friends and I are reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament of the Bible. We read a chapter each day and then share our thoughts in a group email since we all live in different states. In the quiet moments of my mornings, I read, journal, and share with my friends.

The other day, one particular verse grabbed our attention.

“And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.” (I Cor 11:1 NLT)

Wow. Sometimes I THINK this thought to myself, but I would probably never write it in a letter to a group of people! Paul was BOLD! And, apparently he was confident that his behavior was worthy of following.

I have to say, I find it much easier to model the Christian life when I’m “at work” (away from home, doing ministry, accomplishing a task, etc). When I’m teaching or coaching or engaging other people, I often feel confident to make the same bold claim as Paul. Yet, in my own home with those closest to me, my weaknesses bubble to the top. Maybe Paul could speak so boldly because he had no spouse or children to push his buttons! Maybe he was able to live “on point” because he traveled from place to place and was often alone after the crowds went home.

At least that was his explanation when he wrote in a previous chapter that following Jesus’ example was harder when we have the added demands of family, which he didn’t have.

Nevertheless, having a family has taught me vast amounts about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion – all qualities of our Father in Heaven. When I stumble with my family, I ask forgiveness. When they stumble, I forgive. I am loyal and committed to them. Most importantly, I can see a steady track of spiritual growth since I met Jesus, and I’m using that to help train my family. As long as I’m doing those things, I can not only tell strangers to follow my example, I can tell my family to, as well!

What about you? Are there areas of your life that you can boldly proclaim “follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s?” Celebrate them! Becoming more and more mature as a Christian is something to which we should all aspire. If you are having trouble pinpointing some successes in this area, don’t fret. Just get started! Pick one area of your life and take a few steps of improvement by following Jesus’ example more closely. Remember, the goal is steady growth, not overnight perfection.

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The Best Gift Our Church Gave Us

This weekend, my husband took me by the hand, led me onto the stage, and we said goodbye to the church we founded 16 years ago. That moment was the culmination of months of planning the best transition possible, pinpointing the right successor, and preparing our church body to accept a new lead pastor. We announced our intentions to launch our new ministry in June, and it seems we’ve been saying goodbye every weekend since. I’ve hugged necks, held hands, wiped tears, and celebrated memories with friends and strangers for the past three months, and it’s been good.

Really good.

Everyone should be so blessed as to have 12 weeks of hugs, 12 weeks of encouraging cards, 12 weeks of people sharing how God used you in their lives, 12 weeks of people expressing their sweet devotion and support. Yes, everyone should be so blessed. I’ll carry the moments of these past 12 weeks with me for the rest of my life.

Looking into the crowd of faces as I held my husband’s hand on stage, I was reminded of a recurring question that people have asked since June: “What are you going to miss most?”

To be very honest, I’m going to miss a lot. I’d be crazy not to! God gave Shawn and me a pretty good gig. But, there’s one thing I’m going to miss the most.

The stories.

I’m going to miss hearing the first-hand accounts of what God is doing in the lives of others. As leaders of the church, we receive countless emails, texts, and personal notes from complete strangers. They tell us of the habit they’ve overcome, the relationship that was rescued, the fear they’ve conquered….all because they’ve found Jesus. They share what they’ve learned about God as they have served in the church. They celebrate the ways they are being discipled. They tell some inspiring, humbling stories of faith and action.

I’ll miss the privilege of hearing those stories. 

But, then again, I don’t have to miss it. You see, my amazing church wrote their stories down. Hundreds upon hundreds of stories. Some wrote a few sentences; others wrote several pages. Then, they delivered them to us at a reception where, of course, more hugs ensued. And tears.

But, the stories. I have them. Tangible. Readable. Touchable. Any time I’d like, I can open the box and be reminded of the power and grace of my God…..and of His choice to use my family in His work. Now that we’ve said goodbye, those stories are my most precious gift. You see, God blessed us at Mountain Lake Church unlike any church I’ve ever served. He did so much during our tenure…..and in the midst of ministry busyness it was always far too easy to focus on the next need rather than relish the current victory.

I’m so grateful to my church family for taking time to share their stories and for the generous housewarming reception they gave us.

Mountain Lake Church, we love you. We are humbled by your spiritual maturity. We are proud of your devotion to God and His mission. Keep your eyes on Him and Him alone. Do not waver. Stay true to what He called us to do:

Be a place for people to Belong in a healthy relationship with God and others,

Become more like Jesus each day,

and Bless our world.

Shawn and I will be cheering you on, praying continually, and listening for your stories. I’m praying thousands more stories will be told….

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The Final Countdown

its-the-final-countdownMay 1, 1999 was a monumental day in my life. It was the day my husband and I moved to Cumming, Ga to start Mountain Lake Church. We had no idea what awaited us, but we rolled our sleeves up and got busy.

We knocked on doors to invite people to a tiny church in a primary school that smelled like pizza and corn.

We joined civic groups and mom’s clubs to meet others.

We wrote curriculum for our children’s ministry.

We developed security procedures for childcare.

We created a guest services team.

We decorated environments.

We wrote sermons.

We shared our vision with everyone we met.

We posted signs all over our community, mailed flyers, and rented a billboard.

We crafted budgets, devised a financial plan, hired team members.

And then….

We watched God work….time after time after time.

We baptized people. Over 2000 of them.

We witnessed people meet Jesus.

Marriages were rescued. Relationships were healed. Sin was overcome. Purpose was discovered.

We were blessed the most incredible team of talented, God-honoring pastors and staff that I’ve ever known.

We were blessed by hundreds of Christians who linked arms with us to accomplish the mission….to help people Belong in healthy relationships with God and others, to Become more like Jesus each day, and to Bless our world.

We were blessed with random notes of encouragement, offers to stay in vacation homes, prayers of spiritual warriors, unwavering support and loyalty, and the trust of thousands of people.

And, we were blessed with the opportunity to expand our ministry to thousands of pastors and ministry teams as we began mentoring others along the way.

I’d be lying if I said it was all unicorns and rainbows. It wasn’t. There were nights both my husband and I cried ourselves to sleep as we suffered a loss, experienced a defeat, felt the sting of betrayal, or bore the burden of the decisions before us. There were days I thought I had no more energy to put the next foot forward. There were moments I wondered how a need would be met. Yet, God allowed us to experience every thrill and each defeat, and we were drawn closer to Him as a result. I know God deeper and more intimately because of our time at Mountain Lake.

Now, the final countdown begins. We have 2 weeks left to pastor MLC before we launch Courage To Lead in an effort to mentor other pastors and ministry leaders. This weekend, MLC is blessing us with a housewarming reception to help us set up a new house. I absolutely cannot wait to hug necks, reminisce with friends, and celebrate all God has done over the last 16 years. Then, the next weekend we introduce the next lead pastor and his family to everyone as we pass the baton of leadership from the Lovejoy’s to…..well, you’ll have to be there to find out! Trust me, you’ll love them.

The final countdown is here. Two weeks to go before my next adventure begins. I’m relishing every bittersweet second. If you have a MLC story, a God-moment, or a memory that stands out, I’d love to hear it! Feel free to email me, leave a comment, or find me at the reception this weekend. I’ll be the one with tears in my eyes and a smile on my lips. Sending BIG love to you, Mountain Lake!

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10 Tips For My Church Family

Still relishing the warmth of my blankets, I am snuggled among my down pillows willing the sun not to rise. I need time to slow down. I need a chance to catch my breath. My life is moving more quickly than I can keep up, it seems.

Although my husband and I felt God calling us to begin a new ministry, Courage To Lead, long ago, the details of our transition have piled up all at once, and my mind is spinning with all that I want to say and do here at Mountain Lake Church in my final days.

Passing the baton of leadership for the church we planted isn’t easy for us or for our church family. A myriad of administrative details must be addressed, and choosing our successor feels like choosing a new parent to raise our child. Our top priority in this time, however, has been the spiritual health and outlook of our church body and our ministry team. Transitioning from one lead pastor to another has its challenges, and churches sometimes suffer through the process.

With that in mind, Shawn and I want the people of Mountain Lake Church to be prepared! So, allow me to encourage and challenge you with the same tips I gave my own team of pastor’s wives. Check them out!

5 Ways To Manage Your Emotions Through A Transition:

  1. Stay calm. God is not wringing His Hands as He wonders what will become of His church. He has a plan; He has all along. Don’t allow your mind to panic as you fear what the future could hold. Remain calm. There is no better place to be than in the Hand of God.
  2. Stay confident. How many times has God proven Himself in Scripture? In your life? In the lives of those around you? Has God – even one time – ever let you down? Ever lured you out to the middle of the ocean only to let you drown? NO! So, stay confident. This church and our ministries belong to Him, and He is in control.
  3. Talk to your spouse. Share your feelings and worries. God will use those conversations to embolden both of you.
  4. Serve. Now is not the time to shrink back from serving God! If you want to hear from Him, move closer to Him. Join Him in His activity!
  5. Pray. Talking to God (and listening!) strengthens us. God encouraged me with this verse: Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.”” Daniel 10:19 NLT

 

5 Ways to Pastor The Church Family Through A Transition (if you serve in any area of volunteerism, YOU are a leader! These tips are for YOU!):

  1. Be present. Stand in the lobby for 15 minutes after attending a weekend service in order to mix and mingle. Being available for questions, hugs, prayer, and warm conversations allows people to feel secure during the transition. 
  2. Serve. Continue leading by example in worship and in ministry areas. Model the way for people and recruit them to serve, as well. Be diligent in helping others use their gifts to build a strong church!
  3. Smile. Be mindful of our facial expressions and allow our personalities to show on our faces! Remember, we are helping to foster a safe place for people to connect with God and others. Be a stellar host!
  4. Encourage. Catch people doing what is right and celebrate it! Write notes, fist bump someone, compliment a volunteer in front of others, thank people for serving, celebrate a life that God has changed. Never squander the opportunity we have to encourage others to keep fighting the good fight of our faith. Be a proactive encourager!
  5. Leverage social media. Post a Scripture, a reminder for an upcoming church event, a picture of people enjoying fellowship, or a snapshot of worship. Use social media to motivate excitement for God and for the church. People ALWAYS need to be reminded that God and His church are good!

Of course, we have prepared our Team with far more instructions, but I wanted to share these with my entire church family, especially our leaders in volunteerism! Serving at Mountain Lake Church has been the highlight of my ministry journey. God has breathed on this place, and I have been privileged to see so much of His activity. I stand amazed. Our next lead pastor is getting quite a gift from God to be called here. I know our church will honor him well!

I’m praying for you, Mountain Lake Church! I love you!

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Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

walkingI love my community. I love eating at my favorite restaurants. I love shopping at my favorite stores. I love knowing the shortcuts to avoid traffic in town. I love that the bank tellers know me by name. And I love the countless friends that I have all throughout Forsyth County, Georgia.

I love this community because it is home. As I drove through town a few weeks ago, I wandered down memory lane. As my mind skipped through memories of my kids on football fields or receiving awards at school, I passed my favorite tree whose leaves turn a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall. Ahhh, there is so much I love about our community.

Then a question struck my mind: what makes a community home?

It is a sense of belonging. A sense of familiarity. The notion that one has roots that have grown down deep and strong and secure. Home is where the heart is, and the heart is full of memories. So in some sense this community will always be home to me and to my family because we have so many memories of this place.

Yet, God has called my family to something new. A new ministry. A new home.

So when I was driving down the city streets of my new community in Alabama, and I wasn’t shocked when I felt a sense of detachment. I didn’t belong. As I drove through town, I was acutely aware that those weren’t my shops, my restaurants, or even my people! I was so overcome with emotion that tears filled my eyes. It was a brief moment, but I had the distinct impression that I was not home. If you’ve ever moved, I bet you can relate. It was a vastly different experience from the warm fuzzies I felt as I had driven through Forsyth county just days earlier.

But God has a way of weaving my experiences together to teach me things, and today God spoke straight to my heart. He showed me that the only difference between my two road trips was my sense of belonging. Both communities are fantastic; I’m simply more acquainted with one than the other. In my quiet moments with God today, I felt Him challenge me to find ways to connect in my new community…to become familiar with my new surroundings…to initiate new friendships…to tackle this new adventure.

You see, my sense of belonging depends on me. It depends on my willingness to engage!

People – certainly people in ministry – move all the time. Yet, I’ve spoken with far too many who have stumbled through that process because they feel too detached from their new city and miss the sense of belonging. God reminded me today that my new home will be what I make it.

Maybe God is nudging you to do something new. Maybe you have hesitations. Can I encourage you? LEAP! Give it all you’ve got! Whatever God is inviting you to do, don’t walk; run! Don’t allow emotions or hesitations or fears to prevent you from living the adventure God has designed for you. God will direct your steps, but you must put one foot in front of the other.

So I’m leaping, too. I’m embracing a new community, new friends, and a new home. I’m exploring a new city, making new memories, and starting a new ministry. And God is filling my heart with gladness and purpose and confidence.

 What about you? Will you leap today? God will direct your steps. Will you start walking?

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