Dawn Kaiser

Dawn is part of the Revive Ministries writing team and is known as the Global Joy Refueler and the author of “Joy Notes: 90 Days of Delight.” She specializes in helping weary, hopeless, and stuck entrepreneurs and other professionals to go beyond burnout and experience greater joy and success in their businesses and their lives. The Joy-Fueled Experience™ is based on Dawn’s 20 years of coaching, training, and research. Dawn has her Masters of Education, PHR, SHRM-CP, and a whole host of other alphabet letters, all of which boil down to she has experience in business, Human Resources, leadership, and life. She has a passion for empowering others to step out of their comfort zone and into their courage zone where joy abounds and dreams are possible. You can find her at http://www.dawnkaiser.com and on Facebook and Instagram @joyrefueler

  • You Were Made For Community

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42, NIV

    I grew up in what I refer to as a “Cheers” town, not because everyone was always cheerful, but because everyone knew my name, just like the theme song from the TV show. The town I grew up in was not only small (population 750), it was also the town where my parents grew up. So for me, community wasn’t just about having one or two people in your life, it was about having a whole town of people in your life.

    As a teenager, I didn’t really like this because it just felt like my parents had extra “spies” to keep me from having too much fun. But as an adult I now see how blessed I was. My family had people who we could lean on, like my mom’s best friend who let my mom drop my sister and me off at 6:00 am so that she could get to her job. Or our next-door neighbor, who would come blow snow for us when the snow was piled high on the driveway, asking for nothing in return. Or a whole town of people who surrounded my family with love and support as my dad battled cancer. Friends, family and even some strangers during that time would cook us meals, clean our house and eventually help us celebrate his life.

    Looking back, yes it was a “Cheers” type community, but more than that it was an Acts 2:42 community. Often when we read this scripture, we think of fellowship to mean chatting with someone over coffee on Sunday morning or attending a small group bible study together or hanging out on the weekend to shop deals and share cheesecake. While these are all great ways to be together with your tribe, the type of fellowship that is described in Acts 2:42 is not about social activities, but rather about sharing a spiritual life together– encouraging for one another, helping each other through trials, praying for one another, and reflecting God’s love to one another.

    We were designed for community. In his book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, Paul Tripp writes that “we weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects.”

    So much of Scripture clearly reflects that we are created for community. We see Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, or Moses, Aaron and Miriam and even Jesus himself lived life by taking along 12 friends. Jesus was completely capable of teaching, healing and traveling by himself and yet he chose to be in a community.

    In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it is written, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

    Being in a community helps us in so many ways. We have friends to encourage us when we are feeling low or doubting ourselves, someone to provide emotional support as we wrestle with a problem, people to help us stay committed to our faith, our goals and our purpose, and a place where we can be ourselves and give of ourselves. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’” Being in community reminds us that we are not alone as we experience different seasons and struggles in life.

    Yet knowing that we are designed for community and that we need community, why are so many of us doing life on our own? What keeps us from engaging in real community? Here are six things that might be stopping you from building community. As you read each one, ask yourself, “Is this what’s keeping me from living in community?”

    Trust: You have been hurt in the past by a friend and so you are skeptical of trusting anyone new. You don’t open up easily anymore and you are really cautious about letting anyone into your life.

    Time: You feel like you don’t have time for community because you work long hours, you devote all your time to your family or you just have no space on your calendar for one more activity.

    Insecurity: You doubt whether anyone will like you or if you are good enough to be a part of the group.

    Introversion: You are more comfortable being by yourself than being around others because hanging out with people for long periods of time drains you. You also are looking for others to take the first step in creating community.

    Rejection: You are afraid that if you put yourself out there, others may judge you negatively or you worry that you will not be accepted as you are.

    Rational: You rationalize to yourself that you just moved, you have health issues or have another challenge that prevents you from building a community.

    I no longer live in my small town “Cheers” community. The past three and half years God has been calling me to new places. Along the way I have been discovering how to build community even in the midst of a pandemic and job changes. I could certainly use my relocation as an excuse for not having community in my life, but what I have learned is that I crave community. We live in a world of instant access, instant meals, but friendships and community are not instant. They take intentionality, time and a whole lot of grace.

    People are not perfect and there will be hurts along the way. Even if you are in an Acts 2:42 type community there will be struggles, challenges and wrongs, but through it all we can lean on God and each other. Being involved in a community has way more benefits than hindrances. If you aren’t connected with a community right now or find that you need to get back into one, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer, reflecting on what is stopping you from living in community.

    As people of God, we have a choice, we can either fall and remain there without anyone to help us up, or we can fall and be surrounded by a community who will help us back up. I pray that you will choose to live in community, letting go of what hinders you, so you can walk alongside, encourage and spur others on in faith. For you were made for community, not isolation.

    Heavenly Father, we thank you for your caring provisions and for creating us for community. You know what has been stopping us from engaging in real community and we ask that you remove any hindrances. Bring into our lives people who we can fellowship with, break bread with, and pray for one another. The truth is we need each other and we need you. Amen. 

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  • Even Though, Hope

    Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

    Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT

    This past month, I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend who’s been going through a challenging season. She told me that for the past few years it has been one thing after another. Her difficulties ranged from the things like COVID, unrest in the world, returning to the workplace, a serious medical condition for a family member, and inconveniences like her washing machine breaking down, finding new daily rhythms in life as her kids still do a mix of in-person and online schooling and feeling a lack of energy. She told me every time she thinks life is going to get back to “normal” something else happens.

    Have you ever experienced a season like that? I have and so did the prophet Habakkuk. In chapter 3, we read that Habakkuk is watching as the country he lives in keeps experiencing one setback after another. First, the fig trees didn’t blossom, which meant no figs to enjoy. Maybe not a huge problem, if you are like some folks who don’t like figs to begin with. Then they lost the grapes, which meant no wine to be had. Again, if you are not a wine drinker, you can live with this loss. However, losing the olive crop started impacting everyone because that meant no oil for cooking or lighting lamps. Then the grain fields didn’t produce, which impacts the food supply chain and the last blow is they lost their livestock. Things looked bleak. Yet, Habakkuk doesn’t end his writings with despair, but rather with delight.

    What caused him to have remarkable hope even though the world seemed to be falling apart? Habakkuk knew that his hope was not rooted in his circumstances, but rather in his Creator. Even though the crops and everything else may fail, Habakkuk knew that God never fails. Habakkuk drew joy and strength from his hope in the God of His salvation.

    Habakkuk’s hope was not built on wishful thinking or just positive affirmations, but on God’s character, acts and promises. So, what can you do if you are in a season in your life when things seem to be falling apart all around you and things on the horizon don’t look any better?

    1. Refocus on the Bigness of God: On my water bottle is a sticker that reminds me to “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2, NLT). I use it as a daily reminder that all of my “even thoughs” are just temporary and that even though they may seem impossible for me, for God they are not. The truth is, the challenges that we are dealing with might linger on longer than we desire, but God cares deeply about the hurts, the frustrations, and the annoyances we feel. However, we must intentionally choose to refocus on the bigness of God not the bigness of our problems or emotions. How do we refocus? By remembering who God is and the promises He gives like: that He is loving, that He cares about the details of our lives, that He promises to rescue us, that He is ever-present. As we hold onto and declare these truths, we can then refocus on the bigness of God who promises to always be with us no matter what season we are going through.
    2. Yield to Yet: In verse 18 Habakkuk utters three little letters, but together they produce a powerful word–”YET”. He says that even though all these challenges were happening “YET, I will rejoice in the Lord.” He creates a new perspective. So, the next time your day is falling apart, try this practice. Grab a scrap of paper and write out: Even though ___ and _____; even though ___ and _____; YET I will rejoice in the Lord! It might sound something like this: “Even though I am losing my job and income; even though my hot water heater needs to be fixed and I cannot get a repair man here until Friday; even though my kids are fighting and not getting along; YET I will rejoice in the Lord!” This can be your way of declaring your trust in the Lord and His faithfulness, even when you are feeling afraid and out of control.
    3. Grab on to Gratitude: I was listening to Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast recently and her guest talked about how she had been practicing gratitude for many years and because of this habit she was able to find something to be grateful for even as her family dealt with the tragedies from hurricane Harvey. She said that even though her house was filling with water, there were kind friends who opened up their house and gave them shelter from the storm. Gratitude allows us to turn our focus away from our problems and turn our attention to the ways that God is providing for us in the midst of the storm. Gratitude enabled Habakkuk to rejoice in a bad-to-worse situation. I know it has definitely helped me through some tough seasons. And it can help you with any challenging situation you are facing, too.

    There have been a lot of “even thoughs” these past two years globally and personally, but we don’t have to lose hope. Even though there is war, even though there are gas shortages, even though we may be experiencing loss or failure, YET we can return to joy in God and be lifted to new heights.

    Heavenly Father, please help us to remember that nothing is too big for you to handle. Help us to be grateful instead of grumbling when hard things come our way. Remind us of your greatness so we are not overwhelmed by the size of our problems. Thank you that you are with us always and that our strength lies not in ourselves but in you. Like Habakkuk, we choose to root our joy in you and rejoice in the God of our salvation! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    Dawn Kaiser

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  • Sweet Friendships

    “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” – Proverbs 27:9 ESV

    Isn’t that a beautiful idea, that our friendships can be sweet! That our hearts and lives can be filled with joy when a beloved friend provides wise words or encouragement as we celebrate the highs and share the lows with each other.

    I have experienced such sweet friendship that refreshes me in my darkest days and lowest moments. Not long ago I got to spend an afternoon with a friend that absolutely nourished my soul. We sat outside surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and throughout our time together we encouraged each other, we reminded each other how God had moved mountains in the past for us and we affirmed each other through silent listening and words of wisdom. We laughed with each other, cried tears together and prayed for one another.

    Saint Brigid of Kildare once said “a person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.” The truth is we are meant to be in community with each other and there is no doubt that friendships are the foundation on which we build our lives. During these past two years as we have had to socially distance ourselves from each other due to the pandemic, I think it is more important than ever that we take time to cultivate sweet friendships that can refresh our weary souls and that can provide sound guidance as we walk through this journey.

    Let’s take a look at God’s intention for what sweet friendship should be:

    A sweet friend is authentic. In a sweet friendship you can completely be yourself. There is no need to compare or compete with each other, it’s all about showing up as your authentic self. When you are with each other you don’t have to impress one another, rather you can bring the messiness of life and can be vulnerable with one another.

    A sweet friend is a safe space. A sweet friend doesn’t always tell you what you want to hear, instead they will also speak truth into your life even when the truth may be tough to hear. However, they do so in a loving manner that makes you feel safe rather than harmed.

    A sweet friend is loyal. They will walk with you through the trials of life and will be there for you. You are not alone when you have a sweet friend in your life no matter if you live next door to each other or thousands of miles apart.

    A sweet friend is an encourager. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 it says “therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV) Sweet friends encourage one another when they have good news, scary news or hard news. They share a positive attitude with you and help build you up even in the tough times and fill you with hope.

    A sweet friend is an enjoyer. Sweet friends love to wonder with you, celebrate with you and enjoy moments in life with you. It is true that things are best enjoyed in community and of all the things we enjoy, God is the greatest. Sweet friends help us enjoy God as we talk about how He is showing up and out in our lives or how He is speaking to our hearts.

    Now maybe after reading about sweet friendships you find yourself desiring that type of connection, but you just don’t know where to find one. Don’t be dismayed, a sweet friend is closer than you think.

    “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

    John 15:15 ESV

    Let God be your sweet friend in life. He is right here waiting for you to invite Him into your life and provide you with wise counsel.

    You also can make sure that you are a sweet friend to yourself. How do you talk to or treat yourself? Be your own champion and encourager. Finally, be a sweet friend for someone else. What would this world be like if every morning every single person woke up thinking about how they can be a sweet friend to the people they meet? Pretty awesome, right?!
    This week, take some time to reflect on how you can be the type of friend that you want to find in your life.

    You don’t need lots of friends in this life, but you do need a few sweet ones. A sweet friendship is a true gift from God and He uses it to refresh our souls and guide us. I pray that you have these very friendships in your life and that you are a sweet friend yourself to the people you meet.

    Lord, help us to be friends that refresh each other and provide words of wisdom. Teach us to be vulnerable to those closest to us, especially to the Ultimate Sweet Friend, our Lord and Savior, so that we can experience the community you created us for. Amen. 

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  • Trust God In The Messes

    Let’s face it: Life can get messy. And we all respond differently when problems arise in life or when we are in the middle of a mess. Maybe you create a to-do list of things you can work on to try and fix the situation on your own. Maybe you reach out to your best friend and tell her the sob story all the while hoping that she has the solution. Sometimes you might be tempted to act like nothing’s wrong and avoid addressing the mess, hoping that it will magically disappear or resolve itself on its own. Other times you may turn to God and trust Him to handle your problem.

    There will be ups and downs along the way. Life can be going smoothly for a season and then suddenly life throws you a curveball. Isn’t that what happened to the whole entire world last year with the pandemic? Most people were going about life as usual and then the world shut down. The things we all felt secure in, all of a sudden felt shaky and uncertain. I know for me, in the first few weeks of the pandemic, I played the wait and see game and just told myself that this will be over shortly. As the year went on and things didn’t go back to “normal,” I started talking with friends about how they were dealing with being in the middle of the mess. We asked ourselves questions like “how can we trust God in this circumstance even when we cannot see a resolution?” or “how can we trust Him when we do not understand what is happening?”

    As I had more and more of those conversations, I began to realize that trusting God is more than a feeling; it’s a choice to have faith in what He says even when the circumstances around me would have me believing something different. Trusting God is not about ignoring the reality of the problem or my feelings about the mess. God doesn’t ask us to pretend everything is okay when it isn’t.

    Instead, God tells us that in the midst of our problems we are to:

    Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes”

    Psalm 37:3-7 NLT

    What I love about this piece of Scripture is that God clearly outlines our respective responsibilities when we face problems. Our responsibility when we face problems is to trust God by:

    1. Doing good;
    2. Delighting in His wonder;
    3. Committing our work to Him; and
    4. Waiting patiently and without worry.

    I don’t know about you, but that last part usually trips me up. I am always willing to ask myself how I can make someone’s day even when my day (or week for that matter) might not be going well. I can discover delight simply by looking out at the night sky, or at a flower growing in the garden, or another person’s smile and just wonder at all that God created. I can commit to doing my best and getting things done even during the hard times in my life, but waiting patiently and without worry, now that’s another story.

    Even though I have heard it thousands of times, “we are human beings, not human doings,” I still wrestle with the “be” part. How about you? Which of these responsibilities do you struggle with when you are in the middle of a messy situation?

    What I am learning is that God has commanded us to do these things not perfectly, but rather in partnership with Him. And that is what trust is all about. It’s about walking in partnership with Him, knowing that I don’t have to do it all on my own. Then I don’t have to worry, knowing that He is with me each step of the way.

    Psalm 37:3-7, tells us that when we trust the Lord by doing good, delighting in Him, committing our work to Him and waiting patiently and without worry, He promises to act on our behalf. When we do that, God promises to keep us safe, to prosper us, to give us our heart’s desires, to see that justice is done and that we will shine.

    So no matter the problem you are facing today, I pray that you hold tight to this Scripture and remember God isn’t just interested in some parts of your life, but rather every part of your life—the good, the problematic and the messy! He is trustworthy and always keeps His promises. So bring it all to Him and may you be still in His presence and know that you are not alone!

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  • Choose Wisely

    Do you know that look that kids can give you? You know the look a child gives with raised eyebrows and a slight-sort-of-but-not-really smile that asks, “Can I be doing this and if not, can I get away with it anyway?” Or the look that questions, “how far is too far?” As a Children’s Ministry Director for 10+ years and an active Auntie, I have seen “the look.” Children push the boundaries day in and day out, especially as they are trying to declare their independence. However, I have also seen this look in many adults as well who are asking themselves “What can I get away with and still call myself a Christian?”

    On a daily basis, we are faced with thousands of choices and most of the choices we make in life are not really a matter between good and bad, but rather it’s about looking at what’s best for you and/or what will be most beneficial to others.

    You say, ’I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial”.

    1 Corinthians 10:23

    God doesn’t give us a nice little list of rules to tell us what all the answers to every situation should be and where all the boundaries are, rather He wants us to look at how our decisions and our habits are helping us to grow in our walk with Him and helping us become a better person.

    At the beginning of the pandemic, my job shifted like a lot of other people to working from home. The restaurants were closed, so I began the routine of making my own lunches. I would whip something up and sit down at my kitchen island, which has a straight view of the TV in my living room.

    One day, I found myself turning on the TV to watch an episode of a show like Virgin River or Sweet Magnolias on Netflix before I went back to my workday. Well, as most people who have watched shows on Netflix know, once that episode is done it quickly transitions into the next episode. Pretty soon I was watching two episodes. Then I caught myself trying to multitask and do my work with the TV on in the background so I could “watch” some more episodes because I was beginning to be connected to the lives of these characters. Then one day it dawned on me (pun intended): “This does not make me a better person or coworker. It has no redeeming value and it is keeping me from doing things that could add value to my life or other people’s lives.”

    It wasn’t that this behavior was necessarily evil or even bad, but the question is not “is there anything wrong with it?” or “how many episodes are too many?” The question is: “is this helping me or hindering me?” and “will this help me become more like Jesus?” God has given us freedom and free will but it is our choice how we use this gift. We have the freedom to choose how we invest our time, who we hang around, what we eat, what we do, etc., but not everything we may choose is beneficial for us. We can say whatever we want to our frustrating neighbor, but is what we are saying beneficial? Does it lead that person closer or further from God?

    God has the ultimate perspective of where our free will can take us–good or bad. His character is to lead us toward the very best He has for us. Like a father who keeps his toddler from having cake for breakfast or from running out in the road. He loves us and has only our best interest at heart.

    So dear friend, I would challenge you to take some time to spend with God in prayer and ask Him to reveal to you anything you do or habits you have that may not be God’s best for you. As He reveals those things to you, ask Him to show you what you can replace those things with that will help you grow as a Christ follower. As you begin to choose God’s best for you, your actions and habits will impact other people to grow in their relationship with Jesus as well! Let’s be intentional in seeking God’s best life for us and experience the true freedom we have in Christ.

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  • Overcome Your Overwhelm

    Truth time. I have felt overwhelmed lately (and by lately, I mean for over a year now). It’s the kind of overwhelm that makes me want to sprawl out on my living room couch, swaddle myself under my plush blanket and just binge out on the latest Netflix show because I don’t have enough energy to give.

    It’s the kind of overwhelm that brings tears to my eyes when a close friend texts me “how are you doing?” because I feel like such a failure in multiple areas of my life right now. It’s the kind of overwhelm where I simply can’t keep up, so I don’t even start. The kind where I am beating myself up with the “shoulds”- like I should get more done every day, I should eat healthier at each meal, I should have a perfectly picked-up house, I should behave perfectly, I should be better at spending time with God and my family, taking care of myself and following up with friends. Maybe you feel the same? If you do, then welcome to the Overwhelm Club. You my dear are not alone.

    We all feel overwhelmed at times, but when that overwhelm becomes a regular part of our daily life it can begin to steal our joy, destroy our health and kill our dreams. I don’t know about you, but my overwhelmed feelings were not just happening during my busiest weeks and then going away when things calmed down a bit. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed. It had become a way of living for me. Even when I set boundaries, took days of rest, and did everything I knew how to do to de-stress, I still felt incompetent, inadequate and overloaded.

    Then a few weeks ago, I read John 14:27 (NIV) which says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

    As I read that verse, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that I had swapped the word “peace” for “perfection.” Even though I don’t try to chase it because I’ve realized the absurdity of it, striving for perfection is something I continually have to guard my heart against.

    You see I am a good auntie, sister, daughter, and girlfriend, but I’m not a perfect one. I am a good employee, business owner, writer, coach, and leader, but I’m not a perfect one. I am a good breakfast maker (outside of that you don’t really want me to cook you a meal) and a good housekeeper, but I’m not a perfect one. We were given the gift of peace, not perfection. And so once again I am reminding myself and maybe you too, that overwhelm is not a symptom, but rather a signal that we are out of alignment with who God created us to be because we are focused on perfection, not on His peace.

    So what steps can we take to reduce that feeling of being overwhelmed and instead experience peace? The answer doesn’t lie in just slowing down, finding a new job or making some key adjustments in your schedule, while some of those options may be needed, they are not the ultimate solution. The true root of overwhelm exists in our hearts and minds, not our busy lives. Therefore, these five steps I am going to share with you focus on transforming our lives from the inside out in order to overcome our overwhelm.

    Step 1 – Remember
    Remember that God is in control, that He will take care of you and that you need to turn to Him first, not last, when feeling overwhelmed. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 61:2 (NLT) that when we cry for help when our hearts are overwhelmed, God will lead us to the “towering rock of safety”.

    Step 2- Recognize
    What do you tell yourself when you feel overwhelmed? What lies do you tell yourself? “Suck it up.” “Just keep going.” “It could be worse.” “I should be more on top of things.” “There is something wrong with me.” In our efforts to rally, we can end up dismissing and invalidating our own feelings and buying into a lie. If you find yourself overwhelmed often, you need to recognize the lies, rather than ignoring your feelings and powering through.

    Step 3 – Reset
    Reset your schedule and your thinking. Maybe you feel the pressure of saying yes to everyone and everything, but that isn’t God’s plan. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone, because Jesus knew His purpose. So step back and look at your schedule with God as your tour guide to help you filter out tasks that may not be bad in and of themselves, but are ultimately not helping you live out your purpose.

    And when it comes to resetting your thinking, grab your journal or a piece of paper and make a list of the things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Next, write out this sentence for each issue listed and fill in the blank to allow your focus to shift to the ways that God is addressing the issue. “I feel overwhelmed by _________________. Thank you God for reminding me that you have already conquered, covered, defeated and promised me victory in this area of my life. I choose to be an overcomer. I choose to be overwhelmed by you.”

    Step 4- Reflect
    I am encouraged by the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT). “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand”. Did you catch that? God’s peace is a byproduct of prayer. So, in order to restore alignment and overcome the overwhelm we need to spend time in prayer and reflection with God. Take time to share your heart with God and then also ask questions like, “is this a me expectation or a God expectation?” and “How am I trying to control the situation, instead of letting God take control of it?”

    Step 5 – Receive
    God’s peace is not something we have to earn, but rather it is something to be received. So relax, be calm, take a deep breath through your nose as you think the words “Jesus I receive your peace” and then as you exhale think “and I give you my overwhelm.” Repeat this several times until you begin to relax your muscles and thoughts. Don’t reject the gift of peace through worry, complaining, or doubt, rather open your heart and receive what God freely wants to give to you.

    Jesus had more cause to feel overwhelmed and burdened than any of us. Yet, he did not curl up into a ball and veg out. He did not ask God for a “better” job. He did not wish for a different life. Rather, He allowed God to empower Him and help Him overcome persecution, betrayal and even death. He remembered who God was. He recognized the lies the enemy told Him in the wilderness. He reset His mind to God’s truths and made sure to put margin in His schedule to spend time reflecting and praying. And He received the peace and hope that God promises each of us. As a result, He met each and every challenge with a relaxed and calm attitude because He knew that overwhelm was inevitable, but that through God He would overcome! And you can too!

    May you rest in His love and feel the peace which surpasses all understanding. May you cast all your anxieties on Him and may He guide you every step as you walk the path of peace and overcome your overwhelm!

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  • Even If I Fail, God is Faithful

    I sat on my living room floor, my journal in hand, writing out the words “Why God?” Why?” Why, when I had been faithful to follow His calling to move out to the Northwest, to leave all my family and friends and to put my business on the back burner, all to work with an amazing ministry, did I feel like I was failing? Why if I was being obedient to what He asked me to do, did I see no fruit in my life? Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been obedient to what God asked you to do and yet the outcome you expected didn’t materialize?

    One of my deepest fears is failure, (yes, I am an Enneagram 3!) which means that I am hard wired to look for ways to win at work and succeed in life. However, I don’t think it is just Enneagram 3’s who are looking for the wins in life. Honestly, our world gravitates toward success. I mean let us be real, who doesn’t want to be successful? I don’t see too many books at Barnes and Noble with the title “Losing at Work and Failing at Life.”

    I also don’t know too many people who wake up in the morning thinking to themselves “I hope I fall flat on my face today” or “I am excited to break my promises to God.” But what happens when things don’t work out the way we’d hoped? What happens if, despite our very best efforts, our family never becomes quite what we imagined it would be? Or the business we envisioned never makes it to reality? Or we never get married, have kids or lose that extra 30 pounds. Or despite our best efforts, we continue to struggle to do our spiritual disciplines faithfully every day?

    Feeling like we are failing isn’t just about falling short of reaching our goals in life. For some of us, failing can be about feeling like we are disappointing God. For example, maybe on Sunday you made a commitment this week to spend time with God each morning this week and it is Thursday and you have not even cracked open your Bible. Or you promised God you would not yell at your kids this week and by Monday morning there was already a meltdown happening in your household and you lost your cool.

    These situations can leave us feeling like we have failed God and failed at life. The question then becomes, will God still be faithful to us even when we fail? Sometimes we are being faithful to what God calls us to, and yet we still feel like we have failed because the outcomes don’t look like we thought they should. It makes us question, can we can be faithful to God and still fail? The answer to both questions is YES!

    The reality is that life does not come with a guarantee. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us a 100% success rate. In fact, what He has told us instead is, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). God promises that we will overcome, not that we will achieve every outcome. In this verse it says we “will have trouble,” i.e. there will be failures in life, there will be times our dreams do not become a reality, and there will be times of setbacks.

    In the Scripture it doesn’t say that when we experience trouble in life, it is all our fault or that we have done something wrong, rather that is just a part of life. Everyone that God uses has faults and goes through setbacks in life. From Noah to Sarah to Moses to Joshua to David–they all experienced failures in life, none of them were perfect in their relationship with God and yet they are listed in the hall of faith. We cannot hide from failure and failure is not the enemy. For no matter what, even when failure overcomes us, we have a champion who has already overcome the world.

    God is faithful to us no matter what we do or what we are going through. We all go through valleys and mountaintops, successes and failures, joy and grief, victories and challenges. I used to think that God’s faithfulness was dependent upon how pleased God was with me, that His faithfulness to me would only be true if I were on the mountaintop. But the longer I walk with Him and the closer I get to Him, the more I realize that I can fail, stumble and fall down and yet God’s love and faithfulness are still constant. He is there, with His arms wide open, welcoming us back into His love, grace and mercy.

    God’s faithfulness shows up in our lives through His constant, steadfast and unchanging love. God is not up in heaven keeping track of all our successes. He does not have a gold star board that showcases how many times we prayed, honored the sabbath or showed kindness to a stranger and a checkmark board for every time we didn’t open our Bible, we didn’t show love to a family member or we didn’t hit a goal. God says that no matter what, He is with us. He is always right there waiting for us to seek Him and to surrender our feelings of failure and unworthiness. For the truth is that He loves us and delights in us even when we feel disappointed in ourselves. His faithfulness to us isn’t dependent on getting everything right in life, rather it is born out of His deep abiding love for us.

    That day after I asked God “Why?” He reminded me that my identity shouldn’t be rooted in my achievements, successes or failures, but rather in abiding in Him as His daughter. He whispered to my hurting heart that His faithfulness is not based on my performance, but rather His promises. God does not see me as a failure, rather He sees me as a victor, for in Deuteronomy 20:4 it says “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” (NLT) And this is how He see you too!

    Nobody can be 100% faithful to the Lord, but the Lord is always 100% faithful to us. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (ESV). The truth is that even when we feel like we are failing, God is still there, cheering us on and reminding us to never give up hope. Keep your focus on being obedient to what God calls you to and then leave the outcome to God, for His love and faithfulness never fail.

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  • Learning to Receive God’s Love

    A few years back I was sitting in a coffee shop with a friend (oh how I long for the days of sitting in a coffee shop with friends) and we were talking about our ability to receive love. I confessed to her that for many years it was hard for me to receive love from others and especially from God. I mean how could God love me when I kept making mistakes or breaking my promises to really change for the better this time?

    But that’s the great thing, God’s love is not conditional, rather it’s unconditional. It’s not based on our successes or our failures or if I have earned it, rather His love is always there for us, we just have to receive it. Do you ever find it hard to let God love you?

    As we sat in that coffee shop that day, I was reminded of John 13 where Jesus was bending down to begin to wash the feet of his disciples. If you are familiar with the story, you may recall that when Jesus gets to Peter, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. Peter is rejecting Jesus’ act of love. How many times have you rejected receiving Jesus’ love because like Peter you feel it would be selfish, or that you were not worthy to receive such a lavish gesture?

    If you look at verse 8, though, Jesus responds by telling Peter that “unless I wash you, you have not part with me” (NIV). Then in verse 14 Jesus goes on to say “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet” (NIV). This isn’t just a one-way gesture. Jesus isn’t just instructing the disciples to give, but also to receive as He just showed them how to do.

    The nature of God’s love is generative and relational. God’s love towards us creates new love for us to give back. We have the opportunity to multiply love when we receive it, but when we refuse to receive love, we diminish its possibilities. When we do put into practice the act of both giving and receiving love, Jesus reminds us in verse 17 that that’s when we “will experience a life of happiness enriched with untold blessings.” (TPT)

    So how do we receive God’s love? There is an exercise I practice and recommend to others. The truth of God’s love for you is woven throughout His Word and so I encourage you to go on a love scavenger hunt and find the verses of God’s love that speak directly to you. Once you find 5-10 of these verses, read through each statement as you picture God speaking these words over you. In each statement, place your name in the verse. For example, if I were reading Zephaniah 3:17 I would speak out loud “Dawn, for the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT).

    You might find it helpful to write each of the verses you find down on index cards or post-it notes so that you can easily flip your way through them as you go through this practice. Repeat this exercise daily for several weeks and soon you will find that these seeds of love begin to take root in your heart.

    Here are a few other verses to get you started:

    “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10, NIV)

    “This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5, NIV)

    “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

    Remember God loves you just as you are. God’s love is the purest form of love. So pull down the barriers that have prevented you from experiencing His love and allow Him to show you how much He loves you. And as He shows you, receive it. Allow His love to come into your heart, for my dear sister, you are His beloved.

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  • Intentional Living Through Curiosity

    Imagine waking up to a life that energizes you in every possible way. Imagine carefully crafting every aspect of your life (relationships, work, rituals, health) in a way that is uniquely designed to make you feel more alive, more joyful, and more fulfilled. Maybe you are thinking to yourself right now, that it seems like a pie in the sky dream because for you, life just isn’t working. Most days you feel like life is happening to you, not for you. You feel disempowered, overwhelmed, and stuck. How could you possibly wake up energized in this chaos we are experiencing?

    A lot of times when we are feeling this way, it is because we have forgotten to live intentionally, the way God designed.

    Living intentionally doesn’t just happen by accident, rather it is about being curious, making conscious choices and taking deliberate actions every day to bring about the outcomes and feelings you desire in your life.

    Intentional living means to live by design not by default. To live by design means that you no longer live on auto-pilot. You are learning to let go of the belief that your life is the sum of your circumstances. Intentional living is about co-creating your life with the Creator of the Universe (God) to make your highest contribution to the world.

    Intentional living starts with curiosity. Christina Crook, Author and TEDx speaker once said, “curiosity is a crucial condition for feeling fulfilled and alive and our need to nourish our capacity for wonder grows as we age.”

    In the Bible, we see first-century crowds being curious to hear Jesus teach and that interest, for many, led to hope, healing and a purposeful life. Jesus also encouraged the people He encountered to stop and reflect on what they really were truly desiring and seeking in life and from Him. For example, when Jesus encountered the blind man by the Jericho road, he asked the man “what do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41, NIV) When is the last time you paused and got curious about what an intentional life really looks like for you? If Jesus asked you what you wanted from Him would you know how to answer that question?

    Designing your life together with God begins with nurturing a holy curiosity about the Lord and His plans and promises for you. Do you take time to learn more about God or do you feel you’ve gotten so familiar with passages over the years that you can just carve your own path without checking in with God? Curiosity can be the invitation to dig deeper and ask good questions in order to see things through fresh eyes.

    The next step to living an intentional life is to set your intentions. For many years, I confess I did this without God’s input. I would ask questions like: What is my life for? What do I want to achieve? And then write down my dreams and desires and go after them. Unfortunately, this practice was all about imposing my own will and not aligning myself with God’s will. When we are operating under our own will and motivations, our identity becomes cemented in the things we do, rather than in the One who called us in the first place. Our perspective is limited to our own imagination instead of leaning into the One who can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

    Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’”.

    James 4:13-15 (NIV)

    Notice that this is not about making plans apart from God, but about being curious about who God wants you to be and what God wants you to do.

    One useful exercise is to ask the questions, “Who does God want me to be in regard to my (spirituality, health, mental wellbeing, work, restoration, etc.)? How will I commit to living that out in my daily life? Here are a few examples:

    • God calls me to be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8) therefore I am committed to living abundantly with fewer things so that I can spend more time with the people I love and less time managing the things I have and/or worrying about the things I don’t have.
    • God calls me to honor my body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) therefore I am committed to being strong and healthy so that I can have energy at the end of the day to give my best self to my family.

    Once you’ve set your intentions the third step is to align your daily actions. For example, if you’re committed to being strong and healthy, ask yourself: “what broad goals will help me achieve these intentions?” For instance, you could have some broad goals like eat healthier or be more physically active. From there, ask yourself “what day-to-day actions can I take that will add up to my desired result over time?” You may want to set daily goals like eat 4 cups of vegetables per day or walk 3 miles every day.

    Know that intentional living is a lot like taking a cross-country road trip. Along your journey, you’ll need to pull over and refuel. You’ll need to stop, put gas in your car, grab a bite to eat and stretch your legs – not once, but multiple times. On your way to living your best life, you need to do the same, which is why the final step in intentional living is to reflect, re-evaluate and revise your plans based on these questions.

    • Is this what God wants for my life?
    • How’s my progress in regards to the intentions I set?
    • What has God been able to accomplish so far in me and through me?
    • What have been some of the most powerful learning moments so far?

    As you take time to reflect, don’t forget to pause and pray and listen to what God wants to say. Then make a conscious choice to either continue pursuing your goals as is or make revisions to your plan as needed. An intentional life isn’t about perfection, but progress. It’s about being curious and having the courage to step into the purpose that God has called you to. Living an intentional life empowers you to start:

    • Becoming a woman who is hungry for God and His word.
    • Creating possibilities for your life that energize you and glorify God in the process.
    • Living each day on purpose and not just coast through your life.
    • Courageously taking leaps of faith and not just wait for better timing or more signs.
    • Confidently choosing, even if imperfectly, actions that add to your life, not take away from it.

    Wherever God may lead you, know that He desires for you to live intentionally and to live with Him, so that you may experience life to the fullest.

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  • Gratitude During the Holidays

    I came across an interesting article recently that stated, “you have permission to not be thankful this Thanksgiving.” The author went on to share how he was going to choose a humbug mindset this holiday because 2020 has been a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges. To be honest, I get it, this holiday season is filled with tough choices and changes for families, but gratitude and thankfulness are to be expressed not just when things are going smoothly. Rather they are an attitude to be displayed both in the trials and blessings of life.

    Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV) I italicized the word “in” for a reason, because I think we often replace it with the word “for” which changes how we see the practice of gratitude. God isn’t asking you to be grateful for your family not being able to gather this Thanksgiving. He is not asking you to be grateful for the pandemic that has caused loss, hardships and hurts. God is asking us to find the things to be grateful for in these challenging times. I can be grateful for technology like Zoom that has allowed me to stay connected to loved ones. I can be grateful to have a job that allows me to work remotely. I can be grateful because of the daily walks I get to take with my housemate. I can be grateful for an amazing gluten-free pizza that gets delivered to my house way more often than I care to admit. I can be grateful that even though my travel plans have changed throughout the year, I have found different ways to refuel the wanderer in me. I can be grateful that I got to still do my digital detox weekend at the coast which helped to renew my spirit. I can be grateful for all the amazing people in my life who are still here, even if we are socially distanced or having to connect differently. 

    Practicing gratitude isn’t about forced positivity and it doesn’t mean that you ignore all the challenges you are facing. You most certainly can take time to grieve, but my prayer for you is that you don’t stay stuck there. God can empower you to be an overcomer, someone who is resilient and can find the good even in the hard times. Every time I visit my colleagues and the students and families who are part of the Africa New Life community in Rwanda, I am reminded that gratitude can be found whether we have plenty or little.  For many Rwandans they are not just being challenged by the pandemic, but they have been dealing with poverty and loss from a genocide that took place in their nation over twenty-five years ago. And yet they find ways daily to rejoice and to share their joy and hope with those who come to visit, or through the letters our students send to sponsors here in the United States. That gratitude is not based on their circumstances, but based on their faith that God’s promises are true even if we can’t see the evidence of that in our lives currently.

    When we talk about practicing gratitude, a lot of people immediately think of doing a gratitude journal, which I absolutely love and highly recommend doing, but here are some other ways to not only think about what you are grateful for, but to express your gratitude this holiday season. 

    1. Make a gratitude jar: Find a mason jar as big or small as you want. Then take some construction paper and cut it into slips of paper. Put a marker or pen and the pieces of paper next to the gratitude jar then each day leading up to the holidays pause every time you walk by the jar and jot down something you are grateful for and fold the slip of paper and place it in the jar. On whichever holiday you choose, Thanksgiving or Christmas, plan “gratitude breaks” where you go to the jar and pull out a slip of paper and read out loud what you have to be grateful for.  
    2. Send gratitude cards: If you are sad about not getting to see a family member or friend this holiday season, create a gratitude card for that person and send it to them for a sweet surprise in the mail. Inside the card you could write something as simple as “I am thinking of you.” Or you could write a personalized note filling in the blank, “Because of you….” and share what they have done in your life that you are grateful for. 
    3. Make “thank” calls instead of prank calls: Sit down on the days leading up to the holidays and make a list of people who have done something nice for you lately or in the past. Then set aside time on or around the holiday to call and say thanks. 
    4. Send virtual care packages: You might not be able to get together in person, but you can have fun and send a bunch of photos or silly video clips that will spark a smile and let them know that you are grateful for them this holiday season. 
    5. Create gratitude rocks: My niece and I did this a few years back where we painted rocks with messages that inspire gratitude. Then you can take a walk and set the rocks in special places to surprise other walkers/hikers. 

    This holiday season, what if you focused less on who you are not with, and what you are not doing and more about who you are with and what you are doing? What if you focused on what you have, rather than what you may be missing out on? What thanks can you give in the middle of our hard circumstances? Gratitude amplifies positive emotions and increases your resilience in facing future challenges. Yes, this pandemic holiday season may have its challenges, but I still believe we can put the “thanks” in Thanksgiving and choose to give ourselves permission to create a gratitude habit that shines God’s light and hope even during the dark times. Who knows? Your thankful attitude may just be what someone else is thanking God for this year. 

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