Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Next - Part Four

We’ve spent this week answering this question:

 
“What do I do next in my life?”

(Just scroll down to find Parts One-Three).



On this fourth and final day, I want to share a story and offer a few very practical steps you might take in order to begin moving in the right direction.

My husband is in the midst of getting his PhD. He reads hundreds of pages each week, writes papers and regularly contributes to the online class discussions. Often, he will come home from working all day, eat supper, take a short break and then launch into his class work.

He has found that he cannot just jump into the classwork cold turkey. Non-academic activities must be completed first, and then he can start studying. For example, he will fold a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher as his warm up. Once he is feeling “productive”, he can begin his studies.

Most people are like my husband in that they need to warm up their creative and courageous muscles before they can launch into something brand new or challenging.

Much like a runner stretching before a race or a musician tuning up before a concert, most of us need a few moments to “warm up” and “tune up” before we jump right in to an activity.

Thus, I want to offer you some “warm up” ideas to get you moving in that new direction.

First

Come up with 3-4 things you’d really like to try.  

~ Write them down.  
~ Research them.  
~ Talk these over with a trusted friend. 
~ Look them up on the Web.


Personally, I've wanted to finish my master's degree for all of my married life. I started the degree before I was married, and had to push "pause" before I had the chance to complete it. 

About four years ago, the opportunity came for me to go back to school and finally finish that degree. After much hard work, many papers, thousands of note cards and quite an amazing adventure, I will graduate in December with my Master's of Arts in Christian Education.
It feels great to accomplish something that I have wanted to finish for over 25 years!

So, what is your dream? 

What is that thing, that goal, that passion, that interest that you have been thinking about? Is there something you'd just like to try?

~ For example, you may want to:
    • Run in a 5K?
    • Go back to school?
    • Work at a gift shop?
    • Learn to fly small airplanes?
    • Go on a mission trip? 
    • Create pottery or some other artwork?
    • Tutor in the inner city schools?
    • Write a book?
    • Learn a new language?
    • Start a blog?
    • Become a photographer?
    • Start your own business?

Second

Step out and try something on your list.  Just go for it.

~ Sign up for a 5K in the spring, and start training now.

~ Look at a local university website for  "Continuing Education Programs." Sign up for a class.  See what you think about it.

~ Look online for stores hiring for the holidays.  Apply and work for 6-7 weeks in that store.  See if you think it’s for you.

~ Talk to someone who has successfully launched a business. Begin sketching out plans for your potential business.


Third

Don’t give up!  No matter what happens or doesn’t happen, refuse to quit!

If the first item on your list is a bust, then move to the next item. Don’t give up after trying just one new thing. Try another.

You can do this!  

God does have a beautiful plan for your life.  It may not seem like it today, but I do believe He adores you and wants to use you for His kingdom and purposes.


I will pray for you to be encouraged today and in the future as you seek to do what God has next for you!

Blessings,
Melanie

Joy in the middle of the challenging times...



"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."


Praying for JOY in the midst of whatever is going on in my life and in yours today!
Blessings,
Melanie

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's Next - Part Three

We are in the midst of a series that is attempting to help answer questions like:

  ~ What does God want me to do now?

  ~ What does He have next for me?

  ~ Where do I go from here?


In Part One, we hit on some of the big issues:   
  • Complete surrender, 
  • Time alone daily with Jesus, & 
  • Doing the next thing.

In Part Two, we discussed the idea of filling your mind with amazing material and positive information.
  • Read great books
  • Study the Word
  • Check out blogs and forums
  • Listen to positive radio
  • Get around positive people 

Today, I have another suggestion that may help you on your quest to discover what God has next for your life.

I want to encourage you try some “assessment” tests. (These are not for a grade)!

Assessment tests are tools that help you to uncover your gifts, your passions, your dreams, your talents and some of the possible paths you might take in the days ahead.

There are myriads of these sorts of tests; however, I will just mention 4 :

First, (and likely the most helpful) is a personality test offered by a group called “16 Personalities”. I was introduced to this assessment tool by one of my professors in seminary (Dr. Brad Thompson).

You answer a few simple questions online, and then you are given a sketch of your basic personality type from the list of 16 types. (The test and the short profile are all FREE)!

Next, you are offered the chance to purchase an in-depth profile for about $17. My profile is close to 100 pages, and I have found it to be extremely helpful especially when considering potential jobs and job fields. (I highly recommend purchasing this profile)!

Here is the link for the 16 personality test:



Second, and somewhat similar, is the “Five Minute Personality Test”.

This test stems from the John Trent and Gary Smalley animals test – Lion, Otter, Beaver, and Golden Retriever. This test is FREE and provides a brief profile at the end of the test. You can easily use this assessment at work, church and with our family.

We found this test to be especially useful in helping children to discover their personality types. John Trent and Gary Smalley have a wonderful little book to go along with this topic. It’s called “The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality.” (This book is available at Amazon.com).

You can take the Five Minute Personality Test at this link:



Third, you can discover your love language.




Your love language is the way that you communicate love and wish to have love communicated back to you. It’s what makes you feel most appreciated and adored. It’s also what you give to others who you appreciate and adore.

Dr. Gary Chapman has several books that discuss the love languages. One such book is “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts”. (This book is also available at Amazon.com).

But, you don’t have to purchase the book to discover your love language. If you’d like to know more, you can take a FREE test at this link:



Fourth, I’d like to recommend that you discover your spiritual gift – if you do not already know it. Every believer is implanted with a special gift from God that they can use to serve for His glory.


You may love to teach, serve, counsel with compassion, speak the truth in love, encourage or administrate. When we discover our spiritual gifts and use them, there is great joy and fulfillment!

You can take a spiritual gift assessment for FREE at this link:


Hopefully, you have found one or all of these resources to be helpful. There is wisdom in searching out matters and seeking to better understand the manner in which God has uniquely created you.

I think the prayer of Solomon for wisdom is a wonderful prayer for us to pray as we also seek to be wise in the matters of our lives.

Check out his prayer as we close today (2 Chron. 1:7-12):

That night God appeared to Solomon. God said, “What do you want from me? Ask.”

Solomon answered, “You were extravagantly generous with David my father, and now you have made me king in his place.

Establish, God, the words you spoke to my father, for you’ve given me a staggering task, ruling this mob of people.

Yes, give me wisdom and knowledge as I come and go among this people—for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?”

God answered Solomon, “This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life.

You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for—wisdom and knowledge.

And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus—money, wealth, and fame beyond anything the kings before or after you had or will have.”


Blessings to you as you seek to wisely understand the unique ways God has gifted you,
Melanie

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's Next?? - Part Two

Yesterday, I started a special one-week series considering these ideas:

What’s next??? 

What does God have for me now?

~ Now that I’m finished with school? 
~ Now that my kids are out of the house? 
~ Now that my baby is in kindergarten? 
~ Now that my spouse is gone? 
~ Now that we have retired? 
~ Now that I am unemployed? 
~ Now that… (fill in the blank)

All of us come to moments in our lives where we sometimes have to ask, “What’s next?”

We get caught in one of those “in between” seasons – a time when we are leaving one season of life behind and entering another one.
How do we find God’s will and learn what He has next for us – one step at a time, one task at a time, one moment at a time.

By way of review, yesterday we concluded that we can begin to know God’s plans by doing these general things:
1)      Surrendering all we know of us to all we know of Christ.
2)      By purposely spending time alone with God and His word daily.
3)      By doing the next thing – all that’s in front of us to do.

Today, we are going to begin looking at some more strategic steps we can take to discover all that God has for our lives – especially when we get caught in one of those “in-between” seasons.

To begin with, we can start by super-soaking our minds and hearts with good material. This material may come in the form of print books, e-books, online blogs and forums, and radio programs and podcasts. It can come in form of great conversations with positive friends, sermons, class lectures and millions of other places. 

The key is this - begin to fill your mind with positive and encouraging information during this transition period. When we are in “limbo,” it helps tremendously to flood our worlds with good materials.

Consider a few great print/e-books:
(These are books I am reading or have read and found to be very helpful during transition seasons. Of course there are many others, but these are some that have impacted me recently and personally).

Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado…

~ This little gem is both book and workbook. I found it to be a great tool – easy to read and utilize.

Amazon.com describes it this way:

In Cure for the Common Life, he (Max Lucado) offers practical tools for exploring and identifying your own uniqueness, motivation to put your strengths to work, and the perfect prescription for finding and living in your sweet spot for the rest of your life.”


Surf the Woods by Holt Condren…  

~ Holt is a personal and life-long friend who has written a wonderful book about living an extraordinary life. I’m enjoying his book right now.

~ Amazon.com describes the book in this manner,

“Do the dreams you once had feel dead? Somewhere along your journey, you may have abandoned your dreams for the monotony of the "safezone" and now you are just going through the motions of life. This book will give you renewed hope that the dreams you once aspired to can be a reality. Holt's gripping stories and principles will make clear that God designed you for ambitious purposes that you can begin living today.

Holt Condren is a successful entrepreneur, men's ministry leader, and avid wilderness explorer. He is also the lead mountaineer on a team of scientists and archaeologists that are exploring Mount Ararat in search of the remains of Noah's Ark. With his combination of business and adventure skills, Holt helped found TrailblazeNow, an organization that helps move men through their fears and into their God-inspired dreams.”


Be Still My Soul by Elisabeth Elliot…  

~ This gem is one of those rare books that causes you to allow God to deeply search your soul. The Lord has used this book to impact my life like none other in a long time. I have just finished reading it.

~ Amazon.com describes the book in this way:

“We have a way of making Christian concepts complicated, and Elisabeth has a way of untying the knots with grace. Elisabeth Elliot offers a beautiful and inspiring collection of insightful reflections on living the Christian life. Drawing from her rich personal experiences as a missionary, a wife, a mother, a widow, and a speaker, Elliot illustrates biblical concepts such as hope, peace, and prayer with clarity and grace.”


Consider a few great websites:
(These are blogs or sites of friends I personally know or people I greatly admire. I’m sure there are many others, but these are a few that I peruse regularly).

http://www.smellingcoffee.com

http://www.heartchoices.com

http://melaniedorsey.com

http://lysaterkeurst.com

http://www.jenniferrothschild.com



Consider a few great radio programs/podcasts:

http://www.insight.org  (Ministry of Chuck Swindoll)

http://www.daveramsey.com/show/radio/  (Radio with Dave Ramsey)

http://www.lwf.org/site/PageServer (Ministry of Adrian Rogers)




This is in no way an exhaustive list, but it is a starting place.

When you are in limbo, it helps to super-soak your world with great material – in every way you possibly can.

Think of it as a thirsty person drinking from a fire hydrant!

That’s all for today, but I’ll return tomorrow with another practical suggestion for beginning to answer the question, “What’s Next”??

Blessings to you as you take the next step,
Melanie

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's Next? (Part One)

I recently wrote a blog about jobs, finding God’s will and accepting whatever He sends our way.

There was a great response to the blog, and so many good questions that I decided to do a one-week feature blog divided into several parts answering this question: What’s next?

What’s next???

What do I do now??

What does God have for me now?

                    ~ Now that I’m finished with school?

~ Now that my kids are out of the house?

~ Now that my baby is in kindergarten?

~ Now that my spouse is gone?

~ Now that we have retired?

~ Now that I am unemployed?

~ Now that…  (fill in the blank)

All of us come to moments in our lives where we sometimes have to ask, “What’s next?”

Maybe, like so many of my friends, you are asking that very question today.

Maybe you are wondering what you are to do next.

Over the next 7 days, I’m going to post a blog answering this very question.

Today, let’s just think about that question in broad strokes.

As I was posing that very question to the Lord just a few weeks ago, He sent me some incredibly wise advice from two of my favorite mentors – Elisabeth Elliot and Adrian Rogers. On the same day, I read a chapter by Elisabeth and heard a sermon by Dr. Rogers. Their words were eerily similar.

In essence, this was their advice when asking the “what's next” question:

1)     First, surrender yourself completely to the Lord. Give yourself completely to Him.

Romans 12:1-2 is a familiar verse to many. In the NKJV it reads:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

In the Message Bible, it reads like this:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

In practical terms, you can present yourself completely to Christ in a variety of ways. Some suggestions include:

    ~ Pray aloud – talking over the concerns of your heart with the Lord.   Verbally surrender to Him.

   ~ Journal – write out your surrender and detail the concerns of your heart.

   ~ On index or note cards, list out the each of the parts of your life that you want to surrender. Take these cards and give each one to the Lord as you pray.

The goal is to daily and completely give all you know of yourself to all you know of Jesus. Keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” 1 Peter 4:19, NLT


2) Commit to spending quality time alone with Him daily in prayer and Bible study. 
Yes, this seems like a “given” but it is not. So many good people neglect times of daily prayer and Bible study. Make the time. Find a place. Have a plan. Spend the time.

This daily time alone with Jesus is where you get wisdom, knowledge, insight, answers, power, peace, hope and so much more.


3) Do the NEXT THING. Do all you know to do next.

~ This is one of missionary Elisabeth Elliot’s favorite phrases… "do the next thing." Do what’s right in front of you to do.

When asked how she survived her husband’s savage murder on the mission field, she answered simply that she did what was next to do. She got up, got dressed, fed her young child, and went about the business of her day.

Today, you and I may not know the next “big” thing in our lives will be. However, we can do the next “small” thing.

We can unload the dishwasher, wash the car, drive the carpool, pay the bills, make the needed phone calls and do anything else that needs to be done.

It may not sound glamorous or important, but doing the next thing is what’s next.

One of my college professor’s had a wise quote that she shared with us about finding God’s will for our lives:

“God doesn’t lead by a spotlight but rather by a flashlight. 
We will not see very far down the path. 
We’ll have to just take it slow and follow His lead. 
We find His will be following the small light of the flashlight, 
one step at a time. ” (Dr. Anita Baker)

Today, if you don’t know what to do next, just do the next thing.

When you can’t change anything else, change the sheets or the light bulbs.
As my Hebrew professor (Dr. Kirk Kilpatrick) liked to say, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you learn Hebrew? One bite at a time.”

How do we find God’s will and learn what He has next for us – one step at a time, one task at a time, one moment at a time, and one bite at a time.

In summary, we can begin to find the answer to “what’s next” by:

1)      Surrendering all we know of us to all we know of Christ.
2)      By purposely spending time alone with God and His word daily.
3)      By doing the next thing – all that’s in front of us to do.

Tomorrow, we will begin to look at some more specific and intentional ways to answering the question: “what’s next?”

Praying for God to give you victory today as we follow Him…

Blessings to you,
Melanie