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As wonderful and as joyous as life can be, there are also times when heartache and heaviness sets in. This week was one such week.

My heart is hurting for a friend whose closest childhood friend has a little girl fighting for her life with cancer. Our family is praying fervently for our daughter’s former Sunday School teacher who has an 11 year-old daughter now battling a serious illness. Our hearts are heavy for our Pastor and his dear family as they laid his mom to rest yesterday. And we continue to deal with our own sadness as we watch my mom’s decline with the merciless disease of Alzheimer’s.

So many burdens. So many heartaches. So many broken dreams.

But it’s amazing how God will reach down and help us put things into perspective when we need it most.

This past week my daughter was relating to me that everyone in her Sunday School class had made a card for Pastor Jonathan. I couldn’t imagine what an eight year-old would write as words of sympathy, so I asked her about it. She quickly responded that she put a Bible verse in her card and then changed the subject. However, I immediately became even more curious and wondered what verse came to her little heart, so being the nosy mom that I am I continued my questioning. Then in her ever so matter-of-fact way she stated, “Well, obviously I put John 3:16.”

I smiled thinking that she probably used that verse because it was the one that she was most familiar with but something inside of me made me probe further. Upon doing so, she looked at me with a look like “Mom, don’t you get it?” and proceeded to tell me that she chose John 3:16 because she thought it would make Pastor Jonathan feel good to be reminded that his mom had everlasting life now and was doing great.

Wow. I have to admit I have never thought of using John 3:16 during a time of mourning but what an incredible verse it is to encourage our hearts that this life is only temporary and that is why Jesus came so that we could have our sins paid for and spend eternity in Heaven with Him when we die.

Suddenly, the suffocating grip of the concerns on my heart began to ease as I began to focus on this hope of eternal life.

I think it’s so easy to lose sight of eternity when we grovel through the hard times in this life, but that is when we need God’s promises the most. We need to cling to the fact that this is not our home. This is only temporary. Heaven is what is forever.

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I once heard a powerful message by Francis Chan entitled “What Are You Living For?” In it, he used an illustration that I have never forgotten. He took a very large rope and with it outlined the edges of the entire auditorium. He showed the audience the very end of the rope which was spray painted red and explained that the inch of rope that was spray painted represented our life here on this earth while the rest of the rope that lined the auditorium represented all of eternity. He then concluded with the question—what are you living for? The temporal or the eternal? That which fades away or that which lasts forever?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18

I’m finding that this is such an important key to working through our pain because when we focus on the here and now it is absolutely devastating, but when we place all our hope in Jesus and know that our eternity is with Him we find the PEACE, COMFORT, and STRENGTH to carry on. Yes, we still hurt and we still face grief, but we do not grieve as those without hope (I Thessalonians 4:14b)—and what a difference hope makes.

I’m so thankful for the hope that Heaven holds. The Bible says in Revelation 21:4-5, 23-27 that in Heaven:

  • There will be no more sickness.
  • There will be no more death.
  • There will be no more crying for He will wipe every tear from our eyes.
  • There will be no more hunger or thirst. (Revelation 7:16)
  • There will be no more evil.
  • There will be no more night.
  • We will be present with the Lord and will worship Him forever.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. ~2 Corinthians 2:9

What a HOPE, what a PROMISE, what a FUTURE that we can cling to during the difficult moments here on this earth.

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At the funeral service we attended yesterday, there was a song that the family chose that was most eloquently sung and is still echoing in my mind and ministering to my heart. I leave these words of hope with you and pray that it can be an encouragement to you today:

No More Night

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great, “I AM”
We’re gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb

by Walter S. Harrah

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We had looked forward to our family fall break getaway for weeks. We were headed to Hilton Head Island and had a magical 3 day vacation all planned out. We couldn’t wait to bike ride all around the island, to surf the waters (that would be my husband and daughter doing the surfing with me cheering them on, of course), to eat at fun restaurants, and to take long walks on the beach.

But as it turned out, things didn’t go quite exactly as planned. The day before we left we got a call from the school nurse that our daughter had a fever and was not feeling well at all.

After carefully thinking it through, we decided to still go ahead with our trip but we definitely had to scale it back considerably. Instead of biking and walking and building sandcastles on the beach, we were pretty much resigned to just sitting on the beach and taking it real easy—a mode that we weren’t really accustomed to and quite honestly don’t always do well.

However, sometimes the quiet moments can be exactly what we need to transform a weary soul and that is exactly what I began to discover as I basked in the sun, the sand, and the still.  photo-34

As I began to slow down in those moments on the beach I began to realize just how tired and worn out I was, and it didn’t take much soul-searching to realize why. For just in the past three months, we hosted over a dozen sets of guests at our house, I spoke/sang at 12 ministry events which all involved travel, the school year began with all of those responsibilities and activities, I had continued writing and preparing for speaking events, we had helped with my parents, and the list went on and on. All wonderful things that we felt led to do, but when combined all together it added up to an out-of-control schedule and an overwhelmed heart.

Somehow, despite my best intentions, I had seen everything as a yes and hardly anything as a no.

But I love how even when allow things to spiral out of control, God will lovingly reach down and meet us where we are at. And that’s exactly what He did for me during those two glorious days at the beach.

I quickly realized that it was no mistake that I had grabbed a book that I had been wanting to reread—a book that had challenged my heart once before and a book that God would use again to speak into my scattered life.

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In The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst navigates through this struggle of getting to our Best Yes and here are a few of the powerful truths that washed over my soul:

  1. Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman. photo-25
  2. Not every assignment is my assignment.
  3. Reactive lives get very exhausting, very quickly. We get requests. We fill up our schedules all the way to the limit. We leave very little white space. We live lives that exhaust us.
  4. A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. photo-23
  5. The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. photo-27
  6. Find that courageous yes. Fight for that confident no. Know it. State it. Own it. And move on without all the complication.
  7. I will not let the awkward disappointment of others keep me from my Best Yes appointments with God.

While all of these points most definitely impacted me, what spoke loudest to me was right in front of me.

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These two. I love them fiercely and they have my heart forever. And the truth is:

Every time I say yes to everything else, I am often saying no to them.

Not a literal no. I hardly ever do that. But here’s how it plays out for me—I make sure that I am always there for them, but I stay up late to work on everything else I need to get done and get up very early in the morning and work feverishly all throughout the day when I am not with them to finish everything I have signed up for. And quite frankly, this is what can take its toll and wear me out making me tired, frustrated, and not my best for anyone.

So what’s the answer? How do we figure out the quandary of what to say yes to and what to say no to?

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t always get it perfectly right. But here’s what I do know—as I shared last week, I want to choose well each day and make every moment count in my relationship with God, my family, and to those He has placed within my path each day.

I don’t want to highjack my schedule, my focus, and even my heart with so many commitments that I miss out on God’s best assignments and plans for me. That is why it is so important for me to remember that sometimes the path to the Best Yes involves exercising a beautiful no.

I admit—I’ve got the yes thing down pat, it’s the beautiful no that can trip me up. And I have a feeling I am not the only one. For some reason, we can all feel guilty, uncaring, and even unspiritual saying no when the reality is —saying no can sometimes be the most healthy thing for us, our families, and for finding God’s best for our lives.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to swing to the other end of the photo-31pendulum and always respond with a quick no and miss out on God-ordained moments to help and make a difference. I often wonder what if my parents hadn’t chosen the best yes that day as they stood on my family’s doorstep? What if they had dismissed the gentle nudge from the Lord to get involved in my family’s pain? My life would have been so different, my story would not be the same. Because they said yes, the course of my life was changed forever.

So, what I am learning is that there really is no cut and dry answer. There is no exact formula for knowing when to say yes and when to say no. The ONLY way to figure it out is to get on our knees and to passionately seek God’s face each day asking Him to direct our EVERY step so that every moment of our lives is not overflowing with OUR plans but is only led by HIS BEST for every area of our lives.

A man’s heart plans his ways. But the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

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  • Joslyn - Thank you – your thoughts really resonated with me- I want to have coffee one of these days when you have room for a yes😌💗ReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Sounds great, Joslyn! I look forward to it!ReplyCancel

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Life is all about choices. And perhaps one of the biggest choices I make every single day is how I spend my time and what I invest my heart, soul, and life into each day.

The reality is we all have the same 24 hours a day, but how we spend those hours truly varies and ultimately comes down to what is important to each of us. And what I am learning is that if I am not careful with my time I can spend chunks of my day staying very busy but not really landing on what matters most.

John Maxwell says:

Activity is not necessarily accomplishment.

Wow. Isn’t that the truth! We all know how to be busy and run around from sun up to sun down, but what are we really accomplishing? What are we really investing our lives in?

Right now, as I am typing, it is 11 a.m., which means almost half of my day is gone—11 hours that I can never have back again. What have I done with these hours? Can I say that I have spent any of that time in a meaningful way?

Teach us, Lord, to number our days.  Psalm 90:12

What if we made this verse our life motto? What if every time we looked at our watches we recognized that every hour is truly a gift from God that we will never have again? Would we live with a greater sense of urgency? Would we live with more intention?

I love this quote by Tim Kizzair:

Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things that don’t really matter.     

I don’t want to just go through life surviving, coping, and existing. I don’t want to chase after things that don’t align with the dreams and plans God has for me. I want more from life. I want to experience that abundant life that Jesus talked about in John 10:10, a life that I believe is characterized by living with intention, purpose, and investing in things that truly matter.

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So, how do we choose well each day and live each day that God gives us to the fullest?

Only you can search your heart to determine how God wants you to spend your days. But here are a few questions that help me stay focused on what I believe God has called me to each day:

  1. Have I spent quality time with God?
  2. Have I loved, encouraged, and taken care of my family to the best of my ability?
  3. Have I fulfilled my responsibilities with excellence?
  4. Have I taken steps towards living out my dream?
  5. Have I encouraged or helped someone?
  6. Have I taken time to have fun, to enjoy life, and recharge myself?

James 4:14 says that our lives are vapors that appear for a short while and then quickly vanish away. I couldn’t agree more. It feels like just yesterday I was a teenager and somehow I blinked and now I’m in my 40’s. Life is just flying by and I only have one shot at this thing called life. I want to LIVE IT WELL, and in order to do so, I must CHOOSE WELL each day.

Lord Jesus, help me to see each day as a precious gift from You, as a day that I can never experience again, and a day that is a fresh opportunity to use my life to make a difference for You. May I not look back at yesterday or race forward towards tomorrow, but may I live today to its fullest making the most of every moment to bring the greatest glory to Your name.

 

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Have you ever had a moment that takes you back in time…back to a place of long ago, but yet to a moment that feels like yesterday?

I had one such reverie this past weekend as we sat inside the house with torrential rain and high winds swirling all around us. After several consecutive days like this, to say we were getting stir crazy would be an understatement.

I believe we covered every square inch of our house with make-believe explorations, indoor hide and seek, and with plenty of quality time with the Breyer horses. Along with the Breyer horses is the infamous horse barn which my husband so lovingly built for our daugther and which is so proudly displayed in an entire room in our basement (yes, you read that right—an entire room, but that is another story for another time).

Anyway, it was in one of those explorative moments, that my husband and daughter stumbled across a box in our basement storage closet. A box covered in dust but filled with many memories from my childhood. Memories of accomplishments at school, Vacation Bible School, and even an old report that I did on the care and training of a horse—much to my daughter’s complete elation!

As I saw her excitement in looking at old trophies and rewards, I knew this would be a great time to pull out my old scrapbook and have her take a walk with me down memory lane. I gleefully grabbed it out of an old storage box and we all sat on the basement stairs looking through it together.

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I was casually turning the pages and offering comments along the way when all of a sudden my husband let out a gasp and grabbed the book from me. In complete disbelief, he looked at an 8×10 autographed picture of Yogi Berra that was haphazardly stuffed into my scrapbook. “How in the world did you get this?” he quickly asked. (Now, you have to know my husband played baseball all through high school and even in college, so this was a really big deal to him). Immediately, he was all about hearing the story behind it.

So, here’s the story that I shared with them—a story that is both humorous, yet now challenging to me so many years later:

I’m not exactly sure of my age at the time of this story, but I am guessing I was around 10 years old. My parents had been talking for months about building a family room on to our home and finally had scheduled an appointment with a contractor to come and give them an estimate.

We did not know this man or even have a referral but before the visit was over there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that God had sent him to our house for something far more important than an addition to our home.

From the moment he walked into our house until just before he left, I firmly believed in my heart this man needed Jesus, and I firmly believed it was my job to tell him. So without any inhibition, I repeatedly interrupted the appointment telling him about Jesus. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I even hopped on my piano to sing him a song about Jesus, and then when I couldn’t wait any longer I outright asked him if he knew Jesus to which he quietly said, “No, I don’t know Jesus.”

As this point, my parents began to see that this was not about an overzealous daughter, but rather a God-ordained moment. They began to share their story of how God miraculously saved them and had made such a difference in their lives. Before long, with tears in his eyes, right there at our kitchen table, the contractor prayed to receive Jesus in his life.

I was so excited to be a part of such an awesome life-changing moment! And in my excitement, I quickly realized that this brand-new Christian needed a Bible. I knew we had plenty of old Bibles around and was just trying to figure out where to locate one when my eyes landed on the perfect one to give him.

I jumped out of my seat and ran over to our coffee table and proudly picked up and presented our Jerry Falwell Old Time Gospel Hour Special Family Edition Bible that had decorated our coffee table for years. Anyone who is familiar with this particular Bible knows it is HUGE and very heavy. In fact, I could barely carry it. I’m sure my parents were holding back laughter and certainly didn’t have the heart to take back my generous gift. The contractor graciously took the Bible, thanked us for everything, and I can still picture him lugging the HUGE Bible out to his truck.

Weeks later, we received a very touching letter from him telling us that he had been searching for a long time and how that visit to our house had changed his life forever. At the end of his heartwarming letter, he told us that he was a personal friend of Yogi Berra’s and had him autograph a picture for me.

While it was very cool to receive this signed picture, I was much more moved by the heartfelt note. Hence, the reason the picture was casually stuffed into a scrapbook while the letter was cherished forever.

After I told his crazy story to my daughter and husband this past weekend, we all had a good laugh at my childlike enthusiasm. My husband especially thought it was hilarious that I gave away the family Bible!

In addition to the laughs, however, over the last few days, I have had a nagging question haunt me:

If I had a contractor come to my house today, would I have that same concern, passion, and persistence in wanting to make sure they knew about Jesus?

I’m afraid if I’m honest, I would have to say no.

The truth is there are people all around me who need Jesus. What am I doing to make sure they know Him? Am I boldly telling the world or am I too worried about what people will think of me?

The reality is that some day we are all going to stand before God and either hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” or “depart from Me I never knew you.” I would hate to think that  someone might hear “depart from Me” when I knew them and could have told them about Jesus, but I didn’t.

I guess this whole story was a good reminder to me that no one is promised tomorrow—that is why we must be a BOLD  light today and share Jesus with EVERYONE we meet.

So, while on one hand, it was a dreary, miserable weekend, I have to say that I’m thankful for the rain…for the opportunity to reminisce…and for the chance to reignite my passion to tell the world about Jesus!

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  • Gail Smith - WOW, going today to get my hair cut from a young mother/ long time family friend, she needs Jesus. This blog had perfecting timing for me.
    I am challenged to show Jesus’s love today.
    Gail 💝ReplyCancel

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Everyone longs to have a perfect story. You know, the one that begins with “Once upon a time” and ends with “happily ever after.” But those stories are aptly called “fairy tales,” and they are not the stories of our lives. Our stories are stories of real people wrestling through the joys and struggles of real life. And what we DO with our struggles and our stories makes all the difference in the world.

Let me be the first to say, there are no perfect white picket fences in my story either. In fact, the story of my life has included loss, disappointment, and pain, which at some point is a part of everyone’s story. But what I have learned along the way is that even our pain can be a part of our purpose. Here’s the key:

Our circumstances do not have to define us, but how we respond to our circumstances determines the level of success we will experience in life.

I will never forget the defining moment in my life when God showed me how the pain of my past could become the purpose and the passion of my heart. I was 14 years old and singing at a Christian camp for the summer. During one of the meetings, the director of the camp spontaneously asked me to remain on stage after singing and share my story. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, it was a huge deal to me. I had never shared my story and certainly didn’t want to start in front of several hundred of my peers. I didn’t want them to know that I didn’t have a perfect life.

I froze and didn’t know what to do, but finally decided to try to gracefully trudge through it and hope for the best as I took a deep breath and started in.

Much to my horror, talking about my childhood was messy, and exactly what I feared would happen did happen. When I got to the part about my mom dying of cancer, I completely fell apart. Now, I’m not talking about the graceful tear rolling down my cheek as I eloquently shared from the depths of my soul. No, it was more like an avalanche of snot coming out of my nose as I choked out my words. I was absolutely mortified and wanted just to close my eyes and instantly vanish.

Somehow I pulled myself together and made my way back to my seat, wishing that moment would be forgotten, all the while knowing it was one of those undeniably awkward moments that would be permanently etched in everyone’s minds. Despite my complete mortification, God did something that week that changed me forever.

Throughout the week, about fifty of the teenagers came up to me at different times and wanted to talk. One girl shared that her mom and dad had just divorced and she was really struggling. A boy shared of his personal struggle with drugs and alcohol. Another girl showed me on her wrist where she had tried to take her life. On and on the stories went—stories of broken hearts and shattered dreams.

For the first time in my life, I realized that everything I had experienced happened for a reason. Nothing was by mistake or coincidence. All had prepared me for this very moment in time when I could relate to each of these precious teenagers. No I didn’t have any big, profound answers, but I could look them in the eyes and say, “Yes, I know what it is like to hurt, but I also know what it is like to have a God who is faithful and who has been with me every step of the way. And all I know is that the same God loves you too and will be faithful to you as well.”

By the end of the week, I knew without a doubt that God had literally changed my hopes and dreams. As much as I loved music, God had a different plan for me. He wanted to use the story of His faithfulness in my life to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Good, Bad & Ugly

I think so many times we want to offer God the good things we have—our talents, our abilities, and the things we like and are proud of, but God wants EVERYTHING. He wants the good, the bad, the ugly, the embarrassing, and then He wants to turn it around and make something beautiful out of it for His glory and His Kingdom. Isaiah 61:3 talks about beauty coming from our ashes. You might wonder, How could anything beautiful come from the ashes of past failures and heartaches in life? But I assure you that this is truly what God specializes in, for there is nothing in our lives that God can’t turn around and restore to bring the greatest glory to His name.

Here’s the thing that I am most excited to share with you:

When we cling to God’s power and choose to use EVERYTHING in our lives for His glory, that is when the healing begins in our own lives.

We begin to see opportunities before us instead of focusing on past failures and disappointments that are behind us. We recognize chances to use our experiences, good or bad, as a way to help others, and, in doing so, we may begin to invest our lives in making a difference for the Kingdom. Before long, the pain is quietly replaced with the excitement of knowing there is purpose for our pain and fulfillment in being used by God for His life-changing and eternal purposes.

~

Maybe your picket fence is no longer white and maybe it’s tattered and falling apart. My prayer is that maybe, just maybe, you will find the courage to pick up the pieces of your fence and begin to dream again. Yes, life is still hard and dreams aren’t always easily accomplished, but I promise you, if you lay it all on the line, God will come through and prove Himself faithful every time.

There are no mistakes with God. He will use everything, including our pain, for His purposes. He is the author of my story, a story that shows how He loved me, He chose me, He rescued me, He saved me, and now He is using me more than I could ever dream possible and taking me beyond my wildest dreams.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is only because of God’s work in my life and in my story that I am able to live out the dreams He has breathed into my heart. I have found the story of my life has become the passion of my heart—using what I have been through to show hurting people that there is hope in Jesus! That’s my story. That’s my dream. What’s yours?

*Today’s blog is taken from Chapter 1 of my book, Dare to Soar, which can be purchased at Pauladunnministries.com (available in print or ebook) and at Itunes, Barnes & Noble, & Amazon (ebook only).

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  • Gail Smith - All this sounds so very familar to me. I wouldn’t change all the pain and disappointment I have experienced in the last 10 years for all the Glory it has brought to Him ! I choose to use my past to make a very positive future in Him.ReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Love how He is using you, my sweet friend! Keep shining boldly for Him because you truly are making a difference!ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl Kane Keep - I grew up knowing all this, Paula, but wouldn’t turn my pain over to the Lord 4 years ago after my husband died of a very fast moving cancer. That stubborness and unwillingness to turn my hurt and pain over to Him nearly cost me my life and my sanity. I thank God for his continued protection through all of that and for my family and friends who loved me, sought help for me, stood by me, and above all who prayed for me! I know God will always be at my side, carrying me when need arises, and forever my Savior and i pray that members of my family will know hew can be all this and more to them in their lives as well. Thank you so much for sharing your life story with grace and truth! May /od continue to bless our powerful ministry.ReplyCancel

    • pauladunn - Thank you, Cheryl, for taking the time to share your story & your heart! May God continue to use you and what you have been through to offer hope and healing to others as well. I am so thankful that we can find purpose in our pain, for that really is when the healing begins in our own lives. Blessings to you! May you keep shining for Jesus!!!ReplyCancel