Category Archives: Encouragement

LifeChangers – Making music


It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

I will never forget the first time I heard Taylor Phelan sing. He was a guest worship leader at our church, and he sang How He Loves. His passion and the impact of that song hit me hard. I could not stop crying. It was one of the first times that I truly started to get a glimpse of just how much God really does love me. I was an instant Taylor fan. His voice and style are unique. He is an incredibly gifted musician.

Fast forward a few years later, and Taylor decided it was time to start truly chasing his dream of being a musician. He started a band called The Canes. They are a rock band from Chicago comprised of four members, none of which are native to the Windy City. Taylor, the lead vocalist, and guitarist, Micah Garman, are joined by Kevin Couch and Joey Beaver to complete the current band lineup. With a wide variety of backgrounds and influences, their music is an interesting blend suitable for any audience. You will be captivated by an energetic live show littered with moving lead lines, fuzzy bass and empathetic vocals.

They released their first track titled Starry Eyed earlier this year. You can check it out on iTunes. They are in the process of finishing their first album, which is scheduled to be released later this summer. And now, they are working on a Kickstarter campaign to fund a 23 city tour in the fall.

What I love about The Canes (in addition to their music) is that they are chasing their dream. They have worked incredibly hard to get to this point. They have been very smart and enlisted the help of some very strategic visionary partners. They have signed with Medallion Media for their first album, and will use the tour to promote the album.

Courtesy of The Canes

When I saw that they were using Kickstarter to help raise money for the tour, I knew I wanted to help. Every dollar helps them fund their dream. And, they are giving away some pretty cool things with different levels of donations.

The Canes are LifeChangers because they decided to chase their dreams. They are putting everything they have into this first album and tour. They have music that needs to be heard. Check them out, and I’m sure you will agree that they are on to something big.

How to help:

Kickstarter campaign

Follow them on Twitter

Follow them on Facebook

Check out their website

Buy their single on iTunes

If you were this close, wouldn’t you want someone to help push your dream forward?


Filed under Dreams, Encouragement, inspiration, LifeChangers

LifeChangers – A New Look


It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

Some people are inspiring simply by watching them. This week’s LifeChanger definitely did that. She was learning to get healthier and lose weight. She changed her life. And in the process, she inspired people without ever trying.

Meet my friend Terri. Two years ago, she had a routine doctor’s appointment. Her doctor was reviewing her family history. Heart disease. Breast cancer. The list went on. What he said next flipped a switch in her. He said, “If you don’t start taking care of yourself, guess where you’ll be in 10 years?”

Terri – 2009

She knew she had to lose weight. In the past, she had tried every diet imaginable. She could drop the weight, but it never stayed off. This time, she decided it would be different. She joined Weight Watchers the next day. The day after that, she started walking. She walked one lap around a parking lot and was winded.  But the next day, she walked again. She kept walking 6-7 days per week, and continued to increase her distance. She followed the Weight Watchers plan consistently. She went to her meeting every week, and continued this for a year. And guess what happened? She lost the weight. 56 pounds to be exact.

I love Terri’s story because she didn’t go on a crash diet, lose the weight quickly, and gain it back. Instead, she chose to change and get healthy. She learned that simple lifestyle changes are the key to getting healthier. And guess what else started happening after she found herself walking five miles consistently? She realized she could do more. She started running. She ended up running a 5K and The Shamrock Shuffle that first year. And she loved it!

Terri has been a huge motivation to me. She has inspired me and encouraged me to embrace my own healthy lifestyle. She is a big supporter and helps keep me accountable on my own journey. Some of the best advice I have gotten has been from her.

Here are some strategies that have worked for her:

  • Find a program that works for you. For her, it was Weight Watchers. She liked that she could eat anything she wanted. She avoided things she knew she would have a hard time resisting. The points program worked for her.
  • Accountability is important – she had several amazing cheerleaders who encouraged her, celebrated her, and supported her. She also went to her meetings every week to keep her accountable.
  • She doesn’t deprive herself. If she wants a brownie, she will take one bite, and throw the rest away. She didn’t do this in the beginning, as baked goods are a downfall for her. But, that has helped keep her in check.
  • She asks herself – Why do I want to eat this? Am I bored, stressed, hungry? This has helped her realize her emotional eating patterns.
  • Exercise – she suggests to find something that you like. Does it feel good? Do you like doing it? For her, walking and running are exhilarating. She gets excited when she can push herself farther and finish a new distance.
  • Celebrate milestones – She rewards herself for milestones. She always uses non-food items. New clothing is something that she likes. Be sure to celebrate when you accomplish something new.
  • You’ll have bad days – Just learn to get up and try again.
  • She admits that eating out has always been a challenge. It can be hard to determine the point value, and there are not many healthy options. She chose to eat at home as much as she could, and then order as healthy as possible when eating out.

It was incredible to watch Terri’s journey. Every week, she looked different. Her body completely changed, and her outlook did too. She shared what she was doing when people asked. She motivated so many people. She’s heard people say that she helped push them to start running, or to start Weight Watchers, or to start eating healthier. That is always really encouraging to her.

She had reached her goal weight. She looked and felt good. She was continuing to run. Then people starting saying to her, “You look great! You’re not going to keep losing, are you?”, or “You’re done now, right?” or “You don’t possibly have any more to lose!” And she listened. It was an unconscious decision, and only something that she now realizes she did. She stopped going to her Weight Watchers meetings. She thought she’d be fine.

She gained back 17 pounds in the next six months. Most people probably didn’t notice. She still looked great. And she didn’t allow herself to get discouraged. But, she knew she could do better. She hadn’t been journaling or keeping track of her food as often, and had started eating things that she normally wouldn’t eat. She realized that she had let other people’s opinion determine what she should do. And she wasn’t happy about it.

So, in January of this year, she went back to Weight Watchers. Within a few months, she was under her previous goal weight. She’s now adjusted her goal weight down some, and is continuing on the program.  She’s lost a total of 67 pounds now, and only has 7 more to get to her goal. Wow!!

Terri – 2012

Terri knows that a healthy lifestyle is a journey. It has taken her two years to get where she is. She did it the right way, only losing 2-3 pounds per week. She knows that everyone wants instant gratification, but it just doesn’t work that way if you want lasting lifestyle changes.

She’s continues to run, and is currently training for The Rock and Roll half marathon in July. She continues to be inspired by the people who have started doing something because they saw her taking action. That really motivates her.

She continues to inspire me, and I hope she has inspired you.

She is a LifeChanger.


Filed under Encouragement, Getting Healthy, LifeChangers

LifeChangers – A New Addition


It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

Every once in a while, you meet people who you instantly like. When I met Grant and Kellee at the Quitter Conference in February, that was my reaction. They were so sweet, and had a unique energy about them. They have a neat story. A life-changing story.

They have been married for eight years, and have two young, beautiful daughters. They are huge college basketball fans and love the Kentucky Wildcats. They are currently living in Ohio, and starting on a new journey. A journey that started with an experiment.

Last Thanksgiving, Grant’s best friend was visiting and told them about a book called The Radical Experiment by David Platt. As soon as Kellee heard what it was about, she instantly wanted nothing to do with it. She thought it sounded too extreme! But, Grant really wanted to do it, and ordered it that night. They ended up finishing the book in a few days.

The main focus of the book is around a radical response: living the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world-changing. The book really overhauled their perspective and altered their whole life’s direction. They started the Radical Experiment on January 1st, 2012, and committed to being open to whatever God wanted for them…with their time, money, careers, service, etc.

They specifically committed to:

1. Reading the Bible in a  year

 2. Praying for the entire world, by country

3. Committing their lives to a multiplying community-their House Church

 4. Sacrificing their money for a specific purpose

 5. Spending a week in another context- for example, a mission trip.

Kellee thought God was just preparing them to give abundantly this year, both in time and money, so that’s where her focus was at the beginning. However, as they continued with this radical shift in perspective, He quickly showed them that He wanted them to pursue something they were completely not expecting. He wanted them to pursue foster parenting and/or adoption! This was quite a shock at first. Remember, they have two small children. And this was not something that either of them had planned.

Over the last few months, they have quickly finished their homestudy and licensing process. From what they have learned in training, fostering is very, very difficult. It seems to be a great thing for the birth parents and the foster children, but not necessarily the foster parents! They are scared they won’t know how to handle issues like abuse. They are nervous about adding more kids to the mix, when they already feel stretched thin. They’re also scared about the attachment to the children and the loss they’ll feel, when they go back to their birth families. Kellee has blogged some really honest, emotional posts during this process. I have loved watching this journey they are on, and am so inspired by them.

I asked them what advice they would give to people considering becoming foster parents.  They said they would urge people to look at WHY they want to do it. Initially, Kellee was not really interested in connecting with the birth family. She’s now come to realize that this is a huge part of the fostering process, and she now prays that she’ll be able to minister and build relationships with the birth mothers. Also, adoption used to be their focus, and fostering was just a means to that end. However, the Lord really changed their hearts, and they now really WANT to foster, even though it means that they will have to work towards getting the children back to their birth families. They still want to adopt, but don’t know if that will happen in this process or internationally. They are truly open to whatever God has in store for their family!
I asked Grant and Kellee how we could help them, and they said that our prayers are greatly appreciated. They would love prayer for wisdom and confidence as they get ready for their first foster child placement, most likely happening sometime this month.
You can read more about their journey on their blog,
You can also follow them on Twitter: @kelleekeys and @grantkeys
I am so thankful to have met this amazing couple, and look forward to watching how God will use them in the lives of kids who need the love and support they have to offer. They are definitely LifeChangers.


Filed under Encouragement, Faith, Family, LifeChangers

LifeChangers – On a new path


It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

I am so excited to start this new series. I’ll be posting once a week with a story of someone who has inspired me.

This first post is very special to me. This person has been on an incredible journey over the last few years. I have always thought he was pretty amazing, but as he continues to grow and develop, he gets more and more interesting to me. He has always had a strong, self-confident way about him, but I have seen the center of that confidence change. It’s deeper, and more intense. I think he’s just starting to uncover what’s been hiding deep inside for a long time.

As some of you may have guessed, I am describing my husband, Rick. Let me assure you right now that I will NOT be posting only about my family on this series! However, I wanted to do this first post in honor of him and his recent significant accomplishments. He has a pretty unique story, and one that you will be hearing more about as it continues to evolve. He blogs periodically at I, Hammer, and I think you will enjoy his posts. He is a pretty cool guy. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Rick’s fitness story is somewhat like mine. He was an athlete for most of his life. Then, marriage, a career, and sedentary life settled in. He no longer played sports. He worked out every once in a while, but it was no longer a priority. Somewhere between working full-time, taking care of the kids, and keeping up with life, he found it hard to be motivated.

A few years ago, he bought a new mountain bike. He has always been good with bikes, and loved to ride when he was younger.  After he got his new bike, he started riding more. He found that he really enjoyed it again. He had uncovered a hidden passion.

Then, late last fall, he discovered a park near us called Saw Wee Kee park. It is a park right along the river with difficult trails, perfect for mountain biking. When he came home from that first ride, I could tell that something had changed in him. He had rediscovered an old love. He was hooked.

Not long after that, he made the decision to sign up for one of the largest mountain bike races in the country, The Iceman Cometh Challenge. Since that race isn’t until November, he decided to find smaller races to help him train. The other weekend, he competed for the first time, at the age of 43, in The Sylvan Island Stampede. The boys and I were so proud of him.

Some people will say, “What’s the big deal? It’s a bike race.” However, this was no easy bike race. It was seven miles of twisting and turning trails on slick mud and terrain. None of the competitors were having an easy time.

And, to me, the fact that he has chosen to train and compete at this point in life is truly inspiring. I know many people younger than Rick that say it is too hard to train and attempt to push themselves at something new. Not Rick. He now has a fire. He’s remembered what it’s like to push himself beyond something that he didn’t think he could do. And that feeling can be addicting. He’ll be competing in his next race in a little over a week.

Rick’s motivation is inspiring.

It makes me realize that you can do anything you put your mind to.

No matter how long it’s been, or the challenges that you’ve faced, you can always choose to start again.

You can choose to step out of your comfort zone.

You can choose to push yourself.

You can choose to live life.

You can choose to be a LifeChanger.


Filed under Dreams, Encouragement, LifeChangers, Motivation

And the Winner Is……

Thank you to all of you who submitted suggestions via Facebook or in the comments. I appreciate your ideas, and some of them were very creative! But, they weren’t exactly expressing what I want the series to be about. I know what you’re thinking – how could you possibly peek inside my head to be able to figure that one out??

My husband and I talked about it all weekend long, and he actually ended up coming up with the name. I feel it best describes the series I will be starting soon. His response was, “So, do I win the Amazon gift card?” Yes, honey, yes you do! 🙂

So what was the winning name? Drumroll, please………………..


It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

I am so excited about sharing the stories that I have already been working on. I am hoping that you will be as inspired by them as I am. I will be posting the series once a week.

I would also love to hear from you. If you would like to nominate someone, please let me know.

I have had this series on my mind and heart for a while now, and starting putting ideas together about a month ago. Little did I know that it would go along nicely with our new series at The Orchard! I love it when that happens.

Thank you again for all of your great suggestions. I appreciate it very much!



Filed under Encouragement, Life lessons, Motivation, Uncategorized

You can’t make me!

Remember that line from grade school?

You can’t make me!!

I have been thinking about this in the context of motivation and encouragement. We can be positive and encouraging and do our best to lift someone up. We can even speak into their life and help them realize things they may not believe about themselves. But what I can NEVER do is MAKE them do anything.

They have to choose for themselves. The decision to change has to be more attractive than the decision to stay the same. They have to choose to change. This is true in so many areas of our life.

I can’t make someone stop drinking – but I can show them unconditional love.

I can’t make someone eat healthier – but I can offer suggestions that have helped me.

I can’t make someone want to have a relationship with God – but I can live the most authentic, loving life that I can.

I can’t make someone follow their dream – but I can ask them about it. And I can help them remember what it was like to dream.

The list could go on forever. But the one thing I have learned is that it has to be YOUR decision to change. It can’t be your husband’s, or your boss’, or your friend or family member.

Change has to come from you. It has to mean something to you. It has to cost you something.

But the great part is always the reward. It is always better than you imagined.

What significant changes have you made in your life?

Leave a comment

Filed under Dreams, Encouragement, Life lessons

I don’t get it….

Sometimes, I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand why people get cancer.

I don’t understand why people are suffering.

I don’t understand why beautiful couples can’t have babies.

I don’t understand why people are starving in our world.

I don’t understand how such a huge population in our world doesn’t have clean water.

I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to each other.

I don’t understand why people insist on arguing over ridiculous, minute details of theology or politics instead of learning to love each other and accept our differences.

I don’t understand why some people choose to live without any purpose, and tear down people following their dreams.

This list could go on forever.

Sometimes, I just don’t get it…….

It’s at these times, that I have learned to stop and realize that I might never have answers to these questions.  And it certainly doesn’t help anyone to pretend that I have the answers. Sometimes you just have to accept things you cannot change.

I can’t change many of these things. However, I can do my small part in helping to change some of them. And I can choose how I react to each of them – positvely or negatively. Sometimes, all I can do is be there for my friends and family who may be going through one of these scenarios. Sometimes, you have to just say “that sucks, but I’m here to listen and help.” Sometimes, you have to just sit with them, and let them know they are loved. And sometimes, you will be the person that helps them understand that they do matter in this world.

Sometimes, you just need to trust that tomorrow will be a better day.

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Filed under Authenticity, Encouragement

Your Pastor

I am so incredibly thankful for my Pastors. I have two. They are very special to me. Not only do they teach me (and our entire congregation), but I am also lucky to consider them friends.

I often joke with our lead pastor that there are light bulbs going off over my head during many of his sermons. God speaks to me through him. That used to really freak me out! But, over the last few years, I have learned to really crave that. It is pretty amazing how the Holy Spirit can take his words and spread them out among us in different ways. We hear exactly what He wants us to hear through him.

I have been fortunate to have had many special Pastors throughout my life. I’m amazed at how they have helped our family over the years. But, I think what makes my Pastors now so unique is that they are truly allowing God to lead their paths. They ask us to pray that they will always hear God’s voice and obey. And then they put the plan in action. In the past, I have seen so many pastors limited because they felt God wanted them to do one thing, but the denomination or congregation or others blocked them from doing it.

The other thing they are is real. I joke with them that when I first started attending, I was testing them because I didn’t believe they could truly be as authentic as they appeared to be. I was wrong. They are. And I can’t imagine ever being a part of a community again that doesn’t understand how necessary this is. I am thankful to my Pastor and his Dad for leading our church through an amazing transition that led us to this point. I was not a part of the church then, but I am definitely benefiting from their hard work and willingness to follow God’s plan. And I am truly grateful for that.

I had a conversation the other day with someone who said they wished their pastor was as real as an author we know. It made me sad. And, I’ve read many blogs and articles and books that describe Pastors who don’t feel they can ever be authentic with their congregation. That breaks my heart.

So, how can we help our Pastors? I personally pray for them, and their families. Daily. And, I encourage them at every opportunity I can. Unfortunately, that’s something they don’t get nearly enough. They typically hear complaints or frustrations.

So, have you encouraged your Pastor today? Try it, and see what happens!



Filed under Authenticity, Encouragement, Faith

Your gifts

Do you ever feel like you want to do something different?

Like you are not making a difference where you are?

Do you think – if God had me somewhere else, doing something else, living my dream – THEN I’d really be able to help people?

Sometimes I think that can be true. If you’ve gotten yourself in a position where you are completely stifled. You’re numb. You’re unhappy. And you don’t think you can change.You’re most likely not helping anyone when you’re in the state of mind. But that can change.

I’ve recently gone through experiencing some of this. I felt like there was something completely different that I should be doing. I felt like God would only use me if I chased a big dream and did something radical. The problem was I didn’t have a big dream in the same sense that many people do. I never wanted to be an actor, or a missionary, or write songs.

“Steward the talents you’ve been given and enjoy the surprises along the way.”  ~Jon Acuff

As I look back now, my deep down desire has always been to help people. To encourage them to do something more with their life. And in some small way, change the world. But how do you make a living doing that?

I’ve realized something through the help of prayer, Jon Acuff and Quitter, and talking with some of my support group. Sometimes, God has you right where he wants you. He just wants you to start truly seeing the people around you. To stop having surface relationships. To start showing people how much you care about them. To remember the gifts he gave you in the first place. And to use them.

This has been a revelation to me. One of my main gifts is encouragement. I have been doing an okay job of it. But there is always so much more I can do if I am truly looking to see the needs around me and obey when prompted.

This has already led to fun projects that I have been able to plan, as well as individual engagement with people I never could have imagined.

So, what are your gifts?

What is one thing that you can start doing today to impact people right around you? It’s usually much simpler than you think.


Filed under Dreams, Encouragement, Life lessons

Be Quiet and Back Off

“Be quiet and back off. You are getting in my way.”

Not exactly something I expected to hear from God. Now, I know what you’re thinking. That is crazy. Did you really hear it from God?

Yes, I did. I am learning to listen more closely when He speaks to me. This is not something I have always experienced, believe me! And it is something that is somewhat scary at first. Sometimes it is a gentle simple voice. And sometimes it is very clear. Like this time.

What was he talking to me about? My frustrations and impatience when it came to my husband’s faith walk. I had just gone through an incredible transformation and truly learning to find my own solid faith for the first time in a very long time. I was excited! I wanted everything to be perfect. (Why do we always think that way?) I wanted him to feel what I was feeling and to experience it together.

Is that a bad thing to want? I don’t think so. However, when I heard those words I realized something extremely important. His faith walk is different than mine. Everyone’s is. What speaks to me isn’t going to speak to him. What excites me isn’t going to excite him. Constantly nagging him or expecting him to immediately be where I was, was unfair.

So what did I do? The only thing you can do when you clearly hear an instruction from God.

I shut up.

I backed off.

I got out of the way.

I stopped trying to control something I had no control over.

Did I stop praying for him? Absolutely not.

Did I tell him that God said this to me? No. (Not at that moment. More on this later!)

Did I stop trying to control everything and trust God? Yes.

Which makes me wonder. Who was the lesson for in the first place?

My husband or me?

So my advice to anyone who is frustrated with a spouse or partner or child and their faith walk is to BACK OFF. Be a quiet example of what it means to have a relationship with God. But don’t try to fix them or expect their experience to be like yours. In most cases, that is the worst possible thing you could do.

I’d love to hear something that you’ve clearly heard God say to you, and what you did about it.


Filed under Authenticity, Belief, Encouragement, Faith, Life lessons, Marriage