Sunday, June 27, 2010

A New Look

By Kristen Fenton

After years of long hair, I decided to be impulsive and get a short haircut. I began my tireless search for the perfect cut for my hair type and facial features. Finally, I found exactly what I wanted in a photo of Jessica Alba: long bangs sweeping across the forehead with gentle curls--full and falling—just past the shoulders.

I brought my picture to the salon and explained to the stylist—in animated detail—how my hair would be transformed into photo-perfect hair. After many gestures and several forms of explanation, I felt I’d said all I could. I took a look in the mirror, drew a deep breath, looked at my stylist and said: “Okay, let’s do this.” By this I meant cut my hair to the specifications I had described. Yet, by this she interpreted cutting several more inches than my plan.

When she finished, I reached back to run my fingers through my hair and was shocked to realize that this process now took a fraction of the time that it used to. My picture of Jessica Alba? Not what was facing me in the mirror.

Later (while internally cursing the stylist who had disregarded my instructions), it struck me that I’ve felt a similar kind of anger toward God lately. I’m in one of those “growth opportunity” seasons of life where I’m living a reality that I never would have planned--a transition period that has lasted far longer than my husband and I would have ever imagined; jobs, health, housing, medical insurance—all up in the air. There are times when I tell God, “This is not the life that I wanted” or “We were obedient to your calling; why is this happening? When are you going to provide?”

I realize that I treat God like I treat my hairstylist. I give God my picture and “dream life specifications” and expect Him to follow through like some sort of genie. Somehow I believe that this picture is what is best for me. In the midst of the waiting, the uncertainty, the “not yet” season of my life, I’m learning that I have a hard time trusting God. But I am seeking to be honest with him and let him into my anger, sadness, grief, and confusion. I’m practicing this honesty because I have a tendency to put on a happy face, search for the silver lining, and pretend that I am content even though my heart feels far from it. I grew up thinking that God liked me better if I was a good girl that followed all the rules. I’m realizing that he prefers that I bring my whole, real, broken self to him instead of my self-polished facade. I’m in process and thankful that God is making his presence and grace known to me in this season.

I’m not loving this haircut. I wouldn’t do it again. But, fortunately I’m starting to (literally and figuratively) grow into this new look.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Little Inspiration

By Debbie Johnson

Yesterday, I started reading Half the Sky - a book about women in developing countries who courageously face their persecutors or start businesses to lift their families out of poverty—inspiring.

This morning, I crept downstairs in the early dawn for a quiet cup of coffee. I watched twenty deer silently walking through fresh dew in the half-light—inspiring.

Today, I want to be inspired by God at every turn. More than that, I need to be inspired. As the leader of a ministry who serves the poor and desperate of India, I can’t go it alone. I need God’s inspiration, guidance and Spirit-breathed power to do my work. Perhaps my favorite definition of inspiration is “inhalation.” Breathing in God.

In India, street children scavenging for food in the garbage is a familiar sight. Many don’t go home in the evening; some due to fear of alcoholic fathers, others because they have no place to go. They survive by petty thievery or begging—or get pulled into drug cartels. They spend nights on sidewalks or in roadside construction pipes. They spend their lives fighting to survive.
In 1997, while traveling in India, our Founder heard the cries of young mothers begging him to take away their children. He later learned that a group was kidnapping these children to offer as sacrifices to an unknown goddess. This broke his heart, leading him to begin homes for orphaned and abandoned children across India.

But it didn’t stop with the children. We also serve the women of India, most of who have been abandoned by their husbands and left to beg. I could go on with grim statistics, but, as hard as it may be to imagine, there is much good news! Our work is making a difference in the lives of these women and children—orphans and widows—as we care for their needs and provide places to worship.

People helping each other - inspiring.

We so often dwell on the negative—worrying over our own children, having too much to do, dealing with disagreeable relationships, struggling with regret or fear. Don’t get me wrong, we need to deal with these realities, but might we be missing the inspiration? It’s easy to get into this “looking down” habit rather than a “looking around” habit—seeing God at every turn, celebrating answered prayers, breathing him in.

When the poor of India hear of Jesus, they are never the same. Millions have been raised to believe they are lower than animals, but hearing that they are made in God’s image and loved by him is transformational. You should see their beaming faces! Inspiration takes on new meaning when we are able to see things through their eyes.

I want that kind of inspiration. I want the “looking around” habit. I want to be inspired to love greatly, whether my tasks are big or small. And, truly, most of my tasks are small and invisible and surely not glamorous, but even so—I can still live an inspired life.

Today I will watch for God and breathe him in.

Debbie Johnson is the Executive Director of United Evangelical Mission International (UEMI). In India, UEMI has 15 children's homes, a school in Bangalore, women's programs, and a church planting division.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Commencing Now

By Carla Foote

It’s graduation season and you may have recently attended a commencement ceremony. I attended a college graduation this year and a high school graduation last year. Most graduation speeches follow a somewhat predictable formula of using a metaphor for this new beginning and then inspiring the graduates to go out and make a difference in the world. In the whirlwind of the celebration, I wonder if those speeches are a bit lost on the near-adults sitting in rows wearing caps and gowns. After their investment of time and energy in schooling and extra-curricular activities, are they focused on what the speaker is encouraging them to do? Or are they just so relieved to be done that the speech washes over them?

Personally, I am a complete sucker for the emotion and expectations of the graduation season, and I find myself inspired by the speeches, even though I’m not the one “commencing” a new season of life. Or am I?

Perhaps graduation speeches really are for those of us at different stages of life, commencing with each day. Often speakers emphasize that “real life” starts after graduation from school, but I think real life is every stage, every season, every phase.

As women who are influencers in our world – at work, community, church, home, family, school and more – we are cyclical, seasonal beings, in the real life of all our days. There is always a beginning and an ending, and since most of us carry many roles, the transitions overlap and interweave in a crazy-quilt of moments. Some are significant enough to warrant ceremonies – graduations, weddings, funerals, and birthdays – but others are the quiet realization of our own personal transitions and seasons of change.

Last week I tried to set aside a part of a day for reflection, for sitting on my porch and considering my season and call. Some of my thoughts shifted as a result of that day, qualifying it as what I will call a “commencement” – if only a commencement of new thinking. No “Pomp and Circumstance,” no speeches, just a few notes penned in my journal and revised for my blog. But I was open to thinking about my season of life in a new way.

For those of you who might not know anyone graduating right now, I’m sure you can find some inspiring (and probably less-than-inspiring) graduation speeches on YouTube, or you can hum “Pomp and Circumstance” as you take a walk around the block, and you can consider your own seasonality and circumstances. Where is your influence shifting? Where are you being called to step up and lead? It might be a large new season of commencement for you, or the daily commencement of celebrating the challenges of today and choosing to think differently about tomorrow, whatever it may bring.

Carla Foote is Director of Communications at MOPS International ( Outside of work, Carla enjoys time spent gardening, because it is good for her soul. Her garden blog is

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pass it On

By Suanne Camfield

Last September, Tracey Bianchi launched the FullFill™ blog (Weekly ReFill) with a post titled: “Oooo, I wanna be just like that!”

Tracey and I are friends. We are ministry partners. We are writing cohorts. We share dreams, swap kids, groan when we hit marital and relational speed bumps, saddle up through personal and professional valleys and victoriously clink our glasses when we’ve clawed our way to the other side. And on more than one occasion, as I have watched this woman excel in her gifts, the title of that article has run through my mind, “Oooo, I wanna be just like that!”

I have a confession: My spiritual gift is comparison.

About two months ago, Tracey called me. Demands on her time as a women’s pastor, author, speaker and mom had been steadily increasing, forcing her to make some tough decisions about how to prioritize her influence. The result? A decision to step down as the manager of the FullFill™ blog. FullFill™ publisher Elisa Morgan applauded her decision and so did I.

Then Tracey asked if she could recommend me to take her place.

This inaugural post skated through my mind at the same time I was reminded of an email I sent her a few months earlier.

It was a Sunday afternoon. She had just preached a killer sermon. Her quick mind, skilled story-telling and easy banter with the crowd made me beam over the woman God had uniquely fashioned her to be. (Not to mention she looked amazing in dark denim pants and cute leather boots!) As the day went on, however, I unwillingly found my spiritual gift in full gear, creating an internal shrinking that left me completely annoyed with myself—I definitely knew better than this. Recognizing my erroneous (okay, immature) thoughts, I jotted an email telling her how proud I was of her gifts and confessing the impact I allowed her influence to have on my own soul. She graciously accepted my apology. It was an exchange that set me free from my comparison and deepened our friendship.

When I hung up the phone with her months later (and subsequently accepted Elisa’s offer to manage the FullFill™ blog), I felt God’s pleasure. Our simple exchange—the passing of this blog from one leader to another—reminded me of both the beauty and of the power of a community of impassioned women who are truly for one another. As leaders who desire growth, it’s essential to surround ourselves with others who challenge and inspire us. The irony of the beauty, however, is the greater the giftedness, the greater the temptation to compare. If we dwell in these moments of inadequacy, we can become paralyzed and defeated. But if we have the courage to be honest before God and one another—and use these moments to encourage and spur one another on—there is no stopping what God can do in and through us.

I’m grateful for this lesson in my life, and I celebrate all the women who have allowed it to be so. No one more than my friend Tracey.

This is definitely one to clink the glasses over.

Suanne Camfield is a writer, speaker, Bible teacher and FullFill™ Blog Manager. She lives with her family in Chicago, Illinois. Tracey Bianchi stepped aside as blog manager in May. You can learn about Tracey’s book and other musings at