I’m a liar.

This is such a humble blog post to be read and pondered without judgement. Living an extraordinary life demands that we live a life of honesty, humility, and integrity. Are you willing to admit your short-comings and make necessary changes to live that kind of life? If you are, then you are ready to live the extraordinary life.

Be Extraordinary!

The Overboard life

Just over one year ago, Lance Armstrong admitted, on national television, that he had been doping his blood and using illegal drugs to enhance his ability as a world-class cyclist. Winner of 7 Tour de France races after he conquered cancer, Lance was an icon to millions of cancer patients and he gave hope to everyone who had great odds to overcome. And he was a liar.

He lied to people for over a decade. He denied using drugs. He swore that he never doped. He threw teammates under the bus who were calling him out and he looked people right in the eye and said, “I’m the real deal.” I believed him, and I was one of the many who defended him when the evidence was mounting. (Read my post, “I Believed Lance”)

Lance ArmstrongToday, Lance is a man who has been humbled. Over half of his assets…

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Whatever May Pass . . .

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Winter sunrise from our back deck.

“The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

These words, by Matt Redman, always take me back to that morning drive to the hospital on kidney donation day. I’ve heard and sung the song at least a hundred times in this past year. A couple of weeks ago I realized that those words were so real every time I heard them. I was truly at peace in that moment, October 23, 2012, and willing for whatever direction my life took that day. Those same words (although not that song) were said in April 2011 on the day we said “yes” to Tati becoming part of our family and March 2013 as we drove our family to our new home across the country.

Sunset at our favorite beach on Maui.

Sunset at our favorite beach on Maui.

That’s all great, but what about this day? Can I say those same words today and every day?
“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me”. Can I accept “whatever”? Am I living in a mindset and willingness that I will accept the unknowns of this day, the one right before me? I want to. It’s part of this amazing, extraordinary journey – the unknown. It’s easy to say what I think I can and can’t handle. I’d like to think I could handle a one million dollar donation to my bank account today. I’m willing to try that one out anyway. But I don’t always get to choose the “whatever lies before me”.

The reality is that all I can do today is be willing for whatever may come. I can practice the parts I can control, my responses to the circumstances around me today. In that daily practice, I am refining my spirit and strengthening my resolve to live an extraordinary life. I don’t know what my next big extraordinary challenge will be or even if it will come today, but I do know that even the seemingly small things are part of the extraordinary journey.

Sunset over Lake Michigan.

Sunset over Lake Michigan.

Are you in the journey? Are you living the extraordinary life that is before you today? Can you honestly say that you will still be singing when this evening comes, no matter what may pass and whatever lies before you today? Say yes to the extraordinary journey today! It may seem scary but it’s always worth it!

Be Extraordinary!

Blessing in Disguise

20131108-093403.jpgI really do not like having life mess with my plans. (My husband, Joe, and my parents are probably laughing hysterically already). Coming home to a messy house, a call from the school, a cancelled appointment, a spill down the front of my shirt – any of these things – can get the best of me. I was reminded today that I often don’t see what happens as a result of an unforeseen change-of-plans. These changes can, and often do, create greater blessing than we will ever know. I just so happened to have the privilege of knowing about the other end/side of one of these “things didn’t go as planned” moments.

Recently, I have had the privilege of getting to know Julie through Facebook and Skype. She has an amazing story and she is walking through her story in an extraordinary manner. She was scheduled to have surgery, so I decided to order her flowers and have them sent to the hospital. (I live in Michigan and she lives in Oregon). The surgery was quite major and I was under the impression that Julie would remain at the hospital for at least a week, so scheduling the flowers for five days later seemed reasonable.

On flower delivery day I received a call from the man in charge of shipping and receiving at the hospital. He said, “Nobody by that name is here.” Then he did something unheard of (unheard of to me). After he did some checking, he wondered if I would like to have the flowers delivered to her home. Really? Yes sir, please and thank you. He didn’t even ask for an address (which was good because I didn’t have one).

What had happened? Julie was released from the hospital after four days, then headed from Corvalis, Oregon to Seattle, Washington for another procedure. She arrived home several days later. This is what happened next, in Julie’s own words:

“So here’s life doing what life does – which usually works out so much better than I could have planned. I just got home – feeling drained – sick of feeling sick and tired of infusions, tired of doctors and pretty much have felt like I was on the sinking ship by myself. There sits this box on the stairs. Something else I need to get up to my room. Literally in tears I open this box and out pops this amazing plant and planter, which totally did their job in adding a smile to my face. Reminding me to press on – this is when recovery gets hard. The perfect thing happens to what I assume could only be against your plan as the hospital sent it to me from there. Thank you a million times! I am now reminded to be extraordinary and why sometimes our timing isn’t everything. It was perfectly needed today!”

Bouquet from ProFlowers.com

Bouquet from ProFlowers.com

Julie’s story is my reminder that next time things don’t seem to be going according to my perfect little plan, there is another side to the story. And most likely it is a blessing in disguise — or at least that’s the way I will choose to see it.

Be Extraordinary!

Kidney-versary: Had Two, Gave One

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A last visit with Rhonda before our move to Michigan, 4 1/2 months post surgery.

October 23, 2013 marks the one year anniversary of donating my left kidney to a wonderful recipient, Rhonda. This event and the six months leading up to this event radically changed my thinking, my perspective, and my life. I am forever humbled by and grateful for the privilege of being a part of Rhonda’s transformation story. And Rhonda’s physical life has been transformed. I had a front row seat to instant change. Knowing that one willing act created profound change in the quality of life of my friend is overwhelming.

How do I put this journey into words? One year later and I still don’t know the answer to that question, so here are my thoughts today.

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Surgery day.

As Joe and I headed to OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) in the dark, early morning of October 23, I pushed ‘play’ on my specially made playlist entitled “peace”. We had stayed at a hotel just one song from the hospital and as the song began we heard these words,
“The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

After months of testing, preparing, testing, waiting, testing and more testing, we knew that this was the moment. The moment to put full trust and faith in God’s plan. My life was in the hands of the doctor, Rhonda’s receptiveness to the kidney was uncertain, recovery was unknown. God was ultimately in control of all these things and that knowledge gave me peace like I have never experienced before. I had heard people talk about ‘quiet confidence’ before and that day, with full awareness, I experienced it up close and personal. Those who have heard my story before know how I feel about needles, blood draws, IV’s and hospitals. I don’t like the smells or thoughts about any of those. I often feel faint (and have fainted). I’ve never even donated a pint of blood. Yet, on October 22 and 23 I experienced peace and clarity like never before. A wink from God (as a buddy of my husband once said).

Giving a kidney did not really change my physical health. After recovery from surgery (and a hernia surgery 7 months later), I really don’t feel any different physically. However, my heart seems to have undergone a transplant. My compassion for others has increased. My burning desire to live an extraordinary life has intensified. My influence is different. I think differently. I feel differently. I connect differently. My kids are changed. My husband is changed. The song in my spirit will never be the same.

“Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship Your holy name.”

Be Extraordinary!

To read my husband’s thoughts the day after surgery, click here.

To read my perspective one month after transplant, click here.

The day before surgery. Prep day.

Meeting up with Rhonda on prep day – the day before surgery.

The kids have a new love for kidneys - even at Famous Footwear!

The kids have a new love for kidneys – even at Famous Footwear!

Moments before I would begin surgery and Rhonda would begin prep.

Moments before I would begin surgery and Rhonda would begin prep.

Sweet 16

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Beautiful Tatiana. 🙂

We recently celebrated a “Sweet 16” in our house. Tatiana – aka Tots, Tatlianna, Cheesy Tots – turned the big 16! We first met Tati when she was 12 and started attending our youth group in Oregon. She has now been an amazing addition to our family for the past two and a half years. Tati is a beautiful, fun-loving, belly-laughing, successful and adaptable young woman. Our family loves her to pieces!

Adding Tati to our family is a piece of the amazing journey that began after I read the book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Let me pick up my side of the story in April 2011. . .

I was working through the study Experiencing God, and was very touched by the things I was learning. I would visit the Upper Room of the Broadway Coffee house and work on my study there,  overlooking the beautiful trees of Salem, Oregon. One particular day in April, following my time of study I journaled this prayer:

“Lord, I want to be part of YOUR extraordinary work. I realize that comes by connecting and depending heart and soul on YOU. YOU are the one who works. I am YOUR willing vessel. It feels a little fearful to say these words because I don’t know what You will ask of me, but I am willing. Help me to know You and stay close to You.

“Lord . . . I choose to be ok not knowing the big plan for this next year, but rather listening for and responding to your next move. I love You, God and I want to be changed and used by You for extraordinary things.”

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Taken 1 month after Tati joined our family.

Later that very same day I was driving AJ, BJ and Celina home from school when I received a call from Joe that went something like this. “I just found out that Tati’s mom will be heading back to prison for 2+ years and I think Tati should come live with us.” Short pause. YES! I knew without doubt it was God’s answer to my earlier prayer. My heart was fully ready and my answer was YES!

Have you ever found yourself in that place where you are ready for anything? So ready, that you are ok with what “anything” actually is? So ready that your eyes are wide open, ears are tuned up and heart is eager with anticipation for what comes next? It is an exciting place to be – fully surrendered and open – a place where great things are born.

I hope you take the opportunity to embrace someone or something new into your life, heart and family. I am so glad Tati is part of the journey God has for our family. I am so glad I said “YES!”

Family

Our family at USANA Convention, August 2012.

Be Extraordinary!

Opportunity Knocks

opportunityI stopped to get gas today – at a gas station I’ve never been to – in a part of town I rarely visit. As I was filling the tank a girl approached. The 17-year-old girl was wearing pajamas and no shoes. She asked to borrow my phone and was unable to reach anyone to pick her up. I discovered that she had been in the hospital followed by a day in jail for not meeting her probation requirements.

While she was on the phone – before I knew her age or story – I prayed that God would give me wisdom and that I wouldn’t miss an opportunity because of inconvenience or fear.

An opportunity for what?

I don’t know exactly. Probably not the answer you were looking for and to be quite honest it wasn’t the answer I was looking for either. After driving Tanya 20 minutes in the opposite direction I was originally headed and dropping her off at her aunt’s house, I asked myself a question: What was I hoping to gain by helping Tanya? What opportunity did I not want to miss?

I have discovered many things in my quest to live an extraordinary life. One of those is that it is not the specific things we do that make a life extraordinary, but rather my obedience to God and my response to the opportunities I encounter. The reality is that I don’t know what God has for me or will request of me around the next corner, but I do know that I don’t want to miss it because I was unwilling to help a shoeless girl get across town. It’s easy to show up for the big opportunities and recognition, but God demands more for me and my desire to live an extraordinary life. He wants my heart and attitude in all situations – to live extraordinary when no one is watching. To live extraordinary when the only one watching is a 17-year-old girl who just got out of jail.

So what is the opportunity I don’t want to miss? The opportunity that I can’t even see. The encounter around the next corner that changes a life, a family, a community, a nation or a world – I want to be ready.

Are you embracing the opportunities you face, big and small? Every encounter is a piece of the story and a step in the journey of an extraordinary life.

Be Extraordinary!

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Blog if I Want To

birthday-cake-hd-widescreen-images-I had a birthday on Sunday. It was met with a great morning at church, a beautiful dinner prepared by my family, an iTunes gift card, hand-crafted cards by the kids and a trip to the movie theater for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Joy, laughter, family time, secret plans and birthday candles all make birthdays fun and memorable.

This birthday has also brought about a lot of reflection over this past year. Honestly, I don’t know that I am where I thought I would be. Will you take a little stroll back in time to September 29, 2012?

On my 40th birthday I was enjoying the warm breezes, sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets of Maui, Hawaii. Joe and I had spent 4 days visiting a ministry we were considering being a part of on the island Molokai. 2500 miles in the opposite direction of our home in Salem, Oregon was another ministry opportunity at Lake Ann Camp where we were set to interview just one week later. Another event pending on the horizon was my kidney donation surgery set for October 23.

So many unknowns. So many questions. So many what-ifs.

In spite of these looming unknowns, my hopes and dreams for my 40th year of life included getting in the best physical and financial shape of my life. I wanted it (I still want, and am working for it), and I thought that on my 41st birthday I would have it.

The physical, mental and emotional toll of moving our family across the country, starting a brand new ministry, entering a new market (for my business), living in a new culture, recovering from kidney donation surgery, recovering from hernia surgery 9 months later was far greater than I could ever have anticipated. It’s the funny thing about the extraordinary life: Saying yes to it is easy, but actually walking the path is a great challenge.

Would I trade it? No way! The rewards of the challenging path are far too great. I don’t always see that in the circumstances around me, but I know its truth, because I’ve come through other valleys of this extraordinary journey called life.

Will you still choose extraordinary even when a detour comes your way? Will you persevere and persist in making it to the other side? I hope so because it’s only from the other side that we are able to have perspective and see how extraordinary the journey actually was.

I don’t know what my 41st year will hold, but I do know this…the journey will be worth it.

Be Extraordinary!