A Tale of Three Trees: It’s Not What You Think!

Have you ever bawled like a baby when reading a children’s fable?  I have!  Several years ago, as I was browsing the small bookstore at The Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, I picked up The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale.  I guarantee you that this was no ordinary children’s story.   The tale tells of the dreams of three trees in the forest, who all long to grow into something that the world would value.  One wanted to be the most beautiful, the other the strongest, and the third the tallest.   After many years the woodcutters came to harvest these trees on the mountain.

Christ with CrossWhat these three trees wished themselves to be instead became how they were used to serve.   The purpose of each tree brought me to tears.  Can you guess how the tallest tree was used?  The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the land, and by some accounts this tree got what it wished for as it stood tall at Calvary with Jesus nailed to it.   This tree had one idea of its future, but God had another purpose and plan.  Despite the ugliness it endured as it co-labored with Jesus, the third tree had the opportunity to help bring Salvation to the world.  Now that’s worth both living and dying for!

We all have dreams, and the question we should ask ourselves is whether we are dreaming the right dream.  Are you pursuing your own dream or seeking to know God’s dream for your life?  Sometimes God’s dream for your life will take you through ugliness, harshness, and cruelty such as what Jesus experienced on the cross?  Much of the time you will never be made aware of the impact you are making and must maintain faith that God is using each faithful word and action for Kingdom impact.  On those seemingly rare occasions when I do get feedback, I find those are the fuel that keep me seeking the Lord’s will for my life.

Why Easter Is My Favorite Holiday!

“What’s your favorite holiday?”  Most of my friends and family respond with Christmas.  Why? Answers include the recollection of fond childhood memories opening presents around the tree, the beautiful decorations, lots of great food, or the ability to spend time with a larger circle of family.  Many claim Thanksgiving as their favorite holiday, because they can spend time with family without the stress of Christmas shopping and exhaustion that comes from too many activities crammed into one month—December. The common theme between Christmas and Thanksgiving is these holidays are spent in relationships.  What is my favorite holiday?  It would have to be Easter? I realize that most people think of chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, white baskets, and fluffy bunnies, but Easter represents the ultimate gift given to me by my best friend!  Easter celebrates my personal relationship with Jesus!

jeremiah 29-11-2When I think of the love that I have my daughter, Alex, I am awed that God would sacrifice His own son for me, so I could live.  Would I be able to sacrifice my dear Alex, so others can live?  Could I have done what Abraham planned to do in Genesis 22—sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac?  I like to think I would obey God, but I do not think anyone can be confident in his answer until placed directly in that situation!  How grateful I am not to have to choose.  How grateful I am that Jesus died on the cross to take my sins, so I can be with the Father long after my body turns to ashes!  With my gift of eternal life, I cannot choose any other path other than to follow Him and use my life to glory God.  Am I perfect?  No, I sin daily, although I can honestly say I try to live my life honorably, sharing of my time and treasures.

I pray that if you know Jesus, you will continue to listen for God’s calling for your life and act in faith.  I pray that everyone has a life vision and a life Scripture that speaks and resonates in their hearts.  My Scripture has always been Jeremiah 29:11.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  I know God has big plans for me to accomplish during the years I live on earth.  Every day I look forward to a new adventure as I am humbled by God’s gift!

For those who have not welcomed Jesus into their hearts, please reach out!  I would love to further the conversation about Jesus and what He can do for you!  You can reach me at shinecrossings@gmail.com.

Happy Easter!

Reclaim Your Life by Creating Healthy Boundaries

Create Healthy BoundariesDo you feel less joy these days?  Does it feel like everyone else owns a piece of you and there is nothing left?  Do you dream to have 15 minutes of uninterrupted time so you can reconnect with yourself?  Is your life a harried record of accomplishments and yet never-ending to-do lists? Would your personal profile be listed in the dictionary under the word “busyness”?  You may sadly chuckle and infer these questions are tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is that an answer of “yes” to any of these questions is a sobering reminder of how stressed and anxiety-ridden many are as they run, not walk, on the treadmill of American life.  Unfortunately, the solution is not as easy as advertised by the late 1980’s commercial “Calgon, take me away!” in which a woman, surrounded by a chaotic home, says these four words and is then transported to a relaxing bath in a quiet room.  If only the solution could be solved so simply by the purchase of a few bath products and an evening soaking in the tub.

What’s the solution?

The solution is within your power to implement.  Personal boundaries!  They are the critical component in designing the life you want.  “Boundaries provide the structure to your character that will make everything else work” (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries affect how we relate to others, how we feel emotionally, and how we perform at work.  When you understand the impact of boundaries and choose to define them for your life, you will reconnect with your identity, find more joy, and create a healthier and more satisfying life.  The necessity of personal boundaries has emerged as a counter force to the crisis that has developed from an increasingly structureless society that values the integration of work-life, despite the rhetoric that we need to have more of a work-life balance.  American culture and work have eroded the time and space boundaries we need to focus on the priorities we value most.

How did we get here?

So how did we get to this place of exhaustion and dissatisfaction?  Work structure has changed from the typical 9 to 5 hours of operation to one in which we are to be available 24-7, where working in the evenings is just an extension of the normal work day.  Work has penetrated our home space by either design or creep.  Bortolot (2015) states that the home office is now one of the most important residential amenities.  Even if one can physically separate his work environment within the home, he may not be able to mentally escape work.  How many of you have tried to relax in the evening, only to feel the nag of work penetrating your thoughts?  Do you compromise by opening up your laptop while watching your favorite TV sitcom?  Although society praises the multi-tasker, they are usually pulled in so many directions, they struggle to enjoy anything other than the satisfaction that comes from crossing off more items on their to-do list.  Keim (2012) showed that high multi-taskers performed poorly at filtering irrelevant from relevant information, had diminished ability to mentally organize, and experienced difficulty in switching between tasks.  Keim (2012) concluded if you do two things simultaneously, you will not do any of them at full capacity.

Although our lives have all benefited from technology, the tragedy is that it has also enabled the violation of our time and space boundaries.  Personal cell phones allow access to you at all times.  iPhones and computers give instant access to data and connectivity to work.  Email has expanded our network so strangers can now reach into our personal world.  Although email was initially described as a productivity enhancement, anyone with an email address is now accessible at any time by any one.  Email and voicemail can be blessings, but without personal boundaries, you may feel email is a curse because of the pressure to respond to communication, even if unsolicited.  By definition most people are losing control over their most precious resource—their time.  Money can be earned, won, spent and lost, but time is a finite resource.

TolerateBoundaries help us define who we are and form a structure in our lives that allows us to regain control (Cloud, 2008).  Boundaries protect your time, space, and relationships so that you can positively influence your world. Our society does not naturally provide the support that helps us to create and live out healthy boundaries.   Cloud (2008) asserts that “the irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control—other people, circumstances, or outcomes—that in the process they lose control of themselves” (p. 21).  The only thing you can control is yourself, so consider the decision to take control of you.

How do I reclaim my life?

  • Understand what a boundary is and what it does

A boundary is a demarcation of where you end and where someone or something else begins.  Boundaries define ownership and who controls what does and does not go on in that space.  More importantly boundaries define who is responsible for and accountable to protect that space.

  • Understand what boundaries provide and how they serve your needs

Boundaries provide the structure that helps to define our character and personality, because they describe who we are, what we want, and how we feel and think.  Clear boundaries provide security and benefit self and others, because they are not ambiguous, are predictable, and signal what we will and will not tolerate. They help to contain chaos, because one who is clear on boundaries will step in to make sure chaos is effectively dealt with.

  • Define what you feel, think, and desire

Boundaries differentiate us from others and teach us how we are unique individuals in feelings, attitudes, behaviors, limits, thoughts, and choices.  What are the things that you value most in life?  How would you ideally want to live your life?  What do you want to make a priority?  What are your vision, mission, and goals?

  • Identify the holes in your boundaries

Rebuilding boundaries is about reclaiming your power.  Power drains have numerous sources as described by Cloud (2008): need for security, need for approval, need to be perfect, need to have others see you as ideal, need to overidentify with other people’s problems, need to rescue, fear of being alone, fear of conflict, need for harmony, fear of differing opinions, fear of anger, fear of feeling inferior, fear of someone’s power, inability to say no, inability to hear no or accept limits, inability to tolerate failure of others, hero worship, lack of internal structure, and dependency to name a few.  You should identify the holes in your boundaries and address them.

  • Communicate who you are to others

Set limits consistent with your vision, mission, values, and goals and communicate them to others.  You empower others by allowing them to decide and live with the consequences defined by your boundaries.  By default, you will no longer try to control others’ decisions and actions, because you can live with the outcome of whatever decision they make. Communicating and living within your boundaries is a form of respecting others and also provides a healthy model for them to emulate.

  • Act on your boundaries

Live each day in accordance with your boundaries.  When you are in control of your boundaries, you become a more integrated person, gain greater respect for yourself, and become more respectful of other people’s boundaries.  Boundaries allow you to influence others’ behaviors toward you, which by default makes you feel whole and more in control.

What is the cost of boundaries?

Having boundaries comes comes with a personal cost.  In order to have full control, you need to have the freedom to control those aspects of your life where you have boundaries. You can only leverage them if you are not dependent on any single person or entity for survival, because the one to whom you are dependent may decide to invoke their boundaries and put you in an untenable position.  As you work on defining your personal boundaries and areas of weakness, you should also take inventory of your life to understand where you have weak capital.  Has poor financial stewardship put you in a position that you could not weather a job lose for several months should you decide to invoke your boundaries?  Would a work dismissal cause you undue hardship?  If so, you may need to save for an emergency fund to build that capital.  What about the young adult, still living rent-free with his parents, who does not like his imposed curfew?  He is not free to come and go as he pleases as a fully functioning adult, because he may be asked to pack up his belongings and move out.  His first step should be to build his financial capital so he can either re-negotiate rent for more freedom or secure other living arrangements.  Before invoking boundaries, you must end any dependency and be able to live with the boundaries that any other individual may choose to impose on you.

CAUTION:  Establishing boundaries for the first time may come with some emotionally charged responses from others in your life.  You may likely find that those people who have boundaries respect you more, and those people who do not live with boundaries will resort to behaviors that will test the strength of yours.  Think of the parent who has told his toddler no.  Toddlers use the word no to try to establish their boundaries.  When they do not get their way, they step up with more emotional persuasion.  Next may come yelling, screaming, and possibly throwing things to get their way.  They may fall on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.  They may say, “I hate you,” as a means of hurting you into giving in.  When you are firm on your boundaries for long enough, a toddler will eventually wear themselves out and move on.   You may have to repeat this cycle a few times; however, when a toddler knows his parent is firm on a boundary, compliance prevails in the long run.  This same principle also holds true for family, friends, or work relationships.

References

Bortolot, L. (2015). Four trends in home office design. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248061

Cloud, H. (2008). The one-life solution: Reclaim your personal life while achieving greater professional success. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Keim, B. (2012).  Is multitasking bad for us? Nova Science. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a life, premarital/marriage, and business coach with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches others in how to develop and execute life plans, develop successful businesses, and build better relationships by identifying and living their personal values, enhancing skills and competencies, and being held accountable for executing their defined goals.

World Changers on Mission

Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s LWI El Salvador 2016 Mission Journal (November 2, 2016)

I typically write my closing journal entry several days after returning from mission, so that I have time not only to unpack my bags but also the messages God shares with me during the week.   Although I know God uses my hands and feet on the ground to serve, I am also to receive.  God did not disappoint.   I believe he put all the pieces together for me starting from my journey to Kenya in 2013, Haiti in 2014, Honduras in 2015, and then Kenya and El Salvador in 2016.  Besides these short-term mission trips, God placed on my heart Shine Crossings and World Changers on Mission (WCoM).  At the end of 2015, God closed the door to my employment at TPC Group and opened another door for me to attend Liberty University full-time to purse my second Masters which is in Human Services Counseling, Life Coaching.  God made this all possible by bringing Darin into my life as a soulmate, supporter, and now financial leader of our home, so I could walk through the threshold and into the calling God has for my life.  God has a plan, and I am living it!

Two years prior, God told me to watch for the Cross laid over the Star of David.  Well, the corners of that star started to take shape about 6 months ago.  God gave me the vision of the first triangle with corners of church (people), mission (developmental service), and business (enterprises).   After my trip towcom-emblem-2016-11-03 Kenya in early 2016 another inverted triangle started to take form with dignity (in service).  This trip completed the other two points of this triangle which are equipped (where we stand) and connectivity (God has no borders).  So, when you put the two triangles together you have the Star of David.  When I stepped into the Tabernacle Church in El Salvador and saw their emblem, the message was that Christ covers it all.  The puzzle is complete.  I believe when God told me to look for the Cross over the Star of David, he was telling me that he had given me everything.  It is done! Now go!

I will be honest.  I’m a bit scared.  Not scared of failure, but just scared, because it is just so overwhelmingly big.  Therefore, I remind myself again of TD Jakes’ message at the Global Leadership Summit (GLS).  If you can accomplish your dream on your own, you are not dreaming big enough.   I am also reminded of the bracelet that God encouraged me to buy just weeks before mission—FEARLESS.   Dream big!  Fearless! And fear less!  I better embrace it all, and as I like to coach others and must take my own advice—just MOVE!  GO!  Have no fear, God is with you always.

World Changers on Mission

Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s El Salvador mission journal (October 22, 2016)

I am writing my last entry before our team departs for El Salvador.  God has been stirring up a lot of imagery and concepts with me these past couple of weeks.  In early October while enjoying a few margaritas and Mexican flavors with Matt and Holly Smith, I shared our calling to launch a group of people who would meet on a regular basis with the sole purpose of supporting each other as each moves out into his/her mission field.  Six months ago, Darin and I left our life group, because we wanted to use the time for service as well as to shinecrossings_textbasedlogoexplore a concept that God was placing on our hearts.  We desired to launch a group (unknown what it would be called then) whose sole purpose would be for missional living and outreach.  As Darin and I continued to focus on developing short-term mission trips to Kenya and El Salvador and serving in the Prison Entrepreneurship Program and marriage/premarital ministry, this concept took a back burner.  However, on October 7th, Matt and Holly challenged us to launch it, and excitedly said they wanted in.  That night, as Darin and I laid in bed, I told him I thought God was telling us it was time!  God’s message was coming through the spoken words of Matt and Holly.  At that moment I committed to develop the program before we left for El Salvador to take the team to drill a well and do pump repair.  Because God placed this initiative on our hearts, the details flowed as I put thought to paper.  Shine Crossings will be launching World Changers on Mission (WCoM) whose inspirational Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV).

The World Changers Vision

Build a transforming Christian army to love the world as Christ loves all

The World Changers Mission Statement

  • Coach leaders to crush their limiting beliefs, love who they are, and discover their identity in Christ
  • This mission will be accomplished through the following goals:
    • Self-exploring to identify lies that are holding back personal identity and service and replace with the truth
    • Driving on world service in ways that show Jesus’s love to others and which honor personal spiritual gifts and talents
    • Meeting people where they are in their personal spiritual journey and providing information and encouragement to pursue Christ as their personal savior
    • Developing and encouraging future world changers to organize and move out in service

For those who want to learn more about this initiative, I have developed a simple PowerPoint that provides more explanation and detail.  Email me if you are interested in receiving more information.   Because I know how God works, I cannot help but wonder how this mission trip will impact or further develop the concept of World Changers on Mission.

I am reminded of TD Jakes’ message from the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in which he said that if you can accomplish your dream on your own, you are not dreaming big enough.  World Changers on Mission (WCoM) may have been birthed by Darin and me through God’s planting of a mustard seed in fertile soil, but WCoM is about empowering everyone to move in their purpose.  TD Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, has some incredibly powerful quotes which I share for thought-provoking action:

  • “Don’t stop at where you are as if it were the destination, when in fact, in reality, it may be the transportation that brings you into that thing you were created to do.”
  • “Everything you’ve gone through is preparation for what’s about to happen in your life. The Lord has already given you a word, move!”
  • “We need to be who we were called to be instead of contorting ourselves into what other people want us to be!”
  • “It is time for us to find the thing we were created to do, the people we were meant to affect, and the power that comes from alignment with purpose.”
  • “Here is the problem with how many people approach the question of purpose: many are looking outside of themselves for their purpose, destiny, or meaning in life. The very key to knowing your purpose is discovering and celebrating your personal identity.”
  • “God is about to plant you in a big thing. Your eyes have not seen, your ears have not heard, neither has entered into your heart what God has in store for you!”
  • “If we are called to be the salt of the earth, we have to get out of the saltshaker. Get out of your comfort zone, enlarge your territory.”
  • “Your Passion is your conviction about it, your Purpose is why you do it, your Destiny is where.”
  • “At any age you can still ignite your passion through finding your purpose.”
  • “When you know your purpose, you know what isn’t your purpose, so you can stop being distracted trying to do something that is not in the wheelhouse of what you were designed to do!”

All of TD Jakes’ (www.tdjakes.com) key messages are foundational to what WCoM embodies.  So, what field is God calling you into?

Fearless or Fear Less

An excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s El Salvador Mission Journal (October 10, 2016)

I feel remiss in not having issued a mission journal entry since early August, but frankly I think I was so busy with life, serving, and school that I wasn’t paying much attention to anything God might have been whispering in my ear.   Yes, I have been short-changing God and paying the price.  However, I believe God is stirring something powerful in my heart prior to taking a team of 11 to drill a well, repair wells, teach hygiene, and play with the village children in El Salvador with Living Water International.

fearless-photo

My reminder to move into my fear

In September while I was visiting Alex and Wes in Colorado Springs, I stopped at the Focus on the Family Bookstore—one of my favorites and one I never miss when in town.  As the cashier was ringing up my book purchases, I looked down on the counter at several bracelets with one-word descriptions such as faith, hope, believe, etc.  For those who know me, I am not a jewelry person, yet this one word, “fearless” caught my attention.  I looked away to finalize my purchase, but my eyes were drawn back to this one bracelet.  Given how strange it was that my attention was drawn towards this item, I took the time to resonate on what I was feeling and thinking.  Fearless, fear less, less fear, strength, etc.  I decided to add the bracelet to my total, so that I would not hold up the checkout line.  I would figure out what God was telling me later when I had more time.  Fast forward to when I returned to Houston—I put on the bracelet, thinking this would inspire my thoughts and any messages.

Fearless—was it simply an adjective, or was it fear less, more of a call to action, to identify my fears, face fear, turn my fear over to God by doing exactly what I feared.  Although I have never counted the number of times that any one word is written in the Bible, a simple unverified internet search says that “love” appears more than 500 times and “fear” as expressed as “do not be afraid” or “do not fear” appears about 120 times.  This was less than I would have estimated, but enough to send a clear message that we as humans suffer and struggle with fear in our lives, as there are many Scriptural references to “fear not.”

What fear does God want to bring to my attention and how might this be related to this mission trip?  Darin and I have talked at length that we are not afraid of physical harm or death.  Many people are fearful to go on a mission trip into a third world country.  I remember well the pleas not to go to Nairobi, Kenya in October 2013 from well-meaning friends and family, because we were traveling just weeks after the Westgate Mall Christian massacre where hundreds of Christians were either killed or injured.  We were scheduled for outreach in the slums of Ongata Rongai which was a mere 5 miles from this mall.

I know that fear is a powerful, self-inflicted weapon used to hold us back from everything we are called to be and when we are called to act.  I am fully aware of my fears, when I feel fearful, and I have been working on confronting and moving into my fears.  Fighting fear is a journey I take with God by my side, and so far, I wish I were farther along, but I am proud of my progress.  I clearly see how my fears are the obstacles that block me from fully moving in the purpose God has for my life.  Clarity of purpose helps me visualize the wall of fear that stands before me and how I need to walk through my wall of fear, climb over it, or go around it with these last two options taking a longer yet still successful path.

Acts 18:9 (NLT) speaks to my heart: “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!’”  Although there are a few interpretations for this Scripture, the message that resonates with me is to not be afraid of the things God is calling me to do that are outside my comfort zone.  Speak of those fears so they cannot hold power over me or build walls that block my path towards my divine purpose.  What am I afraid of?  Right now, I hold only two fears that I am aware of—public speaking and the yet to be answered, “Will I be successful when I launch my life and marriage coaching business next year?”  Why is God having me focus on my fears in a specific way just before we are to go on mission to El Salvador?  Or is the timing just coincidence?  I am not sure, but Darin and I are always surprised by every mission trip.  We think we know the purpose of the trip, and then God shows up and delivers the message of our true trip purpose.  Somehow I think “fearless” will be tied into whatever message God wants to share with us.  I look forward to living out this journey with my 10 teammates and finding out what connection this trip has with “fearless.”

As I shared my personal fears, did you think of any fears that are holding you back from your life purpose?