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What is the main message you hope women take away from Determined?

I want women to know that Jesus was determined to love them and that the abundant life He promises is attainable when we make the choice to live just like He did.

What was your inspiration for writing this study?

Because of the threat of major medical events associated with my Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, one of the words that is used to describe it is terminal. I chatted with God often as I tried to get comfortable with that word. And He reminded me that I was not the first to walk this earth with the awareness that death was on its way.

Jesus had three years to fulfill His earthly mission. He accomplished His purpose and lived fully with a determined mindset, one that was eternally focused. The blessing for us with that mindset is that it makes every present moment beautiful and valuable. That's the choice I wanted to embrace—not living with a terminal perspective, but living fully with a determined attitude.

How has writing this Bible study impacted your own life and walk of faith?

The Determined study changed the way I saw Jesus and it changed the way I make daily decisions.     

I met Jesus when I was twelve because my best friend in middle school invited me, an unchurched introvert who had just lost her mother, to church camp. And all this time I thought I've known exactly who Jesus was. I knew that He was loving and forgiving, compassionate and good. I knew that He was the Son of God and that He died on the cross to pay the debt for my sins. I knew He was my Savior. But until I studied the book of Luke, I didn't know how determined He was to love both you and me. I didn't know that every choice He made on His way to the cross was intentional. He did nothing without the ultimate goal of saving the world in His mind. Jesus lived determined.

Studying the choices He made on His way to the cross made me change the choices I make on a daily basis. It helped me realize that every choice matters and that the choice to live like Jesus is the path to abundant living. That doesn’t mean that every moment will be filled with unicorns and rainbows. Life in this broken world is hard. But it does mean that Jesus walks with us through every one of those hard moments. His presence is the abundance we need to see them through. 

What is one practical tool you offer women in Determined?

Life can be so overwhelming sometimes so this is a question I asked God often as I was writing: what's a template we can follow every day that will help us embrace life fully? And the answer came from what we study in the first week of Determined—Worship, Word, Pray, & Obey.

This is the pattern I seek to follow every day:

  • Spend time worshiping God
  • Read His Word
  • Pray over what God needs me to do that day
  • Then obey Him by seeing it through

Look for ways that you can embrace this pattern every day: Worship, Word, Pray, Obey. You don't have to rearrange your entire day to do this. You can worship in the car as you run errands, listen to the Bible on audio as you take a walk, and pray as you are in the shower. Then you'll know how best to spend the rest of your day in obedience. Be determined about making this pattern a habit, and you'll be well on your way to living like Jesus.

What was your greatest challenge in writing Determined?

Staying determined! As I was writing Determined, Jesus gave me a master class in determined living, because I had to fight to stay focused and finish in the midst of all the distractions of life—many of them good things. I wrote in my office surrounded by books and in my kitchen with my goldendoodle biting my toes; in a hockey rink during my son’s practice and in the car as my husband was driving us three hundred miles down the road; on an ironing board in a closet on vacation and on the back porch with the breeze blowing my papers away; in the carpool line, on the couch, at the coffeehouse, and in between sessions at a conference. No matter what the task we are trying to accomplish, sometimes the most difficult thing we will have to do is simply stay the course. For me, determined living was a mindset shift, but one that came with rich rewards as I intimately connected with Jesus.

Please share your favorite tip for women’s Bible study group leaders.

My time in a small group setting is always more meaningful when there is space allowed for rich discussion on what we are studying together. The natural tendency might be to fill the time with several questions, but often only a few application questions are needed to spur sincere conversation. Work space into your time together that allows for your group members to deeply share their hearts. Ministry happens when we are vulnerable with one another.

Is there a theme or message that God is speaking into your life in this season?

Life is a precious gift from God.

"Prepare your bucket list and live your life well.” Almost two years ago, these were the words I received with my diagnosis of Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. There is no cure or treatment for vEDS. And because the life-expectancy of someone with vEDS is cut short, bucket-list living quickly shifted to the forefront of my priorities after my family had processed the ramifications of the diagnosis.

Which begged me to ponder: what exactly is my bucket list?

My family tries to look for opportunities to be obedient to God, to connect with each other, to laugh, to make memories, and to love on our friends and family. We don’t nail it every day, but we’re getting better at making choices that fill our buckets. The intention behind the choices defines the list—that's determined living.

This is how God gives purpose to our pain. We’re choosing determined, bucket-list living and He’s filling us with joy. I never thought I would be grateful for having vEDS, but God is revealing the blessings behind that burden. Living with an incurable disorder forces me to rely fully on Him for my strength and it makes me thankful for every day we are given. Bucket-list living is a lesson in gratitude. And when gratitude is present, bucket-list living is wherever you are.

What is one way you’ve seen God at work in your life or the life of your family lately?

Much of my time lately has been spent on my knees. There are situations God has brought before me where I can do little for those that are hurting except pray for them. The human in me wants to think that I should be doing more, but the Bible tells me that prayer is the most powerful thing I can offer.

Prayer changes things. I am proof of that. I am still here because of the goodness of God and the multitude of prayers lifted up on my behalf when the doctors weren't sure I would survive another surgery.

I’ve seen God answer so many prayers this month, which assures me that I’m not helpless to help someone today. Like James 5:16 tells us, our prayers are powerful and effective.

What are you loving today, this week, this month?

Today? I’m a pro dry-shampoo user, but today I got my hair cut so I’m thankful for freshly cleaned hair, ha!

This week? I’m walking through scripture that speaks to Romans 5:3-5 with women in my private Facebook group. We’re committed to reading the Bible together with the sole goal of having no dusty Bibles. The conversations we are having about finding hope in seasons of suffering is bringing me much encouragement as I walk a loved one through a difficult time.

This month? It’s hockey tournament season for my son. Although I don’t love how numb my toes get in the ice rink, I do love watching him play!

If you had a day to yourself, what would you do?

I’d start with a steaming cup of hot coffee while I watched the sunrise. And then I’d go back to sleep, ha! I’d spend the rest of the day wandering through bookstores, reading under a blanket, and planning a dream vacation to Walt Disney World for my extended family. If it was sunny and warm and I had easy access to a North Carolina beach, you’d probably find me with my toes in the sand at some point. I’d order takeout for dinner and finish the day watching a movie with my husband and son—and our goldendoodle curled on the couch between us.  

What is your favorite soul care practice?

When my day starts to feel too overwhelming, I follow my father's wise advice to dive into a good book or simply go to bed early. He would tell me that things won’t stay this way and everything will feel better with the light of the sunrise in the morning. It always works.