Finding Purpose in an Ordinary Life

Finding Purpose in an Ordinary Life

God does not require a spectacular individual to complete his work. He only asks that the willing heart answer the call. You, my friend, are worthy enough to find your purpose. You were meant for extraordinary things. This, I believe for you. <3

Nepal, June 2019

The sun is up and the birds are chirping. As a new morning arises, I listen to the sounds of the earth waking up. A bus passes by, down shifting to make a turn, a car close behind. Serene and familiar are the light sounds of traffic flowing by the open window. Yet, it dawns on me that something is missing. I do not hear the rev of single-stroke engines mounted to motor bikes, nor their patterned honking as they pass one another with flurried ambition. Yes, they are most assuredly missing from this morning scenario. Ah, it is too quiet. Realization dawns that I have left my heart in other places. Most recently, this was Nepal.

Sharing a learning experience with the women of Nepal

We spent a week among the beautiful Nepalese people. From high in the mountains, sometimes even above the clouds, to down low in the valley, surrounded by the brightest green mountains. Our team of six ladies, eager to answer the call, three translators full of beauty and grace, and one pastor with a willing heart, traveled the city of Kathmandu and it’s surrounding villages. Three hours up to the peak, or even more hours south towards India, we ministered and preached, shared lunch, tears, joy, hugs and worship with women of all ages. Meeting in community centers and on the porches of local homes, we distributed water filters, brought the gospel and desired to demonstrate the love of Jesus to each and every soul.

Praying with the women of Nepal

An experience like no other is to hold the hand and pray with a stranger who is seeking to start their own ministry to their local friends and neighbors, or to embrace one woman out of the entire crowd who braved hecklers and opposition to declare faith and claim her seat at the father’s table.

Water filter distribution, Nepal

This is the call of missions. The desire to meet and walk with strangers, to be welcomed as friends, to invite them into the Father’s house, no matter if nationality, tongue or culture is vastly different. Recognizing that we are all children of the almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, the call of missions is to bring and share the good news to the far corners of the earth.

StrongHer author, Rachel K., riding in a dump truck down a mountainside to share water filters, hope and love with residents of Nepal

Humbled, I am, to think that God would even consider to use my hands, feet or voice. Submitting my heart and full-self to his will, I too grow in innumerable measure by his love.

Praying together, Nepal 2019

Although my time abroad was brief and I feel the demands of daily life once again upon me, I have realized one thing…my heart is still there, still beating on the missions field. A longing churns inside realizing my true home is in the midst of kingdom work, in the middle of a circle of prayer for a stranger, or in the holding of hands with a woman whose name I do not know, yet our spirits realize each other as sisters. It is there, in the presence of God, where I find my true home.

Sharing water filters with multiple families in Nepal

Nothing else can satisfy like working in something that fulfills purpose. If you are seeking this in your life, or in a period of searching, then I understand you, friend. You are not alone on this journey. Feel free to share how you feel purpose in your life and what you are doing to fulfill it. I would love to share in this adventure with you.

Ministering and sharing in worship with women in Nepal
A young boy, Nepal 2019
Cross on a church door, Nepal 2019

Running Towards Joy

Running Towards Joy

She is as lovely as the first time I met her 5 years ago when asked to interview her for a transfer from one business location to another.  Long, strawberry blond hair and a smile that lights up the air around her.  She speaks softly and laughs readily.  She is a gem of compassion, love and mothering…she just has that way about her.  Meet Cathy Engen, Strong:Her Woman of the Month – June 2019.

Cathy hails from the Dakotas.  Born in Cleveland, Ohio, her family headed west when Cathy was 10 years old.  Their 800+ acre farm literally straddles across the North and South Dakota lines.  “I think the state line ran right through the middle of the house,” she says.  She attended high school in both states, as well.  From the time she was little Cathy was always singing.  Singing and running.  Even in her crib, the baby noise she chose was a song. Her passion for both would weave its way into the story of her life.

Cathy, performing in the musical, Brigadoon (1970’s)

In high school Cathy longed to be on the track team, but there was no such thing as a women’s track team for her small town.  Maybe in the bigger cities, sure.  For this tiny farm-girl, however, she was only allowed to train and run with the boys, but not compete.  This soon changed as she and a group of girls advocated for equality and were eventually allowed to form a track team to compete against other girls.  They did not have funding to be very official and certainly lacked equipment.  Passion fueled solutions, however, and the girls would wear the boy’s football cleats and stuff socks in the toes.  They would then take to the track and run their hearts out.  They soon found themselves allowed to compete in local competitions and like the freedom a bird must feel in flight, Cathy ran.

In college she reignited her love for music and majored in vocals.  She became a music teacher for the next few years and spent her time teaching, mentoring, coaching, singing and sharing her love for music.  It was harder in those days, the early to mid-80’s, to find good paying jobs for women in music in small mid-western towns.  So, Cathy moved into the business sector and became one of the first female managers for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce.  She is proud of that position, even when finding opposition from other women in the workforce.  She overcame resistance by determining herself to be an example to other women around her and to show them that they could be strong and successful, as well.  “We need each other,” she advises.  “We just don’t do enough (as women) to support each other.  It doesn’t take anything out of me to help you get ahead!  If I pour out of myself into you, God will just come along and pour back into me.  One act of kindness can spread further than only I can reach.  I help you and you help the next person and it just keeps going.  Why wouldn’t I want to help someone else?”

Cathy as Chamber of Commerce Manager, Sioux Falls (1980’s)

That philosophy has carried her throughout much of her life.  Cathy has also found that her faith has been the central-most grounding force in her life. “Life is going to hold challenges,” she wisely admits.  “You will face dark times, trouble will find you.  You have to be grounded.  The most important thing is faith.  You must have that foundation and nurture it.  You can feel like you give away so many pieces of yourself as a woman, a wife, a mother, or at work.  Take time for yourself.  Set healthy boundaries for yourself.  I have found that it is in the valleys of life that I have experienced the most learning.  There are seasons of growth to be experienced in the middle of those trials of life.”

Cathy puts her own philosophies into action.  A few years ago she took time to pause and take an evaluation of this season of her life.  She and her husband have been married for three decades and their baby daughter is now grown.  She has seen success in life in business leadership and fostering relationships around her.  With this reflection, Cathy decided it was time to exit working and give time to focus again on what truly brings her joy.  “I wanted to hold music again!” she gushes.  “There’s just something about holding it in your hands.”  So, she joined the choir at the Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth, MN.  She also started running again.

“I wanted to be an example to my daughter and I wanted to be mindful of my health.” She continues, “Life is a gift and I took control of what I could manage and change for myself.  It’s important that we mind the things that sustain us like eating good food, getting enough sleep, resting and paying attention to our emotional health.”

She admits that working towards her personal fitness goals takes a little longer in this season.  “Just start by walking,” she says. The pace is not the most important part, it’s the act of doing, being, striving, engaging, participating, setting a goal and working towards it.  “Sometimes I think, could I be better, yeah, but I’m using my talents, my gifts and living the best in my body.  There’s only one of me, I’m one-of-a-kind and I’m worth taking care of!” 

She built a regimen for herself that she could stick with and embraces the trail as an adventure that brings her joy.  “I’m an athlete and I run almost every day, even in the winter,” she says.  Cathy wants to make the most of what God gave her and she loves to meet people on the trail.  Like a magnet, she attracts others to her warm, caring and genuine nature.  She strikes up conversations with other runners and enjoys pouring love into those whom she meets along the way. 

It’s only been a few years and now she has a whole shelf of medals.  She has run races in multiple seasons, including sunshine, snow, warmth and cold.  One of her biggest dreams was to run a race with her daughter, which they recently did together. They since have enjoyed several races together, including celebrating their fourth annual run of that first race, the Minnesota Hot Dash.

Cathy and her daughter, Kiki

“I just want to make the most of what God gave me.” Cathy proclaims.  “It’s never too late to start or try something new – or to go back to something you love – every day is a chance for a new beginning.  I hope to make the most of everything I’ve had in my life – my marriage, friends, family, work.”  She states, “I am not a human being, I’m a human ‘be-coming.’  Until I draw my last breath, I am still a work in progress.  I want to be everything God wants me to be.  I may not achieve that in every moment, but I am trying.”

Cathy and her husband, Tim

We think Cathy has achieved that and so much more.  Her passion and faith is evident all around her from the dedication to her training for the next race, to the voice that carries out hymns and praise on a Sunday morning, to the very words she chooses to speak to a mere stranger.  Cathy is a StrongHer Woman and she’s striving to fulfill her purpose.  “I’m still a kid,” she laughs.  “Still goofy!  This body is housing me, but the me inside is ageless, timeless.”  Her greatest accomplishment?  “I joy in having a part in the good for others,” she exclaims.  “At the end I just want to be able to say that it was a good run.”

Cathy, finishing up the Twin Cities Marathon in 2017

We applaud Cathy and her passionate zest and zeal for life! This is just the beginning of sharing stores of our Strong:Her Women. Come check out more of our inspiring ladies on our Her:Stories page.

Want to be featured as a Strong:Her Woman?  Submit your request for consideration here.

Dressing for Confidence: How to Use Color to Inspire Your Style

Dressing for Confidence: How to Use Color to Inspire Your Style

I have this glorious idea of how I will spend my time when such day arrives that I fulfill a life-long dream and vacation to the city of lights, the city of pastries, romance and love.  The one and only splendor of Paris.  Oh, I plan to drink in all her beauty with child-like wonder and amazement.  With wide eyes I will walk the streets and behold the old charm of her architecture.  I long to delve deep into her museums to learn her history, enjoy her artisans and be intoxicated by her lure. 

I can imagine the succulence of fresh baked croissants, warm and almost melting with every bite.  The aroma of bread, baking in the café.  I even know what I’m going to wear.

I have envisioned this outfit for as long as I can remember.  I want red heels.  I mean bright, crunchy candy apple, light-catching, deliciously tempting red heels.  A blue, polka-dot ruffled skirt and a crisp white blouse.  A string of pearls will adorn my neck and I will be a full-on Parisian girl. 

Polka dots in Paris.

Someday I will wear polka dots in Paris.

Would I still enjoy my trip in stripes or paisley?  More than likely.  However, there is something about polka dots that just makes me feel like I’m part of the culture, the scene, and that I belong.

That’s the funny thing about being a girl, what we wear has the ability to let our true selves shine a little brighter.  It’s a form of expression, a way to speak to the world without saying a word. It’s not about a particular brand or style, or owning who’s-who and keeping up with “fashions” and “trends.”  It’s about how you feel in what you wear.

Clothing can have significant influence over us.  We want to feel like modern, dominating women.  We want to say, “I dictate how I feel!  I wear my clothes, they don’t wear me!”  Honestly, how you express yourself to the world has the ability to change your own mood, inspire confidence and promote feelings of motivation and success.

Want to feel like you’re conquering the world?  Put on what makes you feel most confident.  Want to feel warm and connected to the people around you?  Toss on your husband’s sweatshirt or pin that paper flower in your hair that your kid made you in school yesterday.  These things have the ability to affect how we feel about ourselves and others.

You may be thinking nonsense, I feel like my fabulous self no matter what I wear.  Girlfriend, good for you!  You have unlocked a confidence achievement level that some of us are still out here striving for!  You take that confidence and promote it brightly!  For the rest of us, what we wear can boost our mental and emotional processes in how we take on the world.

According to BrainFodder.com, “Research says the quickest little fix for a bad day is to wear brightly colored clothes. Cheerful colors work as a mini pick-me-up; and thus boosting our mood and energy. Also, we associate bright colors with happiness, sunny days, and carefree times (like the summer vacations when we were kids).”  Check out the rest of the article here.

The great news?  You do not have to be a fashionista to achieve this feeling!  Perhaps style is the furthest thing from your mind or is one of those “skills-I-wish-I-had” kinda things.  That’s ok!  You do not  have to feel less that absolutely beautiful in your own skin or with what you wear. The idea is that you feel like your best self in how you choose to express yourself to the world.  Want some pointers?

  • Inspiring Self-Confidence in Your Wardrobe

Every morning I go through this routine where I select my outfit based on my mood.  From my hairstyle all the way down to my intimates.  I am soooooo far from making it on the pages of a fashion magazine, but I choose pieces that inspire what I want to accomplish on any given day.  Today I wanted to feel bold and I had an agenda for the morning that would keep me busy.  I wanted to feel motivated to not only start these tasks but to also finish them, so I chose a skirt with dominating stripes in bright green, black and gray.  Green inspires growth and harmony and I desired to feel optimistic and hopeful throughout my day. 

I did not have to go out and buy a new wardrobe to accomplish this feeling.  I selected what I had on hand that would suit the mood I wanted to achieve.

  • Bright Colors as a Mood Booster
    The charming thing about color is absolutely the way it makes us feel!  Yellow is for joy, optimism and the color of flowers you choose to convey friendship.  Use this chart for great color reference:
Image source: Pinterest – SeeJaneWork
  • Staying Classy and Sassy
    Let us remember that less isn’t always more!  Sometimes more is more.  Although we want to feel like the amazing, beautiful creatures that we are, we can also stay classy, sassy and sophisticated by leaving a little mystery to the eye.  We absolutely do not need to drop our necklines down to solicit attention or hike those hemlines up and put ourselves on some kind of visual display.  We are confident in the colors we choose to wear and the styles in which we choose to express ourselves.  We wear denim with our dresses and boots when we feel like it suits our mood.  A little modesty can go a long way!  Enjoy a little lace, a little ruffle, a red-leather jacket to the movies.  Go out and be your sassy, classy self!

Rachel Says: For more go check out Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion by Professor Karen Pine.  It’s a digital quick-read on a fresh perspective for reasons to re-vamp your wardrobe and feel like your best, beautiful self! Go grab a copy today!

Cheers, loves!

Redemption of a Critic

Redemption of a Critic

How do I judge thee?  Let me count the ways.  I see wrinkles and some laugh lines.  Wait, your style has gone astray. A little chub, a little drab, too many freckles dot your nose.  Some grays are showing through that dye job. You are tired and it shows. 

You are too busy and too scattered.  When is the last time you worked out?  Overworked, underappreciated.  Oh, I wouldn’t eat that amount.  You’re unkempt, trying too hard, maybe today is not your day.   I’m sure there was a better outfit choice this morning.  Um, you shouldn’t wear stripes that way.

I would have dressed up or dressed down.  Painted my cheeks a different pink.  I surely would have pulled my hair up.  It would look better, don’t you think?  Your face is too long, eyes too big and shoulders wide.  Hide your ears, quiet your voice, stuff all your fears inside.  Wear something different, that look is lame.  Same favorite sweater? Lacking grace, what a shame.

Sigh. Maybe I have made myself feel better by criticizing who you are.  But, it will be brief and very fleeting as selfish thoughts splinter my heart.  It will take a bit of warming, a bit of letting down my guard, before I can look much deeper and see who you really are.

What I have not noticed is that you’re so unique. Creative and amazing, you are truly at your peak.  I hadn’t seen it all before.  But, by looking a little deeper, I can appreciate you so much more.

Girl, yes you are too tired.  Can I help you out with that? I understand when days feel short and life’s demands have knocked you flat.

Girl, you are so busy.  I can see you focused in.  You’re climbing the ladder of success, looking for a total win.

Girl, I commend your effort, giving life all you’ve got.  You show tenacity and spirit.  From you, I could learn a lot.

Girl, you could be more recognized, but it’s not approval that you seek.  You’re happy if the kids are fed and you’ve kept up another week.

Girl, I do love that sweater, those boots and that smile.  But what I have learned today is worth cannot be measured by a sense of style.

My friend, great job on all you’ve accomplished and for letting your light shine.  I hope my passion can mimic yours and someday be just as fine.

Rachel Asks: Have we ever found ourselves on the receiving end of unkind words and criticism? It makes us feel as if life is a performance sport where we are judged constantly based on our ability to perform at someone else’s standard. Conversely, have we found ourselves on the the giving end of such harsh words and thoughts? Where we have deemed someone’s worth based off our personal opinion of them? We can do much better as women! We can do much better as moms, sisters and friends. How can you show love today? How can you reverse this trend?


Learning to Trust

Learning to Trust

The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, my salvation, my high tower, my refuge, and my savior…

II Samuel 22:3

It was insufferable, the agony of waking to each new day but feeling no new sense of sunlight, of purpose or relief. The weight of the previous day and the day before that, and the one before that, clung to me like a concrete brick, with the full force settling on my chest and making it difficult to do simple things like breathe. What was the sense in trying today? I had no hope on the horizon, no reason to believe today was going to be any different.

Reminded of my obligations to things like work and bills, I moved through the day with robotic existence. Trying hard not to let myself feel too deeply or get too lost in my own sorrow and self-pity, I filled my days with busy things from sun-up until sun-down. Work was mostly my outlet, my excuse to be too busy to feel. I started a 2nd job to fill in the gaps the first one left behind. I volunteered, I worked, I busied.

I had no idea why my marriage had ground to a screeching halt. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But I had not realized it was on the brink of utter failure. In fact, I didn’t realize this until I was away one Sunday morning, returned home and found our townhouse cleared out. Not even a note.

I figured out quite quickly that life would require a great deal of commitment to survive. Thankful for friends and family who provided emotional support, who cheered me on and came to my aid, I indeed did survive.

It took me quite a long time to feel alive, however. Being a victim of circumstance was challenging. I felt as if I had lost my husband, my home, my stability, my future, my hopes and all my dreams in just a single day. Now aimless and uncertain of the future, I spent quite a bit of time in prayer. For a while, I felt aimless in that too.

I wanted to know why and how I had failed, he had failed, we had failed in our vows to one another. I could not afford our home on just a single salary and I was forced to move within the matter of a few weeks. I fell to my knees again, “God, why am I going through this? Why is this trial in my life? How can this possibly get better?”

One such prayer session it was as if I heard in my mind the words “Matthew, seven and nine.” Unsure of the verse I opened my bible to search. “Or what man of there is you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Intrigued, I scanned the previous statements.

Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being unholy, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

“God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding.”


It hit me all at once, God was communicating to me that he was, in fact, listening. He heard all of those prayers, saw every tear, understood every moment of confusion. I was asking him for direction and as my father, he was not going to leave me faltering on my own.

Immediately, I clung to this hope. Faith is not intended to be a magic wand and God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding. He saw the brokenness in my spirit and he gave me hope that he would meet me there for the mending.

I now realized that this trial was an opportunity. If I were willing to let him in, God could use it for my good. He could fashion something out of all my failures. I began to change my prayers. “Father, what can I learn in this moment and what are you trying to teach me? Help me to grow! Help me to trust! Help me to move forward and out of this dark place.”

This perspective and application of faith began to change the vision I had for my future. I became forward thinking again, not because I trusted myself, but because I knew the hand of the Father was there to guide me.

I began to channel my energies into productive choices. I returned to college, I looked for ways to serve my community. Instead of just being busy for the sake of filling my time, I was now passionate again about life because hope surrounded the day.

For some people they are able to recover marriages and restore those relationships once again. I am ever so thankful and excited when I see this come together for struggling families. For me, this was not my story. Although something very precious to me had been lost, God was still there in the middle of it all, working on my fragile heart. He taught me how to open my arms wider to those in need and to desire to love each day just a little deeper. He showed me the power of faith and that no matter what circumstance that I was in, that he was still completely faithful, loving and there. He was right there. Just a whisper away.

He taught me that I had not been buried, but rather planted. That I was in a process of growth that he would bring to full bloom at his appointed time. I did not have the power in myself to change the course of events leading up to this time of planting, but I did have the heart to trust God in his timing and in his process.

Rachel Asks: Will you join me on the journey of learning to trust God today? Take a few moments to breathe in and rest for a moment. Close your eyes and allow peace to come to you. Ask for clarity, for direction, for his guidance. He will meet you in this place. Allow him to meet you here.


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