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How To Change Your Story From Ordinary To Amazing

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My parents had lived a good life. At 61, they were pillars of the community. Early in their married life, not wanting to go into debt, my dad enlisted in the army. The military paid for his medical school expenses in return. And after graduating from Yale, they moved to an army base near V…
By Seth Barnes


My parents had lived a good life. At 61, they were pillars of the community.

Early in their married life, not wanting to go into debt, my dad enlisted in the army. The military paid for his medical school expenses in return. And after graduating from Yale, they moved to an army base near Verona, Italy.

The years flew by. We kids grew up. Mom and dad became leaders in the church. Dad sat on the missions committee. Life was good. But it was also…ordinary.

So at 61, he took early retirement and they moved to Kijabe, Kenya. For the next 19 years, my dad ran a pathology lab there three months out of the year while my mom ministered in the local community. The people there loved and appreciated my parents. They were making a difference, bringing hope to many.

Suddenly, what had been an ordinary life became exciting. Living on the edge of the Rift Valley, adventure blew into their lives like the winds drafting and howling up the escarpment.

It was a great trade – they exchanged ordinary for amazing, brought hope to people in pain, discovered new ways of living, and had a boatload of adventures along the way.

Ordinary Living

More people need to make this kind of shift. We have been gifted with so much – we in America are the top 1%. While 70% of the world lives on less than $10/day.

Many of us sense that we were made for something more, but we don’t know what it is and we don’t know how to get there. Maybe comfort locks us in, maybe debt, or maybe just expectations of how we’re supposed to live.

Whatever it is, you may sense you’re getting there when life has become predictable and boring. The routine grinds along month after month and year after year. And when you get to a place where you stop long enough to take stock, you sense that if there were a way out of this ordinary life, you might just take it.


Too many people are dead at 50, buried at 80. Maybe a few questions will help you self-diagnose if you’re getting to that place:

1. Are you making a difference through your work?

2. Do you find yourself regularly challenged?

3. Have you invested in your dreams?

4. Do you feel fulfilled – is what you’re doing enough?

5. If you could do anything, would you be doing what you’re doing?

6. Have tapped the skills and interests God gave you?

7. Did God lead you to do what you’re doing now?

How did you do? If you answered no to 50% or more of the questions, then maybe it’s time to open the door to alternatives. And if you’re stuck in a dead-end job, maybe you need to consider asking God what his dreams for your life are.

Just Quit

John Acuff mapped it for us in the books Quitter and Start. Oftentimes people have more alternatives than they may realize. What do you really need? Food, lodging, a little spending money, and if you’re following your call, you can live a good life.

A few years ago, Sterling Purdy came to that place in his life where he knew God had more for him. He and his wife Donna discussed it with their kids. He quit his job and they decided to travel the world until their money ran out.

Today the Purdy family is in Baños, Ecuador. They sensed God leading them there to start a hostel and minister to backpackers. [See their story in the video at bottom]

Of course there are practicalities. For example, they don’t have much experience with hostels, so probably Sterling is going to have to get a job. And the kids still need to be educated, so Donna’s experience homeschooling the kids is essential.

Is it irresponsible to launch out without having answers to basic questions like that?

That’s one way to look at it. Another way is that perhaps it’s irresponsible to live your life climbing a ladder, only to get to the top and discover you leaned it up against a facade.

What’s the worst that can happen to the Purdy family? They are having adventures and their hearts are pounding with excitement again. The worst that can happen is that they have to come back to America and start over again.

But they’re not going to go hungry and whatever happens, Sterling and Donna will have taught their children what faith looks like. They will have given them some fantastic stories, opened up their horizons and bonded as a family.

How to Start

If the question of how to live the life God is calling you to intrigues you, I suggest you being by journaling and praying. Look at your life. You perform for an audience of one. When you go to die, what will he say when he reviews your life with you? This is the only life you have to live – you don’t get any do-overs.

Recognize that God has a lot at stake here too. He created you for a purpose. He wants to partner with you in discovering what that purpose is and moving toward it.

Gather a small council of friends (three is enough) who know and love you together and ask them to help you walk through this.

Books may help. Three of my favorites:

Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra – Shows that you can navigate to a new place in life without having to bet the farm.

What Should I Do With My Life, Po Bronson – 50 profiles of people making a big midlife switch and how they do it.

Living the Life You Were Meant to Live, Tom Patterson – Outlines a Life Planning process that is widely used by Life Coaches to help people map changes.

Consider Options

1. Church planting – you can start this without going anywhere. Consider going through training with Harvesters.

2. Move into urban housing and start an outreach through Apartment Life or a similar ministry.

3. Plan a sabbatical. Take time off from work and try out something. Always wanted to live in a particular country? Why not hook up with a ministry you trust and volunteer there? At Adventures, we have opportunities in countries around the world.

Start with experiments. The Purdy family saved some money and effectively took a sabbatical. You don’t have to go all-in with a radical change. You can try out something that may feel more like an internship. If it clicks, then take the next step down that path.

Jesus recruited his disciples this way. And after he was gone, they went back to fishing. Jesus didn’t prohibit this. In fact, he showed them how to do it better – he filled their nets to overflowing and repeatedly called out faith in them. No one walks on water the first time out of the boat.

I’ve tried to live this way and I am committed to helping others get out of the boat. As I look around the world, I see many examples of families that have “gotten out of the boat.” The Hills just moved lock, stock and barrel to Guatemala. The Black and Davis family moved to Spain.

So many others have decided to go “all in” with Jesus and his plan for their lives. Sudhakar lives in Atlanta, but senses God calling him back to India. Uche sees the pain in South Sudan and is planning to move his family from Nigeria to help.

The point is not that you have to leave your job. The point is that if your life has become ordinary, Jesus has more for you. He is calling you to live an amazing life in step with him. Why not trust him?

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P.S. I’m serious about not just encouraging you, but working with you to get you out of the boat. If you’re ready to take a step from ordinary to amazing, perhaps I can help. Email me here. If I can help you take the next step, I will.


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