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Ripple Effects: Discover the Miraculous Motivating Power of a Woman's Influence
by Pam Tebow
Learn More | Meet Pam Tebow
FINDING OUR PURPOSE
You may think that only a high-profile person can be influential, but as John Maxwell wrote, “If your life in any way connects with other people, you are an influencer.” And influence spreads. Whether it’s your children, your husband, coworkers, or people you interact with at the grocery store, gym, school, church, office, or PTA, you have the potential to inspire those around you in a positive, life-giving, and God-glorifying way. Why? Because people are always watching us.
My youngest son discovered this truth when he was in high school. One afternoon, I picked him up after football practice, and on the way home we stopped at a nearby store. Timmy walked beside me as I pushed the red shopping cart up and down bright aisles. My eyes bounced from the grocery list to the white labels on the edges of the shelves, looking for evidence of a sale.
With a strong desire to be the best possible athlete, Timmy has always been nutrition conscious. And, like his mother, he has always been frugal. As we strolled down the cereal aisle, my focus still attuned to markdowns and clearance items, I noticed my son grab something from a shelf. With a sheepish look on his face, he tossed a brown box with three colorful elves on it into the cart. It happened to be selling at a super-low price.
When we rounded the corner, a father and his son passed by. The boy, a kindergartener at the school near where Timmy played football, recognized my son. He stopped and stared for a minute, his eyes bulging out of his head like a cartoon character’s. I didn’t know it at the time, but the boy snuck a peek at our shopping cart before he took off with his dad toward the other end of the aisle.
The very next day, this little boy stood up in front of his kindergarten class during show-and-tell. Holding up a box of Cocoa Krispies, he said, “This is the cereal Tim Tebow eats for breakfast!”
Well, it didn’t take long for my phone to start blowing up with texts and calls from annoyed parents thanking me—sarcastically, of course—for influencing their kids to demand Cocoa Krispies for breakfast. In typical mom fashion, I used the Cocoa Krispies experience to teach Timmy about his potential for influence. I reminded him of the picture that hung in the bedroom he shared with his brother. A young boy in an oversize football jersey holds a football under his arm as he watches a group of high school–age boys studying the Bible under a nearby tree. The picture, printed by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is entitled “Influence.”
Timmy and I both enjoy poetry, so I was thrilled to find the perfect poem to accompany the picture, and I placed them together in a frame. This visual duo has traveled with him to every dorm room and city where he has played ball.
- There are little eyes upon you,
And they’re watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly
Take in every word you say;
There are little hands all eager
To do anything you do;
And a little boy who’s dreaming
Of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol;
You’re the wisest of the wise;
In his little mind about you
No suspicions ever rise;
He believes in you devoutly,
Holds that all you say and do,
He will say and do in your way
When he’s grown up just like you. . . .
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
Who believes you’re always right,
And his ears are always open
And he watches day and night;
You are setting an example
Every day in all you do,
For the little boy who’s waiting
To grow up to be like you.
Edgar Guest, "His Example"
This memorable poem served to remind Timmy that he is accountable to positively influence those little boys, and others, whose eyes are on him. Even at his young age, he understood that having influence also meant he had a purpose more life-impacting than winning football games. Whether we are fifteen or eighty, eyes are also on us. Our children watch and mimic us. Our neighbors, coworkers, church members, classmates, friends, relatives, and more observe us. What will they see? Because people are watching us, we must be intentional about the way we live if our purpose is positive influence.
INFLUENCE ON PURPOSE
When we know in our minds and believe in our hearts that God created us for a significant purpose, we are inspired to live differently. We need a purpose bigger than ourselves, one that gives meaning to the mundane tasks of life. A purpose so big that it is worth all the effort required to love and train one or many kids, work on our marriages, get to know neighbors, give our best to the job, prioritize our education, invest in grandchildren, serve at church, or volunteer time and give generously to worthwhile causes. An important purpose changes everything! It not only motivates us but also has the potential to make an eternal difference in the lives of the people we connect with.
I was in the midst of writing about this subject when I met friends for breakfast before I flew home from a speaking event in Oklahoma. Months earlier, I had spoken at the kickoff for a new pregnancy center in that city. Although this couple had been unable to attend the fund-raiser, I’d told them all about the center director. Her strong courage and faith reminded me of my husband’s, but she lacked experience. The young woman and her ministry remained on my mind and on my prayer list long after the kickoff event was over.
My friends had experience working with nonprofits. The husband had run hospitals for years and had served on the boards of pregnancy centers, while his beautiful wife was gifted with creative and practical skills and had a genuine love for others. They also had some time on their hands as they tried to adapt to their new life as retirees. I knew they could be a wonderful resource, so I tried to connect them with the young director. When my first attempt failed, I debated whether to try again. But I sensed God was involved, so I made another effort. A special relationship resulted, and I received multiple texts of gratitude from everyone involved. The director had the passion and determination required for her job, but she needed my friends’ wisdom and experience on her board. And the relationship wasn’t one-sided; the retired couple also had a very real need that was fulfilled by their union.
As we enjoyed breakfast that morning, several months after I helped them connect, my friends shared details of their involvement with the pregnancy center. Then, as the waitress cleared the table, the husband paused, looked directly at me, and sincerely thanked me for giving them what they had lacked in their current situation: “God-ordained purpose.”
My friends dropped me off at the airport to fly home, and I went straight to the restroom to check my mascara. As I pondered yet another God story, I couldn’t stop the tears. For my friends, having a significant purpose gave their lives new meaning, erasing the ho-hum, let’s-just-get-through-the-day attitude they’d been fighting since they’d moved. Retirement means that paychecks quit coming, but none of us really plan to retire from having purpose in our lives. Intentional purpose charged my friends’ batteries and brought them joy. A few weeks later, I received the Christmas letter they sent to their friends and family. I smiled as I read the middle paragraph: “My friend Pam Tebow spoke at the opening banquet for the new pregnancy center. Long story very short, we were asked to be on their board. Way too much to tell, just know we’re so excited to be part of what God is doing in these lives.”
God gives us abilities for a purpose, and He weaves our abilities with His purpose into opportunities for meaningful influence. In other words, miraculous motivating power! God is the author of incredible stories. He wrote this one for my friends, and we can trust Him to write stories of purpose and influence for us, too.
In our Sunday newspaper, I was surprised to find an article reprinted from the Chicago Tribune on the importance of purpose: “A job’s meaningfulness—a sense that the work has a broader purpose—is consistently and overwhelmingly ranked by employees as one of the most important factors driving job satisfaction. It’s the linchpin of qualities that make for a valuable employee: motivation, job performance and a desire to show up and stay.”
The same article cites a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Career Assessment. According to research, the primary reason people skip work is not because they intend to quit or aren’t satisfied with the job. It’s because they find the work meaningless.
Purpose makes a difference not just in a job but in all of life’s activities. It prevents us from slowing down, giving up, or opting out, even when we face daunting challenges. Purpose rearranges our goals, mindsets, countenances, to-do lists, speech, and more. When we truly understand the power of our influence, like my son Timmy did when he was in high school, we understand that our purpose is to impact the lives of the people who are watching us. A significant purpose energizes us. It transforms our work ethic, inspires creativity, and wakes us up with more to look forward to than a cup of coffee. Like my retired friends, we are motivated to love, serve, give, pray, and keep on keeping on until our heads touch the pillow, encouraged to do it all over again tomorrow. How we live our lives matters—especially if we recognize our God-given purpose to use the influence He gives us!
DISCOVERING OUR PURPOSE
Do you have purpose? Have you identified people around you who might benefit from your influence? For some of you, your purpose and your audience are obvious. A baby is crying in the next room. Your students await tomorrow’s lecture. You serve preemies and their anxious parents as a pediatric nurse in the NICU. You care for an elderly parent who often forgets your name. I have close friends in each of these situations, and their purpose is apparent to them and to those they influence.
Or you may be overwhelmed with too many tasks and people you’re responsible for, making it hard to hone in on one area of purpose. You are nodding your head in agreement if you are a working mom, one who returned to school, one who homeschools her kids, or any woman who wears more than one hat. I have been there and done that, and you may be there now! In a later chapter, I share how I survived that challenging season, one that stretched my faith and prepared me for greater influence.
For others, your season of life has changed. Your kids grew up. You retired from your job. You are no longer married. Health issues limit your activity. You may wonder who you can influence in these new circumstances. My friends in these situations are seeking new purposes or revised versions of their former ones.
Or you may be like my mom. She didn’t think she had purpose. For most of her life, she believed the lie that she wasn’t capable of influence, because the influential people in her life enslaved her with doubts about her self-worth. Even when she began to attend church and Bible study later in life, her fears and doubts quickly stamped out any sparks of truth and purpose—until she turned seventy.
To celebrate my mother’s seventieth birthday, my two daughters and I planned a special luncheon at the charming women’s club where she was an active member. We sent out hand-engraved invitations, purchased decorations and ingredients for our lunch menu, and traveled several hours to her home. Our plan was to arrive early to prepare lunch, decorate, and tend to all the other details, but the Lord had a bigger plan.
While I was busy with food prep in my mom’s kitchen, I could hear my daughters talking to their grandmother about her involvement in various organizations. Mom lamented because, although she was busy, there seemed to be no point to all of her activities. She wondered if her life mattered. I listened and prayed as the girls encouraged her with ways she might make an impact on the groups she belonged to. One daughter suggested inserting a section for prayer requests in the club newsletter, since Mom was in charge of the club’s member relations. And because she enjoyed sending cards to her grandchildren for every occasion, my other daughter suggested she send cards with handwritten notes to the club members who had birthdays, were sick, or had lost loved ones. And she could even add applicable Bible verses. Mom perked up!
Within a few months, both ideas resulted in significant influence. The prayer list became a staple in the newsletter, and club members were enlisted to pray. Then women began to share answers to their prayers, which inspired more women to ask for prayer. In an obvious God story, Mom’s sophisticated, secular club eventually set aside a specific time each month for women to share how their prayers were answered. And the many cards Mom wrote to encourage members paved the way for meaningful conversations. Some of the ladies even joined Mom’s Bible study. A few years later, my mother, who was once shy about discussing faith matters, began to leave little gospel tracts in the places she frequented. Members of another club she belonged to voted for her to be their chaplain, and she often discussed with me the devotions she was working on for her meetings. Mom’s joy and fulfillment were evident during our regular phone calls, as she updated me on what she called her “ministry.” It really was influential!
Purpose changed my mother. Our infinite, creative God wove together her opportunities, her personality, her gifting, and her season in life into a tailor-made way for her to significantly influence others. She had purpose, which eventually enabled her to believe that her life counted. Mom proved that it’s never too late to discover our purpose, and she always insisted she found hers that day as we prepared for her seventieth birthday party.
While we were cleaning up after that party, she shared through her happy tears that it was the first birthday party she ever had. I did not, however, want it to be her last. We celebrated Mom’s eightieth birthday with another party. My daughters couldn’t make the trip because by then they were busy with families of their own. What a special occasion it was, though, with many sweet ladies attending the birthday luncheon. This time, a restaurant did all the work, while each of Mom’s friends shared what my mother meant to her. I thought my heart would burst as I listened to stories of her influence on each of their lives. In my mom’s words, her influence began when she turned seventy. In my words, it continued long after she went to heaven at eighty-six.
Mary’s Influence on Purpose
I refer to Mary as my “alterations lady,” but she is so much more. Mary is seventy-six, and she has loved and cared for the babies in our church nursery for more than forty years. Parents are able to enjoy the worship service because their little ones are safe in Mary’s tender care. She understands that her service is influential, even though she doesn’t receive a salary and churchgoers without babies probably don’t know her name. A paycheck and accolades do not motivate Mary. Her purpose does.
Mary also does alterations, as you probably guessed from her nickname. Her dear husband of fifty years passed away about six years ago. She could retire and take it easy, but Mary continues to work. Why? Because her other driving purpose is to love on all the people God sends to her with their alterations. Over the years, Mary has led more people than she can count to a relationship with Christ. For those who visit the sewing room in her garage, Mary is often the only person in their lives who will listen, care about a health issue or a family problem, inquire about their relationship with the Lord, or offer advice when needed. She keeps her Bible near her sewing machine so she is ready for the people God brings her way. She is always busy. There is a bench outside her sewing room where customers wait their turn, and it is worth the wait.
Mary prays for the Lord to keep her mind sharp so she can continue to alter clothes—not for the income, but for her ministry. She is driven by her purpose to love lonely, hurting people. Mary’s purpose has yielded positive influence for more than half a century! I’m glad when I have a dress that requires altering, because it means that I can listen to some of Mary’s stories. My husband, who, like Mary, is passionate about the gospel, thinks she is one of the coolest people he knows. Even he does not mind waiting for an alteration or two.
Cristin’s Influence on Purpose
Cristin is decades younger than Mary, but her purpose drives her, too. Cristin served as my hostess when I spoke at a women’s conference, and I was immediately drawn to her joy. From her positive outlook and sweet spirit, one would assume all was right in her world. Years before, however, she suffered the consequences of an abusive homelife as a child and again as a young wife and mother. Instead of throwing a pity party when she became a single mom, Cristin turned her focus away from her challenges with a purpose to serve and encourage other struggling single moms with theirs. In her words, “God would give me a purpose through all the pain and abuse I had lived through.” She started a support group and created a website for the single moms in her community. And Cristin organized and raised funds to treat every interested single mom in her area to a free event she calls Dare to Dream, a Saturday of fun, food, speakers, lovely gifts, and activities for children of every age. Cristin is a woman of purpose and influence who shares, “I want to use every last bit of my story for His glory!”
Every woman needs purpose. We have the privilege and responsibility to use our God-given gifts and opportunities to influence this generation and those to come. A purpose this big changes us from the inside out. The result: We will overflow with purpose, joy, and gratitude, because our mighty God uses our influence to impact people—for all eternity!
BIG PURPOSE, BIG IMPACT
The streaks of orange and blue lit up the harbor in the early morning light. From the hotel balcony, I watched the sunrise on Plymouth Harbor, trying to imagine how the Pilgrims felt when their ship neared this historic coast in 1620. The voyage from England had been incredibly long and difficult, yet they anchored offshore. Why would 102 men, women, and children, who had lived in the hold of the ship for months, not use what energy they could muster to make landing the priority? My husband, the history buff, explained that the Mayflower anchored offshore while its passengers debated the rules their settlement would follow. The sea-weary Pilgrims spent one more week aboard ship while they wrote the Mayflower Compact, their guidelines for living in the New World. The enormity of their future influence was considered before a single Pilgrim’s foot stepped onto Plymouth Rock.
These courageous men and women made a covenant “in the presence of God and one of another” to join together “for [their] better ordering and preservation.” Looking ahead to life beyond their ship, they determined to write, enact, and obey whatever laws were needed for “the general good of the colony.” The group’s stated purpose in settling this land was “For the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith."
To say that the Pilgrims were influential is an understatement. Many historians believe that the Mayflower Compact influenced the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. The Pilgrims’ purpose to honor God in both their public and their private lives had a long-range influence on future generations of Americans.
What a lesson about influence for us! My husband and I did not come from Christian homes, and neither did most of our close friends. We weren’t privy to any secrets for a successful family, so we asked questions. Observed people we admired. Read recommended books. We did not have a “Tebow Compact” or anything close, but we thought a lot about the importance of our future influence. Even though we were not nearly as mature or forward-thinking as we thought we were, God gave us the grace to realize that generations would be impacted by our present choices.
Years later, when Bob and I were speaking together in Boston, we chose to take an extra day to see nearby Plymouth, nearly four hundred years after the Pilgrims anchored in the harbor. During our brief visit, we explored the small historic community, hoping to find evidence of their spiritual influence. Not one of the promotional brochures in the small visitor center made any reference to God. The lovely old church founded by the Pilgrims was now a museum. Our hotel, one block away from where the Pilgrims landed, was the first hotel I ever stayed in that didn’t have a Bible in the bedside drawer.
Even if modern historians attempt to negate the long-range spiritual impact the Pilgrims had on America, their courageous determination to influence on purpose still lives on in our laws, our churches, and our lives. The Pilgrims took their influence seriously, and because of that they set the tone for the rest of our American history. The Pilgrims set sail to further the “advancement of the Christian faith” in a new home. Like the Pilgrims, we can purpose to influence future generations by the intentional way we live now.
How does such a lofty goal become reality? Perhaps we start by thinking through what we believe. Are we willing to lay aside lesser goals in order to advance the glory of God? Should we think through our own versions of a Mayflower Compact? What would that look like? It could be active involvement in a local church. Reading the Bible as a family. Setting aside funds for local and foreign missions. Praying for our officials. Establishing family traditions to build strong bonds and keep members connected during the challenges of life. Serving people in our communities. Promoting character in our homes, schools, and workplaces. We may not spend a week in the hold of a ship or the basements of our homes to formulate a plan of action, but our personal and corporate accountability is worth contemplating.
This true story of the courageous Pilgrims should inspire us to take our potential for influence seriously. To pass on to our children values, beliefs, standards, morals, and ethics we hope they will pass on to theirs. One of my favorite Scripture prayers is Deuteronomy 30:6: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” After my history lesson on the Pilgrims, I’m more determined than ever to pray that our family’s influence will be long-range, impacting generations to come.
In 2020, the Mayflower II, a restored replica of the Pilgrims’ ship, will sail into Plymouth Harbor. A $7.5-million makeover has been in the works, preparing the ship for festivities marking the four hundredth anniversary of the Pilgrim landing. There will be media attention and fans awaiting the ship’s anticipated arrival. I hope there will also be mention of the Pilgrims’ determination to influence their new world on purpose.
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