We are all living a life we didn’t design. In this episode, Kathi chats with Tracy Steel, author of A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned, about how to apply a designer’s eye to see the work God is doing in your life, when things don’t go according to plan.

This week, Tracy shares some of the things she learned as an interior designer that help her understand God’s work in her life. You’ll also learn:

  • What to do when you wonder whether God is working
  • How to notice and understand patterns in your life
  • Practical ways to weave truth into your physical space and interior thoughts

If you’d like to hear more, you can order your copy of Tracy’s book, A Redesigned Life from Amazon today!


Learn more about the shows Kathi and Tracy talked about today: Grand Designs and Designing Women.

If you missed Kathi’s episode with Ron Deal, listen here.

Check out The Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway to search the Bible and other encouraging tools.

Kathi’s newest book, Clutter Free Home, is available for preorder on Amazon now!


As a bonus for two lucky listeners, we are giving away two copies of Tracy’s book, A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned! Enter below by commenting and letting us know:

Share about a time when your life didn’t go according to plan and yet you could still see a glimpse of God’s plan.



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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #391

Redesign Your Life

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. Today, I have a new friend on the podcast. When I started reading about her book, I’m like, “Me and my friends at Clutter Free Academy, we need this.” You guys, the book is, A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned. Can I hear an Amen? It’s with Tracy Steel. Tracy, welcome to Clutter Free Academy.

Tracy – Well, thank you for having me, Kathi. It’s a joy to be here.

Kathi – I just love that old quote, “We plan and God laughs.” Because it’s so true, right? One of the statements you make, and I love this: “All of us are living a life we did not design.” Can I tell you? That rang so true for me. I stopped and I read it out loud to my husband. Have you ever heard of the show, it’s a British show, called Grand Design? Have you heard of this?

Tracy – I’ve heard of it, but I’ve not watched it. So, let me know. What’s it about?

Kathi – My husband and I are obsessed. Obsessed. I cannot nail two boards together, but it’s about building unusual homes in England and Scotland and Ireland and all over. The host was asking this couple, “Why is it taking so long?” and she said, “We’ve been waiting to live our life while we’ve been waiting to live our life.” So, one: Go watch this show. It’s got the British sense of humor that just makes me so happy I can’t even stand it. Also, when you are in design, there are so many life lessons. It’s so funny. The thing I’m always saying to Roger while we’re watching this is, “If they’d just clean up their worksite, their lives would just be so much easier. They would be so much less overwhelmed.” That’s kind of what your book is about. It’s design principles, but also talking about your life. So, what made you think that these two needed to come together? In retrospect, it makes all the sense in the world, but I don’t know that I would sit down and say, “I’m going to apply design principles to life.” How did you come up with that idea?

Tracy – Well, when I was a little girl, I first dreamt about becoming a ballerina. Then that didn’t work out. That’s in the first couple of chapters. Then, the next dream I had, Kathi, was to be this big time interior designer. I used to watch the TV show Designing Women. Have you ever watched that?

Kathi – Can I just say, Sugarbaker’s is where I need to be. I needed to be at Sugarbaker’s.

Tracy – Exactly. They were so beautiful and they just sat on couches all day and talked. I thought, “Sign me up. I want to be an interior designer.” But, I quickly found out, in school, Interior Designers do not sit on couches all day. They work very hard doing what they do. I graduated with a degree in Interior Design. Then the next dream was to move to New York City, own my own design firm, make millions of dollars, wasn’t going to get married, wasn’t going to become a mom. Then I met Jesus, and guess what? He changed everything. So, then He called me into a different kind of interior design. It looked a whole lot like youth and women’s ministry. So, I’ve been doing that for the last decade. One of the things I see when I’m out speaking to different women’s groups, is that women are saying over and over to me, “Tracy, life is not going the way that I had thought it was going to go. And if I’m honest, even though I come to church, even though I pray and I listen, where is God? Does He see me? I don’t understand the patterns that I’m seeing. How can you help me find contentment while living a life I didn’t design?” So, I started to think back, and I thought, “My life hasn’t gone the way I thought, either.” And as a human designer, there were a set of principles that I would use when I came into a space just like this, to help me create something beautiful and functional for my clients. So, as I started to think about how God is our master designer, our master architect, I started to wonder, “Does He use the same set of principles as He is redesigning us through the shocks and surprises in our lives?” Guess what? He sure does. He uses movement. He uses patterns. He uses emphasis just the same way I do and that is how this book came to be.

Kathi – Okay, so a couple of things on this. One, will you judge me that I still want to be Annie Potts in Designing Women?

Tracy – No, ‘cause I do, too.

Kathi – Okay! There were the speeches. I loved these beautiful, strong women and yes, just amazing. I want to talk more about the patterns that you noticed. Here’s what I feel like, for my Clutter Free people. We want to have routine. We want to have patterns. We want to be able to establish patterns and see patterns, but it’s really hard for us. I want you to talk more about that and how can we notice and build on those patterns?

Tracy – Again, in the book, I bring up the point that God is an effective and efficient communicator. He is actually very present in our lives, but sometimes things like business, or clutter, or jealousy. Let’s call jealousy clutter for today’s purposes. Envy. Those kinds of things start drowning out His voice. He’s over here saying, “Hey, daughter! There are things about me, that if you’d only remember this, or know this about me, you’re going to make it. You’re going to be just fine.” He’s given us patterns or repeated words throughout the pages of Scripture to not only tell us about who He is, but about how we are to live and find contentment again, when things don’t go as planned. Yes, I talk about paisley, and I talk about polka dots. Those are things we’ll see around us, but my hope is that, when we see actual physical patterns in our homes or in our workplaces, that would remind us, “Oh! God has something to say.” And if we quiet ourselves. If we clean out the clutter in our minds and in our hearts, and we go to His Word, we can see certain things repeated over and over again. That will help us understand who He is, and a little bit more about this life that we’re living.

Kathi – Okay, this is so interesting that we’re having this conversation today, because earlier today, I had a great conversation with Ron Deal who is in charge of step families at Family Life. We were talking about this very thing – a pattern he noticed in the Bible. He has a new book about Money Matters for Step Families. He said, “Have you ever noticed that when God talks about money, he always says, “And I will be with you.”?” I was like, “No, I have never noticed that.” If money is one of the most stressful things in your life, God’s not surprised by that. That’s not a new revelation and God gives us reassurance each and every time that He will be with us through that fear; through that struggle. I love that so much. So, I would love to know, what are some of the patterns that you’ve found that were the most impactful to you?

Tracy – That God is a forever God. So, I talk about the pattern of God’s Forever-ness. I think I made up that word.

Kathi – I love that word. Forever-ness.

Tracy – Don’t you love that? Forever-ness. And that’s important to us, especially as women. One of the things that’s going to trip us up, is when our relationships don’t go the way that we thought they were going to go. If we are not careful, when we face betrayal; when we face deceit, those kinds of things, with our human relationships, we can start to project that onto God, thinking that “He is going to leave me. He is going to forsake me. He is going to betray me.” So, this pattern of God’s forever-ness, looking for words like ‘everlasting’, reigning ‘forever more’, I AM. You will see these patterns of God’s forever-ness all throughout Scripture and what a comfort that should be to us as women and men, to remember our God is not going anywhere. Even when our plans fall apart. Even when friends or even spouses betray us, our God is different because He is forever.

Kathi – Okay, I love the pattern of forever-ness. I love that. One of the things that I really believe is that clutter is just the physical manifestation of overwhelm. When we are overwhelmed, clutter is that physical manifestation. So, a lot of things lead to that overwhelm. Loneliness, feeling like it’s all up to me. So, I love the forever-ness of God, because it is not. You are not forsaken. You are not abandoned. When we are overwhelmed, whether it is physically, in our space, or maybe it’s emotionally, what are some of those patterns we should be looking for in God’s Word that can be a truth when we are feeling like, “Nope. I feel overwhelmed in every area of my life.”

Tracy – The Scripture says a lot of things about God. He is our peace. He is our rock. I think a great place to look for patterns is in the Psalms. One of the very first things that I ever did, and I’m a big mentorship/discipleship fan. I really think, especially since my mom is home in Heaven, now. I use my mentors a lot to encourage me. So, one of the very first things a mentor told me to do, open up the Psalms and start underlining or circling any word that you can find that describes who God is, because you’re going to start seeing patterns. They’re going to help you when you’re lonely. They’re going to help you when you feel depressed. Remembering that God is our rock. God is our refuge. God is our protector. He’s our defender. Finding those words, even Google on BlueLetter.org you can find all the different passages that have those words in them. I encourage women to keep a pattern journal just full of different patterns. You can Google any topic and find all the different passages, and start to memorize those. The more that we’re memorizing, the more we can recall those patterns. We’re not always going to have our Bible apps. Right? We need to be memorizing the Word. Have you seen that memorizing helps you?

Kathi – Oh my goodness. One of the best things that ever happened to me. I went on a mission trip when I was seventeen. Now, it’s questionable how much my work did for people. Let’s be super-clear, but we had to memorize forty verses of Scripture and those have stuck with me for these thirty-odd years. It’s made such a difference. I would say, wherever you are in life, today is the easiest day you will ever have for memorizing scripture. It does get harder as you get older, but those truths, the longer it dwells inside of you, the more good it does. Here’s what I love about that. In clutter, it’s about removing stuff, but I also know there are essential things that we need. Let’s say, you’re not a minimalist. You’re a maximalist. You like a lot of stuff around you, but you need that stuff to make sense and make order. So, that’s why you’re not just saying, “Banish bad thoughts!” You’re saying, “Replace them with God’s truth. Fill yourself up with the things to dwell on, so that it is eternal.” You can say, “I’m having this bad thought, and we know from Scripture that we need to take every thought captive. So, what truth are you replacing that with?” And to fill yourself up with that. This is why I love, in decorating, one of the things I’m talking about in my next book, The Clutter Free Home, is to put truth up on your walls. To find, it doesn’t even have to be Scripture, although I love Scripture up on my walls. I also love truth that replaces. I actually fight against things like, “Namaste in bed.” Things like that. It’s funny, but if we adopted this as our truth? No! I am a new creation in God and I want to fill myself up with that. So, we buy these things that are cute, that have sayings, but make sure it’s pointing you in a right direction.

Tracy – ‘Cause it becomes noise.

Kathi – Right?!

Tracy – Right. And your brain, we can only focus on one thing. In fact, we were created to worship one thing. It will either be ourselves, or it will be God. Whether it’s the music, or the decorations. All of these principles in the book go back to, “You’ve got to have a focal point.”

Kathi – I was just going to say, “Every room needs a focal point!”

Tracy – And so do we!

Kathi – Yes! That’s why I love the idea of walking into a room and saying, “What is your purpose here?” My purpose needs to be, “Honoring God.” Or “Connecting with Others”. There are purposes for every space in our life, and to embrace that and celebrate it is such a beautiful thing. For somebody who is new to Scripture, I love the idea of going to Psalms and looking for that. You said BlueLetter.org?

Tracy – Yes. BlueLetter.org, or BibleGateway.com. Those are two great websites that have little search boxes right at the top, that you can type in a word or a passage, and it will take you right there. It will explain what those words mean.

Kathi – I love that. Guys, if you are into design? Here’s what I know about cluttery people. We all long for design, but we all struggle with it. If that, pairing with wanting to understand the design that God has for your life, if those are two desires you have, you couldn’t ask for a better book. A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan. Here’s the beautiful thing: we have a couple of copies to give away, which I’m super excited about. Here’s the thing, guys. You know we don’t just do giveaways. I’m going to make you work for it. Here’s what I want in the podcast notes. I would love for you to share a time when you could see a little of God’s plan, a glimpse, when your life did not going according to plan. Just give us a little something. Maybe you were sick. Maybe there was a disappointment in your life. Maybe you didn’t get the job, you didn’t get the house, whatever it was, and you got to glimpse God’s plan. I’d love for you to share about that in the notes. Tracy, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.

Tracy – Thank you. It’s been so much fun.

Kathi – And, guys, thank you for being here. You are the best part of what we do here at Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were designed to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items


Meet Our Guest

Tracy Steel

Tracy Steel

Tracy Steel graduated from Kansas State University with a BS in interior design and has a master’s degree in biblical and theological studies from Phoenix Seminary. This military wife and mother of two enjoys speaking at women’s ministries events and is the author of A Redesigned Life: Uncovering God’s Purpose When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned.

Learn more at www.tracymsteel.com/A-Redesigned-Life

Clutter Free Academy Team

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