In Stormy Political Seas, These are Words To Remember about Faithfulness

As far as colors go, gray might just be one of my favorites. I’m sitting on a gray couch beside gray arm chairs resting their feet on a gray area rug. I painted the clock on the wall gray. And, how’s this for timing, I’m wearing a gray t-shirt this very moment.

But when it comes to life decisions, ethics and even Theology, gray is a hard color for me to swallow. In the university setting, during an ethics discussion, I didn’t like it when I felt like we were in gray territory and there wasn’t a clear black or white solution at the end of an hour’s discussion.

In the years that have followed, I’ve since come to have a different understanding of gray areas. Gray has become a new color for me, so to speak.

Earlier this year, many of you might’ve read this post I shared about my word for the year: Faithful. This word was like a tiny whisper to my soul from the Lord, just nudging me to keep my ears open and my heart listening to what He had to say.

This year, I’ve come to realize faithfulness and perfection are not the same thing, and I don’t have to be so hard on myself.

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I’ve learned that other people might not know what faithful looks like for me — so I don’t need to fear judgment or outside opinions. It’s the Lord first and foremost I’m called to be faithful to.

And this bullet shot out of a speeding train pierced my heart through while I was writing the Swim Your Own Race series a few years ago:

Your Race is in Your Lane.

Translation?

Your faithfulness and my faithfulness are going to look completely different. But that does not mean we are not both being faithful.

I have friends who have never taken their kids trick-or-treating because they feel it’s wrong to celebrate Halloween. I have friends who make a big deal out of Halloween and see it as an opportunity to connect with their neighbors.

Will I give the one side a high five and tell the other side they’re ridiculous? Obviously not.

Faithfulness looks different for different people, because God has different plans for each of us.

Am I saying there aren’t cold hard black and white areas where I think there’s no room for discussion? Of course not. We had some friends over for dinner this weekend and were discussing their denomination’s stance on a particular faith issue. The husband of this sweet couple commented, “We try to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where the Bible is silent.”

That’s wisdom worth taking notes on.

Thousands of years ago, do you know how Alexander the Great became the ruler of one of the largest and most expansive empires of all time? War. Battle. Great strategy and Physical Domination.

How did Genghis Khan found the longest contiguous empire in history? Think the Mongols took a vote? Think again. Invasion and domination.

In Ancient Greece, Athens was known as a city where people had voices, and political decisions were discussed in an open marketplace. Down the road in Sparta, strength and physical domination were the most highly valued prize. But the Athenians were on to something we still believe today: the idea that an uneducated mass of people can be very easily ruled over, even bullied, truly. But educated individuals, given the right to vote, can elect officials that will represent their ideals well. It was a novel idea in those days.

Today, my fellow Americans and I have the privilege of casting a vote to elect the officials that will rule over us. I think about a very dear friend back in Zimbabwe, where elections aren’t really true, honest or real. My Hero Hubs is a resident alien, (and a South African Cowboy Gentleman) he watches from the sidelines. We mustn’t take it for granted: the democracy we call a “unalienable right” is still in many places a far off dream, a hoped-for-someday privilege.

If we do have the privilege, we should not take it lightly.

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Paul once wrote these words to the Corinthians to encourage them in their generosity:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. {II Cor. 9:6-7}

Like the Corinthians in their decision to give, before we make a decision and fill in a bubble on a ballot, we should wrestle in our hearts before God. This soul-searching is the most important part of the process. The Corinthians would have had to consider whether they were being greedy or trusting God for their provision, perhaps how much they were able to give and still meet other commitments. Similarly, we must wrestle with what we value most — are there certain political ideals we want to hold most firmly to? Certain character traits we feel are the most important? Are we valuing the right things most?

At the end of the day, some Corinthians would’ve given one amount, and others would’ve given another. But those different amounts didn’t mean one was being faithful and another was not. Each decided in his own heart and hopefully gave as the Lord led him.

I’m sure I don’t have to spell out the parallel to you — based on what’s on our hearts, what ideals we value, what character traits we are looking for, we will perhaps come to different conclusions about how to appropriately mark a ballot on November 8th.

But there is a beautiful conclusion for all of this:

We can feel differently about issues and still each be faithful to what God is speaking to our hearts. God might lead one friend to choose not to trick-or-treat at Halloween, and another to be out in the community with her kids in costume.

We can all do different things, and still be faithful to what God is leading us to do.

The most important part of the process is perhaps the wrestling. The drawing near to your Creator and doing your best to bare your soul and hope to live your days with a clean conscience before God, trusting that you listened to the Holy Spirit to the best of your ability.

As this political race comes to a close, remember that you are swimming your own race, and your race is in your lane. Faithfulness will look different for you than it will for the person to your right or your left.

Fix your eyes on Jesus, friend, love and respect your neighbors and their race in their lane, and just keep swimming your race with faithfulness.

xCC

 

Thoughts on New Shoes and Feeding on His Faithfulness

I mentioned the other day that we were at an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of moment for the past few days. (We get paid on the 25th.) I was also talking about “coincidences” a couple weeks ago and how things come together way too often in my life for me to chalk things up to Mr. Chance any longer. And this Monday I had another one of those experiences that, here it is Friday, I’m finally getting a chance to write down and tell you about. First let me share a Scripture to explain why I want to re-tell this:

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

That was Psalm 37:3-4. So. It was an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of day Monday. The Bear had decided he was too cool for Sunday school the day before — meaning he wasn’t cool with getting left with the other kids in the babysitting area. Hero Hubs decided to walk him around outside for a while during church, and he spent pretty much the whole service doing just that. By the time we got home, he had little blisters on his pwecious little toes, and it was obvious it was time for new shoes. He had worn out the ones he got for Christmas with all the car-riding! But like I said, it was an end-of-the-fiscal-month-so-nobody-move-till-we-get-paid kind of week. And we wouldn’t get paid till Thursday.

The issue was, if we didn’t buy the Bear a new pair of shoes, he couldn’t go outside and ride his car, because he drags his toes to brake, and he’ll come home with bloody feet. But if he can’t ride his car, he is as bummed as the day is long. And that thought made me really sad. Going outside and riding his car is like his moment of freedom — and the boy’s a little Scottish, you know, he needs his F-RRR-EEEDOM!

So we were in a bit of a dilemma. But not for long. As we were discussing what to do about the shoe issue, I just happened to look at this card a friend had sent us a few days before that I had on display on our counter. And I just happened to notice something I didn’t see before. She’d put a sheet of stickers inside the card for the Bear, and I suddenly just happened to see some writing behind the sticker sheet, even though I’d read the card at least a couple times already. I picked the card up, looked behind the sticker sheet, and there she’d written us another wee note, and included $50. (THANK YOU, MY FRIEND!!!)

$50 will buy plenty of shoes for Bear Bear in South Africa — his next ten+ pairs!

It gets even better. On our way to buy the shoes, we prayed that the Lord would help us find them at a good price. Our finances are tight, so we were planning to be careful and make good purchases and make that $50 go a long way! So we shopped around the mall for ages and ages to try to find shoes that were the right size (challenge #1) and that weren’t a ridiculous price (challenge #2). Finally, we arrived at a store called Ackermans which has really cute baby stuff. They had a ton of shoes on their “Giveaways” (meaning decent sales) rack and I started hunting. Eventually, I found these adorable sandals (pictured below!) marked R19.00. Yes, that is 19 South African Rand. And in case you don’t happen to know the current exchange rate, ZAR19 is like $2.56!! Or £1.73!!! Or €1.93!!!!

There were several other pairs of the exact same sandals on the rack. I looked through them, and they were all marked R79.00. It was obvious we just happened to find a mis-pricing, but we asked the guy who was labeling and putting things on the racks, and he checked and said, “19 Rand.” So we were able to buy the Bear a pair of sandals, and a pair of trainers, on sale for R59.00, with a ton of cash to spare!!!

The thing about feeding on the faithfulness of God is that He works in different ways at different times. Sometimes it’s a check in the mail. Sometimes it’s a shoe on sale. Sometimes your brother reads your blog post and deposits money in your bank account!! But the faithfulness I want to feed on — the thing I want to chew on and remember over and over again, is that God is good and that He has come through for us — in different ways at different moments — but every time. That means I can trust Him. That means I can be at peace about tomorrow. Because the God who comes through for me is already there.

So I just happened to take a moment to share this with you this morning. I hope you just happen to be encouraged by it, and perhaps to believe that more often than we think, things don’t just happen. 🙂 Has anything special just happened for you this week?

Without further ado… BearBear’s new shoes!!

Here’s The (Practical Application) Sermon in a Nutshell: We’ve been recording testimonies of God’s goodness and provision in a special little journal for a while. Although we haven’t been writing them down nearly as often as we should, it is really, really encouraging to open that journal up and feed on God’s faithfulness in moments where we need encouragement. Perhaps you can start writing down things you want to remember, so you can feed on that faithfulness, too!

The Best Time to Find Out Who You Are

It began as a little whisper. 

I think most of the best things in life probably do.

It was first thing in the morning, when I had the choice between pulling the charging cord out my phone and pulling my legs out from under the covers and sauntering to the back porch with my Bible and journal in hand. I’ve been working on making the latter of those two choices a habit these days as best I can, but the phone sure does want to talk, too.

And that’s when I heard that still, small voice whisper: “Let me tell you who you are before the world does.”

Just a few days before, I’d shared some new content online and had new subscribers signing up to receive emails With Love, From Here.

I’m not dying for huge numbers and have tried my best to rather focus on writing clearly to the hearts I think I’m supposed to be writing to with the words I think I’m supposed to be writing, but I’ve also been learning a bit more about what the journey of publishing looks like for the average non-fiction writer. Turns out “How many followers do you have?” and “How many subscribers get your emails?” are actual questions that I’ll be answering as I continue to pitch ideas and take the next steps on the journey.

So when those little numbers started pinging that day with the happy little news from MailChimp that someone new is “Picking Up What I’m Putting Down”? I was pretty darn happy about it.

And that is all fine and well and reasonable to celebrate.

But I think the whisper came that morning with a few different reminders attached. Numbers can come and numbers can go. Fans can quickly change from cheering to sneering and jeering. (If Jesus was a hipster teenager right now, I imagine Him rolling His eyes and commenting, “Um, yes! Ask Me how I know. Anybody remember Holy Week? Most. Epic. Cheer-to-Jeer experience. EVER.”)

Sometimes people will love you for what you do. How you navigate the complexities around the office or improve the ROI. How you love on the kids in your classroom wholeheartedly even when all kinds of crazy seem to be busting out of every corner. Sometimes people will love what your art, your words, your heart brings to the table.

And sometimes they won’t.

Sometimes the hard stuff you’re doing is the unseen stuff. It’s cleaning the toilets. It’s making the PBJs. It’s the 3 am diaper change that no one sees and no one cheers for. 

Or worse: sometimes you have to do the thing that you know in your heart is the right thing to do, and the folks around you don’t like the idea. They disagree with your principles. Don’t understand why your heart is set. Don’t get that there is a fire inside of you that you just can’t suppress.

Crazy enough, what we should do when the world is cheering and what we should do when the world is jeering? It’s exactly the same thing.

We keep letting the God Who created us tell us who we are. We keep asking Him to guide our steps and tell us how to live. 

We aren’t always going to get it right. And perfection isn’t the goal, is it?

The goal is to consistently turn to Jesus and ask, “What does faithfulness look like today? What would it look like to run the race well today?” 

Maybe today it is steering a Fortune 500 company in the right direction. Or maybe today it’s being the one who’s there to change that diaper at 3 am. 

Neither of these two actions will carry greater weight in the light of eternity if they are both done to honor and glorify God.

We do what we can, and then we invite God to turn our mistakes into confetti.

When we wake up in the morning, we really don’t need to let the voices come roaring in that say, “Yes, you are awesome!” or “Look at all these people who are more awesome than you.”

We really need words like these to make our souls brave, and to remind us that it’s not the world’s applause or approval we’re after anyway.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday. {Psalm 37:3-6}

The world is full of voices. Voices so eager to tell you what theythink, they might decide to shout at you to let you know. {I have an actualstory about that I’ll share next week…}

But I’m sharing these thoughts to give you this sermon in a nutshell: Who you truly are has very little to do with what the people around you have to say about you. Your skills or abilities or failures or disabilities. All these things pale in comparison to the Imago Dei of you… the uniquely wonderful you, created not only by God but also in His Image.

So even if it’s going to just be the first five minutes before your feet hit the floor, or maybe you’ve got an hour you can spend with the Lord and the Word on the back porch, either way, aim to let God have the first say and the final say. Be reminded, and remind yourself again and again to Trust Him, do good, feed on Hisfaithfulness. Let Him bring the good things to pass, and let your heart be warmed with the knowledge that nothing you say or do changes His incredible, unstoppable everlasting love for you.

xCC

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If you’d like a little help finding some words to tell you who you are every morning, these are two of my favorite devotionals that can whisper gallons of truth in ounces of words…

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I was just given a Scripture Journal like this one and I’m really excited about it!! (Thanks, Emily!!!!)

If you’d like to chat more with your children about finding their identity in what God says rather than everyone else, I love…

You are Special by Max Lucado

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

And in case you missed it? After two and a half years of great dinners, this week I shared some thoughts about the Instant Pot for friends who are on the fence! View that post here!

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Psst! If you’re encouraged today, you can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here! I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week (and my new Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan System.) Definitely a win/win!

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When You’re Scared of Everyone Else’s (Better?) Story

Funny question: When’s the last time you read something you were afraid to read? 

Maybe a book you thought you’d find to hard to deal with — something you thought would poke at some old wounds? Maybe an envelope that came in the mail with a yes or a no in it?

Funny answer: Last year, I read a book I probably would’ve avoided, had the sweet friend of mine who works at the library not handed it to me and said “I think you would love this.”

The book was Daring to Hope, by Kate Majors Davis. She’s the author of Kisses from Katie and she is (in my humble opinion) like a modern-day-mother-Theresa serving orphans in Uganda. This story, in some respects, picks up where her first bestseller Kisses from Katie left off.

If you know the slightest bit of backstory — that I served as a missionary in southern Africa for a couple of years — you might wonder why I was extremely hesitant to open the cover.

Here’s the thing. Even though the Hero Hubs and I felt completely confident that it was absolutely clear that our season in South Africa was coming to a close and it was time to move to the US, even though the Lord just about put road signs in the sky for us to say “This is the way, walk in it…” still, I was afraid I’d just feel plain guilty that I am here… living, breathing and writing in North Carolina, and I am therefore no longer there.

I decided to be brave enough to open the cover and start reading. Instead of condemnation and guilt and shame washing over me, I was embraced by grace, love and… hope.

Katie wrote about her everyday life, and she wrote about what it looked like to be faithful to Jesus, right where she was, doing the things each day that she felt the Lord calling her to do. Baking the bread. Feeding her many children. Caring for the sick in her community.

She wrote:

“As I’m tempted to wallow in guilt over all that I am not for my children, gently He points out that I was never meant to meet all their needs anyway.”

And I said in my heart, “Me, too.”

She wrote:

“This is such a simple truth, yet it strikes my heart in a profound way. To dwell in the place I have been given. To do the things I have been given. To love the people I have been given. This is not mysterious or far reaching, yet this is the truth of a God-ordained life.”

And I said in my heart, “Yes! This is the truth!”

And as the encouraging words unfolded, story by story and page by page, I was reminded something I’ve been telling myself all along: my job is not to do what anyone else is doing.

I think the good and profoundness of these six words only hit me when my neighbor wrote them down on a notecard and put them on her refrigerator: Your Race is in Your Lane.

If God calls me to Uganda or Sri Lanka or Argentina, I will go. But what if He is just asking me to be kind, to love well, and to live my life in my lane right here? Is that any less faithful?

I finally decided I didn’t need to be afraid of anyone else’s story — because my faithfulness will not look like theirs, and it’s not supposed to.

Katie wrote:

“As it turns out, faithfulness was in the ordinary, in the everyday things that do not feel glorious but, in fact, lead us to His feet.”

And when the last page was read, I took a deep breath — relieved. With a sigh and smile and maybe wiping a tear or two, I gave thanks to a God who doesn’t write the same story for everyone to live. He has a million stories up His sleeves. SO many different threads to weave together in the beautiful tapestry He’s unfolding.

Are you maybe comparing your story to someone else’s and feeling like you come up short? Comparing your Mom skills? Your productivity at work or your volunteer hours or your kid’s performance on a sports team?

If so, please hear this and believe it: Your job is not to walk anyone else’s walk. It’s not to talk anyone else’s talk. And it’s not to fulfill anyone else’s calling.

Whether you’re on a farm in Kansas or in a penthouse in Hong Kong, keep on asking: 

Please show me what it looks like for me to be faithful today. Lord help me to stay in my lane.

And then my friend, go out and live your extraordinary-ordinary beautifully-unique story — you’re the only one who can live faithfully to the beautiful life God has planned for you.

xCC

You can find Daring to Hope and Kisses from Katie on Amazon.

Did you enjoy this post? You can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here!

Psst! Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

How Jesus is Smashing My Rejections

Hey friends! I know I’ve been saying this good ol’ Love, From Here will be back into a regular routine soon… and then it isn’t … but I think I’ve finally turned a few corners and let go of a few commitments that will allow me to continue writing and encouraging your hearts. Thank you so much for your patience and your consistent encouragement, for sharing and for praying! More love and more news to come…

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“You can’t sit with us!”

It’s hard not to feel a little guilty leap of heart happy when Regina George, the Queen of Rejecting Others gets rejected by her own hive of bees at lunch. If you haven’t seen Mean Girls, just know that this is the moment when the meanest of the Mean Girls gets a taste of her own medicine.

When someone else is getting rejected, let’s be honest, we can feel a mix of emotions. If we feel the rejection is deserved, maybe we’re okay with it. But I don’t think too many of us feel overwhelmingly happy when rejection points its unpleasant finger in our direction and says Nope, not you.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a new type of rejection that I think I was probably so afraid of I didn’t even want to try, for fear of rejection.

While *not* being particularly busy writing in this neck of the woods, I’ve still been doing some writing, including working and reworking and thinking and rethinking a picture book and then wording and rewording a picture book, tentatively called She Curtsied for the Queen

I won’t outline the story for you here (as I hope you’ll get to read a lovely, fully-illustrated and well-edited version of it someday) but I’ll tell you it’s one of those things that arrived by surprise, and I feel like there’s a lesson for me here, about recognizing a gift of God as something we ought to properly steward, even when that looks hard and it looks like potential rejection.

Two agents thus far have come back with this exactly reply, truly almost word-for-word:

“I’m sorry to say I don’t feel I’m connecting wholeheartedly with your writing, despite its many charms.”

(One used that sentence with “I” and the other with “We”… seriously that was the only difference. Even though it’s polite, it’s still rejection.

And that ‘R” word is the thing you hear from so many writers — that the pile of rejection letters is rather long before anybody gets anywhere.

So when this little picture book’s second rejection hit my inbox yesterday, I took a deep breath and decided to smile and text a friend these words:

“She Curtsied for the Queen got its second rejection letter today! I’m two rejections closer to finding a literary agent who wants to publish it, right? 😁🤓”

And I’ve decided that’s exactly what I am choosing to believe. 

Here’s why.

If God puts something in your heart that you know you’re supposed to do, the outcome really doesn’t matter. Truly, it just doesn’t. If this baby never gets off the ground… if this airplane never takes flight… I will still know two very important things:

1. God has asked me to do something, and He can make a way where no way seems possible.

2. My responsibility can be summed up with one word: Faithfulness.

Whether we are excluded from the table at lunch or turned down for the dream job or those 1,200 words I’ve read 1,200 times get turned down for the 45th time, Jesus is the Rock that makes every outcome secondary.

You are known, seen and loved. You are Beloved and you matter.

I am known, seen and loved. I am Beloved and I matter.

Jesus knows us, sees us, and loves us. We will be rejected by the world from time to time (and a great lack of rejection could be an indication that we are going with the flow a bit more than we should!)

Winston Churchill said, “Success if not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

So if you’re experiencing rejection because your art doesn’t connect with the critics, or if you’re experiencing rejection because your faith doesn’t line up with everyone else’s comfortable illusions of Jesus… take heart, friend. 

Have courage to continue walking the faithful walk that consistently says “Yes” to Jesus, regardless of how the rest of the world will look at you.

You may find out the best friends you’ll ever have in this world were sitting at a different table all along.

xCC