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!

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 Curiosity Blesses Every Burning Bush

You know what lots of universities are now looking for in students applying for admission?

Yes, they’re looking at what you’d expect. Grade Point Average. Test Scores. Extracurricular Activities. 

What’s on the list that maybe wasn’t always?

Curiosity.

Yes. Good, old-fashioned curiosity — the kind that leads us to learn new things, ask good questions and figure things out.

Do you think curiosity is useful in any way when it comes to faith?

Take this little excerpt of a passage from Exodus 3:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

What if Moses hadn’t followed his curiosity? Imagine the passage a bit more like this:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “Whoa. There’s a bush burning over there. It’s on fire, but the fire isn’t burning up the bush. That is weird. And kind of creepy. Did I eat something weird at lunch today? I better go get a nap.”

Fortunately for us — and the people of Israel who would later be delivered by Moses, thanks to that burning bush encounter with God — Moses’ wonder led him to investigate. And his investigation led him to an amazing discovery.

He didn’t discover a scientific explanation which explained how the properties of this particular bush made it flame retardant. 

Instead, he discovered that the God who loved the people Moses had left behind in Egypt had an invitation for him. Out of that bush came a whisper, and a command. It was a moment that changed everything.

There’s a cool thing you might notice if you look at Luke’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus. In Luke 24, after Jesus has risen, He appears to two unnamed disciples on the Road to Emmaus. And He doesn’t just drop in for a chit-chat. He doesn’t even allow the disciples to recognize who He is.

First, it seems He wants to have a conversation with them and help them find understand of who He truly is. The Savior. The Risen Lord. The promised Messiah the Jews had been waiting for. Only after He’s had a chance to expound the Scriptures to those two disciples does He sit at a table and break bread with them — and somehow allow them to recognize Him as Jesus.

He appeared again to His disciples, and in modern English I think Jesus would say something like, 

“Guys! Guys, come on! We’ve been over this. Remember when I was with you before and I told you that the things Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms said about Me would have to be fulfilled? Is this ringing any bells, guys? This is it! This is the fulfillment of what they were talking about!” (That’s my paraphrase of Luke 24:44)

Luke goes on to say, “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” (Lk. 24:45)

In Mark’s account, Jesus is frustrated with His disciples and rebukes them because they didn’t believe the first disciples who’d seen Him and told them. In one way or another, each account of the death and Resurrection of Jesus seems to indicate that Jesus wants His disciples to believe that what He told them was going to happen all along actually did happen, and now they should go and do the things He told them beforehand He would want them to do.

But what of curiosity? 

Genuine curiosity is a beautiful thing. Because if we throw a party and you bring the brownies and I bring the chips and salsa, Jesus is the guy who we can always count on to bring the understanding.

When you read the Bible and you come to a passage that might as well remain un-translated from the Greek or Hebrew because it’s so opaque to you, why not look for some understanding? Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible, and many others like it, are available online for you — just a click away.

When something difficult is happening in your day, in your week, in your life as a whole, be curious enough to ask God if He can bring some understanding to the party. He truly loves doing that. Maybe He’ll whisper some words of encouragement to your heart with that still, small voice of His. Maybe He’ll lead you to a Scripture that will help you to see what you’re going through from a whole new perspective.

I read a beautiful children’s book with my children last year that has stuck with me because it had such incredible wisdom to offer. The book was called What Do You Do With a Problem? and it’s an artistic rendering of a person struggling with a problem, feeling afraid of it on one page, trying to ignore it on another.

Eventually, the character realizes that his problem has a tiny gift — it has an opportunity inside of it.

Here’s where being curious fits in. Curiosity is often the thing that has taken me from I’m going to ignore this problem and hope it goes away to I’m going to look into this problem and see what could be inside of it.

We have refrigerators because someone was curious enough to see if he could solve the problem of always needing more ice for an ice box.

We have motorcars because someone was curious enough to see if he could come up with a better solution to travel than faster horses.

Even through the grief and pain and sorrow of losing my Dad, I stayed curious enough to believe that somehow I was going to see God’s goodness in the midst of all the hard and the sad. Would you believe God showed up? As I prayed for my Dad’s healing and for a personal Renaissance and a new season of life to come out of these dark days, a chaplain arrived in the hospital room to pray for us and for my Dad, using the exact phrase “a real Renaissance man” in reference to him — words which whispered to my soul, “The Renaissance you’re praying for already happened. Isn’t God good?”

You can bring sorrow. You can bring hurt. You can bring pain. You can bring guacamole or pita and hummus. Yes please to both. But Jesus will always bring understanding if you are willing to quiet your soul, listen whole-heartedly and, yes, sometimes this is the hard part, have the patience to wait for God’s clarity to meet you in God’s timing.

People often remember Steve Jobs for saying, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” 

One way of interpreting this interesting statement is to see it as an encouragement to stay curious. Don’t be fooled into thinking you know it all. There is more to understand. There is more to grasp. There is more wisdom, and more Truth and more Light yet to be revealed.

Take a moment to stare at a cricket and wonder about those oddly-shaped legs of his, and how they propel him forward so well.

Notice a rock on the sidewalk and wonder at the thought that it’s much, much older than you.

Welcome Jesus to bring understanding to any and every party you ever think of throwing.

In short, stay curious.

xCC

Are you curious to check out:

Bible Study Tools

Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary

The children’s book, What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

A Fascinating Hummingbird Story over at Smarter Every Day on YouTube

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Are you encouraged today? If so, 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! Definitely a win/win!

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!

The Life Changing Magic of Negative Disclosure

Once upon a time, I was a college student in a fifteen passenger van traveling to I don’t remember where on some mission trip or conference or something. What I do remember is that another one of the passengers in that van was my boyfriend at the time.

And I remember (of all things!) some random joke of his to that fully loaded fifteen passenger van about me. And I quote:

“She toots when she sleeps.”

Hilarious, right? 

I’m not one bit scarred, friends, so don’t get worried. Everyone in the van would surely have known that the boyfriend in question would have had no idea whether or not I toot in my sleep. 

And just in case anyone outside of southern America needs translation? In this context, ‘toots’ is a polite way of saying she passes gas. That may have already been obvious, so let’s move on.

I’m sharing this example to make a quick point: when I talk in this post about “Negative Disclosure” that is NOT the type of negative disclosure I’m referring to.

You still with me? Good.

So. Our pastor and his wife were over for a visit the other evening and he said something very profound. So important that I think it could have downright changed the trajectory of our marriage:

“Negative disclosure leads to greater intimacy.”

I am not sure I’m quoting him perfectly (whereas I’m sure about the sleep and tooting thing.) However, I am sure I’ve got the gist of it here — and the idea is really the main thing I want to communicate.

I think one of the greatest tools the enemy of our souls has in his arsenal is the strategy of making us feel isolated. He whispers things like this:

You’re the only one struggling with this. You should be ashamed of yourself. If anyone else knew it would completely change what they think of you.

The choices you’ve made, the things you’ve struggled with are proof that you’re worthless in the kingdom of God.

What happened to you was really your fault and it’s proof that you’re worthless.

God could never use you to build His kingdom. He only uses people who have it all together.

When we bring these thoughts into the Light, we see how ridiculous they are, right? Yet somehow, while they’re in that fuzzy realm of unspoken stuff we’re trying to stuff down deep, they still have power. 

In the Light, the deep and real Truth of God, we know that we ALL sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. 

We also know for certain that God delights in using the most broken people for His glory.

David, the king caught in adultery, which he tried to resolve with arranged murder? He wrote so many of the Psalms that connect our hearts to God’s heart — and have been connecting hearts to God’s for a couple thousand years.

Moses murdered an Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite and then ran off into the wilderness… and God delighted in using him, flawed and broken as he was, to deliver the people of Israel.

Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife. Jacob tricked Isaac to get Esau’s blessing. 

The list goes on but you get the idea — God is in the business of helping broken people do beautiful things for His glory. Therefore: you are not disqualified.

So what about this negative disclosure thing?

Those words breathed life into Mark’s heart, and mine. He chose to be honest about things he was struggling with and I had the privilege of listening and rejoicing with him at our good God — faithfully working to deliver us. I got to be honest about things that were bothering me that seemed big — but when I brought them into the light, they became minuscule and lost their lie-whispering power.

The power of our enemy works best in the darkness.

We storm the gates and take back those strongholds when we bring things into the Light.

This is not just a word for those who are married. We need deep and meaningful friendships where we can be honest — really honest — about our struggles, our fears, and the things that are keeping us from fully walking in the Light.

Negative disclosure isn’t about admitting you have bad breath in the morning — it’s about being willing to tell the truth even when it’s not the pretty, all-put-together truth you want other people to see or hear or believe about you.

I’m struggling with addiction. I’m fighting suicidal thoughts. I find myself drawn to places on the internet I know I shouldn’t be going.

These are examples of the negative disclosure we don’t want to bring into the Light… but absolutely should.

Give these words a good read through or two:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” {2 Corinthians 10: 3-5}

What is Paul admitting here? We are still humans made of flesh. We are tempted. We fall short. We do what we don’t want to do. But how do we fight? We take our thoughts captive, because every action starts with a thought. Before you stand up to get a glass of water, you have to think about being thirsty and tell your brain to move your arms to give you balance to stand to your feet to put one foot in front of the other, and so on. 

The lies we believe are trying to exalt themselves against the Truth of God.

While the world says our sins make us worthless, our God says He created us and we are worthy.

While the world tells us our failures prove us fools, God has consistently shown He chooses flawed, failing individuals for great tasks in His kingdom.

I’d like to invite you to search your own soul today. Is there a whisper of the enemy that is making you believe you are not fully worthy of the love of God? Or not “good enough” to deserve good things? Or not “holy enough” to do things that matter in God’s economy? 

Is there a sinister whisper in your ear? Ask that question and then begin to bring it into the Light. This can be as simple as turning to your spouse or a friend or a sister or someone near and saying “I am really struggling with _________. I’m not sure why, but I think maybe it’s because I think ______.”

You might be surprised to find your friend will say “Me, too.” Or you might be opening a door for them to feel like they can also be honest about their own struggles. 

It turns out negative disclosure — being honest about things that are important, but aren’t easy to talk about — can be incredibly positive for your relationship with others, and for deepening your faith in our merciful, loving God. Honest disclosure will deepen your man-to-man and man-to-God relationships–and that is a beautiful, wonderful thing.

While the enemy loves to find the sheep that is isolated and stranded and separated from the flock, our decisions to be honest help us to lock arms with one another. They pull us in and deepen our sense of community. This changed sense of identity can break chains, friends!

Go for honest friends. It truly is a Life-Changing kind of Magic — maybe we could even say it’s a sort of Tidying-Up for the soul.

xCC

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Are you encouraged today? I hope so!!!! And if so, 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! Definitely a win/win! Right now you’ll also get my Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan System. Bonus love!!!

So I Married an Immigrant

Very recently, near my little hometown, our nation’s president came to speak. People gathered, news media teams crowded together and somewhere in the middle of it all, a chant began in unison with three simple words, “Send her back.” 

As a homeschooling Mama of four, I typically tend to stay focused on the life right in front of me. I’m not “politically active” and I don’t often take the opportunity to share my opinion about the events in the world surrounding me, because there are so many voices already shouting their opinions, I’m not sure I can add anything of value to the conversation. 

But here’s a funny thing about this particular incident: it is more personal to me than I first realized. A text message from my sister woke me up to the question. “How does it make you feel, being an ‘immigrant family’?” 

What you might not know about me, if you’re perhaps reading words I’ve written for the first time, is that I married an immigrant. We met at church in Scotland. I was a visiting resident and student — you could say I was a temporary immigrant — from the US, he was an immigrant from South Africa working toward British citizenship. By the time we married, he had British citizenship and I was his immigrant wife — an American alien in the UK. 

Thus began the story of two people who began to build a family together, not sure where they were headed but hopeful about making a difference somewhere in this big wide world of ours.

Twelve years later, we are happily married with four children, settled in eastern North Carolina. We moved back to my hometown with a heap of debt, but with encouragement and support from my family, (special thanks to my cousin who gave us a free place to stay when we first landed!) and heaps of prayer, hard work and hustle, we went from hard times to happier days in less than a decade.

A few days before the incident that made headlines from Eastern North Carolina, I was reading a different story about a crowd chanting in unison, in agreement. They were shouting “Give us Barrabas.” Were they a crowd or a mob? And what is the difference? And how would they feel, if they knew what I’m certain of — they traded a murderer for their Savior while they shouted “Crucify Him!’

I don’t have all the answers to the questions of Immigration. I know our nation is flooded, understaffed and underfunded to appropriately handle the problems at our borders. 

If the story was different, my husband could have chosen to stay in South Africa, and could today be showing up at the Mexican Border like many other South Africans, seeking asylum as a refugee. 

But we are here now, in this story. Raising children, paying taxes, tithing to our church and supporting ministries locally and internationally. Do you know what most immigrants want? They want to eat food every day. Want a safe place to raise their children. To work for a decent paycheck and contribute to their communities. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

What I want to live is this: I am first a Christian, second a wife, third a mother. Somewhere further down the list, maybe after church member — there is the description “American.” 

What I want to posit here is this:

If we say we are Christians, our allegiance to Christ has to supersede all other allegiances. So if Christ asks us to welcome the stranger, then welcoming the stranger is an act of obedience to the God we claim to follow, to love, to believe in.

There’s this mind-bending moment in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 25) where Jesus talks about separating sheep from goats when He returns and inherits the Kingdom that is His to rule. He welcomes the blessed and explains the reason they’re coming into the Kingdom: 

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” 

They gave Jesus clothes, looked after Him when He was sick, visited Him in prison.

Wildly enough, the righteous He is welcoming in seem confused and ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you…?”

His response is very simple, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Could this be a higher calling? Could we as Christians find ways to answer this call and welcome the stranger into our lives and our communities? 

In 1941, the American government refused visas to many Jews, including the family of Otto Frank. Frank was instead forcing into hiding, with his wife and two daughters. One daughter kept a diary until her family was discovered by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. That daughter — Anne Frank — would be in her 80s today. 

And does knowing her story make a difference? Being able to read her diary and know that she was a little girl who wanted to grow up … to have plenty of food to eat .. to survive?

Doesn’t every person have a story?

We look back on World War II today with contempt for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. But we refused boatloads of refugees — both in the literal sense and in the paperwork sense. 

I pray we will not allow fear to force us into making the same mistakes. 

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts with you about what brave looks like— how there are lots of different ways to be brave and maybe more opportunities in our day to day life to choose to “fear not” than we might at first realize.

What can we do to be brave in response to the world refugee crisis? As a former immigrant, and as the wife of an immigrant, I cannot choose to stay silent.

Here are three ideas for facing the crisis that will affect us all.

1. Refuse to let ignorance be an excuse. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye because the truth is hard to look at. If the roles were reversed, we’d be praying for the world to see our plight! The FAQs at we-welcome.org might be a fantastic place to start.

2. Consider giving or volunteering to help “the least of these.” Organizations like World Relief often have local chapters that might simply ask you to be a friend, help someone move in, or tutor a student starting over in a school in a new country. If you have some skin in the game and begin to understand the stories — remember, every person has a story — you might discover the world is a lot smaller than you think.

3. Pray like you mean it. At the end of 2018 the UNCHR estimated that 70.8 million people were displaced worldwide. Read that number again. It’s more than a fifth of the population of the United States. Pray that God will help us AND our leaders find solutions to this crisis.

God whispered to His people thousands of years ago, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” {Ex. 22:21} Look for a stranger to welcome today right where you are, and pray that God will give you privilege of feeding the hungry or giving clothes to those who need them, and discovering that you did those things for Jesus Himself.

xCC

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Are you encouraged today? If so, 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! Definitely a win/win!

Making Your Way to the Mountaintop

Not sure if you know this, but I live on some pretty flat land. I mean, we have a few hills here and there, like the big one in the graveyard we used to call “Dead Man’s Hill” which was about the most fun to ride your bike down pedaling full tilt for a ten year old. 

But mostly, around here? Flat. See miles into the distance when there aren’t the tall North Carolina pines in the way flat.

But a few weeks ago, our little crew made a journey into the mountains in southwestern North Carolina. Topography that’s more the speed of my mountain-biking Hero Hubs. Views that I love, where you really can stare for miles over the tops of the trees to the hills beyond the hills beyond the hills in the distance.

The tough thing is usually getting to those views, right?

We decided to take a hike on this most recent adventure — one I only belatedly discovered was labeled ‘strenuous’ on the map. But we chose it because we were certain it would be worth it, to stand and stare at an eighty foot waterfall nestled into the side of the mountain with all the little Collies in tow. 

I tried to stay super upbeat to keep the kiddos upbeat, and the enthusiasm super-charged the girls to want to take off running down the trail. Eventually, we were all in a line, going about as fast as our youngest’s little toddler legs would take her. At times, she was putting her hands down to help her balance as she stepped up steps that towered above her sweaty little knees.

It wasn’t an easy climb for our younger kiddos, but we did our best to cheer them on, to encourage them for how great they were doing, how proud they should be of their efforts, how wonderful the reward would be.

Our mountaintop adventure reminded me of this prayer Habbakuk, this prophet in the oldest testament prayed. He’d had this conversation with God where he questioned God about what was happening in his nation. It seemed like maybe God had forgotten or abandoned Israel. 

When God answered, he helped Habakkuk reframe his perspective. God helped him to recognize that he was living into a story bigger than himself. He was offered a choice to trust God to keep His promises, even if that first meant the impending destruction of his nation would come to pass. 

The whisper in the words seems to say, “I am doing something. Yes, the wicked will have their day… but not forever.” The whisper promises:

“For the earth will be filled 
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.” {Hab. 2:14}

Babylon was not going to hold Israel in captivity forever. God would rise up and set things right. It seemed like maybe Habakkuk’s question changed from “Why does God allow this?” to “Who is this God who will sustain me in the things he allows?” 

Habakkuk makes this incredible declaration in the midst of this really, really hard place:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines,
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls —
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
{Hab. 3:17-19}

Here’s something I don’t recall ever belting out at the top of my lungs so far in this life:

“Even if everything is going totally wrong, Lord, I will rejoice in You!”

“Lord, even if I don’t have food of any kind, and all my efforts are failing, I will joy in You!”

But in order to live into the bigger story, and in order to climb up and get the big perspective that comes from being on the mountaintop? Gosh, maybe that’s exactly what we have to declare.

If we declare our faith in Him no matter what — maybe He helps us get the perspective that even when things don’t seem right right now, even when the steps I’m climbing are up to my thighs and I have to put my hands down to help steady me as I bring up one foot, and then the other, well, gosh, I’ll just keep climbing and trust the Lord to do what He has promised.

There are these beautiful little creatures in South Africa called klipspringers. They are these small, sturdy little antelopes that perhaps measure two feet tall at the shoulder. They walk on the tips of their blunt little, cylindrical hooves, and practically dance their way over rocky terrain. They look like they’re walking on two big thick black toenails on each foot.

I love the thought that God can give us feet like that. Habakkuk trusted for feet like deer’s feet to make him walk on high hills. And I think — God can give us those feet. Not literally (gosh that would be awkward) but He can give us the ability to navigate very difficult terrain on the way to higher ground. And to others, it might look absolutely effortless. It doesn’t mean we aren’t going through hard places. It means somehow, even if we feel we’re in the valley, we trust God is bringing us toward a mountaintop where we can see from His perspective, where we can find hope to declare that we will joy in Him regardless of health or wealth, situation or station.

I whispered it to my kiddos, maybe sometimes it was plain speaking out loud:

“This is hard, but it will be worth it! Let’s keep going! You’ll be so glad you made it to the top!”

I wonder if God whispers something like that to us.

Any place in life worth getting to requires effort on our part — and God? He can make our feet like deer’s feet and give us the strength to keep climbing.

And when it was time to head back down the mountain to rest and that littlest Collie had all but given out? Her Daddy carried her the rest of the way.

xCC

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Are you encouraged today? If so, 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! Definitely a win/win!

Does Your Life Need a Little More Brave?

I laughed as I hugged a friend at church and the words came out of my mouth: “I think maybe the Lord wants me to be brave.” She was asking me about an upcoming camping trip we’d planned, and I admitted being a little nervous bringing four Collie kiddos (currently 10, 8, 6, and 3) off to sleep in tents and “rough it” a bit, far away from home. 

This wonderful woman of faith I’ve had so much respect for for so many years replied, “I think the Lord is encouraging me to be brave these days, too.” She very recently lost her husband of fifty years, and is now figuring out what life looks like in this season without him.

I think my heart skipped a beat, thinking about what brave looks like for her these days, and it made me stop to think: How many of us is the Lord perhaps asking to be brave? It’s not just me. Maybe, is it all of us?

Perhaps you’ve heard before that there are at least 365 instances where we’re encouraged not to fear, or not to be afraid, throughout the Bible.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” {Joshua 1:9}

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” {Isaiah 41:10}

There’s one beautiful verse for every day of our year that calls us to overcome the things we’re afraid of… and choose brave instead.

I remember everything about this one moment, this moment I returned to the little alley where I’d find the doorway and trudge up the stairs to the first apartment I lived in in Edinburgh. I’d moved to Scotland with heaps of hope and loads of prayer, but there was also a part of me that felt this was a sort of sink-or-swim moment in my journey.

I’d just waved goodbye to my big brother who was headed to the airport. He’d joined me on a flight across the pond, navigated an adventure up to Scotland on a train from London, waited with me in the train station for the wonderful letting agent who was willing to meet a foreigner in a train station and help her find her way home. (Thanks again, David!)

We figured out a bit about finding groceries, we’d worked on navigating the bus system, we’d listened to an absolutely hilarious rendition of “Wonderwall” by enthusiastic karaoke singers in a pub, and we’d donned nearly every stitch of clothing in our suitcases when the gas ran out and the night was cold… in July.

And then he headed to the airport, back to work and life in Atlanta, and the bus brought me back to that little alley with dark walls on both sides and the Scottish summer sun, bright and beaming down from overhead. I stood for a moment thinking about this beginning, this new place, and me, there, flatmates still on the way from other places… me, there to learn to live in a new country and build a new life.

Since then, I’ve learned that sometimes brave looks like taking four kids to the library when you just don’t know if you can keep everyone together and you don’t know how they’ll behave and it would be easier to just stay home. Sometimes brave looks like starting a conversation out of thin air to try to welcome someone new in class, at school, at church, at work. 

Brave can mean going to the gym when you’re overweight and afraid of what other people will think.

Brave can mean choosing not to do what “all the cool kids” are doing after school.

Sometimes brave is saying yes and sometimes brave is saying no.

But in that naïve, Braveheart-inspired moment in that alley in Edinburgh? Brave looked a bit like fighting back tears, knowing I was standing exactly where God wanted me to stand. Brave was taking a deep breath, looking up to let the sun warm my face, choosing to trust, even if I didn’t know all I needed to know to live in this new place. Brave was saying, yes, I can take this one day at a time.

Brave, in that moment, was running. Running down the alley. Flinging open the door. Running up the two dozen stairs to my first flat in my new home.

I ran to say yes. I ran to say I trust you, Lord. I ran to say I’m going to go bravely into this new thing, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I’m not walking afraid.

I’m running brave towards what You have in mind for me.

Is God asking you to be brave somewhere in your race at the moment? Is it time for a brave holding on or a brave letting go? Is it time for a brave yes or a brave no?

If you don’t feel sure, lean in close and listen for His whisper: What seems like a yes to being strong and courageous? What seems like a turning away from discouragement and dismay and running toward the life to the full that God came near to give you? What seems a bit like a little more dying to self and a little more bold, brave living in and to and through and for Christ?

I think we all have a place to step out toward more brave, friends. I pray you’ll stop long enough to let the sun warm your face and hear the voice of God saying “Yes. Yes. This is the brave road not taken.” And then? When you know it’s the way? I pray you’ll run brave, arms wide, right into it.

xCC

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I hope you are encouraged today! If so, 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! Definitely a win/win!