Meet Jupiter, Your Cosmic Big Brother

A single slice of information, obtained from a very interesting audiobook listen a couple of months ago has stuck with me hard and fast — a fresh encouragement about a God Who is all seeing, all knowing, and intimately inthe details great and small.

If Astrophysics isn’t your thing, just bear with me… and let me quote the source on this one.

“Newton’s Laws specifically state that while the gravity of a planet gets weaker and weaker the farther from it you travel, there is no distance where the force of gravity reaches zero.” (Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry)

Huh?

Okay. So anything that has mass has gravity. And objects with more mass? Yup. More gravity. This means that a mighty big planet, like Jupiter, which also has a mighty big gravitational field, can pull on objects quite, quite quite far away. Even though the gravitational pull diminishes as distance increases, it still exists. And (in this case) it pulls in or bats out of harm’s way many comets and other objects floating through space that would otherwise wreak havoc on the inner solar system, the part we call home. 

Uh… what?

Well, this means Jupiter acts like a gravitational shieldfor Earth. Jupiter is like the cosmic big brother that has protected Earth from getting constantly slammed by asteroids that would make a stable life on our beautiful green-and-blue planet virtually impossible. Without that protection, Earth would have a hard time being an inhabitable planet — we would constantly be living out Deep Impact, or whatever that other movie with Liv Tyler was.

So why is this even worth a mention?

It is absolutely glorious — I’m inspired by a fresh sense of wonder — that the existence of other planets inside our solar system could have any impact on life on Earth whatsoever, let alone be seen as a crucial part of the system that allows us to live on our beautiful planet. I’ve often imagined our incredible Creator flinging stars into space — but I’ve never imagined Him setting up the cosmos in such a strategic way, with infinite knowledge of how the very existence of any object will have some sort of impact on every other object in creation.

And if the God who knows all this, and does all this, knows me, and loves me? Then He must also be intimately aware of my every circumstance because it really, truly all matters more than we can even possibly conceive. Your second grade teacher. That first heart break. The time you stubbed your toe so hard it bled. The job interview that was a big fat NO. He sees it, He knows it, and He is in the business of weaving all things — from your shoe size to the location of the planets in the cosmos — together for the good of those who love Him.

So what are you walking through today? Does it seem like a mountain that needs climbing? Or do you feel like you’re facing something that is completely insignificant to everyone else? Can I encourage you with two simple words today? 

It matters.

You are seen and known and so deeply loved, you’re worth dying for. If you’re struggling to hold that truth deep down, and believe it, remember that even the planets of the solar system are contributing to this one rare, amazing, precious life of yours. *Snaps for Jupiter*

In all the universe, there is only one God, and He has set His affections on you.

xCC

“But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The Lord will hear when I call to Him.” {Psalm 4:3}

***

Just a heads up so we’re on the same page! My blog posts and emails sometimes contain Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make a purchase, I receive a teensy compensation at no cost to you. I’m grateful when you do that!
Thanks for supporting With Love, From Here. 


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…

***
“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

Five Tips and Ten Recommendations if More Reading is a New Year’s Resolution For You

Are you where I am in the midst of the eerie fog that seems to exist between December 26th and December 31st? This odd sort of holiday-esque space where some people have to go back to work and others are still on a break and people are traveling and some are still doing the Christmas stuff — and maybe you’re somewhere in between, and thinking “Hmm…. almost 365 days have passed and another whole year is almost over… What did I do?”

And if you are like me and you sit still a minute and ponder that question, you probably arrive at a place where you think “Well, that happened, which I had planned, but this didn’t. And I didn’t really do that, but at least I can say I made progress.” And perhaps on and on you go, evaluating and thinking and wondering what you might need to do differently so that 365 days from now you don’t feel like you’re still exactly where you are right now.

I didn’t write half as much as I wanted to, perhaps should have, in 2017. And I have some thoughts to think about how to change that in the year ahead — where I hear the Lord whispering the word “Choice” (as in “everything is a choice”) and I sense myself being challenged to make some life-giving choices in the year to come.

However, I excelled at another area I was aiming for: I read an awful lot this year compared to previous years, which I’m pretty delighted about. So while I might not be able to tell you how to crush all your goals (I do think this Michael Hyatt book I mentioned a while back could help with that) I do have some suggestions about reading that, if you’re in the market to make it happen, can make turn those pages more of a reality for you than any year before.

First I want to give half a second to encouraging you to think about why — why reading more *real books* should be one of your goals for 2018. I don’t think a dozen blog posts could fully speak to this question, but let’s start with a few simple thoughts. As a society, we are doing a heckuvalotta consuming and not a whole lot of producing. Most people agree that we are moving in a direction, as one generation passes the baton to the next, and that the direction we’re headed in is not a good one. But do you realize that a lot of the problems we’re facing are as old as the hills? Ideas that have been discussed by philosophers and average joes for generations past? We are really born into a world that was having a conversation for millennia — yes, millennia — before we arrived, and the best way to join that conversation? Is to read what the great thinkers of the past said, and what other great thinkers said in response, thereby joining the conversation.

Did you know Teddy Roosevelt typically read a book before breakfast every day? And then some? Don’t you love his oft-quoted thoughts — that it’s not the critic who counts? Not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles or the doer of deeds could’ve done them better? The credit belongs to the man in the arena, right? But when we spend 99% of our time reading whatever whoever he said she said on the internet, guess what we’re getting? The noise of the critics, right?

Did you know children in Shakespeare’s day had a better vocabulary than the average American adult? Suffice it to say: Reading is good for you. Very good. A man who reads lives a thousand lives, a man who does not lives one, as they say.

Truly — I ought to give another blog post to the why so let’s move on to the how.

Five Tips for Reading More This Year

  1. Always have the next book on the docket, waiting in the wings. Whenever you’re reading something, go ahead and figure out what’s going to be next. Start searching for book lists online — like the “100 Books To Read Before You Die” lists. Or think about books you’ve read in the past that you enjoyed, and ask for recommendations of similar ones. Ask friends who have similar tastes in books… and if you can…
  2. Find a friend to join you on the journey. They don’t have to read every book you read. You don’t have to read at the same pace. Being able to text a friend (like I did this year) and say “I finished Emily of New Moon. Couldn’t put it down. I love her so much. My favorite part was when the preacher sat on the cat and was too deaf to hear it and Cousin Jimmy walked in and said, ‘Lord, man, if you’re a Christian, get off that poor animal.’ Or something like that. I could not stop laughing.” A like-minded friend who’ll make and take recommendations can be a gift. Even if you decide to read different things!
  3. Consider a Kindle (or similar device). When I knew I needed to start reading more a few years ago, the Hubs quickly and kindly invested in a Kindle for me. Not one that had apps and games and tra la la — just a plain black and white (Paperwhite so that I can read at night without disturbing him) Kindle that would not tempt me to check email or Facebook or anything else — just read. Now here’s why the Kindle was a game changer:
  4. Get a Library Card and Use It. Often. I do visit the local library on a regular basis, but here’s some great news for you. Once you’ve got the card, you don’t actually have to visit ever again. (Although I loooooove the library and I think you should.) There are tons of free books to read on Amazon, AND, there are tons of books that you can check out from the library – online – and have delivered — you guessed it — to that shiny Kindle of yours. This was a GAME CHANGER for me. I don’t have tons of cash to buy every book I want to read. And my library does not own many of the books I want to read. But between a Kindle Unlimited Subscription and the Library Card (and please look for the Libby app — I’ll explain in a moment) you truly have SO many options at your fingertips.
  5. You Can Take it With You. (And You Should.) Here’s the number one tip — even though it’s listed fifth. You cannot read a book that you do not have with you. But you can take it with you in more ways than you think. Those thirty minutes in the pickup line can fly by with a good book in your lap. And those twenty minutes waiting for the kid at guitar practice will put another chapter under your belt. And GUESS WHAT? Audiobooks totally count. And are wonderful. So do what I told you in step four, and download the Libby App for iPhone, and be amazed at how many great Audiobooks there are, read by great readers. I read To Kill a Mockingbird earlier this year, and then enjoyed listening to the Audiobook on a long trip with the Hero Hubs — narrated by Sissy Spacek. Such a treat! That thirty minute drive to work. The earbuds in your ears while you’re working out. Fifteen minutes folding laundry. Moments made for an audiobook. Audiobooks totally count y’all!!

Now, here’s a bonus for you to encourage you to get started. I truly feel like a richer and fuller human being this year because I spent less time staring at a TV screen and more time joining the great conversations our world has been having for millennia. And I’d love to share some of my favorite reads from this year with you, in hopes that you’ll get bitten by the bug and decide to push that lovely “OFF” button on the remote, or close the tab that’s open to Facebook, and read something that will inspire you to breathe, to be, and to live more fully.

Here are my favorites in several different categories:

For Putting First Things First

Did you know if you read about 4 chapters a day, you can read the entire Old Testament once, and the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs TWICE… in one year? Think ten minutes a morning and ten minutes before bed could get you there? Ten minutes less Facebook, maybe? I hope you’ll include the Good Word in your word count this year!

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (incredible 19th Century Scottish pastor) created the Bible Reading plan that will get you through the Bible in one year as described above.

This link will take you to a website that has it organized by months and then days, and you can click over to the day’s reading on Bible Gateway.

This link will take you to a website that has printable versions in several different formats based on your preferences and eyesight (very thoughtful, hey?) and paper sizes.

For Parents

Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult. This isn’t specifically a parenting book, but it truly had a huge impact on some of the ideas and strategies the Hubs and I have for helping the little people in our care become full-fledged adults ready to contribute to society when they leave our home. This book is definitely not just for parents. Anyone who is in any capacity concerned about the state of the United States, and wonders what they can do to help forge a brave new way forward will be inspired by this book. Inspiring non-spoiler alert: Sasse does not believe political decisions, parties and directions are the solutions to the problems we are facing. Thus, while it is written by an (impressively intelligent) Senator from Nebraska, it is not a “political book.”

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp was by far the most help and informative book especially for parents that I read this year. It has this illustration about “The Circle of Safety” that we have used since we first read this book years ago, (this was a re-read this year!) and that one practical illustration speaks volumes to our kids and makes reading this book so worth it. I will probably continue to read this one every year or two — not because it’s entertaining and a fun read, but truly because it has so much practical wisdom that I want to continue to remind myself as a parent!

For Inspiration

Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. I mentioned this one when I first read it in January, and it still echoes in my head 12 months later. I do not think you can read this story and not marvel at this amazing human being, and feel inspired to also “Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.” If you live in my town I know for sure this is at the Brown Library!

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place. Wowzers, I could not put this book down. While her story is in itself incredibly gripping, it is impossible not to be challenged and encouraged by the faith Corrie and her family exhibited in the midst of unspeakable conditions. You can’t put a price tag on perspective — but purchase and read this book, and I think you’ve made an investment on gaining that invaluable perspective that helps you see your circumstances with less discontentment and more gratitude.

Classics

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was my favorite classic this year. I am often amazed by how much faith can be portrayed in a book that isn’t necessarily written for the purpose of “faith inspiration.” This year I’ve also been more amazed than ever before at how much truth you can learn in the pages of a fiction book. There are several paperback and hardcover options available on Amazon… and it is free for Kindle! If anybody forgot to get me a Christmas present and wants to send this gorgeous hardcover Brontë Sisters Box Set to my house, y’all just feel free. But seriously that would make an amazing gift for a reader in your life!

To Read-Aloud with the Kids

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry. If you’d like to listen to the Audiobook, oh my goodness, Arte Johnson read this one — we found it as an audiobook through the Libby App! — and OHMIGOODNESS it was pricelessly funny. Please enjoy and thank me later.

Our kids also fell in love with the Mercy Watson Series this year and the cousins received this box set for Christmas because if you have not met this delightful pig with an insatiable love for hot buttered toast? Well ya really need to. (She is also at the Brown Library if you live here in Washington!) Mercy truly is a porcine wonder.

Grown-Up Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr might be the book I had the hardest time putting down this year. This might be the best “Book for the Beach Trip” recommendation here. Doerr’s prose is so engaging it’s almost poetry. The chapters are short and the pace is quick, it seems like so much is happening and you feel quite literally transported to see the story unfold before your eyes in Europe decades and decades ago. His writing style is incredibly unique and I found it absolutely delightful.

Juvenile Fiction

Sarah Mackenzie over at Read-Aloud Revival recommended in a podcast episode not too long ago that you can feel so very fully engaged and satisfied as a reader by reading juvenile fiction. If you’re hoping to get more reading in, you really aren’t selling yourself short on storyline, plot, complexity or overall entertainment value just because you choose books that may also be considered appropriate for middle to high school aged students. The more manageable lengths of the books is part of what makes it so satisfying, and helps you want to keep reading more. Think of the richness of the Chronicles of Narnia or Bridge to Terabithia before you disagree!

With Sarah’s advice in mind, I definitely jumped into more Juvenile Fiction this year, pre-reading some things that will be on a list for my kids later on and reading other books that I just thought I’d enjoy.

Emily of New Moon might’ve been the character I most fell in love with this year. She has so much spunk and personality. L.M. Montgomery (a la Anne of Green Gables fame) wrote Emily of New Moon as well as Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. I found all three for Kindle by checking them out from the library. The first was definitely my favorite.

I also enjoyed The Witch of Blackbird Pond (E.G. Speare) and The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 (Christopher Paul Curtis, grab some tissues) immensely.

And last but not least….

For Homeschoolers

If you’re a homeschooling parent and you haven’t read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is not a long or arduous read (as some homeschooling guides can be) but full of practical, easily “actionable” ideas and plans to help you find your own personal style and rhythm (and hopefully arrive at the end of this year with more hair still attached to your head.) Easily worth the $13 price tag — I plan to read this one again and again, too!

So friends, Happy New Year! I hope your year gets off to a great start, that you remember to put first things first, and you find yourself learning, growing and thriving more and more in 2018!

More to come from this little corner of the web soon. But in the meantime, if you were a reader this year I’d love to know how many books you read, and what your favorite was!

xCC

I almost forgot::

If you enjoyed this post and would like to follow With Love, From Here for more encouragement and inspiration click here!

Some posts on my site (including this one!) 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!

What Should Christians Do On October 31st?

“What was your teacher’s favorite color?” he asked. Sitting on a bar stool at the counter, he was about to select a color for the leaf printed on the page in front of him from a tray of oil pastels.

“What was your teacher’s favorite color?”

I tried to refocus my distracted mind, tilted my head to one side and urged myself to listen.

“I’ve had lots of teachers, Blake. I’m not sure. What do you mean?”

“Your teacher….” he emphasized the word, “at the nursing home.”

I barely remembered. The hubs didn’t remember at all. But somehow, after visiting a nursing home as a family about 350 days ago, my six year old son remembers that one of the people we visited was one of my teachers in grade school.

And this leaf is for our next visit. So he’s asking for a suggestion about the color.

Duh.


_________

A little over a year ago, the Hubs and I sat down for a long series of heart-to-heart conversations about our plans for October 31st.

It’s a day that many Christians have probably spent a lot of time arguing about. I’m thankful to say we didn’t argue. We just talked, and we talked and we talked. Lots.

For the first few years of parenthood we were outside of the US and Halloween wasn’t really a question we had to encounter. When we returned and the kids were still young, at first we avoided, but when it eventually came time to figure out what we would do, we were blessed to have invitations from neighbors for get-togethers, and decided to participate.

But somehow, it just didn’t ever exactly “sit right” in our souls. As a resident alien hailing from far corners of the Earth, the Hero Hubs was perplexed by the holiday, its origin and purpose, and even more perplexed about participating in it.

After a couple of years of costumes and trick-or-treating, we started asking questions like…

Are we just going with the grain because this is what ‘everybody’s doing?’ 

Does celebrating this holiday really line up with what we believe and want to pass on to our kids? Does it matter?

Should we be trying to swim upstream like we’ve always said we wanted to?

Is it possible to somehow redeem this day, the way historians think the day chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ was redeemed? There was a spark.

____

Fast forward dozens of deep conversations.

A week or so before the 31st of October last year, I was on the phone with someone at a local nursing home wondering if we could bring artwork the children had created to the residents and wish them a Happy Fall.

With the baby in the little push bike she’d just received for her birthday, and dozens and dozens of leaves we’d printed and colored and decorated for the residents, we strolled into the nursing home on the afternoon of the 31st.

At first our kids were a little reticent — we joked about a nursing home being a really scary place to bring your kids at Halloween — and then something shifted.

They caught on to the fact that every. single. person whose room they walked into was happier and more cheerful when we left. They discovered a wealth of people who were overjoyed, over-the-moon delighted to see them, simply because they are children.

They brought the gift of a smile, a kind word, a piece of art, and left with so much more — a feeling that they’d given some really great gift, that they mattered, that they had something to give.

Our eldest, who at first was perhaps the most reticent of all, eventually became the one who wanted to walk in first and present the art work, who didn’t want to skip a single door.

Funny enough, some residents, very aware of the day, hurried to a cupboard and pulled out a bag of stowed-away candy, delighted to have children to give it to.

It was a sweet reward that warmed my heart.

On the way to a restaurant for a special dinner out, we talked for a bit in the car afterwards about the experience, and the kids were delighted and hoped we would go back again soon.

I resolved to do so in my mind, and knowing that so often the Christmas season is a busy time for the nursing home with visitors coming to sing, I thought perhaps we’d wait until January, when the winter blues set in and try to bring some light again.

The new school semester started, life scurried on, and here we are nearly a year later having not visited once since then.

But these big doughy eyes look across the kitchen counter at me, willing me to remember a favorite color for a teacher.

Maybe it meant more than we realized for the kids.

Maybe we’re on to something. And maybe we aren’t.

But here are some things I feel sure about, after pondering it long and hard for ages.

Often in life there are a dozen different paths to take. And the path that might be right for one person might not be right for another.

While I am fully confident that Jesus is the path — the Way, the Truth and the Life — I am also confident that He has plans and purposes for His children, and they are not all carbon copies of each other.

Your race is in your lane, and my race is in mine. 

I don’t expect anyone to try to swim my race, and I don’t want to try to swim anyone else’s, so I have to go to Jesus and ask — what does faithfulness look like, here, for me, to follow You?

And when I hear His still small voice saying This is the way, walk in it, well then, that is what I must do.

If your puzzler has been puzzling for a different path for October 31st, I wholeheartedly welcome you to join us in our hope to make it a day for us to give and love and be Light.

But first, be still — listen and wait. 

As Paul wrote to the Romans, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” {Rom. 14:5}

Your race is in your lane, dear friends. Whatever that looks like for you.

So what should Christians do on October 31st? There’s not one right answer.

Just keep swimming toward Jesus.
xCC

Are You a Second Class Christian?

It’s been a bit quiet around here because all the “other things” seem to be shouting so loud right now. We enjoyed an overseas adventure this summer (after 30 Days Deeper) and then jumped into life and a new year of homeschooling with both feet. These words have been waiting in the wings for a couple of months, but I hope they speak to your soul today…

Spain. I left a piece of my heart in Spain. While we were there this summer, I heard this deep whisper in my soul that just breathed life and light onto a dark place in my heart that I didn’t even know was there. But I think I need to back up and give you a little backstory to make sure all this makes sense.

Many of you know I’m an American married to a South African I met in Scotland. The dashing gentleman who became my Hero Hubs was living and working in Edinburgh when I moved there to be part of a team starting a new church in the city. After a couple of much shorter overseas missions trips, this calling to do something “big” and follow the Lord as a “missionary” was something that resonated with my soul, and in 2005, the adventure of following Jesus to a new country began.

A couple years later, the Hubs and I were married and working for the church we’d help plant. Fast forward a couple more years, and we felt called to spend some time doing mission work more poverty-focused, and we spent two years doing just that in South Africa from 2009 to 2011.

At the very end of 2010, the writing was on the wall that the season in SA was coming to a close and it was going to be time to move to the USA — home for me, obviously a new home for the Hubs.

I’m not sure exactly what we expected returning to the US – I think that we would end up doing a different sort of ministry, perhaps serving as associate pastors in a local church, or even serving a non-profit ministry in some capacity. We were pretty surprised when we sought the Lord and He pointed to the camera in the Hubs’ hand and said — “Look what’s in your hand. Do something with it.”

Six years later, we have a thriving photography business that’s paying the bills. And that feels really normal — which feels really weird. When we ask God about ministry, perhaps leading a small group, volunteering with YoungLife or doing more than just helping occasionally with children’s church, we feel like He points to our four children and says, “Look at what’s in your hand. Do something with them.”

When we were on the mission field, God did some totally amazing things and blessed us in ways we couldn’t have even asked for or imagined. Financially things were very tight, sometimes emotionally things were crazy hard, but still He was there and we knew it and we saw Him work wonders.

What they might not tell you when it’s time to step off the mission field is that you might come home — completely at the leading of the Lord — and somehow feel like there’s a big “<” sign on your forehead. You know, < . The one in Math equations from primary school? Less than.

So. Here we are in 2017. And while I’ve had the privilege of visiting a fair number of countries in Europe, I’ve longed to travel to Spain for ages and ages and finally, just last month, the dream became a reality.

And we were on this beautiful beautiful beautiful island (Mallorca) overlooking the Mediterranean in this lovely house with a pool and view like WOW and we could stroll down the road to the beach and be up to our waist and still see our toes in the crystal water and honestly after a day or two I was just overwhelmed by the blessing of it all. This trip we worked and saved for and planned to celebrate the Hubs’ Mom turning 75, and for our kids to get to know their cousins? It actually came together even better than we expected and that was when the whisper hit me.

I had this idea deep in my soul that I don’t deserve gifts like this from God because I’m not “in ministry” any more.

Not like that was a thought I would logically think — but it was a belief, deep down somewhere — that God could not be as pleased with me now as He used to be, because now I’m not doing what I used to be doing and what I used to be doing is somehow better than the hard and holy calling of motherhood that I’m answering now.

When I write it down and think it out, it’s ridiculous. But there it was in my soul anyway, even though I didn’t know it was there. And it took us getting to the end of a day that was so wonderful that the Hubs looked at me and said “That was like… my perfect day. That was THE perfect day… playing with our kids at the beach and lunch and relaxing at the pool and…” We just marveled together at the goodness of it.

As I prayed the next morning, it all began to stir up in my soul, to this realization that I just felt like a Second Class Christian because I’m not doing “vocational ministry” anymore. 

God whispered back to me again those words He’s had me ponder over and over again: Swim Your Own Race.

And I prayed it back to Him with a big YES: “My call to faithfulness has nothing to do with a less or greater or more like this, less like that concept — faithfulness means doing what You want me to do all the time.” And I wrote it and underlined it and wondered if it could be tattooed permanently onto my heart somehow: “My race is in my lane.” I confessed, “I thought I shouldn’t receive Your gifts and blessings — or didn’t deserve them — because I was not doing “missionary” work any more. But You have clearly showed me otherwise by blessing me so abundantly…”

These were the words my soul needed, and I wonder, does your soul need them, too?

Are you looking at someone else who is doing this thing or that thing and drawing a Less Than on your own forehead because you’re not doing that thing that they’re doing? Because that girl there is leading the Bible studies or that girl is on her way to that country or that girl is leading worship or even just seems like a full time working Mom that doesn’t yell at her kids or…fill in your own blank?

The matter drew itself to the most obvious conclusion that I continuously forget: God loves me and nothing I can do makes it a more or a less kind of thing. He loves us and He sets boundaries for us because He loves us. And sometimes those boundaries will look like little and sometimes they will look like much. I felt like I deserved more back when I was serving God in South Africa — but I had less. And here we are, no longer in vocational ministry, but we feel like our cups are overflowing.

Did He love us less then and does He love us more now?

Absolutely not. The love of God has already been poured our for us in Christ — while we were still failing, fallen sinners. And while we should be thankful for all that He gives, He demonstrated His Love when He sent His Son.

There’s no favoritism in it — He wants everyone to know this Truth. He wants everyone to find repentance, and salvation. He is the Gift — the rest is temporary circumstance.

Friend, you are not a Second Class Christian — or a Second Class Human Being — of any kind, for any reason. Don’t let some hissing whisper to your soul tell you otherwise. You matter to God just as much as the next guy and don’t let the fog of focusing on circumstances tell you otherwise.

Take a deep breath and choose to look down your lane and swim your own race. God is pleased to see you do what He created you — and no one else — to do.

xCC

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

It’s a challenge to put into words, really. But since words are my paint and this is my canvas, I’ll put it as best I know how.

A group of amazing people and I just had the privilege of locking arms and swimming through the Proverbs for 30 Days. If you weren’t subscribed to 30 Days Deeper, I’m sad that you missed it — but be encouraged! It was a wonderful experience and I definitely plan to jump into creating another study soon. (And I’m working on putting 30 Days Deeper into an ebook in case you want to experience it for yourself!)

But here’s what is amazing about the goodness of God, the thing that I’m struggling to put into words:

After 30 Days of digging deeper into the Word, and looking for God in the world around me, I’m more thirsty than I was when I started.

But not thirsty in a bad way, like imagining yourself in the desert and feeling so parched you’re on the brink of complete dehydration. Not at all. This is the thirst of someone who has tasted something wonderful — and wants to go back (or go forward) and taste some more.

And this is the glorious goodness of God I am unexpectedly discovering: the deeper you swim out into the waters with God, the more you find Him, and the more you want Him. And want to keep finding Him.

Maybe this is a contradiction to what I expected when I first started to follow Jesus. I guess I thought once I’d found Him, I could stop looking for Him.

Tozer puts it this way:

“How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.” {The Pursuit of GodA.W. Tozer}

How often have I been surprised by how much God seems to love a good paradox?

Everything in your earthly mind tells you that you look for something until you’ve found it, and once you’ve found it, you stop looking.

But God, but God! Our finite brains could never find Him all at once, so little by little, we get to look and find pieces of His goodness. Like a giant puzzle whose pieces are scattered across Creation for us to discover and put together.

Here we find His goodness. There we see a better glimpse of His mercy. Here is a revelation of His Truth. There we see His love for beauty.

Like we discovered in looking for Wisdom for 30 Days — when you find Wisdom, you immediately want to look for more. You are simply more aware, when you find Wisdom, how much more Wisdom there is still to find!

I once thought it seemed such a shame that Bono hadn’t yet found what he was looking for. I even heard the lyrics of that beautiful song altered to create a worship song that exclaimed joyfully, “And now I’ve finally found what I’m looking for…”

But what a mystery remains untold until we realize that our hearts, like David’s, should find the goodness of God, but continue to be like the deer that pants for water, souls longing after God, and more of Him, and more still.

Could this perhaps be the greatest joy of a relationship with God? The continual discovery of His goodness, His beauty, His mercy, and His Truth?

This could be the song for God’s people for now until eternity: we still haven’t found what we’re looking for… and we’ll never stop looking.

A side note of inspiration nothing short of glorious: Did you catch this beautiful surprise concert by chance?

Let’s keep searching friends!

xCC