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

Fifty Fun Ideas to Make Summer the Best Part of the School Year

If you’re a subscriber to With Love, From Here, you’ll know this isn’t a typical devotional/inspirational post… but I had all these ideas swirling around in my head that I wanted to share with fellow Moms & Dads trying to decide what to do with their kiddos over the summer… so I had to create a post to share or the ideas would never have stopped swirling! We’ll resume the usual good stuff shortly, but if you have kiddos and summer break is looming ahead of you, I hope this is an encouragement that will be helpful to you, and you’ll share it with friends! xCC
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Guess what!? If you live anywhere near my neck of the woods, this is the time of year where teachers are crossing off days on their calendars (or high-fiving because they already made it), while parents are scrolling the internet frantically for summer camp information. Yes… that long-awaited, (or sometimes dreaded?) special event is upon us:: Summer Break!

Now I’m a homeschooling Mama, so summer for me is kind of like… regular life, in some ways. But we do take a break from our usual school schedule between June and September, while finishing up any of those pesky lessons we just haven’t gotten to the end of. I’m looking at you, Math!

But here’s the thing. Summer is honestly an opportunity for some truly amazing learning to happen. It’s also a time for you to connect with those precious faces you might have felt like you were only seeing ever-so-briefly during the school year. With a few good tools in the arsenal, summer can be a time of fun, connection and learning, all rolled into one!  I’ve compiled a list of some of the things that have delighted and inspired my kids to love learning (often outdoors — bonus) and I am confident you will at least find a half a dozen gems on this list that can entertain and engage your crowd, too! And you can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want… know that encouraging a little creativity can take your kid a long way!

Shall we hop into the list?

{See what I did there? Photo by my eldest, nature-loving son}

Nature Study Books & Tools

A few days ago an unusual insect appeared on the wall next to our back door. My husband called our eldest over to have a look and encouraged him to get out the Insect Identification book to identify this creature. Our son amazed us by 1) Not getting out the book and 2) Identifying the Bug: “Oh that’s a ladybug nymph.” Like it was no thing, chicken wing. We were amazed. It did not look like a ladybug! It stayed put for a few days, just there on our wall, and then climbed out of its shell…a ladybug! Why am I telling you this? We’ve invested in some great Animal & Insect Identification Books, and our kids are obviously putting them to good use!! Here are some favorites…

  1. Kaufman Field Guide to Insect Identification :: Before my second son could read, he was flipping through this thing to show me bugs we were spotting outdoors because he’d gotten so familiar with it!
  2. National Geographic Guide to Birds of North America :: I’ve learned the names of birds I’ve been seeing my whole life thanks to this! Do notice what continent this is for and adjust accordingly!!
  3. Nat Geo Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals :: This one is not super extensive, but a great starting point for identifying rocks. I’m honestly flabbergasted by how loved this particular book is. The boys are constantly picking up rocks and trying to identify them on the fly now.
  4. Nat Geo Pocket Guide to Mammals of North America :: This one is pocket-sized and has less information than the traditional larger options, but is a great starter for getting kids interested and engaged.
  5. Pocket Microscopes :: We stuffed a couple of stockings with these little gems we got for less than $10 the Christmas before last and… drum roll please… these puppies have survived, and have given us a chance to look at feathers, spiders, bugs, tree bark, fingertips and so much more up close and personal. We’ve loved them.
  6. Binoculars :: When my eldest broke his first pair of binoculars because he wasn’t being careful with them (they were in a book bag he “dropped gently” on the ground) — it was a sad day. They were “grownup” and not the pair I’ve linked to here. He hasn’t been super careful with his second pair either. So the pair I’ve recommended here are appropriate for kids age 7 to 14, and parents with younger kids seem to be happy with them, too. However… if you think your kiddos will be gentle and careful with their binoculars and you’d rather make an investment in a better pair, it might be worth your while to get better views and more clarity.

{This art was not directed by Art For Kids Hub… but it’s hard not to love those long-necked people, right?}

Art for Moms Who Don’t Like Pulling Out Paint (Me Neither)

  1. Art for Kids Hub :: Do yourself a favor and bookmark this YouTube Channel! We have fallen in love with Art for Kids Hub and my kids have created so many masterpieces thanks to the step-by-step instructions here! They talk you through it one line at a time, and use a lot of the tools listed below…
  2. Oil Pastels :: Wowzers these things take coloring to another level. Some of the posts on AFKH will specifically demonstrate how to layer in colors with oil pastels to create different effects. There was a 15% coupon for this item when I created the link… I hope it’s still there for you!
  3. Pip-Squeaks :: Art For Kids Hub uses Sharpies (ya know, the permanent markers?) for a lot of the drawings that afterwards get colored with oil pastels or colored pencils. I do not like Sharpies because… I mean do I even have to explain? They’re permanent. So we draw with pencils sometimes, and other times with Pip-Squeaks. The eldest got this tower for Christmas a year and a half ago and it is still going strong. He has only drained a few colors so far, which is impressive.
  4. Colored Pencils :: Also awesome to have in the arsenal. Way better than Sharpies. And can I just say? We tried “Watercolor Markers” which seem like a kind of hybrid somewhere between oil pastels and markers… and dang if those aren’t the messiest things I’ve ever seen. Don’t go with that option, mmmmkay?
  5. Origami Paper :: Great News! Art for Kids Hub has instructions for making lots of cool things with Origami Paper! You can definitely cut some construction paper into squares getting started, but once you move beyond the most simple pieces, having some actual Origami paper will really, really make a big difference. I’m amazed at how quickly our eldest can (without following instructions now!) whip out a dragon, a ladybug, a popper frog, yoda… the list goes on…
  6. Ralph Masiello’s Drawing Books :: These step-by-step guides are easy to follow ways to learn to draw new things like Robots, Dragons, things in the Ocean, Dinosaurs, and even those Bugs you’ve been viewing with your pocket microscope!!
  7. Side Note: If you have any friends who deal Usborne books… they have some amazing Travel Activity books that we really love. You can sometimes find them on Amazon, but I have a feeling they’re not really supposed to be for sale there… so I’d say look for a local dealer! 😉

Writing & Calligraphy

  1. Handwriting Practice for Boys: If your younger students need help tidying up their print, summer is a great time to practice. This book has sentences for copying that will make boys laugh, like “No girls allowed” and “It would be so cool to have super powers.”
  2. Handwriting Practice for Girls {I’m sure it’s obvious — think pink and sweet and sparkly, right?}
  3. Cursive Practice: Some school systems have done away with cursive, but I totally believe in the value of learning it! How sad our kids would not be able to read the original Declaration of Independence or other important documents if they never learned cursive?! This cursive practice book has jokes to keep the kiddos smiling while they scribble!
  4. Calligraphy Book: Your older kids who’ve already mastered print (and maybe cursive?) may delight in learning beautiful writing with calligraphy. My kids haven’t made it here yet, but I’m thinking about starting this summer!
  5. Calligraphy Starter Set: This looks like a great starter set for jumping in with first-timers!
  6. If you’re just getting started with a writing kid, I highly recommend Handwriting Without Tears for print or cursive… and they have a keyboarding program, too!

When You’re Traveling (Kids Under 6)

  1. Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow :: I have no idea how long we’ve had these things, but they are survivors. Truly, you do just need to add water to the little pen provided. Number Three asks to do this at home on a regular basis. And if you lose the pen? Grab a regular paint brush and a medicine cup. Cleaning up a tablespoon of spilled water (as opposed to a whole cup) will make you feel like a genius. That link was girly. Here’s some boy stuff.
  2. Spot It, Junior :: This small, simple, easy to take-along game is great for identifying matches and developing thinking skills! For younger learners there is a Shapes and Numbers version. For older kids, there is also an Original Spot It game which is a little bit more difficult.
  3. Mini-Magnetic Tangrams :: My kids have an old set similar to this one that they will pull out and play with again and again.

Traveling With Any Age

  1. Primary Journals/Composition Books :: This might be my favorite travel idea EVER. Make sure you get the journals that have the space at the top for drawing a picture and the lines for writing underneath! Use a glue stick to stick on a Slice of Construction Paper and trim the edges to fit. Then print a little label like “Sarah’s Trip to The Beach” or “David’s Summer Adventures.” Invite your kiddo to draw a picture each day and write a few of their favorite things about that day of the trip or that summer activity (or you can help them write/explain what they’ve drawn). We’ve been doing this for a few years, thanks to a thoughtful Preschool Teacher creating one for us — and these books are like gems that remind us of all these funny, wonderful things we would’ve forgotten from our adventures together!!
  2. The Kindle :: We aren’t excited about screens for the sake of screens, and entertainment. So we decided to buy our kids the super basic black and white Kindles that do not have apps or games. We check out books from the library for the Kindle (I’m still amazed by that) and we also borrow books via Kindle Unlimited. If you have an eager reader and the spare cash for this investment, I have to say, we’ve been amazed to see how much more the kids have read, simply because we can check out new books without leaving the house. Note:: They make the all-singing, all-dancing ones cheaper but beware: I think the only reason our kids are using the Kindle to read is because it does not have games and apps. They will probably cost you more in the long run! Our eldest was given a Nook (which died) but he hardly ever read on it! Also note: the Paperwhite is backlit, the traditional Kindle is not — ponder whether you want your kids to be able to read at night or not. (And know clipping a little book lamp to a Kindle also works and saves $40 I think.)
  3. Kids Atlas :: This is a super-engaging little workbook that combines a heap of educational information with activities, and walks you through the states in the US. Includes maps, facts like state birds, flowers, and trees. #1 says, “There are lots of fun puzzles and mazes and it sort of helps you with Math a little bit.” 🙂
  4. Are We There Yet? :: Similar to the Kids Atlas, this is a travel activity book that will help your kiddo pass the time while learning new things at the same time! Win win!

{The eldest really wanted this lizard to make an appearance.}

Rainy Day Read-Alouds

We all know we should probably be reading aloud with our children. And when it comes to picture books, I have no trouble pulling three dozen off the shelf at the library, and then realizing I’m going to have to put some back until next time.

But we’ve arrived at chapter book stage, which is awesome and daunting. Every book feels like such a big commitment! Now the hardest part of reading aloud with my kids — especially when it comes to chapter books — is just picking a book that we’re actually interested in reading together. I’ve found that reading aloud with your kids can create this bond like nothing else… pass heaps of time… and be educational, all at the same time. It has proved to be SO worth the effort.

You can pull out the Legos and let them build while they listen. Pull out some coloring books and let them create while they listen. Don’t be afraid to put one book down and try another… but don’t judge a book by its cover! *Make sure you see my notes below about engaging kids with the book/movie combo!!

Remember to check with your friends… (maybe try a book exchange?) check at the library… check the used section on Amazon…

Here’s a List of Some of Our Recent Favorites

    1. The Mouse and the Motorcycle
    2. The Chronicles of Narnia (We started with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, took a break to let them grow up a bit, and are planning to start again soon… excited squeal) — I haven’t found a set I love yet to recommend — but you can check the library, find a set you like on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble… or on Kindle!
    3. The Butterfly Lion :: This is a sad story, and is by a British writer, which means some aspects of it may take a moment or two longer to be understood by American ears. But it is a beautiful, meaningful narrative. (Bonus… I think it’s on Amazon for less than $1!)
    4. Mr. Stink :: This one is hilarious. But be warned: It has a bit of “potty talk” which I just skipped over and substituted for some words that I liked better. 🙂 Also British.
    5. Story of the World :: I thought this would seem like an overly educational suggestion, but this is a book actually requested by my kids as a Read-Aloud on a regular basis. It also serves as a wonderful history curriculum, but it reads in an engaging way, and often tells stories to help the kids picture the time period being discussed.
    6. Sassafras Science, Biology :: These books are truly a science curriculum disguised inside a page-turner story. We have loved reading about the adventures of the Sassafras Twins and learning lots of new vocabulary and Geography at the same time.
    7. Those are a few of recent favorites. Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival has a great list of her Favorite First Novels to Read-Aloud with Kids that you should also check out! (She is awesome.)

Here’s a List of Some Favorites that You Can Read and then Watch the Movie!!

When we were first trying to encourage our kids to sit still and let us read aloud together, it wasn’t a super easy task. But we started out picking books that also had a movie version. Once we finished the book we watched the movie together. Suddenly, the kids were so much more engaged in listening to the books. We could talk about how they were alike and different from the movies, what we liked and didn’t like about the changes… so many things that were great conversation starters.

Side Note: We buy ginormous bags of popcorn on Subscribe & Save on Amazon and use this stove-top popper that we love. (You can pop popcorn for reading, too, ya know?)

  1. Charlotte’s Web :: We watched the live-action version instead of the cartoon version {from my childhood} after reading this one and everyone was delighted. And then we watched Babe because it just felt like it fit in.
  2. Pippi Longstocking :: I remember watching the 80s movie for this wonderful book in FIRST GRADE. It is kind of cheesy, but the kids, especially number three, ate this one up!!
  3. Charlie & The Chocolate Factory :: Much to my dismay, the kids preferred the newer version of this film to the one I watched as a kid. But I guess the Johnny Depp character makes more sense to this generation than Gene Wilder?
  4. The BFG :: So many wonderful laughs are packed into this book! We are still repeating funny things that the BFG would say. (We loved this new movie, but some scenes might be scary for sensitive younger viewers!)
  5. Mary Poppins Oh my goodness I loved watching this again with my kiddos after reading the book! Having just seen the movies as a child, I had no idea Mary Poppins was a book series until I checked the first book out at the library. They are different from what I expected having seen the movie first, but just as fun and whimsical, and of course, mostly better than the movie. Even though I love Julie Andrews.

Last but not least… Math stuff.

I know you’re like… what? But there are some math tools in the arsenal at our house that our kids really enjoy getting creative with. Tape a blank piece of paper to a drawing board and give your kid a 30/60 or a 45 degree triangle and a T-square… and watch them amaze you!!

  1. Drawing Board – If you already have something flat like a good-sized clipboard, this is not necessary!
  2. T-square
  3. Ruler
  4. 30/60/90 Triangle + 45 Triangle
  5. Montessori-Style Tangrams

So there ya go, friends! I hope you found some gems in that list that will help make summer a fun time of learning, creativity, and kids being engaged in doing good stuff that’s good for the brain.

Have an amazing summer making memories with your kids!
xCC

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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

Checking in While Going Deeper

Hey! I have a riddle for you! What’s writing and writing and happy all over?

Give up?

Me.

Was that a bit cheesy? At least it was an honest joke.

I’m popping into the blogosphere with just a few thoughts in mind today.

First, believe it or not, we’ve made it to Day 12 of the 30 Days Deeper series, and wow, I’ve been blown away by the positive response from the readers. (If you have no idea what 30 Days Deeper is, read this.) The texts and emails and Facebook comments that tell me that people are being encouraged deeper into Jesus are like water to my soul!

If 30 DD wasn’t something that fit into your schedule right now, but you’d still like to participate in it at some point in the future, fear not! I am planning to make it available either by offering it again to a fresh Email Community in a few months, or by formatting it as an ebook that you can peruse in your own sweet time.

But because I’d like to share a little encouragement in this temporarily-slightly-neglected corner of the web, I want to share a few of the highlights from 30 Days Deeper, that I hope will be a blessing to your soul.

These are 12 Days of Deeper, if you will, so that you’re enjoying a slice of each day to chew on…

  1. Who your people are will have a very, very profound impact on who you will become.
  2. Swimming your race of faith with a lot of drag can be a terrible drag. It’s important to deal with the things that are slowing you down.
  3. Otis the Tractor is an incredible example of why you should learn to carefully follow your Leader.
  4. Social Media can make a bright day seem like a thunderstorm — guard your heart.
  5. Just like Elvis says, you need to learn to recognize something that looks like an angel, but is the devil in disguise.
  6. Don’t leave throw-up in a paper bag in a minivan. And be careful what you say yes to.
  7. Anybody can be a doofus and get swept into a bad situation. We all need Jesus.
  8. Creation can teach you way more about the Creator than you probably realize.
  9. It’s easy to grow weeds, but much harder to make good things happen.
  10. Studying the Word in the Light will give you a flashlight in the darkness.
  11. The wicked won’t get off scot-free… so do the good stuff.
  12. Find people who will tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear.

These tiny tidbits are just scratching the surface of some of the great discussions we’ve had so far! Would you like to have some of them unpacked for you? Like, what does Elvis have to do with faithfulness? And how is throw-up in a minivan related to saying yes?

Well, good news.

If you’d like to jump into 30 Days Deeper and join the conversation, it is not too late, and I’ll be glad to send you the emails you’ve missed so far if you want to catch up. But you don’t have to, so no pressure either way — you can really start going deeper any time! Isn’t that God’s goodness?

If nothing else, just hear this one thought today, friends. The Creator of the Universe loves you, personally, intimately, you-for-you you. Even if 30DD isn’t the right thing for you right now, I pray you are seeking and listening for those whispers of His love. His plans for you are amazing. His love for you is unending. Let Him sweep you off your feet. Soon.

xCC

You can click here to join 30 Days Deeper (do I need to mention that it’s free?) — and be encouraged to go deeper today. I’d love to welcome you in!

 

Heads up! 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!

Four Things You Need to Know About 30 Days Deeper

[Insert seventeen random emoticons here as an illustration of the following…] When people actually started signing up to join the 30 Days Deeper Adventure, I was a mixture of exhilarated and freaking out. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover a little from that exhilarating freak out, I’ve realized there are a few questions coming up that I need to make sure I answer! If this email doesn’t answer your questions, please reply and I will try my best to do so!

1. If I already subscribe to your blog do I need to subscribe to the 30 Days Deeper Community?

Yes! I thought long and hard about this, but felt like out of respect for my subscribers, I didn’t want to make an assumption and begin flooding their inboxes with content they hadn’t requested. Do I hope every single subscriber decides to Opt-In? Of course! But I think free will is a good thing… so I’ve left that choice in the hands of each and every current subscriber (and the other folks who are subscribing for the first time.) And by the way, welcome all you new folks!! I can’t yet put into words how excited I am to have you!!!

So, if you already subscribe to With Love, From Here, you’ll still need to update your subscription preferences to Opt-In to 30 Days. If you’ve tried and you’re not sure it’s working properly, comment below and we will get it straight!!

2. If I subscribe to the 30 Days Deeper Community, will I still get your regular blog posts via email, too?

Yes! And can I tell you how much it blesses my soul that you asked? I plan to continue writing when possible during, and of course after 30 Days… so all that content will be coming your way… and you’ll always have the free will to opt in or out at any time!

3. Do I need to subscribe if I’m in the Facebook Community?

Yes! Facebook does not share your email address with me. And for several reasons (some of which I’ll try to articulate below) I am not planning to make this content publicly available on my website. So if you want to receive the daily emails to participate in 30 Days Deeper, you do have to subscribe to With Love, From Here and Opt-In to the 30 Days Deeper Email Community. (Check that little box beside 30 Days Deeper.)

4. Why are you doing this differently from your normal blog posts or past “31 Days” Series?

While praying and considering this community, I was nudged with a simple quote I’ll share later that basically talks about how much can be accomplished with small but consistent effort put in over time. If you aren’t receiving these posts via email, you might not see the little notification pop up on Facebook to tell you there’s a new post. Or you might not remember to check back over at carolinecollie.com to see if Day Such-and-Such is live yet. I felt like email was the best chance we have at staying connected consistently for these 30 Days — and I think part of the magic is going to come from the consistency.

Alrighty! I hope this answers your questions, but if you have more, fire away! And please? Ask a friend to join you on the journey. Life is better together. Growth is easier with encouragement. I’m stoked!

xCC

P.S. If you’ve subscribed to With Love, From Here but are on the fence about 30 Days Deeper, can I just tell you I’d really love for you to jump in? And if you jump in and decide you’d like to jump out… totally fine! No risk, high reward situation!! If you’d like to join, please update your subscription preferences here!

An Invitation I’m CRAZY Excited to Send Your Way

I’ve had this idea for a little while. I think it’s a pretty simple idea, but it could potentially have a profound impact. Can I just jump right in and tell you what I’m thinking?

We’re almost halfway through 2017. And a lot of my readers seem to fall in the category of being about halfway through running the race of life, too. Now, when you’re running a race, it’s a good idea to take stock of where you are and where you want to go to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. And if the race you’re running is toward Jesus, the road is usually long and hard… and it’s easy to get slowed down, sidetracked, distracted or discouraged.

What if you could get a jumpstart that made you feel like your relationship with the Lord just got fresher, deeper… more vibrant? You can’t pay to get closer to Jesus, but if you could, my guess is you’d probably want to. If you’re running a race in the literal sense, you might visit a trainer who’d look at your form, your gait, how you’re breathing while you’re running, and so on — someone would take stock and make suggestions for you to improve technique and perhaps shave seconds or minutes off your time, making you more effective in the race you’re running.

What if we could take stock together of the race we’re running in the faith toward Jesus, and look for areas that might be those “hindrances and the things that so easily entangle us”? Could we become more effective believers — people who are experiencing and sharing more of the goodness of God, because we have more than enough?

Here’s the idea. I’d like to ask you to welcome me into your inbox every day for 30 days. We will read one chapter of Proverbs each morning. (I’ll give you a link directly to the chapter to help make it super easy.) And then I’ll write about one simple thing to consider that day that might help draw you closer to Jesus. You read the Word, you read the words, and (hopefully) something strikes a chord in your heart that means something to your soul. I’m going to do my best to make it meaningful but brief because I know reading an email is not the only thing on your plate each day!

I’m not going to ask you to do anything overwhelmingly crazy. I’m not going to ask you for money. I’m not going to ask you to move to a different country. (Jesus might.) I’m only asking for the one thing you can’t get any more of — your time — to see if together we could perhaps find our way deeper into Jesus.

Because I believe He is and He is good and sometimes we get sidetracked running the race and we need encouragement to keep going, and we need help looking for the right direction.

We also believe He is, but get confused about Who He is, so sometimes we’ll take the focus off our particular race to think more clearly about the God we’re running toward.


I’ll be creating a private Facebook group to create opportunities for further conversations. My hope is that beyond what I’m able to offer, you will be able to offer each other even more. You don’t have to join that group or be on Facebook to participate — that is just an added option that could increase the impact of this experience for you.

I hope to be “most honest” with you. And I’ll be extending this invitation to all my Subscribers — if you want to join 30 Days Deeper you can Opt-In below. Since this is a different idea to the normal post series at With Love, From Here, these emails will NOT also be online as blog posts. I hope to continue writing and encouraging there during the 30 Days as well, but the content will be different.

So! Two last things: an invitation to you, and a special request. Please sign up to join in 30 Days Deeper. I truly don’t know exactly how Jesus is going to use this in your life or mine, but I feel confident that anytime we take steps to draw closer to Him, He draws closer to us and it is glorious.

And? Please invite a friend to join you on the journey. Having one more person to be accountable to — to ask if they had a chance to read, ask what they took away from it, how they were encouraged — always makes an experience more meaningful, and gives you a person alongside you cheering you on.

Will you take a deep breath and jump in with me? We’re going to get started Monday, May 1st and I cannot wait! Once you sign up below, you’ll receive an email confirmation and invitation to the Facebook group. I hope you’ll join me on an adventure toward deeper waters, and I hope you’ll invite those around you to join in on the journey!

xCC

 

Step One:

Sign up for 30 Days Deeper Right Here —Please Note: If you’re already a subscriber, you might receive an “error” message, and then you’ll indicate that you’d like to update your preferences. You’ll get an email which will allow you to Opt-In to the 30 Days Deeper Email Community by checking a box and clicking update! I will NOT share your email address with anyone, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Make sure you click that box to join the 30 Days Deeper Email Community! You will receive a confirmation email that will help you be sure you’ve done this correctly!

Step Two:

After signing up, Click here to request to join the Facebook Community!

I’m still working out the kinks in the system so if anything happens that you think wasn’t supposed to happen, pretty pretty please let me know!

Why the Cross is For Always

I comment to the Hero Hubs on the couch next to me — maybe that little one playing by the coffee table who’s acting up so much really just wants to be noticed? Just needs to know she’s loved? Her toes are always on the line, just barely on the right side of everything she’s told to do or not to do.

He invites her to come closer and she stretches her four-year-old frame out, she looks so tall, her head in his lap, blonde ponytail stretched to one side, the willing recipient of a little back rub. After a moment or two, he asks her to sit up in his lap. He looks her in the eyes and tells her how much we both love her. How special we think she is. How precious she is to us.

I watch all this unfold, watch as he holds her close, and the whisper in my mind is: “Mother and Daughter. I’m going to fail at this thing. So many times.”

Years ago, I sat at a tiny table cupping a coffee between my palms, across from a friend who was a mentor, a gift to my soul, in my earliest years of seeking to truly walk with Jesus. I asked her to please keep mentoring me, to look at my life and be honest about what she saw, to keep pointing me to Jesus.

It was less about being hungry for God, and more about being eager never to make mistakes.

She knew, somehow, (probably because I talk so much I said it aloud) and as gently and genuinely as she could, she looked across the table and told me the truth:

You are going to make mistakes.

I wanted to ask her to hush… like Bugs Bunny in an old cartoon, long ears laid back flat against his head, backing up, and shaking in a soft pleading voice facing the barrel of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun he says: Not that… anything but that…

I don’t want to make mistakes.

This week, I pondered when to put the cross out on the front door. This big burlap and blue and white fabric cross my Mom gave me usually makes an appearance in the Spring. At the beginning of Lent? At the beginning of the Holy Week? On Maundy Thursday or Good Friday? I didn’t mean to have a theological conversation inside my own head about something as simple as this, but these things just happen sometimes.

Eventually it struck me: the cross is always. And the cross is for always.

And this is the thing I don’t like about parenthood, the thing I don’t like about Christianity as a whole: it’s that I’m going to fail. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to close doors when I should open them. I’m going to raise my voice when I should lower it. My mouth will be wide open when it out to be tightly shut until it is certain what words will come out.

But this is what makes it all so glorious.

Before the kiss of betrayal, before the Last Supper and the Greatest Commandment, before Palm Sunday and the hosannas and cheers, even before Jesus was tried and tempted in the wilderness those 40 days, there was the Cross. Before the Incarnation, there was the Cross. Even before Creation, yes, before the whole world was spoken into existence, there was the Cross.

When the blood of those lambs was spread on the doorposts at the first Passover — the plan had already been set into motion.

An all-knowing God knew it all along — this is where this whole thing was headed all along. 

It’s in our nature, our human nature, to make mistakes, to fail and to fall short.

God wasn’t surprise when He first walked in the Garden and asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”

He knows it all. He knew where they were. But He wanted them to know where they were.

The plan of Reconciliation was already set in motion.

And our relationships, these failures? They are opportunities for Reconciliation, both with the God who wants to connect with our souls for always, and with the loved ones we care about and fail.

Jesus went to the first Cross, the Cross that would save us all, the Cross that would make a way for all of us to be reconciled to God.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” {Luke 9:23}

His Cross made our salvation possible, our forgiveness possible, our Reconciliation possible.

Our crosses?

They make us a little more like Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross. {Heb. 12:2} Sometimes our crosses are the pain of admitting we were wrong. Admitting we failed, and saying we are sorry. Sometimes they mean closing tight our lips when we want to say all the wrong things. We deny what we want, and we try to live for what God wants. The world is better for this. And so are we.

As we sit between a Hard-But-Good Friday and the Sunday of life and Resurrection — let the symbolism leave an impression on your soul. If you take up a cross, and die a little to yourself, God has new life for you on the other side.

Every Cross can create a Resurrection.

This is the new life we’re invited to live and it’s in the living of it, that we somehow become the recipients of it.

I die to myself and say I’m sorry to the child I’ve wronged. New life is breathed into our relationship. Broken things are mending.

We forego the thing we want to give to someone who needs. New life is breathed into our soul, and fresh gratitude helps us give thanks for what we have already.

If there are 365 days in the calendar year, there are 365 days that the Cross can hang on the door — and more importantly, teach my soul how to find life that is the realest real.

We need not look afraid at the mistakes we’re going to make, the ways we’re going to mess up as we walk through life as mothers, fathers, employees, friends. Our failures are the reason for the Cross. And on the other side of the Cross, every willing soul can find a Resurrection.

xCC