The Good Word for March :: Your Invitation to Contentment

“They say money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy jet skis… And have you ever seen an unhappy person on a jet ski?”

A decade ago the Hubs and I cracked up at a comedian making this observation. I can’t remember the comedian or the context, but I remember repeatedly joking about it with the Hubs, and maybe just ever so slightly pondering the possible truth in the statement.

Months later, we found ourselves sitting upstairs in our apartment, overlooking the harbor of Gordon’s Bay and enjoying a deep conversation and an afternoon coffee. This was our tradition when we had just the one kiddo and he was down for his afternoon snooze.

Our peaceful afternoon was interrupted by a family in one of the large homes adjacent to our apartment building on the harbor. This was a “second home” for these folks, occasionally making the trip from Johannesburg down to Cape Town for a relaxing weekend near the sea, however their relaxing weekend by the sea seemed anything but.

An argument broke out about the fact that the husband had gone to great efforts to get the jet ski into the water, and now no one was interested in riding it. While the missionary couple watching from the balcony would’ve loved to volunteer to take on the hardship of driving their jet ski around the bay for an afternoon, we decided to continue to quietly sip our coffee and hope things settled down quickly.

When they did settle down we had to laugh, remembering the words of that comedian we’d heard before — no, even money that can buy jet skis can’t buy happiness.

If you’ve been following along around this writing corner of the woods lately, you know I’ve been focusing in on just one simple word, one simple concept, and unpacking it slowly week by week, to see how it can apply to our lives, and how we can honor God in the process.

And this month’s word comes with a new set of verses that I think are very worth taking to heart — and although it is three verses this month, I think you’ll already find one of them very familiar and therefore should not consider memorizing them a particularly daunting task, should you choose to undertake it:

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. {Phil. 4:11-13}

We often pull that last verse out and want it to serve as a spiritual trump card for life, most especially in the sports world — like Evander Holyfield walking into a boxing match against Mike Tyson with Philippians 4:13 inscribed on his robe and shorts — we like the idea that God can enable us to win the battles we want to fight and do the things we want to do. But with an extra sort of spiritual genie in our back pocket to give us an edge.

But what is Paul referring to when he speaks about finding strength in Christ? It’s less about climbing mountains and more about living at peace right here on the ground. Right? It’s less about knocking out competition and more about finding a sense of peace whether we’re lifted on the shoulders, or knocked out and lying on the mat.

Paul looks to Christ to find contentment — so that whatever life brings his way, he is able to trust, to survive, and even thrive because Christ is his sustainer, and makes contentment possible in any circumstance.

We’ll unpack the concept of contentment this month, but I want to start with a simple question for you to ponder.

Close your eyes and ask yourself: Are you content?

Do you immediately want to open your eyes to see what’s around you? Does it help to look at the walls of your home? Pictures that remind you of your favorite people? Furnishings that remind you of comfort? Maybe you want to look at your pantry or your fridge and see that you have plenty?

What if the thing our souls need to know most is that contentment has nothing to do with anything on that list?

What if God’s invitation to contentment is for you, right now, whether you feel abased or your life feels abundant? 

I believe that it is. And that’s the conversation we’ll jump into this month. I’m very excited!

And once again, my beautiful friend Margaret has made a beautiful printable for you to hang and enjoy that will help you remember contentment this month!! {Happy squeal!} Click here to download it. And here’s a smaller version if you need a lower-res file. I’m thinking of you precious friends who pay for data!!

I hope you’ll scroll back up and read Paul’s words through a few more times today, and throughout this month. (They’re the most important part.) And I hope you’ll join me in accepting the invitation to find contentment right where you are this month!
xCC

P.S. Facebook will not show you all my posts!! I’d love for you to subscribe so you’ll never miss a post… and invite a friend to join you in accepting the contentment invitation! You and your peeps can subscribe right here to receive every post in your inbox for free!

The God Who Is Kinder Than Necessary

There are two things that seem to get under the skin of the average human being like nothing else:

Bad stuff happening to “good people” and
Good stuff happening to “bad people”

Whether you’re flipping through the pages of the trials of Job or flipping through a magazine published last month, you’re likely to find a story that seems to fall into one of those two categories, and it can be downright frustrating.

If we’re mostly honest, we perhaps mostly feel that we’re the good people that bad things shouldn’t happen to. And even if we’re not particularly sure how we feel about ourselves, we at least have preferences toward certain people — we feel so sorry when death knocks on the door of “that really sweet family” or cancer looms in the background for that person who’s always serving everybody else.

At the same time, without delving into ideas about Original Sin and human fallibility, I think we know deep down (if we’re honest) none of us are really “good people” but we probably still feel like “better people” than [insert some other group] people.

So we don’t like it when bad things happen to people that seem to be mostly alright.

Especially when it’s us.

But what else can we see if we really start looking? Are there gifts we completely forget when the big and glaring bad start looming around the corner?

The truth is, there is always His glorious goodness: if we step back and take off our shoes we begin to see it. Even when we fall short and mess up and say we won’t and then do, or say we will and then don’t, He is there.

He is there and He is holding all things together.

He is there, allowing and enabling every breath we take.

He could cut off the air supply of every wicked soul on the face of this planet.

One word from his mouth could’ve put any of the guys responsible for these mass murders into the grave before they’d fired a single round.

Do any of us honestly deserve to keep breathing? Isn’t every breath a gift we forget to say thank you for?

Although we may not understand the whys behind the good stuff happening to bad people or the bad stuff happening to good people, we have to acknowledge the truth that the Creator of the Universe is clearly (based on our fallible human judgment) kinder than necessary.

So what does that mean for us? How do we face evil? How do we handle hurt? What do we do with the seemingly unfair badness and —  maybe worse — the seemingly unfair goodness of God?

We have to conclude that if that God of the universe is kind to even those we feel “don’t deserve it” (including us, thank you, precious Jesus) — we also have to be kind, even to the people who are spiteful, hurtful and hateful. Didn’t Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? To pray for those who persecute us?

Sounds like a hard thing to put into practice. But.

I think I might’ve identified a secret method for acting with big kindness in the face of big meanness:

Small kindness in the face of everything.

Last week we shared some big news with our small people, that we’ll very likely be moving house in a couple of months. While the ins and outs of this God-breathed story are a wonderful treat I’ll save for another day, suffice it to say that our excitement was not paralleled in the heart of our eldest, who is not sure he wants to let go of our current domicile.

While I think we expected some sadness and maybe some tears, I was blown away by just how upset our eldest was when we first shared the news. He was never unkind or disrespectful toward us, but he was very honest with his emotions, expressing his disappointment at leaving our home, leaving behind all the precious memories of this place, even leaving the place he had once known as “Gpa’s house.” He eventually decided to climb up to his top bunk in his bedroom and cry for a good while.

As I pondered the situation and thought about his heartache, part of me leaned toward the “He’ll get over it” way of thinking, complemented nicely by ideas about “tough love” — but another part of me felt there was a better way to handle this, and wanted to turn to Jesus to figure out just what that was.

A few minutes later, I found myself right up there on that top bunk with that crying boy, crying with him. I expressed my own sadness about leaving “Gpa’s house” and my own fears about the change in situation. I shared some of the things I was excited about and was looking forward to, and talked about some of the very great possibilities that this change could bring about.

By the end of the conversation, it felt like we’d experienced a major shift: it wasn’t Hero Hubs and me, laying down the plans and telling the kids “this is the deal, like it or not.” Suddenly, it felt like we were on the same team, facing this change together, trusting the God who works everything together for good to do exactly that.

I wouldn’t say I’d failed as a parent if I let that kid cry on the top bunk alone. But I will say what seemed like a small act of kindness for me proved itself a big bridge between my heart and the heart of the child who will probably need a little extra love and a little extra kindness throughout this transition.

These moments aren’t just training ground for some big, distant, looming kindness test where we will be challenged to forgive or look past or extend when we want to withdraw. The moments we are given each day are truly the battleground where the war for who we are going to serve take place.

I puzzled for a while this morning, hard-hearted Pharaoh in Egypt, the Lord hardening his heart and bringing on destruction before glory. And I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the why’s of that hardening… but I hear the word whisper back:

As for you child, you go out in the world “And be kind to one another, and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Kindness is for every day. Kindness is for every situation. Kindness is one of the ways we say yes to God, and tell Him that He can sit on the throne of our hearts, instead of our own judgments.

Tomorrow we will jump into a new word, and a new focus for the month of March. I hope you’ll join me in asking how contentment can be a game-changer for our lives and our souls. I’m VERY excited, and hope you are too!

I’ve failed a bunch at kindness this month, but I’ve also learned and grown and had some victories. I am praying the same for you! Keep pressing in with a tender heart toward the world around you. Don’t be afraid to be kind, friends. God is near.

xCC

P.S. I can’t thank you enough for your feedback this month — I read every email and LOOOOOVE hearing that these words are an encouragement to you. Thank you for your incredible kindness toward me!

And…Never miss a post! If someone shared this post with you, and you’d like to have them delivered to your very own inbox for free, Subscribe here.

The Good Words :: Kindness Has a Thousand Flavors

“Years ago I began to pray over all those God brought into our home a prayer I had often
whispered to Him in regard to my daughters: ‘Father, give me Your eyes for them.
Give me your eyes for this man, this woman, this child. Show me how You see each one.‘”
***

Katie Davis Majors — the Katie of Kisses from Katie who moved to Uganda at 18, adopted thirteen daughters and founded a ministry in an extremely impoverished community — wrote those words in her new book, Daring to Hope. Her bravery inspires me, her heart inspires me, and she is certainly a living, breathing example of kindness.

The beauty of Katie’s story, as she continually shares it, is that she walks with Jesus, listens to His voice, and does her best to do what He says. And maybe that is kindness broken down into its simplest form?

Asking God to help us how He sees each person. To give us His eyes for them.

If I remember those thoughts — oh heavens how might it change my communication with my children?

How might it change my attitude toward strangers and friends and neighbors alike?

If under my breath, I whispered, “Father, give me your eyes for them.”

While I might initially look at incorporating a word like kindness into my life more fully and think it means big things — the truth it is really about doing the next small thing, like Mother Teresa said — doing the small thing with the great love. And the smaller the thing, the greater the love.

Our country is grieving this week, frustrated and sad and hurting — because one kid who maybe didn’t find the world a particularly kind place decided to drive to his old school and open fire with a semi-automatic weapon.

Do you ever wonder what it was? Was there one big thing — or were there a hundred small things — that made the difference between “I’m okay” and “I’ll show them?” Could kindness have been the thing that made the difference? And why did he tell one kid to get out of there before things got messy? Where did that kindness come from?

We will probably never know what made the difference, what set him over the edge, what set his course in the direction he chose to take it.

But could we change this — could we prevent this from happening again — if we chose kindness as a rule? If we asked for God’s eyes for one another and treated each other accordingly?

How do we become a kinder, gentler society?

I can only think of one way to start — as Michael Jackson so eloquently put it, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror… I’m asking him to change his ways.”

We cannot overestimate the importance that our small acts of kindness can have for those around us.

There’s an old proverb that says:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the rider was lost; for want of a rider the message was lost; for want of the message the battle was lost; for want of the battle the war was lost; for want of the war the kingdom was lost; and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” 

We will never fully know what our small acts of kindness could mean to the world around us, the world of difference they could make for the person who receives them. But we have every reason to assume that even the smallest acts have the possibility of meaning the biggest things.

There are more ways to be kind than we can count… a thousand tiny opportunities to be generous with our souls every day. Ask for the eyes to see. Kindness has a thousand flavors and our world needs every one of them.

Keep smiling and keep loving and keep giving and keep letting me know how it’s going – I have loved hearing from some of you about your acts of kindness. This! The world needs this right now!

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. {Ephesians 4:32}

xCC

P.S. I highly recommend putting BOTH of those books from Katie on your reading list! 😉 View them on Amazon:

Kisses from Katie    :::        Daring to Hope

In case you missed it: I shared a bit about my experience with the Instant Pot and my ten favorite things to do with it on the blog this week!

My Instant Pot Top Ten :: Favorite Recipes and Recommendations

It’s been just less than a year since the Instant Pot made her first appearance on my kitchen counter. I don’t tend to be a “joiner” and was a little skeptical when the Hubs first suggested this new thing he’d read about (on one of those tech blogs he tends to read) might be a super addition to my kitchen lineup, and could maybe replace some other gadgets in the process. It may have stayed in the box for a little bit while I warmed up to the idea, but once it came out, I realized it was totally worth the space it was going to take up inside my hutch when it wasn’t cooking amazing meals for our family.

I’ve had several friends ask recently about some of my favorite Instant Pot recipes, so I decided to create a quick post to be able to quickly and easily share some of the things I’ve learned in the process. A few things I think it is helpful to know starting out:

  1. While the Instant Pot is super fast, the cooking time isn’t just “9 minutes” or “12 minutes” or whatever you see on the recipe. That nine minute countdown will only start once the pot comes up to pressure. This will sometimes mean it’s worth it to go ahead and defrost that meat in the microwave before you brown it on the Sauté setting and start pressure cooking. How long it takes for the pot to come up to pressure will depend on the temperature of your ingredients to start with, and whether you’re working with fresh or frozen stuff, and how much liquid is involved in the recipe.
  2. There are certain cuts of meat that will benefit from being cooked in the Instant Pot and others that won’t. Google is your friend in this regard. Read recipes. Think about what you’re working with. Know that throwing in a really nice cut of beef may not be ideal, whereas ground turkey might be a good one. More suggestions about that below.
  3. Instant Pot can replace the slow cooker if you are worried about it taking up tons of space in the kitchen. It is a powerhouse with a lot of functions — so I really do recommend considering it, knowing it might take the place of something else, if you’re worried about where you’re gonna put the big ol’ thing when you’re not using it.
  4. Did you know I like to play with food? Even better, the IP does its job and I go play outside with the kids…

After about a year of trial and error, here are some of my Instant Pot favorites with links to the awesome recipe bloggers who’ve been making my life easier from the day I finally felt brave enough to open the box. {The recipe titles are linked to the recipes!}

  1. Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili ::

    This is a fast and healthy recipe and I am consistently amazed by how much my family loves it! Something with chickpeas and bell peppers and nobody’s complaining — win! The texture of ground turkey isn’t really my favorite — I sometimes find it a bit chewy?! — but the IP gives it such a melt-in-your-mouth sort of texture, and my kiddos who aren’t fans of sweet potatoes (tragic) still love this recipe. We lay on the shredded cheese and avocado for them and LOVE putting the leftovers away knowing they will not go to waste! Honestly, any chili I’ve tried in the Instant Pot has come out beautifully.

  2. Chicken Tikka Masala ::

    We are big curry fans around here and I LOVE how I can use pretty much any chicken I have on hand — fresh or frozen, boneless or bone-in, and it will be fall-apart wonderful by the time the Instant Pot is done with it. I often throw in bone-in, skin-on chicken for this recipe, and when I pull it out to cut it into chunks, it is crazy easy to discard the skin and bones because the meat is absolutely falling apart. This plus rice getting done in the rice cooker means I can crank this meal out, go for a walk with the kids and come back to a yummy dinner. I should probably insert some sort of disclaimer about not leaving your Instant Pot unattended. So… keep that in mind.

  3. Greek Yogurt ::

    Yes, Greek Yogurt! We eat a lot of yogurt at the Collie house — it is the Hubs’ staple breakfast every morning — and I decided to brave the yogurt making adventure to see what it was like. It is definitely more effort than grabbing a tub at the store, but the results of making yogurt in the IP give you a completely different experience. It really is creamy and wonderful. This recipe will give you a step by step for making yogurt. And then a strainer like this one will allow you to sit that yummy yogurt in the fridge for a few hours, and strain out the whey (which can be used in other recipes) and what remains will be that thick, lovely Greek yogurt that you are hoping for!

  4. Any beans you please ::

    Something I’ve also enjoyed doing is cooking beans in the Instant Pot. Using fresh beans instead of canned ones has environmental benefits, health benefits, and money-saving benefits. And the IP can get beans done for you in next to no time — with or without the soaking. Once again, Google is your friend! You can find so many great ideas, and if you’re precooking them, you can freeze your beans in one cup containers and then (whoaaaa) throw them in with the rest of your recipe still frozen, and they will come out great.

  5. Chicken Soup ::

    This is my new favorite chicken soup. With all the gunk going around (which I’ve unfortunately picked up) chicken soup has been high on my feel-better-recipes list, and I have been very pleased with just about every recipe I’ve tried. But this one from Against All Grain (I’m not following a Paleo or Whole30 diet, I just liked this recipe!) is really, really great. I should probably mention I forgot to put butternut squash on the shopping list and skipped it altogether. Otherwise… yum.

  6. Risotto ::

    (Yay!!!) Risotto is one of those dishes that complement a meal so nicely that it is sometimes worth the effort of that crazy long stirring marathon to me… but only sometimes. When I discovered I could do risotto in the Instant Pot, I was thrilled. You still start out with a sauté and get those grains a little toasted and start the absorbing process, but then you switch to pressure cooking and the IP takes it from there with magnificent results!

  7. Southwest Style Chili ::

    This one is a ground beef chili and will give you the opportunity to try a chili with fresh beans that you’ve just soaked the night before! So don’t forget to soak! I typically increase the spices here because we like spicy food and the kids can dollop on the sour cream to cool theirs off! I think you’re going to be amazed at how those crunchy beans turn to magically delicious in no time.

  8. Chipotle Chicken Bowls with Cilantro Lime Quinoa ::

    I feel like I don’t even need to say anything about this one… doesn’t the name speak for itself? Yum. This is another time where I throw quinoa in the rice cooker and feel like dinner is happening without me. I buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the Mexican food section of the grocery store. They are crazy spicy so just one or two with a little of the sauce should give you all the flavor you need here. (I also have chipotle seasoning around as an option.) I use the whole can in this Dr. Pepper Pork Pioneer Woman recipe I love — but I think pork shoulder (also known as “pork butt”) is one of those meats that benefits from “low and slow” and I’m not planning to try it in the IP any time soon. And when you use a whole can of chipotles, your kids might not eat the food — unless you have a kid like my little Tiger Tank, who must’ve been a fire-breathing dragon in a previous life or something. Spuh-icy.

  9. Chicken Cacciatore ::

    I love how I feel like I can dice veggies and hide just about anything in a recipe like this. Shredded carrots, minced celery… you can pack the veggies in here. I think this recipe will benefit from you removing the skin or using a boneless, skinless chicken just so it’s a bit less oily, but it has tons of flavor and was a crowd pleaser at our house!

  10. Adapt and Overcome :: Slow-Cooker Thai Green Curry ::

    The great thing about learning the Instant Pot is that once you start trying out recipes and experimenting with it, you begin to figure out what works well and you can start adapting things you already love to do, to make them work for you here. For example, this Thai Green Curry is one of my favorite recipes in the crock-pot, but I don’t always feel like making dinner before 10 am. In this scenario, I can (based on experience with other chicken recipes) throw everything together in the Instant Pot, except for the bell pepper and green beans. After it cooks for about ten minutes, I can pressure release, stir in those peppers and green beans and let it sauté while the sauce thickens and the peppers and green beans will be just right after just a few minutes!

If you’re thinking about purchasing an Instant Pot, I really don’t think you’ll regret it. One of the best things about it — which I have failed to mention up to this point — is forgetting to defrost the meat is now a non-issue for so many recipes. The chicken soup above, and many recipes like it, will just suggest that you add seven to ten minutes to the recipe time to account for that frozen meat you’ve chunked in there. And it will still fall of the bone at the end of that time. I can’t tell you how pleased I’ve been with the falling-off-the-bone meat that has made life easier for us parents still cutting up food for small children. And they love the texture! You can also defrost one of those big old blocks of meat to get it ready for a recipe where you want to brown it with onions and garlic and then turn it into an awesome chili… spaghetti bolognaise… really there’s just no stopping you now!!

So… those are my favorites so far, and I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear some of yours. Have you tried the Instant Pot yet? Will you please leave your favorite recipe in the comments if you have? I’d love to add some more fun to the repertoire around here!

xCC

Heads up! This post was not sponsored by Instant Pot… or anybody else! But some posts on my site (like 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!

The One Where I Figure Out How Hard Kindness Is :: The Good Words {Kindness, Part Two}

Know what’s harder than getting a big pig into the bathtub? Being kinder than necessary when you’re trying to be.

We’re about a week in to a month of aiming at Kindness and this Good Word is a harder word than I thought. It whispers in the back of my mind when that one kid interrupts for the third time after being corrected for interrupting three times and my tone changes from polite to Grinch in 0.7 seconds. It is there when I have conversations about plans and decisions and I find myself steering toward the outcome that I want most instead of the outcome that is just plain best all-around.

And as I raise my voice without thinking twice for the third time on the first morning back to homeschooling after a week off — well that word Kindness I wrote on my hand while talking with Jesus that morning seems to kinda laugh at me, in a smirking sort of way.

A few months ago when I started thinking about kindness, I thought about all that lovey-dovey Random Acts of Kindness for Strangers stuff… such fun stuff, such easy stuff. Cotton candy and rainbows and unicorns stuff. But I almost laughed aloud when we were piled up onto a bed saying prayers one night and the following thought hit me between the eyes:

“If I am going to focus on kindness, I am going to have to be kind to these people, too. The people closest to me. And I am suddenly realizing that is probably the hardest part.”

The truth is, being kind to strangers has no strings attached. No background. And when it’s done anonymously or even in a way that the person might see you but not know who you are, well then it’s like there is no kind of future expectation of similar treatment. You get all the feelz of being kind… without the side effects of thinking “I am going to have to continue this course of action, even when it’s inconvenient and maybe even downright uncomfortable.”

Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

So here’s what “This Kindness Thing” has brought me back to: the Gospel.

There is a big mountain for me to climb — Mt. St. Kindness — and I sure do like the idea of being the Little Engine That Could, chugging my way along to the top, proudly standing in front of Jesus with an armful of “Look how kind I’ve been! You’re totally proud, right?”

But trying it in my own strength, for even a day, helps me realize I am truly, deeply, fully The Little Engine that Couldn’t, Can’t and Never Will.

What does this mean? I have a mountain to climb that I can’t climb? A desire to be kind with no ability to do the stuff?

Enter the Hero who comes down the mountain to the Little Engine, the Hero who walks alongside the Little Engine, the Hero who exchanges His heaven for our bottom-of-the-mountain mess.

Jesus came because I couldn’t go. Jesus came down the mountain because I can’t climb up on my own.

So where do we go from here?

We lean in. We lean on. We pray and we ask God to keep on changing us. Keep on taking our selfish hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh. We pray that the Holy Spirit will whisper, maybe even before my tone changes from polite to Grinch — to say “I can show you a better way, if you let Me.”

I have a weekend to ponder all this over, the patterns, the hopes, the procedures and the plans — and Monday jump into a new week, perhaps with a new enthusiasm for kindness.

This is the amazing paradox of it all: The beginning of becoming what I want to be for Jesus is the acute awareness that I absolutely cannot. It is completely impossible for ‘kinder than necessary’ to become a part of me — without the indwelling of the God who comes down the mountain and says

“With man, this is impossible. With God, all things are possible.”

So we will keep reading, thinking and learning these words this week:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” {Eph. 4:32}

And we will keep leaning into the God that makes this truly possible.

xCC

P.S. How’s the kindness going for you? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email or share on social media with #thegoodwordswithlove

The Good Words :: Kindness, Part One

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:32, NKJV}

Those are the words for this month. And they might be a little more challenging than they seem on the surface. Sometimes being kind is not the nice, fun, or easy thing to do — and will we rise to the challenge?

In her recent hit novel-turned-movie Wonder, R.J. Palacio tells the story of a young boy with very significant facial deformities and health challenges. From the perspective of several characters and the boy himself, you experience both the kindness and the harshness of the world we live in, and you walk away inspired to be on the team that wants to make kindness a way of life. (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but loved the book and highly recommend it!)

Palacio quotes J.M. Barrie (or one of her characters does) in a speech he makes to the class completing their fifth grade year, and asks this simple question:

“Shall we make a new rule of life… always to try to be a little kinder than necessary?”

I had to put the book down and write those words down immediately. And then I had to sit quietly and soak in that thought for a moment: What would our world look like if we tried to always be a little kinder than necessary? 

What would it look like to always go the extra mile?

To turn the other cheek metaphorically – and physically when necessary – on a regular basis?

Could simple acts, the tenderhearted, forgiving ones, be the difference someone else needs? The thing that stops the guy from walking into the store to buy the gun?

Could the smile you offer in the grocery store give a stranger the boost of hope they needed to believe they could keep going?

The challenge I’d love to invite you to rise to this February is a simple one: Look for ways to be kinder than necessary.

Look for ways to go above and beyond. To keep that one precious heart of yours tender towards the people around you — the ones you know and the ones you don’t. If you aren’t already a journal-keeper, why not take this opportunity to write down those moments where you’ve reached toward kinder-than-necessary? Think about how you felt on the other side of the experience — and if you know what it meant to the person receiving the kindness, write that down, too!

Need some ideas to get you started? How about paying for the coffee of the person behind you? Or doing something especially kind for the person at work that frustrates the heck out of you and everybody else? Be generous. Be a listener. Be the one who washes the dishes this time, the one who takes out the trash.

Mother Teresa said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”

Now get out there and do the small things with the big love, friends! Think Ephesians 4:32. Think Kinder than necessary. Think Kindness.

I’m completely sure you will find the more you give, the more you feel fulfilled… and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

xCC

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:32, NKJV}

I would love to hear how Kindness changes the world around you! Share on social media — #thegoodwordswithlove and tag @carolinecollie

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

The Good Words February Preview :: Kindness

Hello dear friends with love!

This is a quick hello with a heads up for what’s happening in February… The Good Words challenge will kick off, tomorrow! Our word for the month of February will be Kindness. 

If you haven’t heard about The Good Words yet, here is a quick rundown. We’ll be focusing on one word, and one passage of Scripture for a month. I’ll write at the beginning of the month with some encouragement on beginning to internalize that word and “fleshing it out in real life” on the first day a month, and then once a week for the rest of the month. {Please feel free to sign up here so you’ll never miss a post!}

We’ll start tomorrow, jumping in with the word kindness! If you’d like to join me (and hopefully my little people!) in memorizing a passage of Scripture to help us consider this one Good Word — this is it:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:32, NKJV}

I’m using the New King James Version here, perhaps most especially because I love to encourage my children (and myself) to be tenderhearted … but feel free to pick a different version if it is a better fit for you!

Below are simple Dropbox links that will allow you to view and download the beautiful prints a beautiful friend of mine created to go along with this month’s theme! This is the first time I’ve tried this method of content delivery before — I am trying to keep it simple — so I welcome your feedback!

Here’s the link to the word “Kindness” which I think would be beautiful gracing the fridge or a wall where you eat, or somewhere where you’ll see it often and think on it and make it yours.

Here’s the link to Ephesians 4:32 NKJV. I am planning to have this one up near our dinner table so that we can read it together or take turns reciting it at meal times … and maybe by the end of this short month, that short verse will be hidden in our hearts!

I’d love for you to share pictures, thoughts and so on — and if you’re sharing on Instagram please hashtag #goodwordswithlove so that I can find you! {Yes that is a different hashtag but I think it works better!}

Feel free to forward it to a friend and ask them to join you on the adventure! They can Subscribe Here so they don’t miss a post!

Alright friends, we will start unpacking the concept of Kindness of February 1st and I am stoked!

With Heaps of Love,
xCC

Can One Word Change Your World? Will You Join Me to Find Out?

About nine years ago, a “mild interest” for photography turned into something more. It started with wanting to capture images of this precious little baby boy that joined our family, our sweet firstborn Bear. It grew with my desire to share about our ministry in South Africa in a way that would communicate the beauty and hope and great needs we were encountering. And when we arrived back in the States and it turned into a vocation — wielding a camera to shoot alongside the Hero Hubs on a regular basis — well it was time for that slight affinity to become a genuine area where I could grow and learn and make progress.

One of the most important things I discovered over time was that I often make the same mistake with a camera that I (quite possibly often) make with words: simply put, I aim for too much.

Big surprise for the girl who consistently had “talks excessively” on her school report cards, right?

With the camera (and often with words) I find myself wanting to show the whole picture, wanting the viewer to be able to see the bride and her Mom and the windows with the boats in the distance and the mirror that is reflecting all this gorgeousness and gosh aren’t those pillows on the bed really pretty, too?

But guess what? If you try to take a picture of everything, you sometimes end up taking a picture of nothing.

As we came home from wedding after wedding and talked and I asked questions and furrowed eyebrows and thought and listened to the Hubs, who is a very patient and good teacher, I began to make an important observation.

The Hubs’ photos are often breathtakingly beautiful to me because you know exactly what to look at. You see enough to tell the story — but not so much that you’re overwhelmed and don’t have any idea where to look. Even if there are trees in the foreground and river in the background, still the focus of an image created by a great photographer will tell you exactly where to look, that beautiful sweet spot in between those gently blurred trees and that softly flowing distant river, where the adorable couple are strolling along, or the dog’s tongue hangs from his mouth while the guy smiles at the girl and holds her hand with one hand, the leash with the other.

And focus is a part of what tells the story. But not just the kind of focus the camera does when it decides which part of the picture will be “in focus” and which will be “out of focus” and perhaps look a little blurred. It is also choosing the framing, choosing to take those extra few steps closer to the subject, so that you’re looking at the flower that’s right there, or just the baby’s face, or just that one sliver of light coming through that one part in the branches of that tree.

Trying to show too much, just like trying to say too much, often means less of what you really want to communicate comes through. 

Like Coco Chanel’s advice, to take off a piece of jewelry before leaving the house, or an interior decorator suggesting you limit the number of tchotchkes on the table at the front door, it seems like more of the story seems to come through when you edit, and just focus on trying to tell one part of it really well.

I’ve wondered several times recently, after remembering and then being reminded what John wrote: that if all the things Jesus said and did were recorded, the world could not contain all the books that would be written.

I asked myself in my own head: “Why aren’t there more books? Why didn’t God decide to tell more of the story? Why is it edited down to those four Gospel accounts — which even have different ways of telling some of the same stories?”

Maybe the truth is we wouldn’t understand the story better just because we had more words to read. We will understand more by reading what we already have, focusing in on the themes and lessons contained therein. There is enough truth contained in those four Gospels to foster a lifetime of learning, right?

Could that apply to life? What if instead of trying to do everything we focused in, and focused on one thing? And truly, gave that one thing focus for more than one day, or even one week?

All of this, as you may have guessed, led to the birth of The Good Words. Every month, I’m going to share an idea with you. One word. One theme. And one Scripture verse to go along with it. I’ll share some ideas for how to wrestle with that word. How to internalize it. Perhaps even how to memorize that one Scripture on your own or with friends or family.

Each week I’ll share one post that will dig a little deeper into the one word we’re focusing on together. I hope you’ll read, and that it will encourage you to think even more, ask yourself more questions, ask God more questions. {I’d love for you to share Good Word stories with the hashtag #thegoodwordcc so that we can find each other and enjoy the stories and encourage each other on the journey.} Maybe it will help you see some of the extraneous parts of the picture of your life — things that are the less important things, things that belong on the edges — so that you can take a few steps closer and focus in on the main things, the deep things. The things that matter most.

I’m very excited about diving in on February 1st! I’m also VERY excited that I have a friend along for the journey, who’ll be creating some beautiful prints that I hope will find their way to your mirror or fridge or dining room wall or all of the above.

Before we jump into February, I’ll post to share the Good Word, the corresponding verse, and a link to the prints in case you’d like to use them. That way you’ll have a chance to have everything ready to get started on day one! But I highly recommend subscribing via email so that you never miss a post!

I’ve gotten just a sneak peek of one of the beautiful prints my friend has created for you all — I can’t wait to share them with you and get started!

If you are jumping in, I’d love to encourage you to find a friend to join you on the journey! Share this post and ask a friend to join by subscribing to With Love, From Here so they’ll never miss a post, either. They can sign up right here!

I’m praying these words will truly change your world, and the world around you, for the better this year!

Stay tuned…
xCC