The Good Words :: This One Word Makes Contentment Possible

Passing by the local playground down by the River last week, I noticed an unusual sight. In our sleepy wee town, the playground might have a half dozen cars at any given time, and typically only has an overflow when people are putting their boats in at the ramp across the road, but on this particular afternoon cars were packed in every space, and additional cars were circling the parking lot, just waiting to snag a much-coveted spot to park.

What was all the raucous about? Well, for the better part of a couple of days last week, the winds were reminiscent of a place I lived years ago in South Africa. The locals say “The wind was born in Gordon’s Bay.” The days of “Gordon’s Bay winds” resulted in an unusual phenomenon in our neck of the woods. The water in the river blew out towards the sound, leaving a mucky riverbed bare for all to see. Long buried driftwood scattered the landscape, and even remnants of a ship sunk in the 1860s were said to have been identified.

And all those cars clamoring in the parking lot? They wanted a chance to look out across the mucky riverbed, and maybe snag a few photos to share on social media.

Looking out at that dry(ish) ground and wondering if the water had blown out far enough to cross to the other side, I immediately began pondering the parting of the Red Sea, when God had a steady wind blowing all night that created a path right through the midst of the sea to allow the Israelites to cross to the other side.

I was reading the story again last week — how the Israelites cried out to the Lord to deliver them and He heard their cries and called Moses to return to Egypt and deliver His people. While all this deliverance was taking place, it was easy to very quickly get frustrated with the Israelites, reading their story and thinking about how they handled the situations they encountered.

Moses speaks to Pharaoh and Pharaoh increases the burdens they need to shoulder, the “bricks with no straw” situation. The plagues begin and God begins to differentiate between His people and the Egyptians — the Egyptians’ livestock are diseased while the Israelites’ are spared. Darkness covers Egypt, except in the dwellings of the Israelites. The Egyptians lose their firstborn sons while the Israelites are spared.

Finally Pharaoh agrees to let God’s people go, and with heaps of parting gifts from their Egyptian neighbors, the Israelites set out on a long walk to freedom.

They arrive at the Red Sea and, looking back, realize Pharaoh has had a change of heart (again) and has decided to chase them down. What’s their response?

“So were there not enough graves in Egypt? Is that why you’ve taken us here — to die in the wilderness?”

Fear shouts louder than faith — and the people who have JUST seen miracles are scared to death.

This part might be familiar — they wait by the Red Sea all night, the wind blows the waters back, and (a little bit more impressive than our situation) they walk through the sea with walls of water on either side and a furious Egyptian army chasing after them.

God delivers them, the Egyptians are swept away when Red Sea Boulevard closes up, and there they are — delivered from slavery, free — a people able to steer their own destiny.

But before the Egyptian chariots have settled on the sea floor, the Israelites — who by the way have just sung all these delightful songs and danced and given thanks to the Lord for their deliverance — now begin to complain again, because they’ve been traveling for three days and they have no water to drink.

And you know — I kind of get it. Needing water is totally valid. But it doesn’t say anybody prayed for water. It doesn’t say anybody turned to the Lord and asked for it. It just says they arrived at some water that was bitter and complained against Moses:

“How’s anybody supposed to drink anything around here?”

Moses cries out to God, God shows him how to make the bitter waters sweet and … you’d think from this point they’d live happily ever after, right?

But fast forward some fifteen verses into the next chapter and…

“The whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron. […] ‘Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of mean and when we ate bread to the full!'”

Again — food is a totally valid need — but it never says anyone prayed or cried out to the Lord. It just keeps using one verb to talk about the Israelites are doing: complained.

We could go on and on but I think you’re picking up on the pattern I’m putting down: fear gets the better of the Israelites, and instead of leaning into faith, they complain.

And goodness gracious, let’s be honest. Am I kinda sorta sometimes the same way? Have I seen His hand make molehills out of mountains — but do I still fall short and get scared and lose hope?

This is the difference between their attitude toward the God who delivered them and Paul’s. Remember those verses about contentment?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 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. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
{Phil. 4:11-13}

The big difference between Paul’s faith and the Israelites who left Egypt can be summed up in one word. Are you ready for it?


It is so easy to get scared. When it seems like provision isn’t coming. When it seems like the worst possible outcome is the one that is going to happen — or maybe even has already happened.

But what if we trust that God can use anything — anything — for our good and His glory?

Next week will mark the five year anniversary of me losing my Dad. At the time of his death, it absolutely seemed like the worst possible outcome — the thing that we were praying so fervently for didn’t happen. The miracle we begged God for never became a reality.

But somehow, in the days and weeks and months and years that followed, I have seen God’s hand in it. I experienced the presence of God in that time of grief like I never have before. I drew near to God and discovered more and more of His deep and rich and full-to-overflowing love for me. That week in the hospital and the very difficult experiences that followed it were perhaps the most difficult moments I’ve navigated in my life so far — but on the other side of that, I saw God’s glory. I saw His hand when over a hundred thousand dollars of medical bills were paid for. When my new baby girl helped me overcome the sorrow and see that life could still go on, and life could still be beautiful.

His hand is near in a million little ways — but only he who sees takes off his shoes.

And this is the question we will all have to answer, when the wind blows hard and the river is gone and the problems and difficulties of a challenging season of life seem laid bare: Can we trust God here in this place? Do we think He is big enough to handle this? Can He provide manna, even in this desert?

A heart that trusts is a heart that says “Yes, Lord, even this. Even this can work out for my good and Your glory. I will wait, I will find peace because I will find You. I trust You.

Contentment is worth fighting for, friends. Join me in trusting an unknown future to a God who knows, sees and cares enough to part the waters just for you.



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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!

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.


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!

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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.


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!


“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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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,