Who are the People of the Cross?

It was just a few days before Lent – a season for Christians around the world to humble themselves, focus more deeply with a hope of understanding the message of the Cross – when a “Message Signed With Blood for the People of the Cross” went out. Twenty-one Egyptian Christians were beheaded in a mass killing, intended to be a message to Christians around the world.

Who are the people of the Cross?

When Jesus arrived on the scene some 2,000 years ago, He was rejected by Israel — the very nation He arrived to share the Good News with first.

Israel’s rejection of the Gospel was not a flippant “Mmmm… I don’t think I really like what this Jesus guy is saying” kind of response — His words and His ways were turning their worlds upside down and it was more than they could handle.

While the Jews saw riches as the blessing of the Lord, Jesus told the rich young ruler who approached Him to give it all away and follow Him to find eternal life. (Mark 10)


While the Jews had kept the Passover faithfully for more than a thousand years — this mark and preservation and remembrance of their entire nation being delivered from 400 years of bondage in Egypt — Jesus turned the Passover tradition upside by breaking the bread and saying “I am this bread” and by taking the wine and saying “I am this wine.” This is and always has been symbolic of Me, and I will be broken and poured out for you.

While other rabbis only selected the best of the best who approached them and sought to become their disciples, Jesus was the Rabbi who went out looking for, and chose men every other rabbi would’ve rejected. Men for whom the door of discipleship had long been shut, for whom their religious education was finished, for whom the only open door was continuing in the trade of their fathers before them.

While other rabbis wouldn’t be caught dead teaching a woman, Jesus invited Mary and Martha to sit at His feet and learn from Him.

While those other rabbis prided themselves in the heavy yokes they and their disciples carried for the sake of keeping the law, Jesus said, “Come to me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

While the Jews saw greatness as sitting at the head of the table and being served, Jesus equated greatness with service and said, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. Even I didn’t come here to be served — I am here to serve and give My life up for many.” {Mark 10:43-45, my paraphrase)

After 1,500 long, heavy years of being identified as the people of God, steeped in tradition and history, carrying the burden of making sure the legacy was passed to the next generation so that their entire race would not be wiped from the face of the Earth — it seemed too much to ask, for the Jews to allow someone to arrive on the scene and turn it all upside down.

It was too counter-cultural. Too radical. Too difficult for those who loved and celebrated tradition and hard work and earning righteousness. How could it be a gift now?

And who are the people of the Cross?

While many of the people of Israel rejected Jesus — to the point that they downright crucified Him — still, a faithful remnant understood Him to be the Messiah, the Christ they’d been looking for, waiting for.

And it all seemed turned upside down again, when they realized Jesus was not just a light to the Jews, but the Savior of the Gentiles as well. He came to seek and save the lost — and there was no one on Earth who didn’t fall into that category.

The Son is the Gift, and together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He is also the Giver.

Today — 2,000 years later — on one end of the Earth Christians are standing up for their faith, at the peril of losing their lives. Thousands of miles away, what could we do to say “I’m in, no matter what. Jesus, You can turn my world upside-down, too.”

Who are the people of the Cross?

What would it mean for Christians on this side of the world to live in solidarity with our faraway brothers and sisters being persecuted, even killed for their faith?

What would it mean for us, the wealthiest, most privileged, most educated, most capable generation of Christians who ever lived to decide we will stand together with the world’s poor, the way Jesus told us to?

What would it mean for us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, to walk into dark places where people are being abused, women and children are being trafficked, lives are being enslaved, and every ounce of hope seems to be extinguished?

What if we’re not called to keep building comfortable homes and comfortable lives? What if we’re not called to keep finding comfortable jobs with comfortable salaries in comfortable areas where our children can receive an education that will help them stay comfortable too?

Who, who, who are the people of the Cross?

Many of us are going. Many of us are doing. Many of us are laying down comfort and convenience, counting the cost and following a Savior who dove into the darkness to turn on the Light.

But we are capable of so much more. Financially, we are able to eradicate extreme poverty. Yes, truly we are. In this generation.*

Strategically, we have the man power and brain power to stop human trafficking dead in its tracks. We are so incredibly well educated and resourced. This is SO possible.

We can support the widows, care for the orphans, love the least of these fully and wholeheartedly.

We could change the face of the planet.

What should we do in the face of extreme evil? How should we respond, as the people of the Cross?

In the face of evil, we should keep on doing good. Keep on shining light in dark places. Down the street from us, and around the world. To widows. To orphans. In the rough part of the towns we live in, and in the slums of Rio and the townships of South Africa.

What will the world see? And what will the world say?

What will we do with the opportunities in front of us?

How will we say yes to the God who loves us so deeply, so dearly, and still has a mission for us beyond what we are expecting or imagining, for the brief moments we have on this Earth? Will we say yes?

What can we say yes to? What can we say yes to today?

Will we answer the message to the People of the Cross, by choosing to truly be the People of the Cross?

Paul wrote it to the Ephesians nearly 2,000 years ago: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. {Eph. 5:15-16, NIV}

Let’s respond by making the most of every opportunity, saying yes to the Gift and the Giver — if we are the people of the Cross, we will keep on taking up the Cross, keep on laying down our lives, keep on doing good.







* See Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel, if you’d like to more deeply understand how little we’re doing in comparison to how much we are capable of.  {Available on Amazon: The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World – affiliate link}

Day 31: Reflections on His Goodness

Day 31: Reflections on His Goodness

Hi there! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is the LAST post of a 31-Day writing adventure I jumped into this month! If you’d like to see the fruits of this labor, you can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” with links to each day, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in! I hope you’ll be back soon!

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Here it is folks… the last of 31 Days of (continuously) reflecting on the goodness of God! {Without a doubt I’m certain I will continue to think about/write about His goodness for as long as I’m allowed to keep breathing.} The challenge to get up early and write my heart out before breakfast this month was great starting out, but definitely got harder as the month went on.

It was never much of a struggle to find things to say about the goodness of God. I was a little surprised by that, but not very — He is so good, I am quite certain I could spend the rest of my life writing about His goodness every morning. Every morning itself is a reason to write!

Here are a few reflections on what I’ve learned out of this little exercise, that I hope will be helpful for you, too.

While I hope and trust this adventure in writing was an encouragement, and even a challenge to others, to consider the glorious goodness of God and live life accordingly, I sense it might also have been about me seeing what I was able to do (and less about the words on the page). For a long time I’ve had bits and snippets of larger writing projects tucked away neatly in folders in My Documents, and there they have stood quietly without progress.

Now that I realize I could start getting up and putting 1,000 words on a page before breakfast, progressing toward a particular goal, it is time for me to stop making excuses about why I’m not writing more. If I know there’s something in my heart I’m supposed to be turning concentrated effort toward, I can no longer make excuses for why I’m not doing what I’m called to do.

This has also led me to the observation that my children have become one of my greatest excuses. Sometimes, it is completely valid to say I can’t go to this event or do that thing because it just doesn’t work with my small people, but other times, I am almost blaming my kids as the reason I can’t get up in the morning and exercise {although I will admit — it is HARD when you’re nursing a baby and you don’t know when said baby will wake up and you don’t want to leave your hubs at home with a time bomb — extend grace where grace is due}. But really? The baby might also be just the excuse I need to stay snug and warm in my bed instead of getting out there.

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{“Mom, stop calling us excuses… we’re opportunities!}

Instead of following some sort of schedule of writing about this on this day or that on that day, I chose to simply write what I felt led to write about during this 31 Days. It was absolutely an exercise in taking life one day at a time. I had to trust as I woke up each morning that I would have something worthwhile to say. And if I was planning on exercising in the morning and needed to write the night before, the Lord, in His glorious goodness, gave me the words in the evening and I wrote them down then.

Like the manna in the desert, the Lord keeps providing:

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. {Exodus 16: 21-22}

Another lesson from this adventure that MANY of us might need to learn? I am not making rest the priority it should be. Why it is so hard for me to get up in the morning? Because I’m not getting into bed early enough the night before. The Hubs and I almost always have something else Quiver-Tree-related to do or to discuss. There’s probably laundry waiting for me to fold it, or switch it over to the dryer, or a fresh load that needs to be started. And let’s be honest, it’s pretty nice to enjoy those brief and fleeting hours when the wee ones are all sleeping and the house is peaceful.

But did you know that the sleep you get before midnight is actually the most important? And here’s some really great information about your sleep cycles, how to get the most out of your sleep, and why you should NOT be hitting that snooze button…

When I reflect on this, I recognize places in my life where I would like to be further disciplined. If I set the alarm for 5:30, I want my feet to hit the floor at 5:30.  I only have a finite number of hours on this Earth, and man, I really want to use them well. Those who accomplish big are often those who “go big” — and give all-out focus toward a singular task as much as possible.

Louis Blériot, has a cool story. He spent countless hours, francs, and years working on building an airplane. He succeeded, became the first man to fly across the English channel in a “heavier than air aircraft,” and is now remembered for his MANY accomplishments.

The conclusion? If I rise up early to meet with the Lord, and spend my days with an ear to His Presence, I am likely to accomplish more of what I was created to accomplish with my life than if I stayed in bed those extra thirty minutes, and felt worse for it.

And about the goodness of God?

There is still so much to say.

Many of you know, have read already, that earlier this year I lost my Dad. The challenge of settling his estate has been significant. The challenge of facing the rest of my life without him, so unexpectedly, even more so. But this month, I think I’ve come alive like never before. I have consistently pondered the many, many reasons I have to be thankful. I’ve celebrated milestones, big and small, like never before.

At the end of the day, almost every day, (there have been a few rough ones) I’ve been teary-eyed, or nearly in tears, with gratefulness, as we put our children to bed.

Life is good.

Do I still feel like the number of tasks on my plate is daunting (I think I said this at the beginning of the month)? Well, kind of, but, taking a moment to reflect, around the house a lot has been accomplished this month, and I’m slowly working toward some strategies that will help me subdue this household management gig, continue to homeschool very well, and enjoy time with my kids and my husband where I am not thinking about the other stuff that needs to be done.

Even in losing my Dad and gaining a part-time job I didn’t ask for, I can see the goodness of God. The people He has connected me with through it. The wisdom I’ve gained from walking through it. The growing closer to understanding my Dad by learning how he did business? A gift from a very unexpected package.

The truth is, we can spend a lifetime on the what-ifs and I-wish-it-were-like-this’s in our lives, or we can accept the cards we’re dealt and learn to recognize the goodness in them. Our lives are not the random dealing of a deck of cards, and good observation and thankfulness will help us see that.

Stop and look for the good today. And tomorrow. And the day after that…


Day 28: Overlooking the Junk for the Love

Day 28: Overlooking the Junk for the Love

Hello friend! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure, of which I only have a few days left! I’d love for you to meet up ’round here and read along for the rest of the series (and beyond…). You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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We were in the foothills of the NC mountains a few weekends ago, as the Hubs was second shooting at a wedding and the small people and I had tagged along for the adventure. While HH was working, we’d been on an adventure to see a friend of mine during the day, and after eating an early dinner, we were back at the hotel with some time to pass before bedtime. I gathered everyone up for a little walk, and off we set to get moving.

Before you can say Hampton Inn, we almost had an explosive moment of disappointment that forced me to throw in the parenting towel.

The Bear really wanted to ride the elevator (we were on the ground floor and hadn’t needed to use it) and thinking, Heck, it’ll at least take care of five or ten minutes, I said we could, quietly, nicely ride the elevator up to the top floor and back down again. When we arrived at the elevator, our little TigerTank wasn’t feeling very tigerish. He stared at those doors, whimpered, and started to cry:

“I don’t want to ride the Alligator!!!!!! I don’t want to ride the Alligator!!!!”

For all my explaining, the elevator was not an alligator, and the elevator would be fun and safe, he still saw two metal jaws opening wide to capture people. The doors closed, and when they opened again, the people were gone.

Scary stuff for a two year old, if you think about it.

I had to quickly scoot all the kids out the back door because the Tank’s upsettedness and the Bear’s disappointedness were about to collide in a cacophony of noisiness.

The Bear experienced significant disappoint in not getting to ride the elevator and was temporarily inconsolable. Once we were outside, he plopped down on the ground, arms crossed in front of his chest, bottom lip out far enough for me to walk on it, occasional sighs of frustration escaping from his lips. Oh, the honest emotions of a five-year-old.


It took no small feat of coaxing, and some serious attempts at explaining why the Tank was afraid, to convince him to let this thing go. As far as he could see, the Tank just ruined a moment of fun for him and he was none too pleased. I promised him a ride the next morning (when the Hubs would also be present to handle non-alligator-riders) and he eventually, after some time, recovered. But forgiveness was another matter altogether, and on this occasion, I’d guess forgiveness only happened in the sense that the situation has completely been forgotten by now.

When I think about my own life, I realize there are times when I’m the disappointed one with the bottom lip poking out and the arms crossed. (On the inside, of course.) I get hurt by a harsh word from a guy at the bank, or disappointed when I’ve shared something important to me with someone important to me, hoping for them to take it seriously, and they don’t.

Hurt comes in a lot of different ways, but you can be sure of one thing: it comes, and it’s pretty easy to come by.

Forgiveness, though, is not so easy to come by.

Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul issued a challenge to the believers there to live with certain qualities, in consideration of the fact that God had chosen them. He said:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must also forgive others. {Col. 3: 12-13}

Proverbs gives a similar encouragement:

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. {Proverbs 19:11}

How quick to be offended are most of us? Do we generally tend to assume the worst in a situation where we think someone said something they should not have said, or didn’t do something they should have done? Do we quickly take an offense to heart, and allow it to ruin an hour or a day of our time? Do we pour a mental bath of self-pity, and jump in the tub to soak in it?

{Pass me a towel to dry off. I’m guilty.}

What if we were, instead, quick to overlook an offense? Quick to come up with potential reasons why the other person has been offensive toward us:

She has really been hurt by something that happened recently — she is speaking out of a place of hurt. He has such a large amount of work to manage right now, he didn’t mean to overlook this thing that was important to me — he just has a lot going on.

And then quick to simply forgive, let go, overlook, bypass the offense, to continue in healthy relationship, to move forward in peace.

Yes, there are times when confrontation is a necessity. But many times, it’s just our pride that makes us think it’s necessary. Often, it is actually to our glory to choose not to be offended, to be patient and live consistently focused on the other qualities we were instructed to clothe ourselves in instead.

In God’s glorious goodness, He first forgave us — and forgave us so much — so set an example, and give us the perspective that when we forgive, we are often forgiving very little in comparison. He doesn’t ask us to do something He wasn’t willing to do first!

Try extending extra measures of grace to the people around you today. I think you’ll enjoy the peace that follows.


Day 27: Love in the Small Stuff OR Lessons from Baby Clothes

Day 27: Love in the Small Stuff OR Lessons from Baby Clothes

Hello friend! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure, of which I only have a few days left! I’d love for you to meet up ’round here and read along for the rest of the series (and beyond…). You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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God is so gracious in often giving me very tangible lessons to help me understand intangible concepts. I appreciate how He stoops low to get on my level and help me understand new things about Him, His ways and His goodness, when I’m willing to be still and listen.

This week another one of those moments occurred to me, and I was fortunate enough to be able to recognize it and process it, and apply it to other areas of my life, the way I think the Lord intended.

It all started long before the Belle made her beautiful and timely appearance. I began getting adorable clothes and hand-me-downs for her like nobody’s business. I didn’t ask anyone or mention that we needed any, but they started coming in. First, in the excitement of finding out the Belle was a Belle (and not another Tiger or Bear…) my Mom immediately suggested we scoot out for a quick shopping trip because there was a big sale on, and I was so excited to come home and hang GIRL clothes in the closet! Then, on one of their trips home to visit, my beautiful big sister and her hubs brought a ginormous suitcase of AHdorable clothes that my niece had outgrown.

Then some wonderful folks from church threw a magnificent Baby Shower for me — and once again, the Belle’s wardrobe began filling up. On one last shopping trip before the Belle arrived, where I had a few peaceful moments to myself, I used a gift card to buy one darling outfit I saw that was an excellent price. Before she was born, I had a dresser and a closet full to the brim with clothes for her.

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{Photo courtesy of Quiver Tree Photography 😉 }

After the Belle’s arrival, the clothes kept coming. Another friend passed a few things along her girls had outgrown when I bought some baby gear from her. And another friend had a box and a tub of clothes she wanted to give me that her little girl had outgrown. And then another friend (from whom I bought some cloth diapers) wanted to share more stuff with me. And my Mom, of course, from time to time spots a cute sale and just blesses me with something else for the Belle — she is above and beyond awesome.

It has been such an incredible blessing — I have literally not bought the Belle a stitch of clothing since the day she was born, and she’s nearly a year old now. And each time I’ve thought I might need to run out and pick something up, instead I’ve discovered that a) I really just need to do laundry or b) I just need to look in the next box.

I’ve done my best to organize all these heaps of clothes that folks have shared with me, and I’ve been in the habit of passing clothes on to other friends as well, like my sweet friend in Charlotte whose precious little one I finally got to meet when we were traveling the weekend this 31 Day adventure was inspired!

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to notice some adorable little leggings with lace trim that I really liked the style of on a baby. Later on, my mind went through an internal monologue thought process like this: Those were really adorable leggings and I would love for the Belle to have some. But the Belle does not need any clothes. I’ve almost made it an entire year without buying her any clothes, which feels like a cool milestone. There are other things we need to spend money on right now. Let’s not worry about baby leggings. [End scene.]

It wasn’t a big deal — I just decided to let it go. Sometimes no leaves room for a better yes, right?

So, last week I realized the Belle had more than enough sweaters for this winter and thought I’d check to see if a friend of mine’s little one who is about the same age might need some so that we could pass some on. She did need a few (have you asked a friend lately if you could share something with them? Y’all, it’s such a good feeling.) My friend was coming over for coffee so I began scrambling around the Belle’s room (which, poor girl, is the one room in our house that is still cray cray from the move) and digging through boxes to find sweaters and some other warm winter gear that I could share.

Finally, I had a box full for her but still wanted to look through a few more things, when I stopped and began looking through a box that I hadn’t gotten a chance to organize yet. As I started to sift through it, guess what showed up?

A pair of leggings with lace trim, exactly like what I’d been admiring on the other baby just a few days earlier.

I hadn’t prayed, Lord, I’d like some lace-trim baby leggings please — so it was such a gift to see Him decide to provide something I didn’t even ask for but He knew I wanted. He is gloriously good in His attention to the small details of our lives, even of things that I would sometimes feel petty or silly to talk to Him about.

He actually, really, truly wants to be such an integral part of our lives that we will talk to Him about baby leggings or coffee or any other small things.

I’d been treasuring this little incident in my heart for a few days when the Hubs and I got onto the topic of the weddings we’re preparing for in 2014. There is some additional equipment on the list that we need to pick up between now and our first wedding next year. But we have other, more pressing, expenses that we would like to take care of first, like whacking away at our debt until it doesn’t exist, and purchasing flights to head to South Africa next year for Goo-Goo’s 75th birthday. {Yeow! I am so excited!}

I felt prompted to share the story about the leggings, which led me to recognize the important lesson behind it, straight from the mouth of Jesus:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. {Matthew 6: 25-34}

While it is wise to look to the future and be prepared, we should not give it so much interest that we forget to focus on making the right decision today. Each day has enough stuff for us to work through.

And the lesson from the Belle’s closet is exactly that — when I’ve needed it, I’ve found it. Sometimes when I didn’t actually need it, I was still blessed with it. We can trust God for what we need each day. His faithfulness with this small thing, makes me even more amazed at the greatness of just how gloriously good He is.



Day 26: Unconventional Wisdom

Hello friend! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure, of which I’m nearly done! I’d love for you to meet up ’round here and read along for the rest of the series (and beyond…). You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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Back before the Bear started reading so nicely, he loved to pretend to read. He had one particular book about Thomas the Train memorized and could “read” it cover to cover. My personal favorite, however, was his lose translation of the story of “David and Juh-liath” as he pronounced it. Even in his simple, heavily paraphrased version of the simple, paraphrased Children’s Bible version, the message still rang loud and clear:

The God of the Universe is a God who uses the brother at the back of the line that nobody expects, the little guy who wasn’t even called to go fight in the army, but was instead left home to tend sheep. God chooses the little guy to slay the giant. God is a God of unconventional wisdom, making unexpected choices which bring about incredible results.

And if you think about it, although we lean very heavily on conventional wisdom, as a society, we still love, and even crave the unexpected lifting of an underdog, the stories where the guy who nobody thought would make it blew everybody away.

nick-vujicicThe story of Nicholas Vujicic is a fantastic example. He was born in 1982 with no arms or legs. You’ve probably already seen one of his inspirational messages on youtube.  Nick has overcome obstacles we might never even dream of just to keep living, breathing and being. {Image source}

He founded an organization called Life Without Limbs, and this is how his website describes it:

God can use a Life Without Limbs
to show the world how to live a
Life Without Limits

Nick has been traveling the world (44 countries so far) to speak to millions of people and share his story. He says, “My greatest joy in this life is to introduce Jesus to those I meet and tell them of His great desire to get to know them personally by allowing Him to become their Lord and Savior. That’s what Life Without Limbs is all about.” {From the Life Without Limits website}

The world would look at a baby born with no arms and legs and wonder: what purpose can he possibly achieve? He’ll never be able to do this or that, someone will always have to do this and that for him… what on Earth is he here for? We might see it as a mistake in the heavenlies: a time when the Lord just plain messed up.

But take a second look. God has used this man with no arms and limbs, but with enough heart for three people, to do what I’d consider the most important job there is on this Earth: He is telling people around the world how much God loves them. He is telling people around the world about the salvation they can find in Jesus Christ.

Before you lean on your own wisdom, and make your own assessments about what’s possible with your life, remember that, in His glorious goodness, God constantly surprises us with His unconventional wisdom.

Paul described it this way:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. {1 Cor. 1:27-29}

Before you make a hasty assessment of what can or can’t be done, even in your own life — remember God uses Davids to slay Goliaths. Trust Him, and lean on His infinite and unconventional wisdom to make your life story unexpectedly glorious.