Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Hi there! This post is the second in a 31-Day writing adventure I’m embarking on. I’d love for you to join me and read along. 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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If there is one thing I can pinpoint that I find most frustrating about the experience of being human, it’s humanity. Not everybody else’s humanity — it’s my own shortcomings that, metaphorically speaking, keep getting under my skin.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rather unfortunate experience at the bank, where someone made a pretty bad judgment call about what was happening when I was being helped by the teller. He made a very hurtful comment and followed it up by not being willing to hear what I had to say in defense of the significant amount of time I took with the teller. I cried in my car… cried again when one of the tellers called to apologize while I was in the parking lot at Walmart… it basically just kind of stunk.

I shared the story just after it happened, but I haven’t yet shared the follow-up story, what happened the Monday after that fateful Friday afternoon. By the end of the incident, I knew the name of the gentleman who’d spoken so harshly to me. When I got home from my errands and shared what had happened, the Hubs was… pretty much livid.

He handled it well, but decided he wanted to do something in my defense. So, on Monday afternoon, I was busy in my kitchen when he walked in with the phone in his hand and said “Someone wants to speak with you.”

He’d contacted the guy from the bank, explained that he’d been rude to his wife, and said he owed me an apology. I answered the phone and he apologized in an “if I have offended you…” sort of way. Not really committing — if you get my drift?

I took a moment to explain what was happening at the bank that afternoon when he was waiting in line. That there were 112 checks to process. That those checks were to cover my Dad’s medical bills. That that day was the six month anniversary of his death.

And once he had the whole story? He really apologized. Through a few more tears, I encouraged him to remember that you don’t always know what is going on in other’s people’s lives, so it’s best to be careful with everyone. He agreed that that was good advice and seemed to sincerely take it to heart.


At the end of the interaction, I was thankful I’d had the opportunity to speak with him, appreciated the apology, and was especially grateful to the amazing husband who stood in the kitchen with me, held me while I cried once more and said “You don’t deserve to be treated like that.” {Hero, more and more all the time…}

Reflecting on this incident, I see myself in the bank story — but I’m not always the protagonist. Sometimes I’m the one misjudging others, the one who doesn’t really want to hear the explanations for what I’ve already made my own judgments about. Sometimes I’m one of the other customers in line who stands there and agrees with the guy who’s getting impatient, stoking the fire instead of suggesting there’s the possibility that something else is going on there.

I say things I later regret. I do things I wish I didn’t do. And this is the frailty that makes the human experience so challenging. Our imperfections and weaknesses are an integral part of the story — we even say it, when we make mistakes:

I’m only human.

And that only human place? That is the place where God steps in with strength for our frailty.

What seems like a liability, God turns into an asset.

Paul explains it this way:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. {2 Cor. 12: 9-10}

Paul’s weakness started out as a source of frustration for him, but in God’s glorious goodness, He saw it fit to redeem those weaknesses — and turn them into a personal advantage. The more weakness we struggle with, the more we can lean on the power of God instead of trying to stand on our own {in}sufficiency.

We will make bad calls. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll make misjudgments. We might sometimes be the one that sends someone else to their minivan in tears, and not even know it.

But there is grace and forgiveness for those poor choices, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, there is the hope that we can walk the line a little better next time, that we can stay in step with the Spirit, that we can follow the example of Jesus.

Will we ever be completely comfortable in our own skin? Probably not. But that God chooses to stand with us, work through us, forgive us and use us anyway? It’s nothing short of glorious.



#31Days, Starting… Now

#31Days, Starting… Now

Hi there! I’m posting the links to each day on this post to make it easy for folks to find them. Please scroll down to read the #31 days series introduction!

Day 1: One Day at a Time

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Day 3: Blind Faith Sees

Day 4: On Dragons, Angels and Jesus

Day 5: You Got Spirit, Let’s Hear It

Day 6: The Declaration of Un-independence

Day 7: Fight Fear with Good

Day 8: Holy Stooping and Drama Llamas

Day 9: Lost and Found

Day 10: The Gift in Giving

Day 11: Finding Yourself

Day 12: Life’s Beautiful Brevity

Day 13: Blessed Obedience

Day 14: Joy from Ashes

Day 15: A Heads Up at Halfway

Day 16: Work Worth Waiting For

Day 17: When Less is More

Day 18: Beautiful No-Nos

Day 19: The Voice(s)

Day 20: Faith is a Team Sport

Day 21: On Entering Negative Space

Day 22: Using Your Voice

Day 23: Simple Trust

Day 24: Because You Know What They Say

Day 25: For When You Can’t Keep Going, But You Must

Day 26: Unconventional Wisdom

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

Day 28: Overlooking the Junk for the Love

Day 29: That Super-hard L-Word

Day 30: The Joyful Decrease

Day 31: Reflections on His Goodness

I guess this story really starts about five years ago, when The Nester wrote about the same topic for 31 days. She has a fantastic blog about, well, nesting naturally, but about 3,700 other great topics fit inside of that realm, too. And five years ago, she wrote, I loved it, and I thought, “Ooh! I want to do that!” The next year, she invited eight friends to join in, and I, from far away in South Africa, read along and thought, “Ooh, I still want to do that!” and the next year, she sort of “opened it to the general public” and 746 people jumped in. I thought, “Ooh, I still want to do that!” but I think I was moving countries and had some small children or something.

Then, last year, 31 Days arrived again and I thought, “Oooooh! I still want to do that!” But I was very pregnant and certain the little one would arrive early and I was unwilling to sacrifice sleep and I had other small children and… wow, here I am making excuses again.

So, this year, I decided to bring this little challenge before the Lord and let Him make the excuses for me, because then I would feel better about having an excuse not to do something that I think would be quite good for me. I was standing in front of the washing machine, which thankfully has a window behind it which allows me to look out toward the river while I ponder how much time I actually spend on laundry each week, and wonder what the bottom of my laundry basket looks like, if it does, in fact, exist.

The conversation went like this:

“Lord, I constantly get the sense that You want me to write more, and I feel like I need to get over some internal hump and just jump brave in, and I think writing for 31 days would be a really good way to actually show myself that these books You have stirring in my heart could actually turn into something on paper if I’d be disciplined enough to do it.”

Okay, do over, I think the conversation went more like this. Although all of the above was in my head and heart at the time, so the Lord ‘got it’ without me ‘splainin.

“Lord, I feel like I should do that 31 Days thing. But I don’t know what to write about. So. If You want me to do it, will You please give me a topic?”

[Complete silence, both external and internal.]

I walk away thinking I might be off the hook.

But then. This weekend, the smalls and I travelled along with HH to a wedding a wee ways west of Winston-Salem… I don’t know if it could be classified as the mountainous section of North Carolina, but it was at least foothilly enough to be inspirational for me.

We needed the Belle to have a little morning nap in the hotel room, so HH took the boys out to play and I was there with a sleeping baby, no laundry to fold, and … silence.

So I started reading, which, for me, kind of naturally turns into writing, and then, plain as day, the Lord simply whispered a little theme to my heart, which I am pretty sure if I looked back would be a recurring theme, a bright pink thread, right straight through, from the early days when this blog still had Smiling, Avocado and Bacon in the title. And if you can remember those days, well then, leave a comment because you’re one of eleven.

To test and see if this was actually a 31-dayable topic, I quickly flipped to a clean page, jotted down the numbers 1 – 31, and promptly came up with 22 post ideas in less than 22 minutes. Perhaps even ten. Minutes that is.

And then, my friends, I was cornered. In His glorious goodness, He kept His end of the bargain… so I have to keep mine.

And for the next 31 days, heaven help me, I’ll be writing about exactly that: His glorious goodness.

31 Days Banner

As I proceed toward the end of a year that might, for all intents and purposes seem not good, (considering the unexpected loss of my Dad this March) and as I work through a soul-challenging season where my plate seems uber-full — and not of bacon or avocado or even a slice of home-baked bread — I am somehow confident that putting this new thing on my plate, where I am actively looking in unexpected places to find ways to say He is so good, there is the significant possibility that everything else will suddenly look a heckuvalot better, or perhaps go strangely dim, which will help me to recognize how small it all is in comparison.

Part of the challenge for me will be not simply saying “He’s good because there’s Jesus and forgiveness and stuff” but actually searching for redemption in the hard, the broken, and even in the just plain ordinary. The other part of the challenge will be the discipline of getting up and writing each morning for the next 31 days.

So, quick question for you. Will you join me in a conversation about His Glorious Goodness over the next 31 days? If you are along for the ride, it will make it so much more meaningful for me. I write because when I do, you write back and tell me how much it has meant to you — and I can’t say thank you enough to you amazing people, far and wide, who have taken the time to say Thank you or That meant something to me. 

I’ve had the privilege of hearing many of your stories, and sometimes even meeting some of you, and it has been such a joy, SUCH a gift. You dear readers and social media-sharers and encouraging commenters and (I’m usually blessed and embarrassed at the same time) dear folks who put quote marks around something I’ve said, attach my name to it and pass it on… I write for you, and it is totally His glorious goodness, that He gives good gifts, and then we get to be gifts to each other, because of Him. But maybe that’s a topic for Day 17 or something?

That was a lengthy rabbit trail. Back to the subject, my apologies:

Will you join me on the #31Days adventure? You can follow along by subscribing to my blog or liking With Love, From Here’s page on Facebook or, obviously, just coming right back every day this month.

I hope so. I think it’s for me, but I’m secretly (well I guess it’s not a secret now) pretty sure this is for you, too.

Isn’t that glorious?


31DaysofHGG100{You can also follow other #31days participants by searching that hashtag at Twitter or visiting the Nester’s Link-Up Page. — I will link to it once it goes live later this evening!}

Seeing Gifts Everywhere You Look

Seeing Gifts Everywhere You Look

I had a birthday this week, and it was wonderful. I was with lots of the people I care about the most, and there was a wonderful collaborative effort to make the day special for me. It was. There were cards and cake and chocolate, and gifts to unwrap, including the gift of a little time away from my little people with a friend, which was fun and just really nice.

It is easy to smile when there are gifts to open!

The next day I was out on the playground with my kids, simultaneously pushing two boys in swings, while playing peekaboo with a just-now-waving her wee hand little girl in the stroller. The boys ran and climbed and zoomed down the slide, I played along with the make-believe-moments, as a shark that turned into a good Pirate, and as a space alien that became an astronaut.

Surrounded by my three small people, on a day with a perfect temperature, the sun streaming in through the trees to make tunnels of light, my heart was warm and well aware: this is another gift to open. Thank You, Lord, it is good.

Caroline Collie 002

The boys continued their climbing and jumping while I watched from a shady spot in the grass with the Belle. Music played from my phone that brought me back to Scotland, exercising in the student gym, strolling through the city at my own leisure with headphones in my ears.

Kind of a lot has changed since then.

I stared off into the distance, reflecting on how time has passed and life has changed, and noticed a single piece of pine straw, suspended and dancing the air, caught in a single thread of a spider’s web.

My first thought caught me by surprise: how quick I was to say in my mind, “Look! A gift!”

Somehow everyday simplicity is becoming a joy to hunt out and savor.

I’ve been training my heart to keep seeing all of life through that perfect picture frame, that 5 x 7 of thankfulness, that helps me remember that even when the word “gift” is not immediately apparent when I look at a situation, somehow, it’s very possible that I’ll still have the privilege of seeing the gift if I keep my eyes open (or more often my heart).

Seeing gifts in the nice breeze-by-the-river moments will perhaps always be easier than seeing it in the moments where two out of three children are hollering at the top of their lungs, because there’s an argument about which show is going to fill up their TV time or who did the thing that wasn’t supposed to be done.

Last night, HH and I reflected on the fact that we didn’t book as many weddings this year as we had hoped. We already have a few booked for next year which we’re very excited about, but this year’s wedding season was not nearly as busy as we would have hoped. But as we stopped for a moment and thought about that, about what has happened this past year, losing my Dad and accepting the unexpected part time job of settling his estate, learning to be a family of three and kicking off a career of homeschooling, moving house and starting life over in a new place…

suddenly it was easy to see what we hoped for but didn’t have as a gift, too. 

We were blessed with plenty of business, HH has stayed busy with a camera in his hand, and, perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve been reflecting on lately, life just keeps happening one day at a time.

None of us can be completely sure what will come our way next year or next month, or even next week. But we can enjoy the life that we have in front of us each day, and we can train our hearts to see the gifts in that day. Whether its a stuffed bag of goodies from a very thoughtful Mama (thank you again, Mom, I love you!!) or looking down at a two-year-old’s cheeky grin and pearly white teeth as he tells me he loves me at bed time, or even enjoying the little bunny rabbit we love to watch munching the grass that has grown up under the pig-cooker in the backyard — it’s an opportunity to see a gift and to unwrap it by letting your soul whisper a silent thank you to your Maker, the One that all the good and perfect gifts come from.

Perhaps you’ve been looking for reasons to give thanks for a long time, and if so, I’m sure you can wax poetic about how life-changing it is. But maybe you haven’t been much for giving gift-hunting a slice of your everyday time. Friend, all I can say is, try it. Try looking for reasons to be thankful each day. And not just for the obvious, your family, your job, your home – although they are important gifts to count again and again, start looking for those simple moments that Elizabeth Barrett Browning referenced when she said:

Earth is crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

You might find in time, that your heart begins to walk around barefoot, and for your life? It will make a gloriously beautiful difference.


Clothes That Don’t Wear Out

I was working my way through some laundry the other day. Yes, I am always working my way through some laundry. Maybe I was folding or sorting or trying to decide whether something was dirty or if it could go back in the drawer and not contribute to the pile overflowing the laundry basket — when the thought kind of hit me like a brick.

Well, actually it was a pretty pleasant thought, so maybe I should say it hit me more like a gust of warm air when you’re coming in from the cold outside.

I was looking at all these clothes and thinking “I’ve had these pants since I was in college. I have definitely had this and that and that and that since before HH and I tied the knot. Who knows how long he’s had this? I know it is from way before we met.”

And what used to be a sort of complaint — because who wants old, don’t we all want new? — this realization became a sort of prayer of gratefulness for me.

What a gift that these clothes are still doing their job well. What a gift that the running shoes I bought while home to NC on a visit from SA ages ago are still taking my feet from place to place — and they still look great. What a gift that these bits and pieces are holding up so nicely, while we are busy trying to focus on sticking to a budget and getting out of debt — what a gift that I don’t have to add this or that or a new one of those to a shopping list?

The Lord did this miraculous thing for the Israelites when they wandered in the desert those forty years. Besides providing the manna for food, besides providing water, besides leading them and being present with them, He sustained them in such a way that their clothes didn’t even wear out. Moses reminded them:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. {Deut. 8:1-5, emphasis mine}

I wonder who noticed, before Moses said something, that their sandals hadn’t worn out after forty years? Who noticed that their clothes were not threadbare and tattered after all that time? Would I have noticed? Would I have paused to give thanks? Or would it maybe have been one of my complaints about the wilderness?

“These gladiator sandals are so a generation ago and there is nowhere to shop around here!”

With all the distractions and concerns and interests and “needs” we think of in our daily lives, do we see… observe… take off our shoes, grateful for what has already been given?

Has it really taken me this long to realize that the things I already have are a gift from the hand of God? That even the things (perhaps especially the things) that are older, that are still going strong, that miraculously just haven’t worn out are just as much a gift as the fresh manna and the gentle, daily hand of guidance?

Surely these things I once would’ve complained about are rightly seen as gifts. And my right response is to know in my heart that He is good, it is in His goodness that He disciplines me by teaching me to use what I have, to help me see how thankful I should be for where the boundary lines have fallen. The Israelites hadn’t yet entered their Promised Land — but there was still so much cause to be grateful, to give thanks and sing praises.

Now is a good opportunity. Today is a new day. And sometimes the gift is the new manna that falls fresh every morning — and for that we give thanks. But sometimes the gift is something that has already been given — still ours, still provided by His hand — and even though the providing happened years ago, it’s still today’s provision.

That nice gush of warm wind on a chilly fall morning was the breath of fresh air I needed to help bring me closer to a right perspective about my life at the moment — and I thought it would be good to take a moment to share it. Perhaps it’s His provision for you today, too.


Friends R Gooood

We are blessed with the presence of some dear friends way down here in SA this week…helping me overcome missing Agnes!


{This photo was at a bridal shower just before I got hitched!}

Brittany and I were friends at first sight…which was a good thing since I was moving into the house where she lived when we met! What a joy when you get together with an old friend and it feels like no time has passed at all. It’s so good to have her and her husband Chuck around for a wee while! They’re celebrating their one year anniversary while they’re here. How cool is that?

In other news, I have some delightful pictures of our TWO MONTH OLD coming your way soon! And I discovered today that the Bear can’t say freckle, so he says pretzel. And I think that, and some great pictures, are two things worth celebrating.

Woop, woop!

In the meantime, if you have anyone living within a thirty mile radius of you that has known you for more than a year or two, I’d like to suggest you take a moment to give thanks. It’s a privilege to enjoy the presence of an old friend — it’s taken six years as an expat for me to realise just how sweet it is!

It’s like they say in Dassiesfontein


Hope your week is going great, and full of friends.