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Small Steps to Big Dreams

A friend sat in my kitchen courageously unpacking every detail of her big, big dream. I nodded as she spoke. “Yes, I can see you doing that. I can see you there,” I said.

I have a big, big dream, too. It scares me sometimes to speak it out loud, as if giving it a voice puts my heart in a place of great risk. So, I told my friend with the big, bold dream what I’ve learned about big dreams and small steps.

Today’s small step leads to tomorrow’s big dream.

I listened as another friend broke down the life of Gideon this week. She spoke four words that landed with a thud in my heart. “Small can be powerful.”

Gideon, in the beginning, was skeptical God could use him. He didn’t see the mighty warrior in himself that God saw. Gideon was the least of the least, unlikely to succeed in defeating Israel’s enemy. And then God asked him to whittled his army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred.

Small. Unlikely to be victorious against the enemy. But God was with them, and they won the battle.

A different friend shared with me her secret fear that people will laugh at her if she takes her next small step. Though small steps may seem insignificant, they can be just as terrifying as voicing the big dream. But God knows that small steps cultivate humility and peace.

Small Steps, Big Dreams

Small steps bring relief to a dreamer’s heart.

Zerubbabel knew a thing or two about small steps and about their perceived insignificance. God had given Zerubbabel a big, big dream: rebuild the temple. The work was to be completed not by human power or might, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Listen to the words of the prophet Zechariah concerning this monumental task:
Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel? Zechariah 4:10

The Hebrew word translated despise means “to hold in contempt, to hold as insignificant, to trample with the feet.” I’ve trampled over my fair share of small steps. I thought they were ridiculous and a complete waste of time. But God has ordained every small step in my life. He’s used each one to humble me, change me, and prepare me for what’s ahead. God has ordained a series of small steps for you, too.

He sees each step we take in faith.

God also knows the opposition and rejection we will encounter on the way. He knows how the enemy will try his hardest to discourage us, to hold these small steps in contempt, make us want to quit and walk away. Don’t.

My big dream is to encourage hearts by bringing God’s truth to women I know and those I don’t know through written and spoken word.  My next step isn’t glamourous, but it is significant as I take one step of faith at a time.

Keep writing.

That’s it. For me, God has asked me to keep writing. Keep listening. Keep putting words on the page. And I am choosing to believe it matters. What about you? What big dream has God put on your heart? Start a ministry? Quit smoking? Get a degree? Build a career? Get in shape? Raise a family to love, serve, and follow Jesus?

Today's small step leads to tomorrow's big dream.

What small step toward your big dream can you take today?

Make a commitment. Set a goal. Take a class. Tell someone. Start training. Attend a meeting. Or a conference. Learn more. Ask questions. Apply. Go. Begin. Do the next small thing God is asking of you.

Sometimes, the next small step is to pray. Never underestimate the significance of entrusting your dreams to Jesus, the Author of every beautiful dream.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments what your small step looks like for today. Don’t despise the days of small things. Welcome them, and trust that each one matters more than we could possibly know.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

One more thing:

I got on Twitter this week @kelly_sobieski. It feels strange to say that. Another teeny tiny step. If you feel compelled to connect with me there, I’ll be sharing some words over there. If you haven’t already, I’d love to invite you to my Facebook Writer Page. I share extras here and there and always love hearing from you.

If you’re not big on social media, I get it. The best way to stay connected (and my favorite way to connect with you) is by becoming a subscriber to Carried by Love. My subscribers are always the first to receive new posts and information about giveaways. You will get content delivered straight to your inbox, usually once a week. I’d love to extend that invitation.

I feel nothing but gratitude towards you, dear Reader. As always, thanks for reading!

 

6

What I’m Learning About Unsubscribing

The holiday busyness has finally come to a thankful end, and the silence and stillness my soul craves every January has made me glaringly aware of a restlessness I need to address.

Every morning after coffee, I delete about 13-16 emails.

Without opening, or even clicking, I mindlessly drag them to my virtual trash can which is an overflowing mess of advertisements, coupons, time-sensitive offers, and junk.

I need to unsubscribe.

All those times I handed over my email address to get something in return: a receipt, freebie, or steal of a deal.

Then there were times I thought I was getting something I wasn’t. Or the sender turned out to be someone I didn’t recognize.

Today, I make my list and—one by one—I scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and I click unsubscribe. It feels more refreshing than I expected.

I’m learning the freedom of unsubscribing.

January is always the best time to make space for new—new commitments, new adventures, and new yes’s. New relationships, new growth, new opportunities to join in the work God is already doing. New habits, new rhythms, new rest.

A wise friend recently told me that every season she asks God to prune everything from her life that is not bearing fruit. This is always so hard for me, because it inevitably means saying no to good things, cutting comfortable, and ending habits I’d rather keep in my white-knuckle grip.

Bare often comes before beauty. The practice of making space requires discipline and patience. We make space for yes only by saying no. We make space for new only by disengaging from what isn’t thriving.

Today, my email list is my barometer. I’m learning that I say yes a whole lot more than I should, and after just 15 minutes and 40 un-subscriptions, I realize why I haven’t unsubscribed sooner.

As I methodically click through the steps to disengage from all the marketing agreements, explain myself with a check of a box, and confirm my decision to unsubscribe, I am aware of one lingering fear.

I’ve been dragged down a time or two by the nasty fear of missing out.

Our culture screams to us that if we pull back, step out, or disengage—even for a season—we’ll be left behind and forgotten. We fear we’ll regret the decision as soon as we come to terms with all we are missing out on.

So, we keep subscribing.

The truth is that all this junk is what’s causing us to miss out. We’re missing out, because we’re too busy hauling stuff to the trash every day.

It’s amazing how much less distracted I am after unsubscribing.  I still receive emails. Out of 54 subscriptions, I eliminated 40, roughly 75%. My fourteen favorites I kept, and with all the space left over, I decided to add 3 new subscriptions.

Paying attention to my inbox has made me more aware of what I allow into my head.  I’m asking myself: What are my subscriptions to dangerous and destructive thought patterns costing me? Am I missing out on stuff like peace and opportunity and the silence required to hear the voice of God?

I’m learning through deep cuts and shallow scrapes that what I bargain for doesn’t always end up in my favor. I cooperate—even sign my name on the line—all to my own demise, because the source asking my consent isn’t God.

I’m learning how a cluttered mind crowds out peace.

Though I could easily crank out 40, here are the top ten thought patterns I am unsubscribing from… with God’s help, of course. (Disengaging from destructive or distracting mindsets is never something any of us can achieve on our own.)

I’m pulling every one of these out of my mental inbox and asking God to replace those empty spaces with the truth of His word.

 

M y   u n s u b s c r i b e   l i s t:

living like it’s all up to me

assuming the worst rather than believing the best

trusting others rather than God

fearing others more than I fear God

competing

comparing

harboring bitterness

choosing unforgiveness

measuring impossible expectations

forgetting all about grace

 

This is a lame list of lies or at best, it should be categorized as “Junk” with a capital “J.” It may take a whole lot longer than 15 minutes, but I know I’m not the One accomplishing this feat. Honestly, some of these have been on my unsubscribe list for years now.

Unsubscribing isn’t always automatic.

But the decision to unsubscribe—fueled by a desire to disengage—will eventually eliminate distraction and discouragement. Eventually.

This matters. The space you surrender to God counts. He sees beyond the disgusting pile of garbage all around you… He sees you, and He has a bold plan for all the empty space He wants to help you clear out. He’ll fill every crevice and corner and hollow space with His grace.

God, renew our hearts and minds. We bring every sinful subscription to the foot of Your cross, and ask You to unsubscribe us from all that contradicts your Love and purpose for our lives. Empty us of every lie we’ve believed in fear; empty us of ourselves. Make space in us for Your truth. Amen.

 

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

9

ONE Verse for 2017

This week graciously allows us to linger and reflect before 2017 ushers in a new blank slate for us to begin again. But, can I be honest? Beginnings can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why I love having something solid to hang onto as December fades into January.

For the last three years I’ve asked God to give me one word for the upcoming year. It’s a simple way to focus on what He’s already teaching me. This “One Word” practice has helped me sharpen my focus and align my priorities.

This year, I’m trying something new.

Instead of resolutions I know I’ll fail to keep, I’m choosing “One Verse” from scripture as my anchor for the entire year.  And I want to invite you to join me. It’s really pretty simple.

One Verse for 2017

Choose ONE verse. Just ONE.

First, pray. Choose something familiar, or choose something challenging, but let God guide your choosing. If you’re currently studying a particular book, go with a verse from that part of the Bible. Since I’ll be spending the Spring semester studying 1 Peter with a group of women from my church, my One Verse is from 1 Peter:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3:15

Learn each word, ONE by ONE.

Study each word in your One Verse. With the help of an English dictionary, record definitions and make a list of synonyms and antonyms.

Look up several different translations to see how they compare. This adds layer upon layer of meaning. Spend time examining the Greek or Hebrew meaning of key words. (Blue Letter Bible is a good place to start.)

Study the book and chapter that house your One Verse.

Understanding the time, audience, and culture is so vital to studying scripture, because it helps provide some much needed context. With an entire year to sink into these words of God, take a deep breath and take your time!

Record findings, questions, and pray throughout the entire process. Dig deep!

Make memorization an art project.

Create a piece of art centered around your One Verse. Display your One Verse in a spot that gets your daily attention.

1 Peter 3:15

1 Peter 3:15 artwork for iPhone 6

Whether it involves putting the words to a melody or painting them across a canvas, don’t limit yourself. I saved this graphic as my screen saver on my iPhone, because I know I’ll look at it multiple times a day.

If you want to create your own digital art, try using picmonkey.com. Upload a photo or use one of the free backgrounds or effects. If you need help on sizing for iPhone, click here. (Be sure to leave room for the time and date on the home screen.)

May 2017 be filled with fresh beginnings, heart-pounding adventures, and breathtaking moments alone with your Creator! Share your One Verse in the comments below. We’re in this thing together.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

 

 

5

The Most Difficult yet Necessary Act of Mothering

I didn’t expect tears on the first day of school. Honestly, I didn’t. But after saying goodbye to my two smiling kindergarteners, my own tears nearly drown me in a sea of unexpected emotion I couldn’t quite explain. I’m sure I wasn’t the only mother having her own private ugly cry from within the confines of her now empty vehicle.

I guess I should have seen it coming.

For the better part of a week, I tried my hardest to get out from underneath the tension of it all. No matter how prepared you think you are, certain moments in life suck the wind right out of you, and I’m learning to accept the normalcy of it.

The Most Difficult yet Necessary Act of Mothering

The moments that take our breath away also make us feel most alive.

I looked up the word kindergarten, because that’s what you do when you suddenly find yourself immersed in a silent house with your own uncontrolled emotion and a toddler who hasn’t started running her mouth just yet.

The German word, kindergarten, literally means “garden of children.” The word is rooted in kindness. When I kiss my girl and my boy goodbye each morning, I can’t get this picture out of my mind. I have an unsettled awareness that feels a whole lot like waiting for seeds to grow.

The seeds, no longer in my grasp, are tucked deep within the dirt where real growth will take place. I can’t see evidence that they’re growing just yet. I can’t protect them or hold them; all I can do is watch and wait. This is part of their journey, and it is part of mine, too.

So much of motherhood takes place in life’s waiting room.

Shadows of the unknown loom large and scary overhead in these moments. When I pray, an answer comes in the form of two simple words. Let go. I cringe every time I hear them.

From those first steps across the kitchen floor to the ones down the aisle in a pretty chapel, letting go initiates every new season in a mother’s life. Our role is to let go and let those seeds fall into place. It is the most difficult yet necessary act of mothering.

On days I feel particularly uncertain or even unwilling to let go, I rehearse this truth: Seeds must be planted in order to grow. Though the sower must provide water, sunlight, and good soil, the sower has very little to do with what happens underneath the surface.

The dark, unseen territory of growth belongs to God.

Paul used this same analogy in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7) As moms, we nurture those entrusted to us.  Taking our instruction from Him,  we teach them the best way we know how. Who they grow up to become is God’s business.

Some days I remember this well, and other days I want to kneel down and dig until dirt cakes underneath my fingernails. I want to feel the assurance and comfort and control of those seeds in my hand again. I want so badly to believe it’s all up to me.

Digging up seeds in an attempt to ward off change only interrupts the beauty of God’s design.

I’ve been telling myself a few things when my fingers start to get that itch to dig. Maybe these words will calm your restless fingertips, too, because God knows we’re all in this together.

God’s got this, and God’s got them. Everything He does is always good. Change, though unsettling to any mother-heart, is part of God’s design. Yet there’s such peace in knowing that God Himself never ever changes.

His love for our children is greater than our own. His protection and provision for them extends farther than we can imagine. God’s purpose for their lives is much greater than our comfort zone.

Letting go is the equivalent to surrender, and surrender always leads me back to Jesus. When I think about who He is and all He has promised, I remember that I can trust Him… completely. And so can you.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

4

The Space Between Beginning and Completion

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

All good things must begin. Even so, beginnings are hard. The gap between beginning and completion can be daunting. Today doesn’t feel much like the beginning, but I guess in some ways it still is.

In the very beginning, God whispered two words to me. Just two. It’s taken my heart a long while to absorb them. As I held my week old baby girl, the words paper butterfly meant absolutely nothing to me. Not yet anyway. My heart stirred with just as much excitement as wonder, and I tucked those two words away and waited for God to explain Himself.

A few months later, I stood spellbound in the middle of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. I witnessed something sacred as I stood on the other side of thick, clear glass. Vulnerable butterflies fought their way out of dead, crusty casings which had kept them hidden. The struggle seemed familiar somehow.

Wings marked the transformation. Wet and flimsy, they were not at all what I was expecting. I assumed that once the butterflies emerged, they’d be strong enough to fly. I wasn’t expecting frailty or weakness; I was rooting for immediate transformation. After all, The Hungry Caterpillar makes it all look so simple and carefree.  Transformation is a process, a changing of character or nature.

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Transformation is always miraculous, yet never immediate.

The glass window was a mirror that day. God peeled back the veil and invited me to see how His love not only saved me, but is changing me. He demonstrated His love through Jesus, who struggled on my behalf and made it possible for me to escape death. He broke out of the tomb so I could break free from sin’s grip.

Without Jesus, I would still be dead; I would still be in hiding. Jesus gave His life so that I could spend the rest of mine being transformed by His perfect love. I realized that day at the museum a vast expanse of God’s love was left undiscovered in my own heart.

When we made our way in to the butterfly habitat, I was mesmerized by millions of beautiful creatures taking flight. No two seemed alike. Each had its very own flight pattern. It was peaceful and overwhelming all at once.

Only one snatched my breath away. While others flapped and flitted, this butterfly glided effortlessly. Others flashed striking colors, but this one had translucent black and white wings that allowed the sunlight to pour through. I was drawn to the way something greater seemed to carry it along. With outstretched wings, this butterfly rode the wind. No effort, no rush, no trying to be something other than ordinary.

The image of the black and white butterfly lingered long after we loaded the kids back up and drove home. I eventually learned its name. It was no surprise that the creature that mimics paper floating through the air is called a rice paper butterfly or paper kite. God began a conversation that day that led me to this simple discovery: We were made to soar, not strive.

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God never begins something He won’t finish.

This really isn’t even the beginning.  God has always known me, and He’s always known you. The space between beginning and completion can be a struggle. It can be messy, and it can be hard, but Jesus entered that space and dealt with the part we never could.

This in-between space is about discovering the One who thought of you in the very, very beginning. It’s about laying down everything you carry so that love—Love who sacrificed everything—can carry you, in His arms, back to the Father.

Philippians 1:6 says this: He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  

This good work is the good news, and it existed before time began. It wasn’t just a solution to the world’s sin problem. The good news of Jesus Christ is an ever present expression of the Father’s heart toward you and me.

Jesus carried your burden to the cross; He carried all the shame and all the guilt; He felt the full weight of being separated from God. His last words were, “It is finished.”

Jesus longs to speak these words of completion over our striving, over our trying to be a little bit better than yesterday, over our working our way back to God. He is the only Way back, and He is the only Way out. He is the only Way to new life.

God is telling His story through our simple and fragile lives. Because this story is good and because this story is true, God can be trusted to carry us all the way through completion. I invite you on a journey you won’t ever outgrow. Let’s discover Him together. Let’s rest in the beauty of this truth . . .

We were made to be carried by love.

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