Tag Archives | humility

A Stereotypical Scene

I carefully take each wooden figure out of the box and arrange them underneath the sloped stable frame. Wise men crowd in, shepherd accompany sheep and donkey. Every figure points to the tiniest among them. He is the center, the reason they all gather, the reason I take such care to recreate this birth scene in my own living room each year.

Others will unpack this same identical nativity set. They’ll haul it down from attics or pluck it off fully stocked shelves. Though cut from a pattern, it’s a beautiful scene.

I get to thinking about the process of cutting each block of wood, sanding and shaping each wise man, each shepherd, each baby Jesus in his manger. I consider the general mold that must be used. Cookie cutter stables. Familiar figures whose full stories remain unknown. This is the setting where divine Love intersected humanity. This is the site where a Savior was born.

Hardly a stereotypical scene.

Stereotype is reminiscent of the dated practice of printing by means of a metal plate. “Solid type” is its most literal meaning. Yet its negative connotations are the ones I’m considering as I arrange twinkle lights around this ordinary wooden nativity scene.

God reminds me through His word how the world crammed this story into unfair and untrue confines. Pregnant teen. Naïve fiancé. Illegitimate baby. Poor shepherds. Rich kings. Dirty stable. This one of a kind scene was perhaps one of the most misunderstood.

As people who’ve been assigned to our own share of stereotypes and burdened with painful misunderstanding, this nativity story offers much needed hope and a new beginning.

The world had never witnessed a birth story quite like this one and they would never see another. This nativity story was hand crafted by the Creator Himself and set in motion before time began. No mold was needed, no pattern to replicate necessary. This story doesn’t fit neatly into any tidy box, nor was it what anyone expected, but one thing was true then and is still true today:

On that holy night, God called this scene good.

God called Mary and Joseph into His plan. Mary fulfilled the bloodline and Joseph the legal lineage for the long-awaited Savior King. Both made an incredible sacrifice as they agreed with the words spoken by angels and stepped into God’s story. Their willingness to be used by God was more powerful than the constricting stereotypes thrust upon them.

No stereotype can prevent God’s plan to birth something beautiful in all of us.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18 ESV

Found. Like a dirty secret kept hidden now precariously exposed. Except it wasn’t dirty, nor would it remain a secret for long. No, this was the greatest treasure to ever be discovered on earth.

Mary was not found out; she found her life in Him.

Joseph considered divorce, yet he knew that the punishment for women caught in adultery was death. Many would judge this birth as sinful and impure. The angel that visited Joseph assured him that what was conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit. Would Joseph risk dishonor and choose to believe God?

Mary’s reputation and her own life were on the line, and when Joseph agreed to stand by her, he placed his own reputation right there with hers. Over in Luke’s account we get to hear Mary’s response to her own personal angelic message.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. Luke 1:38 ESV Then Mary responded with song, a sign her heart was fixed on one thing and one thing only: God’s glorious story unfolding.

What seemed like a curse in the world’s eyes was God’s most precious blessing.

Mary and Joseph were misunderstood yet they understood God’s message. They were lonely, but they carried the Savior of the world with them. They were just as unsure of the future as we are, but they treasured the good news in their hearts. They were judged unfairly and rejected by man, but chosen and honored by God.

Jesus would put his reputation on the line as well. He would be misunderstood as a young boy with gifts and perspectives no one else held. Rumors of illegitimacy would follow Jesus all the way to the cross. (See John 8:19, 41) His own brothers, James and Jude, (who would go on to write the Spirit-inspired new testament books that bear their names) did not believe Jesus was the Son of God until after His death and resurrection.

God chose the most vulnerable, marginalized vessel to birth His salvation plan. Though the stereotypes were harsh and untrue, Mary wasn’t sinless and she certainly wasn’t fearless. Mary was human like the rest of us, but she made herself available to be used by God.

God chose you to birth something extraordinary, too.

Your vulnerability, mistakes, and doubts are the very things that qualify you. We all need saving and God chose to save us by giving us Jesus. Our minds can’t fathom it. Fear convinces us we’re the wrong choice. But the wonder and mystery draws us in, and we take a moment to consider it. How can this be?

How can this be… because of me?

Yet it’s true. We can’t come this close to glory and turn back. Our faces shine and our hearts understand this one thing: much is at stake. So, we say yes. Yes, let your word be unto me. Yes, Jesus, have your way. Use me as your vessel. Birth new life in this humble heart.

God invites us to release our reputation, our plans, and our entire lives to Him. How will it look? A lot like this simple nativity scene. Humble, vulnerable, inconvenient, and misunderstood. Yet when the life and death of Christ are applied to this unexpected story, we see what we couldn’t before. We see a brand-new scene that’s part of a bigger story.

A gorgeous, one of a kind nativity scene that shatters every stereotype ever conceived.

John, the one Jesus charged with watching over His mother as He hung from the cross, recorded these words in red: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26 ESV

May we all take our lead from Mary and boldly declare, I am the Lords servant. Let it be to me according to His plan. May we find courage to belt out our own praises to God as stereotypes, like Jericho walls, come tumbling down.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

Kelly

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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!

 

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The Beauty of Hiddenness

At a quiet restaurant, during a night alone with no kids, I prop my elbows up on the table and confess to my man what God’s been showing me. “I have a really rebellious heart,” I tell him.

He leans in to listen, then sits back in his chair, long legs stretching underneath the tiny table we share. He chuckles lightheartedly, and quips back, “Really? You think?” I love this man. He keeps me honest in all the right ways.

Peter’s words to new believers in his first letter have uncovered a full-on rejection of authority in the deepest, most private area of my heart and mind.

Words like power and submission tumble around like weighty rocks.

Then I hear Emily Freeman, author of A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday, speak them just weeks later. Emily writes about a hunger for power, but in a familiar way that I’ve tasted. She talks about things like influence and longing for recognition, and the book that has been unraveling all of this for her.

I get my own copy and, days later, tears blur pages where someone has put into eloquent words the struggle God has unearthed in my heart through His Word. In The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel tackle this topic with grace and truth.

“In our pursuit to be more than, to transcend our weakness and frailty, we are reduced.”

The idea of hiddenness surfaces again and again as I read and mark up nearly every page of this paperback book. Peter uses the word, too, as he speaks about true beauty. All the while, God urges me to face my resistance to His way.

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4

Hiddenness runs contrary to so many things I’ve been taught are important. Things like recognition and influence. Success. Yet, through this struggle, God is uncovering a longing in my heart. Somehow, I’ve assumed that recognition and influence will lead to connection.

Hidden is not the same as hiding.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15

Every secret part of us lays open before a loving God. We can’t truly hide from Him, but we can wear ourselves out trying. While hiding prevents all connection, hiddenness in Christ provides the only path to authentic connection.

Goggin and Strobel describe two ways: “The way of the dragon is fixated on the spectacular, obsessed with recognition and validation, intoxicated by fame and power. The way of the Lamb is committed to worship, pursues God in the ordinary, and is faithful in hiddenness.”

In the personal, mysterious, and creative manner that God speaks, He weaves together His word, wisdom from others, and my own prayers offered in desperation into a visual that I finally understand.

Two simultaneous pictures flash through my mind one morning as I pray.

The Teacher tailors lessons to fit our time and place and wiring. Both images depict identical shades of rich orange and deep black, but only one has personal significance for me. A majestic tiger juxtaposed with a frail and fragile Monarch butterfly represents the deep power struggle in my heart that needs the salve of God’s loving truth.

The draw to power finds roots in a desire for control.

Yet, God has laid out His way, the narrow, small way where weakness wins and the last is first. Where surrender is daily and humility manifests through submission.

If I asked you which creature demonstrates power, you’d probably choose the tiger, right? Recognizing power in a delicate butterfly isn’t our natural inclination. “[James] tells us that the way from below masquerades as the way from above,” Goggin and Strobel point out.

We need God’s help to distinguish between the two.

Years ago, inside a breathtaking butterfly exhibit, with such intimacy I’ll likely never forget it, God showed me how He created me to soar as a butterfly. Speaking directly into my striving, my not enough mindset, He gave me a glimpse of the transformation He promised in my heart if I trusted Him to do the work.

Yet, here I am rejecting this way, longing for something bigger, something seemingly more powerful. God created us to be small and frail and dependent on Him for a reason.

A butterfly demonstrates a whole different kind of power.

Though ordinary, common, and often unnoticed, a butterfly displays God’s power to transform His creation. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

Hidden is translated krypto, which means to escape notice or conceal (that it may not become known). We get the word Krypton from this Greek word. Krypton is an inert, monatomic gaseous element, found in very small amounts in the atmosphere and often used to light certain fluorescent lamps.

Powerless, small, hidden. Our lives are but a vapor, yet God designed us to reveal His power through our weakness.

God’s glory shines out of hiddenness.

During that same trip to the butterfly museum with my family, my oldest daughter asked if the butterflies would land on her. I told her not to get her hopes up, but secretly asked God to make this happen for her.

She walked around that whole blasted place with her arm held out, just hoping a butterfly would land on her teeny, tiny perch. And you know what? I wished I had earplugs with all her squealing and carrying on when a single, solitary butterfly in all its glorious smallness landed on her arm.

In this sweet, vivid memory, God etches His truth on my heart:

While a tiger can be admired from afar, only a butterfly is free to truly connect.

“Recollection is not merely remembering, but re-collecting the truth of oneself in Christ. We need recollection because we are prone to lose ourselves to things other than God in search of power and value,” Goggin and Strobel write.

Recollect us to You, Jesus. Teach us the way of worship and humility, and show us the beauty of our hiddenness in You.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

On the way to baggage claim, I listened to the message my doctor’s office had left while I was 36,000 feet in the air. I had just landed in North Carolina for a writer’s conference and happened to be four months pregnant.

The nurse’s words came at the worst possible time. My test results were in, and I needed a prescription filled immediately. My plan for a quiet evening was suddenly hijacked. Finding a ride to the pharmacy was not on my travel agenda.

Neither was the profound and unexpected conversation I had with a complete stranger.

How a Taxi Driver Influenced My View on Success

When my prescription was ready later that evening, I waited outside as the hotel shuttle pulled up to the curb. I needed a ride to the Walmart ten minutes away.  Other conference attendees requested rides to restaurants and the local mall. My stop was the last one since Walmart was the furthest.

The driver asked me questions about what I did. His name was Dale. He made hats for a living. A blue and gray driving cap adorned his head. Dale wasted no time revealing that he knew Jesus. I shared my inferiority in a sea brimming with talent and my initial hesitancy to even attend this writer’s conference. I felt like I didn’t quite belong.

As I listened to him speak, I caught hints of contentment laced all throughout his words.

At a stoplight, he slowed the van to a halt and turned to face me. He said, “You know, Miss Kelly, artists like us, we got to listen to the Spirit of God. God created us to create. If we get caught up in what the world calls success, then we really aren’t all that different from the rest of them, are we?”

I nodded in agreement. Maybe it was always God’s plan to fly me across the country for this one conversation with a hat-making-taxicab-driver named Dale.

I took lots of notes at that conference. I learned so much in those three days. Yet Dale’s words were the ones that played over and over in my head; they resonate even today, two and a half years later.

God knew I needed to hear those words in the worst way.

Dale didn’t need a microphone on a stage to deliver words of influence. The business card he handed me has long been misplaced. It had the shuttle service number at the bottom and a blank line across the middle. Underneath were the words WRITE DRIVER’S NAME HERE in tiny caps.

His name never appeared on a conference program or a screen with his credentials; he didn’t seem to need evidence that his art was successful. His name wasn’t even printed on the business cards he handed people. Maybe because He was in the business of making God’s name known.

Lately I’ve been reading this passage in Romans:

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 11:36-12:2

What if God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is for me to live small?

What if that’s His plan so that I can worship Him properly for the rest of my time here on earth?

Living small goes against the flow of this selfie-saturated world. I’ve been convicted lately that in many ways my life doesn’t look all that different. Sometimes I look, think, and act just like those who don’t know Jesus. His presence in my heart should make a vibrant difference.

There’s a power struggle going on in my heart, an all-out battle with myself.

Yeah, I want to be known. I’d love someone to view my words as publish-worthy, because it would serve as evidence that I’m a real writer. I compare myself, I’m way too self-aware, and quite honestly, entitlement infiltrates my thoughts on a daily basis.

Jesus looked and talked and thought so differently during His years here on earth. He found value in the least, the spiritually bankrupt, the foolish and unimportant. Jesus was so socially awkward.  But, never wavering, He knew why He had come.

Jesus talked about the narrow way and the small gate, and He was completely honest when He said few would find it. He taught that hearts set on earthly things that waste away would only inherit treasure that fades away as well. But hearts set on the things of heaven would find their treasure secure with Him.

Our devotion fuels our pursuit.

The world often recognizes eternal treasure as foolishness. Paul warns the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform.” Conform means to be in agreement with. Chasing big means agreeing with what the world labels success. It’s building myself up to make my name known.

A life of influence never depends on a microphone and a crowd. I want to chase the kind of success that can’t be measured here on earth.

Choosing small means letting the Spirit of God guide each step rather than the latest five-step plan for success. It means spending our lives to make His name known, and counting everything secondary to knowing Him.

Small has a way of clearing the space around us so that our souls can breathe in and out with ease.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

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What I’m Learning: Summer Edition

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I get together with a group of women every Sunday night. We laugh, we cry, we pray for one another – oh, and we stuff our faces with yummy (sometimes healthy) food. It’s a safe place where we’re free to be our real selves. It’s where healing and learning and growing happens.

My favorite part is when someone shares what she’s learning.

I love hearing things like, “This is where God has me, but I don’t know why we’re here,” or “He’s teaching me about this, but I don’t quite understand it.” It’s like looking through a well lit window right into a beautiful soul where God is just doing His thing.

There is freedom in laying these lessons out on the table long before they’re tidy and clearly articulated and understood. We learn better when we process together. We need people along the way who are willing to just sit back and listen. We need people who are willing to ask us the hard questions. We need people who are willing to say, “Yeah, me too.”

Sharing what we’re learning is a lot like handing over a really messy rough draft.

There’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing something that’s still in the works. Life is all about recognizing that we are all still a work in progress. Today I’m sharing what I’m learning in hopes that it will encourage you to do the same. After all, rough drafts eventually become beautifully polished stories.

I’ve been unpacking Jesus’ response to His followers when they asked Him who was the greatest.  Jesus’ answer reveals so much about His heart and sheds some light on my own, too. Jesus’ response isn’t a recipe for how to become great; it’s a lesson on humility.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

My kids are home for summer, so there have been endless opportunities to reflect on the phrase “like little children.” Sensing that God wants me parked here this summer, I started a list of words that describe little children. Every time a new word comes to mind, I pull out my journal and jot it down. Nothing fancy – just a simple, scribbled list. This is what I’ve written so far:

L i t t l e  c h i l d r e n :

h u m b l e

s m a l l

p r e c i o u s

h o n e s t

n e e d y

d e p e n d e n t

b e l i e v i n g

t r u s t i n g

n o t   p o w e r f u l

v u l n e r a b l e

t e a c h a b l e

It’s the last one that has caused me to look at my own heart and ask, “Am I like that? Am I teachable?” Maybe it’s because of the one hundred and one questions being hurled in my general direction on a daily basis, all of which begin with the word, “Mommy,…? Mommy,…? Mommy,…?”

Little children ask questions because they don’t know, and they’re not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it.

Discovering the answer is more important than making sure no one finds out they don’t have it. Little children aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They know that the very words mark the beginning of an adventure.

So, why do these three little words feel so uncomfortable coming out of my mouth? After all, only God is all-knowing. I will never have complete or unlimited knowledge and understanding. But, I’ve started to notice how much saying this phrase frustrates me.

This summer Jesus is asking me to get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”

In Women of the Word (one of the books I shared last month), Jen Wilkin talks about how patience is part of the learning process, especially when it comes to studying God’s word. She uses the word dissonance a bunch. I looked it up in the dictionary the other day just so that I could understand it a bit better.

Dissonance is defined as “a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion; lack of harmony or agreement; tension.”

My restless soul craves completion. Engaging the dissonance between “I don’t know” and “I understand,” helps me come to terms with my limitations in light of a limitless God. Willingly entering the tension means placing myself in a position to learn.

I’m learning that humility means choosing to be teachable, and being teachable begins with saying, “I don’t know.”

What is God is teaching you this summer? Is there a phrase (like mine) that you’re learning to embrace? Leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you!

Kelly

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