Tag Archives | small

Maybe You Need a Creative Vacation

“Maybe you need a creative vacation,” my husband said to me last week. He was right; I needed one in the worst way. I took his advice and marked it on my calendar, just in case I walked away from that conversation and changed my mind. Words straight from scripture cycled through my mind over and over during my choice to step away from my creative work for a bit.

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 12:1-2 (NIV)

Paul encouraged believers to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to God, and creativity is part of me. Made in the image of a creative God who spoke stars into existence and whose breath marked the sea’s boundary, my creativity is an extension of His own.

When God rested on the seventh day of creation, He deemed it holy. Rest wasn’t something God needed; He wasn’t exhausted or spent. He knew the ones created in His image would look to Him for guidance; after all, He is the source of all creativity. He showed us how and why we need rest.

To rest is to stop, reflect, and remember. Rest recalibrates our inhale and exhale. It’s a holy invitation and an essential part of the creative process.

Rest is more than celebration; rest is worship.

God knew we would struggle with this one, so He demonstrated it at the very beginning in love. Sabbath is an invitation to practice rest week after week, because we forget. Sure we know we need sleep, but we forget that we are not God. Our limitations are not shameful, nor shocking to God in the least.

When God rests from His creative work, He doesn’t cease to be Creator. One of the many vast differences between us and God is that we are created, and He is Creator. The many limitations of our humanity are opportunities for God to work… in us.

Creative Vacation

God produces His best creative work through surrendered hearts. It’s always been this way, even when we resist the process. God works in ways we least expect, for His thoughts vary wildly from ours, and His ways soar exceedingly higher. He works in the small, unseen spaces to display His power in our weakness, to reveal His plan in our stillness, to make known His will through humble worship.

If it’s been too long since you’ve celebrated the work He’s done in you, maybe you need a creative vacation, too. The most crucial lesson I’ve learned this past week is that God can accomplish so much more in my resting than in my creating. This empty space has re-aligned my heart with His. It’s helped me remember who I am, and more importantly, who I am not.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

0

The Ministry of Morning Dew

As we walked to the bus stop, they asked the usual big kid questions (how, why, when) concerning the tiny droplets of water covering our lawn and everybody else’s. I reached way back to retrieve a solid explanation from my science teaching days. The word condensation left my lips (or was it precipitation?) with the same amount of grace I muster up each time I try to fold a fitted sheet into a neat square stack.

After completely confusing them, I finally said, “Guys, I’m not really sure. Dew just happens overnight, when we’re all fast asleep.” We moved onto a new topic, but I was aware of the sense that they had settled.

We all knew I hadn’t really answered the question.

When dew shows up the very next morning in Psalm 110, I prepare myself for a better explanation of the early morning mystery. I record verse 3 in my journal, a little confused yet trusting I’m on the verge of something sacred.

Photo by Jonas Weckschmied on Unsplash

Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. Psalm 110:3 ESV

Psalm 110 depicts God the Father speaking to God the Son.  I learn that it is one of the most cited passages in the New Testament. Yet, in my bible (the one I’ve read for the past seven years) not one verse is underlined. The margin where I normally scribble illegible notes to myself is completely blank.

I settle in, curious as to how these very words quoted by Paul, the gospel authors, and even Jesus Himself could have slipped through my grasp. How could I have missed this? Matthew Henry explains that the dew of your youth “is a numerous, illustrious, hopeful show of young people flocking to Christ, which would be to the world as dew to the ground, to make it fruitful.”

Dew is refreshing, but also purposefully mysterious.

I start thinking of my oldest girl’s tender heart, how she leans in to drink the things of God. A couple months ago, she claimed Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Her King and Priest, as this passage also declares.

Photo by A&A Newborn Photography

When we went to meet with sweet Miss Maggie, her Children’s Minister, I panicked when I realized I never wrote down the date of her life-changing decision. It was summer, or had school started? I couldn’t remember. The conversations spread out over days, months even. This giving her heart to Jesus was a long time coming. It occurred in the hiddenness of her own heart prompted by her own seven-year-old prayer.

As we sat there with Miss Maggie in October—everything got pushed back a bit thanks to Hurricane Harvey—I started to categorize this as another “mom-fail.” Then ever-so-gently, God assured my momma heart that my girls’ decision to follow Him stretches far beyond a single day, a single moment, a single prayer.

He’s been pursuing her heart for her whole entire life. This, too, is a phenomenon like the morning dew; it’s hard to pin down a certain date, a certain starting place, a certain measurable quantity. God knows the exact moment she handed Him her heart.

The hiddenness defines the beauty.

Eugene Peterson, in his book As Kingfishers Catch Fire, connects the phrase from the womb of morning to Mary’s womb delivering Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s covenant and refreshment of hearts. Gorgeous if you stoop low enough to notice, yet much easier to miss. Peterson relates the spectacular, dominating metaphors of royal king and holy priest to something altogether unexpected: the early morning birth of a baby who came to save the world.

Like dew, we celebrate His arrival every December, marvel at His beauty, share in His glorious refreshment. It suits Jesus to use an overlooked metaphor. Most days we walk right by unless we’re paying close attention. But those of us who dare to lean in a little get a sacred glimpse of His power and righteousness in this tangible phenomenon that greets us morning by morning.

On the soggiest winter morning, this brave girl of ours was baptized by her daddy in front of all her family and friends.

Outside under heavy fog and in full view of the glistening dew, she got to show everyone she loves that she now belongs to Jesus.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 ESV

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

0

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. Just as unsure of the future as we are, 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

2

What Can Outweigh All the Suffering in the World?

A quick trip to Colorado this summer uncovered a beautiful aspect of God’s creation. Stunned by layers on top of layers of solid, unmoving rock, I began to wonder how my understanding of God as my Rock would become crucial in the next season of change.

I really had no idea what was ahead. In mid-August, I braced myself for a million minor changes like a new school for the kids and other small beginnings; by the end of the month, Harvey had changed my community forever.

Every attempt to capture on camera what moved my heart in those Colorado mountains only led to frustration. Even when I tried to express on paper what had inspired awe in me, I couldn’t come up with the words. I found my struggle to articulate the beauty before me extremely uncomfortable.

God gave me a phrase to sink into: Rock of Ages.

Rock of Ages seemed too massive and weighty when I tried to grasp its deepest meaning. The further I prodded, the less sure of myself I became. Maybe that’s right where God wanted me.

Rock of Ages

Months later, now surrounded by images of devastation and the very opposite of beauty, I recognize that same frustration and discomfort. During the last few weeks, when I scroll through my social media newsfeed, the most common caption is this: “No words.” And there aren’t any that can describe, explain, alleviate what remains after disaster. Words cannot possibly convey the heavy, heavy heartbreak of extensive homelessness and upheaval.

Devastation has crept up to my doorstep forcing me to notice, yet suffering lies in every nook and cranny of this groaning world. Fires, floods, earthquakes, persecution, hatred, violence… all hover beneath that banner of indescribable suffering.

In the absence of adequate words, we face our own vulnerability.

Vulnerability not only feels uncomfortable, it well acquaints us with frustration and confusion. We can’t control suffering or catalogue it; we can’t box it in or fix it. No formula or bulleted list will help.

Moses led a people more comfortable with another rock. Though I wish this idea was foreign, I completely get it. Humanity craves clarity, definition, control. We’ll take a tidy checklist over an inconceivable glory just to avoid facing our own vulnerability. We don’t naturally move towards discomfort or dependence.

But when we take this collective picture of indescribable suffering—whether death or divorce or disaster—and hold it up to the Rock who has remained constant throughout all of time, the need for understanding is washed away by mercy. And rich, rich love. The most grace-filled words in all of Jesus’ ministry were these: “Come to me.”

Our indescribable Rock is the only One who knows just what to do with indescribable pain.

I’m tempted to boil it down to a simple equation: unfathomable pain meets inconceivable glory, as if they are two equal and opposite poles. This is entirely false. If we wanted to compare, to sort out the difference, we’d have to examine the extent of each.

In every layer of rock, I saw the depth of God’s character. His love, mercy, goodness, faithfulness like bands of strength, visible and solid, trusted and true.

Hold up suffering to the Rock Eternal, and we find a vast difference in weight.

When Paul wrote about suffering and glory, he used a word to examine this difference. He assigned our seen suffering and God’s unseen glory with the terms, transient and eternal.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

Nothing about the suffering here on earth feels light, but Paul was making a case for comparison here. The word that translates in English as “beyond all comparison” is the Greek word hyperbolḗ. We use hyperbole to illustrate extravagance; we rarely take these figures of speech literally. They amplify, enhance, and exaggerate the truth.

Hyperbolḗ means beyond all measure.

Most hyperboles sound incredible, but they just aren’t true. This weight of glory beyond all comparison is every bit true as it is awesome.

Suffering has a definite beginning and a definite end. Pain and loss entered the world at the fall; we find every detail recorded on the pages of Genesis. In Revelation, we read that all suffering will come to an end when Jesus returns. He is the beginning and the end, the One who was and is and is to come.

We don’t need formulas, descriptions, or human attempts to alleviate suffering. We need faith in Jesus and constant, daily reminders that we will one day see Him face to face.  And on that day, our only response will be indescribable praise.

When we embrace our own vulnerability, we find ourselves embraced by Christ, the living Stone.

Scripture References

You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:18 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4 (NIV)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 (NIV)

8

The Simple Side of Faith

My man and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary back in May by taking a kid-free trip to Napa Valley. The gorgeous scenery and fine wine were just the backdrop. The quiet was everything I knew it would be and more. Getting away reminded me just how much I love hanging out with this guy.

Napa Valley

At each vineyard we visited, I caught myself considering Jesus’ words from John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” I don’t often think of farming when I pour a glass of cabernet, but I learned that wine-making is a complex process.

The intricate relationship between the vine and the branches drew my heart to the sovereignty of the One who oversees the growth in my own heart.

The care with which the vine is tended, the way the fruit matures, and the process that manifests itself in a beautiful bottle of wine is anything but simple. Such extensive labor and creativity goes into making wine that we heard it called art.

We are the Father’s work of art, ever changing and growing, becoming more beautiful with time.

Later in the week, I grabbed my bible and read more of Jesus’ words in John 15, certain that He wanted to speak to me though this intriguing illustration. In just ten verses, He repeats the word remain eleven times. Abide, another interchangeable term, means to continue to be present, to be held or kept.

In my everyday moments, this looks like resting in God’s thoughts about me; it looks like claiming my identity in Christ, the true vine. When I take every thought captive and line it up with the truth in God’s word, I realize my part really is breathtakingly simple.

Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The times I’m most defeated, discouraged, and doubtful are the times I’m trying so hard to bear fruit on my own. Jesus says it’s not possible.

Apart from His love, nothing will grow.

I am the vine; you are the branches.

His love is the only love that’s pure and perfect and able to produce good in us.

Jesus continues, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9, 16-17)

After Jesus describes His own extravagant love, He gives the command, Love one another.

It’s beautifully straightforward yet I wrestle with the simplicity of it.

It’s beautifully straightforward, yet I wrestle with the simplicity of it.

Jordan Feliz has a song called Simple. These lyrics resonate particularly well with my soul: “In my dirt you call me worth it…” Sometimes, it’s so hard to receive perfect, unconditional love.

This occasional struggle in my soul plays out when I look to another love to sustain and carry me, when I’m anything but present to the whisper of the Spirit, or when I all-out reject my God-given identity, because accepting God’s love means I have nothing to prove and my selfish ambition becomes just a hair skeptical of this lavish love Jesus offers.

Receiving God’s love doesn’t have to be complex.

God does all the work. All we do is trust Him, believe Him, and let His love carry us. Then we watch how it changes the way we love others.

God is responsible for planting, tending, pruning, and plucking. This part is hard, complex. The produce at the end of harvest holds endless possibilities and combinations. Every minute detail gets adjusted to achieve the desired outcome.

The farmer—that’s God—is responsible for planting, tending, pruning, and plucking.

Harsh frost, direct sunlight, and changing seasons pose all kinds of threats to the fruit growing on the vine. Farmers use windmills to move cool mountain air along down the valley so frost cannot damage the grapes. They even consider the angle of the sunlight onto the fruit in the planting process.

The branches are not responsible for these challenges; they are the Vinedresser’s responsibility, and He knows exactly what He’s doing. The fruit He produces lasts for eternity.

Jesus, the true vine and true way back to the Father’s love, took care of the complicated part for us.

The vine produces fruit; the branches bear the fruit. This part is natural and straightforward and overwhelmingly… simple. But our part also requires a response: obey. “Do what He tells you,” wise words straight from the mother of the One who changed water into wine.

Abide in my love and my love pours out of you.

Fruit takes time. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit we can count on when we’re united with Christ: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

This isn’t a list of rules, but a list of character traits, evidence of how deeply our character is altered when we put on the righteousness of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t a remedy for our sin; it’s evidence of Christ in us.

Christ is the only remedy we need.

Abide in my love and my love pours out of you.

Simple yet so complex. Profound in every way. Let’s leave the complicated part to Him and rest in the simplicity of reckless love.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

4

Destined for Hard Times

Nothing prepared me for this. I mean nothing. I had seen flat, two-dimensional pictures, sure. My mind held a handful of facts, all amazing, but some things in life must be experienced in person for a deeper meaning to take root. My trip with my husband to Muir Woods this spring was one of them.

Muir Woods

It was only our first day of vacation, so we were still easing into that slow, unrushed pace. Distraction had not yet been fully chased away by rest. The fresh California air was helping, though.

My husband chuckled at my choice of shoes, playfully grabbed my hand, and assured me that we would take a leisure Sunday stroll rather than an intense off-the-path hike through the park. As we walked, we tipped our heads way back to peak at the towering redwoods whose branches jutted up into the clouds.

Muir Woods

“You know that the seeds of these things are tiny, right?” he said.

I hadn’t given it much thought. I mean, I know about the mustard seed, how size often has little to do with presence. We walked and talked, took selfies and shook our heads at the possibility of such gigantic trees. We snapped a picture of a cone that was the size of my thumb. Just one cone will shed anywhere between 30-100 seeds.

redwood cone actual size

As I absorbed these facts, something remarkable stood out to me: For seeds to germinate and grow into these gigantic trees, they must fall on fresh mineral soil that has somehow been exposed, either by fire, flood, or the downfall of an established tree.

A fire, flood, or fall helps a tree mature.

That same morning, I read Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica. Timothy’s role was to encourage believers that the presence of suffering shouldn’t leave them unsettled. Though trials themselves are always a genuine struggle, Paul urged them to not be shaken in their faith. His words apply to our hearts as well.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 1 Thessalonians 3:2-3

We are destined for hard times.

Floods may convince us we’re drowning and alone, fires often hint that God failed us, and every fall can feel final somehow, yet these things help us grow.

We look forward to an eternal paradise, but we are destined for trials here on earth. Appointed is another way to put it. When God anointed David as king, He appointed him as Saul’s main enemy. David was destined for this, because He was an integral part of the story God was telling. If you’re in Christ, you are an integral part of the story, too.

Paul shared his deep concerns about the church’s faith: In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5

Paul feared trials would cause them to abandon their faith.

Timothy reported back to Paul that their faith remained intact and was strengthened, just as Paul had hoped and prayed. Paul’s response makes me think of the redwoods that grow tall and strong from small, vulnerable seeds buried in some unshaken ground.

For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:8

redwoods

Suffering considered purposeless is suffering wasted.

Trials, persecution, suffering. All things we pray away and do our best to avoid. Sometimes, we forget to look for God in our heartache. Through every flood, fire, and fall, God prepares our hearts for something truly amazing.

0

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

Just a Bird

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

Together, we hung thin braches on her bedroom wall and arranged colorful birds framed in various sizes above her bed. I printed out Jesus’ words about the sparrows and placed them near her mirror where we brush her hair.

After scrubbing hot pink and lime green paint out from underneath my fingernails, I gave her wall one last look—stenciled outlines depicting birds on a line—and I prayed this whole bird thing wasn’t a fast phase.

When she turned six, we updated her bedroom from toddler to big girl, and she was super clear about what she wanted. Birds. Everywhere birds. Every kind of bird.

In the remaking of a little girl’s bedroom, I caught a peek at her heart’s kindness towards God’s smallest creatures.

But I glimpsed something else, too.

Adorable is her favorite word to describe the common blackbirds and jays that visit our trees in the backyard. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when her fascination with birds began. I didn’t pay much attention to it until last Christmas.

With unshakable confidence, she walked right up to Santa Claus and asked him to bring her a book that would help her learn more about birds. Santa’s face crinkled the same way mine did when she revealed her uncommon wish list. But with a wink, her wish was as good as granted.

To this day, she carries her prized gift, a North American Bird Guide, in her backpack to school, just in case she spots a bird on the way.

She’s learned how to identify them based on their size, color, and habits. She can tell you which birds hang around all year round and which ones are just migrating through.

I’ve always thought of a bird as just a bird.

The word that comes to mind is hardly adorable when I look out the window and see one perched on the fence out back. Everyday. Common. Ordinary sounds more like it.

But my bird-girl doesn’t see “just” birds. She recognizes each and every feature—from ruby red throats to the color of their bellies—and understands how these distinguish them as completely unique.

Swallows, jays, mallards, wood ducks, starlings, robins, egrets, hummingbirds, chickadee, hawks, mockingbirds, meadowlarks, kingfisher, doves, blackbirds, and sparrows.

We can’t go to the zoo without stopping at the corner where exotic parrots, long-legged flamingos, and peacocks strut their stuff. Eagles and vultures and even the tiniest feathered creatures captivate her heart in ways I’ll never understand.

She bought a bird feeder and wild bird seed with her tooth fairy money, and her daddy hung in from the oak in the backyard. Armed with her bird guide and a pair of binoculars, she sat and waited for them to come. She waited and waited. And waited.

The squirrels found the seed first, but my girl never gave up hope. For two long months, she waited.

Then one day, squeals of pure little girl delight broadcasted the arrival of a full flock of birds to our lawn out back. They rocked that feeder, two at time, with aggressive determination. Red-winged blackbirds and brown, speckled sparrows.

With a beautiful kind of wonder, I watched my girl watch those birds.

I’ve yet to shake the feeling.

They say that artists leave a piece of their heart behind in everything they create. God does the same, I think. I see a glimpse of His kindness right there in the heart of a six-year-old girl who loves the birds He made and cares for.

Jesus’ words refresh my heart today—the very ones we framed and hung in my bird-girl’s room so she’d never forget, the same words my heart needs especially today. Maybe you need them, too?

You are more valuable than many sparrows.

In our house, there is no such thing as “just a bird,” and in God’s kingdom, there is no such thing as just a wife, just a mom, just a daughter, just a (you fill in the blank.) You are so much more.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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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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