“Truth be told, I never set out to be in the staffing business. Nor have I always felt a burden for the refugee community. But life’s experiences have a way of shaping our passions and experiences into purpose, don’t they?
The only thing I knew was that I liked helping people. And I realized, along the way, that business, when leveraged intentionally, could be used to do so. That simple awareness, plus a chain of extraordinary events only God could have set into motion, led me to where I am today.”
—Chapter One, "Refugee Workforce”
Everybody has a story.
In my job, I have the pleasure of clearing away the dirt, and digging up the bones of those stories, and putting them into written form.
I wrote the words above one early morning (probably 5am or so) in early spring, as I revisited chapter one of “Refugee Workforce,” as the original version just wasn’t sitting right with me.
Chapter one is built around Amplio Recruiting Founder & CEO, Chris Chancey’s story, and answers the question: “How does a middle class white guy from South Georgia find himself running a refugee staffing agency?”
Similarly, I find the question I get asked most often, recently, is, “Tell me about your book!” and when I explain it to them the second question their eyes ask is, “How did you get involved in this??”
So I think it’s time I share my story. A God story. I love sharing it with anyone who allows, because it reveals so much of His providence and goodness.
Like Chris, I never set out to be doing what I am now— realeasing a book on the value of refugees in the American workplace.
Like most people of my race and class, I did a pretty good job turning a blind eye to the refugee crisis. Sure, I saw horrific photos and videos in my newsfeed from time to time. Yet, sadly, none of that momentary heartbreak ever moved me to action.
At the beginning of 2017 I felt a stirring in my spirit. I had been working for the same nonprofit organization for a dozen years where I had grown from “administrative assistant,” managing databases and mailouts and such, to much bigger tasks like overseeing fundraisers, writing copy, and managing social media.
When my kids were little I had begun writing as a hobby. God was teaching me so much in that “season of small,” as I call it, and blogging was a good way to process it.
As the years ticked by, I realized not only was writing a good “release” for me, but I actually had a knack for it. (I probably should have realized that in middle school when I won several writing contests. Just ask God— I’m a slow learner.) In my quiet times with the Lord He would whisper to my heart sweet promises about writing books, and even “opening my mouth to speak.”
But the years kept ticking by, and it seemed nothing was happening. Most days, when I hit the “publish” button, it felt I was sending my words into outer space.
I had an idea of what life would look like as a writer, and my life didn’t seem to be headed in that direction. The discrepancy between what I heard and what I saw caused me to question.
There was one point where I pulled an “Abraham.” Giving birth to a dream that was not in God’s timing. The dream wasn’t wrong, but the season was, and when God shut it down it felt like He had stepped on my toes. A wilderness season followed, and I felt as though I would never write again.
Yet I was writing.
Website copy. Letters. E-mails. Posts.
Little did I know God was using those experiences to prepare me for what was next.
If I’m honest, I had prayed many times over my twelve years at my job that God would move me on, sometimes due to conflict, sometimes due to boredom. As immature as I was, in many ways, I'm glad I had the wisdom to know if God wasn’t moving, then neither should I.
But in early 2017 I began to get the sense that He was leading me onward.
After months of praying, and fasting, and meeting with a mentor, my mentor asked, “So when are you finally going to do something about it?”
She was only speaking to me what God had already been saying in my Spirit. I felt God was calling me to a job where I could utilize my skills in writing, but fear paralyzed me— where would I go?
I don’t even have a degree, I worried, and what marketable skills do I even have to offer?
I had become so accustomed to working from home, I hated the idea of being away from my children (even though the thought of a quiet office without “Frozen” blaring in the background sounded quite appealing).
I’d seen God move many mountains over the years. But I wondered if He could provide just the right niche.
Faith rose up within me, and I decided to take the first step.
I’ll never forget the morning I met with my boss and told her I felt like God was leading me elsewhere. I would finish out the next few months, but plan to leave at the end of the summer.
I felt ashamed, and I felt like a lunatic. I had no other job lined up, and no idea where I was headed. Just a gut instinct that it was time for the next chapter.
Faith and Fear battled for control of my mind. I needed something to hold onto— I begged God for a Word.
Then one morning in prayer, out of the blue, but as clear as day, I heard the words, “soft landing.”
I didn’t’ know what it meant, but I liked it. God was going to give me a soft landing. Whatever that was. It gave my faith the footing it needed to hold on another day.
The following weeks flew by as I focused on “leaving well” (another word from the Holy Spirit). And as the days began to count down to my last paycheck, I felt my faith dwindling.
I should probably note that we weren’t in a position where we could pay all of the bills and keep food on the table without my income. The need was immediate.
And in all of this, there were no visible signs of pending opportunity. It seemed God was silent.
Isn’t that how every God story goes?
The walls of Jericho were impenetrable, until God knocked them down.
Sarah was unable to become pregnant, until God enabled her to be so.
Noah was just a crazy man with weird yard décor, until God sent the flood.
And I would be jobless in four days, until I received a single phone call.
“Sarah Chancey” appeared across my phone. I picked up, wondering if she simply had an update on her ill father’s health.
“Hey, I know you're looking for a job. Chris is looking for someone to write stories for his company blog…” she said. Then proceeded to tell me what his company was: a staffing company, helping resettled refugees connect with jobs.
“They have the most amazing stories,” she told me. “Someone needs to write them.”
As she told me about their vision for the position, I could hardly believe it. The job checked every box, and I knew that it was a God-send. A soft landing.
I didn’t have to strive to make it happen. My job was to stay close to God, listen, obey, and trust Him.
A couple weeks later I sat down to write my first “audition” blog. My stomach was in knots.
The voice of fear was L O U D.
Who are you to do this job? It screamed. You’re not a real writer. You’re a phony. You’re a fake.
But by the grace of God I persisted on anyway. There was no denying God had signed, sealed, and delivered the job— so He must believe in me.
Come to find out, I coulddo the job. And I enjoyed it. Oh, how I enjoyed it.
I had the equal parts pleasure and heartbreak of interviewing the most incredible individuals I had ever met.
It was an absolute honor to write and share their stories. The more refugees I spoke to, the more I began to recognize the tremendous impact of employment. The more employers I spoke to, the more I began to recognize the equally tremendous impact of refugees in the workplace.
I was writing. And even though it didn’t look like anything I had imagined years before, I had the most secure feeling that I was right where I belonged.
As it turns out, y’all, God has a pretty good handle on things.
The defining lesson I’ve learned over the last decade of my life: God can be trusted with my dreams.
God is such a good Father. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need.
Had I left my previous job any earlier than He allowed, I would have thwarted the growth God was trying to produce in me.
I wasn’t trying to turn this blog into a lesson, but I’m not just a writer, I’m a teacher. So if you’re reading this and you’re in a place where your life doesn’t look like what you thought it would, keep holding on, and ask Him for a Word.
I promise He’ll give you one. And when He does, hold onto it tight and keep walking in faith, until it comes into fruition. (If you doubt it will, see Isaiah 55:11.)
So there you have it. That’s how I ended up here. Publishing my first “real” book with my name and my face on it.
I never imagined my first book would be a business-y book touting the value of a marginalized people group. But Jesus spent His life speaking love and value into people, so it only seems fitting that I should do the same in every environment He puts me into.
What a joy. What an honor. What a privilege.
So that’s my story. Well, in part.
Lord knows I could fill a book with stories of the way He’s faithfully loved and led me over the years.
Maybe I will…
It only took a week for the back-to-school meltdowns to begin.
Oh, not the kids’.
Maybe it was too ambitious of me to serve up nutritious smoothies for breakfast, after a week of solo parenting (Hubby’s been out of town for work).
Maybe it the fact that I’d been up since 3:45am to finish important work project.
Maybe it was just hormones.
Whichever “maybe” it was, my children’s lack of enthusiasm (and gratitude, ahem) struck a nerve. Apparently a very sensitive one.
So I snapped.
I saw it immediately on my Middle’s face: shame.
I wanted to stop, but my frustration-fueled words were like an unstoppable train.
I managed to compose myself and continue serving the tall glasses of frozen fruit (with a side of contempt), until Eldest informed me he wasn’t really hungry.
I won’t go into all the details of what shall henceforth be known as “The Great Smoothie Meltdown of 2019,” but I will say by the time I put my kids on the bus with a quick kiss *I* was the one who felt ashamed.
As I began my usual morning prayer walk, I didn’t want to pray. I wanted to hide.
How could you behave like that?
You call yourself a Bible teacher?
Did you see the look on his face?
You’re a terrible mom.
“Move on,” Holy Spirit’s voice interrupted my self-berating.
I took a deep breath.
Okay. I know. If I don’t stop this negative thought train it’s going to wreck my entire day. I need to acknowledge it and move on.
So I remembered that one bad moment doesn’t make me a bad mom.
I asked God to forgive me for my unloving words and actions and to help me remember the pain of the moment to fuel better self-control in the future.
I blessed my children—each one by name and made a mental note to ask their forgiveness as soon as they arrived home from school.
Okay, now I could move on.
Except I couldn’t.
As I began talking to God about other things, guilt and fear kept interrupting.
Towards the end of our walk, I heard Holy Spirit clearly, “You still haven’t moved on, have you?”
“No,” I admitted out loud, unconcerned with what the neighbors might think about the strange, sweaty woman talking to herself.
That was when I realized I was taking the wrong approach. Trying not to think about the events that had occurred only made me think about them more.
Case in point: If I tell you not to think about a penguin, is that not the first image that pops into your mind?
Instead of focusing on what I lacked, I needed to focus on what I had been given. Instead of declaring my failures, or just trying to forget about them, I needed to declare the victory.
“I have the mind of Christ,” I said. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
It was, admittedly, a slow start. Until I asked God for help. Then He reminded me--
“I am God’s workmanship. Created for good works, which God has prepared for me before I was ever born. He chose me to be Avery, Emory and Bethany’s mom.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“I am forgiven. Every sin- past, present, and future- is under the blood of Jesus from the moment I confess them.” (1 John 1:9)
“I am adopted. My Father helps me and provides everything I need.” (Romans 8:14-17)
“I am the righteousness of God, in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
As I began to declare what God says about me, instead of what I felt about myself in that moment, the shadow of shame left. I began to be filled with hope and encouragement.
I returned home to a sink full of dirty dishes.
“Remember this morning?” they seemed to taunt.
Yeah, I remember. I smiled to myself.
But I’m moving on.
The memory was still there, but it lost its power over me.
It wasn’t that I forget, I just made a decision: to move on, like God did.
I love what the author of Hebrews wrote— “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
You see, it’s not just sin that Satan uses to keep us from running our race. When Satan can't keep us entangled in sin, he'll throw guilt, fear, and shame at us in an attempt to hinder us from moving forward.
Friend, I don’t know what your “Great Smoothie Meltdown of 2019” is.
Maybe you snapped at your husband this morning.
Maybe you bombed an important project at work last week.
Maybe you found yourself gripped by an unspeakable sin years ago.
No matter the failure, no matter how long ago— God doesn’t want you to be stuck in your guilt, shame, or regret another second. He's got a race marked out for you and He sent me here to tell you— today is your day to move on.
His love and forgiveness know no bounds.
Guilt and shame have no place in you, child of God.
He is the great Restorer and Redeemer, able to make beautiful things out of the broken.
If we’ve confessed our sins and been obedient to take the appropriate actions, He’s already moved on--shouldn’t we, also?
I know it’s hard to fathom, but when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your failures. Not a single one of them.
He sees you as His beloved.
So revisit the Book, and let Him remind you who you are.
And remember this, friend:
God doesn’t need our perfection— He just needs a heart that is after Him.
So set your face like flint toward the one who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous plan, and move on.
If you know me, you know I am passionate about a lot of things.
I’m well on my way to reading 20 books in 2019. Last month I finished up “The Good Neighbor,” by Maxwell King. It’s a biography about the life and work of Fred Rogers, who I find incredibly fascinating.
Fred was adamant about producing quality children’s television in a time when many stations were only concerned with what would make them more money. He was a devout Christian, and worked many Christian morals and principles into Mr. Rogers Neighborhood episodes.
Fred studied the Bible, and was even an ordained Presbyterian minister, but he also knew there was value to scientific understanding of the way the brain worked. This led him to rely heavily on the work of child psychiatrist, Dr. McFarland, for input.
One particular paragraph from “The Good Neighbor” really stuck out to me, about the method Dr. McFarland used to teach. When teaching children about art, this is what she did:
“… when McFarland wanted to expose to the little children at the Arsenal Center to the work of a sculptor, she gave these instructions to the artist she invited to her classes: ‘I don’t want you to teach sculpting. All I want you to do is to love clay in front of the children. And that is what he did. He came once a week for a whole term and sat with the four-and-five-year olds as they played, and he ‘loved’ his clay in front of them. The children caught his enthusiasm for it, and that’s what mattered. Like most good things, teaching has to do with honesty.”
As a mom I want each of my children to not only know about Jesus but walk in deep, fulfilling relationship with Him. My desire for them to be rooted in Christ, in this shaky world, is so strong, that I often become overwhelmed at how.
What I think we can all learn from Mr. Rogers, and, of course, Dr. McFarland, is the most effective way we can make the next generation hungry for God is not by more information—but by loving Jesus in front of them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and have realized that loving Jesus in front of my children requires two things:
The truth is I can’t love Jesus, if I don’t first allow Him to love me. 1 John 4:19 tells us that “We love [God], because He first loved us,” meaning our love is simply in response to His. God’s love for me is unfailing and unending, but that doesn’t mean I am always walking in it. Let’s put it this way—If it’s raining in Georgia, but I’m in Tennessee, I’m not going to experience that rain.
God’s love is constantly pouring out on us, but many of us aren’t in a position to receive it. Insecurities, wounds from our past, and consciously walking in sin can keep God’s love from getting in.
Spend some time thinking about God’s infinite love for you. You were worth Jesus to Him.Really let it sink in. And if insecurities, wounds or sin work their way up, deal with them. There is grace for that, my friend.
Abide under the waterfall of God’s love. Let it fill you and restore you. Then, allow that love to pour out onto others, and heap it back on Him.
Here comes the second part— transparency. Transparency is often misunderstood, but it simply means this: walking out my relationship with God in front of them (with discretion).
It means letting them into my good days and my bad. Confessing my need for Jesus to help me with my attitude, or exhaustion. I tell them what I’m praying for, then we celebrate when God answers. In fact, we’ve made celebration a huge part of our life through our tradition called, “Chocolate Milk Cheers.”
For the past month our family has been praying that God would send the perfect family to purchase our home. Last week God answered beyond our wildest imagination. Since we’ve been open with our kids about the need for a buyer, they too got to celebrate God’s goodness when we received our answer.
“We prayed for that!” they squealed, as they remembered sitting in the driveway and talking to God just last Sunday. This weekend we will take time to stop and remember, and add it to our jar of answered prayers.
The only way my kids will know God is a good God—not just a fictional character, or dictator, is by taking time to recognize His constant presence, provision, and care.
What need are you currently praying for, or what has God done in your life this week that you can celebrate?
Kids don’t fall in love with art by memorizing facts, they fall in love by engaging. It’s not about having all the right words, it’s about loving Jesus in front of them.
When they see our enthusiasm, they won’t be able to resist joining in.
I made one crucial mistake when we put our house on the market: I prayed that it would be an answer to prayer for the family that would buy it.
The listing posted, and the days ticked by.
One, two, three, four, five…
The market is hot right now, I thought. God’s got this! It won’t be long before he sends the right person.
Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…
Okay, God, what is the deal? I thought for sure that we would see an offer by now.
We had been preparing for and believing for the sale of our house for months—God gave us the idea to begin with.
Maybe I should pray harder. “Okay, God, please do it!”
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty…
I know! I'll fast to show God how desperate I am.
I’m pretty sure the Big Man gets a good kick out of my frustration and antics (much like my husband). I imagine Him sitting up there with a big grin, shaking His head in amusement, waiting on me to come to this conclusion:
I can’t make the walls fall down. Only He can do that.
You see, I’ve been reading in Joshua, about the Israelites’ final days in the desert. First, the miracle crossing of the Jordan, before entering into the Promised Land. If that’s not enough to boost your faith, then I don’t know what is.
But then, the walls of Jericho. Oh, how I love this one. Who doesn’t love an overcoming-the-impossible drama?
I. Was. Pumped. Yeah, God! I’m going to keep marching around these walls until they fall!
But God began to give me a deeper revelation. As I began to study the walls of Jericho, details surfaced that challenged the way I thought about the age-old lesson.
First, the walls of Jericho were a three-tiered system. The highest wall, from where they marched, would have stood a daunting 46-feet over them. In other words: there was no way they were bringing those walls down on their own. Neither was there any way they were getting over them. And since “the gates of Jericho were tightly shut,” (Josh. 6:1) they were completely dependent on God for the victory.
God had given the Israelites very specific instructions. Mainly, walk around the town silently (except for the priests blowing horns) once a day for six days, then seven times on the seventh. Then shout loudly, and the walls would collapse.
I find it interesting that God directed them to be quiet. It was probably for their own good, lest they return to the complaining that had kept them wandering for forty years in the desert. What I find odd is that He didn’t even ask them to pray or worship. He didn’t ask them to beg to see the miracle happen.
Can you imagine how crazy the Israelites must have felt? Walking around silently, on nothing other than faith in God’s promise that He would make the walls found down?
The second tidbit of information I discovered in my study was what struck me the most. Did you know that, while Jericho was well known for its fortifications, it really wasn’t that large? The town measured approximately six square acres— nine, when including its walls. Which means that the Israelites daily walk around the perimeter of Jericho would have only totaled about a half of a mile.
All my life I’ve always imagined the Israelites walking for much of the day in the sweltering heat of the desert sun. Instead, what I thought was a marathon was more of a morning walk.
If I were an Israelite I would be thinking, Are you kidding, God? Surely there is something more I should do.
But no. No, there wasn’t. And there still isn’t.
Remember Moses’ sin that kept him from entering the Promised Land? He struck the rock, attempting to get water out, when God had commanded Him simply to speak to it.
I could be wrong, but I feel like Jericho may have been one last test to see if the Israelites had learned the lesson: Will you simply seek me, obey my instructions, then trust Me to do the rest?
Joyce Meyer always says, “We are partners with God.” Man, I love that truth. But the reality of it is God can’t do my part, and I can’t do what only He can do.
I can lay the mulch, paint the trim, and hire a realtor— but there’s no amount of willing and pleading that can make the house sell. I’ve done my half-mile lap. Now, He simply wants me to be still (Ps. 46:10).
Here is one thing I know: if God starts something, He will bring it through to fruition. Not in my time, but in the right time. He is faithful, and He will do it (1 Thess. 5:24).
How do I know? The same way the Israelites did: years of experience. All I have to do is look back to see his unfailing faithfulness.
I don’t know what your wall is, but I know we all have them.
(If nothing comes to mind immediately, finish this sentence: I thought for sure ___________ by now.)
Okay, you have your answer? Now ask yourself this: “Have I done my part?” If so, then friend, all that’s left to do is rest.
God, our good Father, is taking care of it. When temptation comes to take matters into your hands (strike the rock), resist and give it back to Him. These three simple words have been my mantra lately, “God, I trust You… I trust You… I trust You.”
Or maybe you’ve stopped showing up for your half-mile responsibility. I’ve been there, too. But God doesn’t work that way. Your obedience is faith expressed in action, and He honors that by making what only He can happen.
The Israelites got a lot of things wrong in their day (and I have too). But Jericho wasn’t one of them. They did exactly as the Lord commanded, and on the seventh lap of the seventh day they blew their horns and gave a mighty shout. Sure enough, in an event archeologists can only describe as a well-timed earthquake, the walls came a-tumbling down.
Yours will too. And so will mine.
Hear God. Have faith. Be obedient. Rest in Him.
Nothing is impossible.
P.S. I'm not on social media right now, as I'm focused on some pretty big projects.
If you enjoyed this blog, I'd love if you would take a minute to share it!
This week my husband and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary.
That’s a dozen years of marriage. Like, a whole box of doughnuts. (Some doughnuts crazier than others.)
In those twelve years we’ve had three kids, moved three times, and completely changed careers. Both of us.
We own a house now, two cars, and a dog, who we kinda like. We manage our own businesses. We even have some savings in the bank. In other words, we now have a lot of responsibilities.
This past year our youngest turned five and started Pre-K, which means we’ve found ourselves out of the survival stage of parenting, and into the light (cue the hallelujah chorus).
In reclaiming some of our life (and sanity), we began to realize that it was high time we get our life in order, including making a will. I turn 34 this week, which means I’m not old, but I’m not young either—and I’m not naïve enough to think nothing could happen to me, and I’ll live forever, anymore.
My husband and I wanted to be sure that, should something happen to us, our kids would be well taken care of, and our friends and family wouldn’t have to sit around guessing what we would want them to do— they would know exactly what we wanted and, hopefully, carry out those wishes.
We sat down to write out our will and wrote out things like who we would want to make our health decisions, and who we would want to care for our kids. And, having life insurance policies, we had to decide at what age we thought our kids would be mature enough to handle that well. So, obviously, we typed in “45.”
In all this thinking about what would be our final instructions to our family, it got me thinking about Jesus’ last words.
The cool thing about Jesus is He didn’t just have one set of last words— He had two.
We love Jesus’ first-last words. When He was dying on the cross, suffering on our behalf, taking on our sin and shame, giving us right-standing with God— He said three words before taking His last breath: “It is finished.”
We really like those last words because they mean every sin that we’ve ever committed and every sin we ever will commit is covered under His blood. Because of His sacrifice, we are forgiven and dearly loved sons and daughters of God.
But Jesus had a second set of last words. Because, as I’m sure you know (if not: spoiler alert) He came back.
He walked the earth for another 40 days, doing crazy stuff. Showing up in locked rooms, disappearing and such. But when He knew his time was coming to an end and it was time to return to the Father, He gathered His disciples for a second set of last words.
We read them in Matthew 28:18-20.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
I can imagine Jesus, pulling his disciples in for a huddle. Looking into the eyes of the men He had spent the past 3 years pouring into. And I bet the disciples were fully tuned in, listening intently as Jesus makes known what they are to do next.
So Jesus tells them, “Listen—the way that I have done life with you—I want you to go do the same with others. Keep following my ways, and help others become followers too. Help. Teach. Love. Admonish.”
In the same way my husband and I wrote down everything we would want our friends and family to do in the event that we leave this earth unexpectedly, in Jesus’ last words, He laid out exactly what He wanted us to do so we wouldn’t have to sit around and wonder.
He was letting us know that discipleship is for all of us.
But there’s a problem I’ve taken note of in the church body. It’s that Jesus gave us a job to do, and yet so many of us have abandoned our posts.
We’ve settled for being spectators.
Meanwhile I look at the world around me and I see so much pain and suffering. I see people plagued by addiction and mental illness. I see the next generation left to figure things out for themselves, so they're settling for unsound doctrine; settling for a watered-down, powerless, self-serving version of Jesus.
All the while, so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers are content to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few feel-good songs, be “fed” by our pastors, and go right back home.
I say all this not to point a finger at anyone else because, if I’m honest, I don’t always want to take the time to invest in others. I’ll see a friend who is having a tough time in their marriage, or a college student who is struggling with their faith, and I’ll feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do something… and yet I do nothing.
It’s because, in any area of obedience to God, we’re going to face some opposition.
The first opposition is our flesh.
I don’t know about you, but my flesh is really skilled at coming up with excuses.
(Some of them sound really holy and admissible, too.)
Well, God, you know you made me an introvert, so surely you must understand that I need my space.
Well, God, you said you want me to be pure, so surely you wouldn’t want me hanging around with those messy people who are going to bring me down.
Well, God, I’m just so busy. You’ve given me these three kids, a husband, a house, and a career. And then there’s ministry. I’m just so busy doing ministry. Who has time for people?
And God, you know I’m just not qualified. I’m still trying to figure this whole Christian walk thing out, so who am I to disciple anyone else? Isn’t that the pastor’s job? The church staff’s job? Or someone more spiritual than me?
Has anyone else out there ever had thoughts like this?
In obedience to the call to disciple, we’re going to face the opposition of the flesh.
But there’s a second opposition, and that’s Satan. Satan would love nothing more than to squelch the move of God upon this earth and to keep you from the full life God wants for you.
Satan has been offering us lies since the beginning of time (Genesis 3), and I think the primary reason so many of us are hesitant to embrace Jesus’ will is that we’ve accepted this lie: that we are happier and more fulfilled by what we receive.
And so we embrace the first of Jesus’ last words—that He loves us and has a good plan for us, and we are forgiven and free— but neglect His second last words which tell us that we have a job to do.
We turn down his invitation to be a part of His great plan, and we sit around wondering why the world is such a mess, and why we feel our lives are missing something.
I was sharing with a friend some thoughts about discipleship and she stopped me, with a smile and pulled out a napkin and a pen and begin drawing a picture. My friend had just returned from Israel, where she got to see where Jesus walked, and be baptized in the Jordan river. She drew a picture of that river, and explained to me how the Sea of Galilee flows down into it, and both are teeming with life, but down at the very bottom, there is the Dead Sea.
Now, I’ve never been great at geography, but I do know one thing about the Dead Sea: it’s dead. There are no plants, or animals, or organisms living in it. Just a little bit of bacteria and some fungus. Yuck.
My friend asked, “You wanna know why there’s so much life in the Jordan river and the sea of Galilee, and nothing down here in the Dead Sea?” She paused. “It’s because the flow stops here.”
Hopefully the lightbulbs are turning on.
If they aren’t, let me break it down: We can sit around all day and read our Bibles, and understand that Jesus loves us, but if we do nothing to pass that along to others, we will remain stagnant and lifeless in our faith. The flow cannot stop with us.
If you’re reading this and you feel like your life is missing something, might I suggest that it's probably not because of something else you need, but because of something you need to give away.
Over the past few years, I’ve experienced this. I went from being one of the most self-focused, miserable Christians you ever met to understanding the joy of investing in others.
What I have learned along the journey is that God’s plan for discipleship isn’t just for those being discipled, it is for those doing the discipling too.
It’s hard to explain, but there is this joy and fulfillment like no other when I get my mind off of myself, and my problems, and begin to pour into others.
Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” but Jesus came that we would, “have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan would love to kill the move of God. He would love to steal your joy. Don’t fall for the lie that you will be more satisfied the more life you keep to yourself.
God’s Kingdom is an upside down kingdom, where we are more blessed to give than to receive— and we are never more fully alive than when we give our lives to others.
It’s time to get serious about Jesus’ last words. Not just so we can earn brownie points and feel better about ourselves, but because there are lives that are counting on us.
You have co-workers who don’t know that life can be better than what they’re experiencing.
There are moms and dads who aren’t sure how to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
There are girls who don’t know their worth, so they are selling themselves on social media and on the streets.
There are men who are cutting their lives short because they feel like failures.
And there are boys who don’t know how to be men of God, because no one has ever taught them.
You have something to give— whether you’ve been following Jesus for 6 months, or 60 years. Your life, your story matters.
People are waiting on us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
My challenge to you today is to ask God who He would have you to reach out to. Then, simply be obedient. You don't have to have all of the answers to begin. Just begin.
What will you do with Jesus’ last words?
P.S. I'm a big believer in small groups, because I believe discipleship in the context of community can be a powerful catalyst to a believer's growth. If you've ever thought about starting your own small group, I've got a brand new resource to help. "Start: Small" is my free ebook with five simple steps to help you get started. Visit my resource page to learn more and subscribe to receive your free ebook.
2018 was one for the books (insert cheesy laughter)…
My husband changed jobs.
I grew significantly in my career.
My youngest started school.
I lost 20 pounds. (Don’t be too impressed—this was after gaining 20 pounds the year prior.)
And I read 17 books.
Seventeen books was just shy of my goal of eighteen, but I’m not dismayed. This year I’ve set a larger, but still modest goal of 20 books.
I’ve always been a “natural reader” (whatever that means), but I’ve never made a plan for what I read. This year, I’m changing that.
Inspired by a friend who posted his reading list this week, I’ve pre-chosen the twenty books I will read over the coming twelve months.
Here they are:
Mentoring 101 – John Maxwell
Love Undocumented – Sarah Quezada
The Minimalist Budget – Simeon Lindstrom
It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – Lysa Terkeurst
Love Lives Here – Maria Goff
The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships – Suzanne Stabile
Dare to Lead – Brene Brown
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers – Maxwell King
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brow
Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks – Priscilla Shirer
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
I Am Malala: The Story of the girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai
Parenting Your Fifth Grader: A Guide to Making the Most of the “I’ve got this” Phase – Kristen Ivy
Mother and Son: The Respect Effect - Emerson Eggerichs
Start Here: A Groundbreaking, Science-Based Program for Emotional Fitness – Eric Langshur
We Were the Lucky Ones – Georgia Hunter
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela - Nelson Mandela
Boundaries - Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Love your Life Not Theirs – Rachel Cruze
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional – Asheritah Ciuciu
What about you— what are you reading in 2019?
If picking books and planning a schedule seems daunting to you, here are a few questions to help get you started:
1. What kinds of books do you want to read more of this year? I’ve made a personal effort to read more books from authors who don’t look like me, or have the same background, to continually challenge and expand my worldview. I’ve also included more fiction books in my list this year, at the recommendation of a friend who keeps me grounded. As someone who previously read pretty much from the same category for ten years (Christian nonfiction), this represents growth!
2. In what areas are you wanting to grow this year? I’m a One on the enneagram, so it’s natural for me to come up with about 46 areas I want to improve, but I honed it down to just a few. This year I’m focusing on financial and emotional heath, personally. And as the mom of a ten year old boy, I’m facing parenting challenges I’ve never faced before—so I added a couple of books to glean some wisdom there. As a storytelling writer looking to grow in my craft I’ve added a few biographies and autobiographies for inspiration.
3.What is the rhythm of your year?
Though each year brings new surprises and challenges of its own, I’ve found the rhythm of each year is usually the same. For me, winter is a time of deep introspective growth. I do a lot of reading, praying, and planning. With the kids home during the summer, I am focused on parenting, and preparing for the new school year ahead. I also don’t have a lot of time to myself, so I have to keep that in mind. In the fall my world picks up speed, with family birthdays in September, two in November, and another right before Christmas. That mixed in with the holidays means limited time for much else other than family. That’s just the rhythm of my year. What’s yours? Consider it when planning this year’s reads.
4.What is your goal?
One of the best books I read in 2017 was “Finish,” by Jon Acuff. In it, he takes a seemingly counterintuitive approach to setting goals. He points out that the majority of people tend to supersize goals to make them sexier, or give us a bigger rush from imagining we’ll finish it. But often, after setting these larger than life goals, we fall short and give up. The truth is 92% of us fail because we are “foolishly optimistic.”
His suggestion? “Cut your goal in half.”
Think you can read 52 books this year? Cut that in half.
Why? Wrong-sized goals cause us to quit when the voice of perfectionism creeps in. I love the way Jon explains this idea:
“…if your goal was to lose ten pounds and you only lost eight, you would have failed by two pounds. Most of us believe the old adage, ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,’ but that’s not how life really works.
The all-or-nothing mentality of perfectionism tells us that close enough doesn’t count. The stars are not good enough. You now have an ocean of incentive to quit your goal.
But if you’d cut the goal in half to five pounds and then lost eight, you’d be a lot more likely to continue because of your initial victory. You would have lost the same amount of weight, but one approach would have almost guaranteed that you’d finish your initial goal and try another one.”
The truth is I’ll probably read more than twenty books this year. But twenty is a great goal. It is enough.
So what about you? What books will you read in 2019?
If you don’t already have a Goodreads account, it’s a great way to track the books you want to read, check out reviews, and follow what your friends are into. You can find me on Goodreads here.
Happy reading, friends!
Katie Gibson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
My parents separated when I was fourteen years old. I’ll never forget how weird that first Christmas was, not being with both at the same time anymore.
I knew Christmas would never look the same, but I didn’t know that, for over a decade, that my mom wouldn’t be in that picture at all. When my mom remarried and moved away (my stepdad was military), Christmas lost its magic for me. I began to despise most Christmas music (which I formerly loved). Especially the ones that sang about being “home for Christmas” because to me, Mom was home.
I tried to keep as busy as possible to ignore the gaping hole in my heart nothing seemed to fill. In the quiet moments, I’d cry. Oh, how I’d cry. Especially after I had children of my own and longed for her to see the beautiful people they were becoming.
On Christmas, she’d text.
“Merry Christmas, sweetie!”
“Merry Christmas, mom. I miss you <3”
It half drove me crazy. But the other half knew my mom texted because she simply couldn’t hold it together long enough for a call.
She came home twice that I remember in those years. Her presence brought me so much joy. The sound of her laugh. The sweet way she played with my babies. Her famous fudge that I never had the patience to learn to make for myself. But each happy season ended with her going away again.
Then, something magical happened.
After many, many years of hoping and waiting, my mom came home. This time, for good. We could hardly believe it—it just seemed too good to be true. But it wasn’t. It was real.
There’s just one problem.
A lot of times, I still leave her in California.
For someone who missed her mom so much, I certainly don’t spend as much time with her as I thought I would. And I don’t tell her I love her and how happy I am that she’s here as often as I should.
My mom lives five minutes away—I could walk to her house if I wanted. I could meet up with her in person pretty much any time I wanted. But I don’t. Somewhere in my mind, I forget she came home. I got so used to doing life on my own.
I leave my mom in California.
The other morning as I was driving home from dropping my children at school, one of those sappy songs came on the radio that reminded me of those many Christmases without my mom. My eyes welled up with tears—this time because I was so utterly and completely overwhelmed with gratitude.
Mom is here.
Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize: Just like I leave my mom in California sometimes, I leave Jesus in heaven, too.
The sad truth is, I forget Christmas.
I forget that the Son of God, Jesus, loved me so much that he humbled himself, putting on flesh and feelings to be close to me, to have relationship with me.
While in my mom’s presence, there is love, laughter, understanding, and, usually, lots of sugary sweets—in Jesus’ presence there is so much more.
Jesus’ birth brought light into the dark places of my life, and hope to the most hopeless situations I have and will ever face.
Jesus’ life, lived in my place, gave me perfection with God that I could not earn alone.
Jesus’ miracles proved that nothing is impossible if I believe in Him, by faith.
Jesus’ death gave me peace with God, when all God’s wrath for my sin fell on His son instead.
Jesus’ resurrection gave me victory over the enemy—I no longer have to live under the weight of sin, shame, and destruction.
And even when Jesus went back up to heaven, He left a part of Himself: the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who gives me power to walk not according to my own desires, but according to His.
You see, when I feel hopeless and anxious;
When situations feel impossible;
When I feel like God is mad at me;
And I’m covered in sin and shame;
When I feel like a victim to life’s circumstances and the enemy of my soul--
It is because I’ve left Jesus in heaven.
Christmas reminds me of this simple truth: Jesus came. And His presence changed everything.
Friend, I don’t know what you’re facing this Christmas, but you’re not facing it alone.
We can choose to live like He’s still in heaven, trying to do life on our own. Or we can stop and remember that He is here, and that in His presence is power, love, peace, joy, forgiveness—life.
We no longer have to bring sacrifices to get to God, the sacrifice has already been made. We no longer have to go through a priest to find out His will, He speaks to us through the power of His Holy Spirit. We are no longer orphans, we are dearly loved sons and daughters of God.
He is here. And He longs for us to be with Him.
May we pause and lean into that promise and whisper grateful prayers for the gift of Jesus this Christmas.
Emmanuel, God with us.
Merry Christmas With Love,
We had hardly finished gobbling down turkey when the invites started pouring in.
Now, the first 24 squares of December are filled to top to bottom:
Breakfast with Santa,
The city’s tree lighting,
A homeless outreach.
And those are just this weekend’s options.
It's the most wonderful time of the year they say. There are class parties to attend, family to see, and traditions to keep. And in all the fuss, I’m constantly reminded that we should be making memories.
We’re making memories alright.
When my eyes close after battling too-tired children into bed Christmas night I remember…
The forced smiles.
The unpaid credit card bills.
I make every effort to create a memorable Christmas for my family, making my list and checking it twice. But in the end, many of those memories I sought and stressed for end up feeling so… empty.
Where did it all go wrong?
I don’t think it’s just me, because I recognize the familiar look on the faces of other moms, too.
A longing for something different.
We have a problem, you and I, and that problem is we’ve given in to the lies that more activity equals more memories.
Here's what I've come to realize, friends:
In my pursuit of a memorable Christmas, I miss out on a meaningful Christmas.
A season wrought with intention.
Activities chosen (or declined) with purpose in mind.
Relationships nurtured through the rare gift of unrushed time.
This is starting to sound like a Whoville rhyme...
Okay, off topic, but here’s the point:
My children don’t need to see four different Santas, no matter how fun that might seem. And maybe I don’t need to spend time and money I don’t have putting together goodie bags for my daughter’s class when a bag of wrapped candies will do. And, perhaps, I don’t need to serve at all five of my church’s Christmas services, but instead give my very best at one or two.
There’s that rhyming again. For Grinch’s sake. I digress.
As much as I (obviously) struggle with it, there is power in focus.
What would a meaningful Christmas look like for you?
Maybe it’s forgoing your church’s widely-attended ladies event for brunch with just your besties.
Maybe it’s trading your delicately decorated, 7-foot pine for a table-top version so you don’t have to spend the season fussing at your curious toddler.
Maybe it’s taking a meal to one neighbor who lives alone instead of dishing out soup to the masses.
Please hear this: I’m not saying any of these things are wrong.
If you’re sitting there arguing in your head, BUT I LOVE THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF MINGLING WITH 200 OF MY CLOSEST LADY PALS, then by all means, GO. FOR. IT!
I’m simply asking this: What is going to be most meaningful for you and your family this Christmas?
When you're struggling to figure out whether you should go to that work Christmas party, or travel to Minnesota to see your great Aunt Anne, slow down and ask yourself these questions:
Still unclear? Ask your family what ONE thing they can’t do without this Christmas. Their answers just might surprise you. For one of mine it was piling in the car to ooh and ahh over Christmas lights. For another it was snuggling up and watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and eating “Grinch treats” (literally Rice Krispy Treats that I put green food coloring in).
Also: I have a Grinch problem, obviously.
There’s nothing inherently flashy or exciting about any of that, but to them it matters. You want to know what the funny thing is? Memorable is not always meaningful, but meaningful is always memorable.
One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is John 10:10 where Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Don’t allow the thief to overwhelm and distract you from all the life in this special season. There are so many gifts to be discovered that aren’t under the tree.
The allure of memorable often causes us to overfill, over-commit, and overspend—only to leave us feeling more empty than ever. Don’t fall for it. Let’s choose to live full, not frantic.
Make it a merry, meaningful Christmas, friends.
Tis the season for turkey, and family, and giving thanks… and for Sharpie circles all throughout well-marketed toy catalogs.
I don’t know about you, but I often worry about whether my kids will grow up to become the dreaded E word: Entitled.
But not just them--me.
It’s hard to remain grateful up against an endless barrage of advertisements, a constant view into my friends’ lives via social media, and in the hardness that is just plain life.
Gratitude is one of the key elements to enjoying life. God knew this when He created us. That’s why the Bible is full of examples, encouragement—and even admonishment—to “give thanks.”
Being grateful to God for who He is and what He has done is a great start, but we should also be grateful for the people who were made in His image. That's all of us. Showing gratitude for our friends, family, and neighbors assigns them value and strengthens relationships.
While thankfulness is a focus this particular month of the year, I want my kids to be grateful all year. And not for my sake--but for theirs.
Here are five habits we practice to nurture gratitude:
1. Pray out loud, daily.
On the way to school.
At the dinner table.
Tucking them into bed.
Any or all of these occasions are great opportunities to express verbal thanks to God for his love and provision.
We began this habit at the beginning of this school year. During morning carpool we thank God for our teachers and administrators, for the ability to go to school and learn, for our friends, for each other, for Daddy, and for whatever blessings come to mind. Prayer humbles us by recognizing our dependence on God and His undeserved goodness toward us.
After a few weeks of modeling, I began asking each of my kids to take turns praying. I was amazed at how much they had picked up so quickly and their increased awareness of the blessings all around them. It really works!
2. Write thank you notes.
Thank people for gifts.
Thank people for showing up.
Thank people for who they are.
Think of any excuse to thank people and just do it.
A verbal “thank you” is one thing, but taking the time to express that gratitude on pen and paper is another. Call me old fashioned, but few things brighten my day more than a card in the mail. Am I right?
3. Be generous to others in need.
A neighbor loses a loved one.
The school is doing a diaper drive for the homeless.
A family’s home and belongings went up in flames.
Talk to your kids about ways you can help a hurting family or individual. Don’t make yourselves the “hero” of the story—instead make it clear that “We give because God has given to us.” Teaching children to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes helps them to realize that maybe they don’t have it so bad after all because they didn’t get that latest-and-greatest video game they wanted.
4. Use restraint on complaint.
(i.e. the one I fail at most often)
Complaining is a sure-fire symptom of entitlement. When was the last time you complained about having to wait at a restaurant? Or a school miscommunication? Or about your husband forgetting to take out the trash…again?
Or what about your job? Or about something not going your way? Or [you fill in the blank]?
When we complain, we are saying, “I deserve better.” And that, my friend, is pride. (Trust me, that truth hurts me just as much as it hurts you.)
Spend a day observing your words: are they mostly positive and grateful, or negative and entitled? I constantly have to remind myself that "more is caught than taught." I can preach gratitude to my kids all day long, but if I'm constantly complaining, they're going to pick up on that.
So the next time Negative Nellie wants to make an appearance, send her back where she came from and turn your complaint into an expression of gratitude instead.
Here’s a recent, real life example:
Instead of, “Ugh. I hate raking all these leaves.”
Say, “Man, I sure am grateful for the shade these trees provide in the summer.”
Gratitude makes you virtually unbotherable* by minor inconveniences and first-world problems.
*Yes, I just made up a new word
Give thanks daily, celebrate often.
Closed on the new home? Celebrate!
Dad got a raise at work? Celebrate!
Prayer answered? Celebrate!
Go out to dinner, grab ice cream, or plan a special outing- and celebrate! Don't take for granted another year, another miracle, another breath even.
At my house we have a tradition called “chocolate milk cheers.” It’s when we stop to acknowledge something really cool God has done, like when he provided a new job for me last year. It happens sporadically throughout the year, but always on New Years Eve when we dump out our jar of notes of great things that happened over the past 12 months, then clink glasses. My kids love it.
Sometimes we even commemorate big answers to prayer by hanging something representative on our gallery wall. I call it our “wall of thanks.” When life gets really hard I look at that wall and remember all I have to be grateful for.
Remembering is a big part of being grateful. We can learn a lot from our friends, the Israelites, who left memorial spots all through the desert. When they returned to those spots they would remember the many ways God had provided, be filled with faith, and give thanks. Celebrations leave a mark on the minds of our children.
I love the words of the Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Let us not miss that these three things are not independent of each other—joy, prayer, and giving thanks. They go hand-in-hand. When we nurture one, we nurture all.
What ways do you nurture gratitude in your family?
I received a complimentary advanced copy of “The Brave Art of Motherhood” in exchange for my honest review.
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.
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