How a snowflake reminded me of my purpose

Do you remember, as a kid, making those paper snowflakes to string up around the classroom during the holiday season, or to decorate wintry windows with at home? I was never particularly good at this. I’d fold my little paper the requisite number of times, and slice eagerly into it with scissors to create haphazard geometric patterns I hoped would look purposefully abstract. But somehow they always ended up with gaping holes and shapeless attempts at intricacy.

It was maybe out of bitterness for my lack of artistic ability that I began to believe the whole 'pretty snowflake' thing was a myth: you know, the idea that every snowflake is unrepeatable and dazzling in its uniqueness. I don’t recall ever studying a single snowflake closely enough to see it as anything other than a frozen water droplet.

But then it snowed a few weeks ago in northern Colorado, and as I stood outside waiting for a shuttle to take me to the airport that day, I had ample time to absorb the gentle beauty of the snowflake.

It had been snowing all night already, and the snowflakes no longer attempted to cover the earth so furiously now that there was already a full blanket on the ground. And it was quiet. Soundless. Serene.

A single snowflake came to rest on one of my jacket sleeves. It probably sounds like an empty cliché to tell you that it was beautiful, but that’s what it was. I can’t think of another word for the small splendor of this tiny sight.

It looked like… well, it looked like one of those really stunning paper snowflakes, the kind made by the more artistically inclined. So symmetrical and flawlessly designed, a mini miracle of geometric precision.

And as I stood there transfixed by the singular beauty of this exquisite snowflake, soon to melt, I pondered the intention and care with which God designed this fleeting, microscopic masterpiece.

And I thought… why would I ever doubt His plan for me? Why would I ever, even for a second, give credibility to the belief that I wasn’t made with the same attention to detail, the same intricacy and artistry? Of course the God who designed even the most ephemeral and seemingly insignificant earthly elements would give our souls and our lives the same attention to purpose.

As members of this community, we know we were created on purpose. We know we have a purpose. And that little snowflake provided a much-needed reminder of that to me.

Many would discourage us from thinking of ourselves as “special little snowflakes,” perhaps this perception, in some cases, leads to egotism. But I think it’s necessary to remember, when we might doubt our purpose in this world (and I know this happens more than we’d like to admit) to remember that we are, actually, special little snowflakes, designed with meticulous precision, an unrepeatable purpose, and divine love.


 
 

SARAH ZENTNER
Sarah Zentner is a freelance writer who specializes in topics concerning twenty-something life and the Christian faith. She loves walking with others through this turbulent period of life, and she believes in nursing every young woman’s love for and belief in herself. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys singing along to musical soundtracks, savoring a piece of delicious chocolate, or curling up with a cup of tea and a great book.

When surrender seems impossible

Following Jesus means learning to die to a whole slew of things — self being one of them.

Sometimes dying to self means releasing yourself from a relationship you’ve held onto and with it, the future you’ve imagined, as it’s suddenly ripped from underneath your feet.  Sometimes it’s letting go of timelines you’ve envisioned, and giving God the pen no matter how attached you were to the story in your head.  Other times it’s surrendering dreams in discovering that God’s call on your life does not match your own.

Whatever the call to die to self may mean, one thing is always certain: it’s painful.  Our stubborn wills rise up and want to hold on with all that they have.  As idols of comfort and control are pried gently from our grasping hands, they take with them pieces of our very personhood.

Sure, we may know that only by death is rebirth possible—a rebirth into something new, vibrant, and beautiful—into a more accurate picture of the person we were originally purposed to be.  But in the moment, it’s just plain painful, and it leaves you feeling defeated, depleted, hurting, and helpless.

I’ve been there—in plenty of my own seasons of surrender, where doing so seems impossible.  Stubborn as they come, I’m not one who easily lets go of my own way.  

When God calls me to surrender something, it’s often not a one-time deal, but rather a decision I need to make and remake daily.  Continually, I’ll sense my heart slipping back into spot where I’m grappling for control.   I’ll look down and realize that my fists have closed in around my idol again—unwilling to let go. 

Yet in this place, I meet the Father—my faithful, patient teacher.  Full of grace, full of love—in Him no condemnation.  I am the fitful toddler, ebbing and flowing in equally fitful waves.  I cry and scream and wrestle and pout and demand my way, and when corrected I subside—calmed, surrendered.  Each time that stubborn willfulness and desire begins to rise in me again, I expect to meet the end of the Father’s patience—to be turned away in anger and frustration, written off, given up on.

Instead, He smiles, eyes knowing and filled with love, and He gently pries my fingers from that which they grasp.  Those fingers find their way back a thousand times, and a thousand times, the Father responds the same way, His grace and love flowing not one bit less than the first time.  In this perfect love I am freed, given healing, and I find rest.  With each gentle correction, I become more softened to my own lack of control—more okay with letting go.

The steady waves of my Father’s love sculpt my rugged edges, giving form to something that will be made beautiful in His timing.  He isn’t rushed, or worried with how long it takes.  He is content to commune with me each step of the way.  He’s not so concerned with my circumstances, my pace, or even the finished product.  What He wants is my heart. 

The thing is, letting go of our own desires—dying to self—is hard.  That’s why the phrase includes the word die.  But our willingness to release what’s in our hands to receive what’s in His is, at its root, an indication of whether we truly believe He can be trusted.  And coming to know that in every situation He is trustworthy—maybe that’s the whole purpose of surrender.

Our desires for our own lives aren’t bad.  God doesn’t ask us to suppress them, He simply asks us to submit them to His control.  Imagine a beautiful stallion, full of stamina and strength.  Under bit and bridle, that strength isn’t diminished, but rather redirected by the hands of a masterful equestrian.  So it is with us.  We were given dreams and desires for a reason.  Surrender doesn’t mean squashing those things, but it’s also doesn’t mean letting ourselves run wild and free with them by our own means. 

Surrender is simply releasing the reigns to the hands of our skillful Master, Who sees the whole path, and has the perfect one picked out for us.


 
IMG_2410.jpg
 

Kaci is a 20-something-year-old living to know Jesus more deeply every day, and to share Him with others.  Everywhere we look, we can find God’s truth and beauty, and Kaci is passionate about creatively communicating these things through the form of story to bring hope and encouragement to others.  Kaci believes transparency cultivates connection, and that one of the most powerful places we can meet people is in the space of 'me too'.  You’ll most often find her laughing with friends and family, working at her corporate job in communications, traveling, getting lost in the mountains, sticking her nose in a good book, or diving deeper into the heart of God.

Follow Kaci on Instagram: @kacinicole, at Facebook: @kacinicoleblog and find more of her writing at kacinicole.com

Tapestries, not blueprints: What it means to live out God’s Plan

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you… plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”

— Jeremiah 29:11

I am a rather, shall we say, dedicated planner of my life. I equate being without a plan to floating adrift in the middle of the ocean, with no trace of land visible for miles around. I colour code activities and events in my planner and could win an Olympic medal for crossing items off lists. And I don’t at all like the idea of leaving the importance of my life’s purpose and journey to something as wayward and irresponsible as 'chance'.   

So the oft-quoted Bible passage I invoked above should comfort me. It isn’t chance at all that directs the circumstances of my life, but a God who loves and dreams for me. A God who has plans for me. It should reassure me to know that He has a handle on the big picture of my life, even when I don’t have a clue where I’m going.

It doesn’t.  

Because, if I give in to the idea that there is one plan for my life, then I become obsessed about whether or not I’m following it. People who plan have to be prepared for things not to go according to that plan, and I’m preoccupied with the alternatives because, well, if there’s only one way it can go right, then there are infinite ways it can all go wrong.

And sometimes, when I catch myself scrolling absentmindedly through my Facebook or Instagram feeds, comparing the plan I’m following with all of the roads not taken, I ask myself if I’ve made the wrong choice. If I’m doing what I should be doing. If I’m living according to plan.

But then a friend put it to me this way: “We tend to think our lives are composed of blueprints. But really, they’re tapestries.”

And this has revolutionised the way I think about 'the plans' God has for my life. Because we’re gifted with free will, we know that God doesn’t control our lives with the precision demanded of blueprints – a rigidity that makes sense for architectural design, because if you fumble and fail to follow instructions to the letter, the entire structure may collapse.

Instead, I believe God wants to collaborate with us. We can give him any decision, any thread in any color, and He’ll use it to weave an intricate masterpiece. You could give him the fraying string or the most hideous shade of orange, and He’ll still find a use for it.

If you were to take a tapestry and turn it over, you’d see thousands of threads wound and tangled together. And you’d probably call that a mess. But what you see when you look at the front is a complete composition, an integrated whole with a unifying theme that is larger than the chaos in any particular corner.

The moral of the story? We get to relax. We get to rest in the certainty that there are lots of beautiful ways to live this life, and that the 'plans' God speaks of are broad visions for our happiness, faithfulness, and success – visions we may only fully understand years from now, when we step back and consider the entire tapestry of our lives. We get to trust that our tapestries are still being woven, and we get to wonder at the kind of masterpieces we’ll become.

 
 

SARAH ZENTNER
Sarah Zentner is a freelance writer who specializes in topics concerning twenty-something life and the Christian faith. She loves walking with others through this turbulent period of life, and she believes in nursing every young woman’s love for and belief in herself. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys singing along to musical soundtracks, savoring a piece of delicious chocolate, or curling up with a cup of tea and a great book.

6 truths that help me love my body

Pin this!

Pin this!

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions. They always seem a bit cliché to me. To me, the important thing is to be growing the whole year round - not just making the decision once a year to change one aspect, and then not even sticking to it. But something about making goals at the start of a new year of life seems different. It feels more personal in a way, and more private. Like on Oct. 20, I'm the only person making a resolution.

This year, as I began my 26th year of life, I resolved to take better care of my body. Anyone who knows me might laugh at this. When I tell people I want to start eating healthier, the reply is usually “but you are one of the healthiest eaters I know!” I work out four to six times a week, and try to be intentional about maintaining the care of my body. So why do I feel the need to do better in this area?

I’ve always struggled with the way I look. It’s important to recognize that no one is immune to this. My sister always used to cry when people told her she was skinny. Me, on the other hand, critique my eyebrows or the shape of my forehead. I could write a list 20 items long on things I want to change about my appearance. And the past couple years I began to realise that I am eating healthy and working out regularly simply to maintain a look. It had nothing to do with what my body needed or giving it the nutrients it craved. I began to recognize that it was more important for me to have a certain calorie count a day than it was to replenish with healthy fuel. I would eat unlimited candy, justifying that my meals consisted of salads and lean meats, so why not? I had the calories to spare.

Sound familiar? I am hard pressed to find a woman who has not (or is not currently) struggled with her body as it pertains to her identity. If I could only lose 5 extra pounds, then I would be satisfied, we say. We race after this image that had been burned in our brains by countless billboards, magazines, commercials, television shows, ads - the list goes on and on. Just step one foot into the mall, and you are hit with new styles that change every week, only to leave with the message that you are not enough until you have all, be all, and look impeccable to top it off. It’s no wonder why we as woman feel inadequate in the way that we present ourselves, no matter how hard we try. And here is the cold, hard truth: when you let society tell you the standard to live, you will never measure up. After all, society profits from your self doubt.

So, on my 26th year of life, I said enough was enough. I was tired of chasing after standards that were set for me. I was tired of the anxiety that came after unhealthy meals eaten. I was tired of eating healthy only to look at certain way. I decided I wanted my 26th year of life to be marked by health - simply because I wanted to feel better, not because I wanted to look better. Maybe you are tired of feeling this way too, sister. Maybe you are a bit fed up as well. If that’s the case, let me throw some truth bombs your way.

You are not defined by the clothes that you wear.

 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29).

You are not defined by the way that you look (you are wonderfully made, simply because you are).

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)

You are not defined by how you measure up to the status quo.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

You are not defined by your past.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You are not defined by your outward appearance.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but 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 3:3).

You are created in likeness of the God of the Universe.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

You are complete, just as you are, because you are cloaked with righteousness in Christ. Your identity is sealed in that, because Christ sealed it for you. In my 26th year, I want to love my body, not because I idolize it, but because I admire the handiwork that the Lord has created. I want to yearn for healthiness, not because I find my identity in the way that I look, but because when I feel better I am able to serve better. I want to value the inner workings of my heart more than the outer workings of my body.  I want to have gentleness and humility radiating from me, for that is a truly breathtaking and timeless fashion statement, one that will never go out of style.

 
 

ABBIE MEYER
INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE
Abbie is a 25-year-old living out of the abundance of Jesus' unending grace and mercy. She thrives off deep vulnerability and connection with others, while striving to live into the call of outpouring encouragement onto others. Often described as feisty, passionate, talkative, and compassionate, Abbie is an ENFJ through and through. You'll most likely find her training for a race, handlettering or painting, whipping up a new healthy and whole recipe in the kitchen, singing worship songs at the top of her lungs in my car, or watching The Office with her husband. What does she love most? Pretty light, hearing people's stories of redemption, peonies, her husband's smile, white walls, and the smell of rain.

I was not made for loving him

Driving down the road a few months ago, fresh spring air whipping my hair a mess, and spirits high, I sang along to Tori Kelly’s 'I Was Made for Loving You'.

I was made for loving you
Even though we may be hopeless hearts just passing through
Every bone screaming I don't know what we should do
All I know is, darling, I was made for loving you

The song began to tap into my romantic side, and I thought how perfectly I was fit for my husband, and how he was also a perfect fit for me, and I found myself thinking, 'I am made for loving Cal'. Then the Holy Spirit stirred, and I backpedaled.

My husband balances me out in many ways; he is steady, where I am chaotic. He is content, where I am wild. He loves to cuddle, where I love words of affirmation. We love to see the world, love to spend time outdoors, and absolutely love to worship Jesus together. I have never heard him say one judgmental word against me, and he is the most committed and loyal man I know. He is brilliant (this guy has a photographic memory, for crying out loud), and my favorite sound in the world is to hear him laugh. But let me be clear - he is NOT the one who completes me, and I was NOT made for loving him.

I believe that sex and marriage are beautiful things when used in the context of their God-given creation, but our culture has placed romance on a big fat pedestal, and it has become far too easy to idolise. Growing up, I felt that my life would be complete after I found my husband and 'settled down'. When 'the one' walked up, then, and only then, would life be good.

In this series of identity, I have covered friendships and career, and it felt like relationships needed to be talked about last. It doesn’t seem like it is stereotypical to notice that many women struggle with their identity being rooted in relationships, specifically romantic ones. It has been my experience, as well as for many other women in my life, that we strongly identify ourselves with the men that we are (or are not) in relationship with. It is just so easy to feel our happiness is contingent upon someone else.

And it just feels backwards that sex and marriage are so glorified, when that is not the main point of life.

I am completed by Jesus, and Jesus only. Our hearts were created with a deep cavern that longs to be filled, known, loved, and accepted. We open up the doors of our hearts for person after idea after thing to walk into this hole, trying desperately to fill it. Women and men alike have felt the longing of something greater than them, and it’s easy to displace this onto relationship, sex, or marriage. We are so relational by nature that it’s hard not to get confused about what completes us. No man, woman, friend, parent, sister, brother, grandparent, or any other person can fill what was meant for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus swoops in, and tells us that He is all we need. All other relationships are a wonderful love gift, but they were never meant to fill the place where only Jesus should reside.

I was made for loving Jesus, and only out of the overflow of Jesus’ love is where I can fully love others, including my husband. Of course there are times when the 'feeling' of love overwhelms us - with or without the Holy Spirit. But the love that is sustained, the love that is patient, kind, that does not envy or boast, that is not self seeking or easily angered, the love that does not delight in evil and keeps no record of wrongs, that love can only be made whole through the strength of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the only One who fills that spot in my heart, He is the One who makes me new, and He is the One I was made for. And although marriage is created as a beautiful representation of Christ’s love for his Bride, it was never meant to replace Him.

So, sister, whether you are single, dating, engaged, married, or wishing to be married, just know that you were not made for anyone but Christ. There are men who will love, cherish, and adore you - but they will never complete you. The moment we are able to fully and completely live in this is the moment that we are free to love in all fullness in truth.

 
 

ABBIE MEYER
INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE
Abbie is a 25-year-old living out of the abundance of Jesus' unending grace and mercy. She thrives off deep vulnerability and connection with others, while striving to live into the call of outpouring encouragement onto others. Often described as feisty, passionate, talkative, and compassionate, Abbie is an ENFJ through and through. You'll most likely find her training for a race, handlettering or painting, whipping up a new healthy and whole recipe in the kitchen, singing worship songs at the top of her lungs in my car, or watching The Office with her husband. What does she love most? Pretty light, hearing people's stories of redemption, peonies, her husband's smile, white walls, and the smell of rain.

6 ways to savour each day

We humans are funny creatures. We’re blessed with an entire lifetime to enjoy, and yet we only practice really appreciating small portions of it we call 'weekends'.

What’s wrong with us? We love to say that life is a gift, but it seems we really only mean that about the time we don’t spend at work. And I get that. Work isn’t necessarily enjoyable, and celebrations should be reserved for the joyful extraordinary. We can’t go around all day, excited about everything, unless we want to look absolutely ridiculous… right?

But if we spend our lives living for the weekend, believing we have to wait for the next break in our hectic schedules to give ourselves permission to rejoice in the beauty around us, we’ll end up wasting our days, looking back on missing, unnoticed chunks of time and wondering where it all went. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather rejoice every day, than only some days. Because that’s what this life is made of – thousands of little ordinary days knit together to make one extraordinary miracle. And it’s a pity to waste even one second of it wishing for something else, don’t you think?

So, how can we do that, exactly?

Here are 6 ways to help you savour each and every day:

Turn up the music and dance

Set your current favourite song as your alarm tune (for me, it’s Justin Timberlake’s 'Can’t Stop the Feeling') and let it launch — rather than drag or pry — you out of bed and into your day. Weekends are marked by celebration, since we use them to indulge in pleasures we may not give ourselves permission to enjoy during working hours. But shouldn’t every day be a celebration?

Yes. It should. And nothing says you’re going to celebrate this day quite like dancing into it. 

Linger over your morning cup of coffee or tea

If you’re not much of a morning person, you can choose to relax into your day instead. Fight the expectation that relaxation is only for those days when you have time to spare by allowing yourself some minutes in the morning to hit the snooze button a few times and still brew yourself a cup of coffee or tea to help you slip into your day. Sip it while you journal or pray, resisting the urge to take it on the go with you or to start that massive to-do list until you’ve finished it, and train your brain to resist the stressed-out hustle by taking your time first thing in the morning.

Make time for your friends and family

Who says friend time is only allowed on weekends?

Oh, that’s right. We do, when we get busy, stressed, and overworked. But here’s the thing: it’s just as important – maybe even more important – to call upon our tribe for support in moments of duress as it is to chill out with them on weekends when everything’s peachy. So call a family member or a friend to get a much-needed mid-week laugh, go to lunch with a coworker, or arrange a Wednesday night cocktail hour with your girls to escape the stress of work, instead of waiting for the weekend.

Practice being present

It’s easy to be present on weekends, when we don’t have dozens of other duties vying for our attention. We’re free to give ourselves to the moment at hand and enjoy it. But the truth is, we’re saturated in grace and joy all the time. Breathe deeply in the midst of the bustle. Go for a walk and take special note of your surroundings. Savour dessert. Look for the good, and give yourself permission to find it everywhere, every day.

Try something new

Weekends give us the opportunity to ditch our daily routines in favour of new experiences, and it’s so easy to sprinkle these in every day as well! Wear that blouse that’s been hanging in your closet for months. Take a new route to work. Try an exotic recipe for dinner. Begin a new book before bed.

Make time for something you enjoy

We might not all be able to get to a beach every day, but we can all make time for a pursuit we enjoy that has nothing to do with work. Plan a time to exercise, to read, to write, to sing, to practice your instrument, or knit that scarf you’ve been meaning to get to for months. Be intentional about this and write it in your calendar so it’s as nonnegotiable as a doctor’s appointment or a flight, and then honour it for the sake of your sanity.

This life is too wonderful to waste it wishing for the weekend. Take a break to see you don’t have to wait at all to appreciate and savour the beauty that’s already all around.


 
 

SARAH ZENTNER
Sarah Zentner is a freelance writer who specializes in topics concerning twenty-something life and the Christian faith. She loves walking with others through this turbulent period of life, and she believes in nursing every young woman’s love for and belief in herself. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys singing along to musical soundtracks, savoring a piece of delicious chocolate, or curling up with a cup of tea and a great book.

The importance of mentors

Imagine this...

Life is throwing curveballs, and you don't quite have all of the answers. You've tried one thing and that didn't work, tried again - same result. Feeling stuck and unsure of what to do, wishing a manual would pop up in your mailbox, you re-awaken from that nightmare to feel yourself falling into the same monotonous pattern all over again.

Sound familiar?

There are so many times in my life (correction: so many times a day) where I feel stuck and not sure what my next steps should be. I keep doing the same things thinking I will get a different outcome (insanity), and still…. nothing. Enough time doing all of these things had me really start praying about any underlying issues that kept bringing me back to this spot.

Over the course of my 23 years, I think about the specific areas where I really struggle and my sin becomes so apparent, and it is in the area of being corrected. For so long, I saw any type of correction, accountability, and/or criticism as a personal attack on my character.

Jesus has done so much in my life to really take the fog away from my eyes to show me a greater picture of sitting down with someone, and truly listening to their words of truth and wisdom. (Note: I have by no means perfected this, I am a work in progress! ) Much of my acceptance towards mentorship started later in college. This is when I met a wonderful group of women going after Christ, with a lot of experiences to speak about.

I would sit around the table at our Bible study and sit in amazement, as they each would share their week, and talk about the areas where they felt stuck and not sure what to do. One day I decided to speak up and be honest about where I was, and you know what? I have never gone back.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
— Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

That very day, I met a handful of women who started to pour into me the truth and wisdom that I was seeking. For me, those nuggets of pure and honest wisdom came straight from the red letters found in my Bible. They kept bringing me back to the words of Jesus. From that point on, I started meeting with women who were older than me. I was becoming so hungry for wisdom and truth, and learning that the willingness of being vulnerable and transparent can completely change your life.

Mentorship became the pathway that God used to open my eyes wide as I became acquainted with the idea of accepting my brokenness. He also used this to show me the beauty in grace and truth-filled correction.

Seeking out mentorship is such a rewarding habit to get into because it allows us to see the areas that need improvement, and encourages us to run to God for both help and a reminder of where our identity truly lies. When mentorship is done right, there is a healthy balance of both truth, love, and grace.

Is there a woman in your life who you can think of who could do these three things, and do them well?

GO CALL THEM. INVITE THEM INTO YOUR LIFE. Let them pour into you. It can be totally scary at first, but eventually it becomes normal. Sharing becomes less awkward, and the bumpy walk becomes more paved as the truth begins to set you free.

 
 
 
 

MELANIE CASTANEDA
WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM
I am from Chicago, Illinois and am a lover of anything coffee. How cliché, right? I love Jesus and my life would not be the same without him. Growing up I was a fan of him and loved his story and his strength, but continued to live my life in the flesh. As I grew up I became a follower of him, and his strength, mercy, and grace was something that would eventually bring me to my knees in awe of his glory. I am a full time photographer and love capturing beautiful memories. I look forward to sunny days and warm nights, preferably with a nice cup of tea and an episode of Downtown Abbey.

 

Does your job define you?

I come from a highly successful family. My youngest sister was just inches (literally) from making the US Olympic team in swimming this year, my other younger sister also qualified for the Olympic trials in running, and my older brother is a brilliant violinist.  My dad is a well-accomplished surgeon-turned-iron-man triathlete, and my mom raised a bunch of hooligan kids who turned into rockstars. On top of that, there is a deep level of humility rooted in each and every one of my family members that doesn’t focus on the achievements, but rather the significance of hard work.

Seriously. I could go on forever about how insanely talented my family is - and then there is me.

So, I had my fair share of natural talent running through my blood as a kid. I won numerous piano competitions. I was the best mile runner in middle school (my glory days ;) ). I played varsity lacrosse in high school.  But I never stuck with any of those disciplines. I hated working hard unless I saw immediate results, and because true accomplishment doesn’t come without millions of trials of failure, I gave up on each of these hobbies pretty quickly.

The older I grew, the more I recognized how much each member of my family had to offer, and the more I felt like I had nothing to give. Pretty soon, my identity became rooted in academic accomplishments.

I was the person who didn’t try super hard in high school, and progressively became more type A throughout college and grad school. I absolutely prided myself on my grades. I went from a 3.2 in high school, to a 3.6 in college, to a 3.96 in grad school, and my heart finally felt like I was a contributing member of society, truly set apart by my accomplishments.  I was consistently told through my last two years in grad school how I would make an excellent therapist, how truly genuine I seemed working with clients, and how I was able to make others feel comfortable and relatable in my work with them. I glowed at the fact that I felt like I finally had a purpose, and that I had something unique to give.  And then I graduated.

I went into grad school with the intent of becoming a therapist, and came out with a strong assurance that I would never seek to hold that title. It’s not that I don’t believe in therapy, it’s simply the fact that I don’t know if this is the job that best uses my skills and mind. But, for someone who held (still struggles not to hold) fast to their identity in their career, I felt lost, helpless, discouraged, disoriented, and confused.

How could I find a career that challenges me, that ignites my passion, and that allows me to use all of my strengths and talents, and not just some? 

This internal struggle, paired with the fact that my husband and I are currently completing a 6-month intensive discipleship training school through our church, allowing me to only work very specific hours, has forced me to step away from my career.

As a result, I wrestle almost daily with the thoughts that I’m not good enough because I am a nanny, and am not currently using my masters in my other job. Some days I feel like I am drowning in the expectations I hold for myself when it comes to my career. I often suffer from decision fatigue- knowing all the wonderful options out there to work with those who could use my training, but not knowing which to choose. It is so difficult for me to die to myself daily when it comes to my career.

But this time is a sweet reminder of where my identity truly lies. If you are anything like me, it is so easy to look around to others and covet the place they are in their career. It always seems so simple and easy for other people, doesn’t it?

It is too easy to see only the positives in others' lives. But we often don’t see the full picture.

There are difficulties in every career. Every job is constantly changing, growing, shifting, and fluctuating. There are fickle moments, moments when you are unneeded, and times when you are overworked, underpaid, stressed out, and tired. A friend of mine once told me that career paths are much more like jungle gyms than they are like a pretty, straight path. You try one thing out, figure out what you are good at and love to do, and weed out the areas of work that you realise do not suit you.

Here’s the thing...

When we try to find our identity in anything but Jesus, we will always be let down.

We experience a heavy fatigue when we try to hold tightly on to areas the world offers, instead of clinging securely to the One in whom our identity was created.

“Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest”, Jesus says, and I wonder if he means that everything will make us weary outside of Him. I wonder if this searching for our identity in other areas just drains our souls. I wonder, while we are chasing fast and hard after purpose in our careers, if we are actually just sprinting away from our actual purpose. I wonder if there is ever peace to be had while only focusing on what we have to offer, instead of resting in the fact that we have been offered a gift far bigger than one we could ever give.

I am not, by any means, suggesting we should become lazy in our jobs. We are commissioned to work hard, using the gifts that we have been given (notearned!) to uplift others around us. You were created with a unique skillset that no one else has been given, and the tools in your toolbox look much different than mine. Because of this, it is critical to use these talents - after all, no one else can do what you can. But when we place our sole purpose on how we can contribute with our careers, our souls are the ones that suffer.

The Message version of Matthew 5:8 reads “You’re blessed when you get your inside world - your mind and heart - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

It is not until we have our inside world put right, our identity clear and strong, and our hearts beating to the rhythm of Christ, that we can see Christ, and that we can be Christ - in our friendships, our workplaces, our relationships, and in every interaction that we have.

You were knitted together tenderly, carefully, creatively, and uniquely in your mother’s womb. Your heart beats for One Purpose. Our gifts will not fully come to life until we live in the beautiful, matchless, and distinct identity of the One who gave us everything that we have.

 
 

ABBIE MEYER
INSTAGRAM
Abbie is a 25-year-old living out of the abundance of Jesus' unending grace and mercy. She thrives off deep vulnerability and connection with others, while striving to live into the call of outpouring encouragement onto others. Often described as feisty, passionate, talkative, and compassionate, Abbie is an ENFJ through and through. You'll most likely find her training for a race, handlettering or painting, whipping up a new healthy and whole recipe in the kitchen, singing worship songs at the top of her lungs in my car, or watching The Office with her husband. What does she love most? Pretty light, hearing people's stories of redemption, peonies, her husband's smile, white walls, and the smell of rain.

The lie of scarcity

I recently attended a wedding that concluded with one of those Pinterest-worthy sparkler tunnels, where guests line either side, cheering and waving firework wands as the newlyweds run through to their getaway car.   As the evening ended, the bridesmaids distributed the sparklers and worked together with a limited number of lighters to light them all up before the new Mr. and Mrs. made it to the start of the tunnel.  Amidst the hustle and bustle I heard the maid of honor say, “remember, you can use your sparklers to light other sparklers!”  Her comment caused me to pause and notice.  Each of us was so eager to get our own sparkler lit in time but forgot that once it was, we could use it to light up someone else’s.

The following Monday back at the office I was arranging some action items in my calendar when I looked at the date and realised it’d been almost a year since I was asked to apply for my current position.  I guess time flies when you’re having fun adulting.  It has been fun though too, my job.  And really, I sort of stumbled into it.

I’d been working as a temporary contractor doing administrative work for a few months when one day my boss and supervisor pulled me into a conference room.  As the heavy door swung shut, I was faced with two sets of serious eyes, I feared the conversation might not be a good one.

Though I’d never envisioned myself working in the utility industry, or in the corporate world at all for that matter, this job was both and I found myself not only enjoying it, but hoping to earn a permanent position.  I was learning so many new things, beginning to bridge the gap between the theory of study and reality of practice.  Not only that, it was allowing me to take aggressive strikes at my student loans, something I’d hoped to continue.  But the biggest reason I enjoyed my job was that the people I worked with made it enjoyable - it was a true team environment demonstrated by the fact that everyone always seemed to be willing to lend a helping hand and genuinely enjoyed each other.  I learned quickly that any job is fulfilling when you feel that you are a part of something and making a difference.

My fears gave way to relief as the two sets of serious eyes curled up into smiles, and then to excitement as the accompanying mouths told me they had a permanent position they'd like me to apply for.  In describing the job, they used words like socialising and organisation and travel and writing and speaking.  At its core, the job was to take a safety message and communicate it in such a way that effectively brought about behavioural change.  And along with this job would come all that accompanies the creative challenge of accomplishing such a feat.

It was one of those moments that felt as if God was lifting back the curtain, allowing me to see what He’d been orchestrating.  For months leading up to my college graduation, I’d been paralyzed with the anxiety of not knowing what was next.  I had an idea of what I liked, a few puzzle pieces if you will, but nothing close to the whole picture.  Gradually, though, I’d begun to realise that the things I found joy in all shared a common thread: communication.  I loved having a concept I was so passionate about, that it became a creative challenge for me to figure out a way to communicate it in such a way that it might resonate with others.

I immediately saw this new job as an opportunity to develop the skills attached to those things I was most passionate about.  And I suddenly saw that 'random' temporary job had purpose.  God knew where He was bringing me all along.

That day I learned that God is the ultimate caretaker of our dreams.  He faithfully plants them, waters them, and gives them growth all while we sit there stressing about how we’ll ever be able to accomplish them on our own.  Even when we can’t see it He has a plan, because our dreams were never about us to begin with.

But that’s not all I learned.

Later that day my boss pulled me aside.  He told me why he thought I’d be a good fit for the position and knowing I’m a believer, also divulged that in opening up this door of opportunity, he felt God would use the experience to prepare me for the purposes He had for me.  I was astounded.  It’s like I’d spotted God’s hand in all of this and now that sighting was being confirmed.

When I thanked my boss, he continued on to say that he’d already experienced successes in his own career.  What brought him joy now was using his position to open doors for other people, getting to play a part in the story God was writing in their lives.  What brought him joy was lifting others up.

As he spoke, I realised that in the time I’d had him as a boss these had proven to be much more than just words.  Across my mind flashed time after time when he’d made himself about other people: creating opportunities, celebrating small victories, seeking out occasions to build people up.  It suddenly dawned on me that the team environment I’d so been enjoying didn’t happen by accident. 

People grow where they’re accepted and appreciated, and they excel when others believe in their abilities and challenge them to be better. 

The environment was a direct result of his leadership.

I’d heard before that a leader is someone who lifts up others to their full potential and I decided in that moment it was true and that regardless of my title or position, that’s the kind of person I wanted to be.

It’s easy to become so focused on proving our own worth that we miss the joy of building up others in theirs.  Worse yet, it's easy to fall prey to the mentality of scarcity.  The one that tells us if another person is beautiful or funny or smart or talented, then we can’t be, so we do everything we can to keep from acknowledging those qualities in other people.  We become tight-fisted with our compliments, with our words that hold so much life-giving power should we only choose to give them freely.  We’re convinced that if we lift up the greatness of others, there won’t be enough left for us.  And it’s usually whatever quality we most identify personally that we’re most reluctant to acknowledge in others.

But this isn’t Walmart on Black Friday with a limited number of flat screen TV’s.  It’s not one of those “if you get it, I don’t” scenarios.  There’s enough to go around. 

Scarcity simply isn’t true with an infinite God, and only when we know that we’re enough in Him are we freed to give freely to others, to lift them up.

I know how much it means to me when someone sends an encouraging message about my blog or speaks words of life over the person I’m becoming, so why wouldn’t I want to give that same gift to others?

The lies of scarcity tell us that if we lift others up, there won’t be enough for us.  The truth is when we lift others up, our own freedom and joy is multiplied.

It’s easy to think in our minds that a certain person is really kind or encouraging or intelligent.  And then assume it’s common knowledge and because we recognize that quality, the person must too.  But who’s to say they aren’t starved to hear the very truth we’re thinking, but haven’t vocalized?  We have an opportunity to speak life every day.

I’ve found that Pinterest is good for more than just wedding-sparkler-tunnel inspiration (though I’ve pinned my fair share of those).  My most robust board is a board of quotes and one of my favorites reads:

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. - James Keller.

I don’t ever want to become so focused on my own sparkler that along the way, I overlook my capacity to light someone else’s.  I want to emulate my boss’s example of finding joy in lifting others up.

In what ways— big or small— can we do just that this week?


 
 

KACI PICCILLO
INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK

Kaci is a 20-something-year-old living to know Jesus more deeply every day, and to share Him with others.  Everywhere we look, we can find God’s truth and beauty, and Kaci is passionate about creatively communicating these things through the form of story to bring hope and encouragement to others.  Kaci believes transparency cultivates connection, and that one of the most powerful places we can meet people is in the space of 'me too'.  You’ll most often find her laughing with friends and family, working at her corporate job in communications, traveling, getting lost in the mountains, sticking her nose in a good book, or diving deeper into the heart of God.