A Day of Encouragement

The blog’s been quiet again. I’ve spent the summer {and last year} praying, playing, grieving and growing, and I’m still wrestling through the purpose of this ‘lil blog. I’d love to have some big, grand purpose in my writing like saving the world or feeding starving children in Africa, but so far this little corner of the world has simply turned into a scrapbook of personal thoughts, ramblings, book reviews, photos and stories. I’m learning to process life through words and the Word, and it’s all good. But somedays I still wonder if there’s more.

I’m reading books like Courage and Calling and asking questions like, “What am I made for?” and “What is my art?”

Over the past few months I have observed masters in their field. Chefs. Musicians. Athletes. Artists. While they have all had different goals and motives, I am still in awe and wonder at how they have perfected their gifts and pursued purpose and excellence in their art. I want to do the same. It’s just that, if I’m completely honest, some days I’m a little lost and just need a good dose of encouragement.

One artist in particular captured my heart and soul this past summer. Since today is the National Day of Encouragement, meet me over at {in}courage to hear more and read more of what’s on my mind these days. And why I’m a bit of a circus dreamer.

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my favorite quote from shauna niequist

IMG_8497“This is what I want you to do: tell your story. Don’t allow the story of God, the sacred, transforming story of what God does in a human heart to become flat and lifeless. If we choose silence, if we allow the gospel to be told on on Sundays, only in sanctuaries, only by approved and educated professionals, that life-changing story will lose its ability to change lives.

It always goes back to the beginning, no matter how we’ve wandered off course. When Christ walked among us, he entrusted the gospel to plain old regular people who were absolutely not religious professionals. If you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have within you all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world.

Your story must be told.”

{from Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist}

a letter of thanks

photoDear Shauna,

I can breathe again. Reading your heartfelt, sacred and silly stories was like finding a friend when I’ve been lost in a crowd of strangers. I am enchanted by your writing. You are an artist with words. So real and honest and authentic and true. I have devoured your books these past few weeks like a hungry girl with a bag of her favorite potato chips. I just couldn’t get enough. How many times have I whispered, “You too? I thought it was only me.” You have a gift.

Your stories made me laugh, cry, and whisper a profound “Amen” and “Halleluiah” over and over and over again. If we lived in the same town, I would be tempted to stalk your local coffee shops in the slim chance that I could meet you in real life and beg you to be my friend. To teach me your craft and art of real living and real loving.

You’ve taught me to embrace the good, the holy, the hard and the sad. Together. Maybe that’s the best lesson I’ve learned by far. You’ve given me courage to share my stories, live a deep, rich, sacred life, and celebrate. Celebrate. Because yes, life can be bitter, but life is also sweet, and when you put the two together, you have something rich and smooth and deep. Something so delicious that you want to share it with a friend.

If you came to my house, I’d serve you fancy, dark chocolate and sweet, chilled tangerines and ask endless questions around the table about motherhood, ministry, reading, writing, and of course, cooking. I’d confess to you my weaknesses and fears about friendship and homemaking and hostessing and starting a cooking club. You’d listen and nod your head in understanding, I’m sure, but then I picture you taking my hand and gently saying, “You can do this. Not perfectly, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Just be you and see what great things God can do when you let him.”

How do I say “thank you” in a million little ways?

I’ll simply start with, “Thank you.”

With a happy, hopeful heart,

Kara

{Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and newly released Bread & Wine. She is my new favorite writer. Check out her personal blog at shaunaniequist.com.}

Encouragement, Part 2

While God certainly uses people and circumstances in my life to whisper words of refreshment and encouragement, I also know that nothing compares to the sweetness of His words. Words that are sweeter to me each day. Not because I can check off my “Good Christian Girl” to-do list, but because God is making it clearer to me each day how hungry I am for the sweet honey of His Word.

Honey that is sweeter than…manicured toes…compliments…breakfast in bed…admiration…a new pair of shoes…an unexpected gift…pay raises…a clean bathroom…raspberry cheesecake…success…obedient children…vacations…coffee…a night off from cooking…{fill in the blank}.

My appetite is changing. Slowly, I want to taste and see more and more each day that He really is good. I am less and less the dutiful daughter who fears rejection or disappointment. {Oh, sadly there are still many days where I have it all jumbled again.} Delighting in Him, His word brings lasting, life-giving hope. And isn’t that what every father longs for, a daughter who comes out of delight rather than duty?

So I am reminded, that while scripture indeed brings us instruction and shows us the path of life, that God’s Word ultimately gives me the encouragement I so deeply long for to keep running the race marked out for me. For here I find hope.

Do you need a boost of encouragement to delight in God’s word? You can hide His word in your heart by listening to music! I’m picking a winner tomorrow for the Seeds of Courage CD from Seeds Family Worship. Enter to win…

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

A Lil’ Story

Need some courage? I do daily. Courage and encouragement. I wrote about that recently. While I treasure the encouragement of a friend {or an unexpected gift}, I know that ultimately the courage that God alone gives is what my soul truly needs and hungers for.

But we really do need each other. And speaking of courage and community…

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My lil’ disclaimer about her story: She had just seen the movie Ramona and Beezus. I think that’s where she got the idea to run. Oh, my.

Leave a comment–it’ll be good as gold!

Better yet, for a chance to hide some courage in your heart, enter this great giveaway and share a bit of how God encourages you.
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Encouragement

The lovely gift from DaySpring and the women of {in}courage. Thank you!

I’ve been thinking a lot about encouragement lately. How desperately I need it. How it’s the life blood of my soul. And how it’s linked to courage. And courage? I need me some courage. Courage, according to wise Webster, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk and uncertainty. Small fears have mushroomed and snowballed overnight (over years?) leaving me practically paralyzed some days and wondering how to trust again with the faith of a child.

And God knew. And He met me.

This week, encouragement came wrapped up in a box delivered by the postman. A gift. For me? Oh yes…I remember. I had recently applied for a scholarship to a blogging conference sponsored by the wonderful women at {in}courage and DaySpring. And I didn’t get it. Oh, I really wasn’t surprised. I had actually expected that. And to tell the truth, I was a bit relieved. But I was absolutely overwhelmed when they wanted to send me a gift, just for trying. A gift to thank me, little ‘ole me, for trying. For risking my heart and sharing my story. And suddenly my childlike faith is growing.

Later in the week I received a sweet email message of courage from a new friend. Words like honey that, little did she know, gently calmed underlying fears and uncertainty I’d been wrestling with time and again. Encouragement builds courage to take more risks and battle with these crazy fears in my heart. My courage is inflating like a big, beautiful balloon, and I’m giddy with childish delight. These foolish fears start to melt away, and my faith is strengthened once more.

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” For me this week, it’s an email and the gift of a necklace. Encouragement. Gold.

(I’m over the moon about this necklace! It’s so, so lovely. Really! A little courage clasped around my neck. Now to get it back from my little girl who loves it, too…)