Another's Success Doesn't Render You a Failure

It's funny how we can feel like just because someone else gets something, it means we can't have it too. It doesn't matter our age, this rings true for us. 

My daughter Karis is almost 7 and the most competitive person I know. She isn't a kid we have to push, she's a kid we have to pull back. Her intensity is the most beautiful and most challenging part about parenting her. She loves to win, and feels like she needs to win. So often I have to tell her, "Karis, just have fun! Just enjoy it. This isn't a race or a competition or game. Just have fun." She gets so mad when I say this because all of life is a competition to her. 

I get it too, I'm the same way. She is her mother's daughter that is for sure. 

I've had this blog post title in draft form since this past spring because this has been a lesson I've had to fight hard to believe. And if I'm being honest, something I am fighting and will have to keep fighting to believe. 

Everywhere we turn we are told we don't measure up. The magazines in the Target check out line tell us we aren't fit or stylish enough. Our social media feeds tell us we have no lives and no friends. The only real mail we get these days are pictures of everyone's happy families at Christmas or babies being born, which doesn't match the image of our lives. We see the likes, comments and following of someone else and ours don't compare. We see the promotions, raises and success and we fall one more step behind.

We are constantly being told we don't measure up. We've already failed. 

There's nothing like the book writing process to make you deal with your own heart. It's probably the thing I will forever be the most grateful for when looking back at this first proposal process years from now. Regardless of how things end up or with which publisher I end up partnering with, I'm grateful for what God has already done in my own heart. 

It's becoming quite comical how many pieces of my book I'm being forced to keep testing out if I believe they are true. It's been my constant prayer that this book is actually helpful. I keep thinking of all the circumstances in the lives of those that will read it and what you all have going on. I want this book to help you, not go unfinished like so many other books we had great hopes for helping us. 

One of the steps to the book writing process is to list out your possible endorsers, your social media following, etc,... basically anything that makes you seem awesome. Understandably so because while these publishing houses are Christian, they still need to keep the lights on and pay their people. So they need to make sure that your words aren't just great, but they will actually sell. This wasn't as hard as I thought it would be but only for one reason: It's like when Peter stepped out onto the water knowing who he was but confident and walking on water because he knew who Jesus was.

Not only do you have to write about your scope of influence but then you have to narrow down to the top 5 biggest books that would compete against yours. I'll tell you what, this part was even harder. This is like when Peter started to notice the waves. 

I wanted nothing more than to climb back into my safe, comfortable and dry boat. 

I am pretty disciplined on social media to celebrate others in ministry and fight the insecure lies when the come up. There are season I have to unfollow certain people until my heart is in a better place (less competitive or insecure and more celebratory). I was fine until I had to do this part of things-- I had to really known my "competitors" (which feels wrong to call, what I consider partners in the gospel" competitors but it is what it is). 

So here I was pouring myself over these 5 biggest competitors. I learned about their books. Sought to find out how my book was unique from theirs. I studied their ministries and followers to see the parallels and differences. There were many times I thought,

"I can't. What I have to offer isn't unique enough." 

Have you ever thought that? 

You see 5, 10, 100, maybe even 1,000s of others doing the very thing you want to do, and you might even perceive that they are doing it better than you. So you render yourself a failure just because you've seen their success. 

We have got to stop this. It's just not true.

One thing I learned in my days of public relations is that it can take the average consumer 8 times to hear a message before they even really listen or believe it. That's crazy, right?! 

And it's most certainly not the gospel message at all to believe that there is only one person entrusted to do one thing-- God entrusts many. 

This past Lent there was one day in our Lent study that got me so hard-- we were reading the parable of the talents in Matthew 25

The master gave one servant 5, another 2, and another 1. The one with 5 turned it into 10, the one with 2 turned it into 4 and the one with 1 was afraid and hid it having only the 1 to show. 

Woah. The one given the least did absolutely nothing only because he was afraid. The one with 5 turned it to 10, and was then given the one making it 11. We could get annoyed in our entitlement ridden society because "the rich get richer." 

What we forget, or often overlook often in this story, is there was someone else-- the one who was given 2 and turned it into 4. And He was given the same affirmation as the one with 10: 

"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master." 

Not a word of this response was different from the one the master gave the one with 10.

We forget this about our God. 

We are so trained in our society, much like my daughter, that everything is a competition. That if we aren't winning we are losing. And it's just not the way of The Father. 

That day I can't even tell you the work the Lord did in my life and in my heart. I was released from chains of comparison I had shackled around my ankles for so long. It wasn't until I did that day that I had the courage to write the book proposal. 

I know that today I am the servant given 2. I know there are others that are given 5 today. I know that being a "good and faithful servant" today might mean that the best I can do is produce 4 with what I've been given today. I know that one day I might be given more, like the 4 that I had multiplied the 2 into. Then if I'm a "good and faithful servant" I'll have 8.

There might also be a day-- soon or in the far future when all I have left is just the 1. This might be where you find yourself today. It's easier to take some risks when you are holding more than 1 talent in your hand. Fear can cause us to hold on to things tighter than we should. 

Today, what do you need to let go of or do something with

so God can bring about a return?

The goal isn't us getting richer, figuratively or literally. The talents are all the master's, the servants are just entrusted with it for a time. 

His Bloody Hands On My Face

I've been home from Kenya, Africa for 53 days and I'm still struggling to share the stories for so many reasons: 

One: I'm a word person and I am having a hard time crafting words that would do justice to what I saw, learned, and experienced over there, and continue to process since being home. Two: So many of the stories aren't mine to share. The stories I've heard have wrecked me and sharpened me and purified my faith. But to share them with you would dishonor their confidence even though they don't have access to the internet or you access to them. So many stories simply aren't mine to share. Three: Life. I got home on a Sunday afternoon and was back to being a stay-at-home mom of 3 little girls, CEO of Sacred Holidays and signed a book deal with an agent that Monday. I've so neglected this space because my words and attention have been pulled else where.

So about Kenya... Oh friends, I loved it. Loved the people. And am crazy wild about His Voice Global (learn more about HVG and follow @hisvoiceglobal on Instagram). I think I'm going to share a story with you every couple of weeks or so to spread out the trip for you and me. There's just no way to do one recap post. 

We were there to put on a Women's Conference for the women in the Rift Valley, but the first day was all about learning about about the people and then visiting some in their homes. I'll share more about the home visits, but first I want to share about this boy. 

We were walking back to our van down the dusty, rocky roads and we turned a corner and saw some kids in the distance and they took off running towards our group. This little one leap into my arms and wouldn't let me set him down until it was time to go. 

The heart breaking thing about so many of these children is they are left to roam the streets all alone. I won't share the details of this boy because it's not mine to share. But I'll tell you that the majority of these kids are wondering the streets of this village because it's been days since their mom has returned home from prostituting themselves. Most of their fathers are dead or gone. Days they go without eye contact or a hug. There is no one intent on adoring them and posting their every success to social media. Days they go without food or water. The women that live in this camp (more details coming about the homes later) that go to the church, Rift Valley Fellowship, that His Voice Global partners with for everything in Kenya, take these children in on the days and nights their moms have disappeared again. They are the Heroes of God's great story. 

This is what I wrote in my journal that day: 

One boy ran up to me as if he was my son, and I his Mommy he hadn't seen all day. He literally leapt into my arms and wrapped his arms tight around my neck, refusing to be put down. He seemed about Moriah's age, maybe four, but felt the same weight as Chandler (our two year old). His hands were covered with dirt and blood, both were caked on. I couldn't tell why because they were so filthy. His face covered in dirt and blisters. But those eyes of his-- big, brown eyes. 

He took his bloody, dirt covered fingers and traced my hot pink lips. Again and again he circled them. We were both lost in the moment and each other.

He patted his chest and said, "James." 

He wanted me to know his name. James. I will never forget him, just as a birth mom never forgets the child placed on her chest but given away to someone else. 

James. Big brown eyes with bloody, dirty hands. James. 

We continued down that rocky, bumpy, dusty road. Other children joining us with each step. Each person on our team had arms and hands full. Soon a child was holding each of my hands too, as James still circled his arms tight around my neck and looked at me with those big bright eyes that still make me smile at the thought of them. 

IMG_0005.JPG

I didn't know why I was in Kenya, it just felt like I was supposed to go. I didn't know what help I could bring or what real difference I could make once I got home. But I knew I was supposed to go. 

James taught me something that day: be available for each person that is just in front of you. 

I'm such a doer and dreamer/planner that I can get distracted in the here and now. My body may be present but my mind is 6 months or 6 years ahead. It's so ridiculous, I'm so ridiculous. But James taught me to be present.

To be open to whatever God brings about as I'm simply walking down the path I'm on.

To embrace the ones that need it.

To not fear getting messy (or worse) from the things I'll be exposed to when I embrace all kinds of people. 

To love on others more fully-- really look them in they eye and see them.

I would've scooped up James that day and brought him home with me that day if the law allowed it. And you better believe I googled Kenya adoption laws and asked Chris if there was any way we could relocate for 6 months (a requirement to adopt from Kenya is to live there for 6 months). But bringing James into our home wasn't God's plan for me or James that day. He has a Mama. The Lord sees him and her and I can only pray that He will rescue them. Not to a life that is clean or rich, but to a life that is full of faith and love. 

I wasn't James's hero that day. I was there only for a moment. The hero of His story will always be Jesus. Jesus is the one who sees and looks after James. Jesus is the one that has all those women of the community watching over him when his family doesn't. Jesus is the one that provides extra food for one of those women and a palate on the floor for James. He knows love greater than what I offered him in that moment. 

But that moment was still sacred and it was for both of us.  I will never forget those eyes or those bloody, dirty fingers tracing over my hot pink lips. 

Does His Word Fall Flat?

If you ever feel stuck in studying the Bible or like it just always seems to fall flat, know you aren't alone. I've dealt with this, like yesterday. And every where I go speak or women I interact with through Sacred Holidays, I hear this again and again: "I want to study His Word but I just don't know how!" or "I want to have some big 'Aha!' moment but I feel like I keep checking out or I just don't get it."

This isn't a How To post because I don't believe that actually works when it comes to studying His Word and knowing God. There isn't one right way. But I hope what I share with you today encourages you to not let it become something you dread or something you feel clueless about approaching. 

I've been reading through the Minor Prophets, all those books between Psalms and the New Testament. For me they've always been neglected. They are either last up if I've done a read through the Bible plan or get overlooked simply because they are harder to connect with, for me, than the gospels or other New Testament books.

Honestly, I've been so surprised by how much I love the minor prophets. It's been a beautiful journey.... until I hit Ezekiel. I don't know why but I just haven't connected with it. I just couldn't get into it at all no matter how much I'd muster to get there. 

Yesterday, as I sat down to read again, I stopped and I just asked God to blow fresh air on His Word. That I wouldn't just come to it out of duty or discipline but that His Word would come alive right smack in the middle of Ezekiel. I remembered Hebrews 4:12 and prayed that over my time: 

"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." 

I stared at that verse I'd read and said so many times and the words popped afresh: 

Living. 

Active.

Piercing.

Discerning. 

This is His Word. It is not dead. It is not stagnant. It is not flat. It is not random. 

This is what I needed. This is what we need. 

So I flipped back to Ezekiel and prayed that verse again over my reading and asked with great expectation that the Spirit of the Living God would breath life into my soul and actively work by piercing me and discerning my thoughts. 

And I began to see phrases come together that have been repeated again and again. Words like, "then they will know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel is a lot of "This person did X, so this happened as a consequence. I'm over it." Rinse and repeat. (I'm sure there is a whole lot theological off about that summary, ha!) All of a sudden these stories of failure and judgement came to life-- All of it was so they would know Him.

All of life's circumstances are for Him and to bring us closer to Him. Not a thing is wasted on the Lord.

Also, I saw the power of what God was doing with Ezekiel. Each time the Lord would say to him, "Speak X..." This man's job was simply to open His mouth and say the very thing the Lord had given him and he did it. Without question and without addition or buffering. As a teacher this was wildly powerful to read. 

So what about you? Where are you at with your time in the Word? Remember, friend, it's not an obligation deal. Are you ready for something to pierce you? Does being a Christian feel like a flat thing sometime or a just an emotional response on Sundays? His Word is powerful. His Word is for you. Let's go after it!

If you ever need suggestions or advice on studying His Word, just ask! You can find me on Instagram (@beckykiser)