Wind Chimes | A Lesson From Hurricane Irma

“What are you doing, Mom? I can’t believe you would do that to your wind chimes!” pronounced my oldest son with great disgust.

What are you talking about?

“A hurricane is like the Super Bowl for wind chimes. I can’t believe you would deprive them of the most important experience of their lives!”

As Hurricane Irma approached, I moved all of my wind chimes into the garage. The idea was to keep them SAFE during the storm. I didn’t want them to be smashed into pieces. In addition, I certainly didn’t want them to be launched as projectiles at my house!

And yes, it’s true that wind chimes are supposed to rustle and make charming sounds in the wind. However, they aren’t made for hurricane-strength winds! In my wisdom, I deprived them of their “Super Bowl,” choosing to protect them from harm instead.

That’s how it is with us and God. [Note: I am in NO way claiming to be God or anywhere nearly as wise as God.]

But here’s the comparison:

We often think we know what we want: to land a certain job, to be able to turn a hobby into a full-time career, to move to a different city…..the list goes on. We often believe that whatever it is that we desperately want will be THE ULTIMATE…..the very best thing that could ever happen to us.

…..but in reality…..

God always knows what’s really best for us. And it may NOT be that thing that we so deeply desire. He may say NO and shelter us instead. God may even move us in the exact opposite direction. When this happens, it can be quite disappointing. Downright frustrating, even.

However, we must accept His perfect will. In fact, the thing that we covet or think we MUST have may actually be the worst thing in the world for us. And God chooses to protect us, which is so merciful. I’m so thankful He always acts in our best interest. Every time!


lessons from wind whimes

In the Midst of the Storm

in the storm

I live in Jacksonville, Florida. The past few days have been full of changing information, indecisiveness, panic, frustration, and abnormality.

Basically, our normal lives stopped sometime around Thursday evening. Most of the people in my area still have power. For now.

But, as Hurricane Irma approaches, we will most definitely lose our electricity. Last year, when Hurricane Matthew rolled through our area, my house was without power for five days. It was pretty awful. But at least we didn’t have any damage to our property last year. That is more than some of my neighbors can say.

This time, it’s a new storm yet the same uneasy feelings. But God is always God. He is not surprised by Hurricane Irma. He knows her path. And God is there for us. Whatever happens, He’s allowing it for our ultimate good.

That’s one of the wonderful things about being saved by grace. If we trust God with our salvation, then we can also trust Him with our day-to-day living conditions. Only our Father can give us perfect peace in the middle of a hurricane.

You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

We don’t know what will happen in this storm. Or in the next storm. Or even in the next tragedy that strikes us–that’s not even a storm yet just as devastating. However, we DO KNOW God works all things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I’ve prepared my house and family for this storm as much as I can. Now it’s time to wait and see what happens…..all the while trusting in God to protect and act according to His will. It’s storms like these that build our faith. And they build character, too!

in the storm

Jesus Is Enough

you are enough

I’ve been seeing the sentence, “You are enough,” all over the place lately.

The basic sentiment it is completely OK that you are not perfect. You can’t possibly do everything and please everybody all at the same time. The idea is that we should accept ourselves for who we are. We should stop comparing ourselves and worrying about what everyone else thinks.

And that sounds really nice.

But what haunts me is that, in ourselves, we really aren’t enough. I’m sorry, but it’s true. We’re far from perfect. We make mistakes. We fail. We fail again. Over and over.

Apart from Christ, we miss the mark pretty much every time and in every way.

It’s OK to be weak and imperfect–not because we say that its all right–but because we depend on God. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have grace and forgiveness. Jesus bridges the gap between our shortcomings and a perfect God. Through a relationship with God, we can begin to make sense of this crazy thing we call life.

Paul describes this well in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 when he asks God three times to take away HIS weakness–some kind of thorn in his flesh.

Be He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more                                      gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with                                                        weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It seems that God’s answer to taking away Paul’s weakness was a firm NO. And that was actually OK with Paul. It kept him humble. It kept him dependent on God. Paul knew that, in himself, he was NOT enough. But that’s where God’s power came into play. God provided Paul with everything he needed to complete the tasks he was called to do.

And so it is with us. We will always be lacking in some (and, in my case, MANY) ways! However, God is faithful to make up our deficiencies and provide what we need. When He does, we absolutely know that it was ALL GOD and not us.

It is dangerous when we tell a nonchristian that he or she is “enough.” Our weaknesses and limitations and our sins are EXACTLY what show us that we need God’s forgiveness and grace. Claiming to be enough gives a false sense of security.

It is also reckless to tell a Christian that he or she is “enough” apart from Christ. Because we absolutely are NOT. Pride in our own abilities and reasoning is a sin that drives a wedge between us and God. And that’s never a good situation.

May we always know that we are enough in Christ, and in Him alone!

God Didn’t Call You to a Life of “Fine”

 

 

christian entrepreneur

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Jesus walking on the water told in Matthew 14:22-33. I know I’ve heard it many times since I was a child.

The focal point of the story is usually how Jesus walks on water during a terrible storm and saves the disciples.

But let’s talk about Peter for a minute. I can identify with Peter in many ways. He was impulsive. Bold. Action-oriented. Often spoke and acted without thinking things through. Yes, I can definitely see myself in him!

When the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water in the storm, they thought He was a ghost!

It was Peter who called out to Jesus for proof.

                 “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 

                  He said, “Come.” 

                  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28b-29

Peter didn’t have to call out to Christ. His feet could have stayed in the boat with the other disciples and let Jesus come to them. And that would have been fine. Just fine. We can play it safe. We can stay in our comfort zones and not take many risks.

However, I believe God doesn’t want us to settle for a life of JUST FINE. No! God calls us to depend on Him and step out of the boat on faith. For Him. Outside our ability. Outside our wildest imagination. Just depend on Him. He wants us to live a life of extraordinary faith!

                 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.
                 Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. 

(Oceans | Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Ligthelm)

[Listen to “Oceans” here.]

Yes! Our fullest life and purpose are found when we listen to God and follow Him….depending on His strength. Peter began to sink when he let his focus fade from Christ and turn to the crashing waves. But Jesus was right there to grab him and save him. And He does that for us, as well.

So don’t be afraid! What does God want you to do right now that requires absolute trust and supernatural power from Him? Where is He leading you? Follow Him. Never settle for a mediocre life of JUST FINE.

 

Christian entrepreneur

Nicaragua Mission Trip

mission trip to Nicaragua

Going to Nicaragua on a mission trip was one of the highlights of my summer. While this was my fourth trip to Nicaragua, I can definitely say it was one of my BEST mission trips, EVER!!!

My family and I joined with several other people from my church. We had a really strong mission team. All of us but one had been on previous mission trips, so we already had an idea of what to expect. As usual, though, each mission trip is different from all others. And that’s a very good thing!

We flew from Jacksonville, Florida to Managua, Nicaragua on Saturday, July 15th. After arriving in Nicaragua, we spent our first night at the Word of Life Nicaragua headquarters in Managua. We work with Guillermo Aguilar and other missionaries at Word of Life Nicaragua. They work with us before the trip to come up with an itinerary that supports local churches.

When we arrived in Nicaragua, WOL handled everything. We had six translators that traveled with us and worked with us all week. In addition, WOL took care of our transportation, lodging, and food. This was a blessing to us, because it allowed us to focus on ministry.

mission trip to Nicaragua

After spending our first night at the Word of Life headquarters in Managua, we drove for several hours on Sunday morning to a smaller town called Juigalpa. That is where we ended up staying for much of the week. Instead of finding a hotel, we bunked in an old orphanage. We were very excited to have air conditioning in the bedrooms at night. There was no hot water, but it was pretty clean, compared to other places we stayed in the past.

Even though we stayed in Juigalpa, that’s not where we did any of our ministry work. Instead, we drove an hour away each day to work with a church in Santo Domingo. The people of Iglesia Filadelfia welcomed us warmly! Their town is so small that there is not even a hotel there. We really enjoyed working with them during the week!

In the United States, it’s typical that the “main” church service takes place on Sunday morning. However, Nicaraguans tend to emphasize the Sunday evening services. Troy and Mike both spoke in the two services. The first message was on marriage, followed by a regular service. Two other ladies and I sang a trio in Spanish. The song was “Wonderful, Merciful Savior.” I was VERY nervous about singing in Spanish because my Spanish is TERRIBLE! It went fine, fortunately.

mission trip to Nicaragua

On Monday, we went to a neighborhood in Santo Domingo where the pastor of the church we worked with lives. We split up into groups of two. With an interpreter, each group went door-to-door, witnessing to people in their homes. A few people got saved! We were also able to invite people in the community to Bible studies that take place in that neighborhood.

mission trip to Nicaragua

On Monday afternoon, we sponsored a soccer (football) tournament. It took place in a park in the center of Santo Domingo. We were surprised to find that it had a giant covered basketball court with a stadium. They played soccer right on the basketball court, but the ball was smaller than usual.

During the tournament, we had a few of the youth that were with us give their testimonies. Joshua shared the Gospel through the Evangicube.

After our presentation, we split up the people in the crowd into groups of six to ten and spoke with them more.

mission trip to Nicaragua

Santo Domingo is a really sweet town, and we enjoyed working there for the week.

mission trip to Nicaragua

 

 

 

mission trip to Nicaragua

One of the favorite things we did was host a retreat for the youth of Iglesia Filidelfia (plus others from nearby churches.) We used another church in the country that had more room for games. Several of us gave testimonies. We talked to the kids about discipleship and purity.

mission trip to Nicaragua

We also did a VBS for the kids that attend school during the week at Iglesia Filadelfia.

mission trip to Nicaragua

 

mission trip to Nicaragua

Nicaragua is absolutely beautiful! We enjoyed a gorgeous drive each day from Juigalpa to Santo Domingo.

On Thursday afternoon, we made our way back to Managua.

mission trip to Nicaragua

Friday was our last full day in Nicaragua, so it was our “tourism” day. We visited Volcano Masaya first. It’s an active volcano, and we could hear it churning below us. There was also quite a bit of smoke coming from it. The higher areas were closed off, so we couldn’t hike to the very top this time.

mission trip to Nicaragua

In addition, we visited a local pottery shop. The owner did a demonstration for us, and a couple of us got to try our hand at making a pot!

mission trip to Nicaragua

 

mission trip to Nicaragua

After we finished at the pottery shop, we visited a local market. For lunch, we ate at a restaurant build on the shore of a lake. The lake is actually a filled-up extinct volcano. Several of us went swimming in the lake after lunch!

mission trip to Nicaragua

As you can see, Nicaragua is a gorgeous country! We were so blessed to be able to work with the missionaries and a local church. It’s very encouraging to see that God is working in a different country and in a different language! God is definitely doing amazing things!

mission trip to Nicaragua

Many of my friends are surprised to hear that we don’t go to Nicaragua to build things and/or pass out food. Instead, we focus on carrying the Gospel to the people of Nicaragua. It is a communist country, and it’s the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. However, we believe that people need the Gospel more than anything else. Rich or poor, people need Jesus!

mission trip to Nicaragua

Dealing with Unexpected Sickness when You’re a Creative Entrepreneur

When you’re a creative small business owner, being sick in bed for six days straight is pretty much NEVER on your agenda.

Seriously.

Last week was supposed to be a busy transition from my mission trip to Nicaragua to getting prepared to starting the next school year as a teacher. I had a couple of personal photography projects planned. I was going to get ahead and write a few extra blog posts for when things get busy. (Trust me….they will….fast!) I was also going to get caught up some loose details for my photography business. In addition, I planned to do a thorough cleaning of my house so that it would be at least decent for the first few weeks of school.

Instead, all of those well-intended plans came to a screeching halt when I came down with a horrible flu virus. I’m talking about a lay-on-the-couch-sleeping-all-day kind of sickness. The days just kind of ran together. The fever, headache, and  a lot of other horrible symptoms made sure that I got NOTHING done. Zero. Nada.

Yes, I ended up going to the doctor. But, of course, since it’s a virus, there’s nothing they can really do. And my school year starts tomorrow.

I can cry and mourn the horrible death of my to-do list. On the other hand, I can try to figure out what God is trying to teach me through all of this. He certainly wasn’t surprised by my sudden illness! Perhaps God wants me to depend on Him MORE and myself LESS. He will show me what’s important. And it is God who will give me the wisdom and strength to accomplish the good works He has planned for me.

So I will not cry over my loss of productivity. Instead, I choose to recognize the blessings of God’s provisions in spite of my sickness. I have family members that stepped up (mostly my husband) and taken care of some things around the house for me. I also had the blessing of good healthcare and a comfortable place to rest during my sickness. In addition, I have the benefit of actually feeling better! I still need to do some things for both my business and around the house, but I’m going to have to let go and trust that God will provide the time I need to get these things completed.

Expect to see more about my mission trip to Nicaragua soon, but one huge takeaway from this trip was that most Nicaraguans have a peace with time. They go through the day and let it happen. They don’t stress through things and fight with the clock like I so often do. I want to be more like that–> content with the time I have and the tasks that need to fill it. On the flip side, Nicaraguans don’t have to cram every second full. They don’t have to be constantly stimulated. Such a great reminder!

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

This unexpected week of sickness taught me that my plans are not really that important, afterall. God knows best, and He is able to give me exactly what I need. It’s up to me to trust Him for it.

God's Timing

How I Learned a Business Lesson from Running

Christian blogger

Sweat pours down my face. The cool, gentle breeze offers little relief from the oppressive July afternoon. My feet pound the pavement harder than I mean for them to. I start to question my sanity as I begin mile three on what should should be an easy run in my neighborhood.

Then I see them. Two other runners approach me, struggling just like me. We smile and exchange greetings (as most good runners in the South do.) Our encounter lasts mere seconds, but something changes inside me. Encouragement washes over me. I feel my pace naturally increasing. My feet are lighter, and the thought of completing my run is not so burdensome.

Owning a creative business is similar to this. The struggle is real, and the road is long. But know this: you’re not out there alone. Just as seeing those other runners encouraged me to press on and have a strong finish for my run……..business owners inspire other entrepreneurs. You and I may have a different product or service that we provide, but we certainly have similar challenges.

Build a network.

Build a network of entrepreneurial friends. Business owners who share your faith will be particularly helpful, of course. But don’t automatically discount relationships with those who don’t share your same faith. Jesus calls us to be salt and light in this world. Coming alongside someone and encouraging him/her is a wonderful way to open the door to talk about your faith.

So…where do you meet other entrepreneurs?

If I run in my neighborhood, I’m fortunate to see a couple of other runners. But if I run along the River Walk downtown, I’m bound to see dozens of other people running….no matter what time of day it is.

Go where the people are. One of the greatest networks I’ve ever joined is the Rising Tide Society. It was founded by creative entrepreneurs with the goal of “educating and empowering creatives to thrive in the spirit of community over competition.” This is a national organization that has local chapters worldwide. I am a member of the Jacksonville chapter, and we meet in person once a month as a group. The Facebook group for our local chapter is also very active. I have met some amazing people through this connection! I’ve learned so much, and I’ve been able to network with other business owners in related fields.

Other options for meeting fellow entrepreneurs include Facebook groups, Meetup, and searching for specific tags on Instagram. With today’s technology, you certainly don’t have to live in the same region to have a meaningful relationship with someone. That’s one of the huge blessings of the internet! In addition, mastermind groups take things to a deeper level; they can also be a great benefit to your small business.

Whatever you do, the time to network is NOW! Even if it’s typically “not your thing,” put yourself out there anyway. Yes, there are a number of people out there who will give you the cold shoulder. However, we live in a climate where most business owners have realized that helping one another is truly the best way. When a fellow entrepreneur helps your business become better, it enhances public opinion everyone in that area of business. This, in turn, helps us get business. Referrals can occur back and forth, as well. It’s a win-win situation!

As you’re running your business, remember that you’re not alone. Look for fellow entrepreneurs and connect!

 

christian blogger

The Foundation Underneath Your WHY

 

Owning your own business can be extremely challenging. Entrepreneurs are faced with stresses, decisions, and deadlines coming at them from every angle. In addition, being your own boss means that you actually need to have MORE self-discipline and MORE motivation than the average person.

Fortunately, we live in a day and age where there are tons of places to get advice about running a creative small business. This is great, because creative entrepreneurs either do or oversee it ALL: production, shipping, customer service, accounting, filing, organizing, answering correspondence, visualizing, creating, marketing, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff that I didn’t think of!

If you are struggling with a particular aspect of your business, HELP is just a few clicks or taps away if you have an internet connection. Sometimes it’s totally free; sometimes you have to pay. But the answers are there.

But what about the   B I G   P I C T U R E ?

When you step away from the busy-ness of your business, are you really on the right track?

I believe it all starts (and ends) with your foundation.

There’s a lot of talk in the business world about knowing your WHY. In other words, what is the motivation behind your business? Why did you start it in the first place? Why do you get up every morning and do what you do?

Knowing your WHY is very important. It affects your goals, which set the course for everything you do.

But I think we can dig a little deeper than that. To be truly at peace as a small business owner, your WHY has to be based on a solid foundation.

Consider the words of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount:

Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.                                                                                                 Matthew 7: 24-27

Jesus had just LOADED UP His audience with piece after piece of wisdom and instructions on how to live life. And His listeners [and we as well] have a choice to make: obey His teachings or ignore them and do our own thing.

Regardless of our choice, the rain comes. The flood waters rise. The winds blow and beat down on us.

Where the two choices differ is in the end result. The person who lives his/her life based on the teachings of Jesus SURVIVES! There’s hope after the storm because the foundation was secure. On the other hand, the person who ignores the wisdom and teachings of Jesus crumbles during the crushing storm. The sands simply don’t allow what has been built on them to hold up to real-life pressures.

It’s a foundation issue for sure. Have you ever been to the beach and stood still as the waves washed in an out around you? From experience, you know that your feet actually start to shift around and sink as the powerful water flows in and out. Definitely NOT a good foundation for a structure that you want to be permanent!

If Christ’s teachings are a firm foundation, then what do shifting sands look like?

  • the approval of others
  • fame and recognition
  • making as much money as possible–no matter what
  • likes and followers on social media
  • what we’re “supposed” to do based on society
  • our own talents and skills

We need to ditch the idea of building our businesses around anything that involves raising up an idol above God in our lives. An idol doesn’t have to be physical; it’s anything that we assign more worth to than God.

When we have a growing relationship with God (through prayer and Bible study), He will be in the right place in our lives. This puts us in a position to seek and follow His will….His ways….His heart. God knows everything–> past, present, and future. He has wisdom beyond our wildest imagination! If we can trust Him with our salvation, we can absolutely trust Him with our business.

Make sure your WHY lines up with God’s will for your life. His principles are the only secure foundation. Then your goals will have the firm footing they need. Your business will be equipped for both the good days and the bad.

May you be blessed with many, many good days. But storms will come, and you can have peace in your heart in the midst of the turmoil because you know your foundation is rock-solid!

 

Fresh Beginnings | Faith-Based Support for Female Creative Entrepreneurs

As a creative entrepreneur, I’ve been longing for faith-based support in my business for a long time. Too often I see cute little quotes and “go get ’em” statements on social media. And far too often they’re just fluff. With no power behind them. With no promise of actually being true.

Here’s one of my least favorites: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Sorry, Ben, but I don’t really think this is true. I may set my mind to be a supermodel….but that’s just not going to happen. And I can list hundreds of things–GOOD things–that will never happen, no matter how badly I want them or how hard I work.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s extremely important to set realistic goals and push toward them. But don’t expect everything to always work in your favor. Don’t demand for things to work out just because you put in the time and effort. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work like that. There will be failures. (Learn from them!) There will be dead ends.

In fact, when all is said and done, the ONE we can count on is God Himself. He has a plan for each of us. And He knows what it’s going to take to get us there. He has the wisdom and the knowledge and the power to make things happen.

That’s why TRUE encouragement and inspiration always goes back to God. Not pithy little statements with no sustenance behind them. What we actually need is biblical, godly advice to help us run our businesses in ways that honor God. When we know and follow His will, things are going to turn out for the best! Yes, you can find a lot of good, general advice out there. But the BEST words of encouragement are those that are solidly grounded in God’s Word.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.                                               Romans 8:28 (ESV)

To say I’m excited about Grace in the Hustle would be a major understatement! No matter how great you are at running your business, there’s always some amount of hustle. It’s hard not to crumble under the pressure. I know. I’ve been there. We need grace to get us through.

Grace in the Hustle is here to offer encouragement, support, and hope to Christian entrepreneurs who seek to intentionally run Christ-honoring small businesses.

This is just the beginning of a journey. I (Susan) happen to be a wedding and portrait photographer. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you’re a florist. A make up artist. A hand-letterer. A wedding planner. A designer. A boutique owner. I could keep going……….

You ladies AMAZE me by your talent and the way you already work so hard at your craft! My prayer is that you will find encouragement to blend your faith with your business, and that God would bless you with much fruit!

Many blessings,

Susan Dixon

Susan coffeeshop 01