Just a Girl #SheBrave

I never really thought of myself as brave. To me, brave meant being daring–jumping out of planes, enjoying the stomach churning fright of a rollercoaster, bungee jumping…If you can’t sense the theme yet, I’m really afraid of heights. How afraid, you ask? Let’s just say I don’t even like climbing ladders.

Brave were the people who’d fearlessly run in the direction of their dreams. Brave were the confident people. Brave were the people who with no notice, were able to stand in front of a crowd and speak. I was just ordinary. Brave was definitely not me.

I didn’t consider myself to be a coward, but I just didn’t see myself as brave. Brave people had themselves figured out. They had their lives figured out. I really wanted to be like that, but there were a ton of insecurities standing in the way. The funny thing about insecurity is that it seeps into the way you portray yourself. My insecurity stemming from feelings of inadequacy made me self-conscious. So to combat the self-consciousness, I did what I could to avoid being “seen”. For me, that meant putting up a wall: a well-decorated facade that was just thick enough to keep others right where I wanted them–on the outside, unable to see all the things about me that I felt were so inadequate.

I was pretty good at it for a while, but at the heart of it, “facade” is just a fancy way of saying something’s inauthentic. And, guess what? Inauthenticity is exhausting. I wanted so much to live my ideal I-have-it-all-together-life, but what I didn’t realize was that it was coming at the expense of being who God actually made me to be.

I remember having a particularly rough time one day, I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember I was being really hard on myself. Sometimes our instinct when we are feeling vulnerable and insecure is to be hard on ourselves, isn’t it? I remember in that moment God speaking to my heart these words that literally stopped me in my tracks and honestly changed my life, he said, You’re just a girl.

Hear me out…He wasn’t saying that I was just a girl in some backhanded, dismissive way hinting that I was inadequate, unqualified or unworthy. He was telling me that the opposite was true. He was saying, you’re just a girl…you don’t need to be Superwoman. You don’t need to have it all figured out; you don’t need to have all your ducks in a row at all times. You’re just a girl. You don’t need to be perfect–you can stop trying to be. You’re adequate just as you are.  It was a defining moment for me because not only was it freeing in the way that only God’s truth can be, but it also set me on the path to that brave life that I always wanted.

You see, I came to understand, not only on that day, but many days since, that being brave is less of an outward thing and more of an inward decision. Being brave, for me, became about giving myself the grace to be transparent and being ok with people seeing what is on the inside of me. It meant knowing that I am fearfully and wonderfully and purposefully made. That God invested in the world when he made me (and when he made YOU). Being brave meant being ok with being vulnerable and even embracing my vulnerability because, after all, I’m just a girl!

Empowered by that truth, I decided to take up arms against my insecurities and areas of non-braveness by flexing my “brave” muscle and I’d do that by embracing everything that God made me to be. I’d do it by embracing all the different parts of me: the gifts he’s given me, my weird personality quirks (I’ve got a quite a few, ha!), my strengths, my weaknesses–all of it. I wasn’t going to run and I wasn’t going to hide, instead, I was going to set my life to do the things that I was made for.

It’s a journey that I’m on and its still unfolding before me. I’m learning new ways to be brave every day. I’m fighting against the urge to retreat and let old insecurities intimidate me. I don’t always win, but I’m committed to the fight. Why? Because I know there’s so much at stake and I know there’s so much on the other side of my brave.

There’s a saying that goes something like: Do it scared. If you’re not scared, you can’t be brave. I love this because it means to be brave is to overcome something. Brave is  accepting a challenge. Brave looks like saying yes even when saying no may be more comfortable or more “safe”. Brave looks like fighting to love someone who’s difficult to love. Brave is not backing down when things don’t go as planned. Brave is being willing to be flexible enough to go on the adventure with God that isn’t always what we planned for ourselves. Its accepting that there isn’t always an itinerary with dates and times and details for your life-story, and it’s learning to be ok with that! It means accepting that something may be difficult to do, but doing it anyway.

As I’m continuing to learn how to embrace brave, I’ve decided that one way I’m going to do it is by saying “yes.” I’m saying yes to the things that scare me and intimidate me–particularly to the things that are going to grow me and are a part of what God is wanting to do in my life. NO, you won’t find me bungee jumping or sky diving any time in my future–I do not believe that is God’s plan for my life, ha! However, I will embrace and exercise brave by stepping out of my comfort zone and by using my unique gifts, my awkward personality, and my God-given passions in life. I know there is no way I could ever do this on my own. I also know that I have and will fail many times, but guess what? Brave is also getting up after we fall. Brave is dusting ourselves off when we trip over our own feet. Most importantly, though, I know that God is the one who’s making me brave because he’s the one who’s called me to this life he’s set before me. He’s called you to yours too! Brave is knowing when to stop striving and learning to lean into the momentum of God’s grace.

Not long ago, I was talking to a friend about some leadership goals that we had for a group of women we were leading. I shared with her a few passages that I think are particularly encouraging for the season we were heading into:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” Galatians 5:25MSG

I love that we not only choose this life of the Spirit, but that we get to live out the implications of it in every detail of our lives. In other words, this isn’t just a notion or a lofty idea, but rather we get to live this out authentically and empowered by God. Working out the implications of our brave, working our “yes”, working our conviction and commitment to being who God’s called us to be into every detail of our lives. How can we do it? I think that’s something we can learn from the process of sowing and reaping.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided (CHOSEN) in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 

In this context, we usually look at this when talking about our financial giving, but I believe the principle holds true across all areas of our lives. If we reap bountifully what we sow bountifully and reap sparingly what we sow sparingly, then I think we should be asking ourselves: What have I decided (chosen) in my heart to give (sow)? And how have I been sowing it? Everything I’ve been given has been given to me for the sole purpose of giving it back. Whatever God puts in me has to come through me and he doesn’t want me to sow it sparingly! He knows that he’s placed great things in all of us, beautiful things, unique things, but we need to be brave enough to sow it bountifully–not allowing insecurities or fear to hold us back from giving it all.

It’s going to look different for all of us. My brave won’t look like yours. It doesn’t have to and it shouldn’t! We all have our own facades to tear down and our own insecurities to overcome. But, we also get to sow our brave (our gifts, our talents, our creativity, our yeses, our dreams, our lives, our finances, our surrender) bountifully and cheerfully knowing that our brave makes room for things to grow and makes room for others. We can bountifully sow our brave because we’re promised a harvest that’s just as and even more bountiful.

So friends, what does brave look like for you? How can you flex your brave? How can you sow it bountifully? Can I encourage you today that you don’t have to have it all figured out, you don’t have to try to measure up to any ideal or standard, you don’t have to have all your ducks in a row–after all, you’re just a girl, and there was a girl, around two thousand years ago, who’s brave “yes brought about the biggest blessing our world has ever and will ever see. Let’s choose this year to find out just what’s on the other side of our brave.

Don’t Stop Believing!

Have you ever felt challenged to do something, like God was sending you a message loud and clear and he was using everything around you to do it? Let me give you an example: On Mondays I attend an evening class on Biblical doctrine, theology, etc. Our professor, who’s also a pastor at my church, is this super brilliant, hilarious, genius, Bible-ninja and every so often, he’ll hit us with a challenge. As we were discussing John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full,” he challenged us to write down three things that we would dare to ask God for this week. He spoke about how too often we don’t ask God for things and when we do ask, we ask for a toned down version of what we want either because we feel unworthy of the thing, unworthy of even asking or because we feel like the ask itself is just too big. Guys, that’s me in a nutshell!🙋🏾‍♀️

I started trying to think of some things that I would ask God for, but I found myself struggling to make that list, so I told myself that I’d do it later. That evening after class while preparing a SOAP that I was asked to share with my Connect Group the next morning, I found myself being challenged again. I was looking through some scriptures that I had highlighted in my Bible (well…in my Bible App, which totally still counts!) and I came across a note that I’d made about Matthew 8:5-10,13:

5When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6″Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith….13And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

The words, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” stirred me deep down inside and I was hit with the thought: If Jesus were to say to me right now, “Go and let it be done for you as you have believed,” what exactly would be done for me? For the centurion who believed in Jesus’s authority and healing power, his servant’s healing was on the other side of Jesus’s words. What would be on the other side of His words in my life? What are you believing for? Message received, God!

I believe whole-heartedly that God wants our faith (Hebrews 11:6) and that he is absolutely doing miracles everyday, but what are we believing him for? What are we asking him for? We forget that God wants to do miracles in our lives and in the people around us, but he’s asking us to believe and he’s asking us to ASK.

 ask

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22

 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14 

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

I think its important to note that believing is more than “name it and claim it”, its more than “good vibes” and “good thoughts”. Faith is believing what God has said and responding to it with hope and expectation; its believing that Jesus is who he says he says he is and does what he says does and that he’ll do what he says he will. And because God is who he says he is (our Father, our provider, our healer, our help, our friend, our way-maker, the list goes on…), we can ask him for what we need with total confidence and even audaciousness.

Recently a famous music artist, in anticipation of an album release, took it upon himself to do a series of philanthropic deeds. One of these deeds was going to a supermarket and announcing that he would pick up the tab on everyone’s grocery haul. Sweet deal, right? Super generous! There was a lot of buzz around it and before long there were memes about how people should have made a mad dash in the supermarket picking up the most expensive items and filling their carts to the brim (a la Supermarket Sweep). Its funny, but its also exactly as it should be with our faith! Its the perfect picture of the challenge before us to have a “God is going to pick up the tab on this, so let me fill up my cart” mentality. He’s got the unlimited resources to cover even my most “extravagant” prayers–I can believe him for this!

As we wrap up this month talking about intentionality (and in this case, being intentional about believing), I’d like to share two things that we can all be believing as we move into the rest of this year:

1-We can believe that he is not finished: THE BEST IS YET TO COME: He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). The latter will be greater than the former (Hag 2:9). There’s more for all of us–this isn’t just a feel-good slogan, y’all. God is doing more and wanting to do more. There’s more fruit to be produced in our lives. There are more people he will use us to influence. There are more dreams to be realized. More people to be saved, more lives to be changed. We get to partner with him in faith, walking in the abundant life that he has for us. We can ask for more because thereis more and because he’s not finished! Let’s believe for more and for greater!

2-We can believe that he is not wasteful. THERE’S NOTHING HE CAN’T USE. He’s the ultimate redeemer of our life, of our time and of our experiences. He works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). No matter where you are in life, no matter your experience, no matter your age, there’s nothing that God can’t redeem. There’s no wasted time in God. We can believe despite disappointment and we can hope against all hope, because no moment spent waiting will be wasted!

So, friends, what are you believing for? What are some things that you are choosing to have faith for? What are some things that God has spoken over your life that you’re choosing to believe today? What are some things that you’re going to ask for in faith? Luke 1:45 says, Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her. John 11:40 says, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God. What would happen if we ALL started asking and believing? How different our world could be! Let’s commit today to be audacious askers and audacious believers and let’s watch as God far exceeds anything that we can ask for or imagine.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

When Small Doesn’t Fit #MoveOut

Isn’t it nice to have something that fits just like a glove? I mean that perfect fit that’s like, wow, this was made just for me! On the other hand, how much does it suck when something that used to fit us perfectly starts to feel a bit tight and constricted (R.I.P. to my favorite jacket). It’s frustrating and uncomfortable, isn’t it? This is what I thought of when I recently read about Lot and Abraham, both of whom had experience with outgrowing their spaces.

Genesis 19 tells the story of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family. He was one of the family members that Abraham took with him when he was called by God to leave his home to go to the land that God had promised him. He lived with Abraham until their possessions and families grew too big to live in one area together. Abraham suggested they split and allowed Lot to have first pick of land to settle in. Lot chose to live in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sodom and Gomorrah was a historical city notorious for being a place of uninhibited wickedness. To this day its used a metaphor to describe places of moral corruption.

At one point, Lot is visited by two angels who come to “scope out” the land, assessing the level of depravity. Once it was decided that destruction was the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels told Lot to get his family and head for the mountains far outside the city in order to spare them from the destruction. Lot complained about the difficulty of getting to the mountains and his fear of being swept away. He begged to be allowed to go to a tiny town nearby called Zoar. The angels allowed him to head there with his family in the meantime.

There’s so much to this story and there’s a ton of different angles that we can look at this, but as we focus this month on “intentionality,” I want to zero in on the three places mentioned in this story and how they can relate to our lives.

Sodom & Gomorrah / Zoar / The Mountains 

Sodom and Gomorrah represents a lot of different things to each of us. Historically, it was a place of complete moral corruption. It was overrun with sin; a place of separation from God. As Christians, it represents the life that God called us out of and saved us from. I believe we all have a Sodom and Gomorrah that we’ve been saved from, but where we go next is what’s really important.

The second place mentioned was Zoar–the place that Lot begged to go to in verse 20 saying:

“See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.” Genesis 19:20

Zoar was a small city outside of Sodom and Gomorrah just far enough that it wasn’t involved in the destruction. It wasn’t the place God told Lot to go to, but it ended up being a refuge for Lot and his family along the way. The name Zoar means “small”. Lot mentioned this a couple of times in the verse above. This description is very important when we look at what Zoar represents to us in this context.

Firstly, in order to fully understand how we can apply this to our lives, we have to look at Zoar in comparison to someplace else. As I mentioned before, it wasn’t a part of Sodom and Gomorrah, but it also wasn’t as far as the mountains that God had sent Lot to. It was someplace in between the two, likely closer to Sodom and Gomorrah.

So what does this all mean to us? Zoar is a place that isn’t where God is taking us, but its a spot along the way. Its that small victory in our lives, its that first step out of where we used to be. God told Lot to go to the mountains, but Lot, like a lot of us, asked for someplace closer/easier, in the meantime.

Zoar, or small, in itself is not a bad place; it serves its purpose as a stepping stone. The danger in Zoar is when we get complacent and start to settle there. We’ve been called to great things. YOU were MADE for great things, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes those big things seem so far off…so difficult to get to, a lot like the mountains that God was telling Lot to go to.

We have these God-dreams in our hearts, put there by our Father who made us for it, equipped us for it and calls us to it, but sometimes it seems so far, so costly–so dangerous even, that we run to Zoar instead. We take steps out of that old place, that dead place and we run to a place, which might be ok for now, but its too small to stay there. We forget or ignore that it was only meant to be temporary; that it isn’t the wide-open space that God has for us–its only a small city along the way.

In other words, don’t stay in Zoar–its small and small doesn’t fit!

God’s purpose for you isn’t small. It can’t be contained by Zoar. The Bible says that Lot began to feel uncomfortable/afraid to stay in Zoar (19:30) so he gathered his things and left to settle in the mountains. Many of us are experiencing that discomfort. Its a tugging at our hearts and a stirring in our spirit. God is calling us to pack up and keep moving forward–forward into the things he’s called us to, forward into those big God-dreams in our hearts. Zoar is NOT our home. Small is NOT our home. God wants to take us higher, he wants to take us to another level and we’re going to have to be intentional in our pursuit of it by leaving behind the old, ill-fitting spaces we’re in.

ask

This brings us to the third place in this story: the mountains.

Historically and Biblically the mountains have been a place where men go to be near God. Moses went up to the mountain to speak with God. Jesus went to the mountain to pray. The mountain represents closeness, it represents intimacy, it represents victory and the fullness of God’s promise. God called Lot to the mountain and today I believe he is calling us to it as well.

Friend, is there something in your heart that you’ve maybe set aside as “too far off” or “too difficult to achieve”? Have you taken steps in the direction that God has set before you, but have found yourself, like Lot and like many of us, settled in a small place along the way? I can think of a few areas in my life where I’m feeling the strain of small, the constriction of the small place that is Zoar.

Maybe you’ve been finding yourself with a Zoar-mentality–thinking small, limiting your dreams, drive or creativity because you’re afraid to dream too big or do what hasn’t been done before. Small doesn’t fit–move out! Don’t rein in your dreams, make room for them! I believe this is the time to, like Isaiah 54:2-3 says, enlarge the place of our tent or dwelling; to stretch out and make room–not holding back!

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”
Isaiah 54: 2-3 

The growth that God is bringing about in our lives cannot be contained by Zoar any longer–small doesn’t fit! Toss that small mentality. Leave behind that temporary fix. There’s a whole generation that you’re making a way for. Whatever your God-dream looks like, whatever passion burns your heart–let’s be intentional about moving forward into the wide open spaces that God has set for us up ahead. This year as we focus and commit to growing healthily and steadily, let’s be sure that we aren’t settling into small, but in the mountains ahead that God is leading us to.

HER:STORIES – Samara Catherine

This week on the blog we’re rolling out something that’s very special to me—HER:STORIES! HER:STORIES is a space designed to share the lives of amazing, everyday women through interviews and round-table chats. It tells the stories of women who are impacting the world in their own ways; women just like YOU!


This past weekend, out in beautiful Ocean City, NJ while celebrating our mom’s 60th birthday, I got to sit down and chat with one of my most favorite people in the world: my big sister, Samara Catherine, who is undeniably a real life Superwoman. She is an all-around powerhouse: a scholar (with the degrees and nerdiness to match), a brilliant entrepreneur with a full time career, a makeup artist, a devoted wife and a loving and empowering mother of FOUR beautiful girls. She’s all these things and more!

This month as we delve into the topic of intentional living, I thought it would be great to interview Samara Catherine about what living with intention means to her.


Karen Cecilia: So, I know you have a very full life—tell me about what you have going on at this stage or season in your life.

Samara Catherine: At this stage in my life I am a very full-time mom. Four children. Four girls—adolescent and kid aged. I’m also employed full time. I’m a wife…

KC: And your job is an “involved” type of job, right?

SC: …well, yes, it’s a senior level position, if you want to say that. I’m also a leader in my church, leading a group of young girls…

KC: MORE young girls!

SC: Haha, yes girls are the story of my life! And they’re my passion actually. I am also…I wouldn’t say an aspiring entrepreneur…but I’m an entrepreneur in the beginnings of a cosmetic company.

KC: Well that’s a mouth full.

SC: It is, haha, it’s a very busy, very full life.

KC: It definitely is. Speaking of which, I’m talking about intentional living on the blog this month and I know recently you were talking to me about how the word “margins” kept coming to you—becoming a theme, almost. In the context of your life, that’s clearly very full-on, what does creating margin look like for you? What is it like for you to try to find margin?

SC: Oh boy! Actually, a couple of weeks ago, maybe a month, I was telling God that I felt like I was giving a little bit of effort to everything, but not doing anything fully. I was saying, “God, I just don’t have enough time!”

But he gave me the realization that there are only 24 hours in the day. I’m not going to get any more; that’s the allotted time. And so I basically had to treat my time like a budget.

He had me do this really tedious task of writing out what I’m doing every hour of the day. So, I wrote out my 24-hour day and I started to fill in everything I was doing—even when I slept. I noticed there was only 3 hours out of 24 hours that was in the “budget” for me to do things outside of working or wifely duties or parenting. There’s 3 hours for me to do anything I want to do: personal development, going to the gym…. I really didn’t have much time in the day. So he had me look at this and start to cross off things that weren’t important or productive… wasted time. Time spent watching TV and surfing internet. I had to weed out these things to try to accommodate the time for things that I want to do.

So, for me creating margins is just that: looking at the time you have, looking at the things you need to do and want to do, accommodating your schedule and omitting things that are wasted time. With a budget you have income and expenses, if you don’t watch it, you can spend more than you have. And so basically that’s what I’m doing right now, learning to budget my time and steward my time.

KC: That’s great you mention that. In my last blog post I touched on that a little bit. I talked about how sometimes doing less in general gives us space to do more in particular—intentionally making time to do things that we’re meant to be doing with our lives. In that vein, what are some things that you feel you’re meant to be doing with your life in this particular season?

SC: At this time in my life, I mentioned, I have two “grown” children and two smaller ones, so I feel like I’m not at the point where I was a couple of years ago when I was really hands on with the kids. I’ve freed up my time a bit where I can focus on different passions. In the last couple of months I took on this ministry with the young girls. I know that God has put a passion in my heart to work with young girls and women. I’ve taken some of that freed up time to start ministering to young girls in church. I’m also focusing on personal development, I’m a self-help…

KC: Yes you are!

SC: …Hahaha, Yes I love anything self-help! I am really into the Bible right now. I’m taking a lot of free courses and group studies on-line. I’m working on different online communities engaging with the Bible and other women.

KC: That’s awesome!

KC: You have four girls, as we mentioned before, I want to talk about that for a second. Raising girls in this day and age, what are some of your heart-dreams for them? What are some of the things in your heart for them as young women growing up now?

SC: What I see for my girls, what I want for them is I want them to know who they are. To know their identity in Christ. In this age of social media and television and magazines and books, they get all these images of what girls are supposed to be or what they should look like, sound like and what they should be doing. I want my girls to be able to stand up against that and know who they are in Christ and that it’s not found in these things that are fleeting. I want them to be the unique individuals that God has created them to be. You know, they’re siblings, but they’re very, very different. They’re growing up in the same household and with the same parents, but they’re unique and I want them to embrace their uniqueness and not think that they’re lesser than each other or anyone else. They’re special and they have their God-given brilliance and they can live in that and walk in it!

KC: That’s so beautiful and I feel like all of that ties into the heart of what you’re doing entrepreneurially with your company, Ella Es Cosmetics. This idea of women knowing who they are and embracing their beauty. Can you just share a little about what Ella Es Cosmetics is and what your heart is for it?

SC: Ella Es is a love project, I’d say. It came about when I realized the need that women of color in my country (Panama) had in finding cosmetics for themselves, in their shades. It made me think about not being accepted for who you are. I felt that these women had to almost live vicariously through others and they couldn’t experience the fun of finding makeup for themselves. They probably even find themselves wishing they were someone else, unable to embrace who they are. And so the idea behind Ella Es Cosmetics is to provide shades of cosmetics that aren’t being served in these countries to women of color. It’s also a project to get women and girls to accept who they are. In Panama, women often wear lighter foundation because they can’t find foundation for themselves and so this is an answer to that. They could go to the store and find something that’s for them. They’re important and their beauty needs should be met. Also, behind Ella Es Cosmetics, is the feeling of why wait for someone else to do it for me?Why wait for a cosmetics company to recognize and serve my need? Why not do it for ourselves? I’m educated, I have a degree in business, and I have the over-all idea of how it can be done. Why not me? Why shouldn’t I initiate it and go after it myself?

KC: Wow! Yes, yes, yes! My next question was going to be in what way do you hope to affect change in your sphere of life and community, but I feel like you answered a lot of that already in terms of Ella Es and even in terms of your girls. Is there anything else you want to add to that?

SC: Yeah. There are three words that Ella Es Cosmetics lives by: recognize, educate and celebrate. Everything that E.E.C. does has these 3 components in it; we recognize the needs of us women of color. We educate by informing and providing information and education surrounding beauty, the industry and techniques. We celebrate by providing a platform where women can see others who look like them represented in a beautiful way.

KC: Amazing and that’s so, so necessary.

 KC: I want to shift gears a bit so let’s talk 2018, hey. We’re already approaching the mid-point of the year. What is your biggest win so far this year?

 SC: My biggest win?

KC: Yep, your biggest triumph. What are you the most happy about or proud of?

SC: So far my biggest win was to actually accept the call that God has given me with young girls. Because of the lack of margin in my life (because I was in another period of life raising small children) I couldn’t do it before. But I always knew in my heart that it’s a calling on my life from God. It’s something I take so much pleasure in. That by far has been my biggest win, just to be able to commit to it. Actually doing it and getting past the fear of the commitment. Just jumping in and doing it.

KC-That’s a great one! What would you say is one of your biggest lessons this year?

SC: One of the biggest lessons…I’d have to go back to time. I was never very respectful of time, haha. That analogy that God showed me about time as a budget was pretty insightful for me. I’m a person who was always late. I just didn’t respect time. So being able to put it on paper and see what I had and what I didn’t have. It was huge for me. I’ve become so much more mindful of it. I have to steward it appropriately.

KC: Yeah, that’s really good. Ok so, fun question: If money were not a factor, what would you spend your days doing?

SC: What I enjoy most are three things that I consider to be my sweet-spot: anything to do with women empowerment…

KC: SAME!

SC: …education, and entrepreneurship. So the cross-section of those three–I’d do it all day for no money! It excites me, it motivates me! To be able to help women develop themselves using business. Yeah!

KC: That’s great and I feel like that’s not even an if money weren’t a factor kind of thing, but it’s a do it anyway thing and you’re already doing it! OK, last question and it’s a heavy one…

What do you want to be remembered for?

SC: I have a quote in my closet that says “she leaves a little bit of sparkle wherever she goes”. When people think of Samara, I want them to think she added something to my life. Whether its an associate or a friend, she added something to my life. That takes a lot of intentionality.

KC: Yep, that’s the word of the month!

SC: Yeah, its been the word of the past 5 years for me, really. Haha! Sometimes in our daily busy-ness we don’t take the time to stop and engage with people and give them attention. Real attention. This past week I was in an elevator with someone and I asked them how they were doing and they said “Agh. Here…” and I said, “Oh that’s good,” and I kept walking. Did I listen to her? I didn’t listen to her! Clearly the way she answered it wasn’t good. And I felt really bad, I said to myself, Samara, you can’t ask someone how they’re doing and not listen to them. Listen to what they have to say. I want to stop and connect with people. I don’t want to just go through the motions in life. I want to be known for always providing a life-giving word. Encouraging and imparting hope to others comes naturally to me. I want people to say she always made me feel hopeful.


I’d like to say thank you, Sam, for doing this. I have an enormous amount of LOVE and admiration for you and I’m really excited to share a bit about your story. Not speaking from bias at all here…you definitely have been a source of encouragement and hope for me and I know the same holds true for your girls and the one’s you’re leading in church. Cheering you on, always! x


Hey Friends,

I hope you enjoyed our very first HER:STORIES feature with Samara Catherine! You can find her on Instagram: @samaracatherinemua @ellaescosmetics

See you all next week!

x KC

Every Last Drop

What do you intend to do with your life?

That’s a question that gets us looking forward and outward, isn’t it? We think of those dreams in our hearts that seem just out of reach or what we wish we could be doing a few years from now. Very rarely does it ever get me talking about what I’m doing now–like, today. In fact, how often do we find ourselves walking through the days, weeks, and months of our lives in what almost seems like an unconscious, monotonous biding of time? It’s what I call living with the Someday mentality.

Someday, when I’m making enough money, I’d like to be generous and donate my money or time to X-cause. Someday, when my life is less busy, I’ll go back to school and get that degree in that area of study that I’ve always been interested in. Someday, I’ll start that blog that I’ve been thinking about starting. Someday, I’ll volunteer. Someday, I’ll write that book. Someday, I’ll do that thing.

I was a Someday girl for a very long time. Like…a. very. long. time. It never quite felt like the right time to do the things that I wanted to do. Even when it did, I’d second guess myself right into inaction, often by falling into the trap of comparison. For example, I started a blog a few years ago. Actually, I should say I “started” a blog a few years ago, because I posted about once every 4-6 months (yes…two-three times a year) and I never really kept up with it. I became a slave to comparison, and NOTHING kills creativity and confidence like comparison does. You know what I mean, don’t you? That small (but loud!) voice that says what do you have to say that’s so important? Isn’t she saying it better than you could? Her blog looks better. She’s much prettier. She’s got more friends than you do–she’s way more popular! Do you really think you have what it takes? I struggled with it for a while until I just gave up. I thought to myself, someday…just not today. Someday.

The issue with a someday mentality is that it makes us forget that life isn’t an arbitrary stringing together of events; there’s God-purpose in every day! The Someday mentality is the opposite of the Every Last Drop mentality. The heart of the Every Last Drop mentality is that every single day matters. NOT that we are perfect everyday, but that we use the grace that’s for today, today. What does that mean? It means not trying to store it up for later (i.e. someday) or for when all our ducks are in a row. Right now is the time for something and we’ll only live our “every last drop” life if we use today what’s meant for today (which makes room for what’s to come tomorrow).  It means that we live each day with a sense of intentionality and an understanding that there’s no such thing as wasted time because our time is valuable. All of it! It means living life with the goal that when we are face-to-face with God, we can say, “I used it all, Lord. Everything you poured into me, I used it all.”

Firstly (and its really important that we hear this), living an every last drop kind of life does NOT mean trying to do it all or be all things to all people. Sometimes we get so caught up trying to do everything, and we get so busy being busy that we miss the main thing! My Pastor often says, “If the devil can’t kill you by getting you to do bad things, he will distract you by keeping you busy doing good things.” Come on somebody! *praise hands* Neither does it mean living an Instagram-inspiration life where we only speak in affirmations and smile. Living an every-last-drop kind of life is more about creating margins in our life that allow us to live with deep-rooted intention. So, while “every last drop” can sound a lot like “doing more,” oftentimes its just the opposite. It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes doing less, in general, allows us to do more, in particular. It lets us be more intentional with our time and with our lives. It lets us be more purposeful.

in·ten·tion·al
adjective
  1. done on purpose.
pur·pose
noun
  1. the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.

By definition, living our every-last-drop (intentional) life means: living a life that reflects what we were created for/the reason we exist!

A few weeks ago I was offered a new position at my fairly new job that would place a higher demand on me in a few different ways. It would also come with a raise and a few perks. Coming out of a very full season at my old job and going into a more restful and restorative one (a season that is undoubtedly God-ordained), I struggled with deciding what to do. The restfulness that I’ve been experiencing has been making room for me to be more intentional with being a part of building our church (my life’s passion) and is giving me time to invest in some heart-goals, like my writing. I knew that the perks of the job would be good, but ultimately I had to make an intentional decision to turn down the offer and honor the margins that this specific season is creating in my life.

It’s not always easy–we’ll be faced with tough choices, especially in this world full of options. One thing I’m certain of, though, is that the end result will be beautiful and oh-so worth it. I know there will be very full days ahead, but for now, this is the season I’m in and I’m choosing to get out of it everything that I’m supposed to. These margins are giving me space to grow in ways that is making me fruitful now and is also setting me up for my God-purposed future–readying me for what’s ahead.

Recently, I caught a glimpse of a taxi cab that had the words “Always Ready” painted across the side and it hit me like a ton of bricks (the words, not the cab). You see, these words are at the very center of the Every Last Drop mentality!  They reminded me of Jesus and how he’s always ready to forgive, always ready to embrace and always ready to refresh a weary soul (thank God for that!). Jesus was always ready, because he lived every single day of his life here on Earth with intention! He truly gave every last drop because he made every day count by living with his Earthly purpose in mind.

When we truly begin to understand that God has purpose for our every day lives, not just our “someday” lives, we learn to take hold of the moments that we have now. We learn to live our present with intention which in turn keeps us ready for whatever’s ahead.

With that in mind, I made a list of things that I want to be intentional about so that I will always be ready to live this every last drop kind of life. I’d love to share a few with you.

I want to be:

  • Intentionally kind. Always ready to treat people with kindness, even when (especially when) it means swallowing my pride. 
  • Intentionally generous. Always ready to be a giver when it comes to my life, my time and my finances.
  • Intentionally loving. Always ready to love. Everyone. Even when they seem unlovable. Especially when they seem unlovable. 
  • Intentionally encouraging. Always ready to look for opportunities to refresh those around me.
  • Intentionally graceful. Always ready to practice patience.
  • Intentionally forgiving. Always ready overlook or let go of offenses.
  • Intentionally welcoming. Always ready to live life with wide open arms.

It’s a tall order, I know. I’m constantly falling short and I’m sure will take me the rest of my life this side of eternity, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:12 :

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

So, friends, I’ll ask you again: what do you intend to do with your life? Because it all starts with what you intend to do with today. Are you living today with your purpose in mind? How can you get every last drop out of today?

Grab Growth by The Horns: Part 2

Late last year a coworker friend of mine randomly gifted me a tiny little plant with little yellow flower buds. It was the cutest little plant in this tiny planter. I named it “Buddy” (don’t judge me). Buddy was adorable–the little plant that could. You should know that I don’t really have a green thumb. In fact, I’m kind of a plant killer (again, don’t judge me). I try to keep them alive, because I honestly LOVE plants and nature, but God knows, I’m just no good at it!

Anyway,  I watered Buddy every couple of days, but over time, he began to blend in to the general scenery of my desk space. I would forget to water it and slowly but surely, the little yellow flower buds that I loved so much began to dry up and wither.

One day my coworker noticed the state of Buddy and gave me a pretty good scolding about being careless about maintaining Buddy’s health and growth. This cute little plant with sweet little sunshine buds was now all skimpy green branches with not a bud in sight.

As I think of Buddy, it’s impossible not to draw the parallel between its growth and maintenance and the growth and maintenance of my own heart. You see, just like we need to tend to a plant by watering, pruning and sometimes replanting into deeper, richer soil in order to maintain its growth, we have to tend to the health of our heart to maintain the health and growth of our lives.

In my last post I talked about three characteristics we can be developing as we grow healthy, strong roots. Now, I’d like to share three things we can constantly be doing to maintain our healthy growth now and as we move forward into all that God has ahead for us.

1. Heart Checks: You can only gauge the health of your heart if you check it constantly. The Bible says that “from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), and it also says in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our heart because everything we do flows from it. A healthy heart is paramount to healthy growth and healthy leadership.

Here are a few ways we can maintain a healthy heart: checking it with The Word (which is a mirror-James 1:22-25), having accountability in our lives (people who we trust to be honest with us and with whom we can be fully transparent, people who we are humble enough to take correction and direction from), and being teachable.

Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to gauge the health of our hearts:

-How do I react to correction from my leader/boss?

-How do I handle conflict or confrontation with someone I’m leading or leading with?

-What have I been learning lately?

Teachable people are great leaders because teachable people learn and people who learn, grow. If you haven’t been learning lately, you’re probably not doing a good job of being teachable/growing.

5. Be a Branch. Being a branch is all about being rooted in relationship with God. He’s the vine and we’re the branch. We grow and we bear fruit only when we’re attached to him. There’s a twofold point I’d like two make here, so forgive me the multiple metaphors. We know that a branch without a life source (vine/tree) withers and dies–that’s why we must remain connected to Jesus, the Vine, thriving in his presence. Also, the branch doesn’t get to choose the type of fruit it produces. Follow me for a sec…a lemon tree produces lemons from its branches and an apple tree produces apples from its branches. Now, we’re all called to bear GOOD fruit, but the way we do it will look different. A lemon tree branch can’t say, “I’m tired of producing lemons, I’d like to produce apples now.” I’m being facetious about apples and lemons, but the Bible puts it this way:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 (read 12:12-31)

Understanding that there are different members of the body and we each have our role in the Body is absolutely crucial to healthy growth and healthy living. Why? Because God wants us to flourish in the unique ways that he’s prepared for us and in the gifting that he’s given each of us. Also, understanding this makes us effective leaders because we are able to identify and build up these unique things in those we lead. So be rooted in relationship with God through reading the Bible and prayer, but also identify, develop and exercise the unique gifts that he’s given you. Steward well what he’s given you so that you can grow and bear the good fruit he would have you produce in yourself and in others.

6. Savor the Seasons: We do this by learning the lessons in the space that we’re in now. I’m full of metaphors today, so here’s one more for the taking: I like to think of every life-season as an actual season (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring). Each season has its own defining hallmarks. For example, what is Fall without Pumpkin-spice everything? Or hello late Spring aka strawberry season! Get where I’m going with this? I don’t expect to have good pumpkin bisque in the summer, because it isn’t the season for pumpkins. Savoring our seasons means getting out of our current season exactly what we should be getting out of it. As much as I wish we could skip ahead to Spring, we have to get through the Winter first.

The good news is that God doesn’t waste our seasons and there are lessons to be learned in the Spring as well as the Winter. Although every season may not be pleasant, don’t be quick in trying to move on because you will miss out on the benefits to be gleaned from where you are now.

Single? It’s a season (maybe one that will last your lifetime–hello, people with the gift of celibacy!). Financially tight? It’s a season that could very likely be the perfect time to pick up some financial planning materials and learn ways to steward whatever you do have, even better. Married with young children? It’s a season. They’ll grow and go to college and maybe have families of their own one day, but right now as you change diapers at 2 AM, what can you learn in this season? Interning at a law firm with your heart set on making partner one day? It’s a season, be faithful in it, be excellent in it. Your excellence in the small things will open doors for greater things!

Excellence isn’t about the task at hand. Excellence is a character trait and a state of mind–whatever we set our hands to, we should do well and as for the Lord. Whether small or large, glamorous or mundane, visible or behind the scenes, making the most of our seasons is part of stewarding our seasons well.

The Bible says there’s a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Regardless of the season we are in, let’s take time to glean and take time to grow. Not every season is a fruit bearing season, but every season has its designated purpose. Some seasons are for sowing, some are for sprouting and others are for reaping.  Here are some questions we can be asking as we find ways to savor our season: 

-God, what would you have me learn in this season?

-God, how can I steward this season well?   

-God, how can I help/serve someone else in a season like mine?

Friends, growth is good, but growth without maintenance will not be long lasting, and like Buddy, our progress will quickly start to wither. The truth is, God is behind our growth. Growing is his heart and will for us. The deeper our roots, the fuller our branches are with his fruit. Your life matters because what God has in store for you will bless not only you, but those around you. So, we don’t have to try to do it all on our own, he’s got us! By consistently presenting our hearts to him for pruning and watering, by remaining attached to him like a branch to the Vine and by learning what he’d have us learn in every season we may be in, we can continue to grow and flourish into this bountiful future he has for us!

You’ll also be happy to know that Buddy is doing very well. He was recently repotted and is growing strong. He’s even got a few new yellow buds coming in!

Grab Growth by The Horns: Part 1

This month we’re talking about building healthy foundations for growth and leadership.

“Healthy things grow!” Wise words from one of my pastors that has stuck with me throughout the years. It seems obvious when you think about it, but it’s something that we can easily take for granted. I know I have, especially in those in-between seasons where I’m not quite where I want to be yet and it feels like I can hardly see any progress. It’s easy to lose sight of the purpose in our present when we’re overly focused on the potential up ahead, but there’s something to be said about growing as we travel along from Point A to Point B. We want the big, full, exciting future, but being prepared for it often means growing deep strong roots in our present. In other words, being well equipped for what’s ahead means building a healthy foundation now.

As leaders, we want to be the type of people who are constantly stretching our capacity and are leading others in growing at a healthy pace, as well. You may be saying to yourself, “I’m not a leader,” but whether it’s a team, a family, an organization or just yourself, you are a leader.

As Christians, everything we do should in some way point people to Jesus; it should be making a way for others and producing fruit that isn’t just good for ourselves, but beneficial to others. In other words, leadership.

So, how can we make sure that we are growing and making the most of the process? I’d like to share three characteristics that, like roots, set a strong foundation for healthy growth. While these principles are general enough to be applied to anyone, as a Christian, I want to look at them through the lens of faith.

1. Patience: for yourself and for others. Have you ever heard of the term growing pains? I’m sure you have and even if you haven’t, I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced it in some way or another. Growing isn’t easy and most times its not fun. It can look a lot like standing over a pot of water and waiting for it to boil. Its laborious and it takes long. As un-fun as it can be, patience is essential to healthy growth. Why? Because nothing healthy grows overnight. Healthy growth takes time and it requires us to be well rooted. Whether its growing in a skill, growing in a relationship or growing in a role of leadership–growing takes time and it takes staying power. We need to learn to give the Holy Spirit time to do the work in ourselves and in others. Sure, God can do a miracle and turn things around in one day, but he probably won’t, because he’s more concerned with growing our character and stretching our faith. Growing in character and capacity takes time and time requires patience, so that means sticking through the oftentimes difficult “waiting” period. The Bible puts it this way in Romans 5:3-5:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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2. Humility: One of the best ways to stay humble is to constantly remind ourselves of the BIG PICTURE. When our view of the big picture (i.e. God’s plan–the gospel) is healthy, it’s hard to not be humble. The grandness of God’s plan and the fact that he has chosen us and allows us to take a part in it in any way completely baffles me!

Stay humble by remembering these three things: BY God, FOR God, THROUGH God. We’re saved and chosen BY God, not by our own merits, but by the finished work of Jesus Christ (i.e. it’s not about me). We’re called to serve FOR God, not to bring glory to ourselves, but to make Him known to all (i.e. it’s not about me). We’re empowered THROUGH God’s Holy Spirit in our lives to do what he’s called us to, we can do nothing apart from him or in our own strength (i.e. it’s not about me). See the pattern here? Do you want to grow your capacity and expand in your personal growth? James 4:10 says:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

3. Submission: a ten-letter word that often reads like a four-letter word, if you know what I mean. It’s the control freak’s kryptonite and the insecure leader’s Achilles heel, but true and Godly submission is an essential ingredient to healthy growth. You’re only required to submit when what someone else thinks or decides conflicts with what you think or want–otherwise, there’s nothing to submit to. Submission, then, is a practice of both humility and faith. Humility to follow the lead of someone even if we don’t necessarily fully understand, and faith that in practicing obedience, we’ll be doing what is correct (submitting to someone in authority over ourselves).

A healthy person knows that it isn’t always about having the last word or being right. We may not fully understand what God is doing or what a leader is doing, but having the humility to follow (and lead) is key to healthy growth.

Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalms 143:10

Healthy growth doesn’t just happen; growth has to be tended to. It requires intentionality, time and deep, solid roots. Let’s grab growth by the horns today by building ourselves up with patience and humility as we submit to the process!