We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. But where do we start? Craving Connection is a journey with (in)courage writers sharing real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges that will encourage you to:
- Embrace the desire God has given each of us for connection
- Invest in meaningful relationships, right where God has you
- Become the friend you wish you had
The (in)courage community invites you to grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair to the table, and commit to creatively and prayerfully fulfilling your cravings for connection. How could your life be different after prayerfully and intentionally connecting with God, friends, and your community?
|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
(in)courage welcomes you to a place where authentic, brave women connect deeply with God and others. Founded in 2009 by DaySpring, the Christian products subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., (in)courage is a vibrant community that reaches thousands of women every day. Through the power of shared stories and meaningful resources, (in)courage champions women and celebrates the strength Jesus gives to live out our calling as God’s daughters. In the middle of your unfine moments and ordinary days, you are invited to become a woman of courage.Crystal Stine serves as editor of this (in)courage series. A self-proclaimed “accidental community builder,” Crystal is a coffee & chocolate loving, full-time working mama married to her high-school sweetheart. Crystal is passionate about cultivating a community where faith, fitness, and friendship come together. Author of “Creative Basics: 30 Days to Awesome Social Media Art,” she is a speaker and host of Write 31 Days. Crystal writes regularly at crystalstine.me and offers encouragement on Twitter and Instagram as @crystalstine and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Matt, and daughter, Madison.
Read an Excerpt
30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement
By Crystal Stine
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2017 DaySpring Cards, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Starting a New Thing
God's desire for relationship with us requires us to believe in a promise that brings change.
"Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."
Text or e-mail a note of encouragement to a friend and let her know she's important to you.
By Crystal Stine
It's hard to start something new. Change can rank anywhere on the scary-scale from "slightly hard" to "absolutely terrifying." And deciding to start a new thing often feels like climbing to the top of a very tall, very bouncy diving board and peeking out over the edge.
What happens if we try, and fail?
Fear holds us back from trying new things and keeps us in our comfort zones. When we're afraid to take the next step, say "yes" to where God is leading, or do something that feels uncomfortable, we find ways to convince ourselves that we don't have to do the new thing God has brought into our lives. Maybe, like me, you've said a few of these words to yourself recently:
I'm sure someone else can do that instead of me.
There's probably someone more qualified to do it.
No one will notice one way or the other.
I just don't feel like I'm ready.
My story isn't as special as hers.
It's been so long, I probably don't remember how to do it anyway.
I'm sure another chance will come along later.
I don't want to bother her with my stuff.
My place isn't ___ enough to host a group.
Those excuses can keep us comfortable, and free us from our fear of failure, but in the process we might miss the joy that comes with trusting the new things God brings into our lives.
In high school I was asked the same question every senior has to answer: "So, what are you going to do after graduation?" While I knew the answer was "college," the details weren't completely decided. When I was deciding where to spend the next four years, I dreamed of studying abroad. I thought it would be wonderful to spend a semester in Europe, traveling and learning about literature and history, right where it all actually happened. I'd traveled to England and Scotland in tenth grade with my Humanities class and fell in love with both countries in a way that affirmed my decision to enter college as an English major (with a focus on books, not grammar).
I never did study abroad. I felt so homesick during the two short trips I did go on that I was fearful of what I would miss if I traveled for a longer period of time. Because of this, I never even applied for the abroad program.
During my first short-term mission trip to Mexico, with the Presbyterian youth group I volunteered with while I was in college, I spent a week surrounded by beautiful children and passionate high school students, but my fears kept me from being truly present. I was afraid to truly connect because I was sure I would be rejected. My thoughts were so focused on home and comfortable relationships that I missed what God was trying to have me experience in that moment.
In college I went on another short trip to Austria and Germany as part of my college's gospel choir. I boarded the plane, only to find myself calling home from France in tears. I blew through calling cards as often as we climbed church bell towers, more concerned about keeping up with everything happening at home than with embracing the experience God had planned for me.
Our hearts long for the comforts of home, but being homesick and having anxiety can keep us from making the new connections God has planned for us. This world is not our home, and we will be homesick. We will be afraid, and we will worry. We'll fear rejection, and we'll regret missed opportunities. But God never says we have to face change alone. He promises that He will be our strength (Exod. 15:2), so we don't have to rely on ourselves and our feelings to get us through.
God revealed to me recently that I have a track record of letting fear convince me that doing what I'd always done was the best choice, and in doing so, I've missed out on experiences I'll never be able to replicate. If we're being completely honest, my life is a perfect example of someone who chooses the guaranteed-to-succeed road. If it feels uncertain or I think I might end up embarrassed or rejected at the end of it, I've avoided it — regardless of how wonderful the experience might be.
I've been discovering, though, that God's desire for relationship with us requires us to believe in a promise that brings change. In Isaiah 43:19 we read that God promises He is about to do something new. In verse 18 God told His people to remember their great deliverance from the Egyptians, so why is He now telling them to forget? God doesn't want us to forget what He's done for us — but He also doesn't want us to stay in the past. The Message says it like this:
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands." (Isa. 43:18–19)
Isn't this good news? When you look back and remember past change and the growth that took place, aren't you thankful? God's plan and purpose bring change to our lives. We are created in God's image, and that means we reflect a God who does new things. He made the humble things holy when He sent His Son to be born in a manger. He commands us to love our enemies. Jesus spends time with and loves those the rest of the world sees as undesirable.
When we accept Christ as the Savior of our lives, we're not just saying empty words. We commit to a life of change. God makes us a brand-new thing, and He asks us to love each other in the radical, uncomfortable, change-filled way that He first loved us.
So what does that mean for the connections we're craving with God, with our friendships, and with our communities? It means we need to be alert for the new things God is doing, and ask Him to reveal where He wants us to change. It means acknowledging that change can be scary, but trusting that abiding with God and being alert to His will carries far more blessings than choosing to stay in our comfort zones. It means surrendering my desires to His desires and believing that He sees, knows, and is over every step of my journey.
HE MADE THE HUMBLE THINGS HOLY WHEN HE SENT HIS SON TO BE BORN IN A MANGER.
Maybe you feel dry and empty, having gone through a season of pouring out to others. Ask God to bring rivers to the desert places of your soul. Has your heart been in a season of wilderness and wandering lately? Ask God to clear a path in it.
Be alert, and be present.
John C. Maxwell says this about change: "Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." In our lives, we will experience change. Right now you're about five minutes older than you were when you started reading (don't worry — you don't look a second over four minutes older). Some change, like aging, is inevitable. Others — like choosing to travel abroad, write a book, reach out to a friend, start a women's ministry, host a mom's night out, or saying "yes" to the thing God is asking you to do next — require us to make a decision.
Will we change?
Will we do the thing fear is telling us we shouldn't do?
And if we do it — will we grow from it?
When we go into a season of change and trying new things with an open heart, we leave room for God to grow us to be more like Him. The times that I've grown the most — as a mother, a wife, a friend, a child of God — have all happened as a result of doing something new and trusting God to equip me to do the work He's called me to do.
That doesn't mean God won't work in us and through us right where we are, without asking us to do a new thing. Some seasons in our life require us to do the hard work of waiting. Maybe in those quiet places we'll learn a new skill or discover that we're more courageous than we once believed. Or maybe God will use the talents and passions we develop to prepare us for the next door He wants to open.
Although I never left my college campus to study overseas, God used me right where I was. He wanted to create something new in my life, but in order to do that, He had to first take me through a season of removing the old, hardened pieces I'd built up like a wall. I desperately needed a river through my dry and weary soul, but before God could work on my heart, He needed to take me to a wilderness place so I could hear Him more clearly. It didn't feel like the exciting "new thing" I expected God to have for me, and while it wasn't what I wanted, it was what I needed.
In that season I had been craving connections with friends, prioritizing the thoughts and approval of others above my relationship with God. I looked to others for security and placed friends on pedestals and platforms with expectations so high they would never be able to live up to them. When it came to my faith life, I'd been doing a great job of paying attention to God on Sundays or when it looked good to the people I was around, but when it was just the two of us? He wasn't my priority connection.
So God took me on a wilderness journey that lasted for about ten years. My pride, confidence, and security in anything that wasn't based on my relationship with God were all idols — replacements for God — that needed to be removed before He could do a new thing in my life.
It was lonely in that season, and God took every bit of my "I can do this on my own and I don't need anyone" attitude and brought me to a place where all I could do was say, "God, I can't do this without you." As He began to reshape my heart, I began to see a small glimpse of His plan for my life. Not a single wilderness moment, feeling of being homesick, or failure is ever wasted — God was preparing me for what was ahead, because:
I wouldn't crave connection if I never felt alone.
I wouldn't know how to encourage if I never needed to be encouraged.
I wouldn't understand how important an invitation to the table would be if I never felt excluded.
When life takes an unexpected turn and we can't see the next new thing God is planning, we can choose to grow or we can choose to retreat. God's desire is for us to be in relationship — both with Him and with others. God doesn't want to see us alone, but it takes a tremendous amount of courage to reach out after rejection, or to face your fear.
God promises to do a new thing in our lives. Our Creator God, who so uniquely formed the entire earth, knows every hair on our heads and every desire of our hearts. He will equip us with all that we need to face the changes ahead.
Heavenly Father, take this beaten up, tired, fear-laced heart of mine and breathe new life into its veins. Draw me closer to Your desires so that they become my own. Lord, I need You. I need Your guidance, Your love, Your wisdom, Your compassion. I need to root myself in Your love so that I can return that love to others. Remind me, Father, that no human being, material gain, or worldly experience can bring me the freedom, power, and wholeheartedness that comes from fellowship with You. In Jesus' name, amen.
1. What new things might God be doing in your life during this season?
2. When it comes to change, do you tend to retreat or pursue growth?
3.What kind of connection are you craving most today: God, friends, or community?
Have you ever had someone reach out to you unexpectedly and the timing be so significantly perfect that the credit goes only to the Lord? How did it feel to be the recipient of God's graciousness through another person? Has the Lord ever brought someone to mind for you, making it clear that He wanted you to reach out to that person? What was your response?
Spend some time thinking and praying about a friend who may need encouragement. Then, text or email a note of encouragement and let her know she's important to you.CHAPTER 2
Living with Your Whole Heart
You weren't created to stand so stiff you never break — you were created for freedom.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
Choose an activity that is completely out of your comfort zone, something that you've always wanted to try and decide to do it.
By Angela Nazworth
Growing up in the '80s meant some fads I'll never forget. Some fads, like acid-washed jeans, Paula Abdul, and roller rinks were more fun when mixed into one Saturday afternoon. The roller rink had everything a seventh-grade girl wanted: pop music, junk food, and cute boys. Even better, all of this was available chaperone free. My parents would drop me off at what the locals called "the Double R" with just enough cash for pizza, Sprite, and rental skates; and I'd escape into a new world of fun, friends, and freedom for three hours.
Week after week I pushed my toes into a pair of tan skates with neon-orange laces and wheels. I scanned the room to calculate my chances of getting asked to couple skate when Kenny Loggins's "Meet Me Half Way" lilted through the crackly audio system.
As often as I went to the roller rink, you'd think I might have become Nancy Kerrigan on wheels. But I never learned to roller skate. Not really. Instead of holding hands with a tall, lanky, blond boy, I hugged the carpeted wall. I kept my limbs stiff and my muscles tight as I shimmied forward. I never timed how long it actually took me to circle the rink, but I'm guessing fifteen minutes at least — maybe thirty.
One girl always passed me about seven times before I finished one snail-paced lap. I never met her, but my insides twisted up with jealousy every time she whipped past me. In addition to her effortless skating ability, she had three things I wanted: perfectly poufy bangs, a boyfriend who could couple skate backward, and her own white skates sporting sparkly purple pom-poms on the toes. I credited her speedy skating skills to the skates.
But it wasn't my rental skates that were holding me back. I wasn't brave enough to risk a fall. So I kept my gait guarded and hard. I rarely tumbled, but I never truly skated. I also never experienced all the glories 1980s roller rinks offered. I couldn't glide under the limbo stick, swish to one of the four corners, or play other games with friends. While connections sprouted and friendships grew out in the middle of the rink, I stuck with the fuzzy wall. Not living with my whole heart was, and still is, lonely.
The girl who rocked big hair and skated with ease also fell down every now and again. She and her friends often practiced tricks and techniques in the center of the rink. She didn't have a skating coach or magic wheels. She did hold herself loosely. She moved her body the way it's supposed to move in order to balance itself when wearing shoes set to motion. When she fell, she stood back up and used the knowledge she gained from the fall to try again. Falling isn't the problem. Being so afraid to fall that you make yourself hard is the problem. If I had used the skates as they were meant to be used, I would have learned how to skate and experienced the freedom to learn and grow. Instead, my stubbornness held strong to what I thought was best and resulted in more discomfort.
FALLING ISN'T THE PROBLEM. BEING SO AFRAID TO FALL THAT YOU MAKE YOURSELF HARD IS THE PROBLEM.
What's true of our bodies also is true of our hearts. When fear, pride, shame, anger, and jealousy drive our decisions, we sacrifice fulfillment for a false sense of security that's both cheap and fleeting. Our thoughts focus on where we want to go next and how to get there pain free. Instead of connecting with our circumstances and the people present with us, we view them as competition or obstacles. The ancient Israelites knew this age-old problem well.
Many theological scholars agree that the book of Ezekiel was written over a period of more than twenty years during one of many times when the nation of Israel was a complete mess. The Israelites stopped living how they were intended to live. Instead of reaching toward the Creator and lover of its soul, Israel skirted toward a wall of false hope and derived a sense of security by clinging to imposters for fulfillment. One sin led to another, and soon they were muddled in a pit of moral depravity. A longing for comfort replaced the desire for spiritual growth, and their hearts toughened.
Gloom and doom line the pages of the first half of Ezekiel. But after the worst thing occurred — the fall of Jerusalem — the tone of the author swiftly changed from despair to hope, from chastisement to promise.
Excerpted from Craving Connection by Crystal Stine. Copyright © 2017 DaySpring Cards, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Connecting with God More Deeply
- Starting a New Thing
- Living with Your Whole Heart
- He Knows and He is Near
- Random Acts of Hope
- How Are You, Really?
- When You Feel as if there Must Be Something More
- “I am with you…”
- When Wounds from Women Are Hard to Forgive
- I Can’t Even
Connecting with Friends More Purposefully.
- The Gift of Imperfection
- Lantern Lights
- Kindred Souls
- A Safe Harbor
- Design Notes
- Longing For Loyalty
- The Life You’ve Been Given
- The Hard Work Of Friendship
- Why We Need Friends to Carry Us
- Spur Her On
- Your Story Might Be Someone Else’s Life Preserver
Connecting with Community More Intentionally
- We’re Stronger Together
- Gifts of Value
- Cultivating Creative Community
- Wildly Influential
- Golden Apples
- Loving Beyond the Gate
- A Recipe for Community
- Design Note
- Mighty Acts
- No Mistake
- A Grand Blueprint for Hospitality