And the Winner Is…


What is it about humans that love a label? I think we go through life picking up scraps that someone has said about us or maybe how we’ve experienced ourselves in contradiction to something we’ve read – however it happens, it sticks with us and just like that, we’re labeled.

The label I’d given myself was one of pride and ego – the gross underbelly of an Enneagram 3. I regard it a bit as my Achilles heel, but if I’m honest, I love an award.

Teaching myself empathy, it’s been an exercise in rejoicing when other rejoice, watching my colleagues receive public-facing recognition – most recently, Women of Influence.

I was chatting about this with my counselor last month and her question made me laugh: “Did you apply?” That’s how these awards work, of course. But no, I hadn’t applied. So, there was a 0% chance of me receiving the award from the start.

It wasn’t that award in particular, but a gut check that the desire for recognition is still present. Thinking about new creative endeavors (more on that later!) and what God tells us about pride, I am so careful to keep my ego in check. Not my will, but yours, Lord.

I really love the words of Hannah Brencher, an author in Atlanta that I’ve followed since her book Fighting Forward. She posted the following on Instagram yesterday and I saved it instantly:

“When I get fearful, I say a tiny prayer. It’s called a breath prayer. The prayer is five words: God, reduce me to love. My prayer expands and gets bigger as I say it more: Reduce me to love. Teach me to see beneath the surface. Please help me to be a familiar face in a crowd, a light in a dark room. Turn me into love and wipe out all the excess fear.

The prayer is not asking that I’ll be propelled in a more significant role in this world. Quite the opposite, it’s a plea for reduction: Make me smaller. Help me get out of my way.

It’s a classic John B kind of prayer. In John 3, John the Baptist says, “I’m not it. I’m not meant to be the center of attention.” He tells his disciples that he was sent ahead to prepare the way for the bridegroom. “He must become greater; I must become less.”

My heart needs this reminder constantly: You are not the center of the universe. You are not the most important. That’s God. If I want to be open to what God has for me, I must also be open to decreasing and becoming less.

The world doesn’t tell us a story about reduction. It tells us to be front and center, always impressive. The gospel is a different story. Gospel living requires us to get smaller as we go so that God can be amplified.

I love how John Piper says it, “If God has called you to something high, go low.” Dare to go small.

Smallness is where the real work happens. Smallness is where we learn what we’re made of. Smallness is where our actions trump our words.

Reduce me to love. I can’t do this reduction thing alone, so come in and do the work. Have your way. I trust you.”

Hannah Brencher

Reduction feels like the ticket. If it’s an upside-down sort of kingdom that God is preparing and society is pressuring us to do one thing, we need to pay attention to what’s actually counter-cultural.

“You’ll never know the impact of the behind-the-scenes work you’re doing,” my mom told me at the beginning of the year. I felt a little guilty wishing for a sneak peek, anyway. I actually started questioning why God would form me in all my Enneagram 3-ness, knowing how difficult it is to keep doing all the things when no one seems to notice.

One foot in front of the other…

In March, one of my favorite Nashville arts organizations, Daybreak Arts, held their annual fundraising event, which our company sponsors every year. As the event opened, I walked around to chat with the artists and admire the new work they’d created. One of the artists was so gracious, telling me stories behind each of his paintings. I stopped and told him how much I appreciated hearing his inspiration, noting how stories build bridges to each other.

He smiled and said, “Well, there was once this girl who held an art show with her own work but donated the proceeds to Daybreak Arts and I watched how she shared her stories. It was amazing how people resonated with them. The people who attended saw themselves in her stories and they purchased almost all her pieces!”

I remembered meeting him at my art show and discovered he was talking about me! I had no idea that stuck with him.

“Smallness is where the real work happens…”

April marked the end of my first year as a Purpose Mentor at Belmont University. What a treat to chat about who the students are becoming vs. what they’re achieving! At the program-wide celebration dinner, I sat at a table with my mentees and forced myself to be quiet and present as they outlined just how much our time together had meant to them. (One even wore a pin I’d created as a reminder of a counter-cultural CAREER definition — Character, Attitude, Relationships, Experience, Excellence, and Rest!)

“Smallness is where we learn what we’re made of…”

Two years ago, I was introduced to a then Junior Graphic Design college student. We formed a fast friendship over coffees as I did my best to answer her many questions about the industry and what a future creative career might look like. Last night was her senior art show and she greeted me with a cupcake and card before introducing me to her parents.

It wasn’t until I got back to my car that I opened the card and read this:

“Getting to know you and learn from you has been one of my favorite experiences while living in Nashville. Your confidence, kindness, involvement, and dedication is something I am so inspired by. I can’t thank you enough for your constant support and advice. I hope we never lose this friendship.”

While driving to a meeting this morning, I had this thought form out of the blue: That was your prize.

Why did it take me so long to see it?

“Smallness is where our actions trump our words…”

In God’s kindness, he’d given me the desires of my heart THREE times in THREE months. Who needs a Women of Influence plaque when I have hand-written notes of tangible impact? I am so, so grateful!

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