what do fitzgerald, van gogh, & joanna gaines have in common?

F. Scott Fitzgerald died thinking his career was a flop. He spent too much time drinking and writing things that he didn’t care about.

Vincent van Gosh couldn’t afford rent as an artist and his brother Theo footed the bill. 

Joanna Gaines started out her working years in her Dad’s tire shop (where she would meet Chip). As a newlywed in 2003, she launched a little shop where she was happy if she got a handful of customers a day. 

In these moments of rarely being seen but still practicing their crafts of words, paint strokes, and interior design, they were not of any less valuable to society. 

If you find yourself feeling unseen in what you love to do, I’ll let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t matter. You matter and how your work blesses others matter, but applause is not an indicator of your Kingdom citizenship. Scripture tells us in John 15 to “Abide in Me” with the promise that with a heart tuned to His, the fruit will come. Jesus Himself was often not commended in his ministry, but chastised, accused, and eventually murdered because He wasn’t what they expected Him to be like. Keep doing the thing that makes you feel more awake to the wonder of God’s creation! Shift what needs to be shifted, seek godly counsel, and chase your dreams – but know that worldly applause is fickle. Being seen would be nice. But what I want more than that is to know my Father sees me making disciples and being faithful to the little in my hands in order to receive the more that He defines.

I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be  given, but from the one who has not, even what  he has will be taken away. — Luke 19:26

The truth is that we will never get *there*, the unmarked place that we have in our heads, by fretting about being behind. We will get *somewhere*, a place where we are walking in what makes us come alive and makes the world a better place, by walking in steady obedience to the Father. There are nights when I wonder if my writing will ever pick up, if I’ll ever get to do what I love and, ya know, pay bills. But here’s what you and I have to know: our circumstances are not directly related to the worthiness of your calling. If that were true, everyone wouldn’t know what The Great Gatsby was or have seen a Starry Night through a sad artist’s eyes. We have to trust the pace in our lives that God has set. The goal is not to be seen, but to serve. If we can focus our hearts on doing all for Jesus, living for Him because He died for us? The rest will be set in the right place. Because faith is not about seeing or being seen, but “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We will be freed up and our white knuckled grip on our dreams won’t be exhausting. We might never be published, promoted, or accelerated, but what matters is that we give everything we’ve got where our feet are. The lives with the most impact aren’t the most impressive, but filled with care and coffee shop receipts, airplanes and heaping laundry baskets. 

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” — Hebrews 11:13-16

Will you live with the firm belief knowing that what God is preparing for you is better than anything you can receive on earth? Will you take the pressure off yourself to perform in order to live a life by faith that matters for eternity?

Because no one else will claim abundance over your life. 

No one will make sure that you wrote the words that were real, that you filled boxes for orphans, that you knitted your mom a sweater, that you danced at weddings. No one else will make sure that you’re counting gifts of gratitude and baking for the new person at church. When looking for the approval of others, we start to see expectations as assignments when it is impossible for one person to know the sphere of your influence and where the Spirit is guiding you. Your holy assignments come from the one that crafted you for such a time as now, not the ones sitting on the sidelines too busy judging to jump in themselves. We don’t control the fruit, so stop trying to be the vine – that’s God’s job. He multiplies our good work, if we would just show up with humble hearts to the toilet that needs to be cleaned, the homework that needs to be done, the dream that needs to be tended. We don’t control the harvest, but we steward the planting of seeds and a heart of good soil.

We are missing out – not because we aren’t good enough, but because we don’t believe that God has already equipped us for what is in our laps. 

“For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepares beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10 

You’ve got something to offer when the Spirit is working in you. The question is not whether you have something to offer those around you, but whether you will use what you’ve got to the glory of God, trusting Him with the outcome, or if you’ll constantly feel pushed down by the opinions of others or even the expectations of yourself.

So, friend, start the business.  Stop giving to show off, but rather choose to show up knowing God sees and rewards the good done in secret even more so than what is celebrated on earth. Submit the application. Gather girls and study the Bible even when your voice shakes. Send the text. Quit analyzing all the numbers and cute outfits, and look at the beautiful, hungry hearts God has placed in your path. You could have a Starry Night or Magnolia or Great Gatsby in you that is waiting for a permission slip to not be perfect. Fill shoeboxes and vans and hearts for the orphans and the refugees. Give glasses of cold water, entertain strangers, wash feet. 

And make sure you dance at weddings. 

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