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The Power of Downsized Expectations

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After months of researching to find the right place to volunteer and weeks of training to be qualified to start, it was finally time!

I dressed carefully that morning– not too dressy to look intimidating but not too frumpy to reflect a lack of care– and I headed for the domestic violence shelter where I’d spend the next two years volunteering one morning a week.

My mind was filled with visions of how I’d lovingly interact with the healing women and children there. I dreamed of how I’d make a difference by loving them and serving them well, overflowing with hope for the plans God had for using me.

I checked in, showed my credentials, and was escorted to the office where the counselors and staff were. While my guide led the way, I absorbed the comfortable surroundings, filled with well-stocked kitchens and over-stuffed seating, inside the locked doors that provided safety from angry boyfriends and pursuing husbands.

But there was something missing. Where were the women? Where were the children?

Once the tour of the facility was over, I timidly asked the question nagging at my heart, “Where are all the residents?”

The kind counselor explained that the women left for jobs or job searches during the day while the children headed for school.


If they were gone, what was I there for?

Finally, the staff member explained what they needed from me. Because we live in an engaged community, donations pour in daily. They needed me to sort the boxes of toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, canned goods, etc. that had been collected and put them away in the storerooms.

My heart sank. Surely this wasn’t what God had in mind when He asked me to volunteer…when He called me to minister to hurting women in the US.

But that’s what the shelter needed, so I got right to work. Week after week, I’d sort donations (Including stained, stinky linens. Please, please, don’t donate gross stuff!). For two or three hours a week, I’d put toiletries, bedding, and food into their designated places, and I’d pray for the residents while I did it.

But each morning, before I started sorting, I’d go into the office and talk a little with the staff. As I listened, I found out how hard their jobs were. The women they served with love and faith were a difficult bunch. The women coming out of abuse were angry and finally safe to express their feelings, often unleashing them toward the staff that was trying to help them. They were free but living in an environment with lots of restrictions, so they pushed back against rules that seemed unfair to them. They were living with their family among other families which would be difficult for any of us.

Over time, I began to love each of the staff members, women who gave of themselves so selflessly. Through conversation, I found out that most of them were Jesus-followers, and that He was the one who had given them the strength to persevere in a difficult job.

Finally, one morning I decided that group needed a treat, so I picked up hot chocolates for everyone in the office, and I teared up when I saw how floored they were. Although they served faithfully, people rarely served them. And then I knew…

God didn’t call me to volunteer at the domestic violence shelter to serve the residents there. He called me so that I could serve the staff.

Once again, God showed me the power of downsized expectations. When I want to rush in with visions of grandeur, God calls to see and serve with humility.

As I was studying my First 5 lesson today from I Chronicles 28, Quantrilla Ard said it perfectly,

“It’s important for us to remember that the quantity or size of the work is not necessarily equal to the quality of the work.” ~ Quantrilla Ard, First 5 App

In our doing, let’s grasp the power of downsized visions and small steps. Too many times, I’ve mistaken small for unimportant, and that’s been my problem. That misconception kept me from doing the things that I’m called to. Instead of doing the small thing today, I’ve waited for the big thing without making any move at all.

Part of stepping into Kingdom doing is downsizing our expectations and being willing to follow God into the small and humble. Being able to see what He’s doing when He does what we didn’t expect.

Although my ministry ended up being far different at the shelter than what I expected (I always wonder if I would have obeyed if I knew what it was going to be), it was full of joy. Encouraging a staff who rarely received intentional kindess was a huge pleasure.

What’s God calling you to today that might be smaller than you wish?

Grit ‘n’ Grace Episode of the Week:

My friend Cindy Finley is doing a great big work these days with River Cross, but there were lots of tiny steps that led to today’s calling.

Pulling Together the Strings of Your Life Into a Beautiful Tapestry-Often, we see focusing on ourselves and our gifts as selfishness, but what if it’s really stewardship? This episode’s guest, Cindy Finley, is a woman who has overcome the paralysis of not being able do everything with the joy of doing something. She’s done it by watching God’s work as He pulls the bits and pieces of her life—gifts, talents, experiences—together into a calling, and she’s grown in the process. Listen in to this great interview to learn steps to grow your gifts!

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  1. Amy, thank you so much for sharing this! It’s so timely, as I am just launching into a writing and speaking phase of life, after a long career in corporate America. I’m so used to going for the “big assignment” all the time with the goal of furthering my career, but now am learning that accepting the small assignments He has for me, is actually doing MORE for His kingdom.

    Also, I just wanted to mention that I’m a member of COMPEL training and saw a recent live training you did. Happy I found your blog – it is lovely!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Thanks for visiting from Compel, Amy! I’m so glad you’re here with us. 🙂

  2. Keep up God’s work. Thank you ?

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Hugs to you, JoAnn!

  3. Dee Humphrey says:

    Wow! Amy Carroll, what an article! I’m floored by our awesome Lord in how He brings about transformations through the written word. I needed this message today! ? It helped put me back into perspective and focus on the serving Savior! Sending hugs your way!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      I’m so glad it encouraged you, Dee! I believe in you!

  4. I love, love, love this article. Sometimes those disappointed feelings can overwhelm what God is doing in the middle of disappointment. And there is great joy in serving! Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      It was a hard lesson for this grand gestures girl, but I’ve learned for look for God in the small steps. So glad we’re on this journey today, Karen!

  5. Gabriela Morante says:

    This is such a great point and an on-point example. Definitely something to ponder on throughout our daily situation. Kind of like asking – “Lord, help me see what I can’t see on my own. Who can I help?” Thank you. Also – serving the servers – such an amazing idea. ☺

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Thanks, Gabriela. I’m so happy we’re learning together!

  6. Mary Morash says:

    This devo came at a good time. I was feeling sad that I can’t at this moment volunteer to help serve meals to the homeless. COVID19 is rampant in the nearby city and my first concern must be staying healthy as I provide full time daycare now for my granddaughter. I do have some gently used men’s and women’s clothing that I am giving to my friend who helps there as a donation. Doing a little something to help the staff is a great idea too. Thanks!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Mary, I can hear your servant’s heart in your comment. Taking care of your granddaughter may seem small to you, but I know it’s HUGE to her and her mama!

  7. Thank you Amy for sharing this with your readers. This is now one of my favorites from you. I learned a similar lesson years ago at my full time job. I kept reminding myself of Colossians 3:23. Have a great, healthy and safe day sweet friend. ~?Lisa?~

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      I’m thankful that serving in the small things is now “our style!” 🙂