FamilyLife Today®

Right Where You Belong: Heather MacFadyen

with Heather MacFadyen | November 23, 2023
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Feel torn in every direction? Heather MacFadyen, author of Right Where You Belong, brings the empowering message to simply occupy your God-given space--a Hebrew definition of humility. God has given you talents and a sphere of influence. Your role is to fill that space, empowered by the Holy Spirit. It's time to replace FOMO, inadequacy, and hustle culture with the satisfaction that comes from owning the space we've been assigned.

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Feel torn in every direction? Heather MacFadyen brings the empowering message to simply occupy your God-given space–a Hebrew definition of humility.

Right Where You Belong: Heather MacFadyen

With Heather MacFadyen
|
November 23, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Heather: We are limited in our view of time, of God’s bigger purposes, and of His plans. We think we know, but if we really could, in faith, believe we serve a God who is so big and so good and [who] has something beyond our imagination planned, that’s the bigger picture. That’s the, “Why am I here?”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.

 

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

 

Dave: So, I’ve never asked you this question. I just thought of it this morning.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: Do you ever struggle with FOMO?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Fear Of Missing Out.

Ann: Yes!

Dave: No, I would say you do not!

Ann: I totally do!

Dave: I was driving over here thinking, “I’ve got to ask you this!” [Laughter]

Ann: No. If somebody’s having fun, or you’re doing something and all your friends are together, and I’m not there, I totally have that.

Dave: Really?

Ann: Do you? I know you do!

Dave: I do.

Ann: For sure, you do!

Dave: I want to be everywhere all the time.

Ann: I know you do.

Dave: Yes, I mean—

Ann: —well, I only want to be where it’s fun and people are laughing. [Laughter] That’s what I want—where I want—to be.

Dave: So, why did I ask you that today?

Ann: I don’t know.

Dave: You don’t know?!

Ann: No.

Dave: Because we’re going to talk about it! I think we’re going to talk about it. Heather MacFadyen is with us.

Ann: And it goes along with the title of your book.

Dave: So, that’s why I brought it up, honey. I don’t know if you got that connection.

Ann: I’ve got that now. [Laughter] I’ve got it!

The book is called Right Where You Belong: How to Identify and Fully Occupy Your God-Given Space.

 

Dave: And your God-given space right now is being a mom. You have four boys. Your podcast is Don’t Mom Alone.

Heather: Right.

Dave: Do you struggle with that, being a mom?

Heather: I think that it was through that mom ministry that I realized I wasn’t the only one who struggled. Specifically in motherhood, I think there are a lot of amazing, capable women who feel like they have competing purposes and callings with things that they loved to do prior to being a mom. Then, you throw in motherhood, and they want to go all in and be amazing moms, too. They’re like, “Is this okay? Is it okay that I love to create music or sing? Is it okay that I’m a teacher?” Or they may not have a choice. So, they are working outside the home and wanting to be amazing moms and work outside the home to provide for their family, so they can provide the opportunities. They’re feeling that tension.

Ann: Oh, we all feel that tension!

Heather: All the time, yes. God honors those who honor Him. I just needed to be reminded of that. And wouldn’t you know, I prayed a little prayer: “Lord, could you just throw me a bone?”

Ann: Yes!

Heather: “Just a little reminder that this matters?”

Ann: “And I’m in the right place?”

Heather: “And I’m in the right place?” A mom walked up to me who creates amazing documentaries. She was about to have her third baby, and she had just started reading my first book, Don’t Mom Alone. She was just saying how much it meant to her and how thankful she was for the podcast. I thought, “Thank You, God, that You see just the smallest parts of our heart that need encouragement, and that that woman, being obedient to say something, was the ripple effect in my life.”

Ann: Yes.

Heather: She didn’t know it, but the one Spirit we have knows that we get to be stewards of God’s grace. I came across that phrase a couple of times, in Peter and in Ephesians. We’re stewards of God’s grace. God’s grace is everywhere, but we get to be the caretakers of it in our little spaces He has given us to occupy. Are we stewarding it?

Are we listening to Him and abiding with Him in that?

Ann: Sometimes, we let financial decisions determine our future, and it’s not that we don’t look at the finances and make decisions. That is important, but our calling, and how God has made us, His passions, and the gifts that He’s put in us—those should be looked at. We need to dive into it. I’m super proud of you, Dave.

Dave: For what?

Ann: That you didn’t give up in ministry, because God called you to it. [Laughter] It hasn’t always been the best—the easiest—financially.

Dave: Yes, and in some ways, it’s what your book is about. As I read through it, Right Where You Belong is this theology of calling, really.

Ann: Yes.

Heather: Well, you’re saying “calling” and “calling to ministry.” It was my friend, Kat Armstrong, who came on the show, and it was super clarifying for me. She said, “As believers, we’re all given the same calling: to go and make disciples. Our assignments are where we do that over the course of our lifetime.

That felt like, “Oh! Then I can have two assignments at the same time!”

Ann: This is important.

Heather: Yes! I can have the assignment of discipling my boys at home, and I can have the assignment of making disciples through my podcast, and I can have the assignment in that cubicle, and in that office; and I can have that assignment at the grocery store. Making a disciple, we overcomplicate. It’s not necessarily a doing; it’s a being. How are you, as you go into the world? That’s an assignment. To me, that just released the burden that I have to find my great big calling;—

Ann: —yes—

Heather: —one big thing. To find the humility of being okay with what you have been assigned; that is the goal.

Ann: So many people just heard that: “The assignment? There’s an assignment? How do I know what my assignment is?”

Heather: Yes, and I think that it comes down to looking at what limitations you’ve been given, which are good.

Ann: What do you mean by that? The limitations—why are we talking about limitations?

Heather: Limitations can feel—you know, we don’t want them; but they’re also so freeing because, if you [say], “Okay, these are my limits. How do I live within them well? How do I do what I’ve been given well, empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit, instead of always wishing to be over—?” You know, “the grass is always greener” is what we always say. But I think that those limits are good! We do it with our kids!

Ann: Yes!

Heather: We say, “You can play in this yard, but if you go in the street, that’s not going to be so great.”

Ann: That’s good!

Dave: Yes. I think, you know, as you talk about Kat—

Heather: —yes—

Dave: —who said, “We all have the call, if we’re a follower of Christ, to make disciples.” I can remember—Ann wasn’t there, but I went to my first-ever Christian retreat. I didn’t come to Christ until my Junior year in college. And the guy who led me to Christ said, “You’ve got to go to this Christmas Conference with Campus Crusade for Christ in Chicago during Christmas break.”

The last session was—I’m talking—2,000 kids in a ballroom in Chicago!

Heather: Yes.

Dave: Bill Bright, the President of Cru speaks! I didn’t know who he was. I’ll never forget. He gets on the stage and says, “Tonight, I’m going to share the greatest words ever spoken by the greatest man who ever lived at the greatest moment of His life.” Now, we all probably, right now, know what He’s going to say. I’m sitting there like, “Who’s this? What—?”—

Heather: —“Who’s this great man!?” [Laughter]

Dave: I was that new.

Heather: Yes.

Dave: I didn’t know that it was Jesus, and it was Matthew 28, the Great Commission. Anyway, I’m trying to keep this short. He says, at the end, “If you’re willing, tonight”—it was New Year’s Eve, by the way—“to say to God, ‘I’ll go and do anything You want me to do, I want you to stand’.”

I’m literally in the back row because that’s where I was; brand new! And I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if anybody will stand?” The whole room basically stood.

Heather: Wow!

Dave: It was this powerful moment, and I was sitting there, and this was my thinking: “There’s no way! You’ve got to be kidding me! ‘Go anywhere, do anything? I’ll end up a missionary in some God-forsaken country’.” So, I sat. And all I knew was, I thought the calling of God always means—

Heather: —"it’s miserable out there.”

Dave: —you’re going somewhere.

Heather: Yes.

Dave: It was months later when I got on my knees in my bedroom. It was [about] four months later when I said, “Okay, God. I didn’t stand in a ballroom months ago, but I’m in. Wherever You want me to go, I’ll go. I’ll do whatever You want me to do.” When I talk about it now, I always think of this: it’s almost like God looked down at me and said, “Are you serious? Because you won’t believe what I’ve got for you! We are going to go change the world!”

Again, I thought it was this calling that was going to send me somewhere. Your book is exactly right: Right Where You Are is where God wants to use you.

Heather: Yes.

Dave: I didn’t understand that. It’s like God looks at you and me (and us) and says, “What are you passionate about? What are the gifts? What’s in your hand?” I used to always say, “What’s in your hand, and what’s in your heart? You like athletics! Let’s go do athletic ministry.” So, we ended up 30 years in the NFL, ministering to pro-athletes right where we [were]. Is that the whole idea?

Heather: Yes; I just want to encourage believers particularly—obviously, this was written for believers—to settle in and walk with God; abide with Him where they are, because—

We’ve heard the tapestry illustration, but all of the threads—threads are really big right not on the interwebs, but the threads—matter! We are limited in our view of time, of God’s bigger purposes, of His plans. We think we know, but if we really could, in faith, believe we serve a God who is so big and so good and [who] has something beyond our imagination planned. It may mean we walk through trials. It’s not a Pollyanna existence when you say “yes” to God and walk with Him.

Dave: Yes.

Heather: The disciples showed that through their martyrdom; but it isthe purpose we’re seeking. That’s the, “Why am I here?” That’s the bigger picture if you’re trying to find” “Does this matter, what I’m doing? Does it matter who I am?” These experiences, like you were saying with athletics—if we could weave them all together and say, “Wow! God has put me here uniquely with my unique DNA and my unique giftings, in this time on the history timeline, with these tools that my grandparents didn’t have.” We were just saying—even learning guitar—the tools that our kids have to learn and to reach—it’s like, “Wow!” That’s humbling.

There was a Tweet I saw from a You Version [Bible app] devotional writer. He said, “The expanded Hebrew definition of humility is to fully occupy your God-given space.” That felt so freeing to me, because “Okay, then my next goal is: ‘What’s my God-given space?’” Drawing up those boundary lines and those limits; figuring out, “Am I filling it?”

This concept of the subtitle, [which] says “God-Given Space,” led me to the God-given space of Israel, and how He had a chosen people. He said, “I’m going to give you this place to occupy.” In the boring chapter in Joshua, where He lays out all their boundaries, He says, “You’re going to go here; you’re going to go here.” And a couple of them said, “Nah!”

Ann: Each tribe, you’re talking about?

Heather: Each tribe of Israel.

Ann: Yes.

Heather: And two of the tribes said, “No; I think we’ll stay over here. We’d rather not go into this nice place.” I realized He has given me those limits or those boundaries and drawn them up for me in a unique way. I’m pushing against them.

It’s like when you do a Twelve-Step program, you know? One of the first steps is, “I’m a limited human being.” You talk about your limits. So, what I kind of came to were four [limits]. One is time, one is place, one is your wiring, like we were just talking about, and [one is] your experiences. When I would sit down on a decision of, “Is that for me? Is that not for me?” and I would bring it before God, I would, in my journal, write out, “What is unique in this decision about the time boundary? What is unique about the place? What’s unique about my specific wiring in this, and my experiences?” And “Am I filling the space?”

I have that dialogue with God. That’s what I want to encourage people with: this is not a formula; it’s a framework to move on your derek (your journey) with God. The Hebrew word for journey is derek. It’s like He’s constantly talking in the Bible about journeying with Him. “The way,” “I’ll show you the way,” “That’s not the way; this is the way.” I feel like we each have our unique way, but in order to know which way to go, it’s walking hand-in-hand with Him and inviting Him into these bigger and smaller decisions for our families and for us, personally.

Dave: How do you balance that with family? I’m sitting over here, and I think a lot of us men think calling, God’s design, and what He wants me to do (I often think) are outside the home; vocation.

Heather: Yes.

Dave: But, obviously, it’s in the home that’s a big part for men and women. I’m sitting here with two moms, and you guys are diving right into that; but I think, often, as a husband and a dad, my eyes are out there, when my real calling is right here. I’ve got disciples in my home that are more important than any disciple I try to impact “out there,” whether it’s in a workplace, in a church setting, or whatever. How do you relate that balance?

Heather: Well, I almost see it as “your family on mission to go and make disciples.” Then you, as a couple, are deciding, “What are our family values, and where are the assignments we, as a family, are being given? Is it the soccer sidelines? Is it that public school, that private school? Is it homeschool?” These are big decisions we, as families, make on where our family is going to get plugged in.

Dave: Yes.

Heather: I think we don’t often consult with God. We might look around at what other people are doing or what we think we should do based, sometimes, out of fear. Out of fear, we’re like, “Well, we’d better sign him up for 18-month-old soccer, because they’re never going to go to college if we don’t!” [Laughter] And it’s like, “Well, is 18-month-old soccer right for our family? Is that matching with our goals?” It might! It might be a great way to meet other families that you want to disciple and be in community with. You just have to look at your family goals.

That’s what I love! It’s so “bendy.” It’s a great framework to bend with your family as you decide what God’s leading your family into, instead of—some moms will ask me: “Is it okay? Is it okay if we--?” They’re asking me!

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Heather: “Have you talked to God about it?!” [Laughter] You know, just because it doesn’t fit this formula!

Ann: What would you say when the person says, “I ask God, and I don’t hear anything.”

Heather: Yes.

Ann: “I don’t know what to do.”

Heather: My tips for bringing questions to God and listening to Him are: “Try it.” We are not quiet enough. So, in a time of prayer or whatever for you helps you be one with the Spirit—maybe you haven’t fed the flame of the Spirit of your life; you haven’t been reading God’s Word; you haven’t been spending time with Him; you haven’t been confessing or giving gratitude. Your relationship with God is—

Ann: —everything.

Heather: It’s everything! If you’re not—it would be like if you ignored Dave for seven months, and then you just walked in and wanted to hear what he had to say. He may be a little—[Laughter] It may feel like he’s silent, because y’all haven’t connected.

Ann: “I have forgotten how to hear his voice.”

Heather: You forgot, yes. The sheep know His voice. Well, there is something to that.

Ann: Yes.

Heather: God is speaking; God is listening at all times. It’s our reception of it that is often stilted.

Ann: And if you’ve been away, He’s not saying, “Shame on you!”

Heather: No!

 

Ann: He says, “I’m so happy you’re here! I can’t wait to be with you!”

Heather: Totally! He is—I almost picture, sometimes, [that] He’s been sitting in my office, hanging out. [Laughter] I’m running in and out, answering a text here—

Dave: ---“I’m right here.”

Heather: —reading my emails. He’s chillin’.

I think making sure that you’re investing in that relationship; then, when you sit with those questions, what comes to mind? I think if you’ve been in God’s Word, and you’ve been in community, “What comes to mind?” You’ll be able to filter out: “Does that sound like God? Does that sound like His Word? Is it condemning? Then it’s probably not.” You can discern truth from a lie. It might surprise you what comes to your mind. That has happened to me more than once!

Ann: Me, too.

Heather: I will ask God something, and what comes to my mind [makes me say], “Really!?”

 

Ann: Or “I’ve never thought of that!”

Heather: Or “That makes a lot of sense!” So, those are my tips: check your relationship with God; try it; listen; see what you hear.

Dave: Now, how does it work when Bruce, your husband—

Heather: —yes—

Dave: —hears something different or thinks something different?

Heather: Well, I think sometimes, too, there has to be—I don’t know; not all of us are in the same spiritual place as our spouse is, right?

Dave: Right.

Heather: So, when it’s the combined decision, I’ve had that happen. I say, “Have you even asked God?” Because I know where he is spiritually; and he has to admit that he hasn’t. Then, it’s so interesting how, when I’m feeling led another way, circumstances change and opportunities go away that I wasn’t feeling led for us to do, and he was. Then, it just goes away. Can I even trust God, when I’m not aligned with my husband, because my husband’s not seeking God, with the bigger story of my life?

I was thinking about our family camp [that] we’ve gone to for ten years. We’ve gone every summer. It’s a treasured time! But my husband really felt like it was the end; my bigger boys felt like it was the end; that we shouldn’t go back this summer. I was bawling my eyes out. I did not feel the same way! And I did not take the question to God at all. I didn’t draw up these lines. This is the week that I would be there.

Dave: Right now?

Heather: And I’m here with you.

Ann: Wow.

Heather: You can’t be in two places. You can’t be in Tyler.

Dave: No.

Heather: But here’s the bigger story: my oldest son—I always cry; remember I cry!

Ann: Yay!

Heather: He is in Poland right now. He’s serving Ukrainian refugees, leading worship,—

Dave: —wow—

Heather: —teaching English, and teaching the Bible. My second son is in Bulgaria with his grandparents. [Laughter] He just led a kids’ camp. He is currently—right now!—in Thessalonica, Greece, visiting where Paul—

I didn’t know a year ago when we made the choice that this would be where they could be.

Dave: Right.

Heather: I would have forced them to be in Tyler, Texas, and miserable (not that Tyler, Texas is miserable); I would have tried to keep that memory alive—

Ann: —yes—

Heather: —and strangled the joy out of it! [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Heather: Instead of releasing and realizing there are places God wanted my boys to occupy that were new; to allow that. I didn’t know! I mean, these trips just all came together in the last two weeks.

Ann: What makes you cry thinking about your boys over there?

Heather: Stop it! [Laughter] Teen years are hard!

Ann: Yes.

Heather: They’re really hard. It just reminds me that God is big, and He has so many good things for them beyond Dallas, beyond the drama of high school and its challenges. It’s a reminder to me that God sees and He knows when we are at our weakest point.

Ann: Yes.

Heather: I mean, I felt like Moses with Pharoah, when he just kept going and asking to let the people go. It just got worse—another plague, and another plague. That’s how I felt with parenting teens. And then, you read, “And God hardened Pharoah’s heart.” I read that, and I thought, “What in the world!?” You know, we’ve all read that part and thought, “Why would God make it harder?” Then, it hit me! When they were set free, it was so clear that God was the one who did it.

I have been hitting my head against the parenting wall, asking and asking. It feels like it’s getting harder, but it’s so I don’t get any glory. The Don’t Mom Alone podcast host is not getting any glory in this story! God is going to have to at this point.

Ann: Yes; and I think, as parents, too—I do this: when I’m fearful of where my kids are, I tend to become more controlling.

Heather: Oh, 100 P[ercent]! 100 P!

Ann: So, sometimes, I don’t want to go to Jesus.

Heather: No.

Ann: I want to control the situation because I think I know what’s best.

Heather: Yes.

Ann: But every time we go before Him, He hears us; He hears our prayers. I know that He loves us, and, as you said, He knows your kids better, and the situation better, than you do.

Heather: Yes.

Ann: We can trust Him with them.

Dave: What would you say to the mom or dad who’s in those hard teenage years that you’re crying about right now?

Heather: Well, it was actually a mom who’s younger in years than me (I love mentors who are younger in years!) [Laughter]; she’s a stepmom to two kids in our school. I told her what was going on, and she actually brought up the Pharoah and Moses story, and I didn’t tell her what I was thinking. She said, “It’s like the first time Moses went to Pharoah, and he thought that would be it.” [Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Heather: She said, “He was just in the Prologue!” [Laughter] So, I think it’s holding on to perspective. I interviewed Sissy Goff, and she was talking about how fear needs context. I think the context of teen years is a really fertile ground of fear growth. I think it’s holding on, talking to people who have been on the other side, to gain that perspective. This is a moment in their story. Reading lots of biographies of men and women who were really hard teens and God used [them] in miraculously great ways for His kingdom work. Again, because their testimonies prove that God is a big God.

Dave: Yes.

Heather: He does big things! So, hold on—hold on—to hope. I think their relationship with God—you, the mom, or you, the dad—your relationship with God is where you need to lean in when that fear starts rising.

Shelby: When fear rises up, personally lean into your relationship with God. I love that! Don’t panic. Don’t run away. Take all of it to the Lord because He can handle it. Such an important thing to remember.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Heather MacFadyen on FamilyLife Today. Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re listening right now to FamilyLife Today in your car, or if you’re driving some place, or if you’re with your family, or if you’re around a bowl of mashed potatoes, or the coffee table, playing a board game, I just want to say “thank you” so much! I am personally so thankful for you, our listener, who makes this show possible, who sends us so much encouragement and love. I want to send the encouragement and love right back to you. Happy Thanksgiving today!

We’ve been listening to Heather MacFadyen, and she has written a book that I’m certainly thankful for. It’s called Right Where You Belong: How to Identify and Fully Occupy Your God-Given Space. Wow, what a title! This book really advises women to embrace their God-given talents, set boundaries, and then find fulfillment amidst the conflicting messages of productivity and rest in today’s culture. It can be rather confusing, and Heather really helps with that. If you’re interested in that book, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com in the show notes and get your copy there.

A lot of Christians ask, “What is my calling? How can it change, and maybe look different, over time from the way I originally thought?” Well, Heather MacFadyen is going to be back tomorrow with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

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Navigating Suffering Spaces: Heather MacFadyen
with Heather MacFadyen November 24, 2023
Author Heather MacFadyen believes there's a deep humility in choosing to occupy our sacred spaces of pain—to the glory of God.
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