Defined by Our Focus {Not Our Lack}

by Andrea Kolber

"The car goes where the eyes go." -Garth Stein

Every once in awhile, I read a book and the words stick with me long after.  “The Art of Racing In the Rain” by Garth Stein was one of those books and the quote above is from that literary gem. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

The context of the above quote is regarding driving a race car and understanding that on a track, where a car goes at a ridiculously fast speed, the driver’s eyes will cause the car to go wherever their focus is. So if the driver's eyes are on the guard rail they'll probably crash there, but if they are on the next piece of track, then that's where the car will go.

Guess which focus tends to be most helpful?

I often use the above analogy with clients and even in my own life, because the application of this principle goes far beyond the race track and keeping a car moving toward the best target. I believe there is much truth for us today.

We live in a fast paced, intense world where it is often easier to define yourself by who you are not, than who you actually are.

It takes work to find out what piece of "race track" you should be focusing on. There is often more support to model what NOT to do, than the inverse. 

Does this sound familiar? 

I am not that kind of person.

We are not that kind of family.

We are not that kind of church.

We are not that kind of country.

So who am I? Who are we?

This is not an easy question to answer. We don’t necessarily wake up one day and recognize exactly what is behind these questions or the answer to them. 

But here is what I do know: it is not effective to focus on what we are running away from in order to change who we are. 

So how do we move on from this? I believe one of the most essential lessons from this simple concept is to quiet our soul and search out what is/could be our focus.

And, oh, is it worth it.

It's in this quiet place our Creator speaks to us and gives us the gift of purpose, belonging, and hope. I love how the author of Hebrews puts this idea of where to focus here: 

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith...”
— Hebrews 12:2a, NASB 

The author of Hebrews is modeling for us this very idea. He's saying you're defined by your focus, not your lack. We are now defined by who Jesus is, not who we aren't. 

And while Jesus is the big idea of the above verse, ultimately there's a trickle down effect for other principles in life as well. Meaning, it's always helpful to focus on the actual goal rather than the possible pitfalls.

So wherever you are in your life today, I pray you would have the courage to look up from your fears and focus on your calling. 

Post updated from archives. 

The Honor of Holding a Story

by Andrea Kolber

Sometimes I see it clearly. My job, if it’s nothing else, is to hold the stories of people. I didn’t always realize (although maybe I should’ve) that stories are my jam. I should’ve known because I’m such a book nerd. I love fiction and non-fiction and all the stories. I’m also an existentialist and a meaning maker—so you can count me in for finding the layers behind a random rainbow.

And so like I said, I’m a story holder aka a therapist.

If I’m honest with you (which I try to be), sometimes working in mental health is hard—really hard. It’s tough to be the person someone wants to have the silver bullet. It’s challenging to be the person a client shares their deepest hurts and hard with. It’s difficult to know my own limits and how much I’m responsible for, when there is a ton of pain in the world, including my own.  

But also…it’s one of the most sacred, precious experiences I've known. 

It’s right up there with singing at church in the middle of a chorus I love. That’s what it’s like sometimes, when a person is ready to do their work— we counselors and social workers and psychologists and pastors, we create a space and invite a brave soul to unpack their heart. We can’t heal it, of course. We simply get to facilitate the process.


I remember in grad school when I told one of my supervisors, “I know it’s weird, but I’m drawn to grief and pain. She looked me in the eye and said, keep going—you’re going to do good work. You should look into trauma and get more training there.”

And so now, after gaining more tools, training, and synthesizing all these elements-- I have the honor of making space for people in a way I had never thought possible. Who could of thought?

Every once in awhile, I tap into the gratefulness of what is happening before me— I get to witness warriors being made. Occasionally, I see people drastically changed. It’s not every day, that’s for sure. But sometimes I see how this is a tiny representation and reminder that healing, change, and growth happens every single day and sometimes we have the honor of playing a part.

The thing is, I don’t think this is contained to just therapeutic relationships. In a way, I think all of us are learning how to hold a story for someone; how to be safe for them. How to love them like Jesus loves.

The power of a story is breathtaking to me. I’m grateful for those who’ve gone before and held mine and who hold them still.

If today all we do is make it okay for a person to share who they are and how they became who they are, I think we’ve done a lot. Let’s keep making room. Let’s open up the table. Let’s invite each other in. Let’s keep holding the stories.             

When the Hustle Can't Make You Whole

by Andrea Kolber

"More love, less hustle." -Shauna Niequist 

I remember feeling the pressure in my head and my chest—it was the absolute certainty, that unless I proved myself I would be left in the dust of other students. I wanted badly to show I was smart and capable but as I sat in the tiny, stuffy room taking my LSATs—I had never felt more unworthy. Later I found my score was nowhere near my goal and the shame only mounted. It took years before I could understand the prison I was living in.

I took the LSATs in another lifetime when I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but in a way it’s a microcosm of my whole story. I wanted the prestige of law because I thought it would prove I knew how to hustle, how to be enough. Now, 11 years later, I see the truth with striking clarity: I was willing to sacrifice my identity and career path for the rickety belief that I could prove my value through actions.

Still, after years of growth and therapy and mentorship, there are tiny reminders of this way of thinking which creep into my life.

It’s the feeling of responsibility for a problem not mine to solve.

It’s the belief that no matter how much money, status, or security I acquire, it will never be enough.

It’s the constant temptation to use my anxiety to do more, be more, or want more.


So when I say hustle, I don’t mean it like back in my basketball days when hustle simply meant I brought every piece of my available self on a particular day and left what I had on the floor.

No, what I mean here is the constant, never ending, mind numbing, cycle of busyness. It’s our over scheduled, over stimulated, achievement-based lifestyles we simultaneously love and hate.

This, my dear reader, this is the hustle. And you could use different words for it. You could call it the rat race or striving or scarcity. But—don’t miss this— no matter what we call it, this way of life leaves us feeling dry, empty, and unfulfilled. Even worse, the perceived value we gain from these endeavors fades quickly. 

So what’s the difference you might say? What’s the difference between working hard and hustling? Isn’t it Biblical to be a hard worker?

First, yes, living our lives excellently is absolutely a delight to our creator when it comes from a place of authentic worship (Colossians 3:23). But there is a difference between living well and desperation to be enough.

I would submit to you the difference between work and hustle comes from our perspective of ourselves and God. A right view of both will lead us to a right view of work.

And what is this right view? It’s grounded in the belief that we are the workmanship of the God of the universe (Ephesians 2:10), his very image walking around (Genesis 1:27)— known and chosen even before we were formed in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). We can't earn this identity, dear ones. It's given to us. 

Further, our work and efforts do not generate our value. Instead, we produce and take risks and love and live because it's what we are created for; there's no need to prove anything. When we are so secure in how God made us—we go into this world living it out and usually in that process we fail but we also make beautiful, good, meaningful things too. 

Our identity as God’s beloved is where our value and worthiness come from; the nuts and bolts of it you might say. And so if we are struggling to own our worthiness, rather than spending our efforts to show we are worthy, what would it look like to use our efforts to press into the one who makes us worthy?

This sometimes can be done individually but often it’s done with mentors, counselors, and healthy community. Sometimes we desperately want to know how to grab hold of this identity but we need others along side us, slowly and gently loving us before we can love ourselves. This is where we begin to internalize the truth of who we are. 

The hustle will always leave us wanting if it’s what we’re asking to make us whole. So let’s call it what it is, shall we? Let’s name our wounded-ness and our longing to be called known first, and see where he leads.

It might be a windy road but I promise if you’re following the creator of your soul—it’ll be worth it. 

What I'm Into & An Update

by Andrea Kolber

Hello, dear reader!

I'm trying my hand at something new today. I'm sharing some of my favorite (recent) books and other lovely things. And at the end, I'd love to give you a (big, exciting) update on what's new with me. 


Are you like me? Do you drool over beautiful script? My dear friend, Kristie, recently started her own business called "Write It On Your Walls." I've known Kristie since way back in seminary days and she's always been creative and resourceful. It's thrilling to see folks come alive doing what they love, isn't it? This is absolutely true for this gem of a woman and her work reflects it. 

I'm the lucky owner of the sign below and it now hangs proudly in my kitchen. I'd encourage you to follow Kristie on Facebook and Instagram and see more of her beautiful work! 


1. Shauna Niequist's newest book "Present Over Perfect" is speaking my language right now. I'm about half way through and I find myself constantly nodding my head, underlining, and every once in awhile finding I need to stop to digest her words.

Our culture is adept at pushing us to strive. And while I'm all for excellence, it seems our distorted beliefs around value being found in hustling and productivity are slowly killing us. This is why Shauna's words are a little bit of what we all need to hear right now:

"In seasons of deep transformation, silence will be your greatest guide. Even if it's scary, especially if it's scary, let silence be your anchor, your sacred space, your dwelling place. It's where you will become used to your own voice...Silence will become the incubator for your new found spirit, keeping it safe, growing steadily." - Shauna Niequist

You can follow Shauna on Facebook or look to purchase her book here

2. If you've followed me for awhile, you may know I have a passion for reading and from that a hobby developed-- launch teams! A launch team is basically a group of folks who share about authors and their stories. Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of launching "Four Letter Words" by Krista Wilbur. I had the opportunity to get to know Krista through the "For the Love" launch team and I have been amazed at her courage. 

Krista's story reads like a novel but is beautifully and painfully true. (As a counselor, I also want to advise a trigger warning for those of you who've experienced abuse). She articulates her experience walking through abuse and trauma and ultimately her resilient move towards healing. I was moved by the way Krista integrated her faith, pain, and story so well-- be sure to check her out.  

"He has written me, line by line, a bloom of petals on the page"
-Krista Wilbur

You can follow Krista on Facebook and purchase her book here. 


Have you met Johnnyswim? They're basically amazing and if you've haven't heard them yet-- may I submit this smooth beauty to you: 


Earlier this year, when we lost our precious babe to miscarriage-- my heart was broken. There's simply no way around this truth. And this is how we know we care deeply about something, we hurt over the loss of it. In the months since then, I've healed in many respects. One of the things I was blessed to have received in the aftermath of our loss is a beautiful leather bracelet from another sweet friend. She gifted it to me from the fabulously talented Danielle at her online store: Create Hope Cuffs. The words to that little beauty have adorned my wrist so frequently and this is what it says: We Can Do Hard Things. 

How many times have I said this to myself in the last 6 months? Too many to count-- and I'm glad I had something so tangible to remind me and ground me. Check out Danielle's Facebook and Etsy store!  


And now, onto a bit of an update. As I mentioned above, I've started to share my journey through infertility and miscarriage. I have so appreciated words of kindness as we've walked through the grief of those experiences. Both infertility and miscarriage tend to hold heavy stigmas. I hope to use my voice to continue to bring light to the reality of these losses and the courage it takes to process them well. I am passionate and confident in the importance of telling each of our stories--all the pieces of them. This, I'm convinced, is how the healing and the joy become deeper and richer. When we embrace the pain of our story we find God is sitting with us, loving us deeply, moving us toward healing. 

So, to keep things REALLY interesting-- I also find myself typing at my computer with a baby boy in my belly-- 22 weeks pregnant. (Eeeeekkkk!!!!!!)

This has been something I've kept tucked close for awhile, but it's a joy to share with you now. As our story unfolds I'm sure I'll be writing more in the future. For now, I'd love your prayers as we move forward-- stunned at God's faithfulness and grateful for the journey. 

Thank you again for your love and support.