Friday, January 16, 2015

Why IF? Why you?

The whirlwind was over. It had been a full day. So full we didn't even get a chance to watch the last speaker. Ladies headed home to their families, their homes, their beds, their minds full of God's promises and, hopefully, an inkling that they were significant in God's story. The first IF:Local was over.

I cleaned up, chatting with the ladies who stayed to help, and all of us had the same excitement, the same urgency: more women needed to hear this message. The message that they matter. That each and every one of us has a marked thing before us to do. Now. Not five years from now. Each of us has a race to run. So we need to
"lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
We need not compare ourselves to others or others' callings, but simply do that which we were given to do: chase toddlers, be the head of a company, type 90 wpm, save lives, deliver babies, start non-profits, carpool our teens, love our neighbor...the list goes on and on because the key to it all is this: "fix your eyes on Jesus." Repent and believe. 

What is IF? It's a question I got a year ago and a question I am still getting today. IF isn't about numbers or speaker lists. It is about Jesus. It is about making much of Him. Their first year they succeeded in hosting their conference world-wide through IF:Locals practically seamlessly because their heart's desire was for women to hear what God had to say to them: Repent and believe. 

So all I can do to answer this question: What is IF? is to answer this one: What has IF meant to me?

I found out about IF through an acquaintance I met in Alaska in September of 2013. I was following her on social media and she was in Austin one weekend as a leader learning about something that was coming in February: the IF:Gathering. I didn't know much more than you. All I knew was that they were asking women to ask this question: IF God is real, then what? What does it matter? How does it shape and change our lives if God is really real and really who He says He is? They were there to bring women together to engage in the conversation of faith. I was hooked. I started following them, gaining as much information as I could. Their gathering in Austin sold out in record time. They opened it up to streaming locally and I knew that I knew that I was supposed to host an IF:Local, even if I was the only one watching.

As the Lord would have it, I wasn't alone. There were a handful of us sitting, eating, listening, discussing. This is the impact IF had on me in 2014. We were invited just as we were. Perfection was not necessary. Hungry, broken, I sat and listened. I heard that God does not base your future on your past. He is redeeming, renewing, reshaping each of us every day. I heard women talk about our call to be obedient, to believe God's word and encourage one another, to not shrink back, but allow healing to move us forward to heal and free others. Serving God isn't about to-do lists or a "hero complex," but is all about Jesus. "What we do is the natural consequence of the divine company we keep." (paraphrase of Sarah Bessey). I was encouraged to listen to truth and bind the lies in His name. I was challenged to consider what was right before me to be done faithfully. I wasn't needing to look overseas, necessarily, or in need of a book deal or thousands of followers or finding anything that would necessarily uproot my life, but I was needing to consider what passions were stirring right there, right then. I was reminded to affirm others and allow myself to be affirmed. I was challenged to say "Yes" first and then listen, be surrendered to my King and commit myself to the glory of God.

I could type and type and type and talk and talk and talk about everything the Lord showed me through the IF:Gathering in 2014, and has shown me through IF:Table and IF:Equip since, but this post is already crazy long. I was being set free from the bondage I had wrapped myself up in. I have a voice. I can use it to magnify Him at home, in the church, with friends, family, strangers. God was reawakening my heart and He used His vessels at IF to continue that reawakening. 

But what about IF 2015? Why should you go? One word. Believe. We are studying the life of Joshua this year with these as the session themes: We have a call to believe. Why don't we believe? How do we believe? What could happen if we believe?

IF you believe God, then what?

Whether you are sold out for Christ, actively serving Him every day, or struggling each moment to keep faith in Him, or asking if you have ever truly believed or want to believe, then there is a seat for you to sit under the teaching of wise women who have fought the fight, are running their race, and who are ready and open to hear from the Lord and share His truth with you. Be challenged, encouraged, inspired. Rest in the presence of God and be reminded that He delights in YOU.

This beautiful print by Jenn Sparkle is available through the IF:Gathering Shoppe.
"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her." Luke 1:45 

Yesterday this theme verse from IF 2015 sat on my desk staring at me as I failed and failed and failed again with my daughter. I asked over and over "and what might those promises be, God?" This morning I read Psalm 107:9 "For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." Yesterday I read Psalm 92:14a "They will still yield fruit in old age" which means more to me today in light of yesterday than it did in the thick of yesterday. He has promised to bring fruit through me and satisfy and fill me if I remain faithful and righteous in His calling. Moment to moment may feel empty and tired, but His promises are to fill and use me. 

I am excited to hear more from the Lord in the days and weeks to come. On February 6 & 7 I am excited to hear from Him through speakers and worship directed by His Spirit challenging me to ask what could happen if I truly believed in God's promises for me. But more than anything, I am excited to live 2015 fully believing God's promises to me. Join me?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A few cool drops of water

A new year. A fresh wind.

I told a friend the other day I feel it may be sprinkling in my wilderness. A few cool drops of water. I struggle with the thought to run for cover. It is such a difficult thing to allow change - even for the better. I get so comfortable in my fear and stagnation. But it is dangerous and deadly here. There is no growth or serving of others.

By definition there is no shelter in the wilderness. Not aside from God, anyway. His wings shelter me. So even if I did want to run from the blessing of His refreshing, the only place I have is towards Him - into Him - like Lucy burying her face in Aslan's mane.

Lean into Him.

So I begin 2015 with a desire and a prayer. I desire to study God's word, and I pray He shows me

  • how He sees me.
  • Himself in truth, not distorted by my false sense of self.
  • the truth about my role as mother and wife and ministry leader and friend and...
  • how I can serve Him.
  • whatever He wants to show me.
I am returning to Paul's letters, passages I once knew so well, to see what they have to say with fresh eyes. My children will one day encounter the sorts of things Paul writes about. How beautiful, then, that he also writes about how we, as believers, can prepare for, combat, defeat the enemy set out to destroy us. These are the things my children and I need to be trained in - the ways of the Lord.

As my understanding of the Father grows and the few drops of water become a proper rainfall in this wilderness, flowers will begin to bud and bloom. There is life here - even in the healing - even when it cannot be seen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sacrificial Living

There I was in the midst of another free time. Campers gearing up for water sports or the pool. “I don’t want to sit at the pool again,” I thought. “It’s too cold to go in the pool,” I thought. As I stood in the sun, watching the CIAs and the campers get ready to walk, I remembered that I wasn’t there for myself. I was there for others. I was there for Jesus' glory and the campers' fun, and the CIAs' encouragement and help. "Where am I needed?" I asked as I changed my tune as I had done countless times before.

During my week at Camp Barnabas on the Lake, I found when I was faced with my own desires I almost instantly found myself redirecting towards others’ needs. Even in my free time I was thinking about what I could do to support the CIAs (Christian In Action, the teens and adults who were one-on-one with the campers), or trying to find enough service to post to our church’s Facebook or Twitter to update the church body and parents about how our trip was going.

Why can’t I do this at home? Why can’t I do this in my church body?

America has a prevalent, “Take care of #1” mentality that comes before all other concerns. I am afraid I am guilty of it. Rather than ask for help or care, I feel like it's best to just take care of myself first. However, I believe I am called to something more. A life lived sacrificially. As I was thrown into a life lived fully for others for a full five days, I discovered something.

Living life sacrificially takes buckets of trust.

You have to trust your needs will be cared for as you put others’ needs ahead of your own. You have to trust that you will be filled as you pour yourself out for those around you. You have to trust you will find rest in the midst of the busy life of looking and serving and caring. You have to trust God's strength to keep you moving. You have to trust God’s greater plan. #thelastshallbefirst But I discovered something else.

Sacrificial living is beautiful.

It's helping a busy mom with her groceries; it's asking the clerk at the store how their day is going and actually hearing their response. It's writing a note of encouragement for your neighbor, or offering to walk someone's dog. It's taking the kids for a friend so she can get some things done. It's engaging in conversation with your seat mate on the bus or train, recognizing the humanity that is around you. Start small. Sacrifice a little comfort and say hello to the stranger in line behind you. Look them in the eye and smile. It's a beautiful thing.

This post is a part of a One Word 365 community, Trusting Tuesdays! Have your own One Word? Link up to your most recent post every third Tuesday of the month!

It is...

When I think of the word "finish," I think of "It is finished." Jesus' final words on the cross. Far less spiritual would be my thoughts regarding my own life and schooling. I never finished high school, not in the traditional sense, but one month early. I still walked. I still had a diploma. I still went to college. I didn't want to finish college. Not really. I quit three and a half years in and went home. I took a semester off and went to a career counselor. It didn't help. I went back to school thinking I was changing gears completely and before the first semester back I went back to the original plan. I'd finish, and fast.

Now I am on the precipice of a new "finish." A friend reminded me that as an Air Force brat there were times in my life when I never had to make a choice about finishing or ending something. It just happened. We moved. Case closed. But now I am settled and married to a nurse and have a two year old daughter and suddenly the choice to finish something in my time vs. God's time is there. But I never thought about it, and so I plugged away, ever faithful, but not really very happy.

I am beyond blessed in my life. I have a supportive family and amazing friends who shove the truth in my face when I need to see it more clearly and pat me on the back and hug me when I need to cry, which is often. All of it. I have had an amazing job for nine years. Through so many changes in life it has been there. My superiors have been there, cheering me on. Despite that there have been some serious soul-searching moments and they have finally resulted in this:

I have to finish well, so I have to finish now.

So after nine years I am saying "goodbye" to the title "Administrative Assistant at Southern Gables Church" and focusing more on "mom," "wife" and "photographer," not to mention "daughter," "friend," "sister," "cheerleader," "faithful follower," "writer"... and some new titles I'm not entirely sure about yet. There are a lot of unknowns, but if I know one thing IT IS: God is in control.

Five Minute Friday
This post is linked to the Five Minute Friday Community. I literally free wrote it in five minutes during my fifteen minute break at work. Click on the image for more Five Minute Friday: Finish posts!

Sunday, May 4, 2014


We serve a God who can breathe life into dry bones.

Let that sink in for a moment.

One year ago today I was at Red Rocks Amphitheater with my husband's family watching Chris Tomlin on his Burning Lights tour. I didn't want to be there. I was tired. Nervous. Far from God. I had just been approached a few days prior by a concerned friend who was afraid I was suffering from postpartum depression (I found out a few weeks later she was right). As I sat in Red Rocks watching the people around me, I wondered how many of them felt like I did - like they were pretending. It didn't feel like a place where I could really worship.

My heart was hard. My emotions unmoving. I was uncomfortable and felt out of place. I knew I was loved by God. I knew I loved God. But I wanted to go home. Get into bed. Tomlin opened with "God's Great Dance Floor." I couldn't move. I just stood there. Stood because I "had to." Then "Awake My Soul" played. Most of it washed over me until Lacrae started in with the scripture. Ezekiel's vision of dry bones coming back to life. "Conjure the four winds of breath and breathe!" Suddenly there were the words "Awake! Awake! Awake my soul; God resurrect these bones." And my heart broke. The tears fell. I still cry when I hear "BREATHE!" on that album.

When the next song played I listened, I sang, I prayed "It will be my joy to say Your will, Your way....There's no life apart from You." Then "Indescribable" reminded me of the God I serve and "White Flag" and "Sovereign" helped me pray my surrender. By the end of the concert (Louie Giglio spoke and there were more songs to which I sang my heart out), I knew I wasn't healed, I knew I had a long road to walk, but I knew I wouldn't be alone in the journey. I was reminded of this great and magnificent God I serve. He loves me, sees me, draws me to Him even when I am blank and blocking the world out.

After I had my daughter, I stopped caring about anything. I stopped noticing the world and the people around me. I didn't notice I was doing it, either, because I'm not even sure I noticed myself. I was just trying to survive. But God had me in the palm of His hand. He was watching over me and my husband and my daughter. He kept me from doing anything rash and loved us all through it. Then He gave me a gift. A big, loud, bright, crazy gift. His Holy Spirit sweeping through thousands of His people, burning in my ears, my heart, and my soul.

I am still healing from years of apathy and attempted perfection's scars on my life. But this path of healing I have been on started on May 4, 2013. Three days after a friend said, "Carey, I'm worried about you." God was right there with the words I needed to hear. He was right there with the people I needed. He was right there holding me, and He still is. He led me to my counselor, He flew with me to fish camp in Alaska, He guides my hand as I journal, He urges me to love and serve and see people again. All of these things have been part of the healing journey. God hears my cries and answers my prayers. He knows my fears and cradles me in His everlasting arms. He has led me to teachers and scriptures and conferences and Bible studies and passions I never knew I had.

I am so thankful for this Great Prodigal God who runs to me and embraces me. As we sang this morning in church, "Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful. God, You are faithful." Amen! Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness and breathing life back into these dry bones.