Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reasons for Thanks-Giving

A little over two weeks ago I left the home of my mentor, Elaine. I have posted a little about her on my photography blog. We had just spent 45 minutes or so re-reading Psalms we have memorized together, sharing our latest news, and praying. I told her a deep fear of mine. A fear that has resulted in a loss. Not a physical loss, but the loss of a good desire for something I have always wanted. Just before I left her home, Elaine reminded me that, like David, we are allowed to "pour out [our] complaint before [the Lord]" (Psalm 142) and to ask, seek, knock. So I did.

On my way home I cried out to the Lord with everything that is in me. I confessed. I wept. I have eaten of the fruit and seen my nakedness, the fear that grips my soul and suffocates my trust. But though God is a God of justice, He is also a God of mercy. He sent His Son to die for my abundant sins. I am covered by Christ's sacrifice. I am new. I have turned my face and focused on the fear, the anxiety, the unknown, but I need to look to Christ, look "full in His wondrous face." I am loved with an everlasting love. I must acknowledge my dependence on God. Without Him I am nothing. I have nothing.

So in my car, driving home, tears pouring down my face, I praised Him.

"I have no breath without Your sovereignty.
I have no health with Your healing.
I have no husband without Your grace.
I have no daughter without Your opening.
I have no job without Your blessing.
I have no family without Your design.
I have no friends without Your gifting.
I have no food without Your provision.
I have no talent without Your giving.
I have no salvation without Your mercy."

Do you struggle finding a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving? I know I often forget the list above. The truth that our God sees us, hears us, provides for us, cares for us somehow gets lost in dailyness of life. So here is a place to start:
Be thankful for that God. The God of justice and mercy.
Be thankful for the people around you. Find ways to show them the grace you are shown.
And be thankful for you as you are today. You will continue to change and grow and that is good. But today you are who you are and you are designed, loved, significant.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I am an archaeologist

"I know them," Carre pipes up. We all insist she sing. "OK, but you all have to sing with me," she says, sitting up straight and clearing her throat.

"High on a hill stood a lonely goat herd," and thus it began with her clear voice. It had started earlier in the evening, actually, when we all started singing "Sound of Music," and I did what I always do, I got the words mixed up and the most surprising thing happened: someone noticed.

"Those aren't the right words," Katelyn said in her matter-of-fact tone. "I am highly offended."

But it wasn't until all of our voices yodeled with gusto that we fully understood - on our last night together - that we were kindred spirits.

Individual, beautiful voices blending together to create a unified, harmonized, confident song. We laughed about the ironies of "16 Going On 17" and Katelyn offered a beautiful reenactment of Maria's "When the dog bites" moment after she is told by the Captain, in no uncertain terms, that his children need NO play clothes. We came undone, relived favorite moments, struggled to remember together.

That is it, that is where life needs to be lived: TOGETHER. In Alaska, at the First Annual Harvester Island Workshop, I watched as strangers became friends, friends became sisters, and stories were not simply shared but LIVED. That is the beauty and magic of the written word, the shared story. We look back at our lives, our experiences, we relive and examine, we become excavators.

"I always wanted to be an archaeologist," I chime during a session. "Now you are," Katelyn says. "An archaeologist of the soul."

And as we begin to fully see from which we came, we begin to understand who we really are NOW and where our paths are leading us. But the best part is this: we do not keep it to ourselves. We share, we bleed onto the page for others to be able to recognize their own wounds and healing. When we become vulnerable with others and encourage and are encouraged, that is when the church is fully realized, that is when we become all that we are. We share our experiences in the moment or afterward, shine the spotlight on God or allow others to show us when we cannot see. Our voices blend together and become more as a choir than they could ever be apart.

When we live our lives without each other, it allows for room to fester in lies and close our hearts off to warmth, truth, friendship. We wonder if we are important. We wonder if we are the only ones to fill in the blank.

"Me too!" we hear when we share our pain, our joy, our fears, our dreams. We are not alone.

"Carey?" Leslie turns to me, smile warm, eyes attentive. "OK," I say, "mine's kind of random." Or the next time, "I really don't know how to tell this story."

We all did it, made it clear that what we have to share isn't perfect; "please don't judge me," we want to say. But here's the kicker - we were all sitting there writing at the same time. No polishing allowed. Why was an explanation needed? We were nervous. We weren't sure we were worthy.

"I was embarrassed to send in anything I had written." I overheard my roommate share this with my brother one day. I found out later this beautiful writer has a three book contract.

We are never fully "there" - the name in print gives us no more confidence than the ten minutes of free writing. We are, all of us, baring our souls, opening our wounds for the world to see. Sometimes the wound is fairly clean, other times it is not, but always it needs healing. The salve of fellowship, a walk in the fresh air, the suffocating hug of the banya, the slap of an ocean wind, the shower of rainbows reminding us this storm may scare and hurt, steal and destroy, but not permanently. There is the promise of hope, redemption, and healing. And the promise moves us to share.

"These are a few of my favorite things."

Friday, August 9, 2013


"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:4-9

This passage has long been on my heart. Years before now, but most specifically in the past two months. As I began to understand that I was struggling with depression, a very wise man taught in our Sunday School class. He taught from this scripture. "Be anxious for nothing" Paul says. This to a woman who is anxious about everything. But it was a breath of fresh air. "Oh yeah, I thought. I know these verses."

Then over days, weeks, now months, it keeps coming up. God is saying, "Not only will you not forget, but you, my beautiful daughter, will own these verses. They are for you."

"Rejoice." "Be anxious for NOTHING." I struggle with these. A LOT. Saturday of this past week Paul and I were informed of a personal plot twist in our life. It's a big deal, involving lawyers and moving in with family in 2014, but I have had such peace about the entire situation: "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension". My heart is under guard by the Lord Jesus Christ in whom I can do all things.

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:12-13

No matter our life's circumstances, the Lord strengthens us and will see us through in His will and ways. Our job is to focus on Him, that which is "true... honorable... right... pure... lovely... of good repute... of any excellence... anything worthy of praise." We are to think about, dwell on, PRACTICE these things. Then in whatever comes HE will be glorified.

Where does "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension" come from? Prayer [Lord, give us wisdom and may our actions glorify You.]. Thanksgiving [Lord, we praise You for our family and friends who are with us and most of all that You are not against us!]. " everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." When we roll it all onto HIS plate and trust HIS word and action in our lives, then peace comes because we aren't trying to worry our way through it. I pray I can practice this in all areas of my life, but for now I have learned how to practice it in one area and have been an encouragement to my husband because of it.


For weeks now I have heard this song by Tenth Avenue North on the radio. Each time I hear it I find myself crying out to God the words. I am so thankful for grace offered so freely. I hope and pray these words encourage you, because the cry of the chorus reflects a desire for all that is true. Redemption does win. The struggle ends. He can mend our hearts, "because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4b) And His yoke is easy and His burden is light (see Matthew 11:30).

Worn by Tenth Avenue North/ I’m tired I’m worn/ My heart is heavy/ From the work it takes/ To keep on breathing/ I’ve made mistakes/ I’ve let my hope fail/ My soul feels crushed/ By the weight of this world/ And I know that you can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left/ CHORUS: Let me see redemption win/ Let me know the struggle ends/ That you can mend a heart/ That’s frail and torn/ I wanna know a song can rise/ From the ashes of a broken life/ And all that’s dead inside can be reborn/ Cause I’m worn/ I know I need to lift my eyes up/ But I'm too weak/ Life just won’t let up/ And I know that you can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left/ CHORUS/ My prayers are wearing thin/ Yeah, I’m worn/ Even before the day begins/ Yeah, I’m worn/ I’ve lost my will to fight/ I’m worn/ So, heaven come and flood my eyes/ CHORUS/ Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn/ Though I’m worn/ Yeah I’m worn

Saturday, May 25, 2013

God's Faithfulness

A few days ago I was asked, along with my fellow small group members, to think about God's faithfulness in answering prayer. The specific answers I thought of surprised me. I shared with the group the humbling reality that I do not always care for my job, but it is clear that God's providence has placed me there and kept me there for His good purposes.

In 2004 I was planning on moving to Kentucky to live with my sister-in-law and nephew while my brother was overseas. I was praying that God would show me what was next in my life, what He would have me do, and make it clear to me. On Christmas Eve I broke my arm. Due to the nature of the break I needed physical therapy, so I had to stay home. By the time my arm had healed fully, my sister-in-law was doing better on her own with her son and said I should look for a job and consider staying in Colorado. So I did. I found a job at Southern Gables. That was eight years ago the first of this month.

In 2009 I took a vacation with five friends (my now husband among them) to Lake Powell. When we returned home Paul and I were engaged. With the possibility of Paul's attending nursing school in our future, I knew I needed a full time job. I had recently reduced my never-full-time hours at Gables in order to better serve my pursuit of a second Bachelor's degree (that I now never will get). But soon I would need to be working full time. I returned to work to find out one of my fellow secretaries had quit. My superiors and I discussed the possibility of me taking on her responsibilities in conjunction with my own. It was deemed a good idea and a temporary secretary was hired until I finished the semester. In December I became full time at Southern Gables.

Two years ago this very month I returned home from a delightful vacation to Disney World with my husband and in-laws - it was our "babymoon" and they "tagged along." When I turned my cell phone on, I had a voicemail from my boss asking me to call him when I could. Things had changed while I was away. Hours had been cut in order to better serve the workload. My secretary hours had been cut as well, but the powers-that-be had decided in order to keep me on full-time I would become the web assistant. God preserved my job when I didn't even know I needed the preservation.

I may be afraid that if I choose to be happy at Southern Gables again that it means I have to be there forever and will never be allowed to be home with my children, but the fact is that I need my job and God has provided for me (and my family) again and again through my home church. I should be happy in the provision of God. I work for amazing, godly people who love me and my family. Shame on me for so often forgetting.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Food culture

I confess every once in a while I want McDonald's: the convenience, speed, taste manufactured by sodium, MSG and grease.

Sometimes I feel as though those of us who want to eat organic, cook from scratch and avoid prepackaged foods are perceived as stuck up or following a fad, especially as I have become more interested in the whole foods lifestyle, or Paleo. But eating foods that haven't been altered by science, chemicals or copious amounts of sugar isn't a fad, it's how we are supposed to eat.

Convenience and an obsession with outdoing the competition has created a food culture in America that doesn't strike me as healthy. In response there are movements to take us back to the way food is intended to be. Buy local, in season, non GMO, etc. As I wrestle with feeling like a snob when I refuse certain foods, I think about a quote from a book I read about six months ago. The book was written by a Canadian who lived in France with her French husband and tried to understand why French kids ate so differently than her own. She wrestled with the amount of say the government has in the eating habits of children, they are even taught about food in school and their lunches are planned. She was told that North Americans think so differently about food because they have yet to develop their own food culture due to their relative youth. When you look at history, it is true that we are often a few leagues behind Europe on certain developments or matters of political issues, whether good or bad (current events speak to this, as do historical, such as slavery).

The author decided to teach her children to eat like the French children, to think about food as the French do. I think her observation, quoted below, is quite profound, as is her realization that she had to change herself first. If I want my daughter to eat well and treat her body well, I must learn how to first.

"Now, healthy eating is one of the most important skills that parents help their children develop. Underelying this focus on food education for young children [in France] is a simple principle:
"Chances are, my children are not going to grow up to go to Harvard, or to be major league sports stars, concert musicians, or NASA astronauts. But no matter who they grow up to be, how and what my children eat will be of great importance to their health, happiness, success, and longevity."

Quoted from French Kids Eat Everything

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Choose this day whom you will serve...

In the world of instant gratification and social media, it is difficult to not get self-involved. At least I think it is. Pride is already one of my greatest faults. Having access to something that tells me how many people "like" my work is fuel for self-aggrandizement or self-deprication, depending on the day. (Sad considering how inaccurate it really is.)

What I must remember is who I work for. I am not in the photography business for fame and fortune. I should not seek man's approval, but God's. Any talent I have is from Him and for Him. I post pictures to say, "Check out these awesome and beautiful people I have had the honor to come into contact with through my business" and trust God to provide the clientele, not the pictures.

I desire to encourage everyone I encounter. To be a light and "affect the quality of the day" (Thoreau). I am so thankful for the opportunities I am given to spend time with people, glorifying God with what He has given me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Night Watch

Why are times of sorrow, struggle, doubt times when we find ourselves up at odd hours of the night? We can't sleep, so we toss and turn. A new baby wakes every two to three hours. Children often get sick at night. I, for one, always find myself praying for dawn. All I need is light to give me that glimmer of hope, that whisper of a promise. When someone else is awake, I can cope a little bit better.

But the Lord never sleeps.

I am not going through one of these times. In fact, recently, my daughter has decided sleeping through the night is a pretty good deal, and I agree with her. But as I woke this morning, as I usually do these days, before dawn, I thought I would read through "The Night Watch," a prayer time that falls typically from midnight to dawn. I rarely read these prayers and readings because I am so literal. They are the midnight prayers, the night vigil, and I am up intending for my day to begin. I am glad I made an exception today.

Here are some of the words I read this morning:

Psalm 119:147-148
"I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise."

Why is the author awake? So he can "meditate on [God's] promise"! I rarely think about meditating on God's promises when I find myself awake against my will. But consider if I woke up ON PURPOSE to cry out to God and meditate on His promises during times of great struggle, doubt and oppression. What if we all did during those times for each other or our country?

My dear mentor, who is helping me, encouraging me, and participating with me to memorize scripture, has told me to take a line or a verse from the passage and focus on it all day. What does it mean? How does it apply to situations in life? Today, as I read through Psalm 63 as a part of this prayer time, I found myself reading four verses through again and again:

Psalm 63:5-8
"My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."

Within these verses are promises remembered, refuge taken, praises sung. Notice the benefit for our souls when we meditate on the Lord "in the watches of the night": "satisfied as with fat and rich food." How hungry my soul has become over the years. Too often I neglect that which my soul needs in times of greatest need. It is the Lord who sustains and upholds me.

It is different for me to think of being up during the night as a time to seek the Lord's face and rest in His promises, meditating on all He is - in other words a blessing - but I pray I remember to do just that when it happens because He is not a God of day alone, but He created the night as well.


Ladies and gentlefolk, I greet you on this fine January 30. Another year has passed for the Christians, est. January 30, 2010, and we wish you, each and every one, a fine new year full of blessings and joys.

Our third year of marriage saw quite a few changes including a move (Verity got her own room), Paul's start in nursing school, my finish of six years of volunteer service in the high school group at church, Verity sat up, crawled, stood up, walked, spoke...she's had a lot of firsts this year, including her first birthday!

November also saw a beginning for me, as I relaunched my photography business, now Carey Christian Photography, after nearly a decade. Paul continues to work at Craig Hospital when he gets a chance between classes and studies. God has been very gracious in Paul's hours and pay as well as his schedule. We see a lot of him, which, of course makes us happy. There are days when he doesn't see Verity at all, but those are few. I continue my work at Southern Gables Church with few changes. Verity continues her work shuffling between grandparents' homes and being cute and lovable. She is gracious in the midst of constant change, although she is screaming, a habit we are discouraging at the moment.

She is eating all sorts of foods, green beans being the current and unexpected favorite. Butternut squash, avocado, black beans and chicken sausage also rank at the top. She is always trying to dress herself and telling the most delightful stories, although we cannot understand any of it.

We spent most of the year at home, though got visits from precious family. Verity and I went to Texas in November for the wedding of my cousin Christy. I enjoyed seeing family, though I did not much care for missing the wedding (and causing my mother to miss the wedding) due to illness. But the Lord was gracious and Verity was a saint on the plane going both directions.

As we look forward to all 2013 has to hold, including Verity's second birthday and Paul's graduation in December among other celebrations and challenges, we are thankful for the family that supports us. Both of our sets of parents sacrifice so much to watch Verity while I am at work and Paul studies. We can never fully thank them, so Verity does that for us. We pray they are blessed in abundance as God has used them to bless us in so many ways! We are thankful for our friends who encourage and pray for us. We wish we could see more of people, but when we do we enjoy every minute of connection and laughter.

May your 2013 be blessed with family and friends, hands to hold, words to encourage, voices to laugh with and so much more than we could ever imagine from our great God and Father. If you think of us, pray with us that Paul will be diligent in his studies, learn well, and be encouraged by his wife and daughter. Pray that he continues to enter into life at home openly and finds time to unwind as well as study. Pray for Verity's growth and health, schedule and personality. As she interacts with others, may they be blessed. Pray for me as I work at church, may I be a blessing to the people and ministries there. Pray for me as I hopefully meet new people through photography, that I will be a light shining in their lives, even if only for a brief couple of hours. Pray for me as a wife and mother, that I have the patience, grace, compassion and strength from God above to do everything I need to do and let go of the things I simply cannot do.

Feel free to send us your prayer needs so we can encourage and support you and yours this year!

Love from the Paul Christians!