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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A time to mourn and a time to dance

Today marks 15 years since the Columbine tragedy.

I have to sit and re-read that sentence a few times to really understand it. Fifteen years. I know I am not alone in feeling that, because I have no physical scars, Columbine's place in my life is somehow less. A phrase from The Holiday keeps running through my mind: "the walking wounded." That is how I felt for a long time. But not this year. This year I started listening to that frightened 17-year old Carey. Fifteen years ago I was locked in a room with 60 others waiting for someone to find us. This year I have not only remembered, I have been allowing myself to feel, to mourn, to recognize that no matter how many years pass, April 20, 1999 is a day that will live forever in my life. However it is not a day that should define who I am. (I am working on a piece that will go further into the details of this process. It has been liberating in many ways.)

Quote from the wall of the Columbine Memorial

April acutely affects me. This month I've been short-tempered, more tired than usual, struggling between the feelings that have run me for 15 years and the feelings I know should be in control. But this April has been different than past years and it isn't just because of the healing that has begun. It is because of April 20, 2014.

Today is Resurrection Sunday. Today we celebrate the day that Christ Jesus defied death. He bore our iniquities, died, and then rose from the dead to give us eternal life. Every time April 20 crossed my mind this year I thought "it's Easter." It's Resurrection Sunday. I know the end of the story! The Lamb wins.

Shouldn't that be our focus in the midst of any sorrow or struggle in our lives: the resurrection? We have a Savior who knows our pain, our sorrow, can "sympathize with our weaknesses" (Hebrews 4:15). He was "obedient to the point of death" (Philippians 2:8) and died as "propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10) and then rose again from the dead to live and intercede for us from the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). The sorrows that affect us in this world are real and we must acknowledge them, grieve for them, and heal and grow but not outside of the reality of the resurrection. Christ's suffering, death, and triumph over both should frame our experiences. His truth, grace, love, mercy should motivate our actions and reactions.

So today I mourn a day - an act of man - that forever changed my life and how I interact with the world.

Today I celebrate a day - an act of God - that forever changed history - the future - and affects every aspect of life - yours and mine - for all of eternity. My God lives. No matter what happens to me in this life, that truth outweighs it all.

"I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard."

Psalm 22:22-24

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Clear skies ahead

I cry when I watch Frozen. Not during the scenes you'd expect. It has little to do with loss or joy or any of those other reasons. I don't cry because of the weak plot devices. I cry because I relate. To Elsa. In the Ice Palace right after Anna has informed her sister that their home is cursed by an eternal winter, Elsa sings "Oh I am such a fool! I can't be free! No escape from the storm inside of me." And the tears just come. I can't stop them. Because I know that storm. The storm of fear that rages in me and keeps me from my full potential.

Elsa fears herself, her powers, and hurting those she loves. But what she can't see is that her fear makes her powers dangerous. It controls them. When she runs away from everything, further isolating herself, she thinks she is free. Suddenly her full potential is clear to her because she isn't afraid of hurting anyone. But this is a false sense of security created by running from her fear and consequently her responsibility. She realizes her mistake when Anna finds her. While she begins to rage against herself once again, her sister is telling her they can face everything together. She sings, "we can work this out together. We'll reverse the storm you've made." Though Anna is speaking of the literal snowstorm, the parallel to the "raging storm inside" Elsa, a storm she created through her isolation and fear, is profound. This storm, too, can be reversed when they work together - through love.

Can't we all relate to Elsa? Any sin that entangles us we can get rid of them in artificial, ineffective ways. Then we realize it didn't actually work. It is only when we turn to Love - God - to save us that we become truly free. Men and women weighed down by illness or depression have days when the ice palace is being built and the storm seems to have some purpose and then they realize they aren't truly free from it and the storm rages again.

Like Elsa we keep things cooped up inside because we are afraid of breaking that "perfect" persona that we feel we are supposed to communicate to others. The temptation is to run from responsibility, not face our fears. We are powerful beyond belief, but we allow our fears and our insecurities to keep us from fully reaching that potential. The answer is not running, but rather facing and conquering. We can only do that with God.

Fear is my greatest enemy. I had a friend ask me last week what holds me back from writing. I think there are two things. One is the fear of admitting truth about myself I don't like - will I be understood? will anyone care? Reject? etc. Sometimes I even wonder if I can handle the truth about myself. The second is the feeling that I have nothing to share that anyone would care to read. I may think it's profound or a big deal, but they will all shrug their shoulders and think "What's the big deal?"

Without trust there is isolation. We have to trust others with our stories. We have to trust ourselves. We need people we can trust to help us understand our own potential. Just because we make a mistake doesn't mean we have to quit or despair. We learn, we grow, we change. We need others to help us see clearly. We all need someone else to live for.

Love. Trust. Live. For the good of others. To the glory of God.

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!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fear vs. Trust...the winner is...

One of my worst fears was realized two weeks ago. As my foot flew out from under me, my arms tight around my two year old, I landed - hard - on the stairs no longer holding her. I tried to pick her up, but the pain was too much to hold on to her. My dad was there. He took her. And I sat, doubled over in pain, mentally assessing the damage, listening to her cries. Was I broken? Could I move? Was V all right? The last question I asked aloud and my dad answered me: she was fine, just scared. I'd protected her, held on to her as long as I could.

Even in the midst of something so scary, even as I sit here still in pain, I am reminded of the graciousness of God. The way I hit the stairs allowed for my daughter to fall more gracefully and in a way carefully, and I hit no bone that I am aware of, just shocked my muscles. And I've had the opportunity to wear my yoga pants to work for two weeks! (So that's just a byproduct, but so comfy.)

I have a mind that moves very quickly from what is actually in front of me to disaster. I can "see" accidents on the road, my daughter falling and hurting herself or worse. I can even "see" my own failure, which often keeps me from doing what I think I should. When I actually live what I have already "seen," I find something that was missing from my visual predictions: grace, protection, God. God is in my midst. He is the one in control, not me!

One of my greatest struggles in the past six months has been fighting to actually want more children. My husband and I wanted a big family, but now I am thinking one is plenty. This feels like blasphemy, but I struggle with all the potential disasters and whether or not I even have the ability to raise more than one child. Am I good enough? Will we lose one? What if I get postpartum even more severely?

I finally had to fight image with image. When I imagine a brand new baby being placed screaming in my arms I realize seconds will not pass before I cannot imagine our life without him or her. It is that blessing and God's promises I must focus on. I trust a big, good God. He loves us, and He directs my life.

So four months ago I surrendered my pseudocontrol, asking God to direct our future as a family, but still asked in faith for what I thought I wanted: a closed womb because I feared my mental state. God has honored that request. Since the new year my prayers, "teach me to trust You," and the ever dangerous "I choose to trust You," have been working on my heart. I am now desirous of a new baby in the house, and I pray for my womb be opened, but the main prayer is still the same, even on the days when the fear seems to be winning: "I choose to trust You, Lord, with my family, my future, my mind, my heart." God is good and He is sovereign.

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!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sweet Sleep

What does sleep have to do with trust? I'm still not sure, but one thing I do know is that shortly after I chose Trust as my One Word 365 word, my daughter started waking up at odd times of the night for no reason. It wasn't every night. It wasn't always a long interruption to my sleep pattern, but it was jarring. She is not quite two and a half - her sleep patterns have been consistent for a while now - but lately I find I go to bed not knowing if I will wake up to a cry or an alarm.

For the past year I have lived in constant fear of my daughter waking up sick. I would go to bed early to get as much sleep as I could. Relationships and business were being affected. I was trapped in a fear cycle that was formed during two days of her life. Since January 1, as I have found myself up in the middle of the night with a healthy child, I have started praising God more. I realize, as I pray over what this has to do with trusting God, that if I trust God then that means I trust He has a greater plan to this new rhythm we find ourselves in. I fall asleep praying that no matter what I will be given the strength, love, compassion, and wisdom to face each moment as it is laid before me. I trust that the Lord will continue to answer that prayer.

I don't know why God didn't choose to give Mothers the gift of not needing any sleep. Think of the possibilities!! But if I were to speculate, at least for this mama, my guess would be that this dependence we have on sleep should be superseded by a dependence on someone greater. The Giver of sleep and children and love and compassion and time and life itself. If I trust Him then I must believe that every day and every moment I am given is worth something more than I can ever imagine. Even the mundane can contain glimpses of the divine.

Proverbs 3 tells us that wisdom and understanding are desirable to have. And when you do, this is one result: "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (v. 24). There is nothing to fear when the Lord is the One guiding and protecting you. So I lay my head down now in trust and thankful for the promise of sweet sleep.

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!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Acting on Trust

I am broken. Shards of my life, once contained, feel scattered.

I feel an ember glowing hotter and hotter in my soul. A passion, a desire to do and serve, share and encourage. At the same time there is something that lurks and threatens: "of what use is a broken vessel?" This question I ask myself is the wrong question. I must act in faithfulness. If I do not act in faithfulness then surely that is what I will be: a worthless vessel, broken beyond repair. In reality, however, I am being remade.

I will never mend, never live my purpose if I am always sitting and staring at what I perceive to be the broken shards of my life rather than stumbling along the straight and narrow, at times on my knees, my hands groping for the boundaries, to be sure I am still on the path, every once and a while glimpsing the light shining before me, but more often than not my eyes closed against all that I fear seeing.

But in keeping my eyes closed, I also miss the good. I also miss the light. I also miss the beauty around me. I must peek. I have to watch the step before me, the next step, illuminated by the lamp of God's Word, see where to place my foot. My life is imbedded in the Soul of the Creator God. He cares for me. He is with me. I can do nothing apart from Him. Why would I want to?

So I must trust the Potter, my God. Trust that He is faithful. Trust that He is with me. Trust that He sees me. Trust that He loves me as I am. Trust that He is making me new. Trust that He HAS made me new. Trust that the Master Potter can do more with shards of broken pottery than with a leaky vessel.

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!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Madeleine L'Engle wrote that she would pray the Jesus prayer when she found her mind wandering during prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." I once adopted that. My mind wanders a lot, of this I am aware. What happened so gradually over the course of my life that I didn't notice is that my entire focus wandered. Not just my thoughts during prayer or worship. Not just my thoughts watching a movie or during a boring conversation. My entire focus has wandered off. What I see before my eyes now is a big, fat, ugly word.

It's so big and obvious that I can't see much else. I walk in its shadow. I filter most of what I do through it, envisioning disaster, sorrow, pain. So when I stumbled upon this idea of focusing on one word every day for a year through One Word 365, I was instantly intrigued. I have friends preparing to read through the Bible this year. I need to start a little smaller. One word. But which word? There are many I have thought of. But one stands out because in order to Grieve, Live, Embrace, Grow, Love, I must Trust.

So here is a new word to focus on. A new truth to filter everything through. The filter of trust.

The Lord is my strength. (Ex 15:2)
Rest is found in Christ. (Mt 11:28)
Unless we go through Christ, we cannot go to the Father. (Jn14:6)
Straight are the paths He lays before me. (Pr 3:6)
Today is the only day I have. (Jms 4:13-17)

I must trust that the Lord's ways are good. I must trust in His sovereignty. I must trust that He is at work in me "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). This used to be a fairly easy thing for me to understand. I cannot go back to who I once was, but I can continue on into the future, each day becoming more the woman God intends for me to be. Resting in His faithfulness, goodness, strength. Glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1). Thankful (another great word) for His Grace, Mercy, Love, Presence.

A new journey. A new beginning. Nothing's really changing. Just my focus.