Saturday, February 28, 2015

Now I See

I really love Timehop. No, they're not paying me to endorse their app. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, it's the power of technology to daily show me "this day in history" - only it's MY day in history. This day a year, two years, even 6 years ago. The things I've posted. Pictures, posts and messages I've uploaded to some media outlet. I especially love seeing pictures of my baby boy and the way he's changing and growing. The videos of him as a toddler that remind me he was little not too long ago.

There are quotes, blogs, verses. Things I've posted and shared throughout the years that now serve as a reminder and testament of how God has been at work in my life. It's amazing to look back and see what He's brought me through, how He's pull it all together, the way He's Sovereignly known and had a plan all along. There are times when I can read something from a few years ago and now fully see how God has worked it all out.

It was 2 years ago this month, the end of February and I had packed up and moved out of my house. 166 Addie Way.  This blog post showed up in my Timehop, reminding me of the house I said goodbye to 2 years ago. As I sat re-reading that post now three years past, I felt the smile growing on my face.

The thing I've learned about building a house is it's much like building a home. Every single board nailed into place, every piece of drywall hung, every fixture that must be selected, every decision that must be made...it's all hard work, and yet each piece and part affects the greater whole that is being constructed. It all plays a role in the process of building. It's stressful. Difficult. Frustrating. Complicated. Tiresome. Overwhelming. And rewarding. Because the finished product bears the marks of all the time invested and decisions made. The outcome was not my own handiwork, but in large part it was my vision. 
...
I've been forced to face the reality that sometimes dreams change - just like your address. Sometimes life is lived in the hallways, where transition is inevitable and the next step remains unknown. I may not be unpacking here, but I've decided to settle in for awhile until He moves me.

It was a time filled with uncertainty, and yet now it's like I can finally see what He was doing - I can now realize the plan He was working out. I didn't know then that yet another house would be built. Another house that has now blossomed into a home. It has nothing to do with the floor plan or the paint we picked or the fixtures chosen. (They're all drastically different, by the way.) This time there are pictures hung on the walls - photos that reflect genuine smiles that tell stories of God's faithfulness. There are already marks that hold memories - like the hot wax that was spilled on the hardwood floors during our family Christmas gathering. Oh how we laughed. Or the chewed door frame in the garage from the once-little puppy that got bored one day while we were gone. This big oompa loompa is now a fixture not only in our home but in our family. A different address, yes, and a plan that God knew all along, even when He had me waiting in the hallway.

What I can now see is the handiwork of His vision - His plan being worked out for my good. The finished product of my life will bear the marks of the time He's invested in me, the decisions He's made of when to step in and carry me and when to let me walk on my own. In the past few years I've seen a lot unfold but looking back, I can now understand without doubt that God was always there working it out.

**
You can read the full post about that move out of 166 Addie Way by clicking on the link. What I also didn't know then was that I would leave a note behind for the new homeowners. I would tell them of the scriptures I had written on the 2x4's and the prayers I had prayed over that home, asking God to raise a family in that residence. That new homeowner would contact me. She would share my faith, she would become my friend. Our children would share birthday months. They would allow me to bring Elijah back to take pictures in front of the tree we planted in honor of his adoption. She would later give me one of the most precious gifts to honor the baby I lost. She understood that pain herself. Could I have known any of this? Certainly not. Could I have orchestrated it? I think you know the answer to that. Only God. Now I see.

Friday, February 20, 2015

He Planned You

It was my birthday yesterday. What? You missed it?? :)

It was well known and well celebrated in our family and it was a reminder of the abundant blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon my life. It was also a day that brought true reflection.

As we were driving down the road I pointed out the mounds of snow still blanketing the ground. "Mom, did God make it snow just for your birthday?" He already knows me so well.

"I don't know if it was just for me, but I do love the snow and I'm pretty sure God knows that. He knew that when He created me. Did you know on the day I was born there was a huge snow storm?"

"Yeah, maybe that's why you love the snow, because God made you be born in the snow. Did God know the day you were born?"

"Oh absolutely - not only did He know the day, He PLANNED it! When I was in Nana's tummy, he was planning ALL of my days...just like He planned every single one of your days for you. He knew the day you'd be born and the day you'd be placed in my arms..."

"Mom, did God know I would be given to you - even when I was in Sara's belly?" His voice was curious but somewhat concerned.

"He most certainly did. He was planning that too. You know why? Because I was praying - I was PRAYING to be a mommy and I was praying for a baby..."

"And God gave me to you," I wasn't upset that he interrupted. I'm thankful he knows this well enough too.

"Yes. God knew exactly. See, I didn't have you in my belly and I didn't know when I would be a mommy, but I was trusting God to answer my prayer. Even when I didn't know, He knew."

"Just like He knew you'd be born in the snow!"

"That's right, Eli, just like this day that is my birthday."

"Mom, it's okay if it's your birthday everyday."

I couldn't contain my laughter. "I don't think everyone else would like that very much. Plus, I'm glad God chose this day for me. Just like I'm glad He chose your birthday. Even though I wasn't there the day you were born, God was there and he was preparing me to be your mommy."

"I'm glad He picked you!"

Me too, buddy, me too.

I couldn't have planned this. I couldn't have predicted it. I couldn't have prepared for it. Even as I sat holding him in my lap in a tender, rare moment, I suddenly became aware that even on the day of my birth, God was planning the birth of a tiny baby that would become my son. How could I possibly question Him? Even when it was painful. Even when I cried. Even when I grieved. How could I doubt His plan for my life? Even when I couldn't see what He was planning and how He would work it out for my good.

Knowing my tumultuous path that ultimately led to motherhood helps put this all into perspective. Knowing I could not control the outcome to fulfill my longing to be a mother is a beautiful reminder of the inability I have to plan and prepare everything that concerns me. It helps me, type A, driven and sometimes domineering me, to remember even when I cannot plan, even when I cannot see, even when I don't understand, He knows. He saw all the days of my life while He was still forming me.

I admit it doesn't necessarily take away my longing to know, plan, predict and yes, control, my own outcomes. But it does help me be mindful of a Sovereign God who holds my today, and my tomorrow, in His hands.

You might think I'm crazy for celebrating my birthday the way I do. I'm a grown woman, after all. (Well, at least by the age I reflect but certainly not always by the young-hearted spirit I tend to live by.) But I like to think it's a day God celebrates too. It's the day He chose for me. It's the day He planned for me. It's the day others had prayed for. It's the day He answered. And no, this isn't just about ME. It's about you and the day He planned for each one of us. It's about my son, it's about you, it's about all of us - no matter how planned or unplanned our conceptions may have been.  

He planned you and He has a plan for you. Each and every day of your life.

A dear friend send this to me for my birthday and I just had to share:

To my Special Daughter

I knew you before you were even born
and there has never been a moment
when I haven't loved you.
I formed you in your mother's womb
and you are precious in My sight.
I created your hands, your heart, your smile ~
and I delight in your beauty.
I have given you gifts, talents, and abilities;
your works are important to Me.
You are created in My image 
and there is no one else quite like you...
YOU ARE SPECIAL!
You are the apple of My eye!

With heavenly hugs,

Your Father in Heaven

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day


This. This is the view from my back porch this very morning. Just shy of a foot of snow that fell over the last 24 hours. What a beautiful sight. 

I know. I realize some of you snow haters are disgusted by this image. I know you're posting your disdain for the fluffy cold stuff that has you trapped indoors. The pain and agony the piles upon heaps have caused you have littered my newsfeed. Just as much as my blissful snow pictures have clogged up your own feeds. 

Yes, I do know that many of you not only hate this slick stuff, you're also renouncing our friendship because I've made it no secret how much I love the snow. It brings me only joy to know my prayers have been heard and answered, despite your faith being tested as you long for the sun and sand.

Please don't misunderstand. There are puddles all over the once clean hardwoods where snow has found its way in. There are mounds of snow gear inside piled just as high as the snowdrifts outside. My driveway had to be shoveled just like yours (and boy oh boy, am I thankful for Mr. Wright handling that job!). School closings and work-related obstacles are also mine to deal with. I didn't escape the pains the snow has caused most. Although I also admit the comfort and luxury I enjoy inside in the warmth while many are not afforded a snow day at home. I truly am grateful for those out plowing the roads and serving to protect and provide for a snow laden city. 

I don't make apologies for my love of snow. I also don't openly complain about the hot, humid and hazy days of summer that I wish would be cooler. Ironically I am always cold so you'd think winter and I wouldn't be friends. I am fine to wrap up in my blankets and layers with the fire place and hot chocolate. That's exactly what we did last night as the snow fell outside, with the movie Frozen playing for our family time. 

My mom shared the truth behind this snow mystery that explains me. Today was the day I was due 30-ahem-some-odd years ago. "It snowed all day on the 18th and then early Monday morn on the 19th she decided she'd join us now that 15" of snow had fallen all day..." The doctor apparently deliverd me in his ski sweater. I'm sorry My entrance interfered with his ski plans. Nevertheless I entered a white world surrounded by a winter wonderland. Maybe it's why I love the snow. I love it's beauty. I love knowing it's just another way God displays His splendor. 



I'm warming up inside now after enjoying the perfect powder to build a snowman. The temperatures are dropping and will be below zero by Thursday. Let's get this clear - that was not part of my prayer request! So whether you've prayed alongside me for the snow or if you're in the group counting days until spring and planning your caribbean escape, I hope you've enjoyed this snow day. You can blame me or thank me, whichever you prefer! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beloved



He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. Job 9:8

The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent. Psalm 104:2

"This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, Isaiah 44:24

It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. Isaiah 45:12

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. Jeremiah 10:12

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

Oh the promises of a new day. Oh the joy that comes in the morning. Oh the beauty of the knowledge of Creator God stretching out the skies, wrapping Himself in garments of light. Just as He spoke the earth into form and put the expanse of day and night into place, so He has formed you in the secret place. Counting every hair on your head, seeing each and every day of your life before one of them has come to pass. 

My mind cannot comprehend the vastness of His love for us and yet even when His wonders are on display for my eyes to see, I am reminded that He has stretched out the heavens by His understanding. That which is too lofty for me is never too much for Him to know and comprehend - and even more than that, for Him to be working out for my good. Oh how I praise You, Father, for you see each tear that falls, You know each heart that breaks, You know what it is that causes my fears and failures and yet You lovingly embrace me with Your everlasting and eternal love. 

Where can I go that I could hide from Your presence? Thank God, nowhere, for You are always with me, holding me by my right hand, even when I don't feel You there. Even when I do my best to break free of Your grip. Still, You draw me with Your unfailing kindness with the solitary goal of making me more like You. Do this, Lord. 

On a day like today, with a display like the one You painted in the sky, how could I do anything but praise You? Oh God, I know I may lose sight but please don't ever let me lose Your grip. 

Happy Valentine's Day. I am Your beloved. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This is the Stuff

This is the stuff.

The stuff a new recipe is made of when a chair is scooted up to the counter and a small human turns into a miniature chef, excited to add and mix together ingredients.

The stuff said during a car ride, when from the backseat you hear a tiny heart understanding God with childlike belief.

The stuff at bedtime when you're listening from the other room and hear the faith-filled prayers of a tender heart.

This is the stuff of life. The simple things. The heartfelt moments that make it all worth it.

And when I say all I mean all.

You know. All the stuff - the other stuff.

The stuff when you're running behind. The stuff when the dog has to be reluctantly dragged inside. The stuff when you finally get everyone where they need to be and think you're finally on your way when the garage door won't close.

This is the stuff. The stuff that does in fact drive us crazy. The stuff that causes us to feel inadequate. The stuff that leaves us speechless. The stuff that forces us to steal a few moments alone to regain our cool for fear of the explosion we may be on the brink of. (Notice the plural tense. Oh yes, it is intentional because I surely do not want to be alone on this one.)

The stuff we wade through, drudging along, day-by-day and pray for the other stuff to come and enlighten us. Please, sweet stuff, interrupt this monotony. Provide a moment of clarity. Give resolution to everything that remains unresolved. Deliver me from my own self and the stuff that weighs me down.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24

Oh Lord, is that true? If that's really stuff I can rely on, then it means You're right here with me - right beside me, holding my hand through all the stuff.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire but You. Psalm 73:25

I admit I get distracted by stuff. Stuff that takes my focus away from You. Stuff that I deceivingly think will satisfy my aching soul. So much stuff clouding my vision.

My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

This, Lord. This is it. This is the stuff I need to know. This is the truth about me - my flesh and heart fail - they fail me, they fail my family, they fail those relying on me, and most assuredly and ashamedly they fail You. Oh, but Lord, You are my strength! You give me what I need to sustain me even through the stuff of each day. The stuff that I pause and reflect upon, that causes my heart to be strengthened. You're even there through the stuff that I cannot bear. The stuff that sends me to the pit of despair.

This is the stuff. The stuff of life. The stuff we must endure. The stuff we get to experience. The stuff that life is made of. The stuff we're promised. The stuff that makes us stronger. This is the stuff.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Today

Today is the day you have made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

It was a familiar song, although I admit I wasn't paying close attention. The music was mixed in with squeaks from a certain doodle dog happily playing with a toy. The smell of cinnamon sticks simmering on the stove were being overpowered by the aromas of the breakfast I was preparing, and of course the brewing coffee that would soon be mine to savor. My boys were still sleeping but I have the blessed curse of being wide awake no later than 7 a.m. on any given day. Nevermind it's Saturday. 

I sat down in my favorite chair, poised with books and ready to spend a few quiet minutes alone. I had been already thinking about the plan for the day, preparing for our family to come over for a night of pizza making and game time. Then there was tomorrow, an early morning praise band call time, two services, lunch - we would need to grab a bite out - an afternoon outing, and then there would be dinner - what should we have? Do I need to thaw something? There was a new recipe I had just pinned - maybe I could try that Monday when I had more time. Monday. I still needed to figure out a plan for juggling a no-school day, work-related appointments that a 6 year old could not attend and a few other things we had going on. My mind was working over-time now. I was about to pull open the calendar on my phone to review the week-at-a-glance and try to organize a plan for my upcoming week. I was disappointed and thankful all at the same time that I had purposely left my phone out of reach. Not to mention the fact that it was the weekend. Not the week ahead. Not yet at least. 

That brought me back to my original purpose. Me. My chair. Jesus. How easily I become distracted. How quickly my mind leaps ahead to things not even in my reach. I pulled out my newest devotional, Jesus Calling, a Christmas gift from my mom. I've so enjoyed the words from Jesus Today for a few years now and this addition has not disappointed.

I had to stop and think about the date as I flipped through to find today's words. I knew it was the weekend but was truly unaware of the calendar date assigned to this cold day in January. 

The 17th. Okay, there it was. The devotional for the day. 

Come to Me with a thankful heart so that you can enjoy My Presence.

I was distracted by the popping coming from the pan on the stove. Not to mention the incessant squeaking from the squeaker the dog had now retrieved from inside his stuffed toy. It was poised in his huge jaws and he was chomping on it like a piece of gum, squeaky, squeak, squeakity, squeak. 

Focus, Carrie. Read. Listen. I was admonishing myself to pay attention to Him and not my surroundings. 

This is the day that I have made. 

Wait a second. I was listening alright. And at the exact same time I was reading those words they were simultaneously being sung on the radio. 

Today is the day, You have made. 
I will rejoice and be glad in it. 
And I won't worry 'bout tomorrow, 
Trusting in what You say, today is the day.

The lyrical expression of this message continued as I read: I want you to rejoice today, refusing to worry about tomorrow...I can weave miracles into the most mundane day if you keep your focus on Me.

Truth. Straight from the pages, in chorus with the song on the radio. Miracles woven directly into my mundane day. My ordinary Saturday. A morning that hadn't quite fully dawned. Through the simple task of making breakfast, sipping coffee and tidying up the house, to the promise of my Savior to provide me with His Presence. He was there. In the midst of my mundane. Reminding me of the simple truth to focus on today. THIS DAY. Not tomorrow. Not yet, at least. If I spent all of today consumed with the plan for tomorrow, I would certainly miss what this day has in store and the miracles He is certain to weave throughout my day. Even in the mundane, He was certain to speak to me, through song or written word maybe, if I would just focus on the day in front of me and be aware of this day, today. 




Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Write

Someone recently asked me why I write. I was formulating answers, sentences, stories, things I wanted to say in response. There was a full blown running commentary happening in my mind just at the posed question. I decided to give the cliff notes version instead: I have to write.

I write because I must. I see life in stories. When I'm all alone and watching life happen around me, I am writing it down in my mind, picturing how it would be described on page. When I'm reading another's words, inspiration, fiction or self-motivation, I find myself applauding the talent and skills of the author causing me to think deeper, taking me into their world. I imagine myself beside them as they write. I wonder what that setting looks like for them to be able to create.

When I experience life, lessons, learning, it comes to me in the form of words. I have to process what I read or feel by writing.

I have journals upon journals, page after page of written word. Feelings and thoughts, poems and songs. Things I couldn't have gone through alone but with the confidante of my journal by my side we weathered together.

I've transitioned from journal and pen to computer for the sheer fact I can type faster with fewer hand cramps. I'm always typing, writing, processing, getting it from my head to my fingertips to the page.

I cannot count how many blogs, journals, written pages have never been read by anyone other than myself. To click "publish" is simply a point of completion for my own self. I've said it before: it's not meant for anyone. It's mine. Simply mine. Often times there are readers along my journey. Please feel welcomed. Stay as long as you like. Read what you choose. Apply whatever you wish.

I never write for "likes" or "follows." This isn't about fans or friends. I write what I know, feel, learn, see, believe and understand. If it means something to you then I am thankful for the blessing. If it hurts you then I am sorry for the offense.

I'm not writing because I think what I have to say is more important than anything another might share. It's not that I believe my words will somehow be heard. I'm not asking for them to be. I'm writing them because they're mine and it's what I choose to do. It's what I must do.

As long as there are words in my mind, there will be words on the page. It is essential for me. I have to write.