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 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.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Dirty Little Word

Surrender. The mere sound of it may send shivers down your spine. Maybe it brings conviction. It might cause you to cringe in fear of the unknown. 

I've shared it multiple times: "The trouble with a living sacrifice is we have the tendency to get up and take ourselves off the altar. How many times have I "laid it down" only to pick it back up again? How often do I foolishly think I can somehow "help" God with what He's doing? Is this just an excuse to get a sneak peek at His master plan? Is this my attempt to interject my own thoughts and opinions about how I think He should work? As they say, "the struggle is real." But for real.

It's as if I have never learned the blessing of surrender. Almost like I have never before experienced the outpouring of grace He lavishes when I relinquish control and submit to His will. 

That brings me to this word of truth I have to share. First, my honest confession: This week I attempted to surrender. Moment by moment, day by day. There were grace-filled moments when it was effortless - when my strength was completely replaced by the supernatural power of my Sovereign God. Times when I exchanged even my heavy laden worries for His burden that is light. Oh the joy and peace that was mine to claim! 

There were also times I have to admit it wasn't so simple and I was with clenched fist attempting to place things back in my own hands. I'm not certain why this happens. I cannot explain my lack of faith that somehow doubts God's sovereignty or how my finite humanity places my own ability above that of a Holy and Almighty God. All I know is this week He patiently reminded me to lay it back down.

"We're depending on God; He's everything we need. What's more, our hearts brim with joy since we've taken for our own His holy name. Love us, God, with all you've got - that's what we're depending on." Psalm 33:20-22 The Message

If that wasn't enough to help me to have FULL and complete dependence on God, taking on His Holy name as my own and allowing my heart to overflow with the joy He gives, knowing He's everything I need. Yes, it was a convincing reminder. 

"When your circumstances are challenging and you are feeling weak, you tend to obsess about how you are going to make it through the day. (Guilty.) This wastes a lot of time and energy; it also distracts you from Me...Ask Me to open your eyes so you can find Me..." Jesus Today

Yet again was I causing myself work and worry by my feeble attempts to be in control and "make things happen"? Don't worry. He had a word ready for me. 

"Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close to Me and things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment." Jesus Calling

Over and over and over again, He was waiting, ready to speak to my heart. When He found me quiet and still, resting in His presence, He chose to not only speak but He chose to answer. What happened were the answers to some BIG things I had been asking God to do - for months, some for years. Things that I had thought He must have forgotten about - or surely had grown weary of me continuously asking. Things I knew I had absolutely NO control over. Things He chose to give me answers to so that I would be able to stop and say, "ONLY GOD could have done this." Only God. 

Make no mistake - this is the epitome of me depending on God. It was also the test of my faith to not just claim but to believe and live in the truth that He is all I need. Only then, when I could get to the point where I could not just hope for but could actually experience the overflowing of His joy in my heart, then would these truths become truth for me.

I've heard some big requests this week. Things those near to me are begging God to do - things that knowing hearts must have to trust that only He can do. Surrender has become a 'dirty word' in our culture. Funny how we distort what is meant for our own good. There are truths for each of us. Truths about Who God is and what He can do in our lives. Not the distorted view of a Holy God out to harm us but rather a gracious God attempting to keep us from getting in our own way and in the way of His Sovereign plan. 

I'm praying for you, friend. Would you pray for me as I continue to surrender? Moment by moment as He shows me the path. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Am Listening

`What do you do when God speaks? You listen. Hopefully. What do you do when He blatantly delivers that same message over and over, plain as day, nearly written in the sky?? You stop, fall on your face, lift your hands in surrender and you answer the way Samuel did, "Speak, for your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:10b)

Isn't this what we pray for? We beg God to speak to us. We plead with Him, "Make it clear, Lord, then I will know." We rationalize that if we simply have His distinct and specific will laid out for us then we'll obey. We seek it. We want it. But most often we're not fully prepared for when it actually happens. 

Here it is. The message I've begged God for. The words He's placed smack dab in front of my face - literally. The truth He's nearly been screaming as if with megaphone in hand. The instruction He seemingly painted across the sky. What?! You mean you've never asked Him to do that??

Remember on January 1, when I wrote a little blog about the things God was teaching me? The peace and joy I was praying for? The friend who shared with me that I can't just ask God to bless MY plan but I have to seek HIS will? I may not have thoroughly emphasized it but for my own self it has become the very motivation of my each and every day. It is the daily joy journal I have begun - closing each day by calling to mind the joy I'm finding in my day. I'm letting it sink into my marrow - seeking His plan, His will and asking Him to take root with what He wants to do in my life. 

By January 3, I was having a moment. You now the kind - in your car on a rainy day, driving down the road while you're praying outloud to Him. Pouring out my heart to God, giving Him everything - ALL OF IT - asking Him to turn mourning into dancing, praying for healing and joy, seeking His will and His desires for me and asking Him to rip away anything that I seek or desire that isn't a part of His plan. It turned into the ugly cry. The kind you are desperately searching your glove compartment and console for a tissue, napkin, anything to help dry the profuse liquid running down your face. (Don't tell me you haven't had this type of moment because I surely won't believe you.)

Here we are on January 5 and this is what I read:

"True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plan My desires within you." Yes, Lord! That IS what I want. That IS what I'm praying! Please, do this. I invite You in - I welcome You to take up residence in my life where you can establish and work out Your plan. Give me Your desires. Give me eyes to see the way You see. Give me a heart to love the way You love. We are on a journey - a faith-walk - where I can only take one step at a time. Just enough light for the step I'm on - that's all You've seen fit to give me and I accept it with grace as I recognize the state of utter dependence it allows me to have on You. Only You, God, only You can do this. Let the failures I face, the heartache I endure, the pain I feel, the disappointment that comes all be points of growth that cause me to draw closer and closer to You. 

The verse at the bottom of thise devotional is one another friend recently shared:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit. Psalm 34:18

Surrender can be one of the most difficult lessons to learn. It can be the most challenging call to action we face. Trust is an act of belief. Faith is pursuit. But surrender requires us to give up any semblance of control we think we have. Surrender requires our faith to be called into action. Belief in God cannot be accomplished apart from true surrender - full reliance on God. Every single day. Every moment of the day. Over and over.

He has made it so clear to me. There is simply no denying His word to me. Even if it means nothing to no one else, I can say without a doubt that I know He is speaking to me. Thank You, Lord. Your servant is listening. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Year Gone By

2014 is quickly coming to a close. In just a few hours we say goodbye to another year. It's always a time of reflection and I would be remisce if I didn't stop and count the many blessings and lessons of the year that's coming to a close. But first some of 2014's highlights:

January brought a fourth member to the family. 

Remember that fury little fluff ball? All 7 deceiving pounds of him that melted our hearts. It was the first week of January and the beginning of the Polar Vortex and a harsh, snowy 3 months of winter (even for Virginia). Now this 65 lb Oompa Loompa is a permanent fixture in the Wright Home and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

February brought my 35th birthday, more snow and these infamous shots. 

Oh how I love these photos. Yes, it was freezing. Yes, I had on snow boots and leggings underneath my gown. Yes, it was worth it!

Fast forward to April and Mikey's birthday, then May and a dino-mite 6th birthday. We also took our first vacation of the year to Nags Head. 

June brough the official start of summer and a trip to DC. So many sights to see, so much history. 

July was our first trip to Williamsburg & Busch Gardens. We have determined we love amusement parks. So much so we would return again in September. 

August began Elijah's first grade year, which has proven to be a lot more challenging than Kindergarten but we couldn't have been blessed with a more loving and devoted teacher. So many of you have prayed for this little boy and knowing he is bathed in prayer is the biggest blessing of all. We still have challenges ahead so as we look toward 2015 it is a reminder of having to seek the Lord for guidance and knowing how to best parent and advocate for this little life we are entrusted with. I know you will agree - this is one of the biggest lessons we face as parents, having to surrender our children to the Lord ALL the days of their lives and seek to do what's best for them, even when it's difficult. 

The first of September we learned we were expecting. We couldn't contain our excitement! This was truly an answer to prayer and something we had been hoping and waiting for. We celebrated and embraced this little one. It caused me to look toward 2015 - specifically May - with a whole new perspective and plan. It wouldn't just be a new year, it would be a new baby, a new beginning, a new life, a growing family, a fulfilled longing and an answer to prayer.

In October we were forced to say goodbye. I cannot deny the months since have still brought grief. I've also had newfound friendships as I've connected with others who have walked this same journey. I can't yet fully understand God's plan in all of this.

We close this year out in Florida enjoying time with family and vacation. 
Magic. It never loses it's luster. I've determined that the Christmas holiday and Disney World allow me to appropriately act the age I feel. It's been a weird time for me, though, because we planned this trip with the knowledge that we'd be marking our "halfway" point of pregnancy. I admit that at times I still struggle with this and as I look forward to 2015 this is so much a part of what I must face. 

This year God has brought me deep, meaningful friendships that have come to be a lifelong answer to prayer. I've watched God supernaturally step into situations that were simply beyond my control. I've seen Him work things out according to His plan even when I simply could not see any resolution. This year I've seen my own faith rise on wings of eagles and soar to mountaintop heights. And yet I've also felt my hopes and dreams plummet to the valley of the shadow of death. 

Now I look toward next year with a completely different meaning and perspective. Yesterday I was reminded (by one of those kindred friends) that I cannot just pull together my own plan and ask God to bless it. (Ouch! That one hurts.) Rather, I must seek His plan and follow His will.

There are two words that have come to share deep meaning in my soul: hope and joy. 

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 

Hebrews 11:1

God is my strength, my shield from every danger.
I trust Him and He helps me.
Joy rises in my heart 
until I burst out in songs of praise to Him
Psalm 28:7

This is the reason I sing. This is the reason for faith. This is the reason to look forward to 2015 and a new year. The hope I have is faith in Who He is. The joy I cling to is what rises within me as I trust Him no matter what I face. Another year comes to a close and a new one offers hope and joy with full confidence in a Sovereign God who holds each and everyday. 

Happy New Year. Happiness is relative, right? Relative to the perspective we choose when we realize Almighty God holds not only each of our days but each of us in His Sovereign hands.

I pray you feel His presence in your life and I pray for His deepest blessings on your new year. May your faith increase. May your hope be ever present. May your joy be deep. May you burst forth in songs of praise to Him. May you rejoice and trust in a God who is good, even when you may not be certain of what tomorrow holds. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time

It's the most wonderful time of year. At least that's what the song says. 

I openly admitted my love for this season which allows my inner child to actually be appropriate in public. Yes, I said this while donning my "tacky" Christmas sweater, complete with garland, packages, ornaments and, of course, a working strand of lights. It goes without saying that I embrace the Elf-like philosophy of spreading cheer by singing loud for all to hear. 

All of this makes it hard to understand why this season has but 3 days until Christmas and I find myself wondering how it's "slipped away." We scaled back this year. After a budget overhaul and some different goals we determined not to let Christmas break us. The same must be true from an emotional standpoint and not just budgetary purposes. What I'm realizing is that just because we aren't shopping to our limits, we certainly have been stretching ourselves to extremes. 

Doesn't everyone? I keep hearing it from so many, "We're just so busy." "We've just got to make it through the holidays." "This time of year is so demanding." "The emotions during this season have been on heightened alert." Yes, all statements I've heard from different people who must be feeling a level of overwhelmed that I can relate to.

But if we stop the buying, stop the wrapping, stop the decorating, stop the baking, stop the parties, stop the demands, stop the overwhelming expectations for a moment, would we find what we're looking for? Strip away the tinsel and lights, scale back the mounds of packages and find the simplicity of the season we truly are meant to celebrate.

We enter the hustle and bustle and lose the peace and joy. We fill our season with overwhelming demands and miss the momentous meaning of Christ's birth. We consume the season in all its shiny packaging, we take in the the commercialism and overlook the miracle of God wrapped in flesh. 

I feel Christmas spirit. It's in my marrow. It helps that my personality lends itself to, well, like I said an inner child that embraces everything about the celebratory season. But I don't want to miss the miracle. I don't want to overlook the reason we gather, buy, wrap, gift, give, get, sing, decorate and every other offering this season is filled with. More importantly, I don't want to just "get through" the holidays. Believe me, I know the demands it brings. I also know right beside my abundance of Christmas spirit is a near melt down if I allow the to do lists to take over. 

The Christmas spirit that runs deep is the joy of our Savior and the gift He came to bring us. The peace that passes all understanding when we place our trust in a Sovereign God, who admid all confusion sent His Son to earth to fulfill a plan that only He could orchestrate. Tis the season. The most wonderful time of year when we honor this gift, when we celebrate life and new birth, when we give and receive the incomparable love meant for each of us. When I keep this in mind, I can truly say it is the most wonderful time of the year. It's the reason I sing. It's the reason I don tacky Christmas sweaters. It's the motivation behind my desire to spread cheer - ultimately to spread the joy of Jesus.