Friday, October 26, 2012

Lavish Love

The funny thing about feelings is you never know what to expect. You can't change how you feel. You can't predict how you'll feel from one minute to the next. You might be going along your merry way when an unexpected trigger alters your emotional course.

It's been an up and down week of unpredictable feelings, from people asking why I'm so bubbly to outbursts of tears.

Right now, in this moment, I am simply overcome by the love of my Heavenly Father who watches out for every detail. I am overwhelmed at how He takes care of me. I just reminded a friend of mine that yes, He has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) but sometimes He wants us to just seek Him and not worry about the plan.

"You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart." ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The thing is, even when I'm looking for the writing in the sky, I can sometimes miss HIM. What I'm feeling and experiencing today is the tangible expressions of His love, the visible reminders of His sovereignty in my life. But just a few days ago, I was feeling isolated and alone.

A faithful devotional text from a friend. An encouraging email from a kindred spirit. A friend's blog about her own life lessons and struggles. A reminder that I'm being prayed for. A note of thanks. A visit from a friend. He must have known that I needed the spiritual encouragement.

‎"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" ~ I John 3:1

Oh how my heart is rejoicing in this verse today - well, at least for this moment! The love He is pouring out through His people to reach me...I pray you feel it, too. His love is deep enough to reach to the depths of any wound you are feeling. His love is wide enough to travel any expanse that is distancing you from Him. His love is detailed enough to care about each and every concern you have. His love is great enough to bear the burden that you feel you carry alone.

Whether you feel it or not, He loves you. And whether it seems it or not, you are His child. Because you are His, He will not leave you. Even when it's hard. Even when it hurts. Even when He feels a thousand miles away. You are His. The Creator of the universe holds your heart and He wants to lavish His love on you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Carrie's Closet

Today's blog is a bit "off topic" but inspired by a friend's recent post about her non-fashion, combined with an opportunity to go through another friend's closet and help her coordinate outfits. Today's post is all about fashion.

I don't call myself an expert when it comes to being a trend setter or fashion guru. I do have a love for shopping and I enjoy clothes and accessorizing. I'm a girly-girl through and through, so I love all things makeup and hair, too. These things don't define me. It' just fun. I think your style can say a lot about your personality, but I don't think it says everything. For those of you who ask where I shop or how I put outfits together, here are a few fun tips.

I dabble with trends. Never anything extreme, but just enough to enjoy it for the season before it comes and goes. I'm much too practical (and too cheap!) to redo my wardrobe with every new runway reveal.

Right now I'm loving color blocking. I haven't purchased any brightly colored skinny jeans (I'm having way too many flashbacks of the 80's) but I have matched up a few new outfits from already existing pieces I own. I'm not doing anything extreme here, either, but if you're not sure where to start, I like the advice from Style Prompt with the Color Wheel:

“The most popular theory for combining colors is called the rule of two-thirds. How you achieve the rule of two-thirds starts by making an equilateral triangle (a triangle with 3 equal sides) on the color wheel… From there, you pick two of the three colors that the triangle touches. These colors will almost always harmonize together beautifully.”

I love scarves. LOVE SCARVES! I don't think you can have too many, nor do I believe you can go wrong with adding a scarf to any outfit! They work with any outfit AND any body shape. You just have to find the "right" way to wear it to fit your style, shape and size. Here are a few examples.

Boots! I have way too many pair. These are my favorite (I have them in black & brown) with skinny jeans, layered on top with a solid print cardigan and a different color or print top underneath, maybe topped with a scarf to tie it all together. These are great for cool, casual fall days. I admit to keeping my shoes fairly neutral in fall (I do own a pair of leopard print wedge heels that are way too fun).

Another fun wardrobe piece are ankle boots. Still popular this season. I got mine on clearance for $8. See?! I told you I'm cheap. I admit these are bit harder to pair. But they look great with leggings and a sweater or long top, a dress (with or without leggings), skinny jeans, or skirts.

My best advice is closet organization. My closet is organized by color (much like the above color wheel) but it helps me be able to quickly find what I'm looking for and easily put outfits together.

It's fall and with the changing seasons you may also consider making subtle changes to your hair or makeup. I'm a big believer this starts with taking good care of your skin. (No Dove soap or Jergen's lotion on your face, please!) I'm not here to promote one brand over another, but I have been an avid Mary Kay skin care user for about 14 years now and I just can't say enough about the products and how my skin looks and feels. I do admit to dabbling with other makeup products that I love, like MAC eyeshadows and lip glosses or my fool-proof Volume Lash mascara by Maybelline.

I always switch out my foundation for a lighter shade with more coverage during the fall/winter months when I have no sun-kissed color. I add a bronzing powder and a darker blush. I also have fun with eyeshadows and typically add a lipstick base underneath my gloss.

Fall and winter are great months to give your locks some extra love. Make sure to use conditioner to keep your hair healthy. If you're ready to play with color, consider the ever-popular Ombre look. This has allowed me to incorporate some highlights and lowlights along with my "natural" color. It's relatively 'maintenance-free' because the darker color typically starts at the top so as your hair grows out, you may only need to touch up roots.

The bottom line: Your style is your own. It's not about changing who you are. Again, clothes and makeup and hair don't define who I am. I just have fun with these things. I enjoy dressing up and looking nice, but I also love my trusted stack of hoodies and comfy jeans, or my velour "mom-suits" as I call the zip up jackets and matching pant outfits that I admit to owning. Of course, I'm always ready & willing to accompany you on any shopping trip or help organize your closet as well! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just Sing

Resonating deep within my soul are the words that song writers have penned out of their own hurt, pain, trials, and victories.

Ringing through my ears and penetrating my heart are the notes orchestrated by instruments played with conviction from the mouths and hands who've journeyed these same paths.

Running through my very being are the voices uplifted as if they're singing solely to me. They minister through song and I am the benefactor.

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." ~Psalm 104:33

Yes, Lord. Do not let me stop singing Your praises. May I never cease to offer You my song of sacrifice. Let Your glory be magnified as the notes resound. With hands lifted toward You and my heart bowing before You, I bring You my worship.

When I don't have the words to pray, when I can't come up with a thing to say, it seems as though the songs of my heart were already written. The lyrics wash over me as the melody soothes. The harmonies comfort and the notes fill my soul as they swell with the changing dynamics. When I can come up with nothing on my own, I just sing.

I give these songs as my offering of praise. The songs echoing what my heart feels, what my soul seeks, what my mind prays and what my life longs to live!

Not For A Moment
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
After all, You are constant.
After all, You are only good.
After all, You are sovereign.
Not for a moment, will You forsake me.
And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me

I believe always, always
Our Savior never fails
Even when all hope is gone
God knows our name,
And His promise remains

I Will Lift My Eyes
I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb.
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild.
I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside.
I will lift my eyes to You

Strong Enough
I know I'm not strong enough to be
Everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not stong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
I don't have to be strong enough

While I'm Waiting
I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting.
I will worship while I'm waiting.
I'm waiting on You, Lord.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello Blog

Hi blog. It's me. I'm back again just to check in. It's been a very eventful, very busy past few days. But I'm not really here to share any details.

I could spill my guts about emotions running wild, swirling thoughts, troubling circumstances. I could fill multiple entries with stories and lessons, scriptures and songs that are meaningful to me. I could reveal the deepest parts of my heart or the inner recesses of my mind. I could share points of inspiration and words of encouragement. But that's not why I'm here.

Today I write with no agenda. Nothing profound to share. No life lesson learned. No scripture to expound upon. I'm just simply here. I wish it were something more, but that would be an expectation of others and not the real reason I blog. The reason for this post is to serve as my reminder, just as I stated when I started this blog:

"The blog isn't meant for anyone. It's mine. My private thoughts. My talks with God. My discoveries of life. My lessons and experiences; my joy, my pain. This is who I am."

I'm sharing my thoughts with myself, really. My own journal, if you will. It's so I can remind myself of the good times, the bad times, the life lessons, the hardships, the trials and the victories, the stories, the memories, the moments I want etched in my mind for all eternity. I write for me.

Another blogger shared:
I write what I need to remember. Words are the trail markers I leave on the journey of life so I can say, “Oh, yes, I’ve passed this way before. Now I know how to move past this place again.”

If you dare to read, you're welcome to it. It doesn't bother me that you take a glimpse into my life and the things I care to share. I find people sharing in my journey along the way and that's when I realize I'm not alone. I'm not writing for anyone, but I'm not writing for everyone either. I'm just writing. Documenting. Processing. And when people come along and identify with what I'm thinking, feeling, experiencing, or living, well, it reminds me none of us ever have to go it alone. And having it documented  helps me know how to move through the valleys, recall the mountain tops, relish in the God-moments, swoon with a Mother's Heart, laugh because This is Me and worship at the Altars established along the Journey.

So, dear blog, I write. I give this entry no more attention than the others, and no less thought than any one before. You've always given me a place to bring my thoughts, share my words, and offer my heart.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Never Once

Never once, did we ever walk alone
Never once, did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God You are faithful

This song is a reminder to me today. Have you ever known the physical ache of your own heart breaking? Physically sick, writhing in pain. Mentally, emotionally incapable of processing how you feel. Beyond words. Truly, they don't even come. Prayer can escape me, though I know in this moment of heartache He is exactly where I need to turn.

I am reminded of two things: 1. God is Sovereign. He is not surprised by anything that happens in our lives because He knew all our days before one of them came to be. 2. God is Sovereign. Despite what people may do to affect our lives, inspite of what circumstances we encounter that impact us, the plans of our hearts are many, but His purpose prevails. Thy will, not mine, Father.

I cried myself to sleep. After more than an hour of tears, my body simply gave up from sheer emotional, mental, spiritual and physical exhaustion. And so I gave way to slumber.

I woke with the heaviness still looming. My puffy, burning eyes were a reminder of the reality over which my broken heart was still feeling. Still in pieces and waiting for healing. There's a tenderness I can't seem to overcome and it's causing the tears to flow without ceasing.

All I can do is turn to scriptures. At one point even laying my open bible on my chest, praying for God's words to transfer from the pages and pour over me as a healing balm to my aching heart. Seeking to absorb His Word into the very marrow of my being.

All I know to do is cling to Him. "Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer!." (Psalm 61:1) I call to Him as my heart grows faint and ask for Him to be my refuge and strong tower (Psalm 61:2-3).

I find rest in Him alone and know my soul won't be shaken. He is my rock and salvation. My honor depends on Him, not on me. I trust Him at all times (Psalm 62:5-8).

He hasn't left me. He hasn't forsaken me. (Hebrews 13:5) He hasn't ignored my cries or prayers. I still petition Him in earnest and make my requests known. (Philippians 4:6) My present sufferings cannot even compare to the glory that He has yet to reveal. (Romans 8:18) But even as I find myself at a loss for what to pray, I know God is near to my broken heart. (Psalm 34:18)

I don't yet know the outcome. I don't have resolution. I haven't experienced the fullness of healing or wholeness. Never once has He been anything other than faithful and sovereign. Never once has He left my side. Never once has He overlooked my tears. Never once has He forgotten my broken heart. Never once has He left a detail undone. Never once has He been anything other than God.

Never Once

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lost Sheep

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Luke 15:4-6

It was the Sunday School Christmas party last year. We each brought a "dirty santa" gift. There were practical jokes mixed in with coveted items. It was one of the last gifts and the man next to me unwrapped a single sheep. Everyone was perplexed at the gift and wondering what practical joke was being played...until my sense of humor kicked in and I exclaimed, "Someone's nativity scene is missing a sheep!" The class erupted in laughter and we all agreed someone must have forgotten to buy a gift and grabbed the sacrificial lamb from their nearby nativity and threw it in a gift bag.

It wasn't until the end of the game when it was revealed that the single sheep represented the gift of livestock that had been purchased for a needy family. Sheesh. Leave it to me to turn that into a joke! (Needless to say, almost a year later, this joke still lives on.)

Recently E has been learning about the Parable of the Lost Sheep combined with the Prodigal Son thanks to Veggie Tale's Pistachio. From the backseat this morning he asked, "Mom, why did the sheep get lost?"

"He was supposed to stay with his family but he probably wandered off and got lost. This is why mommy says to stay close to me so I always know where you are," I answered.

"But if you don't know where I am, what will happen?" The concern in his voice let me know he needed an answer.

I peered in the rearview mirror to catch his eye and explained, "I will come find you. Just like the shepherd went to find the sheep and just like Pistachio's daddy went to find him."

There was a long pause so I thought he was happy with that answer, but then I heard him say, "But when I don't obey will you come find me?"

"Eli, mommy will ALWAYS love you and I will ALWAYS want you to be close to me. No matter what you do or what happens, you are ALWAYS close in my heart. Yes! I will ALWAYS come find you," I reassured him.

As I'm teaching my son about my unconditional and never-ending love for him, I am coming to understand all the more the Father's love for me.

Make no mistake, I wasn't taken from my rightful spot in the nativity. On the contrary, I have been the one guilty of wandering off. It was by my own choosing, foolishness, or even distraction, when I left the flock. He has rejoiced over finding me when I was lost. He has welcomed me with open arms when I've returned. He has treated me as royalty, His chosen daughter, despite the decisions I've made that have caused His heart to break. He has celebrated finding me. He's brought me back into the flock and He's continued to watch over and care for me. At times I've been lost. Other times sinful. Still other times I've been undesirable, disobedient, even unlovely - mangled and marred from the briars and muck I've found myself tangled in. And still He calls me His own. He'll always love me. Always want me close to Him. And He'll always come and find me.