Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014

usually look forward not back, but I simply cannot look ahead to 2014 without pausing to reflect on the year that draws to a close. 

As I type we are returning from a family vacation at the most magical place on earth. At least their slogan lives up to its promise. It was lights, parades, memories, Mickey and friends and so much more. This was a trip we won't soon forget. I can't think of a better way to close out the year then spending this time together as a family. 2013 is a year I want to memorialize. In the Old Testament there are references to altars built to stand as reminders for generations to come. 2013 stands as such a year for us. 

At the start of 2013 I was celebrating a quiet New Year's Eve at home while my little man was tucked snuggily into bed. I was a single mom with a house on the market and in the middle of a bitter custody battle. It would be a few months into the new year before some of those things would be finalized. Lots of chapters ended while others began in 2013. 

By the end of January the house would go under contract. In February I celebrated my 34th birthday surrounded by family and my Prince Charming. Most of the month would be spent packing and consolidating. E and I would move the majority of our things to storage and resume residence with mom and dad. It was a familiar and comfortable home for us and had been for the better part of three years. Nevertheless The Lord made it clear He was closing the door on 166 Addie Way. I can say with full confidence that throughout this year God has made it abundantly clear that the house that now stands was perfectly built for the family who now call it home.  I've been blessed to see the fruition of this God-sized plan. From broken dreams to heartache and tragedy, beauty from ashes is what that now represents. 

I hadn't been skiing in a decade but Prince Charming had a trip planned for us in March that would forever change our lives and our future. Atop the snow covered mountains after a fun-filled day gliding down the slopes, he shared his never ending love for me and his desire to serve me all the days of his life. I said yes to the most beautiful hand-crafted diamond ring...and the most amazing, gentle, kind-hearted, servant of a man I've ever met. 

By the end of the month we were not only planning a wedding, we were wondering what God was up to when Michael's house also went under contract after just 6 weeks on the market. House hunting and more dreaming began. 

April brought the celebration of Michael's birthday. We also settled on our lot in the cul de sac and chose plans for our new home. But April also brought the biggest career change of my life. I called LibertyUniversity  my place of employment even before I graduated. I changed positions over the years but never left campus. Until April 1, 2013, when I entered the world of restaurant marketing and never looked back. This was not only a leap of faith but as I reflect upon this career move these past 8 months, all I can be is blown away grateful. 


In May one very special little boy turned 5 and I was wondering where the time had gone. It also saw a lifelong dream come true for Michael as he received his degree after a 15 year much overdo, life got in the way, college career. They broke ground on our lot and we began the planning. 

June seems like a blur with final preparations for the wedding, family members packing and preparing for moves and new homes, and making all kinds of selections for the new house being built. 

The long awaited month of July had come. Family started to arrive and the day we had planned and prepared for was here. July 5, 2013. An altar upon that day is cemented in my mind, implanted in my heart. It is the day I married the love of my life. It is the day broken dreams and shattered hopes were mended as the presence of the Holy Spirit encircled us as we exchanged vows. We've both seen those vows broken. We've both experienced the pain and heartache of love lost. For us, 2013 became a long-awaited time of new life beginning. 


August brought another milestone. Kindergarten. This mama had a harder time than Eli did. Nevertheless we are halfway through the year and so far we've survived! 

The fall came closing in marked by the countdown of our house closing. October 24 sealed the deal and we began moving into yet another dream come true. 

We gave thanks with my immediate family gathered around the table at my sister and brother in law's new home. We celebrated Christmas wth family in our new home, a trip to see Michael's 85 and 84 year old parents, and now close the year with so much behind us and still so much more to come.

I admit at times I feel as though I'm living my fairytale. I can also look back at years gone by and recall the times when the future seemed bleak. There have certainly been years I've wanted to forget and leave behind. There have been new year's celebrations that have only marked the hope that the year to come would somehow be better than the one I was saying goodbye to. 

My faith has been challenged, strengthened, rocked to its core and built back up again. My life has followed the same progression. When I tell you I'm a living, breathing exams of God's grace, goodness, forgiveness, redemption and mercy, I more than mean it. When I share about the blessings, they are not separated from the steps a battered heart has taken on this journey to arrive at this point. I'm also well aware the final destination is still yet to come. 

It may sound selfish for me to say, but I'm believing God for even more in the coming year. We are praying about big things. There are opportunities before us that we must seek His will to know the steps to take. There are situations out of our control that require us to walk and live by faith. There are inevitably unforeseen circumstances we don't even know about that will cause us to trust Him. 

I'm well aware that 2013 marks the close of a year many would rather soon forget. I'm also well aware of the fulfilled promises of a sovereign God to complete the good work He's started in each of us. I'm living proof of the plans He has to prosper us and give us a future we couldn't have dreamed of on our own. I'm witnessing His mercies made new to us each morning. Everyday. 

With a grateful and overflowing heart I wish you more than a Happy New Year. I wish for His presence to be near you, His blessings abundant and His grace evident to you. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Empty House

It's the night before Christmas and all through the house, there's not a creature stirring. All's quiet at home, no sound to be heard. Not even the excitement of a little boy who won't go to bed as he anxiously awaits the dawn of Christmas. That's because he's not here. Not tonight. It's quiet. Too quiet. I'm painfully aware of his absence on this night, moreso than other nights. 

I set out cookies for Santa. I promised him I would. I left Jokey by the plate and I included his photo. Through the power of technology and the blessing of Facetime, I showed him the display and assured him Santa would still bring gifts, along with the rest of the family, even if he wasn't here tonight. There's a certain magic of kids bounding out of bed to race downstairs to see the presents under the tree. Somehow I've come to peace with the fact that our presents will be opened later in the day. They're just as much a surprise in the afternoon as they are in the morning. 


Please don't feel sorry for me. Please don't judge. I'm sharing a very real experience. Wednesday is the worst day of my week. Every week. Not because it's "hump day," whatever that means, but because it's the day I drop him off at school but I do not pick him up. It's called shared custody and it's a reality I've had to learn to deal with. Some days hurt more than others. NEVER does a day go by when he's not constantly in my thoughts and prayers. And truly, if I've learned anything, I've learned how to pray for him. I pray so much more for him, much more diligently, especially when he's not with me. There's a certain appreciation of how precious the time is when he is present. I find that on days when my arms are empty, my prayers are fuller, more frequent. When the sound of his sweet high pitched voice may not be echoing through the halls of our home, the whispers of a mother's prayers can be heard soaring toward heaven. On nights I may not get to tuck him into bed, before I lay my head down to sleep I pray The Lord his soul to keep. I may not be there to give him his bath, but I most certainly am bathing him in prayer. 

I am always his mother, even if he's not with me. So the real lesson I'm learning is what God requires of me as his mother. The 'letting go' part. The part where I have to surrender him....all the days of his life. I've shared it before, just not in this realm. Tonight I am reminded that one day he'll be grown, he'll have a family of his own, and he may not always come home for Christmas. None of that stops me from being his mother. None of that changes my privilege to pray for him. None of that takes away my responsibility of loving and caring for him, wherever he is, whatever he does. 

Please know I'm not sad. I have peace and strength from The Lord knowing Whose care he is truly in. Just don't take for granted the chance to tuck your babies into bed. Don't miss the magic of the children bounding out of bed tomorrow. Don't forget the precious moments we waste doing futile things when right before our very eyes our children are growing up. With each passing day, they're one day closer to being on their own. And even when that happens, they'll still be your babies. 

Merry Christmas everyone. Wherever you are.

Christmas Lessons

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I've got my candycane earrings complemented by my red snowflake accented nails. Of course I'm wearing all my Merry Christmas shirt. And it's all topped off with a new gift I just received. It's one of the most important accessories, and now one of my favorites, a Santa Claus hat complete with a little rhinestone crown. For those of you who know me well you realize why there is not only irony in this gift but also how ridiculously appropriate it is. I've been called the queen, a diva, former pageant has-been, you name it. Either way it somehow seems a little bit fitting that there is a princess crown combined with my Santa hat. Yes I am wearing it all today and I am also wearing a genuine grin comimg from the joy and Christmas cheer that I feel. 

It's going to be an insanely busy day. The traffic yesterday was only a small indication of all of the plans and preparations that are being made for this holiday. I'm not used to working on Christmas Eve but Ive quickly discovered the life in retail and restaurant business involves this as one of the busiest days of the year. So it is my hope to be able to spread some Christmas cheer with my coworkers and with all of the guests who will be by today.

It was yesterday when that joy was spread to me. When a six-year-old boy showed me the meaning of Christmas. He was waiting in line to see Santa and it was my job to bring along the Chick-fil-A cow to greet those who were standing in the line. Guests were pleased to see the cow although it was truly the man in red they were waiting for.  

The excitement and anticipation on the faces of these children was evident as they were fidgeting and restless waiting for the iconic image of Christmas. The Cow dressed in his elf costume provided a little bit of a distraction as I encouraged conversation by asking them what they wanted for Christmas.

There was a sweet little family sitting down in line eating their Chick-fil-A lunch.
Of course I greeted them and thanked them for their patronage. I asked how their lunch was and they were more than obliged to shake hands with the cow. But when I asked what it was they wanted for Christmas, I was not prepared for the shock that I would receive from the mouth of the six-year-old boy. 

"I'm not asking for any presents," he said. Truthfully the response took me off guard to the point that I was actually speechless. His mother obviously saw my reaction and encouraged him to explain. He continued that it had been his wish for Christmas to give up all of his presents so that he could help others in need. His older sister was nodding her head in agreement, but then she was quick to add that it had all been his idea. At first I wondered if she was upset about it but she seemed to be completely in agreement with the plan. Their mother further explained that it was their desire to make sure that the money that would have been spent on their presents was instead going to be sent to the tornado victims who still were without homes and many of the necessary items that they need to live on a daily basis.

The entire story brought me to tears. I not only thank them for their generosity and for such kind hearts but I thanked them for sharing their story with me. 

Suddenly I was painfully aware of the money that I have spent on presents. I was aware of all of the good intentions that I had meant to fulfill and had frivolously worried about. There's not a single thing that I need or want under the Christmas tree this year, but I know for certain there will be presents addressed to me. What if I had given up all of my gifts and instead sent the money to those who needed it more than me?

Once again I was reminded that Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree or the cards sent in the mail. Christmas is about the heart of the giver. Even the most lavish and extravagant gift, even the most expensive item that money could buy, cannot replace the gift that was given to each of us to ensure that our hearts are with Christ in eternity. It cost Him everything. He left nothing out. He gave it all up. For you. For me. 

The heart that seeks to celebrate the birth of our Savior this year is the heart that gives a gift with the intent of impacting a life. Random acts of kindness and intentional acts of serving are given with such a heart.

My outfit today may be a little bit ridiculous. My combustion of Christmas carols and exuberant holiday joy may be over-the-top. But yesterday a little boy taught me the true meaning of Christmas and giving and today it is my intent to share the joy of the season and the birth of our Savior with everyone I come in contact with. Merry Christmas. Jesus is born!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrate Christ

To the cashier who checked me out while I busily stood there and never spoke, how rude of me. 

To the kid checking receipts at the door who asked me how I was and I barely responded, I apologize. 

To the woman ringing the bell at the red kettle and singing your heart out in baritone versions of Christmas carols, thank you. 

It's coming on Christmas and I'm usually the one spreading the cheer. Yet I found myself dreadfully overwhelmed, exhausted and truthfully just flat-out stressed! All the good intentions, cards I meant to send, gifts I intended to buy, crafts I'd hoped to make, goodies I wanted to bake and everything that remains undone seemed to be looming over me. It's not like it snuck up on me. It's always December 25. In fact, Christmas keeps coming earlier and earlier based upon when the stores put things out. So why am I not prepared? Why were feelings of weariness and stress taking over where I should be joyful and cheerful and celebrating?

It took a humbling trip to Wal-mart and the wise words of my husband to help set me straight. All of a sudden I realized I was the grinch. I was the one stealing the joy out of Christmas. During the one time of year when the rest of the world seems to jump on the bandwagon of cheer, I was now the one throwing a sopping wet blanket on everyone's Christmas spirit. 

Thankfully it didn't take the ghost of Christmas past, present or future to set me straight. Rather it was the Christmas carol of a joyful soul as I wearily left the store, pushing my cart in the rain, trying to find room for all the bags amidst the packages and work supplies that were already crowding the vehicle. While I sulked and huffed and had my own little pity party, the echo of Christmas carols carried through the parking lot, with an off-rhythm bell chiming in. By the time I got home, I still managed to complain, but patiently and lovingly I was reminded this wasn't what Christmas was about. He was right. I was missing it. Big time. 

Christmas isn't about all the stuff I meant to buy, do, send, package, wrap, give or any other good intention. It doesn't have to be on December 25th when I send a card to family to tell them how meaningful they are. There's no reason December 25th is the only day of the year when I can prepare homemade goodies for friends. It's not the Christmas tree beckoning more gifts to be neatly wrapped and placed under it. 

Christmas is just the beginning. The manger isn't where it ends. We celebrate the birth of our Savior but the purpose in His coming was to fulfill the cross. To bring salvation to us. He came as a babe and occupied a manger, but He left an empty tomb before it was all said and done.

There's still a million things on my "to do" list... And you know what?? Many of them may remain "unchecked." But it doesn't take Christmas cards, perfectly wrapped packages, carefully selected presents or handcrafted goodies to bring about the celebration of Christmas. The true celebration of Christ's birth and the joy it brings comes from the heart of Christmas - my heart's willingness to rejoice instead of stress. My heart's decision to celebrate Christ rather than worry about what I have left to do. My heart's decision to honor Him as Lord rather than elevate all the other non-priorities that can consume me. My heart's decision to let the celebration of the season be about the simple way in which He came and not the pomp and circumstance I'm trying to make it. My heart's decision is to celebrate Christ. 

Whatever remains undone on your list, leave it. Let's choose to celebrate Christ. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Disappointed

Did God disappoint me?

I'm ashamed to admit it. It seems so vulgar to even think. How dare I say such a thing. Worse, how foolish of me to feel this way!

I knew this was one of those requests that seemed "unlikely."  It's not that He can't or won't. It would just mean a near miracle experience would need to happen. But isn't that just like God?! Of course! Which is why I also admit that while tempering thoughts of excitement and anticipation, I was still entertaining the hope that it would be just like God to do this in the back of my mind. 

It was there. Mixed with a dose of reality along with the cruelty I felt in trying to convince myself not to get ahead of myself...or God.

Here is my struggle. You know me - I'm being gut-level honest. How exactly is one supposed to go through the Christian life living on faith? We express our prayers, concerns, hopes and the desire of our hearts to the God who asks us to make our requests known, and yet we must remain grounded and expectant only of His will and not ours alone. How is one meant to balance this dichotomy of emotion? If I'm being honest, it seems like an oxymoron at times. 

If I have faith the size of a mustard seed, and truly that's not requiring much of me at all, then my faith is credited to me as righteousness. That doesn't necessarily mean I get my way. That doesn't mean I get everything I ask for, everything I pray about, every single thing I seek from God. But if I pray and seek God's will - not my own - then I must surrender my desire for what He chooses for me. 

Of course my head knows all these things. So, then, why does my heart feel disappointed? Why did I dare ask God "Why not? Why didn't you answer? Why didn't you do this?" How could I even approach Him in question and wonder about His plan for me? How dare I doubt His goodness and grace at work in my life? I honestly don't. But that doesn't take away this feeling of sadness or disappointment. And genuinely I can admit my failure in my own self for feeling this way. I'm such a mixed-up mess of emotions, I don't know what to feel!

It was the kind of request that would have just allowed God to show off. Let God be God. Only something He could do. People would have had to rejoice. People would have had to seen Him at work. People would have surely given Him all the glory. If He had answered... I was just convinced of the glorious miracle this would have been. But it's not. Does that make Him any less God? Heavens no!

Let me make sure this is clear. I am not mad at God. I am not upset with Him. I'm not angry in the least. Do I feel hurt? Yes. Was it disappointing? Surely. Is it still an unfulfilled longing in my heart? I admit it is. But none of those feelings make me doubt God. None of that causes me to wonder if He truly is good, or if He really does want what is best for me. It is precisely in His goodness that He chose this answer at this time, despite it being different than what I prayed for, because of His love and goodness toward me and because of the plan HE has for my life. 

God knows. He knows my feelings of sadness and disappointment. He knows what my heart wants and seeks. He knows the plans He has for me. He knows the plans that will prosper me and not harm me. He knew, even when He knit me together and was planning all the days of my life before one of them came to be, that we would reach today - this day - where I would feel this way. He knows. He also knows what the future holds and that requires me to have faith in an all-knowing God who is working out plan for me until the day of completion. 


So I surrender it all. Even my disappointment. Because it is in those emotions that I find Him, even more so than in my rejoicing if He had answered. In this state He comes to comfort me and hold me, He causes me to rest upon Him even when I don't understand. Even when I hurt. Even when I'm disappointed. Because He's God. He's still at work, even if it's not the way I asked Him to move. He's still navigating the details of my life, even if it's not the direction I sought. Here He reminds me to keep my eyes on Him. To seek Him for who He is and not for what I'd hoped He would do. To love Him for being God, my God. He reminds me what I ask is not wrong. He allows me the freedom to ask again. Yet He re-directs my attention to Him and not what I desire.

Make no mistake. I'm processing feelings of disappointment, but God has never disappointed me. He can't. He's God. What I feel is purely my own reaction to the expectation of what I wanted Him to do. Not my reaction to HIM or who He is. He's God and there is never anything disappointing about Him. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Heart of Christmas

I love Christmas! I love celebrating! I love the thrill in the air. The magic. The wonder. The excitment and joy. I love all the festivities. Breakfast with Santa, train rides, a visit with Santa, fun times with friends and family, the movie Frozen, Christmas cookies with Nana, Christmas shopping for the family, and a day to just rest and be at home and enjoy our own familiy time. It causes me to pause and give thanks. The blessings abound and my heart is full, and I'm thankful.

There's a certain joy in the air and I wonder about this. The other day someone told me her daughter asked if she believed in Santa. Her response was that she believes Santa is the spirit of Christmas. I understand the wonder from a child's point of view, but her response got me thinking. Is jolly ol' Saint Nick the embodiment of Christmas joy and cheer? Can one man be the cause for peace on earth and goodwill toward men? I believe so...but I don't believe it's Santa.

The truth is I never believed in Santa so the "magic" has always been something different for me. I don't have a devastating story to tell about the year I found out the whole thing was a lie, or the trauma I endured when I caught my parents slipping the presents under the tree. There are no pictures of me with Santa. I'm not kidding.

You see, I was the kid who was scared of Santa. Petrified. Not just the kids you see screaming in photos. Worse. I HATED SANTA. I know this is blasphemy to some of you but please don't judge. I laugh in the face of spiders. I rather enjoy public speaking. But Santa...just the thought brings a shudder.  I was so scared that when we went to the mall my parents had to avoid any part that would include the monster in red so as to prevent a meltdown that would inevitably occur. So, they did what any normal parents would do. They told me he wasn't real. That was it. That was all I needed to hear to overcome my fear of the jolly bearded giant who used to torment me. It was powerful knowledge, really, because it armed me with the confidence to boldly walk by Santa and his set and exclaim, "I'm not scared of you, I know you're fake." Nevermind me dashing the hopes and dreams of any unsuspecting child who might be waiting in line for their beloved turn on his lap. 

The whole idea of Santa was never something I encouraged or discouraged with E. I decided to let him  decide on his own. Of course you know, not only does he believe in Santa but also his elf Jokey. Let me also add - Jokey has safely made his way to our new home, albeit a little bigger, more plush version that had to be re-bought, um, sent, from Hallmark - a.k.a. the North Pole. Somehow he's none the wiser because Jokey is R.E.A.L. to him. And he takes him EVERYWHERE. Not kidding. In fact, he even took him to see Santa. 
I admit, this world of belief is a little new to me but witnessing the wonderment from a child's point of view does have its element of mystery and magic...

At the end of everyday I ask E some version of "What was your favorite part about today?" or "What was something you're thankful for today?" So in the midst of ALL THIS CELEBRATING I wanted to make sure we hadn't missed it. I decided to ask a new question, "Why do we celebrate Christmas?" He never looked up from twirling Jokey around the banister but firmly answered, "Because of Jesus." <Heartmelt> 

It's more than a cliche. It's more than just a phrase. It's more than just the "appropriate" answer. It's the truth. It is the absolute ONLY reason for this season. It's the only reason we can have hope, joy, excitement, or anything that comes close to peace and goodwill. Even more, GOD'S will and all that He wants to bless us with in our lives. 

There IS One responsible for the Spirit of Christmas, and I'm sorry to unravel your belief in Santa, but it's not him. The iconic image of Christmas isn't a rosy-cheeked snow-white bearded man. It's the beginning of the story that brought salvation; crimson red that flowed from the cross to wash us white as snow. The decorated branches with glistening lights, the reminder of the rugged tree trunks nailed together, the cross. The magic of Christmas is the miracle that came to earth - the miracle of a virgin birth. The celebration should be in light of the eternal gift we've been given. 

What is it about trimming the tree, decking the halls, and the hustle and bustle? What is the mystery this season brings about? What's more, how can someone go full-throttle into celebrating the season and yet miss it? Miss Him? There's a wonder...

No matter how much we decorate, celebrate, wrap, trim, splurge or enjoy, I want to make sure the answer to "Why we celebrate Christmas" is always "Because of Jesus." Because truthfully, without Him, celebrating is the least of our worries. There would be no reason for life itself aside for the gift of eternal life He came to give. The Word became flesh. Every aspect of God-ness wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Taking the very form of man and becoming like us in human form to ultimately save our eternal souls. 

Because of Jesus. Only Jesus. The magic of Christmas. The heartbeat of One who came to save the world. 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

LOST: Elf on a Shelf

LOST: Elf on a Shelf. Pointy Red Hat and Red and White Elf Suit. Stands about 12" tall. Last seen getting into mischief before heading back to the North Pole on December 24, 2012. In our house, he is known by the name "Jokey."

Between selling a house, renting a house, then building a house, moving three times from three different locations along with three storage units, Jokey is lost. I've looked everywhere. We spent 8 hours on Saturday going through every. single. box in the basement (no small task) but he's no where to be found.

Part of me didn't think it would be a big deal. The fun and mystery of the elf to a 4 year old had certainly lost its magic for a more mature and more aware 5 year old... Or had it?!

One of my friends several years into the tradition admitted she's struggling to come up with new ideas each night - sometimes in the morning, because she'd forgotten the night before. I've been guilty of that as well. Just yesterday I saw a post from another friend who had decided NOT to bring back the elf this year...until their first grader announced that every child in class had an elf except their family. 

Then it hit me. Has our Elf on a Shelf game become a fad? In the Pinterest/Facebook era we live in where everything is posted, it seems only fitting that even this silly and fun little game has turned into every mom's worst nightmare of beating out one another's creativity with her perfectly posed elf scene only to see how "popular" the photo will be - determined, of course, by likes and comments. 

Are the virtual accolades what we are striving to receive? Or is it the amazement of the child(ren) waking up to discover the scene? I wonder... 

Now, before you think I'm bashing Pinterest or Facebook or even Elf on a Shelf, let me add some clarification. I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I love everything about Christmas! I love decorating, I love celebrating, I love the fun and wonder, I love the advent calendars, the games, even the elf. I have an outlet right now in which to blog away my own personal thoughts (and remember, that is all they are). I posted my own gingerbread house disaster last night - why? For laughs mostly. I was so frustrated by the whole project and they looked like a preschooler had put them together I thought others might enjoy laughing at my predicament. Was it for likes? Was it for comments? Let's get back to that.

I also love Pinterest. In fact, as I type at 6 a.m. there is a new recipe that has simmered in the crock pot all night long so we can enjoy a hot breakfast.

Back to the elf. I thought it would be a fun game but had no idea of the "magic" behind the story. The elf comes to life at night (that's how he ends up in different scenes all throughout your house) but you can't touch him or he loses his magic, yadda, yadda. I didn't want this to take over the real joy of the season and the birth of our Savior, so our elf wasn't "untouchable." Gasp, I know. But you try explaining to a curious 4 year old he can't touch something that looks like a toy. Jokey wasn't here to spy and report to Santa. He was actually here as one of Santa's helpers and a house guest and it was our responsibility to teach him our house rules (especially when he made a mess), but most importantly, teach him the real reason of Christmas. Jokey made several appearances in the Nativity scene as this was further opportunity to read the Christmas story to the elf...and Eli. (This was our Elf story last year.)

I'm not casting judgment on anyone posting Elf on a Shelf photos. The heart of this entire matter is what is at the heart. Truly. What was my motive in posting my elf scenes? Was it for fun? Was it for likes? What about the gingerbread houses? What about this blog? What about anything I post? Certainly I'm hoping someone will read it. But why? Do I need approval? Credit? Security? Friends?

I've come to the conclusion that 98% of what is posted is what I call the Facebook Facade. It's the illusion of the life we want, or the life we want others to believe we have. It's all the "pretty" - the new car, new phone, new this, new that. It's "likeable" stuff. Literally. I'm preaching to myself here, I promise. I've been weirded out recently by people following me on Facebook - and they're not even my friend. I didn't even know that was a setting or option. Regardless, when you post it, you let people into your life so naturally you only want them to see the "good", the "likeable" stuff. But that's not real. That's not always life. Life isn't always Facebook-post-worthy. In many ways, that's why I started this blog some two+ years ago.

I was discouraged to see all the banter that seemed to turn "unfriendly" as people were posting photos of Christmas trees and decorations only to spark debates and arguments over it being before Thanksgiving. Where's the "like" in that?! So what if someone wants to put up their tree before - or after - and take a picture of it?! I enjoy seeing all the photos of beautiful Christmas decorations. I promise, I'm not trying to zap the magic out of the elf or Christmas. I'm just evaluating.

Maybe we share Elf on a Shelf scenes so we can use them as our own when we've run out of creative ideas of our own. Maybe we share them looking for some sort of affirmation that we had a good idea. Maybe we share them because the kid(s) didn't get the same thrill or humor as our peers might.



Here's why I will be buying a new Elf on a Shelf since Jokey is lost. In case you can't read 5-year-old, that says "Dear Jokey, Dear Santa, I love you.) You can hear it in his own words here.

That is the beauty of sharing things on Facebook and Blogs and posting. To share the magic; to share the wonder. To remember that it's not about ME. It's not about how creative I can be with my elf, or how good my decorations turned out, or how awful my gingerbread houses look. 

And, in case this happens to go viral and you see a lost little elf in a red elf suit, please send him home!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In All Things

Of course we are all mindful to pause on this day and give thanks; admid the preparations of food and fixin's, in the midst of scouring Black Friday ads and planning out shopping strategies, among the visitors and gatherings and of course in the middle of holiday cheer. Yes, we're stopping to give thanks. 

I have more to be thankful for than pen could ever write. More to say thanks for than words could ever express. Yet I'm also aware of those around me who may not be able to say the same. 

Today someone I know is recovering from surgery after a long, painful struggle. Someone else is fighting cancer. One of my own loved ones will not go to dialysis today, Thanksgiving, and will have to muster up every ounce of strength to make it until Saturday's treatment. One family I know had the bottom fall out with a sudden job loss on Monday. Yet another dear one will muster up the strength and dignity to be at the table with an ex and their new spouse, all for the sake of the kids.

Another family will be finalizing plans for the loss of their loved one as they prepare for a funeral in a matter of days. I don't know where the single mom and her 5 children will be today, considering they lost everything in a fire just days ago. I'm certain of individuals who will spend today all by themselves.

I wonder how these folks are able to give thanks today. I wonder about their worries and fears, their struggles and pain. I wonder how they'll celebrate today and what their list of thanks will include. Let me add that I know many of them personally and they're people who would NEVER ask for pity. In fact, I'm learning the lesson of giving thanks by watching their example.

You've heard it before: What if you woke up today with only the things you had thanked God for yesterday?

I'm more mindful of what I have when I consider what could be. What I'm also mindful of are the direct links between thanksgiving and trials. We know the trials produce perseverance. We also know we're instructed to give thanks in ALL things. Whatever the circumstance. 

So today I'm learning to give thanks in all things. In pain. In trials. In joy. In blessing. In what has been taken away. In what has been received. I give thanks in all things, for all things. For the wounds. For the scars. For the tears. For the healing. I give thanks in all things. For those who've hurt me. For those who've loved me. For the one I prayed for. For the God who loved me enough to answer His way. 

I want to give thanks in all things, but sometimes it's hard. And in that moment when it's the most raw, giving thanks can be the last thing I want to do. But I'm learning. I know the road that leads from here. I also know the road I've travelled. I see the road others are travelling. Journeys that bring trials. Roads that bring pain. Paths that come with resistance. Steps that can be accompanied by heartache. Trials that bring tears and torment, but ultimately tests that turn into thanksgiving. Learning to give thanks...in all things. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So Long Insecurity

I'm about to make a bold statement. Wait for it...

Everyone struggles with insecurity. Everyone. Period. You cannot convince me otherwise.

You see the truth about insecurity is it's mostly wrapped up in lies. Hold tight, you know I'll explain.

I don't care who you are, what you've done, how much you've achieved, whatever your accomplishments. No matter how good you look, feel, speak, do, whatever, I'm convinced every single one of us is haunted by some level of insecurity.

It's more than its definition of a lack of confidence. No, this is something that truly hits at the core of every person. It's as unique to an individual as their fingerprint...because it is the very thing that can strip away every ounce of confidence, every belief in one's self or dream, and hit at the heart of who each of us believe we are or think we should be.

In some ways the things we fear we aren't, or maybe worse the things we fear we are, tend to be the driving force of insecurity. Sometimes this driving force can help lead us to bigger, better, more, success, achievement. Not always a "bad" driving force. It's also the driving force that can lead to defeat, discouragement, emotional battering and mental paralysis. It can cause us to convince ourselves that we aren't, never will be, can't, won't, don't, and any other form of self-defeat that leaves us worthless. It can lead to giving up, hanging it up, throwing in the towel, or maybe never even trying at all.

Listen to this:

"Whenever you start to feel insecure - about anything - come to Me. Talk with Me about your fears and concerns; then affirm your trust in Me. Voicing your trust connects you with Me at a deep level. It also pushes back the darkness of deception. The evil one has been deceiving people ever since time began... Do not listen to his lies. Instead, put your trust in Me, for I am absolute Truth." - Jesus Today

There it is. Proof positive this insecurity is deceitful lies from the master of deceit himself. What is also wrapped up in this nugget of truth is how we overcome this paralysis of insecurity that causes such defeat. Trust in the One who made us. Trust in the One who fashioned us with His own hands. Trust in the One who breathed His very breath of life into us. Trust in His belief in us. Trust in His view of us. He is absolute Truth so anything else we believe about ourselves is outside of His truth and therefore must be a lie. 

Everyone struggles with some variation of insecurity. Some "truth" they believe about themselves that is actually nothing more than a lie from the devil himself. But the Creator of the Universe fashioned each and every one of us in His image. His truth brings freedom from the deception, strength in weakness and hope in the fact that we are who He says we are, we can do what He says we can do, and that's the only belief we have to claim!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blood Type Unknown

I had a bad feeling about this. 

In some ways I admit I had already psyched myself out. But I don't believe it was all my fault. 

It shouldn't have been so difficult. People do it all the time and I was watching one after another go in and come back out an hour later, upright, walking, talking and perfectly normal. 

Needless to say my pulse was elevated. They told me so. "You have to calm down," they said. I couldn't hide my nerves so it was unlikely they would soon be calmed. 

I was checked on both sides for the best location. Only one viable option I was told so they set me up and began the process. 

My fingers were tapping. I decided to stare out the window. It was a cold rain. Grey and bleak on the outside. I realized my toes were cold as I stared down at my feet propped up. 

It was time. With blood pressure cuff on and stress ball in hand I was told to squeeze three times and not let go on the third. I obeyed every instruction. They encouraged me to be distracted so as to help calm my obvious nervousness. I noticed my leg was shaking. They must have noticed it too. It seemed like a timely phone call that I quickly answered so I could avoid my mind being on the needle I could now feel sticking in my arm. She said I would feel a "slight prick." She lied. 

Turns out the call wasn't distracting enough because I could hear the phlebotomist saying nothing was happening. I cringed as I began to feel the search and rescue that was apparently being attempted to find a vein in my arm. 

"Do you feel that?" I was asked. I mumbled out some sort of affirmation as I continued to cringe in pain. She called for backup but that would not improve the situation. 

Then it started. My worst fear coming true. I was suddenly light-headed. Things were beginning to go fuzzy. I would later be asked if I got "wonky" whatever that means. But yes, I was feeling wonky and the needle digging in my arm was unsuccessful because there was nothing being produced. Clearly she had not found the vein. So I told them I was getting dizzy when truthfully I felt clammy and hot. I was praying hard I wouldn't pass out. That has happened before. And here I was experiencing the very thing I somehow knew would happen. 

Let's just say I didn't save a life today, although somehow I feel the gauge in my arm and the bruise I was assured I'd get should be worth something. A for effort?! Not really. 

I didn't have anything to prove but I really do believe donating blood is a wonderful thing. I had truly hoped I would follow in my dad's footsteps. He donates all the time. They even call him to sign up because he has a blood type that is highly requested. I was hoping this was the first of many donations for me. I really had hopes of muscling through my anxiety and conquering this fear. But I guess it's just not for me. At least according to my "flat veins that aren't as bouncy" as they like. 

So operation "Carrie donates blood" was not a success today. And I can honestly say I probably won't sign up to try again. I'm not one of those people who expect it to be someone else's responsibility but I do appreciate, truly, the people who make it a habit to give. Thank you, not just for those on the receiving end of those pints, but for those like me who must find other means by which to help. 

(There is absolutely no spiritual lesson or depth here, at least none that I can see. Sorry.)


Monday, November 25, 2013

I Don't Understand

The thing is, sometimes I just don't understand.

Right now it truly has NOTHING to do with me or my story.

It's not impacting me or my family.

But for someone else close to me I'm helplessly standing by and wondering what in the world is going on.

It's completely out of their hands. It's completely unfair. There's nothing that can be done. Except take a deep breath, say a prayer, and move forward.

But how?! The future is so uncertain right now.

The news can be devastating - it was to me and I'm not even directly impacted by it.

It's in these moments when our faith is put to the test. Will we trust God when it's most difficult to do so? Will we trust God when there's nothing humanly possible for us to do? Will we trust God and have faith in a plan we can't see?

Sometimes it doesn't make sense.

The trials become the chance to put our faith into action. Even more, the chance to sit back and allow God to move.

What I know is that He's got a plan.

What I also know is His plan is better than anything we could dream or fathom.

So then why is it so hard in the present moment of uncertainty and unsettledness to truly trust God with every detail?!

There are moments like this where I ask myself, "If this were you, how would you respond?" There are instances like this where I suddenly realize that anything can change - without warning or notice, it can all come crashing down.

Tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Tomorrow is certainly not guaranteed void of hardships. Matter of fact, the trials are the very instruments God uses to reveal Himself to us. It causes me to wonder if we'd pay attention otherwise.

It's difficult to understand. It's even more difficult to trust when the very next step you were about to take is suddenly yanked from beneath you. Just wait. The bottom hasn't fallen out without landing you safely in the arms of  One willing to carry you through.

Easy for me to say, I'm not the one being asked to persevere through the darkness. At least not at this moment. It's also in these tests when God reveals our own character. It's when he refines us. It's also when others wait and watch for our response. I'll admit I'm praying hard for this family and I'm also waiting to see what God does. It's in these moments when I know that whatever happens is going to be miraculous. It has to be because it's completely in His hands.

Sometimes I just don't understand, but when I don't understand what He's doing I only have to trust that He's at work in a way that will probably blow my mind.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm Thankful

I was scrolling through social media the other day and saw picture after picture of trimmed trees and decked out halls. The stockings were hung and mantles were dawning holiday decor. It was the middle of November and well before Thanksgiving.

My happy scarecrow is still sitting beside my white decorative pumpkin. Autumn colored leaves are draped across the mantle with a cornucopia on each end. The house is filled with the aroma of Pumpkin Cupcake. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not boycotting or rejecting it. Truth be told, Pandora's Holiday station is playing even as I type this. I'm actually anxiously awaiting putting up the tree and I've picked out a very special spot for it in the corner of my brand new living room. But there has been a great debate ensuing as Christmas creeps closer and closer into Autumn. 

Regardless of your position, whether your house is already decorated for Christmas or if you are holding firm until after the turkey leftovers have spoiled, there is one point I'd like us to all agree on.

Let's give thanks. We can do that with or without the tree, right?

I have more to be thankful for than I could ever express in words. The very thought of the blessings that I could count would keep me writing...and writing...and writing...and I assure you it's more much than you care to read. But for every single thing, big and small, I'm thankful and I'm doing my best to be mindful to give thanks.

Here's something else I should share. It's not just the blessings I'm thankful for. It's not all the "good," all the things that are abundant, all the happiness, love, joy and every other ray of hope. I'm sure there's some observer thinking I have so much to be grateful for that I have no room to complain. It's true. Dare you hear me complain (and sometimes I do), please remind me of all I have to be grateful for. But before we go further, let me explain something. 

The "good" doesn't come void of problems. The "good" doesn't come without reminders of problems. The "good" doesn't erase the past. The "good" doesn't prevent or make me exempt from frustrations, difficulties or circumstances that I can't control or change. 

So let's go back. Before I give thanks for what I have, let me tell you how I got here. The pain. The hurt. The  scars. The pit. The darkness. The lessons. The journey of indecision, failures, and disappointment. 

But for ALL of it - yes, I said ALL - I'm thankful. That's hard to choke out at times. Can I truly say I'm grateful for all of the hurt and heartache? Yes. Here's why.

Were it not for the pain, I wouldn't know the depth of joy. I'm thankful for the pain.

If the hurt hadn't been so great, the happiness wouldn't be so appreciated. I'm thankful for the hurt.

When I remember the scars it causes me to be mindful of the One who has brought healing. I'm thankful for the scars. 

Had I not landed in the pit of despair, I wouldn't know the high of the mountain top. I'm thankful for the pit. 

If I had not wandered and stumbled in darkness, the light wouldn't be quite as brilliant. I'm thankful for the darkness. 

Had it not been for this tumultuous journey I would not be where I am standing in this present moment. I'm thankful for the journey. 

The lessons teach, shape, mold. Everything, every single tear, every heartbreak, every hurt, every wound I've caused or that has been inflicted upon me, has brought me to this point of who I am. One blessed, redeemed soul; bought by blood, reconciled to Christ, redeemed by His sacrifice, loved for eternity and lavished with mercy and grace. 

How can I not give thanks?! 

Yes, for this all of this I am thankful.

I can assure you I am one who relishes EVERY part of this entire season. I don't really separate the two because were it not for the birth of our Savior and the gift of His salvation then we wouldn't have much to be thankful for at all. I can also assure you that as I put up the tree, I take care to place each ornament as I recall the memory it brings. There is joy that comes from trimming the tree, decking the halls and hanging the stockings. There is gratitude that follows the display of the Nativity. There is excitement in each gift purchased and wrapped. I'm the kind of person who takes care to experience things fully. And so that's what I'm trying to do. Each and everyday, with or without a tree. Before or after the turkey. Whichever your preference, ANY DAY is a day to give thanks. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I'm Learning

Sometimes I stress myself out. 

I'm a perfectionist in my work and projects. I want things to be the absolute best. I want whatever represents ME to be superb. And I fail. Mostly, I fail myself.

Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I afraid of failure? 

Please understand. The accolades are certainly appreciated, but I don't require them to propel me. I'm motivated on my own and that motivation is what drives me to do my best - not for anyone - but for myself.

And sometimes I am my own worst enemy. The stress of my own self can be simply overwhelming. 

That's when I realize I'm hard on myself and it's also usually when I become aware of all the things I could have done better...more...differently...if only...

It is in those moments when I am defeated by my own self. I'm left in a perpetual cycle of striving, seeking, doing, trying, attempting, believing, analyzing, over-analyzing...

If only I could get out of my own way. 

I am my own worst critic. Please. Don't try to convince me of something of "greatness" that might be admirable. This is my own pep talk to me.

Truth be told, I'm my own biggest fan. I know I can. At least, at one time I thought I could. Maybe I'm just a control freak. But I guess that's another post for another day. 

You see?! Self-doubt is a vicious enemy.

All I know is Whose I am, which makes me a work in progress, because thankfully - and prayerfully - He who has began a good work in me IS faithful to complete it. THANK THE LORD!

I fall. I stumble. I fail. I mess up. I don't always do my best. It may not always be a representation of what I'm capable of. Surely there are days I can do, be, give, serve, have more. But I'm learning. And each day I'm learning more about how to let myself fail. How to fall in the arms of grace and land safely in my mishaps, being shaped by each one. 

This is how we walk. This is how we live. One day at a time. One failure at a time. One victory at a time. One growing step after another. 

I'm learning.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lessons from a Little One

In the past 2 days my little five-year-old boy has taught me some very important lessons. Yesterday was quite an eventful and chaotic day as I tried my superhuman juggling act, balancing work responsibilities, trying to be two places at the same time, along with being mom and wife and fulfilling all the expectations I felt were resting on my shoulders. My precocious five-year-old is always full of energy but I am so proud to report that he could not have been better behaved. I suppose both he and the Lord knew that I needed at least one thing to go easily. But it wasn't just that which made my heart smile.

In the middle of a frantic day when everything had to be on a schedule, I completely missed the turn for where I was supposed to vote. I went about 4 miles out-of-the-way and was completely lost and I started to get frustrated. I didn't have time to get lost and I certainly didn't have time to waste. We were on a tight schedule. I decided to pull over and try to Google directions when Elijah asked me what was wrong. I explained to him that I was lost and didn't know where I was going. Without skipping a beat and with profound wisdom he said matter-of-factly, "why don't you just pray and ask God to help us find our way? "

I stopped flipping through the phone and told him he was exactly right. I proceeded to pray out loud and then I think my little boy for reminding me exactly what I needed to do. Just a few minutes later we had found our way and despite the obstacles I was able to cast my ballot and still remain on schedule for the remainder of the day's demands. I made sure to let him know that God had helped us and that he had helped remind me of what I needed to do. I was so thankful to know it is ingrained in my little boy that we can take everything to God in prayer. After all isn't that what the song says? It is our privilege to carry everything to Him in prayer.

As we were driving home in the dark after a very long and eventful day, he shared from the backseat that he was a little bit scared. You see, the way to our new house is not yet familiar to him and so he admitted having a little bit of fear. I reminded him of one of our favorite Bible verses."What time I am afraid… " He finished it for me, saying he will trust in The Lord. As soon as he got done stating the scripture he exclaimed, "I feel little bit better now mom!" Nothing could have made my heart happier than knowing he could find comfort in the promises of our Heavenly Father.

The word of God is alive and active, living and breathing, sharper than any two-edged sword. His word is alive and active in us if we will claim it and acknowledge it in our lives. The power of prayer is at work in us because we can call upon his name at any time and with any request. Truly there is nothing too small or too great. And just as I have witnessed in the past few days there is no one too young or too old to know these truths and claim them for our lives.

This morning as we were getting ready for work and school I was trying to help my poor little boy breathe better through a very congested nose. I accidentally jabbed him in the nose with my fingernail. He immediately burst into tears and I knew that I had hurt him. He ran to his room and buried his head in his pillow as he was crying and I followed after him apologizing. "I'm so sorry E! It was an accident. I hope you know I didn't mean to hurt you." He replied through tears, "I know, mommy, I'm not mad at you. I love you. I'm just crying because it hurts." My heart melted.

Yet again my little boy was teaching me a lesson. I know my love for him - a mother's love - unconditional, neverending, sacrificial. But here he was, this young little life with limited understanding, demonstrating that same love to me. 

So often I pray, "Lord, help me teach him, help me show him, help me instruct him..." I take very seriously the responsibility placed on raising him and shaping this life. And yet what these instances have reminded me over these few days is that just because I'm the "adult" doesn't mean I am finished with my own growing, shaping and molding. I'm thankful to know in these experiences my Father has seen fit to teach me through the life of a precious little boy. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Days of Thankfulness

November came without warning. In the middle of unpacking and trying to organize, balancing schedules, jobs, school and a host of other demands, I somehow lost track of the day of the week - let alone what the date was. 

It wasn't until I started seeing numbered posts of Thanksgiving when I realized everyone else was already on Day 3 and I hadn't even started. 

I'm going to be honest. I'm burning the candle at both ends - and if it had 5 points to it, I'd be burning it at all of those too! Many of those points make up my reasons for being thankful. I say all that to add the disclaimer that I might not make it to 30. Wait, let me rephrase. I most assuredly can find 30 (or more) reasons to give Thanksgiving...but I can't quite commit to daily keeping track throughout the month.

However, I of all people have so much to be grateful for and I want to share.

1. My Savior. To be more than cliche, I'd be lost without Him. My life was in utter ruins and mounds of chaos but He's never rejected me. Rather, He's redeemed me, scraped off the chaff, and given me grace, mercy and new life. Oh wonderful merciful Savior, how I love and adore you!

2. My husband. In yet another cliche I must admit that Prince Charming has come into my life and swept me off my feet. I'm well aware I don't deserve his kindness, his service, his unconditional love. I cannot even count the number of ways he seeks to serve and love me on a daily basis. From having the coffee ready each morning to doing the laundry to giving me feet rubs to laughing with me when I'm goofy and holding me when I cry. Can I be cliche again and add that I've finally found the love of a life? (cue the music...)

3. My son. Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to go through such a struggle in MY attempt to have a baby that resulted in his adoption. THANK YOU GOD HIS BIRTHMOM CHOSE LIFE! My precocious, energetic, creative, imaginative, and tender-hearted little boy has changed my life forever and taught me how to love unconditionally. 

4. My family. Supportive is not enough to describe how much I have relied upon my family over the years. They've put up with me through way more than they ever signed up for and they've been my biggest cheerleaders no matter how much I've failed or hurt them. 

5. My pastor and his family. They are like family to me, having grown up as the Deacon's Kid alongside the Pastor's Kid. Yet again I can't say how much they've offered prayers, support, encouragement along the way, no matter what.

6. My job. I never thought I'd turn in the keys to Liberty after a successful 12 year career there, but I've also never looked back. Since April I've enjoyed one of the most rewarding and fulfilling jobs that excites and ignites me. I'm having so much fun!

7. My weaknesses. There are things I regret, things I wish I could redo or wipe clean, but my weaknesses have taught me I'm not superwoman. I am human, fallible, and most importantly in need of a Savior. My weaknesses have shown me HIS strength. When I thought I was in control, capable of fixing/doing/handling, my weaknesses revealed to me my need for Him.

8. Prayer. I am thankful for the opportunity to openly communicate with The Lord and to take everything to Him in prayer. I know I don't do it enough (I know I'm not alone) but I am forever grateful to know that at any moment, no matter what, I can go to Him in prayer.

9. Music. You know this if you know me - music is embedded in my soul. Songs fill my life and my mind. The words echo in my heart. There's always a song on my lips and I'm thankful for the ability to worship Him through music.

10. My home. I didn't mean to save this for "last." Having moved 6 times in the past 4 years, living out of storage units, boxes, containers, and being in a state of perpetual "unsettledness," the comfort, joy and peace that comes from knowing my clothes are unpacked and in dressers or hanging, my kitchen is in the order that I want it... The comfort of knowing "I'm home" and this is where my family rests and lives...it's priceless. I cannot say with more gratitude how much of a blessing this home is, the whole process, and knowing that we are home.

I know...I've got more than 5. That just means I'm caught up until November 10th! (Or I'm an over-achiever!) <wink>

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Purple Door

It's been over a month since my last post, and for good reason. The past month has been filled with finalizing the house, packing and finally moving. Of course I haven't managed to unpack and organize everything in just 5 days but I am happy to report the main level is in order, minus anything being hung on the walls. 

This house has been an unbelievable blessing, but even more so since I know this is my final move for a very VERY long time. For the first time in nearly 4 years I can unpack boxes and put things away in their permanent place. There is no concern or worry over how long, or short, this residence will be my dwelling because I can say with full confidence I'm finally home sweet home. 

Everything about this house, everything about this move, is summed up in the knowledge and assurance that my future is secure. I don't say that in a materialistic kind of way, but if you've peaked in on my life over the past 4 years (or you've read any previous blogs) you know things have been in a perpetual state of change. Now I'm finally home. For good. 

Some people questioned why I'd build two houses in two years. This build was completely different, though. I knew every decision was being made with permanency and with my family in mind. I knew this is where we'd live, where we'd entertain, where we'd be for a loooong time. This build allowed personalization - meaning, these choices and decisions were with our likes and family in mind. 

The rock on the front of the house was one of the first deciding factors that helped guide the entire look of the house. I noticed this dark purple/maroon color embedded in the rock...and then it hit me. What if we had a purple front door?! Oh yes, it would be purple. Prince Charming shared my enthusiasm for the royal shade and thus it began a series of choices that now make up our home. 

But a funny thing happened. E & I showed up to the house just a few weeks before we would move in and found this horrific Barney purple shade on the front door. "That's not the right shade!" I exclaimed in shock. E pointed at the door and asked if my favorite color was purple and assured me that it was purple. Oh yes, it was purple alright, just not the right shade of purple. Not the one I had picked, at least! You see, the Black Raspberry I had ordered was somehow mistakenly painted Majestic Purple. Purple is a sign of royalty, they say, but I was going for a subtle elegant look rather than a preschool-dinosaur-inspired one!

It was a simple fix and it was repainted the right shade the next day. You can see the comparison:


Now that we're occupying the halls, dwelling in the rooms and making ourselves at home, it's starting to sink in that this is our new house. This is our home. But as I went to close the front door this morning a thought came to mind. That door is much like the testimony of my life. You see, I know there is a tragic shade of majestic purple hidden beneath the elegance of the black raspberry, but there's only a few people who would ever know about the mishap (except for the fact that now it's posted publicly for all to see). The mistake has been painted over, covered with the right color. 

The door wasn't replaced. It still bears a layer of paint that should have never been there, but it bears no sign of the mistaken paint. What people see is the finished product. They see how the door matches the shutters and pulls out the royal hues in the rock. 

I can say the same about my life. There is a hidden layer beneath. Some know the details - some only think they know. But it's not what's on display. What people see is covered in the righteous work of mercy and the finishing touches of grace. The entry point of my life, a heart once marred by imperfections, now bears the royalty of being his chosen one. Every layer, every mishap, every mistake, every experience have helped build me, grow me, shape me into what you now see. I assure you, it's a continual work in progress! But somehow God sees fit to never leave me in the state that I was.

God doesn't look at us for the mistakes that lie beneath - He looks upon us for the miracle He's created us to be. He enters your life through the doorway of your heart, whatever shade it may be. The door is the entryway to our home. If you come for a visit, you may look at the door and recall the wrong shade that's underneath - simply because I told you - but not because it's what you see. And that is exactly how our Father views each of us.

Our purple door means a lot to me. It is through that door I say, "Welcome."


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Your Love

I can't even come up with the words to describe the scene. It was the most beautiful full rainbow I've ever seen. If that weren't enough it's a double rainbow with the brightest, most brilliant colors. Behind it was a setting sun with exquisite light displays reflecting back upon the ROYGBIV hues. The presence of The Lord was so strong, overarching the entire scene.

We weren't alone when we stopped on the side of the road. Dozens of cars were pulling over, snapping pictures and staring in awe at the wonderment before us. 

Thank You, Lord. That's all I could find myself saying as tears welled in my eyes at the brilliant majesty He had put on display. 

I suddenly realized I had gotten out of the car so quickly to snap pictures that I'd left my door wide open. I could hear the song on the radio, so fitting for the scene I was soaking in. 

Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never runs out on me....
And on and on and on and on it goes
Yes, it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
This one thing remains...
Your love never fails...

Truly I was staring into the blessed message of my Lord's love, wondrously written in brilliant colors, telling of the endless love and promise He has for me as it scrawled out across the sky.  

My soul was overwhelmed to say the least. On and on and on it went, stretching across the sky in full display. I'd never seen a full rainbow before but here it was in vibrant message reminding me of His unfailing love. 

Just minutes before I'd hung up FaceTime with my boy. I blew him a kiss and told him I love him. He blew me one back. It will still be a few more days before I get to kiss his face. It's heartache like I've never known and it happens on repeat.

But I stood there on the side of the road soaking in the magnificence of the work of my Master knowing full well His love was big enough, long enough, deep enough to stretch across the expanse of the sky. To reach down to me and my aching heart, to stretch all the way to my son miles away. Close enough to be the embrace I felt from behind as the man I love whispered of God's promises as he choked back tears. Strong enough to conquer any fear. Fierce enough to tackle any battle. Higher than the heavens. Beyond what I could even see before me.

Your love, Oh Lord, is better than life! ( Psalm 63:3) 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Missing Person

The bumper sticker read, "Sometimes all I want to be is a missing person." I couldn't help but chuckle, wondering if the poor soul driving was a mom needing a moment to herself. I could relate, knowing full well my own son had stood outside my locked door banging and yelling and wondering when I'd finally be out.

Of course I began to analyze. (Yes, you know me. I can over-analyze anything, including a bumper sticker.) What's important to note, by God's sovereign design, is the fact that I am studying this very topic and just read this portion of Gideon's story this morning.

"The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12

From my study I've come to understand that Gideon was in the least likely of places. Like the wish on the bumper sticker, he was attempting to be a "missing person." Don't misunderstand - he wasn't slacking on the job. But he was threshing wheat in the wine press. Essentially, he was hiding. 

What I love about this passage is the progression of the presence of the Lord. First he came, then he sat. Unbeknownst to Gideon, he was in the presence of the Lord. He was being watched and observed, even in his hour of fear, even when he was trying to remain hidden. Even when you think he's forsaken you or left your side, even in the midst of your battle when you are hiding from the enemy, you can be assured the Lord has never left you. 

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon. He spoke to him. He affirmed his presence. He even foreshadowed his future of being a mighty warrior. Up to that point he'd been a wheat thresher. Now he's standing in the presence of the Lord being honored for his valiant fighting. It's quite a story of God's presence with us. No matter where we're "hiding." No matter what enemy we're up against. No matter what mundane task we're in the middle of. We're never too far from the reach of God. We're never out of His presence. We're never beyond His ability to look at us and see our potential despite our trepidation and fear. 

There's no such thing as a missing person in God's army. Remember the 99 sheep? That's right. He went after the one. And He'll come after you too. You may not even be aware of it yet. He may not have yet "appeared" in your situation. But rest assured, He's there. Whatever you're facing, whatever battle you must fight, whatever task you must perform. There's never a battle too fierce for Him to fight for you. There's never a task too menial for Him to perform with you. He's with you, mighty warrior. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

FILE NAME: HIS

Yesterday I wrote what could be the enemy's notes about me. His tactics and schemes to attack and get me down. I promised you, though, not to stop there. While I wrote with vulnerability about my weaknesses, I must add the disclaimer to today's post. It's also vulnerable in the opposite direction. For fear this could come across prideful, I am almost reserved in writing this post more so than yesterday's. Yet I'm asking for this to be understood and heard from my heart.

To counteract the schemes of the devil, we must know the file our Lord keeps on each of us as well. As I explained, as Scripture tells us, this isn't a record of wrongs. Praise God, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, our confessed sins are cast as far as the east is from the west. They're forgiven, under the blood, washed clean, and we are made new. But in keeping with this idea of the file the enemy has to destroy us, I'd like to offer my thoughts on the file our Heavenly Father uses to encourage us. Here is what I believe His file would read of me.

FILE NAME: Carrie Lynn

SUMMARY: Help her see who she is in Me.

PROFILE: Amid her efforts to serve me, gently reminder her of my deep desire to have her enjoy My Presence. Allow her to receive sincere praise and encouragement to help her know the joy I have in her. Give her opportunities to share her contagious joy. The out-going personality I gave her should be shared and implemented to help others feel comfortable so they may sense My presence. 

Let her realize she doesn't have to fix or solve every problem or situation that I allow to come her way, but help her know to turn these things - and people - over to Me. Bless her with My glory. She prays for it all the time. Let her see and enjoy My works and creation and may they sink into her soul as My expression of love for her. Reveal who I am to her as she reads and studies My Word and give her an understanding of My goodness and grace. 

Help her not to be consumed with all she can't or isn't doing, but rather help her not to become distracted by the things that busy up her life. Give her attentive ears to hear My voice. When she discerns My will, she has the ability to encourage and lead others. Help her not to take My place, but rather help her point others to Me. Allow her the ability to rest in My Presence and to understand that being still is sometimes exactly where I want her.

When she gets discouraged, remind her who she is in Me. At the point she feels unworthy and unuseable, give her opportunities to serve so when she realizes it is not by her own strength, allow her to receive the blessing of My strength through her and be fully used by Me to bless others. Help her know her successes are by My hand and let her seek to gain My affection and not the approval of those around her. Let her feel My pride in her, My creation, and not worry about what anyone else thinks. May she not be so hard on herself that she gets discouraged, but rather that she surrenders her weakness, her fears, her anxiety, her guilt, and any looming thoughts that plague and paralyze so that I may be free to reign in her and work through her. 

SPECIAL NOTES: Her joy and spirit can be contagious when she is truly walking with and living a life surrendered to Me. Keep her balanced so she's constantly replenished by My strength, love, grace and goodness, to the point that these are over-flowing in her life. When she is around other believers, sharing in My presence, she will thrive and come alive.

Whether or not you took my encouragement yesterday to write what the enemy's file might look like about you, I encourage you today to think about what your loving Father's notes would read. These are far more important for you to know and understand. I pray you're encouraged at least to know you're not alone in the struggle we face. He knows your struggle. He knows your heart. He created your inmost being. His notes about you barely broach the subject of His love for you. In fact, I like to think across each of our file's is stamped in red the huge words: REDEEMED. Bought by blood, given the privilege to become His children. Overarching any notes that could be written about any of us, at the very least your file reads "HIS."