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>