Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Details

There are snowflakes falling outside the window as I type. I have always loved the snow. A fresh blanket of freshly fallen flakes covering everything in sight. It seems the perfect picture of the way we are covered by God's grace and mercy. God is in the details.

Yesterday I was typing away when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It wasn't a stranger - someone I know from church but rarely talk to. I was then blessed to hear this amazing story of God's - ONLY GOD'S - provision and how He opened what seemed to be impossible doors, doors that for almost 5 years this family had tried to pry, push or force open on their own. God is in the details.

Shortly after that conversation, my heart was uplifted and encouraged by yet another testimony of finding God's grace, being comforted by His love even in the midst of uncertainty and tragedy. I was blessed to be able to make an acquaintance a new friend, more like a spiritual sister in Christ. God is in the details.

Later that same day, I sat among a group of mentors and peers as I heard godly Christian leaders cast their vision and spur us on to rise up and make an impact. I left overwhelmed wondering how I could even play a part. God is in the details.

Just before closing my iPad for the evening I checked one last message. It was as if I could hear the joy and excitement in her voice, only it was conveyed in written form. Years of anguish, years of pain, years of heartache now seemingly overshadowed by the joy and blessing overflowing from an abundant heart. God is in the details.

That all happened within 24 hours. God is in each and every moment, each and every detail.

Were there things to complain about? Sure. Were there reasons to stress, worry, fear or feel anxious? Undoubtedly. Were there others dealing with loss, grief, pain and tragedy? Most assuredly. And even in those circumstances, God is in the details.

What I was reminded of were the many, many reasons God is taking care of each and every detail. Even me. When I surrender everything to Him and I choose to seek HIM, I find Him. His word assures me of this and yesterday was one of those days that over and over again, God showed up and showed me - and others - His power, might and reason to be glorified. 

I'm more than aware that these days aren't everyday. If they were, how much less would I appreciate them? I understand there are days that go by when I'm wondering where God is and why I can't sense Him or His presence. And along come these days when, truthfully, I am just BLOWN AWAY at God. 

I shouldn't be surprised by Him, but then again I'm so thankful He constantly chooses to bless me beyond what I can even fathom. In every single detail.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Even Me

Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

It rings true for me today. I'm not necessarily bearing pain, but I am struggling with something so needlessly because I refuse to surrender. Somehow I think I should be doing something. Somehow I must think God needs me. Oh foolish thoughts!

"We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses." - Oswald Chambers, January 25

Nowhere does God require my involvement. The only thing it requires is my surrender. I can't expect God to show up or act in the way I expect Him to. I can, however, expect God to show up. What I carry to God in prayer are usually my expectations of Him. "God, please give me... Lord, grant me... Father, I pray for this to happen... God, I want this..." It is so one-sided it's sickening. 

His command for me to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17) and His instruction for me to bring ALL things to Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6) are not meant for Him, they're meant for ME. He knows what we seek before we ask (Matt. 6:8). If I get to the heart of it, then I would see that what He's asking of me is to seek HIM.

He promises to clothe the grass of the field and that much more for me (Matt. 6:30). I worry needlessly even when His word tells me I should trust Him. I am so much more valuable than the birds that neither sow nor reap (Matt. 6:26) yet I somehow feel like I must fix this or offer my help. What He requires of me is not my help, problem-solving skills or my worry. It won't add a single day to my life - nor will it solve any problem. What He's expecting of me is my willingness to seek HIM - and not just what I'm hoping He'll do for me. 

"Are we experieincing the "much more" He promised? If we are not, it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us and have cluttered our minds with confusing thoughts and worries." - Oswald Chambers, January 26

The needless pain we bear is refusing to surrender. It's thinking we can do this - or worse, thinking God won't. It's the prideful mindset that causes me to think I might actually be useful, when truthfully I'm probably just getting in the way of God's sovereign plan. When I carry everything to God in prayer, it means EVERYTHING. Even my pride. Even my "problem-solving skills." Even my belief that He wants (or needs) my help. I must carry EVERYTHING. Even me. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Good Reminder

Sometimes I let little things bother me way more than I should. A lack of patience. Too quick to react. Often not demonstrating kindness, goodness and gentleness. I could actually be accused of a noticeable absence of all of the above. admit yet another character flaw that requires me to stare long and hard in the mirror and make some changes. 

It wasn't one particular thing that really got under my skin last night. It was a combination of a few little things that irked me. I had this sudden urge to post my complaint and tell my Facebook friends all about the downfall of my evening. But why?! Were their "likes" going to cheer me up? Would some sympathy comments help change my attitude?? 

I will credit the nudging of the Holy Spirit stopping me before I even got started. Thank You, Lord! I typed a different message instead, encouraging my friends to share words of encouragement and positive messages. I'm so glad they did!!!

More than 30 comments, praises, reminders, reasons to pause and thank The Lord. Humble acts of praise that I am grateful to admit helped truly change my perspective. 

A single mom who has battled years of struggles and consequences for choices and actions out of her control: God brings Amazing People into our lives at the right time in interesting ways.  :)

A mother who fought hard and believed God against ALL odds on behalf of her son: God is good ALL the time! :)

A childhood friend who has battled years of infertility: 2 hour delay tomorrow - shortest teaching week ever!

A woman whose known the pain of divorce, being a single mom, and experiencing second chances directly given by God, an example of joy and happiness no matter what your circumstance: Your kid is awesome and [my daughter] wants to play on the playground thingy at CFA with him. :)

Someone who re-entered my life when I was a single mom, sent to be a light and encouragement: We have a warm home and cozy bed and blankets to snuggle up in.

A newfound friend who admitted she used to not like me at all, now someone I can truly count on and depend on: I'm developing new friendships and have lost 11 pounds! Oh, and you are an inspiration to me and I'm blessed to call you friend :)

A breast cancer survivor and faithful wife serving her disabled husband, truly an example of faith to me: I am thankful for everything God has given me :)

An unexpected problem left her as a young widow, yet her smile never fades: You are an inspiration to me...Jesus loves you so much!

An example of adoption and the ultimate gift of love, now battling singleness and life's disappointments: I have a permanent position at work, and a NEW thermostat that keeps me warm!!

If they only knew! If they only knew that I'm no inspiration - I'm a big fat complainer! If they only knew how much I admire their strength, courage, obedience to God, faith in Him! If they only knew how much of an encouragement they are to me!

Heaven forbid something didn't go my way. Heaven forbid my plans don't work out. Heaven forbid I dare complain when I have so much to give thanks and praise.

Thank you, dear friends, for your encouragement to me. For teaching me to give thanks in all things. For helping me see God's goodness no matter what. For helping me recognize how much bigger the world is than my disappointments...and how much bigger God is than ALL of it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

What I'm Learning

Hi, I'm Carrie. I'm type A with a tendency to control everything. I can be dominant and overbearing. I have OCD tendencies which further contribute to me obsessing over details, in addition to often blowing things out of proportion.

There. I said it. Happy?!

I admit my faults as a segway today. God has been teaching me something and this morning it struck me like lightning. No subtle nudging here. This was one of those whack-you-upside-the-head-make-sure-to-get-your-attention kind of lessons.

All of the above lend themselves to me often losing my patience. I am sometimes "hard on people," meaning I often expect perfection, leaving no room for error or failure. I'm ashamed to admit the first people who bear the brunt of these tendencies and attitudes are my husband and son.

HOW DARE I!!! I'm riddled with mistakes and mishaps. Where this becomes overly problematic is in my home. When I demand perfection from an active, overly energetic, at times very impulsive 5 and a half year old, or when I set the bar of expectations beyond reach for my patient, loving and servant of a husband, I find my fuse inching shorter and shorter to the point where I lose my cool. Again I say...HOW DARE I!!!

The other day I wrote on our white board "Love is patient, kind, long-suffering..." You know the passage from 1 Corinthians 13. And so do I. But that doesn't mean that I'm living it.

This morning I was reminded by a devotion: I've learned the importance of loving my husband unconditionally. I need to receive Dennis as a gift from God. And I need to remember that God is working in his life.  - Barbara Rainey

How did I lose that perspective?! After all it's taken to receive the gift of my adopted son and my godly husband, how could I not see them as the gifts they truly are?! God is using things in my husband's life to teach and grow him. God is using circumstances and lessons in my son's life to shape and mold him. So where does that leave me? 

First of all, it leaves me with the harsh reminder that I am not always the teacher. That's right. Miss control freak, you've got to remember you're not always in control. I'm not always driving the bus. Sometimes I'm not even invited for the ride-along. So my role is to wait at the bus stop, praying all the while, and being there the minute one of them return from their day at God's school.

Secondly, when I become disappointed or frustrated that someone isn't doing things the way I want, or when I get upset because what I wanted/planned/hoped didn't happen, I often hold one of them responsible. Then I realize, God is using my own circumstances - including, but not limited to, my husband and son - to teach ME. Through lessons they may be learning, through life experiences they're facing, through disappointments or failures they've encountered, I am not just an observer. I am here to be an active part, praying, encouraging, supporting, and sometime serving as an instrument as part of the lesson. Conversely, they are in my life to do the exact same for me. 

What I have to remember is that God isn't finished with any of us (thank The Lord!). Sometimes I'm a part of the lessons God is using to teach and grow them. Sometimes I'm not. Sometimes my own failures and mishaps will be instruments God uses to teach them to be patient and loving (and forgiving) toward me. 

I'm still swallowing my pride on this one. It's going to take awhile to choke this all down and truly process it - and grow from it. I just hope and pray they'll extend me more grace than I give them! And I pray to truly see them as the gifts they are. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Disconnected

One fatal blow. That's all it took. My iPhone took the dive, falling a full 6" (give or take) from my purse to the counter. Now ordinarily that wouldn't seem like a tragedy, but somehow this was "all it took" to cause my phone to become inoperable. By inoperable I mean I could hear sounds and notifications...but the screen went blank. (Truthfully, I don't think it was just this little toss out from the purse to the counter but for whatever reason it was the moment at which it no longer worked.) This began a 48 hour period of being completely disconnected.

Understand, like many living in this era, we've done away with our home phone. I have an iPad and laptop and I'm able to connect via wifi, but calling and texting became obsolete. If I wanted to reach someone, I had to send them an email or Facebook message. 

I quickly realized the amount of time I spent on my phone was truly a distraction. I spent the entire morning just working on my computer while multi-tasking other projects and chores. I was impressed with how much I got done! I became aware of the fact that a "ding" here and a "notification" there was all it took to divert my attention away from projects. Without the distraction of the phone, I could focus on the task at hand and there was no worry or fear of "what I was missing" because it simply wasn't an option.

Dinner out was focused on conversation with no chance of an interruption. Conversation was more meaningful and I was truly engaged because I knew there was no risk of someone trying to reach me. There was never a temptation to look something up, check a message or make a quick contact. 

What I also became aware of was the inconvenience of not being able to pick up the phone and make an appointment, or not get simple and quick information by sending a text. I was relying on emailing my husband to text or call someone on my behalf. We will NOT call him my secretary, but he was a HUGE help! :) I also realized it had been several days since I had talked to my family and I had no idea what was going on with them. 

Did the pros outweight the cons?! Let's just say that this 48 hour period taught me how dependent I've become on this little piece of technology. It also taught me how it's not always a good thing, especially when it diverts my attention away from family time or conversation or things that truly require my focus. It's also presented me with the challenge to TURN IT OFF! That's right. Let me explain.

The minute I had my phone back, and I knew it was in my pocket, I was SO TEMPTED to pull it out and check it, look to see if there were notifications, or just WONDER what I might be missing. WHAT??? After a 48 hour spell of being unplugged, productive and uninterrupted how could I be so codependent?! 

I'm challenging myself to leave my phone in the other room - or turn it off! - during meals, family time, or moments of conversation with my husband or son. I want to FOCUS on the PRESENT, being in the moment and NOT rushing to check whatever notification beckons me from an electronic interruption. 

It's time to disconnect for the purpose of connecting! Disconnecting from the distractions and interruptions and connecting with the people and moments that matter. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Blank Page

There was a time when I journaled nearly everyday, or at least several times a week. I documented happenings, events, prayers, lessons, my thoughts and feelings. I poured out my heart to pages untold, line after line, page after page, year after year. For the better part of 12-14 years this was a regular part of my life.

I haven't kept a regular journal in several years. Mostly because there were parts I simply didn't want to document, stories I didn't want to tell, feelings I couldn't even describe, life happening that I hoped I wouldn't have to remember. 

I was browsing through the store and saw this beautiful journal, monogrammed with a "W," and it seemed to be exactly my style. So I claimed it as my own. It was only January 2. Even the cashier who rang up my journal wished me a "Happy New Year" so I figured it wasn't too late to begin anew, journaling and documenting 2014.


I love a fresh start. A new beginning. A new year seems the perfect time for that. 365 unaccounted for days that I have to choose how to live to their fullest. But there's a problem with my new journal. It's blank. I love the fresh, blank pages beckoning for my signature purple gel ink to inscribe upon them stories, verses, memories...my life.

But here it stands January 10th and my journal remains blank. Completely unused. Incomplete to say the least.

Truthfully, I haven't been able to decide its purpose. Now before you go making fun of me, I know its purpose is to be written in. But I didn't know what I wanted to write.

I determined it wasn't to be my daily happenings, thoughts and feelings. I pondered a new note-taking journal for church but the one I have is less than half full with plenty of pages and plenty of life left for sermon and bible study notes.

I thought about a prayer journal and seemed settled this was the most appropriate use. I hope to include scriptures I'm reading or studying and their meaning. Maybe a synopsis of what God is teaching me through prayer and scripture. I assumed it would also be alright to note any challenges or spiritual disciplines, especially as I'm making time to read and study more - at least that's my hope and prayer.

And all of that would be good-intentions fulfilled if, in fact, they were being fulfilled. But so far, they're nothing more than nice thoughts waiting to become a reality.

My beautiful, personalized journal is worth nothing until I assign its purpose and to do so I must invest the time, energy and ink into using it for the purpose it was created - to be a journal.

Sitting around, looking pretty, collecting dust, isn't serving me any purpose whatsoever. It does no one any good not being used. Rendered useless its very existence seems futile. 

I must give my journal life and meaning by using it for what it was created to be and do. Just like God gives each of us purpose to live and be. We're not just here sucking air, standing around being human (well, maybe some of us are but we'll not get into that right now). No. We are here because God has a unique and individual plan and purpose for us. Thankfully, unlike me and my procrastination with my journal, He does not hesitate in giving our lives meaning. He does not sit idly by wondering what it is He can do with us. In fact, most of the time it is us who stand around aimlessly, breathing in and breathing out, wondering what we're supposed to be doing. 

If my journal were personified it would know it is meant to be written in. Its pages to be filled with the stories i write. And if I would but open the cover and allow God to write upon the pages of my life, I would see the poetic story He has planned for me. 

I like to think of each new year starting at my birthday. (It's only 39 days away for anyone who's counting. ;) It is the point at which I feel God purposed me into this world and it is the beginning of my "year" when I seek Him for what He wants me to do, focus on, think, be, become. I'm giving myself January and part of February as my "grace" period (no, I'm not just making up a fancy word for procrastinating). This is when I search His word, seek His face and trust His heart to lead me. 

There's blank pages yet to be filled. There's stories yet to be written. Excuse me. I've got some writing to do!