Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This is the Stuff

This is the stuff.

The stuff a new recipe is made of when a chair is scooted up to the counter and a small human turns into a miniature chef, excited to add and mix together ingredients.

The stuff said during a car ride, when from the backseat you hear a tiny heart understanding God with childlike belief.

The stuff at bedtime when you're listening from the other room and hear the faith-filled prayers of a tender heart.

This is the stuff of life. The simple things. The heartfelt moments that make it all worth it.

And when I say all I mean all.

You know. All the stuff - the other stuff.

The stuff when you're running behind. The stuff when the dog has to be reluctantly dragged inside. The stuff when you finally get everyone where they need to be and think you're finally on your way when the garage door won't close.

This is the stuff. The stuff that does in fact drive us crazy. The stuff that causes us to feel inadequate. The stuff that leaves us speechless. The stuff that forces us to steal a few moments alone to regain our cool for fear of the explosion we may be on the brink of. (Notice the plural tense. Oh yes, it is intentional because I surely do not want to be alone on this one.)

The stuff we wade through, drudging along, day-by-day and pray for the other stuff to come and enlighten us. Please, sweet stuff, interrupt this monotony. Provide a moment of clarity. Give resolution to everything that remains unresolved. Deliver me from my own self and the stuff that weighs me down.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24

Oh Lord, is that true? If that's really stuff I can rely on, then it means You're right here with me - right beside me, holding my hand through all the stuff.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire but You. Psalm 73:25

I admit I get distracted by stuff. Stuff that takes my focus away from You. Stuff that I deceivingly think will satisfy my aching soul. So much stuff clouding my vision.

My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

This, Lord. This is it. This is the stuff I need to know. This is the truth about me - my flesh and heart fail - they fail me, they fail my family, they fail those relying on me, and most assuredly and ashamedly they fail You. Oh, but Lord, You are my strength! You give me what I need to sustain me even through the stuff of each day. The stuff that I pause and reflect upon, that causes my heart to be strengthened. You're even there through the stuff that I cannot bear. The stuff that sends me to the pit of despair.

This is the stuff. The stuff of life. The stuff we must endure. The stuff we get to experience. The stuff that life is made of. The stuff we're promised. The stuff that makes us stronger. This is the stuff.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Today is the day you have made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

It was a familiar song, although I admit I wasn't paying close attention. The music was mixed in with squeaks from a certain doodle dog happily playing with a toy. The smell of cinnamon sticks simmering on the stove were being overpowered by the aromas of the breakfast I was preparing, and of course the brewing coffee that would soon be mine to savor. My boys were still sleeping but I have the blessed curse of being wide awake no later than 7 a.m. on any given day. Nevermind it's Saturday. 

I sat down in my favorite chair, poised with books and ready to spend a few quiet minutes alone. I had been already thinking about the plan for the day, preparing for our family to come over for a night of pizza making and game time. Then there was tomorrow, an early morning praise band call time, two services, lunch - we would need to grab a bite out - an afternoon outing, and then there would be dinner - what should we have? Do I need to thaw something? There was a new recipe I had just pinned - maybe I could try that Monday when I had more time. Monday. I still needed to figure out a plan for juggling a no-school day, work-related appointments that a 6 year old could not attend and a few other things we had going on. My mind was working over-time now. I was about to pull open the calendar on my phone to review the week-at-a-glance and try to organize a plan for my upcoming week. I was disappointed and thankful all at the same time that I had purposely left my phone out of reach. Not to mention the fact that it was the weekend. Not the week ahead. Not yet at least. 

That brought me back to my original purpose. Me. My chair. Jesus. How easily I become distracted. How quickly my mind leaps ahead to things not even in my reach. I pulled out my newest devotional, Jesus Calling, a Christmas gift from my mom. I've so enjoyed the words from Jesus Today for a few years now and this addition has not disappointed.

I had to stop and think about the date as I flipped through to find today's words. I knew it was the weekend but was truly unaware of the calendar date assigned to this cold day in January. 

The 17th. Okay, there it was. The devotional for the day. 

Come to Me with a thankful heart so that you can enjoy My Presence.

I was distracted by the popping coming from the pan on the stove. Not to mention the incessant squeaking from the squeaker the dog had now retrieved from inside his stuffed toy. It was poised in his huge jaws and he was chomping on it like a piece of gum, squeaky, squeak, squeakity, squeak. 

Focus, Carrie. Read. Listen. I was admonishing myself to pay attention to Him and not my surroundings. 

This is the day that I have made. 

Wait a second. I was listening alright. And at the exact same time I was reading those words they were simultaneously being sung on the radio. 

Today is the day, You have made. 
I will rejoice and be glad in it. 
And I won't worry 'bout tomorrow, 
Trusting in what You say, today is the day.

The lyrical expression of this message continued as I read: I want you to rejoice today, refusing to worry about tomorrow...I can weave miracles into the most mundane day if you keep your focus on Me.

Truth. Straight from the pages, in chorus with the song on the radio. Miracles woven directly into my mundane day. My ordinary Saturday. A morning that hadn't quite fully dawned. Through the simple task of making breakfast, sipping coffee and tidying up the house, to the promise of my Savior to provide me with His Presence. He was there. In the midst of my mundane. Reminding me of the simple truth to focus on today. THIS DAY. Not tomorrow. Not yet, at least. If I spent all of today consumed with the plan for tomorrow, I would certainly miss what this day has in store and the miracles He is certain to weave throughout my day. Even in the mundane, He was certain to speak to me, through song or written word maybe, if I would just focus on the day in front of me and be aware of this day, today. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Write

Someone recently asked me why I write. I was formulating answers, sentences, stories, things I wanted to say in response. There was a full blown running commentary happening in my mind just at the posed question. I decided to give the cliff notes version instead: I have to write.

I write because I must. I see life in stories. When I'm all alone and watching life happen around me, I am writing it down in my mind, picturing how it would be described on page. When I'm reading another's words, inspiration, fiction or self-motivation, I find myself applauding the talent and skills of the author causing me to think deeper, taking me into their world. I imagine myself beside them as they write. I wonder what that setting looks like for them to be able to create.

When I experience life, lessons, learning, it comes to me in the form of words. I have to process what I read or feel by writing.

I have journals upon journals, page after page of written word. Feelings and thoughts, poems and songs. Things I couldn't have gone through alone but with the confidante of my journal by my side we weathered together.

I've transitioned from journal and pen to computer for the sheer fact I can type faster with fewer hand cramps. I'm always typing, writing, processing, getting it from my head to my fingertips to the page.

I cannot count how many blogs, journals, written pages have never been read by anyone other than myself. To click "publish" is simply a point of completion for my own self. I've said it before: it's not meant for anyone. It's mine. Simply mine. Often times there are readers along my journey. Please feel welcomed. Stay as long as you like. Read what you choose. Apply whatever you wish.

I never write for "likes" or "follows." This isn't about fans or friends. I write what I know, feel, learn, see, believe and understand. If it means something to you then I am thankful for the blessing. If it hurts you then I am sorry for the offense.

I'm not writing because I think what I have to say is more important than anything another might share. It's not that I believe my words will somehow be heard. I'm not asking for them to be. I'm writing them because they're mine and it's what I choose to do. It's what I must do.

As long as there are words in my mind, there will be words on the page. It is essential for me. I have to write.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Dirty Little Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Am Listening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 3, 2015


It was the beginning of January. Two and a half hours we waited at the doctors' office. I was there for moral support and not as a patient but I was exposed just the same. The sheer amount of people waiting were more than enough indication of the infectious "crud" running rampant. I was fighting hard to stay well. Vitamins, fruits & veggies, gallons of water, more supplements and hand sanitizer like it's going out of style. I didn't care if I was in style or not, I asked for extra protection. There was no shame. 

Needless to say less than a month later we would be back in that same doctor office, only this time I would be the patient. It was a stomach bug in top of the flu. Without warning or invitation, the illness had completely taken over to make me rendered useless. I had done all I could to avoid it but now it had ransacked me. Doctors orders were that I might be contagious for 5-7 days. 

One. Hot. Mess. And by hot, I mean burning up with fever for three solid days. And by mess I mean a complete and utter mess. I was down and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I spent a lot of Time in bed. A lot of time doing a lot of nothing. 

My eyes were too blurry to read so I was listening to a devotional CD that posed the question about me being contagious. Oh I was contagious alright. Quarantined and alone, this wasn't talking about my flu bug but rather my joy. If I am to be infecting others, I need to do some serious soul searching. is the attitude I have being caught by those around me? If I'm being honest then I have to admit that my attitude isn't always what I'd want to share with others. It's certainly not what I'd want rubbing off on those around me if it means that they will inturn share the same attitude back. It's a convicting thought: is my joy contagious? Is what I'm saying and doing showing the love and joy of an Almighty God? 

I can get so caught up in the emotional roller coaster of my day worry that it halts my pursuit of joy. I've been gripped by a myriad of emotions and have been consumed by the circumstances around me. I've played the victim and allowed feelings to be my guide. Instead of choosing joy, I've allowed myself to sink into the pit of despair. I've justify my feelings were my own and they weren't affecting anyone else. Or were they?!

In light of a possible outbreak, it seems a check up is in order. If I am causing an epidemic, then it needs to be something worthy of those around me catching. I want to be contagious for all the right reasons. I don't want to be the one masked off to the world. I don't want to be the person others choose to avoid, or banished to solitude and quarantine because of an ill-tempered attitude. 

The bug may be gone but the infectious desire is not. Only this time I am determined to spread joy (and not the awful flu)!