Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Forgotten Days

This time of year we can get so focused on Christmas, then check it off the list as we head into New Years Eve. But what about these last days?  Don't they deserve some attention?  We are in the last week of 2017, how do you want it to end?  It’s easy to look to a new year; starting over is always good!  I love a good reset button.  A fresh start can be healing and rejuvenating, but there is something to be said for finishing strong.

One of my areas of weakness is starting something that I never finish.  I love crafty endeavors, and can begin working on projects but get busy, let them go and before I know it, those knitting needles and yarn have been in that bag in whatever closet was mine for the past 17 years with no scarf in sight!
Don't just make that clique resolution list for 2018, not that we shouldn't look at the year ahead, but what can you check off that list now?  What project is list undone, time spent with loved ones, making amends with a relative or friend, errands to complete, paying off a debt, writing an encouraging note to a friend who needs it, getting a workout in, finishing that book or Bible reading for the year?  Doesn't it feel good when we accomplish something? What can this week mean for you?  The possibilities are endless and all within your reach.  Maybe this year has been full of disappointments and failures, but why not end with one positive accomplishment that can be your focus as you ring in the new year?

I will admit I am tired today.  I have a tornado at home and while I came into work, I really have thought about going home.  I may do that, my kids are home from school and a little quality time is a great idea, but I need to make the most of my hours here.  Yes, my work list could be finished next week - why wait?  Why not get it done early?! Procrastination can serve its purpose, it’s often my adrenaline jet fuel that helps get my butt in gear, but it can also provide me an endless stream of stress. 

As I look at this week, I want to finish my yearly Bible reading, spend time in the moment, and focus on the people that surround me.  I want to get that last donation load taken into the shelter and make a list of all the tasks that need to be done so when I am at a loss for how to spend some free moments, I can seize them.   2017 is going to end with patience and joy as I hug my husband and kids and let my heart dwell on my many blessings!  Let’s live in the rest of what we have before we wish away today in search of the hopes of tomorrow. 

Let these last days be ones to remember!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Do You See A Trend?

You never know how some aspect of your childhood will later affect you.  When I was seven years old, my mom and I moved from North Carolina to Indiana.  It wasn't supposed to be a move, it was supposed to be a stop along the way to Santa Cruz, California, but don't we all know sometimes plans change. 

My mom had my sister, Catie, shortly after our move and the three of us shared a bed in my grandpa's two bedroom trailer.  It may have been tight courters but I didn't notice.  I loved those 4 years.  Those four years have left me with a plethora of memories.  My grandpa, known to me as Pappy, was one of 8 siblings. His only brother and a few of his sisters still lived in Kentucky, where he was from, but three of his sisters lived in New Castle, Indiana, as well.  We had a lot of family gatherings and I loved my great-aunts.  They got together regularly for cards, quilting, family dinners and just for "loafing" (hanging out).  Pappy would spend the winters in Florida fishing, which meant that we'd gather for fish fries (frying up fish) quite a lot in the spring and summer.  I didn't realize how that affected me until recent years. 

I've said goodbye to friends who lost a battle with cancer, or have seen friends mourn the loss of a child, but many of my friends' funerals are like the dear friend I said goodbye to earlier this year.  She didn't lose a battle with cancer, she just finished her race.  She was over the age of 90 and full of life until the end.  

Yesterday, I said goodbye to another friend, she also wasn't a spring chicken.  She was 89 years old when she closed her eyes in her hospital bed for the last time.


I realized, I'm starting to see a trend.  Reality is I hang out with a lot of older people.  Part of it is because of my role on staff at a church, but then again, I am the youth pastor.  I have made it a part of my job to integrate generations.  We do service projects for retirement homes and have had several older volunteers join us. 

When I question where that desire came from I see the thread leading back to those four years in Indiana.  Going over to Aunt Mary's house, or eating a huge spread at Aunt Abbie's or even spending hours with Aunt Helma, influenced me - not to mention quality time with my Pappy.  Wednesday night church services ending with a trip to Dairy Queen, sitting in the garage with him learning to whittle, or running around with him on his moped or golf cart.  Those experiences impressed upon me the importance of spending time with our elders. 

It met a need in my little girl heart and in a generation where kids and teens are isolated from people as they delve into the technological world, its a need that is present today.  Older folks often felt neglected and being able to connect with those much younger is great for both parties.   Sure, it is sad to have to say goodbye to so many precious people, but, I am better for calling them friend.

Do you ever look at your priorities or trends in your own life and ask yourself, where did that start?  Do you have a unique childhood happening that has impacted the choices you make today?  Its easy to see some of the more obvious options like traumas, but what about the more innocuous options like my love for the older generation? 

Drawing the lines in our timeline can truly be a magical experience.  We should never stop being students in the "Me 101" class.  Its not all about us, but usually in learning about ourselves we can unearth connections with how we interact with each other or even God.  

In this busy time of year, take a break - grab some coffee, tea or hot chocolate; and delve into the study of you.  See what trends and treasures you discover!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I think most of us would love for everyone to like us.

As I look back over the story of my life, I realize, for many years that was my goal, but in order for that to happen, I'd have to change my identity and there is nothing beneficial about doing that.

God made a world full of unique people because he wanted the variety.  He loves each of us, the way he made us, but with that comes the reality that I won't always be liked or well received.

In the center of that reality comes one of my greatest fears.

Its not snakes or spiders, but it is rejection - okay, I'm afraid of snakes too!  Rejection seems to be a haunting reality that speaks to the core of our questioning - "am I good enough?"  Rejection can seem like a megaphone into the depths of our identity, but it doesn't have to be! 

No one can speak to my value unless I let them.  The only being able to do so is God and when he was done creating, he said, "It was good."  God has packed me (and you) with value and its my job to allow his voice to stand above any person who might say otherwise.  

In a book I've been working through on anxiety, I've become familiar with a counseling technique to overcome anxiety, called flooding.  Flooding is a method of facing ones fears by jumping into the fear.  The author shares a story about his fear with blood and how one encounter with a burn victim in the ER cured him because his involvement was necessitated by the circumstances.  

Despite the pangs of pain it might create, over the last month or so, I've been motivated to completely uproot any remaining insecurities from my childhood.  Doing so involved facing the "R" word, so I've put myself out there.  In one particular event recently, I asked for connection with people and got rejected - every time!  Over ten requests and not one yes.   But in the process of rejection, I decided to keep going.  It was hard, but I discovered that the rejection wasn't me, because each "no" came with a reason.  Some had legitimate responses, while others seemed more suspect.  I was offering an encounter which would require vulnerability and not everyone can deal with that word, which means it has nothing to do with me.  Despite the discouragement, I did not allow the rejection to speak to my heart.  

Blocking the internalization of that rejection, allowed me to see just how often I inject my own, limited interpretation into the comments, encounters and responses of others and draw conclusions I have no ability to accurately do.  You know the saying, to assume "makes an ass out of you and me." While I'm not sure the origin of that saying, it is pretty accurate.  When we assume we make judgements on partial information, and that can never aid us in knowing people or being known.     

As I referenced last week, Brené Brown, shares in her book, Rising Strong - people are doing the best they can.  If I believe this, then I am required to stop injecting encounters with my own bias. I must instead get more information, be honest with myself and others about the stories I'm creating and must seek to keep going in the midst of obstacles like rejection.  

Truth moment - the fear of rejection is much worse than rejection!  Its not making everyone like you, its finding people who inspire you, share common vision and spark growth that we should add to our tribe.   Beyond that we all have bad days and won't always be in sync even with the best people on the planet.  We must put ourselves out there, because the flip side to rejection is connection and that is something we all desperately need!  You know what else, rejection has its own benefits - I am learning a lot about myself and the world around me.  No experience is completely without merit.  When we survive the challenges we learn what we are made of! 

I don't know what you fear, but I know we all suffer from the human condition and have something that holds us back, the question is, will you let it continue to keep you down?  Break free and chase after the life God intended! You are worth it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BFG and Jesus

This morning I had the pleasure of connecting with a young woman that God placed on my path several years ago.  We discovered our mutual love for theatre and Jesus.  As we reconnected over coffee and conversation interrupted intermittently by my two-year old, we entered into a spiritual conversation on fear that I wanted to share with you.

Often, we can walk through life in fear that, as we face crossroads, we will pick the wrong way.  Life choices like the city you live in, the job you take and the person you marry can fill your heart with anxiety, well if you are anything like me it can.

Yes, God has a plan and we can trust him to guide us, but hearing his voice isn't an exact science and the reality of that unknown can fill our hearts with fear.  The truth is - it doesn't need to.  We can trust God and if, please note the "if" here, we are seeking God we will find him.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know."  We can take that promise to the bank.

Sometimes we spend time seeking God in our prayer and Bible times, and we look for that green light to go forward. While that is wisdom, making the choice often comes with some uncertainty.

If you have seen the movie BFG, you will recall the scene when BFG leaves Sofie back at the orphanage to protect her from the other giants.  After realizing she isn't in a dream, she goes out onto the balcony, calls to BFG, asks him to catch her, closes her eyes and jumps.

He in fact does catch her.  She was able to jump because she knew BFG and she knew he loved her.

We must know God and know his love to have the faith to jump.  But when we do, we can trust God will catch us.

I remember my sophomore year Bible class in high school at Dayton Christian.  My teacher, Mr. Pittman, told us a story of having to decide which school to attend.  He was seeking God in the direction and made his choice.  As he was about to head out, he got a call that changed his course.  He used this illustration to show that sometimes you have to make a step in one direction, and know that if its not the direction God is leading, then God is big enough to change the course.  But often we have to take a step in faith and not allow fear to paralyze us.

Fear is not of God (2 Timothy 1:7).  God is love.

We can't allow the unknown to hold us back, but with the love and wisdom of God, we should feel freedom to propel forward in life.

Sofie doesn't allow fear to hold her back, not just with the leap of faith from that balcony but as the story continues on.  She stands for what is right in the face of those man eating giants.

I don't know what your man eating giants are or the crossroads you face, but I know the God who created us, the God who died for us and the God who seeks to love us at all costs.  That kind of love will sustain you and protect you as you venture on in life.  It doesn't mean you won't encounter challenges but truthfully, I can take courage in knowing that by serving Jesus, my Savior, I have confidence to step out in life.  The worst thing that can happen to me is death but even if someone takes my life, they can't take away my freedom in Christ and the life after this that he has promised me as his child.

Go out and do great things with God at the helm of your life ship.  Seek him, find him and conquer this world.  We are living for things far greater than the crossroads we encounter!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are You Listening?

Often when I begin to write from my life in this blog, I find myself faced with this same feeling - inadequacy.  

God told me a long time ago, that for me to be used in the places of my life to help others, I had to be a human sacrifice. I had to put myself out there in an effort to give others permission to do the same.  Exposing myself is hard, especially on days like today, when I already feel vulnerable.  

I know I must share what is behind the curtain instead of giving advice as an expert who has it all together.  I am not a broken women, but I am a real human being who has gotten a few bruises and scrapes as I’ve walked through the years.  I have seen victory and joy as I’ve conquered obstacles in front of me, but I am still in process.  I am still working through the junk that I face and as I gain the skills to be a healthy individual, I not only have to apply it to my life today, but also to the skeletons in my closet.  Those things have got to go! 

When I shared my iceberg awareness a few weeks ago, I didn’t yet know what that was.  Since that post, I have started to watch it take shape as I move through the emotions that battle within me.  The iceberg is in fact, the broken child inside of me.  She is begging to be heard and even though it scares me to listen.  I have chosen to give her my attention.  “Getting Noticed” by Lindsay Teague Moreno alerted me to a researcher, storyteller and author - Brené Brown and her book, “Rising Strong.”  Reading this book has given validation to a lot of the emotions and realities I have been processing lately.  

Her encouragement to get curious about your emotion has allowed me to delve into the dark of this place I have avoided for 30 plus years.  I now know why certain upcoming change in my life has evoked such powerful emotion.  The emotion doesn’t match the situation because my broken child is screaming at me with wounds from the past.  Im now swimming in the deep end and examining all the questions and lies that she is screaming - 

“You aren’t good enough” 
“If you don’t make everyone happy, you won’t be loved.” 
“You aren’t worth being loved.” 
“You will never overcome this.” 
“What could you possibly offer anyone else.” 
“You will never be good enough”  

There is this fear that if I go there, I will get stuck in these emotions and even though my head knows the truth, the feelings will never go away.  What’s frustrating is often when I share these emotions with others I get blank stares in response as if no one else understands these deficits.  I get pity as if “poor Carrie is just so damaged.”  But in “Rising Strong” and in her TED talks, Brené shares that that list of lies that my emotions run too when I am hurt, are the core emotions felt by most people.  Not only am I not alone, I am in the majority.  So why are so few people talking about it?  Why does my voice seem to be calling out to the crickets?  

Either people aren’t even aware of their inner voice and the connection their ignored pain has with their failures in life or they are shoving it down hoping it will go away, afraid to even give validation to the common ground we share.  

I have realized that many of my unfulfilled dreams have been a result of my inability to jump out into the unknown because of the paralyzing fear of the lies above.  Well, enough of that!  The time has come to face the giant within and take it down.  God has not given me a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:17) and as I come against the lies I have allowed my emotions to echo, the truth will set them free (John 8:32).  

So now its your turn.  Can you begin to get curious about your emotion?  Do you need to awaken them?  Can you begin that process?  Healing is something God has offered all of us. His love is bigger than our greatest pain.  He will not fail you.  Can you take a step in that direction?  Comment below or message me via Facebook or Instagram and let me know your story.  I'd love to hear it! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Are You Really Thankful?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and let's all face it, between the controversy over its origin, the full-force Christmas décor already surrounding us, and the replacement of Black Friday with Thanksgiving Day shopping, you have to ask if its still a holiday, or if its just an excuse to indulge in gluttony? 

Thanksgiving shouldn't just be an annual holiday that has been nearly forgotten. Instead, it should be a state of mind. We have a lot to be grateful for!  Unfortunately, most Americans (you know like 99% of us) get distracted by our wish lists and to-do lists and never take the time to recognize our obnoxious abundance.

A few weeks ago we were blessed to have a special guest visit our church.  Stanley Gitari came from Kenya to let us know what his ministry is doing with the children in his village.  While he is a native to Maua, Kenya, he went to college in the US and has experienced our culture.  He can attest to the statistic that if you live in America, you are in the top 10% of the world.  Our homeless can go to a shelter and take a shower that will assuredly be pumping out clean water and most likely its also hot.   I would never want to live what our homeless do, but to think that they are living higher than 90% of the world is astonishing.

The things we take for granted, are things that are luxuries for so many other!  That is why I love this video by a church in Charlotte, because it allows us to see even what we have at the most basic level, is a gift! 

Two weekends ago I was in Monterey, at the Organic Outreach Conference.  This amazing event equips Christian leaders with tools to help love the world around us because God is love!  As I wrote down copious notes at the conference, I was more than inspired! There was one thing that hit me between the eyes as I listened to the various speakers and that was the statistics surrounding the state of the American church today. 

You see all Christians are called to share the love of God with the world (Matthew 28:18-20) and statistics show that a majority of Christians strongly agree (55%) with the fact that we all have a personal responsibility to share our faith, and 43% of people said they felt comfortable doing so, yet in contrast, 61% of those same people said they haven't shared Jesus with anyone in the last six months.  Why?  Why aren't we sharing the love of Jesus?  The reality is we just don't care. 

We have lost our compassion for the world around us.  Another study quoted showed that while 21% of Christians claim to pray to win the lottery only 20% said they prayed for friends of other faiths or no-faiths.  Really? I'd say we've lost some perspective.  According to one speaker, Adam T Barr, Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world, just not in America.  We are fat, dumb and happy and quite frankly, its unacceptable. 

Consumerism is our God and we will continue to bow at the alter of our own needs as a culture.  So what is the solution? I'm not suggesting you sell all you have and animate impoverished lives to understand the plight of the world.  We live the latte life and I don't see that changing anytime soon. 

Gratitude.  Gratitude is the answer.  As a Christian, I have received the greatest gift.  I believe that I need Jesus and I believe he is God.  I accepted his free gift that gives grace to all I've done wrong.  The sacrifice of his life, as the act of love needed to forgive all I've done, is the greatest gift.  It means that my life is more than the 90 years I live on earth.  I will spend eternity with him and I must live for that and not the few years in comparison, I have on this planet.  I know God has the best planned for me (Jeremiah 29:11) and while I can't always see it, I can be grateful in that knowledge because I have no idea what God has planned to do with even the worst of circumstances, but I know he won't let it go to waste.  My part is to be grateful. 

As we say goodbye to loved ones, I am grateful for the years I had.
As I suffer with sickness, I am grateful for my normal health. 
As I turn on lights in my house, I am grateful that I have electricity. 
As I take a shower or open a bottle of water, I am grateful for clean water or hot water. 
As I put on my shoes, I am grateful to have them.
As I hug my husband, I am grateful for the force he is in my life, both to encourage me and challenge me to be a better woman. 

This list goes on, and on and on. 

I am grateful for my years of infertility because of the compassion its given me for women who face that plight. 
I am grateful for a mom who would go hungry so my sister and I could eat because I was given the best example of how to mother my kids - sacrificially. 
I am grateful for the moments that sucked and had me raising a white flag because they strengthened me. 

This list goes on and on and on. 

Don't just let gratitude reside in a prescribed day of the year (or even month) but sew it into your life.  Make it a response you have to whatever comes your way.  Let it transform you so that you have compassion for those around you and love them like it's your job...because - it is!!!! 

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today and every day after...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

4 Steps to A Better You

My goal in life is to help people be the best versions of themselves, instead of being limited by the mental filters often adopted through circumstances, opinions of others and traumas faced.  Why is this my goal for others?  Because it started as a personal goal, and I realized I am not alone.  

Those lies we get trained to believe and walk out keep us down and keep us from being the people God intended when he made us.  Self-discovery at its core works best when we discover who God made us to be - usually a better version than we can even envision.    Its easy to see the failures and push the play button on a loop message that makes us feel defeated. 

I don't have to let my struggle with anger, self-doubt and anxiety keep me prisoner to self-prescribed limitations, and neither do you (insert your struggles here).   It begins to look like a mountain I can't climb, but that is not the truth.  God has already defeated the enemy and conquered it all on the cross (Romans 8:37).  He created me with purpose and wants me to see myself the way he does.  

Today, I was listening to Jihan Solomon Thomas in a video on essential oils.  She was sharing her life and some of her motivational methods.  She shared something she does to keep herself going and I want to share it with you! 

I can take no credit for this.  But I LOVE IT!!!!

Here we go. 

1. Get a Journal - whatever you like: binders, composition book, leather, spiral-bound (you get the picture).

2.  Divide it Up With Your Life Categories - finances, career, motherhood, fatherhood, emotions, hobbies etc.  Each of us will have different categories because we are different (and that a beautiful thing!) 

3.  Write "I AM" statements - write what you want to be. Declare the life you want, and the goals that get lost in the self-doubt fog.

Examples among my categories, I would write: 
I am debt free 
I am mortgage free.  
I am a responder and in control.  
I am a loving mom full of grace and joy.  
I am in control of my emotions and am able to speak from a place of calm.  
I AM healthy and fit and am excited about what I see in the mirror.

These thoughts encourage me to fight the doubt I face when I feel overwhelmed by anxiety and subsequent anger.  I can keep my goals ahead of me and not allow the delays to hold me back.

Do some research on how the brain works.  You can create pathways that promote positivity or conversely continue to stay stuck in the junk that keeps you in a negative mental space. 

I've seen lists like this before based on scripture like this one from Soul Shepherding.  Things like the list below can help me to see myself the way God does: 

I AM a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I AM a child of God. (Galatians 3:26)
I AM forgiven. (Ephesians 1:7)
I AM chosen. (Ephesians 1:11)

Regardless of your inspiration or what is on your list, its time to write one! 

4. Read your "I AM" statements - This is the gold.  Writing it and envisioning it is an amazing step, but then you have to convince yourself they are possible - that happens with repetition.  Read back your statements.  Get out of your own way and make room for God to work and allow yourself to see what is truly there.  

Let's get out of our rut, and stop believing the crap we've borrowed from the negative spinners along the way.  What would your categories be?  What would be on your list? What would your "I AM" statements be?  I'd love to hear from you.  Let's get this "I AM" train a moving!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What is Lurking Below the Surface?

Have you ever felt like something that comes so easy for virtually everyone else, seems nearly impossible for yourself?  I find myself feeling that way with rapid frequency in our ever-changing technological world.  But staying up with the changes in social media or marketing isn’t the only area I have and do feel this divide.  

Recently, I read a book that was actually the perfect antidote to the issue of being behind the internet world, and I found it a big help as I wander into cyberspace, but the biggest impact this book made on me was actually something a great deal deeper.  

You know how icebergs deceptively lurk below the water’s surface?  What you see before you is nothing in comparison with its size below the open waters.  I often think that is a fitting description of humans.  As much as we know about who we are and how we tick, there is always so much more to glean.  Being a student of yourself will always lead you on an amazing journey.  

As I read the pages of the aforementioned book, I sensed I was entering into my own personal iceberg territory.  Something was there, that I was just seeing the tip of but so much more was inside waiting to be discovered.  

The truth I saw in the pages of that book was the fact that I am not good at being me.  

I am not void of a personality, opinions or even personal taste, so that sentence may sound surprising and even absurd.  But its true.   When most kids were being kids and figuring out the core of who they were, I was dealing with real-life, or maybe adult-life experiences that interrupted that process.  I will say as I’ve grown into adulthood, I have been able to regain some of those lost experiences, but I do at times still feel behind in the discovery process. 

That wasn’t all of it, though, what I really saw in the book was that I am not comfortable with all of who I am.  There are things about me that I have tried to hide.  Seems pretty hypocritical for the girl who preaches being yourself, but truthfully, until reading the words on those pages, I never saw it.  

That is why the journey to you is so important.  It may be scary because you don’t know what you will find. If we keep seeking God and being set on knowing him, we can’t help but get to know ourselves. Not just any self, the self God made us to be -the one that can only truly connect with him.  In order to get to know him, we must first come to terms with the ways life has blocked us from being who we were truly meant to be.  

The truth is I have nothing to be ashamed of, but because I never knew the depths of this issue, I never worked on it.  Now, I can!  I can get to the root of why I am ashamed of who God made me to be and allow him to bring healing to any remaining places of pain.  Isn’t that wonderful?!  

I am safe in this process when God is leading the way.  He has plans for me (he has plans for you too)!  Its time I got out of my own way.   How about you?  Maybe you have a completely different struggle or issue but are you still a student of yourself?  Are you allowing God to touch that process and allow you to be free from the junk life has deposited in your soul?  I don’t know what the road holds, but I know its worth it! 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Broken Child

When I was in high school, I went on a tour of Israel with a group of adults, led by my dad, as the Army post Chaplain.  The trip was truly remarkable! Beyond the Biblical sites we visited, our trip included some time at the Holocaust Museum. There are so many profound moments I can recall from that one place, but the one I will share with you today involves a statue on the property.  

It is the statue of Yanush Korzack surrounded by a mound of children, in honor of his work with kids.  As I stood before it and took it in, I heard God say, “Carrie, that is you.”  I felt in that moment that God gave me my mission in life to rescue children.  Honestly, it wasn’t something I fully understood in that moment, but have come to unpack its truth throughout my journey. 

Many years later, I was at a local camp during a women’s retreat leading a workshop over the weekend on, “Healing from the Pain in your Past.”  After the workshop, I stood and spoke with a few women as they were unpacking the pain in their hearts.  In that moment, I heard from God again - this time he said, “Some of the children you rescue will be little girls inside grown women.”  

What an amazing revelation?!  Have you ever seen someone share about a trauma in their childhood?  It doesn't matter their current age, its like they have transformed right before your eyes as the pain they carry has transported them to that exact moment years ago.  You can almost see that child before you.  

People are amazing to me, yes, we can stereotype and categorize and use those things to find commonalities and guess at how we will respond in certain situations and yet, being human means we are all unique, we can deviate from our norm at any time without known explanation.  

Two people can go through the exact same crisis - one will be crushed, another will use it as fuel to climb the next peak in life.  No matter what we see on the outside, we never really know the narrative that plays out in someone's heart and head. 

This profound truth struck me again tonight as I watched the latest episode of, “This Is Us.”  We can go on with life, find success and see our dreams revealed and yet no matter what, that child inside of us still lives.  Parts of us remain broken, unless we are intentional to fix it.   We can keep going and growing even with the brokenness remaining inside.  It resurfaces from time to time depending on the triggers we encounter, but it doesn’t go away.  

That is one the biggest lies we believe about our past - if we ignore it, it will go away.  It doesn’t!  

We have to be rescued or choose to rescue ourselves.  That is why I am passionate about helping people explore those broken pieces and allow God to lead them on a journey to put them back together.  We don’t have to live with the broken child, or broken adolescent inside of us our whole lives.  Sure, it will always be our story and affect the way we live but it doesn’t have to disable our thoughts, feelings and actions.  Living with the internal pain, despite the outward success, is unnecessary.  There is freedom.  

What does the little child inside of you need?  How can you be brave and examine what you most fear to face?  That, my friend, is the first step, but one we all must take if we want to live in freedom.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Who Is YOUR Neighbor?

I know my blog only reaches a few people each week, yet I take the words I write very seriously.  I believe God wants to use my own life to speak hope into the hearts of those who need it.  Not because of who I am - I'm no expert and don't have any official credentials.  I just have past experience and my own journey, but most importantly I have God.  His inspiration is really what I rely on with the words I write.  I pray I never misrepresent him in the way I share with each of you.  

So this morning as I woke up knowing this computer screen would be on my to-do list today, I asked God for inspiration.  In response, these words came to me: 

"Who is my neighbor?"  

These are very poignant words for us today.   Jesus wasn't well-received by the religious leaders of his day.  The words he spoke and the way he lived stood in opposition to their own life's work.  They always sought out to trap him.  When they asked this question, Jesus answered with a story (because Jesus was the bomb when it came to wise responses).  

He told the story of the Good Samaritan.  The Samaritan to the Jews was something a kin to an African American being the hero in a story told to KKK members.  

Jesus' point was clear - the hero is the one who walks the heart of God.   

Maybe you struggle with racism on a level that someone of color being a hero is offensive to you, but most of us aren't that extreme.  The point is still there for all of us - the outward appearance, social standing, or even political leaning isn't what God sees, its the heart of someone and how they care for others.   

We get so busy with our lives and forget there is a world out there in need.  We are often unavailable to be used of God because we only see the things on our list, and miss the person God placed on our path with purpose. 

But guess what?  Your to-do list doesn't go with you when you leave this earth.  God has plans for us beyond the grind of work, chores of home and errands we must run.  God's plans include us connecting with all of his children.  

What does that look like for you?  That depends on your life and your circumstances.  I am also not advocating doing it all, because you aren't responsible for it all, just what God places on your path.  

It might mean keeping non-perishable sack lunches in your car to pass out as you see people along the road, or even giving away your own lunch to feed another.  It might mean using your vacation days to serve a community here or abroad instead of relaxing on a beach.  It might mean sacrificing your tv or book time to lend a listening ear to that person who drives you nuts but really needs a friend,  or it might mean being present in the moment and seeking God and seeing what he's placed in front of you. The key is inconvenience, loving others often means putting someone else's needs in front of our own.  

What do you need to sacrifice for the benefit of someone else, including those who might seem below you?  Below you could be different ethnicities, but it can also be homeless, or even someone on the other side of the political spectrum.  

That is where we need the most sacrifice today - loving someone in a sacrificial way who's life views seem counter to our own.  I watch my social media feed as both my conservative and liberal friends trash each other, but I don't have to agree with your views to care for you.  

Can we live above the standard that just keeps dropping with each year?  Doing so will change the world.  When loving our neighbor comes second to the top priority of loving God, we know its important to the way God wants our world to work.  What are you waiting for?  Get at it.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Two Ways To Overcome the Weird In Your Head

I don’t think I’m an ugly woman, but I often think if people could see the mess of junk going on inside my head - they might see a different woman than what’s depicted through the physical body before you.  

Its like that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai is trying to write a letter but the words just don’t come.  Her rant ends in the conclusive line, “its a big bag of weird in there.” This.  This is exactly how I feel.   Sure I am a nice, kind-hearted person and that is beautiful, but there are other sides of me that aren’t so pretty. 

One of those uglies lurking inside is a struggle with anger.  Years of counseling lead me the epicenter of my angry outbursts - anxiety.  

 A little over a month ago, my son had surgery.  He had his tonsils and adenoids removed.  

We got up early and took my daughter to my parents’ house.  
We then made the almost hour drive to the surgery center in Fresno.  
After we got my son checked in and he was wheeled into surgery, my husband and I took our seats in the waiting room.  

That morning had been hard on my anxiety levels, so I decided it was a good idea to get out my binder and start on a worksheet that has been a part of a book I’ve been working through utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to overcome anxiety. 

One of the many exercises involves writing down all negative thoughts associated with a particular anxiety incident.  Usually, I have a variety of related emotions, but this time they were pretty well concentrated in the fear section of the emotional scale.  

My husband was curious as to what I was doing so I read him my list of negative thoughts associated with this particular day.  When i finished reading my list, my husband, in shock, replied, “I would have never even thought of half of those.”  I wasn’t just worrying about more than he did, I actually had thoughts about particular aspects of the day that didn’t even occur to him! 

This struggle has been so crucial to me because it is incongruous with my religious beliefs.  God tells me to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4;6).  Its easy to see ways in which our every day life is out of touch with what the Bible calls us to be.  

So what do you do? 

1. Do Your Part
  Instead of beating up on yourself, something I often do, for missing the mark, identify the root.  Take inventory of your thoughts and feelings so you can begin to weed out what doesn’t belong.  You can’t replace the crap until you know its there! 

One of the next steps in the exercise I was doing on the day of my son’s surgery was to write out a positive thought for each of the negative thoughts on which my brain fixated. Its replacing the lie with the truth.  This process, while laborious, is necessary to make sure, how I live and what I believe, stand side by side. 

2. Let God Do The Rest 
I have heard one story where a surgeon performed a ground-breaking operation on himself, but typically a surgeon performs the surgery and the patient lays still, usually unconscious. This is a great picture of our spiritual life.  God does the work in us, sure we may prepare the way for the work with everything I discussed above, like a patient may fast or take certain medications prior to a surgical procedure.  But the rest is God's job.  I can tell you the most meaningful change is when God took my faithfulness and transformed me in the midst of a challenge.   

The encouragement is - God is always working.  Even when we get stuck in a holding pattern and feel like we aren’t getting very far with our goals, God stays the same.  He's always there, using our lives to direct us into the people he created.  He wants to be close to us, and wants to see us reach the stars he designed for us to grab.   

So go do the work you have to do to prepare for the work God is already doing!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The One Thing I Want For My Kids

Last week I had one of the best days ever!  My son and I went into his room, closed the door, turned off the lights and turned on this colorful strobe bulb he won as a prize a few years ago and we cranked up the music for our very own dance party.  I love music and love to dance so adding my son to this equation was just all of the amazings there ever was!  (Yes, I recognize that last sentence isn't exactly grammatically correct, but sometimes you just have to say it how it comes out). 

When it was time for a break we sat on his bed.  He excitedly asked to show me a few songs he loved.  I searched YouTube for the videos he described and discovered several worship songs he sings in school chapel that made him light up the room brighter than any color coming from that strobe bulb.  The joy began to gush from my heart. 

This morning on the way to school we had a worship dance session as I blared one of those songs in the car along the drive. 

I was reminded of a thought that circumstances in life have been bringing me back to a lot lately.

Let me first say, I am great mom, sometimes.  Sometimes, I am the worst mom.  Yes, I know I am hard on myself, but I think that sentence is empirically accurate.  My own fears, anxiety and anger can take over and can destroy my ability to impart greatness to my kids, and that is definitely a regret as I walk this mom path. 

I strive to better myself and dwell on the moments I rock as a mom so I don't solely focus on my failures. As I evaluate the fruit of my overall parenting, I have concluded there is only one thing I want for my kids when it is all said and done! 

I am going to screw stuff up and my kids will have areas of life to sort as they grow into adulthood, but if I can make the way for them to have this one thing, I will be content with the job I have done and continue to do.  

Can you guess what that one thing is? 

It isn't that they will be responsible, have good grades, have a ton of friends, be polite or anything else along those lines. Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to be those things, but another item rises to the top of the list for me - every time.  What is it? 

I want my kids to love God and have a strong, solid relationship with Jesus!  That is it.  If that foundation is solid, they will inevitably have everything else that goes along with it because God calls us to love others and to be doers of his word.  That includes some of the items above and so much more, but the key is this. 

Even if my kids are responsible adults with a good job and stable income, well-loved by others and polite to all they meet and DON'T have a relationship with God, I won't be satisfied.  I will see my job as not yet completed and will continue to pray for that one thing. 

Knowing this aim helps me to adjust how I parent.  It lets me test what I am emphasizing and filling their time with to evaluate if it accomplishes that one thing.  It also challenges me to keep my relationship with God at the forefront of all else both for my own personal goals, but also as an example to my children. 

Whether you are a parent or not, this reflective thought has value for your life.  What is your one thing?  What do you prize above all else in the person you are, and if you are a parent, in what you ultimately want for your kids?  Are you on track or do you need to adjust?  Find your internal compass and change direction where needed, or encourage yourself if you are on course. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When the Timeline Doesn't Make Sense

This past Saturday, my son was watching a cartoon, Bible story.  He was glued to the screen in the accounting of the story of Joseph.  I was busy in the kitchen but heard sections of the dialogue as I worked.  I was impressed with this version of the story because of the raw emotion Joseph shared throughout each journey of his life. 

This Bible story always causes me to take pause - a boy sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to a foreign land, sent to prison after being falsely accused of a crime he did not commit.  At this point in the story, it doesn't sound like God is caring for this young man.  He seems in all accounts - forgotten!

Finally, he is called upon to interpret the Pharaoh's dream and because of what he has interpreted he is put second in command to Pharaoh to help save people from the coming famine.  It isn't until this point in Joseph's life that is all makes sense.  God has purpose in positioning Joseph at each step along the way.  God had the end game in view when all Joseph could see was the now portion of his life.

I too often look to my circumstances as the indicator of how my life is going.  One can always ask where God is in the midst of challenges and yet God is always working even when we don't see it or feel a void of his presence in painful seasons. 

God continued to speak to me through this story in the communion meditation at church the following day.  Nancy shared a story and challenged us to remember God is always in control. 

I then went to youth group where we are working through a lesson series on Eternity and was reminded by Francis Chan that our years on earth are just a tiny section of our life when compared with the eternity we will share with Jesus. 

As I prayed over this apparent lesson God was throwing in my lap, I suddenly had this picture in my head. 

I love to organize and purge and let me tell you my house definitely needs it!  I never finished being able to Konmari my house as my toddler would take off with my piles and it seemed this was not the season to do such a decluttering, but my own declutter story is not the point of this blog so let me continue with the visual. 

When I want to organize a cabinet or my closet, I first have to empty its contents.  Then I can clean out the area and begin to separate my piles: trash, donate, keep.  Once I have finished this I can sort what remains and place it properly in its new home.  The process necessitates some temporary disorder to bring about the desired outcome.  If you stop and look at my work when everything has been thrown about a room in chaos, you would question my methods, but if you wait, you will see the order behind the apparent mess. 

This picture found an instant connection to the life of Joseph and my own.  Joseph's life had purpose from day one and it never changed even when the security of his surroundings did.  God was at work at every stage in the process.  It was a bit disruptive in the middle, but it was with purpose.  There was some organizing that God was doing with his people and it meant temporary chaos.  True Joseph is more than the sweater thrown on my bed while I sort out the piles, but the principle still applies.

When we look in a particular moment we can miss the big picture, because a moment does not define our life's work.  We know the beauty of Joseph's story because we read it from beginning to end, but for Joseph he had to trust God even when it downright sucked to do so. 

This isn't the first time I've blogged about Joseph or even this lesson, but I am still in process with it so it continues to resonate with me. I think this is a timely word for this world.  Our country and our world are a mess, but I believe God is positioning and preparing us for the eternity we will spend with him!  It doesn't discount the impact of the tragedies we encounter, but we still have to trust and have faith - God is in control! 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Afraid to Speak

I don't know if you have been watching Leah Remini's Scientology documentary on A&E, but I have since Season One last year.  This show has struck a chord with me for a variety of reasons.  I am not going to go down that list here (that's a whole other post in the making), but last week's episode (Season 2, Episode 6) featured Paul Haggis, a former celebrity member of the cult. As he was talking about his journey out of the cult and the backlash he received moving forward, he stated a few sentences that pierced my heart with a force that stopped me in my tracks.  I literally wept, because of the conviction I felt in that moment.  

Here is my best attempt to quote him from the episode:

"When you learn certain things, what really is just a responsibility you have to tell the truth, it’s not really a choice.  I felt that I had to speak out and whatever happened, happened, and I knew there would be a big fallout and there was."

Even though I am opinionated and consider myself a fairly open individual, I know I don't always speak up the way I should.  In certain circles or on various topics, I can honestly say, I am afraid to speak.  Not because I don't believe in my convictions but because I don't trust in the masses to hear my heart and be intent to share my truth as I intended. I let the fear of judgement keep me from the obligation to speak the truth.

Social media has taken the term "fake news" to a completely other level.  Its staggering the misinformation that gets propagated in our culture faster than a wild fire through a forest in drought.  Its rare for the average person to check their facts before spreading the truth of the hour.  That coupled with the eradication of relational care in a computer generation that has no thought for the feelings of the people on the other end of the screen is a scary reality. 

To see, for example. a teacher's personal information spread across the internet and their family's safety put in jeopardy as a result of a viral video that turned out to be an outright lie is nothing short of frightening. 

But regardless of the cost, I have a voice, and I am the only person with this exact voice.  

I can't be responsible for the way its received or passed on.  I am responsible to lovingly speak the truth I know.  Yes, it can get ugly, and wisdom should always be at the helm, but I cannot allow the crazy, that is our world today, to stop me from using my voice.  My voice is not just for me, its also for others who need to hear it. 

What about you?  Are you living in that boat?  

This conviction probably won't result in me sharing endless perspectives on social media because I think people get overloaded and its not finding the results its seeks to aim. I will however, share as I feel led and stop allowing fear to keep me silent regardless of how it may be received.  

I want to have the confidence I heard in Paul Haggis' voice as he spoke, knowing the resistance and downright hurtful hatred was coming yet, not letting someone else deter him from standing for truth.  He knew he had no choice but to share the truth about Scientology, because the truth trumped the negative fallout.  Even if you have never been in a cult like Scientology, there can be lies you see in our world that need to be corrected.  We have an obligation to share and to help people avoid the dangers they are headed toward, otherwise we are cowards. 

May we together continue to speak where our heart speaks and in return hear those who are listening. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Are You A Christian?

What would you say if I told you I was a doctor, but my only credit to this title was a one hour Nursing class in college that I deem the only qualification needed to practice medicine?

Anyone lining up to get a check up?

Probably not.

One class in my undergraduate studies does not a doctor make!

What is funny is that 70.5% of the American population considers themselves a Christian and yet only 11% of that group has read the Bible in its entirety, and only 9% having read it more than once.

True, you don't have to read the Bible to be a Christian.  Christianity is not earned, its willingly received.  That trips people up though because becoming a Christian isn't an item on a checklist but a new beginning.

Christianity is an understanding that we can't do life on our own.  The standard of perfection is not attainable for us humans and we need Jesus' gift of life because of his perfect life on earth and death on the cross and resurrection to be forgiven of all the wrongs we have done.

Christianity is surrender - surrender to Jesus and his ways.  This surrender is often counter to our culture but honestly, it's also counter to our human nature.  The Bible is, simply put, a letter.  Yes, its more than that - its history, its poetry, its prophecy but at its heart its a letter, a story given to his children (that's us).  Its God way of speaking to us.  Yes, it can be intimidating but its not impossible.  It starts with a step, followed by another step.  How can you know who God is, what God wants with us and from us if you don't read the Bible?

The beauty of Christianity and the Bible is balance, and when someone goes too far one direction they lose the beauty of it all.  The teeter totter holds truth on one side and grace on the other.  When you stand in the middle of the two, you have found the sweet spot.  Sustaining that takes daily connection with God.

Religion is common place, but the relational focus of Christianity is unparalleled.  We must enter into a relationship with our Savior and daily walk with him to find the road and stay on it.

Unfortunately, this is not happening and I can't imagine what that discord must look like to God.  We are all his children and we are fighting and killing each other.  We have abandoned the hallmark of who he is - love.  We have walked away from truth in search of popularity or happiness and yet we haven't found what we thought we would.  The label of Christian is doing more harm than good in some corners of this country, because like my doctor analogy, people are claiming a faith they have no knowledge of.

When I moved to Germany my junior year, the two years that followed weren't marked with the poor choices I made that led to two decisions of regret.  No, the big problem when I arrived was one sentence that broke me.  You see when I headed to Germany, I was walking away from some bad years that left hurt inside my soul.  Not dealing with the pain I'd experienced, left me open to bitterness and bad choices.

 I uttered to God, "I don't like what you have done with my life, and I am taking over."

I abandoned God.

That was what led me to a breaking point my Freshman year of college.  Sure my wrecked virginity and subsequent abortion contributed to that pain, but when I FINALLY cried out to God, do you know what I found? It wasn't condemnation or judgement.  I heard God say, "Carrie, I have been waiting.  Waiting for you to give all of that to me, so I could fill you with my best."  That day in the basement of my dorm hall, I wept and I gave God back what was always his - control of my life.  He is a gentleman so he never forced me to follow him, but he let me see what my control led to - a mess.

At almost 39, my life is not perfect.  I am still a mess, but God is directing my path and in him I am finding all the joy, comfort, direction I need.  No one has ever loved me like God, and when I trust him with my life and seek him daily in Bible reading and prayer, I find what I need for today!  He has my life in his hands, and I can trust He knows what He is doing!!!  That is a Christian.  Are you a Christian?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

4 Things I Know...That I Don't Really Know

Sunday morning before heading to church, I got a call.  The news on the other end shocked me.  A woman at church, who I had just seen, had a heart attack and died the night before.  She wasn't young, but I still didn't see it coming.  She was making plans for upcoming events, trips with her husband, we had even just discussed food for a Christmas Event later this year.  The news of her death seemed surreal.  I can tell you, her death isn't the first one to take me off-guard either. 

Having this reaction got me thinking.  You see I know: 

1. Life is Short -

I know there is no guarantee for the days we are given. That is a truth I know, that I know, that I know and yet when the reality of this truth hits me in the face, I am reminded, I actually live life as if it will keep going as it always does, without recognizing we never know what is really around the corner.

As I contemplated the vast chasm between a fact I knew in my head and acted out in my life,  I wondered, what other truths do I know that apparently, I don't really know? 

Here are some others that came to mind:  

2.  Life Isn't Fair -

I know good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.  I know just because I deserve something, it doesn't mean I will get it because life isn't fair and yet when I am faced with a situation that is definitely unfair, I am forced to reckon myself to a truth that I have suddenly forgotten. 

This reminder hits me once a week when I watch American Ninja Warrior with my son.  Here are competitors who train all year for this event, and yet, one slip of the foot on the first obstacle can take down even the most seasoned athlete.   

3.  I Have Absolutely No Control  -

Similar to the first two items, I often find myself in an anxious mess over hurdles in life because I have bought into the deceptive lie that by worrying, I can affect the outcome of anything in life. I have no control over a million things that can influence my life.

This truth seems to resonate pretty strongly through our country right now as people face evacuation from their homes in hurricanes and fires.  You drive away, after doing what you can to protect your home, without guarantee all will be well when you return.  One can't control a natural disaster or the obscene amount of traffic you encounter on your exit or reentry after the storm.  

Lack of control does not just touch us in disastrous circumstances; it also touches us in the every day world - rush hour traffic, repairman wait times, your toddler's behavior, a spouse walking out, your cable going out at the exact moment its supposed to tape your favorite show, losing a loved one to an accident or disease.  From momentous to the mundane, we have NO control over so many outside influences that affect our lives.  That can be a scary reality.  

4.  God is in Control -

Here's the great news I often (way too often) forget.  Not only is there a God in control, but he is a good God.  When life goes sideways and I experience one of the above, I can eventually find solace in this truth (you know, once I stop trying to be God in my own life).

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God sees and knows things we cannot comprehend.  He sees the full picture and regardless of what is happening in the moment - he's got it.  There are moments when this reality hits me like a two-by-four, as I find myself comparing reality with what I would do if I were God.

I don't see all He does so my decision will always be based on limited information.   I may one day understand why he did what he did in a particular situation but I also may never know this side of heaven. 

Truthfully, this list could continue on indefinitely, because as human beings, I find putting beliefs into practice can be easier said than done.  I just hope as you read this list, you will examine your own belief gaps and seek the truth you need to narrow that gap - if even just a bit. 

Find encouragement today in whatever mess you find yourself in, because you are not alone.  The rest of us humans are floundering too, like fish out of water.  We don't have to have it all together or be the best, we just have to continue to seek God and live a life that takes the best out of each moment.  There are no guarantees and just because we fail to recognize truth, doesn't change it from being true.  Happy Wednesday!