Wednesday, July 26, 2017

One Mistake That Needs To Be Corrected

I have been a Christian since I made that choice for myself at age 4 in my preschool class.  My relationship with God has had its high points and low dips.  There was even a time after some tumultuous years when I verbally told God,

"I don't like what you've done in my life and I was going to take over." 

He let me, and I made an even bigger mess of my life, making two of the biggest mistakes to date

Even with that season, I would say I am close to God.  In moments of life, all I have had was God and he showed up in a GIANT way!

I recently put together curriculum for a youth retreat that rocked my soul! I came across a video (that has since been deleted).  It shared words and background set to connect with the song Names of God by Laurell Hubick.   As I watched the video and listened to the words, I began to cry.  Before I tell you why, let me share a story.

I can recall one night, as a junior-high student, going to bed feeling more alone than ever before.  I called out to God saying I needed to be held.  I needed to feel someone hug me, like you would if a human being held another human being.  I went to bed that night and literally felt God's arms around me. 


That God hasn't diminished in my life. 
He is just as big as he ever was. 
He still speaks to me and yet,
I have made a major mistake!

I have let my life become bigger than my God

I have allowed anxiety, fear and worries take over and it has become my default to accept the broken circumstances that are handed to me. 


I don't have to. 

That video sparked this awakening in my soul that reminded me of the God I believed in all those years ago in that bed all alone - the God I still follow today.  I realized I am not living in a way that acknowledges the love, gentleness, strength and power of my God. 

My God is
Elohim, my Creator (Genesis 17:7, 8),
he's Jehovah Shammah, The Lord is There (Ezekial 48:35),
Adonai – My Great Lord/My Master – 2 Samuel 7:18-20

El Elyon – Most High God – Genesis 14:20

Yahweh – The Lord I AM – Exodus 3:13-15

Jehovah Rohi – The Lord Is My Shepherd – Psalm 23:1

Jehovah Mekaddishkem – The Lord Who Sanctifies You – Leviticus 20:7-8

Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord is Our Righteousness – Jeremiah 23:6

El-Roi – The God Who Sees Me – Genesis 16:7-16

Jehovah Nissi – The Lord Is My Banner – Exodus 17:8-15

El Shaddai – All Sufficient One – Genesis 49:22-26

Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Will Provide – Genesis 22:9-14

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord Who Heals – Exodus 15: 22-26

Jehovah Shalom – The Lord Is Peace – Judges 6:16-24

Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Hosts  - I Samuel 1:3

El-Olam – The Everlasting God – Genesis 21:33

Christ – The Anointed One – Matthew 16:16

Love – God is Love – I John 4:8

Abba – Our Father – Romans 8:15-17

I sat there and confessed where I had strayed and in the next week, God called me to live out what I had confessed. 

Days before the retreat I was to lead, my daughter started to develop symptoms to a virus that would keep any of us from attending.  That wasn't an option.  I began to panic and then I remembered the Names of God.  In that list is God my provider and God my healer.  I took this to him and asked others to pray. 

My mom, as wonderful as she is, spoke words that grabbed me.  She said, "Carrie, God cares more about your daughter and those teens, than you do! He will take care of it." 

I stood in that truth and saw my God work.  My daughter was healed and is fine.  More importantly, I was healed of the anxiety that was plaguing my heart.  Sitting in that truth and resting in all that my God is, I was able to relax.  I knew God had it all worked out the way He wanted and needed it to go, regardless of what happened with my little girl. 

Where have you let life become bigger than God?  Where do you need to rest in God and see him be the BIG, AMAZING God HE IS?!

Maybe you don't know God.  Do you need a Savior?  God is there.  If you are reading this, and like me, you have let God become small, NOW IS THE TIME, to see the BIG GOD you serve.  If you don't have a God but need him, he is also there.  I am here, if you have questions or want to know more, let me know.  God bless you.  Happy Wednesday!!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

4 Benefits of Being Bullied

As I begin this, let me say, 
I do not condone bullying

To be fair, kids today have to deal with bullying on a level I NEVER did as a kid, so please know I am not diminishing the severity of this issue. 

The point of this blog is to show how something meant to push me down, in fact, ended up blessing me with some amazing gifts.

As I look at some of my skill sets today, I see that many of them came through adversity and it is good to be able to celebrate beauty that can develop through pain. I am a likable person and as a whole, get a long great with others, but there was a time in my life where I wasn't so popular.  Truth be told, my home life had a lot of challenges that didn't exactly aid me in my efforts with peers at school - trying to pretend I cared about the "trivial" things that most pre-teens and teens grappled with proved a challenge as I lived with realities most people should never have to experience.

It also didn't help that I said whatever I thought.  I've never been great at censoring my opinion and when I am around people that just want to hear what they want to hear, its usually a recipe for disaster.  If all of that wasn't enough, I also, then, like now, wore my heart on my sleeve and never excelled at masking my emotions. 

All of this meant,  I had some lonely years at the bottom of the food chain. I was made fun of for my looks, family, and moral compass - just to name a few.  I was left out, picked last, teased, gossiped about, taunted and downright bullied. 

I persevered and guess what?  That season didn't last!  Yes, it felt like forever in the midst of it, but now looking back I can remember the beautiful years that followed and now I see some tools in my life box that I gained through those hard years.  Here are just a few of the rewards I gained from my bullied years:


Being able to see myself bullied and later admired, I could see that if I left my value in the hands of others, who I am would constantly change.  Regardless of your status on the social ladder, if you know who you are and know your value, it doesn't change with the changing tides. That constant is a solid foundation in our ever-morphing world.  Those peer uncertainties don't stop when you reach adulthood either, so its good to know who you are and choose how you want to be defined.  Your value is too high to let someone else decide what it should be. 


I can join a crowd and in an instant am aware of anyone being left out.  I have a hyper-awareness of those off on their own.  It makes a great skill in connecting with teens as a youth pastor and reaching people just as a human being.  Not everyone wants to be a part of the crowd because we all have different personalities but being aware of those around you and checking-in to make sure their separation is by choice, is an amazing gift.


I can recall one particular person who said some pretty devastating words to me in regards to my life and more specifically why I should take it.  Suicide is very serious business.  But since those years, I realize that in our junior high days we don't always realize the weight of our words.  We live in the moment and often only see ourselves.

This person grew up and later after discussion regretted and apologized for this very conversation.  It wasn't because it was in their memory - honestly, they had completely forgotten it, but I hadn't and as I saw the root of this adolescent indiscretion, I was able to forgive this person.  Good people do bad things.  It happens and like this person, I too have had my moments.  Grace is a beautiful gift to give and receive.  I want to be in that gift-giving business so I am ready when its my turn to receive it. 


Even though I can be a down-right emotional mess at times, my vast array of social standings throughout my life, has gifted me with the ability to see beyond someone's masks and see them.  I have a compassion for those suffering and experiencing pain in whatever circumstances they are living.  I truly do cry with people because I can naturally put myself in their shoes.  I obviously have to put up boundaries for myself so I don't develop some superman complex and try to save the world, because I am not and cannot, but it does give me some great prayer times. Its a gift to see someone and be able to meet them where they are.

What lemons have brought you lemonade in life?  Can you see some skills you have today because of adversity you have faced?  Maybe its time to notice it and share it!!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One Thing We All Need And Two Ways To Get It!

September of last year, Marie Claire published an article sharing the stories of women who regret having children.

For Every Mom, an online Christian mom's magazine, recently posted a response to a similar article in The New York Post.

After reading all three articles, I needed a moment to take it all in.  Motherhood is hard, but hearing someone say they regret their motherhood in the face of their beautiful children just broke my heart.  It hurts me to hear those words come as truth from someone's heart and it hurts me to think of the child who might one day read their mother's regret of their very life.

As I took it all in, I realized this sentiment highlights a real problem in our world today. Take a moment and picture life in the 1800's.  Can you see the Pre-Industrial America fully-equipped with covered wagons - something straight from a scene of Little House of the Prairie? People were tired from hard work, yet rested without incessant distractions.  Villages and towns rallied as a family and supported each other.  People weren't abandoned and left to their own devices.  While I am glad to live with the modern conveniences of the 21st Century, there is one thing they had gobs of that we are in deep need of - community.

As I take an honest look at the stories in the articles linked above, I see a variety of individual issues, and yet I see this common thread.  Sure there are some exceptions to this rule, as each of us have varied personalities and life experiences, but in truth, motherhood is a lonely existence and community is crucial for survival.    I wouldn't trade being a mom for anything else in this world, but lonely, frazzled, frustrated, depressed are all adjectives I have felt along this journey of early motherhood.  As a people-person who loves to be out and about, early-motherhood is a struggle because its so isolating.

There is a solution.  The following two things can help us to take back our motherhood and find joy in this stage of life.  

1.  Choose Another Vantage Point 

How we see something largely affects how it impacts our life.  Reality is always a good place to start. If you are a mom, you can't look at the "what if's" because they are no longer an option.  There is a huge responsibility in raising a child.   We have the unique job to shape the live of another human!  How amazing is that?!  Yes, it can be a daunting task but it is a task of upmost importance and shouldn't be taken for granted.  Also, our kids won't be little forever and they will become our friends in adulthood and even possibly our caretakers later in life.  Its time to see another side to motherhood and life in this particular season.

2.  Build Your Own Community

In high school and college, it was easy to integrate myself into a group of friends, but since those years the places to find friends aren't so readily available.  I have to be intentional to create my own community.  I have to keep up with people, do things for others and make time in the calendar to put in the time to create and maintain my community.  I have to put myself out there and risk rejection because the reward of having a support network is worth the risk.  So where do you find a mom community?  I have found moms on Facebook groups, theatre rehearsals, the playground, the gym, and even the grocery store.  

I met a mom a few years back that invited me to her prayer group.  It was amazing.  In the yard since it has fizzled out, and this past year I realized just how monumental that group was for me, so I decided to start my own. What do you need?  If you don't like play dates, find a mom that will swap with you - you take her kid so she can have some alone time, then she will take yours.  You can have your girl time and enjoy some of the perks from your old life now, with a little creative community building.

At the end of the day you've got this, but you can't do it alone so if you are trying to do so, than its time to make a few changes.  If you have it all, than maybe its time to find someone who needs you in their community.  We are all in this thing called "life" together!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In Need Of A New Perspective?

I have an ever active two-year-old in my home at this stage in life.  

She is beautiful,
smart and
totally ornery!   She is into EVERYTHING!!! (Please Note: Despite this last characteristic, she is amazing!) 

Because of her tendency to pull everything out and toss it about, there are subsequently a lot of activities that don't happen for me or in our home right now.  Despite this reality, I recently decided to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle.  It took me about a week and while a challenge at first, in the end it was very rewarding. 

I remember in the process, picking up a piece knowing it belonged to a particular section but still struggling to get it to work in the right place, only to notice I was looking at it sideways or upside down. 

Other pieces had to be set aside because they were in a section that was all one color.  I had to wait until the end when I had less pieces to put in so that I could try each piece until I got them all arranged. 

I realized afterwards, that this experience was a great allegory for life. 

We often get frustrated when something doesn't go as planned, but often the way everything goes ends up being the best because we have a God with a plan.  It also illustrates the power of perspective.  Perspective truly is everything.

I recently finished a book (Have A New You By Friday by Kevin Leman) where he shared a great example on the power of perspective.  He discussed an addict who after 2-3 weeks clean, had a relapse.  In that moment perspective can either propel him into action to get up and go for it again or push him into a dark abyss where he feels hopeless to ever be clean.  He can acknowledge that he made it 2-3 weeks and be encouraged that he has done better than ever before and will make the right adjustments to start again, or he can beat himself up for failing and just stop trying because all he is a loser anyway. 

Bullying is a hot topic these days and with all the ways social media can be abused to torture others, it can quickly turn into a serious matter.  As a 38-year-old who grew up before computers were oxygen, I never experienced the levels kids can today, but as I look back to that pre-adolescent time when I was going through a personal hell at home and coming to school to get bashed for my body, family or moral compass, I can now see the benefits of that bullying.  You heard me, right, benefits.  I can see it now with the proper perspective. 

As a youth pastor I am around a lot of teenagers.  I don't just spend time with teens I know, but I also go onto campuses and through myself into situations where I know no one.  Thanks to what I felt in those early years,

I now am highly intuitive to the emotions of others,

I have an exquisite radar for noticing the alienated and

using my conversational skills and quirky affect to pull them out of hiding. 

I have a deeper compassion for the pre-adolescent and adolescent stages because of my varied stations among the proverbial social ladder.  There was a time when I was popular and well-liked by my peers, but that only came after my time as a social pariah. 

Every bad situation has a great perspective (though some don't come with instant understanding).  In fact, let me be clear - telling someone going through a hard time to look at the brighter side, will earn  you a kick in the teeth. 

The use of perspective is not to use as a weapon to tell a parent who just lost a child that they are in a better place.  Perspective is for us to utilize in order to find joy where life has us.  In grief and tragedy, time is often an ingredient to help with perspective. 

But how can you use it now?  Can you take Kevin Leman's example and apply it to your own life?  I recently got angry and threw something breakable.  It shattered to the floor and I started crying.  That is how I used to deal with anger and it has been over 10 years since I have done anything like that.  In that moment I felt like the addict who fell off the wagon, but Kevin's book helped me to see, while I relapsed, I have come a long way and I still have a long way to go. 

I need to use perspective to:

1. Encourage myself and shed light on the positive

2. Motivate myself to overcome obstacles in life

3. Rally other close friends to remind me to keep on the proper perspective path

Sometimes life does suck, but sometimes its all in our perspective and we can move forward when we re-position our thoughts. 

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes as encouragement in your perspective journey:

"A failure is NOT someone who fails, but someone who stops trying."  Jerry Bridges

You got this! Don't give up!!!