Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Last 10 Years

I don’t know about you, but I love the Holderness family. Their videos are so funny and right on point with life.  Their humor gives me the laugh I need as a pick me up for my day.

Their video released just before Christmas (which I can't find now, so if you find it, let me know) was about the ten year review from 2010 to 2020. As I watched their video I began to cry not just because of the progression of their family but because when I thought about what that 10 years meant for me I realized how much reality had changed, transformed really.

January 2010 I was a woman living a reality different than where I stand today.  Kevin and I got married in 2005 and I stepped right into the step-mom role.  I love those bonus daughters of mine (though it wasn't even close to easy in those first few years), but I desperately wanted my own kids.  We tried but I was the woman who had been waiting 5 years to have a baby. I had been calling out to God wondering if I would ever have children on my own.  It was a dream I had no control over and was left with a decision to trust God and promise to love him even if I never had children of my own.

But here I stand 10 years out with two beautiful babies of my own. My son is almost 9 and my daughter is almost 5 and I couldn’t be happier with the role of mom, and having gone through such a hard time and having the children in the first place makes motherhood all the more precious.  I see the hand of God not only in the timing, but in how he has changed my heart in the motherhood process.  I can tell you while life isn't always perfect, I am truly happy! I have joy with my family in the midst of bad days and that joy prevails because it comes in contentment and gratitude to God.

Life is funny, we hit hard times and we move past them.  We are changed for going through them, but when you look back on life, sometimes you can begin to ask yourself, "Did that even happen?"  Of course it did, but the events of my life seem like these stories that are part of me and some are horrors and some utter delights and yet they aren't my reality, today.  Sometimes I feel like I've already lived several lives.

I can’t even imagine what the next ten years will hold, except in 10 years from now I will be the mother of a high school senior and an eighth grader and that is completely crazy to me. I’ll also be 51 so let’s not talk about that!

Let's end by talking about you, not me.  Where are you?  Have you come out of something horrible or are you in the midst of something you'd rather be done with?  Remember time is slow in the moments but fast in the years.  How can you bring more joy into the next 10 years?  Surrender what you can't control and be proactive where you do have choices.  Don't let life pass you by.

This year I want to be more proactive in writing my story and publishing a book (a first of many, if you know me, you know I have all the words).  What about you?  Tell me.  Tell me your journey, tell me your goals, I'm listening!  Also, Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Why Being in Your 40's in 2019 is Amazing?!

Let's be honest, aging isn't always the greatest.  I mean I have wrinkles and saggage (I just made up that word, but you know what it means) in areas that weren't even a thought in my twenties.

I've also worked with teenagers for 20 years and while its fun and rewarding, it can easily make you feel even older.  The vocabulary, styles and humor are constantly changing so just when you think you are tracking, something changes again and you are once again reminded that YOU ARE OLD!

You can all but feel like an idiot when the latest social media outlet or popular device updates and now that program you use every day is unknowable and you have to relearn it, and once again you feel dumb or old, when you know you are neither one of those things.

Your 40's aren't old!!!! They are enough experience to have learned from some mistakes and able to walk in wise directions and you still have half or more of your life left!  That is something to celebrate.  Technology advances and constant changes mean, if you are in your 40's you've seen more change than the generation above you and you've be able to adapt to an ever-changing world coming on your heels.

Ellen Degeneres, on her show, Ellen, has done a few segments highlighting the Baby Boomer/Millennial gap.  Let me tell you it has been HILARIOUS!  Take a minute to watch them, then come back and finish reading, because not only did it make me laugh, it gave me a thought that answers the question in the title of this post.

The first one I saw from about a month ago, introduced old technology or items we used pre-technology and challenged a millennial to use them. Then Ellen did it again in this episode.

Weren't those great?! I am not a Baby Boomer.  As someone who is born in 1978, I am Generation X, sometimes called Xennial, as a micro generation for someone in between the Generation X and Millenial.  So I don't fit either of the generations highlighted in Ellen's show segment, but as I watched the video, my first thought was, every Millennial (1980 - 1995) and even Gen Z (1996-2009) should watch this and more importantly do this challenge with some older technology so that they come to understand that older people aren't stupid, its just not what they know.

Because if you watch the videos above the high school and college student look like idiots and its because they don't know what they are doing, its not because they are actual idiots.  In fact, both demonstrate with personal facts about themselves, that they are in fact, smart.

So what does all this have to do with 40 year olds being awesome? I will tell you.  I alluded to this in the beginning, but we are the best lifeline to both generations.  We remember what it was like to use a rotary phone and be tethered to a phone cord as we talked with friends on the phone.  We remember life before caller id and before voice mail.  We lived before the internet or cell phones were a thing and that means we understand how to tell time on an analogue clock and how to read a map.  We knew what is was like to get up to turn the tv channel as a kid and make sure you were there to watch that show you loved because it wasn't getting taped, but we also have migrated with the times.  We've gone from cassette tapes to CD's to MP3 players to smart phones with streaming services and digital downloads.  We had a myspace account and know what "You've Got Mail" is talking about.  You may not have a Snapchat account, but you know what it is.  We are the timeline and that is beautiful!

We are the past and the future in one and I think that might make us the smartest people on the planet :).  When this world has you feeling old, just remember you know how to do so many things and you are up to continue on the learning journey.  We will have fun as we get most of the jokes along the way too!  Happy Wednesday! Christmas is next week, so I will be sharing back on here in two weeks.  Enjoy your Christmas and if you don't have a lot of people to celebrate with, look out for others in the same boat and make it more fun for all!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Point of Church

Church.  Do you go? Statistics say most people don't anymore.  I have gone pretty much my whole life.  Some churches I've attended had pews, others had chairs and some even met in homes.  The building or the traditions really aren't the point.  Some people get stuck thinking those small details are crucial and they usually end up watching as their church become a sinking ship in a sea of  what once was.

What is the point of church?  Do we need to do it in a certain order? Do we need to all be together or kids in one room and adults in another?  Do we pass an offering plate or allow people to support the church via online website?  Do we sing a certain type of song or sing a certain number of songs?

The point of church has nothing to do with any of those questions, in fact when we say church, in truth, we aren't even talking about a building.

The Christian church is in fact, God's people.  Those who have chosen to accept Jesus as their Savior and work together as a body of believers.  We are the church.  I hear people all the time say something and either precede it or finish it with "I probably shouldn't say this in church," as we stand talking in the building we call "our church."  Obviously, its okay to still call the building church, but its important we know that we are the church.  Our bodies are temples for God's dwelling so the question should be about what we should do with our lives no matter where we are.

The point of church is really connection, worship of God and growing in Him.  That comes through songs and a message, but it also comes in a Bible study or small group setting.

This is an important distinction as we seek to make our "churches" places people in 2019 (soon to be 2020) will attend.

When we hold to tradition more than content, we are failing ourselves and those around us.  The content is what is important.

I recently had a discussion with a few different people on kids in church.  Many older than me feel kids need to be sitting in church with their parents during the service, and quite frankly, if a parent feels that way about their child, then I am not going to disagree.  That is their right as the parent, but I actually have a different perspective.  I want my kids to fall in love with Jesus.  I want them to learn about him, but also connect with him.  My relationship with him is not theirs' so to expect them just to carbon copy my experience is not only ill-informed, its naive.  For my kids to continue going to church, they don't need to see how I do it, and watch me sing along with worship songs or take notes, during a sermon.  They will see my faith every other day in real life.  That is what makes the impact.  I want them to learn as little kids on their level and build on that, so when its time to be in a church service next to me or in their own church as adults, they have the foundation to build on and can be seeking to grow on their own because it matters to them.

I have a relationship with God because I learned the basics, studied the Bible on my own and because I talk to God as an active part of my life.  I talk to God throughout the day and that was because I learned to as a kid.

I don't want my kids to get good at sitting in a pew (or row of chairs), but I want them to be good at going to God and knowing who he is and who he made them to be.

We do need each other and that is why church is so important.  We need to be solid on the foundations of Bible knowledge, and we need to be acting like the body of Christ, all working together as we each do our part, but how that is accomplished on a Sunday morning, really is more about the people gathering than it is about tradition.

We live in a different world than the one I grew up in, and we need to do things differently to reach and care for those around us.

If you go to church, why do you go?  Have you ever asked, "what is the point," in connection with the aspects of your worship service?  Are there things that have become more important to you  than the point?  If you don't go, and you consider yourself a Christian, do you know why you don't go?  It is important that we go deeper and ask the questions.  We need to understand the patterns of our daily living and choices.   Only then can we grow.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Feeling Full

Often after Thanksgiving we start the jokes about adjusting our belt buckles because we are so full from our glutinous meal.  Well here it is the middle of the week after Thanksgiving and I feel full after the glutinous, materialistic shopping spree.

Do you ever wonder if our priorities are a mess?! I am right now the person standing in the glass house throwing stones, my friend, because over the past (almost) week, I dropped some serious coin on my crazy long Christmas list.

I know there are good things involved, giving is always good and buying gifts for others isn't so focused on me (though I did purchase a few small things for myself along the way), but the push to buy-buy-buy, and the over abundance of ads and emails of discounts (and yes, I added to this with my oil sales) can begin to feel overwhelming.

The question would be, just because its the norm and what we all do, does it mean its okay?  Because have you heard of the Colosseum in Rome? Looking back at history, you wonder, "what were they thinking?"  But it was the norm so I'm sure few questioned it.

We have people everywhere starving and we are fighting over sales and ravenously putting things in our virtual and literal carts at feverish speed to grab the deal so we can give the gifts to all and keep the commercial giants in business.  We've sacrificed our Thanksgiving holiday for extra time to get more stuff and you just have to ask, if I took a step back, would this look ridiculous?  I think so.

My kids have enough.  It doesn't mean they don't want more and it doesn't mean that I don't love giving them what they want because it gives me joy, but really I worry that all I am doing is feeding the materialistic monster.

Again, let me stay, I'm standing here in my glass house, throwing rocks, but I guess I'm pausing to look at the rock and question, "why I'm standing in this glass house?"  I'm not gonna lie, I love Black Friday.  I hate that stores open on Thanksgiving, but I was there this year and years past, so if I say anything against it, I'm hypocrite party of one, over here.

We aren't changing the status quo tomorrow or even next Christmas, but maybe we have a discussion about this within our families and discuss ways we can change the climate of culture a bit?  What step can we take?  Sure we have Give Back Tuesday, but doesn't that just seem like a way to sound like the pre-Black Friday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday incessant deals weren't terrible.  Its like, "Hey, we have Give Back Tuesday, so we aren't that bad!"

What if we sat down with our kids in September and said something like:

This is our Christmas budget this year, how much should we each sacrifice to give to something that matters to us?  Who can we help?  What is important to this family?

What giving traditions should we bake into the season, not just one day of, "whoops, I spent too much here's some money to appease my guilt!"  I mean really give throughout the season.

I'm not here with some tips, just asking the question so you can have the discussion. Thanksgiving meals are still beyond our ability to eat them and yet we still keep making them, but I know some that had a Keto Thanksgiving this year, and tailored their dinner table to their diet, so considering the cost of the calories does come into play.  Let's take this step with Christmas gifts!

The real thing at stake is your soul.  I find myself having to take a step back and examine the real meaning of the celebration.  Hint:Its not to see how many presents I can stuff under the tree to show off my deal conquest.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Full Circle

As a girl, I never really felt like I had a place.  I was loved, but with my parents divorced, each creating new families, made it hard for me to feel like I had my own family.  

When I married Kevin, I distinctly remember a family trip to Disneyland where I realized, I had married into the same position I had growing up.  I loved my husband and step daughters, but they were a family before I came a long and I wasn't really sure where I fit.  

Obviously, we powered through the growing pains of our new family, but its been remarkable how adding our two littles has given me what I never had before.  Sure I have a definite place as mom, but the true blessing has been has its restored the heart of that little girl in me.  Raising them with Kevin and being a family has done a remarkable job of healing the wounds of my childhood.  Watching my kids live the benefits of mom and dad in the same house, has given me what I never got.  

Isn't God amazing?! All those years, God was walking with me through the hard times even if I didn't see him and to show his love for me in unique ways because the truth is, I always had a place in his family.  I was always wanted and always part of something beyond myself, even if I couldn't see it.  God saw it and God saw me. 

We live in a world that is cruel at times and we encounter people that don't always use kindness as their compass, but God is there and his time table isn't the same as ours, but not seeing it, isn't the same as it not happening.  

As we look at Turkey Day approaching and we make our thankful list, let's look at the ways God has been good to us, not only in this year but in our life.  

Can you think of some way you felt you were forgotten that later you saw the story come full circle?  

God loves you and is always working in your life.  Its not about what makes sense in the moment, but when we know we can trust our Creator and Savior, we can trust that he is there even when life is not what we hoped it was.  

Besides the story above, I can't tell you how many times God showed me was listening and cared.  

I had a major crush on this guy in high school and we went out once or twice, but it just never came together.   We rediscovered each other in college and ended up dating for a couple years.  He wasn't the one, but while we were dating, I found an old high school journal where I asked God to let me date him.  There was more to it than that, but I thought, "wow, God saw me."  

In high school while living in Germany, we went to Israel and visited the Holocaust Museum.  They have a Garden of Remembrance where trees are planted in memory of those non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.  A tree is planted once that person dies.  When I was there, Corrie Ten Boom had just passed away.  I loved her and her story and wanted so desperately to see her tree.  It was time to go and I still had not found her tree.  I told God just how much I wanted to see it and asked if he would let me find the tree. Another woman in our tour and I were talking and as we talked I discovered we'd gotten lost and had been separated from the group.  As we turned to head back the way we had come, I looked down and guess what I saw?  You guessed it - Corrie Ten Boom's tree.  That wasn't a life altering request but it mattered to God, because I matter to God!  Being seen and valued is one of the greatest gifts we can ask for. 

Isn't that worth being grateful for?  Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone! - Carrie  

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Parenting Perspective

Can I just say my kids are growing up WAY TOO FAST! My youngest is about to hit five and I don't know what to do with myself. She may act like a teenager with her larger than life personality, but shes still small so I can hold her, but she's getting so big so fast!

P.S. I tried to carry my son the other night because he fell asleep on the couch and that did not go well, because his eight year old man body is WAY TOO BIG for me to carry! Let's just say he was awake by the time we made it to his bed.  

This mom thing is a serious job.  Sure, I will always be there mom and they can come to me anytime, but the time I have to shape them is just going so quickly.  I often wonder if I'm doing it wrong.  
Parenting is the hardest thing I will ever do.  There is some irony to the hilarity of our world -  all the time and money we spend to get college degrees to be proficient in the work place, yet all we have to do to become parents is have sex, no training, no tests, just go and don't screw up these little people looking to us for life direction.  

Growing up, I always thought there would be this moment when I became an adult.  This switch that made me "adult Carrie" versus "girl Carrie."  But that moment never happened. 

Sure I've matured and grown, but I'm still Carrie.  My inner soul mirror still reflects the same person it did from elementary kid til now throughout the timeline. So feeling equip to raise little humans just doesn't seem possible, but it's the job that is in my lap and its a job that does expire.  The formative years are short and I need to make the most of them. 

I started reading Proverbs this week and I decided I didn't just want to read it, I wanted to study it.  Lately, I've been reading in my grandpa's Bible.  My uncle gave it to me when my Pappy died and even though its not my favorite translation, I feel connected to him when I read it.  What I do love about the Bible is the plethora of scriptures noted beside the verses.  So I can go on this journey to find other passages that add to the meaning.  I've also been highlighting and noting key words.  So I feel like I'm getting more out of Proverbs than ever before.  

In chapter one, Solomon, the author of the book, warns young people to listen to wisdom and pay attention to the instruction of their parents.  He warns of fools and the misdirection they may try to lead them on.  As I went through just that chapter two things struck me.

1.  My job as a parent is not just to make sure my kids get a good education and have great experiences, my job as a parent is to train my kids in Christ.  It is to help them know the dangers they might face in life and give them the tools to overcome it.  The question became, am I spending too much time on the wrong things?  

I choose to live in a humble place of always grappling with that question.  Earlier this year, I attended a conference and the idea of inoculating my children to the bad ideas they may encounter was introduced.  Too many times we try to shelter our children, when we should be letting them know what they will encounter out in the real world and why certain things don't work the way they are sold to us and why.  Kids need to know what they believe, why and how to defend it.  That right there is the most important part of my job.  

The second thing that struck me: 

2.  The person Solomon is warning growing men and women about weren't random strangers in the world but people from within their circle.  As I started reading the connected passages, it gave more detail of the fools and those who ignore wisdom.  It was a message of something like - be careful of those around you in your church or in your Christian circle who may try to lead you down the wrong path.  Sounds like of fitting since being a Christian in 2019 can mean 3 billion variations of "Christian."  

We do need to be wise about the people we look to for guidance.  Not everyone has our best interest at heart or has their compass set in the right direction.  If our aim is to honor God, then we need to know him and to use what he says as our guide.  We have to be ever watchful and know what to allow in and what to stay away from. 

Proverbs 1:7 tell us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."  Fear doesn't mean horror movie type fear but reverence or honor.  (Though it might feel like the horror movie type if you are talking about your boss and unbeknownst to you, your boss comes up behind you.  That moment of discovery might make you freak out.)

Can I tell you just how reassuring it is to have that plumb line?! The truth is, I don't have to have a college degree in parenting to raise my little humans, but it does help to be connected with the Creator of it all.  

Today's post is really about realigning your life with your purpose.  Its about making sure you keep the main thing, the main thing.  We so easily get caught up in the rat race that we forget what we are supposed to be doing.  I'm not saying you don't keep doing life, I'm just saying, make sure you haven't lost your intentionality when it comes to life and parenting.  Make sure you are connected with the source, so that you have what you need to lead.

We only get eighteen years, which may seem like a long time when we get up at 3am to do a feeding or change a diaper, but trust me, we spend more of our life without our kids than with them and we need to make sure we are pointing them in the right direction.  

Happy Wednesday! 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Doing You Jesus' Way

If you are alive in 2019 you have heard someone say, "You Do You!"

Here's the thing, I love and hate this phrase and I have been thinking about why I love it and why it bugs me. 

So many times the religion of Christianity takes over and squashes that relational aspect.  The strict rules and "my way" attitude seem to put people into boxes in ways that they just don't fit.  You see the box of crayons smashed to bits as the beauty in those that weren't accepted as “right” are discarded. 

God made us all different ON PURPOSE.  We weren't made to look identical to those around us.  I know, I talked about that last week and I don't want to be that broken record, so I will continue with this post. 

We are meant to be us, but there is a comma after that sentence ON PURPOSE as well. 

It can be easy to get the American Dream mixed up with the Biblical calling God has given us.  They don't always match.  Of course God wants us to follow our heart, but more than that he wants us to seek him with all our heart and allow that relationship guide the path.  Sometimes God uses the crap and mess to meet us where we are and make us the best versions of ourselves that we can be. 

I love, "You Do You," because we need to embrace who were were created it to be, but I don't like it because we were made for more.  We are like that microwave on the counter, unless its plugged into some electricity it ain't doing anything.  We are the best us when we are connected to our Creator, our Savior, our King!

We were made to work within the body of Christ and that often means putting others first.  It means sacrifice and self-denial.  I do think its important to validate yourself before you hand yourself over to Jesus and allow Him to speak into your life. 

Trying to check the boxes and meet all the rules isn't going to work, because that would be our effort and it isn't our effort, but God's mercy.  We have to surrender ourselves to Jesus.  When we know we are loved and can trust him, doing so isn't scary. Life is never easy, but we weren’t created for this world.  Heaven is our home.  God has given us a mission and it involves others.  Finding the balance in knowing and accepting yourself and submitting to God’s plan for your life is key.  

Let’s face it, we don’t really want people to do them if it means causing harm to others or themselves, but we do want them to not feel pressure to be a reflection of everyone else is around them.

 The Bible may only say that God said,” It’s Good,” on creation days, but he said it about all of his creation which includes me and you singularly.  We need to accept that we were made to be us and cherish who that is. The question isn’t, “how can I fit in?” Instead it’s, “how can I serve God?” One question looks outward to compare and the other looks inward and factors in who we are.  

Maybe you are saying, “Carrie, that’s all well and great, but, how?”

First, do you know what makes you, you? Do you know how you can shine? Do you know what you add to the world? Start answering those questions.  Take some personality tests, ask your friends, look at where you find most joy.  

Second, embrace the creation.  Can you list 20 wonderful things about yourself? Do you doubt your value? Are you worried that others can discount you and cut you down to worthless? If so then it’s time to ask God to show you how he sees you.  What he sees when he says, “ it is good!”

Daily write down the beauty you see in yourself.  When you hear those negative voices begin to replace them.  Find scriptures that speak to this and write them down. Post them where you can see them and be reminded.

Third, ask God to show you how you can serve and honor him, specifically how can you walk with him.  Spend time with God.  Maybe it’s time for a daily Bible reading and quiet time in prayer.  Come to know what a relationship with God looks like, not just a religion.  The beauty happens in the time together. 

True freedom is in being who God creates us to be.  Go be free! 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

I Am Not You

"I Am Not You!" 

This is something we should all repeat to ourselves on a daily basis every time we feel the nudge that says -

that woman has her act together more than me.  
She looks better, 
is more organized, 
is better at getting her kids to school on time, 
has more going for her, 
is a better cook,
has more friends because she's more outgoing or
is a better person of faith than me. 

The truth is: she is not you. 

The need for this statement isn't just a moment of reflection in my bag of insecurities, instead its found in the consistent, repetitive comments I hear in conversations with other women, we all have that voice that reaches out of our own area of weakness and grabs hold of that one woman who has other strengths.  But we aren't the women around us. 

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times.  

You get to be you!

No one else gets that honor.  I often feel like a disheveled mess next too the moms I stand beside at pick up or sit next to in a mom circle at whatever meeting, Bible study or prayer group we may be at, and yet, I know there are people out there who look at me with a level of jealously that I don't get.  I see all of me while others see only a portion.  I can forget where I stand out and how I add when get sucked into the comparison trap.  The thing is we may not often feel confident, but that doesn't mean we don't try.  

I have no problem, blubbering through a first conversation with a woman I'd like to befriend, because despite any word stumbles, I know the friendship is worth it, and the potential rejection is worth knowing, she's not my people.

I do put myself out there, but its not because I always feel comfortable doing it, its because I know its worth the embarrassment I might encounter.  I try new things because I like the discovery of it all. Not everything sticks and it doesn't have to.  On the flipside, I don't try certain things because of fear and that is what I need to work on.  You and I will inevitably have different strengths and weakness.  That my friends is beautiful!

Ladies, we need to get this.  Why?  Because we have a generation of kids coming up who are living online.  They have filters and retakes and other ways to hid or try again before they put themselves out there.  If a post doesn't get the desired response, they can remove it.  They don't have life teaching them that they will fail and that's okay.  This is setting them up to be devastated when they are rejected, lonely and when they do in fact, fail.  The rise in suicide rates is in doubt, connected to the internet world that is our reality.  I'm not saying its all bad, but we have recognize where the dangers are located so we can navigate through them. 
If we are able to show our kids and our friends' kids that we can step up to the plate in the face of fear, and that is okay because we are who we were made to be, then we are giving them the tools they need to do the same. 

I am not someone that thinks who I am out the gate is a perfect woman, but I do think I have to own up to who I am to ever have a chance at being the best me.  I have to acknowledge who God designed me to be and love what he created, and then once I see that I am not the cookie cutter person as the others I encounter, God can mold me more into his image.  

That takes awkward encounters and uncomfortable moments.  It means embracing the difficult for the goal on the other side.  

Dare to see yourself the way your creator did when he made you and said, "It is good." Dare to embrace the way you add to the world instead of comparing how you are deficient to the women around you.  Dare to model courage and vulnerability in the way you face relationships and life.  Dare to live outside your comfort zone in order to have the best life possible.  

Still don't think you can do that one thing? Guess what, we may not have the strength in ourselves, but if we have God, he gives us what we need to step up and step out! Go read these verses and be encouraged!

So Let's Do This! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Light of Recent Events

In general, I never really felt like I fit into Christian culture.  I wasn't ever struggling with big issues like my sexuality, but something about me, just wasn't what I perceived as the acceptable way to be a Christian.

I loved Jesus and I loved my church.  I was blessed to grow up in a good one.  Pastor Grant Edwards and Pastor John Essig not only spoke the word of God from a pulpit on Sundays, but also in the way they lived.  When I needed someone to talk to John Essig's door was open and when my mom, sister and I had no where to go in the middle of messy life with my abusive stepdad, Grant and his family welcomed us into their homes on more than one occasion.  I didn't just see Jesus from my sermon notes, I saw Him in everyday life throughout the years I was able to go to Fellowship in Springfield, Ohio.

When I went to college, I not only struggled with finding healing from past abuse and my abortion, but I also struggled with my role in the church.  TCU is a great school and Texas is a great state, but so many churches made it clear, a woman wasn't allowed in leadership.

It led to a tension that I had to come to grips with.  I wanted to serve God and honor him and if that meant I couldn't lead, well I would figure it out, but I also felt God's nudge for me to lead and I was stuck in needing a resolution between these sides.  I can recall conversations I had in those years.  One particularly with my roommate who asked me something like, "Carrie, what if you are the only Christian in a country where no one knows Jesus, are you just supposed to keep quiet because you're a woman?"

When I came to Visalia after graduation and before going to Colorado, my dad introduced me to Bible scholar, Kenneth Bailey.  In fact, I got to hear him speak in southern California on my trek up to Visalia.  Kenneth Bailey in his life, looked at the Middle Eastern roots of the scriptures and showed how, in a culture where women weren't allowed to do anything, Jesus gave space for them to be his disciples, apostles, elders and even witnesses to major events. 

This point was driven home by theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann when he said “without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.”

Yes, there are scriptures about women being silent in church, but again understanding the context behind the scripture gleans new meaning.  I also got to sit in a Jewish Synagogue in Jerusalem and understood first hand why a woman, sitting with other women, unable to hear and unable to read, might want to call down to her husband for clarity and why, for the order of the service, be asked to wait until she got home. 

There are also scriptures that say in Christ we aren't male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28) and that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all people regardless of fleshly distinction (Acts 2:17).  White, black, brown, male, female, isn't a thing in God's world, we are his people.

We can't take one scripture and build an entire theology around it, we must instead take it all as a collective message and draw our conclusions from the whole.

Gaining understanding gave me peace.  It helped me to know God had given me the clearance to go wherever he called me.  Even though I felt the leadership tug, I never planned to go into ministry.  What started as a temporary Youth Pastor position became a lifetime commitment as I now stand in the humble position of Associate Pastor in our church.

 I hear it said often that its 2019, times have changed, but if that is all it was, I couldn't be a pastor.  That wouldn't be reason enough for me.  Regardless of the year, the Bible makes the case for women in leadership and I can stand on its truth.  I know others can make a case for the opposite and as long as we can live in a place of mutual respect, I’m okay with the disagreement. Aside from my own personal quest, women in ministry is a non-essential.  Its an area we can agree to disagree.

So why am I even talking about this?  Well if you are in the Christian community at all, or know someone who is, you probably know about the latest John MacArthur/Beth Moore debacle.  A recent conference included a panel to include John MacArthur, where they were asked to play a game, a game of word association, but instead of just a fun game of - blue - sky - rain - clouds - white...they did what they have done before and listed a Christian leader and were asked to comment in a judgemental fashion.

This time they named, Beth Moore.  She was called a Narcissist, told to "Go Home" and John MacArthur went as far as to say, “There is no case that can be made Biblically for a woman preacher, period, paragraph, end of discussion.” To which an audience cheered, laughed, clapped and jeered.

The game alone is appalling, especially on a stage as a Christian witness, but to also put yourself on the pinnacle of Scripture authority to whom no one can disagree, is arrogant at best.  What happened to the humility we are to have as leaders in the Christian faith?  What happened to honoring the body?  This is not the way we were called to live. We were called to be different.  To live in love in the face of discord and disagreement.  I loved Pastor Jeremy Hudson's response on Facebook, and especially resonated with this section, 

"The roaring laughter and applause from the audience seems to indicate that the Church has gotten more comfortable taking our dialogue cues from the pages of politics rather than the pages of Scripture.

Let me be clear; It is never, Never, NEVER ok to attack someone else because you disagree with their view point. That was how the Pharisees did it, not Jesus."

Kathrin Koehler comment on Jeremy's post poignantly describes the scene when she says, "Listening to the audio of this conference was almost surreal... like an excerpt from the Hunger Games with host Caesar Flickerman."

So in a world so divided on so many issues, how did God tell us to act? 

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)

"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another." (1 John 3:11)

"Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

"Do all your work in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14)

"Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together." (Ephesians 4:2-3)

We are a world of people all different and can all read these non-essential faith concepts and understand if differently.  When we respect that and love in the face of difference we resemble Christ, we learn, and grow as people.  Beth Moore has apparently read these passages above, because when it came time to respond, instead of throwing her jabs back over the fence, she responded in love, as one of her tweets ends in, "I esteem you as my sibling in Christ."  Wow! That would take a lot of prayer and submission to God for me to use that line.  Way to Go Beth! 

Trust me we are going to disagree on a lot of topics between now and the time we die, but as Christians, how we respond is just as important as the truth in our response.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Its Not Sin

Being a Christian in 2019 is hard and the biggest reason its so hard is because "Christian" can mean a variety of things based on who you are talk to.  That is confusing.  The Bible understood through context is really the only starting off place for knowing truly what a Christian is and what they believe.  As we navigate the definitions or the central beliefs, we have to be cautious with taking a belief as it comes from the lips of friends, family and acquaintances as a Bible-based Christian principle.  

March of this year, our dog was hit by a car, and in a process of a couple months, needed two surgeries, in that window, our 4-year old randomly started seizing and almost died in the local ER before recovering at the children's hospital about an hour away. 

Also in this time frame, we needed to get our roof replaced after some record rainfall left puddles in our house.  Just as we came out of all of that, our second dog and a neighbor dog got into a fight and we had to pay for the vet bills for the neighbor's dog.  

We then discovered my car was having trouble and had to be repaired.  In 5 months not only did we suffer these incidents and a few other ones too, but these incidents came with 5 major financial hits.  We went from being debt-free to $20,000 in debt and that is after the almost $10,000 we were able to pay off. 

As my husband discussed all of this with a friend, the friend (self-proclaimed fellow Christian) mentioned to my husband that maybe we had some sin in our lives that was causing all of this.  

Insert eye roll here.  Bad theology rears its ugly head.  To set the record straight, that comment is wrong!  Negative life happenings is not automatically a result of sin. If you are in question of that, read the book of Job in the Bible.  Job's friends accused Job of sin when his world was rocked, but God set them straight.  Life is hard.  

I'm not saying God never punished someone, and I'm also not saying, natural consequences of our choices isn't a thing, because it is.  But just because you go through a hard time, doesn't mean, you have sin in your life. It also doesn’t mean God has forgotten you.  God is always with us in the midst of the hard times and the good. You are a human being living in the imperfect world.  God does make us a promise in the hard times. 

 John 16:33 says, 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We are promised peace in the middle of the mess we call life. As Christians, we know this world is not our home.  That eternal home is heaven.  Our goal should never be a problem free life.  Instead it should be to follow Jesus and to trust him in the midst of whatever storm we have endured.  If I'm being honest, some of my biggest blessings and strongest traits were forged out of the hard things I went through in life.  A few of them were a result of sin, but God didn't forget about me or abandon me.  He let me figure it out and when I came back running, he was there.  He guided me and I followed and I was better for it.  

Sin is the wrong we do against God, and it does separate us from God.  The point of dealing with sin is so that we may be closer to our Creator.  Its not just wrong actions but attitudes and when we read the Bible, we see that the religious leaders who acted above the law and spent their time condemning the people, were living in sin.     

Each of us as friends should be supportive for those in our lives as they walk through life, waiting to cast judgement when we don't have all the information. We are best at speaking wisdom when its wrapped in love.  We also should take time to reflect into our own lives.  David is a great example of how we should approach God.  He was humble as he asked God to search him and lead him to in the right way (Psalm 139).  We all have areas we could improve or change, even in the smallest of ways.  Go to God and ask him if there is sin in your life, but not because you are fearful of being zapped, but because life connect to Jesus is the best life! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Who Is At The Door?

Yesterday, I woke up at 3:40am after hearing the doorbell ring twice.  Kevin headed to the door and I was worried about pending danger.  The thing is, when I woke up, I realized the door bell and Kevin headed to do the door were both a dream.  My husband was still sound asleep beside me.  But the fear I felt in that moment, woke me up.   I immediately thought of an episode of Criminal Minds (a show I stopped watching when I had kids because the reality of the scripts were too real for me to process).  This episode of Criminal Minds was about a serial killer that approached people's front door with the ruse of a broken down vehicle, then used the open door to kill. 

As I sat up awake, I began to think about the front door.  That front door we all have with the cute wreath and Amazon packages out piled high can bring so many things into your home and ultimately, your life.  It can bring danger, it can bring a stranger, it can bring a package or a friend or family member.  Until we look through the glass or eye hole, we don't know what is at our front door.  We have a chose to open the door, ignore it or in emergency situations call the police. 

The front door is our gate to decide who we let in and who we keep out.  Our home is our domain and who we let in is important.  It can offer us joy and safety, annoyance, an opportunity to help or receive or it can bring fear.  Depending upon who is at the door, depends on what can happen.  

Then I started thinking of Jesus.  Yes, Jesus is close to most thoughts.  I had a classmate ask me in high school keyboarding class if my password for class was Jesus, so obviously, that fact that I love Jesus, isn't a secret.  By the way, my password was cheese - ha! Okay, I got off topic.  Do you know what word picture Jesus uses when he talks about a relationship with you and me?  You got it.  Its a door.

Romans 3:20 -  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me."

Jesus offers us the opportunity to have a relationship with him and he approaches us and allows us to decide if we will grant him access to our lives.  We get to choose.  I don't know about you (or even if we are on the same page here), but I love serving a God who is a gentleman; a God who lets me choose him.  But seriously guys, Jesus at the front door is an amazing reality! Can you imagine your favorite human hero or celebrity rolling up at your house and tapping at your front door?  What kind of reaction would that spawn?  Yet here the Bible tells us that Jesus, who is God, always was and always will be God, at your door!  We have an opportunity to connect with the Creator of the Universe, knocking on our door! Crazy cool!!!  He loves each of us just because we are his creation and he wants to know each of us! 

What do you want for your life?  We have all kinds of choices and sometimes we act like we don't have a choice, but we do.  After being a Christian for awhile we take for granted the huge opportunity we have to connect with Jesus, but that opportunity is there.  Will you take it?  Will you open the door?   

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mind Buffet

Golden Corral, Hometown Buffet, Cici's Pizza, Sizzler, Souplantation and the list goes on of all-you-can-eat buffets in our country.  When you think of a buffet its a bounty of food available to eat.  Pay your price and eat everything you can in the sitting.

Well recently, I thought about another buffet.  The mind buffet.  What am I talking about?  I talking about the thoughts we fixate on and allow our brains to consume.  As I've been reading through,"Afraid of All the Things: Tornadoes, Cancer, Adoption, and Other Stuff You Need the Gospel For," by Scarlet Hiltibidal , I was reminded of the importance of what we mentally feed on.

If your fear is being struck by lightening, feeding on YouTube videos of people struck by lightening isn't going to help. It will in fact feed the fear that you don't want to grow.  That fear will get bigger.  You don't want that.  Living in fear is living in bondage.  You become a slave to the thing you fear.

As Scarlet points out in her book, the probability of you actually going through that thing you fear is slim to none.  In his book, "When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life," Dr. David D Burns, talks about a lie many people live by that says by worrying about something, they can keep it from happening, when in reality, worrying about it doesn't have any bearing on whether or not it happens.  

Feeding what fuels you towards peace is the best way to help yourself.  Here are some scriptures to help you in that journey.

Proverbs 4:23 - Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

2 Corinthians 10:5 - We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Colossians 3:2-5 - Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you did, and your life is now with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

I John 4:18 - There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Facing our fears with truth and love can be very powerful.  Feeding on truth and peace instead of fear is the best mind buffet we could ask for. If you are afraid of financial ruin, focus on being wise with your money and then trust God with the rest.  Financial ruin can happen to any of us and so many things are out of our control, so focusing on that doesn't help, but creating budgets and wise investing, etc, can be a great action step.

Obviously, if fear or anxiety is out of control, speaking to your doctor and/or therapist, is a necessary step.  I don't want to oversimplify a complex issue, but I do think checking what we are feeding on is something we all can do!

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Shoot the Ducks

Earlier this month, I spent time at a Women's Retreat up at Hartland Christian Camp.  The weekend was great.  I have been going up for years to do a workshop for the ladies.  I have done talks on the serious and the silly of spirituality and life.  

This year I was asked to do a workshop on marriage.  It was a humbling topic.  God has been speaking to me recently through the Bible studies and books I have been reading.  They all seem to deal with the same topics (honestly it was unintentional) - dying to self, facing fears, trusting God.  So as I prepared my workshop, I had Luke 9:23-24 on my list of scriptures to share.  

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Funny thing, because unbeknownst to me, that was the retreat theme verse and the main speaker shared several things that seemed to be speaking just to me.  

She shared about how in life she realized fear was the Lord of her life and not Jesus.  She realized she had to get God in control and not fear.  My heart echoed with this truth.  Fear has had way too much control in my decisions and actions for too long.  Some of it is fear of the unknown and the bad things that happen and other parts are just fears of being perceived as a bad mom or something similar.  I try so hard to have life controlled and ordered. 

The next morning she shared another quote that hit me between the eyes.  She shared that God said to her, "Laura, you want to get all your ducks in a row, but shoot the ducks and follow me."  

That one phase stuck with me all weekend, in fact, you may even see me wearing it on a t-shirt one day because I love it.  


Stop trying to keep everything perfect, shoot those ducks in a row and just follow Jesus!  That is the recipe for the best life, not checking all the boxes.  

What hoops are you jumping through to orchestrate your life?  Is it causing you stress or peace?  Chances are, its causing you to lose your mind, not have the mind of Christ.  Following Jesus won't always look like your neighbor or that perfect woman who sits two rows in front of you in church (p.s. she's not really perfect, she probably is losing her mind with all her ducks).  Following Jesus will look different, true its all under the umbrella of scriptural truth, but how God plays that out in us will not look the same because we are all different.  

If we are the body of Christ all with different gifts, as the Bible says, then we weren't made to look the same.  We were made to do what God created us to do.  Seek him and find what that looks like, not the standard of perfection for women in 2019.  

There is no YouTube video for how God wants you to do you.  You have to seek him in his word and study the Bible.  Getting that time to connect with God and understand how he made you allows you to put it all together and find the freedom to be that special person he designed. God's plan is better than anything you could ever imagine!!!  So who is with me?  Who is ready to shoot the ducks and follow Jesus?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Life with Teenagers

Teenagers often get a bad wrap.  They are frequently described as all attitude and hard to handle, disobeying, disrespecting and dismantling their parents at every turn.

Yes, the teen years are challenging both for the teen and the parent, but teenagers are amazing people in process, who are full of possibilities and open to life.

It has been my honor for a good part of my adult life to work with junior high and high school students.  My journey with this unique population started in my junior year of college.  I worked as a volunteer with the youth group at the church I attended during my semester abroad in London.

One favorite memory was a sleepover my friend, Kristin, and I hosted at one of the girl's homes. We painted nails and hung out making snacks in the kitchen, and we also shared our experiences through timelines of our life. We even managed to learn a bit about God over the course of the evening.

I loved it! Maybe that was when working with teens became a part of me, I just didn't know it yet.

I came back to the states and my senior year intern experience for my sign language minor involved planning an event with Imagination Celebration, an arts festival for the local deaf students.  
This arts festival included deaf dancers from Gallaudet University and around the world. It was an amazing experience and I was so honored to be involved and to see the faces of the students who attended.

My senior year I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation.  It was daunting to see the end of college approaching without any idea what was in store. But then I was contacted by Julie Wood from Doulos Ministries, who said I had signed up for more information about their ministry my Freshman year (a memory I still don't recall to this day).  

Doulos Ministries offers post-college aged adults a one-year discipleship program that not only teaches about the Bible and provides ministry training, but works as the care staff for Shelterwood their residential care facility for troubled teens (now its called a therapeutic boarding school). This year also came with training from the staff counselors.  I applied and was accepted and began to work on raising support.

After graduation I returned to Visalia, Ca, the town my dad and stepmom relocated to after my dad's retirement from the Army.  He decided to trade his role as a Military Chaplain for the lead Pastor of a church.   While I was home for the summer I worked alongside the youth pastor as the assistant.  I enjoyed building relationships with the kids and teens of the church over the summer, then headed to Colorado for the next adventure. 

The year at Shelterwood was wonderful but hard, I packed my bags a couple of times in that year completely done with the experience, but I made a commitment, so I stayed.  I tell people I'd never take it out of my life, but I'd also never do it again.  

I forged friendships in that year that have been amazing blessings over the years.  I also learned a ton! Working with teenagers facing hard stuff changed me and how I looked at life, how I viewed my Bible and how I faced the world, and I was better because of it.  As the year wrapped up, I thought my time with teenagers was over.

I got a call from my dad asking if I wanted to come be the youth pastor at his church, after the one I'd worked with had to be let go.  I really wanted to stay in Colorado but had a hard time getting a full-time job.  I told my dad if I didn't get a job I applied for at my church, I would consider going.  I didn't get the job,but I still wasn't sure.  One night I decided to stay in Colorado, and before calling my dad, I called my mom in Ohio.  She wisely told me to sleep on it.  I woke up the next morning and knew I needed to go, despite my resistance to do so.

February 1, 2003 I drove out with my dad in his van behind me and moved myself and all my belongings to Visalia.  It started out as a very part-time position that came with free housing in my parents' guest house.  I told myself this was temporary.  

My hours grew and so did my years there.  Before I knew it I had been there 15 years.   It was crazy to see adults around town who I knew as a teenager.  The silly moments, the tearful exchanges, the relationships and spiritual growth were all part of this career I accidentally built.  

Shortly after my 15 year marker, my dad announced he was retiring.  He and my stepmom were moving to Texas to live near some friends and I was faced with the reality of being without my family in my work and in my town.

In this 15 years, I had gotten married, helped raised my husband's two girls and birthed two kids of my own.  I have my own family but it is different.  What was really weird was,  I was going to stay at the church.  That church of my dad's I had temporarily come to help.  A new pastor stepped into my dad's spot and things started to change.  

I saw 16 years come and go, but just after that, our children's pastor stepped down from her job, and the offer to do both children and youth full-time was offered to me.  I didn't want full-time and I also knew I couldn't be a youth pastor forever.  Some of the aspects of the job were proving hard with kids of my own.  

So plans were made to hire someone and shift me into an Associate Pastor role working primarily with women.   It seemed like natural transition as many of the teens I'd loved over the years, came back to me seeking guidance as adults.  It was like my past created a new position for me.

I knew it was time for a change and I am happy with my new role, but I have to say I miss teenagers.  My husband says I will never stop being a youth pastor because being there for teens is just part of me.  I'm sure he's right, and as I reflect over the journey, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you to every teenager who crossed my path and just know I am always here for you from the youth group kids still in high school, to the ones in their 30's who I knew when it all started.  Teenagers are a blessing, something more people should appreciate! Happy Wednesday!