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Caroline

Faith

The Cost of Revelation

May 16, 2016

Last week I submitted a giant paper – 39 pages in total. In high school 4 pages felt like an eternal task to overcome. But somehow I sent in that thing and it felt so good. So good.

So what did I write on?

Well, a whole 3 verses.

It sounds crazy to imagine writing so much on so little, but it’s easier than you might think. The minute I started reading over those verses, reciting and hearing myself speak them, opening books and pulling back the veil on the words, a world opened of connection, meaning and understanding.

Out it came, 3 verses, 4 months, 39 pages and more hours than I could ever count.

Not only was I up before dawn most days to squeeze in some writing before the first peep came from the nursery above, but so many others made this possible. At the beginning of the semester Mark and I assessed what needed to get done for my school along with his work (and our move) and looked at each other knowing we literally could not do this without help. That’s the thing about parenthood – it will get you so dependent on community that no matter what your feelings are prior to kiddos, the minute you have a little one you will need the help of others.

So the paper was made possible by our village. Friends took Eloise for an afternoon when we had no coverage. Family flew down for a weekend while I flew up to school. Others housed and fed me while I was away. And still another drove hours one evening to give me a big hug after a weekend of Hebrew (and a long month of moving).

Those verses demanded more than I was ever prepared to give. So when I pushed submit I was in total shock. I couldn’t believe it. My eyes were red and blurry from staring at the computer for so long, my hair hadn’t been washed in days, and my clothes were on repeat for the nth time that week.

But I was done.

I sat back, exhaled a huge sigh of relief and took a moment to let it soak in. There it hit me.

Revelation comes by hard work. And it will always cost.

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We think (hope) revelation has to do with luck. We bank on hitting the jackpot on some beautiful secret of the Kingdom that will provide understanding and intimacy and knowledge of God.

It’s easy to sit in church, at a conference, or listen to a podcast and hear some speaker release this incredible word of insight about God’s Kingdom. They may teach on a scripture we’ve heard for years, but something is so fresh. We’ve never heard it like that before. We leave hungry for more with excitement high and wonder if maybe we can grab hold of some nugget of truth with the same ease as when they taught it.

But not long after, we’re as dried up, burned out, and weary as ever.

Why? Two reasons.

1. We’re camping out in the false land that says the secrets of the Kingdom come by ease, quickness, or luck. They don’t. They never will.

2. We’ve feasted on the revelation of another as if it were our own. We stopped going to the source, willing to trade true nourishment for the quick fix of another’s treasure.

But the truth is that revelation has everything to do with cultivation, hard work, and blistered up hands from digging into the ground ourselves. The words of great anointing that set people free and release the Spirit of God are always anchored in stories of wrestling and struggling and plain old-fashioned hard work.

We say we want to know God more, to understand the greater depths of the Kingdom and to release something fresh upon this earth. But the question is, how much will we let it cost?

Revelation bears the price of life experience and it demands hard work. We can never carry or release a word we have not lived. Knowing God requires patience, seasons of obscurity, struggle or heartache, and a willingness to work hard for our own bread.

The only way to satisfy our hunger to know God is to dig into it for ourselves so we reap what will truly nourish the weary parts of us. There is no shortcut.

Life

Funny Unmet Expectations of Mamahood

March 11, 2016

Expectations are funny because they’re rarely met. It’s pretty safe to say the more you’re expecting something to go a certain way the more you can prepare that it likely won’t. Because how we envision things rarely (ever?) happen as we think. So we must learn to laugh. Laughing is good. I’m doing a lot of laughing in mamahood.

Since my current life remains a crazy swirl of packing and goodbyeing (and schooling and mothering and all the other roles), I figured today I’d laugh about some unmet expectations. Because there are many and thinking back to my pregnancy season and the first few months of mamahood has been funny.

So here are three stories about things not going as expected.

First, below you will see the pretty picture of our pristine white crib. I took this photo just weeks before Eloise was born. While I had surrendered to the fact that I wouldn’t have an official nursery, I did have a crib! And I was one proud wifey the night Mark put that crib together. I watched with glowing pregnant-mama eyes dreaming about the day I’d bring our little babe home and place her into it. Just the next day I carefully picked out the sweet sheets to go on it, laid out those dreft-smelling swaddles, and snapped this photo.

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The current reality is that Eloise is 4.5 months old and has yet to sleep in her crib once. In fact, as I write this her crib is upside down in a corner of our living room waiting to be dismantled by Mark once he gets over the fact that he will have to take apart the whole thing before she ever sleeps one night in it. Expectation of beautiful crib life straight off Pinterest definitely not met.

I also remember being so excited for newborn photos to be taken just after she was born, with all her wrinkles in full site and the falsity of a sleeping, peaceful baby beautifully framed forever. I imagined holding onto this photo as a keepsake for years to come, pulling it out to one day show Eloise of her little peaceful self captured in all its sweetness.

Real life told a different story. The day we were discharged from the hospital was the day the photographer came knocking at our door to take pictures. No one tells you that your room is a revolving door of doctors and nurses for the 48 hours you are in the hospital. Or that there is absolutely no consoling a hungry baby. Or that in your exhaustion you will likely have no idea who is before you, why they are there, or what they even want from you. But there the woman was, camera in hand ready to snap some pics. But there was also a hungry baby and deliriously tired parents. And that combo made for pictures like none other.

Here you have it, our very first newborn photo forever captured.

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And then there was the fact that somehow I never considered my own recovery after having Eloise. I didn’t have complications with her birth, so I somehow thought I would instantly bounce back to normal life. I think in reality, I had no clue the level of ibuprofen I was being dished out every few hours at the hospital.

So we came home and the next morning the weather was beautiful and I was ready to get outside. I had been home from the hospital for about 24 hours and hadn’t taken any meds, so I popped 1 measly ibuprofen and told my mom and Mark that we should go for a walk. So we tucked Eloise in my wrap and headed off.

Within about 10 steps, I noticed my mom and Mark walking way faster than I was comfortable with. I asked them to slow it on down and we continued forward. I had in my mind that we would walk a nice leisurely 1 mile. Instead we went the half block of our condo complex (50 yards?) and headed home.

I didn’t leave the couch for another 3 days.

Happy Friday, friends. Next time I write, it’s from our new home in FLORIDA!

Life

Sometimes We Simply Go

March 7, 2016

Mark and I have been packing machines this past week with our season in Atlanta quickly coming to a close. As I pull things down from the walls and stuff them to the brim into boxes, I find myself wondering what in the world is happening. On one hand, I know in that deep place that this is what’s next. But such knowledge doesn’t keep my tears from falling or questions from coming.

In this waiting place, I can easily spin. I look around at everything that must be put somewhere and am anxious to just get it done, thinking if I do it all then somehow the overwhelming emotions that come with this transition will dissolve. But in reality, all the boxes packed in the world will not displace the tension I feel.

We’ve felt the nudge of transition for a while, knowing that the time for a change was approaching. We weren’t necessarily attached to a specific plan of where we wanted to go. Instead we had a 5-card hand of options, each with its picture of what life could be. They were all appealing in their own way.

But this one, we never saw it coming.

I’ve vacillated between excitement and terror over the move. When we first found out, I couldn’t wait to FaceTime one of my best friends and tell her we were moving a mere 45 minutes away. Her face was total shock. “I didn’t even know Orlando was an option!” she exclaimed.

“Me neither!” I laughed back. That was one of my favorite moments.

But then there’s the side of this that means saying goodbye to a whole life here. Leaving friendships I have done life with for a decade. People who are as close as family. Relationships I never imagined I would hug goodbye and physically move away from.

My smattering of emotions is exhausting, most of all for me.

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So in the spinning, swirling, I-feel-totally-out-of-control place, I keep doing what I know best. I quiet myself. Put on music. Close my eyes. And soak in God’s presence. I let his words be an anchor for my soul and pour fresh life over my weary bones. His whisper blows away my anxiety and calms my craziness. His promises for what awaits ignite me. His presence grounds me.

In the stillness, I listen. And the words remind me again: sometimes, we simply go.

God tells his people at Mount Sinai words I can’t shake. Time and again these last few years these words have charged me to move forward in all kinds of situations that have unfolded. There, at that place where so much life happened for Israel, covenant was made and broken, mess and promise happening together, God tells them that they have stayed there long enough. It is time to get going and move ahead.

Sometimes, we must advance without the plan, guarantee, or comfort as companions. We go despite uncertainties. And declare by our movement that familiarity and safety do not set the boundary lines for our lives.

Here’s the thing. We may get lost. We may even fail. But we still go because we know we will hear a voice, his voice. And that alone makes it worth it. We move forward not because of what will happen for us, but because of who we will encounter. Even when we are terrified or stretched beyond what we can handle, we go so we will find him.

And that’s enough.

As my head spins and my heart overflows with emotion, I remind myself again that we’re going because of the potential that we will find something real in this next season. The counterfeit is not worth the cost, but the real thing – the real God – he is worth everything. To find him is worth laying down our control, our familiarity, our need to sculpt our own life and live by our own plans.

Sometimes we look at what is being asked and say yes because it means one more season of trusting and believing and waiting and hoping. And there, he is always found.

Life

Learning to Love Life

February 23, 2016

At times I can really struggle to enjoy life. It’s pretty easy for my eyes wander to what is going on around and let the goodness in my own life slip right through my hands. To compare, decide how my life doesn’t measure up, and find myself in total despair – all in the matter of three thoughts.

Sometimes I can even recognize that destructive voice in my head for what it is and still listen to it. In those moments, it’s almost as if I’m the door holder for that thief to come right on into my space and steal what valuables I have. If I’m not intentional to move myself out of that cycle, I feel totally stuck, slipping from comparison to despair to utter defeat.

I’d love to say that those tendencies don’t affect me today, but they still do. Everyday there are temptations to allow what isn’t in my life to trump all that is. And it always begins with a thought.

But the other day, the three of us were on a walk through our neighborhood. The sun was gently setting and Eloise was tucked in my carrier snug against my chest taking her short catnap. I didn’t realize Mark and I had stopped talking because in my mind I was having a whole dialogue with myself about all that makes me thankful and alive today.

Out of the stillness, I turned to Mark and said, “You know, I really love my life.”

I let out a big, thankful exhale because that statement was so true for me. It wasn’t some prophetic profession in an effort to move myself toward a desired reality. It was a declaration that I have walked into some tangible breakthrough.

I feel more secure in my skin and more thankful for my life than I have ever settled into before. I’m not as antsy to move ahead to prove something. I’m patient in the process today, where I am and what God is doing. This has been a major transition and one that certainly didn’t just happen. Thinking about it, there are some things I started doing over the last few years that have moved me to a more rested place.

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One major thing I did was take back permission from the outside world for my life. This is huge. If we are living with a set of expectations of what will make us happy based on what must happen to, for, or around us, we will never be happy. If our enjoyment is only contingent on the external, whether it be applause, promotion, or abundance, we will always feel dissatisfied and disappointed. Our permission to live and enjoy life cannot be based on external voices, but on the inner one that reminds us, “You are enough and today is a gift.”

I began really celebrating others, especially when it was something I longed for in my life. I decided to live from the place of abundance, not lack – believing there is always enough. Always. The people around me became reminders not of how I am missing out or not measuring up, but of what is possible for my life. Their victories cheer me on to believe more for myself. Their breakthroughs prophetically speak hope for what can be in my own life.

I say thank you, a lot. Thankfulness lets us enjoy what is presently happening in life.

I take control of my thoughts. I shut off that tempting voice which beckons me to make external circumstances a megaphone for my own inadequacy. Though I am still learning to be quicker in this, what’s helpful is identifying my rhythms and triggers. Knowing when it may be easier to give in allows me to be extra aware that I need to speak out truth.

I relaxed, realized time is finite, and that I might as well enjoy today for all that it is. Maybe becoming a mom did this or maybe just getting older. But I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time, the false guarantee that I have tomorrow.

And finally, I’m taking risks to move forward in some deeply planted dreams in my life. I’m breaking out of stagnancy and each step is reviving me. Pushing past my own fear reminds me not only that I am alive, but that life is exciting, risky, and beautiful.

Faith

When Promotion Came

February 16, 2016

The gracious reality of trying seasons is that they don’t, in fact, last forever. So we knew eventually a fresh wind would come our way and send us in a new direction. And thankfully, it did.

The beautiful irony of last year is that while Mark started off without a job, he ended with a promotion. A promotion that both excites and terrifies us. A promotion that requires a total upheaval of life. A promotion that, one month from now, means our little clan is pulling up our stakes in Georgia and planting them smack-dab in the middle of Orlando.

We’re moving by the subtle whisper of God who is calling us to a new adventure totally outside familiar territory. While I find myself fairly freaked out by the whole change and wondering what in the world we are doing, my friends keep cheering me on. They remind me that this is a great adventure we’re living as our little family. I’m so thankful for their excitement. And I believe them. Adventure is exhilarating.

But I also know that adventure is filled with lonely days, new rhythms, and dependency in the midst of utter unfamiliarity. Adventure is a gift. But it is work. It is undeniably glorious and painfully stretching – the coupled reality of all of God’s journeys.

God is a sending God. Sometimes that comforts me, knowing that faith does not have stagnancy interwoven through it. But risk and unknowns are certain to be companions, and that can be unnerving. To build and establish what will last beyond our lifetime almost always means heading somewhere foreign to do what we have no idea about at the time of sending.

Given our current situation, I’ve been thinking a lot about moments of promotion, upgrade, and acceleration in life. What I’ve realized most is that those times are never what we imagine them to be.

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Heading into this new adventure, I’m aware of a couple things:

First, whether in seasons of drought or rainfall we are required to steward what is before us. Mark and I were responsible for our how we responded to what came our way last year. Did we use God’s promises to stabilize us in the middle of the shakiness or keep them shelved? Did we allow circumstances to swirl us into chaos or listen to the small whisper that quiets us into trust. How we handle uncertainties determines a lot of what we’ll be entrusted with ahead.

Also, promotion doesn’t really fix anything. For us, yes, Mark has a job. But that job means added challenges like planting ourselves in a foreign place. If those moments of promotion are considered the promised land, the falsity is that there all loose ends get tied and all messes get cleaned. There is no land where there are no loose ends and no messes. Over and over I must remind myself to break out of this destination mentality that says that ahead, over there, I will find my nice plot of land where I can thrive, be at peace, and remain uninterrupted.

Because the peace, growth, and character we long to gain are always built where there is tension. That tension reminds us that we are living a greater story than ourselves.

Ultimately, I would say that this move scares me more than others because I have absolutely no idea what is on the other side. With past decisions, I had an inkling of how life would change, through community, travel, or ministry opportunities. But this move leaves me fairly speechless. I don’t know what to say about it because I don’t at all know what it holds. I have no clue what life looks on the other side of this jump.

But then there’s that whisper, the one who met me a decade ago, the one whose quiet voice pierces me with his love. That voice says to go, not knowing a thing about this journey, and trust in his favor over our family in this season. That voice reminds me that it’s all a journey without a destination point.

His whisper says again to me that the keys to enjoying life are thankfulness and partaking in today’s offering.