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Caroline

Faith Life

What Do We Do When We Don’t Get What We Want?

August 2, 2018

We moved back from Florida last October. It wasn’t the easiest transition – most aren’t for me if I’m honest. At the time I was almost 8 months pregnant with Caden. I was excited for what our move back to Atlanta meant for our family, but also sad to say goodbye to an amazing community in Florida.

Questions swirled in my head between our decision to move and it actually taking place. Were we missing it, I wondered. Was this total madness doing all this transition at the same time, I thought. (Yes, yes it was.)

But those lingering questions were silenced by an outright flood of God’s kindness, all by way of the house we rented. Because this isn’t just any house. It is a tangible reminder in our massive whirl of transition, and many moments since, that God is so kind to his people, to my family, to me.

It was three years ago when I first walked into our Atlanta bungalow. At the time I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, Eloise, and so hopeful that this was the house we would rent. I found it minutes after its posting on Zillow, a sure sign it was meant to be ours. An open house was scheduled for a week later, but I immediately emailed the agent asking if we could get in early to see it.

I loved it. My pregnancy hormones were high and I was certain this little house was the perfect place to nest our growing family.

I quickly received a reply back to my request telling me I’d have to wait until the open house, at which point they would review all applications and make a decision.

The day of the open house came and I went to check it out with my friend, Cindy. Walking through its doors only confirmed how much I wanted to rent it. Mark and I were living cozy in a two-bedroom condo and the idea of space, a backyard, and even a designated nursery sounded amazing.

I submitted my application, prayed like a wild woman, called up my favorite prayer warriors to join me, and waited.

A few days later I was in Ohio for a friend’s wedding when I got the call. There were too many applicants, the agent said, so they chose the couple with the highest gross income.

It wasn’t us.

In the grand scheme of life, problems, and letdowns, this isn’t huge. This is a house that we wanted to rent and we didn’t get. I totally get that.

And yet…

My disappointment was real. I felt crushed by the news. This house made sense, I reasoned with God. It ticked all the boxes of what would bring ease and comfort, so I reminded him. Plus I just felt it – deep in my gut – that we could make it our home.

But even with my heartfelt petitions, which there were many, it was a bold no.

I knew with a baby coming soon that I needed to move myself out of that disappointed space, and fast. Disappointment is natural and meant to be felt, but it’s never a destination. It’s an honest and raw stop along the journey, and a place where most of us find ourselves more times than we’d ever prefer. But we’re not meant to build a foundation or start making home there.

So I did the only thing I know really works when I feel most disappointed. I drove back to the house, (creepily?) parked my car in front of it, and prayed over the family who would move in there. I could still visualize our family in that house, but I had to come to grips that this wasn’t our gift. I determined the best way to redirect my attention and energy towards what was ours in that season was to thank God for the family who would make it their home.

Because channeling prayers and words of blessing into what God is doing – even and especially when it is not the outcome we envision – is a powerful way to steward disappointment.

Words of thanks and honor are some of the best tools when we find ourselves most disappointed. They propel us out of where we are. They ensure we don’t camp too long on the ground of what isn’t, but instead keep moving ourselves ahead by celebrating what actually is.

So with some tears streaming, I thanked God for the family who would call that place home – and for all those families who would come after them too.

Amen, let it be.

Fast forward two years to last August when we knew we were moving back to Atlanta. Anyone who lives here knows how difficult it is to find a rental property when you live in this city, let alone when you’re doing all the work from another location. Mark was prepping me that our best option was likely for us to move into an apartment complex until we got our feet on the ground.

I cried. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I also knew I’d get over it and we’d make the best of it.

The next day I did a quick search, something I hadn’t done in a while, to see what rental properties were listed. There, posted an hour earlier, was the exact house I had desperately hoped to rent two years prior – back on the market, available right when we needed, and priced at exactly what we agreed we wouldn’t go over.

Mark called the company to see what the chances were we could rent it and found out two things. One, they were having a hard time scheduling an open house with the current family. Nothing had been set yet even though they were ready to get it rented. And two, they were only willing to rent to people who had seen the property in person.

So because we had seen it and wanted to rent it, they let us put our application through before showing the house to anyone else.

And that house is now our home.

I often catch myself smiling when I walk through its green door, and not a week goes by that I don’t pull into the driveway and say “thank you” one more time for it. It’s a quirky little place that’s been wonderfully gifted to our family. So I never want to forget what God has done for us. How kind he was in a season of transition. How perfectly he planned things beyond our vision. How he taught me about blessing others in the midst of my disappointment.

Because, totally unbeknownst to me, I prayed for our family who would call this place home exactly two years later.

Obviously the timing wasn’t what I wanted. But because it wasn’t, and because there was waiting, wondering, and disappointment along the journey, it means so much more to me today.

The story changed and so did its meaning.

It’s not just a place I was hoping to nest my family when we first became a family of three. It’s where we sowed prayer and blessing even when we didn’t think we’d ever step foot through its door again, and yet God did what we couldn’t imagine.

He gifted back to us something we thought was gone, done, and over. Still he heard. Still he moved. Still he gave.

This home is a constant reminder to me. I walk through its door and remember again how much it matters what we do and how we respond in those in-between and not-yet moments of life. Because they determine what comes next, days, weeks, and seasons ahead.

What we sow today, we will harvest. Not a single prayer, word, or tear of honesty, hope, or courage is ever lost.

I wrote to a friend of mine last week and processed through some of my reflections on my current life. I tucked these words into it that I am convinced of today:

The fact that it hasn’t always been this way makes me so grateful for what is in this season. The absence in seasons past paved the way for deeper thankfulness and awareness in our present.

May you and I keep challenging ourselves to carry a vision beyond all that it is or isn’t today. Because how we choose to respond and what we choose to speak, no matter what does or doesn’t happen, makes all the difference.

Faith Leadership

Why Consistency is the Key to Breakthrough

July 3, 2018

For the last week I’ve had a thought running through my head. I’m not sure when it started, but from the minute I heard it I knew it was something I wanted to hold onto.

Because the whisper I heard was this,

Consistency is the means for breakthrough.

It struck me because of how challenging I find some days in this season. I can easily get overwhelmed by meeting the necessary demands of my day – things like keeping my kids fed, napped, and bathed – that so many other tasks get set to the side. Some of that is true and natural to my current season. But I am also recognizing that there are areas in my life that mandate my consistency for God’s breakthrough.

Sometimes God works suddenly and out of nowhere moves on our behalf, causing everything to change in an instance. It’s as quick and unexpected as a clap of thunder in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. There’s no warning to it and it totally jolts us by its entrance.

Those breakthroughs are certainly exciting, but they are also rare.

Most of the time God moves through our participation in the everyday and ordinary of life, where we actively engage with and remain consistent in what matters for the long-term.

Why is consistency so central to breakthrough? Because innate to it is partnership, the act of joining with God who is with us. To show up and continue doing so means we are committing ourselves as partners in the breakthrough. There’s something so beautiful in that. It’s not solely about God doing what he wants in us, but us joining with him in what he’s already up to.

As I see it, consistency is one way we say a loud, firm yes and amen to the promises of God in our lives. Just as God is an active God who is moving on our behalf, those promises are active too, being worked out as we keep moving forward. And so they require our activity in order to ignite their transformation — from promise extended to breakthrough experienced.

Tucked into the need of consistency for breakthrough is the question of whether we are willing to move, dig, and progress little-by-little because we have caught hold of the vision beyond how we feel or what we see.

When we have grasped the larger why, we become inspired in the mundane to keep showing up. The vision promotes and enables our consistency in the small and ordinary choices.

Ultimately the most compelling why is the one that is far greater than our individual lives or limits. They encompass the impossible of Heaven crashing down and working in our realms, unfolding a story of God’s move among his people. When we are anchored to a story bigger than us, we are propelled by a why greater than us. And that, I believe, is the most effective way to build consistency. God invites us to catch a vision of him moving in, through, and around us beyond any one of our lives alone.

These are the thoughts currently at the forefront of my mind. Not because I have mastered their execution but because I am discovering that there is an undeniable correlation between consistency and breakthrough. Commitment moves God. So does perseverance and doing the hidden work of sowing seeds far below the surface.

I am becoming convinced that to be prophetic people means to see and believe for what God will do in the years and seasons ahead by way of showing up in the small, ordinary, and consistent choices of today. When we catch the vision of what God will do, we find ourselves with no choice but to put action and momentum behind it. It’s the natural, innate response.

Because if we’re really confident that what he has promised he will do, we will choose to partner with him in it for all the days required until we taste and see.

So can we hold faith by being consistent in what matters even when we may feel like giving up, sitting down, or walking away? Are we so purposed, determined, and willing to see breakthrough that we will keep going today and tomorrow and for as many days ahead even if no one sees or we wonder how it ever could be?

Showing up consistently reflects deep partnership with God and confidence that in due time he will move. And yet, even if he doesn’t, we still play our part because partnership with him in greater depths and realities is the ultimate breakthrough we could possibly uncover.

Faith

The Decisions, Moments, and Choices that Matter Most (Part 2)

June 27, 2018

Last week I wrote about how what we do in the hidden times and seasons matters a lot. But I’ve felt challenged that there’s still more. Because it’s not only about what we do. It’s also about what we believe and rest in.

When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, over and over he repeated the same few words, “You’ve heard it said, but now I say.” He took the people deeper, challenged their paradigms even more, and turned their old system upside down in order to introduce them to a totally new way of doing life and kingdom.

When I think about who I am in the unseen places of my life, those words “but now I say…” pull me deeper. They remind me that not only are my actions important, but even more so are my beliefs.

Because it matters what you and I choose to believe, stand on, and hold faith for in the hidden place where no one sees or knows.

The question that uncovers this best is, what are the truths we rest in when it seems like everything is against us or nothing is happening for us or all the good stuff is taking place elsewhere?

So to consider what you and I choose to believe and rehearse over in our minds when we are faced with another friend who gets his or her long-awaited breakthrough, which also happens to be the same one we’re hoping for.

Or when we receive the letter that our funding didn’t come through, book isn’t going to be published, or dream job isn’t happening.

Or when we find ourselves feeling betrayed, rejected, or hurt by those we love most or highly esteem in our lives.

Or when someone speaks words over us that belittle our identity, passion, or calling.

These moments are critical ones. They force us to wrestle with and settle on the truths we are firmly holding to despite what we see or feel. The choice is as unseen as can be, and yet it determines everything about what flows from us.

Because in the tension we are offered the chance to hold to God’s goodness and elevate our thoughts to his truth. To bless, honor, and thank even with all that is before us or around us or not happening for us. To embrace God’s promise as greater than our circumstances and resolve he is faithful and working no matter the current moment.

None of this happens when things are going as planned, but when hopes are delayed, breakthrough is happening somewhere else or when we are feeling overwhelmingly tucked away by God. Because it is on that tense, hidden ground that what we choose to believe comes to the surface — and brings its fruit with it.

We are most ripe for breakthrough when we have sown seeds in faith and trust in God in the hidden place. When no one can see and no one knows, there we are offered the opportunity to bring forth life and goodness around us by the thoughts we think, truth we stand upon, and promises we recount.

So what reveals who we are and who we are becoming are not merely our unseen actions, but also our choices to trust, thank, bless, and honor even if it comes alongside tears, pain, or unanswered questions. This isn’t easy or flawless or without its mess, but it is holy nonetheless.

Because powerful partnership with God looks like choosing when no one knows or sees (or may not even care) to believe God is good, to carry a confidence beyond our comprehension, or to speak honor and blessing elsewhere. Those are the bold choices that make all the difference.

Faith

The Decisions, Moments, & Choices that Matter Most (Part 1)

June 19, 2018

As a mom of two littles I am acutely aware of two things in this season: demands are plentiful and time is limited.

Over and over again I have to surrender to the reality that I literally cannot do it all. I cannot meet every need or pursue every dream. All isn’t an option. While it’s a good place to be, and one that I am consistently resting (or being wrestled) back into, it’s also led me to ask the question,

What does it look like to steward well today and tomorrow? The demands and the dreams? The work and the vision?

I imagine a lot of you are there with me. You may be carrying this hope for the future, whether it is to build a company, a ministry, or a family, but today looks like showing up to the same job each day to pay bills. Or maybe you’re currently enrolling in semester after semester of school to one day step out into the professional field you know you’re made for. Or maybe you’re in a season like mine where you are spending your days at home while also carrying a desire to pursue a vocation sometime and somewhere ahead.

The balancing act of living today while also holding dreams for the future is a tricky one. And while I don’t have a complete answer to offer, I have landed on a strong conviction that keeps me going on those extra mundane or overly demanding days.

Because I am convinced that the key is to steward the unseen as brilliantly and faithfully as possible.

It’s easy to spout off the big picture when someone asks us what we sense ourselves called to — to tell of where we’re heading, what it will look like, how we imagine it will feel. While keeping the end game in mind enables us to head in the right direction, what determines if we’ll get there is the everyday stuff.

We can’t afford to forget that the small, daily choices make the greatest difference.

The decisions to show up, keep going, push past emotions and believe for what God will do matter, a lot. Because what keeps us partnering with the dreams God has given us are the unseen actions of our lives. It’s the secret place where eyes are off us that determines whether we are investing in those seeds planted deep within.

It’s the stuff like what you do in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the world is sleeping, the research you stay up late to do after the kids are asleep, or the schooling you squeeze into an already busy life. It may be unrecognized and overlooked, but it’s significant, holy work.

Because partnering with those God-given dreams of our lives looks like making daily choices to do the hard, hidden work to keep building momentum in the direction God is leading us.

David is a great example of this. Most of us can recount how he was called as a young boy to kill Goliath with the eyes of his people and his enemies upon him. With mere stones but in the strength of a powerful God, he brought down the giant. But what we often overlook is that he didn’t become a giant slayer when he killed Goliath. He became one when he was by himself, all alone in the fields conquering the lion and the bear with his bare hands (1 Samuel 17:32-37). His transformation in the hidden, secret place enabled him to publicly slay the giant.

The private actions and unseen decisions determine who we will become and where we will go.

So it is for all that God calls us to pursue — the small stuff matters. How we show up, believe, and move forward by those convictions when no one sees and no one knows matters. So does how we remain faithful and present in the necessary and hidden work of today. Because ultimately what forms us into the people who will carry what God will ask of us in the seasons to come is our choice to steward well what is before us right now.

*Stay tuned for more thoughts next week. Or if you don’t want to miss it, subscribe by email in the box to the right!

Life

3 Choices to Make When Life Doesn’t Look as You Imagined

June 12, 2018

Let’s be honest. For a lot of us life isn’t playing out the way thought it would.

Consider what you pictured life to look like when you were xx years old and most likely it is nothing as you imagined (and definitely for the better on many counts).

So you find yourself, like most of us, living in the tension of dreams unmet and hopes still delayed.

And in that place it can be tempting to swing one of two ways. The first is to decide you are powerless to change anything so you may as well ride life out as a passive pawn. You don’t do much pushing or wrestling, but a lot of letting things be and waiting for change to come when, how, and if it will.

Or you determine you will do everything possible to fix yourself out of the tension, essentially trying to force the intersection of your reality with dreams and desires. You may strive or hustle as hard as possible to change whatever hurts most right now in an effort to eject yourself out of pain or disappointment. Or you may abruptly change everything — job, location, and community — in hopes that a self-induced transition will bring breakthrough with it.

But there’s another choice available. To engage with our frustration, disappointment, or dissatisfaction with life as it is right now. To leverage it as a means to grow our character and become who we are created to be in the middle of the process.

Because the answer is not merely to disregard today or do all we can to fix our way out of it. But instead to be changed in the midst of it. To live in the tension of longings unrealized. To stay awake and alive where callings and dreams haven’t yet met reality. And there to move from needing to fix frustrations and disappointments to learning from them.

Because what isn’t is one of the most powerful teachers for us to grow and become right where we are.

And if we decide to remain in the tension of what is yet to be, there are 3 choices we can make:

1. To make peace with life as it is.

It’s a good practice for us to come to an honest (and frequent) place of making peace with today, especially when it is not everything we want it to be. A habit of gratitude mandates we look at what is before us, accept that it is not all we wish or want, and still receive it for what it is. I’m pretty convinced this is integral to maturity. Because to a certain extent, what frustrates us today is something we must simply get over by remaining thankful for what is — especially when it is not everything we desire it to be.

2. To realign ourselves.

When we take time to consider what is most dissatisfying, it uncovers areas of fear, control, or where we’re off course. So we must dig deeper into why we are so frustrated with where we find ourselves.

Are we anxious to move ahead because we are afraid we will be forgotten, overlooked, or bypassed?

Are we unwilling to allow God to unfold his process in his timing because we are determined to have things look a specific way?

Is God’s leading or nudging being overshadowed by what we (or others) think we should give our time, talents, or attention to?

Taking time to sit in the reality of what is and ask ourselves pointed questions reveals where we need to realign ourselves.

3. To reignite with fresh conviction to become right where we are. When stewarded well, the tension can fuel us with passion again. Because we can resolve that even still it is worth it for us to stay and believe that here God will move. We change and become when we refuse to allow frustrations to detract us from faithfully stewarding today or from believing for what God will do ahead. Pressure causes us to grow. Tension forces us to strengthen. So frustration can refocus and reignite us to give ourselves to what matters most.

The ultimate choice we can make is to decide that no matter when, how, or if we see those dreams come to be in our lives, we keep engaging. We keep believing and growing right where we are. Because the possibility for what God can do in and through us is worth the present tension, and it requires us to live well what is today.

Right here and right now is where we can tap into a faith that is not determined by what we see with our eyes or how we feel in the moment, but by God who is with us in all of it.

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