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Caroline

Faith

What Do We Do While We Wait?

August 17, 2018

When Mark and I first became parents our world was permanently flipped upside down. Almost everything changed. But there were a few things we decided to keep doing as best as we could — and one of those was eating out as a family.

We didn’t give a ton of thought to the decision. We just knew we didn’t want having kids to keep us from going to restaurants. Even though it’s a lot crazier now, we love trying new places or even taking our kids to some favorites from our dating days.

It’s fun for us and of course delicious. But there’s another reason why we’ve kept up this rhythm, especially as things have gotten more complicated now with a toddler and a baby.

Because eating out is a great way to learn to wait.

From the moment you walk into a restaurant there is a sequence of waiting — for your table, your waiter, your drinks, your food, and your check. It’s all a progression and it all requires waiting.

One of the reasons we love bringing our kids with us is that they learn how to wait too, which is an essential life skill.

Life is full of transitions, progressions, and periods of waiting. It doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are, there’s always the tension of what is not yet — which is why learning to wait is so important.

Lately I’ve been writing on how we need this waiting process despite its stretching and difficulty. We don’t want to miss the deep work offered in the waiting that mandates we mature and become through the days we live.

But that definitely doesn’t make waiting easy or seamless. We all know it isn’t.

It’s why when we’re eating out, I like to look around at the other parents with their kids too. If I can catch an eye, I give a subtle smile as a way of saying, “I’m with you and this isn’t easy, but you’re doing great.”

Because they’re waiting too and for all the screams, bribes of food, and soft shushes, we’re all trying to be present (even enjoy) while we’re there.

This obviously expands far outside those restaurant walls. No matter how different our lives look, you and I are both navigating what hasn’t yet happened. Sometimes we’re able to handle it fairly well, but other times we’re about to crumble under the uncertainty of when, if, or how.

So what do we do while we wait? Here are a few thoughts…

1. We keep standing.

In the psalms, David sings of God’s goodness to come. He’s confident he will see it. But it’s also clear that he’s in the tension of what isn’t, so he adds,

Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” [Psalm 27:14]

Whenever I read this verse I imagine myself on a BOSU. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically half an exercise ball with a firm, flat side to it. There are many ways to use it, but most often I’ve stood on the flat side so that the curved part is between my feet and the ground. The whole thing is unbelievably wobbly when you’re on it. Your only options are to pull your core tight and let your legs shake like crazy, or ungraciously fall to the ground. I only learned to do the first because of the countless times I’ve done the second.

When we’re standing on the uncertain ground of waiting and have no idea when things will change or how they will look, we have to determine that we will keep standing in what life is right now. Because standing keeps us living what is before us, and there’s no partaking in what comes if we miss what is right now.

We must pull our core tight and determine we will hold firm to our truth — of who God is, who we are, and what he has promised — while we stand in this waiting.

2. We pour out gratitude.

You’ll hear me come back to thankfulness over and over. Waiting challenges us to choose gratefulness where we are without any circumstantial changes.

In fact, thankfulness naturally shifts our perception of our problems to see things from a higher vantage point. So there’s an exchange of complaining, commiserating, and wallowing for celebrating, living, and enjoying.

Things won’t always be as they are right now, which is good news for those of us who are living under intense waiting in this season. But the opportunity as we wait is that we can be wildly thankful both for what is and what we believe will come.

3. We make declarations.

One of the greatest gifts in the waiting is the chance to grow in the prophetic. It naturally upgrades our faith and our ability to connect with God higher than surrounding circumstances or present emotions.

Though we stand in what is and are grateful for it, what do we believe God will do even still?

Right before David charged himself to be strong and wait, he declared this:

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [Psalm 27:13]

David hadn’t tasted or seen it yet, but he knew he would. He believed God would pour out his goodness in the days ahead.

Only as we wait do we have the opportunity to lift an offering of faith to God and declare he is doing beyond what we see or know in this moment. So we raise our voices high and declare what still comes.

4. We gather others.

We’re not meant to do any of this on our own. In fact one of the gifts of the waiting, though uncomfortable too, is that it demands the participation of others. We can’t navigate the pressure on our own. We need people in our corner, believing for us when we’re tired, doubtful, or totally defeated.

Recently I sat on the couch across from my husband, Mark, and processed through some self-doubt in my own waiting. I knew the answers to my spinning questions, but I needed more than that.

Mark looked me straight in the eyes and spoke the words I was feeling too overwhelmed to say for myself. He reminded me of my resolve to keep standing and that we are thankful for what God is doing. He spoke prophetic words of who he sees me to be and what he believes will still be done.

His words resettled and recharged me. They reignited that fire in me to keep going.

Ultimately this is what the waiting demands, that we invite people to be in it with us so we aren’t crushed by it. This isn’t a one-and-done experience, but something we keep practicing. Because gathering people to remind us along the journey of our identity, calling, and passion is the only way to keep standing, believing, and declaring for what God will do next.

 

What’s been helpful to you as you navigate disappointment or prolonged waiting? I’d love for you to share below!

Faith

What Happens After We Don’t Get What We Want?

August 8, 2018

Last week I published my story about God meeting me in such an unexpected way through my disappointment. Since then I have received numerous messages from others who shared their stories with me, ones about disappointment in relationships or with finding their own home or in wondering when their breakthrough will come.

It’s a place we’re all pretty familiar with, isn’t it? We know what it means to live today amid what is not yet, or maybe never, or hopefully someday.

What I’ve become so aware of as I read these messages is that disappointment is sacred work. That’s a funny way of saying it since we consider disappointment this place we will do everything in our power to move ourselves out of as quickly as possible.

But we change and become by that tension, as un-welcomed as we know it to be in the moment. We’re never the same.

If you and I were sitting down for coffee and I asked you to tell me a story about God moving in your life, most of the big ones carry a heavy dose of loss, disappointment, or delay. Because this is where we meet God as both bigger than what we see before us and as doing what is beyond our vision.

I remember the deep disappointment I felt a few years ago when I stepped away from a ministry I loved. Even though I made the choice, it was so clearly by God’s prompting that I felt like somehow my obedience had chartered my way to disappointment. Following God wasn’t supposed to bring me here, so I thought to myself countless times.

There I was smack in the middle of my own disappointment for what wasn’t.

The season that followed, not one of weeks or months but more like years, was full of questions and fears. Disappointment has this surprisingly effective way of pulling stuff out of us that we thought we’d never see or show.

It’s kind of like when my toddler daughter, Eloise, goes rummaging in my closest. I have some ignored nooks in there, from which she will never fail to pull a pair of my shoes from years ago. They were so far in the back, so tucked away under other shoes or hidden in miscellaneous boxes, that I had forgotten all about them — until she dug into those dark caverns and unearthed what was hiding.

In my mind, this is one of the first things disappointment does. Its sudden intrusion into our life pulls out all these emotions, fears, and insecurities that we thought weren’t there (or had happily been keeping dormant).

Before I stepped out of the ministry I was involved with, I considered myself secure in who God was in me and what he had called me to do. But then everything went quiet and the outward expression of it all was gone in an instant. The disappointment of what wasn’t brought with it a flood of fears and insecurities, ones I didn’t even know were there. I wondered if God had forgotten me or if things would ever change or did I even have a purpose.

That place, with all the emotions and disappointment, can feel incredibly overwhelming, even wholly defeating. While I’m certainly not here to try to wrap a pretty bow around a genuinely raw place of life, maybe even yours in this moment, what I know to be truth is this:

But.

There’s always a but and thank God there’s one. Because as one of my favorite verses says,

But God’s not finished.” [Isaiah 30:18]

Thankfully disappointment is never the destination. We don’t stay there. That’s good news for those us of who woke up today with some heavy disappointment.

The journey may not be what we want, of course, because it often comes with unexpected turns, stretching twists, and major detours. But the work of God’s Spirit in us and in our story means we don’t stay there. Though we find ourselves there today (or one day soon), God is moving us even still.

And yet what happens while we are there is the stuff that changes us. Because if you are in the midst of what isn’t today, hear me on this — this is the holy ground of coming face-to-face with God. This is where you and I meet him in the most raw and honest way. This is the place of wrestling and becoming, where perseverance is built and hope becomes real.

This is where God changes the story, our story, and it becomes even better.

Not today necessarily, and maybe not tomorrow either. Maybe not even in the immediate days ahead. But the story of what God is doing in, through, and around us, that moves too — sometimes in the suddenly and sometimes in the slowly. But no matter what, the story gets better. He promises us it gets better.

Because somehow, as only God can do in the way he does, our disappointment upgrades us. It expands our story, our faith, and our future. It elevates us to see from a higher vantage point than what we feel or know right now.

For me, those years of disappointment were painfully quiet in many ways, but they were powerful too. Even now God is still digging out of me things I didn’t know were laying dormant. He is changing me through the absence, the quiet, the hiddenness. This is where I am finding him and where I am becoming in him.

Disappointment is sacred work, because it’s where God changes, moves, and expands us for what is ahead. We’re never the same after walking through a season of coming face-to-face with him in the middle of what is not. Our experience of who he is and what he is like is never the same either.

So no matter where you are today, but especially if you find yourself in that holy pit of good and ugly disappointment, how I pray you know what powerful work God is doing in and through you even still.

God’s not finished.

The story gets better.

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.

Live Here. Love Now.

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