Sunday, 20 May 2018

When God Is The One Who's Waiting



It was meant to encourage me, but something about what my friend had written in her message made me uncomfortable.

I read it again.

‘Keep strong until you learn what God has in store from all that has happened.’

I winced. There it was again. The uneasiness. The feeling of undue responsibility.

My eyes fell on these three small yet heavy words… ‘until you learn’.

I thought about all that I had learned over the past couple of years. Years where one disappointment after the other ran headlong into the other. Yes, it had been a difficult time, but I had not wasted the pain (or so I thought). I had learned…

That God is indeed sovereign.

That He keeps His promise never to leave me or forsake me.

That He is far better to me than I deserve.  

Those were major lessons. Ones that had etched their way into my being.

Was there more for me to learn yet? What was I missing?

But as I read her words again, I realized something. My friend was not chiding me to learn more lessons, more pearls of wisdom unearthed through the murkiness of life, no she wanted me to keep my eyes open, waiting to see what God has in store for me.

But it was that simple word ‘until’ that really unnerved me. It spoke of the passage of time. It symbolized that there would be waiting involved.

And I don’t know if you know, but waiting is hard.

Oh, it’s not so bad in the beginning or when you know exactly how long you’ll be waiting for. 

But when the time is uncertain and all you could hear is ‘the slow-moving tick of nothing really getting much better’, waiting becomes painful.

‘The slow-moving tick of nothing really getting much better’ – those were my daughter’s words written as she explained what it’s like living in a post disaster zone. But they apply to mostly all of waiting. Nothing changing. Nothing getting better. Just waiting.

Waiting to see how God takes the messiness and works it out for good. Waiting for your ‘purpose’ to become clear. Waiting to live that dream you know is tucked somewhere inside of you. Waiting to get your act together. Waiting to live fully… once you find the secret to balancing it all. Waiting for that elusive future you wish could be your present. Waiting to be happy. 

Just waiting.

So, that was it then. That was what disturbed me about my friend’s encouragement.  I was not looking forward to anymore w-a-i-t-i-n-g.

How long before God shows me what He has in store?

I have tried to be brave. I have fallen on my knees in surrender. I have promised to trust His timing.

But how much longer? Why won’t He show me now? What is He waiting on?

And then one morning, as I climbed out of bed to face another day of waiting, it struck me.

What if God is the One who’s waiting on me?

Waiting on me to stop waiting.

To simply step up and take what He has told me is already mine.


Consider what He has told me:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:3-4

Did you get that?

Please read that again slowly paying particular attention to the words I highlighted in bold. 

He isn’t planning to give to me. He gave to me... that I may partake in the divine nature.

And this:

I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

There it is again.

God has placed LIFE squarely in front of me. On a silver platter if you will.

LIFE- 'the very highest blessedness of the saint in communion with God'.

A LIFE where sin has no control, where fear does not rule and where love and power overflow. A LIFE that breathes peace and exudes contentment, where each breath dances in glad surrender to a sovereign God. A God who is good… who has made it possible for us to have this LIFE in spite of the messiness of life.

I struggle to find the words to describe the blessedness of this LIFE.

Yet many mornings I get up and choose my own cocktail of life. Life filled with doing, with striving, with planning, with waiting.

While the offer remains. LIFE. Abundantly overflowing LIFE. Fresh every morning… every moment.

Just waiting for me to reach out and grasp it.

So why don’t I?

Why don’t you?

I invite you to pause and consider. 

In your waiting… yes, I know… I know you’re waiting, you’re like me, we’re always waiting for something, so, in your waiting have you settled for your own cocktail of life, the one that’s not mixed quite right, that leaves you yearning for more, or have you claimed the highest and best LIFE that God has in store for you?

It’s right there, my friend. Everything that we need. 

What’s stopping us from reaching out and laying hold of what is already ours?

Blessings,

Carlie

Linking up this week also at #HeartEncouragement. Looks like a fun place to be.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Why Your Window Is Important to Your Life



Recently, I’ve been intrigued by windows.

As I drive around the island, I seek them out.

Partly, because I’m looking for the survivors… the strong ones. The ones that fought the 185 mph winds of Hurricane Irma and won. 

But mostly, because I’m searching for the spark of hope that each new window represents. You see, our road to recovery following Hurricane Irma has been painfully slow and any sign of rebuilding stands out like a beacon.

Focusing on these new windows is one little way I've chosen to see the beauty amid the brokenness. 

It doesn’t matter that they’re not my windows… that my home is still a long way away from being livable again… just the sign of a new window going in fills me with hope. ‘Yay!’ I say, as I do a little victory dance in my head, ‘we’re getting there… we’re coming along!’

Then, I turn my attention to the ‘why’. Why did the homeowner choose this type of window?

I see the louvers allowing for excellent ventilation, and the single hung ones allowing for maximum view, and I wonder about the trade-offs.

You see, there are several key points to consider. For one, most of our homes here are not fully air conditioned, so air flow is a primary concern. Then, seeing as we live in one of the most stunning parts of the world, we want to let in as much beauty as possible. But most importantly, especially in these times, we must seriously consider security and hurricane protection.

Yep, it can be quite tricky taking all these factors into consideration.  

So, as I look at the new windows, I wonder about the homeowners’ decision-making process. 

How did they balance the need for fresh air and the desire for a beautiful view with the now pressing need for security/protection?

How did they choose which was the right window for them?

It makes me think about the windows we choose to view our lives.

As a Christian, my window to the world is largely influenced by my faith in God. I’ve given over ownership to Him, and He gets to make the decisions. But, I’m still responsible for walking in obedience to Him.

For example, for several years, I’ve had Philippians 4:8 plastered on my wall, in clear view, as a constant reminder of the peace that God offers if I look through this window.



Yet, many times I choose not to sit at that window. Rather, I grumble and complain and nit-pick, if you will. It’s stifling to be honest… doesn’t give me a good view of the world and leaves me open to many attacks on my peace and contentment.

But recently, God has been calling me to come back to the window. To sit and view life through Philippians 4:8. To trust that as Homeowner he has made the best decision.

And now, as windows are holding more and more of my interest, I’m beginning to fully appreciate the importance of choosing the window to my life.

Let me offer you two simple examples.

Windowpane 1

About a month ago, I came down with the flu. I hadn’t had the flu in a long time, and this one was bad. I felt horrible. What’s even worse, my daughter had it, too. We were miserable… none to help the other.

Each day I would pray and hope that tomorrow I would feel better, and for well over a week each new day brought not better but a different flavor of bad.

One day, as we sat by the window feeling rather sorry for ourselves, I suggested to my daughter that perhaps we could paint a picture… you know, to brighten up our mood a bit.

‘What shall we paint?’, she asked.

And I replied, ‘What we see through the window.’ It was at that time that I looked up and focused on what I saw through the window. Well, given my then present state of mind, the broken branches, and scars of a hurricane bashed island seemed to loom larger than life. It seemed like a hopeless venture.

But then, I remembered my little window. The one I’m choosing to view my life. My Philippians 4:8.

‘Well’, I said, seeing the look of discouragement on her face, ‘we can focus on the bright blue of the sky, the sparkling blue sea and the green of the hills. Let’s just focus on the good parts. There’s beauty there.’

Peace.

Windowpane 2

I wear a sparkly window around my neck. Well, it’s not really a window, but it could look like one, and to me it has come to represent the window I’m choosing to sit next to in this season of my life.  

It was a gift. A gift I didn’t really want. A gift I thought was too extravagant. In fact, I had to bite my tongue from saying what I really wanted to say when my husband presented it to me.

But, I soon realized that rather than focusing on the expense of the gift, I could instead focus on my sweet husband’s desire to bless his wife. I could ‘Philippians 4:8’ it.

Contentment.



It’s just like the Homeowner promised, the window works remarkably well. In great matters or small… my God is still in control, and I can rest in Him.

So, I choose to keep wearing my new shiny pendant as a reminder that no matter what is happening on the outside, life is fresher, the view is better, and I’m protected from a horde of negative emotions and interactions when I keep Philippians 4:8 as my window.

**********************

What about you?

How is your window affecting your life? 
Is your attention drawn to the brokenness or the beauty that surrounds you? 
Are you focusing on what you have or on what you don’t have? 
Is your window framed with gratitude or entitlement? 
Which window have you chosen to sit next to today?

Thursday, 5 April 2018

How Has Empty Impacted Your Life?



If you know me personally, you’ll know that I’m not a ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ kind of girl.

Neither am I one who cries often.

But empty has a way of breaking a girl down.

Empty.

You can hardly hear the word without wincing.

If you’ve ever been touched by empty, you’ll understand.

It seems like pain and empty walk hand in hand.

Perhaps it’s because it’s just not meant to be that way.

Life that is… it’s not meant to be empty.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  Genesis 1:2
God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1: 31

It’s unnatural, abnormal, and foreign.

And its painful pounding never leaves us the way it met us.

Looking back, I remember the tears that poured each time I was visited by empty.

When I saw my father’s empty, vacant body… I cried.

When the boat returned empty… devoid of life… I cried.

When I stared at the empty, barren landscape… I cried.

And there were more… but I don’t need to go on, I’m sure you have your own.

Times when you have looked up and found empty staring right back at you. When you’ve tucked your tail between your legs and retreated in fear and silence…

Or perhaps empty is the way you feel inside, and no matter how you’ve tried or wished it away it lingers long.

Empty.

Destitute. Vacant. Hollow. Meaningless. Hungry. Deprived of… hope.

There seems to be no positive connotation to empty.

But…

There’s another empty.

And as we leave another yearly celebration of Christ’s resurrection behind, it’s the empty I want to remember.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures... 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22

The empty tomb of Jesus. The one that shouts of victory and not defeat, of freedom and not fear, of hope and not despair.

This is the empty I want to linger long in…to always remember and never forget.  The empty that’s other than any empty I’ve experienced before. That fills us up and gives us purpose, passion, peace.

This is the empty that meets me in my empty and infuses me with hope and new life. An empty that declares that my faith is by no means empty.

It is true that we don’t ever come out of empty the way we went in… that it changes us.

But can we choose which empty impacts us the most?



What about you?

How has emptiness impacted your life? Are you damaged or restored?

Damaged by the hollow emptiness felt so often in this life?

Or restored by the powerful empty we celebrate at Easter?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him on his right hand in the heavenly realms, Ephesians 1:18-20

Why not take some time to consider just what the empty tomb of Jesus really means to you?

Don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two… tears of joy and relief… 

I'm speaking from experience, my friend; empty has a way of breaking a girl down. :)

Blessings as you linger,

Carlie



Saturday, 24 March 2018

When My Life Is Not 'Music to the Ears'




I lay in my hotel bed, pen in hand, trying to figure out what I would say.

Where were the words?

Words that would string together the years of prayers and tears, hopes and fears, and give him wings to fly. Words that would slip seamlessly underneath and bear him up when life pulls him down. Words that would echo in his ears, pulling him away from danger when temptations lurk near. Words that would encourage, inspire, warn, guide but most importantly love.

Where were the words?

In just a few short days, I would be returning home without my teen aged son. He would literally be on his own. For the first time in his life. On. His. Own.

Oh, how I wanted to leave him with the right words.

Words that would be a rock to stand on, a pillow to rest on, and a friend to hold close.

As I stood on the brink of a ‘never-before’, I searched for these words.

What words would you have used? What would you have said?

When the words started to flow they wouldn’t stop. Dripping from my heart they filled page after page; there was always something more to share. 

But then I paused. This was not the time to waste words.

I reflected on what I had written…

‘I encourage you to always be thankful. Each day is filled with many good gifts; we just sometimes must look for them. Always give God thanks for something… everyday… even on the down days.’
‘Please don’t ever ‘turn your back’ on God…’
‘I’m thankful for Jesus who willingly took on the wrath that I deserved so now I don’t have to. I can live freely – free from fear and happy.’
‘You can always come to me no matter what.’

I looked at the words that had dripped through my fingers and I wondered, ‘Was this all just noise?’

You see, as I lay there writing to my first born, I became acutely aware of the sound our lives make.

As one who professes to follow Christ, is my life-song music to the ears or simply noise?


Do I live my faith out loud? Or does it look like just empty words?

Does my relationship with Christ impact all aspects of my life? My relationships? My goals? My reactions to life’s challenges?

As Christians, when our actions mirror our words of faith, the beautiful authenticity displayed is almost melodic as it gently calls, ‘Come, come meet the One who knows all about me and loves me even so’.

Music to the ears. Pleasing. An invitation to know the transforming power of a relationship with Christ.

But then there is the noise. The grating hypocrisy when sweet-sounding words are betrayed by off-key, rules-based, judgmental actions… actions that cause others to put their hands to their ears and run for cover.  Irritating. Harsh. Noise.

I wondered what sound my son heard. From my words? And from my life?

I glanced again at my words on the pages.

How would they be received?

As grace-filled notes of a beautiful melody? Irresistibly compelling? Or wrought meaningless by the disharmony of my off-key actions?

I needed to be careful here. If I listened to the enemy, he would try to convince me that the imperfect harmony of my life plays loud and clear stripping me of my witness.

But I knew the truth. I knew that there was another tune evident in my life. The ever-present, sweet sound of God’s beautiful redemption music.

The tune that keeps beckoning me, that doesn’t stop singing of His love for me no matter how often I wander away. That inspires me to live for Him and to share His love through my song (my words) and my dance (my actions).
'But His favorite song of all
Is the song of the redeemed 
When those purchased by His blood
Lift to Him a song of love' 
Phillips, Craig & Dean 
It’s a tune that I pray plays above all other sounds in my life.

And one that I pray my son was able to hear in my life and that would resonate in his heart as he reads my words.

*************************************

What about you? 

What sound is playing loudest in your life?

Please don’t fall for the wiles of the enemy; 
no matter how imperfect your harmony may be, 
remember there is no sweeter sound than a heart turned towards God.


Blessings,
Carlie

Sunday, 25 February 2018

What I Need To Remember When My Shoulders Ache


The dark, heavy clouds hang low, trying their utmost to block out the rays of life-giving sun.

The spiny, gnarled branches of broken trees claw at me like bony fingers digging and scraping at any remaining hope.

Brokenness. Life struggling to break through. The evidence is all around.

I live in a post-disaster zone.

Most days I’m fine. I hold my head up and keep moving on step-by-purposeful step.

But other days I feel it. The pressing down… the throbbing soreness…

But it’s not because of the environment.

Yes, I suppose that contributes. Perhaps it heightens my senses… makes me more aware of the broken, disfigured world we live in… and more in tune to the hurt all around me.

You see, everywhere I look there's always something there to remind me.

People are struggling. Life is hard.

There’s the obvious. The diagnoses… the senseless violence… the families torn apart. The raw, exposed sore of pain out in the open. The stories too hard to hear.

But there’s also another pain… an oppressive ache… the one that no one shouts from the rooftops, but if you keep your ear to the ground, you’ll feel it.

The deep, gnawing heartache of living in a world that was never intended to be this way.

Everyone is carrying a heavy burden.

That’s when my shoulders start to ache.

I get quiet and retreat inside. Looking for answers.

I feel their burdens. I feel their hopelessness… their never-ending search for peace and happiness.

I feel the guilt.

I need to pray more, I scold myself.

There’s just so much need.

The knots tighten.

I sit quietly under the dark cloud.

And then…

The light breaks through. As it always does.
"Thank God my God is a Big God."
The truth brings me clarity.

Yes, He can handle it all. The burdens may be numerous, but He is able and willing to lift them all.

As I sit there with Him. He reassures me. He sees it all. He knows it all. And He cares.

Words are not needed. We commune in silence.

I lay the burdens on his shoulders. He picks them up and carries each one.

Sometimes, I whisper a name. Instantly, He knows who I’m talking about. He knows just what they need.

He listens. He acts. 

And I rest… rest my head on His shoulders as His personal and powerful promises pour over me.

The darkness… the brokenness will not win.

I must remember this.


When my heart bleeds and my shoulders ache from burdens brought on by living in the already but not yet…  striving to survive in the tumultuous times of a world gone bad… I must remember…

My shoulders will never be big enough to carry this world’s burdens… my prayers will always feel like just a drop in the bucket… I will never be able to do enough… but my God can.

He has promised to lift the burdens that I can’t carry.

So, I’m holding Him to His promise. I’m handing them over to Him. He is a big God. Not only is He able, but He longs to help us.

Wouldn’t you join me in handing over your shoulder-aching baggage?

I feel the tension ease away. Don’t you?

Peace begins to trickle in. My God’s got this.


Blessings,

Carlie 

'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. ' (Revelation 21:4)

Monday, 5 February 2018

How to Find Peace When Life Feels Abnormal


Abnormal. That was my answer.

The word, though awkward and uncomfortable, had slipped easily off my tongue.

It was the word that Fear had been whispering to me (sometimes even screaming at me) for the past several years.

Fear. It seems like he’s always there lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on me.

At times he jumps out at me suddenly and knocks me right off my feet, as he screams that ‘spine-chilling’ word – abnormal. Other times he sneaks up on me, stealthy and cunning, until we are walking hand in hand and then he whispers poison in my ears.

Abnormal. Yep, Fear reminds me, that pretty much sums up my life in recent times.

It was the way life felt when I lost my dad a couple of years ago. Yes, he’s was older and we kind of knew where his sickness was heading, but not having my dad around was hard to get used to. That gaping hole, the sadness and grief on repeat - abnormal.

Then just over a year later, fear and panic give way to searing pain, when my youngest brother could not be found. A seasoned seaman lost at sea – abnormal. A young man gone so soon – abnormal. Life without him… without my dad… abnormal.

Then there were the botched plans that further threw me off my ‘normal’, but a few months ago when I emerged from my refuge and observed the devastation left by Hurricane Irma, I waved a final goodbye to ‘normal’.  

I had become familiar with abnormal.

So, when the question was asked on our way back from dropping my first born off at his new college apartment… a trip that Fear had invited himself along on, it was no surprise that ‘abnormal’ bobbed quickly to the surface. It’s not the kind of word that’s easy to keep down.

The question - a ‘brainsparker’ chosen at random by my daughter to stimulate a thought provoking conversation - ‘State the problem in one word’.

My ready answer – ‘Abnormal’.

What is your answer?

I thought it curious how the question assumes that a problem exists. But then again, in this life there usually is one. A problem – something that bumps into you, and pulls the ‘normal’ right out from under you.

What about you? Has abnormal become a way of life for you? Does the very word conjure up fear? Have you given up on finding your new ‘normal’?


Well, my friend, I’m now in my latest phase of abnormal. There have been more phases than I care to count.  But rather than fight it, I’m learning how to befriend it.

And it’s for one simple reason.

It is within the abnormal, that I find my ‘Normal’.

You see, as I look back at all my ‘abnormal’ phases I see a pattern emerge.

I see a common thread woven through those times… the times when I lost my dad and my brother, when my well-laid plans were derailed, when I was displaced from my damaged home, when I dropped my son off almost a year earlier than expected, yes throughout all these ‘abnormal’ times, one true ‘Normal’ shines through.

It’s in the gentle whisper that shatters my fear. Every time. A ‘still, small voice’ that soothes my weary, anxious soul with three simple words – ‘I am here’.

It’s in the comfort and hope I find when I retreat to a quiet place to be with Him – my God and Father - and when He reminds me of His love, His faithfulness and His sovereignty.

It’s in the assurance that He will never change…that His love lasts forever and that no matter what He will always be by my side.

It’s a ‘normal’ I see easier when life feels abnormal.

And the amazing paradox of it all… my God is not ‘normal’. Not even in the slightest.

He is not average or regular or usual. He is above all. Period. (Psalm 97:9) And He can do exceedingly above all things that we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He is, I guess we can say, SUPER-NORMAL; although the word doesn’t quite stretch high enough for Him.

So, no matter how ‘abnormal’ life may feel, or what Fear screams at me, I remember that my super-normal God promises me that His presence, His power, His protection and provision will always be ‘normal’ for me.

When Fear tries to draw me in, inviting me to hide in the shadows with him, I can refuse to cower and stand in the light of my ‘Normal’.

And when Fear jumps across my path screaming – ‘Abnormal!’ –  encouraging me to run or fight – to strive with all my might to put things back right – I can stand in the armour of my ‘Normal’ and remember Who fights for me.

It’s the 'Normal' I cling to which leads me to a peace that I can’t explain. A peace that’s not normal… a peace that carries me through my ‘abnormal’.

Today, I'm praying that same peace for you no matter what the problem may be.

Blessings,

Carlie




Sharing this post at a new-to-me link up - Glimpses Link Up today.