Friday, 3 August 2018

Did you make it Home this summer?


My son didn't come home this summer. 

It was his first summer away at college, so he traveled to visit friends, looked for a job and kept himself busy spreading his budding adult wings. 

I remember when I was in university thousands of miles away from home. I, too, relished my independence, but occasionally I would long for home.  

Like I'm yearning for home now.

It's been 11 months, and I'm still not back in my home. I'm not the only one. There are many of us who have been displaced by the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and who are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the repairs to be completed on our homes so that we can return home.

Homesickness. It's a feeling I think we can all relate to. 

But what exactly do we miss from home? Is it the people? Is it the place? Or is it the feeling? The assurance that you are safe and protected? Known and loved?  

I've thought a lot about what home means recently and have marveled at the times I've found home in the strangest of places and the oddest of times. But once you find Home you never forget it. 

Take for example the days following Hurricane Irma. I would rise with the dawn, make my way through the rubble, climb out through the broken door and sit on what remained of my porch. With the roof torn off and most of the banisters gone, I had a clear view of my surroundings... the sea, the sky and the stripped landscape. It never failed to take my breath away. But as I sat there amid the shattered, unsafe remains of my home and my island, communing in silence with the sovereign God, I would find Home. 

Or even during the actual hurricane, when the noise was terrifyingly loud, and fear surged through my body and threatened to overcome me, I found Home in the words of the Psalms. 



There have been other times, too. Times when I struggled to let go the reins of 'control', times when I experienced deep faith-testing loss, times when I've been struck hard by my own weaknesses, times when I relaxed in a season of plenty.  And in all those times when life was a lot and I longed for home, I found Home each time I retreated in silence and remembered my God.  

Once you find Home you never forget it. 

It's difficult to find the words to describe Home. Accepted. Loved. Empowered. Where compassion and mercy are the norm... where life brims with possibility... where you never have to doubt who you are because you know whose you are. 

Home.

If you haven't found Home, you'll never find rest. 

So now, as summer nears to an end, please join me in taking stock. Let's take some time to pause and examine where we are. 

Perhaps you've found home before, but you've drifted a bit or maybe a lot. That's okay. You're always welcomed back. 

Or perhaps you've never found home, but in the quiet you long for it. Deep down, there's an unrest, and you've been searching for it for a long time. 

There's good news, my friend. For you and for me. 

'All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.' John 6:37

I may not be in my physical home, but I can always be at Home. 

For Home is not a place; it's not even a feeling. It's a Person, waiting for us to return to where we belong. He stands with open arms, offering Himself to quench the thirst deep within us.



It's still time to make it Home this summer. And I pray for you, for my son, for all of us... that we will find Home even when we are not at home and that we'll embrace the God who runs to welcome us back. 

Blessings,

Carlie

I hope you'll enjoy the video below as you ponder where you are.

'When God Ran' 
Sung by Benny Hester. Video by Theo Meade.



Monday, 11 June 2018

Why Love Demands That I Put Down My Chisel



It’s difficult. This thing called love.

It pulls me out of myself. Stretching me in ways that feel uncomfortable. Coaxing me to get up and help when I’d rather sit still. Then chiding me to remain still when I’d rather scream and shout.

It refuses to let me stay as I am, yet calls me to be the best ‘me’ only I can be.

But most of all it demands that I put down my chisel.

That’s the hardest part. The part that I struggle most with.

All along I thought that whipping out my chisel was just ‘tough love’.

I mean, I could see it so clearly.

I have this knack, you know, I can see the chink in my loved ones’ armor and more times than not, I know a way to fix it. So out of sheer love, (or so I tell myself), I reach for my handy chisel, and I scrape and cut, and pound and scrape, trying my best to smooth out the glaring flaw… trying to make them shine the way I imagine they could.  

Except, they resist. ‘Why don’t they see what I’m seeing?’ I think to myself. I know this is for their good. If only they would comply, they’ll understand too.

But when my chisel is out… you know all the subtle, yet unpleasant ways I have tried over the years to control what my loved ones say, do or even think…  when my chisel is out… my loved ones don’t feel much loved.

Rather they feel judged, condemned, less-than… quite the opposite from what I intend.

And I’ve been there, too. I’ve felt judged and misunderstood rather than fully loved, and I really don’t want anyone I love to feel that way.

So, why do I keep returning to my chisel? Keep trying to fit my loved ones into the perfect mold I’ve envisioned for them?

Love whispers to me. Oh, He has been calling to me for years. And He says to me, “Beloved, it’s not your job. You’re not called to fix; you’re called to love. It’s time to put down the chisel.”

But, I insist... walking around proud with my idea of love.

Yet, I’ve caught glimpses of what it can be like when I place my chisel on the shelf.

It feels right. And my loved ones feel it, too.

Love is patient, love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

This weekend as my husband and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary it dawned on me that our best times have ‘magically’ coincided with those times we laid down our idea of love… with all its tangled strings of pride and fear…

Once again, I’m reminded that loving the way God intends blossoms intimacy, peace and growth.

In fact, our love... the way my husband loves me gives me a sweet taste of God’s rich love for us.

It’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.



One would think by now that I have it all figured out… that I would choose to remain in this circle of blessing…

But, no, I’m still tempted to pick up my chisel and fix him… perfect him…

But God keeps whispering…

Just as you are loved… you also ought to love.

And that, my friend, is where it begins…

The realization of this Love… this perfect Love… graciously bestowed on me by God, Himself… a Love that says I’m fully known, yet fully loved.

A love that empowers me, by God’s grace, to love.

Without God, I would remain powerless to love like this…

But God…

He continually pours into me… this love so rich and full… so undeserving… so freeing and empowering… that it enables me to put my chisel down...

And... experience this thing called love.

*******************
What about you?

What does it take for you to put your chisel down?   

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

Sharing today over at Ronja's GraceFull Tuesday Link-up!

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