Monday, July 17, 2017

The Undoing and the Mending

"A time to tear and a time to sew..." Ecclesiastes 3:7

It had been weeks since I had sat and consumed scripture for the simple joy of consuming it, of enjoying the way it satisfies and fills me up. I had grown busy, weary, distracted. And I was still hurt.

And God was the one who had hurt me, if you asked me. He had led me to a steep cliff and asked me to jump and I had naively agreed. The fall was farther than I had expected, and He had allowed me to feel the helplessness of being out of control, and then the bone rattling thud as I hit the bottom.

Obedience that led to pain.

Speak to me, Lord. I need to hear You. I need to make sense of this.

The word "tear" stood out, begging me to play hide and seek with its meaning. I looked at the original Hebrew, followed the cross reference clues in the margin. "Rend" was the pick of King James, and that could mean to "revile, the cut out."

I flipped to Genesis 37 and was reminded of the horrific scene of Reuben racing back to the empty well where he and his brothers in their haste and hatred had left Joseph. But Joseph was not there...Reuben tore his clothes and wept.

Then Joshua and Caleb begged the Israelites to stop listening to the enemy's voice and succumbing to fear about the Promised Land. It was theirs, but they had to fight for it. Stop being so stupid! They tore their clothes and mourned the sin of their people.

David's heart raced as he listened to the filthy man confirm that Saul and Jonathan are dead, and so he tore his clothes and wept and mourned.

Job received wave after wave of horrific, unthinkable news--his world had been turned upside down and his children were all gone. He tore his clothes and wept and mourned.

I returned to the list of appointed times in Ecclesiastes and suddenly saw the phrase differently. A time to tear and a time to sew. And then the Lord's gentle whisper embraced me and He invited me to flip through the pages of my own cross references...

Remember that time you were making pants for Caleb? How you missed it, you sewed the wrong seams together?

I did. It was frustrating. I had wanted to quit, to throw the whole thing in the trash and be done.

You carefully ripped the seams, gently so you didn't ruin the material. 
Because you knew you would sew again.

I did. My heart began to race at the memory and the warmth of knowing my God was speaking to my heart, that He was sewing even me back together. I needed mending.

The seasons in Ecclesiastes--He was in them all. He made them all so. They were all under His watch, in His timing.

How would you have known how to make the pants for your little boy so well had you not done it wrong and had to retrace your steps, learn it backwards? The next pair of pants were sewn the right way the first time.

It was true. The tearing had made the stitches stronger. And nothing could make me forget how to sew them the right way after that. It was second nature, stitched in my memory forever because I had learned it the harder way.

The mourning makes the next celebration sweeter. And there will be a reason to celebrate again. Crying may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
He makes all things beautiful in their time.
And He ordains each time, each season.
Even the tearing.

The new baby after the one lost is an indescribable joy even the most skilled writer could not adequately capture with mere words.

The unbelievable reuniting of brothers, the first victorious footstep onto the Promised Land, the first seating onto the King's throne, the double blessing of children and possessions...these would have tasted less sweet without the mourning that had come before them.

And God ordained it all, though it hurt and I couldn't see the purpose. My faith will be stronger after feeling let down and betrayed by Him, I have no doubt. Because now I understand just a little more of how He works, and maybe--hopefully--next time I am torn, I will remember how He stitched my faith back together stronger than it was before it was torn. And maybe it'll hurt a little less when the next tearing comes.

Because it will. And my voice quivers slightly as I say that I welcome it so that I will be sewn back together even stronger after that--the undoing and the mending.

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, May 20, 2017

4 Years On the Other Side...It Is Well

What does it look like 4 years on the other side of your "before and after" moment in life? The moment that became the invisible line you drew to separate the time when you lived naively, blissfully--without the gut punch reality of what a seriously bad day feels like. You unknowingly and honestly unintentionally compare almost everything to that day, that whirlwind moment that changed everything you knew. And then you place it in a sort of capsule and bury it in your heart, later to unearth it and examine its contents over and over again. Sometimes you dig it up simply because it is familiar, because it is comfortable. And because it represents your innocence. The time when you didn't know just how broken the world is.

Sometimes I hear the word "tornado" escape my mouth and it sounds like an incredibly strange word that I made up, an almost fantasy word. I try not to say it too often, afraid most people are tired of hearing it. I can imagine that all of us who have endured something substantial have the same fear. I can plummet into mind-bending thinking such as: Do tornadoes really exist? What really causes them? Does God spin up the atmosphere and sit back and see what will become of it? (And of course I know He doesn't.) And then I find myself breaking down each syllable of the word and then I end up in a puddle of linguistic over-analysis. (I do like words and their origin!)

The truth is, living in the after of your life altering moment looks incredibly different for all of us, and even that reality can change on a constant basis. The memories--the indescribable smell of mixed mud, lumber, insulation, and sheetrock; the incessant beeping of machinery, the distant punctuated buzzing of chainsaws; the eerie sight of abandoned stores, missing street signs and entire strings of power lines...those things never quite leave you. But there are days where their presence is less easy to silence. The capsule demands to be unearthed and examined again, whether you wrote it into your planner or not. It simply refuses to be left in the ground.

Every May 20 is that day for me. I try not to dwell on that first May 20, but each passing one brings with it a need to remember. To remember how thankful I am for the way God rescued us, even in tiny ways that I would have never been able to recognize then as His grace and provision. To remember and grieve again with the families who have a different kind of story than we do. To remind myself that if God carried us through those dark and terrifying moments 4 years ago, He can and surely will carry us through all the dark and terrifying moments that still await us.

As for the all the days in between every May 20--those days are just like your in between days...full and busy and wonderful and terrible and delightful and sad. I open cabinet doors in the kitchen looking for a lasagna dish that I don't have anymore, even now. It sneaks up on me. I catch a faint whiff of that strange cocktail smell that invaded my senses after the storm, and it instantly knocks me backward a bit. I stumble for a moment and eventually catch myself, remembering where I am and that I don't need to spiral down into fear.

Also in all those in between days, I hear of other people's seriously bad days, and my heart aches a little more for them. I know how to pray for them, I know how to stand beside them and not say anything stupid, but just be. These are of course only afforded me because of the fire we walked through 4 years ago, where God taught us so many lessons in people.

People are fragile, but they are strong.
People are broken, but they mend well.
People are prideful, but they can be brought to their knees in a second.
People are different, but they're really all the same.

Today I will open the door and let the visuals, the sounds, the emotions flood my room for just a bit.

But I won't stay there. 

Yes, I will no doubt dig up my time capsule, open it, and examine how far I've come from that day. And then I'll carefully place it back into its keeping place, pat the dirt back over its form and bid it goodbye until another day when I will need to measure my steps of healing again. Probably next May 20.

And all those days in between, I'll live the life God spared, I'll hug the kids God rescued that day, I'll even embrace another one He has added to us, I'll walk the woods and field I never planned to own, I'll soak in moments with friends and other family...and every breath that escapes me will be a "Thank You" to the One who kept us all. And hopefully by the time I need to dig my hands into the dirt next year, I will have grown even more and become just a little more grounded in my faith, in my ability to say "It is well..." It is well, Jesus. And whatever our next before and after moment may be in the future, it will be well also.

Peace of Christ to you,

Saturday, October 29, 2016


"Faith without works is dead, " He said in James. Does that make you break out in a cold sweat, too? Good, we'll help each other through it then. I really, really wish faith without works was alive and perfect, and showed just how much I love God.

But it isn't and it doesn't.

I have recently been beat up by this fairly petite, blonde woman in Texas name Jennie, and for some odd reason, I keep coming back for more! :) This "Anything" book has grabbed the deeper parts of my heart and is pulling off callouses I had no idea I'd allowed to build up.

Oh how the softening hurts.

I read her words about Jim Elliot who was killed by the Waodoni people in Ecuador because they couldn't understand that he was trying to invite them to heaven with him--and they sent him there sooner than his family could have imagined. I read about D.L. Moody who was an uneducated shoe salesman who felt the call to preach the gospel. And somehow through his ministry, the most prestigious seminary was built--an uneducated man somehow gave one of the biggest contributions to the education of God's people. I read about Katie Davis (who I found out about in 2012 and was every bit as intrigued by her as Jennie says she was) who at 19 left the perfect American life she held to live in Uganda and raise orphans as her own.

These people...I get emotional thinking about their FAITH. This is what was so harshly attacked in me only 5 short days ago. My faith. And maybe I understand a little bit more why now. Because if my faith becomes active, where I step out and do something with it...that must be absolutely terrifying to our enemy. "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him," said Moody's friend Henry Varley.

I don't want to move to Uganda or be killed by a people group honestly...but I want to live a life that truly shows what I believe. I want everyone who knows and meets me to walk away with one absolute for sure thought: Cara loves Jesus with everything, and she just might possibly do anything for Him.

Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." I had read that before, but reading it this time did something different in my spirit.

Jim Elliot wrote that in his private journal. No one else was supposed to see it. He wasn't trying to craft the perfect line or get the best publisher's attention. And yet, he wrote one of the most astounding quotes I've ever read, and it obviously DID get published.

Here's what the Lord so gently revealed to me through this part of the book: There was a time where I was desperately hunting down notoriety, mostly through my writing. I knew God had given me a gift with words, but it was so hard to pinpoint exactly what I was supposed to do with it. My life got blown away in a tornado, and suddenly I had a platform on which to write. So I threw my whole self into it for a season. 

And you know what happened? Nothing. 

Because my heart was nowhere near the heart of God. No big book deal showed up at my door. People moved on and their hearts grew weary of hearing about the tornado, as people's hearts do.

During that time, I didn't realize it then, but now I see that one of my greatest fears was to not be known. In fact, the thought of moving back to my hometown was terrifying to me because then absolutely no one would ever find me here. How could I become a published writer if no one even knew me--if I were hidden in a tiny town on the side of a mountain?

If you know where I live, you're probably laughing now. You know what, I adore the side of this mountain. It has brought so much peace to my heart. Yes, I'm quite hidden. You can't even find my house unless I give you directions because my address doesn't show up on Google Maps. How 'bout that?! God absolutely cracks me up, y'all. But in this time of being "hidden" I have also done the most writing for Him than ever before. 

Oh, His ways are not our own!

This is a bit of what He's changing in me. But it's a constant battle if I'm honest. I can so easily slip back into wanting my own welfare, my own glory. And so I ask Him to keep my heart steadfast, to keep it longing for HIS glory instead of my own, for OTHERS' welfare instead of my own. I desperately want to honor God--not just on Sundays. With my whole life. It is scary, though. What will it cost me? What will that mean?

Today I'm realizing that one of my biggest "Anything" prayers that I'm offering up to God is the dream of my being an author. My heart pounds a bit harder and my hands shake a bit as I type this...because I honestly still want to clasp my hands around it just a little bit longer. 

But I need to release it because I can't keep it.

It wasn't even mine to begin with if I'm honest. When He knit me in my mother's womb, He saw fit to put a love for words in my mind, and I believe He took a chance on whether I would use them for Him or not (I know He knows all things, but He lets us choose too). So my "Anything" in this moment is handing my talent over to Him, not knowing how He will handle it. Will He ever give it back? Will anything ever come of it? 

I don't know.

And that's okay.

I'm believing that heaven is real, God is who He says He is, and that He is worth it. So nothing I could hang onto could possibly be more important than Him. Jesus, teach me to put all things in their proper place and You in Yours.

This is my "Anything" today, Jesus, and I am laying it at Your feet.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden [on the mountainside] with Christ in God (Colossians 3:2-3). 

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dirty Sheets

I was so mad I was shaking. I grabbed a corner of the fitted sheet on my bed and I ripped backward, yanking it off the mattress with exaggerated force. I nearly smacked myself in the face. But no matter. You might think this is just about changing the sheets on my bed, but it's much, much deeper than that.

You're wondering why I'm mad. What on earth happened that has Cara so ticked off? I'm ticked at my adversary who calls himself an angel of light, fancy pants Satan. That's who I'm mad at. I'm sick and tired of his lies and how he makes me fall for them. I may have eaten his brownies yesterday, but today I'm throwing them up and I refuse to eat them again.

Let me back up. Yesterday was a bad day, y'all. Like, a really bad day. I don't want to be this honest, but something is urging me to--probably because someone reading this needs me to be this honest. So I hope you won't discount me after reading this. I'm so unbelievably human...

Ten months ago my husband and I felt God asking us to leave his solid job in the city and move our family back to our home town...where there is basically no market for his expertise at all. Seriously. It's the reason we moved to the city in the first place four years ago. So why on earth would God ask us to move back? Because of family, that's why. We felt the deep conviction that our children need to grow up closer to their grandparents, and that we needed to be a part of the church here. My husband had a spark of a dream to start his own business, and somehow it seemed like the time was right to do it. We were scared, but we felt like God was lining everything up and asking us to jump. So we did.

God did some cool things over these last 10 months, but it has also been incredibly stressful. Not knowing where your grocery money is going to come from is a little bit humbling and if I'm honest, angering. We are not incapable people. We are not uneducated, and we are not fools. But as these months have passed, the funds we started with for the business have slowly dwindled. A few months ago we felt God answer in a big way by sending a sizable contract our way, and so my husband rejoiced, did the work above and beyond expectation, and then waited for the payment from his labor. The Bible says a worker is worth his wages. I believe that. But four months later, with no payment from his labor, you start to wonder if the Bible is true. (Insert whatever heartbreak, frustration, unbelievable circumstance you are going through here and you understand what I mean.)

Anyway, yesterday was a day where all of these hopeless feelings, frustrations, worries, anxieties, dashed dreams, you name it--they all hit the fan. We were covered in poop. I could not seem to reel myself back in from the slope I was tumbling down. I became down right angry with God. I said it. I was not just angry, y'all--I was furious! And I told Him about it. Several times. I recounted the ways I have called on Him, believed Him, trusted Him, followed Him with my whole heart...and yet here He was ignoring me. Rude.

Yesterday I heard all the right lies at all the right moments, and they all sounded like truth. He is not good, He is not faithful, I cannot trust Him, He does not care, He does not answer. The Psalms say "I cried out to the Lord and He answered me!" Was I crying out wrong? Was I not loud enough? (You do not want to see my prayer journal entry.) I felt like He was flat out ignoring me, and it was getting me seriously riled up! I was not asking for a million dollars; I was asking for provision, plain and simple. Let me insert here that we are NOT starving, and no one is coming to take our house away...or our cars. But it's been hard, and the harder it gets, the more things break and the more the kids need things, and get sick, etc. And the less business comes in.

Pause. I'm not writing this so you will feel bad for us. I'm seriously writing this because somehow we Christians aren't honest with each other. And when YOU have a day, a week, a month, a year--for crying out loud--where you feel THIS way, you feel alone. And I don't want you to feel alone.

THAT'S why I'm writing this. That, and I like to watch Satan eat dirt. It's a win win. ;)

As if all that weren't frustrating enough, though, here's what really got me ticked off. Reading "Anything" by Jennie Allen, I have surrendered a lot of things in my heart. I have asked for God to reveal His plan for us, to guide us to His Will, rather than our own. In the midst of reading it, He brought back a dream that I've had on my heart for about 5 years (I can't be 100% open just yet about this, but I'll tell you as much as I can), and this dream requires us to be financially stable. It will require us to have extra money. See where I'm going with this? He has even been quite specific with this dream in the past month in extravagant ways that cannot be coincidence.

And yet, this dream is impossible where we sit right now. I go to church and work with the children, and we sing about how nothing is impossible for God, and He delights in doing the impossible. I cry and I ask Him if it's true. I feel Him say yes...and yet, our circumstances say something different. And it feels like He's just being cruel. (Can you relate?)

I went to buy some groceries yesterday, and I used a gift card I'd received for my birthday, and it freaking wouldn't work at the register. I almost had a melt down. It finally worked the third time at the service desk. Whew. You probably can guess how sweet and Christian I was in my mind during those long few minutes. Oh how weak I am, guys.

Anyway, yesterday sucked. But this morning as I chewed God out in my prayer journal, I mean poured my heart out to Him...I saw something. I had written a prayer several days ago asking God for integrity, humility, patience, obedience, courage, and passion like Queen Esther. What the heck was I thinking?! I even wrote that He could break me to build me up again to make my character line up with Him. Y'all, I obviously was experiencing a serious lack of common sense in those moments! But here's what I saw. God does answer prayer. He answered that one. Dang it. Why THAT one, Lord?! So I asked for this! I literally asked Him for this. Sigh.

And then something else hit me: The children's songs ARE right. God does do the impossible. He does delight in shocking us. He is faithful. He CAN do anything. He is "Super Big." He is super strong, super wonderful. I closed my eyes and I saw the chasm between where I am and where He wants to lead me, and it was so deep and wide. And scary. And it grew before my eyes in my mind.

And that's the point. God is widening the gap so that what He does IS super big, super wonderful, super impossible. I'm shaking writing this, because I'm scared honestly of just how big that gap is going to continue to become. But steadfastness is what the purpose is right now, today, this week, this month. And I am so weak in this area. But "My God is big, He'll do anything big or small" is playing in my head, and I am going to believe it. I am choosing to believe HIM, to trust Him, to keep my faith even when it doesn't make sense.

If God doesn't come through, then He is a liar. And I don't think He wants to be called a liar, do you? He will prove Himself faithful, and I have to stand on that. I want you to know I'm writing this BEFORE He comes through. It's easy to say this stuff after He proves Himself. I'm choosing to say it before He does, when I don't even see a speck of His provision in the distance.

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." Hebrews 10:36

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:4-5

Back to the sheets on the bed. As I stripped the mattress, I thought: Isn't this exactly what I must do spiritually? Strip the filthy sheets in my heart? I can't lie in doubt, discouragement, hopelessness any more. No, I won't. I am going to get angry at the REAL enemy. And I won't continue to lie down on dirty sheets. I'm going to strip my heart of the filth, the anger, the hopelessness, and let God wash them His way. I don't know how long it'll take, but I am purposing and positioning my heart right now to receive and learn what He wants to teach me.

And I hope my honesty here helps someone. It's ok to be real, to be honest. We don't have the ability to be churchy all the time. God can handle your anger at Him, your clenched fist. But don't refuse to loosen your grip. I realized today that if my fists are clenched, they can't receive anything when He does decide to give it.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mighty Man Woman of Valor

There is something about Gideon that I absolutely love...he walks into the picture with a bit of reluctance, with an unfiltered attitude of “Wait a minute, what did I do to get dragged into this mess?” If you need a refresher on Gideon's plight, basically the Lord has once again become frustrated with His nation and their disobedience toward Him, so He has sought the help of someone whom (I believe) He knows will obey.

How did the Lord know Gideon would obey? Aside from the obvious...ahem, He's God...I think we can look at the beginning of the story for the answer. In Judges 6:10 the section concludes with, “But you have not obeyed my voice” and is instantly followed by, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide if from the Midianites.”

This is actually a really big moment for Gideon, even though it looks minor and of very little significance. The Lord has chosen Gideon to defeat the Midianites—the nation Gideon's dad had told him to beat out wheat to hide from. Gideon was in the act of obedience and his obedience certainly was not something fun or something that would set him on the path to stardom.

He was doing the mundane because it was what was required of him, and then the Lord showed up and spoke something slightly absurd over him. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.' (Judges 6:12 ESV)

Pause. The word VALOR means: “Great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.”

Gideon was beating out wheat! There was no battle yet. There was no need for courage. Not yet, but the Lord knew there would be. God knows what is tucked around the corner, what we will be slammed with in three days, in six weeks.

What I want you to hear is that God assigned Gideon's title of COURAGE before it was actually needed. God told Gideon that He would be with him, while Gideon just wants to know why his people have been oppressed. Because this hiding provisions from the bully isn't exactly delightful. And the Lord later says to Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14 ESV)

Woah. I don't know if you caught that, but I think we may have a bit of a sassy angel of the Lord here! Gideon had just finished filing his complaint to the angel of the Lord and slightly sassing him (I'm not certain, but I don't think you're supposed to do that), and so the angel seems to be saying, “Look, who is greater than the Lord to send you out? No one, so go do it!”

Long story short: Gideon obeys. It's quite miraculous because he actually ends up defeating the Midianites with a whopping 300 men. The reason I'm bringing Gideon up today is because I noticed something beautiful that I wanted to pass on to you.

Don't we all want to be courageous? But maybe we want to be courageous without that situation that actually requires the courage. If only, right? But the comforting thing is: God will not send us into battle without equipping us first.

He is pouring courage into you today that you'll need tomorrow.

We can be women of valor in the school supplies at Target. We can be women of valor while we are monitoring time out (again), while we carpool, at the gas station. Being obedient to what is required of us in this very moment, in this very day is sometimes the most courageous thing we can do today. And the more we do those seemingly mundane things, the better opportunity we have for God to call us to something even greater around the bend. We are Women of Valor because we have obeyed in the it's likely that we'll obey in the big. And today, God is equipping you with the courage you'll need for that bigger battle that you are not yet fighting today.

As you obey your impatient, rude're a mighty woman of valor.

As you drive your son to the soccer field and ask again if he has his soccer ball and his water're a mighty woman of valor.

As you keep your head up at the grocery store even though strangers whisper and jeer at you because of some rumor going around that cuts your character down...mighty woman of valor, you hold your head high. The Lord knows your heart and He knows what is around the corner, He knows what you are capable of with His help.

Gideon defeated the Midianites all right. They got so confused, they basically folded. It was a one in a million shot, and Gideon killed it. I don't know what your Midianites may be. A broken marriage, a wayward teen, a financial might look impossible. And maybe technically it is. But I'm learning that God kinda likes to show off and win when no one else is cheering for Him.

I'm heading to go make breakfast for the three little sleepy heads in my house, but that's not all I'll be doing today. I'll be obeying the Lord in the ordinary, building courage and valor for the extraordinary that could show up next week, next month, next year. And that's what you're doing today, too. So go with courage and destroy your Midianites because the Lord has sent you, and He doesn't lose.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Peace Produce

Well, my first update on our negative neighbor has come much quicker than I anticipated! But it's a good one!

I was mowing yesterday in the early evening--the part of the yard that is close to the dreadful fence, the breach that Wendy crossed on that fateful day! So as I made laps around, I couldn't stop glancing toward the neighbors' house, which I knew was either going to make me very angry or cause me to feel compassion for them. One thing about being God's kid is that He likes to talk to you, even if you are honest and don't really want to hear from Him in the moment and would rather sulk around in your kiddie pool of misery and bitterness!

I kept feeling this nagging on the inside that maybe I sorta kinda got a little bit hot and maybe I sorta kinda shouldn't have. And if you've ever felt that way, you may agree that it's a rather uncomfortable feeling. I knew that I needed to talk to God about it and see if He wanted me to get rid of any feelings I was carrying around (but boy, they sure were justified feelings!). So sure enough, when I asked Him if maybe I let my anger grow a little much and needed to ask forgiveness, the answer was a quick YES. (Don't you hate when that happens? You might ask God a question for weeks and not hear anything and then you ask Him something you don't want the answer to and He yells it at you right away!) So I started asking Him to forgive my anger and replace it with love for her. I asked Him to give me a new heart toward her, to help me see her the way He sees her.

But let me tell you, I had no idea how quickly He would delight in answering that prayer!

I rounded the field I was mowing once more and I saw movement to my right. Here she came on her four wheeler up my driveway. I thought, "Oh boy--here we go! Lord, give me strength and patience and please guard my tongue!" She came to a stop and pointed at me to come to her. I killed the engine of the mower and reluctantly peeled myself off the seat to go see what punishment I needed this time!

She had a 5 gallon blue bucket sitting on top of the four wheeler, and the closer I got to her, I realized she had brought something to me in the bucket. I waved and said Hi as I reached her, still not completely sure of what on earth she was about to say or do!

It may be that new heart I prayed for, but y'all, I swear she almost smiled at me! She pointed to the bucket and said, "These are terrible tomatoes, but I wondered if you'd want 'em. I was just going to throw them away."

I maybe could have wet myself with excitement! I didn't care how terrible those tomatoes were, I wanted them! Look at that--peace tomatoes!

I took the handle of the bucket and lifted it off the four wheeler as she said to go put them in something else and bring her bucket back. Yes, ma'am! I literally ran up to the house to grab a container for the peace offering (I mean, I didn't want to take too long and make her mad, right?!). I laughed the whole way. God absolutely cracks me up! I dumped the tomatoes into a different bucket and then hurried back to her. Kate and Caleb had kept her company while I was gone (I'm sure she was delighted about that!). Caleb told her, "We keeped the dogs away" to which she almost smiled and said, "Thank you."

I handed the empty bucket back to her and said thank you probably 29 times. She isn't much for social banter, but I learned several things in the next few seconds that are very useful and will indeed help me love her more. She actually said, "I shouldn't tell you this, but just below those trees is a garden spot. My mother gardened it for years when she lived here." I grinned and pressed for more information, just to be sure, you know. "On the other side of those trees?" I asked. "Yes, all you have to do is break it up. I don't know why I'm telling you that." I can't figure out why she wasn't supposed to tell me about the garden spot! Maybe she's worried I'll have a better garden than her one day? LOL! But she did tell me, and that seems like a pretty solid neighborly thing to do, don't you?

She is funny, y'all. She's so serious, and I realized that it's like she couldn't figure out why she was doing something nice. It was against her will, I think. But something made her come over and be nice. :) She shouldn't tell me about the garden spot, and the tomatoes are horrible ("I don't know what the h*** is wrong with them this year" she said!), but she did tell me about it and she did bring tomatoes!

Isn't God funny and also really nice to us? I hopped back on the mower to finish mowing after she left and I could not stop grinning! I hoped she wasn't sitting over there watching me and thinking what is wrong with that girl?! God answers us when we ask Him for help, doesn't He?

I'm thinking of 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 "...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time."

Wow. I know that's a little out of context, but I also believe the Word of God is living and active and relevant in all situations and can speak of many things at once and at all times. I think God was asking me to be humble, and almost the very moment I obeyed and humbled myself and prayed, He answered me with tomatoes! Tomatoes! Ha! You might think that was just a coincidence, but I don't believe in coincidences! I believe in a sovereign God who is alive and listening and who has a sense of humor!

I rode around the next half hour thanking Him and saying, "You sure do like her, don't you, Lord? All right, all right--I like her, too."

"And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:18

 Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mountainside Mayhem and our own little Ninevah

Okay, okay--I may have deserted you for a time, but I'm determined to bring you back into the loop with this post!

So, we have moved to the mountainside, and let me just say: God is so good to us! Our entire family absolutely loves it here! We are still wrapping our minds around the way God brought this place to us out of thin air and with a big grin landed it squarely in our laps! Thank you, Lord (and my parents who hugely helped us with this dream!).

Something hit me the other day: You know we lost all of our possessions and home in May of 2013 in a whirling tempest (sorry, tornado--been reading in Jeremiah lately!). Well, Matt's aunt Karen said something to us on that shock of a day--before we even had seen the devastation--that I believe was prophetic and I'm so grateful to look back on it now. She reminded us of Job and how though he lost everything he owned and even his children--which we did not thank you, Jesus--the Lord restored to him everything in a double portion. The Lord has done the same for the Yakel family, y'all. We now own TWO homes after losing ONE home. He is so gracious, and it knocks my socks off!!

Anyhoo...there is this one little bitty problem, though. And that's why I'm blogging today. I have a feeling God is up to something either awesome or hilarious or both, and I thought it'd be a blast to drag you along on the journey...

Everything is absolutely perfect out here on the mountainside. Everything except this one little thing: our nearest neighbor. (I'm not at all concerned that she has Facebook or blogging, so don't panic about her reading this. Just trust me on that.) She's an older woman who we hope lives many many more years here on the mountainside, but as my husband noted, her ability to panic in minor situations could possibly be a slight health hazard. We'll have to do more situation assessment and get back to you on that.

Let me paint the mountainside picture from my vantage point for you, mkay?:

I'd say there is approximately 1 acre between our home and hers. (We have 10 acres in all, some woods and some farm, which is super funny because I had lamented to my husband only days before finding this place that my dream plantation would be 1/2 woods, 1/2 farm land! I love the Lord and His care for details, don't you?) Ok focus, Cara: I have two little dogs, one whom you know as Tornado Wendy, Wendy who survived the Big Windy, Wendy the Tornado Dog, Wendy the Weather Channel Celebrity among other titles! And also recently to enter the picture was Ginger Snap, the Easter gift. Ginger is feisty to say the least (she is none other than a Feist breed after all)! So, she's a hunter. Yep, a very very very speedy hunter. Did I mention, she's fast? And not exactly, shall we say, trained? ahem. The dog doesn't obey ANYONE. She is hilarious, though, and actually really cute.

See? Adorable.

Anyway, it's apparently NOT adorable if she wanders over into my precious neighbor's yard and asks the cats if they want to play. I didn't know this, but cats don't like to play with dogs. Who knew, right? Okay, so that unfortunate incident happened once. And believe me, I foresaw the calamity and doom that would be birthed from it and ran my posse right over to retrieve said adorable playful very very very fast disobedient dog. Of course this was no easy task, and I wish I had a video of my chasing the little devil around in circles yelling really loving affections at her the whole way. I finally caught her, patted her gently, and returned her to her fenced in yard. But of course not before precious neighbor came out and with shock and awe spread on her face, educated me on how expensive her cats are and that they may have just had a heart attack, which would be the end of her existence...or that's what I came away from the situation with. Moving on: Sweet Ginger Snap has not left her yard or gone over there since that day.

But y'all, yesterday was a fateful day, and you won't see this one coming. While Ginger Snap sweetly sat snugly in her back yard, Wendy the Tornado Dog somehow became disoriented while outside and horrifically and unforgivingly wandered over onto precious neighbor's back yard. Yes, she did. I actually watched this go down with the appropriate response of shock and horror on my face, and I promptly beckoned her back to safe ground, our side of the barbed wire fence. Let me insert here that if you don't know Wendy, well...I'll just show you and you'll probably guess what I'm about to say.

Okay, it may be hard to discern from this shot, but Wendy has a bit of a weight issue. She's fat, y'all. And lazy. I've never in my life seen her chase a cat. There's really no point in her because they won't give her kibbles. So, anyway, Wendy the Tornado Dog did not indeed chase a cat while her paws were on the other side of the fence. She was looking for me and most assuredly was in a mild panic attack since I was nowhere in her line of sight. Once she heard my voice, she galloped back to my presence where she desires to be anyway--not with fluffy cats.

I put her in the house, but I had a bad feeling Armageddon may be around the corner.

I was right.

I heard the engine of the side by side coming up the driveway and I knew I better either go get my husband or quickly dig a bunker to hide in.

The woman was hot, guys. And possibly a little drunk, but that's beside the point. We were chewed out, threatened, pointed at, glared at, despised, told of the gun that will be used on the dog, etc., for a good solid 5 minutes (which is a long time when you're being verbally destroyed mind you!). I nodded and agreed that yes this was surely an atrocity and it won't happen again. I even asked her to forgive us, to which she was obviously quite bumfuzzled. She will NOT be tolerating or putting up with this ridiculousness. She simply will not, and that's that.

My in laws were present for the circus, and my hilarious father in law almost made the fatal mistake of trying to be friendly to her, to which my mother in law kindly brought him back over to safety by a stern warning to sit down in the lawn chair. He caught on and made it out safely, so don't worry.

So our family stood together and made a determination: we will not repay meanness with meanness. We will heap coals on her head with kindness instead. And this is why I thought you'd like to ride along on the adventure! God has such a sense of humor, I have figured out. He totally did this. He set this whole thing up, grabbed his popcorn and lawn chair and said, "Let's see how this goes down!"

This morning I read Jonah. Mmhmm. Jonah. No Compassion Jonah. Love that guy, bless his heart. He cared more about a plant than 120,000 people who were doomed to die. I'm just saying, God may be doing something here, and my Ninevah is a little closer in proximity than Jonah's was to him. I checked and there's no body of water for me to jump in and escape, so I might as well head on over with some homemade cookies probably, right?

We had planned to bake some cookies and deliver, but then the first time we met her, her first words to us were that she was coming over to say hi and be neighborly because she's not, but she just wanted to make sure we knew that snakes live on the mountainside. :D

Don't worry, I won't be sitting under a plant and calling for her destruction. I'll kill her with kindness. And it's sure to be a fun ride, so stay tuned!

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22

Peace of Christ to you,