Thursday, August 29, 2013

Because You Can't Rebuild A Life In A Few Months

Most days I don't realize how difficult this summer was for us until one little thing will happen or I'll hear a particular song or smell fresh landscaping. Then it all rushes back and I'm reminded of what our family has waded through. And I'm so grateful that we didn't drown. We talked in our small group tonight about how we have lost our spiritual edge. The series our pastor taught was over the prophet Elisha who, among many other miracles, helped a student retrieve his axehead from the river by causing it to float. The question he asked the student was, "Where did it fall?" So we asked one another where our spiritual edge had fallen.

Mine fell the week of May 20. Though I was strong and overwhelmed that God had taken care of us, my stamina and diligence in life was depleted in those moments. I was running on awe and pure adrenaline, but my heart was so raw and a sort of depression was quickly setting in. I've since realized that while every physical need was being met with great speed, the emotional and spiritual needs were being stifled or ignored. Not by others, but by myself. I simply didn't know what to do with myself.

I had an oblong package stored in the garage at the rent house that sat unopened since June, I believe--until yesterday when I finally opened it. Why did I never open it? I still don't really know. The summer left us (maybe mostly me) paralyzed in so many ways. No matter how hard I tried, there were some everyday things that I just could not will myself to do. Cooking was out of the question after an emotional fiasco-attempt at a Father's Day dinner for Matt that ended in 2 am tears and then an ER visit on the actual holiday. Buying groceries was even foreign to me. I wonder now if I didn't do it much because it would force me to face the reality of what we lost, and I just couldn't swallow that for some odd reason.

My friend Cindy, who lost her home by fire at the end of June, has been the one person who has completely understood right along with me how it feels to search high and low for something in someone else's kitchen, just to finally realize you don't have it anymore. Even in this new house--which we absolutely love--I searched for a long handled spoon to empty out a jar yesterday. I knew I had those long handled spoons because my mother in law had given them to me. And then it hit me. No, I don't. Matt went to a hardware store and bought some tools and things (just realized how much of a girl I am because I have no idea what the names of these "things" are!) and he didn't buy the actual drill bit because he already had that. Then he got home and it hit him. No, he doesn't have that. It's so odd how our minds are still playing tricks on us. One night after church on the south side of the city, we were going to dinner with some friends in Moore and we were accompanied by my mother and father in law. My husband was trying to convince his parents that they needed to drive their own car because after dinner, they'd be driving north while we'd be driving south to go home. (We had moved to the north of the city.) He actually argued with me for quite a few moments, and then at last I saw it click in his mind.

We don't live there anymore.

Poor guy. It actually tore him up right then and there. It's so hard to make our minds stop toying with us. I'll mention to a friend that I have something if they'd like to...oh wait. Such a weird new normal, and I suspect this will go on for quite some time until we truly "get" it.

Back to the package. It turned out to have a very sweet card in it from a precious friend. I could have read her encouragement in June, but because of my emotional paralysis, I read it in August. And maybe that's the way God planned it! I have healed tremendously since June, and I may not have appreciated her encouraging words at that time. Maybe I would've been angry at receiving a decorative piece for a rent house I was not excited about decorating. Only God knows. And it works perfectly in our house, by the way. But my point in writing about it is that it reveals how out of it I was this summer. There are so many things I have not written or even shared with many people just because I didn't know how. For some reason, I lived out of a suitcase until July. Even I could not explain why; I just did it. I didn't hang my clothes up in the closet but just kept tossing them--even after laundering them--back into the suitcase. My husband had moved into his racks just fine. So why couldn't I?

While having early morning coffee with my friend Marcy, she asked what I miss the most. And I broke. I sat in the coffee shop, sobbing and telling her how I miss the three towers that served as a landmark to guide me back to our house, the shade in our backyard where we could be outside even at 3 pm and feel cool, the neighbors and their kids, knowing where all the stores were, late night walks with my dog, how much nicer people seemed to be there than they are up north...my friend cried with me as I pulled out all that had been festering inside me. I just missed the "normal", the familiar. Learning a new area, new streets, new stores--it's harder than it sounds. It's probably because I did not solicit the move, but was kicked out. I've moved before, obviously, but this was so different. It was there one second and in one instant, it was not. I cannot begin to fathom the way those who lost people and not only possessions and a way of life feel regarding this.

There were and still are so many blog posts I had/have wanted to write but just never did for one reason or another. This is one of them, and it's for my healing purposes if nothing else. Coffee with Marcy reminded me how important it is for us to continually reach for this healing--that it is not an arrival, but a process. We will heal one piece at a time. And my friend Cindy texted something simple yet so meaningful to me as well. She said we need to help one another remember that we cannot rebuild our whole lives in a few months. So true. I realize now that I was spending so much energy and time grasping for that complete rebuilding all summer, that I neglected much of the emotional and mental rebuilding I was desperate for. I need to take moments and just remember, grieve the loss of it. Even though I have so much to be thankful for, the loss still stings.

I wonder if I'm the only weird person who can in one second be swept back to a time in life by particular music? If I'm not, then I wanted to share a couple of those moments with you.

I remember standing in the devastation and singing the same phrase over and over from a song I'd heard on the radio:

Even when it feels like the light is fading 
And I've lost my way 
Still I'm holding on to the One who's making 
All things possible 

Even when it feels like my heart is breaking 
Hold on, there is strength 
Knowing I belong to the One who's making 
All things possible 

--Mark Schultz "All Things Possible"

These lyrics literally carried me as we dug through our lives those first few days.

Just before the tornado, Matt and I had gotten hooked on an artist names Josh Garrels. There was a particular song that I liked a lot, but I could not have known how it would take on such profound meaning for me after losing the house. Here are a few of those lyrics:

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this all by and by...

Still I get hardpressed on every side
Between the rock and the compromise
Like the truth and a pack of lies fightin' for my soul
And I've got no place left to go
Cause I got changed by what I've been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin' on

Skippin' like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the son of God is forever blessed
He is the kingdom we're the guests
So put your voice up to the test 
Sing Lord, come soon
--original song lyrics by W.B. Stevens, rewritten by Josh Garrels

I remember the drive to our "house" the next morning after the tornado. It was just Matt and me. We were going to see how bad it was, neither of us knowing what to expect. This song came on and I'll never forget the look we gave one another, the way Matt reached over to take my hand. I knew he was saying, "It's going to be okay. We're going to make it." So this song is still so special to me today. I love to hear it, but it truly does take me back, so I have to be mindful of when I listen to it.

Three months later, I feel that God is allowing me the chance to answer Him when He asks, "Where did it fall?" And I am working to sit back, breathe, and let Him restore my spiritual edge. What was lost can be found. God has placed incredible people in my life to help with this process that no doubt hurts tremendously at times. He is faithful to walk with us through the hurt, isn't He?

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

John Community Chapter 3: Shake It Off and Dance

Clearly there is no greater “good” news than what we see in John 3:16. I'm guessing you can recite this verse on command at any given time. You grew up with it, hearing it every Sunday morning or at least every summer at VBS.

But I love what is snuggled up directly beneath verse 16. It says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (ESV).

See, THIS is why Romans 8:1-2 is true! By the way, that says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death" (ESV). I'm thinking that should be all caps and definitely end in at least five exclamation points!!!!!

This is a big deal! It's a big deal for you, and it's a big deal for me! Because I am anything but without sin. I drip sin on any given day. Align the morning just right with an ear piercing screamer of a 3 year old, a whiny 5 year old, an empty coffee creamer bottle--and that right there is the perfect recipe for a Cara who is a little less than lovely! (Come on, you know you have a recipe, too!) 

Seriously, though--this missing condemnation bit is about the best news I have found in the Bible aside from the fact that Jesus came in the first place. Over and over as we explore who Jesus is and what He did while visiting us, we see that He loved us, came and found us right where we were in the middle of our consistent sin, and then He did something that no one human or god had ever done--He died and was raised to life again so that we didn't have to pay for those consistent sins. And He didn't stop there. Because He took care of it ALL, not only are we forgiven, but we don't even have to carry the shame of those sins. They don't have to touch us.

I don't know about you, but I've sat in a puddle of shame, and I don't want any more of that. No condemnation. This doesn't mean that we never were condemned. By coming to rescue us, Jesus showed us that we certainly were condemned, but if we believe in Him as John 3:16 explains, we don't have to keep wearing that around. We can shake it off, dance with the weightlessness of our new beginning.

And I'm so needy for all this, aren't you? I wish I could say that I "get" this every day and can live, untouched by shame. But most days all this seems like a happy ending for everyone...everyone but me. Because it seems like grace can cover everyone else's sin a lot easier than my own. Most days I don't exude the grace of God, so I certainly don't deserve it! Most days I have hit a wall by 9:00 am, where I already can't see past my own selfishness. Maybe not most days, but plenty of days for sure. Can you relate?

But this week I'm soaking in this chapter and I'm purposing to latch on to its beautiful undeserved promise--that even while I sat in my sin, Jesus Christ was so full of love and mercy that He came and even searched me out, asking me to trade my own rags of sin for His brand new, rich garments. If you have traded your rags in as well, then all this is true for you, too! And if you have not traded with Him yet, why not now? He isn't complicated or hard to find. He doesn't tease us with unfulfilled promises. He said He will make us clean, and He does. Not just for one thing, but for ALL our sins...even the ones we have yet to stupidly commit! There's no magic phrase, wand wave, or secret handshake. It's simple. "Whoever believes in Him..." 

If we believe in Him, then we trust Him. 
If we trust Him, then we will follow Him. 
And if we follow Him, that's how we know we truly believe in Him...see the circle?

The "good news" is really the best news, isn't it? Let's enjoy it together!

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

John Community Chapter 2: Believe Him

John 2:11 is where I became enthralled. Jesus was at a wedding with likely a lot of people, which is why the celebration ran out of wine. I love what Jesus had the disciples go fill with water. They were not random empty jars lying around; these were ceremonial washing jars! Jesus was not afraid to challenge protocol, to shake things up. He was more than aware of what these jars were used for--ceremonial cleansing, which was a source of boasting and status imposing in the city. I'd call this part of the story "Pride and Procedure." I am hoping one of you will expand on this very comical miracle that Jesus performed because I'm going to focus on the scripture following it.

Verse 11 says in the NIV: "What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

Do you know what it feels like, how it sounds, what it smells like to see a sign from God? I thought I had. I thought I had surely at some point in my young life witnessed a direct prodding from God.

Until May 20.

I am quite certain that it is impossible for me to forget that very moment when my brain did a soaring recap of several events from the past few months and realized that they were signs from my God. They led me to that very moment in time--just after 3 pm, May 20, 2013.

I stood in the front yard at a dear friend's house, staring into a sky I no longer understood, but somehow talking to the God I suddenly knew more intimately than ever before. My mind bounded repeatedly between shock and indescribable thankfulness.

God had talked to me.

Me--a nobody from Oklahoma! And it had saved our lives.

And I could with clarity recall each instance. The bicycle ride to the school, the sermon where Matt felt Him confirm in his heart the decision concerning school for our children, the day before when I sat under the maple tree writing to Him and asking to be made different--to be rattled, the night before when Matt felt the urge that we should not be home all day on Monday, the morning of when I seemed to watch myself from the sidelines doing strange, out of the ordinary things that I could not explain.

I hit the ground several times in that moment of revelation. Because I could not stand where this God who was so holy had just tread.

My shock that day was not as much what had happened to our family, to our home; it was what could have happened to our family that didn't because of all those sacred moments where God had whispered to us. Just writing this today makes my heart feel like it's in a seizure; I cannot make it calm down. Because I know I'm speaking of something far greater, much holier, and immeasurably more sacred than I have ever witnessed before.

And I feel like maybe I can relate to the disciples in this moment where they sat and soaked in what their eyes had watched. A miracle. Jesus's first miracle.

Holy. Sacred.

I imagine they were etching every frame into their memories. I don't want to forget that one.

And they believed in Him. If they were like me at all, it truly did take all of those things to culminate into the deep belief I now have of Him. Of course, I believed in Him before May 20. I loved Him before, and I served Him before.

But now? Now I believe in Him. Maybe even more so is that I believe Him. Because what He whispered to me is what He really did. He was faithful. He proved Himself true and trustworthy and worthy of my every praise--and all this wrapped up like a recap of a television series in that very moment as my knees buckled in my friend's front yard.

Later after Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples had a similar moment. Verse 22 says that they "recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."

Truly, if I could pray anything for my sisters and brothers in Christ, it would be that you would have a time lapse moment--in your living room, on your back porch, in your bed in the solitude and the quiet, at the grocery store--where you recall what He has said and what He has done, and you would realize in that moment that He has spoken to you. That you would believe in Him. Even better, that you would believe Him.

I can't wait to hear again from you ladies. I'm enjoying this sharing of what we are finding in scripture! Thank you each for reading, for sharing, for praying. Even if you're quietly reading along with us and too afraid to post, I'm praying for you and I want you to keep reading. God brought you here for a reason. Maybe your Believe Him moment is right around the corner.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, August 19, 2013

The What Ifs

I can't sleep. I keep thinking about the conversation I had with God tonight as I painted the walls of our new house. The paint (because I know you're dying to know!) is a rich buttery yellow that I seriously might just love.

And the thought struck me: do I love it a little too much? My brush washed the white walls with the fresh, golden color and as I climbed higher and higher on the ladder, I began to wonder things.

What if something happens to this house?

What if the Lord takes this one away?

What if I am pouring myself into this house only to have myself ripped out of it just as quickly?

I paused and waited for the Holy Spirit to give me leading on this conversation, for God to say, "Oh no, I would never let that happen to you; don't worry."

But He never did.

I don't know if I was stunned that I never felt a release there or what, but it gnawed at me from the inside. I am not in control of what I pretend I am in control of. I cannot hold things together, I cannot prevent tragedies from happening. I wish I could, but I can't. We can't. But God sees what's in tomorrow, what's around the corner from next week, next month, next year.

He knows the days we will have in this new home--just like He knew the days we would have in our previous home. And I am making a conscious effort to lay it down before Him and ask His Will and His blessings on the days we have been granted. If God asks us to give the house back one day and move across an ocean, I pray that we will be courageous enough to do that. If He takes it another way, I pray that I will continue to praise Him anyway. If He allows us many years together in it, I pray that then, too, we will praise Him every moment, every day. Sometimes it's actually harder to praise Him when things are going great. Kind of weird, huh? But the moment things crumble, the first thing I do is cry out to Him, asking Him where He is so I can run there for safety. It's like being in the dark; the first thing and the most important thing is to find the light. He has my attention. But when we have more than we need, I tend to forget Him. I don't need to know where He is because I don't need anything from Him, and I am saddened by my fickle heart.

I held the paint brush in my hand and stared into the yellow wall. "Lord, if we were to lose this house, too, help me to praise you no matter what."

I pray that you are finding what it means to trust Him with your circumstance, too. It's not easy, is it? I get it. I truly get it. But we're not alone, and that's good news. Most of the giants of the bible had this same problem: TRUSTING God. Moses didn't trust God that he was the best choice in leading. Peter didn't trust Jesus to not let him sink. Thomas didn't trust that it was truly Jesus raised from the dead before his eyes. So at least I'm in good company, right? And it also shows me that God won't discard me just because I may have a moment where I doubt, where I need to walk through His promises again and be sure He still loves me and is working things together for my good.

So I'm making a point to focus on Him and His steadfast character when the What Ifs seep into my heart. He is in control and He has numbered my days. I can't add to them, and there's no point in trying to avert tragedies that I don't see coming. So I want to enjoy the blessing He has given us, but not to set it in the place inside my heart where only Jesus belongs.
Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Missing Sno Cone

What a day. Several laughs, lots of tears. It's ironic, but the member of our family who singlehandedly sheds the most tears on a daily basis is actually the one who cried the least today.

Adjustment periods are no bueno, let me tell you. It stinks. They're actually really crappy if I can be straight forward and rough around the edges for a sec. It's days like today that I get really angry at the tornado. Because it stole so much from our lives. In particular, it stole the normalcy and the progress I had made with my kids. It's so hard to get all that back; I feel like I'm grappling at thin air for the routine, the behavior I used to see out of them.

It's just not there.

And today I had to teach them an excruciating lesson...for all of us. Early this morning I told them that if they were well behaved today at school that we would get sno cones. But they had a bit of a rough time listening and controlling themselves. (Let that read: they were the only children there who got their behavior color switched from green.) Embarrassing, yes. And I'm sure their teacher gave them more than enough verbal warnings before actually changing their color to yellow, because she's just nice.

My kids are sporadic and crazy excited about ALL sorts of things anyway, but all summer it's been on a different level. My normal discipline tricks have not worked, and it hasn't helped that we've lived in mass chaos for months now, so there really is no normal. No one knows when an emotional breakdown will ensue, and things get a little rearranged for the day after one invades our family. Then there will be a thunder storm that gets someone rattled, or a special item will come to mind and we'll go through the realization process all over again that such and such is gone.

Their ability to listen to directions has also somehow been grossly affected, and this is probably the most frustrating part. They are night and day different, but I knew this particular discipline moment would work for both of them.

So, after I picked them up this afternoon I made a decision that was so hard, I actually cried in the car over it. I knew how heartbroken they would be, but I am just out of options here. I pulled the car into the parking lot where one of our favorite sno cones stands is and when they asked what I was doing, I just said, "You'll see." I got out and ordered two sno cones. (Don't hate me. It really was painful.) I ordered one for Caleb because the statement this morning was that anyone who was good that day would get a sno cone. Not completely sure if I was good or not, but I had to make my point! So I walked back to the car with two sno cones, and I watched as the sheer terror flooded their little faces.

Wow, that was indescribably difficult. I want to give good things to them. I absolutely hate this part of parenting. But I also know that if I want kids who will have Godly character and in any way exude the fruits of the spirit, it starts with a missing sno cone or two.

I think I say this a lot, but I want to be sure people do understand where my heart is and where I'm coming from. There are no words to articulate the thanks and the joy I have that two sno cones were missing today because of poor behavior rather than literally missing children. Even typing that tears my heart out. I thank God every single time I look at that picture of our bath tub or think about the kids being in the school that afternoon. I'll take disciplining my miracle children any day over visiting them in a cemetery.

I still want to be honest about our progress, though. And to ask you to keep praying for us because we still need it. So many good things are happening for us and we are delighted. It's hard to describe the delicate dance between an overwhelming excitement for the new and a dull ache for the old. The two are sometimes so close that they seem to be laced together, and that can be very confusing for our emotions! I am grateful for the prayers of our family and friends. The mental and emotional implications are still very present and usually show up when I least expect them. I was talking with a friend about grief in general today, and we agreed that it gets harder rather than easier. I hear it from others who have lost precious family members.

You know what I want? I want to stand at the end of this road we're walking and be able to say that I was faithful and didn't turn away from God, but that I kept walking with Him, pressing in to Him instead. Easy some days; nearly impossible others. Getting into school for the year will surely help with behavior simply because we're getting a routine back at last, so I'm hopeful about that.

We'll see how next time at school goes. My fingers are crossed that I'll get to buy four sno cones!

Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

John Community Chapter 1

Apparently I like this book, as it's been pointed out that I recommend it often.

I can't help myself. Its classic "Once upon a time" beginning and a "mind your own business" kind of ending get me every time! So I figure the middle must be even better, right? It's been my favorite of the gospels maybe because I have grown to especially love John--which is right on par since he is called the disciple whom Jesus loved. And that's it--I want to hear what happened to Jesus, what Jesus said, where He went and what He ate, from His best friend, don't you? Who could possibly know Him better?

This is a grand entrance, a cinematic presentation. We take our red, velvet theater seat just as the curtain lifts. Like the beginning of Star Wars where our eyes excitedly follow the scrolling narrative so that we aren't so lost when the first scene opens, John gives us a similar debriefing.

Only this one's better. Here, we're talking about much more than the evil Galactic Empire, though there are striking similarities that we may have to explore later for pure entertainment! This is not just "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." This is the beginning of time, the beginning period. Nothing was before.

Nothing.

Except God. And Jesus, too, because "The Word was with God,  and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:2 ESV). Jesus is the Word.

This may be me running wild, but when I chew on that thought--that Jesus is the Word--something strikes me that gives me chills. When we think of the Word, we usually mean the Bible. We say that we should get into the Word more, that we need a Word from God...you get my drift.

What's so neat to me is that the Word (the Bible)'s ultimate point is to introduce us to the Word (Jesus) because without Him, there's honestly no point--no happy ending, no light, no salvation, no restoration. How beautiful that these two are so interchangeable?

Without Jesus, the Word (the Bible) is not complete. It is instead the Law only. Now, the Law is good because God set it and God is good, but we apparently aren't capable of upholding it. And this is our deep need for Jesus--the Word--to be the completion of the Law that we are not capable of following.

So when someone says they need a Word from God, I want to say--you already got one! :) (And I'm having fun here; I do know what it means when someone makes this statement. They need confirmation about something, or direction on their current situation.)

There's one other part of this first chapter that I adore, and I can't wait to talk about it.

Once the camera pans in on Jesus' face and we get familiar with His features, His voice, we follow Him as He starts calling others to let go of their lives and chase after Him. Two men begin following behind Jesus as He travels, curious to see where He will go, what He will do. Jesus notices them and asks them a question. "What are you seeking?" They want to see where He is staying. His words are not complicated. He speaks simply, with conviction.

"Come and you will see."

It is a command, yet I get the feeling He could have been smiling as He spoke it. Because Jesus is both God and man, he knew the future, and I wonder if He was having a forward glance at who these two men would become, what they would add to the story of redemption for mankind. One of these two men was Peter (who will later climb out of a boat one dark night on the water to be closer to Jesus). I wonder if Jesus' heart raced with anticipation toward moments like these that had not yet come, but that surely would. Or if He winced a bit thinking ahead to when Peter would deny Him again and again...and again. Was it hard in those few seconds for Jesus to still extend the invitation to Peter to "Come and see?"

Maybe not. Maybe that's just what I imagine from my theater seat.

As I read and re-read this chapter, I keep landing on that--"Come and see." The story of God, the story of Jesus is an invitation. Come and see that He is good. Come and see that He is the Son of God. Come and see that He is love. Come and see what He can do.

You may have heard about Him from someone else. You may have sung a song about Him or memorized a verse about Him.

But you won't know Him until you come and see.

Maybe He's inviting you to "come and see" more of Him, to press on in this book and follow to see where He goes next. If so, I pray you will continue to come and see who He is.

Now I'm on the edge, waiting to hear what YOU saw! Share below how this first chapter spoke to you, what you see within. Is God speaking anything special to you--asking you to take a step?




Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 9, 2013

Closing

I've wanted to write this post for a while now and prayed that one day I could, but I have this thing now where I'm afraid to say that I have something until it is resting safely in my hand. (I know--nothing is going to rest safely in my hand, right?)

But anyway.

This is us in front of our new home!






We had an amazing closing team. Our lender's wife made that gorgeous cake for us! Isn't that perfectly sweet and incredibly talented?!! I'm so blessed to have gained friends from all the house hunting experience we've had. Rikke is our realtor from buying the house in Moore that was destroyed, and she has become such a wonderful friend that I'll have forever no doubt.













This key is officially ours since Friday afternoon. It represents a wealth of possibilities, new beginnings, a threshold of healing, and so, so much more. But if I have learned anything from the adventure, the hard journey that God has allowed us to traverse, it's that nothing is really ours. And it could disappear in one short breath. Until it does, though, we want to enjoy it and thank God for His provision.

It's funny to me that they call buying a house a "closing." Because isn't it really more like an "opening?" Of a new chapter, a new life.

The kids are most excited about the back yard. I'm most excited about the door that separates the back yard from the living room.

I kid. Sort of.

We are grateful and wanted to share this with you finally. Thank you all for your prayers for God to continue providing for our family! He has indeed.


Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Spanking That Didn't Hurt

He knew he was busted. His little brother lay sprawled on the floor in shrieks while his big eyes told me everything I wondered. He had tripped him.

"Did you trip your brother?" I demanded. He nodded. "Why?" He shrugged. "Go to the bathroom."

He knew what was coming, and so did I.

But both of us were wrong, it turns out.

Something struck my heart.

Right now is the chance.

"Chance for what?" I asked.

Grace.

Suddenly, I knew what to do.

He sat on the toilet, shoulders sunk in and his eyes piddling with the floor. I sat in front of him, waiting on what to say. It slowly came, and I tried to plan my every word.

Stop planning. Just do it.

I gave a speech on why we are to be kind to everyone. God told us to love each other, not be mean. He was sorry, and he didn't know why he'd tripped his brother. Just to watch him fall, he supposed.

I had him turn around, my heart racing out of fear. I had never done this before and I was so afraid I would get it wrong.

I placed my hand palm down over his backside. Pop. Pop.

My hand instantly turned red with the impact.

Shocked, he spun around, looking at the spoon. "Why didn't that hurt?" I saw his thought.

"Because I just took the spanking for you. My hand hurts."

"Why'd you do that?" he asked quietly.

"Because I wanted to show you something. You did something wrong, didn't you? And you deserved a spanking, didn't you? There was a spanking, wasn't there? But did you feel it?" He shook his head with confusion and probably a little fear. "I took it instead. Because I wanted to show you what grace looks like."

Now he was sobbing. Thick tears spilled from his quivering eyes. "I don't deserve it."

"I know. Doesn't it feel good?" I smiled. He nodded.

"You know what this is like--who else took punishment for us that we deserve?"

He knew. "Jesus."

"That's right. Jesus did when He went to the cross for our sins. You remember what sin is? When we disobey God?" He nodded again. "I wanted to remind you of that."

"Remember that time I did something bad at school and the helper said I should feel ashamed of myself?" He never forgets anything, this child. I said I remembered. "Well, I wish that hadn't happened."

"Me too. And you know what? It's like it never did because God doesn't hold it against you. You need to remember that people are going to say mean things to you. When they say things like that, you know why they do that?" He didn't. "Because they may not understand this grace we're talking about. They don't know that we don't have to feel ashamed when we do things wrong."

"It really hurt my feelings. I don't want to feel ashamed."

"And you don't have to. But because we understand this grace, God wants us to show others that grace. So we don't get mad at them when they do things that are mean to us. We don't hold it against them. We give the grace to them that God gave to us."

"I like that," he said. We sat, looking at each other for a few minutes then. Him on the toilet seat and me on the floor across from him. Something had changed. His heart or mine. Or both.

"So there's something you need to do."

"Say I'm sorry to Caleb." He knew exactly. And he did it. And not only that, but he did it well. He explained all by himself to his little brother why he was saying sorry and asked if he'd forgive him.

Maybe he is getting this.

And maybe I am, too.

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book of John Community Group Launch!

I am so blown away by the response from each of you about reading through the book of John with me! My favorite part is how God works. He hears our hearts cry out in longing and because He loves us with such--severity, He gathers others of the same longings together to quench our spirit's needs.

I honestly didn't know if anyone would be interested or not, I mean--everyone has probably read John 2,031 times exactly, right?

No, probably not, I heard. It's that gentle voice that guides me to turn the car around and go meet someone, to send out that text message to the lady who just happened to pop into my mind. When I slow down, take a deep breath and a risk and do it--the response usually sounds something like:

"This is exactly what I've been praying for!"
"Ha! I was thinking I'd like to do this when I saw your blog post, but talked myself out of it...until you sent me this message. Now I know I'm supposed to!"
"What an answer to prayer!"
"I am desperately needing accountability."
"I need a community of women. Even though I minister in a church, I'm lonely."
"I really needed someone to come beside me and guide me through reading God's Word."
"I've been in a dry spell..."

Ladies, I am so excited because of what God is going to do in our hearts together. And I'm really thankful that I didn't listen when I heard the enemy's jeers that this was a stupid idea, no one wants to read the Bible, and especially not with you.

So, let's jump in and uncover what God has for us as women, as mothers, as daughters, as sisters, as aunts, as wives, as friends, as women who are ridiculously loved by our God! And if you didn't already know that, my hope is that during this time, He will whisper it deeper into your heart so that you no longer wonder whose you are.

So here's the plan:
Starting next week, AUGUST 11 (Wow, I just realized that we're starting on my birthday! What an incredible gift!!), we will read chapter ONE of the gospel of John. Read whichever version of the Bible you prefer. I read the English Standard Version (ESV). If I quote it, I will try to quote the New International Version (NIV) since I think most people use that.

Sunday-Friday:  Find time to read the chapter for the week. Read it once or read it thirty times!
Friday mornings: I will post a blog about that week's chapter and share what God has spoken into my life, any questions I have about the reading, any parts that I loved, didn't love so much, or just don't quite "get." Occasionally there will be a surprise guest blogger pop in here as well to shake things up! I'm very excited about that and I know you will be blessed!
I will try to keep this as short as possible and get the discussions rolling for the rest of you!
Friday-Sunday: YOU get to pop in and see what everyone is talking about! Hopefully you will feel brave enough to comment as well! You don't HAVE to comment, obviously, but it is kind of the point to be involved with one another, so I hope you will! :)
To do that, just click on "Comments" under the post. It will direct you on how to proceed. I have the settings where you can post anonymously if you are a scaredy cat! :)

Here's What This is NOT:
1. Me teaching any of you, as most of you should be teaching me. I'm simply going to break the ice and take the first step in sharing what God shows me as I read His Word.
2. A Theology Show and Tell. Let's focus on the heart and what God wants to show us there.
3. A Gossip Trough. Let's focus on our own hearts, our own lives, our own immediate situations.
4. Intimidating! DO NOT worry that you don't have enough biblical knowledge to participate or that you don't know the right Christianese to hold a righteous conversation on here! We are all on different levels of our walks with the Lord, and that's actually what's so beautiful about this. Those of us who may not understand a certain scripture can sit back and let someone who does explain it better! And we don't need to feel dumb or less important, or whatever else the enemy is trying to convince you of. Learn all you can and you'll turn around and be the one to show someone else one day!
5. Overwhelming. We all have families and busy, busy lives! That's why I want to keep it to just one chapter per week and give all week to read it. Some weeks we have it all together, and well...some weeks we just don't! If you don't get the text read, still stop in and see what God is speaking!

Here's What This is IS:
1. Encouragement for us each as we open God's Word and watch it come alive in our hearts!
2. Accountability to keep each other going!
3. A safe place where you won't be judged or looked down upon. If someone is rude or tears down another's spirit (and I just know you ladies will NOT)--but if someone does so, their comments will be deleted immediately.
4. FUN! Let's see how much fun we can have reading the Bible--weird, I know, right?!
5. Faith building! You'll get to see other women's faith grow as we seek God together, and that will make YOUR faith grow!

I cannot wait to hear from YOU ladies! I am already praying for you each, that the space between your heart and our Father's will grow smaller and smaller.

My awesome geeky guy has also made finding my blog easier! Just type in cara yakel dot com and you'll end up here! :) You don't have to remember "Pieces of the Sky"--or spell pieces right that way!

I hope this brings you joy. 

See you next week with the first chapter of JOHN! Mark your calendar to begin reading AUGUST 11!
Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, August 5, 2013

Read John with my friend and me!

I got a harebrained idea that I'd like to share with you, because well, you understand my harebrained ideas usually! :)

So one of my friends and I are about to take a dive into the book of John and we are wondering if any of you would care to join us. We are reading just one chapter each week, not a crazy commitment, not a TON of reading--but just something to get us more involved in God's Word. You may do a ton of other reading throughout the week in scripture and just want to be a part of a community study, or this may be all you have time for in this season of your life. Either is perfect! We'd LOVE for you to stop by and join us, see what we are learning as we savor this book full of the story of our Savior and His followers.

If you would like to join, I would love if you would comment below or comment on the link on my FB page. Each week I will post about the chapter we have read that week and you will get to comment, sharing what YOU are learning! I am going to let you hear from my friend on here as well so you can see how scripture is changing her life, too!

Tell your friends and your momma, your aunt, your grandma, your neighbor, your hair dresser, and let's dig into God's Word together! I know I need this, do you?

Peace of Christ to you,

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Felicia

The plan was to visit the water park--to let the kids run out their energy while giving me a quiet moment on the bench.

She was not the plan.

But there is always a reason you turn a different way, go down a different street at the last second. I made a left turn and glanced toward the sidewalk to my right. And there she was, laboring her way down the busy street with a weighty sack in hand.

Her African dress and matching head piece--black with rich red and orange polka dots--spoke the introduction to her story right away. I had not felt my heart leap with the Spirit's beckoning for quite some time, but I welcomed the still familiar dance.

Turn around. Meet my daughter.

I passed more driveways than I meant to before answering, Yes, I will.

Once turned around, I narrowed my eyes, looking for her as I backtracked. I was hopeful that I had heard the Lord correctly, but I wouldn't know until I asked. A sharp voice in my head began mocking me--How ridiculous I must look. Still I drove closer, until her small black form became larger and more vivid. I pulled into the driveway she was approaching and rolled the window down, unsure of what to say. "Can I give you a ride?" I managed.

Her rich brown, glistening skin stretched with a wide smile and a "God bless you" as she climbed inside to sit beside me. She heaved the plastic sack onto the floor of the car. "A little something to eat," she said. Her broken English matched her headdress, and I loved her immediately. I asked her to repeat herself more than once, but she was so gracious toward my ignorance.

"Roxboro," but it sounded more like "Rocksabury." I found it and we turned. She guided me along while I learned about her soul and she learned a bit of mine. She turned around to Kate and asked her name, her black eyes shimmering with joy.

She was not traditional.

When I thought her smile could not get any bigger, it widened further, as she said, "I love you."

"I love you, too," sang my Kate.

My head spun back to my five year old daughter, aghast at the unrestraint of her heart.
 
"I have lived here since January. My husband passed on." I looked at her with no response, trying to understand her accent and struck by her generous affection.

"My husband. He passed on," she repeated. "I moved here to live with my daughter who already come over." I asked where she came over from. "Nigeria," she answered.

"Nigeria," I repeated. Nigeria. She had come to have a second chance--a chance at all. My heart trembled, knowing this was a moment God had ordained just for me. He has shaken me, rocked me...and this moment was my invitation to come deeper in with Him or to watch from the shore.

So I eased my toes in. Further. Deeper.

She kept saying "I love you" and that she was so glad to see a real Christian--loving, taking time to give.

If only she knew. If only she could see the darkness my heart has held, the times I have not been loving or taken time to give because my grasp on my own time was far too taut.

Her hand loosely caressed a string of beads. Pearl, baby blue beads. "I am Catholic," she said, her eyes finding my gaze toward the rosary. "But I would like to go to church with you, you good Christian."

I shook my head. "Oh, I'm not good. My God is. He's been good to me, and I just want to help."
I had parked the car in front of her apartment building, and now she was opening the door. I told her that she had blessed me as much as I hoped to bless her. She reached for my hand, and I let her.
She closed the door, but immediately opened it again. "You have card to give me?"

Card? I searched my mind for clarity, and then I understood. "I don't, but I can write my name and number down for you." I reached and pulled an envelope from my disheveled purse. I scrawled the number and wrote my first name only in first grade penmanship. Unsure of whether she understood area codes or not, I explained that you dial ALL the numbers. And before my instruction came out, I blushed, embarrassed that I had assumed her so ignorant in that moment. She had seen far more than my eyes had looked upon, far more than they ever would more than likely.

I was the ignorant one. She knew of a world I did not.

She gave me numbers as well in the parking lot and repeated that she would like to come with us to our church. "God bless you and I love you," she smiled as she closed the door one last time. She stepped up onto the sidewalk in front of the apartment building and waved with the full length of her arm, still beaming at my children and me.

And we drove away with full hearts. "That was nice," Keagan finally joined the conversation. He'd been silent the entire drive. We talked about helping others and how when we think we're the ones helping out, sometimes they help us more.

"I love her, Momma. She was beautiful."

"I love her, too, Kate."

I thought of how my heart quickened as my mind struggled between stopping and continuing on my way. I felt silly, I felt crazy to think God would speak to me about picking someone up. I argued for a moment, and then I just found myself turning around.

I'm really glad I did. Because I almost didn't, and I would have missed this, missed her. God has whispered lately to me how He loves the lonely, the broken, the outcast. He sees what we do not, and He sets the lonely in families. And we can respond in one of two ways. We can remain oblivious to other crowns of His creation around us, focusing only on our desires and agendas.

Or we can reach a hand out and say "I love you." "You are wanted." "You matter, and I will show you by giving my time and my attention to you. Not because I am better than you and you need me, but because I, too, have known loneliness. And perhaps I need you as well."

I fear that we as Jesus's followers are overlooking the plain, the unpicked, the unlikely, and the unplanned.  I know I have, and it destroys my heart. What a beautiful risk God took to reach His hand out to us; how can we not respond, palm up?


Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, August 2, 2013

THREE and Me

Of the 74 days since May 20, some have shocked me by how good they were, while others have been anything but good.  Today is one of the not so good.

I hadn't been able to pin point the catalyst all morning, but I simply could not make the continuous flow of tears stop. They poured and poured, and then poured some more. I prayed and asked God what was happening in my heart, why I was so down. I had anticipated this to be such an exciting day. I didn't hear much. What I have heard is probably not from Him, as all it has done is tear my spirit down further.

Maybe it's that today our youngest child is three, and I am grieving not celebrating in a more normal situation, I guess. I thought he'd blow out a giant 3 candle at our kitchen table and we'd open presents in front of the fire place. (Please know that there simply are no words to rightly express the intense gratitude I have that we get to celebrate another birthday for him...anywhere.)

Still...it does hurt, though, if I'm perfectly honest. Everyone got to have a birthday there except Caleb and me. I don't mind that I didn't; it's that Caleb didn't get to. I know this probably sounds weird, too. It's so hard to pair words with feelings in our grieving process.

Loss, in whatever form, takes you through definite stages, and it's true that you will indeed feel them all at one time or another. They may be in a different order than someone else's, but the recipe of grief holds the same staple ingredients. And you never know which will bleed through for the day.






This does make me smile.

I'll tell you what else has made me smile. I was in the middle of this excruciating lamentation I call a blog post when my phone rang. I stopped typing and decided to answer it because this girl is serious, guys. She is a new friend, but a very rich one, and I was really hoping by pressing "Answer" I would receive an immense blessing from her voice.

And I did.

I love that God cares that deeply for us. I sat, listening to each of Satan's lies (that by the way, if you remember correctly, I was just encouraging YOU to ignore just last week!) and believing each one a little more by the minute, by the hour.

Satan wants me to believe that it's not acceptable for me to have a day where I grieve what our family has lost because that would mean my faith is weak. He wants me to believe that I am the worst mom because I bought a ticket to a women's event on my son's birthday. He wants me to believe that no one truly cares what I'm going through, and he certainly wants me to believe that Romans 8:28 is a lie. That God cannot dig diamonds from the rough or adorn me with robes when all I came in were rags.

I needed that today. Maybe you did, too.

He cares.
He loves.
He knows.





Peace of Christ to you,