More Peace

More Peace

Last year was a lesson in grace for me.

So many times my patience was tested in ways it rarely had been before. Honestly, I think I actually learned how to show grace in a way I’d never had to push myself to do. In that way, I became more like Jesus. I learned that even if I am right, I don’t always have to make sure other people know that. I learned that I am called to treat people with kindness even when they don’t deserve it, and I learned that often the people I’m meant to show grace to are the people I’d most like to push off a cliff.

Yes, I’m sure the next time I need to be the bigger person, it’ll still be hard. I might need to learn about grace all over again. But, I am proud of the way I acted in 2016. I am proud of the way I was able to learn to love others in the same way Jesus loves them-an unearned, undeserved love.

What has God been showing me this year?

Well, we’re one month in, so of course He’s been teaching me something new.

One: peace.

Peace in a world that is anything but peaceful. I’m learning to trust in Him and find Peace, even when I don’t feel it. Even when I’d never feel it on my own.

The other day, during a time of worship, (the Holy Spirit nudged) a friend, and he spoke the words “peace and trust” over me. It was very much one of those words that could relate to many situations or anyone, but I had to laugh because peace was exactly what I was crying out to the Lord for in that moment. Tears streamed down my face (and I felt ridiculous, but I let them fall).

As we finished the song, I felt the Lord speaking to me: As your TRUST grows, peace will come. In that moment, I realized I hadn’t been asking for enough. I was asking for peace, but peace and trust go hand in hand.

The more I trust Him, the more I am filled with His peace. The more I trust Him, the more I refuse to give up.

Two: more.

This word has been floating around in my head the past few days. The other night I was free-writing in my journal and it seemed like it was all I could think of. More. More peace more trust more peace more trust more grace more love more understanding more wisdom more forgiveness more of You, God. That’s what I want this year to hold.

That’s what I know this year will hold.

No matter where I am by January 1, 2018, even if it’s somewhere I never thought I’d be (and it usually is), I want to look back and say that I gained more of Him. I want to look back and say my trust has grown in leaps and bounds. I want to be walking in a deeper and more perfect peace than I thought possible.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. (Colossians 3:15)

 

xoxo,

Carrie

22 Before 23

On September 2nd, I turned 22, with little fanfare.

That was how I wanted it. I’ve been dreading birthdays since I was 15. Though I do like thoughtful gifts and kind words, of course.

It’s not that I fear growing older. I actually look forward to being 70 years old with gray hair, rocking a grandbaby or two on my knee as I take in the warm evening air on my front porch. I hope I’m a fun old person. I hope I still write. I hope my home is welcoming and warm. I hope I can care for myself. I hope I’m not a burden – more than that, I hope I can still contribute.

Anyway. Random tangent over.

All that to say, I’m not afraid of being old, but maybe it’s the aging process I don’t love. Or maybe it’s a fear of looking back at the past year and realizing I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I would’ve.

22. Practically middle-aged, really.

And I’ve already held this age for 2 months.

I decided to make a bucket list for this year.

I generally fail at this type of thing, but maybe if I’m blogging it I’ll feel accountable. So here goes. Here are the 22 things I want to do before I turn 23. I’ll try to blog about all of them.

22 Things to do Before I Turn 23

  1. Travel to a new country.

  2. Take a class. Learn something new.

  3. Pick lavender. If you want to visit a lavender field with me, say when.

  4. Buy my first bee hives. And the bees to live in them, obviously. And try not to kill said bees.

  5. Read 12 books that have been on “your list” for ages. Seriously. You can’t go on pretending you’ve read Moby Dick for the next 40 years.

    The books in question:


    Moby Dick, Beloved, To the Lighthouse, As I Lay Dying, Midnight’s Children, Leaves of Grass, For Whom the Bell Tolls, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, On the Road, The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, one other, or as many others as I can manage. (Let the record show that when I searched a few lists of 100 great books you should read, I had read most of them and I now feel better about myself.)

  6. Practice a random act of kindness every day for a month.

  7. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston AND/OR go to the Smithsonian Institute museums you haven’t been to.

  8. Write every day.

  9. Spontaneous roadtrip somewhere new.

  10. Do something aesthetically pleasing but don’t post it to any social media. This one is just for your enjoyment.

  11. Complete a crossword puzzle. No cheating. Except to ask mom for hints, maybe.

  12. Make a friend much older than you. (At least 30 years your senior)

  13. Make a friend much younger than you. (At least 10 years your junior)

  14. Apply to a grad program.

  15. Learn (and retain) some facts about every single president.

  16. Explore two American cities you’ve never been to. (1/2 done.)

  17. Hammock in a national park.

  18. Make a food that intimidates you.

  19. Go to see a band you don’t know. Let yourself be completely surprised.

  20. Discover/learn/try something new in the world of specialty coffee.

  21. Speak with a fake accent for an entire day. Because what is life without being a little silly sometimes?

  22. Go to a botanical garden.

Alright alright alright. Only 10 months to go. Follow along and suggest things you think I should add or try next year!

xoxo,

Carrie

On this, the Monday-est of all Mondays

Today had me feeling some type of way… some type of melancholy. The Monday-est of all Mondays.

Tonight I crawled into bed with a glass of wine and some Faulkner, but I ended up with my laptop out, looking through photos of Scotland – of the place I called home for only half a year – and missing it something fierce. (May or may not have squeezed my eyes shut reaaaaally tight, in hopes that when I opened them I would be in my itty bitty icky flat, and I could throw on my rain coat and run down the hill to my favorite cafe for a flat white, or to ‘Spoons for a pint. It didn’t work.)

I think it hit me so hard because instead of looking through my best photos – the ones that are edited and perfectly posed – I ended up flipping through ALL of them. The bloopers made me miss it more.

Ah, what a time that was. How the sheep ran to me, embracing me in love and fluffy kisses. (Not what happened.) How the Scottish security guards LOVED seeing me climbing on the wall of Edinburgh Castle, trying to get that perfect gram even though the drop on the other side was 30-50 feet. “Tourists will be tourists,” they said good-naturedly. One may have even offered to take the photo for me. (Not what happened.) Oh how that handsome young bagpiping soldier offered to let me try to play his quaint lil instrument. (Ok fine, he’s not, strictly speaking, “alive,” so that’s not what happened either.)

Ahem.

Anyway.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Awkward selfies with my Canadian bestie, pics of many a meal of “fancy ramen” in my little plastic purple bowls, photos of wild drunken Scots messing about in the quad outside my bedroom window, playing in the 1/4 inch of snow that decided to bless Glasgow that winter.

Rain-soaked bridge running photos. Rain-soaked castle hill climbing photos. Rain soaked runs back from the grocery store photos. (It rains a lot in Glasgow, ok?)

Seriously, so much rain. But look at those smiles. Aw. What a time we had.

Every happy memory comes rushing back so easily, in the blink of an eye. I don’t remember how I felt in the nights lying in my twin sized bed with the crappiest mattress, wishing I was home, wishing the noise outside my window at 2 am was my family rather than another drunken college student celebrating a rugby victory or just celebrating your average Wednesday night. I don’t spend time dwelling on the days when I legitimately thought I was going to fail my Arthurian Legends class because the professor was a… word I’m not going to write here.

Instead I remember last minute train rides to new cities and running to the pub with new friends. I spend days thinking about flat whites and empire biscuits. Or just biscuits in general (an under-appreciated food here in America. And no I’m not talking about the biscuits you douse in gravy).

It’s so easy to pine after the good things about a place, an experience, a memory, a person… anything you lose, really. It’s so easy to forget the things you didn’t like.

One thing I do remember is how afraid I was of coming home. I knew I didn’t have a lot to come back to. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to drive my car. I had a couple close friends I knew would still be there for me. But I also knew that when I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia, I would be stepping away from some friendships and relationships that had been integral parts of my life before I stepped onto another plane in Philadelphia just half a year before.

I had no idea if I would find new relationships to step into.

But here I am, 1 year and a couple months out, and I have never felt more at home in a place than I do in Lancaster, right now. 22 years old – most of those years spent right here, in good ole Lanc. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this feels like home. I shouldn’t feel surprised that these people are home. I shouldn’t feel surprised at it all.

But I do.

Because before I left, this wasn’t home. It was just the place I was from.

I came home not knowing what I was coming back to, or why. And then my purpose found me. I found people to pour into, and people stepped in to pour into me.

Maybe it’s just chance. Or maybe someone is pulling the strings.

I’m reminded again tonight that God knows what He’s doing. That He’s most in control when I’ve given up my petty little excuse for power. That sounds simple enough, and maybe it is, but I need to keep reminding myself.

I’m reminded that when I tell Him daily my talents are His for the using, He will use them. I’m reminded that He’s ALWAYS speaking. When I can’t hear Him it’s not because He’s gone silent, but because I’ve stop listening. (Or because I’ve let my Bible sit idle by my bedside for too long.)

I’m reminded tonight that when I give Him my heart, it might get a little dented and it might be pulled in different directions, but it will not be destroyed beyond repair. I’m reminded that He cares about my desires more than I ever could. That He’s already given me the desires of my heart, and that He will continue to.

I’m reminded that every single time I’ve let anxiety and fear and doubt overcome me, He’s proven Himself – He’s come through, again, and again, and again. He didn’t have to. But He did. Because He knows my heart. He knows my heart desires Him above every other desire, but He also knows I’m easily distracted. He knows what I, specifically, need.

I’m reminded that He is good. That He helps us to gradually move on from things we need to move on from (even if they were really good things, in their season). Even when we want to hold on.

And I’m reminded that when memories come back like a whisper, sewing little seeds of discontent, of self-doubt, sewing little seeds of you’re not enough, you’re not doing big things like you used to… Why are you doing this when you could be doing that?

His voice rings out in the darkness :

I am enough.

I am more than enough, so you don’t have to be. 

Friendly reminder to look around at your life. Find the good. The Father has you where you are for a reason. If you don’t think that’s true, start asking Him for revelation. Don’t stop asking.

Let me just quote the great Ferris Bueller before I hit publish: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading.

XOXO,

Carrie

 

Full of Life Now, and Full of Passion

Wow. It’s been awhile. Life has been a little crazy. Almost two weeks ago, I walked across a stage and accepted a diploma. (Well, really, I posed for a picture with my school’s provost holding a diploma case that I wasn’t even given. Because first of all, they send us our diplomas in the mail, and second of all, it was raining, so they didn’t even hand us the leather diploma cases the way they normally do.)

IMG_7061
That’s me, moments after graduating!

Over the past weeks, I’ve had a surplus of free time for the first time in… four years? I’ve had some time to ruminate on the fact that I’m finished. It is 8 parts joy and 2 parts sadness. 8 parts sweet freedom and 2 parts wanting to go back to school in the fall. 8 parts finally getting to DO some of the things I kept saying I’d do after I graduate, and 2 parts realizing I was never going to do those things, whether in school, or not.

It’s hard for me to see the changes in my life from the last four years. It’s hard to pick out specific things, and know that they have changed for the better, or the worse. My high school graduation seems so long ago I can hardly remember the person I was. I remember telling my parents that I wouldn’t change in these four years. They were worried I would be “corrupted,” and I assured them that my core beliefs were unwavering. That I wouldn’t change in those 4 years.

Ha.

I have changed a thousand times. There were times in college, that I was so much worse off than I ever was in high school. There were times when I struggled with who I was and what I believed. My morals were shaken. I was confused about the right next step. Plenty of times I worried so much about what I should do, without even bothering to ask God what He wanted me to do. But not once in college did I question my belief in God’s unwavering, unconditional love.

Many students do walk away from God in college. I am thankful and blessed that my faith only grew stronger. Some of my friends have asked me how I’ve stayed so sure. My reply: Jesus is the most important thing in my life. Everything else stems from my connection to Him. It’s a relationship – the most important relationship in my life. And it’s not something I could just walk away from because of one or two professors who tried to tell me I was wrong, or because of one or two great writers who happened to be atheists. Peers have pointed out to me how may great writers – writers I love – didn’t believe, or don’t believe. And to them, I generally throw a few names like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or T.S. Eliot, who happen to be three of my favorite authors, and three of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century. For every person who left the faith, I can find one who held fast.

I’m more certain today than I ever was in high school. I have made discoveries of God’s love in this past year. I have seen His hand move in unprecedented ways. And it has changed me in the best possible way.

My favorite Bible passage throughout the past couple years was Proverbs 3. The whole chapter is so good, but verses 5-8 are the verses that really stuck out to me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Someone shared this passage with me when I was on a mission trip in Alaska, the summer after my Sophomore year of college. It was my hardest year of school. The only year I felt like I was losing myself. Anxiety really hit me hard, and I was stressed out for pretty much every moment of every day. That trip to Alaska was, for me, a turning point. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that trip impacted me, turned me around, and began a change in me. Looking back, I see that I heard God’s voice very clearly there, in the wilderness, in the stillness, in the solitude. I experienced Him in ways I hadn’t before, and I couldn’t look away.

Up until that point, I hadn’t been trusting God. Not with my whole heart, anyway. Not even with most of my heart. I was trusting in my own intellect. I was trusting in my own knowledge. And it wasn’t working. This passage is a promise that I can lean on. If I chose to follow Him, He will make my paths straight. Up until that point, I was leaning on my own knowledge, and on my own skills. In the two years since, I have tried my hardest to lean on Jesus, and to acknowledge that he can give me so much more wisdom than I could get anywhere else.

He is all-knowing. He is the giver of understanding, and He is a generous giver.

A few months ago I read A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy for the first time. (I’ve read it another time since then.) Oh man. If you’ve never read Tozer, do yourself a favor, and read Tozer. He so fully encapsulates the relationship we should have with our Father. He talks about getting back to the source, and about God’s Holiness, and makes me realize how much I should spend every moment of every day on my knees. Because God is worth it. One moment in His presence is better than a lifetime anywhere else.

This is a passage I jotted down from Tozer a few months ago, and it continues to be my daily prayer.

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

I know I’ve talked before, about wandering. I feel like I’ve been wandering for so long, through time, and space, and I feel like I’m beginning to find my place. He is good, and He is constant, through all of life’s changes.

 

What I’m Reading this Week:

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings – Philip and Carol Zaleski

This book is an engaging, comprehensive biography of Lewis, Tolkien, and co. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf, calling to me for nearly a year. So far I’ve gotten through Lewis and Tolkien’s childhoods and their time in World War 1. One thing that stood out to me so far is the way loss (of parents, and so many friends through illness and the war) shaped their lives, their writings, and their faith. Any page now, I think I will read about their first meeting in Oxford! My nerdy heart is happy.

 

Much Love,

Carrie