In the waiting…

Recently, life has been… eh.

I’ve definitely been in the valley, rather than the mountaintop.

It’s been over a month since I posted a blog, and that’s not because I haven’t written them. It’s because 14 posts are sitting in my draft folder waiting to be sent out into the world, but not right. Not ready. Not yet.

The past while, I’ve been restless, stuck, overwhelmed, feeling like I don’t know what’s next and terrified of this being all there is. What if there is no “next?” I ask myself. “What if this is it?”

I’ve never been good at staying in one place, or doing one thing. I entered my first airplane when I was a toddler, so I guess I can blame my parents for that. (Back then they took kids into the cockpit before the flights and gave them little pilot badges. Ah, the 90s.)

One year ago, I had just moved home from Scotland, saying goodbye to a lifestyle in which I traveled constantly, and I was so very (very very very) happy and content to be here, in Lancaster, home, even though I wasn’t sure what would come next. But now, a year has passed, and I’m read to move on.

But I know I’m supposed to be here. I know I’m needed, and I know God is using me, right here. It’s actually pretty annoying.

I find myself asking Him, “Hey God, are you sure you don’t want me to do this next, or go here next? See that friend going to YWAM or that friend spending the summer in Italy, or my sister in Thailand? Are you sure you don’t want me doing that? Are you sure you don’t need me there?”

But even as I ask, I know the answer is no.

“Not now. Right now, I need you here.” He gently turns my head toward the work I’m doing, to the places I’m serving. He points out the relationships, the friends who need me now. He points to my family, who are all living in a 20 minute radius for only a little while longer… and he lets me know that for this season, I’m needed here.

I ask God to give me grace in this waiting place almost daily, and the other day I realized I’m no longer waiting. He’s brought me out of the waiting place. He can use me right here, right now, because I’m realizing this is where I’m supposed to be. I don’t need to be looking forward to the next big thing, because the big things are happening every single day. They just look like little things.

Life happens in the gaps, in the process, in the waiting. Character is built and shows itself in the everyday things.

As I build trust and as I put the needs of others over my wants, I’m showing God that He can trust me. I’m showing Him that He can depend on Carrie to make wise decisions. I’m showing Him that even when my emotions and feelings are complete turmoil, I can come closer to Him rather than blaming Him and turning away. I’m showing Him that my faith is not based on circumstance.

I’m showing Him how deep my roots go.

For the past few months, I’ve been reading the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, with my small group. It’s one of those books I feel like most good Christian girls read in youth group, but somehow I missed the boat on this one. It’s been so good and I feel like every young person should read it, male or female. (We’re starting Wild at Heart next. Bout to know all the secrets of men’s souls. Watch out world.)

There’s a quote in the final chapter of Captivating that has been influencing my every day life. Reminding me to be here. To be present. To not spend all my time looking forward to the next thing. To appreciate the people I’m with. HERE. NOW.

“To live as an authentic, ransomed, redeemed woman means to be real and present in this moment. We cannot have intimacy with God or anyone else if we stay hidden and offer only who we think we ought to be or what we believe is wanted.

“What have we to offer, really, other than who we are and what God has been pouring into our lives? It was not by accident that you were born; it was not by chance that you have the desires you do. The Victorious Trinity has planned on your being here now, for such a time as this.”

I have a challenge, if you feel like you’re stuck in the waiting place. Do something new. You may be unsure of your next step, but you can get creative in how you serve Him here, today. Do more than you think you can. Challenge yourself. Something I’ve been trying to do is bless others in ways that they will appreciate, even if it’s not the first thing I would think to do. Thinking outside your “love languages” and “gifts” is stretching, but God calls you to more than just one “love language” or two “spiritual gifts.” He wants you to grow in every gift, even the ones that come a little harder to you.

I want to grow in the the things I’m most blessed with, like mercy and leadership, but I also want to grow in faith, and prophecy, and exhortation, and administration.

Stretch yourself. Stretch your belief. Lift your hands and praise Him when you’d rather curl into a ball and cry. Make yourself available to God even when you’re not “feeling Him,” or when your emotions are pulling you away from Him. He’ll bless you for it and He’ll bring you out of the valley filled with a strength you didn’t know you could have.

His approval is worth it. He’s worth giving up everything else. He’s worth it. He’s worth it.

He’s worth it.

Much love,

Carrie

Life Weekend

This weekend was The Living Room’s Life Weekend (or spring “retreat,” if you know your Christianese). I was looking forward to it for a long time, and got even more excited when I heard the topic was going to be the Holy Spirit!

A few days before the retreat, when we got the schedule, I began to feel overwhelmed. I felt like it was too packed, like I was going to come away from the retreat exhausted and drained, rather than relaxed and renewed. I kept telling myself, this is what you signed up for. You chose to be a leader here, so lead. If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking this is going to be another retreat story where I start out with a bad attitude and then leave the retreat like, “YES. JESUS. WOOOOOHHH!!!” you’re pretty much right. Ha. Keep reading anyway?

This song from Hillsong Worship came on shuffle on my iPhone Friday morning before leaving for the retreat, and the words really spoke to me. “Overwhelmed but I won’t break. Through the battle I will say, ‘Your grace will be enough.'”

Of course it ended up being one of the songs the band played multiple times throughout the weekend. Of course. A sweet little reminder from my Father to just trust Him: You may feel overwhelmed, but you can lean on Me. I will not break. I will not even shake. You can rest and just let Me work through you. I am enough. I’ve already won.

God ended up extending so much grace to me throughout the weekend. All I had to do was receive it. I got to know people who come to The Living Room every Tuesday, but who I’d somehow never seen before. I connected more deeply with some of my closest friends (who I’ve really only known for 6-9 months, which is freaky and weird because how do I love and trust them so much already?!)

I love all these people. I love this community. I love that there are 300+ young adults who are busy, but still come out every Tuesday night to learn about Jesus. I love that over 100 of those young adults are willing to take a weekend away and go even deeper into the Word. It doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t be happening. People my age should be “sewing their wild oats,” or what have you. But it is happening. God is doing something special right here in little ole Lanc.

I love serving at The Living Room. I love learning there. I love that more and more of my friends are going out and spreading the Word to all nations. It’s exciting to see people taking what they’ve learned and applying it and letting Him change their lives, not just coming every Tuesday night and hoping for God high after God high to get them through the week.

Anyway. Back to Life Weekend. I’ll try not to get too long-winded with this post, but here are 4 things that stood out to me!

  1. Sin is strong. I am also strong. I can beat sin alone for a long time. But always, always, always, I will wear out. The Spirit never wears out. When I’m fighting sin WITH the Spirit in me, I won’t wear out. I am not Superman to my sin, but when the Holy Spirit comes alongside me, great things happen.
  2. If we don’t know our identity… if we don’t believe we are God’s sons and daughters, and as such have the same beautiful inheritance as Jesus… we can only imitate results. Oh man. This struck me more than anything else all weekend. Am I imitating the results I see other “great Christians” producing, or am I allowing the Spirit to work through me and use my very personal and unique gifts?
  3. Until His baptism, Jesus had been doing… nothing. He was a 30 year old carpenter. He had not preached. He had not performed miracles. He was waiting (which is a hard thing for most of us to do). Still, after His baptism, God’s voice came down, claiming Him. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God loved Him, and claimed Him, not for what He’d done or would do, but for who He was.
  4. Finally, 1 Corinthians 13 spoke to me in a new way this weekend. I’ve always thought of it as the “Love Chapter.” Apparently I even compartmentalize scriptures into little boxes, like that’s the “Love Chapter” and that’s all I’ll ever get out of it. Not sure how I missed it, but it’s about the Holy Spirit, too.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Oh man. When prophesy and tongues and knowledge and everything else passes away, love will still be there. It is endless. It is perfect. It is free. It is the most beautiful expression of the Holy Spirit.

So much love,

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.)

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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