Saturday, August 3, 2013

I want to be a party girl

Parties? I thought those were for "sinners."

My pastor at our church gave a sermon that I've been thinking about almost daily since he gave it back in June. It has made me reflect and search and shift.

Ever since college, or even before then, I have caught myself becoming "super spiritual" at times. That might sound like a good thing to some, but it has caused me to live trapped in performance, pride, and self sufficiency.

Now don't get me wrong, my absolute love and adoration for Jesus Christ is not what I mean by "super spirituality," but rather it was what I felt like I needed to do to love him that made me caught up in this hyper spiritual mentality. I began to realize this more as I saw how I put an unspoken (and sometimes even spoken) expectation on what others needed to do in order for me to believe they were "true believers." I mean, I do believe what the Bible says about their being fruit in our lives that display our commitment to following Christ, as well as clear commandments to keep us on the path of the straight and narrow that leads to life (Matthew 7:14); but I saw myself setting a standard that was outside of God's Word. That standard was something that I thought was necessary in order to prove salvation.

Fasting, worshipping with a physical expression, prophecy, healing, and 2+ hour prayer meetings became obligations to being "legit" rather than being an invitation to His benefits.

I lost the idea and the concept of rejoicing, of fun....of freedom that the Bible is so clear about.

When the Bible tells us to rejoice always, that means to feel or show great joy or delight! YES! That means have some fun, be free! In the presence of God there is fullness of joy. Goodness me, for those who have been set free by Christ are free INDEED!

When you look at the Bible there are two things it says Jesus came to do. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (his mission, Luke 19:10) and Jesus came eating and drinking (his method, Matthew 11:19). As my pastor said, Jesus liked to party! Sharing a meal and celebrating and fellowshipping with others was at the center of Jesus' mission to seek and save the lost! I love that! Jesus was a human. He didn't just sit in a prayer closet or spend all of his time with people who believed in him. He was invited to parties by sinners. How often am I invited to parties by people who don't think or believe the same way that I do? I want to be a party girl.

I have found so much freedom in recognizing that I can worship Jesus while feasting and laughing at a table full of people just as much as when I'm fasting, or I can worship by playing with my neighbors kids who don't know Jesus, just as much as when I'm in a 2 hour prayer gathering. I still see the power and benefits of fasting, prayer meetings, and other standards I had, but I am not ruled by them. I am not cherished because of them.

It's so amazing to see Jesus more for all that he is, and it's SO rich to be able to walk in ways that draw us closer to all that he is.

I want to be more like Jesus. Jesus was a partier. I want to be a party girl.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How could they do that?!

I've been on a roller coaster physically, spiritually, and emotionally for the past 2 months. I keep thinking "Ok, I'll be out of this soon", as I see God ministering to me in my brokenness. I will feel discouraged and restless and stagnant all at the same time, and then I will surrender and God meets me in that place where the floor meets my knees.

It's funny though, I will read stories in the Bible of people who see God provide in amazing ways (fish and bread, Israelites out of Egypt, empty nets to ones full of fish, etc.) and then I'm like "WHAT THE?!" when the very next chapter talks about how those same people question God's goodness and provision. I often think, "How could they do that?!" Well friends, that's me. Man, that is SO where my heart wanders to at times and it was so humbling to realize that! I have found myself riding this roller coaster because my eyes wander back down to me and my circumstances versus lifting my eyes up to where my help comes from.

I look at these stories and see how God continues to reveal Himself even though they question if He will "show up" this time. God is so gracious to us. There are recent journal entries where I am asking God "where are you in this situation?" or "why do I feel this way?" "why is this happening?" and even in those questions He has spoken. It's when we lift up our eyes we can recognize that He is right here with us...even in our mess. When my eyes are up, I find everything I have ever wanted, because He satisfies. 

I started to write the lyrics to this song a few weeks back after I spent time with God when I was feeling discouraged. Even then I saw my tendency to forget God's goodness towards me. Here are the lyrics so far:

How quickly I forget, the fish and the bread
And how the grass of the fields are dressed
With the lilies, in their splendor
They do not toil or spin
Even in valleys, they see their needs met

I've seen you feed the raven
I've seen bread from heaven
I've seen you bring life from death
So be near to me now
And remind me of how, you sustain me and you satisfy

You satisfy
All on your own, you satisfy

Be at rest once more o my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

Friday, March 29, 2013


Resurrect: to raise from the dead. What an intense word.

Have you seen anything that was dead, come to life?

This past week, I felt death in me. Obviously not in a literal sense; but I just felt like the fullness of life that I have been given had been partially sucked out of me. I had felt that way for a few weeks and the heaviness of it was lingering and prolonging itself, and I had had enough. I broke down in weakness to my servant husband who pointed me right to Christ. He set up space for me to go sit in my favorite corner of the couch to meet with the One who was resurrected, and could resurrect the fullness of life that was given to me through Him. I spent time talking with God, repenting of depending on my own strength to get myself out of this feeling, and for turning to others and other things before turning to the One who actually BRINGS life. What I've come to realize is that when I choose to run towards Christ, rather than away from him when I am hurting, He meets me there. He is close to the brokenhearted and will reveal himself to those who seek him with all their heart. Within minutes of pouring out my confession and affection to God, He spoke. I could sense He was renewing my heart and my mindset as He brought me to different passages of scripture, with Psalm 116 and Jeremiah 17:5-10 being 2 passages that really convicted me as well as uplifted me. Sometimes I can quickly forget the numerous ways God has blessed me when I allow myself to dwell on the things that are not yet or are not meant to be. These passages of scripture reminded me to lean on Christ, to put my hope and confidence in Him, and to praise Him for all His goodness towards me. The parts of my heart that had felt dead to me were becoming resurrected as God gently spoke over me His truth and I put into practice what His Word told me to.

When my difficult coworker rolled her eyes at me, I thanked God for my job.
When 3 women I know announced their pregnancies in one day, I thanked God for the life he put inside of them.
When my husband didn't do things the way I asked him to, I thanked God for my husband that daily serves me.
When I was exhausted from the busy week, I thanked God that I could find rest in Him.

That's the power of resurrection. It is SO hard to thank God for things when I feel discouraged or frustrated. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the veil was torn so that I could speak to the Father and hear from the Father to find renewal and hope.

When remembering what Good Friday represents today, it is with great joy and awe that I know the end of the story. That there is resurrected life! That death and sorrow and darkness are only for a time and out of those things, there is opportunity for NEW life through the power of the resurrected Savior, Jesus!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Through the journey.

As you have already noticed, my blog is very welcoming into the journey of my life. I am always open to sharing the ups and downs and allowing myself to be vulnerable. There's so much freedom when I allow myself to be vulnerable and real with people instead of trying to hide my fears, insecurities, and struggles.

As most of you know, one of my biggest desires currently in my journey is to get pregnant and carry a little a life in me full term. I emphasize full term, as I sometimes fear my inability to do so. But my greatest desire is to always worship Jesus. Always. I want to worship Jesus all day, everyday, and in every situation. When I become fearful or discouraged as I wait on God's timing to become pregnant, my heart becomes weary to worship sometimes.

I have taken 3 pregnancy test in the past 18 days, as I truly believed that I could be pregnant. I knew the first one I took was too early (but was too antsy to wait), and I was hoping that maybe I took my next one too early as well  because both of them were negative. This morning I decided to take another pregnancy test since my body (and my mind) were driving me crazy to know if I truly was pregnant.  Even though the first tests were negative, I still thought--and hoped--that there was a chance because I was feeling really similar to the first time I got pregnant. This morning the test was negative. Then the dreaded period came along an hour later. My heart hurt. A lot. All I could think was, "why is this happening?" "Why did I have to think I was pregnant for so long and then have similar symptoms as my first pregnancy?" I was so discouraged and just cried out to God in my weakness. "I am so weary God. Waiting for a child feels like so much longer than it really is. Help me to worship you here in this place. I am yours."

I began to sing the song that God gave me after my miscarriage, which I hope to share at some point. But there was another song that ministered to my heart so much as I have been processing my emotions. It is my song right now as I remind myself that "If my heart is overwhelmed, and I cannot hear your voice, I hold onto what is true, though I cannot see. If the storms of life they came and the road ahead gets steep, I will lift these hands in faith, I will believe. I remind myself of all that you've done. And the life I have because of Your Son. Love came down and rescued me, love came down and set me free, I am yours, I am forever yours. Mountain high or valley low, I sing out and remind my soul, that I am yours, I am forever yours."

I hope this post isn't a complete bummer. I think the beauty of sharing life with others is exposing your weakness and frustrations and allowing yourself to wrestle openly with the things that you wrestle with in private. I am hopeful that there is more to this life. There is still much to celebrate and still much to be thankful for...that post will come at another time soon!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The cup

Oh man, life is so fast! There have been multiple times where I want to sit down and write something out of the passion I am experiencing regarding a topic or lesson I am learning. For me, I'm the kind of person who needs to write out of her passions. It's hard for me to just sit and free write because it will be all over the place and I like when things tie together. So, all those things I have wanted to write about lately are just a part of me now and not something bubbling over that I can easily express at this point. I'm sure they will be posted at some point, as God continues to refine me and deepen my understanding of the recent revelations about how God is humbling me with His grace or how an intentional life of mission has been burning in me. But, I want to write about today.

Today I could have wept and worshipped for hours after church (but like I said at the beginning of this post, life is fast and sometimes I miss out on those moments that God is doing something in me, which could be a whole other blog post). But here I am now, in my weak "let's try this again" mindset, processing the Word of God that was spoken today and allowing it to penetrate my very being.

Since God has been humbling me so much regarding my need for grace, I have been asking Him to, especially in this season, remind me of the weight of my sin and the intensity of His sacrifice.

The message at church today was about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before leading up to his arrest, death, and resurrection. Jesus is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death and three times he prays "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." I have gone to church all growing up, and always read this verse as "Father, I don't want to go through all the pain and torture of being beat and pierced on a cross..."without really looking at what the "this cup" means. But, when Jesus says, "this cup" he means the cup of God's wrath!! WHOA! Like I said, call me a "church-goer since childhood" but I don't remember hearing this emphasized before, or maybe the Holy Spirit was just really highlighting it to me, because I was completely consumed with awe. The overwhelming sorrow due to his anticipation of deep agony was because of the CUP, not the cross. Now, I'm sure he wasn't looking forward to the beatings or death on a cross, but his intense prayers that lead to sweating blood was because of the CUP!

The cup of God's wrath is filled with God's fury towards OUR sin. The sinless Savior willingly endures the wrath of God that WE deserve as sinners! God knew His rescue plan for mankind since before time began which was to sacrifice His only Son (and ultimately himself, when looking at the trinity) in order to save mankind.

I was in tears as we spent time singing to the One who drank every last drop from the cup for me...and for you!

There's no greater love than this.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Off Days

6:00am alarm goes off. Sore, swollen throat. Swollen lymph nodes. Plugged up nose.

"Mike, I don't feel the greatest, I don't think I can go to work."
"Sweetie I'm sorry, try drinking some water and sitting up, that could help."
I replied with a blunt "NO. I'm staying home."

It was one of those days. One of those days when I woke up and I felt off from the get go. I was not in the mindset to go to work where I would be serving kids that would drool on me, most likely bite me, and rub their snotty noses on me. Now, that's not how I would usually describe my job---but that's how I did this morning. I didn't want to serve. I didn't want to pour out. I felt burnt out.

That's what happens when I live on my own strength. I feel off. I wasn't meant to live on my own strength.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

**Wow. The second I typed that the music in the background sang that verse. Yup, God must be banging that message from a gong to me. 

Every morning for the past 10 days I have been too tired to wake up to spend time with God. This is SO crucial for me to do. I don't have it in to me to go to work where I treat severely multiply impaired kids, to love my husband, to prepare him dinner after a long day, to take care of the house, all in my own strength. This morning I felt it. I knelt before God feeling the distance that I had put between us. The distance that puts the weight on me to get things done and to do them well. But I don't have much--I don't have anything--to offer in my own strength. I have to come to Jesus everyday for my daily bread to sustain me. His Word, His prayer, for us speaks of this as he asks for us to ask for our daily bread. He gives us all that we need for one day at a time, and I have to come back for more the next day. So today I spent the day doing what I would do with anyone that I am trying to reconnect with. I spent time with God. I spoke to Him and made time to listen. May I continue to come to Him in my weakness, even on my "strongest" days.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

When Love Flooded In

My intimate and personal story of a life that was given and taken away, and how strength was given to say BLESSED BE YOUR NAME! This is not to testify to anything that I could have ever done in my own strength, but to magnify the name of God and proclaim that God is undeniably present with the brokenhearted.

There has never been a day that I was more excited to pee. November 14 I peed on that “magical” stick and 2 lines appeared…two significant lines that brought me to my knees with complete awe and excitement. I was pregnant!

I had dreamed of this day since I was like….12. Haha.  I pulled out the baby name list that I have been adding to since I was 13, I started furiously pinning ideas on pinterest, and I started brainstorming all the fun ways I would tell my family and friends this thrilling news.

But then it set in…fear. Ya know, that paralyzing emotion that the devil tries to use to rob you of joy and trip you up in trusting God’s best. Thoughts like “what if I lose the baby?” “What if my child is like so many of my current patients, born severely multiply impaired?” and then guilt “don’t mess this up…if something wrong happens it will be your fault” and “you don’t deserve a blessing like this”.

Those thoughts would consume me in the night and in the morning--during my weakest hours.  I asked for prayer warriors to surround me and prayed with a friend rebuking those lies and fears and I was set free. God whispered to me “I work all things together for your good, according to my purposes.” And at that moment and multiple times again I told God “Every day you give me with this precious gift of life, I surrender him/her to you because they are yours and for your glory.”

We had told many friends and immediate family about our exciting news and everyone was ecstatic for us! We were really looking forward to making our big public announcement in a couple more weeks at Christmas. We wanted everyone to join our celebration!

Until that time, I started singing songs to our baby and coming up with many nicknames for him/her J I started to imagine the memories we would make together with the simple moments and the first milestones. Oooh how I couldn’t wait for my first ultrasound so that reality would set in more, that life was REALLY in me!

December 19 was the day I was anticipating. There I laid, the doctor applying the ice cold gel below my belly button and there he was (I kept thinking our baby was a boy), with a little figure that I could already decipher body parts--his head, body, and even his little arms. Streams rolled down my face as I looked in awe at our precious little baby. AND better yet, there was the tiny little pulse, giving me a peace of mind that our little babe was as he should be. The tears strolled even more. “Oh God, what a miraculous blessing that I am carrying in my womb!”  We were told our baby’s due date was July 19, 2013; we were 9 weeks and 5 days pregnant.

On the way home, we stopped at the store to frame the pictures of the ultrasound for our parents for Christmas—we knew it would be a heart-warming gift.

Two days later (December 21) Mike and I made our way to Lansing as we were going to celebrate Christmas early with my family.  That night I had a little bit of spotting and felt uneasy. I called the doctor that was on call that night and he said spotting was pretty normal and he felt confident and hopeful for me as I had just had an ultrasound on Wednesday and there was a heartbeat. I held onto that and chose to not let myself be consumed with thoughts of fear. I slept great that night and felt fine the next morning.

That next day when it came time to open up presents with my family, I started having sharp cramps that came out of no where. Again I called my doctor and he explained to me that as the uterus is stretching that it can be more painful for some women. He told me that since I was not bleeding he didn’t have concern at this point.

The cramps became unbearable and my family thought it would be a good idea to go to the emergency room in order to give me a peace of mind that everything was ok and to see if there was anything I could do to minimize the pain. The pain remained at a level that I had never experienced before. I had blood work done and a pelvic exam and they said that things were looking ok at this point. I had to go to the bathroom and I had some more spotting than previously. Deep breath…“God works all things together for my good, according to His purposes.”

I went back to my room and the nurse was ready to take me to get an ultrasound. I was excited and nervous to see my precious baby again. I kept praying that everything was going to be ok. The technician spent a long time assessing me with the ultrasound tool and my heart began to drop. I kept telling myself, “Everything was fine just 3 days ago…they can’t be wrong now”, trying to cling to all the hope I had left. I softly asked her “How is everything looking?” and she responded, “I’m just the picture taker, the doctor has to review the pictures.” My stomach instantly began to ache…beyond the intense cramps I was experiencing. “Oh God, please let everything be ok!!!”

They wheeled me back to my room and my PA told me she was waiting to look at the pictures from the ultrasound with the doctor. My PA had to only be 26 or so, and she was so sweet while taking care of me throughout the day. When she came back to my room her eyes were red and it didn’t take long for her to speak these words choking back tears, “You are the last person I would want to say this to, but the baby had no heart beat. You are going through a miscarriage right now”….(she continued talking but I couldn’t hear her until she ended with this), “I want you to know right now that this is not your fault.” She left to give me some time with Mike and my mom.

The transition of her telling me the news and leaving the room was surreal, but this is a peek into what I felt. Deep sorrow and loss met with deep peace and comfort. As my husband held me and cried with me, I knew God was in that room. All the nicknames, memories, and dreams we had with our baby raced through my head, but God’s love flooded my heart.

The deep emotional pain quickly met with deep physical pain as I now understood that the cramps I was experiencing were contractions that were meant to pass the baby that I would never get to hold.
But I went back to the words God had spoken over me “I work all things together for your good, according to my purposes.” So I laid there in my husband’s arms in the hospital bed, with tear stained cheeks, staring off, allowing myself to rest in the comfort that God so tenderly provided me.
“My dear child, I have your child…remember how the song ‘better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere’ played multiple times throughout this week? My dear child those words were to prepare you, your child is in my courts.”
Wow. More tears softly fell down my face. The best day I could ever provide my child, the greatest achievement they could ever experience, did not even compare to the brilliance my baby is experiencing in heaven.  No pain, no heartache, no sickness (all things that I would want to protect my precious child from) will never touch him. I’m crying over that reality even as I type this.

As God whispered those words over me as well as bringing many songs and passages of scripture to mind, I knew that I wanted to use this loss as a way to minister to others---and I have gotten many of those opportunities already.

They eventually discharged me from the emergency room and over the following 12 hours, I went through tremendous physical pain as I waited to pass the baby. But even then, I knew God was there (and not only that, but my husband was such a beautiful representation of Christ as he held me, cried with me, and prayed for me each step of the way).

**I won’t give the physical details here, but want to offer that if you know of any women in the future who have a miscarriage, I would be honored to help them walk through their loss physically, emotionally, and spiritually. **

Over the next few days I got such encouraging words from friends and family. It was amazing the support that surrounded me. I do not regret for one minute sharing our news “too early” as some may say. Having loved ones pray for me and embrace me and Mike during this time has blessed us so much! God even used people who didn’t even know I was pregnant to speak to me in miraculous ways. He used a first grader and a dear lady I’ve never even met from a different country to speak life and hope over my womb, and neither one of them knew that I was pregnant! Wow, my God is good!!!

OK, so I can’t help but share my sweetest and most intimate detail about my baby that God shared with me. The way that God so compassionately cares for us is so astonishing! Now, this was something that I might have thought was weird in the past, as I couldn’t wrap my mind around it; but a friend of mine who had a miscarriage a few years ago prayed with me and told me that God told her the name of her baby. Knowing the baby’s name was not even something that crossed my mind because I wasn’t sure what the gender was (although, as I shared previously, I had my “motherly instinct” that we were going to have a boy).  I still hadn’t thought much about what our baby’s name was, but God had. So, this friend of mine was praying for me and she said “God, I thank you that this baby is a warrior, that this baby is in heaven warring in the spiritual realm and interceding for Carly and her and Mike’s future children.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think about that…it brought tears to my eyes to think about, but I also thought, “is that really what my baby could be doing in heaven?” So I prayed about it on my own separately later on.

So going back some, as I had mentioned previously, a woman from a different country who I have never met spoke hope and life over my womb. This woman is my best friend’s mom (my best friend is an international student, so I’ve never gotten to meet her mom before). She didn’t know I was pregnant yet and she called Veronica on the day I was having my miscarriage and shared with her she was praying and had a vision of me with grain seedlings in my womb. Veronica told her that I had been pregnant but was currently going through a miscarriage, but her mom said, “Tell Carly, that there WILL be life in her…she has seeds of life in her!” TEARS….LOTS OF TEARS….God sees us and God uses His people to speak life into our situations. HALLELUJAH!!!

So anyway, going back to the name (I’m sorry if this seems dragged out, all of these details are significant!), I was sitting at dinner with a group of friends and out of the blue the name “Graham” popped in my head. Mike, knowing that I’ve been passing baby names by him since we were engaged, just nodded and said, “yeah, that’s a cool name.” At this point, I didn’t mean for it to be the name of our baby we had to wait to hold, but for a future baby. Later that night I googled the meaning of the name Graham and the top two meanings I could find were GRAIN and WARRING!! “Are you kidding me God?” I wept as God showed me that the most intimate details matter to him. So, that is his name, our precious boy’s name is Graham.

Sweet Graham, I want to say you left too soon, too early
But instead I know that you are in the place that God intended earth to be
I will never forget the day, the tremendous loss on December 23rd 
But how just two days later I could celebrate the LIFE we have through our Savior’s birth
The arms you are in are greater than mine could ever be
And one day I WILL get to hold you, the one who has been warring
I will join you in playing in the streets of gold
And I will join you on my knees in bowing low
To the King of Kings who is worthy and who reigns
To Him who was so very present, when love flooded in