About That One Time I Tried Scuba Diving (& Failed)

From the day my Dad and brother first tossed me into the pool to force me to learn how to swim, (great story for another day) I have felt completely at home in the water. Ya know, once I learned how to swim. Most every summer day of my childhood after that included riding my bike to swim in the pool nearby or hopping back and forth from the pool to the ocean when we were down at the beach. 

In high school, I swam on the swim team, (big time sprinter here), helped coach a kids swim team, surfed a little and lifeguarded as a summer job. I felt just as comfortable holding my breath while swimming from one end of the pool to the other as I felt twirling my whistle on the lifeguard stand.

Until.

Fast forward a good seven years. I had the opportunity to take a crash course on scuba diving and then head out for the day to dive around Sodwana Bay in South Africa. Beautiful location, great opportunity. 

Except.

Holding my breath for ages was not a problem, but the idea that I’d be twenty feet below the surface breathing from an Oxygen tank for an extended period — I just couldn’t get used to it.

I’d been through the “educational” part of the diving training, and it was time to practice in the pool. I was psyching myself up to be able to give it the good old college try. Mouthpiece clenched between my teeth, three feet below the surface, we got to one part in the lesson where you have to pretend to knock your mouthpiece out of your mouth (because someone else’s flipper could do that underwater). Then you slowly stretch your arm out, grasp the mouthpiece, clear the water from it and begin breathing again.

That *slowly* thing was what got me. I could snatch the mouthpiece out of my mouth, grab it, stuff it back in and clear it, five seconds flat. What the instructor was looking for was that I could handle slowly, purposefully removing it, and not panicking to get it clenched in my teeth again. 

I tried it. It was unsatisfactory. She pointed to someone else to take a turn. She asked me to try again. Once again, I was changing tires on a Nascar track. Fast. She demonstrated again, the art of slowly removing the mouthpiece, letting it fall to her side, gracefully stretching her arm out, gently bringing the piece back, and so on. 

After three or four attempts, I pointed, much less gracefully, to indicate that I was headed for the surface to breathe some Oxygen that wasn’t inside a compressed tank.

I don’t know exactly what it was about the breathing underwater thing that just didn’t gel with me. I opted for a long luxurious walk down a deserted beach instead that day — and really enjoyed it — but also knew I’d missed out on some of the special sights below sea level that day. 

The trouble was — I just couldn’t slow down.

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet.
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors:
“To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
O you simple ones, understand prudence,
And you fools, be of an understanding heart.
Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things…
{Proverbs 8:1-6}

A couple of years ago, a lovely group of subscribers joined me on a Deep Dive — a 30 Day journey through the book of Proverbs. We read a chapter each day, and enjoyed the insight and revelation that came from a book that is so timeless it’s somehow always timely. It seems to speak to everything.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the idea of inheritance — this beautiful theme that runs a unique-colored thread throughout the pages of Scripture. One of the most important things to notice is that we often miss out on our inheritance simply because we don’t know what is rightfully ours. We might have some knowledge, but we are lacking wisdom, we are starved more understanding.

So I’m taking a lesson from the day I just couldn’t slow down enough to earn the opportunity to dive deeper and offering an invitation for you to join me. We’re going to begin slowly walking through Proverbs again, listening hard for Wisdom as she cries out from a high hill, searching for an understanding heart. 

You’re welcome to open your email as usual each week to jump into thoughts and reflections on each chapter, but I’d love to also invite you to consider doing two things — investments that I think will provide greater dividends:

1. I’ll post a link to the chapter of Proverbs we’re walking through each week, right at the top of the email. (We’ll be going in order, starting at chapter one.) You can read each week’s chapter, slowly throughout the week leading up to each Wednesday, or you can just click that link when Wednesday’s email arrives, and read that chapter just before you jump into the thoughts. Again — you’re absolutely allowed to not read it, but I think reading that one chapter each week really will pay off.

2. Invite a friend to join you on the journeyThis link will allow them to subscribe and receive the emails, too. See if you can take a moment to talk with that friend/spouse/roommate/coworker about that one chapter of Proverbs — just one little thing that struck you in a new way for the first time, or really spoke to you. The thing is, the more we give a little of our daily thoughts to thinking about God, the more He guides us and helps us to see Him, to understand Him and to know what He is like. You’ll be amazed at the compound interest that explodes out of investing in the things of God.

3. (Yes, I said two — this is just an optional fun idea.) If you’d like to — not homework, no pressure — I’d love to welcome you to share something that was meaningful to you from that week’s chapter. Share it on the Facebook Page of With Love, From Here, or just shoot me an email. I’d love to include a “Reader’s Thought” each week if I can just to add a bit more encouragement! 

This time around, I’m hoping I can slow down enough to clear the mask, get the Oxygen flowing and graduate from the swimming pool to the deeper waters. I hope you’ll join me and look forward to what we’ll discover together! 

Ready to dive in? Me too.

xCC

***
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Invitation link to copy/paste share: https://mailchi.mp/020d35a1133b/subscribe-caroline-collie

The Gifts Behind Enemy Lines

I’ve got a little riddle for you this morning. What do Saving Private RyanThe Avengers: Infinity War and my homeschool classroom all have in common? 

Give up?

There’s something important behind enemy lines — and somebody has to be brave enough to get up and go get it.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing a few thoughts on the concept of inheritance. This one word seems to hold a wealth of greater understanding because it is a theme we find on repeat through both the Old and New Testaments.

As I shared, with the story of the literal inheritance I received after losing my Dad, sometimes something rightfully belongs to us, but we still have to take some steps, and go through a process to receive what is already ours.

As Christians, we’re due a whole lot — we have an incredible inheritance, paid for by the death of Christ on the cross. He is the only rightful heir to all of Creation as the perfect Son of God, but He chose to pave the way for us to be adopted into the family, children of God and co-heirs to the inheritance.

If I also mention that the Holy Spirit is the deposit — the guarantee of our inheritance — then I think I’ve about caught you up to speed on where we are in the conversation.

So. The Holy Spirit, alive in you and me, is the “proof in the pudding.” And if we want to walk with that Holy Spirit, we’re going to have to slow our pace and listen carefully. And, if we listen carefully and begin to yield to the lead of the Holy Spirit, there is going to be fruit. Paul wrote to the Galatians about this:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {Gal. 5:19-23}

Did you spot that magic word in there again? Who wants to inherit the kingdom?!? If we are living according the flesh (something we read about in Galatians 5 last week) we are not walking in the Spirit — and the fruit of that choice will be obvious in the way that we live.

But when the Spirit is behind the steering wheel, the car looks a little further down the road (remember that?) and you begin to steer straight between the lines. Suddenly there’s love, joy, peace! Patience and kindness are in abundance. Goodness and faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are a part of the picture. 

Now — here’s where the problem comes in. Those beautiful fruits of the Holy Spirit are a part of our inheritance. We are in the business of inheriting the kingdom of God — not just someday, friends! Now! If those fruits should be mine right now and they are not — who do you think is failing to drive between the lines again?

Let’s look at a practical example in my own life to illustrate what it means for a slice of your inheritance to be captured and held behind enemy lines.

I’m a homeschool Mama. And as a homeschool Mama, I have a deep-set belief that children are amazing creatures created in the image of God, and they are all unique in their gifting and strengths. This means I also believe that they will not all learn at the same pace. Not all subjects will be equally easy or equally challenging to all children. Their education cannot be a conveyer belt. I believe if we faithfully show up and do our part, God will bless our efforts and we will progress at the right pace for each of the children God has given me.

I have one precious darling daughter who has struggled with learning to read more than her brothers did. The process was a slower one. I began to get anxious about this one sweet girl and what I was doing wrong and what we needed to do differently.

My belief slowly migrated from “I trust she will learn to read when her mind is ready to put together all the things she’s learned so far” to “This isn’t working and if it doesn’t start working soon I’m going to start freaking out.” 

Did you see what happened there? When I stopped holding onto that core belief about my daughter, I let go of trust — and before I even realized it, my peace was gone. Instead of a sense of peace abounding as we showed up to do the next thing and continue the process, anxiety was on my doorstep whispering big discouragement.

Maybe you can relate in some area of your own life? Paul was writing to the Corinthians about forgiveness once, and he commented “so that satan does not outwit us. For we are not ignorant of his devices.” {2 Cor. 2:11}

It started in the Garden of Eden and it’s still the same old trick. The enemy whispers Did God really say? and we start to question what we think we know — and suddenly our joy is behind enemy lines because we don’t believe God is really in our corner. Or our gentleness is behind enemy lines because we think the Father is a harsh task master, instead of a loving God who disciplines those He loves. What really causes us to lose kindness or goodness or self-control? Our actions don’t come from what we say we believe. Our actions spring forth from what we really, truly do believe.

How do we take back what was stolen? How do we drop from the proverbial helicopter behind enemy lines to save Private Ryan? 

I hope you already know the answers: we read the Word, and we pray. Prayer storms the gates and takes back what is rightfully part of our inheritance. Getting our truth from the Word can remind us what we so easily forget: God is on the throne, and He is good.

He is good, and if my daughter takes longer that the average kid to read, it is okay. We will do our part and be faithful, and He will lead us. If she needs testing for a learning disability, He will lead us. If we need to just keep faithfully plugging away, He will lead us.

I’m grateful to say that thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, I didn’t freak out. I didn’t drop hundreds of dollars on new curriculum or sign my daughter up for unnecessary testing. Eight months or so down the road, she is reading beautifully and making great strides. Maybe there are other seven-year-olds with better skills, but I love to think of how incredibly talented she is as a little artist and remember — God had something unique in mind when He created her. Perhaps I should choose to trust… and be faithful.

Is something that’s rightfully yours behind the gates of enemy lines today? Have you ever considered the possibility that you’re forfeiting it by choice? You have a good inheritance, friend. But what you believe will determine how you walk. 

Be bold! Go after what’s rightfully yours! Storm the gates in prayer! Hold fast to God’s Word and His promises! Don’t be ignorant of the enemy’s devices. If something that belongs to you is in enemy-occupied territory, by all means — take it back!

xCC

***
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Can You Slow Down for This One? :: Inheritance, Part Two

Can you remember learning to drive?

I have this vague, strange memory of being at the ripe, young age of 15 or so, and admitting to a friend that I just couldn’t figure out how to keep the car going straight. I felt like I was constantly moving the steering wheel to stay in between the lines… and I didn’t think my Driver’s Ed teacher was going to smile, wink and pass me if I kept it up.

That friend was a year younger than me, and I’m still perplexed as to how he knew what advice to give because he should not have been operating motor vehicles at the time. Nevertheless, he had some wise words that helped me overcome that pesky wobbling-wheel syndrome:

You have to look further down the road.

That was it. Instead of looking at the lines directly beside the car on either side of me, I needed to look in the direction I wanted to drive. That change of focus naturally stopped me from constantly correcting course every ten seconds.

Last week, I started a conversation about the word inheritance. It’s a word that took on a lot more meaning when my Dad passed away, and it’s a word that I found with overwhelming frequency, as I searched for it and noted every instance in my Bible, from cover to cover, in the years that followed. 

To review, we know that there are things that we inherit because of Jesus. The Son of God, and heir to everything in creation, died for us and paved the way for us to become adopted into the family of God — children of God, and therefore, co-heirs in the inheritance.

Now, Paul wrote on the subject of inheritance more than a few times, and in his letter to the Ephesians, he explained:

 In Him [that Him is Jesus] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. {Ephesians 1:13-14}

Now, I had my heart set on giving you three bullet points to ponder today on this subject. But the first bullet point I scribbled out to help me remember it challenged me to think that hurried pace through.

Based on those words from Paul, we know that the Holy Spirit is a guarantee — some versions say it’s a pledge of our inheritance, or a deposit of our inheritance. The Holy Spirit is that earnest money you put on the table because you have every intention of buying that house. 

In our lives, the Holy Spirit can be a whisper we occasionally nod toward, or maybe sing about, or just furrow our brows about because we don’t feel super comfortable with our understanding of the Third Person in the Trinity.

So instead of the three bullet points I was ready to hurriedly type for you today, I want to share with you just one.

  • Slow Your Pace

Paul wrote to the Galatians:
Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. {Gal. 5:16}
The Holy Spirit is this promise that God deposits in us, that we have a good inheritance, that He is just getting started — but that He is very far from finished with the work that He plans to do, right here in our own hearts and lives. (Remember what we talked about last week? We’re still in Act Four!)

Matthew Henry commented on this and I hope you’ll forgive the fancy, formal language and dig in for a moment to these powerful words:

“Accordingly the duty here recommended to us is that we set ourselves to act under the guidance and influence of the blessed Spirit, and agreeably to the motions and tendency of the new nature in us; and, if this be our care in the ordinary course and tenour of our lives, we may depend upon it that, though we may not be freed from the stirrings and oppositions of our corrupt nature, we shall be kept from fulfilling it in the lusts thereof; so that though it remain in us, yet it shall not obtain a dominion over us.”

So I offer you a simple challenge this week. Remember how looking a little further down the road helped me stop wobbling between the lines and steer straight?

The Holy Spirit — that beautiful still-small voice, that wonderful deposit of God that whispers till we know-it-in-our-knower — He can whisper to you this week. He can lead you. He can guide you. He can see further down the road than you can.

But?

My guess is, especially if you’re anything like me, you might have to slow your pace to hear His voice. You might have to step back from a snap decision (perhaps to fuss at a kid? not that I’m speaking from experience, ahem, this is just an example) — step back from the quick decision, the quick word, the quick yes or no. 

I read some beautiful words a few weeks ago that I was reminded of again, just before writing this today:

“The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away–it can only be forgotten.” {Greg McKeown, Essentialism}

Way back in Act One, when God gave us the Garden and the work, and the beauty of life with Him, He also gave us the dignity of choice. He didn’t create automatons or robots — He created human beings with options to choose from.

We still have that dignity — we still have choice — but He has also given us the Holy Spirit, to whisper to our hearts, a secret weapon, if you will, to help us to choose well.

What’s weighing heavily on your heart this week? Where does your soul feel a bit stuck? I’d love to hear from you and to know how I can encourage you. I’d also love to encourage you right now to slow your pace so that the Holy Spirit can help you see further down the road, hold the steering wheel firmly, and live this very precious day accordingly.

xCC

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Did You Know There are Things That Belong to You That You Haven’t Received Yet?

Join me, for a brief moment, if you will, in the past.

The year is 2013, and after a week of praying and hoping and fearing and waiting, my Dad has breathed his last breaths this side of eternity. 

There are a thousand words for that moment, but let’s focus on this one for now: unexpected.

He and my mother divorced more than a decade earlier, so my brother, sister and I have the responsibility of settling his affairs. Suddenly everything that belonged to our father was ours — the good and the bad.

Dad’s alma mater, about which he was fiercely passionate, was East Carolina University — home of the Pirates — and in true Pirate fashion, he left us a treasure hunt. 

If there was a map, we still don’t know where he buried it.

With my siblings living in other parts of the country, the title “Administratrix” fell into my lap, and while that’s a really fun word to say, turns out it’s rather a hard job to take on in the best of circumstances. 

My Dad left behind financial obligations which had to be settled. He also left behind properties, which we inherited. The crazy thing was, we didn’t know what he owned or what he owed. We knew very little of the terms of many of his business-done-with-a-handshake agreements.

It’s a hard place to be in — knowing that there’s so much you don’t know, and realizing you have to learn what you don’t know, in order to then be able to go figure out what to do about it.

Now imagine for a moment, that I took the Death Certificate which confirmed that my Dad had passed away, and just carried it around with me. I didn’t go about finding out if there were debts to be paid. I didn’t go through the process of closing his estate, selling the business over here, that piece of land over there. I didn’t even go and transfer his property into the names of my brother and sister and me. 

If we didn’t walk through the process of settling his estate, we would not have received the benefits that were due us — we would not have inherited what we were supposed to receive, right? 

I’d like to posit an idea to you today that I’m hoping to unpack more thoroughly over the next several weeks.

Sometimes, as Christians, we are walking around with a death certificate, but we aren’t going through the process to truly receive the inheritance that is rightfully ours. 

Consider these thoughts from Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise, but God gave it to Abraham by promise. {Gal. 3:18} 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. {3:26,29}

Okay — so we are heirs to something because of Christ, and therefore grafted into Abraham’s family tree.

Let’s zoom out and get “Big Picture” here for a moment. Like Shakespeare, perhaps, we’ll see this as a Five Act Play.

Act One:(Exposition) God creates the world, and He makes people. It would be appropriate to say He made children — unlike the rest of Creation, He made us in His image. He gives His children a garden to tend and work to do — they receive an inheritance from their Father. But there’s one thing every story that is worth a sheet of paper to write it on has: a problem. The snake in the garden deceives the children out of their inheritance. He convinces them they need to do something to be like God — but they forget that they already are. They were created to care for the Earth, to have dominion over it, to rule it and cultivate it and make it wonderful. But they’re tricking into choosing to define goodness in their own terms — apart from God. A downward spiral of shame and blame begins, that I’m sure you’re familiar with and in the end, they lose their inheritance.

Act Two:(Rising Action) God starts with Abraham. He makes a covenant with Abraham and promises to bless him. He has a plan to bless the whole world again, to bring the whole world back into the inheritance He intended for them in the beginning. Out of Abraham, He’ll make a nation that will be the beginning of a blessing to ALL the nations. The story is going somewhere — but the people keep failing. How is God possibly going to redeem and restore His fallen creation? 

Act Three: (Climax) Jesus. I mean, I could really just write that one Name and it would be enough — but let’s elaborate. Hebrews 9:15 explains, “And for this reason He [He being Jesus] is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” In this unexpected move no one saw coming, God sends His Son — the only rightful heir to everything (because it’s all His Dad’s, remember?) — and Jesus sacrifices Himself to purchase our freedom. We sold ourselves to the Pawn Shop of sin, and Jesus brought Himself to the counter — He paid what we owed, and we are redeemed.

Act Four: (Falling Action) This is the act we are in, right now. Present Day. In many ways it’s already resolved, but in other ways, not yet. We already have an inheritance. Paul explained to the Ephesians, “In Him [that’s Jesus, again!] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” {Eph. 1:11,13-14} We are here. We have the death certificate — we know Jesus gave His life to redeem us. We are already the children of God, but we are still in a broken world. Let’s hold that thought.

Act Five: (Resolution) The return of the King. The moment when this world fades away, and somehow all things are made new. New Heaven. New Earth. We fully walk in our inheritance in every way. C.S. Lewis best described this part of the story at the end of The Last Battle, “Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Can you find yourself in the story? Did you see it? We’re in Act Four. Now, if my Dad hadn’t passed away, everything that belonged to him would still be his. And he’d be faithfully reading everything I write, encouraging me to keep at it, and feeding his grandkids peaches and peanut butter and jelly for dinner. 

But since he passed away, what was his passed on to his children. And although the years of simultaneously grieving the unexpected loss of my Dad, combined with the messy, hard challenges navigating settling his estate were pretty painful, still we sit on the other side of our loss, blessed by what he left behind for us. 

So these are the questions I’d like to unpack over the next few weeks: in what ways are we walking around with a Death Certificate, but not really receiving the inheritance Christ bought for us at the cross? While we look toward Act Five, when Jesus returns and renews all things, what is our inheritance now, in this already/not yet place?

When I was in the throes of settling my Dad’s estate and beginning to understand an earthly inheritance, I found so many whispers and echoes of the heavenly inheritance that is a gift to all believers. I hope you’ll join me to consider these things in detail. And I have a beautiful secret to whisper to you for now: you have a good inheritance.

xCC
 

I don’t want you to miss the next post in the Inheritance Series!
I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement. I’ll be shooting you my Five-Step Meal Plan System via email, and you’ll get weekly encouragement at the same time!

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Remember Your Destiny: It’s Out of This World

Maybe it was an article on the news. Maybe you know someone who has walked through something hard or hurtful. Maybe you found yourself in the shower on a Monday morning just feeling pretty crummy about the world.

(Maybe I did, too.)

I walked into church on Sunday morning and was greeted with tremendously heartbreaking news — a very kind, friendly, compassionate, beautiful person, mother to a sweet and intelligent high schooler, daughter, sister, wife, and friend to many, passed away incredibly unexpectedly. 

In the days since, I’ve been praying for her family, specifically with my mind swirling, my heart heavy, over this 17 year old kid who lost his Dad a few years ago, and his Mom this week.

There are days where the sun shines just right and the clouds are heavenly and the grass is the perfect shade of green, and then there are days when life just doesn’t feel like that at all.

Sometimes, life really, really hurts.

Last year, we faced a trial we didn’t see coming. I spent weeks upon weeks thinking about Piecing Together Who’s Behind the Curtain When Affliction is On the Stage. I asked God questions about what He wants, and what He allows, and I tried to understand a little bit about the difference. Sin broke the world God created for us, and it broke God’s heart — but He has a plan and He has broken Himself to bring about our rescue.

As I pray for this family during this upheaval, this huge and unexpected loss, I begin wrestling again. Because I know God is redeeming and this world is passing away but being renewed and change is coming — still sometimes it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be better if every day could be a day where the sun shines just right and the clouds are heavenly and the grass is the perfect shade of green.

We all know the truth — in this world those perfect moments are fleeting. There is pain here. There are hard places here. We can quit watching the news but we will still feel it.

What does it mean to long for something wonderful — but impossible? To wish for a perfect world where no one loses their Mama and every child goes to bed in a safe home with a fully belly? What does it mean if what we wish for just can’t happen in this broken world?

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

The answer to our hearts’ deepest longings is that new and wonderful world — where no child will lose their Mama and no tummies will know hunger, where the sun shines just right and the clouds are heavenly and the grass is a million perfect shades of green.

A funny thing has happened since our eight-year-old’s extended stay in the hospital. Just in passing, in general conversation, he’ll talk about heaven. He isn’t discussing it as if he’s been there in an experience like Colton Burpo — it just seems like it’s closer to his thoughts than it has ever been before. 

He walked into my bathroom the other day and commented, “The leopard and the lamb will be together in heaven. And, like, the snake and the mouse will hang out.” 

I hope he keeps reminding me this thing my heart needs reminding: we were not made for this world, and there’s a better world coming.

Jesus came to undo all the hurt and the bad and the sad in our world, and to prepare our hearts for the better world — to let us know we aren’t ridiculous to hold onto hope that this ISN’T it. That the best IS yet to come.

And one of these heavy mornings, God just whispered this simple word of hope to my soul, from King David’s heart thousands of years ago:

“Your hand will find out all your enemies. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath.” {Ps. 21}

Anything and everything that is not expressly ordained by the sovereign goodness of God will cease to exist in that better country that we look toward.

And the most looming and devastating of those enemies will be no more — death itself. Death will no longer sting. The grave will no longer have victory. 

That is a hope for the world that is to come — and it is a Truth we cling to right here, and right now. The precious daughter, mother, wife and friend the world is saying goodbye to does not feel the sting of death. The grave gets no victory. She is in that better country which we look toward. The years we face until that reunion are the blink of an eye in light of eternity.

Friends, don’t be discouraged if the longings of your heart seem to point to places that nothing in this world can fill. Just live this temporary life to the fullest, to the glory of God, with the time that you have. The hurts will heal. The hard will not always be true. So let your heart smile on the inside like you’ve got a secret your enemy can’t touch: your destiny is out of this world.

xCC


 ***

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.


 Just in case: If you were thinking about the writing group I mentioned last week, they’re offering a $1 One Week Trial for you to check it out for yourself. {Please let me know if you decide to try it out!}


 ***

Update on Blake

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for Blake! He is now just in therapy one day a week and it is really hard to believe three months ago he was learning how to walk again! He went to P.E. this week with homeschool friends and it was amazing to see him running around with the other kids — you just wouldn’t know he’d been through anything at all. His hair has grown to the point that only the tiniest bit of a spot can be seen where his once very big and very serious pressure wounds were. And he continues to want to give kisses, and tell us we’re the best parents ever, and love everyone wholeheartedly. He also loves to make his baby sister squeal and scream on occasion — which certainly makes life feel normal again.

We would be so grateful to ask you to continue to pray for the complete healing of Blake’s vision — for 20/20 in 2020 for our sweet boy. He is successfully adapting, and remembering to turn his head to see a full field of vision, but still often getting startled and having trouble finding or noticing anything to the left without very intentional movement. He has come so far and we continue to feel SO grateful. We continue to Raise a Hallelujah to the God who has brought us through! Thank you SO much for your prayers.


Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Beware the Dragons That Thwart Intentional Living

What does it mean to be intentional?

If you find me baking in the kitchen with my sweet seven year old daughter, you’ll hear me ask her to please fetch the “On-Purpose Flour” from the pantry. I recently discovered she thought it was “On Purpose” instead of All-Purpose, and my goodness, I’m just hoping she won’t notice her error for as long as possible so that I can enjoy the sweetness of her saying it again and again. 

We do some good baking “on purpose” around here, but this year the word “Intentional” was whispered to my heart, and I’m puzzling my puzzler trying to figure out how to live it. 

Intentional is just a fancy “On Purpose,” right?

You might remember me sharing this post a few years ago about having a word for the year. I was asking God where He was going to take me and He was busy encouraging me to be faithful — just faithful — right where I was.

And as the days of 2020 began to unfold, I heard this whisper to consider what it means to live more intentionally, and to change my “I have to…” into “I choose to…” {a concept I’m considering thanks to Greg McKeown’s Essentialism.}

I’ve been setting goals and making plans and making lists and watching the clock, and thinking more about how to live the precious hours that make up the days that turn into weeks that build up to months that finally make the year of 2020. And what do I want to have accomplished by the time I get to the end of it?

Oh how I long to live intentionally! To make the hours and days and weeks count! To check all the boxes by the end of the day — how glorious!

But there are tricksy waters ahead, friends, beware.

On purpose flour will not yield the same results as bread flour.

On purpose living will yield different results — depending on whose purpose it rests on.

Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for is as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…
{Prov. 2:3-6}

Last week, I had a big question that I wanted some advice about related to this writing journey I’m on. And for the year of 2020, I’ve intentionally joined a small group of writers that includes a few mentors that are coaching the rest of us as we move forward in our work. So I posted that question to ask for advice, and was grateful I was blessed with some well thought out, practical answers in return. 

One of the mentors of the group commented “This would be a tough question to google” along with encouragement that I’d come to the right place. She included heaps of insightful advice to help me think through my decision. 

I laughed a little on the inside thinking “Yeah, you totally couldn’t google that.” 

Here’s a challenging thing to consider, for the microwave generation we live in: Wisdom and understanding? They are not among the search results of Google.

Cluttered between the Instant Pot recipes and the fashion advice — who will take the time to tell me what the best way to spend these next 350 days? And will they know what’s right?

Those Proverbs verses liken a search for wisdom to a hunt for hidden treasure. Hidden treasure isn’t going be in every place you think of to look for it. It’s going to take a thoughtful search to find. Perhaps even some strategic planning. And lots of time thrown in for good measure.

If searching for wisdom was like looking for grass, well gosh, we could all step out into our backyards or head for the local park, and we’d be swimming in it. 

There’s the complexity of knowing where to look for wisdom, and there’s the challenge of taking the time to do the looking.

My quest for intentionality quickly turned into a race to check the daily boxes. And THIS is where the dragons are swimming, friends.

If we do not put people over projects and relationships over return on investment, we are missing the point of living intentionally. 

Our desire to check the boxes can take on dragon-like power. They will QUICKLY swallow up or scorch the desire to lovingly and intentionally relate to the people around us. Let me give you a very practical example that, much to my shame, illustrates this point.

Many of you readers know our eight year old, Blake, was in the hospital for quite a wee while last year. And during that adventure, gosh, I would have paid a million dollars to have that kid wake up from that coma, look me in the eyes and say, “I love you, Mama” and give me a big kiss.

That was just a few short months ago, right?

Blake is home with us now, and doing miraculously well. I think he was an affectionate child before, but after all he’s been through, he has a new little habit in his repertoire. I might be cooking dinner, putting on makeup, homeschooling another child, or folding some laundry, and Blake will come up with his darling little lips puckered into a lovely little circle. He wants a kiss, and he will usually follow that kiss by saying “I love you, Mama,” and then he’ll carry on with his day. This little habit is on repeat, probably 3 or 4 times an hour each day.

Adorable, right? It melts your heart, right? 

It melted my heart in October and November. It brought me to tears a few times in December — just thanking the Lord that this sweet boy is home and well.

We’ve moved into January and I can feel a little ‘niggle’ in my soul. It’s hard to admit, but here it is, people: I struggle to pause what I am doing, slow myself down, and give the child a kiss. 

It’s shameful, right? I don’t want to stop what I am doing! I want to get all the things done! I want to check the boxes!!! And I have to remind myself: anything other than dropping everything to give that precious child a kiss — or any of my precious children a kiss — should be considered treason. TREASON, I SAY!

Aren’t they at the top of my list of reasons to live intentionally???

Have you ever blurted something out without first giving your words some thought — and afterwards regretted it, wishing you could somehow put those words back in and swallow them again?

Have you ever been faced with a choice and made a snap decision — and afterwards wished you’d taken the time to think it through, rather than giving that quick yes or quick no that haunted you weeks later?

I’ve discovered one thing so far about this word, intentional.

When I am running, rushing and racing to check boxes and get things done, I cannot be intentional.

It doesn’t take time to make bad decisions. But it does take time to make good ones.

It doesn’t take time to blurt out an unkind response. It does take time to give a measured and thoughtful reply.

I hope that as you’ve begun a new year, you’re looking at it with the intention of doing more On Purpose Baking with the days that will make up 2020. And I hope that you won’t fall into the same trap I quickly discovered I was wading into: the trap of believing that living intentionally looks like moving at a quick pace and getting more things done.

Instead of more things, I pray we can quiet our souls and listen for the wisdom and understanding to do the right things.

And what a beautiful year it will be, if we live it doing the right things — on purpose.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

If you’re also on a writing journey and interested in learning more about the hope*writers community I have come to know and love, you can find out more here. {Membership is only open for a wee while, so check that out quickly!}

***

Update on Blake

Our precious Blake, who does love giving lots of kisses these days, just keeps on keeping on! We had a small breakthrough today, when he was able to navigate working through part of his Math lesson without me sitting beside hm and coaching him through every problem. (It has been a struggle for him to concentrate on a single task for an extended period without me taking him through it one step at a time.) I was overjoyed to see he could answer twelve Math problems with only one or two errors all by himself today! His Math skills were very strong before this injury, and I think those skills are serving him well now — helping his brain reconnect those pathways and put things together again.

Physically, he seems almost like his old self again. We continue to pray, and would love to ask you to join us, in INTENTIONALLY praying for 20/20 vision for Blake — and the return of his full field of vision — in 2020. We have seen some specialists and been given some conflicting advice about what therapies might be possible. We’d be so grateful if you’d also pray we’d have the wisdom to make the best choices for Blake.

Friends, thank you SO much for your prayers and for continuing to ask how Blake is doing. As a family, we feel like we are in a season of healing. We’re trying to slow our pace (post holiday hustle-bustle) and just enjoy time together with all of us here in one place. We are dreaming of ways to celebrate coming through all this as a family, and we are just so grateful to have come so far! Blake was chosen as a Children’s Miracle Network Child. We look forward to sharing more of his story of hope through the opportunities that will bring about! We continue to Raise a Hallelujah and love thinking about this story getting better and better!

The Most Important Words When You Are NY Times Front Page News

Maybe you’ve seen it already, and maybe you haven’t? 

Our family made the front page of the New York Times, in a story about health care sharing ministries. Sweet little Blake’s face was there beside the overgrown zinnias growing at the fence in our front yard. His Dad’s chest, strong and protective, just behind him. 

The story made its way to the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte paper as well. 

And how did we feel about it?

Well… not so great. 

The story in the paper wasn’t really our story. Our requests weren’t respected and our comments weren’t really included.  Instead, there were just a few snippets of our health care journey interspersed with lots of stories about health care “ministries” that weren’t keeping their end of the bargain. That wasn’t our experience with our health care sharing ministry. We didn’t get duped. There were no wizards laughing behind curtains. We have a different story to tell.

But you know what? Those words you’ve read up there are all the words I’m going to give to that story right now. Because maybe we’ll get the chance to talk more about our real story and maybe we won’t — but I have a better story to share with you today.

This year I decided to stop crossing off my old-fashioned daily Bible reading in favor of trying out the Read Scripture app on my phone. So far, I’ve loved it. It has encouraged me to get into the Word — because I’m consistently reminded it’s right there in my hand. The videos that help pull out themes and draw a bigger picture are incredibly insightful and so thoughtfully well done. I love them. But the most important part is that God has met me, right there on that little screen.

When the aforementioned story went live on January 2nd? 

We felt pretty hurt and pretty discouraged. 

But I opened that beautiful little app that morning and these words met me instead:

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed…

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision…

{and this beautiful Psalm concludes…}

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

{Psalm 2: 1-2, 4, 12b}

When a few rude comments began to appear and the hurtful words stung a bit like the darts of the enemy, I found refuge in God. And it brought such a big joy to my heart to read these seven words:

He who sits in the heavens laughs.

And I started really thinking about that. God isn’t sinister or sarcastic. There is no wickedness in Him. So that’s not a cackle or a muahh ha ha ha… I started wondering if is a bit like a Father watching His children. Does He see our mess and does He laugh because we feel these small things are so important?

Have I ever laughed because one of my children came to me, desperately offended because of a silly comment? “He says my plate is pink… but it’s PURPLE!!” “I drew a cow but she called it a CAT!”

Oh yes.

If God sits on His throne and laughs — maybe He wants to remind me not to take things too seriously. And on January 2nd, I opened that App, read those words, and got reminded right when I needed it.

By January 3rd, I was itching with hurt again. The offended toddler, hurt by the other toddlers and their opinions of me. When you’re in the news and the article gets 1100 comments, it feels BIG.

And on January 3rd, Psalm 3 whispered to my soul:

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, 
my glory, and the lifter of my head…

{Psalm 3:1-3}

God lifted my head and reminded me of the bigger story He is writing. He reminded me that His wisdom really is seen as foolishness to the world. 

And He spoke to my heart again on January 4th:

“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts and on your beds, and be silent.” {Ps. 4: 3-4}

In this whirlwind of a week, these were the words that mattered. Not the words of reporters with stories to tell. Not the words of commenters with judgements and opinions. I needed to extend forgiveness. I needed to let go before any bitterness took root in my own soul. Day after day, Mark and I truly marveled together, as it felt like these words written thousands of years ago were destined to speak to us in January of 2020.

These were the words that were a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. With these words, God was a shield to us, our glory and the lifter of our heads.

Welcome to 2020, friends. If it is going to be anything, perhaps it is going to be unpredictable. I pray you’ll allow the Lord to meet you in His Word this year. The Read Scripture App is a free and wonderful way to engage with the Word. There are so many other plans and tools out there, waiting to help you find your way into a deeper relationship with God and His Word.

No matter what words the world might have for you this year, friend, there are no accolades more wonderful than the Truth that you are a loved and valued child of God. And there are no darts of the enemy so fierce that they can pierce the Truth of your identity as a child of the King. 

Like the Wemmicks in Eli’s Workshop, we are the best version of ourselves when we let all the dots fall off — and let the Word of the Carpenter who created us be our whole Truth.

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake

We are so blessed that so many folks continue to ask about the beautiful story that we love to tell: the miracle of our sweet Blake and his journey! He continues to improve in so many ways — to the point that we think his days in physical, speech and occupational therapy are most likely numbered. He is running and jumping and playing and reading and always surprising us with what he’s capable of. We’re also so grateful to say that his memory is still improving! He still has moments where he asks a question he asked thirty seconds ago, but he is remembering so much more, and so much more quickly, those things stored in that short term memory bank. And (like each of our kids) he continues to amaze us at remembering things before his accident that our old brains have completely forgotten! 

There is one specific request that we would love to ask you to continue to pray for, perhaps as you’re writing down the date this year? We have not seen improvement in Blake’s left field of vision… yet. We are pondering at the significance of the year 2020 — and praying specifically for our sweet boy, and for full, restored 20/20 vision for him this year. He is learning to adapt to some extent, but he is still walking into cabinets, hitting the corners of counters as he stands up from petting the puppy, or bumping into doors as he passes from one room to the next. When he gets hurt it’s pretty heart wrenching — but he continues to amaze us with how he takes everything in stride. Two hour eye exams, long car trips, and everything that has happened since September 1st… we keep waiting for something to phase him, but he seems so peaceful. What a gift that is! 

Blake also continues to make deep and meaningful comments. He simultaneously seems like a silly eight-year-old boy who loves potty humor and an old soul who will slip his hand into mine on a walk around the neighborhood and comment about needing more of God. Thank you so much for praying for this precious boy of ours. We are in awe as we watch God’s story in him continue to unfold. Hallelujah!

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

More Gentle, More Firm: Thoughts for a New Year

He stopped the radio on 107.9 FM. Oldies were playing. Not just any oldies — “Beach Music” — the kind of music my Dad listened to for decade upon decade. The music that transports me back to salty sea air, sandy feet and tangled hair, the gush of air conditioning that hits you when you open the door of the condo. My Dad at the grill, chicken wings whistling and crackling (and mysteriously disappearing) and me fetching one more Miller Light with a lime for the grillmaster.

My eleven year old, scanning through radio stations stopped when he heard that old-fashioned music and started dancing along from the passenger seat of the car. 

I wondered if it was embedded in him somehow — even though we lost my Dad when he was just four, is the music in there somewhere? 

I couldn’t stop smiling, thinking about it.

Until someone threw a diaper from the backseat and I had to turn off the music and start a lecture about the dangers of throwing things at the driver. 

Sometimes saying goodbye to a year that has passed feels a bit like saying goodbye to a person who meant a whole lot to you. It’s grief on a much smaller scale, but still it’s grief. 

Maybe you didn’t achieve what you’d dreamed. Maybe this was the year you would _________ but _________ just didn’t happen.

The truth is we don’t exactly wave goodbye to the years we live — it’s more like we take them with us. They are a part of us, maybe they’ve built us, maybe they’ve broken us. Probably both. But surely we’ve grown in understanding, hopefully in wisdom because these past 365 days are a part of our story.

The music isn’t gone. Even if we don’t remember every moment in our minds, our souls still bear the weight of the stories.

As the final moments of this year have their time on the stage, I’m trying to focus on two thoughts to frame the road ahead.

More Gentle

I typically find myself at the end of a year regretting what I hoped to accomplish but didn’t, while I fail to celebrate what I did accomplish. I can’t count how many home-cooked meals I served my family this year, but I know it was often six or seven days a week. I think that’s something worth celebrating. How many times did I smile at a stranger or offer a kind word? I hope a lot and can think of at least a few — that is time well spent. I began to write consistently this year and offered a word of encouragement in this space on a weekly basis. That’s something worth celebrating.

Instead of looking for reasons to rake myself over the coals, I’m thinking about things I can count as blessings. We read sooooo many library books together. We prayed at bedtime together — all six of us — almost without fail, except for those months when Blake was in the hospital. 

It’s a new kind of joy, and you might find it, too, if you worry less about the number of the scale and instead celebrate the walks you took with a friend. Or if (like me) you didn’t beat last year’s goal for the number of books you read (I tied!) — instead you can celebrate, I read 25 books this year!

Be gentle with yourself. Look for reasons to celebrate. Yes, make mental notes about the things you aren’t celebrating, but still, find the reasons to celebrate. You showed up when that friend needed you. Other than a sick day here and a vacation there, you were faithful at work. You fed your family or watered your garden or kept some plants alive. (Maybe all three… go, you!) 

Celebrate the wins!

More Firm

This week I read these words that challenged me deeply in thinking about the year ahead:

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
{Essentialism, Greg McKeown}

I didn’t like the idea that someone else could tell me what was important to me, but I realize that there are times when I say yes to things I should say no to, because we cannot have it all and we cannot do it all.

Every yes is also a no.

And I want to carefully consider the things about this 365 days that I don’t want to celebrate. Were there times when I let others’ expectations define my priorities for me — at the expense of myself, my family and what I believe is truly important?

If I am always trying to do and do and do and always feeling like I haven’t done enough, then my expectations for myself — and the ones I’m placing on myself because they are the expectations of others — are probably the culprit.

If overwhelm is our ‘normal’ we are perhaps trying to do more than God has given us to do. I do not want an excuse for laziness, but I do want to accept the invitation to slow down and be in step with the Holy Spirit. And I cannot travel in a flurry of activity, flitting from one task to the next, and still hear His voice clearly. Maybe you’re like me?

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding, 
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

{Psalm 32:8-9}

If we’re like the horse, we’re trying to run ahead, and if we’re like the mule, we’re lagging behind and needing the encouragement to keep up. Either way, God’s promise is the same: “I will instruct you. I’ll teach you the way you should go. I’ll guide you. You’ll look at me and see the way forward.”

What is necessary to carve out the space to listen and to hear and to choose wisely how to live the days you have in front of you?

More firm. Committing to be more slow with your yes, more careful with your time, more eager to discern those “good” things that lead us away from the best. 

If we want to live a life led by the Holy Spirit, we will have to spend time with Him. If we want to live a life where the most important things take the center stage, we have to know what those most important things are and plan our lives and calendars accordingly.

No one gets to the end of their year, or their life and thinks, “Gosh, I really wish I’d spent more time doing all the secondary, non-important things other people expected me to do.” 

As you reflect on the year that has passed and prepare for the year to come, be gentle with yourself and celebrate the wins. And be firm in your resolve to listen to what doesn’t feel like a win, and consider where more ‘no’s’ might have created opportunities for better yeses. 

Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” 

So instead of getting overwhelmed with setting a couple of big resolutions to steer us into a New Year, perhaps we need to get quiet and look for the clues in our soul about the little changes that could make the biggest differences. Even with a whole new year unfolding in front us, we will still have to live it one week, one day, one moment at a time.

xCC

*** 

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend!
If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

If you’re hoping for a little more advice on majoring on the big things and minoring on the small? I’d love to recommend:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (Think of this one as a closet-cleanout strategy for your life priorities.)

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (Think of this as a personal coaching session to help you strategically think through EVERY area of life and discern the why behind every yes or no.)

The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman (I’ve shared this one already, but gosh, I so appreciated the gentle self-care, the pastoral coaching of this book as it relates to decision making. Freeman expressed specific things I’ve actually LIVED and put words to things I couldn’t. If you have big decisions ahead this year, please grab this one!)

And, with love, from here… perhaps just a little extra love for your January 1st? This is a fan favorite from the Archives to wish you a Happy New Year: Happy New Year, Love God.

One last thought? If you subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here, I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week along with my Five Steps to a Fantastic Meal Plan SystemIf you’d like to live this year more encouraged, and make a plan for your kitchen, this is definitely a win/win!

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!