it’s time to hope again. It’s time to believe the best, again. That the best truly is coming. No more of this half-a$$, lifeless, mustarding up happiness when all ya really want to do is throw a punch into a … Continue reading
Simply writing because I think that Jesus deserves honor.
Writing because my history, penned along the lines of this simple blog help me remember.
Remember how good God is.
Remember what Jesus did.
Re-member my heart back together again.
Gazing backwards over the course of my most recent life at the biggest “But Jesus” moments. Those moments that would never have happened if Jesus hadn’t have come through. If he had never laid down his life. Resting in the holiness of this Easter holy week.
“The love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong!”
You can hear the cackles of Iraqi, Syrian, and Congolese children drift across the air of Lesvos, Greece– making the atmosphere just a little lighter. Where grief and loss hang a little too close for comfort in refugee camps that are havens of safety to people who have fled some of the most horrific situations on the planet…BUT JESUS steps in, with nail scarred hands, tangley hair, eyes like fire and meets people where they are at: not trying to manipulate them to a place of healing or salvation, but simply introducing people to his heart. Because when Jesus hung on that cross, he did it because he knew who he was dying for… he knew us, every detail of our hearts and our lives– our pain and our victories, their pain and their celebrations. I can hear him saying: “I died to be a safe place for you, a place of refuge for you. I am your refuge and your strength, a very present help in trouble.”
And as he hung, lungs collapsing from the gravity pulling downward, hands burning with rusty nails pierced through them, he hung as a banner of love over every pharisee and scribe, every disciple and friend, every simple citizen and every leper….he hung, full of grace and truth, as a tangible refuge for humanity.
“And the truest sign of grace was this, from wounded hands redemption fell down, liberating man.”
I can’t help but think of my life. More recently, I don’t brush my hair, my makeup looks a hot mess, I curse frequently, I process emotions more freely, and my life is more rough around the edges– sometimes when I get around churches I feel like I need to clean up or get my “ish” together in order to blend in and meet with God. But then I look at that man on the cross, that banner of love….
died for me at my worst, when the f-bomb flies freely out of my mouth.
died for me when the pain of heartbreak cripples me to my core and I can hardly breathe.
died when pimples cover my face and no amount of makeup can cover it up.
died for the moments that I wake up, screaming in pain and no amount of medicine can touch it…and no doctor can find the real solution.
died for the shame I carry because of cancelled dates and the failed dates and the multiple failed online dating profiles I’ve created.
died because he looked at the messiest Caitlin I could ever be and he said, “I love you and I can’t stand to live without you, so I’m buying you back with my blood.”
AND HE DID.
He took it all.
the shame and lust and lies.
the heartbreak, defeat, and disappointment.
He took it all.
“IT IS FINISHED.”
And it is.
Finished, I mean.
Even when it doesn’t all feel finished. Even when it doesn’t all feel healed and made whole. He’s a safe place. Safe to throw all of our unfinishedness upon and receive grace upon grace upon grace. Safe to throw all of our dead things on–dead dreams and goals and hopes.
He defeated death.
He died and then rose 3 days later.
He carries life in his very breath.
So when that heart shatters into a million pieces?
“It is finished.”
When you hate everything about who you are?
“It is finished.”
When your job is less than ideal?
“It is finished.”
We can cling to Jesus’ final words because he proved them to be true. He’s faithful and he’s true. And for every moment in our lives…there’s a BUT JESUS moment attached to it. He won.
I’m so thankful.
Thankful for the refuge I have in Jesus.
For the savior I have in Jesus.
For the friend I have in Jesus.
Oh, He’s good.
and he’s worthy.
Be still my heart.
“Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly–the best of everything, the highest honors– Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his shoulders the sin of the many, he took up the cause of all the black sheep.” -Isaiah 53:12
God has invited me to believe in Springtime, again. He’s invited me into this terrifying place that flowers will spring out of barren land and that leaves will burst forth off of bare naked, trembling twigs of trees. Believing that out of the same ground that the most heart wrenching, life stealing, ill-fitting, nasty things occurred on–that new life will spring forth. Something new will follow.
3 days before 2016 ended, I scoured my room. I had the most beautiful globe sitting on my bookshelf. A giant Omani flag hanging on my wall (I love the country of Oman, ask me about it. I’ll brag on the country all day.) Pictures perfectly framed and hanging, untouched since I moved home from Waco. Untouched. Dust settled. These were a few of my most treasured possessions. My Bible held Omani money that, every time I came across it, reminded me to pray for the country. Treasures. Treasures that held bitter heart ties and painful memories. Treasures that, if I was really honest and vulnerable with myself and you, held the only bit of comfort I could find in this season. Wrapped up in “this is not how it was supposed to happen, Jesus” and “let’s dwell in memories, Lord, because my reality sucks.”
I read a book, this last year, called Bittersweet. It says, “a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.”
An invitation to “believe in Springtime”, again.
A call to daringly believe that if things come in pairs-that the sweet is coming to pair with the bitter. Bittersweet. “Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.”
I ripped my flag down. Packed up a box of old pictures and letters, jewelry, my globe, clothes, anything that brought up a bitter sense of comfort, a sense of winter and not of spring and I got rid of it. I’d like to say I did it in some big bad girl way. I sobbed the whole way to give it to my friend. Because my friend had to be the one to do something with it.
**Sidenote: I don’t know what season of life you’re in, but find friends that aren’t afraid to get their hands messy with you. That link arms with you and do the things that you are absolutely incapable of doing and that will snatch a pretty globe out of your hands and not give it back to you no matter how many tears you shed, because they’re after your ultimate good, not your ultimate comfort.**
Afterwards, I realized that there was A LOT tied up in those things. Comfort. Hope. Emotions. When I got home I was face to face with blank space on my walls and in my book shelf and in my heart. Blank space.
Jesus always comes.
You see, 2016 was so bitter. The taste of it was so bitter that the mere taste of it causes immediate gagging. I mustered up the bravery to go through my journals to find Jesus’ faithfulness and write it down on paper hearts. 8 little paper hearts that reflect on ways of the faithfulness of a Father that never lets me down, that doesn’t let the little things go unnoticed.
I hung them up where my flag used to hang to take an instagram picture, when I heard the whisper of God say “leave them there, because I don’t leave you empty handed, beloved.”
I believe 2017–no matter how hard or embarrassing or heartbreaking or good or joy filled or incredible or surprising or life changing–is a year of me believing in Spring again. In believing that Jesus is who he says he is.
“I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.” -Bittersweet
Happy new year, y’all! 🙂
*Quotes throughout this blogpost came from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Go read it.
I learned how to put on scrubs a few weeks ago. I learned what it feels like to breathe under a mask and what it smells like when medicine is coursing in and out of a 2 year old baby’s veins trying to keep him alive. “Oxygen levels falling,” I heard the nurse say.
“Beep, Beep, Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”
It was a sound I have heard a million and one times on the ER television shows I watch. Flatline. No heartbeat. A lifeless baby laying before my eyes. A daddy, who is labeled a refugee, fearful of the coming minutes, lost in translation. Swahili is what is understood in his mind. English is what is being spoken. My friend, the interpreter, rapidly translating every word being spoken, a dad paralyzed by the reality that his baby is toe to toe with death.
A baby, body full of infection, born in Africa, with a broken heart. A hole in his heart. A body that consistently is against him unless this hole is fixed and it’s unfixable with an infection.
“He heals the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
I drove that daddy home, after a few hours in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He cried all the way back to his apartment. The moments were sacred. An entire family, lives torn apart from war and persecution and famine and drought come to land of the free and home of the brave to find themselves seated in a sterile, white walled hospital room staring at their intubated, broken-hearted, lifeless baby. Sacred moments. Holy moments where Jesus himself comes close to every single heart. Papa’s, Mama’s (who wasn’t there at the time, but you could feel her pain), Caitlin’s, Interpreter’s, Baby’s, Doctor’s, Nurse’s.
That baby’s broken heart was unavoidable. There was a gaping hole in it. Everyone had to acknowledge it because the baby needed to have it fixed. Should’ve had it fixed at birth (as to why he didn’t is another story for another day). But the point is, in that sterile, still hospital room we all sat. Staring at that baby. Hoping for a miracle.
The truth is. This week, that baby died. That two year old baby, took his last breath. His last, broken-hearted little breath. To be really honest, I’ve wrestled with it, a lot. When you hope for a miracle, when you hope for people to encounter the living God, when you hope to see the fullness of a two year old come back to a sense of normalcy…in a selfish sense of it all, I wanted to see a broken heart get healed. I wanted the baby to get all of the meds it needed, test healthy enough for the surgery, get the surgery, and get to see this little nugget have a battle scar and be strong, brave, and healthy.
Hope is a person named Jesus.
But I’m reminded that Jesus comes close. That he will always come close. I’ve been writing about hearts in my blog a lot over the last few months and I’m finally realizing why. Because broken hearts really are unavoidable. Broken emotions and habits and things in life are unavoidable and they need to be acknowledged in order to be healed. Jesus comes close to BIND or HEAL them. I’m not sure what unavoidable, painful thing you have in your life, but Jesus wants to come close to you. The process isn’t too long. It’s not too messy or too hard or too complex. He’s SO pleased with you.
It’s been sweet, this Christmas season, to be the messiest I’ve ever been. I’ve finally released myself to sit in the mess of grief and of confusion and all of the other things I’m currently carrying and just BE with Jesus. Because Christmas is the time to rest in remembering that the star-breather, the heart-creator, the dream-fullfiller covered himself in flesh with sweat glands and boogers and tangly hair just to get close to us so he could love us the best he could and save us the only way he knew how. So he laid, probably freezing cold in the middle of nowhere in some nasty manger because the Inn couldn’t make room for him, born to a teenage Mom who lost her reputation because she was an unmarried virgin…all to live a sinless life, to die on a cross to pay for my broken little heart–for that two year old’s broken little heart. For that daddy’s tears. For our jealousy and business and comparison and idolatry. He paid for it. He did all that just to be close to us. Just cause he loved us.
And I guess in the midst of the twinkly lights and the last minute shopping, I want to challenge us all to sit for a hot second and acknowledge that we really do have the greatest gift of all. We’ve got the presence and grace of God going before us and behind us, covering our tracks, making our crooked places straight and our rough places smooth. He’s too honest and too good to lead us astray and he’s the most joyful and hopeful One we’ve ever known. He’s Immanuel, God with us, forever.
Even in hospital rooms.
With backwards scrubs and shaky knees.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving.
I woke up defeated and in the worst mood. I shoved that under the rug and tried to put on the “happy, thankful face” that we all attempt at Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until I snapped at my little sister for wearing an outfit that looked very similar to me that I realized something was really off. But what was it?
In the spring of this year, I experienced my first real broken heart. That phrase may make you feel uneasy, but this post isn’t necessarily going to be easy. You see, in the early days of Spring, just before “April showers bring May flowers” was actually relevant, when I still had to wear light sweaters over flowy, floral tops, I made a drive down I-35 that changed my life, probably forever. I honestly can’t remember details of the conversation, what I was wearing, or what the weather was like…but I can remember the exact parking spot where my car sat, the physical sound of broken dreams and my broken heart, and I can replay the reel of phrases that came spewing out of my mouth, trying everything in my power to change the situation, to change me as a person, and to avoid the heart break.
The ending of the story, I feel, is sometimes still trying to be written. There’s never a good way to end something that your heart is tied to. It seems to always be a little bit painful and little bit disappointing. For me, I’ve been grappling with the sting of rejection and utter disappointment that has accompanied my broken heart. To this day, I still find shards of my heart scattered all over the place.
Sometimes they’re found in my car as I drive down the highway, stuck in my head, talking to Jesus. Other times they’re found standing on the sidelines at a volleyball game, knowing that after the game, I may not have anyone to go hug or walk me to my car. Or sometimes those shards look a lot less graceful and a lot more hateful when they are found in curse words and anger that leaks into the day to day. Then there are days like today, where the familiarity of home and family brings those shards to the surface, making me fully aware that my little heart is still trying to make up a coping method to seal off the broken places from the world.
Sometimes it’s not the ending of that relationship that is tied to my broken heart, sometimes it’s my sweet grandmother, who has Dementia/Alzheimer’s. I walk into her house, sticky notes scattered here and there to remind her which way is up and down. My heart breaks.
Other times it’s sitting at work, enrolling a client in my program, when they pull out their facebook feed and it’s plastered with home videos of Al Qaeda beating and dragging different people in Afghanistan. My heart breaks.
I don’t know what your broken heart looks like, but I know that you’ve got one. We all do. Insecurity may steal your joy, or maybe it’s the failing grades at school, or the struggles you’ve discovered in your marriage or your ministry that you never expected. I don’t even know the degree to which your little heart is broken…it may be a little bit cracked or shattered all over the floor, with all of its’ insides laid bare. But something I do know is that Jesus LOVES that broken heart. Our broken hearts.
The question I’ve been asking Jesus a lot lately is, “How am I supposed to function like this, broken and scattered all over the place?” I’m still trying to figure out the full answer to that question, but I am learning that Jesus is holding my hand as I figure it out. Part of that “holding my hand” is that Jesus is really comfortable with just sitting with us where we are. He’s after our hearts, making us whole, making us well. Sometimes that process feels too slow, like months and months down the road I’m still waking up some mornings, feeling the weight of my shattered heart still beating within my chest. Thanks to the grace of some of my friends, I’ve been able to tangibly feel the love of Jesus in the midst of this healing time.
Some of my friends used to sit and give me every reason why things didn’t work, why they shouldn’t work, and how to move on quickly. Those times have since passed and now my sweet friends sit next to me, sometimes not saying anything, eyes full of tears, saying “I hurt for you, Cait and I love you so much.” In the months since my little heart shattered, I’ve learned how sit comfortably in the silence of pain and disappointment with Jesus, how to grieve and how to hurt WITH God, not instead of God. Sometimes we don’t need a quick fix, we need a deep healing of our hearts that only Jesus can give. That’s what I realized yesterday, on thanksgiving, I am really thankful for the ability to be healed by God and to be heard by God. It’s sweet.
So I guess I wrap this post up, abruptly, only because there’s not really a bow on the process yet…no happy ending, only the hope of Jesus that wraps me up tenderly and loves me well.
So to you, wherever you are at: There’s hope at the end of the tunnel. I pray, what my counselor prays over me every week, that you would be filled with the perfect love that casts out all fear, the peace that surpasses all understanding, self-love, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-acceptance and the joy of the Lord that is your strength.
To my bestie pals: thank you. Thank you for extending patience and grace and kindness and love, for fighting for me and extending consistent time to me, even in my flaky-ness. You guys are the real heroes. Big thanks J
And to my broken heart—you’re doing great! You’re strong, you’re capable, you’re doin’ the thing! I’m really proud of you and so is the Father.
Well hello, again, sweet friend. The first post about ramen noodles was a hit, so I figured I’d make a part two post, partially because I know it would bless a few people, but majorly because I need to write a post on contentment…AGAIN. To be really vulnerable, I just still haven’t mastered it, and Jesus has convicted my heart the last 5 days to rewrite the original post. So, if you’d like to cheer me on in this tender post, feel free to insert a custom made Caitlin cheer…..right….. H E R E!
Thank you. Thank you.
I have, just recently, caught myself in the middle of, what I’d like to call, an “Obedience Crisis” with God. You know, one of those times in life where God very blatantly asks you to do something, walk through a hard process, love that hard person, etc..etc and when you do it it’s like someone stuffed a confetti gun with a hand grenade and instead of soft confetti, you get a war weapon blown straight through your life and your confidence….yall know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, just follow along for a few minutes. I’m reminded of the phrase my friend spoke a few summers ago.
“Contentment is found in a bowl of ramen noodles.”
If you haven’t read the part One of this post: take a break and click here —> When life gives you Ramen.
I’ve caught myself thinking a lot, over the last week, “I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, Lord..but obviously it’s something.” I obey, I lose. I disobey, I still lose. I rejoice in the midst of all of the shambles, and things stay shambley. I worship God, beg him to come close, and I’ve felt distant. I’ve watched people (side note: comparison is the thief of joy) and they see the shambles come into alignment, they see obedience produce the freshest, juiciest fruit, and they worship God faithfully and not only does he come close, but he brings crazy breakthrough. YAY GOD for being faithful, but seriously what am I doing wrong?
It’s a lot like watching that bride walk down the aisle and fly off to a beautiful honeymoon and you’ve gotta fly back, sicker than a dog, and muster up the courage to go to work or not. Or maybe it’s living in a run down apartment because your job doesn’t pay that well and you’re watching people buy mega mansions. In my case, I live in my parents house (which is so healthy for me, thanks mom and dad), and I feel like I’m being left behind my all of my friends. If I’m being really honest, am I really sure that God isn’t out for me?
We all do it. It’s like we search for the next best thing, for the next better thing..and it’s not long after we get the better ‘whatever it is’ and we see an instagram post that takes the wind out of our sails and plants a seed of resentment and disappointment at Jesus.
Since when was Jesus not enough for our hearts? For my heart?
I’ve been seeing Jesus come through in crazy ways for me. I’ve labeled this current season of life, the season of unfinishedness. It feels as though every thing is attached to another thing and nothing feels like it will ever be finished. I also can deeply feel the unfinishedness of who I am and who Jesus made me to be. The other day, a friend texted me to check in on a situation, and I melted down. Curse words, destructive phrases, and spewing anger flowed from my heart to my keyboard to a text message to my sweet friend. I felt no conviction or regret until almost 24 hours later…I am so unfinished. As shame overtook my heart, I realized that my hope hasn’t been in Jesus himself, but in Jesus’ ability to come through for me. When situations haven’t gone my way, I’ve lost my ish over it. Some may pull the “rebellion” card, because I actually have felt quite rebellious toward the church, toward Jesus, and towards community…I’ve labeled it my “badass” card. Let me explain: If I can be tough enough, not show my emotions, and just be okay and look content all the time, I think I look as if I can conquer anything and that I am essentially untouchable.
Lets LOL at that for a hot second. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
But that “badass card” has led to many meltdowns and deep deep deep resentment and hatred towards situations and people. It’s not healthy. It’s not holy. It’s not God’s heart. So hear me when I say: “Your badass card pulls you farther away from Jesus and his heart and is one of the most destructive things in your relationship with him.”
You see, when we look around at our friends and our family and compare where we are with what they’re doing and what God is doing, we steal, not only the joy, but the celebration that should come with breakthrough from God. We also steal from ourselves, our view of how faithful God is changes, his character seemingly changes, and we hold him at a distance. But when we are unfinished, when we have sharp edges and mouths cursing like sailors, God doesn’t pull his “badass” card, he pulls us close. He snuggles with us. He brings us close to teach us that contentment is found snuggled tight in the arms of our Daddy.
So this blog post is ending with a list of things I’m thankful for…just because I believe thankfulness is one of the ways that Jesus pulls us close:
Coffeeshops with a sweet Dutch couple with thick accents.
Dirty chai tea latte’s.
The ability to delete online dating accounts 5 minutes after they’re created (hahahaha! no, I’m not online dating, y’all…but I thought about it.)
Bethel spontaneous worship youtube videos
My job and my boss
Cooper (ruff ruff)
I’m really thankful that God is not a man. He doesn’t react like us. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He gives us our bowls of ramen at the perfect time. Hot, steamy, and ready to eat.
Even if I do not see it now: I am where I am, because Jesus is here.
My ramen is good. It is what my belly needs. It makes me full.
“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
As I write, today, rain is slipping down my window pain as I make bets on which raindrop will make it to the bottom of the window first, I am still in my pjs, I did not make it to church this morning because I purposely didn’t set an alarm last night, makeup from yesterday is still caked on my face, and my hair is in a teased pony tail resting gently on the top of my head.
I am a hot mess.
I also did not actually wake up to do anything until 1 o’clock this afternoon. God is doing something in the peace of this Sunday. It’s like I can hear his heart beating.
*t h u m p*
His heart is close and gentle, yet strong and fierce. It’s sometimes so bold that I feel like I need to cover my eyes and peak through the cracks of my fingers. I’m learning that once you get a glimpse of Jesus’ heart, you just can’t look away: it’s too beautiful.
*thump…..thump….t h u m p*
I can hear him whisper the same truths about my heart back to me. “I just can’t look away from your heart. It’s a full heart, carrying beauty that I put there.”
I’ve been thinking a lot of the human heart, lately. Most of my friends are engaged, getting married, or getting incredibly close to that stage in their lives. So my teased pony tail and caked on make up? Yeah, they’re from a dear friend’s wedding yesterday. 🙂 My internal “hot mess-ness?” it comes from months back, a broken relationship, ignorant heart health practices, and bitterness and resentment at the desert with Jesus.
Heartbreak is a raw thing. It feels like a completely different animal–I would never wish it on my worst enemy. But Jesus. Isaiah 53:3 says that [Jesus] was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. It feels, most days, that no one really gets it. The random tears, the “espresso with a scoop of ice cream in it” cravings that come out of the blue, and the inability to break out of habit are a few things that have accompanied my season of heartbreak.
*t h u m p*
Jesus whispers kindly, “I get it, beloved one. I am not unable to empathize with your weakness (Hebrews 4:15). I am with you in the mess. My plan is not to abandon ship and let the waves overtake your heart. I am with you. With you. Beside you.”
In my opinion, heartbreak from relationships, disappointments, and missed goals aren’t talked about enough in our culture. I think the Church tries to shove it under the rug and cover it with the “Sure it hurts, but God is good and time heals all” line. But actually, God is good and he wants to heal us fully and I think that “band-aid line” causes more harm than good.
God doesn’t stoop down to entrust time to heal our wounds. Isaiah 53:5 says that BY HIS WOUNDS, we are healed. Jesus suffered to heal our wounds. To heal my heart.
The Gospel has never been more real in my life. Over the last 6 ½ months, I’ve never felt weaker or more unsure of the character of God. But it’s in the thunder that’s rolling across the sky, today, that I can feel the beats of God’s heart, afresh.
I spend hours a month in counseling: celebrating the wins, grieving the losses, and learning how to process everything in between. Something that has rang so true in my sessions is that Jesus LOVES sitting with me and hearing my heart, just as I am learning how to sit with him and hear his.
Today, we sat in bed, me and Jesus and after some fist shaking, heartbreak processing, tears, and pinning wedding dresses on my hidden pinterest board (because I still want to get married one day, heeeelllllllo!), Jesus encouraged my heart:
His heart beats for me.
His heart enjoys me.
His heart LOVES me.
He hears my every thought about my future husband, about my dreams, and about my heartbreak. I just felt like today, in the midst of the *thumps* of his heart for us, to acknowledge that my heartbreak sucks, that wholeness is a process, and that we’ve got a gooooooood daddy who hears us and loves us in a way that we don’t even understand.
So for all of you out there reading: acknowledge your brokenness with Jesus, it doesn’t scare him away, celebrate all of the BIG things and every little thing in between. He loves walking with us. He died for that right.
Cling tight. Hold fast. The best is yet to come.
At the beginning of 2016, I sat in a coffee shop across from one of the best people I know and wrote down a list of dreams and goals for the year. January has a way of creeping up and making one feel like a superhero, like the cares and hurts of the last year dissolve on the first day of the month. Although that ideal way of thinking isn’t always true, it sure feels good to feel as though you are starting fresh.
January 1st, the possibilities are endless. As least that is how it’s always felt for me. January 2nd, 3rd, and 4th carry the hype of “let’s do this thing” as well. But as March rolls around, the hype and build up of the goals have a tendency of coming to a slow halt. That diet and exercise routine that you had planned to do the whole year all of a sudden gets pushed to the back burner, the organization of every room in your house starts slowly gathering the clutter into new corners and shelves that you didn’t even know existed, the hopeful heart starts clinging desperately to hope in the midst of disappointment, hoping to God it doesn’t all slide downhill. The cycle happens every year and for those of us “checklist people” we pray that our goals can be checked off in full. Done. Completed. Bring it on next year.
My “bring it on next year” moment started in that coffee shop. I made a checklist of dreams and goals of my 2016. [Backstory: 2015 was full of sadness and just hard, hard things, so 2016 looked like the promise land] I’ll give you a tiny glimpse into my list:
1. Get into grad school.
2. Hold a sloth
3. Enjoy waking up in the morning again.
4. Travel to the Middle East with someone I love.
Now, obviously, those were the vague ones. I made some very specific goals and had some very specific dreams. I felt as though all were possible and that God really “owed me one.” After the seemingly hellish year I’ve had, I sat in that coffee shop with an entitled attitude.. one of..”surely I’ve paid my dues, I’ve done the work, and now is my time to get the pat on the back from God.” Well, I’m learning that entitlement is the absolute worst and that in the middle of my entitlement, God decided to teach me a tender lesson.
Fast forward to today… I’m smack in the middle of the month of July and ever since March 1, 2016 I have marked off 15 of my 25 goals and dreams as dead, impossible to happen, “pray for 2017 to get here quick because my list is deteriorating quickly”. And for my little checklist heart…I don’t want to settle for petting a sloth instead of holding one or going overseas and going in a completely different way than I planned. That’s not how it was supposed to happen.
That’s not how it was supposed to happen.
I sit with tears in my eyes as I write this: because this phrase (^) has popped up in multiple conversations with me in the last 4 ½ months. My expectation of 2016 was to have every dream come true, to laugh a whole lot more than I cried, and to sing a more whole and healthy “Hallelujah!” Instead, I’m a lot more broken, I’ve cried more than I’ve laughed, and I have screamed at the heavens saying “GOD THAT’S NOT HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!” My hallelujah has been tear-filled, anger-filled, desperation-filled, and weary-filled and I feel like I’m clawing at the Lord begging him to come through. And you know?….I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have started viewing myself as a child (which I should do anyways with God..but that’s another issue for another day, haha.) I saw a really cool instagram post the other day that put to words what I’ve been feeling. The post talked about babies and their relational connections…babies, when they are born, don’t know who they are apart from their parents. In their minds they are attached to their mom and dad. I really believe that’s what God has been doing in my own heart this year. Teaching me how to burrow deep in his love, to have an identity anchored and secured in everything he is. Apart from him I can do nothing. I am his and he is mine. Something else that instagram post said was “I don’t care to outgrow this stage, where I am his and he is mine.” That has been my prayer. I really don’t have any other choice than to be dependent on everything Jesus is.
I need him, desperately.
So Jesus, please never let me grow up, even if that looks like shattering my expectations and causing dreams to die…it’s worth it. To abide in your love is my greatest joy and my deepest desires fulfilled.
(If you’re faithful to reading my blog and are getting sick of the “blah” posts, I really am sorry. I just try to write on walking with God. This is where I’m at in life and while I wish I could give you some feel good post, my life, currently is more of a sandpaper against your front row of teeth and my feel good posts are Jesus just being Jesus in the midst of the absurdity that is my life. He’s really good and really faithful and I am really expectant for that feel good post. It’s coming, I promise 🙂 )
For as long as I live, I will probably never forget the sound of the chunky, white, rocks shifting beneath my shoes as I walked into the refugee camp that I worked in in Greece. I will never forget the taste of the steaming hot Lipton tea burning the taste buds off of my tongue in 90 degree weather or the smell of the first RHU (refugee housing unit) that I walked in. I’ll for sure never ever forget the greetings I received from the tiny children that rushed me and my friends at the entrance of camp every day: “MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, come, come, come!”I do not ever want to forget moments like that.
The God-given, God-placed moments that tear you apart and oddly, put the broken pieces of you back together.
It was my first day in camp and I met the two people who would be the vessels in which God taught me the most. My first friend was in her 40’s and I will probably write about her soon. But my second friend was 8. She was the most beautiful, sassy, determined, and independent little girl I have ever met. This little one reminded me a lot of me. 🙂
I would skim through camp my whole shift looking for her. Most days, I found her…those were the best days. I would sit on a bench with her, under this tree that oddly enough provided a heavenly source of shade. She would talk to me in Arabic, and I would talk to her in English (I learned quite a bit of Arabic from her). We would giggle and tell each other how beautiful the other was and usually she would make me a rubber band bracelet or play with my hair. One day, she sectioned my hair off and put these tiny plastic rubber bands around these slivers of hair..right next to my scalp. Painful, yes. Worth it, absolutely. Another day she sat in my lap and colored a picture with paper on my chest and took the longest amount of time possible doing it because she thought that it was funny. She was free-spirited and hopeful and goofy and she reminded me who I was again, just by being who she was.
Coming into Greece, my heart was really hardened by life. If you follow my blog, you know that this year has been extremely hard, but this little girl was a treasure in the midst of the desert. Jesus used her in the most intimate way to allow me to feel safe to be vulnerable and soft again, to be goofy and belly laugh again, and most importantly, to sit in the midst of my life and my dreams and be so hopeful…regardless of the loss or heartache. She helped bring “me” back again. She was a refugee. She had lost everything and her little 8 year old life had been devastated by war. I related to her in more ways than one. Obviously my life is so blessed….but I learned that we all have loss and in one way or another we are all refugees looking for a place to land.
My time in Greece untangled my heart and allowed the fresh breath of God to touch me again. I came back undone in the sweetest way. God is a little sneaky…using an 8 year old refugee from Syria to bring me to the end of myself. But that’s okay, I’ll take it. It’s the sweetest way, full of the most laughs and tears and clumpy fingernail polish.
I’m forever changed, forever given to Jesus, and friends forever with Miriam.
Thanks, Miriam-for changing my life. Thanks, Jesus for being forever faithful.
**This is a small summary, tiny update, snippet of my trip. This blog post, by no means, encapsulates the entirety of what God did on the trip, nor what I learned in total…but for those of you who want to know more, contact me, I’d love to meet up with you. 🙂 **
I sat in the line at the good ol’ Whataburger in Waco, Texas (for those non-Texans that read my blog: Whataburger is the staple fast food place of Texas), waiting for a meal that I ordered that was a little too big and a little bit too much money for what I had to spend. But after the month I’ve had, I did not really care. I sat in my car, cool air brushing my face, worship music drifting slowly into the background of my mind, and my mind racing with every situation going on in my life right now. The anxiety in my mind and deep sadness in my heart was probably canceling out any “Glory to God” that was being played over my speakers, but it made me feel better about myself. Don’t lie, you’ve done the same thing before.
Anyways, the car in front of me was taking exceptionally long this particular day and I just wanted to get home. I pulled up, debit card in hand, ready to pay entirely too much for my honey bbq chicken strip sandwich, fries, and drink that I would not even finish. I gave a half hearted smile to the girl at the window. She flung the biggest “Hello!” my way and asked, “Ma’am, did you happen to know the lady in front of you? Because she paid for your meal.” My response was “Are you serious?” followed by a flood of tears. Not the reaction she was looking for, but she continued treating me with an abundance of kindness. I cried all the way home and heard Jesus whisper to my heart over and over again: “Cait, there is grace upon grace upon grace for you.”
You see, “messy” is a kind word to describe the ongoing 2 year season I’m currently battling. Jesus has taught me SO much, but it has not been pretty or graceful. However, God began this last week teaching me about grace very, very practically. I’ve been living in this lie that messy seasons have to be pretty, graceful, kind, gentle, and incredibly quick and painless. But that’s not the definition of messy, or the expectation we should have on processes with God. Sure, there are the quick, painless, fun, pretty lessons that we get in life (Praise God!) But if we are honest, if I’m honest, sometimes it feels like life just stays messy. However, God has taught me that messy lives are what grace is for.
Grace cleans up our messes, cleans our hands, and whispers to our hearts, “You can do it.”
I have encountered the grace of God more in the last 2 weeks than I feel like I have in years. I know that’s not necessarily true, because HELLO, I need grace more than anyone. But I think that I’m just more aware of it. My eyes towards people’s situations have been softened. My heart towards myself has been softened. I think, if anything, because God has been so blatantly obvious about his grace towards me, I am seeing ways to extend grace to people.
I just know that where I am at in life, I am literally unable to do just about anything well, wholeheartedly, or joyfully…even though I try so hard every day. I cannot earn God’s approval at all…I cannot even fool myself into thinking I can do anything to earn the love of God. For the first time in my life, I am grasping the idea that failure invites grace, that wounds crave grace, and that Jesus willing gives an abundance of grace for me to make it.
Grace sets me up to win.
I hit the jackpot with that free Whataburger the other night. Jesus celebrated with me, and I went to bed feeling really really loved. I guess what the wrap up to this post is is this: Buy people Whataburger..you never know what they’re walking through, embrace grace–hug it like a teddy bear in the middle of a thunderstorm, and walk with people through the mess. It really is worth it.
There’s grace to make it, today.
No matter where you’re at in life.
Jesus is for you, cheering you on every step of the way.