Yet. My favorite word

As I walk through life and as I walk with many through the stories of their lives I’ve come to know that it is not the lack of darkness, sadness, loneliness and suffering that is the goal. Instead, the goal shall be this, that in the midst of darkness, sadness, loneliness and suffering we are able to declare the truth found in the silent Yet of life with Jesus.

The silent Yet is imperative and it enables us to hold opposing truths.  I feel alone, (yet) I am never alone. Whether it be truths of our experience in Christ, or it be truths of who God is, these truths do not ebb and flow based on our life experiences. These truths will always be true and these truths change our perspective in the midst of our circumstance. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (yet) I will fear no evil for You are with me. You are my protection and my footing.

Yet has become one of my favorite words in scripture and it has changed the way I live, pray and experience God. As you read the words below my prayer is that you will experience the power of Yet in your own story. May the God, who enables the Yet, be the truth to which you hold and the rock on which you stand.

I am the beloved.

When I feel rejected. Even when I feel alone.

I am the beloved.

When the day feels dark and that darkness overwhelms me;

The darkness is not dark to Him, for darkness shines like the day.

I am the beloved.

When loss is a part of the story and the air thick like the deep south on a hot August day.

I am the beloved.

When I am invisible.

I am chosen.

Even when the enemy is surrounding me and I feel abandoned.

I am chosen.

Even when the day feels long and the heart feels sick.

I am chosen.

Even when the fight is great and the sun beats down.

I am chosen.

Even when loneliness is my companion.

I am adored.

Even when my smile hides the truth.

I am adored.

Even when my smile holds the truth.

I am adored.

Even when I feel withered.

I am adored.

Even when I fail and I do not shine.

I am adored.

Even when I am surrounded on all sides.

I am held.

Even when the enemy stands against me.

I am held.

Even when death is near.

I am held.

Even when I am alone.

I am held.

Even when I am in the thick of impossible.

I believe.

Even when it appears I will be swallowed up by the beast.

I believe.

Even when peril is at my doorstep.

I believe.

Even when I don’t have what it takes, and all feels out of my control.

I believe.

Even when the storm is great and the waves threaten my life.

I believe.

Even when life tastes bitter.

I will praise.

Even when my heart aches.

I will praise.

Even when my dreams are left wanting.

I will praise.

Even when it feels as though You oh Lord have led me into the hands of despair.

I will praise.

Even when….

YET

I …

 

 

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Day 34 of telling my truth: Spring

IMG_1252Today my truth is:

I love spring. I love the sun. I love the feeling of the unexpected greeting me. I love the sound of birds and the evidences of new life springing up all around.

Yesterday I got to go for a bike ride. It was so good to be out. I even got burned by the sun. I don’t mind at all my goofy tan lines. In fact, I love them.

As I stated yesterday I see most everything through the eyes of metaphor and through the lens of Jesus and Kingdom. I met a friend for a walk this morning at 7. It wasn’t cold, I wore sun glasses, I didn’t have to move to warm. As I walked I soaked in the fresh air, buds on trees, grass turning to new shades of green, and flowers lining the trail. The winter is ending.

I so often identify with seasons and I must say that I am so glad that winter is ending.

With spring comes expectancy.

With spring comes new life.

With spring comes confidence.

With spring comes beauty, restoration and growth.

With spring comes deeper breaths and the knowing that Christ is risen… indeed.

These past few months have held challenge for me. Okay, life holds challenges for me. For each of us. There are times where the challenges feel as though they own me and where I give them permission to take up residence in unhealthy ways. Then there are times where challenges are brought to actually lead me to death. They dying of the old to make room for new.

This winter I have walked in dark and in the knowing of old dying. Much has died and these months of dying held both joy and sorrow. I’ve learned to hold both and know that it is actually a good thing to hold both, as the walk with Jesus and the walk in this life holds both.

As I walked today I reveled in the fact that so much of me is new too. I feel like, as a person, I keep getting better and better. I love who I am becoming. I love that I am feisty, filled with grace, and available for the good of others. I love that I value me enough to say no, to own my value and to walk tall with a confidence that comes from knowing who I am as a child of a really good King. This Lent practice of truth telling has been a significant part of that growth journey.

As spring sprouts in your neighborhoods, take some time to thank the Lord for death and new life. Thank him for that which He’s taken so that you might be in a place of receiving. Be at peace, taste joy and play.

Day 33 of telling my truth: Rambling thoughts on being misunderstood

bowlingToday my truth is:

I don’t like to be misunderstood. One of my friend’s knows this about me and at times she tells me things about myself with the caveat, “I know you don’t like to be told how you are, but…” It’s true, I don’t like to be told how I am. I don’t like it when people say, “Cari, you are this or that, you think this way or you act this way or respond in that way.” Just typing those sentences I feel my posture change and I get feisty.

Lately I’ve felt misunderstood. To be honest I’d love to be able to go prove myself and recount all the ways I was misunderstood and prove a case for the opposite, but that is not mine to do at this point. So, I am going to write here because it’s what’s on my mind as I tell my truth.

I care for people. I care deeply, not because I want to fix people, but because I love people so deeply that I so badly want to show people all the time how important they are to this world.

I do not always encourage or pray for people because I see a lack or a need or brokenness of any kind. But I encourage and pray for people because too often we only pray and encourage when there is need. I believe it’s important to act and prayers simply because I love.

I am awkward when I don’t know the expectation in relationships. I am very strategic in life, so if there are questions about where I stand, or who I am to someone, I become awkward and do not bring my free self, but a guarded self because I don’t know how to engage. When I know my role and where I stand relationship is remarkably free and easy and I’m confident and secure.

I may speak of my emotion or thoughts at various points, but those are emotions and thoughts are not the always the constant reality. Sometimes it’s just what I feel in a moment. It’s important to be able to feel and speak in a moment, even if the thought is a passing thought or emotion. Those things do not have to be defining.

I can handle the truth from others. Even if it is uncomfortable, I’d rather have questions asked and uncomfortable things spoken than to be in a place of unknowing. This is a new truth for me. I have often assumed that people see me and the relationship I have with them with the same eyes and same honesty as me. I am learning that there are times when two different relationships are happening simultaneously. The importance of honesty in every relationship, the importance of not pretending, is paramount. I’m actually quite thankful for this lesson. Assumptions are hurtful, even when they are positive. Truth always leads towards life.

I often look through people to their hearts, past the exterior of what is in front of me. This is both good and at times very challenging. I think there are times where I see someone’s heart and jump to conclusions. This would mean that I can make assumptions or speak to things that are only meant to be seen for prayer as opposed to be spoken. I’m continuing to learn.

I share successes or exciting things not because I need others to be impressed or I gain anything from them, but because I get so excited and just have to share.

I cry. A lot. Not because I’m overwhelmed or distraught, but because I express emotion through tears. Happy ~ cry. Sad ~ cry. Stressed ~ cry. Peaceful ~ cry. Frustrated ~ cry. See something beautiful ~ cry. Hear a sad story ~ cry. See Jesus ~ cry. This is part Cari and part Jenkins. I come from a long line of criers.

I want good for people and the world so much that I get very passionate about it. I don’t do this because I feel it’s mine to fix, but because the brokenness is real and I long for a better world. I long for things to be made right. I need to learn how to engage the sadness of the brokenness and let it go.

I do not have it all together.

Faith is not always easy for me.

I listen to Jesus, but sometimes I hear wrong.

I need people to better me.

I am constantly learning.

I fear pride and when I see it in me I grieve.

I get disappointed.

I’m not always strong.

I at times question God’s goodness.

I get mad at God.

I sometimes think that God created me just to use me, not to delight in me.

I at times think if I was just this or that, that my life would look different.

I love Jesus so much it consumes me.

I see everything … yes I actually mean everything …okay to the best of my knowledge… everything… through the eyes of Jesus and the metaphor of life in Him, knowing there are two realities. I live in the reality of this world and the Kingdom.

I hold joy and sorrow simultaneously. And I do not like when I am boxed into one or the other.

I hold faith, belief and unbelief at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.

I am conservative and liberal at the same time.

I do my best to stumble towards Jesus, to be like him and I need help along the way. I need your honesty, questions, challenges, input and feedback to grow. I invite it.

I think I dislike being misunderstood because it shows me that the other, the one misunderstanding and assuming, didn’t take the time to ask me questions or really get to know me. Or, they got to know a me that doesn’t exist and never asked to see if their perception was accurate.

BUT… This dislike is entirely me focused and that is the most difficult part of being misunderstood. It reveals my pride. So Lord, today I pray the words of St Francis, “May I seek first to understand rather than to be understood.”

This is my confession.

 

Day 19 of truth telling: Friendship and relationships of isolation

IMG_8771Today my truth is:

I made a conscious choice to enter into a relationship with a man who told me in the same day that he wanted to date me that he was gay. This relationship became my teacher. I learned how to communicate difficult truths. I learned about an internal struggle for which I only had assumptions. I learned to place my hope in the character of Jesus and I learned the importance of having others in it with me as I sought to be in this relationship and care for myself in the process. This is the truth about which I’ll talk today.

Life is not meant to be lived alone. But I have had so much pride around the need to not be needy, that I had become entirely independent. I could talk myself out of difficult situations. I learned to be competent in every area I could. I sought Jesus alone. I was the strong one. I was the one who had to hold the weight of the world for others and I was the one who could, alone with Jesus decide what was right and wrong for my life. But this particular relationship was different. I had to invite others into it. Knowing I am stubbornly loyal and believe the best of others I knew I needed others to help me think about how to care for me and not simply make decisions for the ease of the other.

This turned out to be important. The lessons I learned during this season continue to be my teacher.

In life it is so easy to isolate. It is easy to have people around when we are comfortable and put together. It is easy to be vulnerable after the mess has passed and the plan or lesson is seen. It is very difficult to invite people into uncertainty, pain, questions and truth. In much of this dating relationship I kept my side of the story inside. I didn’t think he could handle my truth. I felt if he knew how difficult it was for me that he’d leave or that it would add shame to him. I felt I could handle the pain and questions alone. Friend’s didn’t allow for this. Those who walked with me in this relationship met me in the mess and listened, asked questions and challenged me. They hoped with me, believed with me and surrounded me. Though I didn’t ever invite Matthew into my difficulty, I did not walk alone. And, not inviting Matthew in, and seeing what happened to me as a result enabled me to behave differently in the future when I found myself wanting to hold back my truth, thinking I was saving or helping another.

It amazes me how I often think, “it’s okay I can handle it and I don’t want to burden anyone with my truth.” Or how in relationship I think that speaking the truth might make things too real. My fear of being needy actually kept me from relationship. I’d hold myself back, not giving my authentic self and I’d rob me of the opportunity to be met in my truth and robbed others of holding my truth with me.

Life is messy, this is the reality of being in a broken world. There is pain. There is sorrow. There is joy and laughter. All are a part of the human experience and all are a part of relationship with Jesus and it is a beautiful reality to share in the good found in declaring truth of both. As I navigated this relationship I learned that honesty was important. I learned that speaking my truth, even when it was uncomfortable  it was necessary. I learned that with holding my truth had more to do with selfishness and pride than it did care.

Life is not meant to be experienced in the isolation of self care. It is meant to be shared. We are meant to rejoice and mourn with others and when we, when I with hold the truth of my story I actually create the loneliness I’m trying to avoid by with holding the reality of my story.

I am thankful for this lesson and I am thankful that it continues to be my teacher all these years later.

 

Day 18 of truth telling: Nothing

Today my truth is:

Today my secret is that there aren’t words in me for this blog and I’ll have to write again tomorrow. I just have too much on my mind and in my heart and it’s churning and working it’s way out and I don’t have the capacity to separate all my thoughts to create a cohesive blog.

I think being honest with myself, that this is what I have to give is important.

Sometimes the most honest gift we can give is the gift of silence. Today I’m going to be okay with that and offer it to you.

Day 17 of telling my truth: Hope grew from unanswered prayer

UnknownToday my truth is:

Breathe out. How in the world was I to process the fact that I had my first relationship, in my adult life and that, that relationship was layered with impossibility, faith and was mixed with issues highly uncomfortable, even controversial for most in my world. What would my parents say if they were to know that I had a boyfriend who identified gay? What about my mentors? Friends?

I laid in bed the night he told me his story and asked me to be his girlfriend and asked the Lord to reveal himself. What do you have to say Jesus? Why would you give me this story? Self-pity, angst, hopelessness, frustration, questions and very few answers whirled in my mind like the tornado that first brought Dorothy to Oz.

I had a boyfriend. Joy.

My boyfriend was gay. Confusion. Sadness. Frustration. Questions. Dependence.

To what would I hold?

I asked Jesus how I was to pray and where I was to find my hope. I felt Him say, “Cari you are not to place your hope in this relationship or in the dream of Matthew wanting you in the way you want a man to want you. You are to place your hope in me alone.” I remember sitting there and saying aloud, “God I trust you. You are the One in whom I place all of my hope. May I be obedient in this relationship.” Tears streamed down my face. The reality of my situation felt like too much and God felt incredibly close.

As the weeks and months unfolded I came to live into the reality of those words. Matthew and I wrestled with questions. He told his story of begging the Lord to rescue him. He told of the groups he had joined to “cure” him. He spoke to the isolation, loneliness, rejection and hatred he had experienced. He spoke of his wrestling with God because how could a God who loved him, not answer this prayer. I asked how could God not bring the healing I felt was that for which he most longed. (These questions were close and intimate for him. His wrestling and mine were and are different. I bring up these questions because these became my questions. We engaged these questions quite differently. Where and how these questions were answered, again led us to different places. I am only telling my side of the story, for his story is not mine to tell.)

I learned as I was invited deeper and deeper into the reality of his struggle with sexual identity and Jesus. I too wrestled with Jesus. How come you don’t just take it away? How come you simply don’t come down and deliver him and give him what he wanted? These questions became mine. I begged the Lord for a particular outcome and felt heart ache and confusion over the fact that God wouldn’t answer how I thought most beneficial. I eventually had to ask the Lord to show me how to pray for I did not know what was right or good. I felt short sighted and lost as to what was best. Where was God in this?

God would remind me, “Cari, your hope is to be in me and my character, not in the fulfillment of a wish.” I thought through the stories of others who have begged Jesus for various things and not had their prayers answered. I thought of Jesus, who he himself begged the Father, if there be another way please let this cup pass from me and then said, “but not my will but yours.” I wrestled with matters of belief. I questioned how I should pray. I begged, cried, wrestled and quite honestly yelled at Jesus.

Jesus became so real to me in those days. In my questioning, in the felt silence, in the moaning and weeping Jesus grew in me a great hope. He grew in me an understanding that hope and the fulfillment of wishes were actually quite different things. He used these months with Matthew to separate circumstance from hope. Hope became the lens through which I was to view each day. I clung to Jesus with great hope like the survivor of a boating accident clinging to her life preserver in the middle of the open seas.

March 20th came. We had had a series of very difficult conversations. There was a heaviness and though we had made it five months, to the day, the reality of our situation ended up weighing heavy upon Matthew (and me, though I didn’t want to recognize it). He decided it was time to end our relationship. In the midst of the conversation he said something to the effect of, “Cari, the one thing that is most difficult for me is that I have destroyed your hope.” He finished the thought with some other words, but I didn’t hear them. Matthew had ended a relationship, but my hope was in no way threatened. In fact, my hope was strong.

I remember that I smiled, maybe even laughed, I know I did internally, but don’t quite know if I did aloud or not. (You know how memories get cloudy around emotional situations.) I looked at him and said with confidence, “You have done nothing to my hope, for my hope was never in you. My hope has always remained in the Lord. In fact, the Lord told me I was to never put my hope in you, but place it only in Jesus and his character. I did just that and I continue to know great hope.”

As I look back on my relationship with Matthew, this realization is one of the gifts I was given. I was given the gift of hope. I was given the reality of what happens when I place my hope not in the fulfillment of a wish, but in the character of the One who holds my wishes. I was and still am thankful. This is the kind of hope that breathes life in the the most impossible of circumstances. This kind of hope is what comes from belief in the midst of impossible. This kind of hope comes from persevering through darkness and felt suffering and growing in character. This kind of hope is the hope that is found in fairy tales, where ultimate good is known as one believes that his or her ultimate good is held by someone or something who only desires their good.

Today, I have hope. It is a hope that is strong and it is a hope that grew out of stepping into the color of the impossible and watching as God, who is good, developed in me a deep and intimate understanding of His desire for my good.

Day 15 of truth telling: Homeless

imagesToday my truth is:

I am sitting in a Panera in Colorado Springs. I just finished lunch with a new friend and am waiting to move on to my next event. Every Panera smells the same. It’s like Subway. Even when I traveled in Europe, I could tell when a Subway was near by for the scent was the exact same. Panera feels the same. I actually am not a big fan of Panera. The carpet, heavy soups, breads and sandwiches usually leave me feeling like I ate a pile of bricks. I am uninspired as I sit.

I am playing secrets through my mind like reel to reel movies. I do not know about which one I should write. I don’t know about which I am willing to write. I see the 15 on the days of truth telling and realize I’m not even half way through the Lenten season and the thought of coming up with something new to say or a truth to uncover and I feel a fight within me. There are stories to tell, but are they for this context? Are they okay for the world to know? What will people think? Are they profound enough? Safe enough? Risky enough?

I am still uninspired. Panera is not like Steam, the coffee shop I wrote about earlier in this series. I am never uninspired while sitting there.

I am very influenced by my environment. And currently, I do not have my own environment. Since moving to Colorado I have had to live in my parent’s basement. They have been generous to allow me to live there, but the reality of being nearly 40 and living in the basement, in a room with Waverly wall paper and blue carpet, has quite effected me. I long to set up my own home. I long to have a space to call my own. I actually get teary when I think about the ending of this housesitting job and the potential is there that I may have to unload my closet into the basement once again. And, in honesty it may not be an option for me any longer. In two weeks I will move, but I do not know to where or how.

For me to function well as a human, I need my own space to create, decorate and invite others into. I want to see lives transformed as people gather around tables and in living rooms. I want to hear the stories of others, get to know neighbors and host holidays. There have been a few circumstances in my life that have kept me from creating a home in the past two and a half years, that reality  is catching up with me and I feel the reality of my situation with ever increasing angst.

Jesus didn’t have a home, among certain friends they encourage me with that fact. They remind me that my lack of home has afforded me the ability to be present and serve in many places. I am reminded by others that it’s irresponsible for me to continue a work that often doesn’t provide to the American standards. I wrestle with this. Still others celebrate my faithfulness and others think if I were faithful God would provide differently. Everyone has an opinion when difficulty is present.

The truth is, I know Jesus. I do. I know His voice. I know what obedience to His way is like and I know when I am walking with Him. My journey has not matched and American ethic. It hasn’t in some ways looked responsible. But, it has been a journey of dependence, transformation and incredible and increasing faith. God invited me on this journey and I have been, for the most part, a willing participant. He has kept me on the edge in life. And He provides and heals and sustains in miraculous ways. These stories have served as encouragements to others in their own walks with the Lord and my obedience has led to others knowing God’s faithfulness. For these reasons I am thankful.

For many other reasons I am thankful.

I do not know how God will provide and I do not know where I will live after April 6, but I do know that God’s name is Jehovah Jireh, The God who Provides. And, God, does not act in a way contrary to His name. So, yes, I will write a truth about housing again and I will tell a great story of God’s goodness and mercy and provision. I look forward to writing that one. I look forward to knowing what it is that I will get to write.

In your life, where do question the faithfulness of God? Where is there impossibility that you simply can’t imagine your way out of? Those are sacred places and in these places you will see God! May your belief increase and your faith deepen.

Amen