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 16 of truth telling: An unexpected impossible boyfriend

IMG_0187Today my truth is:

I believe in impossible things.

In the story of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy lived in a black and white and grey world. It was a world of normal and mundane. It was a world of the possible. Dorothy longed for something more. She longed for a life over the rainbow. She wondered what lived there. She questioned why she couldn’t. Then, suddenly, in the middle of her mundane life in Kansas, tragedy struck. A tornado blew through her home and she was taken up in it. Tragedy.

When she came to, she opened her eyes and noticed a peculiar sight. There was color and light beaming through the windows of her home. Unfamiliar, sights and sounds filled her senses. She was awake. She was over the rainbow.

Life became other worldly. She made friends with lions and scarecrows. There were monkeys that flew and witches to conquer. There were wicked wizards and humble munchkins. She was over the rainbow and it was tragedy that brought her there.

I, like Dorothy, believe there is more to be had in life. There is more than the mundane of this present existence and there is more to the story that meets the eye. I believe, that I was created for more. Not because I’m so special, but because I believe we were all created with greater purpose and mission and possibility than most of us could truly ever imagine. I believe in a God, who invites me to live as though I were over the rainbow every day.

God invites me to life that is more than I could ever imagine, life in full color and full of mystery. This belief invites me to a life of great risk and even greater dependence. It is a life that is illogical to the world and humanly foolish. It is a life where the Kingdom of God is real and I get to live in it every day. It is a life where there is purpose beyond the seen and there is possible beyond the possible. I believe that Jesus is still capable of miracles. I believe that the blind can be given sight. I believe that God at times invites us to live risky, non-safe and seemingly foolish lives because He holds a greater and truer story. I believe that at times obedience to God is foolish to those who think in only the terms of humanly possible. This belief, is a belief that has written the most amazing, scary, heartbreaking and breathtaking stories. It is this belief that met me in 2006 when Matthew first asked me out.

I had met Matthew at an event and we hit it off immediately. We began to spend time together. He asked great questions, loved Jesus, was a part of a church plant and had this desire to see the world be a better place.  He was kind. I was drawn to his kindness. I found myself wondering if he was interested in me or if we were just friends. Then I got the call, “I think we need to talk.” We made plans to talk on a Tuesday evening. I chose my outfit carefully, spent an hour getting ready and calming my nerves and geared up for the D.T.R. (define the relationship talk)

He told me his story and I listened. My stomach churned, my hands shook. His words and story were not too surprising, but they were not the words a girl, who wanted a guy to be interested her wanted to hear. “Cari, I am gay.” (Tragedy) My heart sank and I stayed engaged in the conversation at the same time. “Cari, I’m gay and I am attracted to you and don’t know what to do about it. Would you be willing to try this with me?” What an invitation! Not quite the story I was going for, but it was the story I was in. My mind started racing. What was my answer going to be?

Logic would say, go, it won’t work out. But what was Jesus saying? We talked for another hour or so and in that time, we made a decision to date. (Life in color. Life of impossibility. Life over rainbows.) We decided we would allow ourselves to try this out as long as we were honest with each other along the way. We took a walk, held hands and hugged as we said good-bye. I had no idea what was to happen next but I knew I was to enter this journey with him and he with me.

That night I laid in bed and prayed. I asked the Lord what I was to do. Am I foolish for thinking You’re inviting me into this story? Am I foolish for allowing my heart to grow attached to a man who has a story layered with questions in his own sexual identity? Am I foolish to you Lord?

I felt the Lord say, “Cari, I am in this. It is for your good. Do not be afraid.” Over the next 5 months Matthew and I dated I learned more about the love of God, hope in the Lord and believing in the impossible. God had invited me into life over the rainbow. He invited me into the impossible and the foolish and it was for my good. It was for Matthew’s good. It was for a communal good.

I will write about this more in the days to come. I’ve only spoken publicly about this relationship once and I have felt nudged to share this part of my story in these days of honesty and truth telling.

Every day there are impossibilities that surround us. Every day we touch lives with those whose have only their belief to keep them going and God, at times, seems silent in the midst of struggles and questions. Every day there are cliffs to jump off of with Jesus. It is part of living in the impossible, being made possible with God. I learned many things in my relationship with Matthew. He and I remain good friends and I asked him if it’d be okay for me to start writing about my experience dating him. He kindly gave me permission.

So the next few posts will hold questions, heart ache, beauty and both answered and unanswered prayer. I am not sharing these stories to say anything other than the truth of my own experience. I hope that you will be encouraged as I share about obedience and trust, even in the most seemingly foolish of circumstances.

Man, Woman and One Tree

adam and eve snakeGod who is good. God who is King, created all and it was good. God who is good, created man and woman in his image and it was very good. God loved his creation. God loved all of the works of his hands. God loved man and woman and walked with them daily. Man and woman were completely naked with God and felt no shame.

Now God, who is good and God who is King, gave all of creation to man and woman. It was theirs to enjoy, to work, to eat and to tend. There were trees of every kind and man and woman could eat of their fruit and enjoy all that was made.

With one exception.

God who is good and God who is King knew man and woman intimately and knew that they were not created to judge, they were not created to decipher good and evil, for this was not their created design. Therefore, God, being good, commanded the man and woman to refrain from eating the fruit of one tree. This tree was unique. This tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it was planted in the middle of the garden and served as a reminder of God and as an invitation to trust his love and character.

One tree.

One command.

One invitation to trust and believe.

One tree, in all of creation could not be eaten.

One

Man and woman worked and enjoyed creation together. They had a unified relationship with their good God, their King! And all was very good.

Now, God had an enemy, in fact, God still has the very same enemy. This enemy is opposed to life. This enemy is opposed to all that is good. This enemy is opposed to truth. This enemy hates, accuses, destroys and kills. This enemy hated man and woman, for they, reminded him of the good God who is King over all.

This enemy knows only one language and his language is deception. Every word from his mouth was and is full of lies and accusations. Every word seeks to destroy the image of the good God, given to man and woman.

The enemy’s hatred for man and woman was deep and he had in mind to destroy them.

As man and woman worked the garden, the enemy approached and spoke to them. “Did your good God, your King, really say…?”

Doubt. A short start to a question, but the enemy of truth knew exactly what he was doing. If he could place doubt in the man and woman he could possibly change their belief about God and themselves.

The conversation that followed went a little like this:

“Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the serpent (the enemy), “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not certainly die,” The serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

A doubt. A misquote. The spoken expectation. A lie! Another lie.

The enemy in two short paragraphs invited the woman to believe a lie as though it were true. The enemy went straight for her jugular, her identity! First by accusing God of holding out on the woman, therefore accusing him of not being good. And second, the enemy accused the woman and man of being imperfect and less than, as he told them they were missing out on this knowledge.

Two paragraphs; Riddled with lies, accusations and invitations to believe the opposite of truth.

And just like that… the woman, tragically…. agreed.

“Yes! I believe you! I believe God must be holding out on me. God must have made a mistake when he made me, otherwise I wouldn’t need the fruit of that tree to grow in any way. Yes, I believe!”

Do you know the temptation to believe a lie? Have you ever heard the voice of an accuser? Have you ever agreed with his words?

What do you think or feel as you read this?

 

God who is good… created

blending-the-elements-of-creation-In the beginning God created.

God is good and God is King.

The stage is set, a story is unfolding. God, who one comes to know through the text of the story, is wildly good and He is King. He is sovereign and He is the ultimate authority. This God who is good acts. His very first action is the fifth word of His story. God created!

With poetic word and rhythm the story of creation unfolds.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formlessand empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good,and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry groundappear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered watershe called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so.12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Take a moment to read it again. A beautiful poem, conveying the purpose and intention of an almighty, thoughtful, intentional, and sovereign God.

The picture painted of creation is one that declares the character of God and his intension with his creation and both are good.

What stands out to you as you read the story? What do you notice from the text? What do you learn of God? Creation? Rhythm? People?

I’d love for us to learn from one another as we read and listen.

Cars, Unmet desire, the Econo Lodge and John

econo-lodgeToday began with the news that my car was to be sold for parts in a city, town far from anything that felt like home. I started off curious how God would meet this need and throughout the remainder of the day I became overwhelmed. It was as though every thing I have been praying for, craving and crying out to God for was struck and knocked over, much like a bowling ball hitting the pins perfectly and knocking them over simultaneously.

I don’t think I’ve cried this much in a long time. I moved to Colorado out of obedience a year and a half ago. God moved me, but I have not yet been settled. I’ve been living in my parents basement which has been difficult as I love to host people, create spaces of rest and restoration for others, create places where I get to design and surround myself with beauty. I was complaining to God, some say crying out… but lets be honest now, I was complaining, a few months ago about not having a home. I said, “Lord! You know how much I need a place to host people! Why have you not given me a home yet?” His response was something a little like, “Well, you have a car don’t you.” From that day on I saw my car differently. It went from being a place that took me from here to there and it became my place. My car quickly became a meeting place. I took long drives with individuals as they shared their heartaches, hopes, dreams and deep sadnesses. My car had become my home and it was good.

Lately my longing for a home of my own has once again become thick. I long to have a place to host dinner parties, gatherings for neighbors, those I meet along the way. I long to feel my home with people and give them courage in their walks with the Lord. Some encouraging prospects were on the horizon and I was preparing myself to look for a home. I had money saved and was ready to make my move.

Today, my car broke down and my home with it. This place that has been my hosting place has been taken away and the money I’ve saved to move is now going to have to be used to buy a new car. Along with the emotion of longing for a home, came a flood of unmet desires that I’ve been praying for as of late. Every desire hit me with such a force that I’ve felt sick all day. Each desire and it’s near fulfillment deflated in every sense of the word.

I have cried, questioned, cried some more, prayed, sat wondering how I was to move forward with faithfulness and cried a little more. Friends would call throughout the day and immediately I’d burst into tears and sob cries of the pain of the unmet. This is a place I do not like to dwell but has recently become unavoidable. The unmet. I’m crying even as I type. There is a pain I’ve wanted to avoid for years that is a reality in my bedroom at the Econo Lodge in Salina, Utah. It makes me nauseous.

My heart calmed tonight after an old friend called. He listened as I cried and let this pain be carried by one more. I got off the phone and began to flip through the channels on the TV, where I found a famous TV preacher doing his thing. He began speaking of miracles and recalled story after story of miracles in the lives of others. I was wrestling with the need for personal miracle and the reality that I am a cynic when it comes to TV preachers. As he went on my phone rang, it was the hotel manager. He asked if I’d come down and sign something for my extra night’s stay here.

I put on some mascara, trying to keep my eyes from being their puffy self and hide the look of a woman who spent the day in tears. I made my way to the front desk where he seemed very concerned about my situation. He mentioned as I was about to turn and leave that he would pray for me. I told him thank you and that I too loved the Lord. He ran with that. I spent the next two hours listening to story after story of miracles in his life. He had no idea of the depth of my situation, but every story was spoken not just to my ears, but also my heart. He took me to a back room that he had set aside for worship. Worship music plays 24/7 in this place and they pray over the rooms and the guests. He took my hands and began to pray over me and sent me out with a cup of hot chocolate (which I’ve wanted all day) and the words, “Cari, don’t forget to thank God for your situation, whatever it is. We serve a big God.”

We do serve a big God. I serve a big God. He is bigger than cars. He is bigger than a lack of a house. He is bigger than unmet desire. He is bigger than the most desperate of human circumstances. He is bigger.

So tonight I will close by being thankful. I am thankful for an opportunity to be blessed by the kindness of strangers. I am thankful for a place to stay. I am thankful my car made it up the mountain and into a town where I could be. I am thankful for the reminders from books, strangers, and friends that God is good and that He is powerful and will meet our needs… my needs. I am thankful for Dave who shared with me about his heart ache while he drove me to get lunch. I am thankful for Kevin who is going to buy my car that doesn’t work. I am thankful for John who prayed for me at the Econo Lodge. I am thankful for a situation that is impossible. I am thankful for my car breaking down. I am thankful for how God will provide in the future. I am thankful for my awakened desires. I am thankful for friends who have called and texted all day. I am thankful for a family who prays for me. I am thankful for a roof over my head. I am thankful for my comforter that I brought with me. I am thankful for the fact that I have a reserve to help towards a new car. I am thankful that God will not settle me until its time. I am thankful that I still want to be obedient. I am thankful that Jesus has never left me. I am thankful that God who created life, who made earth and all that it holds is my provider. I am thankful that I believe and that God is helping me with my unbelief. I am thankful for grace. I am thankful that I will not awake to sadness. I am thankful for the comforter. I am thankful for the situation I’m in. I’m thankful for the fact that God knows my deepest desires and will meet them. I am thankful for tears and the reality of hope in Jesus. I am so thankful that obedience will always lead me to good… to God.

So tonight I’m thankful that God is writing my story. I am thankful for ending up at the Econo Lodge. I am thankful to write from the truth of holding obedience, love, trust, hope, and unmet desire at the same time, knowing our God is faithful and good… always.

The middle is the darkest place

Middle_of_the_Hvalfjörður_tunnel,_November_21_08-53I am on my way to L.A. from Denver. I chose to drive this time for several reasons. As I wound my way through the mountains I had to drive through several tunnels. Each tunnel was different, some were very short, one was nearly 3 miles long, one wound it’s way around and I found myself wondering when I would make my way out. The short tunnels had very little lighting, for they were short enough that I could see in and out simultaneously. The longer tunnels however, began with little light, but the further in I drove, the more I noticed the natural light disappear and the florescent street lights illuminated the way. The middle of a three mile tunnel is dark. Very dark. I’m thankful I had lights on my car and I’m thankful for the time someone took to engineer a tunnel with electricity.

The middle.

It is the darkest point of the tunnel. It is the darkest point of any situation. It is the point where most of us think we’ve hit the bottom and turn around, because we just don’t know if we can go any further.

I’ve spoken with several people about being in the middle this year. It seems many people I know find themselves in situations where darkness feels more palpable than light and where taking one more step into the dark feels impossible. The crazy thing about being in the middle is that it is the one place where we are equidistant from the start of the tunnel to exiting the tunnel, we simply don’t realize it. Many of us hit the middle and the difficulty and darkness it holds and turn around, for at least we know what is there and how long it will take to get back to where we started. We arrive at the mid-point where exit is just as close as entry and we choose to turn back.

Healing happens as we take steps into the dark from the middle. For when we step into the dark, one more step, two more steps and so on, we are actually walking toward the light, towards the other side, towards healing. We must cross the darkest point to reach the exit for which we’ve longed.

Tonight I literally find myself in the middle. I am half-way between Denver and LA. I just came out of the darkest stretch of the trip, with no lights, no cell reception, and no sign of visible life. My car started shaking, the check engine light came on and there I was, literally in the middle, without the capability of journeying on tonight. My initial response was fear. My secondary response was gratitude, followed by courage and faith. I had just spent a significant time in prayer asking God to increase my belief and faith.  And now this. Funny, it’s in the middle where belief and faith are lived into and increased.

Though I was shaken, though I did have to choose to believe, though I found myself… find myself with questions of how this situation will work itself out. I will step into tomorrow knowing that God is there and inviting me to light… to belief… to increased faith. And I will have a story of rescue from the middle, that you’ll more than likely read about in posts to come.

Do you find yourself in a dark place? Do you find yourself doubting? Questioning and confused? Do you want to turn around and escape? Keep stepping. Keep walking. Keep trusting. And, ask the God of light to bring you to His healing warmth on the other side.