Like Waiting for a Slow Pitch and Getting Supersoaked

Coming into this season looked more like a dive than a step.

Oh and by dive I mean cannonball. Maybe even a belly flop. Either way, I closed my eyes and hurled myself into the deep ocean of unknown.

James Vaughan

In our adolescent summers, my brother and I lived at the pool. First thing each morning, we put on our suits and rode our bikes to the Afton Village Swim Club.

We swam and swam, begrudgingly getting out for those dreadful ten minutes of adult swim. The only thing that could redeem that awful land prison: ice pops for a quarter. And it meant I could flirt with the lifeguards without feeling guilty about distracting them from their jobs. But mostly the ice pops.

At lunchtime, we went home to cook up Asian-inspired cuisine of Ramen noodles, then raced back to the pool, staying until after dark. We walked home with wobbly sea legs, limp from all that paddling and diving and splashing. The street lights wore shiny halos on those summer nights due to the copious amount of chlorine in my eyes.

We played a lot of games during the long pool days of summer. One in particular always stands out to me. 

One person jumps from the diving board while the other throws the ball, a foam NERF ball—it was the nineties. The point is to catch the ball mid-air and be awesome.

Whenever my turn on the diving board arrived, my brother always happened to get exhausted, and would rest at a conveniently placed float on the northeast end of the pool.

Ready, set, ju—and along came Chris floating by, “asleep” on his float.

“Faker!!!” I screamed with heels raised and toes pressed into the board as if to project my voice and further prove my allegations.

“FAKER!” I screamed louder. “Fak—” a piercing stream of water shot me in the face.

A cackle from below proved my brother had, in fact, not been sleeping on that float, but hiding a water gun until he got just the right angle to shoot me.

Vulnerable and exposed, no weapon, no shield, he got me.

I thought I did what I supposed to. Thought I was playing the game, and boom. H2Oed in the face. In front of the cute lifeguard, no less.

Recently, I crawled up on that diving board again, only this one is less real and more metaphorical.

I thought I’d been playing the game by the rules, doing the right thing—what was expected. I took risks, but by faith. One step in front of the other. I would get to the edge, take a deep breath, jump in the air, catch the ball thrown at me, and land safely into a pool of applause and fulfilled dreams and promised land, right?

Turns out, I got to the edge of the board, took a deep breath, took another deep breath, started to take the plunge, and instead of catching the soft, cushy NERF ball, I got plastered in the face by a Supersoaker and landed in a pool of unmet expectations.

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How many times do we expect because we have done all the right things, God will toss us a nice slow pitch, and instead it feels like he fakes us out with a shot in the face?

But God is not faking.

God, in the best way (that also happens to be painful, ugly, and messy), is reminding me of my desperate need for him.

At some point, I got to thinking I had a pretty good thing going.

That’s not to say I’m perfect. But I thought I heard the voice of God, thought I followed his lead. I thought I loved well, served well, prophesied and preached well. So where is my slow pitch and pool of promised land?

I’ve realized I don’t think he ever actually promised me a soft, cushy NERF ball. But he did promise he would be there. And if I would just climb the ladder, walk down the board, and jump, he would help me swim. And that’s what risk and trust is anyway.

It’s ditching entitlement and carrying gratitude.

Sometimes it’s splashing in the baby pool, getting familiar with the water. Other times it’s getting thrown right into the deep end, in the middle of it all. No matter, I believe he is not wasting our time or withholding promises. He is not tricking us into believing he is one thing when he’s another—we’re usually the ones pretending to be something we’re not.

He is father, redeemer, hope-fulfiller. He is kingdom creator and heart-seeker.

My head is barely above water most days, but I haven’t drowned yet. And I don’t expect I will, if I keep my eyes open to what he’s doing in the now, instead of complaining about what hasn’t turned out like I expected.

I haven’t drowned yet, and I don’t think you will either.

One day, our faith will be sight.

 

 

(photo credit: James Vaughn)

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The Guy You Have a Beer With

Inspiration can come in the most unexpected places.

Sunsets, mountains, cups of coffee, a good book, the perfect autumn day. These, among other things, spin my creative wheels, and inspire my work.

I love, however, when inspiration sneaks up on you. Like the parking guy who does his job with such joy, or the way the train rumbles at just the right decibel to lull me into a sleepy dreamland.

I never thought a serial-dating, midwesterner-turned-city-slicker-designer could say the exact thing I had been trying to for so long, but could never put into words.

Aside from both working in the creative circuit, Timothy Goodman and I are two very different people.

I hopped on the 40 Days of Dating train pretty early in the project’s online debut. Like a middle school girl tearing open the latest issue of Tiger Beat, I pored over the daily entries  from a pair of designers in NYC doing a relationship experiment. (Don’t worry, for every 40 Days post, I listened to one hour of NPR, just to balance out.) 

While I admit, I did enjoy the gushy antics of their story in a Ross and Rachel “will they? won’t they?” kind of way, what I enjoyed most about the project was the way the couple processed and learned along the way. Even if I didn’t always agree with it.

When Tuesday morning came and the Great Discontent arrived in my inbox with the subject line: Timothy Goodman interview, I opened the email with the same enthusiasm as the 40 Days posts. Make that double the enthusiasm because I love TGD (TGD interviewed Jessica Walsh in September 2012, pre-40 Days).

When asked about what legacy he hopes to leave, Tim mentioned three things: to push creative limits, be supportive of people he cares about and,

“Maybe I’ll be remembered as a guy you were able to have a beer with.”

And that was it.

I expected his accomplishments, accolades, and creative passion to inspire me. It all does. But this caught me off guard.

In so few words, he sums up a worldview bigger than I think even he realizes. It is simple, yet inspiring. Almost so easy, most people overlook it altogether. I think what Timothy says is the same message Jesus wants us to get.

We think we need programs and projects and conferences, when all it takes is eyes that say trust me and ears that say I’m listening. Why make it complicated, when the answer could be as simple as gathering around the table with a friend?

Jesus did it, with disciples and sinners alike. The idea of meeting over a beverage or around food transcends cultures and beliefs and backgrounds.

Be the kind of person people want to grab a drink with. Not because you’re the richest, funniest, most talented, most attractive, or even most spiritual. Be the kind of person people have a beer with because you are just the kind of person who will take the time sit across from someone—be it at a bar, in a coffee shop, or around the kitchen table—and listen, love, and pour life out.

I may never win a Nobel Prize or discover the cure for cancer or invent the next greatest app (although I am still holding out on that one), but I can leave a legacy of compassion.  When people remember Carrie, I hope they say, “she loved and she listened and she believed for great things.”

I want to invite people into my life and into the freedom the love of Christ offers.

So let’s go get that drink. {Cheers}

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Saving the Last for Last

Before Jennifer Lawrence became the girl on fire, I read the Hunger Games series. And I reread the books just before the release of the first movie.

Around the same time the Hunger Games film came out, a friend lent me a book. “If you loved the Hunger Games, you will love Divergent,” she assured me.

Another young adult novel about teenagers holding the fate of a postmodern dystopia in their hands? Oh you mean a poor man’s Hunger Games, right? Got it. 

Everything in me wanted to skip ahead and get to the meat. Forget all the preliminary mumbo jumbo and setting the scene stuff,  I wanted to feel the emotions, and know the end of the story. I wanted to know the characters in the new book the way I knew Katniss and Peeta.

Recently, I moved to a new city and started a new job. I am slowly trying to create a life here.

Scratch that.

I am not slowly trying to create a life here. I am in all-out, super-speed, lightning mode to create some kind of life here in Austin.

I got a job, joined a small group, volunteered with an organization, found roommates, and located the nearest Trader Joe’s ASAP.

When I came to Austin, I had a handful of friends already living here. Since being in the city, I have made quite a bit of acquaintances, and find my schedule quickly fills with shows and groups and coffee dates and dinners.

But I am still lonely.

For awhile, I couldn’t figure it out. I have plans every night of the week, when did I have time to feel lonely? Between work and church and CASA and pure-Austin living (read: live music, coffee shops, food vendors, and the outdoors), I don’t even get enough sleep.

I began to doubt my decision. Because surely if it were God’s will it would feel better and not so lonely. At least back there I had my people. At least back there people really knew me.

And I realized I am judging this season’s beginning off another season’s end.

Like starting a new book, I didn’t care about character development or plot lines because it wan’t the Hunger Games and these aren’t my people and they haven’t had my experience. I wanted to feel at Divergent‘s beginning the way I felt at Hunger Game’s end. And it just seemed like too much effort to get through all of that again.

“I just wish I could speed this whole process along,” I lamented to a friend. “I just want to be known the way you know me.”

I want to pick up the remote of life and fast-forward to the good parts, just skip ahead a few chapters.

The community I had in Georgia was a rare, beautiful, messy, hard-fought gift. When I really think back on it, all that mess we went through together created the camaraderie we shared. We didn’t go from shaking hands to sobbing on the couch together in an instant. Life happened in between. Real, raw, messy life.

The moments when it all fell apart were the moments I had people come alongside me, and believe with and for me, and when the time came, we celebrated the heck out of each other. In feast and famine, we loved each other the best we knew how—but it was the famine that made the feast taste so good.

Some of the great friendships of history—Woody and Buzz, Milo and Otis, Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins—birthed out of a journey trekked together. Upon meeting, they shared no instant bond,  some of them even disliked each other.

To wish away the time is to skip over the cultivation process—the gestation of new life, the fermentation of good wine. I want to surrender to the process and live fully in the in-between. I don’t want to skip ahead to the end, I want to save the last for last. And live the best today and everyday.

There is something about experiencing life together, the good and the bad, that brings us closer. If you ask me, it’s vulnerability.

“A year ago that’s the last thing you wanted, to go deep,” my friend laughed at the irony of my sorrows.

“See what you people did to me!” we both laughed into the screens of our facetime call.

Experiencing the journey is what makes reaching the destination beautiful and worth it. I am not going to miss out on that.

Please Play This Song at My Funeral

I’m no scientist or doctor, but when you’re doing pretty much anything in life, I think it’s important to breathe.

In high school, my friend Holly and I cheered together. I’ll never forget the day she moved from flier (the one on top of the pyramid) to base (the one holding the flier in the air). She is a tiny person — her heart is the only big thing about her — so the day she decided to be the muscles of the group shocked us all. I remember helping her, coaching her through the process. Bend at the knees, don’t arch your back. 

After every dismount Holly would let out the biggest gush of air from her mouth. Guuuuuuhhh. I couldn’t figure out how  such a loud noise could come from such a small person.

Then came time to add the cheers to the stunts. Yelling for our football team and throwing human bodies into the air — at the same time.

No words came from Holly’s mouth. Her grand exhales came after holding her breath for the entire stunt sequence. Ready, one, two, inhale… no exhale. No breath until the stunt ended and her flier landed safely on the floor.

“Don’t forget to breathe, Holly!” our coach would remind her during practice. “You have to keep breathing!”

Today, I need someone reminding me of the same thing.

A couple weekends ago, two of my best friends became one in marriage — and I couldn’t be happier. On the drive home from Austin, I spent time reflecting, praying, and thanking God for the people in my life.

Then Gungor’s This Is Not The End came on my car stereo. At the words, “This is not our last, this is not our last breath,” the tears began streaming down my cheeks.

Why that song? Why those words? I had heard them a dozen times before. What was it about the reassurance of breath — a job I typically leave up to my lungs and brain to work out — that broke me?

2013 has been one tough year. In desperation, I had gasped for air, taking in all my lungs could hold. I became lightheaded and dizzy, and lost sight of all truth. Instead, I started believing lies of inadequacy and disappointment. I have been holding my breath for jobs, for relationships, for provision, for heartaches, for health, for the way it should be 

Stale air continued to cycle and recycle. I couldn’t exhale because what if those last breaths were all I had.

Eventually, my face turned purple and I could not even see the life right in front of me.

I never let that last breath go to invite the fresh breath in.

There on Highway 290, I sat puffy-eyed and splotchy while this song reminded me of something I had forgotten along the way: there is another breath after this one. There is always one more breath.

Even in death there is never a last breath; life continues in the heavenly realm. Life started when Adam first drew in the breath of God, the inhale, and it continued when he exhaled the kingdom breath out into the garden.

There will be another inhale, but we have to let go of the breath we’re holding onto first.

There is always one more breath. 

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This is not the end, this is not the end of this. We will open our eyes wide, wider.

This is not our last, this is not our breath. We will open our mouths wide, wider.

This is not the end, this is not the end of us. We will shine like the stars: bright, brighter.

The Summer I Didn’t Plan

Sometimes, there are decisions that don’t change much of anything. White or wheat. Green sweater or blue sweater. Then, there are decisions that change everything.

On one of my last nights in the South, we drove with the windows down and the summer breeze tossed my hair. We were on our way to meet our friend Allison for fro-yo at the gas station — a typical weeknight for us. It’s how we cope after a bad day, or how we celebrate a good day. No matter the reason, we are most likely sporting yoga pants and top knots — and in the case of Courtney, the infamous eskimos.

As we drove, hugging the curves of the winding back roads, I caught a whiff of a memory from my days at summer camp.

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As a child, I went to girl scout camp a time or two (but quit when I discovered being a girl scout does not equal free cookies). In high school, I spent several days each summer at church camp, but never summer camp. No, those memories have been reserved for a different time in my life: the college years.

Sure, college had its football games, sororities, all-nighters, and What-A-Burger breakfast taquitos, but one of the most defining elements in my personal development during my late teens and early twenties is summer camp.

Every summer in college and for eight more months after I graduated, I worked for Sky Ranch. Early mornings, even later nights, the lake, the blob, the dining hall, the cheers, the cabin rituals. I actually got paid (albeit next-to-nothing) to love on high schoolers and talk about Jesus.

I can still taste the gooey s’mores and hear the sound of the crackling fire under a starry sky. I remember my sun-kissed skin, the moonlight bouncing off the lake, the laughter, the dance parties, the lasting friendships. Each summer was so definitive in developing who I am today.

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That first summer, I was 19 and in desperate need of cutting some soul ties with a guy back home. Wide-eyed, I moved into cabin 32, Chamberlain Hall, my new home. Fortunately, my senior counselor was a seasoned veteran who gave me the confidence to do some crazy things for the sake of the kingdom.

At 19, I learned to live beyond my body’s physical needs and to love teenage girls like crazy. I got sweet one-piece tan lines and my first pair of Chacos; I fell in love with a boy, and made life-long friends. I learned to belay and do CPR, and discovered more of who I am than I ever had before.

That first summer, I learned who God is and how he sees me. I had my first real experience with a mentor relationship and with a Christian organization that takes good care of its staff. I stayed up late nights on the front porch of the cabin talking with girls about everything from summer crushes to self-mutilation and why bad things happen.

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The next summer, I learned about discipline and leadership, and came up with over 100 Native American names for cabin initiation with some of the best co-counselors a girl could ask for.

At 21, I learned even more on leadership and discipleship. I got creative in ways I never thought possible. I had an incredible co-leader who showed me patience  and taught me more than he realizes. I practiced mourning with the people closest to me — while still clinging to the hope that celebration is never out of reach.

That final summer, I headed for the San Juans just two days after graduation. I may have earned a college degree, but man did I have a lot to learn that summer. I never knew my heart could grow any bigger or my Sky Ranch family expand any wider until my summer in Colorado. Like my mom always says, “God is everywhere, but I think we are closer to him in the mountains.”

And I nearly missed out on all that because it wasn’t part of the plan.

I had wanted to go somewhere else, be someone else. At 19, I wanted something different, but I had a couple friends who urged me to interview with Sky Ranch. That one interview, that one decision, changed the game for me.  I know I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without having spent those years rubbing shoulders with some spiritual moms, dads, brothers, and sisters.

As I say thanks for the monument Sky Ranch is in my life,  I am reminded that Sky Ranch was not part of my planbut it was one of the best plan-busting things I ever did.

There is no place like summer camp.

How Gratitude Turns Everything Into Enough

On a cool summer evening, we sipped wine and nibbled on Bianca pizza out on the terrace. As the sun set, the Frank Sinatra cover band ushered in the rising moon, leaving the sky a splash of pink and orange hues, dusted with flecks of gold and purple. I put on my cardigan and pulled my knees to my chest. A chill had begun to settle in.

These nights are my favorite. Nothing fancy, in fact, we stumbled upon this little restaurant after a trip to Trader Joe’s. We didn’t plan any of it, moseying was the only thing on our agenda that evening — and we are expert mosey-ers.

“This feels like vacation,” Ashley laughed. I smiled back, then stared off for a moment. I thought about how after a few weeks, the only chance we would have to enjoy nights like this would be on vacation. In just a month, we will pack up our apartment and head our separate ways, each into our next seasons, seasons we’ve prayed hard and waited long for.

The conversation continued, our waiter returning time and again to refill our glasses. At times, we  were so in it we didn’t even notice him there until he leaned in and asked, “Everything okay, ladies?”

“Oh yes, thank you.”

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Ashley and I exchanged fears, deep thoughts, and convictions. We declared words of truth, life, and prophecy. Conversations like this have become so natural to me in this season. Conversations that speak volumes of who God is even when we don’t understand our circumstances; ones that speak of his faithfulness whether we are lying in the desert or standing on the hill of inheritance. Conversations that speak to the greatness inside of us rather than the shame or fear we feel shackled by. Conversations of freedom and life.

And these don’t occur without recognizing the harsh realities of a fallen world, but acknowledging them and saying, “Nevertheless.”

Nevertheless God is good.

Nevertheless God is sovereign.

That early summer night, like he does so often, the Spirit spoke as if carrying sweet whispers across the breeze. And our ears tuned in.

“You’re thankful for the season you’re in — that makes you different from most.”

Something the Lord had been whispering to me since last summer: gratitude. Something I had been asking him for more and more of: thankfulness. Had I actually received the thing he’s been giving? Had I finally chosen thankfulness over resentment? And I realized in that moment how gratitude makes all the difference.

I am thankful for the birds singing outside my window and the mug of coffee steaming up my glasses right now. I am thankful for the Bethel YouTube channel and the way Skype turns coworkers into friends. I am thankful for hoodies and moleskines and fresh flowers. I am thankful for rocking chairs and twinkle lights and walks at dusk. I am thankful for the mentors and the best friends and that couch by my desk where I have had the opportunity to speak so much life over people.

I am thankful for gas station fro-yo and face time with loved ones who are states, nations, and oceans away. I am thankful for live music and rich foods and people who you can talk with for hours on end or sit with in silence together and still be okay. I am thankful for classic literature and the way my friends know me so well. I am thankful for celebrations of grand things and little things.

I am even thankful for the pain I feel when mourning because it proves just how great the people we lost really were. I am thankful for the way life always comes after death.

I am thankful for people who remind me of the warmth of the light when I all I can see is darkness. I am thankful for the way God is the same yesterday, today, and forever — yet always seems to get better.

I am thankful for each season of my life and how they have been pivotal, not wasteful, in the process of me becoming the woman I have been created to be.

In thankfulness, I will continue remembering his goodness while believing for the fulfillment of promises yet to come. That’s the best place to be.

If you have forgotten who he is or who you are, if you’ve lost sight of your purpose, grab a good friend and take a walk or sit on a patio at happy hour. Remember the good, beautiful, and lovely things, and celebrate. Revisit the hard and not-so-lovely things and choose to see the goodness and purpose God is creating out of the brokenness and ashes. If you can’t find it, ask him. He won’t keep it from you.

But whatever you do today, choose gratitude.

Here’s to gratitude and how it turns everything into enough. -Emily Loerke

When Waiting Looks Like Celebrating

The clock read a quarter ’til five and still nothing. No phone call. No email.

Surely she would have heard something by now.

Nothing.

Then, my phone buzzed and those four little words with huge meaning flashed across my screen: “I got the job!” I let out a sigh of relief and a silly grin spread across my face.

“She got the job, she got the job!” I hollered to my roommate. We hopped up out of our seats and made some movement I will for now call a “victory dance.” Nearly a year and a half in the making, we were witnessing a tree of life bloom before our very eyes.

For this hope, this job, we had been on our knees and on our faces; for this dream we raised our glasses in eager expectation. We sat on couches and in cars, across from each other at tables and in coffee shops sharing our prayers and declarations for this hope and longing. And in four little words the longing ceased. She got the job.  IMG_4149

Six, nine, 12 months ago, it seemed nothing was going as planned and I honestly wasn’t sure how God was going to pull this one off.

I am not sure why I had to lose my beloved Grandbud, it all seemed too soon. I am not sure why rejection upon rejection came, it exhausted us all. But I woke up everyday — with my cup of coffee in hand — declaring that he in fact would bring redemption, restoration, and relief from the spinning. Believing and praying that sense would somehow be made of it all and even if sense never came, we would have faith in the purpose. Yet part of me still wondered how out of reach it all might be.

I came to a point where I expected to be disappointed.

Today, we could all name at least a handful of hopes we’re still longing to see come to pass for ourselves and for those we love. I have friends who wish to be married, yet sleep alone. Friends weep in longing for children, yet they still carry empty wombs. Friends dreaming for big things manage to hit every road block to keep them from ever accomplishing their goals.

Yet today, we could also name some people and things worth celebrating — the jobs, the promotions, and the save-the-dates and birth announcements filling every last inch of our fridges. I can’t deny the juxtaposition of the celebrations and disappointments.

I was determined to not be disappointed. In the swirl of it all I found myself wondering where I fit. 

I tried earning my right to fulfilled dreams by being good enough or holy enough to gain God’s favor. It didn’t work.

I tried playing victim, hoping God would take pity on me and give in. He saw right through the act.

I even tried taking matters into my own hands because God must have gotten busy fulfilling other people’s dreams and forgotten about mine. Or maybe he was too tired by the time my turn came around and just wasn’t feeling up to the task. Yeah, not so much.

Then God reminded me: as much pain and disappointment as I have witnessed for others and experienced myself  in the past 18 months, I have also had the privilege to celebrate some ridiculous things with these people I do life with down here in the Peach State.

The same people I stood beside and supported as they packed up their desks — saying goodbye to one season without knowing what the next season would hold — I later celebrated with as they moved to new cities, started new jobs, and stepped into the people they’re becoming. Somehow, that’s made the disappointment lighter, the hope stronger. I am realizing God’s favor  is not a rat race or a lotto— there’s enough pie to go around.

Know I don’t write this from the other side telling you I got everything I’ve ever wanted because God finally showed up. I don’t write to you now because I have my perfect pin-board life with a zillion blog hits, the dream job, and Adam Levine came to his senses and proposed after having a come-to-Jesus moment.

No, I have none of those things.

I write to you still in the waiting.

I am not telling you if you just hope hard enough the dreams will appear. I cannot tell you where the magic lamp is hidden.

But I can tell you it will never look the way you expect. Often times, we miss out on the best in search for the good. That’s why as much as the waiting Sucks with a capital “S”, we wait on the Lord. And part of that waiting is celebrating with those who celebrate — the way Elizabeth’s baby lept in her womb when Mary came to visit with some big news. We are all pregnant with promise and I believe that promise will deliver in due time.

Until then, we press on in what we know — which is who he is, not necessarily where we are headed.  God’s not wasting a moment of this season and neither should you.

There is no use in taking a short cut when it comes to becoming the person God created you to be.

Take the small steps of faith that end in great treks of life. Fulfillment happens in the waiting, in the journey. I don’t plan on missing out on the best in search of the good. And today’s best is celebrating the victories in the lives of those who have celebrated with me.

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How 8 Days With College Kids Brought Me Back to Life

“Breathe. You’ve cried only twice today, Carrie, that’s improvement,” so the self-pep talks go these days.

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Wake up. Go to work. Sit at desk. Computer screen, internet, email. Meetings. Go home. Repeat. That’s been my version of “keeping my head above water” in the last couple weeks after returning back to Georgia from two of the most emotional weeks in Texas.

I was ready to give up on just about everything.

Then I boarded another plane and things changed.

My ticket read Guatemala City, Guatemala. Everyone who had been to Antigua before could speak only of their love affairs with her and her cobblestone streets, bright-as-the-sun hues, and magnificent landscapes. If possible, I would call it, “love before first sight.”

Fall in love I did. And, in only the way love can do, I awoke from my slumber.

When I look back on my time in  Guatemala and Costa Rica, I will remember more than delightful coffee.

I will remember the 25 teens and 20-somethings who reminded me of some truth I had lost sight of, some faithfulness I’d forgotten, and some hope I’d given up on.

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In eight days, these college-aged Passport participants took me back to the heart of why I do what I do. Why I packed my bags, left my family, and moved across the country. Why the tears and heartaches and disappointments are all worth it.

They are just like me and yet so different. But our hearts are the same: we have all chosen to ditch the status quo for a God-adventure. We have all been wrecked by the fierce love of Jesus and want to share that love with the world. We want to bring kingdom wherever we go.

We have stood up, stomped our feet, raised our hands, and shouted from chairs that God is good, God is love, God is worth it. God has a plan.

I just needed a change of scenery and fresh voices to remind me.

When I arrived I was pale from a dark, cold winter. While here in Central America, sun-kissed by students’ zeal, color has returned to my cheeks after what seemed to be months of lifelessness.

My feet are dirty. My face is sweaty. My hair is a hot mess. I am believing God for big things and resting in his presence, finding satisfaction there.

I am living like a real missionary again.

When the Guy Wearing Ray-Bans Says Those Four Words

Less than a month after God and I decided to try out this writing thing, I met someone.

A man I had never before heard of stood on stage at a conference telling some story about asking a girl out in middle school. I think he wanted to convince us to take risks, but I really heard only four words:

I am a writer.

That’s all I needed to hear before I felt God say, “Go talk to him. You want to write, he’s a writer; talk to him.”

He wore Ray-Ban glasses and cracked himself up at his own jokes, but I was still intimidated by those four words, “I am a writer.” After his session, I made up every excuse in my head of why I shouldn’t talk to him.

What are you going to say to him? What good is telling this guy anyway, what can he do? You can’t really be a writer. He’s going to laugh at your ignorance. And (most importantly) It’s lunchtime. 

Before I could throw out another reason to not talk to him, there I was, hand extended, introducing myself. “Hi, my name is Carrie and I am supposed to talk to you.”

Spoken like a true writer.

He agreed to meet with me and asked that I send some writing samples for him to read ahead of time.

Right, let me just get you my portfolio.

The next day we met outside the training center. Sure, it was January, but January in Georgia, and the sun shone between the wooden beams of the pergola making the temperature difference between the shade and the sun about 12 degrees. The shadows danced across the ground as a breeze blew through the tree branches above us.

We talked about Spain and traveling and dreams, but more than anything we talked about writing and how it is all about deciding to do it. And right in the midst of my bouncing in that brown patio chair he said the four words I never thought I would hear:

You are a writer.

My chair was still. Even though it made no sense and no one had ever published anything I had ever written and the fear in me was so apparent as if written across my forehead, I believed him. I actually believed the guy in the Ray-Bans who laughed at his own jokes.

Because he believed in me.

Until you acknowledge this — that you are a writer — you are depriving the world of a gift it longs for. One that stands the test of time. One that could leave a legacy.

Jeff Goins, You Are a Writer

What Do You Mean Denial Can’t Stop the Calendar?

2012 ended with a bang. But not the fireworks, bubbly and confetti kind of bang, more like you and the nurses in the ER are on a first-name basis kind of bang.

Bang.

I stuck my heels in the ground of 2012 because of the change 2013 brought with it. Some change I knew of and the unpredictable I feared. Sometimes change is awesome. New places, new people, new adventures: the great unknown, the great perhaps.

Other times, change is not so great. Especially when it is happening everywhere around you, but you’re standing still. Roommates go back to the mission field, friends leave town for other jobs, people are getting married and having babies, or breaking up and moving out. You have to leave loved ones in the hospital and return to your home 1,000 miles away. And you’re thankful you have a month-to-month lease because you never know where you will be in 31 days.

I somehow tricked myself into believing that if 2013 never came, neither would the change.

If you’ll notice, it’s February and it’s the first time I’ve blogged this year. That goes against everything I’ve ever learned about writing, blogging, and building any kind of platform.

I broke the rules because I somehow thought I could get around this whole 2013 thing.

Wrong.

I broke the rules because I have been so caught up in my own swirl that I couldn’t bring myself to sit still long enough to write.

Write.

My dream, my passion, my outlet.

My radio silence came from a place I can compare only to having too much coffee and not enough food. All caffeine and no sustenance. And a place where I let resistance win because I was too tired of fighting.

After a tearful phone call and a trip to Nashville, God reminded me of a conversation we had a little over a year ago. Sitting on my bed at my parents house having returned from one pretty epic journey ’round the world, the weight of life in the first world hit me in the face.

Me: God, really, what do I do now?

God: Remember my promises, I will give you the desires of your heart.

Me: Yeah sure, ok. But right NOW. What do I do?

God: What have I put inside you? What is a gift you have that you can give away? What do you love, but are too scared to do?

Me: (eyes rolling) Write.

God: So write.

Me: Okay, God, if you want me to write, you had better figure out a way for that to happen because all I’m seeing are dead ends!

God: Trust me, Child.

Georgia Night

Surprise! 2013 came and, in fact, we’re already over a month into it. Some changes came and some have yet to happen.

So here’s me getting vulnerable in front of you again. Saying I am sorry for the dead space since last December. Hoping that I have just enough faith in God, just enough people who care about me, and just enough passion for the thing to take the time to do what I love. To beat resistance and give what I have to anyone willing to receive.

Because when everything is swirling, you don’t give up on your dream.