A Choice Drink for Victory

Then all the people went away to eat choice food and drink, and celebrated with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:12

“Wait, Jesus is coming back?”

I remember that light bulb moment as surprise swept across her face. Her eyes, wide and bright, looked straight into mine, searching for an answer. “He’s alive? He’s coming back?”

“Yes, he is,” I assured her.

For the teenage girl in my cabin that summer, it all became real sitting on the picnic tables by Sky Lake, and she could not hold back her excitement. Turning to her cabin mates she exclaimed, “Did you know? Can you believe it?!” For the rest of the week, she told everyone she could: Jesus is coming back! For real!

In the dining hall, on the blob, going down the waterslide: Hey, did you know? He’s alive!

Brittany, like the people of Israel, deemed this newly discovered information worth celebrating. When the Israelites heard and understood the Law of Moses they celebrated with a week-long feast! (Where do I sign up?)

Remember discovering something, be it knowledge or experience, and the feeling it stirred within you? Like riding a horse for the first time, that first sip of a good wine, your first kiss.

A wise woman once said, “Information mixed with an encounter becomes a revelation, and that’s when transformation happens.”

If this season has been about anything it’s learning. Learning a new craft, learning to be broken, learning to be loved, and always learning more and more about God: who he is and how he sees me.

I am finally understanding and experiencing some things for the first time. Because of the brokenness and vulnerability I’ve reached lately, I figured

it is due time I start celebrating the victories. 

Information, encounters, revelations, transformations. The stuff made known to me.

Nope, still not perfect, I have yet to arrive, and I will probably cry at least once or twice by the end of the week. But what is this life I’m living if I cannot see the victories in everyday? Will I allow the fear of failing at the slightest glimpse of weakness keep me from celebrating my victory? No, sir.

Cheers to victory, I raise my glass of choice drink.

To the beauty of the sunshine dancing across tree branches colored in fall-flavored hues. To brownies covered in Blue Bell peppermint ice cream. To driving with the windows down. To crying with friends over Skype though thousands of miles lie between us. To late-night conversations on the balcony. To writing in moleskine journals. To coffee dates and lunch gatherings and dinner parties. To being held by the people who love me most. To the reprimands and hard questions that always challenge. To the little hallelujahs whispered in the darkest of nights.

To gleaning from the harvest and in the shadow of death.

To walking in my identity as a daughter, a worshiper, a prophet, a lover, a believer.

To freedom.

To knowing that I am enough.

To God be the glory.

Cheers.

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Kick Drum Heart {11n11 Throwback}

It was 7:15, still another twenty minutes until our tuk tuk would arrive.

My belly was stuffed  beyond contentment with chips and salsa. Yes, Mexican food in Cambodia. Some of my teammates were anxious to get home for toilet’s sake. Others wanted to take advantage of the shopping opportunity the street vendors boasted. We crossed the busy street and strolled by the river.

My senses at full attention, I took in the city life, flashing lights, smells of food, trash, and everyday living. As Westerners, we were targeted by the children selling trinkets and souvenirs.

“Lady, lady, you buy book from me? Give you special price for scarf!”

I was annoyed and angry. Annoyed to deal with them when I was fully set on enjoying my tourist moment in peace without having to fend off hagglers. Angry that someone forced these children to spend their nights on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.

“Just let them be children!” I screamed on the inside.

I knew buying something from them would be fueling the industry, but if I didn’t the children would suffer for it later, most likely through physical abuse. Lord, what do I do for the least of these?

Within seconds, I found myself in camp-counselor mode, asking names and ages, performing silly handshakes and high fives. We heard some music from a nearby bar. I couldn’t help but dance and the kiddos joined me. I taught them everything from the cabbage patch to the fist pump and even threw in some swing dancing just for kicks.

Their laughter made my heart flutter.

The dancing continued as sounds of Justin Bieber filled the air. Baby, baby, baby, ohhh! I realized I was having more fun in this moment than I have in awhile.

It is all too easy to brush these people off as pests getting in the way. These kids are God’s workmanship. We are called to serve the ‘least of these’, but we don’t have a time card to punch when we are on or off the clock. And it service doesn’t always require money, love will do.

While on his way to restore the life of a synagogue ruler’s daughter, Christ stopped to ask his disciples who touched his cloak. The disciples thought this a silly question considering the size of the crowd closing in around him. It is like walking through Times Square on New Year’s Eve and saying, “Hey, somebody touched my jacket!” Really, Jesus?

Christ took note of everything around him. While the death of the righteous ruler’s daughter seemed to be the top priority to everyone else, he stopped to heal a woman who had been told her sickness was incurable. Everyone had given up on her, everyone but Christ.

Until that night, I honestly didn’t care for Cambodia. I was there because it was the next country on the list, my heart still beating for Thailand, fast and strong. But each time I leave a country a piece of my heart stays there. The Lord continually fills me up with his love, restoring me, allowing me to give my heart again. As I pour out, he fills up. So my heart turns within me and I am ready to love Cambodia.

There’s nothin like finding gold between the rocks, hard and cold. So surprised to find more, always surprised to find more. –Kick Drum Heart, Avett Brothers

Want more stories from my World Race experience? Check ’em out here.

How to Fake Your Own Death

I couldn’t breathe.

I felt my body being pulled out of the water and onto a backboard. I heard the Velcro of the neck brace pull apart just before someone lifted my head and stabilized my neck.

My eyes squeezed shut.

Sounds of whistles blowing and worried voices filled the air. I tried not to move.

“Has anyone called for an ambulance?” I heard one lifeguard shout to another. “Yeah, they’re on their way,” the response.

Stay still, just a little longer. You can do this.

“Okay, everyone calm down this is just a drill. Carrie, you may open your eyes now,” the Programs Manager announced to the crowd that formed around me. “Everything is fine. She’s not hurt.”

I faked it. The whole thing.

In a swimming pool full of high schoolers at summer camp, I jumped off the trapeze and didn’t come up when I hit the water. I did the dead man’s float until someone came in after me. The Programs Manager and I schemed the whole thing as a drill to test the lifeguards.

A lie, a trick, a sham. A “drill.”

Recently, my roommate said something I think rings true with many of us: “I am fine to talk about the stuff in my past that I’ve overcome, it’s the stuff of today I don’t always want to open up about.”

The stuff that we’re “over” is easier to talk to people about, it’s not a part of us anymore and we’ve improved and we’re great now. Talking about the stuff of today means admitting we are not perfect.

The truth is most of us are just faking our own deaths.

Death to envy, bitterness, insecurities, fears, addictions. We trick people into believing the old mess is dead. Done. Gone forever.

I am really good at faking my own death. I pretend to not care when I am hurting, to be independent when I am lonely, to say, “It’s fine,” when it absolutely is not fine. The old me used to care or feel this way, but not anymore, not Carrie 2.0, she has moved on from all of that.

Wrong.

I still hurt. I still feel lonely sometimes. I still get jealous when she gets everything handed to her on a silver platter, while I have nothing to show for my work. I am still prideful, performance-driven, and selfish most days, but I will talk about these issues like they are a thing of the past. Pat me on the back, I’ve defeated resentment! (Not!)

Now that I’ve found a safe place and my blocks are scattered across the floor, I think I am done faking it, the death of my own mess. Gone are the days of pretending I have it all together and my only faults are from the past. I am not admitting defeat — I am admitting I need help, I am not perfect and never will be.

And I am thankful to say I am surrounded by people who love me enough to to keep me from covering up my flaws and instead work toward stepping into actual greatness each day; people who challenge me — not to be perfect — just more like Jesus.

No faking.

To die will be an awfully big adventure. -James M. Barrie

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