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.

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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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.

Friends Beneath the Sheets

In the same week my Jenga tower collapsed, my roommate built a fort in our living room.

I have long searched for a safe place. A refuge. A place to be me. And unknowingly, a place to be messy.

This week, I found that safety in the form of twinkling lights and linens clothespinned together and draped from the the ceiling. A return to childhood, a time of blissful innocence where anything is possible and I can be whatever I choose.

For a moment, I found myself living in a fairytale.

If you know my love for dinner parties, you know I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a dinner party in a fort. We indulged in fried things and fresh things and belly-laughed when somebody stole the caramel straight from Danny’s apple.

By the end of the night, the dishes were stacked a mile high and flour dusted the counter tops like winter’s first snow.

Under the sheets of the fort that night, people were nourished body and soul. And I felt safe.

This fort made of sheets, clothes pins, pillows, and blankets is a safe place. Within its walls I find refuge, comfort, peace. I’ve sat with friends and I’ve sat here alone. Beneath these sheets, I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve prayed on my knees and on my face under the linens and lights. Under the sheets that make up this fort, I have been the most real I have ever been with my friends, with God, and with myself.

Lately, I’ve been frustrated with how messy I have become and am always telling myself to lock it up and pull it together. I am sick of being a burden to others when I am supposed to be the strong one.

When I looked back on that night and the many nights leading up to it, God whispered something to my heart:

You’ve been this messy all along, but you have never felt safe enough to open up and let others in to see it, not even yourself.

And that is when I suddenly felt okay with not being okay.

Love takes risks. Vulnerability opens you to feel both the good and bad. As much as it hurts, I have to be glad that it does. It means I am finally in a safe enough place to be open, to share, to feel, to cry and be hurt, to not be okay.

I am thankful for my fort, my safety, my friends. The people who have held my hand as we’ve entered into this safe place together.

I love these people. So much.

And I don’t know what my life would be without them, without the safety of my fort. Without the twinkling lights always reminding me of the beauty of life no matter how painful, as long as I am surrounded by people I love who love me back — no matter how messy it gets.

It is painful, yes, all growth is. But the silver lining I am defending is turning gold, soon to illuminate my skies brighter than the darkness of my sorrows.

We Will Never Have Tonight Again

It was one of those nights.

Nothing entirely epic or noteworthy took place, rather a string of beautiful, intimate moments like white lights twinkling on a dark strand. Moments that remind me to breathe in, live life fully and thank God for giving me such a precious gift.

Honestly, I wanted the night to be over before it ever started.

Like Cameron Diaz in the movie The Holiday I tried bawling my eyes out in the car on the drive home from work.

No tears. Not one.

I felt such a heaviness and restless spirit in me, but couldn’t conjure up a single tear. This was not looking good.

When I arrived at my apartment, I was greeted by some friends who stopped by to say goodbye before heading out to Cincinnati for the weekend.

I knew why they’d come.

They came to say goodbye to us for a weekend, but to my roommate it was goodbye for a while.


After all the events of that night, I found myself curled up on my roommate’s bed talking life.

I’ve spent many a moment in her bed or on our couch, at the kitchen table, swinging in the hammock, or sitting at the apartment upstairs talking life.

Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, and on the best nights we do both.

We talk about what God is doing, how he’s actively moving in our midst. We remember the past fondly and look expectantly toward the future. When bitterness or discouragement arises, we combat it with words of life. Sometimes we have to do some yelling and standing on things first, but life still comes.

These nights have taken me to deep, intimate, and raw places. It’s not always pretty in the moment, but in the end I’m convinced it’s beautiful. These nights have helped shape who I am and how I view life. These nights have changed me.

And then it hit me.

We will never have tonight again.

This night was bittersweet. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, but it helps when you believe in the reason why. Saying goodbye is difficult because two things, woven together by God, are now being separated.

Saying goodbye is something I’ve done a lot lately.

But I stand behind the goodbyes. Because greater things are ahead.

So we will never have tonight again because things are changing, people are moving, lives are growing. Sons and daughters are stepping out into their calling.

But I can only believe that even better days are ahead.

All we had was all we needed then, we will never have tonight again.

-Sandra McCracken, We Will Never Have Tonight Again