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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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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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