Saturday, December 31, 2011

Clarity through endurance

"I will not quit" that's a phrase I said many times in 2011, actually I've shouted it, I've whispered it, I've wrote it, and I've felt it in my heart as I cried uncontrollably. I. Will. Not. Quit.

Endurance is a word I learned as a little girl, playing the Indian game with my grandma as she would say "Endure, Carla, endure." Endurance is a word that I've stood on this year though I didn't understand why until recently. Romans 5:3-5 says "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."

I know God loves me. I know I am saved through Jesus. I do. But if I'm to be totally honest there are times that someplace inside me I still doubt. It's like my brain (my knowledge) and my heart (my belief) don't connect. And this year my faith was challenged in deep ways and it seems as if the waves just keep coming, I barely catch my breath. How often do we say "man I can't catch a break?" or "I have a black cloud over me"? How often do we feel others are getting "blessings" and we're getting nothing? Read Romans again. Read and read and read until it sinks in...

Trials produce endurance (don't quit) and endurance leads to stronger character (don't we all want to have more noble character?) and that all leads to confidence in our salvation (yes He REALLY does love even me and you)...all this is wrapped in God's love. Trials lead to a stronger understanding of God's you haven't looked at it like that before! I sure hadn't.

So, today, on this last day of 2011 pause and look back at the year and all the ups and downs you've been through...can you see God crying out to you? Can you see God whispering "I love you, don't quit"? Can you see how getting through the trial led to stronger character and stronger faith? I can and I'm so thankful I didn't quit.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Clarity in hope

The Extraordinary Women's Conference was earlier this year. I wanted to go, there were several speakers coming that I wanted to hear but I had no money for a ticket; the desire to go was a fleeting thought at best. Then, I received a phone call from a friend telling me that if I wanted to go with her someone was willing to buy my ticket. I wasn't sure why and I didn't know who, but I was sure God was up to something.

Hope is a word that started popping up earlier this year. I viewed hope as "I hope I get..." in other words hope for me described something I wanted just didn't think I'd get. Let's not get our hopes up was my thought. Hope was everywhere, random conversations, tv shows, and friend and I walked into the room for the conference and hanging on the back of the stage was a huge banner that read EVERLASTING HOPE. I laughed out loud; I started praying a long time ago for God to be out loud and outrageous when talking to me so I would know it was Him...He was speaking, loud and clear.

I began to pay close attention in the weeks to follow, trying to figure out what God was saying to me. Why was "hope" such an important lesson for me to learn? As the year ends this is the clarity I've gathered thus far about HOPE:

As a Christian we have confident expectation (a definition given at the conference) in the God we serve. The bible says to approach the throne boldly (Hebrews 4:16) and it also tells us that God wants to bless us (Genesis 1). I discovered that when I would pray about something for someone else I was filled with confident expectation, but when I prayed about myself I was hesitant, almost doubtful. I also discovered that if much time passed and I didn't clearly "see" God working I was quick to want to give up, assuming He didn't want to answer that particular prayer (even though I would challenge someone else for thinking that way about themselves). In essence, I wasn't believing for myself what I was believing for others.

Hope for me this year has been about learning to apply that same confident expectation to myself, at all times; this is a journey that I will be on for awhile, but I'm so thankful God loves me enough to shout that He wants me to have His version of HOPE. May we ALL have confident expectation when we talk with our Father.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

clarity through friends

I asked for this year to be a year of clarity because of a certain situation I was in, a friendship. I needed to know which side of the fence do I stand on and what does that look like. God took that prayer and showed me that I need this type of clarity in several relationships in my life, some with men some with women some with family.

2011 has been a year of clarity in my relationships.

I have learned that honesty is often painful and many times this year I've been required to draw a line the sand that I did not want to draw. It's hard to walk away from someone we care about, especially when we think we could be a good influence in their life. It's harder when you love them.

When I prayed for clarity I didn't expect it to hurt so much. I also didn't expect it to cover so many areas of my life. Clarity has forced me to see people for who they really are, it has forced me to see what my motives really are and it's forced me to see who God really is.

At the end of the this year I can say that God was faithful in showing me which side of the fence I needed to be on, clearly, and He also provided opportunities to make that happen. God was faithful in giving me the courage required to continue the process of having healthy relationships. Clarity in relationships didn't happen at all like I expected, but I'm so thankful it happened.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Clairty through poverty

It was a ritual between my mom and I to eat our dinner sitting in front of the tv watching Little House On The Prairie. When we first moved to Fort Wayne, that ritual was one done on top of two huge, white, floor pillows. Those pillows were our only furniture for awhile. In the moment I loved every minute of it. Eating pancakes (which we did often and I loved), watching my favorite show, and being with my mom...I could have cared less that we sat on the floor. Looking back I can tell you we were truly broke.

As a parent who often is broke I can appreciate what those days must have been like for my mom. It's one thing to go to bed hungry, it's another to put your child to bed that way. A parent's natural instinct is to provide and protect. That's what we do. My worst financial memory as a parent is when we looked in the couch cushions for change to go buy milk and couldn't find any; I had to explain to the kids we couldn't get milk for a few days. We were truly broke.

January 2011 I went out of the country for the first time in my life; I traveled with a medical team to The Dominican Republic. I was told to prepare for culture shock, I felt I had especially since my aunt and uncle are missionaries. Day 3 a mother came to the clinic, her 3 month old baby had chronic diarrhea. Through investigation the team realized she was giving the infant juice not milk...she couldn't afford milk. In that moment my world collided with her world only it was magnified 100x because I just had to wait until Friday, payday, she had no idea if relief would ever come. She wasn't broke she was in poverty.

And then...

I had the privilege of speaking with a room full of women who were eager to learn their rights as women, to bond as women. When it was over I sat at my seat and clarity descended upon me. "You are part of something bigger than you see" that's what I heard in my heart. God took that moment to remind me that we ALL are bonded by HIM, for HIM, and through HIM regardless of how much money we have, nationality we are, or house we live in. Clarity came in the form of being grateful to be a women, being grateful to be a Christian and being grateful to be a visitor.

To my friends in the are loved, you are missed, and you are prayed for daily. Hold your heads high because in His eyes you are not broke and you are certainly not in poverty. You are part of something bigger than you see.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Family

I've decided to write a spoof about Christmas time, the observations I've made. Below is the story of my "family" I've created....

Christmas is fast approaching. Do I have the right gift for Aunt Edna? Gasp, of course I don't! I've been looking since Dec 26th of LAST year and I've yet to find it! You know how she is, insisting that she have exactly what she wants but refusing to tell you what that is. And if you screw it up she emails the whole family behind your back about how selfish you are.

We also have fifteen places to go and we CANNOT celebrate any time other than Christmas Day because that would just be sac-religious; should I inform all these people getting drunk isn't a religion? Guilt is apparently a religion in my husband's family. They start in July talking about what time we are to arrive at their house and what time we are allowed to leave; trying to explain that I'm not an orphan is not helping.

The kids have announced they no longer want to celebrate Christmas. The oldest is mad because everyone refuses to give her just money, the youngest had a brief meltdown because her great grandpa informed her Santa isn't real. I informed her that her great grandpa is grouchy and old and no longer makes the nice list. The other two kids are fighting over who gets to sit in the front part of the minivan, what they don't realize is you won't be able to see them by the end of the day because of all the gifts.

Gifts. They seem to be the main focus of Christmas. My husband and I just got married over the summer and we want Jesus to be the main focus. His mom said "ok, then I'll not buy gifts I'll just buy you a 'smile Jesus loves you sticker'", my response...sweet, we need one of those. I thought the children were going to strangle me. My side of the family is no better. My cousin who we haven't seen in 12 years has decided to come celebrate with us, which is fine except the reason he hasn't come is because he steals from us...large items like our tv. But instead of confronting him about it, we just smiled and said Merry Christmas then decided to lie the next year and tell him we weren't having a gathering. Facebook ruined it for us this year because my sister posted "can't wait to see what I get from Mom and Dad at our Christmas gathering". So now I have to go to my parents house and help them hide the valuables before Christmas Day. I've considered explaining we aren't helping out Timmy by ignoring his problems, in fact we're enabling him, but I knew THAT would not go over well. We prefer to sit on top of the elephant in the room.

By the time the 26th comes we'll have traveled 902 miles, said Merry Christmas 1200 times, gained 7 pounds, accumulated 1 ton of things we really don't need and will be broken/thrown away within a month, my husband and I will have "stopped speaking" roughly 7 times, we'll be in debt $10,000 and we'll have threaten to "give all your gifts to children who will appreciate them" at least 3 times.

But by golly we're going to do this Christmas thing because after all that's why Jesus died for create more stress, more work, more tears, and more debt. Hallelujah praise God!

*I wrote this because we enter the holidays saying "I hate the holidays" or "I can't wait for Christmas to be over" and it makes me sad. Somewhere along the way we've forgotten why we have Christmas and bought into the lie that Christmas is about stuff and schedules not people and love; we also forgo any sense of boundaries.

The bottom line is Christ came to this Earth because He loves us that much, not because He felt we needed one more thing to do. We are alive because of Him, not for others.

Merry Christmas :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The LORD is the stronghold of my life...Psalm 27:1

The definition of stronghold is a place of refuge, a place having strong defenses. A stronghold can be good...or...bad. I came across this verse today while doing research for something else; actually it's a sentence in the middle of the verse. However, in reading it felt as if that sentence was jumping off the page at me. God is speaking...


I pray often for God to take away certain things in my life, like my unhealthy views of my body. And yet, I still have them. It's been really stressing me, making me question is God really still working in my life. I know better, I know He is even when I don't "see" it, I'm just being honest. When change doesn't happen I begin to wonder.


Reading that sentence today it hit me. Is Jesus the stronghold in my life or is my junk? Honestly, it waivers. Oh how that makes me sad to admit. When something, anything, is consuming my thinking, my conversations, my writing, my prayers...that's my stronghold. Lately it hasn't been Jesus, well, not in the ways it should be.

The LORD is the stronghold of my life.

That sentences literally means Christ is center, the fortress, the place of refuge of life, all of life, my life. If we aren't "feeling" that then we need to readjust because if there's anything I know for sure it's that Christ didn't move, we did. Somewhere along the way I apparently moved.

So, I shall stop making excuses like "I can't help it", "I know I shouldn't but...", "but what if...", "I don't want to...", "I know but..." and replace it with "God promises...", "The LORD is the stronghold of my life", "I can...", "I trust God to...".

I want Christ to be the stronghold of my life. Do you? Be honest because you're going to have strongholds...good or bad.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


For several months now I've had really weird dreams, some make me cry and others make me laugh because they are so outrageous. Last night I had a dream that my oldest daughter told me she's pregnant; this is the second time I've had that dream. Needless to say I woke in a panic and crying.

When I was growing up I went through many different occupations when someone would ask "what do you want to be when you grow up?" It started with veterinarian, then moved to pilot, teacher, actress, beautician. The list was long and today I'm none of them nor have I ever been any of them. They were merely dreams that have not come true.

God often spoke to people via dreams. For me, I tend to be woken in the middle of the night with the urge to write and through that writing His words take shape and I begin to see what it is that is floating inside of me, the "dream".

This morning I have been writing. I'm working to finish my book (it's long over due) and I'm starting a new project, a small group study about our identity as women. I'm home, writing. That I can tell you is a dream I never thought would come true nor did I speak it out loud for many years.

So, what have I learned about dreams? As the song goes, you gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em...this ministry is a dream I will hold, the fear of what my children "may" do I will fold.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Any parent will tell you a major key to successful parenting is consistency. I think any parent will also tell you this is a key that is hard to uphold. Consistency requires effort, planning, and doing what you don't always feel like doing. Consistency can be draining because frankly sometimes you just don't want to fight.

Money was a topic Jesus talked often about. In fact, the concepts surrounding money is dealt with more than any other topic in the bible (according to my google search). Money is also a word that few link with consistency. Recent history has proven money cannot be dependable, consistent. What we once felt confident was, is no longer. So to give consistently regardless of the way we feel can be overwhelmingly scary...maybe even seem down right wrong.

Vulnerability Ministries was created 18 months. I have not had consistent full time income for 18 months. Most say I'm being irresponsible. Some say I have courage to follow my gut. Few say I'm right where I should be, remain consistent in my walk. We as Americans equate happiness with financial security. We equate success with bank accounts. We compare dreams with what WE can do. We Americans are also far from being consistent.

Malachi 3:6 "For I am the LORD, I do not change..." God is consistent. God is dependable. God is who He is. He never gets tired, he never changes His mind, He never doubts or fears or lies. God is NOT American.

When this ministry was laid on my heart it was made very clear that I would live off donations, in fact I wrote in my journal "all money comes from Me, whether it be corporate America or private checks, it's Mine and I choose whom to give it to". For 18 months God has provided for my family through awesome and outrageous ways. For 18 consistent months!

Please join in this journey with me, take your next step of faith, and go beyond "considering" making a donation to the ministry. Commit the year 2012 that you will consistently give beyond your comfort level, give beyond your tithe, give even when it doesn't make sense. If you don't donate to VM, please donate to something! After all, if we all work together we will finally get it right! And just so you know, there's much more to "giving" than just money ;)