Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Introduction...

For those of you that don't live in Iowa you should know that we were hit by a huge blizzard two nights ago and I am currently 100% snowed into my house. My car is not going anywhere, my dog can barely get outside and my days consist of baking, reading, and watching Top Chef re-runs on Bravo. So, I figured I would take some time away from my demanding schedule to update you on some very important things that have happened lately. I also wanted to introduce you to the most important person in my life. Are you ready for that? This is going to be a long, mushy, awesome story so I suggest you either kindly move along to another more interesting website OR grab a cup of tea, cozy up, and settle in.

You still there?

OK. Good. Here we go....

The last few years have been a complete whirlwind for me. I went through some HUGE life changes, some big losses, I mourned, I rejoiced, I celebrated, I cried. My life has been a roller coaster of sorts from the time I graduated high school until now. Let's back up to last year. If you have read this blog at all in the pas
t you have probably read my "Snow Globe" post about losing my job in Indiana. Let's just say, after that loss I thought my life was over. It caused me to doubt my call to ministry, doubt my leadership abilities and in some ways it even caused me to question my faith. After much searchi
ng, praying and waiting God made it clear that I was supposed to move home to Waterloo, Iowa, my hometown. He didn't give me a reason why. He just said, "Go and trust." To make a long story short, I moved home on May 13, 2009 with no job, no hope of a job, no plan and no motivation.
Four days later God revealed Himself to me in a BIG way. A big 6'4", size 15 foot, handsome, kind smiled, Manicorn kind of way.

This is Casey Douglas Schmidt, the reason I lost my job, the reason I moved home to Waterloo, Iowa, and the reason God told me to wait so many times. When I was lonely and confused and feeling like I would end up as an old maid, God told me to wait. And THIS, this is why. I had no idea the kind of man that God was saving for me. This man is the answer to so many questions, the reason to so many unknowns and the love of my life. He is my future husband. Casey Douglas Schmidt.
We met on a blind date set up by his cousin and my best friend. I have been on many a blind date in my life so I went into this one with a "Well, my life has already gone to crap so if it's bad at least I'll get some good entertainment out of it" attitude. I thought, "I've got nothing to lose." (Bad blind dates always make for good stories at parties. People love a good blind date story.)
Casey called me on a Saturday night. He lived two hours away but called to tell me that he was on his way to Waterloo to meet me. He wanted to take me to coffee the next day. For crying out loud, this guy was moving quick. NOTE: to all of my male readers out there, this was a GOOD move on his part. He totally grabbed the reigns, made a plan and took a huge risk. It stood out to me and I knew that he was serious. This is one of the million things that won me over right away. The man knew what he wanted and he went after it. (p.s. I'm 97% sure that Casey is my only male reader.)
I could go on for days but I'll try to make this quick. We met at Cup o' Joe in Cedar Falls, Iowa. We talked for over two hours. It felt like we had been there for five minutes. Our conversation was not awkward, it was not draining and uncomfortable. It flowed from subject to subject without any effort. As we were talking I remember staring at him and thinking, "Who is this man? I have to get to know him more." I wanted to hear everything about him, learn every fact about his life and hear every passion in his heart. He was the most genuine and authentic person I had ever met. He was unlike any other person I had ever spoken with. Every word that came out of his mouth was intentional, meaningful and so so heartfelt.
I called my best friend after our date and told her that I was amazed by the way he spoke to me. He talked about God in a way that was completely new to me. He wasn't showy or legalistic about it. I remember telling her that it seemed like God was such a huge and intimate part of his life that every story Casey told me, every question he asked me was saturated with his love for Christ and his desire to be a man of God. He was so humble and kind.
And lemme tell ya, the kid is a looker. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in and saw that the most handsome man in the place was sitting, waiting just for me. He's irresistible. Moving on...
Casey and I obviously hit it off right away. We began talking on the phone for four to five hours a night. He drove the two hours to my house once a week and I drove the two hours his house once a week. We were quickly falling in love. After three weeks I introduced him to my dad, at 6 weeks I told him I loved him, after 3 months he moved to Waterloo to be closer to me, after five months we drove to Indiana to meet my friends and on our six month anniversary we were engaged.

Don't get me wrong, there have definitely been trials, struggles and hurdles. But the thing that amazes me, the thing that makes me know this is going to work is the fact that God brought us together. I have been praying for my future husband since I was 13 years old and my parents have been praying for him since I was born. However, my prayer changed last year. My prayer went from, "God bring me my husband. I'm ready to settle down, I'm lonely. I'm ready to love someone." to "God, I give this up to you. I have a desire in my heart that I believe was placed there by you and I surrender it. Take this desire and do with it what you want. You are enough to fulfill me. Bring me my husband in your perfect timing. Help me to wait on you. I give you control. Do whatever you have to do to make this happen or (and this was the hardest part) prepare me for the possibility that his may never happen. I will love you the same either way." That prayer of surrender was not easy for me. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to choose who I was going to be with. But I realized that I had to give it up. I had to allow God to be in control not only of my relationships but also of the very desires in my heart. I had to surrender.
It was not an easy journey. I went through heartbreak, loss and many, many nights of tears and loneliness. But now I think about God's amazing faithfulness, about how He has always provided for me, He has never left me and He continues to bless me even in the midst of confusion and doubt. I look at Casey and I see God's love. I see God in him and I am humbled every time.

I can't wait to be Mrs. Schmidt. I feel so undeserving, so honored and so excited to be able to live life with the most incredible man I have ever met. He teaches me new things every day, he shows me how to live a Christ-centered life, he brings out my passion for ministry and he encourages me to use my gifts and talents. He calls out my beauty and he makes me want to share myself with others. God works through my man every day in ways that Casey is not even aware of. I don't know what makes me deserving of this but I am so so thankful. I am absolutely amazed and forever changed.

And this is just an introduction...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Praying for Kate

This is Kate McRae.

I am asking all of you to join with me in praying for this beautiful, precious little girl. Kate McRae is a five year old girl living in Phoenix, Arizona. Her grandparents and aunt are dear friends of my family. Carrie, Kate's aunt, means more to me than she could ever know. When I try to explain my relationship with her I have a hard time putting it into words. I tell people she was my high school mentor but she was and is so much more than that. In high school I spent a lot of time at Carrie's house caring for her sweet little boys. I got to know little Kate when she just a little peanut. When Carrie's family would come into town sometimes I would babysit the grand kids while the adults spent time together. Although I didn't get to spend very much time with Kate, I know how precious she is and how much fun she is to be around. This family has a special place in my heart and it breaks me to know that they are hurting.
Kate's Grandpa Brian is a dear friend of my dad's. When my mom passed away Brian was there to do anything we needed him to do. I remember him sitting by the window in my living room talking to my dad. The one thing my dad really, really wanted was for our old pastor to fly in and preach at my mom's ceremony. Brian promised to make it happen. He made the arrangements, he brought Pastor Tim to our house and he did it all without even thinking. He is just that kind of person. He didn't expect anything in return and he didn't look for any type of thanks. This is just one example of the Boucks' care for us. Brian has been a great friend to my dad even when I'm sure it hasn't been easy. My dad speaks of him with incredible respect and love.
Now this family needs our help. Kate is the daughter of Holly, Brian's daughter. On Monday night she was taken to the hospital because her parents noticed a tremor in her hand. Since then she has been diagnosed with a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. Last night she underwent surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. As of right now, Kate has regained consciousness but has lost movement in her right side.
After reading Holly's updates on the family's Caring Bridge website this morning I want you all to pray with me. We obviously need to be praying for healing. We need to pray for comfort for this family. We need to pray for the doctors to have wisdom. We need to pray for strength and renewed faith in a God who heals.
I want you to specifically pray with me for Kate's understanding of all of this. Her mom wrote about how Kate wakes up crying and is incredibly afraid right now. I can't imagine what it would be like to be so little, so young, and so sick. Please pray that Kate's fears will be calmed and that she will find some sort of peace. She is a bright and beautiful girl with parents that absolutely love and adore her. Pray that her fears would calm and that she would be able to rest easy. I am asking God to calm Kate in a way that is noticeable to all of the friends and family that are with her right now in Phoenix. I am praying that she would be able to take a deep breath and feel a heavy weight lifted off of her little chest. This morning I am praying for calm. I am praying for peace. I am praying for rest for Kate and her family. Please pray with me.

Click this link to see a video of Kate's parents asking for prayer.

Follow the link below to Kate's caring bridge site.

Please continue to lift up this little girl in prayer. Pray for her family, her doctors, her friends and please pray for healing. I have no other words to type, no other thoughts running through my head. I'm just shocked, sad, hopeful and waiting. Please pray.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Isaiah 48:18-19

"But the Lord says, 'Forget the things that happened in the past. Do not keep on thinking about them. I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don't you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land'."

My Life As an Unemployed Twenty-Something.

Lately my life has seemed to be anything but predictable. I came back to Iowa a month and a half ago thinking that I would rest for a week, find a job, get an apartment, make new friends and start my life over as an independent, young professional. My plan was to set up interviews, send out a thousand resumes, impress potential employers with my expertise and wit and get right back into the working world. I was focused on one thing when I moved home: finding a job and finding it fast.
Now after weeks of job searching I am starting to realize once again that I suck at making plans. My plans never work. My plan a year ago was to be living in Indianapolis right now, working at Fall Creek and spending the summer with my best friends. When those plans changed I made a plan to move home, find a job and start my life here. I make plans and I work hard and I aim for success. Yet somehow I am sitting here, on the big chair in my Dad's den wearing pajamas, with no make up on my face and a Diet Coke in my hand. This is not good, people. This is NOT. GOOD.
When I stop and think about my situation for more than five minutes I start to look like this:

This picture was taken three summers ago when my sister and I were in Chicago trying to find her an apartment. We had been driving somewhat aimlessly all day, talking to realtors and getting things put in place for her to move to the Windy City. It was about a million degrees outside and the last apartment we had seen was occupied by five dudes who were all home and asleep at 3:00 in the afternoon. The place reeked of weed and stale beer. There were Bob Marley posters on the wall, black lights in each of the bedrooms and some very suspicious looking pipes and aluminum foil on the coffee table. I was definitely not impressed and desperately wanting to take a shower to scrub their filth off my body. (I legitimately feared that I may have contracted Hepatitis or some other type of questionable infection simply by touching their doorknob.)
But we didn't have time for such luxuries. We were on a mission and we would stop for no one. I, being the annoying little sister that I am, started to whine and complain. My big sister calmed me down and explained that everything would be fine. We just needed to find a clean place to eat, sit in the air conditioning for a while, wash our hands and continue our journey.

I remember being skeptical at the time, thinking that my life was over and I would never be healed from the distress that her little house hunting trip had caused me. I remember telling her that I was going to just DIE if we didn't take a break and relax for a while because I can only take SO MUCH weed, blistering heat and exposure to black lights and I had had just about enough. Lucky for me I had my big sister to lean on during my time of weakness and she carried me through, keeping me calm until I got some food in my stomach and shut my mouth while she mapped out our plan for the rest of the day. That's what she always does. She always takes care of me and she always talks (sometimes smacks) sense into me when I need it.
But now my sister is a trillion miles away. She's living in Patagonia in the middle of winter, spending her days teaching and making new friends while I sit in our parents' house and attempt to count all of my split ends (which could, for all intents and purposes, but considered a full time job). I have realized in the last few weeks that I have no choice but to deal with this big mess on my own. I don't have anyone to bail me out right now. My big sister isn't going to swoop in and comfort me, my dad isn't going to save the day and my friends can't dig me out of this hole. I'm here and I'm waiting and I'm alone.
I am forced to listen to God's voice and shut up for five minutes so He can speak to me. As much as I hate it, I know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be in Waterloo, Iowa. I am supposed to be unemployed for the moment and I am supposed to be giving my burdens up to God rather than trying to make superficial plans and follow inconsequential dreams.
Here I am. I'm sitting. I'm waiting. I'm shutting up and I'm listening. And right now, that's all I can do.
I get frustrated and annoyed with my situation but I also rejoice in the fact that God has a greater plan for me. He has blessed me beyond belief since I have been home and I know that he will continue to do so. Although I haven't found a job I have found other answers to prayer. God has allowed me to meet new people that I otherwise never would have known. He has provided opportunities for me to serve others and has given me a chance to spend some great time with my dad.
Since I have been home a lot of things have happened that were totally unexpected to me. I have been absolutely shocked more than once by the creativity, extreme love and overwhelming provision displayed by my Heavenly Father. I have moments where I want to scream and moments where I do cry, but I also have moments where I want to fall on my face and praise the God that cares so deeply for me. I am overwhelmed by His grace and His all encompassing love.
I know that God is bigger than this. He's bigger than my situation, He's bigger than my concerns and He is bigger than my desires. He promises to take care of me and He never ceases to amaze me. I will wait for His guidance and I will seek His face as I learn how to be patient.

He who has promised is faithful.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow Globe

On Wednesday morning my world was flipped upside down. 
As most of you know, I have been working at a church in Indiana since I graduated last April. I have blogged more than once about my experiences there, about the kids that I love so dearly and about the friends that I have made. This church, these people, have become a huge part of who I am. They have become like family to me, accepting me into their community and loving me right where I am. They have given me the INCREDIBLE privilege of being able to care for their children and teach them about God. I was informed yesterday that this privilege has ended, my time at this church is over, and that in a few weeks I will no longer be a part of the community that I have loved so much. When I heard this news I felt as though I was trapped inside a snow globe, like someone picked up my entire world, flipped it upside down and shook it around violently while all of the pieces floated to the floor. Needless to say, I am heart broken. Even now I am writing with tears streaming down my face and a big, fat lump in my throat. I can not imagine leaving these people that I love so much. I can't fathom the thought of leaving the Hines boys, two of the most intelligent and kind hearted little boys I have ever met. I can not imagine leaving Luke Wilson, a boy with a sweet, sensitive spirit and a kind heart unlike anyone I have ever known. I cry when I think about saying goodbye to Sophia Finklea and Ali Upchurch, two amazing little girls who don't have the slightest idea how beautiful they really are. I wonder who is going to blow kisses at Katie Gue in the hallway and who is going to tease Owen Gerig when he looks up with his big puppy dog eyes. I love the children of this church as if they were my own and I can't even begin to understand how difficult it is going to be to say goodbye to them. I want so badly to be able to explain this transition to them and to help them understand that I am not leaving because of them. I am not leaving because they are not good enough or because they did something wrong. I want them to know that they are worth the world to me and that they are absolutely, without a doubt, 100% irreplaceable. I think about the year that I have spent serving this church and I cry knowing that I will never again have an experience like this. I am grieving this incredible loss and praying that God helps me to cope and persevere in a way that honors him. I have realized in the last 36 hours that other than my mother's death, this is by far the most devastating loss that I have ever experienced. I feel as though a part of me is lost and a chunk of my heart is missing. I want so badly to honor God in the next few weeks and bring glory to Him as I transition out of this phase of my life and on to the next one. I am praying that He provides me with positive closure and a chance to say a proper goodbye to my kids. I'm asking God to give me the strength that I need to finish out my time at Fall Creek in a way that portrays His love and spreads compassion. I am praying that the church succeeds in their new approach to ministry and I am praying that God takes good care of my kids after I leave. 
This is an extremely difficult thing to deal with but I know that God has a plan for me. I have no idea what that plan is right now, but I do know that God has brought me through uncertain times before and He will most definitely do it again. I'm thanking Him for allowing me to spend a year with some truly amazing and loving people and that He has protected me as I have journeyed through some difficult moments in ministry. I serve an awesome and powerful God and I know that He is in control of all of this. He will provide for me when things look tough and He has enough grace, compassion, love and strength to bring me through this time. I am comforted knowing that I am not alone, that God understands my hurt and that He is willing to take my broken heart from me and hold me in His arms while I heal. His love is greater than any heartache I will ever experience. I feel honored to have been able to serve at Fall Creek and I anxiously await God's new plan for my life. I know that never once in this whole process have I ever been forgotten or overlooked by Him. He knows exactly what is going to happen next and He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

He who has promised is faithful.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How to Eat Humble Pie...

The past few days have been full of embarrassing moments for me. What's the deal, anyway? Is it the recent change in climatic pressure? Is it the fact that I haven't slept in about 472 days? Is it the fact that I have always been a prideful, snooty little stink-pot and God is finally trying to send me a big, fat message? 
I hear you, God. I'm listening. I see the giant, neon sign flashing 6 inches in front of me. I GOT IT. The joke is over.
Let's back this train right on up. It all started last Thursday night. I came home from work to find a note on the door of my apartment that read, "We were here to fix your dryer but were unable to reach the attic door because of the things in the closet. Please move things around and we will be back to fix the dryer soon." I was MORTIFIED. You see, the attic is located in the storage closet which is located in my bedroom. One must walk through my bedroom in order to get to said closet. The only problem was that my room was an awful disaster. It looked as if this had recently passed through:

(minus the rainbow).

Let's just say it was....a mess...with my "unmentionables" strewn about.
I could not believe that this poor, unsuspecting maintenance man had to walk through the pit that was my bedroom. Immediately after reading his note I vowed to clean my room the next day (my day off). I swallowed my pride, gave myself a good, stern talking-to and went to bed.
Fast forward to approximately 10am Friday morning. I was laying in my bed snoozing away. I was actually having a very trippy dream, but I don't remember what it was because that's what happens when you are awakened unexpectedly by the sound of a man's voice INSIDE YOUR BEDROOM. I pulled my mask off of my sleepy eyeballs and prayed that the covers were in all the right places, as I have a tendency to kick them off in my sleep. 
The dryer-fixer (who happened to be my age) was shocked, to say the least when he saw me there. I tried to look him in the face, forgetting that I am BLIND AS A BAT when I'm not wearing my spectacles. I told him that we had not yet moved the things in the closet and could he please leave before I puked from the panic that had suddenly ensued within my person. (Ok I didn't say that last part). But I think he got the message. He stuttered something and then stumbled out of my bedroom in a state of shock and awe. 
And must I reveal to you the worst part? My room was still a mess and my unmentionables were still strewn about. 
What did I have for breakfast on the morn' of March 13th, 2009? A big, fat piece of humble pie, that's what.
Now don't you worry. This is not the end of my humiliations as of late. 
This morning started off like every other morning of my life since I was 10 years old. I woke up 15 minutes late and ran around like a crazy person trying to get ready and get all my stuff out the door in due time.  I decided to skip makeup and throw my hair back with some bobby pins. I grabbed some random clothes out of my closet and ran out the door and down the three flights of CEMENT stairs to the parking lot. I was but two steps from the ground when I realized that my shoe was a little bit too big. My foot slipped right out of my shoe, but mind you, I did NOT have time to deal with such an unfortunate mishap, as I was already running late. Therefore I attempted to get my foot back in my shoe in mid-step. I stepped to the ground at an extremely awkward angle and my ankle completely gave out. I slammed to the ground, landing on my right knee and bracing myself with my hand. This was not a graceful fall, people. It was the type of thing I pray I witness when I am in need of a gut-busting laugh. 
As I mentioned about 18 times above, I was running late. I didn't have time to get myself together or mentally process the trauma that my poor body had just survived. Instead I stood up, shook the dirt off my jeans, grunted, gasped and caught my breath. And then I scurried out to my car, thanking my lucky stars that none of my neighbors had witnessed my clumsiness. 
I used to think that this girl was the only one who lived through falls like this:

Seriously, Crissa has lived through many a fall in her day. She's probably the clumsiest sister I have. And I have made fun of her almost every day of the past 22 years. One time she fell up the stairs when we went out to eat. She slid on her belly across the floor much like this:

(only not quite as graceful).

So now, here I am, sitting in my apartment and nursing the giant bruise that has developed on my right knee. I'm writing this post and praying that you will all come visit me in the hospital in the coming weeks, as I fear I may need a hip replacement. ASAP.
What did I have for breakfast this morning, you ask? A big, fatty mcfat, jumbo, double helping of humble pie, that's what.
It's probably about time I lay off the sweets.
And Crissa, I'm sorry I have made fun of you for so many years, even though I do think you are unusually comical when you bite the dirt in front of politicians in Washington, DC, college students in Cedar Falls, Iowa and waiters at the Ground Round. Ahem.

Thank you. And goodnight.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Finding the Balance

Sometimes I look at the kids that I work with and I wonder about their lives. I wonder how it must feel to wake up in the morning, put on the clothes that someone else paid for, eat breakfast prepared by an adult, go to preschool and spend time with incredible teachers, color some pictures, play on the playground, take a nap, go home, play, eat dinner cooked by an adult, play, and sleep. Sometimes I’m jealous of my kids. I wish I could trade places with the little four year old goobers. I wish I could have their innocence, their blind faith and their positive outlook on life. It’s hard for me to look at these kids and see past their sweet, hilarious, huggable exteriors. I like to imagine them all as happy little creatures who skip merrily through their perfect little lives. It’s much easier for me to sleep at night when I picture them all in their carefree, safe little bubbles.
But then, there are other times when my idealistic picture is shattered. There are times when I ache for my kids and the hurt that they are experiencing in their young, sweet hearts. There are days when I cry for them and I sit dumbfounded, unable to come to grips with the fact that all of their lives aren’t perfect. Some of these kids are dealing with things in their fourth year of life that I have never had to encounter in all of mine.
I had a conversation with a little girl on Monday afternoon. She is four years old. She loves the color purple and REALLY loves her guinea pigs. (She has two. Their names are Guinea and Pig.) I have gotten to know this little sweetheart over the last year on a deeper level than most of the kids because she sometimes stays late after all of the other kids have left. I sit with her and we talk while she waits for her Nomi (Grandma) to come. Usually we’re laughing about her guinea pigs or talking about what she did in school, but Monday night was different. As we were on the playground my little friend started talking to me about her parents. She told me that they live in different houses and that they are never going to live together again. She explained to me that her mom and dad had to move away from each other because they were fighting a lot. Then she told me that she really, really, REALLY wants them to live together but knows they can’t. She goes on to explain that it’s scary to sleep at her dad’s house because she only has one stuffed animal there. She likes to sleep at her mom’s house because that’s where the guinea pigs are and they make her feel braver. “I’m braver at that house,” she says. She talked for about five minutes or so as I blinked away my tears. I could hardly look at her precious little face as she talked so innocently about the pain she was feeling inside. I could tell that she was really conflicted. She loves both of her parents so much and it is obvious when I see her with them that they love her too. But this little girl is heart broken. She’s confused about why she can’t live in the same house with both her mom and her dad (and her guinea pigs). The worst part about all of this is that there is not one thing I can do to fix this for her. I can’t tell her that it’s going to be better soon. I can’t tell her that her pain will eventually heal. I can’t shelter her from the tough world that she lives in.
This is where I lose it. I understand that we live in a sinful world and that because of that sin we have pain and trials and consequences on this earth. I also know that God is perfect and that He has a plan and a purpose for everything. But it is just so hard for me to wrap my mind around situations like this. I would so much rather take the pain and the hurt away from these innocent kids than have them experience it themselves. This little girl didn’t do anything to deserve this pain.
I look at her and think about so many of the other kids I’ve worked with and I am reminded that this is why I’m here. This is why God has allowed me to have this job, serve in this place, and minister in the way that I do. This is my calling. This is who I am, what I love and where I want to be. I look back on painful situations in my own life like losing my mom and losing my relationship with my little brother and I know that God has allowed me to go through those things for this exact reason. I can hurt with this little girl. I know what it’s like to be confused and angry and lost and sad and how tiring it is to attempt to keep it all together. I understand what it feels like to want to be safe and oddly enough, I understand why those darn guinea pigs are so important to her.
Sometimes I think about the kids that I work with and I cry. I cry because of their pain, because of the fact that they’re scared, because of the way that they don’t understand their own hurts. I cry because it’s not fair and I cry because I want to save them. I don’t envy their lives. I don’t feel jealous. I just want to make it better.
Then I remember that, as with everything in our lives, there has to be balance. I love that I can laugh with them, play with them, run with them, sing with them and act like a kid with them. I love that the world changes when I’m with kids. Suddenly it goes from a dark and lonely place to a place full of color and laughter. At the same time I love that I can pray for them, I can speak truth to them and I can teach them about God. I can listen to them and I can comfort them. I can give them big hugs and kiss their sweet little heads and know for a brief moment that they are safe.
I’m learning that I can’t fix everything for them. I can’t take away their pain but I can pray for them and care for them with the gifts that God has given me. I can show them His love and pray that somehow it makes a difference in their lives. I can trust that God is faithful and that He is going to care for them in the perfect, unconditional way that only He can.
And then I realize that I’m slowly getting there. As hard as it is I am slowly finding the balance between sympathy and celebration, between silliness and seriousness, between anger and confusion and peace and trust.

My job is to teach these kids. But the ironic thing is, I learn something new from them everyday.

I experience God through them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Social Life...

I'm sure you have all been sitting around at least once in the last two weeks and thinking to yourself, "I wonder what Cady is doing right now?" or "I wonder who Cady is talking to right now?" Well, you can breathe easy because I am about to tell you.
As a single 22 year old woman, living in a thriving metropolis, one would think that my social calendar would be bursting at the seams; full of dates, fancy parties, spa treatments and more dates. Oh how I wish that were true for me.
You see, the reatlity of the situation is that round abouts 73% of the time I am having a conversation with a human under the age of 10. I affectionately call them my little goobers. Working at a preschool and running a children's ministry allows me to have some pretty hilarious conversations.

For example, in the last week I have been greeted like this:
"Hi Miss Cady."
"Hey Miss Tady."
"Hey Chapel Girl."
" What's your name again? Uh...Teacher?"
And last but not least, "Hey Tootie Tot."
How am I supposed to respond when a 3 year old girl calls me, "Tootie Tot"? Am I supposed to take her seriously when she follows it up with a question? I think not. I laugh. I laugh a lot.

Here is a snippet of a conversation I had with a five year old boy recently. And by recently I mean every day for the past month.

Goober: "Miss Kay-yee? You are married."
Me: "No, Goober. I am not married."
Goober: "Yes but Miss Kay-yee. You have a boyfriend."
Me: "No, Goober. I do not have a boyfriend."
Goober: "But Miss Kay-yee. You kiss a boy."
Me: "No Goober. No kissing for me. You are a goober."
Goober: "Miss Kay-yee. Am I your boyfriend?" (huge smile)
Me: "I don't know, Goober. Do you want to be my boyfriend?"

And then....Goober runs away, leaving me in the dust, on the mulch filled playground, with nothing but a broken heart.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. Shattered dreams destroy false expectations, such as the "victorious" Christian life with no real struggle or failure. They help us discover true hope. We need the help of a shattered dream to put us in touch with what we most long for, to create a felt appetite for better dreams. And living for the better dreams generates a new, unfamiliar feeling that we eventually recognize as joy."

-Larry Crabb

I just started reading one of my favorite books, Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb, again (for probably the third time.) Every time I read this book I learn something new, something more about God’s love for me. Here is a story that the author shares in the beginning of the book. It makes so much sense to me. I think it speaks a lot about God’s constant love and about our response. In the midst of devastating circumstances we can choose to worship God or attempt to do things on our own. This story reminds me that the first choice is always the greatest.

The man’s life was pleasant. So was his worship. The two always go together.
God was not pleased. So He allowed the man’s life to become unpleasant. The man responded at once with shock. “How can this be? How could this happen in my life?”
Beneath the shock, the man was smug. But he could not see it. He thought it was trust. “This will soon pass. God is faithful. Life will again be pleasant.” His worship remained shallow.
God was not pleased. So he allowed more unpleasant things to happen in the man’s life.
The man tried hard to handle his frustrations well, like someone who trusted God. “I will be patient,” he resolved.
But he didn’t notice that his efforts to be patient grew out of the conviction that a pleasant life was his due. He did not hear his own heart saying, “If I’m patient, God will make things pleasant again. That’s his job.”
His worship became a way to convince God to restore his pleasure.
God was not pleased. So He pulled back His hedge of protection around the man a little farther. The man’s life became miserable.
The man got angry. God seemed unmoved, indifferent, uncaring. Heaven’s door slammed shut. The man knew he could not pry it open.
He could think only of better days—not of better days coming, but of better days before, days that no longer were and that showed no signs of returning.
His highest dreams were a return to those days, to the pleasant life he once knew, when he felt what he had called joy.
He could not imagine a higher dream than going backward to what once was. But he knew life never moved backward. Adults never become children again. Old people never recover the energy of their most productive years.
So he lost hope. God had withdrawn His blessing, and there was no indication that He would change His mind.
The man fell into depression. His worship stopped.
God was not pleased. So He released forces of hell into the man’s life.
Temptations that formerly were manageable now became irresistible. The pain of living was so great that the pleasure of temptations afforded, relief really, seemed reasonable and necessary. But after the pleasure came a new kind of pain, a kind of pain that covered his soul with a fog that not even the brightest sun could penetrate.
The man could see only his pain. He could not see God. He thought he could, but the god he saw was one whose job it was to relieve pain. He could imagine this god, but he could not find him.
He addressed the only god he knew. He begged for help. Beneath his words of pleading he could almost hear what his heart was saying, “You owe me help. I will never believe I deserved all this to happen. This pain is not my fault. It’s yours.”
His worship had always taken the form of a demand, but now the demand was so obvious the man could almost recognize it.
God was not pleased. So He let the struggles continue. And God allowed new troubles to come into the man’s life.
In the part of the man’s heart that dreamed his greatest dreams, he had been certain he would never have to face these new troubles that were now in his life. For years he had said in his heart (without actually hearing it), “That could never happen to me. If it did, my life would be over. If that happened, I’d have no choice but to conclude that God isn’t good. I would have to dismiss God. And no one, not even God, could fault me.”
But still the man could not hear his heart speak. What he could hear was a seductive voice that made the worst temptation he had ever faced—to lose hope in God—seem noble, bravely defiant, the only way left for the man to find himself.
The battled waxed hot. But a flicker of hope remained. The man held on to his faith. Even as he did, he could not hear his heart saying, “I have every right to give up on my faith. But I’m choosing the truly noble way. I still believe in You. I still believe You’re there and that my highest hopes for joy—whatever hopes are left—lie with you. Does that impress you? If not, my God, what does?”
His worship was more desperate than ever. But it was still proud.
God was not pleased. So He allowed the man’s trials to continue and his pain to remain unabated. God kept His distance from the man. He provided no comfort, no tangible reason to hope. It was difficult for God not to make everything better in the man’s life. It was even more difficult for Him not to appear directly to the man and assure Him of His presence.
But He didn’t. God had a greater dream for the man than a return to a pleasant life. He wanted the man to find true joy. He longed to restore the man’s hope for what mattered most. But still the man did not know what that was.
The fog around the man’s soul thickened until he could feel it, like walls closing in. All that was left was mystery; there was fear certainly, even terror, but more acute was the sense of mystery, the mystery of a bad life and a good God.
Where was He? When the man became most aware of his need for God, God disappeared. It made no sense. Was God there or not? If He was, did He care? Or didn’t He?
The man could not give up on God. He remembered Jacob. So he began to fight. But he fought in the dark, a darkness so deep that he could no longer see his dreams of a pleasant life.
In deep darkness, you cannot see. But you can hear. He could hear for the first time what his heart was saying.
“Bless me!” he cried. From his deepest soul, he could hear words reflecting a resolve that would not let go of God.
“Bless me! Not because I am good, but because You are good. Bless me! Not because I deserve Your blessing, but because it is Your nature to bless. You really can’t help Yourself. I appeal not to who I am. You owe me nothing. I appeal only to who You are.”
He still saw his pain. But now he saw God. And the cry for blessing was no longer a demand for a pleasant life. It was a cry for whatever God wanted to do, for whoever He was. The man felt something different. It was the beginning of humility. But the very fact of what it was kept him from seeing what it was.
The man had forgotten and discovered his desire for God. He did not find God right away, but he had hope, hope that he might experience what his soul most deeply longed for.
Then he saw it. Fresh water bubbled up from a spring in the desert of his soul, and he saw it. It was a new dream. He could see its contours take shape. It was a dream of actually knowing God and representing Him in an unpleasant world. The dream took on a specific focus; he could know God and represent God to others in a way that was his way and not someone else’s. It felt like coming home.
He realized immediately that his power to speak on behalf of God to others in the midst of their unpleasant lives depended on his speaking from the midst of his own unpleasantness. He had never before felt grateful for his troubles.
His suffering became to him a doorway into God’s heart. He shared God’s pain in His great project of redemption. Suffering together for a single cause made him feel closer to God.
A new thought occurred to him. “I will join with whatever forces are opposed to the root of this unpleasantness. I will ally with goodness against evil. I will not wait to see more clearly; what my hand finds to do, I will do. But I will stay close to the spring. My soul is thirsty. A pleasant life is not water for my soul; whatever comes from God—whoever is God--this is the only true water. And that is enough.
The man worshiped God, and God was pleased. So God kept the water bubbling up out of the spring in the man’s soul. When the man didn’t drink every morning from that spring or return every evening to drink again, his thirst became intolerable.
Some things in his life got better. Some things stayed the same. Some things got worse.
But the man was dreaming new dreams, greater than a pleasant life. And he found courage to pursue them. He was now a man with hope, and his hope brought joy.

God was very pleased. So was the man.

From the Book, Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Year in Review

Here’s a semi-random list of some highlights (with pictures, for you visual learners out there) from my 2008. It was a year filled with transition, change, excitement, growth and learning beginning with:

  • New Year’s in Florida with Jen.
  • My first kiss (I’m a girl, this is a big deal)
  • My last semester living with my roommate of three years! (I could cry just thinking about it. Love you, Little Debbie!)

  • Start of my final semester of college.
  • Began my ministry internship at Lakeview Wesleyan Church.
  • Job search.
  • Spring Break with my dad (Daytona Bike Week ’08)
  • Fell in love for the first time.
  • Visited Southeast Christian.
  • Offered a job at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church.
  • Offered a job at Southeast Christian.
  • Accepted the job at Fall Creek.
  • Graduation!

  • Drove off the lot in my brand new Scion tc!
  • Stood with my best friends as they married each other.

  • Made the PERMANENT move to the Hoosier State.
  • Started Thursday night dinners with Jess and Deb.
  • Fall Creek Wesleyan Church-my first "real" job.
  • My first broken heart.
  • Started paying rent and buying my own groceries!
  • Made it through my first VBS as a children’s pastor-a HUGE accomplishment!
  • Celebrated my 22nd birthday with two of my best friends!
  • My first official blind date (little did I know it was one of many more to come.)
  • My senior pastor resigned-began a time of transition/growing for our church.
  • Started AWANA at Fall Creek!
  • Another blind date.
  • Thanksgiving ‘08.
  • Yet ANOTHER blind date.
  • Christmas with my family.
  • And ending with New Year’s Eve in Indy with Deb!

This is kind of a lame list but it has been quite the year in my humble little life. I tried to think of the biggest things and include them here. I'm sure if I really sat and thought about it I would come up with a much longer list of things that I learned and ways that God stretched me. I'm anticipating another year of change and growth and I can't wait to see what's around the corner

Here’s to feelin' (and lookin') fine in 2009…