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Things I'm Loving

The title says it all...This post is dedicated to things I'm loving to use right now or things in life that have made me smile amidst the stress of the holiday season.

1. Plink-

These little lemon or orange balls of cleanser make my kitchen smell SO GOOD! In one of our meandering trips to Bed Bath & Beyond (a dangerous thing to do...just meander in that store...) we discovered these near the check out line. Run your disposal for roughly 15 seconds with hot water, plop a plink down the drain with the disposal running, continue running it for 10 more seconds or until you start to smell lemon freshness. This has become the cherry-on-top of my kitchen cleaning routine.

2. Words With Friends
A fun diversion for the down part of my days. A friend and I have tried to come up with Bible-only words and this usually works until we're down to the last 5 letters. But it's really fun to see our creativity. Mine is maxed out on Da da. Maybe these were Jesus' first words to Joseph??

3. Cribbage
Gerard and I have been trying to play more after our Thanksgiving family tournament. I'm even practicing my game strategy on an app on my iTouch. Next time, hopefully, I'll be able to skunk my Uncle Paul!

4. Cheerleading Students

"I say BAND. You say LESSON. BAND!" I fill in the blank with "LESSON!" and we go back and forth. This is how a 6th grade trombone player and I have begun each lesson the past 3 weeks. I usually need a little pep in my attitude by 7th hour on Mondays and this little guy often does the trick.


Yes, this is my Christmas present from Gerard this year. That I ordered myself. :) It's already arrived in its box and is sitting under our tree. I am so excited to open it and immediately use it to pack for our trips over the holidays. It's pretty much a purse that allows you to safely store a "fancy camera" with a lens on and an extra lens or two along with other items you travel with. What a perfect carry-on bag for the airplane!!

6. You Version Reading Plan-December ONLY

Another app that I'm currently using on my iTouch is a You Version Bible reading plan for the month of December only-solely for focusing on the Christmas season and the reason behind it. So far, I've learned how Christmas trees started coming into practice (evergreens were a sign of eternal life for early Egyptians-Christ offers us eternal life with Him), how Christmas lights became a tradition (candles were glued to trees with melted wax, then candle holders and then small lanterns and glass balls to hold candles started...Edison and his cohorts fine tuned it to be less of a fire hazard), and its been a great refresher on the prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus' birth alone.

It is my prayer that we would all slow down and really reflect on why we're celebrating this month. Amidst the craziness, take a cup of hot cocoa or tea, a journal and His Word. Journal first to get the craziness of your going's-on out on paper so you can focus on reading. Then, read Jesus' birth story (best detailed in the Gospel of Luke) and journal some more. Reflect on the Son of God who came in the form of a helpless baby (saying words like "da da") to be the spotless lamb sacrifice for our sins.

Please slow down. Please ENJOY Him. And have a very Merry Christmas!

**And no, I didn't receive any compensation for promoting any of these products. I just like sharing cool things that make my life better. :)

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Three Thanksgivings

Thanksgiving #1: With our Bible study from West Town Church on Tuesday night. We fit 12 adults at our kitchen table and 5 kids in the living room at a card table to toast and say thanks over a potluck meal. I'm so thankful for these amazing people I get to do life with!

Thanksgiving #2: Gerard & I celebrated Thursday with his mom, Cheryl, and his Grandpa Vernon by taking Grandpa to the Old Country Buffet, lovingly referred to as "The OCB" (always said in a gangster bass voice by all his cousins...) After lunch, we drove by the family farm to see the changes to the buildings and grounds. It was the first time Grandpa had seen it in awhile and we got his stamp of approval that everything looked great! I'm increasingly thankful for the time we get to spend with Vernon, it sometimes feels like I got another chance with a grandpa since I never met my paternal grandpa. . .

Thanksgiving #3: I called my Aunt that night to see if we could bring anything to my family's cribbage tournament. My aunt literally croaked out a response that she was just going to get some pizzas; she's been battling a few broken ribs and a bad cold. We had most of the fixings for chilli on hand, so Gerard went to the store to get the rest and we brought two crockpots full to the family farm to feed roughly 15 people. My Aunt Alice has fed us for innumerable holidays and Sunday afternoons that really, chilli for 15 is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Uncle Paul won 6 out of 7 games and put us all to shame; it just wasn't in the cards for either Gerard nor I that day...I'm so thankful for my family, the love we have for one another, that we get along really really well and have fun together on a regular basis--whether we win or lose.

 
It's difficult to say what I'm most thankful for-my relationship with Christ, my husband, my family, Ella...I will say though, that attending the Weekend to Remember conference last weekend really made me thankful for the life I am blessed to have. And it made me intensely aware of the blessing I have in Gerard and thankful that we get to do life together, Lord willing, for a very very long time.
(taken at Weekend to Remember Conference, Cedar Rapids)

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Women's Coffeehouse

"Click". We registered for it. "Click!" We paid for it and the hotel. In two simple steps, Gerard and I were attending a Weekend to Remember in Cedar Rapids the weekend before Thanksgiving. A weekend away with my husband is a rarity, the Coffeehouse won't miss me. I thought to myself as I realized I had to sacrifice the Coffeehouse to attend the marriage conference. That same night we registered, we had scheduled to have Bruce and Becky over for dinner. They are my student teacher, Faith's, parents, were/are our marriage counselors and, I'm honored to say, FRIENDS.

As we were wrapping up and I was doing dishes in the sink, I gleefully told Becky about our weekend away. Her jaw opened just wide enough to catch a fly. "Carrie, I came here tonight with the intention of asking you to speak at the Coffeehouse..." My heart quite literally fell to my knees doing backflips on its way down. (good mental image there 'eh?) 

I knew the topic she wanted me to talk about before I even posed the question.

My car accidents. My panic attacks. My insecurities and fears. My knees that currently held my heart? They started to wobble and I left the sink to sit back at the table.

Fast forward through 4 weeks, 6 hours of editing a paper together, probably another 4 hours editing it individually, countless run-throughs of practicing **it** outloud and November 18, 2011 arrived.

After teaching that day, I arrived home and put the finishing touches on our packed bags for the Weekend to Remember. When Gerard got home, we dropped Ella off at her puppy-sitters and drove into Des Moines. I arrived at the DTC to get fitted for what I call a "face mic".

Apparently, I have small ears. For face mics, this poses a challenge. I digress...

I felt like I knew them really well already. Christy and I went to Drake together but were never in the same Bible study. Meredith was a Drake grad and Becky had worked with all 3 of us to hone our papers down to the nitty gritty. We rounded the troops and prayed in the nursery as 400 women found their seats and munched on tasty treats.

Christy presented her testimony really well. Then Meredith told her stellar story and I could see a thread linking all three of us: the need for perfection or high achievement to gain approval and acceptance. God's acceptance and/or anyone else's. Becky & Shaly had done a slam dunk job of picking us and God had directed our words so well! But really, any female could speak about the same topic because it affects all of us. 

I know Carrie because she and I slept in the same bed for a summer. Oh yes, Shaly just introduced me to 400 women with that, albeit true, zinger. As the laughter rang out in the room, my knees' wobbliness subsided and my heart climbed back up to its home in my rib cage. The applause started and I put one foot in front of the other, crossing the stage. Here is what greeted me:
(yes, part of my message actually included taking a picture of my dear friends. All 400 of them. I just wish I could've fit them ALL in the photo-I even put my widest lens on!)

We smiled, we laughed, and at least I cried. I don't know about anyone else...All of what God led me through from the day Gerard and I got married till now was revealed reflecting His glory. In a short 20 minutes. What a labor of love! If any woman there was impacted positively, then there has been fruit from the suffering and joy from the pain aside from my own personal gain from the experience.

**I won't make this post any longer by putting up my four page, single-spaced, paper but if anyone wanted to read it, I wouldn't be opposed to emailing it to you. Drop me a comment in the space below with your email address and I'll shoot it your way. :) Gerard also video-taped it, so if you're visual rather than a reader, I could send you a DVD instead...

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A Family That Flies

She had a gut feeling. An instinct that told her it was time. All of a sudden, within about a month's notice, my Mom decided she needed to retire. As of Dec. 1, 2000, I would have both parents home for my birthday. You see, with a December birthday and both parents in the airline industry, I would inevitably have to choose, "Do I want them both home for Christmas or my birthday?" Yes, the birthday would always get the shaft. Dad had been retired since 1997 with roughly 27(?) years of flying for United Airlines on his record and Mom retired with 33 years of flight attendance for TWA.

Brief timeline for you: American Airlines bought TWA January of 2001. Mom missed the buy-out by a month. She missed working for an airline that was so affected by 9/11 that all TWA flight attendants (still working for American) were furloughed. Dad missed 9/11 by about 4 years. Mom, just 8 months.
A family that flies.

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"So it's real?" I asked my English teacher as I walked into the familiar room of my 7am class, junior year of high school. My teacher's facial expression was unfamiliar, though, with a very serious, tight-lipped nod, she confirmed that something was very wrong in NYC. It was Sept. 11, 2001.

I had heard the radio DJs mention that a plane had run into the WTC on my way to school that morning-their laughter over the absurdity of the news made me question their credibility. When I tred cautiously into English and saw Mrs. Holmes' demeanor while the news was showing footage, the facts I'd heard were brought into focus.

Call me a visual learner.

The day was a haze after that. Teachers had the muted TV on the entire day, so you can imagine what got accomplished.... As my US history teacher began his lecture on the Revolutionary War, we all gasped, watching the first tower fall. The TV was unmuted after that. It wasn't an accident, our country had been attacked. We were watching US history unfold. Live.

At the time, my sister and her future husband were both freshmen at the Air Force Academy. All cadets were under a lock down. While all of campus and the surrounding base went on high alert, Katie's calm voice over the phone assuaged my fears: that if we went to war over this, they had 4 years to win it so she'd never have to be involved.

**************************************
2005. Katie and I visited NYC and stayed with a dear friend. We trepidatiously asked her to lead us to Ground Zero. A born Brit, but committed American and staunch New Yorker, Roberta had never visited the site since she saw the towers fall from her office window. "It felt like we'd been raped. Our sense of security had been shattered. Absolutely shattered." Her British accent dissolved into a whisper. Yet, she agreed to come with us.

Among the taxis honking, cabbies yelling, roar of Manhattan traffic, we were stoicly quiet as we walked together looking at the gaping hole. I don't know if it was theraputic or nightmarish for her. We were just. Quiet.

****************************************

2007. While unpacking the moving boxes, I found an even earlier trip to NYC we had taken in 1996 as a group of girls-Mom, Katie, me and we had visited our favorite Brit, Roberta. We toured the WTC skyscrapers and I found this picture among the moving boxes...a view that won't ever be the same again.
(Statue of Liberty from the Twin Towers)
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2011. Now, 10 years later, Katie's husband, Eric has served in Afghanistan flying F-16s. Katie is currently a civilian finishing her third degree and raising this little one. Our family's next potential Little Flier:


It's incredible to me how God works in our lives to spare some of us from tragedy. Parents who worked for (or could've worked for) the airlines that were most heavily affected by the tragedy. A sister and brother-in-law bravely serving our country sacrificially. . . I praise God with a thankful heart that I can have such a comfortable and freedom-filled life. Despite the politicians bickering, the scandals of unethical choices made, the country's current economic status, America is still an incredible place to live.

And an incredible place to fly. 
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A Goal from 2010

#17. It stared me in the face every time I looked at my list of goals for the 2010 year.

Heal.

"What does that even mean? How will I know that I've actually achieved this?" I would constantly ask myself. At this point, you might be asking what I needed to heal from or over (or any other preposition that fits...).

Less than a year into marriage, Friday, June 13th, 2008, I was on my way to meet a friend for coffee and Des Moines was inundated with flood water. Driving across a bridge, I perused the rising water levels of the river below for two seconds and looked back to the road in front of me. "That car wasn't there before! Why aren't her brake lights on?! She's coming so close to me so fast!?! I'm actually not going to be able to stop this time!!!? 

Am I ever going to be the same!?"  

All these thoughts and more went through my head in the few split seconds before impact.  The air bag exploded, knocking the air out of my chest, the smell of its smoke clogging my nose as I went for the gear shift. It felt flimsy in my hand and I didn't understand, then, that the gear's cord had snapped on impact. I couldn't maneuver my car to get out of other people's way.

As my emergency blinkers started, two angels protected me. They both pulled over immediately-one was a nurse, the other a former paramedic. God is good. He is here. I said outloud, which probably made them both think I was about to lose consciousness. The nurse kept my neck from moving, the paramedic checked for internal bleeding because I was having a hard time breathing. It's one time where I let a perfect stranger lift my shirt to look at my stomach-in that moment, I really didn't care. They asked where it hurt, if I had been on the phone (clearly I hadn't been, my cell phone was on the floor along with the other contents of my purse). Nurse called Gerard while Paramedic checked on the driver I had hit. She was fine and out of her car. Apparently, I was really close to stopping before impact. 25 more feet and I would've had enough room to make a complete stop. Just 25 more feet.

I heard the sirens. Oh God, please! This is going to cost us so much money! I don't need an ambulance. I felt the neck brace come around me, the rough board wheedle its way under me, 1-2-3, they got me on the gurney and strapped me in SO. TIGHT. Then, it was really difficult to breathe. My ribs, Lord! My back and chest! God, they hurt so much! I felt the neck brace get some extra strapping down and they covered me up to my chin with a white sheet. Geez, Lord, I'm not dead. Gerard arrived and could see just the center of my face, I was so covered with apparati. "I'm so sorry, Gerard. This is going to cost us so much! I'm so sorry!"  All he could say was, "It's ok. You're going to be just fine. It's ALL ok."

**Fast forward 18 months**

Feeling accomplished, I had finally finished physical therapy for my back and I no longer needed two appointments a week with my chiropractor. I was NORMAL aside from the back exercises I would continue to gain just 25% more mobility on my right side. Left side was at 100%. Life was good. God had been so good despite all my discouraging days and downtrodden attitudes.

Ironically, on the way to that same coffee friend's rehearsal dinner, Gerard and I were rear-ended on a rainy night.  Lord! Not again! What are you doing?!  My back was immediately on fire and tingling again. In the days to come, I would become the World's Worst Passenger Seat Driver to Gerard. Gasping at brake lights, yellow lights, blinking lights, cars that came too close (in my opinion). It was torture. The panic attacks started shortly after that, finally getting my attention when I almost fainted at work. Lord, what do you want me to learn THIS time? What have I missed?

To make a long(er) story short(er), there have been many humbling, frustrating, fearful, painful, tearful, grateful moments since October 21, 2009. It took a husband, a therapist, a chiropractor, a lawyer, an insurance agent, a general practitioner and most of all, God, to help me on my way to healing-and He healed more than just my back. God peeled away layers and showed me deep wounds and insecurities that needed to be addressed. I don't know that those insecurities will ever fully go away, but I can certainly recognize them and combat them with God's Word as my strongest weapon of choice. It amazes me that He would use car accidents as His tool of choice to get my attention with issues totally unrelated to the actual incidents.

All this to say, I've become a huge proponent of getting my hands on any book that addresses Insecurity, or the promises of God that we can cling to when we feel insecure. The past year, I've read through the Bible on a hunt for verses specifically mentioning who I am (who we all are, really) in Christ, what being "in Christ" even means, and those promises of His unconditional love, faithfulness, protection and provision (among others).

Verses like Job 23:10-12 "But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside. I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread." 

Besides doing your own hunt through God's Word--
Two Recommendations:
'So Long Insecurity-You've Been a Bad Friend to Us' by Beth Moore. Beth's story telling capabilities bring common insecurities that we feel to new light and I can hear her southern drawl getting to the heart of matters. They've just released a Bible study in correlation to this book and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Scottish born Sheila Walsh brings her theological degree and knowledge of Greek to the table when she describes several New Testament stories to show God's relationship to us. Who we are to God.  She's given me new information about the culture of Jesus' time and shown His miracles and actions in a new light by doing so. God is a God we can depend upon to protect, provide, guide and most of all LOVE us, no matter what insecurities we may have of our own worthiness. It's called GRACE. And when the stormy winds blow, we can stake our security in Him.

God is so good. God is HERE.  
Jehovah-rophe has brought Healing. And to answer the last question I had on impact, I am never going to be the same, but God has brought it about FOR GOOD. (Romans 8:28)

Check #17 off my list.

**I do not benefit from the sale of these books in any way by making these recommendations.

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