When I Suffer

When I am tired, I want to be exhausted because I have completed the work you have for me. 

When I laugh, fill me with joy to share.  Surround me with the Good News of your goodness. 

When I am rich, let it be in your mercies.  And when I am poor, may it be because I gave it all away. 

Speak the truth in me. When I open my mouth, let it be your words. 

And when I suffer, let it be because this world mocks me, let me count it joy that I am crucified with Christ and let it fill my heart with peace and assurance because I have stood strong when my body was weak and I shouted your grace when they told me to shut my mouth and when I suffer, may my suffering be worked together for good because I suffered loving Jesus!

When I die, let it be because your plan is done in me. And when I open my eyes in death let it be because I will forever have eternity by the side of my Jesus that I have longed for my entire life. 

Momma’s Hot Date

Pull out the date night red lipstick, I have a hot date. It is the kind of date where I first drop the baby off at MiMi’s house. The kind of date where we already have a baby, and the baby is eight. 

I try my best to rush to meet him at home, but there is traffic. So, I sip my afternoon coffee. I’ll need one to stay up past “school night bedtime.”  I flip through the radio station, but I can’t find the LOVE songs!  

I hear songs about meeting for the first time, plenty rockin’ one night stands, and a having sex to say goodbye song (are we for real?!) I’m a girl, a sappy  girl headed on a date with my man, where are the love songs?

I want to hear a song about someone that has known each other more than a first hot glance, hey, what about someone that is…let’s say it, already married?  I want to hear about love, real love, love that has made it through the hard times, love that actually knows their date’s middle name and has met their momma. 

Surely we are not the only ones that have gone on more than a first date. Surely there could be a love song about more than a one night stand on the radio. 

Coming from someone that has been married for thirteen years, and plans to make it a whole lot more, LOVE IS MUCH MORE ROMANTIC THAN LUST!

The honeymoon isn’t over after having a baby. It grows. 

Love doesn’t leave. It stays. Love forgives. 

Love is like wine. It gets better with age. 

Real gentlemen do still exist and true love can be found. 

Singers, sing a song about my man working hard for a living for his family.  

Writers, write about that sexy man rocking his baby to sleep in the middle of the night. The man that loves that baby’s Momma, even when she has no makup on. And would chose her any day over the newer model. 

I wanna hear the song about:

Even now, I still chose you. Even that, can’t make me leave. Even he, has nothing to offer over you. ‘Cause you’re my man. Always have been, even before I met you. Always will be. ‘Cause God himself made us for each other. No one else shares these memories. No one else has been with me through that. No one else could ever be her Daddy. So, you may have seen these heels before and maybe this restaurant isn’t new. And we might have a hard week behind us.  

But you are my man, and tonight you are my date. And tomorrow, you will still be my man. And we are living a real love song. 

Nothing You Can Do

I write.  I blog, I publish, I read, I journal, I write.  It is me.  Naturally, I write to my daughter.  On May 15, 2007, I began a journal, written to my girl.  Today, I cracked open those pages and read:

The good man brings good out of the good stored in his heart.  – Luke 6:45

My sweet Madison, above all, I pray that you will know God.  I pray that He will claim your heart and that you will passionately love and serve Him.  I pray that you will bring God glory and that you will enjoy Him.  I pray that Christ will store up good in your heart and that it will overflow to all those around you.  I want to use this journal to keep a record of my prayers and my memories of you.  I pray that you will realize how much Christ loves you and how much I love you!  ….I LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE MINE!  AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!  There is NOTHING you can do to keep me from loving you!  I never want you to sin, but you will.  And even if it hurts me, I will always love you!  I always want you to talk to me.  There is NOTHING you can’t tell me.  I LOVE YOU!

As I read these pages and as I read these words, the emotions and memories of love could not be contained.  As I wrote these words, I barely knew my Madison!  I did not know that her little head fuzz would grow to be beautiful blonde hair.  I did not know that she would spend her piggy bank money on Labor Day weekend, as an eight year old, and proudly purchase a snail for her aquatic collection.  I did not know that on a hike she would beg her Daddy to pick up a snake and “swing it above his head.”  I did not know that she would adore and strive to be like her older cousin Conner.  I did not know the creature of habit that I held in my arms that would struggle without knowing the day’s schedule.  How could I know she would crave mac and cheese or that she would fill her journal with drawings of animals?  I basically knew one thing about that little baby, SHE WAS MINE!  And I adored her!  I loved, and still love her so much that it is even hard for this writer to put it into words.

But something happened from the time she was an infant to the time my daughter grew to be a third grader hopping out of my car and running off to her classroom:  I got to know her a little more!  And something happens when you get to know someone a little more.

It would be the epic fail of a mother if I did not correct my daughter as she grew and learned and tested the limits.  We have all been around the little brats that complain and whine and get their little ways absolutely all the time.  They have never heard that little word that will eventually rock their world:  “no.”  These are the cute little babies that grow up to be useless to our society because, as Momma did, they think everyone is out to serve them.

Therefore, when I look at my journal of my declaration of love to my daughter and then when I have a morning when I had to discipline her for being sassy, has my love altered?  Have things changed since I have seen her quarrel with her friends?  Is it different now that she had an all out tantrum in the middle of Pet Smart because I would not allow her to adopt ANOTHER dog?  Have things changed now that I know the frustrations and the sacrifices of being a mother?  YES!

Absolutely things have changed since the day I wrote that journal page to my almost three month old little baby girl!  I LOVE HER MORE!  Love is an action.  Love is when I sacrifice my career to give my daughter what I think is best.  Love is when I do not get the house I want so that we can afford the school that is the best option for her.  Love is when I do not have what I want so that I can give her swim team and school supplies and allergy medicine and all the million other things that kids require.  Every loving parent has a particular sacrifice that fits completely to the specific needs and desires of our particular children.  Love is when I am patient while she is figuring out who she is.  Love is when I react to what is best for her, not best for my reputation.  And perhaps the greatest of all, love is forgiving.  Love is when she messes up, when she really is rude and selfish, and I forgive and I continue to love, loving more and bigger because my love has done something and grown over an obstacle it had never been over before.  Love is working out who she is, what she does, and who she is to become.  And I can’t wait to see who grown up Madison is!

Why oh why God, why do you love me like you do?!  BECAUSE I AM HIS!  His love has done the ultimate!  FOR ME, he hung on the cross, was separated from the perfect relationship that he had known for all of eternity, and suffered an excruciating death because there was an obstacle to overcome to be with me and he did it.  I rejected him, I chose my own way, I was rude and selfish and I threw an outright tantrum because I did not get what I wanted.  And he forgave me.  And then he loved me still!  And I see that when I came to him as a little bitty baby Christian and he held me in his arms and he loved me, he proclaimed, “I have a plan for you.  It is going to hurt sometimes.  You are going to mess up.  But we are going to work out this salvation thing together.”  GRACE!  Oh, the grace of Jesus!

And I pick up my journal that he wrote to me and I love it and I soak up those words of the Bible, but he gave me even more than those holy words.  I have a daily relationship, living with a God that doesn’t just write about his love for me, I am living in that love each and every day.  And one day I will be completed and he will present me, completely holy, righteous, and redeemed and I will be forever who I am made to be.  And I can’t wait to see who grown up Caroline is!

It is Personal

Sinking into that place of my very soul, his words caressed my heart. Her picture could not be made right in my world where I did not want people to hurt like this. I passed him in a quick stroll, yet the image of his obvious suffering is implanted in my brain. The stories where we connect, where our lives look upon someone and we stop and we do something:  we FEEL. 

This is my God. He is not a list of rules. He is not a scale that measures our good and our bad. He is a man, God in human flesh, come to place his hand on the leper that is outcast of society. He is the only religion that turns his eyes away from the rich man that follows the law to the broken sinner at his feet and declares, “I love you.”

I am the sick man!  I am the sinner! I need THAT GOD!  Religion of the Western world has become a debate, a contest, a free for all to decide your own way. 

As for me and my house, we will chose the Lord!  I do not chose myself, I fail!  I do not chose a God of rules, I can not. I can not do it on own, of my own effort, my own will, my own record. My past is too unforgiving!  I need a Savior!  I need the forgiver of sins and the healer of diseases and the giver of peace. 

His words speak to me. His story is mine. He chose me and I accept. This is my God, hear me proclaim. Let there be not doubt, no blurr in my words. No question on my face. So that when she, with her sin and her suffering quickly pass by, let her see and never forget something that can change her life forever:  my God!

Here is my story, my life. I share my details and my hopes here daily. What is your story?  Your thorn in your side and your hope of all the wrongs undone?  Please comment. 

We are Us

I am you. I am thirteen years together, which is basically forever. I am the one that claims you by holding your hand, the one who forgets to turn off the lights, and your yearly Valentine Date. 

You are my security, who I call when the GPS leads me astray, the payer of the bills, the Daddy of my daughter, a nightly back rub, the answer to my prayers, and the only one who kisses my lips.

We are a lot more moving than either of us ever intended, the parents of a living breathing miracle, the adopters of a rescued lazy pup, the fight worth getting through, the Biblical command to love and respect, and black coffee lovers. 

Love is. It lives and breathes, does, sacrificially gives, fights and gets over it. Love is you. It is a life of hard, a time of thanksgiving, and a huge celebration. It just is. It is there. Forever and always. Right this minute and at any time. Love is and I love you. 

Do I Believe?

Believe what you want to believe and I will believe what I want to. 

Find what is truth for you. 

Do I believe?  What do I believe? IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER!  In a culture that is so wrapped up in being PC and where the absolute worst offense imaginable is hurting someone’s feelings, we let children go without parents because we celebrate happiness more than responsibility, we let our educational system fall apart while costing more money than ever, and we let the whole church be damned. Literally damned. A whole bunch of the Western church is headed straight to Hell. But don’t worry, they will be comfortable on the way!

This life is not easy!  It is not meant to be!  We are supposed to search for Truth, not give way to the easy what we wish to believe, and we are supposed to value hard work!  We are made to do what is right, not what we want to do. 

Instead of teaching our children that their happiness is our priority, let’s teach them doing what is right is the most important thing. Instead of telling our neighbors and friends to find their own truth, let’s tell them there is Truth and there is wrong. And let’s learn to say, “I don’t really care if that hurts your feelings, I want to do what is right.”

Now, there is a whole riot occurring. If you are still reading this, half of you hate me by now. I AM NOT ADVOCATING A BUNCH OF JUDGMENTAL PHARISEES STRUTTING AROUND TELLING THE WORLD WHAT THEY ARE DOING WRONG!  I condemn that, and so did Jesus. Remember, I believe those people make up a good group of those dancing their way to Hell. 

It does not matter what the judgemental snobs believe, it does not matter what the free thinkers believe, it does not matter what I believe!  Truth is the only relevance. The only way to heal our land and our very souls is if we search for Truth, prioritized over the search for temporary happiness. 

My Cancer Survival Kit

Jesus. When I open my survival kit, there is one item:  Jesus. He completely fills and overflows my medical emergency survival kit. 

I was a teenage college student when I first began this book, literally when I began writing this book.  But its contents were real, they were raw, and it was relevant. It was relevant to a world that hurt and that needed my story. 

As a typical young college student, I was battling the discovery of who I was, who I wanted to be, and what was safe to share. Cancer. It was my little secret to keep hidden at all costs. Who could possibly understand that?  I sure didn’t!  

My release was found in writing. The story of a struggling young girl was scribbled through the pages of my Cancer journal. I, appropriately, titled it My Survival Kit. 

I shared my fears of others discovering my disease, my love of Jesus for bringing me to college, my uncertainty of the future, even my ignorance of what lived inside my body. 

Those pages were destroyed, burned for fear of being discovered. Dashed upon the rocks by an ignorant professor. I revealed to him my little secret that I was writing a book. That was all I had told him, it was the first time I had trusted anyone with that tiniest bit of information. 

His smirking ignorant comment sent my writing up in flames, “Write about something people will want to read. You can not write about yourself.”

I am a nineteen year survivor of a rare form of MEN2A Cancer. I am a rare condition within a rare condition. The specialists at Duke University Hospital study my case and the interns rub their hands together and giggle in excitement when they meet their living textbook, sitting in the doctor’s office with my family by my side. 

It took years and years and more years for me to begin to grasp that my weakness made me strong. Just now can I thank God that I am able to comfort someone terrified of their medical future because, I too, have been told those dreaded words:  Cancer. 

Only now, can I see that CANCER IS IRRELEVANT!  I am Caroline. I am a wife. A mom. A child of the King.

Wait. It is not just a comfort for the sick. It is a truth for the husband that walked out on his family, the highschool girl that longs for attention, the orphan baby with no mommy to make her dinner and no daddy to protect her, a real comfort to those that have screwed up big time and need the ultimate forgiveness, love for the unlovable, healing for the sick, LIFE FOR THE DEAD, we are loved by the King of all Kings. What else matters?!

Jesus knows my body inside and out. He knows my body needs extra salt and that I need to drink more water. He knows I love reading CS Lewis while drinking black coffee, that I love hitting the town and drinking a draft beer with my dreamy husband, it is no surprise to Jesus that I dream of a swimming pool in my backyard. He wants me to have all that!  BUT HE WANTS MORE!

More than being comfortable and enjoying a book, he wants me to serve. More than being healthy, he wants me to depend fully in him. More than a pool in my backyard, he wants me patient. And more than this life, he wants me for eternity. 

ETERNITY!  Cancer is irrelevant. 

But Do I Know the Universe?

It is all an oxymoron. I believe, so wholeheartedly, in reading, learning, expanding our minds with a continuous process. Reaching our full potential?  Not possible!  We can always learn more!  Read my post from yesterday, I value reading and thought. 

But I wasn’t born yesterday. Just when I think I have something figured out, I am flipped upside down. It is humorous to think what I used to think I knew. I am who I never thought I’d be. One assurance of this world is to never say never. 

So, in this world of thought, what do we know?  We know we do NOT know. The scientists of the past believed the world to be flat. Men who believe they are above sin, are the first to fall. THE IMPOSSIBLE HAPPENS!  

We live in such a tiny speck of the universe in such a tiny speck of time. Time travel is impossible?  Men smarter than me point us to a worm hole and say, “maybe not impossible.” In fact, it happens every day in space!  Just because I do not understand it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. 

But remember the great oxymoron?  The only thing I can know is that I do not know.  So, how can I know?

This is a world of order!  Look at the heavens, so large my mind can not fathom. It all makes sense!  It travels in patterns, holds itself in check, composed and travels in a manner to support water, to form weather, to allow me to live. 

Science. It is not a dirty word. It does not contradict religion. Science is the study of this world. This is my Father’s world!  Science is the study of God’s Creation. I learn, study, and explore with the knowledge that I can not know it all!  Put my hope in science?  Put my hope in my own knowledge?  Nah!  Quite pathetic!  It changes so very quickly and I soon find my mind irrelevant. 

Evolution?  I am not against a theory. But claiming evolution as science is ignoring science in and of itself. Entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that this world continues toward disorder.  Long ago, the theory of evolution should have been discarded. 

Recently, I was told God is for the weak, those that can not “do it on their own.”  Right!  God is for those that admit they do not have the answers. So is science!  Science is for explorers! Those seeking answers to more questions than can ever be answered. 

God is for people that have messed up, for those that need forgiveness, for those that want to be something bigger than themselves. 

But weak?  Oh no!  Is education for the weak?  Is seeking answers, knowledge, and wisdom for the weak?  No!  The strongest are those that admit they do not know it all, the strongest are those that continue to learn, the strongest are those that are a part of something bigger than themselves. The strongest are those that did not make the world, do not know it all, do not have the answers, but know the one is, was, and will forever be. 

My Girls

Having one daughter, five sisters, six nieces, two sisters in laws, and a partridge in a pear tree, I often use the phrase, “my girls.”  I love my girls!

Well, August was a great month!  All in one month, I gained two girls!  My brother married a gorgeous bride and now I have a new sister. He made an amazing choice of a bride and now I claim the gorgeous, dark skinned (that I am so jealous of!), center of attention that has a magnetic personality that is kind, making best friends every where she goes kind of girl. She is now my SISTER!!!

There is a beautiful lady that I have known from a baby. It is hard to believe that her long, absolutely perfect, blonde hair was dark and curly as a chubby little baby. She, literally, has the kindest heart that I have ever met. Her heart and her hands are in constant service of others. While she is studying for a special needs degree in college, I am thrilled to have her living in my home!  What an amazing role model for my eight year old!  I have grand plans of turning her into a coffee drinker.  We are two peas in one pod – The girl color coordinated her hanging up clothes, I do believe we will get along just fine!

I LOVE MY GIRLS!

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are made for.” – John A. Shedd

Lord, for all my girls, I want to be a light that guides them on the ocean. I want to be a lighthouse to bring them to safety. But Lord, never let me get in the way of your plan!  Never let me keep them in harbor when they are needed at sea. 

God has an amazing plan for my girls!  He built them strong and for a grand purpose. The waves are sure to grow rough, the sun will be blazing hot, and the hurricane winds will blow at their sails. But there will be gorgeous sunsets, they will meet others on the sea, and they will travel far distances. My girls are setting sail and they are sure to change this world!  

Sittin’ in a Tree

Love, sweet love, how I love you!  Two days ago I celebrated being married to my best friend and love of my life for the last thirteen years. No, I’m not going to write all the mushy details. But they were good and mushy. (Insert silly grin and wink here.)

But also, fastly approaching, are two weddings of family members, one of which is my brother. I got a kind email from a friend of the bride asking if we could put together a book of advice from married women. Here is what I had to say:

A godly bride, who can find her? I am fortunate to be the sister of the man that God has been preparing for you since he was a little boy. 

Tall Ben and beautiful Megan squeezed into the love seat in the corner of my living room, “What things do we need to know about marriage that we are not expecting?” Wise Ben shocked me with his question. 
After thirteen years of marriage, I have learned a few things and I still have a few things to learn. Marriage is fun to explore new adventures with my best friend, it is comforting to always have someone to cry to, it is supporting to have someone cheering for me, it is inspiring to start a new family, it is humbling to worship and grow together over the years….it is AMAZING!  

However, that is not all. Marriage is work. And sometimes it is plain HARD! Only in a Christian relationship, can two sinners know each other inside and out, know their weaknesses and struggles and still choose to love when it is of no benefit to themselves. And THAT IS LOVE!  

The “better” is great! But the “worse” is included in our marriage. 

“Richer” is fun but the stressful “poorer” days will bind you together. 

“Health” is a daily goal, but it has been my days in “sickness” that I have seen how much James loves me!

Until death do you part, you are one with Ben until you figure out this life and the plans that God has for you as a new family. 

Love. That is the best advice that I have. When you get into the biggest fight that you have had and you think perhaps you have made one huge mistake, when Ben drives you absolutely insane for the millionth time (in one day), and when HE fails miserably, LOVE HIM! Because we are loved by the perfect one! Forgive because we have been forgiven more, submit to each other because it is the Biblical command of marriage, serve, give, work, and live this life together. But above all, LOVE! The greatest of these is LOVE!

A Psalm 31 woman is not any of these qualities on her own. SHE IS SOMEONE THAT INTIMATELY KNOWS JESUS. she works hard to serve her family. “She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.” She knows what her family needs and she does it. She seeks out wisdom and she acts on it. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And she acts on that wisdom. Love does. We are saved by faith, not works. But faith without works is dead. She is a woman of faith with works to serve her family and her community. She is an inspiration to us all. 

Love, LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY! That is my prayer, I will be praying that your marriage will be full of love. What could be better?!