She Praised God

“I can play it?”  Her eyes lit up with curious excitement. 

“Sure you can.  Let me get my bloodwork done and then we will go down there.”

She turned and gazed at the shiny black grand piano with great admiration. Then she looked up at all the floors it would reach through the open halls and the massive waiting rooms that would all hear her music. With a nervous second thought, she changed her mind, “No, I don’t want to.”

She had already ridden with her Daddy and I the good time of seven hours from home to our hotel. She had missed school this very day, which believe it or not, is a huge negative to her. She had woken up early to sit and wait during my neck ultra sound. She sat again and waited through, not one but two doctor appointments. She now sat waiting again for me to have bloodwork accomplished. After that, it was promised we were done for the day and we could hit the road again. Late night travels would ensure she could go on the field trip with her class the following day. She didn’t really want to make that linger. 

“I’ll let you change clothes into your new dress before we leave like you wanted to.” I offered up as a bribe. 

“Ok.”  She gave in, a bit happy to be persuaded, because she wanted to play that beautiful piano anyway. 

After being poked and prodded, the day of appointments were done. But there was one more thing we had to do at Duke.

Standing in the basement is a grand piano. It is surrounded by cancer patients and their families waiting on the Doctor. The ceiling opens up to four more floors of more cancer patients, families, and waiting rooms. 

She shyly sat down at the grand piano, much finer than her usual instrument and she laid her small nine year old fingers across the keys. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 

The tunes of the Doxology rang throughout the hospital. It was melodic, soothing, and cheerful for its surroundings. It was even more impressive at the hands of a child. 

But, for her story, it was more. Heaven above raised their voices in song. The angels sang praises to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Time stands still in heaven and Madison’s entire life played out. 

The specialist told her parents that they probably could not get pregnant. They said that even if her Momma did get pregnant, she probably could not keep the baby. And then after no problems and a beautiful pregnancy, a little miracle is born. And then the doctors say that she has 50% chance of having cancer. But where there is no time and they did not have to wait three months to know that she tests negative for the gene. This little miracle girl grows up taking her Momma to doctor appointments at Duke. 

She did not think, as her fingers struck the keys, of the beauty of her little life joining with the angels in song, as she sat in the hospital where science said she would never be. 

Praise God from who all blessings flow!  My little girl was born to praise God. Amen. 

And how many times will she do something so very simple and not even know the impact it has on eternity?

I Just Want to be With Him

Separated by 12 hours, my entire mind and body ached for James. Newly engaged, I felt only half of a person waiting for my wedding day to be complete. My life was one thing:  waiting. 

I sat in premarital counseling all alone, trying my very best to answer questions the way I thought a Christian bride should. Then, the most obvious question, shook me:

“Why do you want to marry James?”

It was the most openly raw and truthful I’ve ever been in my life, “I just want to be with him.”

I haven’t written in a while. Writing is something that flows throw my body without ceasing. I don’t think about what I am going to write about. I sit down and, at any given time, I put my thoughts into words. But lately…lately, I didn’t want to say it. I wanted to DO IT. 

I didn’t want to write about loving Jesus with my whole heart, I wanted to show it. I didn’t want to inspire to adopt a child longing to be loved. I wanted to snuggle up with that love hungry child and promise a home. I didn’t want to poetically describe nature, I wanted to explore it and praise the God who so effortlessly assembled the mountains. 

And I couldn’t. I couldn’t write another word. 

And here I am. Did I adopt?  Was I not writing because I was living in a mud hut in an internetless village?  Did I downsize my home so I could give away my possessions?

No. Although I am inspired to do so. 

But I actually thought for a bit. Listened for a while. Kept my mouth shut and thought through my answer:

“Caroline, why are you a Christian?”

Hey, I want to go to Heaven. And I don’t want to go to Hell. I long to be kind and make a difference in this world to those that need it. I want to love, to really love my neighbor as myself. But, if I’m being honest, if my heart is open and raw and truthful, I will say that none of those are the reason I am a Christian. The real answer is:

“I JUST WANT TO BE WITH HIM!  I am tired of the separation. I am aching soul and body because of this long distance relationship. I want to hug and embrace and be with my Savior. I am a Christian, not because I am good, not because I have it all together, or because I have accomplished being a great humanitarian, or because I follow perfectly the Ten Commandments. I am a Christian because I am so madly in love with Jesus and I just want to be with Him!”

Goals in Life

I am a thinker, a dreamer, see things as they could be/should be’er. Idealist. 

I am not who I want to be. But I never want to be who I want to be. My plans always changing, and the better me always evolving. 

My goals in this life are not popular. They are laughable and do not make sense. They are not sensible. 

Caroline’s goals for her future self:

1. I want some people not to come to my house because of some other people that are already there. The people at my house are not people that most people want to be around. They are stinky on the outside and/or stinky on the inside. 

2.  I want to be persecuted. I want my life so crazy for Jesus that this world laughs at me. I want the truth in me to rub some people the wrong way. I want a spiritual battle to surround me where Satan knows I am powerful and I am 100% against him. 

3.  I want to give away so much that I am hurting. 

4.  I want to invite so many people to church that we run out of places to sit. And I forget even where I met them, because everywhere I go I am inviting people to church. 

5.  I want my daughter to make me uncomfortable because she invited someone to dinner and I didn’t even know until we are sitting down.  Because, why wouldn’t she?!

6.  I want to remember who I was before I changed and feel the glory and power of the riches of Jesus and truly understand the poverty of all the worldly riches. 

7.  I want to cry ugly tears, needing a tissue, with big red eyes as I surrender to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

8.  I want it to be a natural part of my day to pray salvation’s prayer with a complete stranger. 

9.  I long to have someone approach me, ask if I am “Caroline Hendry” that they heard about. And tell me they want to follow my God. Because they have heard that my God does miracles and they have heard that my God saves marriages and they have heard that my God adopts orphans and heals cancer. 

10.  I want to wrap my arms around my Jesus Christ and I want to hear the words, 

“Caroline, welcome home, my good and faithful servant. You have preached my gospel, you have confessed me before man and now, I claim you before God Almighty.  You are mine. You will never hurt again. I have prepared a mansion for you for all of eternity where it never gets dirty and there is a massive pool half inside/half outside. And you are mine and you will be with me for all of eternity.  Well done daughter.”

Verge of Tears

College sophomore Caroline Hite pulled my thin jacket around and zipped it up to my chin. I wasn’t quite prepared for the cold this Tennessee Fall was threatening. It was dark and I could not see the green circular lawn as I walked the diameter from the library to my dorm room. 

With a dreary attitude, I slumped up the steps to the third floor. With dramatic disappointment, I flopped down on my simple twin bed and gave a large exhale. 

“What’s the matter?” My roommate and best friend inquired. 

“I miss him!”  I was seriously on the verge of tears. 

“Who?” She asked with a tinge of girly excitement, yet knowing that I told her everything and she knew I did not even have a current crush. 

“One day I am going to love someone so much. One day it will hurt to be separated from him…I don’t know who he is…but I miss him now.”

Obviously, I am a hopeless romantic to the core. Randomly, that vivid memory crosses my mind and I smile. I still feel the cold breeze blow against my cheek and I remember that longing that I had in my heart that has now been filled.  James. James is that man that I was missing. 

And today that longing grabbed my beating heart in a whole new way. Bleeding and still pumping, the Holy Spirit grabbed my heart and tenderly yet firmly looked me square in the eyes and said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Did God long for me?!  Like that!  In a perfect, complete way know that he had created me and I was yet to be born?  Does he look at me now, at every detail of my little life and know that he made me to love coffee, know that he made me to crave the words of CS Lewis and while I read “Surprised By Joy” it was an event created to be at the beginning of the world?  Did he long for the day when I would have my own daughter and cry tears of love and joy at the realization that this is just a glimpse of the love the Father has for me?

And I am humbled. How?  HOW!  How can GOD love me?!  Want me?!  Wait for me?!  And I realize, he made me for Him. He has a purpose for me!  Oh God!  Grab me!  Kicking and screaming, wholly addicted to myself, and lazy out of selfishness and begin your work in me.

My toes are wading in the water, but I want to dive in!  

And I walk the diameter of this world. It is dark with arrogance. My heart is not in the right place. But I miss someone. Someone I will be with for eternity. One day I will sing HOLY. HOLY. HOLY. And one day I will be complete and whole and all my questions will be answered and all my hurts will be undone. Dear Jesus, my heart aches for that day I will be with YOU!  And the Good News is that You want to be with me too!

Momma is Packing

“There are three types of people in this world:  sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.  

Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. 

Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak.   They’re the wolves. 

And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”  

-quote from Chris Kyle’s father in the movie, American Sniper 

Oh gracious we have come a long way!  From the pilgrims that died of starvation and sickness while seeking religious freedom to the PC police that call out every single damn little word that hurt their tender little feelings. (As a little side note, these wolves sometimes disguise themselves as “Christians.”)

And I have this baby, this girl that has been running ahead of me since she was born. A tough little cookie that is growing up a Noah in this world of sheep and wolves and where does she fit?

Well, if I may, this woman I am is a natural sheep. I like to graze in my little pasture and lay in the sun and drink from the clear flowing creek and not worry about what is beyond the fence and get along with all the other sheep. 

But then something happened. She is blonde and loves every single animal (even the ugly scary ones) and reads every single written word put before her. 

And I took one look at her and fell so deeply in love and then I stared that big bad wolf in the eyes and said, “Ohhhhh HELL NO!”  

And while I do not always write to one particular group, I realize that I am writing to parents here, and educators, and leaders, and those that care to voice their opinions to influence others. We have two jobs in this life as mom and dad and those caring for children:  protect and prepare. 

Protect.  I have been accused, the finger is pointed and they think they are laying the final blow, “Your daughter is in a bubble.”  My response?  “Hell yeah!”

Do you know what this world is like?!  In big ways, my daughter is protected that she has no clue what it means to be hungry. My daughter is among the few children that still lives with her mom and dad. She does not know what it means to wonder where we will sleep at night or how are we going to pay for medicine or any of the other luxuries that so many of us in our protected culture take for granted every single day!  

But do not think for one second that while I am protecting her, that I am not preparing her!  While we are laying the Biblical foundation at home, we are preparing her faith to be attacked. While we are strengthening her confidence, we challenge her to stand up for the weak. 

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed!  I am just a little sheep!  But you are not only a sheepdog, YOU ARE THE SHEPHERD!  You love your sheep!  You are not afraid of the wolves. And you have sent your sheepdogs into this world to protect. 

So, while I bring my little sheepdog every day to the Shepherd for lessons and while I know that my power and protection come from the Shepherd, when I am just a sheep hanging out with my sheep friends in this world of PC sheep that do not even believe that wolves exist, I have been pushed to the limit where I do not have the luxury to be silent anymore. I am stepping out where I know I am going to get shoved back and I know not everyone agrees with me. (AND THAT’S OK!  I am perfectly content to agree to disagree!) 

But when civilians are being massacred in GUN FREE ZONES, it is ignorance to claim that we need more gun control!  When ISIS is thinking up new cruel ways to murder Christian children, we can no longer tolerate leaders that will not identify radical Islam as our enemy because they are afraid of hurting feelings!  We have moved past that!  

And I will close my, what I hope is seen as a thoughtful opinion backed up with facts and not a rant, with something I believe so firmly in that has been lost in our modern comforts:  The Second Ammendment. 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So, while everyone likes to talk about “my rights,” what really is my right?  Well, one of them is to carry a gun. Go ahead. Label me. 

Screw Up and Move On

Roast and potatoes were simmering at a low temperature in the crockpot, a fire burning and sending a glow through the room set off the cold weather outside in a perfect comfort of a home that was my dream come true. The floors glow freshly mopped and the last load of laundry has been put away. Madison’s homework is completed to perfection and a little ahead of schedule. We slide into the newly refinished chairs with an afternoon snack and time to spare for a game of Chess. This is my perfection. More so than the winter ice that quickly melts with the change of season, I wish I could freeze and live in this moment forever and ever. An eight year old daughter that still needs me to style her hair in the morning, a husband that will walk in the door after a hard day of work at any moment, and the general good mood that I let determine way too much of my world. 

Literally, the only difference was laying down for a night’s rest. I slept hard and my dream wasn’t over when the alarm clock yelled at me, rudely interrupting my comfort.  As soon as I get started, I am running late. Madison is grumpy and complains about the uniform that she has to wear every day. I am grumpy that James has not brought me a coffee yet. My clothes are not complementing me like I want them to and my hair looks hideous. I stumble past the unmade bed to the kitchen with a sink full of dishes and an overflowing trash can. Where in the hell did this mess come from?!  My good mood is gone. 

To fault, I am an idealist and a perfectionist. My realist husband lives in this same morning as me and he sees (or doesn’t even see) the mess and interprets, “This needs to be cleaned up.”  I see:

I am a failure. My life is awful. I am a horrible wife and mom. Why can’t I wake up early and make eggs and bacon for my family?  Why does this world have to start so early?  It is my fault Madison is grumpy. Where is my coffee?  It is James’s fault. He must not love me. 

It take two cups of coffee for me to move on. But as this same scenario plays in my world almost EVERY SINGLE DAY, I am starting to learn that failures are what matter. Weird, huh?  Here is what I mean:

When I am grumpy, am I a yeller?  When Caroline doesn’t get her way, that determines if I am a selfish or giving person. When Madison’s homework is stressing us to the limit, am I patient?  When James tells me “no” to something I want to purchase, how do I take it?  It is the hard times, not the “my perfect world” times that determine who Caroline really is. 

How can I make a mistake and learn from it?  When I sin, how can I ask for forgiveness?  How can I give my life, all of my life, the good and the ugly to serve my family and others?

When my schedule is packed full, Lord, send me someone for me to help.  When my budget is tight, Lord, show me someone that has less than me that I can strengthen. Oh God, I want those in dire need right in my obvious path!  Because this is the meaning of giving.  That is service. When it hurts, when I am grumpy, when I lack energy, that is when it is not me because I can not do it. That will be God in me. 

My Panic is Healed

I turned the corner of the isle in Target, panic struck my face. Panic struck in an instant to the center of my core. 

“MAADISOOON!”  I yelled at the top of my lungs. 

From just the next row, in the other direction, a very young Madison stepped from the end of an isle. She had slipped away for the eternity of just a few seconds. 

I hugged her tight with real love and continued with our day. 

My daily life consists on spending time making my hair look the best, using my very best manners, correct posture, and choosing my words correctly. I care what people think about me. But there is a time that it all goes by the wayside. 

He had one thought on his mind. Sight. His life was a dark one, full of handicaps and inabilities. He was consumed with one idea, something that the crowd never gives a second thought. 

Bartimaeus cried at the top of his lungs, “Son of David!”

The streets were busy with religious people. It was the beginning of Passover and many were setting out on the holy journey and beginning their religious preparations. But they were even more blind than this man with no sight as they urged him to hush and be quiet. 

What is that thing?  The one you dream about?  It consumes your mind. You would not care to be made a fool if it meant that you could possess it?

As Bartimeus sought his miracle, he did not listen to the advice of the crowd. When he was summoned by Jesus, he did not stop to fix his appearance.  He did not have all the theological answers. He looked away from the religion of the synagogue and the Pharisees to the man, to a relationship with Jesus. 

And Jesus did summon him. He is not safe. Jesus is not the feminine, PC Sunday School story. He was on the road to torture and the most extreme suffering ever endured by a human. But he has a heart for the hurting. He is here for those that do no have it all together. 

While I am the first to know my shortcomings, I also know my strength:  “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Spread the Secret

There are many me, there are lots of me’s that enjoy a big pot roast, me’s walking the isles at Publix, I see me picking up my kid at school, or even the multitude of me’s sitting in churches across this Western World. 

I have lived my life following the crowd of the must have. The media has influenced what I say. Oh!  Don’t get me wrong!  I have spoken out enough to make enemies with those I don’t like anyway, but never enough to get a label. I have lived my life in search of bigger and better, prettier and stronger, richer and more powerful. 

But last week, I took a trip that I didn’t want to take. Remember the day I had to write?  Remember me holding in the tears in Target?  Well, my levels were up where they shouldn’t be up and my oncologist ordered lots of scans. It sounded just like the previous six times that led to surgery. And not all surgeries are created equal. Add the C word for a dramatic effect and as the surgeries multiply, the risks and recovery are harder. Well, that time I wrote about what I couldn’t write about, it was that. Last week, Nana stayed with my girl and James and I took that oh so routine trip to Duke Medical Center. It is worth the drive. It is the difference between life and death. 

A sick feeling rises in my stomach while I try to prepare myself, thinking about things I had not let myself think about before. But my husband slips his hand into mine and then it can’t all be wrong. What I care most about is right. And I get an email from my mentor sent around the 5 o’clock hour and she has prayed in the presence of the Holy One on my behalf. And I get a text and another text and more that dear friends are praying and what more can I ask?

It all begins with an ultra sound, I grab James’s hand and I am prepared for the worst, “Completely normal. Nothing to worry about.”  Followed by a CT Scan and a bone scan:  My oncologist sent in his PA. (Pause here. I absolutely adore my doctor but when he sends in his PA, that is the news I want!)  All normal. 

But, ya see, this is the third time in 2015 that I have lived a similar situation. It never gets easier, maybe even harder, but each and every time I learn something. And they will continue. I am a 19 year cancer survivor. Since 19 long years ago, my blood levels are off. My doctors continue to search and scan to locate that microscopic cancer that they know is somewhere. But their hope, and my prayer, is that I live my life being poked and prodded and that it never grows to a size where they can find it. It has before. Six surgeries. But I live my life with routine medical bills and visiting the best doctors in the world and this cancer is slow growing therefore I proclaim that my life is a beautiful life with cancer. 

And living my life from this perspective teaches me enough to write about it. The thorn in my side can also become the blessing. Although I would have never picked this road on my own, and I would switch lanes at any point that I could, the suffering is never wasted. And what did I learn this time?  

I learned MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Yesterday, I accompanied my eight year old and her classmates to an assisted living home to spread some holiday cheer. My daughter, her friend, and I sat across from an elderly man coloring a picture.  As Madison chatted, like Madison does, the man must have told her a hundred times how smart she is. I smiled and introduced myself. He followed suit with his whole name. I then introduced my daughter and her friend. The sweet man we just met, smiled and told me he had two children, he pronounced the full name of one of his children and then paused with great pain on his face, “I am not smart like her. I forget.”

Not able to fathom the pain of forgetting the name of my own child, we moved on with the conversation. Because my God is awesome, he moved my daughter and her friend to share their recent memory work. They memorized all of Luke 2. (All 20 verses!)  As they recited the story, this precious man beamed. It was spiritual. 

When I do not have the option to take this life for granted, THANK YOU JESUS FOR SHOWING ME WHAT I LIVE FOR!  There was this tiny little baby, he was God Almighty coming to earth to save me!  There is no other religion where god loves me like that!  No other faith that says that I am good enough. No other spiritual life where I measure up to the God of the universe pursuing me! 

There are so many me’s walking around this world. We know God but we don’t want to get too weird about it. Ladies and gentlemen, ISIS is cutting off the heads of the infidel, mass shootings are the new norm, our president does not even recognize our enemy…this world is headed straight to hell!  I will strive to be more like my eight year old daughter:  “Here is the story of Jesus.  And when life hurts more than possible to endure, there is hope!  The story starts with a virgin birth, announced by angels. Hosanna in the highest!  I have good news of great joy for all the people!”  

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

If You Feel My Heart

Put your hand here, upon my heart, you will feel the memories of our early days. It beats in my chest, pumping my blood, you are in my body. 

Feel my pulse, it is you beating. Made for you, longs for you, blood in my veins. 

And when you are not here, it rips apart, the thought of missing you, impossible to survive. Take my body and split me in two. That is what I am without you. 

Put your hand here, upon my heart. It used to beat in expectancy,now it is complete with thee, if you ever leave it will beat out of my chest in need of thee. 

This heart, it beats in me. It is you. The you in me that completes me. Beat, oh heart. Beat, you in me. 

Pause the Rushing Moment

Despite the fact that I want to soak up each and every second, the clock ticks on. “Enjoy these moments. She will grow up in the blink of an eye.”  I know!  I really do know because yesterday I held a tiny baby in my arms and now she is knocking on nine. And my coffee grows cold and I am not ready to move on. 

The morning was rushed with so many chores but they all got accomplished so I should count it a success. But I don’t. I don’t appreciate the rush. There is hard work to be done and I understand that, but could you keep the day from passing while I hurry about my chores?  I sat in the car and stared out the window. I am not one that can hold in my emotion. 

A bit surprised by my sadness at this joyous occasion, “What is the matter?”  He asked. 

“It is going by in fast forward!”  

And it did!  It was Thanksgiving Day yesterday and NOW IT IS NOT!

I sit in the morning. My mug of coffee is cold before I am ready for my morning alone to be over.  I want to sit in my jammies for hours without the day passing by, just pause the moment I am in. It is officially Christmas season, the best time of the year. These are the moments, the times that are memories, this is when I make who I am. And I want it to be good!  

But the company arrives and they are gone before I am ready. He is off work and returns before I am ready for him to go. She grows and she is one more step to grown and I want to snuggle just a bit longer. The Christmas song and the warm glow of the fire are a perfect moment that taunt me as they rush so quickly away. Cherishing the moment is not enough. I want to pause.  I want to have forever and eternity.