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!

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. 

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. 

Talitha Koum

Trees walking around. Her ears seemed to protrude and I noticed them like I had not before. I lost the focus of her beauty and despite my efforts to concentrate, her whole body seemed a jumble of pieces that no longer fit.

The spectacles of which through I saw this world had been removed, or I put on the spectacles, I’m not sure which, but I no longer saw people as I had before.

I had gone through my days with a need to impress others around me. I chose the finest clothes my money could buy, hours upon hours seeking not to be healthy but to have a thin appearance (I know this for sure because I cheated in such an unhealthy way), more hours of application to make my cheeks pink, my eyes colorful, and my lips protrude. My conversation was centered around the appraisal of me. Entertainment, career, family, even my place of religion was centered around my god:  me.

I did not see him coming, there was no reason to even notice that man. I was blindly rushing about my stress. I do not know why, but he ran after me. He grabbed me by the collar, I fought and I struggled and I yelled at him to release me. He did. And I fell upon the ground. Cursing, I complained and was insulted at his presence. There was complete hate in my heart and pulsing throughout my body.

Then two words he said to me, “Talitha koum.” (“Little girl, I say to you, get up”)

I don’t know how it happened, but I was upon my feet. The makeup was removed, I was bare naked but more fully clothed than I had ever been.

For I saw that I was just born. I had walked from death to life. He was all that pursued me and I turned and saw him everywhere. No longer was I a mere body, I had been born a soul.

The lostness of the human race struck me. The beauty of symmetrical bodies, youth, and wealth, all but filthy rags. Useless.

Then I saw her approaching. Her soul a glowing spirit. She smiled of joy and she loved with service. Her humility found herself when she gave herself away. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I saw but an elderly woman. Poor. Aged. Sick. And at the end of her life on this earth. A mortal useless tragedy. But I saw, as I had never seen before:  the soul is where we find beauty.

Take Up Your Suffering and Follow Jesus

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. 

Jesus sent him out with a strong warning, “See that you do not tell this to anyone.”

Why?!  Why not tell anyone?!  Hey!  Knowing from experience, if that was me, I’d tell the world!

Facebook update status:  JESUS HEALED ME!

Text message to the world:  are you sick?  Look what he did for me!

News report:  Let me share my story:  Sick. Healed. Jesus. 

WHY NOT TELL?

This is not the only verse where Jesus heals someone and then warns them to keep it a secret. It used to really get to me. And then I lived. I learned. I suffered. I matured. Sat under some good teaching. Had cancer and realized, “This life is so fleeting.”

HE IS BIGGER!  He is more than the here and now!  He heals more than this physical body!  Like a father, he looked on them and had compassion, he healed them but in their excitement they could not see that he was healing more than their bodies. 

To my live news broadcast, Jesus would respond, “I told you not to tell anyone because you don’t get it!  I did not come to heal bodies. I did not come to be king and ruler of this earth. I still had a lot to show you. I would suffer. I would die. Not what you were expecting?  Huh?  But watch. I’m going to do something even bigger than that!  I want to heal your soul. Not just the now, the eternity.”

Jesus is not the quick fix. “Take up your cross and follow me.”  And that is when the masses say, “oh never mind” and walk away. 

Then he performs a miracle, he tells the woman that had suffered for so many years, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  

Do you think she never suffered again on this earth?  She did. She was a human living on this earth. It happens daily. But she got it. When Jesus healed her body, he healed her soul. That is what matters!  You know she saw every single day that her suffering  actually led her to Jesus!  If she had not suffered all those years, she would not have been determined to just touch the hem of his garment.

I want to suffer and let it lead me to Jesus, to the greatest healing of all!

I want to learn from my mistakes and change. I want to suffer and learn, get the big picture, not live for the now. I want to have eternal healing, not just of my body, but of my soul. I have decided to follow Jesus, I will take up my cross and follow him. 

No Faith

“Alleluia,” was sung from the voice of a young girl that was me. I took his hand and I walked away from this world. I did not know the way, but I would follow his plan and not my own. 

There are so many others, the blur of the crowd passes me by. I lay. I lay down. I lay down in the mass and they pass me by. The rain falls, it pours upon my face. Cold soaks my body to the core, my bones shiver. I feel the mud and the water rise around me. 

“Where are you?!”  I cry. “Where did you lead me?  Do you even know my terror?  DO YOU EVEN CARE IF I DROWN?!”

He passes through the masses, they give him no notice.  He kneels down and picks up my body. He helps me to my feet. 

Turning to the nature he made, he rebukes the wind and he talks to the rain, “Quiet, be still!”

Then he says to me, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”

And I am terrified. Who is this man?  When I have seen all that he has done for me, why does the storm still scare me?

The Time Has Come

The house is quiet. I awake before the rest. There are words I read:

The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!

These are the words of Jesus. 

I take one more sip of coffee and stare out the window. There is a light mist that falls outside. 

There is a light mist that falls inside me. My coping mechanism has been to shut it out. Save it for another time. I am not ready. 

But here, I sit alone and I must face that it is there. That is all I will do. I will know that it is there. 

But I turn back to my Bible and read his words, “Good News.”  Jesus, who had lived eternity past in perfection, knew the brokenness of this world like no one else, looked at those he loved, in their suffering and their pain, and proclaimed, “There is Good News.”  He knew of something far better. 

And I will read his words and I will feel my hurt and I will believe. 

The Soul of My Body

The AC is blowing a little colder than I prefer to the preference of my family. The road curves, winding around the tall mountains.  I know these roads well. 

Madison did not take long to lay aside the iPad and ask, “Where’s my book?”  Even with the new apps, she isn’t much impressed by electronics. 

Our family photo books are splattered with pictures of our family exploring Duke Gardens and the college town restaurants. Madison handles these long drives and nights in “our hotel” like little family adventures. She doesn’t know life without them. 

But smack in the very center of the whole rondezvous is a very long visit that could turn into hours of waiting followed by a possible spontaneous scan, traveling on to bloodwork. It has happened that we plan another doctor appointment and then pre surgery scan, surgery, nights in the hospital, follow up, babysitter, missing school, makeup work, time off work, reconfiguring medication……

I just never know. And I stare out the window at the mountains passing by and I wonder what is ahead of me. Oh thank God that this world is temporary!

“To live is Christ and to die is gain.”  I used to think Paul’s words were morbid, but now I get it. They are more alive than ever. In fact, the more I love this life, the more I know, I know this is not life and I am just packing and getting ready for what really matters. This soul in my body is not made for this world. 

And the visit is fast. We are in and out of there and James and I take a deep sigh of relief and thank the Lord for a boring doctor visit and Madison doesn’t know there was the possibility of anything else. She is just smiling while I praise her manners and we start to anticipate the fun night on the town that awaits us. 

And I take Madison’s sweet little hand in one of mine and I hold the strength of my husband’s in the other and my heart knows the living meaning of a family that loves me. And I thank God for the answered prayers of a good checkup and for doing what it took for me to know that I have a body that is of this world but this soul will live forever.