I sat for hours glued to the television watching weather report after report with the rest of the world. Hundreds of thousands of homes flooded. Hundreds of thousands of people rescued. So many lives changed. What was normal 10 days ago, is no longer normal for so much of Southeast Texas.
It was normal to not know your neighbors.
It was normal to put your needs above others.
It was normal to live divided.
It was normal to offer a “Hello. How are you?”, with no intention of waiting for an answer.
It was normal to go through life at warp speed that you don’t even notice those around you.
It was so normal that just days before Harvey moseyed into town, lines were drawn, picket signs were held, and hate filled words were yelled as races stood against each other.
This was normal.
But, you see, as the rained poured down, and the water levels rose it wasn’t just the landscape of our city that was changing or the state of homes. No, what was normal was changing too.
A new normal began to emerge as neighbhor began to help neighbor and strangers pulled each other out of rising waters. Hundreds of “normal” people jumping in boats to help however they can. Lines of people waiting to volunteer. Thousand of pounds of supplies being shipped to our state. None of that is an exaggeration. This storm, Hurricane Harvey, wasn’t playing around when it made its way into our state. But, the response of love has been no joke either.
The entire country has been watching, praying, and jumping to action to help. What you see on TV is no exaggeration, the outpouring of love is real. As real as the waters that flooded our city.
And like everyone else — I’ve watched. I’ve wondered. I’ve prayed. I’ve got to work helping where I could. I’ve listened to stories. My cheeks have been stained with tears broken for my city and state.
As I’ve prayed I’ve been reminded of this:
“they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another” – John 13:35
Here’s what I’ve learned: love is easy, hate is hard. Choose love.
No one thought twice to help a neighbor. No one is begging for strangers to come help. No one is protesting those wanting to collect supplies. No one cares what color skin you have or where you grew up. They care if you’re safe. If you’re dry. If your house can be restored. If you have food, and clothes.
Love is simple. It comes natural. It comes easy. It’s ingrained in us all. It’s what keeps those of us who remained unharmed in the storm up at night worrying about those who weren’t as fortunate.
Love is what inspires those who live in other cities and states to jump on their cars and drive to the area to help anyone and everyone they can. It’s what causes friends to feel like they walked the storm with us even from miles away. It’s what stirs something within them to rearrange their schedules just to be present to help in anyway they can. That’s what love does.
Love is easy. It’s natural. Hate takes effort. If hate was easy our city wouldn’t be taking the first steps towards healing. We would be stuck. But love is what drives us.
So while the water is receding, and houses are being gutted, I know our city and state will rebuild. We will bounce back…life will be normal again one day…my prayer for us is that our new normal would be one that reflects this: love is easy, hate is hard. Choose love. May our new normal be one that chooses love today and forever.
I love to shop. Wait, no — I love to shop online. I know, not everyone does, but for me the fact that I can do it from anywhere, that is winning. What I don’t love is exchanging things. In fact most of the time, I’ll just keep whatever it is. It’s just easier. Sometimes that means shoes that maybe are a tad too big, or a few items that just don’t get worn — maybe a friend will end up with the item, because it’s just easier than having to take it back to the store or admit that I ordered the wrong thing.
What is convenient in some ways, is quite the hassle in the other.
Real Talk – life can kind of be the same way. We make choices, decisions, and find our self in situations that we don’t really like — but admitting we made the wrong choice or doing something different just seems too hard. So we hold on to those things, put them in the back of our closet and soon they just become part of what we own.
We all have things — whether things we’ve done, or things that have been done to us — that we’ve just kind of got use to. Things we wish we could get rid of but somehow find comfort in their familiarity, they just become a part of who we are.
But what if we could exchange them?
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT)
When Jesus stood and read this same scripture in the temple. He stood and proclaimed that He was the fulfilment of this. He stood and declared why He had come. He had come to provide the exchange.
- Comfort for broken hearts
- Freedom for captivity
- Joy for mourning
- Beauty for ashes
He is in the exchange business.
Jesus’ desire is that when we come to Him, we won’t leave with the same things we came in with, but with the things that only He can replace them with. Our fears, insecurities, sins, failures — He wants them all. The only requirement is giving them to Him.
We can’t exchange something and leave with the same thing. We can’t have both. Offering up what we have may seem scary — sometimes those things we know we don’t like, they’ve become so much a part of us to not have them is uncomfortable as much as we don’t want them. But what I know is this, what He offers in exchange is always better.
The problem comes when go back. We like the idea of exchange but if we aren’t careful we end up back where we were trying to pick it back up again. When you walk into a store to exchange something you have to leave it there — You physically have to give it back. You don’t return to the store ever to look at or check on that item to make sure it’s okay… You move on with the new product.
However, with our hurts, habits and hang ups we often return to them. Life gets hard or messy and we just go back because it’s familiar. We walk back into the store to check on it – or to sit with it. It’s what we know.
But when he exchanges – he wants it to be gone. Permanently. Never to be picked up or entertained again. He wants you to walk in the fullness of what He’s given you instead of the brokenness of what you carried to Him.
Don’t let the familiarity of brokenness, pain, insecurity, loneliness, ___________ keep you from accepting the fullness of the beautiful exchange He wants to make with your life.
Each time He said, “MY grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
I’ve read those words so many times. I can’t even remember not knowing them. In different versions. At various seasons.
I grew up memorizing them in the King James Version, because scripture is always more powerful when it uses the word “thee” instead of you. I love the promise of this verse: My grace is ALL you need. BUT, if I’m not careful, I can quickly focus on the promise and completely ignore the process and the purpose of it.
This answer was spoken in response to a plea. A begging of the heart. For the weight of life’s difficulties, obstacles, struggles to be lifted. Grace. It wasn’t answer of a relief, but a promise of grace.
Why is it that what we often looking for isn’t what we need? To be honest. I’d much rather have the difficulties taken away. The struggles cease to exist. BUT then would grace mean as much to me? Would the gift of grace be as precious as it is, or would it be a gift quickly forgotten because it’s no longer needed?
If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (NLT)
This past month, I celebrated nine years at a job I wouldn’t have dreamed of nine years ago. I remember the feeling on the first day I walked into that office, it wasn’t a feeling nervousness. It a was feeling of being home. I didn’t walk into an office filled with strangers, I walked into the office of the church that had helped me grow and learn and hear God’s voice over the previous 6 years.
That day I walked in to answer phones temporarily for 6 weeks. Nine years later I still walk into that same office, and I still feel the same feeling –– home.
I didn’t know then, what I know now. I didn’t know then that six weeks of answering phones would result in me walking in as the Children’s Pastor now. What I knew then and what I know now are very different. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the last 9 years.
- I shall not want. The 23rd Psalm is probably the most common read Psalm. Often times it’s read at funerals as a source of hope to hang on to — an anchor of comfort. What I have learned is this. If the Lord truly is my shepherd then I truly will have all that I need. Wanting and needing are not the same thing. The challenge is learning the difference. It is easy to watch other churches, pastors, friends, etc achieve great thing and come up with a long list of wants for God. As long as I am focused on what I want, I will never be grateful for the things that God has already provided or the things He has protected me from that I don’t need.
- His grace is sufficient for me. I’m not a perfect pastor, leader, friend, family member or person. If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but there are no perfect pastors, leaders, friends, family members or people. I want to be that for you, for the people I lead. Most pastors I’ve met want to be that. No one wants to disappoint the people they lead, hurt the ones they love or fail to accomplish the things they set out to do..but I do, they do, we do. Leadership is hard. It’s complicated. Why? Because we want the best for the people we love leading, and we want the best for the organization we are a part of. But what I’ve learned is that sometimes what is best isn’t always what I like. God has had to teach me time and time again that His purposes are always better than my preferences — and that’s where His grace comes in. His Grace is needed for the moments that find myself in a place where I let my preferences outweigh His voice, and I need grace to get back to the place He was leading me to. I need his Grace when I’m sitting with people who’s expectations I haven’t met, when my words were quicker than my thoughts, and when I have flat out failed. I need God’s grace when He’s calling me into things that I don’t think I can do, but know He’s telling me to. I’ve learned this lesson more times than I care to admit – His grace just is not only sufficient for me, it’s made perfect in my weakness. So that I can boast ONLY of His Goodness and not my works. (2 Corintians 12:9) I need his grace not only in my failures, but as the source for my success.
Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. These past 9 years have been dream filled years. They have been years when I’ve literally stood in AWE of God. His goodness, His unwavering faithfulness, and uncomprehensible love — it all leaves me speechless. I’ve seen Him provide in seasons when provision seemed to be lacking. I’ve seen Him heal the deepest of hurts. I’ve seen lives change from brokeness to wholeness and joy. In every season — the ones filled with confusion and fear, the ones will hope and faith, He has always been faithful. No matter the season, He has been the one constant — God has always been more than we could ask or imagine. He has always been more than we could dream of. He will always be more than we can ask or imagine or dream of, He will always be more than.
These last nine years have taught me a lot, but what I have learned the most is this: God’s past faithfulness, is the best predictor of his future goodness. I know the future will look different than the past, but I also know that it will be filled with moments where nothing is lacking, grace if overflowing and God continually being more than I could ever ask or imagine. Whatever is next, I can’t wait to walk that road — following His voice!
“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
The LORD went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.”
Exodus 13:17, 21-22 NLT
Sometimes what takes longer and seems harder is Gods way of protecting me. It’s his way of making sure I don’t give up and return to comfort. — Sometimes the long way there, is really about making sure we actually get there.
When Moses took the people through the desert. It wasn’t His job to lead. It was His job to follow the path and provision that God had already laid out for him. He didn’t have to determine the path. It was His job to follow the cloud and the fire. It was His job to confidently follow God. His confidence in God is what gave the people confidence to follow Him. It wasn’t so much about leading as it was about following.
As a leader sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to lead that I can forget it’s actually my job to follow. Whether or not I know what is coming next, my job is to be the lead follower and confidently embrace the path. Even if it’s not the shortest. Even when it’s not the easiest. Even when it doesn’t make sense, or wasn’t the plan. Why? Because when I’m confidently following the path that God has laid before me, it will always take me to the promise land.
I’m beginning to learn that my job isn’t so much to lead people from one thing to the next. It’s not about leading through something, but rather leading to someone.
That someone – is the ONE in whom every promise is fulfilled, hope is found, grace is real and love is abundant. If we can lead people to Him, He will always lead them through it. We can’t, but He WILL.
God, help me to follow you better than I lead anyone else. THAT is the only way we will all get to the place you have promised.
Everything will be fine.
Those four words. Easy to read, sometimes hard to believe.
Leadership is hard sometimes. Life is even harder sometimes. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, other times it just comes natural. Lately God has been teaching me that knowing the what and how aren’t nearly as important as knowing who.
When God speaks He doesn’t always tell us everything. If He did it wouldn’t require faith. When God gives dreams, it’s often in small pieces — if we got it all at once we’d be too scared to try. Then, sometimes God’s words and His dreams, lead us to a place where we just don’t know how to take our next step.
I’ve been in that place. I am in that place. With a God-sized dream, not sure who, how, or what is going to help that come to life. I’m in that place where I’m constantly reminding God of His words, of His promises. I have to. It keeps me from thinking it’s my dream. If it was my dream, I might have given up on it by now. If it was my dream, I might not have the determination to see it through.
When it’s His dream –– It’s His plan, His burden to carry, His Grace, and His favor to see it through. When it’s His words and His dreams, the only thing depenedent on me is my willingness to follow after Him.
I’m in a place like Moses was in Exodus 33.
12 One day Moses said to the lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
14The lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
Moses wasn’t sure how, what or who. He just knew that God had spoken. He knew the dream God had given him.
He was questioning it all. He was uncertain of what step to take next. The dream was big.
And then God speaks. He reminds Moses, and Me, that the how and what don’t matter when you know the who.
When God speaks, When God gives a dream – the plans may not always look and feel like you want them to, but He “will personally go with you, and He will give you rest and everything will be fine for you.”
On the days that EVERYTHING doesn’t feel fine. I can find strength, you can find strength, we can find strength in this…God will personally go with us and when I’m confident in who is with me, there’s nothing more I need.
I’m on a Journey this year. To find me…again. This journey began, like most, with a question. How did I get here and where am I suppose to be? I wasn’t lost. I knew where I was at, but somehow knowing where I was and knowing who I was were not the same things.
It was in a moment of honest prayer that I asked God these questions: Why did you ask me to do this? Why did you give me these dreams? I don’t know how to do what you’re asking, I don’t who will help me…what am I suppose to be doing with this? Why did you tell me this?
And then God in all His goodness spoke. I’ve learned to hear God’s voice thoughout my life, sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s found in His words in the Bible, other times it’s through a friend. THIS time, it was loud. Not like “outloud-loud” but like no question in my heart that it was Him loud.
Our conversation went a little something like this: “You want to know where you’re suppose to be and why I gave you these dreams? Get back to the place where it started for you. Get back to the place where you fell in love with the things I’ve called you to do.”
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”
Ephesians 4:1-6 MSG
I had become comfortable walking just close enough to the road to accomplish some of the things God was calling to me do — but just far enough from it to not find the fullfilment that is found in completley surrending to Him. It was easier to walk in the lane I could control. You know what I learned? Selective obedience isn’t obedience at all. It’s selfish. It’s what a toddler does when they want their way but don’t want to get a “spanking.”
Selective obedience isn’t the space where God-sized dreams come to life. No, those moments aren’t found there. Compelete, Immediate, Unfilterd Obedince – THAT is the palce where God-sized dreams come to life, where Joy is found. THAT is the place where fullfilment is. That is the place where rest, peace, and love reside.
So i’m on a journey to get back on the path. Not for the minstry I lead, but the LIFE I LIVE. The path that is clearly marked for me. I’m on a journey to authenticity. To be authentically Leah – not counterfieted, not an imiatation.. but the true, real, unique person that God has created and saved me by grace to be.
I’m headed for the road CLEARLY marked for me. Get ready because this year I’m going to RUN (not walk) after the things God has placed within me. It’s going to be a fun ride, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
1 year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. 8,760 hours.
I’m not sure those numbers are adequate enough to sum up the moments that took place this year. Sometimes I felt like I could conquer anything. Other times I was sucker punched with wind knocked out of me.
Those number represent moments when:
- Tried New Things
- I stood up for what was right
- Loved when it hurt
- New friendships
- Creating memories with family
- Accomplished Goals
- Teaching Kids to love God and hear His voice
- Nights filled with Belly Laughter
- Tear filled Goodbyes
- New seasons
There is one word that those numbers do not represent: QUITTING
This year was difficult. It stretched me in ways I could have never imagined. There were days I wanted to give up. Moments that I questioned one thing or everything. Moments I questioned myself, my friends, and God — Was I really RIGHT where HE had me?
I struggled, I fought…but never gave up. I saw heartache, and miracles.
Countless prayers were prayed and cancer was beaten in our family — and loved ones came to know Jesus as Lord.
2016 was a beautiful ugly messy journey.
And the midst of the struggle I was reminded of this:
God “will keep in PERFECT PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]” – Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
That beautiful ugly mess journey of year –– it taught me a lot. It taught me to trust God in areas I didn’t know I was holding on to. It stretched my faith in ways I didn’t know I was lacking. It taught me to dream again, and to dream God sized dreams. It taught me that not knowing how is okay, as long as I know why…and that WHY has to be because “God Said So”. Sometimes the lessons are hard, sometimes they are painful, sometimes they require you do things you didn’t know you could do — here’s what I know..the lesson is worth learning if you come out stronger, braver, and more in love with Jesus in the end.
There’s a lot of things I could take with me from 2016. Memories. Hurts. Pain. Forgiveness. Joy. But I’m choosing to take PEACE OUT of 2016. It’s what I’m carrying into 2017. Because no matter what comes my way…as long as I keep my mind steadfast on God, I will in fact have PERFECT PEACE.
2017. I don’t know what you hold, but I’m ready to take you on, and thankful for the people that are ready to go on this journey with me.
Today my niece turns 13. THIRTEEN.
Jessi Rae…It seems like just yesterday, I was racing to the hospital with your parents full of so much excitement at the thought of finally getting to meet you. Then you were born, and you were amazing…and you changed my Nyna that day. I wear that name with pride, because it means YOU’RE my niece and I’m your aunt and forever I’ll be here for you.
So on your thirteenth I want to share a few things with you.
1. Keep God first. You’ve already done a lot of great things in these first 13 years of your life, and I can only imagine what will come in the next 73 years to come (probably longer because you’re a Carreon and apparently we have some crazy good genes). Of all the advice I could give you, this is the most important: remember everything you accomplish is really from Him. Keep Him in front of you and just watch at how He clears the path to an amazing life.
2. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to mess up. Take chances, have fun, try new things…and if you strike out looking, it’s okay. Keep trying. You’re going to make mistakes, what matters is that you get back up and keep trying. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try to be better today than you were yesterday.
3. Love other people. Like really love them. Treat them with respect whether they are the principal at your school, the one cleaning your table at the restaurant or the homeless person on the side of the road. Respect them, and when you do, they will not only see but feel that they are loved and matter.
4. You ARE beautiful. Since the day you are born, you’ve been gorgeous and so full of life. Don’t let anyone tell you anything differently. The magazines and tv will try to convince you that you have to look, dress and act a certain way. Those are lies. No ones hair is perfect everyday. No one. No one really looks like the girls on TV or in magazines or online. They all require more makeup and hairspray than anyone should ever wear. So, when the world tries to make you believe that it’s true, just smile and walk confidently knowing that YOU are beautiful.
5. Play like a girl and be proud of it! You have so much talent running through your veins. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You’ve practiced longer and worked harder. One day you’ll hang those cleats up, but never hang up that attitude that you can do anything…because you can!
6. SMILE. You have the most gorgeous smile. One that lights up your whole face. Smile, because when you do it makes everyone smile back at you.
7. Mean girls suck. There I said it. They exist and will throughout the different stages of your life. Let me tell you now: what they say isn’t true and their opinion doesn’t really matter. When they roll their eyes or whisper to each other, walk with your head held high. They just want your reaction, don’t give it to them. When you see them tearing someone else down, smile at their person…let them know they have a friend and someone on their side.
8. Sticks and stones aren’t the only thing that hurt words do too. You have the ability to cut people down to their knees or build them up with the words you say. Chose the later. No one has ever regretted making someone feel better.
9. Tell people what they mean to you. it’s the only thing that doesn’t cost you anything, but means the world to the one hearing it.
10. Family is forever. We have a big, loud, crazy family. One thing I’ve learned is that they will always be there for me…and YOU. There will be moments when you’ll make a mistake, know this…they will never be disappointed in YOU, they may be disappointed in your choices, but NOT YOU. WE have your back. We want you to succeed.
12. Laugh…a LOT. Few things are more enjoyable than laughing till your face and stomach hurt. Do this as often as you can and do it with your friends and family.
13. You are loved. I know, I know…I already said family is forever. What that means is, you will never go a day of your life, without being loved. We have loved you since the day you were born, actually long before that. Without you, our lives wouldn’t be the same. So everyday, when you wake up, know that you changed our world, and we LOVE you for it. I’m so proud of the amazing young woman you are becoming, and I love watching you grow.
Happy Birthday Jessi Rae.
Have you ever been in a place where things just don’t make sense? Maybe you feel like has God has called you to do something but you feel under-qualified, inexperienced and like it’s just too big for you do. I’ve been there.
I think I’m there more often than I like to admit.
Knowing that God has something BIG in store, and yet questioning how in the world this is going to happen.
I find myself there and in those moments the frustration of it all becomes so real to me.
I find myself like Moses was here…
Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.” – Exodus 33:12-13
Just recently I was in the place. Feeling like God has called me to do something big…feeling like I don’t know how it’s going to happen…and asking God to give me something. A sneak peek…a peep hole…something to let me see what He has planned.
I do what we all do. We ask God, then we ask our friends. I was there at that place.
Asking and talking to friends and family about my situation. In face I had gotten to the place where I told a friend “I just wish someone would tell me what to do!” Thank God, He has given me such wise friends, because their response was simple but truth filled. She responded like this:
Someone will tell you what to do, and it will be God. Just seek Him for His peace in the decision making.
Sometimes we just need someone to come along side us and remind us what we already know.
What I’m most grateful for is that in the midst of our frustration, questioning and doubt, God is big enough to handle all our questions. He’s big enough for that. In fact I think that’s a good place to be…1) realizing that unless God steps in, we can’t do this on our own and 2) close enough to God to be comfortable having this kind of conversation.
If you’re in a place of feeling overwhelmed and under-qualifed to accomplish the very thing God has called you do, take some time and talk Him about it…
it’s better that way.