It's So Beautiful...It Makes My Heart Hurt

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod
Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Have you ever treasured a memory so deeply in your soul that not only does your mind recall the facts of the moment but your heart also is instantly tied to the memory with intense and poignant feelings?

Such is the memory that I have of a December evening when I was only 6 years old …

I attended kindergarten that morning in the one room schoolhouse that was just around the corner and up the street from the safe haven of my home.  I lived in that century old home with my mom and dad, my older sister, a younger brother who loved to tease, a collie named Lassie and a white cat named Tinkerbell.

It was a snowy, wintery day in Western New York and I had spent the after school hours sledding with my older sister and with the “redheads” from across the street. My toes were nearly frostbitten from the time happily spent in the sub-freezing elements. My mother, after taking off all of my snow-caked outer garments at the door,  handed me a fresh nightgown that had been warmed in the dryer. She then stood me on top of our old-fashioned register where the heat came blazing up from the basement furnace.

My mom put “The King Family Christmas Album” on our record player so that I would have Christmas music to listen to while I was slowly warmed from the tiny register holes.

I revolved around in a little girl circle while the heat found its way to warm my numb toes, raw fingers and red nose. While facing one direction, I saw the piano sitting in the corner of the oversized room; in another direction, I saw the dining room table bedecked for Christmas in true 1960’s fashion; and in the third direction I looked into my parents’ bedroom and at their huge canopy bed.

The fourth view that completed my slow rotation was out the front windows of my home and at the Post Office across the street. I remember that the snow was gently falling down around the little brown building which was truly no more than a glorified shack of governmental importance. The postmaster, Mr. Hawley, had just the day before strung lights around the roof and windows of the US Post Office located directly across the street from my girlhood home.

My slow circle stopped the moment that I looked across the street at the obscure building.

As the King Family sang of city sidewalks, chestnuts roasting and finally about a Baby Boy, I stopped my circling and just stared, transfixed at the beauty of the brown building surrounded by Christmas lights.

I remember placing my hand on my chest because what I was experiencing in that moment was so wonderful and grand that it made my heart hurt.  As I wiped the tears away from my no longer frozen cheeks, my mom walked into the room.

“Why, Carol!” she exclaimed. “Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”

I didn’t even realize until that moment that there were tears on my cheeks. I responded, “Mom … it’s all so beautiful. It makes my heart hurt.”

The joy from my heart was leaking out of my eyes and down my innocent cheeks.  A little brown shingled building … decorated with Christmas lights … made my heart hurt.

And with repeating those words to you today … I can still feel the glorious pain all over again.

Christmas is so beautiful … so filled with wonder and glory … that it makes my heart hurt to this very day.

merry-christmas
merry-christmas

When Christmas lights up the ordinariness of my feeble attempt at life, the raw marvel paints a picture of stunning impact. When viewed without the message of the manger, my life is truly just a shack of little significance and certain obscurity.

However, when I dress my life in the majesty of the manger and with the glory of the angel’s song it is then that I become who I was always made to be.  When the human hut of my life is changed by the purpose of the manger and by the star that led the way to His dear presence, I realize why my heart aches for something more than this world offers.

Even now … the joy of Christmas is leaking out of my eyes and my wizened heart hurts with the joy of it all.

Has the joy of Christmas changed you? Have you allowed the miracle of the manger to decorate the humdrum of your life?  My prayer for you this year is that you will take a moment out of the busyness … and away from the craziness… and observe with no distractions what the glory of Christmas is truly all about.

I hope that you will warm yourself with the joy of His presence.  I hope that you will hear the angels’ song and that your heart will constrict in sheer and joyous pain.

I pray that you will have a moment when the joy of Christmas leaks out of your eyes and onto your face.

Your life was always meant to be more than a shack … a hovel … a hut of humanity. Your life was meant to be the showplace of Christmas every day of every year.

Merry Christmas with joy –

Carol

Makes my heart hurt blog pic 1
Makes my heart hurt blog pic 1
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What Will You Give This Christmas Season?

The men and women in the story of Christ's birth...gave more than they could afford...in order to be involved in the plan of God. What are you giving this year?

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The Best of Times...The Worst of Times

Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1
Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1

“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …”are the unforgettable words that begin A Tale of Two Citieswritten by Charles Dickens who also famously penned, “A Christmas Carol”.

“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …” are also, unfortunately, the words that many of us have used to emotionally and spiritually pen our Christmas stories and memories.

“It was the best of times …” are the 6 words jubilantly chosen to describe a holiday cup that is frothy and running over with cheer, gifts, healthy relationships and a beautifully decorated home.

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78455590

“It was the best of times …” seems to be the caption that is used to describe an iconic Rockwellian picture of a snow-decked landscape looking into the window of a red and green home that has an interesting yet functional family at its core.  The kids are throwing wrapping paper everywhere … the parents are still dressed in their robes with deep circles under their eyes yet are able to smile at the pictured noise and confusion … the holiday turkey is browning perfectly in the oven with its aroma wafting through the expectant air … and Gramma is on her way with a sleigh filled with pumpkin pies and figgy pudding!

It certainly IS the best of times!

“It was the worst of times” are often the December lyrics of choice when the bottom has fallen out of one’s shaky attempt at living.

Food stamps may be a daily reality and necessity.

The dysfunction of family relationships is a constant reminder of what is wrong with  life.

This Christmas may be spent in the terror of the ICU rather than by the warmth of a welcoming fireplace with eggnog in one hand and a Christmas cookie in the other.

Perhaps rather than torturous relationships to deal with, there is no family to gather around the sparsely bedecked caricature of Charlie Brown’s famous tree.

Money is scarce … health is questionable …  just one mortgage payment away from losing the family home … there will be no Santa Claus coming down the chimney this year to leave a memorable deposit of materialism under the lonely tree.

For you, Christmas this year, truly may be the worst of times.

However, I happen to believe, that judging the authenticity or joy of Christmas by what we have or do not have is a foolish and impulsive mistake of gargantuan proportions.

Christmas was never meant to be measured by human standards or by a glass that is gleefully half-full or agonizingly half-empty.

What one sees circumstantially is largely unable to coincide with earth’s attempt at fulfillment because of heaven’s promise of delivered joy!

See … it is not in what you do have or do not have that should determine how you are able to describe your Christmas this year or any calendar year!  It is always found … eternally found … in Who He is!

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177427485

He is joy when your life seems empty.

He is peace when all around you are in conflict.

He is hope when all human wells have run dry.

He is the Healer in a life that is sick, fragile and wasted.

He is Christmas!

He is what makes any day of any year the very best of times.

Don’t be so small in your expectations of a truly memorable Christmas that you boil it down to gifts, a bevy of celebratory people or how much red and green is strewn around your home.

Instead, this Christmas, remember what Christmastime is powerfully all about:

A young woman who has had her world invaded with the promise that with God … all things are possible!

The plans of a young man that were hurriedly changed because the God of the universe interrupted his human desire for happy ever after.

A manure-filled, mouse-scurrying stable that welcomed the Baby Who was born to be the King of all Kings.

Shepherds, with dirt under the fingernails, grime in their brains and sheep drool on their robes who were invited to sing with the angels!

A song so loud and so triumphant that it broke through the coldness and darkness of a world in pain to prounouce, “Let there be joy!”

Although I don’t know the pain of your past or the stark reality of the Christmas that will be remembered as 2013, this is what I do know about you and your life …

You are loved by the God Who sent His Son into the darkness and confusion of the warzone of life this side of eternity.

The angels still invite modern day shepherds to sing … to sing loudly … to sing triumphantly!

Although your desire for “happy ever after” may be marred by the mess you have made of your life … God still has the power to intervene because of Christmas!

And … the message that the angel delivered to an incredulous virgin girl is still heaven’s message to you today … nothing is impossible with God!

And so … whatever circumstances you face today … my prayer is that your life will be remembered as a lasting and genuine Christmas Carol because finally … you understand … you eternally comprehend what the best of times has always been about!

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Our sacrifice of praise means giving thanks...even when you feel there is nothing to be thankful for.

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Here is the Secret

Here is the Secret blog pic 1
Here is the Secret blog pic 1

I have always believed that if there is only one secret to living a full, rewarding and joyful life it is found in the decision to just be thankful.  All day … every day. This one singular heart attitude, that of choosing to live in a place of gratitude, holds more sway over the quality of your life than does your income bracket, your street address or even the pain of your past. 

Determining to be a person of sincere praise and appreciativeness will frame your life in a beautiful and miraculous way. 

Gratitude will erase days of pain and create days of blessing.

Thanksgiving will enlarge the small places of your life into rooms of grand bounty and sweet strength.

Praise will turn the gray and blah of humdrum responsibilities into sparkling opportunities of service in the Kingdom of God.

It is in choosing to be thankful … sincerely and joyfully thankful … that ordinary days turn into holidays.

Days that are identified by wretchedness and wreathed in ugly become events of heavenly inspiration and sweet remembrance when we use the paintbrush of gratitude to change their color.

This is your life … you will never have another.  This life is your only chance at joy … your only opportunity for destiny … your only occasion for capturing a delightful heart. 

You must discover the power of thanksgiving if you long for your life to make a difference.

If you are thankful for even the small things in life, you have discovered an eternal treasure.

the west at south
the west at south

If you can look at a sunset and bask in its presence … you have tapped into treasure.

playing with mom
playing with mom

If you can giggle back at a baby with a silly grin on your face … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can make snow angels with the little girls in your life … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can catch fireflies with a freckle-faced boy … you have tapped into treasure.

If the glory discovered in vibrant rainbows … in the majestic roar of the ocean’s waves … and in the morning song of the bird cause you to well up with praise … you have learned how to value the truly important commodities in life.

Conversely, if you choose to focus on your deficits rather than on your gifts, you will always be miserable.  If all you do is whine and complain and worry … you are the only one whom it wounds and ultimately subtracts from.

Did you know that it doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are?  Once you begin to lock into this miraculous lifestyle of thanksgiving, although your circumstances may never change … you will change!  You change from being in bondage to disappointments and pain to living a life of the joy found only within the gates of His powerful presence!

The moment that you become grateful, it changes the atmospheric conditions of your life.  Thanksgiving will take you out of your human pain and place you in the very courts of His presence!  What a miraculous possibility!!

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His lovingkindness is everlasting

And His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100

I would love it if you would respond to this blog by telling us what you are grateful for today!

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Just These Three Things

baby
baby

Children … there is nothing like the heart of a little person to rearrange your priorities, refine your theology and restore your hope.

“Through the praises of children and infants

 You have established a strong hold

 against Your enemies.”

Psalm 8:2 - NIV

I love to listen to children talk about God.  I love to hear their praises … to watch their heartfelt enthusiasm … and to know that they understand the love of the Father.

Children know.  They know God in a particular way that most adults do not begin to grasp.  They know that God is love and that He is powerful.

They know that God is a giant-killer … a life-giver … and a mountain-mover.

Children know.

Children are the very best prayer warriors that I know.  They pray in unabashed faith and enthusiastically expect a response from heaven!  If you have lingering doubts about life … ask a child to pray for you!  There is nothing quite like it!

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,

‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever then humbles himself as this child,

he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” –

Matthew 18:3-5

 Is it because they are so fresh from heaven?  Is that why children have an insight into the heart and character of God that is sometimes missing in older, more mature and “wiser” adults?

Do babies remember what heaven smells like?  Do toddlers recall the joy around the throne of God?  Are pre-schoolers able to catch a whiff of the love of the Father while living on earth?

If nothing else, children know that God loves children.  They know.

The innocence of a child is a strong magnet to the presence of God.  Little ones are most at home in the joy of His presence.  Is it any wonder that there was a special place in the heart of Jesus for children?

One day children were brought to Jesus

 in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. 

The disciples shooed them off.

 But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone,

 don’t prevent them from coming to me. 

God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”

 – Matthew 19:13 & 14 – The Message

olivia mcleod
olivia mcleod
olivia mcleod 2
olivia mcleod 2
olivia mcleod 3
olivia mcleod 3
olivia mcleod & marmee
olivia mcleod & marmee

Olivia is my adorable, precocious, administrative, creative and anointed little bundle of granddaughterly joy!  She was the first grandchild born into this clan and will ever hold a place of sweet delight in my Marmee’s heart.

Olivia loves to design doll clothes, write books, go to ballet lessons, take care of her little brothers and has an insatiable desire to know more about God.  Although only 5 years old, Olivia is filled with a wisdom that I long for at times!

A few weeks ago it was Kids’ Day at Faith Family Church in Victoria, TX.  All of the school age children were allowed to stay in the big service and Pastor Jim Graff had a message that he had prepared especially for them. 

These are the notes, in Olivia’s own handwriting that she wrote that day:

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

Olivia got it right, didn’t she?  That is all the theology that she needs in her tender and formative years.  Maybe it is all the theology that you and I need as well.

little girl
little girl

God is with you!  What a promise!  You serve a God Who will never leave you regardless of how you act, what you’ve done or where you are going.  He is more than a social sidekick or a nagging shadow.  He is not an obnoxious tag-along or the constant reminder of yesterday’s mistakes.  God’s presence and love are inescapable companions as you travel life this side of heaven.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.  When everyone else has deserted you … you have a friend that is closer than a brother.  Ah-h-h-h … you are not alone!  Thanks for the sweet reminder, Olivia.

la main de la mère
la main de la mère

You are special!  What a great memo from Olivia’s 5 year old heart!  There is no one like you … you are one of a kind.  You have a destiny that has never been shared by another human being in all of history.  God has uniquely fashioned you for such a time as this.  Comparing yourself with others is a total and complete waste of energy because there is no one like you … and there is no one like them!  So get busy being you!  Be the you that God made you to be … today!  Olivia … there will never be another Olivia Mae McLeod!  You are you … and that is enough … that is more than enough!

You are God’s child.  That’s right … you belong.  You belong to Your Dad.  You are His wanted and dearly loved child.  You are part of the greatest family ever created … the family of the most-high God!  There is never any possible reason to wonder who you are … you are God’s child!  What an honor!  When others reject you or forget you … you are God’s child!  When your family ignores you and your friends avoid you … you are God’s child!  His embrace is big enough and powerful enough to calm your fears and to lead the way. 

Olivia … I hope that you always remember these 3 important sentences.

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

  I hope that when you are 12 and are struggling with self-esteem that you remember.

I hope that when you are 18 and face an unknown future that you remember.

I hope that when you are raising a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that you remember.

I hope that when another little girl … at another moment in history … calls you “Marmee” … that you remember …

God is with you.

You are special.

You are God’s child.

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Testimony of An Unanswered Prayer

In Spite Of
In Spite Of

It’s November!  The 11th month of the year is 4 glorious weeks of  exhilarating football games, homemade pumpkin pie and jumping raucously in the leaves.  It is the month of geese flying southward, pulling out Gramma’s  well-loved recipes and going on that annual family hayride.However, the most important aspect of this month that marks the beginning of the holiday season is the time that is set aside for sincere gratitude and thankfulness.  November reminds us of the strength of counting our benefits and not whining about our deficits.  There is no other month that carries such a strong regard for the giving of heartfelt thanks and the joyful taking stock of one’s blessings.

But what if this November, you are more aware of what you don’t have rather than what you do have?  What if Thanksgiving 2013 is a painful reminder of the prayers that have not yet been answered and the “Blessing List” that lies dormant and bare?

My friend, Monica, is one of my heroines in life.  She is a sister of the heart, a partner in ministry and a dream-builder extraordinaire.  Monica has prayed for nearly 7 years for another baby … and yet her arms and her nursery are longingly empty.  Her message and her heart challenge me to pray again … to believe again … and to give thanks “in spite of” and not only “because of.”

This is Monica’s story and Monica’s blog.  Maybe you will find yourself between the lines of this heartfelt journey.

Testimony of an Unanswered Prayer

Orzechowski-1079

I thought about writing this many times over the past 7 years.  I've written and re-written it in my mind too many times to count.  I’ve always waited because I thought…once the deepest desire of my heart has been fulfilled…that’s when I can share the testimony.  That is when I can encourage someone else to hang in there…the promise is coming.  But here’s what I’ve learned through this journey…the testimony doesn’t necessarily come in one big bang at the end of the road.  Sometimes, it’s during the lowest of lows…during the deepest pain and despair…and even during the relentless questions of the heart…that the true testimony is birthed.

This journey began for me about 8 years ago, on a cold winter morning in February.  Paul and I had been married for just over 8 months.  We had decided early on that we would wait until we’d been married for one year before we started a family.  But after eight months of wedded bliss…I didn’t want to wait any longer!  I was ready for babies!!  That morning in February…as I was blow-drying my hair…the Lord spoke to my heart.  I heard the name “Faith”….and then “Faith Marie”.  It was so clear to me that I think I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing my Jesus whisper that name to the deepest part of my soul.

A few weeks later, I heard Him whisper the name Zachary.  Imagine hearing two names…within a couple of weeks!  My poor husband had no say in the name of our son.  There was no discussion about names…no baby name books being poured through.  I just knew that we were either going to have a “Zachary” or a “Faith”!

About a month later, we found out we were pregnant!!  I’ve wanted a little girl since I can remember.  I have a sister…and she has three daughters…and my mom was one of two girls.  And the Lord had given me the name ‘Faith’!  Never in my wildest imagination could I ever picture myself with a  boy!    So, when I found out we were pregnant with a boy…I was slightly shell shocked.  However, over the next 9 months…I fell completely, head over heels, over the moon in love with my Zachary.  And when he was born, I thought…THIS is what perfection looks like!  (And I still think that today, 7 years later)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were beyond blessed with our beautiful little family.  And so, when Zachary was about 10 months old…we decided this would be the perfect time to do it again!  We were pregnant with Zachary exactly one month after we decided to begin trying.  We took it for granted the second time would be so easy.

However, with each month that passed with a negative pregnancy test, I had to fight feelings of fear.  I had to fight off the nasty little “I” word (Infertility) that would creep into my thoughts.  After several months, we began fertility treatments.  And after years and years of herbs, and acupuncture, and holistic treatments, and pills, and needles, and hormones….praying and declaring…seeking God’s wisdom and guidance at every turn…I wasn’t getting pregnant.  One of the biggest blows came after several more tests and procedures and a consult with an IVF doctor.  My test results showed early menopause and no chance of IVF working.  He told us our only hope was to use an egg donor or do traditional adoption.  The news was almost more than I could bare.

BUT – during all of these years…and more negative pregnancy tests than one person should ever have to endure…I knew that Jesus was with me.  I felt Him near me every time I would cry out in despair…each time I questioned whether I had really heard the name Faith…He would reassure me.  “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

My God would send me scriptures and encouragers and the deepest knowledge that He loved me….and He understood the pain…and my anger would never make Him move away from me or love me less.

Earlier this year, we adopted 2 embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program.  We knew that my body wasn’t producing eggs…but the doctors told us that I could easily carry a baby.  And that has always been my deep desire…to be pregnant again.  To feel the life growing inside me…to feel those magical first kicks…to feel my baby move as soon as she felt her daddy’s hand on my stomach.  I loved those beautiful nine months with Zachary…and I desperately want it again.

The process of embryo adoption was daunting.  It’s treated just like a traditional adoption, so we went through the homestudy and began the process of choosing the family who’s babies we would adopt and grow inside me.  When we received word that a family had chosen us to adopt their embryos, I prayed that the Lord would give us a sign so that we knew that these were the babies He had for us.

I’ll never forget the day I received the pictures of the family.  I’ve never in my life felt more loved by the God who created this universe!  When I opened the first picture, I saw two little boys who could’ve been my son’s twins.  These were the siblings of the embryos that we were about to adopt.  When I put the picture of the one little boy next to a picture of me when I was his age…we could’ve been brother and sister.  The resemblance was uncanny.  I knew that God had answered our prayers.  The God who was so big that He created the Grand Canyon….knew the deepest desire of my heart.

We began the process of getting my body ready to accept these babies.  We flew to Kansas standing and declaring that we would come home pregnant!  Our friends sent us off with letters and cards of encouragement….declarations over these babies, who had been wanted for so many years.  We came home after the procedure…after being told by the doctor that the embryos didn’t look great…still full of hope and declaring all of the promises that God had given us.  I had called this baby by name for 7 years.  My little Faith…my vision of blonde curls and freckles on her nose…the little girl who would grow up to be my best friend.  The moment was finally here…we couldn’t wait to celebrate with all of the friends and family who had stood beside us…prayed with us for so many years.  This little girl who had lived only in my heart…

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2013-05-13 10.02.29
2013-05-14 14.39.08

Two weeks later, the doctor called from Kansas with words that would literally…truly…smash my heart into a million pieces.  We were not pregnant.  Those two babies that had been placed inside me were now in heaven.

The hours and even days after that phone call are a blur.  I felt like I had lost two babies.  I felt like God had broken my heart.  It hurt to talk to God…it hurt to read my Bible…it hurt to look at all of the scriptures that I had declared over this baby.  Everything just hurt.

But, He never left my side.  Slowly…and ever so gently…I could hear Him whispering to me.  I knew that God still loved me.  I knew that He had a plan for me…a great plan…to prosper me and not to harm me.  I knew that, although my heart was broken, it wasn’t Jesus who had broken it.   I needed to let Him back in…because He was the ONLY one who could truly heal my heart.

I remember asking – WHY?  Why would you send me this beautiful, perfect match – the perfect fit for our family and then take these babies to heaven?  His answer was soft, gentle, and so comforting.  He gave me that match to show me just how deeply and intimately He knows my heart…my deepest desires…the dreams inside me that no one else knows.  He knows.  He sees.

I am still working through the process of letting Him heal my heart.  I am still learning how to live with an unanswered prayer…by thanking Him for the million prayers that He HAS answered.  Jesus has been with me at every valley and every mountain top of this journey.  I am learning that the testimony isn’t really about the destination…it’s about finding God during the journey.  It’s about choosing to declare that He is a good God…He does want the best for me…He loves me…and He never has or never will leave my side.   I will be thankful for every good gift that He has so graciously poured out in my life.  That He continues to pour into my life.  It’s a choice I make everyday…to be thankful…to worship while I’m waiting…to trust Him.

That..…is my testimony.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.

1 Chronicles 16:11 – Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the (wo)man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.

Orzechowski-1128

Monica is Mom to Zachary, Wife to Paul. and the Executive Director at Just Joy! Ministries.  Her blog is called "Faith for the Journey"

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In Spite Of!

In Spite Of
In Spite Of

November is the month of being thankful...but let's take it a step further and be thankful, not only "because of" our circumstances...but "In Spite Of" our circumstances!  Join us on the facebook page - Carol McLeod, Bible Teacher & Author, and list 3 things you are thankful for with the hashtag #inspiteof 

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Superpowers, Superheroes, & A Boy Named Ian Wesley

Ian 12
Ian 12

Let me tell you a story about a little boy and his grandmother.  The little boy is 4 very precocious years old and his name is Ian Wesley.  The grandmother is exceedingly young and lives thousands of miles away from all of her grandchildren.  All 5 of her  bright and darling grandchildren call her, “Marmee”.  She thinks that “Marmee” is the most beautiful word in the history of mankind ... As Marmee was saying her final good-bye to her little boy genius, Ian, she held him in her arms and he held her face in both of his hands.  He was kissing her on her wrinkle-free cheeks and finally the Marmee reluctantly put him down.  Ian then clung to her legs with all of his might.  

“”Well, buddy, Marmee needs to go now.  But ... remember ... change the world!” were Marmee’s parting words to this little bundle of energy, enthusiasm and perpetual liveliness.

“What?!  Change the world?!” Ian incredulously asked. “I tan’t change the world!!  I don’t have superpowers!!”

His parents and I grinned at each other and at the remarkable response of this remarkable little man.

As I began the nearly 1,500 mile drive home to an empty but clean house and away from those who are forever in my heart, I thought to my Marmee self, “Oh!  But Ian!  You have it all wrong because you do, indeed, have superpowers that will change the world you live in!”

“Ian ... you have the power of love in your little soul.  The power of love is a game changer every time in every relationship.  Unconditional love is the basis for all healthy relationships; vibrant love is the launching pad for all young lives and their dreams; tenacious love is the glue that holds families together.  When you choose to love somebody difficult and cruel ... it is the greatest superpower of all! Ian ... you really can change the world with love.”

Ian 4
Ian 4

“Ian ... you have the power of prayer at your every day disposal!  When ordinary human beings talk to God ... He listens!  When we ask in faith ... mountains are moved out of the way and that changes every one’s world!  When we diligently and relentlessly knock on the door of God’s heart through prayer ... demons flee and so do bad guys!  Ian ... prayer is more exciting and game-changing than super-heroes who leap buildings in a single bound or possess the power of x-ray vision.  Ian ... you really can change the world on your knees!”

Ian 5
Ian 5

“Ian ... you have the superpower of wisdom!  Wisdom is thinking like God thinks!  Wisdom is better than being best friends with Superman, Batman or Captain America!  When you ask God for wisdom, He transfers His great and powerful mental capabilities into your human brain and heart.  Wisdom will help you always win in life and will keep you away from dark and threatening places.  Buddy ... when you ask God for His wisdom ... you really can change the world in partnership with God!  Imagine that!”

“Ian ... the words that you speak hold the power of life and death!  The words that you choose to say to your mom and dad ... to your cousins ... to your friends ... to your teachers ... and to your Marmee and Pa ... can change their lives forever.  When you choose to say kind words to someone who is having a bad day ... their life is forever changed by you!  When you choose to encourage someone who is discouraged ... their life is changed instantly by you!  Ian, your words are powerful capsules of world-changing capacity, so only use your words as an instrument of peace and never as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ian 6
Ian 6

“Ian ... you hold in your heart the power of forgiveness which is one of the greatest superpowers known in all of recorded history.  When somebody is unkind to you, you can forgive them ... then love them ... then pray for them!  Wow!  That’s three superpowers all at once!  Forgiveness is eternally powerful because it is what Jesus did for you.  And, when you forgive someone who has hurt you, you are acting just like Jesus ... the greatest Hero of all time!  No bad buys or evil powers can stop you or destroy you when you choose to act like Jesus and forgive someone.

Ian 13
Ian 13

“Ian ... when you become best friends with Jesus Christ, nothing will be impossible for you!  You might not be able to leap buildings in a single bound or move faster than a speeding bullet ... but you will be able to do extraordinary exploits and go on exciting adventures with Him.  You will pray for people and they will be healed of sickness and disease!  You might follow Jesus, the Superhero of all Superheroes, to places like Africa, China or India!  Together you and Jesus can tell other boys and girls about the power that only He can give!”

“ So ... Ian ... my little boy who will soon grow up in the blink of an eye just like his daddy did ... you do indeed possess superpowers!  You can change the world because you belong to Jesus and He belongs to you.  And Ian, just let me tell you that I am waiting for it!  I am watching your life with grand anticipation because this Marmee knows ... I just know ... that you are one of the extraordinary superheroes who have been chosen at this moment in history to change the world.

Ian 11
Ian 11
Ian 3
Ian 3
Ian 2
Ian 2
Superheroes Blog pic 2
Superheroes Blog pic 2

So do it, Ian!  You have been given the superpowers of love ... prayer ... wisdom ... words that bring life ... forgiveness ... and the power of friendship with Jesus! So do it ... to infinity and beyond!!!!!!”

Superheroes Blog pic 1
Superheroes Blog pic 1
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He Sees

Be encouraged today that God sees your circumstances and your struggle...no matter how long you've suffered...Jesus is watching your life. You have His attention! Let His glory shine through you...

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When I Pray

Prayer blog pic 1
Prayer blog pic 1

Now He was telling them a parable to show them at all times they should pray and not lose heart.” - Luke 18:1

I long to be a prayer warrior.  I want to live in that influential place of heartfelt communication and sweet communion with God.

Prayer is the force that makes hell quiver in fear and causes heaven to stand to its feet with joyful applause.

I know it deep within my soul.

Nothing eternal is accomplished on earth without the power and focus of a saint who is committed to the discipline of prayer.

I know that I know that I know.

Prayer is the vehicle through which the greatest work of my life will be done.

I absolutely know it.

“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. - Mark 11:12

Why do I feel so bad at it then?  Time after time after time, I feel like a failure in the arena of prayer.

I long for my prayers to move mountains, to calm storms and to heal sick people.  I long for it day after endless day.

And yet ... day after day after day ... all I see is one mountain range after another.  And over all of my mountains, there always seems to be fierce and defiant storms brewing.

What is it with prayer and me?!  What is it with prayer and anybody?!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4: 6 & 7

I must tell you ... I refuse to give up.  I refuse to be paralyzed or crippled by what my eyes see.  I will pray when others give up. I will pray in spite of a quiet heaven.

I will pray.

I will pray when storms sneer and when mountains mock.

I will pray.

“Pray without ceasing.” -I Thessalonians 5:17

I defiantly refuse to believe that prayer is a waste of time.  I will set my resolve and pray on when nothing changes.

I will pray in the dark of night when the towering mountains minimize my value.

I will pray when the howl of life’s storms threaten to drown out the volume of my solitary and desperate prayer.

I will pray in the face of sickness and pain. I will beg for God’s sweet presence to heal and restore.

“ In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” -Romans 8:26 & 27

Prayer blog pic 2
Prayer blog pic 2

It’s all I have.  Prayer is all I have.  It’s the only power with any potential of making even a temporary difference.

I will wear out the carpet beside my bed with the pressure and insistence of 2 middle-aged knees whose resolve has been set.  Nothing will move me from the battle that takes place from this position.  Nothing.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” - Jeremiah 29:12

I will get up in the morning with worship in my heart and a prayer on my lips.

I will choose to pray rather than worry as I fold laundry, dash to the grocery store and answer e-mails.

I will lay my head down at night with the determination that any day is a magnificent day that has been given to prayer.

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” - II Thessalonians 1:1

My calling is to prayer.  It is my life’s work. God’s responsibility and response is to answer and to move.

When I pray, my desires are fulfilled in Him and not in the magical change of situations, circumstances or events.  When I pray there is a mighty work that is done in me ... it is a work of faith and power.

I will stand in faith and continue to believe for the miraculous change of situations, circumstances and events.  And while I stand, I will pray on.  It’s my calling, remember?

While my prayers may not change a situation, I now know that my prayers change me. 

When I pray, Jesus is glorified in me and I am glorified in Him.

When I pray, His grace is dispersed into my world.

I have learned that you don’t have to be “good” at prayer for prayer to be “good” in you.

I now know that in order to be good at prayer ... you just have to mean it.  And I do.

Pray then, in this way:

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, but delivers us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

Matthew 6:9-13

Prayer blog pic 3
Prayer blog pic 3
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On the Other Hand

No matter what you are going through or what your circumstances are...remember "on the other hand"!  Declare today - You are filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, with justice and with courage!

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Always & Never

Words and mothers.  Mothers and words. There are some words moms should never say ... and there are some words moms should always say.

Words hold such life-altering power and yet often moms like me carelessly speak with little consideration for long term impact.

Few mothers would throw a child’s entire wardrobe in the trash and yet that is what I have done to my child’s self-esteem when I have spoken in anger or in outrage.

Not many mothers would destroy a year’s supply of vitamins in response to a moment of childish forgetfulness yet that is what I have done to his or her future emotional health when my words have not fit the crime.

As a mother of 5 grown children, I have learned a lot about words over the years.  I have learned what to say .. and more importantly ... what not to say.

I would like to leave a deposit of “Never and Always” in the lives of all of my precious mom friends today.  You are the ones who are raising the next generation of dynamic people who will make an impact on the world.  These people will be a reflection of the words spoken into their lives when they were in their formative years.  Speak well, my friends.  Speak well.

HERE ARE THE WORDS THAT I BELIEVE YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY...

AND THEN THE WORDS THAT I  BELIEVE YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SAY.

—                               ♥                               —

Never say, “You drive me crazy!”

Remind yourself who is the parent and who is the child.  Never accuse your child of having a negative influence or power in your life.  Children are a blessing ... a rare and valuable gift ... from heaven’s bounty into your life.  Take responsibility for your own emotional turmoil and never blame it on your child.

There will be days when parenting pushes you to the brink of emotional stability but it is not the child who owns the power in the situation.  It is you, the mom, who owns the power to choose, to determine and to guide.  It is you, the mom, who owns the power to rely on God for emotional strength and lucidity.

Always say, “If God gave me a catalogue of all the little boys (girls) in the world, yours is the face I would have chosen.”

Acceptance, genuine approval and heartfelt love are among the three greatest gifts a parent can give to a child.  It is more important that your children hear you declare  words of affirmation and unconditional love than it is that you take them to Disney World, send them to private school, or buy them designer clothes.

In the Bible, God says that He is delighted with us and that He literally sings over us!  If God responds that way to us, as His children, I think that it is time that as parents we began to act and talk like God.

“As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all My delight.” - Psalm 16:3

            “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.  He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” - Zephaniah 3:17

 Never say, “I love you but I don’t like you very much right now.” 

As parents, regardless of how our child is acting, we must affirm our wholehearted acceptance of their personhood and value.  It’s one thing not to like what they are choosing to do ... it’s another thing altogether to verbalize the lie that you don’t like “them” in that moment.  In every moment of life, whether they are obedient or disobedient ... charming or frustrating ... sweet or acting obnoxious ... as a mother you must affirm the value that you have placed on who they are as human beings.

Always say, “You are the greatest gift I have ever been given.”

Children are great observers of people and situations; children hear what is not spoken and often don’t hear what is actually verbally rehearsed.  As your child sees you give your heart, time and attention to things and people other than him, your little one will begin to wonder where he or she lands on your list of priorities.

Let’s face it ... there are things that a mother needs to do that are going to often divert her attention away from the little lives under her care.  That is why it is imperative that often you remind your children of their value to you.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” - Luke 12:7

Never say, “I don’t want to be with you!”

To a child, being with mom and dad is the greatest gift imaginable.   Love is spelled T-I-M-E to the little ones under your feet.  Treasure every single moment you are given  with your child regardless of how they are acting.  Know that in these difficult moments of disobedience and embarrassment that you are called to disciple them to healthy behavior.  Change your emotional reaction to your child’s behavior with an unbreakable resolve that you will love them, train them and value them regardless of of how  they act or speak.

Always say, “You have been created by God for greatness at this moment in history.  You are a Daniel, a David, an Esther, a Ruth, a Peter, a Mary.  You have the fingerprint of God on your soul!”

Declare greatness and purpose over your children with the words that you speak.  When your children feel like a failure, let them know that their feelings do not tell the truth but that the Word of God is the source of all truth.

Dream big dreams with your children in every age and every stage of life.  Never belittle their desire to be an astronaut, play the piano at Carnegie Hall or discover the cure  for cancer.  Why not your child?!

Pray that God will lead your little man and your miniature lady into the grandness of His plan and design for their lives!

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord: plans for welfare and not for calamity; to give you a future and a hope.” - Jeremiah 29:11

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul                        knows it very well.” - Psalm 139:13 & 14

Never say, “I wish that I had never had you!”

Have any of you ever used these words?  I hope not ... but the reason that I have included them in my list is that I have heard many frustrated mothers in public places say these words, or words similar to them, in violent anger.  I have often wondered, if a mom says things like this in public, what does she say in private?  Destructive words such as these penetrate deeply into a child’s heart and do significant damage that may never be repaired.

Always say, “You are a good girl (boy)!”

One of my children was a very active, mischievous, independent 2 year old.  Every day when he woke up, I would tell him while he was still in his crib, “You are mama’s good boy!”  When we were out with other parents and children, rather than rehearse all that he had done wrong that day, I would always say so that he could hear me, “He is such a good little boy.”  When I was tucking him in at night, I would always remind him, “You are growing into such a good boy.”

If he was naughty, I disciplined him and talked to him about his behavior.  However, my daily and constant declaration over him was, “You are good.”  Heaven has placed the power of creation in our words and I was determined to raise a good boy.  And you know what?  He is a good man today because I declared over him the possibility and potential of goodness.

Our children will become whom they believe themselves to be.  Your words lay the foundation for the men and women they will grow into tomorrow.

            “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” - Proverbs 18:21

             “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” - Proverbs 23:7

Neversay, “Wait till your father gets home!” 

The arrival of daddy at the front door after a long day at work should not be dreaded but should be highly and enthusiastically anticipated.  Discipline should never wait until daddy gets home but should be taken care of swiftly and effectively at the time of infraction.  Daddy’s arrival at home should be the highlight of the day for everyone including mom, the children and the dad himself!  If there is an event or a behavior that dad needs to be made aware of, it should happen after dinner hour in a private and safe setting.

Always say, “I love you because you are mine.  There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you any less.  There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you any more.  I love you because you are mine.”

Don’t make the mistake of merely “thinking” about how much you love your children but verbalize it on a daily and hourly basis.  Saying it once a day is good but it is not enough.  Assure them of your love time after time after time.  Hour after hour after hour.

Look in their little eyes and tell them “I love you” when they are fresh from heaven and you are holding them in your arms for the very first time.

Kneel beside them when they are toddlers, hold their little faces in your hands and tell them, “I love you today and I love you forever.”

When they go off to school every morning, the last words they should hear as they dash off to catch the bus are, “Don’t ever forget that I love you more than words can say!”

And when they are difficult teenagers with minds of their own and try to ignore your involvement in their lives, say, “I love you and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.”

Write “I love you” in lipstick in the bathroom mirror when they are learning to read.

Place notes beside their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunch boxes that remind them, “I love you all day today!”

Hide notes under their pillows ... inside their tennis shoes ... and in their jacket pockets that say, “You are my treasure and I love you!”

Your perpetual and auditory proclamation of love will help your child navigate treacherous waters and horrific storms.  Declared love over a young person’s life fights demons of fear, self-destruction and doubt.  The love that you decree over your little ones is the fertilizer of the soul that will produce healthy young men and women who have the emotional and spiritual tools to change the world!

            “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” - Mark 10: 14 & 16

MOPS International is giving away a free one year membership! ($23.95 value)  MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is an incredible group that connects moms all over the world to a community of women, in their own neighborhoods, who meet together to laugh, cry and embrace the journey of motherhood.  We will announce the winner on October 2, 2013 on our facebook page, so be sure to "Like" the Carol McLeod, Bible Teacher and Author page! 

If you would like to enter to win this membership (you can give it to a sister/friend/daughter/etc) just send us your name & email address in the form below.  We would love to hear from you in the comment section!  Let us know your ideas for a future blog post!  (not required for MOPS membership give-away)  [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

Always & Never pic 1
Always & Never pic 1
Always & Never pic 2
Always & Never pic 2
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The Scrapbook of My Heart

time shadow
time shadow

Time ... where does it go? The most valuable commodity that we have been given as human beings is the gift of time: ... of minutes ... of hours ... of days.

It seems like only yesterday I was looking forward to my senior year of high school and now I am a grandmother.  When did that happen?!

When did I graduate from playing with Barbie dolls and practicing piano to being a wife ... and then a mother ... and now a grandmother?  When did that happen?!

When did my raucous, noisy, messy nest get so empty?  When did that happen ... tell me when.

It happened in a thousand yesterdays that are filled with the memories of cherished friendships ... bittersweet good-byes ... the echoes of laughter ... and the daily reminders of what is truly important in life.

The scrapbook of my heart is filled with a collage of moments too precious to verbalize and too valuable to calculate by earthly economic currency.

As I flip through the intangible pages of the days that have been given to me, I realize that some days were wasted with impatience and disappointment.  When the endowment of an ordinary day is shadowed by human frustration or disillusionment it becomes refuse and leaves a putrid odor rather than a glorious fragrance.

I have wasted time being angry at a person made in the image of God. I have thrown away days being depressed due to situations and events over which I had absolutely no control.  Who do I think I am?!

I have frittered away days spent in the worry of an unpredictable tragedy that never  actually happened and in the fear of the shadow ghosts of weakness.  What a colossal waste!

I have misused the treasure of an extraordinary day by spewing the venom of my heart on the lives of people whom I love dearly.  I am ashamed.

The untold wealth in this cherished peek into the past thankfully also holds the abundance of all that has been meaningful in my life.

I am amazed that I was given the delight of raising 5 little lives for the Kingdom of God!  After so many years of barrenness and infertility ... of standing in faith and begging God for more ... He opened the windows of heaven and blew joy in my direction.

I loved every minute of peanut butter and jelly kisses ... of paper dolls and birthday cakes ... of choo-choo trains and baseball games.  Those were the best days ... the days that mattered eternally ... the pieces of gold in my life.

little heart
little heart

Is there a gift this side of heaven so priceless as the moment when two little arms are wrapped around your neck ... or your legs ... or your heart?!  Career promotions, enormous retirement accounts and academic pedigree become tawdry and bargain basement exchanges for the heavenly inheritance of the living human beings given to our parental charge.

carol and mom
carol and mom
Carol Engagement pic
Carol Engagement pic

I have loved being best friends with my mom. How I wish that you could know her!  A woman of excellence and humor!  A woman who prays and believes and prays some more.  A woman who celebrates life with gusto and grace!

I loved falling in love with Craig and realizing that he was “the one”.  I’ll never forget our first kiss that came with a marriage proposal.  He has always been a man of honor ... a man whom I could trust ... and a man after God’s own heart.  What have I ever done to deserve this man whose heart is pure gold?

And then ... the gift of girlfriends.  Truly a fortune so rare and precious that it could fill the vaults of banks too numerous to count!

Time ... where does it go?  Oh!  How I want to live well the rest of the days that have been given to me by the calendar of heaven’s bounty.

There are days in the photo album of my mind and heart that are as yet blank ... unfilled.  They are waiting for memories ... for moments ... for people ... and for blessings.

It is up to me how I fill these quickly turning pages of life.  It is up to me whether the photos are taken in the brilliance of a technicolor and vibrant existence ... or from the only gray and black perspective of blame, discontent and frustration.

I determine to spend my days encouraging people and writing thank you notes.

I determine to invest the rest of my days believing for the best and not giving in to disillusionment or despair.  A very wise man once told me, “It’s more fun to believe!”

I determine to lavish in the laughter of children, to wade in the gift of extraordinary friends and to drown in the beauty of creation.

I determine to be kind to cantankerous and fractious people.  When I have been loving and generous in the face of personal cruelty and gossip, I have created a day that God Himself would applaud!

Life is too dear and much too fleeting to waste the glory of one ordinary day. I will not waste this life.  Not one day.  Not one hour.  Not one minute.

I will pray for miracles and I will also look for the opportunity to be someone else’s miracle.

Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 1
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 1

I now understand that tomorrow’s memories are being created today.  The choices and memories that I craft today will fill the pages of the scrapbook of my life in all the tomorrows yet to come.

Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 2
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 2
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 3
Scrapbook of my heart blog pic 3

And so, I resolve, this day, to splash extravagantly in the joy of His presence.  I resolve, this day, to be heaven’s gift to the world in which I have been placed for only a moment.

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In the Desert

I was reading my Bible the other day...and I'll be honest...I was really struggling. I was feeling tired and a little bit frustrated with some people and events in my life and I had come to to the Lord from a dry spot...

In the Desert pic 2
In the Desert pic 2
In the Desert pic 1
In the Desert pic 1
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The Light in the Hallway is Always On

school concept
school concept

I remember that late afternoon and evening so well ... My grandmother came over to see the outfits that we would be wearing to school the next day ... mine was a dark purple jumper with a violet blouse to go under it. I was most proud of my new shoes: they were plum patent leather with lighter purple grosgrain ribbon to be used as shoelaces.

Grandma exclaimed and oohed and aahed at all the right times and told us how proud she was of us. She said that she couldn’t wait to hear all about it and would be back tomorrow afternoon to get a full report.

After she left, we ate a hurried dinner of vegetables from our family garden.  There were fresh, ripe tomatoes marinating in oil and vinegar ... corn on the cob dripping with butter ... snapped green beans ... and a whole pot of summer squash that had been simmering in onions and green peppers for hours. During the bountiful month of August, we rarely had a piece of meat grace our dinner table due to the richness and abundance found in the soil of our backyard.

After dinner, I set to work sharpening #2 pencils and writing my name in 5 notebooks of different colors. I counted and recounted the spiral bound notebooks that we had purchased at the Big N. I couldn’t stand the thought of starting the first day of 7th grade ill-prepared.

My sister and I talked about who our homeroom teachers would be and what it would be like for me to start junior high school.  In those days of the late 1960’s, there were no backpacks but there were book bags in all sizes, shapes and fabrics.  My purple and gold paisley book bag, complete with a purple leather handle, felt light with only pencils and notebooks in it. I knew that before long it would be too heavy for me to lift over my shoulder.

Mom and Dad came in my room and prayed for me that night. They prayed that I would make good choices, that I would study hard and develop healthy friendships. They prayed that I would be a blessing to my teachers and to my friends.

As they each gently kissed me and walked out the door of my pink and white bedroom, they left the light in the hallway shining for me.  I couldn’t sleep. Where had the summer gone? Why couldn’t I return to the security of the elementary school? I wanted to go back to Mr. Werth’s classroom and sit between Patti and Ellen. I wanted to park at the lunchroom table with my familiar 6th grade class and know how to get to the library without following a map on the wall.

There was a circus of nauseous butterflies ricocheting off the walls of my stomach. I knew that I would never sleep ... or at least not sleep for very long that endless night. I didn’t know whether I was excited ... or needed to throw up.

A shudder went through my body from top to bottom. Tomorrow was the first day of school.

The first day of 7th grade was wonderful ... and so were the days that followed. I grew in ways that would never have happened in the safety of the elementary building.

I read books by Shakespeare, Alcott and Dickens. I learned about teachers who loved their students, teachers who tolerated their students and teachers who should get a job at McDonald’s. For the most part, I had life-changing teachers.

I learned two new languages: French and Latin. Parlez -vous francais? Veni ... Vedi ... Vici!

I learned that life is not always fair and that people are not always kind. I also began to understand that I was the only one who was in charge of my words and my reactions. I couldn’t blame my emotions on anyone but me.

I dissected worms and pigs. Yuck!

I learned about the danger of cliques and the value of life-time friends.

I traveled to the storming of the Bastille ... the shores of Normandy ... and survived the Dust Bowl.

I learned that people didn’t have to act like me or think like me to be my friend.

I played the oboe in the All-County Band ... won congresswoman of the year in Model Congress and played “Romance” by Sibelius at my high school graduation.

I survived.

In the years since that auspicious first day of the seventh grade, I have completed high school, graduated from college, homeschooled for 23 years, sent 5 kids to high school, watched all 5 of my children graduate from high school and then sent them to university 1,000’s of miles away.

What is it about the first day of school?

What is it about the first day of anything?!

The Light in the hallway is always on blog pic 1
The Light in the hallway is always on blog pic 1

What is it about change?

What is it about the years flying by with no way to hold them back?

Often, I still encounter that circus of nauseous butterflies ricocheting off the walls of my stomach.

When change comes and summers end, I often remind myself the lessons that I learned in my plum shoes with #2 pencils in hand.

Change is often the very best thing that can happen in an individual’s life.

There is invariably more to look forward to than there is to remember.

Family always makes everything easier.

The butterflies have no lasting power.

Prayer brings a comfort and a sweetness that nothing else does.

The light in the hallway is always on.

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Dear Next Generation of World Changing Girls

World Changers pic 1
World Changers pic 1

Dear Joy and Joni ... and Ashley and Jenna ... and Alyssa ... and Caroline ... and Tori and Olivia ... and Hayley, Rozy and  Jordan ... and ... Perhaps I should say it this way ... “Dear Next-Generation-of-World-Changing Girls ...

One of my favorite quotes is this, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  These words are attributed to Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision.

Have you ever thought about the things that break the heart of God?  I do ... I think about them almost daily.  Some days I actually weep wondering if I have participated in any actions or heart attitudes that my have broken His heart of unconditional love.

As I have watched the conversation and debate swirl over the performance of Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards, I have wondered if God’s heart was broken that night.

You, lovely ladies, all have grown up in the same decadent and promiscuous era as did Miley.  I believe that you are different from Miley ... and will continue to be different,  not because you would refuse to sing a promiscuous song on stage in a barely-there outfit with sexual and provocative gestures, but you are different because your passion has taken and will continue to take you to a different place.

You are the young women of this generation who are passionate about making a marked difference.

You are the young women of this generation who aren’t afraid of making hard choices.

You are the young women of this generation who refuse to be intimidated or swayed by the mediocrity and compromise of our culture.

You ARE the passionate and purpose-driven women of this generation!

Oh!  How I wish that your lives could impact the life of Miley Cyrus!

Oh!  How I wish that CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News were following your life stories ...

As I have watched the video of Miley’s performance, let me tell you why it broke my heart. ... and then we will get to God’s heart.

What broke my heart is that Miley was made for so much more!

Miley was made to be a woman of honor and to embrace world-changing goals.  Instead she has chosen to embrace the compromise of our culture.

Miley was made to be a show and tell of God’s extravagant and relentless love.  Instead she has chosen to show and tell things that were never made to be shown in the public.

Miley was made for joy and peace and excellence. Instead, Miley has chosen a life of hollow words, devastating and cruel addictions and a life of empty lies.

Miley was made for more ... and so are you.  The difference is that you know it ... and she doesn’t know it.  Has anyone ever told her?

Has anyone ever modeled to Miley a life of extraordinary commitment and a focus on that which is priceless rather than that which is cheap?

One thing that I always want you to remember is the difference between mere “platform” and world-changing “power”.

Miley Cyrus has platform but she lacks world-changing power.  Her face has been on every morning show this week, on every news website and she has been discussed on everyone’s blog.  Including mine.  Platform does not equal power.

World Changers pic 2
World Changers pic 2

Power happens when you willingly choose to give your life to the leadership and high calling of the Kingdom of God.  You are among the most powerful leaders of your generation when you choose to live for the “much more” that God has called you to.

Will it be hard?  Absolutely!

Will you fail at times?  Without a doubt!

But let me tell you right now that you are more than a body ... you are more than a cute figure ... you are more than your weight ... and you are more than your sexual longings.

God has called you to make a difference with your life at this moment in history.  He is looking for girls just like you who are passionate enough to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things.

He is looking for girls and young women who choose to live in a place of honor when their culture calls them to compromise.

He is looking for a generation of women who understand that sex is a beautiful gift too glorious for words when expressed within the covenant of marriage.

Why do I think that God’s heart was broken on Sunday night?

I think that His heart was broken because our culture has taken that which He created for beauty and has turned it into something tawdry and cheap.

I think that His heart was broken because we live in a generation that values platform over power.

I think that His heart was broken because Miley was created to make a resounding and eternal difference at her moment in history and she has settled for a life of tawdry and temporary pleasure rather than the eternal value of a life lived well.

I think that His heart was broken because God really does care ... He cares about how we live and the daily choices that we make.

He cares about the friends that we choose and the voices to which we listen.

He cares because you were made to exhibit the character of God.  You were created to imitate Him and all that He is and not to conform to the call of your culture.

The cry of my heart to your generation is that you will chose your role models well.  Look at the lives of Kari Jobe, Natalie Grant, Bethany Hamilton and Meredith Andrews.

bethany-hamilton-acm
bethany-hamilton-acm
meredith andrews
meredith andrews

Make a determined decision that you will honor God with choices great and small.

Honor Him in the clothes that you choose to wear.  Honor God in the songs that you sing.  Honor God in your relationships with young men.  Honor God with the words that you speak.  Honor God with the movies that you watch.  Honor God with whom you follow on Twitter and Instagram.  Honor God in how you treat your parents.  It matters.  It matters very, very much.

I can tell you this, my dear bevy of gorgeous, powerful girls, it pays to serve Jesus.  It pays to honor Him in every area of life.

If the world laughs at you, know that God is on your side and is cheering for you.  If your friends mock you, know that there is a crowd of raucous, enthusiastic and unseen heroes who are standing to their feet in a grand ovation of your life!

When you choose to be a young woman whose heart beats in sync with the heartbeat of God, you will never break His heart but you will become like Him.

I am praying for Miley, are you?

I am praying that she will understand the difference between platform and power.   I am praying that she will snuggle up into the presence of the God Who created her and hear His loving voice.  I am praying that Miley will know that she was made for more.  And so are you!

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I Surrender!

Sometimes, there is pain in surrendering your life to Jesus...but after the pain in surrender comes the joy in surrender.  When you give it all to Him, and obey His whisper, you'll experience His Joy!

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100TH BLOG POST! - A Note to the 12 Year Old Me...and You

100th post
100th post

This is my 100th blog! Who knew that my thoughts, opinions, feelings and prayers were significant enough to fill 100 blogs?! God knew ... He knows everything that is in my heart. I believe that He is actually in the process of going for the treasure in me and you ... after all ... He is the One Who put it there in the first place. In honor of my 100th blog ... I wanted to share something significant and impactful. I have pondered many possible topics ... a few inconsequential meanderings ... and several themes that you would quickly forget. And so ... this is where I have landed ... If I could talk to the 12 year old in you ... and in me ... this is what I wish someone would have told me when I was 12. I want to save you from some of my ridiculous mistakes and to challenge you to be more than you are.

And so ... to the 12 year old Carol ...

1 - It really is more important to be kind than to be pretty.  People will forget how you dressed for a certain occasion, what color eye shadow you wear and how often you get your hair cut. But they will never forget your heart. They will long remember and be impacted by your genuine kindness and friendship.

2 - Don’t date in high school ... it is a total waste of time. Focus on things in high school other than the opposite sex. Develop Godly relationships with other girls. Reach out to girls who are being bullied and be their friend. Go on missions trips. Teach Sunday School. But please don’t give your heart to a string of hormonally charged males who care more about how you look than who you are. Wait for the right man at the right time. He is worth the wait ... trust me ... I know.

3 - Practice the piano or take gymnastics lessons... Keep playing soccer and writing in your journal. Take ballet and learn to give speeches. So often when the teenage years and hormones hit, girls become distracted from their childhood dreams.  Don’t allow your dreams or the disciplines of your little girl years to become lost in the foolishness of parties, social media and dating.

4 - Keep in touch with your childhood and high school friends. That sweet Girl Scout song holds a lifetime of truth in it, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” There is absolutely nothing like going out for lunch with someone who has known you since you were 8 or 10 or 12.

5 - Hold your babies ... they grow up so quickly. Someday you really will meet the man of your dreams ... and you really will have babies together ... and you really will be a mom. When that day comes, remember that the bonding process that takes place during the newborn days is more valuable than a beautiful nursery, designer clothes or a full night’s sleep. Rock your babies ... sing to them ... hold them ... snuggle them ...pray over them. These really are the most precious moments of your entire life.

6 - Increase your vocabulary. Listen to the words that other people use and make a list of the words that are unfamiliar to you. Look up the meanings of the words and try to incorporate them into your daily speech. Sign up for “Word of the Day” from dictionary.com and challenge yourself to use that word in a conversation. There is nothing quite as captivating as a vocabulary that is not peppered with slang but is filled with the beauty of interesting words and enriching phrases.

7 - Don’t just read the twaddle of the day. Travel to England between the pages of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”. Experience other times and places through the magic of great literature. Go to the Civil War in “Gone with the Wind” and through the pages of “Little Women”. The passport of your mind is too valuable to stay merely in one country and in one time period. Linger over a cup of tea with Ruth Graham in her biography, “A Portrait of Ruth” and travel to China with Amy Carmichael in “God’s Missionary”.  The world is so much bigger than your little corner of it ... so envelop yourself in meaningful literature that will enlarge your capacity to dream. Trust me ... I know.

8 - Listen more than you talk.  Women have a horrible habit of talking more than listening. Don’t be that girl. Ask questions of others and then truly care about their answers. Don’t feel that you have to say everything you think, feel and believe but be someone else’s safe place.

9 - Don’t always drive on the interstate ... take back roads as often as you can.  Arriving at your chosen destination in the shortest possible time is not nearly as important as seeing the beauty along the way. Stop at an old bookstore ... buy lemonade from a child ... walk through an old cemetery and read the tombstones ... linger over a well-tended garden.

10 - Respect your parents in every season of life. Listen to their wisdom and never discount their input. You really don’t know better than your parents. The world and your peers will tell you to mock them, tolerate them, disobey them, ignore them and sass them. God calls girls from every generation and every historical juncture to honor them. I don’t think that you have a better idea than God.

11 - Please dress modestly. Please!! Your body is not a show and tell stage for the world to gawk at! Your body was not meant to be paraded for every boy to see what you have been given. Pieces of your underwear should never be easily seen under your shirt, skirt, or shorts. You may think that jeans with rips around your private areas are stylish ... they are not. They are seductive. You can be stylish without being sexy. I dare you! Try to do it! Be a young woman of virtue who refuses to cave into the culture. Have a backbone when it comes to how you dress ... be lovely and not lascivious. (This is a word that you are going to have to look up! See #6 and follow the instructions there! You can do it ... this is a word that you do not want used to describe you!)

12 - And please ... don’t gossip! Don’t be a drama queen! The circumstances and events that you are going through today will quickly pass. Pray your way through every situation and allow God to give you peace. When you talk about others ... let it always be in a kind and encouraging way. When others are gossiping ... think of something good to say about the victim of their verbal abuse. Your words hold power and with your words you either wound someone or encourage someone.  Who do you want to be?

13 - Remind yourself on a daily basis that it really does pay to serve God. He has better plans for you than you can even imagine.

14 - Choose Godly friends who dress modestly, obey their parents and refuse to gossip or be drama queens. Your life will be better for it.

15 - Read your Bible every day. Connect your soul to eternity through this one simple, yet life-altering, choice. You can never underestimate the power of reading a Psalm a day ... a Proverb a day ... or about the life of Jesus Christ every day. If you desire to be the very best version of “you” imaginable ... you will read your Bible.

There are days that I wish I could be 12 years old again and anchor myself to these solid principles that somehow alluded me the first time around. However, we all only get to do life one time. We all only have one chance to be 12 ... and 16 ... and 23 ... and 37 ... and 45 ... and 58. And so today I will hunker down once again into the important stuff in life and be the very best version of “me” possible. While my feet yet remain on the soil of planet earth, of worldly culture and of a civilization that touts compromise, I will maintain my focus on all that is glorious and eternal.

Happy 100th blog to me and to you! And to all of us ... who are no longer 12 ... let’s fill the rest of our days with all of our hearts set on that which is noble and pure.

“Finally, sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,  if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” - Philippians 4:8

100th post Girls Rule

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Dream Big

Do you have a dream you've put on hold?  It's time to dream again!  It's time to pray big prayers again!  You will NEVER be able to outdream God!

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