Be a Bad Superhero (Or Something Else Unexpected)

Originally posted March 6, 2014
For years I have chronicled Maddie May’s wacked out style on Facebook to the amusement of my friends and family.  I laugh and let her dress herself because she is just a little version of me.  You see I went to private school where I wore this:
Every stinking day.  To say that I hated it is the understatement of the century.  (In an unrelated bit of irony I am looking at putting my kids in private school where they will wear – gasp – uniforms.  Trust me, the irony is not lost on mom.)  Maddie May gets her style honestly because from the time I could have an opinion, I wanted to make sure I had the stamp of my own style.  My mom called me Punky Brewster(because it was the 80’s) and because Punky’s crazy combinations had nothing on my need to accessorize.  I wondered why my parents would not allow me to cut (and dye) my hair like Cindy Lauperand why they felt the need to TORTURE me with the wretched plaid jumper and the nemesis of my childhood, those blessed knee socks.Maddie May is undoubtedly her own person, she dances to a different beat, cares not what others think of her style, and more than anything wants to be something you just don’t expect.  Yesterday, she lived that out in a way that I just can’t quit laughing about.  Her outfit posts on FB are legendary among my friends.  Here are a few of my favorites:

So what happened yesterday?  It is Dr. Seuss week and Wacky Wednesday at school.  A day to throw together all of your craziest patterns, mismatched socks, shoes, crazy layers, whatever you got.  What did Maddie May wear?  A gray and black tee shirt with black leggings and some boots.  When I asked why she didn’t want to be wacky…“I don’t like to be wacky; I just like to be me.” Touché Maddie May.

Oh to be as wise as a 4 year old.  What if we could stop trying to do and be what everyone expects of us and just BE WHO GOD CREATED US TO BE?  I challenge you all to do something unexpected today, to act in a way that catches someone off guard.  Not because you are trying to be wacky, but because you are trying to be who you were created to be.

Casey
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Reflecting on the Path

So have I really made any progress on this path?

Nearly 5 months ago, I sat here and typed out the words that were flooding my thoughts.  I declared to the world (or at least the 5 people who read that day) that I was making a change to my life and here, on the pages of this blog I would chronical the journey.  God was calling me to share my story through 3 things.

Create. Relate, Share Jesus

That was the filter through which I would run all new ideas, all plans.  I felt confident that I had found something useful to guide me on my journey back to a life of purpose, a tool that would make the searching and the weighing and the questioning easier.  It has.  And at the same time it has not.

cre·ate  [kree-eyt]  verb 
1.to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that  is not made by ordinary processes.
2. to evolve from one’s own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.1

I assumed that create for me would mean visual arts.  I have always loved painting, drawing, clay and color; and in many ways create has been all of those things.  But create also became about words.  I began to recognize the stories in my heart that I longed to tell.  They fill my mind and I find myself constantly looking for a scrap of paper to scribble down an idea so I don’t lose it.  Creating became less about something to look at and more about a way of expressing emotion.  I’m still not writing those stories but I think I am getting closer to feeling brave enough to try.

God’s whispering of CLAY over months and months came to fruition and I started my small ceramic handprint business.  I started over when the pain of failing in a past business was still very real.  I have a few creative outlets but I still feel trapped some days.  I have a brand new easel that I have not had the courage to take out of its box and a stack of blank canvases waiting to become something beautiful.
I’m still trying to work out what I am supposed to create instead of allowing myself to be used as part of the creation.  
I am still getting in my own way but have experienced a healing that comes from moving in the right direction.
re·late  [ri-leyt] verb
to establish a social or sympathetic relationship with a person or thing1

If there has been one area that I needed work the most this was; and still is it.  I’m a strange kind of social person.  I love conversations, but just the real ones that draw you deep into relationships that can’t happen over chit chat and gossip.  I am practically incapable of surfacy talk – it is just incredibly uncomfortable for me.  I am more likely to get into some deep soul baring discussion with a perfect stranger than to talk about traffic on 31 with another parent at a basketball game.  I am all in or nothing it seems.  But I know that is not the way the game works.  Most people are not going to that soul baring place where real life happens if we don’t get through some obligatory “your shirt is so cute” conversatons to break the ice.

I am trying, glory I am trying.  When I go to basketball practice for the team of which I know NO PARENTS AT ALL, I want to just sit there and read a book.  I want to just read because otherwise I am going to either have to chit chat or make someone really uncomfortable when I ask them if all is well with their soul that day.  I’m just not good at the gray area there in the middle where the rest of the population is comfortable.

So I have started saying “yes” to new friendships, even those that start slow.  I said “yes” when God called me out with a coffee tweet from a perfect stranger who 4 months later I consider an absolute God-send into my life.  I’m still investing in the real relationships I already have as I invited women into my home for the If:Gathering where we shared our dreams and fears with one another.  I put my Nook down and jumped in on the conversation with the other moms at basketball practice last week, and I have started just smiling more at strangers instead of avoiding conversation in order to avoid the chit chat,  Who knows how many relationships I have missed because I didn’t take the time to just smile and let the chit chat happen.

PSA – I still hate the surfacy talk, so if we are going to be friends you have to promise me that we can move past this stage pretty quickly because I can just breathe better in a place where we are being real with one another.

Share [shair] verb 
to give others access to
Je·sus  [jee-zuh s, -zuh z] noun
the supreme example of God’s nature expressed through human beings

Is this what I am doing?  Am I doing it every day and in every way possible?  The desire of our heart is not always played out in our actions and in this I fall unbelievably short.  I am working on it but have so far to go.  Scripture tells us:
But encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb 3:13)

Isn’t that really what it means to share Jesus.  Whether sharing through scripture, prayer, a cup of coffee, or service; to share Jesus is to encourage others.  The lies that we tell ourselves about our value, our dreams, & our worth come from the enemy.  Those lies will deceive us and it is only through the hope of Jesus that we can overcome them.  I think that is what sharing my story is really about.  It is a story of hope, hope that I could not see when I was struggling and depressed.  My neighbor Jodie showed me Jesus in that dark time and for that I will always be grateful.  Friends have been encouraging me to put myself out there to speak to women and girls and with my hands shaking I sent a message to someone coordinating a women’s conference in town.  And he responded – not with the “Oh, isn’t that cute” response I expected, but with encouragement that he was passing my website along to his partner.  Sharing Jesus through sharing my story feels right – terrifying but right.

I still get it all wrong alot (most) of the time, but atleast now I know I am getting it wrong with a right heart.  God knows my intentions and is quick to show me when I’m working for my own glory and not his.  I’m still prideful, too concerned with appearance (though you would not know it by my outfit today), and terribly consumed with my own comfort.  But He continues to transform me every day.  Tomorrow begins Lent and I have some serious areas to focus on with God’s help.  I pray that by Easter I am further into this journey, and no longer struggling with the same things holding me back today.  I pray the same thing for you.

Casey
1) Definition from dictionary.com

Lies, Truth, and Your People

Originally posted February 8, 2014

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
Mercy this is long.  Y’all bear with me.  I promise I have a point.

It is just like Satan to take a person you admire, your favorite author, a sister in Christ and use her words to cut you and diminish your kingdom work.  I am a part of the IF:Gathering because God told me to be.  I found IF:Gathering because I was supposed to.

Little more than 6 years ago I bought my first bible study book, it was Girl Talk by Jen Hatmaker and it was the first time I felt like maybe I could actually walk this Christian walk without feeling completely out of place.  Reading her words made me feel (a little) less weird because she was also someone who was absolutely imperfect but still following Jesus.  It’s funny because I had to find her at that time, in my new walk with Christ where I was just dipping my toe into the water to determine if I was really going to be all in or just kind of keep my Jesus to myself. Because her language in that book was kind of easy for me to digest.  It stretched me just the little bit that I was ready for because I was not living life for Jesus at all.  If I had first stumbled upon her as Jen Hatmaker, author of 7 or Interrupted, I would have never made it through the first chapter.  I would not have been ready.  Over the next few years I read a few more of her early books.  I devoured Out of the Spin Cycle because I was in a season that felt like a tilt-a-whirl.  I was up, I was down, I felt pulled and pushed and altogether in a tailspin.  Then years went by without reading anything else Jen.  I call her Jen as if we are friends.

I don’t usually remember who wrote the books I love.  I will want to share a book love with a friend and I can remember the title but not the author.  Strangely though, I remembered who wrote that first bible study book I read… and then the next 3.

Fast forward to fall of 2013.  We have moved to Tennessee and I have a deep stirring in my heart that God has placed us here for a specific reason and that I am supposed to be doing something BIG.  I walk through my days in tension constantly wondering WHAT it is and WHY I am here.  I miss youth ministry but haven’t plugged into it here.  My heart is burdened for young women and those who are missing out on the absolute GIFT that is knowing Jesus.  I wonder constantly how I can be used to GIVE people Jesus sooner in their lives than I found Him.  And I hear Him, I hear God tell me clearly over and over that I am supposed to be telling my story.  I have no idea what that means, or how that plays out.  So I’m stubbornly not doing it.

One night after couples group, a friend who is a producer looks at me and says, “Do you know who Jen Hatmaker is?”  It was like my heart lit up.  I said, “Oh my goodness yes.  She wrote the first bible study book I ever bought. I love her.”

“Cool,” he says, “Because I got to spend some time in her home for a time filming and you totally remind me of her; your mannerisms, how you speak.”

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR YOU MADE MY NIGHT… To be told that you remind someone of a person you admire?  I thought, hmm, I love her words, but I have never even seen her speak.  I should check her out online.  You see was not really a blogger at that time.  I sporadically wrote things and rarely read blogs.  I was a book reader, not really a blog reader.

So I looked her up.  And her words and her message made me read 7. And she changed me more (because at this point I was a bit more prepared for that kind of radical challenging). And since I was now a person who read blogs,  I read this about the IF:Gathering.  And my heart began to pound.  And I started talking about this thing that I didn’t even really understand.  And I drove my husband and my friends CRAZY with all of my excitement.  But I knew in my heart we didn’t have the money for me to go to Austin for this conference.

But God knows and loves the desires of our hearts.  So one day, I read this.

So now there is not just IF:Austin, there is a gathering of women around our world and I knew God was telling me I was going to gather my people too.  But I didn’t.  Because that is STILL what I do.  I still do not fall on my face every day begging him to allow me to walk in His will – and then actually do it.  I was not gathering my people, I was not acting on His call until last week, when He pressed on me over and over and over and He refuted every single excuse I made until I finally said OK.  I am going to be a local host.  I am going to invite my friends into my home and pray that they come.  And God is going to move.

And they came, and HE MOVED.

Christine Caine told us yesterday that wilderness is not freedom it is just deliverance.  I have been in wilderness for years.  He delivered me from so many things that were trapping me, but I have not been free because I have not been obedient to keep moving out of the stinking wilderness.  Christine also taught us that we absolutely have to put aside the weight of opinion and entitlement.  Good heavens I have such selfish entitlement to live comfortably, to get all of my things done, to make sure I please all of the people.  I have not been performing for and audience of one as Ann Voskamp so eloquently described.

Last night I admitted to my husband that I’m not being obedient because I think I know what God is telling me to do.  When I look at the women in leadership at the conference I know deep in my soul that THAT is the thing I want to do.  I am supposed to speak, I am supposed to teach. My heart needs to share this Jesus that I love and the Jesus who loves the mess that is me.  I need to give him to teenage girls and young women who are lost and unaware that He is literally walking right beside them.   And as soon as it was out of my mouth I thought WHAT ON EARTH?  I figured he would smile his supportive smile and say well maybe you will.  Instead, he said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all.  Of course you feel that way.  I have told you over and over I know He wants you to do something big.”  Blessed man.

So now it was out there.  But just out there in the safety of my kitchen with my husband.

And today, in the small group questions, I get these two:
What makes your heart race?
What is God calling you to risk?

So I had to talk about it.  I had to tell my girls, “I am sorry but you decided to be here and you are about to hear my secret desire of my heart, and that makes you my people.  I should have disclosed it before but you are here and now you are stuck.  Hope you don’t laugh at me because I dream a little too big.”

But they didn’t laugh, and some of their stories and heart desires so beautifully complimented mine, and I spent the next few hours still a little whirly in my heart but thinking MAYBE God really is going to use me for this.  Because WHO, if not us, would carry this message from the gathering to the young women, so that in 20 years they are not sitting in the same living rooms wrestling with the exact same problems.  We kept laughing and saying as Christine Caine did, we need to “Get a New Problem”.  I believe the problems of the next generation can be more about actual kingdom work and less about having to deal with the nonsense that we create with all of our division, and drama, and belief of lies of the enemy.

I felt a little inspired.  I was excited to hear Jen speak.  I knew hearing her would move me, inspire me a little more, after all, she inspired me to gather with my people.  So of course Satan stepped in shouted at me the same trash I throw at myself all the time. As Jen’s talk flowed and challenged, and inspired, and convicted us, my mind was assaulted with accusations.

Who do you think you are?

SHE is doing real kingdom work.  Your passion is too small.

Teenage girls?  How hard is that?

Jen is talking about greater things… you are not up for greater.

Your burden is too easy.  Sure your heart breaks for them and for their future,
but they aren’t literally hungry for food.

Your burden is not big enough to worry about.  Real Jesus servants feed the
hungry and adopt   orphans.  You heard Jen.  Stop blessing the blessed and
thinking you have done something.

How can you equip the next generation to be world changers if you are not one
yourself? What have you even done that matters?

Teach it or Do it?

You are NOT qualified for anything like this.

My heart hurt, I ached, because I was listening to these lies and actually considering allowing them to paralyze me again.

Until I told my people. 

These women who God has literally woven into my life for a reason looked at me and asked of me the darn same questions I posed to our group last night.

If not NOW, When? If not YOU, Who? If not With God, How?

Truth.

I know it, I believe it.  I am getting a new freakin problem.  I refuse to allow past failures to keep me bound to this spot.  If God says move I am going to move.  If Jennie Allen’s dream became the IF:Gathering, my dream can be something real too, because if He called me, He will equip me.

“You must believe the truths of God’s word over the facts of your circumstances.” -Christine Caine

God used Jen Hatmaker to introduce me to bible study.  God used my friend Kyle to send me back to Jen Hatmaker so I would find about the IF:Gathering. Satan will not use Jen Hatmaker to diminish the kingdom work God has planned for me.  Knowing her heart through all she teaches, I am positive she would not allow him to use her for that so I will not allow it either.  If God has placed something on your heart, don’t keep it inside.  Tell your people, allow them to hear you, to feel your burdens. Then believe them when they remind you God does not call only those who are already equipped. He will equip the called.

Casey

Write – Five Minute Friday

Originally posted on February 6, 2014

Inspired by Lisa-Jo Baker’s 5 Minute Friday prompt “WRITE”.

5 minutes, just write.  No over correcting or proofing, just write.

Sometime last year, in the chaos of a huge move, in the tininess of our apartment, in the sadness in my heart, I thought I heard God.  It made no sense at first because I felt like he was telling me that I need to tell my story.

I argued with God, because that is what I do.

I argued that I could not tell the story because it does not feel complete.  He took my life from a mess to less of a mess but I still have so far to go.

Then it hit me.  The story cannot be complete until I begin to tell it.  There are still chapters He is writing that I have not yet exprienced that involve the people he has waiting to be placed in my path.

So I started writing.  I am not a writer.  But I love to write.

And suddenly on the most chaotic days, when kids are messy, laundry is in a pile on my kitchen table, and I feel like I am a mess, I realize that when I stop to write, whether about nothing or about everything I feel like I am me.  I am where I am supposed to be.

7 Year Old Photographer

Originally posted November 6, 2013
There is not much I love more than watching my kids discover someting new that they love doing.  Will is my super sporty kid who sleeps with a ball and is happiest with baseball dirt stained knees competing in some sort of game.  But he is so much more than an athlete, he has a kind heart and a love for art and creating beautiful things.
Today, as I was sanding hand and footprints, I thought it would be nice to have some pictures of the process to share what goes into each step of getting from wet clay to a finished print so I asked him to grab my camera and just start shooting.  8 years ago, the owner of a camera shop in Charlotte came into my store and said, “Nikon has a new camera they want to get into the hands of moms & they were wondering if they could give you one.  In exchange, they just want you to let us print the pics you take and blow them up for you to display in your store.  And talk to people about how easy it is to use.  Are you interested?”  Um, yes?!?  That camera (it is a Nikon D50) became one of my most prized posessions because I knew that I would never in a million years spend the money to buy something that cost that much (since I know zero about photography) and it took (and still takes) amazing pictures.  The fact that I can hand it to a 7 year old and get images this clear is just incredible to me.  I know there are a million newer, fancier cameras on the market but I just love mine and hope it keeps taking good pictures in spite of my sad lack of knowledge on how to properly use it.
But, the whole reason I am typing this post has nothing to do with Nikon or the camera, but has everything to do with how much I loved seeing the pride in my son who was happy with the pictures he was capturing.  He would stop and show me how cool he thought the light was on one or the other.  I know this is not professional quality, but for the pride he felt it might as well have been.  I want to raise smart, kind, funny, caring little people who grow up to be passionate about many things.  I want a kid who is just as comfortable in a baseball uniform as he is in an art class.  I want more than just well rounded, I want to raise complete people who know that beauty is everywhere if you will just open your eyes to look for it.  I loved seeing him discover something new today and to see him beam when he realized I not only trusted him to do it on his own but that I was plannig to use the images on my website.  It gave him a burst of confidence (of which he needs none since he is a self-proclaimed expert in all things much like his mama).  He loved knowing that I wanted him to do it, without my help.

He is naturally an athlete and naturally a creative, what else could he possibly with Jeff and I as his parents.  I want to make sure we feed both of those gifts so that he can grow up to be the complete version of Will that God created him to be. You can see all of the images on my facebook Casey Printspage

Starting Again

Originally posted November 1, 2013

FinishedSamples 035 (2) Tomorrow is the day I am starting again.  I have been through launching a business before, I have hoped and wished and worked my tail off to get something off the ground.  But this time it is different.  This time I started with prayer instead of a loan.  This time I waited until I was sure this was the direction I was being led instead of jumping in with both feet without so much as consulting the God who I hoped had my back as I buried myself under debt in the name of “That is how everyone starts a business”.  This time I’m not scared because I am not afraid of failing.  I am not afraid of failure because a dear friend pointed out to me recently that my obsession with not wanting to fail and my inability to let go of past failures is nothing but sinful pride.  Or as she put it, “What the heck is wrong with you princess?  Jesus is the only perfect person and you are not him.”

In other words, get the heck over yourself.

So I did.  So I am.  So I am really really trying, every day. I am doing something that I love.  I am doing something that fits neatly in my requirement boxes of create, relate, and share Jesus.  And oh yeah, God has made it hilariously obvious that CLAY is what I am supposed to be doing.  A few weeks ago our discipleship pastor spoke so deeply to my soul that I admitted I was allowing fear of failure to keep me sitting in my house, working behind a computer at a safe secure job. Satan was using that fear to shut me up even though I have known for a while that I need to share my story, that I should be pouring into the lives of others, not sitting behind a computer writing reports.  The job was a blessing while I needed to work from home, but I was allowing that blessing to keep me quiet.

So tomorrow starts a new chapter in my life.  A chapter where I will hold tiny baby hands and feet in my hands and pray over each little finger and toe as I take their impressions.  I will get to look into the eyes of a tired, confused, overwhelmed new mama who just needs to hear that these days will pass and it is ok to not feel like cherishing literally each and every moment.  I will get to share the love I have experienced and the redemption my life has been through all because I finally started paying attention to the blessings God wanted to pour into my life.

I will CREATE beautiful keepsakes that moms and dads and grandparents will cherish.

I will RELATE to the moms and dads who are in that whirlwind of life where babies rule all things and you just want a few hours of sleep. And I will relate to the ones trying to capture those last moments of childhood before their son’s or daughter’s hand surpasses their own.

I will SHARE JESUS.  Whether it is simply by praying for each and every little one I capture prints for or sharing my story.  Whether someone needs to know they are loved or feels like God has left them.  I get to share what I know to be true, that they are loved every day.

I am excited and anxious.  I can’t wait to see what happens in this next phase of my life.  I am ready for the ups and downs of running a business.  I am ready for the messy house and unfed kids and husband because I was too busy to go to the grocery store – ready because they love and support me and will laugh with me when I tell them we literally have no food in the house.  I am going to do my best to have balance, to not stay up too late too many nights in a row.  I am ready and excited because I have an amazingly supportive husband who loves me with all he has, kids who can’t wait to see me follow my passion, and friends and family excited to cheer me on.  I have a God who loves me and who has planned my steps & will be there with me each and every one I take.   Tomorrow I am starting again.

FinishedSamples 003 (2)

Finding Me

Originally posted October 15, 2013

I feel the need to begin my blog with a disclaimer.  I am not a writer by design.  In fact, I thought I would literally die of boredom in school anytime the teacher began to talk about diagramming sentences.  Any lecture that included the terms subject-verb agreement, predicate or past perfect sounded to me exactly like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  Wa Wa Wa Wa Wa Wa.   Quite honestly I just could not make myself care. That being said, I will do my best to not make glaring errors and promise to use the beloved gift that is spell check.  So for all of you self-proclaimed internet grammar police, you are welcome.  No need to suffer sleepless nights worrying about my English language butchering soul.  No need to point out my mistakes, poor sentence structure, or use of non-words.  Really, just let it go because even as an adult and with all of my perfectionist tendencies, I still just cannot care.

Now, to the important stuff… what this the purpose of this blog?  Well, that is still up for discussion because I am not sure where I am going or why.  I am just trying to be obedient.  God tells you to share your story, you share your story.  I doubt it is just to entertain because I am not all that entertaining (unless of course I just tell stories about the other terribly funny and entertaining people in my life).  I’m not sure it is to teach, because I’m not sure what I am equipped to teach other than Bible studies to teenage girls, preschoolers to use the bathroom, and adolescent boys to not maim one another.  I am not a Bible scholar but I am fanatical about reading it and trying to apply it to my life.  I am not a perfect parent but I am passionate about leading my children to be kind people who know Jesus.  My story is one of beautiful redemptive grace where God met me in my mess and pulled me out of it.  I am still a mess many days and still need that grace to overcome my humanness every day.  Maybe telling my story is just that, telling it.  Perhaps someone will read something that encourages them to push through, make a change, or ask for help.  Maybe writing it is what needs to happen to complete this chapter.  I have been reluctant to step forward with this because I just don’t feel like God is finished with this chapter.  I am finally seeing that maybe it can’t be finished it if I’m not following instructions.  That maybe the telling of the story is the lesson, the important ingredient that will help it to all make sense.

I don’t really know where to begin so the stories are likely to bounce around a bit.  I realized a few weeks ago that my passion, my plan to move forward, would revolve around 3 things.
Create. Relate. Share Jesus.  
Those are the areas I am focusing on, those are the areas I am going to write about.  I spent the first 18 years planning to be an artist and the next 18 years not being one.  I went from being an artist people-pleaser filled with joy to a harried business woman who wanted to be all things to all people and was doing none of them well.  I abandoned my dreams for a different plan for a future and lost myself along the way.  So much has happened in the past 18 years and I know that finding myself is not as easy as returning to my “old self”.  I am not the same person I was.  I have grown, learned, lost, and been transformed.  I’m excited to discover what I am walking toward, to see what this great plan is for my life.  As long as I am walking bravely forward, modeling obedience to my children, and honoring God and Jeff I’m good.

Casey