Freaking Cancer

Originally posted March 7, 2014

My girlfriend Ashli’s mama is lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life.  Just a month ago she went into the hospital with no idea how life was about to change.  Full of life, gorgeous, extravagant Rosie was told she had stage 4 lung cancer.  Inoperable. Untreatable unless she gets her strength up.

Cancer freaking sucks.

I lost my aunt to cancer last spring.  My other aunt is a survivor 2 times over.  My dad & sister-in-law both survived melanoma.  My mother-in-law is a survivor and one of my best friends just finished her last radiation treatment on Monday.  So when I say cancer sucks I mean it with every fiber of my body.  It sucks because it takes life not just of those with the evil cells, but also of those who have to sit and watch the ones they love suffer.

Rosie has lived a life bigger and more fabulous than most and I literally cannot even picture her sitting in a hospital room – I’m not sure if I have ever even seen her gorgeous face not done up & her beautiful blonde hair perfectly styled.  She is like a Hollywood starlet – only way cooler and with the sassiest kind heart you can imagine.

Cancer sucks but it does not always win.

I have many people in my life that are living proof and today I am not going to let fear tell me this is over for Rosie and her girls.  I believe with all of my heart that when we pray, we are to pray that God’s will be done because goodness knows He knows the plans he has for our lives, to prosper and not harm us (Jeremiah 29:11).  But we are only able to ask for what we know to be possible, ask him for things that we can understand and grasp.  As much as I know it is right to pray for His will only, when my friend’s mama is dying all I want to do is ask for a miracle.

So God, I beg of you, if it is your will that Rosie stays with us on this earth a little longer, let your holy spirit tell her to FIGHT.  She is tough, she can overcome any obstacle if you are with her but she can’t give up.  If this miracle is not a part of your plan, then I beg of you to surround her with comfort, carry her girls through this time and forgive us all when we ask why.  For we only understand the things of man.  The idea of a lifetime without a mama is what we can comprehend even though through your eyes you see a blink of time on Earth and eternity together in heaven.  Be with my friends, speak to Rosie, and give everyone the strength to look to tomorrow.

I love you Ash, Rosie, Morgan, and Brookie

Casey
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To Give up or to Take Up

Originally posted March 5, 2014

“So what are you giving up for Lent?”

It is the question of the day online and in many Christian communities yet so many people, even Christians don’t really know what Lent is about or WHY we give things up.  I spent my whole childhood in church but it wasn’t until I was an adult that participating in Lent ever even occurred to me.  I remember a girl coming into my store just 10 years ago and I thought she had dirt on her forehead.  It had not even occurred to me that it was Ash Wednesday; it just was not something I paid attention to.  When I finally began to intentionally work on my faith and become an intentional Christian I discovered what a gift Lent is.

For those of you (like I was) who only have a general idea of what Lent is, let me give you the pocket guide… Plain and simple, Lent is a time of preparation.  Just like you prepare the soil before you plant a garden, prepare your home for a new baby, or prepare yourself for an interview Lent is a time to prepare our souls for receiving again and again the gift of Jesus.  Because we are human and sinful and if you are anything like me a mess much of the time, we need to push pause from time to time on areas of our lives that are keeping us from God.  For some it is media, others spending, for some an activity.  Whatever the vice that keeps your focus away from God, Lent is a time to step away from it and fill that space with HIM.  If you would normally play on Facebook for an hour at night before bed, instead you could spend that hour studying scripture, in prayer, or serving others in whatever way God leads you.

Many people choose fasting as a spiritual exercise during Lent.  If you love chocolate, or diet Pepsi, or cookies (I’m looking at you Jeff Prince), fasting from what you love means an opportunity to look to Jesus every time you think about eating (or drinking) that thing you love.  Because of the common act of fasting during Lent it has become pretty mainstream to use Lent as an opportunity to give up a vice; even non-believers are now known to take part in the giving up side of Lent.

But what if it is not about giving up for you; what if it is about taking up?  What if God is preparing you for the coming of Jesus by asking you to take on something new for 40 days (or beyond)?  Perhaps you have been meaning to become healthier, read more, or serve more in your community.  Perhaps you have felt a conviction to speak with your husband, wife, or children with more tenderness.  What if you knew you needed to be healthier but also wanted more prayer time in your life, you could take up walking, or running, or swimming and spend that time in prayer and listening for God while also getting exercise.  Two years ago I felt God telling me to focus on patience during Lent.  Little did I know that 6 days later Jeff would stumble upon a job opening with Dave Ramsey and we would be faced with the longest year of our lives in terms of waiting and wondering and having to be patient.

If you are listening, God will direct you to what you should give up or take up.

While it is always good to give up something unhealthy or take up something healthy, it can be even better when there is a greater purpose involved.  If you have always given something up but never filled the empty space with God; why not try it this year?  If you are not a believer, why not just commit to taking time for meditation?  If God is not real, then you will just have some good quality quiet time to center yourself.  But if He is… offering that space for Him to move could (and I suspect will) change your life.  There are some incredible Advent devotionals; Ann Voskamp’s comes to mind first.  Choose one to follow, involve your family, your kids and make room in your lives and hearts for transformation.  Remember, it not just about GIVING SOMETHING UP.  It is about what you fill that space with that will make the difference.

So what is God preparing you for this Lenten season?  Will you give up or take up?  I can’t wait to hear what God is challenging you to do.

Books I’m Loving Right Now

February 24, 2014

I love to read.  Love. Love. Love to read.

But alas, life with little people and silly responsibilities like pesky house cleaning, and driving kids to and from school as well as that other important one, my job, leave me little time to devour books the way I would like.  I want to start sharing what I am reading in hopes that I can ignite someone else’s love of words or just help you find an encouraging word in the pages of someone else’s story.

Since Christmas day, I have only finished reading 2 books (seriously sad considering I have started 5).  I just started a new book today and already have my sights set on some new books for March.  In addition to these I’m also reading Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls aloud to the kids at night and they love it!

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann
This is a powerful story that left me speechless for a little while.  It took some time to process before I could talk to Jeff about how it impacted me.  It encouraged me.  It fills my heart with the truth that serving others matters and that being successful does not have to be a winning at all costs plan.

Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and Soul by Jennie Allen
I’m still working on this one!  It is a good read and Jennie’s voice is so honest.  I got so caught up in the If:Gathering that I forgot to finish.  Writing this post reminded me I need to finish it today.  Her willingness to do anything for God is an absolute light in a world of selfishness.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Is it bad to admit I was putting off reading this?  I remember hearing some time back that one of the books that messed with Jen while her life was being interrupted was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I literally QUIT READING Shane’s book because it was making me so uncomfortable.  It is phenomenal – I was just not ready to face the truths and realities he was sharing in his story.  So the idea of reading Interrupted worried me, I knew it would make me really think about my own life and missional calling.  I’m glad I waited to read it.  I’m still not sure how exactly to process what it brought out in me.  If you are ready to peel many layers away from the church you are used to and look at life as a called follower of Christ then jump in.  This book can open you up to MAJOR God led transformation of your life  and in turn the lives of many.

Restless by Jennie Allen
Tonight starts a live online book study and I cannot wait to dive into this one.  Jennie is the founder of theIf:Gathering and a mom and a dreamer and someone I would just love to sit and have coffee with because her big dreams just make me feel so normal!  She has a voice that needs to be heard by women all over the world and I’m excited to be a part of this study.

Hope some of these suggestions will speak to your hearts!  I would love to know what you are reading!  Leave book or blog suggestions in the comments!

Casey

O My Soul

Originally posted on February 7, 2014

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.Many years ago, in a week that felt too heavy, a friend sent me a card with nothing more than these words written inside,

“Psalm 116 verse 7 has always given me comfort.  I wanted to share it with you.”

I opened my Bible and read what would become such a comfort over so many days.  It is the prayer I immediately turn to when my soul feels unsettled.  When things are hard or life feels heavy, I read it, or I pray it, or I just soak it in.

Be at rest… O my soul.

Not my body, not my mind, for those may run a mile a minute.  To allow your sould to rest means you are allowing your absolute connection to the holy spirit to be available to listen, to be comforted, to feel His presence.

…for the LORD has been good to you.

When you are in the moment where taking a breath takes herculean effort, when just looking up at the next hurdle feels as if it will break you; REMEMBER.  The LORD has been good to you.  God always has been and always will be good.  He will carry you when you cannot carry yourself.  Whatever fear has your soul in a state of unrest, whatever challenge is taunting you, whatever failure is weighing you down, hand it over to Him.  Allow your soul to rest so that no matter what is happening around you, your innermost self is ready to be comforted by the only one whose power is greater than all fears.

My dear friend’s mom is having a biopsy performed as I am typing.  She asked me to pray, to ask others to pray.  Immediately my mind turned to psalm 116, verse 7.  It is my reset button, my reminder that no matter how difficult this moment feels – the waiting, the wondering, the unknown, the fear – He has always been and will always be Good.

Love you sweet A!  Praying over you, your sisters, and your precious mama all day. Praying for your souls to be at rest so that you might feel the power of prayer lifting you all up.

Casey

Wrangling Cats and Advent

Originally posted on December 5, 2013

What on earth does it mean to wrangle or herd cats really?  Often it is used to describe controlling a room of preschoolers.  Last night I felt like I was living it out.  And there was only one preschooler in the room.

Parenting intentionally is hard.  Not hard like threading a needle without my glasses on, but more like threading a needle without my glasses on while someone turns on a strobe light and spins the room on an axis – and a little person is in my ear saying “mom, mom, mom”.  Jeff and I are trying with all of our hearts to take time each day to talk to our kids, to answer questions and to pray with them both as a family and individually because we want to create habits in them that will carry through to that time between when they are home with us and when they have children of their own.  That time where so many people raised in church walk away from their faith because it was just holding on by a thread anyways.  Christmas and Easter church attenders and even just your Sunday only crowd rarely have a desire to continue it on their own when their parents are not forcing them to come to church.  That is why we want to create habits that become so much of a life source to them that they naturally continue to grow in their faith when they leave home.

I say this not from a place of a believer who always followed after God, but as one who was a Sunday (and occasionally Wednesday) church-goer through my childhood.  I was someone who knew Jesus loved me (obviously because I knew the song), I attended youth group through my teen years and even went on mission trips.  But when I left home for college, I all but left the church as well.  I prayed occasionally when I needed something from God and I went to church when I was home for holidays, but I had no personal commitment to my relationship with Jesus.  It never occurred to me to read a daily devotional, to open my Bible just for the sake of learning more, or spend time in prayer every day.

I want more for my kids.

Jeff and I made a decision years ago to let them see us praying, reading our Bibles and to invite them to be a part of it.  And you know what, sometimes (a lot of the time) it sure would just be easier to just put them to bed and read on my own in the quiet.  Last night as we were reading our family Advent devotional (we chose Ann Vosskamp’s The Greatest Gift), I looked at Jeff, completely exhausted with trying to collect their attention and whispered, “Being a parent is hard.  Sometimes I think it would be easier to just put them to bed.”  He smiled and laughed and reminded me that it is worth it.  And I know it is.  But when Will is literally hanging upside down on the sofa, Jake is whipping the giant candy cane ornament around like a ninja sword, and Maddie May is refusing to answer to her name because “she is a ghost”; putting them to bed with no Advent reading and no prayer feels like an escape route I might be willing to take to stop the throbbing in my head.

But I know that doing hard things leads to greater joy that we could imagine otherwise.  Once we wrangled the cats and everyone settled, we took time to sit and be still and soak in the gift of Advent.  I read from The Greatest Gift and we talked about what we would do today just to please God.  We talked about people we would like to pray for and thanked God for the many blessings we experience daily.  And then joyously, with a sigh of relief, we wrangled the cats to bed.  As tiring as it is, and as frustrated as I let myself become some days, I never regret taking the time to stop and pray over each of my children in bed at night.  And I pray that God is using each moment of it to grow their hearts into hearts that will desire Him all the days of their lives.