this is life 17.0

twenty thirteen.

it is a new year for me in two ways…in just a few weeks, i will turn twenty.

i start to quiver inside when i think over this year and all that it has brought.  i think that it would be truthful to say that, spiritually, i’ve grown more over this year than i have in any given five years prior. God has twisted me up in knots, stretched me, soaked me,  dried me, untangled me, retied me…i described it to a friend as feeling like i’ve gone through one of those old-fashioned washing machines, the kind with the clothes wringer attached.  and every time i thought it couldn’t get any tighter, it did.

and i’ll be honest, it hurts to grow so much in such a very short period of time.  this year was a year of pain for me.  not conventional pain, or not solely so….it was pain caused by confusion and love and sorrow and joy so intense that i could feel myself ripping inside.

it was a year of sleeplessness, of ecstasy, of exhaustion, of wonder, of  bewilderment.   it was weeping in a hospital corridor over the little bundle that was my baby sister.   it was the knitting of my heart to people whom it feels so shallow to merely call friends.  it was running in the rain, because there was so much pent up inside that i had to literally run, not from, but with it all.  it was finding a voice for my emotion in the lyrics of music newly discovered or finally understood.  it was praying on my knees in the dark.  it was the breaking down of my body and the building up of my soul.  it was losing sight of the cross in the mist, and being forced to it again.  it was letting go of old relationships and finding new and precious ones.  it was finding comfort in the words of other saints.  it was trusting Christ’s character when i couldn’t trace His hand.  it was hiding under the Rock from a storm directed by His sovereignty.  it was becoming shadow so that i might see His light.  it was being vulnerable to my brothers and sisters in Christ.  it was tiredness so deep that i could not sleep.  it was glowing with the warmth of my heart and it was trembling with a coldness that began deep inside.  it was joy that led to sorrow and sorrow that led to joy.  it was periods of incredible distress and periods of immense peace.

and it was beautiful.

not pretty.

but beautiful…so beautiful.  because every tear, every smile, every cry, every laugh, every moment of terror, every moment of exultation, was wrought by a God sovereign and loving beyond comprehension.  even…or perhaps especially…in the moments when i reached and could not find Him…He was there.

it bothers me so much when people say that ‘God has your back.’  because that is an insult.  He does not have my back…He does not simply cover me from behind while i go into danger ahead.  He conquered all first, on the cross…and what i experience now is not some fight which He only backs me up during, but a fight which He has already won and now allows me to partake in for my own good and His own glory.  He does not have my back.  He leads me into and through the veil of shadow, going before and shielding me with His own body from all true harm, though not from the pain that brings sanctification.

i have lost sight of that so very many times lately.  but all praise to the Father, because He has overcome even my blindness.  and He has wrought in me — not perfection — but a character nearer to that of Christ than it was one year ago.  and Lord willing, farther from that of Christ than it will be next year.

it feels strange to be writing in the past tense…how this year ‘was’ this or that.  because though the year is turning both for me as my birthday draws near and for everyone as twenty thirteen is written on checks and homework, it does not feel like anything has ended or begun.  i feel as though i have not made it through whatever adventure God has me on at the moment.  i am not at the end of it yet, but in the middle…or, perhaps, the start.  so that, in a way, it hardly feels like the ending of one year and the beginning of the next.

a dear friend of mine recently wrote the following on her blog: ‘as we leave the holiday season and begin another year, i’m not going to comment on goals and resolutions we should be making. those are all wonderful, but we all know how ineffective new years’ resolutions are. don’t wait for a day; live those resolutions in every passing moment.’

in every passing moment.  if i have learned anything in the last few months, it is that i live ‘sometimes by step’…i do not know what God has for me in the next year, in the next month, in the next week, in the next day, in the next moment.  i do not know whether this adventure will last for a lifetime or only another hour.  so we live to obey and glorify Him now, in this moment.  and my prayer for this coming year and all the successive years which may or may not lie before me is that i will learn to keep my hands open and uplifted.  that i may glorify my Savior with every breath that i breathe.  that His will, whatever it may contain, will be done.  that He will give me the grace not only to accept His design and the pain that it brings, but to embrace it, wholeheartedly, with joy and trembling.  that next year, and the next, and the next, and the next, to the end of my earthly future, will be years of growth as intense as this.  that each moment will bring me nearer to His kingdom.

i will be honest.  that is a terrifying prayer to pray.  because after this year, my heart is weary and i fear the pain of the chisel.  but more than this, more than all else, i desire to desire Christ.  so i pray even for the grace to be able to pray for His will, for His healing that brings peace through pain.

which reminds me.  i’m beginning to realize that my rebellion against personal blogging has rather dissolved in practicality.  my stream of ‘this is life’  posts began as primarily a photo project, but this is life, after all, and even if i manage to pull out my camera, i don’t often have time to upload and sort photos.  most of the time they have ended up being late-night musings, devoid of pictures and full of run-on sentences and made-up words.  so, i believe i shan at last admit to having caved in.  not to blogging about what i ate for breakfast, because that still bugs me.  i don’t have time to write that, and you don’t have time to read it, trust me.  but this is a crazy, beautiful life God has me living, and i find that taking the time to write out my thoughts about its difficulty and its glory and its craziness and its beauty is immensely helpful to me in keeping my eyes fixed where they need to be.

so, if the Lord is willing, my posting habits may not be changing…but the purpose of this blog is.  it is not primarily a creative outlet.  it is a forum in which i challenge myself to glory in God’s strength when i feel my weakest…and if anyone happens to read along, i pray that i will have represented my Savior truthfully and with passion, that He will be foremost.  your comments mean so much to me, even when i am unable to respond to them individually.  it is encouraging beyond belief to know that you take the time to read along, and to hear your wisdom.  i thank God often for you all.

‘blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  in this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.’

1 peter 1:3-9

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7 thoughts on “this is life 17.0

  1. This was a wonderful, convicting, and joyous post to read. So often I lose sight of how I can have joy constantly because I *know* that God is using me as His tool for His glory….how can I NOT be joyful and excited about that?

    Thanks, Carreen!

  2. Cassandra Rhoden 1.4.13 — 9:11 pm

    carreen, oh darling carreen. this is the most beautiful posts that i’ve read in a long time and, even though our lives are so very different, i can echo most of the things you described. 2012 was a *big* year. not because of major accomplishments, but instead it is because of quiet working deep inside of my heart and soul.

    it has been a crazy journey so far and i am excited to see what God has in store for both of us in 2013.

    thank you again for this post. it was raw and open and oh, so perfect.

    all my love,
    cassie

  3. mooselumph 1.5.13 — 7:55 am

    It is always good to hear about the ways that God has been working in your life, Carreen. I think that God has also used circumstances in my life in the past year to ween me from my normal ways of coping… like in teaching me to drink tea instead of hot chocolate… =] But in more important ways I am still learning to look to God in prayer and in his Word where I would otherwise depend solely on my own ability to figure things out. It’s been good to have you and your family there to readily and persistently bring this shortcoming to my attention in your words and examples.

  4. Rebekah Carniglia 1.5.13 — 7:54 pm

    ~i desire to desire Christ~ thank-you…that is a simple but complete encapsulation of the feeling that has overwhelmed me so often. it is a habit of mine to condense everything down to a tight and succinct definition, and yet i could not describe the urgent need for communion with Him. now it has been spelled out with clarity. keep blogging, carreen. your posts point your readers towards the Author of life.

  5. Excellent post, my friend. I want to especially “amen” your paragraph about “God having your back”… such a huge misconception in today’s Christian culture!

  6. sam, that is exactly what i was trying to say…thanks for putting it so well!

    cassie…i am grateful beyond belief to be able to say that i know just what you mean, because i’ve had the immense privilege of being privy to at least a little bit of it alongside you, and to share a whole lot of mine with you. it has been a crazy adventure…and i am so thankful that God has let us be on it together. =] one of these days i absolutely must find me a polar bear and ride him down to see you. i think that a barefoot run on the beach, a three-hour chat over cappucinos, and at least forty-seven (thatkindofhug)s in person are very much in order.

    ‘mooselumph’ [i’ll let you be mysterious, if you prefer ;) ]…i wish i could feel that your comment about words and examples was true. i’m not so sure i can…it sure doesn’t feel like it most of the time. but if it is…well, it works both ways. =] out of curiosity, though…if you enjoy the tea, then isn’t it still coping? =P

    rebekah…i know what you mean. it’s like using a few words to wrap up an idea into a package small enough to hold in your hand. =] when i wrote that, i had been about to say that ‘above all, i desire Christ’ and then i realized that so very often, it is not true. i desire to desire Christ. thank you for your sweet words…i pray they are deserved, and if they are, glory be to God.

    naomi…there are times i want to hopscotch to pennsylvania and have a very long conversation with you in person. perhaps over a cup of something hot with a little buble and savoretti and karimloo in the background. this is one of them. oh, the things we could be indignant about…God ‘having’ your back and unhelpful forum posts and how far it is to south africa. =]

  7. beauty from ashes…
    strength from fear…
    gladness from sorrow
    joy from tears …

    love you, friend. never forget that. ;)

    me~

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