Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reflections on Nehemiah

We have begun a study on the book of Nehemiah at our church, and Dan & I are both quite excited about it. We've had 3 sermons and about a chapter and a half so far, and that has lead to a lot of thoughts which have been tumbling around in my head lately - so I thought I'd share. In the first chapter, Nehemiah (who is Cupbearer to the King of Persia) receives word that Jerusalem is in ruins and the walls are down, and he is sersiously greived by this. In this messiness and disappointment, he sits down and weeps, which our pastor described as "sitting in his reality." He sat for some time and faced it, not trying to make it into something it was not, but he dealt with the reality of unmet expectations. About 4 months later, the second chapter begins and he is now with the King. The King notices that he is really sad and he asks him about it, so Nehemiah tells him about the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem. At this point the King straight up asks him, "What is it you want?" to which Nehemiah responds with an extensively thought out answer.

As I listened to the message this week, I was struck by Nehemiah's boldness, but also by the fact that he had an answer ready to go - he had goals! Dave Ramsey (the Financial Peace Univ. guy - you may have heard of him) spoke this week, and his message was focused on dreams, visions, and goals, and the message could not have been more timely for me. Since the New Year, I have really taken the time to step back and reflect on where I've been and where I am at right now in a lot of areas of my life. I've had plenty of quiet with Dan gone, and in these spaces God has challenged me to truly take stock of my life, and honestly there are plenty of areas where I'm just not where I want to be right now. And as I evaluate my reality, I have also begun to look ahead to what exactly I hope my future holds and what I hope it will hold - but it seems that lately I stop there. Maybe I get as far as a dream but I have forgotten how exactly to make those into tangible goals for myself.

Dan & I had a long conversation about this the other night (before we heard this message) about this and how much life has changed for us these past few years. Our goals used to me a little more clear cut - I want to graduate from high school at the top of my class, so I need to concentrate on my studies and make sure to do extra where I can...CHECK. I want to get involved in ministry opportunities, so I'll sign up for a Spring Service Project and get involved in Campus Ministries...CHECK. I want to be a leader on campus, so I'll work towards being an RA, work hard in my classes, get involved...CHECK. I want to experience what true missionary life is like, so I'll commit to doing a Summer of Service Project...CHECK. You get my drift. In high school and college the opportunities abound and you need only "pick your poison" so to speak.

Now my goals are much more etherial and much less tangible. Goals like, I want to have a strong and healthy marriage...I want to walk closely with God...I want to be a consistent daughter, friend, and wife. Will I EVER be able to check off goals like these?! Not on this side of Heaven!

All of this to say, I have been challenged first to sit in my reality, take stock of where I'm at, what's missing, what's gone wrong. But in the midst of this reality, I want to be a woman of prayer who brings this to God and asks him, "What's next? Where do I go from here? What would you require of me?" But I don't want to just stop there. I want to be able to put feet to my dreams - to make my dreams into goals that I can actually achieve. Not for the purpose of checking something off a list, but for the purpose of being prepared when the King asks me "What is it you want?" Somewhere in his grief, Nehemiah was able to come up with a plan for restoration, and I'm pretty confident that he didn't just come up with that on his own. He spent time with God, he pleaded with him, and then he listened. Oh God, that I would learn to shut up and listen to You, and then follow through with what You ask of me!

Thanks for muddling through some of my rambling thoughts. For a much more elequoent delivery (and a lot more insight), I'd encourage you to check out these messages - you can either watch the video or download the MP3. They have certainly challenged me, and now I feel ready to take on the New Year (so I'm a month late!)!

Pictures of Us

Dan asked me today to put some pictures of us up here because he wanted to show some to the people he's working with in Sneedville. Aparrently he doesn't carry any pics of me (other than one he some how got of me as a Freshman in high school - eek!), so I'm humoring him. Enjoy the random smattering of pictures! (I love you Dan! Come home soon.)

Hiking at Fall Creek Falls (TN)

Montana De Oro (CA)

Montana De Oro (CA)
a van full of Johnstons! (Christmas '06)

Glacier National Park, MT (our honeymoon)

Tulip Festival, Orange City - 2005

Wedding Reception in CA

Iowa Winter - 2006

Lamrof - 2005

Visiting the Fuglers - summer 2007

Christmas in MO - 2007

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One More Week...

and Dan will be home to stay! We've just about made it through this rotation away, and I am so grateful. Not that it's been terrible, but I am certainly ready for my husband to come and live with me again. I mean, isn't that kind of the point? It's definitely given me new respect for military wives (Jenny & Liv!) and others who have to face seperation under much different circumstances. And I'm learning that God truly does give us exactly what we need to get through each day -- sometimes it's only enough for that day, but it is ALWAYS enough.

Dan & I were able to go on a retreat this weekend for Community Group Leaders (essentially our church small groups). We're excited and a little nervous to be stepping into the leadership role in our own community group in just a couple of weeks. We've been in our CG for about a year and a half now and have truly come to love the people. In a sense they have become like our family here in Nashville where very few of us have family close by, and it's been a neat process to see the Lord knit our hearts together like he has. Our leaders our stepping down to go start another group and have asked us to step up -- so here we go! In lots of ways it is comforting that we already know the people we will be "leading", but in other ways it's a bit intimidating to step up and lead our friends (when we're the youngest!). Mostly we're just excited, though, and very grateful for the opportunity the Lord is giving us to use our gifts and stretch and grow us in new ways. Tonight we were able to lead together for the first time, and though Dan had to leave immediately following, we parted ways with a great deal of excitement and thanksgiving as we felt the Lord's presence so accutely tonight as we took our first little feeble step of faith. We're willing, and I'm so very excited to see what the Lord is going to do with that in our own lives and in the life of our group. Oh that we would learn to be willing and ready at all times to answer his call - "Speak to me Lord, for your servant is here listening!"

That's all for tonight - thanks again for praying for Dan & I as we've been apart this month. They have been felt. Oh, and one random request...if anyone has any suggestions for some healthy meals for 1 person, I would love it! My goal is to stear clear of the cereal and Ramen at least for this last week :) Thanks!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Check this out...

A little while back I mentioned the book that my sister made for me (and our family) for Christmas, composed entirely of pieces that she had written. She entitled it "Growing Up Carroll" as it is all about our family. If you're at all interested, she's starting to put some of the pieces on her blog, so you can check it out here.

That's all for now (I know, my shortest post EVER). Dan is home again and we have a retreat tonight - should be fun!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sick again...

I've got another cold :( I really don't think I've ever had so many colds in my life as I have in the past few months now! This is at least my 3rd if not my 4th cold since the end of October, not to mention that I had my wisdom teeth taken out somewhere in the middle. I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that my husband works around sick people everyday...though he hasn't really been sick, which is puzzling. All that to say, I'm ready to feel better now! I hate colds because you don't feel quite bad enough to do nothing, but you really don't feel good enough to do anything, you know?

Okay, enough whining - I just had to get that off my chest. I was very thankful that Dan was able to come home again this weekend, and we got to spend some good time together. One thing this separation has been good for is that it has made us much more intentional with the time we do have. We've spent a lot more time sitting and talking these past couple weekends than we normally do -- and we normally talk quite a lot :) I think it's partially that we have a little more to catch up on, but mainly I think it just makes us more aware of how we spend our time together. Friday night we discovered a new Mexican restaurant that might just top our list for Mexican food! I might need to try it a couple more times though, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke :-) Then Saturday we went to a new shopping center just East of Nashville, found some STEALS at Old Navy & JC Penny's (seriously, Dan spent $17 and saved $75!! I loved shopping like that!), and then hit Logan's, Dan's favorite steak house, where we were somehow able to stuff ourselves with a free appetizer and a split meal that cost just under $10...I love eating cheap! Then yesterday I woke up feeling even more under the weather and Dan graciously cared for me all day. He was especially bummed that we had to miss Community Group and the only thing that happened to be on was the Packers/Giants game -- poor guy. Though I must admit, that was a heart-breaker of a game for Favre.

Okay, I better go put myself to bed now. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up mucous-free!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Them a lot a babies....

The last few weeks has been full of a lot of babies for me - and what could possibly be better than that?! (By the way, sorry if my title doesn't make sense...it's something my sister said when she was little and has become a common phrase among our family) Within the past few weeks we have found out that 2 of our friends are expecting - one her first, and the other her 2nd. Such exciting news! I spent yesterday evening with my sweet friend Megan (one of the expecting moms!) and her husband Alan, as well as their delightful daughter Abby who is about 14 months old. She's just at that stage where she can really GO, wobbly legs and all, and it is such a joy to watch her stomp around with such determination. She's also really learned how to laugh now, and there's nothing better than hearing those little squeals and and the pure belly laugh that follows!

After the exciting news of these 2 new babies, a friend of mine from work delivered her first on Friday. I was so excited to meet the new little one that Dan graciously gave in and came with me to the hospital on Saturday to see new mommy & daughter. There really is nothing quite like holding a tiny newborn - except maybe when it's your own, but it's not quite my turn yet!! Tonight I got to go see them again as I brought some food over to their house -- in exchange, of course, for holding the baby again for quite sometime :)

In the midst of all of this excitement though, we are also grieving with some dear friends of ours who just went through their second miscarriage. It's so strange how this world that we live in can contain such stark contrast. I'm reminded of this verse - "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief." (Prov. 14:13) How is it that our soul is to hold all of these conflicting emotions - and sometimes, even at the same time? My heart breaks over the loss for my friends, and yet rejoices at the same time for the new lives we are celebrating. Is it possible in this lifetime to ever experience true joy that is completely untainted by the sorrows of this fallen world? That sounds synical perhaps, but it makes me ever more grateful for the promises of Heaven and a Re-created and Redeemed world that will be greater than anything we can possibly imagine with our finite minds. In this world of contradiction, unrealized dreams, and hosts of disappointment, I find incredible HOPE in the promise of a new life to come that will be void of all of these things and utterly filled with the presence and Holiness of God.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. and I heard a loud voice from the thron saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. he will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away...I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:1-5)

...and I'm pretty sure there will be babies in Heaven, too :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Reprieve

Dan is coming home tonight! He put in enough hours this weekend at the ER to just work through Wednesday this week, so he'll be able to stay until Sunday. I'm so excited to see him again and will be very thankful for reprieve from the quietness of our apartment...for some reason I don't seem to make nearly as much noise as Dan :-)

Anyway, that's all I have at the moment - kind of a boring entry, but I'm just getting antsy waiting around and needed to DO something. Thanks for humoring me for a minute.

Friday, January 4, 2008

My Heart Hurts

I hate headaches. Last night, for what ever reason I had a pretty good one by the time I needed to go to bed - the kind you close your eyes really tight and just pray that at least the throbbing will be gone by morning. I hate headaches, but tonight I have a different kind of ache that can't be touched by a couple tablets of Ibuprofen. Tonight my heart hurts.

I came home from work with great expectations for the night - I even made myself a pretty respectable "to do" list. "Just keep busy" is what I keep telling myself and also the advice I've received when I tell people that my husband will be gone for awhile. And usually "keeping busy" really is the best thing to do. But tonight my heart hurts, and rather than salve it with some tasks for my hands, I've decided to let it hurt. Because even though there is some pain involved, I'm realizing that there is a lot more joy behind it all.

My heart hurts tonight because Dan is not here. I know, I know, he's only been gone for a couple of days, but still! My husband, my best friend...my beloved. We're married because we decided that life was better together than apart - but apart we are. But tonight as I ate some soup and tried to enjoy a rerun of Friends, my mind continuously wondered what he was doing, what he was thinking about, what his day was like, what his make-shift home looks like. Rather than being overwhelmingly sad, though, I found myself smiling as I remembered some random moment we shared together - the kind that only he and I could truly appreciate. I realize I hurt so deeply only because of the depth of love we share. I ache for one of his hugs when I get home from work not because I can't go on without one but because I've been held in his sweet embrace so many times before and know how rich it is. And so I let myself think and remember and wonder and smile...and sometimes I let a tear slip down my cheek.

My heart hurts tonight because I'm a little homesick, too. Why is it that going home often makes you even more homesick when you leave than you were before you arrived? I was able to create even more wonderful memories with my family over Christmas, and I love how they just seem to linger in my soul. I love that - but it also hurts to now be gone. But instead of pushing the sweet faces from my mind, I picked up a book my sister gave me for Christmas in which she eloquently penned stories of our family and painted delicate word pictures of who we are and where we come from. I knew before I did this that it wouldn't make me feel "happy"...in fact I usually am crying before I make it through a sentence or two. I don't cry out of sadness, but I cry because of the deep joy that swells in me when I think of my Mom making cinnamon rolls or my Dad reading me the Journals of Lewis and Clark or my sister and I tagging along on a hunting trip with our over-sized orange vests and wodden rifles. Tonight my heart aches, but the pain is only there because of the wealth of love and memories my family has always stored up for me.

So tonight, rather than distract my mind with house work or television or grocery shopping, I decided to indulge my heart and soul. I put on a CD of old hymns that I would listen to if I were home with Mom. I flipped through a photo album of Dan & I from college. I started a batch of fresh cinnamon rolls so my little apartment would smell and feel a little bit more like home tonight.

I don't mean this at all to sound like I'm throwing myself a pity party because I'm truly not. Tonight I am celebrating the richness of the life God has given to me. Though there have been a few tears, my reflections remind me of the depth of my God's goodness and faithfulness. Yes, my heart does hurt a little tonight - but it is so very full. And as my background music gently reminds me - tonight it really is well with my soul.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think my cinnamon rolls are almost done :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A White Christmas...and back to Nashville

Happy New Year! Now forget about "break" and get back to work...seriously?! It's always so hard to make the transition from all of the joys that Christmas break brings back to the reality of the "daily grind." I am so very thankful for the wonderful break that I had, though - and that's what this post is about anyway :-)

Dan & I savored our time at my home in Missouri - the snow, the fireplace, the coffee, and of course the family and friends. It was truly a time of REST for us, and I think I got on the computer maybe twice - a true break for me as I spend most of my days in front of one of these screens! I did check this blog a time or two - thinking perhaps a new post would somehow magically appear, but for some reason that didn't happen :) So now I wanted to share a few pictures and thoughts with you from our time. One of the first days we were home we got a really nice snow storm and my Dad (being the artist that he is) decided it was the perfect opportunity for a photo shoot. Now, you have to understand that my Dad is very into the details of his paintings, particularly the details of historic authenticity. So Dad & "the boys" (a very new thing in the Carroll house) disappear into the basement for awhile, and after Dad made a couple trips up and down the stairs for extra gear (apparently Dan had a little trouble with the attire and even managed to get his britches on backwards at one point), they emerged in full frontier attire. When then headed out into the blizzard to get a few shots - Kels & I got to go along as "prop girls". The guys had a good time until their hands went numb :-)

Christmas day was wonderful as we enjoyed the morning together - all 6 of us! This was the first time Dan & Brent (Kelsey's fiance) have both spent Christmas at our house, and it was quite fun to have everyone there - our complete family. (Dan especially enjoyed having a brother for the first time and decided he would just call Brent that from now on..."come on, Brother, let's go bring in some wood for the fire..." etc.) After Dad read the Christmas story, we opened gifts together, then enjoyed our traditional Christmas brunch. Here's a picture of our pretty table...and Dad.

Dan thoroughly enjoyed being in the country for awhile - shoveling snow, target pratice with his "brother", and shooting his first live creature...an oppossum. Here is my Dad giving him a few tips:

I'm pretty sure my Dad enjoyed having him around, too :-)

I also enjoyed the peace and quiet of being out of the city for awhile. I may be "grown up," but it's still hard for me to pass up a walk in the snow or a day of sledding with Paige & Torri!

I also enjoyed lots of time in the kitchen with my Mom. She loves to cook more than anyone I know...and she certainly had her fill during this break! There were always some sweet smells coming from kitchen, and it was really fun for me to actually be able to help a little. We had pies and cinnamon rolls and ham and cranberry salad and stromboli....and the list goes on and on. Thanks Mom!

We also had a wonderful time with my grandparents and cousins when my Dad's side of the family got together. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures from that time, but it was so nice as EVERYONE was able to make it this time - and our numbers just keep growing :-)

All in all, it was a very merry Christmas indeed. It was a little different than previous years as 2 depositions loomed in front of my Dad - one today and another tomorrow. Please pray for him and his attorney as they continue to battle the injustice of his termination back in August. It is certainly an uphill battle - but I know my Dad well enough to know that if they're expecting him to lay down and quit they will soon be sorely disappointed. (If you're reading this and have no idea what I'm talking about, I might post about it soon once we know something - the wheels of justice certainly do turn slowly sometimes.)

It's also been a little hard coming back to Nashville knowing that Dan would have to leave right away for a 6-week rotation out in East Tennessee. I know it's not forever, but it's long enough and I don't especially enjoy him being gone. Oh well - this too shall pass, and come August, rotations will be over and he will be a certified Physician Assistant! I am just praying that the Lord would grant us patience and grace during this time that we have to be apart. I am so thankful for the time he and I had to spend together over this break. What a sweet husband the Lord has blessed me with - I love that boy :-)

That's all for now - but I'm back in action and will be blogging more regularly now that I'm home again. Hope you all had a wonderful, restful, and peaceful Christmas - and may our Lord guide us all as we enter another new year!