A letter to twenty-year-old me

Walking to the best bridge in the world with my best friend forever eternally 9.2019

Turning thirty has got me reflecting. God brings seasons and ages and to think that Jesus began his public ministry at thirty is not lost on me. Also, I can finally run for U.S. Senate and five more years until I can run for president. With the past decade in light, I wondered, what promises of God do I wish I had really believed? Twenty-Caroline knew the promises of God, but what would I tell then-me to really grasp onto, to make head knowledge into heart knowledge? And as I reflect on these “precious and very great promises” and look ahead to another decade of walking with Jesus, can I hold onto these promises as a greater reality than my circumstances into my 30s? That is my hope!

 

Thirty promise I would give to twenty-year-old me:

    1. Isaiah 56:4-5 – “For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,  who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” In the Christian bubble where the paragon is motherhood, there is something better, there is spiritual offspring from your twenties that only heaven will truly manifest. No babies this decade, but believe that your name, your “spiritual DNA” is of greater worth than physical offspring! Don’t waste precious intimacy with the Lord longing for something He doesn’t give to everyone. Being single is his absolute best for you today. Celibacy is his best for his favorites. In fact, being single was the Father’s best for His Son. His inheritance is better than even what the church puts a premium on. Stop listening to human reasoning in the church–they’re wrong–listen to the Bible, and it says that marriage isn’t God’s best. Being a mom isn’t God’s best. Spiritual sons and daughters is God’s best.
    2. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Just confess your sins to God, to other believers stat. Don’t wait around! Being in the light leads to freedom. Don’t ever hide. Vulnerability is the way of the cross.
    3. James 2:13- “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” People will be flaky. People will let you down. But mercy is better. If you can forgive others, you can forgive yourself. The merciful are blessed, aka happy.
    4. Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life.” Really, don’t worry. Don’t worry about school, jobs, dating, schedules, lawsuits, bad bosses, empty check books. Just don’t worry.
    5. Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”Giving up isn’t an option. Keep on going in doing good, in making that next meal, in cleaning up after that bad roommate. The harvest is coming. Weariness isn’t an option
    6. Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” You are not God. You don’t know the heart. Stop pretending you do and just love people regardless of how you think they should act.
    7. Jude 20 “praying in the Holy Spirit,” You can pray, but praying in the Spirit where prayers are answered! Don’t heap up empty words without first inviting the one who can teach us to pray into the middle of it.
    8. Hebrews 5:7 “He offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears,” So much of my twenties, I wasn’t honest with God, but I would urge younger me to be loud, and verbal, and cry out to God when I prayed. God hears our crying.
    9. Hebrews 4:16 “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.” Always come. Satan wants you hiding, far away from the presence of God, but Jesus says, “Come when you’ve messed up, when you’ve hurt someone, when you feel worthless. Just come.
    10. Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.” Money is just a tool. It doesn’t ever make you happy and loving it doesn’t result in more holiness. Most people around you don’t live like this and not loving money is the most anti-world’s system way to live.
    11. Hebrews 12:3 “Don’t grow weary or fainthearted” All around you, people will give up, they’ll quit and just go to sleep. They’ll watch Netflix. They’ll be flaky. But draw on God’s unlimited energy. Just do the next thing.
    12. Hebrews 11:6, “He has prepared for them a cityPlaces won’t last, the places you thought you’d live in, or didn’t think you’d wind up in, they are all passing away and decaying. Places disappoint. All the cities you visit are nothing compared to the great city, the New Jerusalem. Focus on that city, even in traveling, remind others of our true home.
    13. Hebrews 12:15, Kill the “root of bitterness.” Bitterness grows faster than gratitude! It grows fast and it has to be killed. Don’t get bitter against people, against how your life is turning out, against things you can and can’t control.
    14. 1 John 3:1 – “he calls us his children, and that is what we are.” If every day of your 20s, you would realize that you are God’s kid, so many things would fall away. God loves his kids and he doesn’t lead them into destruction. You are God’s child and that means you are so loved regardless of what your anxiety, or fears say.
    15. 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world” Don’t love food too much. Don’t love comfort. Don’t love social media. Don’t love TV shows. Don’t love movies. Don’t love things that will literally never satisfy. Go to sleep with the Bible app on, not a TV show. Stop scrolling. Loving the world doesn’t ever satisfy.
    16. Psalm 42:11, “Hope in God” Keep it simple. Are you hoping you get that next job? Hope it God. Are you hoping that boy online asks you on a real date? Hope in God. Are you hoping that your next vacation fills a void? Hope in God.
    17. Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” The skin God put you in is just right. Your hair, your face, your breast, your legs—all fearfully and wonderfully made. God made your body good. Accept it and use it for his good. Every perceived “flaw” can actually be used to testify to his Greatness.
    18. Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” Practically, work in jobs as a PA where people are sick. Sick people actually need healthcare. Spiritually, share the gospel with people who know they’re sick in the soul. Pharisees don’t “need” Jesus.
    19. Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.” When you say unkind things to people you care about, it’s because you think unkind things about people you care about. Out of your prayer life for people, your mouth will speak. Love people in your heart first and it will show in how you speak about them.
    20. Lamentations 3:22, “New mercies every morning” When you wake up anxious, tell Satan to leave and remember this isn’t a trite saying, but it’s real. There is real refreshment each morning.
    21. 1 Peter 5:8, “Devil prowls around like a roaring lion…” Satan really is on the prowl. Most of my 20s I didn’t acknowledge this but if I could go back, I would see so much of what I thought was “my problem” was actually spiritual warfare. The devil is real and he can be defeated.
    22.  Galatians 1:10 “Am I trying to please man?” People pleasing never works. Don’t even try to please people. You’ll let your people down and you’ll let you down. Seek first the kingdom.
    23. 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace….” Flee means run away…from dumb shows, from men that want your body more than your soul, from drinking too much. Literally get your body out of situations where your body and soul can be harmed. It’s never cool to forfeit your soul.
    24. 2 Timothy 4:17, “But the Lord stood by me.” Paul sometimes fought the battle alone. Sometimes it feels like you’ll be abandoned. No one else is fighting for preborns. No one else is believing in the literal Scriptures. No one else is loving that really weird person. But the Lord is standing right next to you. Take heart.
    25. 1 John 5:14, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hear us.” Write down what you are asking of God and then see if he answers it. This way you’ll learn if you’re actually asking according to his will. He can train you to pray so your prayers will be answered because you’re praying in his will.
    26. Acts 4:29, “Grant to your servants to continue to speak the word with all boldness” Nothing else matters but speaking the word. Ask God daily for boldness.
    27. Psalm 119:127, “I love your commandments above gold.” The Word of God is treasure. It is so shiny. Love it first. Never put anything above it. Prioritize it. It will always satisfy.
    28. Psalm 118:17, “Recount the deeds of the Lord.” Tell stories to others that show what Jesus is up to! Don’t talk about yourself; talk about how God is working all around you.
    29. Matthew 10:31 “Don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Stop believing he’s forgotten you when you’re lonely. Stop thinking you’re forgotten when that romantic relationship blew up. Stop believing you’re just a bird. You’re so much more than a bird to Him.
    30. Matthew 9:38, “He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Twenty-year-old Caroline, I know you want to save the world. That’s fine. You can’t. Stop running into the field to try to get all the harvest! Stop. Yes, the fields are ripe, but it’s your job to pray. If you just keep running around and not praying, you get tired and upset because that’s not the instructions. Let’s review, what are the instructions when you see a field?

         PRAY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Six Breasts

Follow up,                                                                      “Hello, how have you been?”                            And she sits on exam table in the blue gown,  To not expose what the surgeon splayed in ‘13. One. Two. I touch them tenderly and say,  “Feels normal to me,” But what is normal, About silicone in your chest,                         About cancer in your breasts?                               I close the door. And next.

Three. Four. She was a victim too.           Younger, just stage IA. How blessed.               And next.

Five. Six. She is 90, father a WWI vet, Something else will kill her yet.                        For now I tell her, “Normal breasts.”             “Get dressed.” I close her door.                   Return to my desk.

White Ash Trees

You don’t think in the spring,                       When all bursts green,                                      That after a time, scorched, pelted, used,   Those leaves will collapse into dust,             Each. One by one,                                                And you don’t think, how it happens,           Until you can see that small, white house, Across the field of blue joint grass,            Behind the white ash trees, now naked,         The house is as plain as day too, naked.

 

My four car tires roll out the gravel,               Past the white house. And my two good feet, Don’t think, as they walk past rows,        Patients in infusion chairs, small hoses in their arms, pumped in, like insecticides,           Against the cancers, Each, one by one,         Until you lose them all,                                       You don’t even think how it happens,            Like the white ash trees in a Georgia fall.   Gone.

D55D08A6-DAC2-4E70-84ED-CD87CBA08810

Cancer Poem

CHEMO COUNTED

The sadness on your face when I say,

“No chemo today, Mr. V, counts too low,”

And who’s counting anyway?

So many numbers:

.5mg/kg of gemcitibine, ANC less than 2K,

4 mg ODT ondesteron q 8 PRN, 4 refills

28 days cycle, follow up in 2 days, CBC, 5mcg/kg Zarxio if ANC less than 2k

 

And all the radiation physics, measured

So measured.

When will the counting stop?

Teach us to number our days

Teach us to number our chemo days,

Teach us to count the uncountable ways

We live beyond the numbers,

Teach us to live as we die.

You be the Judge (Maybe not).

Hi, I’m Caroline and I’m such an expert at judging. But like any expert, the more I think I know, the more I realize that I know nothing. That’s sort of the definition of an expert: one who knows how much they don’t know. I’m on a judgement journey with Jesus. Basically, I’m really good at something I wish I were really bad at so I’m trying to unravel layers of this skill I have and get to the root of it so I can tame it for good.
Jesus taught this amazing sermon on a hill and it changed the world. I’m one of the people that it changed. I’m really, really dense when it comes to obvious things so my judgement journey keeps taking me back to this sermon that’s three chapters long in Matthew. I have to read it constantly and it’s constantly showing me that I don’t know really know much. It’s kind of awful because normally if you review and review and know something, you get more comfortable, but this sermon makes me uncomfortable with me each time (but more comfortable with my Dad in heaven because he’s so kind). So, that pattern happened again this weekend with a part of Jesus’ sermon on a hill that is found in Matthew 7.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
What a familiar passage for us. Why do I have to re-read it so much then?
Because I still don’t get it. 
What if I read the do’s and don’t’as God saying, “Caroline, I love you so much, I’m going to show you what to do.”
So what I got this time-around was about measuring. I work in cancer now and I love how smart the infusion nurses and pharmacists are as they measure out chemo drugs for these patients. I just tell them, “Give them treatment,” and these smart people figure out how much based on weight and height and kidney function and then the chemo kills the cancer. Measuring can be life or death.
God cares about accuracy in measuring. We all should too. In Leviticus 19:35 he blanket-statement states, “”‘Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.”
The truth about real measuring is that it’s standardized.
When Jesus says, “the measure you use, it will be measured you” he’s asking us, “Are you going to use my objective standard or your own standard?”
What happens when we make up our own law for ourselves? For me, the Caroline-law Caroline cannot even keep herself because it’s TOO HARD. I make up these impossible to-do lists. I can’t even keep my own measure! So then what happens when I put that law onto someone else, (and they don’t even know all the ins-and-outs of my law?), I get frustrated, angry, disappointed, and even hateful.
Why does Jesus want you to let go of judging others? Because implicit in your judging of others is a self-made impossible standard you’re heaping on you yourself and Jesus wants us to trust his standard, his measure, his law. Stop making up your own rules! Your rules don’t even make sense for you! Let alone the person you’re putting them on! Let your rules and measures go. Not judging others isn’t about the others, it’s about you. Judging others is too heavy a burden to bear because judging others is crushing you.
In the words of Eugene Peterson,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Recent Poems

Three poems I’ve written this spring.

…………………………………………………………………..

LOUD CRIES

Surely the rocks cried out in Galilee,

Reverberating echoes of Christ,

Mornings, early and dark, prayers freed

Up to heaven from the Son of Man,

Waters of the sea carrying cries,

Did the dawn waken, startling fisherman?

“What sound,what racket comes from shore?”

Early, untimely, “What goes there?”

Retorting, “It’s that odd son of Joseph,

That man of Nazareth, it’s his voice.”

Desperate, tearful, loud and reverent.

Without his prayers, none could enter,

This covenant of joy with tears.

Pray. You pray like this then, loudly,

Could you offer better than our Savior?

…………………………………………………………………..

NOT DEAD YET

Fileted, splayed, frayed, decayed, maimed,
But not dead yet,
My heart, my will, my ways,
Split, cut, crimped, bent, warped,
But not dead yet,
My will, my wants,
Failing, fading, bleeding, barely breathing,
But not dead yet,
My flesh, my big head,
When will come the day,
not yet the resurrection, first,
The death day but not yet
Getting closer, bleeding out, waiting.
……………………………………………………………………
THE HURRICANE
You, that giant wave that took the small white child by surprise at on shore,
Knocked over, unlike the Atlantic to be so strong,
But behind that big wave was a big hurricane,
Brewing and gaining brawn further south, and no one saw it coming, those waves knew though.
And I was just there, salt in my eyes, and sand in my suit, running back on the beach to mom,
“Where’s my towel? My eyes hurt.”
My eyes hurt, not knowing the Eye was the only safe place once the storm would land,
But you can’t find the Eye, it moves, so you get knocked over, blown over, keeled over, lost.
The sandbanks drift and are dragged down
To somewhere else, as we all are when You came through, just a big wave at first,
But then everything You did meant pain and change but You were only You,
When we can’t find Your Eye.
And we didn’t know what to do
But leave.

Kintsugi: You are the Gold

Kintsugi

Have you heard of kintsugi?

Makoto Fujimura, a 21st century artist who speaks to the integration of our faith into how we visualize our world, introduced this art form to me. He writes about kintsugi (literally: golden joinery) which began in Japan in the 1400s. The artists mends broken pottery, and reforms the piece with all broken pieces rejoined with golden, platinum, or silver plated lacquer. Kintsugi takes what should be cast off, and recasts it into something precious. The art is popular first because it is visually appealing, but also because the metaphor speaks to what we must believe about ourselves. Has God crushed you into a thousand pieces? He has me through failure, traumas, secondary sufferings, constantly moving states, break-ups, disappointments. I’ve been crushed, often not “accidentaly” but I feel like if I’m that Japanese bowl, a human has been taking a small hammer and pummeling my life. But what are the golden glue that will put the pummeled pile back? To mix the metaphor, I house the DNA of a thousand godly influences, the golden threads of my life’s broken bowl are the reconstruction the Master molder is making. It’s becoming so beautiful with the threads.

 

What are we really? Are we the sum of what nature has made us to be with our combination of DNAs and childhoods, are we the people our environments created us to be? Why I am able to perform at the level I can? Why am I able to go seemingly nonstop sometimes? Why do I create the ideas I do? What made me this way?

 

The more I thought about kintsugi, the more I realized my life is a billion molecules of gold wrapped around the broken pieces of my life. The gold and precious metal lines all over my life are the saints. Why am I this way and not that way?

It was you.

I don’t know when it started. Probably before I can remember, maybe that time I was a fearful six-year-old in pre-op about to get tympanostomy tubes and my mom reassured me she would be there when I woke up. She was and she helped me through a summer of not being able to swim in the pool without earplugs and this very noticeable rubbery headband that made a “weirdo” at the pool with the other kids. Or the time in 4th grade I got hit in the face with a pop-fly softball in the middle of a game and my dad hugged out my heaving-cries. It was that moment that my Sunday School teacher Mrs. Snipes complimented me on memorizing scripture when that whole week I felt so inadequate as a 6th grade student, unclear of what puberty would mean for my destiny.

  • It was my friend Emily my senior year in high school who was a friend, inviting me to do things with others.
  • It was Scottie May, professor at Wheaton College who let me come to her office hours and validated that peace in romance was something I could expect from God.
  • It was the Henri Nouwen book
  • It was Cindy at Wheaton College Public Safety Office who graciously put out the fire of me getting in huge trouble for a scrape I caused on a Wheaton-owned van I drove for a tutoring ministry when I flagrantly ignored a policy.
  • It was my friends Katie and Glen who showed me that pro-life activism is sad and desperate but you combat the injustice with quiet prayer.
  • It was PA Nate who let me shadow him week-after-week so I could one day be a big-girl PA.
  • It was that guy on the airplane from Tampa who told me I was smart and should be the next Surgeon General.
  • It was Loran Cunningham, founder of YWAM at Wheaton Chapel reminding me that God is winning.
  • It was the kindness of the Chick-fil-A owner who gave me a job when my summer plans went awry.
  • It was a care package from Debra when I was in the dark hole of PA school studying, with the Bible verse prescriptions from Dr. Kathy
  • It was pastor Mark saying, “unhypocritical love” for the 100th time from the pulpit.
  • It was my PA school program director threatening to kick me out of graduate school when I invited a pro-life speaker and the local church that prayed me through the trauma of watching your dreams be threatened.
  • It was all the listening from all the friends and all the coffee.
  • It was all my aunts and all the birthdays.
  • It was smiling Sean on the sidewalk of the Roanoke Planned Parenthood.
  • It was Elisabeth Eliot and the books that got into my gut.
  • It was Barb at my church who was a constant friend and me and made me feel like I wasn’t invisible as a single woman at a church of all families.
  • It was Mary Jane opening her front door and seeing me cry before I could even say anything after that guy rejecting me.
  • It was mom listening, and listening, and listening with every little crisis.
  • It was Nora and Renee and Melissa and all the PA school crap.
  • It was big hugs from dad no matter how big the dent was in the car that I’d caused.
  • It was Pastor Doug letting me share during Sanctity of Life Sunday.
  • It was another church event at Lucinda’s house.
  • It was Gina who never gave up on a long distance friendship and then became my neighbor.
  • It was Paul Miller’s book “Praying Life” that taught me to ask like a little kid.
  • It was Debbie with Abortion Pill Reversal bailing me out week after week when I didn’t get my paperwork in on time.
  • It was Denise who showed me the way to lead was to pray and that’s how you raise money for a pregnancy center.
  • It was Grace who told me to read Bob Goff.
  • It was Sheryl who taught me to be ever honest about relationships
  • It was Faith and Wesleigh bringing me donuts on a Saturday when that guy didn’t work out.
  • It was Betsy that believes I am a princess because she’s a princess and has a crown to prove it.
  • It was Sarah who reminded me cancer always sucks.
  • It was John and Gail who literally answered my prayer to have “Georgia parents”
  • It was Amy Carmichael’s “If” booklet.
  • It was a thousand text messages, day after day after day after day.
  • It was that timely gift from you, and you, and you.
  • And those hurtful words from you that I learned to turn away from and forgive.
  • It was all that money that was lost there and there and there.

 

It was all the Jesus in all the golden people I’ve known.

 

Kinstugi may just sound like gratitude, but gratitude doesn’t break us. Life itself breaks us. Only others can rebuild us. Gratitude doesn’t rebuild. I look like the person I do because I’m the “Golden DNA” of each of you. I emulate your words, your wisdom, your habits because you took the time to see me, and put your own gold onto my life. I’ve forgotten so much you’ve done for me. I’m sorry. It has made me what I am and I thank you for putting me back together. You’re making me beautiful.

 

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