she is not ours

I know I have not nested enough or planned enough or read enough or enoughed enough – with this whole parenting thing, I mean. I know this because it seems like all pregnant ladies have lists – to do, to buy, to think, to read, to reflect, to pray.

There are also the “don’t worry if you haven’t made a list – this is the one list you’ll need” lists.

I’m not as organized as I used to be (or maybe I am just more honest). I have no lists. [Actually, that’s not true – I am keeping a list of songs that pop into my head unannounced. So far I have: 21 Questions by 50 Cent, Away in a Manger, Video by India Arie, The Storm is Passing Over, We Like to Party, Easter Song by Keith Green, I’m Coming Out by Diana Ross. And those are just the songs that come when I’m near the pen and paper at work where I keep track.] 

do daydream about baby’s hair color and baby’s imagination and what kind of family we will be when baby turns five.
do have doubts about being a mom, though with every day my body confirms that I am created for it.
do imagine what Brooklyn will look like from new eyes as a stay-at-home mom.
do wonder about the privilege of welcoming a baby with special needs – if that is one of the surprises waiting on delivery day.

A few days ago I gave a strange, bullet pointed version of “my story” for our Brooklyn Fellows class. In the process of preparing, I remembered some precious words my mom said once on a terraza in Santa Lucia, Honduras. My parents were visiting from the States for a week and I had taken them to all my favorite spots – the garbage dump school, the feeding center, the orphanage, and the home for boys – before bringing them to my student’s home for a late lunch (except that, in typical ambiguous fashion, Alejandra and I had never communicated or confirmed this plan… so my dad ended up eating a LOT of pastel (cake) and coffee in the absence of meat).

When my dad was on his third slice and my mom had shared all of our galavanting stories, Alejandra’s mom asked, “Don’t you worry about Caroline being here?”

She answered it just like she would her age or her affinity for the country life, “Well, she’s not ours. She is the Lord’s.” So simply, so true.

I nodded with all my silly, missional enthusiasm. I had done a lot of things in that wonderful country – hitchhiked in El Salvador and La Tigra, been stranded overnight hiking a mountain, driven students through El Centro at night, been pulled over by fake cops, taken students with bodyguards on mission trips, rode in the back of pickup trucks, wandered up to houses that looked like mechanic shops, accepted invitations from neighbor-strangers, stayed up all night with students baking pumpkin muffins and making sushi at 2 am, argued with cops who pulled me over and wanted to take my car… the list is too long and too embarrassing to recount. Not all of it was wise or prayerful or good.

My parents prayed a lot. And they never told me to slow down or to move back home.

“She is the Lord’s.”

I don’t know yet the kind of courage it takes to believe that as a parent. I think it’s the way she said it – like I am first God’s family and I am on loan. It was a fact like the price of corn, but it came out like she was announcing I had royal relatives. It rippled across every belief in my heart that God is sovereign and a kind of kinship welled up as if to say, “I am the Lord’s!”

All of the Scripture I read as a child was not mumbo-jumbo. All those verses and sermons and conversations in the kitchen before dinner and talks before morning milking chores – those were about my Father. I belong to Him.

And He is a good keeper, the best.

I have thought about my mom’s words often, especially this past year when we have held so tightly to Will with possessive pronouns: my son, my brother, my husband, my friend, mine.

And even as we push against it, God is saying, “He is mine. He belongs to me. I am his keeper. And I do not fail.”

That’s hard to hear.

It was a strange time to get pregnant – in the first few months of marriage and in the first few months of grief. But God never stopped being faithful, never stopped keeping promises, never stopped claiming us as His. So, now I pray that when people ask, “Aren’t you afraid your baby will…” we will respond, “Oh, Baby K is not ours. Baby K is the Lord’s.”

It sounds crazy, but I can still hear it spoken over me, like last year’s corn prices and the announcement of royal heritage.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Thank you for not claiming me as your own – for doing the harder thing in confessing that I am the Lord’s.

the long walk

Someone asked me if I missed Honduras the other day… and I still struggle to know how to respond. This life is a strange thing, isn’t it? Time passes and phases fly faster than your ability to enjoy rightly while you are inside of them, and before you know it you are talking about 10-year-old memories.

It’s so strange to talk about things as though they have happened in a chronological sense. It is for me, anyway. Because Honduras, college, Austin, Ames, Des Moines – these phases are happening to me and in me all at once, presently. There are moments when I crave people and cities like homesickness, but there are other moments when I feel like I’m walking inside those memories again – close enough to touch.

I don’t miss Honduras like nostalgia. I miss it more like… like wishing it was one my errands today. I wish I could hear the crackle of the loudspeaker announcing early morning produce for sale out of the back of a truck. I wish I could meet up for coffee with students this afternoon. I wish I could worship in the courtyard tonight with the most beautiful ragamuffin group I’ve ever met. But I don’t wish it more than I wish to be in the present moment.

It’s been a long walk of three years, my coming back Stateside, but chronology does nothing to help in understanding the journey. I’ve always thought it was so funny to want to be anywhere different than where you are. I get it, a certain amount of discontent stirs up healthy ambition and productivity, but too much discontentedness makes every moment almost unbearable.

Do I miss Honduras? I suppose the best answer I can give is this: I love right now. I love the way the Lord writes a story and the way He opens our eyes to see bits of the masterpiece. I love His sovereignty. I love that I can believe in His moment-by-moment provision. I love that He surprises us with gifts of grace that we would never imagine.

I love thinking about His delight as He watches us delight in good gifts.

I love right now.

I can not believe the blessings that burst the moments of right now. And even when belief is impossible, God overcomes to grant me belief so that He is glorified as a promise keeper.

In this moment and the next, God is accomplishing a work of grace that confounds the wise. And if His grace confounds the wise, I am definitely bound to a constant and glorious state of blessed confusion.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a friday for sifting

I’m between jobs 1 and 2 and it’s shaking out to be a day of sifting. This Friday is being sifted until only the too-big pieces remain on top. And what is of most importance is becoming very, very clear.

It’s normally not so easy to see with an eternal kind of sight. There are coffees to buy and websites to navigate. There are attendance sheets to make and databases to conquer. There are hours to wile away and weekend plans to make. There is an errand to run and another book to add to the pile of those I should read. But, today there is sifting.

And after this Friday is shaken, the big pieces that remain have little to do with what I’ve gained or stored or clocked or typed. The big pieces are eternal things that I cannot manufacture – things that put all other things in beautiful, right perspective.

Today, I am praying that my life is about the main thing, that I don’t treasure my life more than the main thing, and that all other things will fall through my open hands so that I will cling to what remains. I am praying that I delight in Christ so much that I cannot imagine keeping this delight to myself. In my delight and revelry, in my worship and bust-at-the-seams joy, I am praying I live fully in the freedom His suffering allows so that He may be glorified as others hear the same call to freedom from my lips.

Because He is worthy to receive the reward of his suffering.

the human referral effect

Today, I put on my über hip (but less than hipster) tortoise shell glasses with the confidence of someone who needs corrective lenses and wears them with style. Just to be clear, I think glasses for fashion only is silly and a waste of money. If you do have to purchase glasses, then making it a fashion statement is a bonus. But why am I talking about fashion, which is so clearly out of my realm of expertise?

Because I bought my glasses online at Zenni Optical – which was WAY cooler than Factory Eyeglass Outlet, where my parents would take us to get glasses when we were growing up. Here’s the cold, hard fact: glasses are crazy expensive! You could pay up to $400 for glasses and that was $350 above my parents’ price range. You might assume I’ve really moved up in the world and am able to buy a $400 status symbol, but I haven’t. Actually, $400 glasses are about $375 above my price range and I’m now very thankful for those extra dollars my parents were able to spend on “any pair with the yellow sticker, sweetie.”

I heard about Zenni Optical from my friend Tina who heard about it from my sister, who googled cheap eyeglasses and then told everyone about her experience. It seems fake at first – almost like a really horrible practical joke because the price for a pair of sweet, hip lenses from their website is as low as $6.95. I know, I didn’t believe it either.

But then they arrived in the mail and you couldn’t pay me to NOT advertise for them. People would say, “Oh, your glasses are so cool!” and I’d always touch the corner, real studious like, and say with a shrug, “Oh, these? $12.00.”

No one believes me at first, but eventually I get them to write down the website and promise to look it up for themselves. At $12, you can afford to buy 2 or 3 pairs just in case one breaks. And, if you lose a pair, you just skip going to the theatre and you’ve evened things up for your wallet!

Zenni has since really snazzed up their website and have a feature where you can virtually try on glasses to see how they look on your face.

Wow.

I haven’t ordered a pair in several years, but I still get excited at the idea of someone else getting a good product for a good price.

And why all this about my glasses?

Because I read this article about the human referral effect in Forbes magazine that highlights another eyeglass outfitter who is committed to giving quality for a fair price. The author of the article, Alexander Taub (Iowa native, btw) talks about his Warby Parker purchase and the chain reaction of referrals that followed.

Bottom line: we like to point people in the direction of something wonderful… and not just the possibility of something wonderful, but the guarantee of something wonderful.

I love this idea.
I love that humanity is a fan of guaranteed wonderful things and that we want other people to have guaranteed wonderful things too.
I love that the human referral effect happens and that it happens so often and that Forbes magazine is taking notice.

What I wonder is if eyeglasses are the only thing we should be sending down this highly effective human pipeline. I wonder if this human referral effect is being extremely under utilized.

I wonder what would be the best thing for humans to refer to one another?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

more than life itself

“Jesus was not passionate about suffering – He wasn’t gifted in death by crucifixion. Jesus was passionate about the will of His Father.”

I know – we’re not all good at the same things. Some of us are painters and others of us are mathematicians; some are poets and others are scientists; some are silly and some are serious. I’ve heard about “personality profiles” and “strengths tests” and I get it. We are all made differently and we do different things well, some exceptionally.

But, when Brad Buser said the above at Perspectives on Sunday, it was like the last puzzle piece fell into place to create the picture of my uneasiness about the way we “find God’s will for our lives.” It’s pretty simple, really.

We start here.

We say, “Self, what do you like to do? What are you good at?”

In the Garden of Gethsemane, hours before the appointed hour of his death, Christ said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Not as I will, Lord, but as you will.
Not as I will, Lord, but as you will.

I used to love Frederich Buechner’s quote, “The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Now, I think it’s simpler.

The place God calls you is to be about Him.
It means treasuring the Lord more than my closest friend, choosing the Lord above my family, loving the Lord with an intimacy the earth cannot touch.

It means wanting the will of the Father more than life itself.

And there’s a tension in my bones that says making such a bold (albeit shaky) declaration in my soul must mean 20 years with a tribe who has never heard the Gospel.

I must go, now, toward a love that’s more than life itself. I must shake off everything that so easily entangles and run the race with one prize in mind.

I want so desperately to believe my calling is to be about Him.
Not as I will, Lord, but as You will. 

I will never be “wiser”

When a young man told his minister he felt called to spend his life as a missionary in China, his minister replied,

“Ah, my boy, as you grow older you will get wiser than that. Such an idea would do very well in the days when Christ Himself was on earth, but not now.”

Funny how we are encouraged to wise up and grow out of the calling on our lives. We may not all be called to China, but there is this tender stage in youth (before we are calloused to the idea of Hope) where we look out into the world and think crazy things are possible.

The universities know about this stage. Professors often push students to question the “wiser” world’s calloused assumptions, but fail to give any adequate answers for solutions. We are not the solution. If that were the case, failure would be certain. Try as it may, secularism cannot offer anything deep enough to meet the needs of the world. Naturalism, humanism, and pantheism (as discussed in Poplin’s book Finding Calcutta) all come to definitive and depressing ends, far short of an answer to the world’s deep pain.

Fear not, friends – for secularism is not what God had in mind for the reconciliation of Creation to Himself. Our wisdom is foolishness to Him. Our human efforts and toil amount to nothing, unless He wills. Our plans and schemes are rubbish unless He decides otherwise. Nothing crazy can/will happen outside of God’s will.

In fact, only inside God’s will do we find that the impossible is possible. Paul writes,

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

I heard my friend preach a sermon on this passage and he marveled at Paul praying that  the people know the love of Christ that is impossible to know (…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…). He is praying an impossible prayer for the people in Ephesus. He then quickly follows with a reminder: God is capable of doing the impossible – beyond what we can think or imagine. 

He asks us to do the impossible – know Him, love Him – and then He provides a way to make it possible: Himself. He is the only One who transcends the constraints of this earth, the limitations of the physical world. He is the only One capable of making impossible things possible.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
Acts 17:24-27, ESV

That young man who heard such discouraging words from his minister – his name was Hudson Taylor and he never got “wiser.” He was the founder of China Inland Mission and the catalyst in a new era of Protestant missions. He believed his calling was not one confined to “the days of Christ Himself,” but that proclaiming the saving message of the Gospel is exactly what it means to be Christ today. This is what it means to pray “Your Kingdom Come.”

So, go tell it on every mountain… and let us never be wiser.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

still singing

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

This verse has wrapped itself around my soul several times and given comfort when all else seems crazy.

Today, I remembered this Truth is half-way. I’ve allowed the imprint on my heart to only sink to surface level. I forgot to memorize the rest of the verse from Psalm 46:10, “…I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

God invites us into stillness and knowledge of Him while He is inviting us into world-sized worship; He is inviting us into mission with Him that can only and will only result in an international song.

The excitement of Christmas seems like a vague memory now that we’ve hit our January stride. We’re already knee-deep in next things and we’ll be lucky to get thank you cards sent out for the gifts we received.

But, every once awhile – on a day like today – I’ll sing a song that gets unfortunately confined to a small winter season, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

On a day like today, I’ll let the rhythm beat with my feet and the wind carry the words,

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Emmanuel – God with us – the story of the Gospel. The story from Genesis to Revelation of God’s Holiness, our sin and His overwhelming grace to bridge the gap. Stories are never, ever meant to be secret. Stories, especially great stories, are meant to be shared.

And so I am still singing.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

I am still singing with great joy that Christ came – God came to be with us, to wear skin, and to become our pardon. Christ came to live Love and I am still singing this song of tragedy turned redemption.

I am still singing the song that anticipates Christ’s return, because the story isn’t finished. We are not only meant to be still and know God is God. We are not called to walk out on Christmas being reassured of our future eternal home.

We are called to join with God to haste the day of Christ’s second coming. We are commissioned to share the greatest story ever told.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Rejoice, rejoice – because God came to dwell with us and to be our righteousness. Also rejoice because we carry around a story that will bring the nations into stillness and knowledge of Him.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy