Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Love Without End Amen

I named my first baby doll Baby Tony. For those of you who don’t know, Tony is my dad’s name. I recently asked my mom why I named my very pink, soft, and strawberry smelling baby after my daddy. Her answer was simple, “you were crazy about your daddy.” Thirty years later and I am still pretty crazy about him.

One thing I always thought was cool about my dad was he was in a band when I was young, and I thought he was as good as George Strait. George Strait was the first concert I went to at age 6 and the first tapes my daddy let me listen to. The love I had for George I learned and shared with my dad. I remember one time I was at an event he was playing at. I couldn't have been over 8. I remember dancing and loving hearing him sing. He sang a George song called “Love Without End Amen”. (Here is a link if you haven’t heard the song http://youtu.be/k2af10YlLoc )  I remember dancing and singing and when he got to the 2nd verse he changed up the words. He personalized them saying, “when I became a father in the spring of 82” (when I was born) and he changed the word boy to girl. (He may have even said that I was stubborn like my mama—but that is a big joke because we all know which parent I take that after J ) The point is my daddy was singing about me, and from that day on in my mind that was our song. Every time I heard it I thought of him (I still think of him when I hear it). I saw the words of the song coming to life in my head. This is how I pictured the song:
Verse 1:  Papaw telling little Tony about love
Verse 2:  Daddy telling me about love
Verse 3: Papaw in heaven telling Daddy that he got in to heaven so my daddy would get in to, because he learned how to love from Papaw and Papaw got in.

I thought of the song that way for years, but when it came on the radio the other day heard something different. On the 3rd verse I no longer heard an earthly father singing about love but the heavenly father speaking of his perfect love. Our heavenly father does everything for us out of love. The bible even says God is love. Romans 5:8 tells that God proves his love for us because he sent a sinless Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins. 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, tells us that love always protects, always trust, always hopes, and always perseveres. I don’t know if George knew what he was doing portraying the love of the Father, but he did it well. God doesn't just love us sometimes. He doesn't just love us when we are being good. He doesn't just love us when it is convenient for him. He loves us always. I think that God made the role of the father be the one that is meant to teach us love. Most of us view God based on the way that we view our dad’s—good and bad. God wants us to believe in him and that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He will be our daddy today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now. I am so thankful that the love that God gives us is a love without end amen! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hair Care

OK ladies let’s talk about hair. As we all know hair is an important part of being a girl. We spend tons of money on cuts, color, and styling. We buy all the latest tools and product and we would rather stay at home in the dark than face the world on a bad hair day. We will do just about anything TO our hair to achieve the perfect do, but have you ever thought about what you could do WITH your hair? The woman in Luke 7 (vs. 36-50) used her hair unconventionally in one of the most important moments in her life. This woman used her hair to clean the feet of a carpenter and in the process changed her life.

In this time people wore open sandals. The road was dirty and dusty so just imagine the feet of the people that walked everywhere they went. In this passage Jesus had entered a home and had not had his feet washed, which was a custom of that time. So we can imagine that his feet were still dirty. The woman wet the feet of Jesus with her tears and then began to clean them with her hair. Let’s stop and break this down. First, hair is very close to the face so if she had her hair on his feet her face was not far behind. Second, she used her hair as a cleaning rag. I don’t know about you, but my cleaning rags are permanently stained, are only used for cleaning purposes, and are stored in a cabinet nowhere near my hair products. If the story stopped here we would walk away wondering why in the world would she do that with her hair, but if we keep going we see what a beautiful gesture it was.

You see this was not just the girl next door. This woman had a reputation. Everyone in the town knew are and identified her as a sinner. So we can read between the lines and know that she was the outcast, looked down on, ashamed, hurt, and damaged. The woman would have never been invited into the house Jesus was at, but she went anyway. She may have heard him speak before or heard rumor of the healing he was doing. Whatever the case she had hope that he would be her salvation. So when she entered into his presence she used everything she had to show how much she needed his grace. She was bold. She took her sinful self into a place she was unwelcomed and cleaned the dirt of a man’s feet with her tears and her hair. That took faith. She knew she needed redemption, and she believed that Jesus could give it to her. So in the grand scheme of things using her hair as a dirty rag was just a very small price to pay for the gift of grace, redemption, and eternal life. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Becoming a Mom

In October of last year God began to burden my heart for a foster care ministry. At the time I thought it was crazy. I lived in my nice little one bedroom duplex with just enough room for me. I made just enough money for me, and I was free to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It made no sense for my present, so I filed it away for future reference. True to form, God continued to tug (more like yank) at my heart. After a month of trying to ignore it I finally shared it with a friend. As we were having a nice dinner discussion about nothing related to my burdened I blurted the words out, “I think God is calling me to foster care.” As soon as I said the words my friend dropped her fork. (Literally she dropped her fork) With a look of shock (and maybe a little fear) she said, I feel like He has been calling me to do foster care too.

From that moment life has been on fast track. So many things happened that confirmed the God was indeed calling us to be foster parents. (Those details deserve their own post) I moved in with my friend in December and we have been preparing ever since. It has not been an easy journey. We have cried (ok I cried). We have laughed, and we (mostly me) have wanted to back out. But we have kept going because we have no doubt that God has called us to this. As we were nearing the end of our certification for foster care my doubts increased x10. I could write 2 posts on why I thought it was not what I wanted to do; even then I still knew this was God’s plan.

As the approach of my 32nd birthday drew nearer, my heart began to change. I began to think about the girl that would need a home and a family. I thought about the situation that she might need leave. In those days what God revealed to me is He is not just calling us to let someone live in our home; He is calling us to be someone’s mother. He is calling us to do all the things that mom’s do. We are going to love her, teach her, correct her, comfort her, console her, and enjoy her.

Thursday of last week I got an email that said they thought they might have a girl for us. On Friday we learned her name and some neat things about her. All of a sudden all my fear was gone and love filled my heart. We are going to have a daughter. We are so ready for her NOW. She is already so loved. I’m going to be a mom. Wow! It is a good thing I have been raised by a good mom. My biggest dream in life is to be a mom. God has not only appointed me with an important task, He has answered my prayer. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Their Story

April 17, 2008 is my day; the day that changed it all. It is when my life began again. It was the beginning of a new story, one that I was finally willing to let God write. Over the past 6 years there has been a lot of change, a lot of growth, and a lot of opportunity. The opportunity that I most enjoy is telling God’s story of my life and transformation. Each time I share it I am reminded of God’s grace and love. I am reminded of how much He loves me. I am reminded of hope and change. I am reminded of the freedom and the joy that I searched for a long time but only found in Him.

Six years!!! I have now lived more life sober than using. I now remember more good days than bad ones. Six is not a milestone year for celebrating, but it feels like one to me.  Around this time I year I spend a little more time than usual digesting God’s redemption in my life, and this year I came up with a new angle. Each time I tell my story I give it from my point of view, but I am not the only one in this story. This story, testimony if you will, also belongs to the people that stood in the gap for me. This story is also my parent’s story.

You see in my 5 years of using and partying, they were not celebrating and having a good time. They are the ones that prayed for me constantly. They cried out to God to save me, and I imagine each time they knew I was high their hearts broke a little more. They had to set boundaries. They saw me make bad choices. They saw me destroy my life and my future. They were hurt over and over, but they never gave up. They never turned from God. They may have been mad, but they kept praying. They had faith when I had none. They had hope when none could be seen. They had love. They believed in me. They saw my worth when I could find none. I can only recall crying out to God 1 time during those 5 years. They cried out 100s. That is why this is their story.

My Sweet Parent’s,
            Words cannot express how much I cherish you all. I am grateful that God has gifted me with each of you. I am grateful that we have grown closer to God as a family through our struggles. I pray that He gives you peace about days that are gone. If I were to have regrets they would be that I hurt you when you loved me. I know you are all proud of me, and that is one of my greatest accomplishments. I can’t wait to see what the next 6 years have in store.
                        Love Always,
                        Cary Dale 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Do I Do This?

I love my job. I get to love on young women and talk about Jesus all day…what’s not to love? My love for it does not erase the challenges that are faced each day. It challenges me professionally, emotionally, and most important spiritually. The decision to take the job was not made lightly. Coming to Heart of Hope required some sacrifice, but I came any way because I knew that God had prepared me for Heart of Hope. I knew without a doubt that He called me here. I was asked recently why in the world I would take a risk like this. Why would I take a step in my career that seemed like taking step back? Why would I put up with the difficulties of the job? I had to stop and think about that. I know the generic answer is “because it is what God called me to do.” But I wanted a better answer. I asked myself “why did you take the risk” and “why do you feel a calling to this?” With no surprise I found my answer in the words of Jesus. In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That is what I did. I laid my life down for the sake of these girls finding Jesus. I love them each. I even love the ones yet to come. I so desperately want them to find the freedom that Christ has to offer. I want to do whatever I can to keep them from the enemy. I want them to have life to the fullest. As Christians we are called to love, and that is why I do what I do. I want to lay my life down so that these girls will find life in Christ; life to the fullest. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Know?

How well do you know me?

I bet you know that I am a big book nerd.

I bet you know that I love my job and the girls I get to work with.

I bet you know that I am crazy about my nephew.

I bet you can figure out that Jesus is important to me, that I am really goofy, and that I love all things Disney. 

What you may not know is that I have an illness. It is a serious illness that at times can be life threatening. It is an illness that I have struggled with for a large portion of my life. Sometimes it is bad, but sometimes it seems that I am in full remission. It is an illness that requires medication and a lot of self-care. It is an illness that I may never be healed from. It is an illness that so many call a joke because there is no test for it and no case looks the same. The disease I struggle with is mental illness.

My illness has been so prevalent in my life that I have made it my mission. For the past 6 years my every working moment has revolved around mental illness. I know it is real, because I lived it. I know it hurts, because I have had moments that I wanted to die. I know that there is hope, because I survived.

I have not been set free from all of my struggles, but I indeed am free. I am free from my suffering because a sinless man took His love for me all the way to the cross. Now, even in the center of a mental illness storm, I find hope, peace, and purpose. My hope is in the Lord that He will never leave me nor forsake me. My purpose is also in Him that He will work all things for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose. My peace is the peace that Jesus left for us, that which surpasses all understanding.  And I can do ALL things through Him that strengthens me. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Beginning

This morning my devotion started me in the first chapter of Genesis. I put this devotion off a week ago because I was doubtful that I would find any new revelation here. I mean how many times have I read that chapter already? It is always the same—significant but familiar. This morning I was compelled to pick up the book again. I turned my Bible to the page, began to read, and BAM a new beginning. I was literally stopped at verse 2. I could not read any more. There was something there that I had never seen before.

The verse reads, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” I have never thought about the picture that this verse paints for what God does in each of our lives. Without him we are void. Without him we live in darkness—even in our deepest parts. But even when we are formless he is hovering right above. Wow! I have a vision of what I think that creation looked like (finite as it most definitely is) and it is amazing! So I take this vision and imagine God creating my soul out of nothing. I picture him taking a heart that was void and breathing life into it. I see where darkness was and where light now lives. And he saw that it was good. He saw that I was good and you are good. He was pleased.

Try reading the verse out loud but instead of earth say your name. Then read a little more into the chapter to be reminded that God created male and female in His image, and he liked what he saw. It is so amazing that a God that spoke the world into existence also lives inside those that love him and are called according to his purpose. How can I doubt His work in me and in the world around me? How can I question what he is calling me to do? This world is no longer void and neither am I. With Him, neither are you. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 What a Year

2013 was a very big year for me. A lot happened; some good things and some bad things. I think that it is safe to say that after this year I will be forever changed.

I started this year finally taking my LPC licensing test and passing the test the first go round. Praise God!!!!! I dread that test for 3 years and I am so thankful it is over. Lord willing, I am done with taking major test in my life. I am so over studying for test.

One of the major things that happened was losing my Mamaw. She got sick at the end of March and passed away on April 18th. It was hard. I love her so much. She has been a very important person in my life. She made so many sacrifices for me. She was a wonderful Mamaw. I can’t ever remember her being mad at me or me being mad at her. She was gentle and loving always. I had the privilege of spending the night in the hospital the night before surgery. It was a hard night. There was a lot of pain for her, but she remained sweet and a little sassy. She made me laugh several times during that very long night. My aunt and I were the last two to “spend the night with her”. She was in ICU for the rest of her life. It was hard for me knowing that she would probably not make it. But I am so glad I was there. And when Jesus came to call her home I was praying her into heaven and she was surrounded by her children. I got to pray at her funeral. She wrote the family a letter and she asked us all to meet her and Jesus in Heaven. We have had a lot of first without her this year: Mother’s Day, her birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I miss her terribly. But I am comforted to know she is home with Jesus, and that is exactly where she wanted to be.

I also had a major career change. After 4 years (1 internship and 3 as counselor) at Brentwood Hospital God called me to move on. When I started working at Brentwood it was my job dreams come true. In school all I wanted to do was work inpatient psychiatric. Well I did it. It was not always easy, but the exposure and experience I gained was priceless. I was not even looking at moving on. I had actually considered sticking around for a position that would open up in a few years when someone retired. But God opened a door that I had to go through. I am still a counselor, but now in a very different setting. I am at a Maternity Home. It is a Christ centered ministry serving unmarried pregnant females from ages 11-23. I am absolutely in love with all my new coworkers and the girls I am working with. The best part is I get to talk about Jesus, all day long!!!!! Since I got here in June I have had amazing growth personally and professionally. I cannot wait to see how God moves in this ministry.

I have gotten to be a part of a new ministry launch. It is a monthly worship experience for women of all ages from different churches in our area. It is really cool way to connect with different women. The older I get the more I want to spend time with women that have experienced more life than me. I want to soak in some of their wisdom. I also have the privilege of posting on social media for the ministry. It is no secret that I love social media and have prayed for God to use it for his glory. This opportunity has been a gift for me. Through this I have also gained a spiritual mentor. I don’t know why I waited so long. My relationship with her is pushing me to dig deeper and grow. I know she will be honest with me. I also know that she will continue to push me out of my comfort zone. I really need that. I can’t wait to see what happens now that I have this coach/cheerleader in my life. Plus I just love being with women that love God!!!!!

The most exciting thing that happened to me this year is that I became an aunt. My sister gave birth to a healthy happy baby boy on September 6, 2013. His name is Tayton Dale and I could not be happier that he shares my name. I love that little boy so much. I can honestly say that I have never loved someone the way I love him. He lights up when he sees his Tia and his Tia lights up when she sees him. He is so much fun. I cannot get enough of him. I love watching him grow and learn. I love to hear him laugh. His whole little body shakes. He has the most precious smile. And boy does he like to babble. I have no idea where he gets it from. J He is the spitting image of his daddy, but when people say he favors me I feel warm and fuzzy all over. I cannot wait for all the years ahead where I can spoil him rotten.

The biggest thing that has happened has to do with my decision to move. I have lived in the most perfect home for 3 ½ years. I loved everything about it (even the rent). It was the first place I felt at home in a long time. It was mine. I loved living alone. I enjoyed having my own private corner of the world that I didn’t have to share. Well God sure did come in a change that. Through those God size changes I now have a roommate. I moved in to a friend’s house the week before Christmas. But being roommates was not the intent of the move. Although it is a nice perk. My friend and I have decided that we are going to be Foster parents. We will be a specialized foster home. The way that we got to this decision is an amazing testimony in itself. It will require its own post. We will start our training in January and hope to have a child by March. It is such a big decision to make, but we are both very excited to see how God uses us. 

Reading over this post I am again amazed at what God has done in this year. 2013 was surely a great year. Looking back over the past 5 ½ years each year continues to get better. So I cannot even imagine what God will do in 2014. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Great Calling

When I was a kid I remember learning about missionaries that were called by God to go to these very remote locations to spread The Good News. From that very young age I remember the fear that if I “surrendered to the ministry” God would make me marry a preacher move to Africa. I remember that there was always some importance and mystery about this “calling” that only certain Christians had. I would like to say that I out grew these thoughts quickly, but I still had them into my early 20’s. I was still afraid of the preacher and Africa (mostly the preacher husband), but the thing I thought about the most was the calling. Would I be called? How would I know? When would happen?  I felt like being called was like being a member in this special secret club, and if this was an elite group of Christ followers I wanted in. (Without the preacher and Africa preferably) I wanted in more for what the club would do for me and less about what I was willing to do for God.

Now, many years later, things have finally changed. I no longer have a fear of being sent to Africa or marring a preacher. (I may even prefer the later) I recently was gifted a job with a local ministry. Before things were finalized I thought, “Is this the call? Am I finally surrendering?” I’ll be honest I didn’t feel any spectacular. I was excited, but I didn’t feel any different than when I accepted my job at the hospital. I didn’t feel any more pressure than normal. I didn’t feel a greater surrender. I still loved God. He still loved me, and my work was still his work. Of course I just accepted this new understanding. I never questioned “God are you sure they want me? Are you sure this is it? Did I surrender wrong?” Ok part of that last sentence is not true. I did have questions and I did have doubts.

This morning during a conversation (about a completely unrelated topic) that I had with HOH director she said something that made it all click. She said, “This is our Africa.” Insight filled my thoughts. There is no “special” calling. We are all called. Some people are called to faraway places, but the majority of us are called right where we are. We are called to our work places and our communities. We all are called to surrender our lives to God right where we are. This is the great calling and as Christians we are all accepted into the “special club” of the redeemed. What did all of this insight bring me? Gratitude! I am not be a preacher’s wife living in Africa, but I am right where He wants me to be. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:12

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One Body

I like when small things work together to make big things, for instance a choir, symphony, or dancers. I love when plants are arranged to make patterns. I enjoy the sounds and formations of a marching band, and I think those pictures that use hundreds of small pictures to make one big picture is super neat. Cheesy maybe, but I have to admit that some times these things bring tears to my eyes. I think that my fascination comes from the joining of things that can function completely on their own, and by this something greater is created.

This morning, on the interstate, I saw 2 lanes of traffic, one with 2 cars and the other with 3, merge together simultaneously. The 3 cars merged in between the 2 at the exact time making two lanes of traffic one lane in just the precise amount of time. The movement could not have been planned better. Now in this instance I did not cry, but it brought a smile to my face. Of course the visualization did not stop there. It sent my brain on a rampage. I started thinking about how God meant for Christians to come together to form the church. The Bible makes the analogy of us joining together to form the body. I love that imagery. (I could write an entire article on this alone but for now I will stay focused) 

In Romans 12:5 Paul says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” He is saying that it takes all of us to form the body and the body needs each part to function properly. We were all created for a purpose within the body. If I am an eye all I can do is see and if you are an ear all you can do is hear. But together we hear AND see. When we are all doing our job together we compliment each other. Together, in Christ, we can accomplish great things. But my question is, “are we doing this?” 

Do we work together or against each other? Do I think everyone should see and you think everyone should hear? Far too often I think this sin filled world clouds our judgment with our selfish desires—our desire not God’s. We condemn and judge our brother and sister. We think our way is the only way and everyone else must be doing things wrong. We shout the faults of others publicly. Our words and actions breed less love and more hate. I know I am guilty of all these things and more. 

What good is all of this information if I can only see what is going on? (Maybe I am an eye) What I have trouble with is figuring out what to do with it. I need the rest of the body to help me. We need each other to be the church. No one can do it alone. So my question for you is “how can we start a movement to form ONE BODY?”