Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Few Words on Kindness

  This is my Olivia Jane. She's almost 10, and most of the time has more energy and excitement than a solid dozen of me. My sister-in-law and I used to say that she could be enthusiasm for hire. Sure, when we're in the middle of adding and subtracting fractions, or that dreaded long division, she's not necessarily that happiest of children, but let's be honest here, not many are at that point. ;) In general, though, this girl is the personification of "joie de vie," or "joy of life." Sometimes it's aggravating, but in general, it's inspiring.
My incredibly talented sister-in-law shot this. You should check her out!

Enter the "tween" years, and all the fun life lessons that come with them. All of the sudden, my sweet, happy, tender-hearted girl has discovered meanness. And don't get me wrong, I'm not only saying she's fallen victim to it, but she's also turned it around on others. (Usually, her sisters, but there have been a few times where she's been less than innocent in her circle of friends as well.) 

The first few times it happened, every fiber of my being wanted to go in a dozen different directions. I wanted to be angry and share a few words with those who hurt her; I wanted to sit with her and cry over the very familiar pain of the situations; I wanted to figure out a quick way to siphon her hurt; I wanted to figure out how to thicken her skin to better protect her for the inevitable next time. In the end, I chose to use these times as opportunities to learn about human nature, and to try to be a better human herself (and myself). Recently, it seems as if we've circled back into a season of this sort of thing with some of her girlfriends - exclusion, manipulation, and general meanness. It's nothing out of the ordinary, and though it's no fun, it will pass. But it's brought these thoughts fresh to my mind so I thought I'd share them with you.

Something I've learned over the years is that hurt people, hurt people. When Olivia first encountered "bullying" (used for lack of better term, not to be dramatic!), this is one of the first things I explained to her, and I did it partially because I could already see her processing the pain in part by turning that meanness onto her younger sister. TIMEOUT for the Carrick girls. Not a real time out, but I pushed pause big time so we could sit and process properly. I explained how even just then, Olivia was hurt, and her first instinct was to hurt someone else. This is the cycle of meanness that I wanted to help stop, rather than perpetuate. I told the girls that when someone hurts them, probably along the lines somewhere they themselves had been hurt. It doesn't take away the pain, but it brings perspective, and for us it fosters grace, and ultimately, forgiveness, which I feel should always be the bottom line. It's much healthier that way.

I know my children are human, and they will more than likely have MANY moments in their life where they are less than nice to people, but I will fight every day to teach them that their goal in life is to show love to others, and to foster KINDNESS in every situation they can. It's a harder fire to light sometimes, but it can spread just as effectively as bitterness or meanness, and have a way more positive end result! 

If you are a parent, I am asking you, please teach your children to be kind. Not weak, not pushovers, or anything like that, but kids who are willing to look past exteriors, to go an extra mile for someone, to bite their tongue when a really good comeback is on the tip of it (hard, I know!), and to show extra grace for those around them. We help to create the culture we exist in, and we are training the next generation to do the same. Create kindness. Pass it on. Even when - especially when - it's hard, it's worth it. They're watching, learning, and imitating us, and it's their world at stake, so let's make it a good one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Let's Do Life Together

There are many popular terms circulating these days describing friendship or a group of one's close friends - tribe, village, squad, and I'm sure several others that I'm not hip enough to know (or use - fam, anybody?). My preferred term these days is tribe. If you follow me on social media, you see it a lot. Ballet tribe. Mom tribe. Homeschool tribe. And you know why I like to use it? Because for me, it's the most accurate. When I think of the word "tribe," I think of a large group of people, some related by blood, but all related by location, purpose, and life itself. They work together to support each other, help each other succeed, celebrate wins, mourn losses, and laugh through the tears in the nitty gritty. They go to war together when something or someone is trying to invade one of their own, and together they fight (in whatever capacity they're able to) until it's over. This is what tribe means to me, and this is why I've chosen it as my "squad" title. ;)

I don't care what age you are or season of life you're in, making friends, or rather, finding those "tribe members" can be rough. It's true, sometimes you meet someone, and you click almost instantly. You know within one fifteen minute conversation that this person may be in your life for a long time. I feel like that is the exception, though, and not the rule. Because generally speaking, making friends takes time, trust, and vulnerability - and those three things can be hard to find. And even harder to give. At least for me that was (and sometimes still is) the case.

As someone who has often been the total fear/anxiety/insecurity package, making friends has meant a LOT of trial and error over the years. And there has been a lot of hurt and heartbreak. But you know what else there has been? Oh so many learning experiences. For a long time I thought they were learning who not to trust or hang out with, but a few months ago I had a beautiful paradigm shift in this area: sure, I've learned what to avoid, but more importantly, I've learned what to BE. 

You see, I'm embarrassed to admit this, it took me a long time to realize that sure, other people had made mistakes in my life, but quite often I was bringing literally nothing to the table of friendship we were supposed to both be sharing. Friendship/village/community/tribe/squad survival means that ALL parties involved are contributing. And many times, I was not. I wanted a good friend, but I wasn't willing to be a good friend. I wanted someone's time, but how much was I offering up? I wanted people to trust in me and be vulnerable with me, but what was I willing to share or entrust them with? Not much. 

In the last few years I have been so blessed by amazing friendships. My "tribe" has walked with me through the absolute ugliest times of my life. I learned how to be broken in front of people, and that it was okay to let others see me in a less than perfect state, and to trust them with my ugliness and imperfection. I've been vulnerable in ways that would ordinarily be humiliating, but rather I drew strength in those moments, because they were RIGHT. I went through a season that felt oh so lonely, and kind of threw up a prayer/challenge of desperation to God because I just wanted to feel like I was wanted. That I belonged. That I mattered.

About that time I read a book by Sally Clarkson (one of my favorite authors, hello!), and she talked about a season in her life where she didn't feel included in anything. And the Lord showed her that it was SHE who was supposed to be doing the inviting, including, and reaching out. MIND. BLOWN. Some seasons of our life, people aren't going to be beating our doors down to bring us along with them. Sometimes we need to step out and bring others along with us. That's part of life, and it's a part that will grow us in an incredible way. After that I started evaluating my tribe. A lot of surface-level friendships, but not a lot of depth. Because I was chasing acceptance in the wrong places, rather than looking to see who I could reach out to. It's been a long, sometimes painful learning process, but as I look at my life now, and realize all of the beautiful, TRUE relationships I have with so many, I am thankful for it. God knew. He always knows. And He never fails. Cling to those words, my friends, because they are truth.

I'm still learning to be a friend. To stop my selfish pursuit of perfection and open my eyes and my schedule to those around me. To allow people into my life...even to the point where they're close enough to see the scars, cracks, and bruises. Sometimes they even turn out to be the ones the Lord meant to use to heal those bruises. I still make a lot of mistakes. I forget to call people when I said I would, and I drop the ball frequently in the scheduling time area. I get caught up in the busyness of my own life that I forget to remember to make room for others. But I am learning. And I am moving forward. Simple things like letting friends come over to my house even though it isn't Pinterest perfect. Seems so tiny, but for me it's big. And it means something. And you know what? My friends know that. So it means something to them. This is doing life together. This is real, raw, and beautiful. 
Friendship is unique to the parties involved. That's a big part of its beauty, its allure. When we see a group of friends who genuinely love doing life together, it draws us in, and reminds us of our desire to belong to a similar picture. We are not meant to exist in isolation. We are better together - we truly flourish when we are surrounded by a healthy community of those who are willing to speak encouragement and truth (even when it gets uncomfortable) into our lives, and when we are able to do the same for them. These are the lessons I'm learning, and the ones I'm trying to teach my children to grab hold of while they're still so young. 

Village. Tribe. Squad. Whatever you call it, we are better when we do life together. <3

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Forward motion...

Oh hey there, remember me? The one who keeps promising to be better at this blogging thing...but isn't? Well, I'm back. Again. And I'm going to try. Again. (Side note: my hubby has positively ruined the term 'try' because he's a Star Wars freak and will continually quote Yoda if the girls or I say the word. If you don't know what I mean, I urge you to look it up. Warning though, you can't unsee it. Ugh.)

Let's be honest here - I'm an author. Well, an aspiring author. Technically, a one-time, self-published, hoping-for-more, aspiring author. And this type of writing (blogging), which I feel like I'm supposed to working on is a lot different than the type of writing I'd like to be working on (fiction/novels). And it's way more difficult. After all, if you read enough books - campy, trendy, thrilling, uber-formulaic novels or true classics - if you read enough, you can write a work of fiction. It might not be a NYT best seller, but you can probably plug in one formula or another and, if you see it all the way through, have a finished story.

Non-fiction is different, especially when it's real life and personal. "Bloggers" these days have to be witty, clever, up-to-date on lingo, good writers or at least able to mimic them, and above all - vulnerable. My least. favorite. word. And yet, here I am. The few posts I have managed to get published have been, for the most part, raw, real, gut-wrenching (for me), and basically the opposite of everything I prefer. Like, what the heck? I don't want to expose it all! I'm all in for avoiding TMI other than a VERY close group of friends, so why on earth would I choose this blogger life and open up for the world to read my heart?

"Because." That's the answer to this very real, very heart-felt question of mine. Because. I'm a firm believer that we are called to certain unique purposes, and although they may change with the different seasons of our lives, it doesn't make them any less ours to fulfill. And for some odd reason, for this season of life that I am in, this is my purpose. This is my calling. This open, honest, (in a perfect world) witty type of writing is what I am supposed to be doing. You know how I know? Because a little over a year ago I sat down to write my second book. I have an outline, several details for each chapter, the path I want to go, and still somehow very few words came out, even after months and months of prayer and attempts at writing. However, no less than 15-20 blog post ideas hit me within a 6 month period of time. Not a very big number in general, but quite a large one when you think about the fact that I was all but ignoring my blog, and the sneaking suspicion within me that I needed to instead FOCUS on it.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. I, Crystle Carrick, am committing to this blog thing. It isn't necessarily going to be easy, it's surely not going to be convenient, but I do feel so strongly that it is important, and it is time.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cherishing this Moment

Homeschool with the Carricks, Day 2. Fun "1st Day of School" pictures can happen later, but for now I want to focus on this moment. Because it is about as perfect as it's going to get. 
This year I'm teaching all three of our girls, kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th grades. And I'm about as nervous as can be. Because last year was HARD. Way harder than I ever thought it could be, at least in elementary grades. We pressed on, but not necessarily joyfully, and it was difficult and stressful and joy-depleting. Time for an attitude adjustment for Crystle!! I KNOW that this is the life I'm called to, and I'm LIVING it, so where is my thankfulness? My children are bright and beautiful and capable, and love to learn, so why am I stripping them of that love just because it doesn't look like it did in my mind? 
This was not the formula for success, and it had to change. So I prayed for a new love and excitement for teaching, a new vision for our home in this season, and a way to reignite love for learning in our girls. It isn't going to be easy, but it IS going to be worth it.
This is why I'm focusing on this moment. Relishing this moment. All three working, all three learning, all three with smiles on their faces. Sure, it's only day 2. But if I remember moments like these it will be easier to see through the foggy, frustrating days the road ahead.
I needed to be still and be thankful. If you're having a rough time, just know that you are not alone. It's hard for me to share these truths about my messy days, because I worry they'll take away from my passionate message about the importance of the life of a stay-at-home and homeschooling mama, but that is a LIE. In reality, they add to the validity. The hard days confirm that you're where you need to be, and they're the ones that grow us. The proof is in the pudding, right? Well, the trying times are where the pudding is made. 😉 
So hang in there, mamas (and dads!), and know you're not alone. If you need encouragement, reach out to someone who is in the same season, or someone who has gone before. They're there. And I'm here, if you want to talk! I'm not perfect, shoot, I'm not even that experienced, but I am certain. Certain of God's grace. Certain of God's strength. And certain that we will get through this, and when we look back at the tapestry of this journey, it's going to be more beautiful than we could have ever imagined, rough days included and especially. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friends in the Mess

Today was a banner day in this Carrick household. We woke up late. Well, I didn't, but I was slow going and my children wouldn't. wake. up. My oldest daughter was 5 minutes late for her last summer intensive ballet class (on the day promotions were scheduled to come out so she really didn't want to mess up). My youngest was still sleeping when I put her, pajama-clad, into the car, hastily grabbing some clothes to change her into once we'd arrived and found our right minds. Fast forward ten minutes: I drop my daughter off at ballet, and head to get gas, while my youngest is in hysterics because she doesn't want regular clothes, just her sleeper, and she's hungry and tired and "just wants my iPad for a minute!" Fast forward again, 15 minutes later, and she's contentedly munching on a banana, we're finally headed back to the studio...and I realize I grabbed everything for her but shoes. And now we don't have enough time to go back to the house for shoes before my coffee date with a friend. Not to mention my two younger ones are getting along GREAT, because the middle didn't want to leave the studio and the youngest is still finding something or other to cry about.

*waves white flag meekly in surrender*

Oh. my. goodness. It's going to be a good day, indeed.

I am not even kidding you, I cried three or four times, in public, by 11 o'clock this morning. It's just one of those days, and I can deal with that, but of course it's happening when I'm finally getting to have coffee with a friend who I haven't hung out with one-on-one in yearS.

This is real life. It is MESSY. But, it is honest, and frankly, that's better.

I show up, carrying my nearly five-year-old into Starbucks because she doesn't have shoes, and sit her and her sister down at a table, trying to quiet their protests for this drink or that, trying to keep them from hitting each other, trying to get my phone to load Netflix...trying to hold it together so my friend doesn't go running the moment she walks in the door. (Hey, I wouldn't blame her! lol)

This is real life. It is MESSY.

BUT, I have to say, if it weren't for that coffee date that I nearly cancelled because of how awful the morning had been, I might have spent the entire day in and out of tears, tirades, and tiredness. But I needed it - mess or not. Because that friend embraced the mess. She was amazingly patient while I had to constantly stop the conversation to stop the girls' fighting; she saved the day by letting them upgrade from my phone to her iPad so they could see WAY better. (*insert hard eye roll here*); she laughed with me over my series of unfortunate events that morning; most of all, she didn't care. She said she was glad I shared with her how it had been. How I didn't have it all together. Because sometimes - often times - we DON'T have it all together. And we need to see that in ourselves and each other because it is literally a life-giving truth. I was a mess. She didn't care. If she'd been a mess, I wouldn't have cared. Other than to embrace the mess with her.

We need to be more honest and open about these moments in our lives, because everyone has them and no one deserves to feel alone in it.

Maybe this is coming out in a big, rambled, run-on sentence, or maybe not. But it has been sitting on my heart since I walked out of that Starbucks an hour and a half later, feeling like so much weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Yes, we talked about a lot of things that had been weighing me down for months, but the immediate effect I felt was because I was hit (once again) with the truth that I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to be presentable. At least not all of the time. ;)

This life is C-R-A-Z-Y, and that's just something we have to accept. If it isn't, it's probably because we're either not pushing forward and trying to grow, or we're no longer breathing. It's difficult, but it doesn't have to be impossible. It's messy, but it doesn't have to be destroyed beyond recognition.

I realized today that I've been hiding in my messy season, trying to shield others from it, when in reality, I was shielding myself from the support system I desperately needed (and still need) as a mom, woman, and friend. That's backwards thinking but how often do we slip into that train of thought?!

I also realized today that if I'm so willing to embrace others in their mess, I need to be willing to be embraced in mine. It goes against my nature, but it's the only way to be genuine, and to have genuine relationships with others. If I want REAL fellowship, I have to be REAL.

And so, on this banner day of mine, please feel free to laugh with me. If you need to, cry. If you want coffee, I'm here. I can't promise what state my house, day, and life will be in, but I promise that I will embrace you in my heart, and welcome you in my life. We're in this together.

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Concerning Zacchaeus...


Each year, I try to read the whole Bible in the calendar year (Jan. 1-Dec. 31), and for the last several years, I've succeeded. This year I did not; when that clock struck 2016, I still had nine days on my reading plan left. And you know what? Thanks to the encouraging words of a friend's blog post (read here if you want), I decided that I would just keep reading it into the new year until I had completed it. (Which I did on the 2nd, woohoo! Check one goal for the new year off already.) ;)

Anyway, one of the last things I read about in this plan was the meeting up of Jesus and Zacchaeus, and for some reason, it struck a new chord with me. I think that must be one of THE FIRST Bible stories you actually remember in Sunday school (sing the song with me, anyone?), and honestly I've probably heard a sermon or four preached on it over the years, and yet...and YET, this year, this time, this reading, I got something fresh. I honestly LOVE that about the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Sure, there is nothing new under the sun, but I'm a person, and persons can be dense, and therefore we are only revealed to in bites we can handle for that season, and then more when we're ready in future seasons. That's one of the best things about reading my Bible every year - what actually keeps me going back - there's so much packed into those 66 books that you really do read something new every time you go through it.

In John 19, Jesus is making hs way through Jericho, and there are massive crowds who have gathered to see him. Enter Zacchaeus - a rich and crooked tax collector, but he wants to see Jesus too, and he's a little guy and darn it, just can't see over the crowd. He climbs a tree to get a glimpse, and wouldn't you know it? Jesus, being awesome, spots him. And then, being even more awesome, mentions that he needs to get down because He, Jesus, was going to his house to be a guest. Ummm, sure okay Jesus, on my way! (That's me, trying to play it cool and casually scramble down the tree, but instead falling because I'm completely freaking out...)

Okay, here is what I want to point out, these Scriptures have literally been replaying in my head for the last several days, and it's John 19:6-10: "Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. "He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner," they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, "I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated poeple on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!" Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost."

Zacchaeus was a sinner, end of story. He was a tax collector, who cheated people. He had become very rich doing this, and was probably living a fairly comfortable life. And yet, even in his state of sin he knew he needed to see Jesus. He probably didn't know why, but something in the very core of his being said "I'm getting there, no matter what it takes." I absolutely love the part where it says he took Jesus into his house with excitement and joy. And then in his spending time with Jesus, repented of his sin and started figuring out how to change in practical ways. He knew he was in the wrong, yet he was eager to spend time with the Lord, and this time spent brought about the life change he desperately needed.

Many times we feel like we need to have everything straightened up before we "welcome Jesus in," and then when we do it's like a terse, sit-on-the-uncomfortable-couch-and-sip-tea-that-neither-of-us-likes kind of meeting. That is so not what He intends! He says "Come as you are," and considering He knows exactly how we are, I think He really means it! How much sweeter would time spent with the Lord be if we didn't care as much about the "state of things" in our life but rather welcomed Him in with joy and excitement, and welcomed the necessary adjustments in our lives that His Word demands? So. much. sweeter.

Now let's roll back the reel a bit and talk about this story from one other angle - Jesus. He knew Zacchaeus was a sinner, but he wanted to stay with him anyway. Others scoffed and mocked at how he could lower himself to dining with such a terrible individual, but Jesus didn't see the sin, he saw the heart desperate for what was really needed for change: truth in love. And although there might have been some intense conversation over his need for salvation, all we see is that His presence brought the change.

Randy Alcorn says, "When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth-even hearts that reject it." ("The Grace and Truth Paradox")


What gets me about this story is that I see so much of what I need to be in both parties. I want to always be desperate to meet with Jesus, regardless of how "well" I'm doing spiritually. I want to feel the conviction, not condemnation, with a heart ready for change, growth, progress. I want to always be humble enough to remember and recognize that I'm in sinner in need of a Savior, and that will never change. On the other side of the pendulum, I have to stop and wonder how often I am willing to spend time with those who others wouldn't. To put life situations aside and just fellowship with someone. The reality is I need Jesus as desperately as they do; the real question at hand is am I willing to be the vessel that brings Jesus to them? Am I bringing truth in grace that opens the door for change? Or am I bringing a fluffy religion that adds an extra lock to an already closed door? Dear lord I hope it's the first.

Moving forward into 2016, these are some of the things on my heart. I want to be desperate for my Savior, and I want to be walking with Him so closely that my life bears the results of grace and truth, and people around me see Him and learn to know Him personally as well.

I think it's going to be a pretty great year, and I hope that you'll join me in rejoicing in times to come.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

He Did...and He WILL

Well, as usual I'd love to promise that this will be a short post, but let's be honest - they rarely are. I'm a wordy girl, what can I say? Someone told me that it's for a reason and to just go with it, so you're welcome. :)

Anyway, this morning I was reading my bible and a passage really struck a chord within me. While this isn't an infrequent occurrence, I don't usually share. Today I felt compelled to.

"...We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us."
       - 1 Corinthians 1:8-10

Over that last several years, I've walked through some very difficult times. The pressure, stress, and pain seemed almost suffocating, and the light at the end of the tunnel seemed nonexistent. I'm just now realizing that big chunks of time from that period I was sort of floating through, because they're just now coming back to me. HOWEVER, God was ever present. All knowing. All powerful. And through it all I learned to rely on Him and Him alone.

Hard times - financial or relationship difficulties, depression, illness, whether your own or that of someone dear to you - well, they really suck. No mincing words there. They do. And it's okay if you feel overwhelmed, because they can be pretty overwhelming, and everyone feels that way. You're not alone.

You're. Not. Alone.

Today, if you're struggling through circumstances, or maybe facing some future uncertainties that are plaguing you with fear and you just don't feel like you can breathe or hold on much longer, you CAN. I promise. Hold on to Jesus. If you don't know Him, find someone who does. Talk to them, have them pray for you. God has rescued and will continue to rescue! He's the same yesterday, today, and forever and in Him you can find new life, strength, peace, hope, comfort, and confidence.

You don't have to do it all. Stop relying on yourself to solve everything or handle it all on your own, and rely on God. (And yes, I'm preaching to myself here, even now.)

Hopefully someone reads this and finds hope, and the peaceful reminder of Someone who loves them. Be blessed, and keep smiling at things to come, because through the storm comes an indescribable beauty.