Author Archives: carrieokie

A Letter to My Son on Victory Day

Standard

Dear Samuel,

I pray that this is the first of many letters that I get to write to you. I hope there are Birthday letters, a baptism letter, college letters, and special letters on special days that I don’t even know about yet.

The truth is I have been writing letters to another baby these past two years. . . A baby named Ellis Grace who you will join one day in heaven. She is your sister and will always be regarded as Gods Greatest Kindness to our family. You will grow to love her memory and her place in our family as much as your brothers who got to hold her here on earth.

My letters to her I liken to sending a message in a bottle – – the exercise is full of love and mystery but the delivery is unknown and possibly never happens. It is a heart exercise to an unknown address with no guaranteed delivery.

And that , my boy, is where a significant difference lies. For you are all about deliverance. Ellis was my promise but you are the deliverance of those promises we continue to stand on today. And you will always be regarded as Gods Greatest Remembrance of Our Family. He remembered our hurt. He kept holding our hearts. He never forgot we were in the palm of His Hand. . . And it is with that Kindness, Faithfulness, and Assurance that He will now place you in the palm of our hands.

Your name, Samuel , means God has heard. God has heard our cries, has seen our need, and has gone before us in His perfect ways carrying out a His perfect plans. . . It is a perfect plan from a perfect Father that has brought you to our family.

And your middle name, Ransom, means rescue or deliverance. . . A price paid for freedom. . . God has heard our cry for deliverance and He has answered with your name.

Samuel Ransom Holliday, you make us sure of what we cannot see,

Grateful for what we did not ask for . . .

And blessed beyond our hearts deepest dreams. God started sending me feathers as soon as your ordained days began. The feathers are love notes indicating you are covered by His mighty wings- that we are all cradled by His mighty hands. . . Both here on earth and the parts of us that live forever in heaven. You are a new Mercy and new beginning that I am very grateful for. You will not have the youngest mom but rather, the most grateful.

We cannot wait to let the Great Author God start our new chapter with you, little one. For you we have prayed, and God has granted us the desires of our heart.

Come and take your place among the royal princes disguised as Dirty Farmers. Among the great man disguised as a fun daddy who will hold his breath until you have taken your very first one. . .

And when you hear me singing you can know that not only are you home where you belong. . . But so are we.

We Love You,

Mommy, Daddy, Jackson, Gage, Grayson

And from her heavenly perch- – Ellis Grace

Advertisements

Victory in Motion: the strength of submission in the eyes of our men

Standard

Last year I posted before and after pictures of myself. I even made them into a collage to highlight the greatness of God’s power in my life. Now these weren’t those full-body-practically-in-my-underwear-beach body-style pictures inviting you to scrutinize a body that God made perfectly. But you can still see in the first picture I am 40 pounds heavier with the weight of the world on my shoulders , my eyes are swollen from releasing love that ran down my face continually. I’m not just heavy but heavy burdened. I’m weak and disoriented and foggy. I’m everything a woman doesn’t want to see and likely everything a man doesn’t want to see in a woman.

The second picture is so much kinder. I’m back at the size I was when he met and married me. Just enough make up on to look naturally beautiful and glowing. And an inviting smile on my face and that same hot pink workout tank top just looks more attractive minus the 40 pounds.

So I asked him later in the day “hey honey what did you think of my before and after pictures ? how did I look ?” Now even though we live in a feminist world, it remains a world that objectifies women. I get sucked into this culture like everybody else. So I guess I expected my husband to use a word like “hot ” or “skinny” or maybe even a “smoking”. Which I might add would be fine by me. I want him to want me. I strongly desired to be the object of his desire. But if I was expecting that, I was about to be disappointed.

Because He said I think you look victorious. That’s what my hubby sees when he looks at me: strength, perseverance, endurance, discipline, bold beauty characterized by victory in Christ. He sees me as a conqueror.

Big deal. So what? Why do you think this is blog worthy? Well the reason is is a big deal to me is because we live in a traditional Christian covenant marriage. I consistently respect him even when I disagree with him. And it doesn’t happen very often, but if we find ourselves at odds – – he has the final say. And when that happens , I continue to respect him. I yield to him. I lift him up. I intentionally keep him in a position of power and leadership in my life. I submit to his authority in all things. So from a worldly perspective, it strikes me kind of funny that when he looks at me he only sees strength and power, Victor and conquer. I’m not a doormat that he doesn’t take time to notice. And I’m not just a beautiful thing that is constantly bowing down to him either. He has seen me not get my way and still lovingly go along with his way. He knows it isn’t easy to trust so deeply in someone else. So He has a deep respect for the fact that I do this and that I do it on a daily basis.

We are one team, he and I. When I stand victorious, he shares in the bounty of a real victory. My successes they bless him, my victories they proclaim his greatness.

This wouldn’t of been the case a few years ago. It was more important for me to be right and victorious. It was more important for me to knock him down a few pegs then to stand on the mountaintop right beside him.

I wonder what His answer would have been if He looked at the same picture during that season. I fear he might have said, “You look really good” or “you look great.” He may have even paused a long time wondering what he should say. What the ” right” answer was. . . He would have tried to answer my way and it would have greatly lessened my value in the process.

Because who He uniquely is adds value to me. It Makes my reflection shine brighter. And it deepens his view of me which deepens my view of myself. I would totally missed that if I stayed in the land of standing on my own. I would make myself an object of defiance. Suck myself into a movement of madness. Moving in the exact opposite direction of where my real security lies. I love it that I serve a God who makes sure that I stand up for myself when I bow down to him. That’s a victorious motion.

My Promise

Standard

Promises to My Daughter on Her Second Birthday in Heaven

I promise to walk in the joy you brought me and the promises your life taught me.

I promise to remember and love you in a way that will make your 41 days last forever.

I promise to make your brothers days my priority knowing I’ll have all of eternity with you.

I promise to live my life in such a way that I’ll arrive where you are soon and very soon.

I promise to love and respect Daddy in a way that He’ll be able to Lead in the light of such great loss. . . For their is no darkness in your perfect purity.

I promise to worship the Giver even more than I delighted in the gift of you.

I promise to anchor my heart in truth with every Rose and glorious hair bow.

I promise to accept your invitation to heaven. . . It’s closeness, it’s realness. . . It’s place in our hearts here on earth.

I promise to accept the ordination of your days. . . In correspondence with The perfection of His ways. . .

I promise my Royal princess to keep you holy in my heart and never allow you to become an idol of twisted worship.

I promise to be as honest about how losing you wrecked me as I am about the One who Saves me.

I promise Ill always miss you, long for you, weep for you, delight in you. . . Knowing that My Father in Heaven will always remain even more invested in me. . . Than I am in you.

Like Him , my love has no end and will never quit.

Happy Birthday in Heaven Ellis Grace Holliday, my promise from God,My beloved daughter, sweetest gift, and God’s Greatest Kindness to our Family.

To the Ones Who Stand Beside Me

Standard

There’s no handbook for this. No right or perfect way to navigate it. We are all around people who are grieving and affected by trauma every day. Since I have become one of those people, I am more aware than EVER of their presence and challenges.

We can be really annoying sometimes.  Often we are that distracted friend who doesn’t seem to be listening to you. . .

The one Who never texts you back.

The one who doesn’t make you feel as cared for as we used to.

We are in the car ahead of you. That car that hasn’t moved. . .

even though the turn signal changed FIVE seconds ago.

Sometimes we just can’t connect with you . . . sometimes those times come when you are the most excited to see us.

We can’t commit to that event you’re hosting and hoping we’ll attend. You don’t realize it but there will be ghosts there. . . triggers and danger packed unexpected spots . . .

and we’re not sure if we’re ready to navigate all of them.

Sometimes you try to “cheer” us up and we clearly resent you for it.

Often times we are distant.  A million miles away yet sitting right beside you.

We are happy you are happy – – that your world remains untouched by the deep gashes that have hit ours.  We don’t want to burst all your beautiful bubbles by taking you on a million mile journey that we ourselves wish we hadn’t been forced to travel.

So thank you.  Thank you for loving us right where We are. Just as we are.

For accepting that so often I find myself in a place I’ve never wanted to be.

For noticing That sometimes we aren’t attending the same event.

For realizing that my table is often set with sorrow and longing in the presence of your feast of great joy.  Thank you for understanding some of the most joyful things are also the most painful.  These are tight, tight spaces.  Thank you for loving me in each of them.

On the days that my body gives way to grief – – thank you for coming into agreement with it.  Thank you for understanding that this – – the weeping, longing, pain filled days are actually. . .

Necessary.

Holy.

Healthy.

Beautiful.

Good.

Thanks for telling others that I’m strong and brave and amazing on these days . . .

Because so many label these days as bad and decide that I’m “not doing too good” because of them.

Thank you for listening lunches. Thank you for purposeful prayers.

Thank you for wine filled glasses and being patient enough to wait however long it takes for tears to turn to laughter.

Thank you for all that it takes to remind yourself that this will not expire. . .

That my beautiful roads will always have some permanent pot holes.

Thank you for saying her name – – for letting me know when circumstances and surroundings remind you of her.

Thank you for accepting that while grief is a permanent part of my life – – it doesn’t define me.

Thanks for seeing me whole when I’m broken. For believing I’ll rise when I’ve fallen. For knowing that my restoration is a masterpiece over time that stands still – – not an instant.

Thank you for letting me roast in savoring juices according to Gods holy recipe.  Thanks for not trying to put my grief in a microwave.  For my heart would be so very tough and unevenly tempered in a “nuked ” state.  Thanks for doing all you can to make sure I come out with a tender, juicy, evenly healed heart.

It’s a heart that will love you forever. A heart of flesh being filled with a new spirit. A grateful heart that loves you and thanks God for the flexible yet unwavering way that you love me.

Love,

The One Who Grieves Beside You

And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Rejoice with those who Rejoice; Mourn with those who Mourn. Romans 12:15

The Book of Samuel

Standard


It was the morning after she died. The morning had the audacity to show its face through my windows. Having spent most of the night pacing and searching for someone I knew I ‘d never find in my home or arms again. . . Each hour brought a new level of physical pain and swelling. . . Weaning without warning. Searching without finding. . .dead but still breathing. . . Heart shattered but still beating. . . Gutted and Hollowed out.  I died with her but in some cruel twist of Gods unfathomable direction, I had survived. Feeling shocked and destroyed and assaulted and broken beyond any hope of repair. 

What do you do on that morning? What do you do when you cannot feel the new mercies that are promised to come with each new day?  Who could help me? Who did I know who had given a child back to the Lord? Who had survived this and somehow remained in the close fold of our Lords arms? 

I hadn’t begged God for this child. . . She was a gift freely given from the best parts of my Gods Kindness.  But I did know of someone who begged God for the miracle of the sacred time from birth to weaning. . . Who wanted it so badly  she agreed to the terms of the contract ahead of time. One I could never sign but was being asked to live out. . .

I did not know if I would survive.  If my mind would stay intact. If my family would be destroyed and forever defined by the events of yesterday. I did not know if I could do any of it.  I did not know. 

But He did. 

He knew the rays of sun that morning would fall on the open page of the book that would keep me alive. . . The same page I would read at her  funeral in 3 days.  That on the sweet pages of Samuel, I would publicly beg to be given the miraculous gift of a heart like Hannah’s.  I asked for her prayer to become our prayer. . . 

But I didn’t know He would be so faithful to answer it in the very same way. . . 

That if I let Him be the author of our family, He would write us our very own book of Samuel.  I will join Hannah in the holy moments of knowing God has heard your cry and His answer is this child , our Samuel . . .  Just as I joined Hannah in the pain of the offering of giving a child back to the Lord. Only God. 

Samuel . . . God has heard 

Ransom. . . rescue or deliverance . . . A price paid for freedom. . . 

How thankful we are for both. How thankful we are for the miracle of . . . 

Samuel Ransom Holliday. . . 

You make us sure of what we cannot see

Grateful for what we did not ask for 

And blessed beyond our heart’s deepest dreams. 

As surely as you live , my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. 1 Samuel 1:26-27


Approval Junkie

Standard

I’ve heard a lot of sermons in my life cautioning against seeking the approval of others. I’ve nodded my head and thought “Yes! We must live for an audience of one – – the one being the Lord God Almighty.” And I thought I did that and did that well. After all, I was bold in my faith – – with a “ Just Give Me Jesus And Let the Chips Fall Where They May” attitude. So I didn’t think I was an approval junkie.
Until I was faced with the disapproval of others. Now if I wasn’t dependent on the approval of others, disapproval wouldn’t keep me up at night. It wouldn’t gnaw on my soul and overtake my mind with a constant longing to slay this disapproval. A gaping wound that felt like it could only be filled with the approval of others. No, if you’re not addicted to the praise of others – – you shrug, you consider, and you move on. But I couldn’t because I was paralyzed by it. 

 I couldn’t deny the fact that I had made an idol of the opinions of others. If opinions of me were good, I continued to worship that God as I received my own brand of worship from that God.

But when the opinions of others were not good – – that “God” – – that idol left me empty and without comfort. It left me desperate for a longing that would not be filled. And that’s not my God. He’s a satisfier. My God is a source of the kind of water where you thirst no more after you drink it.  

And so I’ve been stripped down to the most basic questions this sinner must grapple with. . .

Is God enough? Or do I need God AND the positive thoughts and opinions of others?

There will always be things that only God and I know. Will that be special and true enough for me? Or must those around me understand it for me to truly embrace it?

Do I invest time and energy in combatting the disapproval of others? Or do I make myself a God if that is the strategy of my heart?

These are the questions of an approval junkie. And if you think about it, our very character is molded and shaped by performing well for the approval of others. . . coaches, teachers, mentors, youth leaders.

The striving and the earthly rewards that come with the striving are deeply engrained in the soil of our hearts. For me to deal with this, the striving had to cease. This allowed that sacred rest to begin. And it was there in the active, directed rest that the focus could fall to God and God alone. . .

What HE thinks of me. What He understands about me. What He calls to me. God doesn’t keep “liking” me on facebook. God doesn’t say “ you’re strong and amazing” and he doesn’t say “you’re not doing well with this struggle either.” He calls me the names that reflect who HE is. Chosen. Delighted in. Sung Over. Strong when I feel and appear weak. Saved. Victorious. Restored. He weights my responses according to what He is doing in my heart. And what He knows about my future.  

So this being an approval junkie thing is no joke. Because there is an element of danger in “not caring” what others think. We see this behavior in rebel-hearted prodigals headed for destruction. We see it in addicts headed for death and disaster.  

Sometimes those around you will see things you cannot see: dangers, snares, dangerous bends in your character, and so on. This type of wise, loving counsel must be sought out and prayerfully regarded at times. But if it is more than additional light on your path. . . If it is more than additional wisdom to consider. . . if it becomes your sole definition of yourself above the word of God – – then you, like me, must get back to the basics. If you’re an approval addict and god shows you that it’s true, you will need His help and to focus on HIM to start to walk out of it. Here’s what that path looks like for me:

1) Admit and repent of it. Everybody gets off track in their worship in one way or another. No shame. No condemnation in Christ. There’s always room to turn around. This path is no different.  

2) Mourn the approval lost. Name it and grieve it. It hurt to feel the criticism. The words sting in the heart of your mind. It’s ok to be sad about that. Losing friends, reading hurtful comments, having people think oess of you than you’d like. . . whatever form of rejection or disapproval you’ve met – – it’s a huge disappointment. And there’s a time to grieve those so that you can let go of them and be free.

3) Take it to Jesus and ask Him to feel in the gaps. You’ve heard the term “ heartbreaker.” Well Jesus is the opposite of that. He’s a heart maker. He makes your heart right. Even if you’ve laid huge parts of it down at the wrong alters.

4) Recovering approval junkies will need ongoing approval ratings form the right source. Schedule a meeting with God where you ask His opinion of you daily. Get a journal and start focusing only on God for your approval ratings.

5) Lastly, do not confuse good circumstances with Godly approval. This is one of the enemy’s biggest tricks. Favor from God doesn’t always means success and rainbows and easy paths. We need only look to Job to see someone the Lord called blameless be brought to his knees by unfathomably difficult circumstances. God gave you the ultimate approval rating when He determined that you were worth the blood of His only son, Jesus Christ. No certificate, reward, commendation, comment, word of praise, or any other reward will ever compare with that.

Remind yourself of that as many times as it takes.  

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Rest(ore)d

Standard


I battled aggressively and continuously for well over a year. I was battling the enemy of my soul – – battling depression and sometimes battling grief when I should have been partnering with it. No one soldier can stay on the front lines at all times. They must be pulled back by their General for intentional and strategic respite. 

 This respite always includes deep and restorative sleep in a safe place. It always involve deep hydration. And it always involves food – – the satisfaction of hunger resolved. Thirst Quenched. Often times a family offering was involved. If close to home, soldier were sometimes offered a visit to home. If not, the opportunity to write letters extended. If wounds had been incurred, treatment and healing was pursued.
In July, my general – -the one and only God himself – – called me to the tent of Rest. And he extended every principle of military rest to me. I was pulled from the front lines. The front lines involve constant pressure, alertness, and very little rest. The phrase “ sleep with one eye open” comes in part from the type of rest the front lines offer. 

This meant I stepped back from all extracurricular pressures. I let go of what “jobs” I had in ministry. What I didn’t “let go” of – – I gave myself permission to do at my own pace. That meant I cancelled a bible study session because I was too exhausted. And postponing a scheduled bible study 3 weeks because of my travel and family schedule. The pressure of schedule and duty was removed. Way less rushing and stressing. Way more peace and breathing. In this way, the pressure came off.

But in another aspect of rest and recovery – – the pressure was turned on. As my mental pressure decreased, God very intentionally increased physical pressure on my body in some specific ways. I had regular massages and chiropractic appointments to allow for physical rest and release of tension. The grief I had fought hard to NOT epress built up in the muscles of my neck and back. They became knots and adhesions that made me cry out in pain. And forced those tears to roll out of my spirit and through my body. 

I began sleeping with a weighted blanket and allowed that extra pressure to sooth my body and my nervous system. My breathing and sleeping became deep and restorative. In the safety of HIS arms.

Food. He laid a feast before me. He set a table for me in the presence of my enemies. My feast was worship. Worship through song, dance, movement, crying on my yoga mat, having scripture read over me in my bed. Walking barefoot in the grass and sunshine outside my office for 20 minutes in the afternoon.

Drink. Holy hydration. Living Water . Simply. . . Jesus. His Words. His Ways. His Truth. His yoke. Allowing Him to be a pillow that my whole spirit can sink into and be surrounded by.

He will tend my wounds. Heal my spirit. He Chose a therapist endorsed by my husband and closest family who will guide me through the parts of trauma that are stinking around a little too long for true peace to reign. 

And finally the reconnection to my family. Being intentionally present and invested in the now and hows of their little lives. More snuggles. More talks. More planning. More Walks. Less phone. Less industry and distraction. Even giving myself permission to miss a few ministry related balls at bat. I quit swinging at everything. And concentrated on certain pitches.

And focused effort aimed at the right pitches will swing you into a home run that reminds you – – your home is actually heaven. The battlefield is very temporary and the earthly plight is as brief as it is hard. And He finally gave me that piece of the puzzle I claimed in faith but did not hold in my heart.

 RESTORE. To bring back; reinstate. Return to original condition. 

Let’s take a deeper look at its roots. 

Rest: cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. To be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position 

Ore: a naturally occurring solid material from which a metal or valuable mineral can be profitably extracted.

Through the rest, the things of great value are extracted. Our souls are profited. This is not a Sabbath rest or a rest with a particular rhythm. It is a total loss of all thought or task that emits a holy “electrical” change in your spirit. Like all things of God it’s hard to explain and unique to experience. And Good.
I rested as God rests and I awaken refreshed. I will be back on the front lines again, Exhausted. Bewildered. Overwhelmed. And Overscheduled.

But I also know I’ll be refreshed and restored in a way only He can.