my voice


i didn't plan to practically quit blogging lately, oops. blame it on homeschool and seminary and photography work! laundry, dishes, that too.

it's funny that i'll be speaking at hope spoken next march (i'm no pro. as in, i hate public speaking. jesus take the wheel - or, even better, just let me sleep in the backseat - hahahaha) and yet, this is the year it has been the hardest to find my voice.

i think with a move, a cross-country one, especially, there are certain expectations you carry along with you. the bay area was my home for most of my life anyway, it was a homecoming of sorts... but a lot changed while i was away and so did i. this past year, has been about unpacking those expectations and mostly letting them go. instead of holding on to them like they're my salvation, it's more of like begging God to help me believe that He alone is my salvation.

unmet expectations lead to unfulfillment which leads to a lack of trust, which leads to depression, and questioning, and hurt. deep down, i thought that us giving up mostly everything we had and worked for (including good jobs!) meant that God would then give it back, but better! i thought that He would fill us back up with an exuberant life, and ministry that was better than before or even better than we could have ever imagined. i wanted that story. instead of the one being written.

and when you aren't sure what's going on, it's hard to know your lines. you lose your voice. when it's hard to wake up each morning and do normal things, you lose your voice. who wants to hear about depression? it's depressing. i think it's way easier to talk about depression on the other side, once you are over the struggle. but maybe finding my voice is talking about the very struggle at the very present when the victory isn't yet here.

some of the best times kelly and i have in our marriage have been through tears (usually always mine) and long talks about life's struggles. and i'm certain that it's been the same in my relationship with the Lord. there have been a lot of hard years, a lot of wrestling, but yet, these are usually the best times because it's when i talk to Him the most.  i know i'm not alone or unique in this struggle. for instance, John Bunyan was a man that suffered many bouts of depression and he left us with these wise words: "In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God."

i'm reading through the Psalms, to try to help with finding my voice; a way to form my prayers - chapter after chapter is filled with much lament, but by the end of each one, there's a small voice of hope, one that says "again I will praise you." 
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.'"- Psalm 43:5 
i think we need more stories of brokenness. i find it stunning, really, that our God is all about using the lowly, the last, the lost, the common, and the dirty to bring about His story, for His glory. Leah, in Genesis 29-30, was the girl no one wanted. Jacob chose Rachel, not Leah. she wasn't the prettiest, she was scarcely noticed, yet God chose to rescue the whole world through Leah's family. i think about God's choosing of David, as a young boy. He could have chosen the strongest of Jesse's sons, the wisest, or the tallest. nope. He chose the smallest. and even when David committed adultery and murder - two of the grossest sins we might imagine - God still chose to rescue the world through His line. and finally, through the line of Leah and David, He sent His own son, a King, to be born in a barn, to an unwed young woman. He wasn't a conquering King, but a humble one. He was poor, didn't come with a sword, or an army. he came lowly, to identify wholly with our human experience -
"There was a time when even Christ didn’t want to take one more step. But as the God-Man, he did what you and I couldn’t do: he continued on his own strength. Christ took all the steps necessary to Calvary so that when you and I have nothing left, we can rely on him for our strength. If you’re experiencing spiritual dehydration, don’t be surprised - it’s part of the Christian life. And when you do experience debilitating spiritual weakness, rely on your Savior, who took the steps for you. His power is made perfect in your weakness." -Paul David Tripp
the more we see our weakness, the more we see His strength. so for now, that's my voice. my shaky, broken voice, begging for Him to help me Trust Him, and believe Him. the struggle is part of the story. 
"when we read Scripture we see a theme of unfulfillment, incompletion, and brokenness everywhere. “We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit,” Paul writes, “groan inwardly as we eagerly await for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). Or elsewhere: “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). This is the normative Christian experience— to live with incompletion, unfulfillment, and an awareness that the gospel’s imperatives will challenge and frustrate our natural impulses in many ways." -Corey Widmer for The Gospel Coalition


when the battle feels uphill


many know or have at least heard of the ancient but true story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). we could probably tell it by heart. i've often overlooked the intimate details and recently when i studied the text closer i found a few clear and specific principles for when the battle feels uphill.

first we see two opposite characters.  Goliath was a man  - big and armored in the best possible way.  David was a boy - small and young. but! David was the anointed one - God was with him and he was chosen by God to "to accomplish a divine task to accomplish supernatural goals (-Priscilla Shirer)."  the strongest, mightiest, armored-est cannot stand against the Lord.  David knew that. i think we often know it too, but how often do we act with that knowledge? David knew it and acted in faith because of that knowledge.

David approached King Saul and spoke of his intentions - to meet Goliath for battle.  all Saul could talk about was David being a youth and Goliath being a man, fighting since youth, recounting Goliath's experience. David's response? recounting God's miraculous provisions and mercies and miracles; "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17: 37)"  David was acting on faith, but not on blind faith. his faith told him that something in the future - something that is yet to be seen but has been promised by God - will actually come to pass. and though David had been tending sheep, he was anointed to be the King one day, even if took 22 years for it to come to fruition.

David understood the battle was not his own.  he knew the battle was the Lord's. because of that understanding he acted in confidence and faith - "for the battle is the Lord's (1 Samuel 17:47)."

we can gather some principles for standing in the midst of adversity-
1. know who you are as a child of God: redeemed, forgiven, loved, and cared for.
2. recount the Lord's miracles: from the Word, to salvation through Christ, to your own life.
3. understand to whom the battle belongs:
With a little oil in the cruse and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why do you need to care too? Can you trust Him just for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, He has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul, stop fretting! Leave all your concerns in the hand of a gracious God. - C.H. Spurgeon
when the road is long, the battle is uphill, and adversity feels stronger than hope, we can remember David's example and the great faithfulness of our God.

this post was previously published on carissagraham.com


living with less isn't a magic ticket to a content life


"sometimes simple feels more complicated" - yes! i screamed. finally, someone put words to the floaty thoughts that have filled my mind since our downsize. we sold our house almost exactly one year ago, along with all of our furniture (except for a bunk bed and a black file cabinet - things with zero sentimental value but for some unbeknownst reason, were the two things that made the cut), we live on the smallest income we've ever lived on,  no retirement fund, with no assets (unless a 10 year old car counts?), and guess what? i have the exact same problems i had when we had all the stuff. i still think the grass is greener on the other side. 

and so goes the human experience of depravity - wanting what we don't have. "we were made for contentment, but ever since Adam decided that God wasn't enough, contentment has been a problem for us all (-Trent Hunter, for The Gospel Coalition)." the good news is that Christ died for our discontent hearts, and one day, they will be made perfectly content again in His presence. so how do we live in this world, while longing for the next, and grapple with the discontentment that often fills our minds and lives? 

we need to train our minds to believe that God is enough. one of the ways this plays out, is where our joy and happiness's lie. i think Christians (myself included) have exchanged the greatest of all joys, (JESUS!) for the lesser gifts he gives. Jonathan Edwards says, "every taste of beauty in this world is a drop from the ocean of divine beauty. every pleasure is an arrow pointing back to Him." so if we are living in a way that delights more in the gifts than the Giver of the good gifts, we are inevitably never going to be content. let's think about how we give thanks.

anyone can give thanks. sometimes it seems like we have adapted it as some form of salvation, or at least, the secret key to living life well. it's good to give thanks, don't get me wrong. the psalms are full of thanks amidst much lament. anyone can give thanks for their delicious hot beverage of the morning, for a pretty bouquet of flowers, a new house, a new car, health, happiness, new outfits, children, spouses, the whole gamut. because of common grace,  silver linings can be found by anyone, anywhere.

however, only believers can give thanks for the greatest gift of all, the Cross. not everyone can be grateful for eternity. not everyone can look to Jesus and know that whatever grief we're trying to cover by being thankful, will really be made new and no tear will be wasted. this is real hope. this is an eternal hope. i am afraid we're forgetting the riches we have in Christ and are instead trading them for the riches of this world, and really, there is no comparison.

i'm not saying to quit being thankful for the good earthly gifts God gives. i'm just saying there's much more to the story. and that bigger picture is what carries us through anything. 

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. -Colossians 3:2 ESV 
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