Words and Seasons: Guest Post by Beverly Carroll

My father went to school with Beverly back in the day. When he sent me this fabulous post via email last week I just knew I had to get it in front of you all. I hope you are as blessed by it as I was. -Grace Kelley


I have not written since I was diagnosed with cancer. August will mark two years since we got the news. In some ways, it seems a lifetime ago, and in others, it feels as fresh as if the call came yesterday. I wanted to. Write, I mean.


Writing requires words, though, and I lost them. Just one month into my first round of chemo, I discovered that “chemo brain” is a very real thing. Each attempt to write, resulted, only, in disappointment and frustration.


To no avail, I foraged for words. I played “Hide and Seek,” only backwards. I sought, and they hid. Blinking cursors and blank screens mocked me and left me wondering if I would ever, again, translate thoughts and feelings into words.


I love words. I always have. With just twenty-six letters, simply rearranged and shuffled, poetry, masterpieces, sagas, classics, manifestos, and fairytales, have been created and preserved for posterity.


Today, after a long hiatus, and still in the midst of a difficult, protracted season, I reclaim words, and it feels like coming home again. Twenty-six letters are the medium with which I create. I know nothing of art or sculpture, but words? Words, I know. They are, in a word, (pun intended) magical.


They always have been, for me. They transport, they teach, they heal, they inspire. They are the scaffolding upon which dreams are constructed, and seasons chronicled.


Seasons are defined, in part, as, “Divisions of the year marked by changes…” Those changes most often refer to transitions in weather that herald new seasons and register passing years. These are literal seasons, noted clearly on calendars, characterized by gradual beginnings and endings.  


Our season bears no such resemblance. Conversely, our season began suddenly. It arrived with no warning or foreseeable end in sight, and it continues, even now.


Oddly enough, we do not question why. We do, however, ask how long. We just do. The landscape shifts, fatigue sets in, and aftershocks chip away at our equilibrium.


We find it hard, sometimes, to stand, but at the precise moment we begin to topple, the One Who is “able to keep us from falling” steps in. The result is that what first left us reeling, now tethers us to our Christ. He is not the problem, He is the solution.


As people of God, we are not immune from difficulty, or the toll it takes. Acutely aware of our frailty, we realized, early on, that we had a choice to make: We could blame the only One Who offers us hope, or we could embrace accept the affliction that drives us to Him. We chose the latter.


God rewarded that choice with Himself and has kept us on our feet. Over and over again, He lavishes us with His grace, and supplements our weakness with His strength.


He excavates the elusive joy obscured by adversity, and displays, anew, that there is no season, storm, or trial that exceeds His power.
That does not mean that this season has been easy. It has not. The difficulty, however, recedes each time we choose to claim God’s promises before the fear clutches. A life-changing reckoning with the love of God has been ours, and we are better for it.


God knows what we bruised reeds can take and what we cannot. He promises as much in His Word. Pondering the promise again, recently, Aesop came to mind. He paints with words, and a portrait emerges. “The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again, when the storm had passed over.”


Our storm is not over. Our season stretches on. We are weary but intact, bent but unbroken, bruised but renewed. We learn, and forget, and learn again, that whatever God sends or permits in our lives, is ordained by Him for a reason. It is not arbitrary or without design.


He is up to something that our finite minds cannot comprehend. His activity mystifies, but where His plans confound, His presence consoles. 

While pain has the tendency to leave us myopic, perspective expands our vision and reminds us that the sum is greater than the part. Our small parts, like puzzle pieces, matter, and are magnified, only when offered for the benefit of the larger picture.


When our dreams lay tattered at our feet, God is sufficient. He collects the threadbare, ragged remnants of the tapestry that was, and mends, repurposes, and stitches together a new tapestry that differs, significantly, but is no less lovely.


He exchanges our fatigue for strength and bestows upon us courage needed for the journey. He plots our path and orders our steps when the way grows dim and darkness closes in. He navigates us through unsteady terrain and unexpected detours. We may stumble, but we do not fall.  


We do not yet know if I will be healed, but we trust without the miracles for which we pray. Our uncertainties regarding what is, are eclipsed by assurances of what will be. Through all the yesterdays and tomorrows, one thing is sure: What God does not repair, He is faithful to redeem.


So, we rest in the assurance of redemption, and submit to His sometimes painful will. We relinquish control of what was never ours to begin with, and entrust, to Him, our keeping. There is no greater repository.


We run to Him because we are welcomed, and we choose Him, because in the end, there is no other choice. It is as simple as that. In season and out, through few calendars or many, the love of God sustains, and His promises prevail.


The lowlands’ lingering veil of mist will eventually dissipate. The desert will give way to blooms, and doubt will give way to confidence. Without fear, we will freely relinquish to our Divine Choreographer, what is easy to perceive, but difficult to define.


At last, the day will come when our striving ceases, and our healing begins. Healing or not, adversity or not, deliverance or not, we celebrate God’s sovereignty, regardless.


The lessons that result from long seasons and endless storms, more than make up for the struggles. This road has not been easy, but it has been worth it. We are everything we are, because He is everything He is. In the end, it turns out, that is enough.  


Beverly is still on her journey with cancer, and God only knows what the future holds. Meanwhile, she stands as a sentry, reminding us in the goodness of God even when it is impossible to see or understand. To read along, look for her online at her blog From Glimpses to Glory.

The blank Page; a New Years Eve Reflection

New Years Eve, 2018

Dear Reader,

This may be the first year that I’m actually ready to put away Christmas.

Always, each year of my life until now, there has been this mourning at the end of Christmas day. This sadness that it’s over. And like I keep having to tell my three year old son, it is now 360-some-odd days until the next Christmas Day.

But this year it’s different. This year I find myself looking forward to the New Year with equal anticipation. Maybe it’s because December of this year was so supremely hard. Maybe it’s because we got a new couch and the Christmas Tree is currently making it difficult to see how the living room is going to be arranged. Maybe it’s because this year I find myself especially hungry for a clean page and a fresh start.

As a writer, a clean page both appeals to, and terrifies me.

On the one hand, a clean page is a blank slate, full to the brim of potential and space for ideas and dreams to come true.

On the other, a blank page means there is nothing to show, there is nothing to even edit, because I haven’t even yet begun. Though my first draft is likely to be crappy, and riddled with errors, at least something on the page means I am working in the right direction.

I wonder if this might help you too? In the midst of all your New Year’s celebrations and resolutions—if you are staring at the January calendar page like a blank slate before you—maybe remember this; the first draft is never right. But that doesn’t mean, what you write won’t be beautiful.

That means just this: don’t expect perfection from a New Year when nothing you’ve ever written on that first calendar page has been perfect previously. Don’t expect perfectly kept goals and resolutions. Don’t hold yourself to the standard that you know in your heart of hearts is not achievable.

Instead, be content to start on a draft.

Write some words. Make a few mistakes. Set some goals; change them later if you need to. Push forward in a meaningful direction, even if that meaningful direction doesn’t take you where you think it should.

Show Up.

I have lots of little goals and ambitions for this year. Some small and seemingly inconsequential, some grander; the subject of my wildest dreams that I’m actually daring to believe may happen.

But the most important thing I’m resolving to do in this New Year? It’s something I’ve begun the draft on already. Something I have been chiseling at for awhile. A notion, and an idea that has been taking shape in my heart and mind and I realize now that maybe it will resonate in yours as well.

In 2019, I am going to show up as myself in the world.

Maybe it seems too ordinary. But this idea is not even original to me. I have heard Emily P. Freeman speak on this idea most often, (check our her super short, inspirational podcast The Next Right Thing if you haven’t yet.) In essence, this idea to show up as myself in the world, is an invitation to not only fully be who is is that God has created me to be, but to also extend that to the world. To offer my words and my work. To open my hands like a generous hostess and say, “Help yourself! I made these for you.”

The truth is, though no one would usually be so rude as to insult your cooking to your face (small children excluded of course), people on the internet rarely hold back from a desire to criticize.

I have felt too afraid of doing it wrong. Too fragile to try. Too fearful that all my efforts will be for naught, and that it will all be a giant flop. Cooking is a mastery activity for me. I could do it my sleep.

Figuring out how to make my blog do things…how to create things on the computer and then offer them to you Dear Reader…well that just isn’t my forte. And I’ve given that excuse 1,001 times. But no more.

If I’m going to show up as myself in the world, then I need to show up with my words full of encouragement and hope that God has given me. And if I’m going to extend that to the world in a meaningful way, then that means I need to work harder and more intentionally to, as Ed Cyzewski once said in an interview with Hope*Writer’s, “get [my] words where [my] reader can see them.”

So that’s my big scary goal. And whether you are a writer, a manager, a gardener, a janitor, a cook, a nanny, or an executive…I’m betting it could be your goal too.

Choose this year, to show up as yourself in the world, and offer what it is God has given you to share with open hands and an open heart.

Stop making excuses of why you can’t. I know it’s scary. I know it’s hard. The fear of rejection still makes my heart pound sometimes. But in the end, it really isn’t about us is it? It’s about the God who made us. Who put us here on this planet for a reason. Who has good works set out for us to do. I don’t want to get to heaven only to realize that I buried my talent in the sand because I was afraid. I want instead, to hear those words of what C.S. Lewis describes as “the Divine Accolade”; “Well done good and faithful servant.”

But if we’re going to hear those beautiful words, we first need to be faithful. And the first step to faithfulness? It’s to Show Up.

So here’s to marking up the blank page. To writing the first draft. To making mistakes.

Here’s to trying new things. To not making excuses. To staying present in the things that scare us.

Here’s to pressing on in the midst of discouragement and even failure, knowing that each misstep can be our teacher if we let her.

What might it look like for you to show up as yourself in the World? Is there something God is tugging at you to do, that you’ve been afraid to step out into? How might you begin to mark up that blank page in courage and faith today?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Remember, Cultivating a Fruitful Life is an activity best served by community. So leave a comment. Grab a couple friends over coffee. Share your heart and listen as they share theirs. Because the world needs us to show up as ourselves. And it will be a more beautiful place when we do.

We ourselves are the dwelling places of the infinite God of the Universe. Where we go, we never go alone. And this year, I guarantee, He has work for you to do beyond the failures you may see lining your January calendar.