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I Confess…

As a Starbucks barista, I will judge you for your drink order.  I know that’s terrible.  But if you come through my drive-thru line and order a Grande White Mocha and ask for 8 pumps of syrup…then ask for 6 packets of sugar as I hand you your drink…Well, just know that I’m judging you in my heart.

I know it’s been awhile and I’ve gotten your subtle hints (ahem…Leslie, Falcon…) and all I can do is apologize to the two of you that still bother to check my blog.

It’s been quite the year and I’m now in the midst of crazy transition again.  New city, new job, working on a new degree, new roommate.  I just moved to one of my favorite cities in the world to work on my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.  This week I started working at Starbucks.  If you know me at all, you know of my love for people and coffee and that this job is a perfect fit for me.  I now live in a great apartment with one of my dearest friends from college.  And while I crazy-miss my friends from Tuscaloosa, I’m so excited about getting a fresh start.

You may remember my roommate, Jenn, from some previous posts.  If you remember these posts (or read them again), then you can imagine the adventure that living with her will be.  Already we’ve had a washing machine malfunction, a flooded kitchen and an hour-long Shop-vac extravaganza.  Then this week, the dryer went out and our apartment spent a couple of days draped in my clothes and smelling of Gain.  Her family tends to have crazy things happen.  The good news is that, now that I’m part of that world, that means lots of crazy stories for the blog.

I have so much more to share with you, but I won’t put it all in one post.  I’m excited to tell you about the day that nature turned against me and I have a fabulous wedding to share with you.  But that will just have to wait for another day.  In the meantime, I have a verse for you, my dear friends.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”  (I Thes. 2:8)  I look forward to sharing more of life with you.

Robbins Sneak Peek

Candice and Elliott are two of the most laid back people I’ve ever met.  When I arrived at the location of their wedding, Candice informed me that Elliott had left his shirt back home, over two and a half hours away.  Then she went on to say how lucky it was that they were by a department store when he called to tell her, so it was no big deal…and she really meant that it was no big deal.  As I went back through all of their pictures from the day I loved how many of them showed Candice laughing and enjoying their wedding day.  Being part of their big day was such a joy and pleasure!  Candace and Elliott, here’s a little peek at your wedding photos.  I hope you enjoy!

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IMG_8242Favorite shot of the day.🙂

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IMG_8468Loved this groom’s cake!

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Congratulations Elliott and Candice!  I can’t wait for you to see the rest!

Cared For

I look back over posts and see that I almost always start out with some version of an acknowledgement of how long it’s been since I last posted.  I’ve decided that this time I’m just not going to do it.

Except that I kind of just did.

Anyway.

This summer has been an intense one for me.  It’s been breathtaking, really.  I feel like I’ve been on this crazy roller coaster and all the emotional extremes involved with that.  One minute I’m loving life and the thrill of the ride, the next minute I’m freaking out and, overall, I’m just holding my breath to see what comes next.  But to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because my Father has been so faithful to care for me through it all.

On July 30, I got a call from the other girl who was planning to join our team here with the Navs, as well as move into our house as the third roommate.  As it turned out, the Lord seemed to be closing the door for her.  We were so sad to hear that she wouldn’t be joining us in the fall. It was encouraging to hear that she seemed to really be ok with what the Lord was doing, though I knew it meant she’d had a tough few days as she’d wrestled through that decision.  And then there was another problem: she hadn’t signed the lease.

You see, it was July 30, meaning the day before July 31 (i.e. the day our lease ran out.)  That meant that we had to either find a new roommate by the next day or find another place to live, move out of our current house and into the new one by the next day!  And when I say “we” I mean “me.”  My roommate was in Colorado for the summer and had enough on her plate without this.  Because, you know, my summer’s been so leisurely…

Just to make this ride a little more thrilling, I happen to live in a college town.  Part of the culture shock I experienced in moving to a college town is that most people sign leases for the fall in January.  Yes, you read that right: January.  Because we’ve lived in this house for several years, our landlord was really gracious with us and assumed we were taking care of things with the lease.  The problem is that people figure out their housing situations for the fall very early in the year.  So, no one is looking for a roommate around here in July.  And most properties have been leased.  Most of the options left for us would likely have been in areas that forced us to take up dealing crack cocaine and investing in spinners just to fit in.  And that doesn’t really jive with the ministry lifestyle.

I’m sure you can imagine how calmly I considered our options.  I was the picture of restful trust in the Lord.  I spent time fasting and praying, knowing that the Lord would provide for us…or maybe I just called my mom and cried.

I actually almost didn’t call my mom.  She’s a bit of a worrier and I didn’t want to stress her out.  She’s extremely practical and very much a strategist.  She can look at a situation and see all the possible solutions.  The thing is (and I get this from her), when there doesn’t seem to be a solution, she gets anxious.  So, when I called and she told me that she wasn’t really worried because she felt like it was going to work out, I immediately checked my phone to see exactly how I’d misdialed the number.  Because that lady on the phone had just told me it was going to work out without telling me how it was going to work out, or even advice on what to do to work it out.  And that, my friends, is not normal behavior for my mother.

That night I pulled up Facebook.  That’s my go-to activity when I want to escape from real life and waste time.  I normally keep my Facebook chat offline.  I tend to end up talking to several people at once and, about the time I’m wrapping up a conversation, someone else starts chatting.  I am very in demand, people.  So, I keep it turned off so I don’t end up overwhelmed.  That night, though, I decided to turn it on.  Maybe I was looking for an opportunity to whine to someone and get a little sympathy.  Maybe I just needed to feel popular.  Regardless of my motives, after being on for a few minutes, I was already feeling a little overwhelmed.

Then I got this message: “Hey, do you know anyone who’s looking for a roommate?”  My response?  “Are you kidding me?  Because if you’d asked me twelve hours ago, I would have said no.”  Turns out this friend was just moving back to town after spending a year in France.  She’d planned to live with a couple of girls, but things didn’t seem to be coming together, so she was checking on other options.  She came by the next morning to see the place and left asking when she could move in.

That happened.

In less than 24 hours, the Lord provided a whole person to live with us.  A whole person! As I’m a few days away from my report date, and several thousand dollars away from my goal, I’m encouraged to remember that I serve a God who loves for the odds to be stacked against Himself.  There’s no denying that His hand was involved in providing our third roommate.  And how fancy of Him to do it on the day that our lease ran out and we had to know what we were doing for the fall.  If He can provide a whole live person, what’s a few thousand dollars?

“Though we are faithless, He will still be faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (II Tim. 2:13)

First off, I apologize for being such a non-blogger these days.  Life changed two months ago and I’m still in transition.  Please know that it’s been an incredible time, just not one that’s left much time for this.  Instead of making excuses, though, I’m just going to dive right in…

I’ve been reading John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life with some women from my church this summer.  I don’t cleave to every word that Piper writes, but there’s a lot of truth throughout his teaching and this book is no exception.  The idea behind this particular work is to help change the way Christians approach life.  Up to this point (I’m about six weeks into the study), there hasn’t been a lot of practical application, it’s been more of a surfacing of our current worldview and a challenge to see things differently.  Last week we talked a lot about risk.  Piper made the point that our idea of safety, security, is an illusion.  If it is the Lord’s desire to take me, it makes no difference whether I am hiding under my bed, driving to work or serving in a country known for persecution and corruption.  Ultimately, “All the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:16) and I can rest in that.  Piper challenges us to step out and take risks because this security we hold onto is an illusion.

You know, I just left a great job to pursue what I believe God has called me to do.  I gave up a steady paycheck to raise support during the worst economic time that my generation (as well as my parents’ generation) has seen.  I get risk.  And I can even say from here that it was totally worth it!  Overall, I felt like I had let go of my illusion of security.  I knew that a steady paycheck wasn’t my true source of security.  I almost felt like I should get an “A” for last week’s Bible study.  You know, because they’re grading us.  But it turns out that there were still things for me to learn.  Shocking, I know.

Last night did not start out as a normal night.  I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s this movie that premiered today.  Months ago I made plans with one of the girls from my church (who happens to be part of my adopted family; just to give you some context, this is her brother) to go to the midnight premier.  Since Elise is fourteen and not quite driving, I told her that we could bring a few friends and they could all just sleep at my place.  Neither of my roommates is living here this summer and I thought it would be fun to have some company.  So, my evening was full of caffeine and talking about boys, eating lots of sugar and playing games in the theater until it was time for the show to start.

After the movie ended, it was nearly 3 a.m. when we got back to my house.  We were all twitching and buzzing on the remnants of caffeine in our system, but knowing we would crash the moment we stopped moving.  The first thing I noticed as I walked into the dining room is that a small stack of change was missing from my table.  It was $2.26 to be exact.  I thought one of the girls might have picked it up to count it earlier and moved it, so I asked if they’d seen it.  I know, I know, it was only $2.26 and it probably seems strange to you that I would even notice it missing, but that $2.26 was precious to me.  It had been given to me by four-year-old Suzanna Brothers.  Suzanna’s parents had been talking to her about giving money to Jesus and how one way to do it was to support missionaries.  She chose to support this missionary and that $2.26 was a sweet offering.  I’d been praying that the Lord would show me some way to use it to bless someone, so I was concerned with tracking it down.

As I stepped into the living room to look around, I noticed a couple of cd’s were lying on the floor in front of the entertainment center.  My eyes drifted up to where they usually sat and it was then that I realized that my stereo was gone.  My heart started pounding because I knew that couldn’t be right.  I went into my room and saw that my television was missing.  It was an lcd tv, so it was pretty easy to transport.  I suppose that’s why they chose it over the  television that sat in the entertainment center beside the empty space where the stereo had been.

For some reason they did not pick up my Macbook Pro that was sitting on the sofa with the power cord stretched across the room.  Or the $2500 in camera equipment sitting on the table right beside the door.  Honestly, these two items would have been the two material possessions I would have grieved over the most.  They are also more valuable than most of the items in our house combined.

I have no idea why someone came into our house and took a television, a stereo that was at least a decade old and $2.26 in change.  They took the time to unhook the speakers from the stereo and unwind them from the many other cords tangled behind that entertainment center, as well as dig through our remotes to find the one that matched.  They took time to pull my desk away from the wall and unhook the cable connected to the television, while ignoring the very nice printer sitting right beside it.  Then walk across the room to take the remote off my bedside table.

I have two roommates whose rooms seem to be untouched.  The officer said that it’s one of the strangest break-ins that he’s seen.  He could not find a point of entry.  Usually, it’s pretty obvious where they came in because no one takes the time to fix the blinds or clean up broken glass.  All of the doors were locked, but not dead bolted.  My guess is that they used a credit card to get in the back door.  My brother’s done it and he’s no MacGyver.  He couldn’t find prints, even in the dust where they’d rested their hands to pick up the stereo or television.  It did nothing to comfort me to hear all this, but added an eeriness to it all.

Today I’ve spent very little time grieving my television, even though it was a very nice one.  The stereo had a lot of sentimental value, but seriously, who even listens to a stereo these days?  The $2.66 I am definitely sad about, but praying still that someone will be blessed by it.  What I am most upset about losing is the illusion of security.  Clearly I still have much to learn about that.

Tonight I was determined that I wouldn’t let anyone chase me out of my home.  I locked the dead bolts on the doors and left more lights on than necessary.  But still my heart pounds every time I hear any of the cracks and pops that are common of a house that was likely built in the 1950’s.  Tonight before I could climb into my bed, I paced around my house.  Again, checking the locks on all the windows, looking to see if we’d missed any last night that might have been open and  used to enter the house.  Re-checking the dead bolts, going over our belongings in my head to see if I came up with anything else that might be missing…

And then I got angry.  I stood in the doorway of my bedroom and looked between my room and our living room with tears streaming down my face.  Someone stood in my house.  They came into my bedroom.  They touched my desk and they stood beside my bed.  And now it feels different.  It even seemed to smell different.  I slept at my campus director’s house last night and spent the afternoon babysitting.  When I came back home this evening, it felt different.  I know it’s not the house, it’s just me.  I’ve spent every night for almost two weeks now in the house alone and it never really occurred to me to be scared.  And now I felt betrayed, somehow.

But isn’t that the point?  I spent every night for almost two weeks alone in this house and the one night that I’m gone is the night someone breaks in.  For a week now I kept thinking that I needed to ask my landlord to mow our lawn.  He takes care of it for us and does it for free, so I hate to bother him about it.  But this week it occurred to me how abandoned our house looked all grown up the way it was.  I even told people that I was afraid someone would think we were all gone for the summer and break in on me.  The fact that my roommate’s car is in the driveway for the summer made me feel better.  At least there was always a car here, so it looked like someone was here.  I always leave lights on when I leave.  Did they know that I’d been there and was gone?  If they were watching me and watching for patterns, a midnight premier wouldn’t exactly have fit.  They had no way of knowing I’d be gone so long if they knew I’d been there at all.

Ultimately, my security does not lie in the dead bolts I checked countless times tonight.  Last night my Father knew that someone would come into my home, uninvited.  And my Father protected me.  I wasn’t there.  I have no way of knowing how it might have gone differently if I’d been in the house when they came.  But it doesn’t matter.

There’s a part of me that’s still grieving the loss of “security.”  That’s probably why I’m even typing this, because there’s a part of me that’s not quite ready to turn off the light.  There’s a part of me that is afraid that I won’t be able to sleep tonight because I’ll be hearing every little sound and wondering if they’re coming back for more.  Then there’s a part of me that’s afraid that I will fall asleep and I won’t hear anything at all.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1)

I Confess…

I am a disaster area.

It’s true.  I like to compare myself to a Monet.  From a distance I appear to be a completely normal, reasonably pleasant person.  But the closer you get, the blotchier I look.  And, for some reason, I feel compelled to draw people in really close so they can see the blotchiness in all its glory.

On Saturday morning I was doing some portraits for a family from my church.  I grabbed my gear and a few essentials for the day and headed out the door.  I was feeling very on top of things because I knew I’d remembered to bring everything.  Pride comes before a fall.

I have this weird thing about taking everything in one trip to/from the car.  I have learned the art of hanging bags all over my person and balancing stacks in a precarious way so that I only have to do the one trip.  Because I would much rather give myself a hernia than travel the fifteen feet between my back door and the car more than once.  This passion for efficiency is what led to the decision to put my travel coffee mug in my purse that morning.

I thought it was shut tight.  Apparently not, though.  When I got in the car and unloaded myself I noticed that my shirt felt a little damp.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that coffee had leaked out of my mug and onto…ahem…one of my girls.  I’m not the type to try to draw attention to the girls.  If I were, I’m not sure this would be the approach I would take.

So, I grabbed my water bottle as I drove.  I was already running late, so I didn’t want to make it worse by running back in the house.  Instead, I used the water from my Camelback to rinse out the spot on my shirt.

Of course, as I’m driving and trying to clean my shirt, I look down to realize I’ve spilled water all over myself.  And, of course, I’d done so in such a way that it appeared that I had wet myself.

Of course.

At this point, I’m starting to laugh at myself a little, but it’s really no big deal.  I cranked up the air in my car and strategically positioned the vents so that I might dry out before I got to my destination.

Then it began to sprinkle.  I was actually a little relieved because my windshield was covered in sap from the tree I park under and my wiper fluid is out.  After a minute I ran the wipers to clear off the sap.  That was an epic mistake.  I can almost hear you yelling, “No!” at the screen because surely you know what came next.  The sap smeared across my windshield effectively making it all but impossible to see.

And then it stopped sprinkling.

At this point I was a little hysterical.  I could not stop laughing.  I briefly considered hanging my head out the window to drive, then realized it was not ideal for me to show up to my shoot looking like…well…like I’d just driven several miles with my head hanging out a car window.  Can’t you just picture me with hair going out in all directions and bugs in my teethy.  Instead I leaned and tilted and squinted so that I could pretty much make out the lines in the road to stay between them. 

I was definitely celebrating as I pulled into the driveway that Nancy (my GPS) said was theirs.  I got out of the car and started to grab my gear as the dogs proceeded to jump all over me in welcome.  Then I got a weird feeling.  Something didn’t seem right.  Just to be safe, I decided to call and confirm that their house was, indeed, the one with the fish mailbox.

“Hey Daniel, it’s Casey.  Do you guys have a mailbox shaped like a fish?”  (We are in Alabama, people, it happens.)

“Ummm…no…”

“Oh.  Right.  Hmm…”

So, it turns out I was just a couple of houses away.  I managed to get there, and aside from the mud smeared on one of my arms by the neighbors’ dog, they never would have guessed what a complete mess I was.

After the shoot, I drove to meet my roommate in Birmingham for a day of shopping and fun.  We sat down for lunch at Whole Foods and I dug into my salad.  As I bit into a roma tomato, it burst open and tomato juice shot across the table and all over my sweet roommate.  At this point I wasn’t even suprised.

“Oh, just let me tell you about my morning…”

Well, if we’ve talked in the last few months, then you’ve probably already heard the news.  If that’s the case, you can just go back to painting your toenails, picking your nose, working…you know, whatever you were doing.

For those of you still here, well, you should know that my life is about to change pretty dramatically.  In just over two weeks I’m going to step out of the boat.  What boat, you ask?  Well, let me explain.

I’ve been in the boat for about three and a half years now.  I’ve been serving the Lord here and it has been an invaluable experience.  My time with The University of Alabama’s Alumni Association has been a gift in so many ways.  The people I work with here are truly like family to me.  It’s not been all sunshine and roses, of course.  There have been days that I’ve wondered what I’m doing here.  For the most part, though, it’s been a rich time in my life.  A few months ago, though, I began to feel that the Lord was saying that it was time to get out of the boat, where it’s comfortable and relatively easy.  As I sought the Lord on what was next, He began to open my eyes to what He’d been doing in my life over the last few years.

I’ve been volunteering with the Navigators Campus Ministry in some form or fashion since I moved here.  The closest friends I’ve made over the last three years, including one of my roommates, is on staff with the Navs here.  As a matter of fact, they started the ministry on this campus the same year I moved here, so I’ve gotten to watch it grow over the last few years.  The campus director and his wife have loved me and invested in me, even though they had no obligation to do so.  I’ve built relationships with many of the students and there a couple of the girls that I intentionally get time with on a regular basis.  The Navs have a heart for in-depth Bible Study and life-on-life discipleship, both of which are passions of mine. 

And as I looked at the place that had already been carved out for me, I heard my sweet Jesus saying, “Casey, it’s time to get out of the boat.”

Can you imagine how that felt for Peter?  Peter says, “Ok, Jesus, if that’s really you out there walking on that water, tell me to join you.”

And Jesus calls his bluff.

So, Peter steps out of the boat.  Can you picture that moment?  Peter steps out of that boat and defies physics, gravity and every law of nature that he did and didn’t know about.  And his eyes lock with Jesus’ eyes because he’s become acutely aware of this Man.  This Man who he’d seen perform miracles.  He’d seen Him feed 5,000 with so little, he’d seen Him heal the sick.  But he’d never personally been so physically invested in one of these works.  And he was in awe. 

Then he snapped out of it.  This was not a calm, serene lake that he was walking on.  There were waves and the wind was howling!  And he took his eyes away for an instant and became overwhelmed.  And he began to sink.

This is not the time to give up a good job.  To be honest, I’ve not felt the weight of this economic downturn that has so deeply impacted the lives of others.  My job and paycheck are steady and secure.  I like the people I work with.  Every job has it’s downside, but this is a good one, overall. 

But Jesus said to get out of the boat.

So, I’m stepping out of this comfortable job with a steady paycheck.  Instead, I’m trusting the Lord to provide for every penny of my salary, health benefits, ministry expenses, etc.  I’m taking a pay cut and giving up some nice perks.  All of this to completely give my life away to college girls.

And I couldn’t be more excited.

Because that’s where I see Jesus.  And He’s invited me to come join Him there.  And it doesn’t make sense.  And if I focus too long on the wind and waves I can freak myself out.  But when my eyes really lock with His.  And I see in His eyes how His heart beats for the girls on this campus.  And when I realize that I get to be a part of what He wants to do in their lives. 

Well, the comfort of that boat doesn’t seem so appealing.  Because I get to be fully invested in a miraculous work.

“…and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”  And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Oh, Jesus, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you.  But, though my faith is weak and faltering, let it be outdone by your steady and insistent faithfulness to me.  All this so that they  may say, “Truly You are the Son of God.”