Collaboration

Some of my favorite things begin with the letter, “C”. Community, church, Cru, college, coffee, cooking, creating, celebrating, compassion, the color coral, chocolate, and my new favorite – collaboration.

Just for fun, my name is Caitlin, my favorite girls name is Charlotte, I drive a charcoal CR-V, my college’s colors were cream and crimson, my sorority’s flower was the carnation, I love champagne and I am a recovering Coca-Cola Classic addict. I’m also a high “J” on the Myers Briggs personality test, meaning that I like closure. (I challenge you to pick a letter and see if you can come up with as many favorites as I can with the letter C!)

Anyways, I work in an office full of women. While this may not be the ideal environment for a man (we’re welcoming, I promise), it has been so life-giving to me over the past year and a half. I love my work environment because we celebrate birthdays with cakes and cards, my co-workers are intelligent and compassionate, and also because it encourages collaboration.

Late last week, I spent a couple days working on updating some of our marketing materials. I was updating a document that has had some revisions over the past couple years, but they have been minor, not major changes. When I start a project with updating in mind, I’m not always asking the big picture questions – Is there a better way to present this information? Why have we used this picture in the past? As I made some cosmetic changes to this document, there was still something off, but I could not figure it out. Thankfully, I work with people who happily give feedback and know that sometimes it just takes another set of eyes. The end result of this document is far better than anything I could have come up with on my own. It is organized better and instead of just being updated fonts and consistent sizing, it is easier to follow and pleasing to the eye. Because of collaboration.

My boss and I have been talking a lot about this concept because of how we have seen it transform our work place.

Collaboration says, “What we can accomplish together is far better than what I can accomplish on my own.”

Collaboration says, “I care more about the end goal than about my name being the only one on it.”

Collaboration says, “I’m willing to combine our ideas together to create something new.”

Unfortunately collaboration is not what comes naturally. Collaboration contrasts with 17 years of my public education where my grade was what I earned. Yes, class projects factor into an overall grade, but it is primarily what one is able to accomplish as an individual. Collaboration has taken me unlearning selfish habits and keeping my eyes focused on the greater vision. Thankfully, in my workplace, the greater vision is easy to get on board with – families for children in need, but even with that cause, I can make it about me. I worry about my own career or how I can achieve my goals. My aspirations and selfish desires can start to taint the community-oriented work place that we have created.

I am beginning to understand that collaboration is the way of the kingdom. Collaboration lays down personal rights for a higher cause, is that not what Jesus Himself did on the cross?

Collaboration is worth the fight and the surrender. When we each bring our best to the table and combine it all together, creating something new, everyone wins. The kingdom of God needs us to get over ourselves and our differences, remember that the vision we are united in is not ours, but Gods, and come together for His glory.

The kingdom needs us to collaborate.

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Collaboration occurs in community and calls us to celebrate with champagne, or Coca-Cola Classic 🙂 How many “C’s” can you use in one sentence?

Sinking In: Thoughts on Turning 24

It was only fitting to celebrate my birthday in Bloomington, Indiana. To me, celebrating birthdays is an opportunity to recognize the thousands of small moments that took place throughout the year and to reflect on the goodness of God over the course of a person’s life. As I drove the sixty miles south on Saturday with the sun was high in the afternoon sky, I was overcome with thankfulness of God’s faithfulness. There is not a single second in the past twenty-four years of my life that God has not been faithful. He has ordained every breath I breathe; I am not and never have been hidden from His sight. The truth of those words started to sink in when I was eighteen and a student at IU. Six years later, the words have sunk a little bit deeper, but I long to live as one who believes God for great and mighty things. In making the drive down 37, I was able to return to where the most significant part of my story started and celebrate everything that God has continued to do since then.

The past year has been one of incredible highs, some low lows, but truly the theme as been “sinking in.” Like trying to get comfortable in your bed at the end of the night, sometimes you’re a little restless before finding the right combination of sleep position, pillow fluffiness and temperature; this year I’ve worked through restlessness, fighting to find combinations that work. Combining alone time and spending time with friends, eating well and working out appropriately, time in Indianapolis and time other places, paying off student loans and saving for the future, working towards a worthy cause at work and rest, reading for fun and reading to learn, writing as a life-giving practice and fighting against guilt for not doing it enough, and maintaining old friendships and cultivating new ones. When the combinations are not quite right, I can feel exhausted, unfulfilled, or a mixture of both. I have not yet found the perfect combination, if it exists, but I’m sinking into the life I’m building in Indianapolis.

As I sink in, trying to find the right combination and get comfortable, I am reminded that things are not as they should be. There is a gap between how I want things to be and how they are. I work in international adoption, so I deal with this reality on a daily basis. But daily, I hear God telling me to continue to sink in, to lean into the tension that is being created. Stop fighting the tension and accept it. I have to let it mold me and change me because the gap will always be there. There will always be miscarriages, failed marriages, kids born with special needs, and lives taken from us far too soon. The gap is there for a reason – to draw my eyes upward and forward, towards a time and place where it will all be made right.

In the midst of the tension, I attempt to sink in; I try different combinations, learning more about myself every step of the way.

Friends Through Marriage

The summer of 2013 was my summer of weddings. After being in 3 weddings within six months of each other, I was invited to six weddings in one summer. Whew! It was a lot. I had just graduated from college and had moved back in with my parents while I continued to look for a job in both Cincinnati and Indianapolis. I was in a holding pattern, waiting for the next thing to happen.

As I drove to the second wedding of the summer, I checked my email while stopping for gas on I-75 somewhere between Dayton and Fort Wayne. I read the disappointing news that my number one choice of job had fallen through and I was back to square one, well not completely, but a temporary retail management position in Cincinnati is not what I wanted to be doing.

I wanted to celebrate with my friends as they started new chapters with their husbands and wives, and yet I could not shake the feeling that I was being left behind. It was as if marriage was an exclusive club and my invitation had been left in the mail. I felt left out and left behind.

I wish I could say I handled these feeling like an adult, and turned to the Lord, delighting in the story He was writing for my life, but like every other time I’ve felt left out and left behind, I stomped my feet and cried.

It hit me though, the gift of marriage is so special, not just to those who get married, but to their friends, too. I opened a thank you note from that summer and it said, “We’re so thankful for your friendship.” As my friends have gotten married, I’ve gained friends. Each time a friend gets married, and since that summer, I’ve been to plenty more weddings, another friend joins my corner. It’s one more person encouraging me, praying for me, and someone new to make memories with.

I could write a sad story about how not being married and not having a boyfriend is lonely with over half of my best friends married. I could share that I get left out of double dates because I don’t have a plus one. But, then I remember how many friends I’ve gained and the ways my life has been enriched because of my friends marriages and suddenly those feelings of being left out and left behind were unfounded. I’m reminded that we are all invited to see and participate in the celebration of marriage.

I see the character of God in the way He has created marriage not just as a gift to those who enter into the covenant, but also to those who bear witness to it. As for me, I’ll all for having more friends!

Monday Lovin’

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About six weeks ago, after a weekend of confessing that I was not experiencing much joy and living life on autopilot, I sat down and made a list of things that were life-giving for me. The list consisted of reading, writing, running, cooking, listening, encouraging and crafting. This list is in the first few pages of my journal. When I’m starting to be drained, I look back on the list and remember where to start feeling like myself again. These activities help guard against the numbness that I have confessed comes too easily and is too comfortable to me in this two job working, trying to balance everything season of life.

 

This weekend, I was able to do a little bit of everything.

 

I made a dinner with a beautiful friend and we shared what was going on in our lives and our hearts. I’ve been friends with her for five years and the conversations we shared on Friday may have been some of the best we’ve ever had. I’m thankful fro friends who go deep, talk about insecurities and don’t judge you when you talk about yours.

 

A run before dinner on Friday and a run around the Indianapolis canal on Saturday morning with a friend were the perfect ways to enjoy the fall weather that has descended upon Indianapolis. Despite the havoc that fall causes my allergies, I try to squeeze in some time outside in the mild temperatures.

 

My roommate gets married so soon, and Saturday we were able to celebrate her upcoming nuptials with one of my most beautiful showers I’ve ever been to. Her aunts, mom and sister created the perfect atmosphere to honor her full of delicious food.

 

Saturday while spending time with a great friend, we could not seem to stop talking about grace. Oh how thankful we are for God’s grace and the ways it is never-ending. I am thankful that He uses me to demonstrate just how much grace He gives. It’s been a hard summer, wrestling with sin, exhaustion and calling, but His grace has sustained me.

 

Sunday morning I woke up early to decorate the windows at work. It’s a tedious task, but when it’s all done, it looks good. It’s also a rare opportunity to really get to talk with my co-workers. I left the mall with some new burns on my fingers from the hot glue gun, but some fun memories of all of us working together to create.

 

This Monday, I’m lovin’ running, reading, writing, cooking, spending time with sweet friends and grace. I am praying that I can find small snippets of time this week to spend time doing these activities.

 

PS- I’m also lovin’ this new blog and spent hours over the weekend moving all my old blogs over. More to come about that experience!

Fear

August has been a whirlwind of a month. It started lakeside with some of my most favorite friends. We spent Saturday night catching each other up on our lives. The real stuff, the nitty gritty, not the Facebook/Instagram versions of who we are. We got real. We shared some dreams and some frustrations. I told my best friend that I wanted it to be Lake Weekend every weekend; she kindly reminded me that it wouldn’t be real life, and that we all have a threshold for vulnerability. That weekend really set the tone for the past couple weeks. I felt like I left the weekend with more questions than I arrived with, even though my heart was incredibly full.

No one told me how difficult grown up life was going to be. It’s hard, gut wrenching work to wrestle with your life’s calling, to discern the difference between good and right and to live in the present, taking into account when bills are due. Add in actually living life and it’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel on adulthood. Note: I’ve tried throwing in the towel, but everyone keeps telling me that it’s impossible. I’m learning about some of my big-time insecurities that I’ve spent the last 7 years trying to ignore. Scary fears that have been causing me to walk with a limp and not even realize it.

Last week, while reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (shameless plug), I asked myself the questions: What are you afraid of? What are those fears preventing you from doing? I think the first question is fairly easy to answer, but it’s that second one that pierced my already fragile, tender heart. It’s a good thing to put a face on our fears. Our teachers and parents have been telling us to do that since we were in elementary school. But, putting a face on a fear doesn’t mean it is not still crippling. It was asking that question when I realized just how much I’ve let fear rule my life. I’ve let fear dictate the path and set the pace. Have you ever tried to run at someone else’s pace? It’s hard, even if it’s slower than you normally run; it’s uncomfortable and sometimes more tiring. Fear’s been doing that to me for as long as I can remember.

I keep asking myself where do I go from here? This weird, uncertain, really raw place where I sometimes cry in my car. Who do I become once I’ve stripped away fears that I’ve let define me for the majority of adult life? Who am I, really? And, can I sort all this stuff out by Monday morning since it’s the start of a 60-hour work week?

I wish there was a ten-step plan to work through on my own timeline, which would obviously be the next week, not the next few years. I also wish it were easier, or just less painful. But there’s not ten-step plan and there’s no quick fix, although I try to prove that shopping solves some of the problems.

I think the first step choose to be brave. Brave has to mean different things in different contexts. Brave for the Apostle Paul was returning to Jerusalem knowing that persecution awaited him, but that he could not be disobedient. He was brave because he obeyed and he showed up in an uncomfortable situation.

I’m not marching into persecution and three years in prison, at least that I know of, but I still think brave right now for me means to keep showing up. Showing up for my friends. Showing up for my jobs. Showing up for myself. Being present in this moment knowing that this moment is enough. Knowing that I’m enough. Learning to run at my own pace. Just let me figure out what my pace is first.

 

A Month

I’ve had A MONTH. A month with no breathing room. A month where I feel like I gave way more than I got. A month full of uncertainty, no rights and no wrongs. A month of a lot of moving, but not much progress. A month that has thrown me back on my butt.

The scary thing is how well I can do these months. Months without time to process, without time to cook a real meal and months without time to even watch Netflix. I can power through just about anything. Eventually I go numb. A couple of weeks ago, I canceled my evening plans to give myself a night to breathe. I spent good time processing on the treadmill and realized just how much bondage I am in… to being busy. Seriously, it’s like a new addiction. Thus the numbness.

When I choose busyness over a slower pace and space, I miss out on so much. I am so preoccupied with what comes next that I forget to stop and say a prayer of thanks for what is. I miss out on the opportunity to see the people around me for who they are, and not just how they fit into my schedule. The most dangerous thing that happens is that I start to define myself based on what I’m doing and not who I am. Why is this one the most dangerous? Because if I’m measured based on what I do, I fail every time. Defining myself based on doing and not being puts me on the throne. It forces me in performance mode. It changes how I view God.

I want to be concerned about being so that the doing flows naturally. In a society obsessed with what you do for a living and what you’ve achieved, I want to be defined solely by who I am and what I stand for. I want my 5 year goals to be about characteristics I want God to develop in me, not things to check off the list. I want to get lost in the truth that God says I’m enough, and not exhaust myself trying to prove to the world that I am.

It’s time to slow down. To exhale. To rest. To remember that I have enough and that I am enough.

One Year Post-College

Exactly a year ago today, I graduated from college. Cue the tears because college was an amazing four years, and I still can’t believe it’s over. In the year since I graduated, my view on how special my college experience was has not changed. I hold the four years I spent in Bloomington, spending way more time with friends than at the library, hanging out every Thursday night in Woodburn 100, and the sweet friendships I developed on IU’s beautiful campus so close to my heart. But, that season ended a year ago. My life has gone on.

In the Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Maybe he was prophesying the last year of my life. Since May 2013, I’ve lived in three different cities, worked three different jobs, spent more money than I care to admit on clothes, moved into my first apartment where I was responsible for paying rent, paid off an eighth of my student loan, bought a car (ask me how I feel about car payments), ran a half marathon, hosted some sweet parties, experienced the most difficult transition of my life to date, applied for 50+ jobs, attended four weddings, threw some fun parties, had only a handful of weekends with no work, and joined a church. This year has brought some of my highest highs, but also some of my lowest lows. When you’re eating ice cream out of the tub on a Wednesday morning at 10:30AM while watching your second episode of West Wing for the day, you know you’ve hit a new low.

But the things I did pale in comparison to the most significant lesson I’ve learned.

Over and over again, I cried out to the Lord, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Depending on the day, I sometimes continued, “But I’m happy at the way it’s turning out.” Some days I could do anything but cry into my pillow. It was a year of life not meeting my expectations. I had a pretty little picture in my head of what this year was supposed to look like. Needless to say, it has not looked like that pretty little picture. It hasn’t been neat, orderly, or pretty. It’s been messy, hard and beautiful. I jokingly refer to the person I was last spring as “young and dumb.” I just didn’t know any better. I saw what other people’s lives looked like, combined that with my own desires and then just expected.

But I take beautiful over pretty any day. This is not the first or the last time that life will not meet my expectations. Marriage is not a walk in the park. Parenting is not endless dandelion bouquets and Mother’s Day cards. The question is, what will I do when life fails to meet my expectations? Will I sulk and allow it to make me bitter? Or will I run hard in the arms of a God who continually exceeds my expectations?

The wisdom and intimacy I’ve gained with God by walking through the peaks and the valleys with Him this last year is far more special than any picture I had in my head of how my life was supposed to look.

God Does Not Waste Experience

God does not waste experience.

It was a fact I had been reminded of countless times throughout my senior year of college and as I graduated. Whenever I opened up to someone about my struggle to find a job, the same person would look at me and say, “Caitlin, remember, God doesn’t waste experience.” Ladies and gentlemen, add that to the list of things not to tell a 22-year-old unemployed post-grad. It’s a beautiful truth, but in the midst of the struggle, it feels more like a mockery than a hope-inspiring truth about God. It’s been ten months since I graduated from college, and just this week have I started to really see how this truth has become true in my life.

In college, I spent a lot of time encouraging other college students to fill out surveys, I called these college students who were even the tiniest bit interested in Jesus and tried to meet up with them for coffee. In the CRU world, this is known as following-up. Over a cup of coffee, usually at the Starbucks in the union, I would ask the college student, often times a girl in a sorority, or a freshman girl, about her life, her spiritual background and her thoughts on God. Key during these interactions was listening. Before sharing anything about me, I would ask for permission to do so… Or so I was supposed to do. I longed to see the women across the table from me arrive at a new understanding of God on their own, seeing Jesus with their own eyes, not through the eyes of my own experiences.

Watching a woman “get it,” or understand God in a new way was the highlight of my weeks. So much so that I was mad that God did not call me into vocational ministry with CRU at the end of my senior year. I loved ministry. I was good at ministry. I loved being authentic, I loved planning bible studies, I loved watching lives changed by Jesus. I spent my sophomore and junior years of college telling people I was going to join staff with CRU. But The Call never came. As I left Bloomington in May, part of me started to believe that my experiences were a waste. I didn’t have a job and I felt as though the skills I developed as a student involved in CRU would not translate into a job.

I remember being so discouraged after an interaction with a pastor at my parents’ church that I sat in my car and cussed out God. The f-word went flying. I could not understand why God had cultivated such unique skills in me during college and yet I could not find a place willing to utilize such important skills. I was confused and losing hope. I did the only thing that sounded good at the time – I drove home and ate ice cream right out of the carton at 10:30 in the morning.

Fast forward to January 2014. After a couple months of working with and tracking prospective adoptive families, my boss called me into her office. During our talk, we decided that instead of sending emails, I was going to pick up the phone and start calling families. This idea was great in theory, but by the time I had returned to my front office desk and picked up the phone to start dialing, I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Fear of rejection filled my thoughts. “But wait,” I said to my co-worker, “I’ve done this before. When I was involved in CRU at IU, I would call girls to follow-up.” As the words came out of my mouth I started to laugh.

At the beginning of February, I sat in a business development meeting at work listening to my boss and co-workers think through where I can be growing as a company. As a member of the business development team, I am now in charge of community outreach; the very essence of what got me involved in CRU as a freshman. During this meeting, I was taken back to Friday afternoon servant team meetings when the CRU leaders would talk about how we could better reach the IU campus. I said a silent prayer of thanks and did my best to participate in the meeting.

On Friday, I sat down with a co-worker and we were talking through some of the hang-ups families have before the take the leap and begin the adoption process. She reminded me how important it is to ask whoever it may be questions and to ask permission before sharing my opinion. The light went on in my head yet again.

I always knew that my experience with CRU at IU would come in handy because of the persistence and faith it cultivated in me. Even when things were rough and I was tempted to walk away, God would remind me that He was moving in my life and in the lives of those around me. What I didn’t realize at the time was that God truly doesn’t waste even the smallest of experiences. My job requires me reach out to new people. It requires me to pick up the phone to speak with people who may not be sold on ideas I want to speak with them about. It requires me to follow-up with people, invite them to events and introduce them to a new story line in their lives, one that will alter their families and others.

Much has changed in the last ten months, but much has stayed the same. One thing that has stayed and will remain the same throughout eternity – God does not and will not waste experience.

10 Lessons for 22

I’m a big fan of birthdays. I like the party aspect, but I was explaining to a friend that it’s a lot more than that. Over the course of 365 days, there are so many moments that don’t get celebrated. Moments that simply pass us by without much attention, but it’s in those uncelebrated, ordinary moments that God is shaping us more into who He wants us to be. We are learning valuable lessons in those moments. My birthday is simply a celebration, not of me, but of those moments over the last year that deserve reflection & celebration. As I’ve reflected over the past year of my life, a year filled with 2 moves, 3 new jobs, a graduation, a relationship, a break-up, 3 vacations, a new cousin to be and countless other special things, I’ve learned a lot. Lessons that are special and important. So without further ado, ten of the lessons I’ve learned as a 22 year old!

  1. I’m emotionally attached to television shows. I cried when I finished the entire series of West Wing. I watched 2.5 seasons of Scandal in one week. I am emotionally attached to television. I can go weeks without watching cable, but Netflix is another story.
  1. Sin is serious business. The unintended consequences of sin can destroy relationships and a lack of fellowship with Jesus. I must make a decision to go on the offensive against things that have the potential to distance me from Jesus.
  1. I look forward to the day when I will worship Jesus with people of every culture, nation, tribe and tongue. Until then, I want to surround myself with believers from all over the world with different backgrounds. It’s God’s plan for us to be one body of believers and I’m thankful to be able to see part of His heart on the topic.
  1. This summer I served at a food pantry once a week. All I wanted to do was say, “Woe is me,” at least once a week this summer, but serving others puts things into perspective. I built relationships with those I was serving and got to read gospel tracts to kiddos. I learned that being blessed is outside of current circumstances, but instead something ingrained into the identity of being a Christian.
  1. I’ve always loved my family, but I can’t said that I’ve always liked them, we love to press each other’s buttons and get under each other’s skin. This year, there was a noticeable shift in my relationship with my sister and brother. Emilee and Jake are far funnier than me and just overall beautiful people with huge hearts, and I loved living under the same roof with them this summer, spending time learning from them and watching them grow.
  1. I’ve learned that independence is a gift. A special gift that must be learned through circumstances that may not be of my choosing. Learning to give myself pep talks, take risks and go places all on my own has been one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned in 2013. I make pretty good company for myself, and get more comfortable and confident the more I do on my own. I’m thankful for a season of independence and watching the ways it is transforming me into a healthier individual who can confidently walk with Christ.
  1. It’s the Kingdom or the world. I can’t have my feet in both places. I must choose. Where will I be all in? This year has shown me that I would love to go all in for the Kingdom, to live fully for God and not for me, but man, I fall short. I’m thankful for grace, and for the desire to do things for God. Lord, help me live fully for the Kingdom, ready to give up all things for you, and go where you lead me, not where my selfishness and comfort tempt me.
  1. Injustice fires me up. Especially when it’s against women and children. The statistics are staggering, but the stories are even more heart-breaking. I keep asking God to help me be part of the solution, not part of the problem. May my life be about reconciliation and redemption for victims whose innocence has been taken unjustly.
  1. While in college, it felt like every other weekend there was something to celebrate or a reason to be excited. Once you graduate from college, the reasons to celebrate are often times more significant – weddings, new jobs, raises, babies – but they are less frequent. This fall, I’ve vowed to celebrate even the small things, trying to make a mundane and the ordinary something beautiful. I’ve learned that even the small stuff, however ordinary it may be, is a cause for celebration.
  1. Honest, genuine community is difficult to find, so when you do find it, hold onto it. I’ve referred to my community in Indianapolis this year as a “soft place to land”; I went from being surrounded by almost all my best friends in the spring, to no community at home during the summer and now there’s a happy medium. Fighting for friendships is worth it. I’m thankful for friends who will eat dinner with me, come to events I throw and share their lives with me – no matter how far apart we may live. I’m thankful that community on earth paint just a mere imitation of what fellowship with Jesus will look like in Heaven.

Tomorrow

When I was younger, and living in Japan, there was a family with two adopted daughters from China. I remember Emilee asking my mom why the girls didn’t look like their mom, and my mom explained that these two girls had been adopted. I don’t remember the girls’ names, but the more my mom told us about adoption, the more my 7 year-old brain was convinced that I would one day adopt children. This desire to adopt only grew as we moved back to the U.S. and in our new neighborhood, three families adopted daughters. By the time I was in high school, I knew Angelina Jolie needed to watch her back because I wanted to be an Ambassador to UNICEF, just like her.

My heart broke for orphans when I traveled to Monterrey, Mexico with Back2Back Ministries and I saw the devastating long-term effects of being abandoned. My junior year of college, I learned a great deal about sex trafficking and then spent the summer interning with Back2Back Ministries, I began to truly believe in adoption. I believe it changes children’s lives. It gives children opportunities they could only dream about.

Children are special, and deserve to be treated with value. Adoption helps marginalized children gain extraordinary experiences.

Tomorrow I start my first big girl job, with an adoption agency. It was a journey that has had numerous detours and I don’t know where I’ll ultimately end up, but tonight I rejoice. God has written on my heart a desire to serve His children. I don’t have the patience to teach, I don’t get to be a missionary yet, I can’t do the medicine thing, but He has crafted something special for me. Something that will build my skills and grow my heart. I’m thankful, and confident that God knows what He’s doing. Tomorrow is the start in another chapter in the adventure God and I are on together.

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner