love and be loved – lessons from a turkey

There’s a lot I’ve been learning lately.  About adulthood, community, friendship, hard work, and God.  Living in an old house with 5 other women, where we host anywhere from 30-50 people weekly, has been one of the more educational experiences of my life.  There has been loads of laughter, a few tears, lots of prayer, and a fair amount of screams due to the perks of living in an old house (think rodents, sewage back up, snaking the drains…but those are all stories for another time).

Monday night at my house we hosted our monthly young women’s group for the church.  Usually this group is geared towards high school and college age girls, but because of the holiday week we opened it up to women of all ages and coined the night “gals-giving.”

Because the house ebbs and flows with who lives in it there is an assortment of stuff that gets left behind when people move out.  This worked in our benefit this week as someone had left a 16-pound quality, organic, local turkey in the freezer!  “Gals-giving” seemed like the most appropriate way to finally use that thing.

What seemed like a brilliant idea, cooking this turkey, turned out to be one of the more stressful things I have done in my life.  Ok…that’s exaggerating a bit. But dang, handling 16 pounds of raw meat and hosting 28 people that depend on that meat tasting delicious and not dried-out and overdone (the way I usually cook my meat when I cook it for myself because I am that paranoid about it being underdone) was a stretching experience for my perfectionist self.  If you are at all familiar with the enneagram personality type that is trending right now, all the other ones (“the perfectionist”) give a holla.

This is where I owe a huge shout out to my house-mate, Grace, and her mom who, on a Facetime call, was the real MVP and walked us through how to prep this hunk of meat.  No tears in this process, but lots of laughs and some screams.  Sorry, but what the heck are giblets and why do they leave them in there if you’re just going to throw them out anyways?  Call it an excuse, but I blame the American system of quick, convenient, grocery store food for not preparing us to stick our hands up the butt of a raw turkey.  Grace and I came to know Patty the Fatty (yes, we named the bird) really well that night.  A bit too well for my comfort level.

Grace and I were proud of the work we put into prepping the feast.  All that had to be done the next day was rub some spices on it and throw it in the oven.  Boom! Adulting.  Feeling like a real woman.

Until we realized no one was going to be home the next day to put the turkey in the oven.  Everyone in our home had work or school and was tied up until evening.  Little details you learn to think through when cooking a giant bird.  I’ve been living of the poor college-student diet of canned tuna, lunchmeat, and beans for my protein.  So, in my defense, I was not mentally prepared for this.

This is where I owe a huge shout out to our friend Justin, who was able to stop by the house in the afternoon and put Patty in the oven.

I’m nearing the end of this rant about the first turkey I’ve cooked, and I promise I’m getting somewhere with this story.

In this process it struck me how special it is to live in a community that loves God and loves one another.

Community is sometimes messy, it can be inconvenient, and often times it’s a learning process.  But community also one of the greatest joys, support systems, and gifts from God in our lives.

We wound up having 28 women for “gals-giving” to eat a mediocre turkey (yeah, I ended up overcooking it and slightly demolishing it because carving a turkey is another learning process of its own), a random assortment of side dishes, and an abundance of desserts (because we’re women and really…is there such a thing as too much dessert?)

Despite the stress…I mean adventure…with the turkey, I had a moment to breathe, and I thought my heart might just burst with fullness.  You know those moments in life when you literally cannot help but smiling?   As I looked around my home and saw 28 women (ranging from 7th grade – 30 years old) I was overcome with thankfulness and gratitude.  I’ve known what it’s like to feel really alone and not have any community.  And it’s really hard. I thank God for this family he has brought me into, in a small town in southwest Michigan.

We can’t do life, or I believe we can’t do life to the fullest, without community.  A community that is filled with the love of God, one that stands by you through your mistakes and learning, one that will inconvenience themselves to help you in your need, and that will be more excited about sharing time with you than sharing great food.

Great food is a blessing from God (amen!?), but the people that we surround ourselves with is the greater blessing.

That night I had my own translation of Proverbs 15:17, “Better is a dinner of vegetables and herbs where love is present, than a fattened ox served with hatred.”

Better is an overcooked, not beautifully presented turkey where the love of others is present, than the best meal you’ve ever tasted where you’re alone and without community.

This Thanksgiving, I am incredibly grateful for the community God has brought me into.  I am grateful that I don’t have to be the perfect host, the perfect adult, or the perfect cook – but that I get to love people well and be loved well in return.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May you love your people well and be loved well in return.

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friendship with Jesus – making time for rest

Hi friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written just to write.  Most of my writing efforts and energies have been put into school recently.  This past session of my online classes I had a professor who really encouraged me in my writing.  He called out my strengths and told me to keep writing and sharing my pieces.  I suppose this is like working a muscle, the more you practice, perform, and push yourself the stronger you will get.  This professor also encouraged me to do grad school, which kind of feels equivalent to discussing a second child with a woman who is in the hospital delivering her first child.  I am still feeling the labor pains of trying to get through this undergrad degree.  But all that being said, I truly do enjoy writing and find that it’s an outlet for the things the Spirit speaks to me.  I want to be more intentional about writing thoughts, reflections, and lessons that the Lord has been teaching me.  And so here we go.  I’m back on the blog.

This past summer has felt like the quickest passing 3 months of my life. Truly.  It’s crazy to compare the 3 months spent at my internship in Denver and the same amount of time here in my new home in St. Joseph.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my time in Denver quite a bit and find myself missing it a lot.

It’s good to reflect on certain seasons of life; not to dwell on the past but to remember what God taught us in that time and how we can take what we learned and keep moving forward.  So, as I’ve been missing Denver, I’ve been asking myself why I miss that season so much?  Moving to Denver, not knowing anybody, and working in an area that was way outside of my comfort zone has been one of the hardest things I have done.  Keeping it real – I cried almost every day for the first month I lived out there.  So, why do I miss that time so much?

I’ve taken this to God and he spoke, like he always does.  My time in Denver was a time when I recognized my need for complete dependence on the Lord.  I am coming to recognize just how easily the enemy works to bring distraction in our lives to take our eyes off Jesus.  Even under the disguise of good and necessary things, the devil is working hard to get us to believe we can depend on ourselves, or others, or possessions, or abilities, or resources, for fulfillment and purpose.

My time in Denver was one of minimal distractions from which I could seek fulfillment.  I wasn’t working for the sake of making money.  I didn’t have friends that I could hang out with, or seek approval from, or find comfort in during times of loneliness.  Just being super honest, I was also in a place physically that was really uncomfortable.  Living in an urban transitional home with some of the toughest survivors I’ve met was an adjustment and push out of my comfort zone like never before.

It was in this season of having the distractions and the façade of comfort stripped away – facing days where I had no work, no plans, and no friends – that Jesus became my best friend.  He always met me with comfort, love, joy, and peace.  Whether it was going on a hike in the Rocky Mountains, or baking something for the women in my home, or walking through the downtown Denver neighborhoods, or sitting in a coffee shop, or attending church after church looking for one to call home, Jesus reminded me in the most tender ways that He was with me.

Recently, I’ve been in a weird place.  I can feel myself reaching the brink of burnout and I know that this is not God’s will for me because I know his Spirit led me here.  I have an incredible community here in St. Joe – some of the most unconditional, genuine, welcoming friends I have ever known.  Yet, I have felt an ache in my soul for my time in Denver.  Ironic because Denver was the time when I had an ache in my soul for community.  Is it possible to have both community and at the same time a deep intimacy and complete dependence upon Jesus?  I believe the answer is yes. It is possible to have both.  But there are things I need to change and prioritize in my life in order to combat the enemy’s distractions and attempts to take my eyes off my first and deepest love.

God is growing me in my willingness to be vulnerable and sharing this is a step in that growth for me.  The past three months I have not been the best at rest.  I understand that we will go through seasons of busyness and hard work, but in this God still commands us to take a Sabbath to set aside holy time for Him.  God himself set us the ultimate example of rest, yet for some reason I convinced myself that I don’t need it.  Well, in the midst of working four part-time jobs, taking a full load of online college courses, attending every social event possible to get to know my new community, and serving at church, I have failed to make time for rest with Jesus these past three months.  Not because he wasn’t as present with me in this season, but because I didn’t prioritize him as my best friend and dearest love.  Busyness is often my drug of choice so that I don’t have to slow down and process the tough stuff.  However, ultimately, this always leads to burnout, weariness, and a loss of my true purpose and identity.

And so I think that is why my spirit has been aching over memories of Denver.  I was constantly talking with, spending time with, and being filled by Jesus because I recognized my need and simply did not have as many distractions.  In the last three months of being under a self-sufficient illusion, I have found comfort in a packed schedule and hard work.  Not that I haven’t had sweet times with God the past three months, but there has been that undeniable longing in my heart for the depth and fullness that we receive when we take time to rest.

Yesterday I started my internship at Road to Life Church here in St. Joe, and I felt the Lord bring a new sense of peace, clarity, and refreshment over me as he calls me to deeper friendship with him.  Entering into this next season, I want to be more intentional about seeking God in every moment and always prioritizing his presence first.  In the midst of a full schedule, close community and real life, I am growing from what I learned from my time in Denver about friendship with Jesus and fulfillment from him alone.  I am stepping forward into rest.

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taking the next step

Hello friends!

It’s been a little while since I’ve last reached out so I wanted to give an update on what’s happening in my life now.  Since moving back to Grand Rapids in December, I have been living at home and continuing with my online classes with Lee University.  I went back to work as a barista at the same café I have worked at on and off for the past three years, they have been so gracious to welcome me back after taking time off for missions!

Life has been pretty routine, and I have been learning to seek God even in the times that may seem mundane and ordinary.  To be honest, things have felt lonely at times when I feel the lack of community that I have gotten used to living in the last few years.  But, I still fully believe that God called me back to Grand Rapids after my internship in Denver and he continues to provide purpose and motivation to finish my Bachelors Degree in Ministry Leadership.

Above all, I simply desire to be where the Lord wants me to be, and he has continued to be faithful in guiding my steps.  God has opened yet another door for me to move and become part of a wonderful community and ministry lifestyle.  Next month I will be moving to St. Joseph, Michigan, where I will be interning with the youth ministry of Road to Life Church beginning in the fall.

I first connected with Road to Life just over a year ago while touring with the YWAM Circuit Riders.  We were doing high school ministry in the St. Joseph area and the Road to Life community provided us housing.  During this time, I met Annamaria, who is also a YWAM Circuit Rider and from St. Joseph.  We became good friends and teammates as we served in ministry together during that season, and now God has called us back together for a new season in ministry!

Road to Life Church owns a house that they have dedicated as a home for college-aged women of their church.  They also host weekly college ministry gatherings at the house.  Annamaria and I will be living in the house and will be the oldest amongst approximately five college freshmen girls who will move in this fall.  We have the opportunity to structure the leading of the house for the coming year and we are committing this summer to praying about how God wants to shape our lives and leadership for ministry in this home.

I have so much peace and excitement for this next move.  When I met with some of the leaders from the church I knew the prompting of the Holy Spirit was telling me this is where I am supposed to be.  The timing of the Lord is evident in so many aspects of this move as I commit to a year in this community.  This year will lead me through the end of my college degree and push me to dig deeper into the giftings God has put inside of me and the work I was created for.  From my time in Denver, I realized more of my passion for hospitality – creating a place where people feel at home, and sharing the everyday, high and low moments of life with one another.  There is a lot of unknown with moving next month, but I have great expectation and peace knowing that this is the step God is establishing for me (Proverbs 16:9).

I can’t thank you all enough for your prayers and support!

<3, Cassie

 

 

Goodbye (for now), Denver

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only a week away!  What’s even harder for me to believe is that my time in Denver has come to an end (for now).  After a three-month internship at Open Door Ministries, I feel that the Lord is calling me to move back to Grand Rapids.  The best way I can think to describe this next transition is bittersweet.  I am sad to leave the amazing friends and community God has provided me out here, the women from Still Waters Housing, and the city of Denver.  I keep rediscovering the truth that goodbyes suck.  However, the sweet side of this goodbye is that I have a lot of peace that moving back to Grand Rapids is where God is leading me.  Other than continuing with my online schooling, I am unsure what’s next for me.  I am looking forward to a period of rest at Christmas time and praying into what is next regarding housing and a job.

These three quick months in Denver have stretched me and humbled me.  Reflecting on all that I have experienced and learned here kind of feels like drinking from a firehose.  It’s been a season of feeling all the feelings.  I am continuing to learn what it looks like to love well, even when that is not the easiest thing to do.  I have seen beautiful pieces of the Lord’s heart and am in awe at the redemption and restoration his Spirit brings.  God continues to show me greater measures of grace (for myself and others).

I have found that the greatest growth often comes in the hardest seasons.  In times of dying to self, crying out to God for his strength and wisdom, and letting go of control and letting in the Holy Spirit to move.  I am entering into this Christmas with greater awe and amazement that Jesus left his throne to dwell in a broken and chaotic world.  I also have greater hope and joy this season that the brokenness and chaos of the world has been ultimately defeated by Christ.

All I know how to do is take simple steps of obedience, one at a time.  And in this next move, that’s where my peace is.  I am resting in the One who is victorious, who covers us with grace, and who loves with a reckless love.  May your Christmas be filled with this peace and grace and rest.

Lots of love,

Cassie

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finding home

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:1-2, 5

One month living in Denver and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that my strength is completely and solely in the Lord.  There have been many challenges, but also many sweet moments with Jesus this past month.  God is showing me the power of his salvation and redemption on deeper levels.  He is also showing me deeper levels of his love and heart for the world.  It has been painful and beautiful at the same time.  I am realizing that this is how God loves us –  with a love so deep that there is bound to be pain because of our sin, but so much beauty because of Jesus’ love that overcame this sin.

I am also learning that my home is with God.  I haven’t been settled in one place for more than a year the past four years of my life.  I am growing in the understanding that, really, we are all pilgrims on this earth, and our home is in the dwelling place of the Lord.  Our peace and security is in his presence.

Thank you for the continual prayers.  It means so much to me to have the support of loved ones.

I am fundraising for a couple projects for the ministry I am serving and for the safe-house I am currently residing in.  One need is for fresh paint in my bedroom.  I want to make this a space that is a place of rest and peace for the staff person or intern lives here next.  I estimate this will cost between $50-$100, which is beyond the budget for the house.  I will provide the labor and would deeply appreciate some financial help in providing the materials.

Another need is for donations towards giving a past resident a graduation party.  Graduation for the residents is a celebration of the dedication and hard work they put in during their two years at Esther House.  To give you some insight into the work the residents put in during the two years of their program, some of their requirements are: a phase of not having their cell phone and a 6pm curfew, checking in whenever they leave/arrive destinations, weekly mentoring sessions, acquiring a job, and many hours of productivity.  Going through this program takes a lot of dedication and trust and graduating is a big deal!  I would love to make this resident’s graduation feel extra special, and am asking for financial help to provide good food, decorations, and a nice gift.

If you would like to give financially you can do so through my PayPal account, clbaker04@gmail.com, or a check in the mail (send me an email for details on where to send the check).  If you have a preference for your donation to support the painting project or graduation party, please let me know.

Thank you, again and again, for all you have done for me this year and in my past years in ministry!  Your financial giving and prayers have changed my life and the lives of many others.

Love you and God bless!

Blessed are those whose strength is in

 

hello from Denver

Hi friends!  Today marks exactly 2 weeks since I moved to Denver for an internship with Open Door Ministries.  Real talk: it’s been a challenging few weeks.  This transition has stretched me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and brought me to confront fears I haven’t faced before.  A few weeks ago, at a church in Grand Rapids, I heard a sermon about Christians being called to go into the “belly of babel.”  Babel translates to chaos/confusion, which is where the name Babylon comes from.  Christ calls us to enter into the chaos and brokenness in this world to bring his shalom and love.  In some ways, I feel like I am in the belly of babel here.  I can’t give much information about the house I am in to protect the residents and the fact that it’s a safe house.  But living with and sharing life with those who are coming out of “Babylon” has opened my eyes to Jesus’ love and sacrifice on a whole new level.  Surrendering my comfort has given me the smallest glimpse into the chaos that Jesus left his throne for in order to save us.

I know there are Christians all over the world sacrificing a lot more, giving their lives in a more extreme way, and I don’t want to sound dramatic about what I have come into.  But, I know since my outreach in New York City, Jesus has tenderized and broken my heart for America.  For the lost, oppressed, homeless, and abused living amongst us.  Addictions, homelessness, and mental illnesses are strongholds that my eyes are becoming much more open to.  But God is working in my heart to see the authority we have in Christ to break down these strongholds.  There is no mind or heart that Jesus cannot reach.  A beautiful picture of this redemption is the house I am living in.  This house was once owned by a drug lord and used for his prostitution ring.  He ended up going bankrupt and losing the house to the government.  Now this very same house, once used for prostitution, is used by a ministry to be a refuge and place of coming to know Jesus for women coming out of that industry.  COME ON! There is nothing too far gone for the Lord to redeem!

God has been speaking to me a lot through the book of Isaiah this season.  Time after time he promises his people that he is with them, that he will never leave them, that he will protect them, “…when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…” (Isaiah 43:2).  Among this promise of never leaving his people, there is also the promise of redemption, of a Savior who “took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Is. 53:4).  Jesus entered into the valley of brokenness for us and now we are called to enter into the valley for others.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked to clothe them and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn…” (Is. 58:6-8).

I am so incredibly thankful for Jesus’ heart for the lowly and oppressed because that is what brought me salvation.  We were all in our own Babylon before we knew Jesus.  Now I want to love others like Jesus does, to bring them out of their Babylon.

Along with the challenges of moving into the city and adjusting to life here, there have been so many sweet moments of blessing from God.  I got to attend a worship night at Red Rocks Amphitheater with some of my favorite bands.  It was surreal.  There are also so many nice coffee shops in the area that I live, which if you know me you know that I love coffee and cute coffee shop atmospheres.  I also love mountains, and, “Hello!”  I’m surrounded by that beauty!  All while being a few miles from Coors Field where I hope to bike to a Rockies game this weekend. J God is good. God is faithful.  I am blown away by the unique details he has put in everyone’s heart and how he loves to give us gifts that touch our hearts.

Prayer Requests:

  • Smooth transitions as we move in a new resident, that she would be set up for success in this move.
  • That I would find the right church/community to get plugged into.
  • Peace, strength, and rest in Jesus every day!

Thank you for reading my ramblings and update on my life this far. Thank you for being a part of my life.  I couldn’t do this without your support!

Lots of love,

Cassie

 

So will I

“If the wind goes where you send it, so will I.”

“If you gladly chose surrender, so will I.”

Kind of basic Christian girl, but this song has been my jam lately. Or maybe prayer is a better word.  Jam and a prayer.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be leaving for Denver!  I truly can’t believe how quickly this time has come up and still feel in a swirl about the way this internship fell into place.  I think God likes to catch me off guard because if I had too much time to think about these decisions I would stay indecisive and never do anything.

I am becoming more and more convinced that we are not meant to live in a comfort zone.  Jesus gladly chose surrender, giving up the ultimate comforts of heaven, and I want to look like him.

It’s not easy to pray the prayer that I will go wherever God sends me, that I will surrender my control, that I will leave what I know.  It’s scary.  But, I’m not afraid.  I’m not afraid because I can hold on to the promise of God that he is always with us, he will never leave us.  God equips us to walk in his command to be courageous!

The support of friends and family has been even more reassurance in this crazy journey of life.  I thank God that he created us to live in community and for the community that I have.  Community is beyond location; it’s relationships that endure whether you’re together or not.

Thank you, friends, for being such a community to me.  Thank you for prayers; they are felt in the faithfulness God has shown to me in this season.

xoxo, Cassie