Unhealed Wounds.

2018 is a year that changed me. I was wrapping up my last semester of seminary along with my last semester of serving with a ministry that I loved. It was a stressful time of school and it was a trying time emotionally as I navigated finding closure with a season of ministry that had been equal parts good and hard. All of that was compiled with the weight of anxiety as to what was next for us – a longing to serve in college ministry without any leads while also being in a tight place financially. Let’s say the 30ish lbs I gained in 5 months was nothing compared to the emotional weight on my chest.

And then came an opportunity for Micah to take a new job in a new city – which was equal parts exciting, scary and confusing.

And then came a friendship breakup that came out of no where and crushed me like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

And then came an unplanned pregnancy.

And then came a miscarriage days later.

I was a mess in every sense of the word.

I needed help.

After months of praying with Micah about the help I needed, we agreed that 2019 would be the year when I started going to counseling.

While I am thankful that I began my mental health journey on the back end of a very heavy year of my life, the truth is that I should have started it years prior. The writing had been on the wall in a variety of fonts and colors – a 5 month season of panic attacks in my church parking lot before service every Sunday in late 2012/2013, crippling social anxiety that led to uncontrollable tears in situations like important job interviews or during the “greeting” time at a new church, fears of abandonment that impacted my marriage in early years based solely on childhood trauma and literally nothing my husband did or said could take it away – all of this and more brought on layers and layers of shame because as a Christ follower navigating a call to ministry, “I should be stronger than this.”

That’s the thing about unhealed wounds – they fester and linger no matter how many bandaids you use to hide them away.

We can’t just seek a temporary fix if we want to move forward – we have to seek healing and that takes hard work.

After a little break, my girl Kate and I have picked things up again meeting every other week. The work we did in 2019 made a world of difference and gave me tools I needed to navigate grief related anxiety but there are wounds I bandaged up decades ago and tucked away that need to be healed if I really want to move forward.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I know that someone reading this has been slapping bandaids on old wounds for a long time and I want you to know that sometimes the strongest faith we can muster is in the work of gifted therapists. Don’t mistake my words as saying that faith is God is not sufficient – that is not at all what I’m saying. What I know is true is that God has gifted people with the ability to sit with us in our pain and to walk with us through the healing work He provides through therapy. Just as we were created for community with one another, we were never meant to walk through the pain that life has thrown our way all by ourselves.

If we really want to move forward and experience the fullness of God’s good gifts in this life, we have to do the hard work of seeking help in addressing unhealed wounds.

This is the good and the hard truth.

We need to do better.

On Memorial Day, Micah picked up some roses and asked if we could go take a walk at the military cemetery in town. As we drove up and looked for the best place to park and take a walk, you could feel the weight of such a somber day. Families were gathered at the graves of loved ones, Veteran wearing hats that identify their time in the service were all around, there was a constant bustle of folks in and out of the cemetery yet it was silent.

I observed the names on headstones along with the dates listed – I could feel the tension of sadness and gratitude. And then a thought came to my mind, “We need to do better.” And by “we”, I mean all of us.

We can all be better listeners.

We can all be more intentional in learning more about people who are different than us.

We can all extend kindness.

We can all take a pause before hitting send.

We can all show more grace.

We can all question if the words we share are building the Kingdom.

We can all show more gratitude.

We can all be mindful of our privilege as Americans.

We can all do better.

Men and women across this nation have fought and died for our freedom in America that provides us with the privilege to share the gospel in word and deed – and yet, the way that we live as Christians in America is often not viewed as any different than anyone else and that’s a problem.

There is a lost and dying world out there who is either being drawn closer to God because of what they see in us or they are being pushed further away from any desire to know the Jesus we claim to know and serve.

Brothers and sisters – we need to do better.

The Good and the Hard Truth

While sitting together as a family, Micah and I in a chair with Henry at our feet in the floor, we held the elements in our hands during our Good Friday service. As my pastor read the text, our hands shuffled the bread and juice in anticipation for the prompts:

“This is my body, take and eat. This is my blood, take and drink.”

Henry crawled over from his spot on the floor in front of us and pulled up curiously to see what Micah had in his hands.

I was reminded of myself as a child, watching the men of our church gathering up front to pray over the elements before passing the plates, the inevitability of plates clanking as they were passed down the pew right past me for years until I had made my own profession of faith and was able to partake along with those around me.

There was just something about Henry’s insistence as he reached his tiny hand over to grab Micah’s juice that made me say to myself, “of course we all want to partake in communion but we don’t want the commitment that comes before it.”

Communion is a holy practice that was made available by an unbearable sacrifice and should only be taken in holy reverence by those who have committed their lives to following Jesus.

But of course we want to just jump in and take communion without the commitment.

In the same way we want emotional healing without committing the time to see a counselor.

We see a culture of wanting the sex and companionship and not the commitment of marriage.

We want to see racial equality within our country without doing the work of seeing racial equality within the church or worse, we don’t seem to care about seeing equality in our country because we don’t want to face the ugliness of racism within the church.

We say “Sunday is coming” but to experience the fullness of the Glory that is Resurrection Sunday, we need to sit in the pain and feel the weight of our own sin hanging Jesus on the cross.

We have conditioned ourselves to skip past the hard, heavy and painful parts of our lives. We numb out with scrolling as a distraction. We try to control the situations and people around us. We even get hyper focused on the hope for something better and while need the hope to survive, it’s in tandem with the pain.

My fear for the Church is that we’ve accepted a mediocre American fast food version of Christianity – one where we make minimal commitments, we just drive up and place our order and “feast” on the way to something else that always seems to take a higher priority – and in turn miss out on so much of God’s glory to be experienced in the midst of pain, in the midst of waiting, in the midst of disappointment, in the midst of grief and loneliness and even the guilt of conviction.

When we don’t allow ourselves the space to sit in those dark places, we are also not allowing ourselves the space to experience the presence of Jesus with us in the pain and we miss the light He shines within the shadows of dark times.

Church, we can’t fully embody the Gospel of Jesus to a dark and dying world without acknowledging both the good and the hard truth of a life with Jesus – that Jesus came to save us from ourselves, yes AND it’s going to cost us everything the world says we need in full dependence on Jesus to provide something even better.

The life more abundant that we’re promised in Jesus lies within a life that acknowledges both the good and the hard truth.

It’s not about what we’re giving up.

As a lifelong Southern Baptist, I did not grow up practicing Lent. I actually have a distinct memory of my friend Carmen sharing about her lent experience when we were in high school. She gave up chocolate one year, Coca Cola the next and each year, I’m certain I maintained the Michael Scott, “Nope, don’t like that.” expression on my face the whole time.

Years later, as a recent college graduate working at my alma mater just two years after Lambuth University had transitioned to being a satellite campus for University of Memphis, I sat at my desk and watched as many faculty and staff, longtime Lambuth faithfuls, made their way back from lunch with a black mark on their forehead after participating in the Ash Wednesday service at a nearby Methodist church. I started googling Ash Wednesday and as I read about the traditions, I realized that Lent was not about what they were giving up – and it felt like us Baptists were missing out on something really special.

We’re still learning over here at the Grooms home about what it means to participate in aspects of the Church calendar that were not prominent in our churches growing up. Last year we attended our very first Ash Wednesday service and we were so excited about that being a new tradition for our family. Over the last few years as we prepare our hearts and seek ways to participate in Lent, I’ve seen a direct correlation in my heart between sacrifice and provision. When I make sacrifices for the sake of being able to spend more time with Jesus, he meets me there and provides what my heart ultimately desires – more of Him.

It’s not at all about what we’re giving up. It’s recognizing the sacrifice that Jesus made for us so that we could have a relationship with him and honoring his sacrifice with one of our own to grow in him.

And honestly, a simple lenten practice is the perfect primer for a life of sacrifice and faithfulness to Jesus, putting off what the world calls good for what HE calls better.

It’s not at all about what we’re giving up – it’s all about Jesus and how he is so much more than anything we could ever give up.

Quarantine Cooking #7

What I love about this recipe is that it can be what you want to make it! It’s the perfect snow day recipe because it’s warm and hearty while also being an avenue to throw in random veggies that you need to use up before they go bad. This is what I made and it’s a blend of a Chicken Pot Pie Soup recipe and a Chicken and Dumplings recipe to fit what I had on hand.

Ingredients:

1.5-2 lbs cooked, shredded chicken
Onions (fresh or frozen)
Veggies of your choosing (I used frozen but take this time to clean out your fridge/freezer)
Mushrooms are perfect in this so throw them in if you have them.
3 cups chicken stock/broth (or use water if you’re out of the rest)
2 cups milk (I used half and half)
1/3 cup flour
Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper
Canned Biscuits or the ability to fold your own dough.

  1. Start with your veggies. I had some frozen veggies in the freezer so I saved those for later and put some butter and my onions on to saute. I used frozen diced onions because if you know me you know how much I hate raw onion so I keep those on hand. If you have fresh carrots and celery, throw those in with your onions. If you’re using frozen veggies like me, hold those til later.
  2. When those looked cooked, I put a couple teaspoons of minced garlic. I waited a little too long while chopping my mushrooms and my onions and garlic started to stick to my pan but no fears if this happens to you, just pour a little water in your skillet and it will lift all of it and give your soup a little extra flavor.
  3. I tossed in my mushrooms and let those cook for just a couple of minutes before adding 1/3 cup of flour. I stirred that around while slowly adding my liquid – now the recipe called for 3 cups of chicken stock and that would have been nice but the store shelves were bare and I’m not a “make your own chicken stock” kind of girl so I used water and it still tasted great. I did have some half and half on hand so I used that instead of milk to add a little more richness.
  4. From here, I added my seasonings – Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. I don’t usually measure when seasoning but I’d say start with a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and then use your judgement on s&p. Crank up the heat to bring this to a boil and then back down to medium/low to simmer.
  5. Those frozen veggies? Now is their time to shine. Throw those in your soup. I used a vegetable medley I had on hand from our beloved Costco along with some leftover frozen potatoes in my freezer. I’m telling you – this is the time to clean out the fridge/freezer if you’ve got leftover veggies. Let those cook on medium/low stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.
  6. Throw in your chicken while that’s cooking and give it a good stir. This is where I did one last taste/sniff test on my seasonings and needed to add more s&p.
  7. While all of that is getting better acquainted, let’s talk about the biscuit topping that pulls this dish together. If you’ve got canned biscuits, get those out and cut them into quarters. Put some flour out on your cutting board and give them a super light coat. If you don’t have canned biscuits but you’re the kind of boy/girl that makes homemade biscuits, go ahead and flex those muscles. Lay those little biscuit dough babies on top of your soup. Cover your pot and let it cook on medium/low for 8-10 minutes or whenever the biscuits look good. From there you are good to go!
  8. Enjoy it with your favorite folks!

Love Can Still Be Lonely.

February is a lonely month.

It’s strange but I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve written and erased more times than I can count and came to a place where I realized that this is the kind of message that’s best sent through a different medium and so I shared it on my instagram page on Sunday. If you missed it, I’ve linked it here. (TLDW – our churches often leave our singles feeling isolated and as if marriage is a prize to be won. The cure to loneliness is not a romantic partner but rather godly community.)

Here me say – there is no cookie cutter timeline or series of life events that reflect a successful life.

Whatever the American Dream has taught you about working and striving and following the right steps to success is a lie because it leaves out one major aspect to the journey we’re on as believers – faith. Living a life of faithful obedience to Jesus means that we trust in HIS timeline and not one based on worldly standards. And while faithfulness to Jesus is the life we’re called to live, that does not mean that it comes without heartache, disappointment and grief because life on this side of eternity will always leave us longing – longing for eternity with Jesus.

So how do we press on? How do we cope with the pain that comes from living in a broken, sinful world?

We rally our people.

We surround ourselves with community that reminds us of who we are in Christ, the promise of abundance we have in Him, and of the gifts we have been given to point others to the same hope.

While the world uses this time of year to focus on a commercial, romantic kind of love, it can leave so many people – both those who are single and those who are not, feeling the pains of loneliness when life just doesn’t look like what you thought it would. I encourage you to channel whatever energy you feel pushing you toward filling that void with a romantic partner, start instead with investing in godly community that will point you to Jesus because he is the prize.

The world will tell you that love is the answer to loneliness but the truth is that love can still be a lonely place. Rally your people and lean on Jesus to comfort you in your loneliness through spirit led community. Marriage is not a benchmark, it’s a gift as is singleness – Jesus is the prize.

Where do we go from here?

Our week has been a little off because Henry doesn’t go back to PDO until next week. On Wednesday, I had a virtual meeting at 9 and then went to an appointment, coming home at 12:30. Micah let me know that Henry’s crib needed to be adjusted now that he can pull up; he hasn’t tried to crawl out but it won’t be long til he tries. After grabbing some lunch, I located an allen wrench to adjust the crib and when I was finished, I turned on my tv and was shocked by what I was seeing.

I foresee telling this little story to Henry in 2040 when he’s voting in his first election and likely many times before that. January 6, 2020 will be another day where we reflect on where we were when it felt like the world was turning upside down.

I wish I could say I was in disbelief but I’m really not. I’ve been reading up on extremists groups to the right and the left for several months and I was fearful that we would see something like this although I prayed it would not happen. Alas, here we are. 6 days into 2021 where we were hopeful that things would look different than the year before but instead it looks like a continuation of the same old crazy.

Because we all fall into a different position on the political spectrum, I won’t try to navigate the question of how we got here but I do think it’s important that we think about “where do we go from here?”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again… and again, and again, and again – we have work to do that starts within our own hearts.

I saw a facebook post this week that struck a chord in my spirit and revealed a fundamental heart issue that we as believers have to address within ourselves. The post read, “When will y’all learn that GOOD and EVIL will never be united?”

This question implies that one side of the political spectrum is good and the other is evil and I’m here to say that’s just not true. We have to take personal responsibility for not viewing those who vote differently than us as evil based solely on their political position. I’m most disturbed when I see such language coming from people who claim to be followers of Jesus – and I see it often. We’ve allowed ourselves to fall into the traps of political tribalism to the point where we see the other side as the enemy rather than our brothers and sisters.

I saw a video on Thursday and still today it makes me weep. Maybe you’ve seen it too. It’s a video clip from the House Chambers in the Capitol where in the balcony, members of congress are sheltering in place with gunshots all around and you hear a voice over the chaos praying to Jesus for peace in our country and for God to heal our land. That was the voice of Delaware’s Democratic Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. Political tribalism will tell you that she is evil and the enemy to those who vote red but I am telling you that she is your sister.

Our own Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn is someone that I disagree with on most political issues but she is not my enemy, she is my sister.

I beg you, brothers and sisters, do not fall into or remain engulfed in the trappings that political tribalism bring. We must repent, turn from our sin and live the life Christ has called us so clearly in scripture – to seek His kingdom, to love our neighbor, to stand for justice, to be peace makers, to be a light in this dark, dark world.

So where do we go from here?

We go to work – starting within our own hearts.

Let’s get to work.

Going to the Chapel : Wedding Registry Tips for the Newly Engaged

The holidays are a popular time for there to be an uptick in engagements and I am happy to provide you ladies with some tips as you prepare your wedding registry. Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want you to hear me say this – you do not need a thing. As you and your person prepare your hearts for a life of partnership into whatever venture God has called you, you really just need each other.

Can I tell you something to think about before a registry? A wedding planner. I can not recommend it enough. I’ve been blessed to work as a planner for a few weddings on my own and then joined my friend Krisy’s team at Southern Sparkle Weddings & Events (@southernsparkleweddings) as an assistant and I say this with zero hesitation – it is the best thing you will do for you and your mate but also for your friends and family so that everyone can enjoy your day. You may think that you cannot afford it but I would say, you cannot afford not to have one. 🙂

Ok on to the registry!

First things first: Where do you normally shop?

When trying to decide where to have a registry, think about where you like to shop and also where those who love you might prefer shopping. If you do most of your shopping in an online space that offers registries then yes, go online and sign up but if the majority of those who love and support you and who will be shopping your registries prefer an in person shopping experience, you might want to choose a second registry.

When we were pregnant with Henry and created a baby registry, we created one on Amazon because it is so convenient but we also chose Target because we knew there would be ladies from his home town that would want options that did not involve online shopping – there was the added benefit that Target price matches.

Another thing to think about when choosing where to have a registry is which store provides the best incentives for your registry. Most stores and online shops that offer registries also offer incentives like an extended return period, after wedding discount and group gifting options so make sure to read up on which ones offer the incentives that matter to you.

Lastly, if you are looking for all online registries, you may want to use a site like Zola to compile items from multiple stores in one place.

Ok, next – What goes on the list?

If you already know where you’ll be living, this will be helpful in deciding what you need. i.e. If you will have a small kitchen with limited storage, keep that in mind when registering for kitchen items. With that said, you also might want to think about storage saving items to put on your list like bins that slide under your bed if your closet space is limited.

It’s also helpful to do an inventory with your fiancé on what household items you already have and plan to keep.

I found a checklist online by Target that I’ve linked below that will be helpful as you decide what you need to prepare your home for your new life together.

This checklist will give you a good start but think beyond items for your home and think about items for your life.

Do you guys love hosting game nights?

Include some board games and a nice serving platter for game night snacks.

Do the two of you love camping?

Register for a tent.

Do you love to travel?

Put that Away luggage you’ve been eyeing (and is totally worth it – trust me!) and a Southwest gift card.

Your people love you and are excited about this new season of life and want to celebrate not just the new home you’ll enjoy but the life you get to spend together.

The last thing I’ll add is just a little insight on what our wedding registry experience was like.

We registered at Target and at a small boutique back home. If we were getting married today, we’d likely add an all in one online registry like Zola or an amazon one to have a wider selection but at the time, everything I knew to register for was at Target. Like with any registry, you’ll have some people who want to buy you things from the list and some people may just know you and have something in mind that they want to give that’s not on your list.

On the day before my first shower, my sister-in-law called and asked if everything had been purchased on my registry? I knew that could not be the case and so I looked and EVERYTHING was gone. I called Target customer service and while I did have to push them to keep looking, they did finally find it and got it back online for me. I say this not to turn you off from Target – that was six years ago and their technology is much better now. We did a baby registry in 2019 and it worked like a charm with no mishaps.

What we found is that many people gave gift cards to go towards what was left on the list and that was SO helpful. We were able to purchase everything else we needed with those gift cards and still had some leftover. AND because everything was in one place and we received so many gift cards for that store, we used their after wedding discount, which saved a good chunk of change.

I will add – don’t be afraid to add something that feels expensive. Many registries offer group gifts where you can put money towards a pricey item of a group of ladies from your church might go in together to get it for you. So if you want that Kitchenaid mixer but can’t image someone shelling out $400 for it, you put that baby on there and may the odds be ever in your favor. You might be pleasantly surprised to open it at a bridal shower or you’ll be like me and get a good little discount off of it after the wedding. WIN WIN! 🙂

What other questions do you have that I didn’t cover?

Do you have wedding/marriage related questions outside of registries?

Send me an email at casey@caseyegrooms.com and I’ll be happy to help!

They are Watching and Learning from Us

When I was in college, I spent two summers as an intern at a church in Scarborough, Maine. I cannot put into words to tell you just how much those two summers shaped my spiritual development as a 20/21 year old. A woman named Marilyn served on staff at the church and provided leadership to all 8-10 of us college students. I could share a thousand things I learned from her and from members of that church who I grew to love like family but one lesson I learned through those experiences that is still on my heart as I first open my eyes in the morning even now 12 years later is this : the generation(s) behind us is watching us and learning from us and that should spur us on to faithfulness to Christ.

This morning when I woke up, it wasn’t Marilyn’s voice in my head (although that wouldn’t be unusual – she made quite the impression) but it was a face – Allie. And then others popped up as well – Aaron, Ella, Olivia. What feels like a lifetime ago and also just yesterday, I was teaching the preschool class at the church summer camp and at times on Sunday mornings and these sweet faces sat across from me as we read bible stories and sang songs and made crafts. Today because of technology, I’m no longer sitting across a very short table in any official teaching capacity, they’re still watching and learning, deliberately or not.

Just this week, I noticed a post made by Allie surrounding current world events and it was a wake up call that my Maine kids are not kids anymore – they are graduating high school, they’re driving, they’re picking out colleges, they have boyfriends/girlfriends, they are all grown up. Their eyes are open to what is going on in the world and they are paying attention to the ways in which we respond. And again, whether they know it or not, they are weighing what they are seeing in me and in my response to the world we’re living in against what they personally know of Jesus as they navigate their own faith.

As I have had conversations with college students and young adults over the last few years around my kitchen table, I’m always heartbroken to hear them say how disappointed they have been to see the ways that key faith leaders in their lives, serving in their churches, are conducting themselves online as they express their political opinion. And my heart breaks because I am seeing it too – the men and women who pastored us, baptized us, taught us in Sunday School and in youth group are behaving publicly on social media in a way that is not Christlike. We are watching and learning, many times how not to act, from men and women of faith we have admired for years who have shaped us into who we are yet are not behaving in a way that points to the goodness of Christ.

Friends – I challenge you to think about who is watching you and learning from you as you navigate this broken world.

I also want to say that the legacy we leave behind should be so much deeper and richer than the public life we live on social media. We must be vigilant to not let the way we interact online undermine our witness as Christ followers. The generation behind us is watching and learning – we have a responsibility to teach them well and to show them what it looks like to live the life God has called us to live.

Allie, Ella, Aaron and Olivia on a visit back to Maine in 2012.

We Need The Hope

I’ve not always been super great at keeping up with an Advent devotional. I’m not sure if it has to do with how busy this season is or what my normal excuse might be but this year has been different. I’ve found that the only way I’m going to be a working mom, serving in ministry, serving my church, my community, my family is to get up before my kid and have a few minutes alone with the Lord.

I grabbed an old favorite off my shelf this year, Paul David Tripp’s “O Come, Let Us Adore Him”. I grabbed it on Nov 30th, not even thinking about how it wouldn’t start until Dec. 1st and so I spent that time reflecting on Advent, on my pastor’s sermon at church the day before, and what this season means to me in the midst of one of the hardest year for all of us collectively in my lifetime. I opened the Notes app on my phone as I do 50 times a day and jotted down these words:

“Imagine living in 2020 without knowing and believing that God is making all things new.

Now think about people in your life who do not have the hope we have in Christ.

Keep them in your heart.”

I’ve flipped back to that note in my phone multiple times over the last two weeks and I’m here today to tell you that I’m burdened deeply for people who do not know Jesus, who do not recognize that this world is not our home, who might have insurance for all the disasters to come in this life yet no assurance for their eternal life.

My desire to share this with you is two fold:

1. To remind you of the abundance available to us through Christ, through His peace, in the here and now and the abundant eternal life that awaits us when our time on earth is done.

2. To ask that you would have eyes opened to those around you who are hopeless and who need Jesus.

I can’t imagine a greater gift to give this Holiday season than the gift of Jesus in the form of the grace we extend to others, the kindness we share to those in retail spaces, the prayers we offer to those who are hurting, the encouragement to those who are discouraged, serving your neighbors with a token of love and peace.

My prayer is that we as the Church would be bold in our proclamation of the hope we have in the baby born in the manger who came to rescue us and save us from ourselves.

We need it in 2020 more than ever.

We need the hope.