My life hasn't gone according to my plan, but God's plan for it has been written and I'm just following a path prepared for me.

The above quote describes my life perfectly.

As I talked with my house-mate last night after an exhausting day of work and doctors appointments, I reflected on the past 4 years of my life and laughed halfheartedly as I told her that absolutely NOTHING had gone according to plan.

When I was in high school, I had the next 6 years of my life planned out. I knew where I was going to college, what I wanted to study, and I had a nice little idea of what post-grad life would be like.

But as it would turn out, I can’t think of a single thing that has gone according to plan.

I had planned to stay in Peru longer, but I was flown back sick.

I had planned to live overseas for a little bit after school, but I was told that with my immune system I would never be able to.

I had planned to start out my junior year strong, not skipping the first 2 weeks of classes because I was in the ER or at my grandfather’s funeral.

I had planned to have a job lined up for when I graduated, not to continue working as a lifeguard at the pool indefinitely.

I had planned to move out of Greenville after graduation, not live here for the next few years.

I had planned to be healthy again, not to be beginning my 3rd round of treatments for an unknown parasitic disease.

But let me tell you, God had different plans.

If I had never been flown back early from Peru, I would have never seen my grandfather alive again. I would have missed the chance to go to his funeral and be with my family.

If I had never been sick, I would have never met a Hispanic patient in the hospital who couldn’t communicate with the clinical staff. I would have never known that there was such a huge need for interpreters in the United States.

If I had been given a job immediately after graduating and moved out of Greenville, I would have missed the never-ending opportunity I’ve had to rely on God and His perfect timing for me. I would have missed the countless opportunities I’ve had to serve at my temp job. I would have never had the privilege of  meeting so many amazing co-workers.

And honestly, there are still so many things that I don’t understand, and more than likely never will.

About 2 weeks ago, I was spending time reading my Bible when I suddenly realized something monumental.  I can’t mess up God’s plan for me. God doesn’t look at the mistakes and sins I’ve committed and shake His head. He doesn’t look down from heaven and say “Well she really messed that up. Guess I’ll have to find someone else.” God doesn’t have a plan B because He doesn’t need one.

When I finally realized that, I can’t even describe the sense of liberty that washed over me. Life isn’t about me and my decisions, it’s about God and my willingness to embrace His plans for my life.

Working in neurosurgery has taught me a lot. But one thing that has always amused me is how the neurosurgeons I work with can perform a complex craniotomy or lumbar decompression, yet they are completely incapable of sending a simple fax from the fax machine. So one of my many responsibilities includes calmly taking the paper from their capable hands and showing them which button to press.

I have found that my view of God is often comparable to the view I have of the surgeons. He is very skilled at big things, and more knowledgeable than me. When I’m facing something big, I have no problem with going to Him. But when it comes to the little things, or the “faxes” in life, He is suddenly in need of my help. But that’s not who God is. I am so thankful that my God is capable of both brain surgeries AND sending faxes.

Only in him

That is the God I serve.

Next Friday, I will be walking across the stage as the first woman in my family’s history to receive an undergrad diploma. The Monday after that, on May 12, I will begin my new job with the Greenville County Sheriff’s office as a Communications Specialist- something I never imagined for myself.

It all seems kinda’ve unreal.

From preschool to elementary school to high school to college, God has loved me and led me.

Both of my names, “Anna” and “Caitlin” mean grace.  God has truly given me so much grace. I can’t help but to smile as I remember the lyrics of an old hymn that my dad used to sing to me each night,

“‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.


Love Forgives

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, people are beginning to scramble to try and find that perfect gift to give to their special someone. A box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, a stuffed animal, maybe even a diamond.  In today’s materialistic society, how much you love someone seems to be expressed primarily in how much you can spend before maxing out your budget, or you credit card.

But anyone in a relationship can tell you that love isn’t about getting things. Love isn’t even about how much time you spend together, or the dates that you go on. Love is a word that goes beyond the love letters, the goodnight texts, and the stupid fights that you have. Love is a choice. A choice to put the other person above yourself. It’s a choice to stay committed in the good times and the bad. It’s a choice to forgive.

Love and forgiveness cannot be separated. To truly love, you must forgive, and to truly forgive, you must love.

We often equate forgiveness with something warm and fuzzy.

Truthfully, forgiveness is quite the opposite. Forgiveness can be quite painful when it involves someone you are madly in love with. In a relationship, forgiveness is not “Don’t worry about what you did, I’m fine with it. We all make mistakes.” It sounds spiritual and great coming out of our mouths (or even in that conversation held in your head), but inside there is a struggle with hypocrisy when all we truly feel is an abyss of pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment.

These unchecked feelings can potentially become emotionally, mentally, verbally, or physically murderous. Forgiveness is not being so numb to pain that we are oblivious to reality. In a relationship, when we embrace numbness, our hearts transform into ice. Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is not lip service. Forgiveness is a choice. It’s choosing not to inflict the price for the offense.

We are lying when we say we have forgiven but permit unforgiveness to continue rotting our souls. Satan grips and weakens us through unforgiveness. He tightens his grip through a religious spirit that says the right thing while refusing to confront the offense and heal.

But how do you forgive someone who was never supposed to hurt you in the first place? Why forgive them? What about all the damage to your relationship and family? The best answer is that you must, simply because forgiveness was extended to you. Jesus said in  Matthew “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive, you operate in sin and are in covenant with Satan.

These questions and declarations are hard to swallow.  I have found that I battle with unforgiveness the most when I fail to see my own sin. I could not see that my unwillingness to forgive was just as ugly to God as the things I blamed the other person for. The reason we battle unforgiveness is because we can only see the depravity in the souls of others, ignoring the beams in our own eyes. It is only when we realize that we are in need of forgiveness from God that you can truly win against the battle of unforgiveness. I won the battle when I was willing to face the ugliness of my own heart and surrender my heart to God. I realized my enemies were my own flesh and Satan, who loves to work in my flesh. Unforgiveness is a work of the flesh, and it will remain so until you crucify it on the altar of forgiveness.

We struggle to forgive because we justify our rights and inappropriately apply God’s Word. Many of us have declared inwardly or outwardly, “The Bible said, ‘Be ye angry.’ ” We forget the rest of the Scripture verse: ” … and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath”. If we are honest, many of us are angry and sin for days, weeks, months, years. Many of us will carry the sin of unforgiveness to our grave.

Forgiveness becomes a struggle when we seek to please our flesh. We struggle because the Holy Spirit demands that we be like Christ. God is as displeased with unforgiveness as he is with sexual sins, deception, lying, and envy. We must remember that any sin either of us could commit, Jesus paid for at Calvary. Who gave us the right to make others pay for their sin when we did not have to pay for ours?

Due to the gravity of their offenses, we believe we have the authority to execute judgment others. But God would never entrust vengeance into our hands. Why? Our sin-stricken souls will never view those people purely through the eyes of God’s grace. We should be concerned for ourselves when we seek revenge on the people we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Unforgiveness unequivocally implicates the wickedness hidden in our hearts and the depravity of our own souls.

Through many offenses, trials, betrayal, and calamity, I have learned real forgiveness. I have learned that the world’s standards for marriage and relationships are a slap in the face to God. When we decide not to forgive, we call it “irreconcilable differences.” God calls it unforgiveness.

Real forgiveness is threefold:

1. Forgiveness means excusing the penalty for an offense, offering pardon.

2. Forgiveness means renouncing anger and resentment.

3. Finally, forgiveness is a choice. God gave all of us the power to choose.

These definitions are simplistic, but they pack enough power to loosen the stronghold of unforgiveness. As an immature Christian, I thought I had the right to be angry and my sin was justified. It never was.

Over the years, I have experiences very difficult days, weeks, and moments. My heart had grown biting cold, filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment. There was no remorse—I believed I was the victim and my actions were justified. How much pride is that?

But God’s grace is sufficient, and His Word eventually penetrated my heart. I experienced real forgiveness and it released me to forgive. I was on my knees in the bedroom, praying and crying to God about all the wrong that had been done. I knew it was unacceptable for me to be the victim; surely it was unacceptable to God. The next few moments humbled me into a heaping pile of humanity. God put a mirror to my face. He acknowledged my concern, rebuked me for my sins, and told me to repent.

I have learned that forgiveness is a choice. We make the decision to forgive, even if our emotions, feelings, and desires have not surrendered in obedience to God. As children of God, we are to be lead by faith, not feelings. When we make decisions based upon feelings, we give Satan the rope to hang us with. Real forgiveness is demonstrating what Christ did for us on the cross. Honestly, most of us have repeated the cliché “What would Jesus do?” The answer: forgive.

The devil understands the power of forgiveness. He had the opportunity to behold the glory of God and the kingdom of heaven. He has been doomed to hell and is mad and desires us to share his fate. Satan knows that forgiveness redeems and restores relationships.

Satan is employed to steal, kill, and destroy. Unforgiveness opens the door for him to hold us back. Each day we incite harsh words because of offense and inflict the silent treatment, we strengthen Satan’s rope of entanglement. As the sun sets and we nurse anger, bitterness, and resentment, the devil smiles. We have embraced the power of darkness.

Satan is selfish and prideful; when we are unforgiving we act like him. Unforgiveness is laced with pride—which cost the devil the kingdom of heaven. We have been called to loosen Satan’s grip and forgive. When God’s forgiveness is sufficient, it propels us into salvation and restoration.