Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Month: December 2015

Top 5 Posts of 2015

Hello, readers!

Well, it’s that time of year where we’re all scratching our heads and wondering how in the world another year has found its way into the books. Is the earth spinning a little faster these days? It certainly feels that way.

In between the Christmas chaos and soul-soothing time with family, I’ve been reflecting on these past 12 months, as I’m sure you have too. Overall, 2015 has been a quiet year for us: we didn’t move, we didn’t have a baby, and we finally feel as though we’re finding a rhythm in our California life.

It’s been a year of steady, quiet building: relationships, children, jobs, faith. I’ve seen my own faith molded and pushed and stretched in ways I didn’t quite think it could mold and push and stretch … but the results I’m beginning to see—peeking up ever-so-slightly from beyond the horizon—thrill my soul and encourage me to continue leaning into God.

The year has also been good for me as far as writing goes. This year saw me “buckling down” with this dream of mine and making a concerted, consistent effort to listen to what God whispers into my ear and find the courage and time to write it down. And Lord willing, 2016 will see more growth and consistency.

If nothing else, God has blessed me through the written words He’s inspired, and I’ve enjoyed looking back over the year. My prayer and heart for writing and publishing anything into the blogosphere is to encourage and uplift others in any way possible. I believe our faith walks were meant to be shared with one another, for we are all soldiers fighting the same battle.

So with that, here are the top 5 posts from this past year. I hope they bless and encourage you! Whatever your 2015 looked like—happy, sad, tumultuous, calm, or anything in between—it’s now time to close the door on it and move forward in faith, hope, and love.

May 2016 be a year of continued growth and victory over the enemy for us both!

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

 Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Top 5 of 2015

1. What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming A Mother

Some musings over the most surprising, challenging, and heart-warming aspects of motherhood. Probably my favorite post to write!

2. Decade

Reflecting on celebrating 10 years of marriage and all God has done. Marriage has been harder than I imagined, but God has done amazing things and continues to sharpen and refine me through this beautiful portrait of the gospel.

3. Finding God in the Spilled Milk & Temper Tantrums

For any of you in the thick of motherhood, I hope this post encourages you to keep up the high and holy work you’re doing in raising the next generation!

4. When Your Best Efforts Fail

Thoughts on finding strength and moving forward when your own efforts fall flat.

5. Loving Well

Encouragement for loving those people in your life who are just hard to love–something with which we are all familiar!

This Means War

Merry Almost Christmas, readers!

I’ll probably be taking a little break to enjoy the holidays and family, but in the meantime, my fingers are bursting to write about a topic heavy on my heart lately: the reality of spiritual warfare.

A heavy topic, indeed, especially at this holly jolly time of year … but unfortunately, we live in a world now torn by war at every turn. We turn on the news in the evenings, not sure of what horrific bombings, shootings, and conflict await reporting. We see beautiful cities ripped by terrorist attacks, thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives, and schools and workplaces terrorized by gunmen.

We cannot avoid the reality of war, even at the most wonderful time of the year. Opinions abound, fear abounds, confusion abounds; the threat is real and all-too-apparent. We see with our eyes and experience in our bodies the effects of terror and war. We cannot escape its reality.

Likewise, neither can we escape the reality of spiritual warfare.

Before you roll your eyes and click out of this post—for I am well aware of how unpopular such topics are, especially at this time of year—I ask that, for your own sake, you would spend at least a little time meditating on this critically important subject. And while at first blush it might seem odd to pair war and Christmas, let us not forget the whole reason Jesus came to us on earth: so that we might gain the ultimate victory over the war against sin and death!

World at War

We cannot escape the reality of physical war, but all too often, we find ourselves blinded to the reality of the spiritual war occurring all around us. And this war is just as insidious—if not more so—than our physical wars. Our spiritual enemy seeks to destroy not just our bodies but also our very souls.

When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, He instructed them to not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28 NIV). Rather, the fate of our souls is of far more importance and significance.

It’s incredibly easy to dismiss this truth, given that we cannot see with our eyes the raging battle—yet we experience with all five senses the resultant damage of this unseen struggle. Everyday, we see evidence in the form of broken hearts, broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken lives. The Apostle Peter paints quite a word picture for us in 1 Peter 5:8:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (NIV).

The unpleasant reality is that our enemy is out for us, just as much as the most radical ISIS fighter is out for us. He wants to destroy us, kill us. This isn’t someone with merely a mean streak. This isn’t the school bully. Satan is a thief, a liar, and a murderer.

As we say in the South, it’s serious, y’all!

 In the Trenches

For the past month or so, I’ve personally been feeling the heat and fatigue of battle. As I’ve mentioned before in posts, Aaron and I have been through some incredibly tough times in our 10 years of marriage. When some of those old issues reared their ugly head recently, I felt as though I’d been emotionally and spiritually ambushed.

When my head stopped spinning long enough to step back and gain some perspective, I cried out to my Heavenly Father and begged for His wisdom and clarity. And He was faithful to remind me of the reality of the unseen spiritual battle we face on this earth—a reality I’d lost sight of in my laser focus on the here-and-now. I’d unwittingly allowed myself to be swept along in the daily tasks of life. Such tasks are not inherently wrong, yet they threaten to capture our attention and distort our perspective.

The chilling reality is that Satan wants my marriage destroyed. He would love nothing more than to see my family ripped to shreds. And lest you think I’m somehow special in this, I’m not. He wants the very same thing for your marriage and your family. For our enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).

This is a terrifying thought … but we need not be terrified, for our God is bigger than our enemy! This truth should stir us to action. It should drive us to our Bibles and to the feet of God. And if you’re reading this and thinking “oh, whatever,” then I’m especially afraid for you! You’re going into battle everyday defenseless. Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11 NIV).

Without it, we’re all sitting ducks.

 Fight Song

I’m not writing these words and sharing my own personal experience to scare or condemn you, but rather to encourage you to take heart and perhaps become a little wiser to the schemes of the enemy. Are you experiencing a certain trial in your marriage, work, friendships, parenting, or some other area? It may very well be the work of spiritual warfare. If so, the great news is that we can fight it and win! Only we must take care that we’re fighting with the proper weapons:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV).

Because the enemy uses lies to take us down, we must fight back with the truth of God’s Word and His promises, placing our hope and focus squarely on who He is and who we are in Him. The Bible doesn’t instruct us on battling spiritual warfare in a rah-rah, cutesy manner—we’re told these things because it’s serious and deserves our attention!

Somewhere along the way, in all our comfort and luxury and complacency, I’m afraid we’ve lost the perspective that the early church had. But you know what? It’s no different today. Satan seeks to destroy believers just as much today as he did when Paul and Peter walked the earth. His approach may change with time and technology, but the core mission remains the same.

Dear believer, let me encourage you to lean into Him in a deeper, more fervent way in this upcoming year. I know discussing the topic of spiritual warfare can be uncomfortable and convicting, going beyond what we think of as normal, polite Christian conversation. But it’s so necessary. We must wake up!

My prayer for you and for me in this new year is that we may be ever vigilant, ever seeking His word, and ever wise to our enemy’s tailor-made schemes against us. May 2016 be a year of deeper spiritual growth and victory for you and your family!

Life Well Lived

Do you ever find yourself living life as if the day’s humdrum routine is all there is? I don’t know about you, but all too often, I find myself caught up in the spinning vortex of the daily grind. Before long, I’m doing life as if it will carry on like this in perpetuity. As if this—endless to do lists, grocery lists, meal plans, laundry, countless errands, etc.—is all there is.

But then something happens, something that shakes me from my stupor and reminds me of the temporary and volatile nature of our entire existence.

This month, we had just such a reminder: Aaron’s sweet grandmother, “Gran Gran Carr” as we knew her, passed out of this world and into the arms of Jesus. From her cozy, beloved home, she flew to her eternal home—and what a homecoming it must have been!

Upon Aaron’s return from the funeral back South, we laughed and shed tears as we shared stories and memories of this feisty, hard-loving lady. The unmistakably fiery blood of a redhead coursed through her veins, fueling a long and full life. More than anything, the love she carried for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren stands apart. We see the evidence everyday in the lovely quilts she handmade for us, the crafts she created for our babies (and even our dogs before we had kids!), and the cards she faithfully sent every birthday—even mine, a granddaughter-in-law!

We will treasure those keepsakes always.

Consumed by the Temporary

It’s unfortunate that something so drastic is required to shake us back to the present—but more often than not, that’s how it goes. We fiddle about the tasks of our daily lives, cloaked in a false sense of control, until some event reveals otherwise.

And we have the unattractive tendency to lose perspective in the chaos and stress of the holidays, perhaps more so than in any other season of the year. There’s nothing wrong with lights and Christmas trees and cookie swaps, but if we’re not careful, we’ll look up and be so consumed by glitter, glue guns, and elves that we’ve completely missed the point of giving thanks at Thanksgiving and celebrating our Savior during Advent.

Even more unfortunate is the tendency to carry this obsession with the superficial into the other months of the year. Before we can turn around, three more seasons have whirled past, and Costco is stocking Christmas trees and poinsettias in October again … and once more, we are forced to ask ourselves some hard questions:

Did I live life well this year?

Did I spend my days with eternity in mind?

Did I love enough, give enough, grow enough … or did I fill my fleeting time with all things temporary and superficial?

These questions are tough and require of us an honest, inward inventory … but it’s an inventory worth taking.

Not Our Home

In the last days of Gran Gran Carr’s life, she longed to go home, to leave the cold, sterile hospital and enjoy her final days in the comfort and familiarity of her own surroundings. I’d venture every single one of us understands this longing, for the concept of home is planted deep in our hearts.

As her last moments on earth drew near, Gran Gran expressed a desire to go “home home” as we in the faith call it—home to our final, eternal home. She was ready, excited to embrace the glorious reality of all God had prepared for her. In those moments, she probably held a greater understanding of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 than any of us:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).

This beautiful scripture is the linchpin of a life well lived. If we’re to follow God’s greatest commandments—loving God and loving others—we must carry within our souls a firm grasp on the fleeting, temporary nature of life on earth.

The vast majority of things with which we become consumed and distracted—life’s worries, riches and pleasures as Jesus noted in Luke 8:14—threaten to choke out that which is genuinely important. Our Pinterest boards, perfectly crafted Instagram posts, and overly busy schedules are mere blips in the grand scheme. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6 NIV).

God With Us

In this season of Advent, we are privileged to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Jesus’ arrival was His way of bringing eternity into our earthly hearts and lives. His coming made it possible for us to live beyond the ephemeral. He came to set us free from this vortex that threatens to consume the days of our lives, leaving us exhausted and with very little to show for our effort.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).

Hundreds of year after Isaiah penned these beautiful words, we see their fulfillment in the birth of Christ:

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 NIV).

This year in particular, I’ve never been so thankful for the name Immanuel, God with us. We sing it and speak it with such familiarity that I’m afraid it has lost its sense of awe … but when we stop and think about what that really means—the reality that we have God with us, here on earth, here in our hearts, at all times—what a game changer!

It’s the reason Jesus came. He knew how desperately our frail, human hearts needed Him. In our current culture, we often hear talk of the “war” on Christmas—and it certainly seems that culture continues its efforts to remove all traces of Jesus from the festivities. But the sometimes flippantly stated battle cry of “Jesus is the reason for the season” is fundamentally true. Apart from Christ, there is no celebration, no redemption, no star of wonder. Christmas is ontologically, inextricably about Jesus.

And Jesus came that we might live life and live it to the fullest (see John 10:10)—instead of spinning our wheels on some human equivalent of the hamster wheel.

So in this season—and in every season of our lives—may we live life well. May we keep Christ not only in Christmas, but also in our souls throughout the year. And may we conduct our days on earth with eternity firmly rooted in our hearts. Though our feet be planted on this dusty ground for a time, may our minds be ever reaching out and up towards Him.

Immanuel. God with you, and God with me.

In this beautiful season of Advent, let us be mindful of the most important thing. Yes, let us decorate our homes and place that darned elf wherever we’d like—but let us also remember the ultimately temporary nature of life and focus on the arrival of Jesus, who gave meaning, true meaning, to it all.

And when our days on earth come to a close, may we, like Gran Gran Carr, leave the legacy of a life well lived.

IMG_4866

Gran Gran Carr with Hemingway & Isaiah (April 2015)

On Babies & Butcher Knives

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: parenthood teaches you way more about God than you ever expected. Perhaps more than you’d like to know at times, right? The old statement “when you know better, you do better” applies to the life of faith as well as life in general, even if it was Dr. Phil or Oprah who said it.

For some time now, I’ve been marinating on an illustration from my parenting—one that sends a literal and spiritual shiver down my spine.

Our son, Isaiah, is tall for his age and always reaching for the next level of what he can swipe off the countertops. No need for a cutesy growth chart at home. I measure his growth by how far back I’m forced to push cooking utensils and dishes on the counter. Currently, I’m nearly out of room!

Several months ago, I found myself embroiled in the usual dinnertime chaos: cranky babies, tired mama, frazzled, and trying to put together a somewhat thoughtful dinner in between refereeing fights over toys and inexplicable crying episodes (theirs, not mine, though sometimes it’s all of us).

As I mumbled frustration to myself while standing at the sink, I turned around and there—through the piping hot squiggles of steam rising from the colander in my hands—I saw Isaiah hopping around with glee, twirling and carefully examining my extra large butcher knife. This knife, this veritable deadly weapon, found its way into his adorably chubby, seeking hands, and I watched as in slow motion while he headed straight into the living room where his sister sat “reading” her books.

I’m not sure I’ve ever leapt so quickly and swiftly in my life—but I think there’s an inner Olympic sprinter that lives in all moms. At that moment, my inner sprinter burst forth, and with a sound that could only be described as Screech Owl-like, I grabbed his arms, steadied his hands, and snatched the knife from around his little fingers.

And what happened next?

He cried and threw himself down as if I’d just stolen his puppy.

He screamed and ran over to the counter where I’d placed the knife—safely out of reach this time—and jumped up and down with fury as he tried to regain control of that darned knife. His eyes narrowed on me with such disdain and as if to say mom, you’re ruining my every happiness!

Yes, that and saving you and your sister from certain maiming and/or death.

When the sickening effects of the adrenalin rush wore off and the tantrum tears abated, I felt the Lord whisper into my heart: child, this is a picture of how you are with Me.

And the thought stopped me in my tracks.

I flipped through the mental catalogue of disappointments throughout my life: the relationships for which I whined and cried, the jobs for which I pitched a little tantrum because I had to have them, or the things taken out of my life for which I stomped and jumped, furiously striving to hold them in my grasp once again … how many of these things were essentially “butcher knives” to my life? My heart? My soul?

Looking back, I would posit most of them. And the times I stubbornly insisted on having my own way, I indeed came away cut up and bruised.

We could all benefit from the beautiful words of Isaiah 55:8-9, reminding us of just how big and knowing God our Father is:

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (NIV).

God our Father is all knowing, all seeing. And just like we, as earthly parents, know and see far beyond what our children do, so God sees all things and all consequences at all times. And He’s about the business of working out a far greater plan than any of us can begin to imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).

Sometimes, I do feel like Isaiah did on that day. There are times when it certainly does feel as though God has taken away my deepest desire or withheld the dreams of my heart or said “no” when I desperately wanted a “yes” … or “yes” when I desperately wanted a “no.”

But it’s in these spaces—these uncomfortable, sometimes dark spaces—where faith finds the opportunity to burst forth and dig down a little deeper. What if we, in the midst of a tantrum, took a moment to step back and give God some room to work? What if we asked Him to give us eyes to see that perhaps the thing to which we’re clinging so longingly is actually a dagger to our very lives?

Again, I am reminded of the beautiful, comforting truth of God’s Word to us:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).

I’m finding this verse to be the ultimate “decoder” for life. When I fix my eyes on Jesus and the truth of His word, and when I meditate on the remarkable truth that He is working all things for our ultimate good, then life makes sense—or, on the very worst days—I can at least envision how certain circumstances could make sense in God’s grander scheme.

But the moment I take my eyes off of Him … the moment my mind wanders from the truth of His Word to my own way, well … that’s when my world begins to turn on its head, shake with fury, crumble to the ground. That’s when the doubt, fear, and disappointment rush in with mighty fury. I lose my footing and, like Eve, begin to question, did God really say … ?

That’s a dangerous place to be, for when I’m doubting and pitching toddler-worthy tantrums, I’m essentially flirting with the devil.

[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Romans 12:1 NIV).

Dear reader, may we step out in abandoned faith and trust Him. I don’t know about you, but every inch of my heart longs to have His best, and I don’t want to settle for Plan B or Plan C or beyond, simply because I was unwilling to lay down my blind plans. That thing in your hand, that thing that seems so good and so right? Who knows but that it’s a butcher knife, poised to wreak havoc upon the far superior plans God is working out in you right this very moment.

May we all have the courage to lay it down and rest in His immeasurable goodness and love for us.

© 2017 Oceans Deep

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑