Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Month: February 2017

Letting Go, Looking Forward

Around our house, we’re in full-on cleaning and de-cluttering mode. If you took a peek in, you’d see boxes of goods to donate, trash bags full of “stuff” we’ve been carrying around for way too long, and closets that look so streamlined, I simply want to stand and stare at them (and vow to keep them this way!).

The process feels great—except, of course, until it comes to the kids’ things, at which point I find myself stuck and shedding tears over something like an old and tattered crib bumper. Cleaning out and clearing away feels excruciating, as my mama heart has formed colossal attachments to even the smallest of tokens.

It’s all had me asking the question, why is it so darn hard to let go??

Admittedly, I’m a sentimental person by nature—but I believe on some level, we can all slip into “sticky fingers” mode.

Maybe you can toss the crib bumper without blinking an eye, but you can’t seem to let go of a broken friendship. Maybe you don’t form attachments to many tangible items, but you can’t seem to move past that job or dream that fell flat. Maybe you consider yourself an “in the moment” person, yet the ghosts from your past simply won’t disappear. Maybe you can’t truly forgive and let go of past hurts.

Seems like whatever emotional attachments we make are determined to stick around like super glue, for better or worse.

In my questioning, I began to think maybe it’s just me. But as I dug into God’s Word for answers, verse after verse came roaring to mind, reminding me that our struggle to live on earth with God’s eternal purposes in mind is a real struggle.

Consider the beautiful words of Isaiah 43:18 & 19:

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 wilderness and streams in the wasteland (NIV).

And Paul encourages us to keep our eyes forward in Philippians 3:13 &14:

But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to take hold of the prize for which He has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus (NIV).

In the stillness of an early morning, I wonder if I’m clinging too tightly to this earthly life. Perhaps all this “stuff” is preventing me, ever so subtly, from living fully present in the now—in the midst of what new things God is working in my heart and the hearts of my loved ones.

Dear reader, can you relate? Do you have a hard time letting go of the past—the good, bad, or ugly? There is certainly a place for sentimentality, and memory can be a beautiful gift on this earth … but may I gently remind us both that this earth is not our home.

Yes, we live here. And yes, God has good plans for our earthly lives, to develop our character, grant us abundant life, and shape us more fully into His image so that our lives might bring Him glory … but that is only part of our stories. The rest will be lived out in glory, in eternity spent in Heaven with Him.

I believe one key to living and thriving in the transcendent space of an earthly body and a Heavenly future is found in Colossians 3:2—

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things (NIV).

Like a radio tuned to a favorite station, so we must daily tune our minds to what is ultimately before us—an eternity spent in joy with Christ. In the light of this filter, past hurts are assuaged; heartbreak and disappointment fail to have the final word; broken relationships and broken bodies hold the promise of ultimate restoration.

So go ahead and save those precious keepsakes from your babies. Gently pack away family heirlooms and pictures. Build that dream “forever” home … but may we do so in the knowledge that we are headed for an ultimate home that far outweighs the best day earth has to offer. And one that—Praise Him!—will render our worst days here a distant memory.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

I would not give one moment of heaven for all the joy and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.

~Martin Luther

The Power of “Even If”

As a third time mom, you’d think I was a pro at the art of packing for my littles. You might imagine that I effortlessly whittle down diaper bags and suitcases to just the necessary supplies.

However, you might be quite mistaken, as evidenced by a recent weekend trip to Lake Tahoe. Judging by my suitcase, you’d have thought we planned to move there. In my defense, I always begin with just the essentials … but before you can say “avalanche,” my mind slips into all the “what ifs” and worse-case scenarios that 3 days could hold.

And just like that, the suitcases and diaper bags and backpacks are busting at the seams, ready to endure any number of circumstances. Won’t Keith Morrison remark on how clever I was to pack [X] when our Dateline special airs!

Am I the only one who thinks this way??

Perhaps … but I know I’m not the only one who worries about worst-case scenarios. I can’t be the only mom who wonders what if about her babies and her family.

Lately, I’ve found myself swimming deep in a lot of those “what ifs.” And when we let our minds wander into the darkness of our fears, it doesn’t take long for faith to come under attack.

Trusting God feels easy when the sun is shining and things are going our way. But leaning into Him when we’re facing down our worst fears? That’s a whole different ballgame.

It’s an entirely difference space, one where rote spiritual sayings, quotes, and quips don’t reach. One where simple blog posts can’t penetrate.

When we’re in a crisis of faith, we face a crossroads where our what ifs either sweep us out in a sea of fear, or we bend our knee to the even ifs. We face the hard, cold choice of believing God is good, even if.

Even if the cancer comes back.

Even if the diagnosis breaks our hearts.

Even if the deal doesn’t go through.

Even if the relationship fails.

I’ve searched a lot online, looking for articles or posts to give me the “warm fuzzies” in the midst of pondering the even ifs. And I wish I could impart to you some of my own warm fuzzies—but the hard truth I’m learning?

Standing on faith in the face of our worst-case scenarios is a choice.

A hard, dry choice. There are no warm fuzzies. There is often no emotional reassurance—we are called to obey first, above all. Joshua and the Israelite priests had to step into the Jordan before the waters stopped flowing (see Joshua 3). With cold, wet feet they stood and watched God do amazing things.

Standing on faith in the face of our worst fears brings to life some of the most beautiful scripture in the Bible:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV).

Sweet reader, choosing faith in the face of worst-case scenarios is hard. Sometimes it even feels downright bitter to choose to believe … but once we do? Once we say yes, Lord, even if? Once we choose truth over feelings or circumstances?

Then, my friend, the bitterness melts away, and the warmth of genuine faith comes rushing in.

It doesn’t mean the fire dies down.

It doesn’t mean the raging waters recede.

It doesn’t mean a way will necessarily open up around the problem, for we may very well have to walk straight through the valley.

But oh, we have the realization and assurance that we are not walking alone. God rushes in. He longs to rush in. Like a parent at the pool, begging His child to jump.

Jump, reader. Just jump. He is there. He will always catch you. He is always good. He is always on His throne.

Even if?

Yes. Even if.

I can’t promise you that your circumstances will change. I can’t promise you that life will suddenly find itself wrapped up in a pretty bow. But I can promise you that our Father loves it when His children choose faith, hard faith. And I can promise you that His love for you is fiercer than you’ve ever imagined.

He rejoices when truth triumphs in the face of entangling lies. He will always, always, always be by your side, right there, walking the path with you and with me, for He has promised us Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).

And today, clinging to this truth is the only warm fuzzy we need. Today, my friend, choose faith.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

The Art of Living on Crumbs

Have you ever found yourself in an overwhelming season? I chuckle as I write that, because I’m guessing 99.9% of us could answer yes.

These days, I find myself thick in the weeds of an overwhelming season of motherhood and life in general. Seems like every week is a study in the dichotomous world of being so full and yet so empty at the same time.

So full of to do’s and appointments.

So empty of rest or down time.

So full of noise and laughter and tears and squeals.

So empty of peace and calm.

So full of care for babies and loved ones and friends and dogs.

So empty of time for self-care.

The days are jam-packed with to do’s and have to’s. We’re facing a cross-country move and all the thousands of details that go along with it. We’re juggling preschool and a crazy therapy schedule and doctor’s appointments and a potential ASD diagnosis for our son. We’re quickly approaching months of transition and uprooting and change as we prepare to head back South.

There is so much to do and yet so little time … can you relate? The hard truth is, motherhood or any particularly overwhelming season often leaves us surviving on crumbs.

We eat after everyone else has eaten. We sleep after every one else has fallen asleep. We burn the midnight oil, we wake up early, we tend to every detail of everyone else. We are typically the ones exacting the hard, daily discipline of our children.

It’s enough to leave even the heartiest of souls weary and weighed down at times. In these seasons, how thankful I am for the rock-solid promises our Heavenly Father has given us, like this one from Isaiah:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand … For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you (Isaiah 41:10 & 13 NIV).

Let those beautiful words wash over you. Think about them in the context of whatever you’re facing today.

Surviving on crumbs may leave us feeling empty, but the fidgety discomfort created by this emptiness is what drives us into the arms of Jesus. In this place—where we are so depleted and so aware of our own weakness—we have no choice but to sink into His promises.

The crumbs empty us of ourselves, making space for the glorious riches of His love and grace to invade.

And the most soul-soothing truth about these crumbs? Our God is able to turn them into satisfaction and fullness. The same God who fed 5,000 people with one boy’s lunch (see John 6) can perform a similar miracle in our hearts today.

Whatever your crumbs may be, gather them up and bring them before His throne. I don’t know about you, but too often I approach God the way I approach other people: I only want to come before Him when I’m OK, when I’ve “got it all together.” I resist bringing Him my mess and unrest.

But through this intensely hot and pressure-filled season, I’m being forced to approach God with my crumbs and my overwhelm and my unmet to do’s. I am learning to open up and truly pour out my complaint to Him—every single thing, big or small, that breaks my heart, weighs me down, confuses my mind, and troubles my spirit.

Bring your crumbs to Him, dear reader, and find fullness—even when you’re running on empty. Find fullness as you feast on crumbs in the filling company of your loving Heavenly Father and His grace upon grace.

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:16 ESV)

 

P is for Perseverance

Happy Friday, y’all. This post is yet again coming to you from deep in the thick of potty training land. And can I confess something?

I’m so tired of poop.

Yes, poop.

Baby poop. Toddler poop. Dog poop.

No one talks about this in the plethora of mommy books out there. No one tells you that becoming a mom means you’re actually becoming a full-time janitor. Hallmark glosses right over this reality in their precious, glittery baby cards.

Perhaps it’s a matter of species survival. If everyone knew the full realities going in, the human race might just be in jeopardy … but, here I sit, mom to 3 precious littles and caretaker of all their poop (and, despite my tone, quite happy about it nevertheless!).

At any rate, this round of potty training makes three attempts at this gig. And maybe the third time is a charm, as I’m 3 weeks in and haven’t quit or had a nervous breakdown (yet). Trust me when I tell you this is a huge improvement over the last attempt, as you’ll remember if you’ve been reading for a while.

I’m sure you seasoned moms are shaking your heads and thinking just waitand I believe you that this whole parenting thing gets way harder—but to date, this is the hardest parenting milestone I’ve faced. Learning to smile, coo, roll, walk, run, etc. were all fun milestones that only required me to sit back and watch with pride as my child grew.

But this milestone takes work on my part as well: hard work, guidance, perseverance, and patience. And while it may sound dramatic, potty training has been a window into my soul, revealing truths about myself and how I approach the concept of perseverance when the going gets really tough, and there’s no way around it.

God’s been using the combination of motherhood and self-reflection to reveal a pattern in the way I approach perseverance: when the outcome is solely up to me, I have the grit and determination of a bulldog. But when the outcome relies on the actions and cooperation of others—like this potty training thing—I’m about as determined as a wilted flower.

In other words, I have serious trust issues and ultimately don’t trust that others can or will hold up their end of the “bargain” as doggedly as myself. This is obviously a problem, as we very rarely do life in a vacuum, all on our own. And, when we’re operating as if the outcome rises and falls on our shoulders, we’re destined to swing wildly between pride and insecurity, neither of which are decent options.

Being self-determined has served me well in some situations (like college and grad school pursuits) … but for most things in our lives, we are inextricably intertwined with others.

And God created us to be intertwined with others, to live in community and carry out the gospel in the context of relationships. Satan tells us to be self-reliant and untrusting. Our Father tells us to lean into one another:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2 NIV).

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).

For me, it’s been a revelation that, far too often, I’m placing trust in myself versus trust in God and His good will and plan. And when I’m trusting in my feeble ability to “make it happen”? Well, it’s no wonder that I end up disappointed, frustrated, and lacking the joy with which God intends me to live. The variety of perseverance God calls us to is only possible when He is our singular source of power and focus.

Who knew poop could be so revealing?

The truth is, God is in the business of cultivating perseverance in His children. The Bible is full of references to endurance:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised (Hebrews 10:36 NIV).

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4 NIV).

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11 NIV).

Whether it’s potty training, marriage, friendships, work, or any number of things, His desire is for us to trust in and rely on Him alone in the midst of hard circumstances that test our limits and bring us to our knees.

Not on ourselves.

Not on other people.

Not on some set of perfect, mythical circumstances.

What are you enduring today? Maybe you’re like me, and you find yourself taking the toddler-like “I can do it myself!” approach. Or maybe you feel completely overwhelmed by what you’ve been called to endure (I know that feeling too, dear friend).

My prayer for us both is that we might lean deeper, stronger, and more fully into Him Who is sovereign over all our circumstances. May we learn the lessons of faith He is trying to teach us as we wrestle with circumstances that stretch us thin or break our hearts. May we be counted among those who are blessed because of our perseverance.

And may we never, never, never give up.

Blessings,

Mere copy

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