Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Facing A Shattered Dream?

If so, head on over to Proverbs 31 today, where I’m sharing some encouragement!

With Grace,

On Birthday Parties & Grief

I recently came across a powerful quote from C.S. Lewis, and its wisdom resonated deeply with me:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

I read this on a day when grief felt overpowering—a day we attended a birthday party with our young autistic son.

You may be thinking, A child’s birthday party and grief? How in the world do these go together?

But sweet reader, for many of us with special needs children, birthday parties can be tantamount to torture. Where you see fun, we see landmines.

Loud noises, lots of children, all the sugar, new and overwhelming sensory stimuli—basically, all the things that can lead to a meltdown of epic proportions.

So when my precious son did indeed begin melting down in the highly acoustic lobby of the trampoline park, I was done. Some days, I feel strong and competent as a special needs mama. But that day, the curious and judgmental stares from parents pierced me.

Grief sunk my weary soul. I slipped off from my husband to wipe the tears stinging my eyes and attempt to compose myself before devolving into an “ugly cry.”

And while I could wipe away the tears, I could not wipe away the heavy weight of unmet expectations. I could powder over my Rudolph-red nose, but not the sting of disappointment.

Sometimes, the hardest dreams to let go of are the ones we don’t even realize we’re carrying. I can’t recall ever consciously dreaming about what birthday parties would look like with my children … and yet, expectations planted themselves deep in my heart nonetheless.

I wonder if you can relate? Maybe your dreams of a happy marriage have smashed into pieces against a wall of infidelity. Maybe you’re still waiting on the children your heart felt sure would come. Maybe illness prevents you from pursuing a dream you just knew came from God. Or maybe financial pressure has squeezed every last ounce of dreaming from your soul.

Every time we’re forced let go of a dream or an expectation, grief comes rushing in. And as C.S. Lewis so wisely observed, our grief gives way to fear. What will the future look like—in this job, this marriage, this illness? It isn’t going to look like I thought it would—so now what?

In the book of Genesis, we read about Joseph, a man who was well acquainted with the shattering of dreams and the agony of asking now what?

After dreaming he would be lifted high, he ended up tossed in a well by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of assault, and sitting in a prison with no hope of ever escaping.

If anyone had reason to grieve the death of his dreams, it was Joseph. And yet, all along, those dreams never died. Only his expectations of how they would manifest.

We get to read the thrilling story of how, in the end, God did indeed elevate Joseph, and his brothers did indeed bow down to him (see Genesis 42). God paved the way to provide for the house of Jacob in the midst of famine, all of which ultimately let to the birth of the Nation of Israel. In this, we see a much bigger plan playing out:

“But Joseph said to [his brothers], ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’”

Genesis 50:19-20 ESV, emphasis added

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Joseph had no idea what hung in the balance of his dreams. Like us, his dreams probably began and ended with himself. But God is about so much more—for you, for me, and for this world He created and loves.

Sweet reader, do you see a dream dying? Let me encourage you to grieve the loss. True healing begins with grief, so give yourself time and space to grieve the loss and feel the fear … but oh, sweet soul, then let go of your fear and disappointment.

Perhaps your dream is taking a different form than you originally thought. But as Joseph learned full well, dreams in the hands of our Lord are far more beautiful and powerful than we could ever imagine.

Today, my heart prays that we may both have the courage to trust God’s good and loving heart, even as we wait with no clue what the future may hold. There is so much more at stake in God’s sovereign plan for you and for me.

For me, birthday parties are simply one example in a long line of things that will likely not look like I thought they would as I mother my son.

But I know my God is working out something bigger and greater, a plan that reaches beyond my own life. The same is true for you today, too, sweet reader.

And that is something to celebrate indeed.

With Grace,

Coming Forth As Gold

My sweet, spunky middle child is, at 5 years of age, already a nature lover. She’ll hunt down and collect any number of “best friends” from our yard and then doggedly present me with a multitude of reasons why these critters should be allowed inside the house (that answer is always no).

So recently, my husband decided to foster this love of hers by purchasing a butterfly garden kit. Upon arrival, we found a literal cup of caterpillars, a butterfly habitat, and a few sparse but crucial instructions on what the heck to do with these things.

We all watched with excitement as the days passed. Our eyes witnessed these tiny caterpillars gorge themselves on whatever was in that cup, until they became thick, chubby little things that attached to the top of the cup, spinning themselves into delicate, crusty chrysalides.

I followed all the instructions. I checked all the boxes. I did everything the “right” way per the guidelines … but as the days passed and these chrysalides hung, a sense of dread settled in my gut.

They looked entirely and thoroughly dead.

There they hung, so quiet, so still. A few of them even turned a deep shade of dark gray, and I thought ok, those ones are most definitely dead.

As I watched them hang, wrapped in their own darkness, I felt convinced I’d made a mistake. I must have read the instructions wrong—how will I explain eight dead chrysalides to my children??

And that’s when the whisper of the Holy Spirit thundered into my heart: child, this is what you do with Me. I speak, you follow, and then you doubt My Word when things start looking bleak. I am doing a great work in you, and you must trust the process.

Can you relate? Maybe you feel like that chrysalis today. Locked up to faith, squished inside a cocoon of darkness, gingerly hanging by a thin thread.

Maybe you’re seeking a relationship with Jesus, doing your best to follow His Word, and yet nothing appears to be going according “to plan.”

Maybe you’re so desperate for change and new life, you can literally taste it on your tongue, even if it feels like a pipe dream.

And maybe it looks, for all the world, like there’s death in front of you. Your marriage. That friendship. Your job. That wayward child. The healing that won’t cooperate.

When the path in front of us rolls out stagnant and still, it’s so easy to wonder God, did I hear You right? Can I still trust You? Do You truly love me and have my best interest at heart? Do You even see me suspended here?

But in the stillness, in the silence, in the hanging upside down by a thin, woven thread, a miracle is underway.

In the secret, quiet places, so much is happening. Fresh life spins anew—indeed, our Creator is sculpting an entirely new creature.

And what our Father can do in nature, He can certainly do within our hearts. The new life we desire, the change we crave—it’s coming on the other side of dying to the old.

Job certainly knew something of dying to the old. After losing his health, wealth, and family, all looked lost for him (just ask his friends). But as he looked around at the darkness and death surrounding him, he clung to his God’s goodness:

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 (NIV).

And come forth as gold he did, with a truer understanding of God’s depth, goodness, and sovereignty. We have no idea what treasure, what beauty, awaits on the other side of the furnace.

To my great surprise, I watched in awe as those cakey, seemingly-dead chrysalides split apart. Pristine, beautiful life emerged. Even those dark gray ones—the ones that looked really dead—transformed into delicate, lovely butterflies.

One right after another, stillness gave way to fluttery, nascent life. Darkness turned to light. And we released them with joy and in celebration of my nature-loving daughter’s birthday.

Sweet reader, let us learn from our Father’s glorious creation. Sometimes, we have to endure the dark to make our way to the light. Sometimes, what looks for all the world like death, is actually the process of metamorphosis in our own hearts.

And let us remember that the change and new life for which we’re desperately aching can emerge in the blink of an eye, in the breaking of a shell.

Today, take heart in the truth that God is spinning new life in the secret places, just below where the eye can see.

Hang on. Just like those little chrysalides, hang on in faith, until you yourself emerge in brilliant new life: a living, breathing witness to God’s redemptive power.

In Him,

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James 1:4 NIV

Can We Change The Way We Talk About Abortion?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave recently (which, good for you if you have, I’m jealous!), you’ve no doubt witnessed the emotionally charged, divisive debate surrounding abortion and the bills recently passed in Alabama and Georgia.

Y’all, I don’t know about you, but these are the times when I simply want to burn all social media to the ground. Log off, walk away from it, and pretend it’s 1998 again and I’m blissfully unaware of all the opinions.

Maybe you feel the same. Wherever you land on the pro-choice/pro-life debate, I’m sure your beliefs are strongly held (I know mine are). And it can be extremely difficult, hurtful, and relationship-straining to witness or participate in a debate about this issue. Even basic conversations can turn tense and ugly in the blink of an eye!

What I really want to talk about is not abortion itself—but rather, how we talk to one another about abortion. Because it is wearing my heart right out, grieving me to the core, and making me want to run and find that cave some of you have been living in.

Yes, my heart is grieved over the act of abortion. My heart longs for a world where such a thing ceases to exist because there is no need or desire for it. As a follower of Jesus, I value life and believe that our Creator God values life–women, men, children, babies–as a reflection of His very image (see Genesis 1:27).

But my heart is also deeply grieved over how deeply divided and nasty and polarizing our speech has become over this issue.

Everyday, I see memes, opinions, articles, posts, etc., full of hatred, pride, absolutism, and judgment. I’m sure you’ve seen it too.

We are screaming silently at each other from behind our computer screens. Your rights. My rights. Your body. My body. Your convictions. My convictions.

And we are not hearing one another above these screams. Not in the least. We come at each other, keyboards blazing, and wonder why the other side refuses to see our point of view. Meanwhile, the raging gulf between us only grows deeper and wider.

Friends, there has to be a better way. There has to be a way to hold conviction and respect in balance. When we approach this topic with legal ferocity, determined to “win” the debate, we ultimately end up with no winners at all. Babies lose. Women lose. Friendships lose. Relationships lose.

When did we lose the ability to respectfully disagree? When did we stop listening to each other? When did we start spewing shame at the opposing view?

Dear reader, I know abortion is an incredibly sensitive, hotly debated issue. The pain runs deep, the stories even deeper, and the convictions deeper still.

And while we can’t necessarily do something today to bring about immediate change on the issue of abortion—whatever side of the debate we’re on—we can absolutely, right now, change the way we talk about it with each other.

We can hold tightly to our beliefs and still love the person standing on the opposite side of the debate.

We can pray and act for the change we desire to see and still listen to the stories of others with a humble, open heart.

We can vote our convictions and still show respect for the voter who checks a different box.

As the debate ahead rages, may I gently challenge you—as I challenge myself—to pause before posting?

Pause, and examine your words through the filter of wisdom, which “possess[es] knowledge and discretion(Proverbs 8:12 NIV, emphasis added). I think our social media feeds could benefit by infusing a little discretion into these difficult conversations and debates.

So please—can we pretty, pretty please, change the way we talk about this issue? I’m not asking you to change your opinion. I know it is tightly held, as is my own.

May we soften our approach to one another as we swim these contentious waters. And may we make Colossians 3:12-14 our filter for every action and word:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone … And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Colossians 3:12-14, NIV (emphasis added)

Blessings,

Keeping A Light On In The Dark

I don’t know about you, but for me, end-of-school year brings with it a generous serving of mixed emotions, piled high and spilling over.

Crossing the finish line of another year evokes elation, exhaustion, nostalgia, sadness, and sweetness. When the endless obligations cease and the air quiets down once again, a time for reflection rushes in—whether welcomed or not.

For us, this year brimmed full with personal growth … and I know I don’t have to tell you that “personal growth” is a pretty, polished way of saying, we’ve been through the ringer and somehow we’re still standing and hopefully we learned a lot through the process.

Because isn’t that how it goes? I’ve yet to meet a person who experienced deep personal growth without the catalyst of pain moving things right along.

Oftentimes, it’s hard to even see the growth among the thick, prickly weeds.

I can look around and easily see the wreckage. The broken relationships, the dashed hopes, the things that turned out so differently than I’d expected or planned. These things block my path and cloud my mind, speaking the language of false truth into a fragile heart.

Sometimes, a school year can leave you feeling bruised.

Sometimes, a relationship drains your emotional reserves.

Sometimes, a season of hardship seems to drag on, far past its expiration date.

And sometimes, the light feels so very dim, as though the palpable darkness of fear and uncertainty threatens to swallow you up whole.

Perhaps you had a great year—your kids are thriving, your relationships are singing, and life is bee-bopping right along. This is an occasion to give praise and thanks to God!

But if it hasn’t been great—if you, like me, find yourself squinting to catch a glimpse of light in the murky world of “personal growth,” may I speak a word of comfort to your weary heart?

God is still working in the dark.

No matter how dim the light, no matter how challenging the season, our Father stands near, enfolding us in His trusted Hands.

In Psalm 139, David speaks to the Father’s nearness and the truth that no season or challenge or darkness can hide us from His eye:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? … If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7, 11-12 (emphasis added)

What an incredible promise we can sink our teeth into. Just above the darkness pressing down thick and heavy, our Father sees it all in light. He sees all our pain and trial and growth as it truly is: carefully held in place by His sovereignty and ultimately woven together for our highest good (see Romans 8:28).

So hang on, dear reader. If you’re swimming in a season of darkness, hang on to the flickering light of His steadfast presence and love.

When you can’t see the way forward, trust that He sees, because all is light to Him. “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all  (1 John 1:5 NIV).

Focus on the simplicity of taking the next right step, trusting Him to illuminate the way as you walk.

And remember, always, the truth that seasons change. Your darkness will not always be dark. But in the darkness, there are lessons waiting to unfold and treasures ripe for unearthing (see Isaiah 45:3).

So while you wait and while you mine the shadowy places, let the light of His steadfast love illuminate the path forward—one small, faithful step at a time.

Be Blessed,

Hey Mama–It’s Ok To Feel Angry Sometimes

Hello, dear readers!

Today’s post is for all my hard-working and exhausted mamas out there—all of you staring down the end-of-school and making your massive “To Do” lists (and checking them twice…or every hour on the hour!).

I confess, the stress of this time of year gets to me. I’ve found myself short on patience more days than I care to admit. I’ve found myself low on grace and high on bedtime apologies. I’ve done the forbidden “wishing time away” by dreaming of a calmer day.

And I’ve threatened to bolt to Mexico if slapped with one more request for money, toys, gifts, or party food. Who’s coming with me?

Lest you forget, let me gently remind you: this motherhood gig is hard.

The unseen, unacknowledged, unrelenting work you do day in and day out is a high and holy calling. Those sweet “Pampers” commercials can sometimes lull us into forgetting just how challenging this work really is! And just how many emotions—like anger—it can stir up within us.

If you’re anything like me, the fatigue and monotony tempt me to forget the gravity of this work. And oh, how our enemy loves to divert our eyes towards others in a destructive game of comparison, whispering lies about the greater value of other people’s work.

But do you know what? Our work as moms actually mimics the work of Jesus like few other professions! In Mark 10, we read an account of how Jesus’ disciples were vying for praise and honor, arguing over who would sit at His side in Heaven.

And as Jesus so beautifully does, He turned the disciple’s values on their head, teaching them a lesson they—and we!—needed to hear:

“[W]hoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45 NIV (emphasis added)

Jesus’ entire mission on this earth was to lay down His life for others. He calls us to follow Him by doing likewise, and that’s exactly what you are doing—every time you fill a sippy cup, fix a meal, rock a baby, read a story, take your kiddo to rehearsal, help with homework, bandage a boo boo, or meet any of their million and one needs.

So hear me, sweet mamas—laying down our lives is no easy task! It brings us face-to-face with the selfish parts of our own hearts, as well as our inner toddler because—let’s just all admit—we each have one. She may not stomp her feet and throw herself on the ground, but she sure wants to.

Today, offer yourself lots and lots of grace. Maybe you’re in a tough season where that baseline frustration and anger just simmers under the surface, bringing with it a heaping side of shame. But instead of allowing that shame to compound your frustration, try staring it straight in the face—it’s trying to tell you something.

If you’re willing, your anger can be a tool that reveals where your heart is most needing Jesus. Perhaps you can steal away for a few minutes and ask yourself these questions:

Am I lacking margin in a particular area? The old airplane metaphor is a tired one, but it rings true: you must put on your oxygen mask before you can help others. As moms, we may not have the time we’d like to invest in self-care and the things that fill our tanks, but it’s so important to create a little breathing room.

It may appear loving to entirely neglect yourself on behalf of your children … until the wheels come falling off because you’re entirely exhausted. Look for pockets of time you can use to practice not only self-care, but also soul-care by spending time in the Word and allowing God’s truth to cover your heart.

Am I believing lies about myself or my role as a mom? We’re often led to believe that motherhood is “the thing” that will fulfill us … and when it doesn’t (because it can’t!), it’s no wonder we’re left feeling irritable and disappointed.

Similarly, when we buy the lie that our work is less valuable because it’s largely unseen, we’re left wallowing in an ugly futility that paves the way to anger and frustration. Our enemy is so tricky in the lies he presents as truth, it’s no wonder we’re admonished to be alert and aware of his schemes (see 1 Peter 5:8) and to take captive our every thought (see 2 Corinthians 10:5).

Am I letting my inner toddler run the show? The truth is, sometimes we’re just battling our own selfish desires. I think of how often I talk with my children about learning to cope when they don’t get their way—and yet this is a skill I too am learning to embody. Thankfully, Jesus is greater than our fragile, fallible hearts (see 1 John 3:20), and He alone can provide the strength we need to walk through motherhood with patience and grace.

So today, stop and take a deep, slow breath. Remember that you are human, and it’s okay to feel angry. Reject the enemy’s anchor of shame, and let that anger help lead you out of the “ick” and into a deeper, sweeter fellowship with Jesus.

With Blessings & Solidarity,

~Meredith

“You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are!”

Psalm 16:5-6

Waiting to Arrive

Hello there, readers! It might be mid-February, but since this is my first post of the new year, let me wish you a Happy New Year anyway. How are those resolutions coming?

Clearly, my writing resolutions aren’t going according to plan.

In spite of the abysmal statistics surrounding resolutions, if you’re like me, you still love goal setting and planning. If you’re like a lot of other people, your eyes instinctively roll at the thought of a resolution.

But whatever camp in which you find yourself, I believe every one of us dreams of a better future—of arriving in a better spot this time next year. Perhaps you, like me, have been dreaming up resolutions long before you were ever impressed to make (and break!) them.

When I was a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a famous, wildly successful professional tennis player. With the likes of Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati plastered to my bedroom walls, I’d drift off to sleep with dreamy thoughts of winning, crushing my opponent, and—most importantly—obtaining a lasting sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Through the years, the “dream scenario” has changed—but whatever the dream, whatever the decade, the final outcome remained the same: me, living with a steadfast sense of peace, purpose, and what can only be described as a “soul ahhh.” I’m standing somewhere picturesque with a fictitious wind machine perfectly blowing my hair as my soul whispers, I have arrived.

This sounds silly, I know, but perhaps you can relate?

Maybe you thought if you just scored that perfect job, you’d feel at peace. Or if you could just get married, then your world would settle. Or if you could just fit into those “size whatever” jeans, then your soul could be at ease. At that point, the wind machine would only be a bonus.

In most recent years, I confess this is precisely how I thought about motherhood. I listened, dreamy-eyed, to the mythical description of a “love like no other,” and the deep sense of purpose and belonging I heard mothers speak of, and I couldn’t help but think now that I am a mother, I have arrived.

Well, in the words of Dwight Schrute, false.

Motherhood is indeed a high and holy calling. And it is indeed full of a love like no other. But it is not the thing that ultimately has or will or can satisfy my hungry, longing soul.

We can resolve and plan to our heart’s delight, but there is no earthly person, place, or thing that will ultimately satisfy our resolution-hungry souls.

There is no mythical place in which we can “arrive” and finally find the peace and purpose for which we’re longing.

Perhaps on the surface, this sounds disappointing; and yet, it’s excellent news for each of us, because the truth is, we don’t have to wait to arrive, because we have already arrived!

Our Creator God knew from the start there existed no earthly achievement big enough to fill the ache in our hearts, so He sent us Jesus. Because of what Christ has done for us, we don’t have to wait to experience a “soul ahhh.” Because of Jesus, we are promised abundant, full life right now (see John 10:10).

Today.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve lost 15 pounds, found the perfect job, married the perfect partner, had the perfect children, or built the perfect home.

In Christ, we have everything we need right now:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV, emphasis added).

What an incredible promise. How often do we think we can “abound in every good work” only once certain external goals have been achieved? Or how often do we delay the good work we could be doing now in the hopes of first becoming some utopian version of ourselves?

You and I can begin living out the promise of 2 Corinthians 9:8 today.

You don’t have to abandon that resolution or those goals you’ve set—but you don’t have to wait until they are fulfilled before living a life of abundance, peace, and purpose.

So dear one, what are you waiting for? This year, let your resolution-driven soul be the thing that drives you closer to your Heavenly Father and the rich, abundant life available in Him.

Celebrating When Your Heart is Heavy

Merry-Almost-Christmas, dear readers!

I say this every year, but I honestly don’t know how we’ve flipped through yet another calendar year … time flies when you’re having fun (and even when you’re not!).

I’m guessing you, like me, love this season of Advent. The parties, the gatherings, the giving of gifts, the creating of “magic” for our kiddos. Taking a break from the routines of school and work. Spending extra time with friends and family.

It is, as the song goes, “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Except, what about when it isn’t?

In this season, we’re encouraged to reflect back on the year … but sometimes those reflections cause us to wince in painful remembrance.

In this season, we’re told to be filled with joy … but sometimes the heavy things we’re carrying make joy feel unreachable.

Broken friendships. Broken marriages. Loved ones suffering from illness.

Financial pressures highlighted by this season of giving and receiving, adding even more pressure to bulging credit cards and empty bank accounts.

A struggling child. A prodigal child. A heart longing for a child.

Any number of things threaten to weigh us down and burden our hearts. The season of joy can make the heaviness feel that much heavier.

But dear reader, you want to hear the really good news? If your heart is heavy, you’re a living, breathing example of the true reason for the season.

Christmas isn’t simply about traditions and parties and gift giving. It’s about Jesus coming to walk in our shoes, coming to lift our heaviness right onto His own shoulders, coming to give us a hope that cannot be shaken.

It’s about the first flickering of the One true light breaking through the thick, sticky darkness of life on this earth:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

We don’t often—if ever—discuss darkness during the Christmas season (it doesn’t exactly fit with the Hallmark narrative!). But God wasn’t afraid of our darkness and pain, and He willingly stepped into it in order to show us the way out. This truth offers a far greater hope and joy than our traditions ever could!

Don’t get me wrong, traditions are great, and they absolutely have a special place in this season. So decorate your home to your heart’s delight. Bake and ice a dozen different types of Christmas cookies (I’ll gladly try them out for you!). Make that elf on the shelf do Cirque de Soleil, if that’s your jam.

Just remember, this season is about saving. It’s about grace. It’s about Jesus entering into our pain in the most humble and breathtaking of ways. It’s about the healing you and I need, a healing that cannot be found in Christmas music and twinkling lights.

Our pain is a holy, sacred reminder of our great need for Jesus, for our Savior.

So if your heart is heavy this holiday, you are not alone. You have a Savior who longs to walk with you and carry that heaviness for you.

Indeed, if your heart is heavy, you are primed to experience the most authentic and full joy this season can bring. And it is my fervent prayer that you and I will come to know and walk in that joy in the weeks ahead.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the governments shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

 

Blessings,

 

 

Breaking Up With the Ugly Inside You

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

The day started out as any other: coffee, quiet time, crafting the day’s “To Do” list.

Pick up milk.

Reply to that e-mail.

Figure out what the heck is wrong with me.

I chuckled as I added the last item, but unfortunately it was true. A harried week and over-scheduled calendar left me exhausted on multiple fronts. Several conflicts with friends and family members mixed with the exhaustion to create a dark concoction of frustration and anger. I found myself irritated at any and all people.

When even my two-year-old was getting on my nerves, a harsh reality sunk in: my inner ugly was running the show, and we needed to break up.

Perhaps you can relate. Daily, we’re exposed to ugliness. It takes the form of violent crimes, news stories about bullying in school, and a seemingly endless supply of hateful rhetoric online. But what about when the ugliness isn’t inside a television or computer screen, but inside our own hearts?

Confronting our own hardened, selfish hearts is about as much fun as a root canal. But when our souls begin disintegrating faster than a stick of cotton candy in a rain storm, and we’re pointing exasperated fingers at everyone but ourselves, that’s our clue: we are the ones with the problem.

If we’re willing, the disease in our own hearts can propel us closer to the heart of our Heavenly Father—a Father who loves and gave His life for all people, even the ones rubbing us the wrong way.

So how can we break up with our inner ugly? A few simple yet powerful steps can set us in the right direction:

Click Restart. When our phone or computer crashes, we know it’s in need of a “restart.” The same is true of our hearts, and our Heavenly Father can give us the fresh start we need. As King David did, so we can pray: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NIV). We can take our ugly to the Father and allow Him to refresh and renew our hearts.

Reach Out. When our inner ugly rears its, well, ugly head, we’re often in need of a perspective change. Reaching out to a safe, trusted friend or mentor who will speak truth into your life can make all the difference in setting you back on the path of life. In this, we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24 NIV).

Give Thanks. Few things send ugliness running for the hills faster than a heart of gratitude. Ugly and thankful simply don’t coexist. Choose gratitude, even if it’s white-knuckled and by the skin of your teeth.

Sweet reader, I pray that we would find courage to break up with the inner ugly. Refuse to give the enemy a foothold in your heart’s delicate soil.

And may we return to our “To Do” lists with nothing but a heart full of joy and love.

Blessings,

Hide & Seek

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to hear Dr. Temple Grandin speak at the University of Georgia. Granted, she spoke to the veterinary school about animal behavior. But, as the mama to a son with Autism, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to see this incredible woman in person.

I listened, strangely captivated, as Dr. Grandin discussed everything from cattle behavior to how fear manifests itself in animals.

She spoke at length about sheep, a topic that piqued my interest, given all the parallels the scripture draws between us and this adorable (yet somewhat intellectually challenged!) breed:

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever (Psalm 79:13a ESV).

 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way (Isaiah 53:6a ESV).

 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25 ESV).

One particular fact Dr. Grandin presented simply jumped out at me, and it’s been rattling around in my mind ever since:

Sheep hide the fact that they are in pain.

So much so, that if you need to know exactly where or how a sheep is injured, you have to stealthily catch it on hidden video!

This statement struck me between the eyes, as it seemed like yet another powerful example of how we humans mimic sheep. Because truthfully, how often do we talk honestly about our pain? We, like sheep, are masters of disguise, going to great lengths to hide our pain.

We hide behind a busy life or career.

We hide behind nice clothes and a forced smile.

We hide behind the paper-thin facade of an “I’ve got it all together” life.

And in our age of technology, we’ve become especially adept at hiding our pain behind shiny, filtered photos of “perfect moments.” Nevermind the fact that oftentimes, those moments are equally preceded and followed by less-than-shiny real life moments.

We hide our pain in a feeble attempt at self-preservation … yet the unfortunate truth is, pain that is hidden has no means for a healthy resolution. We limp along, working hard to cover and conceal.

What’s worse, pain in the hands of our enemy can be used to take us out. We put ourselves at great risk for becoming that unfortunate sheep at the back of the pack, moments away from being overtaken by the hungry predator.

This is a disconcerting reality. And yet, hope abounds—because pain, in the hands of our ever-redeeming God, can become a weapon against our enemy.

Dear reader, Jesus came so that you and I might be free (see Galatians 5:1).

Free from the need to hide our pain.

Free from the need to cover and cake over our scars with layers of lies.

Free from the empty life of pretending everything is fine all the time. I may not know you personally, but I know it’s not. Because life in this broken world is messy, difficult, and just plain distressing at times. We are, none of us, immune from this reality.

The honest sharing of our pain paves the way for us to find healing. And our decision to walk in authenticity can also pave the way for others to do likewise. What’s more, this opening up of our broken places gives glory to our Father—our Good Shepherd—as we reflect back all the ways His saving grace is touching and restoring our wounded hearts.

Not everyone is called to blog or write or speak publicly about his or her pain, but each one of us needs a safe person or small community with whom we can honestly be open about the state of our hearts.

Sweet reader, is there something you’re hiding today? From one needy soul to another, may I encourage you to seek out that safe place, and be willing to take the risk of speaking honestly about your pain.

The loving Shepherd and Overseer of your soul longs to draw you into an authentic, whole, abundant life, one full of fellowship with Him and with others.

You and I were never meant to carry our burdens alone. You and I were never meant to hide.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 ESV).

Today, I pray that you and I alike would find the courage to move toward healing by refusing to hide any longer. Freedom awaits, dear one.

Blessings,

 

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