Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

A Love Letter To Lysa TerKeurst

Like many of you, I read the most awful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking news this week about the demise of Lysa TerKeurst’s marriage. While I have never met her, I’ve followed and read her work for so long, she feels like a dear friend. Her honest, refreshing, vulnerable, and strong faith has made a difference in my life and countless others lives around the world.

I felt such incredible sadness, and then pure anger–anger at the enemy, who will stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy (see John 10:10). You gotta hand it to him–he certainly lives up to his sinister promises, doesn’t he?

I felt her sadness, and I felt my own sadness, for I myself have been a breath away from seeing my marriage crumble into ruins. It is a sick, sorrowful emotion to think that your life, your “what God has joined together” is about to be pulled apart. And sometimes, despite our very best efforts and intentions, things don’t work out in the way we would have hoped.

To think of going through such an experience in the public eye–the public Christian eye, no less–is truly horrifying.

So I write simply to express love and solidarity to Lysa. Now, more than ever, she needs the body of Christ to lift her up in prayer and–as she expressed–her husband as well, for he has been tragically deceived by Satan. She has poured her life into us, faithfully following God’s call–and now we have the opportunity to pour into her with prayer and encouragement.

May we remember to be on our guard, for our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). No one is immune, no matter how strong a faith. No marriage is immune, no matter how seemingly solid. One of our enemy’s primary targets is our families.  He wants to destroy our marriages, our children, our grandchildren, and on down the line.

The only comfort I have is in knowing that God is still good, even when life isn’t good. And He can and will draw beauty out of the ashes. What Satan intends for evil, God will transform for good. And her life will reach even more hurting hearts for Christ because of this, I am certain of it.

You know the beautiful part about the verse above, John 10:10? While the first part exposes our enemy’s evil intent, the second part of the verse provides the most comforting of promises, when Jesus says, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Yes, we have an enemy that’s gonna wreak havoc on our lives. But we have a God who is stronger and who meets that havoc with abundance.

Precious Lysa, beloved child of God, may you hang onto this truth … may your faith not fail in this most scorching of deserts. And may we all continue to fall on our knees and run to our Savior for the strength and courage to live out our faith walks on this earth!

Blessings,

I Hate Goodbyes

Y’all.

This is likely my final post for a while—at least until we can get to Georgia and begin to find our new normal. And that’s really good for everyone, as I know y’all aren’t interested in reading whatever jumbled up words my overloaded brain might eke out!

This week has been the proverbial “calm before the storm” of next week, though it’s been anything but calm. We have squeezed every last minute out of every last day, and we’re all exhausted.

There have been so many goodbyes—to people, places, and things. So many “lasts” that my heart is entirely overwhelmed by the emotion of it all! I can’t stand goodbyes, and these have been particularly difficult. I can’t fully put into words what these past 5 years have been to me.

We arrived in California in the middle of a drought—but the parched, thirsty soil wasn’t the only thing suffering from lack of refreshment.

My desiccated marriage needed nurturing.

My empty body ached for children.

My thirsty heart longed for the beautiful connection of Christian fellowship.

My shriveled faith needed the floodgates of refreshment.

Upon arriving in this spacious place (see Psalm 18:19), God wasted no time in addressing these deep needs and desires of my heart. As the rain and snow fell over the years, moving this beautiful state out of drought, so too God began to rescue us from our own dearth. He began furiously writing the next chapter in our lives, pouring out blessing upon blessing, refreshment, and rest.

Slowly but surely, the bud of new, vernal life began peeking through the withered weeds.

A marriage put on the path toward restoration and joy.

The gift of three babies in just over three years (still blows my mind!!)

Friends who became like family.

A faith tested and hammered and strengthened and deepened.

As hard as these goodbyes are, they are a beautiful reminder of all the answered prayer in these years of our California dreamin’. God used the distance from Georgia to California as a means of pushing Aaron and me into greater reliance on each other, community with the body of Christ, and most importantly, into greater reliance on Him. There’s a fantastic line in a Ben Rector song that reads:

This isn’t easy

This isn’t clear.

And you don’t need Jesus till you’re here.

Those lyrics ring so true when I think of the past 5 years—and I know they will continue to ring true as we enter the next chapter.

In our man-made comfort bubble, we’re blinded to our deep need for Jesus … but in His goodness and love for us, He’s willing to pop that bubble and bring us into something better, something real. Something that blesses us, blesses others, and ultimately brings Him glory.

And while it’s painful and unpleasant when that bubble bursts and we’re thrust out of our comfort zones, I’ve learned that this is when life truly gets good.

That’s what this West Coast journey has been for us—leaving the familiar and journeying into unfamiliar, character-building, faith-testing territory. And though there have been plenty of difficulties and tears, I wouldn’t trade the experiences and the heart-changes and the relationships for the world.

So, with tears in my eyes, let me say a huge, heartfelt thank you to all you beautiful people we’ve met along the way: the friends, neighbors, co-workers, therapists, doctors, teachers, and all my fellow warrior mamas.

You became our family, and we will always carry you in our hearts. Thank you for being the Hands and Feet of Jesus to us in a time we so desperately needed it.

You’ll always have a place to visit in the good old South. Let’s sit on the front porch, sip sweet tea, and reminisce on the glistening waters of Lake Tahoe, the divinely earthy smell of wine county, and the picture perfect green of these rolling hills we’ve been blessed to call home for a season.

Much love & many blessings—

 

 

 

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (Psalm 107:8-9 NIV).

 

Back to Basics

*To my e-mail subscribers, my apologies for the blank e-mail earlier! Operator error :-).

Hello there, dear readers—I can’t believe it’s been such a long time since I last wrote. It would seem that life has simply gotten the better of me lately.

Between traveling, attempting to sell our current home, building our new home, and preparing for the big move (and the gazillions of details involved!), I’ve fallen behind in most every other area.

All these details are overwhelming, yes, but in truth, we’ve been dealing with the emotional overwhelm of something much bigger, much greater—much more difficult to write, much less speak about … after several months of testing and evaluation, last month we received an official diagnosis for our sweet son: autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Those words, those heavy words, catch in my throat and my fingers as I type. It feels as though I’m writing about someone else’s life … surely not mine. Surely not my son!

I feel as though I’ve been stumbling around in a bad dream for the past month, trying desperately to shake myself awake and out of this reality—trying to shake off the painful weight of those three words … but to no avail.

The truth is, I’m grieving. Grieving the heaviness that those words bring. Grieving the reality that will not be ours, and the future that will be. I am a crier by nature, but these past several weeks? Well, I believe my own tears could have ended the years-long drought we’ve been experiencing here in California.

In the middle of this emotional sandstorm, I’ve found my faith taking a hit. The enemy has come at me with every possible lie and doubt in his sinister playbook.

Fighting the good fight of faith can be utterly exhausting.

I love the flowery, “Holy Spirit high” faith; the bible study lessons that give me warm fuzzies; the sweet quotes that make for a lovely set of notecards.

But this rubber-meets-road faith is a lot harder. I liken it to a final exam after a taxing graduate school class …

Do you really believe I’m good to You?

Do you really believe I see you and your son and have a good plan?

Will you praise Me in the middle of all the uncertainty & pain?

These are such important lessons, so absolutely key to the life of faith—so much so that our Father isn’t going to let us off easy. He wants us to know that we know that we know He is good.

He wants us to know and absorb and live and breathe the words of His promises, such as that found in Isaiah 43:2-4—

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … you are precious and honored in my sight, and … I love you.

We recently traveled back to Georgia to find a new home, and that trip became such a living example of these ancient words. In detail after detail, God provided for us in remarkable ways—a beautiful home, a wonderful community, a great school for Isaiah, the resources we will need to help him, and a million other details.

That trip, which came right on the heels of the diagnosis, was a love letter to our family—it was our Father’s way of saying I’m still here. I’m still good. I still have you in the palm of My HandYou may be passing through the waters and the rivers and the fire, but I’m there every step of the way, blessing and loving you in it all.

Dear reader, the goodness of God is not manifest in the goodness of our circumstances. No, the goodness of God is manifest in the unshakeable, unbreakable, undeniable presence of a good, good God in the midst of our circumstances—be they good or bad.

God continues to hammer out the truth of that lesson in my heart—my heart that is still susceptible to the lie that God must not be good, because my circumstances are not good.

Can you relate today? Are you experiencing pain that’s causing you to question God, His goodness, and basically everything in the universe?? If so, I’m sorry. I understand that pain—and may I gently invite you to join me in getting “back to basics”?

In this season, that’s what God is asking of me. So I am focusing on going back to the basics of living out faith by:

  1. Mediating on the truth of God’s Word and His promises so as to renew my mind daily (Romans 12:2)
  2. Reading encouraging books and devotionals so as to think on uplifting things (Philippians 4:8)
  3. Giving thanks in a purposeful, measured way by writing down the gifts in each day, no matter how small (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

When our faith is shaken, we must hang onto what we know. It is a time for holding steadfast and surrendering our “control”—not a time to try and answer every question and fear we have (guilty!). It is a time to exercise quiet, childlike faith—not a time to try and discern the mind and will of God (guilty again!).

Will you join me? Let’s journey to the very center of God’s heart and there find the rest, peace, and joy we so desperately need … one day at a time … one whispered prayer after another … one sacrifice of praise upon another, until we see beauty fashioned from the piles of ashes and tears.

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

A friend put me onto this song, and it’s amazing!! I hope it ministers to you as it does to me.

Pay Attention to the Gnats

Hello there, readers. So I’ve referenced our upcoming return to Georgia in several recent posts, and if you’re on Facebook you know more about it. But today, I thought I would back up a little and share the incredible unfolding of circumstances that brought us to this point.

I share for my own archives, as I tend to have a short memory these days (I blame the kids). But I share too in the hopes of encouraging you with a valuable lesson God has impressed upon me throughout this process. It’s simple, and perhaps a bit odd:

Pay attention to the gnats in your life.

Let me explain … no, there is too much, let me sum up (name that movie!) …

Way back in our residency days, Aaron made fast friends with a fellow resident, one who was a year ahead of him in training. This friend, a native Californian, decided to return to the Golden State for a fellowship at none other than UC Davis. And God used this friend to open the door to Aaron’s eventual selection of fellowship at UC Davis.

Beforehand, California had never been on the radar for these two born and bred Southerners. But, once the Lore cracked opened that door just a peek, we knew California was the place for us, and the rest is history.

Following his fellowship training at UC Davis, this friend moved home to Southern California and began practicing with his uncle. He and Aaron would often talk about practicing together one day and the possibility of us moving to Southern California—some day.

Talk of this came off and on over the past 5 years and was always more of a theory than a possibility … until October 2016, when Aaron’s friend called him with an official offer to come and interview.

At first, I laughed a big, bold belly laugh. Here I was, holding my 1-month old daughter and feeling completely overwhelmed by life. And honestly, the thought of moving anywhere—much less Southern California—sounded about as appealing as giving birth to said 1-month-old again.

However, when I realized Aaron was seriously considering this opportunity, it led us to have a serious sit-down talk about the future … my first, fleshly instinct was to say no. How could taking this job be a good thing? Why even bother with an interview?

But we realized that this opportunity, this possibility, had been floating around us for years. It was that little gnat that kept appearing now and again, one we couldn’t seem to swat away with any finality.

And while neither of us could truly picture making that move, we felt a spirit certainty that he needed to go on this interview. This was a gnat we simply couldn’t ignore. We had no clue what purposes God had in mind, as we couldn’t see past the end of our sleep-deprived noses … but we knew He was in it. And we knew we needed to be obedient and walk through this door He opened…

Thus, in early November, Aaron flew to Southern California for the interview. The job had some appealing aspects, to be sure, but as we’d previously suspected, it was not the right fit, nor the right time to make such a move.

It was, however, the catalyst for throwing open the doors to our current path. God used that interview to open our eyes and our minds to the possibility of moving from academic medicine to private practice. It spurred us to ask the question, if we’re going to make that change, why move to another part of California? Why not look at opportunities back home?

God used that little gnat to open our hearts and our hands and ask the question: Lord, is now the time You want us to move back home?

Amazingly, within weeks, that question was answered in the form of two job interviews in our top two desired locations … both of which led to incredible job offers (and an incredibly tough decision-making process, but that’s for another post!).

As I reflect on all this today and everything God has unfolded in the past 4 months, I’m amazed at how it all began—by simply paying attention to a little tug, a seemingly crazy opportunity. If we’d ignored that gnat and assumed we knew best, we would have missed God’s leading in our lives. We would have missed His gracious answer to the cry of our homesick hearts.

So I say to you, dear reader, pay attention to those gnats in your life. We so easily assume we know God’s mind or what is best for us—but God is a master Creator, an unmatched storyteller. He knows how to weave together the smallest and most innocuous of events in a way that keeps our stories unfolding in a thrilling and unpredictable manner.

In the distracted rush of life, it’s all too easy for us to brush away those gnats with the assumption that they’re gnats, they can’t serve any possible purpose.

But that’s the amazing, exhilarating thing about God … you just never know what enormous things may come from something so small. Isn’t that the epitome of faith itself? A mustard seed, growing into the huge spread of a mustard bush. Something remarkable born out of something unremarkable.

Is there a gnat in your life today? Something that keeps coming up that you keep swatting away in short sighted confidence? Perhaps take a moment and ask God what divine purpose that gnat may serve in your life. The answer just might surprise and thrill you.

Blessings,

In Its Time

This week, I’m overflowing with emotions. It’s an all the feels kind of week, as well as a busy/stressful/overwhelming week (thus the brevity of this post!).

This week, we officially put our house on the market. All these weeks of cleaning, clearing out, and packing up the clutter finally came to a head in the form of a big blue “For Sale” sign in our yard.

And I’m still trying to process it all.

Waking up Wednesday morning, the full magnitude and significance of the day hit me hard. We’ve talked so much about it these past couple of months, but it really sinks in when that online listing goes live.

As I look at that For Sale sign in our yard, I think of how many times my heart longed for this day over the past nearly 5 years. I spent many a day wondering when or if this day would even come … but just like that, it has.

It reminds me a whole lot of the many, many months I spent waiting for a baby. I banked countless hours whining and crying and complaining over the issue. By God’s grace, I finally learned to lay it down before Him … and so when it did happen? Pure and utter joy.

And it’s this same joy that’s flooded my heart this week. When God comes down and answers the deep cry of your heart with a gentle yes, it’s enough to take your breath away. I am so thankful.

Yet in the same breath I say thank you, I’m must also utter a convicted I’m sorry, as I think of all the days I doubted God’s goodness while my heart longed for home.

On the really hard and lonely days, I charged Him with wrongdoing on account of the fact that this day had not yet arrived. I charged Him with a lack of goodness, a lack of love, and a lack of presence.

But the truth? The truth is so clear and crisp today: He was never doing wrong. He has always been good and loving and present throughout this season.

He was working out good things, great things, in my heart and the hearts of my loved ones. He was intertwining our lives with some amazing people we will never forget, people we will carry in our hearts when we head back to Georgia.

And all the while, He was diligently planning and orchestrating our return home for just the right day and just the right time.

It reminds me of the heartening words of Ecclesiastes 3:11—

He has made everything beautiful in its time (NIV).

Everything. The things I could understand and the things I could not.

Everything.

Dear reader, is there something in your life today that’s causing you to doubt God’s goodness? His presence in your life? Are you facing a circumstance that’s tempting you to charge God with wrongdoing?

Hang on in faith. Hang onto whatever sliver of a thread you may have left. God is not doing you wrong, nor is He absent. He has not forgotten you or your pain. He is present and clear-headed in your confusing and frustrating situation.

Hang on in faith while He works. Choose to believe that He is indeed working—in your life and the lives of those around you. Don’t assume you know the end of the story based on whatever’s happened thus far.

Trust His heart and His time … and while you wait, continue allowing Him to make beautiful tomorrow what you cannot understand today.

Blessings,

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

Why Satan Loves Social Media

Ok, so admittedly the title of this post is a bit extreme—in part to grab your attention (did it work?), but in part because as jarring as that title sounds, I believe there’s a lot of truth to it.

Not convinced? Just take a moment to open up your phone or computer and peruse Facebook, Twitter, news, etc. for a few minutes … in just a scroll or two, I’m sure you’ll notice the evidence in harsh black and white, in the sea of hate-filled rants, comments, articles, tweets, etc. etc. etc.

Like many of you, my heart is dreadfully heavy over what I’m seeing online these days … so heavy that I very nearly decided to forgo a post this week in favor of chucking my laptop out a window. We don’t seem to be able to agree on much these days, but I’m fairly confident that we could agree it’s been a rough week in cyberspace.

I’ve witnessed more vitriol and division in my schizophrenic Facebook feed than I did even back in November. And the never-ending spinning torrent of opinions and word-daggers breaks my heart, because it’s only pushing us farther away from one another. I don’t believe we can fully understand each other in black and white pixilated words on a screen.

When this is our primary means of communication, we forget something: our humanity. Our Facebook accounts don’t have emotions, but you and I certainly do. We each have deeply held convictions and beliefs that dictate how we vote, what laws we support, what marches we attend, and so on.

Y’all, our enemy is somewhere bowled over laughing right now—laughing till his belly hurts. He’s probably sipping a Mai Tai under a palm tree, because the endless supply of hate-filled rhetoric bouncing around cyberspace has given him a chance to go on vacation. Listen to a few descriptions of his character:

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NIV).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

 It’s quite a wake-up call, examining what we’re up against in this world—and I feel that pull towards discouragement, and wanting to walk away and hide out in a cave until it all blows over (if it all blows over) …

… but then, I’m reminded of our call as followers of Jesus, per His very own words:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV, emphasis added).

For better or worse, social media and technology in general is a part of our lives—it’s woven into our place in history. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a step back from time to time—indeed, I think that’s an excellent idea (and I’m contemplating taking a break myself!).

But in this turbulent time, when it feels like our only options are to either spew our opinion in a hateful, arrogant manner or run away from it all, may I encourage us to apply the words of Matthew 5 to our lives, both real and online?

This world of social media—which can be so damaging—has the potential of being used by Jesus followers to shine a light into the ever-creeping darkness in which we find ourselves. With our words, our actions, and our opinions, we can shine a light onto truth, love, kindness, humility, and the grace that builds bridges.

I’m not urging anyone to censor his or her opinion … but I do urge you, as I urge myself, to value people and relationships above opinions and rhetoric.

Let’s not take the enemy’s bait. Let’s follow the beautiful, wise words of Proverbs instead:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

Amen, right??

My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is simple: use social media to bless one person today. Offer up sincere words of encouragement in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you. Let your light shine, and together let’s make our enemy squirm … and perhaps cut his vacation short.

Be blessed, dear one—

Mere copy

« Older posts

© 2017 Oceans Deep

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑