Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

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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,

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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,

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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,

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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—

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Bright Spots

Happy Friday, readers! Admittedly, today’s post is short and coming to you without my usual round of edits. This week, I find myself knee-deep in potty training both big kids, because it’s past time and it has.to.be.done. The 3-kids-in-diapers thing is wearing me out … then again, so is scraping poo out of tiny underpants. As you can see, it’s a no-win situation [insert tired laugh here] …

… At any rate, since returning to blogging after Anni’s birth, I haven’t crafted or planned out any themes … but as January progresses, I’m seeing the theme of thanksgiving emerge. Perhaps God has placed this on my heart because He knows how desperately I need it—and how key it is to walking the life of faith:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV, emphasis added).

Not long ago, I found myself in the middle of a “stress cluster.” You know, when Murphy’s Law operates in full effect, and you want to shut yourself in the pantry or somewhere quiet (and within reach of chocolate).

There was relational stress and outrageous toddler behavior and the physical fatigue of pregnancy. There was work stress and car repair delays and giant-sized messes everyday. And as a final wispy straw to break to camel’s back, our gas cooktop began clicking in a wonky, unstoppable manner. I think listening to that little clicking sound could be added to the list of torture tactics used to squeeze information out of terrorists (right alongside sleep deprivation and crying babies).

Nothing major, nothing life-shattering—just lots of little pebbles that fused to form one annoying boulder in my shoe. I’m guessing you can relate, as we all seem well acquainted with “first world problems.”

To my great relief, the maddening clicking cooktop issue turned out to be no match for a YouTube tutorial, a Q-tip, and a little acetone. Yes, in the midst of this cluster, the bright spot turned out to be the resolution of this small problem—a minor but very welcomed respite! We laughed at how this was the highlight of our week … but truly, my heart rejoiced that at least one problem found a swift remedy.

When life feels cloudy and dark, the slightest flash of light is a welcomed reprieve.

That little experience had me ruminating on the truth that in our everyday annoyances—both big and small—we still have reasons to give thanks. There are still bright spots waiting quietly to be discovered, like little gifts.

To see the stars shining in their brilliance, we have to turn out the surrounding, competing lights … and when we do? Then our eyes are able to download the majesty of God’s creative handiwork.

I’m finding the same is true in our lives: to see those bright spots, we’ve got to cut the competing negative, blinding lights that inaccurately signal everything is wrong, everything is broken! And isn’t it so often the small, frustrating annoyances that vie for our energy and ruin our joy?

I don’t know about you, but all too often I’m guilty of turning up the brightness on my negative thoughts and self-talk and self-focused perspective. I am reminded of how far my heart can stray from the life-giving words of Paul:

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation … I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV, emphasis added).

What a reality check. If Paul learned contentment in the midst of his unending clusters of genuine stress and physical danger, then certainly so can I.

In her devotional, “Treasures & Riches,” author Rachel Crawshaw writes that—

Contentment is a matter of attitude, cultivated by living in the present—by being aware of and savoring the scents and smells and sounds and textures of your life.

I love this definition and find it both accurate and convicting. How guilty am I of missing the good right in front of me, right before my eyes!

This week, I challenge us both to search for the bright spots and savor the sensations of our days. May we turn out the competing lights of negativity, frustration, and self-pity, and comb the horizon for flickers of light, tangible evidence of God’s goodness to and provision for us His children.

In the meantime, you can find me searching the horizon while keeping close tabs on two precious, pant-less children ;-).

Blessings,

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

It was a beautiful fall day, and despite having a 3-week old and two difficult toddlers, a trip to the park followed by some light shopping sounded like a good idea. Chalk it up to post-baby hormones that leave you feeling overwhelmed one minute and like superwoman the next.

Per usual, it took about 15 minutes simply to undo the stroller, stuff all the bags underneath (you might have thought we intended to campout for several days), and unbuckle aforementioned toddlers. Nevertheless, there we were at the park, all four of us. And I was only sweating a little by this point.

But before I could give myself a nice pat on the back, the meltdown commenced … the meltdown to overshadow my son’s previous meltdowns. In front of two other moms from his preschool, no less.

#winning.

So I did what I’ve learned to do so well lately: pack it all up, scoop up my screaming child, and try to make it to the car before bursting into tears of frustration, embarrassment, and sheer fatigue.

Better days ahead … there are better days ahead, I hear it said from an endless source of people, so it must be true …

But what does it mean for these days, these sometimes grueling, painful, and long days? How are we to carry the joy of light-hearted days into the darkness of difficult ones?

I’ve written before about our struggles with Isaiah and his speech and sensory processing issues, all of which seem to have come to a head over these past 6 months. It’s been exhausting, particularly on top of the intense lack of sleep accompanying the arrival of a newborn.

I can think of few things more heavy than watching your child struggle—and not knowing what to do or how to help. These struggles have illuminated the fact that my children are a direct line straight into the center of my heart. When God needs my attention, nothing grabs it faster than circumstances impacting my babies.

In every trial and hard day with my son, I am challenged by my resolution to live in gratitude more fully, to speak with fluency the language of thanksgiving. To sing praises to God, even when my heart is heavy and hurting. As I’ve wrestled with these issues, I keep coming back to one particular scripture:

I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the Name of the Lord (Psalm 116:17 NLT).

I can’t seem to stop meditating on that phrase, “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” and even finding comfort in it—because sometimes, giving thanks feels like a sacrifice.

Like when the news isn’t good or the bank account doesn’t add up or the loneliness is deafening or the anxiety is palpable.

Or when our mama hearts are heavy for our children. I think of my son, who always asks me to sing “Good Good Father” to him before bed (or “Good Good Good Father” as he calls it, precious thing). And the significance isn’t lost on me—singing those words over my son, when my aching heart is struggling to believe in God’s goodness…it’s a humbling and gracious reminder to sing those words over him:

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when those ways include doctors appointments and therapies and heartache and pain.

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when the way is hidden and scary and the future uncertain.

You are perfect in all of your ways, to us.

Yes, Lord, even when we want to snap our fingers and make it all better.

God isn’t going to let me forget His goodness or allow me to let go of hard-won faith—and He isn’t going to let you forget either!

sometimes-giving-thanks-feels-like-a-sacrificeIn these times when we’re feeling the weight of a heavy burden, I believe the key to navigating the churning waters is found in offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving … to reach deep and squint to see beyond our circumstances and continue to trust. In our doubts, may we be like Job, who did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22 NIV). May praise ever be on our lips, even when it feels sacrificial and excruciating.

On the hardest of days, sometimes my sacrifice of thanksgiving is as small and meager as thanking Him for the rich color of falling leaves or the sparkling blue of an expansive sky. But I’m finding that recognizing these small, simple gifts opens the door of my heart, allowing Him to work in mysterious and beautiful ways.

What about you, dear reader—will you give thanks today, even if your heart is heavy? Will you offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, no matter now small? I pray today that you and I find the courage and faith to raise up empty hands and offer up weary souls, to call on His Name and rest secure in His great love for us.

And even though the fire pops and cracks and threatens to burn right through us, may we offer up our sacrifices of thanksgiving to the One who loves and holds us in all things.

For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 117:2 NIV).

Blessings,

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Whole

Hello there, readers, and let me officially say Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a great start (and that you haven’t fallen too far off that clean eating wagon just yet).

And speaking of, nothing is quite as synonymous with “new year’s resolution” as “weight loss,” no? For countless Januarys, I’ve included “eat healthier” on my mile-long list of resolutions (and this year is no different, as I’m attempting to shed the remaining baby weight … and finding it much harder than it was with the first two, sheesh!).

As we’ve done for the past couple of years, Aaron and I decided to do the Whole30 for the month of January—or rather, our own version of Whole30, one that works best for us. Whole30ish, if you will.

While prepping and searching for recipes and meal planning these past couple of weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of wholeness and what it means to be whole. Generally, the majority of my focus this time of year tends to center around achieving physical goals—losing weight, eating cleaner, training for a race, dusting off my tennis racquet, etc.

Focusing on finding health, healing, and wholeness in our physical bodies is a worthy goal—indeed, the Apostle Paul writes:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV).

I love this scripture, and I enjoy pursuing health and wellness goals. But these days, I find myself desiring a different kind of wholeness—a spiritual wholeness. A wholeness of heart and soul.

On one recent and particularly challenging, sleep-deprived morning, I found myself pouting to God, whining, “I don’t even have enough time to have a quiet time!”

Yes, I was in a huff and irritated at my early rising children because I wasn’t able to do my devotion that morning as usual.

Attitude check on aisle 1, please.

In His kind and gentle manner, I felt God whisper to my frustrated soul, Your time is not your problem. Your heart is your problem.

Yowza. That one hurt. And it revealed how much work my sinful, fallen heart needs.

When I was able to sit quietly for a few minutes and read my devotion, the key verse came from Psalm 37:3, which says:

Trust in Jehovah and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness (ASV).

That little phrase, “feed on His faithfulness,” keeps ringing in my ears. How I would love to focus on allowing His faithfulness to fill those cracks in my foundation and crevices in my walls, until the rough places in my heart have been made smooth.

Until I extend forgiveness more quickly and freely.

Until I stop throwing myself pity-parties.

Until I learn to love more deeply, more selflessly, more fully, all those the Lord has placed in my life.

Until the high road, paved with grace and wisdom, becomes my natural first choice.

This is the cry of my heart for 2017—to be filled more fully by Him and let go of lingering bitterness, a hardened heart, baseless pride, and selfishness.

I want to become whole in Him—whole, secure, and truly living in how lavishly loved I am by Him. I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m always working on moving the truth of His great love from my head down into my heart.

I long to live with joy no matter what storms are swirling and hovering right around me. I desire to become fluent in the language of gratitude.

If you’re a parent, you know firsthand how often parenthood becomes a big ‘ol spotlight pointed right into the deepest recesses of your soul. I’ll find myself harping at my children to be patient or loving or to share, only to feel a twinge of hypocrisy crawl up the back of my neck. Anyone else stepping in that with me?

If I’m going to teach my children to be whole, then it must be modeled for them—I have a sneaking suspicion such things are far more caught than taught. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” said Oprah or my mom or somebody wise. And I rather tend to agree.

So let the journey begin by feeding on His faithfulness and dwelling in His presence. Let us pursue physical health, but not to the neglect of our spiritual health. And may the words of Psalm 90:14 guide us this coming year:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (NIV).

Be blessed in this New Year, dear reader—be whole.

Blessings,

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A Baby Story {And What I Learned About Waiting}

Well hello there, dear sweet readers, and Happy (Almost) New Year! It’s been a long time. Far too long.

Though it probably feels far longer to me than it’s actually been. The old saying “the days are long but the years are short” rings distinctively true with a newborn and two toddlers at home!

And can I tell you something? I’ve missed you. And I’ve missed this space—this space that has become such a part of me.

So today, I’m dusting off the cobwebs accumulating on my laptop and in my sleep-deprived brain and jumping “back on the horse” as they say. And can I tell you something else? It feels awkward to be in this space again.

Kind of like when I picked up a tennis racquet after taking time off. It felt clunky and heavy in my hands … so please, bear with me as my words feel clunky and jumbled in my tired mind (and I’ll thank you in advance for the grace you’ll show me as I attempt to write again!).

Life has been quite the circus since I last strung words together into sentences in this place … and after much waiting and many false alarms, our precious Anniston Sinclair made her debut on the morning of Friday, September 9th. I don’t normally share pictures here, but I can’t resist a sweet one from her newborn photo shoot!

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Anni’s birth itself was fast and furious. At 3 days overdue, I saw my doctor for my weekly check-in, where an out-of-the-blue high blood pressure reading greeted me. And my doctor, who is typically calm—almost to the point of nonchalance—looked me straight in the eye and told me to go to labor and delivery that night.

I could say I was scared and angry and unsure, but the truth? I was so ready to go. After welcoming both my other kiddos before their respective due dates, I found this whole “past due” thing for the birds.

So, I went home, had dinner with my family, put my sweet kiddos to bed, finished packing up my hospital bag, and off Aaron and I went.

It was late, quiet and still in the world. Driving under the cover of darkness and bold, twinkling stars made me giddy with excitement and anticipation. It gave me time to think and accept all that awaited me. In each labor, I’ve found there was a distinct “moment” in time where I surrendered my mind and my body to the arduous, beautiful, terrifying process of labor.

Let’s do this, I thought.

Of course, when you show up in any state other than just about to give birth, there’s a whole lot of waiting involved. So, we waited and walked the halls and cracked nervous jokes, and before we knew it, we were settled in. Once my very pregnant body got a taste of Pitocin, it was go time.

And six of the most intense, painful, incredible hours later (no epidural or pain meds, people!), we welcomed our sweet Anni into the world. Ok, twist my arm, here’s another picture:

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Anni’s birth may have been fast and furious, yet the weeks leading up to it were anything but. Weeks of prodromal labor left me physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. It’s one thing to be up all night snuggling and feeding your newborn…it’s quite another to suffer a few hours worth of contractions that leave you awake and hopeful, only to die out with a teasing “gotcha!”

The result was a maddening cycle of no sleep and false hope. It was a cycle that revealed just how bad I am at waiting.

I always imagine myself as a patient person until I’m required to actually practice patience.

Funny how that works.

Can you relate?

Waiting is such an important part of the faith walk—kind of annoyingly so! Sometimes, life feels like one long series of various waiting rooms. But truthfully, it’s in those waiting rooms where the good stuff happens: the change and character development and depth of faith that we so desire (but oh, if only it could come more easily, right?).

Shortly before Anni’s birth, one of my devotions discussed the importance of naming things in our lives (as written about by John Eldridge). The basic idea being:  what we call something has incredible power over how we actually react to it.

This principle smacked me upside my highly impatient head, as I realized I kept calling those final pregnancy weeks miserable, frustrating, and ridiculous. Not surprisingly, I went about those days with an attitude reflective of such names.

In retrospect, those days were anything but ridiculous—and while I may have been a little miserable and frustrated, in truth those days were sacred, full, and beautiful, as God worked the final stages of the miracle of Anni’s life inside my belly.

And in the “fullness of time” (see Galatians 4:4), she was born, and just like that, the waiting was over … and I learned a valuable lesson in the power of naming and its ability to shape my entire outlook (one I’m still working on incorporating!).

What about you—how have you characterized difficult seasons of waiting? What names have you given those seasons? I hope you’ve been better than I’ve been … but even if not, rest assured that grace, grace, and more grace abounds to us all in Him!

We just celebrated Christmas, the joyous birth of our Savior. And if we learned anything in this season of Advent, it’s that He was beyond well worth the wait. I can only imagine the choice names Mary could have bestowed upon her circumstances as she awaited the birth of God’s Son . . . but scripture indicates that Mary was a young woman of mature faith who treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19 NIV). May the same be said of you and me!

As we move into this new year, I challenge you—as I challenge myself—to begin paying attention to how you name circumstances in your life. May we resolve to view our lives through the lens of His sustaining grace, sufficiency, and loving sovereignty, no matter what waiting room in which we find ourselves.

Be blessed, dear reader—

 

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Pregnant Pause

Well, dear readers, the time is drawing very close for this baby girl to arrive … thus, it’s also time for me to take a step back, close the computer for a bit, and focus on enjoying and surviving the intense, beautiful time that follows the arrival of a new baby.

I’ve written before about my struggle with accepting limitations, and a part of me senses those same old feelings creeping up now.

I want to be super woman: I want to keep writing every week, keep the household running, keep homemade meals on the table, keep my home clean, etc. etc. But after two experiences of attempting such an endeavor, I’m choosing to be wise and learn from the past … I simply can’t!

And that is perfectly fine.

I have so enjoyed this season of writing over the past year. It has been a short but fantastic season and time with the Lord—in the midst of the chaos of raising Irish twins, He provided time each week to meet with Him and organize a few mostly-coherent thoughts. It has been a stream of refreshment in the midst of the sometimes-parched land of mothering young children.

And now I have a little perspective—now I know the time for regular writing will come again. Schedules will eventually even out and align, a new routine will eventually be found, my brain cells will eventually recover from hormones and insomnia and sheer exhaustion …

But I’ve also learned that the tiny, precious cause of such hormones and insomnia and sheer exhaustion will pass as well—quickly, far too quickly, really.

And so I want to soak up every minute with this new baby—every minute of the thrilling, exhausting ride. I want to clear my plate and focus on my babies, my gracious and selfless family who will be here helping us stay sane, and whatever lessons the Lord has to teach me in this third round of new motherhood.

I have poured out, and now is a time for God to pour back in. I have spoken, and now is a time to listen.

Sometimes, we must put one dream on hold to attend to and fully enjoy another … writing will always be a dream and always be a part of my life. Yet these babies are also my dream come true—God’s promises fulfilled, in the flesh, in my weary arms and bursting heart. I recently saw a quote that read:

Don’t forget the days you prayed for the things you have now.

Such true and poignant words. Such a necessary reminder, as we each carry around in us remnants of our Israelite spiritual ancestors. We have inherited their restless, desert-wandering tendencies that sometimes render us seemingly incapable of remembering God’s provision and deliverance.

I don’t know about you, but I long to learn from their example. I long to have a thankful heart, and one with a sharp memory that will recall all of God’s promises fulfilled, even when my fallen self tends to forget.

So as I press “pause” on the blog, I am filled with a peace and steadiness, because I know the words of Psalm 138:8 are true:

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of Your hands (NIV).

This promise is true for you too, sweet reader—is there something in your life today to which you’re holding on with an iron grip?

Are you afraid to lay down a dream today? For a husband, a child, a calling, restored health, healed relationships, relief from seemingly unbearable circumstances?

Let me encourage you to lay it down—let go of that dream and take hold of your Savior’s Hand instead. He will hold your dreams. He will establish your ways.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite verses from the Psalms, one that I pray over this dream of writing … and I pray it speaks to your heart today and becomes a promise to which you too might hold:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the works of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17 NIV).

I can’t thank you each enough for reading, commenting, and encouraging me over this past year as I’ve poured out my heart on the pages of this blog. Lord willing, “I’ll be back” as the good ‘ol movie quote goes …

But until then, grace and peace be with you, dear reader … we’ll chat in this space once again, one day.

In the meantime, be blessed!

Much love,

Mere copy

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