Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Faith (page 1 of 6)

What To Do When You’re Not Living Your Best Life

Hello, my dear readers—and bless your sweet souls for reading my sporadic, inconsistent posts. Remember the days I wrote regularly every week? Perhaps one day I’ll return to that…

But for now, words are few and far between. In part, it’s a season of life issue. Mothering three children four and under—and one with special needs—is exhausting. There’s simply only so much time in a day or week to devote to things other than keeping my tribe alive.

And yet in part—perhaps in larger part—it’s a season of heart issue.

November marks 6 months since we packed up our California life and headed back East. To say the past ½ year has been a roller coaster is…well…putting it mildly. I wouldn’t exactly describe these past 6 months as “living my best life.”

No, a far more accurate description would be Survivor. Or something along the lines of The Hunger Games.

And I don’t know about you, but I detest the feeling of living in survival mode … most especially when it comes to my faith.

I’ve been in a season of doubt—a season of struggling and wrestling with God over things I can’t make sense of, no matter how hard I try. It’s an arduous task, reconciling the God we know and love with pain … it’s an even more arduous task when we’re reconciling that God with our own pain.

Many times I’ve sat down to write, only to close the laptop in discouragement, knowing the doubt and mistrust with which I’m struggling. Y’all know me well enough to know that I’m not interested in writing (or reading!) empty words about the faith journey … I want to write something that’s genuine.

But you know what God has been so patiently, graciously showing me? Our struggle doesn’t have to stop our faith. Like Job, like Jacob, like so many other Biblical characters, we can keep walking the path with God while we wrestle with our doubts and fears.

Sometimes trusting God and His sovereignty comes in an instant, but oftentimes it comes after days, weeks, even months of struggling through it—and that’s OK!

The most important point is that we continue to wrestle it out with Him. That we keep placing our trust and hope in what we know in our heads to be true of God, even when that truth hasn’t found its way into our hearts just yet.

A recent devotion I read recounted the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, and I continue to be struck by Abraham’s display of steadfast faith. If anyone had reason to suspect God might be cruel or lacking in goodness, it was Abraham.

God promised something amazing—the miracle gift of a son after a lifetime of childlessness (see Genesis 15). But then Abraham had to wait, wait, wait some more for the realization of this gift. And then, after enjoying several years of fatherhood, God asked Abraham to sacrifice this long-awaited, much-adored son. My mom brain yells what???

And yet, Abraham never faltered. He trusted God and believed He would provide—even if that provision came in the wild form of raising Isaac from the dead! (see Hebrews 11:19).

That is some crazy awesome faith. And I find myself asking how?

It’s simple, really: Abraham knew God. He walked with Him. He talked with Him. Over and over, Genesis tells us that Abraham “called upon the name of the Lord” (see Genesis 12:8 ESV).

Abraham’s faith was the natural outflow of his personal relationship with the God of the universe. He’d been enjoying a front-row seat to the character of God and thus knew that God is good. That He can be trusted. That He is faithful. Even when our circumstances have us feeling like we’re taking crazy pills.

Abraham’s ancient faith speaks volumes to us today—if a man who walked and talked with God trusted Him enough to sacrifice his beloved only son, then we can trust Him as well.

Even when it’s a struggle.

Perhaps you too find yourself living in a bit of survival mode. Maybe your faith has taken a hit or you’re wrestling with God over the pain in your life. So what can we do when we’re not living our best life?

First, know this is a season.

Seasons, by definition, don’t last forever. And every season has its purpose, its place, and its blessings. Search for the blessings. I’m the first to admit that oftentimes, wrinkle-faced squinting is required to discover something definable as a blessing … but I promise you, the blessings are there. Even in darkness (see Isaiah 45:3).

Second, try to focus on what you can learn and do in this intense season.

God uses everything in our lives; there’s not a scrap of material that goes unnoticed or without purpose. Ask yourself the hard question: what is God possibly trying to teach me?

Do I need to realize and accept my lack of power to control outcomes?

Am I controlled by fear?

Am I allowing anger or bitterness to take root in my heart?

Jeremiah 29:13 says, You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (ESV, emphasis added). We would all do well to ask ourselves what may be stopping us from seeking Him with our whole heart.

Lastly, and most importantly—keep going in faith.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, step by step, moment by moment, day by day. You don’t have to have it all figured out to follow Him. We don’t have to have a nice, neat explanation to remain faithful (though of course, that would be nice!).

We can simply cling, sometimes in ugly desperation, to the promises of His word.

I’ve been camped out in the Psalms almost constantly for months now, and to me this is the perfect place to turn when you’re in need of rest and comfort from your Heavenly Father. In particular, I love the word of Psalm 92:12-15—

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (ESV, emphasis added).

Isn’t that a beautiful promise and the very definition of living one’s best life? Flourishing in Him. This is God’s heart towards you and me … we must hold firm to the truth of such words, even when our eyes fail to see their reality.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote from Elizabeth Elliot who, when speaking of handling our pain, said:

Lift up your hands, denoting your love, your acceptance, your thanksgiving and your trust that the Lord will make of this situation something redemptive and good.

Keep clinging, dear one. Keep wrestling. Lift it all up to the One who can and will bring it all together for good, one glorious day.

Blessings,

When God Has Other Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

Don’t you love this promise from the book of Jeremiah? It’s an oft-quoted, embroidered, and framed verse, and for good reason. Who doesn’t love the assurance of prosperity, hope, and a future? And while yes, these words were specifically spoken to the children of Israel while in exile from Jerusalem, they shine a revealing light into God’s heart for all of His children.

In high school, I remember carefully taping a pink notecard inside my locker, these precious words scribbled on it in innocent adolescent handwriting. And when it was time to head to college, many of the graduation cards I received made note of this promise, reminding me of what “big things” God surely had in store.

In those days, I had no reason to doubt such wonderful words—would God’s plans include medical school or law school? What perfect, magical husband would He send me? How amazing and world-changing would our children be?

Yes, in those days, it was as if God didn’t need to remind me that He is the keeper of those plans, for surely they will line up with what I have already planned out in my own mind!

As I look back now with the vantage of time and deeper maturity, I wonder if God smiled at my bubbly naiveté—and winced a little at knowing that soon enough I would begin to learn the simple yet difficult truth about His plans …

… they are rarely, if ever, the ones I have in mind.

This month, Aaron and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage, as I tend to do this time of year.  And truthfully, reflecting on these years leaves me with a mix of joy and sadness.

Make no mistake, God has done great things for us. My heart swells with thanksgiving at how He has taken care of me each step of the way.

He has performed miracles, provided strength in the weakest of times, given refreshment in the driest of deserts, acted as shelter in the most blistering of fires. There have been good, good things. But these years have not escaped the sting of intense pain.

Heartaches that my college-self never could have imagined.

Conflict. Betrayal. Infertility. Loneliness. Autism.

No, for these things I never planned, nor did I imagine God would either. In the midst of uncertainty and fear, the words of Jeremiah’s lifeline promise can feel like a heavy weight. In churning waters, it becomes all too easy to hang our heads and conclude these words must apply to someone other than me.

But dear reader, do you know that nothing could be further from the truth? The enemy loves to send out his sinister whispers, suggesting that we land just shy of every good thing God purposes for His people. Don’t fall for this lie.

When our doubt is the loudest, we must hold onto truth the fiercest.

Time and again lately, God is teaching me that it all boils down to a simple, sometimes excruciatingly difficult choice: do I really trust Him? And will I choose to trust Him?

When the words of Jeremiah 29:11 seem impossible in the context of our circumstances, will we decide to place our hand in His and keep on trusting anyway?

Personally, the simple, loaded question of why trips me up more than anything. It’s a heavy question to ask sometimes, right? I think of my son and his autism and the manifestation of that diagnosis in his little life … and I brace for the day his big brown eyes look into mine and ask why, mom? Why did this happen to me?

I don’t know, my love—I don’t know the specifics and the intricate details of why…but what do I know? Everything that happens to us will ultimately weave its way into a tapestry created for God’s glory and our very best.

Perhaps today you are struggling with your own why?

Why cancer? Or divorce? Or job loss? Or infertility? Why this pain?

I believe it is in these darkest of places that God intended to whisper the words of Jeremiah 29:11. The nation of Israel certainly wasn’t heading off to college with the world at her fingertips, bright shiny future laid out ahead.

No, God gave Jeremiah these words at a time when His chosen people found themselves exiled, cut off from Jerusalem—living in a foreign land, facing a future they’d never imagined.

When the dark comes, when the pain comes, dear reader, choose trust. He is longing for us to believe, to trust Him enough to set aside our doubts and cling to His promises. They are enough.

He is enough.

 

Blessings,

Summer School: A Lesson in God’s Sovereignty

Hello readers! It’s been a while, I know. August is nearly halfway through, and school is back in session—can anyone tell me how that happened?!

Our summer has gone a bit like the opener to A Tale of Two Cities. Living in the South again and in close proximity to family and friends has been glorious and indeed the best of times.

On the other hand, living all summer out of suitcases in cramped, temporary housing with 3 restless, displaced children has not been so glorious.

Yes, for me, this summer has been a time of pruning and refining and waiting. I don’t remember signing up for this “summer course” in faith building … but apparently, God had a lot to teach me about His sovereignty and provision, and a house was the perfect teaching tool.

That’s right, a house.

Shortly before our California home went on the market in March, I had one of those “aha” moments with God. See, when we sold our home in Atlanta back in 2012, we got a bit raked over the coals. It was an unpleasant experience that left me never wanting to sell a house again!

So as we faced the prospect of selling our home, all my fears and negative emotions came roaring back. All the nail-biting “what ifs.”

What if the house doesn’t sell?

What if we have to keep dropping the price lower and lower?

What if we end up carrying two mortgages?

In the middle of my spiraling doomsday narrative, the Holy Spirit whispered—well, kind of shouted—will you just trust Me in this? Will you just rest and agree to let Me work?

I took a few deep breaths and let those words resonate. All out of excuses and fear, I gladly said yes, Lord. Yes, I will simply trust You and Your timing and Your goodness, from start to finish. It was a wonderful and comforting moment of closeness with Him!

A couple of months later, we received and accepted a great offer—and on the last day in our home, no less. Overjoyed, my heart rejoiced at this glorious provision, so poetic and perfect! The words of Romans 8:28 played in my head as I easily saw how well all these things worked together for our good.

In my mind, I already began crafting this blog post. God said to trust Him, and I did, and then **poof** a few weeks later, look how it all turned out! So pretty, so perfect, so wonderfully.

If only.

At 3 weeks into our contract, I received a phone call from our real estate agent that sent me reeling. Our buyers had to back out. We suddenly found ourselves on the losing end of a domino of failed contingencies.

I wish I could tell you that I immediately rested on my faith and trusted in the good word God whispered to me at the start, but I sure didn’t.

The disappointing news sent me spiraling down the path of struggle for the next many, many weeks. I experienced intense frustration, disappointment, and anger. How could everything slip through our fingers when it was nearly a done deal? Why??

I watched as house after house in our neighborhood slipped into escrow. We waited and waited and waited while showings trickled in, here and there. We held open houses. We dropped the price. We heard lots of crickets.

Day after day, I beat my wings against the question of why, exhausting myself like a caged bird. In my bitter frustration, I couldn’t see any possible reason why this contract falling through was for our good. My circumstances no longer fit the narrative of Romans 8:28 as I thought they should, and it.drove.me.crazy.

After many days and weeks and rounds of wrestling it out with God—all while reading a phenomenal book on God’s sovereignty—my Heavenly Father graciously revealed what was really eating at me so badly, why I couldn’t just trust and rest in Him.

This struggle to sell our home directly threatened and pierced the heart of my idolatrous desire for comfort and security. It revealed my mistaken, deep desire for the gift over the Giver.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been crafting an idol out of the desire for comfort and security in my circumstances. Unknowingly and meticulously, I’ve been carving my own golden calf (see Exodus 32).

And in His goodness, God removed that idol this summer. Through the months of confined and uncomfortable living conditions and uncertain and stressful financial concerns with selling our home, He allowed me to see my idol worship for what it really is—destructive, sinful, and faith destroying.

As David cried in Psalm 119:71, it is good for me that I was afflicted (ESV), so my heart now echoes the same cry, for I needed rescuing from my idolatry far more than I needed my house sold.

I needed to know the words of Philippians 4:19 deep into the marrow of my bones, which reads—

 And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (ESV).

 I needed to know the true meaning of God’s sovereignty and learn to trust His providence, both in good news and in bad.

Dear reader, do you know these truths in the deepest, truest parts of your heart? Perhaps you, like me, would readily say yes …and yet, when the rubber hits the road, you discover how much more you have to learn about this life of faith.

God’s sovereignty is never exercised apart from His goodness—even when things don’t look good to our flawed, near-sighted eyes. We can be certain that His dealings with us—whether painful or joyful, happy or sorrowful—will indeed work out for His glory and our ultimate good. The promise of Romans 8:28 will never fail, even when we fail to see its truth.

Perhaps you find yourself struggling through a situation today. Maybe a relationship. Or a job. Or a financial burden. Or a hunger you simply can’t seem to satisfy.

Dear one, let your deep need drive you to your knees before Jesus every morning, and throughout your day—as many moments as it takes until the truth of His provision and goodness settles and lands secure in the foundation of your heart.

Find a promise in scripture to which you can cling in your time of testing. For me, it was whispering the promise, He will provide, multiple times during each day.

Your Savior is inviting you into deeper communion with Him! Lean in, jump in with both feet—and be amazed at all the good things He has in store for you.

Blessings,

I Hate Moving {Part 2 of “I Hate Goodbyes”!}

Hello, my dear, sweet readers! I hope y’all are having a great summer (and now that I’m officially back in Georgia, I’ll be using “y’all” a lot).

It’s been over two months since I wrote about saying goodbye to California and how awful goodbyes are … so this post can be considered a follow-up or “part 2” of that post, because you know what?

Saying “hello” kind of sinks too!

This is simply a reiteration of what y’all already know: moving is hard.

The past two months have been a blur of boxes, suitcases, hotels, and plenty of tears and temper tantrums (and not just the kids, ha!).

Our California house went under contract just before we moved, and everything was set to close last month—but then it all fell through at the last minute.

Our house here won’t finish construction until the beginning of end of August, so until then we are living in a tiny basement apartment with plenty of challenges and not nearly enough space for these kiddos. Add to that, Anni is now crawling and cruising and pulling up on everything, so that’s added a fun new element of parental anxiety and stress!

Our kiddos are having a tough time adjusting, especially our son, considering the overarching goal of those with autism is to keep the world the same (we’ve pretty much blown that goal out of the water!).

We’ve all been through stomach bugs and summer colds and our first bought with hand-foot-mouth disease, which—as it turns out—is just as lovely as the name suggests.

There’s been physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion as we wait, wait, wait for so many things to come through in this season of virtual free fall. My faith has been more than a little tested since embarking on this new adventure, and it doesn’t look like things will ease up anytime soon!


Moving opens the door to a highly vulnerable time, and it’s a vulnerability I truly dislike … like the shaky, clumsy feeling of finding my way around a new grocery store. Or the necessity of being glued to the GPS to go anywhere. Or the “fish out of water” feeling of readjusting to the South when I still feel like a Californian at heart.

The unfortunate truth for my change-resistant heart, however, is that God loves moves and often uses them as a means for gaining direct, lightning-fast access to our hearts. Think Abraham, Daniel, and Moses. And then there’s David, who didn’t simply have to move, he had to flee from his life of service at the palace to escape the wrath of King Saul (see Samuel 20). But these moves were critical to God’s providential plan in their lives and necessary to bring about His will.

Transition is a painful process, but so very, very crucial to our spiritual growth and transformation. It prepares us for what’s next, if we let it. The thought God keeps bringing me back to, over and over, is simple and yet difficult at the same time:

Stop resisting God’s teaching in your transition.

The change and upheaval and vulnerability stirred up in a move is oftentimes God’s way of saying hey, look up here! Look at me! There’s something I’m trying to teach you …and I’m going to press in until you get it! My own experience reminds me of this clip from “The Three Amigos” (one of the best movies of all time):

If you’re anything like me, sometimes it’s as though God is forced to relate to me in this manner, when I’m so focused on what’s at the end of my nose versus the good and sovereign path He has laid out ahead.

If you find yourself experiencing a move or change of some kind today, I want to encourage you to not allow the pain of transition to wear down your faith.

When Moses prepared to pass the baton of leadership off to Joshua, he spoke the following beautiful, divinely inspired words:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV).

Today, these words still ring true for you and for me. What a glorious promise, that we are not alone in the uncertainty and discomfort of transition. Life may feel out of control, but our God is always and forever in control!

May we cling ever tighter to Him in the midst of our chaos and be willing to hear and absorb the truth He longs to impress on our hearts.

Many blessings, y’all–

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,

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

 

 

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