Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Faith (page 2 of 6)

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,

Mere copy

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!

carr-32

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:

carr-19


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—

 

Mere copy

 

 

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

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

As we rapidly approach the arrival of baby girl, I’ve been thinking a lot about newborns. They are truly beautiful, miraculous creatures. Staring into the face of a brand new human easily evokes words such as “heavenly,” “divine,” and “perfect.” When holding the squishy, flawless body of a newborn, the words of Psalm 139 ring undeniably true:

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV).

But what about when that precious newborn arrives in an unexpectedly broken package, or when brokenness manifests as that child grows?

What about the toddler battling cancer?

Or the newborn baby girl fighting for her life against a devastating genetic disorder?

Or the young boy locked in the world of Autism?

Or the young girl fighting severe seizures and their aftershocks?

And what about the boy who, like my precious son, finds himself battling a speech delay and the cascade of difficulties that come with interrupted communication? As a parent, it’s devastatingly difficult to see your child suffer or struggle—to see a brokenness that you’d give all the world to mend.

And as a parent to one of such children, you know the difficult, oftentimes lonely road that accompanies the care of such a unique child. Having a child with a special need—regardless of where on the severity spectrum that need falls—sets you on an entirely different path than other parents.

Instead of scheduling numerous play dates, you are scheduling doctor’s appointments and therapies and procedures.

Instead of celebrating every typical milestone, you are celebrating a single new word or a new skill such as pointing or simply living and breathing to see another day.

For many of us, the long journey begins with the arduous, confusing, and scary task of simply trying to discern what is going on with our child—what is the issue? What is the deficit? A diagnosis brings with it a co-mingled response of welcomed relief and unimaginable fear … and probably a lot of tears shed along the way.

Over the past couple of months, we have been in the thick of such things, as further testing and evaluation of our son brought to light some additional issues—like sensory processing deficits—on top of his known speech delay. Over the summer, it’s felt as though the rough waves have knocked us down, back to square one … just when we were getting a handle on speech and forming a solid plan, this new diagnosis has seemingly put us back to the starting line.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

I have been wrestling with the Lord over it all—wrestling hard. Why my son? Why this brokenness? Why the brokenness in the children of so many of my friends? The “why’s?” can threaten to consume at time, even making it sometimes difficult to see the fearfully and wonderfully amid the jagged pieces of the broken.

But can I remind you of something, fellow weary parent, in case you need to hear it today? Your child—“broken” as she may be—is absolutely, positively, and without a single doubt fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in a unique way by the loving Hands of our Father. And my son—“broken” as he may be, was created just the same.

Truthfully, every single one of us is broken in some way—broken, because this world is a fallen shell of God’s original, glorious creation. Broken, because of the sin that entered our world and thew everything off balance.

And I’m beginning to see that perhaps these precious children of ours, though it breaks our mama hearts to see them struggle in certain ways, are giving us the gift of awareness of this brokenness … a gift that is driving us fully, wholly to the feet of Jesus.

I’m the first to admit, being aware of our need and our brokenness certainly doesn’t feel like a gift at first blush … it feels painful, and isolating. It can seem unfair—cruel even—to be required to walk a different, harder path than others.

But it is indeed a gift, an invitation into deeper fellowship with our Creator—a fellowship not afforded by a seemingly “easy” life filled up with lesser things along a well-paved path.

Your child and mine is a blessing, not just because we love them with every cell and breath in our bodies, but because God is using their precious lives and struggles to lead us into deeper things and impact the lives of others for good. And I firmly believe that God has plans as unique and influential as the unique needs of our children.

This throbbing, heartsick world doesn’t need to see perfect—it needs to see God’s perfect redemption in the midst of brokenness, a brokenness in which we are all participants in some form or fashion.

Only God knows the impact and influence you and your child will have on this world, as you walk your path in total reliance on Him!

So from one tired mama to another, I hope this truth encourages you day. You are not alone. I am not alone. I know how hard some days are. I know there are waves of bitterness and sadness that threaten to sweep right over you.

At times, I don’t know how you’re going to do it, mama, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it … but what I do know is that we will do itbecause we have the arms of the Father to guide and carry us through.

We are safe and secure and victorious in Him. So lift up your beautiful, tear-stained face and know that there is grace for today. And that is all we need.

He will never fail to give us our daily bread. We need only run to Him, ask, and be filled.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 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.

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV

There is Room

Just last month, the She Speaks conference took place in North Carolina, and boy—did my heart ever long to be there. This conference, started by Lysa Terkeurst, provides guidance and support for those who feel called to communicate God’s word and truth through writing, speaking, or leadership in some capacity.

Authors and speakers attend. Publishers attend. Editors and agents are there, too. For an inspiring writer or speaker, it’s an experience that provides the kind of guidance and inspiration that can keep you going for months. God is there, speaking through so many Godly women who are faithfully fulfilling their calling.

However, being super pregnant and on the other side of the country, the stars simply didn’t align for me to attend, and I’ll be honest—that was a tough limitation to accept. Reading posts in the COMPEL forum after the conference set my fomo into high gear.

Before I knew it, that insidious, sometimes subtle green monster began coiling around me, evoking feelings of envy and even something resembling panic.

 Did so-and-so get an agent?

What if someone pitched an idea similar to mine??

I’ve missed my chance because I wasn’t able to attend this year!

The comparison trap comes calling, and we all know where that leads: either unnecessary insecurity at the thought that someone might be more talented than us or unfounded pride at the thought that we might be more talented than someone else … both routes are icky and paved with loathing and lies.

Wide Open Spaces

Maybe you aren’t an aspiring writer, but I’m willing to bet there’s at least one area of your life where that ugly green monster of jealousy threatens to swoop in and steal your joy and security.

What if her kids are smarter/more well behaved/more successful than mine?

What if she throws a more impressive birthday party than I do?

What if she has a more prestigious job than I do?

What if her husband is more successful than mine?

You and I know full well the life-sucking ability this type of internal dialogue affords. In no time, we’re viewing each other as potential threats. In the oxygen-deprived depths of the comparison trap, it’s so easy for us to feel as though all resources are scarce. As if there’s only room for one great writer or one greater decorator or one great party planner or one great marriage.

But you know what, dear reader? There is another way to navigate the unattractive, sticky route of jealousy rising. You and I don’t have to choose insecurity or pride when the seductive green monster whispers in our ears that someone else is a threat.

Can I remind you of a most comforting truth that God has been pressing in on my threatened heart lately?

There is room.

There is room for you, and there is room for me.

There is room for your co-worker. There is room for that acquaintance whose magazine-like wardrobe threatens to throw you off your game. There is room for your friend who could give Joanna Gaines a run for her money.

There is room, my friend.

Secure in Him

It’s a hard truth to admit, but jealousy is a very real and often prevalent emotion we experience—one that goes beyond the realm of junior high and bickering over boyfriends. Though interestingly, we spend precious little time discussing or even acknowledging its reality as we grow older.

But this intense emotion, if not taken to the Lord and dealt with properly, is bound and determined to come out and manifest in some way in our lives. We are far better off to simply acknowledge the hard and sometimes ugly truth that we are jealous of another’s circumstances or good fortune.

And as believers, the excellent news is that we are not obligated to succumb to such an unpleasant feeling—we are secure in Christ! We have everything we need, at all times, to fulfill the unique calling God places on each of our lives.

It’s so easy to lose sight of this security, particularly in our Internet and social media-saturated world. And yet, no matter what amazing experiences and opportunities your Facebook and Instagram friends may be having, your purpose and place will never be thwarted or threatened.

I love the words of Psalm 16:5—

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure (NIV).

Another “life verse” to which I’ve clung is Psalm 138:8—

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

And of course, I know many of you are familiar with one of the most often-quoted verses, Jeremiah 29:11—

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 (NIV).

From Old Testament to New, the scriptures are full of promises regarding our security in Christ. And if we are willing, we can sink into and rest in these promises. We don’t have to allow the enemy to use jealousy as a means of creating separation and division in our relationships.

With our eyes firmly fixed on Him, we are able to view each other with love—as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is room for each and every one of us, because our security is in Him alone …

and it will never be shaken.

Choose to Celebrate

Years ago, Andy Stanley preached an excellent sermon on the topic of jealousy and, most importantly, how we can combat it. His words have stuck with me ever since.

Simply put, the anecdote to our envy is to celebrate. Celebrate another’s success, good fortune, happy circumstances, or whatever the case may be.

That green monster is going to do its best to shut us up and have us ignore another’s pleasant circumstances. Yet we have the ability to wholly and utterly neutralize the ickiness of envy, simply by choosing to celebrate with one another.

So over these next few weeks, I challenge you to jump in and choose celebration—the next time you feel that tension rising, stop and celebrate with your friend, neighbor, co-worker, whomever.

When you are overcome with the urge to ignore another’s success, don’t. Don’t ignore, don’t scroll on by as if that picture or status update didn’t exist, don’t stuff it down (it won’t stay down, anyway).

Celebrate, knowing that there is room. You are so secure, so loved, and so seen in Christ. No one and nothing can threaten that!

Give it a try, and see what happens. I have a strong feeling that those heavy-feeling chains will fall off in an instant. You will reap the benefit of a lighter heart and knowing you helped encourage a fellow journeyer along the way.

Be blessed, dear reader, be blessed.

Mere copy

Great Expectations

Lately, not much in life is going quite as expected.

Case in point, I spent several hours in Labor & Delivery triage one morning this week, where our baby girl and I were monitored to ensure I wasn’t going into preterm labor. We are all thrilled to meet her, but she needs to stay put for another several weeks! Waking up that day, I wondered what I would do with the kiddos all morning—options such as pool or park made their way to my mental list.

Spending time at the hospital and having my husband rearrange his day to take care of the kiddos did not.

It’s just the latest example in a string of circumstances that aren’t mirroring what I expected or planned—and as any of you mamas out there know, the need to “nest” and plan and control things skyrockets with the approach of a new baby. Indeed, I find the sweet term “nesting” to be synonymous with “trying to doing everything in my hormonal power to control circumstances in preparation for circumstances over which I have no control.”

Or something to that effect.

In moments of self-reflection, I’m amazed at just how many expectations I place on all kinds of things—and very often without even realizing it! I’m not always aware of the “plan” I have until things go off plan, and I’m left feeling disappointed, confused, or frustrated.

Can you relate? Oftentimes, many of our biggest messes find their genesis in the unmet expectations we place on people and things. When we’re each carrying around our own agendas, its no wonder life can feel so full of conflict and disappointments!

It seems that creating expectations is a part of our very DNA—a highly human and normal thing to do. God is acutely aware of this, for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14 NIV). And in His goodness and compassion, He provided the outlet for all our expectations by sending us Jesus.

I believe God’s heart for us is that we would take our expectations—every single one—and bring them to the feet of Jesus, placing them all in the cool shadow of the cross.

God’s Word and His promises are the only thing upon which we can place our expectations and know with certainty that we won’t face disappointment. The things of this world will leave us in a near perpetual state of let down, but in Him we are promised an enduring hope [that] does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:5 NIV).

I don’t know about you, but my little organizing and planning heart loves that I can continue forming expectations—just as long as I file them in the proper place:

I can expect to never be left alone (see John 14:18).

I can expect that all things—good and bad—will be used and redeemed for my ultimate good and God’s ultimate glory (see Romans 8:28).

I can expect that God has a plan and is making a way, even when the path up ahead seems muddied and too difficult (see Jeremiah 29:11).

I can expect the consistency and steadiness of character from God that I so very much crave in this fickle world (see Hebrews 13:8).

Are you finding yourself disappointed and frustrated these days? Then let me encourage you to dig into God’s word, and find a promise or two that speaks to your weary heart. Find that promise, write it on a notecard, and let the whisper of those life-giving words be ever on your lips.

Ask Him for help in transferring your expectations from the people and things of this world to the arms of Jesus alone. I find myself needing to pray this prayer on a daily basis.

Stepping out in total reliance on the promises of God is a lot like watching baby birds learning to fly. It’s terrifying as all get out, and at first it seems like a really dumb idea … but then, like some kind of supernatural magic, those little birds leave the nest and soar.

And so will you.

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

~ William Carey

Blessings,

Mere copy

When You Can’t Fight Your Battles

At nearly 8 months pregnant, I am feeling the slow down in every cell of my body. I’ve reached that point where even basic things—like simply getting out of bed—now require ninja-like stealth maneuvers (tuck and roll comes to mind).

I’m also in the thick of so-called “pregnancy brain,” so-called because it’s real. Every resource in the body is directed to growing and nourishing this new life, leaving very little oxygen available to make its way to the brain.

This can result in frantically looking for your keys when they’re right there in your hand, calling your children by your pet’s names, or putting cereal in the refrigerator (or sometimes a combination of all three!).

Needless to say, I feel fragile most days—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’m tired. I’m worn down and hyper-aware of my growing limitations. Sometimes, it takes a rally of strength just to get up, sip coffee, and open God’s Word in the morning.

Can you relate? Maybe you’re not rearranging your insides to accommodate a growing baby, but perhaps you find yourself in a similar season of fatigue and vulnerability. Any number of circumstances can drain the “fight” right out of us: relational conflict, physical illness, financial pressure, job-related stress … the list could go on and on.

Such trials empty us of the energy needed to join God and fight our enemy on a daily basis; before long, we can begin feeling a bit like that poor wildebeest at the back of the pack, flailing wildly to escape the predator’s hungry grasp.

We’ve all watched enough National Geographic to know how that story ends … and quite similarly, we have an enemy who is ever vigilant and never tires of pursuing our destruction and separation from God. That thought could threaten to overwhelm us if it weren’t for this most excellent news:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4 NIV, emphasis added).

Yes, our enemy is fierce and vigilant, but our God is more fierce and more vigilant. We grow weary and tired, but our God never does. He is always “on.” He is always ready to fight for us:

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:28-29 NIV).

Such words are a balm to my exhausted self in this season of weakness.

Dear reader, are you tired? Have you lost your “fight” in the swirling sea of taxing circumstances?

Then let God fight your battles for you.

You and I are not alone in this fight. When the Israelites prepared to cross the Red Sea and escape certain death at the hands of the Egyptians, God spoke a most beautiful promise to them through Moses:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14 NIV).

And I firmly believe God whispers the same promise to you and me today. You and I need only to be still, to sink into the inexhaustible strength of Jesus, and to embrace the treasures waiting for us in this vulnerable space.

Your fatigue and mine is a gateway into more complete reliance on God and a deeper rest than we’ve ever known.

Let us not fear being brought to the place of full surrender, for who knows what gifts await at the utter end of ourselves? For when we are weak, then we are strong in Him.

Oh, that God would open up the floodgates of His energy today and fill our storehouses to overflowing!

Blessings,

Mere copy

Just a Crib

These days, life is best summed up in one word: transition.

My body is transitioning as baby #3 grows and prepares to make her arrival. Our guest room is transitioning to a nursery for said baby girl. And most recently, we transitioned our son from a nursery to a bona fide “big boy” room, one full of furniture that will likely last him until he’s ready to leave our home (oh, banish the thought!).

And let me tell you something: I cried taking that crib apart. Cried like a baby (no pun intended). Emptying those baby dresser drawers took my breath away, especially when I came across one of the tiny bracelets that adorned his ankle during our hospital stay.

My chest has never been so tight with sentiment. Weren’t we just picking this furniture out? Weren’t we just setting up this sweet baby’s crib?

The intense, raw emotion of it all took me by surprise—after all, it’s just a crib, right?

Then again, it’s so much more than that. It’s a crib I dreamt of buying for years. It’s a crib I stood and prayed over many a late night as I watched Isaiah sleep and dream. It’s a crib that held our son’s tiny, precious body for all this time as we’ve watched him grow from infant to toddler in what feels like overnight.

It is a physical representation of one of the happiest seasons of my life.

Yes, it is merely a piece of furniture, but it carries the divine stamp of my loving Heavenly Father—a Father who caught all my tears during the excruciating months of longing, waiting, and heartache as we faced infertility. That crib, simple as it is, represents answered prayer.

The book of Joshua recounts another beautiful example of answered prayer. After 40 years of desert wandering, the Lord led Israel across the Jordan River and into the long-awaited Promised Land. Once safely on the other side, He commanded each tribe of Israel to gather a stone from the middle of the Jordan to serve as a sign:

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord … These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever (Joshua 4:6-7 NIV).

You would think after such a miraculous occurrence, Israel would need no help in remembering what God did … but past behavior revealed just how in need they were of such a memorial. And if we’re honest, we too are just as needy for memorials in our lives.

The unfortunate truth is, we are far too quick to forget God’s past goodness to us whenever we’re facing a new trial. Our Creator God knows us, and He knows our human frailty. In His wisdom He directed the people to construct a physical structure to remind them of a spiritual victory … forever.

My son’s crib is more than mere wood and nails—it is a “memorial stone,” a tangible piece of evidence highlighting the intangible, glorious faithfulness of God. The pictures and memories of it will indeed always serve as a memorial of God’s goodness to our family.

What about you—are you setting up memorial stones? Or are you allowing the harsh flood waters of life to sweep right over the evidence of God’s goodness to you? Like the Israelites, it’s all too easy for us to enter a new trial and quickly forget God’s past faithfulness. Let’s not make the same mistake!

Today, may you and I join with the Psalmist and sing of the Lord’s great love forever (Psalm 89:1 NIV). May we boldly step into the Jordan of our past and dig out a few memorial stones. And each time we run our hands over those smooth, lovely stones, may the evidence of God’s goodness strengthen and encourage us for all our days to come.

Blessings,

Mere copy

When it Feels Like “The End”

One of my favorite features on Facebook is the “On this Day” memory that pops up from day to day. Just the other week, I was reminded of a picture frame I purchased shortly before we left Atlanta for California—a lovely, sweet picture frame, perfect for a nursery.

I bought this frame on faith, tucking it away for a nursery I wasn’t sure would ever exist. I had no idea that just 3 months later, I’d be holding a positive pregnancy test in my hand, dumbfounded and overwhelmed with happiness. That frame now holds a picture of Aaron and me with our firstborn son, and it brings me deep joy every time I look at it.

Now, nearly four years later, I find myself with heart and hands impossibly full. I find myself living in a home filled with the boisterous laughter and cries of a son and daughter more precious than I could have imagined. I find myself cherishing tiny baby kicks as we anxiously await the arrival of baby #3.

And as crazy as it sounds, God has been speaking to me through those Facebook memories.

He has been speaking to me of His deep, abiding love for me. Of His goodness towards me. Of His tenderness and devotion.

Truthfully, these are all things I’ve struggled with believing over the past several years. Looking back over my life with some time and perspective, I’ve seen how failures, sins, and deep heartaches began taking their toll on my belief in God’s unwavering devotion to me.

Have your circumstances ever left you feeling this way? That somehow, God loves other people more than He loves you? I have struggled with this insidious belief—and it’s a lie straight from the smoldering, black heart of our enemy.

When we received a diagnosis of unexplained infertility in December 2010, I cracked. It was the proverbial straw that broke this tired camel’s back. A seed of doubt and mistrust planted itself in my heart and began to sprout, even while I continued in faithful service to and relationship with God.

Yet it grew, leading me to view every event, circumstance, and painful trial through the budding branches of doubt in God’s love for me. In such foliage, Satan has his field day.

If you were as good as so-and-so, you wouldn’t be experiencing this trial.

 God blessed so-and-so more because He loves her more than He loves you.

 God will never love you as much as He once did because of that sin you committed.

These hideous lies hung over me during an intense time of “sifting” in my life. I thought by now that every trace of their existence had been removed, yet God has been “cleaning house” in my heart, deeply scrubbing and washing away the lingering remnants and manifestations of these agreements I’d made with the enemy.

As I wrestled through these agreements early one morning, sitting in baby girl’s budding nursery with tears of thankfulness streaming down my face, God impressed upon me a powerful word that I want to share with you all. It isn’t new or unique, but it came to me at just the right time, and thus I am compelled to speak these words to you in the hopes that you too are in just the right place to receive them:

Your story isn’t over yet.

The truth contained in these five simple words has the power to change everything about the way we live and perceive God.

In 2010, when I drew conclusions about God’s goodness towards me based on our infertility struggle, I was drawing conclusions about who God is based on imperfect, impartial, and incomplete information.

My arms were empty at that point, but the story wasn’t over yet. I’m guessing God would have loved to reach down, give me a little shake, and say keep going! Keep reading! This isn’t the end!

And the same is true for you. Whatever you’re facing, wherever you are in this very moment—your story isn’t over yet.

Your broken marriage isn’t the end. Your job loss isn’t the end. Your battle with addiction isn’t the end. Your heartaches, hang ups, and struggles are not the end of the story God is writing in your life.

And even more amazing for us as His children? Even death is not the ultimate end, for we will share all of eternity with Him and the family of believers.

Whatever your story, dear reader, God is not finished with you yet! No matter how final your circumstances may feel, this is not the end. Don’t draw conclusions about who God is and how He loves you as if it is the end.

The disciples did this upon Jesus’ death—they disbanded and ran for cover, afraid and confused and hurting. I can only imagine how utterly miserable that Passover must have been for them …

… but in reality, that Passover was the Passover to end all Passovers! The definitive Passover Lamb had finished His work. Thousands of years of prophecy and scripture came to fulfillment. What an amazing, unbelievable thought.

The greatest event in History was taking place, all while Jesus’ disciples cowered and cried, and His most enthusiastic follower denied His existence three times over.

But as we with the advantage of time well know, the story wasn’t even close to over! And Peter, that most animated of followers, went from denying Jesus to becoming the rock upon which God built His church (see Matthew 16:18).

Your story isn’t over yet.

Hang on, sweet reader, hang on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep pressing on as Paul did (see Philippians 3:14). Keep reading—you’re not to the end just yet.

Cling tightly to the truth that God is good, even when your circumstances are not, and let the ultimate Author continue writing His divine masterpiece in the broken mess of your dearly loved human life.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

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.

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV.

Bumps, Bruises, & All

I recently heard through the proverbial “grapevine” some shocking truths about a long-ago acquaintance and the trials she’s been experiencing. For days, my mind had a difficult time reconciling these facts with the shiny, perfect exterior that’s been displayed over the years.

Truth is, we rarely know what people’s lives are really like. It reminds me of that quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Indeed—no matter what someone’s Instagram account may look like.

My shock turned to sadness and then to great empathy—how I know all-too-well the realities of living a mismatched life, where the outside and inside don’t necessarily agree. Aaron and I ran into marriage troubles quite early in our journey, and for a long time I carried the burden in secret—doing my best to ensure we looked like the perfect “Southern Christian” couple on the outside while my heart was breaking on the inside.

The whole thing sent my mind to pondering how amazingly gifted we humans are in the art of rug sweeping. In effortless fashion, we are adept at hiding, disguising, and covering over all the broken, crooked, and ugly places in our stories. With the skill of a Hollywood makeup artist, we conceal all our flaws; only we know the truth that lies beneath the layers of foundation and powder—the bumps, bruises, and all.

But I can’t help but think that perhaps we have it all wrong: we gloss over anything unpleasant and imperfect, yet this is where the good stuff lies. This is where God’s incredible love, power, and redemption can take center stage, bringing Him glory and us abundant life … but here we are, sweeping it all away.

God’s power isn’t displayed in the achieving of false perfection in our outward veneer—His power is displayed through the supernatural redemption He brings in the very middle of our mess!

In the broken relationships with family and friends. The bad marriage. The wayward child. The sick family member. The disastrous career or finances.

Such trials set the stage for the power of Jesus to blow our minds.

The gospel of John tells the beautiful story of a blind man whom Jesus healed. This man, blind from birth, not only carried the burden of living with a severe disability; he also carried with him the intense stigma of sin, as the culture of that day believed that his blindness was directly caused by either his sin or that of his parent’s.

Even Jesus’ disciples held this belief and asked Jesus outright, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2 NIV). The response Jesus gave holds just as much relevance and meaning for us today as it did that day:

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ (John 9:3 NIV).

And was it ever! This man morphed from blind and stigmatized to fully seeing, fully rejoicing, and fully committed to Christ, becoming a loyal spokesman for Him. The Pharisees could debate the deity of Jesus all day long, but they couldn’t argue with the proof of His divine and miraculous healing power.

And so it is with us: the tough places in our lives, the places we’d rather cover up, can become the materials for miracles! Our greatest agony can become our greatest avenue for displaying God’s work.

Satan wants us to cover up and sweep away. He’s desperate to keep our mouths shut, lost forever in the trap of thinking I’m the only one with this problem. We look around and think everyone but us has it all together. But I truly believe, whatever your trials—wherever they fall on the spectrum from first world to third—you wouldn’t have to look very far to find another person similarly situated.

I want to whisper a scary but incredibly freeing truth into your ear: you don’t have to live a lie. I know it’s terrifying to lower that mask, even a little, but the freedom found in embracing your story far outweighs the momentary fear.

The blind man in John 9 couldn’t hide his blindness … perhaps we shouldn’t hide ours anymore, either?

When we willingly and humbly bring it all before God, we are bringing Him pure gold with which He can work. There is power in story, so much power in seeing how God can take a marriage in ruins and breathe new life into it. How He can bring back the wayward child. How He is able to heal relationships that once seemed beyond repair. How He is able to sustain, strengthen, and give joy in the midst of illness, even if the healing doesn’t come.

Rather than lie about the less-than-shiny parts of your story, God wants you to leverage those tough parts for a place in His ultimate story.

I’m not suggesting everyone go out, start a blog, and begin spilling your guts … God calls different people to different things, certainly. But perhaps you might begin, ever so slightly, to let go of that need and pressure to pretend everything is perfect.

Perhaps over this next week or two, you could begin thinking of a trusted someone with whom you can pull back the rug and simply be yourself—warts and all. Someone with whom you can simply exhale, setting down the burden of chasing perfection, even for just a moment.

I know it’s scary … but don’t allow the enemy to entangle you with fear …

There’s freedom waiting for you.

There’s encouragement for others.

There’s peace in having your inner and outer lives reconciled.

What are you waiting for? Take a chance and give your loving Heavenly Father the opportunity to display His power in your story.

You just might find yourself living with new eyes and greater vision for all God has for you in the midst of that story—bumps, bruises, and all.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

This post is a part of this summer’s series Finding Meaning in the MessAll summer, we’ll be diving into the faith lessons we canSummertimeTheme learn in the midst of our everyday lives. God can teach us through all kinds of trials, big or small–let’s commit to drawing nearer to Him and hearing His voice!

Come back next Friday as we’ll continue the discussion on story and how God is purposefully and lovingly writing out the story of your life!

Older posts Newer posts

© 2017 Oceans Deep

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑