Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Give Thanks

I Hate Goodbyes

Y’all.

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

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

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

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

My desiccated marriage needed nurturing.

My empty body ached for children.

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

My shriveled faith needed the floodgates of refreshment.

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

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

A marriage put on the path toward restoration and joy.

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

Friends who became like family.

A faith tested and hammered and strengthened and deepened.

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

This isn’t easy

This isn’t clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love & many blessings—

 

 

 

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

 

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,

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

 

 

Bright Spots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Mere copy

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