Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Life (page 1 of 2)

I Hate Goodbyes

Y’all.

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

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

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

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

My desiccated marriage needed nurturing.

My empty body ached for children.

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

My shriveled faith needed the floodgates of refreshment.

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

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

A marriage put on the path toward restoration and joy.

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

Friends who became like family.

A faith tested and hammered and strengthened and deepened.

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

This isn’t easy

This isn’t clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love & many blessings—

 

 

 

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

 

Back to Basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the good fight of faith can be utterly exhausting.

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

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

Do you really believe I’m good to You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

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

The Art of Living on Crumbs

Have you ever found yourself in an overwhelming season? I chuckle as I write that, because I’m guessing 99.9% of us could answer yes.

These days, I find myself thick in the weeds of an overwhelming season of motherhood and life in general. Seems like every week is a study in the dichotomous world of being so full and yet so empty at the same time.

So full of to do’s and appointments.

So empty of rest or down time.

So full of noise and laughter and tears and squeals.

So empty of peace and calm.

So full of care for babies and loved ones and friends and dogs.

So empty of time for self-care.

The days are jam-packed with to do’s and have to’s. We’re facing a cross-country move and all the thousands of details that go along with it. We’re juggling preschool and a crazy therapy schedule and doctor’s appointments and a potential ASD diagnosis for our son. We’re quickly approaching months of transition and uprooting and change as we prepare to head back South.

There is so much to do and yet so little time … can you relate? The hard truth is, motherhood or any particularly overwhelming season often leaves us surviving on crumbs.

We eat after everyone else has eaten. We sleep after every one else has fallen asleep. We burn the midnight oil, we wake up early, we tend to every detail of everyone else. We are typically the ones exacting the hard, daily discipline of our children.

It’s enough to leave even the heartiest of souls weary and weighed down at times. In these seasons, how thankful I am for the rock-solid promises our Heavenly Father has given us, like this one from Isaiah:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand … For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you (Isaiah 41:10 & 13 NIV).

Let those beautiful words wash over you. Think about them in the context of whatever you’re facing today.

Surviving on crumbs may leave us feeling empty, but the fidgety discomfort created by this emptiness is what drives us into the arms of Jesus. In this place—where we are so depleted and so aware of our own weakness—we have no choice but to sink into His promises.

The crumbs empty us of ourselves, making space for the glorious riches of His love and grace to invade.

And the most soul-soothing truth about these crumbs? Our God is able to turn them into satisfaction and fullness. The same God who fed 5,000 people with one boy’s lunch (see John 6) can perform a similar miracle in our hearts today.

Whatever your crumbs may be, gather them up and bring them before His throne. I don’t know about you, but too often I approach God the way I approach other people: I only want to come before Him when I’m OK, when I’ve “got it all together.” I resist bringing Him my mess and unrest.

But through this intensely hot and pressure-filled season, I’m being forced to approach God with my crumbs and my overwhelm and my unmet to do’s. I am learning to open up and truly pour out my complaint to Him—every single thing, big or small, that breaks my heart, weighs me down, confuses my mind, and troubles my spirit.

Bring your crumbs to Him, dear reader, and find fullness—even when you’re running on empty. Find fullness as you feast on crumbs in the filling company of your loving Heavenly Father and His grace upon grace.

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:16 ESV)

 

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!

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

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

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

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

Let’s do this, I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

Funny how that works.

Can you relate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed, dear reader—

 

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

Pain & Purpose

I saw her in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. In that small, fluorescent-lit room full of nervous energy and quiet, patiently waiting patients, she came in crying.

No, wailing. It wasn’t a gentle cry, but one of a deeper, desperate origin.

She was in pain—an agony that appeared to far surpass the basic stimulation of sensory receptors. The sound of her voice, the crease in her forehead, and the way she weakly held onto her partner signaled something far deeper than a mere physical injury.

In that moment, I felt paralyzed by her presence, and everyone around me appeared paralyzed too. As if in unison, we all looked down, looked away, pulled out our phones or magazines, and tried to politely ignore the scene unfolding before our eyes.

What a helpless feeling, I thought. This woman, this stranger, was so clearly in a state of desperate agony—and in the discomfort of a public place, no less. I longed to do more than simply stare at my phone and pretend not to hear or see her. I wanted to jump up and give her a hug. And after a cursory scan of the faces of those around me, I’m certain I wasn’t the only one with such thoughts.

The Fellowship of Suffering

The whole scene left me shaken and uncomfortable and thinking a great deal about pain. What is the purpose of pain, and what does it mean to walk with someone in his or her pain?

The conference we attended earlier this month focused a lot on story and the power our stories of hurt and redemption possess. To walk into someone’s story is to stand on holy ground—it is an honor to be invited into the middle of a person’s pain. To suffer with another is truly a privilege.

I used to scratch my head at some of Paul’s words regarding Christ and His sufferings. In Philippians 3:10, for example, he writes: I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings (NIV).

It wasn’t until recently that I realized Paul wasn’t expressing a desire to partake in Christ’s suffering simply for the sake of suffering—rather, he desired the fellowship that arises when we partake in another’s suffering. In general, we all love to blast our happy, polished, photo-shopped selves into the social media vortex … but our pain? Our struggles? Those things that keep us up at night? Those things that make us who we really are? Those we typically reserve for a very select few—those with whom we have real and genuine relationships.

Paul understood this, and he experienced firsthand the sweet, intimate fellowship that comes when we follow Christ in the dark as well as the light. None of us would choose pain, but the sweetness of sharing in each other’s suffering provides a soft cushion to ease our discomfort.

Driving Us to the Cross

The concept of pain has also been on my mind lately because I’ve experienced my fair share of it in recent weeks. Basically, ever since we returned from our trip a couple weeks ago, we’ve been hit with all kinds of pain: emotional, physical, and spiritual.

Our daughter breaking her arm in two places (I don’t have to explain to you how miserable ERs and X-rays and doctor’s offices are for toddlers!).

Old marriage and relationship issues bubbling up to the surface again.

A 3 ½ day long migraine that would not let up or let go, no matter what I tried.

On the third day of that monster migraine, I felt utterly wiped and exhausted, laid out before the Lord. I was desperate to understand why He would allow such physical pain—when I knew He could wipe it out in a moment.

I didn’t receive the answer I expected or desired (e.g., an instant lifting of the pain!), but as He so often does, God ever so gently reminded me of the immense importance and purpose of pain in our lives.

The simple, difficult truth is, pain—if we allow it—drives us to the foot of the cross like little else in this life can. In the shadow of the old rugged cross, we are stripped of our false sense of control. The illusion of self-sufficiency vanishes. Pride and false humility find their replacement in a spirit that’s genuinely still and humble before God. In this state, we are ready to hear God speak.

Pain of any type or magnitude is a pointed reminder of how much we need God our Father, who holds all things in His hands—and He wants nothing more than for us to run to and lean into Him. As Jesus so beautifully said:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NIV).

Sweet Surrender

Birth provides a poignant metaphor for us all: without pain, there can be no new life. Life, breath, new beginnings … all of these glorious, desirable things are born of pain.

God used my pain to remind me that He is the giver and provider of new life and restoration—these are not things I can bring about in my own strength. He illuminated rough edges in my heart and reminded me of my utter need and dependence on His strength. Pain has an uncanny way of pulling back the curtain and giving us a peek at our own frailty.

What is God trying to teach you through your pain? If you aren’t sure, then ask Him. I believe He will be faithful to answer, every time we ask, because He longs for us to bring all our cares, pain, and suffering to Him rather than carrying it on our own as we’re so apt to do.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NIV).

Go to Him and surrender. Surrender your pain and surrender to what that pain has to teach you. As you do so, not only will you find rest for your own soul, but you will be far better equipped to walk with others in their pain.

Our Heavenly Father loves you, and He loves me. He jealously pursues us, sometimes through the difficult avenue of pain. Whatever He’s trying to teach you? Well, He’s not going to let it go, because He loves us that much.

Surrender into His loving arms, knowing that we never suffer in vain or without purpose. And as you wait in that place of surrender—in quiet anticipation at what new life can be born of your pain—may you feel the comfort of His presence in the very midst of your discomfort.

Making a Deal With the Devil

Hello readers! And may I begin by thanking you for the outpouring of love and congrats after my last post. Y’all know how strongly I believe in our need for community, and I’m honored you would share in mine. Within community, we find our joy multiplied and our sorrows halved, all by God’s good design.

This week, I find myself continuing to process what my husband and I experienced last weekend at The Restoration of the Heart conference we attended in Colorado Springs. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect going into this event, but I certainly didn’t expect what we encountered. You would think I’d have learned my lesson about expectations by now!

The weekend was essentially a two-day, crazy intense counseling session, and it was deep! Oftentimes, you can attend a conference and sit back, take it all in, and go back home feeling pretty good about whatever nugget of knowledge you learned.

Not so with this conference.

John Eldridge and Dan Allender have a God-given ability to point a spotlight into the furthest, most hidden recesses of your heart and soul, illuminating the broken places, for the distinct purpose of finding restoration.

The theme of restoration is key in the life of a believer, as it’s what God desires for our lives: restoration of the heart and soul, bringing wholeness to all the places that have been damaged over the course of our lives. God’s heart rejoices in and celebrates new life. It’s why He sent His son on our behalf!

Let’s face it, we are all damaged beings—some in “large” ways, some in “small,” but the ultimate impact is the same: our souls have been broken, and we’ve believed the enemy’s lies about ourselves and our circumstances. Our Heavenly Father longs to restore order, wholeness, and joy to our souls, and He can!

Over the course of the weekend, we camped out in a beautiful portion of scripture from the book of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … (Isaiah 61:1-2 NIV).

This passage so wonderfully highlights God’s desire for us: healing of our hearts, freedom from all that bind us up, and moving out of darkness into His marvelous light. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I want for my life and the lives of my children!

An abundance of things threaten to come against establishing and maintaining wholeness and restoration, but the one that struck me most was the concept of making agreements. The speakers explained that we make an agreement with our enemy whenever we hear one of his lies and decide to believe it. It isn’t merely hearing the lie—it’s shaking hands with the enemy and saying, in essence, I agree with you.

And once we make that agreement? We’ve entered dangerous territory, for now that lie becomes our truth and the filter through which we view and interpret everything that happens to us. Our perspective is fatally flawed and will remain that way unless and until we take that agreement to the feet of Jesus and break it.

Over the course of the past several years, God has been working in me to identify and break many of the agreements I’ve made along the way, the chief of them being who I am is not enough. This conference was so powerful, and God used it to dig even deeper into that agreement and reveal new truth and life.

It is so hard to reach into our past and face the heartbreaking experiences we’ve had—our natural human response is to avoid pain, and we build walls to protect ourselves from ever experiencing those emotions again … but the truth is, what we build for our protection, the enemy uses against us. Rather than finding relief behind those walls, we end up isolated and so bound up that we’re unable to live the glorious life Jesus intended us to live:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10 NIV).

Dear reader, where has the thief stolen and killed and destroyed in your life? What deals have you struck with the devil as a result of your pain?

That you’re not good enough?

That God isn’t good enough?

That God loves others more than you?

That God isn’t able to restore?

There’s no end to the number of lies the enemy brings to our feet—and so often, those lies are tucked into our fears. This conference has opened my eyes to the reality that we are tempted to make those agreements nearly on a daily basis, and I am moving forward more attuned to the enemy and his schemes.

And that is my prayer for you as well. As hard and as scary as it can be, don’t allow fear to prevent you from diving into your brokenness and inviting Jesus into those places you have walled off, perhaps for your entire life. He is faithful and will reveal those agreements you have made with the enemy along the way … and when he does, break them then and there! Freedom and joy await on the other side of those agreements, more than you can imagine!

Wholeness is yours in Christ. Restoration is your inheritance in Him. Through Jesus, every single one of us has access to new, abundant life in the radiance of His presence. The only question is, will you join Him?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

When Chaos Reigns

Hello there, dear reader. Today, I’m writing with a heavy heart—one weighed down by a hefty dose of disappointment and uncertainty.

This week, we received some icky news—our church’s beloved senior pastor resigned, our staff has essentially been gutted, and the future of our church body doesn’t look so hot from this vantage point. It’s one of those unfortunate situations where you do the math, but all it adds up to is loss, confusion, and a plethora of unpleasant emotions all around.

And, when such powerful changes and emotions take place within the church body? Well, you can practically hear the enemy dancing for joy. This is just the type of chaos in which he thrives.

And chaos it is, indeed. My heart aches for our pastor, our church body, and the difficult days to come as we sort through the upheaval and look for solid ground once again.

The whole situation set me to thinking about those things in our lives that seemingly come out of the blue: disappointments, changes in plans, heartache, pain, betrayal, the list could go on and on. When turmoil comes crashing into our lives, we have the distinct disadvantage of having zero notice.

And sometimes, it’s enough to make me a little jaded, a little pity-party prone … that is, of course, until I turn my focus to the fact that our God sees it all. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Nothing takes Him by storm.

Those things that rock us to our core?

He knew they were coming. And He still has a plan, no matter how unplanned and chaotic the circumstances may appear to us.

In seasons where chaos reigns, it’s critical to remember the omniscient nature of God. At all times, He is all knowing:

“Omniscient” is defined as having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things (source: dictionary.com).

When something or someone throws us off our axis and life feels out of control, we must rest in the truth that God is still very much in control.

In times of pandemonium, we must cling to the hope of His promises and His beautiful words of truth. Psalm 121 reminds us of our Father’s “I’ve got this” position:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He Will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber … the Lord watches over you … The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life;

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:1-2, 3, 5, & 7-8 NIV).

I love the overriding message of this passage—that no matter what’s going on, no matter how crazy or uncertain or unexpected, God is watching you. And He’s watching me. He is sovereign in the chaos and the calm.

Psalm 34:18 tells us that The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (NIV).

Is your heart broken today? Are you feeling crushed under the weight of your circumstances? Take heart, dear reader—the Lord is closer to you than ever!

And the following verse says that A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19 NIV).

In this season of uncertainty surrounding my church family, I’m counting on the Lord’s deliverance and provision for the future. I will rest in knowing that this change hasn’t taken Him by surprise and somehow, someway, He will weave the story together into a beautiful, redemptive narrative as only He can.

And the same is true for you and your chaos.

So let’s agree to band together against the schemes of the enemy. Let’s refuse to allow a root of bitterness to emerge in the fertile soil of disorder and disarray. Let’s take captive every angry, frustrated thought and scatter it to the four winds.

And let’s agree instead to hold fast to His Hand and allow ourselves to be carried until we can once again find our sea legs. I am confident it will be worth the wait!

Stones & Snakes

Hello, dear reader!

Today, I want to write about a tough subject: what do you do when you feel like God has abandoned or forgotten about you? I would venture to guess that if you’ve been a believer for any amount of time, you’ve run up against this awful, nagging doubt.

I know I have.

Some of the most “ick” feelings I’ve ever experienced have resulted from either believing or being tempted to believe the hideous lie that God has abandoned me. It’s a pain more intense than anything another human could bring about—we’re all fallen and imperfect, we know we’re inevitably going to hurt one another along the way.

But to feel that God has forgotten about us, His very own creation? That, my friend, is an ache too deep for the soul to bear.

It’s easy to find articles and posts about trusting God with all the little, annoying things in life—but what about when you’re truly struggling to believe and hang on in faith? In my experience, when those times come, it takes a lot more than a syrupy anecdote or flowery saying to lift my heart up and out of the pit. If you’re in that place today, I hope I’m able to imbue you with a little bit of encouragement.

Good Gifts?

As I’ve been marinating on and praying through some of my own difficult circumstances lately, I came across the following passage:

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV).

Though I’m familiar with this passage, two words jumped off the page at me: stones and snakes.

They punched me in the gut and left a lingering sinking feeling, because I had to admit that sometimes, it feels like I’ve been given stones and snakes instead of the good gifts for which I’d hoped and prayed. And I look at the circumstances of various dear friends and think, stones and snakes

That illness?

That marriage?

That infertility?

That loneliness?

That poverty?

When we find ourselves in these circumstances, it’s all too easy to sit down at the table and see a feast of anything and everything we never wanted. And as always, our enemy is all-too-eager to aid in encouraging that point of view, smoothly persuading us to believe that God has indeed left us with such empty fare, because—well, fill in the blank:

Because we’re not loved enough.

Because we’re not good enough.

Because we’re not significant enough.

Because we’re believing whatever heinous lie we’ve been told.

It all adds up and leads to that most dreaded of questions … Lord, why?

When you’re a toddler exploring your world, “why” is a perfectly reasonable and innocuous question. But when you’re an adult and you’re asking it of God? Well, that’s a different ballgame and one that carries unwelcomed implications.

Finding Light in the Darkness

I realize I’ve painted a bit of a bleak picture above, but—if we’re honest—this is our reality sometimes, right? The walls feel as though they’re caving in, the lights have gone out, and God seems as distant as some far off planet.

Thankfully, all is most certainly not lost, no matter what our hearts try to tell us. You want to know the beautiful truth about these times, these circumstances?

This is where faith is poised to soar.

This is where we can dig deep, lean heavy into Him. This is where we can uncover those “treasures of darkness” (see Isaiah 45:3). Indeed, those treasures that will only be found in darkness.

And in the dark, their beauty shines all the brighter, all the more remarkable.

As hard and as scary as it is—believe me, I know, I’ve been there—these are the places where you have the privilege of discovering the Father on a whole new level. You are presented with the opportunity to know Him at a depth few people ever reach.

So in the words of Journey, don’t stop believin’.

Better yet, in the words of Hebrews 10:35-36:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised (NIV).

When your banquet table is scattered with items you’d do anything to send back, don’t buy the lie that it’s Your Heavenly Father trading out good gifts for stones and snakes.

Trust His timing. Trust His plan. Know that He is working all things together for your ultimate good and His ultimate glory (see Romans 8:28).

I adore these poetic words from Habakkuk, and they have been a life raft during seasons of doubt:

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 (Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV, emphasis mine).

Today, you and I have the choice to see our circumstances with either spiritual eyes or with our own faulty human eyes. And if it looks like you’ve been left holding a stone today, take heart, dear one: God has you right where He wants you—ready to take your faith to the next level.

May we, like Habakkuk, cling to the truth of who we know Him to be, holding on in faith until we see what great things He has in store!

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