Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Life (page 1 of 2)

When God Has Other Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heartaches that my college-self never could have imagined.

Conflict. Betrayal. Infertility. Loneliness. Autism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps today you are struggling with your own why?

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

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

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

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

He is enough.

 

Blessings,

Summer School: A Lesson in God’s Sovereignty

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

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

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

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

That’s right, a house.

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

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

What if the house doesn’t sell?

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

What if we end up carrying two mortgages?

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

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

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

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

If only.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

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

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

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

Saying “hello” kind of sinks too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Stop resisting God’s teaching in your transition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many blessings, y’all–

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—

 

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Pregnant Pause

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

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

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

And that is perfectly fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, be blessed!

Much love,

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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.

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