Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Meaning in the Mess (page 1 of 2)

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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Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

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

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

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

What about the toddler battling cancer?

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

Or the young boy locked in the world of Autism?

Or the young girl fighting severe seizures and their aftershocks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

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Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV

There is Room

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

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

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

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

 Did so-and-so get an agent?

What if someone pitched an idea similar to mine??

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

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

Wide Open Spaces

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

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

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

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

What if her husband is more successful than mine?

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

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

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

There is room.

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

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

There is room, my friend.

Secure in Him

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

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

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

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

I love the words of Psalm 16:5—

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

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

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

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

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV).

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

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

and it will never be shaken.

Choose to Celebrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed, dear reader, be blessed.

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On Your Firstborn’s First Day of Preschool

Dear mamas, on your firstborn’s first day of preschool,

My heart is with each of you in this season of firsts. I understand the lump in your throat and the streak of panic that arises every now and then as you prepare to send your firstborn off … I understand because I, too, have that lump and that panic.

We are in a unique slice of time here. Moms who have yet to cross this threshold don’t understand, because when you’re in the middle of babyhood, it’s hard to imagine your life will be anything but nap schedules and feeding routines and reaching the first-year milestones on time.

And moms who have already crossed this threshold tend to gently roll their eyes and think yeah, just wait until the first day of first grade … Or middle school … or high school … or [fill in the blank].

Yes, it’s only preschool—two days a week for a handful of hours. Yes, there are many, many more milestones, large and looming, to come. But that does not negate the very real emotion and significance of this seemingly small step …

It was hard to imagine it 3 years ago, but this quiet, beautiful season is coming to an end—even if for only a few hours a week. Our schedules will once again delineate between weekdays and weekends. Federal holidays will once again take on meaning. And probably for the first time since you yourself were in school, you’ll be thinking and planning within the bounds of semesters.

For those of us stay-at-home moms, this is the first step of separating from our child. For 3 years or more, our sweet firstborns have been wholly in our care. From the moment he was born, you’ve been the one loving, caring, and tending to him. You’ve been the one planning and organizing her days, living out the divine in the routine, everyday tasks of mom life.

And now we hand a small slice of that teaching, guiding, and learning into the hands of someone else. We begin helping our child peek outside the nest and see the world beyond the soft, safe feathers of home.

So I think perhaps this day is so emotional, not because of what it means in and of itself, but because of the enormous change it signifies: it is the first, small step onto a big, long path. The long path of separation. The long path of becoming his own person; of finding her own way. Of being immersed in influences other than that of your own family unit. Of learning to navigate their little worlds, baby step by baby step, on their own.

And that is why I cry. That is why my heart feels as though it might collapse on itself. This protected, precious child I’ve had the privilege of caring for now has to walk into the world and begin learning how to live in it.

There is pain in that world. There is hurt. There are hard, hard lessons to be learned, even for 3-year-olds. I’m in my 30’s, and I’m still not crazy about sharing (especially when it comes to dessert). I’m a wife and a mother and it still hurts when someone says or does something unkind, even though my adult brain can process the hurt and/or understand its origin.

As moms, we would do anything to shield our children from all hurt, if only that was possible … but it isn’t possible, and it isn’t our job, either. No, it is our job to shepherd and guide them as they enter the world—to love them with all our strength and pray that God gives us the words and the wisdom to handle the hurdles ahead.

Yes, I’m sure elementary school will be harder than this. And middle school harder than elementary. And high school harder than middle, and so on … but it all starts here.

Today.

Right where you and I find ourselves—helping our firstborn babies step their toes into the water.

So go ahead and shed those tears, mama. I know I will. Go ahead and feel those fears. I will whisper a prayer for you and for me.

Let it all out, and take it to the One who knows just what it’s like to let go and release His firstborn to a fallen world. The One who has carried your heart all this time will be faithful to carry it still … even when it leaves your body and walks through the doors of preschool.

Blessings,

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Great Expectations

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

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

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

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

Or something to that effect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so will you.

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

~ William Carey

Blessings,

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Cultivating Community: Lessons in the Mess

Happy Monday, readers! As we near the end of July, I’m excited to bring you words of encouragement from my friend and blogger Julie Loos. Julie manages a busy home of five children and writes openly and honestly about the messes of our everyday lives–so she was a perfect fit for this summer’s theme!

As you read her words, I hope you will be encouraged to bring all the messy corners of your heart to Christ and let Him cleanse and restore you. Blessings!


What Are the Best Lessons God Teaches in the Mess?

by Julie Loos

Do you seem to be stuck in a perpetual mess? I’m not talking about the clutter in your house or your car. Those are messes you can roll up your sleeves and get to work on with the vacuum and Formula 409®. If you’re a mom, you might be able to see a sparkling clean area for about an eye blink.

The mess I’m talking about is in the inside.

The debris that ebbs and flows daily. Some days you can conquer it, but other days it just wants to spew itself all over your insides. You can’t break free from it.

My clutter is anxiety. I didn’t know it personally until a few years ago. It took a hold of me quickly, and it seems to be taking a long time to rid itself of me. I am sick of it, and I’d dose myself in any cleaning product if it would promise to leave me.

For years I searched and clawed for answers and potions to rid myself of it. I hated its ugly influence on my life. I couldn’t get away from it. It was starting to take me under.

What’s your clutter? Anxiety, depression, or addiction? Maybe something different, but nevertheless it has its tentacles in you and your insides?

Are you weary and overwhelmed and just plain old sick of it? Are you scrambling for something to give you your old life back, or even take you to a new life?

When I was in the midst of this strangling time, I wanted it to be different. What I’ve come to understand is the mess made me re-evaluate myself. I needed some inner heart cleaning. It had to be done one heart string at a time. It was painful and yucky work, and I didn’t want to do it.

To become the best me, each heart string needed His work.

Here are five things I’ve learned during messy seasons:

I’m not enough

So many times, I think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps. I keep things to myself because I don’t need anyone’s help. Can I let you in on a little secret? We all are dealing with issues. The best healing happens when we share. God is enough. He will always be enough. He promises to give us strength, and His power overcomes our weakness. Walking hand in hand with God changes me, fills me, and allows me to spill my gifts onto others. I become overflowing with Him.

John 15:5 (NLT) Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

CC_Mess

Original image from pixabay.com

You need to walk through this season, not sweep it under a rug

It’s not fun, and it’s painful, but healing can only happen when you walk through it. I have learned so much about myself. I have seen what parts of me need work. Only from being on my knees in total dependence on God have I seen where I need His work to help me. Strength happens when we strive through and instead of suppress.

John 16:33 (NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Christian living is more than going to church or saying religious clichés

During this season, my faith was tested. Was God my all-in-all or not? I had to trust in God and my faith because it’s all I had. I couldn’t see healing, but I knew it was coming. I put my Bible knowledge into practice.

James 1:22 (NLT) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Admitting your weakness is not a bad thing…it’s the best thing

I was afraid to show others how broken I was, but God has done amazing things since I began unmasking my mess. My relationship with God has been strengthened, my dependence on him has increased, and the wall surrounding me has come down. There is encouragement in sharing with others and understanding that we all struggle.

II Corinthians 12:9-11 (NLT) Each time he said, My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God will never leave me

 When I was in the throes of anxiety, I felt alone. Many prayers were sent heavenward from my mouth, and it seemed like they were falling on deaf ears. God hears them all. I might feel alone, but my feelings lie to me. God is always present whether I believe it or feel it.

John 14:18 (NLT) No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

 * * *

Fear can keep us from His fullness.

CC_Mess2I didn’t want to be “less” anymore, but His best; therefore, I’m accepting my brokenness and using my mess for His message.

This journey won’t be easy, and many days it will be one step forward and two steps back. But, I can promise you that healing is coming. It might not be the healing you imagine, but God won’t leave you stuck. He will bring you a type of healing that will surpass your way of healing.

As your heartstrings are made new, you will begin to look more like Christ. Your heartstrings couldn’t have been so exposed without this mess.

Your sister in Christ,

Julie


Julijulie headshot 100x100e Loos is the mom of 5 kids and has been happily married to Greg for 17 years. She loves to read, eat chocolate, drink iced tea and spend time writing in the midst of messes.

You can find her blog at unmaskingthemess.com or follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/unmaskingthemess/.

You can also connect with Julie via Twitter @juliealoos and on Instagram at juliealoos.

 

When You Can’t Fight Your Battles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then let God fight your battles for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Mere copy

Just a Crib

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Mere copy

Roses & Reality

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy the entertainment of “reality” T.V. every now and then. On a recent episode of “The Bachelorette,” however, I found myself shaking my head and uttering the chosen term of Southerners, bless her heart.

Our lovely Bachelorette found herself on a date, waxing poetically about how true love means always feeling the “heat” for your partner. The fire should never die down. The affection should never waiver.

Oh, honey.

This reality T.V. sound bite was about as far from reality as one can get. When you’re single, this sounds cynical—but any married person can tell you, life itself simply does not lend itself to endless romantic helicopter rides, trips to exotic locations, and gourmet meals that neither of you had to prepare or clean up.

Sprinkle in some newborn sleep deprivation or a toddler circus show or a teenager or two, and that “fire” may seem like a distant memory. Add some financial pressure or a sick family member or a job loss, and you may be left wondering if there ever was any heat to begin with.

No, God did not design love and marriage to be an endless parade of roses, dream dates, and cloud 9 emotions … the truth?

He designed it to be something even better.

Something real. Something solid. Something, if done by His model, that provides a “soft place to fall,” as the saying goes. A way of living that reflects the gospel story in our everyday lives.

But we have a problem, of course: most everything in our culture undermines God’s beautiful design and intention of marriage. Seems like everywhere you turn, there’s a mockery being made of this divine institution.

With reality television, movies, and magazines defining “love” for us, is it any wonder we’re seeing marriages sputter, crashing and burning at every turn? Even as believers, it’s easy for us to lose sight of God’s reality for marriage in the midst of culture’s definition of “reality.”

Now I’m the first to admit, I am certainly no authority on marriage. I’ve been married nearly 11 years, the vast majority of which has been full of trials, difficulty, and pain. I’ve wanted to quit more than once. I’ve run out of steam on more than one occasion.

But through it all, God has been working to refine us, sustain us, and draw us closer to Himself, all the while holding our marriage together when we simply couldn’t do so ourselves. If you find yourself in a season of struggle, take heart that He is able to do the same for you!

Today, my desire is simply to redirect us to some basic truths about love—real, solid truth from God’s Word to which we can cling when we’re wanting to let go. Knowing and meditating on the pure, unchanging Word of God is the only way we can combat the lies hurled at us by this world and live out God’s good design.

My heart is so burdened for marriages and families, so I pray that God will use these words to breathe life and hope into you today!

God is Pro-Marriage

I know this seems obvious, considering He was the one Who created the institution, but I think it bears repeating. Marriage has been bruised and battered over the years. As a result, it’s all too easy for us to forget its importance and significance to God.

After creating Adam, the Lord said in Genesis 2:18, It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him (NIV). So He created Eve, the perfect partner for Adam … and just like that, the first partnership of marriage began.

This was His perfect, ultimate design: full-on intimacy, teamwork, fellowship, and joy. Sin entered the picture and forever flawed that design, but God’s intentions have always remained the same.

And God’s heart desires that marriages last. The words of Malachi 2:16 say:

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel (NIV).

This does not negate the truth that there are indeed times divorce is warranted … even so, it’s not His heart that families be torn apart. If you’ve been through or are going through a divorce, His loving heart grieves right alongside with you. And the most excellent news is that He can redeem anything and any situation! How very thankful I am for that redemption.

The bottom line is, God is for your marriage and mine. In a world that makes us doubt the validity and usefulness of marriage, never forget that our Creator’s desire is for your family to go the distance and thrive.

Lasting Love Isn’t In Us

If we’re doing marriage in our own strength and drawing solely from our own well of love, we’re dead in the water. Like our Bachelorette, we will only last so long as the naturally occurring “fire” lasts.

The love required to sustain a marriage through the years of ups, downs, heartaches, and joys comes solely from the Holy Spirit working and moving in us. He is the Source of lasting, abiding love.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus says:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (NIV).

To love like God, we must draw from His well of love. We are only able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

The God Who gave His life for us can imbue us with that same Agape love for our spouses—even long after the fire has died down and life has kicked in!

 God Alone is Our Anchor & Foundation

At the end of the day, no matter how wonderful or difficult your marriage may be, God is our sole anchor and foundation in this life. No spouse can meet the deepest needs in us, those needs that only His Divine love can meet.

God is pro-marriage, and He can enable us to love our spouses for a lifetime—but He never intended for marriage to be “the thing” that brings us the lasting, soul-satisfying joy that only He can provide.

If our hope is in our spouse (or our children, our friends, our jobs, etc.), we are destined for disappointment. Others will fail us, and we will fail others—but our Father will never fail us:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness … The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him (Lamentations 3:22-23, 25 NIV).

Marriage is a beautiful gift, something to be treasured. Something to fight for. Something worth pursuing and tending to—but may we not forget that our deepest need, our strongest craving, is for Him and Him alone. He is our source of hope.

Is your marriage struggling today? Do you look around and think, this isn’t what I had in mind? Take heart, dear reader, for God is bigger than your circumstances and bigger than your pain.

Spend some time this week meditating on what God has to say about love. Ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him to fill you with that supernatural love for your spouse. He is faithful to give it!

As we discussed a few weeks ago, your story isn’t over yet … so hold on tightly to Him and live today in the grace He lavishes on you, His dearly loved child.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

P.S. – this is one of my favorite songs about love. Take a listen if you have time!

https://youtu.be/_CmB5I1EgMo

 

 

Dependence Day

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard the saying, “parenting is not for the faint of heart.” But I never quite knew what to make of that saying before I had children. In truth, parenting didn’t seem as scary or difficult as people made it out to be …

… well, God certainly has a sense of humor, as I now find myself neck deep in the throes of parenting, disciplining, and teaching two of the strongest-willed children on this planet. The fact that God chose me to be the mother of such precious, iron-willed humans boggles my mind. It really only makes sense in the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, when the Lord told Paul, My power is made perfect in weakness (NIV).

Weakness indeed.

Recently, I had an experience that made me want to disappear from the planet and use one of those “Men in Black” gadgets to scrub the memory of everyone around me.

On a beautiful morning, my mom and I decided to take the kiddos to the farmer’s market. What could be more relaxing than strolling the booths of mouth-watering just-picked strawberries and rows of delectable tomatoes, squash, and lettuces?

Well, within about 5 minutes, we had major meltdown on our hands. My son broke out of the stroller and began grabbing hunks of broccoli and berries from a table, even after I repeatedly told him to stop.

My daughter, indignant that her brother escaped the confines of the 5-point harness, began screaming as only she can, bursting the eardrums of all those around us and garnering the kind of attention you make it your mission to avoid.

As the hot California sun bore down on my head, a mix of sweat and tears began rolling. My children refused to obey and refused to calm down. If people’s looks could kill, I would have been dead a dozen times over. Helpless and exasperated, we scrapped the trip, put those screaming children back into the car, and headed for home, where they forced my hand into some serious discipline.

I felt utterly humiliated, embarrassed, and incompetent. Here I was, round and pregnant with baby #3 while the two I already have wreaked havoc and blatantly disobeyed my orders.

We’ll mark that under the category of mothering fail.

I cried to my mom about how incredibly tired I was of going places and being embarrassed by their behavior. If you’re a parent, I’m willing to bet your children have also left you feeling embarrassed or helpless a time or two. The feeling of humiliation and judgment sticks to your skin like the thick, humid air of the South.

It plain old stinks.

But God has been teaching me, as only He can, about the treasures and lessons to be learned in the sometimes humiliating midst of this crazy hard thing called parenting.

With each tantrum and meltdown, God has revealed hidden plaques of pride stuck to my heart—stuck so tightly, apparently, that it’s taking the searing heat of disciplining my strong-willed children to melt it off.

It is a pride born out of a stiff-necked, flesh nature desire for independence and control. I stand amazed at the stubbornness of my children, yet all the while a part of my own heart wants nothing more than to be in control and independent, just like them.

Once again, the seemingly simple act of raising children is revealing my endless need for dependence on God like never before! In my own strength, I am weak. In my own wisdom, I am lost.

In these moments, how grateful I am for the life-giving words of the Psalmist:

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 (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

Just like Eve long before us, the enemy entices us to think that somehow, we can do it better without God—somehow, our own will could be better than that of our loving, helping Creator. But try as we might, there’s simply no escaping the truth—as believers, our freedom is won through total dependence on God and His resources.

Whether it be in parenting, relationships, work, or any other facet of our lives, we must get serious about living out the words of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (NIV).

What about you? Is there an area of your life in which you’re attempting to function and thrive independently of God’s strength and wisdom? If so, I’m willing to bet that, if you’re honest, it’s not really working for you—just as it’s not really working for me.

Let the words of Hebrews 4:16 settle deep into your core:

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (NIV).

Sweet reader, whatever your struggle is today, you’re not alone in it. You and I serve a God who is Holy and Sovereign, yet at the same time invites us to sink into the comfort and strength of His arms. It is in dependence on those arms that we will find what we need to handle our strong-willed children or taxing job or difficult marriage.

When you find yourself lost and confused as to the next step—how to discipline that child, how to proceed in that relationship, whether or not to take that job—run to the One who knows the answer to all your most difficult questions. As James 1:5 tells us,

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (NIV).

I don’t know about you, but this is a promise to which I’m clinging whole-heartedly these days, as I’m learning to depend more wholly and fully on Him in the fire of life’s trials.

What circumstance is leaving you humbled, confused, or defeated today? Let me be so bold as to ask you to do the same thing I believe God is asking of me:

Be willing.

Be willing to be humbled or in need of help from friends or family. Be willing to accept grace, which I find oftentimes harder than extending it. And be willing to embrace your need for dependence on Him. There is so much freedom waiting just on the other side of laying it all down …

… A funny thing happened later that morning—once the kids settled down, my mom in her wisdom suggested we put them back in the car and try again at the farmer’s market. Those sticky plaques of pride in me balked at first, unwilling to risk further embarrassment. But at her gentle urging, I decided to exhale and be willing to go and let it be what it would be.

And wouldn’t you know? My children behaved like the sweet ones they truly are, and I felt a little flicker of hope at this evidence of progress. It is thrilling to watch your little ones learn to trust and obey—and in similar fashion, I imagine God greatly rejoices when we respond in obedience to and reliance on Him.

Be willing, dear one. And when the fireworks pop and sparkle this weekend as we celebrate our national independence, I pray that your heart and mine will pop and sparkle just as vibrantly at the freedom to be found in spiritual dependence on our Creator.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

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

 

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