Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Motherhood (page 1 of 4)

For Those With a Heavy Heart This Mother’s Day

In case your social media feed didn’t give it away or the dozens of men pouring over cards last minute at Target didn’t clue you in, it’s Mother’s Day.

I’m generally a sucker for most holidays, because who doesn’t like to celebrate life and all its various milestones and relationships? Plus, I have the best mother on the planet (sorry everyone else!), so it’s my joy to celebrate the incredible woman and rock she is to our family.

And even though this is my fifth Mother’s Day as a mother myself, I still look around at the chaos and the cribs and the toys and these three precious kiddos and think wow, I can’t believe they are mine!

But for many, this holiday brings a deep sadness. I think of our neighbors, who just lost their young daughter-in-law to cancer and now face the prospect of helping their son and 4-year-old grandchild navigate new, difficult waters in the absence of “mama.”

I think of those who have lost their moms and struggle deeply with the gaping hole created by such a loss.

Today especially, I think of a dear friend who longs to be celebrated on this day with a baby in belly or arms. Today, my heart is with all of you whose hearts are heavy with the desire of motherhood.

For years, this holiday caused a deep ache in my own heart, as I longed and waited to wear the title of “mother” and celebrate this day with my own child. And while God has answered that longing of my heart—and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful—becoming a mother has not been “the answer” to the ultimate longing of my heart. Because the truth?

My heart still aches. It aches in a different way now, but it does nonetheless.

It aches with the weight of a special needs child and the burden of navigating a path for him in this world that is oftentimes cruel to those who are different.

It aches with the burden of raising strong, confident daughters in the midst of our sex-obsessed, porn-saturated culture that screams at them daily, you are only as good as your body, your face, your beauty.

It aches with the sheer magnitude of what it means to raise little children to be strong, self-sufficient, whole, and wholesome members of this world.

I share all of this simply to say, if your heart is aching on this Mother’s Day, I understand. And you are so not alone.

In these manufactured holidays, it’s all too easy to fall into your sadness and think if only I was a mother! Then I would be:

 Happy

Peaceful

Fulfilled

Whole

But this is simply not true—it’s a crafty lie that feels impossibly true, but it’s a lie intended to keep your head down and your heart defeated.

The truth for you, and for me, and for every one of us, is that nothing on this earth can fully satisfy the deepest longing of our desperately longing hearts.

I know, and I mean, I know—that when your arms are empty, clinging to the truth that Jesus is enough seems a hard, outrageous choice. So today, I simply whisper a prayer over your heavy heart, and I ask God to make His Word come alive in you:

For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things (Psalm 107:9 NIV, emphasis added).

Good things.

May you see them, experience them, press on in relentless faith, believing that they are up ahead and waiting for you.

And whatever the boat in which you find yourself this Mother’s Day, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your heart and soul and mind, dear reader.

Blessings,

Don’t Wallow in the Why

It’s amazing how quickly a year can go by, isn’t it? Days tend to drag by at the speed of thick molasses pouring out on a cold day, yet somehow we turn around and twelve months have evaporated.

This month marks one year since we received Isaiah’s autism diagnosis.

An entire year since falling into an emotional black hole. An entire year since being handed a task I never desired and for which I feel inadequate.

An entire year since coming face-to-face with the God I’ve loved and served my whole life and whispering the dangerous but inevitable question, why?

Why.

It’s one of the most futile questions along our faith journey, for could we ever understand the mind of God? (see Romans 11:34)

Yet we simply cannot help ourselves.

Even if we mustered the ability to refrain from uttering the word, the raw emotion bubbling in the bones of those 3 letters would find a way to come screaming out of our pores. The guttural cry of why simply cannot be ignored.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve cried out to God over this past year, whether in words or in tears or both, grappling with why this path has been given to us.

But in my pain, I am encouraged that God understands this need to ask why. He made us, and He lovingly remembers that we are but dust (see Psalm 103:14).

And He is patient beyond understanding. From Job to Moses to David to Paul—all these spiritual giants of the faith—we see this crying out from the soul, this pouring out of the pain of why?

And as we approach Easter, may we not forget that even Jesus—our Savior, God’s own Son—cried out on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 NIV).

Truthfully, I believe our Father welcomes this question, because it has the power to draw us close to His heart. Rather than stoically, silently trying to white-knuckle our way through pain and trials, asking why brings us face-to-face with the choice we must make:

When we don’t understand His plan, will we be willing to trust His heart? This heart that loves us so much, He wouldn’t even spare His own Son in order to save and redeem us (see Romans 8:32).

When faced with this choice a year ago, my answer wasn’t pretty and polished and blog-appropriate. I have battled, wrestled with my Heavenly Father through this simple, piercing choice.

Today, my heart is in a far better place than it was 365 days ago. There is still so much to be learned, so many battles to fight, and so much faith to develop and deepen.

But through the hills and valleys, God is sharpening my faith and teaching me an important lesson:

Ask why—but don’t wallow in it.

Ask why—and then take the next step.

That’s what this entire last year has been, a series of small, little steps taken as God opened the doors. Walking forward in His light, even when it shined just enough to see the next step. Putting faith into action by trusting Him to provide at the next point, and the next, and the next …

This is the way of the wilderness—trusting Him in each Red Sea obstacle, waterless desert, and soul-hunger pang. Being willing to pursue the Provider over the provision.

(and lest anyone make the mistake of thinking this is easy, may we never forget the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 long year!).

So ask why, dear reader—go ahead and ask, scream, cry, shout. Lay it out before Him. Ask why, then take the next step.

Don’t wallow in the why.

What about you? Perhaps you too find yourself facing something heavy, some large, looming hurdle. What’s the next step God is gently asking you to take?

Maybe it’s finally calling that counselor.

Maybe it’s scheduling that difficult meeting with your boss.

Maybe it’s finding a new school.

Maybe it’s letting go of that thing you’ve been desperately trying to control.

Whatever you’re facing, may I encourage you to go before Jesus and ask Him to make that next step clear?

And whatever the answer, dear one, I pray that you and I will have the courage to faithfully, humbly, take that step with confidence and joy, knowing He will make the way, step by step, desert sand and all shuffling beneath our weary feet.

Blessings,

The Ultimate “Love Like No Other”

Hello dear readers, and Merry-Almost-Christmas! I hope this week finds you enjoying the excitement of this season (and not feeling too overwhelmed that we’re mere days away now!).

In the midst of Advent, I wanted to share an article I wrote earlier this year and recently published in the Inspire Love Anthology. I don’t know about you, but in the middle of buying and wrapping presents, planning meals, and rushing from one function to the other, I certainly need a reminder of what Christmas is really about. I hope this reminder of God’s enduring love for us blesses you and brings hope to your heart today!


The Ultimate “Love Like No Other”

When I first found out I was going to be a mom, the joy nearly overwhelmed my happy heart. After several years of waiting, it was finally my turn to experience the “love like no other” my friends and Hallmark had told me about for so long.

My clueless mind imagined that once this baby arrived, I would float on “Cloud 9” for the rest of my life, buoyed by the smell of sweet baby skin, adorable clothes, and innumerable kisses. And when my firstborn arrived, all cries and perfect baby preciousness, I did indeed experience an unspeakable love. The smell of his sweet baby skin robbed me of breath, and I marveled at how it took mere seconds to fall madly in love with this brand new human being.

The love of a mother for her child is indeed a beautiful, mysterious thing … and yet, as time would teach me, there exists another side to this “love like no other”—a side that doesn’t exactly have a place among the shiny, tingly Hallmark cards … because along with the glorious ups of motherhood come the painful lows of motherhood, the hard love of mothering.

At the tender age of 3, and after many months of testing and wondering (with a heaping side of denial), this beloved firstborn of mine received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Those three little letters shook me to the core and sent me hurtling down the path of hard love. I found myself grieving what I thought motherhood would be and the child I thought my son would be. Instead, I began the journey of falling in love with the child God created him to be.

In the sad, blurry days following my son’s diagnosis, I would toss and turn late into the night, a million and one questions pinging across my tired brain.

God, why would You choose me to mother a child with ASD? I’m not cut out for it! How will I know what to even do for him?? I’m not like these bulldog-persistent-warrior moms I see out there! I’m quiet and reserved and don’t even know where to begin. I don’t want to fail him!

It’s easy for us moms to fall down the rabbit hole of doubting ourselves and wondering if we’re doing everything we should and could be doing for our children … and I’ve found this to be especially true in moms of kids with special needs.

Yes, these circumstances overwhelmed my heart with doubt and fear … but a funny thing happened in those sad and blurry days. A deep and primal love for my son began overwhelming my heart, more than the fear and doubt. I experienced a true love like no other, the kind that kicks in amidst the lowest of lows and compels you to go to the ends of the earth for your child. I found myself reading, researching, calling various resources, and reaching out to people—me, a classic introvert!

While we are just at the beginning of our son’s journey, I’m beginning to see that all these amazing moms of special needs kids aren’t simply born—they’re made, through the beautiful and painful process of walking a different road of motherhood. It’s the road of fashioning beauty from ashes. It’s the road of attending therapies and appointments more than play dates and parties. It’s being compelled by a love so strong, you couldn’t stop it even if you tried.

This hard love means continuing on another day, even when you’re so tired it feels like you might collapse. It means putting one foot in front of the other, even though you’d rather lock yourself in the bathroom and cry. It’s giving more of yourself, even after it seems as though there’s nothing left to give.

And while many days I wish for all the world this wasn’t our path, I want my son to know the love I have for him; I want him to know that, no matter how hard the road ahead, no matter what challenges and heartaches he will face, we will face them together. I will always walk by his side. As long as I have breath in my body, he can count on my steadfast love for him.

Because the truth is, love of any kind isn’t always easy—and it oftentimes looks quite different than we thought it would. Children push you to the brink; wedding day joy fades with the years of struggles and trials; friendships change with the passing of seasons. Others are not always easy to love, just as we are not always easy to love.

Everyone wants an enduring, “love like no other.” Incredibly, our Heavenly Father answers our desire with His steadfast love for us. Though we test and try and push and doubt Him at times, His unwavering love for us never falters. Though we give Him reason to lock Himself away from us, He never will and never could—even in the lowest of lows.

On the cross, He gave us all of Himself in the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Indeed, though our love as mothers and fathers for our children is fierce, it is but a shadow of the love the Father has for us. Isaiah 49:15 says:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

What a promise! And it’s a promise we can count on, one in which we can place our hope. Just as I long for my son to be certain of my love for him, so our Heavenly Father longs for us to know that we know that we know that He loves us.

Are you living in the reality of God’s unconditional, steadfast love for you today? What would it look like for you to absorb this truth and sink into the ultimate love like no other?

Rest assured, we will have difficult seasons, those unsuitable for a warm and fuzzy Hallmark card—but we will always have the assurance that God is working all things together for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28). And truth be told, that is all the warm and fuzzy we will ever need.

Blessings,

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,

Back to Basics

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. Meditating 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.

Letting Go, Looking Forward

Around our house, we’re in full-on cleaning and de-cluttering mode. If you took a peek in, you’d see boxes of goods to donate, trash bags full of “stuff” we’ve been carrying around for way too long, and closets that look so streamlined, I simply want to stand and stare at them (and vow to keep them this way!).

The process feels great—except, of course, until it comes to the kids’ things, at which point I find myself stuck and shedding tears over something like an old and tattered crib bumper. Cleaning out and clearing away feels excruciating, as my mama heart has formed colossal attachments to even the smallest of tokens.

It’s all had me asking the question, why is it so darn hard to let go??

Admittedly, I’m a sentimental person by nature—but I believe on some level, we can all slip into “sticky fingers” mode.

Maybe you can toss the crib bumper without blinking an eye, but you can’t seem to let go of a broken friendship. Maybe you don’t form attachments to many tangible items, but you can’t seem to move past that job or dream that fell flat. Maybe you consider yourself an “in the moment” person, yet the ghosts from your past simply won’t disappear. Maybe you can’t truly forgive and let go of past hurts.

Seems like whatever emotional attachments we make are determined to stick around like super glue, for better or worse.

In my questioning, I began to think maybe it’s just me. But as I dug into God’s Word for answers, verse after verse came roaring to mind, reminding me that our struggle to live on earth with God’s eternal purposes in mind is a real struggle.

Consider the beautiful words of Isaiah 43:18 & 19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (NIV).

And Paul encourages us to keep our eyes forward in Philippians 3:13 &14:

But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to take hold of the prize for which He has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus (NIV).

In the stillness of an early morning, I wonder if I’m clinging too tightly to this earthly life. Perhaps all this “stuff” is preventing me, ever so subtly, from living fully present in the now—in the midst of what new things God is working in my heart and the hearts of my loved ones.

Dear reader, can you relate? Do you have a hard time letting go of the past—the good, bad, or ugly? There is certainly a place for sentimentality, and memory can be a beautiful gift on this earth … but may I gently remind us both that this earth is not our home.

Yes, we live here. And yes, God has good plans for our earthly lives, to develop our character, grant us abundant life, and shape us more fully into His image so that our lives might bring Him glory … but that is only part of our stories. The rest will be lived out in glory, in eternity spent in Heaven with Him.

I believe one key to living and thriving in the transcendent space of an earthly body and a Heavenly future is found in Colossians 3:2—

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things (NIV).

Like a radio tuned to a favorite station, so we must daily tune our minds to what is ultimately before us—an eternity spent in joy with Christ. In the light of this filter, past hurts are assuaged; heartbreak and disappointment fail to have the final word; broken relationships and broken bodies hold the promise of ultimate restoration.

So go ahead and save those precious keepsakes from your babies. Gently pack away family heirlooms and pictures. Build that dream “forever” home … but may we do so in the knowledge that we are headed for an ultimate home that far outweighs the best day earth has to offer. And one that—Praise Him!—will render our worst days here a distant memory.

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

I would not give one moment of heaven for all the joy and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.

~Martin Luther

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)

 

P is for Perseverance

Happy Friday, y’all. This post is yet again coming to you from deep in the thick of potty training land. And can I confess something?

I’m so tired of poop.

Yes, poop.

Baby poop. Toddler poop. Dog poop.

No one talks about this in the plethora of mommy books out there. No one tells you that becoming a mom means you’re actually becoming a full-time janitor. Hallmark glosses right over this reality in their precious, glittery baby cards.

Perhaps it’s a matter of species survival. If everyone knew the full realities going in, the human race might just be in jeopardy … but, here I sit, mom to 3 precious littles and caretaker of all their poop (and, despite my tone, quite happy about it nevertheless!).

At any rate, this round of potty training makes three attempts at this gig. And maybe the third time is a charm, as I’m 3 weeks in and haven’t quit or had a nervous breakdown (yet). Trust me when I tell you this is a huge improvement over the last attempt, as you’ll remember if you’ve been reading for a while.

I’m sure you seasoned moms are shaking your heads and thinking just waitand I believe you that this whole parenting thing gets way harder—but to date, this is the hardest parenting milestone I’ve faced. Learning to smile, coo, roll, walk, run, etc. were all fun milestones that only required me to sit back and watch with pride as my child grew.

But this milestone takes work on my part as well: hard work, guidance, perseverance, and patience. And while it may sound dramatic, potty training has been a window into my soul, revealing truths about myself and how I approach the concept of perseverance when the going gets really tough, and there’s no way around it.

God’s been using the combination of motherhood and self-reflection to reveal a pattern in the way I approach perseverance: when the outcome is solely up to me, I have the grit and determination of a bulldog. But when the outcome relies on the actions and cooperation of others—like this potty training thing—I’m about as determined as a wilted flower.

In other words, I have serious trust issues and ultimately don’t trust that others can or will hold up their end of the “bargain” as doggedly as myself. This is obviously a problem, as we very rarely do life in a vacuum, all on our own. And, when we’re operating as if the outcome rises and falls on our shoulders, we’re destined to swing wildly between pride and insecurity, neither of which are decent options.

Being self-determined has served me well in some situations (like college and grad school pursuits) … but for most things in our lives, we are inextricably intertwined with others.

And God created us to be intertwined with others, to live in community and carry out the gospel in the context of relationships. Satan tells us to be self-reliant and untrusting. Our Father tells us to lean into one another:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2 NIV).

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).

For me, it’s been a revelation that, far too often, I’m placing trust in myself versus trust in God and His good will and plan. And when I’m trusting in my feeble ability to “make it happen”? Well, it’s no wonder that I end up disappointed, frustrated, and lacking the joy with which God intends me to live. The variety of perseverance God calls us to is only possible when He is our singular source of power and focus.

Who knew poop could be so revealing?

The truth is, God is in the business of cultivating perseverance in His children. The Bible is full of references to endurance:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised (Hebrews 10:36 NIV).

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4 NIV).

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11 NIV).

Whether it’s potty training, marriage, friendships, work, or any number of things, His desire is for us to trust in and rely on Him alone in the midst of hard circumstances that test our limits and bring us to our knees.

Not on ourselves.

Not on other people.

Not on some set of perfect, mythical circumstances.

What are you enduring today? Maybe you’re like me, and you find yourself taking the toddler-like “I can do it myself!” approach. Or maybe you feel completely overwhelmed by what you’ve been called to endure (I know that feeling too, dear friend).

My prayer for us both is that we might lean deeper, stronger, and more fully into Him Who is sovereign over all our circumstances. May we learn the lessons of faith He is trying to teach us as we wrestle with circumstances that stretch us thin or break our hearts. May we be counted among those who are blessed because of our perseverance.

And may we never, never, never give up.

Blessings,

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Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

It was a beautiful fall day, and despite having a 3-week old and two difficult toddlers, a trip to the park followed by some light shopping sounded like a good idea. Chalk it up to post-baby hormones that leave you feeling overwhelmed one minute and like superwoman the next.

Per usual, it took about 15 minutes simply to undo the stroller, stuff all the bags underneath (you might have thought we intended to campout for several days), and unbuckle aforementioned toddlers. Nevertheless, there we were at the park, all four of us. And I was only sweating a little by this point.

But before I could give myself a nice pat on the back, the meltdown commenced … the meltdown to overshadow my son’s previous meltdowns. In front of two other moms from his preschool, no less.

#winning.

So I did what I’ve learned to do so well lately: pack it all up, scoop up my screaming child, and try to make it to the car before bursting into tears of frustration, embarrassment, and sheer fatigue.

Better days ahead … there are better days ahead, I hear it said from an endless source of people, so it must be true …

But what does it mean for these days, these sometimes grueling, painful, and long days? How are we to carry the joy of light-hearted days into the darkness of difficult ones?

I’ve written before about our struggles with Isaiah and his speech and sensory processing issues, all of which seem to have come to a head over these past 6 months. It’s been exhausting, particularly on top of the intense lack of sleep accompanying the arrival of a newborn.

I can think of few things more heavy than watching your child struggle—and not knowing what to do or how to help. These struggles have illuminated the fact that my children are a direct line straight into the center of my heart. When God needs my attention, nothing grabs it faster than circumstances impacting my babies.

In every trial and hard day with my son, I am challenged by my resolution to live in gratitude more fully, to speak with fluency the language of thanksgiving. To sing praises to God, even when my heart is heavy and hurting. As I’ve wrestled with these issues, I keep coming back to one particular scripture:

I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the Name of the Lord (Psalm 116:17 NLT).

I can’t seem to stop meditating on that phrase, “sacrifice of thanksgiving,” and even finding comfort in it—because sometimes, giving thanks feels like a sacrifice.

Like when the news isn’t good or the bank account doesn’t add up or the loneliness is deafening or the anxiety is palpable.

Or when our mama hearts are heavy for our children. I think of my son, who always asks me to sing “Good Good Father” to him before bed (or “Good Good Good Father” as he calls it, precious thing). And the significance isn’t lost on me—singing those words over my son, when my aching heart is struggling to believe in God’s goodness…it’s a humbling and gracious reminder to sing those words over him:

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when those ways include doctors appointments and therapies and heartache and pain.

You are perfect in all of your ways.

Even when the way is hidden and scary and the future uncertain.

You are perfect in all of your ways, to us.

Yes, Lord, even when we want to snap our fingers and make it all better.

God isn’t going to let me forget His goodness or allow me to let go of hard-won faith—and He isn’t going to let you forget either!

sometimes-giving-thanks-feels-like-a-sacrificeIn these times when we’re feeling the weight of a heavy burden, I believe the key to navigating the churning waters is found in offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving … to reach deep and squint to see beyond our circumstances and continue to trust. In our doubts, may we be like Job, who did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22 NIV). May praise ever be on our lips, even when it feels sacrificial and excruciating.

On the hardest of days, sometimes my sacrifice of thanksgiving is as small and meager as thanking Him for the rich color of falling leaves or the sparkling blue of an expansive sky. But I’m finding that recognizing these small, simple gifts opens the door of my heart, allowing Him to work in mysterious and beautiful ways.

What about you, dear reader—will you give thanks today, even if your heart is heavy? Will you offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving, no matter now small? I pray today that you and I find the courage and faith to raise up empty hands and offer up weary souls, to call on His Name and rest secure in His great love for us.

And even though the fire pops and cracks and threatens to burn right through us, may we offer up our sacrifices of thanksgiving to the One who loves and holds us in all things.

For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever (Psalm 117:2 NIV).

Blessings,

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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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