Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Motherhood (page 1 of 5)

Facing A Shattered Dream?

If so, head on over to Proverbs 31 today, where I’m sharing some encouragement!

With Grace,

On Birthday Parties & Grief

I recently came across a powerful quote from C.S. Lewis, and its wisdom resonated deeply with me:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

I read this on a day when grief felt overpowering—a day we attended a birthday party with our young autistic son.

You may be thinking, A child’s birthday party and grief? How in the world do these go together?

But sweet reader, for many of us with special needs children, birthday parties can be tantamount to torture. Where you see fun, we see landmines.

Loud noises, lots of children, all the sugar, new and overwhelming sensory stimuli—basically, all the things that can lead to a meltdown of epic proportions.

So when my precious son did indeed begin melting down in the highly acoustic lobby of the trampoline park, I was done. Some days, I feel strong and competent as a special needs mama. But that day, the curious and judgmental stares from parents pierced me.

Grief sunk my weary soul. I slipped off from my husband to wipe the tears stinging my eyes and attempt to compose myself before devolving into an “ugly cry.”

And while I could wipe away the tears, I could not wipe away the heavy weight of unmet expectations. I could powder over my Rudolph-red nose, but not the sting of disappointment.

Sometimes, the hardest dreams to let go of are the ones we don’t even realize we’re carrying. I can’t recall ever consciously dreaming about what birthday parties would look like with my children … and yet, expectations planted themselves deep in my heart nonetheless.

I wonder if you can relate? Maybe your dreams of a happy marriage have smashed into pieces against a wall of infidelity. Maybe you’re still waiting on the children your heart felt sure would come. Maybe illness prevents you from pursuing a dream you just knew came from God. Or maybe financial pressure has squeezed every last ounce of dreaming from your soul.

Every time we’re forced let go of a dream or an expectation, grief comes rushing in. And as C.S. Lewis so wisely observed, our grief gives way to fear. What will the future look like—in this job, this marriage, this illness? It isn’t going to look like I thought it would—so now what?

In the book of Genesis, we read about Joseph, a man who was well acquainted with the shattering of dreams and the agony of asking now what?

After dreaming he would be lifted high, he ended up tossed in a well by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of assault, and sitting in a prison with no hope of ever escaping.

If anyone had reason to grieve the death of his dreams, it was Joseph. And yet, all along, those dreams never died. Only his expectations of how they would manifest.

We get to read the thrilling story of how, in the end, God did indeed elevate Joseph, and his brothers did indeed bow down to him (see Genesis 42). God paved the way to provide for the house of Jacob in the midst of famine, all of which ultimately let to the birth of the Nation of Israel. In this, we see a much bigger plan playing out:

“But Joseph said to [his brothers], ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’”

Genesis 50:19-20 ESV, emphasis added

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Joseph had no idea what hung in the balance of his dreams. Like us, his dreams probably began and ended with himself. But God is about so much more—for you, for me, and for this world He created and loves.

Sweet reader, do you see a dream dying? Let me encourage you to grieve the loss. True healing begins with grief, so give yourself time and space to grieve the loss and feel the fear … but oh, sweet soul, then let go of your fear and disappointment.

Perhaps your dream is taking a different form than you originally thought. But as Joseph learned full well, dreams in the hands of our Lord are far more beautiful and powerful than we could ever imagine.

Today, my heart prays that we may both have the courage to trust God’s good and loving heart, even as we wait with no clue what the future may hold. There is so much more at stake in God’s sovereign plan for you and for me.

For me, birthday parties are simply one example in a long line of things that will likely not look like I thought they would as I mother my son.

But I know my God is working out something bigger and greater, a plan that reaches beyond my own life. The same is true for you today, too, sweet reader.

And that is something to celebrate indeed.

With Grace,

Keeping A Light On In The Dark

I don’t know about you, but for me, end-of-school year brings with it a generous serving of mixed emotions, piled high and spilling over.

Crossing the finish line of another year evokes elation, exhaustion, nostalgia, sadness, and sweetness. When the endless obligations cease and the air quiets down once again, a time for reflection rushes in—whether welcomed or not.

For us, this year brimmed full with personal growth … and I know I don’t have to tell you that “personal growth” is a pretty, polished way of saying, we’ve been through the ringer and somehow we’re still standing and hopefully we learned a lot through the process.

Because isn’t that how it goes? I’ve yet to meet a person who experienced deep personal growth without the catalyst of pain moving things right along.

Oftentimes, it’s hard to even see the growth among the thick, prickly weeds.

I can look around and easily see the wreckage. The broken relationships, the dashed hopes, the things that turned out so differently than I’d expected or planned. These things block my path and cloud my mind, speaking the language of false truth into a fragile heart.

Sometimes, a school year can leave you feeling bruised.

Sometimes, a relationship drains your emotional reserves.

Sometimes, a season of hardship seems to drag on, far past its expiration date.

And sometimes, the light feels so very dim, as though the palpable darkness of fear and uncertainty threatens to swallow you up whole.

Perhaps you had a great year—your kids are thriving, your relationships are singing, and life is bee-bopping right along. This is an occasion to give praise and thanks to God!

But if it hasn’t been great—if you, like me, find yourself squinting to catch a glimpse of light in the murky world of “personal growth,” may I speak a word of comfort to your weary heart?

God is still working in the dark.

No matter how dim the light, no matter how challenging the season, our Father stands near, enfolding us in His trusted Hands.

In Psalm 139, David speaks to the Father’s nearness and the truth that no season or challenge or darkness can hide us from His eye:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? … If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7, 11-12 (emphasis added)

What an incredible promise we can sink our teeth into. Just above the darkness pressing down thick and heavy, our Father sees it all in light. He sees all our pain and trial and growth as it truly is: carefully held in place by His sovereignty and ultimately woven together for our highest good (see Romans 8:28).

So hang on, dear reader. If you’re swimming in a season of darkness, hang on to the flickering light of His steadfast presence and love.

When you can’t see the way forward, trust that He sees, because all is light to Him. “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all  (1 John 1:5 NIV).

Focus on the simplicity of taking the next right step, trusting Him to illuminate the way as you walk.

And remember, always, the truth that seasons change. Your darkness will not always be dark. But in the darkness, there are lessons waiting to unfold and treasures ripe for unearthing (see Isaiah 45:3).

So while you wait and while you mine the shadowy places, let the light of His steadfast love illuminate the path forward—one small, faithful step at a time.

Be Blessed,

Hey Mama–It’s Ok To Feel Angry Sometimes

Hello, dear readers!

Today’s post is for all my hard-working and exhausted mamas out there—all of you staring down the end-of-school and making your massive “To Do” lists (and checking them twice…or every hour on the hour!).

I confess, the stress of this time of year gets to me. I’ve found myself short on patience more days than I care to admit. I’ve found myself low on grace and high on bedtime apologies. I’ve done the forbidden “wishing time away” by dreaming of a calmer day.

And I’ve threatened to bolt to Mexico if slapped with one more request for money, toys, gifts, or party food. Who’s coming with me?

Lest you forget, let me gently remind you: this motherhood gig is hard.

The unseen, unacknowledged, unrelenting work you do day in and day out is a high and holy calling. Those sweet “Pampers” commercials can sometimes lull us into forgetting just how challenging this work really is! And just how many emotions—like anger—it can stir up within us.

If you’re anything like me, the fatigue and monotony tempt me to forget the gravity of this work. And oh, how our enemy loves to divert our eyes towards others in a destructive game of comparison, whispering lies about the greater value of other people’s work.

But do you know what? Our work as moms actually mimics the work of Jesus like few other professions! In Mark 10, we read an account of how Jesus’ disciples were vying for praise and honor, arguing over who would sit at His side in Heaven.

And as Jesus so beautifully does, He turned the disciple’s values on their head, teaching them a lesson they—and we!—needed to hear:

“[W]hoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45 NIV (emphasis added)

Jesus’ entire mission on this earth was to lay down His life for others. He calls us to follow Him by doing likewise, and that’s exactly what you are doing—every time you fill a sippy cup, fix a meal, rock a baby, read a story, take your kiddo to rehearsal, help with homework, bandage a boo boo, or meet any of their million and one needs.

So hear me, sweet mamas—laying down our lives is no easy task! It brings us face-to-face with the selfish parts of our own hearts, as well as our inner toddler because—let’s just all admit—we each have one. She may not stomp her feet and throw herself on the ground, but she sure wants to.

Today, offer yourself lots and lots of grace. Maybe you’re in a tough season where that baseline frustration and anger just simmers under the surface, bringing with it a heaping side of shame. But instead of allowing that shame to compound your frustration, try staring it straight in the face—it’s trying to tell you something.

If you’re willing, your anger can be a tool that reveals where your heart is most needing Jesus. Perhaps you can steal away for a few minutes and ask yourself these questions:

Am I lacking margin in a particular area? The old airplane metaphor is a tired one, but it rings true: you must put on your oxygen mask before you can help others. As moms, we may not have the time we’d like to invest in self-care and the things that fill our tanks, but it’s so important to create a little breathing room.

It may appear loving to entirely neglect yourself on behalf of your children … until the wheels come falling off because you’re entirely exhausted. Look for pockets of time you can use to practice not only self-care, but also soul-care by spending time in the Word and allowing God’s truth to cover your heart.

Am I believing lies about myself or my role as a mom? We’re often led to believe that motherhood is “the thing” that will fulfill us … and when it doesn’t (because it can’t!), it’s no wonder we’re left feeling irritable and disappointed.

Similarly, when we buy the lie that our work is less valuable because it’s largely unseen, we’re left wallowing in an ugly futility that paves the way to anger and frustration. Our enemy is so tricky in the lies he presents as truth, it’s no wonder we’re admonished to be alert and aware of his schemes (see 1 Peter 5:8) and to take captive our every thought (see 2 Corinthians 10:5).

Am I letting my inner toddler run the show? The truth is, sometimes we’re just battling our own selfish desires. I think of how often I talk with my children about learning to cope when they don’t get their way—and yet this is a skill I too am learning to embody. Thankfully, Jesus is greater than our fragile, fallible hearts (see 1 John 3:20), and He alone can provide the strength we need to walk through motherhood with patience and grace.

So today, stop and take a deep, slow breath. Remember that you are human, and it’s okay to feel angry. Reject the enemy’s anchor of shame, and let that anger help lead you out of the “ick” and into a deeper, sweeter fellowship with Jesus.

With Blessings & Solidarity,

~Meredith

“You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands. How wonderful are your gifts to me; how good they are!”

Psalm 16:5-6

Waiting to Arrive

Hello there, readers! It might be mid-February, but since this is my first post of the new year, let me wish you a Happy New Year anyway. How are those resolutions coming?

Clearly, my writing resolutions aren’t going according to plan.

In spite of the abysmal statistics surrounding resolutions, if you’re like me, you still love goal setting and planning. If you’re like a lot of other people, your eyes instinctively roll at the thought of a resolution.

But whatever camp in which you find yourself, I believe every one of us dreams of a better future—of arriving in a better spot this time next year. Perhaps you, like me, have been dreaming up resolutions long before you were ever impressed to make (and break!) them.

When I was a little girl, I dreamt of becoming a famous, wildly successful professional tennis player. With the likes of Andre Agassi and Jennifer Capriati plastered to my bedroom walls, I’d drift off to sleep with dreamy thoughts of winning, crushing my opponent, and—most importantly—obtaining a lasting sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Through the years, the “dream scenario” has changed—but whatever the dream, whatever the decade, the final outcome remained the same: me, living with a steadfast sense of peace, purpose, and what can only be described as a “soul ahhh.” I’m standing somewhere picturesque with a fictitious wind machine perfectly blowing my hair as my soul whispers, I have arrived.

This sounds silly, I know, but perhaps you can relate?

Maybe you thought if you just scored that perfect job, you’d feel at peace. Or if you could just get married, then your world would settle. Or if you could just fit into those “size whatever” jeans, then your soul could be at ease. At that point, the wind machine would only be a bonus.

In most recent years, I confess this is precisely how I thought about motherhood. I listened, dreamy-eyed, to the mythical description of a “love like no other,” and the deep sense of purpose and belonging I heard mothers speak of, and I couldn’t help but think now that I am a mother, I have arrived.

Well, in the words of Dwight Schrute, false.

Motherhood is indeed a high and holy calling. And it is indeed full of a love like no other. But it is not the thing that ultimately has or will or can satisfy my hungry, longing soul.

We can resolve and plan to our heart’s delight, but there is no earthly person, place, or thing that will ultimately satisfy our resolution-hungry souls.

There is no mythical place in which we can “arrive” and finally find the peace and purpose for which we’re longing.

Perhaps on the surface, this sounds disappointing; and yet, it’s excellent news for each of us, because the truth is, we don’t have to wait to arrive, because we have already arrived!

Our Creator God knew from the start there existed no earthly achievement big enough to fill the ache in our hearts, so He sent us Jesus. Because of what Christ has done for us, we don’t have to wait to experience a “soul ahhh.” Because of Jesus, we are promised abundant, full life right now (see John 10:10).

Today.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve lost 15 pounds, found the perfect job, married the perfect partner, had the perfect children, or built the perfect home.

In Christ, we have everything we need right now:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV, emphasis added).

What an incredible promise. How often do we think we can “abound in every good work” only once certain external goals have been achieved? Or how often do we delay the good work we could be doing now in the hopes of first becoming some utopian version of ourselves?

You and I can begin living out the promise of 2 Corinthians 9:8 today.

You don’t have to abandon that resolution or those goals you’ve set—but you don’t have to wait until they are fulfilled before living a life of abundance, peace, and purpose.

So dear one, what are you waiting for? This year, let your resolution-driven soul be the thing that drives you closer to your Heavenly Father and the rich, abundant life available in Him.

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.

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