Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Relationships (page 1 of 2)

A Love Letter To Lysa TerKeurst

Like many of you, I read the most awful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking news this week about the demise of Lysa TerKeurst’s marriage. While I have never met her, I’ve followed and read her work for so long, she feels like a dear friend. Her honest, refreshing, vulnerable, and strong faith has made a difference in my life and countless others lives around the world.

I felt such incredible sadness, and then pure anger–anger at the enemy, who will stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy (see John 10:10). You gotta hand it to him–he certainly lives up to his sinister promises, doesn’t he?

I felt her sadness, and I felt my own sadness, for I myself have been a breath away from seeing my marriage crumble into ruins. It is a sick, sorrowful emotion to think that your life, your “what God has joined together” is about to be pulled apart. And sometimes, despite our very best efforts and intentions, things don’t work out in the way we would have hoped.

To think of going through such an experience in the public eye–the public Christian eye, no less–is truly horrifying.

So I write simply to express love and solidarity to Lysa. Now, more than ever, she needs the body of Christ to lift her up in prayer and–as she expressed–her husband as well, for he has been tragically deceived by Satan. She has poured her life into us, faithfully following God’s call–and now we have the opportunity to pour into her with prayer and encouragement.

May we remember to be on our guard, for our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). No one is immune, no matter how strong a faith. No marriage is immune, no matter how seemingly solid. One of our enemy’s primary targets is our families.  He wants to destroy our marriages, our children, our grandchildren, and on down the line.

The only comfort I have is in knowing that God is still good, even when life isn’t good. And He can and will draw beauty out of the ashes. What Satan intends for evil, God will transform for good. And her life will reach even more hurting hearts for Christ because of this, I am certain of it.

You know the beautiful part about the verse above, John 10:10? While the first part exposes our enemy’s evil intent, the second part of the verse provides the most comforting of promises, when Jesus says, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Yes, we have an enemy that’s gonna wreak havoc on our lives. But we have a God who is stronger and who meets that havoc with abundance.

Precious Lysa, beloved child of God, may you hang onto this truth … may your faith not fail in this most scorching of deserts. And may we all continue to fall on our knees and run to our Savior for the strength and courage to live out our faith walks on this earth!

Blessings,

I Hate Goodbyes

Y’all.

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

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

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

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

My desiccated marriage needed nurturing.

My empty body ached for children.

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

My shriveled faith needed the floodgates of refreshment.

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

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

A marriage put on the path toward restoration and joy.

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

Friends who became like family.

A faith tested and hammered and strengthened and deepened.

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

This isn’t easy

This isn’t clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love & many blessings—

 

 

 

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

 

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

Why Satan Loves Social Media

Ok, so admittedly the title of this post is a bit extreme—in part to grab your attention (did it work?), but in part because as jarring as that title sounds, I believe there’s a lot of truth to it.

Not convinced? Just take a moment to open up your phone or computer and peruse Facebook, Twitter, news, etc. for a few minutes … in just a scroll or two, I’m sure you’ll notice the evidence in harsh black and white, in the sea of hate-filled rants, comments, articles, tweets, etc. etc. etc.

Like many of you, my heart is dreadfully heavy over what I’m seeing online these days … so heavy that I very nearly decided to forgo a post this week in favor of chucking my laptop out a window. We don’t seem to be able to agree on much these days, but I’m fairly confident that we could agree it’s been a rough week in cyberspace.

I’ve witnessed more vitriol and division in my schizophrenic Facebook feed than I did even back in November. And the never-ending spinning torrent of opinions and word-daggers breaks my heart, because it’s only pushing us farther away from one another. I don’t believe we can fully understand each other in black and white pixilated words on a screen.

When this is our primary means of communication, we forget something: our humanity. Our Facebook accounts don’t have emotions, but you and I certainly do. We each have deeply held convictions and beliefs that dictate how we vote, what laws we support, what marches we attend, and so on.

Y’all, our enemy is somewhere bowled over laughing right now—laughing till his belly hurts. He’s probably sipping a Mai Tai under a palm tree, because the endless supply of hate-filled rhetoric bouncing around cyberspace has given him a chance to go on vacation. Listen to a few descriptions of his character:

When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44 NIV).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10 NIV).

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

 It’s quite a wake-up call, examining what we’re up against in this world—and I feel that pull towards discouragement, and wanting to walk away and hide out in a cave until it all blows over (if it all blows over) …

… but then, I’m reminded of our call as followers of Jesus, per His very own words:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV, emphasis added).

For better or worse, social media and technology in general is a part of our lives—it’s woven into our place in history. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a step back from time to time—indeed, I think that’s an excellent idea (and I’m contemplating taking a break myself!).

But in this turbulent time, when it feels like our only options are to either spew our opinion in a hateful, arrogant manner or run away from it all, may I encourage us to apply the words of Matthew 5 to our lives, both real and online?

This world of social media—which can be so damaging—has the potential of being used by Jesus followers to shine a light into the ever-creeping darkness in which we find ourselves. With our words, our actions, and our opinions, we can shine a light onto truth, love, kindness, humility, and the grace that builds bridges.

I’m not urging anyone to censor his or her opinion … but I do urge you, as I urge myself, to value people and relationships above opinions and rhetoric.

Let’s not take the enemy’s bait. Let’s follow the beautiful, wise words of Proverbs instead:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 NIV).

Amen, right??

My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is simple: use social media to bless one person today. Offer up sincere words of encouragement in whatever way the Holy Spirit leads you. Let your light shine, and together let’s make our enemy squirm … and perhaps cut his vacation short.

Be blessed, dear one—

Mere copy

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.

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

 

 

Leaving the Past in the Past

Like most women I know, I’m a big fan of the store Homegoods. Seems like even when I’m not looking for anything in particular, I’m always finding something I “need.”

Funny how that works.

On a recent trip, I came across a little canvas sign that resonated with me and became one of those “need” purchases that now adorns a previously empty spot on the wall of my home office.

Don’t stumble over something behind you, it says in a pretty, clean font.

It’s a simple saying with profound implications, and it struck a chord with me because I’ve lately found myself tripping over events and occurrences in the past. It seems natural that a past event would be just that—in the past. Yet unfortunately, the ghosts of yesterday’s hurts have a way of creeping into the present all too easily and often.

This small piece of wall décor revealed a big problem for me: namely, that on many occasions, I’ve allowed past occurrences to dictate future ones. In doing so, I’ve allowed bygones to undermine the future’s joy and happiness.

Can you relate? I don’t know about you, but I continue to be amazed at the difference in forgiving and walking in forgiveness. Finding the strength and grace from our Father to forgive a grievance is hard enough … but how can we learn to then walk forward in that forgiveness, leaving the past where it rightly belongs?

Walking in forgiveness, especially when we’ve been deeply hurt, requires us to dig in and stay digging in—to God’s power and sustaining resources, and to obedience as we make the choice to not allow the past to reach into our future.

God continues to impress upon me how incredibly vital it is to hone and cultivate this skill. The unfortunate truth is, we hurt each other—often the ones we love most! Whether intentional or not, we bump up against each other, rub one another the wrong way, say or do the wrong thing in the blink of an eye … it isn’t always easy to live and function on this earth with one another, loved ones and strangers alike.

But unless we plan on isolating ourselves in some far-reaching mountain home (which sounds kind of nice sometimes, right?), we have to learn how to function and thrive in the messiness of difficult relationships.

Last year, I wrote an article about this very topic for the Inspire Forgiveness Anthology, and I have to laugh a little at how God works. He is always faithful to keep me honest and humble. Just when I think I’ve “got it,” He lovingly pulls back the layers of my heart a little deeper and presses in a little firmer … that refining fire never seems to go out, and its heat reveals how deeply I need Jesus, every moment of every day!

So I’ll share these tools for leaving the past in the past, both for you and for myself, since I’m often in need of a reminder. If you find yourself likewise struggling to walk in forgiveness, I hope this encourages and inspires you to lay it down and leave it there:

Embrace the Process

We’re all familiar with the saying “forgive and forget,” and while this sounds great in theory, the truth is, we must be intentional about forgetting past hurts and grievances against us.

Forgiving someone may be an act, but walking in forgiveness is a process. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in his letter to the Philippians:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV, emphasis added).

Paul acknowledges the ongoing process of “forgetting,” and we are wise to embrace this truth. In doing so, we refuse to grant the enemy any room to plant a seed of bitterness in the fertile soil of our wounded hearts.

It may take days or months or even years, but with God’s strength, we can consistently choose to set our minds to forgetting and press toward the goal of walking in forgiveness.

Capture Every Thought

The path to consistently walking in forgiveness begins in the kinetic, volatile battleground of our minds. Romans tells us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2 NIV).

Rather than allow our minds to dwell on what’s been done to us and the witty comebacks we’d love to go back and say, we must commit to the daily, difficult work of taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).

Leaving the past in the past is truly an inside out process. While we may control external behavior for a time, eventually the muck inside will work its way out if we don’t address and let God handle it. As wise King Solomon said so many years ago:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (Proverbs 4:23 NLT).

The battle is fought and won or lost in the realm of our hearts and minds—so thank goodness we serve a God who is greater than our feeble hearts! (see 1 John 3:20). When I’m longing to wallow in self-pity and justify my anger, he is able to lift me above my fallen self, enabling me to let go of all my perceived “rights.”

Pray, Pray, Pray!

Finally, in one of those “I wish this wasn’t in the Bible” passages, Jesus said:

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV).

This is such a difficult principle to apply, but it’s truly like a “wonder drug.” One moment of genuine prayer on behalf of someone who has wronged you has the power to soothe your soul and release those chains holding you in the past.

These chains our enemy would have us believe to be unbreakable are broken by the redeeming power of His grace. What I’ve learned beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the Lord is faithful to those who love and earnestly seek and obey Him—even when it’s excruciatingly hard, and perhaps even especially in those times.

Dear reader, I know it’s hard to put these principles into practice—I struggle with them regularly! But give God a chance to show you just how powerful He is in your hurt—step out in faith and let it go.

We can’t reverse the offenses that have been done to us, nor can we change our past … but we have a loving Heavenly Father who can change our future!

You have nothing to lose but the dead weight of a past that’s over and done. Let’s commit to refusing to stumble over something behind us. Set it down, leave it there, and walk forward in the glorious freedom of His all-sufficient grace.

Blessings,

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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!

So what about you–how are you learning to walk in forgiveness, even when the past threatens to undermine your future? Share your thoughts with us!

All Things Bright & Broken

I love the old hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Indeed, He has made all things well, all things glorious . . . but a quick scan of the world and my own life can’t help but draw out the question, what about all those things that are broken?

What about those bridges burning hot and bright in the night, those open wounds that—try as we might—can’t quite seem to heal, or those relationships that resemble something akin to the Mayan ruins? What about the brokenness manifested in our very own bodies in the form of illness, disease, cancer, infertility, and on and on?

I know firsthand the sinking, spinning feeling of watching a part of your life shatter, right in front of your eyes. Perhaps you do, too.

What are we to do with all these things in our world, our relationships, our careers, our families, and our bodies that are just broken?

Do you know, dear reader, this is not the world God intended, nor the world He created? Do you know that your brokenness grieves Him just as a parent grieves over a child? As believers, this seems an obvious truth, but I’m finding how comforting and important it is to remind oneself of it, and often.

In his Bible study “Recovering Redemption,” Matt Chandler poignantly describes what happened the moment sin entered God’s perfect creation:

Everything screeched violently out of sync from the rhythm and harmony of God’s original design. Rebellion had been declared against the King of glory. Everything was broken. Everything is still broken.

The reality of our fractured world can quickly overwhelm and crush the spirit. Do you ever find yourself flinching as you watch the news? I know I do.

We are all so full of longing, so full of desire, so overcome by our seeking hearts, the manifestation of which sends us off into a million different, destructive directions. The result? Even more brokenness enters the picture.

The excellent news in the midst of all the mess is that we do not have to stay and wallow in that mess! We are not without remedy.

Provident for us, we serve a God who is well acquainted with our brokenness—and who stands ready and able to speak into those splintered places, bringing new life, wholeness, purpose, and beauty out of the ash pit in which we find ourselves.

The scripture is full of verse after verse detailing God’s redeeming, restoring work in our lives. In promise upon promise, our Father makes clear His heart for us as His children: He longs to restore, heal, and bind up what’s been broken in all of us.

Isaiah 61 contains what I believe to be some of the most beautiful promises in all of scripture:

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

Similarly, Psalm 147:3 promises, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (NIV).

Our God meets us in our need, as He is well acquainted with the realities of living in this damaged world. Jesus shares in our brokenness, for indeed, His very body was broken for us. We affirm this truth every time we take communion and whisper the familiar words, this is my body, which is broken for you (1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV).

There is an abundance of rich symbolism found in broken things—and as much as we may hate when things are cracked and crumbling, our Father exudes a tender love of and compassion for broken things. If you feel broken today, know that your life is fertile soil, ready to grow into a living example of beauty from ashes, of dead bones rising, of resurrection power.

Only Jesus can bring this healing power to our brokenness—not success, not relationships, not approval, not even physical healing of our mortal bodies.

He heals us on a level that transcends our humanity. He pieces back together the shattered remnants on a level that surpasses even our earthly lives, for His healing reaches into our very souls—soothing, smoothing, and sealing them for all eternity.

I don’t know what kind of brokenness you’re experiencing in this season of life, but I want to speak www.meredithhcarr.com-2these words into your hurting heart: God is on your side. He didn’t cause your brokenness, nor did He want it for you. He’s on your team and mine.

Don’t ever forget it.

Don’t ever buy the lie, as I have in the past, that somehow God isn’t for you and doesn’t care about the fractured places in your life. Oh, dear reader, he most certainly does care—and He is the only one capable of restoring what is broken.

I want to tell you this simple thing: do not fear the broken places in your life. Do not fear the broken hearts, broken bodies, broken souls, broken jobs, and broken relationships. For it is from these messy, frustrating places that God will fashion lovingly redemptive materials, skillfully weaving them into the tapestry of your life.

He never wanted brokenness—but He takes it and turns it on its head, bestowing on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes (Isaiah 61:3 NIV).

Run to the foot of the cross with every ounce of your brokenness, bringing it before the One who restores your soul (see Psalm 23:3 NIV). Let Him begin putting all those sharp, jagged pieces back together.

I’ll meet you there, and together we can marvel at the incredible, illuminating story God is writing out of the darkness.

Blessings,

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www.meredithhcarr.comThis post is a part of April’s Series, Be Still: Practicing the Art of Stillness in the Midst of Turmoil. In what ways have you seen the Lord bring restoration to your brokenness?

Are there circumstances you’re able to look back on now and see His redemptive hand? Share your encouraging story with us and start a discussion in the comments below! 

Join me on Monday as I’ll be launching the first installment of “Cultivating Community,” a new monthly feature that will bring words of encouragement from a different guest blogger each month!

And be sure and come back next Friday as we’ll be finishing up the month of April by diving into the tough question: is Jesus really enough? 

The Gift of Loneliness

It was a simple question: what do you have coming up in these next couple of months? My mom asked me this as we drove to the airport, and I had to do the one thing I despise doing the most—dropping her off after a nice, long visit.

And while her question was simple enough, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming sense of loneliness washing over me as we zipped up the 5 and I thought about the answer.

Oh, make no mistake, my schedule is full—I’m not sitting around with my two children, isolated from people and social interaction. Every week is filled to the brim with appointments and therapy sessions and grocery shopping and Chick-Fil-A runs and sometimes play dates, when our locked-in schedule allows.

And yet, busyness does not equal connectedness. And in that moment, I felt the ache created when you find yourself surrounded by people yet still feeling alone.

I marinated on this question the whole way back from the airport and for days afterwards, until I sensed the pressing in of another question—

Can loneliness be a gift?

The Treasure of Ultimate Fellowship

As counterintuitive as the thought seems, I’m beginning to see how yes, it may indeed be a gift, tender and hidden deep in the layers of our heart’s hollow places.

When we’re facing loneliness, be it born out of a desire for friends, for a spouse, for children, for genuine soul-connection with other human souls, it’s easy to slip into a place of feeling forgotten about and unseen by God.

But in reality? Nothing could be farther from the truth. No matter how alone or empty or unseen you may feel, your reality and mine is that we have a God who is never unaware or unconcerned with our lonesomeness. And in truth, He is the only one who can fully meet our need to be fully known and loved and cared for.

Psalm 34:18 says:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (NIV).

Dear reader, do you know what an amazing promise this is? When you are crushed under the empty weight of loneliness, God is closer to you than ever! His loving, restoring spirit is hovering above and around your broken heart, wiping those tears from your eyes with an unseen tender hand.

I know this to be true—know it in my own restlessness, my own tears, and my own spirit, which has been crushed at times by the hollowness of solitude.

In a world where we’re limited to our 5 senses, let us never forget that the God who we cannot see still sees us. We are never alone, no matter how void our hearts or homes feel.

Never.

In my need, I sensed God drawing me into a deeper, more focused fellowship with Him. Sometimes, the throbbing of an achy heart is the fastest way for Him to grab and maintain our attention—to cause us to be still before Him, making ourselves available to receive the soul-satisfying peace that comes from communion with Him.

Loneliness GraphicLysa TerKeurst recently wrote that, “God wants us to know that times of silence are really pathways to closeness with Him.”

Perhaps God feels silent in your isolation. Perhaps your request for a spouse or a better marriage or deep friendships or children seems unheard, a prayer sent out into an empty void . . .

. . . yet perhaps the Father is using that void to invite you into something far better, far richer, and far more satisfying than any earthly gift you could imagine.

A Season to Embrace

Our God longs for us to know the truth of His love and ever-lasting presence. He loves us so much that He is willing to let us experience the pain of loneliness in order to pull us into ultimate fellowship with Him.

In Romans 8:38-39, Paul wrote:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV).

I don’t know about you, but this is a love I want to know—not simply in my head, but in my deepest heart . . . even if it takes the uncomfortable force of loneliness to get there.

Sweet reader, let me encourage you to inhale a deep breath and let go. Allow stillness to permeate those empty places within your heart. Jesus is there, in all those places.

And the loneliness? The desire? The silent answer to your prayers? I believe it is a season, settled upon you with a purpose. And like all seasons, I don’t believe it will last forever.

I believe there will be friends. A partner. Children. Laughter. I don’t know the future, but as King David believed in Psalm 27, so I too believe that you and I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (NIV). Perhaps this goodness will look differently than we anticipated … but I nevertheless pray and hope for those things for you and for me.

In closing, may I offer up a challenge for us both? Grab your Bible or your Bible app, open up to Psalm 46, and take 10-15 minutes to be still, slowly drinking in and savoring the words of this short, powerful Psalm.

Speak to Him. Let Him speak to you. Ask God to show you how your loneliness may indeed be a gift, and then get to unwrapping, my friend.

Treasures await.

 

Blessings,

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www.meredithhcarr.com

 

This post is a part of April’s Series, Be Still: Practicing the Art of Stillness in the Midst of Turmoil. In what ways could the Lord be using your loneliness as a gift? I would love to hear, so feel free to start a discussion in the comments below!

 

Join us next Friday as we’ll be looking at ways to find peace in the midst of brokenness.

 

Top 5 Posts of 2015

Hello, readers!

Well, it’s that time of year where we’re all scratching our heads and wondering how in the world another year has found its way into the books. Is the earth spinning a little faster these days? It certainly feels that way.

In between the Christmas chaos and soul-soothing time with family, I’ve been reflecting on these past 12 months, as I’m sure you have too. Overall, 2015 has been a quiet year for us: we didn’t move, we didn’t have a baby, and we finally feel as though we’re finding a rhythm in our California life.

It’s been a year of steady, quiet building: relationships, children, jobs, faith. I’ve seen my own faith molded and pushed and stretched in ways I didn’t quite think it could mold and push and stretch … but the results I’m beginning to see—peeking up ever-so-slightly from beyond the horizon—thrill my soul and encourage me to continue leaning into God.

The year has also been good for me as far as writing goes. This year saw me “buckling down” with this dream of mine and making a concerted, consistent effort to listen to what God whispers into my ear and find the courage and time to write it down. And Lord willing, 2016 will see more growth and consistency.

If nothing else, God has blessed me through the written words He’s inspired, and I’ve enjoyed looking back over the year. My prayer and heart for writing and publishing anything into the blogosphere is to encourage and uplift others in any way possible. I believe our faith walks were meant to be shared with one another, for we are all soldiers fighting the same battle.

So with that, here are the top 5 posts from this past year. I hope they bless and encourage you! Whatever your 2015 looked like—happy, sad, tumultuous, calm, or anything in between—it’s now time to close the door on it and move forward in faith, hope, and love.

May 2016 be a year of continued growth and victory over the enemy for us both!

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 desert and streams in the wasteland.

 Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Top 5 of 2015

1. What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming A Mother

Some musings over the most surprising, challenging, and heart-warming aspects of motherhood. Probably my favorite post to write!

2. Decade

Reflecting on celebrating 10 years of marriage and all God has done. Marriage has been harder than I imagined, but God has done amazing things and continues to sharpen and refine me through this beautiful portrait of the gospel.

3. Finding God in the Spilled Milk & Temper Tantrums

For any of you in the thick of motherhood, I hope this post encourages you to keep up the high and holy work you’re doing in raising the next generation!

4. When Your Best Efforts Fail

Thoughts on finding strength and moving forward when your own efforts fall flat.

5. Loving Well

Encouragement for loving those people in your life who are just hard to love–something with which we are all familiar!

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