Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Category: Writing

Pay Attention to the Gnats

Hello there, readers. So I’ve referenced our upcoming return to Georgia in several recent posts, and if you’re on Facebook you know more about it. But today, I thought I would back up a little and share the incredible unfolding of circumstances that brought us to this point.

I share for my own archives, as I tend to have a short memory these days (I blame the kids). But I share too in the hopes of encouraging you with a valuable lesson God has impressed upon me throughout this process. It’s simple, and perhaps a bit odd:

Pay attention to the gnats in your life.

Let me explain … no, there is too much, let me sum up (name that movie!) …

Way back in our residency days, Aaron made fast friends with a fellow resident, one who was a year ahead of him in training. This friend, a native Californian, decided to return to the Golden State for a fellowship at none other than UC Davis. And God used this friend to open the door to Aaron’s eventual selection of fellowship at UC Davis.

Beforehand, California had never been on the radar for these two born and bred Southerners. But, once the Lore cracked opened that door just a peek, we knew California was the place for us, and the rest is history.

Following his fellowship training at UC Davis, this friend moved home to Southern California and began practicing with his uncle. He and Aaron would often talk about practicing together one day and the possibility of us moving to Southern California—some day.

Talk of this came off and on over the past 5 years and was always more of a theory than a possibility … until October 2016, when Aaron’s friend called him with an official offer to come and interview.

At first, I laughed a big, bold belly laugh. Here I was, holding my 1-month old daughter and feeling completely overwhelmed by life. And honestly, the thought of moving anywhere—much less Southern California—sounded about as appealing as giving birth to said 1-month-old again.

However, when I realized Aaron was seriously considering this opportunity, it led us to have a serious sit-down talk about the future … my first, fleshly instinct was to say no. How could taking this job be a good thing? Why even bother with an interview?

But we realized that this opportunity, this possibility, had been floating around us for years. It was that little gnat that kept appearing now and again, one we couldn’t seem to swat away with any finality.

And while neither of us could truly picture making that move, we felt a spirit certainty that he needed to go on this interview. This was a gnat we simply couldn’t ignore. We had no clue what purposes God had in mind, as we couldn’t see past the end of our sleep-deprived noses … but we knew He was in it. And we knew we needed to be obedient and walk through this door He opened…

Thus, in early November, Aaron flew to Southern California for the interview. The job had some appealing aspects, to be sure, but as we’d previously suspected, it was not the right fit, nor the right time to make such a move.

It was, however, the catalyst for throwing open the doors to our current path. God used that interview to open our eyes and our minds to the possibility of moving from academic medicine to private practice. It spurred us to ask the question, if we’re going to make that change, why move to another part of California? Why not look at opportunities back home?

God used that little gnat to open our hearts and our hands and ask the question: Lord, is now the time You want us to move back home?

Amazingly, within weeks, that question was answered in the form of two job interviews in our top two desired locations … both of which led to incredible job offers (and an incredibly tough decision-making process, but that’s for another post!).

As I reflect on all this today and everything God has unfolded in the past 4 months, I’m amazed at how it all began—by simply paying attention to a little tug, a seemingly crazy opportunity. If we’d ignored that gnat and assumed we knew best, we would have missed God’s leading in our lives. We would have missed His gracious answer to the cry of our homesick hearts.

So I say to you, dear reader, pay attention to those gnats in your life. We so easily assume we know God’s mind or what is best for us—but God is a master Creator, an unmatched storyteller. He knows how to weave together the smallest and most innocuous of events in a way that keeps our stories unfolding in a thrilling and unpredictable manner.

In the distracted rush of life, it’s all too easy for us to brush away those gnats with the assumption that they’re gnats, they can’t serve any possible purpose.

But that’s the amazing, exhilarating thing about God … you just never know what enormous things may come from something so small. Isn’t that the epitome of faith itself? A mustard seed, growing into the huge spread of a mustard bush. Something remarkable born out of something unremarkable.

Is there a gnat in your life today? Something that keeps coming up that you keep swatting away in short sighted confidence? Perhaps take a moment and ask God what divine purpose that gnat may serve in your life. The answer just might surprise and thrill you.

Blessings,

A Baby Story {And What I Learned About Waiting}

Well hello there, dear sweet readers, and Happy (Almost) New Year! It’s been a long time. Far too long.

Though it probably feels far longer to me than it’s actually been. The old saying “the days are long but the years are short” rings distinctively true with a newborn and two toddlers at home!

And can I tell you something? I’ve missed you. And I’ve missed this space—this space that has become such a part of me.

So today, I’m dusting off the cobwebs accumulating on my laptop and in my sleep-deprived brain and jumping “back on the horse” as they say. And can I tell you something else? It feels awkward to be in this space again.

Kind of like when I picked up a tennis racquet after taking time off. It felt clunky and heavy in my hands … so please, bear with me as my words feel clunky and jumbled in my tired mind (and I’ll thank you in advance for the grace you’ll show me as I attempt to write again!).

Life has been quite the circus since I last strung words together into sentences in this place … and after much waiting and many false alarms, our precious Anniston Sinclair made her debut on the morning of Friday, September 9th. I don’t normally share pictures here, but I can’t resist a sweet one from her newborn photo shoot!

carr-32

Anni’s birth itself was fast and furious. At 3 days overdue, I saw my doctor for my weekly check-in, where an out-of-the-blue high blood pressure reading greeted me. And my doctor, who is typically calm—almost to the point of nonchalance—looked me straight in the eye and told me to go to labor and delivery that night.

I could say I was scared and angry and unsure, but the truth? I was so ready to go. After welcoming both my other kiddos before their respective due dates, I found this whole “past due” thing for the birds.

So, I went home, had dinner with my family, put my sweet kiddos to bed, finished packing up my hospital bag, and off Aaron and I went.

It was late, quiet and still in the world. Driving under the cover of darkness and bold, twinkling stars made me giddy with excitement and anticipation. It gave me time to think and accept all that awaited me. In each labor, I’ve found there was a distinct “moment” in time where I surrendered my mind and my body to the arduous, beautiful, terrifying process of labor.

Let’s do this, I thought.

Of course, when you show up in any state other than just about to give birth, there’s a whole lot of waiting involved. So, we waited and walked the halls and cracked nervous jokes, and before we knew it, we were settled in. Once my very pregnant body got a taste of Pitocin, it was go time.

And six of the most intense, painful, incredible hours later (no epidural or pain meds, people!), we welcomed our sweet Anni into the world. Ok, twist my arm, here’s another picture:

carr-19


Anni’s birth may have been fast and furious, yet the weeks leading up to it were anything but. Weeks of prodromal labor left me physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. It’s one thing to be up all night snuggling and feeding your newborn…it’s quite another to suffer a few hours worth of contractions that leave you awake and hopeful, only to die out with a teasing “gotcha!”

The result was a maddening cycle of no sleep and false hope. It was a cycle that revealed just how bad I am at waiting.

I always imagine myself as a patient person until I’m required to actually practice patience.

Funny how that works.

Can you relate?

Waiting is such an important part of the faith walk—kind of annoyingly so! Sometimes, life feels like one long series of various waiting rooms. But truthfully, it’s in those waiting rooms where the good stuff happens: the change and character development and depth of faith that we so desire (but oh, if only it could come more easily, right?).

Shortly before Anni’s birth, one of my devotions discussed the importance of naming things in our lives (as written about by John Eldridge). The basic idea being:  what we call something has incredible power over how we actually react to it.

This principle smacked me upside my highly impatient head, as I realized I kept calling those final pregnancy weeks miserable, frustrating, and ridiculous. Not surprisingly, I went about those days with an attitude reflective of such names.

In retrospect, those days were anything but ridiculous—and while I may have been a little miserable and frustrated, in truth those days were sacred, full, and beautiful, as God worked the final stages of the miracle of Anni’s life inside my belly.

And in the “fullness of time” (see Galatians 4:4), she was born, and just like that, the waiting was over … and I learned a valuable lesson in the power of naming and its ability to shape my entire outlook (one I’m still working on incorporating!).

What about you—how have you characterized difficult seasons of waiting? What names have you given those seasons? I hope you’ve been better than I’ve been … but even if not, rest assured that grace, grace, and more grace abounds to us all in Him!

We just celebrated Christmas, the joyous birth of our Savior. And if we learned anything in this season of Advent, it’s that He was beyond well worth the wait. I can only imagine the choice names Mary could have bestowed upon her circumstances as she awaited the birth of God’s Son . . . but scripture indicates that Mary was a young woman of mature faith who treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19 NIV). May the same be said of you and me!

As we move into this new year, I challenge you—as I challenge myself—to begin paying attention to how you name circumstances in your life. May we resolve to view our lives through the lens of His sustaining grace, sufficiency, and loving sovereignty, no matter what waiting room in which we find ourselves.

Be blessed, dear reader—

 

Mere copy

 

 

Pregnant Pause

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

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

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

And that is perfectly fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, be blessed!

Much love,

Mere copy

Mama Mondays – Guest Blog

follow me to

Hey readers! Today, I am honored and excited to guest blog for author Jennifer Slattery as part of her regular feature, “Mama Mondays.” Head on over to  https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/2016/04/18/parenting-with-the-end-in-mind/ and check it out!

Blessings,

Mere copy

When You End Up in the Rejection Pile

The e-mail arrived early one morning in my inbox. The cheeriness of the subject line grated against my half-asleep nerves and belied it’s un-cheery content. My tired eyes quickly scanned the words:

Thank you for sharing … so honored you submitted … yet

And there it was: the dreaded yet. The despised “thanks, but no thanks,” to a guest post submission.

This wasn’t my first rejection letter, and it won’t be the last … but this one stung. I’d poured my heart into this guest post. Prayed over it. Wrestled with it. Read and re-read and edited until I felt a surge of peace and hope as I clicked the “submit” button.

And yet … there it was, the verdict in cold black and white: my best wasn’t good enough.

Like a solid punch to the gut, my shoulder slump said it all. I was defeated and discouraged, the zippy wind sucked right out of my sails. In those blurry moments immediately following disappointment, the internal debate began in earnest in my mind:

What’s the point in continuing when a big fat “no” awaits me at every turn?

Why am I even writing if no one is reading it?

If my best wasn’t good enough, then what will ever be?

The Reality of Rejection

Perhaps you can’t relate to the specific rejection of an aspiring writer, but I’m willing to bet that life has well acquainted you with the prickly reality of rejection.

We can all look back and recall those jobs we didn’t get, those relationships that didn’t work out, those friends who betrayed us or simply forgot about us, those heart-crushing “no’s” we’ve received.

Whatever the context, rejection hits us at the core of who we are, attacking our identity with ruthless intent. It says you are not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough, successful enough, and on and on until we unwittingly begin to agree.

Sitting there at my desk, cloaked in the uncomfortable robe of rejection, I asked God how I could be still and maintain perspective in the middle of these painful moments. As loudly as the lies called, I couldn’t help but think, there must be a better way than that of self-condemnation.

The Limits of Rejection

The Lord used this experience in my life as a kind of “wake up call,” forcing me to look more closely at why I write and for whom I’m writing. Rejection has a way of getting our attention and pushing us to answer hard questions.

Am I writing for the sole purpose of achieving publication? Recognition? The praise of men? If so, I’ll be sidelined and rendered impotent by rejection in no time flat.

Or am I writing because God has called me to do so? Am I faithfully following the path before me because He’s asked me to—bumps, bruises, and all?

If we can confidently say we are following God’s will, then there’s very little room for discouragement and self-doubt, for Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished (Luke 1:45 NIV).

One of my favorite verses, Psalm 138:8, says:

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

When you and I face a setback along the way or a “no” that seems unworkable and unreasonable, we must remember that God’s plans for us will stand. Rejection cannot limit or thwart God’s work in our lives, provided we walk in obedience and trust, expectantly looking for Him to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

And truthfully? All of us could likely look back on at least one of those rejections and see how God saved us for something better, rescuing us from what we just knew we had to have. He is indeed a good, good Father, giving us what we need rather than what we want.

Even when it comes in the form of a “no.”

The Redemption of Rejection

How can we find stillness in the churning of disappointment and foiled plans? We must direct our minds to the truth, meditating on His word versus the lies our enemy throws at us.

God uses rejection to direct our paths. Just as an open door means “yes, walk in this way,” so a closed door simply means “nope, we’re not going in that direction.” Rejection is not an indictment on who you are.

Our enemy would love nothing more than to have us doubting our identities, our worth, our calling, and even God and his goodness.That may sound like Oprah-worthy fluffy self-talk, but I believe it to be the truth. Our enemy would love nothing more than to have us doubting our identities, our worth, our calling, and even God and His goodness.

And lest we forget, our God is infinitely kind and understanding. Jesus walked this earth and felt everything we feel. Referring to Jesus, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3 NIV).

So when we’re drawn to unrest on account of rejection, may we remember to run to our Savior and give Him our pain—He understands!

When we want to wiggle and wriggle in the emotion of our failed ways, may we refocus our minds and sink deep into trust, for God is always working His good and gracious plans out in our lives.

And when we’re faced with the hard task of sitting still and waiting for God to unfold His purposes, may we hit the pause button and allow our senses to download the beauty and blessings present in each day.

The pain of rejection is real, sweet reader, this I know—but His ways are so much higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). So shut the door on yesterday’s rejection and allow it to propel you forward into the confident rest we have in Him!

 

Blessings,

Mere copy

 

 

 

 

This post is a part of April’s series, Be Still: Practicing the www.meredithhcarr.comArt of Stillness in the Midst of Turmoil. How do you practice being still when faced with rejection? 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 loneliness.

 

Embracing the Slow Burn

I recently read an article on motherhood about the concept of developing our “second bests.” It’s a fantastic article, and I highly recommend you read it!

I’d never heard this concept before, but it resonated greatly with me in this season of manic mothering. The topic came from G.K. Chesterton’s Emancipation of Domesticity, where he said that a woman who has made the home her domain “may develop all her second bests.”

At this statement, I both recoiled and nodded my head in agreement. The pre-motherhood me fights against this idea and wants to steamroll my way through life, doing everything I did before plus mother my children.

The me of today lets out a sigh of co-mingled frustration and relief as I think about all the times this week I’ve tried to sit down and write. All the times I opened my computer, only to hear the dryer buzz, or my son’s cries, or my daughter’s strong-willed insistent wail, decrying nap time.

And then there were the times when the house was fairly quiet and still, and yet all I had the energy to do was plop down on the couch and watch television.

Not the most productive use of time, I’d chide myself—yet that internal scolding didn’t stop me from pressing “next episode” every time the option presented itself. Thank you, Netflix!

Second Best or Second Rate?

I enjoyed the perspective in the above-mentioned article, but I couldn’t help but think about those times when even our “second bests” feel second rate at best or non-existent at worst.

Currently, I’d say I’m in a holding pattern characterized by this. What little modicum of free time I might have to devote to my second bests is, more often than not, hijacked by the demands of my first and most important calling. I know I’m not the only one, as all you mamas are sure to relate!

God has been keeping my feet to the fire lately on account of this issue and revealing just how selfish I truly am when it comes to my time. My toddlers like to stomp their feet and yowl when they don’t get to do what they want, when they want—and just when I’m nearly overcome with frustration at their behavior, I’m struck with the realization that this is exactly what my heart does when my own plans are interrupted.

I may not stomp around on the outside, but my insides are throwing themselves down and setting up for a little pity-party. It’s humbling to admit that, but it’s simply the truth.

Sacrificial Dance 

The recent frustration in pursuing my second bests has brought me back to a basic but challenging truth: my time is not my own. As a child of God, I am not the one ultimately calling the shots—time is in His Hands, and what time He has given me will only be productive and fruitful if given right back to Him.

Placed on the altar of self and burned up. Spread out before Him with palms open and relaxed.

This is an all-at-once scary and liberating place in which to arrive: giving up all of your minutes and hours to Him, allowing Him to use them for His glory—even when it jacks up your own ideas and to-do lists.

As His earthly ministry began to wind down, Jesus spoke the following words to His disciples:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25 NIV).

Death. Sacrifice. Not exactly fun or cheery topics, but crucial to the life of faith—and to finding and fulfilling both our first and second bests.

The Slow Burn

In this stage of life, writing can, for me, only be a second best. And that is perfectly fine.

As mothers, our children are God’s greatest call and gift to us, and I think we’d all agree that in the heat of this refining fire, there’s no better use of our time than pouring ourselves into the molding, shaping, and loving of our babies.

And while on long weeks and even longer days it may not feel as though this is a phase, make no mistake—it most certainly is. Our frantic, consuming mothering will not continue in perpetuity. Our babies will grow and flourish and break away as they should (breaking our hearts in the process, I’m quite certain). And when that day comes, there will be time for that which there is no time now.

So in the meantime, I’m learning to embrace the slow burn of my second best of writing. All these ideas, all these characters, all these stories burning inside me are burning slowly, marinating on low on the back burner. Out of the way and quietly simmering, they fill up the spaces of my mind with delicious, intoxicating scents.

In the art of cooking, the process of simmering infuses rich, deep flavor, the type that cannot be captured through a quick, rough boil. So in this season, I think of my writing life as an old, Italian grandmother’s famous tomato sauce, burning ever so slowly on an old stove top until time has served its purpose by creating something delightful.

What about you? What hopes, dreams, and goals are simmering hotly on the back burner of your life? We were all women first, before we became mothers—individuals with God-given talents and desires. Perhaps in this season, those desires are relegated to the back of the line … but it’s important to remember and acknowledge their presence. They are a part of you, just as much as your children are a part of you.

Whatever your dream, don’t fear the slow burn. Don’t fear the relinquishing of your hours and will into the capable Hands of God. The magical mixture of time, trial, and perseverance—simmering and gradually thickening on the back burner—will one day result in a beautiful concoction that only a loving Creator God could craft.

And I’m quite certain it will be worth the wait.

 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

 

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!

A Tale of Two Cities

Hello readers!

It’s good to be back in this space after a long-awaited anniversary trip to Italy. My husband and I haven’t been anywhere exotic since our honeymoon, so it was time. We spent a week in Venice and a couple of days in Florence, soaking up the sights and marveling at God’s goodness to us these past 10 years.

It was a tremendous blessing to have a break from the demands of life, to enjoy time with my husband, and to simply feel like me again. Motherhood is a beautiful gift, but as my fellow moms know, it’s hard. Sometimes we need a little room to close our eyes and catch our breath.

Or eat copious amounts of gelato.

The experience of full body immersion in a foreign culture exhilarated me, but I was also ready to head home to my babies and the comforts of the USA … even so, I feel a bit like Cinderella returning home after the ball, but I hope to hold onto the memory of our time in Venice. This beautiful, dying city brought to life something in me I didn’t even know existed; and while today, I am still jet lagged and once again immersed in the land of diapers and precious cherub faces, I pray that I’m able to find a way to cultivate and care for this new shoot of life growing up in the soil of my soul.

Never have I encountered a city so enchanting and full of mesmerizing dichotomies. Rich in enviable history, Venice now graces the water as a shell of its former self. Where once royalty walked, now pushy men attempt to sell roses to aloof tourists, and small plastic toys made in China light up the night sky. Outside the breathtaking walls of St. Mark’s Basilica, hoards of tourists avail themselves of selfie sticks, smiling widely while pointing to the Bell Tower or a particularly assertive pigeon.

The gracefully crumbling buildings and romantic, eerie canals hold on with all their might to the past, yet even a gondola ride shatters the sense of ancient—I saw more than one gondolier playing on his iPhone while mindlessly repeating facts about Venice, facts that have long since lost their charm to him … but to me, the truth of such facts floated with awe in the humid sea air.

At night, Venice transforms into another city altogether. It’s so quiet. The soothing sound of water gently lapping the canal’s edge can be heard as you meander through the narrow alleyways. The delicate clink of silverware and wine glasses floats above the ancient rooftops, finding its way into open windows. Church bells ring, ominously warning revelers of their indulgence, just as they have for hundreds of years. I wish I had a soundtrack of Venice at night.

I could name a hundred more things that I adored about this city—the breathtakingly beautiful churches, the camaraderie with fellow traveling Americans, and—of course—the food and wine! But perhaps the most amazing part was the mind-boggling connectedness to history afforded by both of these ancient cities.

I am a true history nerd, through and through, and at many points during our trip I thought my little brain might burst. From our quaint terrace, we ate breakfast and gazed at the beautiful palazzo of the infamous Casanova. We lolled past Marco Polo’s apartment on a gondola ride. And we toured the first Synagogues in Venice, situated in the very first ghetto in the world.

In Florence, we had the chance to walk where members of the powerful, domineering Medici family walked. We explored the places they lived and worshipped, and viewed hundreds of priceless, famous pieces of artwork commissioned by this formidable family. Since high school, I’ve had a particular fascination with Catherine de Medici, and walking the streets where she was born and lived her early difficult years sent chills all up and down my spine.

In each church and museum, I felt the past stretching and sitting tall, reaching its way into our present. These priceless works of art and architecture functioned as a conduit—a time machine, if you will—connecting the life and times of persons long ago with all of us today. It boggled my mind to experience the connectedness that a single piece of art can bring about.

This experience set me to thinking about the concept of connectedness and how we are all strung together in time, one generation to the next. And more specifically, how as believers we are connected by something even more awe-inspiring and powerful than a painting or a sculpture: we are connected by the power of the Holy Spirit and the very blood of our Savior. I found myself feeling envious of the legacy of the Medici family and wondered what it would be like to have such a family history … until I focused on the fact that as believers in Christ, we do have an ancient legacy! And one built by something far greater than mere human hands.

The members of these mortal families spent their time and money building a human legacy, one that would illuminate their own power and greatness. So I’ll ask you the same question I’ve had to ask myself: what monuments are you building? With your time, your money, and your talents—what legacy are you crafting? We all have the choice to build grand monuments to ourselves, ones that will crumble and fade with the passing of time … but we also have the opportunity to build a legacy of eternal value.

In the midst of so many people and such beautiful surroundings, I came face to face with how big the world is and how small I am in it. And while the enemy would have you and me believe we are too small and insignificant to make a difference, nothing could be farther from the truth! We’ve each been entrusted with a sphere of influence in the form of our spouses, children, family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Even the grocery store clerk you see once in a while can become part of your network of influence.

Five hundred years from now, we may not have anyone lining up outside a museum and paying good money to see something we’ve created—but the fruits of our labor in the Lord will provide evidence of an eternal legacy of far greater value than anything made by man. In John 13:35, Jesus spoke to His disciples saying:

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.

Through Christ, we can leave a legacy of faith & love, one that will hopefully inspire believers in the next generation to do the same. I know I have been a beneficiary of the prayerful, Godly generations that have gone before me, loving well and bringing glory to God by living faithful lives. It is my prayer to do the same for the next generation of believers, beginning at home with my own two children.

As the high from our trip fades, I pray the lessons learned, inspiration sparked, and perspective gained continue to press upon my heart. And may we all shun that which is temporary, choosing instead to embrace the eternal connectedness we have as followers of Christ and focus on creating a legacy that will endure when all human efforts fade away.

A First Time for Everything

Today, I am excited and honored to be guest blogging over at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, one of my favorite blogs! Sheila is an excellent author and writes with the honesty, transparency, and heart that I so admire in writers.

This is also my very first guest blogging of any sort, and it feels like a small but meaningful step. I’m happy to share this first with you guys, and I hope it brings you some encouragement today!

Identity Crisis

 

Recently, I came to a most horrible realization: I am in the middle of an identity crisis. An all-out, genuine identity crisis. It may be my first foray into this uncomfortable world, but truth be told, it’s been years in the making.

Let me explain: my whole life, I’ve had the desire to write, to identify as a writer. For much of my life, I’ve held this desire close to my heart. Family and possibly close friends have known, but to the outside world, I kept that goal under wraps. It was my own “secret,” in a sense, probably because I felt silly voicing it openly, afraid of failure. Kind of like saying “I want to be an actress.” I refused to become a recipient of people’s patronizing looks. You know what I mean—those looks that make you feel as if you’re a kindergartner, waxing wildly about what you’ll be when you grow up.

Of course you can be an astronaut when you grow up, sweetie! You can be whatever you want.

In my high school years, I wrote with all the passion and inspiration of a happily naive 17-year-old. Poetry and prose came easily and naturally. The tiny seed of a desire to write took root during these years and flourished, as I watered it with plenty of Shakespeare and Hemingway and Wharton and Austin.

But as my college years progressed, my soul entered a period of drought as I strayed from my proverbial “first love” of writing. Perhaps it was my unwillingness to call a spade a spade that prevented me from declaring English as a major. Perhaps it was, yet again, that pesky fear of failure. As I reflect now, some 15-years later, I’m not quite sure what stopped me from formally pursuing my dream of writing. All I know is that, as I vacillated between becoming a doctor or a psychologist or a nurse or a translator or a lawyer, then back to doctor—wait, no, lawyer—that little seed of desire lay dormant, yet ever present in my life.

Through every phase and all the ups and downs, I comforted myself with the thought of writing one day. As I studied for the LSAT, I daydreamed about my grand plans for a historical fiction screenplay. On Christmas breaks during law school, I jotted down endless ideas for books and blogs, poems and self-help books. As I studied arduously for the bar exam, my mind wandered to the scenes and dialogue playing out in my head, the buddings of a novel.

Basically, I have consoled myself with the idea of writing ever since the desire first took hold. This idea became my cushion, my security blanket, and I used it to soften any rough place in my life. If I hated my job or my city or my marriage or my body, I allowed my mind to slip into a warm, happy place. In this place, I was a successful, working writer, with 2.5 kids and a dog and a fairytale marriage that hadn’t reached the brink of divorce.

No matter where life took me, I always felt in the pit of my stomach that writing was my destiny, and one day, I would arrive at that destiny, and the sun would be shining and birds chirping and somewhere in the distance, a choir would be singing.

One day, when I’m not in school anymore, I’ll start writing.

One day, when I’ve put in some time at my new job and have the hang of it, then I’ll start writing.

Well, one day, when the kids are a little older, then I’ll definitely start writing!

When my son was 18 months old and my daughter 6 months old, I finally faced facts—there will always be an excuse to put off writing. Just a little longer. Just a few more months. As I scurried from diaper change to nursing session to wiping various and sundry bodily fluids 24/7, the annoyingly entropic quality of life projectile vomited all over my face, and I knew it was time to stop dreaming and actually do something.

So to my own surprise, I actually did something. I sat down and took a long, hard look at my life and schedule, decided to cut out what fat I could, and created a writing plan for myself. Given the busy phase of motherhood, I didn’t have a plethora of hours in the day to write, but I realized that my children’s nap time would make the perfect “me time” where I could focus on writing and finally get started.

For several weeks, it was thrilling—I had an idea that I liked and immediately dove into thinking about genre and theme, crafting character profiles and plot lines and conflict. Throughout the day, I found myself dreaming about my characters, crafting dialogue and intrigue. After a while, however, I reached the point where research and brainstorming and daydreaming became stall tactics, and I knew in my spirit—it’s time to actually write something.

Gulp.

Yes, the all-important and terrifying point where it’s time to put words to paper, give structure to sentences, and breath life into characters. You’d think this would be the time I’d waited for all my life. Time to make good on my dream. Time to move towards the goal.

Wrong.

My inspiring afternoons of working while the kids slept disappeared. Instead of excited, I found myself dreading the “Write!!” calendar alert popping up on my phone. Even looking at my desk and my little writing nook made me feel sick to my stomach. Why?

Because I couldn’t do it. 

All of a sudden, finding the time to write wasn’t the problem anymore. Writing was the problem itself. I couldn’t write a decent sentence to save my life. I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote again. I’d finish a few paragraphs, read over them in horror, and promptly delete every word.

After a couple weeks of this, I went into full meltdown mode. I felt trapped, paralyzed, and more incompetent than I’d ever felt in my life. I was overwhelmed by my own failure and lack of talent. When I thought about it, I felt like I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I spent several weeks feeling like I couldn’t breath. I tried explaining myself to my husband and my mom. But even they couldn’t offer words to relieve the horrendous feelings coursing through my body. This, of course, made me panic even more. When my own mother wasn’t able to quell my anxiety, I knew I was in trouble.

I threw myself, confused and in tears, at the feet of my Heavenly Father, searching for the answer as to why my world felt as though it was falling apart. With kindness and gentleness, He showed me the deep error of my ways: all this time, all of my adult life, I’ve placed my identity and security in the idea of one day being a writer. Rather than fully embracing my reality and my circumstances, I embraced the false hope of a false belief: one day, when I’m a writer, then I’ll be secure and content and all will be right with the world. Instead of taking every heart break, heartache, crushed dream, betrayal, and lonely day to my Savior for comfort, I turned to this false belief for comfort.

I never realized that deep down I was thinking this way, falling hook, line, and sinker for this lie. The realization was immensely painful, as I see how I’ve built so much of my core on a lie—I may never be a writer. I may never publish a single word of fiction, non-fiction, or the like. I may have made up the entire thing.
Enter a painful but wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth!

As God has shown me since this epiphany, the beautiful, redeeming news is that it doesn’t matter—I don’t have to write a single word in order to know security in Christ, and in order to fulfill His purposes for me. I don’t have to be or achieve or do anything—I only have to live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit, seeking to obey Him and walk in the way He opens before me. If He intends for me to be a writer—a passion I believe He’s given me—then He will make it happen! His time, His way.

As hard as this has been, I’m so very thankful—I thought I had my thinking straight regarding this issue. I would have told you honestly and wholeheartedly that I can do nothing on my own, and if I accomplish anything, it is only Christ in me. But God, in His goodness, wants to remove the entire root of false belief…He knows where my thinking is wrong, even when I have no clue! This experience has been a huge part of my overall journey from brokenness to healing, captivity to freedom. No matter what my future may or may not hold as it pertains to writing, my head and my heart have been saved from an insidious lie. I would hate to feel depressed and like a failure, should I never publish a single word my whole life . . . and I would equally despise becoming proud and self-reliant, should God bless me with words to write and a story to tell. Our enemy constantly seeks to bounce us around from one extreme to the other. Praise God He is able and willing to keep us steady, straight in the middle, walking with Him on the path of truth and grace.

As I’ve taken a step back from writing these past few months and chosen instead to spend my afternoons digging deeper into the lies I’ve believed, I’ve gained

greater clarity on who I am in Him. And as always, God has proven Himself faithful beyond measure.  I find myself relishing in new found freedom of spirit and soul, brought to life again by the power of God’s Holy Word. And the most excellent news is that He can provide this type of freedom to all of us, no matter how deep and entangled we are with our false beliefs!

I continue to ask God for wisdom, to direct my time, and—should the time ever come—to give me the words to say. If I tell a story, may it be through His power and for His glory alone.

© 2017 Oceans Deep

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑