Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Author: Meredith Carr (page 1 of 11)

Finding Hope When You’re Standing Outside the Box

I sat in the school main office, the smile on my face betraying the tightness in my chest. With hope, I waited while my young son completed an entrance exam at a new school; but that hope quickly turned to familiar despair the moment he returned with the teacher.

This teacher did her best to offer some positive words, but it was quite clear—my son hadn’t performed very well. And sure enough, a few days later I received the official call stating how sorry they were, but my son simply wasn’t a good fit.

Good fit

Two words that seemed innocent enough, but they carried deep emotion for my worn out mama heart. Ever since autism came into our lives, we’ve heard those words countless times. And each time, they hurt.

Over time, it’s easy to feel as though you’re standing outside the proverbial “box.” Everyone else fits neatly into a category or some pre-determined plan. And yet, there you are, waiting on the outside of all those boxes and wondering where do I fit?

Perhaps you too can relate to the pain of failing to be a “good fit.”

Your dream job turned out to be more of a nightmare, and now you feel stuck in a job or career you never envisioned.

A friendship that once felt so solid disintegrated before your very eyes, leaving a black hole of loneliness in its place.  

The child you so desperately love and prayed for now faces an unclear and uncertain future.

Or maybe you’re standing inside a box far different that you ever hoped or imagined. Single, when you thought by now you’d be married. Divorced, when you thought your love story would stand the test of time. Widowed, when death swept in like a thief and stole the person you thought would be holding your hand for years to come.

Many years ago, a man named Job experienced the intense pain of standing “outside the box.” In an instant, he lost his family, his livelihood, and finally his very health—all of which left him wallowing in the uncomfortable space outside all the other boxes, wondering where in the world he fit and where God was in his suffering.

After crying out in desperation and going round and round with his “friends,” God finally spoke and answered Job with thundering wisdom. Over the course of five beautiful chapters of scripture, God reminded Job of His infinite existence:

“‘Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?’”

Job 38:2-5 (HCSB)

After coming head to head with his Creator God, Job found the perspective shift he needed. And right there in the midst of the chaos and pain, Job gained the clarity he’d been lacking. God eventually restored all that Job lost and more, but before that restoration occurred, Job’s soul found the true and lasting peace he needed most:

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’”

Job 42:1-2 (ESV, emphasis added)

Though written thousands of years ago, I believe the message of these words holds just as true for you and me today—for these words remind us of a key truth the enemy wants us to forget:

There is no box.

Our God cannot and will not be contained by any human system on this earth. He created all things, owns all things, and holds all resources at His disposal.

You and I may see no plan or no way through the problem pressing in right now—and indeed, our enemy wants nothing more than for us to believe we are forever stuck in the discomfort and pain of our current circumstances.

But in our fear and frailty, we must remember: God always, always has a plan. And a good one at that.

Dear one, if you find yourself standing outside the box, wondering what in the world to do and if God even sees you, may I gently encourage you to trade your fear for rest

As Job learned, may we too learn and know in the core of our being that nothing is too hard for our God. 

No option is closed to Him. No plan of His can be stopped or derailed by the confusion and suffering our eyes see. And where we see only options A and B, God holds options C through Z and a thousand more at His tender disposal.

Whatever box we find ourselves standing inside or outside of today, may we dig in with faith and expectant joy, knowing that He is working all things together in the good and glorious way that only He can.

With Grace,

Are You Watering Your Weeds?

Aside from 5 adventurous years on the West Coast, I have called the South my home for all my life. It’s a strange and beautiful place, rich with history, culture, gorgeous landscapes, and rib-sticking food.

It’s also a place of searing, sticky heat. Summers seem to last an eternity, and by about mid-August you begin to wonder if this is indeed “Hell’s front porch” as some describe it.

Recently, I opened up my bedroom blinds to take in the beauty of another sweltering morning. A couple of squirrels chased each other across tree-top branches; turtles began to emerge and sun themselves on fallen logs in the lake; a handful of crows pulled worms from the green grass.

And at the far corner of the grassy yard, I spotted one rogue sprinkler, sputtering and spinning as it dumped water all over the weeds and dead leaves resting just on the other side of the sod.

With eyebrows furrowed, I watched as precious water spilled out, imbuing useless weeds with life and strength—while right next to it, a thirsty patch of formerly green grass remained parched and in desperate need of a sip of sustenance.

Before I could make a note to add said rogue sprinkler to the “honey do” list, the Lord struck my mind with conviction of the spiritual parallel—how often do I do the same thing? How often do I water the “weeds” in my life?

Am I watering weeds of jealousy and comparison through social media consumption? 

Am I watering weeds of lust with what I choose to watch and listen to?

Am I watering weeds of discontent by focusing on what I don’t have versus what God has graciously given me? 

Am I watering weeds of insecurity by comparing my parenting style with that of other moms?

The simple and stark truth is, just as in nature, what we water will grow—and what we don’t will die a slow, thirsty death. 

I’m reminded of the beautiful words of Jesus found in John 15:5-8:

“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’”

NIV, emphasis added

Our harried, hurried lives beckon us away from watering our souls with time in God’s Word. The busy and familiar drum of routine pulls us away from Jesus, the One true source of life. Before we know it, we’re dumping water all over the weeds and wondering why we feel so parched inside.

Rest assured, we have thousands of weeds vying for our attention and affection, summoning us for water by falsely promising the fulfillment we seek. But the best thing we can possibly do for ourselves is to allow God’s living water to drench our hearts and minds each day. It’s the only way we can effectively fight the lies our enemy constantly speaks to us.

In John 8:44, Jesus reminds us of our enemy’s true nature:

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NIV) 

Sweet reader, I know the weeds in your life beg for water—I know it, because my own weeds of comparison, lust, doubt, discontent, etc. etc. etc. beg as well. But I pray that you and I lean into Jesus and find in Him the strength to deny such weeds our attention and affection.

Today, let us remain in Christ and in His Word. As we refuse to entertain the enemy’s lies, may we see the weeds of our lives die out and lose their grip on our hearts. And may we bear the fruit of a life deeply rooted in our loving Father.

Let’s water wisely, dear one.

With Grace,

Do You Ever Feel Like God Is Trying To Ruin You?

It happened late one night as I scrolled through social media. Not the typical mindless-and-need-to-decompress type of scrolling, but the other, more sinister kind . . .  

The scrolling that happens when my head is full of doubts, fears, and anxieties—and instead of going to bed or taking a nice hot bath, I go looking for evidence to support those internal snakes hissing lies at me. 

The day’s disappointments and heartache in my difficult marriage sent me to digging, and it wasn’t long until I found the evidence I self-destructively sought. A few scrolls in, there it was: a friend’s wordy, sticky-sweet, Shakespearean-worthy tribute to “the perfect husband” and “the perfect life together.” Topped off with kissy-faced selfies.

With that, “Exhibit A” was entered into evidence, and my inner temper-tantrum throwing toddler was unleashed into the courtroom of my mind. Bitter tears poured down my face while I poured out the hurt in my heart to my Heavenly Father.

God, do you really love me? Why did she get X and I got Y? Do you even see me here? Are you trying to ruin me?

I wonder if you’ve ever asked those questions, too. I wonder if you, like me, have encountered circumstances or seasons that—try as you might—simply don’t make sense.

Like when your family doesn’t grow like you’d always dreamed. Or “happily ever after” never comes. Or an unexpected financial loss sends your plans and goals to the backburner. Or you just feel stuck in the middle of a long, dry, fruitless season.

Sometimes, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, it can certainly feel like God is trying to ruin us—especially when our heart desperately longs for good things but those things are frustratingly withheld.

The thing is, I believe God is trying to ruin us.

But, not in the way Satan or our anxiety-ridden minds would have us think.

Our Father loves us too much to do anything other than “ruin” us for our good.

He is trying to ruin our idols.

Smash our false gods.

Wreck our reliance on self.

Destroy our focus on self.

Dissolve our need for control.

Extinguish our destructive pride.

Yes, in the upside-down world of following Jesus, the things that appear to ruin us are actually working to pave the way to the true joy and hope our hearts desire.

In Romans 5:3-5, Paul writes these soul-strengthening words:

“[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV).

Through our fallen, human lens, it may look like God is using our pain to bring us to ruin—but we must reject this insidious lie from our enemy.

Through our tears, we must choose to hold onto the truth that God is good and cannot be anything other than good to us.

As I sat on my bed that night, a tender, kind moment descended right in the middle of the mess. It was as though Jesus took my face in His scarred Hands and whispered, child, if I gave you the perfect, glorious marriage you so desire, you would never truly seek Me. And for your very best, I need you to seek Me.

Though painful at the time, I allowed that truth to settle into my soul—for yes, if I had a perfect “Prince Charming,” I would never seek the Prince of Peace, the one true lover of my soul.

I don’t know what circumstances are pressing in hard on you right now—but I do know that, like any good and loving parent, our God is willing to withhold that which would ruin us in order to give us that which will make us whole … even though on this side of Heaven, our fallible hearts struggle to understand that equation.

Today, may you and I have the courage to trust a little deeper and hold on a little tighter to the God who faced His own ruin on a cross, because He loves us just that much. 

With Grace,

Call, Don’t Fall

Hello there, sweet readers. Today, I am writing to you from a small, cramped hospital room.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know a little of what we’ve been going through this week. Quite rapidly and unexpectedly, my husband began having strange symptoms of peripheral numbness, weakness, and high blood pressure.

We rushed to the ER where he was admitted and began having every test imaginable. They have truly thrown the kitchen sink at him, and thankfully all the main tests have come back clear of any major concerns.

And yet, the symptoms persist. The questions and guesses and possibilities persist. The pain persists.

And you know what? Waiting is incredibly hardUncertainty is incredibly hard. Having to lie flat on your back and stare at the ceiling all day is incredibly hard.

I’m not sure we even realize what a fast pace we keep until something comes along and forces us to slow down and wave the white flag. To breathe and think and clear the distractions. To sit quietly with a loved one and search for comfort in the discomfort.

There isn’t much to look at on these sparse, cream-colored walls, discolored in random places with who-knows-what (#cringe).

Yet everywhere I look, the phrase “Call, Don’t Fall” appears. It’s plastered on the door, the bathroom mirror, and even on the ceiling tiles, lest you get the giddy notion to jump up and shake off the confines of your hospital bed.

We have laughed about this saying and its prominence around the room, yet today, lying next to my husband and staring up at those words, I couldn’t help but think of the spiritual parallels.

How often could calling on a friend keep us from falling into despair? How often could calling on a mentor keep us from falling into sin? How often could calling on our Heavenly Father keep us from falling into unwise decisions? 

We love to find strength and confidence in fierce independence—at least I know I certainly do—and yet God did not create us to live and function in solitude on this earth. We are not lone creatures, but most certainly “pack animals,” meant to experience life within the comfort of families, friends, and communities. 

The beautiful words of King Solomon come to mind:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

We have experienced the truth of these verses during this past week, and oh how thankful I am for family and community. 

And how thankful I am for a God who invites us to call on Him at anytime of the day or night:

“‘Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.’” 

Psalm 91:14-15 (ESV)

Dear one, there is a God you can always call upon—when your foot is slipping, when your mind is racing, when your heart is broken—call, don’t fall in your hurt. Call upon the One true God who loves you so very deeply.

And when the storms are raging in your life? Call on your tribe. When life is overwhelming and confusing and you feel as if you’re falling—call on the people God has placed in your circle, to do life with hand in hand.

Call, don’t fall—and may you and I find the comfort we are seeking!

With Grace,

Are You at War With Your Body?

With vivid detail, I remember the first time I ever had a negative thought about my body. Holding a 5th grade class picture in my hand, I stared with horror at myself, standing a head taller and generally larger than my petite classmates.

And while my young mind was not yet sullied with worldly expectations of what a woman “should” look like, I knew I looked different.

Bigger.

The enemy used that opportunity to fashion a foothold regarding how I saw and thought about myself. In time, this foothold grew and turned into a full-blown battle with my own body. With futile effort, I sought to change it, shrink it, and sculpt it into something vaguely resembling the images staring back at me from grocery store aisles lined with glossy magazines.

I’ve spent well over half my years on this earth battling against my body, indulging in self-loathing, and thinking if I could just be X size, then I’d be happy.

I wonder if you ever feel this way, too—like you’re battling your body? Maybe like me, you’ve wanted your body to be a smaller size. Or perhaps there’s a feature you wish you could change. 

Maybe you feel as if your body has failed you because pregnancy hasn’t come easily—or at all (oh friend, how I’ve been there).

Maybe you’re facing a limiting health issue. Or maybe age is starting to show itself by slowing you down.

At times, the struggle is enough to flat wear us out, isn’t it? Sometimes I sit back and think, why in the world is this such a battle? Am I simply imagining this? But as I dig more deeply into scripture regarding this issue, the battle is making much more sense. Listen to what Your loving Heavenly Father has to say about your body and mine:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV)

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” 

Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)

In light of these verses, is it any wonder our enemy hits us hard in this area, and with vicious intent? Our bodies are temples. Sacred, beautiful, valuable.

Our bodies are the pinnacle of God’s creation—living, breathing, walking miracles. Made in His image. In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not only to trick her into disobedience, but to set off death inside her body as well (and consequently, our bodies too).

Your body is valuable and beautiful, not because of what it looks like on the outside, but because of Who made it!

Please hear me, I am all for pursuing good health and taking care of our bodies. We only have one life on this earth, after all. But I firmly believe God wants so much more for us than living a life ensnared by the pursuit of an illusive and hollow perfection in our outer appearance.

Sweet reader, I fully understand what a battle this can be—and I wish I had magic words to end that battle for each of us. The process of making peace with your body is a slow and winding one. It can take years. It certainly takes more than a simple blog post.

But today, I want to offer 3 ways we can begin moving towards making peace with our God-given, divinely designed bodies. May this encourage and strengthen you today! 

1. Adopt His Perspective

Living in the world but not of it presents quite a challenge, especially when it comes to how we view our bodies. Everywhere we turn, messaging and marketing blast our eyes with what we “should” look like. 

But we live by a different code, one at odds with the world’s messaging. When the prophet Samuel anointed David as king, he spoke these God-inspired words:

“For the Lord sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

To find freedom from this exhausting body battle, we must be sure we’re using the right measuring stick. God longs to grow us in faith, that our hearts and minds might reflect Jesus. We can do this no matter what size is written in our jeans!

Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see as you see, and a heart that longs to reflect Christ in us more than the world’s standards. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2. Embrace a Kingdom Focus

In our highly visual, social-media driven world, it’s so easy to turn our focus to how our bodies look and leave it at that. But what if we focused on what our bodies can do?

What are your strengths and talents? Where has God gifted you for service? We can choose to see only flaws and deficits in our bodies … or we can choose to see how our hands, feet, mouths, and minds can serve in His kingdom.

Spend some time answering the question, how can my body bring glory to God’s kingdom? How has God uniquely gifted me that I might serve the body of Christ?

3. Choose to Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)

Above all, I have found gratitude to be the single most effective strategy for pulling my mind out of a downward spiral of self-loathing. 

There is always something to be thankful for, even when it comes to our broken, aging, fragile bodies. We are so conditioned to hate and criticize our bodies—therefore we must be purposeful about renewing our minds in order to be transformed (see Romans 12:2).

Today, take ten minutes to clear your mind and record one or two things about your body for which you are thankful. You just may be surprised by what bubbles up in your spirit as you meditate on the beauty of how your Creator knit you together.

With Grace,

Are You a Super Tired Super Mama?

Hey readers! Today’s post is for all the amazing mamas out there.

I see you, working your hardest from sunrise to sunset (and beyond!).

I see you, burning the candle at both ends, sacrificing for your family and loved ones.

I see you, stealing quiet moments here and there to be alone with God, leaning into your faith in this unsteady terrain of motherhood.

Being a mother is a great and glorious calling–but it’s not easy! That seems incredibly obvious on this side of motherhood, yet the same couldn’t be said of me in my pre-baby life. I truly thought it would be rainbows and butterflies (it’s ok, you can laugh at me–I’m laughing at myself!).

Recently, I had the joy and privilege of sitting down for a video chat with my amazing life coach, Torie Henderson. We’ve been working together for several months, and it’s made such a difference in my life!

I wanted to share the interview in the hopes that you too will be encouraged that really change is possible. Life coaching is a tool God has used to reveal so many lies that were tangled up in my mind, preventing me from walking in freedom with Him. And while this may not be a good fit for you, I hope this interview will give you hope that better days are possible.

You can check out the link HERE!

With Grace,

How to Come Down From the Mountain & Thrive

Have you ever had a “mountaintop experience”? Perhaps it was a fabulous vacation, or an encouraging spiritual retreat, or a moment of great personal joy and success.

Recently, I had my own mountaintop after attending the She Speaks conference in North Carolina. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I can confidently say the experience far exceeded any expectations I may have had.

The days were full of excellent teaching, soul-filling worship, and the most incredible Christian fellowship I’ve ever experienced. God did some amazing, healing things in my heart and gave me hope and a vision for what to do next, from a writing perspective.

It truly felt like a slice of Heaven … and then …

Monday morning came.

It always does, doesn’t it?

The dishes still pile up, the laundry still multiplies at a rate that defies all scientific principles, and—to my great dismay—in my absence, my children did not magically learn how to get along without fighting, whining, or crying. I was really hoping for that one!

It’s hard, isn’t it? This juxtaposition of mountain and valley. At times, it can feel almost cruel, to taste and see the mountain when we know our address leads us straight back to the valley.

My mind takes me to Luke 9:28-36, where we read about the Transfiguration. Jesus took three disciples (Peter, James, and John) and went up on the mountain to pray, where He was then glorified and acknowledged by God as His Chosen Son.

While there, Moses and Elijah joined Jesus in what was a beautiful image of His fulfillment of all the law (represented by Moses) and all the prophets (represented by Elijah). It was a truly glorious moment.

So glorious, in fact, it was enough to rouse Peter, James, and John from their heavy sleep—and upon seeing the awe-inspiring scene unfolding right in front of his eyes, Peter remarked:

“’Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said.” (Luke 9:33 ESV).

Don’t you just love Peter’s enthusiasm? He may not have known what he was saying—but he sure knew what he was seeing. The dazzling glory of God on that mountaintop created in Peter a deep desire to call it a day and stay right where they were.

And while we may chuckle at Peter’s passionate display, I find my heart echoing his cry after spending a few days on the mountaintop … it is good to be here. All is clear. All is peace. And I long to be done with the darkness of the valley.

Oswald Chambers captures this tension beautifully:

“When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, ‘Oh yes, I believe God can do it,’ but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief.”

The demon-possessed valley. It certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? After the mountaintop comes the reality of life, jobs, parenting, relational conflicts, illness, and any number of other trials.

We face the task of taking what we learned on the mountain and applying it to the fog-laden valley. It’s all too easy to forget the lessons learned, but I believe it’s possible for us to come down from that mountain and thrive right here in the middle of our valley realities.

Here are three practical things we can remember when we’re coming down from the mountaintop. May these encourage and strengthen you in your valley days:

Remember Where You Are Headed

There’s a reason the mountaintop experiences are so powerful and soul-filling—they reflect the reality of where we are headed!

Our hearts were created in the perfection of Eden (Genesis 1:27), and they are headed for an eternity in the perfection of God’s new Eden (Revelation 21). But for now, we are living a life “between two gardens,” as Lysa TerKeurst so beautifully puts it.

When the beauty of the mountain is fading in the midst of your return to everyday life, remember that there will come a day when you’ll never have to make that long, dreadful hike back into the valley.

Your valley days are numbered! Let this truth infuse you with strength to live each one of those valley days in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit.

Remember the Work Jesus is Doing

Peter said it was “good” for them to be on the mountaintop—and while that may have been true in the moment, it was not good for them to stay on the mountain.

Jesus still had work to do—important, divine, soul-saving work. And so did Peter. And so do you.

Our God’s heart is that all people would come to know and love Him. As His children, it’s our job to share the good news of the gospel while we are here on earth and fulfill the plans God has for us.

We can thrive in the valley by remembering and valuing God’s ultimate good and His mission for us in the here and now—that we would go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

Remember the Gift of Perspective

One of the best things about being on the mountain is the ability to see above all the sticky, prickly weeds that trip us up and wear us down. If you’re like me, the small things of the daily grind tend to consume my mind all too often.

That unkind e-mail. That difficult conversation. Even that super long Starbucks line can throw me off when I don’t have my priorities straight.

On the mountain heights, we’re finally able to see above the mess and senseless stress of the valley and grab ahold of what really matters in this life—knowing God and fulfilling His will on this earth.

Instead of mourning the loss of the mountaintop, let it be for you a treasured experience that keeps your perspective in check. When your heart begins to waiver again at the small things, recall the glorious reality of what you saw on the mountain.

* * *

God is about bigger, greater things—and He’s calling us into that! May we walk into the valley with confidence, knowing we do not walk alone as we carry out His work on this earth.

With Grace,

A Prayer for the New School Year

Hello sweet readers, and how have we made it to August?? Wasn’t it just May and we were all losing our minds with the craziness that is end-of-school? Phew . . .

I hope your summer was full of sun, fun, and new memories made. As a child, summer equaled pure joy. As a mom, there is plenty of joy–but oh, there is plenty of hair-pulling!

As hard as it can be to let go of the lazy days of summer, I am ready for a new start, a new structure, and a little time to breathe deeply and sip coffee in silence (can I get an Amen?).

Even so, my heart is anxious as we approach the start of school. Our big kids are heading to kindergarten–their first taste of “real” school. Their first step in the long journey of finding their way outside of our home and into all that God has for their own lives (cue the mama tears!).

So as we begin a new year, I wanted to offer up some words of prayer over our babies. I have been praying these words over my children, my nieces and nephews, and children of my friends. And now I pray these words over you and your kiddos.

May we walk with confidence and joy into this new season, clinging ever-so-tightly to His goodness and provision!

With Grace,

 


A Prayer for the New School Year

Dear Heavenly Father,

As a new school year approaches, we thank and praise You for being the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13). You see our children and know all that lies ahead. We thank You that they do not walk alone as they walk into the classroom, but that You go with them always (Matthew 28:20).

Lord, we pray against fear and anxiety in their little hearts and ask that You would surround them with Your protective presence (Isaiah 41:10) and let Your peace reign in their hearts (Colossians 3:15).

We pray too for our hearts, that we would not let anxiety overwhelm, but instead bring You all our hopes, fears, and requests, that Your peace may rule in our hearts as well (Philippians 4:6-7).

Father, we ask that You would provide all they need, to thrive and flourish in this upcoming year—for You are the God who provides (Genesis 22:14).

We ask that You would protect their hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies in each day of this year, for You are the One who guards and protects their steps (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Father, we ask that You would bestow supernatural courage over their lives, as they face challenges, trials, heartaches, and difficult decisions. May they walk with a courage that comes from knowing You are God, and You are good (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Jesus, give them a heart that longs to know You more in this school year—a heart that trusts in Your good and unfailing plans for them (Psalm 138:8; Jeremiah 29:11). Draw their tender hearts to You, and may Your Word be the light that guides them (Psalm 119:105).

We ask that as parents, You would give us the wisdom we need to guide and parent them through everything this season holds (Proverbs 2:11). May we also be given the courage we need to love and lead them through trials as You would have us do (Psalm 34:19).

Father, thank You for loving our babies even more than we do—help us trust in Your heart of goodness toward us (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 145:9).

May all we do and say glorify Your name (Colossians 3:23) as You lead us in Your way everlasting—

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Facing A Shattered Dream?

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

With Grace,

On Birthday Parties & Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 50:19-20 ESV, emphasis added

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is something to celebrate indeed.

With Grace,

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