I talk to myself a lot, or rather, preach to myself as the ever-helpful Martin Lloyd-Jones reminds us to do. Recently the preacher in my head has been clearly and loudly reminding me: You don’t have to bow to your feelings.
I tend towards being a sponge – soaking in and filling up with the emotions of others and owning them – even though they are not mine to own. I’ve begun to see that as I fill up on anxieties or frustration, all I can do as a sponge is wring it back out all over whomever squeezes me at the wrong moment.
Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and dripping all over us in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by emotions. His response to the sin and brokenness of this world is always perfect, right, and true.
My emotions have a place, and rightly so, as God made us to be feeling creatures, but my emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately. As the waves keep crashing, I keep grabbing the opportunities, though sometimes not very well, to sink into the truth.
1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because he cares for us. I imagine wringing out my emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and then asking Him to fill me with the truth, bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.
I’ve gotten to know Naomi lately, reading through the book of Ruth. She displays this steadfastness of emotion as we see her at the beginning of Ruth talking to her daughters-in-law, following the loss of her husband and sons. She puts herself aside for a moment and tells them they should return to their homes in Moab, and not come to Bethlehem with her. If they come with her, they have no prospect of a husband or a future. She displays unconditional love to them in the midst of her own anguish and pain! In his book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her in the opening scene of Ruth:
“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings…if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”
There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel, lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Naomi wants to change her name to “bitter” because of all she has endured. As we listen to her through the story, we hear that her trust in God is deep. She knows that He is sovereign; in fact, her pain, just like Job’s, is all the deeper because of her trust and hope in the sovereignty of God. In Naomi’s bitterness, and probably sinful accusation against God, Miller goes on to say, that although “her feelings were all over the place…she put one foot in front of the other as she returned.”
God continues His steadfast love to Naomi (and Ruth and Boaz!) as He brings beautiful and lasting redemption by the end of the book of Ruth. His power and goodness are threaded throughout the entire story. While the book begins with Naomi empty and bitter, it ends with her full.
In a recent car drive alone, the barbarians of my emotions were roaming the streets of my mind as I dealt with feelings of anger and fear because of a painful and gut-wrenching conversation with a friend, being spoken to harshly by a leader in my church, and attempting to deal with the ever changing emotions of my tween daughter – while lovingly leading them all. Satan was baiting me to bow to my emotions stirred up with the circumstances of the week and I was struggling to soak in the promises of God and sing the truth louder than the lies when I was gently reminded by the Spirit, via the song Living Hope by Phil Wickim, that Jesus HAS broken every chain – even the chains are emotions and lies!
The King has delivered me from the tyranny of myself! I am not held hostage by emotions, my past, or my sin. The Lord has delivered me from myself and the Lord IS delivering me from myself and the tyranny of my emotions and false narratives they can create. As I submit my emotions to Him, I am led into sweet moments of worship. I lift my eyes up, as the psalmist in Psalm 121 reminds me, to Him from whom my help comes.
As I soak in the Word of God and the character of God, I am a sponge filled by Him to then be squeezed out with patience, joy, hope, and love. The Word of God comes dripping out of my mouth instead of unchecked tyranical emotions from my deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:10).
And the drumbeat of the preacher in my mind continues on, reminding me: you can lament without having to bow in submission to your emotions because your King has delivered you from their grip. Hallelujah!
If you’re looking for something a little different this Lenten season, or just this season in general, I’m reposting this devotional I wrote last year. It has weekly themes in it that were based on Ryan’s sermon series at the time that you’ll notice. You could dig into the life of the person mentioned each week to dig deeper if you’d like. I realize Lent is about fasting, but I think it’s also about feasting – feasting on God’s abundant provision in Jesus towards us and feasting on His Word and prayer every day.
So, here’s an invitation for you to come and delight yourself in scripture, a question, and a prayer each day for 40 days.
A prayer based on the riches of Isaiah 55 – I hope you can find a deep soul rest in these words of the Lord, and be led in prayer closer to Him, looking to the only One who abundantly & freely provides what we could never attain through our striving and work.
Isaiah 55:1-4, 6-9
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David…
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
A prayer of mine for you ~
God, we are so thankful that you are a God of compassion. You are a God of might and holiness to a degree that we cannot fathom and understand; yet, you are a God of grace and compassion, that we equally cannot understand. Our hearts are thankful for that!
We are thankful that you are not like us. Your ways and thoughts are higher and better than ours. The truth is, we do not abundantly pardon ourselves or others. We do not give grace the way you do. Oh, how we need abundant pardon for ourselves and to give to others! And YOU have provided and will continue to provide!
Deepen our understanding of your grace and the richness of your mercy. Show us where we spend our time, our thoughts, and our labor on things that don’t satisfy, that cannot fulfill, and that ultimately leave us even hungrier. May we delight ourselves in You and Your rich provision, trusting that You always provide and satisfy. You’ve paid the price already.
You stand waiting with open arms for us to return to you, the God of grace and compassion and mercy – you can be found! May we be in awe of the fact that you are a God who can be found. In your steadfast and sure love, convict us of our impure thoughts, motives, idols we run to, and the roots of our sin within that no one else knows about.
But God you know our hearts – and we thank you that you are greater than what we see in our hearts. In Christ we are fully known, completely loved, and totally forgiven. Thank you for that Jesus!
Open our minds and our hearts to the deeper depths of your riches and your grace, your holiness and your power, your love for us. You are a God abundant in power, abundant in grace and mercy.
We love you, and we are so thankful that we belong to you, Jesus.
It’s in your name we pray. Amen.
(I’ve been sitting in Isaiah 55 and used it as a guide for prayer at our church. A sweet friend listened to the recording of my prayer and pieced it together in writing. I hope that these words of the Lord, and simple prayer of mine, lead your heart, mind, and body to Jesus today. I encourage you to read back through all of Isaiah 55 and pick a portion to memorize! I’m planning to break it down more and create a short devotional walking through small sections of it…so, if you know me and are still reading, feel free to hold me accountable to this!)
This may be a Christmas letter, but I personally feel that it’s far more than an update. I hope these words of mine, as I share my heart here once again, will connect with your heart and point you to Jesus.
A letter for 2020 – what a year!
Well, for us, it’s been a year of big transitions, hard conversations, persevering in prayer, and flourishing. All wrapped up together, totally messy, and not in a linear and neat order! The persevering in prayer doesn’t always yield a quick flourishing – for myself, the kids, or those I love. It’s painstakingly long…and good! We would never draw up these plans the Lord has for our joy and sanctification, would we? But they are the best, and He proves faithful again and again. I say all this because I feel like you may be in the messy middle of trust, doubt, hope, fear, and joy. And probably all at the same time.
If I had to sum up the last year in a word, it would be trust. And, maybe perseverance too. Okay, I need two words for sure: trust and perseverance. In more things than a letter can begin to describe. I bet you can likely relate.
We have built a lot…we’ve built trust and perseverance mostly. But we (Ryan!!) also built a sturdy and pretty backyard shed, a gorgeous treehouse, and are currently re-modeling a basement (again) that got flooded. We’ve built character, hope, and strong roots in trusting the goodness of God.
We decided last year, quite a bit before the pandemic, that I would transition out of homeschooling and we would send our kids to Providence Christin Academy, partnering alongside the teachers there in the development of our most precious gift! It’s been amazing. And HARD! Tatum and Caden had always been homeschooled so the transition was huge.
For Tatum, the transition was the biggest because 5th grade is middle school at PCA – so 8 different teachers, a locker, her own laptop, and all the middle school things! She is flourishing, amidst the change, with good grades and sweet friends. She’s starting to play the drums, is finishing a season of competitive cheer, and loves basketball, football, and all things UK and the Dallas Cowboys.
Caden (3rd grade) loves school – he truly loves the schedule, the plan, the rewards, the grades…everything! He loves all things UGA (to the dismay of his siblings and Dad, who are all huge UK fans), legos, Harry Potter, and reading.
Roman (1st grade) is thriving and growing tremendously in the new school environment and after some time, is learning to read. He loved playing flag football this year and really loves driving – with tremendous skill – his Papa’s diggers and working outside. It’s pretty amazing.
Maggie (K) is a fantastic friend to all – loving others and bringing them (and her teachers) a lot of laughter with her crazy stories, silly faces, and great imagination. She loves art, crafts, and playing with Roman.
As for me (Megan), I’m loving my official role as discipleship director at our church, New City Church, and some new opportunities the Lord has given me to lead others. Our church plant moved into an actual building, after 5 years of being in a middle school (and then live streaming because of Covid) right off the square in Lawrenceville – the city where we’ve planted roots and pray for flourishing! As I said, Ryan has built a lot of things this last year – he did have some extra time after all! Ryan and I LOVED our trips to Cancun last January and then to Glacier National Park in Montana this summer. Hiking at Glacier was especially incredible and a major highlight of our year. It taught us a lot about perseverance through the midst of the slowly progressing effect of multiple sclerosis on my body. And lastly, Ryan’s mom, Donna moved to GA and in with us this summer – what a sweet gift to have her here!
As I wrap up, I feel like, for all of us, this was a year of really being known – from fears to politics to loss to redemption and just the plain struggle to live in the tension of all of it. We’ve all been tempted or hide in someone or something – our own strength, productivity, or goals – and I think a pandemic and an election has brought all that out. The question is, what do we do when we see our sin, our fear, or misplaced hopes, our disappointments…or even better yet, those of our neighbors? Do we hide in ourselves or in Christ or cover with fig leaves like our first parents in the garden? I’m sure it’s some of both and God is gracious enough to provide opportunity after opportunity to hide in His son Jesus. My longing is that if you don’t know Jesus that you ask someone who does to tell you about him. And if you do, that you will lay down the fig leaves of hiding and trust more deeply and fully.
More than anything, I want to leave you with truth to hide in:
The same God who is sovereign over the creation of the world and of Jesus’ birth and death is sovereign over everything you’re in the middle of. He is sovereign over the start of a new job and it’s ending; He is sovereign over our perfect health and over our broken bodies; He’s sovereign over the end of Covid and its continuation. It’s our believing that – and in His perfect goodness – that changes everything. May you be filled to overflowing with Hope this season, and always – because Hope is more than a verb…It’s a person – Jesus.
Since it’s been a few years now I’m rarely asked to tell my MS story, but this week I was asked by a group of women, mostly pastors wives, to talk through it, so I dove in and remembered how refreshing and helpful it is to both myself, and others. At the risk of being redundant, I tell it again, because maybe in my story, you will find parts of your story.
It’s been 4 years of celebrating and embracing life MS strong. Strength found in weakness. Strength found in two being more and more one. A strength that doesn’t appear strong. Strength in believing. In some ways this is more of a marriage post because the longer we’ve walked this road, the more I’ve been carried by the strength of another and I cannot rightly use the pronoun “I”, but mostly, “we”.
What I remember the most is how faithful God was – to prepare me, to lead me, to masterfully weave this all together for my good and His glory. Multiple Sclerosis, or any disease for that matter, is not outside of His control. It’s not a surprise and it’s not Plan B (or Z for that matter). It is Plan A.
This story was woven into me from the time I was knit together in my mother’s womb – fearfully and wonderfully made. My soul is just learning it more and more with each passing year, as the disease steadily drips on and my body gets older. It’s not a thief in the night. It is a gift of grace. At the risk of losing you at this point, I’ll dive into the waters of my MS story.
I was diagnosed in September of 2016 when my youngest had just turned one and I had been temporarily blind for about 2 weeks. My best friend laughs and jokes with me now about how I could go blind in one eye and think it was normal. A year before, when I was pregnant with Maggie I had these episodes that looked like seizures where the left side of my body would uncontrollably seize up and curl inward several times a day…honestly, I assumed this was an attack from Satan because it started the same week that we launched public worship services for New City Church. It was super scary and I couldn’t be left alone with my 3 little kids – one who wasn’t quite walking and every time I put him into or got him out of his crib I knew to expect to immediately fall and lie on the ground in writhing pain for 2-3 minutes. I share these details because it’s good to remember God’s faithfulness. He provided friends and family who supported us greatly. He provided a new rhythm of life in which my husband turned from go-getter, driven, and do-all-the-things-in-a-day-you-can, to one who had to be physically present with me most of the time – in the beginning, days of planting a church, which is the time when you typically go-go-go! God is too good to ever let us think we’ve created something that we must work to sustain. All glory to Him.
Jumping back to 2016, before I even noticed the growing blindness in my right eye, I knew God was at work again. He had led me to memorize Ephesians 1 – “…the Father…may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe….and He put all things under his (Jesus) feet…” (1:17-22).
God wanted me to know Him more and He enlightened the eyes of my heart through my physical eyes going dim…the analogy was clear to me and the hope that gave me was, and is, immeasurable. The fact that MS, or whatever happened, was literally under His feet and in His complete control gave and still gives me a confidence, that allows me to be sad, frustrated, and even angry with my broken body, but yet with great hope. It’s a deep lament that is not bitter or controlled by my circumstance.
No matter what, the enemy can not steal anything from me. ALL things are under God’s feet. The wind and the waves know HIS name. The enemy may steal and seek to kill and destroy, but MY King authors, and lavishes, and frees. And He is completely trustworthy, faithful, kind, loving, and beyond satisfying!
Hebrews 2:8-9 “Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. BUT we SEE HIM … Jesus!”
That’s the story to this point, with my reflections, but here’s how this summer went –
This summer nearly knocked me over. In fact, it physically knocked me over again and again.
I didn’t get worse, per se, my body just revealed weaknesses more. No new flare ups, but just a steady trickle of progression in what was already there. I couldn’t walk or hike as long, my husband noticed the stairs becoming a challenge, and the waves in the ocean kept me totally off balance. All new things. Things that completely exhausted me. Things we lamented over together, Ryan and I. Yet the lament was sweet and made the celebration louder and stronger.
We went to Montana because an event we were supposed to go to got “Covid- canceled” and Ryan asked me to pick a place I wanted to go. Glacier – of course. It’s glorious and magnificent, filled to the brim with God’s glory, hard hikes, and peace. I loved it. I loved the challenge of the harder hikes. But, everyone passed us on the trials. Even going as fast as I could go, we couldn’t keep up with people we began conversations with and they eventually soared ahead. I moved methodically, slowly, and sometimes painfully. The amount of brainpower going into something that seems so normal is wearying, just so that I wouldn’t fall (but fall a few times I did).
The beauty was probably greater because we were made to take our journey slowly.
My approval idols came crashing down as person after person passed us on trails and I had to move out of their way without getting tripped up.
The views were all the better because of the time we had to focus on our surroundings.
The marriage was all the sweeter and stronger because we had to be one…sometimes the stronger giving the weaker a piggyback ride and reminding her that she was going to make it no matter how long it took, and even saying he would probably go no faster on his own anyway.
Here we are. We lament. We celebrate. We know that God will make all things new, the broken will not remain broken forever, and His power is made perfect in our weakness…as we wait, with hope. This journey was the beginning of Hope for me, and with hope, it will continue until the day I’m made new.
And I will lead the blind in a way they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
Come abide with me awhile? It won’t be easy, I can promise you that. BUT it will be deep and full and abundant — right. where. you. are.
Many times I attempt to create an identity out of being a church planter, pastors wife, homeschooling momma to 4 littles, newly diagnosed 33 year old with multiple sclerosis, friend, disciple, discipler/mentor, and yet the Lord is too good to let me do that. None of those have purpose, bring joy, or bear fruit apart from a deep sense of abiding in Jesus’ presence right where I am now as His beloved child.
So will you journey with me? Straight up these lofty, looming, wondrously breath-taking, full of mystery, and lovely mountains? Maybe it’s on a new road, a road you thought was just going to be a quick detour. And yet, here we are, facing the challenge of being led in joy on the road which the Lord, in His tender care, is guiding us, calling us to abide in Him as we journey upward and onward. Deep breath. Here we go!