My world changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on my child. More importantly, my heart changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on them. From the moment I saw them, I knew something that I would never be able to “un-know,” the anchoring feeling and experience of unconditional love.
It’s a love that’s hard to explain with words. It’s a love that doesn’t lessen even if I am hurt, angry, sad, weary, panicked, exhausted, confused, frustrated, afraid or despairing. Nothing is able to fully quench it.
It’s a love that doesn’t increase just because I’m grateful, happy, rested, proud, peaceful, hopeful, confident, content, or optimistic. It’s a love that dwells in the secret, sacred space of my heart that’s reserved just for this one person, my child.
The experience of this inescapable kind of love for my now mostly grownups gives me a powerful, albeit limited glimpse into God’s unconditional love for me.
Nothing is able to make God’s love expand or diminish in any way. It’s steady and enduring, permanent and unfailing. This continuing peek into God’s heart for me (and thankfully for them) has the power to radically change me in only all the best ways. It’s a mighty force that brings life and healing the way nothing else can. For me and for them.
“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. May you have the power to grasp how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH and how DEEP His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge. It will fill you with the richest experience of God’s presence in your life, completely filled and flooded with God Himself.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
It can feel like HATE is winning. Fear creeps into our skin and buries deep within us, tearing our souls in shreds. Despair tangles her knots around our spirits, attempting to blow out the tiny flickers of hope we carry inside.
Hate is NOT winning. It will never win.
LOVE is winning. LOVE will always win.
LOVE WINS WHEN A…
…mommy and daddy hold their newborn and shout, “We are so in love!” on social media and then take 1,345,428 pictures for the next year.
…married couple look deep into each other’s hurting eyes and say, “We will fight for each other. Let’s go to a counselor.”
…toddler giggles at the sight of their aunt coming in the door, arms filled with gifts that only she can get away with giving.
…friend texts in the middle of the day and says, “I’m here. Call me day or night.”
…teacher pulls her “spicy” student aside, and says, “I believe in you.”
…top executive makes his way to an inner city soup kitchen on a Friday night in the pouring rain.
…garbage collector rings your doorbell to remind you it’s Tuesday because your trash cans are still in your garage and then waits until you go running downing the driveway in your jammies with said cans flailing behind (#personalstory)
…gangly middle-schooler takes a risk to befriend the new kid who moved into the neighborhood.
…hospice worker cares tirelessly, going many extra miles, for the victim of a dreaded disease.
…person on the “other side” shares these words, “I hear you. I see your point of view.”
…boss reminds a new and confused worker that failure is part of eventual success.
…grandpa plays “peek-a-boo” for the 48th time in the last 10 minutes.
…customer in the grocery store line steps aside and says, “Go ahead of me.”
…Savior sends a gorgeous rainbow to remind us of his promise never to leave us or forsake us.
…mechanic takes the time to help a stranger in need in the middle of Kansas on a cross-country trek (#anotherpersonalstory CLICK HERE)
…victim chooses forgiveness over revenge
…knowing smile that says, “me too,” sneaks to the lips of a stranger across the room.
…doctor takes the extra minute in the room and says, “I’m here to help. You will not fight this alone.”
…roommate utters the precious words, “I’ll do the dishes tonight.”
Overwhelming peace quiets our desperate souls. Hope is lit brightly again far down in our fledgling spirits.
One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.
It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.
But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.
God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.
He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.
He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what. I rest there.
He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I’m soaking this into my soul today: God goes before me. He goes before them. He’s with me. He’s with them. God will never leave me. He will never leave them. Take courage, sweet heart of mine. REST. RIGHT. THERE.
Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media! I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!
It is our great and sacred privilege to come along side you, engaged and newly-wed couples, to share on the journey of your marriages. These past fifteen years, sitting at our dining room table, on our deck, at Paneras, diners, church lobbies, and even in online video conference rooms, has blessed our lives and our own marriage in ways we never thought possible. Friday night, our culmination final barbecue of the very first young-marrieds support group called our hearts to life and joy and beauty and blessing once again. This morning, we meet with another couple on the verge of marriage to go over plans to perform our very first wedding. It just doesn’t get any better than this for us.
When we were engaged, God gave us a short verse from the Psalms that has guided us and held us in ways we did not understand at the time and that would be a great blessing to us (plus we use it as some of our passwords for things – SSSHHH – don’t tell).
Today, we want to bestow a blessing on each one of you (and your precious partnership). Some of you have been married over 10 years at this point and others of you are just beginning your adventure. We love each and every one of you and even those we haven’t met yet. Our hearts are WITH you and FOR you!
Our Blessing For You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)
May you be strong and courageous. May you not afraid or discouraged, knowing that the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.
May your love abound more and more, with all knowledge and discernment so that you approve what is excellent.
May the Lord surround you with favor as with a shield. May He be your stronghold in times of trouble.
May your talk with each other be wholesome, only what is helpful for building each other up.
May love and faithfulness never leave you. May they be written on the tablet of your hearts.
May the favor of God rest on you and may He establish the work of your hands.
May you be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as you remember how God, in Christ, forgave you.
May you walk with humility and gentleness with each other, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
May God give you the desires of your hearts and make all your plans succeed.
May you walk in integrity.
May the Lord instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; may God counsel you and watch over you.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.
May the Lord keep you from all harm and watch over your life.
May there be peace within your walls.
May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine upon you.
May you have the power together to know how high and wide and long and deep God’s love is for you.
May the Lord preserve your going out and your coming in now and forever.
Lastly, we share our own marriage verse with you, praying that this would be the cry of your hearts and the gentle guide for your life together.
Oh magnify the Lord with me, Let us exalt His name together! (Psalm 34:3)
And that’s when I heard it, “Hold space for them.”
“Hold space for them? What does that mean?” I asked God.
I sat there in my car in the parking lot of the addiction rehab I taught at and knew God was calling me to embark on a journey with these women. As I hung up the phone, I was caught by a sweep of His presence, as I felt the answer to my question settle in my spirit…Just show up every week and be there for them. Be present to their pain.
It’s been almost a year since I heard those words, “Hold space.” I’ve learned to stay present without a response. Without turning away from the pain of others. Loving without saying a word, giving each other space to feel. I’ve learned “holding space” is a beautiful way to sit with them in their pain. It’s finding the depth of love necessary to allow them to feel without judgment, without rushing in to clean it up or fix it. It’s standing beside one another offering hope without saying a word.
A few months ago, the Holy Spirit sweetly asked, “Yeah, but do you know how to hold space for yourself?”
Hold space for me? There’s no time for that.
I’m learning what this means. In a season of five active kids, a dad fighting for his life, and a husband with a demanding job I’m finding I need more time for me. Often times our own self takes a back seat during busy seasons. The thing is, we can’t afford not to take care of our own soul. This is why David spoke to his soul, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:1,5). We live unawakened lives when we neglect our souls.
Join as I’m a guest on The Dolly Mama and the Millennials podcast where we talk about ways to hold space for ourselves and why it’s important. Laugh and cry with us for thirty minutes as we explore the need for soul-care and how to do that during this busy journey of motherhood.
“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.” (Tish Harrison Warren)
Dear Church of the Ascension,
I have visited your church two times. My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you. About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.
It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine. It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.
I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.
Back to my confessions.
Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group. When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you. I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners. It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”
Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day. I wanted to come back. Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.
Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share. I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part. Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:
We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”
“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”
“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”
The middle was filled with this:
And we ended here… “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”
Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.
Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you. Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh. Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging. Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.” I have found the beauty in you. Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead. Thank you. We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!
My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!
This is 54
In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift ☺
Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home
I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
more than my own
I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate
But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth
Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife
But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
see the need
The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe
The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long
So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth
I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Want the dream!
I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full
As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny
My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still
I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way
Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can
I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live
My faith it keeps me grounded
Shows me the way
His Love and mercy
Filling me each day
My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows
Is my gift
I give myself today
Until my dying day.
I love this! I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago! How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day! How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today! The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth! When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!! Thank you again Maria! You are a gift!
I need you to know that I love you. I want you to know exactly what those three words mean when they are coming from my heart to yours.
I have told you that I love you more times than either of us can remember. That’s a good thing. You’ve heard it from the first day I held you in my arms and you are hearing it again today. You will hear it from me tomorrow, and next week, as long as my tongue allows. My love for you is COUNTLESS.
My love for you is the reason that sometimes I stay awake and worry. Yet, the fear that I have that my heart might break someday is quieted by the fierce love I have for you and the knowledge that it’s all worth it. You are worth it. My love for you is FEARLESS.
I loved you when you were minutes old. I loved you when you were a “NO” screaming toddler. I loved you when you were fighting with your siblings in grade school. I loved you when you were a taller-than-me teenager. I loved you when you walked away from me into your college dorm room. I love you today. I will love you all the tomorrows. Nothing will change that. My love for you is AGELESS.
It’s been a lot of work to be your mom. The lack of sleep and the amount of energy I’ve poured in have left me exhausted at times. But the life and joy and beauty you have brought me is beyond what I could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My love for you is TIRELESS.
I don’t care who knows how much I love you. I would shout it from the highest mountain to any who would listen. Everyone should know how wonderful and amazing you are and why you are so worth loving. My love for you is SHAMELESS.
I never knew love like this before I met you. It reaches places in me that I didn’t know existed. It’s higher than the uphill battles we’ve climbed. It’s wider than any mistake either of us make. It’s stronger than death. It’s longer than life. My love for you is DEPTHLESS.
No matter how many times I attempt to capture it in words, I am left dumb-founded. My love for you is more sacred than speech allows. My love for you is more precious than all the books that could ever be written. It’s easy to love you. My love for you is BOUNDLESS.
My love for began the first moment I found out about you and will continue until I take my last breath. You will carry it with you long after I am gone, until the moment you enter eternity yourself. We will then be reunited in perfect love on the other side. My love for you is ENDLESS.
The next time you hear me say them, even if it’s just a quick text, remember all of this. These three words come straight from the depths of my soul and I pray that they reach yours today.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)
From my heart to yours,
P.S. One of you is having a birthday today! Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Meassick! On this day 27 years ago, you made me a mom! I. CAN’T. EVEN. BELIEVE. IT. You are a mom yourself now, but no matter how many birthdays or children of your own you have, you are (and always will be) MY: