I need to stop bailing water…

I’m sitting in my favorite place. My feet and hands buried into the soft, warm sand. My head tilted up to absorb sun filtered through wispy clouds, my hair brushed back by gentle winds. I can hear the rhythmic rolling of waves and the distant begging of seagulls somewhere further down the ribbon of beach. The air is rich with the smell of heat radiating off of warm sand and beached seaweed below. This week has been two years since I washed up on these same shores and I’m amazed at the difference those two years make.

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As I’m reminiscing there’s a commotion behind me. A flurry of excitement and a vaguely familiar voice draw my attention to a group of men making their way to a fishing boat not far from shore. I hadn’t planned on going out on the water today but as He looked back I found I couldn’t resist the invitation to join them. I was not the only one. As I gathered Hubby and the kids and scrambled to find a boat of our own, there was a small fleet of vessels preparing to follow those men out to sea. Out on the water, a quick glance observed many from the beach wondering at the procession. Staring at us from behind big sunglasses and under bright umbrellas, holding fruity drinks in fake coconuts they quickly decide to return to their conversations.

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The day progresses and the shore shrinks on the horizon when a storm whips up, seemingly out of nowhere. Two years ago I weathered a similar storm and it pulled me under, depositing me on the distant shore. Today, I am not as worried about the storm as I am the water the boat is taking on. I’m furiously bailing water, trying to keep up. Our storm is one of special needs and each scoop of the bucket is another need.

Surgery, scoop.
Social Security appeal, scoop.
Medicaid, scoop.
Attorney, scoop.
MRI appointment, scoop.
EEG appointment, scoop.
Neuropsych appointment, scoop.
Leukodystrophy Foundation conference, scoop.
Newborn Screening advocacy, scoop.
Prescriptions, scoop.

Even the “normal” needs add to the rising water in the boat.

School supplies, scoop.
School shoes, scoop.
Soccer registration, scoop.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, scoop, scoop, scoop, scoop….

I know there are many people safely on shore that think there is something different about us in the boats. Still others that believe somehow we have been uniquely prepared for our storm. Even a few that believe we have done something to deserve it.  Or maybe that we have a superhuman ability to withstand this storm on our own.

We don’t.

I don’t.

This becomes crystal clear as the water level increases in the boat until my heart is racing and I’m absolutely exhausted from the fight. I find myself examining my sinking ship. All of the ways I’ve failed. I’m not fast enough, strong enough, skilled enough to keep us afloat, to save these precious souls in the boat.

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So I sit in the rising water, paralyzed with fear, turned so far inward that I almost don’t hear Him. That familiar voice in the middle of the storm. Reminding me that I’m not supposed to be able to do it alone. That I don’t have to. Why do I keep trying to? And despite the storm around me, the storm within me quiets. I stop looking at my own boat and trust the One that calms not only the winds, but the waves as well. I look up and when I see Him I’m reminded why I’m here. I followed Him. No matter what the seas look like, no matter how distant the shore, I need not fear the journey because I know the destination.

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That’s when I see it. I’m reminded of the other boats in the raging sea. Some are much further out into the waters. Some have been tossed ruthlessly and it’s a wonder that they’re still in one piece. I can vaguely make out a much smaller vessel starboard, slightly foreign in its design, it’s battered and falling apart. The screams of the occupants are swallowed by the sounds of the sea as they hold tight to anything close to them that hasn’t been loosened by the ruthless waves.

But it’s their eyes, not their voices, that call out to me. Because I can see it. Beyond the fear, beyond the despair, is the hopelessness. And it hits me harder than any of the waves. They haven’t seen Him! They have yet to hear that still, small voice that calls out to them in the middle of the storm! Suddenly, I’m frantic to get to them. Oh, not because I can save them (no more than I can save Hubby and the kids next to me), but to tell them about the One that can. About the One that can not only make you brave, but fill you with a hope and peace that defies circumstances.

I’ve been doing a lot of bailing water lately. Even though I know where my strength comes from, that I can do all things through Christ, I still occasionally fall victim to lies from the pit. More often than I’d like. It isn’t until my anxiety returns, that I’m in tears and on my knees that I realize I’m trying to do this life alone again. The whispered lies that I’m useless, a failure, not smart enough, efficient enough, organized enough,

not enough,

have me convinced I need to appear more than I am. If everything is okay on the outside, I will be okay on the inside. And the enemy has me just where he wants me. Paralyzed, focused on myself.

Then, God reaches down, lifts up my face, and reminds me that I’m His. And because I’m His, it’s my joy to follow Him out upon the waters, no matter what they look like. And it’s amazing what, and who,  I see when I’m not focused on me.

This last week I had the privilege to hear an update and a sermon (which inspired this blog) from some beautiful people from an amazing organization called Tutapona. They provide trauma rehabilitation to refugees from war torn countries in Uganda and Iraq. Widows and orphans. The least of these. These refugees have suffered unspeakable trauma, the most unimaginable storms. They’re left with wounds far deeper than a surgeon can reach. They have reached refugee camps where they’re provided with their most basic needs. Which is amazing. But they’re left with fear, shame and hopelessness that is crippling. Please take a moment to watch the mini documentary below and consider supporting people who are weathering some of the most violent storms. We all need to be tossed that lifeline of hope.

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Follow Me

I recently had the privilege of hearing a message from one of the founders of a relief organization called Tutapona. Eight years ago, Carl, his wife Julie, and their young family picked up and moved to Uganda to provide trauma and rehabilitation counseling to what would turn out to be thousands of refugees in the area. Carl provided an update of their progress, a victim’s heart wrenching story and the relief she found in the program, and plans for Tutapona‘s expansion to Iraq.

In a sanctuary full of Christians, Carl posed the question of how many Christians were truly followers of Christ. He maintains that to simply believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, is not enough. A true transformation of the heart will cause a transformation of your life. We are called to be disciples. This term implies active participation on our part. An outward reflection of our inner faith.


dis·ci·ple

(dĭ-sī′pəl)

n.

1.

a. One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.
b. An active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.

Sharing several verses in which Jesus states “Follow Me”, it is pretty clear that Jesus intends us to, indeed, follow Him. (I searched on my own…and stopped counting at 19)

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Often, when processing a message, I am gifted with images that help make sense of, and usher important information to be stored and filed in the orderliness of my long term memory. Over the past few days, I have a clear picture of a classroom full of Christians. All have professed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus silently enters the room and speaks two words.

Follow Me.

That’s it.

Now, there is a person in the front, center. Let’s call her A+Disciple. Her hand wildly waving, squirming in her chair, she’s practically shouting, “Ooh, Ooh, Pick me! Pick Me!”. The Christians in the back are mulling things over. I’m sitting in the middle, off to the left, unobtrusively hiding behind someone taller than I am. I take a couple of deep, bracing, breaths. You know the kind; in through the nose, out through the mouth. And resolutely raise my hand.

If I were to “unpack” my reserved response, I believe it’s not necessarily fear that has me mentally preparing myself. I think it has more to do with the seriousness of the invitation. The knowledge and respect of what this commitment requires. There’s a (not so nice) part of me that wonders if A+Disciple truly appreciates the gravity of what she’s signing up for. At the same time, noticing her unreserved joy at the offer makes me wonder what I am lacking in faith that makes me so somber at the thought of following Him through anymore valleys that I sometimes can’t hold onto the joy of the promise of my final destination?

(This is when I’m reminded of Julie. Bless her beautiful, honest, Christ filled,heart for sharing her lack of joy when first called to uproot her family from a place they’d grown to love and follow Jesus to Iraq. Was she willing to follow wherever He led her? Absolutely. But even she had a moment where she raised her hand without chair squirming, arm waving, JOY. I also like to think maybe she will be saving a seat for me next to her on the bus?)

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A+Disciple is skipping to the bus while I am mentally “packing”. Repeating comforting scripture and pondering how many toothbrushes I should bring? After all, God seems to keep His itinerary pretty close to His chest. Now, A+Disciple is, of course, already on the bus, in the front seat, not so patiently waiting for the journey to begin. I see the loving smile Jesus welcomes her with and wonder if I’m worthy of the same reception. After all, I’m not exactly skipping in line, but putting one foot resolutely in front of the other while holding onto the promises written on my heart.

But He does.

He smiles at me with love and understanding. The same invitation. The same reception. Accepting me as I am, where I am.

Follow me.

Okay.

And those Christians now sitting, watching from the curb? He smiles at them with love too. Patiently waiting for them to pick up their cross, and follow Him too.

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The disciples on the bus are surely in for hair pin turns, low valleys, some rough roads (after all, the road less traveled is bound to be bumpy) and the most beautiful destination. Sitting in the middle, staring at Jesus, I find the JOY. When I’m focused on Him, and not what’s coming up ahead, I find the joy in the knowledge that not only has He made a way for me, but He’ll be with me through the whole journey.

So where are you on your discipleship journey? Are you dancing with joy ready to leap into anything He calls you to? Are you sitting, prayerfully waiting for instruction? Or are you still sitting on the curb deciding if you really need to pick up your cross and follow Him?

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UPDATE:

If you are already on “the bus”, are daring to be a Disciple, please take a moment to view the following video and prayerfully consider supporting the ministry of Tutapona either through prayer or a financial gift and help many more to follow Jesus. ❤