Well, I obviously think this is a blog worth reading. Grateful for the chance to share about the only One who makes it possible to rejoice through tears!
Maybe it’s because we’ve just experienced the longest stretch of sub zero temperatures in almost a century, or maybe it’s because of all of the Facebook posts of people’s warm climate escapes, but I dreamed of an ocean last night.
Knee deep in calm, blue waters the ebb and flow gave little relief from the glaring sun. At that depth, the water was more like bath water. It was a new to me beach though and I’d spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide if there were any dangers below the surface. Behind me, there were a group of children using drift wood to examine a washed up jelly fish and I was keeping an eye out for any of it’s more fortunate mates. I had no idea where along this coast we were. Could it be shark season here? There were many people, far less cautious than I, that had entered these waters at the same time as I had and were now enjoying their relief from the heat, dipping below the surface and swimming in cooler water further out.
But there I stood, searching for unknown dangers, studying the water and what lay below the surface and looking longingly at the playful couples splashing in the distance. Distracted by all of the noise behind me, I glanced back to see a boardwalk full of people and a beach packed with blankets, umbrellas and countless families. There was volleyball playing, sand castle making, sun bathing and shell hunting. Shops crammed full of souvenirs destined for the landfill were teeming with customers in tiny bikinis and giant jewelry. The smell of fried food from several food booths mixed with the salt in the air and my own sun screen. Every time I looked longingly back out across the ocean, uncomfortable in the heat, my attention was drawn back to the commotion on the shore. So I stood in the in between. Not quite in, and not quite out.
That’s when I heard it. You’ve probably heard it before too. The “Oceans” song. If I closed my eyes I could hear it more clearly…
“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand”
And there I stood, worried that venturing further, my feet would fail. Certain that my faith would. But drawn none the less. So I stood still and sang along.
“I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”
That’s when it happened. Looking down, I watched as the water pulled back as if Someone had pulled out a giant plug somewhere out in the great unknown. Suddenly, all people and their accompanying sound disappeared with the water and I was left with a foreboding empty silence. The sand beneath my feet had been drawn along with the water and I watched the ground hollow beneath me. My heart raced as my gaze lengthened to the sea bed in front of me. A myriad of things revealed in the stripping of the sea. Some beautiful, some ugly. I stood exposed, alone, in the quiet open. Waiting. And then I heard it. A roar of rushing water. Louder than anything I’d ever heard. I looked up in time to be enveloped by the wall of returning sea. The wave that slammed me into the Rock of Ages.
“Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”
And there was incredible fear. Floundering, there was no place for my feet. No up or down, no left or right. No air in my lungs. No solid ground. No foothold.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
I vaguely remembered hearing and singing along to the song. If only I’d known what it might look like when I’d asked to be taken deeper! Would I have sung along? Would I have asked for faith without borders?
“I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine”
Then there was a letting go. Not a giving up, but a giving in. I once again closed my eyes and heard You call. But this time, I called back.
Wherever You call me, Lord.
Then I woke up. To the quiet peace around me and in me. Grateful to keep my eyes above the waves, I was reminded of my favorite Charles Spurgeon quote:
“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
I don’t know that I’ve learned to “kiss” the wave of special needs children. I still pray earnestly for healing. But I’ve certainly learned to be grateful for it, and what it has accomplished. I am far less distracted by the people and the commotion on the shore. Lord knows it has never been more ridiculous and frivolous than it is now. The things of the world still appeal, but don’t pull like they used to. I’ve seen them fade in comparison to the eternal. I am no longer terrified of the unknown. I’ve seen what lies beneath the surface and experienced the grace hidden there. I am no longer standing in the in between and there are others that are “all in” beside me. Now we collectively beckon to those stuck in the in between. We help each other on the long days when the persevering is hard and celebrate all the victories in between. On the hard days I’m content to wade in the deep waters surrounded by these brothers and sisters and on good days… I’m walking upon the water with my Savior and there is no earthly joy that can compare.
Who needs a warm weather destination anyway? This morning, I just spent a little longer snuggled into blankets and basking in the warmth of God’s promises. I will, however, still need a coat today.
Twenty years ago our paths intersected somewhere the other side of Early Adulthood and there was something attractive in the easy, confident, way you walked. Even if I left a safe, observable distance between us for a bit. Eventually though, your persistence closed the gap and we stepped out together hand in hand for the first time. Hearts and fingers tentatively entwined and overlapping. Questioning, sideways glances through lowered lashes revealed a contrast of broad, safe shoulders, thick, strong forearms, but genuine, kind blue eyes and gentle smile. Always smiling. How does a girl resist a combination like that? A girl whose road up until that point had been a little dangerous and lonely?
We continued into a new territory, Together, me and you. Though I’ll admit my focus was most often on you, I was quite amazed at all the new things I could see. With you beside me. Shadows weren’t so long or menacing and you taught me to jump over puddles and sidestep hazards, smiling all the way. Before I knew it, I had almost stopped looking back over my shoulder and was learning to live facing forward.
This next leg of our journey, though, brought us into Commitment and required a quick jump over a broom. Youth shiny new and dressed in finery we glowed and holding hands, made the leap and the promise to stay the course together, forever.
Then, holding our forever hands with new joy and confidence we continued on. The whole world seemed to open up, spacious, in front of us. Oh, how beautiful those days were! The way the sun shone on Possibility in the distance and all sorts of lovely trails appeared as we checked the map. We spent hours wandering along the way, discussing and deciding which one to choose. There were a couple of rough patches (much easier to navigate together) in the beginning then, but nothing that slowed our progress.
Feeling like we could conquer, together, any path we chose, we went for what appeared the most challenging. We took a deep breath and passed the sign welcoming us to Parenthood. Things sure speed up a lot then. Sometimes I wondered why there wasn’t a better description on the map, or more warning signs at the entrance, for it sometimes felt like we’d picked the diamond run as amateurs. But for the most part, we navigated all of the obstacles “Dirty Diaper Ditch”, “Pacifier Pass”, “Sleepless Slide” and several “Trust Falls” together. The going was tough, but the rewards were great and we emerged on the other end with three precious people we’d been entrusted with for the rest of our journey. They’re loud, expensive and exhausting but we found they definitely make the trip more beautiful.
Checking our map again, we realized our choice to visit Parenthood limited our next steps briefly and the terrain looked slightly more winding and definitely slower going (as we’d come out with more baggage than we’d thought). Given our three extra hands to hold, we decided to stay awhile next to Family Forge and focused on raising up and providing for our pack of five. We settled in and made plans for “after”. For when they finished school, chose paths of their own and found someone to travel with. We worked, saved, spent, planned and enjoyed the time and things we amassed here.
Looking out across the hills one day we watched storms gather menacing in the distance. We’d been relatively protected from extreme conditions in that forge but as soon as I saw that horizon turn purple, the little hairs on my arms stood up and I glanced at you scared, waiting.
Giving my hand a quick squeeze, you didn’t smile, but turned away and set to work. This time though, the broad shoulders and work rough hands were no match for the approaching storm. We sold what we could, searched high and low for shelter, to no avail. As the forge flooded and filled we held on to each other for dear life and even though we still had each other, we were tossed so violently to and fro we could barely keep our heads above water. Terrified, my foot brushed up soft against an Anchor. I’d picked it up a few years before, had moved it into our home and had been studying it when time allowed as it seemed to lend a constant, quiet comfort. That moment though, it seemed to come alive and hold me fast. The storm didn’t cease it’s battering, but held firm by the Anchor I was able to once again grab your hand and those of the children.
The waters receded, we caught our breath, but we’d be forever changed. You kept on moving, working, fixing, taking on anything you could to restore what we’d had, to forget about the change of the landscape as if by sheer force of will you could move the mountains that had shifted directly onto our path. We often held hands in the quiet, without words. You with the weight of us on your shoulders and me with my gaze on those mountains. Exhausted, we had no idea what to do or which way to go next. Gone seemed our confidence and definitely our joy.
But during the clean up. Sifting through the debris, I kept resting on the Anchor. The workload for the days seemed unchanged, the mountains remained immovable, the horizon still tinged grey, but there was always the promises of the Anchor to hold me fast. In those promises I found the joy I thought carried away. And it remained, regardless of circumstances.
I’ll never forget the day you tripped on that Anchor. The way you wrestled with it for days.
You didn’t need the Anchor.
It was enough that it was in our house…right?
But that load you were carrying left you too worn out to fight it for any longer. Led to the Word to study the Anchor of our souls, the Creator of our mountains immovable and the love of our Savior, you invited Him in. Into your heart, into our home and into our marriage.
We’re working our way now, hand in hand, following Christ, around our mountains. Sometimes hand in hand is through tears. Sometimes it’s through laughter. But still together. Always thankful. Because now we both know our final destination (even if we don’t know what will happen in between), that we’re never alone, and our God is bigger than any mountain we come up against.
A couple weeks ago you insisted we jump over that broom hand in hand again. Renewing former promises and making a few more that are meant to last the rest of our journey together and acknowledging the source of the love that has, and will continue, to sustain us along the way.
Blessed to make this journey hand in hand, with you, Hubby.
I know that as followers of Christ we are to expect trial and suffering. But I find that expecting it and being prepared for it are two different things for me. Part of me conveniently forgets this truth until I’m staring at it, blinking in shock because it’s happening again.
A dear friend of mine, who has walked through no small amount of trial and suffering herself, recently was hit with more. Her walk through trial has so greatly encouraged my own and her wisdom, support, and encouragement have been such a huge blessing to me. My heart literally hurt to hear she was facing more. Yet through her pain, I was blessed yet again. This time through a conversation we had about cups (Yes, cups) and the resulting picture I was given.
I’m in a large upscale banquet room filled with tables covered in crisp white linen. Rows upon rows of us are seated. Expectantly waiting. Suddenly, there’s a shifting and murmuring as hands start passing along cups. From left to right and around to the other side, each table passes them one by one. Intrigued, I examine them as they pass through my hands.
Some are fine china, light and delicate with gorgeous, hand painted designs and gold rims. The handles so fragile I hold them on the bottom to pass them along. Others are of sparkling crystal creating orbs of prisms as they move along catching and throwing the light from the overhead lights. Still others are ornate goblets with designs that tell stories and inlaid with precious stones the size of robin’s eggs. I’m in awe of the differences, the uniqueness of each one, as I pass it to my right. Eventually I’m holding an earthen cup, more of a vessel. It’s edges are crude and it’s surface so rough and porous I’m sure that it can’t possibly hold anything. It’s ugly and it weighs far more than I think it should. In no small hurry, I look to my right to pass it along. Only to find their hands are still full. Looking around, I realize that everyone now has a cup. They aren’t moving anymore. Uneasy now, I glance to my left, hoping to pass it back the way it came. They actually lean away, protectively holding the cup they have. Increasingly alarmed, I look for sympathetic eyes, someone who might be willing to trade. I see pity and judgement in eyes averted. Overwhelmed, unable to bear holding it any longer, I place it on the table. My own eyes overflowing, I think if this is my cup, I don’t want one at all.
Head bowed, I rub my hands on my legs to try to rid myself of any remnants of that cup and I feel a hand on my shoulder. A gentle pressure. I look up through blurred lashes and make out an arm reaching in front of me and taking my cup. Startled, I look up into merciful, kind eyes looking straight into mine. “I don’t want it.” I whisper in explanation.
And His understanding kindness undoes me and I weep anew.
“It’s okay. Follow me.”
And because there is hope there, I do. Past curious glances I follow Him through the maze of tables and people and cups and I realize, they don’t even see Him. Puzzled and out of sorts, I follow Him through a doorway, into another room. The light is somehow softer here, but no less bright. There are people here too, but the tables are not covered in linen and they’re seated close together on benches. These eyes look right at me, and shift to my cup. But they’re not afraid. Instead, they shift to make room. Uncertain, I hover behind Him until He holds out a hand, calloused, yet soft, with remnants of clay under His nails. I take it, and my place at this table.
The people here, they lean in close while He dries the tears from my eyes. Through the open doorway I can hear music and too loud laughter. There’s clinking of dinnerware piled high with food and beautiful cups filled with drink. I can smell the abundance and see the chandeliers hanging high and glinting in florescent light. There’s a woman standing in the doorway with one foot in each room, her eyes distracted and pulled to the merriment next door. And I see Him get up, and hold out the same hand to her. Uncertainty and longing flashes quick in her eyes but she remains still.
“When you’re ready, follow me.”
The warmth here is greater than that next door and has little to do with the fire blazing in the hearth. There are no plates piled high with food or waiting in silver warmers. Instead, the fare is simple bread and wine and fills more than my stomach. I watch these people at the table with me as they share what they have and what they know. You see, it’s a work table and they’re looking up instructions in the books at their sides, helping each other. And their cups?
They’re being transformed by a master potter. Expertly washed and painted, they’re made new. Rough lines and crude material are made into the most beautiful of creations. And the fire? I’m now kneeling with a friend next to it, holding her hand. While He is reminding us that though it burns destructive hot to the wood within it, it’s bringing out incredibly unique colors and patterns. And when our cups emerge they will be more beautiful for the process and hold far more than they did before.
In the waiting, we’ll grow together and closer to Him. And maybe someday, when complete, we will no longer want to pass on these cups?
Jesus commands Peter, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”