9.30.2014

{the space in between}

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent a teenager. I don’t know how to move from helicopter mom to teaching my daughter how to fly. I don’t know how to navigate this space in between child and adult.

Those were the words left on my computer screen after I got the call from my husband that I needed to take Zach to football practice, and the message from our carpool that I also needed to pick Tali up from cheer. I have been thinking and praying about this topic for weeks, how to write about this place I find myself in with my daughter… this space in between. As I sat down to write yesterday morning, those were the only words I had. I don’t know how to navigate this. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to transition this relationship in a healthy way.

I typed them, and then went about my day, praying for a way to articulate all of the wrestling in my spirit. Parenting is hard. But now I'm seeing that parenting a teen is it's own special variety of hard. I'm not good at relinquishing control. I'm not good at watching people I love make less than ideal decisions. As I closed down programs in my computer before climbing in my big, silver taxi and hitting the road [again], they flashed across the screen at me.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent with space. I don’t know how to give Tali the room she needs to stretch and grow and fall down and pick herself back up. Especially when I see so much of myself in her.  When I see the me that had everything in front of her and made such poor choices. When I see the me that is afraid to invest emotionally. When I see the me that can’t open up to people.  And I want to tell her the easy path. I want to pour into her the lessons I have learned and have her “get it”- ALL. Without the harsh learning curve I had.

When they are little, when we see them running faster than their little legs are equipped to keep up with we can stop them. We can yell ahead “Don’t run!!! You’ll skin your knees!!! Slow down!” We can keep them from so much hurt. But even when they are little… sometimes they still run. Sometimes the warning comes too late. Sometimes the knees still get skinned.

And here I am with this teenager… and I want to yell “DON’T RUN! Slow down!”… but the truth is, there are going to be bruises and wounds along this path.  And not only can I not keep her from all of them, but it wouldn’t be in her best interest if I did.

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from the skinned knees.

Sometimes that is the only way we figure out how fast our feet can carry us without toppling over.

The thing is, when it’s a six year old’s knee, we can kiss it and put a Band-Aid on it, and offer up a popsicle (because they make EVERYTHING better)… but when it’s a heart. Oh, it’s so much more difficult. And the mama bear desire to protect and guard is strong

And that’s where I found myself standing in the shower, tears running down my face asking God… how far do I let her go? How closely do I guard?  Oh Lord, what decisions do I let her make, and which ones do I make the call?

And He answered… how far will I let you go, Becky?

And I know, He will let me go as far as necessary to learn to lean. He will guide and direct and steer with the power of His Holy Spirit, but in the end, the choice is mine. The path is laid out before me, His way and Mine… and I get to choose.

And so it is in this space in between with my teen… I can guide and direct, I can lay out the options and explain the consequences… but in the end she will decide. She will choose to be home by curfew or not. She will choose the way of honesty or not. She will save sacred spaces in her life or not. 

I recall my mom warning me when Tali was two years old and throwing a temper tantrum… “what seems cute and harmless at two isn’t so cute and harmless at thirteen, you are setting the stage now”.  She was so right. Oh, moms of littles, imagine that temper tantrum or talking back or ignoring the rules on a teenager and use that as a gauge as to how seriously you will take it now.  How far will you let them go, now? Because when they are teens those are the tools they will have in their tool belt to make their own decisions.  Be mindful of the pace you set for them now, because tomorrow, they will need to know how fast they can run.

My job as a parent is far from over, but it is definitely changing. My littles are now 11 and 13, and just aren’t so little anymore. It’s a season of transition and I don’t know exactly what it is supposed to look like or how to know if we are doing it well. I look back and hope and pray that we have laid a firm foundation. I pray that we have the courage to let our children fly, even when the nest seems so safe. In the end,  it's not even about her heeding my advice. But learning to hear the Father's voice. Following His call on her life. Letting Him pick her up when she stumbles.

I know that I can warn (and I will), I can call out “don’t run!”… but in the end, these years are about Tali learning how to set the pace. Learning how fast she can run without toppling over. Learning who she is and setting her sights on who she wants to be.  Learning how to navigate disappointment and words that hurt and relationships that are complicated and friends who aren’t.

And maybe, the best thing I can do is be there with a hug and a popsicle when the knees get skinned a little.   

But it’s hard. It’s hard to bite my tongue when I want to offer advice. It’s hard to navigate a space where words are easier spoken via text message than face to face and to know if that’s okay. It’s hard to see so much of me.  It’s hard not to guard and protect against every hurt.  It’s hard not to micromanage. It’s hard to honor the space she needs to grow.

And so that is where I was yesterday, as I typed those words on my computer screen.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to navigate this thing. I don’t know how to parent a teenager because I’ve never done it before… and it’s too important to mess up. I feel inadequate and overprotective and scared and excited and sad all at the same time. This space in between… it’s hard.

Those words… I don’t know how to do this… danced in my head as we pulled out of the high school parking lot and the tears began to trickle down Tali’s cheeks. She poured out her hurt and her frustration and her disappointment, and I thanked God that she trusts me with these things, and asked Him to please help me have words that would encourage and build up and teach and challenge…

We talked. I told her that it did suck. I told her that it was okay to be upset and frustrated. I told her it was not okay to give up. I told her to remember she is good enough, and not to let anything change her smile.

And that’s when I opened the envelope with six one dollar bills in it. Money that someone had just given me unexpectedly. Money that I didn’t even realize I was “owed”.

Looking at the money I had a crazy idea…

“Steve and Kinzi are behind us… what do you think they would do if we threw this money at them?”

“What?!” Tali asked… and a smile began to spread across her face… “we could throw it out the sunroof!!”… so I gave her three dollars (because really, throwing money out the window IS crazy, and Dave Ramsey would NOT approve, and so we were only gonna toss half of it because apparently that makes it –OK–). And one at a time she tossed them out the sun roof.
Tali's Facebook Status last night. #worthit

Turns out, money is quite dramatic flying out a sunroof at 60mph.  


And it was hilarious.

We watched the shock on our friends’ faces as the money flew back toward them….

And we laughed til the tears changed.

Her friend called her, and we giggled even harder. She also threw one more dollar out just for good measure.

It wasn’t a Popsicle. It wasn’t a Band-Aid. But it was the best $4 I have ever spent.

When I got home, I opened my computer and I saw those words again…

I don’t know how to do this.

And the truth is, I don't. But in that moment I heard my Father speak loud and clear... but I do

Father, help us lean on you as we parent. Help us lean on you as we navigate new seasons. Help us lean on you to guide and direct our yes's and our no's. Be the Light to this path, Jesus. In Your Name we pray, AMEN.




8.18.2014

{I was a prisoner and you came to me}

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

I remember studying this passage of scripture in Sunday school and actually thinking to myself "I'm glad you send me to the sick and not the prisoners, God." 


I looked at the guy in our class who works at the prison. That's just too hard. Those people are too hard.  Sure, someone needs to go minister there- I was just really glad it wasn't me. I couldn't do it. I couldn't go so far out of my comfort zone. And yet, His Word kept assaulting me with the truth of our calling to minister to those in jail...



Of course, that is precisely where He was going to take me, and I weep with joy that He would love me enough to send me to the jail in His Name. My friends and I that minister there are so wildly blessed by the Jesus we meet inside those cinder block walls. Sitting with women, in jail, singing songs to our King, with our King... no other worship service quite like it!

And then, last week, THIS happened. Seven of our girls were baptized, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life. 


I wish you could have been there. I wish I had pictures or a video. I wish that I had more than words to express the amount of Jesus that was in that place that day. The amount of grace. The amount of joy. The amount of peace. 


Still, I have a way you can join us in that place. I have a way that you can be a minister of grace in the Knox County Jail. 


I am looking for people to partner in a Bible ministry for the jail. Let me be real here, there is no shortage of Bibles at the jail. In fact the library has stacks and stacks of Bibles that people have donated or given or taken in there. The problem is, these Bibles have no study notes, no concordance, no glossary... no tools to help someone who has never opened a Bible before to understand on their own what they are reading. 


So, He led me to start getting these Bibles for the girls. 

As I asked the Lord what Bibles to get His answer was simple... "what Bible do YOU read". I know there are many worthy Bibles out there with study notes, but these girls really respond to the the Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation. I know there are less expensive options, but if this particular Bible can help these girls grow the deep roots they will need to withstand the temptations of this world outside those jail walls, it's so worth it!


And so, I invite you to join our ministry and bless these girls. The local Bible Bookstore, who is always incredibly supportive of this ministry, has offered to sell them to us, in bulk at just over $20 a Bible... so I'm looking for people willing to buy "one of those really nice Bibles" (as they call them in the jail) for a girl desperate for a hope and a future. Desperate for the truth. Desperate for the armor she will only find in these pages. 


If you want to buy a Bible (or two, or twenty)- just get in touch with me. There are always new girls coming in, and so the need will be steady.  You can email me at becky.boyles@gmail.com (also my PayPal address, just in case you were wondering) or text me at 812-890-1463. If we end up with "too much" money, there are many ways we can bless the girls- Bible Study guides they can do on their own time, books, etc. 


I was in prison and you came to me.


You may not be called to physically visit the prisoner. But you can still be a minister of grace to them. Can't wait to see who God will bless with partnership in this ministry! Thank you, friends!!!




8.15.2014

{when i gave up on my marriage}

I remember the days when I was ready to give up. When it was hard to love you. When it was hard to love me. I remember loud, violent fights. I remember throwing things and screaming in your face. I remember slapping you trying to evoke a response.

Such a bitter wife you had, Jim. Such a broken, confused, bitter wife. Full of sin and sadness and hatred.

I remember words that tore you down. Cut to the quick. I remember betrayal. I remember hurt. I remember chasing anything that might make me feel whole... or that would numb the pain I knew inside.

I remember giving up. Knowing in my heart that we weren't going to make it. That there was no way. Imagining what it would be like to not have my children on the weekends.

And then, oh then… the unexpected.

Then I bumped into Jesus.

Looking back, He had been there all along, pursuing, wooing, calling… but this time I realized it was Him. This time I was ready to relent. This time I was ready to give up and give in and throw my heart into His hands…

And slowly He began to heal the hurt, the hate, the bitterness… the brokenness he found there.

You didn’t understand what was going on. You saw me going to church on Sunday and yet during the week I was still this mess of a wife sometimes. It was such a struggle between who I had become and who I was becoming. I walked out my fledgling faith so poorly before you at first.

But things were changing at the heart level.

And even that day when I stood in our empty house with tears streaming down my face saying  ”God, this is IMPOSSIBLE! He hates me now! I have ruined everything!!! Tell me God, how in the world can we NOT get divorced?” Even when everything in me said there was no way, we had gone too far, said too much, hurt too deeply… I wanted to turn that sinking ship around and find shore before we drowned.

It seemed impossible. Everyone could see it. Our family, our friends, our children.

And then, there are the prayers of a three year old. There are the prayers of a three year old girl in her bed that no one knew about until last year… there are prayers of a little girl saying “God, please don’t let mom and dad get divorced.”

And God was listening.

Slowly, I learned what it meant to really follow Jesus. How to love like Him, even when it was hard. How to bite my tongue when everything in me wanted to argue or nag or convince. How to walk as a Godly wife, in submission even to one who did not yet believe.

And then, I gave up for real. I  realized that I couldn't fix what I had broken, only God could do that. I couldn't undo the hurt I had caused, only God could do that. I couldn't make my husband fall in love with me again, only God could do that.  

It was not me, but Jesus in me… refining and teaching me through this marriage.  It was Jesus fanning the flame of my first love and giving me the want to to make it work. It was Jesus listening to a little girl’s pure and simple prayer to keep her family together. It was Jesus teaching me how to love my husband with His love.

Jim, it was hard. It was hard to know what a bitter wife I had been to you. It was hard to know that the words you spoke out of hurt, came from wounds I placed there. I am so sorry, babe… I am so sorry.

And then Jesus called this one with so many words to live a quiet life before her husband. To love you well, even when it was hard. To let you lead, even when I thought I knew a better plan. He told me to get so completely out of the way, that He would have direct access to your heart. I was learning how to love you like Jesus does.

And we began to fight again. Not with each other, but for our marriage.

We fought with the tools of compromise and apologies and patience and perseverance.

Ours is truly a love worth fighting for. When I’m driving down the road and I think about the way your smile explodes into your eyes… I still get butterflies. When you sneak behind me in the kitchen and kiss my neck… there is still electricity.  The love I have in my heart for you has never been this big or this pure or this full of admiration.

You amaze me, Jim Boyles. You amaze me with your quiet love. You amaze me with your quiet service. You amaze me with your gentle care of me. The way you flirt with me and make me feel pretty. Figuring out how to make all my favorite foods gluten free.  Giving me the space to chase hard after Jesus. The way you care for others: building bedrooms for dreamed-of-children, mowing lawns without ever being asked, rescuing from the side of the road, coaching little men in so many more things than baseball and football- but also character and integrity and sportsmanship.

Thank you for not giving up on me. On us. On our family.


Friends, if you are at the end of your rope… ready to throw in the towel and walk away. Know this… God is able. He is able to take something that is broken and hurting and make something beautiful. He is able to take a marriage that is coding and bring new life. He is able to take your bitterness and replace it with love, your anger and give you gentleness, your hopelessness and give you HOPE. He is able. If He was able to take the mess that was Jim and Becky Boyles and create the beauty that we now know, truly He is able to do anything

I won't sugar coat it and tell you that the journey was easy- it was not. There were few steps forward and many steps back. But when I look over at the man driving us to church on a Sunday morning, my heart explodes with praise to the God that restores. I thank God that He gave me a heart of surrender in my marriage! I thank God that He showed me how to love this man well... 





8.13.2014

{from mud to mercy}

Today I knelt by a black plastic horse trough filled with grace from a garden hose.

This one whom I had just met a few months ago came toward me. Her loose fitting jump suit not fitting an occasion such as this, but it is the only garment she has. No robe of white for her baptism. No heated baptistery. Just a striped jump suit, cold water, and grace.

And these hands. These hands of mine that have stolen and cheated. These hands that have been perverse and vile and violent. These hands on hers…

This mouth that once denied God. Words that once cursed, lied, slandered. Words that cut to the quick and then exploded with a death blow. Now a flow of love from the mercy seat…

“Jesus loves you so much, my friend. He loves you with everything…”

Tears streaming down her cheeks and mine. This is not how we picture grace. Our hearts grow cynical. Names in the paper become faceless statistics.  

But those names have stories.

And for this one, her story just collided headlong into grace. And it is being rewritten.

“Are you ready, sister? Are you ready to follow Jesus with your entire heart, and mind, and soul?”

Tears become sobs… and “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” comes tumbling out of a spirit that is desperate for a Savior. Desperate for the promise of a hope and a future. Desperate for HIM.

And then from the same mouth that once denied Him… “I now baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father… and of the Son… and of the Holy Spirit”.

And hands that were once stained with sin follow her as she kneels forward. All in.

All in.

Face forward into grace.

Water from a hose become a symbol of union with Him. Union in death, and union in New Life.

Water turned grace in the wash bay of a jail gushing over the sides of a black horse trough… I feel it’s cool on my hands and up my arms… splashing feet that had once taken the path of the prodigal… soaking the hem of my skirt. The hem of my garment.

An anointing like no other. An anointing of grace I have never known. An anointing of grace I would never have dared to dream about or imagine when my own desperate sobs cried out to Him in my sin.

That He could use a wretch like me. That He could use hands that have done such harm. That He could use a mouth that has wounded so many… as an instrument of grace.

He found me in the mud. He found me in a pig sty of my own making after I had demanded my inheritance and ran off to the far country. He let me get to the end of myself… He knew I had to… or I would never see my own desperate need for Him.

He watched as I went my own way. He wept as I made wrong choices. He hurt as I denied Him.

And somewhere in that mess… somewhere in that darkness… He declared “THAT ONE… bring her to me”… and sending His Son right into the center of my messy heart, He did just that. He sought me… He rescued me… He sent people to love me right where I was at. People who spoke grace and lived love and stirred a desire in me for more.

And now, my hands on the back of one who had just arrived to the end of herself.  My heart overflowing with His love for her.

As she steps from the water, overcome by His love, another comes.

And another.

And another.

Seven times I kneel by that beautiful baptistery.

Seven times He issues an invitation to love and mercy and grace.

Seven times His Bride says “yes”.

Seven times hearts are overwhelmed and tears fall and forgiveness is received and lives are reconciled.

Seven times His grace covers His Beloved.

Seven times striped jump suits are traded for robes of righteousness.

Seven times it splashes over the sides of a horse trough that could not contain it.  

And I am undone.

From mud to mercy. If ever those words were ever true of my story, they were true today. 


{don't step here}

A few weeks ago I interrupted my kids' summer plans of vegging-out-in-the-air-conditioned-house-alllllll-day by forcing them to come pick wild flowers with me. I was helping with a party for a friend, and with the wild flowers in bloom along every country road in Southern Indiana I knew we could get enough to decorate.

I had been scoping good spots on my adventures to and from photo shoots for a week or so, and knew there was a place that had shoots of beautiful little purple flowers that would be perfect, so we would start there.

Begrudgingly, they helped me get containers of water in a galvanized tub and off we went.

I parked at the side of the road and headed into an overgrown patch of purple flowers that had caught my attention days before. All of the space around these intermittent patches of flowers was mowed and as I neared I saw why the mowers stayed away from here- it was wet, "marshy" looking soil. As I walked directly to the flowers I realized there was a small ditch full of water, and that just on the other side of it was muddy, soggy soil- just enough to keep me away from any of the flowers on this side.

"Don't step here!" I cautioned the kids, "it's nothing but mud." I turned and walked away to see if we could get to them from the side or back, away from the road and the ditch, thinking it would be a bit drier that way.

And then it happened.

"Hey mom! You can go right HERE------" and taking a big step over the water, she stepped HARD into the DEEP mud just on the other side of it.

And with a squeal, Tali was in mud almost up to her knee.

Pulling her leg out, her favorite Cons were caked in mud. Her new white shorts splattered.

I could have been mad. I just told her not to step there.

But all I did was shake my head, laughed out loud, and said "I told you not to step there... there's a towel in the back of the car", and went on looking for a way to the flowers, which I found.

As she cleaned herself up, and moved on to an easier location to cut flowers across the road, I happily collected the perfect purple flowers for my decorations, and thanked God for providing them at just the right time, mud and all.

And then I could see it.

I could see how He so often says "don't step here, Becky... this way is nothing but mud" and in my stubbornness and pride and thinking I can find a better-faster-quicker-easier work-around than His way... I step right in it.

At one point in my life, I actively sought out the mud. But that's not what I saw here. Tali didn't want to get mud on her brand new white shorts, and she DEFINITELY didn't want to have it seeping in every stitch of her Converse. She just wanted to help mom get to the flowers and thought she knew the way.

She didn't realize that my words of caution weren't about the obvious water in the ditch, it was because I could see the soggy soil on the other side. I recognized the mud shining just beneath the tall grass that obscured it from her sight.

Being a parent looks a lot like that. It's guarding our children and saying "don't walk there" because we can see the mud. We can see the heartache, we can see the pain, we can see the compromise, we can see the danger. I have said to both of my children at various times "I don't say no because I hate you, even if it feels like that- it's because I love you enough to say no".

Sometimes I have had to say no to things the kids really wanted to do. "All" of their friends would be there, or are playing that game, or seeing that movie, or are allowed to... Honestly, the easy thing to do would be to say yes. Honestly, this momma's heart never wants her kids to miss out. Honestly, I don't want to be the "lame" mom.

Honestly, I want to fit in too.

So I get it.

But at the end of the day, Jim and I are set as guards about our children, and their hearts. And sometimes our job is to say no. Even when the yes is a lot more comfortable.

And each of us have this Heavenly Father who is so much better than us at parenting. Sometimes I miss things. Sometimes I let something go and then look back and realize the slippery slope we've found ourselves on, how easily it would be to slide into the muck, and we have to regroup (which is even harder than the "no" would have been in the first place). Video games put on the shelf indefinitely. Television shows no longer tuned in. Relationships learned from.


But if I'm really honest, there was this voice in my ears all along saying "Becky, this is the way... walk in it". If I'm really honest I wanted to say YES to them so much more than I wanted to heed His "no".

My walk with the Lord has been one of learning that His "no" always has a purpose. A protection. I am learning that He sees things just beyond the obvious that I cannot know. I am learning that His way... that narrow road is worth it.

And my heart rejoices that my children are learning that too.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to give Tali what felt to me to be an all-too-familiar NO to something. I can't even tell you now what that something was, but I do remember the conversation we had later that day. We were in the car when she said: "Mom, you and dad always say yes unless you have a REASON. We know if you tell us no, there is a good reason why."

And my heart sang. For you moms with littles and it seems so hard and the answer always seems to be NO and it feels like a lot of chasing and stopping and disciplining... let me offer you this hope... someday they will see.

Some day you will be riding in your car, sipping on a Lic's milkshake, and your daughter will say "I trust you" and it will be worth it

Some day your child will tell you that he had a choice to make, and he chose honesty. And it will be worth it.

Some day you will have a daughter navigating an entirely new kind of relationship and you will give her advice and she will say "I just told him the same thing last night!!!" And it will be worth it.

They might not always like it (and we have had heated discussions in GameStop or via text message because of it), but somehow in this crazy-hard journey that is full of so much joy and adventure and peace... they are learning the purpose in the no.

Somehow, in this crazy-hard journey that is full of so much joy and adventure and peace... I am too.

I am also seeing that there is a lot more "yes" than "no" in our Father's heart. Tali said the same thing over those milkshakes- "Mom, you always say yes unless you have a reason".

Father is perfect in His love, and so, if he is telling you no, you can trust Him. Our God knows that the mud, whether it sneaks up on us or allures us, is a thief. It steals our time and our joy and our purity and our peace. When He says "this is the way..." it's not because He wants to keep us from the joy of another journey, it's because He so clearly sees the pain down that path.

Father doesn't want us holed up in our homes all of the time- He wants us out picking the flowers.  He wants us enjoying the journey. He wants us living this life, and living it to the FULLEST. He knows it can get messy out there, but if we will listen He will show us where to step. He will show us the way.

I think about Michelle Duggar from "19 Kids and Counting"... when she is talking to her children she will say "I need your eyes" because she knows "when you have their eyes, you have their attention".

As we walk this out, I hear our Daddy saying "I need your eyes"... He needs our eyes fixed on Him. He needs our ears attentive to His voice. He needs us to trust His path and His good purpose in our lives. Would you give Him those things today? Would you give Him your focused attention in this next step He is asking you to take? Would you allow Him to guide your parenting? Your next career step? That relationship decision?

Will you listen when He says "Don't step here, it's nothing but mud..."


7.06.2014

{overwhelmed}

After months of planning, dreaming, talking, saving, we arrived at Hilton Head Island. In the middle of a horrendous downpour. Unable to do the anticipated mad dash to the beach, we instead unloaded, unpacked, and headed to the grocery store to buy what we would need for the week. By the time we got back to our villa and had supper it was no longer raining, but it was also completely dark.

Despite the late hour, I still wanted to touch the beach... to see the ocean... even if by a moonlit sky. We were only a short walk over the boardwalk away, after all. And it had stopped raining. And it was our first time ever at Hilton Head. And my first time ever to see the ocean... and so we went.

As we walked across the boardwalk in the dark, I thought about my only other attempt to visit the ocean. I was eighteen years old with a friend of mine. We set out on the road for Virginia Beach, only to have the transmission go out on our car in the middle of the night in West Virginia. Days later with a brand spankin' new transmission we headed on... only to arrive in Virginia Beach in the middle of a tropical storm that had all local beaches closed. We spent one night within walking distance of the ocean, yet I headed home never having laid eyes on it.

This trip would not be the same. Come storm or high water or late arrivals- I would see the ocean. And not just the glimpse we could catch from our balcony... I wanted to touch it. To take in the enormity of the OCEAN... to gaze out over the endless waters and marvel at the fact that God measures all of it in the cup of His palm. I wanted to be overwhelmed... by the ocean, by the beauty of creation, by my God.

As we neared the ocean, the remnants of the evenings storms were still palpable in the air. The wind was rushing into our faces, making the perfect towel-cape blowing scenario for an eleven year old boy.  Yet within me was a growing unease. We passed only four people on the entire boardwalk. We saw no lights and heard no other voices in the night air. The roar of the waves grew louder. And with clouds overtaking the moon, darkness closed in on us as we stepped from the boardwalk to the beach. 

Jim, having been to the beach many times marched onward toward the waves. Tali, flashlight in hand followed close behind. Zach stood with me on the beach path for a few minutes, then seeing that nothing swooped in and swept away the rest of his family, he joined his sister and dad further down on the beach.

And I stood, frozen. The ocean was so LOUD. Why didn't I realize it would be so loud? A short distance away I could see the white waves crashing against the shore but other than that there was only the black of the night sky meeting the black of the water.  With the wind howling around me, darkness surrounding, and the roar of the ocean overtaking my senses… I was gripped with fear.

A couple came stumbling toward me as my family giggled a few yards down the beach. “Be careful!” the guy laughed… “you’ll get lost!” The girl picked up where he left off telling me about their nighttime adventure strolling the beach. Their words were full of joy… and yet they drove the stake of terror deeper into my heart. Lost?! The couple wandered away, giggling and holding hands.

“Let’s come back tomorrow” I called out to my family. They were straying too far into the darkness for my liking. While I couldn’t really see the ocean, I could feel it’s power and immensity. I was overwhelmed in the purest sense of the word. I was paralyzed with fear and terrified for my family to go any farther on the dark beach.

My son ran by me, towel over his head and flying behind him in proper fashion. Tali investigated something with her flashlight. Jim called out for me to come join him. But my feet would not move from their spot at the end of the boardwalk. Fear was gripping me, growing from a nagging concern deep in my heart to an overwhelming anxiety and confusion. I couldn't make sense of anything, it was all so unknown. As hard as I strained into the darkness I could only see black with a bit of white foam interrupting sporadically. 

Once, it took a storm to keep me from realizing my dream of walking in the ocean. This time, it took only my own fear of the unknown. I was 37 years old, standing on the shore for the first time in my life, and I was terrified. 

As I stood there, I could hear God whispering... teaching. I had come to the ocean to see His face, in a way. I wanted to TOUCH the immensity of the ocean that He holds in the depth of His palm. I wanted to look farther than my eye could see and know there was STILL MORE… that the waters went on and on and on and on. That they went down to depths I can't even imagine… just like this God that I love. Just like this God that loves me.

But we want to meet God in the bright light of day. In the comfort of a church sanctuary, or in the blessing of a new baby. We don't want to meet God in the darkness... when confusion and chaos abounds and all we hear is the roar of His power.

How many find themselves frozen at the end of the boardwalk when God is right there. Unable to see clearly, we don’t know where to step, or what this journey will require. How far can we go and be safe? How far can we go and not get lost? What if it overtakes us? What if it literally overwhelms us, sweeping over our heads and requiring everything? What if?

I looked at my family’s reactions to the exact same beach in the exact same dark with the exact same wind blowing their faces and the exact same ocean roar assaulting their ears.

My husband, having been to a beach at night before knew that there would be soft waters at the edge to warn you that you are close. He understood the gradual slope of a natural beach, and how far one would have to go to get even knee deep in the dark waters.  If he feared, he did not show it. He trusted what he knew about the ocean and the beach… and he marched confidently toward the waves.

My daughter, flashlight in hand and close behind the one she knew would never, ever lead her into danger didn't register a hint of fear either. She had a bit of light in her hand to illuminate her steps immediately before her, and was close to one that she trusted.

My son, hanging back at first. Pacing fearfully… yet anxious not to miss out on a single adventure this vacation had to offer. Waiting to make sure dad and sister were okay- then running with abandon around the beach.

They were not hindered by fear, at least not their own.

They were not hindered by fear, until I called out to them to return. Until they heard it in my voice, despite my chipper “let’s come back in the morning, when it’s light… We can come back when we can see and explore”… I am certain they all knew from my frozen stance on the beach that mom was not comfortable with this scenario. Not one little bit.

They were not hindered by fear, I until hindered them with mine.

Today we returned to the same beach by the same boardwalk. The wind is blowing in my face as I type these words. The roar of the ocean drowning out the squeals of nearby children.

But it’s entirely different in the light of day.

The ocean has not changed. It is still immense. Powerful. As I waded out in it this morning, waves crashed over my head and I cried out with delight. Psalm 42:7  immediately came to mind… “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Literally His waves and breakers swept over me. And in the Light… it was welcomed and beautiful.

Before we know God… before we have His Light… He is so much. The power and the might and the majesty is just… too much. It is too dark and too frightening… too awesome. And we are overwhelmed. But if we would trust one who had walked before us, or take with us a tiny hand held light from His Word, or look to those running with abandon even in the unknown of His presence… maybe then we would have the confidence to step out of our fear and into the enormity of who He is.

Having met the ocean in the light, I’m curious what my response will be if we return tonight. I have a feeling that, having known the Light I will now have the confidence to explore even in the night.

When I came to the Lord, it was initially terrifying. I looked into my sin stained life and knew… the requirement would be high. I knew that He wasn't a God satisfied with a portion, but that in time, He would want it all. Everything. But, like the sun rising in my life I could see His beauty. I could see both His immensity, and the gentle way He crashed to the shore… the gradual slope of the beach into His depths. Even how, if we plant ourselves in beach chairs a safe distance from the crashing surf… He will eventually make His way to us with His rising tides tickling our toes.

Last night as we returned to our villa, not having touched the ocean, the Lord asked me if I was willing to trust Him in the dark, as well. To trust Him in the unknown… to trust Him in the dreams He has planted in my heart. To know that He is the same God at night as He is during the day… to take my knowledge of His gentle surf into the darkness with me. And to TRUST.

I wonder, reader, where you are in your experience with God? Is He still an overwhelming unknown? Take comfort in the scripture that says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”… know that as He did with me, on this beach last night… He will meet you in your fear, and begin to teach you the unsearchable truths of His Kingdom. Also remember that this is only the beginning of wisdom- He never desired that we would stay in this place. Rather He tells us that perfectlove casts out all fear! Take a step into the unknown, and then like dawn His light will begin to shine over your life. You will see and know the wonders of our Lord…

Or maybe you are like me… you have been walking with the Lord for some time now. You have known His miracles and seen His good works. You have seen His hand of protection and providence in your life. You have learned to trust Him in the light… but now the path before you is uncertain. It’s big and frightening and it seems as though it may overtake you. He wants you to be reminded today that He is the same God in the dark as He is in the light. He is the same God in the day as the night. He is the same God who met you in your first adventure on the beach, and He is the same God that will be there when your dream is within reach. He is the same.

Don’t let your fear tell you anything differently. Don’t let your fear cause you to focus on the roar of His power and miss the gentle tickling of the surf on your toes. Don’t let your fear convince you that the darkness will win. Don’t let your fear hold you captive at the end of the boardwalk.

Don't let your fear hinder you. 

Don't let your fear hinder the ones you love.

I wish this tale was one of a family who, in their excited first night at the beach, giggled and ran along the shoreline. How we got lost… and then found our way again. How we made memories that first night that will last a lifetime. But instead, my fear caused us to turn just shy of the ocean and return to the safety of what we already knew. I let my fear keep them from a memory, hold me back from putting my toes in the ocean...

Today we get a re-do. Today we sit at the beach and enjoy the surf and take in the wonder of God's
handiwork. Today, I stood at the edge of an endless ocean and cried tears at the enormous beauty of it all. Today we played in the surf and napped at the waters edge. Tonight we can walk to the beach again, and take with us the knowledge of what we saw in the light. I can step into the unknown confidently, taking with me the lessons learned last night.

We don't always get a re-do in this life. Friends, don't let your fear of the unknown you paralyze you at the end of the boardwalk. Don't let the dream you can't see clearly fade into the distance as you return to the thing you have already known. Don't miss out on adventure with our great, big God because His power seems so overwhelming in the darkness of this life.

Step into the sand. Let the enormous power of the ocean meet you with gentle surf. Take it all in.

Don't let fear hinder you... or the ones you love.




6.15.2014

{when you miss your dad}

I was a little girl who looked at her daddy with all adoring doe-eyes. He loved me well, took me under his wing when the father the world had assigned to me threw me away… he could do no wrong in my eyes.  I would stand on the top of his cowboy boots and straining my neck to look straight up into his eyes we would dance around.  He could set up a tent in the dark of night by only the lights of our pick up truck.  He could embarrass my mom as we made our way through 3D (remember that store?) in ways unimaginable to most families. We laughed. A LOT.

Once, we were on our way to family church camp, and the hood flew up on the bus completing obstructing the windshield. Everyone on that bus remembers with laughter how he stuck his head out the window and calmly guided us to the side of the road, hopped out, tied the hood down with a rope, and then got back in- all without breaking a sweat.

That is the super-hero daddy that I knew.

Looking back, I know that he didn’t get it all right. Looking farther back into his past I know that he flat out got some things very wrong.  But my memories are so full of joy, that my heart cannot rest on the mistakes for very long.

I am not one to get caught up much on dates on the calendar. Since he passed away, I note the date that marks the anniversary of his death, and of course his birthday… but generally I have said that I miss him no more or less on those days than any of the other days of the year. Father’s Day comes and goes year after year with very few “woes” to me and my daddy’s girl heart because I’m busy celebrating the amazing dads still here in my life- my husband, step-dad, father-in-law and countless others.

No, it’s seldom a holiday or anniversary that causes that dull ache in my heart to split open into a sharp pain. But that doesn't mean I don't have them... it's just that, for me, they creep up at the most unexpected times.

It’s passing an amazing bunch of wildflowers on the road and thinking “Dad so would have stopped to get a bouquet of THOSE for mom”. A thought that I haven’t had for years, but seeing these giant purple blossoms brought that pang of remembrance and longing. Telling Zachary stories of many a wasted hour picking “weeds” we saw as flowers with my dad, more often than not while we were on our way somewhere and already running late. Pulling over with Zach to grab a picture (my version of a bouquet)… and thinking how much my little man would have loved my dad. How much Papaw Joe would have loved this kid and his quick wit. How loudly he would have cheered at football games. The shirts he would have made that said "Tali & Zach's Grandpa"... he was just that kind of guy.

It’s sitting on concrete benches at the Bicknell ball park as Jim coaches our son, remembering sitting on those very benches as dad coached the little “Mets” ball team (they were just as uncomfortable as a ten year old girl as they are now).  Watching him out on the ball field in his coach’s shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots cheering on the little guys on his team with everything he had and arguing unfair calls even more energetically. 

could I have sat any closer to him?
It's glancing over my shoulder from that concrete bench and pointing out my childhood home to the friend sitting with me. A little gray house on a corner, close enough to the ball park that we could enjoy rocket pops and fun dip all.summer.long.  I think about playing Frisbee in the field across the street. Learning to ride my bike in the road right behind me. The swing that sat outside that house and played such a prominent role in our happiest summer nights. Fireworks set off on the Fourth of July.  And this feeling creeping in that it’s not really fair that he was never able to see a single one of Z’s games, or Tali’s dance recitals. Oh the bouquet of flowers he would have brought her! I imagine a few weeds stuck in for good measure…

It’s walking through a thrift store and catching sight of a wagon-wheel clad couch… you know the ones, brown and cream and orange with dark wood trim in all of their early 80’s glory. It’s remembering sitting with your hero on just such a couch as the record player crooned the words to “Rose Colored Glasses”, your daddy singing along in that out-of-tune way he had about belting out his favorite songs.

It’s driving down the road with my knee. Spinning donuts with Jim and the kids on an empty parking lot after a snowstorm.  Seeing the way my brother smiles, cocking his head to the side with a glint in his eye that must be genetic.

Or last night, as I photographed a bride in white dancing with her daddy. The way that they looked at one another- a daddy’s girl all grown up but still looking into the eyes of her hero.  And wishing I could have had that memory. Wishing that one last time, I could have kicked off my shoes and stood atop his cowboy boots and twirled around a dance floor. A princess, and the man who made her feel that way…

Most of the time, when I think of dad it is with a happy smile and joy in knowing I will see him again. But occasionally, it is like this feeling of longing and what-if and missing out.  I am learning, that’s okay. For years I have choked back these feelings of sadness. I have pushed them at arms length for fear that the feelings would actually overwhelm me, overtake me. But Jesus is teaching me that, even in this, He is my strong tower. And that the only way to march through the waves is to let them hit you. As my sweet friend, Lauren, reminded me this week... our Father is a good one who will lift us at just the right time, so that the waves don't overtake us.

Maybe you are missing someone like that too. Take heart, dear one. Take heart that our Heavenly Father understand our grief. He understands the pain of separation from the One He loves. And like any good Daddy, he holds us in these moments of grief. He weeps with us, and whispers gently words of comfort and love and understanding.

He doesn’t want us to stay in this place, but He does want us to be honest with Him about it. To ask Him why, tell Him we don’t understand, to lean our heads on his ever-strong chest and let Him catch each tear that falls. He wants us to trust Him when the waves feel strong... and at just the right time He will lift us... or even better, He will part the sea and let us walk through on dry land.

Would you let me pray for you?
Father, oh God... Abba... I thank you that you are a good God and a good Father. I thank you that you come right where we are, that you meet us even in grief and sadness. Lord, I pray for those who are hurting tonight, for those who, like me, are missing their daddies. I pray Lord that you would be near to the brokenhearted, as your Word promises. I pray that you would be near to this daddy's-girl-heart tonight. I am thankful to know that in Jesus, we have a Savior who knows exactly what we are feeling, that He also wept, and that it's okay to rest for a while in our feelings. To actually FEEL the things some of us have kept at arms length. I thank you God, that you are the lifter of our heads... would you keep our eyes focused on your goodness, your mercy, and your love. Would you remind us of the great hope we find in eternity, and the great reunions that will some day take place? Would you mend hearts tonight? Catch tears? Would you capture us up in your arms, and dance with us atop your ever strong, ever steady feet? I thank you, Father, that all that you are... you are for each and every one of us. In Your Son's beautiful Name I pray... AMEN.

For more on how our Daddy God holds you in your grief:  a daddy's love
To read more about my daddy, and how he loved me: tale of a father's love