Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shells and Scars

I have always loved seashells, with their smooth or rough textures, their myriad of colors, their tumbling appearance on the shore, the way they decorate the sands.

They seem, to me, a little gift from God, straight from the heart of the sea to His people living on land, a reminder that He loves to give us beautiful things to hold and enjoy.

Recently my kids and I have been studying sea creatures for school, and I have learned many interesting things about sea shells that I didn't know before.

Did you know that the shells are actually MADE by the creatures living in them? (except for the hermit crabs, who steal them from the former inhabitants after the hard working, shell making creatures die.)

God gave these fascinating creatures the ability to GROW their own home. and the shell also serves as defense against predators.

Lucky sea critters.

I've been thinking about this lately, and I've decided that I'm jealous of those slimy little buggers.

I want a shell to protect me. Why is it that scallops and clams and all the rest get a hard, beautiful shield to shelter them from pain, and even death, and I get...nothing?

Rude.

When the hard times of life come, wouldn't it be nice to just pull our heads and hands inside our warm, weather proof shells and know we are safe?

Don't you ever wish to just escape the turmoil; the roiling, foaming ocean filled with its uncertain currents and sharped toothed, hungry predators?

 God knows I wish it. I long for armor against the searing pain. I desperately wish for a place to hide from the storm. I ache for reprieve from the battering, slicing wind and rain.

The wind lessens sometimes, and we get to take some deep breaths and feel refreshed and tend our wounds and begin to heal. But, the scars remain on our hearts, our souls, our emotions, and those scars ache anew when they are exposed to the elements the next time.

New wounds join the old ones and the scars reopen and bleed all over again.

Our hearts start to take on a battered look and feel.

You know what I mean. We've all been there.

Wounded and raw and frail and feeling as if every nerve ending is exposed and vulnerable, and no matter how tightly we curl into ourselves...we have no shell to protect us.

Our love is rejected.
Our trust is shaken.
Our failures are exploited.
Our weaknesses are preyed upon.
Our fears are realized.

Our hearts are...broken...shattered...mutilated with wounds so deep they will scar us forever, no matter how much healing we can eventually find.

Why, Lord? Why didn't we get a shell? A defense?

I asked Him that today, in a rare moment of total silence. Why all the pain?

I asked it without tears, despite the deep ache in my chest.

Tears don't come easily to me these days, which may shock those of you who know me. But its because I'm metaphorically curled up inside a shell I have constructed for myself.

It's a puny shell. It's made up of distance, distractions, and deflections. If you ask me how I am...I will tell you the truth. I will just do it without exposing my heart.

It's lonely in this shell.
But...I am certain that my heart can't take any more hits right now.

So, I ask Him my questions, but my heart is deep inside my shell, and hearing Him is hard.

He spirit nudges me, beckoning me to open up, and let Him in, so we can talk.

My shell slips a little. I hang my head.

I can't do it, Lord. I am too tired to keep getting knocked down. I can't keep getting back up. So, maybe, if I stay here on the ground, curled up in a ball...maybe I'll be safe here.

I can't take any more scars, Lord. Don't You see how bad I'm scarred already?

Do you know what the Lord said to me, today, in the middle of my fetal position conversation with Him?

"I. HAVE. SCARS. TOO."

And now there are tears falling freely.

And truth seeps into the cracks in my shell.

Jesus, this God/Man on whom I've staked all that I am and all that I do and all that I seek, He didn't have a shell to protect Him from the pain. And when the whip cut His back to ribbons, and the thorns tore his forehead, and the nails pierced Him clean through...He didn't curl up to save Himself the hurt.

Ah, quite the opposite.

He opened His arms to the pain. He stretched them out, and His mercy flowed out with His blood, and He fixed His eyes on the knowledge that HE WAS CHANGING EVERYTHING right in that moment.

His scars say something very precious.

They say HOPE.
They say PEACE.
They say TRUTH.
They say MERCY.

His wounds HEAL MINE.

I cannot tell you the way my heart leaps with His words flowing over me.

Just knowing that I am not alone, and I am not forsaken...its enough for today.

He is my safe place, my refuge, my strong tower, my shelter from the storm.

He is my shell.

And He has the scars to prove it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The fact is...

Fact: I am a mother of four children.

Fact: I home school them.

Fact: I love them to the point of bursting.

Fact: Most days I have at least one moment of legitimate desire to knock them silly.

Fact: My life is the farthest thing from perfect that it is possible to be.

Fact: I love my life.

This week started out on a really low note. At five a.m. on Sunday morning, one of our boys woke up with the stomach flu. He threw up every hour for six hours straight. Fifteen hours after he started throwing up...I woke up with the stomach flu.

Thankfully we were leaving the next day for a 3 day family getaway, so this stomach bug didn't affect us at all. (Read-dripping sarcasm) 

I spent the better part of our first day sitting on a chair, watching my kids play at an indoor water park. Weak legged and weak stomached, I still dutifully rode water slides and ate snack bar food in my swimsuit with my paler-than-death legs and flabby-because-its-winter stomach visible to the world. My husband dutifully took the bigger kids on the most stomach-lurching water rides, and when they were tired of screaming and whooping and climbing stairs to do it again, we met up at the wave pool for a while.

Time moved a bit slower, and while I was relaxing and breathing deeply and enjoying the time away, I was also watching my kids with care. Because that's what parents do when their children are in the water. They pay attention.

And do you know what I saw?

These kids of mine, the wild, crazy, loud, messy, humans that live under my roof and fight with each other so often that it makes me want to hang them by their toe nails from the nearest tree...they love each other.

So. Much.

I watched them splashing around, playing games. 

I saw the older two keeping as much of an eye on the younger two as their daddy and I were.

I observed all four of them laying on their stomach in the shallow water, talking and laughing.

I witnessed them taking turns choosing rides, or riding rides they didn't really care to, just because one of their siblings wanted a slide-buddy.

My heart filled to bursting, let me tell you.

They are friends.

Its what I always wanted for them.

Because I cherish my friendships with my own siblings so much. 

I looked at my husband, and I smiled through tears, and I said "Look at them. They love each other. How did we get so blessed to have children who are such good friends?"

And my mind remembered so many other moments. Times where I thought they were going to kill each other, or never speak to each other again, or never learn to get along...

And then I remembered still more times, when they laughed together till they cried, when they stood up for each other in front of their friends, when they protected each other and put each other's needs above their own.

I cried a few silent, heart-bursting tears.

Despite the fact that my life is a disaster pretty much all the time, one of the things I want most for my kids is already a reality in their lives. They have unconditional love, and lifelong friends, already built into their lives.

Day three of our getaway, another kid woke up puking, and so did my husband.

And so we packed up and headed home, after stopping by a store to purchase a bucket and a package of trash bag liners for it. (Just in case you were starting to worry that I was trying to paint my life in rosy hues)

Today they have had several fights.
I have bopped them all on the head at one point or another, and reminded them to be kind.

But you know what they are doing right now?
Playing, laughing, and singing, together..

It's a minor miracle, to be sure, and by the time I finish this post they will probably be back to bickering.

But I keep remembering them splashing in the water of the wave pool, grinning and playing.

And so when the next fight breaks out, and I have to remind them, again, to "treat each other with kindness, because these are the only siblings you get and they will always be with you and you will never have better friends than these people in your life," I'm going to remind myself of their faces, filled with joy and love and camaraderie.

The facts can't always be seen or heard above the cacophony of my life, and that's probably true for you too. I hope you'll take a second today and focus on something that you hoped for your children, or your marriage, or your life in general, that is already something you are living.

Aren't you grateful for it? Doesn't it make your heart fill to bursting?

My children...they are each other's best friends.

To quote one of the kids from the movies "Cheaper By the Dozen" : "There are times I want to KILL her. But I would kill FOR her all the time."

And that's a FACT.