Lay it at the cross, Baby Girl…

I have a story to recount to you.  I recently told it to someone dear to my heart and it struck me again — the wonder of it all — particularly this Easter weekend.  Stick through to the end and you will see why.

One lovely summer day last year, I began my day with a phone call to a woman who has been a spiritual mother to me for several years now.  An integral part of my emotional healing, this woman consistently reminds me to stay on the path of thankfulness as I trudge through my journey, she having walked much of the same road as I, just a few years ahead of me.  That perspective is precious and vital — just to know it’s been done and is entirely possible to survive and thrive.  I cherish her more than I can say.

That morning, she listened to my words and tears and empathized beautifully, and she spoke words that felt like they had been written across the sky in blazing letters just for me.

“Lay it at the cross, Baby Girl.  Just give it to Jesus.”

Yup.  That is what needed to happen.  I could clearly visualize setting that emotional backpack I tend to pick up and lug around right down at the foot of the cross.

My heart was a bit tender and sore for the next couple hours and as the day developed, I decided to take advantage of both some rare time to myself and an idyllic summer day and drive to the beach (my happiest place).  I basked and floated and worshiped and prayed and practiced laying it at the cross.  As I floated in my little tube, I had an idea.  I thought it was quite brilliant.  “Lord, could you just show me a stone with a cross on it for me to mark this day?”

Across this country, I have picked up keepsakes — moment markers — as reminders of the precious steps of my journey.  And in this gorgeous place in which I live, there are gazillions of miraculously beautiful stones that I may or may not obsessively pick through on each beach visit.  It seemed logical to me to find a cross stone that day.  But no matter how hard I searched…nothing.  Zilch. Bupkis.

stones

Okay, I could handle this.  Really.  I mean, what more does a girl need than a beach day, stone or no stone.  I felt loved and content.

beach

Eventually, the waves lulled me to a most relaxed state in my beloved sunshine and I rested on the sand.

When out of nowhere, there came my sweet man. WITH A PICNIC!!! Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband does the sweetest things for me often, but romantic surprises are saved for rare days.  So when he shows up with my favorite food, at the beach to surprise me, I was beyond ecstatic.  My perfect day just got over-the-moon, off-the charts, home-run kinda fabulous.  We ate and relaxed, and I considered telling him about my morning and my conversation, but it was still a little fresh and raw and I kinda still wanted it all to myself.

Eventually, we went for a swim to cool off.  As we trudged through the water to the shore to dry off, my sweet man who knew nothing of my morning, looked down and said, “Wow! Look at this stone!  It’s got a perfect cross on it!” and proceeds to fetch it and hand it to me.  Yup.  That happened.  And to top it all off, the cross was in my favorite color.

There is so much to glean from that moment.  It’s so little and so huge at the same time.  How do you possibly explain that story except that I have a God who cares so deeply about my heart that He would begin my day with His love and confirm it entirely His way (not mine) through the loving hands of my husband and give me a little token of love on one of a gajillion stones in the right place at the right time, painted in my favorite color!?

Today, I woke up thanking my God for His gift of love on a cross.  Today marks the day He spent in a tomb after a horrific death and the cruelest rejection.  The Bible says that He (Jesus) “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.”  The joy that was set before Him.

Friends, that joy set before Him was us.  He considered it joy to do anything it would take to offer us a place of grace.  He was brutally beaten and willingly died for me, for you, so that our mess was paid for and covered by His very blood.  A ransom paid.  And the symbol of it for us is an empty cross.  Because He didn’t stay there.  And though there was a tomb, He didn’t stay there either which is what separates our God from any other possible deity.

The proof of His power lies in this symbol of freedom.

Freedom from death.  Freedom from pain.  Freedom from past.

And that’s where I find myself today.  I find myself worshiping at the foot of the cross.

Leaving it all right there at the place of ultimate grace.

And stepping away into freedom.

cross stone 2

Thank You, Jesus.

Down Under Dreams…Part One

Here I sit on a different continent, trying desperately to get my mind to register that fact. I’ve literally waited my whole life to be here. Upon reflection, I’m pretty sure that as a kid my whole reason for wanting to come here was simply to see koalas and kangaroos.
It might still be my main motivator.
I’m pretty sure I’ll cry.
Because I cried on the shuttle bus that stank of sweat–not because of the smell, though it was tear-worthy, but because I looked at my husband and realized where he brought me.

I have avoided oversea travel thus far, though most all of my family has already flown in a little tube over the ocean. I’ve avoided it partly because I’m a mom and haven’t felt like gallivanting all over the planet was as much my priority as being available to my children. But now they are almost all grown and some still able to travel with me, and when the opportunity presented itself, it seemed like it was finally time.
I’ve traveled a lot–within the northern hemisphere and within North America. I’ve taken several flights across the country, but most of my hours logged in travel have been purely in an automobile.

This flight is not for the faint of heart. Somewhere between thirty and forty hours of travel time, start to finish.
That’s the shortest route possible.
It was three planes (one of which is 15 hours) plus a three hour drive. It included about 4-6 vague hours of sleep in which I felt like I had an awareness of everything going on around me. Not exactly like my usual sweet dreams.

It was no joke.
But the in-flight movies were great!

We arrived to a land of tropical heat in which everything from time to light switches is upside down and backwards. The words are fantastic, the attitude totally laid-back, the air is hot, the plants and trees are gorgeous and unrecognized by our family, and as a result we feel completely out of our element.

In the morning, the birds swarm our “backyard.” And they are lorikeets (they look just like parrots) and fruit doves and all manner of screeching, warbling feathered friends.

Upon the arrival of darkness, giant fruit bats arrive by the tens of thousands with wingspans of three feet swoop from every hidey place, and at first quite effectively give us all the willies until we learned some more about these unique guys.

We took a drive into the mountains when severe jet-lag prevented any other activity. The mountains are rainforests and the drive up showed us what sugar cane farms and banana plantations look like.

The winding roads led us upward to hours of nothingness except millions of termite mounds the size of a kitchen stove and a complete and total lack of humanity like nowhere I’ve ever been before–well, except Death Valley. Honestly, it’s kind of a creepy feeling being so far from anything and knowing that if you needed help, there is no way to find any. No other people around anywhere and there sure aren’t any bars on the phone!

Christian has to travel the next couple days for business so the three of us here will enjoy gelati and lunches out, opening fresh coconuts at the beach, and perhaps do a bit of shopping for our two loved ones who remain at home–busy working and both turning nineteen while we are away. We won’t be swimming at the beach, however. Perhaps it’s due to having to stay inside the stinger nets (literally nets in the water to prevent rattlesnake-like bites from all manner of jellyfish).

This kind of separation from my reality is a first for me. The distance alone is frightening. Somehow, I have to choose to not think of that little map that showed my plane zooming most of the way around the earth and just do the equivalent of looking only at my feet when I walk. I just stay in the moment and see what is in front of me and trust God that He has me in His hands no matter how far from home I roam.
And enjoy the view…