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.

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49 for 25 (and some turtles)

My youngest daughter isn’t sure it’s fair.  She thinks that twenty-five years of happiness is reward enough.

But darn it, twenty-five years of happiness is stinking hard work!  Yes, it is most certainly a gift in and of itself, but big ol’ dollops of grace, some serious stubbornness determination, gobs of love sometimes pulled out of nowhere, and best friends deciding to make every effort to remain head-over-heels in love are things worth celebrating.

And did we.

The two of us ventured off to our 49th state last week (yup, only one more to go!), and had the time of our lives. One of my best girlfriends says it’s okay for me to show pictures because it’s inspiring for other folks to see not only is it possible to stay together, but it is possible to thrive together.

This was our first time with an entire week, just the two of us, since our honeymoon.  We were young parents once, and quite happy to wait until *someday when our kids were grown* to begin our travel together. We invested all we had into them and into my husband’s career (he had such a hard time taking time off when he worked for other people due to his intense desire to be the best employee he could be), but now the time is here and right and ours.

tunnels beach

Thanks to the advice of some dear friends who found Eden on the island of Kauai, we got tips and pointers for the best beaches, and soaked it all up for seven perfect days.  We’d wake up early, my sweet man would go get coffee for me, and we’d head out for the day — tasting all the local foods, exploring the tropics by water, land, and air.  He made my dreams come true with a helicopter ride deep into the canyons of the island, and we flew with the doors off and the wind in our hair, and as the little girl sang in my headset about how dreams really do come true somewhere over the rainbow, I wept.  As a little girl and a young mom, I would have never dreamed that I would ever be so lavished upon.  I beheld the breathtaking creation from my flying glass bubble and worshiped a God Who would do this just for me.  All at once, I felt so small, yet so significant that I should find myself in this moment.

We motored around in a little catamaran for half a day, backing into sea caves, and jumping into the cobalt blue waters.

Cave

na pali

Christian got a full view of a breaching whale — quite a miracle two months after their season.  We got massively sunburned and then brown as acorns.  We laughed and best-friended and read novels and spent days at the turquoise beaches, swimming and snorkeling alongside majestic sea turtles.

our snorkeling buddy

our snorkeling buddy

We went to a coffee plantation. We ate fruits we didn’t even know the name of from the farmer’s markets.  We often found ourselves with pineapple juice running down our chins and arms.  We picked and ate bananas fresh from the tree, and took about a gazillion pictures of tropical flowers.  We ate pig from a pit at a luau and more than our fair share of shave ice. We marveled at the shaking hips of dark-haired Hawaiian beauties dancing the hula.

We desperately missed skinny-arm hugs from our grandbabies, and loved being missed by, and missing, our now-old children.  :o)

We came home with our bags too heavy with shells, and bamboo t-shirts, and sarongs, and maracas, and hula skirts, and flowery leis for our sweet family and all reunited with laughter and pictures and much joy.

We experienced so many full-circle moments.  God has such a way of weaving a tapestry of legacy and love and intertwining all of the threads in a life with color and beauty amidst the threads of pain and trials.  Some perspective from a few thousand miles away on a mountainous island and thirty-thousand feet up in the clouds really helps you see some purpose in each of the pieces of the puzzle that make up this lifetime.

We have struggled, we have crawled sometimes, but we have survived.  Like the little sea turtles that make up the 10% that survive from their hatched egg-self to their ancient-eyed, full-grown self, we are proud of ourselves for not getting distracted by the other starry lights that distract from the goal, and purposefully scrambling toward the water with all we’ve had in us and with the most thankful of hearts.

To my love who has lived up to more potential than anyone on this earth had imagined as a husband to me for this quarter of a century, I am grateful for the love with which you lavish me.  I’m thankful for the tough times that grew us, the good times that cemented us, and the fact that somehow, we still haven’t run out of interesting words for each other.  For the times your heart beat with mine, the times it beat for mine, and the times it beat against mine, I thank you.

To our Daddy Who wrote our love story, I am, as always, in awe. What an amazing Author You are.

To those who read these words, I pray nothing more than that you first find your True Love.  The One Who both created your heart and its longings, and holds your tears in a bottle.  If your heart is searching for its mate, be sure your Daddy knows and has the absolute best in store for you.  I can attest, that dreams really do come true.

 

yes, it's a thing

yes, it’s a thing

hula dancers

hula dancers

luau

candlelight dinner with a view thanks to a dear friend

candlelight dinner with a view thanks to a dear friend

dressed for dinner (finally out of our swimsuits)

dressed for dinner (finally out of our swimsuits)

yeah. that hurt.

yeah. that hurt.

luau

luau

flowers

eating poke (raw ahi tuna)

eating poke (raw ahi tuna)

the roosters are everywhere there. even starbucks.

the roosters are everywhere there. even starbucks.

fruits from the farmer's market.

fruits from the farmer’s market.

me in the water

me in the water

coffee tasting at kauai coffee plantation

coffee tasting at kauai coffee plantation

coffee

4 million coffee plants growing us our brew.

4 million coffee plants growing us our brew.

wameia canyon

falls

view

view

shave ice

shave ice

art walk, downtown hanapepe

art walk, downtown hanapepe

heading home...

heading home…