Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

What I did on my summer vacation…

I wrote this blog in June after returning from our summer vacation on the East Coast.  I am still learning these lessons, and I thought I might share them with you again.  Enjoy!

In true fifth grade style, I am writing my “what I did on my summer vacation” essay. And in true fifth grade style, my desire is to simply say, “lots!”

We had a beautiful family adventure across country. First the 1100 mile trek from Arkansas to Maryland for my husband’s stepbrother’s wedding, and then to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a relaxing week of sand and surf and then the 1300 mile trip back….wooh, that’s a lot of driving!
Ever the dutiful writer, I brought my new prayer journal for all the epiphanies God would show me in my quiet time at sunrise on the beach, and my big 5 subject notebook for all the essays I would write from the great life lessons I learned, and my computer for all the blog posts I would write about my adventures, and even a couple of steno pads for the times when I just felt like jotting brilliant ideas down. I headed out on our adventure, eyes wide open, pen in hand, eagerly awaiting a blog-worthy moment like paparazzi waiting for the latest starlet to hop out of her car with a too-short mini skirt. AND, well, guys…I got nuthin’.
Oh, I tried…I tried hard to write. I got up at sunrise and sat in the quiet light of the sun and the whoosh whoosh of the waves…I hauled paper pads with us everywhere lest I be caught unaware by the writing bug….but nothing.  Words wouldn’t flow from my pen.  My mind was blank….Even God was remarkably quiet about writing.  And, frankly, I was a little more than disappointed by that.
And then, one day, after forcing words into a what I called a “poem” just to say I had written SOMETHING, I, in a fit of petulance, I cried  out to God, “What is going on!?”
“Don’t write, Cari. ENGAGE! Play! Relax! There is no lesson here except be present with your family and have some fun. Put away your notebook.  The words will come when the time is right.”

And then I realized that I was viewing my life through spectator’s eyes. I was constantly seeking an opportunity to turn life into an object lesson because that’s what I love to do…to turn the everyday life story into an universal lesson on life, but I had begun to view my entire life that way and I had stopped ENGAGING the people I love.
How great is God to gently shove me back in the game by silencing my words, knowing that I desperately needed that time of connection with my husband and kids and that I would not choose it for myself because I didn’t realize that I had forgotten how. That is what he is teaching me now…through stories like this:

A Zen monk, being chased by a bear runs off a cliff. As he is falling, he grabs a branch. He looks up and sees the bear leaning over the cliff, clawing at his head and missing only by inches. As the monk looks down to the ground, about fifteen feet below him, he sees a lion leaping up, missing his feet only by inches. As he looks at the branch he is clutching, he sees two groundhogs gnawing away at it. He watches as his lifeline disappears, bite by bite. As the monk takes a long, deep breath, he notices, next to his branch, a clump of wild strawberries. In the middle of the clump is a great, red, juicy strawberry. With his one free hand, the Zen monk reaches over, picks the strawberry, puts it in his mouth, chews it slowly and says, “Ah … delicious.”

So, I learned to eat strawberries again.

I am learning to be intentional again. To be present in the moment and take joy in it. To participate in it. It is a beautiful time of renewal for me. So if the posts seem sparse over here, please know that I am in the midst of a wonderful season of growth, and bear with me. I will return with stories soon enough.

In the meantime, what has God been teaching you lately?