Shells

I shed a couple of tears as I laid there, using the sometimes starved right half of my brain. Imagining. Remembering. I saw my feet slipping on sandals, and down the stairs, over grass and pavement to the sandy path. All my leg muscles working to make my way up and over the dunes; soft, dry sand kicking up over my toes and reaching the back of my calves. I make it past the shore line brush and hear a joyful shriek of “WA-WA!” The little curly-haired red-head and I pick up shells, and feel the breaking water over our feet. She runs away from the small waves crashing, but I go in deeper. A tow-headed boy with a blue boogie board, seemingly too big for his five-year old body, calls to me, “Mommy! Do you want to ride the waves with me!? Swim with me!” We spot dolphins just 20 yards away. The air is salty and thick with humidity, but we don’t mind. This quiet sound off the Atlantic Ocean is filling our heart tanks and breathing rest into our lungs. I wade towards the shore and step out onto the shell-filled sand once more finding shiny, yet broken treasures. I keep them in a bucket and I feel like a little girl again. I feel close to God’s heart, finding and admiring sea treasures that might not catch anyone else’s eye, but I see their value. I see how the wind and rain and sea has tossed them and weathered them- some unrecognizable. Like human hearts.

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“Are you doing alright?” she asked, with her doctor’s mask and goggles with special lights on it.

“Uh huh.” I had come back from my mind’s beach sanctuary to the reality that there was drilling and scraping and pressure going on in my mouth to help alleviate a small crack in my molar that wasn’t healing itself since March. How dare it. I felt hot and weak and nauseous from the anesthesia needles and nervous at the pain that might come anyway. I felt guilty about how much aversion to physical pain I have. I feel unnecessarily guilty about a lot of things, but I thought about ebola and the children victim to ISIS and paralyzing depression that leads to suicide and hated how low my pain tolerance was to getting a flippin root canal that I even have medical insurance helping to cover. Shut up, Allison!

But wait.

Jesus cares about those fears, too.

Was that thought mere self-enabling? Or the truth? Jesus cares about my tears over being nervous in the dental chair and he cares about my heart-filling experience with my family to the beach. It will be fuel for another cold winter that lies ahead.

My shape and the degree of weathering is going to look different from the other shells. We are all accounted for though. Not one hurt or wound or death is in vain. He sees each tear. None are frivolous to Him. No one gets through this life without deep hurt of some sort. Those of us fortunate to live a life with family, friends, food, a home, a car (or more), medical care in a free country are fortunate indeed. Even with all that, subtle evils attack and lives fall apart. No one is out of an enemy’s reach, physical or spiritual.

So we can share tears. Pain, joy, whichever- it’s something that if we let others in enough, we can start to see their weathered hearts but love them anyway. Admire them, hear the stories. Learn. Mourn. Laugh. Encourage.I’m so guilty of taking this life for granted. For judging others before I know the whole story. Are you? I hope I’m not alone. There is beauty in the shells, rocks and glass that are in the middle of their journey of being smoothed and refined, though some just look beaten and rough. There is beauty in tiny grains of sand, former shells that shattered and broken or worn down next to nothing. I’m okay with feeling vulnerable and small, when I remember the One who holds the grains of sand and the stars in the sky.
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A Collection of Hearts

It’s just another day, but the calendar says some numbers have changed.

No matter how great of a year it was for me, for whatever reason I end up feeling relieved there is a new start. But really it’s just a Wednesday this year. I think I’m going to wake up different or have a new outlook but I wake up the same way I always do in these young parenting days. Back hurting a bit and a few “shushes” from my mouth, waiting to see if Jason would be the first to cave to the smell of a pee-filled diaper or a plea for mommy and daddy to get up, “it’s morning time!”

But when I do take the time to think back on 2013, I think about growth. I think about changes- more emotional and spiritual changes than physical.

I think about moments I have experienced joy and pain this year.

At one point this year I looked around my church congregation and thought- if the rest of the world thinks the church has it all together- it couldn’t be more wrong. If they think the church thinks it has it all together, it’s wrong. No matter how strong the front, I saw a people who have seen all the joy and pain of many lifetimes. My mind saw all of their faces and the faces of those in my life- family and friends and acquaintances. They have lost a child, pregnancies, a parent. They have lost a job, a marriage, a friend, a brother, hope. They have made tough choices, struggled through a wounded past. I thought back to last year when I was at the end of my human control of what was next in my family’s life. I felt broken. I couldn’t sing a song with my church family without weeping. Brokenness doesn’t always mean without hope or trust. I knew God would be present with us, no matter what the new path of our lives would be. I was raw. Translucent. Fragile. But God spoke, and heard it loud in my heart.

I see you.

Restoration.

Hearts.

____

The other day, Baby Clemmie had a cold and she and Miles were in the living room playing together. I had told him she wasn’t feeling good, so not to get too close to her and to wash hands a lot. But from the kitchen, I could hear a little boy’s voice saying “Dear Jesus, please help Clemmie feel better cause she is sick…” On his own, he decided he should pray over his little sister. He saw her – as she was and saw her need. He showed he was there for her.

One particularly nervous-breakdown of a day (I seemed to have a lot of those this past year) had me instead stilled with the love Jesus has for me. My mommy-melt down was ever so apparent to my four year old son and when I told him it was time for a nap and to go upstairs, he had stopped his defiant-ness for once that day and paused at the bottom of the stairs. He looked at me and said, “Mommy, you are a good mommy. I’m going to put a heart on your bed- to tell you that I love you.”

Miles has been infatuated with tornados, Curious George and how hearts work over this year. Hearts have been speaking to me mostly. Not that a good Curious George episode doesn’t touch my soul, but you know.

As I walked along the beach of Edisto Island in October I wanted to walk along that sand forever if I didn’t have to pee. The crashing waves weren’t helping my situation. I tried to forget about my natural necessity and take in the breeze, the billions of grains of sand I stepped on and the imprints I made. The waves, only just warm on my tired feet. And the shells. Some perfect, some broken, some smoothed or shattered beyond all recognition. I found myself asking Jesus to join me- where I was. Not for help, not for guidance, just to be with me. That’s not something I normally ask. It’s always for something. It’s always urgent and usually about trying to change me or someone else. This time was different. The environment had calmed me enough that I was past the point of tears- it seemed like I couldn’t be alone with my own thoughts most of this past year without crying- and I just said “meet me here”. I looked down and spotted the first of three shells with holes in them. I looked closer and saw the shape of holes the ocean had carved into each shell was a heart.

I saved them all in my collection I brought back to Ashland.

__________

My other joy-filled moments of  2013 went something like this:

• Coming in to the living room to see the word “Poop” spelled out with alphabet game cards by my son. It was pure accident. But a funny one.

• Re-connecting and singing with old friends at the Ashland Symphonic Youth Chorus reunion.

• Seeing the ocean again.

• Watching Miles learn and spell out the word Kotex. A lot. An embarrassing amount of times. For the future Miles, not me.

• Finding my baby photos.

• Sending Miles to pre-school for the first year and enjoying his hunger for knowledge.

• Witnessing Clementine’s first steps and learning to play with her brother. Him being patient with her, helping her. Then not so much.

• Locating and securing a sentimental one-of-a-kind guitar for my dad with the help of so many friends and family members.

• Miles being so excited when opening his silver trumpet for Christmas.

• Jason taking me to the Titanic Exhibit

• Clemmie’s cuddles and kisses when she’s not bossing us all around with her hand motions and girly grunts.

• Started a painting.

• Dressing up like Wilma, Barney, Pebbles and Bamm Bamm as a blended family  for Halloween.

• Spending lots of quality time with my grandparents and watching them with my kids.

• Watching Miles “read” and build things from the “restructions”.

• Practicing with, then playing with members of my dad’s old band, CenterLine and making awesome rock n’ roll sounds. Loved every minute of it.

• Discovering some new-to-us genealogical information for my family

• Visiting Deal Island, MD where some of them were from.

• Realizing I reached my strength goal when brushing my teeth and my tootbrush busted in half. That’s strength, people.

2013

_____

I hope you have a list of things that have lifted your spirit, made you laugh and filled that hollow space in us that sometimes feels less than empty. I hope 2014 is a year that sees your heart being restored. And it starts with wherever you are, right now.