Today is my parents’ 34th wedding anniversary. As a kid, it never crosses your mind that life might be hard for your parents. You watch them work and take care of you without fully understanding what it takes to build a life together. You don’t recognize the determination, the strength, the commitment, and the faithfulness it takes to weather every storm together and raise a family. You can’t comprehend the incredible feat it is to stay together when it feels easier to part ways.
For 34 years, my parents have loved one another and loved their family, waking up every single morning and putting everyone else before themselves. For 12,410 days, they have pushed aside their own needs and wants and have selflessly served their God and each other. Day after day, decision after decision, they have always ensured that Jesus Christ was their foundation and their sure-footing. They have endured trial after trial and heartache after heartache but were always able move forward, secure in their trust in their God. Never giving up. Never falling away. Just one foot in front of the other, praising God all the way through.
They have never been in the spotlight, but the hardest and holiest work rarely is. That’s the beauty of their life together. Every conversation about the Lord with friends, every name on my mother’s prayer board in her room, every selfless decision, every tear shed for their family, every moment of heart-wrenching worship, every generous gift, every sacrifice has been done without the need for recognition and applause. Not to be seen or noticed, they have given their lives in service to God and to others. They said yes to the Lord and never looked back.
My parents have learned the art of simple obedience. They trust that God never asked us to be spectacular but rather has asked us to be faithful, and there are no two people more faithful than they are.
Their names may never be known worldwide, but they will forever be engraved into the foundation of our family for generations to come. They are pillars. Unparalleled in their devotion to God and their everyday decision to love Him and love His people.
So how do you measure the impact of a person’s life when what they gave you was priceless? How do you adequately tell them thank you for showing you Jesus and teaching you everything you needed to know about faith, commitment, family, and work ethic by the simple eloquence of their example?
My parents were steadfast when other people would have been faithless. They were brave when other people would have cowered in fear.
And for them, brave meant surrendering to God’s perfect will, even when it didn’t make sense.
Brave meant sacrificing their own personal dreams to make sure that their children’s needs were met.
Brave meant staying rooted in one place after all the extended family moved away so that their children had stability in their lives, even when it left them feeling isolated and alone.
Brave meant working graveyards and being sleep deprived for years so that a parent was always home.
Brave meant worshipping God at all times, no matter what, unconditionally.
Brave meant holding hands and praying together every morning and every evening regardless of how they were feeling.
How do I thank them for raising me to be brave too?
For showing me that Jesus Christ is the only solid foundation and to Him alone is where my loyalty should go. For teaching me that I am strong and capable and smart. For never pushing stereotypical roles on me and celebrating where I am in life. For reminding me that it’s okay for me to speak my truth and stand my ground. For letting me know that it is okay to stand on the side of justice, even if you are standing alone.
How do I explain what was rooted in my heart after seeing my father stand on our roof, assess the damage from a hurricane, and then lift his hands and tell God that he would worship Him anyway. Or by going shopping with my mother for clothes for a student at her job that was going through a hard time. Or by being a little girl and helping my father fill out money orders for the organizations that he supported every single month (and still supports today). Or by the countless evening walks with my mother talking about life. Or by seeing them swallow their pride and walk to the altar together when they have needed prayer.
It’s not possible. All I know is that for the rest of my life, I will live in gratitude for how they raised me, shaped me, and loved me.
So happy anniversary, mom and dad. Every single aspect of your lives points people to Jesus. To His hope and His mercy and His love. No one who has had the gift of knowing you has been untouched by your character, integrity, love, and faithfulness to God and to one another.
Thank you for loving your family well. Thank you for the gift of being raised in a Christian home. Thank you for this life.
Your legacy will be that of two people who lived to know Him and to make Him known. Two people who always managed to do the next right thing until it carried them all the way home.
I found myself at a place last year where everyone around me was asking “Are you okay?” every time that they saw me. That’s when I knew I needed a break. The truth was that I wasn’t okay. I was burnt out. So physically and mentally exhausted that I could no longer conceal how I was really doing, but my desire to appear strong and capable was keeping me from doing what I needed to do to take care of myself.
I never was very good at self-care. I didn’t know how to stop and think about myself because good Christians only ever think about other people right? I was a pro at pushing aside my feelings and not taking care of my own heart. But being on the verge of a mental breakdown will cause you to do abnormal things, so I decided to take my own sabbatical in Cabin # 10.
It was raining when I arrived at my cabin. I rushed to unpack my car and get inside. I didn’t bring much with me because I was planning to do nothing more than fast and pray for two days and two nights. A cooler with water, a pillow and blanket, clothes, and of course my bible and a journal were all that I felt was needed. I had a plan to do nothing but seek God and figure out what was going on with me. Why was I so frustrated and tired? Why did I feel separated from God? I wanted answers, and I was determined not to leave that place without getting them.
My cabin was surprisingly comfortable and cozy. The rain falling outside provided the perfect backdrop for a night of prayer. All the lights were turned off, worship music was softly playing, and I was focused on getting to the root of my issues. I just knew that this night would be a game-changer for me. I knew that I would be back to my old self in no time. But what I didn’t expect was to not feel God with me. I didn’t expect that it would seem as if I was talking to absolutely nobody. Part of me wanted to press-through anyway, stay up all night if I had to, while the rest of me wanted to turn on the TV. I fell asleep before I could make a decision.
I woke up the next morning and was immediately angry at myself for not being vigilant in prayer. You wasted a whole night I thought to myself. But I noticed immediately that I already felt better than I did when I arrived. How could that be? All I had done so far was rest. Well, today will be the day I said. Today I will seek God continuously. Today I will pray until something changes. Fast and pray, fast and pray.
The July heat had other plans. I tried sitting outside at the lake at first because I have always been someone who feels God closer when in nature. I have also always been someone who sweats profusely. After a couple of sweat drops smeared the ink in my bible, I couldn’t look down anymore. So I looked up. And what I saw was beautiful.
I’m trying too hard I thought. I’m focusing so much on what I feel that I need from God and how I feel He is going to show up that I’m missing out on noticing the ways He is trying to show me His greatness, His sovereignty. So I sat there and let myself take it all in. Let myself gaze upon the wonder of His creation, reminding myself that the same God who pieced this world together is the God who holds my world in His hands.
I convinced myself to go for a swim in the pool at the KOA. Just for a little bit I said. Then, it’s back to the cabin for the rest of the evening for more intercession. As I was getting ready to get in the pool, a sweet lady who was getting out offered to let me use her pink pool float. She gushed about how incredible it was and said it was the perfect way to relax. I had the pool all to myself and took her up on her offer. As I laid there, thinking about how the woman was right, I heard these words so clearly in my spirit:
“You took your eyes off of me.”
My eyes shot open. God had just given me the answer I had been looking for.
It hurt to hear, but it was the truth. I took my eyes of Christ. Somewhere along the way I had lost my complete trust. For over a year, anyone who prayed for me always said that God needed me to trust Him more, and it started to make me angry. GOD HOW CAN I POSSIBLY TRUST YOU ANY MORE. LOOK AT MY LIFE. I didn’t understand what I could possibly do to trust Him more. It didn’t seem like there could be a deeper level of trust. But in a moment while floating in a swimming pool, the Lord showed me that my trust had faltered. My heart had started to believe the lie that maybe God really didn’t love me as much as everyone else. Maybe I really had disappointed Him and caused Him to forget about me. Maybe I really had messed up too much and would never have the things I dreamed about.
There was bitterness and hurt and anger in my heart that was causing me to push Him away. I started comparing myself to the people around me and wondered where He was, why He wasn’t answering my prayers, what was wrong with me that my life looked so different. And it caused me to stumble, because even just a quick glance at someone else’s path takes your eyes off of Jesus and can only end badly.
For four hours, God revealed things to me about the state of my heart that I was unaware of. He showed me where I was holding on to old hurts, what I needed to let go of, and how to move forward. I talked to Him about my dreams, and in return, He birthed new dreams in my heart. Things I had never thought about, or really, never thought that I was good enough for.
That generous and kind woman still has no idea that her simple gesture made a way for me to hear from God that day. Those four hours on a pink pool float gave me the peace and strength I needed to go home and make it through six more months of uncertainty.
There are so many things that happen in life that can cause us to take our eyes off Christ. For me, it was a leap of faith two years earlier that just didn’t seem to be working out the way that I had hoped it would. What people never tell you about a leap of faith is that jumping in isn’t usually the hardest part. It can be easy and exciting to do something scary. Your emotions are high and you just know God is going to do something amazing. But one day you wake up and realize that weeks and months have turned into years and you are still waiting. Still trying to believe. Still trying to hope.
No, moving forward isn’t always the hard part. The hard part is when you have to keep moving forward when it doesn’t make sense. When life seems to have only gotten harder and more complicated. Trying not to question whether or not you really heard from God and living in peace that you made the right choice. Determining to not look back at what you left behind but to let the things of this world grow dim as you fix your gaze on Christ.
I know there are people reading this who are in that very place right now. Every day you are wondering where God is in this seemingly mess of a life. Did you take a wrong step, did you cause Him to take His hand off your life? You find yourself consistently apologizing for your mistakes, somehow believing that God has left you to fend for yourself because of your past.
Can I encourage you today, friends? Just breathe. Put your hand on your heart. If it’s still beating that means you still have purpose. That God is still near and working and moving. Every single day in ways that we could never imagine, He is fighting for us. Turn your eyes back upon Jesus. Let your heart find peace and rest in knowing that He is good and gracious and FOR YOU.
He hasn’t turned away, He hasn’t forgotten you, He isn’t angry or disappointed in you. He loves you. He cares about what you care about. He has a plan, and He truly can be trusted completely.
And when it’s hard, believe anyway. Keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other. You don’t have to see the full picture. You don’t have to understand any of it. Just do the next right thing, and rest in His promise.
Take care of your heart loves. And give yourself a break when you need it.
You never know what God can do with a simple pink float.