I wait a month. A month from the day the ticket is purchased. I pray for a way to go. To not have to spend the night by myself. I pray for migraines to flee. For the pain and fatigue, evicted for just this one weekend.
Then the answer of the way. For the gift to my daughter to put toes in sand. I see the reality coming together, He weaves it just for me.
Then it comes. Blinding. Crippling. The migraine. I beg and plead not now. But it is has a life all it’s own and it takes up residence. Two days until Friday, until we leave. Two days before I will sit in that gym and listen. The tears well and my heart cries out. I simply wanted this one weekend. Please let this be a short one.
Friday comes and His grace is sufficient. His grace drives me two hours away to the hotel. His grace brings me through the doors of the church where I will sit and listen. And my heart will soar.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
I turn as I walk through the door. I wave as he who sacrifices for me drives my one of ten to her dream, toes in sand; and i go in search of my seat. I pray the pain stays mild. I can focus. I pray for a moment to thank her for sharing her mess.
I am thankful for the dark gym that soothes my eyes weary from pain. The room fills. I listen to the quiet whispers of conversations around me. I feel quite alone. I remember who brought me who is with me and is carrying me through. I am never alone.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 NKJV
The moments tick slow. Worship comes and we sing loud. She comes to the stage and speaks. I scribble fast and hard, trying to take in every word so not to forget. My migrained brain does not absorb. I have to not forget.
Ann so gracious offers to meet after both services. I choose to stay through the pain, afraid to leave. What if the pain is worse tomorrow and do not make it back? I make the walk over to the sanctuary and the line is long. I scan the Compassion table and one little girl jumps out. She is calling for me to take her home. I gather up her card and fill out the information as I wait. This little one born in the same year and month as my little one of ten, she will join the others all of the same year. I pray for her as I stand and wait.
I pray for the pain. I pray for the panic that is setting in. I eye the door just to my right… I could just walk out. My feet stay planted, and I pray. There are women everywhere. Laughing. Smiling. Sharing. I wonder if they notice my heart leaping out of my chest? Has my skin turned snow white? Can they see the fear across my face? You are with me God? Right?
” I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20 ESV
I formulate thoughts of all i want to say to her. To tell her how this book, the story of her mess, How it has changed my life. How God has used it over and over to transform. How this time in reading I notice these words on page 61. How I read past it only to keep hearing go back, go back, go back. And when I do I find them, “…and someday I will tell Shelly that life change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.” Words written about another Shelly but this day meant just for me.
How reading chapter five now after my dad passing away just a few months ago. how this chapter brought all new meaning. Chapter six. My wrestling with God. My wanting to understand. My wanting to just run free. To just meet Him.
I want to tell her about the joy dare. The joy boxes. This gift to me. The gift of ministry. A gift to give back. Wings to soar. She has no idea. What all this has given me. In the midst of darkness. In the listening to the words of the enemy. She brings light.
I want to tell her all these things in detail. Because her sharing of her mess. Her surrender of self to God is transforming lives in profound ways. It’s transforming my life. And my husband. And my daughter. There is so much to tell.
Then the moment arrives. I hug her neck, fumble words. But she is gracious. She exudes peace. Her eyes shine Jesus straight through. And she knows. She just knows.
The panic flees. A picture is snapped. And I sit on the curb waiting for those toes that touched the sand and the one who sacrifices for me. I thank Him right there under the stars. For knowing my heart.
I awake on saturday with unbearbale pain. Illness coursing every inch. I am not going to make it to the morning service. I will not hear the words she has to speak that day. The disappointment settles in, I want to go home, to my window that opens to the blue. Branches that reach toward the sky. The one where He paints just for me.
But the promise of toes in sand is not forgotten and I cannot bear to take that away. I sit and watch as joy overflows her. The waves crash and she jumps. She collects the broken shells. She has to rescue them. The pain nearly unbearable, and weakness taking over.
As we load in the car for home. My one thousand gifts book. The one with dog eared pages. Underlines. Scribbles in the margins. The Moleskine with Ann’s words scribbled fast and hard. They sit on the roof of the car. As we pull away they tumble. They find a new home on the streets near the beach.
The rain pounds hard on the car. Traffic is slow. I reach in my bag for my phone. I realize the noise we heard pulling away. That noise. My books. My phone. Falling. I remember. And my heart falls. My book bearing her signature. My notes scribbled fast and hard. My phone with the picture. All this lies on the ground. Rain running ink. These things a gift. My gift. Gone. It is too late to turn back.
I pray someone finds the book? May the pages dry so they can read my notes? Find light in their darkness?
Monday comes and I open my journal and recount the weekend. I am amazed by all that I remember. I share on Facebook of my disappointment. The one who always encourages, the one who speaks truth to me, she reminds I got to meet Ann… and how cool is that.
In her words, He shows me the true gift. The gift? Showing me that the importance is not in the tangible wrap my hands around gift. He shifts my focus to the gifts He has given. The strength to travel. To hug Ann’s neck. To fumble words. Her toes to touch sand. The one who sacrifices for me. The one sharing this life with me. This life is his gift to me. He chose it. He never gets it wrong. I am thankful. I do not want anything to change.
And the words moved from head knowledge to heart understanding.