Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Peace and Joy Among Sharks

 



Peace and Joy Among Sharks


Recently, I found myself swimming in shark-infested waters. For real! My family and I were on a cruise and had chosen to snorkel with sharks in the ocean, off the coast of a Bahamian island. This was not a shark rescue and there were no cages. Are we crazy? Maybe! But it was one of our best memories with the four of us! 


We took a 30-minute boat ride from shore to an area of the ocean in which we were told these two breeds of sharks liked to hang out. During this time, the crew distributed masks, flippers, and life jackets. Some people on the boat were very nervous. This may have been increased by the waivers we’d signed on shore. However, we were assured that the sharks were not interested in us (unless we made a lot of small splashes, they might come directly to us…so try not to do that). We were told we could get in the water, put our masked faces down in the water, and enjoy watching some sharks swim around us. (Look, but don’t touch.)


This was both of my sons’ first time snorkeling, so once in the water, they had to get used to the breathing process. Then, they were settled, so I put my face down and HELLO! There were at least twenty or thirty sharks right there swimming just out of the range of my flippers. That was a bit of a shocking, but exhilarating moment! I was comfortable hanging on to the rope that went from a buoy to the boat so I didn’t lose track of where I was while I was gawking at these powerful, intimidating creatures! 


My boys, thankfully, stayed close to their mama. We were at first holding on to that rope, but then we started to swim around together, holding on to each other. It would have been easy to lose them in the sea of flippers and masks, so I was glad that they were staying close to me. My husband was close by too, taking pictures (such as the photo above) and videos of this experience through his water-sealed case. 


With all the sharks surrounding me, I probably should have been a little scared, but I was just loving the fact that I was in the ocean holding my boys’ hands. My heart was so full of joy and contentment for this memory we were making together. What a blast!


After we were all safely back in the boat, the crew started feeding the sharks and creating splashing to put them in a “feeding frenzy”. THIS looked terrifying! All those shark fins coming to the surface and swirling around by our boat! It made us think, “Wait, we were swimming with these guys??!? What were we thinking??” Later, we looked at my husband’s videos, and sharing them with our family when we got home was similar. It looked terrifying! People thought we had been out of our minds to get in that water. But while we were in the water, it was totally fine. 


I found myself thinking about this experience a lot later. Life feels like I’m surrounded by sharks a lot. I am so often worried, frantic, nervous, unsure, or fearful. Life throws a lot at us all the time. But because I know God is in control of ALL things all the time, I can feel peace and joy no matter what is going on in the world. Anytime something is going on that “should’ make me feel overwhelmed, scared, or worried, I can release it to my Father, and know that He’s got it. 


It’s not an easy thing to release those feelings of fear or stress, but it’s possible! I am working on getting better at it, asking for His help, and bringing those feelings to him as often as I remember to do so. Swimming that day felt pretty safe overall. I did not feel like I was in any real danger. Every day does not always feel that way. Some situations in life can be so painful and difficult. But God is in control of it all. I can still use that joyful day as a happy reminder that it is possible to have peace and joy, even among sharks. 





Tuesday, September 5, 2023

"A New Song to Sing"

 


Today is September 5, my son Zachary’s 10th heavenly birthday. I usually have a very hard time on this day and cry a lot, but today is different. Today I am filled with joy and excitement because God has been using this little boy who lived only a few minutes to do something BIG in this world that he never knew. I am honored that I get to be a part of this project as I try to follow the Holy Spirit’s nudges and do as he leads. A lot is going on, and because of this, today is different. 


Today, I have something to offer my son for his birthday. I have written his story. It’s not ready to publish yet, but I had hoped to have a rough draft finished by Zachary’s birthday - and despite it all, I did it! I am not writing this book because I had the idea, but God made it clear to me that I was supposed to. Something in these 41,128 words is supposed to help someone…somewhere. 


Maybe that someone is me. 


Because of Zachary, I learned about hope and joy amidst sorrow. I know now that God’s plans are the best plans, even if they’re not what or when I wanted. I know now that God knows the details of our lives and cares about all of them, even the tiniest ones. I have experienced how he loves to send us messages of love through other people, nature, the Bible, music, and other things. I have experienced miracles and wonders that I don’t deserve. He does this for all of us, just because he loves us. Writing this book has given me new understandings and new kinds of healing. I got to have some pretty special conversations and even got to meet some new people in the process too. 


When God called me to write this book, I didn’t know how big this project actually was. God knew I probably wouldn’t respond well to that, so he just hinted and then showed me step-by-step what to do. I had no idea what I would learn, not just about the writing and publishing process, but also about what it’s like to work more closely with the Holy Spirit to share the hope that I have earned. I also did not know that God would also give me songs to sing (and eventually share) too.  I still don’t know what the end result will be, but I am excited and ready. 


Today I am celebrating Zachary. He has changed me and continues to change me. Though I have a long way to go, I have learned a lot in ten years because of this remarkable son of mine. Though this kind of growth has not been easy, I am grateful for all of it. Mostly, I am grateful to be Zachary’s mom. I miss him every day, and can’t wait to hug him in Heaven. Until then, I’ll tell his story and do my best to make him proud. 


He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3 (NLT)



Thursday, June 29, 2023

We Need Each Others' Stories

 


I am a talker, and I love talking to people and sharing our stories. The funny stories are the easiest to share, but I also love to just learn about other people's lives, families, and experiences. 


I have three sisters in my family and have always looked to my older sisters for guidance when starting a new chapter of life. They went to middle school and high school before I did. They taught me how to study for tests and showed me what to wear or not wear. They definitely let me know when something I was doing was not cool (which was probably a lot). I gained sisters-in-law when I got married, adding to my village. My sisters had my niece and nephew before I had my first child. I learned a lot from them because they had to figure things out before I did. They made it easier for me when it was my time. I remember reading the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book when I was pregnant, but I don’t remember having time to read once my child was born - I just listened to people’s stories of “Here’s what I did, I don’t recommend it” or “Here’s what I did, it worked for me!” This was helpful for simple things like which baby gear items are the best and which baby gear items do you not really need, and their stories helped me with much more stressful things too. Swapping stories with my sisters, my other family members, and friends was and continues to be something I rely on, not just for parenting, but for all of life. 


Stories become extra helpful during hard or uncertain times. When there is illness or relationship problems or job loss or the death of a loved one, we can use stories to help each other. When we are the ones going through difficult times, we grow and we learn. That part is not fun, but it's important. The rewarding part comes later - when we can use what we've learned to help someone else who might be going through something similar or can benefit from what we've learned. This is one of the ways that God can take anything and use it for good (as it says in Romans 8:28). I had been taught this - and guess what - it's true! I have seen it so many times and I know I can trust him to keep doing this moving forward. One of the ways he does that is when he connects us with others, sometimes in ways that seem like a coincidence (it's not), so that we can share our stories with them and provide encouragement right when they need it most. 


Almost ten years ago, my husband and I lost our infant son Zachary. I love sharing his story. (What mom doesn't love talking about their kids?) Hearing the stories of others who lost infants was so helpful to me at that time as I tried to figure out how to handle things. It is also how we know we are not alone. Last fall, 2022, God started showing me in various ways that it was time for me to go beyond talking about Zachary and write a book. (What?! Okay, Lord....) I am so grateful for how God cared for us during that time.We even experienced miracles! He taught me SO much and I can’t wait to share it. He taught me that he KNOWS us personally and LOVES us all more than we know, and his timing is always perfect. There is so much more. Therefore, I am happy to write this book, because if I can help even one person have a little extra amount of hope or encouragement, then it is worth it. 


I am also wondering if you are sharing your stories with others. Let's be vulnerable with each other and make life easier for someone else. Life is hard enough as it is. As I am learning from Dr. Nicolya Williams, someone's breakthrough might be waiting on you to share your story. (Maybe you are even one of the 81% of people who want to write a book. Join me in being the 1% of people who do! We can figure this out together!) Your story doesn’t have to even be similar to someone else’s in order to be helpful. They can learn from your perseverance. They can learn from your courage. They can learn from your vulnerability and honesty. We are meant to help each other, so let’s talk. 


Peace and Joy Among Sharks

  Peace and Joy Among Sharks Recently, I found myself swimming in shark-infested waters. For real! My family and I were on a cruise and had ...