So…this week we did a thing. I asked you to pray for our big week, and it’s clear that you did!
Monday morning, Josh and I said “goodbye” to our babies. And drove to Dallas. And got on an airplane. And by that afternoon, we were sitting on a beach in Mexico.
Last month we celebrated 20 years of marriage, and we made a commitment that we couldn’t let that milestone pass by without a special trip. (But we had to make it through our busy September first!) During the first half of our marriage, we dated regularly and we took several trips to the Caribbean. A white sand beach has always been our favorite place. The last time we took a trip together, just us two, was 10 years and 5 kids ago. Life happened. A miscarriage, 3 adoptions, and a pregnancy happened all inside 13 months. Then cancer happened. The day our marriage turned 15, we weren’t even in the same city. Josh was home with 7 kids and I was in the hospital fighting for our baby’s life. Within the last 5 years we have launched a non-profit, a 5K race, and a small business. Taking a trip to the beach has not been on our radar for a decade.
So this week we took 5 whole days just to ourselves. We sat on the glistening sand and listened to the crash of the waves. We snorkeled every day in crystal clear water with literally hundreds of fish. We drank the best lattes we have ever had under the lush cover of giant palms. We held hands. We got up when we wanted to and didn’t watch the clock all day. We LAUGHED. We prayed together on the beach and thanked God for our marriage and for blessing us with so many incredible children and the most remarkable life. We told our story to young couples and old couples. And we kissed a lot.
Oh, and we went deep sea fishing and caught some giant fish and I got sick as a dog and puked my guts out for hours. It wasn’t ALL poetry.
Meanwhile, Aunt Gina Sue, resident fearless superhero, was commander in chief at the homestead. Who accepts the challenge of 5 days of caring for 7 kids???? (For those reading who don’t know us personally, there ARE actually 9 kids, but 2 are grown and out of the house). Gina did an amazing job. (Understatement of the year). The house ran like a well-oiled machine, AND everyone had fun! She took them on outings and treated with fun snacks every day… I think it was a vacation for them from Mom and Dad! (Maybe not so much of a vacation for Gina herself. We are hoping she still speaks to us by Thanksgiving.) Seriously, she did the impossible, and no matter what challenges she encountered, she did it with such grace, with the unflinching support of Uncle Justin. We could not be more grateful. (We also are VERY AWARE of the focused fervent prayers they both prayed for our safe return!)
Marriage is hard. Raising kids is hard. Life. Is. HARD. There’s never a good time to get away. There’s never enough money. But God. He makes a way when there is no way. He brings beauty out of ashes and streams in the desert. Josh and I can both say in all honesty that our marriage is better now than it was a decade ago, or even at the very beginning. We have been through hell. We have screwed up and hurt one another and let each other down. We have argued about big things and about nothing. We have wasted time over absolute garbage. And then we have picked up the pieces and moved on. We have apologized and we have forgiven. We have picked at each other and laughed until we cried. We are best friends that get on each other’s nerves but we would choose each other every time.
Friends, I beg of you: Invest. Invest where it counts. This world is scary and life is short. Josh and I have learned that everything can change in an instant. Every THING you love can be taken away. And there’s ALWAYS going to be another crisis. We have to invest in our marriages. Invest in our kids. Invest in the lives of others. These investments are truly ACTS OF WORSHIP. I could never begin to thank the countless people who have invested in Josh and I over the years, pouring into us with love and encouragement and TIME. I also know that we are blessed beyond measure, and that not everyone can take a trip to Mexico. Trust me, it was a great stretch and a sacrifice for us. My anxiety tried to ruin the trip before it ever began, and 101 things came up that could have squashed the whole plan. But God. I know it was so important for us. An INVESTMENT. So even if you just go on a walk together; or if it means staying up an extra 30 minutes after the kids go to bed to spend time alone on the couch….it’s WORTH IT. When life gets hard (and stays hard), sometimes we wrap up in our hurt, and we believe that lie that “no one else understands.” Or that we shouldn’t “bother” anyone with “our junk” because “they have enough of their own stuff going on.” (Sound familiar?) THAT IS SUCH A CROCK! That is satan’s tool to try to keep us trapped in shame and loneliness, isolated and disconnected from one another. We are STRONGER WHEN WE ARE CONNECTED! And we are UNSTOPPABLE when that connection is ROOTED IN CHRIST! We have to pull together instead of pulling away. See the needs of others instead of focusing on ourselves. That goes for our marriages and all our other relationships. The more we pour into one another, the greater the return.
So I am thankful for :
White sand, great coffee, and time with my best friend. I’m thankful for impossibly blue skies and impossibly clear water. I’m thankful for God’s limitless creativity in nature. I’m thankful for tears cried on the beach while asking God for BIG things for my husband and for my family. Thankful for the sound of the waves crashing that I tried my best to memorize, and for technology that allowed me to video it so I can play it any time I want to transport myself to our place for a moment. For people who love my kids as they were their own, even though there’s a million of them. For the sweetest kids in the whole world that blanketed our bed with “welcome home” cards. And I’m thankful to be home on American soil with my babies underfoot, my own bed, unlimited safe drinking water, and the ability to eat dinner without using a can of OFF. I am thankful that stuffed iguanas are WAY cuter than real ones. I have renewed appreciation for my mountains of laundry and my big brown bus full of noisy kids and my shaggy dog and 87,000 things going on and the sound of LAUGHTER. I am freshly reminded that even though it’s relentlessly, exhaustingly HARD, I LOVE MY LIFE and I wouldn’t trade it. Lord, keep me in the place of humble gratitude for all you have entrusted to me.
Thanks for giving thanks with me!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 )