Wrestling on Wassaw

I had begun to pace back and forth, back and forth across the faintly moon-lit sand, but nothing seemed to work. Earlier that day on Wassaw Island, it had rained. And on this particular night of July, there was no breeze on the beach at all. In the South, particularly coastal Georgia, this means the bugs will absolutely eat you up. Like I would eat a scoop of Extreme Chocolate Moose Tracks. No mercy.

It was our last night of the week on Wassaw working with the Caretta Research Project collecting data on the turtles, tagging, and relocating at-risk nests. My time there had been amazing – witnessing these magnificent creatures come out of the waves to complete a laborious trek up the beach to the dunes to start a legacy of her own. She delicately digs out a cozy nest for about 100 eggs before covering it with such tenderness and concern before returning back to the dark ocean water. Being a small part of that process was eye opening and worth the lack of air-conditioning.

But. That last night – which I thought would be the icing on the cake to a great week – it was as if the sparkles started to fade.

I started to notice that my muscles were sore from hanging on for dear life on the back of a mule. My cheeks sunburned from daytime rides on the beach to tag new nests. There were blisters on my ankles from my hiking boots. The clothing I had on was not clean; the way it smelled was a constant reminder that it was an outfit worn the previous day. My patience had disintegrated from lack of caffeine, alone time, clean showers and sleep. I was sick and tired of being sticky from the humidity. My skin was coated in layers of sweat, sand, sunscreen, turtle fluids, and bug spray…….TMI, but you just don’t understand.

To top it off was the bugs. There was no escaping them. Every inch of skin that I had was covered. I only created a small slit for my nose and eyes with a thin rain jacket, but even then, the bugs had found a way to bite me through my socks, or and entryway on my sleeves and hood to bite my hands or to be breathed up my nose.

I had just about had it.

Audrey Nix was not born to be a quitter, nor was she raised to be one. Since day one of anything, Mom and Dad would always say, “If you start something, you finish it.” This simple truth kept me in ballet no matter what tantrum or excuse I would try to throw their way. It was a great life attitude to be taught and held accountable for (thanks Mom and Pops).

On that particular night, I felt much like 7 year old me, right before ballet class. I wanted to stomp my feet in defiance, throw the stupid, annoying, uncomfortable tights on the ground and leave. Peace out.

But, this time, it was not pink tights or itchy costumes that I was over, it was the bugs. And the sand. And the heat. And the lack of sleep. And the food that came out of a fridge that ran on propane…..I kid you not, it made it taste funny. I was pretty sure I was going to be turned into a radio-active fridge/human because of it.

Patrolling the beach on the mule was better than the alternative of being a standstill target for the bugs. At least riding on the mule as the bugs would hit my rain jacket I could pretend that there were only drops of rain…..It was that bad. I promise I am not being a drama queen.

Finally we had a turtle, coming out of the water. We let her slowly crawl up the beach further before seeing if she would next. The bugs began attacking us at our standstill, so we drove forward to avoid the mosquitos. A little further up the beach was another turtle. Ergo, we had a problem on our hands. Someone needed to be dropped off to hang out with the other Mama Turtle as she was about to lay so the group could tag the new one. That lucky someone would have to fend off the bugs. Alone.

And that someone was me. Audrey got voted off the safety of  Mule Island. If you could guess, I was totally not in the least bit thrilled to have that honor.As I waited for the turtle to make up its mind on where to make her nest, I started pacing the beach, back and forth, trying to escape the wrath of the bugs.

There was no escaping it.

My first, fleshly instinct was to continue to grumble, but then it hit me, “Oh, Audrey, why don’t you pray? God will surely send the bugs away! You should have thought about that before, you goober.” And so I did.

I prayed, and amen. Then prayed a little more, walking around a little faster. Prayed yet again, now walking in maniacal circles like a mad woman. Still no luck.

I mean, my God is a God of miracles. So surely, clearing a little bubble of bugs away from me wouldn’t be that much of a challenge, would it? I mean, all He had to do was a little poof and there could be a breeze on the beach……right? Not too much.

My prayer had started out as a prayer of praise. Then it was a prayer of suggestion. It transitioned quickly to a prayer of pleading. Finally, I had it. I reached my disappointingly human limit of patience.

“God, just send these daggum bugs away or just one little breeze!” My sassy-britches suddenly had strapped themselves on mega-tight. And then, I lost it. All of the anger, frustration, and irritation that I had against God – the emotions that I had not even realized were there came out, like word-vomit. There was no stopping or controlling it. Things came up that I had tried so desperately to keep down.

Thankfully, my fellow researchers didn’t come down my part of the beach. If they had seen what I did next, they may have tried to check me into a mental health facility. Ashamedly, I will admit that I had marched up and down that beach, kicking sand and water that crashed onto the beach. My arms were waving back and forth animatedly. Tears streamed down my face, thus attracted more bugs to my exposed eyes and fueling more of my anger. I was a hot mess of emotion. I was chewing God out with so many questions and demanding answers.

“Why, God, did I have to go through this?” “God, why did you put this person in my life? They only made me have more pain.” “Lord, why can’t you just have given me this?” “Why?” Why. Why. Why. I was practically yelling to the star blanketed sky.

I fell to my knees in exhaustion. The bugs didn’t bother me anymore. The situation that had been weighing down my life back home become more of a burden. I finally from my spot in the sand asked the one question I was afraid to have answered.

“God, why didn’t you just fix this situation? Why haven’t you been answering me?”

And it hit me. His answer hit me right there louder than the sound of the bugs colliding with my rain jacket.

Audrey, my child. Why am I just not enough for you?

My whole body felt as if it went numb then and there. I had been demanding answers and quick fixes to pain instead of just demanding more of God.

In this instant, I cannot help but think of Genesis 32. Jacob wrestling with God.

Jacob Wrestles with God: Genesis 32

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,[e] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[f]for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,[g] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. BibleGateway – ESV

 

This passage stands out to me for several reasons. I bet you there are over 1000 different sermons on these nine verses. But, first, here is a little of the backstory. Let me give you what happened in the previous episode of Jacob’s Soap Opera Life.

Jacob was a little bit of a genius – which got him into a few pinches throughout his life. Good ‘ole Jake had finagled his way into earning the oldest son birthright from his older brother Esau (who wouldn’t be to happy about that). He was stubborn. He worked 14 years (7 of those he worked and got ‘jipped’ by getting Leah, not the daughter he originally wanted from Laban) to earn the right to marry Rachel. Then Jacob becomes a family man with his two wives – ending up having a family with 10 sons and 1 daughter (poor girl…).

After six years of being a dad with a bunch of kiddos running around, he decided to pack up and return to his father’s house. On the journey, some angels of God roll up and greet him. Jacob then sends messengers before his entourage to his brother Esau, hoping that they can have an olive branch since Jacob had stolen his birthright. He humbly sent forward gifts of oxen, donkeys, flocks, and servants. But, despite his hopes of a Peace Treaty in the form of a donkey didn’t appear to work. Messengers were sent back to him saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.”

Saaaay what? 400 men…..Verse seven is obvious reaction to that statement, “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.” I know I would totally be freaking out. So, Jacob decides that if Esau does catch up to them, he didn’t want all of his eggs in one basket. He splits the entourage up into two halves. Then he gets on his knees and prays a prayer of thanksgiving and faith, pleading that his God would deliver him from the hand of his brother.

In the dark of the night, he sends his wives, servants, and children across the river and all his other possessions. He is left alone at the camp.

This is where I will get on my soap box.

1)    Sometimes God has to get us alone and out of our comfort zone to get us to draw nearer to Him.

So good ‘ole Jake probably was feeling pretty sorry for himself. He was all alone. Literally everything and everyone that he loved and held dear was running away from him. I can imagine him sitting in the dirt, taking a trip back down memory lane, like we often do as humans, thinking about his mistakes of life. What if he had done a few things differently? What if he and his brother didn’t have the relationship they did now? His decisions and choices up to this point in his life are no longer affecting him, but now his family and livelihood. Or maybe he spent his time at the camp praying under the stars. I really don’t know. But, a Man showed up. And they wrestled to the breaking of day.

The Man didn’t show up when Jacob was surrounded by his HUGE family. He didn’t majestically appear for Jacob while he was reclined on his La-Z-Boy Recliner in the comfort of his home. No, He came in the dark. And He came when Jacob was left alone.

Those are the times that we need to seek after God most. A lot of the times, God brings us to places like that, in the dark, alone, without comfort, in order to pull us nearer to Him. That can look like times in the desert after losing a loved one, or a bad-break up. It can be trying so hard to chase after something and falling flat on your face. Or it can look like a night on an island chasing after turtles being attacked by bugs and feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety of your life and where it is headed.

What we must do in those times is to not shrink away, but rise to the challenge and wrestle those fears, questions, and doubts with God.

2)   God is God. Man is man.

In this epic wrestling match, it was definitely a remarkable sight. Sometimes I wish that I could see the words in my bible on a movie screen in front of me. But, instead, I can only allow the God-breathed words on the page to speak to me. Check out the second part of verse 24: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.”

Jacob wasn’t wrestling with the Man. Instead, the Man was wrestling with him. Jacob did not approach into the struggle wanting anything specific from God. But, God brought the struggle to Jacob and began wrestling with Jacob because He wanted something from Jacob.  He wanted to break down Jacob of his stubbornness, self-reliance, and pride. The Lord did not merely just want talk to Jacob. No. He wanted to all out brawl with his child to show him that He was God and man is man.

This fight went all night long. Sometimes we are being led on a path through a desert. It can last all night long. Weeks. Or months. But this path sometimes God leads us down to remind us who is in control. Often in our finite minds, we think we got this thing called “life” in the bag. We are in control. The head honcho. Calling the shots. But, we could not be further from the truth.

The Maker of the Earth and the Creator of Man knows all and controls all. He knows our weak spots, the places that need change. Our own Jacob’s hip that needs to be put out of joint to show us our place.

That was where I was at on Wassaw Island that insect-filled night. I thought that I had my life all planned. I thought that I could call the shots on my own and do a good job – whether it be life choices or weather changers. But, who am I to think that I can do all that? God is God. I am human. I will fall short every time.

Thank goodness, I am not the one who makes the plays in this world. If I did, I would be in a whole heap of a hot mess. Yelling at God on the beach that night wasn’t going to make my life any easier. Getting what I thought I deserved, wanted, or thought I needed wouldn’t help either. I need so much more than that.

3)   God’s Mercy.

So this wrestling match. It ended by God going “tap” on Jacob’s hip socket and “crack” his hip going out of joint. Then, this happens as the dust settles and Jacob realizes that he has been bested by a better Man than he.

Verse 26: And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Wow. What a picture of heart change in Jacob. The man that was once clever, stubborn, and prideful had been reduced to a guy, clinging onto the Man who bested him like a small child, only relying on the fact that he wants the blessing of Him and Him alone. This commentary hits the nail on the head:

“This is an invaluable place for everyone to come to: where God conquers us. There is something to be said for every man doing his “wrestling” with God, and then acknowledging God’s greatness after having been defeated. We must know we serve a God who is greater than us, and we cannot conquer much of anything until He conquers us.” – David Guzik

God loves us so much that He wrestles with us. And His love is so big that He does for us what He for Jacob through His Son, Jesus. He gives us mercy. He gave Jacob a new name. A new perspective. And He sent Him on his way.

That night on Wassaw, God answered all of my demanding questions with another question: Why am I not enough for you? Why isn’t He enough for us in times of trouble? Why isn’t He enough in times we are fearful?

I walked away with a new perspective that night…..I will elaborate further on that another time. But, first, let me finish this so I can get off my Soap Box.

4)   Embracing your limp and placing your Peniel.

Verse 30: So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Verse 31: The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

All those past pains, hurts, and questions I asked of God, those were all Peniels. I didn’t know it at the time, but that night on the beach, it hit me. Those were the times that God was looking at me, face to face. He knew that these situations, they were going to be tough. Some of them flat out would suck. But, He was molding and forming His child into who He needed to be not necessarily who she wanted to be. That is what we need to trust in the most. Those moments and places in our life, we need to place a bookmark to not forget what happened. Jacob took the time to name the place. We need to take the time to pause and reflect. Peniel became a landmark for Jacob and the people that would follow in his footsteps, just as these points in our lives need to be monuments that we use to display God’s glory to others.

Yes, we will walk out of these times and wrestling matches as Jacob, with a limp. There will be old aches and tender scar tissue. But, our limps shape us into who we are as followers of Christ. And we have two choices: let it cripple us or embrace it.

If we let it cripple us, we will crawl through life crippled with fear, doubt, and unsatisfied. If we embrace it, we are a living, breathing, canvas of God’s beautiful painting of redemption, grace, and faithfulness.

 

Now getting back to that turtle and those darn bugs…..

That night on Wassaw, I walked away with a new perspective. I began the slow process of embracing a limp or two that I had spent so much of my life trying to hide. The bugs, well, they did not go away. They weren’t exactly welcomed. But, they weren’t exactly as devastating before.

After I had finished my temper tantrum towards God, I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and walked to take care of my new turtle friend. She probably found the whole thing comical as I finally did. The night was nearing to an end, the dawn was almost breaking. The morning sun meant it was time for us turtle researchers to finally sleep for a few hours before we departed for home – back to blessed air-conditioning and the glory of Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

I had arrived on Wassaw at the beginning of the week thinking that everything in my world was falling apart, but I just pretended that everything was ok. It turns out that I just needed to be hit with a swarm of mosquitos to break me down to the point of realizing that sometimes, it is ok to wrestle with God. Bring Him the tough questions. You will never get the answer that you want, but you will get the answer that you need. I did.

I challenge you to remember this. God is God. He is enough. His mercy and grace are satisfying. And He is in control.

Walk tall in knowing these truths. Walk forward after Him. You may be walking with a limp, but walk on, showing people the love of Christ embracing your limp.

The Anatomy of Courage

About two years ago, around this time of year, I started my walk to a little upstairs office with two, tiny, old windows. It was an office I had visited many times over the past three years. It was slightly rainy but the sun was shining – the oddity of the weather suited the oddity of my situation. As I briskly walked, my heart thumping was in my throat. I can still smell the musty scent of the old building when I finally was able to open the aging glass doors. The lines of what I would say ran rapidly through my mind, like the beginning of a Star Wars movie, with every step I took. The closer I got to the last door on the right, the fuzzier and fuzzier those lines got. The tightness in my gut made me want to bend over and catch my breath. My clammy hands made themselves hard to wring together. Tears caused the grey and black speckled carpet at my feet to blur. I had finally made it to the door. To the upstairs office with the two, tiny, old windows. And it was time. I felt my legs shake. But, I took deep breaths til my tears went away and reached for the door knob that you had to jiggle in order to open. All of the words that I had rehearsed flew from their branch in my mind. It didn’t bother me though because I knew that this was where I needed to be and the words that needed to be said would be spoken. I lifted the door knob to the upper-left, turned it and walked in…..

 

I am a book hoarder. It is a problem. And yes, even though I have completed Step 1 of the process in admitting I have a problem doesn’t mean that I have accepted any inkling of a need for change. There is something about books that I find comfort in. I could literally spend hours and hours in a library or bookstore. Unfortunately, the latter is not good at all for my bank account.

But, I have a solution to my predicament. Every purchase is more justifiable and more of an investment rather a withdrawal if I buy it at 2nd & Charles. If I buy something there for a discounted price, am I really throwing away money on something that takes up space? Naaahhhh. And, better yet, once I return it or any book that I no longer need or want to pass along, I can get store credit! Well……there is a flaw in my system: the being able to part with books. Even if it was a raggedy-old-smelly book I dug out of their free bin.

The free bin is a magical place. I have rescued so many books from within the wire cages. Most of them are in the free bin because someone was trying to get rid of them and 2nd & Charles won’t accept them. Frustrated previous owners don’t want the hassle of unloading them from the mini-van and lugging them back up to the attic, so they chuck in the free bin. Free to a good home. They range from waaaayyy overdue library books that were discovered in grandma’s basement to an extremely beat up, outdated tour guide manual. They all just need a little T.L.C.

I have found many a treasure in the free bin. I have found a book of poetry from the 1960’s called Apples of Gold by Jo Petty – a woman’s collection of biblical truths and words of wisdom. I have learned from So Excellent a Fishe by Archie Carr and his adventures studying my favorite animal, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, during the first efforts of conservation for this endangered species.

My latest find may be my favorite: The Anatomy of Courage by Lord Moran. Sounds intense right? I mean when I picked up the book, the title had mainly images of Mel Gibson pop in my head relieving a mixture of “The Patriot” and “Braveheart”. I saw a man in a blue kilt, screaming, running around with an axe-thing.

This tattered book was a retired library book from the Illinois public library system. How it managed to locate itself in the free bin in the state of Georgia and at a 2nd & Charles free bin is beyond me. My romantic side could come up with many a story or scenario to answer that question. But, regardless of the possible hands that possibly studied, folded the corners of pages, or underlined in thin grey pencil lines that touched their hearts and wanted to commit to memory, I do know that it was checked out several times according to the slip inserted into the pocket of the first cover page.

The Anatomy of Courage  was written by Lord Moran, the personal physician of Sir Winston Churchill during the First World War. He wrote three books about what it was like to be the great Winston Churchill’s personal doctor that accompanied everywhere he went. And everywhere Lord Charles Wilson of Moran would follow Churchill, the “black dog” of Churchill’s not yet diagnosed depression would follow. Apparently, (according to my limited research) Lord Moran’s documentation and memoirs of treating Churchill helps us gain further insight to who the great British hero was.

He later published The Anatomy of Courage after the end of WWII. I started reading it and instantly all of the intense scenes from “Private Ryan” started to flood into my brain. The scenes that make my palms clammy and I feel like I want to cry as I curl up tighter in my blanket on the couch. Any time that I watch an intense war movie like that I feel exhausted after. I know what I am watching is created and crafted for a screen, but deep down under all of the Hollywood glitz, glamour, and attempts to sell more tickets, some of the images that were entering into my brain was true. These were real men. Men who had families back home they left for an unknown land across an ocean. They had names. Birthdays. Christmases. And they had so much heartbreak. They did it for home. The home we call “home” today.  Their courage. It had to be the real kind.

I could only make it through a few pages at a time of Lord Moran’s stories. I would start reading and then felt the knot forming in my stomach, making me put it down to catch my breath and escape back to my reality of naivety.

It wasn’t because he was extremely graphic. It was because he was straight to the point. And frankly, we aren’t like that anymore. I would love nothing more than to sit with Lord Moran. Share a cup of tea. And I feel like if I would to receive life counsel from him, I would probably walk away with tears rimming my eyes due to my sensitivity and to his bluntness. But, I would learn. Oh, I would learn.

 

And I feel like that is what courage is – in my mind’s eye. Drinking tea with a hard, soldiered reality. You are flooded with intimidation, but you walk away standing a little taller. When I think of courage in my life – I often feel that I fall short. I haven’t really had to face life or death. Nor have I had to leave home for an indefinite amount of time. And I have only felt really terrified one time – a kayak accident in the snow (but that is another story for a different day).

But what I don’t think we realize is that courage isn’t always in the form of a raging lion. It doesn’t always wear a kilt and blue face paint. Courage can’t always be displayed on a battlefield. Courage doesn’t have to be loud. It doesn’t have to be written into a movie or captured in a book. Courage isn’t always legend worthy. Courage has a much larger definition and depiction than that.

Courage is in our choices.

I believe that the anatomy of courage is born in our everyday circumstances and choices. It must be planted and bloom in the commonality of normality before it can grow into a way of life.

The day that I walked into the little upstairs office with two, tiny old windows, I quit.

Yes, I quit.

I quit being afraid. I quit allowing something to dictate my time, stress, worries, anxiety, diet, thoughts, goals, fears, ambitions, and choices.

I quit being a college athlete.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not trying to Taylor-Swift anything about this situation: not college sports, being a collegiate athlete, not my alma-mater, not my previous coach or teammates. I do not want to make them out like they are worthy of having a song played about them on repeat because they hurt me. I do not regret anything about my decision to become who I was then: Audrey. Defensive Mid. I wear #23. I was that for three great years. But it was time to take that jersey off, and just be Audrey.

But I do know that not being defined by the sport I played, the number I wore, or the position on the field I specialized it was one of the most freeing things that I could have ever done for myself. You remember how I said that courage is born from our everyday choices? Well, this one was the first choice of courage I had made for myself. Not for anyone else or out of fear. But, this was my choice of courage. It wasn’t the easiest. It wasn’t the most clear. But, it required courage and I knew that it was the correct one to make in order to be where the Lord needed me to be.

Courage requires commitment.

You may think that what I did was not a big deal. Or you may be shaking your head thinking that I was one year short of playing all four years – why not tough it out for just one more season. I couldn’t do it. Not that I couldn’t do it – I am as stubborn as they come. I guess it was more of the fact that I could do it. I can do it. But, it was the easier decision. I was a part of something. I had my identity carved out for me and I didn’t have to reach for it somewhere else. My schedule was made for me. My friends were already handpicked for me. My clothes were chosen for me, practically. I was part of the “in” crowd.

But, within the “in” crowd – I didn’t feel in. And eventually I wanted out. But out was scary. It meant making my own schedule. Finding new friends. And getting rid of half of my athletic closet riddled with a logo that branded me with my identity.

I won’t go into why I no longer wanted to be a part of the herd. But, I will tell you that it was time for me to move on. And that was terrifying.

I knew that leaving the team would be a commitment that required more dedication that being on the team ever required out of me. It meant not regretting my decision when my soccer body decayed into one not of toned muscles and abs. It meant finding my identity not in what people thought of me or how many minutes I played on a field. It meant that I needed to face and cling to something bigger. Trusting in the Lord. In many different, big areas.

This was a hard one for me because it was easy to depend on the other things. Being a soccer player was the most consistent thing in my life since I was about seven years old. It was there through family issues, ex-boyfriends, and moves, whether it was moving houses or the big move from high-school to college. It was what motivated me to go to class, get the attention of boys, or to make it through injuries and surgeries. But trusting in the Lord to get me through rather than the sport that had so defined and shaped me required more than just saying I would no longer be Audrey, Defensive Mid. It required me to commit to being Audrey, child of God. That meant committing to Him no longer just the decision to play or not to play?. It demanded that I commit every choice. From the everyday to the mountain moving choices and actions.

And I don’t know about you, but I am a bit of a commitment phobe. It is nice to have the easy way out, just in case. It is less complicated to just not RSVP to the parties of life, just in case another opens up or you just don’t feel like showing up and would rather eat ice cream and watch I Love Lucy reruns on the couch instead. Courage has nothing to do with feelings. Courage is making a commitment despite our feelings. John Wayne was the ultimate man. I mean, the Duke, the real cowboy – he is a guy’s guy. And he says it best about courage (I know my dad must be beaming whenever he reads this and is thinking “Man, I raised her right”. Yup, thanks, Pops.) . He once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

Fear is a natural emotion. It is a necessary emotion that teaches and molds us. We now know after getting burned to not touch play with matches. We know now after losing someone that we must always remember to say, “I love you”. But, fear needs to be a teacher, not a murder of taking chances, standing firm, or following through.

It is ok to feel fear, but what we do with that fear shows our character. Courage is following through no matter how you may be feeling. When I think of courage, I think of Ruth. She became a widow. Ruth must have felt afraid and hopeless after being stranded in a strange land alone with her mother-in-law. But, despite all of the fear, doubt, and anger, she decided to show courage. Ruth didn’t allow the emotion of fear influence her commitment to Naomi. I can almost picture her clinging to Naomi. Tears streaming down her face as she says “Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”  And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.” Ruth 1:17-18 ESV. This makes me think back at my life and wonder, What if I showed this kind of commitment and strength with every area of my life?

 

Courage is Christ commanded.

Ruth is not the only one in the bible that showed courage. You can find it countless other places. But this courage shouldn’t be mounted on a wall in the form of a plaque for Christians to look upon. It shouldn’t take in the form of a trophy in a room for us to just merely admire and idolize. It is something that we are commanded to apply in our own lives. Every. Single. Day.

It is a choice. It is a commitment. And it is a command. That means we gotta follow it. No exceptions.

Joshua 1:3-9English Standard Version (ESV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
(NKJV)

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(NIV)

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(NIV)

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
(NIV)

 

And you know what is crazy? The last verse I showed y’all. It was written by Paul. Formally known as Saul. He was a persecutor of Christians transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a great warrior for the gospel. He stood firm through beatings, persecution, a thorn in his flesh, and shipwrecks. But he did not give up. Despite how he must have felt through all of those hardships. He had a choice and a commitment. He was courageous not for himself, but for the cause of sharing Christ. But, that is not even the most crazy part. Did you know the same Spirit that he found his strength, boldness, and courage is open to clumsy, silly, scared, worry-warts like me? My friend, I do not know what you are going through, but I do know because you are human, like me, that you are going through something. Everyone always is. My hope and prayer for you today is that you make the choice and commitment to follow the command of courage.

I know on a spring day about two years ago, when I walked to the little upstairs office with two, tiny, old windows to make a choice that was a terrifying and huge commitment, I did not feel like doing it. Not doing it would have been the easy thing to do. Fear, doubt, and anxiety were running rapidly through my veins. But, I did it. It was terrifying. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, throw up, or change my mind. Really it was a combination of all three. Audrey, Defensive Mid, walked into that office. A different person walked out of that office. Fear taught her a lesson and courage helped her win a battle.

I pray that you choose to make today the day that you stand tall, no matter how you are feeling. And just know, that you are not fighting that battle alone. If you look around hard enough, you will see that others are fighting in it, too. Just keep your eyes on Christ, and remember that the battle that truly means life or death, He has already won it for you. Just rest in that, and that is the anatomy of courage.

 

Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will.

CHARLES WILSON, LORD OF MORAN, The Anatomy of Courage

 

 

A Letter to My Teacher.

Dear you,

It has been a while. Several years, in fact, since you have seen my face in front of you. No longer do I wear the flower barrettes in my hair, sparkly Limited Too shirts, or the braces on my face. I have long since out grown them all. The little denim jacket my mom put all the cute patches on probably couldn’t fit on one of my arms now. My books of choice are not The Very Hungry Caterpillar or any Nancy Drew in the series. My favorite subjects are not PE and lunch, and my free time is no longer dedicated to coloring or Model Magic clay.  The purpose of me writing this is not to merely keep you in the loop of my new adult life. It is not an apology. It isn’t even a thank you. It’s much more.

I remember.

I remember you sitting with me during recess, your break as well as mine, to teach me how to do long-division. You worked through my tears of frustration and defeat alongside me until I finally could do it on my own.

I remember when the 9/11 happened. They showed it on the TVs in our classroom. You stood in the doorway with your hand over your heart, big tears rolling down your face. You hugged us extra tight that day as we silently left to go home for the day, whispering words of comfort to each of our confused and terrified faces.

I remember the funny hats you would wear as you taught us about the history of our country. You rode a stick-horse around the room to keep us giggling. You sang silly songs you made up to help us grasp things that were beyond unnecessary and confusing, but you wanted to make it fun.

I remember when the house down the street caught on fire. Two of the kids went to our school that lived there. I remember watching you carrying a huge bag of clothes, shoes, and food as if it was Christmas and Thanksgiving in the middle of April.

I remember falling on the playground and you allowing my tears to stain your red shirt. You helped pick all the woodchips off my socks and put a Scooby-Doo band-aid on a tiny, microscopic scrape.

I remember the days when my classmates and I made you frustrated. Your voice was cracking from overuse. Your face went from an impatient pink to the reddish point of tears. We didn’t deserve recess, but you gave it to us anyway.

I remember seeing you constantly cutting lamination, sipping coffee, stapling worksheets, carrying stacks of copies.

Not only do I still remember, but now the cloudy, snap-shot memories mean so much more.

Now I get it.

I get why you did it all. You not only were a teacher. You were our friend. Our parent. Our coach. Our cheerleader. Our surgeon. Our mentor. Our hero. You still are my hero.

On Thursday, you came to my mind. It was lunch. And I was so done, hiding in my closet, eating chocolate, and wiping away tears of exhaustion and defeat. I was done with extending grace after grace to only have it trampled over. I was done with the early mornings and the late nights. I was done with the constant flow of papers, worksheets, and lesson plans. I was done with the never-ending streams of paper clips and post-its I find wherever I tread and the expo marks that never seemed to stay off my clothes and hands. I was done talking and my voice not being heard. And I thought I was done with caring, because it never seemed to matter.

In my cluttered closet, I was sitting on the step ladder I had used for hours after school to hang cheerful decorations on the walls, which seemed purposeless now. Then, a book you read to us caught my eye on the shelf across from me. I instantly thought of you. I began to wonder how many days you had like mine today, complete with the earth-shattering, lesson-stopping temper tantrum, twelve requests for restroom breaks, and spilled coffee staining your shirt.

And I finally got it.

I now know why you did what you did.

You did it all to teach us something bigger than any math, science, social studies, and reading textbook could ever teach us. You did everything so it could be learned on days like today when we want to throw the towel in and walk away with our head hung low.

I guarantee you had days where you did not want to pick your head up off your soft and warm pillow to be greeted by the county purchased fluorescent lights. I expect you had days where your throat throbbed from incessant words that never reached listening ears. I know you had days where you wished your lunch break could be solely devoted to eating rather than grading and shoveling down half-microwaved leftovers. I bet you had days where you hid in your classroom closet and ate chocolate while you cried and questioned everything about your career choice. I get it now because I have those days, too.

But, what you did next. Oh, what you did next, I now fully understand most of all.

You wiped away your tears. Finished your chocolate. Straightened your shirt. And, put a smile on.

You did it for us because you believed in us. And you wanted us to know that if we had bad days, like I had on that terrible Thursday, where we wanted to surrender, you let us know you still were in our corner. You always wanted to make us feel special because to you, we were special. And you never wanted us to forget it.

So. Because of that simple truth, I wiped away my tears. I finished my chocolate. I straightened my coffee-stained shirt. And I put my smile on. Not for myself, but for my students.

I did it for my students because I believe in them. I always want them to know that if they have bad days, days they want to hide in a cluttered supply closet, where they want to surrender, that I am always in their corner. Ready to catch them or to encourage them. I want them to know that they are special, because they are truly special. And I never, ever want them to forget it.

So, this letter:

I’m sorry won’t fully cover it.

Thank you will never fully define it.

But I remember. I remember may help you to remember, too. But, I pray you not only  remember, but realize what you did meant so much. Your gentle hand, heart, and words did not just stop when you gave them to me so many years ago. They kept moving and growing. They are still moving forward today.

You made a difference. And hopefully you and I can keep making a difference. Together.

So, I am not sorry.

And I am not saying thank you.

I am saying I remember.

And, I hope you remember, too.

 

Love the little girl with the patches on her denim jacket,

Audrey

The Journey and the Destination.

I have come to realize that there is a pattern when it comes to the way Audrey Nix lives her life. When things are going great and life is peachy keen, she is exuberant. Flitting and floating around from thing to thing, almost like a steam-engine train powered by coal doused with Mountain Dew, Starbucks coffee, and kerosene. With me, Audrey, sitting on top with a bungee chord allowing me to stretch out along the chaotic course to pick up things as I go while trying to steer simultaneously. It’s fun for a little while, but eventually, there is a crashing point. I will have run out of steam, patience, energy, drive, and confidence. When that happens, I am either crankily stranded on the tracks or I get the heck out of dodge. Abandon ship. I disappear and drop off. You won’t see me for a while. I have retreated off to be on my own in my crumbled mess I created.

Til’ I find a new train. A new pair of tracks. Accumulate coal and start her up. Then, I will start puttering along until I find some pixie-dust-like enthusiasm to sprinkle on to get me going full speed once again.

Most of you who know me may have already known this, or I have been doing a good job at keeping you at arms’ length enough so you aren’t able to notice. But, I have come to the point that this pattern has become exhausting. It has become destructive. And it has become evident that change is necessary.

So all this to say, since around the beginning of August, there has been some major changes that have occurred in my life. All of them have been welcomed, but not all of them have been easy. I am back on my train that is secured on tracks and I am ready to chug along forward, but at a normal, healthy speed. I also have taken a different seat on my train, one that is comfortable and secured inside as I let someone with more loving, trusted, and holy hands drive. And I am fully confident that He will take me not where I want to go, but where He has called me. By His course I will travel and by His side I will rest.

Now I am a 20-something on her own. The world is at my fingertips. Anything can happen. That is the way most movies, novels, and Taylor Swift songs make you feel. I grew up thinking that my life could be defined, decoded, and directed by a romantic comedy, a book I felt I could relate to, or by the emotion that a song could make me feel. I think that society as a whole has trained us, or maybe just people like me, to think that we could do this. That we could use these things to shape and mold our thinking of the way way life could and should be as long as we act as a Hollywood starlet would in our own lives. Could. Should. And Would. But that is not reality.

Reality is not what we see on a picture on Instagram. It cannot be seen in a long, sappy Facebook post. Reality cannot be defined by a quote on Pinterest.

The grass is always greener where you water it.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible”.

Just keep swimming.

Life is not the destination, but the journey.

Words. Quotes. These statements shape our culture and more often that not, can become our mantras for our life. And if anything, makes our life seem more normal. Understandable. Defined within the status quo. We seek comfort in knowing that we belong in the margin that we deem the norm of life.

But, if the Lord has taught me anything these past few months, He has completely overthrown one simple statement for me. “Life is not the destination, but the journey.”He has shown me that life is in fact the destination. My life is the destination. And this destination changes my journey.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-4

In these verses, the apostle Paul is writing from prison to the people of the church in Colossae to try and fortify it against false teachers,  teach of Christ’s reconciliation he accomplished by his blood, and ,in this particular passage, how those alive in Christ should be living set apart from the rest of the world. Our minds are not focused on the things of this world, but rather than fully focused upon the face of the Father. We are to live with the destination of Heaven directly before us, not as if it is something we have to journey to years and miles from the here and now.

Paul tells in in these verses, our earthly life, our earthly ‘journey’ has been put to death. It is no longer who we are. For we now are alive in Christ. Our destination is present and we are with him in glory. Glory. Now our lives are no longer just wandering and journeying across the earth to only make it to the final destination of death at the ripe old age of 80 something.

For I have Jesus with me now. He is daily walking beside me. So who am I to take my eyes away from him who loves me? Who am I to stress over whether or not I am going to check the boxes and reach the milestones of what culture deems necessary for a satisfying life? Who am I to take my mind and only think about the here and now?

Because I am a Christian, my life is no longer a cliché. My life cannot be described by a quote by Ghandi, Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, or Walt Disney. My life won’t mirror the next big romcom in theaters. My life won’t sound like the beautiful ballads of T.Swift. My life is defined by the word of God and His plan and purpose for me. My life is to mirror the teachings of Jesus. My life will sound like a sweet song of worship to the King of Heaven.

My life is not a journey, but it is the destination of journeying with Him day by day. Welcoming others to walk with me alongside Him and having the Father guide us, step by step, breath by breath.