In the Same Boat

One of my favorite things to do in college had really nothing to do with college itself, but rather with one of the over 10,000 lakes in the state of Minnesota. To me, there was nothing more peaceful than walking the perimeter of my beloved Como Lake.  It didn’t matter the season….I simply found the presence of the water to have a calming effect on my very hectic life.  It was also a chance to escape the big city life and commune with nature.

It’s ironic then, I suppose, that I currently live in a desert, where walking by water either means being near a canal or passing by the neighbors’ yard when the sprinklers happen to be on. But today, I had a chance to walk around a lake in Sugarland, Texas – an opportunity I was not about to pass up. I enjoyed observing things I don’t get to see in the desert:  snowy-white herons posing like statues near the water’s edge, large blue dragonflies buzzing about the trail, and a scattering of ducks sunning themselves on the grassy bank. As I crossed over the bridge to the opposite side of the lake, my eyes caught sight of a small, lone turtle. I stopped and watched him for a few moments.  Poor turtle.  All alone and attempting to paddle against the natural current. Not really getting anywhere. He could use a buddy, I thought. “I feel your pain little guy,” I said aloud as I continued to walk over the bridge.

Being single is OK.  Sometimes.  But it’s not exactly where I thought I would be in my life at this point.  And truthfully, it’s not where I want to be permanently. I didn’t plan on being divorced or choose it, like most toilet-on-the-sidewalk moments.  But life has definitely taught me that you don’t always get to chose what happens to you.

I continued on the trail, thinking about that little turtle and hoping to find another turtle, this time with a companion. You know, as a sign of hope from God for the future?  I never did see what I was looking for. Only because God had something even better for me to see.

Out of the corner of my eye, they came into view: a pair of rowers, gliding silently through the water. Every perfectly synchronized motion looked effortless, but I could see quite a bit of strength and teamwork went into that scene.  And they were going against the current. Together. In the same boat.

I’m not going to lie. Part of me felt jealous watching that scene. Because that’s what I want. Not literally, of course.  Lord knows me rowing an actual boat would be rather disastrous. But I do want someone to choose to come alongside of me, climb in the boat and be my rowing partner through life.

I stared at those rowers for a bit, as they easily made a turn and gracefully went under the arches of the next bridge.  “I want someone in my boat, God,” I whispered under my breath.

And as God often does, He speaks truth into my life through music. Through my Pandora station. Right into the earbuds in my ears. Because this is what I heard so clearly God speaking to my heart:

“From the need to be understood, from the need to be accepted, from the fear of being lonely, deliver me, O God.  And I shall not want. When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

 

Oh, how I forget the goodness of God all too easily! There is nothing to want, because God provides all I need for this day. And the next. And the next.

There is no doubt in my mind that not I’m alone in this boat called life.  God is in the boat with me, guiding me around every bend. I have dear friends who row their boats beside mine to encourage me. And while that is a huge blessing, God knows my heart aches for something more. SomeONE more. Someone who will be my best friend. Someone who looks at my broken heart and still chooses to love me. Someone who is honest and faithful. Someone who is passionate about his relationship with Christ.  And someone who knows that Christ needs to be the center of our lives.  I can make all the lists I want, but God knows my heart more intimately than even I do. He knows who is best. His plan is always better than the ones I have for myself.

And I trust Him to find my boat companion.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

~ Psalm 37:4

Frosties, Fries, & Best Friends

Today was a Frosty and French fry kind of day.  Let me explain:

I grew up in one of those small Nebraska farming towns.  You know, the ones where there’s just a handful of stoplights and Friday and Saturday nights meant one thing to high schoolers: cruisin’ the strip in your beat-up car with a bunch of friends. Yep, those were the days.  My best friend Lori had a boat-sized olive green Buick which could have been a substitute for some type of military tank, I’m quite sure.  Me, on the other hand…I had a little rusty-orange ’81 Chevy Citation.

As you can guess, entertainment was hard to come by in our town.  Wal-Mart closed by 9 p.m. and the movie theater was out of business.  The bowling alley had league bowling on weekend nights, so cruising was about all there was to do.  (And there were most likely parties to go to and drink, but we weren’t cool enough to be invited to those. Which was ok with us.) Now, you might think that driving around in a big loop repeatedly was less-than-exciting, but let me tell you, the thrill of pulling up to a stoplight to see who would be in the car next to you, executing a Chinese fire drill at a red light, and blasting music from the car stereo was all the fun my friends and I needed.  Once things got monotonous and slowed down later, we’d head out towards the interstate for our favorite late night snack:  a chocolate Frosty and French fries.  Sometimes there would be a big group of us.  And sometimes it was just Lori and me.  But it didn’t matter…Wendy’s was just our hangout.

June 4th marks the eighth anniversary of the end of Lori’s battle with lupus.  But more significantly, it marks her entrance into Heaven.  And that’s why today was a Frosty and French fry day.

Because I refuse to forget.

I refuse to keep all those fun crazy memories inside we had.  Like how we used to rate people’s shoes during church when they went up for communion.  And how we used to try see how many letters of the alphabet we could say while we burped.  (Lori was the champion…she made it to P.)  And how we had code names from old movies for everyone in our class so we could write notes about them and no one would know who we were talking about.  I used to think that all those memories died when Lori did.  But I’m starting to realize that they only die if I stop telling them.  So I keep telling them.  I refuse to stop telling stories about her to her children and mine.  And anyone else who will listen.  I want them to know who she was.

Lori was FUNNY.  She was quick-witted.  She was intelligent.  She was wise.  She was kind-hearted. She was practical.  She was ambitious beyond anyone I’ve ever known. She was confident.  She was fearless.  She was generous.  She was beautiful.

Following Lori’s funeral and burial in our hometown, the church hosted a luncheon reception in the church basement.  Her nearly two-and-a-half-year-old daughter became restless and cranky after being around so many people.  For some reason, she chose me to hold her and take her to walk around and calm down.  We soon found ourselves inside the church itself.  The same church her mom and I sat through many chapel services as little girls in school.  The same church we were confirmed in.  Sang in the choir in.  Got married at.  And now here I was in a very surreal moment, holding her precious baby girl after her funeral.

I remember her daughter being particularly drawn to the statue of Jesus that stood front and center above the altar.  She pointed up with one of her chubby little fingers and looked at me quizzically with big blue eyes, as if she wanted to know who that was and I had the answer.  “Jesus.  That’s Jesus.”  She said nothing, but seemed content with my reply.  She listened as I told her how much Jesus loved her.  How much He loved her mama.  And how He would watch over her until they would see each other again.

Eight years later, I find that sometimes I’m as expectant as that little two-year-old pointing up at Jesus.  I’ve quietly listened as people have told me how much Jesus loves me.  How much He loved Joe.  And how we will see each other again.   Those words have become my anchor.  My peace.

Last year, as the kids and I sat at Wendy’s eating Frosties and fries, I told them stories I could remember about my best friend.  There was a pause in the conversation, until Joe smiled and said, “Man.  I can’t wait to see her in heaven.”

Nine months ago, his wait was over.

For those of us still waiting to see those we love and miss dearly, let me share the words that came on the radio the very day Lori died.

 

 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul,
I can say “It is well”.
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed.
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead!
And I will rise when He calls my name.
No more sorrow, no more pain.
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise.

By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.

~ 1 Corinthians 6:14