I don’t know about you, but there is no place on earth that I see my Creator at better than when I am at the beach. Growing up in Florida, I’ve been to the beach more times than I can count. I love staring into the vastness of the ocean and feeling how big my God is and how small I am in comparison. I love feeling the sun as it kisses my skin and warms my soul. The tiny grains of sand remind me that God’s thoughts and cares for me outnumber them (Psalm 139:18). The coming in and going out of the tide is a reminder of His faithfulness and how He keeps His promises. The deepness of the ocean and the creatures big and small that call it home remind me of the complexity of how my Creator creates. I love everything about the beach.
My husband, however…well…he would say otherwise. The mention of taking a day trip to the beach to him can guarantee you a small speech on how hot it is, how the sand gets everywhere and into everything. “There’s nothing to do at the beach except sit and sweat and get sunburned.” And that was just the speech before we had kids. Now, the thought or mention of the beach brings up points about how much “stuff” we have to bring. It’s never just as simple as putting on your bathing suit, grabbing a few towels, hopping in the car and going. There’s the sunscreen, the tent, the snacks, the sippy cups, the toys, the umbrella, the rock n’ play for the baby, the snacks, the water table, the chairs, the cooler, the snacks, games, the swimmy diapers, and did I say snacks? Not to mention, playing Tetris as he tries to fit it all into one vehicle, just to unload it all, use half of it, and load it back up a few hours later when the kids are hot, cranky, and exhausted from having no naps.
Okay, I get it. When you put it that way it does sound like a lot of effort and not so fun. But even with all of that “stuff”…I still want to go. I know it’s a lot to ask. I know it’s a lot to do. But, it makes my heart so very happy. So, I bring you to Mother’s Day 2017. My husband asks me a few days before what I’d like to do for my big day. In hopes that I’ll say something simple like “Let’s go to brunch.” instead, I tell him that my sister and her family of five as well as my mom will be going to…THE BEACH…and I want us to go too. [See the reasons above why he wasn’t so thrilled by my answer.] But, he lovingly complied and the day came. We packed up all of our “stuff” along with our two year old and one month old and headed to the most wonderful place on earth.
As a new family of four, our parenting has started to look a bit different. We are now playing man-to-man coverage instead of double-teaming our two year old. We have each “claimed” a child as our responsibility. By default, since I am nursing, I get our daughter and he gets our son. Most of the time, I definitely have the better end of the deal. Our daughter eats exactly every three hours by her own accord, sleeps a huge chunk of the time, loves to snuggle, and practically never cries. It’s awesome. Our son is a completely different animal. He is wild and energetic. He needs an activity, toy, game, or stimulation of some sort for every minute that he’s awake. He does not know the meaning of the word “still” (or quiet for that matter). He is frequently testing his limits and throws tantrums over the littlest of things. But I love it. It reminds me that God made men and women differently. He made adults and toddlers differently too.
So, I find myself sitting on the beach with my family. I’m relaxing in my beach chair, feeling the warmth of the sun and digging my toes into the sand while my one month old sleeps peacefully in her rock n’ play under a tent in the shade. Life is good. Life is peaceful. I watch with my mom and sister as my brother in law and my husband play with the two 2 year olds, 4 year old, and 7 year old. My sister’s family brought their water table, so the 2 year olds found much joy in splashing and playing in the water under the comfort of the shade of our tent. Almost. As soon as our son realized that the water table was being filled by us carrying buckets of water from the ocean back to the table, it was game over. For the proceeding few hours, my husband would be in charge of walking back and forth between the water table and the ocean, crossing the lane of traffic because we parked on the beach, to continuously fill the bucket so the table could be filled again.
There was a problem though. The bucket my son chose to keep filling in the ocean had a hole in the bottom. No matter how fast his little feet tried to carry him, by the time he made the long journey back to the water table, the water was gone or almost gone. My husband tried to help him. He wanted so desperately for our son to choose another vessel or allow him to plug the hole. But in his two year old determination and defiance, he refused.
Do you ever find yourself acting that way? We fill our buckets up in life with good, refreshing water. Maybe it’s meaningful time spent with people, refilling ourselves with God’s word, going to bible study or church. Maybe it’s just quiet, still, alone time where we allow ourselves to rest. But just as quickly as we fill ourselves up, we turn around and start pouring it back out on things we didn’t intend to or we refuse to ask for help when we struggle.
One of my favorite Hillsong United songs says “I know I’m filled to be emptied again. The seed I’ve received I will sow.” Being filled is temporary. We reach the point of filling, but then we pour out and quickly look to be refilled. The danger lies when we aren’t being filled by the right things or when our pouring out is on things that are unimportant and not eternal.
In my son’s case, he was filling his bucket with “good things”, but because of his broken vessel, his time, efforts and goodness were wasted on the journey back. He refused to allow his father to help him. I can so painfully relate to my son because I refuse to allow my Heavenly Father to help me when I could really benefit from His help.
I am a broken vessel.
I try to fill up on good things, but because I do not humble myself and ask God to fill the holes, my goodness is often wasted. I have missed opportunities to get my water from the bucket into the water table where it belongs. My Father is right beside me the whole time, just as my husband stayed by my son’s side. He yearns for me to stop and relinquish the control I think I have to say, “Okay, I need you! Please help me to get this water into the places you intended instead of me wasting it.”
As I’ve been on maternity leave these past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time scrolling endlessly on my devices. I’ve scrolled on Facebook. I’ve scrolled on Instagram. I’ve scrolled on Pinterest. I’ve chosen to “fill up” on things that have no eternal value. I blame it on nursing where I’m stuck in one place and it’s most convenient to hold my phone instead of my bible. I blame it on being stuck in the house because it’s too hard to go anywhere with a toddler and a newborn, when in reality, I could turn off the TV and take them outside or turn worship music on instead. We choose what we fill ourselves with AND where we pour ourselves out. If I’m only filling myself with social media posts and shows on Netflix, I’m not going to have a whole lot of love and truth or energy to fill my kids or husband up with good things. All I will have to offer will be my mediocre efforts.
As you take this journey with me, my hope and prayer is that together, we can learn how to be filled with the right things and in turn, take those right things and pour them out to where God is calling us to empty them so it’s not wasted.
How have you chosen to be emptied? What have you poured out? How is God filling you?