devotional, Travel

The Sea and the Scarf

This photograph was taken on a “glass-bottom” excursion trip that was part of our cruise with Kathy Triccoli last year.  As a reminder, at this point I was still pregnant with Audrey, and we knew her diagnosis. I was terrified to go on the cruise because I can become overwhelmed when I feel like everyone is looking at me and talking about me. I am in a bathing suit, obviously pregnant, and there is no way around the fact that I am carrying a baby that will soon go to be with the Lord.  It was actually a much nicer time than I had gotten myself all worried about, and people were very kind to me.  Women would just sit by me at the pool and ask about the book I was reading, and then eventually transition into a story about loss in their own lives.
It has been about a year since that trip, and the other day I was reminded of one of my father-in-law’s favorite stories to tell about my kids.  This particular story involves my sweet Ellie (pictured on the little boat a few minutes before this story took place). She was mesmerized by the way you could see the “fish” swimming below us (let me clarify that “seaweed” and “fish” are seen as equally exciting to a preschooler who didn’t just get robbed by the concierge). It was a rusty, nasty, fishing boat and the “director” decided it would be more productive to flirt with the captain, so we were left to explore the wonders of rip-off-ville by ourselves. 
I would have been even more mad if my daughter hadn’t said something that I carry with me every day of my life.  
I may have mentioned in earlier post (probably about this time last year) that there was a woman aboard the ship who was battling cancer.  She usually wore some kind of hat or scarf, and for formal events she donned a beautiful wig, but the girls were concerned when they saw her at the pool one day and asked me what was wrong.
I told them that she had something called “cancer,” and that we needed to pray for her because it makes her very sick, and the medicine she was taking made all of her hair fall out.  They stared at me in confusion, and I wanted to tell them that everything was going to be fine, but that would have been a lie.  I didn’t know enough of her story to say what was going to happen, only that we should pray for the woman with the scarves. And every night, in earnest, we sat on our little cruise ship bed and talked about our prayers, and the “special scarf lady” made her way into their requests. I can’t tell you that they fully understood what might happen to her, but they were lifting her up as if they did.
I should preface this next part of the story by saying that Abby and Ellie don’t let people into their world very easily. They have each other and they have us, and that’s about all they need. We had to take them out of ballet because they were sleepless over all of the “people watching them through the glass.”  They love to dance, and if you came to the concert this weekend, you got to witness that firsthand…they love music and feel so free to do it, but meeting people face to face, one on one? Different story. 
If you meet them, they will most likely hide behind me and stare at the ground while Kate butts in front of me, introduces herself and proceeds to ask you to pick her up and carry her around like you’re a horsey, yelling “GIDDY UP!!!!” until you have reached sufficient canter. 
Todd and I have an interesting combination of genes.
Anywhoo.
All that to say, Abby and Ellie aren’t fond of strangers.
So when we boarded the little excursion boat and saw the scarf lady, I knew they were going to be nervous. 
So guess where Ellie sidles up? You guessed it.
Right in between her grandfather (Tata-Todd’s dad) and the “scarf lady.”
I almost passed out.
But then again, there was the whole gasoline explosion smell thing, so there were other contributing factors to my delirium.
The boat was so loud, and I was in so much agony over the choppy waves and the smell that I laid down for most of it, but I did manage to take a few photos.  I couldn’t hear the conversation over the loud motor (which we were pretty much sitting on..seriously), but at one point I saw Ellie talking to the woman and I was mesmerized by the look in her eyes. It reminded me of myself, and it was a side I had never seen in her before.
She wasn’t intimidated.
She wanted to connect with her. 
And in that little 5 year old face, I didn’t see panic or even sadness, but just a simple empathy that belied her age. I watched them pointing at things and talking about what they were seeing, but I couldn’t make out their words. At one point, Ellie pointed at her scarf, and I found out later that she told her she knew why she wore it, and that we had been praying for her.  I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that if we could be this bold as adults, the world would be a different place. 
In Beth Moore’s study, Esther, she talks about the way we want to separate ourselves from those who are in pain, because we fear it may overtake us as well. It is human nature to want to fix things, and I know it because I am the worst of all. I hate seeing people suffer, and will do anything to make it go away. 
The problem is that sometimes you can’t. And I know, because  I have singlehandedly eaten three boxes of Tagalongs in the past week preparing to sign paperwork to dig up my daughters grave. And everywhere I go, those dang Girl Scouts pop up. I think they’re following me. I might need to put a call into someone about that….
(derailed, back to the point…)
Many, many well meaning people made comments to me about how much I had to be grateful for, despite the fact that I had a dying baby in my stomach.  
It was a nice way of saying, “I like your scarf, but I don’t really want to know what’s under it.”
As the ride continued, Ellie and the scarf lady kept talking. I still didn’t know what all they were talking about, but at one point I saw Ellie get very serious and start pointing at all of the things around. She would point, and then look at the lady as if making sure she understood. Then, she would do the same, this time with her eyes on the sky or the coastline. The woman was nodding and looking at her with love.
Ellie paused for a long while, silently staring out at the seemingly endless waters, and then turned to face her sweet friend. I couldn’t hear what she said, but the woman and my father in law both threw their heads back in laughter. I was really curious about what had transpired because it was so out of character, but I was even more concerned that I was going to vomit on the woman next to me, so I buried my head for the rest of the trip.
When we got off the boat on this little island, I asked my father in law what Ellie had been saying. This is as close to verbatim as I can remember from what he said.
Ellie started by telling the woman that she liked her with her hair or without it, and that she thought her scarves were pretty. She proceeded to ask her if she knew that God was a big God who could do big things.  The woman nodded sweetly.
Ellie then started pointing at the waves and she said, “See? God’s hands made those waves.”
Then, she looked up at the sky and told the woman, “God made the blue sky; the huge blue sky and all of the birds and clouds.”
She proceeded to inform her that God’s hands made all of the sand on the shore, and all of the fish (that we were supposed to see, but did not….bitter, party of 1, please.) Hypothetically, though, there were fish, and He did, indeed make them.
This continued for some time, and then there was the pause.
I asked my father in law what she had said that had made them laugh so hard, and he said that she had turned to the woman and said, “I think He did make all of these things, but I don’t think He can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
I laughed and kissed her wet, sandy head and we headed off for the beach. I told her that I was proud of her for making a new friend, and she smiled as she responded, “Yeah, she thought I was funny.”
As I sat and watched them play in the water, I thought more and more about what she said, and to be honest, it has become a very profound part of my journey with God in the last year.
Because I have no doubt that His hands, His HUGE hands make the sky and the earth and the planets and the stars and so on and so on. 
But is it possible that those same hands can wrap themselves around something as small as a knife? Something so small as my day to day needs? My hurts? My fears and doubts? The situations that seem like nothing to those around me but keep me awake at night?
He can make the waters part. No problem. That makes sense to me. BIG hands. Got it.
He can resurrect His dead Son from a cross. That sounds about right- He is God after all. Logical.
But can He wrap those same hands around the “little things?” 
The divorce papers that I have seen filed to a friend in the past few weeks? The fact that I have close friends who don’t know how they are going to pay their bills? The emails I get everyday asking me to pray about sick family members, dying babies, husbands at war…
I don’t know that she had any idea what she was saying, but in essence, I believe that the Holy Spirit allowed her to minister to a stranger from someplace that we, as Christians, are afraid to enter into.
It is the place where it’s easier to talk about the sand than the cancer
It’s easier to talk about the glory of His great hands than the face that you have no hair and no guarantees in this life.
Are there places in your life where you think, “God wouldn’t care about this. He’s got too much on His plate to try and figure out how to help me through this day.”

May I be honest? Sometimes I do.
As much as I trust in Him, believe He is Who He says He is, and welcome the opportunity to praise Him, there are moments (like this week when I lost my favorite Bible), that I think might just have fallen off His radar because He was trying to, you know, save the world and all.
I feel like a tiny, tiny sandwich, and it is hard to picture His hands on the little, tiny knife.
I know, I know.
It isn’t Biblical, and it isn’t true. I have dozens of scriptures that tell me that. 
Can I just say this, though? As someone who loves and trusts Him more that she could ever articulate?
It doesn’t always feel that way.

So instead of giving you the pretty Christian answer tonight (the one I know is backed by the Word of God), I am going to give you the human, Angie, the “I just signed papers to move my deceased daughter’s body today” answer.
It doesn’t always feel that way.

Where are you tonight, friends? What is it in your life that you can’t find Him in? I want you to know that there is nothing too small for Him to care about, and I am praying (for you and for me) that we open our eyes to the truth, and the next time we are faced with such an opportunity, I pray that we don’t shy away from entering in and asking what is under the scarf.
There is unspeakable beauty in the work of the Master’s hands, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. I am praying the same for you-for His ever-present love to surround you, regardless of where you find yourself in the wee hours of this night. 
This is a weighty post, and I hope there is some part of it that resonated with you and, if nothing else, showed you that you are not alone.
Or, if you just came here for a good laugh (and to see that I am completely not exaggerating about my children), just see the photos that follow from the same trip I have been writing about…
God bless you all…and may the peace of God settle deep within you. Even in the little things.
Ang


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