a wave of empty

“So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:25-26).

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received came from a counselor during a time of great personal crisis nearly fourteen years ago. It went something like this…

Elaine, you spend a great deal of your time trying to “out swim” the waves that are chasing you. You expend your valuable energy in trying to reach the shore before they have the opportunity to consume you. Sometimes you make it; sometimes you don’t. How much better would it be if you stopped swimming, anchored your feet into the sand, and turned to face the wave … head on and with the full confidence that your survival has already been written in the history books?

Facing the wave. That’s where I am today. Actually, where I am is in an upstairs bedroom where two beds are stripped of their linens and where closets are mostly bare. The trophies remain … the bookshelf filled with yesteryear’s reads, and the dust all the more; but what I notice most about this room this morning is not the remnants left behind. What I’m most keenly aware of is its emptiness. The silence. The incredible void that fills this place because two young men are no longer making this room the place where they lay their heads at night.

My tears have mostly dried, and the exhaustion has nearly subsided; for the most part, I’m ready to “get on with the gettin’ on.” But before I do, before I have clarity about “what’s next” for me and for those of us left behind, I want to spend some time this week “facing the wave” and allowing the full force of change to hit me squarely in the heart, therefore requiring me to grapple with some questions that are worthy of more than my casual acknowledgment.

Questions that arrive because routine has been stripped away and because there is now ample time and space to formulate some answers, out loud and before God in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a week ago. A week ago, I was still walking through this parental obedience of “letting go” with the objects of that “letting go” still shadowing my every move. Today, the shadows are removed. They are gone, casting their depth on the campuses of two universities that are just out of my reach.

Truly, I’m fine with the distance between us. It is part of their “becoming”; it’s part of mine. All of us are searching for the “next thing”—the next step in this journey called faith. And while their search leads them along different paths than mine, one thread remains constant for us all. Change has arrived, and when change comes, we can do one of two things with it. We can fight it, or we can bend to it … bow to it, turn to it and allow the full force behind its pulse to hit us where we stand and to shape us accordingly.

I choose to turn and face the wave this day, knowing that regardless of the “hit” my survival has already been written in the history books.

Some days … some seasons … our ships, like the Apostle Paul’s, get the “go ahead” from God to run aground. Our safety isn’t in question. We may feel as if it is; after all, the waves are high and the surge is certain. We may have lost all hope of being saved from the storm; but even there, our God comes to us in the dark of the night and reminds us that not one of us will be lost. We live with the assurance that our lives will be spared. But our ships? Our comfortable and our familiar?

Well, sometimes they know the splintering and breakage of an intentional island, placed in our paths on purpose and with the sole intention of stripping us down to the basics. The island is never intended to destroy us but, rather, to save us. Without it, we are at risk of succumbing to the treacherous battering from a sea’s fury whose relentless passion has sent more than a few ships to a watery and forgotten grave.

With the island, we get reprieve. A fresh start. A place of beginning again; of rebuilding and renewal and re-examination of a life that will continue down a new path, yet one with the same destination in mind.

Home to God.

He will use many routes to get us there, all manner of detours and obstacles to accomplish our arrival. We may not always welcome the change … the “stripping down” and painful emptiness that calls for our contemplation and our maturation. But to deny its reality is to delay its intentional good. And God is after our good; not for goodness’ sake, but for his sake. For his plan. For his perfected end that gloriously welcomes and includes our “becoming” as part of the determined process.

Perhaps this day the waves are fiercely and desperately chasing you from behind. Your ship is hanging by a thread and your efforts at “lightening the load” are doing little to quell the fury. Your “frantic and frenzy” at trying to “out swim” the inevitable embrace of the waves in order to reach the safety of the shore has worn you out and your exhaustion is complete.

Would you be willing to pause, to stop where you are, to dig your heels deeply into the soil beneath your weary feet and then to courageously, turn and face the wave? Sometimes a ship has to be willing to be broken in order for a life to be saved. It maybe your ship … your life. It maybe the life of someone you dearly love. Either way, the willingness to invite the “stripping down” of the waves is the beginning of the “building up” of a new way of doing life with Jesus.

Thus, keep up your courage, friends, and I will keep up mine. I have all the confidence in my God to lead us as we go and to bring us safely home, just as he has said. Our God is ever faithful. He will do it.

Even so, do it today, Lord Jesus. As always…

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30 Responses to a wave of empty

  1. Elaine,

    This was powerful and tender all in one. I am encouraged by it and I'm praying for you dear one and your family.

    Facing the wave! I'm there but in a different way than you but there none the less.

    I had to read this TWICE because it's so impacting:

    "Elaine, you spend a great deal of your time trying to “out swim” the waves that are chasing you. You expend your valuable energy in trying to reach the shore before they have the opportunity to consume you. Sometimes you make it; sometimes you don’t. How much better would it be if you stopped swimming, anchored your feet into the sand, and turned to face the wave … head on and with the full confidence that your survival has already been written in the history books?"

    With your permission I'd like to print that off and use it for myself!

    I love you dear sister. Praying for you as you face the wave and stand steadfast in Christ for the next step in your journey and in your children.

  2. Oh Elaine, this is so beautiful in a wearisome and frightening way. I could so relate to the words from your counselor of trying to out swim the waves. The thought of anchoring my feet in the sand…yikes!
    Your words have given me a lot to think about.

    Sending prayers,
    Cory =)

  3. Since I've stood to face such waves, I can only respond to your writings with a knowing nod. These are the matters that would rob of us our resolve, if not our joy.

    I'm emailing you a separate piece I penned in 2006. I shared it then with a women's study group, but I have visited it often. You will relate.

    Hugs, and more hugs …
    Kathleen

  4. Awesome post today Elaine!!!! Speaking volumes to me this day!!!!

    I'm digging my feet in with you!!

    Love you sister,

    Lori

  5. You are a powerful communicator Elaine. As the waves of your words swept over me, I felt refreshed at knowing all the *stuff* that litters my life will be used for His glory.
    With heels grounded and digging in the Word,
    And with appreciation to the LORD for you,
    Lora

  6. I agree — so important to face the wave, to feel the grief…or whatever else it is that's coming at us.

    I well remember crying all the way home after moving our youngest daughter to college. I well remember crying in the airport when I had to leave my oldest in Houston for grad school. It takes awhile to adjust to the changes of letting go… God be with you as you adjust, Elaine. I remember…

  7. Facing the waves and letting go and letting God is so hard to do. I believe the biggest lesson in the life of a parent, especially a Mom is in the "letting go". This was an incredible post Elaine. (((hugs))) and mucho love!

  8. Faith. How is goes against our nature. Your post draws me to the following verses:

    "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." 2 Corin. 5:6-8

    Praying for you as you face this next step into the unseen.

  9. Digging in my heels and facing the wave(s). Praying to withstand the impact.

    Love ya my friend,
    Joy

  10. elaine, aside from standing firmly planted in the sand, with the sand shifting under foot and the boldness of letting the water crash over I am continually amazed at your writing and bringing clarity to the the confusions of life.

    I look at that room and smile. A fresh new look, or remain empty? It tough to get through these kinds of changes, but we lock arms with each other across that beach. I love you sister in Jesus!!!

  11. Thank you for the reminder. DH and I have been in this storm for far longer than we'd hoped and are somewhat water-logged in it all. We are floundering someplace between treading water and trying to get our feet planted to face the wave. Some days we're weary of the fight and it seems easier to drift along with the waves. But other days we are confident of the Ground below and can plant our feet firmly. Just yesterday DH got hit by another 'sneaker wave' (the kind that come into shore much farther than expected based on the tides and knock people off their feet because they didn't see it coming). It gets hard to stand up again each time, but we're trying.

    Blessings to you as you turn to face your wave and remain firmly rooted in Him.

  12. Change is so hard for so many of us, isn't it? I know in my heart that you have raised two godly young men who will be a huge credit to not only their Savior, but their parents as well.

    God bless you as you face this wave. Once the wave recedes, look around for the objects of beauty that are left lying on the beach…shells of all shapes and sizes, and perhaps a beautiful starfish to delight you!!

    Leah

  13. So powerful, and such an important message. I am definitely one to try to avoid standing in the wave if I can help it – but it is definitely not God's best. Thanks for reminding me of that, dear friend.

  14. Elaine,

    God continues to speak to me through you. Yesterday I wrote and this morning He confirms to me, through your post as well as Lidj's as we talk about storms and anchors.

    I'm so thankful for you and for Jesus Christ.

    Lovingly,
    Yolanda

  15. Change is sometimes hard and needs to be dealt with in small doses. Don't hurry the process.

  16. P.S. I thought this was interesting that this verse was part of my devotions this morning:
    Psalm 93:4
    Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea—
    the LORD on high is mighty.

  17. Thank you for this beautiful post! You're so right, so often we try and outrun or avoid the wave rather than digging our heels in and facing it! "To deny its reality is to delay its intentional good." Powerful truth. Your clarity never fails to reach my heart in ways I can't describe! Keeping you in my prayers as you adjust to the new normal in your home.
    Love & hugs,
    Tracy

  18. Hey Mrs. Elaine:)

    I do like this post, because I am at the point where my life is about to change with the entrance of children, and your life is changing with the exiting of some to live on their own. Life seems to be in seasons of change. I want to enjoy each season! Seeing the different colors of each season and appreciating each one that comes my way. You are right:) Your survival is secure, because you are in the palm of His hand! He is molding and making us into His image! On a side note, I was thinking the other day about Mary and how she lost some of her children before she died: Jesus, and his brothers that believed in Him. She must have felt such loss, but at least she knew that they were born for such a time as that to make that much of a difference in this world…interesting to me…

    much love in HIM, ((HUGS)), Blessings to you today!

    katiegfromtennessee

  19. Powerful.

    As I read this, the song Voice of Truth is ringing in my ears.

    "Oh what I would do to have
    The kind of faith it takes
    To climb out of this boat I'm in
    Onto the crashing waves

    To step out of my comfort zone
    Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
    And He's holding out His hand"

    Grace and peace to you, friend. Thank you for sharing this tender moment.

  20. wifeforthejourney:

    Monday morning, I remember going upstairs and standing in Nick and Colton's room to look around. I had my own "wave of empty" moment looking around for familiar signs of life that had gone: no empty Dr. Pepper cans, no full laundry baskets, no tv, no x-box, no one in the shower getting ready to go to work, no unconscious boys trying to sleep until noon.

    It was a very LOUD kind of quiet, and so it remains.

    I know I have not felt the absence of Nick and Colton to the depth you have – I'm not sure if that's possible between father and sons – but I do miss them. I've tried to stay busy, all the while thinking about what they are doing. Thus far I have resisted the urge to call them, but it was great to hear from them later in the day. Nice to know they would think to call home even without any prompting.

    Little brother and sister are feeling "the wave" too. Suddenly they are without two of their favorite playmates. Things around our house are different. Not bad. Just different. This wave is not one to be feared, or fought against – it is part of the natural motion of family life. I am so greatful to God for our family, for the opportunities we have been given, and for the blessings of knowing the One who calms life's storms.

    He is our peaceforthejourney….

    Love you,
    Billy

  21. Perhaps this day the waves are fiercely and desperately chasing you from behind. Your ship is hanging by a thread and your efforts at “lightening the load” are doing little to quell the fury. Your “frantic and frenzy” at trying to “out swim” the inevitable embrace of the waves in order to reach the safety of the shore has worn you out and your exhaustion is complete.

    You made me cry with this one. Your words are strong and so true and I love the picture you give. I love that my survival has already been written –but please won't God give me a little peak??

  22. This was most powerful as Lisa stated.

    In fact, so powerful for me your post is confirmation from GOD that it's time for me to post on my blog my brief summary of our marriage miracle. Praise God.

    Yes, Elaine; YES GOD, I've dug in my heals and have faced the waves. Praise God!

    Thank YOU Father God for such a powerful way to reach me.

  23. What a beautiful post…I needed it TODAY….and the counselors advice was a WORD.

  24. Good words today, my friend! That is me… trying to fight the wave. But not today… today I will stick my feet deep into the sand knowing that the wave has been set in motion a long time before I ever was… And the waves certainly bring the refining!

  25. This was SO SO good! I think I stay exhausted trying to "out swim" the waves! I loved what you said about the island not being there to hurt us but to save us. I needed to read this right now. I can't explain how I feel but just know that God sent me here to read this today!

    May God bless you my Friend!

    Marilyn…in Mississippi

  26. Elaine,
    Tears filled my eyes as I read this today. First because I was imagining having to experience the empty bed one day coming soon in my own home. It won't be for a few years. But, every year seems to be coming faster and faster and the thought of my children going off to college soon is overwhelming to me.
    And second because the inspiration of this post has hit home with me. Facing the wave and trusting God to take care of me? What a scary yet exciting way to live!
    Thanks for sharing this!
    Christy

  27. I needed to read this, because I'm so much better at running than standing!
    I, too, want to use that quote from your counselor for my own encouragement. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  28. Too deep for words. You've touched my heart.

    Turning to the wave. Waiting to be washed by the water of Jesus.

    Clean.

    You are loved. Sending hugs.

    Peace, friend, peace.

    Tiffany

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