We had spent all day at the beach, playing in waves of crystal blue water, and building sand castles from dust. The day was nearly over, and I sat washing the seaweed and tangles from Mckenna's hair. Her sun-kissed cheeks, glowing hot-pink, and her soft, green eyes - held in a rim of blue- peered up to me, as she said, "Mom, you're super good at washing long hair, how'd you get so good at it? Who taught you?"
As a mom I wear many different "hats".
If you're a parent, or have ever supervised a group a people- regardless of age- you understand this concept on some level.
My kids call to me for meals like a chef, and then can quickly call on me as referee when a tussle breaks out.
But my kids will never know me as nurse if they don't fall and scrape their knees. They won't know me as a trusted person of council if I never lend my ears to their small voices.
McKenna has known me as a lot of things, but this particular day, she was seeing me as "expert hair-washer and tangle-getter-out-er".
I've been learning new things about myself too, these last few weeks; and I've been learning a lot more about the One who created me, as He reveals Himself in different ways.
Much like McKenna, I find myself sitting, sometimes with the same hot-pink cheeks, though full of rage, and eyes full of tears, as I ask Him how He ever got so good at doing all the things He does.
We are all running a race, some of us for a prize, and others are completely unaware as they walk leisurely around the course. But none the less, we will all reach the end, and see Him face to glorious face.
Some of us have been running and the road is paved with beautiful rubber tarmac. A pristine track and field course, with neatly mowed grass, and crisp white lines marking the course.
Others of us have dirt roads, gravel and loose stone, pot holes deeper than our own height, and hills of sand.
If you've been running for a prize, like the crown of life, your course probably has had a few, if not many of these types of "obstacles".
Like me, maybe you've encountered great heights and lowest of lows.
I want to encourage you: keep running friend. There is a great prize ahead. Keep running. If you're weary and worn and relentlessly tired, keep running. Overcome. He has already overcome, and you can too. No matter the difficulties, keep running.
As I've been running these last few months, the last few weeks and days have been grueling. Some of the most difficult pathways and roughest terrain have I encountered. But in the midst of each new patch of track and course: He has been there. And at each juncture, every turn, and all increments, He is enough.
If mine and your course is always paved neatly, He will only ever be our coach. The one standing at the end, with a whistle and Clip board in hand, marking scores and times. You may hear "well done" at the end, yes, but how ordinary.
There is so much more of Him to be seen, and revealed, and He is begging, creation is desperate even, for Him to reveal it to us.
While in the dirt, He becomes cleansing grace.
While in the hot and humid, He becomes the cool breeze and refreshing water of life.
While in the valley and in the deepest holes, He becomes the redeemer who pulls up from the pit and sets our feet on the Solid Rock.
Just days before having Esther, I listened to a podcast, and the same idea keeps coming up in my personal study times, in church messages, in encouraging readings and talks with friends. The idea that God wants to reveal Himself to His people.
The story we read of Jesus feeding the multitudes in Mark chapter 6, reveals Jesus as a provider when people were hungry. Even the disciples needed food for their bellies. Jesus being greatly filled with Compassion, blessed a small boys' lunch and feeds them. The disciples have seen Jesus do something remarkable! After which, Jesus commands them to gather the remaining food into baskets, and take it with them into the boat they enter to cross the sea.
The story turns into another "famous" Jesus story- but for the disciples the story is only continuing.
See, they get into the boat, and Jesus is sitting up on the shore watching from a distance. The wind and waves begin to pick up, and a storm brews. The disciples are working hard: rowing oars in their own strength to press against the wind. And next to them sits the baskets of food Jesus provided moments before.
The disciples don't need a Jesus who can turn bread and fish into a buffet at this point. Jesus could've stood at the shore with a smorgasbord of entrée selections, and it wouldn't have done them any good. They probably would've been angered or frustrated at His attempts to solve their "ocean" problem with a "food" solution.
But Jesus doesn't do that. He never would. He doesn't give stones when His kids ask for bread. No. Never.
He begins to come to them. He begins to walk out on the water that is so tempest and trying, to be near them and be the solution to the problem.
And what happens?
The disciples, His dearest and closest friends, The people who walk, and talk, and touch, and stand, and minister, and pray with, and see miracles, and do everything with Jesus- panic.
They think He's a ghost.
They don't recognize Him.
He's never done this before. He's walking on water. And they are terrified.
Jesus is coming in a new way, the way they need amidst the "ocean" problem, and they freak out.
God is trying to reveal Himself. Don't be afraid of the new revelation.
If you're running and the race is easy, you may need Him to be coach with a stop watch and a whistle. Telling you to "keep it up". But if your race gets hard and the terrain gets hard, He won't stand back and watch you struggle. No-
He will reveal Himself as the helper. The healer. The great I am. The redeemer. The rescuer. The comforter. The very thing you need, He will become. Don't be afraid.
If you're like me, the thought of Jesus revealing Himself as something new is far less terrifying than the terrain ahead.
People have warned me about the "hard days" that would come, but they never mentioned the nights.
Sometimes my view of what's lying ahead on my race, seems more dreadful than where I am or the revelation of who He can be in those times.
But I will never experience or know the depths of His person and character if I stay where I am.
I've already known Him as coach.
I've already known Him as friend.
I've known Him as Savior from sin.
I've known Him as comforter.
But you can't know Him like I've come to know Him, unless you find yourself in the valley of the shadow of death.
Unless you go to the depths, you cannot know Him there.
As terrifying as the "ahead" may seem, His revelation is that much greater.
People who've lost a child say they find comfort in symbols reminding them of their child. While I'm not into "butterfly babies" or "rainbows" or whatever- I will tell you this:
As we drove home from the beach that day, blue and could-less skies were above. And in true SW Florida fashion, just two exits ahead, dark storm clouds appeared out of nothing.
The car stared down the highway, with dark, gray, thundering swirls ahead. But the side mirror of the car held the bright blue cloudless color, as if taunting me as I looked ahead at the storm, to go back. Back to the bright, and easy day of the beach.
But it was more than that.
For me, it was a reminder of what was before the day of May 14th, before January when we got Esther's diagnosis, before 2015 when everything seemed to spiral into "rough terrain". "Go back...please just let me go back" my heart ached inside.
If only time travel were possible.
But my spirit-man piped up and began to remind my frail and failing heart, that behind is former and temporary. And that the journey and the reward is in the beyond. In the latter. In the eternal.
"Press on...Keep going....Come nearer....Don't quit....keep running the race." The words pounding in my chest.
They began to drown out the voices of my heart and my head that said to give up. So loud I thought Paco would hear it as He sat next to me driving into the dark storm ahead.
And there in the clouds of gray, there in the pouring rain and booming thunder, He washed over me, like the water washing over the car.
His spirit giving new life and a fresh filling, like the fresh rain water that fell from above.
The clouds will always be a reminder for me. Not that Esther is in the clouds by any means. But that she is now part of the great cloud of witnesses who have run before us, and is cheering me on as I run into the great beyond ahead.
The terrain may be terrible. The clouds may be full and dark ahead. But press on. The reward is in the revelation that is to come. Don't be afraid. Don't turn back. Run the race set before you, and attain the prize as you overcome to the end.
He's cheering you on. And so am I.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."