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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

Oceanside Sanctuary

My husband always says that he feels better when he's "near a geographical feature." Although he's a mountain boy at heart, he's not terribly picky about what kind of geographical feature he needs to be near in order to feel better - it can be a beach, the mountains, a peaceful lake, a trail in the middle of the woods. But being surrounded by nature at its finest just seems to make him feel better about things.

I think if we're honest, most of us feel this way on some level. And I think there's a reason for it. When we are in the midst of God's handiwork, our souls feel better. Our souls ARE better. And this makes sense, doesn't it? We ourselves were also intricately designed by the One who crafted the mountains, the oceans, the moon and the stars - so it makes perfect sense that our souls would feel more at peace - more at home - when we are in the presence of what our Creator has made for us to enjoy.

My mama and I had this conversation just last Sunday, on the back porch of our oceanfront condo that we shared during our family vacation. We had church on that back porch. There wasn't a preacher (although my mama could stand in for one just fine). There wasn't a choir in robes. There was no opening prayer or a benediction. But Lord knows...we had church.

We talked about life - about finding strength and resilience, about becoming better versions of ourselves and what keeps so many people from ever really tapping into the ability to do just that. We talked about our lowest lows and the determination we both felt to rise up from those places and overcome the darkness that we've journeyed through. And we shared openly and honestly that on some days, we still want to wallow in those dark places because it's the easier option. Getting up, staying up, ain't for the faint of heart. It's not the path of least resistance. But to do that - to wallow - is to make the choice to not acknowledge that today, and every day, is a gift. And to not show up for our own lives every single day is to waste the precious gift we've been given.

We talked about the ocean and the peace that it brings. My mama told me with tears in her eyes that despite everything - and in this case, "everything" is a pretty loaded word - being in the presence of the ocean still brings her peace. In that instant, and in the days that followed, I saw the ocean a bit more through her eyes. The good, the bad, the highs, the lows. The wonderful memories that she clings to, and the terrible ones that I know still haunt her.

As with so many families, the ocean has been a consistent backdrop of our lives pretty much every summer for as long as I can remember. And even before I was around, my parents were making memories that would eventually turn into stories that they would go on to tell for years. My favorite is the story from my parents' honeymoon trip, when my mama got caught in a small current and flipped over and over, scared to death, until she finally emerged with seaweed tangled in her hair. And instead of being met with concern from her new groom, she came out of the water to find my daddy laughing hysterically. Lord, you should have seen the way he laughed when he told that story.

But then there's the summer of 2007 and the terror that it brought that none of us will ever forget. Daddy got caught in a rip current that was a bit more severe, and he nearly drowned. My sister and I both swam to him - she reached him first, thank God, because she had the strength to hold him up until help could get to him. After he was rescued from the water, he nearly died in the hospital from pulmonary edema. He recovered, although I'm not convinced that his lungs were ever quite the same after that, and we got to keep him for eight more years before he went Home in 2015.

And then there are all the memories in between. Bumping heads with Daddy when I was a little girl, as he held me up and we rode the waves in Myrtle Beach. Playing putt-putt with the whole fam-damily, eventually having to let group after group go by us because we were taking too long. Waking up in the mornings to find my parents reading peacefully together on the balcony of the condo in Pawleys Island. Watching Daddy savor every bite of the fried oysters at Lee's Inlet Kitchen in Murrells Inlet. The little things, the things you take most for granted as they happen, are often the things you miss the most when they're gone. The memories that are the most bittersweet.

And even with all of these bittersweet memories swirling in her mind and her heart, Mama still finds peace when she's next to the ocean. And so do I. Partly because of the majesty and the beauty of the creation itself. And I think partly because the ocean has a beautiful consistency about it. It's always the same - the waves come in, the waves go out, always with the same predictable rhythm. You can count on it. No matter what has happened - in or out of those waters - it's the same. There's no sense in getting mad at it, denying it, or saying you'll never return because of the hard memories - it just is what it is. And it will still be there, coming in and going out, when you finally return. And it will bring peace. Which is really just our Creator, whispering to us, using the ocean as a metaphor for Himself. That He is always there, always consistent, always ready to give us peace when we decide to return to Him.

I can't think of a better lesson, in a more beautiful sanctuary, for a Sunday morning.


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