As many of you know, I have a challenge called Lupus that limits my sun exposure. For a ‘child of the sun’, this is the one limitation that I find particularly hard to live with. I’ve always been the first one up in my household, the first one out into the sun, and usually the last one to go back in. Not anymore. I can’t be outside during the height of sunlight without paying some serious consequences. More than that, I still have issues with asking others to adjust their schedules to accommodate my condition. It makes me feel selfish, but I don’t have much of a choice in the matter.
On the first morning in Tybee, we all got up extra early, so I could avoid the mid-day sun. I felt a little guilty for getting everyone out of bed so early, but no one complained.
We went down to the beach near the pier. We sat out our blankets, our cooler, and my umbrella. We were some of the first people on the entire beach. As I sat there, I watched people skitter out to the beach like sand crabs, stop at one spot and then another, finally settling on one spot, put their things down, slather on sunscreen, and do what comes naturally – play tag with the waves.
Young and old, black and white, coiffed and unkempt, tattooed and tattoo-free: All the people did exactly the same thing.
As the morning wore on, I struck up conversations with several people on the beach. Some were from Russia, the Ukraine, the Midwest, Canada, and Jamaica. All of them were smiling as we exchanged stories in different accents and shared our experiences. Not one person on the beach refused to talk to me or became angry because I ‘disturbed’ them. In that one special place, we were all the same. We all had limitations, strengths, weaknesses, triumphs, and stories to tell.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky, I put on my Janis Joplin T-Shirt (it’s as hideous as it sounds and, yes, it’s tie-died), my flip-flops, my sunglasses, and I walked to the pier. It’s actually a large pavilion as well as a pier. I got a cool drink from the drink stand, sat at a table, and listened to Jimmy Hendrix blare out of the speakers attached to the roof of the pavilion. The radio station was paying tribute to 1967 – the year I was born. As I sat there, I recalled that I had been born the very year that Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin ‘hit the big-time’. It was also the year that John Coltrane died. The summer of 1967 was the Summer of Love and the year that Woodstock ‘happened‘.
I got up and puttered around the deck. I was drawn to a plaque on the wall. Apparently, Tybee Island Pavilion Pier was a hot spot in its hey-day. People came from all over to hear big bands swing and dance under the stars. In 1967, the pavilion burned to the ground. Then it struck me, how so much tragedy and so much love happened in the year that I was born, and how so many events had to conspire so that I could be standing in that exact spot, in front of that specific plaque, on this particular pier, at this one individual moment.
Then, I heard another song on the speakers. It was ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ by the Spencer Davis Group. My hips automatically began to sway. I threw my hands up in the air, shifted my weight, bobbed my head, and danced with reckless abandon. As I danced, I looked around me. The little girl in the Barbie bathing suit, the old man with the ice-cream cone, the young black man with the tattoo on his arm, the white kid with plaid swim trunks, and the chick with braids were dancing too.
We all danced as people looked on. Some joined us, some watched us, but no-body tried to stop us. It was a beautiful moment. Titles, bank accounts, status, wealth, and things like Lupus did not exist.
When the song was over, we skittered across the pavilion to our own private places of thought – I to my table, the old man to his bench, the young black man to the ice-cream stand, the chick with braids to the water fountain, the white kid to the men’s room, and the little girl in the Barbie bathing suit to her mama’s arms. Then I realized every moment is a huge conspiracy. God has set so many things in motion to culminate into one single moment for us to enjoy. It’s not how we got there that counts, but what we do with that moment that counts.
Here’s to making special moments happen in your life today. Just be open to it, and love yourself enough to just let go. And, if you get the chance, dance like a maniac.
A few days ago my favorite blogger Jon Acuff posted The Trouble With Fruit. This post, as most of his posts usually do, got me thinking about just how well I serve my Lord. Do I serve him the very best I have when I am at my very best, or do I serve him from the bottom of the barrel with the very worst of my fruit?
I can do better, I admit it.
The thing is, it is easier than one might think to do better.
Consider the woman in Luke 7:36-50 who knew she was sinful yet anointed the Living Christ with oil and then proceeded to wash his feet with her hair. She started serving the Lord on her face before him and gave him the very best she had even though she knew she was not worthy. I think this is where I started serving the Lord. I knew I was extremely unworthy but gave what I had..which wasn’t much.
I guess to be fair I should share a little info about myself here. I’ve struggled with a life-threatening illness. Not too long ago I was a heap of pain, anger, rage, distress, hurt and disgust. I found out just why torture techniques work – you will say anything to make the pain stop! For that matter, agree to almost anything to make the pain stop.
The doctors told me there wasn’t much hope and for a while I had no hope for myself. This made everything worse. The stages of grief and pain were relentless and after suffering to that degree – death no longer looked so bad. It started to look like a release from the pain.
The interesting thing is though – when you lose everything, you have nothing to lose. It is heartbreaking and yet strangely liberating.
To make a very long story short: God’s Grace healed me to the point that I could actually type and do it well some days. I became truly grateful for each breath. I knew God gave me my life back because he had a purpose for me. Even knowing all that, when I first started trying to give back to the Lord, I felt so unworthy even ashamed to make any sort of offering that I hesitated.
Fear and doubt can be paralyzing. Like it or not – pray all you like but eventually you must behave your way to success. Sometimes you just gotta make a move.
I gathered up my courage and subsequently all the yarn I had from when I used to be healthy (I once was a pretty good knitter) and I gave it to the good ladies at my Church. They used the yarn to knit beautiful prayer-shawls for the shut-ins, the hurting, those in nursing homes and hospitals – “the sick people”…the people who were like me. I was so moved to hear how some of the people reacted. The Prayer Shawl Committee reported, “You would have thought it was the most precious gift they’d ever gotten”.
The blessings that flowed from that one act of giving opened my wounded heart and poured forth joy in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I made new friends. I felt I’d done SOMETHING for a change that was worth while and this gave me confidence..and hope.
Now I was hooked! I had to have some more of that! Next, I joined the choir even though I don’t read music. Despite my voice I made more friends…and suddenly life came flooding back into my lonely existence. I then joined the Nursery Committee. It was a light assignment and I figured I could check the Nursery once a week for things they needed. More blessings flowed to me. Next assignment – do the Church Website.
I never in a million years thought I could do that again and do it well. Guess what? I recently finished the Church Website ! I used to do that for a living and did it well, but my illness took a lot out of me.
I must be honest. It took me much longer to finish than I would have liked, but the great thing about giving is…there’s no pressure. It’s ALL GOOD.
I already see more friends and opportunities coming my way and more blessings than I can count. Most importantly I have a good feeling about myself even though I KNOW I’m not worthy.
God pays dividends like no earthly company! Not just one thing…but all aspects of my life got better. The more I gave (no matter how small or imperfect that I thought the gift was) the better that ALL aspects of my life got at a much higher rate of return than I gave! Love, Friendship, Health, Happiness, and JOY filled my life from every angle. The first act of giving which seemed so miniscule and insignificant to me brought such unexpected blessings that I couldn’t resist doing it again.
What I have learned from my ever so small gift of yarn is that not only is it worth it to give, but it’s necessary to be truly fulfilled. Most of all I learned that I will NEVER be worthy to give God a gift, but that it is His Grace that makes my gifts, however humble, acceptable and wanted and needed in his sight..
The incredible thing, that still brings me to tears and puts me once again on my face before God, is that God loves me so much that he blessed me with a second chance at life…a full and overflowing life that I SO do not deserve.
Don’t wait for perfection or what in your eyes is a “good gift”. Give today, whatever you have, and start from there. You will be amazed at what can happen! The fruit you give today is still needed…and you can bear better fruit as you go along! Give your best fruit today.