I have a confession.
Hi, I’m Amy and I am a TERRIBLE housekeeper. When you come to my house unexpectedly you better be coming to see me, because if you aren’t, you will be sorely distracted by the clutter and the dust and the paw prints on the floor … my laundry consistently overflows … there is usually a science experiment or two in my fridge. The redeeming truth is that if I know you are coming … I will prepare for you.
When Sandy comes … I make sure my laundry is caught up or she’ll feel the need to complete that for me and what I really want is for her to come and be served by me. There’s usually something chocolate and something salty.
When Levi comes … I make sure the toddler dangers are out of reach, any toys I have are at the ready and yogurt raisins are on hand because when he comes to Mimi’s, it’s party time.
When my little sister comes … it’s all about just wanting to be an extra set of hands so she can relax!
When Curt comes … Well, Curt has to be one of my favorite people to anticipate his arrival because I know exactly what he enjoys. There are blankets on hand for curling up and sleeping. There’s a chair so that he can look out the window at the mountains … but most of all, the week prior to his arrival, I like to cook things that will have just a little leftover because at my house “leftover lotto” is his favorite thing. He loves all things laced in garlic … anything he can add to an egg or throw butter on … he’s all in!
And then there’s Jena … Jena is my down the road, to the right neighbor that Jesus sent to Louisville just for me. When Jena comes, coffee and my Word are about all she needs. She’s not sad when there’s biscotti or chocolate or leftover soup, but really she and I enjoy our Jesus and coffee times. When we first became friends, I would panic thinking … “Oh my, if she drops in then my house will be a wreck and she will KNOW what a mess I am!” As our friendship grew and we got to know each other and our individual messes more intimately … she didn’t reject me or feel the need to fix me … and all of a sudden I didn’t worry about her dropping by my house unexpectedly. I welcomed it. I long for it.
There is something incredibly freeing about knowing someone and being known.
Last week my family and I went away for a few days. It’s been a tough month for me. My stepdad is in hospice care and I went to help my mom for a couple of weeks. My dear friend Curt that I mentioned above faces an incredibly difficult diagnosis of a sarcoma cancer … and well, I’ve known him since I was 14 years old and this is tough.
My heart just wasn’t in a quick camping trip, in a tent, in early March … at the beach. I made the reservations the moment a site came available. I packed the clothes. I gathered everyone’s favorite snack. I made sure there were blankets and coffee. I was being “hospitable” using the limited energy that remained.
We got a day late start … that bumped into my plans.
We ran into construction … twice … that bumped into my plans.
We ran out of daylight … that bumped into my plans.
We followed the GPS onto a dirt road near Parris Island Marine Base and I envisioned armed soldiers surrounding our hillbilly chic camping ‘rig” because we were trespassing (cue scary music because this dirt road also looked like Sleepy Hollow with the Spanish Moss hanging down in a canopy) … that bumped into my plans more than a little!
We were late to the campground and the gate was closed … that bumped into my plans.
The friendly park ranger chatted … and chatted … and chatted some more … and while it was nice that he was excited for us to be in site 8 … it had been a really long day and I just wanted to get our tent set up, make my bed and go to sleep … and that bumped into my plans.
Finally, we pulled into a very dark, unfamiliar site. When I stepped out of the car, I could hear the roar of the ocean. And the sore places that had been bumped all day long began to be soothed. We set up the tent, then our camp kitchen and headed for a midnight walk to the beach. It was then that I realized that our campsite was less than 100 yards from the beach. I would be listening to the sound of the ocean for every moment that we were there and he night sky was stunning!
I went to bed exhausted and sorta cold … but the ever-present ocean symphony was a gift.
The next morning, I woke about 15 minutes before sunrise. I threw on a sock hat and gloves from my car and made it to the beach just in time for sunrise.
The waves were calmer than they had been the night before … Lauren Daigle’s … I Will Trust In You filled my spirit. I snapped some pictures, walked the dog and made my way back to camp to start breakfast. Bacon and Eggs for a hungry crew that trudged through a late night Burger King on the road supper. Everyone began to scatter to do their morning thing. I wandered around, brushed my teeth and walked back to the camp site to grab my bag full of Bible, journal, devotion book and earphones … Randy had set my chair up on the beach before he left. I spent the morning on the beach … cold but happy. The rest of the day was relaxing and I was feeling so blessed by the constant sound of the ocean that lay just 100 yards from my “front door.”
The next morning … I missed the sunrise. When I woke I made a beeline for the bath house. On my return trip, I noticed that there was a “mound” in the front of our camp site that I had not paid attention to the day before. As I walked up the “hill” I looked back at our site and could see that I was actually pretty high up because I could see the top of the car. Randy spotted me up on top looking around and said, “That must be the highest place in the campground.” We chatted for a minute about all the places we’d camped in this particular place over 15 years, remembering sweet times with those we love. But when I turned around to face the beach, I gasped. No kidding. Out loud, getting Randy’s attention … I sucked the oxygen right out of the space surrounding me. There is not one picture I took which does it justice. I could see for miles. Shrimp boats out for the day … Dolphins playing. I could see more than if I was sitting right up to the edge of the tide. My perspective had shifted.
It didn’t take long for me to drag my chair up to the top of the hill with my bag of Jesus stuff. And as I began to set up shop the Lord whispered to my spirit …
“What is it that you love about the beach?”
“Oh Lord, I love the ocean. Listening to it, seeing it. It reminds me of You.”
And He whispered again, “What is it that you hate about the beach but endure to get to enjoy it?”
I had to chuckle because I tell people all the time … I hate the beach.
“Well, I hate the sand, the bugs and the sun.”
And He again whispered, “Baby girl, you walked obediently through every door I opened for you. And I prepared site 8 … just for you. No sand up on this hill because it’s covered in pine needles. Shade from the sun. But cool enough that there are only a few bugs which have sprung to life yet. You see, I KNOW the desires of your heart. I know you coveted a condo on the beach. You wanted to sit up high and listen to the waves. You wanted a covered balcony where you could sit and read. But a warm cozy bed would have kept you from the sunrise I painted for you. Glass doors would have muffled the sound of the waves from bringing your heart back into rhythm with Mine. A TV and a nice kitchen would have been distractions from relaxation and rest. I KNEW exactly what you needed, even though it didn’t line up with exactly what you thought you wanted.”
He KNEW the mess that was scattered around in my heart. The very things that threatened to keep me from following Him in obedience because I was tired. I was spent. I was weary.
I was blown away by how gently He had prepared a place for me. Nothing I asked for … nothing I deserved …
and something I didn’t even know I needed.
I needed to know that He prepared a place for me in the midst of the chaos. He wasn’t asking me to “clean up” or “get my act together” before I came to Him. He was preparing a place for me. A snapshot of hospitality.
John 14:3 says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
That verse always meant something future … something eternal to me. But this trip brought these words to life for the here and now. He’s all about the business of making a place for us to be drawn to Himself … here. For a kingdom purpose … that I may be where HE is … in the everyday of this journey.
Easter reminds us that Jesus died and rose again to pay our sin debt as the perfect sacrifice. He makes a place for us in Heaven that we may be with Him for all of eternity. That is the gospel.
But my dear friend, if you find yourself feeling out of rhythm with the Father, maybe things are a bit messy in your life, perhaps you too would allow Him to open unexpected doors that lead you straight to His heart. Because the Truth is … He is coming … He comes again and again through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, through His people, through His creation … and He is preparing a place that we can be right in His presence. And while only in Heaven will that place be perfected, there are places, moments, in the here and now that He draws us into His presence and shifts the perspective just enough that we can KNOW that He is with us …
Will you trust Him?