This post is long-overdue.  Life with 5 children doesn't slow down often, and so unless I've got some serious divine inspiration going on, blog posts are just going to be few and far between. But I'm feeling inspired to share something today, so here it goes...

In July, we visited the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  It was our Ticos' first official family vacation. It's a place that our family has visited for every summer for the past 4-5 years, and it was beautiful and relaxing...mostly...

The first few days that we spent at the beach, the waves were crazy.  The undertow was scary-strong.  The waves were gathering force far out in the ocean and swooping in and crashing, one after another, right on top of each other.  There were no breaks in between. These were not happy little waves that lap at your feet.  These were the kind of waves that knock you down if you aren't prepared...and sometimes even if you are.  These were the kind of waves that smash every sea shell into tiny bits.  These were the kind of waves that make a mama of 5 kids do head counts after each crash.  And these were the kind of waves that even downed an experienced swimmer whose family was playing on the beach just feet from ours.  This man, who was vacationing with his wife and 3 children, was actually temporarily paralyzed by being slammed into the ground by one of these waves.  He was taken to the hospital on a back board after he washed up on shore limp and completely helpless.  Thankfully, he recovered and was back at the beach resting in the sun with his family at the end of the week.  But these waves were not for the faint of heart.

And I couldn't help but think that those waves reminded me an awful lot of some of the past 10 months.  We have had periods of seemingly constant issues, crashing over us, one after another...with no breaks in between.  No chance to catch our breath before the next one hits.  And just like that man, even when we think we're prepared for the next wave--we think we know how to stay afloat in these waters, it can still take us down and paralyze us with its intensity.  Waves of frustration.  Waves of intense sadness.  Waves of pent-up anger. Waves of regret.  Waves of depression.  Waves of destruction.  Waves of grief.  So many waves of grief, for all of us.  And it's starts to feel like maybe we might drown in this.  Because the waves are coming too quickly.  Too close together. And we're gasping for air.  And sometimes, we want to just give up because it's too hard to fight against that undertow that's always, always tugging.  But we have no choice but to hang on.  To keep struggling to stay upright.  And sometimes, the only way to do that is to go into survival mode.

Survival mode isn't pretty.  In our house, it looks like a tired, frustrated mom implementing a whole lot of structure and schedules just so everyone makes it through the day in one piece.  Think boot camp.  During survival mode, there are 3 hour rage fits from the littlest man.  Hour-long howling sessions from the oldest female child, who can never actually tell us why she's upset.  And lots of wet beds in the mornings.  It looks like a dad who has to brace himself before he walks in the door after work for the extreme neediness of the 3 who now call him Daddy.  And he has to wade through that clinginess to get to his first kids.  And then he has to listen to his wife vent about all of the waves of destruction that have come their way that day.  Survival mode is ugly, and I despise it.  It's exhausting and paralyzing.  Thankfully, we don't always live in that place.

The last 3 days that we spent at the beach, the ocean calmed down quite a bit.  And it was a very welcome change.  We could actually take the kids out a little and ride the gentle waves that were lapping the shore.  The undertow was gone.  The tugging stopped.  There was time to breathe.  Time to relax.  Time to enjoy the beauty around us.  Time to NOT count heads all afternoon.

And I think that's where we are now.  Finally.  After 2 solid months of survival mode, we have entered a period of calm.  And as with everything else in this process, there's no telling how long this will last.  So I am trying to enjoy it.  Because I promise you, every time I tell people that things are feeling normal, we end up back in survival mode.  It's like I jinx it by saying it outloud.  But that's ridiculous.  I should be able to rejoice in what God is doing without fear that it will ruin it by speaking it.   So I'm declaring right now that we are not going back there any time soon.  Hopefully ever.  Because I don't believe that God intends for us to live in that place of pain and grief.  He intends for us to live in His grace. 

And I think that part of survival mode is sometimes my fault.  I think I can trigger those waves when I try to live outside of God's grace.  When I try to control.  When I go into "teacher mode" and don't see my kids for who they are, but for who I want to mold them to be RIGHT NOW.  When I get impatient with the process and want to skip ahead in the journey, it can stir up the seas.  I mess up the flow.  When I try to be a mom to these kids in my own strength, I fail every time. 

There's a spot in the waves where you can get just past the place where they're cresting.  It's a little deeper there.  It's a little riskier there.  It's uncomfortable there.  There's less control there. But if you can get past the place where the waves are crashing in, there's a spot where it's calmer.  You can ride the waves right before they crest, but it's risky.  Sometimes a wave builds faster than the rest, and you have to dive under it so it doesn't tumble you.  And that terrifies me.  I'd rather head for the shore and risk getting slammed by it then go under it.  And I think it's that way with God sometimes.  He wants to draw us out beyond the shore into His grace.  He wants us to trust Him.  He wants us to dive in, but we would rather run for the shore than take the risk.  We want to be in control.  For me, when I want to run back and grab control, that's when I end up in survival mode.

But I want to be brave.  When I trust Him, I'm so much better at all of this.  When I stop trying to be in control, and I let myself be drawn into the rhythm that God is creating for us, we do more than survive.  We thrive. 

So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore into Your grace.
As Your love in wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us, You are not against us
Champion of Heaven, You made a way for all to enter in

'Cause You make me brave, You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave, You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way...

This have been my song for the past few months.  I want to live in the place where the only waves that I feel are the waves of His love and His grace crashing over me.  Because He is for us, and not against us.  Because He makes us brave.  And it was never His intention for us to live like we can't catch our breath.