Last night–we had a teachable moment. It was one where I felt the Lord got my attention, and He was speaking trying to tell me something in a way that only He can.
In the midst of parenting 6 children stages toddler to teen, there are so many different decisions from cutting up grapes to which sports club is the best environment. There’s also different disappointments in juggling so much ranging from skinned knees to advocating through learning challenges. We have the gamut of all things.
Well, we needed one. We could use ten but one will do.
Last night while daddy watched the big boys jump waves, my oldest daughter joined me taking our two youngest on a sunset beach walk. It wasn’t long into our walk when we came across a couple of families and a lot of kids finishing a pretty amazing sand castle creation. In my big girl’s words–it was MAJESTIC!
The kids put on their finishing touches.
The parents grabbed their iPhones and snapped a million pictures.
We passed by smiling at the scene as group pictures with their sand creation continued. My daughter had to jump in and grab a picture too.
We continued our walk and as I pushed the toddler in a stroller my oldest entertained her jumping in the sand and twirling on the beach. Can we all say, “Almost bed time?!” As my oldest jumped in a big hole no doubt made earlier in the day to bury a beach goer, two older ladies carrying rakes approached us.
“Sweetheart–you didn’t dig or leave that big hole did you?”
“Well–do you know why you should never leave ditches or holes like this in the sand…or really even dig holes this big at all?”
My girl looked unsure so I jumped in to take a guess…
“I think I read something about holes collapsing on people?”
The older lady went on to share with us about the sea turtles and how they get trapped in the holes and ditches. She shared this is the time of year they come on the beaches at high tide in the middle of the night and lay their eggs. Often they get stuck in the holes, lay their eggs and then their eggs get damaged as they struggle to get out.
Another lady wearing a blue vest with a turtle on it came up with a rake and they worked together to fill the hole. Instead of leaving them, I saw this as a teachable moment and asked my kids if they wanted to help. It was really a sweet time talking about the island, what brought them there and how they got involved with volunteering their time every night to assist the beach patrol making their job easier in caring for His creation–the sea turtles.
They asked us if we had seen any castles or holes, and we couldn’t help but laugh shaking the scene we had just passed. There was NO WAY these two women could smooth out the sand behind the majestic castle scene we had passed earlier. I told them they might want to wait because they were rather proud of their creation.
We helped them for awhile filled smaller holes. Then we walked down and saw the coast was clear (no pun intended;)–and just behind the castle creation the ladies showed us not one but THREE roped off squares just feet behind the castle where mother turtles had laid their eggs and they had nights earlier put in these safety stakes to protect the eggs. They shared this was coincidentally one of the most popular places for the turtles to lay their eggs.
There was no way these two ladies could flatten this out without us. In fact, there was no way they could even do it WITH us before dark. Just as I had that thought, three teenagers walked up to take pictures. We asked them if they wanted to join us in helping these ladies save the turtles that might come on the beach tonight and they jumped right in. It was a sweet moment of community–people working together for a common good. We got the toddler out of the stroller and she even jumped in to help!
One of the ladies looked at me and said, “I had an aunt that always said–It’s some times the unplanned for moments where the best memories are made. Tonight–you just created an unforgettable memory WITH and FOR your children!”
We both stood there for a moment taking it in. God was speaking. Something beautiful was happening. Strangers. Together. Laughing. In a hurry before it was completely dark. It was something special.
Just as we were ready for the rakes–I looked up to see a mom and her son RUNNING toward us from one of the homes behind us. They must know about the sea turtles! Just in time to help us!
But it wasn’t. We didn’t have time to ask before she started. Defensive. Upset. Even hurt.
“What are y’all doing? Do you know how long this took!? Do you know how HARD my son here and his friends worked to make this happen?!”
Compassion. Those sweet turtle volunteers once had 10 year old children too. They had grandkids. But I had also heard their stories of loss and even the ones they saved. They saw the bigger picture, and I decided being a mom myself I’d jump in and invite them to JOIN US after we explained.
I shared what we had just learned. I told them how beautiful their creation indeed was. I told them how the girls jumped in to help us. Did they want to join in before it’s too dark?!
“I heard about you. As we built they said to beware of the turtle ladies. My son did this. He worked so hard. I guess we will just have to wake up earlier–and build ANOTHER…bigger and better one with deeper trenches and bigger castles. Yes son–that is what we can do!”
I stood there looking at that mom–and something in her…I saw ME.
The momma bear.
Wanting to be behind my kids.
Wanting to defend them always.
Jumping before I really listen.
Forgetting to step back.
Missing the bigger picture.
Missing an opportunity to be a part of something bigger…
Or even worse–something BETTER.
Then the lady with the turtle vest–so kindly smiled. She understood, but we all could see what she too saw.
She told her to do what she felt she had to do–and she would do the same. Being dark at this point we needed to get back so I kindly interrupted and apologized to the mom upset about the sand castle and thanked the sea turtle volunteer for everything she does and letting us be a part of it tonight. The other girls went on their way–and I watched as the mom and her son walked toward their home. I listened as my big girl talked about all she learned–her shoulders back…so proud.
She looked a little bit different to me. Passionate. More joyful. Every time we join Him in something bigger–no matter how small to the world–we are indeed changed. We GOT to be a part of something bigger.
The moment of sweet community stood still in mind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it could have been had that mom made a different decision as she ran down.
What would it have been like had she stepped back to LISTEN?
What would it have been like had she jumped in to help?
What did her son see instead?
What would he have seen had she chosen differently?
And I thought about this…
A new school year is just around the corner.
My job as their mom is to look for their gifts and champion them. I want to get behind them, support them and help them as much as I can.
There will be moments this year where it feels like someone or something is tearing down their sand castles. Instead of getting defensive and insisting we keep trying–start over–never give up, I want to learn to LISTEN. I want to be still in moments of disappointment and try to see the BIGGER picture. I want to look to see what God might be doing and invite my child to join me…to join HIM…to join others…in it–TOGETHER.
I don’t want to miss a miracle because I’m too busy building something that was never supposed to be. I want to trust that He loves me so much to send others to redirect and to be sensitive enough to REALLY see.
Praying for the year ahead and all it will bring. Give us eyes to see and courage to follow in Your footsteps Jesus as you lead in big and some times unexpected ways.