How Beach Trips Have Changed

This season’s swimwear is skimpier than ever. I know because I searched rack after rack, and tried on enough swimsuits to dislocate my shoulder. I was just looking for some coverage and support—because, this year, I would be running on the beach. Chasing my toddler. Juking out of people’s ways. And doing sprints to grab her out of the surf. (She’s quick.)

I was disappointed to find so many zippers, strings, and strategic cuts in the fabric–all exposing as much skin as possible without being totally nude. Even some of the one-pieces seemed like something an adult store’s creepy mannequin would be wearing in the window. The sides were totally cut out, leaving no fabric but what resembled the core of an apple, along with strings, laces, and cups almost as thick as my mattress.

Yeah…not happening.

In the fitting room as I hung up suit after suit on the “Definitely Not” hook, and saw the few lone attempts at modesty hanging on the “Considering It” hook, I realized something: not too long ago the suits on those hooks would have been reversed. I used to wear “those” suits that now feel more like lingerie when I put them on.

There was a time when beach time = me time. When my #1 goal was to look good. I’d lay out all day in a bikini, basting myself with oil, basking in the sun, and working on my tan—the only souvenir I could show off, in order to get some attention from guys. This is what I loved and lived for. Then.

What changed?

I’m sure it would be safe to say: my body. But that’s not really true.

It’s something much deeper. Something in my heart.

A promise.

A promise I made on another beach, not in a bathing suit, but in a long white silk gown. Where I walked down an aisle barefoot, toward his beaming smile. Where I looked into his deep green eyes, and clasped his hands. Where the wind took away my veil. Where my name changed forever. My identity changed, merged, melted together with his.

It was a simple promise:

“My eyes only for you, my body only for you.”

The vows we wrote together. The vows we made together. The vows…we had no idea how hard it would be to keep.

My eyes

            Only for you.

My body

            Only for you.

The vows, like our hands clasped tightly together, that this world, and sin, and life, and stress and selfishness would try to rip apart.

The vow to love.

And the love that would give birth to life.

The life of this fearless little girl I now chase through the surf. Her hair so blonde, it’s almost transparent in the sunlight. She’s laughing, and screaming with delight as the waves hit her. Everyone hears. We’re getting soaked and scream together now. I scoop her up just before another wave crashes against us, knocking us off balance. Her little wet body clings tightly to mine. I look up in the foamy wake and my eyes meet my husband’s; he’s gazing at us and smiling, that same beaming smile that met me at the end of the aisle, on another beach, five years ago.

What happened to the girl I used to be?

The Tide came in,

            and swept her away.

“Because You’re Mine”

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I have experienced love-at-first-sight my life only one time: the night my daughter was born. I remember them placing her slippery little body into my frail, shaky arms. And the moment I saw her, touched her; all at once, I loved her. All of me, loved all of her. This avalanche happened in my heart and never stopped flowing. A love so violent, so powerful—I did not even know I was capable of it. Like something burst; the floodgates broke open, and would never close again. She had done nothing to win or lose my affection, to prove her ability, to show her worth. It didn’t matter. I knew her worth. And I would love her forever. Simply because: she was mine.

Having a child does something to you. It stretches you, stretches your heart so that it can never go back. I think all mothers feel this. Whether they have only been mothers for a few months or fifty years. We can apply creams and lotions to stretch marks on our bodies, but nothing can remove the stretch marks on your soul. You have been changed forever. The love you feel for them is like this mountain, it cannot be moved. Simply because: they are yours.

I struggled for a long time to know God’s love. People talked about it, I read about it in the Bible, heard songs about it—but could never really feel it. So I tried to be perfect, like a friend who always did everything so right, you would never have a reason to be mad at them. Ever. But that didn’t work. I was a sinner through and through. I failed and floundered. I would pull up my bootstraps, try so hard to prove myself, and when I didn’t—I just felt further from His love. As if His love were based on my performance, going up and down like the stock market. (But usually crashing.) I wanted to cry out to God, to ask Him how He could love me? And why? But would my cry make Him swoon with sympathy and grace, or roll His eyes with irritation? Did He really like me, or just kind of tolerate me?

As I wrestled these questions, I began to ask God the thing I really wanted to know for so long: “Why do You love me?”

Imagine your child asking you this. It would be a baffling, heart-paining question to any mother or father. “What, do you mean, ‘Why do I love you?’” But your child’s face is earnest; they really don’t know what you thought was obvious all along.

“God, why do you love me?”

And at last, He answered,

“Because you’re Mine.”

And suddenly all the doubts and fears and striving for perfection are all—gone. I am His. And for the first time, I know it. He has pledged Himself to me. He has made a way through His Son Jesus to atone me. To cleanse me with His blood. To make a way. Not because of what I have done, but because of what He has done. He has made me His own. And no one can pry me out of His hands. Ever. When He sees me in the End, seeing Him, He will look at me and shout, “Mine!”

“She is Mine.”

How my heart leaps for that day, and so should every single son and daughter of God. Because this is the truth. Scripture confirms it again and again. And the Holy Spirit makes us taste it’s reality.

A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces in the world, but it is just a small touch of what God feels for us. The way we feel about our children, is the way God feels about His—but even more.

God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, Yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Could it be that this powerful, sovereign, maker of heaven and earth, loves and is aroused with avalanche-like compassion for me, the same way I am for my daughter?

Yes.

But even more so. His love is stronger than a mother’s love, because His love is perfect. Without the sin, or stress, or short tempers, or moods. His love is more constant, wise, knows exactly what you need, and never lacks the power to give it. His love is more intimate, so much that He counts your tears, numbers the hairs on your head, and hears the quietest whisper of your heart. He sees your dreams, hears your thoughts, and knows your words before you can even speak them. And His eyes were the first to ever see you, in that secret place; for it was His hands that formed you in your mother’s womb. His voice that spoke your name for the first time, and called you to be. He is your beginning. Where you came from. The one who gave you life. And your name is written on the palms of His hands. Yes, and there are two nail pierced scars there, for you.

Why Lord? Why do you love me?

“Because you’re Mine.”