28 August 2017

I Thought I LOST You

It's been eleven days...

Our last visit to the beach will not be soon forgotten.  It started out like a typical beach day for us, pack the snack bags, pack the towels, bring the buckets and water bottles, don't forget Micah's shark or the organic sunblock, and the puddle jumpers (life jackets) for Micah and Mia, and cash for admission and parking.

We got there without any traffic, and arrived around 9:30 a.m.  First family by the life guards our usual spot.  One thing was very different about this trip, Micah was in a zone.  He was collecting sea shells and rocks and he was so focused.  I've honestly never seen him so intensely into a task.  He was so excited with each find and would run over to me and made me keep all his treasures safe by my beach chair.  He even found a snail that he was begging me to let him bring home and keep as a pet.



At 10 a.m. on the dot I looked up at the life guard gave him a thumbs up and he gave me the signal back saying it was ok for the kids to now enter the water.  I took a few pics on my phone and carefully put it away and kept my eyes on all the kids as they played by the waves.  Around 10:30 a.m. lots of other families started filling in the beach landscape.  More kids in the water always makes it harder to see where your kids are but I have it down to a science with bathing suit colors and hand signals to Julia who swims out the farthest.



Around 11 a.m. Julia made a friend in the ocean, another girl named Julia.  Me and her mom got to talking and even put our beach chairs together as we kept an eye on all the kids.  She had two girls and kept commenting on how much Mark looked like a neighborhood kid she knew.  Me and this woman had a lot in common with being teachers, and having two daughters, and loving the beach so we hit it off right away.  Come to find out she was also Irish and Italian like John so we were laughing about how some of our kids tan and the more Irish ones don't.



Once Trish and I started talking Micah and Mark started getting on each other's nerves.  Mark kept taking Micah's rocks, Micah kept splashing him.  It went back and forth.  Then Mark found something in the ocean (a big foam ball) that Micah wanted.  They kept at it with each other.  I told Mark to go play and stop teasing his brother.  Trish and I stood up to talk as we kept an eye on the girls in the ocean.  Amelia was happily playing at my feet with a bucket.  Then the big girls came out of the ocean.  And the next thing I knew I didn't see or hear Micah or Mark.

Even now as I type those words I feel the panic fill my chest and dry out my mouth the way I felt at that moment.  As I looked out onto the beach filled with all the people and the noises all I could keep hearing over and over in my head is, "I lost my boys...I lost my boys." I gave Amelia to Julia and told her to sit in my chair and not to move and to keep Amelia in her lap.  I went straight to the life guard and told him what happened.  You never think this will happen to you.  And I never ever thought this would happen to me.  The life guard was calm and cool and said, "This happens all of the time, kids often follow the shore line and go with the wind.  What was he wearing? What was his name?  What do they look like?"  I gave as many details as I could.  Mark was wearing a spider man shirt he's 8 and has red hair.  Micah is 4 and has blondish brown hair and he's wearing a red rash guard."  "Don't worry he told me, I'm going to page every life guard on this beach."

Don't worry?  The life guard actually said that to me, the mom, the worrier of all worriers.

Don't worry.  I looked out again on the beach at the waves, did they drown?  How could they drown? How could I lose them?  Why isn't anyone wearing red?  Why can't I find them?  How could I lose them?  I lost our boys.  I lost our boys...

Julia saw the utter fear in my eyes.  "Mom it's going to be okay."  I walked along the beach saying their names, calling them praying they would answer me.  All I kept thinking was how would I tell John they were both gone?  This is my only job.  To watch my children.  I failed.

I went in the opposite direction and started calling their names, and then...I saw him!  "Micah!!!!!"  I collapsed.  I literally dropped to my knees and just cried.  "Buddy where were you?  I couldn't find you.  You were lost!  Where were you?  What happened?"  Micah looked at me as though I completely lost my mind.  (He didn't think he was lost at all.  He was on a running adventure with Mark and to him it was all fun and games.  He never saw me this upset crying like this and he had no idea what the fuss was all about.)

Then a second or two after that, a lifeguard came with Mark.  We grabbed each other and cried together.  "I'm so sorry buddy.  Were you so scared?  What happened?"  You think in that moment you might be angry or yell or get mad.  All I could do was hold him and cry.  Later, Mark asked me, "Mom were you embarrassed that the lifeguard and everyone on the beach saw you crying?"  I told him, "Mark, all I cared about was you boys and finding you, I don't care who saw me cry."

We all sat by my beach chair and Mark explained that Micah started to run in the opposite direction with the foam ball.  Micah thought it was a game, but Mark saw that he was running too far away and Mark was trying to get him to stop running away but it all happened so fast and then he couldn't find me.  And when he realized he was lost the life guard came and found him.

The whole ordeal was probably 3-5 minutes.  But to me and Mark it felt like an eternity.  Time completely stood still.  We didn't stay at the beach much longer.  I drank some much needed water.  We hugged Trish and the girls goodbye.  We thanked the life guards.  We packed up our stuff.  And we headed to the showers, and the playground.  At the showers I watched the four kids get all their sand off and I called John.  I called John and just sobbed.  It was literally the scariest feeling knowing that you almost lost your kids.  I hugged everyone a little tighter that day.

Driving home from the beach I realized two things:

1. I don't want to ever have that feeling again.

2. I now understand the story of the Prodigal Son so much better.

You know the scene in the Prodigal Son where the son returns home after spending all of his inheritance on partying and living the "good life" in a short time?  And he realizes how good he had it in the safety and comfort of his own home with his family?  So he returns home and even while he is a long way off his father runs to him, embraces him, gives him a ring and throws him a huge feast.  I always used to be so baffled, like how could the father just forgive him so easily and take him back??? He didn't get a lecture...he didn't get a list of rules to follow...he didn't get an I told you so...all he got was a warm greeting, a huge hug, some bling and a fancy feast!!! So confusing.

But when you are the parent, and your child is lost, all you care about is them being back in your arms.  You don't need an apology.  You don't want to give a lecture.  You don't want to say I told you so.  You are just so thankful they are alive, that they are breathing, that you get to go home with them, and that they are yours.

I have thanked God a million times for that experience because it has taught me to love my kids better.  It has taught me that moms are not super heroes.  It has taught me that losing a child can take a second.  It has taught me that my kids are always my number one priority, and no distraction should ever take my eyes off of them.  It taught me and reminded me of my great need for God.  I need God so much and I'm so thankful for his care and provision for us and for me that day.  I absolutely cannot raise my kids without God's help at every single turn.  My kids saw me at my worst that day, the panic, the fear, the crying.  But tears and all,  I think my sons saw how much I love them that day.  They saw how worried I was, how scared I was, and how happy I was when I saw them.

We still talk about our last trip to the beach.  I didn't want to tell anyone about it.  But I realize it can honestly happen to anyone and I'm very thankful God was so gracious to us and that I (thanks to all those hard working, amazing lifeguards) found the boys so quickly after losing them.









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14 August 2017

Best Place/Time to Pray


We have decided that once a year we will get away from it all.  We will find loved ones to watch our children.  We will book a hotel/bed and breakfast and we will take time for us and find time to reconnect, reevaluate, and refocus for the upcoming year for our family.

Last year I remember sitting on the boardwalk of Cape May, listening to the waves, watching the families and couples pass us by as we sat on our little bench by the beach praying for what God would have for us as a family.  I especially remember praying for each kid by name and asking God for His guidance in raising them, choosing the best schooling for them, and asking God to help us to be the parents He wants us to be.

This year we did something new.  We still drove down to Cape May and chose an excellent hotel to stay in for our anniversary weekend. But this year as the sun began to set and the moon began to rise into the night sky we walked on the beach, climbed the nearest lifeguard chair and sat beneath the stars.  It was as if noone could see or disturb us, except for a few young kids playing in the water waiting for their turn to climb the big chair.  We were at our own little spot, and we watched the tide come in and again we prayed for our children, their schooling, their behavior, our goals, our marriage, John's job, our loved ones who were sick or struggling.  We just sat there and prayed.  There were no interruptions.  There were no texts to check or meals to prep or messes to clean up.  It was just us and that sky, and the sound of the waves.  And we could literally feel God's presence.  I knew He was there and I knew He was listening.


In all honesty that was the best part of our weekend getaway.  We really needed to pray and hear from God and that just was the perfect spot and the perfect time.  August is always a big refocusing time for us as we head into a new school year, new routine, new activities, it's always a great time to just really talk about our goals for each of the kids and just pick each other's brains.  I can remember last year how good it felt to get away and be with John and to stop everything to just hold hands and pray, and this year it was just as sweet.  It reminds me each time that we need to do this more often.  We shouldn't wait to pray for each other or together once a year.  We should do it every night if possible. I cherish the Sunday nights in bed where John remembers to pray for the week ahead.  He squeezes my hand and says, "Can I pray for our week?"

I share all of this not to say we have it all together, but to show how powerful prayer is.  It really unites us and is uplifting and encouraging.  I always feel closer to John after those getaways and I love that we have a tradition of finding a spot by the beach to pray.

Matthew 18:2020 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
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