I wrote the following in January of 2020 for my friend Dora’s website. With no idea of what was to come. The original website this was published on no longer exists and I wanted it to have a place in this world. At the end you will find a little add on to the original piece.
Also… if you’ve been around here for any time at all you know that I hate commas and usually write everything in lower case unless i am super EXCITED about something. But because this was originally for someone else’s publication I had to pretend I liked all of those things for a moment. May the Good Lord bless my attempt at being a grammatically correct writer for this time. Amen.
I have always felt close to Jesus by the water. The majestic rolling waves and the cool salty breezes calm me. The sounds of seagulls and laughter somehow have a way of helping me focus. The sunshine beams on my face as I walk barefoot on the warm sand, and right there beside me is the One who spoke water into existence. My Savior. There is something about the closeness there that brings healing and hope. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel Him when I’m not by the water. He still meets me in my room, church, or when I’m having a breakdown in my car because sometimes life is just hard. But there is something about meeting Him near the water that is Holy, like He planned for it. He knew I would need to come and find rest with Him, and He knew exactly where would be best.
In the summer of 1992 some friends of ours sent my little family to their beach house for a week. We were at the tail end of a life-changing year, and needed an escape. I had been born extremely premature the previous July, and the past 11 months had been exhausting. We had weathered a storm, and needed to experience stillness. They sent us to a tiny town in North Carolina, called Sunset Beach. The first time I was there my dad carried me in a sling as he walked up and down the shore, holding me tight to his chest. This beach would become our second home, our respite, the place we would go to after hard years to rest. It seems that the Lord always planned it perfectly. No matter what storms we were experiencing as a family, somehow we always ended up back at the beach and it always brought healing. Because, for me anyways, when I stepped onto that sand He reminded me that I had nothing to be afraid of, and that no matter how big the storm, He was always in control.
In the book of Matthew a story is told about Jesus calming a ferocious storm. Matthew 8: 23-27 [Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”]
Some of my favorite words come from the Jesus Storybook Bible. By Sally Lloyd Jones. [“Why were you scared? He asked, “Did you forget who I am? Did you believe your fears instead of me?”]
So often we forget to believe in the One who can calm the storm. We allow our fearfulness to take over and the Truth of who our Savior is seems to be washed overboard. We forget WHO He is and what He is capable of. Why is it so easy to forget? I wish to be someone who remembers.
For the most part I think people focus on the miracle of Jesus calming the storm when they read this story. But recently, I have been wondering how Jesus was sleeping during the storm. He was experiencing true rest despite the chaos, and I have begun to dig deep into what true rest really means. That stormy day in the boat, Jesus rested. So, why is it so hard for us to rest? Why is it hard to trust that He will control the storm? But most of all, what does it really mean for us to rest in His presence? I am still trying to answer all of these.
I have “rested” a lot in my life – or rather – recovered. Growing up with a rare genetic disorder and a brain tumor brought many sick days. Probably more than we could ever count. So I decided long ago that I must be good at rest. When you spend days in bed, and weeks hanging out in recliners in the living room feeling like junk, when you have the lineup of good shows memorized, and could win an award for sleep champion – you assume that you know how to rest. Well, apparently I was very wrong.
I don’t remember a time in my life when Jesus wasn’t in my boat, with His father, my God right beside us. He met me in the NICU on that hot July afternoon in 1991 and has been beside me for all of my days. My life has been far from normal. I have overcome far more than most people do, and yet some days I feel the need to get ready to take on the next battle. Which is a terrible way to live, I suppose it is just my defense mechanism. Always be ready for the worst-case scenario. I learned long ago that if I prepared for the worst, when the best came rejoicing was easy. The doctors told my parents on the day I was born that I would never make it out of the NICU, but exactly two months later I came home. The doctors told us I would need oxygen and a feeding tube for the rest of my life. They said that I would never walk or talk, or live a normal life. They said all this, and so much more. It seemed they lived in a world of “impossible” but my parents lived in a world of “possible with God.”
I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, when I was 9 and endured years of surgeries, growth hormone shots, and enough pokes and prods and scans to last a million lifetimes. I missed a lot of school, couldn’t play the sports I would have loved to play, had a learning disability, and to be honest, things just came harder to me than most people. But then, the big kahuna, the mic drop, it came out of nowhere. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and ended up having a 22 hour life saving and life changing operation. Every moment mattered though friends. Every single moment my Savior was in my boat. No matter how big the storm, He was with me. From battling bronchitis, to deciding to be brave for brain surgery, He was there. How thankful I am!
This past winter I have felt called into a season of intentional rest. It has come to my attention that it is difficult to truly rest. My soul seems to be craving the water. I am longing for the beauty that life holds while at the beach, and the hand of my Savior to walk me along the shore. And yet I feel called to be still, right where I am. Which oddly enough happens to be in negative degree weather in Alaska. No sand, no warmth, and only ice cold water. Ice water is harder to navigate than lukewarm saltwater. Snow seems harder to rest in than sunshine. And intentional rest is surprisingly much more difficult than taking a nap because you don’t feel good. But the Lord is still near. He hasn’t left. He is simply waiting for me to grab His hand so He can help me navigate this season.
When I close my eyes and ask the Lord to show me what He thinks of me and what His plans for my life are, I try to imagine my beach. It is windy and warm. The waves are crashing, and He is asking me to trust Him. “Keep your eyes on me, Shelby Elyse. Do you trust me? I have you. Hold my hand, I’ll go with you. I’m in your boat, you can trust me, and you are safe!” It’s like when I was a little girl and my dad would play baseball in the backyard with me. “Keep your eye on the ball Shelby. Stop getting distracted sweet girl. Just look right at me and watch it come all the way in. You’ll never miss.” Only my precious Savior is saying “Keep your eyes on ME Shelby. Stop getting distracted. LOOK AT ME. LOOK SO YOU CAN SEE WHAT I HAVE FOR YOU. Take my hand and I’ll walk you through this, no matter how stormy it gets, I have you. Look right at me and you’ll never miss it.”
It’s been almost 5 years since we went to that little beach in North Carolina. Weddings, moving across the country and more has kept us away. And yet my soul continually craves to be back as soon as possible. I want to walk towards that pier with God. I long to put my toes in the water and watch as the waves carry the sand from beneath them. There is something sacred about that place. There always will be. But for now: I will continue to meet God right where I am. I will sit in my comfy chair with my favorite blanket, my bible, and my journal, I will talk to Him the same way I do at the beach. For now, this is my safe place; it’s just a little bit colder.
Ending from January 2020 … keep reading dear ones!
EDITED January of 2023…
When I wrote the piece you just read I had no clue of what was to come, and neither did the world.
I am sure that I could write millions of words about everything that occurred the past few years. I am sure you could as well. It seems as if the whole world changed forever. I have journeyed through some rough waters with the Lord for the past few years. Within days of this original post being published about intentional rest before the Father the world went into lockdown. The irony of that was not lost on me. Then, I left Alaska in the fall of 2020 with intention of moving to Southern California to nanny my newborn niece. I had prayed for months and months and never really got an “answer.” But I begged Him “stop me if I’m wrong…” and He didn’t stop me. So I packed up and went. Within days of leaving everything that was to be imploded. It was heartbreaking to say the least. By no ones fault every plan was obliterated.
The circumstances were out of our control in every way imaginable and I ended up back in Ohio accidentally. I felt like God had tricked me. Why didn’t He stop me? Why did He let me leave this land that I loved? Why would He have me say goodbye to my second family? Mandy and Shane, the 4 littles and their home was my safe haven in Alaska. Why would He have me leave that for nothing? Why would He make me leave my church? My life that I had so bravely built from scratch? My little group of close friends and my job that I really loved? It was excruciating … to be honest some days it still is. It is the craziest juxtaposition of my life to not feel home in my home town. Some days I wonder if it’s just because I long for heaven, or if I was just really wrong to leave Alaska? Just after the Lord had asked me to rest everything was chaotic. Was this some big test? Or some big joke? Or is it just life? I wish I knew.
I honestly still don’t know the POINT of all of it … It could be years before I do … I might not ever know until Glory. But I can tell you this sweet friends :: the God of the universe is still here with me, still asking me to trust Him. “Stop getting distracted Shelby! Keep those brown eyes on Me. I have you.”
And to be really honest, it has been really uncomfortable. I have been so distracted, and my big brown eyes that my earthly dad gave me have NOT always been focused on my Forever Father. It has been so uncomfortable that I stopped writing basically altogether because what the heck was I going to say? No one really would want to read about what felt like my life completely crumbling, right? That I still don’t know what I was created for, and my purpose feels railroaded, and I am just really frustrated? I thought I was supposed to write and speak and tell my story … but If I didn’t know how to tell this part, how would I tell the other parts? Was I supposed to tell you that it felt like me and God were in a fight? The kind where He was ready to talk and I wasn’t? The kind where I scream at God in my car YOU TRICKED ME! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO LOVE ME DUDE! THIS IS THE WORST!
Was I supposed to tell you that everything fell apart but He was still so good? Because it didn’t feel like that. Yes, I know what they say about feelings. I believed He was good. I just didn’t feel it. On really hard days I would make lists in my phone to remember the times He showed up. Because right now it didn’t feel like He was showing up. Or maybe I just lost sight of Him for a moment?
In the midst of my plans to move completely unraveling, my heart had been broken in new ways. Unrequited love is a real bummer. The movies don’t prepare you for it, for when he doesn’t choose you and you just have to get over it. Heartbreak is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Friendships changing is unsettling. I am a ride or die, go down with the ship, cradle to grave kind of friend. I don’t do lukewarm relationships and if I love you I love you for life. And unfortunately when people grow up, and get married and start families, things change and I don’t handle it well. And oh my heart having someone die just sucks. But when he is the one who came to the hospital the day I was born to pray over me because they said I only had a 2% chance to make it through the night. When he is the one who sat up for 24 hours with mom and dad during my brain surgery and refused to leave until it was over and “that doctor walks out with a smile on his face.” When he is the one who filled my world with joy and Jesus, and then just so happened to change the lives of 1000’s of people in my city … It was too much. And not getting to say goodbye still seems down right cruel. I just needed a minute to breathe... It was too painful. All of this at once, in the midst of leaving my safe haven, and feeling completely unraveled and disengaged from my Papa? It was way too much. The waters felt impossibly hard to navigate. They weren’t just ice cold, they were frozen.
I miss you John.
And no one even knew what to say. When my thoughts exploded and the tears ran easily. They still run easily. My friend Nina who is like my sister always says that my superpower is how quickly I can go from laughing to tears rushing down my cheeks. In the middle of the hard … I am so grateful though. For a second family who puts me on airplanes to come see you when the hard is too hard. [Manda and the Chief, thank you for loving me, listening to me, and taking me for long drives. Thank you for making sure I am filled with coffee and garlic noodles on the hardest of days. Thank you for reminding me often of how God sees me, and thank you for teaching your kids how to love me in the hard. Having you is one of my greatest gifts this side of heaven.] For parents who pray and listen, and a mama who holds me even when I’m begging to not be held because she knows I need it. [RT and Mama Brave I love you very much, I think you are special and I am very proud of you.] And friends that stand closer than a brother in the fire. Thank you to everyone who has prayed over me the last few years as I navigate all of this. You are so dear to me. I will never be able to thank you enough. I couldn’t make it without the “ listen sister, I’m always ready to go down in the valley with you, climb through the muck with you, and pull you out on the other end.” kind of friendships as Nina calls them. [Ninabee. I love you sister. Thank you for mucking it with me. I couldn’t have made it without you beeb. You are a treasure.] And most of all … my Savior … He has not abandoned ship. Even when it FELT like it. He never left. He kept me steady. He held back as many winds as He felt necessary. He was in my boat … even when I didn’t FEEL it. Even when I was mad and selfish and being a baby. Even when I was heartbroken and unkind and ran to people first instead of Him for comfort. He was and still is “I AM”
In this midst of this torrential downpour of a storm the sweetest thing happened. We ended up back at my safe place. The place we would come after hard years. The place where I find rest. Oh thank you Lord! My place. On July 6, 2021 my Dad baptized me in the ocean, at my favorite place in the world. With just my family watching from the shore, and some friends that had come to take our pictures. On the 12 hour drive down to North Carolina, I said to dad that I felt like it was time. He said he would pray about it and get back to me. He came to me one morning and said that he would do it.We had planned it for a different evening, but as we got ready for family pictures on the 6th I ran to dad, “ hey can we just do it tonight since there will be a camera? “ He said it would be alright.
So after we finished, my sweet sweet dad, my RT, the one who carried me up and down this same shore 29 summers ago, walked me out into the waves and baptized me in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I would normally say CAN YOU BELIEVE IT … but of course you believe it. Because God is intentional and kind and His plans are precious and grand. And He had this planned all along. The same sand beneath my feet that made me feel His nearness, the same ocean breeze that calmed my soul, and this beach that held a million memories would be the place I would be baptized.
His promise to us remains the same and my eyes are still as teary.
He is in my boat. He is in your boat too dear friend … He is in your boat too!
Shelby Elyse Taylor