|Ch. 1 from Amber O’Brien’s Book, Love. Always. Wins.|
~~Sometimes love knows exactly what we need~~
The pulsing, whirling sounds of helicopter propellers vibrated above my head while my panicked legs pumped in the chilly preseason Atlantic Ocean and my shivering arms held onto my capsized
elliptical paddle board.
Burrrroooom, ticka-ticka-ticka! Burrrooom, burrrooom, ticka-ticka-ticka!
“Lord, I don’t need a helicopter,” I screeched into the wind. “Just send me a motorboat. I don’t need a helicopter.”
The bright red Coast Guard rescue vehicle circled overhead, and I waved back at the pilot.
The loud motor and choppy propeller, ticka-ticka-ticka, sound WAS NOT music to my ears because of my dread of having to awkwardly climb aboard a hanging ladder —especially in front of a crowd of people. Weariness zapped almost all my strength and I couldn’t imagine holding on, so I continued to plead against the helicopter.
Glancing at the shore, I noticed numerous rescue vehicles, including an ambulance, a police car, and even a fire truck. A crowd of people gathered about them, and I knew they had the same thought that I did: What in the world is that crazy woman doing out there in the ocean by herself?
Just an hour before, I had arrived at the beach with my husband and oldest daughter before the lifeguards took their posts. For a special birthday present, Dave had bought me a new toy—a novel paddleboard with handlebars for state-of-the-art steering and stair-stepper like pedals for advanced control. What we didn’t know at the time was that, in our excitement, we had tightened an important screw and dismantled the steering mechanism. (Ok. I know what you are thinking. Duh!)
I remember suggesting that we try out this new watercraft on the quieter bay nearby first (I should have gone with my gut), but when we both peered at the ocean earlier that morning, it appeared to be unusually calm and inviting.
Excited to try out the new gift, Dave pushed me towards the horizon on my virgin voyage, out past the breaking waves. I stood upright and vertical, pedaling the board forward –straight out into the vast sea. After several yards, I squeezed the right handle and expected to veer right.
Instructions in the box had warned that I would need to pedal faster for the steering to engage and so I pumped my legs even faster, and squeezed the handle with all my might trying to turn so I would not continue to be going straight out to sea.
My husband yelled from the shore, “Turn! Turn!” but I moved out further away from him and my daughter on the shore.
“I AM! I AM TRYING To TURN! ” I bellowed back.
At this point, I panicked, my adrenaline increased, and my muscles tensed up. I kept thinking “What am I doing wrong?”(Remember that I didn’t know that the steering didn’t work) Thus, in my frantic panic to correct what I thought was my mistake, I moved forward faster and faster. Before I knew it, I found myself one-fourth of a mile into the deep waters of the ocean. By leaning my body weight all the way to the right, my direction turned 90 degrees so that I now became parallel with the shore. This was better than going straight out to sea, but I needed to turn 90 degrees more so I could ride back to the shore.
The current and the wind worked against me as I kept compressing the handlebars. It took all of my effort and energy just to stay upright. For ten beach blocks, my tiny board and I managed to travel parallel to the beach as my husband and my daughter, Mary, dashed along the sand as fast as they could, trying to keep up.
My heart quickened. Anxiety so overwhelmed me that instead of stopping to regroup, I scampered faster like a nervous, squeaking gerbil on a metal running wheel. Over and over, I squeezed the handlebars with all my might, “Help! Lord Jesus! Help me! Help Me!” I squealed out desperately as I pedaled on without considering a new plan.
In one final desperate attempt, I leaned my body all the way over toward the shore and then I heard a giant splash (KER-SPLOOSH!), as the board turned sideways, and flung me into the cold, dark ocean. Shocked that I was now capsized and in the freezing water, I wrapped my arms around the bobbing, overturned board, saltwater wading into my mouth, nostrils, and eyes. (I was tied with a rope around my wrist to the board so that I had no choice but to stay put).
After a minute, I kicked furiously with my feet to see if I could move myself forward and toward the shore. However, the wind was against me and the overturned board had a long handlebar underneath that was causing a drag.
Can they see me? I wondered. I worried not just for myself, but also for my husband and daughter back on the beach. I shivered, and my legs felt numb… “ Oh, I hope they are getting help,” I pleaded. The exhaustion from traveling a panicked half-mile caused my heart to continue to race as fast as my legs were trying to kick toward the shore.
That is when I heard welcome music to my ears: Sirens. Loud, echoing sirens that called out to all the volunteers on Seven Mile Island. I knew help would be arriving soon, and while I was a little embarrassed to have caused such a hullabaloo, I felt relieved that help was on the way.
Maybe a motorboat might come to my rescue, I thought.
I waited in the water and held on tight and hoped they would hurry. Finally I started to calm down enough to stop my frantic pleadings and so I could begin to finally listen.
First, my new found ears heard the burrrooom ticka-ticka-ticka, burrrrooom, and looked up to see the alarming crimson helicopter carefully making a wide circle above me. Like a hovering, rumbling, rotund mosquito that was “tsk-tsk-ing” me for my panicking and capsizing, it buzzed overhead.
To my great chagrin, I then proceeded to tell the God of the Universe exactly how He should rescue me. “Not a helicopter, Lord. Just send me a motorboat. I don’t need a helicopter.”
I then heard a calm and authoritative voice deep inside me say, “I know what you need.”
I stopped kicking and surrendered to God. A peaceful hope replaced my panic as I decided to trust that God would provide a way out and that I didn’t need to give Him suggestions. Now that I had stopped struggling, I waited with calm expectancy, curious to see what would happen next.
It must have been at least ten minutes that I clutched the board while I faced the shore, attempting to spot my husband and daughter among the spectators lining the water’s edge.
To my great delight, I suddenly heard the vroom-Vroom-VROOM sound of a powerful race car engine. Like a strong and swift eagle flying over the waves, two energetic lifeguards swooped to my rescue upon a sleek and speedy jet ski. The zippy watercraft bounced upon the waves while water spouted up and behind to form a halo of spray around the lifeguards’ athletic frames. The bright sun shone behind their calm, yet compassionate, beautiful faces and once they arrived within earshot I called out to them, “Oh thank you! You are my angels!”
Greeting me, they assessed my situation, and both men lifted me up under each of my arms until I lay face down on the back paddle of the waverunner. I noticed handlebars available for a passenger to hold onto, but to my immense relief, they seemed to recognize my weariness and that I wouldn’t be able to hold on by myself for the trip back to shore. As a result, one of the kind lifeguards accompanied me on the back of the jet ski.
Soon I heard the revving up of the engine and the vroom-Vroom-VROOM as we rose up and glided over the ocean waves like a mother eagle who carries her young on her back and lifts them away from danger.
Each time we bounded over a wave, we slid, but the lifeguard recentered me and I giggled at each unexpected rescue. His warm and strong body secured me to the back paddle, and I smiled as giant splashes of salty water rained down and we raced to safety.
We soared over the finish line and landed at the edge of the shore.
Emergency responders approached while spectators clapped, smiled, and laughed. The brouhaha ended, and my husband and daughter ran up to
embrace me, along with two of the paramedics. A warm blanket wrapped my shoulders, and the cold numbness began to melt away.
You were right, God, I inwardly reflected. You knew just what I needed.
* * *
~~Sometimes love needs time to simmer~~
I almost gave up.
Maybe I didn’t follow the directions correctly. The still hard, grainy arborio rice, the main ingredient of a mushroom risotto dish, only left a stale, bitter taste when I tested it.
Ten more minutes passed after the recipe’s instructions for when it should have been done, and I was still stirring.
The goal for this unique rice would be, “Al Dente,” which means soft on the outside, but firm in the middle. (Think of Goldilocks who had to find the porridge that was, “just right.”)
My arm felt heavy as I continued to stir the mushroom risotto well past the 25 minutes promised in the recipe. The secret was to slowly add the boiling stock one ladle at a time, and to keep stirring. And stirring. And stirring.
If I left it for even a minute, then I might miss the “just right” moment.
My hungry husband entered the kitchen to check on my progress. As the
primary chef of the family, he offered me the relief I’d been hoping for, and took over my position.
In tiny amounts, he added water, gently stirred, and tasted some more. After ten more minutes of, “long-suffering,” the risotto transformed into Al Dente. The desire that I had thought might never, ever happen, finally did.
At dinner, the rice melted soft and creamy on my tongue. It seemed like rich velvety pasta that relaxed in my mouth, like when Goldilocks found just the right bed. At the same time, its tender form had retained its firmness so that it was not mushy. Each morsel, so distinct.
The flavors of mushroom and chicken stock blended together with true perfection.
Worth. The. Wait. Perhaps… some of the important matters in life might take the longest time.
What are you waiting for, sweet one, and where do you need a breakthrough?
Maybe it’s an old friend who has grown distant because of a misunderstanding. Maybe it’s a marriage that has turned cold and silent. Maybe you are experiencing sorrow because of the stony disposition of one of your children.
Oh, Dear Sweet Sister… your loved one’s heart is like the risotto rice kernel that is still in need of warmth, attention, and stirring. Keep standing, and keep adding the liquid of love and kindness. With patience, keep praying.
Ask God for the help you need to not give up. The hard shell of your loved one’s heart will eventually become soft. Remember, God yearns for unity and reconciliation, too. In fact, he loves your family and friends a trillion times more than you do.
Never leave the stove, Dear Sweet Sister, because at any moment you might gain a glimpse at the work that God is doing, —softening, restoring, and reconciling the relationship between them and God, and them and you.
Ask a trusted sister to stir with you. We sisters need each other to help in the kitchen of life.
The first ingredient in the recipe of love is patience. Additional ingredients are listed in I Corinthians 13:4-8, and include these: Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…
Love. Always. Wins.
* * *
Love. Always. Wins.
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins,
Come to The Well, again and again, Fill up to the brim with all that’s true,
He came to restore, make All things New, Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins.
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails, Once we sat helpless in death-rows jail, God’s red love lavished to set us free, Long-suffering turns the prison door key,
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Never Fails.
True love is bloody, and sometimes it hurts, True love kneels down, and then takes off His shirt,
Love washes our feet and seeks all to Save, Love always wins, for He conquered the Grave.
Oh my sweet friend, True Love Always Wins, Love covers the ugliest of sins,
Pull out by the root your bitterness, Pay forward God’s undeserved forgiveness,
Oh my sweet friend, True Love ALWAYS Wins.
* * *
Discussion questions for those that want to delve deeper:
- Like a panicked hamster, the author kept pedaling. Are you stressed and running frantically, perhaps on a “mental hamster wheel?” What causes your heart and thoughts to race? What do you need rescuing from, or what do you require God’s power to rise above?
- How can you pause your panicked pedaling? Look up Psalm 46:10. Are you making time to be still and listen to God?
- Why is the eagle considered the ‘King of the Air?’ Look up Isaiah 40:31. Are you tired and weary? What does it mean to mount up like an eagle? (An eagle can fly up to 10,000 feet above the ground and has incredible eyesight).
- What is your favorite dish or dessert that takes a long time to prepare?
- Read out loud I Corinthians 13: 4-8. In God’s recipe of love, what is the first ingredient? Why would this one be first on the list?
- Read the poem, Love. Always. Wins. What is the goal of love? Why does love sometimes hurt? Why does love always win?
- While you wait, what can you do to soften your own heart?
* * *
Time for Dessert
Reflect on all the ways that God has been patient with you.
Love softly knocks on our hearts, and never barges in.