When we lived in downtown San Diego there was constant construction. Beeping dump trucks, clanging metalwork, concrete drills, and colorful curse words delivered by cab drivers as they leaned out the driver’s side window— these were the sounds of the city.
The commercial landscape of our street continuously changed. Restaurants would open and close. New boutiques would pop up, shut down, then be replaced by a taco shop, real estate office or, in one case, a restaurant that literally microwaved your hand-selected food in front of you.
A couple of summers ago there was one storefront with a beautiful façade that announced a restaurant coming soon. Painted in capitalized, block letters above the entrance was the quote: “A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS.”
I thought this quote was beautiful, especially since the bay was only a couple of blocks away. Idle sailboats could be seen bobbing in the water from the restaurant’s front patio.
Come to find out, that phrase was used often by John F. Kennedy as a defense for certain economic policies, suggesting that a good thing for one group of people would elevate the quality of life for everyone.
I’m not at all interested in economics, but I am interested in rising tides. Because I’ve experienced them in a different way.
I’ve been a boat lifted by the swell of community before. I’ve been buoyed by friends who have held me above water when circumstances threatened to sink me.
These are the rising tides I know: the people that have offered faith and prayers and optimism on my behalf when I could not muster my own
We moved out of the city when Molly was one, partially because we needed more space and partially because we didn’t want one of her first words to be one she learned from passing cab drivers.
Where the city offered dining options, entertainment, and complicated parking, our new suburban neighborhood offered a playground where kids congregated every day. This seemed quaint and lovely in the beginning. It became essential and lifesaving later on.
I had just entered the stay-at-home-mom phase in tandem with working on my book, and the hardest part about it was living in a house with a toddler who did not carry on meaningful conversation with me.
I went to the park every day because I wanted to socialize my daughter, but mostly because I wanted to socialize myself. And somehow alongside other moms, while breaking up toddler fights, holding dangling ankles on the monkey bars, and passing out snacks, a vibrant community was borne. This group of parents became friends, comrades, coworkers. We became witnesses to each other’s lives at a time when parenting young kids was joyful and exhausting and frustrating, work that took all your resources yet did not pay you money.
Those park days were a lifting tide for me, an area of camaraderie and sustenance. Those friends offered advice on everything from discipline strategies to potty training to how to effectively color in my eyebrows.
In fact, I dedicated my book to those park moms because they lifted me in a thousand ways, but specifically they did it by showing up every afternoon as alongsiders to a season of life that could have been lonely and invisible. But it wasn’t.
I went over to my friend Tarah’s house the other night to hangout and catch up in the chatty, lighthearted way you do over dessert and a glass of Cupcake wine. And it wasn’t more than fifteen minutes in before I started spilling my guts over the strain of this transition back to Colorado, about how much I longed to be settled.
Tarah listened well and spoke hope over me at the same time she offered me a second dessert. This is another way of saying that she is the most excellent kind of friend.
Then she surprised me with a piece of art she made for me. It was a framed quote from a song that’s been my anthem throughout this transition.
I mentioned the song to her months ago. And she remembered.
Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw the gift, because here I was again, being carried by a friend who noticed the weight of the moment and made an effort to ease it. She’s not the only friend that has bolstered and encouraged us here in Colorado. But she is the first one to do it with a piece of art.
There is a way through every tough circumstance. Light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, there will be a parting, a clearing, a moment of clarity. It won’t always be this hard.
I know these things, but even so, there are times I can’t muster the energy to be super thrilled about the prospect of waiting. I can’t always soldier may way out of the fatigue. Sometimes I have a vague awareness of hope, but zero gumption to take hold of it for myself, you know?
It’s in instances like these, while we are waiting for God to ‘part the waters’ so to speak, that I wonder if there isn’t a preceding miracle already in motion. Until God parts a way through the impossible thing, I wonder if he doesn’t provide relationships to buoy us in the midst of it.
For example, I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. One was a young virgin that suddenly became pregnant. The other was a very old barren woman that also became pregnant. When Mary found out that she was pregnant, she traveled to be with Elizabeth, who had also impossibly conceived.
It seems that God gave them the gift of each other to witness and affirm the miracle God was accomplishing through them. Jesus was on his way to rescue mankind. John the Baptist would be the hype man to announce it. But in the waiting, Mary and Elizabeth were each other’s affirmation of hope. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Elizabeth told Mary (Luke 1:45)
I believe that God makes a way. But I also believe he offers rising tides in the form of people. He gives us friends that will hold up hope, and in some cases even print and frame it, so that traveling ships will not forget their place above the water.
Yes, in some cases, God parts the waters. But in others, he simply gifts you with a rising tide.