Why the beach?
As I walk along the shore memories flood my mind as the water ebbs and flows across my feet- up to my ankles at times and the sand gets caught between my toes- I reflect.
One memory- probably the most prominent and sweetest is of the day we brought the girls to the beach for the first time. As a mom of daughters, I value preparing my Adventure Girls to embrace life with eyes wide open, so we hit the ground running. Full of wonderful anticipation, the girls and I visited the library and checked out a stack of books both fiction and nonfiction to educate ourselves on what we might see as we combed the shoreline. We stocked up on sand toys and bubbles, new flashlights, beach towels, and sunscreen. We researched our library finds, studied the pictures and learned the names of the types of birds (because they’re not all sea gulls) and marine life we might encounter and which ones were safe to touch and those that could harm us. Yes! We would be ready!
Finally, the moment came when we were “toes in the sand.” The girls just embraced the beauty. They were overwhelmed by the expanse of sky, water, and sand. The muscles in their legs were quickly challenged and their runs slowed to a walk. Now they began noticing details. Details such as shells, secret holes, tiny intricate designs woven in the sand made by the wind, and tracks left by webbed feet. How exciting! Our prep work was paying off. Sure enough, we collected shells of all types, pointed out several birds we saw in our research, and we listened to the wind and waves while walking hand in hand, side by side.
Suddenly, Shelby had a moment of revelation.”Let’s make as few prints as possible. Let’s keep the beach just the way it is as much as possible.” Riley and Katy immediately agreed, so of course, I did too. What a brilliant idea! To accomplish her goal, Shelby instructed her sisters to form a line behind Mom. Each little foot stepped only where I had stepped, and sure enough, less footprints- only one set instead of four. In that moment a story from my childhood came to my mind and I began retelling it to my beautiful Adventure Girls as we walked thoughtfully along the ocean’s edge. “Girls, once there was a woman- she had a dream where she saw footprints in the sand of a walk she had taken with God along the beach. For most of the length of their walk there were two prints, but she noticed only one set of prints where the ground became rocky or difficult to travel. Confused, She asked God why he left her when the way was hard. God answered, ‘My child, it was then that I carried you.’” The girls listened and, yes, they liked the story, but it was I who was impacted. Suddenly my heart was flooded by the intense love of God. I realized I was the woman in the story. With every wave came comfort, healing, grace, mercy, forgiveness, redemption and salvation. In that moment I was set on a path of freedom and a path of healing from a wound inflicted years before when as a 16 year old girl I walked along the sandy Laguna Beach with a guest pastor for our church’s summer youth retreat. Unlike my girls, no one had prepared me for what I was about to face. No one took a proactive opportunity at a teachable moment in my childhood to look me in the eye and speak the hard words of loving truth that would alert me to the possibility that there may come a day when I have to scream, “No!” in order to guard myself and maybe even others from evil.
You see, what I thought were going to be intentional moments of spiritual growth and mentoring ended up being moments that brought a crisis of belief for me. Moments that caused me to question my faith and everything I had been taught in my home and in my church. For it was in those vulnerable moments that he chose to steal my innocence. Embarrassing compliments, awkward personal questions, and inappropriate touches all resulted in challenging my ability to trust people. Sadly, the ripple effect would be far-reaching. This wolf in sheep’s clothing had done emotional damage. Yes, these moments inflicted wounds in me that would require me to be carried. And in looking back I now realized that is just what my Heavenly Father had so faithfully done. You see, I had shared the story of the dream with my girls in an effort to prepare them for life and share the truth of God’s grace that would carry them during their struggles. Yet, it was I who was surprised by grace that day. My heavenly father drew my heart to his and allowed me to realize he had never left me. He carried me then and he was still carrying me, leading me, and loving me. As I tiptoed through the sand with my beautiful blessings my heart was filled with compassion, forgiveness, and love- redeeming love. My eyes could see the beauty of the beach once again. My loving creator had not only carried me, but he had even gone before me and prepared my heart to receive healing in such abundance that it poured forth and leaped like the crest of each wave. Now the way was made for my children to be lead by a loving, joyful mom. A mom able to forgive and walk in newness of life held in the arms of an all sufficient savior. So, yes- the beach continues to be a favorite place for me. A place that challenges me to embrace joy and beauty- to choose life and love and peace. Everyday to walk as Jesus walked- in forgiveness. The constant, steadfast movement of the waves and the wind remind me to be still and listen as the truth of the scripture and the whispers of God wash over me affirming my worth and value as his daughter. He leads me and I am careful- just as my sweet daughters were that day- to step as he steps in the way he has prepared for me so as to enjoy his overwhelming goodness and powerful, mysterious love.