A handful of weeks ago I found myself with a rare break from the busyness and routineness of daily life, ankle deep in warm sand, hands on hips, looking out over the vast ocean-like expanse of Lake Michigan, searching for the opposite shoreline. Above me, a shockingly blue sky dotted here and there with hovering white clouds, whose seemingly sole purpose a reminder that indeed I am looking up at the sky and not down at some gigantic swimming pool. Behind me, a group of dear souls gather in front of grassy dunes on brightly colored beach towels and chairs, their delighted laughter and chatter ebbs and flows with the mild waves. Within me, a chance to breathe, relax, push the reset button, and connect with friends free of schedule and family constraints.
Walking in the crisp water my feet disrupt ripples and patterns in the sand created by the constant push and pull, the back and forth of water moving sand. Arms outstretched, the breeze tickles my armpits. Breath held I walk in, cool water engulfing belly, and then up onto a sandbar peering down at a marvelous mosaic of stones. Reaching through clear water, I pluck up one after another turning each stone over, rubbing soft surfaces with fingertips, admiring shiny glints, striations, and speckling. I glance up again at the calm lake and wonder at the journey below the surface each of these stones took…rolling along the sandy bottom, tossing and turning, banging into others, losing bits and pieces of itself along the way… to finally find a resting place in shallow water amidst thousands of other smooth, beautiful stones.
Isn’t it similar for us to find ourselves at times floating in warm peaceful waters and then sometimes sinking in the cold murky depths, struggling to breathe… times I poured myself into school, and later, two jobs and friends and sitting in front of the T.V. until the early hours of the morning because I didn’t want to come face to face with the deep pain caused by other’s choices and the loss of significant relationships that blindsided me. In the darkness I clung to unforgiveness, wrapped it tightly around me like a heavy robe cinched and knotted at the waist, not realizing the lightness and life-giving freedom I’d experience some many days later, a decade later, of daily letting go.
Often my mind is where the tossing about takes place. Ridiculous, tiny thoughts of comparison creep in and start their circular path. Unkind and untrue statements of not being good-enough or put-together-enough or having enough, my home not being picked up or organized enough (because let’s face it, it never will), the ongoing making and checking off to-do lists to feel like I’ve done enough until I’m spinning and screaming, “Enough already!”
When circumstances and people are challenging, when the monotony and mundane settles in, when unhelpful circular thoughts are winning the race in my head, it is oh so easy to make a habit of checking-out or numbing-out, to live in avoidance. But I don’t want to give up or give in! I want to engage in all the humanness of life. I want to be present and live in all the waters I go through. I want to make a daily stance of seeing and turning to God, of shedding unkind thoughts and patterns of behavior, of forgiving others and myself again and again and again. I want to behold the beauty and miracle of creation that lies incredibly right before my eyes – in nature, in art of all forms, within the people before me…
in the soft alighting of a bee on upturned backyard sunflowers and in waving fields of emerald green corn stalks and golden brown wheat alongside gray ribbons of stretching highway
in my bathing suit clad baby girl, side ponytail plastered to her round head, sweet smiley face speckled with water droplets, arms raising up and down amidst shrieks and squeals as she gleefully makes her way with her penguin-like walk through fountains springing up from pavement
in my not-so-little boy buckled up in Grammy’s car for a few adventure-filled days away, sharing his snacks with older cousins flanking each side, blown kisses escaping rolled down window, a thumbs up and little hand waving emphatically as the car pulls away and the summer heat and my heart swell
in my husband sitting down at the dining room table with evening light streaming all around, his head slightly bent, feet tucked under chair, putting pencil to paper, drawing things seen and unseen to the naked eye
Hopefully, as I tumble and journey through this life I will be slower to respond in frustration and impatience. I will be quicker to welcome, value, consider, and love others well without fear or judgment or agenda. Hopefully, the joyful and sorrowful experiences I go through and those I witness, the people I come to know, the ways in which I hurt and disappoint myself and others will soften me, will continue to smooth me out little by little over time.
But the wonder of wonders… even now with all my imperfections, my jagged edges, the messy and dull areas of my life… my God sees and loves me and my God sees and loves you dearly. Our God desires to come alongside us, reach down and tenderly scoop us up from the water, a valued and prized possession, held gently aloft, sparkling in the light and warmth of the sun.