It’s been eight years since I took a vacation and actually got on a plane and went somewhere for a whole week. I went to the beautiful state of Florida to visit my cousins who are living their dream, and encouraged me to start living mine.
Which made me think what is my dream? Do I have one? When I was a Pastors wife I dreamed of great revivals. When I was working I dreamed of promotions and raises. But now? I couldn’t think of a dream. Was I just surviving since I escaped from the cult? Or was I just existing since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and forced to retire? I used to have plans and dreams at one time. What happened to them? I’ve always loved the ocean and the beach and could find comfort for my mind and soul, therefore, I decided to use my week of vacation and ponder some things in my heart.
The ocean, the beach, the warm sand that I rubbed my feet through and finding shells seemed to have the power to bring calmness and peace, at least it used to. I could spend the day watching the waves or walk along the water’s edge feeling the touch of water and looking for shells could usually help center me back to myself and God. But the years struggling to spiritually survive had taken their toll and I needed to find that center again.
Where to start, I asked myself, while looking out over the blue ocean and spotting a pod of dolphins frolicking in the blue waters brought a smile to my face as I remembered part of a poem…
“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The ocean is beautiful with its blue color and stretching to the horizon as far as I could see. There were birds flying over it and dipping down to catch a fish or two. The ocean changes constantly. It can have huge crashing waves one minute and slow swells the next depending on the weather, wind and temperature. It is impulsive and random in this way. The deep water hides both friend and foe and you never know what’s lurking below.
As a recovering Pentecostal I met people who I thought would be my friends forever, but they have disappeared into the deep of legalism and then I have met people who have become good friends, who have never faltered when the water was deep or shallow. The ocean is full of surprises, as is life, and the greatest lesson that the waves can teach me is no matter how bad my situation may seem, the waves will always keep crashing and life will always continue on.
We sing an old hymn in church and I was told it was penned during a sorrowful time in a man’s life, and it has always spoken to my soul:
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
What ever my lot,
thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, It is well, with my soul.
It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul.”
There’s nothing better to me than rubbing my bare feet in the sand and covering them up. But I do not like getting sand into my swimsuit or feeling the gritty particles as you rub on sunscreen. As a single grain of sand may not seem to amount to much, but when they are put together, they create something enjoyable. A whole beach.
It’s a place where you can gather with family and friends, burdened down with chairs and coolers and umbrellas until you find that right spot overlooking the ocean. A day spent at the beach brings laughter and artistic design building sand castles and fun as you dip into the surf and hunting for the perfect shell. Sand can teach us that we may be small, but together we can change our situation…..like spiritual abuse….and bring laughter and silliness back into our lives.
“Let my toes teach the shore
how to feel a tranquil life
through the wetness of sands
Let my heart latch the door
of blackness, as all my pain
now blue sky understands”
There is a constant that comes along with the ocean, the beach, the sand and just as in life, with the storms, the winds and problems, it moves us, shapes us, supports us, and awakens us to new shores.
The words of Mark remind me that no matter how bad the storms get or how hard the winds blow….Jesus still cares and will speak to my raging storms: “Peace, be still!” And the wind will cease and there will be a great calm.” (Mark 4:39 NKJV)
Ultimately, Jesus teaches me to be like water myself….strong yet calm, steady yet yielding, subtle yet beautiful, and not to be fearful of the deep. (Source)
And that is my dream….to live again with my soul full of peace and my heart full of the love of God.
NOTE: Some of the thoughts and wording of this article are from 8 Lessons Beach Life Can Teach You by Julia Cohen.