This mother’s day marked the one year anniversary of Rob’s mom’s passing and so we decided to get away to the beach. The kids and I headed out Saturday and waited Robs arrival from work Saturday night. We drove up and saw that the tide was out and the kids threw off their flip flops and ran about as fast and as far as they could allowing the tide to determine their depth. I finished up unpacking our things in the hotel room and then went out to meet them. I could hear their giggles and see their hair sparkling in the sunlight. As I moved toward them, they ran to me with exuberance and a handful of sand dollars chanting “Mom, mom! Look what we found!!!” It was raining sand dollars which always feels lucky at the beach.
As they approached me I felt overdressed and overworked and hadn’t invited myself yet to play. So I said to myself “Self, just jump in, get dirty and play!” It’s not so much that I am a pansy snob and don’t like to get wet and muddy, it’s just that I had to free myself up to be present, to enter in, to go for it. Sometimes we need to preach to ourselves. At least I do. So I unbuckled my bedazzled sandals and parked them where the rocks and the sand meet. I tied my striped maxi skirt to a mini and ran to them celebrating the blizzard of sand dollars, the warm water and the hot sun. I unleashed our doodle Addie and she ran free as a bird! It was like she became a new person, as many of us would, if we were set free.
The beach has always been a place where I find God. It’s not that He is there more than He is anywhere else. Maybe it’s that I show up. Ever since I was a kid I have felt something special about the beach, a connection to something bigger than myself. There is something about the ocean and the sunset that washes everything else away with the tide and centers what is good and what is right and what is true.
I look out at the waters edge that seems to have no end and when faced with the death of someone I love, I see a horizon that seems to have no end and hope life is the same. When I gaze at the sunset and see colors in shades and hues I have never seen, I am reminded that my vision for my life is too small, limited only by what I have seen but not what could be. When the waves rhythmically crash in yet never crush me I am aware that whatever threatens to hurt me, to come at me, it will not crush me. It might touch my toes and maybe even crash against my shins up to my knees, but it will not overcome me.
Why doesn’t the tide just come in one day and keep coming? What keeps this rhythm day after day? When will the sun just not rise? There is something bigger than me that I find with all the sand dollars at the beach. I love how God questions me back…
Where were you when I created the earth?
Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
Job: 38: 4-11
Maybe since I was a little girl going to the beach with my mom and playing the game “I spy the ocean first” and searching for seashells and jumping the waves, I have been drawn to this playpen that reminds me there is One bigger than me. One bigger than all this. Bigger than the self imposed pressures, bigger than the pain, bigger than mean people, bigger than nasty political campaigns and cancer, bigger than skinny jeans and bigger than the deepest fears in me that have taken residence. I need that One and when I stand on the shores I find Him. Nothing stands between us there. There are no rules. There are not niceties or etiquette in play. There is not a long list of things I need to do. I stand there and Presence stands with me.
At breakfast, the kids shared some of their favorite memories of me and then of grandma. The ones of me were like when I showed up to Aidan’s middle school with our dog who was in heat with a diaper on. Great. My kids are not remembering the games I play with them or the things I whisper in their ears or the prayers I pray over them as they fall asleep. They are going to remember the mom who showed up to school with a dog on its period. They did remember sweet things about grandma like all the Wednesdays when she drove up weekly to be with them. It might seem as though her tide has gone out, but it will be back just like next Wednesday.
Bella gave me the sweetest bouquet of yarn flowers and a poem that made me tear up. Then Aidan handed me an old Nike box wrapped in a blue rubber band. He asked me what I thought it was and I guessed, kiddingly, that it was all the little pieces of junk I always ask him to pick up in his room that he never does. He looked at me like I nailed it and then opened it up saying this box symbolized all the opportunities he has had because of me. He pulled out a football that no longer had air and told me that I have continually encouraged him when he needed it. Then he pulled out a picture of me cuddling him when he was little and talked about how I have always been there for him. He brought out all sorts of random items and then he brought out a picture of his baptism saying “I found Jesus because of you, mom.” Ok, that is when I lost it. I don’t know if Aidan discovered flippin’ Pinterest but his lil mom speech melted me. Kids man, they’ll move in and break our hearts. In good ways and bad. Trust me, I am going to have to remind myself of this orange Nike box full of random when he pretends to ignore me when I ask him to do chores or when his eyes roll back in his head when he doesn’t get what he wants. We all hugged on the couch and had a beautiful mother’s day morning.
The plan for the rest of the day was to plant plants for our patio and Rob was going to set up these lights we have wanted to put up in our backyard for awhile now. I have wanted them for so long that instead of eating out at my favorite restaurant we decided I would whip up some food so we could have dinner under them together. So Rob and the kids got to work while I whipped up some food. The steak, potatoes and caesar were ready and the table was all set. Rob just put the last string of bulbs up after hours of hard work. We sat down for Mother’s Day dinner and felt a drop and then another. We prayed in a hurry knowing rain was coming. Amen and the next thing you know it down poured!
The steak was covered in water, the twice baked potatoes were more like creamy potato soup, the croutons in the caesar were squishy. Rob ran to save our lovely dinner by grabbing the umbrella that had been packed away for the winter and in an attempt to set it up crashed it into the lights and half of them shattered. Glass everywhere. I had no shoes on. Everything was soaked and as first world problem status as it is, it would have been so instinctual to say: “This sucks, let’s all go inside. Grab your food, grab your drink, run for cover.”
I had this moment. Maybe you have had these too. Even with something so seemingly small, we had an idea, a plan, a hope and it didn’t happen. Disappointment sets in and our gut instinct can be to respond out of that disappointment, which I often do. In the seemingly mundane ordinary moments which make up most of life we always have a choice and it’s so easy to let the spilled milk, the flat tire, the run in with the boss, the bad hair cut or whatever else own the moment. I looked around at the soaked food, the shards of glass in my wine, the feel of wet underwear and pants. I looked at the greenery around us illuminated by the light through the rain. I looked at my kids and my husband and I could feel our instincts kicking in, but I sensed another choice.
I pulled my hoodie up over my head. Aidan followed suit. I yelled loudly to the sky “Briiiiing it onnnnnnn Goddddd! Let iiiiiiiiit dowwwwwwwwwn pour!” One kid laughed and then the other and then we were all laughing. We all yelled together “Rain harder! Hail! Dooooown Pour!” It rained more. Not even kidding. Drenched through and through, we sat accompanied by shattered glass between our toes and our steak, sharing one of the best Mothers Day we’ve ever had.
Life is a series of experiences and we never actually know how things will go. It seems like how we choose to respond to the down pour, that is actually what makes for a good story. And good stories make for a good life. The story of a barbecue under some pretty lights…well that is a pretty typical story. But choosing to enjoy a Holiday meal underneath a rain storm hollering at God for more of what He’s got, well that just doesn’t happen everyday, at least not in our house. It happens when we make a choice to not get angry, to not curse everything, to not kick the dog, to not go inside and turn the TV on, to not give in to what is comfortable and easy and dry. I looked into the faces of these three people that God has given me and I knew that no matter what comes our way, we will choose to laugh, we will choose to call out to God and we will be together, and that is what makes a moment that goes wrong, so very right.
As soon as dinner ended, so did the rain.
The God who met me on the beach and tells the tides when to come and go, He also met us in our backyard and He also tells the rain when to fall and when to stay cooped up on hiatus. We are at His whim, His beck and call, and all any of us can ever do is stay present, call out to Him, and laugh heartily when we can find it in us to do so, waiting for that never ending horizon to beckon us home to the forever place. And in the meantime, we can spend time chasing our kids, collecting sand dollars, running free unleashed and eating fancy steak dinners in rain storms.