Today was a good day to go to a deserted beach. To breathe. To think. To pray.
Luckily, we just happen to have one 10 minutes away.
My oldest daughter had the great idea of heading to the beach – on a windy, fairly cold day. For no reason at all. My first instinct was to say no… but then I thought, “why not?”
We were the ONLY ones there. The only car in the parking lot. The only humans as far as the eye could see. It was good to be alone.
The smell of fall in the air mixed with the smell of the beach – sand, water, trees… my lungs were hungrier to breathe that in than I’d even realized.
My kids took off, excited to have the entire expanse to themselves. Theirs were the only footprints in sight.
I followed along but found myself sinking down to sit on a random driftwood log facing the uncharacteristically giant waves in our Great Lake.
And then I thought.
A seagull dodging the waves caught my eye and so I watched him. How he worked so hard, pumping his wings to get up to a certain height but then once he made it, he just spread out his wings and soared. Effortlessly. Peacefully. Until he came down and had to work once again to get up to where he wanted to be. He did this over and over. He didn’t give up. He didn’t curse the water or throw himself down or even fly away. He just dealt with it.
This might sound crazy, but that bird made me think: how sometimes waves flatten out just like glass, but other times they rise up like the ocean in a storm. And we are powerless to stop them. We are mere spectators as the waves just keep on coming. Sometimes it takes a LOT of work to get to a point where you can look around and soar.
Isn’t that the same as the storms that come through our lives? Through our families? Through our country? The only thing – and I mean the ONLY thing – we have complete control over is how we choose to deal with the storms.
A shriek of laughter floated back to me on the wind and I turned to see my children as they ran down the beach. Healthy. Tall. Strong legs dodging the spray, sturdy arms tossing rocks and dragging sticks to make “tail trails” in the sand.
Without warning, my eyes filled with tears.
How will I teach them to deal with things that shouldn’t happen? How will I teach them to love when it’s undeserved? How will I teach them the value of hard work? The importance of just letting some things go? To do the right thing, even when it’s hard? To treat people with respect even when you don’t understand their choices?
And I’m not sure about all of that. I didn’t have an epiphany. I still don’t know how to teach them, other than by example and a whole lot of praying.
But as I sat there with the sun on my back and the wind in my face, I realized that sometimes, you just have grab onto a tiny piece of peace wherever and whenever you can. And you have to tuck it into your heart to save for the rough days that are bound to come. And when you have to work – really work – to climb back up to where you want to be (and you better believe it’s going to happen again and again) you just have to bring that peace out and hold onto it.
Hold it tight. Love your children. Love your country. Love your neighbor.