Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Beach Blessings

The beach. There's just something about the beach that soothes my soul in such a spiritual way.

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, a visit to the ocean was no quick trip.  However, I remember many summer travels to the local lake where we would spend the day soaking up the warm sun, swimming in the cool water, and enjoying a picnic lunch sitting on beach towels spread out on the soft sand.

Even then those trips to the lake were pure summer delight for me. I have always loved the beach.

I was eight years old the first time I stood on an ocean beach. Our family had loaded up our car and took a road trip to Florida during Christmas break. It was a very special family vacation as we took in all kinds of wonderful new sights along the way.

And even though this trip included my very first visit to Walt Disney World...it's our stop at the beach that I remember most.

There I stood watching in awe as the ocean waves rolled toward us. After traveling all that way...and then spending some time at the Happiest Place on Earth...we were taking in the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. All of the sudden I was no longer watching those peaceful ocean waves...much to my surprise...I was actually swept right up in them!

Quickly my dad ran in after me and pulled me out of the cold salty foam. With shaky legs...in total shock... I sank down onto the safety of the beach...drenched...still watching the ocean...in my dripping wet clothes.

And thus began my uncertainty about the ocean...but oh how it solidified my love for the beach.

I have a couple of friends who love it as much as I do. Two of my dear friends call the beach their "happy place". For me it is a balm for my soul like nothing I can explain in words. I have never been more relaxed or content than when I am sitting under a large umbrella with my toes in the sand. To me that is just pure bliss. I love it so.

After a particularly challenging time with my husband's work where he had to be away much more than any of us liked, we saved our money diligently to take a very special family trip to Hawaii. That trip was on the top of my Bucket List. Hubby and I worked very hard to make it happen. It was everything I hoped it would be...and then some.

Our boys were elementary school age and they reveled in playing in the ocean with their Daddy. I spent the better part of those two weeks under an umbrella...with my toes in the sand...reading great books or watching Hubby chase those giggly little guys into the warm water. It was pure joy.

We took in the local sights and enjoyed learning about the Hawaiian culture. We ate wonderful food and drove completely around the entire island. We danced at a luau and made fresh leis. And we spent hours and hours at the beach. Memories of that trip will bless our family forever.

Years later we would go through a very difficult and extremely stressful summer. It was especially trying for me. One night Hubby and I decided we needed to get away. At that time we were living in the Southwest and the Pacific Ocean was just a few hours away. I made some phone calls, booked a room, and a couple days later we packed up the van and drove toward the coast.

We crossed over the scariest bridge I have ever been on in my entire life...but it was worth it. Our room turned out to be really nice (they gave us an upgrade!), but the highlight for me was four beautiful glorious days under an umbrella with my toes in the sand. It was a very peaceful, healing, renewing time for me as I watched my now almost grown teenagers run and splash in the ocean with their dad.

I just sat there...watching them...taking it in...and praying. That was a great time of chats with God about what was going on in our little family. We had big changes coming...some we had planned for and others we had been waiting to find out about for months and months. It was all so uncertain and we had no idea what we would be facing or what our lives were going to be like in the very near future. We didn't even know where we would be living in just a matter of days.

Yes, it was a very difficult time. And sitting on the beach was so good for me. That trip was so wonderful for all of us and to this day we look back on it with such fond memories of special family time. It renewed us all.

Even though this winter has been extra cold and snowy by Midwestern standards, we were gifted with a week-long, warm, sun-filled trip south in December. We celebrated Dodge and Darol's 50th wedding anniversary and enjoyed some much needed family time. And we got some precious beach time in as well.

I smile now as I think of the afternoon that I watched my big boys delight in the wonder and fun of playing in the ocean with their dad once again. I soaked up the sun under a big blue hat and watched with great joy as I listened to their laughter and "hollers" for me to watch. Yes...it was precious time.

We all thoroughly savored that afternoon beach fun. It renewed us as we returned to what would turn out to be a very harsh winter in the Midwest.

One of my favorite beach photos was taken last summer at a lake far far away. We were there to return our Scientist to college. We would be moving him back into his room on campus the next day. It was one of those days filled with loving family togetherness with tinges of excitement and sadness. We love being together and college move-in day is always an emotion-filled day for all four of us.

The hotel where we were staying sits right next to a beautiful lake. Much of the beach area along the lake had been busy with clusters of families and friends laughing and playing all day long. But as if God knew Hubby and I needed a little quiet beach time...in the early evening...a rain shower kicked up and that little patch of rain sent every single person scurrying for shelter.

As the last drops fell from the sky, Hubby and I grabbed our beach chairs out of our van, and slipped down to the empty little beach on the lake. We set our chairs in the sand and sank into them. Hubby held my hand as we talked softly about the changes coming. Our hearts were a bit heavy that night.
And I found myself quietly praying...just as I had many other times as I sat on the beach.

As the water lapped near our feet...we watched the sun slowly sink in the evening sky. Once again we felt the peace of God.  Truly, the quiet beauty we experienced that night was a blessed gift from our Heavenly Father.

The other day as I was reading in Acts, I discovered I'm not the only one that feels the peacefulness of praying to God on the beach. I read this in Acts 21:5:
When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 

It turns out that Paul was heading back out to sea. He had more ministry to do. And some of the disciples...along with their wives and children...went to the beach to see him off. As they said their good-byes, they knelt in the sand right there on the beach and prayed together.

Reading that verse really touched me. I love that it is in the Bible. It made me smile and I underlined that passage with my pink ink pen. Sometimes I pray on the beach...just like the apostle Paul did.

How about you? Where do you find a prayerful peace like no other? Where do you go to experience renewal and find God's Blessing?

As I focus on Celebrating Love this month...I just wanted to share with you some of my special Beach Blessings from God. For me...each and every visit is special and the beautiful renewing peace that washes over me is something I really really love.

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