The beach had been calling my name for years. No amount of worry could talk me out of making the trek to the Sunshine State just so that my toes could sink into the sand and my face get sun-kissed with freckles. The kids’ excitement was an added bonus, but in honesty, I was prepared for meltdowns and bickering. I’d deal as long as I could have a moment to reconnect with the peace that the ocean promised.
I was like a kid in a candy shop when we arrived. Well, probably more like Moana and her real yet oddly creepy connection to the water. In fact, we had watched that movie so many times I found myself singing the songs in the shower, debating if I could do a duet with Moana herself if we met her at Disney during the trip.
The ocean was everything I yearned for. My toes sunk in deep the moment they touched the fine sand. As the breeze filled my lungs it took away any worry that I hadn’t figured out how yet to leave behind. And as my littles galloped to the precise place where the waves met the dry earth, my heart was full. My soul, free.
I had needed this moment. I had counted down the days for it, the years actually. I had birthed three kids since the last time I spent any surmountable amount of time listening to God’s greatest beauty. I had experienced so much amazement and glory from God Himself, and yet, something kept drawing me back to the water. I was whole in so many places of my life, but the parts of me that were not…the parts that were tired and beaten down…the broken parts were assured to be pieced back together when I took a moment to breathe in the simplicity I felt that God promised me here.
I felt it. He never lets down a promise. With every breath, my anxiety-ridden heart began mending. With every salt water touch the ocean reached out to me, I remembered why I lived, who I lived for, and all that He gives me each day. Glory be to Him, He who made the ocean and the sand. He who blows a breeze and crashes waves. He, the only thing that could piece me back together.
My daughter loved the beach too as did my sons. But my daughter has a love for the beautiful things in this world, with an affinity especially to flowers, so when I introduced her to seashells she was in her earthly heaven. We walked up and down the beach, searching for perfect ones. She was drawn to clam shells – she loved the orange ones and those with pink and purple swirls.
We picked up as many as we could find from ones as large as my hand to those as small as a fingernail. We found a few that were seemingly impeccable, but the coolest ones were those that we merely pieces of a larger shell once the house to an ocean critter. As we scavenged to build our collection, she didn’t care what the shell looked like, she thought each was beautiful independently and even more amazing collectively.
As with most conversations I have with God, He shows up in the oddest of places and in ways I would have never predicted. As my daughter carried her pail, filling it to the brim of the ocean’s beauty, I realized it was really the ocean’s leftovers. Animals of all kinds had used these shells to shield them from harm. It was their home for a brief moment, and when they were done, these shells got the boot. They faced the ocean’s wrath and then, only after they were chewed up and spit out, did we find these treasures. We collected them with plans to place them in our house to remind us of our amazing trip together.
We rarely found a perfect shell, one that didn’t take a beating. Most all were broken, mere fragments of their former states. And yet, to us, they were beyond amazing. And in the eyes of my daughter, they were down right beautiful.
I picked up one that was cracked enough to show the distinct difference between the rough exterior and the smooth internal edges. And at that moment God spoke. Not loud, but loud enough for me to hear.
“Why, my Stephanie… why are you yearning so much to be pieced together. I made you, so therefore you’re perfect. But beyond that, your life will be anything but. You will undergo troubling times. You will feel shattered. You will have moments where this world will feel like it’s so heavy on your shoulders. I will not leave you. I will be there… as constant as the waves crash on the beach I won’t ever leave your side.
But know this, you weren’t meant to glide through. See yourself as the seashell your daughter delights over. See yourself in it, and know that you are where you are because that’s where you’re supposed to be. You may see it broken; I see it beautiful.”
I picked up a shell and knew exactly what God’s message was. That day only one shell we found was perfect, and honestly, it was the least beautiful of the bunch. No dings or chips, but its color was so bland. My favorite was an oyster shell that was “pearlized” with creams and golds swirled throughout. It wasn’t perfect in the sense of its original state, but it was amazing to me.
God reminded me that moment that like the shell that I held in my hand, beauty isn’t always in the flawless. And as I will never find the other pieces that it once connected to, that shell is no less stunning. It will join a plethora of other broken ocean treasures that adorn our home.
Yes, Moana… Like you, I was staring at the edge of the water for what felt like as long as I could remember. I started off not knowing why, but God reminded me. I’m not broken, and neither are you. We may have taken a beating that this world dished out, but like the shells, in the end, we make it to peace. No matter how we make it – seemingly perfect or visibly broken – we are beautiful in His eyes.