The sun was abnormally warm on that February weekend that we visited the shore with friends.
The kind of warm that makes you turn your face up to the sky and breathe deeply while the sun’s rays and wind play together on your cheeks.
The kind that can make you feel alive again, after a long winter.
It was well before the spring weather was in, but there we were anyway, enjoying the warmth of the rays. The sand and the surge of waves at the water’s edge sent us scattering back to the safe edge like sand pipers. It was cold on our feet with a lingering sting. There’s something about kids that are immune though, so before long they were in the water with chattering teeth and purple lips.
Sheer joy coursed through their veins.
“Mommy… can we search for sea shells?” It wasn’t long before they’d ventured back up to the sand where the adults sat, asking. Searching for shells has been one of my very favorite past times with our kids ever since they were little. I’ll never get over their faces when they find an entire sand dollar or a mermaid’s purse… their wonderment over it all.
I think, in a way, I’ve been taught a lot about balance in the last year. I know now there is no such thing as balance and I find that so freeing. But this move has injected more into our lives than we thought possible. We’ve had a shift of our priorities in a good way, and we’ve found ourselves surrounded by some incredible people, all from different places of their own.
People who have helped us heal.
We’d been in a bad place for far too long. There’s something about leaving the old behind; especially a ministry job, if I’m being frank. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and because of that, I never belonged. I just wasn’t cut out for it. Looking back, I can see a timeline of events: A shift happened in me when our second was born nine years ago, where I realized that boundaries in my life were a necessity for survival. And then four years ago, I truly began to change. So there was a literal load off our shoulders when Jamin was able to walk away. Now, I find myself not wanting to even acknowledge the old place we called ‘home’ for twelve years anymore. To push it back and move on. Pretend it never happened. I’ve dealt with a lot of anger.
I still am.
I’m impatient. And naive. And I’m the first to admit it. Most of those twelve years were good to us.
But on the flip side of that coin, I feel like I’ve come of age. Because once upon a time a perpetual people pleaser, I no longer have room in my life for trivial criticism. It can be really easy to get caught up in appearances. Or what others think your life should look like.
Jamin and I both took a breather.
A very long one.
So there’s been a lot of sorting. Almost as if a tower came toppling down where I once held all my neatly packaged beliefs in alphabetical order. I find myself sitting in front of it, a little confused because I need to sort out the good bricks from the rubble: My own feelings and perceptions vs. the silly ones I feel were projected onto us by others. I had to take the two, and decide what was truth, and what wasn’t.
I was surprised by how many tricky un-truths there were… all based on someone else’s desires for our lives, or to fit their current agenda.
I’m too old for this, I mumble to myself. Wasn’t this supposed to happen in college?
So even though it’s time to rebuild, I’m not sure what the new build will look like.
I still don’t have answers.
Much to my own demise, I’m afraid I’ll never stop looking for them. I feel like they’re supposed to come to me in moments of enlightenment. Of hard-earned life lessons with neon lights delivered by angels and a choir and sparkling headlines. I’m searching. Selfishly, I want to build that tower again to keep me safe – So it all makes sense again. I’m waiting for these moments so I won’t be angry anymore.
And I guess at the end of the day, I have this unquenchable need for things to make sense.
It’s easy to get lost in that.
Life is random and messy and hard. Vicious, really. We’re all just broken people trying to figure it out. Searching for the big answers, and big life moments, trying to get them to make sense is a lot like using a band-aid to cover a bullet wound.
No one has it figured out. They want you to think they do. But they don’t.
We can all use a lot of grace and a lot less in the judgement arena.
We’re only here for a little while. Our days are but snippets in a very long book.
Back to that day at the beach: Our kids combed the shoreline. Wonderment in their eyes, as they brought me the big jagged particles of shells they found… true to what kids do.
“Those are pretty. But look at these beautiful patterns in the little ones. These are the ones you want – you’re missing them,” I could hear Jamin’s steady, deep voice tell them next to me.
And then it hit me.
Maybe it really is all about perspective.
It took us four years to get to this very place, and I’m so busy, caught up in looking for the answers in the next thing. And the next thing after that…
But here’s a little secret: They truly don’t matter.
The little moments that are gorgeously laid out before you, glittering in the sand just waiting to be collected, are the ones that matter in life. The little moments are where the beauty lies. But I’m too busy, striving to get my hands on those big ones. The next big moment. The big answer that will put it all together for me. Something that helps me make sense of it all… something that makes it all feel like there’s order and purpose.
If I look back, it should only be to see how far we’ve come, and to appreciate the journey. And if I take in the present, it should be to bend down and collect the glittering little moments that truly matter. The little sea shells. Because we don’t have the future.
They’re in my children’s laughter and happiness when they play together in our big beautiful yard that I thought we’d never see.
They’re in getting stronger and helping my Endometriosis symptoms through classes – When Jamin purchased those classes for me as a gift, I laughed at him. I can touch my toes now, and that’s a big freaking deal.
They’re in the gorgeous eggs in subtle hues only nature can produce, that our neighbors brought us from their chicken coop the other day.
They’re in being completely raw and honest with genuine friends over dinner who won’t judge you for questioning life, because they’re willing to admit they don’t have it all figured out, either. That’s kind of a rarity.
They’re in crying with a friend who just lost his wife to a vicious battle with cancer. She was my age. There’s so much that comes with just listening to his peaceful, years-beyond-wisdom and perspective in his words.
Even in the middle of his struggle, there is so. much. strength.
The little moments are the ones that matter. Not the big ones. Not my failures. Not the regrets. Not even in future hopes.
But in the glittering waves as a back drop where my son proudly procures a small shell. He suddenly sees the beauty. He places it there alongside the big ones.
They all become one big jumbled mess of moments, just happy to be there, clinking around in his orange plastic bucket.
Sheer joy courses through his veins.
We’re all collecting snippets of treasure from the shoreline.
Let’s not miss the beauty in those magnificent little ones.