Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In The Light

I am having a glum sort of day.  It happens now and then.  So to cheer myself up, I thought I'd reread some of my old posts from my private blog (that hasn't gotten much action since I got more involved with this public one).  I came across one of my favorites (posted July 2009) and I thought I would share it here with you...


As we sat, this morning, listening to Pastor Todd give a message in our new series, titled, “Blurry,” I couldn’t help relate the message to a situation that happened in my life in early 2008. The message series is about how we don’t see things as they really are, but we see things how we are. I don’t believe I have my story recorded anywhere, so this is as good a place as any.

In March 2008, our family took a road trip to North Carolina from our home in New England (and back). C had been asked to go down to Raleigh for work and we thought it was a good opportunity to bring all of us and see more of the East Coast, as well as to give a long driving trip a good college try prior to the one we were planning to make in the coming months when we moved to New Mexico. Additionally, none of us enjoy C’s absences, so this was one less time we’d be apart.

We took a more leisurely, coastal route on the way down. The way back would be made in half the time, with far fewer scenic stops, so we wanted to enjoy the trip south. My favorite stop had to be at Outer Banks in North Carolina. It was off-season in March, so all the usual tourist traps weren’t up and running and very few places were even open. We did find one hotel, though, who gave us an extremely good rate for two adjoining rooms.

These rooms spanned back to front at the Inn, and the back room opened up to a path that led up and over a dune and right onto the beach. I was excited about the opportunity to go out to the beach at sunrise because in all the time we’d lived in New England, I’d never seen a sunrise over the ocean. Growing up on the west coast, I had the opportunity to see several ocean sunsets.

I love the ocean. I crave it even, sometimes (especially now that we’re so far away from it). I also enjoy all kinds of sunsets and the rare occasions when I get to watch sunrises. To combine these two things — the ocean and a sunrise/sunset — is a rare and precious jewel in a lifetime of experiences, in my mind.  So this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.  We were going to be right there on the coast at sunrise.

I told C of my plans.  Not even a sunrise on the ocean would make him want to rise extra early while on his vacation portion of the trip, so I planned to watch it alone.  That was fine with me.  It was a chance to be alone with my thoughts and my Lord, to contemplate life and to watch something beautiful.  Being mostly an introvert in a family full of extroverts, I cherish the few moments I have  to spend alone.

But in the last moments before everyone went to bed that night, I thought to invite S to join me.  Up until even a year before that trip, she would be the last one I would think to invite.  There had been so much animosity and jealousy between us from the time she moved in with us until well into her 11th year.  Our relationship was strained at best and to say we even had a relationship during those years required quite a stretch of the imagination.  She was twelve now and things were beginning to change for us.  I was beginning to appreciate her and to feel a mother-daughter connection of sorts.  She was beginning to have respect for me and to allow me in as something of a mother to her.

To my surprise and delight, S said she would like to join me at sunrise.  Early the next morning, I gently woke her without disturbing the other sleeping kids.  I had dressed in the first thing I grabbed from my suitcase in the dim light cast from the digital alarm clock.  S opted for remaining in her cozy pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt.  Both of us wore flip-flops on our feet.  We crept out the door of the back room, into the dark and up the path on the dune, down to the beach.

I think it was probably 5:30 at this point.  Sunrise was supposed to happen at 6:08, I think, so we planned on being out there early enough so we wouldn’t miss a single moment of rising sunlight.

I hadn’t planned things very well and didn’t bring us anything to sit on.  I guess I figured we’d just perch ourselves in the sand and it would be fine.  To our surprise, the sand was ice-cold!  I hesitated as we stood there on the beach, in the dark, and thought about what to do.  As I looked around, I saw something white blowing in the breeze.  I moved towards it, squinting to make out the shape and discovered that it was a white sheet, hanging from a fence post. 

East Coast beaches are strewn with worn wooden fences for some reason.  They make for good photographs, but the way they’re nearly all falling down, I can’t see any practical purposes for them.  The sheet looked clean enough, so I took it down and laid it out for us to sit on.

We could still feel the coolness of the sand beneath the sheet, but it did provide some insulation.  We huddled together for warmth and stared out at the ocean.  We could hear more than we could see at this point, but it was the soothing, repetitive sound of waves.  It was calming to our ears and our minds.  We spoke very little during this time of listening.  I was proud of S for being able to take in the moment instead of chattering away as she usually does.  She tries hard to avoid the sound of dead air, as long as she can think of something to say.  Perhaps it was the early hour or maybe even an understanding of what I needed from her during this time that kept her quiet, but it was greatly appreciated.

Just as a hint of light began filling the beach, but while it was still dark enough to call it night, we started to notice how cold it really was there on the beach.  I feared that I would miss the sunrise if I ran back to the room for a blanket or socks and I didn’t have a watch to even know how much time I had.  So we huddled closer and pulled a corner of the sheet up and over our freezing feet.

Off in a distance, both of us noticed a figure down the beach about 100 feet away from where we were sitting.  It appeared to be another person, out to enjoy the sunrise.  But this person was standing.  We both squinted and stared at the figure and tried to make it out.  Was he wearing a hat?  Was that a dog sitting next to him?  How is he not freezing?  How can he stand so perfectly still?

We began to hear the sounds of sea gulls and other ocean birds nearby.  As we watched, we could see the flutter of wings in the dim light and we could just barely follow their landing in the shallow waves or on the beach.  The light continued to brighten the sky and we kept watching the man down the beach.

After a little while, we started noticing that he was watching us.  We tried to be more nonchalant in the way we looked over at him so he wouldn’t think we were staring back at him.  But we were fairly certain that he was just in a dead stare.  This started to make me feel a little nervous.  I felt fearful for our safety.  He hadn’t moved towards us though, so perhaps he was just curious about the lump on the beach that he was staring at — us.  Knowing this would be my only chance for who knows how long, to see the sunrise over the ocean, I decided to stay put.  After all, he was at least 100 feet away or maybe more and if he started coming towards us, we could quickly and easily disappear over the dune and back into the safety of our room.

More light filled the scene before us.  We spotted dolphins swimming and playing just beyond the shallowest part of the water.  It was amazing!  I had only seen dolphins in the wild one other time (actually twice, a day apart), and that was from our cruise ship the prior November.  J was with me when we saw those dolphins, but the sightings were so quick, that I don’t think she even knew what to look for when I pointed them out.  This time, S saw them with her own eyes.  We were both awed with the beauty and joy that dolphins brought to the setting.

Meanwhile, I kept watching the man on the beach.  I was pretty sure he did not have a dog and that it was just a rock or something by his feet.  Somehow, not having a dog by his side made me feel more unsettled.  It made this man, standing alone on the beach in the dark, staring at us so intently, more frightening.  I didn’t want to worry S, though, as she is a natural worrier.  So I didn’t budge, I didn’t mention my fears.  I just vowed to myself that I would protect her by keeping a watchful eye on the man and if he took even one step in our direction, we would dart.

About this time, the sun started rising.  There was a layer of clouds on the horizon that blocked our view from the sun till it rose past them.  I had been taking pictures every few minutes during the earliest part of the morning, but now that we could see the sun, my camera was snapping photos every few seconds.  The scene that unfolded before us, as the sunlight filled the sky and glittered on even the furthest visible waves the way that J would have sworn were a family of mermaids (she’s long believed that sparkling, light-reflecting waves mean there are mermaids below), was just outstanding.

Our feet burned with the cold air now, but we were so taken back by the beauty of this one sunrise that we didn’t care.  Much.  At least not enough to leave before the entire circumference of the sun had risen above the horizon.

At this point, I glanced to my right to see if the man’s stare had changed from watching us, to watching this stunning sunrise that stretched out before us.  To my relief and surprise, I realized the figure was not a man, but yet another fence post!  It’s true form had been revealed by the light.  S and I had a laugh about the tricks our eyes had played on us and how foolish we felt when we realized the truth.

We returned the bed sheet to the fence post (which was visibly clean, even in the light, thanks to God for His provision).  Perhaps another person would find it useful in the chill of the evening or the next morning. 

Quickly we made way to the indoor pool/hot tub and dipped in our feet.  They were so cold by the end of the sunrise experience that it was painful even to walk on them. They stung!  The warm water in the hot tub felt exhilarating to our feet and legs.  The feeling of our real feet returned to us in a few moments and we were able to return to our room and to our warm beds before anyone else had risen.

That hour together was probably the most memorable part of the entire trip for both S and me.  The feelings of that whole experience remain with me, true and clear as the day it happened.  I think about it from time to time.
Today, with Pastor Todd’s message, I recalled the details of that morning and thought about the things he was saying.  Not only did I not see the fence post for what it was, but there, alone on the beach with my daughter, I saw things for the worst.  The devil was trying to steal my joy.  He used that situation, that rare occasion of bonding between S and me to try to chase us away and drive us apart.  It was his desire that I allowed my mind to be tricked and almost missed out on something incredible and fantastic that would forever be an impact on my life and on my relationship with S.  I need to be wary.  I need to remember this situation, I need to remember that the devil lurks even in our thoughts and perceptions.  I need to remember that things are not always as they seem, but that for a time, darkness hides wonder and magic and beauty that only Light can reveal.

It is important that when I am surrounded by darkness, when I fear the things I cannot clearly see, when I don’t know what’s ahead, when I don’t know when my children will ever learn, that I remember that in time, the sun will rise and I will see more clearly the full picture.  The full picture is more beautiful than I can imagine.


And even now, it's easy to allow life's discouragements steal my joy.  I am blessed in so many aspects of life and yet, sometimes it's difficult to see those blessings if they're hiding in the darkness of my moods and negativity.  I must remember to squint and focus and if necessary shine a light on my circumstances by really looking at my situation through God's eyes.  He is here. Am I seeking Him? Or focused on distractions and frightening fence posts lurking in the darkness?

I need to continue to be disciplined to focus on the Light to really appreciate each day more.


  1. So glad you saw dolphins and the sunrise. Both are so magical. Thank you for your kind words on my blog. I took art classes as a child and some workshops since then but am otherwise self taught. I learn a lot from you tube videos and other blogs! I try to create from my heart.

  2. You are incredible, Jessica! Thank you for stopping by. :D

  3. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for reading, Brenda!

  5. Wow! That is a beautiful memory recorded in a powerful narrative. You could definitely write a book.

    Thank you, love, Mom

  6. Mom, I think you read this back when it was in the private blog, too. But thank you for the compliment here! I'm glad you think so. Maybe someday. :)

  7. Yes, I think I did read it earlier, but it really sunk in even more this time.

    Thanks, love, Mom