Lessons from the Beach

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is walking barefoot on the beach with my dad. We lived in a house beside the ocean, so we walked along the shore nearly every day in the summer. Sometimes I held his hand; other times he gave me a piggyback ride, especially when my legs got tired on the walk back home.

My father always loved the ocean, so living in Ocean Bluff must have been a dream come true. Of course it was only natural he would expect his kids to love the ocean too. My mom, on the other hand, preferred sunbathing and wading — anything to keep her hair from getting wet.

Standing below my childhood home in Ocean Bluff, MA (2017)

I’m sure one of my parents’ greatest concerns was making sure their kids could swim. With waves crashing just a few feet below our patio, the fear of drowning was very real. I was probably around 7 years old when my brother and I were signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons held at a neighboring beach. We rode our bikes to the early morning lessons after school let out for the summer. I remember how cold that water was, and how my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering all the way home. I just jumped in the water and did what I was told figuring that was the quickest way I could get out and get warm again!

I’m not sure what those lessons accomplished, but I didn’t learn to swim. I think I got the basics of treading water, but that was about it. I also remember going to a summer camp that had an indoor pool, the first one I had ever seen. I was always the only kid in the shallow end, watching the other kids jumping and splashing around in the deep end. I didn’t learn to swim there either.

My cousins had an in-ground pool in their back yard. One Fourth of July we drove over there for a family gathering. I think my dad secretly hoped this would be  the day I would finally learn to swim. I watched him with envy as he dove off the diving board again and again. He made it look so easy! He kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it, but he didn’t pressure me.

I was tired of clinging to the edge. I remember slowly walking out onto that diving board, taking a deep breath, and jumping off.

I was terrified, but knowing my dad was watching me and was close by gave me the courage I needed to take that leap. And even though I got water up my nose, I didn’t drown. I bobbed to the surface and felt such a rush of excitement. I did it! I absolutely loved it and spent the rest of that day diving into the pool.

I knew swimming in the ocean would be different, but now I had the skills — and confidence — I needed to swim in deeper water. My dad taught me how to float, dive under the waves, body surf and snorkel. After that, I pretty much lived in the ocean every summer until we moved away.

To this day, even though I live far away from my childhood home, the ocean is my still happy place. It makes me think of my dad and the amazing times we shared together.

Just like my Heavenly Father, I will always love him for giving me the courage to leap, and for staying close enough to rescue me if I fall below the surface.

The Crazy and the Calm

It’s been a crazy week here, with the wildest wind storm I have ever witnessed in Virginia. This massive storm affected a vast stretch of the eastern seaboard, bringing damaging winds and coastal flooding.

Tree damage in Stafford, VA.

While our home doesn’t appear to have suffered any damage, others were not so fortunate. This photo is one of hundreds I found depicting wind damage around Virginia. I read that the tree came down in the bedroom of a 4-year old boy who was playing in the basement at the time and is unharmed. How grateful this family must be!

Thousands of people in the storm’s path are still without power, including our relatives in Massachusetts. Many will be without electricity into the coming week as the storm cleanup continues.

My part of the crazy was coming down with a cold and fever in the middle of the storm, ending in laryngitis. I missed singing with my choir family today, but I am giving gratitude that the Holy Spirit filled our Lenten worship, even without my squeaky voice 😉.

All this served as a reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and that every storm can teach us about what is truly important. During this season of Lent, I have been mindful of God’s presence each day, even in the midst of crazy. In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus shows not only that he has the ability to calm the storm, but he also slept through the storm:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Growing up with the Atlantic Ocean in my back yard, storms were part of my everyday life. We prepared as best we could, hunkered down and rode them out. I slept through many of them too.

Throughout life, I have learned that it is easy to panic when the seas begin to swell. But it is far better to have faith enough to trust that God will equip us and then calm the storm. Only by faith can we begin to learn how to weather the storms in life.

My childhood back yard in Ocean Bluff, MA