I decorate my house with shells. Not always the latest in chic design, but for me, they serve a higher purpose. They remind me of the sea. The shells speak to me, and draw my attention back to the beach. Just like my son when he was little, I am distractible. Sometimes I had to hold his little face in my hands to get eye contact, and even then he would still try to keep looking at whatever he was doing. By continuing to gently hold his face, he would ﬁnally relax and let his gaze meet mine. Once this happened, we connected. When I arrive at the beach, I know I feel those hands on my face, waiting for me to stop struggling to keep my focus on my concerns and ﬁnally gaze peacefully into my Father’s eyes.
By stepping away from the bustle of everyday life, I slowly become aware, then immersed in the intensity and simplicity of the evidence of God that is all around me. Like entering the ocean, I ﬁrst stick in my toes, then my feet, ankles, knees and on up until I am surrounded by the water, pulled and pushed by the current, sprayed by the waves and generally immersed in the salty intensity. Once in the water, it is impossible to only feel the water on your toes, or the spray on just your arms. When immersed, the experience is total. That’s how it is with my time at the beach. It starts out small – a dawn beach walk or an evening sunset of glorious color. But the longer I am here, the more attuned I become to the subtle yet captivating signs of His presence – the hawk who comes by daily, the rabbit I love to see munching away on the green grass, the steady breeze on the balcony that unapologetically blows away all concerns.
The lesson of the beach for me becomes clear. Once I am fully focused on Him and His creation, the cares and concerns I brought with me fade away. Every morning I get up to see the evidence of His constancy. Every night I look at the stars and see the undeniable perfection of His creativity. Each day I consider the time I have been given to work, or rest, or reﬂect and layered over it all is a growing sense of gratitude. The bruises on my heart are healed, the weariness replaced with vision and my carry-on capacity reﬁlled.
Why can’t I see things this way during my normal life? At the beach, the waves drown out my petty complaints and I see and hear the voice of the Lord so much more clearly. There, the self-imposed burden to always be doing shifts. My goal becomes listening and waiting and resting. As I return home this time, I pray that I will be diligent to receive as much as I give, to wait as much as to act, to hear as much as to speak. In short, to stay focused on the Creator and not on the never-ending one more thing to do. The shells I pick up now will remind me, hopefully arrest me. Let me place them around myself extravagantly so, when I become too busy, I will stop long enough to yield to His hands on my face, feel the breeze and hear the waves.
Debbie Strayer is a veteran educator, speaker, author and home educator. She enjoys spending time with her husband of thirty-two years and her grown children. Dr. Ruth Beechick, too, has spent many years teaching and writing on education. She specializes in curriculum and in how children learn. She is mother of two and grandmother of four and loves working together with Debbie because they think alike on education matters. For more books and articles, see debbiestrayer.com.