I recently spent a glorious week basking in the Florida sun with my daughter and some of our dearest friends. The trip was an early birthday present for my daughter and her friend who have been asking to make this trip together since they were in the First Grade. The forecast for our time there was absolute perfection and the weather lived up to its promises.
We spent our days swimming in grandma Mary’s pool, sightseeing & discovering different beaches. I am a sun & sand lover by nature but honestly, my favorite thing about the beach is the ocean.
There is just something about the sound of the ocean washing into shore that sets my soul at ease. There is something so familiar about the salt infused air as it enters my lungs and causes a deep relaxation to settle in. I was reminded again of the holiness that exists within His creation.
As I stood looking out into the ocean, the sun shimmering off the surface and causing it to sparkle in golden hues, I met with the Creator of it all. The ocean as my altar, my heart knelt in the sand and a holy exchange took place. My offering a simple one, myself. His, one of grace and steadfast love for me. It’s overwhelming, that kind of exchange. One where you bring nothing and yet receive everything.
There are moments in life that kinda take your breath away. Where you wish time would stand still and you could hold onto it just a little bit longer. This past week was like that for me. There were occasions when I would look at Hannah, on the verge of becoming a young woman and yet childlike enough to still find a thrill in unearthing seashells, and she would catch my gaze and hold it. Moments that made my throat grow tight and stung my eyes as tears threatened to find their way down my cheek. We walked the beaches hand in hand, without much fussing over words. Sometimes beauty is so evident that stating it seems futile. And sometimes moments need to be experienced more than they need to be preserved. And so we tried our best just to linger in it, the beauty and the holiness of the moment.
But life isn’t always so gracious, sometimes it’s hard & callous and it robs us of our breath as the jagged edges of pain and loss tear their way through us. As I listen to the stories coming in from the Florida school shooting (so close to where we just were), my throat grows dry and tight. My eyes once again burn with stinging tears, as I struggle to make sense of it all.
The victims, each name becoming its own personal prayer:
Helena, Alex, Cara, Carmen, Peter, Nicolas, Gina, Martin, Jaime, Joaquin, Scott, Alyssa, Alaina, Chris, Meadow, Aaron & Luke.
I find myself at an altar once again. This time instead of warm, soft sand covering my feet, my knees feel the stiffness of the rug beneath me and my face is tucked into the cushions of my couch. My altar looks a bit different, but the same exchange that took place at the shores of the ocean will occur here too. I will come with nothing but myself, my questions, my pain, my doubts…and He will bring all that He is, just like He always does. His peace, wisdom, comfort & love.
Just the mention of their names will be my simple prayer today. My only prayer, as words escape me. Because just like a perfect moment can steal your breath away, so can unimaginable loss. But there is one more name I know, one more prayer to say today, and that is Jesus. He is my prayer. He is my answer. He is my hope.