I love summertime. It’s my hands-down favorite time of year. I love the heat, the sun, a great tan (also known as increasing my freckle collection), and I especially love the ocean.
As much as I love this time of year, the summer of 2006 will go down as the worst few months of my life. So traumatic, in fact, that you’d think I’d want to forget all about it — just wipe it out of my memory altogether. But it’s burned into my mind. I’ll never forget it . . . and believe it or not, I really don’t want to . . .
That week at the beach wasn’t shaping up to be much of a vacation, but I desperately wanted to give the children some semblance of normalcy. Inside, anxiety and fear raged. I walked compulsively up and down the water’s edge for hours on end. I prayed with every step, begging God to show me somehow, someway, that He still loved me — that He saw what was happening, that He cared at all, to assure me He would stop the storm that was brewing.
Just give me a sign, Lord. Anything at all. Let me know it’s going to be okay.
No sign came. Nothing miraculous written in the sand. No perfect sand dollar or rare seashell. No sky writing. No still, small voice as the sun rose or set.
My marriage was in the last throes of the death rattle. We were about to lose our church, our home, our livelihood, and my daddy was sure to die any day. Somehow, someway, I had to find a way to hold it together for my kids.
As I power walked up and down in the sand, a weathered old man stopped me. I was in such a daze that I hadn’t seen him sitting there in his beach chair. Surely he saw the raw fear and desperation on my face.
“Lady, I ain’t never seen nobody walk at the beach as much as you do. You been marching back and forth all week. I’m wore slap out just watchin’ you!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “I have a lot on my mind and it helps me to keep moving.”
“Well you might have a lot on your mind, but you ain’t got a lot on your bones, so I hope you sit down soon. Wearin’ out this sand ain’t gonna fix what ails ya. Why doncha just rest a spell?”
Rest!?!? How could I rest when the world was falling apart? I smiled, thanked the crusty old Southerner, even agreed with him that I needed to take a break, but I couldn’t stop. I continued to walk, continued to ask God to speak to me . . . and continued to feel like He didn’t.
Looking back on it now, I think God was speaking after all. He wanted me to rest. Relax. He wanted me to trust Him, have faith, entrust my life and the lives of my children in His care, whether He fixed it the way I wanted Him to or not. Shoot fire, for all I know, that old man on the beach was an angel. The Bible says we encounter angels without knowing it sometimes, you know.
If you’ve read this blog, you know all I feared would happen did. In the next weeks, my children lost their intact family, their church, their home, and their beloved grandpa. I not only couldn’t protect them, I ended up with an all inclusive three day stay in the nervous hospital. A far cry from the way I wanted things to turn out!
Years have passed since that week at the beach. I feel it’s very important for me to remember that summer. I not only survived, I’m actually living again. I look back with great gratitude. If I wiped it out of my memory, I’m doomed to make those same mistakes again. I learned a lot — quite the hard way.
Over and over, the Lord told the Israelites to remember how He had rescued them out of Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. He wanted them to recall what they had lived in so they would always trust Him to take care of them. Deuteronomy 5:15 is one of many times the Lord told them,
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
Remember, remember, remember. God wanted them to think about how hard things had been so they would know He saw their pain, their dire situation, and He hadn’t forgotten them. He wanted them to remember it so they’d trust Him the next time they were in a bad place.
On the 10h anniversary of that fateful week at the coast, I went back. That time, however, I only walked up and down the beach once a day — anxiety and fear free. Just a leisurely stroll, hand in hand with my husband of nearly three years. Oh I still prayed as I walked. My prayers were quite different these days.
I took this picture on our first night that week, and as the seagull flew off, I thanked God that I’m as free as this bird. Free from the fear and anxiety that used to hold me captive.
While my life is far from problem-free, I trust God more than I did then. Because I look back and see His faithful rescue, I know He will continue to keep us through whatever valleys the future holds, just like He did the summer of 2006. I now see His guiding hand, holding me and my children, even when I couldn’t see or feel it then. He never let us go.
Maybe you’re in the midst of your own storm. Storms of illness, wayward children, failing marriages, painful family situations, deficient finances, lonely nights and fearful days. I continue to tell my story of God’s grace and mercy to encourage others through their valleys. If God rescued me, He will rescue you. If you have a painful past, look back on it with a heart of gratitude that you survived. It’s my deepest, most earnest prayer for you that you will hang on, trust and believe that God isn’t finished. Tie a knot and hang on to the end of your rope . . .
You see, when we think the world is falling apart, it’s really falling into place.