Endings, Beginnings, and Life at the Beach

Tomorrow I leave on vacation.  First stopping by my parent's home, then on to the beach, where Mary and I convene each summer to do a whole lotta nothing.  We get up late.  We drink coffee and eat bacon.  We meander onto the beach for a while, first slathering our pale skin in sunscreen.  After all of thirty minutes or so, we're hot, so we venture into the water, which usually stings our legs because even after years of shaving, we still missed the memo that says sea water is painful to freshly shorn legs.  Then we bake some more, then get too hot, so it's time for lunch.

Maybe we eat something reasonably nutritious.  Maybe we eat ice cream.  When you're paying your own bills and owning your own scars in life, you can eat ice cream for lunch.  Law and Order is on somewhere - one of those truths in life.  You will pay taxes.  You will die.  And Law and Order is always on one cable channel.  We nap.  We go back onto the beach.  We read People magazine and talk about how attractive Ice - T is or what we think really happens at Lambeth or how we both can't believe how much has changed since last year.  We dress for dinner somewhere, asking each other if our back fat is too noticeable in the tank tops and really not caring if it is or not.

We mark our years by the beach.  Clergy are usually too wiped out from Christmas and Holy Days to do any real reflection at New Year's.  So for us, it's the beach.  Between the sand and the waves and the meandering days of bliss, we reflect on the past year.

Last year, on the porch overlooking the ocean, I crafted the answers to the initial questions for the parish search process at the parish that I now call home.  Last year, I was tired, absent the whole-heartedness I embrace in my ministry and life, unsure of next steps and my own self, but Mary kept reminding me of who I was and how much I could love and that my present was not my future.  So did others.  I couldn't imagine last year that I could love a parish as much as I am in love with the one I serve.  But God is always full of surprises when we offer ourselves to be broken and resurrected by God.

And Mary fell in love, too, with a little surprise from heaven who showed up around the Fourth of July and will now join us on our yearly beach excursions.  Emma is crawling now.  Last year, she was questioning and unsure of what her life would look like, after the disappointments and failures. But God reminded her that her heart was big enough to share with a little girl who needed a mom.  And we will take her to the Flora-Bama for her very first visit.  Yes, it's a bar, but they make you wear shoes now and serve excellent Royal Red shrimp during the day.  No, we won't let her order a beer.

We both said goodbye to people, some we will miss.  Others were presences that reminded us not every person is our life is meet and right.  Smearing radioactive sludge on your soul is a bad idea, no matter how pretty the container or how enticing the sludge may convince us it is.

And we've said hello to others that remind us that God is always plentiful.  One benefit of age is the hopeful ability to recognize fabulous when it comes along and weave it into your life.  This year has been a plethora of fabulous new friends.  One joy is laughing with people who tell you all-new stories of their own human frailty, who invite you to be imperfect with them, and who do it all over good wine.  Oh yes, God is good.

One of us will be sitting on the porch, listening to the breath of God in the waves as she answers interview questions.  Knowing where you cannot be anymore, but dropping into the great deep with God is truly one of the bravest acts on earth.  So she will be brave and follow God.

One of us will be helping as needed and asked when the other writes her heart on paper to a search committee and grumbling ever so slightly about the extra pounds that migrated onto hips since last year.  But given that last year I was too thin, I won't grumble that much.  Anyway, I like the curves.

Emma will be chewing on something that she's not supposed to be chewing on.  Law and Order will be in the background.  We will leave shoes and clothes on the floor and a mess in the kitchen and talk until 2:00 am because we can.  We will simply be for an entire week.  

And we will sit in the moment, knowing the holy adventure continues as God continues to disturb us when we get too comfortable because our dreams were too small, our horizons were too near the shore, and our trust was too much within ourselves.


Anonymous said…
Blessings on your friendship! Blessings on your vacation! Blessings on your ministry of blog-writing! Grateful for your voices in cyberspace....
Elizabeth Henry said…
This post spoke to me so deeply. I'm grateful for your ability to put experiences into words so that they can resonate with others when we can't find the words. I was just introduced to this blog, I don't even know you, and yet I feel a sacred kinship. Thanks be to God! For beach vacations, for the ways holy companionship can be shared over the internet, for the endurance of Law and Order.
jsd said…
Blessings and thank you.
Goodness, this is lovely. I was just reminiscing about my old beach trips the other day. Whole lotta nothing was just the thing. Love your blog; blessings on your vacation. I look forward to hearing about it when you get back.
emb said…
WUHOO! Hope ya'll have a great time. Breathe in the aura of the sea, and let your troubles float away on the waves. Have a margarita for me, eh?
Alybrarian said…
Thank you for the memory trip! Growing up with grandparents who lived on Ono Island, I went to the Flora Bama constantly as a child and turned out fine. My dad still has the fuzzy dice I "won" (read: reached my tiny arm inside and stole) from the claw machine. Order Emma a Shirley Temple. :)
Anonymous said…
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed this so much. It was a wonderful reminder of the days, now, alas gone (for reasons mostly financial), when two friends and I used to spend Labor Day weekends at the Jersey shore together doing pretty much exactly what the two of you do. But more, as someone who is one of the long-term unemployed, contemplating a summer with potentially no income whatsoever while I wait to start a new, lower level, lower pay, job in the fall, so many of your words meant so much. I've been copying to add to my journal and just gave up and printed it out to stick in, where I can look again when I need reminding.

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