Finding Hope by the Sea
July 21, 2020
In 2009 my life fell apart.
I’m not talking about the ‘eating a hard shell taco while driving’ kind of falling apart. I’m talking about an invisible explosion that left a mark so deep upon my heart and timeline that I refer to my life before and after this event.
October of 2009 was that year for me. It was warm that fall as I waited for the leaves to turn colors and illuminate the sky above me on my sacred evening walk. I had my fourth child a few years before and looked forward to my nightly walks, alone.
While I anticipated my most favorite time of the year I could feel unrest and knew something was deeply wrong in my marriage. It was like the calm before the storm.
It was the red sky in the morning for the sailor.
This was the year that my husband’s extramarital affair finally surfaced. When this happened not only did I lose all of the obvious but I also lost something quietly unnoticed, like the passing of another year.
My compass which had always pointed me home had just been shattered.
I was like a sailor on a stormy night with no stars to direct my way.
I was lost at sea.
At that moment, of his darkest truth, something deep within me died. I knew that I had lost many, many things that year but I never realized how great the impact had been on our home life until this last week.
Last week my children and I took a trip to the Oregon Coast. I had volunteered to take one of my daughter’s childhood friends to a wellness center, giving me an excuse to go the extra hour to the ocean. Taking my children to the ocean was one of the main things that I wanted to accomplish this summer.
Oh, how I had missed the ocean and hadn’t been back since I had left Florida in ‘97’.
Before we left for Oregon I felt lead to go to a nearby church instead of our usual church. The sermon was good that morning and resonated with my spirit but what really stood out was the backdrop at the old theater. Behind the musicians, the movie screen had a picture of the ocean on it with the word “Hope” splashed a crossed it. I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my spirit,
“There is hope at the ocean for you”.
That was enough for me. I went home and I told the children to pack their bags, we were going to Oregon. My love for the ocean won out over all reasoning. I chose to take a chance, follow the Lord, and find this lost ‘hope’ which awaited me on the other side of fear.
After ten and a half hours of driving, we checked in late to our little seaside hotel and crashed hard. The next morning my anticipation to be reunited with the ocean was overwhelming. We all got up and around fast so I could introduce my children to one of my greatest loves. My children had never seen the ocean before. When we drove up to the beach my heart started pounding and my eyes weld up with tears. I felt as though I finally had come home. Like I had been away for many, many years and I could finally hear, smell and be with the one I loved again. In all of my time away I felt like the ocean had been calling for me to return.
Somehow that sounds foolish, I guess.
The Pacific was vast, strong, unpredictable yet steadfast in its coming and going.
I inhaled deeply of the salty, moist air as I watched the tide coming in and going out, so faithfully. The sand squished through our bare feet as my children and I walked a crossed the beach towards the sounds of the waves crashing along the shore. The seagulls cried and my children laughed joyously at the sight of all the seashells and little critters that had washed up. My youngest daughter (of 16years) was so enthralled by the small mole crabs that came in with every wave. With a squeal of excitement, she summoned me over to her side to ask me what kind of sea critters they were. At first, we both thought that they were tiny sea turtles but then we realized that they were crabs. My children were thoroughly enjoying themselves. My middle daughter lost no time as she and her childhood friend ran quickly towards the great, vast body of water and joyously dove into the waves, laughing and trying to jump the white caps. My son had forgotten his water shoes and refused to get his skateboarding shoes wet so he stayed ashore.
A smile crossed my lips as I watched my children’s delight in the splendor of it all.
I felt like I had finally come home.
I let out a deep sigh of gratitude for not selling out or allowing fear to stop me from experiencing that moment with my children.
Oh, how I had missed my long, lost love and didn’t even know or remember how great my love for the sea was. Hidden deep down in my heart was this love that had been forgotten, until then.
Awaken my heart.
Even though I grew up in Montana I was born in California.
A few hundred feet off the shore stood The Tillamook lighthouse. A beacon of hope for those lost at sea.
I thought at first that this was the hope that the Lord had for me and I kept waiting to discover this lost treasure of hope that I had left behind all those years ago in ‘09’.
I waited thinking perhaps that was it. I found it, now it’s time to go home. The adventuress side of me honestly contemplated renting a house in Seaside, Oregon, and staying there. My responsible side shut that one down quickly.
But the ocean was only part of the ‘hope’.
On our way home while my 21-year-old daughter was driving we drove through a town that I felt that we should have stayed at. It was getting late and the sun had already set and we still had five hours just to make it back to Missoula, Montana.
After missing the last decent hotel for miles, avoiding a prison town, and all that entails and driving for way too long in the dark we finally made it to Ritzville. I was praying for God’s favor and a safe hotel.
We pulled into a Motel 6 and found out that they had no vacancy. I was relieved. My middle daughter said that she had seen a Best Western on our way off the freeway. We plugged it into Google Maps and it was close.
Upon check-in, the lady at the front desk told me that they had a room, served breakfast and their pool was open 24 hours. Due to the pandemic, none of the other hotel’s pools were open and nobody was serving breakfast.
To say the least, we were all very relieved and went for a midnight swim. I soaked in the hot tub and believed that God would keep the virus away from us.
We all slept deeply that night.
The feel of the hotel was homey and cozy (like grandma’s homemade apple pie). In the entranceway was a fireplace with an old trunk, a rocking chair, a hutch and decorations of the American Flag, and a child’s wooden rocking horse. The pictures on the walls in our room were of a time gone by. An old farmhouse with carefully crafted quilts hanging on the clothesline sparked something in my heart of hearts. The walls were a deep red with bright white trim. I realized the next morning as I was drinking my coffee and we were all eating our grab-and-go breakfast that this hotel reminded me of a life I once knew.
A life I had once lived.
When we had arrived the night before the bible that had been left on the nightstand was opened to Psalms 107. My daughter read out of it as something stirred within me. I listened as I sipped my coffee and opened my bible up. I realized that I had brought my old bible and that inside the pages of the scriptures was part of a Fall leaf that I remember picking up off of our bench swing and placing in there to save my place in Proverbs 31, many, many years ago. I touched the leaf, as my daughter read aloud and my mind went back, remembering a time gone by….
It was fall of 2006 and I had delivered our son late that summer, introducing him to three older sisters. I was desperate for some time away from the constant nursing, changing and burping my newborn but couldn’t go too far. So, I had opened my bedroom window where my sweet baby boy was sleeping in his cradle and slipped out the back door to enjoy the fall leaves. I sat on our bench swing that my husband had established by our little garden. I remember my husband and I were having a rough time with the bills of the new addition to our family that year. I remember opening my bible and reading Proverbs 31 as I sat on the swing that day and feeling like I could never live up to this impossible woman. I just couldn’t. To say the least I was overwhelmed by my human frailty.
The afternoon sun was shinny through the burnt orange leaves as I read the devotion beside the verse. In the devotion the author quoted William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, giving a tribute to his wife at the time of her death:
To me she has been made of God, never-failing sympathy, reliable wisdom, and unvarnished truth-in short, all that is noble and good; and consequently a tower of strength, a mine of wealth, and an everflowing fountain of comfort and joy.
On the right side of the devotion I had written “Will I ever mean this much to anyone on earth?”
I remembered the way I had felt that day, like I was messing it all up, missing the mark, falling short of all that I was supposed to be. All that the Proverbs 31 woman said I should be.
I wept on the bench swing that day so many years ago. A few months shy of fourteen years now. I remember feeling that I could never live up to the Proverbs 31 woman…
I sipped some more of my coffee and looked up and smiled at my daughter, who had finished reading Psalms 107 out load. I acknowledged her reading and showed my children the partial leaf that I had kept. My daughter asked if she could see it so I handed her my bible. After a few minutes, she said, “Mom, listen to this! This is you”…and started quoting William Booth’s contribution about his wife back to me.
Something happened. I instantly got overwhelmed and thanked God that I finally meant that much to someone (my children). When she was done all of my children were looking at me with the reassurance that it was true.
Her children will rise and call her blessed.
Years later I must have revisited this passage because there was an additional note below it in different colored ink that read,” Yes, you do, to your children.”
When we got home from our trip the Holy Spirit showed me that it wasn’t only the ocean that gave me hope but that hotel and the memories that it had awakened within me.
I realized when the atomic bomb went off in 2009 it had blown up the piece of my heart called “Home’. From that October I had freely given that part of my heart, that so desperately wanted a home, away. I left it there that day, in pieces, and walked away. Paralyzed by my husband’s darkest truth and what that meant for me and our children. Every part of me, as a mother and wife had tried my very best to make our house a home but at that time, I felt like it wasn’t good enough.
I wasn’t good enough.
I had believed that I had failed my family, my husband, and myself and that I would never be good enough to have a family or a marriage.
I didn’t even realize that this important piece of my heart had been stolen from me until last week.
I had given up on “home”.
I gave up on the home where the children’s laughter was louder than any problem, where the walls were filled with love and security in a marriage and all the beds were covered with colorful quilts homemade by grandma.
My desire of having a family was destroyed and ever since then I have been surviving as this Alpha parent. Mom and dad meshed together as one. I lost my place as wife and mother and it had been replaced with this role that for the past eleven years was not mine to live.
A role of survival.
I had stepped over the line of being just the mom and stepped into being dad, too. I had lost my place.
I had lost my way.
I was being tost to and fro between both parent’s duties.
I realized last week while driving out of that hotel’s parking lot that we haven’t had a home since ’09’ but only houses that we have lived in trying to survive the aftermath of that one epic day that changed our lifeline and the course of our lives forever.
I am home now from the coast.
My children are swimming in the fresh Montana waters of a nearby lake. The evening sun shines crimson as I sit at my kitchen desk, eating Lasagna while watching out my window at the neighbor work in his garden. He works the ground at the Victorian bed and breakfast a crossed the street from out house. I wonder if all the work he’s’ doing is in vain? Is he building a home or just a place that he’s passing through? Is he working the ground for nothing?
Before this trip one of my girlfriends had asked me if I was in love with this old farmhouse that we live in and if I would be sad if we had to move. I told her that I appreciated and was thankful for it but that I had learned to take houses and leave houses because I know that I am only passing through this life.
But what if this is the whole reason I went to the coast? What if this is exactly the hope that I needed?
Sometimes I feel like a wandering gypsy just traveling through this life with no place to call home.
But what if God wants to restore what was so violently stolen from my children and I all those years ago?
What if, in this next season I will learn to stay awhile, perhaps be able to be just the mom and create a home worthy enough of my children’s laughter?
Perhaps I’ll plant a big garden or a whole field of sunflowers. Maybe I’ll learn to settle down.
All my love,