Lessons from the Beach

No summer is complete for our family without a trip to Newport Beach, California.  I love it because it’s a calming week for me.  We slow down, I get to park my car for several days without touching it, and as we all relax into vacation life I learn lessons from the beach.

My favorite activity is my long early morning walks along the water’s edge.  I love waking up early to enjoy the low tide and this summer a few of my children requested that I wake them so they could join me.  We had some wonderful early mornings discovering sea life, exploring holes in the sand, and hunting for seashells.

During low tide we explore the landscape that remains when the water recedes.  We see how the beach has changed, hunt for sea life that is usually submerged in water, and best of all – we learn what gifts the sea has to offer that day.

Visiting the beach is “low tide” in my life, and these walks at literal low tide remind me how wonderful it is to have a small break and reflect on the changed landscape of my heart.  As my hungry eyes take in the tranquil setting, I begin to sift and learn from the pounding we take during everyday life in Utah.  This is where I learn lessons from the beach.

This summer I learned four lessons:

First:  The waves keep coming.  Sand shifts, dips appear in new places on the ground, shells are washed up and swept back away.  The beach is a new place every day, and by day’s end it is not as it began.  It’s always changing, renewing, and yet it stays the same.  Some waves are gentle, some powerful, and occasionally they’re overpowering.  Some days the water is like glass, other days it’s choppy.  But the waves keep coming.  This lesson reminds me that every day is a new adventure – I can expect to get slammed sometimes and to struggle to keep up with how swiftly things are changing.  Change keeps life fresh and new, yet the basic patterns of life are predictable and comforting – the sun will set and in the morning it will rise to bring a new day.  I get to keep trying!  We as people change so much and yet we also stay the same.  Life will keep happening and things will work out.

Second:  Notice and appreciate the gift.  We don’t get to choose what the ocean leaves for us to explore and discover each morning.  It changes.  I’ve been visiting this beach all my life and every year seems to have a different theme.  Sometimes it’s jellyfish, or stingrays, or dolphins everywhere.  This year we saw a beautiful white heron and watched it as it walked around near us.  What beauty!  For the first time, we also found living sand dollars, and more dead sand dollars than I’ve ever seen in Newport Beach.  But we had to go look for them, to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. while on vacation, spend a couple of hours walking, and slow down enough to really look around us.  It was so worth it!  This experience makes me wonder what gifts await me at home in my everyday surroundings.  How can I really look around and notice them?

Third:  Once we have eyes to see, with patience we will find treasures.  Once we spotted these living sand dollars, we discovered they were everywhere!  I loved watching the excitement of my children as they spotted dozens of them, scattered across the beach waiting for a wave to sweep them away again.  We also discovered dozens of dead sand dollars on the beaches, sitting in plain view, but we didn’t recognize them until we knew what we were looking for.  One of my daughters developed a system for spotting them.  Her system kept her far behind the rest of the children, but her patience paid off and she joined us carrying treasures the rest of us had walked right by without seeing.

I want eyes to see, not just the physical beauties around me each day, but the spiritual gifts and lessons just waiting to be noticed.  Discoveries waiting to be made about ourselves, about those we love, about living life wholeheartedly.  We had to train our eyes to pick the sand dollars out amidst other shells.  In life we must train more than our eyes – our hearts, minds, and spirits can be trained to carefully choose the right treasures.  Treasures of knowledge and understanding, precious memories, eternal relationships, all of these can be ours if we have eyes to see and patience to work at it.

Fourth:  Make room in the day for beauty.  My grandpa never missed a sunset.  Every night he walked out to the beach to watch the sun set up the coast.  Sunsets at the beach are glorious, as they are in most places.  At the beach we made time to go out and watch the sun set every night, but so often at home I only notice it if I happen to be outside at just the right moment, or if it catches the attention of one of my kids and they come running in to get me.  Being at the beach reminds me to make room for everyday beauty in my life.

Yesterday’s solitary drive
reminded me again, and I like the gratitude and inner wholeness that comes with it.

Because beach life is so different from daily life at home, it is a place of learning and pondering for me.  The trick, I suppose, is to be as happy a student of everyday life as I am when visiting the sea.  As I watch the season change from summer to fall, I find myself pausing for a backward look at summer, and motivated to move into a new season with an open heart.  I want to take my lessons from the beach and live better by applying them here where God has planted me.

Is there a season or a place that you learn from?  What lessons are you carrying forward as the season changes?  How do you remind yourself?

Have a lovely day, Jennifer

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