Battlefields and Beaches

When I was in 8th grade, our school went on an overnight field trip to Gettysburg, PA. If you're not familiar with that particular portion of American history, Gettysburg is the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. I'm a history nerd through and through, which wasn't (and probably still isn't) exactly a quality that would get a 14 year old adolescent girl any points in the perpetual popularity pursuit that is middle school, but standing on the battlefield that day, I didn't care. I was hanging on to every word our guide shared with us about what had happened on those green fields. I could practically hear the guns cracking as they fired. I looked around and drank in the mist as it began to envelope the hillside we stood on. It felt so real to me, I was genuinely worried that the mist would pull back and reveal hundred year old bodies of young boys frozen in death. There was something about standing in the exact spot, on the same grass, under the same trees that bore witness to such life altering events that absolutely captivated me.

This week, I walked out onto another patch of grass in a field far from Gettysburg, with my 4 year old daughter watching a storm blow in off the ocean off the Florida coast. Neither one of us are very good at remembering to wear shoes, and our bare feet were being tickled by the grass as we made our way to the large staircase that led to the beach. This is the place where, up until about ten years ago, my family and I spent almost every summer of my life. While much of its surrounding geography has changed due to weather, time and developing tourism, the vast majority of it has remained relatively preserved. As I walked with my daughter, a thought came to me: “the grass is the same.” Its a kind of grass I've never felt anywhere else. It almost pushes your feet as you walk, practically propelling you into the next step.

Something in that moment, being on the grounds where so much of my story unfolded, sucked me into memories so vivid they could practically cast a shadow. I could see myself marching in the 4th of July parade as a girl, not much older than my daughter is now. I could feel the splash of the water and the endless hours in the pool and in the ocean. I could taste the meal we were having here when I told my parents I had accepted Christ as my Savior at summer camp. I could hear the conversation with my friends that came with me on this trip over the years, expressing dreams and the “I can't wait to be older” wishes.

Unfortunately, in the getting older, the memories became more vivid and more painful. The heartbreak that I brought to these shores. The angst of hormones, body shaming, unanswered questions, and change. The confrontation from my parents that happened here because of a toxic relationship unraveling back home. The confusion I wrestled with on the porch about who I was and what God wanted from me. Or the last time I was here prior to this trip, the uncertainty of a newlywed who didn't know how to walk through her expectations clashing head first into reality. It was almost too much to bear, having my feet stand in that grass, my own personal battlefield, and I shut my eyes, braced for impact, again fearing I would look up and find evidence of what had been lost scattered across the lawn.

When I reluctantly opened my eyes, instead of carnage, a little hand appeared and a voice followed it that said “Mommy, can we hold hands?” My daughter is in a fiercely independent stage of her growing up and so I hurried to take her hand before she changed her mind. Hand in hand we stood there overlooking the beach, talking about how we could see the storm coming and our trip down to the sand may have to wait a little longer. How easy it is in that moment to tell explain to a child how a storm will indeed pass, and things will be right again, but to live that out is painful and time is sluggish.

What would I have said to all those versions of a younger me running around on that springy grass, crying on the porch, or praying on the beach? How could I have ever foreseen God's faithfulness to carry me through, to meet me where I was and to redeem the broken pieces? With the same simple certainty that I can promise my tearful, blonde headed girl that the sun will come back after this storm passes, my Heavenly Father saw me in all the seasons and storms I brought to this shore. He knew what I would look like today, tired in motherhood, but joyful in heart. He knew what storms would pass, the damage they'd leave in their wake, and how He would redeem it all.

It seems so ridiculously simple and almost trite, but walking it out in this moment is anything but. To stand in a place where I once felt unfixable, unlovable and unwanted in a new season that is anything but perfect, but is ripe with answered prayer, feels nothing short of miraculous. To know that He didn't leave me in the carnage of battle, to know that He was that trustworthy all along, that He was always on my side, and to know that He can see even beyond the season of now brings a lump to my throat. The sweetest part of it? To know He isn't finished and He will never stop seeing me. And the same is true for you:

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” - Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)