beach or desert: a matter of perspective

We had a beach day this morning. One of several we have been able to enjoy this summer now that our daughters are better able to enjoy sand-castle building and wave jumping (rather than sand-eating and rushing-too-far-into-the-ocean as they’ve done previously). It was perfect beach weather: 90 degrees, with a breeze coming off the ocean, hot but with the cold refreshing ocean to dip into as needed. And our girls had so much fun with the other family we met there, who have a teenage daughter whom they adore and who is SO great at playing with them. I even had a chance to read two whole chapters in the novel I brought (which before has been merely wishful thinking). It was fabulous. Like turning over a new page of the seasons of our family’s life, pun intended.

But then there was the walk back. And it felt like a desert because of the wide, wide beach. The sand we had all enjoyed playing with now felt hot and sticky and magnetic as we trudged the dozens of yards back to the boardwalk, and then to our car. The refreshing saltwater had dried out my skin, leaving a salty-sticky residue in its place. Beach flies had bitten my ankles. And there was all of our gear to haul back. The beach chairs, the snacks, the towels, buckets, shovels, even (yes) a portable/foldable potty for our potty training rock stars. And one of the girls began wailing. The. Whole. Way. Back.

I was annoyed until I realized that I felt the same way. I love the beach, but there reaches a point where all I really want is to be clean and dry and un-hot. And the only way to get there is trudging back through the sand, over the dunes, into the car, driving on the very long highway until we reach our house. In that long walk back, I felt like the beach turned into a desert. I couldn’t see the ocean; the breeze was nonexistent; miles upon miles (or so it felt) of nothing but sand stretched in front of me. And it could have been the desert, for all I knew.

The desert brings different feelings than a beach day. Connotations of scarcity, drought, survival, complaint, wandering all fit with the desert. And isn’t that how I choose to see life at times? With my “back to the ocean,” as it were, it feels like the desert. Nothing but sand and heat and miles of it stretching in front of you while your child wails and whines the complaint you feel in your own heart. All I had to do was turn around and remember the beautiful morning we had enjoyed there; to catch a glimpse of the crashing waves. To remember that even when it feels like a desert, it’s really a beach if I can see the bigger perspective.

Motherhood particularly challenges me in this way. So many desert moments to trudge through in a given day, week, month, year. But so many beautiful “beach” moments to savor and relish as well. If I have eyes to see, and if I ask God to help me see. His presence with me always transforms deserts into beaches. Because he is Life itself, and there is no scarcity in his presence. 


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