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Delight Full

This past 4th of July weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time at Don Pedro Island. The Gulf was warm and restless, bringing soft waves and beautiful seashells to the beachfront. I spent time walking and praying and collecting a variety of  these treasures. In fact many still had sea life in them, so I found myself heroically tossing them back into the Gulf, hoping my pitching arm did the job sending them to safety.

At one point I was on the edge of the water and sat down to soak it all in. The gulf is typically still, but to my delight, the gentle waves moved in rhythmically and tossed me back and forth over and over. I found myself giggling like a little child, because no matter how hard I tried to resist and sit steadily, the next wave would come and wrestle me to a new spot on the shore.

I soaked in the warm sun, the blue sky, the blue-green water and strong, yet soft waves. In this quiet moment, I felt the presence of God and His smile as I delighted in the gift of this beauty. Psalm 37:4 (NIV) says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”   The Oxford Dictionary defines “Delight” as joy, glee, gladness, excitement or happiness. Obviously each of us delights in different things, but I do believe that true “Delight” is of the Lord and consists of purity and beauty.

That same weekend while walking on the beach with my sister, she spoke of her youngest son when he was only a few months old. Our older brother had come to visit and meet his newest nephew for the very first time. She spoke of how he lifted him firmly into the air to get a good look and this adorable nephew of mine gave out the most magnificent gurgle and giggle. Clearly my nephew was experiencing delight and his response brought delight to my brother who continued to do this exercise generating ongoing gurgles and laughs. Even as my sister shared this story 20 years later, I was amazed at how she found delight  in the very memory.

We live in a world that is wrought with the impact of sin. Jesus even said that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33). The events of the news over the past week are filled with sadness, disparity and darkness, sometimes it is hard to feel hope or delight when we consider the current events both in the world and perhaps even in our personal trials. In that same verse, John 16:33, Jesus said “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Now more than ever, it is time to draw close to the only one that brings victory even in such harsh times.

Take delight in the Lord, what stirs your heart to delight? He beckons you to meet Him there and let Him give you the desires of your heart…..

Restoration

Back in my early twenties I was dating a guy, and early in the relationship he took me to the beach.  The beach was beautiful, the sand looked like sugar, and along the edge of it were several bluffs and areas with plants that had been enclosed with ropes and posts. There were signs posted, indicating that a Beach Restoration project was in place. Additionally there were signs with warnings that there was a $500.00 fine for anyone who uprooted the sea oats (the vegetation used to create a protective barrier and help restore the receding beach).

Well the guy I was with was hoping to impress me, so he jumped into the corded off area and plucked a sea oat and gave it to me as if it were a rose. I of course swooned over his bravado, and didn’t really think about his cavalier attitude toward the restoration project, or how he would have felt if he had been caught and fined. In fact once he handed it to me, it never occurred to me that I was the one most at risk for being fined since I was holding the evidence of our rebellion.

Nevertheless much time has passed, and the guy and that symbolic sea oat are long gone. The vegetation and bluffs at that beach, however remain and are beautifully built up and continue to stand guard over the beachfront. I began to research “Restoration” and here are a few simple facts

Merriam Webster defines “Restoration” as:
The action of returning something to a former owner, place or condition by the action of repairing, fixing, mending, refurbishing or re-establishing it.

Dictionary.com defines “Restoration” as:
Renewal, Revival, or to Reinstate.

Wikipedia listed Beach Restoration as synonymous with Beach Re-nourishment. It is a process using outside sources to replace and replenish lost sand and beach erosion that occurs from storm damage, and human activity both in the nearby ocean and on the beachfront.

The California Division of Boating and Waterways conducted the California Beach Restoration Study in 2002, and determined that failure to restore the beaches can result in diminished recreational opportunities, lost tourism revenue and increased damage from coastal storms. Basically failure to restore and re-nourish results in a loss of healthy fun, a negative financial impact and the potential for ongoing and increased damage and diminishment is imminent.

There are different options, according to the California Study, to restore impacted beaches. These options include constructing offshore reefs as a protective barrier, building seawalls or restoring sand dunes.  In the case of the nourishment restoration process, sand is used as a coastal defense and is placed against a beach bluff as a protective barrier. The benefit of this more natural approach is that there are less negative affects from artificial barriers and hard structures. The replenishment and nourishment process is ongoing and repetitive because it is not permanent, but it is a more natural and synergistic means of helping create a larger sand reservoir by pushing the shoreline further toward the sea.

In order to gain the most effective nourishment or restoration project outcome, the sand used to fill must be compatible to the native beach sand. Understanding the core elements consisting of the beach is essential to success in using the right nourishment, replenishment, restoration components and process. The success of all of this effort depends on accurately providing the compatible material.

Beaches aren’t the only thing that feel the impact from the storms of life and the potential plethora of negative human impact. Our heart, mind, body and soul can be pummeled by the hardships that life can dish out. We too can try to build protective barriers to stave off further loss and damage to ourselves.  Once initially wounded, many of us tend to use hard structures (emotional walls) and at times unhealthy coping skills to protect ourselves from being hurt, shamed, ridiculed or feeling like a failure. The thing about building hard walls is that they can’t be penetrated in either direction, even good things cannot pass through from ourselves to others, or vice versa. It is difficult to receive or give nourishment, replenishment or restoration through an impermeable barrier, even if it does serve some purpose in keeping out negative debris. The longer term effect creates a stagnant impact in our lives.

When an individual’s heart and soul are worn down and lean, they may become withdrawn or less vibrant and it often results in a loss of fun activity and interaction with others. The financial impact can result as one attempts to fill their empty soul by means that may deplete their resources and heart even more. In a discouraged state, an individual may miss out on opportunities that would enhance or benefit them more financially, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Essentially in sadness and discouragement we often become even more vulnerable to future life storms and calamity.

So how does one seek restoration, re-nourishment and replenishment when so much damage has left us feeling completely washed out and worn out? Of course some things are obvious, ensuring that we get sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise for both our mind and body are positive coping skills. Reaching out to trusted, tried and true friends or family for encouragement and companionship is yet another healthy replenishment skill. It is also good to step out of our own limitations and learn a new skill, craft or sport. For some, professional counsel, coaching, pastoral or even possibly medical help may be required. The truth is though, even if we do all of these things, they won’t ensure that we will have re-nourished and restored our heart and soul sufficiently.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV) says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6 (NIV) says “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes (restores, re-nourishes) my soul. He guides me along the right paths…. My cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Those other attempts at restoration are good and important and may help for a while, but your core (heart and soul), was created by our Heavenly Father. True Restoration and Re-nourishment for our wounded and hungry heart and soul can only be properly replenished by Him. Just as Beach Re-nourishment needs native sand for stability in replenishment, the core grain of our native soul needs our Creator to complete the process in us. In Jesus, we can continue to seek replenishment from Him our true source, and He invites us to do so daily in prayer and in His Word. Don’t miss this important Truth, He (Jesus) is all that you need, so take that step reach out to Him, He is right there with arms wide open.

 

Bundled

A couple of months ago, my kids came to visit while on Spring Break. They have had a busy year, so I was extremely excited to have 2 or 3 days with them. They are after all college kids, and they didn’t want to spend their entire break with their mother. I pondered what to do with my young adult offspring. I wanted it to be special and memorable, so of course I planned a weekend at the beach.

In spite of the ridiculous Spring Break hotel rates, I booked a place on one of our favorite beach spots. It is surrounded by plenty of fun restaurants, live music and available activities on the property. I was so eager to have some fun quality time together, so I invited my sister and her family to join us as well. Our kids grew up together and we rarely have time to get together as a family.

I planned and packed and bought groceries. The weather forecast was indicating low to mid 70’s, perfect! We arrived mid-evening that Friday and it was quite cool, by Florida Standards, it was cold. There was a wind and the temps were upper 50’s, we weren’t packed for this, so we bundled up with what layers we had and went for a walk to find a nice restaurant to grab dinner and catch up.

The restaurant was packed and the only seating was outside. The ambiance and food was excellent, and we attempted to enjoy our time together, but it was cold!!!! Still optimistic, we enjoyed catching up and returned to the hotel. I braved it and went to find some live music, while the kids became absorbed with their electronics.

The next morning was gorgeous! I looked out of the hotel window and the sun was shining, the palm trees were swaying and the gulf was an inviting blue green. I slathered on sun screen, donned my bathing suit and headed out for a walk on the beach and some time with God. Burrrr…. from inside it was a gorgeous beach day, but that wind from the night before was in full spectrum, hence the swaying palm trees. It was early though, and I was confident that the sun would warm things up as the morning moved into day.

Spoiler alert, the weekend weather was gorgeous and stunning, when you were inside looking out through a window. The temperatures were technically in the low 70’s, but the windchill was so strong, it felt like the temperatures were in the 50’s. Now I know that any Snow Birds reading this might scoff and say that’s perfect, but as a Florida Native, that is too cold for lounging on the beach.

My sister and I and our kids made the most of it, we attempted to lounge on cabanas by the water and we certainly enjoyed catching up and had lots of laughs, but the pictures from that weekend  reflect the atmosphere. I am in a bathing suit with a towel bundled tightly around me, no warm sunny glow or smile, just a shivering bundled middle-aged woman.

One thing is for sure, we can plan and arrange how we want life to be, but we don’t have total control of the events, surroundings or people involved. Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Holy Bible NIV). Of course it is good to have a plan, and to anticipate and work towards the favorable outcome you desire, but it is also good to remember this truth from God’s Word and look for the gift bundled in the unexpected.

That beach weekend was expensive and cold, and not quite how I had envisioned it would be, but our family came together and had a rich time of connecting and laughing. Perhaps if the weather had been better, we might have been more distracted and disconnected, eager to soak up the sun and walk the beach to see the sights. As the weekend concluded, we all agreed that it was good…..

 

 

The Far Side Of The Sea

A dear friend and I were heading back from the beach a few days ago, and he said to me, “You realize that there is only so much you can write about in regards to the beach and sand.”  I smiled, because, of course he is right, and Sand Between My Toes is about the Journey of Restoration,  not the beach in and of itself.

The beach, however is a place that draws me, I never grow weary of it.  I love to look at the natural beauty and marvel at the variety of people as they experience the sand between their toes.This recent trip to the Gulf was especially charmed, it is my favorite beach. The sand is soft and white, and it is composed of a high percentage of Quartz, so it is always cool to the touch, especially between my toes.

This recent season of my life has left me searching for what is next.  I find myself in the “Empty Nest” category, and although I thought I would just slide right into it, this season has proven to create some unanticipated challenges. I won’t go into the details of those challenges, much has been said and written about the “Empty Nest”, but spiritually, I have felt the Lord pressing on me to take inventory of my faults.

My Life Coach training moves me in the direction of looking at the strengths of an individual, including myself, and honing in on making the most of those strengths and thriving in that energy and space. Naturally, I was not eager to take stock of my faults, but I have been taking notes , pondering them and praying release from their grip on my past choices, relationships and future. What could become an exercise that would lead to feelings of failure and inadequacy, is a process by which I am learning to entrust them to Jesus and “Forget the former things….”  (Isaiah 43:18) Holy Bible N.I.V.

Psalm 139:2 says “You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all of my ways.” Verses 9-10 go on to say “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me.” Verse 17, “How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them, Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”  Holy Bible N.I.V.

I  don’t quite know what is next for me, but I am still and at peace knowing the truth of His Word.  Transformation of my faults start with my thoughts and heart as they are restored by the sacrifice and resurrected life in and through Jesus Christ my Lord. The truth is that the journey encompasses the good and the bad, we each are broken creatures. Despite that truth, we are deeply Loved and given opportunity for New Life in Jesus. In Him, I can even look at my faults and know that they are the former things that have no authority over my life and future.

What is next? New Life in Jesus, even if I settle on the far side of the sea………..I hope and pray that you seek out and experience this gift as well……

 

 

 

 

 

Treasures of the Deep

I saw a Fox News post  a few days ago, reporting that a treasure  was found in a sunken ancient cargo ship near Israel. The ship was filled with artifacts, statues, and idols that were estimated to be approximately 1600 years old. In fact the post indicated that the deep ocean sand, that had kept this ship and contents covered for so many years, had actually preserved the statues  as if they were cast yesterday. What a find!

Well, I am not  an Archaeologist or a Treasure Hunter, but it is interesting to think about treasures of the deep. When my kids were young and we would go to the beach, they would dig and play in the sand searching for sunken treasure. Of course we had probably watched too many pirate movies, but it is intriguing to think about that part of history and wealth that is sometimes uncovered from the deep ocean floor.

The treasures often consist of valuable coins and jewels, but also ceramics and crafted artistry, that speaks to life from another time. The value of most of these finds is incredible and in many cases the treasures are returned to their place, of origin to be appreciated in a museum setting.

When I walk the beach I don’t think about uncovering sunken treasure, at least not the kind referred to above. I do ponder the treasures in my life, both past and present. I offer thanks to the Lord for the gift of those relationships , both family and friends, that have entered my life and encouraged me, challenged me and even at times carried me. Some of these relationships go back more than 40 years, others have only existed for 5 years or less, but the richness of the quality of the relationship is as if it were 40 years.

We live in an age where everything is easily disposed of or put aside to be buried and forgotten ( not unlike the hidden treasures of the deep, lost in a storm or crisis). I am learning that all things in this life are temporal.  Money, jobs, titles, stuff, all shift and change in value through the seasons, but true deep intimate relationship with family and friends is greater than any gold or jewel to be found in the ocean’s deep.

I have had relationships shift in different seasons of life; but regardless of the season, prior crisis or storm, that may have resulted in some of these precious treasures to be hidden deep; I do not want to lose any one of them, nor place them in a museum to be viewed at on rare occasion. I want to hold deeply and respond richly with words of life, love and encouragement to my greatest treasures, my family and dear friends.

We all know that relationships come in different layers of intimacy and devotion, but my prayer is that whenever I cross paths with my loved one, no matter how far the distance in time or space, I will embrace them with warmth, strength and much laughter and joy, for it is in you dear family member and dear friend that I am a woman of great wealth….

 

Smoothing Rough Places

Walking on the beach quiets my soul and draws out a peaceful space in my heart and head. When I have the sand between my toes, the noise and troubles of the world come with a different perspective. I think more clearly,and pray more deeply and wait on God, and He is always Faithful to make His presence more palpable.

When I was a child I loved to walk in my bare feet. Whenever  time permitted I kicked off my shoes and headed outdoors. I loved to feel the blades of grass under my feet and the smooth sidewalk as I made my way to my friends house. Once there I would savor the feeling of the soft shag carpet or cool terrazzo floors displayed in many of the homes in my neighborhood. For me, walking barefoot equated with freedom.

Shoes were a necessity for church, school and later work, but I was always eager to break free of the straps, buckles and laces, whenever possible .  I still kick my shoes off whenever the situation permits. Now in my middle years (okay, maybe a bit past the middle, depending on the endpoint), I have noticed that my feet are toughened , rough and calloused. I chalk it up to a life well spent, and often joke that I could probably walk on hot coals and not even notice, but truth be told, the cute sandals don’t look as cute with all of those tough patches and rough places.

I am not a woman that pampers herself often, so I can count on one hand the number of pedicures I have received. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome and the work that is done to smooth the rough places before applying the new color or hue to the toes is both relaxing and exhilarating, but I prefer to head to the beach and walk along the varied terrain and let the sand smooth out the rough patches.

Isn’t it interesting that it takes something coarse like sand to smooth out rough places? In my case the rough places developed over time and I wasn’t even aware that it was occurring. I wasn’t aware that my feet were becoming tough and less sensitive and well quite honestly unsightly. I think sometimes life circumstances and choices can have the same effect, we fall  into a pattern of relationship or behavior that creates rough spots and may even harden our hearts and minds to matters that we should be sensitive to and responsive to.

At times my heart and mind enter coarse times and seasons, some which have fallen upon me and some of which I have walked right into. Yet when I walk through it with my heart and eyes set upon the Lord, Trusting in His will, there is a smoothing effect in my  character.  I think of Luke 3:5 “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth…”  (Holy Bible,N.I.V.)

The next time you are considering  a pedicure, find the nearest beach instead and go into the presence of His Beauty with an open mind and heart…

I Love the feeling of sand between my toes.

There is a serenity that releases within me when I step into the soft sands by the ocean. So many senses are awakened when I am at the beach. The sand between my toes generates  a coarse granular  impact that results in a smoothing out of rough places.

Isn’t it funny, a grain of sand is so tiny, but the sands on a beachfront  represent multitudes of larger rocks and shells that have been weathered through life’s storms and the basic movement of the tides . A newly formed beauty with regenerated purpose.

Sand is even referenced in the changing of seasons and the passing of time. It is interesting that sand alone is considered to be  a risky foundation when building a structure, but when a storm is coming, sandbags are used to shore up and hold off surging floodwaters.

Like everything in life, a place, purpose and season formed by the Creator. My hope and prayer is that God will make smooth the way before you and refresh you in this place, wherever you find the sand between your toes, whether on a serene beach, or trekking through a lonely desert.