Of Oceans and Farewells

August, 2021

The ocean is cold as it flows around my ankles. The wind and brazen sun catch the ripples of the waves and the ripples of my heart. I can’t feel my feet anymore, they’re too cold, but I just can’t make myself go back to shore. Because shore means goodbye.

Walking along the ocean, I will my eyes and heart to soak in as much as possible. To stretch these moments out as far as that great expanse in front of me. Goodbye is hard. Anyone can tell you that. I’ve said my share of goodbyes, but this isn’t just goodbye. If I’m honest, I’m scared of going back. Because to me, going back home means going back to the struggles I have been floundering through.

Eventually, I wade back to the sandy beach and leave the clear, cold water behind me. I watch my footprints in the sand and breathe in the mountains and trees until my lungs are fair to bursting. It must be possible to miss something horribly before you even leave it. Because that’s how I feel.

I have seen the goodness of God here, but what lies ahead is even more shrouded than the foggy North-Western Sky.

June, 2022

My hands grip the crevices in the rocks and my feet shift into place. The higher I climb the more I see of the ocean. It laughs and crashes beneath me. The sun is bathing the world in that golden light that seems to slip from behind heaven’s curtain to remind the earth that there’s something more we’re waiting for. The air is salty. I listen to the sound of the wind and waves and feel a little like the seagull that swoops and sways in the air.

Last week I looked down on my favorite beach from the rock described above. Just less than a year ago, I walked the same beach. I remember how I ached with the thought of going home, seven states away. Where the only oceans are the rippling fields of corn.

Well, friends, did you know? Even corn fields can be beautiful. Especially when the sky behind them is dusted with chalk pastels or when a summer thunder storm rolls and flows in a rumbling heartbeat.

But the problem wasn’t the corn field. The problem was me. Me and my questions and thoughts and hurts and insecurities. I didn’t know if I could face going back to where it was just me and them again. But I did go back. And I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor, completely surprised at how good it was to be home. Of course, the feeling didn’t last forever and there were challenges. There were thousands of moments of grace and struggling and healing and struggling again.

If I were to try to tell them all, it would be like trying to sort the sand at the beach. There’s just too much and too much that God did without my even knowing He was doing it. But He did it.

He is working His love in us, wave by wave, sunset by sunset, grain of sand by grain of sand.

Even to be given a grain of His grace is a beautiful gift. A gift lovely enough to turn a dark night into a fighting song. Like a glimpse of a star that sets a whole heart afire with hope. Or like a raindrop that falls on a tear stained cheek in silent comradery.

I got the privilege of attending my older sister’s graduation from Bible school in May. There were many moments of that trip that I treasure. The speech given by the school’s director at graduation is one of them. He was speaking to the students as they prepared to leave, but the truth and courage of it touched my heart too. He was talking about how it would be hard to leave the beautiful, Christ centered community the students had been living in, and he reminded them that the same God they knew here goes with them. Always. Unchanging. That Christ is all we need.

Our endings, middles–each chapter and each page is secure for “In You, Lord, is our hope and we shall never hope in vain” (Te Deum Laudamus, We Praise You, O God. A prayer).

After a hard farewell in 2021, I found such beauty and blessing back at home. I also found it away from home. You know, maybe “found it” is the wrong phrase entirely. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, for the Lord is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:6,1). That doesn’t change the sadness of parting or the twinge of fear of what lies ahead. But whether we face farewells or not, whether we look towards the future with joy or dread, one thing is sure.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

So, courage, dear ones. Courage. May your farewells be scattered with sea glass: promises, beauty, tears, all things that can shine with the light of God’s hope. And may they shine beautifully in the hardest moments.

Just think of all the beautiful reunions that will come when every broken thing is mended. ❤ So now, for the mending, my friends, for the mending,

Josie

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