I’m thrilled to be guest posting for my friend Hayley at The Tiny Twig today. Be sure to swing over there and share your thoughts on how to create a life of “more passion and less fuss”…then come back and join us below for our latest installment in our Gift from the Sea series.


I cross my arms over my chest to hug away the chill. I am drenched in sea spray, huddled on a rock at the shore. My thin white slip clings to wet skin and I’m trying to figure why I’ve come to this place without so much as a swimsuit or a beach wrap. Salt water gutters down over soggy tendrils, slides over my cheeks. A naysayer jeers me like a castaway and now my eyes are gutters too.

But now someone steps out of the shadows, sends the discourager on his way, and drapes his arm over my shoulder…grace. In my periphery, the sea swells, a small roller in the ocean stretching tall like a boy who eats his broccoli. It rises more. Swimmers shout. My mother stands on the beachfront watching it lift and watching the little people in its path. “They need you,” she yells out in my direction.

I want to run the other way, but I can’t ignore it. I walk in slow motion toward her, toward it. I crane my neck. It’s starting to look like Hokusai’s Great Wave. Who can have need of me in this? I can barely keep afloat with survival strokes on my own. How am I to pull others along fighting the force of this wave?

I hear a shout here, a cry there. Shallow waters pull back, sucked into the monster. The wave is five times the size of me, way more than over my head, but I can’t block the cries or the pleading eyes. I pound into the water. I’m up to my ankles, my knees, my hips, my chest, that flimsy slip twisting in wild waters. I am so close. I hear them.

And then I am lifted on the swell. I gulp a breath of misty oxygen and just like that the thing whips me into the depths. I somersault and twirl, a woman without gravity. I feel for the bottom of the sea and then reach for the surface. Stale air and the weight of the sea press on my lungs. I bubble out my last breath and clench my palate to seal out the water. But I have got to breathe soon. I look up through stinging saline. Light bounces down. I kick up, but the surface eludes. I open my mouth and gasp. And suddenly I awake to heart pumping hard with adrenaline and my hairline dotted with salty sweat.

I had this dream a decade ago, before my engagement, before my wedding, before my family began. I dreamt it in a foreign country, feeling a little like Daniel, praying often at my window, looking out over a people that didn’t know God’s name. This was a dream I might have liked to take to Daniel, to have him give me the lowdown on all it meant. Maybe I was feeling overwhelmed with the task of the Great Commission. Maybe I was feeling my smallness in the scheme of the universe at my coming of age. Maybe I was feeling in over my head thinking on plans for my future.

The prospect of family life can have that effect: a mixture of awe and fear at the thought of a whole new mission assignment. Who wouldn’t feel in over their head, even if happily, in the task of raising little people to love their Maker, to know their unique gifting and to bless their world? Who wouldn’t shy away from all the warnings about tantrums and middle of the night feedings and making it through babyhood only to catch your breath for the teenage years?

But real life resolves the “To be continued…” pause in the wave story, decides whether it is to go on record as an exhilarating dream or horrible nightmare. The hero in the dream, the one who came up beside me and draped his arm over my shoulder…that was the guy who just wouldn’t quit loving me. I knew it even then that he had some guts. So much so that he showed up in my dreams when I was 11,000 miles away from home for the year.

A few years later, I married that guy and got to work building a family with him. Soon after we delivered our first baby, my friend Sarah asked me how I was handling all of the new demands of parenthood. There had been some stressful moments seeing as my newborn wanted to nurse every 45 minutes, even through the night. But as I talked with her, we decided it was a lot like swimming in the ocean. You’ve got to pull hard at the waves to rise above them. You’ve got to put in some muscle and some grit. You’ve got to get the heart pumping and gulp down big breaths of air. She put it this way: “I could say things like– ‘It’s such hard work, you actually have to move your arms to stay above the water! I feel like I’m always kicking my feet! I have to breathe in between waves– ugh!’ But, then I would miss that the ocean is HUGE. The water rushing over my arms and legs, the ability to move about in it, all of this is a gift.”

And there was more. I didn’t have to swim the tide alone. On one of our first sleepless nights back at home, Craig said it would only make things worse if we felt sorry for ourselves. He was with me and we would get through it together. This was a team sport. The sleepless nights, the over-stimulation, the tantrums, the ins and outs of feeding, bathing and clothing little people…it takes hard strokes to push through it all. We force our arms through the water pulling more than our weight, and together we ride the wave instead of being pulled under by it.

All this exercise to the muscles and lungs, it strengthens our bond like the cement that holds Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beloved oysters in the oyster bed: “Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. (Try and pry an oyster from its ledge!)…. For marriage which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, but many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments.”

For all my past fear in losing my footing and being pulled under, I chuckle to find myself now so grounded in this stage of life…and actually liking it. I am with AML: “Its form is not primarily beautiful, but functional. I make fun of its knobbiness. Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences. But its tireless adaptability and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes even my tears…. I will not want to leave it.” Oh, tears…my firstborn turns five this week. We are about one quarter done with raising him. That is a whole new wave rising up over my head. Indeed…I will not want to let family life go.

But I am encouraged by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, this woman who boldly paddled through family life and beyond, that “there is still the afternoon opening up, which one can spend not in the feverish pace of the morning but in having time at last for those intellectual, cultural and spiritual activities that were pushed aside in the heat of the race…. In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon…. For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth?” And, Lord willing, my husband and I will swim those new waters as a team with the strength of all kinds of love that we built here in the hard work of family life.

{This week’s post is based on Chapter 5, “Oyster Bed” in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. View all entries in the series here.}


So, what’s your take? Pick one or more of the reflection questions in the comments section and enter a reply to share your thoughts. All subscribers’ comments on the weekly Gift from the Sea posts (shared on Mondays in June and July) will be entered for a drawing at the end of our Summer Book Club 2012.