The foot of the Ocean

Enjoying a few warm moments this weekend in Panama City Beach, FL

I find it ironic sometimes how much I love being at the ocean. It's ironic for me in particular, because I have no desire to ever be IN the ocean due to my ridiculously irrational fear of fish and all things that live in the water. I will put my toes in as long as I can see the bottom, but if I see anything in the water, even from far away, I am outta there faster than a speeding bullet. But, I digress...

What I meant to say is, there is just something about being near the ocean. The white noise of the waves, the view and appearance of infinity....it's breathtaking. It's hard to see this view and not just stop to reflect. 

Every year for the past 4 years, I have gone to Panama City Beach, FL in January for Gulf Coast Getaway to lead worship. Every year, it has proven to be a pivotal point in my life.

The first year I went with Jeremy and it was just the most incredible experience. Even days before he died, we talked about how much we were looking forward to going again in just two short months. We could never afford to travel for leisure, so we always squeezed our experiences into these trips. We had never witnessed worship like that before, we got to do what we loved, and we met so many cool people as a result of that trip. 

The second year, I was 8 months pregnant and newly widowed. I remember praying our plane would crash into the ocean. I remember aching and wrestling through worship, and marking every spot that Jeremy had stood the year before. I remember 1,600 college students raising $10,000 for my family and being overwhelmed in my gratitude for the hearts of so many who were carrying me forward. 

Last year, I remember a different kind of wrestling, as I was battling the judgement of many for my new relationship, but feeling my heart healing as well. It was also the weekend that Steve told me he loved me, while I heard the crash of the waters in the background, and the beating of my heart echoing behind. 

This year, I was able to bring Steve with me. I needed him to know why this place was so sacred to me, why I loved it so much. Every year, I've spent time at the foot of the ocean: comforting a friend who grieved a betrayal of the worst kind from her best friend, cursing and sobbing in the middle of the cold night, wondering why I had to keep on breathing without Jeremy by my side, swelling with joy and confusion at the uncertainty of life and of what the future would hold for me, and hand-in-hand with Steve, enjoying a new experience together, and also grieving that I would never again be hand-in-hand with Jeremy in that place we so loved. 

This place, and the ocean represent a lot for me. Fear, growth, question, pain, struggle, and ultimately, hope and healing. That's why I love it so much. The ocean challenges me. It humbles me. And it heals me. It's a place that reminds me, even in the midst of knowing at the foot of the vast ocean that I am small and insignificant, that I am also not alone and that I matter. 

The ocean reminds me that if I close my eyes and listen, take a deep breath and soak in the moment, I will have survived one moment. If I can survive one moment, I can survive the next, one breath at a time.


Lora Smothers said...

Two years ago I knelt in anguish in my seat at GCG as they told your story on the big screen. I had gotten married just two weeks before Gulf Coast that year, and I couldn't breathe at the thought of your loss. I sobbed and cried out to God on your behalf. Afterwards my husband and I came to you personally to offer our meager support.

This year, my heart swelled as I watched you dancing the dance of a conqueror on that stage. Praise God for all that He has brought you through! I rejoice with you, my sweet sister. Thank you for courageously sharing your journey through this blog. I am blessed by it.

Lora Smothers

~Amber~ said...

Ah, thank you for this post! I have a fish and anything that lives in water phobia too! I refuse to ever swim in water that I can't see the bottom of. I love to swim...in a pool. But I am not getting in a lake or ocean, ever. LOL! I get made fun of all the time! Glad I am not alone in this fear!

Vicki Lindsey said...

We are so thankful that we could make this place special for you too. The moments you describe are so vivid for me as well. I love you, friend. :)

Lana said...

I've been at Gulfcoast all 4 of those years you described as a volunteer. This year, I was beyond moved by the sheer joy you displayed and true faith that the God of angel armies goes before you. Thank you for your humility in your writing, and the power you let Him display in you.

Lana Spry


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