Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just different

One of our favorite things to do here in Monterey is to go to the beach in Carmel, armed with a dinner picnic basket, shovels, firewood, chairs and lots of extra clothes. We haul what seems like too much gear down the winding stairs and then scout out the perfect spot for dinner, fire, digging and sunset watching. Most of the time we bring along out of town guests or friends to join us in the fun, and it does not take long before everyone is skirting the edge of the ocean, trying to run away from the waves as they break on the long sandy beach. Children and adults alike laugh and giggle even when they get wet and the extra clothes or towels come in handy as everyone settles in for fire, hot food and chat. Noah who typically wants to be in the 'thick' of any action will almost always set out to dig his way to the center of the earth, hardly having enough time to stop for a bite to eat much less time to gallivant and frolic in the water. By the time we leave, he has usually dug himself a hole deeper than he is tall and at times wide enough to fit a few kids in for a final photo op. The walk down to the perfect spot seemed a bit arduous because of all the gear, and the walk back to the stairs and the car, although only a few 100 feet seems even more challenging; by the time we leave it is pitch black, the sun has set long ago, there are no streets lights in Carmel and everyone is carrying at least another pound or two of sand in their clothes, shoes and hair making the trek seem soo soo long. By the time everyone is in the car, shivering, sandy and dead tired all energy is gone, yet it is always unanimous that it was a wonderful time.
I also enjoy the Carmel beach during our early morning beach walk. I meet up with friends and dogs, ladies and our two boys take off for the beautiful ocean view walk to catch up on news, gossip, and exercise. We frequently stop to catch our breath - not because we are out of shape -but because of the amazing, gorgeous and incredible view.
Two weeks ago, we had an incredible storm come through - no not the kind that the East Coast is experiencing with snow and bone-chilling temperatures - but a storm worthy of its name for this area. The wind whipped around and blew over trees as if they were match stick, the rain pelted windows and if there ever was a crevice to seep through the water found it. Some even lost power, and Highway 1 car speeds topped out at 25 mph, and at times came to a complete halt.
When the sun came out again, the trees were cleared off the roads and cabin fever had gotten the best of us, we headed to our favorite beach - Carmel. Words could not describe the change, locals and visitors alike stood in stunned silence as they surveyed what was left of the beach. Initially all access to the beach

was prohibited, but it did not take long before the die-hards found a way down to see first hand what the storm had done. The long, soft, fine sand beach was gone, the waves even at low tide covered almost all of what was left of the beach, 'our perfect spot' from just a few nights ago was completely under water....

It has now been a few weeks and the new reality is setting. I still have a hard time comprehending what happened, but it is true, the beach has changed. What was is no more, and I am not sure when we can come back down to do fires and eat chili out of plastic cups... Noah will not have to choose between frolicking in the water and digging his hole because it will only take him a minute to reach solid rock as he puts his shovel in the sand. There is no need to bring extra clothes, nothing on the beach will remain dry. Yet, despite all the changes, the beach is still amazingly beautiful, it still takes my breath away as I join my
friends for beach walks, or take the boys for an outing after school is done.

What was may never be again, and I miss that; but the new reality is here and it has cast its on spell on me. As I reflect on this, I sense God's teaching me - a gentle nudging kind of teaching , more than a hit me over the head lesson.

Last year my dear friend MaryJo passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. She was someone I leaned on for much, and never did she let me down. Her faith, her strong convictions and her moral character always guided her response. I miss her, and I miss her a lot. Life with her was beautiful, fun and enjoyable. Life without her has to go on, even though we are many who miss her dearly and long for the day we will once again be together in Heaven. It is hard at times to see how life can go on when we lost someone we love.

The beach provided a loose metaphor for life with and life without MaryJo (and other losses I have experienced) The beach was so much fun and so gorgeous before the storm and I miss that now. Yet, the new beach has a different kind of beauty to it, there are things to discover that I had not noticed before. It is still an amazing beach, a beautiful place to spend some time by. The new beach is what I have and what is here to enjoy, the old one is gone. I can spend all my time reminiscing and longing for the old beach, but no matter how much and how intensely I long for it, it will not come back. I have a choice - stay in the past and miss all the present beauty, or live in the present and enjoy God's creation in this new form. I have a choice as I miss my friend, stay in the past or learn from MaryJo and live in the here and now, for that is all we have.

This is a recent photo of the 'beach' - "our spot" is located almost dead center of the photo...

Monday, February 8, 2010

What a great read!

It was with trepidation that I picked up Mary DeMuth’s Thin Places as I rarely enjoy reading biographies. I find it of no interest to read about narcissistic self promoting individuals, rarely having accomplished much note worthy, and frequently settling what would best be described as highly personal family matters in a very public manner; and not seldom leaving me wondering what is truth and what is simply exaggeration for the sake of publicity and an attempt to achieve victim status. Had the author been anyone but Mary DeMuth I probably would not have given the book a second look, but since I have enjoyed every book Mary has authored I wanted to give this one the benefit of the doubt. I am so glad I did, what a treasure This Place is.

Mary is a fantastic writer, and her way with words and language is amazing. The reader cannot help but feeling pulled in to the pages, smelling, and hearing, seeing and feeling as if the words came alive – it is live theater on a page. Few authors can achieve this feat but Mary mastered it; one of the many reasons her books are such a pleasure to read – it involves all senses.

Mary shares her early life and struggles with the reader in a beautiful, caring, yet sensitive manner. There is no self aggrandizement, no exaggeration for the sake of hype and fame, no name calling to hurt and offend. At times, I think she is even a bit too nice to those who hurt her, allowing her deep faith in the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ to shine through.

She details her experiences in a way that helps the reader relate to the pain, suffering and offense; for hers unfortunately is not an unusual story and I suspect many are we the readers who have similar stories buried in the depth of our hearts and minds. She uncovers the truth, exposes the pain for all to see and demonstrates the far reaching impact and consequences in the present of offenses of yesteryear. For those who have walked in her shoes she puts words to feelings, pains, and struggles in a way that validates the reader. For those fortunate enough to have experienced a safer childhood, her descriptions will help put words to the pain so that as one encounters someone with a difficult past one may be able to better comprehend the immensity of the pain and offer a shoulder to cry on, a ear to listen and a mouth to pray for the sufferer.

Mary talks freely about her life, her challenges and her every day struggles as a young girl, teenager, college student, wife, mother and friend. Her writing is so vivid, her description so telling and her honesty so real; at times it felt as if she had written about me, and my challenges – I finally realized I was not alone in thinking these thoughts, acting in these ways or feeling like I feel. Her words were like a soothing balm on open wounds in my heart and soul. Mary offers hope to the hopeless, and points her readers to the one and only one who can heal the wounds of men - our Lord and Savior.

There is only one problem with this book – it is so good it is impossible to put down; causing me to stay up way too late at night!