Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On Being Spontaneous....and Refined Like Sea Glass

A few days ago, I was craving a certain restaurant chain's breakfast (you know, that one you can only find off a highway with the fried apples and hash brown casserole that I, if given the chance, will personally request as part of my last supper.) 

There are only two in my county. One west of my house and one east. The west one is much closer. I could have been there in 10 minutes, seated, and sipping my coffee before I even hit the highway that led to the other one. But I've been going through some things and I didn't want to run into anyone I knew or who knew me. So, I headed east. 

It's a good 35-minute drive. Normally, I balk at anything over 15 minutes away. I've become such a homebody over the years. But, like I said, I've been going through some things and I've come to enjoy the time alone driving around with my playlist streaming through the Bluetooth. It gives me time to reflect. Time to sing, which is like breath to me. I might dance a little in my seat from time to time. Yesterday, I laughed out loud at something a friend said on the phone and the person in the car in front of me eyed me through their rear view mirror because I was leaning forward, hunched over the steering wheel, smiling so wide and laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks. Seriously, I nearly wrecked my car. I love my friends. 

I digress.

Before I arrived at the restaurant, I felt this tug inside. It was a fleeting moment of spontaneity that I've sequestered since having babies and needing a car load of diapers and gear and supplies and half of Target for two nights away from home. But since my babies are grown now and all that ridiculous packing of items you never end up needing is behind me (thank you Jesus) something crossed my mind as I was preparing to exit the highway for the restaurant. I thought, I should just keep going and go to the beach. It came out of nowhere. Like a voice you hear outside your head. Or a backseat driver. But, I was hungry and I love food and so I decided to eat before even remotely entertaining this crazy and unusual thought.

By the time I got to fried apple heaven, it was lunchtime. On a Sunday. Just after church let out, of course. You can guess the rest. I found one of the last two available rockers and settled in for the 30-minute wait for a table of ONE. Ugh. But I've been embracing the opportunities to just sit and be more and more lately and so I was content to wait my turn, rocking back and forth in tandem with the other 8,000 rockers on the porch that smelled of Sunday perfumes and cigarette smoke. *gag* *hack* *cough*

They called my name. I ate fried apples. (Ok, I ate a lot more than that. I like food.) I sipped my coffee. I read my book. I paid the bill. I left.

Now, just so you know, the beach is three hours away (though, admittedly, I was 35 minutes into the drive already.) And I had nothing with me. No computer. No change of clothes. No clean underwear. No toothbrush. This is a big deal for a Type-A-er workaholic who plans everything out to the letter and brushes her teeth if she gets up in the middle of the night to pee. It's true.

After walking out of the restaurant with a belly full of CB goodness and a coffee to go, I sat in my car in the parking lot, contemplating. The force pulling me toward the beach tugged harder as my reasonable self and my emotional self battled for priority over one another. I knew the ocean air would be good for me. Then I considered work and my client who is expecting me to work. Then I could feel my feet in the sand at the water's edge. Then I thought about not having clean underwear. I was obviously conflicted.

I prayed for an answer. I stared at a tree for awhile. I consulted with a friend, who said I should most definitely go, but only if there was someone there I could stay with. It was true. Going alone at this time in my life would not have been wise. I'm grateful for the wisdom and insight my friends so freely give me. 

And then I remembered. I had a friend. At the beach. She had already invited me for the entire weekend but I had turned her down for prior commitments. I texted her to see if the invitation still stood and if she minded me not having a toothbrush or clean underwear. (Clearly, I have issues.) She was thrilled that I would be there in time for dinner.

Two and a half hours later, I was at the beach with just my book, my phone charger, and the clothes on my back. As my feet hit the sand, I exhaled. And I knew. I had made the right decision. I'm thankful for friends who help me make the right decisions, even when those decisions don't make sense and yet make the most perfect sense at that moment.

The next morning, I got up before dawn and raced to the beach to catch the sunrise. I hadn't seen one since my first morning in Andros, and you just can't take a spontaneous trip to the beach with just the clothes on your back and not take in the sunrise.

It was breathtaking.

I spent the next six hours on that beach. Walking. Reading. Praying. Listening. Breathing. Thankful to be there. Grateful for the people who embraced my act of spontaneity with grace and love. It was worth every mile.

One of the things I do when I walk the beach is look for sea glass. A lot of people do. It's rare to find a piece in the first place, let alone one that is smooth and pretty and perfect. But on this morning, I found one. Deep brown, somewhat soft on the face. Still rough on most of the edges, though not enough to cut. Normally, I would throw it back into the water, as it needs more time in the sand and the surf to become worthy of my collection. But I picked it up and resumed my walk at the water's edge, running my fingers on the rough edges of the glass as I went.
Not shortly thereafter I found a second piece. It was the same deep brown, quite possibly and very likely from the same bottle. It, too, needs more time in the rough water. I stood for a moment, examining them side by side as if being forced to decide which one I liked better.
Neither are very beautiful. To be honest, I prefer translucent blue or weathered green ones. But today, these two are exactly what I was meant to find and hold more significance than any other piece I have ever held in my hand.

I walk. I have just finished reading Part One of Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and my thoughts are consumed by something Anne's pastor friend told her when she was considering an abortion. He basically says,"Get quiet for a moment...pay attention to what you hear."
I close my eyes and take a deep breath of crisp, fresh, ocean air. This has become a recurring theme for me over the past five weeks. Deep breaths. And so I listen. I pray. I ask God for his thoughts. And I hear him clearly.

This is why I came. The treasures we stumble upon and the moments God uses to reveal things to us is perfect. These two pieces of trash signified a huge leap in my journey. Progress. Forward movement. And I am at peace.
I decide to keep the second one. It looks like a shield and reminds me of the armor of God I am called to don day after day. Keeping it, with its rough edges and yet-to-be-softened color is a reminder that, like this piece of glass, I am a work in progress, and I can still be loved. I am in the throws of being refined by the wind and the tumultuous waves that still crash so forcefully against the shoreline from yesterday's storm. And God is not finished with me yet.
And with another deep breath and all the strength I can draw from within, I resolve to throw the first piece of glass back into the waves, a reminder that there is still work to be done; that it takes a number of outside forces working together to refine the rough edges that still need refining; and that, in the end, those forces will create something incredibly beautiful. 

And knowing that, for now, is enough. 

Now, If any one of you says I throw like a girl, I will hunt you down, drag you to my yoga class, and see what you think after ten minutes in Goddess pose. Go ahead. Try me.

Go be spontaneous. You never know what God will reveal amidst your leap. But try to remember clean underwear.

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