It wasn’t. “Just another broken bit.” I sighed as I stiffly straightened up and walked on.
Over and over- I saw the curved, white edges I was searching for peeping out from the sparkling sugar sand like gold coins in a buried treasure chest.
Over and over I slowed. I reached down. I nudged curved edged shells from their sandy beds. I sighed. I cringed. I hurt.”Technically,” I wasn’t breaking (many) post surgical rules.I had my brace on. (Which- as a side note- could double as a nuclear shelter for a mouse. Its tough. Just sayin.) It took me 45 minutes to figure out I could use my feet to nudge them from their sandy beds. (I never said I’m quick, it took me a while to figure out a less painful way to check for brokenness.)
I kept walking.
I kept looking.I kept nudging. I alternated between toes and hands when I thought I wasn’t being thorough.
Between nudges and signs, I mechanically, I snapped pictures. More out of habit than heart. More of scientific documentation than search for beauty. The more pieces of sand dollars I found, the more frustrated I became. “With all these pieces… there HAS to be a whole one here, somewhere. Or maybe, this beach lies.” (Slight paranoia may have been setting in. Maybe a delayed reaction to the anesthesia? Or, maybe just me…)
I found all kinds of shells. I filled my pockets with them. For Noah. But, I was disappointed. I wanted a sand dollar. I didn’t want whelks or mollusks, oysters or scallops. I didn’t want sea sponges or sea weeds. I wanted a sand dollar.
I know finding whole sand dollars on the beach is rare. I didn’t care. I WANT ONE. NOW.
Sand dollars have meaning. There is a legend . Cheesy or not- it resonates with my spirituality. In truth, I was looking for more than a shell. I wanted something to remind me that I’d made it to the beach after the pain. The surgery. The hassle. The fear. I kept looking. As if in looking, I would find a promise that the surgery worked. That I’d soon be fine. That someday I won’t hurt.
I kept reaching down. Until it hurt. (The irony of searching for a promise of comfort by hurting myself- isn’t lost to me now-but- it made sense at the time. Doesn’t everything make sense, at the time?) I kept nudging. I kept walking and bending. I prayed. I asked God for a sand dollar. (I’m petty like that. God knows it already.) I may have walked into the waves thinking the sand dollars are just out of reach in the surf. Where the doctor specifically told me not to go. He may have said: “No wading in the waves- falling would be dangerous.” Or, something like that…But, I did it.
For another 45 minutes.
But- as I walked in search of a sand dollar, camera hanging from my neck brace, legs,back and neck aching from the strain, I found:
Nothing. At least nothing I was looking for.
Just broken bits. Sand quarters, maybe? A few sand dimes. Just. Pieces. In tears of resignation, I picked up some of those disappointing pieces thinking maybe I could patch them together into almost a sand dollar. Then, I made my way off the beach. Everything hurt. I needed to ice my neck. (Or, hit the muscle relaxers, or both.) If the resort had an ice machine- I would have been tempted to ice my whole self in it. (Good thing, it didn’t.)
As I made my way back to our room, my shorts drooped from the weight of shells that were NOT sand dollars. My heart drooped from disappointment.
I carefully stomped up the concrete steps. (Seriously, I stomped carefully.It’s possible.) I was irritated that I had to feel my way with my foot as I stomped. (I can’t look down with the brace on.) I was irritated that I knew I’d done too much bending and was paying for it, and would even more- later. I was irritated that I hadn’t even found what I wanted.
I may have had a mental tantrum:
“Is it too much to ask? Haven’t I been through enough to get a stupid shell? Just so you know….Sand dollars are about YOU, God. I just want a reminder that YOU are here. You know- IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS, WITH ME. Cause I’m just not feeling it. I’m mostly feeling: PAIN. AND TO BE HONEST- I’M PRETTY SICK OF IT.” (Note: the caps are necessary for authenticity- this mental tantrum included a sad misuse of all caps.)
I was the Verruca Salt of the Sea Horse Resort.
Maybe, the Verruca Salt of Long Boat Key.
Quite possibly The Verruca Salt of Florida.
I was, potentially, the Verruca Salt of the universe. (Side note- did you know “verruca” is the medical term for wart? Nice.Also: gross.)
I just didn’t know it.
I “let” the door slam behind me when I got to my room. (I may have helped it slam, a little.)
I plucked the shells from my pockets and put them into a colander and rinsed them off. I changed my soggy shorts to avoid getting busted for going into the surf.
All the while the mental tantrum/prayer played in the background like a spoiled brat movie-sound track stuck on loop:
“I just don’t get it, with all these PIECES of sand dollars, I KNOW there are WHOLE sand dollars out there. Why couldn’t I find just ONE. Is one too much to ask for? And since we’re talking- I know you created the whole beach and everything- so is one measly little neck healing too much to ask for????”
I set the shells and bits of sand dollars in the sun on the patio, to dry. I grabbed my ice pack and headed to the couch.
I decided to upload the pictures from my camera to my iPad. “At least that’s something I can do without pain.”
I must have seen them as I did….. but this time I really saw them
My eyes filled with tears as I finally saw the bits of broken sand dollars. Lots of them.
And the beach. That I’d just walked. For an hour and a half.
2 weeks after surgery that saved my hands and stabilized my neck.
I’d missed the point. (again.) I was looking for God in a sand dollar and he’d been there in the expanse of the shore.
I wanted to hold a sand dollar- …. instead he let me walk and bend. and reach. and nudge.
It is enough. It is so much more than enough. And I almost missed it.
Today- I hold the broken bits of sand dollars. Today, I continue to rest and heal. Today, I see the pictures of the beach and wonder at his presence. And his patience. And at the fact that he got me to the beach, at all.
Dear Lord- I know you are big enough to handle my tantrums without deeming me a “bad egg” and sending me down the garbage chute. Thank you for all you have done and are doing in my heart, my body and my soul. Help me rejoice as I heal and wait as you work. I love you lord- and hold all these things in my heart- there is more than a legend in a sand dollar— there is beauty in those broken bits.
Some verses to think about if you’re like me…. mentally tantrum-ing and totally missing the fact that you are ON THE BEACH….walking…. and healing….from Isaiah 40….
25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Lord- I’m weary— and you know I fainted BEFORE my stupid surgery…. please help me to see you in this process- and not to miss it because I’m too busy looking for sand dollars….renew my strength, and thank you for letting me walk the beach…. you’ve already begun the work I’m asking you for- I love you lord- amen.
Are you struggling?
I pray you’ll see the truth. I pray you’ll find the joy…..
And I pray you find the courage to go a head and have that mental (or not so mental) tantrum… sometimes we need to get the angst out before we can find the peace……
A repost from a few years back….wow. I was whiney- and this was shortly before we found out about my husband’s cancer….