Plea for Grace

Ocean Memoirs

Posted on: January 12, 2008

 This afternoon I’m sitting in my warm hotel room, but outside my window is the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.  We are near Nags Head, NC, in the Outer Banks.  Right now there is cloud cover, and, would you believe it, snow flurries! but I see just a hint of blue sky trying to peek out amongst the gray clouds.  There is hope that we will be able to see the sunset on the Sound side.

I love the ocean; I have since I was a little girl.  Until age four I lived in Brookings, OR, which is a Southern Oregon coastal town.  I don’t remember much, but I do remember being on the beach, eating sandwiches which were more sand than peanut butter and jelly, and bracing my small self against strong wind gusts.  I remember the fire pits on the beach, and crab — delicious crab.

We moved to California when I was four, and though we didn’t live in a coastal town, we lived about thirty-five miles from Bodega Bay (anyone old enough to have seen Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”?) and fifty-five miles from San Francisco.  Going to the beach meant watching the ocean, and ice-cold, numb-your-feet-and-legs cold water, very sharp rocks and looking for sea lions.  Of course there was fish and chips, eaten outside in the cold wind, with your hair slapping in your face.  Building sand castles, and watching them be washed away.  Finding small tide pools and seeing starfish.  Gathering drift wood.  Going to the zoo and seeing the ocean.  Watching the big ships set sail on the Pacific on the way down to San Francisco (it wasn’t until years later that I realized we were passing Mare Island and those ships were headed to VietNam, filled with sailors headed off to war).

In high school, the ocean meant youth group trips to the beach, and the yearly all-night youth night, playing football on the beach at midnight, with a roaring fire and hot dogs (if you liked burnt ones).  Walks along the beach with our dog (he took his first drink of salt water and didn’t want to return to the ocean).  Sitting and walking and listening to the constancy of the waves.

I went to college in Michigan, which has a rather large lake (even with waves) but it wasn’t the Pacific.  On winter break I would don my winter coat, with hood and mittens, a book, a lawn chair, and a thermos of coffee.  I would find a large rock that made a small wind break and sit and read and listen and smell.  It was so good for my soul. . .

Marriage returned me to Michigan, the Piedmont valley of North Carolina, southern Arizona, and finally, Savannah, Georgia!  An ocean!  Tybee Island, watching Nate and Diana chase fiddler crabs, fish camp, all the shrimp I could eat (I was pregnant with Tanya and craved shrimp), the constant waves.

Then we moved to Interior Alaska — the furthest I’d been from an ocean (the Arctic Ocean wasn’t a possibility or a real desire; nor the Bering Sea; the Pacific at Anchorage was 360 miles away).  I remember going to visit my parents with the kids, and going to the Pacific in January or February.  The kids had a grand time walking along the beach; we were virtually the only ones there (it was winter and no one goes to the beach in the winter).  As you can see, I would take most any opportunity to visit the ocean.

Now we live in Oregon, and the Pacific is about two hours away (or so).  Every time I go, it’s like the salt air and the sound of the waves comfort me, and feed my soul.  there’s a sense of safety I feel, even when there’s a storm and the winds are raging and the sea is foaming.  I love the ocean; I love that God created the ocean.

So, it seems natural that my husband and I would make time for an ocean visit, even though our son lives in Central Virginia.  We had never been to the Outer Banks before; I’m so glad we came.  I just looked out the window again, and there’s just a hint of pink sky, but it looks as though there won’t be much of a sunset over the Sound. . .

Watching the ocean, listening to the waves, reminded me of some Scripture. . .(thank you, ESV)

 Lamentations 3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 36:5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.

Why is it that when I come to the majestic ocean, where I am enthralled and safe and yet feel so insignificant and small, I am so captivated by the beauty and the majesty and the strength?  It’s like the steadfast love of the Lord, which is so big and strong and mysterious and captivating and terrifying, yet safe and secure.  God wraps me, little, insignifcant me, in His steadfast love, His unchanging love; His love as constant as the ocean, and even greater because even the seas have their boundaries, but the Lord’s steadfast love knows no bounds.  God is endless, majestic, untameable — and the ocean waves, the salt air, the sea wind (no, it’s rarely a breeze when I’m at the ocean)– they remind me of His constant love for me.

I love the ocean. . .

As a side note, I had to just giggle at the snow flurries when we stood on the balcony of the hotel room.  You see, each time we have gone somewhere with our darling, Charlotte, NC-raised, daughter-in-law, the weather has been unusually cold and the poor girl practically freezes to death!  We really thought we were safe this time; after all, this is North Carolina, even if it is January!

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