We Are About Relationships
Last week my family and I returned from our annual Dillon Trip to Sunset Beach. Every year we go with David’s parents, sisters and brother-in-law to the southern coast of North Carolina for ten days of rest, swimming, reading and togetherness. (Oh, in addition to the nine human inhabitants of the beach house, we have two furry ones: our dog Gabby and her “cousin” Peggy.)
This trip to the beach is a long-standing tradition. David’s family has been vacationing at Sunset Beach for about thirty years. I’ve been part of the family for the last fifteen of those years, and it has become an essential part of my summer. It is an important event in the life of our family. A ritual. Part of the rhythm of our year.
The only downside to this annual vacation is that it messes with my regular spiritual routines. On a normal day during the school year, I have time for prayer and silence in the morning after everyone has left for school and work. But when you’re sharing a house with eight other people, it’s hard to find that solitude.
But it’s not a bad thing to have your routines messed with. In fact, it can be a tremendous gift. And it certainly was for me. The change of setting and schedule gave me opportunities to commune with God in different ways, ways that I don’t really get in my day-to-day life at home.
For example, one morning I rode a bike to the end of Sunset Beach to see if I could glimpse the oyster catchers who were nesting there. (Oyster catchers are birds, not people. I’d never heard of them until I became part of this family of bird-watchers.) As I walked around the tip of the inlet, two of the unusual birds flew right in front of me. A few minutes later I caught one through the lens of my binoculars, and it was feeding its young. Amazing! I don’t know how long I stood there with my binoculars just watching these fascinating birds, but I definitely lost track of time.
My time at the beach immerses me in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. I enter fully into the world of birds, fish, snakes and crabs. Of course there’s the power and wonder of the ocean, but there’s more than that. The house we stay in faces a marsh, and we sit on the deck and watch the snowy egrets wading, the osprey going back and forth with fish in their talons, the fiddler crabs waving to us from the mudflats and the shy clapper rails sneaking out into the water for a quick bath. I found myself sitting on the deck of the house with my binoculars totally losing track of time as I watched God’s creatures going about their business.
It’s not often in my daily routines that I stop to watch birds. It’s not often that I stop long enough to notice God’s creation around me. The birds and squirrels in my yard don’t often take my breath away. In my day-to-day life—filled up with emailing, texting, working, cooking, parenting, producing—it is rare that I lose track of time.
The beach helps me to do that. But maybe it’s possible to remain in a state of wonder, open and attentive to God and God’s creation every single day. Maybe I could start by not packing away those binoculars. There are some pretty amazing mockingbirds right outside my window.