So I said I was going to be looking for God at work every day, and then I dropped off the internet for over two weeks. I should have considered my vacation schedule before I set a goal for the month, because we were on vacation for two weeks--that's right, two weeks, which has never happened before and may never happen again--the two middle weeks of August, which in essence is "August." We returned home late last night and woke up to school starting and the flowerbed (although lovingly tended by a neighbor) hitting its autumnal fade.
I may or may not post vacation pictures in an ensuing post. We were at Sunset Beach, where we always go, and the pictures are largely the same as always, except not as good, because Lu wasn't there to man the camera, and I just kept taking redundant shots of the same shoreline, trying in vain to capture the grandeur of the expanse of sea and sky and sand that simply cannot be contained in a photo frame. I guess you get a slight sense of the largeness when I try to photograph my people out swimming in the ocean, and all I get is a bunch of water, an angled horizon, and a black speck or two that are the heads of my family members, tiny spots in the massive backdrop. Perspective perhaps, but not engaging photography.
We did some things that we'd never done before.
- One night, we watched a meteor shower from the crow's nest above the house, and I saw my first-ever shooting star, and then another and another.
- We finally went to Crabby Oddwater's, a restaurant just off the island, for seafood. I got scallops, because scallops are what I like best. But Jon and Shannon ordered a giant pot of steamed shellfish to split. It was called "Bill's Hellacious Barge," and it came in a big, black, speckled enamel pot with a deep cover which they lifted to reveal heaps of clams, crabs, oysters, mussels and shrimp. Armed with a few different tools for breaking and prying shells, and small pots of melted butter for dipping, they prevailed and ate every last bit. One particularly stubborn oyster shell refused to crack under any pressure, but Jon was convinced that there was a prize inside. We wrapped it in a napkin to take home. However, upon exiting the restaurant, we found ourselves at the top of a long flight of stairs (everything out there is built on stilts). A patio lay at the bottom of the steps, pale in the moonlight. Jon looked at Shannon with a light in his eye. "Is that concrete?" he asked. When she nodded, he chuckled and hauled off a fierce pitch of the oyster down to the cement where it landed with a splotch, spewing a few tablespoons of water across the ground. He galloped down the stairs to retrieve it, finding it still intact, mostly, but finally cracked in such a way that he could wedge a knife in and open it, which he did with his pocket knife in the van, revealing the largest oyster of the evening, which he then ate with great satisfaction.
- We went to an amusement park in Myrtle Beach, a sweet little place with carnival style rides, where you could buy wristbands and ride to your heart's content. They open at 4 p.m. and stay open late into the night, lights twinkling bright beachy colors against black sky and blacker seawater in the distance. After the heat of the day, the gentle night air felt luxurious.
- We also saw a shark in the surf on Sunday evening, the 9th of August, as we went for a sunset stroll along our beach. It was 3-4 feet long with a prototypical dorsal fin, right there in the water at the edge of the surf where there was a drop-off under the waters of the high tide. We almost could have reached out and touched him, except that would have been scary. The shark sighting was part of the reason why we went on a few more excursions than usual, but my crazy people insisted that they were safe anyway, and went back into the ocean numerous times while I prayed for safety during the day and thanked God for another day free from shark attacks every night.
- We grilled with charcoal at the beach. When we first started taking beach vacations, we just cooked inside, in the kitchen of whatever house we had rented. Then we started getting a rental package that included beach chairs, umbrella, beach wagon and gas grill. The trouble is, that package just doubled in price for the week from $100 to $215. Since we were there for two weeks, it would have cost us $430. Pish. Relative to that price, we considered purchasing a small gas grill at a local WalMart and leaving it behind at the house! In the end, we just used the charcoal grill that came with the house. The food tasted wonderful.
- Jon rented a surf board. He rented it on the wildest and roughest of days, perhaps not at the most advantageous time in the tides and it was, as he said, "Wicked hard," so that was interesting and somewhat exciting, if not exhilarating.
- We saw sea turtles hatch. We've noticed their nests marked off along the beach many times, but this was the first year we were actually there for a hatch. The rest of our party saw 7-8 turtles come out of the nest and toddle down to the sea, but I'd been babysitting dinner and only got in on the the last one. I was so very thankful to the Lord for allowing me to get there before it was entirely over. I know He saved that last baby turtle with me in mind.
- We didn't leave on the first Saturday morning we were there. It is truly a wonderful thing to stay for more than a week. Everyone else packs up on Friday and leaves on Saturday morning. There is a sad sense of desperate running back to the ocean for one last swim, one last lick of the waves on your feet, one last view of the stretch of blue beyond the dunes. That first Friday we were there, Friday August 14, we did not have to do this. We relaxed, settled in, watched the others scramble while we fired up the charcoal again. Even Shannon, who was only staying one week, didn't have to leave until Sunday evening, so we had this blessed time of not hurrying, not leaving, not feeling the pang of the end of vacation when it usually hits.
Speaking of Shannon, it was fantastic to have a week with her, a-week-and-a-day, to be exact. She arrived from Boston at the Raleigh-Durham airport on Saturday, August 8, and everything had gone smoothly, and she was safe and sound, though tired from an early morning flight (she'd had to be at Logan at 4:30 a.m.). We'd driven to Durham the day before and spent the night at David's. We picked up Shannon at 8, when her plane arrived, then went back to David's for breakfast and to hang out for awhile since it didn't do to leave early; our beach house wouldn't be ready for us until 4.
David surprised us by driving down with us that Saturday and spending the night. It was his only opportunity, since he was on a schedule that had him working 12 days straight, August 10-21, but it was great to have some ocean time with him, bobbing in the swells. There is something so healing and therapeutic about being in warm, salty water under a sunny blue sky with very nearly your whole family.
We'd thought David would be able to join us over the-weekend-when-we-didn't-have-to-leave, so I'd scheduled for Shannon to fly back to Logan from Raleigh-Durham late that Sunday night, thinking the two of them would drive back to Durham together. Since my original plan didn't work out, we drove Shannon to Durham ourselves and met David for a barbecue dinner at the Q-Shack before Shannon's flight, which wasn't a half-bad way to spend an afternoon and evening. God was again with her on the return journey, and there were no hitches; she arrived safe and sound at home around midnight after a car ride, a flight, a jaunt on the T, and an Uber taxi at the end.
We rented a Jon a bike so he could explore the island and try riding on the beach. This, I believe, may have been slightly more satisfying than the surfboard rental. At any rate, I liked it because it kept him farther from the sharks.
In the meantime, our friends Walter and Ann arrived from New York to spend the second week with us. Thus, we had a second week full of good fellowship and conversation, new board games (they brought their favorites), and introducing beloved friends to the wonders of an ocean vacation. Ann was an outstanding boogie-boarder, and strangers along the beach asked us, "How does she do that?" She is fifty, which I will be in approximately four more months, and I am dreading it. Although, it heartens me to see her riding a boogie-board in to shore, laughing like a kid the whole way. She also regaled us with tales of how to prepare for and perform in an Ironman triathlon, which she already did this summer (that's a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run). Not that I would ever do this, or even attempt to, or even take a swipe at training for it. But. She's my age, and she did it, so 50 must not be all that old.
It was a good vacation, and God placed His fingerprints all over it. A fortnight, it was, and a fortnight is a good length of time, time enough to settle and relax and feel at home. I did everything I wanted to do except in the reading and writing and sleeping department. I did not get in as much reading and writing and sleeping as I had hoped, but it must have been meant to be.
Scallops in my belly, color on my skin, sand on the floor-mats of my van, the sound of the wind in my ears, a plastic bag of shells tucked into the corner of my suitcase.
There is so much to be thankful for. God is good. God is faithful. God makes oceans and galaxies, shooting stars and baby turtles. He gives us good food, good friends, good memories, families, sunshine and loving hearts. He also sends a thunderstorm now and then, to provide your sunburn a day to heal, to drive the sharks back out to deep waters. I can trust this God, the only wise God, the sovereign creator and ruler of the Universe. He has my back. He has an unthwartable eternal plan.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Since he did not spare even his own Son
but gave him up for us all,
won’t he also give us everything else?
Romans 8:31-32 NLT