Skip to main content

Sand Castles on the Same Side of the Ocean

Each year we drive beach-bound for our annual pause.  A Sabbath week.  We leave behind the things that creep between us and we reclaim family, restore relationships, renew fun, and remember the quintessential us.

It’s a week of yes.

“Can I have a cookie?”  Yes.

“Can we swim for seven hours straight?”  Yes.

“Can I stay in my bathing suit all day long?”  Yes.

Yes.  The answer is yes.  I am the Mother of Yes.  For one glorious week, I grant wishes and squelch my inner party pooper.

The tummy-churning cares of home and the grind of real life don’t stand a chance against the foamy, roiling ocean.  I love the giant waves.  Swimming out where my toes can barely feel the ocean floor, I let them crash over me, raising me up and setting me back down.  I cannot smother the childlike shrieks escaping my grinning lips.

At night while we sleep in our rented beds, the waves leap forward, sweeping across the sand, worn out after a day of digging children and castles erected and bikes and feet.  The waves reclaim the sand, rebooting the beach, and in the morning, we step onto a clean palette, a fresh start, a new day for memory-making and sandy wedgies.

My thoughts wander back over years past, all my prayers and longings during these quiet weeks where God feels a little closer and I take the time to listen for His voice in the salt-infused wind.

Seven years ago as a bloated human lab rat, after four failed fertility treatments, I watched as my husband built a sand castle with the boy from one blanket over, Dad of the Year building memories with a stranger’s kid.  Tears welled behind my over-sized sunglasses and my throat stung.  I couldn’t make the son for sand castles and father’s dreams.  Barren, bloated, bereft in the sand and sun.

Yesterday I watched as my husband sculpted the sand city of Gondor with our son.  Joy welled, and my skin quivered with a gratitude so deep it made my bones ache.  Father and son reclaim the memory of sand castles past, and my cheeks hurt from smiling.

Two years ago, we came to the beach awaiting the phone call from our adoption agency announcing that our daughter was ours, that after months and prayers of waiting for paperwork to move, we’d passed court.  The phone call came, and because of a translation error, we didn’t pass.  We hung up the phone, shocked.  I walked out into the ocean and cried salt tears into the salt water, stinging, everything stinging, tears, waves, throat, stinging.

Yesterday, I sat with my daughter as she played in low tide pools, stinging replaced with singing.  And laughing.  We ran into the waves together, hand in hand, laughing as the waves tickled our toes, finally on the same side of the ocean.  Mother and daughter reclaim the waves of ocean memories.

Every beach week reminds me from where we’ve come and the faithfulness of a Father who builds our family in His way, in His time.  Our family is a process, always in process.  I’m never sure how many chairs on the beach we’ll need the next year.  I’m learning to savor the memories, hope for the future, and build sand castles on the same side of the ocean.


images from and Ginny Starr