Our Stories: Unforgettable Peace

peace

This is another Our Stories post. I pray you look back at your own life and see God.

I was in my early twenties when I went with a group of friends to Panama City Beach for spring break. (That’s the actual photograph from way back when!)  I’d packed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bunch of Pop-Tarts I heated by placing on top of their foil wrappers and leaving them in the sun.

We spent our days lying on beach towels, soaking up the sun, and feeding potato chips to a bunch of ravenous seagulls. And when the sun slipped into the water and evening came, we walked from club to club, enjoying the neon lights and the sounds of the darkened gulf waters rushing to the shore beyond the clubs and hotels.

It was a time in my life when I knew of God, but I didn’t really know Him. (Know what I mean?)

God was Someone far away and if I’m being honest, Someone I rarely thought about. I was in college, and I was too busy drinking coffee with friends while cramming for tests all night and heading out to parties that took place on the weekends.

Yep. I was just too busy for God.

But there was a moment during spring break when I felt so drawn to go to the beach by myself. All of my friends were back at the hotel getting ready to go out, and it seemed everyone else had the same idea because the beach was deserted; no sunbathers or Frisbee throwers anywhere.

I wore a pair of cutoffs, a white t-shirt, and of course, no shoes. The sand was still warm as it squished between my toes and the wind was strong as it swept my hair away from my face. There was no one on either side of me on that long stretch of beach. Hotels, beach houses, and busy streets were at my back.

I moved closer to the water and sat down on the sand, wrapping my arms around my legs. The sun dipped into the water as if it were a paint brush someone wanted to rinse off, and the sky ignited and changed moment by moment into different shades of oranges that stretched into the dark night.

I could breathe here. There was such peace. There were no tests or deadlines, no rushing to keep up with everyone or to go out.

It was just me sitting on the beach with my toes buried in the sand and the fading sun kissing me goodnight.

I would spend the next decade or so trying to find that peace again, searching for that feeling like I belonged, like I fit; a place where I could breathe deeply again. I wanted to “just be me” again and feel good about it.

When I finally found it, I realized it wasn’t the tickle of the wind on my skin or the way the sun dissolved into the water. It wasn’t the warmth of the sand or the idea of being alone on the beach.

That peace I felt was God’s presence. He was drawing me closer to Him. He wanted me to begin knowing Him. He allowed me to escape for a moment and sit down right in the middle of the beautiful painting He’d created just for me. All so I could experience His presence and His unforgettable peace.

Peace that soothes me to this day and makes me smile because now I know God. Now I know that He was sitting with me in the sand, His arm around me as I leaned into Him.

Thank you, Lord.

Your turn for reflection:

Do you remember a time when you were drawn away from the crowd to a quiet place where you experienced peace?

Can you look back and see that God was working in your life before you really knew Him?

 

Our Stories: A Secret Garden

secret garden

This is the first Our Stories post. I pray you look back at your own life and see God.

When I was four or five years old, I would escape into the woods behind our house to get away from my big brother who liked to pick on me.

I remember looking around to make sure he wasn’t following me before stepping from the grass in our backyard and onto the dirt path I’d worn leading into the woods.

The sunlight was too bright in the yard, but once I stepped under the canopy of trees, the shade was soothing and cooling. The light skipped across the leaves overhead, falling all around my feet and dancing on the ground as ferns and the smell of dirt welcomed me.

There was a branch sticking out from a nearby tree that I’d pull back, move past, and gently return to its place over the path; this was the gate for my secret garden.

The sunlight was in my garden, only it was mellow, not harsh or blinding. It was golden, warming me and washing over the flowers on both sides of the path that disappeared over the hill. There was always a gentle breeze, the leaves applauding a performance only they understood. And the delicate purple flowers that grew sporadically in our backyard were lush and abundant here like someone had planted them just for me.

I’d sit on the dirt path and pick those flowers for my mom while the sunlight kissed me as I sang songs I’d made up, playing with salamanders that wiggled in the dirt.

This place was special to me. I belonged here. I didn’t need to hurry. I wasn’t afraid. It was lovely and calming and perfect.

God knew how to bless that little tomboy with scraped knees and dirt caked under her fingernails with His presence by meeting me right where I sat. I like to think He joined me, right there in the dirt, and taught me how to hear Him, how to recognize something wonderful He brings us:

Peace.

My secret garden was where I first met God. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.

Your turn for reflection:

What is the earliest memory you have of God in your life?

 Did you have a special hiding place you’d escape to as a child? If so, can you look back today and recognize you weren’t alone, that God was with you?

 

 

 

 

Our Stories

my story

I’m starting something new on this site because I believe God likes to change things up a bit when we get too comfortable. Change can be scary, but experiencing change with God is like singing off-key (or is that just me?) while we’re in our socks sliding around on the kitchen floor with chocolate smeared on our lips and some good tunes in the background.

Yes. Change with God really is that good. 🙂 And exciting!

So I’m going to continue blogging. But there will be times when I look back and share something God has done in my life; some of my favorite memories with Him.

And I’m going to ask you to look back at your life too.

This isn’t so you feel obligated to share your story. (But you can share if you’d like! You may never know how deeply your story may touch someone.) I’m simply going to ask you to look. Look back and look for God.

Why?

So you can see God in a new and exciting way (see I told you!).

Let’s do this together. Let’s do this to remember God and relive His faithfulness. And let’s do this to encourage and remind each other that the same God who did those things yesterday will continue to be faithful today and tomorrow.

And who knows? He may just surprise us when He opens our eyes to all He has done to bring us this far.

“Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3 NLT.)