Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Negative Ions

Tuesday was a rough day. The Dude has ANOTHER cold, which is very mild, but inevitably increases his night waking from every 2-3 hours to hourly. Usually when he is up all night, he also sleeps in at least a little, but Tuesday morning he was ready and raring to go (turns out, he had to poop) at 5:30 am.

Work has been rather intense. Mostly due to budget cuts which have not only resulted in layoffs, making the atmosphere a bit tense on top of increasing everyone else's workload, but have produced what feels like a sub-par service to the children we are supposed to be helping. That and a really laborious and disorganized process of adopting a new computer system.

By the time I made it home from work on Tuesday, with the combination of very little sleep and emotional exhaustion, I was ready to forget it all and climb into bed. But JT had a meeting about our retirement accounts, so I was on my own for dinner with the kids.

The chaos of coming home began. Without fail, when my children come in the door after I have been working, they spend the next 10 minutes screaming their heads off. My theory (actually I'm pretty sure someone explained this to me along the way) is that they hold in their emotions until they arrive in the security of home and then they completely fall apart.
Aquaman is such an intense little guy, and you would never know it when you spy on him at preschool. At school he has "great listening ears", and stuffs his wildhearted feelings down in his hoarse little throat and saves them up to unleash on his mother when she is least equipped to handle it. I, after all, have had to stuff my feelings all day at work just like he did.
The Dude just gets upset whenever Aquaman is upset, especially if I get upset over Aquaman being upset (he seems to be quite the peacemaker). If Aquaman is crying about something, The Dude often prostrates himself on the floor in sympathy and joins in the mourning. It's kind of exhausting.

Aquaman arrived home fast asleep at 5 pm which instantly threw me into a bit of a panic, because he is currently sharing a room with his dad and I since The Dude is such a terrible sleeper. I was too wiped out to imagine staying up until 10 pm listening to him toss and turn and ask a thousand "why" questions, without accepting "BECAUSE" as an answer. I woke him up none too gently and of course the emotions came pouring out more intensely than ever, breaking The Dude's heart.
After counterproductively yelling at them to "STOP SCREAMING!", I made an executive decision. We were going to the beach.

The original plan was to go to the beach to try to wear them out and somehow achieve a bedtime before midnight. But JT arrived home before we could even get out the door, and offered to take them instead and let me have some down time. I refused. By then I had realized that it wasn't them who needed the beach. It was their mother.

"Negative ions". Growing up beachside, just a few miles from where we currently live, my mother used to tell my twin sister and I to get out the door and get some negative ions. We always thought it was just one of those quirky southern sayings, but much later in my adulthood, by then an avid surfer, I watched a special about Niagara Falls and discovered that "negative ions" are produced by moving water hitting against a solid surface and that they instantly improve the mood. There is an actual scientific reason why the beach is so relaxing.

But there's more to it than that..
When I step out onto the beach, my whole identity changes. No longer am I a busy wife, mother, nurse. I am simply a part of God's plan.
I get so caught up in my own little life sometimes. But when I'm on  the beach, life stops spinning its plates around me, and I start spinning around with a deeper purpose. A change in perspective. I am still important, because I am a child of God. But not important because I am big, important because I am, by the Grace of God, a part of a bigger story.

The ocean itself paints such an extraordinary picture of our Creator.
There is something so inviting about its power and depth and rhythm. And if you accept its rhythm and fold yourself into it instead of fighting it, there is so much adventure and excitement and mystery in being a part of it. Not unlike our relationship with God. But there is also danger. There is power that induces man to study his own mortality and his very smallness.

"When I consider your heavens,
The work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars,
Which You have set in place,
What is mankind that You are mindful of them?
Human beings that You care for them?"
Psalm 8:3

We played and prayed until the furrowed eyebrow lines of life turned to crow's feet.
We watched the gentle evening sun dance on the water, let the sand sprinkle between our fingers, and chased each other until we were breathless. Though I couldn't go all the way in, I imagined, like I always do when I am close to it, the feeling of the cool salty water hitting my face. The earthiest baptism. Jesus washing the world off my feet.

Though I am in between cameras, I captured a snapshot somewhere deep in my heart of our markings in the sand. The littlest feet of our Surfer Dude next to my bigger ones. And beside these the imprint of 3 year old knees next to tractor tracks.
I know that my boys have inherited (from both parents) this love of the beach. I know because they cried when it was time to go home, and snuggled up in bed for story time that night Aquaman requested the books: "My daddy taught me to surf" and "A fun and safe day at the Beach".
I just hope I can show them somehow that it's not just the negative ions. It's not just the white noise, or getting away from it all, or the thrill of catching a wave.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."
Psalm 42:7

It's deep calling to deep.
It's recognizing that our significance is not in our busyness but in the depth of who we are in Christ: A tiny but dearly loved part of God's unfolding story.

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