Five o’clock on the beach, and the light falls soft and golden on our shoulders.
It doesn’t escape me that on normal days, this hour finds me weary and pushing through, juggling homework and dinner and a thousand other things, counting the moments until I can sit down. Usually around five I can feel the tired in every muscle. I can list it. I breathe steeped in it, tasting it. Usually, I am working hard at this hour on patience, on smiling at my children, on hugging them close and making sure they know that even when I’m spent, I feel blessed to share life with them.
It doesn’t escape me that this same hour is my favorite on the beach, and I am so thankful to spend it standing in warm sand, or with white caps curling around my shoulders. The kids and I collect sharks’ teeth by the handful, we ride waves, we amble. They sit on boogie boards in the sand and eat snacks while I flip the pages of a magazine, my thoughts resting, soothed by the rhythmic rise and fall of surf, the crash of waves, the continual renewal of the shore, the old washed away, the new revealed and discovered. My dad lays back and shuts his eyes, letting it wash over him. Mom sits looking at the waves, commenting on the clouds. It’s their favorite time of day on the beach too.
I love the way the light changes as the sun begins to drift, and the water glows iridescent, reflecting. I could stay till dark, just being present.
The kids run back to the water, melting their bodies into the sea, playing in the edges. Adam catches wave after wave, and it never matters to him whether the sea is rough or calm, the tide low or high. I walk up and back on the shore as the waves roll in, bending to study the mosaic at my feet.
And then I hear Zoe, see her with her nose pressed into the ground, her hair falling into the wet sand in front of her. She bends close, presses her hands flat, lifts a leg into the air behind. “Please,” she says softly, “let me find something special. Is there something here for me?” The words are audible, but barely so, as she digs her fingers into the sand, sifting, searching. She is lost in her conversation, unaware of me.
My first real conversations with God happened just that way, me sitting cross-legged on the beach as a girl, palms full of sand, as I talked to God about His treasures, begged Him to send something rolling in at my feet. I spent hours that way, absorbed, burying my body, boundaries lost and melting away.
I heard Zoe calling me, following me the short stretch I’d walked away from her, holding out her hand. A lady had stopped beside her, had asked if she liked sharks’ teeth. “When I said yes, she told me to hold out my hand,” Zoe said, smiling. “And she gave me this.” In her hand, the treasure gleamed, touched by the sun, polished by the waves. Sometimes God lays His wealth right at our feet, and sometimes He places it in our hands, offered by grace from the palms of another, the sharing of gifts.
“Did you say ‘thank you?’ I asked instinctively, a mother’s reminder.
Zoe looked stricken, turning to look down the beach. “Oh, I don’t know. I think I did, but I’m not sure.”
I smiled at her. “It’s okay. I’m sure she knew either way, because you jumped up to show me.” Shouldn’t our gratitude lead us running to each other open-palmed, desperate to show the wealth of our blessings? Shouldn’t the mention of them come easily and instantly?
“What are you thankful for?” I ask Adam later in the evening. We lay side by side on Zoe’s bed, holding hands, his hair wet from the shower, his eyes heavy. He is sleepy after the beach, but he smiles at me, and I reach over to touch his face, all golden and still warm from the sun.
And then, on a wave, the treasures come rolling in, tossed gently at my feet. Adam begins to pray in response to my question.
“Thank you for…Thank you for…go to the beach. Thank you for…swimming. Thankful for…thankful for…thankful for…”
He repeats, but I am patient, quiet, just listening.
“…thankful for…chicken taco (It’s what we’d eaten for supper. When I shared the wonderful slow cooker recipe with my aunt, she said, “Did you ever think Adam would be thankful for something containing so many ingredients?” No, I didn’t. And just there, the treasure offered in her palm, the gift placed in my hand.).”
Adam continued. He continued, and this all from the one gentle question. “…thankful for…thankful for…chicken nuggets. Thankful for Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Thankful for Curious George books. Thankful for…thankful for…math.”
It is the first time he has ever prayed this way, without a memorized script, without singing the words.
I can feel his smile, a grin that matches mine as I lay there, tears streaming, awash with awe over so much glory.
“…Echo Mommy, Daddy, Riley, and Zoe’s prayers,” he says, finishing, borrowing a phrase he’s heard Zoe say a thousand times. “In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”
Normally, I say nothing until all their prayers have been said, but before Riley can begin, I turn into Adam, hugging him. “Good job, Buddy,” I say, the joy all bursting out, “good job talking.” Adam giggles, happy, almost triumphant. “Beautiful,” He says, and I agree.
Yes, absolutely beautiful.
I still plead with God for His treasures, that I might see His glory. Over hours and days, I sift life through my fingers, allowing all the boundaries to melt away. And He reshapes the shore, washing away the old, revealing the new, the redeemed. And every unprompted word, every evidence of growth and progress is a gift, a treasure just washing up and over us, glory eternally planned and just waiting for our discovery.
And the gratitude makes me run, calling, because I can’t wait to show you what He’s given.