Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter at the Beach!?

Going to the beach in the winter is not something I had ever thought much about.  In the best of circumstances I am not really a beach person.  I do not like the feel of sand in my clothes or between my toes.  I do not drink tropical drinks with little umbrellas in them.  I am not a super strong swimmer and the rough surf beats my knees up.  And I do not like to be in the sun too much.  I have, however, been on a number of beach vacations with family and friends.  Mainly I go to the beach because of my son and my friends.  They like the beach – in fact, they love the beach.  My son loves the water, making sand castles, riding a boogie board on the waves, and flying kites at the beach.  Me ... not so much.

I like being comfortable. I like TV, the Internet, my comfortable chair, and good leisure times.  But roughing it is not something I do.  And my definition of roughing it is pretty narrow.  I always say roughing it is staying in a hotel without room service.  So beach going is not really my "thang."

So when I found out the second leg of my Wabash Pre-Tenure Seminary Faculty group was meeting at Mustang Island in Texas – in the winter - I was less than thrilled, but open to going to a place 60 degrees above where it was at home when I left. So I thought I would give winter beach going a try (plus we are required to attend as part of our fellowship).

So off I went to the beach ... in the winter ... in Texas.

The first afternoon I walked the beach with one of my Wabash colleagues and caught up on job and family stuff.  It was a great visit.  I took pictures of birds, waves, and sand dunes.  I listened to the surf and watched the sunset.

The next morning I woke up to the sounds of waves and birds from my room.  It was amazing.  We had been told that if we wanted to get in the water there were two things to remember:  1) the water is VERY cold and 2) you have to do the "stingray shuffle" to avoid getting stung by the stingrays in the water.  The cold water was enough to keep me away.  Then they warned us about stingrays in the water and rattlesnakes in the brush.  So now I was completely ok with staying out of the water, on the boardwalk, and in the safe places.

But this place was growing on me.  How could it not?

God is in the rhythm of the waves, the beat of the birds' heart and wings, the gentle touch of the breeze, and the laughter/conversation with my friends.  I am taking the slow approach to being at the beach in winter.  There are no children needing to be entertained, no sand castles to be judged, and no bogie boards to go retrieve from the waves – which is the usual pattern of my family time at the beach.  It's just me and my thoughts (and sometimes my friends with me).

One night I took pictures of the sunset and we had a bonfire on the beach.  It is still not my favorite thing – cold, sand and wind.  But it was a blessed time with God.  We looked at the constellations and told stories.  I did not stay long but it was fun.

The last full day we did a group “5K Run, Walk, Crawl, Drag” on the beach.  Everyone participated in some way and everyone was so supportive of each other.  What a joy to be on the beach all together in God’s amazing creation.  That last night we sat around playing games and laughed until we almost could not stand it anymore.  We had a blast.

Honestly, this weekend did not sell me on time at the beach – especially in the winter.  But it once again gave me time with nature and with the Creator God who made it all possible.  It was a time of renewal and rest, a time of recreation and rejuvenation.  And all of us need that. 

So offer me time away with God and opportunities to be in the midst of nature, being with good friends, eating amazing food, having sights to see, and getting time for rest – and then tell me it is in the Winter at the Beach – and my response will now be, “Ok, sign me up!”

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