Finding Hope in Starfish and a Cramped Sports Car

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Where I live, in Southern Oregon, the nights are cold and the days are not much warmer. Winter seems endless, and Summer- well we long for it all year. And when it finally arrives, all ten weeks of it, we let off fireworks, fill too-small pools, and slow cook hot dogs on underused BBQ grills.

I’m a summer-kind-of-girl and I always joke that I wasn’t made for Oregon, but rather Arizona, or Mexico, or somewhere in the tropics. Surely the Lord needs missionaries in say, the Bahamas? I prefer flip flops, sunglasses, and pony tails. I want to read my Bible and talk to Jesus surrounded by white sand. Even just once?

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This past weekend was the start of our Spring Break. The sun came out and we all smiled. I insisted we go to the beach, and seriously, when it’s just an hour-and-a-half away (yes, we measure distance by time in these parts), you can never touch the sand too much. So we packed up the cooler, loaded the trunk of my ever shrinking mustang, and forced the teenagers into the back seat. Let’s go chase the sun, kids!

It felt urgent- now or never!

The forecast called for rain the next day. No, the forecast screamed rain for the next month! So this was our chance. But there’s this small voice within, the one trying to rationalize and assure a practical decision is made. It reminded me that this weather was just a tease, because April showers bring May flowers you know, and are you sure you want to put all that effort into a short day trip to the beach? When you’ll spend just as much time in the car as you would on the sand, and you know how windy our beaches are. Plus, the gas is expensive and your kids really aren’t into building sand castles or digging for China anymore.

It’s the same voice that questions so many other things, like why I bother planting daffodils or tulip bulbs when they last such a short time. Or why give the car a bath, you know it will rain tomorrow. Why do I bother dusting the wood stove soot blanketed walls, end tables, and electronics when it will all settle again in just a few short hours? Are you going to trouble yourself cleaning the dog slobber from the sliding glass door when he waits not even ten minutes to leave his mark again? And the kitty litter box- don’t even get me started.

Why bother?

My only answer is because the briefest moment of hope is found here. And we need hope. We need to see tulips bright in purple, red, and yellow shouting spring and reminding us of change. Even if next week we are clipping their dead stalks and wondering why it ends so quickly, we need the brief moment of expectation. We need to see crisp clear glass and feel rays of warmth break through, uninterrupted by dog drool and paw prints. Even for just ten short minutes.

Because hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.

And I’m learning to appreciate how fleeting it all is. My infatuation with the sun- would that longing be so intense if the sun weren’t so sparse? I don’t think so.

Bandon Oregon

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. In some cases I find that to be true. I have an aunt who lived at the beach and rarely set foot on the sand. When you hear the waves from your kitchen window and smell the ocean in your sleep, what longing is left? In a land where tulips bloom year round and the sun never melts away the bitter cold of winter, is there a need for expectation?

When you’re birthed into the fertile green of Oregon, it takes five long months of dusty Mexican dirt to adjust your eyes and heart- to really see the lushness of your home.

Where would the wonder of Christmas morning be if we opened packages every day?

So we went to the beach. We drove the twisted highway snacking on Cheetos and licorice. We talked through family hopes and dreams,  past decisions, present obstacles, and future what-ifs. We debated over a controversial book my husband and I are reading. We were scrunched in tight and for a day I was grateful for that too-small sports car. I was grateful we were all so close and headed in the same direction, even just for a short day.

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And that day was incredibly fulfilling. How often can we say that? How often do we live and breathe and parent and not end it all with- if only, or I wish I would have… This day left none of that. This day was perfect. I’ve lived over twelve thousand days in my life, and very few of them ended in complete contentment. So I cherish the ones that do.

We heard the crashing waves, were surprised by the cold ocean between our toes, saw what must have been the most grotesque vitamin D lacking starfish worldwide, touched sea anemones, and watched baby fish go to battle over the remaining leg of a crab.

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In it all, we saw hope. And somehow that increased our faith because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We saw the substance of life under water. We saw evidence of things grander than books or documentaries can express.

This substance and evidence of things we can’t see by observing the things we can- that restores our hope. And hope, even brief hope makes the heart grow merry.

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