Two weeks ago, on the morning of my 50th birthday, I rose early and walked to the beach in the small town where I was vacationing with my husband and children. Excited to be slipping away at such an early hour while my family unknowingly slept, I was fully aware that this precious time of solitude would be a fine first gift to enjoy on my special milestone day.
With the air crisp and the skies still pink from the rising sun, it appeared I was the solitary guest of the beach. I found a bench upon which to sit and untie my shoes as the seagulls – vocal in their morning hunt for food – soared and dipped among the gentle waves lapping at the shore. I set off onto the sand.
This vacation was a birthday gift from my husband who best knows what I love – spending time at the beach in this town with my family. The gentle rhythmic crashing of the waves, the sand dunes with their tall swaying grasses, and the distinct and beautiful calls of the swooping seagulls were all a reprieve from the cares and routine of our country life. The beach was always a time of genuine pleasure for the children and me, and although this week had been a time of restoration, renewal, and rejuvenation – my vacation was always more than just a mental reset. Relaxing here seemed a spiritual renewal — expressly, an infusion of God Himself.
As I reached the water’s edge and began walking, I breathed in the coastal air, listened to the cry of a distant osprey, and looked for shells left behind by the waves. Walking along with the water splashing about my ankles, I felt distinctly alone – but not a bit lonely – as I enjoyed my private and peaceful walk on the open beach.
But I was not alone, for I cannot look out into the unending water, or watch the sandpipers flit about, or even sense the wet sand under my feet without feeling the presence of God Himself. To me, this place is a cathedral of sorts where God’s nearness is so obvious and where His natural masterpieces – both vast and miniscule – are on exhibit for my personal enjoyment. I am humbled by its beauty and filled with a spirit of deep gratitude.
The beach was a perfect place to turn 50 and reflect on my life. Yes, there had been good times and bad, seasons of darkness and seasons of joy, but God had walked beside me faithfully throughout every day of my life. The years ahead would likely hold their own set of challenges as well as enough blessings to overflow my heart with joy. I am fully confident I can fully depend on Him to be there in the future.
How good God was to give me this special gift of communing with Him on the morning of my 50th birthday. May you find your own cathedral to meet with God – be it a fishing hole, a walk in a deep thick forest, or the swing on your own front porch – and with it, may you sense gratitude for all God has done for you.