*Note: This is a literal event. Whether or not it becomes an analogy is in God’s hands.
I think I found it. The perfect pebble.
I should probably back up a little and explain. Gosh, there’s a lot to catch you up on. I’ve spent most of the year deep in a novel so I’ve scarcely even visited my own website.
I always have stories going on in my head and often on my computer. My most cherished story is whichever one I am working on at that moment. Or…that’s how it used to be. This story is different. I write all of my stories for me. I am the intended audience. The movie scenes are rolling in my head constantly, the settings, the dialogues. I am in the movies. Just like actors, I get in character—I’m inside the characters—knowing what they are thinking and feeling and their motivations. But after a while, that’s not enough. I have to write it down, preserve those intense scenes and irreplaceable dialogue. Make it more real. I will work on one story for a while and then—squirrel! Another idea that’s been in the background suddenly springs forward and commands my full attention. I have…mm…at least…fifteen major stories. Five of them have a great deal of text and two of them each had a summer’s worth of writing. Last summer’s story unfolded into something beyond what I had imagined. More characters emerged and the plot went farther back and farther forward than I had foreseen. As I was writing this one, I kept rereading what I had written the previous days and began thinking, “Wow. This is really good. This may be show to other people good.”
So I’ve forced myself to stay focused on this story. Other stories would pass by within my peripheral vision and I had to put on blinkers and keep my eyes on the road.
Nope, not gonna look. FOCUS.
Meanwhile, life has been going on all around me—life on the other side. I meant to write about it all along the journey, starting with what happened when I decided to hop the creek and follow that line of birch trees. I did, and this time, I didn’t see that same &@% tree again. I saw a bridge and had to decide, do I cross or not? I hadn’t seen the bridge before. Perhaps it had always been there, or perhaps God waited to lift the mists and reveal the possibilities. After eleven years of pacing in my cage, wearing a tiresome figure 8 inside a life that was unsustainable, suddenly God seemed to give a nod of permission.
It’s okay. You’ve been through enough. You can go now.
And so I went. I left it all behind and came home to the people I love and the land I love. (No, not Alaska, but my family’s homeland and the next best thing to Alaska.) The ones I hold dearest are either right here next to me (a ten minute walk away) or they are just across the river, perhaps an hour and a half away. I left the two things that were absolutely sucking me dry, slowly killing me. One I had loved passionately for seventeen years, another I had stopped loving over ten years ago. Or rather, that love was brutally murdered before it even had the chance to begin to grow. Still, I don’t miss either one of them. Not even a little. I don’t begrudge a moment of life poured into one of them. It was heart wrenching, brain racking and soul draining, but it was a worthy sacrifice. I was tormented nearly every day with doubts that I should be there, feeling that I was woefully inadequate to the task of leading young minds. I was told that I made a difference and touched lives. I can only hope that God was able to use the feeble attempts of a broken person struggling to make it through another day. I can only pray that there was a purpose to the thoroughbred with too many lead weights in the saddle giving everything to just stagger across the finish line.
The horse isn’t out to pasture yet, but racing days are over and that’s…okay. It’s perfectly fine. It’s an enormous relief. There’s time to sit by a lake and read my Bible (app), think and pray. There’s time to write and space to breathe. There are also days off, not weekends spent preparing for the next week. They are truly days off and days to fill.
For the past two months, most of these days have been filled with driving to the coast. I go by myself now, exploring as I go, at my own speed and own whim. I spent the first trips searching for a beachcombing sort of beach. Many of the ones I’d been to with my family are more than a day trip away. So I experimented and explored within a smaller radius until one afternoon, three weeks ago, I found myself at a park on the coast. This park boasted a village sized campground and visitors’ station. I went into the station and bought a two years’ state park pass and chatted with the rangers on duty, asking about beaches where one could find interesting things, specifically, cool rocks. I was given a few suggestions and headed back to my car, ready to drive to the day use parking lot, when a mother and her grown daughter called me back. They’d overheard our conversation and shared with me a wonderful discovery they’d made, a beach with incredible rocks. Even when one didn’t find an agate (and there were often agates to find), the other rocks were stunning. Of course I had to go there straight away and of course God had arranged all that. He’d orchestrated my day and that family’s day so that our paths would cross and I would be gifted with that priceless information. (I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t share that information. It’s an often overlooked location and those who know of it would prefer to keep it that way.)
I set off, humming with anticipation, anticipation that was not disappointed. The moment I saw the little creek running through the beach to the rocky shore I was breathless.
This is it. This is amazing. If I can’t find my perfect pebble here, it simply can’t be found.
Rocks with colours, shapes and textures of all description were there under the clear ripples of the creek or scattered on the multi-coloured sand. It was awesome. I stooped next to the creek in sand that was deep and loose. You can try at first to keep your toes out of the water, but it’s inevitable. You may as well give in and get wet. It’s well worth it. (Besides, any good scout knows to bring a change of shoes and socks.) When you spot a particularly interesting pebble, you have to reach beyond where you think it is, to overcome the angling effect of light and water. Some folks rake over the stones and push around the rocks with long sticks. Others wade into the middle of the creek. I stretched my arm into the water and combed over the rocks with my fingers, dislodging agates and other treasures. I quickly filled my Ziplock baggie with cool specimens. (My mom taught me how to beachcomb and one essential supply is a baggie in which to put all of your ocean treasures.) I found small (and tiny) agates, reddish rocks, speckled rocks, pattern and swirled pebbles, but not the perfect pebble. This one had to be smooth and just the right shape and size. I walked to the water’s edge and scanned the pebbles cast upon the sand, collecting more fascinating rocks. And then…
There he was. The perfect pebble.
It wasn’t what I expected, not quite. I’d known my perfect pebble wouldn’t be brilliant colours, but I did think he would have some soft colours, a shade of blue or green perhaps, or a dual colour pattern. Nope. Not this one. And yet I knew straight away. It was the exact perfect size and wonderfully smooth. It fit absolutely perfectly in my palm and felt just right. He had been lying in the sun, off by himself, and was warm and soft in my hand. So comforting to rub my thumb across, but…he was just grey. Just a simple, humble, soft grey.
Did I tell you grey is my favourite colour? I’m not making this up for the sake of the story. It truly is. I could show you a picture of my bathroom and closet just to prove it—towels, shower curtain, sweaters and T-shirts give undeniable evidence. I defy anyone who says grey isn’t a proper colour or anyone who declares that grey is boring or depressing. No. Not true. Grey is soft and soothing, the colour of rain clouds that bring relieve and greenness to the land, the colour of distant hills, stormy seas, fuzzy kittens, and gentle eyes.
I won’t say that I was disappointed that my pebble was a modest grey. A bit surprised, just a tiny bit uncertain, but not disappointed.
Perhaps there is a more colourful pebble that fits this well and that is just this smooth and wonderful to hold. Maybe. But I’m not going to lose this one. I’m going to hold it in my hand as I walk across the beach and when I decide to head home, I’m going to put it safely in my pocket. I’m going to set it on my desk, right next to my beloved computer and wait and see.
And here he is, right next to me, as I type away. I won’t go so far as to say this was a sign. I think it’s a bit dangerous to look too much for signs and read into things that come into our field of vision. Not every analogy or symbol is a whispering hint from God. Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.
But…who knows. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s serendipity.
At any rate, it’s in God’s hands. He has brought me so very far in just one year. One of these days I’ll write some more about that. There has been enough peace and growth to assure me that whatever comes, God is in control and He will help each one of us to weather the storms, even when it seems there will never be anything but storms. It may often feel like you are barely hanging on by a bloody thread, but you are still hanging on. You haven’t fallen into the abyss yet. There is still hope. You may begin to think He isn’t saying anything, but believe it or not, He is saying “Just hang on a little longer. There is more to come. I promise you.”