Welcome, friends, to this last Monday of August 2017.
It’s different, you know, when Monday is your day off. The world seems to be in such a rush; everyone has so much to do as the new week begins.
Meanwhile, my focus is on a coffee cup and how few words I can speak.
Soon enough, I will be searching the news for the hopeful and reassuring actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and other situations happening throughout the world.
But not yet…..
Now it is time to sit quietly with ancient prayers and fresh coffee as the rays from the rising sun reach through these old oaks and bathe the back porch in soft morning light. And I will stay here, where the morning light dances, as long as it lasts. At least part of this morning’s ancient prayer comes from St. Augustine (354-430) “O Lord, my God, Light of the blind and Strength of the weak; yeah, also, Light of those that see, and Strength of the strong; hearken unto my soul, and hear it crying out of the depths. O Lord, help us to turn and seek Thee; for Thou hast not forsaken Thy creatures as we have forsaken Thee, our Creator. Let us turn and seek Thee, for we know Thou art here in our hearts…..”
The rest of this morning’s prayer is a whisper of overwhelming deep gratitude and thanks from the core of my heart and depths of my soul, sent forth on the morning breeze with true intentions and hopes that it may grow as the rest of this day unfolds.
Be safe out there, everyone. Look out for one another. Saint Augustine, pray for us.
Soon enough it will be time to leave the back porch, but not just yet…..
It’s Tuesday here, and during this time of the year I take advantage of the option to work from my remote office, aka my back porch.
The morning and early afternoon was spent with calendars, books, and websites, listing topics and lessons for this coming season in youth ministry. It’s an uplifting exercise in planning. Serious topics with positive reinforcements to help some of the best middle school age youth I know, try to grow in their relationships with one another and Christ despite everything that will try to dissuade them as they encounter more and more of this world. I do this planning away from people, away from human chatter, away from news reports, I don’t even play the radio during this time. Even so, it is far from silent here on the porch.
Today the backdrop for this task is one of tall, old oak trees with full branches of deep summer green leaves, appearing a brilliant gold shade in the morning sunlight and nearly black in the afternoon cloud cover swaying in the soft and much appreciated summer breeze. It’s hot out on the porch, but it’s worth it. My “office mates” on the other side of the screen are a pair of cardinals chirping sweetly at the turning pages and scribbled notes, a few finches peek in from time to time and a humming-bird hovers at the bushes and seems to be interested on what’s going on as well.
These happy and graceful birds, singing to and with one another through the heat and humidity draw my attention upward. Away from the computer, away from the papers, they remind me to be still a few moments and experience the day. Soon enough the rush of a more structured schedule will return, and perhaps I will recall these moments through these words. To stand and get the camera would send them flying away, and any still photograph would not aptly capture this day of most beautiful sights and songs. So, I will stay in the heat a while longer, planning for cooler days and soaking up these most joyful noises.
Recently, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to receive an amazing invitation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina with some wonderful women for a few days. It’s good to travel to nice places, but it’s more important to travel with good people. This unexpected trip was both, and so much more.
This post is all about capturing the small moments, those “bookend” times of the day when one can carve out a few moments of solitude to simply be, and simply be aware of where we are and grateful for our time here.
Allow me to share a few of the beautiful sights and moments experienced within these 13 or so square miles along the edge of the Atlantic. First up: Arrival!
This beautiful place has miles and miles and miles of trails. Level, well-marked, well maintained trails. Where the trails end, there are more miles of well packed sand at the edge of the Atlantic, just perfect for strolling or cruising. Walking and bicycling were the preferred means of transportation throughout much of the stay on Kiawah.
With bags stowed in the condo and sunset approaching, one of the first activities was to find a spot for the best show in the area! A little side note here: Early in the drive, our theme song became Castle On The Hill by Ed Sheeran. Looking at this photo now, watching the pelicans fly over the nearby Sanctuary Hotel that could easily be mistaken for a castle in the sunset that first evening, that song fits so well.
Mornings are a favorite time for me, especially at the beach, any beach, but I had no idea the beauty and majesty awaiting me on my first morning walk at Kiawah. I happened upon a couple of bucks looking for breakfast!
He must have heard me behind him and turned around. For just a few seconds he walked towards me on the boardwalk. I backed up accordingly to give him his space.
After a couple of minutes, the buck turned around and joined a friend for breakfast in the dunes. A lovely cardinal flew into the frame just as I snapped the picture.
The condo where we stayed had a wonderful kitchen with ample beautiful and comfortable spaces to enjoy meals and conversation. But one night we ventured out to a restaurant at Bohicket Marina. Oh.My.Goodness! Yes, the food was delicious, yes the company was delightful, yes the conversation included A LOT of laughter; but upon exiting the building we were greeted by the twilight sky settling in for the night over the boats.
Heavy clouds gathered throughout the night. Summertime thunderstorms are a reality here, but the boats seem determined to shine with their reflections despite the imposing darkness.
The next morning the clouds seemed to want to linger a little longer and enjoy the sunrise as well. Who could blame them? Later this beach will be filled with people enjoying the sunshine and surf, but for now it’s nearly deserted.
I love those glowing moments, when even the air seems saturated between the actual light and the reflection from the water.
More morning scenes from Kiawah ~ lone shrimp boat heading out to sea.
More morning scenes from Kiawah ~ Sunrise reflections from the pond. There’s a sign warning of alligators, but they stayed out of sight on this trip.
As much as I adore the pictures of and on the beach, this picture is one of my favorites from this trip. This is the walkway to the beach following an overnight rainstorm. Fallen leaves, blown by the wind and rain, lay undisturbed as I approached on my morning walk. Perhaps in this picture there’s a hint of how spectacular autumn will be along this trail.
What you don’t see in these pictures are the in-between moments. Images of conversations over coffee, morning chats, laughter over wine, bonding between a mother and her recent high school graduate daughter, friendships growing, rest and renewal.
What I hope you see are images of a beautiful place where these and more wonderful things happened, all because one person chose to extend an amazing invitation.
While leaving, I stopped for one more sign. The Sanctuary Resort sign adorned with Old Glory in preparation for the Independence Day festivities.
Our sign upon arrival simply stated where we were, our sign on departure simply stated what we had experienced ~ Sanctuary.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
These past few weeks have been filled with changes, growth, and adventure for our family and many of our friends. Graduations, birthdays and other anniversaries all fell in May. Goal trips off the bucket lists have carried over into the first part of June, and suddenly I find myself on my front steps realizing we’re basically halfway through 2017! Wow! That was fast!
So, on this mid year morning, this new day, I found myself thinking on what may lie ahead, and even though I know tomorrow is never promised here on Earth, I have challenges and fears to conquer. I have hopes and dreams that need some acknowledgement and attention if they ever stand a chance of coming to fruition.
It’s day one. I have strong coffee, morning light, and old words. Today’s reminder from my grandfather’s book of ancient prayers, very much paraphrased: “Lord, I stand before you calling for grace and mercy, refresh my spirit and kindle my coldness with the fire of your love, enlighten my blindness with the brightness of your presence”. (Thomas A Kempis)
One of the things I love about that old book is how the prayers and reflections seem to speak to whatever’s happening for me. I don’t think I could have found a better guide for beginning this new day and these new chapters.
My life has a soundtrack, and the baseline is the crashing of Atlantic waves keeping time with my own heartbeat. Now, I don’t live at the beach….yet….but there’s something deep inside me that needs time at the water’s edge. More than a recharge, the ocean is where I go to actually re-set. In light of the recent storms, I’d like to share some photos of calmer times along the coastline; a reminder, perhaps, of the beauty that returns to the ocean once the storms have passed.
Every sunrise is beautiful in its own right, an awakening of possibilities of a new day; but a sunrise over the ocean is a masterpiece of light shattering the darkness. My favorite beaches are south-facing, which means the sun rises and sets over the water. Spectacular views all day long.
This sunrise was from a few weeks back as I stepped out alone onto the sand at Topsail Island, NC. Aside from a few sandpipers, pelicans and gulls, I had the whole strand to myself for at least half an hour. The night sky gave way to the most brilliant gold, red and orange hues as the sun slowly rose above the horizon. Waves rolled in and crashed upon the cold morning sand as if waving good morning to anyone who ventured nearby.
This past weekend, Labor Day Weekend, found me at the edge of the ocean once again. Tropical Storm Hermine made her presence known along the eastern seaboard, certainly, but did not linger at Oak Island, NC.
Watching the sunrise across the tall dunes
Large crab almost waving good morning
Morning wave ~ Perfection
Another south-facing beach in this great state, morning walks with coffee along the shoreline offers glimpses of tranquility and peace.
Pelicans flying westward
Boats ~ View from beyond the dunes
Mid-day draws the crowds and has different rhythm of conversation and laughter atop the ocean music; but the transitional time of morning and evening provide just the right light to silhouette nearly everything against the crashing waves.
You know, I’ve seen the sunset in the Florida Keys and it is a spectacular sight no doubt. But even more spectacular, I think, are the sunsets right here in North Carolina as the golden sun drops into the Atlantic, setting the sky aglow, lighting the way for the night to take the stage.
Sunset, November 2015 Oak Island, NC
Silhouette Sailboats – Oak Island/Southport NC November 2015
And long after sunset, the rhythm of the waves keeps steady time here on earth, with an unbreakable relationship with the heavens. I find the stars seem to shine brighter and clearer at waters edge, away from the light pollution of the towns and cities. Perhaps even the waves themselves, in some forgotten language, whisper “Look Up” .
Star Gazing – Mercury, Venus & Saturn (I think) looking Southward over the Atlantic September 2016
A little cloud lightning over the Atlantic ~ After Midnight
Star gazing ~ Looking Southward across the Atlantic
But some nights, some nights the moon shows up in its full brilliance and light shining over the landscape, unseen by those who sleep deep and early. I believe everyone should experience the beauty of the full moon over the ocean at least once in their lives – preferably several times.
These are the nights when the waves truly get to not only sing into the darkness with their rolling music, but to shine brightly under the spotlight of a moon always in tune with the rhythm of the waves. Goodnight Atlantic. I miss you already.