Emerald waters fill the horizon here, and the hush-rush of waves meeting the sandy shore fill the ear. Both fill my heart.
Here I am on another Beach Retreat—how many years have we done this now? We have wondered, unable to pinpoint it exactly. I think this may be year four for me, so that would make it maybe year six for Lodge Ladies D and J. We’ve come each time to the same beachfront bungalow along the same sleepy shores of Anna Maria Island to enjoy the same routine of books and quiet and coffee and fellowship and prayer and journaling and food and rest.
As I walked along the familiar coastline taking pictures of this familiar spot of the Gulf, it struck me that if my ocean photos from all Beach Retreats were mixed together, I wouldn’t know year one from year three or two or four. The ocean doesn’t change, really. It’s beautiful, yes. But it’s not noticeably different from year to year.
I don’t necessarily remember specifics from the other Beach Retreats, either. Do I remember what happened year one or two or three or four? I’d have to consult my old journals or search The Patch for old musings.
When it comes to Beach Retreat, there is sameness that makes specific memories slippery in my brain. And that makes me sad, because I don’t want this to slip away. This is what I thought of as I gazed out to the waves, pondering, asking the Lord Jesus to clarify and to comfort my lamenting heart.
Just as these futility-of-life thoughts were about to drag me out to a sea of meaninglessness, it occurred to me: It’s not merely the same Beach Retreat from year to year. The same waters that met me today are not the same drops from years past. The beach is not the same beach, because this year it has more shells—that’s new. I am not even the same woman—I’ve had a year of experiences that have changed who I am inside, adjusting how I see and process life. But there are still places in me that haven’t changed enough for my liking—I look at the horizon and see sameness: weak places, unrefined areas, immature patterns.
This is the crux of life, though, is it not? We face change and sameness every day.
Beach Retreat gives me a chance to reflect on the process. Here I rest in the sameness (the good kind!) of God’s love and the fellowship of dear friends. That steady sameness gives me courage to pursue the change (the good kind!) that’s needed, that I long for. Beach Retreat 2013 is unique. It is special. I will never be this Erin again. I want to savor it, knowing change and sameness will meet me at every turn.
Definitely a picture-worthy occasion.