What The Ocean Taught Me About Life
Because I’m from Colorado, people constantly ask me if I ski. I understand that in being from a state that’s known for its winter sports, that this is a perfectly legitimate question.
But people are usually disappointed with my answer.
I’m a social skier (a real professional when it comes to the après ski hot tubbing) but nowhere near as good as I should be having grown up so close to the slopes. I’m not friends with Shaun White and I don’t even own a pair of skis. I put in the effort for awhile, but I’m just not destined to be the “cool mountain chick.”
Because more than the mountains, what I really love is the beach.
Maybe I’m a bad Coloradan, but the ocean is where I belong—my happy place, the place where I see God most clearly.
When I think back to my time on the World Race, my favorite memories are always from the beach. I’d walk up and down the sandy shores, my iPod on and loud, praying and sorting out the latest thing that Jesus had me working through.
That was my time to process, where my mind got to unwind. To me it felt like a coffee date with God—some face-to-face time where I got to ask him the hard questions and take a deep breath.
But there’s one beach that stands out above the rest, and I found it on a little island off the coast of Tanzania, called Zanzibar.
We had a few days in between one country and the next and so several of our teams headed to the island for a short weekend.
My team looked forward to it for weeks, dreaming about the ocean and the rest that we would find there.
We prayed on the long ferry ride over that the weekend would multiply itself—we wanted it to last much longer than we knew it actually could.
And that’s exactly what happened.
In the span of just a few days, our hearts unwound at this tiny, beachfront hotel. We’d wake up late and pad down to the restaurant—a patio with rows of tables that overlooked the bathwater-blue water.
We’d come down one by one with our Bibles and our journals, letting our thoughts unwind slowly, waking up as the sun warmed our faces and the coffee warmed our minds.
We’d spend the day flip-flopping between the beach and the deck, eating slowly and having long conversations that took days to unfold.
I remember everything about that weekend.
I remember the hammock I found on the property, and the intense gratitude I felt as I looked out over my sandy toes at the water.
Our time there was a perfect gift—deeper rest than I knew was possible—soaking through my skin and into my soul where I needed it most.
When we left the ocean, I cried.
My team vowed to each other that we’d take it with us—the laughter and the friendship and the peace we’d found on that trip—embedding it into our deepest places and taking it with us for as long as we could.
I want the ocean to be inside my heart, I told one of my teammates—fully understanding the cheesiness of my statement, but meaning it desperately.
I wanted to keep that kind of peace with me forever—the lull of the water as the tide rolled in and back out, the beauty of the ocean as it sparkled differently at all hours of the day, and how small, yet completely taken care of, I felt in it’s midst.
Zanzibar is the clearest and most tangible experience of peace I’ve ever had.
And sometimes, on my best days, I can still see the clear blue water lapping peacefully inside my heart.
But other days, I forget entirely the peaceful place I want my life to flow from.
On those forgetful days, my circumstances get the best of me.
I cyclone through the day sucking everyone around me into my swirling mess of chaos.
Everything is urgent and there’s never enough time. My agenda becomes inscribed in creases on my forehead, and I adopt an obnoxious attitude that tells the people around me that my busyness is clearly more important than theirs. (Everybody loves that coworker…)
I forget to breathe sometimes, oxygen coming in tight, hurried gasps, as if I’m trying to cram in time for that too—tears usually follow shortly thereafter.
And if you’re anywhere in my path on those days, you’re coming down with me.
If the Zanzibar coast is my heart on a good day, then the Atlanta airport the day after Thanksgiving is my heart on a bad day—chaotic, frustrating, and something you want to avoid.
There’s gotta be another way.
Yes, I’m moving and coaching and training and writing and blogging and editing and filming and answering heaping piles of emails. Yes I’m working on a book and a blog and a magazine and a thousand guest posts and decorating my room and trying to be a girlfriend, friend, daughter and sister all at the same time. And yes, thanks for asking, I desperately need a haircut.
But in the midst of all of that, Zanzibar is still possible.
Because those things are around me, they’re not inside of me, or at least they don’t have to be. What’s inside of me is the spirit of a God who is famous for his peace.
So now I’m going to get to work—and go in search of an umbrella for my drink. I’m reclaiming the beach and I’m taking it with me, no matter what craziness this next season holds.
How do you find peace in busy seasons? When have you experienced miraculous moments of peace?