Awash

We were living by the sea. It was an isolated little house way up the beach, miles and miles from town. We couldn't see the water from our house, but it was only a few miles away. A far cry from our Midwestern home. It was hard...being so far from our old home, our friends. Family came often - they do when you live by the ocean - I was thankful for that. I woke up that stormy morning just in time to get to our appointments in town, and dressed the kids in a hurry. We wore wool - there was a flurry of snow coming through the warm air and that seemed a bit unusual - but our winter coats were still in a box somewhere. Who needs winter coats here? It might be lonely, but at least it's warm, I thought as I packed up the kids.

I knew the beach road was taking on waves occasionally in the incessant storm that had laid siege to our strip of land for the last few days. But what could be more interesting on the long drive than a stormy ocean? I had two choices other than the road right down on the beach: the low ocean road, from which we could see the sea; or the high forest road, up in the trees, out of sight of the waves but also sheltered. With a hint of curiosity, I nudged the car into the non-stop traffic on the low ocean road, and we drove along the cliff, mounds of sea grass and scrub brush to our right and the wide, angry sea rising high on the sandy beach to our left. It seemed like the road had been carved out underneath, the sand falling sharply away almost at a right angle from my driver's door. It took my breath away as I watched the snow clouds let loose a flurry over the ocean and the flakes came straight inland in a sheet of sudden ice pellets, carried high up in the jetstream until they hit the warm air of shore and fell like glass shards onto my windshield. The kids were silent in the back, watching the water, white and foaming, attack the beach they had played on a few days prior. My son quit thumping the sand bucket he found on the floor, and was still, awed as much as I was by the scene before us.



Trapped in traffic, I started to worry that maybe the low road wasn't such a good idea. I had already passed the last turn-off for the forest road about a mile ago, and it seemed like too much effort to turn back now, edging out of the slow-moving traffic onto the unused lane going the other direction and somehow turning around to go back. As I watched the sea, I saw an alarming trend. A few lower waves gave way to a high one. I looked as far out as I could see through the gray morning, and one wave far out caught my eye. A mountain covered in the white peaks of the waves that ran before it, swallowing them up as it ran in toward our line of cars. I noticed the traffic in front of me had eased a bit. I felt as though we all felt a little scared of that wave, that the whole line of cars had sped up, trying to outrun a tsunami. I didn't think there'd been one on this beach for years. So I tried to calm my nerves and still my fingers, which tapped staccato on the wheel, impatient.

I sang a little chorus of a favorite verse aloud in a tinny voice. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. It faded out at the end as I realized I hadn't really asked, in a quick silent prayer, for guidance about something so mundane as which road to take into town this morning. The kids sensed my nerves. I told them I thought the car might get a little wet when the next big wave came. That sounded like adventure to the two youngest ones, but the oldest two were silent. We all fixed our eyes on that wave coming, and the silence in the car grew pregnant with expectation as we waited to see how bad it would really be.

A few large waves came first. When the first hit the driver's side of the van, I realized with a mixture of awe and horror that I could feel the car tipping up off the road and settling back down like a bobbing toy onto the now sandy strip of tar. The next wave was right on it's heels, and I wondered if I should try to steer the car inland a bit or just hope we came back down on blacktop. Water rushed in the bottom of my door, soaking my shoes. More came rushing through the back hatch as the back of the car lifted higher than the front, water cascading in around the cracks as the kids giggled nervously. At that moment we were all looking down at our feet, and not at the much bigger wave still to come.

Photo credit:
http://6thgradescience08.pbworks.com/w/page/1072905/mariah-amberli-geneva

I didn't have time to steer the car inland before it hit. I did notice the line of cars was still in place in front of and behind me. Nobody had suffered disaster in the last two swamping waves, it seemed, even the smaller hatchbacks and motorcycles littering the stream of traffic.

It hit without warning and I felt calmer than I imagined I would. The force blew the windows out, but I didn't even notice the shattering glass or the sound as the roar of the water overcame everything and reminded me of the sound that fills your ears right before you hit the floor unconscious when you faint. The car went from dry and warm to completely filled with water in an instant. I was aware that we were floating, and wondered if these were my last few moments on earth. I had heard one gurgling scream from the back and nothing else, so I turned my head hard against the force of the water, my hair pinned against the back of the seat. The kids eyes were open and alarmed but everyone had puffy cheeks as if they were holding their last breath tight. I kept looking with what I hoped was love or affection or something like it, instead of fear. I knew these were the last few seconds before we all blacked out. They'd probably never find us. I couldn't even imagine how far out to sea the van would be carried before the wave let go again.

The hopelessness of the situation actually made me feel calmer. It was over and done with...I could make no more decisions that might save us...at least we were all going together. That sort of thing raced through my brain. I felt the pull against my clothes and hair and skin as the water began to flow back out toward the ocean. I had hoped I'd be blacked out by the time we drifted out into the sea, I guess. Fear returned. But I noticed something else. The water was roaring through our car, it seemed, pulling everything - even the floor mats - out with it. We were strapped in to the seats, and stayed, but the pull hurt. The sand and salt in the water made it impossible now to open your eyes. I felt the car tipping, but holding firm, it seemed. Finally, the gray curtain closed in around the edges of my sensation, and I blacked out still gripping the steering wheel. Not even a thought of God had rushed through my head that horrible 90 seconds I had been underwater for. Yet it was His peace that bathed me in the last few seconds. I knew exactly where we would all wake up.

I came around slowly, and at first I couldn't really remember where I was or what had happened. As I moved my sodden legs slowly, as if to throw off the blankets and get up from bed, the sand gritting under my shoes jolted me fully awake, and I looked down at my hands in amazement. There wasn't a trace of glass anywhere, but we seemed to still be on land. Breathing air. Covered in sand and weeds. My first glance was out the hole where my driver's window had been, at the ocean. It was receding. The beach was littered with cars and people emerging from them. I was still on the road, trapped by a little strip of high guardrail. The undercurrent must have glued our car wheels to the tar, while the high rail here had prevented the car from rolling over the top and out onto the beach below.

It wasn't until the first sound from the back that I turned around to make sure my kids were still here. All four buckled, wide eyed, and as awake as I was. Why isn't anyone crying, I wondered? By the looks in their eyes, I could tell it was from shock. They looked around as if the whole world had been born anew and they were seeing it for the first time. They seemed fine. I wondered if the car would go. It didn't.

Okay, kids, I said, time for adventure number 2. Are you ready? Get everyone unbuckled. We're climbing the hill and heading to higher ground. I couldn't get the sliding door opened, so they followed me out the passenger side door in the front, water squishing out of everyone's shoes as we took those first few steps. Without a backward look at the van we couldn't afford to replace, we climbed thankfully into the thick beach grass of the sand dune uphill and began to climb.

I think my oldest started it. It sounded plaintive in the rushing wind and crashing surf. But by the time we all joined in, it felt like a mighty chorus, far removed from my thin attempt at hope a few minutes prior while we waited in the car for the unknown. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. I didn't see a single other person climbing up the hill like we were. It was almost a mile to the high forest road, all uphill. I didn't even wonder for a second - or even have to confirm in my soul - that we were doing the right thing. It just felt that way, and I was as sure of it as I was of the fact that I would look back on this day with disbelief and awe for the rest of my life.

.....

A few hours later, my husband picked us up, dried and crusty now, off the high road. He was still soaking wet, with tears wrung from hours of searching. There weren't any words at first. He finally spoke, through tight lips, his hand still gripping mine in a death grip, as we sped along the road toward home. How did you make it? Were you on the low road? Didn't you know the surf was high this morning? Almost an accusation, but too full of relief to feel like one. I gripped a book in my other hand. It was a chapter book for kids, a man on the front hugging a small child as tightly as He could. The title was What Time I Am Afraid. My answer came strong and sure. I don't know how we made it. I found this on the way up. I'm pretty sure this is exactly where we're supposed to be. He looked at me and the first smile was tentative. But the kids were singing in the back, their usual loud selves. I'm sure I looked like a million bucks, with seeweed extensions in my hair, covered in sand, my lips white with salt. In that moment, our eyes were in silent agreement. For the first time since we lighted in this lonely home, isolated and full of tension, we both knew it was exactly where we were supposed to be.

Photo credit: http://pixdaus.com/pics/Vg5hVz4IbmybZIruVP.jpg
___________________________________________

This is fiction (sort of), another first for this journal of my journey. This was my dream twice last night. Do you ever have that kind of dream, that sticks with you in alarming detail through the morning as you try to go about your day unchanged by it? I had to write it down, it feels heavy and significant to my soul. I felt every bit of it, as real as day. I'm not entirely sure yet what the significance of it is, but I have a few ideas...

The two verses I quoted in the story are two favorites, especially on these days when we feel a little lost in the middle of so many storms. Without cancer, I wouldn't wake up in pain every time I roll over. Bed would still be the last haven I can cling to, instead of a bed of nails that I drag myself out of in desperation in the wee morning hours, looking for comfort elsewhere. Without encephalitis, I wouldn't have to wonder how to help my daughter who is crying and begging for a help I don't know how to give. Without all that suffering, would we still be happily at home with the friends we've lost?

It feels a bit like we've gone under the wave. This morning - if I feel certain of nothing else - I do feel certain of this: This is the day which the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:34) I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. Psalm 56:3-4


**Please excuse any typos. I typed this straight from my heart this morning, and haven't checked it through for errors as I usually do. I'll get to it...but I wanted to get it down and out this morning. Please comment if you were encouraged in some way, or if this story spoke to you. I have no idea why I feel so compelled to type it up and publish it! It would be cool to get some feedback.