There’s no sunrise this morning. It’s a chilly, overcast day. The waves roll up onto the shore, but their music is muted somehow…as if they are hesitant to make too much noise when they hit the beach. Do they know that I’m coming there to pray and talk to God? A thundercloud in the distance sends a single bolt of lightning down to light up the sky. It’s raining there, but thankfully, the cloud is moving away from me and not towards me. Even though I can’t see it, I know that the sun will continue on its path and light up the sky with light and warmth. I hope it’s sooner rather than later. So do my girls.
We were blessed to be away again this past weekend, part of God’s healing and plan for our lives right now. The scene I opened this post with was from that beach we went to…St. Simon’s Island, GA. Caitlin and Makayla wanted to see the sunrise, so I gladly obliged them and prodded them awake at 6:30 am. There’s no way that they would have been able to get up on their own (teenage girls :)), but to their credit, they were ready to go before I was. We left Lena, Emma and Samantha asleep at the room and made the short walk to the shore. Even though the clouds and the distant rain put a damper on seeing the sun, the girls were undaunted. They began to play in the waves and attempted to save as many jellyfish that washed up on the beach as they could.
I scribbled Mia’s name in the sand with a crude (I’m NOT an artist at all) butterfly next to it. Taking my queue, Caitlin and Makayla began making their own drawings in honor of their sister. Makayla shaped a butterfly out of driftwood next to her writing, while Caitlin drew a huge butterfly of her own. When they finished, they went back to their rescue mission.
As I sat in my chair and looked out toward the horizon, hoping that the sun would break through the clouds, a man walking up the beach stopped at Makayla’s drawing. He was an older gentleman, and he had a camera around his neck and a camera bag on his shoulder. He began to walk off after looking at her creation for a moment, but then stopped, turned back and took a few pictures of it. When he finished, he started his trek up the beach again.
I called out to him as he was passing by and asked him if he would be interested in hearing the story behind the photo he just took. He said, “Sure. I’d love to.” So, I began recounting the events of the past month or so and told him how we were at the beach as a family to do some healing. He then asked me if we had been to the tree yet. I asked him, “What tree?”, and he proceeded to tell me that it was up the beach just a little ways. He said that people went there to hang mementos of loved ones that they had lost. He had been coming to the beach every month for the last three months, and it changed every time. I was dumbstruck.
Out of all the times we could have picked to go to the beach. Out of all the beaches that we could have gone to (we usually went to Jeckyll Island). Out of all the sunrises that my daughters wanted to watch. Out of all the drawings that they could have made in the sand. Out of all the people who could have happened by. God knew what we needed before we ever had the idea to go and put ALL of those things in place for one purpose…to let us know that He is there and will NEVER forsake us or let us down in our times of darkest agony.
But wait, Chuck…there’s more! Of course I and the girls wanted to go see the tree, so we walked a short (more like a mini-hike) while and found it sticking out of the sand. It’s the picture that I’ve used as the featured image for this post. Nothing more than a couple of sand-worn, wind-blown sticks jutting up out of the ground. It was simple, yet conveyed so much emotion that I was almost moved to tears. My own contribution now adorns one of the branches. Samantha had some rubber bracelets made with Mia’s name on them. I placed mine there, an homage to my beautiful Baby Butterfly
While we were standing there looking at all the items people had left, our friend who directed us there in the first place came up and took some pictures of his own. I thanked him again for sharing this with us, and we struck up another conversation. While we were talking, a woman walked up carrying a flat board with a bunch of shells on it. She began to look over the tree and was somewhat listening to what we were saying.
I thanked Tom a third time for the story, and as I was about to leave, the woman said she just had to know what the story was. So, I pointed to Tom, and we shared the story of The Mourning Tree (not sure if that’s what it’s called, but that’s what I feel led to call it) with her. I also pointed out my contribution and shared my loss with her. She began to tear up, and she shared with us that she lost both of her parents this year, lost her house to a fire, and was possibly going through a divorce as a result. Her father was elderly, and when he passed away, his life-partner, her mother, couldn’t go on without him. She died a short time later. Yet, in spite of her situation, she wept for me and my family. She wept for Mia.
Later that night, I took Lena and Emma down to the tree. It was almost dark, and the rain that threatened us in the morning was beginning to come in off the ocean. I just wanted her to see the bracelet and the tree before we left the next morning. Though it drizzled on us a little bit, and the thunder and lightning rolled in the distance, we made it back to the room before we really got rained on. It was as if He kept the storm at bay just long enough.
On the way home, it was Lena that gave me the scripture for this post (awesome because I’m usually the one that gives her scripture)…
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. ‘ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:8-10
I shared this with the church that I spoke to that Sunday…hopefully the first of many that will invite me to share my testimony. I know the rains will come. I know that times will get tough. I know that some days I will miss Mia so much that it will incapacitate me. I also know that He will be there every step of the way. And the more I exalt Him in my moments of weakness, the stronger I will become in Him.
As is my custom, I leave you with this song by Mercy Me…Bring the Rain. It’s me and my situation to a tee. Be a blessing…