Happily Even After
Times of Joy
by Stacey Noem
We have had a “helluva” summer. What was supposed to be three and a half months of down time at home and at the office – kicked off with a fun vacation at the beach – turned into multiple funerals and cross country trips by car and by plane. And it probably goes without saying that trips of that magnitude didn’t result in a lot of downtime at the office. We seemed to be endlessly returning from a trip or getting everything in order to leave for a trip.
I actually remember a moment back in early June, sitting on our front porch on a heavenly Saturday afternoon. I mean it was completely idyllic. Kids playing in the yard. Flowers we planted blooming. Perfect 70-degree weather, sunshine and not a cloud in sight. It was just one of those moments when you are completely…complete. At peace with yourself and your life; fully conscious and aware of what a precious gift you are experiencing and thankful to God for it. I remember that moment, because it was the last time I remember feeling that way for the last two and a half months.
Until last weekend.
A friend and co-worker offered us her timeshare at a beach condo out of nowhere. She had it booked and ended up not being able to use it and figured we could use a getaway. She just gave it to us. Free. A completely gratuitous gift. So we packed up the family, sand toys, rubber boots and jackets (this is Oregon, not Florida) and headed to the coast for some family time–something we just haven’t had in a couple months.
After driving for a few hours, we arrived in the mid-afternoon, and settled in quickly. Then we headed straight for the beach. Now, I had never been to this beach. And, I come from a land (Florida) of magnificent beaches. But I had simply never seen anything like the beach at Newport, Oregon. After parking on a bluff, descending several sea stairs, and climbing over an enormous dune, you are faced with a landscape of 3-4 feet high mini-dunes rolling (is that the right verb to describe dunes?) down to the Pacific. It looked like a half or quarter scale Tatooine desert (Star Wars reference for those who have no 30-50 year-old men or Lego-addicted little boys around).
We plodded through the warm sand over the ridges of one dune after another until we chose our spot in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by nothing but sand and water. (Seriously, there were so few people, it was amazing to feel so alone on a public beach!) The children were as completely fascinated with the landscape as we were. Oscar started exploring, Simon was discovering how to slide and jump down little dunes, and little Lucy treated them like rock walls she wanted to climb.
Which left us with very little to do besides Joshua laying his head in my lap as I sat on our blanket. There we were: watching our children, marveling at the beautiful late afternoon light, the piercingly clear day, the soft warmth of the sand through our toes, the relentless waves of the Pacific, the complete and utterly gratuitous gift of it all.
It was one of those moments: at peace with yourself and your life; fully conscious and aware of what a precious gift you are experiencing and thankful to God for it. In the face of such an abundance of grace, could a person want anything more? Then I realized, in addition to all the blessings of nature, a healthy happy family, a surprise getaway, and remarkable weather in Oregon…I get to share it all with Joshua, the love of my life.
Some people search and search for love, for someone with whom they can share life. I was given Joshua at a relatively early age and we share so much that it is almost easy to take it for granted. But not in a moment like this. I can sigh in contented wonder at this utter gift of a moment, and he can touch my leg to let me know he knows. Without a word from him, I am no longer a solitary being in my reverie, but part of an indwelling community of love. I am known. And the only response to that is gratitude.
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