Friday, July 19, 2013

Our Arms Cannot Contain It (Lake Michigan freewrite)

“Mama, are we going to go to the big lake while we are in Michigan?  Can we please, please, please?”

“Oh honey, don’t worry about that… if we don’t find time to go to Lake Michigan I’ll probably shrivel up and die. We will go.”  She looks at me with big eyes, suddenly not knowing this mama who speaks with such drama.  I smile, and turn up the music—a pop song.  We must go, or I will shrivel up and die. The thought spilled out of me as if I were my teenaged self, prone to jokes about death and hyperbole.  Just thinking about the lake makes that person want to rise up in me- the girl who jumped off the pier even though it was against the rules; the girl who ran down sand dunes, flailing and yelling like a maniac, in a body full of life that had not yet carried life.

Friday comes, and we go, and as I drive I can feel the lake approaching even before I can see it. My feet are restless to shed the shoes and run in the soft, smooth sand.  I remember how the sand squeaks when you walk just right, and I wonder if my children will notice.

But the stuff must be carried, and so we carry the stuff. As I carry I breathe, and the air is sweet and full of memories and water and youth. The children hobble on sand with arms full, bare feet awkward but happy. They finally approach the water front, drop all things in a pile, and they run.  They run with arms spread wide and fingers splayed, as if they could embrace the vastness of the beauty.  Their arms cannot contain it, and their small legs are slowed by the weight of the water. They flail and fall, and the water is freezing.

The sand is so soft, and my son has noticed. He sits and lets it fall through his fingers, over and over.  This is exactly what I would like to do with glorious days like this one. I want to let them run through my fingers, to examine them in my hand, to set them down and pick them up again.

But new blessings come to distract us both. The sand is forgotten and he runs for the pier.

I watch them with mother-eyes, seeing the danger that was once invisible to me in this place.  These eyes cannot be closed again, and there is sadness in the realization.  But, as the memories of this place play before my eyes even as I watch my own children, my mother-eyes see a new depth in the memories. They see little me, protected with sunscreen and a hat and a lifejacket. They see my own parents struggling with the tension of letting-go and holding close. They see a child oblivious, yet loved.  They see prayers answered and grace poured out.

I see my dear mother with her wind-blown hair that matches mine. What is it like to look through grandmother-eyes?  Does she see layers upon layers?

Memories flood, and my face flushes, but this time, not from the sun. I see the danger with which I flirted, and the boys.  I wallowed in more than just the lake when I was a teenager. 

 Remember not the sins of my youth, Lord, I pray with David.   

The past can chafe like wet sand if it is not washed away.  How often I have prayed such a prayer? And my patient Father has answered, once for all.  His answer came once in His Word made flesh, and His promises echo through history to me on this pier on this day.  The sins of my youth, the sins of this morning, all have been laid on Jesus.  My “stuff” has been carried for me, across the sand and onto the cross and through the tomb and into the depths of the sea.

The memories mix with the present moment, and the cool breeze of God’s grace blows through everything.  This day, this God-- it is all too big for me to get my arms around. 

I see my children running ahead as we return from the edge of the pier.  They run, looking for the place where the pier meets the sand, where the running-jump makes a heart leap before a body hits the soft sand below. 

Arms up, free, open heart and arms and splayed fingers, we jump.

Jesus said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:17-19

Linked with Just write


  1. This is so beautiful and so true. This post made me think of my own memories on the beach with my parents -the sights and sounds and smells. How quickly I get lost in your words! Breath taking!

  2. Emily ,you are so right about seeing the little ones through layers and layers of memories. I am a great grandmother now, and it is wonderful being blessed by the family as it grows. The Lord is very good.


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