Our pockets were heavy with treasures. And thinking about it now, it was more than the absurd amounts of sea glass and swirly shells we had collected that weekend.
Nadia and I were giddy for a solid five minutes as we took our first steps onto the beach at Cap d’Agde, a quaint town and fishing port on the Mediterranean Sea. The smell of salt in the air that was flung off the waves teased me and made me think of California.
While we probably spent a grand majority of our time hunting for mermaid treasures, there was a lot of time to be still and just breathe in as many happy endorphins as we could from the fresh sea air. I can hardly find the words to describe what it was like to dive head first into the Mediterranean for the first time. I stood in the waves for a moment before jumping in, completely in awe of how great a moment this was---I had only ever read about this sea in (most likely) hundreds of books and had only imagined what it would be like to experience it.
And that’s what this trip is proving to me over and over again: You don’t have to just read about these places and call it quits. The pictures I have stared at in travel guides, in National Geographic, in films, and on maps, are all REAL places just asking for me to explore . . . well, don’t mind if I do.
I had a lot of time to think at Cap d’Adge. The ocean air has that effect on me.
After we had finished sea shell hunting that morning, I sat in the sand with my book and tried to read. I got through about two sentences when the sound of a ski boat zipping by the shore made me look up. I smiled, thinking that the last time I heard that sound, I was at Shasta. My heart ached only for a moment for the mountains and those I worked with over the summer.
The waves that lapped the shore and threatened to overtake my pleasant spot in the sand sounded like home.
The surfers I spotted hopping out of the water, boards securely under their arms looked like home.
The coconut smell of the my sunscreen smelled like home.
Well, shoot. What the heck was happening?
I breathed deeply the smell of salt and cleared my head, not wanting to sink into nostalgia or the past. Looking out at the sea, it felt like I would be there for the rest of my life because what really was home anymore?
Nadia came back from collecting more sea treasures and she asked me if I wanted anymore seaglass.
I looked away from the salty horizon reluctantly, unsure of how long I had been staring at it utterly lost inside myself.
"I think I’m okay,” I said, laughing a little at my own growing collection of shells and green and brown glass wrapped in my sweater.
“You sure?” Nadia asked again.
I nodded and looked back down at my book. I tried to start reading again when Nadia tossed something onto the pages I held in front of me.
It was blue seaglass. HOLY MOLY it was blue seaglass.
If you knew how much I had always longed to find a piece of blue seaglass, you would understand the rush of joy that swelled up inside me too fast for me to remember now.
I looked at Nadia in disbelief and she just smiled.
“What . . . where did you . . .,” I couldn’t even form my words. And then, “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?” I asked her.
“No way,” she said. “It’s yours.”
And just like that, as I determined what kind of necklace I would make with this gorgeous piece, I knew what it meant it feel at home, to feel like I belonged somewhere.
Gazing out at the vast ocean, I felt small and detached, aloof, even. I had often made my definition of home a combination of comfortability and relationships, never so much a feeling. I looked at the piece of blue sea glass in my hands and felt overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. How was that possible?
This blue sea glass had been detached from it’s source of belonging, just as I had. But as I held the glass in my hands, it had a home---it belonged to my growing collection of treasures now.
I am held in the hands of the Creator just as reverently, often detached from where I feel like I belong. But the more I try and attach myself to people and places that I feel bring me comfort and a sense of “home,” the harder it is to find myself in the unfamiliar and feel like I belong. In God’s hands, no matter how lost, I always have a home. In my hands, no matter how detached, this piece of blue seaglass had a home.
It’s hilarious to me that it’s taken traveling across the world for me to understand this about my sense of belonging. How backwards it seems that I would discover that in the most unfamiliar place. But what I have concluded is that I am put in these exact situations of being uncomfortable and uncertain all the time so I can keep returning to the One who’s home is truly where my heart is.
I recently finished reading the book of Hosea---all I have to say is, WOW, what a douzy. I would seriously hate to be the city of Israel in this book...But then again, I am constantly playing the part of Israel whether I know it or not, trying to find a sense of belonging and love from things that could never satisfy me.
Hosea 6:1 reads, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” This theme of being “torn to piece” has been a recurrence in my life lately, but in the best way. All that is familiar, all that is comfortable, all that I thought I was, has been drastically changed and “torn” from me in a sense. Coming to France has played huge part in literally being taken out of what I find comfort in. But it is in these times that I have realized that the whole point is to return to God. Because the God that I know does not want bits of me at a time, uncommitted and afraid.He wants all of me, returning to Him constantly in pieces that have been scattered to the ends of my being and back again.
“He has torn us to pieces.” That will always be hard. But letting God strip me of false loves and silly idols will force me to return to Him for comfort. Just like that beautiful piece of blue sea glass, I come in pieces to the One who will make me whole again and give me a home to return to.
I had a conversation with my mom about putting my love in the right place when got to France. It’s something I have only recently understood I struggle with. I told her I was excited to be away from distractions, like relationships and messy break ups, the petty drama of life, etc. I was so excited to give this trip my full attention and love. She stopped me quickly and said, “See? That’s what you do. You can’t cling to the experience.”
It wasn’t that I couldn’t love this experience. It was that I could not cling to it and expect it to give me life and an escape from everything. I was in desperate need of returning to the Lord, the One who I could not run from, and the one who demands my full attention.
I must cling to Jesus, not the experience. I must return to Him over and over again, even when I come in shredded pieces of heartbreak and uncertainty and a longing to belong.
Comparing myself to seaglass seems silly now, after rereading this post. But in reality, that’s all I really am to my God---a little blue piece of seaglass, who has does not have to search any farther for loving hands to give me a home and make me into something beautiful.