The Prayer Boots

img_7787With a March snowstorm in the forecast and my annual trip to the Cape fast approaching, I had was heartbroken when my favorite boots gave out. The heel of the sole broke completely free from the rest of the boot and the kids talked me out of attempting to use super glue to fix it. I have a reputation for ending up hopelessly glued to stuff. So instead, I drove two sales ladies at the shoe store completely bonkers trying to find me a pair as close to what I had as possible. I came home with my new boots and, seeing the laces in the old ones were still good, I pulled the old laces out and set them aside. I took the old ones outside, but when it came time to put them in the garbage can, I started to cry. Yes, cry. Over a worn out pair of boots. Not a sniffle and a stray tear. Oh no. we’re talking a sit-down-on-the-steps, holding-on-to-the-boots, tears-rolling-down-the-face kind of a cry.

This is stupid. I told myself. Who in their right mind cries over a broken down pair of boots?! But the reaction was so visceral, I had to ask myself why they mattered so much to me. Honestly, I’m forty-some years old. It’s not like I’ve never thrown out a pair of boots before.

But these boots were different. These had a history. Over eleven years, I walked hundreds of miles of empty beaches with God as my companion. As beautiful as that may sound, I wasn’t always the most pleasant of company on those walks. And there were plenty of times when I resented God’s very presence in what had become the only safe space I had left. My life was in such a miserable state, all I wanted was to be left alone. It was not uncommon for me to walk four miles and spend the entire four miles yelling at God to either help me or get out of my way. Funny thing is, over time, something gradually shifted and those walks with God on the beach became less confrontational. Little by little, I stopped yelling. I stopped demanding. I stopped begging. I accepted God’s company and I found that even on those days when I thought I really, really wanted to be alone, what I actually wanted was to be alone with God because God was the only who understood what was brewing inside of me.

Over the last eleven years, I didn’t learn to trust God by sitting in church on Sunday. I didn’t learn to surrender all the stuff that was killing me inside by reading a prayer book full of prayers I was supposed to have memorized and couldn’t. There were days when I was just so hopelessly tangled up inside, the only way to untangle the mess was to take a walk down the beach and let God do the untangling. And the only way that works is to let go and let God do God’s thing and accept that maybe, just maybe, the Creator has a clue about how this particular creation ticks.

All those miles, all that sand and salt water, all the tears and pain and hell I’d walked through was soaked into a clunky, ugly, worn out pair of old leather boots. God transformed all that into a life I never dared to hope for, a life touched by unfathomable grace. Sometimes a pair of boots is more than just a pair of boots. Sometimes a pair of boots become sacred objects. So maybe that worn out pair of boots isn’t going in the garbage can after all. Maybe they’ll be given a very quiet burial somewhere only God and I know about.

worn boots.JPG

Out to Sea

20140323-091810.jpg

I’ve spent the last few days alone at a lovely resort on Cape Cod. The townhouse where I’m staying was booked back in November as a birthday gift from my sister and her husband. Being a divorced mom, managing a chronic illness, working part-time and picking up freelance projects as I can get them doesn’t leave a lot in my budget. Five days anywhere is an incredible luxury for me but to stay here with a view of the water, a wall of glass doors with the sun streaming in every morning… It doesn’t get any better than that. Or does it?

Life has been crazy lately. Working in insurance as the healthcare deadline approaches has meant more and more stress and demands on me at work. Both kids, my mom and I all battled a brutal cold that meant several doctor’s visits and still isn’t completely gone. Snow days and sick days made my tight budget even tighter. And for some unknown reason my younger son got himself on an ‘almost late for school’ kick, because mornings aren’t stressful enough already?!

But it’s Lent so instead of blithely giving up my morning prayer time at the beach and hoping to ‘catch up’ the next day, I started going up to bed earlier. To be clear: early is 8:00. There are toddlers with later bedtimes than me. Be that as it may, I abandoned the nightly Homework Wars and managed to find time in the evenings to spend with God. Sounds great except by early evening, if I sit still for ten minutes, I’m asleep. But He already knows that and the effort to find the time is enough.

Five days alone to be quiet and still has been such a blessing. The Cape is fairly empty in March. I’ve been wandering up and down miles of ocean beaches and had them all to myself. The first full day I was here, I trekked up to Race Point Beach, as far north as I could go. There were a few cars in the lot but I never saw a soul. I walked for a couple miles and then did the one thing I just had to do. I went in the water. Yes. The North Atlantic. Yes in March. And I don’t mean I dipped my toes. I took off the boots and the wool socks, rolled my jeans to my knees, waded through the shallows and into the breakers. I just couldn’t NOT go in. It was too beautiful. To admire that water from a safe distance and not experience it would be a sin. And God, with His wonderful sense of humor, shifted the clouds just so and the sunlight broke through in the most beautiful rays and I took my eyes off the waves. I grew up in Jersey. I know better than that. But I looked away and the next wave that came in soaked me to mid-thigh and almost knocked me down. I managed to catch my balance and dragged my soggy self back to dry land just in time to save my boots which almost floated away. And suddenly I was very glad that beach was empty. I stood there with cold ocean water pouring out of my jeans, threw my head back and laughed harder than I have in a long time. I found a log about hundred yards away and sat down to dry out a little before walking the miles back to my car. The clouds started to break up and the sun made things a bit warmer. Every time I looked down at my soggy jeans I started giggling all over again.

Yesterday, I took the drive up to Head of the Meadows Beach in North Truro. It was a beautiful clear sunny day and I was somewhat shocked to find mine was the only car in the lot. The 35 mph winds kept everyone else away. Being a March baby, I love the wind, especially when I’m by the water. I headed up over the dunes in search of the shipwreck that can be seen at low tide. I found it almost immediately and being a history geek, I was thrilled. Even more so because the beach was swept clean by the wind. There were no footprints anywhere. Even my own disappeared within minutes. It was perfect and untouched. I didn’t walk very far. I found a spot in the sand and sat down enjoy the view. And yes, I went in the water, but only in the shallows this time. I walked back to where I’d left my boots and watched the tide slowly reclaim the wreck. All the while, the wind howled off the dunes behind me and I was getting sandblasted. Sheets of sand went sailing past me. And me, being me, thought that was the coolest thing ever.

I said I’ve spent the last few days alone. But really I haven’t. God and I have hung out together, like old friends catching up. Yeah, that’s new ground for me. I mean we spend time together but there’s a timetable and I make an effort to try to relax. Why that’s so hard for me, I don’t even know. But these last few days I can’t even say I let my guard down. If I had it up at all, it got swept out to sea with that first big cold wave at Race Point. See, as I sat there drying out and laughing over my chilly sogginess, God laughed with me. And as I sat at Head of the Meadows mesmerized by the incoming tide swallowing the old shipwreck, a quote from the Sufi poet Rumi kept echoing in my head:

“You are not just a drop in the ocean. You are the mighty ocean in the drop.”

And then came the whisper than finished the thought,

“I know because I made you that way and I love you. See what I see.”