It is a good sign, I believe, when you leave behind a perfect week of vacation at a wildly gorgeous beach, and yet, as you walk through the quiet walls of your little home putting away the laundry, inhaling the old familiar smells of your favorite cleaning spray, your own fabric softener, your scented candles… your heart hums with contentment.
Oh, that beach. I did use a filter, but honestly it was the only way to get the picture to come close to the beauty in person. It was shockingly beautiful out there on the southern fringe of Nags Head. I have always daydreamed of moving back to the beach. About 85% of all the baby pictures from my infancy in Oviedo, Florida were on the beach, my little bum covered in sand, my dark brown hair bleached blonde by the sun. We were the Floridians who actually went to the beach. Consistently. My dad taught us how to body-surf when we were tiny. We’d tread water right next to him out in the sea just before the breakers, and he would show us how to watch for a good wave forming in the distance. We moved a few times throughout my childhood, but we always ended up back by the coast… until we didn’t, my parents settling irrevocably in the rolling, blue mountains of South Carolina. But the salt was in my blood. The damage done, the heart set, the restlessness remaining every moment that I spend away from the ocean.
I know saying “I love the beach!” or “I am a beach girl!” is kind of like saying “I love cake!” or babies! or sex!
I think most of us have an instinctive, awed response to the sea. It is so much the untouched handwork of the Creator.
I don’t even care if its unique to me or millions of people or whatever. All I know is, I have counted it among my life’s greatest blessings that I have been able to get to the sea at least twice a year in the last 4. And when I get to the beach, I feel the waste of every second I spend not actually on the water or laying in the sand, or walking the shoreline for miles of quiet joy.
This trip was no different. I felt an underlying buzz of excitement and aliveness all week that we were there. I was sleeping with our window open to hear the beating heart of the sea, I was hitting the sand as soon as I could get the babies lathered up in sunblock, and I was dragging Jason back out after they had gone down for the night.
Of course it was all over as soon as it had begun.
As we pulled onto the highway early Sunday morning, I turned back with my window down for one last breath of salty air, and I silently prayed the prayer I always do. “God, bring me back. And please, someday, bring me back for good.”
I expected to feel blue for a few days when we got back to Charlotte. I prepared myself to feel that longing, that ache to go back. But now I find myself suddenly back into the routine, the work, the fulfilling exhaustion of our daily lives with, yes, happiness.
I don’t crave a life of vacation. I was more than ready to be inundated with my daily chores, with the happy trips to the grocery store, with my regular schedule and my endless list-making.
I just would love to live that busy, hard-working life with the ocean in my windows.
I have resigned myself to the knowledge that I will never stop longing to be by the sea. To live a life where I can fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. To be soaked in the sun and the salt.
In the meantime, I need trips like this as often as I can get them. It helps reset me. A visit to the ocean is the only thing that effectively snaps me out of discontent, consumerism, over-spending and unintentional living. Being by the sea I am reminded that it really doesn’t matter what I am wearing… I feel just as beautiful in 5 year old cut-offs and a holey white tank as I do in Free People. I am thrilled by the simplicity and the beauty of life by the ocean.
I think some people have this same reaction to the mountains, or to farms in the countryside, or a peaceful lake, or the snow, or traveling the globe. Wherever your heart seems to beat faster, wherever you have been wired by nurture and nature to feel closest to God, closest to perfect happiness.
Someday, I believe, I will end up back on the coast.
My relationship with God has been one story after another of Him surprising me with fulfilling the deepest desires of my heart, so much better than I ever could have. He always allows me to have a burning desire that I have to surrender to Him; to go through a season of tasting that longing, of yearning and letting it go. But when I have sought to give up everything to happily do what He wants me to do… when I embrace the present moment and accept the grace He offers to do the work He has for me… I have never been disappointed by that work. I have never had cause to look back in regrets or what ifs.
I don’t know what His plan for me is, and I am okay with that! And if I never get to live seaside in this life, I have to trust there’ll be a drafty, splintery, big-windowed beach house for me in heaven.
In the meantime… my week by the ocean refreshed me for more intentionality in my lifestyle here in Charlotte. For the cooking and cleaning, for the endless dishes, for the early mornings and sleepy evenings. For the baby babbling and the dirty diapers. For saving my money for the next beach trip – and in doing so, realizing I don’t actually need any more stuff. Walking for hours on the beach will do that to you; make you realize how unnecessary all that nice, material “stuff” is. Give me an old house on a beachy island, with shabby wicker furniture and rice for dinner, and my life will be complete.
I am home, I am back to work with a new excitement and awareness of how good God is, how beautiful His plan is right here in the present moment… and a mission is to simplify and save. And here is where I am going to make an embarrassing confession. One of the big changes I need to make is cutting myself off from most of my favorite big, beautiful, highly-sponsored lifestyle blogs. I hate it, because I have grown to adore so many of these cute bloggers and truly appreciate their impeccable tastes. But there’s a very real problem that it creates, for me. I am naturally tempted to materialism. And when I get online and I see that one of these girls – whom I know from years of following doesn’t own her house yet, or has some financial struggles, or has a husband in school with similar student loans, etc etc – is wearing a gorgeous $500 dress by a designer branded for the occupants of the Hamptons… it creates this very real frustration and brewing discontent with my clothes from last season on clearance at J.Crew, and my Hobby-Lobby decor (which even then I can barely afford), and my handmedown Buick lacrosse.
Blogging makes money because it works. Peer marketing is incredibly effective. Seeing a girl I admire online, whom I also happen to know isn’t financially ahead of me, so to speak, wearing and using and enjoying these beautiful high-quality and highly priced things, I feel myself starting to justify going into debt and living above my means in order to have it all too. It makes little difference that I know she couldn’t really afford that dress either.
Of course its not that simple. There are many other factors in the vicious cycle of American consumerism and record personal debt. And I am definitely inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of these women – making a name and a business for themselves. But I have had to admit to myself that lifestyle blogs are becoming highly problematic, at least for me. And that kind of lifestyle – this Pinterest-perfect, on-trend lifestyle that is completely accessorized by to-die for throw pillows and necklaces and hats and ohhh the list never ends!… that’s become a problematic kind of lifestyle for me to be daily admiring.
The problem is not the lifestyle blog. The problem is the type
of lifestyle my favorite blogs have been encouraging, inadvertently or not. I need a new
lifestyle to emulate and be inspired by. Being at the beach made me re-realize it. I have been reading the thoughts and reflections of the guys at The Minimalists
… I got the book on Audible, and have been so uplifted and challenged in coming back from the beach with my renewed desire for someday
living again the simple saltwater life – realizing that however silly it may sound, that is one of my biggest passions – and everything else that I have been spending money on is just empty filler in comparison.
I am so grateful for the reset. I needed it. My walks on the beach, my hours watching the sun rise and set, my unplugged week, uninterrupted in experiencing the beauty of nature, has lit a fire under me to choose that lifestyle for myself and my family.
p.s.: What do y’all think? Am I crazy? Or way way way too materialistic that I am at all affected by harmless lifestyle blogs?