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Sun, Surf and Sand

2 Aug

  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
T
hey would outnumber the
grains of sand.
Psalm 139:17-18

 

Momma with the little people

Momma with the little people

The after-hours beach crowd was small as the cool of the evening settled upon the sandy shore. The excited anticipation of us big people was at its height after our late afternoon drive through the Pennsylvania countryside to the coastline of New   Jersey.  After parking along the brand new boardwalk, we took two little people to the water’s edge for the first time this season. Not knowing how young feet and tiny toes would take to the gritty sand, we all took off our shoes and walked into the incoming tide.  As the sun was setting in the west, it didn’t take long at all for a little boy to begin running back and forth in the surf, thrilled to finally be at the beach, even if for just a short time.  His sister was not as big of a fan of the sand, but was fascinated by the splash of the salty sea and the spray that made her lips taste most interesting.   There’s truly nothing like watching the sparkle and joy in the eyes of your own little people.  The next two days were going to be a lot of fun!

Dad and kiddos running in the surf

Dad and kiddos running in the surf

Having started when Cole Michael was 2 years old, an annual summer trip to the beach has become tradition. Whether the stay is 4-5 days or just a simple overnight weekend, it has been enjoyable to be part of his experiences and memories.  Of course, the gazillion pictures that I take … from every angle possible to capture every expression given … helps to keep those memories alive.  This year was no exception as we once again set up the beach tent and then accessorized our spot in the sand with chairs, sand castle molds, buckets and shovels, diggers, and dump trucks.  Adding to the fun this year was a very mobile Lillianne.  Wearing the smallest sand shoes I’ve ever seen, Little Miss strutted around with a confidence all of her own.  Her eyes were bright with the excitement of her independence, very limited as it truly was, but nonetheless, she walked through the sand and down into the water … yes, with assistance … and loved every splash, every spray, and every moment in the salty sea.

Daddy and Lillianne

Daddy and Lillianne

Family fun!!

Family fun!!

Cole with this sand castles

Cole with this sand castles

The demolition digger

The demolition digger

Sand castles were constructed by Arndt and Son, then quickly destroyed by Cole Demolitions.  A very contented Lillie Lou sat nearby in her yellow tutu swimsuit, shovel in hand and slinging sand in every direction.  As the noonday sun started its downward descent, a very gritty little girl began to get sleepy.  A quick naked douse in the ocean waves made for a make-shift bathtub, followed by a silky layer of baby powder, a bottle of her favorite beverage (milk) and a warm towel around her tired body … and we soon had a napping 15 month old.  We all took turns as the guardian on duty, while the others continued to play in the sun, sand, and surf with Cole.  By day’s end, happy hearts and tired bodies quickly fell asleep … no doubt dreaming of another fun day at the shore.

Flying kites

Flying kites

Morning brew from a local coffee shop jump started our new day … and within moments, kites were flying overhead and the little people were squealing with excitement.  It wasn’t long, however, before an overcast sky blocked the brilliance of the sun, but a little rain shower couldn’t dampen the activities of the day.  Of course the sun began to shine again as we were picking up sand toys and packing away our beach abode.  After dinner, there was a 3 hour journey back to Mimi and Papaw’s house where baths were taken and snacks were given out freely … and the final leg of the return trip rocked the little ones to sleep.

Silly Lillie Lou!

Silly Lillie Lou!

Lillie LOVES the ocean!

Lillie LOVES the ocean!

As we all sat around the lunch table late Friday afternoon, moments before heading to the shore for our weekend getaway, Cole asked the blessing for our food.  At the end of his usual prayer, he added a spontaneous tag of his own, “and thank You for the beach!”   This little person’s heart-felt prayer was a reminder to us all that God cares about all the details in our lives.

We are blessed to live near this young family … to share in the fun times of traditions, memories, and life experiences.  Won’t you join me in doing the same with those around you?  Whether it be family, friends, or even co-workers, let’s make the most of every moment, realizing that God is the Giver of all good things.

Until next time,
Debbie

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol Him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
The sea is His, for He made it,
and His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for He is our God
and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care.
Psalm 95:1-7

 

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A Snowy New Jersey Valentine

15 Feb

Greater Love has no one than this,
that He lay down His life for His friends.
John 15:13

When making plans a week before our scheduled trip, the extended travel forecast trumpeted sunny skies and 50 degree temperatures.  With excitement, I called to confirm our on-line reservations, making sure all was in place for our mid-winter excursion to the east coast.  Wanting to do something different this year to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we both agreed to drive the familiar trek to our favorite summer-time destinations along the New Jersey shoreline.  A Groupon for the Bed and Breakfast, great food, a visit with friends, quiet surroundings, and the nagging curiosity of the damage from Hurricane Sandy pulled our hearts to make the final decision to go.  And at the last minute, despite the fact that the weather forecast dramatically changed in that week from unusually warm to being on the edge of a record-breaking blizzard, last Saturday morning we set out for our pre-holiday adventure.

Blowing snow along the road to New Jersey

Blowing snow along the road to New Jersey

Knowing the alarm clock would wake us before daylight, we went to bed early the night before, anticipating a few inches of snow to fall through the wee hours of the morning.  To our great relief, the local roads were clear with little accumulation.  As we headed into the direction of the gorgeous sunrise, the amount of snow that had fallen on the ground began to increase as we traveled, the strong winds blowing it all around, creating a beautiful sight against the back drop of the brilliant blue sky.

We made our way to Toms River to meet our breakfast companions, where we then drove to a tiny hole-in-the wall for tasty eats and great fellowship.  Hearing stories of Hurricane Sandy survival, clean-up, and ministry warmed our hearts as we ate, grateful for God’s watchful care over our friends.

Lamp posts still standing on the destroyed boardwalk of Ocean Grove, NJ ... at sunset

Lamp posts still standing on the destroyed boardwalk of Ocean Grove, NJ … at sunset

A few more miles up the coastline brought us to our familiar little seaside towns where even more snow had fallen.  We drove from one community to another, noticing the number of trash dumpsters dotting the driveways, big loaders and earth moving equipment parked nearby, and signs of ‘do not enter’ posted throughout the region.  A few homes were still boarded up in hurricane-type style, one was a total loss of charred remains, while others were under new construction.  For the most part, however, the towns seemed in tact – businesses up and running … life as usual.  Everything except the beach area itself.  Entire boardwalks washed away, including restroom buildings and ticket huts, with nothing left but the pilings.  Most communities had some sort of organization to their on-going repair … stacks of lumber and boards waiting for the weather to break.  But most shocking was the beach town of Ocean Grove, where the boardwalk street lights still stood on disheveled planks like skeletons in whatever direction the hurricane gales had blown them in.  Nails remain in the wood, dangerously protruding their points.  And no stacks of fresh lumber waiting.

Swirling snow creating crunchy ice on sand

At sunset, swirling snow creating crunchy ice on sand

Beyond the graveyards of seaside boardwalks, however, we found the one thing that is a constant.  The Atlantic Ocean.  The landscape of the beach has changed somewhat as much of the sand washed up into the towns, later to have been brought back and piled high, making a large ridge between the boardwalk pilings and the ocean.  But the ocean continues on.  Waves cresting quite high and crashing against the rocks and sand, sending spray into the air as blizzard-forced winds blew.  Tim and I walked along the ocean’s edge both days, bundled up from head to toe, enjoying the silly antics of the birds who call the beach their home, and the visiting canines and their owners who were out for exercise.  I was most amazed at how 5 inches of snow had fallen the night before, but the sand on the beach was just that, sand.  What very little snow was on the sand was back by the boardwalk area, and the wind would catch it from time to time and swirl it across the beach, in some places forming layers of snowy ice on the wet sand.  It is a very fascinating winter environment.

The Bed and Breakfast was ok – certainly nothing to write home about, or a blog, for that matter, other than to say it was disappointing.  We ate at our favorite BBQ place in Belmar, where I quizzed the waiter about the restaurant and how it fared during Hurricane Sandy.  Having only lost electricity, they still had the ability to cook with gas and a smoker, so they opened their establishment up as a free soup kitchen for several days … during day-light hours.  They fed rescue workers, FEMA, and those whose homes had been destroyed or severely damaged.  As we ate our brisket and ribs, we listened intently to the story and were very glad to support Jersey Shore BBQ with our business.

Our favorite beach ... Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ

Our favorite beach … Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ

We hope to go back again to the shore before the summer season gets into full swing … while it’s still affordable to stay within walking distance to the ocean.  Much work is left to be done, and it will be exciting to see the progress made since our trip there now.  Two full days went by very quickly, but we are grateful for the chance to get away for a new adventure.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  Love.  Appreciation.  Family.  Friendships.  Gifts.  Won’t you join me today as we continue to think about Love?  The roses will wilt, the chocolates will soon all be eaten, and the trip to the New Jersey shore will be nothing more than a mere memory.   But just like the great ocean, there is one Gift that is Constant and never changes.  Not just on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or Easter, but this Gift is always available to each one of us.  My prayer is that you will accept Him with your whole heart, for He was given to you with the greatest Love there ever was.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Greater Love has no one than this,
that He lay down His life for His friends.
John 15:13

Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Happy Day-After Valentine’s Day …

Until next time,
Debbie