Writing


On this side of the western world, it’s been one year.

One year of trying. One year of failing. One year of encouraging. One year of prodding. Sometimes gently. Sometimes a little too strong. Lord, forgive me. But it has all been worth it.

A lazy afternoon.  I’m tired on this Sunday.  It’s been a long morning.  But warmer weather is sneaking into March eager for spring, and so is my daughter as she tugs on my leg wanting to go outside.

Out we go.  But only to do one thing we’ve been doing this year.

Mastering that two-wheel bike.

We’re not much of a bike culture on this side of the western world.  Unless it’s a Harley Davidson, of course.  And I don’t ride my bike to work that often. Unless, a stroke of insanity dances across my brain.  It did one day.  So I took out my bike worn from its college days and whispered, “It’s just you and me baby.”  To the road we flew taking the route I am so familiar with each morning.  The freedom.  The thrill.  The work.  Now I’m sweating.  And complaining.  Will I get there?

But there’s no complaining from my daughter on this day. Or this side of the western world.  She wants to ride her bike.  She wants to stare down that asphalt that has taken skinned knees.  But most importantly she wants to know.  Do I have her back?

Yes I do sweetheart.

Will you catch me if I fall?

Yes.

Will you help me as I ride?

Yes.

Do you think I can do this?

Yes. And I will be running alongside of you never taking my eye off of you.

She grips the handlebars.  The white around her knuckles shows.  Relax.  She takes a deep breath.  She straps on the helmet of her salvation, protecting her skull.  Bludgeoning from the rock-hard pavement is not in the schedule today.

And not on my watch.

She’s ready.

We set out along the driveway.  I hold her shoulders. She begins to pedal.  I’m holding. Running.  She wobbles with the wheel.  My grip is firm. She’s pedaling.  I’m running. Faster.  And it happens so fast. Time stops.

I’m no longer holding. She’s riding.

I keep running.  I’m cheering her on. But she’s focused. She hasn’t taken this one year on just to share a few moments of glory on the driveway.  The road is on her sights.

I’m breathing faster. Running beside her. Holding my hands out just in case.  She turns.  The road is hers. No turning back. I cheer out loud.  Who cares about the neighbors right now.  I want the whole world to hear.

I watch her ride.  The wind whipping her hair. Her legs pumping the pedals.  And the joy that spreads to her heart as she glides into the sunset.  One year rolling by.

On this side of the western world.

But there’s another world.  I want to ride. I want to gaze into the bright Son and feel His presence, like the wind hitting my face.  But I still ask. Do you have my back?

Yes.

Will you catch me if I fall?

Yes.

Will you help me as I ride?

Yes.

Do you think I can do this?

Yes. And I will be running alongside of you never taking my eye off of you.

We are back from Ocracoke Island, NC.  Wonderful time.  Some may know, that I paint and draw (the reason for all the art links to the right).  I wanted to try something different in this post. I want to try painting with words.  You can stop laughing now.  You’re probably thinking “It was called creative writing in 5th grade.”  Point taken.  You can call it creative writing, paining with words, whatever… but I really want to call it a window.

Enjoy!

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The ocean will not win.  I’m skilled with my daughter’s sand toys.  The sun will not win. I have my sunblock (30 protection, might I add).  The sand will not win. I have my blankets lined up.

I am prepared.

A bumblebee floats by our beach umbrella.  It thinks it’s a giant flower. Jackpot. Oh, how he is mistaken.  Foolish bumblebee.

But I’m not by the umbrella.  I’m by the water. Staring down the ocean wide and squinting.  The ocean playfully winks at me with each reflecting ray of sunlight.  I start to dig.  Just give me a bucket and a plastic shovel, and sand can be no match.  But I’m not making a sandcastle with gothic drip towers.  I want something big.  A foxhole.  A fort.  The kids cheer.

I will make them something they will be proud of when their older.  As I begin, the seawater foam sizzles and playfully licks my heels.  The sand crabs burrow, but the ocean tide does not fear.  The tide is rising.  It always does.  It remembers.  It remembers the Flood when it swallowed mountains and valleys.  It breathes back and forth with each rising tide remembering what it once chewed.

I will not let the ocean win.  Not yet.

Around the island, not too far from where I build, is a cove called Teach’s Hole.  A pirate named Blackbeard made it his hideout.  Now it’s his graveyard.  Blackbeard kept the beard, but lost his head in a sword battle.  At this same cove are rocks and pilings.  It once supported a building.  Who knows what.  But now it slowly wears down with each corroding wave of water splashing against it.  It changes color in the heat of the sun. And below in the pilings, where my kids walk with bare feet, are hermit crabs.  Of course, three hitched a ride back home with us, while the others bought their time.  They soon will be washed away.

But we’ll all be washed away eventually. I might not lose my head, but I’ll lose the color of my hair. I’ll be battered by each passing wave.  My skin will change color, stretch, and submit to its battle with gravity.

But today my skin is prepared.  The sun won’t win.  Even while I dig and my back is exposed to the blistering rays.  I have sunblock.  But it somehow ends up burning us anyway, doesn’t it?  And our wallets too.  It’s amazing how expensive it is these days.  Sunblock companies end up winning with a boat load of cash.  But we’ll all revolt next year against the companies and boycott their sunblock.  How won’t we get burned you say? We’ll buy beach umbrellas.  A beach covered in umbrellas.  Not one part of sand that does not have shade. Yes, I know. It won’t work.  The Beach Umbrella company ends up winning.  Who’s in control here?

Not me, and not any of us.  We’re never really in control.  I live now, but decay will catch me.  I make sand forts, but I know the ocean tide is coming. So for now, until the day comes when I close my eyes and rest my bones in the Creator’s hands, I will make sand forts for my children. Other children. His children. His glory.

So I continue. Sand is flying everywhere.  I’m digging faster than a sand crab. The sand won’t win against me in this hour. The man in green socks next to me thinks so too.  I mean, why else would he be wearing green socks on the beach?  He thinks sand won’t get in (but it does).

My muscles are aching now.  Sweat and sand are mixing together. I feel like I have sandpaper in between my armpits.  I have to wash off.  The sand has won.

But the ocean will not.

Before I jump in the water, my wife shows me that she has won against the sun with her shield of white cream. But the ocean had won. Her bathing suit strap broke by a wave. I say, “that wave won’t bother me!”  I heroically dive into the ocean.

With my sunglasses on.

The ocean swallows them and they are never to be seen again.  I find out that many others in the water have surrendered their sunglasses to the mighty watery beast.  The ocean has won.  It is remembering the Flood. Oh how I was mistaken.  I should have listened to the bumblebee.  I can hear him saying, “Foolish human.”

I’m back to building the sand fort.  Fort Bragg would be jealous.  It is finished. We have tunnels, walkways, and three-tiered levels.  Now we watch and play chicken with the ocean.

It is not intimidated.

The water comes up.  The fort is safe.  Again.  The walls and tunnels hold.  The children yell and laugh.  The water rolls away.  And then it comes again.  With a vengeance. The ocean has won.  The tunnel collapses, the walkways are flattened and all is left is a great sand dimple.

And three extremely proud and joyful children.

I will swim with the ocean, but only by rolling with the waves. I will live under the scorching heat of the sun, but I am aware I will be burned from time to time.  I will live in sand walls, in fact, we all do.  And they will one day be torn away. Only that soul that rests on the Rock and clings there like a barnacle can find safety from the coming Flood.

But till then, I swim far.  Out to the deep.  With one of my children.  The ocean has taken our fort.  It has taken my sunglasses.

But it will not take my child.

We laugh and play.  The waves lick and slap our cheeks as we bounce over every rolling wave.  Yes, the ocean has taken my sunglasses, but it has not taken my child.

Instead, it has given us memories. Thank you God.