Of Shells and Hearts

My mother, my son and I just spent three days and two nights camping at the beach. It was the perfect beach experience. It was sunny and warm, except for the last morning. We built sandcastles and played in the water, took long walks and looked in tide pools. We saw several things we had never experienced before. All in all it was a wonderful trip

One of the significant experiences of this trip was the shells. This beach had many shells, and many large shells. I have always liked collecting things on the beach, but I had never see shells like this. I collected a whole child’s bucket full of shells; I just couldn’t stop myself. I was just amazed, and imagined displays and craft projects that I could make. This may seem like a small, normal thing to most people, but for me it was huge. In order to understand the impact of collecting shells on me, you have to understand a bit about my situation.

For the past 3 years I have lived in a “studio” apartment with my son. It is one room with a bathroom. This one room is our bedroom, living room, “kitchen”, study, playroom, ect. I have very little space and very little storage. Most of my belongings are in a storage unit. I have spent the last 3 years purging, I just don’t have room for much, so I have gotten very good at getting rid of unnecessary items, or just not bringing them home in the first place. I don’t have much in my living space that is sentimental or decorative other than pictures. Now it might make more sense to you when I say that collecting shells was significant.

As I walked down the beach the last day collecting more shells, I realized that it was an act of healing. It was an outward sign of my heart moving on, having hope, wanting to create new memories, and wanting to have something tangible to hold on to those memories with. Collecting shells with no thought to where they would fit in my space, no regrets that I didn’t have room for them. They were a symbol of a fresh start, not in a new place, in the same place, but with hope for the future.

I also learned another thing from the shells. In the past I have collected whole perfect shells, but on this trip I picked up some pieces of large clamshells that had been broken and worn down by the waves. They have interesting shapes and are smooth in my hand. They are beautiful despite being broken. And I thought that is how we are too. We are broken, but over time, if we let God wash us and grind off our sharp edges, we become beautiful again. We may not look the same, but our new form is interesting and unique.

So here I sit with my shells. I don’t know what I am going to do with them. I don’t know where I am going to put them. But they will find a place in this crazy life of mine, because I need them, not for any function, not because they make life more organized, but because they bring me joy. They remind me of healing; of lessons learned and most importantly that there is hope for the future.