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Last Days of Summer

We usually end our summers with vacations or trips.
It's been a thing.  
I think its because we like to save the best for last.
Do you?
June signals schools out and people are restless to break free, to escape, and to head somewhere.
But we wait...
We always have.
It started years ago when our summers were packed tight with things one after the other.
August or September our summer slows, right before its gone. Kind of like the sunsetting on a long summer's day, brightest at the end. 
I like it this way.  I like ending with something memorable.  
I've always been that way.  I like to have something to look forward to rather than rush through and have nothing to anticipate in a season.   
This year was the first time we had been back to see the ocean all together as a family in at least four years.
This year we added two to our crew and made our way to Florida.
It's been a decade since I've been to Florida.  
Do you love to go to new places? 
I do.  
If you were blessed to go on family trips did your family go to the same place like an anchor of so many family memories or did they mix it up and try to see many places?
My dad did that.  We always had to go to a different beach, try something new.  Explore.
This beach was new to us.  Same deep blue endless Atlantic, but a new town.  
St. Augustine. 
It was beautiful and intensely hot.  
There were many humorous moments of this trip. 
I drove being one.  
I'm not normally the main driver, but I did this time.  That led to a mix up halfway through and regrouping and map questing, but we made it.
My sister and I manned the car with all the kids and my husband and his buddy drove down separately.  I'm sure they were glad to not be listening to Charlottes Web and The Trumpeter of the Swan as we drove late into the night with all of the southern miles racing under our wheels.
My sister and I tried to unravel all the knots of the nightmare she's had to live through this summer.  As babies slept through South Carolina and Georgia we tried to make sense of the senseless.  
We listened to a wonderful book about fighting for joy and we let the comforting words of the author settle into us deeply as Florida humidity steamed up our windows for the last leg of our trip.  

Vacations are about building memories. 
My husband has always maintained that they are important and I agree. My parents thought so too.  
It's a place of respite and focus on nothing but the people with you.  Reconnecting with them again and yes, having fun.  
This year it was a bit difficult too.  It's been a difficult year for every adult who came.  We've all went through deep waters of our own and the break was needed.  To get out of town and step away from everyone.  To leave the familiar and try to see our lives clearly again.
We danced through some awkward moments, shed some tears, and had difficult conversations but we were together.  
And more than anything we got to watch three little girls play their hearts out all week. 
There's nothing like lifting your spirits than watching children play.  They can forget it all and get lost in the moment.  
When you have four kids at a beach and one is almost a one year old, you are quite tired.  There are no endless hours spent lying on beach towels but rather lots of chasing a crawling baby around sand and making sure he doesn't fall flat in sea foam.  There are endless sunscreen applications and vigilant pool watching, lots of meals to make and sand to scrub out of hair...
But its worth it....

It was worth it to watch three girls delighting in saltwater, sitting in tide pools, and  and playing tag with waves

It was worth it to see baby eyes round big at something so powerful and so beyond his understanding. 
It was worth it to be there for another big first.  A first he never will remember, but we will.  

It was worth it to have a sister to be with, to just listen to, to talk through it, to sort it out with, to be safe places for each other..
to have an aunt to hold hands with, to be held by, and to reign the girls in when they got too wild

It was worth it to see and do new things...

Like catching sharks in the dark...

Watching a full moon rise over the water, like a bright beam spilling a path of gold across the waves.  In all my life I've never seen that happen at the beach.  My girls and sister are silhouetted against the darkness, dancing under the moon's spotlight.  I got to walk a ways holding my baby just being in wonder of a full moon shining.  My baby went to sleep with the gentle lapping of the waves.  We laid down in the sand while little girls squealed at the shark their daddy and his buddy caught. 
 It was a beautiful night. 

It was worth it to feel small again.  To feel the reverence that always falls on you in a holy hush when you stand next to the vast ocean.  

It was worth it to watch girls chase gulls and feed them so many snacks.  Baby boy's eyes so big as he watched the gulls descend.  

It was worth it to do nothing but let waves rush in and stress and angst rush out...just be here and nowhere else.

It was worth it to watch sand castles constructed and invest afternoons in nothing but pool floating 

It was worth it to see a new corner of the earth,  Spanish architecture, beautiful flowers, and eat rich meals.  

We came back tired, sun kissed, with hearts laid out on the table and yet still holding together. 
We left in need of a break from everything and everyone and came back with a week of smiling children and the grace of being in God's vibrant natural beauty.  We came back with a few more things settled than when we left.  We came back still sifting through issues, but with some shifted perspectives.  
I like what Shauna Niequist says of travel in her book Bittersweet,
"That's why travel is so important, among other reasons: to get far enough away from our everyday lives to see those lives with new clarity.  When you're literally on the other side of the world, when you're under the silent sea, watching a bright, silent world of fish and coral, when you're staring up at a sky so bright and dense with stars it makes you gasp, it's in those moments that you begin to see the fullness of your life, the possibility that still prevails, that always prevails."  (pg.79).

While we weren't on a boat or gazing at coral we were under the light of a low and brilliantly full moon streaming over the depths of salty black water.  We were the same old us, yet in a new place.  We experienced a bit of what she speaks of.  Of stepping away to see possibility.  I had been aching long to get away from everything but as the weeks inched by slowly I began worrying over the trip. Would it be good for us? 
Yes, yes it was.  
Laying in the moonlit sand with my sleeping baby boy watching gleeful children and men wrestling a shark off the line I felt a bit of hope breathe deeply over me.
This endless ocean that had been eroding the shore and pulling its seashells out and then surging them back up with the surf hour upon hour year after year...this endless ocean was familiar.  It felt like a rock.  A symbol of the eternal promises of my Jesus.  The promise that though things had been shaken out and unfamiliar there was life abundantly happening all around me.  I just needed to go somewhere new to see it again.  
I remember saying to someone this year, "It feels like I'm on a shore with waves pounding me over and over again.  From different directions." 
Later though and even more as I sat in the water that week I was startled by a new imagery of waves. The waves of God's goodness that had continued to wash over me.  His bottomless grace that had hurled my sin to the bottom of the sea and that richly covered me.  The unending goodness of people like so many tides of mercy He had sent me.  The fact that His waves of love had also washed over me.  Had cleaned out years of hurt and though it stung had helped me experiencing healing in ways I wouldn't have imagined.  
Yes sitting next to the shore, memories flooded back of many times I had sat at the foot of the waves and that just like this ancient shoreline God was still here and still working and wasting nothing.  That life, and even my life was much more than this present season.  That our God was so big and so beautiful and I needed to be reminded of the sacred moments of the past and swell with hope like the deep swells of the sea.  
There truly is nothing like the sea to bring you to a place of seeing God again.  

So we said so long to summer St. Augustine style....


  1. Ah ... if you ever wonder if the summer was fabulous, you'll have these wonderful pictures to grab hold of and memories stored deep to cherish!

  2. Somer,
    So nice to read this recap of your time in one of my favorite places -- St. Augustine! You captured perfectly what the last days of summer bring to us and how beautifully you enjoyed this time with your family. And that's so great that you drove down with kids in tow -- that's not easy! Making memories for your family imprints these times forever on their lifetimes and will bring them joy whenever they think of them!


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