Thirty years ago, I was borderline obsessed with seashells. My husband and children will testify to the truth of that statement. I researched and found that Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, FL was one of the best shelling beaches in the world. I found an affordable resort on the beach where we could stay and booked a trip for all five of us. The kids were fine with it. They just wanted to build sand castles and swim in the resort pool. Steve just wanted warm, sunny days and maybe a place to throw out a fishing line. But, me? I wanted to find as many seashells as humanly possible in the days we were there. I dug in the sand, and I waded out into “the deep.” Well, it was deep for me, because I can’t swim. Whenever I could persuade Steve and the kids, they put on goggles and searched with me. We found hundreds and hundreds of shells, enough to discard those that weren’t absolutely perfect. We even went live shelling. Remember this was before such a thing became illegal in Florida. As a result, we had some of the prize specimens: horse conchs, worm shells, alphabet cones, angel wings, sundials, turkey wings, fighting conchs, pear whelks and Scotch bonnets, to name a few. Oh, how I wish I could find the various crafts I made with many of them, but, alas, too many moves have occurred during the intervening thirty years.
Last week, Steve and I had a chance to go back to the area, this time to Captiva Island which is attached to the end of Sanibel by a short bridge. There was much I wanted to explore for my travel and food writing, but we were able to squeeze in a few hours of shelling on three different beaches. I was struck by the differences in what I saw as beautiful and “keepable” on this last visit.
I spotted many gorgeous PIECES, shells that had once been highly prized and wondrously shaped that didn’t quite make it to the shore unscathed. I grabbed several dozen as they rolled through the surf, cleaned them up and brought them home.
They represent something important to me. I am not the same person I was thirty years ago. I have been broken at times by life’s circumstances, and my body is certainly more broken that it was in my younger days. Many of my friends have recently been facing all kinds of brokennesses in their lives, as well — loss of a child, knee and hip replacements, open heart surgeries, divorces, deaths of spouses, harsh cancer diagnoses and treatments, unwanted changes in their living situations, etc. etc.
As I was searching the Scriptures and pondering why I found these broken shells so beautiful, I ran across these words by Debbie McDaniel in Crosswalk.com:
“Here is truth. Just because we’ve been broken doesn’t mean that we are thrown away. Just because we’ve been broken doesn’t mean that we are un-usable, set up on a shelf. Just because we’ve been broken doesn’t mean that we are forgotten.
Brokenness has the power, unlike anything else, to bring forth new beauty, strength, and inspiration to others. Because it’s often in those moments that we’ve tasted deep suffering, that we noticed, we were made for more. There’s more. There’s purpose.
The scars of life, the healed wounds, the deep lines, they all have stories to tell. . . .” Read the entire blog post here.
I believe that God still sees me as beautiful, usable and strong, and He sees my friends the same way. Fellow broken people reading this, be encouraged.
(Verses in the New King James Version)
Psalm 73:26 – “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Psalm 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Isaiah 66:1-2 – “Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ “
Stay tuned for more thoughts about seashells next week.