All that Glitters

The rays of sunset over the bay angled their way between condominiums all the way to the ocean, casting golden beams along the shoreline. I had gone for a walk to clear my mind and prepare for a book discussion the following week. As I enjoyed the enthusiastic remnant of people, dogs, and birds with whom I was sharing the waning beach day, a colorful glint from the surf caught my eye.

I’m not much of a shell collector, but this one was a color I’d never seen. Such a vibrant blue—could it be just a trick of the lingering light? Or was it not a shell at all, but a piece of sea glass revealed by a receding wave? The shops in these towns are full of sea glass souvenirs; could I finally be spotting one in its natural element?

Breaking my stride, I walked over to investigate. The royal blue color held. I dug it out of the wet sand, and discovered that the brilliant object in my hand was indeed glass. Broken glass. (Probably a shard of some pricey water bottle, judging from the color.)

Had I been in a different mood, this would have prompted quite the internal rant. Why does a company waste precious resources creating such a thing? Why does anyone buy it? But if they must, why not at least recycle it properly, instead of doing whatever led to this fragment’s washing up on shore, just waiting for some little kid to slice a foot on it?

These thoughts did cross my mind (obviously, since I just wrote them here). But as I held onto my disappointing treasure, it occured to me what a potent metaphor it was for the need for discernment.

How many shiny things catch our attention each day? From objects no one needs to own, to arguments no one needs to have, the distracting temptations are limitless. Then there are life’s bigger choices. Who hasn’t fallen for a sparkly person only to discover that he or she is far from the partner of our dreams, or pursued a job opportunity that seemed lucrative only to be felled by its soul-crushing day-to-day tasks?

These dilemmas of decision-making were on my mind because so many choices lie ahead of me right now. Two weeks into my “encore career,” I have left behind a steady paycheck and daily routines to pursue the dream of a freelance existence. Invitations are beckoning; a quick glance at my Speaker Page will reveal only some of what’s on the horizon. I’m also preparing an online class that starts at the end of this month, and pondering possibilities for 2020 that could take me as far as Nome, Alaska or northern Spain. (And of course everyone keeps asking me if I’ve started my next book . . . do I even have time for that?) How do I choose what do do with my hours, my days? How do I—in the words of a poem I jotted on an art retreat at Cranaleith this summer—

resist
with tender patience
any false
fierce urgency of
Now
that would fill
the arms of my
datebook
with everything that
raised its hand
First?

My sunset walk didn’t answer these questions, but I’m hanging on to the shard of “sea” glass. (And not just to save a child’s foot.) I want to keep it before me as one small reminder of the need to pause in the face of shimmery possibilities . . . to investigate, pray, ponder, discern. What is God really inviting me to? What’s just an accident waiting to happen?

To the One who is endlessly communicating—even through trash on the beach—I give endless thanks.

And to the wonderful women of the Cornerstone group at St. Anne’s Church in Fair Lawn, NJ–whose invitation propelled me on my beach walk–thank you for such a warm welcome and engaging conversation (not to mention astoundingly good coffee cake)!

May your ordinary days be extraordinarily blessed.