The Winthrop Harbor beach wears an icy coating, a mirror painted so close, I can see individual grains of sand glistening frigid blue and silver, scattered with the chilled fragments of mussels. I stood there last year, marveling at the phenomenon under my boots.
That was last November, when we traveled up to Tim’s hometown as boyfriend and girlfriend. He asked me on the way up if I could describe what I was expecting. I didn’t even know…said I would know it when I felt it. There was no ring on my finger yet and open-ended questions hung heavy in the air. We didn’t need to talk much about it though…we knew marriage was around the corner and every engaged Facebook announcement that week highlighted our desire and spun scenarios that made us catch our breath. How would it work out for us? When? And then what? We tried to pray through the uncertainty, taking hands in the Spirit and holding up to God the seemingly-endless options before us. All we had was one step, but we knew something was starting, and every day began tugging us further towards it, like the pull of a gentle, firm shepherd, encouraging action.
We arrived in Illinois in time for gentle Thanksgiving snowfall that wrapped the harbor town in white, but the warmth of his family melted any anxiety off the surface. Tim and I spent a couple afternoons by the edge of mighty Lake Michigan, a new world of snowdrifts and sand. Grey became one of my favorite colors as I watched early winter darkness brood in the cold shoulders of water, the waves capped with white eyebrows. I felt instant years with this shore 800 miles away from my home.
That was a new horizon for me—literally and spiritually. The first hint that perhaps God’s plans for me as an adult included shores beyond where I’d grown up.
A year later, I’m standing there again, on the shores of the lake that is now my neighbor.
After getting married in September, Timothy and I made the move from North Carolina this December, as husband and wife. Familiar territory for him. A giant leap for me. But strangely, going home for both of us. I hadn’t expected to make such a big move so soon after marriage. It involved a lot of letting go…family, friends, church family…not one person I wanted to leave behind. What made it especially tough for me was the fact that all we had was the one big step to show for all our time in prayer. We couldn’t see much beyond that, except promises, an assurance that we were following the Lord and would be protected and guided from there. Still, it was a stretch for me to step out on cold, unknown waves and not be able to see stepping stones ahead, all in a straight, orderly line.
The two-day trip north was a flurry of activity and miles, packing, and unpacking. In spite of God’s specific promises to the contrary, I expected to feel lost and empty in the new place, at least for a while. With each mile, each step accomplished in the moving process, I prayed, hoping that God would meet us in our first steps of obedience and give us vision, purpose. When we arrived and moved in, I waited for that empty feeling to glare at me from the apartment walls. Instead, I found something else–Faith.
It was waiting on the doorstep of our new home, illuminating the porch as if someone already lived there. It winked in the window with the next morning’s sunlight, a promise for each new day, and it filled the empty house on Tim’s first full day of work. It wasn’t even daunted by the to-do list I had in my head, reminding me of all I needed to do to establish myself in the new place. I found this strange peace waiting to befriend me—and it wasn’t just a lack of worry about the future or the absence of missing what I left behind, but an actual peace that was there and remained steady even as those other emotions came and went with the consistent snowfall.
In week-long stretches of sub-30 temperatures here, you can forget the sun has power. Then, there’s a day of nearly-40 paradise that sends the ice dripping in glistening rivulets everywhere. Everything crunches under our boots. Our scarves hang loose—no hats, no gloves.
Our final day here last year was like that. The sun transformed the beach. I watched Tim skip rocks, once and twice over waves, the pebbles like little squirrels hopping snowdrifts. The water was happy that day, curling foam out and under, tossing music to the shore. The sand was smoother, printing footsteps. Ice lay in chunks, like discarded ornaments. I dreamed of that moment many days afterwards—us on the sunny beach, Tim’s arms my only coat as I stared at the water, seeing not just the lake, but beyond. And that is what I see now…our boat taking wing, its sails set for flying, ready to embrace the waves and more.
I can actually only count on one hand the days where I’ve looked around and shrieked, (to myself of course), “I can’t believe I did this!”And even though at times it’s been rough, overwhelming, or sad, the one thing it hasn’t been is terrifying.
Perhaps because what I need for the next step is here.
Timothy. Sand under ice. Faith.