I witnessed a resurrection today on Topsail Island as I watched six healed turtles released into the sea. They all headed in the same direction, toward the point on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. What an amazing sight it was to behold! I marvel when I think of the way it all happened. I told my little granddaughters that I was going to visit the sick turtles while I was with my sister on South Topsail Island and promised to bring shirts and some toy turtles back to them. When I got to Edie’s, she told me the new hospital wasn’t open. She said she thought I could get some shirts at the Quarter Moon, so we biked down to the gift shop.
The store was closing when we got there, so I quickly grabbed five shirts and asked them to hold them for me until the next day. They didn’t take a credit card, and I didn’t have any cash. We were biking back the following day and noticed the door to the old hospital was open. The turtles were still in there so volunteers were busy at work. I asked if they had any shirts or toy turtles for sale. They told me that the new hospital gift shop was open on Monday and Wednesday for a few hours each day. Edie and I decided to go to the new store and went by the Quarter Moon to tell them I didn’t need the shirts.
The lady in front of me was getting a smoothie and telling the woman behind the counter that she was heading out and would smell great when she got back. My sister and I laughed at her remark, and she told us that she was a turtle hospital volunteer. She told us there was going to be a release. We were beside ourselves. It’s very rare to see a release, and Edie had always wanted to witness one. Unfortunately, she had to have carpal tunnel surgery in Chapel Hill today so she didn’t get to see the sweet miracle.
All of the turtles did the same thing as they were brought down to the sea, they flapped their legs as if they were flying. Their excitement was contagious, and the crowd cheered them on as they made their way down the beach. Each turtle had a beautiful resurrection, and I thank God for allowing me to witness each. God has a resurrection in mind for all His children, and He gives us the same joy and excitement I saw in those amazing turtles today. The turtles have a very unique GPS that allows them to navigate the globe, and I’ve got the Holy Spirit to help me do the same.
There just aren’t words that describe the sweet feeling of freedom I saw in those majestic creatures today. We all are looking to be released so we can go where we know we belong. God taught me a beautiful lesson today with the help of six turtles and the folks at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital. There is such great work being done by the folks who work there. As I watched them working so diligently to get the turtles back into the water, I realized the turtles weren’t the only things that were extremely large. Their hearts were even bigger!!
God woke me this morning and bid me to come outside and see His sunrise. I came to the island for a sunrise, and God gave me more than I ever expected. The beaches on South Topsail Island are the most beautiful in the world. God literally took my breath away this morning when I ventured out to see what He had in store for me. I arrived a few moments before the sun peeped over the horizon and saw some beautiful pink skies, but I was not prepared for what happened when the sun appeared.
God placed a beautiful cross in the eastern sky, and I could not take my eyes away until it became too bright for my limited vision. It was a picture of hope and resurrection which was just what I needed. It’s been a difficult year in many ways, but I’ve never been more aware of God’s presence than I was this morning when I saw that amazing pink cross in the sky. This picture does not capture the beauty I witnessed this morning. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it would take more than a thousand words to describe the picture God graciously painted for me this morning. He knew I was ready for it.
Every time I pack for a trip, I’m reminded of how the process forces me to make choices I just finished packing for my trip to Topsail Island, and it was not like any other packing experience I’ve ever had. My focus was not on what I needed, but on what I loved and wanted with me. That changes the packing and the journey. I’m usually worried about my car, the traffic, the directions, how much money I’ll need, and a lot of what if’s. This time, I’m looking forward to every mile and every minute of the next eight days. The difference has to do with what I’m not taking with me on this trip. Guilt is not going, and that makes packing a pleasure.
Grace and guilt cannot exist together. Like love, grace cannot breathe in an unforgiving atmosphere. Both will suffocate and die, and that’s exactly what my heart has been doing since 1964. I found myself lost at sea and searching for a shore upon which to land. I heard “Love Lifted Me” being sung as a hymn of invitation and grabbed the life raft being offered to me. Like the words in the song promised, I was saved. I didn’t understand completely what that meant, but I knew I was out of the waters and on a life raft. It wasn’t the shore I had in mind, but I was safe and dry.
I’d like to say I was surrounded by love and supported after my decision to accept the love Christ offered me, but I can’t. My family stopped going to church shortly after I was saved, and as far as everyone was concerned I was going to heaven. That’s all that mattered. Once saved, always saved, end of story. That was the theme of my new journey. The problem was the guilt I began to feel about every little thing. I couldn’t do enough or be enough to deserve being pulled out of that water, so the load I carried got heavier and heavier with each passing year. The raft was heavy laden and at the point of sinking last month.
God used a sweet novel and a beautiful lighthouse to get me to His shore. It wasn’t easy to leave the safety of the raft and get back into the water, but God made sure to put love in the water and on the shore to guide me. The swimming was easy once I let go of the guilt I was carrying. It was like replacing a concrete block with a pair of water wings. I don’t know where my journey will go from here, but I do know that I have everything I love packed and ready to go
Today marks my first guilt-free Labor Day since 2002. I left my husband of thirty years on Labor Day eleven years ago, and my heart has been hanging on to a suitcase filled with guilt since then. Letting go of the guilt has been like giving birth in a strange way, but I’m the one coming out of the darkness and on to the shore. I knew better than to enter a marriage based upon guilt, but I did it anyway. The narrow religion of my childhood was an unforgiving birth canal in which I stayed for far too long. It constricted my heart and made me feel guilt going in and coming out of my marriage. There are still many who see divorce as a cardinal sin, and I fell into a pattern of apology and wore my relationship status much like that scarlet letter Hester Prynne donned.
Miserably married folks were particularly irritated by my divorce, and I see now it was simply a case of misery loving company. ‘If I have to stay married, so do you’ was a prevailing attitude. I found myself defined by yet another negative label, and it hurt my heart deeply. I know now that I put those labels on my heart, and I found others who agreed with me. It’s been the theme of my heart until this year. I see myself in a new and beautiful light for the first time, and I’ve let go of those hateful labels that weighed down my heart and broke my spirit. Ripping off the labels was a lot like tearing bandages off healing wounds. They didn’t come off easily and took little pieces of my heart with them when they did.
The pieces of my heart that were attached to those labels are gone, and they aren’t coming back. Like skin pulled away with a bandage, they needed to go. It was worth all the pain of the past month to see the beautiful new heart under those labels. God has been creating that heart in me for almost three years, and it’s been a process that brought both amazing love and deep hurt into my path. Last week, God took off the labels when I finally agreed to let them go. He tossed them in the trash and bid me to look at my new heart through His eyes. I can’t describe how I felt when I saw the new me; I cried cleansing tears of pure joy. Obeying God was the key to my makeover. I listened as never before and heard love. Love changes everything, and that was the lesson my heart so needed to hear in order to heal.
I was stuck in a ridiculous rut for eleven years that took my heart to its lowest level ever. I longed for a way out, but I continued to go deeper into darkness and almost drowned. God had other plans, but those plans could not begin until I agreed to obey Him and Him alone. I let religion define my relationship with God, but He showed me that only love can do that. Love lifted me once again as I found myself drowning in a sea of guilt unable to reach the shore. God put a beautiful lighthouse on His sweet shore of grace that gave me the courage I needed to fight my way out of the dark waves and find His love and grace waiting for me on the shore.
I’m not sure where my path will go from here, but I know that the luggage I’m carrying now is not the same I carried to this point. Grace, peace, and love are carrying me this time. That terrible load of guilt sank to the bottom of a dark sea and is right where it belongs. I feel like my nineteen-year-old self running in the woods, and that’s just where God wants me to be. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that God put a trip to Topsail Island in my path this week. My heart feels like a Topsail sunrise!
An afternoon of swimming left me beautifully worn out. What a blessing it’s been to watch the girls learn to love the water. I wasn’t sure about having a pool with two little girls who didn’t swim, but seeing them play in the water has been a beautiful blessing. My father got tired of trying to teach me how to swim, so he threw me in the deep end of a very cold pool. I got to the side and only recently stopped swimming as though my life depended up getting to the side. The pool has been such a blessing as I’ve overcome my fear of the water and swam without panic for the first time in my life. I’ll be sorry to see the pool covered and hope to get in at least another month of swimming in before having to close it.
The key to swimming is the same as the key to loving, letting go. That’s been God’s powerful lesson this month. I’ve let go of fear and kicked guilt out of my heart. What a difference that’s made in the way I feel. Guilt made my heart feel as if it had a concrete block attached to it. I’ve replaced guilt with grace. I noticed that Gina and Tyler were swimming with flippers today, so I donned a pair and couldn’t believe the difference they mde. I think my ankles may be a little sore tomorrow, but I loved the feeling they gave me.
God’s grace has the same effect on my heart as those flippers had on my swimming. God not only gave me an image; He also let me feel His lesson in grace today. It’s so good not to be guilt ridden anymore. God is love, and guilt destroys love faster than anything else in this world. It’s a lesson that’s taken a lifetime to learn, but I’ve finally got it and don’t plan to forget it. I felt like a mermaid in the pool today, and that is a feeling I won’t soon forget. If I ever feel guilt creeping back into my heart, I plan to swim away from it as fast as those grace flippers will carry me.