Thursday, March 6, 2008


We recently took our annual family trip to the beach. Yes, we go in's usually still a little cold, but this year was fantastic. Wonderful weather, warm sunny days, and a new little girl to experience the joys of sand for the first time.

On our way down to the Gulf, there was a pretty significant storm which churned up the water a bit, which meant the seashells were plentiful. This is an especially fun thing for a two-and-a-half-year-old. Seashells are just magical to kids, and the beach was littered with them.

The problem was, because the storm was pretty violent, only the smallest of the shells were unharmed. Most of them were gorgeous, but missing parts...a little battered, splintered, and not quite whole.

I remember as a young girl (heck, even a young adult) searching for seashells on the beach and only choosing the whole, perfect beautiful specimens for my bucket. The broken ones were...well...broken. I only wanted the pretty seashells that looked like they were supposed to look for my collection.

It's funny how age and wisdom, and the trials of life change our perspective. I realized this time that I really loved the battered, broken seashells on the beach. The big beautiful orange fans of shells that were missing the top half of their glorious curve. The dark grey and maroon twirly shells with the tips missing. The sand dollars that were cracked open, showing the intricate maze inside. I found myself wondering where these shells had come from, and what they had been through to end up at my feet. What magnificant wave crashed on top of them to give them the scars they carried. I wondered if it is necessary to go through the storms and waves in life to see the beauty of something that has been broken.

I found myself pointing out shells to Harrisen with my sandy big toe, and watching him squeal and gasp at how shiny, how bright, how big, how small each and every one was. I wondered what he would go through in his life before he recognized the beauty of broken-ness. I wanted to protect him from it, knowing all the while that I can't.

I now know this. Nothing is perfect. Nobody that has truly lived life goes without being hurt. Nobody that has experienced great joy has done so without great pain, and scars can sometimes make us beautiful. Just like the seashells.

Each time we visit a beach on our travels, I bring back some shells and sand to save in a little glass bottle, labeled with the name of the beach and the date we visited it. I usually look for perfect little shells to sit atop the miniature beach in a bottle.

Not this time. Orange Beach, Alabama. February, 2008. Beauty out of broken-ness. The shells sitting atop the sand in this little glass jar will be beautiful. But they won't be perfect.

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