A few months ago I was sitting in my car on the side of a little road in a neighborhood in Yachats (pronounced Ya-Hots) Oregon. This adorable little town sits on the edge of the ocean with the most gorgeous craggy beaches you will ever see. This neighborhood, where I was parked, was right next to one of these gorgeous rocky beaches.
I’d been getting in and out of my car along this little road (with pull-outs to do exactly what I was doing) to take pictures. It was cold, so I didn’t watch the waves for long outside the car away from the lovely heater. I’d just seen some sea lions sort of sun-bathing—meaning they sat on the rocks waiting just as anxiously as I was for the sun to jump out for a few brief moments between the clouds. Actually, I think I was the only anxious one. They looked pretty relaxed.
After leaving the lions to do their thing I went a little further up the road and paused when I saw a particularly rocky area where the waves were spraying up in beautiful patterns. I pulled off and watched for awhile before I realized what I thought were just dark spots on the waves, were actually baby birds.
This water was rough! The waves were crashing against the rocks and rolling white. The wind had picked up and it had started raining. But these baby birds stayed in it while their parents observed from the rocks. Sometimes the waves completely covered the babies, but they just kept their heads up facing the next incoming wave.
I was in awe and sat and watched them for a long time. Earlier that day, as I watched the ocean from my cottage window, I had thought that the huge crashing waves were a lot like love—beautiful and deadly. A bit melodramatic? Maybe. Either way it’s how I’d felt for awhile.
But as I watched those babies, I saw something else. Courage. Trust. Willingness to see beyond the obvious.
In 12 steps programs you are told that in order for the miracle of healing to take place, you must surrender your will and need to control over to a Higher Power—whatever you understand your Higher Power to be.
But guess what, in order to do this you must first trust your higher power.
This is step 2—and a step that took me a very, very long time to achieve—and one that I still have to work at, every single day.
Those baby birds were a message.
They trusted their parents so much that they stayed in the crashing waves with their faces toward the wind, accepting that they did not know what was to come, but that whatever it was, it would be for their good, and they would be okay. They would survive.
I went to Oregon for a purpose. After my first divorce I made a list of promises to myself. Things I would do to prove to myself that I was strong and capable of not just surviving in my new life, but thriving. That I could do things alone and not be afraid. That I could do things alone and not be lonely.
I’m going to be honest, that morning before the birds and the sea lions I struggled to get out of bed. I had spent 15 1/2 hours driving to get to Yachats. I divided the long drive with a stop in Boise, Idaho—then construction and a stretch of bad weather made the last leg of the journey 10 1/2 hours long. I was wondering what was wrong with my brain to plan such a trip—until I caught my first glimpse of the Oregon Coast and the smile I couldn’t stop from settling permanently into my face said it was worth it.
Yet, I struggled to get out of bed the next morning. I did finally get up, get ready, and went to the grocery store to buy the toothpaste I’d forgotten to pack. But then the fear crept in. The old fear that told me I shouldn’t be here alone. That I was incapable of doing this—what exactly I was incapable of I didn’t know, I’d just drove fifteen hours through wind and snow to get here, but those old voices were depleting my soul. I drove back to the cottage, crawled back in bed, and let the wind and rain lull me back to sleep.
When I woke up in the early afternoon the sun was shining and I did something I’ve learned to do over the last three years. I faced the voices. I let myself feel all my feelings and questioned them, got curious about them rather than let them control me. I put my shoes back on and went for a ride. I let my curiosity guide me. I found the little road, saw the sea lions, and then the baby birds.
The little baby birds who reminded me what courage is. Let me see that I too am a bit of a youngling, an almost 45 year-old “baby” out in the world for the first time virtually alone. If they, these tiny little things, could choose to face the waves that would drown the best swimmers, just because of the trust they had in their parents, then I could do this trip—my way—because I trust my Higher Power and I knew He was with me. He’s with me always, because I choose to be with Him always. I’m never technically alone in anything.
I have faced the storms alone and I have faced them with God. I much prefer them with God.
Surrender is not easy. Giving up the illusion of control is not easy. But it is more worth it than I can ever describe.
The lesson I learned in that moment shifted my perception, erased my fear and allowed me to have the most soul rejuvenating, life shifting trip I’ve had since Switzerland 2 years ago. I learned to trust not only God more deeply, but myself. I learned to value my own feelings, wants, and needs. I learned to love myself a little bit better.
I learned that when I choose to trust God, the way those babies trusted their parents, the waves I face become less terrifying and I find the courage to keep swimming.
When I choose to trust my life to Him, I know that even though it might be a while, the sun is going to shine between the storms, so I will sit on my rock while the rain falls and wait for whatever God has planned for me next.