“If God cares about us and delights in us and therefore cares about the things we care about as a Father cares for the joy in His children, then we can exhale…He put the very ability to long in my soul. He gave me the gift of dreaming so I could have vision in this life.”–Sarah Mae, Longing for Paris
Summer is in full swing here in Missouri, with 3-digit temps some days, making even my husband Ray who hates snow long for cooler days. I look longingly at my friends’ beach pics on Facebook, their pretty painted toenails in the sand. The beach is my place of peace and refilling, and I miss and crave it in my soul.
When I was a child, every summer our family took vacations at the beach in Florida. My home town of Valdosta, GA, is about the last stop you can make in Georgia before you see that “Welcome to Florida” sign.
Several times we went to the idyllic Jekyll Island in Georgia, as my dad’s Civitan Club conventions were held there. But we also tried other beaches in Florida, such as Daytona and Panama City, where the current is so strong that you feel as if you’re going to be sucked right under the surface of the waves and carried out to sea, forever lost.
At the beach, my usually reserved father, a workaholic in his home business as a CPA, finally relaxed. He’d drink some beers, looking out on the ocean at night under the moonlight, and he’d actually laugh–a rare event. And when he relaxed and laughed, my mother–an overweight, stressed-out, usually screaming woman on the verge of madness–would laugh, too, and they might even hold hands on the patio. One time we kids actually saw them kiss, and I was shocked as they never did this at home in front of us. We all giggled.
During the day, we’d head for the beach, my mother making us slather our bodies with sunscreen, and my older brother Greg yelling, “Last one in is a rotten egg!” as he dove with exuberance in the waves. One year on the beach, Greg got stung on the foot by a jellyfish; they seemed to be everywhere in the water and on shore that year. While the sting was painful, he recovered and was okay.
Another year, we thought that Greg had drowned to death, as the strong current and a giant wave suddenly snatched him underneath the sinister surface. I recall the frightened calls of my parents, “Greg! Greg!”, as they frantically searched for him, and suddenly he reappeared out of the ocean like a Loch Ness monster, looking larger than life, but red-eyed and sputtering salty water. Thank God he was alive!
It wasn’t the only time that God spared his life. Years later, he was hit by a drunk driver when Greg was riding a motorcycle. He was in a coma for days, doctors unsure if he would ever wake up and not knowing the extent of any brain or internal injuries.
When Greg was in the coma, it was one of the few times in my life that I remember my dad, a strong, prideful, independent man, ever crying. I was at our high school’s prom when the accident happened; or at least, I was supposed to be there. My boyfriend and I were doing what was called “parking” back then, in a dark driveway by the town’s football field, when my boyfriend’s dad drove past us and spotted his son’s car. He’d been driving all over town to find us, to let me know about Greg’s critical accident; my parents had called him to find my whereabouts when I wasn’t at the high school.
Remembering his own high school days, he had a hunch what we might be doing, and found us just by a fluke. Imagine our surprise when he parked on the side of the road, got out of his car, and tapped loudly on the car window, interrupting us!
When he told me that my brother had been critically injured in a car accident, we rushed to the hospital. As I walked frightened into the ICU room, my father was furious with me, demanding to know where I’d been instead of at the prom. At the moment, my “activities” with my boyfriend (which were innocent enough as we’d only been kissing) seemed to be more important to him than my brother laying on his possible deathbed.
But then the doctor came in, and my father’s and my mother’s attention turned back to him and their oldest son, Greg. I stared in shock at my pale brother, with whom I was close friends back then. He was hooked up to a lot of machines that blinked and beeped ominously, the IV needle stuck in his vein and the fluids flowing into his limp body. Yet he looked peaceful and asleep.
Miraculously, Greg awoke several days later from the coma, his life spared and although he was shaken, he was fine. He sued the drunk driver, and they settled in court for thousands of dollars. Today he is a successful business man, married to a beautiful woman from Russia with a grown stepson, and is a Presbyterian minister, preaching the gospel of Christ. God protected and saved him for a glorious purpose.
But I digress…back to the beach vacation days! I’d walk on the wet shore, collecting sea shells to take home, wanting to forever preserve the memory of the beach. Why couldn’t we just stay here? I loved the beauty of the ocean and the sunset, smelling the salt in the air, and hearing the waves as I lay on a towel, warm sand on my feet.
At night, I slept restfully because we kids had played hard, delighted to wake up to the sound of the ocean the next morning and anticipating more fun swimming in it that day after breakfast. By lunch we were famished. Mama usually brought groceries on the trip so that we could save money, and we’d devour our sandwiches and chips. It was hard to wait the hour following lunch; mama claimed we’d “get cramps” if we swam too soon after eating.
Daddy would usually take us out to eat at one nice seafood restaurant during the vacation, the highlight of the trip for my mother, as well as her being able to swim in the ocean. She had been an excellent swimmer in high school and swam effortlessly as a mermaid in the water.
Mama seemed to feel young and sexy again in her one-piece swimsuit, diving under the waves, and letting her greatly freckled skin dry in the sun–but not too long, as she and us kids seemed to burn so easily. We’d usually get burned anyway, and mama would rub Noxema or something to cool down our skin. The fun seemed so worth it!
My dad and my sister Maria had olive complexions and would get dark, and I’d be envious of her, walking around in her itty-bitty bikini, sporting her new tan. But nothing could take away my happiness completely, because we were at the beach, our once a year, only, fun vacation. The stuff dreams are made of.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”–Susan Sontag
Sarah Mae still hasn’t gone to Paris, even after writing this book! I confess that I am frustrated about this. The reasons are never really clear–the expense? Because she has kids and we all know that moms can’t travel to exotic places? Who really knows why?–but I understand. I’d be traveling all over the world to many nations right now if only I had the money to do so!
Still, what is stopping me from saving every single dime until we have enough money for me (and/or my husband and our kids) to go where we want?
“We give our dreams and longings to God, trusting Him to do as He pleases, knowing He cares about us, our growth, and our total trust in Him…We recognize our longings are in us for a deeper purpose.”
“Use your imagination…go on, close your eyes and dream. What would you do if you could go to Paris (or another place that calls to your heart)? What would you want to see?”
I’ve actually been to Paris…twice. Once in high school with my French teacher and our class. It was the first time I’d ever tried champagne or any alcohol, and I confess that I got drunk with my classmates, because I didn’t realize how potent alcohol was! My French teacher, Mrs. Gandy, threatened to kill me if I told my mother and father. To this day, I hardly ever drink, except a glass of sweet, red wine over dinner with Ray once in a blue moon.
I was enthralled with the Eiffel Tower (it’s beautiful, fascinating, and so tall!), the gorgeous art in Le Louvre musem (especially the Mona Lisa; I stared for an hour at her), and I loved dipping the French bread into hot chocolate in the morning!
And once, speed forward years, I went to Paris again on Ray’s and my 10th wedding anniversary trip. We traveled there briefly by train when we flew to Europe, renting a car and driving all over Switzerland.
We stopped for a couple of days in Italy, France, and an unheard of place called Lichtenstein, which borders Switzerland and Austria. There at a beautiful castle on a high hill, I boldly and secretly buried a piece of paper with a Scripture in the ground, proclaiming the word over the area.
Ray said we couldn’t walk around inside, since it didn’t look open to the public. (We found out later that the Princely family lives there!) After I furtively buried the Scripture in the ground, immediately a strong wind blew through, and I realized I had probably stirred up some demonic principalities of the air! But God’s word had been prophesied over this nation!
In Paris for the second time, I cried seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa again, and I simply couldn’t get enough French bread baked with chocolate and French cheese. In many of our pictures from this trip, you see me standing in line for chocolate bread! Sometimes I’ll buy baguettes and French cheese to recreate the feeling of being in Paris again, an idea of wishing, which Sarah Mae encourages in her book Longing for Paris.
“Grab your kids and hunt for something French! Maybe you will discover the best croissant in your town together. Or maybe it will be the best macaron. Take a side trip to the library and check out The Little Prince or Madeline or The Story of Babar–adventurous tales with a French twist.”
For me personally, it’s not enough to pretend to go to Paris, eating the Americanized version of French bread (the baguette is actually much thinner and longer) with imported French cheese. I want the real thing.
I want to truly travel abroad all over the world! I believe dreaming is a gift from God and He wants to give us the desires of our hearts, just like we as parents want to make our own children happy and laughing.
I believe it’s important to never give up your dreams and to go for them, as much as possible. God can miraculously make the way for them to become true!
Sarah writes, “When my son draws me a picture, he is so excited to give it to me, not just so that I can see his talent, but because he loves me and wants me to take pleasure in it. This is what God does with us; He wants us to take pleasure in the beauty He’s made and in the gifts He endows us with.”
Never stop dreaming; never give up. Be the girl (or guy) who goes for it!
What is your big dream? Remember that NOTHING is impossible with God? To be encouraged to go for it, check out my book, The Cinderella Story: The Power of Dreams, at Amazon, by clicking here.