Four and one half years ago, I had a close encounter with God in the dunes on Panama City Beach. I awoke early one morning while on vacation, wrapped my 4-month-old daughter in a wool blanket, and set out for a pre-dawn walk on the beach. I retreated up into the dunes in a deserted state park with my peacefully sleeping bundle of joy. We sat quietly in the cool, white sand as the sun began to emit its first rays of light over the horizon. I was so overwhelmed in that moment by the miracle I held in my hands and by the beauty I beheld with my eyes that my heart filled with joy and praise. I knew that I was closer to God in that pre-dawn hour than at any moment before or since. I was so thankful for the gift of life.
Fast forward to Mother's Day Weekend 2006...
I'm up again pre-dawn. This time, I'm vacationing in Miramar Beach at Destin, one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Florida. The full moon hangs like an incandescent peach over the waters of the Gulf. The first light of morning has just crested the horizon. My feet are nearly buried in the cool, white sand, as I scan this breathtaking panorama. Clouds are silhouted in hues of purple against the orange glow in the east while the sinking moon shrouds itself with thin grey clouds in the west. I can barely make out the shadows of two porpoises as they arch their way along a sandbar about 150 yards from the shoreline. Right in front of me, two sandpipers are playing "catch me if you can" with the incoming tide. It was a dreamy moment, to say the least. I knew that I was again close to God.
I think I will live at the beach one day...and I'll kick the coffee habit for good. Waking up to picturesque mornings like these make the need for cafeine seem obsolete. These encounters with God also make any and all church experiences I've had pale in comparison. I think that I'd like to live close to God on the Gulf of Mexico one day.