I don’t talk about it much in my blog, but I write fiction. It’s a hobby that borders on obsession. I have over thirty books published, and I’ve realized in many of my books I favor certain locales. One is the beach. I write a whole lot of stories around beaches. The other is gardens. I have an entire series named after a garden. I’m a bout to publish an entire series that takes place on an island surrounded by beaches. To me, being on a beach or in a garden is the ultimate in peacefulness.
Peace isn’t easy to come by, is it? I’m an introvert. I might be classified as a Highly Sensitive Person, which means the chaos and noise and busyness of life drives me a little bit nuts. It’s probably no surprise that my visions of peace include gardens and beaches. In my perfect versions, both are quiet and isolated, filled with life but not too many people.
This summer, for the first time in nearly a decade, my family is taking a vacation. Last time we vacationed, we were a family of six. Now, due to adulthood and marriage, only three of us will be vacationing. It’s going to feel strange. But it’s also needed. We’ve needed to get away for a long time now. And I really, really need a beach.
To me, a beach is a place to discover new things. Sometimes I see dolphins. I collect shells. Find living animals on the sand, like horseshoe crabs and starfish. I listen to the surf and the birds. I watch the sky, which changes from sunup to sundown in amazing colors and shadows. I taste the tang on my tongue from the salt in the air. It’s nothing like my normal life living in a midwest suburb. It’s new and different and exciting and peaceful all at the same time.
The beach isn’t nearby. We’ll drive for twelve hours to get there. I can’t swallow down the difficulties of life and then take them to the beach to release them once a decade. That isn’t the plan. I need to find peace in more ordinary places.
God speaks often of peace. Peace that doesn’t depend on a beautiful, quiet location, although I think it’s fine to head someplace peaceful on a regular basis. Peace that doesn’t require life to stop so we can catch our breaths. God speaks of peace that comes from him, from his love and his Son and his Spirit. That kind of peace is accessible all the time, in any location and any situation.
That leads me to my other locale, the garden. If you’ll let me be fanciful for a moment, I want to say the beach is my glimpse of eternity. Huge, powerful, comforting, and something outside of me. All I have to do is stand on the sand and watch God’s beauty unfold.
The garden is peace for this world. Still beautiful, but also easier to access. A garden can be grown in the smallest plot. It can thrive in the harshest environment with a little care. That’s the peace I need on a daily basis, the peace that passes understanding, peace that can thrive regardless of circumstance.
But I do have to tend it. The garden peace requires me to delve into God’s Word. I’m almost three weeks behind in my Bible-in-a-year plan, so it’s easy to see why I might be lacking in the peace department, because I’m not as close to its source as I ought to be. Garden peace requires me to pray and to live rhythms of thankfulness and mindfulness, celebration and meditation, always keeping God at the forefront in a world that tempts me to forget him completely.
In my books I put character after character on the beach so he or she will slow down and experience peace. Characters weed the gardens or sip lemonade in the shade of a tree or pet sheep in a quiet barn. I write peace all the time, because it matters to me. Instinctively I know life isn’t supposed to be chaotic and crazy. It’s supposed to be restful yet productive, created by a God of order and filled with supernatural love. Everything should fit. The tyranny of the urgent isn’t part of the life that should be, the life that will be again one distant day.
This life will have struggles and heartache. The peace of God doesn’t mean life will be easy. Not here, anyway. That’s later. But he has given us the promise of peace anyway, both the occasional evening on the beach when the wind of the Spirit soothes us from head to toe as He whispers of an eternal oasis as well as the peace of the garden, God’s work and love here which we can find in any situation if we’re willing to look for it.
I will keep writing peace, because it matters. In a world of darkness and uncertainty, it matters a lot. I pray this summer you will find peace. I hope you will find a plot to garden and tend the daily peace God promises. And I hope every now and then you will feel that comforting breeze of the future peace, the one that will never end.