Several weekends ago, just prior to receiving my MS diagnosis, a few of us Supper Club gals went to Avalon, New Jersey for an overnight. It was a hurriedly organized 24-hour trip. We set off for the shore at rush hour, and got tangled in heavy Philly traffic along the way. By the time we reached our friend’s family house, it was cold and dark.
After settling in and enjoying a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free dinner (lovingly prepared by my girlfriends, who carefully accommodated my newly restrictive diet), we wrapped up in sweatshirts and blanket scarves, and walked one block to the beach.
The moon was full and bright, lighting our path as we headed over the dunes. Because of the MS, my feet had been numb for several weeks. What little sensation I did feel was tingly and uncomfortable. Once we reached the fine beach sand, however, I slipped off my flats and dug my toes into the sand.
And I felt the cold.
It was incredible.
I walked down to the biting water, stepped in, and wept.
Overcome with emotion, I stood in the moonlit waves, my dear friend Karen by my side. And through my salty tears, for the first time in many weeks, I felt peaceful.
As the sea water rushed over the cuffs of my pants, I think I tasted a sliver of the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for me, and it was overwhelming.
We sat on the beach for hours, my friends and I, cold feet in the icy sand. We talked, and laughed.
Our time on the sand was interrupted by heading to the house for only a few winks of sleep before returning to watch the sunrise. And a glorious sunrise it was.
As the sun emerged over the horizon, we read from chapter 38 of the Book of Job, and I was reminded of God’s enormity, and my smallness.
I walked the beach, delighting in the sensation of the soft sand between my chilly toes.
I collected shells and a beautiful silver fish that the tide pushed on shore.
It was nearly translucent, and looked as if a skillful craftsman had deftly painted thin silver and black pinstripes down its side.
Everything about that time was beautiful, serene, and lovely. It felt as if the cold sand, the mighty sun, and the delicate silver fish were telling of the glory of their maker.
I don’t know exactly why, but that 24-hour trip to the beach was transformative. I arrived in Avalon a sad and fearful woman, and I departed with peace.
Today, almost six weeks after my diagnosis, I am mostly peaceful about having MS. Although I don’t like the diagnosis (and I will do everything in my power to improve and maintain my health) I know that nothing in my life happens outside of the providence of God. The one who made the sand, sun, and silver fish also made me, and he planned each day of my life. I believe that MS is part of his plan for me. I don’t say this to sound like a spiritual rock star. In fact, my own pet tendencies are anxiety and worry, so I know that this peace I have is not of myself. I know that the peace I feel is a gift from God, and I will rejoice in him.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Photography by my gifted friend Lindsey Calabretta Clark.