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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)

TITLE: The Shell Game


How did life pass me by so quickly and leave me floundering in the icy waters of its murky wake? I ached for the sun to find a chink in the dismal gray above me, but not so much as a single ray ever got through to cheer the darkness hovering over my soul. The loss of my husband had left me with burdens I never had considered before, let alone tried to shoulder on my own. If it wasn’t pouring outside, it was raining in my heart.

My once ideal life seemed fractured and imperfect, and I wondered if it wouldn’t be better to just toss it away entirely. As if sensing my despair, my daughter, an artist who lived alone by choice, called and asked me to come stay with her during the summer months. When she could tell I was at a loss for words, she shocked me even more by saying she would pay the fare for my flight.

“Mom,” she tempted, “come get away for a few months. You’ll have complete access to the beach, and the sunsets here are unrivaled. Remember how you always said sunsets were your favorite time of day? You’d say how much closer to God you felt when watching the sun sink into inky oblivion and how it was His hand that painted the skies with colors which defied imitation. You should see them here, Mom…”

How well she knew me, and so I packed three months of belongings and moved in with my lovely daughter for the summer. She lived in a quaint little town along the northern California coast, and she was right; the sunsets were magnificent, but they didn’t stir my heart, the way they once did.

My daughter and I settled into a carefree routine. After breakfast, I would leave her alone to work on her art while I searched the lonely stretch of the Pacific Coast for one piece of perfection, no matter how small, that would give me some assurance God cared for me and that life was worth living. We spent the evenings in quiet contemplation of God’s creative masterpieces.

The beach in front of her home was pristine, except for the rubble at the water’s edge. Beautiful shells and sea life were tossed and tumbled against the rocks, lying just off shore. Then, without mercy or compassion, the waves would scatter their broken remains along the shoreline for the scavenger gulls. I mourned the loss of beauty, a mirror of my own life, and looked upon the seagulls with disgust, except for one.

Toward the end of summer, a lone gull captured my affections. It was constantly badgered and berated by the others and was left to slim pickings after they had had their fill. One morning I brought bits of leftover breakfast with me. I waited until the gull was alone, and then I sat in the sand and set a piece of toast off to the side. Hungry and not the least bit shy, it flew to my side and snatched up the morsel. I thought my laughter had scared it away, but, instead, it flew to the water’s edge and picked through the remains. Then, to my astonishment, it landed at my feet and dropped its token of thanks.

I picked up the broken shell and shook my head. “It’s not perfect, my feathered friend. You’ll have to try harder than that.” I threw the shell back. Two more times the bird amazed me by retrieving the same fragment of shell and placing it at my feet.

“What is this?” I asked. Amused at the bird’s antics, I tossed it another piece of toast. Curious now, I picked up the shell and as I held it up to the sunlight, the Lord opened my eyes. I jumped up, scaring the poor bird, and ran back to show my daughter.

“But it’s broken; I thought you wanted to find something that was…” Then she saw it too. It was a nautilus shell, sheared neatly in half to reveal the intricacy of its spiral, the luster of the mother of pearl interior and the chambers, precisely spaced and all intact. The wondrous beauty of its perfection would have remained hidden to us, had it been whole.

My daughter placed it back into my hands. Her eyes filled with tears, and she took a deep breath. “Mom, would you come live with me…permanently?”

And to her surprise, I said, “Yes.”

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This article has been read 914 times
Member Comments
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Joanne Sher 09/13/07
What an amazing lesson wrapped around a gorgeously masterful story. I love the gull and the shell. Perfect title too, by the way.
Dee Yoder 09/13/07
Lovely story! The sorrow of the woman mingled with the quiet seashore setting, and then the evidence of God's love for her, gives this entry a serene and poignant feel. Very nice!
Jan Ackerson 09/13/07
This line...The wondrous beauty of its perfection would have remained hidden to us, had it been whole... brought instant tears to my eyes, for many reasons. Thank you, thank you.

Verna Cole Mitchell 09/13/07
Just beautiful--Another gem that shows creative mastery of the language, as well as a tender heart.
Loren T. Lowery09/13/07
God speaking, reaching out to us through His creations. How great is His mercy when we but open our hearts...this piece was just beautiful and stirs the soul.
Ruth Neilson09/13/07
wow. perfectly built in the way that you take the reader through the various emotions up until the moment that God speaks in the His soft and gentle voice. Thank you for sharing.
Betty Castleberry09/14/07
Wow, this is wonderful. I love the beach, and you put me right there. What a lovely piece, and a great message, too. Thank you for sharing.
Sharlyn Guthrie09/15/07
What lovely illustrations of faith, beauty, and relationship. Expertly crafted.
Helen Murray09/17/07
I think the seagull and shell story covers the real one, which is about the beautiful relationship between these two women, mother and daughter. It's about their deep and gentle understanding of one another and the honour accorded each to each. I think daughter tested the idea of living with mother before inviting her to remain, and mother passed the test with flying colours. Thus each expressed complete confidence in the other - enough for a lifetime's commitment! Beautiful
Linda Watson Owen09/17/07
Oh, how beautiful. I can hear the swish and rhythm of the waves. I can smell the salty ocean, and I see the broken, perfect shell in my hand. Masterful writing indeed. Thank you for this gem!
Kimberly Lane09/17/07
Beautiful imagery and a lovely story. Thank you--I look forward to reading more of your work.
Catrina Bradley 09/17/07
Oh, I like this so much! What a neat, and and important lesson. Great job!
Brenda Welc09/19/07
What an AWESOME story. Loved every aspect of it, the words you chose, the bird, the shell and the love you put into this! Great writing no matter how you look at it! Keep up the God inspired writing, it looks good on you:)
Jacquelyn Horne09/19/07
What a wonderful mother/daughter relationship here. Private and yet very close.
Dianne Janak09/19/07
This to me was a prosepoem.. made that up, but was so poetic in its flow, and description and lesson and love and nature and all good things mingled with the grief of an imperfect world full of tragedy and suffering... WOW... great writing..!
Janice Cartwright09/20/07
Because of the exquisite descriptions I thought you probably wrote this. You have such a wonderful way with words and the underlying message of our broken Savior and His beauty thus revealed no reader could miss.