Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
TITLE: The Shell Game
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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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