Even though I grew up in the old days when everyone played outside until Momma hollered, “Supper time,” I'm not much of a camper. But, all of my mother’s grandsons had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, so I bestowed onto my only son An Agenda. He must become an Eagle Scout.
Spoiler alert. He's not an Eagle. Not his goal.
That said, while we were on my quest for the Eagle, we did some camping. One of my favorite outings was--and I know you find this hard to believe--at the beach.
Dauphin Island, Alabama is a quaint barrier island south of Mobile. The beaches aren’t as pristine as San Destin, nor does it host the huge resorts and shopping malls. (Buy your groceries before you get there.) But hey, it’s still a beach on the Gulf.
The island is small, and most of it is designated as a bird sanctuary—a bird watcher’s delight. We toured the Sea Lab and a cool old fort on the bay, Fort Gaines. The campground was nice, too. One great thing about being a female chaperone with the scouts is that the men/boys do all the cooking, like yummy hobo meals and Dutch oven cobblers.
The only thing that bothered me (other than sleeping in the tent) was this swampy nature trail the boys had to run down to get to the beach. About twice every waking hour, I warned them to watch for snakes. Over and over and over, I reminded, until their response became, “We know. Watch for snakes.”
During all my rambling in creeks and woods of central Mississippi growing up, I never ran across a snake. I’m not sure why I obsessed about my kids stepping on one.
Soooo … we left the island having seen no reptiles. Along the way home, I threw a fit to stop at The Bellingrath Estate to tour the flower gardens. (I mean we were so close to it down there.) I walked as fast as I could because my son’s (and my husband’s) patience for this sort of thing was nil on a good day. My map in hand, I covered ground quickly, hitting the highlights.
Then I heard my son yelling, “Mom, Mom.” I groaned, just knowing he was ready to leave. I answered, in not so nice a voice, “What???”
He huffed, “Uh, you’re standing on a snake.”
Yes. I looked down and under my Saucony tennis shoe was a squirming black snake. Luckily, it hightailed it when I lifted my foot.
Not sure there’s a point to this story other than maybe parents should take their own advice. (Believe me, your kids will make fun of you for years afterward when you don’t.) Oh, and don’t let fear of snakes keep you from having fun.
Do you have any snake stories?
My daughter asked why I hadn't blogged anything inspirational. Hmmm. Maybe my brain cells have been used up writing and editing four fiction manuscripts. So I pulled out one of my older writings from when my mind was younger. A struggle for approval that still can raise its ugly head. Maybe you can relate, maybe not. Here goes.
Confession of an Ignoble Heart
I formed for myself an idol. I contrived it into being. I molded and shaped it in a fashion so indistinguishable that its appearance was almost innocent. Yet an idol is never innocent, nor will God all it to remain hidden, either within His temple or without. He is not ignorant of the high places that we run to. If we contend with Him in thought, wrestle with Him in Prayer, our most ingenuous deceptions will be brought to light and resolutely purified. Thus I came to know the idol in the hidden recesses of my soul.
Born a seeker, I began to worship the approval of mankind. What sacrifice could I bring the god of self-worth? Surely, I could offer up my determination, my dependability. On feast days, I would bring my offering of flattering words and self-righteous works. Who wouldn't acknowledge the worth of all my discipleship?
Pride masquerades itself as work ethic. Arrogance disguises itself as goodness. The web of deceit entangles those encountered as I, the spinner of the web, am also entrapped. My heart betrays my mind, spinning inward to convince myself of my own rhetoric. My thinking begins to contort my soul, and insecurities rob His joy from me.
The Irony of the god of approval is its fickleness. The emotional consequences of looking to others for approval are disastrous, the spiritual consequences devastating.
Yet, He heals my infirmities. He delights in me. His love reveals, then unbinds my fetters. "When will my heart fully look only to my Father for approval?" I ask myself. Morning by morning, minute by minute, I must allow Him to fill and satisfy my soul. I will tear down the high places, once and for all. When He leads me in His paths of righteousness, I must follow Him with or without the accolades of those I long to please.
My sister has a condo on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. And no she won't let you borrow it. :)
Through the years, I’ve been privileged to spend time there with her, but oddly, we’ve tried and failed a number of “sisters-only” trips. We are only three sisters. Shouldn't be that hard, right? But due to one conflict or another, we’ve managed only one. Ever.
Last summer, we tried, but again, one of us couldn’t attend. My son ended up taking the place of my middle sister. A seventeen-year-old young man and two ladies aged over the half century mark. You know he had a blast …
Since he was along, we ditched the shopping and bird-watching, and we spent even more time on the pristine beaches. We also headed out on really, really, really long bike rides.
Did I mention they were really long?
My sisters discourage discussions of age, but my oldest sister led the biking charge. Although she was in college when I was born, happily/sadly she looks fantastic and can kick my behind in tennis any day. Also she can ride for miles on a bike without whining like her baby sister.
Hilton Head is the perfect place to pedal until it hurts so good. Shaded bike trails wind through the aesthetically protected community. We started at Palmetto Dunes and rode out and across to the Veterans’ Memorial Park. The area offers both sunny and shaded areas that overlook a pond and the marsh, as well as a monument for fallen and missing soldiers. Bird watchers may want to bring the camera.
On another ride, we cycled over to Shelter Cove. This fun shopping area provides not only dining and nightly entertainment, but also a spectacular view of the marina, especially at sunset.
My personal favorite bike rides were at low tide on the beach. Well ... because I love the beach, the sea air, the sound of waves. Oh did I mention I love the beach?
After all the physical activity, clean up and skip out for early dining, because almost every restaurant on the island offers fine dining at a deep discount in the evenings between five and six. I also adore food and discounts!
I know it’s only January, but you might be dreaming of warm sand and ocean and starfish and sunsets, too. So check out Hilton Head Island for a great time under the Southern sun. And no, my sister won't let you borrow her condo. :)
Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson