My one request for my forty-fifth birthday was to go to the ocean.
My husband Shawn and my three daughters took me to a little beach town along the central coast of California called Cambria. I didn’t realize until we arrived that this was the same town my late husband Ericlee took me for my birthday almost twenty years ago.
The memories flooded back. We were barely married a month when Ericlee told me to pack a weekend bag because he had a surprise for me. We drove three hours and checked into the same quaint lodge near the coast.
Suddenly, I was a twenty-something married girl again, walking along the ocean hand-in-hand with my love. We had our whole lives ahead of us. We made footprints in the sand and dreamed of what our lives might be like in twenty years when we had kids, ministry, and full careers. I never imagined he would graduate to heaven ten years later.
Not long after he died, I went to the beach, and while my young daughters built sand castles, I watched the waves for hours. The rushing waters flowing in and out brought me surprising comfort. God welcomed my tears, my questions, and my fears as I burrowed my toes in the sand and wondered what my future would hold.
The ocean has been my place of refuge since I was a young girl, when I would sit before the crashing waves and write poetry. Maybe it’s my Polynesian/Pacific Islander heritage or the fact that our family would make a point of going to the beach when we traveled for family vacations. The ocean has always been a place of grounding, a place where I feel most at home and closest to God.
Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens declare the glory of God, but I believe the ocean is part of that same symphony too. Somehow I always get lost in the swirl of colors — the dance of the deep navy swell with the turquoise waters before the ocean lifts her head to kiss the azure sky and melt back into the arms of the sapphire blue horizon.
God meets us in the nuanced glory of the water and waves.
The ocean speaks of God’s awesome power. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us: “This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — the Lord Almighty is his name” (Jeremiah 31:35 NIV). This prophecy reminds us that God is the one who controls creation. He can stir up the waters and harness tsunamis because He created it all in the first place.
I can’t help but think about that story in the New Testament when Jesus was taking a nap in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. When a wild storm rears its ugly head on the water, the disciples wake Him trembling with fear.
Jesus responds, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then He gets up and rebukes the wind and waves, and suddenly there’s a great calm (Matthew 8:26 NLT). Jesus demonstrates His power over nature right after He heals several people.
God is at once the masterful Creator, our loving Father, the ultimate Judge, and our caring Shepherd.
Back on the shore in Cambria for my forty-fifth birthday, I marveled at the ways God had met me through the years at the ocean and how my dreams had unfolded. My daughters, who are now ten, thirteen, and sixteen, napped and read books with me. They are ocean girls too — at home in the salty air and dancing in the waves.
In many ways, I’m living the life I dreamed of twenty years ago, but the waters I had to navigate to get here were nothing like I’d imagined.
God speaks in whispers, through the wind, and through the waves, and I’m deeply grateful for the ways God calls me to remember these moments and experience His presence every time I return to the ocean.
Loved this. Thank you for sharing. I feel most connected to our Creator in the trees. We have many large Oaks and Maples, and on days when the sun peaks thorough the leaves and the birds are singing… Those are the moments. ❤️ Totally calming, time seems to stop.
Yes I agree with B. And most especially in the fall, the crisp air/blue skies/colorful leaves… I definitely feel God’s presence.
I’m with you! I love the trees too. I grew up in the Midwest with maples and oak trees that sing His praises through their colors. Now I live in California where redwoods and sequoias point my hear toward heaven!
I feel God’s presence most in nature, walking a trail through the trees, sitting amongst the flowers, but especially by the water. God has made it all, and I look forward to our return to the Garden, the way He intended it for us from the beginning. Wishing you a beautiful day in His presence.
I love that reminder that we can anticipate that to our return to the Garden one day!
The mountains. Every time I see the mountains it makes me so happy… that is why I love to travel so much
I agree. I can see the outline of the Sierra Nevada mountains from my balcony in the morning. It makes me smile every time, especially when God paints the sky above them!
For me, mountains, lakes, trees and trails covered in a bed of pine needles are the sanctuary God created for me . I am overwhelmed by His majesty and His presence in these settings.
I am with you – overwhelmed by His glory in nature again and again!
Karen Randolph says
I’m sitting in my back yard that is filled with beautiful flowers and several species of birds singing and scurrying about. I even have some hummingbirds drinking from the fresh nectar I put out this morning. This is my safe place, my refuge from life’s storms. I’m so very thankful for God and His Word. I’m reading from Philippians now, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”. I have committed most of this chapter by memory, because I found myself reading it over and over. His Word is alive and speaks to me often when I’m sitting out here in my safe place.
I love to watch the hummingbirds too! They are my mama’s favorite. She has several that come into her yard. Thank you for the model of memorizing scripture. What comfort it brings!
Ariel Krienke says
So thankful God the loving father is taking care of everything. Puts me at peace.
Amen to that sister! He is our Comforter!
The ocean is my peaceful place. We stayed at the Navy Lodge at Coranado when my mom graduated to heaven. My sister and I would slip out in the middle of the night and listen to the waves. The soft sound so soothed our hurting hearts.
We just visited Coronado in January for our anniversary. What a magical place! I loved listening to the waves at night too. Such comfort even in the grief!
Shawna Moriarty says
Appreciate you reading!
Julie Allenby says
I love to stare at the ocean and I love to pray by the sea. I can truly see His glory and eternalness.
I’m with you! It’s such a special other-worldly place to meet with Him!
Being in at our spot by the lake surrounded by the woods. So much nature to engage my senses and marvel at our good Creator.
I love that you have that special “spot” too! I grew up close to several lakes. They are a different kind of serene! All Creation sings!
Oceanside is where I am (and my mom too) at peace. I have written poetry and drawn there. I have spent time in prayer and journaling there. My mom is also more at peace there and in no less pain. There is such majesty and evidence of God there.
There’s an indescribable peace there. Thank you for sharing your experience too!
Becky Keife says
I love how the ocean has been a messenger of God’s love and presence for you through the years. This is how I feel in the mountains surrounded by tall trees and lush greenery. Indeed, creation speaks!
I love how you said that – a messenger! And you know I’m also a mountain girl too – especially when it involves a trail, big trees, and view of the water! I’ll be up near Yosemite this weekend! Can’t wait!
I’m a Colorado gal born and raised so the first time I saw the ocean I felt so small. I was overwhelmed by the seemingly never ending magnitude of it all. In all of nature, from the mighty Rockies to the shores of the Pacific and the Atlantic, God speaks to our hearts and we are filled with His presence. We are truly blessed.
It’s so true. He can meet us in a myriad of ways through His Creation. And we are His creation too!
C Igoe says
So beautifully written! Your words all at once capture and calm my heart.
Thank you, sister! I know you are at home near the ocean too!
The beach at sunrise! I love trying to be the 1st person on the beach to watch the sunrise. I walk and sing. My 1st song is always “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.
I love that image! Yes, the ocean fills me with worship too! Can’t help but sing! And “Great is They Faithfulness” is a longtime favorite. My friends in Haiti used to always sing it acapella for us. Like angels touching heaven!
Megan Jones says
Thank you for your beautiful words. They brought tears to my eyes for I too am an ocean girl. I grew up in Southern California and then was blessed to live on the beautiful island of Maui. I also have been to the sweet little town of Cambria. The sea is my happy place and many of my closest moments with God have been sitting in the sand watching the waves. After a difficult year I was able to return to Maui for a visit last month. I returned refreshed and with peace in my soul. Thank you dear Dorina, my sister in Christ and lover of the ocean.
Megan, Thank you for sharing your heart. Maui is a special place to our family too. My grandma grew up there! I hope to take my daughters there one day. They’ve been to Oahu and the Big Island with me! May God continue to meet you in ocean waves!
Mine is the ocean too, that’s where I get calm and receive or feel Gods presence. Even if the waves are wild it still is a place of wonder, beauty, amazement at the power and creative genius /talent that only Hod could make…
I feel his peace often there whether I’m walking the dog slowly or pacing up the beach, I can pray and talk to God in my head, I feel more connected to God there.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young says
Jas, I love that you feel God’s presence at the ocean too! I connect with so much of what you described!
Beth Williams says
I’m a mountain girl myself. Looking at the great Smokey Mountains has me in awe of God. It is especially beautiful in fall when God paints them in such an array of colors. I got to visit the Grand Canyon one year & it was breathtaking. How can people not believe in a supreme being that created all this?
Admittedly, I’m a mountain and an ocean girl! I can see the Sierra Nevada mountains from my balcony, and I love watching how God paints the sunrise each morning!
I grew up close to the sea in New Zealand. I find the sea a very healing place to be, close to my creator who formed me in my mother’s womb, first as a child who did not yet know Jesus, the sea was a place to express my grief, hurt & anger in safety. As an adult, it was also a good place to walk & express my thoughts & feelings to the Lord! I am now old & live a very long way from the sea. I am so grateful for the gift of my childhood growing up near the sea. But even more grateful for my Lord & Saviour who cares for me & understands me!
I love that you can call up these memories of how the Creator met you as a child! I would like to visit New Zealand one day with my daughters! Seems so lush and beautiful there!
Shelley Kinder says
Hi Dorina (what a beautiful name!). I just discovered your blog today because I was Googling the name of my new children’s book (God and Me at the Sea) to see what would come up. The book was just released a month ago, so it’s fun seeing its presence grow online. So, “God Meets Me Through the Ocean Waves” popped up as I Googled, and I clicked on it. So glad I did! It got me thinking about special places that help me connect with God. For me, it’s often in my minivan, worship music playing, no kids in the back. Just me and God. It’s a bonus if there’s a sunset ahead (or sunrise if I happen to be up that early). I spent ten years in Rhode Island, but we’re in the Midwest now, so hundreds of miles from an ocean. For me, I think lighting, an organized environment (not common with four kids…LOL), and music are the things that bring me peace and put me in a worshipful mood.
So nice to meet you here, Shelley! I’m also a children’s author and working on a book about meeting God at the ocean. What a small world! Your book is beautiful! I love the illustrations and the music in the words. I can definitely relate to your story of riding in the minivan with no kids and all the worship music. Such a good place to meet with Him too!
Shelley Kinder says
After I wrote this, I kept thinking how familiar you looked. I realize we follow each other on Twitter. Good luck on your ocean book! I can’t wait to read it!
So fun! Cheering you on, Sister!