We spend hours combing the shorelines searching for them. They come in different shapes, sizes and colors. We gather them in buckets, pockets and bags. Sea shells. The wonder of watching a shell peek through the sand as the ocean waves retreat can be mesmerizing and surprisingly tranquil.

Every year our family spends a weekend or two at the beaches of North Carolina. Patrick and I enjoy relaxing in chairs as the four kids are endlessly entertained with the water and sand. Corban builds and digs and jumps the waves. The three girls engage in imaginary games that involve horses, or they capture little fish in buckets and tend to them throughout the day. Some of my best memories are the ones of walking along the sand, searching for shells while connecting in conversation with our oldest, who is almost a teenager. It was on this last trip, over Labor Day, as Mallory and I were collecting shells, that I was struck by the similarities between scarred seashells and humans. Each shell she handed me had scars, tattoos of the encounters along their journeys under the waters.

The waves of life vary as greatly as those of the open waters. Sometimes we float atop them as they roll beneath us. Other times they seem to crash down with a thrashing weight and noise, that overwhelm and bury us. But, like the open seas, the crashing waves of life settle, and we emerge from the waters different than when we started to gasp for breath beneath them. It can take us some time to return to peacefully floating on top of the rolling waves before realizing the scar or two we gained along the way.

A sea shell captures the awe of my children whether it has miraculously survived the crashing waves whole, or is broken on the edges and scarred upon the surface. Among the many vases in our home that are filled with the treasures we have picked up from the sand, very few appear unscathed by their journey. And yet, not one of them did we want to throw back. The scars we bear may change our shape, but they do not change the Scarred Treasure found in each of us as we peek through the sands under the waters.

 

 

Over My Shoulder is my story of surviving the crashing waves of life, and the scars I’ve gained along the way. I call them ‘Tattoos of Survival’. I wouldn’t be the mom, wife, friend, sister, or daughter I am today without the stories of the scars.