raising my ebenezer - Aaron and the beach.

     As I start this post,  I'm not even sure what to call it.  All I know is that writing it out is part of my healing, my moving on, my getting past this thing that happened to us.  I believe at least two things to be true, 1: God can use all bad to bring good and 2: words are powerful.  Maybe my writing this out and you reading it will cause someone to think twice, or again.  To be a tad more careful in a vulnerable moment and save themselves some grief.  The thing about this is that we may never know directly, the good that is done, at least not until we get to heaven, we just have to trust Him.  As for the power of words, well, often times for me, the "writing it all out" part is the conclusion.  I begin to write and God begins to speak, to me and sometimes others, through the words He has allowed to flow through my mind and into my fingers on the keyboard.  The post is usually the result of several days of heart-mending and praying. 

     So, we spent the last week at the beach.  It was an amazing, unplanned vacation that I will fill you in on later this week.  There are so many great God stories woven throughout that I just have to write them all down, as another Ebenezer to God's amazing grace on me. 

     It was our last day, our last hours on the beach.  We had spent the afternoon swimming and playing in the waves, collecting shells and looking for sharks teeth.  The boys were both saturated with salty sea air and everyone was in high spirits.  We were beginning to wind down our last day there as Aaron and I walked along together, just a few yards from our beach chairs.  Aaron told me he was going back to our chairs, where his brother was, and I pointed them out to him among many others.  I turned towards the ocean and looked up to see Doug coming towards me, about a half a block away.  Doug and I met, chit chatted a little about how much longer we would be there or something like that, I looked up and noticed that Aaron was not at our chairs.  I asked Doug where he was and he had no idea.  I scanned the beach looking for him and there was no sign of him.  I started to walk down the beach and Doug walked the other direction, still both in the "where is he in the crowd" phase, since the beach was still littered with people.  No sign of him.  I kept walking, Doug kept walking.  No sign of him.  Doug and I would make eye contact every so often to let the other know that we still hadn't found him.  Doug searched the dunes, I walked quickly down the shore.  No sign of him. 

     Less than a minute or two into the situation and fear arrived.  We were past the momentary loss of a child that every parent experiences.  Where you lose sight of them in a crowd and locate them quickly, long before you get too nervous.  This was different than that.  This was "how does a five year old get off of the beach THAT fast"?  Only one, terrifying scenario provided a solution.  The beach was crowded, but not so crowded that I wouldn't have been able to see his blond head and blue board shorts.  I wasn't really worried about the sea because we had watched him all week not be able to get out very far too fast...the waves were big and he was little, he would no sooner make a little headway then a wave would deliver him back on shore.  No, my mind immediately went to an image of him being scooped up by a stranger and run off the beach.  My immediate fear was that someone had taken him.  It was the only scene that justified his quick disappearance.

     My mind has never worked so fast.  My fear has never been so intense.  I felt numb and powerless.  I had no control over what was happening to my child, no way to protect him, no power to keep him safe.  Ten thoughts at a time entered my head backtobacktobacktobacktobacktoback.  My mind, in panic mode struggled to remember every memory of Aaron that week as I wondered if they would be my last.

     As I staggered along the beach, desperate in searching for him, looking back to Doug in hopes of seeing him with Aaron in his arms, I spotted a policeman patrolling the beach.  Waving him down I ran to him.  In desperation I yelled to him "my son is gone, he's lost, we don't know where he is".  The policeman took down his basic information: Aaron, five years old, blue and white board shorts, blond hair.  He radioed all of the lifeguards (who were just barely still on duty getting off at 5:30).  He asked for more information: 47 inches tall, bowl cut, lost five minutes ago.  He told me to stay put, don't move, let your husband look, we need to be able to communicate with you.  I froze in place, under no control of my own.  Scanning the beach from where my feet were buried in the sand.  Waiting, trying to remember to breathe, making eye contact with Doug, over a block away.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.

     "They found him, a lifeguard has him".

     On the radio "Did you ask his name? What's his name?"

     "It's Aaron".

     I frantically turn to where Doug is on the beach, waving my arms to signal.  I point him towards the lifeguard that I can't yet see, walking with the boy whose fate we hadn't known for a bit.  I watch until Doug has him.  I thank the policeman profusely and run towards my boy, safe in his dad's arms.  Upon arrival I cannot contain my tears.  Heavy sobs of relief escape me to the point of scaring poor Aaron.  I held them both, right there on the beach, crying into them until I could contain myself.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.

     My sweet, crazy, wild and adventurous boy had known, as soon as he realized that he didn't know where he was, to go to a lifeguard.  He had run off towards our chairs and gotten turned around, something I had done a million times that week.  But he knew, without a single panicky moment, to look for the helpers, to do what we had always told him to do if he got separated.  Just twenty minutes before he got lost Doug had told him again about going to the lifeguard.

     We head back to our chairs together, ready to pack up, to find our neighbors on the beach that day in tears, saying that she had seen what was happening and just started to pray.  She joined us in thankfulness, crying for some time afterwards.   

     We witnessed the enemy's attacks many times that week, but always kept in mind that he is never the winner.  Not even once.  The God who created us had the ultimate power that week.  He guided Aaron to the lifeguard, He placed the policeman in our path.  He kept us from the plans of the enemy to steal and destroy.     

     Our whole ordeal was less than 15 minutes long but it's ripples are still moving outward.  I'm still recovering.  Something like this takes you to a place not often visited, thankfully.  My heart has constantly since gone out to parents who move on from 15 minutes with a different kind of outcome.  I can't even fathom the kind of strength that would take.  If that is you, I pray that you would comment or email me.  I would love to pray for you.  I am not trying to minimize much more serious "missing" incidents but I can promise you that ours was real and deep.  We are so thankful for so much that day.

     So like I said, I believe that God can use all bad for good in some way.  Maybe our story will prompt you to mention the lifeguards to your kids, or put a flag on your beach chairs or who knows what.  I don't even know what I would have done differently that day because we had done it all one hundred times that week.  I just know that writing it all out, takes some of the sting away, brings it out of the dark, where no good can happen and as we lay it out in front of God, we allow Him to work.

     That's what I am praying for, His work.  
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