Travel Journal Entry. August 26, 2017, Land’s End, Maine:
If my eyes had the power to see across the ocean, I could be staring into the eyes of a lonely girl in Europe. Never have I felt so connected to people on the other side of the world. I feel like I’m there, holding her hand, talking with her, finding out what makes her human, and hearing her life story. Somehow I feel like I already know her.
She is like me.
Her heart beats a certain number of times each minute. Her eyes hold color, warmth or coolness, the expression of emotions. DNA within her body writes a code telling where she came from, her family, her history. Depending on this code, she can tell me a story of how she has either carried on her family’s legacy, or how she has overcome the odds and become who she is despite her past. Either one is a fascinating story.
She has struggled, been overwhelmed, and conquered. She has reached the end of herself, arrived at the edge of the water where she can go no further, dipped her toes into the waves, and cried.
She is like me.
Three days ago, I came to this place, looked across these waters, and felt the same. I stood on the beach with my daddy, clung to him, and cried. He handed me a clean handkerchief — as long as I’ve been alive, he’s always had one with him — and asked, “Are you overwhelmed, sweetie?”
I was. I had dreamed of this place — Bailey Island, Maine. An island my grandmother had fallen in love with in 1939. I had read her travel journals and pictured it’s loveliness as her colorful descriptions came alive in my mind. I had driven over a thousand miles with my family, spent days traveling with four small children, slept little, stressed much, and dreamed — all to reach this point.
I had held back tears as we drove across the island. But suddenly the road ended and there was nowhere else to go. I wandered down to the beach, surrounded by huge, dramatic rocks on both sides, and touched my feet to the sand. In the way we sometimes think illogically when sentiment runs high, I wondered if Grandma had felt the same grains of sand under her feet eighty years ago.
“Grandma, I miss you so much. I wish you were here.”
Even as I said the words, I wondered at them. Why did I miss her?
Grandma died nearly fourteen years ago, when I was a young teenager. I loved her dearly as a child, treasured every letter written in her beautiful penmanship, and proudly wore the blue sweater with the rosebud decal she had knit for me. My moments with Gram were few and far between, since she lived several states away and was too elderly to travel by the time I came along. But every time we visited her, I adored being by her side.
Still, in truth, I barely knew her. So why had I traveled this far, in a sense, to meet her?
I think I know why. Because I think she was like me.
Grandma was quiet and introverted. She loved time alone. She liked to knit and paint and write. But my grandma, Ruth, was an adventurer. She traveled the country alone before it was considered proper for a woman to do so. She was independent and wise. She drove slowly to enjoy the world around her. Ruth savored. She lived. After years of waiting, she married the man she loved, and they traveled the world together.
But my strong, adventurous grandmother was also overwhelmed.
Grandma struggled. She even suffered a mental breakdown that lasted two years. In the midst of seeing and learning and living, she faced a deep darkness. But given time, she overcame and went on to live a long and beautiful life. She died when she was 92.
This is where my journal entry of that day abruptly ends. I don’t remember if I was getting cold because of the Atlantic wind that swept right through me, even on a warm day in August. Or maybe the tide was coming in, and the water that rushed the rock where I was sitting was swirling too close to my feet.
I had climbed across the rock formations till I was nearly as far out in the ocean as I could reach. This breathtaking place was Land’s End on Bailey Island, Maine. The very tip of the island–the very end of the land. I had come here alone to write–because it was here where, three days before, I had come to the end of myself.
A year or more of intense depression and panic attacks had left me exhausted and afraid. Life since becoming parents had been incredibly difficult for my husband and me, and we needed breakthrough.
As I had planned this incredible trip through New England for our family, I was chasing my own dreams, but also in a sense, chasing some illusive dream of my grandmother. She intrigued and inspired me, and I needed to find her.
I will never forget the emotions that flooded me the minute my feet touched the earth on Bailey Island. It was so surreal. I had expected to be happy and excited, finally reaching the destination we had been dreaming of for months. But instead, I felt heavy. The weight of my ill mind and the overwhelming responsibilities of daily life rushed in on me.
In that moment, for some reason, I just wanted my grandma there. I wanted her to show me around her beloved island and tell me it would be alright–that I would get through this darkness. I would be an adventurer like her. She had shared with me her DNA and her wanderlust and her gift of writing. I shared her burdens, but I would also share her triumph.
The waves lapped at my feet, and I cried. In that moment, I prayed. I don’t even remember what I asked God, but I think it was simple. I just needed His promise that I would be ok.
I wanted a memento from this moment. An Ebenezer stone to cling to so I would remember God’s faithfulness. I knelt down and picked up the first rock my fingers touched beneath the water. It was a plain, drab rock. I nearly dropped it back in and found a prettier one, but I didn’t. I thought, I’m not pretty right now. I’m a mess. But God is going to do beautiful things in this ugly, messy life.
It would be months before Jordan and I would experience true breakthrough. But God has been faithful to answer the desperate prayer I whispered that day. I still have that plain rock, wrapped up in my daddy’s handkerchief. One held my tears, the other my prayers.
I also have pictures of myself on that beach at that heavy moment. My dad is an amazing photographer, and he had his camera out, taking pictures as we all explored the beach. He snapped a few of me before wandering over, seeing my tears, and putting his arm around me. We stood together, he missing his mom, and I my grandmother.
I came to the end of myself at Land’s End. And there I found a blessed promise I will cling to for the rest of my life.
I will be okay.
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