Tuesday, May 17, 2011


she asked us, "have you ever been lost before?"

and i was reminded of a memory

of when i was once lost.

i was about 15, and my family had taken a summer trip out to the oregon coast, one of my most favorite places i have ever been.  even more favorite than hawaii, so that is saying something.  the ocean in oregon, specifically a place called haystack rock on cannon beach, is my idea of heaven.

**picture found through google images.

beautiful, oui?

as soon as we arrived, we checked into our hotel and then had driven the short distance to spend time on the beach. 

we spent the afternoon throwing frisbees and exploring.  after a while, my sister, mom and grandma had wanted to relax so my dad, brother and i left them sitting on the sand and took off to go further down the shore, past haystack rock.  as we were walking, we would occasionally turn around to see who could find the rest of our family first.  their forms became tiny spots on the beach as we kept going, but each time we turned around we could eventually see them in the distance.

the sun started to go down and even though we were in the summer months, it began to get cold.  we decided we should start heading back toward them, and toward the car.

but our hotel was so close to the beach, and at this point we were closer to our hotel than we were to the rest of my family.  my dad and brother decided they wanted to just walk back to the hotel, so i volunteered to go back to let my mom know.  i loved that beach and wanted to prolong my time there, even if it was only for an extra 20 minutes or so.

we turned around again, raising our hands to shield our eyes from the remaining daylight, searching for the 3 small figures.  it took a moment, but eventually we found them again.  my dad asked me several times if i was okay with the situation and could make it back on my own, and i reassured him confidently.

we said good-bye and i began to take off back down our initial pathway, keeping my eyes on the area i was heading toward.

it was a long walk, and there were people scattered around me, but i smiled to myself as i took off my sandals and felt the cold water on my feet.  i watched children building sand castles and couples holding hands and families playing, and i was completely content.

as i got closer i to where my mom, sister and grandma should have been, i realized that i had made a mistake.  the 3 figures we had pointed out so far back actually wasn't my family at all.  they were strangers.  i wasn't too worried though, and thought that we had just probably gone too far to see them, so i needed to keep going and i would run into them eventually.

i walked for another 10 minutes, until i got to a point that i knew was no longer familiar.  i hadn't been here before, which meant that i had walked too far.  which meant i should have passed them, but i hadn't.

i turned around, searching the beach again.  by this time, it was dusk and many people were leaving as the air temperature continued to drop.  i figured they couldn't have left, because they would have thought we were coming back and would be waiting for us.  but i couldn't see them.

as i looked around, i tried to remember my surroundings when we had first arrived.  what did the street look like that we had parked on? was it close to a restaurant?  a bike rental shop? that blue house?  but i couldn't remember.  to me, all of the streets looked basically the same.

i started walking again, this time back again the other way, hoping to have just missed them the first time.  i laughed to myself at how awful i am with noticing my surroundings, and being aware.  i still struggle with that now, and have often found myself in crowded parking lots, searching each row for my car if i don't take a mental note of where i have parked.  so this time as i turned back once more, i tried to find points or markers along the way so i could keep track.  i walked further away from the water and closer to the edges of the streets to try to see if i could spot our van.

it was dark now, and those remaining on the beach were lighting bonfires, huddling around to keep warm.  i had a light jacket on and shorts, and my arms and legs were covered in goosebumps.  my bare feet were covered in sand and water and were freezing.  i folded my arms across my chest to try to keep myself warm, and kept walking.

i knew by now that my mom, sister and grandma had left.  there was no way that i could have missed them, and that they could have missed me walking by so many times.  when that realization sunk in, i started to become nervous.  i wasn't sure what to do at this point.  i didn't know the name of our hotel, let alone the room number or even the remote address.  as a small child i was taught that if i ever was lost, to return to the initial starting point and wait there.  but it all looked the same now. i didn't have the vaguest idea where the starting point was.

the only solution i could come up with was to walk back in the general direction of the hotel, and ask the next group of people i ran into or passed for help.

the beach was basically deserted now, so it took a while to pass anyone.  i could hear them before i could see them, off in the distance, their voices carrying in the dark.  i squared my shoulders back and put my chin up, hoping to come off more confident than i felt as they neared me.  as they came closer, i could make out forms in the darkness.  there were 6 of them, all men.  i heard their glass bottles clinking and their words and laughter were more audible.

"hello," i said, when they were about 10 feet from me.  "i need some help, please."

the group went quiet, and stopped walking.  my heart started beating quickly. 

i tried to control my shaky voice as i said, "i'm lost and can't remember the name of my family's hotel.  they're looking for me. and i need some help.  please."

i couldn't see their faces in detail, but i could tell that they were looking at each other as i spoke.  a couple of them took some steps closer to me.

"well, suuure.  we'd be happy to help you.  we're just here having some fun on the beach right now, why don't you join us first and then we'll walk you back to your hotel?"  one said to me.  he was taller and held out the glass bottle to me that he'd been drinking from.  the other guys stepped forward and formed a loose semi-circle around me.  a couple of them laughed quietly. 

i was scared and felt sick to my stomach.  i backed up, mumbling a weaksauce "um, no, thank you" and turned around to start jogging away from them.  i was afraid they would follow me, but luckily they just started laughing loudly, and went stumbling off in the opposite direction.

well after that experience i was terrified, and lost any nerve i had previously had to approach a stranger for help.  i stopped jogging, sat down in the sand and started to cry.  my calf muscles ached, i was freezing, hungry, tired and overwhelmed.  i imagined that my family was probably pretty frantic looking for me.  i decided to pray for help, to be found, or to somehow miraculously find the hotel.  

after a couple of minutes of crying and praying, i calmed down, wiped off my face and stood up.  i started walking again, even though i had no idea where i was going.  i just kept walking, farther and farther down the beach.  i don't know how long i walked or how much time had passed, only that my feet were carrying me and i trusted them.

i came to a place on the beach where i was completely alone, and couldn't see another human or bonfire anywhere.  to my right was the water, the tide had come in and it was high as the waves washed closely to me.  to my left were very dimly lit streetlamps, with houses that had an occasional window glowing a small amount of light for me to see by.

i turned onto one street, not knowing why and eventually came to the end of it. i stopped walking forward, and turned to my left. my footsteps sounded loud on the pavement of the silent street.  when i got to the end of that street, i turned right.  still unsure why i did this, i decided not to question myself and just keep going.  

i crossed one street, turned left, then crossed another.  my body moved automatically, without me guiding it.  

suddenly, i saw something familiar.  it looked like the hotel we had checked into!  only i was approaching from the back of it instead of the front, so i wasn't absolutely sure.

"oh please, oh please,"  i said hopefully to myself as my steps grew quicker. 

i came around the side of of one of the buildings, and realized that i was standing directly outside of my family's hotel room.  i was shocked, and couldn't remember how i had even gotten there, especially because just an hour or so before this, i had no idea what our room number even was, let alone how to find it.  i just knew this was it.  i heard voices inside, and knocked on the door.

it opened, and inside was my family.  my dad wasn't there, he had gone out looking for me on the beach.  my mom was upset, my grandma was crying.  we hugged, and then i lay down on one of the beds under a blanket to get warm.  my heartbeat slowed, my breathing became deeper, and i said a prayer of gratitude because i knew it was by the grace of God that i had been led back to my family.

i had been lost, but had returned.

i was reminded of this memory on sunday, when in church we talked about the parable of the prodigal son.  i loved the honesty of the comments of others while the parable was being taught.  

one lady shared something that really made me think.  she was a really pretty lady in her mid to late 30's.  she said that while she was growing up she had a cousin who struggled constantly, making choices that affected his life negatively.  it sounded like he was a hot mess, dealing with substance abuse and other things and he ended up in prison for a time.  meanwhile, she shared that she was always the "good girl," choosing a life of ambition by putting herself through school, and then into a career, and had always tried to do what was "right," morally. but also found herself single through this life, without a husband or children.  she said that when her cousin was released from prison, he started living with a girl and they had a baby.  after a couple of years, they decided that they wanted to start going back to church and changing their ways.  they ended up being sealed as a family in the temple and are now in a completely different place in life.

as she spoke she said that she had felt at one time that it was unfair that her cousin, who had been so selfish for the majority of his life while she had tried so hard to be good, here he was being able to just turn things around whenever he felt like it and live the life that she was longing for.

when she said this, i realized i have felt these same things at different times in my own life.  looking at others and feeling like they should have to "pay" more than it looks like they are.  focusing on their mistakes instead of my own.  sometimes looking for justice to be done when someone has wronged me or someone i love, or just to see that life is a little harder on them because of their wrongs so they deserve it. 

it was humbling, to sit in my chair on sunday and realize that at times i have been the brother of the prodigal son.  the whining, complaining, poor-me, why-does-so-and-so-get-that-when-i-don't, entitled and prideful side of thoughts that i have given into before suddenly became glaringly ugly.  

in the lesson we also talked about the parable of the lost sheep.  the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep in order to find the lost 1.  what about the 99 that were left there?  did that mean that the shepherd didn't love them as much, or wouldn't have done the same thing for them, if one of them had wandered off?  

of course he would have.

and even more importantly, hasn't each one of us been that one lost sheep at some point in our lives?  it doesn't matter which mistakes we made, we all make mistakes.  we have all struggled at some point in our lives.  and to think that someone else's mistake is bigger, or worse, than what we have made is just a whispered lie in our hearts to separate us and shift our focus from the truth:

that we are all the prodigal son.  

and we are all a part of that flock, and that when one is lost, we all want it to return, no matter the mistakes that it has made, and no matter the length and time spent that the shepherd has had to go to in order to find it.

when that thought hit me, and then the teacher asked the question, "have you ever been lost before?"

this was when i remembered that night on the beach in oregon, wandering for several hours alone in darkness and cold.  i also remembered different times in my life when i have not physically been lost on a beach, but spiritually and emotionally i have been.  those times brought me to my knees just as forcefully and desperately as that night of walking brought me to the sand.

and when i have gone to the right place to ask for help, i have always been picked back up, and returned home.  sometimes returning a little shell-shocked, or weary, or embarrassed, or humbled...as i can imagine that one little sheep had felt.

but always returning. 

i'm not really sure why i wrote this, but i do know that it was a moment of clarity that i had on sunday that i didn't want to go away.  so that if i find myself wanting to write off someone because they've been cruel, or looking for "justice to be done" and that the person in the wrong suffers for the mistakes that they've made and hopefully has to live a life full of misery and endless amounts of financial hardship and mountains of stinky diapers {because right now, that's pretty much the worst it can get, in my opinion}, that i remember that they are a part of the same flock.  and right now they are lost and need to return.

and that i have been lost before too.

I ask you to read that story {the prodigal son}. It is large enough to encompass every household, and enough larger than that to encompass all mankind, for are we not all prodigal sons and daughters who need to repent and partake of the forgiving mercy of our Heavenly Father and then follow His example? 

--President Gordon B. Hinckley 

full talk here.


Andrea said...

Absolutely. Loved. This.
This gave me chills. And your lost on the beach story made me apprec nervous. From now on you need to take a GPS with you :) I love you and your insight and really appreciate you writing this.

Andrea said...

my keyboard is messed up. it should say "really nervous" sorry.

Rachel Chick said...

Beautiful, Lynsey. You are such a talented writer.

Your thoughts are beautiful as well. I've been struck with the same realization at times --- we are all "the one" we are all the "prodigal". How selfish of us to think that we are better than the one who is struggling. We all struggle. - Some in ways far more "apparent" than others.

Thank you for sharing. You are so incredible.

Charlotte said...

Thank you for sharing this.

ohmylanta said...

Thanks Lyns. I have been the very obvious prodigal this year. It has been very easy for me to get down on myself for poor choices made. I have had to seek forgiveness from others and in their efforts to extend it, they too have realized that they have fallen subject to prodigal behavior in their own lives.

Through our struggles, we realize how much we are all lost - and how much we need the Savior.

Aubrey and Jardan said...

Thanks for sharing, Lynsey. I've been struggling with this topic recently, as we've realized that if Nicholas' and Natty's birthmother want them back, then back they'll go. I constantly alternate between ugly feelings of indignation ("She doesn't deserve them!") and the realization that she IS their mother (although I am, too), and a daughter of God--my sister. So, I appreciate your words!

Anonymous said...

I told this story in my Sunday School lesson today and was amazed at the relief and gratitude that washed over me as I shared the ending. It gave me the tiniest taste of how our Heavenly Father must feel when a lost soul rushes back into His arms.

There are times where I have forgotten the common purpose we all share as we journey here on earth - to return to God and help others do the same - and have struggled to rejoice when I feel I'm having to "pay" more than someone else for the blessings I'm given. I love that quote by Pres. Hinckley because it sets my mind back on the path we all share. Big or small, we all fall from time to time, have to pick ourselves back up and look for those open arms (both on earth and in heaven) to receive us again.