Turn of the Tide

I’m sitting on the deck of our beach house in the Outer Banks trying to read a book.

As I read the words on the page, my mind drifts in and out with the sound of the waves and the gusts of wind that sweep my hair from one side to the other.

One word on the page stands out to me — “Returning.”

2014-05-03 15.52.29How many times have I returned to this beach?

60, 100? I’m not sure.

I’ve been here for family vacations, girls’ weekends, writing retreats, and many work trips where we removed wallpaper, repainted rooms, replaced bedding, cleaned windows and blinds, and dusted the masts on decorative sailboats.

There hasn’t been one trip that I haven’t remembered a story my friend Brian told me on my first trip here many years ago. It was called The Turn of the Tide written by Arthur Gordon.

It’s a story about a man who went to his doctor complaining of depression, malaise, unhappiness, and stress. The doctor listened to his long list of complaints, and then asked, “Where were you happiest as a child?”

The man replied, “At the beach. We had a summer cottage there.”

2014-05-03 12.52.11

The doctor then instructed him to go to the beach alone. He said he could take a lunch but shouldn’t read, listen to the radio or talk to anyone. Then, he tore off four prescription forms, wrote a few words on them and said to read one every three hours.

He followed the doctor’s orders and drove silently to the beach. When he got there, he unfolded the first prescription. It said, “Listen carefully.”

Listen to what? He wondered.

Then, he noticed the steady roar of the ocean, the creaking cries of gulls, even the soft rasp of drifting sands. Gordon said on an impulse he ducked down and thrust his ear into a clump of sea oats where he noticed if he listened intently, “there is a fractional moment in which everything seems to pause. In that instant of stillness, the racing thoughts halt…the mind rests.”

He realized that for the first time in a long time, he was thinking of things bigger than himself, which brought him great relief.

At the next three-hour mark, he unfolded another prescription and it said, “Try reaching back.”

He tried to bring back his happy memories from his childhood, visualizing people from his past – their voices, laughter, dress, and gestures.

He remembered a fishing trip with his younger brother who had later died in World War II. He realized that if he closed his eyes he could see him with amazing vividness and even remember his humor.

2014-05-24 14.07.03He thought, “Happy people were usually assured, confident people. If, then, you deliberately reached back and touched happiness, might there not be released little flashes of power, tiny sources of strength?”

His third prescription read, “Reexamine your motives.”

He became defensive – “There’s nothing wrong with my motives. I want to be successful, who doesn’t? I want a certain amount of recognition, but so does everybody. I want more security than I’ve got – and why not?”

Then heard a timid voice in his head said, “Maybe those motives aren’t good enough.”

The more he thought the more he realized that maybe he was looking past the job itself and focusing only on the financial rewards it could bring. The work had become a means to an end, a way to make money and pay bills. He had lost the sense of giving something to the job, of helping people and making a contribution.

2014-05-06 10.47.27The last piece of paper said, “Write your worries in the sand.”

He picked up a fragment of a shell and wrote his troubles in the sand. Then he walked away because the tide was coming in. Of course it washed away his worries and took them out to sea.

Listen carefully.

Try reaching back.

Reexamine your motives.

Write your worries in the sand.

In all my returning to this little village by the ocean, I’m privileged to enjoy some of these gifts of the sea. And who doesn’t need an occasional dose of clarity, perspective, and stillness, and maybe a refreshing Turn of the Tide?



My Mormon Easter

Easter is coming and I’m almost as excited as when I’m waiting for Christmas.

I have family coming (Annie and Josh and their friends) for Easter weekend, which is, in itself, something to celebrate because our families are spread across the country these days.

AND, it’s General Conference weekend.

For those of you who don’t know about Conference Weekend, it’s going to sound dreadful, but trust me, for Mormons, it’s one of the best weekends of the year.


Conference weekend is when our Church broadcasts HOURS of meetings featuring talks from our Church leaders.

And, believe me, it’s an event. It happens at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, which is a 1.4 million square foot building that will seat 21,000 guests.

The five conference sessions this weekend will be broadcast live around the world. (You can watch it here and here.)

I’m already wondering what we’re going to learn.

Mostly, I’m excited about the warm, beautiful spirit of Jesus Christ that will fill my house during Easter weekend.


That spirit begins to seep in as soon as I hear the organ music coming from the colossal 7,667-pipe organ at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

This is no ordinary organ. It’s a pipe organ with 160 stops spread over five manuals and pedals.


And since I don’t have a clue what any of that means, I had to look it up.

I learned a “manual” is basically a keyboard and the pedals are keyboards for your feet. The stops control the pipes 7,000-plus pipes.

All this together makes for some amazing sounds.

Add 360 singers to that from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and it’s quite a musical experience.

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And then there are the speakers – about 30 of them spread out over five two-hour sessions.

(In case you’re worried that all those speakers might be a bit much, we’re heavily into beautiful music too so there are a lot of lovely songs between all those speakers. AND, you get to see some gorgeous displays of spring flowers, a few videos, and even hear some pretty good jokes sometimes.)


I know, I know. It sounds long and boring — sitting for hours and listening to one Church speaker after another.

But I love listening to words on hope, faith, light and truth, parenting, building strong families and improving marriages, making wise choices, receiving personal revelation, sharing the light of Christ, and becoming a better person.

“Conference,” as we call it, is a uniquely Mormon experience, and being the odd bunch that we are, we relish every moment of it.

When it’s over, we feel some mixed emotions — buoyed up because we’ve been given a heavy dose of counsel and encouragement and spiritual rejuvenation, but sad because we have to turn off our TVs and move out of the warmth of our conference bubble and get back to real life.

While most Christians will be attending Easter services on Sunday, Mormons will be home watching television.

Something about that doesn’t seem right, but for us, it’s a form of united devotion. It happens the first weekends of October and April every year.

This year, it happens to fall on Easter Sunday.


While it might seem wrong that our chapels will be closed on Easter Sunday this year, we will be tucked into our cozy nests listening to every word from our leaders—all of which will testify of our love and devotion of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

In a way, we will get to enjoy the most intimate kind of Easter worship of all – surrounded by our families in the warmth of our homes.

We might not be in our Easter dresses, bonnets and white gloves this Sunday, but you can be sure we will be honoring our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and loving every minute of it.


Happy Easter.