I live very close to Lake Michigan. A 10-minute drive takes me to the water’s edge, where I can see the blue stretch out endlessly, far past the lighthouse that they call “Old Red.” Today the lake looked like glass, cracked and chipped around the edges where everything remained frozen, rippled and alive out towards the horizon. I love that lakes can hold two truths at once— hardened shallows, churning depths.
I thought of the sand dune that climbed high above the beach and wondered what I would be able to take in from above.
I should have turned around at the trailhead of the sand dune. Nothing had been plowed, snow was stacked high, and I was wearing a pair of sparkly TOMS from church this morning.
Rounding the bend through the naked trees, catching my balance more than once, I found the stairs of the boardwalk to take me to the top. In truth, the phrase, “found the stairs” may be misleading. I found the snow that buried the stairs of the boardwalk.
Gripping the railing that had not been entirely consumed in snow, I started the traverse, wishing I had thought to bring my ice pick with me (oh wait, I don’t live in the tundra). I kicked at the snow to create ledges for my bedazzled feet. Inevitably I would think to myself, “I’ve got the hang of this,” only to have my feet slide backward and my elbows suddenly propping my face up in the slushy snow yet again. But the top did not disappoint.
The grey of the horizon felt right— an uneasy brooding of clouds with a kiss of pink from the sinking sun in the west. And then there was the lake, asleep but stirring, with whispers of summer days and lapping waves to be heard from the beach that was finally beginning to appear as it drank up the melting snow. Cold does not reign victor forever.
When I had taken in my fill, I turned to the descent and found myself struck by a notion: “Why not slide to the bottom?”
I tucked up onto the tail of my long winter coat and proceeded to slip, roll and check myself down the winding slope that had been so arduous to scrape my way up. The snow began to pile into my coat as I slid, soaking my jeans. I didn’t care. A young couple climbing up as I rocketed down laughed with me. “I’ll have to try that!” I heard the guy call out to me. “Enjoy the top!!” I shouted back.
The bottom found me happy, cold, invigorated. Thoughts that felt heavy before the climb had floated away in the beauty of the escapade. I strolled back to my car and began the sunny drive home.
Nearing the house, I reached into the pocket of my jacket for my phone. My fingers poked around in vain and my stomach fell through the floor.
“No, no, no!!!!’ I started whispering, pulling over to search the nooks and crannies of my car. Hot tears started pooling up in my eyes. The phone was two weeks old, and I now knew I had left it in the slushy snow of the buried sand dune.
As I lurched out of the parking lot to speed back to the hillside, the scolding began. “How could you be so stupid?! You should have known that could have happened or at least checked your pocket at the bottom. Where will you even look?! It could be pushed aside, buried, damaged… and what about the 15 people walking towards the trail as you left?! They will pick it up and never find you, and it’s locked, no one will be able to call one of your contacts. What were you thinking, Stupid?”
On and on the thoughts numbly tumbled and I didn’t have the presence of mind to quiet my harshest critique.
I veered into the parking lot. It looked like most of the same cars were still parked, with one beat up sedan idling in the lot. I snatched up a paper to tape to my windshield and started writing words that felt so ridiculous to me: “If you found a gold cell phone, it is mine and I am searching the dune, could you leave it and this note under my—”
“WE HAVE IT!!!!”
The pencil froze as I turned in disbelief. The sedan had pulled close with the window rolled down. Tears swam in my eyes again. It was the couple from my slide down.
“We looked for you the whole way down, we have your phone!”
It felt so important for them to know, I didn’t hide anything in my eyes as I leaned down to meet theirs, “Thank you so much.”
Their smiles were big as they passed the phone my way, and I watched them drive away in that rusted black car.
I have learned that life offers wild, reckless opportunities. It takes courage and a willing foolishness to embrace those moments, to live large. But a large, full life requires something else—faith to be kind and curious when it seems our wild adventures have failed us, leading us back to a powerlessness we have sworn to avoid.
I am learning the powerlessness is where Jesus shows up, in a beat up sedan, because he’s been looking for us and already knows our needs. That’s where true, stunning grace begins.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 24 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day. For now, she is honored to be a part of Red Tent Living.