A thread unravels from the edges of her old shirt in the dryer and winds tightly around the cuff of a stray sock, collecting bits of lint like a magnet. Cupping it in her hands, she decides it looks more like a ball of yarn she accidentally threw in the dryer than a sock; an apt metaphor for her life.

Lately, she is a tangled collection of incomplete thoughts, unfinished sentences, and curious questions that threaten to strangle her inner voice. Grasping her purse dangling from a hook in the kitchen with one hand, she tosses the sock on top of the laundry heap with the other and drives to the beach while her family sleeps. A brisk walk along the sea is good for sorting out the knots.

The sandy landscape of the shore looks different at morning tide giving hints of the unseen battlefield raging in the dark waters beneath, like the ebb and flow of pieces of her floating to the surface. Today, starfish scatter among stray shells; their arms curl up toward the sun. As she steps over their remains, her heart reaches to the Light too, like a woman longs for the sign of her lover’s return on the horizon, the warmth of his familiar embrace.

But today He seems distant. She writes letters in her thoughts; a series of questions pervading hallowed space, knowing His answers may be prolonged. And she resolves herself to it.

She admits: I don’t know how to parent teenagers; the landscape of their lives is different today than it was even last week. And why do I feel like I’m losing my voice? The cadence that sings of you in lyrical melodies now hums shallow, void of eloquence. I fear you’ve left me standing alone on the shore without a life boat. How long until you return?

He answers: You must first lose your life to find it. Sometimes that means dying to your familiar voice and the way you’ve come to know yourself as a mother. You must die to who you think you are in order to find yourself in me.

Surprised by the swiftness of His voice, she grieves her own forgetfulness about the simple petals of truth opened in the glory days of her youth. Her legs wilt at the base of the groin, knees press into wet sand, and her head bows over the rugged sea swept altar as petulant waves pop like champagne corks randomly unleashed.

Bending over, she surrenders herself to Him again.

And their conversation continues further down shore. He asks her a question: What would you do if perception (the perceptions of others) weren’t a consideration in your life and you trusted that I love you for exactly who you are?

Freedom.  The only word bubbling to the surface. She would be free to be herself, she thought.

Afterward, she returns to her quiet house, closes her eyes to think before writing out her thoughts and remembers the starfish. A curious unrelenting nudge to look up the meaning of the sea creature fills her mental space. Now, go look it up now, she feels herself think.


She does and tears drip down her cheeks in reading:  The starfish can represent guidance and direction. It is a symbol of love, intuition, and vigilance. The starfish is also able to grow limbs back that are damaged from the environment or predators. Because of this, the starfish is a symbol of rebirth and healing. The starfish represents positive change and salvation through trying times.

The sharp edges of Truth cut her free from the tangled knots of her thinking so she can breathe again.

She was wrong.

He wasn’t silent, but loving her all along, from the first moment she stepped on shore, over the starfish.

And her voice returned.

Can you remember a moment, a time, or a season when you felt truly FREE? Tell us about it.

Join the conversation on Mondays in July as the writers of Living the Story explore the facets of living FREE from the lens of our own experiences. Was it a moment of guidance or direction, a season of love, a time of healing or rebirth when you experienced true freedom? We want to hear about your encounters too.

Mark your calendar! On July 29, we welcome Heather Kopp, author of Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk, as our guest writer with an opportunity to win her new book.


being free isn’t just a holiday

by Shelly Miller time to read: 4 min