It all started with the turtles.

Last spring and summer, I saw turtles everywhere, and I don’t think there was like a turtle population boom….or even a turtle music festival…..it was just the universe. Speaking.

The truth is that I think the mighty God of the universe who created hummingbirds and killer whales and the mysterious depths of the ocean and the expansive snow covered mountains is kind of into me. If I’m going to continue being truthful, I have to say that I think all of those amazing things are just a giant love letter to mankind. “Look what I made you. Do you like it?”

Yes, God. I love it.

I think God is all about relationships with individuals. As weird as it sounds, God wants to hang out with each one of us. For whatever reason, He thinks we’re cool, and He’s completely committed to making us exactly who we are meant to be.

Did I get too weird on you? Well, brace yourself. It’s going to get worse.

We live in a pained and pain-inducing world. There is ugliness everywhere. That’s because if there is a source of ultimate good; then there is a source of ultimate evil. They are at war. You are the prize. But you are not a pawn. You have some authority in this realm. You have free choice. The battle literally starts in your mind.

So……the turtles.

Turtles, turtles, everywhere. I kept seeing turtles, and while I definitely noticed it, I didn’t get it. I didn’t see it as a message. I was trapped in an unhappy, blurry fog, and messages just weren’t getting through.

Oh yes, before I get ahead of myself: I think there are messages…..just like my cairn, God, via the universe, is always tipping His hat at us. (Side bar: what do you think God’s hat looks like? Leave me a comment.)

God’s always trying to get and keep our attention. He uses the plain and the mundane and the ridiculous and the miraculous. He’ll use just about anything. Once in the Bible, He even used a talking ass. You can’t say God isn’t creative.

After a whole year of turtles and a whole year of me being completely oblivious – “Wow! There sure has been a lot of turtles around lately!” – my new frequent visitor has been the snail. You’ll see them all over my blog because I’m seeing them everywhere.

Finally, I stopped. (Thank you, therapy, for making me stop the busyness and get back to myself.) I stopped and asked: “What’s up with all these snails?”

The answer: “You like research. You figure it out.” God sure is sassy sometimes.

Have you read a whole lot of information about snails? Me either. Turns out snails are fairly interesting.

When I thought I was getting a message about snails, I made some assumptions. I thought for one it was negative – “you hang out in your shell too much, Sarah. You aren’t available enough for others.” Or instructive – “Sarah, you need to evacuate your shell and spend some time being truly vulnerable and grow a bigger, better shell. You aren’t enough, Sarah.”

Turns out my assumptions were wrong.

First, snails don’t shed their shells. Did you know that? I had no idea! Teeny, tiny specks of shell are born with the snail and grow with them until the day they die. Each spiral of the shell represents the growth of the snail – more spiral, more growth.

What did turtles have to do with anything?

Turns out turtles and snails have some things in common. While both turtles and snails can make repairs to minor damage to their shells, they cannot survive without them. Period. The end. No shell? Death to animal. Turtle shells are actually so complex that they have veins and nerves running through them. They are quite a lot like our pelvic bones actually.

Those shells don’t make turtles impenetrable; their shells have feelings. Damage the shell, and the turtle feels pain. Shells are essential to these creatures. It’s not a cool, mobile house. It’s literally part of them.

In the case of snails, their shells make them especially vulnerable to birds who consider them an extra tasty, calcium loaded snack.

The message wasn’t: “lose the shell, Sarah.” The message is: “embrace the shell, Sarah.”

I think when life doesn’t seem to be going well, and we’re unhappy, often the first thing we try to change is ourselves. There’s a big difference between personality dialysis and personality refinement. The truth is I don’t need to be a totally different person. I don’t need to lose my shell. My shell doesn’t make me less vulnerable or available to those around me. My shell IS me, but I wouldn’t mind a few more spirals.

It took a year of seeing turtles and six months of seeing snails, a questioning heart and an afternoon of research to discover the message: I am exactly who I am supposed to be – shell and all.

Maybe you aren’t a turtle or a snail. I don’t know what you are. But I know one thing you aren’t:  a mistake.

You were created on purpose, for a purpose. You’re special. You’re necessary. In a world that screams you are everything you are not, please know one thing you truly are: essential. The rest of us need all of you in all of your glorious you-ness.

We all need to stop trying to be something we’re not. Turns out the lowly, oft-ignored snail is amazingly important to the ecosystem. For one thing, this calcium rich, tasty morsel creates enormous biodiversity in the predator world. So many animals can consume them, that they can keep a wide range of animals alive and healthy. Snails help wild turkeys have enough calcium to lay their eggs – as well as most wild birds. They provide life from everything to fireflies and salamanders to bears. BEARS! Snails even provide the calcium to the soil that we humans need to grow our veggies. Snails turn out to be pretty important in sustaining what we often view to be more important life.

One more fun fact about snails: most of the snail population is able to procreate alone. Yup. The snail is hermaphroditic – a creative force in the universe all on its own. I don’t really need others to create; I can create all by my lonesome.  I am a force unto myself. All hail the snail!

(See? You were feeling all bad about me being a snail, weren’t you? I’m sure you feel silly now.)

And even for those snails that do need a partner to create life, it isn’t a bad deal. Snail love making can take anywhere from two to twelve hours. That’s right, ladies. Twelve. Hours. But it is kind of slimy.

Am I making too much of this? Maybe it sounds silly to you….to see a bunch of snails and assume the great God of creation is telling you that you are perfect and perfectly vulnerable in your creative, self-sufficient, shell loving life.  But then again? Why not?

The last fact about the snail that I’ll share is this – they are nocturnal. I shouldn’t really be seeing them on my daily hikes at all. I think I’ll just go ahead and accept the message.

Love you!

Sarah

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