Ashlie Miller: Message in a seashell

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

By Ashlie Miller

The frequent reader may recall my beach entries from last summer and know I relish combing the beach for all sorts of treasures. I have stories for many of them. My brother and I often send each other photos of the most significant or rarest shark tooth one of us has found. He has an excellent display of them in his home. Jars of shells, sea glass and shark teeth adorn my bathroom counters, porch tables and various shelves. My children have also picked up the hobby. At the end of a day on the beach, they spread out their findings and share how they discovered them.

Earlier this year, our super middle son (the one smack in the middle of our five) revealed a seashell he had found. At first glance, I was confused about why my teen thought a broken shell with no remarkable features was worth saving. There was nothing noteworthy in the coloring or size. The shell itself was mostly broken, the sort you usually toss back upon realizing it is incomplete. Sensing my perplexity, he flipped over to the underside of the shell. Written all across the shell was a Bible verse. Though part of the verse was missing — a casualty of the sea — years of memorizing scripture brought the entire verse to mind: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. — Galatians 5:22-23.”

Unfortunately, the shell broke further in transport on our trip home. A little glue and thoughtfulness enabled my son to put the pieces back together. I think about that shell — the brokenness of it, yet the words allowing us to put it back together. The words “joy, kindness, gentleness, self-control” look up at us as a testimony to its journey.

Our lives can be that way, too. Some of the most beautiful people I know are more than merely resilient under challenging seasons. When storms arise, and the breakers almost shatter them, joy, kindness, peace and more are present. Is this a natural response because of their personality? Does it just come with age, maturity and weathering many storms? A closer look on the flip side reveals a relationship with God and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is quite different from our natural inclinations. In Galatians 5 (verses 19-21), we see works (or evidence) of the flesh. Left to our own devices, that is what naturally displays in forms of self-obsession or self-preservation. These are the common reactions we see among most people under the stress of life.

When I am under stress, and those breakers crash me into the rock, do I see it as a time to fall apart and lean into myself and my flesh, or does the strength of the Holy Spirit lift me from drowning in the depths of despair, rising above the waves with a message of hope? As others walk by and catch a glimpse of our real lives, recognizing there is more to it than they see on the surface, can they see a supernatural response emanating?

I am thankful for the many examples I have witnessed — the ones who never catch a break, for whom trials come in threes (or more!), yet display remarkable character and fruit.

Ashlie Miller, her husband, and their five children, look forward to days at the coast this summer to hunt for more treasures. You may contact her at

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