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The Beauty of a Broken Shell

A few years ago, at the beach, I had an experience that changed me, the way I viewed myself and others. This morning, as I walked the shoreline, watching the sun”not”rise, I was reminded of it once again. The lesson is even more poignant now as I watch my kids discover their brokenness and I teach them that God loves broken shells.

I missed the sunrise this morning. Not because I slept in, but because the clouds were hanging low and covering the sun. I almost didn’t get up to walk but I knew if I didn’t, I’d regret it later. So up I got and headed down to the beach.

The beach is so peaceful in the mornings. Not many people wander out of their beds at 5:45 am on vacation so the shore is basically empty with a few runners, some walkers, and lots of birds, crabs, and most importantly shells. Yesterday when I was walking I found a beautiful conch shell. This is wonderful, except as you all know, I have TWO beautiful daughters so, my quest for the morning was to find another shell so each one could have a special shell from mommy.

seashell-237326_1920I looked down the coast, spotted the peak of a roof and said to myself, “I’ll walk that far and then come back” and off I went. As I walked I alternated between looking at the ocean and looking for the shells. After about 30 minutes of walking I reached my destination, shell-less and a little disappointed. Oh, there were plenty of shells but most of them were broken and not exactly what I was looking for. So, I headed back in the direction from which I had come.

By now a few more people had emerged from their beach houses and headed down to the shore. Most notably in front of me was a mom with her two girls that I’d guess were about 14 and 8 in age. It didn’t take long for me to soon hear their shrieks of delight as they reached the shell line I had just walked. All the shells that I had just passed over, the ones I had deemed “not good enough” were like gold to them. They had a box with them and were soon picking up shells and exclaiming their joy as they deposited their treasures inside.

It was then that I heard that still small voice I have come to know so well whisper to me, “I love broken shells.”

And, isn’t that what we are?

So many of us spend so much of our time searching for that “perfect” shell, on the quest to find that one thing what we have deemed worthy of our appreciation and admiration. We want to be thinner, prettier, stronger, wealthier, more successful, more outgoing, and the list goes on. We go through life overlooking the broken shells because they aren’t the one thing that we want. 

In the meantime, ahead of us is God, exclaiming his delight over the beauty of our lives. What we see as imperfections, he sees as His creation. He delights over US, in fact, the Bible says, He dances over us. Our imperfections don’t cause him to overlook us; they draw Him to us. He picks us up, sings with joy, and puts us in His “box”.

He loves us.

Wouldn’t life be so much more exciting, so much more meaningful if instead of looking only at our imperfections or the other broken shells around us, we stopped and saw the the beauty instead?

Those shells on the beach are broken for a reason – because they have lived. They have been a home for some animal, they’ve traveled the world, played in the waves, and brought delight to little girls all over the globe. They are broken for a reason.

At the end of my walk, something amazing happened. The sun rose. No, it wasn’t the “perfect” sunrise over the horizon I woke up to see, but as the sun peeked out over the low-lying clouds and its light bathed everything in its warm glow, I knew that it was indeed the perfect sunrise for me. It was beautiful and I delighted in it!

Let’s pass this truth on to the next generation. As our kids grow and learn that they are broken, at least according to this world’s definition of what “perfect” is, let’s give them this truth on which to build their identity. Tell them that God delights in them, rejoices in them, is excited about them and that nothing can ever change that truth. Let’s remind each other too as often as we can that we are in Christ and our identity is found in Him and that identity is “Loved”.

I will tell of the LORD’s unfailing love. I will praise the LORD for all he has done. I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which he has granted according to his mercy and love. – Isaiah 63:7

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About the author

Family(40)Christina Embree is wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. Currently studying Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family,  Seedbed, and


  • Stacy
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 11:47 am

    “They are broken for a reason.” Yes– all of us. Lovely insights, Christina.

  • lauraanne
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Ahhh I am longing for the ocean and beach this summer almost as much as I long for Heaven and all brokenness made whole! Thanks for the reminder!

  • lindaransonjacobs
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Our minds run on the same path. I have a blog post coming out Wed about walking on the beach and the broken shells. Too funny.

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