Most all of my adult life I have spent time pouring my faith into the people around me: family, friends, students, co-workers.  For whatever reason, people seem to gravitate toward me to listen to their fears, ask for advice and help make meaning of life’s circumstances.  I have felt humbled and unworthy of the trust people have placed in me.  Along the way, there have been a few people who have done the same for me but at some point, I convinced myself that so many people needed me, so I was not in a position to ask others for help.  It would be a weakness.  People would think less of me.  I have never claimed to have it all together.  I just never outwardly exclaimed that I was falling apart.

Well, I have recently decided that I am falling apart.  I am poured out and empty.  I look around and will not admit this fact to those who love me.  They are standing only a few feet away and yet I cannot bring myself to tell them I am in need of their help. I know that I need to seek my source of strength, Jesus, in order to fill my cup back up but I seem to be totally drained of all energy and ability to do that.  Like a cup that has been poured out, empty and left on it’s side, I seem to be unable to hold anything.

Life sometimes gives us an extra portion of “struggle.”  Usually I can handle mine but this time, I can’t seem to find a way to do so.  So I sit and wait.  Really not even having much energy to write this post but too much time on my hands is driving me crazy and saying this “outloud” actually feels good.  The fact that I am still anonymous on this blog is a bonus too.

So I have at least admitted it.  Now what am I gonna do about it?…..

The butterfly has always signified renewal to me.  It reminds me that at any time life can seem binding, challenging, debilitating and suffocating but through the hard times, great beauty, strength and new, inspiring and liberating life can emerge.  This butterfly just happened to land right next to me when I had my camera in hand, ready to capture it.  This picture was taken during the last family vacation we went on before my oldest son was married.  I was focusing so hard on all the changes that were ahead and how overwhelmed I was by the thought of losing what had been my life for so many years – all my children under my roof, all of us together.  This butterfly literally became my hope for renewal in my life.  It reminded me that while I was focusing on all the things I thought I was losing, there were so many wonderful things I would be gaining.  This butterfly didn’t just “happen” to land right next to me, it inspired me to embrace the changes that were just ahead with anticipation.  This butterfly renewed my spirit and refocused my perspective.

Today I kayaked with my husband, a rare treat.  It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect and few people were on the river.  As soon as we floated into the water, my spirit relaxed.  Surrounded by the beauty of nature as fall makes its way into the foilage with bright oranges, yellows and reds dotted throughout the green trees, a peace and calm came over me.  I asked myself, “Why don’t we do this more often?”  Immediately the answer came to me…”because we are so busy.”  Our schedules are hectic and each hour is crammed with the overwhelming to-do lists and the obligations that make up our lives.  The tyranny of urgency outweighs the important, only because we let it.  I say “we” but truthfully I can only speak for myself.

We went an hour down the river and along the way I heard the grunt of a small 2 foot gator before we even came upon him.  I’m a city girl so I was quite amazed at myself for recognizing what the sound was and finding out I was actually right!  We were tuned into the sounds of everything around us.  We were experiencing the serene beauty that we rarely take the time to notice.  This was not looking at a picture of a beautiful place.  This was being in the beautiful place.  A peaceful, calm, beautiful place where no clock was ticking to tell us when this experience had to end.   No one was demanding anything of us.  We were free to let  the stresses of life be put on pause for several hours.

I was sad when it was time to turn around and start to paddle back.  I wanted to stay longer.  Truthfully, I could have probably slept on the kayak and done it all again tomorrow.  I didn’t want the experience to be over.  I didn’t want to go back to the house where my to-do list is constantly on my mind.  I wanted to float peacefully, indefinitely down that river where my mind and soul could take a break from everything except what I was experiencing in those rare, precious moments.

We talked about when we will make a trip down the river again.  We talked about it but we didn’t decide when it will be.  Maybe that’s part of the problem.  We talk alot about the things we want to do but rarely make it a priority to do actually schedule them and follow through.  Today was a wonderful day.  I want more wonderful, peaceful, relaxing days that calm and restore my soul.  I want days where I have no clock ticking, dictating my every move.  I want tranquility.  Today I got it.  It’s my responsibility to see that I get these days on a regular basis.  I need to learn to say “no” more often to the things considered “urgent” to others and say “yes” more often to the things that are important to me.  I don’t say this from a selfish heart.  I say this from a heart that wants to be renewed and refreshed and then better able to give and serve others.

Today I kayaked on the river with my husband, a rare treat.  I hope in the future I can write and say that it’s a regular occasion instead.

So I read an article today. It states that there are 144 million orphans in this world. It also states that many of these children may never be available for adoption because they have no birth records.

Wow…144 million children who will never know the love of a family. 144 million children who live in orphanages or on the streets or are trafficked for sex. 144 million children who may not get 3 square meals a day or have any medical care. 144 million. 144 million. 144 million.

I can’t get that number out of my mind now. This one woman in this article is daring to do what she can to reduce that number. It started with her family setting out to adopt 1 child. She had no idea that it would lead to a life-changing mission to reduce the number of orphans in this world and to do what she can to improve the lives of those children who will never be adopted. She’s not the only person who works to help orphans. Many people dedicate their lives to help these children who have no power over their circumstances. But the number 144 million seems so overwhelming. How many people will it take to dramatically reduce that number when more children are becoming orphans every day?

144 million. 144 million. 144 million…C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N. What are we, what am I, going to do about this? It simply seems incomprehensible and unacceptable to do nothing. I can’t state right this minute what I am going to do to make a positive impact on reducing this number but I can assure you it will NOT be nothing. And whatever it is, I need to do it soon, very soon.

I have heard the expression “Seize the moment” for as long as I can remember. Recently I read a book and it talked about “living in the moment.” Stopping, acknowledging the moment for what it is, not letting the past and all of its regrets or the futures and all of its worries steal our focus from the moment we are in. This is great advice. If only I could learn to follow it more often.

We arrived at 5:55 am for a ceremony that didn’t begin until 9 am. Why in the world would anyone get somewhere 3 hours early to sit in wet metal bleachers in the dark? Many of us had bad backs and you know who painful it can be to sit on metal bleachers for long periods of time even without a bad back.  We had arrived at Parris Island, SC at 5:55 on a Friday morning to ensure we had the best possible seats to see our son’s graduation as a United States Marine. We knew exactly where his Platoon would be and had pre-determined the best seats to not only see our son but be able to take incredible pictures of the entire ceremony.

There were 21 of us there to honor and celebrate this momentous occasion in our son’s life: me, his dad, sister, 5 first cousins, 2 Aunts, 2 Uncles, Gran, Grandma & Papa, Sarah and Paul (family friends) and my son’s best friend and his parents to support and share this exciting time.  We knew the bleachers filled up fast and we had traveled a long way and wanted to ensure that we had optimal seats to see our child, nephew, cousin, grandson, friend graduate on this very special occasion. So we got up at 3:30 am, and arrived on base and were at the gates at 5:55 am. We would have not just good seats, we would have great seats by arriving so early.

So we call camped out at the far end of the stadium where we knew his Platoon would stand during the ceremony. With 3 high-powered cameras between us, we knew we had the pictures covered. And since I had worn red, white and blue every single day since the day we dropped my son off to leave for Basic Training and wasn’t handling the change of him being out of the house very well, my family, the sweetest people I know, saved the best seat for me.

I had the very first seat, bottom row of the set of bleachers we wanted to sit on. This way when I stood to take pictures, I can step over to the side and not be blocking anyone’s view. But I would always be able to have my eyes on my son. I was like a kid at Christmas. I really don’t remember the last time I was that happy and smiled so bright. I had written him every day while he was gone and it almost seemed like I was part of basic training as well. For 13 weeks my days revolved around honoring him, writing him, praying for him and supporting him and those brave young men and women who were there with him. I was very emotionally invested in this graduation about to happen.

But the day before while walking around the base with him, I was so very glad my part was home where it was quiet. Everywhere we went, platoons around us were yelling. Just hearing all the yelling made me a nervous wreck! One afternoon on that Island and I was ready to leave. Handling 13 weeks of it, that’s part of what made that day so special. He graduated. The men and women with him that day graduated. They endured the 13 weeks of yelling, intense training and now had become United States Marines.

So we sit in the dark and wait. We take up the first 5 rows basically. The sun comes up and the sky is beautiful. The American Flag is waving in grand style in the wind. I snap shots of these sights. Our backs are hurting within the first half hour but if we get up, others are starting to come and someone may take our seats. (Yes, this seat is taken. Yes, it is my mother’s and she’s in the restroom.) So we sit and we sit and we sit and we sit.

Parris Island needs more seating for graduations that is evident if you ever attend one. But for the day I’m talking about, the seats were gone by 8 am. The line of people coming in was getting longer at 8 am. Where were all these people going to go?  The graduation ceremony area is basically like a concrete football field with bleachers if you have never had the chance to see Parris Island. There are sections of green grass in front of the bleachers and little sidewalks every so often in front of the bleachers to walk onto the deck. For graduation, everyone was instructed to stay off the grass and if standing to sit so no one’s view was being blocked.

We have been here since 5:55 to ensure that we get seats where we can see our son during graduation. It’s now after 8 am and people are filing in front of us onto the grass and standing. This means that unless I now stand on the bleacher to see (blocking the view of everyone behind me) I cannot see. My fancy camera does me no good. My back is killing me. People are crowding in around us like we don’t even exist. Several times someone asks them to move. They refuse. Someone asks them to at least sit down and not block the view of others, they refuse.

My family, who loves and supports our son and has driven all this way, they are a few rows up so their view point is over the crowd standing in front. They begin to tell me they want me to switch seats with them. They want to make sure that I get to see everything. They don’t mind missing it. Under normal circumstances, the Type A personality me would have jumped on the opportunity to do just that but not today. I simply turned and told my family “Thanks but I’m ok. I’m really ok.” I passed my camera with the zoom lens to my daughter and let her take pictures. I turned around and was completely blocked to view straightforward and see when my son marched across the field.

Most days I would have been mad, bitter, crying and thinking of all the miserable days it took for him to get to this day. Normally I would have felt entitled to be able to see from my seat, the one I got here at 5:55 am to have. Instead, I was so happy and so engrossed in the significance of the moment, I chose to enjoy it. I had to re-assure my loving family that I did not need to switch seats with them. They had come a long way and had invested in being here for this day and I didn’t want them to miss it.

I thanked the Lord for watching over my son and all the brave men and women that were graduating that day. I breathed in the fresh air and actually experienced the moment. I closed my eyes and listened to all the sounds around me and smiled. He had made it. Today he would accomplish his dream of being a US Marine. I actually kept my mind from going past that thought to what the future may bring, just for the day, so I could enjoy it with him and for him.

Graduation time came and by now, people are packed in beside the bleachers, breaking the “no sitting on the grass rule,” standing right in front of me and generally standing over me. My hopes of seeing much of anything are gone.  A prayer was said and at the end of it I looked over and saw this young boy. He looked about 7 or 8 years old and was with his Mom. He had wide eyes and looked mesmerized by the men and women marching on the field. I asked him if he wanted to sit by me. I could squeeze him in. He nodded his head excitedly. There was another prayer and when it was over, I asked him if his mother wanted to sit with him. He wasn’t sure so he went to ask her. She came back. I looked at her and said, “I can’t help every person but I can help one person. You are welcome to sit here with him and he can share our laps if he needs to.” So she sat with her son. His older brother was in the same Platoon as my son so I pointed them out to him the best I could with the limited view that we had. We quietly talked about the way the Marines walk and how loud they can make their shoes click. I enjoyed it. I loved looking through the eyes of a child and seeing nothing but pure pleasure and excitement. We were looking at hundreds of men and women and out there among them, stood our loved ones.

As words went back and forth about people that shouldn’t be blocking the view of others, it suddenly dawned on me. Whether I believe it appropriate to stand and block someone’s view at a time like this really isn’t relevant. Whether that person would even speak to me under normal circumstances didn’t matter. Right now, we were connected by a common bond. We each had had a loved one on that field graduating and were there to honor that. They wanted to see their family member just like I did. My being there at 5:55 am didn’t make my desire to see any more than anyone else’s that day. I may never see them again but at that moment I realized that each one of us had a common bond and who knows where that bond may lead over the years.

So many times in life I am concerned about me and my rights. I have a right to see best because I got here the earliest. Whatever the case may be, I often let circumstances dictate my response. Many times the response is not what it should be.  But on this one day, crystal clear, like none other I can remember, I was fully engrossed in what was going on. I determined that no one or nothing could steal my joy. My son was about to fulfill his dream of becoming a US Marine and my mother’s heart was overflowing with joy. What a rare opportunity to see: men and women willing to selflessly serve this country on such a grand scale.

No doubt there will be “seize the moment” opportunities for these young men and women in the future. Unlike mine, which was moving and personally inspiring and very freeing as I don’t live in the moment very often, they will likely have to make choices that consider life and death in a single moment. That takes the phrase “seize the moment” to an entirely different level. They will face hard choices but those 13 weeks prior to the graduation ceremony hopefully prepared them for that. Now they go on to advanced training and learn more ways to be the protectors of this great county we call the United States of America.

Me, I came back to my busy world and it’s now been a month and I’ve practiced “Seizing the Moment” one time since that day. But that makes it double now! It’s not something I’m very good at but it is something I am willing to teach myself….”seize the moment, live in the moment, be present here and now,” whatever you want to call it, I want to stop taking moments for granted and capturing every one as clearly and distinctly as I did my son’s graduation. It was a blessing on many, many levels. Anyone care to join me?

P.S. A special thank you to each and every person who serves this country in the Armed Forces and their families who serve with them. We live in the Land of the Free BECAUSE of the BRAVE!

If you happen upon this blog accidentally, let me first apologize.  I am venturing into unfamiliar territory here…learning to blog.  I need a creative way to express myself and since I’m not very crafty but I love to write, blogging seems like a pretty good fit.  The only problem is that I know very little about blogging.  This should be interesting for me but possibly very boring for you!

Unfamiliar territory…that is actually an appropriate theme for my life right now.  I don’t like it.  I like familiar, comfortable, steady, reliable, unchanging territory.  That may sound boring but it’s safe and predictable.  I like my comfort zone.  Why should I be required to move out of it?  Sure, there could be excitement, adventure and opportunity outside the safety of my comfort zone but there could also be anxiety, danger, heartbreak.  Wait a minute…those are the things that invaded my comfort zone and put me in this unfamiliar territory to begin with!  I’m not sure how they got there.  I surely didn’t invite them in but they are most certainly there.  Maybe if I embrace this unfamiliar territory, I will be able to get out of my rut.  Maybe I can even learn to laugh again…really laugh.  Maybe I can learn to accept all the changes that are coming at me at one time.  I did mention I like unchanging territory, didn’t I?

Well now I’ve ventured even farther into unfamiliar territory by taking on this blog.  Maybe it will be exciting, adventurous and open endless opportunities?  Maybe unfamiliar territory is a good thing?!?!