The Day the Homeless Fed Me

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There was no audible voice, no specific directive, just a nudge on my heart.

But the nudge was strong; so strong I knew immediately what my answer would be:

Yes.

It took a week to commit, to finally answer the email. But despite my reservations, my fears, my lack of free time, I indeed said yes.  I would be happy to help.

Because if I’ve learned anything in the last 10 years, it’s to follow the nudges God places on my heart.  So when I got the email request for summer volunteers, I knew in my heart this was something I needed to do.

And that is how I began working with the homeless women of Wheeler Mission this summer.

The program I volunteered with is called Building A Rainbow and it is through the Indiana Writers Center. Together teachers, interns and volunteers offer creative writing classes to at-risk kids, the elderly and now the homeless.

So okay, this is not so unusual. Lots of people work with the homeless, right? But here’s a secret:

For all the ways in which I’ve served, for all the volunteering I’ve done in my lifetime (which is a lot-just ask my friend Susie!), I’ve never before worked with the homeless. Ever. Why, you ask? Dare I admit, dare I tell you the real reason?

Here it is: Fear.

There is a part of me that has been fearful of homeless people. I honestly don’t know. I can only guess it’s because of my perceptions, of what I’ve been told by society.

The homeless are alcoholics.

The homeless are drug addicts.

The homeless are mentally ill.

And then there’s this one:

The homeless don’t want to be in a part of society, they choose this lifestyle.

There’s no doubt that there is some truth in (at least some of) these statements. Those who have lost their homes, have lost their way. For whatever reason, they have experienced hard times and  hit rock bottom, and not just financially. The lack of finances may likely be a consequence of other, bigger, problems.  Yet here’s something no one ever told me, a truth I learned when I finally stepped out of my comfortable world and into their not so comfortable one:

The homeless are people.

People who were once children.

People who once harbored dreams as big as my own.

People who have a family.

Who once had a job.

A home.

Pets.

People who once had hope, but lost it in their fight to survive.

And when it all fell apart, by God’s grace some of them found their way to Wheeler Missions.

My task as a volunteer was to encourage the women to write. To help them share their stories so that others can understand the world in which they have lived. To assist in bridging the gap between those of us with, and those without.  A gap I most certainly have stood in the middle of.  The stories will be published in a book by INwords.

I’ll admit, I was a little terrified on day one.  First of all, I was lost and late as I left suburbia for this inner-city mission.  But as soon as we got started, I was all in.  These women were kind, intelligent and more than willing to share their stories.

I learned so much about them. Many of them had rough childhoods. Despite this, a number of them went on to college and became gainfully employed. But things like abuse, addiction (theirs or someone else’s) and a lack of support from family led them to spiral downward. It’s a lot easier to take the wrong path when it’s all you’ve ever seen or known.  But now they want more.  All of them want desperately to get back on their feet. To have a a job, a home, a garden; they want to leave a positive legacy for their children.

These women had stories to tell.

These women had experienced hardships I cannot begin to fathom.

These women could write, and write well.

I couldn’t help but realize that if had I been born into their circumstances, I might not be so strong. I too, might have lost my way.

One day I talked to the ladies about food. We write during their lunch and the food they serve at the mission isn’t much different from school cafeteria food.  We’d been bringing cookies for them, but lots of organizations donated sweets regularly and I wondered if we might bring something else.  And then an idea came to mind: fruit!

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Fresh fruit is a daily staple in my household, but I recognize the expense, the labor it takes to prepare it and how unlikely it is that these women ever get it. So I asked one of our regulars, Ty, a poet with the most wonderful cadence, if she thought people would like to eat fruit.

“Yea, sure,” she said, “Fruit would be good.”

So I tucked the thought away in my brain. But life got busy and I never got around to buying, preparing and bringing fruit to our class. But guess what? It didn’t matter, because Ty did.

Ty, the homeless woman attempting to get back on her feet, Ty the woman with next to nothing, Ty who was once a chef, brought the most beautiful, fresh, glorious bowl of fruit to our class for all to share. Mangos and bananas and Kiwi and apple; lovingly sliced, lovingly served.

I learned that day that she works three jobs. That she is saving her money so she can pay her deposit on her apartment, her first month’s rent, get some furniture.  It takes a lot of money just to get started in life.

So yes, I answered the nudge and I am so grateful that I did.  I thought God wanted me to give of myself but instead I was the one on the receiving end.

The woman who has nothing gave me something. A gift. Not just in the form of fruit, but a gift from the heart.

From Ty I learned that even when I have nothing, I can give something.

From all the women I learned that when I let go of stereotypes and judgments, I can connect with another, despite our differences.

In this life, we each have struggles, hopes and dreams. And we often land in very different places, sometimes because of our choices, and sometimes despite them.  But beneath it all, beneath the color of our skin, the money in our bank account, the clothes on our back, we are all essentially the same.  We are human.

God’s nudges aren’t always about obedience or duty or adding a check mark to my list (never about this last one).  Sometimes his nudges are meant for us, to show us in a way we cannot ever predict just exactly what love is: giving of ourselves and receiving more than we can imagine.  And it starts with a yes.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18

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Finding Peace Involves Risk, an interview with Teri Ditslear

An Interview with Teri Ditslear; Wife, Mother, Pastor and “Fire-Starter”

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As soon as I read the article in my local newspaper, I knew I had to get in touch with her.  You see, she and I are not so different. 

Both Teri and I took a while to figure out what it is we are supposed to be doing.

Both Teri and I took a while to find our roots in faith.

And now, both Teri and I continue to chase God, though in very different ways.

So when I read about Teri, her church and the 111 Club (1 hour, 1 question, 1 beer), in a recent newspaper article, I wanted to know more.

I felt the need to connect, to understand this woman and her mission. I wanted to gain insight on what she thinks, how she acts, and the ways in which God is working in her life.

Who is the woman I’m speaking of? Teri Ditslear, wife to Noblesville Mayor John Distlear, mother and grandmother to an entire brood of kiddos, and pastor of the Roots of Life Community, a congregation under development of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

So with the help of the Internet, we connected.

I asked if I could interview her for my blog.

She said yes.

Humble Beginnings

Teri Ditslear didn’t start out her adult life as a pastor, though the stirring to be one started early. “Even in high school, I thought I would make a good pastor, people would often come to me to talk about their problems,” says Teri, “but I had a recording in my head, ‘You’re a woman, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough’.”   For years, the recording won out over truth.

Oh wow, yes, I am familiar with that recording.  Stupid, stupid recording. 

It wasn’t until she was in her forties that she began to listen to the nudges on her heart. She vividly recalls the moment she understood what she had to do, that she was destined to be a pastor.  “I cried,” says Teri, “It was like a 50 pound weight off of my shoulders, I just knew this is who I’m supposed to be.”

Now that she is exactly where she’s meant to be, Teri is doing exactly what she’s always wanted to do: Help people experience God. Through her church, her service in the community, and now through the 111 Club.

If only…if only I too, could help people experience God (it is my goal for my book).  What a honor that would be!

Innovative Ways to Reach the People

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In Teri’s eyes, church is all about hospitality. Not in a coffee and doughnuts way, but in the drawing together of broken people. The Roots of Life is about community. Accepting all who come, despite their differences, “If we can be in the same space and worship the same God, then we all become disciples.”

“I want people to experience God, it’s my #1 priority,” says Teri. Therefore, children are invited to stay in the sanctuary, sermons are interactive, and the worship atmosphere is designed to be warm and welcoming with the underlying understanding that God is in everyone and everything.

Teri also extends the opportunity to experience God outside of worship, through service, bible studies and her discussion group, the 111 Club, which began around 10 months ago. Meeting at Syd’s Bar and Grill every Tuesday evening, the group discusses 1 interesting (and often controversial) question about life and faith over a beer.  It’s all about connecting through conversation.

“I think people are craving community and sometimes we just find it in a different place,” says Teri, “Sometimes the staff or others in the bar join in on our discussions.”

Yes, in this busy world, I too, crave community. Don’t we all?

On Drawing Closer to God

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Finally, I ask the question I find burning in my heart: How can we, those of us who are living lives and seeking to draw closer to God, find Him in this chaotic, divisive and often self-serving world?

Teri first suggests a clearing of the mind with a breath prayer.  Breath Prayers can help de-clutter the mind. Simply take 7 breaths, pausing and holding in between.  Doing so will clear the mind of distraction and help one focus on God.

And when struggling-to understand, to forgive, to act or believe-ask God for help through the hard places. Ask and then be patient as He takes you through the process to peace.

Lastly Teri reminds us that one cannot have peace without risk.

Peace without risk; what does she mean by this? 

People generally dislike taking risks.  But explains Teri, if we cannot open ourselves up and be vulnerable before God and others, we will never truly find peace. We must take chances in being who we are and in living out our faith.

Amen. 

 

 

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The Art of Practicing Courage

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Sunset on the Grand Tetons, June 2012

*Friends-if you don’t have the time to read my entire post-I have news to share: please skip to the end!

This is the photo.  The photo that popped up in my feed with Facebook’s new Timehop “On this Day” feature.  Oh the irony.

Three years ago today I was on vacation.  We took the family to Montana and Wyoming. We visited Bear Tooth Pass, Yellowstone Park and the Grand Tetons.  I’ll never forget that trip for two reasons.

1-The entire trip was perfect: great weather, great scenery, great time with the family.

2-I was a bit of a mess.

You see on the outside, my life was wonderful.  My oldest girl would be headed to college in the fall, my high school girl was happy, my nine-year-old thriving.  My marriage was in a good place and I had a growing travel agency business.  How could I be a mess? How could everything be so right, but feel so wrong?  Was I just hard to please?

I couldn’t get a handle on why I felt the way I felt, but I was grateful to go on vacation and clear my head.  So on the very first morning, I got up early and had a chat with God.

Tiptoeing through our tiny rented cabin so as not to wake my family, I made a cup of tea, took a seat by the window, and stared out at the expansive Montana sky.  And I started to pray. But what began as prayer soon turned into gushing: me spilling out all my fears and frustrations. It was only after I got it all out that I could humble myself and ask God what to do.   Here is what he said:

Rest in me.

Huh?  Okay fine, I’ve read or heard these words so many times: in my devotionals, bible study, church sermons.  It sounds easy, but what does it really mean? What was I supposed to do with that?

I pondered.  It could mean to just take a breath and enjoy my vacation.  It could mean stick close to God, be patient and all will work out.  It could mean to take a break from all my troubles.

That’s nice and all, but it didn’t feel like enough. Come on God, I need more, I am not following here.  Again, I asked Him to show me what to do.

Rest in me. 

Argh, the same answer!  Though I was frustrated, I’ve learned that when God gives me an answer, it typically is going to take a bit of decoding on my part.  He’s not one to just tell me what to do, but He does lead me. So I decided I had no choice but to trust.  Trust what He told me, trust that if I tried, I’d eventually figure out what he meant.  Turns out eventually is three years.

In three years, I…

Closed my travel agency.

Dropped many of my social and volunteer activities.

Spent time by the side of my terminally ill mother (she passed in March of 2014).

Made space in my life to think. Sleep. Pray.

Rest in me.  It can mean so many things.  But looking back, for me in this instance, I think it meant to trust.  Trust God.  Trust my heart.  Trust in what I cannot see or imagine.  I don’t need to know the details. I don’t need to know the how’s or why’s.  I just need to listen: to both God, and my heart (are they one in the same? I think they could be).

By taking tiny steps in trust, I was able to pair down the chaotic life I had created for myself.  I examined the things I was doing and let go of those things that weren’t making me happy. I made room for and proactively sought out those things that did make me happy.  I trusted God with the details, focusing only on the day-no looking forward or backward. No analyzing or trying to control the outcome.

Friends-this takes courage, great courage. Letting go is HARD.   But when I finally did, when I finally followed my heart instead of my brain: I found my way. And trust me, I’ve been lost in the forest for quite some time.

Rest in me.

When I finally rested in God, I found myself, the me He created.   I found the girl who loves to write. I quit worrying about money or how good I was or time wasted on creative pursuits instead freelance work.  I simply wrote. Day in and day out, I put words to paper having no idea what would happen.

What happened was this: I wrote a book.

A book that was picked up by Hawthorne Publishing.

A book that is being released 7/1/15.

The dream I’d once buried, was resurrected and brought to fruition, all because I let go and let God.

Thanks Facebook and Timehop for reminding me that when I pause to think, take steps in faith, and listen to God, my dreams can come true. And by the way, so can yours.

Details On My Exciting News

For information about my new book, Chasing God, Finding Faith from the Outside In, click here.

To see the book, click here.

To order an early release copy at a 20%  discount, (+ $3 shipping if I cannot hand deliver to you), please email me by 6/30/15 here:

thewritertracyATgmailDOTcom.

To share in my joy, feel free to visit me at one of my book events, listed here.

 

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  -George Eliot

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Goals, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, Risk, trials, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Getting My Instant Fix

Rush On Smartphone Showing Speed And Urgency

 

“You can do Yoga! It says right here that yoga reduces inflammation!”

I chuckle to myself, “Okay, well I better wait a few days for that.”

My daughter is not convinced, “No, you can do it right now Mom, yoga improves circulation.”

My Abby is perched at our computer, researching ways for me to reduce the swelling of my newly sprained ankle.

I am lying on the floor, in front of our couch, with my calves and feet up and resting on the couch cushions. This I am doing this per my twelve-year-old daughter’s insistence. Elevation, she says, will reduce the swelling. In addition, I can try tonic water, grapefruit oil or massage therapy (tonic water?).

It is sweet that my young daughter is trying to help me get better.

It is amazing that we can access so much information in an instant via the Internet.

If only my ankle would heal as fast as my daughter is finding remedies for it.  But that’s not how it works.

Healing, takes time.

No matter how hard I try, it will take time for the swelling in my ankle to go down. The ligaments will need a few days to repair themselves. And I will need to lay off my usual routine for awhile (I actually miss the gym, who knew that was possible?).

The truth is, we live in an instant age. We have instant access to a plethora of information, news, photos, music and even our child’s grades at school.

It’s wonderful, but sometimes I fear it makes me even more impatient for those times when I have to wait.

The less I have to wait, the less I want to wait.

I am a person who prays daily.  And when things aren’t going the way I’d like for them to go in my life, I often ask God for help. I ask Him for strength and wisdom, I ask for guidance. Yet no matter how I phrase my prayers, no matter how nicely I say things, in so many words I’m just asking God to fix my situation.  I’d like for him to just:

Solve my problem.

Take away my pain.

Give me answers.

Heal my wounds.

And I’d like for Him to do it quickly.

But God knows better than to listen to me.  He knows some things take time.  And when He doesn’t answer right away, when He doesn’t wave his magic wand and make it all go away, what is my response?

Impatience.

Confusion.

And mostly, Indignation.

All this, even though I believe the words of Jeremiah 29:11 to be true.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

Yes, I have a strong faith. But the truth is, I’m also a work in progress. And I don’t like to wait.

So in those times when I’m wanting God to fix things and fix them right now, I try to remember the following.

 1-God’s plan is so much bigger than mine.
It’s crazy to realize I am but a speck in this universe. A speck.  There are so many pieces to His great mosaic.  I have only my limited perspective.  I don’t see what all God sees.

 2-God’s timing is so much better than mine.
In my mind, I’m ready to move forward, always. Why the wait? It isn’t until later, when I look back, that I can see God’s handiwork in my life. The people he has planted in my path.  The lessons I’ve learned from specific circumstances.  The way he slowly tenders my heart in the right direction when I am stubborn.  These things take time.

 3-Ultimately, God’s way is the best way.
I may think I know what I want, I may think I know how things should go, and sometimes I am right.  But there are many, many times times I am wrong.  God though, is never wrong. I can always trust where He is taking me.

I may not see, I may not understand, I may not like the circumstances I’ve been given.  But at least I am learning this: sometimes there is no instant fix. Healing, growth and change take time.

But as I am learning how to walk in this life with faith, I know that when I’m waiting on God, it will always be worth the wait.

 

 

 

Posted in attitude, Faith, Family Life, God, gratitude, inspiration, life lessons, trials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How to Be A Better Mother

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I just got back from a long weekend away with my girlfriends. Four glorious days with six of my friends: talking, laughing, eating, taking in the sun and walking the beach. It was glorious.

A girlfriend getaway is something I highly recommend. I know there are many mamas who don’t like or don’t want to leave their families, and I respect their choice. But for me, time away with my girlfriends makes me a better mom.

So in honor of Mother’s Day I’ve written a list of reasons a girlfriend getaway is worth your while.

7 Reasons You Should  Leave Your Family (for a few days!)

1-Your family will appreciate you more when you return. Sometimes it takes being gone for your family to notice what all you do for them. Trust me they will miss the lady who cooks, cleans, picks up constantly, closes the blinds every night and replaces the toilet paper roll.

 

2-You will appreciate your family more when you return.  A break from our normal responsibilities reminds us just why we do what we do: we love these cute, messy, funny people we live with.  A few days without them reminds us just how much better life is with them in it.

 

3-We have so much to learn about life from our friends.  When we get away, my girlfriends and I talk with abandon about our kids, our husbands, our dreams for the future. I get all sorts of ideas and advice for ways to handle preteen attitudes, unruly pets, homework, grass-stained soccer jerseys and the constant balancing act of life and work.

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4-Our friends help us get through life’s difficulties.  Life can be hard, we need to get away and gain some perspective.  With friends we can laugh at life’s ironies and suddenly they don’t seem so bad.  We take turns listening to each others struggles and sort out the things in life that need sorting.  It’s like free (group) therapy.

 

5-Time away gives you freedom without guilt. As mothers, we are constantly beckoned by the needs of our kids, husbands, house and for some of us, work responsibilites.  A sink full of dirty dishes, loads of laundry and helping with the latest school project or work deadline keep us from relaxing.  When we get away, we only have our own needs to consider.  We can do whatever we want: stay up late, sleep in, read a magazine, lay in a beach chair and do absolutely nothing or eat at a restaurant that doesn’t offer a kids menu.  What a respite this is!  On a girlfriend getaway, we can enjoy life without the guilt.

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6-It’s just plain fun.  Laughter matters so much, and my friends make me laugh. It doesn’t really matter where we go or what we do, just that we do it together.  Whether we are on a beach in FL (like this year) or tucked away in someone’s basement, time spent away with my girlfriends is a time of laughter and a renewal of friendship.  In the grand scheme, these moments we each manage to steal away from our very busy lives are nothing less than sacred.

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7-Getting away allows you to remember who you once were. It’s been said that mothers forever see their hearts walking outside of their bodies.  Yes, we love our kids so much that they are an extension of us.  The downside of this is that we can often forget who we once were, before children.  Remember that girl who once loved to play tennis?  Wrote poetry?  Enjoyed live music?  Got lost in a novel?   She’s still there, deep inside of you, holding on to those long lost dreams and hobbies: find her, honor her, celebrate her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.  And an especially happy Mother’s Day to all my friends.  I love you all and thank you for making me a better mother, simply by being my friend. 

 

 

 

Posted in Family Life, gratitude, kids, life lessons, parenting, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Squash Your Inner Britt McHenry

The last couple weeks have been busy at our house, so while I’d heard about the Britt McHenry story, I didn’t have a chance to watch the video of her tirade until this weekend.

To say I was horrified is to put it lightly. Her initial words are bad enough, but then she just goes on and on, insulting the tow shop employee in every way she can. It’s shameful.

I’d like to judge her, but I really can’t.Why? Because I know we are all guilty of such behavior.

In one way or another, we’ve all pulled a Britt McHenry.

Girl Looking Angry And Annoyed

If you know me in the flesh, you know I’m a pretty gentle character. I’m not one to argue or yell and I can’t even recall the last time I’ve put on my mean girl hat.  But I’ve certainly said things I regret. I’ve been nasty to my family, to strangers, to the lady at the bank when she wouldn’t help me get my father’s accounts settled.

In other words, I’ve taken out on my bad day on others. And admit it: so have you.

It’s easy to do, to lose control of our emotions and let anger win.  And while none among us is perfect, what bothers me most about this story is that it isn’t such an isolated event.

Public insults and cruel behavior have somehow become acceptable in our world. People are rude to other people all the time, and sometimes insults are thrown just because one person doesn’t agree with another.

What is happening? Why are we getting so mean?

What has changed that made a television viewer think it was okay for him to tell a news reporter she needs to alter her appearance?

When did an individual became so thoughtless as to post a video of a large man dancing and make fun of him just because he was enjoying himself?  (Props to the many people who responded positively to this situation!).

When did we decide we know more than experts, we have the right to weigh in on the looks of every famous person, and we can complain about every decision we don’t agree with? 

In other words, when did we decide our individual opinions are of such importance, of more importance than the feelings of others?

I don’t have the answers.  I know email, Twitter, Facebook, and the like allow us to talk behind a screen. It’s as if we aren’t saying the words, they just come from an icon of our face or a cartoon character. It’s so much easier to type mean words than to say them to one’s face.  To say things our mothers taught us never to say.  Social media allows us to disengage our hearts from our words and this is not a good thing.

It’s important to remember our words and actions matter. Positive words build others up (I’ve written before about this before here) and negative words tear them down. Why would we ever want to be a person who brings others down, instead of building them up?

Today readers, I’m asking you to take a stance. In this world where cruel words and behavior are tossed around so easily, I’m asking you to think before you speak.

Consider your words. Consider how they affect those around you. Ask yourself, are my words and actions are helpful or hurtful?

Will flipping off the driver next to you do any good beyond making you feel vindicated? Does chewing out the cable representative really do anything to improve the service you are getting? Is arguing politics with your Facebook friend doing any good?

Somehow in this day of instant everything, we’ve forgotten how to reason, how to compromise, how to treat one another as they deserve to be treated.

We’ve become great big meanies, real life and cyber bullies, and it makes me sad. 

But we can all do something about it.  We can each choose to say positive words whenever possible. We can keep our negative comments to a minimum.  We can refrain from gossip.  And when we are angry, we can pause (and/or pray) before we speak.  And together we can make a difference.  (Where’s my torch? Oh, there it is!).

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Margaret Mead said this about change, “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Mahatma Gandhi said this, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

I say this: Let’s start today.  Let’s start with our words. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Live in the Present: Put Your Smartphone Down

“You said you’d wake me up!”

I startled, then looked at the clock, the red numbers of 6:17 (am of course), glared back at me.

“I know, I know,” I said to my daughter, “but later I read that the best viewing would be at 6:50; I was going to wake you up then.”

“Well,” she said, “I’m going back to bed, wake me up when it’s time.”

In Florida for spring break, my youngest daughter and I were getting up early to view a solar eclipse. We’d read that it would be a beautiful blood red moon and we didn’t want to miss seeing it.

Once awake, I’m up for the day. So while my daughter retreated to the warmth of her covers, I got up, made a cup of tea and settled myself out on the balcony of our condo. I had about thirty minutes to kill.

It was…beautiful. Quiet. Peaceful. The entire beach was empty, the sky black, except for the full moon and it’s reflection dancing on the wavy water. I tried to capture it…

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Then, 6:50 came and just as the paper had predicted, you could see the eclipse. I woke my daughter up and together we went back outside to watch the moon slowly slip behind the earth’s shadow.

I’d like to tell you it was breathtaking. But it wasn’t.

It was pretty but I wouldn’t call it the stunning blood red moon the news had predicted it to be.  Regardless, my daughter and I persisted in taking photos with our iphones.  But it was too dark out and our cameras couldn’t capture the beauty of the night sky. Here’s a lame shot of it:

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And then-the sun began to rise. The dawning of the day meant we could no longer see the eclipse. But that’s when we saw something even more spectacular.

Dolphins. An entire pod of dolphins swimming for breakfast along the shoreline.

“Abby, look!” I grabbed the binoculars, “Look how close they are!”

We’ve seen plenty of dolphins but these were so close, just a few feet from the shore.

I handed my daughter the binoculars and that’s when she said, “Let’s go down there, down to the beach right now!”

Seconds later, I was sprinting, in my pajamas, my daughter racing ahead of me. The split second decision, the running in anticipation-I felt like I was ten again. We were both so excited, we just couldn’t get to the beach fast enough. We wanted to see those dolphins up close.

We were so afraid of missing the moment.

Scurrying out the door of our condominium building, we raced past the pool and through the gate and ran, literally ran, to the water’s edge. And there they were. Dolphins, tons of dolphins.

It was quite a sight. My daughter and I sat next to one another, cameras held high trying to get a photo of these beautiful creatures.

Have you ever tried to take a shot of a dolphin as they swim? It’s not easy. You have to be camera ready.

You have to be waiting for the moment and react quickly. I took 3 maybe 4 photos, but I couldn’t get the shot. The dolphins were spread out and I couldn’t capture the beauty of the scene within my camera lens.  Here’s one of the better photos:

 

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It wasn’t until I looked up from the camera that I realized a profound truth: the real beauty was in the moment. 

Being up early with my daughter, witnessing the dolphins feed in the early morning light, hearing the sounds of the birds and the ocean in the background-this was what made the moment so special.  It was not something I could capture in a picture.

In my desire to capture the moment, I was instead missing the moment.

Until that realization, all my attention had been focused on looking through the tiny lens of my camera. I was so intent on snapping a shot of those dolphins rising up out of the water.

But in looking through the 4-inch lens, I was missing the rest of the scene. 

I was missing the beautiful stripes of orange, pink and yellow floating in the morning sky.  I was missing the sounds of the water splashing as the dolphins swam.   I was missing the beauty of experiencing my daughter’s excitement as she watched the dolphins.

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I was missing out on the present moment in order to record it for the future.  It’s a dumb move I’ve made time and time again.

Smart phones are amazing.  Photos are a great way to record our memories. But living in the moment, soaking it up and piling it into the memory bank, this is the best.

I put my camera down. I looked out at the blue water, stared at the sun’s reflection of pink and gold on it. I watched my daughter as she searched for the perfect shell to take home for a souvenir.  I looked down the lonely stretch of beach and inhaled the wonder of it. And inside I felt: giddy. Grateful.

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Life goes all too fast.  In this day and age of technology we are so persistent in wanting to capture all the good moments of life in our photos.  But we must be careful not to miss out on life while doing so. 

May we all remember that some moments in life are meant to be lived, not recorded.

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