Photography is a hobby of mine, and as I’ve mentioned before I haven’t yet entered the world of the “specialty cameras” yet. I’m still using my 6-year-old point-and shoot which continues to serve me well! I use my camera to journal my life because quite truthfully I find it easier to take a picture than to quiet myself long enough to write in a daily book journal.
That being said, I remember the year 2009 as being a really difficult year for me. Life seemed to be crumbling apart at the seams. There were lots of money problems, and being the sole supporter of the household at that time, the burden was extra heavy on my heart. My marriage was all but non-existent. I was feeling the brokenness of not knowing what was in store for me with all areas of my life. In fact, life felt so broken that I questioned whether it would ever feel good or right or even “okay” again.
Friends of mine suggested traveling along with them to the beach. At first I said “no thanks.” I already felt like a fifth wheel, and the last thing on earth I felt like doing was interfering with someone else’s vacation. They insisted, and insisted, and insisted that I go along. And, then the magical words came out: “We’ll give you all the time you need or want to be alone on the beach. Just go and get away and clear your head a little bit.”
And, so I did!
I took hundreds of pictures that week, walking many, many miles along the beach by myself, and reflected, prayed, cried, then finally came to the conclusion that there wasn’t a darned thing I could do about what was going on in my life except give it my best shot. Keep working. Keep trying. Keep hoping. Keep praying that things would work out.
And, this is what I learned.
I learned that rocking chairs calm me. Why? Because they remind me of my Grandmom Bozarth. I swear that woman spent half of her life sitting in her rocking chair on her front porch simply enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. When I saw these rocking chairs, I walked up onto the porch and “set a spell”, too. Gosh! That was nice!
Trees. I love the draping security found in the softly swaying branches of trees. When I was a kid living on our farm I spent many hours under the safety of our big pine trees in our side yard. I still feel a calmness under the trees, and so I enjoyed an afternoon alone allowing the trees to hold me close and comfort me.
Looking high into the big, blue sky and seeing the American flag waving brought me to my knees in thankfulness. Our nation is far from perfect, but I can tell you this — I am so thankful I was born here. I’m so thankful for the freedom I’ve been able to enjoy, and I’m so thankful for those who gave their lives for my freedom. Wow! I was beginning to feel less broken!
An old gentleman sitting on a bench motioned to me to come over. He wanted to share the treasure he had found. A perfect sand dollar. And, then he not only shared the legend of the sand dollar with me, but he took his aging hands and gently placed that sand dollar in mine. I’ve often wondered if he was able to see the cracks in my heart that needed healing?
And, as was meant for me on this week at the beach, while walking along the shore, a man came up alongside of me, smiling his toothless smile, and opened up his dry, cracked hand to show me what had just washed ashore. He gave me some life lessons that day — lessons about living the simple life. Living a life of thankfulness. Living with little, but really having so much! Thank you, nameless man without teeth, for sharing so much of your wisdom with me while I was searching for truth!
There’s just something about park benches that seem to say, “Sit a spell. You need rest.” And, so I did sit. For a spell, and a spell longer I sat and my heart finally opened up and cried. I cried for the brokenness which had come into my life. Unexpected pain that I never thought would be mine. Never did I expect a marriage that would not be “forever.” My children were hurt and pained, and some had lashed out at me in their pain. There’s nothing that stings more than darts thrown by those you love. As I watched the calm sea, though, I was reminded that no storm lasts forever. There is always sunshine following the rain. Always calm after the storm. And, so I did something I hadn’t done in a while. I prayed. I prayed long and hard that God would fill my heart with more thanksgiving than pain. I prayed that I would focus more on the future than the past. I prayed for healing.
Talk about smile! I know this was a God moment when I saw these two boys walking across the pier to do some fishing! Oh, how my heart swelled with joy when I remembered the carefree moments of watching my own sons with their fishing poles, sweaty faces, and happy grins walking across the field to go find a fishing spot. That’s what life is all about — enjoying moments like this! In my quest to find some healing, I realized I had been surrounded by children for more than forty years and I have been blessed with precious, beautiful memories of the simple joys of childhood! Thank God for kids! They teach us how to really live!
Look at the beauty! Gaze at the details! Feel the freedom! I began to release some of the pain — little-by-little my heart was feeling better. Sure the problems were still there, but my heart was somehow feeling lighter. Have you ever felt it, too? If so, you know just what I mean. I’m so glad I captured this moment. I’ve revisited this picture hundreds of times since my week at the beach and have felt the same peace and calm over and over again. Heck, I’m even breathing easier looking at this picture right now! Oh, the blessings of a day at the sea!
I found my own special treasures during my walks along the beach, and I had the special joy of sharing some of my stories and my treasures with a grandson this year at Christmas. You should have seen his eyes light up when I handed him my special sand dollar! You should have felt my heart light up as I handed it over to him! Gifts from the sea were meant to be shared! And, I’m so thankful for the gifts that were shared with me!
I don’t know where you go when life piles up on you. For me, it’s someplace in nature — preferable a walk along the beach, a walk among fields of flowers, or a walk along a cool, mountain stream. I’m not so naive as to say this takes away all of our problems. It doesn’t. When I came back home, I still had a marriage that was broken. I still had kids angry with me. I still had bills that needed to be paid. I still had huge obstacles to overcome in order to try to keep my house from being taken from me. I still had to deal with all kinds of messy things.
BUT, I had found some much-needed replenishment of the soul. And, I was able to be reminded a thousand times over what beautiful, wonderful blessings I have that are mine that NOBODY can ever take away!
And, from the old man at the sea, I was reminded that “Every story has an end, but in life every end is just a new beginning.”
Here’s to many new beginnings for each of us!