I was drawn to the lighthouses we saw on our travels. From the shores of the Great Lakes in Ontario to the coastline of the Maritime Provinces, every lighthouse was photo worthy.
There was something about these structures that captured my imagination. Most were operational but I also wanted to stop and admire ones that were purely for decoration.
The distinct tower shape, topped by a lantern area at the top is easily recognized as something to help ships navigate safely through treacherous waters.
The symbolism in this runs deep. To many, lighthouses are seen as showing us how to navigate through the rough waters of life. They speak of safety and security in the face of adversity and challenge.
Maybe that is why I was drawn to them. Even the well-weathered structures with peeling paint held an attraction.
They reminded me that, no matter my age, I have the ability to make a positive impact. A lighthouse doesn’t rush around, attempting to save people. It stands still and shines a beacon of light to illuminate the darkness. That is its great power.
Jesus is my personal lighthouse. He keeps me safe and secure no matter what storms challenge my life. I never have to walk in darkness when I can look to Him to guide me. His light fills me and equips me to reflect that to those around me. In that way, I can be a beacon that points people to Him.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
“Do you want me to back the car out for you?” my husband asked. It was early morning and he was getting ready to leave for an appointment in the city. The car I would need a little later was in a challenging spot, close to the garage wall. I wouldn’t be able to back straight out because another vehicle was blocking the driveway directly behind it.
My mind told me I would never do this on my won. A quick glance at the clock let me know Brian would be pressed for time if he took the time to help me. I also knew that he wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice his time to ensure I was okay.
I swallowed my fear, attempted to look confident and said I could do it.
When the time came to leave, I looked at the position of the vehicles and wondered why I said I could handle this challenge. It looked impossible but unless I cancelled my plans, I had to figure out a way.
With trepidation I got behind the wheel. Aloud I repeated, “I can do this” several times, hoping to talk myself into a feeling.
Inching backwards, I relied on my side mirror as I came within inches of the van in the driveway. After safely passing by it I had the most amazing feeling of accomplishment. Immediately I shouted, “I did it!”
I drove off, thankful to have overcome this challenge. If I had given in to my fears, I wouldn’t be experiencing the immense satisfaction I was now enjoying.
Backing up that morning helped me to move forward. It was a powerful reminder that when given the opportunity, I can accomplish more than I thought possible.
Have you heard the saying, “Somebody pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming”? That is exactly how I felt.
My husband and I had a long time dream and were about to make it happen. The time for saying, “One day we’d like to” had come to an end.
Too many times we have let opportunities pass us by. This time we weren’t going to look back in regret, wondering what it would have been like.
Plans were set in motion and initial preparations were started. We told others about our plans. It surprised us to hear how many people wanted to do the same. Not only were we going after our dream, we would also be living that of many others as well.
We packed up Vanessa, our 1996 travel van and headed across Canada.
Intentionally, we kept our schedule flexible. We had a rough idea of timing for some areas and commitments for specific dates in others. For the most part, we were free to go where the wind, or whim, took us.
Nine weeks and over 16,000 km on the road in a camper van was certainly the adventure of a lifetime for us. We witnessed firsthand the diverse beauty of our country. We were inspired by people we met. We overcame challenges and shared frustrations and laughter.
I learned to be content in a small space. I enjoyed not knowing what we might see during the day or where we would stop for the night. Having our food and accommodation with us gave us incredible flexibility. I am convinced this trip helped me to embrace a spontaneity that had been hidden for far too long. That in itself was a gift.
Now instead of saying, “One day” we have amazing memories of pursuing our dream and turning it into a dream come true.
Some precious gens are well known and others are more like hidden treasures. One of my favourites, the opal, is often overlooked.
An opal is made out of desert dust, sand and silica and its beauty comes not from its perfection, but because of defects. It is a stone with a broken heart. An opal is full of minute fissures, or cracks, that allow air inside. This air then refracts the light, creating swirls of colour.
An opal will lose its luster if it is kept in a cold, dark place, but that luster is restored when it is held in a warm hand or when the light shines on it.
By comparing the opal to myself I see that when I am warmed by God’s love I reflect His colour and brilliance. When I am broken inside myself, through my defects, I can give back the lovely hues of His light to others. Only then can the lamp can burn brightly within me and not flicker or go out.
Still, there are times when I lose the luster in my life and wonder how to restore it. What can I do when I need to bring back the shine?
I can pause early in the day to seek God’s guidance. Counting my blessings also helps me see that I am held in His loving hands.
This attitude of gratitude rids my life of the film of frustration, the rust of resentment and the varnish of vanity.
Without God’s touch our lives, there is no sparkle. When we allow Him to work within us, His warmth and light restores our luster. In His hands, we become precious gems that beautify His kingdom.
The lyrics in the song had such impact on me that I had to write them down as soon as the song was over. I was afraid the busyness of life would push them into the back of my memory and didn’t want that to happen.
A group called 11th Hour sang the poignant words, “I’d like to shake the hand, that reached out a hand, that reached out a hand to me.”
What a beautiful way to express the ripple effect of kindness.
I know how much I appreciate those who have reached out a hand to help me. What I hadn’t stopped to think about was someone must have done the same for them. Through this act, the initial person impacted my life in a positive way, without ever having direct contact with me.
I also have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people I may never meet. When I reach out in love and support, there is no way of knowing how that act may be passed on.
Like a stone tossed in a pond, the ripples move in an ever widening circle.
Thank you to all who perform acts of kindness. You make more of a difference than you will ever know.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop
My husband and I attended a church service in another city and encountered something we’d never experienced before.
We were confused by signs proclaiming this was an upside-down church and wondered what that meant.
Someone quickly came over to introduce himself and explain the concept of an upside-down church.
He said they run on a four-week rotation that includes not only Sunday but how the congregation views the rest of the week as well.
Week one was UP, in which their focus was on new and growing relationships with God. Week two was SIDE, in which they came alongside each other in accountable and supportive community. Week three is DOWN, when they reach down in humble acts of service to bring justice, hope, joy and peace to their community. Week four is PARTY. This is when the church as a body celebrates what God has done during the previous weeks.
I thought of the difference I could make in the world if I was turned upside down.
Personally, I would spend more time getting to know God. When I focus UP, God is a priority and not simply an afterthought.
SIDE can be a challenge for me. I often come and go, make small talk and then have no further contact with these people until the next Sunday. It is up to me to make the effort to get to know people in order to build a supportive community.
DOWN is when I take time from my busy life to reach out in acts of service to those around me. It is incredibly rewarding to experience what happens when the love of Jesus is shown in practical ways.
Next, we come to PARTY, which to me means to celebrate. God does great things in and through us. These deserve to be celebrated.
It’s very possible the visit to this church will turn my world upside down.
Now that I am no longer in the workforce, there is no need to get out of bed early in the morning. The alarm is only set for the days I go to a morning exercise class. Other than that, I let my body dictate how much sleep it needs.
Last week, for several days in a row, I arose and left the house while it was still dark outside. It would have been easy to grumble and complain about the early start and the long days.
Instead, I changed my attitude from, “I hate to get up this early” to “I choose to get up early for the benefit of ..” I was privileged to spend my days with an amazing group of people who are changing the world one heart at a time. For me, the benefit far outweighed a few hours of lost sleep.
This attitude is not just useful for getting me out of bed in the morning. It can be used throughout the day in a myriad of ways.
When I consciously think of what I get to do, rather than what I have to do, my mind shifts from unhappiness to gratitude. It’s amazing the difference this simple change in focus makes.
Things I would normally take for granted are appreciated. The abundance in my life is recognized and I become a more positive person to be around.
I may not have control over all situations in my life but I can choose how to react to them. I choose to look for the benefit and live in gratitude.
I had been advised to check my blood pressure on a regular basis. Due to circumstances, this hadn’t been done for more than two months. The day a follow-up medical appointment was scheduled, I set up my portable machine. Sometimes the reading is higher in a clinical setting and I wanted to have a realistic comparison before I left home.
I secured the cuff on my arm and started to read my morning devotions while the machine did its work. The results were not what I wanted to see. Maybe I hadn’t put the cuff on properly.
The procedure was repeated and the outcome was just as discouraging. I was relaxed and felt no stress so how could my blood pressure be so high? This wasn’t looking good.
I cleared the machine and started again. This time I prayed for God to give me peace about whatever the results may be. I felt fine and didn’t want an increase in medication but if that’s what I needed to stay healthy, I would accept it without a fight. When I opened my eyes and looked at the screen I saw my blood pressure was perfect this time.
Just to be sure, I took it twice more, once while reading and once while praying. The positive impact of prayer was undeniable.
Many times I have experienced peacefulness envelope my mind during and after prayer. What I hadn’t realized was the effect this also had on me physically.
I now had undeniable evidence of the positive effect of prayer on mind, body and soul. No matter how I look at it, prayer is good medicine.
While in New Brunswick in late September, my husband and I made a stop at Cape Enrage. This is on the Bay of Fundy and, as the name suggests, turbulent waters are often encountered there. In fact, the area closes to tourists in early October due to safety concerns.
The oldest active lighthouse on the New Brunswick mainland stands 125 feet above the water here. We were told it has undergone several changes since being built in 1840. Among other things, upgrades to the lighting system have been done to ensure it remains bright enough to safely guide passing vessels.
What I found interesting was the fact it has been moved from its original location three times due to erosion. The effects of the elements were posing a danger to its existence and the whole thing was moved. Can you imagine the work involved in that?
I thought about the changes I have had to make in my life over the years. In order to survive what the elements have thrown at me, there has been a need to change my position. The moves were necessary but definitely not easy.
My thoughts, beliefs and habits were uprooted as the solid ground I thought I was on slowly eroded. If I didn’t make some changes, my life would soon crumble around me.
I learned the tools necessary to establish myself on a firm foundation. The storms of life no longer hit me with the same force. Because of this, my light shines brighter and perhaps it can help guide others through their turbulent waters.
Today’s story in honour of Remembrance Day appeared in my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts and Spice Cake.
November 11 is known as Remembrance Day in Canada. In other countries, it is called Armistice Day or Poppy Day. This date marks the anniversary of the official end of World War 1, November 11, 1918. As a holiday the day commemorates the sacrifices made in armed conflicts. Countless numbers have given their lives. Many more have suffered serious injuries and great emotional scars.
The sacrifice that so many have paid to ensure a better life for those who followed is overwhelming. That’s why, on this day and for weeks before, people wear artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance. There’s also a period of silence at the eleventh hour to remember these sacrifices. Many areas have commemoration ceremonies and military parades.
Those who made the sacrifices are remembered and appreciated. Among those I honour are my father and father-in-law, who both fought in World War 11.
While I’m remembering those sacrifices, I need to remember the greatest sacrifice of all. Jesus gave his life so that I may have the opportunity to spend eternity with him. He paid the penalty for my sins so that I may be forgiven. He knew what the outcome would be but carried it through because of his great love. This is something I didn’t deserve. This gift is something to thank him for each and every day.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16 NIV)