Play Ball

#inspiration, guest blog, Kim Louise ClarkeToday we have a guest blog written by Kim Louise Clarke

Because my husband umpires, I have the opportunity to watch a lot of softball, which in turn provides a rich source of life lessons. Like the one the other day, when I watched the girl in left field miss a very catchable fly ball. She stumbled to retrieve the ball at her feet and threw it towards first base. But the throw was weak and much too late.

I felt sorry for her as I sat on the bleachers, eating my hotdog, content that I still had a chocolate bar to munch on, wondering how she could have missed the catch in the first place. Sitting and watching all the activity before me, I was risking very little other than gaining a pound or two.

But each of these players, attempting to bat, run, throw, and catch, were risking a lot. Besides injury, they risked making a bad play and setting their team back. They risked failure, self-doubt, and enduring criticism from the spectators.

This is similar to life beyond the ball diamond, where we can choose to remain a bystander watching other’s living their lives. Or we can choose to step out into the life given us, taking risks, knowing that we may meet up with failure, self-doubt, and criticism.

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” is a quote from John C. Maxwell (American business and investment speaker). It is a great question. When was the last time I tried something new, risked something, or got out of my comfort zone? Am I someone who is ‘playing the game’, or just someone who is ‘playing it safe’?

Kim Louise Clarke hopes her writing will inspire, inform, and entertain. She writes travel devotional memoirs, having published one book, with another to be published soon. Website: www.kimlouiseclarke.com

Thunderstorms

#God, #inspiration, blessings, restoration, healing
photo compliments of pixabay

I was raised in close proximity of Vancouver, British Columbia. We had occasional thunderstorms but nothing like I’ve experienced since moving to southern Alberta.

Now, those are impressive! The echo of thunder can be heard in the distance as the storm approaches. The air feels heavy and oppressive. Ominous looking clouds fill the sky and the natural light becomes dim.

A few raindrops appear and become more insistent when the thunder booms overhead and lightning flashes in the sky. At night I have seen incredible displays when both sheet and fork lightning have appeared during the same storm.

Sometimes there are hailstones, bouncing after striking the sky with incredible force.

Other times we are pounded with buckets of rain. I stand at the window and watch in awe as our street becomes a rushing torrent of water. It is exhilarating to be witness to this powerful display of nature.

When the storm subsides I step outside and breathe deeply of the air which has been refreshed by the cleansing flood. It is no longer heavy and oppressive.

The formerly dry, parched ground has been filled by the downpour that flooded the cracks with much-needed moisture.

This is the kind of restoration God brings into our lives. When I am desperate for an end to my dry and thirsty life, I need more than a little hope. A gentle shower will not be enough to quench my needs.

God is there; ready to flood my life with the healing power of his love. In the Bible, there is a story of God turning the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs. What He has done for others, I know He will also do for me.

He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; (Psalm 107:35 NIV)

From a Distance

#inspiration, beauty, vibrant colour, perfect pictureIn the distance, I see the vibrant yellow of canola fields. The beauty is breathtaking as the sunshine flowers contrast against the azure sky and verdant green of nearby trees.

From a distance, this blanket of bright colour appears solid. When I get closer I see this is not the case. There are variations in shading and when I come alongside them I see more green stalks than yellow flowers. The flowers are quite small and not the showy blooms I’d imagined. The plants are still lovely; they just are not as I’d envisioned them.   #inspiration, flowersSince I am not native to this area, surprise and a little disappointment are felt when I realize the perfect picture I’d seen from a distance was not the reality upon closer examination.

Oh, how this brought other memories to mind. I don’t know about you, but I have looked with envy at the vibrant life someone else had and wished mine could be as beautiful.

In reality, I have only seen the tip of their life, the part that can be observed from a distance. Up close, the picture is different.

No one has a perfect life. Struggles and challenges affect each of us. When I put on a mask to convince you all is well in my life, you have no reason to doubt me. You only see the picture I choose to show you.

It is only when I allow you to have a closer look that you can see we are not so different after all. We are all perfectly imperfect and showing that is what makes us beautiful.

“If you ask people what attracted them to the person they love, they never tell you of some perfect feature that focused them on sheer surfaces but rather an imperfection that allowed them to see into their uncharted depths.” – Eugene Kennedy

Pleasant Dreams

#inspiration, #God, prayerSomething had been troubling me since early evening. The issue had been resolved but my mind couldn’t quite let it go.

A few hours later, when I went to bed, the matter had finally been put to rest. Or, so I thought. Several times in the night I awoke after magnified scenarios of this issue took control of my dreams.

I would chastise myself for these negative thoughts and then fall back into a fitful sleep. Unsuccessful attempts to redirect my mind resulted in frustration and loss of sleep.

Eventually, I found the perfect way to calm my mind and drift into a peaceful sleep. I started to pray but instead of asking God to take away the troubling thoughts, I changed my focus. Instead, I concentrated on praising God and thanking Him for what He has done in, for and through me.

The Bible tells us, “He will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are focused on Him.”

I experienced this fully when pleasant dreams appeared once again.

“My mouth joyfully praises you, whenever I remember you on my bed, and think about you during the nighttime hours.” Psalm 63:5-6 NET

Don’t Judge Me

Judgments, opinions, perspective, #inspirationThe first glimpse we had of her was in a photograph. It was enough to entice us to drive the two and a half hours for a personal meeting. At that point, we didn’t even know her name.

The attraction I felt was immediate but my husband didn’t feel the same connection so we left her behind. Two weeks later, we hadn’t been able to get her out of our minds, so made a return trip.

After spending a little more time together, a decision was made for 21-year-old Vanessa to come home with us.

Since we had two vehicles, Brian and I each took turns riding with Vanessa. This gave us each some time to get to know her better.

Over the winter, nothing much changed with our relationship. It was rather distant and formal.

As the weather warmed, so did our feelings about Vanessa. We started to spend more time together and the three of us even took a couple of weekend trips.

We appreciated all she had to offer and our admiration grew. This relationship was going to work out even better than we had hoped. Even our grandchildren grew to love her.

Friends are envious of the adventures we have planned with the accommodating 21-year-old named Vanessa.

My husband and I agree that the decision to bring her home with us was one of the best we’ve made. I am excited to see what the future holds as we spend time with Vanessa, our Pleasure Way Van.

Did that last sentence surprise you? What was your perception as you read the story? Did you form judgments before having all the facts?

The simple story of our camper van, that came with the name Vanessa written on the side, reminds me how often I have formed an inaccurate opinion before I know the whole story.

So, let’s make a deal, I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.

travel, RV
The lovely Vanessa

More Than I Imagined

#inspiration, #God, love, blessingsThere was a lot of flexibility in the schedule for our upcoming trip. We only had a few places that were high on the priority list. One of these was HopeStreamRadio. I produce a short weekly program for this online radio station and wanted to visit their studio.

When I let it be known I’d be in the area, this desire turned into something that far exceeded any of my expectations. Not only was a tour of the station offered, I was also given an opportunity to record any programs I’d written during my travels plus record an interview with the president of HopeStreamRadio which would become part of the programming.

Ron, the head honcho, and I have met twice. Both times were at writers’ conferences. Now, this generous man, who hardly knew me, offered to let us park our camper van on his property for a few days. This meant my husband and I had a home base in one of the areas we wanted to explore.

I was being offered so much more than I had even imagined. But wait, there’s still more. A barbeque dinner was arranged so we could meet the HSR office staff. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and love freely given.

These unexpected blessings brought to mind the extravagant love God demonstrates. Usually, my expectations are far too small. My limited thinking is a mere fraction of what He has in store for me.

I haven’t earned his favour, nor do I deserve what is freely given to me. My hands and heart need to remain fully open because I don’t want to miss any of the gifts God has prepared for me. From past experience, I know they will be beyond my wildest imaginings.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. (Ephesians 1:3 GWT)

Out of My Shell

#inspiration, potential, growthOur neighbour called my husband and me over to look at something in his garden. He had planted some sunflower seeds and one had sprouted with the shell still on it.

It seemed to me that this plant was not ready to give up the protection the shell had given. Even though there was quite a bit of new growth, the plant was not ready to fully come out of its shell.

My way of looking at this was a reflection of past (and sometimes more recent) behaviours I have struggled with.

New experiences can be very scary. In an unknown environment, I long for safety and familiarity. My protective shell looks tempting and I seriously consider making a retreat back into it.

Before I do, I think of how dark and restrictive the shell had become. Outside I see light and potential. Am I willing to risk the unknown to reach toward my goals and dreams?

Sometimes I still look for a safe place to hide. Then I remember what lies outside of this comfort zone and know I will never grow into my full potential until I am willing to break out of my shell.

“Fear is only temporary. Regret lasts forever.” – Unknown

Time to Reboot?

#Jesus, #inspiration, refreshed, renewedThe worship leader was having a rough morning. First, his microphone didn’t work and a substitute needed to be found. Next, his keyboard started flashing a strange message.

This gentleman doesn’t take himself too seriously, so instead of pretending all was good, he kept up a commentary with us while the problems were being addressed.

He told us he was going to follow the advice younger people have given him regarding technology issues. When his phone or computer aren’t performing like they should, he’s been told to shut them off. It seems they get overloaded and tired and need a break.

The keyboard was turned off for a minute or two. When he turned it on again, everything was fine.

I’ve used the same tactic with electronics. The example in front of me, however, caused me to think how helpful it would be in life situations.

When I am feeling tired and overloaded, my life is not working as well as it should. Before the warning signs start flashing, I need to shut down the activity for a time. In essence, my life needs a reboot.

I have found the best way to do this is to spend quiet time with Jesus. He restores me and helps me figure out my priorities. My mind and body are refreshed and I become more efficient. That, to me, is the optimal reboot.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

Storage Capacity

#inspiration, memory, negative thoughtsI wondered why the picture I took was not saving to my phone. Then I saw the little red message telling me my storage was full.

In order to add anything new, I’d have to delete something else. I had a plan for that picture so spent the time eliminating others I didn’t need.

I emailed the picture to myself and received a warning. My email storage was almost at capacity. If I didn’t address this and start purging what was no longer needed, I’d soon be in trouble.

This isn’t the first time either of these situations has happened to me. Why do I tend to hold onto stuff I don’t need? I think it may be useful one day but it soon gets buried and forgotten.

Unfortunately, this is not limited to my phone or email. The same thing happens in life. Past hurts are taking up valuable space in my mind, waiting to resurface. The negative words spoken years ago remind me that I am not worthy. A past failure shows me I’m not good enough.

These are a waste of valuable space! When not deleted from my memory bank, they soon combine with other negative thoughts and leave no room for the new positive ones to take up residence.

“There is too much negativity in the world. Do your best to make sure you aren’t contributing to it.”
― Germany Kent

Lighting the Way

#Inspiration, #Jesus, shine, comfortThe decision was not easy. Two of our nine-year-old granddaughters wanted to spend the night in our camper van. The dilemma came when they told me they could sleep there without me. I didn’t like this idea at all. Who would protect them or comfort them if they became afraid?

We were in a gated, secure family RV park and my husband and I would be mere steps away in our trailer. Somehow this didn’t make me feel any better.

I turned to the girl’s parents for guidance. Truthfully, I was willing to let them be the bad guys who said no. They had no concerns so reluctantly I agreed.

One of the first things I did was to ensure they could open the door to get out of the van on their own. No problem there. I must have forgotten they are nine and not two!

When the girls were tucked in for the night, we let them know the lights on the outside of the van and the trailer would be left on. That way they could easily find their way to us in the dark of night.

A light in the dark brings comfort. That is why Jesus told his followers to let their lights shine before others. We can do this by walking with God and letting His Spirit shine through us.

In this way we are able to shine a comforting, joyful light to people we come in contact with. And, as I learned with my granddaughter’s camping experience, a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)