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One Shoe Dance

dance, distraction, perseveranceEmily is passionate about Highland Dancing. She works hard and was starting to “place” in competitions. One of the dances was more of a challenge than the others.

In the Sword Dance, two swords are placed on the floor in a cross pattern. The complicated dance steps move between and around each quadrant. Avoiding contact with the swords adds another layer of difficulty. Demerit points are issued if one is touched.

At one competition Emily took her place behind the swords. The piper started playing. In the first eight beats of music she prepared for the dance by positioning herself and placing hands on hips. In the next eight beats she made eye contact with the adjudicator and gave a slight bow. Eight more beats and with arms high above her head, the dance started.dance, missing shoe

As Emily executed the intricate steps, the lace on her right shoe started to loosen. Soon the shoe was completely untied. Instead of being distracted, she kept her focus – even when the shoe worked its way completely off of her foot. Her steps remained quick and accurate. The dance ended, Emily bowed again to the adjudicator and smiled as she picked up her shoe. She had completed the dance without touching a sword. Even better, she “placed” in the sword dance that day.

Emily’s focus and determination taught me an important lesson. Unexpected challenges may come my way but I don’t need to let them stop me. If I focus on my goal rather than the distraction, I, too, can end up a winner.

White Water Revelations

Last year at this time, when social distancing was an unknown concept, I embarked on an adventure with my granddaughter. It was the first time either of us had gone white water rafting and both of us enjoyed it. In fact, our plan was to choose a trip with larger rapids this year.

Under current conditions, that is not likely to happen. Instead, I will relive the memories from last year and reflect on how what I learned is still serving me today.

My immediate thought is how fear almost robbed me of an exhilarating experience. My mind built up a resistance to the unknown that almost paralyzed me. To counteract the fear, my granddaughter Faith, literally took my hand and, with gentle reassurance, led me to the raft. I couldn’t have done it on my own.

On the river, our guide taught us about teamwork. If he shouted, “Left”, we put our paddles in on the left side of the raft. We would paddle hard on that side until he shouted, “Right” and we’d paddle on the other side. After we navigated through rapids, we would be told to lift our paddles and rest.

Each period of hard work was followed by a brief rest. The rest was to give us the strength to face the next set of rapids.

I learned two lessons in this. The first is I don’t need to get through turbulent times on my own. There are always others who will come alongside and help me paddle until I reach smooth waters. Teamwork makes us stronger.
The second lesson was to take advantage of opportunities to rest, when they come along. This doesn’t mean drifting aimlessly off course, but rebuilding endurance to face the next set of trials. There will inevitably be another rough patch at some point and I want to be prepared to face it.

The guide on our raft was also a reminder of the importance of having someone trustworthy to give direction. I choose to put my trust in Jesus. He has guided me through rough waters in the past and is always available when I call on Him. Sometimes the direction comes from a distance and other times I feel him take my hand and assure me everything will be alright. There is no one I’d rather have beside me in the adventure of this life.

The End of a Chapter

#inspiration, value, beautyA few days ago, my husband and I looked around our empty house for the last time, left a note and the keys on the counter, closed the door and drove away. Our home of fifteen years was about to become the home of another family.

One chapter of our lives had concluded. The story written in that chapter began when we arrived in Alberta, happy to be closer to our children and two grandchildren. In the following pages our joy increased as we welcomed new members, including five more grandchildren to the family. The rooms were often graced with the sweet sound of laughter as we gathered for meals and sleepovers with grandchildren.

The years passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The lives of our children and grandchildren have become busier as ours have slowed down. My husband and I are now retired and the upkeep required with a house is not as appealing as it once was.

Still, the decision to close this chapter was not an easy one. There comes a time, however, when in order to move forward, we need to let go of things that are holding us in the past. That time had come.

I am grateful for the chapter we’ve just closed. Its pages contained opportunities, activities and experiences indelibly imprinted in my memory.

The story is far from over and as we turn the page to start the next chapter, I’m excited to see how it continues.

The Missing Woman

search, missing, expectationsA news report I read several months ago has stuck with me. It told of a missing woman who was part of a group travelling through Iceland on a tour bus. The bus had stopped near a volcanic canyon and before the tour resumed there was word of a missing female passenger. One of the female passengers had changed clothes during this stop and didn’t recognize the description of herself. As a result, she joined in the search! The search was called off at about 3 am when it became clear the missing woman was not only accounted for but had spent hours searching for herself! Initially, I laughed at the thought of someone searching for herself. Then, I thought of the years I’ve spent doing exactly the same thing. Initially, I was Katie’s daughter. Next, I became Brian’s wife. Later, I became a mother. Once I added in employee, community volunteer and a few other roles, I lost who I was. Buried under many layers of who I had become, was the essence of who I was. In order to find the missing woman I’d become, I needed to do some searching. The search began with the painful process of eliminating my self-expectations. Much to my surprise, the world carried on with little notice. The more I was able to let go of who I thought I had to be, the closer I came to finding my true self and the more peaceful I became. I read a post on a friend’s Facebook page that said, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to me in the first place.” I think this resonates with many of us. Our world has changed drastically in light of the pandemic we’re facing. Much of what we did has been stripped away from us. This might be the perfect time to search for who we were meant to be. I have faith we will emerge stronger than ever before.

Chords of Love

Last week I had the privilege of being the speaker for an event in a small seaport town in Mexico. Women (and a few men) from three countries came together for the evening. The majority spoke Spanish and my message would not have been understood if not for the amazing translator I worked with. The goal was to share how we all have a role to play and can come together despite our different languages and cultural backgrounds. As one of the volunteers involved in bringing this evening to fruition, I experienced the teamwork necessary as a perfect example of this. Our theme was inspired by the song Bind Us Together and the evening ended with it being sung in both languages simultaneously. For this reason, it seemed fitting to include an illustration pertaining to music near the close of my talk. Years ago, I was a member of a four-part harmony acapella chorus, so I drew on that experience. The melody line was complimented by tenor, baritone and bass. While the melody could have stood on its own, it became much richer when combined with the other notes. Conversely, some of the other parts sounded discordant when heard on their own. Their notes were meant to enrich others by blending together. The resulting harmony was far more pleasing than any one voice could produce. The point is, when we come together to help each other, each of us sings a more beautiful song. In these days of uncertainty, some are singing notes of fear. If I come alongside with my notes of understanding, encouragement and support the tune can change from despair to hope. Instead of wondering if your notes can enhance mine, I need to be looking for ways I can enrich yours. It’s amazing what can happen when we are bound together with these chords (cords) of love.

So Small

encouragement, helping hand, independent“Look at the giant bench,” I said. “I wonder if I can climb up and sit on it.” My husband would have helped me if I’d asked but I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. At first it didn’t seem possible and I almost gave up. Brian gave me some encouraging words, I tried again and succeeded.

My legs were swinging in the air as I sat there, feeling impossibly small. A few minutes later, after the photo op, my feet were back on solid ground. We walked on, leaving the big white bench behind us.

It wasn’t until I was going through pictures a couple of weeks later that the bench came back to mind. My first reaction was to laugh at the amusing picture. Then, I wondered if the image was a fitting analogy of my life.

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your circumstances? I certainly have. At times like this my problems seem large and often insurmountable. My pride tells me I must deal with them on my own. It would be embarrassing to let anyone else know what is going on. As a result, I am left feeling small and inadequate.

Every bump in the road feels like a mountain to be scaled. How long will I struggle alone before walking away frustrated and defeated? Self-doubt floods my mind and I feel small and worthless.

There is an alternative. I can ask for help. In the past this was viewed as weakness but now I know it takes strength to reach out let someone know of my struggle.
Sometimes, like when I wanted to climb on the big bench, a bit of encouragement is all that is needed. Other times I’m offered a new way to approach my situation or a helping hand to get me through.

Instead of feeling small, let’s help each other rise to greater heights.

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot, together we can do great things. – Mother Teresa

The Crane and the Sandbag

beach, nature“Do you see the crane up ahead?” “Yes, it’s near the edge of the water. It must be looking for breakfast.” My husband and I were on an early morning beach walk when we spotted this bird. We commented on how cranes stand still for extended periods before darting their heads in the water to catch a fish. They have incredible patience and the one we could see ahead of us was no exception. It hadn’t moved since we’d first spotted it. We drew nearer and burst into laughter. The crane we’d been watching was actually a pole, stuck upright in the sand with the tattered remnant of a white sandbag wrapped around it! No wonder it stood so still. A few years ago, on another stretch of beach, we were fooled by the same thing so were surprised to be misled again so easily. Obviously, we hadn’t learned our lesson as well as we thought. As lessons go, this was a good one to be reminded of. The perfect picture I see from afar is often quite different when observed from a closer vantage point. Someone else’s life may appear to be perfect but I have no idea of the struggles and heartache that may be just below the surface. The same holds true for my life. Some days I feel like the sleek, graceful crane and others I’m more like the tattered sandbag, barely holding on.illusion, not as it seems The next time I wish my life looked as good as yours, I’ll think about the crane and the sandbag and be grateful for the life I’ve been given.

New Year Prayer

#inspiration, prayerIt has become my tradition to share this poem with you as one year ends and we embark upon another. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. My mother gave it to me many years ago and unfortunately, I don’t know who the author is.

My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2020.

NEW YEAR PRAYER

May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.

Author unknown

Christmas Miracle

When I read the following story I knew I wanted to share it with you. May it bless you as much as it did me.  Merry Christmas.

Children, sickness, Santa, belief

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin. The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.
“Who is this?” asked Santa, smiling. “Your friend? Your sister?”
“Yes, Santa,” he replied. “My sister, Sarah, who is very sick,” he said sadly.
Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
“She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!” the child exclaimed. “She misses you,” he added softly.
Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy’s face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.
When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted.
“What is it?” Santa asked warmly.
“Well, I know it’s really too much to ask you, Santa, but ….” the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa’s elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.
“…The girl in the photograph … my granddaughter . well, you see … she has leukemia and isn’t expected to make it even through the holidays,” she said through tear-filled eyes. “Is there any way, Santa . any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That’s all she’s asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa.”
Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do.
Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do.
“What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying,” he thought with a sinking heart, “this is the least I can do.”
When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children’s Hospital.
“Why?” Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.
Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah’s grandmother earlier that day.
“C’mon …. I’ll take you there,” Rick said softly.
Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall.
Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl’s brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah’s mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah’s thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah’s aunt, sat in a Chair near the bed ! with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.
Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho!”
“Santa!” shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes intact.
Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son — 9 years old — gazed up at him with wonder and excitement.
Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears. Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah’s face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.
As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa’s shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering “thank you” as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.
Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she’d been a very good girl that year.
As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl’s mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah’s bed, holding hands.
Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.
“Oh, yes, Santa … I do!” she exclaimed.
“Well, I’m going to ask that angels watch over you,” he said.
Laying one hand on the child’s head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly,
“Silent Night, Holy Night …. all is calm, all is bright.”
The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah’s frail, small hands in his own.
“Now, Sarah,” he said authoritatively, “you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!”
He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he “had” to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could — not dolls or games or toys — but the gift of HOPE.
“Yes, Santa!” Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright.
He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
Out in the hall, the minute Santa’s eyes met Rick’s, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed.
Sarah’s mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa’s side to thank him.
“My only child is the same age as Sarah,” he explained quietly. “This is the least I could do.”
They nodded with understanding and hugged him.
One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.
“Hi, Santa! Remember me?!”
“Of course, I do,” Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a “good” Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the “only” child in the world at that moment.
“You came to see me in the hospital last year!”
Santa’s jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest.
“Sarah!” he exclaimed.
He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy — much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before.
He looked over and saw Sarah’s mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.
That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed — and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about — this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, “Thank you, Father. ‘Tis a very, Merry Christmas!”

Don’t Flush

fear of failure, flush awayI saw the sign on the wall of a public restroom. The first four words were ‘Please do not flush.” What followed were the items I’d expect to see on such a sign – paper towels, wipes and disposable diapers.

The next line was for something less likely but still very possible: Cell phones. I have a friend who dropped her phone in a public toilet so know this does happen.

I was amused to see we were next told not to flush kittens, puppies and dead goldfish. I’ve heard of flushing goldfish but not in a public restroom. Puppies and kittens – never! The sign had just become interesting enough to keep me reading.

The last items listed were old love letters and hopes and dreams. With a love gone wrong, these could be linked together.

However, it was the last part of this line that resonated with me. I have been tempted to flush away my hopes and dreams.

Sometimes they appeared too big to accomplish. Other times the struggle to reach them seemed overwhelming. Thoughts such as, “Who do I think I am to reach for these dreams?” flooded my mind. Fear of failure washed over me like a tsunami. If I just give up I don’t have to risk failing. In effect, I flush away my dreams so no evidence remains.

I’ve heard it said that people who avoid failure also avoid success. I don’t want to be one of those people so will take the final words on the sign to heart. Hopes and dreams are not to be flushed away.

When you fall into the trap of making excuses, you limit yourself from going after your dreams. “I can’t” is the lie you tell yourself so you don’t have to try.” – Robert Herjavec