I was attending a silent retreat. While I was not speaking, things were far from silent. Sitting in the morning sunshine I was serenaded by the songs of various birds. Some I would have noticed before, but there are many I would have missed amid the sounds of human voices.
Even though I was not speaking aloud, the voices in my head continued. Random thoughts appear in my conscious mind, taking me back to the busy life I’d left behind. It was during these times that I realized how difficult it is to focus on only the present.
I gazed over an expanse of lawn, framed by towering evergreens. Off to one side, a river wound its way lazily through the property. I was surrounded by the beauty and majesty that God had created. In my mind, I heard the words “be still and know that I am God”.
It is in the stillness that God’s message for me becomes clear. For only when I block out the distractions of the world am I truly able to focus on the loving relationship that my Heavenly Father longs to have with me. There is peace, stillness for my mind and renewal for my soul to be found in the silence.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NIV
This is found in my book Inspirations From the Everyday. This past weekend I once again attended this silent retreat and had the same profund experience.
I was standing in the grass on a highway median, doing my best to keep three little girls occupied while a tire on their parents’ vehicle was being changed. They were starting to get restless when I spotted movement in the tall grass.
Showing them the grasshopper was a wonderful distraction. Soon we were on the hunt for more of these insects.
Two of the girls excitedly spotted several more and delighted in watching them hop. The other one complained that she couldn’t see grasshoppers; all she could see were bugs. Explaining that they were the grasshoppers didn’t help. She wanted nothing to do with them.
Reflecting on this later, I wondered how often I’d missed the wonder of something new because I couldn’t see past my perception of what I thought it should be.
Life is full of exciting adventures, but only if I open my heart and mind to accept and receive them. Immediately deciding that I don’t want or like something means I’ll miss these discoveries. It’s when I forget my routine life and enter into the adventure that I can truly experience all the wonders in store for me.
This story was taken from my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake
Spring takes a long time to arrive in Southern Alberta. When it finally arrives, it makes up for lost time. In the span of a week, the trees were full of leaves and brightly coloured blossoms. The lawn was lush and green and we could practically watch it grow. The other sure sign of spring is the profusion of dandelions.
The bright yellow flowers are a favourite for young children to pick. They look so pretty that it’s hard to remember that they are weeds. When the flower dies, the plant produces seeds. Dandelions can produce up to 20,000 seeds which are blown by the wind, landing somewhere they can germinate and grow. Left unchecked, a few dandelions can quickly spread.
I may follow all measures to rid my lawn of dandelions, but if my neighbours do not do the same, I will be faced with many more of these weeds in the future.
The same is true in my life. I know the things I need to do to keep my life running smoothly. Slowly I have let little weeds enter, feeling that they are small enough to not cause problems. Once I allow them to take hold, they put down roots, spread their seeds and multiply. Soon my life is overrun and I’m left wondering what happened.
Jesus plants only good, fruitful seeds in my life. My responsibility is to nurture these seeds and not to allow the weeds to choke them out. By walking closely with Jesus, I can eliminate the weeds and live the fruitful life that he has planned for me.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:23 NKJV
Way back in time, when I was a child, play times with friends were not normally prearranged. We just headed outside and down the street until we found someone to play with.
Much was the same when my children were young. They went into the neighbourhood, connected with friends and came back home for dinner.
Today, between the busy work schedules of parents and extracurricular activities for kids, this is more challenging. Add in the media warnings not to leave children unattended and the kind of play other generations participated in is no longer commonplace.
The social interaction of play is important so play dates are arranged in order to make it happen.
If this is a good idea for children, it makes sense to me the same would hold true for adults. My friends and I may have good intentions but we can go months without actually seeing each other.
When it does happen it’s usually two of us meeting at a coffee shop or over lunch. After an hour or so, we are both on our way again.
I decided I wanted more than that so arranged a play date with three other friends. We met at the home studio of another friend and spent an entire afternoon talking and laughing as we stepped out of our comfort zone and learned to work with resin.
The afternoon was a success. Everyone agreed we should do it again next month. The projects we created were a bonus as the real prize was the time spent having fun together. My biggest take away from the day was that play dates are good for adults too!
Recently I told you about the small coloured flags scattered throughout my neighbourhood. Mine is one of the many yards to have another feature added.
Men arrived in my yard one day and dug a deep hole. It was fenced off by a piece of wood on four sides with orange reflective tape strung between them. A piece of plywood with the words Danger Deep Hole spray painted on the surface covered the hole.
Once the service work has been completed, the hole will be filled in and the wood and tape removed. In the meantime, these markings serve as a warning to keep me from falling into the pit.
Even though the area marked off in my yard is not as large as in some others, it could still be hazardous to stumble into.
I haven’t fallen into a physical hole but have slipped into pits of despair. My missteps led me onto unstable ground and I ended up in a deep, dark hole. There were probably warning signs but nothing as obvious as reflective tape and spray painted letters.
There seemed no way to climb out of the mud and mire. I wallowed in this despair until I called out to the one who could rescue me. The Lord heard my cry and lifted me up. He lovingly set my feet on solid ground. With Him walking beside me I am not concerned about falling into this pit again.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. (Psalm 40:2 NLT)
My husband was mowing the lawn at our son’s house when our granddaughters came home from school. Two came out to see him. One of the girls had a friend with her and hesitated before making an introduction. Then she turned to her friend and said, “This is the guy who comes to cut our grass.”
Brian choked back his laughter at the time but was still chuckling about it when he got home. We joked about this unusual introduction and knew it made a funny story to tell. It also made me stop and think.
We talked about the reasoning behind this. My husband was not there in his role as a grandfather; instead, he was in the back yard mowing the lawn. He was defined that day by what he was doing, not who he was.
How often do we describe ourselves by what we do? I know I’ve been guilty of this. When asked about myself I tend to tell you I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. You may learn about some of the jobs I’ve held, my volunteer activities or that I am now retired. You’ll definitely hear about my grandchildren!
These are all an important part of the woman I’ve become but they don’t define me. There is much more to me than that. I am an observer of life, a lover of nature and an encourager who is passionate about sharing from my heart.
Unless I communicate with you on a deeper level you will only know me by what I do and not who I am.
I’d like to know you better. What are your passions? Help me learn who you are.
Today I am celebrating the seventh anniversary of this blog by sharing the first story I ever posted. ‘Under Construction’ also appears in my book Inspirations From the Everyday.
I had just returned from a road trip with a couple of friends. This seemed to be the time of year that there was a lot of road construction going on. Some roads had barriers blocking off one lane while the road was being improved.
Others were full of potholes that jarred the vehicle as we drove through them. One stretch of road had so many patches of fresh tar, that driving around them was like being on an obstacle course. A few times we travelled on gravel for several kilometers.
All of this reminded me of life. Our lives are constantly under construction. We’re jarred by the unexpected potholes we encounter. Lots of times we have problems that stick to us like tar. We don’t fully appreciate the smooth road of life until we have bumped along on the gravel for awhile.
Just like driving on roads under construction, things may be tougher to navigate but we can do it if we slow down and consider the situation we are travelling through.
God is working in us, reconstructing and repairing the damage that has been done. The process is not always pleasant, but it is necessary to enable us to travel the road that He has prepared for us.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
Small red, orange and yellow flags are scattered in front yards all along my street. They mark service lines for gas, electricity, cable and internet.
Fibre optic internet is being installed in our neighbourhood, and the markers are necessary to identify the various lines so none are compromised when the new cable is run from the street to the homes.
Someone came to my door and asked me to sign an agreement allowing the service line to be run to our house. I asked a few questions and was given some interesting information.
During the construction of new homes, service providers bury the lines about four feet deep. Over time frost heaves and other conditions move them upwards. Since they are hidden from view no one knows exactly how close to the surface they have become. That is why everything is marked and checked before any further work can be done.
The reason this conversation stuck in my mind had nothing to do with what was happening on our street. Instead, it had everything to do with unpleasant things from my past I attempt to bury and forget.
I thought the pain of these hurts was pushed so far down in my subconscious I’d never have to deal with it again. Sooner or later these issues make their way to the surface.
I attempt to push them back underground again knowing this is only a short term remedy. The markers are there, reminding me of what is just below the surface.
Experience has taught me that feelings buried alive never die. Only when I acknowledge the hurts and truly forgive myself or others, will I be set free.
Instead of markers to be concerned about, I plant the seeds of a bright future and watch expectantly as they bloom.
I put my hand on my husband’s arm to quietly stop him. “Look,” I whispered as I pointed to the yard we were passing by. At the side of the house were a mother duck with ten or twelve fluffy ducklings walking in a line behind her.
The previous week I enjoyed seeing this family in a nearby creek. Now I was concerned to see them three streets away and dangerously close to a busy street.
“You’re going the wrong way,” we said. “There’s no water here.” I wished there was some way to redirect these waterfowl in order to keep them from harm.
The ducklings trusted their mother so obediently followed where she led. I’m fairly certain she had no intention of leading her babies into danger. She probably lost her way and was trying to find her way back.
Have you ever been led astray by a well-meaning person? Or, perhaps you’ve been the one who unintentionally led one or more in the wrong direction. No matter how well-intentioned, we all lose our way sometimes.
I know I have sometimes wondered how I ended up so far from where I wanted to be. Was I following blindly without paying attention?
To keep this from happening I’ve learned to pray and seek guidance from the Lord. He knows where I should be and how to get me there. Only one leader can be counted on to never lead me astray. That is why I choose to follow Jesus.
[The Lord says,] “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 GWT)
A heavily tattooed man walked past. Our topic of conversation changed as one woman told us of an experience she had several years ago.
She was a teacher and the mother of one of her students had multiple tattoos. At first glance, judgments were made about this woman’s lifestyle and character.
The teacher learned a lesson when she actually got to know the student’s mother. She said, “This woman was gentle, kind and highly educated. She was totally opposite to what I expected and I knew how wrong my initial impression had been. Since then I do my best not to judge anyone based on appearance.”
I know someone who had a medical condition that caused her to gain a lot of weight. This, in itself, was difficult enough. She told me that people no longer looked her in the eye when they passed on the sidewalk. It was if she no longer existed. Did others judge her as unworthy of respect due to the extra weight she carried? Her story caused me to reevaluate the way I experience strangers. There is so much more to someone than how they look.
As an extremely shy teenager, I overheard a conversation referring to me as stuck-up. It was actually the opposite. Instead of thinking I was better than the others; I didn’t think I was good enough to speak to them. I remained in the shadows, wishing for the confidence to tell them the truth. These judgments defined me for many years.
I wish I could say I am free from judgments. That would be a lie. I’m working on it and getting much better, but they still slip in. Remembering they are usually wrong helps. With this in mind, I know most of my harshest judgments are against me.
“Judgment means that you view the world as you are, rather than as it is.” Wayne Dyer