As a child I enjoyed doing connect the dots pictures. Sometimes I could guess what the picture would look like before I started and other times it was a surprise.
Recently I bought a book with difficult dot to dot pictures. Most have close to five hundred dots and the lines often crisscross or head off in unusual directions. Sometimes they come back to where I thought they should be and other times surprise me with what they create.
Once in a while I haven’t been able to find the next number in sequence. I’ve learned I can start over in a new area and eventually I will find what was needed.
Even when the picture is completed, I can’t always immediately see the image I’ve created. I may have to look at it from a distance to see the big picture and not just the connecting dots.
This book reminds me of life. I don’t always move in a straightforward manner to reach my destination. I may double back or go in the opposite direction for a time. When I temporarily lose my way, I can start over from where I am. Every move I make is contributing to the overall picture of my life. Some days it is far more complicated than others.
At the end of the day I may wonder if I’ve been productive. That’s when I need to step back and look at the day from a distance. This other perspective may be just what is needed. I am able to see the big picture and know where to add colour or shading to enhance what was created.
No matter how I feel about the result, I know that tomorrow I will open the page to a new puzzle and follow the dots to see what this one has in store for me.
The image was quite striking. The concrete steps had what looked like a supporting frame on either side. Other than that, there was nothing attached to join these side pillars to anything else. The stairs were on an angle, tipped backwards into the sand. Abandoned.
I wondered what this scene had once looked like. Were these steps that led out to a world of adventure and later back to the safety and comfort of home? Did they watch children go over them to play on the beach? Maybe they welcomed guests to an outdoor patio gathering. There are many stories I could tell myself about what they had been. I have no way of knowing the real story.
Now they were a sad sight. They led to nowhere.
I could go over them and around them and still be basically in the same place. My steps would be wasted as they would lead nowhere.
This was a visual reminder of what can happen to me if I’m not careful. Without clear direction, my dreams of what life can look like remain only dreams. The plans I have for my life will not be fulfilled.
I think of times I’ve been disappointed when what I had worked towards did not bring about the results I’d hoped for. Sometimes I’ve abandoned my dreams the same way these stairs on the beach had been abandoned.
There is a better way. My direction needs to come from the Lord. I can make all of the plans I want but until I trust the Lord to determine my steps, they may be getting me nowhere.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
Less than a week ago, countless tributes were made to a much-loved man as he was laid to rest. He left this earth suddenly and far too early. Those who cared about him didn’t have the chance to express what he meant to them.
No one knew that the last words spoken between them were to be their final goodbye. Now it was too late to tell him of the difference he made in their lives.
His impact on the people he came in contact with was undeniable. Hearing the stories of what he had done, quietly behind the scenes made me aspire to be a better person.
A few days later, I read of a woman with a terminal illness who has been told she has mere months to live. Her friend asked how it felt to live like you were dying. The answer was a surprise. She said she was not living like she was dying; she was living like she was living.
This woman was at peace with the limited time she has left and was making the most of it. I was inspired by her outlook.
None of us know how many breaths we have left to take. It is important to live our days fully. Spend time with your friends and family. Let them know how much they mean to you. Don’t let your feelings remain unspoken.
Follow your dreams while you are able. Don’t look back with regret over things you did not do. Instead, reflect on your life and be amazed at all you accomplished.
Leave the world a better place for having been here. You have but one life to live. What are you going to do with it?
I have made a conscious decision not to waste the precious moments I’ve been given. It’s time to live like I was living. I am going to live now.
Last weekend my husband and I attended a dance competition to watch our ten-year-old granddaughter. She does highland dance and the accompanying music is provided by a piper.
As well as the traditional Highland Fling, there was also a Santa Fling. We had fun watching the dancers do the traditional steps to a bagpipe version of Jingle Bells!
During the morning, I learned some dances can have variations to steps and arm movements. Not all dance schools teach the same version and this is totally acceptable to the judges.
I commented to my daughter that it must be distracting for a dancer to have the person beside her doing different movements. She told me it was the responsibility of the dancer to be aware of the space around her. If one bumped into another both would be penalized.
The footwork is quite intricate and I could appreciate the difficulty of focusing on their own moves without becoming distracted by others doing different steps. At the same time, they need to constantly be aware of those nearby. A lack of concentration could cause problems for more than themselves.
This was such a good analogy for life. There are multiple ways of getting from point A to point B. I don’t have to do it the same way as everyone else. The important things to remember are to focus on my own steps rather than trying to match the ones someone else is taking and to ensure my movements are not going to cause problems for those around me. My goal is to master this as well as those young dancers did.
It had been an incredible travel adventure. Our trip was much more than we had imagined or hoped for.
Now, after almost eight weeks on the road, it was time to start the long drive home. As soon as our van was headed west again, I just wanted to get home. And get there as soon as possible. I was anxious to return to the comfort and familiarity of my family and my permanent address.
One day before we were to arrive home, the conflict set in. Although I wanted to be home, maybe I wasn’t quite ready. There was still so much to see and do. I was weary of the travel yet not quite willing to give it up.
This change in attitude was confusing me. How could I reconcile my mind being pulled in two opposite directions?
On the radio came a song that spoke about resting in heaven when our work on earth is done. My conflict made sense when I could relate travel to my life on earth and going home to eternal rest and peace in heaven.
I wonder if I will experience any of this same conflict when that day comes to say goodbye to loved ones and enter my heavenly home. Will I feel ready to leave everything and everyone I know?
With only a few hours to go, I received a message from my son, asking if we would make it home that day. As soon as I read it, the earlier conflict disappeared. All I wanted was to see and hug my family.
I’m sure it will be the same when God’s son, Jesus, calls me home. There will be no hesitation as I hurry into His open arms.
“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:3 NLT)
My husband and I enjoy visiting farmer’s markets and speaking to the vendors. We always find it interesting to learn about why they are producing and selling their products.
During our travels, we heard several stories that inspired us with their passion. These were the people we wanted to support with our purchases.
One woman had moved far from home to take a high paying job. She worked hard, saved her money and after several years was able to move back to her small hometown with the funds needed to start her own business. The dairy-free cheese and dips she made were delicious. She told us of many trials before the recipes were perfected. Now she was producing a product that was filling a need. She was passionate about what she did and it showed.
Another woman had a small vintage trailer in a market parking lot. We commented on her trailer and were treated to a little of her life story. Michele had a mother fighting cancer. She realized life is too short to be unhappy so took early retirement. Her retirement fund was spent purchasing and fixing up the trailer and doing some bucket list travelling. Now she was doing what she loved, making crafts and selling them at markets. She had a passion for life and living it to the fullest.
These were only two of the stories we heard. Both women had to make sacrifices to follow their dreams. Both told us how much happier they were now they were living with passion and purpose.
When I live with passion, I am better able to support and encourage others wanting to do the same.
Do you have a dream you’d like to follow? What would it take for you to live a life of passion? How can I encourage you?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
The ever changing conditions during our ten hours on the road seemed to me like a metaphor for life.
The morning started out misty, with low clouds hugging the hillsides. Splashes of colour visible between the clouds provided a welcome contrast to the greyness surrounding us.
Soon we encountered pouring rain and poor visibility. The view around us became obscured.
In the distance I could make out the faint outline of rolling hills. Then, muted colours appeared. As we neared, I saw the vibrant hues of fall foliage. The beauty was a reprieve amid the overcast skies.
I was aware that the colour had been there all along. It had just been hidden from view by the storm we were passing through.
In early afternoon the sun broke through. We thought our drive would now be more pleasant. Instead, we were faced with a new challenge as strong headwinds seemed determined to hold us back. We fought through them and kept going.
The highway turned and the wind attacked from another direction. It became a cross wind that tried to blow us off course. Strength and determination helped us hold onto our bearings.
We persevered and after a long day of driving, reached our destination. Our journey would continue the next day.
We had no idea what would be in store for us the following day but two things were clear. The challenges we faced today not only made us stronger but have also given us a deeper appreciation for the smoother days when they come.
I am drawn to campfires. Sometimes I roast marshmallows and other times I am content just to sit near and appreciate the beauty a fire has to offer. I like to watch the flames lick and dance and when they have burned down, I’m enthralled with the glow of the embers.
Our eleven-year-old grandson, Logan, also has a love of campfires. Unlike me, he is not content to sit idly beside one. Instead, he wants to tend the fire, turning over and rearranging the burning logs.
He joined us for a fire recently and, poker in hand enjoyed rearranging the burning pieces of wood. When the flames died down, he used his poker to break up the glowing embers and move them away from the rest of the fire.
It didn’t take long before the glow left these embers, making them look like lumps of coal. Logan commented on this and we told him to move the dark pieces of charred wood close to the larger ones still showing the red and orange of fire within. Pieces recently removed ignited quickly; ones that had grown cold took a little longer. Some needed to be completely surrounded by the pieces with fire still alive inside them. Eventually, all of them burned brightly again.
I have had experiences where the flame of passion for life has died down. Just as an ember removed from the fire grows cold, the same happened to me when I distanced myself from other believers. I discovered the colder I became, the longer it took to reignite my spark.
This is a good reminder to surround myself with positive, encouraging people. Together we can fan the flames of potential each of us carries. As followers of Jesus, we can be the spark that points others to His love and light.
(Jesus said) “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV)
The exercise instructor added some new challenges to our water aerobics class. We had to keep our feet off of the bottom of the pool while moving them in a cross-country ski motion. In order to keep afloat, our arms were busy sculling at the same time.
When we were allowed to touch the bottom again the instructor told us to come up kicking. There was to be no pause. We went directly from fighting to keep our heads above water to kicking our legs up high.
After the class (I was too busy trying to breathe during it!) I thought about the come up kicking statement.
There have been times when the bottom seems to have dropped out of my life and I’ve had to fight hard to keep from going under. It takes everything I have just to stay afloat.
Eventually, I am able to put my feet on solid ground. The natural inclination is to rest. Far more beneficial is to come up kicking. It isn’t easy but the head start I gain will give me a much better chance of reaching my goal.
Past experience has taught me that what I achieve is directly proportionate to the effort I am willing to put in. In other words, how committed am I to what I say I want?
“Next, we’re going to do something called the conga.” It didn’t take long before I figured out this wasn’t a fun dance the exercise instructor was referring to.
We were to do the same exercise for three minutes. It was broken into segments with the first twenty seconds being easy, the next twenty seconds being harder and the final twenty going full out. Then we would repeat the sequence.
We were to think of it as, life is good, life is not so good and yikes! It was the intervals of varying intensity that would give us the most benefit.
I can see how this cycle is repeated in everyday life. As much as I would like to stay in the life is good phase, this is a period of rest and not of personal growth.
When life is not so good, I need to work harder to keep a positive outlook. There are lessons to be learned if I take the time to look for them.
Then come the periods when I’ve been knocked down and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get up again. Everything seems to be fighting against me. It takes every bit of energy I have just to put one foot in front of the other. It hurts to stay in this place and I have to find a way out. This is when I need to dig deep and find strength and courage to forge ahead.
Each cycle will eventually flow into the next and contribute to a higher purpose.
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb