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I Had to Give Up Control

perspective“Can I come for a play date?” I asked. My friend teaches craft classes and is overflowing with talent and creativity.

I told her a couple of things I’d like to try and said she could choose which one we’d work on. We set a date for the following week and agreed I’d wait until I arrived to find out what I’d be creating.

Since I have complete trust in my friend, I had no concerns about her giving me a project I wouldn’t enjoy.

When I arrived, my work space contained a large white tile, several small bottles of coloured liquid, two bottles of clear liquid, and a few other assorted items.

I was told I’d be working with alcohol ink. After a lesson on how to use it, I was set free to experiment before choosing what my final project would be.

The first thing I discovered was a lack of control over the designs made by the ink. I couldn’t set out to paint a specific item or scene. Once I made peace with that, I was free to explore the possibilities. The different tools for blowing the ink made varying patterns. The effects created were fascinating.

Somehow, knowing I could change the design by what Iiquid I next placed on the tile gave me the confidence to embrace spontaneous creativity. The happy little accidents gave me more pleasure than if I’d had complete control over the outcome.

I had always thought my life ran better when I had control. Giving it up was very uncomfortable for me. Maybe I had to look at control from another perspective.

My experience in playing with alcohol ink showed me that too much control stifles creativity. The ability to be flexible and go with the flow, can serve me well. This is true not only in artistic endeavors, but also in life.

I got more than I bargained for in this play date. I wonder what I’ll learn in the next one!

go with the flow
One of my finished projects

Culverts + Curiosity = New perspective

life lessons, observationsI’ve probably walked past this spot over a hundred times in the past two years. One day recently, I saw the culvert where the creek passes under the road in a new way. It looked like either the eyes of an owl or a giant pair of glasses!

I stopped and took a picture. Then, I got curious as to what the world looked like through these eyes. In order to find out, I had to backup several steps and then get down to ground level.

Where the previous angle only allowed me to see dark water; now I saw the reflection of blue sky, puffy clouds, trees and dry grasses. The change in perspective made a huge difference. Several more pictures were taken to provide a reminder of this.

I had been stuck in a rut and forgotten how to view my circumstances differently. First, I had to use my imagination and get curious about other possibilities. Next, I had to take a few steps back from my current point of view. Finally, I had to look at things from another angle.

When I followed these three steps, I discovered the beauty and clarity I’d been missing. It had been there all along. I just hadn’t seen it.

The saying about owls being wise must be true, because it was the image of owl eyes seen on the culvert that prompted the curiosity which led me to the perspective I’d been in need of.


new perspective

                                                        New Perspective

Lost Innocence

decisions, respect, deceitMy thoughts and conversation were dominated by one subject. After asking how the situation was going, my friend said, “You’re grieving your loss of innocence.” I laughed and told her that at my age, innocence was long gone.

Her further explanation gave me a lot to think about.

We’ve been coming to the same area for many years. The people are friendly and respectful. We have shown trust and respect to them in return.

Recently, someone broke that trust and deceived us. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and worked at a resolution. Our efforts were ignored, leaving us with a loss of time, money and trust.

Perhaps we’d been foolish in our actions. We hadn’t had a bad experience up to this point and failed to exercise the caution we should have. My belief in the inherent goodness and honesty of all business people had been broken. My friend was right in her assessment. I’d been innocent and now my eyes were open.

Looking at the situation as a learning experience helped me release the negative feelings I was holding. I was able to let go of the bitterness and anger. My thoughts were no longer dominated by this matter and life became peaceful again.

It was an expensive lesson, but could have been much worse.

As I was thinking about how people who are trusting are sometimes deceived, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden came to mind. They trusted the innocent looking serpent and allowed him to deceive them. That didn’t turn out well for them or for mankind.

The bottom line is, they didn’t talk to God before making a big decision. Neither did we. We trust He will take care of us, but failed to seek his guidance in this matter.

Maybe my loss of innocence was the only way for God to impress upon me the importance of trusting him and not my own limited understanding. In that case, the lesson was worth the price.

Life is Like a Grapefruit

life lessons, observationsI enjoy fresh grapefruit with my breakfast. Lately, several observations have been made that led me to believe I could learn a lot about life from a grapefruit.

Grapefruits come in many sizes. The biggest are not always the best! Some of the larger ones I’ve had have been a disappointment in flavour and juiciness. In life, some of the bigger things I’ve gone after have not brought the satisfaction I’d hoped for.

Some grapefruits have smooth skin and some are bumpy and scarred. This is not an accurate reflection of what I will find on the inside. I have been pleasantly surprised by the sweetness of those less pleasing to the eye. If I only chose life experiences by those that looked the most perfect, I’d have missed much of the sweetness in my life.

One grapefruit was juicy and sweet until I came to a section or two that had tough, fibrous pieces. They were put aside and I continued to enjoy the remainder of my breakfast. As in life, I have the choice to focus on what isn’t as I’d hoped, or to carry forward and enjoy the rest.

Usually, I find seeds. The ones with many require a little more effort to eat. These seeds represent future growth. Left in nature, they would develop into more fruit. They remind me of the seeds of possibility in my life. What seems like an inconvenience may actually be an opportunity for future potential.

One morning I was enjoying what seemed like the perfect grapefruit when it squirted me in the eye! Even when all seems to be going smoothly, there can be something that catches me unaware. Do I get upset, or put it into perspective and move on?

It’s no wonder I enjoy this fruit. Not only is it juicy and refreshing, it reminds me to how to best enjoy life and its constant changes and challenges.

Soar Like a Pelican

nature, birds, lessons
photo credit: Caroline McFarland, Unsplash

Pelicans are not birds I expected to appear graceful. To me, these seabirds seemed ungainly.

My opinion changed as I watched several soaring over-head. With large wings outstretched, they caught an air current and let it carry them. Far above the water, they circled, dipped slightly and rose high again. All of this was done without much need to flap their wings. They understood the advantage of going with the flow – airflow in this case.

A flock of small white birds flew much lower and their wings worked hard to keep them aloft. They were using their own strength and not riding the current of air. They landed and took off again frequently.

More times than I care to admit, I am like the small birds. In order to stay aloft, I flap harder to keep going. My own strength is never enough for what I want to accomplish and the effort exhausts me.

As I watched, a brown pelican did its spectacular plunge-dive. These birds can be flying as high as ten meters (33 feet) and when they spot their prey, fold back their large wings and plunge to the sea to catch it. The speed with which they do this is amazing.

I can’t help but think this speed is possible because energy has been conserved when flying. They make efficient use of the resources available to them.

I want to be like the pelican and allow the wind beneath my wings to help me soar. When I rely on Jesus, he enables me to reach heights I would never achieve on my own. His strength sustains and guides me.

The choice is mine. Will I flap hard and stay close to the ground or soar like a pelican?

Stacking Stones

nature, stones, pathThe walking path was set above a rocky incline that led to the river below. A chain link fence kept pedestrians safe while still affording a view of the scenic valley.

I absorbed this tranquil scene on a late summer morning. My gaze was focused on the distance and I almost missed the surprise near the opposite side of the fence.

My husband asked if I’d noticed them yet and I paused to see what he was talking about. Someone had taken the time to stack numerous piles of stones into various shapes. Some stacks had only a few stones balanced on top of each other. Others were in the shapes of animals or birds.

The more I looked, the more of these stone sculptures I saw. The vast number of them was incredible. A precise balancing act was required for each. I wondered at the time commitment this project had required. Was this the work of one or many? Was it done for artistic expression or perhaps a deeper meaning was implied?

In biblical times, stones were stacked in remembrance of the blessings God had provided. Future generations would ask about these stones and be told the story of what God had done for their ancestors. In this way, the memories were passed down and kept alive.

Today I don’t make physical piles of stones. My life, however, has had many occasions worthy of stones of remembrance. I need to find another way to keep these stories alive so those coming after me will know of The Lord’s blessings.

While I have breath, I can speak of them. Written words are my preferred form of preserving stories for future generations. Others may choose various forms of artistic expression.

As one year comes to an end and a new one is on the horizon, I will reflect on the blessings I’ve received. Amid the ups and downs of life, I choose to focus on the positives. Some will reside only in my memory and others will be recorded, reminiscent of stacking stones.

Our stories are not only an encouragement to those we share them with but also an offering of praise to the Lord. How are you stacking your stones?

Reflection of What’s Inside

reflections, window, what I seeLate one afternoon, my husband and I sat at the table playing cards. We also enjoyed a clear view of the sea from our third-floor dwelling. Our attention frequently shifted to a couple of wind surfers who would zip by in one direction before turning around and going past the opposite way. I wondered aloud how they managed to keep the wind in their sails no matter which way they faced.

As the daylight faded, we turned on a light in order to continue our game. The wind surfers were still visible. I watched one fall several times and thought it was time for them to head for shore before darkness settled around them. The sun sets quickly here. One moment we have dusk and the next is blackness.

Moments later, I struggled to see the view outside my window. The outside world had become dark and I could only see was what was inside, reflected in the glass. I was looking at me!

I thought of this at church on Sunday, when the third advent candle, the one representing joy, was lit. We are called to be joyous people. I had become distracted by a disappointment that was consuming my thoughts. My focus was on my perceived lack and not on the blessings surrounding me. No wonder my view of the outside world had darkened.

Repentance quickly followed as I was reminded anew of the joy I have in Jesus. My journey into the darkness enabled me to fully appreciate the light. As we prepare for Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth, I pray the joy of the Lord will be reflected to those I encounter.

From my home to yours, Merry Christmas.

No Big Deal

gift of timeThanks to a broken washing machine and parts on backorder, I had only been able to do laundry once in the three weeks we’d been in Mexico. It was easy to wash underwear in the sink and hang to dry. Shorts and tops were a little more difficult.

Our neighbour asked frequently if our machine was working yet. Upon hearing the answer, she’d offer the use of hers. I didn’t want to be a bother so would always decline.

A couple of days ago she saw my husband outside and told him to have me bring over our dirty clothes for her to wash. The time had come to accept her offer. We were heading out for most of the day and she said she’d take care of the laundry while we were gone.

Upon returning home, we found a bag of freshly laundered and neatly folded clothes by our door. She wasn’t home so I had to wait until the next day to thank her. When I expressed my appreciation, she said, “It was no big deal.” I assured her it was a big deal to me. Her pleasure at being of assistance was evident.

This situation brought two important lessons to mind. Firstly, I know how good it feels to be able to do something to help another, yet I often deny others the pleasure of doing something for me. They can’t give if I won’t receive.

Secondly, time is one of the most valuable gifts we can offer. An act of service requiring our time may be no big deal to us, but it can make a huge difference to the one we offer it to.

In this season of giving, let’s remember our time may mean more to someone than any expensive gifts we could give. It is priceless, yet costs us little. And, best of all, both the giver and receiver are blessed.

Endless Cycle

short circuit
photo credit: Unsplash

The majority of our towels were used to mop up streams of water running along our tile floor. Once the leak was taken care of and the floor dried, I loaded the towels into the washing machine.

The machine filled, agitated, spun a little and filled again. This cycle repeated for the next several hours. We tried everything we could think of to get to the end of the cycle, including shaking the machine and pushing the buttons numerous times.

Eventually we unplugged the machine. It hadn’t been used for awhile and we thought maybe it overheated and needed a rest.

For the next two days we were stuck in this endless cycle. The lid was locked and our towels were trapped. This happened on a holiday weekend so we had to wait until Tuesday to contact a repairman.

The problem was quickly discovered and a part ordered to replace the faulty one. Nothing we did during the past few days could have made a difference when something inside, where we couldn’t see it, had short circuited.

Have you ever been caught in an endless cycle? No matter what you try, a satisfying conclusion seems to be out of your reach. I know it’s happened to me.

It may be that something beyond our limited vision is broken. When trying the same thing over and over doesn’t work, a new approach is needed. I have had to acknowledge the situation is out of my control and seek outside assistance. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to ask for help.

Just like with my washing machine, the fix isn’t always instantaneous. The waiting period teaches me patience and I have confidence the end result will be worth the wait.

Lest We Forget

Jesus, sacrificeToday’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)