Rivulets of water ran down my body as I pulled back the shower curtain and stepped onto the bath mat. My hand automatically reached for the towel, even while my eyes stared in disbelief. My bath towel was nowhere to be seen.
Too late, I remembered my plan to replace it after doing laundry the previous day. It had slipped my mind and now I would pay the price for my lack of attention.
I scanned the bathroom and my gaze rested on a hand towel. At least I could get some of the water off of me before I dripped my way to the linen closet.
Much to my surprise, I dried my entire body with this one small towel. Until I did it, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. My oversize bath sheet was not the necessity I thought, but a luxury.
My mind drifted back to this several times over the next few days. How many times in the past had I failed to be grateful for what I had, thinking it was not enough?
The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. This is not always easy to do. I have found that, like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when I thank God for what He has provided for me, my needs are always met.
That is why my gratitude journal tonight will contain an unusual entry; one that expresses thanks for the reminder that a small towel is enough.
Yesterday, my steps were lively when I went for a brisk morning walk. When I set out this morning, that energy was sadly lacking.
The muscles in my legs cried out in protest. My breaths were shallow and laboured.
Several times I considered turning back. Images of the adventure race we’d watched on TV last night flickered through my mind. “At least I’m on a paved path and not slogging through dense jungle or climbing a rope up the rocky face of a waterfall,” I thought. Resolutely, I put one foot in front of the other with the knowledge I would complete the five kilometers I’d set out to do.
I slowed my pace a little and a strange thing happened. My attitude shifted. Body aches were no longer felt and my grumbling turned to gratitude for the beauty of nature surrounding me. Golden leaves highlighted by bright sunshine were noticed and appreciated. The smooth waters of the pond reflected a fountain and the shore grasses. I stopped several times to take pictures.
Attuned to my surroundings rather than racing ahead, I heard a splash in the creek and stopped to watch a muskrat barely ripple the water as it swam downstream. Had all of this been here yesterday and I’d failed to notice?
I was reminded how much I miss when I am so focused on the goal that I forget to enjoy the journey. I smiled as I continued my walk, wondering what adventure I’d find around the bend now that I was no longer racing against the clock.
“You have a beautiful yard,” I told my friend. “It must take a lot of time and effort to maintain.”
“I do spend many hours weeding,” Robert admitted. Then he shared a wisdom that is both simple and profound.
“If I look at the entire task, it can be overwhelming. I’ve learned to tackle it one weed at a time.”
One weed at a time. That is a great motto for life! What does this phrase say to you?
Weeds left unattended in a garden will take over and choke out the good plants. In the same way, weeds in my life can also choke out the good things.
It is unrealistic to think I can eliminate all of the weeds, or negative attitudes and behaviours in my life in one fell swoop. I can, however, work on them bit by bit. When I release a grudge I hold, the anger is loosened making it easier to uproot and get rid of it.
By pulling out this weed, peace and forgiveness are able to take root in its place. Every time I choose love and understanding over judgement, another weed is removed.
I am most productive when I focus only on the weed directly in front of me and spend the time necessary to get to the root of the matter. Some require more digging in order to unearth them.
Thanks to Robert’s advice, I will no longer be discouraged by the task in front of me. Instead, I will glance back and appreciate how far I’ve come, one weed at a time.
“Would you be able to keep Oreo for about 5 days?” my friend asked. Many years had passed since we’d been responsible for a pet but this cute little hypo-allergenic dog knew us and shouldn’t be a problem so we agreed to take care of her.
As we were temporarily living in a campground and not a home with a fenced backyard, I had to ensure she was on a leash every time we stepped outside.
I soon learned that she sometimes wanted to go places that she shouldn’t. Some, like the neighbour’s campsite weren’t appropriate. Others, like in front of an oncoming vehicle were not safe.
At those time I would shorten her leash. This made her unhappy and she would balk and strain against me to go her own way. I chose her well-being over her immediate happiness.
I also discovered there was little patience when I stopped to clean up after her. She wanted to be off again right away.
It occurred to me that God sometimes has to keep me on a short leash. I complain and want to go farther than I’m being allowed. I forget that what I want isn’t always what is best for me. When I make a mess of things, I just want to move away and put it behind me. God, however, makes me wait until the clean-up has been taken care of.
Most of the time I’m free to roam where I choose. It is only when my behaviour becomes a problem that I feel the tug of my conscience. This is my Master, reminding me of His care and protection. When I look at it that way, I can appreciate the occasional need for a short leash.
Have you ever had a day where the minutes crept by so slowly, they felt like hours? Our condo reveal was scheduled for late in the day and I kept checking my watch to ensure it hadn’t stopped. Longest. Afternoon. Ever.
We arrived a little early and parked nearby while we waited for the text to say they were ready for us. “You can come now,” the text said and we quickly made our way to the building.
The elevator opened and two of our granddaughters were waiting to escort us down the hall. The third was waiting near our door with her parents. I did my best to remain calm as approach was filmed.
We had mentioned earlier that this was like a HGTV show and in that moment, it certainly felt like we were starring in an episode!
“Are you ready to see your new home?” we were asked. Chris and Jackie stepped aside to reveal the entire door covered with a banner showing Extreme Home Makeover. All we had to do to move that bus was to open the door!
We walked through and caught the first glimpse of our home. It was beautiful! We’d seen a small sample of the flooring but the full effect was stunning. Then I turned towards the kitchen and saw the white cabinets, quartz countertops and gleaming stainless-steel appliances.
There were so many details to take in that it took a few minutes to realize the slanted half wall I’d been asked about had been reconfigured to give more space for cabinetry. What a dramatic transformation!
We were led through the remainder of the condo and admired a fresh paint colour, new baseboards and casings, updated light fixtures, custom closets, a knockdown ceiling and all the modern finishing we’d seen in new buildings.
They did an amazing job of creating a beautiful home for us. I look around at the attention to little details I wouldn’t have thought of and see the love that was poured into this project. This was one surprise that was definitely worth waiting.
I’m sure you’ve read enough of my words now and are ready for some pictures. Enjoy the transformation, we certainly did!
Our belongings were in storage and the stress of packing was behind us. A full-service campground about forty minutes away was to be our home for the next month. We settled into our RV and prepared to relax.
The following week we got possession of our condo. It seemed strange to know this would be our new home but instead of moving in, we were handing over the keys and walking away for an undetermined amount of time.
“Are we doing the right thing?” we wondered. Work could not commence until approval was received from the condo board. It would have been easy to just move in as it was. That day I returned to our RV feeling unsettled and homeless.
Our son soon started work and we were not allowed access. A couple of times a week we would stop by for the mail. I would go into the lobby, check the mailbox and leave the building.
Yes, I was curious about what was happening behind closed doors. Like a child at Christmas, I was tempted to peek. Instead, I honoured the request to stay away and not spoil the surprise.
One day I got a text asking if we had anything planned for a slanted half-wall in the living area. “It’s an awkward wall for furniture and we’re playing with ideas for use of the space.” We didn’t, and I asked what he had in mind. “We wanted to make sure you don’t have anything planned for that area. Other than that, it’s a surprise,” came the response. He then thanked me for playing along!
Now we were really curious!
As happy as we were with our RV vacation, the anticipation for the reveal was growing stronger every day.
Have you ever given up total control of something important to you? Just handed it over to someone else and let them make all the decision on your behalf?
My husband and I had just purchased a two-bedroom apartment. We wanted to replace the flooring and refresh the paint before moving in and invited our son and daughter-in-law to give us their input. They have built, renovated, designed and decorated several spaces and we value their opinions.
Although we didn’t get possession for another two weeks, the unit was vacant and arrangements were made for us to go in and take some measurements. Based on previous conversations, our daughter-in-law brought a few flooring samples and paint colours for us to see.
Then we were asked an interesting question. Our son, Chris, said, “I have a proposal for you. Would you be willing to turn the keys over to us on possession day and let us take care of getting the work done? Jackie and I have some ideas on how to make this space work well for you and you could have some rest time while we do it.”
“This sounds like one of those home makeover shows we watch on TV,” I replied.
The decisions we’d had to make for downsizing had been stressful and I was ready to give up the need for making more. But, how could we have no involvement in what our new home would look like?
Chris and Jackie asked us lots of questions, took room measurements and lots of “before” pictures. We made one final decision and gave total control to our kids. Stay tuned for an update!!
Emily 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.
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.
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.
A 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.