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?
The 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?
Late 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.
Thanks 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.
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.
Today’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)
Roxy is an energetic black lab with a fondness for reflections.
I watched as she spotted a flash of light on the wall and lunged at it. The light disappeared when she got close. Confused, the dog started to back away before once again seeing a reflection to chase. She even jumped up in an attempt to catch this elusive object in her mouth before it reached the wall. This scene was repeated numerous times.
Every time Roxy backed away, the sun shining though a nearby window hit her dog tag and was then reflected onto the wall. When she moved forward, the light was blocked and the reflection disappeared. Her actions not only produced the image she was after, they also caused it to disappear.
While I haven’t physically run at a wall, there have been times it’s felt that way. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the equivalent of banging my head against a wall.
There comes a time when I have to stop and take an objective look at what I’m doing.
Is what I’ve been chasing real or a reflection of my desires? Maybe my actions are inadvertently causing the blockage that keeps this goal unobtainable.
I may not like the answers, but only honest evaluation will keep me from constantly hitting the wall.
The toddler looked to be about two years old. She had cute little blonde pigtails and wore a pink backpack with huge butterfly wings that fluttered as she moved. After examining leaves and twigs beside the pathway, she stood, took a couple of steps and fell flat on the ground.
After a few moments, this little one was back on her feet. There were no tears. Her expression told me falling was a frequent occurrence. Her mom looked at me and said, “That’s about the twenty-seventh time she’s fallen this morning.”
We had a brief conversation before I continued on my way. While still within earshot I heard, “Look at the way the lady lifts her feet when she walks. That’s what you need to do so you don’t stumble and fall so much.”
Since I was being used as an example, I made sure not to drag my feet!
When I am unhappy, uncertain or lack confidence, I tend to move in a way that holds me back. Both physically and mentally, I drag my feet. My steps forward become sluggish and unfocused. This can easily lead to me falling flat on my face. The more often I stumble and fall, the longer it takes to regain my momentum.
Sometimes the very act of lifting my feet and walking with purpose can change my outlook. Confident body movements translate to more positive and decisive thoughts.
With this in mind, I hope to practice confident strides forward, and decrease mental dragging of the feet (procrastination). Who knows what I may accomplish!
Diamond shaped tiles have been installed on the sidewalk on each side of the railway track. The image of a train is at the top with the words Look, Listen, Live, in large black letters beneath.
The purpose of these is clear. Barriers come across the road to stop vehicles when a train is approaching. Pedestrians, however, have no barriers on the sidewalk. I’m not sure how anyone could not be aware of an oncoming train, but it must happen, hence the warnings.
As well as a warning, the words on these tiles have come to symbolize something else for me. They point the way to a more fulfilling life.
I take the time to look around me. The faces of loved ones bring great joy. Vibrant colours of a sunrise signal the start of a fresh new day. Each season brings its own unique beauty. An artist’s canvas and written words on a page stimulate imagination. I am grateful for the gift of sight and the richness it brings to my life.
I listen to the laughter of children at play. Words of love and encouragement spoken by family and friends warm my heart. The melody of favourite music reaches deep within, bringing forth a myriad of emotions. Birdsong, a rushing river and the satisfying crunch of dry leaves under my feet remind me of everchanging possibilities. I am grateful for the gift of hearing and how it enhances my life.
It is when I take the time to look and listen that I can truly appreciate my countless blessings and live life to its fullest.
Canadian Geese have been absent from my local park for a few weeks. I thought they’d headed south for the winter but recently discovered that was not the case.
Several formations could be seen in the air near a large retention pond at the side of the highway. As I neared the pond, I was surprised to see the number of geese upon the water. There must have been hundreds of them.
It seemed that this was their practice area. I was fascinated to watch as small groups would take off, circle the area in ever widening loops, change leaders in their formation and land again. Honks of what I took to be encouragement and support, came from those on the water. It was as if they were cheering each other on.
Once again, the geese were showing me the importance of community. They were preparing to take off on an important journey and time spent practicing together would help ensure a more successful trip.
What do you do when you’re preparing for a challenging new part of your life’s journey? Do you stress and attempt to figure it out on your own? Or, do you seek advice and encouragement from those who understand and support your goal?
I have had others come alongside me when the route to my destination was unclear. Sometimes they had previously travelled this way and were willing to share what they had learned. Other times I was asked questions that helped me gain clarity. Always, their encouragement enabled me to reach new heights.
It is my desire to be part of a supportive community for others. I’m happy to encourage and pay forward what I have learned. My support in helping someone prepare for takeoff helps both of us to soar.