“Look at the giant bench,” I said. “I wonder if I can climb up and sit on it.” My husband would have helped me if I’d asked but I wanted to see if I could do it on my own. At first it didn’t seem possible and I almost gave up. Brian gave me some encouraging words, I tried again and succeeded.
My legs were swinging in the air as I sat there, feeling impossibly small. A few minutes later, after the photo op, my feet were back on solid ground. We walked on, leaving the big white bench behind us.
It wasn’t until I was going through pictures a couple of weeks later that the bench came back to mind. My first reaction was to laugh at the amusing picture. Then, I wondered if the image was a fitting analogy of my life.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by your circumstances? I certainly have. At times like this my problems seem large and often insurmountable. My pride tells me I must deal with them on my own. It would be embarrassing to let anyone else know what is going on. As a result, I am left feeling small and inadequate.
Every bump in the road feels like a mountain to be scaled. How long will I struggle alone before walking away frustrated and defeated? Self-doubt floods my mind and I feel small and worthless.
There is an alternative. I can ask for help. In the past this was viewed as weakness but now I know it takes strength to reach out let someone know of my struggle.
Sometimes, like when I wanted to climb on the big bench, a bit of encouragement is all that is needed. Other times I’m offered a new way to approach my situation or a helping hand to get me through.
Instead of feeling small, let’s help each other rise to greater heights.
I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot, together we can do great things. – Mother Teresa
It has become my tradition to share this poem with you as one year ends and we embark upon another. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. My mother gave it to me many years ago and unfortunately, I don’t know who the author is.
My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2020.
NEW YEAR PRAYER
May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.
When I read the following story I knew I wanted to share it with you. May it bless you as much as it did me. Merry Christmas.
Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin. The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.
“Who is this?” asked Santa, smiling. “Your friend? Your sister?”
“Yes, Santa,” he replied. “My sister, Sarah, who is very sick,” he said sadly.
Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
“She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!” the child exclaimed. “She misses you,” he added softly.
Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy’s face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.
When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted.
“What is it?” Santa asked warmly.
“Well, I know it’s really too much to ask you, Santa, but ….” the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa’s elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.
“…The girl in the photograph … my granddaughter . well, you see … she has leukemia and isn’t expected to make it even through the holidays,” she said through tear-filled eyes. “Is there any way, Santa . any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That’s all she’s asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa.”
Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do.
Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do.
“What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying,” he thought with a sinking heart, “this is the least I can do.”
When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children’s Hospital.
“Why?” Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.
Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah’s grandmother earlier that day.
“C’mon …. I’ll take you there,” Rick said softly.
Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall.
Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl’s brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah’s mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah’s thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah’s aunt, sat in a Chair near the bed ! with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.
Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho!”
“Santa!” shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes intact.
Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son — 9 years old — gazed up at him with wonder and excitement.
Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to force himself to choke back tears. Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah’s face, he could hear the gasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.
As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa’s shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering “thank you” as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.
Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she’d been a very good girl that year.
As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl’s mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah’s bed, holding hands.
Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels.
“Oh, yes, Santa … I do!” she exclaimed.
“Well, I’m going to ask that angels watch over you,” he said.
Laying one hand on the child’s head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly,
“Silent Night, Holy Night …. all is calm, all is bright.”
The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah’s frail, small hands in his own.
“Now, Sarah,” he said authoritatively, “you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!”
He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he “had” to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could — not dolls or games or toys — but the gift of HOPE.
“Yes, Santa!” Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright.
He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
Out in the hall, the minute Santa’s eyes met Rick’s, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed.
Sarah’s mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa’s side to thank him.
“My only child is the same age as Sarah,” he explained quietly. “This is the least I could do.”
They nodded with understanding and hugged him.
One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.
“Hi, Santa! Remember me?!”
“Of course, I do,” Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a “good” Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the “only” child in the world at that moment.
“You came to see me in the hospital last year!”
Santa’s jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest.
“Sarah!” he exclaimed.
He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy — much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before.
He looked over and saw Sarah’s mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.
That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed — and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about — this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, “Thank you, Father. ‘Tis a very, Merry Christmas!”
I saw the sign on the wall of a public restroom. The first four words were ‘Please do not flush.” What followed were the items I’d expect to see on such a sign – paper towels, wipes and disposable diapers.
The next line was for something less likely but still very possible: Cell phones. I have a friend who dropped her phone in a public toilet so know this does happen.
I was amused to see we were next told not to flush kittens, puppies and dead goldfish. I’ve heard of flushing goldfish but not in a public restroom. Puppies and kittens – never! The sign had just become interesting enough to keep me reading.
The last items listed were old love letters and hopes and dreams. With a love gone wrong, these could be linked together.
However, it was the last part of this line that resonated with me. I have been tempted to flush away my hopes and dreams.
Sometimes they appeared too big to accomplish. Other times the struggle to reach them seemed overwhelming. Thoughts such as, “Who do I think I am to reach for these dreams?” flooded my mind. Fear of failure washed over me like a tsunami. If I just give up I don’t have to risk failing. In effect, I flush away my dreams so no evidence remains.
I’ve heard it said that people who avoid failure also avoid success. I don’t want to be one of those people so will take the final words on the sign to heart. Hopes and dreams are not to be flushed away.
When you fall into the trap of making excuses, you limit yourself from going after your dreams. “I can’t” is the lie you tell yourself so you don’t have to try.” – Robert Herjavec
The single-lane highway stretched before us. We had only passed a few small towns in the last hour and none were visible on the flat prairie landscape ahead of us. Our navigation system told us the next turn would be in 495 kilometres.
We approached an area which had recently been twinned and the old patched highway transformed to several kilometres of smooth new pavement. Our navigation system now showed us as being off-road. The costly stretch of highway, (a sign informed us this was a seventy million dollar project) built to make travel easier was not recognized.
When I commented on the expensive road work, my husband said, “In the middle of nowhere.”
“Yes, but it helps people in the middle of nowhere to get somewhere” I replied.
I thought about the times on my journey to move forward in life I have been stuck in the middle of nowhere. I was not where I started from and hadn’t yet reached where I wanted to be. It felt like I was spinning my tires and not getting anywhere. The cost in energy and resources were much greater than expected.
This phase has often felt long and unproductive. In reality, each step I take is an investment that moves me closer to my goal. The lessons learned and experiences gained are the price paid to smooth my future journey. Although it feels like I’m no longer on the road, I am actually paving new ground.
The next time the road I’m travelling seems far too long I will think of the highway we drove and remember I’m not stuck in the middle of nowhere – I’m on my way to somewhere.
“Picture a clock lying face-up on the surface of the water,” we were told. “Now, keep your arms just below the surface of the water and punch your right arm to nine o’clock, then your left to three o’clock.” Our aquafit instructor also told us to pivot our legs in the same direction as our arms.
After a minute or so we changed the movement slightly to punch at ten and two. This engaged different muscles.
Next we were to alternate arms and punch to twelve o’clock. This was straight in front of us and our arms were still under the water. The instructor told us we’d need to get out of our own way in order to do this properly.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to prove this concept for yourself! My mind questioned the ‘get out of your own way’ part of the instructions so I tried the exercise without moving my body. Sure enough, I was punching eleven and one even though I was aiming for twelve. Unless I pivoted my body to get out of the way I couldn’t do it.
This struck me as much more than exercise advice. There have been many times I’ve had to get out of my own way in order to achieve my goals.
Self-doubts have kept me from moving forward. Things like, “I don’t have the formal training to do that; This dream is too big for me to achieve; Who am I to charge people for my knowledge/skills? And many similar thoughts flood my mind.
These negative thoughts drown out the support and encouragement that surrounds me, effectively keeping me stuck. I become my own worst critic and biggest stumbling block.
The truth is I don’t have the skills, knowledge, or confidence to achieve most of what I have accomplished. I do, however, know the One who makes all things possible.
When I give up the idea that everything is done in my own strength, the pressure is removed. The Lord either shows me what I need to know or sends someone to help me. He has done so much more in and through me than I ever thought possible.
I am in awe of what has happened since I learned to get out of my own way and let Him work.
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)
I’m not sure when it happened but the season has definitely changed. Autumn, also known as fall, is upon us. My summer clothing is packed away, replaced by jeans and sweaters to keep me warm in the crisp air.
The landscape also transitions as green leaves are replaced with ones of gold. In some parts of the country, vivid oranges and reds add to the beauty.
Slowly, the trees release the leaves and let them fall to the ground. Sometimes a strong wind forces the trees to let go sooner than expected.
In time, the dry, brittle leaves break down and form a layer of mulch. This adds protection and nourishment to the soil, resulting in improved productivity for future growth.
Today I marvel at the beauty surrounding me and am reminded to enjoy these fleeting moments. The release of colourful foliage has already begun. It is a necessary part of the cycle of life.
My life also goes through such seasons. Six months ago I was filled with the budding promise of new ideas and possibilities. Some came to fruition and others did not. Not all seeds grow and flourish.
Now I am faced with the task of letting go. I choose to let go of regrets and disappointments. I release them and let them fall away. Winds of change blow the last ones free and I am liberated. My unencumbered arms stretch upwards, free to embrace this new season of life.
I know from past experience that nothing in my life is wasted. The lessons of yesterday have a purpose. Their memory will protect and nourish me so I can step with confidence into tomorrow. I am ready to face a new season.