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?
Why do you take a camera with you on vacation? I do because I expect to see something I’d like to turn into a memory.
That is also the reason I keep my phone with me when I go out for a walk. I never know what beauty, uniqueness or special moments will be there for me to capture.
Many years ago, I decided to approach each day this way. Not with a camera, but by focusing on the gifts God has placed all around me. During this time, I have observed so much that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
There are countless reasons to be thankful. Some are large and obvious. Others are commonplace and easily missed. When I purposefully look for them, they become beacons to happiness.
This morning I looked out my window as the sun was rising over the frozen landscape. Instead of thinking how cold it was going to be for me to walk to an appointment this morning, I took a few moments to be grateful for a new day and the opportunity to embrace whatever it may bring.
I may not feel the same when I step into the frigid air, but there is a much better chance than if I approach it with negativity.
The secret to my happiness is not really a secret. All I have to do is open my eyes to all that God has given me. When my focus shifts from lack to abundance, I am more likely to capture the special moments and turn them into precious memories.
There was a lot of flexibility in the schedule for our upcoming trip. We only had a few places that were high on the priority list. One of these was HopeStreamRadio. I produce a short weekly program for this online radio station and wanted to visit their studio.
When I let it be known I’d be in the area, this desire turned into something that far exceeded any of my expectations. Not only was a tour of the station offered, I was also given an opportunity to record any programs I’d written during my travels plus record an interview with the president of HopeStreamRadio which would become part of the programming.
Ron, the head honcho, and I have met twice. Both times were at writers’ conferences. Now, this generous man, who hardly knew me, offered to let us park our camper van on his property for a few days. This meant my husband and I had a home base in one of the areas we wanted to explore.
I was being offered so much more than I had even imagined. But wait, there’s still more. A barbeque dinner was arranged so we could meet the HSR office staff. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and love freely given.
These unexpected blessings brought to mind the extravagant love God demonstrates. Usually, my expectations are far too small. My limited thinking is a mere fraction of what He has in store for me.
I haven’t earned his favour, nor do I deserve what is freely given to me. My hands and heart need to remain fully open because I don’t want to miss any of the gifts God has prepared for me. From past experience, I know they will be beyond my wildest imaginings.
Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer. (Ephesians 1:3 GWT)
Oh, the joy of annual inventory! In a gift store with many small items, the job can seem overwhelming. By the end of the second day, I was getting frustrated with myself when I forgot my tally and had to recount several items.
What I found interesting was the number of items I had forgotten we had. Some that had been tucked away need to be put out on display again, while others are best discarded.
After I had counted physical items, I decided to take inventory of my life. Holding onto past hurts, disappointments and regrets is a waste of valuable time and space. I need to let them go. Instead, I should be focusing on the many blessings in my life. They deserve to be put on display.
God has blessed me with a loving husband, and close relationships with our children and grandchildren. We are healthy, happy and productive. I have time to work, time to rest and time to play. I’ve been given inspiration to see the world in a positive light and to share that with others. I have a roof over my head, water that flows when I turn on a tap and food in my pantry.
I could go on and on as I count my blessings. They are far too numerous to list here and I know I will not grow tired of counting them.
All that I am and all that I have are gifts from God. By far the greatest gift is the joy I have in knowing I’m a much-loved child of my Heavenly Father.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. (Psalm 21:6 NIV)
The past few days have been spent doing inventory in the gift store where I work. Counting everything and recording its value is a tedious task that we don’t look forward to. Nevertheless it needs to be done.
Strange as it sounds, the three of us tackling the inventory enjoyed ourselves this year. We worked well together and our positive attitudes made all the difference. Instead of grumbling and complaining, we laughed about some of the outdated things we came across. There were also forgotten treasures that were unearthed from storage areas.
The experience was not that different from taking inventory in my life. If I take the time to sort through my thoughts, plans and dreams on a regular basis I’m sure I will unearth many things of value as well as some that need to be discarded.
Old hurts, anger and regret have no place in my life now. Once I have learned the lessons they had for me I can toss them on the garbage heap.
The positive attitude of my co-workers reminded me to focus on the abundance of blessings I have received. Memories of love and laughter with family and friends flood my mind. Meaning and purpose have been added to my life in the times I’ve been able to touch the lives of others.
I find what is occupying the most space in my personal inventory is gratitude. I thank God daily for the love he has shown me. He touches my life in the quiet times spent with him, through the beauty of nature and the people he brings me in contact with. My blessings are something I’m always happy to count.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9 NLT)
“I feel fine,” I said to my doctor, “just thought the changes to my family medical history should be brought to you attention.”
When the heart disease of past generations started affecting my siblings I decided it was time for me to be proactive.
No problems were found in the initial tests but as a precaution, I was referred for a cardiac risk assessment, which included a stress test.
This made me think of the stress I’ve had in my life. Most of it was self-imposed. When I focus on negative things I cause myself stress. This can be hard on me both physically and mentally.
Thinking of only positive things can be quite a challenge. I used to worry about many things that were out of my control. When I started bringing these troubling thoughts to God, my life became more peaceful. Praying about my worries reduced my stress. I will freely admit that I haven’t perfected this. The good news is, the more I do it, the easier it becomes.
I have learned the benefits of consciously searching for the blessings God has surrounded me with. My attitude of gratitude is what will keep my heart and mind healthy.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
Sunshine and warmth embraced us and a gentle breeze kissed our cheeks. Wispy white clouds stretched liked cotton candy in the sky. Near the horizon we could see a fishing boat bobbing as sea birds circled, hoping for an easy meal. It was a perfect start to our morning. I sent up a silent prayer, thanking God for the blessing of this day.
A few hours later clouds started rolling in. We noticed the wind getting stronger. Soon dark grey clouds filled the sky. A storm was on its way.
During the afternoon the howling of the wind drowned out the once peaceful sound of the surf. Waves crashed and thundered to shore, topped with foaming white caps that rose ever higher. Wind lashed the rain onto our windows. Our view became obstructed.
We stayed inside to wait out the storm. With the sun tucked away behind storm clouds, darkness came early. Our power was disrupted and we relied on flickering candle light to see across the room.
When the day started we had no idea of the changes we’d face before nightfall. Such is the way of life.
Challenges appear and hit like a gale force wind. There may be little or no warning. The bright sunshine of promise gets blown away. As though in flickering candlelight I can only see far enough to put one foot in front of the other.
This is when I trust on the power supply that never fails. The power of Jesus in my life will guide me safely through the darkest storm. When I lean into him I am given the strength to take the next step. I don’t know how long it may take to reach the sunshine again but I do know that Jesus will help me navigate the darkness when I walk in his light.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12 NLT)
As I look back over 2015 I am reminded of the many blessings in my life, both personally and professionally. Things haven’t unfolded as I expected, but that is all part of the adventure!
I have posted this New Year Prayer in previous years and as it is still my favourite, I’m sharing it again.
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.
I’m taking Thanksgiving off and sharing a post I wrote in 2013. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
The calendar tells us that it is Thanksgiving, and once again I reflect on the meaning behind this holiday. For some it is merely a paid day off or a day to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones. For others, it is as the name suggests, a day to give thanks.
If it truly is a day to give thanks, what is it that I’m thankful for? Although I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a turkey dinner with loved ones, there is more to it than that. I need to dig much deeper.
While I’m at it, I need to realize that being thankful is something to practice consistently through each and every day. A wise friend told me once that there is no such thing as an entirely bad day. There is always something to be thankful for. Many in the world would be overjoyed to have some of the things that I tend to take for granted. A comfortable home with electricity and running water come to mind. My nightly habit is to pick up my gratitude journal and write down 5 things that I was grateful for that day. Looking for and focusing on the positive has changed my life.
Part of this is not just giving thanks, but who I am giving thanks to. God has blessed me, not just with material things, but with his loving presence. Even during the trying times, he is there leading and guiding me. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for the wrongs I have done. Now I can look forward to everlasting life with him. Now that is something to give thanks for.
.. always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20 (NIV)
Not all lakes in Alberta are natural bodies of water. Many are man-made lakes, often in the form of a reservoir. Several of these reservoir lakes are near to the area I reside in. They are used for recreational purposes such as boating and swimming.
One that we frequent has a dam that controls the water level. As the summer progresses, more water is released and the shoreline recedes as the water level rises.
The various public entrances have signs posted warning that the water levels fluctuate. My husband and I looked at the sign and then talked about fluctuation affecting our spiritual lives as well.
There have been times when we have felt filled to overflowing with the love of God. Then there have also been times that we are dry, parched and longing for a drop of his cool, refreshing water.
What we need to remember is that this change is of our own making. God remains constant. His love for us does not fluctuate. I need to search deep within for the dam that is blocking my ability to access this. Only then can I release it and let his abundant love and blessing pour over me again.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38 NIV)