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. Never has it been more meaningful to me than it is now.
My mother gave me a copy of this prayer many years ago so sharing it is also a tribute to her.
My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2021.
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.
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.
Recently I told you about the small coloured flags scattered throughout my neighbourhood. Mine is one of the many yards to have another feature added.
Men arrived in my yard one day and dug a deep hole. It was fenced off by a piece of wood on four sides with orange reflective tape strung between them. A piece of plywood with the words Danger Deep Hole spray painted on the surface covered the hole.
Once the service work has been completed, the hole will be filled in and the wood and tape removed. In the meantime, these markings serve as a warning to keep me from falling into the pit.
Even though the area marked off in my yard is not as large as in some others, it could still be hazardous to stumble into.
I haven’t fallen into a physical hole but have slipped into pits of despair. My missteps led me onto unstable ground and I ended up in a deep, dark hole. There were probably warning signs but nothing as obvious as reflective tape and spray painted letters.
There seemed no way to climb out of the mud and mire. I wallowed in this despair until I called out to the one who could rescue me. The Lord heard my cry and lifted me up. He lovingly set my feet on solid ground. With Him walking beside me I am not concerned about falling into this pit again.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. (Psalm 40:2 NLT)
Today I am celebrating the seventh anniversary of this blog by sharing the first story I ever posted. ‘Under Construction’ also appears in my book Inspirations From the Everyday.
I had just returned from a road trip with a couple of friends. This seemed to be the time of year that there was a lot of road construction going on. Some roads had barriers blocking off one lane while the road was being improved.
Others were full of potholes that jarred the vehicle as we drove through them. One stretch of road had so many patches of fresh tar, that driving around them was like being on an obstacle course. A few times we travelled on gravel for several kilometers.
All of this reminded me of life. Our lives are constantly under construction. We’re jarred by the unexpected potholes we encounter. Lots of times we have problems that stick to us like tar. We don’t fully appreciate the smooth road of life until we have bumped along on the gravel for awhile.
Just like driving on roads under construction, things may be tougher to navigate but we can do it if we slow down and consider the situation we are travelling through.
God is working in us, reconstructing and repairing the damage that has been done. The process is not always pleasant, but it is necessary to enable us to travel the road that He has prepared for us.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
My childhood home had honeysuckle vines that wound their way up and around a large trellis. In the summer these vines were covered by an abundance of fragrant flowers. These blossoms attracted hummingbirds.
From our dining room window, I had an unobstructed view of them hovering to feed on the sweet nectar before darting to another blossom. My fascination for these, one of the smallest species of birds, started those many years ago.
Even today I will stop to marvel at these tiny birds that appear to suspend in mid-air. Their wings beat so rapidly the movement is difficult to detect. Flitting from flower to flower appears effortless.
In fact, they flap their wings about eighty times a second and require an enormous amount of food to keep their tiny bodies fueled. I am amazed by these diminutive creatures and what they accomplish.
They remind me of a song from my childhood. One of the lines says, “God sees the little sparrow fall, it meets his tender view. If God so loves the little birds, I know He loves me too.”
Hummingbirds aren’t specifically mentioned in the Bible but birds in general are. Scripture tells us that not a single one can fall to the ground without God knowing it.
As much as God loves the birds, we are also told that we are His greatest creation. It gives me comfort to witness the marvel of a hummingbird and know that if God provides for them He will surely provide for me, too.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 NIV)
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. (Matthew 10:29 NLT)
I know complaining doesn’t accomplish anything positive, yet there are times I struggle with this vice. Snow in May qualifies!
The calendar tells me it’s been spring for over a month. The weather seems to be on a different schedule.
We left home early Saturday morning for a city several hours away. The grey sky soon showered us with snow and freezing rain. Slippery road conditions meant reduced speed and extra caution for the next ninety minutes. We finally passed through the weather system and breathed a sigh of relief.
The remaining hours of our drive were pleasant, as was most of our drive home that evening. Close to home we were taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of snow and icy roads. An immediate adjustment to this new situation was required.
We’d gone through both easy and challenging during this trip and said a prayer of gratitude for our safe arrival home.
There was an accumulation of snow on the ground when we went to church Sunday morning. The pastor started by saying, “We won’t complain about the weather. The farmers need the moisture for their land.”
His comment caused me to stop and re-evaluate my thinking. Fields that produce abundant crops benefit many. Value from the weather situation was created. My temporary discomfort was insignificant in the light of the greater good.
Later in the day we travelled the same highway. The clear, dry road that would normally be taken for granted was now appreciated.
Maybe that is one of the reasons God allows storms in my life. They force me to slow down and rely on Him. Once they have passed I reflect on God’s protection and provision through all seasons of life. Instead of complaining about the storms I must look for the lessons in them and give thanks.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT)
A bright flash of colour was seen when the bird flew overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and quite effectively disappeared from sight.
Although I knew the bird was there, it now blended into the drab brown of the leafless branches.
The bright plumage was hidden. Only when wings were spread in flight could colour be seen.
I thought of the times I have also caused myself to disappear in plain sight. When I deny the unique attributes that make me who I am; my drab exterior blends in with my surroundings. No distinguishing characteristics are visible to set me apart.
God has gifted each of us with our own combination of talents and abilities. These are not to be hidden, but to be gratefully acknowledged and used for His glory.
I know this but it still seems risky to leave my safe perch and attempt to fly. I am more like a frightened baby bird than an exotic tropical one. Who am I to think I could possibly soar? It’s probably better to blend in than to draw attention to myself.
I remember hearing there are two things that can happen if I step out in faith to test my wings. One is that God will catch me if I fall. The other is that He will teach me to fly.
Either way, trusting God and following His leading will not be a mistake. Where I can only see my uninspiring, drab plumage, God sees the beauty He has instilled in me.
When, in faith, I embrace the opportunity to spread my wings and fly, the bright colours of His love will be visible to others and point them upwards to the glory of God.
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)
Isn’t that interesting?” I said to my husband. We were on a beach walk when I saw the primitive looking shelter.
It was set back a good distance from the water to protect it from being washed away with the tides. The construction materials were those found readily at hand. Poles supporting the structure appeared to be long, thin pieces of wood such as we’ve often seen on the beach. A few more of these were crosswise on the top, forming a base for the roof. Dried palm fronds on the top ensured a shaded area inside the structure.
The shelter was simple but would provide refuge from the heat of the intense Mexican sun. Other properties had more elaborate structures but this simple one was all that was really needed.
I pondered this thought as our walk continued. Before long I realized snippets of an old song were providing background music my mind. The lyrics told of a mansion that is waiting for us in heaven.
Now, I understood the draw the shelter held for me. It represents my life. My needs may be taken care of but that doesn’t stop the desire for more. No matter how much I have my longing will never be satisfied this side of heaven.
God is my shelter today. He watches over me, guides and protects and has made my life rich with more than material things.
I have the assurance that one day Jesus will take me to a home He has prepared for me and I will spend eternity with Him. Nothing in this life can compare to what is in store for me then.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 13:2-3 NIV)
The English speaking church we attend in Mexico had an interesting beginning. We have met the Canadian couple who were instrumental in the formation of the church. I enjoyed hearing the story both from their perspective and that of the pastor.
After wintering in the area for several years, this couple could see the need for a church service in English. They learned of a pastor in the area who was bilingual and approached him with their idea.
He could see the merit in this but didn’t feel his language skill were good enough. After more conversation he thought it might be possible. “We can start next year” he said.
The immediate response of, “How about next week?” took him by surprise. Sensing this was God’s will, he agreed. The next Sunday fourteen people were in attendance for the first service in English. That was over ten years ago.
We appreciate the ministry of our Mexican church home. I have been privileged to be in attendance for both multicultural and outreach events with the English and Spanish congregations working side by side.
I am grateful for the pastor who didn’t feel equipped but accepted the challenge. He did not give in to the natural tendency to say, “No” or put off what seems too much to handle. Instead, he stepped out in faith and trusted God to lead the way.
This story has inspired me. I know that God has big plans for each of us. He doesn’t always call those of us who feel equipped. Instead, He calls those who are willing and equips them. When I step out in faith and trust the Lord, there is no limit to what He may enable me to do.
We have taken winter vacations in the same area for several years. During this time we have met a few people but due to our quiet lifestyle, are not well known.
This year we are spending longer in the area and have been able to get involved in a few activities. This means we have made more contacts.
A week ago we were on a walk along the beach when someone called my name. I was surprised to find someone who knew me and enjoyed stopping to talk. We carried on with our walk and five minutes later someone in a nearby house called out my husband’s name. Again, we stopped to talk.
On our walk home we commented that we’d encountered people who knew our names. It felt good to be known.
There is one who has always known me. He knows much more than my name. He knows everything about me. The Bible says God knows the number of hairs on my head. It doesn’t say He knows how many there are but each one is numbered. That means He knows exactly which one falls. I don’t even know that about myself!
This intimate knowledge started before I was born.
God saw me as I was formed in my mother’s womb. Isn’t that incredible?
I no longer wonder if my presence is seen. The scriptures confirm God knows me in a way no other can.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1 NLT)
“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”( Psalm 139:17-18 NLT)