It was an interesting discovery. While sorting through a drawer full of papers I came across one that had been tucked away several years ago and forgotten.
At the end of a seminar, each of us was presented with a unique gift to commemorate our days together. On a large piece of paper, someone had sketched the eyes of over sixty participants. The name of each person was printed neatly above one eyebrow.
I was fascinated to see the numerous shapes of eyes. Some were almond shaped while others were wide and round. The eyebrows were even more diverse. From delicately shaped to thick and bushy, the brows framed the facial features. No two sets of eyes were exactly alike.
The artistic ability required to create these realistic images was impressive. Even more so was the power of observation needed to capture the small details that helped identify each person.
I read somewhere that observation has less to do with the things you see than the way you see them. This is true for more than artists. It applies to each of us.
Many years ago I started keeping a gratitude journal. Each night I write down five things I was grateful for that day. Focusing on the positive has changed my perspective and my life. When I look for the beauty in my surroundings, the goodness in people and the life lessons that present themselves, that is what my eyes see. The minor irritations fade into the background.
My goal is to create value in all things. It doesn’t always happen but I am getting better at it. I have learned if I want to create a positive life my eyes need to be looking for the right things.
The sky today is filled with clouds. They vary from fluffy, cotton ball white to deepening shades of grey. A few blue patches are also visible but they are outnumbered by the clouds.
The wind is gusting from the south. This is unusual. Normally the wind comes from the north, over the water, which lowers the temperature.
I am sitting on a covered deck, enjoying the sensation of hot wind buffeting my skin. From where I sit in my third floor hideaway, I watch palm fronts bending to and fro and clouds skittering overhead.
The forecast is for a thunder storm later in the day. When that comes I will be forced inside. The other side of the condo faces the sea where I will have a sheltered view of the storm. I wonder what it will bring.
Perhaps there will be flashes of lightening cracking open the fury of a dark sky. Maybe the wind will whip the waves into giant froths before they crash to the shore.
I am powerless to stop whatever it may bring. There is no point in me focusing on a storm that is not even here yet. For all I know, it may be diverted and not arrive here.
At the moment I relish the feeling of the warm wind billowing through my clothing. I am content in the here and now. Gratitude floods over me as I enjoy the solitude and diversity of my surroundings. Right now is all I am guaranteed of and I don’t want to waste one precious moment.
Now that I am no longer in the workforce, there is no need to get out of bed early in the morning. The alarm is only set for the days I go to a morning exercise class. Other than that, I let my body dictate how much sleep it needs.
Last week, for several days in a row, I arose and left the house while it was still dark outside. It would have been easy to grumble and complain about the early start and the long days.
Instead, I changed my attitude from, “I hate to get up this early” to “I choose to get up early for the benefit of ..” I was privileged to spend my days with an amazing group of people who are changing the world one heart at a time. For me, the benefit far outweighed a few hours of lost sleep.
This attitude is not just useful for getting me out of bed in the morning. It can be used throughout the day in a myriad of ways.
When I consciously think of what I get to do, rather than what I have to do, my mind shifts from unhappiness to gratitude. It’s amazing the difference this simple change in focus makes.
Things I would normally take for granted are appreciated. The abundance in my life is recognized and I become a more positive person to be around.
I may not have control over all situations in my life but I can choose how to react to them. I choose to look for the benefit and live in gratitude.
Have you ever had the sight or aroma of something familiar cause memories to flood over you?
I had passed by these lilac trees many times in the preceding weeks but this day I stopped to fully appreciate their beauty.
You see, the home I was raised in had several lilac trees in the backyard. I can picture them along one side fence, planted in alternating colours of purple and white. When in full bloom we would cut some to bring indoors and I remember their sweet fragrance filling the room.
Happy memories from my childhood washed over me as I gazed at the showy blossoms. Parents who loved me and older siblings who doted on me flashed through my mind. I was blessed to grow up in a place and time where it was safe to spend hours outdoors, running and playing with my friends.
Respect, good manners and helping others were not options; they were part of the fabric of life. Right and wrong were clearly defined and a strong conscience ensured I knew which one to follow.
The love I experienced and the lessons learned by example prepared me for life. I sometimes forget that not everyone had the advantages of a secure childhood. This was a gift I sought to pass on to my children and they, in turn, are passing on to the next generation.
The sight of lilacs brought back the sweet fragrance of youth and the legacy of family. Before I moved on, I said a prayer of gratitude for a life filled with joyful memories.
Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not turn away from it. (Proverbs 22:6 GWT)
Canadian Thanksgiving has its origins in Europe, where festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest took place in the month of October.
Today, Thanksgiving is a celebration of being thankful for what one has and the bounty of the previous year. For some, the main focus is a turkey dinner followed by pumpkin pie.
I do appreciate gathering together with my family and turkey is one of my favourite meals. However, I don’t feel one day is enough to express gratitude for the abundance in my life.
I like to start my mornings by giving thanks for a new day. God has given me a fresh page on which to write the next chapter of the story of my life. I want to express my gratitude for this gift and use it to make a positive difference. I say I want to, because it doesn’t always happen. I do know my day will be off to a much better start when it begins with this kind of communion with The Lord.
In the past, I thought I’d have to do something huge and life changing in order to make a difference in the world. Now, I know it may be as simple as having a positive attitude. I may never know the effect a smile and friendly hello has on a stranger I pass on the street. The same goes for holding the door open for one following behind or allowing someone to merge in traffic in front of me. It is possible my words and actions will have a ripple effect much larger than I could possible know.
I will never be in control of every event in my day, but my attitude is totally within my control. I have learned that I can choose how I act, despite how I feel. After all, God gave me the gift of free choice. In that case, why wouldn’t I choose to be positive and thankful?
Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)
A friend recently took on the task of updating my website. This is something I’m not able to do on my own and would normally have to pay someone else to complete.
Her generosity in helping me out in this way is incredible. Hours of time are being spent on something that gives her no obvious benefit. When I express my thanks, as I do frequently, she brushes it off, saying, “It’s no big deal and something I enjoy doing.”
Another friend recently asked me for help on a project she’s working on. This was in my area of expertise and I was glad to offer whatever assistance I could.
When she thanked me, I found myself saying, “It was no problem. I’m happy to help you anytime.”
It was no coincidence I met with both of these friends on the same day. I’d been feeling guilty about accepting the generosity offered to me, while freely offering the same to another. Thinking about how good it felt to assist one friend helped me understand why another would willingly spend time helping me.
If I refused her offer, I’d be denying her this joy. What a concept! I’m doing something for you by letting you do something for me. And, you are making me happy by allowing me to do something for you. This is the ultimate win-win situation!
“The greatest good is what we do for one another.” Mother Teresa
Our young granddaughters were coming for a sleepover so we bought a breakfast cereal with them in mind. We are not fans of high sugar cereals but still wanted a treat so settled on Life cereal with cinnamon.
At breakfast, the girls looked skeptically at the box and two decided to try it. The other one watched and then asked, “Is your Life good?” Their approval for the Life they’d received helped her decide to try it, too.
The question made me wonder how I’d respond if asked how my life was. Some days I’m filled with energy and passion for life. Other days are more challenging. No matter what a day may bring, I need to be content with the life I’ve been given.
Each new experience brings me closer to who I was meant to be. I saw a quote that resonated with me. It said, “What will you do with this one precious life you’ve been given?”
My answer is to live life to the fullest and with gratitude. How about you?
“Above all we must realize that each of us makes a difference with our life. Each of us impacts the world around us every single day. We have a choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place – or not to bother.”
November 11 is known as Remembrance Day in Canada. This date marks the anniversary of the official end of World War 1in 1918. The day is set aside to honour the brave men and women who serve in the military. Ceremonies are held to commemorate the sacrifices made in armed conflict.
Wearing a poppy and observing two minutes of silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh month is not enough. They deserve much more than one minute or one day of our thanks. Countless numbers have given their lives and many more have suffered serious injuries and great emotional scars.
These men and women know the risks when they sign up. Out of love for their country and for mankind, they put their lives on the line for us.
Many of us would risk our lives for a family member. Few would do this for people they do not know. Others, like the members of the military, take this on to give us the freedoms that we so often take for granted.
They run into the dangerous situations that the rest of us are fleeing from.
We owe them a debt greater than we can repay. Let us never take our freedom for granted.
My deepest appreciation goes to these true heroes.
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ash
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’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)