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.
Yesterday, my steps were lively when I went for a brisk morning walk. When I set out this morning, that energy was sadly lacking.
The muscles in my legs cried out in protest. My breaths were shallow and laboured.
Several times I considered turning back. Images of the adventure race we’d watched on TV last night flickered through my mind. “At least I’m on a paved path and not slogging through dense jungle or climbing a rope up the rocky face of a waterfall,” I thought. Resolutely, I put one foot in front of the other with the knowledge I would complete the five kilometers I’d set out to do.
I slowed my pace a little and a strange thing happened. My attitude shifted. Body aches were no longer felt and my grumbling turned to gratitude for the beauty of nature surrounding me. Golden leaves highlighted by bright sunshine were noticed and appreciated. The smooth waters of the pond reflected a fountain and the shore grasses. I stopped several times to take pictures.
Attuned to my surroundings rather than racing ahead, I heard a splash in the creek and stopped to watch a muskrat barely ripple the water as it swam downstream. Had all of this been here yesterday and I’d failed to notice?
I was reminded how much I miss when I am so focused on the goal that I forget to enjoy the journey. I smiled as I continued my walk, wondering what adventure I’d find around the bend now that I was no longer racing against the clock.
“You have a beautiful yard,” I told my friend. “It must take a lot of time and effort to maintain.”
“I do spend many hours weeding,” Robert admitted. Then he shared a wisdom that is both simple and profound.
“If I look at the entire task, it can be overwhelming. I’ve learned to tackle it one weed at a time.”
One weed at a time. That is a great motto for life! What does this phrase say to you?
Weeds left unattended in a garden will take over and choke out the good plants. In the same way, weeds in my life can also choke out the good things.
It is unrealistic to think I can eliminate all of the weeds, or negative attitudes and behaviours in my life in one fell swoop. I can, however, work on them bit by bit. When I release a grudge I hold, the anger is loosened making it easier to uproot and get rid of it.
By pulling out this weed, peace and forgiveness are able to take root in its place. Every time I choose love and understanding over judgement, another weed is removed.
I am most productive when I focus only on the weed directly in front of me and spend the time necessary to get to the root of the matter. Some require more digging in order to unearth them.
Thanks to Robert’s advice, I will no longer be discouraged by the task in front of me. Instead, I will glance back and appreciate how far I’ve come, one weed at a time.
“Would you be able to keep Oreo for about 5 days?” my friend asked. Many years had passed since we’d been responsible for a pet but this cute little hypo-allergenic dog knew us and shouldn’t be a problem so we agreed to take care of her.
As we were temporarily living in a campground and not a home with a fenced backyard, I had to ensure she was on a leash every time we stepped outside.
I soon learned that she sometimes wanted to go places that she shouldn’t. Some, like the neighbour’s campsite weren’t appropriate. Others, like in front of an oncoming vehicle were not safe.
At those time I would shorten her leash. This made her unhappy and she would balk and strain against me to go her own way. I chose her well-being over her immediate happiness.
I also discovered there was little patience when I stopped to clean up after her. She wanted to be off again right away.
It occurred to me that God sometimes has to keep me on a short leash. I complain and want to go farther than I’m being allowed. I forget that what I want isn’t always what is best for me. When I make a mess of things, I just want to move away and put it behind me. God, however, makes me wait until the clean-up has been taken care of.
Most of the time I’m free to roam where I choose. It is only when my behaviour becomes a problem that I feel the tug of my conscience. This is my Master, reminding me of His care and protection. When I look at it that way, I can appreciate the occasional need for a short leash.
Emily is passionate about Highland Dancing. She works hard and was starting to “place” in competitions. One of the dances was more of a challenge than the others.
In the Sword Dance, two swords are placed on the floor in a cross pattern. The complicated dance steps move between and around each quadrant. Avoiding contact with the swords adds another layer of difficulty. Demerit points are issued if one is touched.
At one competition Emily took her place behind the swords. The piper started playing. In the first eight beats of music she prepared for the dance by positioning herself and placing hands on hips. In the next eight beats she made eye contact with the adjudicator and gave a slight bow. Eight more beats and with arms high above her head, the dance started.
As Emily executed the intricate steps, the lace on her right shoe started to loosen. Soon the shoe was completely untied. Instead of being distracted, she kept her focus – even when the shoe worked its way completely off of her foot. Her steps remained quick and accurate. The dance ended, Emily bowed again to the adjudicator and smiled as she picked up her shoe. She had completed the dance without touching a sword. Even better, she “placed” in the sword dance that day.
Emily’s focus and determination taught me an important lesson. Unexpected challenges may come my way but I don’t need to let them stop me. If I focus on my goal rather than the distraction, I, too, can end up a winner.
Last year at this time, when social distancing was an unknown concept, I embarked on an adventure with my granddaughter. It was the first time either of us had gone white water rafting and both of us enjoyed it. In fact, our plan was to choose a trip with larger rapids this year.
Under current conditions, that is not likely to happen. Instead, I will relive the memories from last year and reflect on how what I learned is still serving me today.
My immediate thought is how fear almost robbed me of an exhilarating experience. My mind built up a resistance to the unknown that almost paralyzed me. To counteract the fear, my granddaughter Faith, literally took my hand and, with gentle reassurance, led me to the raft. I couldn’t have done it on my own.
On the river, our guide taught us about teamwork. If he shouted, “Left”, we put our paddles in on the left side of the raft. We would paddle hard on that side until he shouted, “Right” and we’d paddle on the other side. After we navigated through rapids, we would be told to lift our paddles and rest.
Each period of hard work was followed by a brief rest. The rest was to give us the strength to face the next set of rapids.
I learned two lessons in this. The first is I don’t need to get through turbulent times on my own. There are always others who will come alongside and help me paddle until I reach smooth waters. Teamwork makes us stronger.
The second lesson was to take advantage of opportunities to rest, when they come along. This doesn’t mean drifting aimlessly off course, but rebuilding endurance to face the next set of trials. There will inevitably be another rough patch at some point and I want to be prepared to face it.
The guide on our raft was also a reminder of the importance of having someone trustworthy to give direction. I choose to put my trust in Jesus. He has guided me through rough waters in the past and is always available when I call on Him. Sometimes the direction comes from a distance and other times I feel him take my hand and assure me everything will be alright. There is no one I’d rather have beside me in the adventure of this life.
A few days ago, my husband and I looked around our empty house for the last time, left a note and the keys on the counter, closed the door and drove away. Our home of fifteen years was about to become the home of another family.
One chapter of our lives had concluded. The story written in that chapter began when we arrived in Alberta, happy to be closer to our children and two grandchildren. In the following pages our joy increased as we welcomed new members, including five more grandchildren to the family. The rooms were often graced with the sweet sound of laughter as we gathered for meals and sleepovers with grandchildren.
The years passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The lives of our children and grandchildren have become busier as ours have slowed down. My husband and I are now retired and the upkeep required with a house is not as appealing as it once was.
Still, the decision to close this chapter was not an easy one. There comes a time, however, when in order to move forward, we need to let go of things that are holding us in the past. That time had come.
I am grateful for the chapter we’ve just closed. Its pages contained opportunities, activities and experiences indelibly imprinted in my memory.
The story is far from over and as we turn the page to start the next chapter, I’m excited to see how it continues.
A news report I read several months ago has stuck with me. It told of a missing woman who was part of a group travelling through Iceland on a tour bus. The bus had stopped near a volcanic canyon and before the tour resumed there was word of a missing female passenger.
One of the female passengers had changed clothes during this stop and didn’t recognize the description of herself. As a result, she joined in the search!
The search was called off at about 3 am when it became clear the missing woman was not only accounted for but had spent hours searching for herself!
Initially, I laughed at the thought of someone searching for herself. Then, I thought of the years I’ve spent doing exactly the same thing.
Initially, I was Katie’s daughter. Next, I became Brian’s wife. Later, I became a mother. Once I added in employee, community volunteer and a few other roles, I lost who I was.
Buried under many layers of who I had become, was the essence of who I was. In order to find the missing woman I’d become, I needed to do some searching.
The search began with the painful process of eliminating my self-expectations. Much to my surprise, the world carried on with little notice. The more I was able to let go of who I thought I had to be, the closer I came to finding my true self and the more peaceful I became.
I read a post on a friend’s Facebook page that said, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to me in the first place.”
I think this resonates with many of us. Our world has changed drastically in light of the pandemic we’re facing. Much of what we did has been stripped away from us. This might be the perfect time to search for who we were meant to be. I have faith we will emerge stronger than ever before.
Last week I had the privilege of being the speaker for an event in a small seaport town in Mexico. Women (and a few men) from three countries came together for the evening. The majority spoke Spanish and my message would not have been understood if not for the amazing translator I worked with.
The goal was to share how we all have a role to play and can come together despite our different languages and cultural backgrounds. As one of the volunteers involved in bringing this evening to fruition, I experienced the teamwork necessary as a perfect example of this.
Our theme was inspired by the song Bind Us Together and the evening ended with it being sung in both languages simultaneously.
For this reason, it seemed fitting to include an illustration pertaining to music near the close of my talk. Years ago, I was a member of a four-part harmony acapella chorus, so I drew on that experience.
The melody line was complimented by tenor, baritone and bass. While the melody could have stood on its own, it became much richer when combined with the other notes.
Conversely, some of the other parts sounded discordant when heard on their own. Their notes were meant to enrich others by blending together. The resulting harmony was far more pleasing than any one voice could produce.
The point is, when we come together to help each other, each of us sings a more beautiful song. In these days of uncertainty, some are singing notes of fear. If I come alongside with my notes of understanding, encouragement and support the tune can change from despair to hope.
Instead of wondering if your notes can enhance mine, I need to be looking for ways I can enrich yours. It’s amazing what can happen when we are bound together with these chords (cords) of love.
“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