Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “off”?
That’s how my day started. There was nothing wrong, but I felt lethargic and emotionally low. Maybe it was the overcast, gloomy morning. Whatever was going on, I had to fight back or it would derail my day.
After a battle with a misaligned zipper on my jacket, which didn’t help my sagging spirits, I stepped out into the cool morning.
As I walked, I prayed for God to speak to me. My thoughts were surrendered to Him as I awaited peace, or guidance, or focus – something to help me reconcile the apathy enshrouding me.
A diversion on the pathway caused me to cross a grassy area. Glancing at my feet, I noticed the grass had different colours in it. Did it always change colours like the leaves did? While focusing on the golden and browning leaves carpeting the ground, I had missed what was happening right beneath my feet.
I stopped to take a picture. A few steps later, I was back on the path beside the creek and paying more attention to my surroundings. The beauty of the grasses along the creek bank compelled me to stop several times to take more photos.
Further on I admired the incredible workmanship of a beaver dam. I veered off the path and waded through some taller grasses to get a closer look. I almost didn’t take a picture because there was what I considered garbage in front. Then I realized these pieces had been incorporated into the structure. Everything had a purpose. Nothing was wasted.
As I returned home, my thoughts went to my earlier prayer. “God, I’m so sorry. After asking you to speak to me, I became distracted and didn’t listen for your voice.”
In my spirit I heard, “My precious child; I spoke to you in a language you could easily understand. You find me in the beauty of nature I’ve surrounded you with. Today you were reminded it is there even when the sun is not shining. You listened well. I observed you express gratitude for things you normally don’t notice. That’s what I wanted for you today. When you get past your preconceived ideas of what you need, you are then able to appreciate what you have. Thank you for opening your heart to receive the blessings and love I have for you – today and every day.”
I arrived home humbled and in awe. The knowledge I carried in my head had made the journey to my heart. No experience in my life is wasted. Everything serves a purpose.
My focus had shifted to all the blessings in my life. My off switch had been turned back on and I was fully illuminated.
Crisp, golden leaves rustled in the breeze and scattered on the path as I headed towards the park. Up ahead a man was walking his black lab.
Suddenly, the dog started to bark loudly and strain at the leash. Hidden from sight in a backyard bordering the path, another dog barked back. The lab growled and pulled even harder towards the yard.
Now I understood why such a thick leash was needed. I felt intimidated by the show of aggression and was grateful to be able to pass by while the dog was distracted.
A few days later, in the center of the park, I came up behind what looked like the same man and dog. The distinctive thick, red plaid leash affirmed this but this time the lab was calm and meandered along, sniffing the grass beside the pathway.
A boy zipped past on a scooter and the noise caused the lab to look up. Ahead, where two paths intersected, were three separate families, walking their dogs.
The lab quickly began to bark, growl and strain at its leash. The owner tightened his grip and did his best to hold his dog still. It was quite a task as the docile dog of moments before changed into an aggressive, snarling beast. The sudden change was remarkable.
On my way out of the park, I figured out the reason for the personality change. A sign stated that coyotes had been seen in the area. It also detailed what to do if you encountered one of these wild animals.
The lab was obviously intelligent enough to read the sign. It was now honing the new skills of being loud and making yourself look bigger. This practice on other dogs would ensure it was prepared, should an encounter with a coyote be ahead. Clever dog! I’d say it’s ready!
The toddler looked to be about two years old. She had cute little blonde pigtails and wore a pink backpack with huge butterfly wings that fluttered as she moved. After examining leaves and twigs beside the pathway, she stood, took a couple of steps and fell flat on the ground.
After a few moments, this little one was back on her feet. There were no tears. Her expression told me falling was a frequent occurrence. Her mom looked at me and said, “That’s about the twenty-seventh time she’s fallen this morning.”
We had a brief conversation before I continued on my way. While still within earshot I heard, “Look at the way the lady lifts her feet when she walks. That’s what you need to do so you don’t stumble and fall so much.”
Since I was being used as an example, I made sure not to drag my feet!
When I am unhappy, uncertain or lack confidence, I tend to move in a way that holds me back. Both physically and mentally, I drag my feet. My steps forward become sluggish and unfocused. This can easily lead to me falling flat on my face. The more often I stumble and fall, the longer it takes to regain my momentum.
Sometimes the very act of lifting my feet and walking with purpose can change my outlook. Confident body movements translate to more positive and decisive thoughts.
With this in mind, I hope to practice confident strides forward, and decrease mental dragging of the feet (procrastination). Who knows what I may accomplish!
It was my third day walking the narrow bike path through the woods. I’d had no problems the other days but this time I tripped, not once but twice. Within about ten minutes, each foot had taken a turn!
Both times, my body propelled forward. Both times, I managed to catch myself and regain my sense of balance so I didn’t fall. After the second time I was more aware of my steps. On my return I watched to see what my feet might have caught on.
There were several spots where rocks or exposed roots could have been the culprit. However, it was only a couple that actually tripped me. Maybe I’d been dragging my feet in certain areas. Perhaps, since I’d travelled the path before, I was overconfident and didn’t pay enough attention. Either way, it got me thinking of the things that can trip me up in life.
I have been known to trip over my own feet. I can’t even blame that on an unseen obstacle in my way. It is purely a case of not paying proper attention.
Come to think of it, not paying proper attention is generally what causes me to get tripped up. The trip may not be literal. It could be a slip of the tongue. It could be impatience, overconfidence or carelessness. Whatever it may be, I am always caught off guard.
Sometimes I am able to catch myself before any harm is done. Other times my action causes me to fall on my face. In embarrassment I look around to see if my error in judgement caused anyone else to stumble with me.
I pick myself up and vow to be more careful in the future. And I am, until the next time I forget and rush into something instead of slowing down and paying attention. I can’t be the only one and so I ask, what trips you up?
Most mornings find me walking down a side street until I reach the entrance of a local park. The paved path gives me the option of traversing the perimeter of the park or taking one of the many branches that veer off at different spots along the way.
In winter conditions, I tend to stick to the same route. Even so, I encounter different challenges in various places. Within minutes one day I went from a clear dry path to a section where I had to pick my way carefully around icy patches, before a coming to some small snow drifts to wade through.
Not only does this keep the walk interesting, I know these kinds of changing conditions also apply to my walk of life. A brisk pace can quickly change to one where I have to watch my step. If I’m careful, I can get through it unscathed.
A few days ago, I had another challenge on my walk. A skimming of snow appeared to give me solid footing. I quickened my pace and was caught unaware by the ice beneath. My foot slipped and my arms instinctively rose to a ninety-degree angle with my body. I felt like a tightrope walker, attempting to maintain my balance. Somehow, I managed to stay upright.
My focus now was entirely on the next safe step to take. Although this sounds like a good thing, it did cause another issue. With my eyes downcast, I wasn’t fully aware of my surroundings. Before I realized it, I emerged at the side of a busy street. The diversion I normally took to my quiet route home had been passed by unawares.
Lately, these winter walks have shown me not only to watch my step but also to look up and appreciate what’s around me so I don’t miss something important.
Our time in Mexico was coming to an end and this was one of our last beach walks. The wind at my back was refreshing. It also caused a problem I hadn’t anticipated as sand and shell fragments blew into my sandals from behind.
When this became uncomfortable I would stop, remove the sandal and shake out the offending debris. The frustration at being slowed down was tempered by the knowledge my foot wasn’t getting sore.
A piece of dry sea grass blew in and got trapped under my arch. This wasn’t as irritating as the sand or shells but I didn’t like the feeling of it flapping around. I started to lift my foot from the sandal bed and the grass blew right through and disappeared. There was no need to remove the footwear; I just had to get out of the way.
The life analogy struck me immediately. Sometimes troubles and inconveniences hit, slowing me down or making me uncomfortable. I often hold onto these longer than necessary, causing prolonged frustration and annoyance.
Other times, the problem was never supposed to be mine. I simply got in the way and didn’t allow it to pass by. Instead of moving aside to let it go, I trapped it and held on. This was not how it was supposed to be.
I remember a picture I once had on my fridge. One character said, “I’ve come to realize the only thing holding me back is me.” The other replied, “And a mighty fine job you’re doing of it.”
I don’t want to be the one holding me back from the life I desire. Maybe the next time trouble hits I will do something different and step out of the way to let it blow right on by.
I had just returned from a walk along a tropical beach. This is not a groomed for tourists beach, but one in its natural state.
For this reason I needed to watch my step. Small fishing boats are held by ropes secured on the shore. The rope may be flat on the sand and not easy to see. The breeze tosses the boat, the rope becomes taught, and if I’m in the process of stepping over it, I may be tripped.
There are also remains of sand bags protruding from the sand. Some are easy to see and others are mostly buried. I have stumbled on the torn edges barely visible above the sand but have also been caught by the ones clearly visible.
It’s one thing to be tripped by an obstacle I can’t see and quite another to see the potential problem and still get caught.
I was thinking about being aware of my surroundings and watching my step when I realized this same attitude would serve me well in life. It’s when I become overconfident in my own abilities I tend to trip.
On our walks, my husband often tells me, “Watch your step.” His guidance has helped to keep me from harm.
In my life I rely on Jesus to guide me. He watches my steps. When my attention is elsewhere he catches me when I stumble and sets my feet firmly beneath me once again.
though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:24 NIV)
Walks are wonderful for exercise and relaxation but sometimes I gain much more than that from them.
My husband and I set out for a walk on a hot summer afternoon. First we strolled along a peaceful path by a lake. Then we crossed through a field of clover where the only sound was the buzzing of the bees as they gathered the sweet nectar.
The scorching sun beat down on us relentlessly and we looked forward to the shade of the treed path ahead.
We soon reached the trees and were refreshed by the light breeze. Suddenly there was a swarm of tiny insects around us. I kept my gaze on the ground, afraid if I looked up, these insects would be inhaled. Although we passed through them quickly, there were several more swarms to be encountered as we continued.
One of the things I learned from this experience was that things are not always as idyllic as they appear from a distance. Many situations look perfect until I experience them first hand. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!
Another lesson for me was to focus on the positive. There were some minor inconveniences on my walk but they didn’t dampen my appreciation for spending time in nature on a glorious summer day.
I need to remember that the Lord faithfully provides for me every day. His mercies are never ending and my gratitude to him should reflect that.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)