Have you ever been a pet-parent? Have you had a puppy? A kitten? Perhaps a bunny or bird? Were you close to the pet who needed and relied upon you?
When the sound of the blaring smoke detector frightens my little pup, he scurries under the couch or behind the end-table. Cowering from the scary sound, he crouches low in his small dark concealed place, alone. My heart tears as I yearn to reach him, comfort him, reassure him. But he hides from me and my immense desire to care for him. He backs further into his secret cave filled with panic, uncertain I have any power to make the chaos better.
Imagine you find a lost or abandoned puppy (kitten, if you prefer) limping along the sidewalk. You notice she’s holding up a paw. She pauses to lick it and winces. You wonder if she’s hurt. You attempt to approach. But instead of welcoming your interest and advance toward her, she runs off to hide in a crevasse under a rundown building. She’s cold, perhaps wet, whimpering, obviously very much afraid. What do you do? Likely you try to coax her forward. You gently hold out your hand for her, allowing her to sniff, hoping she’ll trust you. You speak softly. Peeling the wrapper off a half-eaten granola bar or quietly opening a bag of chips, you offer the helpless trembling ball of fur some food. Perhaps you unscrew the cap from your water bottle, pour some into a paper cup and place it at the hole’s entrance. You start to worry for her safety; she needs to be rescued both physically and from her own fears and miss-perceptions. A sense of desperation consumes you. Gazing upon her quivering expression, your heart aches. You can’t just leave her...
How might this little one respond? Might she venture out? What if she’s too afraid to surrender herself into your care? She’s been through a lot already. All she knows now is that she can count on herself. What if as you reach forward, she resists, retreating further into her hiding place? Maybe she defends her position by lashing out with a paw swipe, a snarl, a bark, or bite. You wonder, “Why won’t you let me help you? You can trust me. Please let me save you!” You exhale deeply, with an audible sigh. “How can I help you understand that I only want to comfort and care for you?” Many minutes pass with each attempt to help. You say to yourself, “If only I could speak puppy (or kitten). If only I looked, acted, felt, and communicated like you, maybe then you’d understand. Maybe then together, we could save you from this situation.”
My friends, this is not unlike the heartfelt feelings our Father in heaven has toward each of us. He wonders why when we struggle, when we are frightened, alone, wet, or hungry, why we run from Him. Have you? I have. I have felt despair. I vividly recall a time when I felt dreadfully abandoned. After weeks of seemingly unanswered prayers, I decided, “Well, that’s proof. You really don’t care.” Feeling lost and forgotten, I figured I was on my own. I doubted. I retreated. I prayed less. Instead I used every minute to strive that much harder to survive the crisis. For some reason we think we must make it on our own. There’s so much (both people and situations) working against us; so many pressures that need to be addressed and managed. [Think about a few of your own. Which one comes to mind first?]
Well, I’d like to say, I was never more wrong! It took some time, but slowly I came to recognize how many gifts He’d sent me to help get me through that horrible time. After months of learning, growing, and discovering, I know without a shadow of a doubt that God was there and that the Holy Spirit carried me the whole time. [What about the situation that popped into your mind. Have you asked, listened, and noticed His help with an open mind and heart?]
God sees our worries, our fear, lack of understanding, our hurts, hunger, and needs. He knows our despair when the cruel parts of this world cause us to retreat into a dark place, hiding and lashing out as we attempt to protect ourselves. Like a frightened puppy, we often move further and further away from faith, believing we must rely only on our own resources. Our Father tried to extend His hand. He reached out over centuries through prophets and signs. After exhausting every other idea to no avail, He finally said, “If only I could be just like you, to completely relate in every way, to fully communicate and show you the way to freedom, safety, and salvation!”
So as we begin Advent, we rejoice. We celebrate this season knowing our Father loves us - incredibly, without condition or end. “For God so loved the world, He sent His only son.” -John 3:16
I find joy in Jesus’ arrival. I prepare by decorating and lighting candles, singing, praying, and uncovering hope I find in new beginnings. I’ll cherish this time and this gift! How about you? When Jesus comes at Christmas, will you retreat or will you accept His outstretched hand? Will you hold back, timid and trembling or rush out of your personal shelter into His warm, loving embrace?
It was essential that He should in this way become completely like His brothers, so that He could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God… because He has Himself been through tests and trials, He is able to help others who are tested and tried.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely;
In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.
They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.
They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God….
Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God… He comes to save you.
I present this article based on an old story passed down for hundreds of years. The metaphor hits home for me, so I’m sharing my interpretation...
Have you ever stopped to appreciate the power of memory? Memories can conjure up all kinds of emotion; they help us review and relive; they help us learn; they can even help us keep important people and events close. Memories are quite personal, embodying our subjective perspective about an individual or circumstance. And memories are mighty. I’ve been touched by memory through sounds, especially music, sights, especially in nature, and even through tastes and often times, yup, smells.
Recently, I was reminded about special people, places, and events through an unexpected onslaught of memory. I believe this occasion was a sign I very much needed; it offered me both reassurance and appreciation. As if in a dim, stuffy room, where a window was opened, air and light flowed to me. Only after sensing the fresh, crisp air and warm, bright rays did I realize my need for it. I breathed deeply; I remembered fond times with family members, occasions with my child as a youngster, and special milestones... I embraced feelings of serenity, pride, worth, joy, and hope. I felt energized and cleansed. I was led by these memories to revisit precious times with dear people whom I have since lost in physical form.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? So, let me ask, why is it when I usually contemplate those no longer here, do I focus on the pain and hurt? My heart has ached, wretched and broken in grief for those passed or gone away. I miss them. I find myself feeling sad, lonely, empty, perhaps even abandoned. I long to see them, hear them, feel them, and experience more wonderful moments. Naturally! So, is it normal to miss them? Sure. Is it healthy to wallow in the anguish, probably not...
So imagine my delight this time. After a bit of an emotional afternoon, I discovered there’s much more to MEMORIES. This affect inside me was so impressive, I’m compelled to share it. I’ll go so far as to suggest the next time you recall a loss (temporary or permanent, person or thing), try focusing on the good that person(s) or time(s) bestowed upon your life. Allow yourself to relish in the joy, beauty, and wonder which touched you so deeply and that you recall so fondly. It’s the same sentiment that causes the yearning. Think about the time together and what was shared - whatever details come to mind: who, what, where, when, how… Ponder routines, expressions, teasing, habits, and tendencies. Which of them were “kinda’ cute” and which drove you crazy (knowing you’d seize them in a heartbeat given the chance)? Deliberate over the impact their being had as it intersected with yours.
Two people in particular had significant (perhaps the greatest) effect on me becoming the person I am today. I’ll sadly confess I have lost both. One I knew over forty years; the other a little more than two. Each left a cavernous hole in my heart. They’d filled me with love, acceptance, challenges, and teachings. I naturally ache with hollowness missing their presence. But here’s the remarkable insight of what I just discovered… That place in me is not just an empty abyss. Instead, it overflows with priceless gifts, ideas, memories, and lessons. They gave me part of themselves - now and forever living in me. Their affection does not cease, it remains, encouraging and stimulating me. Love triumphs!
Yes, I miss them. I wish we could talk, or that they’d be there when I’m hurt, or that they could smile, hug or put me in my place as needed. Still I’m certain this separation is not an end. I wholeheartedly believe they are with me, daily. It may sound bizarre, but they’ve both proven their presence (in small signs I missed at first, but which later, and together, struck me as incredible). I am convinced, more than ever, the spirit of loved ones are present, here and now. I savor their everlasting influence, treasure their character, and trust in their perpetual inspiration. Resting in wonderful memories is intoxicating.
So in honor of November, the month of remembrance for Saints as well as departed souls, I’ll dust off my albums and open those digital jpgs. Sorting through a plethora of photos, I recall endless celebrations, precious moments inside seasons, holidays, even in everyday chores. I’ll share with friends and family who cherished them too. I will reminisce with memories that may have collected a few cobwebs in that dim, stuffy attic. With wide open windows, mindful of both somber and fun times, difficulties, and silly habits, I will rejoice.
What about you? Are you up for a challenge that may begin with a sizable heartache, but ends in exhilaration? You might just find yourself teary, smiling, and enchanted!
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised as incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.
I heard a loud voice from heaven, “Behold, God is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people. God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. The old order has passed away… Behold, I make all things new.”
For my “Dads,” I miss you dearly. Yet I am filled with gratitude for your influence on my life. Through you I have found wisdom, meaning, and perspective.
Have you ever considered that things are exactly how they’re supposed to be? Does your nature or gut prefer that theory? Does it feel more comforting than a constant longing or feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled?
Most of us want and need; we desire, covet, and yearn. We wonder, hope, even fantasize… Much of that is good and healthy. Dreaming is wonderful, setting goals and achieving them is fabulous, but what about those basics? There is a tipping point - when too much energy is exerted on all those, “if it was only like ____,” or “if only I had ____.”
Can I accept the way things are? Should I? Why do I wish those fundamentals were different, that is, those things I can’t change? I’m talking about the parts of, in, and around me that just… are. What if instead, I believed everything is as it was meant to be? Might there be a reason behind it? What if I was designed to be born at this time, in this place, to these parents? What if I was meant to meet these people and experience these events?
It’s no use wishing I was taller, or born in 1901, or able to sing like Carrie Underwood. Notice, I’m not talking about things I can affect. If I don’t like the color of my hair, I might choose to dye it. If I don’t like where I live, I may set a goal to move. If I would like to have a full-time career writing for a magazine or caring for animals (both part of my semi-retirement plan), I can work toward that - however quickly or slowly makes sense depending on my big picture.
I start to become aware… If I accept those aspects of me that just are (as made by the Creator), my atmosphere is more relaxed; I exert less anxious energy. Someone once said, half the things we worry about, we have no control over. If I can’t alter them, will worrying over them make any difference? Considering that wisdom, I realize worry for such can only wear me out. I’ve also come to look at things I want and can amend differently. I could prioritize and work toward them, at an appropriate pace, so long as I move forward. I find there’s no need for extensive worry for things I have control over either. Instead I focus on is positive, healthy ambition. So, I need not waste energy pining over what can’t be different or worry about what can. What else is there?
So far I’ve learned to trade anxiety for acceptance or ambition. Let’s continue to contemplate…
I garner greater tranquility as I accept parts of me that just “are.” I might further consider there is a reason, a purpose. Maybe I was needed to be in this family to help this sibling through that hardship. Perhaps I was the daughter to this parent who needed my particular visionary perspective in order to be gratified in some way for which I may never comprehend. Perhaps a teacher gained new insight from my (otherwise off-putting) inquisitiveness and attention to detail. Maybe there’s a silver lining for having been, let’s say, “picked-on” through middle school for being shy, awkward, or geeky.* Imagine that what I experienced in my youth left me with a certain instinct to embrace, welcome, and defend those who don’t always fit in. I wonder if I was intended to “happen upon” the girl who became my roommate in college. If I wasn’t THIS me, with THESE traits (those bestowed and those that came through my specific experience), I may not have been sensitive to her pain, stopped to chat, and developed a friendship. If I hadn’t known apprehension, if I didn’t recognize anxiety for feeling outcast, things may have been very different. I’ll never forget how my gut-instinct was confirmed three years later, sitting on that little bed in our second-floor room. My roommate confessed how my introduction changed the course of that moment, that day, that week, and beyond… likely saving her life. I breathe deep. Even now, I pause as the story causes my skin to tingle. I was inspired by the gifts God gave me to reach out. All that I was screamed inside my whole being that day, “Something isn’t right!” The Spirit opened my mouth to say, “Hello,” even as I shook through my own trepidation, to strike up a conversation, visit for a bit, feel a connection, and suggest we meet later for lunch.
If life is somewhat fated, do I perceive it as destined or doomed?
I prefer to believe there is a grand scheme. I was (and you were) created out of love, with cause and for a purpose. Like the tree, bush, or wildflower who does not choose what field in which it is planted, what soil in which it rests, or what sunlight it receives; who does not dictate how much rain will come, or what animals will graze, or what weeds may surround it… I still sprout. And whether I’m tall or short, wide or flimsy, with deep colors or pale, I can grow into a magnificent piece of nature.
My life is as this me, in this soil, with these roots. My existence includes drought as well as life-giving rain. It is bequeathed with sunshine along with periodic storms. I am surrounded by both beautiful, inspiring flowers and ugly, stifling weeds. Yet, it is where I am planted.
I choose to blossom and flourish.
Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
We are His work of art, created in Christ to lead the life of good deeds which God intended from the beginning.
* For clarity: By NO means is bullying, abuse, hurtful, insulting, or demeaning activity right or appropriate in any way. Nor do I advocate hardships, pain, or suffering are blessings. Nevertheless, sometimes a portion of “bad” may be turned into a spark which is somehow used for good.
If you had to describe yourself as a person in a sports stadium, who would you say you’d be today?
As this is my busiest time of year, I felt like each of those at some point last week. I was out of sorts, not myself, distracted; I’d neglected my peaceful, hopeful, faith-filled mantras. “Game” strategies invaded my being as if the Olympics were on the line. Yikes! Suddenly I realized there’s a time, place, and purpose for each role I fulfill, in every game, at each stadium. Each is important in my relation to others and for my own well-being. As I pondered several fretful moments, I wondered how it had become so… intense.
An insight bubbled-up I believe is worth sharing.
I noticed that in the harshest events of that week I was preoccupied, operating on autopilot. Committed to playing offense and defense, I forgot the purpose of the game and why I love the sport. Have you ever been so focused on a goal you lost your way? Suddenly you look back and wonder what happened to the real me? We believe we must succeed; we desire recognition, compensation, security. Am I driven to accomplish to the point of neglecting exercise, family dinner, even kissing the kids goodnight? Do I simply say, I’ll get back to all that after I sign the client or complete the project? Perhaps I defend against a competitor to the point that it consumes my energy. If I don’t score, do I dwell in resentment, hurt, shame, or fear? What’s the harm in a few fumbles, interceptions, whiffs, or gutter balls? In fact, a strike in baseball is very different from a strike in bowling. Maybe I’m just in the wrong game! What about teamwork?
We can all forget the essence of the game (life) when driven to win or preoccupied with defending our position. At times our defense is more aggressive than our offensive. Back to my point - I forgot at least one important role in that stadium. Ready?
Sometimes it’s fitting to relinquish an instinct to play offense, defense, aid, or vendor. Sometimes I can sit back and enjoy the game! It is vital to rest, visit with friends and family, enjoy a movie, recharge, and appreciate my surroundings. Those precious moments are forfeited when I become obsessed with performing. I don’t need to worry about some of those plays. There will be many games in my life. I will win some; I will watch some; I will lose some (whether deserved or seemingly due to “a bad call”). But they are all okay...
I recognize I can be overwhelmed by duties, compelled by responsibilities, or driven by compulsion. Considering the many tasks for which I must allot time, it's up to me to distinguish between what I must do and what I truly want to do. The latter is also known as my passion. Sure, I have to stop at the grocery store, wash the laundry, pay the bills, do the dishes, and go to work. Yet I am zealous about a new writing project, playing with my dogs, calling an old friend, and going for a bike ride with my husband. I am healthier when I remember to devote the appropriate time and attention to each.
I am going to challenge myself to be mindful of what fuels my enthusiasm - what’s vital to living in my joy and my peace. Did you know the etymology of enthusiasm is “possessed by God,” or “God within?” Doesn’t that make sense? When I’m doing what my heart loves, I’m enthused. God is certainly within my spirit! I know because I feel good, happy, content, and serene. I believe God desires us to take time for what we love to do amid our hectic schedules and obligations. That’s more than taking a break now and then; I believe it’s a “rest” within our passion and enthusiasm which brings us closer to Him and each other. After all, He gave us those passionate desires and the talents to fulfill them.
Only you know what that is for you. Only you know when to play in the game, when to support the game, and when to watch and enjoy the game.
Paying attention to all elements on that field brings me into a deeper sense of joy and awe. This is where I find God. So, I’ll be sure to consider appropriate time for each position, play, role, and seat in my stadium. I will include heart-filled activities between training and practices. I’ll remember to savor God’s Spirit within and the precious essence of being me during the many games in which I participate each and every day.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart’s desire.
And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
- in honor of all the time we spend around water, especially in summertime
What do you think is the strongest “substance” on earth? Diamonds? Steel? C’mon your first thought was…what?
Well, let me throw another one at you… WATER.
“What?” You say, “You’re joking right? Water is... floppy, soft, colorless, plain, common… nothing special… it’s just… water.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, I challenge you to ponder this:
From Wikipedia: Water is by far the most studied chemical compound and is described as the "universal solvent” and the "solvent of life". It is the most abundant substance on Earth and the only common substance to exist as a solid, liquid, and gas on Earth's surface. It is also the third most abundant molecule in the universe. *
This description is fascinating, no? What do you think about water now?
So here’s my idea: What if… I choose to “live like water.” I have found that when I elect to do so, yes, I still work hard but I also live well (Is there a pun in there?)
I can work toward becoming a “life-giving” element; perhaps live out greater generosity, compassion, and harmony. I can be flexible; existing in, transferring between, and accepting different states of mind or being. Perhaps I may live more freely disregarding unnecessary worldly pressure. I can be more embracing (absorbent), joining together with others around me for good. I can be determined and after a lifetime, leave a lasting mark of beauty in some way. I could hold more positive thoughts and views, perhaps allowing me to naturally radiate my own “exquisite crystals.” I can be more gentle yet powerful, using what I’m made of to manufacture valuable, hopeful energy.
Furthermore, by living like water, I can be a source of collaborative, serene strength. Instead of resisting or clashing with obstacles (be it persons, circumstances, or events), I might opt to maneuver around them - considering both the other, as well as my own, path but with an openness to amend, modify, and improve... What happens in a stream when a large tree falls into it? The water changes direction, goes over, under, and around, continuing along its merry way. If instead, water tried to push or conquer the tree (as would, say, a large rock), what happens? Two stubborn elements bump, hit, clash, clang, and force. It’s often noisy and painful. I can learn a lot by choosing to adjust in a difficult circumstance. Perhaps there is another - a better - way to negotiate or continue than one of brawn.
Water maintains a sense of lowliness, yet it is still majestic! How or why do I stand in awe of the ocean, a waterfall, flowing fountain, or quiet lake? What is it that captures my attention, offering a positivity that causes me to pause? The water is happily running its course, humbly performing its role, contently living as it was meant. Think about how humans strive to achieve, win, or rise up. What in our ambition motivates us? Are we hard and aggressive seeking height, or are we malleable and adaptable, remaining naturally on our course (purpose)? I find through practicing a sense of humility and gentleness, I can be wise, compassionate, insightful, successful, and helpful. On the other hand, when I try to force my way, I often lose control or at least some respect in the process. When I relate to others justly and fairly, I gain not only vision and camaraderie, but respect and desire from those I lead to perform and thrive with enthusiasm.
I’ve come to understand that when I merge my ideas, dreams, and goals with the concept of living like these qualities of water, my own life flows better and more good emerges!
I am convinced. If there is a substance on earth I wish to imitate in order to live well in all aspects: life and health, goals and dreams, relationships and connections… I chose to aspire to live like water.
How about you?
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water* will flow from within him.’” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.
- John 7:37-39
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- John 4:13-14
Have you ever been around a person (or persons) who make you feel good? Just in general… Well, I am blessed to know a few of those bright lights…
I realized something similar recently that seems worth sharing:
Almost by accident (although I don’t believe it was accidental), I had the pleasure of joining a group of people on a steering committee for Authorfest. We are preparing an event later this month. My heart is full of appreciation for being welcomed into the group and also to have observed how they work together. This band of about eight met, collaborated, discerned, strategized, and stepped-up. I am amazed not only with the creativity and skills each member brought to the table, but at the way they interacted. Everyone had value; input offered by esteemed comrades was respectfully considered. This attitude of inclusion enhanced their already solid foundation. From writing, to drawing, to planning, to marketing, to scheduling, to simply tossing around ideas, everyone’s visions were contemplated and respected. All members were encouraged to contribute at whatever level they were comfortable and able, and therefore shined. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t as if ideas were haphazardly proposed or recklessly accepted; several were declined, but with good counsel, cause, and often by consensus. The soon-to-be-realized result will prove my inclination since I anticipate a phenomenal outcome. Sincere awe and gratitude envelop what I witnessed as the newest member.
Why do I have a sense of enchantment about the whole affair? Well… The group worked from a perspective of community. They took advantage of the multitude of talents filling the room. Their focus was upon the greatest benefit to the whole (and to the guests who will attend the event). Missing was any ego, selfishness, or desire for personal gain. I should mention that many individuals on this committee are highly regarded and well-known experts in their fields. Yet they came together with a common purpose and goal.
So I got to thinking… isn’t this how a group of people working on a project should behave? Could you imagine if within our families or work-group members focused on each other’s strengths, respected ideas, and considered suggestions with a view of the larger picture? Envision receptivity over rejection due to individual agendas or based upon who a particular someone is in relation to “me” (politically).
Hmmm… I recall many verses, including John 15:9-12*1 and Matthew 22:36-40*2.
We are gregarious creatures. We were made to connect, to support, to join forces, to pool resources… to work TOGETHER (the word together originates from “to + gather” *3).
It is only by entertaining a bit of humility that we allow ourselves to be open to another’s gifts. A brightness shines forth when a fellow human is enabled to display their unique promise. Instead of looking for weaknesses to exploit or squelching another’s talents in order to get ahead (that mentality of “me first,” or “look out for number one”), we might start to encourage each other. Can you imagine a community [or world] like that? I foresee less stress and more joy, at minimum. Yes, I believe both everyone involved and everyone around each such circumstance would reap great reward.
There is indeed power in numbers as well as incredible value in unity. Remember, Jesus was all about others… uniting them… working for them… exposing their goodness… in everything He did, from His first public act (a favor to His mother - turning the water to wine), to healing and reuniting beloved family members, all the way to His commandment at the Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He teaches us how to treat others. Remember too that He lives in of each of us and therefore equally inside each of “them.”
For me, a valuable insight has been reinforced through this graced experience; I’m humbled, honored, and filled with gratitude.
* As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
** “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
*** Verified Google Search “Etymology of together.” Results = Old English tōgædere, based on the preposition to + a West Germanic word related to gather.
If interested in the event mentioned above visit www.AuthorfestPA.com
“Hey, it’s the little things in life.” We’ve all heard that before; we’ve likely said it ourselves; perhaps a bit sarcastically when surprised by an unexpected taste of joy from something simple.
For our June musings, let’s remember the truth in that statement and the immense value in those often overlooked occurrences. Life is full of “little things” which have potential to become big, influential, outlook-altering catalysts. Just like the mustard seed (one of the tiniest seeds) that grows into one of the largest plants.
First, I want to acknowledge the value in simple acts of kindness.
For example, I now appreciate the power in a smile. Smiles imply:
Recognition of someone’s presence
Implication of worth
Portrayal of calmness/peace
Emission of warmth and ease
Happiness, which can be contagious for both parties
Release of endorphins - research shows, smiling can even change brain chemistry
Most of us understand this, as we offer many polite gestures: hold the door open, pick-up the book dropped by a hurried colleague, let the young man out into the line of traffic (even when it’s easy to assume the next person will). I might call a friend to check in while folding laundry. These small expressions take little time, radiate thoughtfulness, and make a large difference in someone’s day, even in their attitude. Have you heard any of those stories about a depressed person who decides to persevere thanks to a small act of kindness?
Here’s a silly example where my choosing to say “Hello” gave me a huge sense of love, joy, and peace. I had been thinking about my father, recently passed, as I worried over a big project I’d present that afternoon. On a topic near and dear to him, I considered how he would have been involved if he was still here. Early that morning, I passed a colleague and offered a morning salutation. She was carrying a box (I barely noticed). She stopped to chat, although now I can’t recall about what... for two or three minutes - tops. She pulled up the box and opened it saying, “Here, I know it’s early, but would you like one? I never get these, but something inspired me to pick them up instead of the usual pound cake or croissant.” I looked inside the box - chocolate drizzled macaroons. I gasped. She continued, “Yeah, I know; macaroons are not my usual fare but they called to me today.” Macaroons were my Dad’s favorite cookie, pastry, or treat. It was as if he spoke to me. “Lil, this afternoon will go great. Don’t worry, trust me, trust yourself, trust the Holy Spirit.” I was filled with confidence and hope! I felt him nearby... All that from saying, “Hello.”
Small acts of kindness are indeed rewarding, for giver and recipient. I recommend we dole them out generously!
Secondly, awareness itself is underrated. I realized that being aware of my surroundings, my feelings, and other’s feelings, gives me helpful insight. Furthermore, giving attention to the little things in my life, has made me more positive, optimistic, and whole. You know what else? In all those things… God is there! He is present in the smallest aspects of our day.
Don’t let the little things go unnoticed. Look at the pretty bird, enchanting flower, or traveling ladybug; pay attention to the inquisitive baby delighting with awe in discovery; be aware of the sunshine; savor a favorite song or the dog’s ecstatically wagging tail; relish sitting under a shade tree catching up with an old friend as a perfect summer breeze wafts about… notice the beauty and splendor in the simplicity.
Just like “more is less,” small is big, and miniscule can be huge. Remember the mouse who pulls the thorn from the lion’s paw, think of David and Goliath, think of the colleague that offered a tiny macaroon which changed an entire day! Think of the Holy Spirit’s whisper in a breeze - all is well.
The tiny mustard seed has so much potential. Savor and enjoy them all!
Ah, May! One of my favorite months. The skies are more blue; the air warm and fresh; the sunshine, cheerful. We take to the outdoors - active on fields, shores, and poolsides, attending Bar-B-Qs, gathering around campfires, spending quality time together. I savor my own increased energy for gardening and hiking as these days grow longer.
Speaking of gardening… I was inspired this month with a reflection on the parable of the sower whose seeds are spread over a wide and varied terrain. A few seeds are quickly pilfered by birds. A handful sprout excitedly, growing without root to sustain themselves. Other seeds grow deep and slow and flourish. The analogy is meant to represent our varied responses to biblical messages. Each of us, at different times, have likely exhibited every one of those metaphoric reactions. Have you ever been too busy to accomplish a good deed you’d planned to do? Have you ever started one with great intention, but got sidetracked and never carried through? Have you set out on a project, planning, tilling the soil, employing resources, and achieving success? Seems this might be a good story to recall this time of year, especially when life can be busy, complicated, or stressful. It reminds us to take our time, set our intentions, and follow through; slow and steady bears much fruit. (Oh, pardon the mixed adages!)
Consider further how we also have experiences as the sower. Sometimes we unearth a fantastic goal, planting (or tossing) our resume, idea, even ourselves, “out there.” We reveal our talents in hopes of moving forward on a meaningful objective. Sometimes it’s easy - we plant with small, plentiful seeds. Other times we offer up our prized kernels. In the first case we feel relaxed and carefree; in the second quite hopeful, even a bit vulnerable, likely unsure, timid, or afraid.
I recently put myself out there, hoping to achieve a long-desired ambition. Unfortunately, an aloof response shook my resolve. Almost embarrassed, I doubted myself. I began to wonder if it was silly to attempt such a feat. Perhaps I shouldn’t have exposed such an intimate goal at all. But I soon realized that planting is good.
Why not try? What about a leap of faith?
I should send my qualifications, talents, hopes, and dreams into the world. In some cases, they will fall on the stone path and be swept away without any consideration. In other places, the ground may initially appear receptive, but nothing will come to fruition. Eventually given a healthy mixture of sunshine and rain, some of my idea-seeds will settle into moist, lush earth, and I will enjoy the fruits of my labor. Of course I don’t act recklessly; it makes sense to avoid repeatedly casting seeds on dry, rocky dirt (un-receptive areas) or rely on empty responses (outward nods with no supporting intentions). Instead I proceed down the path, discerning each potential garden (possibility or opportunity) with an open heart. Adding a hopeful spirit, I invest my energy to find that fertile soil. The wisdom, I suppose, is in taking appropriate risks: seeking, deliberating, and discovering a verdant arena for each aspiration. I plow, nourish, care and cultivate… There I will watch my dream grow slow and beautiful.
So the next time you feel inspired but doubt your inner voice, the next time you want to venture out “on a limb,” under a shadow of uncertainty, wondering if it’s wise to expose such a personal desire... maybe... just... Go for It!
Ponder, pray, and take that leap of faith. Throw the seeds of your imagination high into the air. Let the wind carry some to unexpected regions. Watch the rest scatter over the ground, knowing not all will take root, but hopeful several will indeed flourish. Perhaps a few might thrive and produce beyond expectation!
Take a chance, work hard… till, sow, harvest, reap.
When a large crowd gathered... he spoke in a parable.
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
His disciples asked him the meaning of this parable. He answered...
“The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, but they have no root; they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial. As for the seed that fell among thorns, they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”
Do you believe in miracles? Do you notice every day blessings? This month, I’d like to offer a personal story. I’ll be sharing, confessing, and emoting. Forgive me if I don’t reach you or if perhaps the story resonates too closely…
Last week, my pup (Rocky) became ill. He’d been picky about his newly-changed food, but otherwise appeared happy, energetic, and like our Little Rock Star: half angel, half devil-dog… until Saturday. I noticed his tail lowered; he seemed a bit “off.” I called our vet. The assistant asked the basic questions and being fully booked, suggested a visit the following week (note this is quite unusual). Saturday evening, Rocky was incredibly restless. By 6:00 am [Palm Sunday] something was very wrong. By 7:00 am we were driving northward to an emergency clinic. I admit I am in no way “good” with hospitals (people or animal). I count on the comfort and security of a well-known care facility. My mind conflicted between maternal concern and excessive fear-filled doubts as the old pickup sped ahead. Should we really take him there? Emergency clinics are… neutral at best. Right? We’ll just be another faceless case. They’ll want to rack-up a bill with unnecessary treatment; they don’t know us, our history, or care about our family. Can you grasp my level of discomfort? Honestly, how judgmental! How negative!
The silent, tense drive took near an hour. M grasped the wheel with white knuckles. The engine groaned expressing the chaos in my gut. Rocky was definitely uncomfortable, warm to the touch, and a bit shaky.
We arrived; an attendant greeted us. Shortly after, the doctor examined Rocky. Doc P sat us down for his diagnosis. First came options: he can proceed with any of these types of tests, at these costs, but in his expert opinion, “Rocky has meningitis.” He explained Rocky’s lack of sensory-response, complete zone-out, and lost ability to balance. He called it “mentally dull.” What?! I was stunned, as if slapped sharply across the face.
Trusting this man’s conviction and apparent knowledge we chose tests and treatment. Later they administered a heavy dose of steroids and gave Rocky back to us to wait. We sat cradling our baby. His head needed support; his tongue was limp and partially out; his eyes rolled back. The tiny ball of fur appeared lifeless but for the slight rise and fall of his ribcage. The doctor caught sight of our expression and said, “Yes, that’s the disease…Yes, he may not make it through the week.” Tears poured down our cheeks. I snuggled my face into my precious five-year-old pup. A couple had come into the clinic for a post-surgery pick-up. Overhearing, the woman ran over and hugged me with a deep, lingering, sympathetic embrace. It conveyed strong energy. “You’re in the right place,” she whispered.
Finally, we were sent home. Rocky’s activity is completely restricted (no climbing, jumping off the couch, stairs, exertion or quick movement of any kind - basically he can walk a short distance). The next 14 days would be critical, the first 48 hours, telling. Any improvement would imply hope. Else the disease or the other possibility – an inoperable brain tumor – would likely. . .
We shared our news with family and friends counting on prayers. We cuddled our drowsy puppy every minute and sadly crated him two feet from the bed for several sleepless nights. We made every arrangement for comfort and care, hoping we’d just love him well. We prayed more…
A week later, Rocky is still weak. The only sounds he can muster are moans. He is eating and drinking, and taking his liquid medication like a champ. One day, he hugged his daddy – something he ordinarily does often – letting us know he recognizes us. Rocky paraded a toy (a typical 10-minute activity) for about 8 feet, before hiding it (also a true Rocky move). His tail goes up when the other one of us re-enters the room. After collaboration with the ER vet, our vet saw Rocky after the first full week. Doc R is pleasantly encouraged by our little guy’s progress. We see Rocky’s unique expressions. We sense that he too is optimistic. Despite what must be an overwhelming feeling of sickness, he’s sometimes aware, and always behaving like a perfect patient. This is a slow battle, but one our pup is giving all he has. He’s fighting as a true “Rocky!”
I am blessed this Easter Sunday morning. I am blessed that everything which needed to happen, did:
Unfortunately, for some peculiar reason, Easter is habitually a hard time for our family. Yet there is something Easter always brings: hope. Hope for new life, growth, love, faith… and most of all, Easter brings with it an indescribable JOY. Not a joy that mimics happiness; rather a joy that comes from your core and radiates through your whole being, right out into the atmosphere.
A JOY THAT SWELLS, SURPRISES, SUSTAINS AND SPREADS.
Easter brings fullness of joy and hope. Christ’s resurrection conquers death; joy overcomes despair. For God so loved the world, He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.” - John 3:16
Is my pup’s nightmare in anyway good? NO! We don’t desire hardship; yet challenge is a part of life we cannot control. Can I dwell in the misery and despair at yet another severe Holy Week disaster? Sure. I mean c’mon, how much more can we take? It’s not fair; it’s just not right.
Can I delight in the grace I find in each moment Rocky returns just a little bit? YOU BET! I am filled with immense JOY and gratitude for his updated prognosis. I rejoice in the gifts I recognize. He is with us, always. Sometimes more perceptibly than others. I have no doubt God worked through the women who hugged me. She was an angel to me that day. I can still see her face and feel the love she brought to me. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man is lifted up, you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone."- John 8:28-29
Both feelings (upset at another disaster; rejoicing and gratitude) are normal. Which will I choose to hold in my heart? Which will you choose in your circumstance? My recommendation this April is – seek, find, and treasure the JOYs in life. They may exist in unexpected places, be tangled amid stresses or hardships, or just be subtle. But these joys are filled with light, peace, and hope – just like Easter.
Less than five minutes after M declared his thoughts for “not having pets anymore because it just hurts too much,” I noticed a sign on the wall. I asked permission to have this photo.
Here are a few of those who’ve contributed to our own hearts over the years:
Please honor your beloved furry family members using the comment section below <3
What?! Another nor’easter? Seriously? Forecasts of more snow, rain, winds, cold… My immediate response: “I can’t wait for Spring!”
Do you say this too?
March is an odd month - filled with significant, undeniable transition. For some indescribable reason, it seems the remaining seasons migrate from one to another gradually; but not the arrival of spring. March transpires as an all-out battle between winter and spring. Each time spring demonstrates progress, winter clobbers the earth with a heavy blow. Who enjoys the dark, dreary, cold, gray, wet, hostile combat between winter and spring?
I throw my hands in the air uttering: “I can’t wait! I can’t wait for warmer temperatures, sunny days, the garden to bloom…” I find myself in a climate of longing, yearning beyond anticipation. Of course, anticipation can be wonderful if we savor the waiting stages, when we relish the planning and preparing for something grand. However, when I feel that old, “I-can’t-wait-for-spring,” it's more a desire to hurry past now and arrive at later.
All around me, I notice a congruent cacophony of the same kind of comments, especially this time of year: “I can’t wait for prom,” “I can’t wait for finals to be over,” “I can’t wait for next year,” “I can’t wait to get a [new] job. And there’s more: “I can’t wait for our wedding...or the baby to come… or the kids to start school… or for all their sport events to subside…”
I can’t wait till…
I start to wonder and, well, feel a bit disappointed, even in myself. I suddenly realize, What about now? What about today? Doesn’t this day have anything to offer?
What’s my point? Don’t underestimate the beauty and wonder in this moment. Yes, that’s our theme for March. I fear for those of us wishing time away, eager for the next “whatever” to arrive. I feel sad when I hear someone coveting the future. Every day contains something worthwhile. Think about what that could be: a call with an old friend, a dinner that turned out especially well, a news report of an organization making a difference in their community, fortune in choosing the fast line at the grocery store, a child helping with the dishes, or bringing home good news about school, friends, or interests. These should not be discounted. They are not merely deserved, expected, normal phenomenon. These are the amazing events that make up our lives. Moments come together to create a lifetime. When I start to wish them away, I need to pause and ponder. Then… I recognize an overlooked treasure.
There is great value in today, whatever it brings. I find most days include a bit of good and a bit of not-so-great… it's up to me as to where I put my focus. But this day, these hours, they are mine. The people, the events, situations, challenges, successes or failures, hot or cold, cloudy or sunny… it’s my time to appreciate; my moments to enter into the memory bank, journal, diary… my minutes with which to take delight and then recall when months and years have gone by and those once longed-for times have passed.
May I suggest we don’t forget to notice the tulips working hard to peek through the still snow-covered dirt. I chose to appreciate their efforts now, even before their bloom. Yes, let’s not miss a moment! I want to notice the daylight, and take advantage of a day to bake something yummy, minutes to call a friend, time to take a drive, or read...
Find something in each day to feel good about. Don’t waste any day “not being able to wait for spring.” It will surely come in time.
“Our purpose in life isn’t to arrive at a destination where we find inspiration, just as the purpose of dancing isn’t to end up at a particular spot on the floor. The purpose of dancing – and of life – is to enjoy every moment and every step.”
-Wayne W. Dyer
Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present”
“If we are to enjoy life, NOW is the time, not tomorrow or next year. Today should always be our most wonderful day.”
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
“You have everything you need for complete peace and total happiness right now.”
-Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
“Never allow waiting to become a habit…. Life is happening now.”
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.