“Are we there yet?”
Two years ago, my husband planned a romantic weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast in the heavily-forested corner of our state. He found the destination online, made the reservations, GPS’d the route that would take us to our secluded getaway. We packed the car and struck out for a few days of rest and relaxation.
But something went wrong. The GPS route took us on miles of out-of-the-way winding and wandering roads. We cruised through darkened, mysterious forests and unexplored, dusty trails. We steered the car through steeply twisting paths, over green hills, down dark valleys, and around sharp turns. We passed abandoned, unpainted barns and tilting, empty houses. Gravel roads pinged the car with scattered stones. We drove around the countryside for miles, always following the curvy blue line on the GPS screen, but seemingly getting no closer to our destination.
“Are we there yet?”
Sometimes our lives lead us on long and winding roads and across unbeaten paths. We circle back and loop around through the curves and redirections, all the while worrying about where we are headed and wondering when we will ever arrive.
On that long and wandering drive, I could have complained about the endless delay, the bumpy roads, the flying gravel dust. I could have fretted about the desolation and isolation of our path, the long suspense of waiting to find a functioning bathroom. Instead, what I remember now is the beautiful scenery: the green, shading trees and fields of blooming wildflowers, the grazing deer and soaring birds, the interesting old barns and spooky, empty houses. When we finally arrived at the secluded B&B, we felt more grateful for the welcoming room, the comfortable bed, and the wonderfully functional bath.
We can complain about the unexpected twists and turns our lives may take, worry about frustrating delays, fret about arrival times, argue about the best and most efficient way to proceed. Or we can relax and enjoy the ride, watch the passing scenery, appreciate the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds us. We can choose to be happy and grateful for the time we spend traveling together; and when we arrive at our destination, we will be more aware of the warm and welcoming greeting that awaits us.
What road are you traveling this spring? How do you appreciate and enjoy your journey?
On a gray and rainy day in a dark and drizzly week, all I wanted to do was retreat to the sofa with a book and a blanket. All the cold and damp aggravated my old knee injury, so just hobbling to my desk seemed like too much effort. All I wanted to do was curl up in a cocoon on the couch.
Instead, I called Terra, a former coworker, and asked her to meet for lunch. I braved the tempest and limped through the crowded Chinese restaurant. We ate beef and broccoli while Terra told me about the breakup of her marriage, her upcoming move to a new city, the medical problem that put her in the hospital for two days.
“But I’m not crying anymore,” Terra said. She shook off her slump and again became the cheerful and positive friend I worked with years ago. “I know God is taking care of me. God will work it out.”
“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
On that cold and dreary day, I was reminded that my aching knee is not the only pain in the world. My story is only one of many stories. God hears every prayer, and he knows every concern. Each day he offers me a new opportunity to choose joy in the life I am given, look for the reasons I have to be grateful, trust in him for the resolution of the future, and care for someone else within my reach.
Leaving my cozy and comfortable home reminds me of my purpose: to reach out and connect with friends, offer companionship and support on our shared journey, spread cheer and encouragement wherever I am able. When I trust that God is taking care of me, I am free to forget my small problems and focus on caring for others instead.
When we choose to confront each new day with joy, give thanks for all we are given, and love others we meet on the way; then the drizzle becomes less dreary, and the sun begins to break through the clouds.
How will you face the new day the Lord has made? How do you rejoice and give thanks for God’s care?
“Abby is giving henna tattoos in the cafeteria after yoga class!”
We moved through tree pose and downward dog, then rolled our mats and hurried to the cafeteria.
The big room echoed with the voices of a few scattered groups sitting around at tables. The dimmed lights made the atmosphere calm and serene while Abby patiently painted brown henna dye onto offered forearms and hands.
For me she designed playful paisleys and sunbursts. My daughter requested a blooming flower surrounded by swirling waves. While Abby worked on my daughter’s design, I chatted with Hank.
My daughter and I had attended this women’s nature retreat together for two years. We hiked in the woods and watched for birds in the treetops, stretched and twisted through yoga class, aimed arrows toward paper targets, roasted marshmallows over the late-night bonfire. Hank, my favorite workshop instructor, had led the birdwatching hikes.
As we talked over tea cups in the cafeteria, Hank told me about his health problems, his wedding anniversary, and the appreciation for family and friends he developed as he grew older.
“Enjoy your life while you can,” he told me. “Enjoy your partner while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”
Abbey finished her work on my daughter’s arm. I thanked Hank and said good-night, left my cup in the kitchen window, and retreated to our cabin for the night.
It occurred to me that I may not return to the nature retreat next fall. I may never sit and chat with Hank again. That evening’s talk in the cafeteria may be the last conversation he and I will share.
In the morning we packed the car and headed home. The henna dye had cracked and crumbled. The dust washed off in that night’s shower. The red markings that remained gradually faded through the next week of washings.
“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
Our lives are like henna tattoos, beautiful designs lovingly crafted and carefully painted into place, destined to give temporary joy before fading into memory. Our lives are as beautiful and brief as flowers that fall in the field, clouds that skim across the sky, waves that break and churn upon the shore.
“Enjoy your life while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”
We cannot know how long we have to share with the people who improve our world. All we can do is decide to be grateful and choose to enjoy the special moments and companions while we have them.
Today when we pray, I encourage my friends to give thanks for every moment of our short and amazing existence.
Thank God for every minute we spend with people who encourage and cheer us. Appreciate conversations shared over teacups, wisdom offered and welcomed, and every chance to speak positive words into someone else’s life.
Thank God for beauty of trees and birds, clouds and sky, made more precious because we know this world around us is constantly changing.
Thank God for opportunities to help others and share, for the privilege of praying for the people we love, and the time we can spend enriching someone else’s experience.
Thank God for the unique abilities he has given to each one of us, for all the talents he entrusts us to invest, and for every cherished gift that blesses our days.
I thank God you are reading today and I pray you will remember that every life is a work of art. We are all merely the creations of God’s generous and loving hands.
What do you have to thank God for today? How can you be grateful and appreciate each beautiful moment of your amazing life?
While I silently grumbled about having to clean these footprints from my white tile floor, I realized these marks, tracked in from the wintry outdoors, give me a reminder of my many reasons to be grateful.
Footprints on my floor are evidence I have someone else to come home to and share my life with. Muddy floors show my house is lived in and filled with friendship.
Dirty dishes to wash every day show I have enough food to eat, a filled pantry and refrigerator, a nearby grocery store and enough money to buy more when I need to.
Some crusty stuff on the stovetop records a history of delicious food prepared and shared around the dining room table, with people I value and love.
My basket of dirty laundry says I have enough clothing to keep me warm and the freedom to dress and express myself anyway I want.
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we will be content”
(1 Timothy 6:6-8).
The bathroom to scrub each week makes me especially thankful for indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, soap, and clean towels.
My life is sometimes messy. My floors go unmopped, and my to-do list is never done. My days get crazy-busy, and my schedule is complicated. My life is sometimes imperfect, but always perfectly amazing.
Today I am grateful for my busy, messy life and the people who are busy and messy with me.
What is your evidence of a life well-lived? How does God remind you to be grateful for your crazy, messy, and amazing home?
I can't sleep.
I've never been a steady sleeper. When I was a kid, I often crawled out of bed in the middle of the night, crept downstairs to the dark kitchen, then sat on the cold linoleum floor and ate slabs of Wonder Bread straight from the bag.
As I got older, I developed new strategies to deal with my sleeplessness. I watched hours of Letterman and Leno. I read volumes of The Vampire Chronicles. And most frequently, I wrote in my journal.
My journal became my confidant on the long nights when my mind refused to rest. In my journal, I could pour out my thoughts, worries, fears, and frustrations. I could tell my journal anything I needed, wanted, loved, or regretted. After pouring out my thoughts and feelings onto my journal pages, I could usually find some semblance of peace and return to bed for a few hours of sleep before work.
Journaling helps me clarify my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Writing puts my life into perspective, turning problems and turmoil into more easily managed black and white lines on a page. Journaling brings a sense of logic to life events that are often unpredictable and out of control.
Because I am a believer in the power of journaling, I have written Writing Down the Highway: Guideposts to Journaling for Self-Discovery to expain why, when and how journaling can help single mothers and all women write for self-expression.
On January 1 my ebook Writing Down the Highway will be available by download to new subscribers. Please complete the sign-up form in the sidebar or pop-up box.
Also watch for the new Journaling Prompts page for ideas to begin your own journaling journey.
Letterman and Leno are off the air now. I finished The Vampire Chronicles long ago. But I still journal, and I still sometimes eat bread in the middle of the night.
What are your experiences with journaling? Have you found journaling helps you express your thoughts and ideas?
It's Thanksgiving, so everyone will be posting gratitude lists this week, but I believe we can't have too many reminders of reasons to be grateful.
This year I am thankful for:
Dollar Tree stores
Freshly sharpened pencils
The smell of Play-Doh when I open a new jar
Electric space heaters that look like cute little stoves
Plenty of good food
And a table to share it
Friends and family and the love of God who provides for all we need
What are you thankful for this year?
May you have a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving Day.