Finding beauty on the side of the highway

A few days ago I was driving home in the middle of rush hour. The traffic that day was heavy, even for rush hour and I sat completely motionless for several minutes at a time. As I sat, I watched. I watched other cars, other people, buildings, clouds, trees, anything to keep my mind occupied and ease my stress and boredom.

At one point, as I gazed out my window, I was saddened by how cluttered, dirty and dingy the side of the highway was. As I looked more closely, among the overgrown grass and weeds, I saw pieces of old tires, shards of broken glass and plastic, discarded fast food wrappers, empty pop bottles and a host of other unsightly debris. It was not a pretty sight. As a matter of fact, I had decided that it was just plain ugly. Then, I noticed something that changed my mind.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small patch of beautiful wildflowers pushing their way up through the clutter. At just that moment, traffic came to a complete standstill and I enjoyed the opportunity to sit and stare at these flowers for a few minutes. It struck me that the garbage and ugliness that surrounded them did not detract from their beauty. In fact, in my opinion, they were even more beautiful because of it.

Soon, traffic began to move again and the flowers remained as only a memory. I thought about them for the rest of the drive home and for some time after. I thought how sometimes the world around us can appear dismal and depressing, especially when we focus on the ugly or negative. But like these little wildflowers, if we look for it, there is always beauty to be found too.

As we focus on the beauty in the world, we can also help to make it more beautiful for others. We can be like these little wildflowers on the side of the highway. We can help to make the world a more beautiful and positive place for those around us who are struggling to see beyond the misery and suffering in their own lives.

Through our kindness, compassion, empathy and service we can be the beauty in the world and in the lives of others….

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He is there….

Last night a terrible nightmare woke me up in the middle of the night. I must have called out, been excessively restless, or my husband just sensed my distress because he awoke immediately and asked me what was wrong. When I told him about my nightmare he said, “It is okay, I am here”.

As I drifted back to sleep, I was comforted by the words of my sweet husband. Memories floated gently to the surface and I recalled times in my childhood when nightmares caused me to call out in the middle of the night. I remembered being comforted by my mother as she held me close and reassured me that everything was okay. I remembered feeling safe and loved just knowing that she was there.

The next memories that surfaced were of a time when my own children were small. I remembered the times when they cried out in the night or came running to my room because they were frightened or had nightmares. I remembered holding them, comforting them and doing whatever I could to make them feel safe, protected and loved. I remembered telling them, “It is okay, I am here.”

As I reflected on these tender memories of my mother and my children, I thought how our Heavenly Father feels the same way about His children. He loves us and He is there for us when we are frightened. He is there for us when the trials of this life seem like nightmares and keep us up at night. He is there waiting for us to call out or come running to Him. He wants to comfort, console and do whatever He can to make us feel safe, protected and loved.

When we do call out to Him in our darkest hours, He will always be there to answer, “It is okay, I am here.”

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No thought for the morrow….

One day this week, I was pulling out of my driveway and noticed that the grass was still relatively short even though it had been a little while since we last mowed. I was instantly overjoyed at the thought of putting the lawn mower away and not worrying about yard work until next spring. For a moment, I thought blissfully about leaves changing colors, scorching temperatures disappearing, wearing hoodies and sweaters, and all of the other perks that I associate with autumn. Then, all at once, that brief, blissful moment came to a screeching halt.

My thoughts suddenly fast forwarded right past autumn to winter. I found myself thinking of frigid temperatures, biting winds, icy, treacherous roads, and barren, seemingly lifeless trees. Within seconds my mood had changed from bliss to dread.

As I pondered this instantaneous, abrupt change in my thoughts and mood, I wondered why it is so difficult to live in the moment. Why is it so hard to enjoy the present for even a minute without jumping ahead to worry about things that may or may not happen in the future.

Fortunately, I don’t usually dwell on this uncertain future for very long. I am usually able to rewind back to the present and find the joy that is there. When I do find myself worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future, I try to remember and have faith in a loving, kind Heavenly Father.

I remember Him and I trust that no matter what lies ahead, He is watching over me and will carry me through.

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Being Still

Not too long ago, I took a short trip and visited a beautiful wilderness area in Missouri. This area was miles from any major cities or towns. It’s rolling hills and expansive valleys provided scenic vistas that were absolutely breathtaking.

The day I visited this area, was an unseasonably cool Summer morning. There had been a soft, gentle rain that morning and everything seemed refreshed and new. As I sat on a bench overlooking the vast valley below, I was struck with how quiet and peaceful it was.

I sat for a long time and just listened. I heard the sound of the wind blowing through the trees and the tall grasses. I heard the sounds of birds flying overhead and singing in the nearby trees. I even heard the sound of three baby rabbits as they played nearby. Here, away from the distractions of the modern world, I was able to hear things that would normally be drowned out by the noises of everyday life.

As I sat appreciating the peace and serenity, I thought about the scripture in the Forty Sixth Psalm that says “Be still and know that I am God.” I thought how in this moment, in this quiet, in this stillness, I felt closer to my Heavenly Father. Away from the noise and chaos of my normal life, it was so much easier for me to talk to Him and to listen to Him.

I came away from that day with an even greater understanding of the importance of “being still” and an even greater resolve and determination to find a time and place each day to “be still” and to know that He is God…

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A Single Daisy

My husband recently had surgery which required us to spend a few days in a bleak, sterile hospital room. His room was in a newly remodeled wing of the hospital. It was actually one of the nicest hospital rooms that I have seen but in spite of the mini fridge and flat screen HD television, it was still at its core, a hospital room.

As I sat in this dreary room the morning after my husband’s surgery, a hospital volunteer walked in with a single yellow Gerbera daisy in a small vase. This small flower seemed to instantly brighten the dismal room. Just looking at this single yellow daisy seemed to ease my weariness and lift my spirits. Seeing it made me smile.

I was amazed by how much this small gift affected me. I was once again reminded of the power and influence that a single act of kindness can have. A single yellow daisy given out of kindness brightened the room, my spirits and my day.

The same can be true of a single smile, a single hello, a single phone call, text or email. The same can also be true of a single note of encouragement, a single door held open, a single hug, thank you, or prayer…There are countless opportunities every day for us to perform single acts of kindness that have the potential to change the lives of others.

The petals on that single yellow daisy have long since wilted, but the thoughtfulness and kindness behind it remain in my thoughts. When I think of it, I am reminded to look for opportunities to brighten the days and the lives of those around me the same way that single flower brightened mine.

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Waiting in Line for a Lesson

Recently, as I sat in line at the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant, I learned another lesson about judging others. I say “another” because it seems I am often being taught these lessons. Hopefully, one day, I will need fewer lessons.

On this particular day, I was running late and in a big hurry. In other words, it was a normal day. I had been waiting for what seemed like half an hour but was probably only about five minutes. I was next in line and thrilled when the truck in front of me finally started to pull away from the window. It moved about half a car length ahead and stopped. I moved forward as far as I could but could not even get close to the window.

As I waited, once again, for this truck to move out of my way, I grew more agitated by the minute…by the second. I could not imagine why the driver of this truck just continued to sit there and block my way. Just when I thought I could take no more, the truck began to move. As the driver pulled away, I was able to see that a small car had been in front of the truck blocking his way this entire time. I had been angry at the driver of this truck and judging him for something He had no control over. He had been just as stuck as I was.

As I thought about this experience, I thought how often we judge people based on the limited and often flawed information that we possess. We do not know what experiences past or present are influencing the actions of others. We often cannot see the forces that are either motivating them to act or preventing them from acting. Without this knowledge, it is impossible to judge fairly.

I have been trying harder to avoid the inclination to judge others. I have been reminding myself that it is my Heavenly Father’s place to judge not mine. I remind myself that He knows us with a perfect knowledge. He knows our past, our present, our motives and our fears. He knows our mind and He knows our heart. He knows us…

I remember these things and I am grateful that it is His place to judge and not mine….

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Somewhere in the darkest night…

I read somewhere, that on a dark night, the human eye can see the flame of a single candle from a distance of up to 30 miles. At the time, I found this fact difficult to believe. A few nights ago, as I lay awake in the middle of the night, the glow from a tiny LED light changed my mind. It was amazing to me that this tiny light, almost imperceptible by day, seemed to illuminate my entire room at night.

I thought about this little LED light the next morning as I drove to work. Weary and sleep deprived, the morning quickly became one of those where nothing seemed to go right and everything seemed to annoy me. By the time I reached my office, my mood was dark and gloomy and I was sure that the entire day would follow suit.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with some special friends in my life. They seemed to know, some even from great distances, that I needed their help. Within minutes, I began to receive text messages, emails and even a personal visit. All of these messages were filled with words of kindness, support and encouragement. With each message, my mood, and my day seemed a little lighter, a little brighter.

It occurred to me, that my friends are like the flame of that single candle shining in the darkness. They are like that tiny LED light. They are there for me in good times and in times of light. But it is during my darkest and most difficult times that they seem to shine even more brightly, more brilliantly, and illuminate my way.

I am glad that our Heavenly Father uses us to bring His light to the lives of others. I am thankful for the people that He has sent into my life. I am grateful for the friends, family and even strangers that have helped to light my way through their kindness and compassion.

I will try to remember the flame of that single candle and the glow of that tiny LED light. I will remember that even the smallest acts of kindness can help to light the way of those walking through dark and difficult times.

I will remember these things, seek after my Heavenly Father’s help, and do my best to be that light whenever and wherever it is needed.

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