The Light of the World

This week, I have been dealing with the effects of ending Daylight Savings Time. Every morning I have thought of it fondly as I woke feeling more rested, more refreshed. Every evening I have complained and moaned as I drove home more tired than usual in the dark.

As I was struggling to drive home in the darkness, I recalled an experience that I had a few weeks ago. I was trying to deliver a batch of cookies to some new friends of mine. Their home was in a neighborhood that was for the most part, unfamiliar to me. As usual, I was running behind schedule and just as I reached their street the last rays of sunlight disappeared behind the horizon.

By the time I reached their block, night had definitely arrived. Their street was poorly lit and I had a difficult time reading the house numbers. After two or three trips up and down the street without success, I decided to give up and try again the next day.

The next afternoon, it took no time at all to find my friends’ home. I found their house number with ease and made my cookie delivery in minutes. I was impressed that a task that had seemed so difficult, so impossible, in the darkness of the night before was so simple, so effortless, in the light of day.

I thought how sometimes when we are in the midst of trials and problems in our lives, we feel as if we are trying to navigate through the darkness. We are unsure of how to find our way through or where to turn. We feel hopeless and are sometimes tempted to give up.

When we are struggling through these dark times in our lives we need only to remember that our Heavenly Father is the source of all light. He loves us and wants to help us.

If we will call upon Him, He will light our path and make our way easy.

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Blackberry Blessings

Next month, it will be twenty years since my grandmother passed away. I can hardly believe she has been gone for such a long time because she is so often in my thoughts. I think of her almost every day and when I do, I am inspired to try harder, to be better, to be more like her.

So many things in my daily life remind me of her. The hymns she used to sing, flowers like the ones she grew, aprons like the ones she always wore, mason jars like the ones she used to can her jams and jellies…..all of these things and more bring back memories of cherished times we spent together.

This week, it was a recipe for blackberry cobbler that brought an experience from my childhood flooding to the surface.

When I was a child, I frequently went blackberry picking with my grandmother. Most of the time, she would make blackberry cobbler with some of the berries and can the rest of them. One summer, my grandmother let me sell all the berries that I picked to a small local grocer. I didn’t earn much money but it was enough for me to buy myself a pop and a little candy from time to time.

I wasn’t a very fast berry picker. I was always worried about pricking my fingers on the vicious thorns that seemed to cover every inch of the berry vines. On one particular berry picking trip, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that my grandmother was dumping most of the berries she picked into my bucket. At the time, I didn’t think much about her actions. I was just happy that I would have more money to spend on treats that day.

Since that time I have reflected on this experience often. Not only did my grandmother give me berries that she could have used herself or sold, she attempted to do so without my knowledge. Her only goal was my happiness. She had no desire for any acknowledgment or praise. Her actions, which were characteristic of her entire life, were totally selfless.

As I think of this experience today, I am stuck by the fact that this small, selfless act remains such a powerful example to me more than 40 years later. It inspires me to try harder to serve others and to do so with no thought of recognition or credit for my actions.

It also reminds me of the power and impact one small selfless act can have on its recipient…

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Spiritual GPS

There is a stretch of highway near my home that was replaced a couple of years ago. The old highway had been around for many years and was deteriorating badly. It was an elevated road and huge chunks of it began falling through to the ground beneath it. After a car or two almost fell through, everyone agreed it was time to replace it.

The powers that be decided to relocate the four mile stretch of road a few blocks to the south of the existing highway. After what seemed like forever, the road closures, construction detours and traffic delays came to an end and the pristine new stretch of road officially opened.

Since that time, I have discovered that all GPS systems are not created equal. I have two GPS apps on my phone, one that came with the phone, the other I chose to download later. I have found that when this stretch of highway is included in the route to my destination, one GPS app works fine, the other struggles a bit.

The one app struggles because it has old, outdated data. The maps that it accesses still show this four mile stretch of road in it’s original position. As a result, the GPS continually instructs me to turn around or exit this road in an effort to guide me back to the highway’s original location. Unfortunately, that road has been demolished and no longer exists.

When I know that this piece of road will be part of my route, I make sure to use the GPS app that accesses the new, updated maps. When I do, it guides me directly to my intended destination without continually attempting to steer me off course.

As I thought about these two GPS apps, I considered what might happen if I listened to the directions of the one that was accessing incorrect information. I would waste my time following directions that not only would lead me away from my intended destination but might also lead me into danger.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me how often in this life we receive directions from sources that have incorrect information or that cannot be trusted. If we follow these directions we can be led away from the path we should follow and can be led into danger.

If we seek after and follow the guidance and directions from our Heavenly Father, we can be assured that we will be on the right path. He loves us and wants us to return to Him. He will always show us the path that will lead us safely home.

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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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