Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Describe Your Perfect Day

“Describe your perfect day,” was one of the thought-provoking assignments given during the Table Topics portion of the ToastMasters meeting. As soon as it was announced, my heart began to pound, and I fervently hoped the person who’d given the challenge wouldn’t call on me to stand up and speak on that topic for at least one minute.

Any kind of public speaking is scary enough, but to have to stand up, collect your thoughts, and speak sensibly about a topic that was presented to you just seconds before, leaving you zero time to figure out what you’re going to say—and certainly no time to rehearse—makes speaking that much more frightening.

So, whenever I’m called upon during Table Topics, I just start praying that I’ll have something fairly sensible to say and that I won’t die from fright! I don’t worry about whether I’ll receive a blue ribbon (like the one shown below) for having given what those in attendance consider the “Best Table Topics” response. Oh no! I just worry about surviving the ordeal and also about “saving face.”
Thankfully, I was not called upon to describe my perfect day, but that assignment intrigued me so much that I decided I’d write out my response—after I’d gotten home and was sitting on the guest bed, with several big, comfy throw pillows at my back, a laptop on my lap, my heart beating a normal rhythm, no eyes upon me eagerly waiting to hear what I’d say…But even with most of the stress gone, I still had trouble describing what would be a perfect day for me.

Perhaps the difficulty was due to the fact that I tend to be happy with almost every day! I like my life. Sure, it would be nice to:
·  go on trips to faraway places like New Zealand or Ireland
·  win a million dollars
·  be given a new camera and some new lenses
·  see miracles done in the lives of those who are grieving or are critically ill or bankrupt
·  know that the world was at peace and that all the soldiers were back home, unharmed and with their families.

But rather than wish for things that are probably NOT going to happen, I’ve decided to be content with the life I’ve been given. So, a perfect day for me is one that holds blessings often taken for granted—for example, to be able to:
·  live independently in my own home
·  do my own work (yes, even unloading the dishwasher!)
·  walk three or more miles
·  eat healthy foods (but not in excess)
·  come and go as I please
·  rest whenever I’m tired
·  talk to/be with family and friends
·  enjoy my hobbies: reading, taking and editing pictures, writing, walking
·  feel like my life has meaning and purpose, etc.

Bottom line: I feel so very grateful for the life I do have. Although I have dreams, as well as longings for miracles, I’m content with each day the Lord gives me. However, if I were to give a lot of thought as to what a perfect day would look like, I might become discontent with the wonderful life I currently have. Thus, I’ll give heart-felt thanks for my current blessings, and if the Lord should opt to give me some of the things I can only dream about at this point, I’d certainly thank Him for putting extra icing on the proverbial cake He’s already provided for me to enjoy.

(C) 2014 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lessons from Flowers

As folks who know me can attest, I enjoy photographing flowers of all kinds. I don’t delight in making or maintaining the garden itself, but I do love it when I have an opportunity to photograph the flowers in other folks’ gardens. Fortunately, sweet friends often invite me over to photograph the beautiful results of their hard work. And my husband and I are blessed to be able to travel a good bit, too. When we’re “on the road,” we’re always on the lookout for parks, botanical gardens, plant nurseries, businesses with flowers out front, hanging basket lining the city sidewalks, courtyard in the downtown area, small gardens near entrances to the hotels where we stay, etc.

Although gardens require a good bit of money, time, attention, and hard work, wildflowers don’t. Quite the contrary! They just appear in various places and seem to do very well without human intervention. Many of my favorite “flower photos” are of wildflowers--and also weeds with beautiful blooms. I even love dandelion blooms and seed heads.

Because of my love of beautiful blooms, these three verses in Isaiah 40 captured my attention: “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (vv.6-8, New American Standard Bible).

These verses point out how temporal our lives are. Even though we, like the grasses of the field, bloom and flourish for a time, we will not be here forever. We, like the grasses, will wither and fade; and those who pass by where we used to live may scarcely remember us—if at all.

Yet, God, who is eternal, created us for His good pleasure and lets us live and flourish for a season, as He does the wildflowers and the grasses of the field. In fact, Jesus referred to the beauty of the grasses of the field when He was reminding His followers not to worry about what they would eat or drink or wear. “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30, NASB).


Thus, we should not worry about our lives, but simply bloom where God has planted us and let our lives testify to HIS glory and goodness.
 (C) 2014 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill

Saturday, July 5, 2014

His Works

Last evening, our immediate family gathered at our older daughter’s home to enjoy family time and to celebrate the 4th of July by having fun with some fireworks the guys had provided. We laughed and talked and screamed and covered our ears and ran around as the sparklers spit and sputtered and zoomed and boomed. After the fireworks had been used up, we gathered our belongings and hugged each other, saying what a fun time we’d had while making some wonderful memories.

But while I was still seated in one of the folding chairs, I happened to look up at the sky. The stars were twinkling in the velvety black night sky, making no sound whatsoever. How beautiful. How serene. And certainly a huge contrast to all the noise and flashing lights we’ve just experienced, I thought. And it was.

I thought about the stars the next morning when my daily Bible reading brought me to Isaiah chapter 40, where I found these words in verse 26: Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing (NASB).

While we’d been laughing and talking and having fun with manmade lights, the Creator had been providing an awesome show in the night sky, as He has been doing night after night for untold centuries. It’s sad that we rarely see it. It’s sadder still, that, seeing it, we fail to worship the One who created those stars—and everything else!

(C) 2014 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill

Note: I failed to take a picture of the night sky, but here is one that I took (through the windshield) while my husband was driving us to the fireworks show. The clouds also were created and are sustained by the Creator, as are the family members He's blessed us with! Seeing His work should remind us to praise and thank HIM.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Creator's Works

One day a week or so ago when my daily Bible reading brought me to the 104th chapter of Psalms, I came to these words: “O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions. There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great” (Psalm 104:24-25, New American Standard Bible).

Immediately, I recalled places my husband I had especially enjoyed this past May while on a trip to northwestern Nevada and northern California. One place in particular seemed to fit the Scripture passage. So, I mentally returned there to reminisce about what we’d seen and experienced in the Fort Bragg area of California. While standing on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we’d seen not only the beautiful blue waters of the seemingly endless Pacific, but also two harbor seals sunning themselves and a migrating whale that surfaced just for a moment. We’d been intrigued by men in scuba diving suits who’d managed to get down the steep, treacherous cliffs to search around the rocks for abalone and other creatures hiding there. 

As I recalled such scenes, I realized anew that the psalmist was exactly right in giving the Creator the credit for all the wonders we’d seen on that trip—as well as those we see all around us every day! What a beautiful world He has made!

(c) 2014 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill