One exceptionally warm day in February, I ventured into our yard to take photographs. I paused to take a picture of the little garden flag I'd bought and displayed after I'd removed the Christmas flag in late December. Although it's more appropriate for the Spring and Summer seasons, I displayed it anyway because I need to be reminded often to "Live Happy," since I, like you, Dear Reader, have burdens and struggles that could easily bring on depression. But I choose to be happy wherever I am and whatever the situation--and, for the most part, I truly am. But that Spring-like day made it even easier to put work aside, for a few hours, and enjoy the blessing of the special day God had given me.
I felt happy and carefree as I made photographs of the daffodils and blooms on a Japanese Magnolia tree in a friend's yard. The happiness remained as I uploaded the photos and edited them.
I'm continuing to be thankful for the gift of a beautiful day, for the signs of approaching Spring, for beauty amid the drabness of Winter, for a few hours of respite from responsibilities, for the physical ability to walk around outside again (even though I'm still dependent on a cane).... As I reflected on all the above, this verse came to mind:
I like this photo of a flowering cabbage that was growing in a big pot outside a museum in Beaufort, South Carolina, in February. As I looked more closely at it as I was editing it, I took time to read about it. I learned that it grows best during the "Cool Season" of the year: Fall through early Winter. Unlike other plants that require warmer temperatures, the flowering cabbage begins to flourish when temperatures are below 50 degrees. Since many gardens look desolate and dead during the "Cool Season," the cabbage provides beauty that is appreciated by all who pass by. As I reflected on that, I realized that beauty in an unexpected place and/or at an unexpected time appears more striking because of the contrast between it and its drab surroundings. Might that be true of our lives? When we are in difficult situations yet are flourishing in spirit, aren't we shining examples of the power of God to sustain us--no matter what's going on? Might it be that our Creator knows exactly where to place (plant) us so that we can thrive, even when conditions, seemingly, are less than favorable? Might we do well to just bloom, without any complaining about the environment He chooses for us?
To everything there is a season... (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
I felt my way around the foot of the bed and then across the room to open the plantation shutters so that light could enter the unfamiliar dark bedroom where I'd slept. As I noticed how easily and quickly the light flowed in, I thought about how even a little bit of light made a huge difference in my ability to see where I was and to move around safely. The light was available. All I had to do was let it in! I also thought about how much better life is for you, Dear Reader, and me, when we open our minds and hearts to the light of truth. Regrettably, all too often we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the truth and/or let it permeate our lives. We foolishly try to make sense of our life, of our world, while stumbling around in the darkness, without the benefit (and the blessing) of the light that is given to everyone who believes in Jesus. How different our lives would be if only we'd turn to Him and experience the truth of what He said centuries ago: "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46, NASB). His light is always available. All we have to do is let it in!
card a friend sent to me made me smile...and smile...and then smile some more.
The message on the front mentioned how some people make life better for others.
The inside message said I was one of them, since I have a kind heart and a
generous soul. It also included a reminder for me not to forget how much I mean
Wow! The printed words lifted my
spirit—and humbled me, at the same time. I felt thankful, too, for my
thoughtful friend who had chosen that particular card for me.
As I thought about how much she
had encouraged me, I recalled a passage of Scripture I'd read a few days
In 2 Timothy 1:16, Paul mentions
how Onesiphorus had often refreshed him—or, as the Phillips translation
says--"put fresh heart" into Paul, by helping him in various ways and
in various places. Such kindness and support gave Paul the spiritual lift he
needed to keep on keeping on.
don’t know anyone named Onesiphorus, which means “profit bringer,” but I know
many people whom God has sent into my life to bring great blessings to me like
Onesiphorus brought to Paul. And I am happy—and humbled—when someone considers
me to be an Onesiphorus to them.
At the conclusion of a visit with two dear friends I rarely get to see, I said, "May I take a picture of you?"
"Certainly," they said. "Where would you like us to stand?"
They went to the spot I'd suggested and, without any prompting from me, reached for each other's hand.
When I saw what they had instinctively done, I realized that sweet gesture was so typical of them. While observing them through the years, I'd seen how tenderly they loved and cared for one another and how they'd always faced life together...hand in hand and heart to heart.
Now, that's a beautiful picture!
...a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife;
When I was bedridden many days due to vertigo, I
desperately tried many things to make the spinning stop. I discovered that
sitting propped up in bed worked better than lying down since getting into a
horizontal position always triggered another bout of wild spinning, as if I
were on a merry-go-round. After I’d settle myself on a stack of pillows, the
spinning would eventually stop, especially when I stared intently at the blades
of the ceiling fan, which was not on.
As the days and weeks passed, I learned the value
of staying focused. The moment I let my eyes dart around or if I turned my head
too quickly to see what was going on around me, the wild ride would begin all
over again, and I’d have to focus on the ceiling fan. Only by staying focused, could
I avoid many miserable moments.
Dear Reader, vertigo isn’t the only thing that
sends us reeling, is it? Grief, worry, fear, illness, and a host of other
problems send us on a wild ride that we seem powerless to stop--or even slow
down. But we’ll be able to regain and maintain our balance during difficult times if only we’ll keep our spiritual eyes focused on Jesus,
as Peter learned the night he walked on the water toward Jesus. According to
the account found in Matthew 14:22-32, Peter miraculously walked on water, something he never dreamed he’d ever be
able to do. Peter did fine--until he shifted his focus from Jesus to the wind
and the waves around him. Whereupon, Peter immediately began to sink, prompting
him to cry out for Jesus to rescue him, which Jesus did.
Just as Peter would have been fine if only he’d
kept his eyes on his Lord, we, too, can avoid many miserable moments of going
in circles and/or losing our balance if only we’ll keep our minds and hearts
focused on Him rather than all that's going on around us.
One Sunday morning when I was feeling especially overwhelmed
by life—by all that must be done, by all the difficult decisions to make, and
so forth, I found great comfort in the words to an old song our congregation
sang during the morning worship service. The words to the song “How Firm a
Foundation” were written by John Rippon in 1787. Even though the words are
centuries old, their message remains true and timely.
I especially like truths such as these that are found in verse two, words the hymn writer senses God
saying to him and words which I felt He was continuing to say to me that day:
Fear not I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
More wonderful promises are found in the rest of the song,
but I was drawn to the ones in verse four:
When thro’ fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
Note: To learn more about these promises, search the Scriptures, particularly Isaiah 43:2.