I have watched the beautiful autumn leaves turn to brown … then dance in the sky as they are blown from the outstretched arms of their branches… until one last leaf remains. Cynthia Ryland wrote: “In November the trees are standing, all sticks and bones, without their leaves. How lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.” And I think about how we are now entering into perhaps the busiest time of the year… Maybe it’s time for me to take a lesson from nature as December is now upon us… I need to make sure I pause like the trees…. to listen to the Lord… to reflect on my countless blessings… and on the upcoming birth of Jesus Christ. Clyde Watson wrote: “November comes and November goes, With the last red berries And the first white snow. With night coming early And dawn coming late, And ice in the bucket And frost by the gate. The fires burn And the kettles song, And earth sinks to rest, Until next spring.” Psalm 62:5-6 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He is my rock and my salvation; my fortress, where I will not be shaken.”
What a spectacular season when the trees are all dressed in their finest attire.
I was recently visiting my son in Exeter, NH, when I spotted an absolutely magnificent tree. The colors were so vibrant and breathtaking. I parked my car and walked over to the tree.
While standing beneath the glorious colors, I thought about a recent retreat I was on. At one point on the weekend, we were asked to think about everything negative that we were holding on to… guilt… fears… regrets… past hurts…pains… anything that might be holding us back and keeping us from being who God meant us to be. There was total silence as we dug deep….
We were then asked to write our thoughts down on small pieces of paper and place them on a blank cross to give them to the Lord.
“Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
As I looked at the beautiful tree again, I remembered a saying I recently heard and will paraphrase: The trees are about to show us how good it is to let things go.
What can I let go of today and give to the Lord?
While on the beach on a beautiful September afternoon, I noticed a young Father working for hours on a sand sculpture.
I waited until he and his family were getting ready to leave the beach before I approached him and asked what he had created.
He said he had made half a lobster because of something his family had done earlier that day.
They had gone to a lobster pound, picked out the biggest lobster in the tank and paid $100 for it. Then they drove to Nauset Beach on Cape Cod and released it into the ocean.
I immediately thought of Loren Eisley’s beautiful parable about the little boy, the old man and hundreds of starfish. When the old man saw the little boy picking up starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the ocean, he said, “Son, don’t you know there are hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference.” The little boy, smiling up at the old man as he picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean, said, “I made a difference to that one.”
We are all born with special gifts God gives us… gifts that can make a huge difference in other people’s lives. As Mother Teresa said, “We don’t need to do great things. Just small things with great love.”
As I left the beach that evening, I smiled, thinking about the lesson that young Father taught me.
And I reflected on Taylor Hanson’s words:
“To the world, you may be one person. But to one person, you may be the world.”
It’s been an overwhelmingly busy summer, as most of us who live on Cape Cod come to expect. But this summer was busier than usual, with eight straight weeks of company, including an all-time weekly record of 24 houseguests at the same time! And I think I did remarkably well. In years past, I normally would have hyperventilated and asked to be put on tranquilizers. When I’ve been overwhelmed before, it usually was because I tried to do everything for everyone, including keeping my normally neat home in order. But that never worked. And I wound up being in a tizzy.
This year, I gave everything to the Lord. I focused on how blessed I was to have so many precious family members in my home. I put a chart up on the refrigerator so everyone would know which meals they were responsible for. With 24 houseguests, it was a fabulous system to have. At the end of the summer when everyone left, I stood looking around at my home, that now was a mini-disaster zone. Clothes were left behind, laundry was piled high… but as I looked around, all I saw were the smiling faces everywhere… the children having fun… the hugs… the laughter… the love. God truly had me focus on what really mattered.
Then the Lord clearly directed me to go to the attic and bring down my old Easter basket that I had as a child. As I looked at it, I thought, “I’m going to have an Easter egg hunt.” I’ll look at all the treasures left behind… from odd socks to bathing suits and even a Harry Potter wand .. and I’ll make a game of it. And, along the way, if I find treasures of mine that somehow got misplaced, they will be the golden eggs for my Easter basket. It reminds me of the Resurrection. Just as Jesus died and rose for all of us, so, too, night falls and a new day rises; grain is sown and the Lord helps it rise again. We, too, can rise above life’s overwhelming moments if we lean on Jesus. So, if you’re facing difficult situations that may tend to overwhelm you, try making a trip up to your attic and blowing the dust off your Easter basket. I promise it may help you more than you think.
I was recently watching my grandchildren hold sparklers at night that lit up our front yard.
Such fun! Such joy!
But as I watched, I thought about all of the people who live in “darkness” … with no joy or hope.
True light comes from Jesus.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In a world where so many live in “darkness”, Jesus asks us to be a light for others.
It is both a privilege and a huge responsibility to carry His light out into our lives.
“There are two ways to spread God’s light:
to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
And, as Kathy Trocolli sings so beautifully,
“Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
Hold our your candle for all to seeit
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world.”
In a world where so many people feel “broken” and discouraged, it is important to remember that it is through our “brokenness”, that the light of Jesus enters, as long as we are open to it.
At a recent family reunion, two of my children and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how we could better bring the light of Jesus to others… through prayer, becoming more aware of other people’s pain, and making an effort to be better Christians. I can always try harder to become a better person… and
“With faith, all things are possible.”
Even the animals can teach us important lessons:
“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”
I thank God for my faith and for the hope that Jesus brings to any darkness in our lives.
And all of this came to me through my grandchildren’s small hands, grasping the ends of their sparklers.
“God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all.”
Recently, on a beautiful summer night, I decided to drive to the beach to listen to the crashing waves and watch for seals swimming in the ocean.
As I kicked my flip flops off and headed to the shoreline, I noticed something in the sand down by the water.
I walked in excited anticipation of what gift God had in store for me. I reached the water’s edge and saw that someone had created a beautiful turtle in the sand. I was overwhelmed at this totally unexpected surprise.
I stood there reflecting on the person who sculpted this magnificent animal. He/she was obviously a lover of life… someone who found great joy in moments… someone who cherished time on God’s shore and left his/her joy behind for others to enjoy.
I stood there noticing every grain of sand… every carefully placed stone and shell.
James Bryan Conant said:
“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.”
Pauses in our lives are so important. They give us time to reflect on the “now” …and on our many blessings. Pauses stop the clocks of our lives and replace them with deep breaths… pauses replace our calendars with sandpails…racing with standing still… craziness with peace.
We’ve all heard “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Yet life isn’t a race. We only seem to make it one. The turtle asks us, “Then, why are you running?”
We make ourselves so tired …so worn out… so burdened… that we often fail to notice and appreciate some of the greatest gifts along life‘ s way.
“Be grateful for the little things. One day you’ll realize they were the big things.”
I thank God for the gift of this evening surprise. I pray I think of this turtle often and remember it’s valuable lessons.
“Come to Me, all
you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
1 John 2:17
I was recently in Seattle visiting my daughter. One day I went to pick up my 5 year old granddaughter, and she handed me three dandelions that she had lovingly picked for her Mom.
As I looked at the precious bouquet, I thought how the most beautiful bouquets in the world are those seen through the eyes of love. When some look at dandelions, they may see a weed. I choose to see a beautiful flower, and so did my granddaughter.
In these warm days of spring… fresh green grass… blossoming flowers… and chirping birds, May our hearts be renewed again…may we feel a new sense of hope… new life… new beginnings…
May we hear the music God has sent to refresh our spirits.
“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.”
Song of Songs 2:12
May we affirm within ourselves that we are all precious and beautiful in God’s sight- just the way we are.
“In a world full of roses, stand out like a dandelion in the middle of a green, plush lawn.”
– June Stoyer
As I look at my granddaughter’s precious bouquet again, I thank God for all of the unexpected gifts that fill my days.
Through them, I feel the constant joy, presence and love of Jesus. May those same gifts always be yours as well.
“A flower is prettiest when picked with love.”
Easter has come and gone.
Jesus Christ is risen.
And all feels right with the world.
Winter snows have finally melted.
The gift of hope and new life abound everywhere…
in the flowers blooming…
in the birds singing…
in the grass growing…
in the sand once again between my toes.
Never was hope more evident to me than one week ago, on Patriots Day, in the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon.
Under the most horrific weather conditions, 30,000 athletes took to the 26 mile 385 yard course.
I was there at the finish line and watched Desiree Linden become the first US woman to win the Marathon since 1985. What a thrill to witness!
But by far, the most poignant moment of the day came later…
I was in bed watching the late news when I heard that Mary Shertenlieb, a three-time cancer survivor, was out on the course, scheduled to cross the finish line at midnight. I knew I had to be there to root her on. I was overwhelmed at Mary’s courage and determination. I got dressed, left the Lenox Hotel (a half block from the finish line) and went outside. I couldn’t wait to see her finish.
Earlier in the day at mile 15.5, Mary was so cold and wet, she stopped running and went home to shower and change into dry clothes. She was a first time runner, who wanted to mark her five year anniversary of being diagnosed with lymphoma. Mary wanted to offer hope to others. And that, she did!
Rich, her husband and high school sweetheart, told Mary if she wanted to finish the Marathon, he would be by her side. And so they cabbed back to mile 15.5. With the winds whipping and torrential rains pouring down on them, Mary began her journey again.
Friends showed up along the way to root her on. When Mary and Rich turned onto Boylston Street and the final stretch, the finish line was finally in sight. As they ran, shouts of encouragement could be heard along their way.
I was standing at the finish line under a pitch black, rainy sky… along with many of Mary and Rich’s friends, other well-wishers, and a host of television cameras and reporters.
Police officers cleared the way as Mary and Rich, holding hands, beamed, crossing the finish line at 12:18am. There was thunderous applause as Mary and Rich embraced. In completing the 122nd Boston Marathon, Mary raised over $30,000 for Dana Farber.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. I thanked Mary and Rich for being such an inspiration… and then headed back to my hotel room.
As I knelt by my bed that night, I thanked God for the gift of Springtime… for the gift of hope… for the gift of faith that makes all things possible.
It was a day to truly celebrate mankind… to celebrate the thousands of runners and the amazing crowds who came out in torrential rain and fierce winds to support and encourage the participants along the way.
Because I witnessed the marathon bombings five years ago, the Boston Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. I am forever grateful for the deep impact the Marathon has played in my life and still continues to do.
Long live “Boston Strong”!
God, please continue to bless and heal Mary…
and thank You for the gift of Springtime Hope.
Living in New England, I know how unpredictable the weather can be. In fact, we’ve had four nor-easterns in the last 30 days!
As I was driving last week, I saw a home with it’s front yard covered with snow. And there, amidst the snow, daffodil buds were poking their heads through the frozen blanket of ice. I stopped to get out of my car to take a picture.
It reminded me of my life…and the many times I may feel I am in the dark…perhaps discouraged by life…or relationships…it could be anything. But after winter comes spring…after the rain comes the rainbow. And my faith is restored…I am filled with hope once more.
As I look again at the daffodil buds, I am reminded of Jesus and His death for us on the cross. As we reflect on that again during this Holy Week, may we remember the darkness Jesus entered into…so that we may have eternal life and so that we can emerge from our winter into an eternal Spring.
It looks like a simple paper bag… but it’s so much more.
I was recently visiting my daughter and her family in Seattle, and on the day I left, I noticed my grandchildren coloring on paper bags. When I asked what they were doing, they told me that every Wednesday during the school year, families who want to participate can have their children bring to school an extra lunch bag for the homeless.
I watched as my grandchildren carefully colored both sides of their bags, then filled them with a drink, sandwich, fruit and snack. They went off to school, and I was so touched that Saint Catherine School reaches out in such a loving way to those less fortunate than we. Every Wednesday, a parent group collects all of the extra lunches and delivers them to Tent City, where hundreds of homeless men and women receive the gift of nourishment and love.
If all schools chose to do this, it would be a much kinder, more giving, and loving world.
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”