Last night started out like most nights. I got home from work and helped my husband with some chores. Tired from the day’s events, we ordered out instead of concocting a meal at home like we usually do. We settled in to enjoy our dinner and relax. And two things happened.
My middle son texted me, asking me to run an errand for him while he was at work. Knowing he’s been working really hard, I was delighted to be able to help. Then a stranger showed up at my front door wanting milk for her 2-year-old. Our neighbor across the street, whom she had been visiting, sent her our way since he didn’t have milk at his house. Again, I was glad to help.
Interestingly enough, If neither person had asked me for assistance, I wouldn’t have known of their need. Once their request was brought to my attention, I had a choice to fulfill it or to say no. Opting to say yes did something inside me. My heart leaped. The ability to bless someone lifted my spirits.
I was reminded of the importance of humanity. After all, isn’t that what life’s really all about: helping those around us? We’re all in this thing together. You’ve likely heard the saying, “No man is an island.” It’s quite true. We need each other.
Yet how often am I too afraid or proud or independent to ask others for help? When I’m like that, I could be robbing those around me of a blessing. Just as my son and a stranger had the willingness to ask in their time of need, I should do the same.
I’m thankful for the times others have blessed me. And I’m thankful I was able to be a blessing and pay it forward.
Life was going along smoothly. I had lots of plates spinning and kept running from one to another as they slowed down, giving them another turn to ensure they’d stay in the air. But then a wind blew and knocked one of my plates down … and sent me into a tailspin. After all that hard work, my plate crashed on the floor. And the others followed suit.
What do you do when that happens?
I received some news this week that had that effect on me. It stopped me in my tracks and made me reevaluate where I am in life, how far I’ve come, and where I should go from here. (Don’t worry, my health is still fine. It’s not health-related whatsoever.)
I’m a slow processor — a slow cooker of thoughts. I consider different angles and outcomes and try to play them all out in my head before making a final decision, because I don’t want to choose something I’ll later regret. Once I make my decision, I tend to stick with it.
And this is where I find myself: contemplating my next move yet uncertain in which direction to step. Choices abound, but I want to make the right one. There’s no big sign with an arrow on it saying, “Go this way.” But that sure would make this process easier.
Do I continue on my course in the same direction I was headed, accepting this hiccup as a bump in the road? Do I turn and go a different way? Do I scrap the progress I’ve made and do a 180, starting over in the completely opposite direction?
It can be good when moments like these come along to make us rethink our normal and to help us evaluate if we’re on the right track. Although currently in a bit of a quandary, I know what I’m experiencing is a sign of growth. Something big is on the horizon. I just have to head in the right direction.
I’m standing on the precipice, staring out into the unknown. I want to take a step, but fear is keeping me from doing so. Maybe I should just close my eyes and leap. Or would it be better to turn around and run the other way, toward the comfort and stability I’ve known and relied on?
These thoughts float through my head while I stand there, paralyzed. I know I need to choose one action or the other. Safety or risk? How do I decide?
This could be my only chance at this new opportunity. If I don’t jump now, will I regret it? Sure, there’s security in sticking with what I’ve always known, but will I grow by remaining there? I have no doubt I’ll be stretched by choosing the risky option. I just wish there was a way to ensure it turns out well.
Then again, I’ve taken many leaps of faith in my lifetime. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Each of those experiences helped mold and shape me into me. It’s easy to second-guess the past, but that’s all it is: guessing. I can’t go back and change anything. Nor do I want to. Even the difficult things I went through have turned out to be blessings in disguise. They’ve developed my character and matured me.
So, in light of that, I think I’ll take the riskier move. Do I really have that much to lose? Worst-case scenario: I’ll fall flat on my face and hobble back to what I was doing before. But it will never be the same. I’ll be a different, stronger me just for having attempted a new endeavor.
I am a planner — and a task person. So, I often have an idea in my head of tasks I want to complete after I get home from work, such as a new blog post. Sometimes, though, interruptions occur. People come over I wasn’t expecting. My kids away at college call home. My husband wants to go out to dinner.
When these disruptions stare me in the face, I have a choice to make. Do I push the person aside and stick to my original plan? Or do I change gears and adjust to the new “task” of catching up?
Today was one of those days. While at work, my youngest of three sons called to see if I wanted to go to lunch with him. As usual, I had brought my lunch and had planned to go for a walk after eating. But my son doesn’t often invite me to lunch, so I jumped at the opportunity. And I’m glad I did. We enjoyed some one-on-one time we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
After work, I didn’t have a set mission to accomplish. I knew I wanted to go for a run, and I knew I wanted to write a blog post. Despite a surprise visit from my second son, I was able to accomplish both.
And you know what? I feel elated and at peace. Not so much because I still did what I originally set out to do. No, it’s because I took the time to converse with my son and to learn about what’s going on in his life. I took advantage of the chance to encourage him and to show him how much I care about him.
He no longer lives at home, and I had been missing him. I feel more complete having been given — and accepting — that opportunity.
It’s important to have goals in life, but it’s just as important to be willing to steer off course on occasion and take the more scenic route, to enjoy the detours along the way. We each face them almost every day. Like when a son or daughter comes home from school and wants to play a game. Or when a loved one wants to meet you for coffee at the last minute.
What will you do when the next interruption comes your way?
When a friend moves away or leaves your workplace for another job or passes from this life to the next, it can leave a hole in your heart. For me, it conjures up memories of times of fun. I think about how we laughed and how that person encouraged me and those around him. I don’t remember the bad times, if there were any; I just concentrate on the good we shared. And it usually leaves me smiling.
I have to wonder if others do the same or if they remember the bad along with the good. And then I think about what kind of impression I’ve left on others when I’ve moved away or left one workplace for another. Do people remember good about me, or bad? And what kind of impression am I making now?
In the mundane daily grind, it’s easy to get bogged down with stresses and worries. And when that happens, it’s easy to react in the moment. There have been lots of moments I wish I could take back. But I can’t. It’s too late. All I can do is try to make each new moment I’m given count for something good.
Am I always successful? No. But I can keep trying. Because I want those around me to remember good about me when our ways part.
I was given an inspirational book a number of years ago, shortly after my second sister passed away, titled Something Worth Leaving Behind, by Brett Beavers and Tom Douglas. It talks about the differences your everyday actions can have on those around you, to leave a positive impact on their lives. For example, simply by loving, you touch another life. “And that’s something worth leaving behind,” the book sums.
I think I need to revisit that book.
On a flight home from an out-of-state weekend trip, I couldn’t help but notice the poor guy next to me. He looked worried. Either this was his first flight, or he hated flying.
As soon as he sat down, the young man threw open the shutter to expose the window and a view of the real world, trying to control his erratic breathing. His legs bounced up and down, a visible manifestation of his nervousness. He flopped his tray table down and rested his arms on it, holding his head in them. Clearly, he just wanted to get to his destination.
Fear kept this guy from enjoying the journey.
How often does fear keep us from enjoying aspects of our own journeys? Irrational trepidation can keep our minds preoccupied, stealing our joy.
I was able to observe the young man next to me because I was free from fear. I like flying. And even though our flight experienced quite a bit of turbulence shortly after departure — which only added to my neighbor’s obvious uneasiness — I delighted in the thrill of hitting air pockets along the way, feeling safe in the hands of our pilot and the aircraft surrounding us.
The funny thing was my row partner and I were both in the same situation. Neither of us had any control over our circumstances, other than paying to take the flight. We were both at the mercy of the pilot. We could take pleasure in the journey, or we could be miserable the entire way.
That’s how it is with life. We’re not really in control of our circumstances. We are to some extent. But we’re helpless when our loved ones get cancer or are in car accidents and things of that nature.
Regardless, we can enjoy the ride — bumps and all — or we can worry about it and be paralyzed by fear. It’s a matter of perspective. For me, I choose to roll with the punches and take what comes, trying to find good in it. Life is too short to spend in fear and worry. And in reality, there’s not a whole lot I can control anyway.
My husband’s favorite weather is when it’s raining and the sun is out at the same time. Mine is when the sun is shielded by clouds but the sun’s light streams through. It’s as if the clouds try to block the sun, but the sun is so powerful that it can’t be hidden or contained. Its brightness is too vibrant. Something about that mesmerizes me.
When I see that phenomenon, I can’t help but think of God and His amazing love and grace. Just as those clouds shroud the sun, many people try to block God from their lives. They succeed partially, at least for a while. God doesn’t force Himself on anyone; He’s given us free choice.
But His love is so strong, it shines through when we least expect it. His light can’t be hidden. It’s too powerful. It can show up in a kind gesture when you need a hand. In the warm smile of a stranger passing by. In a word of encouragement when you need it most. God knows what you’re going through, and He’s there for you.
Maybe the next time you see light streaming through the clouds, you’ll be reminded of His love, too. It’s fervent. It’s fierce. It’s unyielding. My friend, God loves you passionately.
So, when you’re feeling down or unworthy, push those clouds away and bask in the presence of the Savior. He’s got you covered. You may feel like you’re in a dark place in your life, but His love will shine through if you’ll let it.
I glanced at my office plant and saw a yellowing leaf. My eyes fixated on it as my mind wandered, realizing how in many ways that leaf symbolized human life.
Each of us started out vibrant and green, flourishing but with shallow roots. As we grew and matured, our roots dug deeper. We experienced times of joy, but we also learned tough lessons and endured pain. And our newness wore away. Trials came, and our shiny exteriors gave way to signs of wear.
And that’s where many of us find ourselves today.
We can choose to let those challenging experiences define us and color who we are, accepting the worn look. But that doesn’t have to be the end.
Just as I had to prune that yellowing leaf from my plant in order to restore the green, we can opt to face our hurts and pain head-on and heal from those wounds. In so doing, we can restore our vibrancy.
That’s my hope for you.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"