“Ohhhh Mommy!” she gasps, “It’s all alone on the floor! It’s lonely and cold and it doesn’t have a mommy! Oh, the poor little thing. I’m going to put it right up here so it will be safe and warm. There!”
I absentmindedly give my consent without looking at what she is doing. We don’t have much time before we leave for skating, and Tiny Daughter needs to be dressed! Pink pants, pink striped hoodie shirt, pink and white socks, pink shoes- (pink for dinner, anyone?!)
“See, Mommy? I put it there!” She’s gasping again and now clamoring for my approval that her good deed not go unnoticed.
Pink outfit in hand, I turn to see what precious creature has (this time) captivated Tiny Daughter’s shower of tenderness.
It’s a leaf.
A leaf, friends.
It wasn’t even whole. It was a tiny excerpt of a former leaf, mangled and twisted…dead.
My heart is touched. More than touched- it is smitten, convicted, torn.
A painful thought comes and doesn’t leave, “My daughter has more compassion for that leaf than I have for people at times.”
Compassion for the flock we are entrusted with comes more naturally, though still of grace.
But compassion for the unwhole, the devastated, the piece of life that struggles to grasp hope- this goes against our very grain as humans.
Why do we repel from that which we are?
Through Tiny Daughter’s eyes, the leaf was all precious. Not a thought of where it really belonged- what it really was.
The same sentiments are often expressed by her for other miniscule creatures in her life.
That fly that the cat is after (our cat enjoys snacking on flies) needs to be heroically rescued!
That spider should be given a chance to be released into the yard before we flatten him with a shoe! Don’t you know that he probably has a mother somewhere?!
That rock she just stepped on is surely feeling more pain than she is experiencing.
Not a thought of where they really belong- what they really are.
All are items of little worth in the eyes of a not-so-child.
But the beauty in the lifeless-
It’s Christ! It’s grace.
And, oh, how I need my heart to be broken again and again for the lives around me.
They cross my path. Then I cross theirs. Is there no exchange of grace?
This past summer, we spent part of our holiday in Ottawa. While there, we took a day and went to the Canadian National War Museum.
We could have spent several days.
My whole being was overwhelmed with the sheer size of the museum, the amount of artifacts and war vehicles/planes, and the way they re-created the atmosphere so it actually felt like we were in a war zone. The museum was brutally realistic. Explaining it all to 2 young braves was especially challenging. I reached a point where I couldn’t absorb any more facts, and my ears were ringing with the actual war sounds. My heart was sick from the video footage and diary entries.
I am guilty of not continually and deeply appreciating the great cost of my freedom. It’s a freedom that is passed down from generation to generation without effort.
It surely is far more precious to those who paid the price.
I was sitting at the piano during our Remembrance Day service yesterday waiting to play “O Canada” and “God Save The Queen.”
The moment of silence began and thoughts flooded my heart….thoughts of the things I hold dear. They are the very things that hundreds of soldiers gave up in exchange for their vision of a free country.
They gave up so much….
Hopes of getting a first job or going to college were disappointed.
Relationships were strained by distance and by impractical means of communication.
Plans to date or marry were interrupted.
Dreams of having children and raising a family were changed, even dashed forever.
Children never knew their fathers.
Mothers never held their sons again.
Soldiers saw death claim the lives of their childhood buddies.
But even through the hardships, dreams were realized. Different dreams.
A war ended, a weary soldier came home, a country was free!
Anguish and joy embraced, and a different life was begun.
My Grandfather served in World War II. Once in a great while when we were talking, he would open the ‘war window’ in his heart and talk about it for a few minutes.
He usually ended up crying, and the window closed again for a long time.
He couldn’t watch anything on TV that even remotely resembled war. He had seen too much.
His heart was scarred for life.
He didn’t come home free.
How I wish I could thank him today for everything he went through to win my freedom. Now that I’m an adult, I see things more clearly….and I wonder, what am I doing to pass this sense of awe and thankfulness on to my own children?
It could be my son someday. The sacrifice hits home again.
While I have this moment, I thank God for my Grandfather Robert Glenn Maxwell (“Mac” to us), my father-in-law Roscoe Morris Highfill, and my cousin Justin Jones who have served or are now serving my home country.
On Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day for USA) Canadians remove the “Lest We Forget” poppies that they have worn for 11 days to honor those who served.
But the price doesn’t disappear with the poppy. The sacrifice lives on.
The pathway stretches in front of me as far as I can see…clear cut through the forest, then through a field. Soon a boardwalk bridge carries me quickly over an inlet of the Bay of Fundy, and up a dune where the view is breathtaking. Onward I march with my head held high, breathing in the crisp, ocean-scented air while enjoying the beautiful scenery around me. What a lovely walking trail…
So unlike the one I’m on now.
Downhill for 30 minutes, with another 30 minutes to go. You’d think I’d be walking on air, because downhill is so easy, right?
Downhill (we’ll talk about uphill some other time, ok?) is so…dangerous. It’s tedious. It takes the constant thought that where I place my next step determines my destiny on the trail…and my physical well-being.
It just rained, so all the leaves are slippery. Everywhere I look, roots are sticking out of the uneven ground.
Rocks appear in unlikely places, pointing their sharpest angle at my feet.
All of this abounds on a steep decline that refuses to bring relief.
Underneath those slippery leaves are small bogs of flooded mud that act like quicksand when stepped in. There’s no easy way out. I look to the right, then to the left, trying to decide in a split second which is the easiest quickest way out. When I lift one foot, the other foot sinks deeper into the mire.
Why, oh ,why did I stray from the path?
Wait….. I didn’t.
This IS the path.
Voices behind me remind me that I’m not alone on the trail. The others in the group are traveling at their own paces. Some have run ahead and out of sight. Some are behind me, taking it slowly. Some get stuck in the same bog I got stuck in. Remember those roots I told you about? My little friend just tripped on one of those. It sent her crashing to the ground. Now she’s walking with a sore ankle. And the path isn’t getting any easier. I feel the pain of my friends who are also on this trail with me. Thank goodness I’m following a guy in our group who has done this trail before; and as I go, he points out the snaggy places and helps me navigate around them.
I stop walking and look around at the brilliant colours of fall leaves- some on the ground, some in mid-air on their way to the ground, and some still on the trees waiting for their appointed time of float. I sigh a little with the beauty of it all.
I realize that I’ve been so focused on my feet that I’m missing the scenery around me.
By necessity I drop my eyes to my feet again. Somehow, it’s a natural instinct.
The path is rough, and my eyes need to be on my feet.
This is the trail of trials.
God reminds us in Proverbs 4:26 to “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”
The path of trials calls for diligence. Not only do we deal with the tedium and stress of a rough path; along the way we have an enemy who wants to make things even worse so that we give up.
Satan is waiting to trip our vulnerable hearts on a root of bitterness…on a rock of offence… in the mire of unforgiveness.
My weary heart cries, “I just want to rest! This trail is longer than I thought it would be! And I’m missing the beautiful scenery because I have to stare at my feet!”
But this is the trail for now. This is the trial for now.
Sometimes during trials, life goes by. We grieve the missed moments.
But there is a greater lesson to be learned during times when burdens keep us from enjoying life with a light heart.
It’s the knowledge that we’re following Someone who has been down this trail (trial) before, and He will point out the snaggy places and will help me navigate them safely.
He’ll even take my hand and share His strength with me.
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:13
There it is~ the grace to walk a pathway rough.
Are you walking a rough path today? You don’t have to walk alone.
(Analogy taken from an actual trail experience at Fundy National Park in Alma, New Brunswick)
The invitation was an answer to my weary “It would be nice if…” ‘thought-prayer.’
Just a few little words, spoken softly. They made my day. We had been away for most of the weekend at a conference on Prince Edward Island. We had gotten back late Saturday night and thoughts of Sunday dinner were as far away as my next birthday.
There’s something special about enjoying a meal with a family on short notice. Everything is not perfect. And that’s part of what makes it memorable. It’s not about the ‘trimmings’ of the meal, the table settings, or the house. It’s about the fellowship. It’s about the heart.
It means that someone saw beyond themselves to a greater need in someone else’s life.
I remember the times when we’ve been on the giving end of a short notice “You wanna come over?” While my voice was uttering the words, my head was going through the chaos in each room of the house, thinking, “oh my, the house is a wreck!” But the pull of the heart was stronger- the urge that most surely came from God, telling me that this person standing in front of me really needed some care- and right now.
And where God prompts, He also gives the grace to perform what He has prompted.
Somehow, we’ve always had a few minutes to throw things into a closet clean up the house. We’ve always had time to wash a few dishes. We’ve always had a snack to serve (even when groceries were low), with food left over. We’ve always had strength to minister again, even at the end of a long day. We’ve always felt blessed when our company left because we met a need.
I am reminded of a passage in 1 Corinthians 16:17-18:
“…for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”
I’m challenged to increase the frequency of our family’s “inconvenient hospitality.”
Sometimes people’s needs can’t wait.
Sometimes if we think about hospitality too much, perfectionism invades and hospitality eludes. And we miss the blessings of supplying what is lacking in others’ lives.
It’s not easy- especially for us women, who want our presentations of hospitality to be near perfect.
That’s why there’s grace~ God’s enabling to do what we can’t naturally do, and sometimes wouldn’t choose to do.