I’m off. Really off.
It’s been going on for longer than I would like. Months. And the reason why I’m off is because life has totally taken a different turn from the norm.
This season of life somehow has been thrown off track. Plans haven’t developed like they should have. There have been way too many twists and turns in the road sending me veering in several directions.
And that throws me off. Off balance. Off kilter. Off. Off. Off.
That’s how I’ve been feeling. My writing is off. My thoughts are off. Circumstances beyond my control have even threatened to cast off my joy. And if I’m perfectly honest, even my faith has been thrown off like a rodeo rider hitting the dust when he’s tossed off that bucking bronco.
That’s why this week’s photo challenge seemed to just smack me in the face with the theme – Off Season.
I am in an off season. I’m soft and useless and out of shape. I’m wallowing from occurrences and events and it has thrown me completely off. And I’m tired of being off and desperately want to find the on switch.
I recently saw a motivational poster that boasted this message: “The best athlete is made during the off season.”
I’m hopeful that is the truth. I know that during the off season, you can’t just lie around doing nothing. You have to keep at it…whatever it is whether it’s sports or life. You can’t expect to improve your situation, your skills, your life if you don’t practice what you preach.
So you work hard during the off season. You rest for a time, yes, but you don’t slack off completely. You don’t ignore your training.
You see I’ve been doing that. I’m off my training. Off from reading God’s Word and incorporating it into my life because I’ve been consumed with something that seems to have derailed my train.
And I know I need to get back on the training treadmill so to speak. Because only through God’s Word can I be made stronger. Only reading His messages will help me endure. Help me persevere. Help me help others. Help us all finish this race called life on this earth.
My Guidebook for life tells me in the book of James, Chapter 1, verses 2-4 that we will face trials and temptations in this life. We must expect them and realize that those tests will produce perseverance when we allow our faith to grow during that time.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
So I’m suiting up for training. I’m grabbing this off season by the horns and I’m going “… one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life.” (from the movie Rocky IV)
Just call me Rocky.
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t claim to have a vivid imagination. Really when it comes right down to it, I’m more of a factual, tell it like it is kind of person.
As far as living in fantasy land, no thank you. I prefer living in the real world, even when I don’t like what’s happening in it very often.
But although my imagination lacks vividness, vibrant and intense images truly do captivate and fascinate me. That’s why this week’s photo challenge – vivid – sent me browsing through my photography cache in search of an image that portrays this theme.
One aspect of photo taking that I truly enjoy happens to be spying something vivid that begs to be captured by my digital camera.
So my quandary this week was choosing which photo to publish. Should I select one of the many shots of brightly colored flowers I’ve taken over the years right in my own flower garden? Those photos are certainly vivid.
Or should I opt for a stunning sunset photo shot right off my back yard deck? Or one of the more dramatic photos of unusual architecture or a picture demonstrating the exuberance of life? They all embody this vivid theme.
Instead I decided to use this photo which was taken over Memorial Day weekend two weeks ago.
Papa and I, along with the rest of our immediate family, visited our son and daughter-in-law in the state next door for the holiday. The weekend proved to be chock full of much needed family fellowship, laughter, and fun excursions.
On our way back to their home one evening after a truly enjoyable day spent together at a festival, I captured this photo. Dusk had already arrived and evening’s darkness was descending when we drove past a bridge which caught my eye.
While stopped at a traffic light, I watched synchronized colored lights appear in intervals underneath the span. I’d never seen anything quite like that before so I grabbed my camera and managed to take a couple photos before the light changed and traffic progressed.
Those lights, showcased on a background of sunset, captured the essence of vivid to me. But even more, the memories we made that day, those unforgettable moments of family love and togetherness are what will remain vivid in my mind.
“Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming!” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
I’ve seen it in violent thunder storms. I’ve witnessed its aftermath when a swirling tempest of a tornado swept down from the sky and annihilated everything in its path. And I’ve watched nature’s strength in the ebb and flow of ocean waves on both coasts of my country.
The force of nature is evident in raging flood waters, the ferocious wind of a hurricane, the blinding intensity of a blizzard of snow. Nature is powerful. It is mighty and potent. And human nature can be just as forceful.
This week’s photo challenge theme, as you may have guessed, is “force of nature.” I considered several photos I’ve taken that would fit the theme but in the end, I chose the picture above. I snapped it one summer evening when a gusty wind kicked up and some fierce looking storm clouds blew into my neighborhood.
Dark, menacing clouds quickly surged over my house and I ran outside with my camera to capture their intensity. I have to admit it was a little daunting and downright scary.
This photo reminded me that our human nature to become angry works much the same way as those ominous storm clouds. Anger swirls in with such nefarious power that it can overwhelm us by its sheer force. And often wrath overtakes us and causes us to say or do things we never would if we were not under the influence of ire and we didn’t let our human nature prevail.
I still recall a time when a person crossed my path with wrongful actions that stirred up my anger. No, make that fury. And frankly, my reaction scared the living daylights out of me.
See that’s the problem when I let my sinful human nature take charge. It resorts to anger, resentment, bitterness, all totally ugly aspects of the forces of my human nature.
And it just seems like I can’t exist a day in this world without encountering something or someone or some event that makes me angry, that calls up that force of nature within me. And I don’t like it one bit.
That’s why I must turn to my Guidebook for Life, my Bible, every day I breathe. If left to my own devices, I would choose to let the dark forces overtake me. But I won’t. And I have to strive so very hard not to do so.
When I find myself in the grips of wrath, when I’m enveloped in rage, incensed to the core, I must repeat this verse from James 1:19-21: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
That’s not to say that some anger isn’t warranted; there is righteous anger and even Jesus showed that.
But the kind of anger I’m talking about makes me realize I need to remember the words of the Apostle Paul each and every day. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:30-32 (NIV)
Some wrongs committed against us that cause us to burn with anger seem unforgivable. That’s when I must remind myself that some acts (sins) we commit against God might also seem unforgivable, yet He gives us the gift of grace, forgiveness of our wrongdoings when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives.
The key is repentance, asking for forgiveness, and turning away from our transgression.
I may not be able to control the forces of nature in the outside world, but I can control the forces of my own human nature. May God give me the strength and endurance to do so.
“Man’s chief enemy is his own unruly nature and the dark forces pent up within him.” ~ Ernest A. Jones
When it comes to Mother’s Day remembrances, certain recollections float to the surface of the deep pool of my memory.
My mother’s birthday was also in May so that merry month brought more than one day of celebrating Mom. I always associated May with flowers because often times we would purchase flats of flowers for Mom’s Mother’s Day gift which she would plant in her flower gardens.
Mom loved to garden and she loved her flowers. There were always perennials in bloom in several areas around our yard and she delighted in the annuals she placed in one flower garden, the one with the pretty bird bath in the center.
When I was young, Mother’s Day began with attending church which would be packed with families all lined up in the pews with their proud mamas. We ladies, young and old, wore flower corsages on Mother’s Day to show honor to our mothers.
In our community, you wore a white corsage if your mother was no longer living and a pink or red one if you were still blessed to have your mother with you. I remember the day my mom wore a white carnation corsage to church because her mother had passed away the previous year. And even though I was small, I proudly wore my pink carnation.
My first Mother’s Day was truly remarkable. Forty-five minutes before midnight the night before Mother’s Day arrived, my first-born daughter arrived in this world. Her daddy, a military man, was stationed all the way across the world when she arrived, but even that couldn’t thwart my joy about becoming a mother for the first time just in time for that special occasion.
I became a mother twice again and each time that joy increased. Mother’s Day became even sweeter than before. Out of all my accomplishments in life, becoming a mother has been the most fulfilling which came as a complete surprise to me because as a young college girl I had proudly proclaimed I wasn’t going to have children. Oh, the follies of youth.
My own mother passed away from cancer over 17 years ago. Just four months prior to that, my mother-in-law, who I loved, admired, and honored for raising the fine man my husband became, also passed away.
Mother’s Day that year was so very difficult. I didn’t want to celebrate this special occasion. I opted out of the annual Mother-Daughter dinner held at our church. I just couldn’t even begin to think about the day with any joy.
My wise and caring father asked me why I wasn’t attending the mother-daughter event and I told him I couldn’t. I didn’t want to watch all of the happy ladies sitting and enjoying their time with their mothers when I had lost my own.
His reply surprised me and I’ve never forgotten his words. He told me he knew the anguish I felt losing my mom. He had felt that way too when his own mother passed away. He said he understood the grief is so difficult and that losing your mother felt like losing a part of yourself.
But his next remark was the one that will stay in my thoughts as long as I have memory. He said, “But, you must celebrate Mother’s Day because you are a mother. You have three children who love you and you celebrate this day for them.”
He was so very right. As my dad often was.
So even though there is a tinge of sadness in me when Mother’s Day rolls around on the calendar, I celebrate that day because I am a mother. I am blessed with three incredible adult children. I am loved and respected and honored by those three.
This year Mother’s Day brought another first. It was the first time I shared the day with one of my daughters who celebrated her very first Mother’s Day as a mother to our precious granddaughter.
Papa cut a sprig of fragrant lilac from the bush in our yard and he and I helped our sweet grandbaby awaken her mommy with a card and little gift for her very first Mother’s Day celebration.
My first Mother’s Day as a grandmother will be added to that memory pool with joy and contentment. And the knowledge of being privileged to spend it with my daughter and adorable grandbaby.
Even though my other children couldn’t be here to share this special day, I know they were thinking of me. Their love arrived in phone calls, cards, and beautiful flowers.
And love surely was expressed in my granddaughter’s smiles and coos.
“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” ~Unknown
Life. There are intricacies in this world we live in that even with all the advances made in science, we still do not comprehend.
Intricate is the theme for this week’s photo challenge and I notice complex items everywhere I look. My trusty dictionary defines intricate as “having many complexly arranged elements and difficult to solve or comprehend.”
Consider nature. Look closely at a blooming flower. Real close. What do you see? Intricacy.
Consider man-made items. Even the simplest of these took an inventive, creative mind to create or form or fashion. An intricate plan.
Consider our human bodies. Each and every aspect must work perfectly together to sustain life in our human form. If that’s not intricate, I don’t know what is.
Scads of people think all of this intricacy just happened. Boom. The Big Bang. And that we humans came to exist through evolution.
I’m not one of those. When I seriously consider the intricacy of the world around me, I cannot believe the multifaceted inner workings of a blossom or the ability to build an amazing machine or the astounding ways our human bodies work was just an accident. I cannot believe those aspects of life just simply happened on their own.
No, I believe there is a Master Designer. I believe that He exists and His knowledge and power and majesty go beyond anything our human minds can comprehend.
I believe God created all things.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1
And that includes us humans with our intricate bodies and our complex minds.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” ~ Psalm 139:14
And I simply choose to believe each time I contemplate this life in this intricate world created by the author of intricacy, an intricate God.
“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.” ~ William Sharp, Scottish Poet, 1855-1905