The Unexpected Gift of A Brighter Day

October 25, 2017
I had a full blown case of the blues swirling around inside me, but looking back now, I probably couldn’t have told you why. I’m not sure I even knew myself.
Perhaps my internal struggle stemmed from the fatigue of battling low blood iron levels, or maybe it was just the stress of working in a busy office, playing catch up after a natural disaster. But whatever the reason, I could easily imagine being tucked away into a cozy corner, my favorite mug of herbal tea in one hand, and a good book in the other, soft classical tunes setting the stage for a few moments alone.
It was October 2016, and Hurricane Matthew had recently ripped through the east coast of Florida, leaving a trail of devastation in it’s wake. But thankfully, my family and I were fine. No major damage to speak of at home, and the worst was behind us as the storm slowly disbanded, following a northern track to finish out it’s course.
So why the unsettled frame of mind? Why the tugging and pulling, the stilted dance with soft rhythms of discouragement? Good questions. But ones I chose to push aside,chalking up the emotions to “one of those days”, deciding instead to prepare for an afternoon walk to the nearby coffee shop.
That’s when I heard it. The voice of a coworker filtering across my desk in low, subdued tones, giving an update on the tree in her house – A large tree toppled by Hurricane Matthew that unexpectedly brought a world of change, crashing into the house she and her husband rented for eight years.
To make matters worse, they were being displaced for an indefinite period, scrambling to salvage furniture and make temporary living arrangements until new accommodations were available.
On my way out the door, I paused, allowing the news to sink in, suddenly convicted over the selfishness of my earlier mood.
In a moment, everything changed.
Walking across the parking lot, crunching loose gravel and a kaleidoscope of fallen leaves on a warm autumn afternoon, a new question came into focus.
What can I do to brighten her day?
It was a simple phrase, but one that turned the tide in a way I didn’t expect, my own problems fading into the background like unimportant baggage on a cross country trip, too cumbersome and heavy to shoulder any longer.
The mission took on purpose. It became about her, not me.
It took on the form of a sweet treat from the local Starbucks menu, carefully wrapped and placed on my teammate’s desk, a humble offering of care and concern.
The stark reality of her situation remained, but a few heartfelt words of gratitude and the light in her eyes let me know the day had been brightened, if even just a little.
But walking away, what really struck me was the transformation inside my own heart, the new outlook and the lighter steps that came from setting my focus on spreading joy into the life of another.
What a difference such a journey makes. I pondered it then, and I reflect upon it now, thinking of the words of Christ, referenced in Acts 20:35.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
And I know these are words I want to hide inside my heart, protecting them as though my very life depends on it.
Because I believe it does.
And along the journey, I think maybe yours does too. Though we don’t give in order to receive, it’s in the giving that we shall receive.
Joy for today. Strength for tomorrow. And the unexpected gift of a brighter day, through shining His light in the direction of a fellow traveler.


This Long Road – A Path of Reflection For Your Walk of Faith

October 15, 2017
I often cross a long,well traveled bridge during the course of a normal work week. It stretches over a wide span of the St. Johns River, connecting two sides of my hometown with panoramic views of open sky and strong, flowing currents.
On a clear morning, as fading shadows of dawn give way to the bright light of day, early sunshine usually steals the show, rising in spectacular fashion, casting brilliant rays that transform the water into a sea of diamonds.
And I absolutely love it. I love witnessing this extraordinary beauty on an ordinary morning. I love grasping the hope it represents above the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Hope that carries a promise of calm, steady assurance, reminding travelers of an essential truth to moving forward in faith.
Simply put, it’s a reminder that no matter what happens along our journey, the sun will always shine again.
After living in the same city for nearly four decades, I recently thought about how many seasons I’ve watched come and go from this large concrete platform, and the adjacent highway that loops around the place I call home.
Seasons that slowly spin from nature as winds blow and the earth tilts, and seasons that  slowly, quietly move through the heart with subtle, unexpected shifts of life.
I’ve experienced them all from this long road. The ones I never wanted to change, and also, the ones I wished to change, but thought they would never end. Because, you see, not every day brings a sea of diamonds on the river, or the sweet lilt of joy in my heart.
You know?
Sometimes, I travel in a tangled web of tension, deep breaths of anguished prayer filtering through a rain spattered windshield, all hopes of seeing brilliant sunshine dashed by dark, brooding clouds.
But even on the hard days, here’s what I know. I’m still on the journey.
And if the lines and spaces of well worn asphalt could speak, I imagine this is what they might say:
You’ve been here before, on this long road, overwhelmed, disappointed and confused
I carried you then, and I carry you now, knowing the sun will shine again
Yes, this problem is different, but so was the one before
But I know from experience –  Your God will come through and surprise you once more
Cue the tears. Because I’m a crier. When I’m happy, and when I’m sad. But especially when pausing to reflect on God’s faithfulness, and the surprising ways He comes through for His own.
I don’t share this today because I’m full of answers. Quite the contrary. I’m an unsettled soul, full of questions about today, tomorrow, and the unknown future beyond.
But I share these words because maybe you’re on your own stretch of highway where the path is bumpy and uncertain. Where clouds hang low, and the mood is unpredictable. Where detours flash unfamiliar signals, and the tolls require more than you can give.
Not the easiest places to navigate, right?
But if I’ve learned anything from this journey, I’ve learned these are places where we can remember three very important things:
The road is long.
The problems change.
But God remains the same.
And as Psalm 30, verse 5 tells us: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Yes. Beautiful, blessed joy comes in the morning. And sometimes, it brings a sparkling sea of brilliant diamonds shining on the river.