Saturday, March 6, 2010

Through the Swamps of Life

by Donna L. Watkins

I packed the car and headed out from the hotel on my journey with a few stops scheduled at natural areas along the way. My first was Colleton State Park in South Carolina for a short walk about a Cypress Swamp Trail.

Live oaks led the way to the path that began with river birches, loblolly pines and plenty of wax myrtles. It was still too early for the wildflowers to awaken from their winter naps and the chilly breeze put a quicker step in my feet to complete the short trail.

The black waters of the swamp with reflections of the life above them led my mind to wonder what my life was reflecting. Sometimes we don't walk through life as we planned. This diversion to the driving was pictured as a leisurely slow stroll, taking time to share the wonders of Creation with my eager mind. However, the cold breezes caused my mind to think hike rather than stroll. I picked up the pace picturing the end of the trail rather than enjoying the journey.

Seeing the Edisto River ahead I joyfully headed for a close-up view hoping to see evidence of wildlife. Nothing made a sound other than a few songbirds high in the trees. It seemed that the cold morning had chilled even the wildlife.

The quiet flowing river reminded me once again that life passes by quickly and every moment of it should be precious.  My feet wanted to quickly pass through the cold and get back to my car, but in hurrying along, I was missing my entire desire and purpose for this scheduled interlude away from interstate driving.

Sometimes the cold wintery times of our lives cause us to get our eyes off the reason for the journey as we rush through details and tasks scheduled to distract us from the reality of troubles and trials. We miss the beauty that's around us even in the midst of our winter seasons, even the beauty that is to be produced by tribulations.

God has plans for our every day and breath of life and He uses all circumstances for our good. It seems a better thing to be able to slow down and view the pain with a new mindset, seeking that which God wants us to learn from it. As we rest ourselves in His love and grace, we will see the bridge that leads us across the swamps of our lives.

Just as my mind decided to slow the pace down again and enjoy the journey, the path turned into a wet drainage area since it was the path of least resistance for the earlier rain. Isn't that just like life! You spend some time in deep thought, maybe by a river, and decide to head into life with renewed interest and determination, ignoring the winds that threaten to chill you, and then something else happens. Another bad circumstance to discourage you. This is the level where life really happens.

It's where we decide if we are going to stand in faith or fall back into despair. Can we see the good all around us and make our choices based on that ... or do we wallow in the pit the devil offers us every morning, noon and night? We can choose to stay in one place too long, whining and begging for a miracle when God has given us all power and ability to walk out of it. We can begin to grow moss like a tree that stands in the same place. Year after year passes as we add another layer of fear, self-condemnation, disbelief or grief. Like moss these things cover us until the person that God created us to be is no longer visible.

Life's choices determine our daily joy. Our focus determines our circumstances -- it's not the troubles, it's the perspective of it all that makes life what it is. So slow down, put on your hiking boots and dig into the trail and keep your eyes on the beauty along the way.

We will turn our lives around by leaning in, not by running away. God has great plans for you if you are willing to work your way through the classrooms that life offers to build us into what we need to be.

Spiritual gifts are great and we have them because God wants us to use them, but they don't work too well without the Fruits of the Spirit. To produce fruit, a tree has to take some pruning ... and we do too. Lean in!

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1 comment:

Renee Klevenhagen said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Donna! As I'm sure you've seen on my FB page, we are awaiting the sale of our home here in PA to move to Myrtle Beach. We'd never been there until a few weeks ago & don't remember the moment God led us to this decision but as we drove through the secluded areas (where we are looking to live) we were able to check off this list of things we've always wanted in a home. Along with that, we talked about the verses or thoughts God placed on our hearts prior to going down - they were all there. In our 23 years of marriage & decision, we've been so thankful for the times God has undoubtoubtedly shown us the direction He wanted us to go.
With all of that said, we fell in love with the place in a way we don't understand. In a way that, as my husband says, makes us feel like we are not at home anymore here in PA, in the home we've owned for 22 years. Having that feeling is making it hard to wait on the Lord for the house to sell but waiting is something we have to do, of course.
So, back to "Through the Swamps of Life." We've grown up being lovers of the woods, long hikes & secret places among the trees. Driving down through the states we discussed how strange it was that God was moving us to the OCEAN & not the woods or mountains. When we saw the woods & the swamps we were IN LOVE! The first day we visited Huntington Beach State Park & some of my favorite pictures are from there & it's those pictures I look at for calming & comfort when I get upset about having to wait to move. Last night & this morning were extremely difficult with my Fibromyalgia & headaches (which weren't a problem down there) so this morning as I laid in bed crying & trying to allow God to comfort me, I felt the desire to read my e-mail. Now I was expecting that God was going to show me that I had an e-mail about our home or something like that. Nope - even more awesome, The Nature in Us was there & I immediately clicked on this article. To see pictures similar to my favorites & that they were taken in the same state were just incridible and then to read the accompanying words, well, Donna - God used you to be the comfort He was going to give me today. I've printed the article to put in my Bible & have sent it to my husband as well. Also, the pictures are being posted to FB today. Hope you enjoy them. Thank you, thank you, thank you for (again) allowing God to write through you.
As always, I enjoyed reading The Nature in Us, but today was special & for that I'm greatful.
Blessings & joy to you!
Renee' Klevenhagen
PS-I realized I never answered your messages on FB from a few weeks ago! So, sorry! I actually am going to answer them today. Have a great day & a safe trip back home!

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