When Winnipeg winters get colder than Mars and there’s nowhere left to heap the snow from my shovel, there’s nothing I love more than hunkering down with one of my favorite genres of book – the survival story.
Maybe it began in elementary school when I read the book The Incredible Journey, about three pets as they travel 480 km through the Canadian wilderness searching for their beloved masters. I love how it seems that everything is lost until small mercies come along that help the main characters in imperceptible but life changing ways.
Two weekends ago, I received one of those small mercies which had the effect of renewing my energy and stirring up a deeper sense of hope in God and life. Our community hosted a story-telling workshop out at Fort Whyte, Winnipeg’s beautiful nature centre.
As I listened to the stories others had prepared, and then spent time on Saturday writing my own stories, I became aware of a deeper stream. Instead of being caught up in petty worries and cares, I was reminded of something greater than me flowing beneath the events of my life.
I was struck by something as I wrote some of my own reflections. As difficult as life can be, what we focus on makes all the difference. Much like writing in this blog, I spent time remembering the small kindnesses that have come my way since the year began. Reflecting on these experiences from myself and others cracked my heart open again and melted it with the warmth of God’s compassion.
For example, on the first day back at school in January, my car was towed due to snow clearing. That was a bummer, but it was people’s responses that really warmed my heart. Two loyal parent volunteers were on the case right aways. One told the other who went out around the streets looking for where they’d towed my car. Within ½ hour, they had a report to me about where my car was. For some reason, this small act of kindness and loyalty touched me deeply. Later, our kindly and almost saintly Polish custodian took time to commiserate with me about the ticket and almost said the f word in my defense.
The great poet Rumi has famously said, “Someone fills the cup in front of us.” For me, this Someone is my friend Jesus. The more I look, the more I see his representatives all around me, being Jesus’ hands, feet, words and actions. Like the three pets in The Incredible Journey, we are all lost in many ways, searching for our master. Yet we are not actually lost at all if, like the parents looking for my car, someone is looking for us.
I left the weekend strangely encouraged and with a lighter heart. I say strangely because I couldn’t quite explain it. The workshop had really only been less than 10 hours, and nothing fancy had happened. But I felt the effects for days after, the feeling of having been touched by God and that everything would be ok in my life. And now as I write about it more than 14 days later, I still have that sense.
An old friend sent me a verse for my birthday on Facebook this week, and it has stayed in my heart all week. “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 (Thank you Rita Mae.) The first part of the verse talks about returning to God and resting in God. Focusing on all the small mercies is about going to a quieter place within, away from the worries and cares of life.These things keep me steered toward God every day, like the rudder of a ship. I am thankful that God sees fit to hand over these mercies so regularly so I am not left to my own devices.