“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
~ Charles Warner
Recently I had the amazing and memorable experience of going on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains with my wonderful family. From the exciting attractions to the breathtaking views and mountain scenery, we really felt we had been whisked away to a whole new world. This incredible and beautiful landscape filled with wide open spaces, friendly kin folk and nature in all its glory was a very welcome change from the busyness we are used to in Canada. Our cozy cabin high in the mountains, although equipped with all the amenities one could possibly ask for, also provided us with something much more we all needed: the opportunity to relax in a serene environment, reconnect and just enjoy the simple things. As I awoke to the picturesque view of the mountains each morning, I felt overwhelmed by God’s presence and incredible handiwork. I felt the Bible verse come to life of “Be still and know that I am God.” What a creator we serve and I was constantly in awe of His creativity. One morning as I took it all in, I couldn’t help but burst out singing Amazing Grace and just had to raise my hands to the heavens in a display of worship as a response to the awesome splendor I was witnessing. It seems nature is something we can often take for granted, yet it is so incredible to take the time to really and truly appreciate it.
The residents of the area were so warm and friendly that they made you feel like family or lifelong friends. My family and I remarked about how easy it would be to settle down there, as the atmosphere was so welcoming. This was especially evident when we attended church in the valley there on Sunday. We went to a church called Wears Valley United Methodist Church, and from the moment we entered, we felt completely at home. With a congregation of under 100 people in attendance that day, they had a motto that was “small enough to care… large enough to serve.” This motto was clearly exemplified with the way they interacted with newcomers. My dad introduced us all and the enthusiastic pastor remarked “This is your family? Well you are blessed.” I must say I am biased, but I do agree! The church had so many great community activities coming up like a Fall Fair, and a back to school potluck, we all wished we would be able to stay a little longer just to get to know the wonderful people a bit more. That is the way they made us feel, so "welcome as the flowers in May" as my Gramma Sudds used to say.
There seemed to be a slower pace, simpler way of life that was evident there that we so admired. It was almost in some ways that we had gone back in time a bit. Sometimes we can so caught up with “keeping up with the Joneses” that we forget what really matters.
I loved how there were bibles everywhere around our cabin, scripture plaques in several restaurants, many gospel music shows to take in, and even t- shirts that said “Jesus Is Lord” on sale at the local Walmart. No there’s something that you don’t see every day where we come from, that's for sure. This area in many aspects was very unapologetically Christian and is was very refreshing. While attending Dollywood in the middle of county music shows the performers broke out into “Just Over In The Glory Land,” and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” with passionate gusto. A remark was made by one of the performers that he was so happy that not only are they allowed to perform gospel songs at Dollywood, but it is actually strongly encouraged. Even at the local Olive Garden restaurant, the waitress explained that they changed their policy of first coming to the table with a bottle of wine to sample, as this protocol did not go over well there in the Bible Belt and was actually offensive to many who did not drink. From a society that has gone so far the opposite way regarding Christianity, it was very interesting to observe to say the least.
We watched lots of Waltons and Andy Griffith reruns at the cabin and I could not help but giggle at the irony of it all! I actually felt that I was living on Waltons mountain with the mountains all around us! Also like the Walton family, who lived with several generations under one roof, we had my parents with us too. Three generations together enjoyed a wonderful time of laughs, bonding and making precious memories we will always cherish. Yes our cabin had TV and Wifi, but that was not our priority. The precious time together was what we most enjoyed and treasured.
Taking time for what really matters is most important. Faith, friends, family, and making memories is so crucial for all of us. It has been said that “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Why do we do that? I am sure we don’t mean to most of the time, yet somehow it still unfortunately happens. I encourage you to get off the fast track and enjoy the slower pace every once in a while. Work and responsibilities will always be there, but opportunities to enjoy the simple things in life may not be. There is a quote on my Facebook page that says “Take vacations. Go to as many places as you can. You can always make money but you can’t always make memories.” Life can get so busy and time goes by so quickly. Let’s not forget to enjoy ourselves along the way! In honour of the Andy Griffith show, I have included a link to the song “ Mayberry,” by Rascal Flatts which talks of many of the things I have touched on in this blog. I miss Mayberry too, but I feel I got a taste of it last week in the Smoky Mountains so I am very grateful! Enjoy!
Psalms 121: 1-2 I lift up to my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth.
Little Lesson Learned: Enjoying the simple things in life is such an absolute pleasure.
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014
“Things that matter most in our lives must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. ~ Milton K.
Easter season is upon us and we are easily reminded especially when shopping. It is then we are bombarded with a sea of rainbow grass, a huge assortment of chocolate eggs and
sky-high towers of colorful wicker baskets. The Easter Bunny and his enormous stash of sugary loot has certainly taken on very high importance in our society. It is sad however how many people miss the true meaning of Easter altogether, which is Christ’s death and resurrection. One particular Easter when I was teaching Sunday School, I had the lesson to teach about Mary and Martha at the tomb of Jesus. Before I told the story, I was well prepared and started my discussion about what Easter is really about. I was on a mission and with great enthusiasm I laid it on thick. I described in detail how chocolate bunnies are wonderful, but there is so much more to what Easter is really about. I felt like Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas when he takes center stage. In the spotlight he delivers a life changing monologue and enlightens his friends to what the true meaning of Christmas really is. I went on with gusto to tell the story of Mary and Martha and how they were at the tomb. I described with precision how they were so sad about their special friend Jesus who had died. They did not know that He would perform a special miracle and rise from the dead at that particular time. I had their attention. You could hear a pin drop and I was so proud. When I asked if someone could share what the lesson was about and summarize what I was trying to say, one little boy quickly volunteered. He said boldly “I agree with you about Easter so much! It is not about the chocolate bunnies at all! It is really about the chocolate eggs and just so you know, I think the real reason why Mary and Martha were upset is because they lost their chocolate bunnies!” True story! What? Talk about a let down and unfortunately a little boy who despite my greatest efforts and best intentions clearly did not get it. Not one of my best teaching moments that is for sure, but a very comical story none the less. He did not see what really mattered most much to my dismay!
I have to laugh about this story though because we are like that in life sometimes. We listen, but do we really hear? Do we realize what really matters most? One day I was teaching a lesson on childhood obesity and one little girl chimed in and said she found the lesson very interesting and that she could not wait to share with her parents what she had learned. I asked her “And what did you learn?” She proudly said grinning from ear to ear, “I learned that Mrs. R. taught us a great lesson on how not to be obedient!” YIKES! I quickly cleared up that vocabulary mix up let me tell you! Kids do say the funniest things and provide me with some of the greatest chuckles indeed, yet another case of someone not quite getting what matters most.
Many adults miss the point too. I was watching TV today and there was a show called My Crazy Obsession and this couple had a collection of over 5000 cabbage patch kids. This alone may not seem that bad to avid collectors, but when they spoke of how they talk for their dolls, set up play dates and take them on errands, I knew there was a big problem. It is great to have a hobby or interest, yet when it dominates your life and hurts relationships, there is a huge issue here. There is so much more to life than that, yet they failed to see it! Their hobby mattered most and that is very sad.
On the flip side, there are the people who totally get it. They clearly have their priorities in life very straight. They know what is truly important. They know what matters most and they inspire others to do the same. One such person who inspires me very much on a daily basis is a mom named Tara McCallan who has started a website and blog called Happy Soul Project. On this blog she shares her very honest experiences about being a mom to two “hooligans” as she affectionately calls them named Noal and Pip. Pip has Down Syndrome and has been getting much notoriety and spreading great joy to many through this blog. Tara openly speaks of celebrating life’s little moments and realizing it is our differences that make us all such special people. Her blog’s recent entry entitled “33 Things I Know to Be True That Have Helped Make My Life Special” really captures what is truly important in life. Amongst the wonderful items on the list are being honest, saying thank you and being truly grateful for the life you have been given. Simple truths, but so important for all of us to grasp! Thank you Tara for the laughs, reality checks and reminders of what is most important! Please check out her blog at www.happysoulproject.com, as you will be very inspired and will really enjoy the pics of her adorable children as well!
Daily I want to strive to be someone who “gets it” too. Life is too short to do otherwise. It is people who matter most and we need to acknowledge that. We can get so easily distracted with other things. We wear many hats and get very skilled at juggling so many responsibilities, yet at the end of the day the people we love the most still need us. Other aspects of our lives are extremely important to keep in balance as well. A great book I read was called Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. In this novel it talks of the 5 balls we are juggling and what is really most important. It says “Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls… are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” Our careers are very important indeed, but must take their proper place in the priorities line up. I found this quote very enlightening.
Sometimes we need to look at things in our everyday lives and ask ourselves does this really matter? Are we really grasping what life is truly about? Is this really all there is? God wants us to so “get it.” He wants us to place a relationship with Him high on our list of priorities because He loves us so much. It says in His word: For I know the plans I have for you “declares the Lord” plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. It is God’s plan for us to see what is most precious in our lives like His direction, marriage, children, friends and family and to lovingly protect those relationships. He wants us to prosper and have a positive, fulfilled, and meaningful future. Time goes so quickly and we do not want to have regrets. The good thing is it is never too late for a fresh start. Our priorities can become mixed up easily even sometimes for the best reasons, yet we can all find our way back if we want to. If you are in this category, take a good hard look at your life and ask yourself what do you need to change? Is there any activities that you need to discontinue right now? Are there ways you need to simplify your life to free up time for the things that matter most? Taking inventory like this is so healthy and empowering for us. I encourage everyone to do this regularly to make sure that our lives stay in the proper balance. Tomorrow is a new day and another wonderful opportunity to celebrate the things in life we most value and are truly thankful for. Don’t forget it.
Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans I have for you “declares the Lord” plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Little Lesson Learned: Sometimes we miss the point of what matters most. If that happens, acknowledge it, refocus and move forward. A fresh start is awaiting you and it is never too late to “get it.”
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014