Let me start this post by wishing you a very happy and blessed New Year!
As you look back on last year, what do you see? I see fruitful times—and a few good visits with family. I also see times of frustration and personal reactions which I wish had not happened.
Recently, my friend and fellow author on this blog, Ruth Dell, spent some weeks on holiday in Ireland. She sent me these photos, and as I looked at them, I saw a deep significance in each one.
This photo shows a pretty scene, with reflections clearly showing in the water. But the reflections are not clear in this particular image as there are too many distractions. It is a riot of color. Branches, bushes and plants of every autumn hue stick out in all different directions. Leaves float on the water, indicating a wind that had blown at some point.
I wonder how often my life reflected chaos last year? Is it shown in the reflection I showed the world? Too much going on. Did I reflect a riot of different ideas and actions and reactions? Were they frequently blown around by the winds of change that frequent our chaotic country as well as my busy-busy lifestyle. Was that me in 2017? Was it you?
I love this relaxing picture. What looks like a lazy stream meanders across the level ground. I've since learned from my friend that it is not in fact a stream. This is a slob! No, not the type of slob we think of when someone takes no care over their appearance or behavior. This land was reclaimed from the sea using dykes with the work commencing in the 1840s.
How did it earn the name, slob? The name actually comes from the word slab which means mud. The lands are drained by a network of channels. The water from these channels is then pumped into the sea by a pumping station.
In the photo, there are no signs of wind or any other interference from nature. And yet, it is not what it first appears to be. Muted colors all point together to the season of autumn (fall to you Americans!) A nearby road allows people to draw close and view its beauty, but I have two questions of this slob. Is it going anywhere? (The answer is, No.) And is it giving a wrong impression to the naive onlooker?
Were any of those observations true of me last year? Lazy? Often. There were many times when I knew I should be working, but I got distracted with unimportant activities or sat staring mindlessly at a TV program I wasn't even interested in.
Muted colors? As I look at last year, it was a rather drab sort of year. Trouble is, I enjoyed the lack of activity. It's not that I did nothing. I sat for hours at my computer and published two e-books plus over 50 blog posts. But I rarely went out or mixed with others. Yes, I think my year could be described as muted.
Did I at times give the impression of being one thing, when in fact I had a different agenda to that imagined by others who didn't know me well?
Was that true of my life in 2017? How about yours? When people watched me, did they see the calmness and the beauty of an unruffled life? Sure, the occasional leaves fell into the water. But they didn't mess up the surface of my day-to-day existence. Well, not every time. It's not that I was 100% perfect. Far from it. I didn't always behave in the best possible way. (If you did, please contact me and tell me how you did it!) But as folk saw the problems life threw at me, did they marvel at the calm reflection I managed to maintain? I have to admit—not as often as I'd have liked.
And then we come to the crowning glory of this final photo. Once again, an almost perfect reflection. This time, no leaves float on the surface. For me, living in South Africa, I can only marvel at a pollution-free lake. No debris floats near the edge. No garbage spoils the beauty of this country scene.
Central to the picture stands a Victorian pumping station which pumps the water from the reclaimed land into the sea. I first thought this was a church, a symbol of God's presence clearly reflected in the still water.
If it was a church, would this be the image I portrayed to the world last year? Did I show my day-to-day contacts, not only a calm well-cared-for life, but the clear image of Christ reflected to them? What about online? I have so many cyber friends, and we often share good fellowship.
Even now I know it's a pumping station, I can ask myself this question. Do I show my contacts a life centered on the One who stood with me throughout 2017, ready to get rid of unwanted sludge in my lifestyle as soon as it showed up?
It's too late to change a thing about last year. It's gone onto the shelves of history. God has been so good to me and to you. He has given us another package of 365 days! Okay, make that 360 days, because we've already used up five of them!
What photographs am I going to share with the world in 2018? When people look at me, what kind of reflection will shine back at them?
As I look over these four photographs, my prayer is that we will de-clutter our lives of unnecessary "stuff." May we have a sense of purpose and present the world with a calm, unruffled life-style. No matter what crises we face (and we will), may we reflect the calm and beauty of a life unpolluted by the garbage of the world.
Most of all, my prayer is that the Son will be reflected no matter what 2018 holds for us.
Thanks to Ruth Dell for the use of her stunning photographs taken in beautiful Ireland.
SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the southern coast of South Africa with her husband, Rob. She has recently embarked on a series of eBooks titled, Out of the Shadow. Available now:
- Naomi, Beloved Mother-in-Law
- Eve, Mother of All
- Miriam, Devoted Sister
- Miriam, Gifted Leader
- Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations for those facing cancer.