As we were traveling along the shore of Lake Michigan last week, I spotted a poster with a familiar saying on the wall of a public restroom: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” A strange place to find inspiration! However those words motivated me to start looking for special moments of wonder when God’s presence seems very near, during our trip from Detroit to Traverse City. 

The purpose of our three day journey was a rather somber one — to have the ashes of a close friend interred in a cemetery in Traverse City.  We had waited until warm weather arrived to make the trip north, deciding to drive along the shoreline of Lake Michigan so that we could explore some new areas. Even though a heavy rainfall was predicted for that first evening, we decided to go for a short hike in Saugatuck Dunes State Park. 

It was hot and muggy with dark, threatening clouds overhead. I soon regretted leaving my water bottle behind in the car. We had also forgotten to bring mosquito repellent and were attacked by swarms of hungry mosquitoes along the trail. When we reached the sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan,  I kicked off my shoes and waded ankle deep in the frigid water — quite a shock to the system, but it sure felt good!

Wading in the lake was cut short by a huge thunder clap followed by a downpour of rain. Time to go! That was more of a shock than standing in the lake, drenching our hot, sweaty t-shirts, soaking our faces, washing away mosquitoes and cooling off the itchy welts where we had been bitten. It was quite a breathtaking moment!

Several people raced by us, including two girls who had wisely decided against staying in their hammocks for the afternoon! It wasn’t long before we were back in the car, on our way to Muskegon where we would spend Wednesday night. Al and I were drenched, but glad that we had stopped to take the hike anyway. 

On Thursday, we drove from Muskegon to Traverse City, taking a route that led around a narrow peninsula jutting into Grand Traverse Bay and hiking on some trails at Old Mission Point. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at the next hotel. 

That evening, we sat out on the beach and waited for the sun to set over Lake Michigan. Storm clouds were still in the western sky, but gradually, the sun came out from behind the clouds, turning the horizon a brilliant orange before sinking into the clouds again. It was serene, beautiful and yes, breathtaking.

Oblivious to the sunset, a female mallard waddled along the sand, stopping in front of a fellow who had a few bread crumbs stashed away. She patiently waited for him to toss a crumb, but had to chase away a sea gull who tried to intercept it. The seagull and determined duck made a racket, disturbing the serenity of the moment; however, when the gull gave up and flew off, Mrs. Mallard returned to her post in front of the man’s lounge chair, staring intently until he threw her another crumb. 

Maybe not a breathtaking moment, like being caught in the downpour or watching the sunset, but certainly a funny and memorable one. Returning to the prior quote, life really is measured by the breaths you take. Once you stop breathing it’s over, at least here on earth! However, maybe the intent of the quote would be better expressed like this: “LIFE is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.” (quote attributed to Bob Moorehead by the Goodreads Librarians Group online)

May we take time to appreciate those special moments that draw us closer to our loving Heavenly Father and to experience LIFE to its fullest.

“Therefore, Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” — John 10:7-10 NIV

Judy Lowery lives in Michigan. The Good News column appears regularly in The Porterville Recorder. You can read more at Judy’s blog, goodnewswithjudy.blogspot.com.

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