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Fishing with my parents as a girl

Showing off the little trout I caught, about age nine, with my parents at Big Sur, California, circa 1959

It’s January 2 and why am I thinking about fish?

Well, taking a walk down memory lane and looking through old photos, I find plenty of snapshots of my family fishing. My mother and sister and I followed Daddy down trout streams in the California coastal hills and in the high Sierras many times. Those are some of my happiest memories: jumping from rock to rock along crystal-clear creeks, collecting colorful pebbles, learning to hold my little pink fishing pole, savoring fresh-caught trout fried over a fire.

Now that my husband and I live in Colorado, we often see fisher men and women along city ponds, thigh-deep in cascading mountain rivers, and casting flies into high-meadow streams and beaver ponds. This winter, as lakes are freezing over, we’ll soon see ice-fishing huts.


Many times in my life I’ve considered the secretive, flashing beauty of fish, heard them slap the water when they jump, watched my dad snag and reel in silvery beauties, gut and clean the keepers, scrape off scales. Not until this year, though, have I looked closely enough to consider the intricacy of a single fish scale and what it has to teach us.

In her book, Unwrapping Wonder: Finding Hope in the Gift of Nature, Carol O’Casey explains:

“What intrigues me about fish scales is … the rings of a fish scale represent years of growth. Similarly, our lives are inscribed with growth rings. God desires to enlarge our lives, our territory, and our character. However, unlike fish, our greatest growth occurs during the darkest times. Can we depend on ourselves during this time? Forget about it. It is precisely in rough waters, and when our resources are exhausted, that we cannot depend on ourselves. Growth occurs on the rim of risk. You risk failure, disappointment, loss. You gain growth. Occasionally, God has to nudge (okay, shove is more like it) us out of our comfort zones to enlarge our rings.”

As this new year begins, I’m asking myself: How has the Lord been nudging me out of my comfort zone in the past year? What growth rings will I, as a result, carry with me into the coming year and beyond? Will I continue to cooperate with Him in developing my “scales” as both a protective covering and a display of beauty created by His presence and grace in my life?

~ Catherine Lawton