Reflecting on Resilience….

Spiral Migration by Jeanne MischoWe had a warm spell recently that even fooled my garden. Bulbs began to burst forth, flowering shrubs began to bud, and then the weather turned bitterly cold. Today the skies are a brilliant blue, with just a few wispy clouds. Looking out the window from my desk, it’s hard to conceive how cold it is. I’m captivated by the strong sunlight, rather than dwelling on the obvious signs of winter. So I was drawn to this beautiful art by my friend Jeanne, of birds migrating in a spiral. I love how Jeanne combines math and science with images of nature. A tree grows out of the center of the spiral, a tree that reminds me of the Shaker tree of life. The birds swirl around the tree, moving ever upward, ever closer to the Architect of All Creation. Life is messy by definition, and seldom what we expect or plan for. The happily ever after of fairy tales doesn’t describe most of the paths we follow. Perhaps we are too married to the idea of a straight line path, the idea that we can always see the way ahead. We call the unexpected in life sharp corners, or say we have been blindsided, or simply feel lost and alone. Some of us even allow the vagaries of this life to bury us under a succession of small sadnesses, accumulating into an existence of gloom and despair. Others are like the birds in this image, or the scene out my window. All is well, even when it’s freezing cold. What fuels this ability to persevere? What allows some to bounce back, to recover readily, to seem to defy gravity? I don’t know about you, but I cannot manage such strength alone. It takes more than just personal prayers, more than time in scripture. I must be part of a community that draws me to the center, that reminds me of the Source of All Life. I need someone to pray for me when I cannot find the words or motivation to pray for myself. I need someone to remind me that all will be well, to ease the burden, to keep me on the path ahead. Make time today to pray for those you love and cherish in this life. Ask what to pray for, and let them know you pray for them. Reach out to others and seek their prayers, trusting that God has prepared a way out of the corner you feel painted into. Let the Almighty mold your sharp corners in to gentle curves, to turn darkness into light, to show you the good in even the most dire of situations. Trust the promise of Matthew 7:7-8

            Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

And always remember, when we trust in the Lord our God, we become like the tree whose branches bend and sway in a storm, remaining flexible and strong amid the challenges of this life. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Spiral Migration’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

Reflecting on Sisters….

SONY DSCFor the first time in many years, I have had occasion to spend time with all three of my sisters. We do not live close by, and rarely have much time to visit. Recently we have gathered to celebrate a graduation, then a bridal shower and a wedding. As we worked together, I was pleasantly surprised by how the years melted away, and we fell into familiar patterns and roles. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of two sisters, taken by their father Ryan. I am reminded of my own father when I see Ryan with his daughters at church, but even more so when I see photos of their camping and kayaking trips. Each day we build memories, and our actions determine if those memories will be good or bad. So on this rainy winter morning I am blessed to recall family boating trips to Burlington Island, when we would swim and picnic. My youngest sister always seemed to go missing, but the island was small enough that we could easily find her. My sister that is now a civil engineer would pull plugs of clay out of the shallows, to bring home and use for her projects. My sister that is the mother of the bride would play in the sand, and gather up insects and tiny creatures to examine. I mostly swam and played in the water, talking to each in turn, and watching what was going on around me. Some would say these trips were a waste of time, that we would have been better off reading a book or honing a skill. Yet we were learning something you can’t find in a book on those sunny afternoons. We learned about each other, learned how to work as a team, learned how to be together yet give each other room. We are a group of independent, opinionated women, and often disagree. Yet when we all are pointed in the same direction, motivated by love and devotion, God help anyone who stands in the way. What I find even more amazing are the women we each call friends, often friends to more than one of us, who have also become our sisters. Make time today to create a lasting memory. Take a walk with a friend or family member, or play a game together. Pay attention to how you each react, respecting individual perspectives and methods. Accept one another as God made us, each different, each unique, each made especially for God’s purpose. Allow the Holy Spirit to bind you together in God’s will, rather than your own. Learn to work together, to understand the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And always remember, we are children of the Most High, sealed together by Christ’s blood, rather than our own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Sisters on High’ by Ryan Wick

Reflecting on Preparation….

Ladybird and Flower (2) by The Little LeafWe just returned from a family wedding, a sort of extended holiday season. We were barely beyond Christmas and New Year’s when the big day was upon us. It was so good to see family and friends join together to celebrate with the happy couple and pledge their support to this new marriage. Yet the happy day didn’t just happen. Planning and preparation began last winter, along with many discussions and suggestions from all around. So I was drawn to this lovely photo by my friend Alana of a ladybug, or ladybird as they would say in New Zealand, amidst beautiful flowers. This little beetle has chosen the most tightly closed bloom, instead of landing on the wide open flower to the left. These flowers seem to emerge from a translucent film, slowly opening and unfurling their petals for all to see. A wedding is a lot like these flowers. Some guests may only see the open bloom, while others helped along the way. Perhaps some brought their experience from years gone by, like the glimpse of the open bloom to the right. Others listened patiently or offered new ideas, helping balance the needs of two families that became one. Yet we often forget the few who shun the spotlight and are content to help in the background, allowing those they love to shine the brightest. Make time today to be someone else’s ladybird. Listen without interruption, go beyond just the spoken word, seek to understand what is left unsaid. And always remember, when you let go of the need for outward recognition, the work of your heart will be its own reward. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Ladybird and Flower’ by The Little Leaf ©2012, used with her permission. To see more of her work, go to http://thelittleleaf.net/

Reflecting on Enough….

Tiniest Snowman by Rocky Ridge Refuge2012 was an eventful year for us, like a daring roller coaster ride. There were a few too many ups and downs, with steep climbs and deep drops, unexpected turns and blind corners. Despite the challenges, we trusted all would be well, and took time to celebrate the joys life brought us. So I was drawn to this unusual photo by my friend Janice, of a snowman perched on a pappadom chair. I love the tiny carrot nose, the little stick arms, the eyes and buttons embedded in the snow. On a day when most of us would have given up on the idea of a snowman, Janice chose to make this little guy instead. Where others did not see enough, Janice saw what was sufficient. Like my grandmother, she made due with what was at hand. I recall a worn out sampler that hung is her kitchen ‘Use it up, Wear it up, Make due, Do without’. We may have had a grocery store nearby, but almost all of our ‘big’ shopping meant a train ride into Philadelphia. Her shopping list hung on the cork board until we had the money and time to make the trip. Even then, at least a few items would be crossed off the list because we found a way around what we thought was so necessary to replace a few days or weeks earlier. Yet it was my grandmother who paid for my dance lessons, because grace was as necessary as the air we breathe. When Nana saw what really mattered, what nourished our bodies and souls, she ruthlessly assured we had the resources we needed. I did not grow up with designer clothes, or gourmet meals, or fancy vacations. I was offered something more precious – the knowledge that following a dream may mean sacrifice, that every decision has a cost and consequence, that there is a huge difference between what we want and what we need. Make time today to ponder the blessings of this life, the healings that have been prepared, the love of family and friends, the prayers of others when you have lost the will to pray. Stop doing and begin to just be. Let go of worldly expectations, resist the temptation of scarcity, trust you have what you need. And always remember, when we each live into who we are, there will always be more than enough to nourish our bodies, our hearts, and our souls. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Janice of Rocky Ridge Refuge. To learn more about Janice and her dream, visit http://rockyridgerefuge.com/

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