Reflecting on Air….

Out of Air by Steve UlleniusIt’s another cold, grey morning here in Virginia. Even the old adage ‘March comes in like a lion, out like a lamb’ doesn’t seem to apply. With a week to go, the lamb is nowhere in sight. The air outside is cold and raw, and the wind is stirring up all sorts of dust and pollen. So I was drawn to this photo by my friend Steve, of a disused gas station. I’m not sure if some of the windows are boarded up, or covered with a soapy film. The air pump is long gone and even the exhaust ports are tightly sealed. The only way for air to escape is through the tiny hole beneath the word ‘AIR’. I have lived with asthma for most of my life, and it’s been an ongoing concern for my daughter. Asthma prevents the sufferer from breathing out. Air becomes trapped inside and it feels as if your lungs could burst. An inhaler opens the throat so you can breathe out once again. Asthma is something I would not wish on my worst enemy, let alone someone I love. We all want the best for our children, hoping they inherit our strengths but not our weaknesses. Yet all too often we end up with both, seemingly amplified beyond what we can bear. Perhaps we empathize because we know all too well what they are going through. We recall our own triumphs and failures, joys and sorrows. We wish to spare our children what we endured, but know we cannot. Growth requires vulnerability and exposure. We cannot learn without stretching ourselves, without moving out of our comfort zone. We cannot take without giving, gain new life without dying, start again without ending. When we turtle in, our world becomes filled with stale air. Make time today to take a chance, to lean into the wind, to breathe in deeply and breathe out freely. Open your heart and mind to another’s viewpoint, listening without reservation, seeking to understand, reserving judgment. Let go of what you expected and give thanks for what you have received. Forgive yourself and others for the shortcomings of this life, and allow The Almighty to complete what overwhelms you alone. And always remember to give thanks here and now, no matter what life may bring, for this gift of life is given to us one breath at a time. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Out of Air’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

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Reflecting on Water….

Yellow Floating Heart by Stanislav ShinkarenkoMarch has arrived like a lion, with each day choosing a different season. In the past few days, we have gone from a foot of snow to torrential downpour. Even the dog wanted to stay inside this morning rather than getting drenched. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my far flung friend Stanislav. I love how this single yellow flower remains upright despite the surrounding flood. I can imagine the flower bobbing up and down, emerging after being submerged, patiently waiting for the rushing waters recede. It seems as though such a delicate bloom should be washed away, rather than stretching toward the sunlight after the storm. Like us, the flower would surely prefer a gentle shower, yet life seldom offers such an option. Drought is followed by deluge, followed by drought. So we seek ways to mitigate the extremes, to be sure we have the water we need when we need it. We become stewards of one of life’s most precious resources. It seems to me that prayer is a lot like water. We can wait to pray when life turns sour, only offering our heartfelt petitions when all else fails. Or prayer can be part and parcel of our daily existence, the first place we turn, as close as the breath we breathe and the water we drink. Our God does not impose upon us, or compel us to obey. It’s up to us. We can turn to the Lord as the last resort, or as the first. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the discipline of daily prayer. It’s easy to put off, easier yet to cut short. Perhaps I make it too complicated, thinking I need a prayer book or certain amount of time to get it right. Yet all we need to pray is our breath. We can pray ‘let go’ as we breathe out, and ‘let God’ as we breathe in. Make time today to pray simply for yourself and others. Choose your own refrain for praying with your breath – perhaps breathing out ‘sorrow’ and in ‘joy’. Open your heart to the steadfast love of the Almighty, trusting God to salvage what humans consider beyond lost. Begin to water your faith with a gentle shower of earnest prayer, even if it’s only an upturned eye, or a heartfelt sigh. And always remember, all it takes is a few seconds of our time for our all merciful God to drench us with grace. Text and by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Yellow Floating Heart’ by Stanislav Shinkarenko ©2013, All Rights Reserved, to see more of his work, go to
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Reflecting on Burdens….

Bowed Over by Connie ChintallI awoke early this morning to a loud thud, fearing my daughter had fallen out of bed. The heavy spring snow was no match for the wind, so large chunks of snow were landing on our roof. I was wide awake while she was snug under the covers, so I ventured out with our dog and my camera to see the storm. I felt as if I had entered a huge snow globe. Large, lazy flakes were swirling to the ground. Then the wind would pick up, and more snow would drop from the branches. Our large oaks can manage the clinging, wet snow, but the dogwoods in the front yard were bent over by the weight. This photo captures what I saw the best, and the range of emotions the scene evoked. I love how the flash is reflected by the falling snowflakes, while the newly bare branches are quickly accumulating another layer. The dogwoods are there in the middle of the massive oaks. You can see my neighbor’s house in the background, with warm and inviting lights at the front door. What makes us cling to our burdens, when we are invited to leave them at the foot of the cross? Why do we take on a new burden so quickly, even after letting go of a burden that nearly folded us in two? How do we become sturdy like the oaks, instead of weak like the dogwoods? In the hush of a snow filled morning, it seems there are more questions than answers. Perhaps that thud is still with me, that motherly concern for a child that is no longer small, a child that turns eighteen tomorrow. My conscious mind sees the young woman, but my sleeping brain still hears a child who needs me. It’s a time of good and positive change, but change nonetheless. I must let go of what I have been, to learn who I need to become. Again, still, I must recall she is God’s child, given into our care as our daughter. We are stewards and guides to help her find the path God has prepared for her, rather than to complete our path, or fulfill our shattered dreams. It will soon be time for her to shake off her the last of her little girl ways and find her place in the world. And time for me to learn what it means to be the mother of an amazing young woman, standing ready, but not standing in the way. Make time today to let go of an outdated role, a part you’ve played long past its usefulness. Shed what was once a source of great happiness, but has now become a heavy burden. Trust God to guide you on the path ahead, to show you this change is simply the end of a chapter, not the end of the story. Allow the Holy Spirit to transform what seems like only loss into a glorious new beginning. And always remember, we cannot have Easter, we cannot experience the resurrection, without the pain and death of the cross. Text and photo by Connie Chintall ©2013

Reflecting on Patience….

First Sign of Spring by Andi WolfeThe skies are grey and foreboding, ushering in a wet spring. Yet the nights are still below freezing. So I often see light frost in the early morning. Our poor bulbs are forcing their way through the last of the leaves from the autumn, much like the bulbs in this photo by my friend Andi. I love the frost on the dried leaves, the tiny cave formed by the emerging bulbs, the new life seeking light out of darkness. This rich image has been part of my wallpaper for almost a year. I ponder the photos over time, until the words that do justice to the photos are revealed to me. Sometimes I write in a flurry, afraid my typing will not keep up. Other times the photo has to sink in, to teach me something, to mold me over time. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with patience. In fact, I would say patience is my main obstacle to sustained faith. I pray and wait, then pray some more and wait some more. God always answers my prayers, but seldom as soon as I would like. But is it God that makes me wait? There are times when I cling to the wintery parts of my soul, to old memories and regrets that dry up the heart and steal hope. Perhaps it’s easier to stay safe, to turtle in, to pull the covers over my head. If new life is waiting to break through, what makes us cling to the old, fearful of change, reluctant to be vulnerable? Perhaps we forget there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, no beginnings without endings, no room without clutter. In the end, I must admit, at least for me, I am the one in the way. I am the reason the answer to prayer takes so long. God remains steadfast and merciful, ever ready to answer my heart’s desire. I simply need to open the eyes of my heart, to allow myself to be molded, to make room for the Holy Spirit to show me the way. Make time today to clear away the dried and wintery parts of your nature, to water your spirit, to nurture new life from the depths of your soul. Let go of your expectations, and make room for God to work in His time, not yours. Allow the Holy Spirit to create a new heart within you, to show you a new way, a way beyond your imagining. And always remember, when we trust in the Author of Creation, our pleas for help are transformed from mere anxiety into earnest prayer. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘First Sign of Spring’ by Andi Wolfe ©2012, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Andi ‘s work, go to http://andiwolfe.blogspot.com/

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