Reflecting on Lost….

Ma in Community Garden by Jeanne MischoThe cold, harsh morning is giving way to a warm, mild afternoon. March is alternating between the lion and the lamb, often in the same day. So I was drawn to this exquisite work of art by my friend Jeanne, entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’. I love her choice of colors, the brilliant blue sky, the vivid orange of the blossoms in the foreground, the muted colors of the foliage and the tiny mother. I can see myself drawn in by the flowers, especially this time of year. It would be so easy to pluck a bloom for my table and drift along without taking in the rest of the scene. This winter has been harsh in more ways than one. The relentless cold has been only one unpleasant aspect. Families have experienced death, sometimes after a long decline, sometimes too quickly to comprehend. Like most of us, I never know what to say to the grieving. I heard again and again, ‘I am sorry for your loss’, but am not sure what that means. I feel like a small child once again, hearing the neighbor across the alley ask ‘Have you lost her again?’ After moving into town from the farm, my grandmother took up an allotment in the community garden. Often when my sisters and I returned from school or playing with friends, we would find the house empty. I would reassure my sisters that we were just fine. Nana was simply off working the allotment. Perhaps grief is a lot like our childhood conversation. After all, we know the soul lives on beyond the frailty of the flesh. We know our loved ones are with the Holy of Holies, perhaps in a lush, vibrant, garden we can only see dimly now. Yet we also yearn for the physical, the touch, the smell, the warm embrace. It can take time to absorb the shock, to comprehend the reality, to accept the finality of death. It takes time to let go of those we love, even if we are to giving them over to God. Make time today for those who grieve, to lend an ear, to offer a prayer, to just talk about everyday life. Give them permission to celebrate the joys this life brings in the midst of sadness by giving them space to mourn. Pray for the Holy Spirit to soothe their souls, guard their hearts and guide their minds. Most of all, pray for God’s words rather than your own. And always remember, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Text by Connie Chintall ©2014, Art entitled ‘Ma in the Community Garden’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2013, All Rights Reserved. To see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/

 

Reflecting on Empathy ….

Alone on a Rainy Evening taken on May 8th, 2012 by Kira SkalaIt’s a beautiful, bright autumn morning here in Virginia. Even in November, we are blessed with mild days, when the sun warms the air and tempts you to do without an overcoat. On days like today, I wish my garden included more fall flowers. All that remains is a single rose. So I was drawn to this lovely photo taken by my friend Kira one spring evening from her front porch. We can see a single wild columbine in the foreground, in sharp focus, with others very close by but also very blurry. I love how the blossoms bow down under the weight of the rain, bending but not breaking. Perched on springy branches, these gentle flowers seem poised to take flight. Yet this bloom has separated from the rest, perhaps carrying a heavier burden, or too proud to ask for help. How do we reach out to others in pain, often suffering more than we can begin to imagine? Do we wait until they ask for help? Do we call and leave it at that? Perhaps we look to insert ourselves into the situation, to feel their pain, to walk a mile in their shoes. There was a time when I thought such empathy was the highest calling, when my pride and ego insisted I knew what another was feeling, and worst yet, what they needed. Now I wonder if any of us truly knows another’s pain. When we place ourselves in another’s shoes, it becomes about us instead of about them. What if empathy feeds the ego, rather than helping the other? What if empathy is an obstacle to true compassion, a way to stay in control when life seems to spiral out of control? A lifeguard begins to help by throwing in a red and white ring, then offering a pole from poolside. Only when all else fails does the lifeguard jump into the water. It takes a respectful distance to help others, working from a place of strength and stability. Once we jump in, we may be asking too much of ourselves to be able to help another. Our desire for empathy may crowd out our compassion and sympathy. Make time today to reach out to others in pain or distress. Resist the temptation to take charge, to assume you know what is going on, or how the other person feels. Simply offer to walk with them on their journey, doing as much or as little as required. Humbly complete the tasks you are given, trusting in God’s economy to provide the rest. And always remember, when we lean on God’s strength and compassion, rather than relying on our own, each of us is capable of offering a ray of sunshine in the midst of a storm. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, photo entitled ‘All Alone on a Rainy Evening’ by Kira Skala ©2013

Reflecting on Vision….

Eye of the Trees by Steve Ullenius, All Rights ReservedIt’s been a tense morning, home with a sick child. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor, concerned as always that my daughter’s asthma complicates what would be a simple stomach bug for others. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Steve. This image of winter trees was taken using a fish eye lens. I can imagine Steve lying on the cold ground until he got the optimal perspective. But what really drew my interest was his comment about this photo. Steve said the trees look like the retina, so I began to ponder what we mean by the word vision. Our ability to perceive our surroundings is a complicated and nuanced gift. Those of us blessed with good vision often take it for granted, and can fail to understand the struggles of those with poor eyesight. I recall one of the first arguments my husband and I had after we married. He had moved my eyeglasses, and I was unable to locate them. I needed to wear my glasses to find my glasses. Yet what I found the most frustrating about the situation was how little he appreciated my plight. So I asked him to wear my glasses. He was astounded by how blurry the world seemed. I replied that what he saw was my world without my glasses. He needed to see the world through my eyes to understand my perspective. Like Steve’s photo, that took a bit of discomfort, but the view was well worth it. Make time today to give thanks for your ability to soak in the beauty of your surroundings. Recall the smile of a small child, or the bulbs pushing up through the soil. Consider the world through the lens of another, someone with more expertise or experience, someone who lacks what you take for granted, someone who yearns for more but is uncertain where to start. And always remember, when the wintery trees begin to block the view, all you need to do is look up. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fisheye Winter Trees’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved

Reflecting on Consequences….

It’s a flat, grey day, with raindrops making music on the window panes. So I was drawn to this amazing artwork by my friend Jeanne, a photograph enhanced by her deft touch. It seems the sky has become a pale stained glass, splittered into shades of blue and white. The wood could be branches or roots, or a bit of both. The hints of bright color draw our eyes past the wood, and we are left to wonder what lies beyond. How often do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the immediate, swayed by a false sense of urgency? We rush to react, rather than taking the time to thoughtfully consider the best response to the current situation. We speak out in anger, saying things we wish we could take back later. In our haste, relationships suffer at the expense of results. We close doors that we wish could remain open, and after too many missteps, may be barred and locked. Each action has a consequence, perhaps not visible today, or even tomorrow. Each choice sets us down a path, and closes off another alternative. It’s easy to get lost, one step at a time. Yet it is just as easy to slowly find your way back. Take time today to thoughtfully respond to what life brings your way. Slow down and allow yourself to consider the possible consequences of your actions. Ask yourself what you might do in the same situation, suspending judgment and carefully choosing your words. And remember, sometimes the most compassionate response is simply a silent embrace. Artwork entitled ‘Axis Mundi’ by Jeanne Mischo, ©2011, used with her permission

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