Reflecting on Snails….

Snail #2 by Gemma CostaThe grey skies and bleak mornings sap my energy this time of year. I even stop bothering with a ‘to do’ list, since I can’t seem to work off more than I add each day. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Gemma of a curious snail. I love how the eye stalks are in focus, while the rest of the snail and the background are a bit blurred. The snail finds its way mostly with the shorter tentacles, reaching out to test the way ahead before proceeding, while the eyes offer a view from higher up. I first really looked at snails when I was a young officer stationed in Los Angeles. I was living in a small duplex, with sorely neglected roses all along the house. As I began to trim them back, I found more and more snails. I disturbed their habitat so they invaded mine. I couldn’t park in the driveway without running over snails, or walk across the porch without stepping on snails. The neighbors told me to put down snail bait to get rid of them, but somehow that just seemed all wrong. In fact, a lot was wrong with my life then, as my first marriage was falling apart at the seams. Sometimes I would sit on the porch praying for a way out, a way to heal what was broken, or I would be simply lost in sorrow and dismay. Then I would look up and see the snail that seemed to be going nowhere had actually made progress. It may sound weird, but those snails gave me hope, that no matter what happened, God had a plan. That plan might take a lot longer than I hoped it would, but there was a plan for me, a plan created by an Almighty and All Merciful God. Make time today to really look at what God places in your path. Let go of your usual expectations, resist the temptation to judge, and simply soak in the reminder that God is in charge. Become lost in the beauty of nature, or find the beauty in what others find a nuisance. Trust the Author of Creation who was, and is, and always will be. And remember, you can get there if a snail can, as long as you look up to find the way ahead. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Gemma Costa ©2012

Reflecting on Gold….

Autumn can be a tough time for me. Most of our family members have passed on in this season, as if the waning summer corresponded to their waning life energies. I’m tempted to wallow in old grief, to feel a bit sorry for myself, to jump when the phone rings late at night. Then I’ll catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye, or hear an odd phrase that reminds me of a loved one. The happy memories come flooding back and I smile in spite of myself. So I was drawn to this amazing image by my friend Gemma, entitled ‘Living with Gold in the Heart’. She started with a photograph, then worked with the image, adding texture and adjusting the colors and contrast. Some would argue the result is not art. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care what it’s called, except to say it’s beautiful. Perhaps grief is a lot like this artwork. We start with a stark reality, a deep wound, a searing loss. Perhaps the end of life was far from pretty or noble, even full of pain and suffering. Perhaps death was a relief, both for the person who passed away and their loved ones. We simply need to sleep, to heal, to process what we have endured, and what it means to begin again. We need time to find out who we are now, without someone who was so integral to our identities. Time goes by and we believe we are past the sorrow, until a birthday or anniversary arrives. Worse yet, we creep up on the year after the death, or the year after that. Yet in the midst of all this, there are moments of pure joy, reminders of the happy times. For me, it was a television commercial about Publisher’s Clearinghouse. My father must have returned every sweepstakes entry he ever received in the mail. He meticulously sifted through the envelope, making sure all the stickers were applied just so. Then he would watch out the window to be sure the envelope made it into the mailbox, certain the flag was up to notify the postman his important mail was inside. So as the anniversary of his death approaches, I am given a gentle reminder of who he was, and how he affected our lives. Take time today to give thanks for those who love you, not for what you have or how much you make, but because of who you are, warts and all. Cling to the true treasure of this life, opening your heart to others, accepting them for who they are, here and now. Cultivate joy in your life, even in the midst of grief and sorrow. Spend time with the happy memories, until you see those last, fleeting moments of a long life as simply an afterthought. And always remember, there only one treasure we can take with us, the gold that lives in our hearts. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Beautiful art by Gemma Costa, entitled ‘Live with Gold in the Heart’ ©2012, used with her permission.

Reflecting on Beyond….

The morning and evening skies have been glorious lately, making the changeable weather almost tolerable. I may not know what to wear, but I know I need to look up, to look beyond where I am here and now. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Gemma, entitled ‘The Stand’. I love how the picture is framed in the foreground, perhaps by trees or a doorway. The mist lends a mysterious mood to the scene while the sun seeks to rise above the dense clouds. How often are our lives like this scene? Perhaps we are too preoccupied with the day to day to look beyond our current circumstances, or too content or comfortable to consider the possibility of change. We put out heads down and soldier on, oblivious to the beauty just outside our window. Or perhaps our lives become shrouded in mist, devoid of color and light. One day follows another, filled to overflowing with ‘to do’ lists that never get done. Yet even when we cannot see the way ahead, God has prepared a path for us. Take time today to look beyond the mundane, to consider where you are and where you are heading. Listen to friends and family, who may be able to discern the path ahead, to see the forest when you can only see the trees. And remember, it’s always easier to look up, to look beyond, when we simply stop, and stand. Photo by Gemma Costa, entitled ‘The Stand’

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