Reflecting on Defeat….

Hurricane Sandy has left terrible devastation in its wake. I hardly feel right complaining about what we have experienced in Virginia. Lack of power and downed trees pale in comparison to the flooding and fires in New Jersey and New York. The Jersey shore of my childhood has literally washed away. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my cousin Patty in New Jersey. At first glance, the sky seems ominous, then you notice the sun peeking through. The storm is giving way to blue skies. There is hope in the midst of despair. Perhaps defeat feels like this storm, a storm within. Instead of looming clouds and howling winds, thoughts and feelings swirl within. We strive to do well, then stumble, perhaps even take a big fall. Yet that misstep is not what defeats us. Success means continuing on past failure, learning from what we did wrong. Thomas Edison is revered for inventing the incandescent light bulb, yet he was one of over twenty inventors working on this same quest. He recognized the need for an efficient and affordable device, inventing multiple components we now take for granted. Thomas Edison was not the first to ‘discover’ the light bulb, yet he succeeded because he was the most persistent, most flexible, and possibly most cunning of all. He saw the sun peeking through when everyone else focused on the storm. He kept trying when others gave up. Make time today to realize your dreams. Accept disappointments and setbacks as part of the journey of this life, as a way for you to learn. Understand that each attempt is another step toward your goal. Trust the Holy of Holies to illuminate the path ahead, to guide you through the storm, to give you hope when it is all too easy to despair. And always remember to look for the Son, shining through even the bleakest of storms. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Patty Steiner

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Reflecting on Hope….

A slow, soaking rain is washing away the pollen and watering the lovely spring bulbs. The lily of the valley collect the rain on their arched stems, leaning a little more than usual. So I was drawn to this amazing photo of a snake’s head fritillary, taken by my new friend Alana. I love the muted patterns of this flower, the traces of green that still remain on the unopened bulb. Like the lily of the valley, the opened bloom will draw its stem into a graceful arch, too heavy to remain upright. The patterns will become even more vibrant, even more brilliant shades of purple. What we see now is a promise of things to come, a glimpse of what is possible in the days ahead. We are poised between a beginning and ending, unsure of what impact our choices may make, seeking the best way ahead, with limited vision and insight. The patterns of our past may shade our view of the future, color our perceptions of what should be. Each change affects us, altering our lives in ways we may not understand at the time. Yet if we embrace change, if we hold fast to hope, our lives grow into more than we can imagine. Take time today to ponder the patterns of your life, to nurture your hopes and dreams. Pray to see through God’s eyes and hear through God’s ears, trusting the Holy of Holies has prepared the path ahead, the perfect path, just for you. Rest assured that the Author of Creation is walking beside you, no matter how lost you may feel, waiting to gently keep you on track. And remember, when we let go of the pale patterns of the probable, even more vivid shades of the possible burst forth, tracing our lives into a graceful arch. Photo entitled ‘Purple Patterned Flower’ by mylittleleaf, ©2012. To see more of Alana’s work, go to http://thelittleleaf.net/

Reflecting on the Resurrection….

The Eastern Redbud outside my kitchen window has seen better days. Ice from the winter before last lobed off the main trunk, leaving behind a lopsided tree that looks more like a bonsai than a redbud. Last summer we decided to give it another chance, and this spring we are reaping the rewards of that decision. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Cecilia. Rather than focus on the blooms, Cecilia captured the beauty of the first few leaves. I love how this single heart shaped leaf is in sharp focus, while the brightly colored blooms blur into the background. It’s easy to be tempted by the radiant beauty of flowers, a beauty that quickly fades away. We fuss over the bright display, happy for a new beginning, and soon tire of looking when the blooms fall and leaves unfold. Yet look at what we are missing. Each and every one of these newly formed leaves is shaped like a tiny heart. The new life that has replaced the old comes from a deeper place, a steadfast love, emerging after experiencing the adversity of winter. Perhaps we are blessed with flowering trees to help us understand the resurrection of our Lord. The disciples did not recognize the Risen Christ, until He called them by name. New life had emerged from the tomb, yet this life did not resemble the Christ who died on the cross. Take time today to look for new life all around you, in unexpected shapes and forms. Consider the miracle of an unfolding leaf that began growing during the cold of winter. Let go of the flashy blooms and dig more deeply into the heart of life, seeking a sustained growth, a greater miracle. And remember, no matter how lopsided life may become, the Author of Creation is waiting to give us not just a second chance, but chance after chance, until we live into the Resurrection. Photo entitled ‘The Heart of the Redbud’ by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Storms….

This weekend the weather was sunny and cool, perfect football weather. The sun was particularly welcome after a long series of storms, culminating in 6 inches of rain in one hour. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole. She is an amazing photographer, often capturing something the rest of us fail to notice. It’s still raining, pouring in fact, yet the sun is shining. Most of us would be looking up into the sky for a rainbow, while Carole is looking straight ahead, at glistening raindrops cascading downward like tiny crystals. I love the contrast between the bright sky and the tree trunk, soaked to a dark black by the rain. Sometimes we simply get used to storms. We come to expect storms, even create a storm where none exists. We stop looking for the sun, because we seem to forget the sun is always there, hidden behind the clouds. Perhaps we even lose hope, or just run out of gas. Yet we may simply be looking for answers in the wrong places, or seeking to change what we humanly cannot change. We want the answer to be our solution, tied up neatly in a bow. More often, the way out slowly unfolds and evolves, changing us and changing our life in the process. Take time today to look at what is right in front of you, and ponder what answers lie within your current situation. Let go of your storm, trusting the Son is always there for you. And remember the rainbow, God’s covenant of steadfast love, may take the form of hundreds of tiny raindrops, glistening in the sun. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

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