Reflecting on Birth….

Blooming Beauty by Nicole Mischo
Our visit with my niece and her brand new baby is coming to a close. For the past week my daughter and I have been helping out with the new baby and her toddler big sister. The miracle of new life is awe inspiring. So I was drawn to this amazing art by my friend Nicole. Our fragile bodies are made of the same stuff as the stars. We begin as a hope and a prayer, because two people love one another. Through that love, God allows us to participate in his creation and a new soul is born. Nicole captured this miracle in her art. The Divine Feminine breathes in stardust and breathes out the beauty of creation. The mystery of birth plays out in the dance of mixed genes, creating one beautiful combination after another. This baby is very different from her older sister. She favors her father’s looks while her sister favors my niece. The shape of their faces and their coloring is different. Yet just when you think you have figured it out, another feature catches your eye. I see my daughter’s feet, and perhaps our family’s ears. Yet in the end, this child, along with all our children, belong to the Creator. Just as we are all called to be stewards of creation, parents are called to be stewards of God’s children. As parents, our job is to guide our children into the path God has prepared for them. Children are not meant to follow our dreams or complete our unfinished business. As I hold this beautiful baby, I pray for blessing and protection over her while I pray for wisdom and discernment as the days and years ahead unfold. May God give me the grace to be present to her growth, opening my heart and mind to see her through God’s eyes, rather than my own. Text by Connie Chintall©2016, Art entitled ‘Blooming Beauty’ by Nicole Mischo©2016, All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on Separation….

Alamanos Sunset by Tomasz HuczekIt’s a cool, rainy morning, more like autumn than summer. Today is the day my daughter moves into her dorm at college, and we all begin the next chapter of our lives as a family together. I know of no other relationship where the goal is independence rather than increasing intimacy. So I was drawn to this haunting photo by my friend Tomasz, of a beautiful sunset beyond the cove. I love how the water and sky seem to be parts of the same whole, smooth and silky against the rocky shore. I can picture myself in his place, looking into the distance, at first seeing only the glory of the sunset, then glimpsing the tiny figure on the point. Up until today, we have talked and dreamed and reveled in the wonderful opportunities that await our precious daughter at university. Now all I can see is the distance this change will create, a change we have yet to fully comprehend. So I must remind myself that she is God’s child first, given to usas our daughter, to shepherd and help find the path the Holy of Holies has prepared for her. I must remember the Almighty, the God of angel armies, will send legions of warrior angels to guide and guard her, to bless and protect her. Most of all, I must remember to look beyond today, to the little that I can now see, to trust that rocky shore offers a long way home when she needs it. Yet that vision may be too small – more likely she will dive in and swim home, or even sprout wings and fly. Perhaps as a military family we meet today with more experience of separation, yet that experience does not prepare us for this separation. Today is a day to lean on the heart’s knowledge that prayer binds souls together in ways that time and distance cannot sever. The eye may perceive her from afar, but she will always be as close as my beating heart. Make time to savor the here and now, to store up a treasure trove of memories. Honor the children in your life for who they are, leaning on God’s strength and all encompassing power to grow into men and women with a passion for life and serving others. And always remember to hold them close, but not too close, making room for their path, rather than an extension of your own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘Alamanos Sunset’ by Tomasz Huczek ©2012, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/

Reflecting on Fathers….

While the heat of the summer has arrived, the humidity is thankfully absent. I’m thankful we have such a beautiful day to celebrate our fathers. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Heidi Anne, of a small child walking with her Dad. I love how her hair is caught in the wind, how small and relaxed she appears. The father is wearing business clothes, and perhaps that’s what reminded me of my father. Daddy seldom wore anything other than long pants, and usually wore a tie. The only times I recall when he didn’t wear a tie were long summer days spent on Burlington Island, enjoying the cool breeze even on the hottest of days. Daddy would pack up the John boat with all manner of supplies, whatever my sisters and I thought we ‘needed’ for the day. We would fire up the Sears motor and head across the Delaware, landing between the two islands where we could safely swim. Sometimes we would wander off into the woods, or search for the soft, white clay that gathered in pockets beneath the shallow water. My sister loved that clay, and we brought home more of it than you can begin to imagine. One day, there was too much for one trip. Daddy took my Mom and sisters over, returning for me and the gear. On the way back, we hit something under the water and damaged the motor beyond repair. Daddy and I rowed back, side by side. I realize now how difficult that must have been. He was vastly stronger than I was, and had to adjust his stroke to mine. Yet he knew it was better to keep me occupied than to allow me to fret and feel helpless. Daddy was there for me, even if it meant taking twice as long to get there. And best of all, he laughed about the whole mess, from wrecking the motor to our hapless paddling home. Take time today to let your father know what he means to you, to remember a time when an accident turned into an adventure. Thank your father for the lessons you have learned from him, for the part he has played in the person you have grow to be. Honor him today by sharing a special memory, a silly story, or a favorite photo. And remember, even if your father has passed on, that while life may end, love never dies. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘One Life, One Love” by Heidi Anne Morris ©2012, used with her permission, to see more of her work, visit http://www.redbubble.com/people/heidiannemorris

Reflecting on Detachment….

It’s a cool, breezy spring morning. The sun is warm on my face, but the air is refreshing. I love taking a stroll on mornings like this, enjoying whatever God places in my path. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Tomas, of Aphrodite Rock in Cyprus. I love how the larger rock seems to float over the smaller rock, how the two are together, yet apart from the rest of the scene. I often find myself alone these days, after many years of finding myself constantly surrounded by others. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, so my role is shifting. I do less and listen more. I need to keep in touch, but not hover. Like Aphrodite’s rock, contact remains, but it is a light touch, rather than a smothering presence. During this time of transition, I am finally learning the meaning of Christian detachment. I confess to being baffled by this concept for many years, often viewing detachment as something cold and impartial. How can anyone remain at arm’s length, yet still create real and permanent good? Yet when we draw our attention away from our fellow man, we make room for the loving touch of the Creator. We allow the Holy Spirit to drench our souls and soothe our hearts, to provide inspiration for the continuing effort to live a good and upright life. The second stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ comes to mind:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

Take time today to draw apart from the world, to spend time alone with your thought and prayers. Allow the Holy of Holies to guide your steps and guard your heart, showing you the path that has been prepared for you. Open your mind and soul to what God places in your path, even if it’s a turtle or a snail, seeking to learn from the bounty of God’s creation. And remember, even when life is discouraging and our efforts seem fruitless, we are making slow and steady progress in God’s time, not ours. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Tomasz Huczek ©2012, to see more of his photos, go to http://tomasz.cc/, poetry by Rudyard Kipling

Reflecting on Hugs….

It’s been a quiet week here at home, with both my husband and daughter off in different directions. It seems a bit lonely, and a lot short on hugs. So I was drawn to this photo of my friend Seth and his family, taken by his wife Chris. Seth is hugging his brother and his son George, making his brother into a hug sandwich. When my daughter Tori was younger, my husband and I would hug each other with her in the middle, making her into the salami in the hug sandwich. So I was struck by this photo, with father and son surrounding brother and uncle. How often do we yearn for such all encompassing love? We look in all the wrong places, thinking only the mighty and strong can provide sheltering protection and security. We hide our emotions from our children, saying it is better to spare them the hurt and pain. Yet even a young child can make a world of difference. A child doesn’t try to fix the problem, or talk you out of it. A child simply climbs into your lap and snuggles into your neck, or haphazardly dries your tears. Who can remember what was so earth shattering when you see a child’s eyes light up? Perhaps Seth’s most important role is taking young George to visit his uncle, to bring the wonder of a young boy into his life. Take time today for the little children in your life. Let go of your worldly concerns and adult responsibilities, and just allow yourself to be a child once again. Chances are there will be a hug or two waiting for you. Photo by Christine Correll Guanu

Reflecting on Independence….

It was cool this morning, with a hint of fall in the air. Yet by this afternoon, there will be no doubt that August is still here. We woke up early today for my daughter Tori’s student orientation. We have been spending a lot of time in the car this summer, with Tori as driver and me as passenger and instructor. Next week she will be taking behind the wheel, and will have her license in her own right. Tori will be taking another leap into adulthood, another step toward total independence. So I was drawn to this photo of a squash blossom, taken by my friend Cecilia about a month ago. By now, the blossom is long gone, and the squash it produced has been picked and eaten. We know the blossom becomes a squash, but it always seem hard to remember looking at just the blossom. So it seems with driving, and all the other hallmarks of maturity. It seems inconceivable that my tiny baby could be driving. Sixteen years have gone by like the blink of an eye. I recall the first day of kindergarten, and how she rushed into school without looking back. Then there was the first sleepover, the first overnight camp. She is ready, but I am not. Yet independence is the goal of parenting. We must let go of our sons and daughters, entrusting them to the same God and Creator who is their true father. As Christians, we believe all belongs to God, than we are stewards of God’s creation, rather than owners. Yet when it comes to our children, we often overlook that fact. Our goal as Christian parents is to guide our children in the path God has prepared for them, to help them find their own calling in this life and to cultivate sound judgment in the face of an often tempting and bewildering world. We can only succeed in this formidable task with God, for alone we shall surely fail. So I lay my trepidation at the foot of the cross, trusting in God, and letting go for her sake and mine. Take time today to consider what independence means to you. Help another to develop skills to become more independent, or to remain independent in the twilight of life. Remain available, doing less and being there more. And most importantly, trust in God. How much more will the same God that tends the lilies of the field and the birds of the air care for those you love? Photo by Cecilia Carr

Reflecting on Parenting….

Today is filled with yet another round of packing. Tori is headed off to Music and Drama Camp at Shrinemont, the Episcopal retreat center here in Virginia. Tori has attended this same camp, with many of the same kids, each summer since middle school. While camp is a reunion of sorts for Tori, it is just another part of letting go for me. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. In all other relationships, our goal is to grow closer to one another. In parenting, our goal is to slowly let go, to provide a safe place for our child to grow into an independent and responsible adult. So I was drawn to this photo of my friend Lindsey surf fishing at the beach. Lindsey is the mother of two high spirited little boys. Lindsey also teaches fitness classes at a local gym. She is a strong lady, physically, mentally and spiritually. That’s what it takes to be a good parent. We must stick to our principles and beliefs to be able to slowly let go, to cast out our doubts and worries and trust in our children. If we have taken the time to not only show our love but also create a sound framework of discipline, our children learn to love and discipline themselves. It’s a lot like surf fishing. Just because you are on your feet doesn’t mean you’re planted in one spot. You move up and down the beach, keeping an eye out for activity and relying on trial and error until you find the right time and place to reel in your catch. As parents, we mostly watch and wait, only reeling in our children when necessary, correcting them with love and gentleness. Take time today to consider what parenting means to you. Give thanks for those who have guided you through periods of growth in your own life, either as a child or as someone in the midst of a difficult transition. And in all things, give thanks to God, our Abba Father and Creator. Photo by Britanny Boger

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