That which we call a Rose

There has been a lot of excitement around the Flexibly Blessed household! BabyOnesieBlack

Our daughter has blessed us with a new little grandson, born on Good Friday (after 2 days labour!) Mom and baby are doing very well. And we are all thrilled!
Last September  daughter J announced she was pregnant. Okay, I guessed and caught her off guard, and the look on her face was … well … an announcement! Anyway, from the time she shared the news, one of the overriding questions was, “what will you name the baby?” She was very good at keeping this a secret as she and her Partner B wanted it to be a surprise revealed only after the baby was born. Okay, I did manage to get the news a couple months early (apparently that’s what I do!), but kept my vow of silence. The new parents believe picking the name is a sacred thing, not to be taken lightly. In fact, the new little one’s name has a very distinct meaning. 

This last week, I have been thinking seriously about names and their meanings.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare)

Names! From the moment we are born we are given one. And as we grow, we get additional ones. Daughter J became “Mommy” when Baby J was born 6 years ago. And before that, she was “Daughter”. Oh, and I became “Nanny”, and hubby “Papa”. Year after year, we gain more names – student, graduate, doctor, crossing guard, hair stylist, etc. These revolve around what we do. We also derive names from relationships with others, like the ones mentioned earlier, as well as ones like friend, neighbour, husband and wife. These are the good names. These are ones we can be proud of, and that lift us up.

But there are other kinds of names too though, aren’t there? Ones less edifying. Sad names. Sometimes these are called “labels” as they are often linked with how we have been perceived. Maybe it was something we did, whether purposeful or accidental. Often these names come from misunderstandings that grow and fester. They can be hard to shake. Sometimes we give these names to ourselves. I know I have. Maybe we are embarrassed about something we did, or disappointed in our choices. Unfortunately, these names keep us stuck in the past. We are locked and chained in a tiny box. Personal growth becomes stymied with this thinking. I have realized that if I want to grow and be healthy, I have to leave these types of names behind (which is why I have not offered any examples). I have to turn my eyes off of other people’s opinions and judgments (even my own!). I need to turn my focus on to God.  This is what I have been doing. For myself. And for others too.

So, if you need a reminder (like I often do!) these are some of the names our Wonderful Creator gives us:

He calls us Friend (John 15:15) and Chosen (1 Thes. 1:4).

Ephesians 2:10 calls us God’s handiwork, created to do good works which were prepared in advance. I’ll take that one!

My Grandma used to remind me regularly that I am God’s temple, a residence of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19)

Other names are: His messenger (Matt 28:16-20), His Child  (Galations 3:26), and Brand New (2 Cor 5:17)

Here’s two of my favourites: Greatly Loved (Romans 5:8) and Free, Free Indeed (John 8:36).

With Him I am Glad (Psalm 92:4) and the Singer of a new song (Psalm 40:3-5).

He even transforms my ashes and makes them into beauty (Isaiah 61:3)

And may I suggest Isaiah 62:1-5!

This list is not exhaustive. Our Beautiful Creator calls us many more names all of which lift us up and help us to reach new levels becoming who we were born to be. They free us to become our true selves!

My daughter J and Partner B took great care and pleasure to name new Baby O.

God does the same for all of us.

Now this, is a very good thing.

The CN Tower, A Magical Lamppost and Advent Hope

This Christmas Season, I have been enjoying reading through a lovely Advent Reflections book based on The Chronicles of Narnia – a much loved fairy-tale series by C.S. Lewis. If you are interested, here is a link to the book, Advent in Narnia.

I found the readings of this last week very thought provoking. Anyone who has read the Chronicles of Narnia will be familiar with the lamppost which always has light no matter what else is happening. I love the imagery in this. It reminds me of when I am in Toronto and I lose my way, or get a little turned around. I always look for the CN Tower. This tower gives me my grounding and from knowing where it lies in relation to where I am standing, I know what direction to take to get where I am going. I think it’s the same with the lamppost from the fairy tale.

I find it easy to take a leap and apply this to my spiritual walk. I know that Jesus and his Word are always there to lead me when life gets confusing and even when painful things happen. The thing is, no matter what else is happening in my life, family, surrounding friends and community or the larger world, Christmas still comes each year. It comes and is a wonderful reminder that Jesus was born, that God loves us and that, ultimately, whatever is happening, it will be okay. Not necessarily okay in a way that is exactly how we would choose things to be. But okay in the sense that God has us well in hand, and when we turn things over to Him, He can transform them the same way that Aslan (an amazing Lion from the fairy-tale) could transform an instrument of destruction used by the White Witch (another character from the story), into a beautiful ever-burning lamppost.

The first set of readings has fanned the embers of hope within me – which is the whole theme of this week of Advent. Hope. Hope for my own spiritual growth and reconciliation with church. Hope for my family and any friends who are struggling. Hope for the people I meet in the community. And Hope for our world, that Peace will come and Love will overcome all the struggles and dissention that has been present in the news lately.

Hope is a good place to be at this moment, as the journey continues through Advent 2015.

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The Very Best Pre-Christmas Gift

This morning during a quick break in my busy work day, I opened a facebook message from a friend and was delighted to see this quote, all wrapped up in red and green mistletoe, like a little pre-Christmas gift.

christmas

At first I read this quickly and smiled at the reminder of the upcoming Christmas season.

“How lovely“, I thought.

But then the words gave me pause. I read the quote again. And once more. I allowed the words to trickle down from my brain to my heart, then from my heart to my hungry spirit. Within me, I felt that spirit give a full and satisfied sigh and fall gently into a deep relaxation. My soul entered into the rest of a weary traveller who has finally found her way back home; who has once again been able to fold back the sheets of her own familiar bed and sink deep within it`s comfort.

I had been away from this for far too long.

By way of brief explanation, three years ago I left my little church to wander the wilds seeking the Divine on my own. I had a lot of wonderful experiences, and the knowledge I earned during this period has given my spirit a depth that I never experienced before.

But like all travellers, the time came when the journey was over. The path was now leading me home.

I think this is why the quote spoke to me so strongly today.  Somehow it seemed this same Divine, who I had so relentlessly sought, whispered to my world-weary soul: “Relax. Stop running. There is no need to keep on searching after Me. I`m right here. Always have been. Always will be. Open the Gift of Me, and receive my Peace.“

Yes.

Yes, that sounds wonderful. That is wonderful.

And so now, I lunch by a big window, sun streaming over my head, on to the coffee cup and along the paper of my journal.

I feel my body relax.

I breathe in the Peace.

I take claim to this beautiful gift, and I realize —

this is so incredible.

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My Magical Garden

Fourteen years ago this month, my hubby and I packed up our kids and belongings and moved to our dream home. This home has features that appealed to all of us: formal dining room (me), an acre of land to run and play in (our kids), and a big garage and driveway (hubby).

Our new property also offered lots of potential for gardens. And planting I have done. Lovely lavender offers a gentle welcome by our entrances and around our gazebo. We have tomato and pepper plants available for a fresh addition to summer salads. There remain plenty of trees for shade and privacy. Two tiger lilies replanted from a work friend’s garden, became very fertile and multiplied along the front of our home. All our gardens have done exceptionally well.

All, except for one, that is.

One small section of the garden by our front porch absolutely refused to accept any of my efforts of planting or seeds. No matter how hard I tried, this little plot of soil yielded nothing.

Not one to give up easily, I made enquiries at garden centres, googled on-line, added new soil, put down some mulch, etc. etc. etc. All to no avail. This little garden spot simply refused to cooperate with my efforts.

Finally, five years ago, I gave up trying.

In order to keep this section from looking completely bare, I plopped a potted strawberry plant that was gifted to our family, on the soil.

At the end of that summer, the summer of 2010, when I was cleaning the gardens for the fall, I noticed the strawberry plants had climbed over the pot, and made their way down to the ground. Not only that, a couple of the little green shoots had gone ahead and somehow planted themselves into the soil. “How interesting”, I mused to myself, as I carefully snipped the planted shoots from the pot, and continued with my late summer gardening chores.

When the spring of 2011 dawned, I was delighted to discover those little strawberry shoots had survived the winter. “They actually appear quite healthy”, I told my husband. “Perhaps they like this tiny garden spot”. So I cultivated and weeded the surrounding soil, but added nothing. I decided that allowing this little garden to grow in it’s own way, seemed like the wisest course of action.

And to my delight, those small strawberry plants grew and spread, at times yielding a few sweet fruits.

As the years have passed, our little strawberry garden has grown well, with plants spreading to fill the entire plot of soil that I once struggled so intently with. All that remains necessary, is a bit of weeding, cultivating and watering.

I guess this little garden had it’s own agenda. It’s transformation has left me amazed.

How lovely.

This morning I had some alone time, and was able to pause and ponder on this garden. I wondered if there was a spiritual lesson in all of this?

I recall my own journey.

At one time, coincidentally pre-2010, I was a woman who took her religion very seriously. I attended my Christian church every single Sunday. Rain or shine, sick or healthy, even when I was so weary I could barely roll out of bed – Sunday mornings would find me in church.

I adhered to a very strict bible reading schedule, making sure to touch on both old and new testaments upon rising in the morning, as well as adding a sprinkle of an epistle during the day, and a dash of proverbs or psalms before bed.

Always having been a book-worm, my reading became limited to solely Christian works – how to be a better Christian, how to be more loving, how to be holy, how to be a biblical wife … Unfortunately, with a full time job, kids and a husband, there was no time left over to read for the simple joy of it.

I was filling my days, trying so hard to be the perfect Christian lady. In my understanding, all these activities I was doing were like seeds that I was planting in my heart and spirit, to yield a beautiful garden for God.

But in 2010, change happened and I was challenged with some situations that I had never even dreamed I would face.

I checked in on my little Christian garden that I had worked so hard on growing in my heart. After all my hard work, efforts and diligence, I was disappointed to find that this garden was barren. It was yielding nothing.

I threw my hands up and cried out to God: “Why?!”

And somewhere within the silence that followed , I perceived a subtle answer.

“Relax. You try so hard to know Me. But I am always with you. And you have all of eternity to discover Me. Breathe, and let everything unfold as it should.”

In the years since, I have done just that.

What a journey it has been! I have found new ways to know the Divine in a natural manner as I go about my day:

– Through sharing stories and giggles over a bottle of wine with a then new and now precious girlfriend;

– Through walking my sweet puppy along paths I had previously never given myself time to explore;

– Through enjoying a young adult book series, all light and fun, uplifting and easy to read;

– Through taking a few extra moments to look a homeless lady in the eyes, and help her find the coin she just lost in the grass at a park by my work.

I have discovered so many ways to see and know God in the places and people I encounter during the ordinary moments of my day. These are the seeds that have planted themselves into my heart and spirit.

How lovely is the way this garden has grown itself.

Last week-end hosted amazing weather. I spent Sunday, garden tools in hand, cultivating, weeding and watering what has become my favourite little garden plot, filled with strawberry plants. To my utter surprise and amazement, a new little gift has emerged from the soil. Unexpected and unplanned, standing strong and proud, is a mysterious little tulip. “Now, where did you come from, little one?” I asked. “Never mind, I am so glad you are here. Welcome to our wonderful, mysterious, magical garden!”

I have found so much joy and peace in this.

tulip

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Concerning the Small Things

I have a friend with chronic anxiety, who often cannot leave her house, and when she does leave, it’s usually to travel short distances and only for a short period of time. She tells me she is disappointed in herself – that she feels she will never do great things. She thinks great things are in the big things. And she wants to do great things because she has a loving heart.

I told her great things are really in the small things, done faithfully and selflessly. As Mother Teresa said: “We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love.” This, I assured my friend, she does well.

I believe it is in the small things that a person will reveal their character and the state of their faith. As James 2:15-17 states: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them,’Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.

The opportunity to show loving-kindness in small ways, abounds each day.

That phone call that you made to say “hi” to a dear friend, even when you’re tired, busy, head-achy (fill in the blank) — It’s a small thing, but also very powerful …

That 5 or 10 minutes you took to visit with an anxious friend who needed a quick hand-squeeze for courage …

Choosing to let the lady with the fussing child, go ahead of you at the grocery store – even when she has more items to ring through. Small, yes – but also very powerful to make a positive impact on an otherwise difficult day for a frazzled Mom and tot …

Smiling at a stranger …

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt …

Telling the truth when leaving others in the dark would benefit your own interest …

Refusing to participate in, or be anywhere near, people who gossip about others – hugely powerful – for it is fool-hardy to underestimate the power of ungracious words and attitudes – they are capable of discouraging a person’s spirit …

The opportunities abound.

These small things go against the grain of selfishness and self-interest. They put us a little out of our way – mess up our carefully selected plans for the day. And they are usually not accompanied by applause, accolades and reassurances of what a wonderful person we are. In fact, they often seem to go unnoticed … seem to …

But, these small things very quietly and steadily, add up to a life well lived.

A life of faith navigated authentically … truthfully … ultimately revealing the character of one who loves greatly.

And that truly is …

a great thing.

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Keeping my feet grounded and my heart open

Like a lot of women these days, I seek balance in life. So it is quite fitting that the topic I have chosen for my first blog entry, involves achieving that often evasive balance.

One of my favourite books is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book caught my eye a few years ago during a turbulent time. It was and remains an inspiration.  I love when Liz meets the medicine man, Ketut Lyer, and  I love the first piece of advice he gives her in the form of a drawing.  “To find the balance you want”, Ketut spoke through his translator, “this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have four legs instead of two. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart instead. That way, you will know God”. This quote continues to resonate with me.

I am an avid yoga practitioner. I practiced it as a child and later rediscovered it in middle age during a particularly tumultuous time. This was a time of rapid, unexpected and frankly unwelcome change. It’s funny how for years things seem to stay the same, then suddenly everything changes. Like an earthquake that rocks one’s very foundation, events can shake lives up like a child shaking a snow globe. I was left wondering where things would land and how it would all end up. What would the landscape of this new life look like? I worried and fretted – and then I hit my yoga mat.

I practiced at home and also joined a yoga class. Classes went well, for the most part, since I was naturally flexible. However, the first challenge I met on the mat was tree pose. In tree pose (vrksasana) I was required to stand on one foot with my other foot resting high up on the inner thigh of my standing leg. It is a beautiful yoga posture to focus on balance as one side is worked at a time. And I fell each time I attempted it. Apparently my inability at achieving balance in life was mirrored on the yoga mat.

Well, as John Donne first said: “No man (or in my case woman) is an island”. I was blessed with wonderful advice from a dear friend who had become a yoga teacher in response to her own life challenges.

We worked together on Vrksasana.

“Reach down and use your fingers to spread the toes of your left foot. Your toes will become like roots in the earth. Now ground down with your entire leg. At the same time, stretch up through your spine, lift your chin and breathe. Yes, that’s it. Take some time to follow your breath. Now, shoulders back, held held high and eyes wide open, choose something in front of you to focus on. Do not take your eyes off that focal point. Now, hands in prayer position, lift your right leg and tuck the heal into your left thigh. Nice. Now hold this. And breathe. Never forget to breathe – and to focus.”

This was the first lesson I took off the mat and applied to my life.

I set my feet firmly on the foundation of my faith in God and on the love of family. This grounded me. I lifted my weary shoulders up (so heavy from carrying so much), and I held my head high. I knew who I was and, despite everything else that was happening, I knew how much I truly was loved. No circumstances could change these facts. Then I prayed setting my sights on the belief that God had plans for me – good plans. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11)

And it was here that I found steadiness in the storm; balance as I navigated the changing tides of life.

tree pose