Thursday, 29 November 2012

Soon It Will Be Dawn....

While you are fast asleep in dreamland, I sit here at your laptop with a heart full of words and a head full of memories.  The day of your birth, your first smile, your first wobbly steps.  I still remember your excitement to go to big school, your pledge when you were ten never to let a boy kiss you!!  Then, at sixteen, the model, the jazz singer. 
Now, in hours little enough to count it will be your special day - your wedding day.  A day all little girls dream of, fantasize about and hope for.  The world is full of little girls playng "Wedding-Wedding",draping granny's lace curtain about their bodies, weaving blossoms in their hair.  There are so many things I want to say to you, but my heart is so full that I simply do not have words enough to express them.  Despite the long time I've had to familiarise myself with the idea, this day is here too soon, not because I'm  reluctant for it to happen, no, but simply because a mother's arms are never ready to let go.
Yet, this is one of those special moments for which I have endevoured to prepare you since that wonderful day I held you in my arms.  The day you walk down the aisle with your special young man into a new tomorrow as a woman and a wife.
My darling butterfly, I wish you happiness as wide as the heavens above, I wish you love as timeless as the sand of all the oceans and I wish you wisdom and patience as never-ending as the ever-expanding universe.  My thoughts and prayers will always be there as the wind beneath your wings, lifting you and catching you.
Go well, my butterfly, it is a wonderful journey you are embarking on, accompanied by a special man, hand-picked by the Lord.  Soon it will be dawn, and you, the most beautiful bride.......

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fly High

I love looking at kites flying high in the sky.  I remember the first kite I ever had was a butterfly kite my dad bought for me one beach holiday.  I loved it, although it was not a good flier.  I could not wait to hold the string all by myself, and begged my dad to do it on my own.  In my young mind I thought it would fly better if I were to let go of the string, but although it took off with a great "whoosh", it soon tumbled from the sky and got tangled in the undergrowth.  Painstakingly my dad untangled it and we tried again.
From a very young age we have been raised to do things for ourselves.  Almost from the moment our children are born we encourage them to become independent,  we are ecstatic when they start sitting up by themselves,  we applaud them when they can hold onto their own bottle and we are ready with the camera to record their first unaided, wobbly steps.  Day by day we marvel at how their independence grows.  Of course there is nothing wrong with that, it is the natural way of life.  However, the problem comes in when we become so independent, so self-sufficient, that we start believing  we need nobody else, we can do it all, we are an island.
This type of thinking will lead you on a bitter and lonely road.  "Needing people" is seen by fiercely independent people as a weakness.  They believe that they have to be a Superhero, strong, undefeatable, self-sufficient, powerful.  They never ask for help, never admit defeat and never open up to anybody.  They even experience God as an entity outside of their lives, remote from their lives. To accept and receive anything is foreign to their whole being.  Very often they not only distance themselves from other people, but they even distance themselves from their own feelings.
People need people.  We have to connect with others, learn from others, inspire others and in turn be inspired by them. Independence that is out of control is actually just a mask to hide behind.  Behind the mask often lurks fear, pride and low self-esteem.  It is a way to protect ourselves from disappointment, hurt or rejection.
Looking up at the sky, watching the kites ducking and diving in the breeze, I relate it to the way life is.  Although the kite is tethered by the string, it sails through the air and rides the wind with such freedom, such abandon that it leaves me breathless with excitement.  As my dad explained that day on the beach, it is the very fact that it is held by the string that it can fly so high and so gracefully.  The minute my little hands let go of the string, my kite's future was lost and all it could do was to tumble down and crash.  It needs that connection, that guiding hand to fly.  The same way we need to be connected to God, to interact with others as it is in that connection and that interaction that we find our true strength, new inspiration and freedom. 
I leave you with a quote from a song by Barbra Streisand : "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world!"

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

God's Perfect Time

A while back somebody told me this story:
    A little boy was walking along and in the veld he found a cocoon, he picked it up and noticed that on the inside there was a butterfly struggling to come out.  He immediately took out his pocket knife and cut the cocoon open.  Very proud of himself he helped the butterfly out and placed it on the nearest flower.  However, instead of spreading its wings to fly off, it fluttered weakly for a few moments and then fell over and died.  Dismayed the little boy ran home and told his father about the incident.  The father explained to the little boy that the butterfly needed to struggle its own way out of the cocoon in order to grow its wings strong enough to survive.   When the time was right it would have emerged from the cocoon, delicate yet strong.  This story made me think of us as humans.  So often, when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we wait for somebody to come along and help us out.  Some knight in shining armour to fight our battle for us, some Samaritan to help carry the burden and often we will just give up the fight, but it is in the struggle, in overcoming, that our stength lies.  The butterfly is exquisitely and perfectly created by God, and the inborn struggle it has to go through is also part of God's perfect plan, it serves a devine purpose.  When the time is right, God's plan will reveal itself to us, and looking back we can see how it all worked together  to complete the picture.  Without that time spend in the cocoon, the struggle towards freedom, the caterpillar would forever stay just that, a caterpillar.  In Jer. 29: 11 the Lord promises that He has plans for us, plans that we may prosper, not plans to harm us, but when the time is right, His perfect time........

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Build A Church

Years ago there was a certain traveller who loved to experience different cultures and find new ideas.  As he neared the next town on his journey, he noticed a man next to the road breaking stones.  As he was quite weary he sat down under a tree and observed the man.  He noticed that the man seemed to be quite aimless and would often stop and just stare off into the distance.  Then he would carry on again and half-heartedly chisel at a few more stones.  Eventually the traveller asked the man what it was that he was doing.  Irritated , the man mumbled rudely that the traveller was a fool if he could not see what he was doing.  To this the traveller replied that he could see that the man was breaking the rocks into smaller pieces, but could not understand what he was doing.  Angrily the man stopped what he was doing and glared at the traveller, clearly thinking him an idiot.  Then, wiping his brow and kicking at the few stones at his feet, he answered that he was breaking the rocks into smaller pieces and then even smaller pieces.
"Ah...." the traveller answered.  The man picked up his pick, strolled about for a few minutes, stared off into the distance and then continued listlessly chipping away at the rocks.  Feeling rested the traveller went on his way.
A few miles further the traveller came to a quarry where he found another man breaking rocks.  He noticed that this man was covered in sweat from the exertion.  He called out a greeting to the man, but the worker hardly took any notice of the traveller.  Going closer, the traveller asked the man what he was doing to which the man grufly answered that he was working, he has to make a living, he does not have time to engage in idle chatter.  The traveller noticed that the man looked very tired and very unhappy, so he tipped his hat to him and continued on his journey.
As the traveller approached the town, he was amazed to find another man busy in the midday heat breaking up stones.  Near him was a huge pile of stones which he had already broken into smaller pieces.  As he drew nearer he could hear the man whistling as he worked.  He, too, was covered in sweat and dust.  Warily the traveller approached the third man and greeted him apprehensively.  To his surprise the man stopped what he was doing and gave him a hearty welcome.  Taking courage the inquisitive traveller asked the man what it was that he was doing.  Proudly the man stretched himself up to his full height and swept an arm over the pile of rocks and said that he was busy building a church. 
"Ah...." the traveller answered and tried to envision what it was that this man saw in his mind's eye, as it was clearly the reason of the beautiful smile on the stonemason's face......
A long story with a simple message.  Three men, doing the same grinding job, but the effect on each was vastly different.  The first man had no vision, he was just going through the motions, he was irritated and his heart was clearly not in it.  The second man knew that he had to work hard, because he has to provide and earn a living.  There was no time to enjoy life, the job had to get done regardless, although he had an aim it was only a short term plan.  The third man had a purpose, he had his eye on the end result, he knew why he was doing it all and it gave him immense pleasure.
The question is: which one am I?  Do I just go through the motions of living, without purpose, without focus?  Without purpose life loses its meaning.  The second man spent all his time working, being driven to survive, to make a living, to accumulate.  He took no time to enjoy the moment, his focus was on his immediate needs.  Is that who I am? Focusing on the daily struggle, rushing from moment to moment, no goal beyond the day to day fight for survival.  The last man’s heart was filled with joy despite the hard work, he would take a moment for a friendly chat, sharing his dream, keeping his eyes focused on the end goal.  He saw beyond the toil, the dust, the daily grind and looked forward to the end result.
Living life with a purpose, having a goal higher than ourselves gives our lives a whole different meaning.  Life with purpose is a life filled with happiness and expectation. Living a purposeful life gives us peace, and direction.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Open your Hand

I am blessed with some very special friends, they are my human butterflies.  Each one of them is special in her own very unique way.  Every one contribute and enrich my life in countless ways.  I treasure them. They teach me and bless me with their presence in my life.
One such friend is Emily.  We've known each other now for about a decade, our children grew up together and our friendship steadily developed. She is one of the most generous and giving people I know.  She is living the concept which my sister taught me about as a young girl.
It is the concept of the Open Hand.  It should actually be known as a law of nature.  When we give something our hands fall open naturally and the result of this is that our hands are also open and thus able to receive.  No one can grasp hold of something with a clenched fist.  I cannot receive without first opening my hand, and ultimately my heart.
When my husband and I were newly weds, we at times found ourselves having some serious disagreements about (looking back) trivial matters, and in a huff I would withdraw from him only to days later wail that it does not feel as if he loved me.  In my mind I reasoned that if he loved me then surely he would seek me out first and show me how much he loved me.  After one such incident he said to me with exasperation evident in his voice : "If you want love, then you must give love."  It was not exactly the words that I wanted to hear and I rebelled against them, yet those words stuck in my mind and I often pondered them.  Finally understanding dawned (how wonderful that everyday we grow wiser!!), and I understood what my husband meant and I started to put those words into practise.  What amazing results!!!  The effect of it has had a profound effect on my life.
Giving love, I have received abundant love, giving acceptance, I have received the same, forgiving others has given me freedom, spreading happiness has endowed me with peace.
The Open Hand principle makes one a more graceful receiver, and it opens your heart and mind to new possibilities and opportunities.
What do you desire in your life?  Friendship? Then go out and be a friend.  Tolerance?  Be ready to be tolerant.  Everything you want is already there, all you have to do is to open your hand to give it in order to receive.

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Monday, 12 November 2012

Once upon a time....

Once upon a time there was a woman named Suzie and a man named Tom................
My husband and I have a funny thing we do.  We have a television in our bedroom.  It is always on, but the sound is on mute.  We would wake-up in the mornings, usually on Saturday mornings, and watch whatever is on the channel at that moment, but neither of us will turn up the sound.  We have great fun watching it and making up dialogue for the actors.  In the background the radio would be playing and it is so funny how the actions would go perfectly with the music of the moment, and that in turn would influence the mood of the dialogue. 
This set me thinking about life.  How important the script is that we write for our own lives, and it all begins with our thoughts.  Events are set in motion by thoughts.  Thoughts can steer our lives on a completely different track, it can alter the daily dialogue of our existence.  Thoughts almost always result in us taking some or other action.  How we think is ultimately what affects our destiny.
The actors in the movie convey certain actions according to the script they have, but with the sound turned off, Suzie, who storms away from Tom, could mean that she hates Tom and wants nothing further to do with him, or it can mean she left the stove on and the pasta is about to burn, or accompanied by Beethoven's 5th it could mean that she is rushing back to pack and bade her family farewell as she leaves with Tom to live happily (because she is with him) and sadly (because she has to leave her family behind) forever after.  The choice is in the beholder's hands / thoughts.
My question to you is:  by what dialogue do you live your life?  What theme music plays in the background of your life story?  Your thoughts set the mood of the scene, your thoughts write the script of your life.  Is the theme of your life kindness or judgement, is it love or bitterness, are you a victor or a victim?  Is your stage set for drama or comedy, is the plot fear and negativity or is it filled with hope and expectation?  You are the writer of your own story.  Will your character be defeated by its circumstances or will it conquer the obstacles with a steadfast spirit and perseverance? 
Yes, life don't always have happily ever after stories, but it tells YOUR story, and it is a story worth telling, because it is so unique, because you are unique.  It is worth living it fully, with all its sad, happy, comic and dramatic moments.  Have fun writing it, but remember to give careful thought to the actions and the dialogue of your character for it will determine the ending....

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Smell the Flowers...

It is incredible to think that it is already November!  This year just seemed to have flown past at breakneck speed.  We live such hectic lives with everything that is expected of us during the course of the months, that the year just seems to pass by in a blurr.  Days become weeks, become months, become years, and then one day we look back and ask in bewilderment "Where has the time gone?"
We fill our lives with so many distractions, occupy our minds with so many problems and get involved with so many issues that we have little time for anything else.  It is then that we look back and discover that hollow, empty feeling inside of us that leaves us baffled and confused.  A feeling that somewhere along the line we have missed out on something, but what could that be?  After all, you have given it your all, you have achieved all you could, you've fitted everyday with 30 hours worth of work, you've gathered wealth or tried your darnedest to accumulate as much as you could, yet still there is this void.  How is that possible?
The answer is simple.  In our quest to get as much done as possible, to achieve all there is to achieve, we have simply been too busy to invest time in replenishing our spirit, feeding our souls, bonding with our families and in the process we have misplaced ourselves on the way.  There is a lesson to be learnt here.  Take time to slow down, to hitch a ride.  The tortoise is one of the slowest creatures, but slowly and steadily it gets where it is going.  Relish the beauty of the moment, the wonderfulness of NOW.  Be still and enjoy the moment of silence on the tortoise's back, breathe......
Butterflies flutter from flower to flower, but if you watch them you'll notice that they'll linger a while on each flower, savouring the fragrance, collecting the nectar, before they fly to the next bloom.  Maybe this week-end is a good time to take some time off to just be, to take a ride on that tortoise and smell the flowers.....

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

It is Okay......

Yesterday I spoke to a friend of mine, Nelly, and I could hear that she sounded not like her usual happy self.  When I asked how she was doing, she first replied with a cheery "Wonderful", but when I pressed her for more, she burst out crying. 
After a few moments of crying, she apologised for her tears, and started explaining how she felt so terrible for crying and feeling the way she does.  She reads my blog and tries to just be happy and positive, after all, she carried on, she had so much to be thankful for.  Her husband's diabetes can be controlled with medication, her son's asthma is under control and they've found another house to rent, after the house they've currently been renting for the past 21 years has been sold.  She felt so guilty for feeling depressed and teary, and no matter how positive she tries to be, her melancholy does not seem to budge, and it makes her feel increasingly guilty which in turn compounds her feelings of depression.
Emotions.  We all have them, even those who claim that they are level-headed and practical.  Emotions are a trait we have in common with most mammals.  Emotions are what drive us and even make life worth living.  We cannot deny our emotions and we cannot wish them away.  Emotions serve physical as well as psychological purposes in our lives.  They include a wide range of feelings.  Emotions are specific reactions to specific events.  Our behaviour is a visible sign that we are experiencing a certain emotion.
Listening to Nelly, I realised that she is making a mistake most people tend to make when it comes to our emotions.  We confuse emotions with strength of character and we categorise emotions as weakness.  We try to smother our emotions with positive thinking, encouraging cliches and a cloak of cheerfulness.  We think that by denying our emotions they will magically change or disappear.
The very nature of our emotions demands that they are taken notice of.  Emotions trigger definite reactions in our bodies.  Fear causes a rush of adrenaline and our hearts beat faster, while anger causes our blood pressure to skyrocket and worry affects  our concentration and appetite.  When we suppress them it is like putting a lid on a boiling pot, sooner or later it will explode.
Happiness does not come as a result of ignoring our emotions, or pretending that they simply don't exist.  It also does not come from overloading our thoughts with positive quotes and encouraging anecdotes. Happiness comes from making peace with our emotions.  We have to be honest about our feelings, whether they are feelings of sadness, rejection, anger or depression.  We have to experience all of our emotions, right down to the very depth of them.  If we deny our emotions they will find a way to manifest themselves.  Emotions are very closely linked to our physical bodies and therefor, suppressed emotions find their way out through our bodies via symptoms of ill health such as high blood pressure, symptoms of stress, etc.  There is no such thing as an unpermitted emotion.  We have to face our emotions and acknowledge their existence no matter what they are.  It is okay to not always feel on top of the world.  You are allowed to grief.  It is fine to feel like pulling the blanket over your head on occasion.  Giving way to our emotions is okay, and very necessary.  Looking to the butterfly, we see this lesson of nature in action.  A butterfly is first of all a caterpillar, an earthbound, slow crawling insect.  Long before it can even dream of having beautiful gossamer wings it moves laboriously through the undergrowth. Then, still not ready, it has to weave itself into a coccoon, in solitude, transforming.
Finally we have to let go of our feelings, our emotions.  You see, it is not the fact that we have emotions, or paying attention to them, that prevent us from being happy and joyful, it is holding onto them for dear life that stands between us and happiness.  We have to open our hands to release all the creepy crawlies we are holding onto, those feelings of fear, worry, anger, self-doubt, rejection, wounded pride that eat away at our happiness.  Once we let go, our hands are open to receive comfort, hope and love.  The butterfly can now alight on my outstretched palms.  We have to let  go in order to receive peace.
So next time you feel like crying, shouting or pouting, know that it is okay, curl up in your coccoon for a while, but just don't stay there, the winds are calling to you to spread your wings and fly.......

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Fly Above the Clouds

This morning I woke to a very cool and windy morning, all my plans for summer attire were immediately changed and I donned my faithful old jersey.  Outside clouds were gathering on the horizon and I was sure that we would have rain.  My morning garden party with my friends will have to be taken indoors.  I am sure that the people of the American east coast can testify how a storm can enforce a change of plans, wreak havoc and change lives forever. As it turned out this morning, though, the coolness made way for a mild summer's day, the clouds passed by and we had a lovely time out in the garden of a favourite coffee shop.  Storms can suddenly develop, rain can unexpectedly pour down, winds can change direction.  So it is in life, too.  Things can suddenly happen that impact on our best laid plans and set our lives on a whole new course.  It turns our lives upside down, and we can do very little to avert these things.  Storm clouds can gather in an instant.
The very thought of this makes my pulse race, and fills me with a sense of dread.  When we think of all the possible disasters and mishaps which can befall us, our natural reaction is one of fear.  We worry, we fret and we are consumed with a paralysing sense of dreadful expectation. Our thoughts are tainted by it every waking moment and it envelops everything we do in a cloud of depression.  Our focus is on all the what ifs and we run all the different scenarios and the terrible consequences through our minds.  The worry drains us of all energy and steals our joy.  It gets so bad that we start to feel what is the use of it all?  Why fight?  Why hope?  Why live?
The truth is this:  Yes, there are a trillion things that CAN go wrong, there are even some things that WILL go wrong. We can make the wrong choices.  We can loose our jobs.  Sickness, natural disasters and accidents are all possibilities.  Heartache, disappointments, divorce are all realities people face daily.  Things happen to "good" and "bad" people alike, whether they are Christian, Jewish, Islamic or atheists.  Nobody can give us a safeguard, a promise that it cannot happen to us. 
However, an even bigger truth is this:  No amount of fear or fretting can prevent these things from happening.  Worrying is not some or other mantra that can fold a cloak of protection around us.  It cannot change anything, it cannot turn the storm away.
The sad thing is that while we worry, fret and fear, we cannot enjoy the precious gift of now, this wonderful moment we have this very minute.  This moment does not come again, therefore we must enjoy it fully in all its perfect imperfectness.  Do not obscure the sunlight of this moment with the clouds of worry.  Fly above the clouds, celebrate your family, your love, your memories, your hard work, your health, even the aches and pains you do have.  Rejoice in life!!
I heard somebody today at gym sympathise with a woman about her husband not having found another job yet, she smiled and said, "We are so blessed, we have not one day yet gone to bed hungry or without shelter, life is still good."  I felt so small.
A dear friend send me a message yesterday , "The cancer has spread, but I am so grateful, it is still small, I am positive, please be positive with me."  I feel so small, but I will be positive with her.  Even as she fought her first bout of cancer she carried on reaching out to children, teaching and changing their lives.
These are the people who show us how to fly high above the thunder clouds, up there where the sun is shining.  Their focus is not on the looming storm, but on the sun that beckons high above.  Their lives are a testimony of these words: "It is not what happens to us that affects our destiny, but our reaction to it".  Yes, these are pretty easy words to say, but to live it quite something else, but the truth that these words contain is absolutely profound and life changing.
If the storms seem to close in on you, if you loose your focus and it feels as if worry and fear have you in a strangle hold, suffocating your joy, take out your thankful journal and list everything you have to be thankful for, then put on your wings and fly!

If you flutter by here, please feel free to share your thoughts with us, to comment just click on the words "no comments" or "1 comment " and follow the link.  I would love to hear from you.