Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Can you hear me?

I came across this Turkish proverb today: "Speaking is silver; listening is gold."
I thought about this and realized that it is indeed true. Maybe the saying "Silence is golden" comes from this proverb.  
Communication is an integral part of human existence.  It is essential.  From the minute a baby is born, it starts to develop its communication skills.  A mother becomes finely tuned in to her baby's every little sound and she listens closely and pays careful attention to its needs.  Communication consists out of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Talking and listening is its key components, but a hug or a gentle touch can speak just as loudly.  Most people are quite adept at talking, in fact, most people love talking, but unfortunately they are not so keen to listen.  However, it is actually our skills at listening that makes communication more successful.  When we listen, we learn things about the other person that can help us to continue with the conversation.  When we listen, we have the opportunity to observe what the words used are not communicating.
However, listening does not come easily, despite the fact that we have been created with twice the tools to listen than what we have to talk. So what does it mean to really LISTEN?  I have made an acronym out of it:

L = Look the other person in the eyes.
I = Intently hear the words and observe the body language
S = Stay quiet
T = Tune out other thoughts and distractions
E = Ensure you understand correctly
N = Never interrupt

Remembering these six points will greatly enhance your listening skills.  To effectively listen it is necessary for you to take time away from what you are busy with.  Put away your tools, your book or your phone and pay attention to the person talking to you.  You have to make eye-contact with the person.  You have to focus on the speaker and focus on what is being said and HOW it is being said.  You have to clear your mind of your own ideas and perceptions.  Do not just pretend to be listening, the other person will quickly catch on and the conversation will be unsuccessful.  Being busy with other things while having a conversation is very distracting to both you and the person talking and will not instill a sense of trust with the other person.  Do not ever judge the conversation, or what is being said, this will make you unable to truly hear what is being communicated.  Be careful not to drift off, stay focused. Never listen just so that you can comment and talk about your own experience and never take it personally.  Body language can often give more away about a particular situation than the words themselves, therefore it is important to carefully observe the body language of the speaker.  Remember, listening to somebody does not mean you agree with their point of view, it just means that you are an ear and a shoulder to cry on.
We all need somebody to talk to, to share our joy and heartache with.  Somebody that will not judge us, force advice on us or reject us, but are just willing to listen.  We do not even want somebody to fix our problems for us, but just somebody that will hear us.  The world is full of people desperately crying out to be heard. Having somebody to talk to make us feel warm, loved and cared for.  It is like finding an oasis in an arid land.  It helps to lighten our burdens.  For some it can even be a lifeline. Let us try to become people who listen twice as much as what we talk.  Let us be that soft place to fall for a weary friend.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

An extra plate...

Another hectic morning behind me.  I woke up early this morning and prepared our lunch so that we can just come eat after church.  After church, however, we had to quickly go to town for a few things.  All around us were people in just as much of a hurry as what we were.  Back home, I quickly laid the table and as I put the plates out I thought of the story that my mom told me about my grandmother.  I never knew her, but my mom has told me many stories about her.  She was a very generous person and had a great sense of humour.  My mom said that despite the difficult times they were living in (it was the years of the great depression) she always managed to make sure that her family was well fed and there was always enough in case somebody unexpectedly dropped by.  There was always enough for an extra plate of food.  No matter what the circumstance her door to her house (and heart) was open and her home ready to welcome a stranger.
In the world we live in that is quite a strange concept.  First of all we are so busy that we rarely seem to have enough time for our loved ones, let alone time to entertain strangers and secondly, with a world so full of con artists, thieves, scoundrels, etc, we dare not take a chance to invite strangers into our homes.  I mean, who does that today?  How sad it actually is, that it is necessary to look at people around us, not with eyes of love and concern, but with eyes of suspicion, always ready to protect ourselves and our loved ones against them.  We lock ourselves in our fortified homes and hide behind tightly drawn curtains.  We teach our children not to talk to strangers and not to trust anybody.  We keep our hearts from caring too much.  The Bible teaches us to show hospitality to strangers, because you never know whether that person might be an angel, and I wonder how many angels I have ignored that came knocking at my door, because I was too worried that it might be the devil.
We talk about compassion, we talk about caring for others, we claim to be children of God.  We are horrified by the hardship and misery we see around us, yet we cannot spare a plate of food for another person, and I am not even talking about a complete stranger, I am talking about that person who has lost a loved one recently, that now has to make a bowl of rice for herself, the divorcee next door that rather goes to bed hungry, than having to face the loneliness of a dinner for one, that new person who moved into our community and sits alone in church, the one who we all wonder about, but no-one talks to.  We just smile politely, say a few pleasantries and then we quickly move away.
Maybe it is time that we do not just talk about caring, but start to do something about it.  My sister told me about a friend of hers who makes a point every Christmas to invite people, who have no family or loved ones, to spend Christmas Day with them.  Maybe it is time to lay an extra plate at our table and invite somebody to share our meal with us...

Friday, 28 November 2014

What is that sound...?

This morning, as usual, I woke up at five o'clock.  However, as the mists of sleep drifted off me, I became aware of a strange sound, an unusual sound.  For a few minutes I lay there wondering what it was that I was hearing.  Then it dawned on me.  It was the sound of...silence.  Complete and utter silence.  No low level buzzing from all the electronics plugged in next to the bed.  No cluck-cluck from the geyser warming up and no humming coming from the neighbour's pool filter.  I peeped over my husband's shoulder at the alarm clock.  Its red digital display was black.  We were having a power outage.  I settled back against my pillow and let this rare moment wash over me, foreign, yet warm and welcoming. 
Every day we are surrounded by noise.  From the minute we are woken up by our alarm clocks until we fall asleep to the voice of the late night DJ till we finally silence him in a sleepy haze.  Even then there are still noises around us in the form of electronics, sirens in the distance and others that we are not consciously aware of.   Our days are filled with sound.  
Silence has become a rare commodity.  Modern man seems to fear the quiet.  I walked into a doctor's waiting room last week.  The place was full.  Soothing music filled the room, and at first one would think that there was a silence hanging in the air.  There was, after all, no conversation going on, till you noticed a droning sound and the click-click and tap-tap of dozens of fingers on the keyboards of laptops and Smartphones.  Every single person there was totally engrossed in their own electronic world.  I sat there in that noisy silence.  It was not pleasant.  It was not warm and welcoming.  It was a disconnect from the real world, it was alien and terribly sad.  It was a silence of electronic, manmade clutter.  Not the silence of quietly being.  It is as if people are losing the art of quiet, of being at ease with themselves, enjoying their own conversation, the quiet companionship of being with other people.  We have become the slave of a different god.
People view silence with suspicion and they pity a person sitting alone by him or herself enjoying a quiet cup of coffee and looking out at the waves rolling onto the beach.  Quiet, introspective people threaten our theories about happiness.  Surely a quiet person has to have some or other deep rooted problem, must be totally boring or at the very least on the brink of suicide!
Most people today have forgotten the importance of silence, they do not understand silence.  Yet silence is an essential part in our well being.  The people of the east have long ago realized the importance of being still, to be quiet.  Through daily meditation they enter the realm of silence and the portals of the devine. We need silence to think clearly and to be able to hear our own innermost thoughts.  It is in silence that we have the chance to listen to the universe and to hear the whisper of God’s voice.  When we are surrounded by silence, drenched in it, then we can begin to truly hear again, to listen.  Our spirit, our soul is crying out to be heard.  God is trying to reach us, communicate with us.  As long as we keep up the sound pollution, we cannot begin to listen, to understand.  Silence is not just empty time, devoid of something.  Silence has presence; it is filled with an energy of its own.  Silence has substance.  Only when we are silent can we hear the spirit's guiding voice.
In the quiet our senses start to become more acute.  When we are not so busy thinking up new words to utter we start hearing better.  The tremble of insecurity in my child's voice, the silent scream of depression, the way fear is disguised in an angry voice.  We also begin to see better, to notice the hidden sadness behind a brave smile.
Maybe it is time to schedule silence into our busy lives.  To consciously spend time away from all external sound, to even switch of our internal dialogue, and just be quiet.  To breathe deep, being completely conscious.  To listen.

I leave you with these words from Psalm 46 : “Be still and know that I am God.”

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Take Time To Care

I cannot begin to count the times that I have heard people utter the following sentiment this year "These days, life is difficult" or a variation "Times are tough".  Yes, I think it is true, in fact, I know it is true.  All we have to do is open a newspaper and we can see that the world is in turmoil.  We switch on the television and we are bombarded by reports about war, unrest, earthquakes, stock market crashes, starvation, animal slaughter, human trafficking, global poverty and human suffering.  Prices of food, fuel, power, health and education is escalating at an alarming rate.  The future seems bleak.
Yet, these times are no different from past times.  History tells us the stories of war, famine, disaster and human misery, and the future will be no different.  Times have always been hard, every generation has had its share, and hard times will always be with us.  Then what IS different about these present hard times?  The answer is this: you and I are here right now, and WE can make a difference.  I think that is what life is all about, that is why you, why I, have been created - to make a difference.
Now most people reading here will think that to make a difference we have to do something major like instituting world peace or finding a cure for AIDS, developing new technology or invent something astounding.  People often think that in order to make a difference they have to be someone important, somebody highly qualified, maybe a politician, a professor or a doctor.  This is a fallacy.  To believe this is to sit back and wait for somebody else to try to make a difference and then be ready to point fingers when they fail to do so.
The responsibility rest on every individual's shoulders to make a difference right where we are.  Right there in my smallest circle of influence.  No, it is NOT your family; it is YOU.  You have to change the way you think about your role in life, your task.  You have to change the way you react to things about you, you have to stop thinking about making a change, and start doing!  Everything you or I do or don't do has a major impact on the world around us.  You/ I have to be the difference you/I want to see in the world (quoting the great Gandhi).
"How?" I hear you ask.  Simple, just by taking the time to care.  We rush around every day trying to fit as much as possible into a day that we simply have no time left to really, genuinely care.  We are too tired to care.  We have no energy left to empathize or to have compassion.  "But I do care" you cry out.  You care about the misery you hear about and you pity the homeless and the sick.  I have news for you; even the most selfish person has a spare thought of pity floating about.  You see there is a difference between pity and compassion.  Pity is a feeling, an emotion.  Pity, is to feel sorry for someone or something, but compassion is a verb and it is a motivation.  It stirs us beyond feeling sorry into taking action.  Compassion is to reach out to someone and to do something to bring about change.  When we start to identify with someone we become compassionate.  We stop standing in judgement and start giving them a break, we look for and find the good in them.  We start to relate to their story and we no longer pity them, but care about them.  The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that without compassion, humanity cannot survive.  Compassion is as essential to mankind (and nature) as the air that we breathe.
However, before we start dishing compassion out by the bucket full, let us ask ourselves where does it all begin?  In Gaza, Somalia or Iraq?  The victimized in the DRC, the homeless or the AIDS orphans?  The beggar on my street corner or my deaf and blind grandmother?  No, first of all it starts with me!  Before I can give compassion to others I have to give it to myself.  Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself and believe in yourself.  When we have compassion for ourselves, we can reach out to others with that same compassion.  We can take their hands and together we can make these difficult times, this tough year, this hard life easier and happier.  We can help each other colour the future in just a little brighter.  Through caring we can transform our lives, the lives of others and ultimately the world.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fly Up 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!"

Monday, 24 November 2014

Mirror mirror...

Yesterday a friend and I were walking in town, shopping for a special outfit for her.  She was hosting a dinner party at her house for her husband and his colleagues.  After two hours and two dozen different outfits, she still was no closer to finding anything to wear.  Exhausted, we decided to stop for a quick lunch.  
All through lunch she bewailed the abilities of the designers of female attire, she lamented her body type, "old age" and the useless diet she was on, etc, etc.  I patiently listened to her and then reminded her of the number of outfits she had tried on that flattered her shape, that matched her colouring perfectly, that complimented her beautiful blue eyes and suited her style.  However, she would have nothing of it.  She could only see everything that was wrong with the clothing, with her hair and her height, to name but a few.  There were still a number of boutiques awaiting our visit after lunch, but I knew for certain that in her present state of mind, those would also not have anything suitable for her to wear.  
When our order arrived, she complained that the lettuce was wilted, the bread was stale and the coffee cold.  I just smiled and ate my delicious fresh sandwich and drank the steaming cappuccino in front of me.  
As we got up to leave, a woman, who was with my friend at school, entered the restaurant, and, instantly recognizing her, made her way over to us.  We sat down together with her and spend another hour laughing and sharing stories.  As she got up to leave, she turned to my friend and said, "After all these years you are still as beautiful as you were at school, you were the envy of all us girls."  My friend blushed, and I could see that she was happy for the compliment.  
Suddenly it was as if she perked up, and was actually looking forward to continue our quest.  I noticed her stealing a glance at her reflection in the window and I thought about how true it is that life is all about our vision.  The way in which we look at things around us, the way in which we perceive the world and how we look at ourselves determines how we will react towards it.  
Where is our focus, what do we see when we look at something?  If we look with negative eyes, eyes clouded with unhappiness and dissatisfaction then that is exactly what we will find.  Looking at everything with a positive attitude has a direct effect on our happiness levels.  It can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and something mundane into truly fabulous.  Our vision affects our attitude and with the right attitude obstacles become stepping stones and the impossible becomes an exciting challenge.  Our vision can change the whole direction our lives are going in, it can even open our eyes to new avenues to explore and reveal new opportunities to us.  
Go on, take that mirror.  Look carefully in it, and ask yourself - what do you see?  Look beyond that face staring at you, see beyond your own preconceived ideas about yourself, see that dream that you have been hiding, see all those possibilities that you have denied yourself.  Look.  Look and see that girl/ young man that were created so very unique and special, one of a kind...you still are that!
Life has a way of telling us a bunch of lies and we are so ready to believe those lies and when we believe them then that is all we can see.  We lose sight of who we really are and who we were created to be.  The looking glass gets cluttered by negativity, crushed dreams and the world’s demands and expectations.  It’s time to clean that mirror, and look at it once again with the enthrallment of a little child.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Scent me some love...

I have recently taken up gardening much to my own amazement!!!  I enjoy it so much that I often completely lose track of time and before I know it the sun would be setting.  This weekend I planted some mint.  Getting back into the house a while later, I made my husband a cup of tea (mainly to appease him as I completely forgot to make lunch!) and when I handed him his cup he remarked that something smelled very nice.  It was the scent of mint coming from me.  I had washed my hands, but the scent was still clinging to my arms, my clothing and even my hair.  I was used to the smell so I did not notice it, but my husband immediately picked up on it.  

How wonderfully the Lord created everything.  We take things so for granted, yet we are surrounded by beauty.  The fragrance of flowers is but one of the wonders.  The romantic scent of roses, the lingering smell of lavender, the exotic fragrance of frangipani all conjure up images in our mind's eye and even stir up memories.  This made me wonder what aroma it is that I spread wherever I go? Do I impart a sweet, gentle fragrance?  Does the memory of my presence linger pleasantly with others when I depart from their company or do I leave a bad taste behind?  Even when I pass people on the street or passing through the check-out counter at my local supermarket I leave behind a scent.  Is my smile the warm, welcoming essence of vanilla or do I leave behind a frown and brusque words that leave a bitter aftertaste? When everybody around you is agitated and angry, do you pour oil on the fire or is your presence the cool, soothing smell of jasmine?  Are my words the calming balm of camphor and my welcome smile the hearty spice of cinnamon?

We are all flowers in God’s garden; we each have our own distinctive fragrance, let us spread it around, let it linger upon the night air long after we have left.  In the words of my sister: choose your words always as carefully as you would choose flowers for a friend, only the most fragrant ones….

Monday, 27 October 2014

On Fragile Wings

Yesterday the wind blew fiercely and with it came an ice cold wind.  Yet, despite the wind we had such a lovely time visiting with friends, that it was well worth it to venture out into the wind and cold.  I normally do not like the wind, especially those kinds of winds that howl around the corners of the house.  It usually makes me feel quite vulnerable, maybe because it reminds me of times when I feel fragile, like a butterfly tossed in the wind.  Times that I feel like crawling into my cocoon and hiding.  This feeling of vulnerability is quite scary, but even more frightening is the idea that others might notice my frailness.  Being vulnerable is perceived as being weak, shameful.  Vulnerability is tagged as being emotional, even irrational.  Weakness leaves us exposed and at the mercy of others, therefore we go to great lenghts to hide it. 
We become quite adept at concealing our vulnerabilities.  Some people don the mask of cynicism or sarcasm to hide behind.  Others use criticism or hostility to hide their fragileness.  Others wrap the cloak of aloofness tightly around their delicate frame.  The consequence of this, however, is that often it is the very mask we wear that end up hurting us even more. The cynic who is yearning to believe, to trust, finds that what he suspected is true, the critic, fearing judgement, ends up being judged because of her judgemental nature, and the aloof who bulletproof themselves from rejection, tends to stay on the sidelines, feeling excluded. 
We armour ourselves with defence mechanisms, strong armour to keep hurt at bay, but the opposite is also true, we keep healing, love and nurturing away from ourselves.  Inside our cocoons we are safe, but also alone.  The bad cannot easily reach us there, but neither can the good.  Tightly wrapped up inside our cocoons, we can never be free, never develop the strength of our wings.
Despite what the world says, being vulnerable is not being weak, it is being truthful to ourselves.  It is facing the true me and accepting myself for who I am.  By climbing out of my cocoon, I open myself up to the chance of being hurt, yes, but I open myself up to so much more.  I open myself up to love, to acceptance, to joy and beauty, to my own uniquely created self.  I expose myself to growth and transformation.  A butterfly can only become what it is destined to be by leaving the cocoon behind.  Its true beauty can only be revealed when it spreads its fragile wings.  Maybe it encounters strong winds, but maybe, it will be carried along by a gentle breeze underneath its wings.....

Friday, 12 September 2014

Give Your Love Wings!

With Spring in the air it is as if everyone is filled with a new zest for life.  We are eager to get outside and tend our gardens, start new projects and revamp our homes.  Yet, we sometimes forget all about romance.  Yes, you heard right, romance!  When we are new to a relationship or just married, romance comes so easily, however, soon the everyday chores and running around covering all the bases, nudges romance off to the side and soon out of the door!

However, all is not lost, and with a little bit of imagination and effort we can rekindle those days of romance and roses when we felt giddy with love.  Here are 5 ways to light those fires anew!

1. Each day for the next month, write down a reason why you love your partner.  Put it in his/her lunch box or briefcase or jacket pocket where your partner is sure to find it.
2. Find an old photo of the two of you taken during those first days of being in love, enlarge it, photocopy it and have it laminated.  Use them as placemats for the dinner table.  It will be a constant reminder of the love you share.
3. After supper, when the kids are safely tucked up in bed, go for a moonlit stroll outside in your garden.
4. Once a week turn off the TV, the computers, all the phones, then light some candles and listen to all your old favourite music.
5. Say no to that quick peck on the cheek when you both go your seperate ways for the day.  Instead, make that kiss count.  The thought of it is sure to have him/her thinking about you all day long!

Try these few suggestions and any other wonderful ideas you may come up with for a month and you might just be pleasantly surprised by a renewed feeling of the old familiar "butterflies-in-the-tummy" in-love feeling!!  Come on, give your love wings....

If you flutter by please share with us any of your ideas how to put the romance back into a relationship.  I would love to hear from you!!

Friday, 5 September 2014

365 Day Creativity Challenge!!!

Are you ready?
Grab your art supplies, grab some paper, pens, glue, knitting needles, wool or grab your camera!!! The 365 day, 30 minutes a day Creativity Challenge is here!!!  It does not matter what medium you choose or what you decide to do with your 30 minutes a day of creativity as long as you DO it and share it with me and the rest of the participants.
Every Friday I will post the prompts for the next 7 days here on my blog on the "Art Challenge 365" Page as well as on my FB page http://www.facebook.com/charri.hart .  All you have to do is send me a friend request and then post your  7 days of art/craft on my FB page every Friday.
I hope you will be joining me in this challenge.  It gives you a legitimate reason to commit to 30 minutes a day creating. It's YOUR time.  It's your opportunity to be as messy or creative or experimental as YOU want to be.  No rules, or judgements, no masterpieces, just FUN!!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fly Away on the Wings of Art

Are you getting ready for the 365 Day Creativity Challenge?

Tomorrow I will be posting the first 7 prompts of the 365 day challenge. I am inviting you all to take part in this challenge. This is an opportunity to be creative for 30 minutes, 365 days of the year.
Use whatever medium you prefer - pencil, paint, fiber, photographs- it does not matter. I decided to not to wait till January 1st, after all there is no time like the present, but to start as soon as possible.
After some sweat, tears (and a few kicks aimed at myself) I finally compiled the list. Every week, on a Friday, I will post the prompts for the next 7 days. On the Friday I will also post the previous week's "artworks". If you decide to take part, just send me a message and I will add you as a member to my 365 Challenge Group and then you can post your 7daysof art right there on the page. Or send me a friend request, here is a link to my FB page: http://www.facebook.com/charri.hart . Then you can post your art there too.
Why should we spend time creating every day?

Creating art is a known stress reliever. Getting in the habit of creating everyday develops our skill and it sets our muse free.
Remember: It is NOT about creating a masterpiece! It is just about the act of creating. Keep it small, no larger than A4 size, but preferably smaller. It does not have to be finished either, just post it, you can always later return to finish it. Maybe one of them will lead to a further development or even larger painting, but for this challenge keep it to 30 minutes.
If you miss a day - no sweat! Just carry on with the next prompt the next day. JUST DO IT!!!
I am ooking forward to seeing your artwork!!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Spring, beautiful Spring!

How wonderful!!! Yes, it is that time of the year again!  Here in the other half of the world Spring has sprung!  It is in the air, it is in the way the sun falls merrily upon my face.  The trees are sprouting tender little leaves and my cat is basking in the mellow sun.  It feels as if a window has been opened somewhere in my soul and the fresh breeze is filling every corner, chasing the last gray of the winter out.  It hardly matters that a cold front might be looming ahead, Spring is here, it has shaken Winter's cocoon from its wings!

I love Spring.  The rebirth of the Earth always fascinates me.  I am surrounded by the promise of new and wonderful things to come, I am filled with renewed energy and excitement, I want to drink in the crisp air with huge gulps of joy.  I am ready for new and wonderful projects.  What would it be this season, I wonder. Maybe a new lick of paint for my lounge, fresh bedding or a new craft project?  No, none of that.  This Spring I want to give thanks.  I want to give thanks to my Creator's wonderful mercy and love, the blessings He has bestowed upon me, my family, my friends.  I want to actively live a life of gratitude.  When I look at the world, at all the sadness that we read about every day, strife and war, the horrors of natural disasters, then I am humbled by how much grace we still receive every day out of our Lord's hands.  I feel so small, so undeserving.  It makes me realize how seldom I just give thanks.  So, this Spring it is time for me to reflect on all I have to be grateful for. 

Yes, I know, some of you who are reading this post might feel as if you can't think of anything to be grateful for, maybe you do not feel so particularly blessed.  Maybe you have had to face hardship or sadness, maybe a loss or ill health.  Maybe you have had so many difficult times that you do not believe in blessings any more.  However, I want to tell you, no matter what your circumstances, the Lord is there in it with you, he knows your path.  You are not alone and if you take the time to look, to really search, you will find that one little flower managing to grow in among the thistles and thorns, that one little blessing.  We often mistakenly believe that it is happiness that makes us grateful, but the truth is that it is gratitude that makes us happy.  Mostly we think that blessings are found in the big things in life, but the truth is that it it most often found in the little, seemingly insignificant, things in life; my husband's warmth next to me when I wake up in the morning, the rich aroma of my early morning coffee, the smile on my daughter's face, my dog's excited bark when he sees me.  Once we stop recounting all our problems and start counting our blessings we will be amazed by all we have to be grateful for.

I leave you with a quote by Melody Beattie : " Gratitude turns what we have into enough."

If you flutter by here, please share with us what it is you would like to give thanks for.  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Music Magic

In my opinion, one of the greatest gifts we have received from the Lord is the gift of music.  Whether it is to make music, appreciate it or listen to it makes no difference.  Music touches something deep and mysterious inside of my soul.  Music is the one universal language of all mankind.  It has the ability to unite people across the colour spectrum, across wars, across ethnic boundaries.  Where there are no words, there is music.  Music can inspire, it can soothe and excite.  Music is healing, and it can evoke long forgotten memories.  It can transport us to special times in the past and it can lift our spirits to soar with angels.
The medical profession is starting to use music as therapy for a variety of illnesses, as music can help to reduce stress and anxiety, helping to slow heart rates and even lower blood pressure.  Music has been found to be effective in helping people suffering from depression and even alleviating pain.

All through time, music has been the unbroken thread running through all of mankind, invisibly linking us all together.
I love this quote by Khalil Gibran: “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” 

I would like to share some of the music that I grew up with.  Still today, hearing this, it transports me back to starlight summer evenings, the sound of my parents talking on the veranda while this played softly in the background.  Pur musical magic!  Click on the link and enjoy it with me.

If you flutter by here, please tell me what music is your favourite memory.  I would love to hear from you.

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Flutter of Leaves

Here in the Southern Hemisphere it is winter, and what a cold winter it has been!  Outside my window I watch the wind pick up a handful of winter-white leaves and toss them against the fence.  They say that butterflies don't fly if their body temperature is less than 30 degrees C.  I feel like a butterfly, no flying for me.  I just flutter my wings ever so slightly.  I am the most unproductive human being during the winter months, my body crying out in protest!  I love summer, the warmth of the sun energizes me and lifts my spirit to unknown heights.
However, I have to admit that the winter has a magical beauty to it.  When the sun just pushes its face from under the nighttime blanket, its first fragile rays catch on the frosty icicles covering the grass and it glistens like diamonds.  Foggy tendrils float above the water pond, and one can almost imagine fairies scurrying away before human eyes can see them.  Although Winter is my least favourite season, I love the winter and I cannot imagine living in a place where there is little or no winter, it is as if my very essence needs this time of hibernation , of quiet reflection.  It gives us a moment to take stock, and to remind us of all the blessings we have, all the reasons we have to be thankful.
Without Winter Spring would be less miraculous, Summer less abundant.  In Life, too, we learn to truly appreciate the beauty of Summer, because of the winter. It is  this contrast that reveals the beauty, the wonder and the joy of the good times.  Winter to me is like the wrapping around a present.  It excites me, because I know that underneath its cold layer, tender green leaves are waiting to burst forth and rejoice!!  If you flutter by here, please share your thoughts on the Seasons with me, I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Butterfly in the Shadow

Those of my friends who know me well, call me a story maker. Ever since I can remember I have woven stories around everything, whether it be animate or inanimate objects.  Yesterday, as I went jogging,  I noticed how the late afternoon sun was pulling long fingers of shadow across the tar.  This image took me back to my childhood.  I remember how I, as a little girl, would wait for that moment when the trees' long shadows would fall across our driveway as that was the sign that my dad would soon be coming home.  I would then go outside to wait for him.  While I waited for the blue Valiant to come around the corner, I would keep myself busy with the ants swarming all over the driveway.  I was fascinated by how they would communicate, and how they would rally around a fellow ant when it suffered an injury.  I would spin a whole series of stories around these tiny creatures on a daily basis.  Each one had his own specific role to fulfill.  Today I draw this observation into my own life.  Since my younger daughter has left for university I have been questioning my purpose in life.  I feel at odds with myself as I have built my life upon being an at home mommy, being there for my children at all times.  Suddenly the nest is empty, and I ask myself what could my life possibly be worth now?  Even more so after somebody asked me recently what on earth I keep myself busy with since I do not work and my reason for being at home has left the house. It is thus time to take stock.  What is it that determines our worth as people?  Is it how much money we make?  Is it the powerful job we have, or the important position we have in the community?  Are we worth more if we are famous or well-known?  Is our worth judged by how many people we employ, or how many committees we serve upon?  Sadly, these are the standards by which the world tends to judge our worth, and we fall into this same trap to judge our own worth which in turn leads to depression as most of us are just ordinary people living ordinary lives.  Yet, it is in our ordinary-ness that we are actually spectacular and so terribly unique.  Each one of us has been created by God in such a unique way that there will never again be somebody with my or your own unique DNA blueprint. We are not mere accidents or co-incidences. We are part of God's perfect plan. In this very fact lies our worth.  Each one of us has our own special place in life which cannot be replaced by another.  Only I can love my children the way I do, only I know their needs, their likes and their dreams like I do.  Long after they are mothers themselves I will still be their mother.  The same is true for the niche I move in.  Quite often we are not even aware of the impact we have on the people around us.  Sometimes we touch them with a mere smile or a simple kindness.  Maybe a word of advice or encouragement changes the course of their lives.  Many people wait their whole life for a chance to do something great or noteworthy, something spectacular that books could be written about, but the reality is that most of us will never experience that moment.  However, every day we are surrounded by small opportunities to make a difference, yet often we are so busy waiting for something big to happen that we miss these insignificant, but such important, opportunities. God calls us for a specific purpose.  Some people are called to go great places, while most of us are called to be great where we are, to bloom in our own garden.  My responsibility is to be totally present in my own life, and to live this life entrusted to me to my fullest potential, to do wholeheartedly just what I am able to do, to be true to the gifts and talents God has endowed upon me.  Just as a child is an ambassador of his family, so I am an ambassador of the One who created me.  My worth has much less to do with how great I am, but has to do with how great God is in my life.
A last thought: is a beautiful butterfly less beautiful in the shadow than in the sunlight?  No, his beauty remains the same, he is just less visible, we just have to look harder to see him, but when we do see him his beauty takes our breath away.  Maybe you are that butterfly, or maybe little miss Plain down the street is that shadowy flyer, but when you start looking you'll see just how beautiful her wings are even in the shadows.  Maybe it's time to develop the eyes to see our own worth, but also the worth of the other ordinary people around us instead of being blinded by those in the limelight.  Then we will notice the colours of the butterfly in the shadows.

If you flutter by here please leave a comment or a snippet of encouragement.  I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Room with a View

Today is a cold and very windy winter's day.  The cold has crept into every part of my body and almost into my heart.  The day outside my window looks dismal, the leaves, a dull brown and dry, are being blown every which way until finally pilling up against the fence.  The bare trees seem to cry out in protest and spread out long, dry branches as if to ward off the windy onslaught.  All I see is one long, bleak and cold day stretching out ahead of me and I want to curl up and hide away until somebody wakes me to tell me that spring is putting out its first tender shoots of green.  
It is in this moment of morbid contemplation that I suddenly notice the little bird on the windowsill.  Despite the wind plucking at its feathers, he looks about him with his shiny black eyes, and lets out a joyful song.  A happy little fellow.  Watching him, I feel my own spirits lift despite the drab day outside, and I once again realize how much we have, i have, to be thankful for.  Oh, the things we take for granted!  I have the blessing of sight, to see this tiny little feathered creature, and the ability to hear his happy little voice!  Being able to be snug and warm under a blanket, a cup of steaming coffee, my children nearby.  Suddenly my house is a castle and my couch my throne and the leaves blowing in the wind are dancers doing pirouettes!
I smile at my children and hug them close!  The joy of thankfulness spreads through my limbs like a warm glow (nope, it is not a hot flush!) and I snuggle up to our Jack Russell lying next to me, not to hide from the cold, but to celebrate the closeness that icy cold winter days grant us.
With one last song the little bird spreads his wings and fly off over the hedge.  I wish it well.  It took a little bird to open my eyes, to give my room a new view on life.

If you flutter by, please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you.  Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Keep On Flying !

A few weeks ago some of you might remember that I posted about starting a running program. Well, the most amazing thing is that I am now in the 7th week (8 if you count the week that I repeated week 3) of my program.  It is amazing because this is the longest I have ever stuck with any sort of running program and on top of that during the winter!  Winter to me signifies curling up, cuddling and hiding away from the cold and NOT doing unnecessary physical activity.  Yet, here I am, religiously venturing out on a daily basis to adhere to my program.  
I have to admit, it does not come easily.  I have a constant argument with that mighty inner voice insisting that I am totally insane and must definitely give up on this ridiculous notion of running.  After all, the engine is here to stay!  I have come to realize that my battle is not against the other runners that so effortlessly jog past me, nor is it against the little aches and pains or the painful winter onslaught, no, it is against that VOICE inside my head!  Nagging, nagging, nagging me to stop, to give up, trying to convince me that it is impossible, to face the fact that I am too old and simply not athletic at all.  It is so tempting to listen to that voice, and I can hear the couch calling me.  One would think that after & weeks that voice might have grown weaker, but it is as persistent as ever.  
Fortunately I have a pact with my running partner.  Yes, I have decided to employ the buddy system.  In fact I have two running partners.  One is my daughter, who is a 100 miles away, but everyday when I go out on the road I sms her and she encourages me.  Sometimes it even happens that we are out on the road together even if it is in different towns.  My second Buddy is a little fish, named Dory.  Yes, you are right, now that she is not helping to find Nemo, she is my running partner. (Of course you now understand why my inner voice has declared me utterly mad!)  Whenever I get tired and feel like giving up she is right there to remind me to "keep on swimming, keep on swimming, swimming, swimming".  This little chant does wonders to drown out that irritating inner voice.
This decision of mine to start running has made me think about why some people do things against all odds and why others never venture anything and I have come to the conclusion that indeed it is all in the mind.  It is in our thoughts where victory or failure starts.  It is our thoughts that can doom a project before it has even started, but it is also our thoughts that can make a venture into a success story.  It is in our minds where the greatest battles are lost and won.
Some years ago I read the story of a mountaineer who was paralyzed after a climbing accident.  The doctors told him that he would never be able to walk again.  A few years later however he was interviewed after climbing a major mountain range despite the doctors' prognosis.  The reporter asked him how he managed to overcome such odds?  His answer was simply this : "If you have a good enough excuse not to do something, then don't use that excuse."
How wise!  Excuses gives us an out.  It is like having a back door open all the time, ready to take flight, to leave and avoid the issue.  The minute, however, when you close and lock that back door, or even better, build a wall in the door's place, we have no choice but to go forward and to face the challenge.  Giving up is no longer a choice available to us and in that lies the secret.  Never give up.  
Giving up teaches us nothing.  We never learn the strength of our abilities.  We never reach our goals.  We become expert give-uppers.  We never get to stand on the summit and say "Wow, look at that view!  Look how far I have come."
If giving up was an option to Columbus, America might still have been unknown.  Africa and India might have been places just whispered about if it were not for Diaz and da Gama.  Noah's ark would not have been more that a little kayak!  If giving up was a choice we would never have heard of Nick Vujicic, who had every good excuse in the book to wallow in self-pity.  Instead he still amazes and inspires the world with his faith in the Lord, infallible spirit and dogged determination.  Watch this video to learn more about this incredible man .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USUvzKDroqM 

If you flutter by here, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Daddy's Girl

Sunday was once again one of those days on the calender that many people have different opinions on - Father's Day.  I know many people who sneer at the day and call it just another day to lure a susceptible and gullible public into spending more money than they can afford and I have to admit that to a certain extend I tend to agree with them.  If all the day means to you is going out and buying a hasty, thoughtless gift and going out for an extravagant lunch, then indeed it is only a commercialized day on the calender.  However, to me Father's Day is a special day.  It is a day to celebrate the wonder of having had a wonderful man in my life that I could call "Pappa".  A man that embodied everything the word "Daddy" implies.  It is also a day to give thanks for the wonderful father my daughters have in their lives.  
There is such a special bond between a father and his children.  It is a totally unique relationship.  It is a very important relationship, and no other loving relation, be it mommy, granny, brother or uncle can ever be a substitute for that important figure.  
It is a father who shows his son the man he is to become.  To his son he is the strongest, bravest and fiercest man.  A father is Sir Galahad and the terminator rolled into one.  Silently he teaches us right from wrong and we know he is always there, looking out for us, keeping us safe, protected.  With her Daddy's arms folded tightly around her, a little girl feels like a princess, treasured and nurtured.  He makes the whole world seem magical.  A daddy is most often the biggest influence when his daughter one day chooses that special man in her life.
A father also teaches his children about the Lord, our heavenly Father.  Through his actions the nature of God is revealed.  A child who experiences his father's unconditional love, kindness, fair justice and guidance, and witnesses his father's strong morals, finds it easier to understand the essence of God, and is able to build a strong relationship with his Heavenly Father.
Mere words could never be enough to describe the special father my dad was to me.  He still is my hero.  He was a gentleman; my mom would say, with a twinkle in her eyes, a ladies-man.  I never heard him utter a foul word or tell dirty jokes. He taught me biblical principles, not just with words, but by example.  His family always came first.  He had an amazing sense of humour and we were constantly laughing, he was such a jovial fellow.  He loved playing pranks! These are but a few things which I will always treasure about my dad.  If there is one thing I regret it is not telling him more often how much I loved him.
Ever since my daughters have been born I have instilled in them a love and admiration for their father and I have watched how that relationship grew.  They are truly their Daddy's girls.  I love watching the interaction that they have with him, their special bond.  The way they so easily laugh together and tease each other.  The way they value his advice and relish his little eccentricities. 
How blessed we are to have fathers in our lives.  They enrich our lives, they protect and care for us.  They give their lives to us without hesitation.  Don't wait for Fathers day to pass this way again, take a moment right now to tell your dad, or your husband, how much you appreciate him.

If you flutter by here and would like to share something with us about your father, please feel free to comment.