Thursday, 8 September 2016

Flying in the Shadow

In many cultures butterflies are thought of as being
the souls of the people who have passed on.  To me butterflies are magical and entrancing, they represent so many things - thoughts, hope, rebirth, transformation, words, memories, etc.   
Butterflies always seem to follow me around.  Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by them, and many people have associated butterflies with me in some sense or another.  In my thoughts I carry many butterflies with me, the butterfly memory of my mother, my father, a few dear friends.  They flutter eternally through my recollections.  Sometimes they feel so close that I am sure if I turn fast enough I will catch them where they are hiding in my shadow.
I often talk about my parents to my children who never had the privilege to know them, I share anecdotes from their lives with my friends and try to implement what they taught me in every part of my life.  It is my way to acknowledge their existence, to celebrate the people they were.  It is a way to ensure their footprints on this earth are never lost, I am a witness of their lives.  In fact I am pretty sure that their memory will even be passed on to my children's children.
I think this is what we owe the ones we've loved, to speak their names and tell their stories, not because they were kings or queens, anybody famous or infamous, but because they are forever a part of our existence.  They are interwoven in the pattern of life, as inseparable from us as our own shadows.  Our thoughts give those who have left this earth wings to fly once more for a moment alongside us, to briefly comfort us hovering just within our shadow,   Only in darkness is it possible to loose one's shadow. 
Everyone of them have left their footprints in our lives and souls and we are blessed for having known them, my children are blessed by learning about their grandparents from me.  We do not honour them by placing flowers on a grave, or flipping through a photo album, but every time we smile at a memory of them.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

What Babies Teach Us

The arrival of a baby is cause for a major celebration for most families.  Babies seem to turn even cynical, life-hardened adults into cooing, face-pulling and blabbering beings, all just to illicit a smile from a sleepy infant.  Babies instantly change the dynamics of a family and reinvent the established routine of most households.  The content of conversations also change to the extent that we ask ourselves what on earth we spoke about BB (before baby)?

The majority of parents are totally wrapped up in the care of their little miracle, and they are eager to teach their children everything they need to know. Yet having a new born in our family, and not being the primary care-giver has given me the opportunity to observe my delightful granddaughter and I was suddenly struct by this truth:  this little bundle is already adding value to our lives just by being here, dozing off in a little bubble of bliss,  With her every breath she is teaching us about life and living.  Observing her, she taught me a few things and I would like to share them with you:

1. We need people

We as adults like to think of ourselves as independent and self-relying individuals.  We like to believe we know all the answers, and we seldom if ever like to ask for help or guidance.  We want to do everything ourselves.  Asking for help or advice implies weakness.  But babies instinctively know they need help, and they accept it without it affecting their self-esteem.  In fact they can get quite vocal when they need assistance.  Babies know that we need other people in order to survive.  We need to connect to other people, in fact our wiring is such that we can cope better in most situations if we can share our thoughts, ideas, worries or problems with somebody else.

2. Just the basics

Babies are satisfied and happy little creatures when their basic needs are met.  Their basic needs are love, sustenance, comfort and safety.  They flourish when their simplest needs are met.  They do not need things, they need to be cradled in the loving arms of their parents and they need their attention.  They do not need expensive dinners, meals in fancy restaurants or gourmet food, no they just need milk to fill their tummies and help them grow.  They do not need a palace or a room filled with all the luxuries money can buy, they just need a place filled with love and a warm cozy bed and as for safety, where better than in your mommy's arms, holding you safe and the monsters at bay.  No baby has ever demanded to be driven around in a luxury car or to sleep in a five star residence waited on by a dozen servants.

3. Unconditional

Babies are unconditional beings.  They do not care who their parents are.  They are not impressed by the title of CEO, Doctor or Professor.  They do not care whether their parents are the prettiest, the richest or the most clever people.  They do not care whether we walk around in PJ's and slippers or wear Prada.  They love us and smile at us regardless of who we are.  We are their hero's and their people and they look at us with total adoration.

4. Free to be themselves

Babies never pretend to be who they are not (except for role-playing i.e. pretending to be a tortoise for a whole day).  They are completely themselves.  They are not afraid to chuckle with total abandon or cry when they are unhappy.  They sleep whenever they want to without caring whether they snore or drool.  They are not scared to be vocal or excited, and they could not care less if other people like them or not, they are quite comfortable with whom they are.

5. Never give up

Have you ever seen a baby who has tried to lift up his head when he is doing tummy time, but then his head flops back down?  Have you seen that baby then refuse to ever try that again?  No, you did not.  Babies try and fail, but then try again until they get it right.  Babies never give up, even when they fall and bruise their knees, or knock their heads they get up and try it again.  Babies persevere, they have this inherent believe that they will succeed.  The option of quitting never enters their minds.

6. A inquisitive mind

Babies are ready and eager to learn.  They observe everything around them with wide open eyes, drinking in every little detail.  They touch and taste everything they can get hold of.  Just watch those little fingers reach out for a piece of fluff, their whole being is focused on reaching it and examining it.  Even the smallest thing draws their attention and they marvel at the wonder of it.  They do not merely notice the new toy, they also notice the box, the wrapping and that fascinating piece of cello-tape.  Oh, how amazing that piece of sticky plastic is!  Through the eyes of children we have an opportunity to re-discover the wonders of life!

7. Trust and have Faith

Babies do not worry.  They do not fret or get stomach ulcers from stress.  They trust that those strange sleep-deprived cooing humans will take care of them, will look after them and provide for them.  They have full confidence that their parents and any other significant adult are totally reliable and have their best interest at heart.   They have faith that everything will be as it should be.  They open themselves up with no fear of being hurt, rejected or neglected.  They believe in the goodness of people and take the truth at face value.  They never doubt for one minute the words of their parents.  They understand the key concept of faith.

How blessed I am to have such a tiny little tutor reminding me once again about the core principles of life.  It is amazing what the effect of living out these seven basic rules has on our lives.  When we refocus on the things that are truly important all the other nonsense and baggage we tend to hold onto just fades away.  Let us heed the lessons these tiny humans teach us.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Approved by God

Having recently become a granny I am once again filled with awe.  New borns are the most precious gift to humans.  Through their eyes we have the opportunity to view life with renewed wonder and delight.  It is just amazing how open and receptive they are.  They have no pre-conceived ideas about the world, the people around them or themselves.  They are positive and enthusiastic about life, firmly expecting the good.  Their lives and thought are a perfectly clean slate. 
Yet sadly, too soon, the world and its ideas start to write something else on their clean canvasses.  The baby who chuckled with abandon starts looking for approval from his parents.  The toddler who ran eagerly with wobbly knees to any stranger, starts hiding behind his mommy's legs and the three year old who sang nursery rhymes delightfully off-key now only lip-syncs in the Sunday School choir.
It happens just about to all of us.  We stop trusting our own authentic voice and start to believe the whispers of the world.  We start to crave the approval of others.  Even the voices of our own parents are drowned out by the noise of the world.  Our ears become finely tuned to the frequency of criticism and judgement.  Other people's opinion and assessment of us starts to weigh heavier than that of the people who love us and our self-esteem takes a serious knock.  We forget who and what we really are and we completely disregard the fact that we have been created by a Creator who does not make mistakes.  We have been created perfectly and uniquely, we already have the seal of approval from our Creator, yet we desperately seek the approval of others.
The world is so quick to pass out labels.  We easily attach a tag of "Failure", "Neurotic", "Useless", "Worthless" or such to others as well as to ourselves.  We end up believing these labels and it starts becoming our dominant thoughts and these thoughts start ruling, or worse ruining, our lives.  We become slaves of other peoples', as well as our own, opinions of us.

The following quote is attributed to Buddha:  
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."
This is so true.  The thoughts which constantly go around in our minds are the ones that are like the regular footsteps making a pathway through a field.  With every thought it becomes engraved on our psyche, and it shapes our behaviour.  We have to stop this negative thought pattern and we do that by starting to believe what the Lord says to us about us.  People seldom truly want to see us prosper or achieve great heights.  They can cope better with us when we are on a level where we are their equal or even less.  Therefore do not allow anyone to limit you or define who you are.  Accept only God's opinion of you.

If you take anything away from today, let it be this: stop seeking the approval of others, rip off the labels, you already carry the Lord's stamp of approval.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Spring is Here!

Today is a beautiful day! It is officially the first day of Spring. It is the perfect Spring day with blue skies and bright sunshine and just a gentle breeze stirring the fresh green leaves and tender blossoms.  What a blessing, what joy!
I love mornings.  Everything is new, fresh and delightful.  I love waking up to the chatter of the birds just outside our bedroom window.  I always listen to them and invent dialogue for them.  My cat also loves listening to them and then she chats back to them in her voice she reserves just for the birds!  I also imagine what her dialogue is and it usually bodes nothing good for the unsuspecting little birds.
Every morning to me is like receiving a gift.  It is all beautifully wrapped up in blue skies,tied up with early morning sunlight and decorated with butterflies. Very soppy and sentimental, I know, but that is really how I feel about early mornings.  Some days the wrapping is a bit gloomy, but still I look forward to unwrapping this mysterious, enticing and gracious gift.
This gift, however, is very different from all other gifts.  Usually the gift we receive is just what it is - a pretty little soap, exquisite jewelry or maybe a beautiful book.  Sometimes it is something we always wanted, but at other times it might be something we already have.  This early morning gift though is a very unique gift.  It is what I decide to make out of it.  If I look for beauty in my day, that is what I will find in my gift, but if I look for the ugly in today, the angry and hateful, that, too, is what I will get from the gift.  What I decide to do with this gift of today is determined by what happens in my heart and in my thoughts, it gives shape to my day and ultimately my life.
We all receive this gift, but what we do with it, what we make out of it, remains a personal choice.  Yes, sometimes we wake up, and we realize that our gift will never be entirely the same again, as life and circumstances have maybe attached a label or two to my gift.  Maybe it is a label of sadness, or regret.  Maybe the gift tag reads "Change", yet I still have a choice about what I am going to do with this brand new day.  Will I celebrate it or waste it, will I use it for good or squander it on insignificant things, because there seems to be an endless supply of it?
Something else about this gift that is different from normal gifts is that where most gifts we can keep and enjoy still for a long time to come, this gift just belongs to today, to now.  I cannot save it for tomorrow, and I if I drag yesterday into it, I spoil it with bitterness, blame or regret.  It has an expiry time.
Graciously God grants us each day another opportunity, another wonderful gift.  It is so sad that in our youth we have little value for this gift, and so easily trade it for nonsense, filling the hours with unnecessary baggage. Fortunately, as we grow "wiser ", so our appreciation also increases and we start to treasure this gift of now and we cram it with everything that is worthwhile and good.
My wish for you is that  you will every morning unwrap this gift with joy and embrace your new today with wide open arms and live it!!

Have a joyful Spring!

If you flutter by here please feel free to comment.  I would love to hear from you.