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IMG 1383 2Rooted and Resting

Battling the Elements
It’s been a long, hard winter that has stretched through the rhythm of four seasons, and many of us may feel as if springtime in our souls is never coming.

No-one likes to linger in winter winds that bite into our very being, our vulnerability evident by the inability to withstand the long-term effort it takes us to remain standing through the force of a gale. Head down, suitably togged up, we often begin a difficult journey with resolute fortitude, but as the elements of our circumstances continue to rage, refusing to abate, we lose energy, hunkering down into survival mode.

This is how it feels right now. I’ve lost the initial resolve I had at the start of the storm; the onset of the pandemic, to cope. The new projects and patterns of living I devised to address the new normal are losing their allure.

I feel increasingly exhausted, vulnerable, and exposed, often finding it difficult to think straight or effectively make use of the vast amount of time I am privileged to have. I think that I’m in survival mode, my mind unable to process much more.

We are not designed to constantly battle the elements but to accept and work with them.

Surrendering to the Seasons

IMG 1386I’ve been gaining strength from the seasonal lessons of nature again, watching the tall trees from my window swaying ferociously back and forth in the strong winter winds, and realising that I feel in a similar position. I considered what keeps it upright and realised that a tree does not resist the wind. It leans into the gale, submitting to the elements and allowing the storm to flow freely through its branches and around its trunk, whilst it relies on deep, strong, hidden roots that anchor it securely to the ground.

I’ve never been good at embracing whatever comes, and often tend towards resisting- attempting to avoid the inevitable. Rather than accepting change gracefully, I waste time and energy riling against it, becoming increasingly tense and anxious as I realise my need to change rather than squandering time fighting it. It’s a pretty fruitless task, and I still have so much to learn about leaning into the wind, surrendering to the season, unafraid, with my roots quietly yet firmly grounded in the God I try to trust.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2: 6-7)

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

I wonder... Where do we each put down roots that might help us to grow stronger in spirit, deeper in faith?

Rest and Resilience
IMG 0068Whereas some relish the winter season, I have learned over the years that winter is difficult for me. So it was, with intentional hope that I planted lots of bulbs in my garden last autumn. They have given me spiritual strength throughout the dark months, and joy as I watch and wait for them to bloom.

IMG 0342 cropped square 2MP for blogThe first daffodils have bloomed this week to lift my spirit after this long winter season, but did you know that the cold, hard times of winter are essential to them flowering at all? Bulbs need to remain dormant and build up strength over 3- 4 months of cold weather to prevent their shoots emerging too soon. The harsh climate of winter actually allows the bulbs to develop resilience, grow deep roots, and ultimately initiate the transformation to shoot, flourish and bloom. Visible Spring growth is entirely dependent on the hidden awakenings that occur in the incubating darkness underground. Perhaps it is the same with us?

So, during the harsh months of our lives, how can we each learn to firstly rest in our circumstances rather than resist, but also root our lives in God, developing resilience through our vulnerability, so that we may flourish in better times?

I pray that as we look towards the onset of Spring, we might know that it is those dark and difficult days that give birth to flourishing. I doubt if we would choose this way, but this is often the path we must take, for it echoes the way of the Cross and Resurrection.

January calendarJanuary is always a difficult, dreary, grey month, I find, and this year has been harder than most.
It’s been difficult to see any light ahead any time soon, and I’m finding it all too easy to wallow in the sadness of all that is missing, wasting the gift of the days, rather than focus on all I do have.

Difficult Days
Last month wasn’t helped by the fact that we unexpectedly lost a dear aunt. She was a stalwart 89 years of age, fiercely independent and still living in her own home and I had briefly seen her at Christmas with a festive doorstep visit. She was very alert and cheerful as usual, despite the common ailments, aches, and pains of old age, genuinely grateful as usual for the simple life she led and mindful of those who visited and phoned her regularly, thankful for their care.

After the initial shock of the news of her death, it has been such a blessing to recall her life.

How is it that it is often not until someone has gone, that we are able to put into words why they have meant so much to us?
Why is it, that in their absence we recall more of what they have gifted to us of their precious lives?

Joyce led such a simple life. She did not drive, had not travelled abroad, and had lived in the same ordinary semi since she was married, but she was always grateful, expressing this verbally frequently to those she was with. She possessed the rare wisdom of knowing that she had all she needed and was content, despite her ailments, and I am the richer for knowing her and all that she unwittingly shared.

Even When…

Light of the World textile artAs we enter 2021, we all hope for an end to the dark days that 2020 has brought to so many for there is so much uncertainty right now, and perhaps our usual positivity for a year of new beginnings might be waning thin amidst the Covid crisis that wreaks havoc across nations.
Yet, as Christians, we know that there is light in the darkness, there is healing through the hurt, there is hope for the future, all encompassed in the person of Jesus…Saviour, Redeemer, Light of the World.

Ultimately, nothing can keep God’s people from knowing that Jesus is Lord of all.
Not good years, nor bad years or those that are entirely unmemorable  

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? ……No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 8:35-39, NLT Translation)

It’s been a grey wet miserable November, so I thought this month I would stitch a sunset over hills, as a reminder of the following verse from the Psalms:

IMG 0515“I lift up my eyes to the mountains-
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 121:1-2)

As I have stitched, I’ve been pondering on where I choose to lift my eyes each day, to find help for the moment, as we all wait expectantly for a solution to the global crisis affecting each one of us.

Waiting doesn’t come easily to many of us, especially if we are used to being in control of things. So, how do you manage the waiting- without wasting the present moment?

Waiting Expectantly
I got to thinking that this season of Advent is also about expectant waiting, with God’s people simultaneously preparing for celebrating the wonder of the Nativity and hoping for the return of the Saviour in the Second Coming.

I wonder how often you are taken in by the beguiling words of advertisements, created deliberately to draw you into the carefully laid breadcrumbs of a sales pitch?

business pexels julia m cameron 4144923Me... I’m a sucker for spiritual and business self-improvement courses.... the saccharine sweet beguiling claims of be better/ earn more/ be better organised -draw me in to commit briefly to the hype driven claims from some self-confident, self-made high achiever. Note that my commitment is brief... lacking the commitment, the time, the...well, the work that it all entails!
I would really like to be better...I try...constantly ...using some supposedly all effective formula to solve an issue...but in the end... I realise that each supposed promise with each book, workshop or course is mostly about the work you are prepared to put in. As with most things, there’s no quick fix, no easy answers ( despite the myriads of tempting titles, such as “3 ways to organise your business effectively...five ways to make social media work for you...6 ways to be a more effective prayer warrior... 7 ways to slow down and still be effective at work...

FaceBook pexels pixabay 267371The trouble is, that the clever FaceBook algorithms know my weaknesses.. and barely a day goes by when there isn’t something to divert my attention, draw me in, and take me away from the goals I’ve already set myself...so that I end up farther behind than I would have done if I had just persisted slowly and steadily like the tortoise from Aesop’s wonderful tortoise and the hare fable...

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