Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
My garden never ceases to amaze me. There was some definite and intentional planning that went into what was planted. In each season a different plant or flower seems to take centre stage. In Summer there is a blanket of pink roses, winter it is the white camellias that add freshness to a quiet garden. It is certainly something that I can’t claim any credit for it as it was done before we moved here. Certainly since living here I have done nothing in the garden other than reap the benefits of someone else’s hard work and planning!
Being intentional about life is rather like tending a garden. It takes work, effort and planning! To enjoy the daffodils in spring you need to plant the bulbs in the fall. To be a teacher or lawyer tomorrow you need to study today. Decisions we make today determine our tomorrows. They determine our destiny. It means sometimes making choices based on a future hope instead of a present desire. The culmination of many small little decisions and choices will impact our future.
Being intentional in life goes further than our decisions too. It means being careful about our thoughts and words. It says in Proverbs that death and life in the power of the tongue. It means that what we speak about ourselves and our circumstances have an impact on our lives. Patricia King once wrote “the original purpose of words was not communication but creation.” We walk out in life what we declare. Make decrees of the Word and create your world!
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
“Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.” (Alice Walker)
At 3am the storm hit – hail and thunder, pounding rain. And with it came the cold. Shortly after, my 4 year old clambered into our bed, feet and hands like ice blocks. Winter had announced its arrival. We knew it was coming of course. But the glorious long summer that we had been enjoying disappeared in an instant. You see apart from the mountainous pile of leaves that my oak tree had shed one could easily be forgiven for thinking that Autumn had not yet come, let alone winter.
Just last week, in the heat and mugginess of the day, shop windows with their winter knit displays seemed absurd. Today they looked delicious and compelling. This year the start of winter has been abrupt (and dispruptive!). We weren’t seduced into its arms by cooler evenings and fresh breezes, it just brashly arrived. And so flannelette sheets have urgently made their way onto the boys’ beds.
Our lives also have seasons. Seasons of growth and opportunities, seasons of rest, seasons of change. It is so important to embrace the season that we are in. Seasons of change are fluid and temperamental with uncertainty and restlessness. Seasons of rest are quiet but filled with the grace of God. But whatever the season, each season prepares for the next. The season of rest prepares for the season of change and gives you the strength and reserves for it. The season of change often precedes the one of growth. Just has nature has a pattern in the seasons so do our lives.
The change in season may be gentle as spring makes its gracious entrance with new growth pushing through the soil or may be as abrupt as the Winter that has appeared today. As my oak tree sheds its last leaf its energy will be going into its roots, growing strong so that in the Summer it can take the weight of its new leaves and acorns. I don’t know what season of life you are in but remember it is important. Do not be discouraged or compare yourself with anyone else; simply be obedient to what God has called you to in this moment on this day in this particular season. What goes on in someone else’s field is for them to tend and nurture. Our responsibility is for our field.
Don’t fight the season! Understand that there is gold in every single stage of life. I’m embracing winter now – the duvets, the hot drinks, the scarves and my red polka dot umbrella will be much enjoyed!
“Travelling home from holiday we had quite a few choices of routes home. All really much of a muchness (or so we thought!). For on our chosen route we encountered a traffic jam – a big one. One that had us in stop / start manoeuvres for a good 30 minutes. Frustrating enough if there’s just you in the car, but add in 3 children and it can be even more so.
I am sure I spent a good 5 minutes day dreaming about the “what if’s” of the other routes. How we would be almost home or how we would have been able to stop off at a café and still have arrived home around the same time. But dwelling on the other routes wasn’t going to make the traffic jam disappear or pass quicker. Dwelling on the what if’s was only making me frustrated. So instead I focussed on us, in our car and making the best of the extended journey. With food and drink handy we had little picnic in the car. We listened to an entire Roald Dahl audiobook that kept us occupied and rather amused. With a title “The Giraffe, the Pelly and me” how could we not be! Our delay passed happily, the boys barely noticing the extended length of the trip. We enjoyed our journey!
Arriving home, some 30 minutes later than our intended arrival time, we still had reached our destination. The traffic jam was not a roadblock, preventing us from reaching our destination it just delayed it somewhat. The main objective of the trip – reaching home – was still achieved.
In life we all face “traffic jams” at some point. Delays in reaching that goal, or fulfilling that dream. We can all have the “what if” moments too – of how life could be moving quicker if we’d made different decisions. It’s important to remember though that delays are not denials. Setbacks are not final. Mistakes are not our destiny. A traffic jam just slows the journey down.
Don’t let failures or detours turn into road block. Instead use it as a step up. Learn the lesson & climb on! (Charlotte Gambill)
God is still directing your steps. Detours and traffic jams will come, but with God you will reach the right destination!
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Unusually today I was awoken by fog horns in the distance. Unusual as I live a little inland. Unusual for this time of year as well. But the sound of ship fog horns drifted over my sleepy suburb nonetheless. Opening my blinds I saw the fog lying lightly over the houses. The visibility ground level was poor. Trees made strange shadowy forms in the distance. Roads seem to vanish. But from my balcony I could see clear blue sky. I could see the tops of houses peering crisply out the top of the fog. From my higher perspective, clarity and visibility was good. I could see into the distance.
Sometimes we’re on the ground level in life. Dimly peering down the road of life, searching for bearings and guidance. Wanting clarity and to be out of the fog. Barely able to see even our hand in front of us. But sometimes all that is required to get to higher ground. To see life how God sees it. To see ourselves as God sees us.
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
“He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, And sets me upon my high places.” (Psalm 18:33)
If you have ever travelled on the Underground in London you will be familiar with the signs and announcements telling you to mind the gap. Reminders to be careful of the gap that exists between the platform and the train you are about to embark on. One of my friends though didn’t so much mind the gap as find the gap! She slipped and partly fell down the gap and had to be rescued from the semi decorous position she found herself in. In her words she says she did not drop her coffee or even spill it!
In life at some point we all transverse a gap. The gap being the space of time between the promise from God and its fulfilment. And it is good to take some advice from London’s Underground and pay attention to how we “mind the gap”.
It is this gap that we can end up in disillusionment, discouragement and despair. But it is also in this place that we can thrive. Martin Crowe, a legendary New Zealand cricket player, wrote this on his blog about the game of cricket – “This is the space between thoughts, between breaths, between fielders, between balls. They say to experience the gap wholly brings ultimate joy in what we do. In the gap there is nothing, and it’s that nothing space in which lies the secret to our purpose.”
For us, not on the field cricketers, the gap is where our character is burnished, our faith stretched and our heart strengthened. We need to remind ourselves that the gap is a place to pass through, to walk over, not our final destination. The gap is, yes as Martin Crowe said, the space between. It’s the wilderness between the Word and the Promised Land, the prison between the promise and the palace. It’s the barrenness between the Word and the birth of Issac.
Losers focus on what they are going through, champions focus on where they are going to! There is no victory without a battle, no sunrise without a midnight and no tunnel without light at the end! So if you’re in the gap, keep your focus on the destination!
Hang in there. Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. (Bear Grylls)
Whatever you do, mind the gap!