Archive | May 2018

Enjoying Lilac Blossoms and Letting Them Go

 At the edge of my driveway stands a row of lilac bushes. I’ve been watching the blossoms develop, waiting for the day when I could take a good photo. Finally, the day arrived. The blossoms were almost in full bloom and the sky was overcast—perfect for taking a picture. I grabbed my camera and headed out the door.  I was not pleased with the first few photos that I took.  This is one of them: 

New lilac blossoms are barely visible. They’re hidden behind dead branches and dried stems of previous year’s blossoms.


I put down my camera, took my branch cutter off its hook in the garage and sniped off last year’s dried stems and dead branches. Then, I took a few more photos. This is one that I like:

The dead branch has been cut off and the beautiful new blossom is visible.


Last year, one of my friends told me that if I wanted to have lots of lilac blossoms every year, I must cut off the stems of each year’s blossoms as soon as they quit blooming. Well, I didn’t bother doing it. I don’t know why I would want to hang on to an old, dead branch. It’s never going to bloom again. Still, I hated to snip it off.

I thought about my life. What “branch” that once produced fragrant and beautiful flowers in my life is now unneeded, dead, and must be trimmed off?  As I hesitate pruning my lilac bushes, so I reluctantly prune the unneeded “branches” in my life.

Each season, God has new gifts of grace. In order to make room for them, I need let go of the old, familiar, comfortable things. Maybe I don’t recognize them as dead branches. I remember the joy that they brought me and try to revive or resurrect what I was given in the past. What happens if I don’t cut off the dead branches? They distract me from seeing the new growth that God wants to produce in my life.

Jesus knows we are reluctant to give up the old. He said,”No one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:39 NLT).

Yet, I can’t have any passion for the new thing that God wants to develop in my life unless I give up that old thing.  


Questions for your reflection  

What new (blossom) dream or vision has God given to me?

What once beautiful but now unneeded or dead branch must I prune from my life in order to pursue it?

What choice will I make? Keep the dead branch or cut it off?

 

This entry was posted on May 25, 2018. 8 Comments

Chicken Broth and Chocolate-covered Mints ???

 



Chicken broth and chocolate-covered mints. Doesn’t sound like a good combination.  Why would I even think of it? I did not think of it until one morning this week when I found it in the bottom of a mug.

Wanting a mid-morning snack, I pulled a large coffee mug from the cupboard and poured into it the contents of a pouch of concentrated chicken broth. I was about to add water to the mug; thankfully, before I did so, I glanced into it. To my surprise, I saw six chocolate-covered mints swimming in a pool of chicken broth concentrate.

I assumed that my husband, who usually makes a mug of hot chocolate in the morning, had forgotten what he started to do. He put the chocolate-covered mints in his mug and absent-mindedly placed the mug back into the cupboard. Or maybe earlier in the day, I, myself, had put the mug into the cupboard, assuming that it was empty.

I love chocolate-covered mints. I also love chicken broth. But I was not risky enough to try chocolate-covered mints mixed with chicken broth. So, I picked out the mints, rinsed them off in cold water and set them on a paper towel to dry. Maybe they would still be good. What can I learn from this I wondered?

Hmm. What happens when we don’t look into our “cup”? The one we’ve been given in life. Do we wrongly assume that our cup is empty? Might there be unseen sweet treasures in the bottom of it? Perhaps some unfinished project that we’d enjoy completing, an unanswered letter or a photo that stirs up a happy memory. Maybe some good desire that we’ve set aside and quit pursuing.

Could we take these sweet things out of the bottom of our cup and give them some attention? Like those chocolate-covered mints in the bottom of my mug, that desire, goal, project, or memory might have the potential for placing joy in our lives. And bringing joy to others.

What do we fill our cup with?  Chicken broth? Satisfying work. Chocolate-covered mints? Rewarding play. Always one? Never the other? Maybe we unsuccessfully try to work and play at the same time. I enjoy my work but trying to play at the same time does not prove very satisfying to me. On the other hand, if I never take time for play (my tendency), I become drained by my work.

Chicken broth and chocolate-covered mints. What’s the balance? Although the two don’t mix well, separate portions of each can fill our cup with satisfaction and joy.


 

This entry was posted on May 18, 2018. 6 Comments

The”D” Word We Prefer to Deny



During my vacation, along with walking in the California sunshine, taking photos of flowers, and relaxing with my children and grandchildren, I read several books. One of them was Thoughtful Dementia Care: Understanding the Dementia Experience by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller.

You might be wondering why I would read such a book while on vacation. Wasn’t it depressing? Who wants to think about dementia at any time? Not many of us.  It’s not my favorite topic of conversation. Probably not yours, either. But I hope you will keep on reading.

I chose to read this book not because I am greatly worried about my mental decline (although I do have some short-term memory loss) but because I want to understand the challenges that some of my friends and family members are going through. I want to understand the process of dementia so that I can be helpful to them.

Jennifer Ghent-Fuller points out that most books about dementia are written with the family and caregivers viewpoint in mind. That’s why she wrote hers differently. It’s written from the viewpoint of those who are experiencing dementia–people she taught, supported and cared for during 25 years of her life as a nurse.                 

This book was difficult to read. I could not read it straight through. As I began to see dementia through the eyes of those who have it, tears came to my eyes. I had to stop reading for a few hours. Why? Because I discovered that people with dementia are very emotionally sensitive.  I have not understood that fact and lacked compassion.

As Jennifer points out, understanding their experience and viewpoint can help us see beyond their behavior problems, which might be our primary focus, and act with patience and kindness instead of anger and irritation.

I’ve tended to get impatient with them, as well as with myself when I forget something.   I’m changing my attitude. I want it to match God’s attitude. He does not devalue those with a loss of brain power. From his point of view, who among us is not in some way lacking? 

We might be children learning skills or we might be seniors losing skills. Either way, God loves us. We are spiritual beings not just physical bodies. Our spirits can connect with his Spirit even when our minds cannot.


God, give me a heart that beats like yours
When friends of mine stumble in this course–

Can’t find the pathway to their door,
Can’t reason as well as they could before.

Give me patience while they are losing some skills.
May I gently help them wipe up their spills—

May I never berate them or call them cruel names;
Help me speak with kindness, remembering my frame.

Help me gladly supply what they lack—
Explain by example, never attack;

Bear with their ignorance, their slowness, their fear;
Help me act wisely and do it with cheer.

Give me grace to stay, as their minds fade away,
For I might walk in those shadows, someday.

Because my spirit is alive . . .

 



During the last part of April, John and I spent some time with family members in the California sunshine. We brought back many good memories and photos. The above photo is one of many that I took during an evening walk through the Sacramento Capital Rose Garden. The roses were in full bloom. I wish I could have included the fragrance in my photo. 

According to rose growers, in order to thrive roses need lots of sunshine, at least six hours a day. If I were a rose, I would not do very well during April in the north country!  Thankfully, even in cloudy, rainy, and windy days, I can thrive. How? By replenishing my inner self, my spirit, in the overflowing warmth of Jesus’ love. 

That’s what I was reminded of when I opened my Bible this morning and read these words of Jesus: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:9-11 NLT).

How is your spirit, today?  Thriving or wilting? Full of joy or weighed down with the cares of the day? l hope that you will spend some time soaking up Jesus’ love. Then, no matter what your circumstances, you will thrive like a rose.


Because my spirit is alive
In the midst of pain, I can thrive.

Thriving is more than surviving;
It’s resting instead of striving.

Resting in the fact I am loved;
Greatly loved by the Father above,

Father of Lights, giver of life,
Who protects my soul day and night

From the Evil One’s devices.
I have learned God’s ways are wisest,

Though they include some suffering.
Despite the suffering, I can sing.

Because I see the joy ahead
And by the Spirit, I am led

Into places that I’d never go.
It’s in those places that I grow

Stronger, braver, wiser, kinder.
My lack serves as a reminder

That I have something more to learn;
So, with humility, not scorn

I’ll receive a kind correction.
And if it’s not gently given

Be willing, still, to learn a lesson–
Make a needed thought-revision,

With gratitude, not resentment.
That’s the pathway to contentment.

If I do these things, I’ll thrive
My spirit will be kept alive.

5/3/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on May 4, 2018. 6 Comments