Buttercup

I didn’t think they were even real until I touched them.

The fresh peonies in the guest room that had been prepared for my visit were stunning. And to look at the one that was still a tightly balled up orb was as if to be an expectant poet waiting for the birth of the next verse. After all, just look at the fully opened bloom with its ruffled petals all layer upon layer of pink petticoats. Stamen and anthers just totally out there – this blossom has arrived!

There’s something powerful about arriving at a place where you feel safe enough, healthy and strong enough to open up. To be fully who and what you were designed to be. Like the peony it happens naturally when the right ingredients are in the mix. Good soil, water, sunlight. Others in your life who contribute to your growth and progression. It was never intended to be a one man show. So look forward to this “grand-opening” of your heart and soul.

Open up, Buttercup.

Fences

Ornately wrought iron or rustic wooden post fencing. Both were designed with a similar purpose— that of delineating what belongs to me and what doesn’t. As in, “everything beyond that fence is mine.” No matter how embellished or plain the style may be the directive is the same. Mine, not yours. Stay on “that” side.

Fencing in good repair sends a message of ownership, keeping the bad elements out and protecting what is within. Ever see a stretch of old broken down fencing on a road trip to somewhere else? To a less guarded soul, to an adventurous sort it is a neon flashing welcome sign. Maybe no one lives there anymore and it may certainly look that way based on the poorly maintained fencing. If there are no guard dogs present or other visible signs of surveillance it would appear to be open territory . . .

What subliminal message of “welcome” might we be sending when our individual protection systems aren’t in place or are in disrepair? Our own personal fencing must be kept securely maintained in order to protect and preserve the good things in our heart, mind and physical being. Always remember . . . property fences also have gateways. You and I are the gate keepers. We determine who and what may enter here.

This segment of pretty fencing is located on the property of Hunt Cellars winery outside of Paso Robles, CA—gates open daily from 10:30 am – 5:30pm.

Not Worthy

This dignified little fellow captures that head to toe feeling you get when you’re in the presence of someone truly great. Someone you hold in highest regard because of their wisdom, their particular talent, or their ability to use God-given gifts to full capacity.

This particular two foot tall representation of respect permanently resides at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. He’s part of the massive collection of art work, antique tapestries, Italian renaissance furniture and statuary that once belonged to the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst.

I don’t particularly need a six foot tall rendition sculpted in gleaming marble to remind me of that deeply appreciative sense that comes when in the presence of “the truly great.” An emoji will do. An iPhone photo will suffice. When my spirit connects with talent, beauty that inspires, or wisdom that transforms on any level my hands go up.

It might be a PhD or a street corner prophet or a nine year old’s genuine heart. The most common denominator tends to be that of love. Whether love of subject matter or humankind or God. The emoji of my heart —I’m not worthy . . .

Breaking Zippers

Road trip! With a week’s vacation beckoning me I packed my bags, filled the gas tank, alerted the neighbors, and watered the garden deeply enough, fingers crossed, to last an entire week. All I had left to do was to pack some road snacks.

Ginger kombucha, check. Opal apples—2 medium, check. sliced English cheddar, check and check. Dry roasted almonds, organic cherries, black olives, pecan rice crackers—they all fit in the bag. But with no room left I still wanted to add more stuff. Out of space and what to do? I wanted to include more than my insulated lunch carrier would hold and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The bag protested and darn if the zipper didn’t break in my struggle to load the bag beyond its capacity.

Where am I breaking zippers in more important areas of my life? Am I trying to fit too much in and forcing something to its breaking point? Road trips are a great time to contemplate such things.

I realized how quickly I tend to justify this behavior when the ingredients are good. All the items I crammed into my lunch bag were healthy things, mostly organic even. Its not like I was packing cotton candy, Slim Jims, and glazed donuts after all. But, the zipper that I forced didn’t know that. The zipper that eventually broke didn’t know and didn’t care. To my insulated bag, too much was too much. Period.

Sometimes enough is enough and “full” is a good place to stop. Breaking zippers is a pretty good indication of that, don’t you think?

Old or New

Some burn brightly, some cast a gentle glow. In the revealing presence of a flood light all our sins are uncovered. There’s no hiding here. Every flaw exposed, every stain becomes visible and no excuse can stand.

Yet the compassionate and rosy hued illumination displays its subjects in a different light. What is revealed is viewed through a loving lens, a filtered light of crimson that makes all in its gentle glow appear redeemed. The condemnation having been placed upon the Light itself and not upon those who position themselves beneath its rays.

Old and New Testaments. Same light. Same love. Law or redemption? Its a Sunday contemplation.

Stir It Up

I’ve been reading and really enjoying a newly released book by Dr. John Townsend, “People Fuel: fill your tank for Life, Love, and Leadership.”

Close to the end of chapter five my thoughts began to swirl as the subject matter clearly touched some unfinished business that lay beneath the surface of my conscious mind. It was almost as if I heard a small clear ring of a bell. There was a fleeting moment of recognition and familiarity—an “Ah ha! I get it . . .” Then it was gone.

Stay with me while I explain what I experienced in that moment with my own personal imagery. Picture a large pot of vegetable soup simmering on a stove in a commercial kitchen. At first glance all you see is a beautifully rich stock until you dip in a long handled ladle and give it a good stir. Behold! All manner of ingredients begin to rise to the surface, circulating within the pot. Oh . . . you see something swirling there that resonates! Your heart and mind connect and you follow that “something” as it swirls. It gradually begins to slow and as it does it sinks back beneath the surface and out of sight. It is gone! Where did it go? With one good stir it rose to the top as if from nowhere and then almost as quickly sunk back down and out of sight.

Now there is discovery and awareness of something that has been there awhile, maybe all along, and it’s just now being seen. Allow that for some reason it slipped from view, maybe from a need for self-protection or perhaps something entirely different. The important thing is that this hidden element was seen.

All that from chapter five which, by the way, does NOT include a recipe for vegetable soup, LOL! But its a great read and theres so much more to go. I have one word . . . Amazon.

Image from The Kitchen Is My Playground

Not Always

I was thinking about a post I read on social media yesterday. The question the author posed to her followers brought varied responses—mostly positive in nature, a few that took on a supportive tone and one that was a clear admonition. I suppose its to be expected when we put something out there in an open forum. We won’t always receive hallelujahs and crowns being cast at our feet.

The confident don’t necessarily expect a negative response but they do know how to take it with a grain of salt when it comes. The naive expect all sunshine and rainbows and all of the time. And on things of little more significance than a quick tweet or a post. They’re (we’re!) thrown off track when questioned or doubted or challenged and can mistake someone’s varied point of view as an attack. And attacks must be managed or otherwise shut down, right? A true and intentional attack, yes, but our perception doesn’t always match up with reality if we don’t have both feet on the ground. If we’re so “me” oriented that we don’t hear their heart or allow them to think differently than us.

Can we adjust our wiring to hear the heart and mind of the responder that lies beneath their own external opinion? Their version of, “I don’t think what you said or did is correct” has more to do with them than with us. It truly does. And yes, we can learn to fine-tune our understanding but we must choose to do so.

When we are able to objectively strip away our own gut reactions to a comment or someone’s opinion or stance perhaps we will see where their own life experiences have led them to this belief. Not everything out of their mouth has to support what we say and do and it is also not always an attack.

Together

The Tantallon Castle ruins were a major highlight of a long ago trip my older sister and I took once upon a time. We drove to an isolated location in the middle of nowhere. The young man at the gate house seemed part historian, part guardian of this grand shell. To pass the time he drew sketches of ancient battles between the Douglas clan and the crown of England including one initiated by Cromwell himself. There seemed to be little else to do to pass the time in this desolate Scottish location. The visitor traffic was light to say the least.

We were free to wander the ruins unattended and no doubt that contributed to the haunting feeling of roaming through a vast residence where Scottish lords had strategized, been holed up, and had once called home. I let my imagination wander as I ran my hand along the barren stone walls, once covered by tapestries and coats of armor. Now just a hollowed out monument to an ancient clan’s struggle to retain power. I hoped that each successive earl might have enjoyed their beleaguered time in this awesome fortress.

I bent down and picked up a crumbling bit of the pinkish stone wall—a tiny piece of the rock. It was like holding a fragment of history in my hand. It came back to America with me as a reminder that even a mighty fortress is subject to a fair amount of crumble. Having been built as a stronghold and having endured cannon fire and actual fire and all other manner of human onslaught over the centuries, there it stood.

Just a piece of a rock but combined with other pieces and larger pieces together they made something strong and mighty. Good people in our lives are like that. We’re stronger together than we are apart or as fragmented pieces. Fortress-like maybe. Able to provide a defense against external (and internal) forces looking to cause ruin. Together. There’s the power.

New Name

What defines you? How do people who know you well describe you? I’m not referring to that short list of folks who happen to know your faults and failings and keep you in your place as needed by reminding you. Could your supporters distill your defining qualities into a word or two or three? And what would that be?

Sometimes when we falter, sometimes when we stall out, we hear names in our head that we dare not speak out loud because that might make them real. In the down times we can feel like we’re wearing that name across our forehead or in a meme for all to see. However . . .

None of us want to be known by a name that was born out of a weakness. Coward, Loser, Slacker, Failure, Dishonest, Judgmental, Stupid. Nah, where’s that tee-shirt? Nobody ever inscribed that on a crown and wore it proudly.

What is that other name that comes to you, rising up from your spirit and swirls in your mind? You may want to hold onto it silently to protect it as if its too fragile to be verbalized. You may want to yell it out as boldly as you can in acknowledgement of the incredible gift or talent or strength you’ve been given.

What is your true name—your new name? Live that!

Want to

I took two weeks off of work and so used my last few moments on Friday to tie up loose ends, answer final emails and see what around me might fall in to ruin if I left it unattended for two weeks time. The plant on my desk HAD to come home with me or surely it would be dead by the time I returned.

The plant was securely placed in the back seat of the car then, due to the joy of being temporarily set free from the rigors of the job, I promptly forgot about it. For three days! In a hot car. Talk about unintentionally fast-tracking it towards what I had feared might happen if left in the comfort of an air conditioned office! Needless to say, once discovered, it got a rehydrating bath and repotting topped off by a craft cocktail of super nutrients and a heart felt apology. It bounced back within the hour.

Envision a hardy green weed growing up through a crack in the asphalt. It is usually in a place not shaded, not watered or otherwise cared for, yet up it comes. From beneath the slab that was poured over the surface of bare ground extinguishing any micro organisms that were there before. No oxygen. No hydration. No sunlight. Miraculously, against all odds, life found a way to spring up through a crack. The seed formed a root then grew to the surface due to genetic disposition, shall we say, not because it wanted to but because it was programmed to.

So, when we have experienced a metaphorically similar situation in life we, unlike a seed or a plant, have a choice to make. Will I lay down and be covered over by circumstances or will I grow? Will I be buried by this or will I rise again? We have to want to.

“Want to” is different than being genetically predisposed to. Our resurrection from a life-draining experience is most often dependent upon us, along with the help of healthy friendships and good people in our lives.

We have to want to.