Quite a few years ago, as I was completing my R.T. and I.A.C.T. training to qualify as a counselor, I remember a remarkable story being told by one of my lecturers about a “word of mouth” story she had heard a few years previous herself. Just this week it resounded in my heart and I thought I would share it. At the time we were discussing the different types of people one can meet in this colourful world of ours and the many people we met as counselors. We greatly desired to show unconditional love and warm support to the hurting but also wanted to become better ‘lovers’ of people and help them through their pain. That particular day my lecturer asked the class the following profound question; “Are you a strawberry or a slug?” ~ Those in the room all looked at each other in amusement and became intrigued by her question.. .. .. Many times since that day I have remembered our answers and our descriptions of these two “personality types”. Do you love strawberries? When in season they can be the most luscious of fruits and are remarkably good for the body too. I love the sweet ones, but I absolutely struggle to eat them if they are slightly bitter or too acidic; my facial expressions completely change when trying to swallow a strawberry that is not sweet!
These are some of the nutritional facts about strawberries; Delicious and nutrition-rich red coloured strawberries are among the most popular berries in every country. They are native to Europe, however, nowadays the berries are widely cultivated as an important commercial crop in many temperate regions all over the world. Botanically, the plant is a runner (creeper); and belongs to the family of Rosaceae, of the genus: Fragaria. They were once seen as an exotic fruit, and when out of season can be quite expensive to purchase, but most would feel they are worth the extra financial sacrifice. These berries have a taste that varies according to origin, and they can range from quite sweet to acidic. The strawberry features a red pulp with tiny yellow coloured seeds piercing through its surface from the inside. Their top end has a small, green leafy cap and a stem that adorns the crown. Each strawberry features a conical shape, weighs about 25g and measures about 3cm in diameter. There, I guess you probably have never thought about a strawberry in such intricate detail? They are delicious when served alongside the right dessert or dipped in luscious melted dark chocolate, ice cream or fresh cream. Wild varieties are sometimes available at your local farmer’s market, and are quite delectable!
The strawberry is low in calories (32 kcal/100g) and fats, but are a rich source of many health promoting nutrients, minerals and vitamins essential for maintaining optimum health. They are considered a power food and have potential health benefits in fighting cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases. Fresh berries are an excellent source of vitamin-C (about 98% of RDI), which is also a powerful natural antioxidant, and a vital component in helping the body to digest and use its iron intake. See, strawberries really should not be lived without; their presence is beyond brilliant and so valuable to our health. (even the acidic ones – note to self!)
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry), but doubtless God never did.” ~ William Allen Butler
So are you a strawberry or a slug? A “giver” or a “taker” type of person?
A “strawberry” person adds a certain kind of precious sweetness to your life. When you meet them they are a joy to be around and seem to add to the atmosphere in a colourful and creative way. They want to give more than they take, and there is a sense of kindness about the things they do. They aren’t perfect in all they do, but even in failing or falling they bounce back with a sweet endeavour to improve and grow in their love towards others. Strawberries are lovely, charming and their smile lights up the room. Like the fruit, these “strawberry’ people are greatly pleasing and quite delightful to behold, or have in your life. They are naturally good at drawing out the best in you, the strengths in you, the dreams in you. They have a natural, genuine and tenacious ability to treat you like you are worth a million dollars and invaluable in the contributions you can bring to this world. While they still have their own needs and can share the deepest chambers of their heart with you, there never ceases to be an unconditional positive regard about them. They strive to maintain a sweet unity in pursuing life’s dreams together. These “strawberry” people are rare and unforgettable, yet it is a beautiful compliment that all of us can aim to cultivate these traits in our own lives. They make you feel like you can conquer any mountain, all of your fears, every doubt and achieve your deepest aspirations. To them life is all about mutual giving, and we know that it is more of a blessing to give than receive; indeed in giving we receive a hundredfold back in benefits and love. In serving others as “strawberry” people, we can be sure that when we leave this earth people will remember us with fondness, love, appreciation and delight. I want my epitaph to say “She was a strawberry!” ~ =)
“Strawberry” people are not perfect, as that is just not realistic, but ‘sorry’ is not a word they are afraid to use, and they seek to maintain peaceful harmony as much as possible.
We all know the “slugs” ~ they are usually people who are hurting or angry; and may not be aware their pain causes them to rob from you, steal your peace or remove your joy. They can be quite pessimistic or negative, and life around them is not always easy. They don’t bring health to your bones, and instead can be quite a challenge to walk the road alongside. But if you are a “strawberry” person, then you can help the “slug” person realise the better choices they can make. These “slug” people are usually the kind of ones who have no idea who they are, or how very valuable and precious they are. They cannot see their unique gifts or the beauty that is within them. Many of these types of people take and take from you, demanding more and more time, with very little regard or appreciation. It is quite sad, but usually their world revolves around their comfort and their own needs. We all know some people who are “slugs”, but if you fancy yourself to be a “strawberry” then why not try to help this person make the changes they need to. Of course we cannot change anybody else in this world but ourselves, but we can still choose to be sweet “strawberries” in a world that is growing more and more bereft of what true unconditional love and kindness is.. .. ..
We all have our “slug” days, but let’s at least try to be “strawberries”. =)
“Slugs” are destroyers of all that is sweet, yes it is the way they survive, but most of the time these sad and angry ones desperately want to be free to love without any fear, and give without any limit. “Strawberries” can help ~ by being sweet in the face of those who do not appreciate you; I know it is not easy, and being taken for granted is hard to take day in and day out ~ but there will be a sweet sense of peace in your heart as you lay your head on your pillow at night. There will also be health to your life, knowing that you are not caught up in anxiety and hatred. We all have the potential to be “slugs” ~ never seeing any beauty in the simple things around us ~ never taking the time to love others and really know them; but when the love of God and His unconditional acceptance penetrates our hearts and lives, we are changed. We realise that the love we give away to others is not ours anyway, that only for Him in our lives we would never know the real capacity to selflessly reach out to lift others up. I heard a phrase the other day that saddened me ~ It went like this;
“The less you say, the more people will listen!”
I pondered those words, and remarked to myself how so true it is at time, and how sad it is that our communities are becoming like this. When there is a deep need in a heart to be understood and cared for, the one depended upon may feel overwhelmed and choose to turn away. Do we truly only seek out those who have few needs and therefore avoid giving beyond our own comfort zone? Yes boundaries are healthy, but still we maintain the bond of love and peace as much as we can. It is a good question and I am not saying I have arrived there – some days I wish I were more of a “strawberry”, but I know that seeking to duplicate the sweetness of a strawberry in my personality, makes me a far nicer person to be around, even for me to be around too!
So the next time you sink your teeth into a sweet, ripe, delicious strawberry, stop and think about the incredible potential in you to be more pleasing, loving, graceful, understanding, patient, kind and tasteful in your world.
There are always far more reasons to give back then to hoard and take just for yourself ~ hearts that feel like “slugs” are waiting for the “strawberry” people to show them a better way, a far sweeter way.
Love is not a weakness, it demands the truest form of strength at times ~ It’s a commendable trait and distinguishes you in quite a remarkable and “sweet strawberry” way!
Today I was reminded of quite a special conversation that took place a little over a year ago, but has been revisited in my thoughts at various times. The memory has been awakened by the emotion I see daily in the current 2012 Olympic Games being held now in London.
Let me take you back to that special occasion .. .. .. I packed my bags and hit the road. My arms were ready for hugs, my heart was eager for slobbery kisses and smiling faces. In my bag were goodies and treats for two little boys and a little pink princess. Soon I was there, and hugs and cuddles commenced eagerly. Eskimo kisses were exchanged and laughter filled our hearts and the room. I was on a sleepover with my nephews and niece, oh and their parents, who I had told to go on a date as I would babysit for them. Soon it was just me and the three musketeers, all in our pyjamas on the couch watching a movie. My eldest nephew, a courageous 7 year old then, turned to me as he noticed my black & pink heart pyjamas. He giggled and said, “Nisey, you always have heart things, why?” I snuggled him closer and explained to all three of them how important the heart is. They were giggling with laughter as I explained how the heart inside us keeps us alive by pumping blood around our body, but that it is also with the heart that we are able to love, and without a heart we would feel nothing. As they followed my lead they placed their little hands on the spot where their hearts were beating and their eyes opened wider as they understood what I was saying.
So then the challenge came…my eldest nephew turned to me saying, “Nisey, do you think you can find a heart every day and take a photo of it with your phone?” ~ I accepted his challenge, and we agreed that for a year, I would find a ‘heart’; and so the “Hearts 365 Project” began! The heart project has finished now, but in all of our lives the work of living with courage from our heart, still continues! It was an amazing project, and one that many people all over the world became involved in, joining in the fun of finding hearts. A heart revolution you might say! There will be more about that project at a later date ✿♥‿♥✿
.. .. .. As I watch the Olympics I am left in awe at the sense of teamwork and commitment I see between the various countries and their teams. On the night of the Opening Ceremony they each walked with pride behind their country flag and joined together in courage and preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. Surely each of us felt our hearts beating loudly with anticipation and excitement? I know mine did as our dear friend Katie Taylor proudly led Team Ireland♣ with the Irish flag in her strong boxing arm! Go Katie!♣
“Semper Fidelis”, (a motto I love), resounds loudly from their hearts as they challenge their physical capabilities for the next two weeks. But no matter what medals are won or lost, they are together under the umbrella of “Always Faithful”, and even those who fail to make the cut or win their medal are still on the team, and will not be disowned in terms of their flag colours and team membership. We have much to learn about this in our own evaluation of the way we do life together day to day. Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful” or “Always Loyal”, as the motto of the United States Marine Corps (and often shortened to Semper Fi in Marine contexts), Semper Fidelis has served as a slogan for many families and entities, in many countries, dated to have been started no later than the 16th century. Newly married couples have even had it engraved on the inside of their wedding rings, as a beautiful sign of their commitment and loyalty for the rest of their lives ~ beautiful! Semper Fidelis goes beyond teamwork ~ it is a brotherhood that can always be counted on. This became the Marine Corps motto in 1883 and it guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to their country, no matter what.
So to live as a committed person is to walk with a code of personal integrity, and they say that it is honour that guides those who do the right thing when no one is looking. It is not only a duty, but also a distinction, and one that sets you apart from those who easily compromise their values and ethics. It is true, that when you meet someone you can trust, your heart feels safe and refreshed, that although they are not perfect and may fail, you still know that at their core there is a code of honour and truth that they strive to live by. What is found in one’s beliefs is exhibited through one’s actions; When our truest principles are tested, it’s courage that prevents us from crumbling. It isn’t about ignoring fear, but being stronger than fear. Courage starts in the heart, and it is also the guardian of all the other values that we hold fast to. It is there when times are toughest, when difficult decisions have to be made.
A Nisey Note ~~> May God’s love reach in and heal where disappointments and emptiness war for our hearts! May His love stir our hearts again to live from a place of abandoned adventure. When the heart hurts it is tempting to kill it, to not feel from it, to hide it away where nothing can hurt it again; to pretend what we treasured was less than the beautiful gift we knew it to be. But from our heart is where God wants our life to live; from our deepest part comes our deepest impact on this world, from our heart our worship sings! Don’t kill your heart, for it is the place where real intimacy and life must spring from. Semper Fidelis “Always Faithful”…. must be the anthem of our hearts and the motto of our lives.
The amazing cyclist, Lance Armstrong uses the great slogan LIVESTRONG ~ so keep in mind no matter what you are battling, you can live Always Faithful ~ Forever Strong!
One of my trademark sayings (so I have been told), is my regular use of the brilliant phrase “God Knows!” – Yes, I admit that it rolls off my tongue quite a lot and usually when I have unanswered questions on my mind. ☺♥☺
Who knows you? . . . I mean really knows you? Has that question provoked a slight awkward nervousness in your heart just now? Maybe it brings a calming sense of well-being and peace because you know you are loved unconditionally and completely? Possibly it challenges you to the core of who you are or aspire greatly to be? Well today God sent a lightning bolt (as real as the one about to flash again outside my window), a gunshot, a bow’s arrow straight into this heart of mine .. .. .. I was asked the same question.
God challenged me to look at the things my heart hungers and thirsts for. Some moments later, I answered Him. It came through a song. It came through painful realization. It came through the acknowledgement that ONLY one person can truly ‘know’ every single facet of me. Though I choose to share different parts of myself, my life, my thoughts, my desires, my dreams, my jokes, my writing, my cooking, my achievements, my longings, my laughter, my creativity, my love, my affections and my passions with people in varying degrees of intimacy, truly there is only ONE who really knows the real me. He knows the “me” with no barriers, no pretending, no masks, no hidden motives, no insecurities, no fears, no vulnerabilities or barriers. He loves me despite my weaknesses, sins, frailties, failures and vulnerable ways.
He jumps right into each day with me, longing to make me even better than the version of me I was yesterday. He proudly comes alongside me to help me in my attempts to improve on yesterday’s performances and choices, because He knows my heart truly longs to be the best me I can be for Him and those I do life with. He giggles at my childish jokes, and loves the unique traits He has given me – He calls into being every dream and desire that resides in my heart; He gently holds me when the storm rages and I have no solution for the circumstances my little boat sails through; His name is God. He whispers goodnight as the moon hangs in the midnight sky, with His promise to never leave my side; staying with me through every twist and turn the road may take. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing about me is hidden from His eyes. When I have days where I would rather run from Him and life seems to dare me to give up, He will still be there, here, beside me. He is ever present, He never slumbers or sleeps.
Hunger (whether physical or psychological) is not a game; it can lead people to do crazy and dangerously soul-destroying things. You may be quite familiar with your own “hunger games” and the cravings of your own heart. Maybe you don’t believe in God? .. .. .. but truth be told He believes in you. He created you with a void that only He can fill. He sees the amazing dormant potential in you, that awaits for His breath of life to create a new and amazing detour to the road you currently walk on – is there a hunger in your heart, even now, to be ‘known’ – truly known?
He sees you weep when you feel the floundering winds of change sweep you to a place where life is scary or hard to understand. He holds your arms up when you are tired or weary from the fight. He cheers you on when life is victorious and hugely rewarding. He is God and He does not miss one solitary moment of your life. Even in a crowded room, where you are surrounded my many, He does not miss one thing about you. He knows you, but He also loves you! Sure many others can touch your heart, occupy space there, impact you deeply and love you there.. .. .. but there is truly only ONE who can know every facet of your life, your mind, your thoughts and your soul – GOD! Wisdom tells us to choose carefully the ones we allow into our hearts, to select these special ones wisely and cautiously, but we are always better off the closer we walk with God.
Today this truth hit me like a bolt of lightning .. .. .. like a dart aimed for the bulls-eye, like a perfect 180 shot straight into the dart board of my heart. I’ve experienced a lightning bolt to my heart before, but this is not the time to share those stories – all I can say is that upon reading a challenging piece of text today, I realized that God was speaking loudly, directly, clearly and seriously into my heart, asking me “Denise, do you know that I know you? You are not one of the ‘unknown’, you are not forgotten or undiscovered by me – I see you” ~
Can I be honest here? Well, I will be anyway and hope that you too will be honest with your own heart. I really forgot that God knew me .. .. .. that He both wants to and desires to, and is delighted to know me! The God I sing to and speak daily to, this amazing God that I daily surrender my life to, knows me. WOW .. .. .. think about that: The God who flung stars into space, knows you. The One who has seen and will see everything about this Universe; the One who sees when you win or lose – knows you. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head, how many tears you have cried, how many years you have lived, the breaths your life will amount to, the past, present and future for you – He knows your name!
Maybe the land of being “known” is already a land you frequent a lot, sharing glorious moments, hours and occasions of great joy and strength in His beautiful presence? but for some it is a land where they feel like an alien; hungering to be accepted unconditionally. Well, today I remind you, invite you, beseech you, to find a quiet place (like I have), to take a realistic look at the activities of your life – who do you do them for? Are these activities a reflection of the desperate hunger in your life for acceptance and love? God does not want your life to be one series of relationships, endeavours and “hunger games” after another, where you seek to fill your life with anything rather than emptiness. He wants to fill you with the greatest acceptance, love, favour and romance you could ever know.
Close your eyes, listen, He is already here. No more hunger games, no more running, no more pretending; It is time to experience the liberation of being known by Him, and in that place you will experience God loving what He knows about you; and making you the best you possible! =)
Then go and feed others – show them how being unconditionally loved by God satisfies beyond any other source!
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;” (Psalm 16)
…Indeed this is a beautiful thought, a precious declaration of gratefulness and peace at one’s surroundings and lot in life. To be honest it is not always the way reality seems to be for us at all, and life can sometimes be the complete opposite. Trust me, I know! Maybe when you think of the ‘lines’ of your life you imagine the perimeter of your homestead or dwelling place, and you wish it were larger, or smaller, or cleaner, or quieter, or richer, or safer? Some of you may think about the place where your lines fall and wish it were in a different location, or a far more appealing place? There may even be people dwelling within your boundary lines that are absolutely driving you crazy, or letting you down daily? Per chance even some of you are thinking of someone right now who you wish was able to dwell within your boundary lines but instead they are either far away geographically or even distant emotionally? Whatever your situation, wherever you find your lines to be or not to be, there is still a place for you where beauty can touch your heart and somehow kiss your life with peace; hang in there with me!
First, let’s look at the word “pleasant” ~ Pleasing, agreeable, or enjoyable; giving pleasure: receiving pleasant news. (dictionary.com)
Some synonyms of ‘pleasant’ are ~ Blessed, agreeable, darling, delicious, delightful, delightsome, dreamy, dulcet, enjoyable, good, grateful, gratifying, jolly, fair, comfortable, nice, sweet, pretty, satisfying, welcome, tasty, palatable, overflowing, or abundant. A person is ascribed the compliment of being ‘pleasant’ when seen to have qualities that tend to give pleasure, or when they act agreeably. You may also be characterised as being ‘pleasant’ if you have pleasing manners, behaviour, and a pleasant appearance, being easy on the eye!
David, the writer of Psalm 16, where the first line of my story is taken from, lived much of his life as a fugitive. At times he was on the run like a wild animal trying to save himself from an enemy who was viciously trying to kill him. He often found himself in some very difficult places during those years. Sometimes life was so hard that he quite literally sank into a horrible pit, unable to be rescued or even try to rescue himself. Many of us have been there or are living there now. Other times he lived enclosed in complete darkness in lonely caves. But believe it or not, it was out of these experiences that David wrote some of the most meaningful words of his writing career; with God as his motivator, editor and publisher!
So…as we read this line where David declares ~
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the Lord who has counselled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night…” (You would be forgiven for thinking that suddenly life must have taken a magnificent turn for our friend David, but guess what, it hadn’t!)
From all I have gleaned about his life at this point David is still not yet in a place of safety and life is not nearly as comfortable as his heart would have desired. He is walking through difficult days with no real sign of easier nights ahead. Yet in the midst of what seems to be hardship, back ache and disappointment, David is able to declare that the boundary lines of his life are secure and safe, sweet and pleasant…how can he do this you ask? Stay with me…
Right now where are your boundary lines? Do you know what it represents in the days of old? When Joshua was led by God to take the children of Israel into their promised land, God told him to divide up the newly entered land according to the tribes and give each one a section to call their home. So it was that each individual family was given a special place. The lines were drawn and the boundaries were made. Boundary stones were used as markers to show where the lines had fallen for each family, and every person knew the exact piece of land God had given them. So they lived in security and safety, provided for by God.
So how can David declare this, when we can see his life is a mess by comparison? Could it be true that David wrote these words against the backdrop of the knowledge of those great promises that had been given to him by God? Many have studied this passage and believe it to be so. He said it by faith. David knew the God he trusted, he reminded himself of all the promises that had been spoken to him over the years, and one day he would see all that God had whispered to his heart in the darkness of night. Although David lived on the run and in fear for his life, in his heart he had moved his residence to a land called “Pleasant Places”. He moved in and unpacked his troubles and cares there, in the place of protection. He came to find out that his new abode “Pleasant Places” was the place of provision. All that had changed about his circumstances happened in his heart, in his mind and in his relationship with God. He began to believe in what God said and he declared it over his life. Soon even his difficult circumstances could no longer rob him of the peace that he found in “Pleasant Places”.
I too am learning this…I have many desires and dreams waiting for the touch of God upon them, but one thing I have found is that there is a land in my heart that is mine, where God and I talk. And although I do not understand His timing or his workings in my life, I do know that I must trust Him in this place. By making a decision to declare that the boundaries of my life have fallen in “Pleasant Places”, I will lie down in peace, I will rise up in protection, and I will come and go in His provision and providence. There is a land I can live in where faith rules over my fears, where joy overcomes my sorrows, where tears are wiped away with the gentle touch of His hand. My dear friend, whatever season we may be walking through, it is an opportunity for us to learn something about God and to have an experience with Him that can literally bring a song out of our tired hearts. Even in the waiting time we can cultivate the hope that as we surrender and trust Him, we will come to realise that the “Pleasant Places” He has promised us resides within us!
I have decided that wherever I find myself, wherever I lay my head, (or my hat), whether rich or poor, whether happy or sad, I will declare it a “Pleasant Place” because He is with me and He makes it PLEASANT!
Speak these words softly to your heart . . .every day if you need to . . .
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.” (Psalm 16)
Look, there’s a sign above your head, written on it are the words….”Pleasant Places!”