Hi everyone, firstly may I send huge apologies for my delay in writing a new blog post, but life has been a bit of a challenge of late. I will not go into the details of it all, but suffice to say that although I am a student of business at the moment, some of my greatest lessons these days have been much removed from the surrounds of a university lecture hall, and leaning more towards the daily challenges we all face. Life brings its own lessons and these are the stuff life is made of. Still, life goes on, and we learn to roll with the punches.
♥♡ ♥♡~~ Some of the things God whispers to you are to be proclaimed from the rooftops & others are to be pondered in your heart. ~~♥♡ ♥♡ ~ ƸӜƷ
I have been in such a place of busy-ness, schedules and decisions of late, yet even in all of the activity it has seemed at times that all was hushed and quiet in my soul.
Some have said “Hey Denise, I miss you!” to which I replied, “Hey, thanks, I kinda miss myself too!” Not having the time available to drop everything and do the things I most love, I have somehow missed the most ‘creative’ parts of my daily routine. So today, in the midst of a busy schedule I have taken time out, just to write this life lesson that has found a place in my heart over the past month. So thanks for your company and allowing me to ‘be’ with you, getting lost in what I love…writing!
Please let me tell you something precious, which hopefully will resonate in your own heart too. Through all of the busyness and activity, I have felt God holding me gently in a place of stillness. I have always loved butterflies, and lately I have found myself captured by one butterfly quote after another. They are all gathered together in my journal as I speak (or type) ~ but it is more than the beauty of a butterfly that has captured my imagination these days, it is the cocoon: the process of stillness, change, darkness, waiting, pondering, and patience.
I can only say that in these nights of deep thinking, processing and change, I am seeking to learn the art of the still life. So what does the word still mean?
STILL: Not moving or making a sound, deep silence and calm. Remaining tranquil, placid, and without action – To be free from disturbance, agitation, commotion or panic – To be stilled by one in control, to be made at ease, hushed and comforted. To sense the ease of solitude, lack of hustle and bustle, or to be overcome with a profound hush. ~ ƸӜƷ
Some would say it sounds easy, relaxing, blissful, and such a beautiful endeavour. The activist in us would say otherwise, finding it hard to relinquish control over a desired outcome or process. I have learned that to ‘be still and know’ is not always an easy option, but nonetheless it is the best practice for a true believer.
So back to my cocoon, or the lessons thereof : Do you think the caterpillar knows it will suddenly emerge from this dark, lonely place of confinement, as a stunning winged creature of amazing beauty? Does it realise that in the dark, everything it ever knew or experienced to date, is about to be utterly transformed into a vibrant, new existence where it will know flight and freedom like never before?
The following quote encapsulates this thought perfectly:
“I always wondered, when a butterfly leaves the safety of its cocoon, does it realize how beautiful it has become? Or does it still just see itself as a caterpillar?” ― (The Air I Breathe) ~ ƸӜƷ
Does a butterfly, one day catch a glimpse of a stunning reflection as it flutters above a calm lake and only then realise the magnitude of this change? There is nobody in the cocoon to talk it through the changing process, and how true that can be for us too.
There are many who have studied the intricate transformation of a caterpillar into the elegance and profound delicate beauty of a butterfly, but for one moment, let’s consider our own still life transformations…do you desire a breakthrough of your own? Do you hunger for an experience that takes you on an adventure that is wonderful and beyond your wildest dreams? Well, maybe like me you do. So, why not let it happen? Take the time to be still, to contemplate a metamorphosis of phenomenal proportions. There are wings waiting for you to use, there are dreams waiting for you to chase, and there’s an adventure with your name written all over it! Nobody can create the atmosphere for change for you, no matter how much they wish they could. The only person you can change is yourself, and many have tried and failed miserably. I cannot set you free, nor can I do more than invite you to take the time to be still, and dream of flying. The following words describe beautifully the courage and strength necessary in finding one’s wings:
“As a child, he’d found a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. He’d tried to help it by prying open the husk to set the insect free. It had lain in the sun, beating its wings as they dried, but had never flown and soon it died. His grandmother explained the butterfly needed to go through the difficulty of freeing itself in order to have the strength to fly.”
― Laura Bacchi, Butterfly Unpinned ~ ƸӜƷ
I never want it to be said of you or I, “They never flew!”… I want to live my days in courageous colour, displaying all of the wonderful qualities my Maker has bestowed in me. I want to find the strength to fly and leave no room for regrets.
My new mission statement these days is:
“I have a little brown cocoon of an idea that may possibly expand into a magnificent butterfly of fulfillment…” ―L.M. Montgomery ~ ƸӜƷ
There is a time for stillness, but then comes the time for flight where we say, “Goodbye Cocoon, I’m going UP!” …the sky awaits.
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!
“Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.” (Chinese proverb)
Lately I have been reminded of the day I started to learn chess. It was Christmas and I set myself a new challenge. I found it difficult but interesting. Chess is a strategic board game which has been played for centuries. Playing the game can be a fun, challenging way to stimulate your brain and improve your problem-solving abilities. To me life feels like a game of chess. To be announced as the winner you must be able to outwit your opponent. It is not always as straight forward as we would like; sometimes the people playing the game of life with us have different ideas or priorities that are simply at odds with ours. To play well we need to know how all the pieces move, which, as I learned the game I found the hardest aspect to navigate my way through. One wrong unprocessed move and your piece is gone and the game could be over. So this means we have to plan ahead, every move counts towards the end result. You must see the path ahead, plan the moves before you need to make them, each step builds on the next. A bit like a five year life plan; which I tend to be terrible at. I am far too spontaneous and love to go with the flow. I love my flexibility but I am learning to plan too, and therefore I score more “checkmates”. Having an eye for opportunities, seeing details that others may miss will greatly add to your chess playing genius. It is also vital to have a back-up plan for when things go wrong or when you make a wrong move. Yes I am talking about chess, but do you see the correlation?
The object of the game is to capture the opponent’s king by putting the piece in “checkmate”. Through well thought out moves, each chess piece moves to set the board up for the last critical move of “checkmate”. Beginner chess players need to learn the specific movements allowed for each chess piece before playing. I learned this slowly, and given that I have not had much time to play it I find myself needing a refresher course. So why am I talking about chess? Well I am at that place again in life, calculating my next move, looking at my many options and praying to see the best strategy to get me where I want to be in five years time. Yes a five year plan. I am that person now.
While there are 32 chess pieces on the board, there are only 8 basic moves performed in a game of chess. If only life were as simple as a chess game. Most chess pieces move in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line across the board. One piece, the knight, has a unique move on the board. The rook and king are able to “castle”, while the pawn only moves forward unless capturing an opponent. Once you play a game or two, the way the chess pieces move become almost second nature. Or you could be like me, and need a lot more than a few games. It depends on the level of your opponent, the tougher your choices are than the greater your awareness and survival techniques develop; that’s a lot like life!
All chess sets have the same basic figures represented in order to play correctly. Chess comes with a set of rules. The most powerful of the chess pieces is the queen. Also represented on the chess board are these pieces: the bishop, knight, rook, and the pawn. Each of the various chess pieces have distinct moves allocated to that particular piece. These movements are critical to winning in the game of chess. As too are the choices we make in life, they may seem small, but these choices are also critical in determining where we move next and what are the given opportunities that such a move will bring about in our lives? Before you can start playing chess you will need to be introduced to what these pieces mean. Let me run through them very fast, trust me this will all make sense soon…
The PAWN ~ (♙♟) is the most numerous and (in most circumstances) weakest piece in the game, historically representing infantry. Each player begins the game with eight pawns. The KNIGHT ~ (♘ ♞) representing armoured cavalry. It is normally represented by a horse’s head and neck. Each player starts with two knights; these begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner. The ROOK ~ (♖ ♜) formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, or rector. The informal term “castle” is now deprecated. Each player starts the game with two rooks, one in each of the corner squares on his own side of the board. The BISHOP ~ (♗ ♝) each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king’s knight and the king, the other between the queen’s knight and the queen. The QUEEN ~ (♕ ♛) is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. Because the queen is the most powerful piece, when a pawn is promoted it is almost always promoted to a queen. The KING ~ (♔ ♚) is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent’s king so that its escape is not possible (checkmate). If a player’s king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in-check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be done, the king is said to be in checkmate. Although the king is the most important piece, it is usually the weakest piece in the game until a later phase, the endgame.
So in summary; what can we learn from this ‘endearing to some’, but ‘boring to others’ game called chess? It is so important to plan for the future, even if you fail, at least plan something. Don’t blindly move your pawns without thinking about the outcome. Before you decide to make a move, imagine the scenario and how it will influence your game plan. Your actions will have implications, results, consequences and feedback. Sure it may go terribly wrong but you may well “checkmate” if you stick to your plans and keep moving toward your desired goal. At times I have had to sacrifice a pawn or two in order to win the game or change direction. Sure there are casualties and your dreams may crash and burn, but the game goes on. I don’t say that heartlessly, but I say it with huge respect for pain and the lessons it has taught me. Sometimes goals of a lesser importance must be left behind, in order to embrace the possibility of new things; again something that is easier said than done. Timing is everything, learning to predict the season you are in and the right piece to move or sacrifice. But through all of these endeavours to get it right, the beautiful “checkmate” could be just moments or seconds away. You must fight for what is yours, and this is what (life) and chess is all about; protecting and persevering!
I am learning to play the chess rules again. It is indeed mirrored personally in my own life presently. I must not be passive, or I will be destroyed at the first hurdle. I must be proactive, resilient, brave, courageous and sharp. I must focus all I am on the next game of play; being silent in thought while at other times bold and advancing. I have to be tenacious yet humble. Any sign of overconfidence and I could lose my concentration and be tripped up by my own pride. Are you with me? Are we still talking about chess or are we now firmly challenging our own game plan for life? Well truth be known, life is far more serious to me than chess, but the similarities can be used to reveal our deepest convictions and strategies for life.
I know my chessboard, and all I have is firmly watched over by the greatest game plan giver there is. He helps me make my moves and decide where I should protect a piece or where I should sacrifice a dream in order to achieve something else. He can position me in places I never ever thought were possible, and many times He has. He wrote the rule book and has given it to those who ask. I asked Him many years ago to come and change my approach to life, to take over and change the course of my life. Not only has God done this in my life, but I know whatever befall, whatever sacrifices I must make, the end result (checkmate) that He plans for me will be blessed, and fruitful and eternal. The game is not easy at times, but it need not be so fearful anymore. But this is only because I have the Grand Master coaching my every move and guiding my every step. There will be times when I have to take risks and jump to new places that seem daunting, but I know He sees the outcome and when I do it His way no move is wasted.
“When it comes to chess… You have to have a fighting spirit. You have to force moves and take chances.” (Bobby Fischer)
In closing; play the best game plan you can, muster all your resources together, keep the end in sight and play fair. Love the journey as well as those who play the game with you. Make the best moves you can, based on what seems good and right at that moment. Listen to the Grand Master, He’s speaking; you will hear Him if you listen.
Do you know that there’s someone beautiful, amazing, talented, incredible, strong and precious who needs you today? They need your resilience, your love, your optimism, your faith, and your belief that they can do anything that they set their mind on. They need your encouragement and your approval of them as well as your support when they fail. They need your pat on the back when they doubt they can make it. They desperately need your courageous discipline when they settle for less than what they’re capable of. When life crashes in on them, it’s your unconditional love and sustenance that they yearn for. When some days seem more lonely than usual, and it appears that there’s nobody to lean on, they cry out needing your assurance. When a dream shatters like glass into a million pieces, it is you they need to inspire and encourage them to get back up and try it again.
When they’re not feeling their strongest and life is a bit like a boxing ring, it is you who helps them muster the strength to get up off the floor and throw their best left hook ever. It is you who speaks softly to them that they’re as amazing now as they ever were, that scars and all, they’re still the best thing since sliced bread or before it. When nobody notices they had a hard day but still managed to conquer their fears anyway, it is you who hands them the bravery award.
There is no other in their life able to motivate them to believe that God has not forgotten them, or that there will be greater days ahead and new promises to glean from the field of life. It is your wisdom that directs them towards the faith they hold so dear, knowing that it steadies them on the tightrope of life. In the day to day routine of this individual, you are the one who calls the shots in the choices they make.
Who is the person who needs you?? Have you any idea yet?
Well it is you. You need to be your own cheerleader. They say “Self praise is no praise!’ do you agree? Hmmm well I guess it depends on the context, like a lot of things people say. So if I were to ask you about the cheerleader inside you, what picture do you immediately think of? Are you a strong supporter of your own achievements? Or do you sit around waiting for the applause of others to determine whether or not you did a good job? Sure we need the heart of God to show us unconditional love, and we need our family and friends to help us through thick and thin, but you need to cheer yourself when there seems to be no one on the field wearing your colours! There is a God in heaven who thinks you’re the bee’s knees or the wasp’s ankles, but if you don’t rise up to accept the role of a cheerleader in your own life than you will never really believe you can do anything of substance. You will end up believing there is nothing resembling a legend within you.
So come on. Get your pompoms out. Start to cheer yourself on. Position yourself in your own corner; I guarantee this will make you a faithful and amazing cheerleader in the lives of those around you. Let it start now, believe what God says about you and it will certainly influence your behaviour. Tell yourself you are amazing, for that is what is true about you! Right now it’s your “cheerleading heart” that needs to know that whatever comes your way, you believe you can face it head on! And the voice of God cheers you on every step of the way. If you cannot hear the cheers from your own dear heart sweet one, then you may never allow the cheers of those around you, or those of God to really influence your picture of who you are.
So, get those coloured pompoms out, begin to sound those cheers! Change the conversations you have with yourself, don’t be your own worst enemy! Loving yourself is not a crime, once it is balanced with a good dose of humility and regard for others. Let the sound of your own voice lift your heart up with gladness and hope, it is a beautiful thing! You will know strength even in the most heartbreaking circumstances. God will sweep in, as He runs to lift you up. Your faith will begin to grow and soon you will barely recognise yourself. Don’t be so quick to put yourself down for consequently you will sabotage your efforts and your very relationships.
If you abandon yourself, then what a sad heart you will develop. Start to tell yourself you are so proud of all you have achieved today. Yes it may feel awkward at first, but when the battles come which they will, you can be sure that you’re standing in your own corner, cheering loudly what God and all those around you, already know is the best thing about you ~ You just need to believe it yourself! Come on, you know you want to. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
Be of good cheer, those who cheer themselves on can’t help but cheer others on too! =)
“Encourage your heart and strengthen yourself in every good deed and word.”