As I type, I am surrounded by construction work, drilling to the left, drilling to the right, and even drilling on the street outside my house. Everywhere I look there is rubble, or walls being torn down. While there is a lot of noise, in the midst of it there are things being quietly built back up: foundations being laid, walls being secured, and new designs being drawn. It is a noisy mixture of tearing down and rebuilding, in three different places. As I sit here, sipping my green tea and sharing a few quiet moments with God before the rest of my day kicks in, I am quietly reminded that our lives resemble the havoc that surrounds the place I currently call home.
Maybe you are in a season where all is being stripped from your life and things feel shaky and uncomfortable for you? It could be that there is a sense of old things dying so that they can be returned to you improved or mended? You may be struggling to surrender control over someone whom you wish you could change, or someone is trying to convince you that you yourself need to change too? Maybe you are in a glorious place of rebuilding and new things are appearing all around you, filling your heart and life with excitement and happiness? It is safe to say that all of us travel through these seasons at varying times in our lives, and we cannot always determine just when they will happen.
In the last few days, the word ABIDE, has grabbed my heart and invited me to be still, and to come away from the madness around me. This word reminds my soul that even in the midst of construction work, (whether internal or external), there is a place of deep peace. It is not found in rushing around glorifying busy schedules, but in the solitude of a quiet moment of surrender and reflection. Abide…Abide…Abide!
Are you rushing around in a state of mayhem, losing your grip on everything because you are trying to carry too much? A lazy man’s load never works, even with the things of the heart! Let it all go…surrender it to God. Choose to ABIDE in the knowledge that the only person you can change is yourself, and that God is walking and working with you to bring order to your life. I am right here with you…learning to ABIDE, when all you see is disappointment and change. Take a breath, put everything in His great big hands. Trust Him with the process, the outcome, the journey and even the tears. You are His masterpiece, so choose to abide, and let the Master take over…I know I am.
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!
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!
Well, Ireland’s chances in Euro 2012 are over, yet still a few green, white and gold flagpoles, car mirror covers and window flags are proudly displayed around the city and suburbs. During the games everyone rushed to hang their teams colours from every window sill, car window and roof top. I even saw houses fully cloaked in Irish flags or other Euro colours of their choice. I loved it. And even now when a team flag catches my eye I smile. Why? Well because it screams support. It shows commitment and dedication to a cause, all be it over! It shows the desire to stand by your team when they need it the most. And the whole world took note of the fact that although Ireland were losing and failing to qualify further, still those Irish fans in Poland sang even louder in prideful support of their lads in green on the field. So much so that the lyrics of ‘The Fields of Athenry” were posted on the front page of a Polish newspaper. When the colours we support are floundering in failure and disappointment surely that is the time they need our voices, flags, and belief in them so much more.
They say that a true and loyal fan is proven most, when they stick by their team even when failure looms and all chances of winning are gone. That’s a true fan in my book! Why wait until a team is doing well in order to show our support? It seems very easy to me to support a winning team, but true bravery and commitment are revealed by the fan who sticks by his colours when they have lost the fight. When their motivation and determination drop shouldn’t we come alongside them and stand shoulder to shoulder even more? I say a heartfelt “YES!” Supporting your team is a lot like a relationship, friendship or marriage. When it gets tough and the temptation to give up overwhelms them shouldn’t we hang those colours even higher? Wave those flags even harder? Shout those anthems even louder? Love them even deeper? Hold them even closer? For surely that’s when they need us even more. Who knows but one day it could be us needing them. When the wind and rain beat against their face; when the cold icy fear of failure torments them and when all is lost and life is crazy, shouldn’t we be the unconditional love and side line coach that screams their name out loud and says I’m WITH YOU and I believe in you? It reminds me of God’s heart towards us. As a Coach, He faithfully stands on the side lines of our lives screaming our names and reminding us of the truth that He is with us. Never will He leave us. He wore the colour red for us. His team won us over. That makes us winners too! Whoever you are…do you need to hear someone calling out your name and wearing your colours? Or do you need to reach out to someone you know and call their name? Maybe they need to hear you say you’re with them and believe in them? Goodness knows it could even be your own dear heart that needs your own acceptance and support. It is more blessed to give than to receive but as you give to others it will return to you a hundred fold. So grab that flag and hang it up through all the seasons of winning or losing. Your support makes the difference. Your love brings comfort to someone who has forgotten what it is like to have a supporter. That person who is failing and afraid needs to know you will never give up on them.
Is that person who feels like a failure today, the one who looks back at you when you look in the mirror? Then please be reminded that you have the Almighty Coach, and He thinks you are amazing. No matter how tired, worn out or confused you feel today, He is shouting your name at the top of His voice. He is cheering you on from the side lines. He knows your name and exactly where you are. Listen, and you will hear His voice telling you to get back up and wave that flag! He sees your true colours, He sees you as a winner!
I read a caption written underneath the American flag the other day…it read;
” These colours don’t run!” and my heart echoed in agreement! The courageous don’t run either…be a Faithful Flag-Bearer! Someone on your team needs you!
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.”