“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”
Saint Francis De Sales
Gentle Strength – both words could be seen as complete opposites, but when blended together they produce one of the most beautiful character traits a person can display. I love strong people; they are trustworthy, reliable and confident. I also love gentle people; they are safe, approachable and usually deep. Both traits have their good points, but also have their weak spots too. Have you ever worked or shared office space with a strong person, who is controlling and manipulative? Strength is beautiful, but not when wielded and used to control others in hurtful ways. Gentleness is attractive, but not when the person becomes overly apologetic, timid or passive, especially about important things.
I think there is a beautiful balance in the marrying of these two character traits; a grand display of gentleness and strength working together. We become stronger when we know where we are weak, and there is a lot to be learned in being brave enough to search our hearts in order to face our fears. How we handle our career and personal lives in these areas will determine the kind of aroma we leave when people interact with us.
How we handle defeat or victory also speaks volumes about the type of people we are; when we are victorious and pronounced the winner are we proud or gloating? It is a strength to really know ourselves, and it is an even grander accomplishment to then deal with the things we see in our hearts that we are not proud of. Sometimes not winning all the time makes us even more attractive, if our response is humble and gentle.
When I saw this image of this magnificently strong elephant with gentle butterfly wings, I was moved by the thought ‘Gentle Strength’, and the perfect balance those two traits are; but I was also reminded that it is a precious thing to listen (butterfly ears) with a gentle response. A gentle response turns away anger… “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15)
Be a strong person, but use your strength in a gentle way. Look at the areas in your life where you need to be stronger, or develop a backbone of steel. But it is also beneficial to examine the areas in your behaviour where you need to allow gentleness to govern your responses and choices.
Be brave enough to look inside, and really know yourself. What a wonderful world it would be to work, live and do life with people who choose ‘gentle strength’!
Some of you will remember my original story about that wonderful little book called, The Language of Flowers…a small quaint book, detailed in the most simple yet decorated hand painting. I first discovered this book while staying with a dear family in Atlanta, and when I first picked it up I knew it was not like any other book I had ever seen. It looked like one of a kind, a once off created manuscript, printed for one reader, for one love, for the eyes of one beholder. I felt privileged to even hold it.
I flicked though the front pages, and soon discovered that I was not far from the truth in my observations. It was indeed a very special little book. Before my eyes, were lots of hand drawings of flowers, names inserted in a calligraphy pen, and then lists and lists of flowers, and the reason one may give them to another. It grabbed my heart. How happy I was that it had been so nicely arranged where it was, so that some guest or family member may be warmed by its presence. Looking back now, it couldn’t have found a more loving or deserving home, than the one in which I discovered it.
Well this is my exciting sequel to that beautiful romantic story. Since I originally wrote about this book on Valentine’s Day, I thought another Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time to reveal some beautiful details about the author and this book.
After my previous story about this book, I received an incredible letter from Laurie (who’s mother was the object of love, for whom this precious book was written) Laurie is now custodian of the book, and wished me to know some more details about it…so please read on to learn of the gorgeous gems I was sent to share with you.
Thanks for your prompt reply. I will try to give you as much information as I have regarding the book, The Language of Flowers, and its history. The author was F.W.L (Frederik Lucas) a Jew who was my mother’s (Margaret Florence Jean Pickston) grandfather. I know little about his life although he was an artist of some standing and my mother says his work was in the Royal Academy of Art, but I cannot confirm that yet as it needs more research.
Now this book was never meant to be published and was written for his wife as a token of love, for I believe an anniversary (in 1913) or birthday from, ” Father to Mother”. How long it took him is not known but would assume some time as he secretly undertook his work every evening after his wife retired to bed. For years it lay in pieces in my Grandfather’s clothes drawer, gathering dust, until 1967/1968. My parents were at a party, when polite conversation turned to the little book, and by chance a gentleman overheard who worked for Micheal Joseph, the book publishers.
He explained he was most interested in seeing the book as Michael Joseph had not published a book like this before. So the book was sent to London and rebound/restored to its former glory, including its original handmade leather dust jacket. Then the first copy went to print on 10/10/1968, which also happened to be when I was born.
You will see numerous mistakes in the book such as paint brush marks on pages and written mistakes. A little known fact is that this book was entirely illustrated by paint brush, including all the meanings of the plants, with the exception being the forwarding poem to mother. I am not sure if the book is still in print as Penguin books have taken over and produced a run a few years back to send to every library in the U.S.A. I hope this long letter builds a picture in your mind about what I call “the little book” AKA The Language of Flowers.
I am sure when this loving gentleman worked secretly on this labour of love for his wife, that he had no idea just how very loved it would be, by his wife and so many others. Today, may you find a labour of love to embrace, and make it your absolute passion to share it with the world. Someday I hope to make it to London and hold the original in my hands, so watch out for part three to The language of Flowers saga.
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.
Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected place, where everything seems unpredictable? A place where virtually anything could happen next?
It could best be described as the most spontaneous, amazing, fearful, wonderful and challenging place your feet and your heart could ever find themselves; well I am there, right smack bang in the middle of it. Just the other day I penned the following words; “Sometimes too many choices are just too many!” (A Nisey’original)
I eagerly reach ahead to grasp the future, yet my heart holds on tightly to the memories the years have made, but hope pulls me closer and commands me to lift up my head with earnest expectation and anticipation. I can sincerely say that I am finding these days the strangest and scariest I have yet to walk through. I rarely live life with no map before me, or at least an idea of what may unfold but lately the temptation to lock my heart away is overwhelming at times ~ to live from a place where it is safe, pain-free, careful and predictable (and boring, well at least to me) is as real as the chair I am sitting on right now…. but I cannot ignore the deep desire in me to do something crazy and unpredictable.
I always thought I would have my life’s direction figured out by now, a road map to potential happiness with all the boxes checked along the way. But life has not worked out like that and I am learning lessons in hard places, yet finding unexpected joy in the crazy unforeseeable changes life brings. I guess we all go through seasons where it seems fearful and yet wonderfully adventurous. One of my favourite things to do is head off on a road trip, to wherever the road goes. Having been on some amazing road trips in Ireland, America, New Zealand, Australia, and various places from Belgium to the Ukraine, I know the thrill of these shared adventures. The sense of spontaneous decisions and the thrill of seeing where we end up tickles me pink! I love living life like that. And yet bravely and courageously my heart is saying, “Seize the adventure again Denise!”…. and so I must listen to my heart and let my passion and creativity lead me to where I really want to be. And to the ‘me’ I really want to be. Scary isn’t it?
During these past months (plus some), I have been tempted to abort the mission my heart longs for, to turn around and settle for less than I know is genuine, thrilling and passionate. I have toyed with the idea of giving up on the picture I had of the future, and settling for a less challenging route. At first I felt peace, calmness and collected repose. It is easy to feel peace when you are no longer challenging your fears or advancing into new territory in your life. Yes you feel peace at first, when all resistance fades away into living a life more ordinary, but not for long for soon that unsettled feeling of boredom will raise itself to the forefront of your heart and you know you cannot turn your back on what you need to do and really want.
So, what are you sacrificing? What dream are you abandoning and trying to live without? Maybe it is time to pick it up again? I am choosing to do it differently now. To take hold of the strength that I know God gives me daily, to speak to my dreams and my hopes, my talents and my skills to come alive again! Do you need to do the same? You may think that it is easier to ignore the longings of your heart, to run away from the deepest places of your soul, but it isn’t. May I gently and lovingly tell you that you will turn into a person who is bored silly with life. Joy will drain from you and all you dreamed of will be sacrificed for a false sense of security that you will grow to resent. Trust me, I know.
So…..right now…..think quietly ~ What is it you really long to do with your life? What is on your bucket list? What wakes you up and puts a smile on your face no matter what the weather is like? What is it that you do that makes you sigh deeply with the realisation that this is what you were born to accomplish? You know it and you feel it, you live, breathe and think about it every waking or ‘should-be’ sleeping moment. You have tried to banish it away like a vapour, thinking it is easier to live without it, but you are not living abundantly by hiding it away and ignoring it. Take some time to write it down, remember it again, realise it is possibly the thing that will rescue you from a place of unfulfilled living. Inside each of us there’s a Superman T-shirt or brave hero longing to be revealed.
Can you hear it? A whispering excitement beginning like a soft drum in your chest…. a beat that wants to sound loudly to you that there are new things to call forth from you. It is time, the clock ticks, and it waits for no one. I want to see you, the real you, shining forth in all your great yet humble talent for the world to see.
Come on…come alive! It may feel like you are stepping out onto nothing, not knowing really where you are going, but you will find it easier after you take the first step. I am beside you, cheering you on (and myself). Take my hand if you need to. Look for others in your life who have stopped living from their heart, encourage them to speak tenderly again to their dreams and listen to the deepest longing within them.
In recent days, I have had the privilege of sharing deep, honest, and raw conversations with people who are struggling through tough situations. I must say that your heartfelt transparency reveals a beautiful mystery.
The concept of finding peace in a broken place carries with it a contrast as striking as a solitary dove sitting in a broken window; sometimes there is peace in simply choosing to be still.
At times, life calls us to navigate through uncharted waters and unfamiliar paths. We may not have chosen this direction but must employ the greatest courage and strength in order to endure it. If you are a strong person, then strength is your default setting, but even strong people may still prefer to take an easier route. Unfortunately, in a broken place, there can be moments where you would rather break down than break through!
They, (whoever they are), say, “what does not kill you, serves to make you stronger“, and it is not until you find yourself in a broken place that you can honestly put these words to the test. What is a broken place? It can be a place where a promise has been broken, or a dream has been shattered. You, yourself, may feel broken, or overwhelmed by the road that lies before you, or indeed memories of days gone by. Circumstances have possibly left you tired or drained by this broken road of unwanted outcomes.
You may remember a recent post I wrote titled: “Broken Crayons Still Colour“, where I reminded our dear hearts that even in our broken seasons, we still possess the same incredible qualities and strengths that make us who we are. We can still find peace in a broken place, because the One who gives us peace still reigns and orders our steps. We may not have all the answers to our questions, nor the strength to wait patiently for those answers, but nevertheless, God is still who He said He is and He will never abandon those He is committed to. He sees what our weak human eyes cannot. He hears the unspoken prayers of our tired hearts. He listens when you sigh in the dark and pray for a way through the circumstances you find yourself in.
He knows. He hears, He cares, and He will make a way. It is in these hard circumstances that He will reveal new things to you. He is able to create something amazing where there seemed to be nothing visible or possible. He will reveal new things in His relationship with you, that will help you to trust Him, even when you are weary from wondering. There is a place of peace in this moment for you, even when all seems lost. You can walk through this situation with absolute assurance that God is walking with you and carrying you through every weary step, unforeseen challenge, and daunting decision.
Stop right now, and quietly surrender every aspect of your life to Him. Quieten your heart and allow His peace to come into your confusion and mayhem, and carry you. It is a daily choice where surrender and gratitude walk hand in hand. You don’t have to deny how you feel, but in bringing it to Him you allow the divine exchange to take place; where He takes your burdens and gives you His peace. I don’t write these words flippantly or easily; as I too am walking a road where I must decide to trust God even in the unknown. I write these words to let you know that you do not walk alone, for there are many of us walking this path with you. Others may never see the hidden disappointments and fears that we are encountering and overcoming on a daily basis, but God sees.
Even in this broken place, His peace can be your constant strength and companion.
I may not know you, but He does, and today I am praying for you.
The Strength of Networking When You Are Not Working…
These are days of uncertainty for many, days where what seems firm and reliable can change in the blink of an eye. You lose your job, or your partner loses theirs. You are plunged into what seems like a valley of fear and confusion. I am here to speak a word of hope to the hopeless, jobless or despairing… NETWORK! Get out there and meet people, talk to people, ask people for direction, take a risk!
There are thousands in the world in the exact same predicament as you, but their strength lies in the attitude they have chosen! Yes, they are scared, worried, troubled, and possibly broke, but they have made a choice to do something positive in a tough situation. You can too!
You may have been made redundant from your job, but you have not been made redundant of the skills, strengths, gifts and talents that belong to you.
You have enormous potential and given a new and challenging role you can develop in so many ways. This new season could be exactly what you need, in order to develop those skills you forgot you had.
So, start small, but start.
Dig down deep inside that heart of yours and grasp every bit of hope and tenacity you have. Do one brave thing a day. Be brave five minutes longer than you thought you could, and pretty soon being brave will become your new default response.
Begin today, right now.
You can do it! Write it down, make it plain to see every day. Decide that by this time next year, you will have achieved more than you ever thought possible. Dream big, take risks, and surround yourself with people who believe in you, and summon the very best from you.
What are you waiting for? The very best is yet to come!
“Tough times don’t last, tough people do. ” ― Robert H. Schuller