Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FLOWERS ARE A BLESSING ON YOUR HEAD

“Blessings reaching to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills”

I don’t know about you, but my favorite time of the year is when the flower growing season is at its height.  The diversity of plants and flowers has fascinated me since I was a child as we eagerly looked for flame lilies (our national flower) and ground orchids in the veld, around Christmas time, and we would fill a big copper bowl with our findings!  I was looking for a verse that would describe the joy I felt in flowers, and I came across this verse in Genesis “blessings of the grain and flowers, blessings reaching to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. These shall be the blessings upon the head of Joseph who was exiled from his brothers.”  O wow!  That really spoke to me about God’s provision of blessing in flowers when we are feel low.  Have you ever looked across the hillsides when the hills are alive with yellow and purple flowers? Absolute glory!

Joseph had been sold off into slavery by his brothers as a young boy.  He must have felt so alone, and yet here God said the flowers will be a blessing on his head!  After I had been divorced and felt rejected, feeling like a slave with the hard grind of making ends meet after living in a beautiful home with gardens.  I was living in a small upstairs apartment with no garden at the time but was able to turn this around when I could walk around the local parks filled with beautiful rose gardens and enjoy them as if they were mine. The huge benefit of this was I did not have to be responsible to watering them, pruning or feeding them. I could just enjoy them!  This is surely what God meant about the blessing of the flowers, they are just there to be enjoyed.

When I was widowed, people kindly sent me flowers. The flowers at my late husband’s funeral were a beautiful symbol of his life and the colors of his Dutch background with huge orange day lilies. Flowers have a language of their own and the type and color can be symbols for feelings.  Red roses for love, white for a wedding, white lilies for death.  Nations have their own national flower; it is like a banner that rallies you. When you experience grief through the loss of a significant person in your life, flowers help to comfort and cheer you through the dark days. Elton John rewrote the words of” Candle in the Wind” to sing at Princess Diana’s funeral, he said ‘Goodbye England’s rose”, what a comfort that was to the English people as they mourned her loss.

As an artist, I have painted or photographed many a flower and they are still one of my favorite subjects. Flowers are used as decoration in so many places, they are architectural features on buildings and play a part in rituals and ceremonies.   The lampstands and decorations for the Israelites Tabernacle and Temple had almond flowers, rosebuds and open flowers and palm tree carved into the cedar panels, these were often covered in gold leaf. Some of the most beautiful classical gardens are drawn with small green hedges or borders and different colored flower panels in the spaces.  Cities sometimes use flowers to decorate a garden crest motif at the entrance of the city.

When you are going through times of grief and tears, when you are feeling shunned and sent away.  When you are feeling alone, go and find a garden, look at the flowers, enjoy them and meditate on them, remember God gave us flowers as a blessing. There is an old hymn about Jesus walking and talking in the garden while the dew was still on the roses. Look at those flowers and see if you can meet with Jesus and talk out your grief with him.         

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

YOU WILL NOT BE BURNED

2019-03-02 09.44.52For the past three weeks I have spoken about wind, how it disperses seed to grow, lifts us above our circumstances and give us energy to move forward.  Today I want to focus on fire which is also a necessary element to growth.  

There is a beautiful flower in Cape Town, in fact the national flower of South Africa, the Protea. This plant amongst other ‘fynbos’ plants requires fire before the seeds can germinate.  Fynbos needs to burn at least every decade to keep regenerating the species and the local ecosystem. Dormant seeds which may have been buried under the soil for a few years are triggered by the heat of the fire to stimulate growth. The fire burns out all the old undergrowth and seeds that have been carried away or buried by rodents, birds, ants and insects lie waiting and when the rain comes continue with the growth process. Depending on the heat of the fire, some may only be triggered to germinate after waiting fifty years! Fire can occur naturally with a lightning strike, accidentally with sun rays through a broken glass shard or deliberately with arson. Fires are unpredictable and so it is with the germination of different seeds after each fire and its intensity and how soon the rain falls after the fire! This is such a marvelous example of what is was like at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit arrived with wind and fire to empower the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His continued work in the world today. They did not know what would happen next! Neither do we – growth happens in unexpected ways, in fits and starts.

Sometimes when we are going through a time of intense grief and struggle, trials and tribulations, God is using the same process that the protea requires. Perhaps there are a lot of old ideas and beliefs that hinder us and need to be burnt out.  Perhaps our ‘shell’ is so hard it takes the extreme heat of the trials to trigger growth for us.  Perhaps it is the timing – it is also unpredictable.  How often we want the predictable and understandable, our routines and comfort zones.  It may then take an extremely hot fire to move us to growth. We need to learn to let go of the predictable when we go through these life transitions and rather hold on with faith, that at the right time and conditions we will grow and flourish and maybe even bloom in the desert.

Fire in the Bible had a very special symbolism. God said, ‘When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not consume you.’ God stood with Shadrach, Mesheck and Abednego in the fiery furnace and they were not burned. So, Moses was given his commission at the burning bush; Isaiah was given his when the seraphim placed a burning coal on his lips and sent him on his mission. Fire is used to refine gold and silver to burn off the dross, it symbolizes holiness, intersession and worship and incense on the altar as our prayers ascend to God.

If we were to look at our current trials through the lens of God’s growth and refining process, it enables us to use the energy of the heat to spurt on new growth and momentum in moving forward.  We may not know what happens next, but if we allow the process to take place, will we indeed bloom like the beautiful King Protea and know that God is still working with us and preparing us for our mission in life.

 

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

LET’S CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE

Boats

Do you enjoy travel and exploring new places or are you an intrepid traveler wanting someone to be with you and help you, or merely an armchair traveler living vicariously through other people’s travels?

Whichever type you are I hope you will enjoy today’s thoughts about travelling by boat.  Boats and ships were one of the earliest forms of transport for travelling longer distances instead of walking!

My ancestors travelled in a tiny sailing ship from Britain to South Africa in 1820 after the French Revolution and Anglo -French wars.  They had no idea of what waited for them on the other side, but they left everything to go and make a better life for themselves elsewhere.

I have lived in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa. Travelers in the early days called this stretch of ocean The Cape of Storms as it was where two oceans meet and has storms brewed up from Antarctica with bitterly cold high force winds that could drive a fragile boat onto the rocks, and indeed there are many ship wrecks to prove it!  Why would anyone want to travel in such heavy seas, why would you want to risk your life to move somewhere else?  The answer to that is individual, but the reason my family and I have moved from one place to another, is usually because where I am now has become difficult or untenable and I want to have hope in a better future for myself and my family.

It was after I had been through a divorce, widowhood and retirement that I made my biggest moves. I did not know what the future would be, but it certainly could not be much worse than what I was experiencing right then.  Like my ancestors who travelled on the fragile ‘Amphitrite”, they had to trust the captain, his ability to read the stars and the ships instruments. They had to trust the crew and quartermaster and their own inner strength of just ‘knowing’ this was what they had to do and put their lives into God’s hands.  When I made these moves, I had to trust that God would lead me, even in the darkness.  I had to trust that He would provide for me, even though I had no idea how I would survive, and I had to trust that I would be cared for on the journey.  I then had to step out in faith ‘knowing’ that this was the next step, and just do it!

When I reached each of my new destinations, I had to explore and find my way around.  This was not easy, but over time I settled into each new place and began to thrive again.  After I was divorced, one of the goals I set for myself was to travel and see the world. Boats, cruise ships and ferries have been a part of my journey. There is a certain wonder and expectation as you see the new landmass looming into sight and you step off the gangway onto the untrodden soil of a new place, ready to explore or make a new beginning in your life.

Jesus often used a boat while he was in Galilee, once he said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side.” He went to sleep in the boat and the disciples set off not knowing that they were heading straight into a huge storm which threatened to sink the boat. They were afraid and woke Him, he merely asked the storm to be still, and it died down. (Mark 4:35)

If Jesus was the captain of your boat, would you not trust him to be your guide and get you to the other side safely and provide for you? That has been my anchor through the storms of life and throughout my travels. If you are going through a storm right now or are wanting to set off to a new destination and would like someone to be your guide or if you are an armchair traveler, not yet ready to make a move, I would be more than happy for you to contact me through the contact form on this website and we can have a chat, I can be reached on website www.crossingmybridges.com where you can also find a free download of my map.


 

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Transitions, Widowhood

WE WILL ALL BE CHANGED

2019-01-09 14.22.23

Winter is a time for deep thoughts as we wait out the cold months to take up our lives again in Spring. I was inspired walking through the cold, snow covered graveyard in Pennsylvania looking at the headstones of people long gone from this life. I came across two headstones, marked just FATHER and MOTHER.  Whose Father and Mother? What were their names? Why had they been buried here? Many stories popped into my imagination at that time, of an adventurous couple coming to an untimely end and being found by strangers and buried in the nearest churchyard?  I left them sleeping there with their untold story.

Death changes us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”. We are told we shall have new and glorious bodies at the resurrection. That gives us hope for our loved ones who have passed on.  But I thought that verse has a deeper meaning, we shall all be changed, those who are left behind also face major changes in their lives.

What happens when your spouse dies, or a child or your parents or beloved friend? Each of these encounters with loss, changes you. How you deal with the loss and how you walk through the grief process. When my late husband died, it left me with difficult choices to make.  Should I remain in Cape Town where I had plenty of friends and support?  Should I move to be nearer to one of my children living overseas? Did I want be left alone to grow old on the African continent when all my closest family lived in America?  How was I going to earn enough for my retirement?  There were a thousand questions I had to answer as a result of my husband’s death.

The answers to those questions led me to a career change, a move to the UK and finding my feet again at age 62, that experience certainly changed me, it stretched me in every direction. I was able to grow again, instead of being settled in the mundane existence that a married couple can fall into over time. I found myself excited about life again. We are so resistant to change and yet it is the very thing that proves our limitations and our character.  I found a new joy in being able to explore my new environment, I learned a whole new skillset, I made new friends and I was able to travel to places I would never have been able to had I remained in South Africa.

Was I afraid of the unknown? You bet I was!  Yet I knew deep down that things could not remain the same, and I would have to make changes whatever I did.  Have you been placed at a crossroads in your life by loss? Are you afraid of the giant leaps you may have to take on your own?  I have travelled this path and am happy to walk beside you as you make this transition to a new place in your life.  If you would like my map and let me guide you, please contact me via my webpage ww.crossingmybridges.com