This Beautiful Fantastic

Truth is, I lag behind when it comes to films. Deafness means I have to wait until I can watch a dvd with subtitles, and I’ve only just discovered 2016’s This Beautiful Fantastic. It’s the story of a young woman, Bella, who is under threat of eviction unless she attends to her overgrown garden. In the process of confronting the issues that lie behind her horticultural neglect, relationships blossom in unexpected ways.

Bella lives with OCD, and at the beginning of the film we see her life dictated by routines.

2__TBF Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) looks out of window

But she discovers that there is more to life when she expands her horizons and starts to do things differently.
The storyline made me turn over some ground in my own mind.
Our choices can imprison us. Regret, reluctance, and resignation are powerful jailers. But we have a choice, to live in their shadows, or to begin to free ourselves from their constraints.

In the film, we see Bella begin to tackle the undergrowth in her garden by taking a pair of secateurs and making a single snip. Removing one entangling tendril seems insignificant amid the overgrowth surrounding her, but the point is that she’s made a start.

At first sight one character looks likely to lend a hand, but because he has a pollen allergy, he’s restricted to providing Bella with restorative meals and encouraging words.
Ironically, aid comes from an unlikely character, her cantankerous neighbour. However, rather than providing practical help, it’s his passion and knowledge of gardening that give her inspiration and energy.

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There are parallels here in life as a believer.
God doesn’t step in and do instant makeovers of our lives. Instead, God catches our imaginations, and nudges us to tackle the unchecked attitudes and behaviours that result in our entanglement.
It’s about partnership, and when we actively choose to respond to the Spirit, we will find that God offers us timely, enabling sustenance and encouragement.

Of course, the garden transformation would have been an easy job if Bella had hired someone else to do it, but this is a story of personal development and the difference that clearing away stifling undergrowth and entangling overgrowth can make.
So I’m choosing to let the Light in, that I may grow and blossom…

Truth is… Keep your roots deep in him  Colossians 2:7

 

How’s it going?

There’s something special about new beginnings.
I remember how I enjoyed starting a new notebook in school – all those empty lines waiting to be filled with carefully penned words!
Or newly fallen snow like a blank canvas – lots of opportunity to be creative!
Or making New Year resolutions…

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…an appealing idea, but truth is, I never had much success in keeping these!
My solution was to use my January birthday as an opportunity for another fresh start, but this too was short lived.  ‘How’s it going?’ wasn’t a thought that had a pleasing answer – unrealistic goals coupled with a perfectionist streak equalled disappointment…

With age, and finding faith, I take a different approach. Rather than making New Year resolutions, I choose a ‘word for the year’ and look for daily opportunities to put it into practice. Last year’s word was ‘trust’ (there were plenty of opportunities!) and this year’s word is ‘grow’. It’s about aligning myself with God’s hopes for me, so that I become ever more fully the person I’ve been made to be.

Like a plant that grows in the direction of the light, our growth is dependent on being out of the shadows.

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But I sometimes choose to remain in the dark. Self-doubt shrivels me; wrong priorities misshape me; fear of failure stunts me.

Thank heavens then, for a God with endless fresh starts for each of us.
We cannot live in the past, nor in the future. We can only live in the present moment, and like a present, it needs unwrapping. What have we been handed?  A little blessing to appreciate; a chance to make a small difference to someone’s day; an opportunity to face the fear and just do it!
Some days we will do better than others, but the call is to

keep on keeping on

As a believer, I trust in a God who doesn’t give up on us, and so a sense of God asking ‘How’s it going?’ is an invitation to be truly honest. It’s an invitation to let go and let God; to do our best and let God do the rest…

Truth is… ‘I make all things new, beginning with you, and starting from today’ (Song: WGRG, Iona Community)

Woe or Wow

There’s a roundabout in a nearby town that for a few months each year is breath taking – wild flower seeds have been scattered, and during the summer months it’s a mass of colour as different flowers bloom alongside each other.

I happened to drive round it earlier this week and my response was ‘wow’, but I also felt a tinge of sadness as autumn is setting in and blooms will soon be fading.

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Truth is, I’m not a winter person. I don’t look forward to the dark and the cold, but of course seasons are necessary for life to flourish.
I’ve just planted a mass of bulbs in the garden. You wouldn’t know it, as there’s nothing to show for my efforts, but I’m confident that next spring they will emerge from their deep dark setting. And that’s the point – it’s having hope in the waiting.

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This week a number of people have talked with me about the waiting time they are in:
Waiting to find work that matches their abilities and qualities; waiting for true friendships; waiting to feel more settled in a new role; waiting for an assurance to materialise; waiting for the baby to sleep through!
Many of these situations are waiting for sown seeds to take root and shoot.

As I think about these people, and my own ‘waits’, I am mindfully letting go of ‘woe’ and holding on to hope that there will be a ‘wow’ in due course:
No longer will that person be a square peg in a round hole; connections will be made; there will be a settling down; it will happen; and yes, broken nights will end!

So the roundabout flowers remind me that there are cycles in life. We have times when we visibly blossom and flourish, and other times when development is less obvious as it’s under the surface.

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And maybe these times aren’t all dark, for under the surface, seeds and bulbs are protected from harsh winds, driving rain and freezing cold. So much is happening even though on the surface it appears not, so I for one, am going to trust in what I cannot see!

Truth is… But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience’ Romans 8:25

 

Label Jars, not People…

Predictive text sometimes has interesting results, it’s given me a new name – ‘Granola’!
How did that happen?
Well, I’m a grandma, but as I feel the name doesn’t quite fit, I’m known as Granna (fusing Grandma & Joanna).
So last week when my daughter messaged me on behalf of her baby girl and began ‘Hello Granna’, predictive text re-named me ‘Granola’.

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It made me laugh, but it also made me think – do we sometimes operate along the lines of predictive text when we apply labels to people?
Recently a friend and I were enjoying a catch up, and we got talking about how to answer a question we both dislike – ‘So what do you do?’
Truth is, I feel inadequate when I’m asked this. It can be difficult if you don’t fit into a neat box with a clear label.
People at all stages of life, and in all sorts of circumstances, fall into this category:
the stay-at-home parent, the out-of-paid-work person, the round-the-clock carer, or the person who lives with a long-term-health-condition, being just some.
Sometimes of course, the ‘What do you do?’ question can be asked with interest and answers received non-judgementally. There may even be affirmation of the gifts and attributes that are being put to good use.
But other times it can feel like conclusions are leapt to, like predictive text.

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Label jars… not people

I guess we all judge and we all label. Psychologists report that we form opinions of others within seconds.
There’s nothing wrong in this, providing that we allow ‘growing room’ that allows our opinions to be changed and expanded as we get to know someone.
And maybe we should apply the same ‘growing room’ allowance to ourselves, for a well lived life is a developing life!

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I feel sorry that God often gets a bad press as the ultimate labeller, as ‘the man who damns’.
I believe that nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe that God believes in us, and longs for us to realise our true potential, in all senses of the word!
That’s sometimes easier said than done, but as the saying goes

‘If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you’ve always got’.

Truth is… The Lord will take delight in you, and in his love he will give you new life’ Zephaniah 3:17