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.

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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

 

Homing instinct…

A few weeks ago, I was very excited. I spotted a pair of sparrows exploring a nesting box in our garden, but my delight turned to disappointment when they appeared to reject the home on offer.
However, they’ve returned and settled! I like to think that having checked out alternatives, a secure and safe place to dwell has been recognised.

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It’s made me think how delighted our Creator must be, when having sought alternatives, we finally recognise our soul’s longing for God and come ‘home’.

Yet so often we ignore or misinterpret the yearnings of our soul.
We feel an emptiness – and so we fill our lives with the brightest and best we can afford (or not).
We sense a gap – and we attempt to plug it with successes.
We feel incomplete – and we look for fulfilment in relationships.
These things may be potentially life enhancing, but when they reach priority status in our lives, they cause us to topple. There’s an irony in the fact that the more we try to pack into our lives, be it possessions, successes or relationships, the emptier we become.

Truth is, I yearn recognition but however many ‘likes’ I may get, my ‘need’ isn’t met.
Of course it isn’t! It is only God, who can meet our true needs.
So how do we encounter God?
Simply, through honesty. If we have the courage to recognise our innermost feelings and thoughts, what is stagnant can be displaced by the life-giving water of God. Our thirst will be quenched, and as we feel more at home with God, we will be become our truer selves.
I am finding that when I allow God to show me the heart of the matter, liberation follows. I am freer from the clutch of predatory forces.

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To connect with God in our souls is to come home, and as I watch the birds flying in and out of the nesting boxes, it reminds me to connect with the homing instinct we all have in our souls. God is within each of us, waiting to offer us life in all its true fullness.

 

Truth is… I choose the God above all gods to shelter me… (Psalm 91:9)

Blossom where you’re planted

This week I had nothing to do for 10 minutes! (I was waiting in a car while my son-in-law called into his local library.)
As I sat there wondering what this week’s blog would be about, I noticed some trees lining the pavement. At this time of year the colour of autumn foliage can be breath-taking, but it was their shape that caught my attention.

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Where the trees were well spaced, each filled its place with beautiful symmetry.
In contrast, the trees that had grown in close proximity to each other had irregular branches, but viewed together as a whole there was an amazing pattern.

It got me thinking – what shapes life? Competition or cooperation?
In my school biology lessons I was taught Darwin’s theories about the ‘struggle for existence’ and ‘survival of the fittest’.
40 years later, I now found myself interested in what shapes growth – not from a scientific perspective, but from an everyday viewpoint.
What determines growth patterns, and what if we apply that question to ourselves?
– Circumstances yes, but also the level of awareness we have in our relationships with others.

Just as trees thrive best in the environment to which they are naturally suited, so too, do we. We all have different abilities (as a believer I would say God-given gifts) and we are most fulfilled when we are able to let these take root and bear fruit.
I enjoy using my practical and creative skills, and I want to be remembered as:

“a maker and a mender”

But as well as personal growth, we need to be mindful of how we fit into the bigger picture.
Just as trees grow alongside each other, and from a wider perspective can be seen to fit together, we too can flourish in relationship with one other.
Our attitudes though, aren’t always conducive to this. Truth is, I have a competitive streak, but ‘doing one’s best’ is quite different to ‘being the best’.

So this week I’m reminded to ‘blossom where I’m planted’

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– to recognise my gifts and use them for the good of others and enjoy fitting into the bigger picture – like those trees with their amazing pattern.

Truth is… ‘Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits’ 1 Corinthians 12:7

As Is – As If…

I’m reading John Ortberg’s book – Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them.
It opens with the words:
In certain stores you will find a section of merchandise available at greatly reduced prices… each tag carries the same words – ‘as is’. This is a euphemistic way of saying “These are damaged goods… you’re going to find a flaw… So when you find it, don’t come whining… [There are] no returns. No refunds. No exchanges… You must take it as is.”

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Ortberg then makes the point that the imperfections we have as human beings, put us in the ‘as is’ category.
I hadn’t come across the American expression ‘as is’, but it’s got me thinking.
There are many situations in life where we get more, or less, than we bargained for.
Any relationship will have nice and nasty surprises.
On a superficial level, someone’s irritating little habits can rub us up the wrong way, and on a deeper level, another’s emotional baggage can trip us up.

So I’m finding it helpful to remember that we all have ‘as is’ tags,
and in some relationships it can be worth talking about these together.
Not always easy, as typically we don’t like recognising our imperfections,
let alone them been spotted by others!
The point is though, that we are all flawed, and we all have a choice.
To do nothing, or do something about our flaws.

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Which brings me to ‘as if’.
Truth is, I’ve a number of ‘default’ positions that I want to change.
Solution Focused Therapy centres on the question:
‘If you lived your life without ‘the problem’, what would you do differently?’
It’s about living ‘as if’ you didn’t have ‘the problem’.
So I’m beginning to think about the things I would do differently,
and more importantly, starting to put them into practice.
It’s about taking little steps.
Sometimes I stumble, other times I shuffle, and on a good day I step out!
It’s not about ‘can I?’  but ‘will I?’

“To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

Truth is… Watch for the new thing I am going to do.  It is happening already—you can see it now! Isaiah 43:19