So these are the last group of wise words that came to me as we were doing our retirement ride. I know there will be many more words of wisdom to share with you, there are so many wise people past and present! But these particular words just seemed to jump out of the woodwork wherever I found myself in those twenty days traveling this continent.
“Life is a mirror – if you frown at it, it frowns back; if you smile at it, it returns the greeting.” (Chinese proverb)
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” (Jim Rohn)
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)
Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, in as much as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.” (John Keats)
“Take time every day to do something ridiculous.” (Philipa Walker)
“Insist on yourself. Never imitate.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” (Thomas Merton)
“You’re the strongest person I ever met, she said, I said, you too and we decided we’d know each other a long time.” (Brian Andreas)
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” (Helen Keller)
“Most people don’t know there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss your life.” (Anonymous)
“Your outer world reflects your inner world; peaceful thoughts produce peace.” (Joan Gattuso)
“Every artist was first an amateur.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
I have already accumulated more quotations to share with you, so it won’t be long before another “Shared Wisdom” posting reaches you. I think my secondary mission in life may be to spread these words to as many people as possible.
I have to write about grace because in recent times I have become very aware of how much grace has poured into my life over the years, and especially in recent times. It is with quiet joy that I realize that the first three letters of the word grace are the same as the first three letters of two other words that are dear to my heart : gratitude and grateful. There is no “coincidence” here. I think that grace is intrinsically connected to gratitude and being grateful.
Because I am a Christian I have a very specific belief in grace and what it is. Grace for me is a gift freely given by God to those who choose to receive it. Yes, I believe as with any gift, the recipient has to have hands wide open and be willing to accept the gift of grace. Within this concept, I also believe that grace is huge, ever present, all around me, and is mine for the taking – or for anyone else to take if they so choose. The God of my understanding is generous with the gift of grace and is in a state of constant giving. I am the one who chooses to refuse or ignore or throw away His/Her gift.
Another way that I define grace is as God’s love. As a believing and practicing Christian I experience God’s love in so many ways in my life. As I sit,stand, or lie in the arms of my husband I experience grace. When I accept or give forgiveness, I experience grace. If I am in a state of turmoil or sadness and take time to place myself in God’s loving presence, handing over any pain to Her/Him, I experience grace. Looking at a newborn baby, I experience grace. Taking in the beauty of Spirit’s creation, I experience grace.
Grace has flowed continuously into my life as I have been on the spiritual path. I have been gifted with so much that as I look back over the last thirty years I am amazed at the richness that has been poured into my life through grace. To try and chronicle all of it would take several tomes. So just looking at recent times I will attempt to give examples of unexpected grace that has come to me.
My sons live in Italy and so I do not get to see them often. Especially with today’s economic crisis, the money required to cover a round trip is prohibitive and not at all readily available. But God provides. Two weeks ago my eldest son was sent to Newport News, VA to attend a work-related conference. I’m no spring chicken any more, so to make a nine-hour road trip alone requires quite an effort on my part, but a God-given opportunity (grace) to spend a few days with my son was not to be passed up. He was being sent to “my part of the world” that allowed me to see him. That was grace.
Because I made that drive, I was given another opportunity to experience God’s grace. On the drive home I chose to stop in Fayetteville, NC to spend an afternoon and over-night with a dear sister-friend LeeAnn. LeeAnn is another spiritual sister that I am blessed with, so to spend time with her is to spend time in focused personal and spiritual growth. We don’t talk about the weather or what work is like. We dive in deep and soak up our time together because it affords us the opportunity to share so much.
Going back abut 6-7 weeks, Richard and I traveled to Seattle, WA. That was a total gift in and of itself. Because he was travelling for para-professional reasons, his room was paid for. He had a bunch of frequent traveller miles racked up, so we were able to cover my air fare. This gave me the opportunity to be able to visit with a dear friend, George, who I hadn’t seen in twenty five years!! Can you imagine the gift (grace) that was for me. On that same trip I was also able to spend a day with a woman who I had befriended a year earlier in Florida. And the grace flowed!
As Richard and I travelled home from that trip I had an amazing experience. Richard dabbles in photography and of late has played with time lapse using both still shots and video. He decided to video our flight home filming two or three minute segments at various points along the way. As we flew into the night we hit some pretty turbulent weather and a storm raged outside. (I reminded God to keep us safely in the palm of His hand and reminded my Guardian Angel to come alongside and hold the plane up!) Richard was filming the lightening and nudged me to take a look at the view from the window. This I did, and it was quite spectacular: wide flashes and forks of lightening.
As I watched I found myself not only looking directly out of the window but also glancing into the screen of Richard’s camera as he was shooting film. All of a sudden, in the screen I saw her, a magnificent angel with huge wings, hair flying out behind him/her, robe streaming in the wind, and arms reached out under the belly of the plane. I gasped and said “Look at her!” Richard turned in and looked around the plane and said “Who, Babe?” I pointed into the screen and said “Her, the angel.” He looked into the screen and said, “I don’t see anything Babe.” I pointed again and said “The angel, look there’s her head, her wings, her robe, and she’s holding the plane in her arms.”
Now Richard is very patient and understanding of me and fully accept that I am a little “different”. So gently, but without any hint of disbelief, he said “I don’t see her Babe.” Momentarily I felt panic and decided to look directly at the angel out the window, but I couldn’t see her. With my heart sinking I looked back in the screen and there she was – clear as daylight. I then thought that perhaps I was seeing a reflection of something in the screen, so I took hold of Richards hand and moved it from side to side. But there she remained as clear as could be.
I invited Richard one more time to “see her”, but he shook his head and said “I can’t see anything Babe, but when we get home we’ll play the whole video and see what shows up.” But I knew she wouldn’t “show up” on the video. She was there as a grace for me to see and to know that God was taking care of us. I am grateful for the gifts that God has bestowed upon me and I do not take them lightly. The gift of His/Her grace is a wondrous miracle that I humbly accept.
I created my garden to be a place of joy and happiness. Somewhere that I could retreat to and rest. A sanctuary away from the chaos that is the world outside. I created it to be full of God’s natural beauty with flowers and plants and small items of garden art.
I have worked hard to make this creation but it is work that I enjoy and find to be very therapeutic. Gardening is good physical exercise and therefore is a great workout for my body. It is also wonderful spiritual exercise because I usually combine plenty of prayer work as I dig, plant, prune, and weed. So the garden offers me the chance to nurture myself on the physical as well as the spiritual level.
For me there is nothing like being close to God’s creation to fill the heart with happiness and the soul with joy. Watching green shoots emerge from seeds sown several weeks earlier is like having access to my own personal miracle show! And when the plants grow and flowers bloom, filling the garden with perfume and color, I experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment like no other.
However, what I did not plan or expect was the incredible daily show that the hummingbirds put on for us. In past years I have certainly been aware of the presence of hummingbirds in my garden. But this year has been an amazing experience. It is almost as though they have made my backyard their official playground.
I have a wonderful plant, which I know as Orange Trumpet Vine, that grows along much of the border fence in the back yard. It also grows up and around the mailbox out front, and climbs up one of the columns on the front porch, trailing over towards the other column about six yards away.
When I made the major renovation to the garden this spring, I “transplanted” the trellis archway from the back yard and made it the focal point of the newly enlarged front flower bed. With the help of my friend Linda I managed to transplant the original Orange Trumpet Vine (I grew it from seeds from the island of Ischia in Italy) that grew all over the archway. Thankfully it tolerated the move well and is now healthily flourishing in its place of pride out front.
The hummingbirds love the nectar in the glorious globes of trumpet blooms that hang richly from the Vine, and so I have always seen them in the summer gorging on their sweet treat. But I also put a new hummingbird feeder out back and would see them from time to time there. I moved this feeder a couple of weeks ago and had my husband hang it on the back wall of the house fairly near the window near my desk computer.
I noticed immediately that there was great activity at the feeder on a very frequent basis during the course of the day. Richard and I also realized that the birds seemed totally unfazed by us being on the other side of the glass and he was able to get some great video and photos of them.
Then it occurred to us that we were hidden from them because Richard had applied a mylar screen to the windows to cut down on heat in our office. So we began to spend quite a bit of time at the window watching these amazing creatures really “up-close-and-personal”. They are nothing less than miracles.
Over the last few days we have keenly observed them. Several times we have noted there were about seven or eight of them zooming in and out of the garden, up into the trees of the pine wood behind our house, then swooping down to “dive-bomb” each other off the feeder. This evening in particular we watched them as we ate dinner in the lanai and noticed some very interesting behavior.
One hummingbird would zoom down, seeming to go the feeder. But she would pull up short and just hover there as though suspended from an invisible thread – a minute angel-like figure with wings spread, beating furiously. Then a second bird would swoop in and hover about a yard above the first. And they would both just hang there, in space before suddenly zooming off up into the trees.
A little later another couple came buzzing across the yard like two F-16’s on a training flight. They twisted and turned, mirroring each others movements until suddenly one turned to face the other in mid-flight and they seemed to do a short dance in mid-air. I am not sure if all this activity is part of mating behavior or if they are just being naturally playful.
Whatever the reason, Richard and I are thoroughly entertained. These delightful creatures are truly amazing to watch. This evening among the many we were treated to the company of a handsome male. As he moved around his ruby-red throat coloring was quite spectacular. I am very happy that my garden has become Hummingbird Haven.
Check out these HD videos of the hummingbirds feeding.