Re: Growth charts

Months ago I wrote about how plants are like people and the impact our environments have in our growth. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t follow up with the diversity in the ways in which plants grow, the varying ways we grow.

I’ve been joyfully growing different plants since that post in October. More recently experimenting growing red bell pepper seeds and an avocado seed from food scraps. Sustainability is something that I value, but we’ll dig into that later (yes, pun intended!) After a few weeks of nurturing my bell pepper seeds, I started to notice how fast certain seedlings were growing, while others held a much slower pace. And so, even if they came from the same bell pepper their growth charts were not equivalent, the ways they developed roots were not equivalent and the direction that they were growing were not equivalent. My avocado seed actually took more than 100 days to start a stem, and the root is much thicker in comparison to the roots found on a bell pepper seedling. I watered all of these plants the same way everyday, yet their outcomes are not totally the same. Why? I’m not going to pretend to know why because I don’t. Although, not knowing does not limit how much I can and want to take care of these plants. The uncertainty of their growth charts don’t dictate the love I want to shower them with and the joy I receive seeing them flourish at their own pace and at their own time. So why is it so hard for us to translate the same level of compassion with fellow human beings? One word: expectations. 

As only Christ can speak to me in such a way that I may be saved, so others, too, can be saved only by Christ himself. This means that I must release the other person from every attempt of mine to regulate, coerce, and dominate him with my love. The other person needs to retain his independence of me; to be loved for what he is… 

Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pg. 35-36

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together shares a powerful message about what it means to live in community as Christians during a time of hatred and great division, a hopeful byproduct of experiencing Nazi Germany. Who would have thought there was such a thing? Nonetheless, I was humbly reminded by Bonhoeffer’s book while tending to my seedlings and feeling the frustrations of navigating through difficult relationship dynamics. To put it simply, I was reminded to meet people as they are as God meets me as I am, wherever they may be in their life journey. And yes, I recognize that this is easier said than done. But if I can’t make room to see humanity being reflected in front of me, how could I carry the same level of compassion I’m willing to pour over my plants? How could I connect with people meaningfully? How could I love people truly? We learn and grow in so many ways, because we are beautifully diverse in nature. 

Always,

K

P.S. Be brave, curious and kind. 

Re: There’s a time for that

I was walking along High Park over the holiday break. The pond along the west side of the park had frozen over, some parts more solid than others. Caution signs plastered at the edges for visitors and children to mind the freezing water and unstable icy surface. Somehow ducks still found their way across the centre of the pond, swimming and splashing in the water while looking for whatever food they can find. Because there’s still life beneath the ice even if we may not see it. 

With a controversial political upheaval and continued uncertainty of when the world will open up again, it feels like we’ve been in this period of desolate winter for so long. And 2021 just started. During my chilly afternoon walk at the park, all I could think about was Ecclesiastes 3. 

A time for everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to tear and a time mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

Friends, there is still hope, we can still have peace and we can still find joy. Sometimes the fear of uncertainty overshadows the freedom of living in the present. And sometimes running away from the past dilutes the truth and beauty of its story. This might sound super romantic or to some overly optimistic, but it is undeniable…

What’s meant to be will find its way. 

The ducks find their way no matter what season. Made resilient, so will we. 

Always, 

K

P.S. In my humble opinion, strength is not the assertion of force, toughness, will power, the loudest voice in the room or even the ability to fight. Strength is confident security.   

Dear 2020

When we think about 2020 years from now there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the first word that we might all be reminded of is coronavirus or COVID-19. You’ve (2020) descended upon us with the same jolly smiles on new year’s day only to completely shatter any notion of expectation of what the year ahead may turn out to be. How it continues to be. But we would all be remiss if we didn’t see the flip side. You gave us many gifts, one of which is compelling us to be still. Surfacing the things we value most. Rooting us in the comforts of our homes. Challenging us to develop a grateful heart despite of it all. And humbling us to hope for something bigger than ourselves because in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that important. 

Reflecting on the last couple of days of 2020, the word that comes to my mind is forgiveness. It took me 28 years of existence to notice that forgiveness is actually made up of 3 words – ‘for’, ‘give’ and ‘ness’. I guess it’s not the kind of word or concept that I’ve meditated on deeply. After all, as children we’ve been taught to say sorry, to forgive then forget. Although as I’ve been schooled [the hard way] the past year, forgiveness is so much more than that. Pain precedes forgiveness, but so do choice and most of all, love. 

If we break down the 3 words that comprise forgiveness an incredible truth comes out. 

For – with the object or purpose of; intended to belong to or be used in connection with; suiting the purpose or needs of; in order to obtain, acquire or gain

Give – to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; to place in someone’s care; to make a gift or gifts

Ness – a headland; promontory (a high point of land or rock projecting into the sea or other water beyond the line of coast); cape

Nowhere in each word definitions require (or even in the literal definition of forgiveness as one word) reciprocation or reconciliation contrary to expected conventions. So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a purposeful gift that knows no bounds. And yes, I hear you when you say that it’s not that simple in practise. In fact, it’s probably the most costly gift that we all have the choice to give/receive especially when the pain runs deep, hope is depleted and trust annihilated. I get it. I have a hard time doing it too without anger or bitterness offering reasons why I shouldn’t. But who am I to withhold forgiveness when I have been forgiven?

Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongue, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words or knowledge are forgotten. 

1 Corinthians 13:8 (Passions Translation)

In a word, forgiveness is love. The kind of love that allowed for all of us to receive second, third, fourth, unlimited chances to correct our mistakes through Christ. The kind of unconditional love that sees and accepts us for all of who we are, come what may. So I ask again, how can I not extend the love that Christ freely gives me every single day? 

2020 may have reshaped our lives in ways we didn’t expect or wanted, and we may not know what 2021 may bring with new strains of the virus popping up. But this is all just part of experiencing real life – the bad, the painful, the beautiful, the fulfilling, the extraordinary. So thank you, 2020, for giving me marked moments. 

Always, 

K

P.S. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 (ESV)

Re: Plants are like people

I grew up with different kinds of plants in our family’s house, backyard and front yard. Some plants were flowers, others were edible and a few were decorative (for the lack of a better word). My mom enjoyed planting different kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs, and she was really good at it. We used to spend a lot of time jarring tomatoes or freezing them at the end of the hot days of summer. Living on my own, I only just started to appreciate the joy I get watching my plants grow week after week. And yes, I do talk to them! A benefit COVID-19 brought us this year, I guess? 

Each plant species has its own optimal conditions to flourish. Some prefer shade, some like humid temperatures, while others enjoy consistent watering. Now, I have to admit that I’ve definitely killed a couple of succulents and one cactus because of overwatering. Thankfully, the internet has a plethora of gardening websites that continuously warns us from overwatering – the common plant executioner if you will. Another thing that overwatering seemed to attract are fungus flies/gnats. They thrive in consistently moistened soils and could breed hundreds, infecting sprouts and smaller plants. All of that reminds me of how similar plants are to people. This is not a new concept, and I’m sure someone else has written about this similarity more eloquently before. Although, the aspect that got my attention was how much our plants’ environment, our environment affects not just our growth but more importantly our roots. 

The integrity and strength of a virtuous wife transforms her husband into an honoured king. But the wife who disgraces her husband weakens the strength of his identity.

Proverbs 12:4 (Passions Translation)

After reading the book of Daniel, this proverb kept coming to mind. Daniel and his friends remained faithful to the God of their forefathers despite the long exile in Babylon. They didn’t succumb to the pressures of conforming to their oppressor’s beliefs and way of life. Steadfast and in joyful obedience. Life wasn’t picture perfect, being thrown in a lion’s den and in an earthly inferno could push someone over the edge, but they remained unshaken. Their friendship and faithfulness helped them remain true to their identity – their roots. The proverb specifically mentions a wife, but I imagine we can broaden this to the person or people we spend the most time with. After all, our environment doesn’t just consist of space but people too. 

Over the years I’ve had to re-evaluate friendships I was making versus those I’d like to sustain. Are we cultivating our internal gardens with friends that reflect/support our Christ centred values and welcoming dialogue from diverse perspectives? Or do we seek friendships for approval and validation? The proverb warns us to choose wisely. And truth be told, it’s not easy to make wise decisions when we are craving attention and acceptance. We want to fill the void – feel loved. But the choice does get easier when we allow our hearts to see that the only person that could ever fill that void already loves us unconditionally. God loves us in our worst with fungus gnats flying all around, and he continues to love us as we bloom into the unique flower he designed us to be.

Unlike plants we have the choice to create an environment to live in. We have the privilege to grow intentionally, not passively. We can intervene in the kind of fruits we produce. Question is – What are you rooted in? What are the fruits of your choices?

Always, 

K

P.S. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NIV translation)