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.
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.
Earlier this year I wrote a letter To my future husband. I admit, it was romantic. The kind of stuff that reminds us of the possibility of love and genuine relationships in a world where partners are as “easy” to replace as a ratty old shoe. You thought I was going to say something about swiping left or right didn’t you? Nah. Dating apps have evolved to customized profiles and gamifying the experience so dating doesn’t seem as daunting or despondent. The thing is, the parts that make it challenging or hopeless are the parts that make it worth it.
We remember the first date not because it was like a meet cute taken out of a rom-com movie. We remember the dribbles of sweat slowly streaming down the side of his face or the sauce at the corner of her lips while she ate a burger. We cherish the way we know how they like to take their coffee or knowing their go-to order at a fast food chain. We relish recognizing the nuances of their smiles like being privy to the world’s best kept secret – one just to be nice, another during awkward conversations and the real smile that tells us that you actually feel joyful. These are the things that I glazed over in that letter. But these are the things that (in my humble opinion) matter most.
To be seen. And loved.
To be forgiven. And accepted.
To unravel. And receive compassion.
Over the years I blogged about ‘my unorthodox philosophies on love’ or love in general. Correction, I blogged about intellectualizing and rationalizing love without allowing myself to fully feel the depth of it because I was afraid of what would happen when I inevitably love someone more than myself. Living in a self-assertive cultural zeitgeist, it feels countercultural doesn’t it?
I don’t really know how to end this random blog post so I’ll just post this question – If our imperfections make us who we are, why do we look for the ‘one’ perfect person or idealize relationships when things aren’t easy?
P.S. I’m not going to quote 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It’s hard to resonate with until you truly feel His [God’s] love. Otherwise it may turn into an unachievable standard that we impose into fellow human beings. Who wants that? There’s really only one Being that could love us like that. And what a gracious love it is.
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?
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)
When the city was just beginning to reopen again, a friend and I decided to go on a hike along one of the city’s urban trails. Lush aging trees and sprouting grass awakening from the spring season’s arrival enveloped the trail, while the ravine gently flows along the path. It was a trail underneath one of the busiest roads connecting the downtown core to suburbia. But the thing that I remember most are the ruins that were once part of an unknown structure. Pieces of concrete blocks scattered against the running water and around the beaten trail. Directly above it was a bridge. Though I couldn’t articulate it at first, it reminded me of a physical representation of how I experience healing.
I started going to therapy about 4 years ago. I felt overwhelmed with a lot of transitions happening in different parts of my life. It was something that I felt I needed and something that continues to be a normal part of how I spend an hour of my life. During different seasons, sessions were more frequent than others and that was okay too. Therapy isn’t just what’s been depicted in pop culture. The practitioner may not even ask you, “And how do you feel about that?” Nonetheless, I’ve grown to see therapy similar to how you would use a shovel. When circumstances happen and you’re left with broken pieces, it’s the perfect time to create. The time to take out the shovel, dig deeper and lay down a more solid foundation. And you know what? Using broken concrete blocks is not a bad way to start because God has the power to pulverize the blocks into cement powder before transforming it with His living water into something far stronger than what it could ever be. Who we could ever be.
Reading the book of Jeremiah can be disheartening between the prophecies of Babylonian conquest and the repeated stubbornness of the Israelites to follow their own judgment of what they saw was right. Idolatry, adultery, famine, slavery, imprisonment, and bloodshed continued for years. Even so, Jeremiah’s prophecies included God’s promise of restoration beyond all of the destruction. Truthfully, I kept asking why He continues to give us grace? We have been, and are stubborn hard-hearted people.
Because despite our brokenness, imperfections, mistakes, and poor judgment, God sees us worthy of His love.
We may not feel worthy right now, and some days I lose sight of it myself. But as children created from His image, we can find our worthiness in Him. We can always count on Him to accept us with open arms because He gave us a bridge to walk on through Jesus Christ. Although, that’s not a reason to run across the bridge back and forth, between His will and what we [society] think is right. As Christians, our path may not be linear or smooth. In fact, in more ways than one, we may live lives that are against the mainstream. And that’s okay because when we try our best to walk in step with the Spirit, the journey home will still be joyful and filled with gratitude.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5: 13, 14, 16-18, 22, 23 (NIV)
‘Frank! Frank!’ she cried in a voice that made the whole wood ring. ‘Look at me. Look at me. What are you doing with that great ugly doll? Let go of the chain. Send it away… ‘ Merriment danced in her eyes. She was sharing a joke with the Dwarf, right over the head of the Tragedian. Something not at all unlike a smile struggled to appear on the Dwarf’s face. For he was looking at her now. Her laughter was past his first defences. He was struggling hard to keep it out, but already with imperfect success…