Thursday, September 25, 2014

We Can't All Be Monarchs!

Oh I am blessed! I have available to me two hours every other week in which I volunteer at Sugar Sand Park in Boca Raton, FL. I am a Butterfly Garden Guardian! Who would have ever thought this Jersey girl turned Floridian would dig and plant, re-plant and chat away with flowery faces in a garden all year round?

Growing up, I had a dream one day of becoming a Horticulturist. But that did not happen. I became a Culinary Arts/Hospitality major instead.

I remember the white metal plant card my Grampop gave me one year for Christmas. My dad assembled it mumbling that it was a waste of time because he assumed I would soon tire of this gift like I did with all the other childhood toys I had acquired in my young life. When most 7-year-olds were listing Barbies and plastic mini kitchenettes on their "I've been good" list for Santa, I was begging for a watering can and plant cart.

The plant cart was set up. I did not receive potting soil for Christmas, though. I remember going out into our backyard, with  my winter coat and mittens in search of some dirt I could dig up from the frozen ground. I stabbed at that lifeless Terra-firma until a few caked pieces of dry dirt encased in ice were placed into my black plastic pot. I placed a saucer underneath, plunked the pot down on the cart and went back out in search of another pot, saucer and spot of land in which to repeat the arduous task.

I did not have seeds, plants or anything to place in these pots, which now sadly sat (sans plant life) on the white metal cart in my bedroom. And so, I cut a piece from the hanging Wandering Jew plant (which my Grampop mostly likely bought me!) that hung over the doorway to my alcove on the way to the attic. I snuck a glass from the kitchen (later got caught and had to replace that glass with a pickle jar) and patiently waited for that Wandering Jew to root. And it did! I propagated many plants from that one sickly Wandering Jew hanging basket. My white metal plant cart soon held many black plastic pots with dusty hard caked mud with Wandering Jews. As I sit here now and think back about those days of carefully tending my "garden", I am slightly regretful. I had done everything alone. I could have learned so much about the plant which held a name which I now know had Biblical significance. Alas, fast forward to today.....

I am standing in the middle of Sugar Sand Park being given a beautiful gift and card signed by staff members of the park. These three special people made up an international holiday which they called "International Butterfly Garden Volunteers Week" (or something like that) in order to bless me and show appreciation for my time in the garden volunteering. They gave me a purple shirt (my fav color) which listed "Advice from a Monarch" on the front along with a picture of a Monarch. The advice was so good but my favorite was the very last line, "We can't all be Monarchs!".

And so, I was convicted. God, I was never created to be a Monarch. I was instead made to be a White Peacock Butterfly or Yellow Sulphur! I was set apart for Your purposes to do Your work. Whether I am alone or with wonderful people like those as Sugar Sand - You see me. You give me JOY. You put a song in my heart and a smile on my lips and the voice I hear in stillness is Yours. As I weed and water and wonder - - as I sit and look up into the Slash Pine hammock overheard, you send Zebra Longwings and even Banana Spiders to intrigue me. I do not see the possibility of a sting when I see the deadly creepy crawly creatures (or bees pollinating two inches from where I prune), but instead I observe an intricately woven crystal dew drop design - a glimpse of the beauty of my Creator - - who wants me to see the magnificence of His design no matter where I am.

After moving to Florida, I remember walking one day through my neighborhood. I was quite shocked to see an entire lawn of Wandering Jews! There were even variegated varieties!!! I took a picture. I could not even believe my eyes and I did say aloud, "You are too funny, God. I spent how many arduous days and nites trying to keep one tendril of a Wandering Jew alive in a pot filled with caked lifeless dirt - - and here these grow as weeds. Ha ha ha God!"

If I were a Monarch, I may have missed God's humor. I may have just blindly followed the leader all my life and just migrated through every season without being rebellious and then not being the prodigal and missing out on so many miracles because I left and then came home. I would no doubt have become boring. My nickname would not be "Flower Child" and my favorite color would possibly be black! But it's not. I bucked the system. I flew above flowers I could have easily landed on. I took a different flight....

Yes, though I volunteer at a butterfly garden, I have also expanded my personal "white plant cart" a bit. My garden has grown.  The soil is no longer depleted or chemical laden. I actually have delved into Vermiculture and have worm friends that rely on me for food. We have Gulf Fritallaries, Yellow Sulphur, Giant Swallowtail, White Peacocks - - and of course we always have Monarchs. My neighbor came over recently and as she held the baby Milkweed sproutlings and baby Monarch catepillar I was sending her home with- she looked at me and exclaimed, "You are like a Buddhist!"

I looked at her and said, "I was not a Monarch in a former life and certainly have not and will not come back as a Monarch in my next life. This is my one and only life this side of Heaven. Not a Buddhist. I am a born again Christian. I realized my need for a Savior when Eve in the Garden made a very bad choice. It all started in the garden. Sin. And now I realize just because sin entered man in the garden, the garden does not have to be a place of death. Instead, we bring life to the garden. The Master Gardener is God."

She had questions. We sat in the shade. I continued the conversation by asking her if she would like to hear about my white metal plant cart. She did. She also listened as I shared my Wandering Jew crusade. I didn't have any Wandering Jew to send her home with, though. Those plants are everywhere by the roadside here in South Florida.Some consider those plants weeds. I like to think of them as humble beginnings for greater growth.

There is relationship in the garden. God knew what He was doing when He created the very first garden. He also knew what He was doing when He made my Grampop buy me that white metal plant cart. I am grateful - - even though I will never be a Monarch!

Isaiah 58 (NLT)
1“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israela of their sins!
2Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
13“Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beautiful Feet And A Message To Pen

When my husband and I were first dating, he shared a publication with me which his present employer had shared with him. The complete reading of a booklet was mandatory for all new hires  of the formerly named boat " 'Can't Touch 'Dis". This booklet was titled A Message to Garcia and is written by Elbert Hubbard.

You may wonder why I am mentioning this publication 17 years after my husband first introduced it to me? Ah - - because A Message to Garcia has been an encouragement to us as a married couple and as individuals. Whenever I begin to even think about procrastinating, my husband Vinnie will kindly say, "Message to Garcia". Instantly, I realize what I need to do. This mention of the booklet is an immediate end to procrastination.

A Message to Garcia:
Col. Andrew S. Rowan retired in 1909 but his service during America's war with Spain was the inspiration for this work which Elbert Hubbard wrote in one hour!!

I challenge you to order a copy for yourself. They can be ordered for $1.37
Picking up this publication from the front of the magazine rack today renewed my belief in what a procrastinator I can be. This booklet was placed in front of all the fun-to-read magazines. By who? Why? My husband was most likely leafing through it for a quick injection of Nike's version of Just Do It ("Garcia style").

Conviction and speaking aloud to God
Lord., you have a work for me to write. You have graduated me with flying colors from JBJ's Christian Writer's Guild. You have provided everything I need to write the book you have the Holy Spirit waiting for me to pen. And so why do I sit on my hands?

And there is that still small voice. You are afraid of failure. So instead of try, you don't even reach out your hand for the message. You don't show up for instructions. You sit on your hands. You wait for someone else to write the book I had planned for you to write. You push Cuba out of your mind and watch The Bachelorette, post to Facebook, shop on Ebay....

Well no, God didn't speak the last sentence (but I thought it - yikes!). James 5:17  reminds me, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months." So like God to help us relate to those in the Bible who had a relationship with the Creator of the Universe but who struggled with the same "feet of clay" we have.

Psalm 40:2 reminds me, "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,Out of the miry clay,And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps."

"He" is the Creator of the Universe. I am referring to God.

You have that book to write. A message to bring to the inmates. A job to perform. I am waiting for you to take A Message to Garcia.

Yes God. I hear you.

The Bible tells us that those who bring the Good News to others do so with beautiful feet. Honestly, I would not make this up. Romans 10:15, Isaiah 52:17. And there is so much God says about feet in general! Oh why not?

In a last thought of the main character in Elbert Hubbard's book, A Message to Garcia; (without being a spoiler) Col. Rowan did what he had to do. He followed directions and did not make excuses. He made it happen. Whether he had beautiful feet or mud-caked, worn boots from traveling through the jungle - he accomplished that which he set out to accomplish. Done. Finished. End of story.

I know another "person" who did that which He was called to do. His story seems to have ended on 2 rugged trees that formed a Cross. His feet, known to be bloody and bruised - were still - undoubtedly beautiful. Isaiah 53

Deep sigh. Taste the tear which has found it's way onto my lower lip which I hadn't noticed til now I had been biting. I will carry Your Message, Lord. Now where's the remote? (smile). I have to turn off the Bachelorette! 

After all, I have a message to carry. My feet are beautifully painted, prepared and appointed for the trip ahead. No more excuses. My Cuba awaits. I have an ocean to cross and a jungle to trek. But no worries, I am sure of this mission! I have a book to write.

Do you procrastinate? Email me and tell me about it. 
Confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed. You are in good company. 
God never said life this side of Heaven would be easy. But He did promise we would never  have to navigate it alone!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Best of Me

I have always wanted to be a ballerina! This is a confession I have held close to my heart for a very long time. I remember as a little girl watching the Nutcracker on tv and being so excited to see this production live at a local theater one Christmas. As an adult, I stumbled across Boca Ballet Theatre, which offered classes for adults. I enrolled for the mere fact that this class was for beginners - for those who had never donned pink tights or black leotards. The first class I remember looking down at my new pink leather ballet shoe as I stood and swept my foot across the gypsum floor. Swooosssshhhhh.... This was the sound of a dream long delayed. A fantasy being lived. An experience I did not feel worthy of having!

I looked forward to the weekly class. There were women of all ages, and we giggled when we could not get the sashay portion just right. I really liked the part where we would all go to the barre and stretch in unison. My feet were slowly moving before my brain to the direction of the instructor. Our instructor was a porcelain skinned flame red petite Russian woman whom I secretly wished I could become. For three straight years we all attended each performance of the Boca Ballet, as we would meet different students throughout the year. The students would perform with the professionals. I felt so proud as I watched the performances, that I knew the position of their feet and what each foot stance was called. I was learning!

One day in our living room as I chatted to my husband just minutes before going to my ballet class, my husband cut me off in mid sentence, "You were born for ballet." I smiled as a lump formed in my throat. I hugged him and did a quick pirouette just because I knew how! I then threw a sweatshirt over my leotard, tied my black skirt around my hips, then threw my pink shoes in my bag. I was out the door on my way to a place filled with beautiful music, people, and bodies that existed to dance.

Why did I miss out on this joy all my life? Why did I not do something I was born to do? Tears began to trickle down my face. I had known all along the answers to these questions, but stuffed them deep down until now. My mother told me the shoes cost too much. Most likely lessons would have as well. And it was not hard to realize the effort and time spent on this activity would no doubt take her away from my other 3 sisters and my father and her full time job. The shoes being expensive were probably the one reason my mother gave, and I had never pursued ballet afterward.

I swam with reckless abandon(and now swim Boca Gold Masters), ran spring track, tried my hand at field hockey, tennis and cheerleading. Swimming was my sport. I had success in a sport that took the place of a skill that I had been born to do.

And God says to me as I sit here and type these honest-hard to hear words,  "I knew you before you were in your mother's womb. Every day ordained for you." (Psalm 139)

Yes God, I know you were and are and always will be in control of everything in my life. If you had wanted me to be a ballerina, I would be a ballerina.

And yet, the best of me? The best of me is who I am today, not what I could have been or wished I had been. The best of me is accepting God's plan for my life. And using the gifts and talents He has given me to bless others and to inspire others to achieve what God has given them to do.

I am grateful to be a resilient person. My husband always calls me a cheapskate. I learned this from my father and his father. My father was always so frugal and worked very hard, but now I am grateful for this trait of his because he is financially independent and doing well in his retirement years. He saved many years and now is reaping the fruits of his labor. In many ways, this is wisdom!

During the bad year of South Florida hurricanes, I remember being quite proud of my ability to get things done without electricity for 13 days straight. I remember going to the neighbor's house (we were "communing" for meals during the outage as it was easier and more fun to eat dinner this way each night). I decided I would make a loaf of bread in my bread maker hooked up to the generator. Yes! A loaf takes 4 hours. I had resigned myself to realizing this would not work as it was a gas generator and not too powerful. However, when I showed up with a loaf of fresh bread (no stores were open for miles and miles and everyone was rationing gas) everyone cheered. I realized defying the odds in this situation allowed the best of me - the person who could press forward toward a goal and win. (Philippians 3:14) I took what I had been given and made the best of the situation. This is just one example for me personally regarding "blooming where you are planted". Everyone has their own story about what they do when life gives them lemons.... (personally, I would use them to highlight my hair - the cheapskate that I am ha ha!)

Today, after many years, the original ballet shoes I bought for my very first class are proudly displayed. I will never be able to part with my first wraparound skirt or leotard. My first pink tights may dry rot and turn to dust, but I will keep them forever. God gives us dreams fulfilled. He promises this in the here and now. He will restore the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25). The locust has eaten many of my years, but the Lover of my soul, the Lord who made me will never stop reminding me that I am His princess ballerina, His beloved daughter in whom He delights. I dance solely for Him, I pirouette like the ballerina on the jewelry box I cherished as a child. The Best of Me has been sculpted and developed for the Perfection of Who He is. As long as He is happy with who I am and who I have become - I will continue to sashay closer toward Him in my pink tights and black wraparound skirt. One day I will enter His gates wearing a robe of pure white. I might just wear my ballet outfit - just because after all, I was born to be a ballerina!!!