01 Mar 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: Andi Wolfe, Connie Chintall, discernment, emerging bulbs, faith, First Sign of Spring, forgiveness, growth, healing, letting go, new life, patience, trust
The skies are grey and foreboding, ushering in a wet spring. Yet the nights are still below freezing. So I often see light frost in the early morning. Our poor bulbs are forcing their way through the last of the leaves from the autumn, much like the bulbs in this photo by my friend Andi. I love the frost on the dried leaves, the tiny cave formed by the emerging bulbs, the new life seeking light out of darkness. This rich image has been part of my wallpaper for almost a year. I ponder the photos over time, until the words that do justice to the photos are revealed to me. Sometimes I write in a flurry, afraid my typing will not keep up. Other times the photo has to sink in, to teach me something, to mold me over time. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with patience. In fact, I would say patience is my main obstacle to sustained faith. I pray and wait, then pray some more and wait some more. God always answers my prayers, but seldom as soon as I would like. But is it God that makes me wait? There are times when I cling to the wintery parts of my soul, to old memories and regrets that dry up the heart and steal hope. Perhaps it’s easier to stay safe, to turtle in, to pull the covers over my head. If new life is waiting to break through, what makes us cling to the old, fearful of change, reluctant to be vulnerable? Perhaps we forget there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday, no beginnings without endings, no room without clutter. In the end, I must admit, at least for me, I am the one in the way. I am the reason the answer to prayer takes so long. God remains steadfast and merciful, ever ready to answer my heart’s desire. I simply need to open the eyes of my heart, to allow myself to be molded, to make room for the Holy Spirit to show me the way. Make time today to clear away the dried and wintery parts of your nature, to water your spirit, to nurture new life from the depths of your soul. Let go of your expectations, and make room for God to work in His time, not yours. Allow the Holy Spirit to create a new heart within you, to show you a new way, a way beyond your imagining. And always remember, when we trust in the Author of Creation, our pleas for help are transformed from mere anxiety into earnest prayer. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, Photo entitled ‘First Sign of Spring’ by Andi Wolfe ©2012, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Andi ‘s work, go to http://andiwolfe.blogspot.com/
25 Feb 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: awe, compassion, Connie Chintall, discernment, fisheye lens, prayer, Steve Ullenius, vision, wintery trees, wonder
It’s been a tense morning, home with a sick child. I’m waiting to hear back from the doctor, concerned as always that my daughter’s asthma complicates what would be a simple stomach bug for others. So I was drawn to this amazing photo by my friend Steve. This image of winter trees was taken using a fish eye lens. I can imagine Steve lying on the cold ground until he got the optimal perspective. But what really drew my interest was his comment about this photo. Steve said the trees look like the retina, so I began to ponder what we mean by the word vision. Our ability to perceive our surroundings is a complicated and nuanced gift. Those of us blessed with good vision often take it for granted, and can fail to understand the struggles of those with poor eyesight. I recall one of the first arguments my husband and I had after we married. He had moved my eyeglasses, and I was unable to locate them. I needed to wear my glasses to find my glasses. Yet what I found the most frustrating about the situation was how little he appreciated my plight. So I asked him to wear my glasses. He was astounded by how blurry the world seemed. I replied that what he saw was my world without my glasses. He needed to see the world through my eyes to understand my perspective. Like Steve’s photo, that took a bit of discomfort, but the view was well worth it. Make time today to give thanks for your ability to soak in the beauty of your surroundings. Recall the smile of a small child, or the bulbs pushing up through the soil. Consider the world through the lens of another, someone with more expertise or experience, someone who lacks what you take for granted, someone who yearns for more but is uncertain where to start. And always remember, when the wintery trees begin to block the view, all you need to do is look up. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Fisheye Winter Trees’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved
14 Feb 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: cloud of hearts, Connie Chintall, discernment, family, forgiveness, love, The Sofi's World, trust, Valentine's Day
We awoke to find a light dusting of snow, just enough to be pretty, not enough to be a nuisance. By my second cup of coffee, the snow had begun to melt. Now it feels like spring, although I’m sure it will be as cold as winter by nightfall. This time of year it’s hard to know what to expect. So I was drawn to this creative artwork by my new friend Sofi. Hearts are an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day, but the arrangement of the hearts is what caught my eye. I love how the hearts are piled onto one another, forming a cloud of love. Consider those you hold most dear in this life. How did you meet each other? Did a mutual friend or family member introduce you? Or were you drawn together by a common interest or activity? Perhaps you both attended the same church, or worked together. As you learned more about one another, you found you had more in common and the relationship grew. Then life brought along its inevitable changes. We grow closer when our circumstances are the same, and often drift apart when our circumstances differ. Like the weather, the time we spend with one another can blow hot and cold. Yet we all know a loved one who is always there for us, no matter how long it’s been since we spoke, or how many miles may separate us. We can always pick up where we left off, and continue as if it was just yesterday. That bond is like a favorite book, or our most comfortable article of clothing, familiar and soothing no matter how long it’s been. It seems to me such a strong bond is built on the hearts of many, hearts that taught us to care for ourselves and one another, hearts that live through us even when the physical heart has long since departed. Like Sofi’s art, our lives are built on a cloud of love. Make time today to reach out to those who taught you the meaning of love. Open your heart, and your mind and your soul. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, trusting in God to fill in the gaps when your words and efforts fall short. Truly and deeply listen, especially when what you hear is uncomfortable or annoying. Accept what you hear with gratitude, for only the deepest trust allows such openness. And always remember, no matter what this life brings, the Holy Comforter is only a heartbeat away, waiting to ‘heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds’ with the balm of abiding and steadfast love. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Quote from Psalm 147:3, Art entitled ‘The Cloud of Hearts’ by The Sofi’s World ©2012, All Rights Reserved. To see more of Sofi’s work, go to http://thesofisworld.com/
09 Feb 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: beauty, Connie Chintall, discernment, faith, Gemma Costa, healing, journey, roses, snails, trust
The grey skies and bleak mornings sap my energy this time of year. I even stop bothering with a ‘to do’ list, since I can’t seem to work off more than I add each day. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo by my friend Gemma of a curious snail. I love how the eye stalks are in focus, while the rest of the snail and the background are a bit blurred. The snail finds its way mostly with the shorter tentacles, reaching out to test the way ahead before proceeding, while the eyes offer a view from higher up. I first really looked at snails when I was a young officer stationed in Los Angeles. I was living in a small duplex, with sorely neglected roses all along the house. As I began to trim them back, I found more and more snails. I disturbed their habitat so they invaded mine. I couldn’t park in the driveway without running over snails, or walk across the porch without stepping on snails. The neighbors told me to put down snail bait to get rid of them, but somehow that just seemed all wrong. In fact, a lot was wrong with my life then, as my first marriage was falling apart at the seams. Sometimes I would sit on the porch praying for a way out, a way to heal what was broken, or I would be simply lost in sorrow and dismay. Then I would look up and see the snail that seemed to be going nowhere had actually made progress. It may sound weird, but those snails gave me hope, that no matter what happened, God had a plan. That plan might take a lot longer than I hoped it would, but there was a plan for me, a plan created by an Almighty and All Merciful God. Make time today to really look at what God places in your path. Let go of your usual expectations, resist the temptation to judge, and simply soak in the reminder that God is in charge. Become lost in the beauty of nature, or find the beauty in what others find a nuisance. Trust the Author of Creation who was, and is, and always will be. And remember, you can get there if a snail can, as long as you look up to find the way ahead. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Gemma Costa ©2012
23 Jan 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: challenge, community, Connie Chintall, faith, growth, Jeanne Mischo, journey, letting go, prayer, resilience, spirituality
We had a warm spell recently that even fooled my garden. Bulbs began to burst forth, flowering shrubs began to bud, and then the weather turned bitterly cold. Today the skies are a brilliant blue, with just a few wispy clouds. Looking out the window from my desk, it’s hard to conceive how cold it is. I’m captivated by the strong sunlight, rather than dwelling on the obvious signs of winter. So I was drawn to this beautiful art by my friend Jeanne, of birds migrating in a spiral. I love how Jeanne combines math and science with images of nature. A tree grows out of the center of the spiral, a tree that reminds me of the Shaker tree of life. The birds swirl around the tree, moving ever upward, ever closer to the Architect of All Creation. Life is messy by definition, and seldom what we expect or plan for. The happily ever after of fairy tales doesn’t describe most of the paths we follow. Perhaps we are too married to the idea of a straight line path, the idea that we can always see the way ahead. We call the unexpected in life sharp corners, or say we have been blindsided, or simply feel lost and alone. Some of us even allow the vagaries of this life to bury us under a succession of small sadnesses, accumulating into an existence of gloom and despair. Others are like the birds in this image, or the scene out my window. All is well, even when it’s freezing cold. What fuels this ability to persevere? What allows some to bounce back, to recover readily, to seem to defy gravity? I don’t know about you, but I cannot manage such strength alone. It takes more than just personal prayers, more than time in scripture. I must be part of a community that draws me to the center, that reminds me of the Source of All Life. I need someone to pray for me when I cannot find the words or motivation to pray for myself. I need someone to remind me that all will be well, to ease the burden, to keep me on the path ahead. Make time today to pray for those you love and cherish in this life. Ask what to pray for, and let them know you pray for them. Reach out to others and seek their prayers, trusting that God has prepared a way out of the corner you feel painted into. Let the Almighty mold your sharp corners in to gentle curves, to turn darkness into light, to show you the good in even the most dire of situations. Trust the promise of Matthew 7:7-8
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
And always remember, when we trust in the Lord our God, we become like the tree whose branches bend and sway in a storm, remaining flexible and strong amid the challenges of this life. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Art entitled ‘Spiral Migration’ by Jeanne Mischo ©2012, to see more of her work, go to http://jeannemischo.wordpress.com/
15 Jan 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: childhood, Connie Chintall, memory, prayer, Ryan Wick, sisters, spirituality, teamwork, united in Christ, working together
For the first time in many years, I have had occasion to spend time with all three of my sisters. We do not live close by, and rarely have much time to visit. Recently we have gathered to celebrate a graduation, then a bridal shower and a wedding. As we worked together, I was pleasantly surprised by how the years melted away, and we fell into familiar patterns and roles. So I was drawn to this beautiful photo of two sisters, taken by their father Ryan. I am reminded of my own father when I see Ryan with his daughters at church, but even more so when I see photos of their camping and kayaking trips. Each day we build memories, and our actions determine if those memories will be good or bad. So on this rainy winter morning I am blessed to recall family boating trips to Burlington Island, when we would swim and picnic. My youngest sister always seemed to go missing, but the island was small enough that we could easily find her. My sister that is now a civil engineer would pull plugs of clay out of the shallows, to bring home and use for her projects. My sister that is the mother of the bride would play in the sand, and gather up insects and tiny creatures to examine. I mostly swam and played in the water, talking to each in turn, and watching what was going on around me. Some would say these trips were a waste of time, that we would have been better off reading a book or honing a skill. Yet we were learning something you can’t find in a book on those sunny afternoons. We learned about each other, learned how to work as a team, learned how to be together yet give each other room. We are a group of independent, opinionated women, and often disagree. Yet when we all are pointed in the same direction, motivated by love and devotion, God help anyone who stands in the way. What I find even more amazing are the women we each call friends, often friends to more than one of us, who have also become our sisters. Make time today to create a lasting memory. Take a walk with a friend or family member, or play a game together. Pay attention to how you each react, respecting individual perspectives and methods. Accept one another as God made us, each different, each unique, each made especially for God’s purpose. Allow the Holy Spirit to bind you together in God’s will, rather than your own. Learn to work together, to understand the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And always remember, we are children of the Most High, sealed together by Christ’s blood, rather than our own. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Sisters on High’ by Ryan Wick
09 Jan 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: Connie Chintall, ladybird, ladybug, prayer, preparation, spirituality, The Little Leaf, wedding
We just returned from a family wedding, a sort of extended holiday season. We were barely beyond Christmas and New Year’s when the big day was upon us. It was so good to see family and friends join together to celebrate with the happy couple and pledge their support to this new marriage. Yet the happy day didn’t just happen. Planning and preparation began last winter, along with many discussions and suggestions from all around. So I was drawn to this lovely photo by my friend Alana of a ladybug, or ladybird as they would say in New Zealand, amidst beautiful flowers. This little beetle has chosen the most tightly closed bloom, instead of landing on the wide open flower to the left. These flowers seem to emerge from a translucent film, slowly opening and unfurling their petals for all to see. A wedding is a lot like these flowers. Some guests may only see the open bloom, while others helped along the way. Perhaps some brought their experience from years gone by, like the glimpse of the open bloom to the right. Others listened patiently or offered new ideas, helping balance the needs of two families that became one. Yet we often forget the few who shun the spotlight and are content to help in the background, allowing those they love to shine the brightest. Make time today to be someone else’s ladybird. Listen without interruption, go beyond just the spoken word, seek to understand what is left unsaid. And always remember, when you let go of the need for outward recognition, the work of your heart will be its own reward. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Ladybird and Flower’ by The Little Leaf ©2012, used with her permission. To see more of her work, go to http://thelittleleaf.net/
01 Jan 2013
in Reflecting on......
Tags: challenge, commitment, discipline, enough, prayer, Rocky Ridge Refuge, snowman, spirituality, trust
2012 was an eventful year for us, like a daring roller coaster ride. There were a few too many ups and downs, with steep climbs and deep drops, unexpected turns and blind corners. Despite the challenges, we trusted all would be well, and took time to celebrate the joys life brought us. So I was drawn to this unusual photo by my friend Janice, of a snowman perched on a pappadom chair. I love the tiny carrot nose, the little stick arms, the eyes and buttons embedded in the snow. On a day when most of us would have given up on the idea of a snowman, Janice chose to make this little guy instead. Where others did not see enough, Janice saw what was sufficient. Like my grandmother, she made due with what was at hand. I recall a worn out sampler that hung is her kitchen ‘Use it up, Wear it up, Make due, Do without’. We may have had a grocery store nearby, but almost all of our ‘big’ shopping meant a train ride into Philadelphia. Her shopping list hung on the cork board until we had the money and time to make the trip. Even then, at least a few items would be crossed off the list because we found a way around what we thought was so necessary to replace a few days or weeks earlier. Yet it was my grandmother who paid for my dance lessons, because grace was as necessary as the air we breathe. When Nana saw what really mattered, what nourished our bodies and souls, she ruthlessly assured we had the resources we needed. I did not grow up with designer clothes, or gourmet meals, or fancy vacations. I was offered something more precious – the knowledge that following a dream may mean sacrifice, that every decision has a cost and consequence, that there is a huge difference between what we want and what we need. Make time today to ponder the blessings of this life, the healings that have been prepared, the love of family and friends, the prayers of others when you have lost the will to pray. Stop doing and begin to just be. Let go of worldly expectations, resist the temptation of scarcity, trust you have what you need. And always remember, when we each live into who we are, there will always be more than enough to nourish our bodies, our hearts, and our souls. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo by Janice of Rocky Ridge Refuge. To learn more about Janice and her dream, visit http://rockyridgerefuge.com/
21 Dec 2012
in Reflecting on......
Tags: Christ Child, commitment, discipline, HDR Photo, hope, journey, prayer, Rusted Barn, spirituality, Steve Ullenius
Science and technology are often portrayed in opposition to faith, something to be avoided, a temptation we could do without. Yet every aspect of life offers us an opportunity for good or evil. We love legends and myths because these stories endure across time, illuminating a greater truth about our human condition, showing us that each day we are facing a battle between good and evil. So I was intrigued by this amazing photo by my friend Steve. He took five frames of the same scene and combined them, to obtain a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. I love the rich colors against dark clouds. The barn, the trees, the fields plowed under for winter, glow against the looming sky. Yet what first drew me to this image is the pothole in the drive. How often do we let something small impede our progress? We look down, instead of ahead, and lose our way home. We look for a well kept cottage when our true destination may be a weathered barn. Like Steve, perhaps we need to slow down and take more than one quick look. We need to persist in our quest, endure and overcome the obstacles, look beyond outward appearances. Make time today to choose a random act of kindness over a hasty and impatient response. Slow down and breathe in the love of God, thankful for what life brings, focusing on just this moment. Take one thing at a time, stay on the right path, do good even when no one else notices or bothers to say thank you. And always remember, it’s when we look beyond the rust and peeled paint that we find the Christ child, laid in a manger, the tiny miracle that brought salvation to the world. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Framed’ by Steve Ullenius, All Rights Reserved
19 Dec 2012
in Reflecting on......
Tags: centering prayer, commitment, discipline, fog, Heidi Anne Morris, hope, intercession, spirituality, trees, trust, wonder
I sit in a chair that faces the window for my morning devotions. Our home is surrounded by trees, and I can view a large stand from that window. When there are no words for my prayers, I often feel the trees pray for me. Their roots penetrate into the strength of the earth, while their limbs reach for the heavens. So I was drawn to this haunting photo by my friend Heidi Anne, part of her ‘Being with Trees’ series. I love the muted colors and the delicate branches, enfolded in dense fog. All we can see is the trees – whatever lies beyond is shrouded in mystery. Lately my view has been a lot like this photo. Our morning fog has persisted throughout the day, making me wonder if we are living in England again, instead of Virginia. Yet perhaps I need to see that fog right now, to focus solely on what is in front of me, letting go of what lies beyond, trusting the God has hold of the rest. We are sorting through the mess left by the problems of a few weeks back, another medical test, another doctor appointment, another call to the insurance company. It’s easy to get lost in the details of life, to allow a totaled car or a nagging physical condition to steal your joy. So even when I’m overwhelmed, even when I’m so angry I can spit, I sit in that chair and look out on the trees. I pray the daily office of Morning Prayer aloud, until a word or phrase touches my heart and I fall silent. Then it’s just me and the trees. There are mornings when my feet feel rooted to the center of the earth, and my heart soars to the heavens. Other mornings are filled with silent tears, an aching heart, an angry groan. Then I notice that trees stand strong, swaying in the wind, reaching out to one another and to God. I recall others lift me in prayer, as I lift them in prayer. No matter what life brings, I am praying with all those who believe, united in the center, our roots inexplicably intertwined. Make time and space today for God. Seek out your center, letting go of what weighs down your heart. Pray for your own concerns and lift up the concerns of those you love, even those who annoy and trouble you. Believe in the prayer of others when you have no prayers of your own. And remember, no matter what life brings, when we make room for God, when we unite with all those who seek the Center, we find ourselves enfolded in go’o’d. Text by Connie Chintall ©2012, Photo entitled ‘Being with Trees’, Heidi Anne Morris ©2012, used with her permission, voted one of Google’s Top Ten. To see more of her work, go to http://www.heidiannemorris.com/