June 16, 2009

Keep on Tryin'

In early spring a mother bird persistently built her nest under our carport. Upon her first attempt at building, the bits of pine straw, twigs, and dried-out grass easily blew away. I couldn't imagine the mother bird ever having success at building a sturdy base upon which she could complete the nest. I think the first few attempts failed, actually. And I thought to myself, Good grief, give up already! It's obviously NOT the place to build. Try somewhere else. But that bird kept at it. I remember one morning as I headed out the door--noticing the bird making yet another attempt--there were once again only a few starter pieces to the nest. But by the next afternoon it appeared complete. I was astounded! How could she go from those poor first attempts to absolute triumph seemingly overnight?

I learned that nest building is instinctive; birds cannot not complete the task. They rest when their hard-wired building impulses have been satiated through completing the task. Birds even instinctively know what building materials to use: mud, spider webs, caterpillar silk, leaf mold, plant fibers, and saliva, which are then intertwined with twigs, leaves, grass, and/or straw. Hundreds of trips are made from their building site to various places to gather all of the supplies needed. All done with a beak! . . . pretty resourceful, if you ask me.

I started wondering what instinctive behaviors I have, besides the basic ones: survival, sleeping, eating, language acquisition, sense of right/wrong, and so on. I wanted to think outside the structured scientific definition of "instinct" and look at what is unique to me. What instincts do I have (even though scientifically they might not really be instincts)? What is hard-wired into my being that I try to fight or deny as being a part of me? Well, an obvious one is the creative flow. I'm hard-wired to unleash my creativity in various ways: writing, decorating, gardening, even parenting. Yet so often I lack the confidence to let the creative process flow. I stifle it. I think what I create isn't good enough. I undersell my natural skills to myself and others. Or I become envious of others' skills that are seemingly better than mine . . . creating the comparison game, which only paralyzes me from any creative action. Instinctively I know that being creative resonates with my being. But my human nature fights the process out of, well, I guess you'd call it insecurity. Or fear of failure. Or fear of not being good enough. But the birds don't play that mind game with their nest-building. They get up, perform their God-given instinctive duties, and get it done.

Even with my poor first attempts at something, I need to remember that those early efforts always lead to the next step. Thus the opposite is true as well: No steps lead nowhere. And that's not gonna work for me. Each attempt at the creative life builds momentum to propel more energy into the next project. And as a whole the constant movement is all a success. The failure only lies in the lack of movement. The "frozen moments" as I call them. Or "creative paralysis".

Again . . . nature always sends us such simple messages about how to achieve inner wellness. By the way, the momma bird in our yard went on to have two baby birds. One flew away with ease and dignity; the other bird took days and days and DAYS to get the whole flying/worm catching thing accomplished (it was quite a sad sight to see, actually). That poor momma bird was just as persistent with her (rather large at this point) baby as she was with building her nest. She tirelessly fed it worms and encouraged it to fly, only getting a weak attempt from her baby to try these things on its own. Hours and hours (believe me, I had nothing better to do than keep up with this, so I know) were spent following her "big" baby all over the yard, while it simply hopped everywhere, waiting to be fed. After five days there was triumph. The birds left the yard, and the circle of life continued: the baby bird finally succeeded in flying.

Just like that momma bird who stayed the course for her baby while it was developing its skills, God is here for us as we stumble through our weak attempts at accomplishing our life's mission. And then one day it clicks in us. We get it. We are confident enough to carry on with the instinctive skills for which we were created to use in this world. And help was always by our side . . . in the form of many things God chooses to use: people, angels, nature . . . . Just keep your heart open to the encouraging messages around you.

June 3, 2009

Living Water

Last month I spent the morning with my dear anam cara friend, collecting rocks in a creek near her childhood home. My friend is in her '70s, so it's always special for her to return to her roots and share the area with others. According to her, things haven't changed too much over the past sixty years in the rural area where we were, so I was able to see a snapshot into her early years as a girl in the creek we were in. We parked the car in the shallow part of the creek, put on our rubber boots and gloves, and started searching for any rocks we wanted to take back with us, big or small. (We love rock collecting!) While wading through the water--getting off-balance at times because of the current--I was lulled by the sound of the water flowing and it quickly cleared my mind from all the internal chatter I had arrived at the creek with. I was able to let go of my oft-worrisome stream of consciousness and let the natural stream of water provided by the earth fill my senses, providing a much-needed mental break for me. Even the trees blowing in the wind echoed their own memory of the water that has nourished them since their days as saplings. Their leaves rustling reminded me of ocean waves, gently building in power and volume, then easing off, only to complete the cycle of mimicking the sound of ocean waves again.

Focusing on the water element all morning while combing the creek for rocks brought all sorts of water symbolism to mind. For instance, water itself is a wonderful example of a transformer. It changes shape to fit the environment it is in. If water is in a well, it runs deep into the earth at the source. If it is poured into a container, it will take on the shape of that container. If it is allowed to flow and spread, then it will do so, as in a creek. This reminds me to be flexible in life, yielding and bending and adapting to the life situations that arise in which I often tighten up and fight against, not allowing things to just happen . . . not surrendering and trusting God to be in control of each moment.

If you stop to consider that our bodies are approximately 80% water, then each of us basically operates as a mini ocean, full of water, salt, and oxygen, with everything constantly flowing and and maintaining life within us. Without water, there is no life. Likewise, without Jesus, the Living Water, there is no life. Through God's promise of the Living Water He provides for us, which is Jesus, we have hope that we will always have life . . . eternal life. And we will be eternally restored.

For now, though, it is enough to simply be on this earth, with a dear friend, in a creek, collecting rocks, listening to the ocean-like sounds of the leaves rustling. And when the water from the creek starts to fill my boots after taking a step in an unexpectedly deep spot, I welcome the elemental feel on my skin as a reminder to allow myself to adapt to situations with ease and fluidity.

WATER . . . . the ultimate healer, purifier, transformer.
JESUS . . . the ultimate healer, purifier, transformer.