When the unexpected happens, suddenly and tragically, without warning, it leaves us in a state of shock and disbelief. When the shock wears off we are left with a mixture of emotions: relief, anger, pain, sorrow, anxiety and more.
Where do we go from here? Where do we begin? How can we resolve the multitude of problems that are generated? How do we take that next step?
Adversity is part of life. It can come in the form of severe health issues, divorce, or severe financial setbacks. We might lose our jobs or face serious concerns with our teens. We may be a victim of crime or severe storms that destroy our homes.
Whatever the cause, adversity will require us to stop, evaluate, accept and search for solutions.
While each situation is unique and will require specific solutions, here are some basic things to consider.
1.Stop. When anything adverse happens we will have an instant emotional reaction. Shock and denial help us survive in the moment. We may feel overwhelmed and helpless. We replay the event over and over again. Stop and take some slow deep breaths. Then put on your thoughtful analytic hat.
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16
A home is always evolving. Gardens are never complete. They are an ongoing labor of love.
We began this series by using Butchart Gardens as an example of how a big hole in the ground, a gravel pit, could be turned into one of the worlds renowned gardens.
The last two steps used the example of building a home – taking a vision and turning it into a design and plan of action.
To end this series, let’s return to the Landscaping model. Whether you are building a house or designing a landscape you will need to know the stability of the ground, type of soil you are working with, what needs to be removed and what can be retained. Both house and garden require ongoing care to enjoy them to the fullest.
So it is when you have put a design in place for your life. There will be on-going work projects. But we get a sense of satisfaction in maintaining what we have achieved and it becomes a continuing work in progress.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Your Plan of Action
In my last blog, I shared how my husband and I took a vision, created a design and plan of action to build our dream home. Using that same concept, let’s take the following example and create a vision and design and plan of action.
Example: Let’s say you are in a marriage that is floundering. It’s not what you had envisioned when you got married. You were deeply in love and happy and everything seemed so easy in those early years. Now you can hardly communicate without attacking, blaming and defending. Your words are laced with cynicism and contempt. There are few hugs or pleasant moments spent together.
You do not want to stay in that space and neither does your spouse. Your vision is to put together a design and plan of action to bring love and caring back into your marriage.
Using the above example, the first thing you need is to gather information that reflects all aspects of the problem. What specifically is happening? What are you satisfied with and dissatisfied with? What is working and what isn’t? When does communication break down?
Resist blaming and stick to observable behavior of both of you. Be specific.
You might include things like living separate lives with separate careers and friends, or no scheduled time for rest and relaxation, special nights out, etc. What common goals do you have that is being overlooked because of the differences? What specific behaviors of interaction do you observe both in yourself as well as your spouse. When things get tense, how do you respond? Remember we are responsible for our responses.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
How do we go from vision to design?
My husband and I had dreams of building a house in a community with a marina. We found our dream lot sitting on a hill overlooking the water.
But before we could design and build a house, we needed to clear the lot of overgrown shrubs and scrubby trees. Then we could focus on the house design itself.
We spent hours poring over drawings and design lay outs. What would the foot print of the structure look like? What accommodations would be needed for lot constraints Design consideration took into account not only placement but ease of entrance to the home, driveway, height restrictions, how many levels, etc. It was an exciting time.
With the basics in place, we made a list of all the things we wanted to have within our home: as many rooms as possible taking advantage of the view, placement of kitchen, living room, office, ease of movement, traffic patterns, windows, skylights, etc. With the interior design in mind our focus went on to organizational issues, placement of cabinets, storage areas, etc.
Each of the wants and needs were considered based on the lot, finances, time and energy. Because we could do a lot of the work ourselves while hiring experts for the rest, we could cut costs and make appropriate adjustments to our design without sacrificing the most important things.
Your design – Your Dreams
You may think, that’s way too much work for me! But in reality, it wasn’t “work” at all. Yes there
1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
Before we can put together any plan of action or design we need to have a vision of what that would look like.
What do you want from your life on a day to day basis that you don’t have right now?
A Vision for your Life
Remember as a kid laying on your back in the grass and dreaming of what you wanted to be when you grew up? Everybody has dreams of what they think they might like to become or would like to do when they grow up, but few of us take the time to follow through. Far too often, they simply remain day dreams or wishes because we don’t believe we can actually turn them into actual reality.
Let’s revisit some of those early desires and see which ones are still important. Some are just kid’s dreams. Others hold the potential for creating a more meaningful life. Anything is possible if we are willing to look for ways to bring it about.
It is never too late to start working on those things that are important to you.
“. . .if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 14
An architect looks at the condition of the soil, what things need to be removed, and what underground restrictions need to be considered in creating a design.
In our personal life, we might need to work through an ongoing anger problem that keeps us from achieving what we want. Just as an architect analyzes the conditions he is working with, so we too need to analyze what we are working with. What things need to be dealt with, acknowledged or addressed?
Garden analysis to life project
Just as an architect wants to know everything that could potentially impact the design he is creating, so we too want to gather as much information as possible.
What things are your ignoring or are unconscious liabilities that could compromise a new plan of action? For example, if you don’t believe you can, you won’t be able to.
“Make insight your priority. . . Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom; set your heart on a life of Understanding. . . if you make insight your priority, and won’t take no for an answer. . . God gives out wisdom free.” Proverbs 2
What is in your gravel pit?
Last week we reflected on who we believe we are. Now we will take a look at what is happening in your life right now. Changes cannot be made until we are aware of what is working and what isn’t working and why.
Step 2 – Exploring your gravel pit
Within our gravel pits we will find many things of no value and things that hinder us and keep us from taking more purposeful steps.
Within the rocks and deep pits we can also find the potential for something of value and promise.
Be honest in your exploration. Take ownership. You can’t run away from mistakes or bad choices. Neither can we run away from the harm others may have inflicted on you. There are no quick fixes. Acceptance of where we are is the precursor of making new choices. If we get stuck in anger, hatred, retribution or refusing to let go of what had been, we will be unable to move forward.
“God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him; when I got my act together, He gave me a fresh start….”Psalm 18:20 – The Message
If I asked you to tell me about yourself and who you are, what would you say?
Typically, our first responses would be to talk about the roles we have in life such as teacher, Mom, CEO, factory worker, mechanic, librarian, physician, etc.
Who am I?
But that is only a small part of our life story. That is merely the outside surface layer. How do you describe yourself outside of those roles?
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.” Jeremiah 1
Last week, we explored building a house and then designing a landscaping plan for your yard.
Landscaping can be more or less a challenge depending on the ground, the soil, what was left after construction and what you do with it. What can be left? What needs to be removed? What can be incorporated into the design itself?
Where do we begin?
Tatters of our life can often resemble a gravel pit. How do we get from there to a beautiful garden? Where do you begin such a daunting project?
The same place Mrs. Butchart did.
She didn’t just cover up the hole; she used it as her spring board.
If she had just filled the large expansive gravel pit that remained after quarrying ended, it would not be the beautiful gardens it is today.
I have a Golden chain tree in my yard that has beautiful hanging yellow flowers every spring. A neighbor told me how much they enjoyed the tree and hoped I would never get rid of it. I assured them I wouldn’t. It was one of my first choices for trees in my landscaping design after building my home.
To build a home we need a set of plans. After the house is finished, the next step is taking the pile of rubble and dirt remaining and create a landscaping plan for trees, shrubs, flower beds and pathways.
Years ago I put together a program entitled, “Turn your gravel Pit into a Beautiful Garden”, the inspiration coming from Butchart Gardens, in British Columbia, Canada, an internationally renowned garden.
Just as you and I can design and build our homes, we can do the same with our lives. I was inspired by this concept when I researched the beginning of this beautiful place.