“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922) French novelist
I hear him say he’d like to have a vege garden one day, but I don’t think he considers himself a gardener at the moment. I smile pleased that the seed is there and waiting to germinate.
He comes from a long line of gardeners in every direction of his family tree. And one thing I’ve noticed about gardeners is that they are a generous breed. They may not have a lot of money in the bank or material things, but what they have they share, be it cuttings to start a new plant, advice on how they’ve found things grow best, or sharing of their harvest bounty. This son already has generosity in spades.
His generosity made gratefulness blossom afresh in me this week past. We got him for a few days and I watched him spend time with his dad as they watched rugby together, going with us to walk the dogs, enjoying food together, him giving me his knowledge on cooking… he’s a foodie and I stand in awe, his help in the garden doing things I physically can not. How wonderful it is to have your children become gardeners to your own soul!
I cherish these times with them. The one-on-one time that was a scarcity when they all lived in our nest is a real gift now. The season will change and they will become imbedded in growing their own family, and perhaps their own vege gardens, so I want to make the most of these precious times we have right now. I want to make the most of hearing their thoughts on things, to continue the deep conversations, to be challenged and grow myself along with them.
This one is definitely a VERY charming gardener, who makes me happy. My soul blossoms when I am with him and I am VERY grateful.
For all the comings and goings of the last couple of months, I have continued with my daily grateful drawings. Perhaps not every day, so a little catchup had to be played along the way. In hind sight I wonder if my mental health might have survived even better if I had been more diligent to do it daily despite whatever was going on. The first day or two that I am remiss I do not particularly notice but after a few days of not being mindful on the daily, I do begin to notice a difference.
Thankfully, I am up to date this week, and back into the rhythm of daily. Hope you’ve all been doing well, too. 🙂
I met Aya Kowata in a group chat with fellow artists from Created to Thrive Mentoring Group. As we have both spent time in each other’s native country I was interested to get to know her story a little more. She has graciously written today’s post which I am incredibly grateful for, because due to a darling daughter being rushed to hospital, I have been otherwise occupied. Said daughter is now home and doing well recuperating and Aya’s post is perfect timing as I catch up here. Everything works out well, doesn’t it?! So please enjoy Aya’s contemplations on gratefulness…
In contemplating on gratefulness, I must say I’m very grateful that I have now been
given the privilege to pursue art and become an artist.
The first half of my life had been met with many discouragements towards any creative
pursuit. My childhood was full of competitions for good grades at school, comparing and being
better than others at studies. I vaguely remember being very unhappy and having multiple
addictions in my teens and early twenties.
Yet I also remember always having a sketch book on me, being able to draw things
exactly the way they looked without any instruction. Nobody told me to do it, it was already
in me, a gift planted in me to create.
Then I met Jesus in my late twenties when I was staying
in New Zealand. The experience was so life-changing I could
no longer silence my creative voice. I bought painting supplies
and painted whatever I felt to. It was pretty rough and raw
but I didn’t really care. I was finally awakening to what God
meant me to be.
In looking back, the right kind of help came my way
whenever it was necessary. During my time in New Zealand, I
needed a lot of healing and encouragement towards creativity.
The environment I was in was definitely abundant in prayer,
encouragements and freedom to be who I was. New Zealand
was a stranger to conformity, a place where differences and
originality were respected, and I really thrived in it.
After returning to Japan, I started looking really into
developing my art. I found a wonderful acrylics art teacher
online called Will Kemp and started taking his courses. This
really allowed me to progress in my artistic skills. When I
started needing more direction as an artist, I found Matt
Tommey and his mentoring program where I was able to find
like-minded artist believers to encourage each other in becoming the artist God created us to
From there I found more people who can help me
go further in my artistic path. When I needed more
direction in painting more intuitively under God’s nudging,
I found Amy Smith and her abstract art workshops.
When I needed resources for painting my women and
landscapes series, I came across Erika Masterson, a
wonderful artistic photographer in her own field, who
offered her friendship and her photos. When I needed
feedback on my artwork in progress, I found Jan Tetsutani,
another great artist from Hawaii who became my good
friend and mentor. Last year, I was also given the
opportunity to enter a very competitive art exhibition
without really realizing what it was and was accepted for exhibition on the first go.
Most of all, I am grateful for having found something meaningful to do with my life.
Every artwork seems to be a message of love from our Heavenly Father for someone who comes
across it. God seems to be directing me meticulously every step of the way towards what He
has always wanted me to become. It has been an incredible journey and I have a feeling it is
far from finished.
Aya Vi Sophie Kowata
“I can only imagine that it can be hard going for joy at times,” she said.
At that particular time I was travelling well and was focused only on the present and, what’s more, I didn’t want to go back even in my mind’e eye… after all that is the very place where battles take place. I was much happier cocooned in the present happy.
Time happens. Then last week across my facebook page came a message from Jonathan Cahn (JC) (link here if you’re interested). I let it play while I did the dishes. He talked about how we must fight. That life IS a battle. Stop running from it. Don’t try and hide from it, but, turn, face it, and fight. He mentioned ‘fighting for joy’, and I thought of her comment. JC continued, ‘When you cannot see anything to be thankful for, you can either sit and be overwhelmed OR you can choose to fight it. King David said “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God!” ‘
I remember some of my fights for joy. I can see myself curled up in the bottom of the wardrobe crying hopelessness because I could see that this belief was crippling me but for all I was worth i could not think of what I should think. My fighting was not very powerful. I felt so defeated but God saw my desire to fight and get out of the mindset. He sent someone who was able to help me see another point of view. Even then I had to repeatedly choose the new over and over. Think on it, mull it over, let it begin to take a hold inside my head. I had to repeatedly choose. It’s been a battle that I’ve lost some days but with time… and practice… am winning more. I nodded in agreement as JC said ‘God will give you the strength but YOU do the choosing to fight’.
I shared JC’s link with a few others. We’ve been chatting through the week. One talked about how he had to ‘fight the fight of faith for his healing when given a ‘medical death sentence’. Believing Ephesians 6:12 (not fighting flesh and blood but rather a spiritual battle) and 2 Corinthians 10:5 (bringing every thought captive), he asked God to confirm to him whether to follow the doctor’s prognosis or not. Feeling sure that God had said to follow the ‘not’ route, he made a conscious decision to not entertain negativity or ‘sympathy givers’,but instead to live as if he was healthy. Taking the ‘not’ route was not saying the doctor’s were wrong in their diagnosis but rather that he would not be taking their prescribed course of action ie., go home and put your affairs in order and enjoy what you’ve got left of your grandchildren.They gave him 3 years at most (I’m sure receiving that would have sapped your joy) and he is now at 27yrs and counting. What a reward for his fight! But, what a lot of individual battles that must have been, each one requiring him to choose his thoughts, choose his actions, choose his healing. Life is a fight!
Another shared how she is right now in the valley of overwhelm and despair. I found myself trying to encourage her ‘over’. ‘Over’ because JC said You cannot overcome without something to ‘come over’. It’s looming large and ugly in front of her. I feel her pain and despair. “Come on over,” I’m shouting inside myself. But, I can’t make it happen for her, no matter how much I want her to have joy instead of this heaviness. The thoughts inside her head are her’s to fight. Every one must choose their own destiny. I ache for her to defy the bondage and fight for joy. Mine is to encourage and pray for her.
Hubby and I lay in bed on our way to sleep pondering these fights for joy. He remembered that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “He works in us as we give him permission and the fruit of that work is Love, JOY, Peace, etc. We have to fight all the things that come in and rob that joy away.” I join the dots and realise that, although I think I have won a few battles in the fight for joy, actually we will be fighting this in one form or another until we leave this world. Honestly, that thought makes me feel a little battle weary.
Until I remember 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.…
So, to my friend who thinks it can be hard going for joy at times, You betcha! But what a prize. I’ll keep fighting on.
They were all neatly stacked and in order, words piled up on words. There was LOVE and PEACE; HOPE was in its place. CAKE and DRINK side by side, but where was JOY?
Sneaky word, it had jumped away when I wasn’t looking.
It was there a minute ago, but now? Where did JOY go? Under the carpet? Behind the door?
I hunted high and low for JOY. Was it under the bed or even in the bed? Had it run out the door? Was it sulking in the fridge or sliding down the drain?
Where on earth was that slippery, little word called JOY?
One minute it jumps up and dances on the window ledge and just as you go to grab it, JOY jumps out the window and runs under a bush.
I called it by name but it hid out of sight. I shouted and yelled, “JOY, you little word, come quick!”
I begged, I pleaded, I wept, and still JOY would not come.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and there was WORRY wringing their hands murmuring, “I knew this would happen. What should we do? Oh dear, oh dear.”
Standing by my heels following my every move, FEAR was stalking. I tripped over GRUMPY who started a fight between ANGER and BLAME.
By now all the words were out of control pushing and shoving, yelling and crying when suddenly THANKS shouted, “Attention!” The words stopped and stared. They shuffled back into place and one of them, HOPE, I think, offered me a tissue to dry my eyes. THANKS began to whistle, the words began to sing and there came little JOY running, jumping, leaping, grinning from ear to ear.
JOY bounced on the couch, ran over the piano, cartwheeled across the room, kissed me on the cheek, bumped into the other words and did a little jig.
I tried to scold that little word but JOY’s cheeky face caught my eye and I began to smile. The smile grew big and before I knew it all the words were giggling and laughing too. HAPPY and GRUMPY were hugging, CAKE was dancing with LOVE. PEACE and QUIET kissed! WORRY had fallen asleep.
Slippery word JOY, I cannot pin it down. I am never sure when it will play hide and seek again.
Guest post by Kathy Woollett of KathyWoollett.blogspot.com
Forgive me if you are a male reader for what comes next… being female is all I know… but, bear with me. It comes good in the end, and who knows, but you might even gain a little more insight into the mystery of ‘women’. …Maybe.
So, quick back story … I’ve been married for nearly 32 years. Designed the outfits for our bridal party with the help of my Mum (thanks, Mum)… loved every single detail on all of them EXCEPT my own dress. it was the best I could do for who I was at the time, but there were no wow moments with it for me. it was functional, pretty enough, and, well, me.
Move ahead 30+ years and I stumble across the TV programme, “Say Yes to the Dress”. I watch a few episodes and realise that all these brides have issues to come to terms with. The childhood idea they had of what they wanted may not work for their adult selves. They may have bits they are adamant to hide. Fears of being exposed.. Wrong body shape for the style they wanted. Afraid of committing to a dress … the list goes on. But there comes a moment for everyone of them where they find the perfect dress that embodies them, personality, figure, budget, style, etc., and EVERYONE gives a resounding yes when that moment comes. EVERYONE! It’s the magic moment when everything comes into alignment and the universe sings.
Along the way of watching I have thought about my own wedding dress and how I have changed over the years. I wanna go try on wedding dresses and find my perfect ‘now’ fit. Take some glamour photos and record my beauty. I want to be a beautiful bride. Now, I am not saying I was not beautiful before, but I did not think I was. Remembering Dr. Phil’s words of wisdom, we know that if I didn’t think I was, then that was my reality. But, I do know that Father has taught me many things and released many chains in my head, letting a new me emerge since those days…YAY!!! And I want to celebrate that.
I want to celebrate with my immediate family… hubby and the kids. But most of all I want to celebrate with Father. He’s the one who’s led me, wooed me, directed me to find peace with myself.He’s the one who knows me better than I know myself. I’ve never been particularly excited about the phrases in the Bible saying we are the ‘Bride of Christ’, or Books like “Song of Solomon”, but I’ve come to a new understanding lately. In order to become a beautiful bride I must Yada dimension 1 (See the facts about myself, good and bad) Yada Dimension2 (understand why I am that way) Yada Dimension 3 (Begin to have a real relationship with Christ) Yada dimension 4 ( allow Him in… deep in… raw in… face to face in) Then Yada dimension 5 (spiritual Intimacy with Him) and ‘Song of Solomon’ is all about a God who wants to be intimate with His people!
Adam had yada 5 when he KNEW Eve and she conceived and bore a son. In the process of knowing and being intimate with her, Adam planted his seed. From that intimacy there was fruit born. In the New Testament we are often referred to as the Bride of Christ. God wants to Yada with us every day. He wants to have an intimate relationship and have his seed implanted in us. That seed is His Holy Spirit who brings forth fruit in us. The fruit of the spirit is “Love Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, , Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.” Fruitfulness is born out of intimacy. We must know God in detail and technical wisdom, leading to face to face encounters. Lots of Yada-ing.
We cannot bring forth what is not in us. To bring forth love we must have His love in us. We must have experienced it deep and intimately. To bring forth His patience, we must have imbibed of it lavishly. To bring forth His glory we must have experienced His presence in us. After each of my labours, (which were times of hard work and effort, rather than sipping drinks on a tropical beach), I was rewarded with, and am grateful for, a beautiful baby full of new life and promise. They came from a time of intimacy (yada) between my husband and myself. They were ‘in me’ literally, till their time to ‘come forth’ Colossians 1:27 says ‘Christ in you, the hope of Glory.”John 15:5 ,” If a man remains in Me & I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing”.
It’s true! Without Him (God), I would NEVER have been able to make the changes I have made thus far. (SO, So, grateful) I agree with the Apostle Paul when he says “I want to know (yada) Christ and the power of His resurrection.” but to get there I must start the journey. I must say ‘Yes to the Dress”.
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, coming ready or not!” And so the hunt begins. This generations-old game of hiding and seeking.
When they are tiny the game is nothing more than covering one’s face with your hands, or hiding behind a blanket, Yet, we revel in their joyful gurgles of delight when we reveal ourselves, and play it over and over, just to hear their gorgeous squeals again.
They grow to hiding their faces with their whole back end hanging out in plain view but still we happily play the game repeatedly, playing in kind so we can be found. Their lack of sophistication is endearing.
A sense of self is developed and no longer do rear ends cutely hang out , but, rather, with cunning they hide cleverly out of sight behind a door or in the closet. A clever parent will never hide so well that they cannot be found, otherwise the seekers would eventually give up and not want to play anymore.
Our Heavenly Father wants to be found. In Isaiah 55:6, we are encouraged to “Seek the Lord while He may be found”. In James 4:8, we are reminded that if we come near to Him, He will come near to us. Yada, in the fourth dimension is drawing near to God for a face-to-face personal encounter.He wants us to find Him. He wants to play the game.
Many times in the Bible we are told to come into His presence with thanksgiving. Remember that the giving of ‘thanks’ comes from the root Hebrew word “yada (to know)”. Yada, level 1, is seek out and find the facts, When you come into His presence, start with your countdown, 10=Thankyou for… 9=thank you for… 8= thank you for…. I confess that sometimes I struggle to get to ten things. My life is reasonably repetitive and I don’t like to say the same things over and over. Too quickly it can loose it’s meaning and freshness if I repeat myself too often. I must search hard to find new things. Examine carefully my day. Sometimes this pressure to come up with new things has me stop and think about Him and why He is so good to me. It leads me to Yada, level 2, where I learn why He does these things. Who is He? As I give mental ascent to the WHY I find myself opening up to Level 3 where I begin to get personal and real with Him.
Often as we grow we learn a different form of ‘Hide and Seek”. We hide from others and we hide from ourselves, even to the point of loosing sight of who we actually are. Over the years, if I’ve got to level 3 and have opened myself up and been real, then I’d considered that enough, that I did well. Opening myself up would bring with it so much emotion that I was really unable to go further. But the more I have come to know myself, address my ‘issues’, and become comfortable with who I am, the more I am free to move forward into level 4. It’s like a marriage. You have to both KNOW yourselves before you can KNOW the other, or else one can easily become co- dependant (expecting the other to fix your issues or to be the fixer), or independant (where you refuse the depth of relationship) , rather than inter-dependant (both working as functioning individuals who give and take equally from the relationship). Even with God, we need to KNOW who we are and take responsibility for ourselves. We cannot expect Him to magically fix us. He doesn’t do the ‘Abracadabra wand’ thing to make us whole. Rather, I have found that He leads when WE ask. And we get the joy and self-love from having accomplished and changed into something we like and are proud of. Nor can we be independant of Him with success. We are hard-wired for relationship. We can try to be an island because it seems less painful or we are free to be more self-indulgent, but at the end of the day we loose big time. God wants real, equal, relationship. Face to face…Yada, level 4 knowing.
And so I make my grateful list of ten things every day. Searching out His daily reveals of Himself to me. Want to come with me into His presence?
Who doesn’t love the smells that come out of Mama’s kitchen?! My own children have all left home but still I love to go to my parent’s house and have my Mum’s cooking. It’s comforting, soothing, familiar. Doesn’t matter what the food actually is because it’s all about the nourishment I received there. My basic needs being met.
Now, I’m sure that there are some people who don’t care for Mama’s cooking at all. For a while my own dear children decided to go on an anti-broccoli stunt and discovered that many lessons can be taught in Mama’s kitchen. They received broccoli every night for two whole weeks and thereafter never complained about broccoli again. Instead, strangely, they took to saying they hated ice cream…interesting, huh. But, no parent likes to hear complaints and whining over the food they have prepared for their lovelies. It puts a real sour taste in the relationship. Mama doesn’t feel a whole lot of excitement towards cooking the next meal. She does, however, continue to cook in spite of, because her love is greater than her feelings of being unappreciated.
We do not go to the table and have food magically appear. Mama makes it. She puts time and effort in. At some point in a child’s development they come to this realisation that Mama is the source of the food. The way of Mama is to make the food (Yada level two). The way of Mama is to care for us, to love us. She is faithful in her preparing of food. Reliable. To be trusted. We learn to learn to say ‘Thank you” to her. To acknowledge and show our appreciation for the gift she has given us. My Darling Dearest was amazing at giving our kids a great example on this. I am not always good at following a recipe but am want to tweek it according to what I have available rather than make another trip to the store. Some have been terrific successes but, oh dear, some have been real doozies. Never once can I remember him complaining. He would always eat it…even when I was saying how bad it was and refusing to eat it myself…and he always says thank you. Appreciation boosts Mama’s dopamine levels. She feels happy. Appreciated. Ready and keen to cook for us again.
But imagine if you actually went to the kitchen and began to relate to Mama. Not just realising that there is food on the table. Not just acknowledging that it is Mama who gave it to you. Not just saying a repetitive ‘thank you’ after each meal. But, realising that Mama is a person. That she can be related to. Tell her heartfelt how you enjoyed her meal, how you appreciate what she does for you. It’s a whole ‘nother level of relating from just fact to heart-to-heart. A turning towards each other. A building of relationship.
I think God wants this turning from us. He, just like us, wants to be acknowledged, to be seen. It’s not a case of His self- worth as a parent depending on us being thankful. He’s not that insecure. But, if we are made in His image and we need relationship so much, then it stands to reason that so does He. The Bible tells us over and over that we are to come into His presence with thanksgiving. Say Thank you when you come into His ‘kitchen’. See what He’s done for you. Acknowledge it. Give due praise. Turn towards Him.
This turning, beginning to engage, is level three of ‘Yada’. It’s as if we are moving from just a superficial head level towards a heart level relationship.This dimension three is having a personal encounter. Truly, we grow in gratefulness. It’s so much more than just saying ‘Thank you’.
We had had yet another ‘disagreement’ and, as per usual, I was left feeling that I must be either horribly delusional or he must be just plain wrong. I had always favoured the latter but it wasn’t making me feel any better. I was still miserable and hated this contention between us. But how to make him see sense?…he can be more stubborn than an ox when he thinks he’s right! (and in case you’re wondering I am quite different to him… meek as a lamb, docile as a dove… lol, yeah right!)
I turned on the TV to be greeted with Dr. Phil interviewing some miserable soul.
“There’s no such thing as reality. It’s just your perception of it,” he said.
And right there, it hit me hard between the eyes. Neither of us were right and neither of us were wrong. We just had different perceptions. Relief flooded me. It was a lightbulb moment that would bring huge changes to our marriage. No longer did I have to compete, be right, or, be wrong. We could both be legitimised and work this stuff out together. Our different ways of looking at things could become an asset rather than a stumbling block. I just had to open my mind to this new idea.
It had also been a struggle to open my mind to the idea that there was good in my life. I had never thought about it in specifics. I definitely didn’t feel it. In reality, I think like most people, things had happened, I had had an emotional reaction and however I was left feeling at the end of that experience is where I stayed. What I told myself from that happening was what I ended up believing.And most of the time that was negative. The idea of challenging what I was thinking was totally foreign to me. If I thought it, it must be real, right? Well, apparently not according to Dr. Phil. My thoughts are not reality. They are a perception and perceptions can be challenged and changed. Hhhmmmm
So along comes God and asks me to draw something every day that I am grateful for. I’m a pickin’ that He knew I would be having some major mindset shifts to accomplish this task. In order to find the one thing I would draw each day, I decided to make a list of ten things during the day and from those ten choose the one that would become today’s grateful drawing. As we talked about last week, this is dimension 1 of ‘Yada’. To begin to seek out, analyse, investigate. To begin to know the good in my world. But as I continued to do this each day, month in and month out, I began to notice a shift coming in my ‘daily grateful list’. Instead of just things, events, etc., happening around me, I began to put things like ‘Grateful for the sunset…God’s kiss goodnight’ or ‘ Grateful for Freedom…God’s gift’. The author of the good, the reason behind the thing or event, was becoming visible to me. I was moving into the second dimension of ‘Yada’… I was beginning to understand how or why.
Johnson Oatman, the author of many many great old hymns, was onto something when he wrote
“Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One,
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
My dad was telling me the other day about a group called the Wayside Mission in Auckland, New Zealand, back around the time I was making my entrance into the world. They had a kitchen and shower block as well as a big meeting hall and used to give out showers and food to the alcoholics and homeless people who lived in the city at that time. Dad used to go and help out. He said that, for all they had absolutely nothing in the world, when asked every week what they’d like to sing it was always “Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One”, and it was always every verse in a rousing rendition sung with all their gusto. What was it that made this song their constant favourite? Did they know what Dr. Phil was saying? Did they find as they sang it every week, that their perspective changed from the hard world around them back to the one who is love? Apart from a shower and food in their belly today, their situation hadn’t changed, but when their perspective was on the Giver and His gifts, their world was a brighter happier place.