Times and Seasons.

                       
Recently, I have been going through a study of Ecclesiastes and although, I’m only half way through, I wanted to share some things from that. Some of us may think of words like ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ when we think of this book in the Bible. Some may especially recall chapter three ‘as there is a time for everything under heaven.’ The poetic language and honesty used by the writer calls us in as we may relate to some of the verses. However, I think we can especially relate to this tension where one moment we are wondering ‘what is the point?’ and the next where we get a glimpse of purpose and the bigger picture.. I am beginning to understand as I pull a part the text and ponder. I am also beginning to see that this book encompasses so much more. I won’t be including every topic or meaning from this book, as scholars may be quick to point out. For this post, I am only relaying snippets that are moving me to take the time to think about and indeed a season to impress some of it’s truths into my life.

First of all, I have been following a study of Ecclesiastes by Kathleen Buswell Nielson. I really like this spiral bound study as it engages you in a series of questions, that don’t just require you to jot down the same words in the Bible. The questions are posed to prompt your thinking, to engage with the text, to understand it’s context and to apply it’s meaning to your life. I love those moments, where you learn something new for the first time. It almost feels like some sort of blind fold has been lifted off your eyes and you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. The title on the study says’ Wisdom’s searching and finding’ and immediately I am drawn as I too, want to know and display wisdom in my life. Indeed, I think most people would like these things. We have what is called an ‘inflamation of education’ and whether that is from the society that we live in or not, where we are now starting to collect various degrees and certificates, I think it is also because we each long to be wise-to understand and be able to answer more of the questions that life brings about. I guess, as someone who believes in a greater being than myself, must ask the question ‘where does wisdom come from?’ and ‘can I attain it apart from God?’. And this is part of what King Solomon began to dissect throughout his life, with his access to the material and kingly status knowing no bounds. He had everything. A kingdom. People at his beck and call. Wealth. Power. And he knew a few things too. Indeed, he was on a search for wisdom and in Ecclesiastes, we are given a glimpse from his experiences of what he found.

 It doesn’t take very long into the text to see some repetition of the phrase ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and ‘it is all vanity’. It’s almost overwhelming and exudes some of a ‘what is the point’ mentality. If you stopped reading there then you might be quite confused as to why this is in the Bible. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I will note here that I enjoy the honesty of the writer as we see humanity struggle with it’s limitations and perhaps hopelessness in and of ourselves. BUT THEN… a poem unravels in chapter three that changes the environment for me. Hope and purpose enter the picture and this follows a new phrase, ‘under heaven’. We begin to see a contrast in the description, ones that offer meaning to the various ‘times’ in our lives. While we are under the text of ‘under heaven’, we abandon words such as ‘vanity’ and ‘meaningless’, and we are pleasantly immersed with words such as ‘peace’, ‘love’ and ’embracing’. Even with the inclusion of contrasting words such as weeping,losing killing and war, it is given it’s place in life’s timing. But it isn’t in vain anymore, there is purpose. If I am in a difficult place in my life,where tears flow often, then these truths tell us, ‘it is for a time’. God gives purpose to our pain and He also gives joyful times to our lives too. It’s like we can now withstand the tougher times because we can see the bigger picture, God’s bigger picture. I find this so comforting when I read the following verse and it gives me much strength and patience to carry on.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. Psalm 31.14-15

So not only does God take our lives and give them meaning and purpose, but He also reassures us that His timing for those things are in His hands.  For EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. When we seek God and his wisdom we begin to see our shift from it being ‘all vanity’ and under the sun to under heaven with all of its hope bestowed. And lastly, today as I was reading through chapter three and thinking about God’s timing, I began to liken it to an artist and their painting. As the artist approaches a canvas, they are intentional and involved in their creation. They dip their brush into the colour they think best and begin to make their marks on the blank background. As images forms, we are given a glimpse, although at times it might not be clear as to what the subject matter is, the artist is at work to bring it to completion. At certain times,it might not be beautiful but the artist will make it beatuiful in the end. It just needs some time.Then when the artist deems it a completed work, they will put down their brush and say it is completed. The viewers will understand what is in front of their eyes and take in all the steps that the artist chose for that painting. And as is promised in chapter three, God will make everything beautiful in its time. Even when we might not understand some of the brushstrokes that He makes in our lives. Even when we think we know the best timing. Even when others try to tell us what they think is the perfect time. Even if it involves tears of sadness or tears of joy. God knows. He gives us the wisdom. He has given us examples such as Ecclesiastes to unravel the meaning of the text. He gives us strength for the season He has placed us in. And He will bring it all to completion in our lives as we say But I trust in you, O Lord, You are my God.

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A Year of Blogging.

 

 
It has been twelve stretching months since I was persuaded to start a blog. I’ve always loved reading blogs and although I’ve journaled around 60 notebooks throughout the years, I had never contemplated actually being the person who  puts pen to paper. I’m glad that I was prompted to do so.

Blogging has helped me to take the time to sit and ponder my thoughts. It has organised these thoughts into categories that enlightened me about who I am and the world around me. It taught me how to process and verbalise the times where I felt a particular emotion but didn’t understand how to put it into words. It rationalised my thinking and therefore  caused my response to be more appropriate or sane to situations. It helped me to deal with issues, move on from hurts and grow in compassion.

Yes, sometimes I do feel like a broken record and I do apologise for this. At times, I wonder if writing the blog is more about speaking to myself than to an audience. I certainly don’t have all the answers and for the most part I am throwing out more questions. I haven’t graduated in any of the topics that I’ve posted, if anything, I read them back to myself because I need to read thoughts from more of my ‘sane’ moments, espeically when I feel lke things are a little out of my control.

So although Under the Dogwood trees has been beneficial for me, it is an added bonus if you have enjoyed it too! Perhaps, a sentence or two has stuck out. Maybe it has challenged you, opened your eyes or made it relatible to your circumstances. It coud have been nothing new from what you have heard before. That’s ok too. I hope that the running theme has always pointed to Christ, through the many expressions ranging from sadness to joy.

Happy 1st Birthday, Under the Dogwood Tress. Thank you for taking the time to read and even comment throughout the year. I am open to suggestions for further posts and look forward to what is in store next. Here is a little insight into how blogging in 2016 went…

1. This is the 39th post!! Although, I didn’t get to post every week, I tried to produce one every other week and tried not to feel guilty when I knew it had been a little while since the last one.

2. It had over 2,000 different viewers with over 3,500 views. I was just happy if I had one person reading it to be honest, and that would probably would have been Aoife or my mother.

3. The record for most views in one day was when I published The Race on 26 Septmember, with 419 viewers reading the various posts.

4. The most read post is When the Heart is Healing, and after having reread this today, I am reminded of how God continues to change our hearts!

5. Probably the most tranparent post I had written was How do you like your steak? I was quite nervous to publish that one.

6. My first post was A little about little me, and I hope you have grown to know me more since then.

7. Some of my favourites include the ones on travelling, tramping and friendships.

8. And lastly, one of my favourite things about this blog is it’s readers too!

…So happy reading..

-Under the Dogwood Trees

The Best Yet.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2017! Hope that you had a relaxing and enjoyable few weeks taking part in all the festivities! Before we are anymore immersed into January, let me share a little about what 2016 meant for me.

I began 2016 in Ireland and among family. At the time, I knew I would soon be moving to New Zealand and knew that time was precious. Although I usually spend New Year’s with friends, I brought in 2016 in the company of grandparents, parents and siblings. I remember before that night was over having a feeling of fear creep in. Perhaps, it was because Dad and I were debating on the subject of terrorist attacks, but either way, it was a feeling that I kept having to fight over the next few weeks.  I wasn’t necessarily afraid to move to a new place, I felt ready for that! It was more irrational thoughts such as ‘ What if the plane crashes?’,’What if I get blown up?’, ‘What if a shark eats me and the world ends?’. Like seriously, what was that about? I think that all of these crazy questions really stemmed from the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what was really ahead. I couldn’t yet imagine it in my head and I wanted to know the where and why’s and when? But these answers are not foretold, they can only be lived through. I guess that is one of the reasons why I love New Years as it forces me to reflect the past year and usually after I do so, I quickly realize that every single year God provides in so many ways. He knows the unknown and He keeps it, deciding to walk alongside it with us. Reflection of all the provision and answers makes me hopeful for the next year ahead and dissipates all the worries of what it might bring.

2016 unfolded to be one of the best yet, despite the fears of the unknown. And these are a few of the things that I felt privileged to be a part of.

1. I boarded a plane to travel across the world to a country that I’ve always wanted to visit!

  
2. I had a new place to call home and a quirky town to begin life in.

   
3. I met many people and felt surrounded with much support, generosity and care. I’ve also had friends visit me here.

4. I’ve been surrounded by a great bunch of young people who I get to share life with. With this has come life changing conversations and witnessing things that only God can really do within us.

  
5. I’ve walked up mountains ( never believe a Kiwi when they say ‘hill’, they most defintely mean ‘mountain’). I’ve had a go at ziplining through forests, water skiing, snow skiing and floating through glow worm caves with nothing but an inflated hoop. I’ve felt the heat of volcanic activity in the ground and I have witnessed an aray of beauty and colour around me in the ever changing landscapes of the two islands.

   

 

   
    
 
These are just a few and brief examples of why this year was so good. Although being one of the best yet, that doesn’t mean there were not times of confusion, sadness and tears. It is so easy to put up a photo of the exciting times and yet be removed from sharing those quiet moments that no one really sees. Those unspoken and inner moments where fear tends to breed. It was definately an adventurous year of stepping out for me. A year of change and a year of challenges. How did your year go?
In conclusion, at the end of every year, I would like to be able to say ‘this has been the best yet.’ Even if it has been the most difficult to go through. I want it to be the best because I have given my best and my all to living for God. I want it to be the best because it is becoming easier to understand that even if the path looks different that His ways are the best for me. I’d like for each year to be adventurous whether I get on a plane or not, because I have the perspective of one who experiences the excitement of trusting God in the unknown.  God keeps showing us every year as the clock stikes midnight and the turn of a new year arises, that the unknown doesn’t have to be a scary, in fact it can be one of hope. God gives us hope for the future ( Jeremiah 29.11) ! I’m sure there are many reasons why we don’t possess knowledge of what 2017 will bring. We might run from pain, instead of allowing that pain to draw us closer to Him and others around us. We might decide to stay where it is most comfortable and never change or be challenged. We just might not want to know the path that is ahead. The only certainty for 2017 is that God is with us and He is already at the end of it too. He knows! I’ve been listening to a song lately that sums up that moment when you contemplate staying in the comfort or stepping out to be changed. I’m going to end this post with that and challenge myself and you; to allow the words to be pondered as the new year sets forth. That 2017 will be the best yet because we are stepping out into the unknown and walking with God through it. Every step of the way and every day that goes by.
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness

Hope to feel Your presence

And I could just stay

I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You

Hope to feel something again


And I could hold on

I could hold on to who I am and never let You

Change me from the inside

And I could be safe

I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home

Never let these walls down
But You have called me higher

You have called me deeper

And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord

You have called me higher


And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life


-All Sons and Daughters, Called Me Higher