By Mary Sayad

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    August 2007

    Last year, a dear friend gave me a large blooming, healthy gardenia plant. Its green leaves were bright and shiny and there were many promising buds. There must have been no less than eight separate beautiful plants in a single large planter.

    After a short interval, the leaves began to fall and the buds would dry up. I followed the instructions that were inserted in the pot perfectly, yet the leaves kept falling. Determined to preserve it, I searched for instructions on the internet as well as with the neighborhood florist and learned that I was giving it the proper care but my efforts were in vain. All but one bud fell from its delicate branches. No matter how hard I'd try to preserve the integrity of the plant, I was unsuccessful.

    There came a point where I finally gave up, and I removed six of the dead plants from the planter. There were two remaining pathetic looking plants. These two plants were quite dismal, but because they were alive, I couldn't bring myself to dispose of them. I lost hope for them and although I left them near the window, I hardly watered them and I no longer gave them loving care.

    When I was just a young schoolgirl, I bought my grandmother a small single gardenia plant that was decorated with a pretty pink bow for Mother's Day. I didn't have much money, but this was something I could afford and it made me happy to give her a gift that she would enjoy. Grandma had a green thumb and all of her plants flourished.

    Well, that tiny gardenia grew to be a towering five foot tree and during blossoming season, it produced many large, beautiful and fragrant white gardenia flowers. How awesome and healthy that minuscule plant grew!

    Grandma was proud of her plant and she shared the flowers with her family, friends and neighbors. I will never forget her bright contagious smiles as she gave away the blossoms. She was deservedly proud of the results.

    My in-adeptness with my gardenia would have Grandma turning in her grave! I know that I will never be as prolific with plants but I also know that there's always hope.

    The pitiful remaining branches of my gardenia plant gradually began to grow new leaves. I had decided that it wouldn't survive, yet it proved me wrong, and after a short time, it surpassed my negative expectations. This once dying plant, with the exception of five leaaves, began to grow into a strong and thriving plant. I could hardly believe my eyes as I observed its healthy foliage increase.

    I was humbled as I began to realize that as weak humans, we are often distracted by our erroneous opinions. Most of the gardenia plants in my planter did not survive. Many leaves fell to the floor daily and the remaining branches appeared to be dying and hopeless. Despite my gloomy outlook for them, these last two branches survived and flourished.

    I couldn't resist applying my failing gardenia to my life. The falling leaves represent our thinking habits. Frequently we are not aware of our emotional conditioning and daily thought patterns. Sometimes our comfortable habits are detrimental to us because they prevent us from growing spiritually and growing in wisdom. It is truly beneficial to take inventory of our behavior and attitudes from time to time.

    It occurred to me that we should all emulate the falling leaves. Why and what would be my benefits to shed some habits? How would I go about doing this?

    We are frequently tossed about by the storms of life and we are constantly challenged towards change for the better. Our personal stupidities and erroneous decisions also merit mentioning. When we become aware of our erroneous thinking patterns and make a genuine effort to learn by our difficulties, we will inevitably change our futile judgments and begin to experience less troubles. But the trick is awareness.

    Are we aware that God is in control and that we need to invite Him into our decision making process? Here lies your window of opportunity for improvement.

    Isaiah 41:10 - Fear not, I am with you; do not be dismayed; I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.

    Begin by carefully changing your control habits with genuine prayer. Genuine prayer opens your mind to a higher realm by freeing you from doubt and guilt. Thereupon your thoughts are unencumbered and clarified. Each day, in small steps, conscientiously invite God, Jesus and Mary into your life, your profession and your needs.

    2 Corinthians 3:5, 6a - It is not that we are entitled of ourselves to take credit for anything. Our sole credit is from God, who has made us qualified ministers of a new covenant, a covenant not of a written law but of spirit.

    I frequently quote the Bible scriptures because truth is available to us through the Word of the Lord. Trusting in the Lord results in peace and confidence even in times of tribulations. God loves us more than we can imagine and He is always with us. Remain close to Him with your daily dialogue with Him.

    St. Francis DeSales wisely reminds us: "Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow; the same Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.

    Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."

    Be like the falling leaves of my gardenia plant and lose your unproductive thinking patterns. Refresh and renew your thoughts and spirit by letting God show you the way. Trust in Him and watch how you will grow in wisdom and strength!

    This month, on August 15th we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother. Please pray for the banning of abortion starting with the ban of partial birth abortion

    Continue to pray for world peace and for our military and their families. Thank you for this opportunity.

    Your companion in prayer,