A Thing of Beauty
After a drawn-out year I’m finally settling into a home where I can put down some roots, and stay a while. A few treasures had bumped and crunched in this move or that one, and so I found myself with a few repair projects, first a teapot whose handle was now in four pieces. Mr. Hardware was quite helpful and recommended a fancy new cement. I snagged it, and a tube of super glue just in case things didn’t go quite as I’d planned.
This teapot has never been the sturdiest of souls, always the first to burst into tears when something unjust happens. Clearly, this last move had injured it nearly beyond repair. The first product wasn’t adhering quickly enough before the weight of the broken piece would fall out of it’s position. Finally with the super glue I was able to glue all four pieces at the same time rather than one at a time.
I couldn’t help but notice that the restoration process for this teapot was unique just as our own healing journey requires a unique combination of restorative ingredients. I realized my turquoise bit of pottery would never host a tea party again. I’m pretty sure the potter put a rather slinky handle on this chubby and adorable pot, but even with an entire ounce of super glue plotzed in every crack and crevice, it would never be the same.
And so it is with us. Some have been decimated by life’s harsh circumstances. Others are running from the rod which measured them as a child, and found them lacking. So severe were it’s judgments that they mete out penalties against their bodies, or crush others needlessly. With others, an unfulfilled dream or failure to become the man or woman they’d hoped, a yawning ache remains.
The Bible, in Jeremiah 18, contains a beautiful story about the prophet being prompted by the Lord to visit the potter’s house for an object lesson quite like mine. As Jeremiah observes the potter at the wheel, the Lord asks a poignant question of Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you as the potter does the clay?” The more intimate and beautiful friendships with Him come with yieldedness to God, as the Potter.
Lent is a beautiful season for reflection. My question is this, have you come to the place where you’ve reached the end of yourself? The way in which we become unstuck in this life is to yield. Obviously my teapot doesn’t have a will. But submitting to the process of becoming reconciled to our Maker requires a choice. When we get to the place where we stop yelling about our rights, and yelling about how life should have gone, then we will find intimacy with God. It’s when we listen and release our fist into an opened hand that we find Him if we invite Him to speak, and to heal. In the process we may find that – healed – we’ll never become the person of our dreams. Yet, I do promise this, we’ll discover the dreams that our Maker had for us. After all, maybe you were meant to be a thing of Beauty rather than Function.
Tea can be such a plebeian pursuit when you’re a fancy teapot sporting a wickedly cracked handle.
Go in Love.
Ditch the Plates
Recently I was reminded of wisdom from my friend Julie, “When things are not working in one area of your life just humble yourself with God and let Him sift your heart. Let Him call the shots about where things are out of whack.” Such a relief I felt. I can do that. I can’t fix all the things I’ve broken, but I can repent for the places He shows me, and I can rejoice where He shows me successes.
Lately things are messed up enough that I’ve been content to just look at the messes with Him for a moment. To see things as He sees them.
Others see the outside of us. They perceive that we have our lives together, that we are impenetrable. “What could she possibly need?” The truth is we’re all re-assembling our lives in view of the empty tomb at Calvary. I feel like I’ve been trying (Read: trryyyingg) so hard to keep all the plates spinning. I decided to stop trying. So let the flippin’ plates go. It’s just too much, too confusing. I don’t understand and the pieces seem like they belong to someone else’s puzzle, not mine. Seriously that sky blue piece can’t possibly fit in my puzzle that’s all clouds and stormy weather.
Anyway it turns out when you stop trying there’s some exposure. It resembles the Hoover Dam a bit, unleashed. You didn’t get the job done. You are suddenly not the ideal girlfriend, the most physically fit with the cleanest apartment, the most accomplished. In fact your failures scream at you. Meh. Let it go. Just look for the scarlet cord and take hold of that. The One that matters.
To ask for help does.not.smell.like.failure. It has the fragrance of a rainy day after the sun has come out.
Another friend told me, “Your success at pursuit of the Kingdom is not what is measured. Everything you do, prayerfully intending to obey God will be accounted to you as missional obedience, as righteousness.” — Shun Lee
That statement has changed my life. It’s changed what I do, what I will pursue, and how much of myself I will risk to see Kingdom accomplished.
Red Radio Flyers for Ebenezers
Words. Strung together. At once leaning hard like tee-pees, and yet tugged along like a red Radio Flyer wagon.
I had one once. It was all steel and it meant business about hauling.
My world of Make-Believe found its boundaries with the natural realm to the extent that a singular, weathered wagon was my prairie schooner. It was my station wagon. It was my mobile home in the wooded Northern country.
Words fly. As if tucked into that red wagon, careening down a hill. Leaning left and then right. And then the axle turns and locks. It’s a beautiful thing to be dumped from your prairie schooner.
In that moment, a Tomboy Pretend Mama, Let’s-play-like-we’re-Family-You-be-the-Dad-I’ll-be-the-Mom-an-let’s-have-more-kids-this-time. You’re alive. As sure as the Sumac smacked your cheek, you are fully alive.
All the rocks you’ve collected. Ebenezers, you thought.
The wheat you’ve harvested from Boaz’ field, strewn about the ground like so many sheaves of wild oats sown under the scandalous Summer sun.
And so you begin again. Collecting the baby dolls you’ve trundled and toted, now face down in the dirt. Blink. Blink. Their eyes unable to free themselves of their tears from toppling. And all you ever wanted was one of your own. Blink.
You smish the smashed peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Why you keep choosing grape jelly for your sandwich you commence to spend a lifetime wondering.
There are the words to collect. Once tucked tightly in the wagon, now tumbled about. Retrieving each one. Sown in kindness and love. Yet landed on the rocks among the other heart-shaped minutiae, trampled and un-treasured.
With every prairie schooner spillage we become wiser about what we take with us. The long stretch of the journey ahead requires a peanut butter-only sandwich, to be sure. But there might be some Oreos in the back part of the cupboard.
It’s time to go check.
Winter’s First Thaw: Our Hearts at Stoney Creek
Many of the tools in my life’s toolkit are gleaned from my childhood in the rural, Northern countryside where I grew up. The woods were a wonderful playground but they are also rich with metaphors for life, that I draw on continually.
There was a magnificent trout stream that bordered our property. The creek ran dry in the hot summers and would overflow the roads in Springtime. It boasted enormous steel culverts in two different places where the water crossed the roads. The metal tunnels allowed for the free-flow of water when the creek ran high. In many cases the creek would swell to several feet deep, and threaten to wash out the road during flood seasons. The water flows fierce and cold in Michigan. And yet there is a profound beauty, even an explosion of delight when Springtime edges its way North.
It’s difficult to aptly describe how well our family knew the creek and those woods, and the way in which they were our home as much as our house was. The trees were friends. Maple leaves rustling in the Fall. Deep snow crunching beneath our feet. The symphony of starlight that ushered many a midnight walk through woods. These were the background music we learned to love.
After I’d moved to the southeastern states, there was one season in particular when I’d lost my way, emotionally, spiritually. The path was dark, and my emotions were raw. My was heart ransacked. As a girl who had grown up knowing True North instinctively, I’d lost my bearings. In that season the Lord reminded me of being at the creek, of walking through the culvert. Every ridge and root. The rock formations that had shifted from winter’s enormous beds of ice. The trees that leaned over the water. New Adder Tongue and Jack in the Pulpit poking their way up through the frozen earth. The pungent earth yawning it’s solidarity with the trees.
Yet my heart was reminded of the way the sun glinted against the shards of ice. There was a mountain of ice and the blazing sun creating a cacophony of brightness. The silence in my heart thrummed with nature’s symphony once again. I could feel the dormant winter earth longing for Springtime, just as my heart ached to be whole again.
When Springtime comes at the culvert the energy and direction are unspoken and vivid. Before long, the water would rush through and fiercely demand passage out into the fields and the creek bed would press it’s way into the mighty Black. Fierce and full and without reserve. The pain of growth and transformation are memories left with Winter’s crunching snow beneath the icy moon. I would find my traction, and True North would expose itself to my spirit again.
Your Springtime will come again. But for now, take a deep breath. Rest well, my friend. Unravel panic and trauma, and Winter’s yawning ways. As you rest, the warmth of sunshine will melt the shards of ice that have clung to your soul, and you will laugh again. You are worthy. You are loved.
Be at peace.