A Look Backward and Peek Forward

sunset best

 

Perhaps it was the two excruciating hours I spent in the chair – or maybe the lack of sleep worrying about the two hours – but I had a spiritual experience in a dental office today.

As she began chipping my front crowns away for replacement, my mind went back to the day they were first put on. I was 19yrs old. A few weeks before the accident, my life took a 180 degree turn from being an opinionated, agnostic teenager to a loved crazed Jesus follower – literally overnight.

The sudden shift from party-girl to church-attender was a bit of a shock to people who knew me. Everything about my life changed. All I wanted was to know more about my new found Savior. I wanted to learn how to live like the people I once mocked and now deeply admired.

My early obsession was to hear the voice of God like others said they experienced.

The day of my accident I heard it – unrecognizable at the time, but clearly his voice.

Without going into great detail, the Holy Spirit warned me not to go sailing that day. It was a deep sense that grew more intense the closer I got to the small sailboat at the shore’s edge. The thought amplified to the point I was certain, if I went along – someone would get hurt.

I ignored the unfamiliar voice, and placed my foot into the boat at the same moment a rogue wave hit it, throwing me forward and knocking out my front teeth.

My salty body surfaced from the sea with a blood covered face and hands raised high to the sky. Unashamedly I praised God – MY Savior, the one who speaks.

On my way to the doctor’s office he spoke again. The Lord softly told me, “My sheep know my voice”. It wasn’t until weeks later I learned this was a familiar verse from the Bible.

I don’t ever want to forget that day.

Lent began this week.

I came home from my dental appointment to a blog in my inbox from Jennifer Dukes Lee. I read about her decision to give up looking in the mirror until Easter in order to refocus her attention from herself to Christ. My heart was pierced. Just moments earlier, I was plotting how to avoid all human contact until the permanent crowns came in. I had been glued to my mirror all the way home, fixated on my ugly temporaries.

Jennifer’s words became a mirror to my brittle soul.

I want to return to the same innocent pursuit I had when my teeth were knocked out. Nothing else mattered to me, but his voice. I didn’t care what I looked like or who saw my toothless smile.

As crazy as it sounds, I was sad to say good-bye to my old crowns today. In some strange way I felt I was losing old friends. Although they have been a part of me for a long time, they’re NOT me, not even my real teeth. They’re space holders, in place of the real thing.

I believe today was a sneak preview of what’s to come. One day I’ll shed this temporary outer covering altogether, all my space holders.

We will take nothing with us when we go – none of the stuff we’ve accumulated or grown so familiar with – including our bodies. Today – now – is a good time to begin saying good-bye to the things we cling to. Things we THINK define us.

Lent helps to reposition our thinking, reevaluate what we cherish, and tear down the idols we’ve comfortably welcomed into our hearts. Imagine, old teeth coverings – one of my idols.

Thank you for covering your mirrors today, Jennifer. Thank you for turning a mirror toward me, so I could clearly see what blocks my view of seeing who I truly am – his beloved – his treasured sheep.

 

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29

 

 

Linking up today with #TellHisStory

The Mounted Orchid

thoughts of julia

 

The first time I saw it was two years ago. The image lives in a deep place in my heart.

 

I had gone for a walk after a morning filled with tearful prayer for a friend whose need felt bigger than my faith. My heart ached for her. Somehow I thought the fresh air might clear my head and provide me with a better perspective.

 

Along my path stood a tall palm tree looking like a carefully wrapped gift with slender ribbons and a big bow.

 

The delicate white orchid seemed to hang effortlessly to the palm. I was so stricken by its beauty I ran home for a camera. On my way back I tried to figure out what I’d seen. I wasn’t sure if the roots ran down the tree to reach the soil below or if it was drawing life from the tree itself through some sort of parasitical relationship.

 

I learned what looked effortless, really was not. The orchid had been intentionally placed on the tree by a gardener.

 

The mounted orchid’s life was not coming from the soil OR from the tree. The tree’s only role in the relationship was to receive the ornament. And the only job the orchid had was to cling. Over time the orchid’s roots had become one with the trunk.

 

 clinging

 

Life, I learned, was given by the air it breathed and any mist it was exposed to in the humid climate of Kauai.

 

Down the street I saw another attempt to decorate a tree with orchids. Lots of string and tape were used to help the orchid learn to cling.

 

 

will it survive

 

I thought about my desperate attempt to help my friend that morning. No matter how much compassion or prayer I offered, my friend’s situation had not changed. She needed more than I was able to give her. She needed – air, mist, life.

 

We can be the tape, wrapping our arms around our friends – helping each other hold on tight.

I appreciate my friends, who like tape and string, faithfully hold me to the tree when I can’t. I feel their loving arms around me when my grip wants to fail.

 

What an incredible Father we have who sweetly speaks through our surroundings. His language is rich and diverse. He paints his words through living examples all around us. And what a good Gardener he is to showcase our lives in just the right places as he sees fit.

 

The orchid is my gift. It’s a beautiful reminder he can be trusted. He will send the proper mist to my friend’s need when the time is right. In the meantime it’s my privilege to help her cling.

I am one piece of tape, while….

 

“Jesus is the true vine and our Heavenly Father is the gardener – apart from him, we can do nothing” John 15

 

Amazing Sight

spider web 2

 

Allowing myself to look beyond what I see is a constant challenge.

I say I want eyes to see and ears to hear, but my lethargic disregard sometimes suggests otherwise. I obviously choose to be shortsighted and blind. I wear filtered glasses – becoming too self focused to look outward or up.

Today I begged to see. I grieved my loss of sight.

I craved time with my Lord. I needed to see him and hear from him.

 

After a dim and tearful walk I headed home carrying my comfortable glasses – when suddenly I witnessed the most amazing thing.

Before me hung delicate gossamer art, hovering effortlessly like synchronized parachutes against a perfect sky. At least fifty of these spectacular designs stretched between the modest limbs of a Mulberry tree. They seemed to be suspended in space inhaling breezes and showcasing architectural genius. One of the creations was still under construction as a tiny engineer worked to connect his meticulous spirals, one inch at a time – one row at a time.

Displayed before me was a maze of wonder – brilliantly featured by spotlights of sun-rays. From every angle I could see harmony and order, precision and strength. Its inexplicable beauty paralyzed me.

Each carefully sewn circle somehow missed the other million sticky strings next to it. With limited strands to connect to the outside perimeter, they each managed to navigate their way to a secure place to cling. Some of the circles were four inches in diameter, others up to a foot wide. A few even arched out to miss the neighboring nets.

 

Speechless – I pondered.

How can I doubt the author of such detail – such genius? Who am I to feel separated, worthless or discouraged?

He spins intricate webs of situations into our lives – everyday – with purpose and for his good pleasure.

He gives us what we need in order to accomplish what he desires – for the greater good.

Whether we see him or not, he works. He watches. He spins order. He details interlinking circumstances within our greater community and his plans – for his pleasure and for our good.

He gives the blind, sight. This I know.

 

Tears have rinsed my tired eyes today – God spoke hope and life to me through the masterful efforts of tiny eight-legged creatures. Go figure.

He is immense. He is infinite in detail. He is near. He speaks and makes himself known.

I love him.

 

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, YOU are exalted as head over ALL.” 1 Chronicles 29:11

 

Unobstructed Views

replace photo on blog

 

Today – it’s an honor to be included as a guest blogger on the (in)courage website. I hope you’ll take a minute to read it, search the site (maybe even leave a comment) and then – please go tell a friend how much you appreciate them.

If you’re a regular subscriber, you’ll certainly see the contrast between today’s post written a few months ago, and my last post, Redemption. With a heavy heart I continue to pray for hurting friends – and yet, I’m grateful for lighthearted moments that breathe grace and hope into my soul, reminding me I’m not alone. Please click here to visit (in)courage with me today.

 

 

Redemption

lightening strikes

 

Redemption: an exchange, reclaiming or rescuing – my new favorite word. I find myself pleading for it as I pray for my friends. This week especially – my heart feels like it’s encased in thick cement.

A young father waits for a bone marrow transplant after flushing his body with poison to interrupt the wicked plan of cancer. Another friend is stalled midstream in treatment, waiting for test results as she battles a rare female cancer.

Still another friend sits with her daughter in ICU hoping she’ll wake up after careening into an asthma-induced coma. Two states away from her, another friend fights her way back to us after trauma to her brain.

Each one of these dear friends knows the love of God and knows Jesus as their Savior. Each one of them confesses unwavering faith in the face of their storm. They wait. They pray. They’re my heroes.

I watch their communities join them in prayer – pleading for healing – waiting for the supernatural rescue line.

Our Heavenly Father holds all lifelines. He also knows the outcome.

What does he think as he watches us bang heaven’s doors telling him – the creator of all we see and all we can’t see – what he must do? Surely, if we cry hard enough, shout loud enough, make wrong things right – somehow, heaven will finally respond the way we want it to. The torrential storm will pass and clear skies of grace and fairness will return. Bad will be redeemed with his good.

But what if redemption comes in the form of death – or through the mystery of suffering?

Redemption scoops up our broken pieces and reconstructs it for his best use. We didn’t redeem ourselves into right standing with him in the first place. And we cannot redeem our difficult circumstances by what we do or say. As believers, we can’t even claim our own life as our own. Hard times remind us of that.

His plans are always best. He knows the tomorrow we can only dream about.

Releasing our will, our plans and even our grip on the tiller is a lifelong journey. Graciously receiving his redemptive plan – whatever it may be, is an even tougher sea to sail.

Sovereign God, help me let go and accept your perfect plan. Chip away the hard surface of my stoney heart. I yearn to reclaim it with complete trust in who you are. I don’t need to know what your plan looks like – I only need to walk in my own completed redemption with full assurance you are bigger, smarter and wiser than me. Heal us, I pray.

Psalms 66:19-20 “Praise God who does not reject our prayers or withhold his love from us.”

 

Linking up today with #TellHisStory by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Hop on over to read her blog along with the many others invited to participate in sharing their stories. You won’t regret it.