A bike ride early last week to a nearby cemetery proved telling of the children’s ability nowadays. With four kids able to ride in unison on back country roads full of hills and potholes and the occasional pickup truck, I’m impressed to say the least.
A three mile ride with Jude in his seat at my back, a teenager keeping tabs on the rest of the crew and our beloved Mema bringing up the rear, we were like a train of rollercoaster cars cresting hills and whizzing down and around the next bend, hair blowing wildly in the wind, only the sound of clicking gears and bullfrogs calling up from the ditches.
The apple blossoms are buzzing with bees under the early springtime heat. The children have jumped into the pool over a dozen times, the lawn is ready to be mowed again and our garden is cracked and thirsty before July. We’ve been watering much of it by hand, walking back and forth from trough to soil, sprinkling each row with watering cans passing each other by with the same goal; help it grow. Until our watering system is in place, we’ll continue our bucket brigade for as long as we need to.
Life can be heavy work, eh?
Heavy on the heart and heavy in the hands.
Jesus is the load lightener, the life example by which to base our every move. There was nothing imperfect about His walk on earth, nothing amiss or faulty. He's the perfect pioneer of a walk with God, more perfect than our own opinion of the day that is all too often swayed by our evil hearts.
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." John 6:35
He talked her through a sliver stuck deeply in her foot one night. I snuck this picture of her confidence in his word to remove it, a beautiful glimpse of a father's love for his child.
Kneeing beside the couch he explained how he could help her with the edge of a sharp blade, but only if she wanted him to, only if she felt comfortable with a little bit of pain. She willingly agreed to allow the procedure, fully convinced he had good intentions for her. Unafraid because of trust. The kind of trust we have in Jesus, fully expectant of His intentions to help us, not to harm. Even if it's painful. Our eyes are fixed, our ears are open, we rest in His plan today.
"Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."
Marsh marigolds push up from pools of wet reeds near our house. Sunshine yellow breaking through the darkness, beauty birthed in the midst of mud. Brave muck boot wearing children trudge through the slop to bring me bouquets of cheer.
Waffles for dinner. Marsh marigolds and tulips held not by social distance regulations gaily remain at the center of our meals. A family bible plan is pinned up under our dinner menu where Andy checks off the boxes after each evening meal. He’s reading through the Bible aloud to us; us and the marsh blossoms.
We eat in the van together on a separate week day, munching down takeout with plastic forks, a lunch date with covid-19 written all over it. He grabs my hand and prays thankfulness over our Styrofoam trays of beer battered fries, holding tightly to the unity we share in the midst of a chaotic world.
Back home a girl proposes an idea mid kitchen sweep, “Mom, we should plan to have teatime everyday at a certain time, wouldn’t that be a good idea?”
I had answered her too quickly, “Hmm, we’ll see” was my response.
She smiled and kindly shrugged off the need pressing deeply on her heart. She had told me what she was missing without demanding it and I had given her a “yeah maybe,” answer.
The day went on cycling through the meals, the messes, the bursts of voices throughout the house, the sound of boots being flung from foot to entryway wall, door slamming behind them. A tsunami of living.
Then silence when the sun hits hot in our backyard and all the housebound kids forget about home isolation leaving me to a quietness these walls know little of.
I wipe the table down, jelly plops and bread crumbs stuck in the cracks of our ever shifting tabletop, the result of seven months wood heat positioned nearby. He told me it wouldn’t hold up too long, that the pine board top was only a prototype. Though I’ve come to love it’s crooked, uneven character and I’m thankful for the steady companionship of this useful table. Then again, maybe it’s the hands that made it that fall me in love with its worn frame meal after meal, yes maybe.
The thought of a set teatime filters back through my mind. She needs this, the Holy Spirit presses on my heart. I scrub the stuck scrambled eggs slowly off the pan. Don’t miss the cues, God whispers the foresight into my soul.
Don't miss the cues.
She needs something to look forward to daily, Something to count on at 2pm every afternoon, like we used to have with 1:30 piano lessons and 8:20 CFA drop off. She needs a time to count on like I need a date set for when we can go back to church, or throw the masks away or invite over that family we laugh with until our sides ache.
Maybe that’s it, maybe we all just want to know when. When?
Most of the when's are out of our control, but this one, a 2:00 teatime is not. Can’t I give her a time to count on? A daily teatime to settle her structured heart? I think so.
And so it is at 2:00 we set a table with teacups assorted. Or maybe the matching set, depending on the mood. Some days it’s lemon drops delicately crafted and other days we tear open packaged biscotti and split blueberry filled granola bars into bite sized pieces. No matter the sweets, we can count on the yellow teapot’s whistle blowing at 2pm each day. Cups on saucers, tea box displayed, candle lit and chairs scrunched in close filling one end of the table.
It was a subtle clue, delicate and easily missed, like the hundreds of heart hints I’ve brushed aside in the past thinking them frivolous and unneeded.
We have to take a pause from more than just our calendar of events so as not to miss the cues of today. A whole lot of living is lost when we fail to see the cues to live right in front of us. Some of the most abundant living is done when we pay attention to our invation to enter into it's presence. Don't miss the cues.
I met a lady in the grocery store last week.
In the cosmetics isle of Walmart where I paced reading labels and color tones.
“What are you looking for?” She asks me. Surprised by the invitation to socialize in public I try to respond loudly through my triple layer hand sewn mask, “A mascara that won’t burn my eyes.” I say.
She tells me she used to sell Mary Kay and points out the best mascara for sensitive eyes. Our conversation continues makeup related as she unlocks her bank of wisdom pointing me to all the right drug store brands, the inexpensive gems she swears by. We stand facing each other, eyes peering out from under handmade masks trying to keep distance between our beings when she begins to tell me of the skin allergies she now suffers from. Allergies she acquired after a serious illness, an illness that involved multiple surgeries on her face and the reason behind her selective makeup choices.
“Oh, I’ll just show you” she says to me as she pulls down her mask. The right side of her face is discolored and scarred. She runs her hand over her cheek, “I’d take wrinkles any day over these scars” she confesses to me.
Her transparency is as beautiful as the face of suffering she’s revealed. Her willingness to share her pain with me, a stranger during a pandemic, merges our hearts for a few minutes and social distancing seems a thing of the past.
I forget to ask her name before thanking her and I push my cart to the checkout. Her story simmers in my mind while I ring up my groceries and I remember that line that sprang into my head earlier in the week, the one I’d jotted down on a slip of torn envelope not perceiving it’s worth in the moment, “what will you do with the scars?”
A pot of split pea soup bubbled low, thickening into a gravy-stew ready to be absorbed by wedges of yellow cornbread; that was when I first heard the words, “what are you going to do with the scars?”
I had been thinking of a few friends going through severe trials, heart wrenching losses that snuck up on them without warning, slashing their dreams deeply, leaving scars that changed the structure of who they once were. Scars that altered their whole lives.
And God asks me, “what will you do with YOUR scars?”
I had already been recalling my own life before meeting the Mary Kay lady, the hurts and hurdles of it, trying to lean back in time to the days I could run my hand over my own scarred self and remember vividly how they got there and how best to respond to the fresh wounds of my hurting friends.
And In the isle of a Walmart super center I met the solution to the question placed in my heart that day. The picture clearly embedded in my mind of the stranger lady with the key to what we should do with our scars. And now It’s clear, we pull down the mask and help someone else find what they’re looking for.
That’s the answer.
You show the scars and let the suffering give credibility to your testimony. Scars can give you the authority to talk about the things of Christ, the hurts make you heard, the trials make you trusted. Your pain is another’s path through the storm. Though Satan would have you believe you’re disqualified, too full of bullet holes to speak to a hurting world, a broken heart or an injustice being played out before your eyes, it’s by Jesus’ wounds you’re healed and by your scars you are approved to testify. Your scars are sacred to the kingdom if you let them be used for His glory. Your scars show the process by which wounds are repaired and make healing affordable to all.
Can we be so brave as to pull away our masks to reveal our own scars? Will we let our scarred image reflect that of Christ’s redemption, visible for all to see? Confirmed and conformed by the wounds of the One who bled for us so that we could heal and bleed no more.
Could your scars hold the key to another’s victory? If you’d just take off the mask.
I slip my boots on quietly by the door for a quick and purposeful jaunt around the house to dump the bucket of egg shells and banana peels into the compost pile and chop some cedar into thin strips for a snappy fire starter. I must keep the chilly floors and toes warm inside the house even in May.
The sky is blue and cloudless, the grass shifting its baby spring color to a more suitable, deeper green, mature and sophisticated by June, no doubt.
Arms full of kindling, plastic bucket squeezed between two fingers I stand for a moment under the open sky imagining God seeing me go here and there. “Take careful thought to all your ways.” Haggai 1:5
I am seen.
My voice rolling over a nearby field where children run, calling them in by name to come closer still to me. The echo of laughter between the man with dirt covered hands and I as he muddies up the glass of cool water I’ve brought him. The sound of children’s chattering that cannot be interpreted but carries the aroma of cheer and togetherness. They are seen.
The slam of a door and the sound of rain boots on a freshly mopped floor coming my way and, “take it all with grace” running through my head only to be met with a fist full of tiny spring blossoms tightly held between chubby fingers, a gift all for me worth every extra Swiffer swipe.
We are seen.
In all that’s going on around us, all the falling down, breaking apart, rocky future dreams unknown; if all the re-ports and re-posts are filled with fears that feed our hearts to the wolves, and in our heads grow seeds of inconsistencies and conspiracies, can we find strength to stand under the expanse of God’s 2nd creative day, and feel His loving presence? Knowing if everything, EVERYTHING falls apart He loves us and we are seen!
Can we let this assurance be what drives us to smile under masked faces with six feet between us in the dollar store? Will we set the bread of the Presence of God today on the table before us as a reminder in our present day of His faithfulness? (1 Kings)
We can rest in confidence of His love no matter how dreadful things might look around us. We are seen by Him who holds all the earth in His hands, The One Holy God with eyes so keen not the flit of a sparrow will He skip over. How much more will His love enclose your days? You are seen.
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass." Psalm 102:11