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Sunbeams in the Rain

I woke early this morning, and though I assume it’s been pretty cloudy and rainy throughout last night, when I woke, the sun happened to find a break in the clouds. As my cobwebs cleared, I watched out my window and simply absorbed the picture. The rays outlined the cloud, rimming it with a brilliant gold and showing its true glory, the pearly white beneath. Then as the sun found it’s break, it lit up the honeysuckle tree outside my window, like the burning bush which struck Moses with such wonder, how did the thing not burn up? The shadows danced on my floor a moment, and then the clouds swallowed up what light was left.

Now, the wind blows hard, whipping the raindrops till they sting the skin it hits. There is no shine of sunlight, and that honeysuckle, once magnificent gold, now is just a sad pale yellow.

It is so easy to dwell on how sad the weather looks outside, even more so to dwell on all that we are struggling with or have lost in our lives. Maybe its age, a close friend or a family member. Maybe it’s the loss of health or the mourning of something you never received. Whatever it is, all you see is the clouds.

Yet this reminds me of a flight I took a few years ago.

When we took off, the day was just like today. Windy, rainy and extremely gloomy. But then we broke out of the wall of clouds, and what I saw, was the most beautiful sight.

The sky was not cloudy, but it was the starkest and clearest blue I had ever seen it. The sun was so bright that it stung my eyes, and the clouds was the most perfect creamy white imaginable. It was so beautiful, and so glorious, it was hard to believe that below all this was a very dreary world.

When we live in a dreary world, it’s hard to believe that there is Light above. It’s hard to believe that there is always stars in the darkness or that a rainbows appear after storms. In the thick of it, we are only just trying to hold on. Yet may I remind us all, that Light is always here. It is always there. And best of all, it’s always within our grasp.

Jesus said that if you knock, the door will be opened, and if you seek you will find it. All we have to do to catch a hold of that light, that perfect Light, by the asking and the receiving. Then to believe it.

So on this day, I pray that you will have Light, and have it abundantly.

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The Good Life

The Garden of Eden. God finished creating a perfect paradise, placed a perfect man and woman in it, and told them that they could eat from any tree of the garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

There was no sin. Man had an abundance of food at his fingertips. He worked with no toil and he played with no regrets. Enter in the serpent, the lying craftiness of the Devil, and instead of killing the thing, Adam listened, and then ate the forbidden fruit with his wife Eve. Man was banished from Eden forever on pain of death.

Ever since then, man has tried to get back to that life, we call it the Good Life.

But what is the Good Life? And how do we fulfill it?

The Good Life, in the worldly sense, is all about what we have and what we have accomplished. It’s about what gives us pleasure and about what pleases us. Hollywood preaches sex, money and fame, the Good Life. Yet if those Hollywood stars are living the Good Life, then why do they seem so unfulfilled? Why do we hear about the drugs, the affairs, the binge drinking? Could it be that the “good life” is not all that it seems?

In the Noah Websters 1828 dictionary, the word good is first described in the material matters, wealth, removal of pain, prosperity etc, but definition five states:

n.

  1. Moral works; actions which are just and in conformity to the moral law or divine precepts.

I propose that the “good life” is not how we live, but how we respond to the Gospel.

I propose that we as Christians and followers of Jesus Christ should not be pursuing the “Good Life” but that which is Good, the unbroken commune with God, living to please Him, and not ourselves.

Scripture says that we are to pursue whatever is “true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and whatever is commendable.” (Phil 4:8).

It wasn’t the fact that there was no sin, or that man seemed to have whatever was his heart’s desire that was “good” about Eden, but the fact that Adam and Eve had complete unbroken commune with God. The Good Life is not about that we have it all, but that we have the One who gave it all.

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Beautiful Imperfections

mess journal 005

It was hideous.

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I was just short of disgusted with it and ashamed. So I hid it away, hoping to forget about it. I was ready to throw it away, but my dear mother said no, “You will get better at it, and then when you make a perfect one, you will be able to look back and see how far you have come.”

Grudgingly, I decided that I might as well use it after all, I was taught not to waste things, but the truth is, I thought I had already wasted the paper, string, and the genuine leather. Tucked away in a tote, I tried to forget about it, but I never truly forgot, and then God started showing me that I was just like that journal.

I had begun the creative process with the dream of making beautifully handmade books. My romanticism always loved the idea of stacks of paper, covered with handwritten ink, all wrapped up in beautiful, smooth leather.

Reality would have none of that. I set out hoping to make it perfect and beautiful, but I ended up with an uneven, crooked, and a sloppy mess of paper, leather, and string.

Then I realize that I am just like that journal. I am a sloppy mess of a person, fighting every day my spoiled sin and pride that would pull me away from those I love. Yet God looks at me and says,” That one is mine. I love her, I have made her, and she very, very good.” He saw all my sin, and He took it upon himself so that I might be free. I am redeemed.

When I thought about this, I realized that I could not throw this pitiful thing in a corner all by itself to gather dust.

I tore out the pages I had already written in a different journal, one that was perfectly neat and prim, and a placed them in the handmade journal, and wrote my first entry. You see, I knew how I could redeem this pitiful thing, I knew how to make it beautiful. By filling it with beautiful words, filling it with the story of how Jesus was redeeming me and the world, I knew it would not be so ugly. In fact, it would be a treasure of books.

If one was to read my journals, you would not find them all happy cheery. You would most likely find pain, sorrow, loneliness, often anger, and many wails out to God haunting their pages. You would also see joy and jubilee, fun and laughter as well, gracing the pages and brightening your eyes. That’s the beauty of it all, that even in our messy lives Jesus gives us gifts of joy, of redemption, and even in those ugly times, draws us closer to Him.

I don’t see the homemade journal as a ugly thing that needs to be thrown away anymore, I see it as a beautiful mess. A little book for me to record my hopes, dreams and prayers, and a reminder of just how much I am loved by my Creator.

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Journey Through the Briar

Every good story begins with, “once upon a time.” Once upon a time, something horrible happened… Once upon a time, there was an ugly little girl… Once upon a time, an evil queen cursed the land. “Once upon a time” is the beginning of a tale fraught with woe, yet almost always ends with happily ever after. Once upon a time made right again.

But how do you tell a story when it is still in the making? Ah, these are the tougher tales, yet they still need to be told, for if they are not, who will be inspired by their story? Who will be encouraged to rise up and fight again? Who will have courage renewed?

I know of such a story. It may not be as grand as many tales before it; no, it is small and humble, not abounding to anything much. But if it encourages one heart, then I say it was worth the beginning of the telling.

But this one is special none the less, as it involves a kindly old man, winkled and worn by the world, who wanted to still make a difference. So he set aside a little money each month for his little granddaughter, his youngest grandchild, in hopes that it might be a means of fulfilling her dreams.

But I am getting ahead of myself, it begins with…..Once upon a time……

She was a funny little thing, she had many “quirks” that the family thought were just part of the uniqueness of her (the secret is, she is still unique.) She showed little signs here and there, but they were so subtle and so far between that the family just didn’t realize their significance. Little things like pulling her own teeth (four teeth in one day, when she was five years old), bonking her head on a hardwood floor as a toddler, a goose egg forming, and yet walking off without a cry, as if nothing happened. She was a late reader, but that didn’t worry the family. After all, every person should be allowed to take their time when it comes to learning.

She spent her early years frolicking outside, living in whole other worlds. How a little girl could make up the tales she imagined, no one knew. But she did. She could go anywhere she wanted to go, be anybody she wanted to be, there was nothing she couldn’t do. She never got hungry or cold, or scared, when she fought the evil foes that threaten her life. No matter how dangerous the adventure be, she was always safe, nothing could truly harm her, for she did it all in the confines of her four acre farm, close by her mother’s call.

A few years passed by in this way, and it was now time that the girl begin to start her bookwork for school. This is when the troubles started to be evident. She struggled and struggled with learning phonics. Her mother spent hours and hours with her on the couch to no avail, trying to teach the girl how to read. Then one day something clicked, and it changed her life forever. For the first time, the pages didn’t hold just a mess of jumbled and confusing syllables. They held passion, love, adventure and laughter. They held worlds that opened up to her, and begged her to come explore their depths. The words became alive, a living and breathing force that captured her and held it fast.

She skipped all the “little kid’s books” all the “early readers” Why would she waste time reading those silly little things when the world was full of ideas and dreams, and they were all contained in the many volumes on shelves?

So the little girl read and read and read. She loved it, she couldn’t stop, she had to find out what happened at the end of each chapter. She would read and read all day: history, literature and fantasy. She hardly stopped to eat, afraid that the adventures would continue on without her.

One day after playing out the stories she read and acting them out many times, she began to think that she was too childish. Then her brain began to crank. If she could make up stories in her head why not try writing things down for a change? What if she could create the stories just as well on paper as in her head? She thought that this sounded much more grown up. So she sat down at her desk, pulled out paper and a pencil, and wrote about two sisters. When she finished she jumped up in excitement and hurried to read it to her mother. Her mother listened with rapt attention, choked up with tears, and wanted to hear more. The girl had the power of words, and thus began a journey all its own.

But math had to raise its ugly head, and the girl found out what it was really like fighting dragons.

Math was a battle every day with so many tears of frustration. She began to think that she was stupid, that there was something wrong with her. Why could she not do the things that other girls her age seemed to do with ease?

As time passed she fell terribly behind. She was flunking all the tests, so her mother decided it was time to start something new, so they began again from the beginning with a new math program called Math U See. It made a little more sense to the young girl. She was getting all A’s now, but something was still wrong. She still struggled to grasp the most simple of concepts, it took hours and hours and hours, the whole day sometimes, to do one page of math. Because she was struggling so much, her mother suggested that she just focus on one subject at a time, “Get through math, and when you are caught up you can work more easily through the other studies,” she had said.

So her days began and ended with numbers, and the girl learned what hating with a vengeance meant, and what it felt like too. Most math days ended with screams of frustration and tears. Emotional breakdowns that caused the whole house to shake with her shrieks. She tried to hold it all in, but most days she just couldn’t. The smallest things could set her off. One moment she was joking and happy, the next she turned into a raging and crying monster. The whole family would look on in shock, and when they tried to find out what happened and what was wrong….she couldn’t even say what she was so upset about.

A few years passed, and through a conversation her mother was having with a friend, she heard of a book called Upside-Down Brilliance, The Visual-Spatial Learner. After reading up on it, she knew she had to get it. Trouble was, it was so much in demand that it was almost impossible to get, but she finally found the paperback and bought the book for $50. Soon after, while driving home from a family outing, the mother handed it back to her frustrated girl and said, “read!” Taking the book, the girl began to read and what she found astonished her to gales of laughter. The book, by some magic trick, was all about her. It spelled her out chapter by chapter, how she thought and how she felt. For the first time, someone was giving voice to all the things the girl could not explain. She was thirteen years old.

The mother wanted to have the girl tested by the educational center that was founded by the author of the book that so described the girl, however, the testing was not only expensive, but the center was several states away and money was an issue so it was put on the “someday list”.

Time went by and the girl’s mother went to New Mexico to take care of her own mother while she was recuperating from surgery. But in a whirlwind of events, her step father died, and several months later the grandmother moved in with the girl’s family.

So began the journey of the young girl helping care for her Grannie. For a year, the girl’s time was immersed in the hands-on of care of her grandmother. The experiences she learned shaped her and caused her to grow in ways that to this day she can’t explain.

The family cared for their ailing grandmother for almost a year. They nursed her to the end of her life, and the most beautiful thing about it is that the mother and her daughters washed the body in the home. The girl was amazed of how God blessed her family in such an intimate way. She knew she would always hold it dear to her heart.

The year 2013 came around, the girl was now sixteen years old. Her mother made a trip to Texas to visit her father, and there received a gift.

The grandfather told the girl’s mother that he had been setting aside a little money each month for his granddaughter, to be used in any way the mother saw fit. The mother then told him about the testing at the Gifted Development Center that they wanted to do, and the grandfather confirmed that the money was to be used for whatever was needed.

After filing forty pages of documentation, they were ready for the consultation call they were to have with Bobby Gillman, the woman who would then be doing the testing. The forty pages covered everything from developmental mile stones, to her likes and dislikes, to her favorite books. When they finally got all the pages sent in, they had a hour and a half consultation call. Mrs. Gillman started naming off a list of things she wanted the family to do before they came in for the testing in areas of where she saw possible problems; get auditory testing done at Able Kids Foundation (who knows and understands gifted children ), get an eye evaluation done, and an evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder, and most importantly, read these books.

Truth be told, the girl had every one of those possible diagnoses: Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Vision Processing Disorder with Convergence Insufficiency. The girl was purely overwhelmed. Yet, now everything made sense; now they knew that because of sensory processing disorder, the girl’s whole system is out of whack. Her eyes don’t work together, her ears don’t work together, and her body is a bit tilted.

Finally, five years from when they first found out about the testing, The Testing Day came. The girl was nervous and excited at the same time.

For the five minute drive from the hotel to the Center, thoughts kept milling through her mind.

What if I’m not as smart as people say I am? What if they find out I’m just stupid and lazy?

The testing was all day, all day. By 3:30pm the testing was finally done, and all that was left was the conference with the tester and Dr. Linda Silverman (author of the book and founder of the center). The girl was pooped.

The next day came. At 1:20pm mother and daughter were on their way to the conference meeting. The same thoughts ran through the girls head as the day before, nervous and excitement combined in a single nerve.

To her shock, and joy, the first thing the ladies said was, “Why not do collage now? What’s the deal about finishing high school?”

They went on to say that the girl who was believing her whole life that she was stupid, actually tested in the 95% superior range when it comes to her intellectual abilities. In the reading comprehension test, they went all the way into graduate level before the girl was unable to complete it.

The long and short of the consultation was that she was one smart cookie….with a bomb load of learning disabilities.

Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia, which in simple language is reading difficulty, struggling with the motor skills to write, and that math thing again.

She sat back in the leather office chair in disbelief, shock, and bewilderment. What can possible be said about the feelings running through her veins? The only thing she could think of was, “ I’m not stupid, I’m not stupid, I’m not stupid.” She was afraid she might start to cry. Here she was sitting there, listing to theses ladies talk about the importance that she knows that she is smart. They told her that she was working so hard to work through her learning disabilities. In fact, she was using her very intelligence to work through her struggles. Apparently it was working, because it was well hidden, and it took a person who understood giftedness to be able to bring it to the light. They talked about the importance of positive thinking. “Positive thinking, how on earth can I do something like that?” she thought. How can she say anything good about herself, when she knew so many times that she would disobey God, that she would sin, hurt Him and others. She always considered herself a wretched Christian, and even though she knew she was forgiven, she didn’t always “feel” it, and so she resorted to depression and saying things about herself that she would never wish to say to someone else. Yet weeks later, she was faced with that very battle. Was she going to continue the path of belittling herself, looking down on herself, or was she going to say positive things about herself, and choose to repeat Scripture even when she does not “feel” it to be so? She knew what the Word of God says, and she made the decision that she was going to repeat it again and again regardless of “feelings” she holds.

So here she is today. She now knows that she is very capable of getting her doctorate. They said it will always take a little longer, but once she gets there, she will be far beyond the regular population. Does she still have to fight with her learning disabilities? Yes, but the last chapter hasn’t been written yet.

For now she is simply trying to trust in God, to repeat truth even when she may not feel it, to hold on to Him, and to not give up. She has the resources to help her succeed in life, and even if she doesn’t, what does it matter? God is still God, Jesus still died on the cross and rose again, and He still has her in the palm of His hand. She knows He’s not going to drop her either.

So she awaits her Happily Ever After. This happily ever after when she has walked this earth, when she has breathed her last, when she has reach heaven’s glory to worship her King with no flaws and no more pain, forever, everlasting

Happily Ever After.

This is my story, my forming, continuing story. This is the story of my struggle for knowing Christ deeper, for trusting Him more, and for trying to do this thing called life.