I Can Be Your Eyes

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blog eyes
When Mark and I first started dating, he revealed to me that he had an eye disease called RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). There is no cure and it is a progressive eye disease which eventually leads to blindness. Being married to someone with a progressive eye disease brings a whole new dynamic to a marriage. Part of my wedding vow to Mark should have read “I promise to watch out for you and not let you walk into those yellow ‘Wet Floor’ signs. I promise to steer you clear of lolly-columns and telephone poles. And when we are climbing around the rocks near the ocean, I promise to save you from stepping off the ledges into the water.” Being Mark’s “Seeing Eye Wife” (and I told him that I refuse to wear the harness that you see service dogs wearing!!), I sometimes feel as though I’ve stepped out of the role of being his wife and stepped into the role of being his mother or caregiver. We’ve had many conversations about his continued loss of vision and what our future will look like. I’ve told him that I want him to be totally honest with me when he feels as though I am hovering over him too much or keeping him back from doing something he wants to do. Recently, while we were visiting one of our favorite falls in Maine, I asked him if I was being too cautious. Mark told me that if I see he’s headed for danger, he most definitely wants me to warn him (well, duh!) and that he trusts me to keep him safe. He relies on me to see for him, to be his eyes in dark restaurants or other places, to warn him when he’s headed for something that will cause him harm.
While I was thinking about my role as his additional set of eyes, the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Isn’t that kind of what I do for you?” God sees what’s ahead for us and does what He can to protect us from pain and heartache. Instead of a cane or seeing eye dog, God gives us His word to direct us and keep us on a safe path.

Psalm 119:105 says:

thy word

And sometimes, I get distracted by something shiny and forget that Mark is relying on me to make sure his path is clear of any obstacles. Only when he bumps his shin or runs into something am I brought back to what I was supposed to be focusing on: his safety and what’s ahead of him! Isn’t that the same thing that happens to us believers when we take our eyes off what we should be focusing on? And then when something in life comes our way because of our lack of focus, we realize that if we had just been listening to that still small voice or had been using the “lamp/light” (His Word) that has been given to us, we may have avoided this pain or obstacle.

What a comfort knowing that God sees further down the road than we do. What a comfort that our loving Father sees that the pain and heartache that we are experiencing now and knows that there is greater purpose that will one day be revealed to us. And what a comfort to know that God never gets distracted and forgets to be our “eyes”! What a comfort to know that one day, when Mark arrives in Heaven, his eyesight will be perfect!

And now I need to go because goodness knows what type of mischief Mark has gotten into because I haven’t been keeping an eye on him.

Wait!! Who punched a hole in my Monet?

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I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

This past Sunday, Pastor John continued his series on the book of John. The message was based on John 9:1-12 describing the account of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. Pastor John told us the story about an $11 million dollar Monet painting that was punched and damaged by some random guy. To this day, the reason for this act of destruction is still unknown. Pastor explained that the restoration process took 18 painstaking months. He related the restoration work of this piece of artwork to the restoration work of God in our lives. It only takes a minute to destroy a painting and it only takes a single word, act or experience to destroy the “masterpieces” in our lives.  I really feel as though the Holy Spirit was not just tapping me on the shoulder but yelling at me “Are you listening? Are you paying attention?” So, I decided to take a walk through my own art gallery and take some inventory of the damaged Monets in my life!

So why don’t you grab your art museum brochure and wander through my gallery with me. I’m sure you’ll see plenty of pieces that feature squirrels; they take up a lot of my attention! I’ll act as your curator and explain each piece and the background behind them.

Ahhh, this first piece is a favorite of mine. It’s titled “Family” and the medium is finger-paints. It’s a precious picture of three sets of little hands. When we decided to become parents, I was determined that I was going to be the perfect parent. That lasted until we had our first child, Kenny!  Ohhhh! Who punched a hole in this painting? It looks like the size of  “Regrets’” fist!  Regret is an ugly character! He loves to attack often and when you are feeling vulnerable. And he usually shows up time and time again. I think Regret needs to be banned from my art museum!

Oh, and this next piece is special to me. It’s fondly called “Faith”. I’ve had this piece of art since I was 5 years old. It’s painted with a deep red paint, a shade that reminds me of the precious blood that paid for my redemption. There’s a cross on a hill and a little 5-year-old girl at the foot of this cross. I love this picture. I revisit it often and just remember the day this was painted: it was painted in a small Sunday School classroom located in the basement of the United Baptist Church in Peru. Audrey Wentzell oversaw this painting. Oh my goodness!! This painting also has a hole punched in it! Who on earth would dare punch a hole in this masterpiece? Let me guess! “Doubt”! I remember those days when Doubt would double up his fist and take a swing at my picture. Days like “There’s no more that we can do for your family member!”, or “I can’t believe God would allow this/that to happen to me!”, or “Are you sure God would really forgive you for….”. I think it’s time to move on to the next painting, this one is painful to look at right now.

The next painting is called “Friends”. This painting uses so many different colors and rightly so. I remember painting this piece throughout the years. I am so blessed by having some of the most precious people surrounding me. The size of this piece is very wide because it encompasses the friends I’ve had from an early age until this present day. If you are quiet enough, you can almost hear the laughter that comes with this masterpiece. And like the other paintings, there is a big old hole right in the middle!! And the culprit is named “Life”! During our lifetime, friends come in and friends go out. Different circumstances help to punch a hole in this piece of art. Sometimes painful situations come up as in “I no longer want to be a part of your life” or “We really don’t have that much in common anymore so let’s just part ways.” All too often, I try to restore these relationships on my own power without even considering that maybe God has allowed these friendships to fall by the wayside for my own good.

As I wander past these pictures, the Holy Spirit whispers to me and says “Remember what Pastor pointed out on Sunday? I restore sight to the blind and I can restore whatever you are hanging on to that needs to be restored!” And so with trembling and sometimes clenched hands, I turn over my “Monets” to him. They may not be worth 11 million dollars but they are priceless to me. And over time, sometimes not as quickly as I would want, He restores these masterpieces. I think back on the failures of being a parent and pray that God would fill in areas where I was lacking. I consider the faith journey that I have walked and thank God that He’s always been faithful even when I was not. He let me voice my doubts and He still loves me because He’s a gracious, loving Father. The friendships that I have made and lost, I turn them over to Him and let Him restore the relationships that should be restored and pray for peace for those that may never be restored this side of Heaven.

Thank you for walking through my museum with me. I encourage you to take a look at the masterpieces hanging on your walls. I’m sure, like me, you’ll see some with holes punched in them. You can trust me when I say that I have the best Restorer of Masterpieces working with me!

Oh, and one more thing!! Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop on your way out. We have lots of books for the art collector and bins and bins of stuffed squirrels for the distracted art lover. Ooooh, and what’s this shiny object……

 

Do you smell smoke?

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One of my all time favorite things to do is to sit around our fire pit in our backyard or the campfire while we are camping.  And usually, for the next few days the smell of the fire and smoke stay with me even after washing my hair a number of times.  I have a love/hate relationship with the smell of smoke.  When I do catch a whiff of the lingering smell of smoke in my hair, it brings back the memories of sitting around the fire with family and loved ones.  But then, while I’m sitting at work and a co-worker is standing by me and I smell smoke, I think “They must be thinking ‘Does she ever bathe?!'”  Lol.

Sitting around the fire also reminds me of one of my favorite accounts in the Bible: the time when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in a fire pit themselves!  We read about this hot incident in Daniel 3.  The background of this story is that King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that when the trumpet and other instruments was blown or played, everyone was to bow down to the golden image that he had made.  Whomever did not bow down to the image would be thrown into the fiery furnace.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, being believers of the one true God, would not bow down. They told the king that they knew that God could save them, but even if God didn’t deliver them from the furnace, they still would not bow to the image.  So  they were bond by ropes and thrown into the furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar looked in on the trio and saw four men instead!  The king summoned the three young men out and noticed that their hair was not singed and their robes were not scorched. The only thing that was consumed in the fire was the ropes that had bound them.  And I love this part of the story: “and there was no smell of fire on them.”

So many times I, like other believers, pray that God would spare me from unpleasant and painful situations.  I’ve been lulled into this thought that my life should be pretty easy, carefree and comfortable.  But the reality is this: life is painful!  Life is not always easy!  I will go through and have gone through some pretty difficult times in the past few years.  And even though God did not spare me (and other family members) and prevent me from going through these times, I know for certain that just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God was walking right beside me in those “fiery” times.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had the ropes that bound them burned off while they were traipsing around the furnace and that got me thinking “What ‘ropes’ were keeping me bound while I was walking through painful times?” Maybe the “ropes of unbelief“:  Why would God allow this to happen to me?  Isn’t He a good God? This doesn’t feel very “good” to me right now! Maybe the “ropes of doubt”:  Does God really know what He’s doing?!  Do I really trust Him to see me/us through this time of being uncomfortable? this time of being in pain? this feeling of being lost? of feeling abandoned?  How about the “ropes of anger”:  How could You possibly allow this to happen?  “Ropes of pride”:  I’m/We’re one of your children and THIS is how You choose to treat me/us?  I’ve been living a pretty good life testifying to how I believe you and THIS is the thanks I get?!  As you can see, I should have bought stock in a rope company!!

And just like our three heroes of the Old Testament, it sometimes takes a fire to burn off these ropes that keep our hands, our feet, our hearts, and our minds bound.  And just like our fire walkers, we realize that no, maybe God didn’t deliver us from having to go through these fiery times of pain and hurt, but we know without a doubt, that we didn’t traipse through that fire alone. God didn’t keep us from going through it but He certainly was right there the whole time.

Oh and that favorite part of that verse: “there was no smell of fire on them”?  The Holy Spirit gently taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that even though I have walked through some fires in my lifetime, because of His presence and His grace, people won’t be able to tell that I’ve gone through the fire.  Because instead of the lingering smell of smoke on me (and in my hair), they will only be able to smell the sweet smell of Him saving me by grace and walking beside me while we both watched those ropes disintegrate and disappear.  Yeah, every once in a while I pick up those familiar ropes again and start wrapping myself up in them.  But soon enough, the Holy Spirit reminds me of what it took to burn those things off.  I can stop and remember that even though I had to go through those times, I’m not the same person who was thrown into that fire and I’m certainly a different person after I came out of that “furnace”.

And with that being said….who wants some s’mores!!  I’ll grab the lighter and the marshmallows!!