I Can Be Your Eyes

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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……

 

What’s in your closet?

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Have you ever just opened your closet and thought “Why on earth am I still holding on to this hideous shirt/skirt/dress, etc.?!”   The last few days I’ve been thinking about what outfits I’ve been wearing and I wish someone had told me how disheveled and unattractive I was.  Oh and I’m not talking about my physical appearance.  I’m talking about my spiritual appearance.  Today, I took a personal day off from work to do some Fall Cleaning in my Spiritual Closet, just a day to spend some quiet time with my Dad and take inventory of the pieces that I want to hold on to and pieces that need to be tossed, not passed on to anyone else because some pieces don’t look good on anyone!!  So, why don’t you sit on the edge of my bed as I pull some pieces of clothing out of my spiritual closet and you let me know if it’s a “keep” or a “toss”.

First piece:  oooohhh, what is this lovely piece?  Oh, right, lately I’ve been wearing this one waaaay too many times!  Remember the shoulder pads of the ’80’s?  Remember how they basically needed their own zip code?  This shirt that I’m holding up now is my “Chip On My Shoulder” shirt!  Talk about huge shoulder pads!  Why do I get so easily annoyed or offended by what people say to me or about me?  This is an easy decision: toss! It’s been worn so many times by me that it’s looking a little raggy.

Next piece: ooooh, the Pants of Pessimism!  Oh and what’s this stain on the front?  Oh, right..this stain is when I spilled my cup of half empty drink on myself.  Looks like I’ve spilled a few half empty cups on these pants.  When did I change from my Pants of Optimism to these hideous things?  Yuck! Toss!!

Next:  Ugh! This thing is horrible!  Yes, my Gown of Gloom!  At what point in my life did I think this was a good purchase?  Wait, what is this bag of party hats doing hanging from the hanger?  Oh, yes, now I remember:  the bag of party items are pulled out when I put my Gown of Gloom on because, really, how can you have a pity party without party hats. This gown looks like it’s been worn waaaay too many times, usually while the song “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen” is playing in the background. Toss!

As I pull out these different, horrible, ugly pieces, I feel the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder and ask me to go on a little “Spiritual Clothing buying spree” with Him, and the best part:  He’s footing the bill!

What pieces is He asking me to purchase?  I find His clothing shopping list in the book of Colossians, chapter 3 to be exact! Verses 12 and 14 list what all the well dressed Christians are wearing…or should be wearing.

vs 12b: ..”clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  Well, I think way back in my closet I may have had some of these items but they look a wee bit dusty from not being worn in a while. Oh, look, the Gentleness and Patience pieces still have their tags on them!  Ooops!  Guess I don’t need to buy any more of these, I just need to start wearing the pieces I already owned.

vs 14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Love…such a small word, a word that gets thrown around so easily like “I love pizza!” or “I love my books!”  I need to stop throwing this word around so carelessly and start really thinking about what I set my affections on, or how I treat those that I love.

I was recently talking with a friend and told her that lately I’ve been feeling easily angered and easily annoyed about little things.  It didn’t take me long to figure out why I was feeling this way.  My daily bible reading had become pretty sporadic.  Our spiritual lives are a lot like our physical lives.  We can’t expect to look all buff and in shape if we aren’t working out and exercising (that subject is a whole other issue with me, but we won’t go there today!) I can’t expect to be spiritual fit or donning the spiritual garments available to me if I’m not exercising or reaching into my spiritual closet.  So, I’ve set this afternoon aside to spend some real quality time with my Heavenly Dad and ask for His forgiveness and help in becoming spiritually fashionable again.

And for those of you who are more into the Middle Ages look, check out Ephesians 6:10-17.  There’s a whole Armor of God look that’s pretty popular in the Christian Fashion circle.

Oh, and does anyone know if the Attleboro Area Yard Sale facebook page will let me post these horrendous pieces that I’m getting rid of?! Yeah, you’re right, I should just take them out to the fire pit and burn them.  Does anyone really look good wearing the Gown of Gloom or the Pants of Pessimism? I didn’t think so either.

Has anyone seen my ATM card?!

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Confession time!  I am a chicken!  I mean I’m a real scaredy cat!  You’re probably wondering what an ATM card, a chicken and a scaredy cat all have in common.  There is a correlation here, just give me a few minutes to gather my thoughts.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I struggle with fear.  Fear of heights, fear of being left alone, fear of falling off high places, fear of getting lost, fear of failing at my job, and fear of being a bad mother (Kenny, Sarah, and Kaitlyn: your feedback is not needed!)   A few years ago, I had to fly back from Milwaukee by myself as Mark was staying behind to attend meetings in offices in New Berlin, WI.  I almost didn’t go with Mark on this trip because I knew that I would have to fly back home by myself.  But then I got thinking “What would that say to Kenny and his family if I choose not to go visit them in Milwaukee just because of my irrational fear?”  The fear of flying alone has so many components:  What if I don’t like my seatmate on the plane?  (Yeah, let’s make this all about my comfort!!) What if I get a window seat and I have to use the loo?!  I’d have to ask everyone in the row to move so I could get out!  What if I get on the wrong plane and end up in Istanbul…because that happens daily!! Ugh.

And then…the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and asked me “What do I have to say about ‘fear’?”  Ummm, good question but I’m not sure I want to know the answer because that would mean that I’m being disobedient to your Word!

Psalm 23:4 Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. (Living Bible Paraphrase)

Even when I walk through the dark valley of death!! Or as in my version: “Even when I walk through the terminals of an unfamiliar airport I will not be afraid of getting on a plane bound for Istanbul, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way!”

Oh, and then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder again, because I tend to be a slow learner, and He asked me “Now what do I say about ‘Courage’?” Ummm, can I just work on the “fear” issue first and then we can work on the “courage” thing?

Do you know how many times the word “courage” is used in the Bible?  Me neither, but it’s a lot!! And it’s usually preceded with “Be strong!”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV)

“Have I not commanded you?”  Yeah, this being brave and courageous isn’t an optional thing!  We, as believers are commanded to be courageous! Ouch!

Matthew 14:27 “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (NIV)

“Take courage!” Not, “Well…if you feel like it, why don’t you try to be a little more brave.”  This is a command! Not a suggestion.

I’m a visual learner.  You can tell me something over and over again but until I see it or can get my hands on it, I probably won’t retain it.  So with the whole “courage” thing, I like to think of it this way:

God has a big bank and each one of us believers has an account in this bank with our name on it.  And in these accounts, there is everything we need to live a successful spiritual life.  I believe that God has deposited a huge amount of “courage” into each one of our accounts and all we need to do is make a withdrawal.  It’s like having millions of dollars in the bank and living like a pauper! God tells me to “Take courage!” or “Make a withdrawal, kid!”.  I have, at my disposal, an unlimited amount of courage but I live life like a scaredy cat.  How much does that frustrate God?

So, with all that being said,  I need to use that debit card (oh and mine won’t have a chip.  I really don’t like the new cards with the chip.  It’s much more fun swiping that card than just inserting it and waiting for the beep of approval!) and I need to be constantly withdrawing from my spiritual account.

So the next time any of my friends see me looking like a deer caught in the headlights because I’m dreading something or fearing something, just remind me that I need to pull out my atm card and take out some courage!

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