My life was changed forever in 2013. Everything I thought I knew……..wasn’t.
The next two years brought more difficult circumstances and what felt like too many changes. I didn’t realize how all of it affected me until I started getting better and part of what helped me come out of the dark was writing about it.
Slowly, tenderly……..a little at a time, I shared the stories on my blog.
Those smaller stories came together as a whole story and were recently published in Shattered Magazine.
When I posted my stories, I didn’t know they would go any further. I wrote the stories for the same reason I write anything…..to let others know they’re not alone, to give hope, teach or encourage, to help unlock a memory, or prompt a question they’ve never thought of asking before.
I have a place in my home where old things are displayed. Worn books, my grandmother’s hurricane lamp, Dad’s horsehair drafting brush, eye glasses and a pipe, my other grandmother’s woven hand fan, and black and white photographs from long ago. All of it sits on an old wooden chest built by my great-grandfather.
Things passed down from one generation to the next. Reminders of who came before and how they lived. Connections with the people who, for better or worse, loved and taught the ones who loved and taught me.
But the most important things passed down to me aren’t books and photos or wooden chests.
“If you don’t know where you’re from, you’ll have a hard time saying where you’re going.” ― Wendell Berry
Most of my Mondays are spent in the historic downtown area of a nearby city. The office of the non-profit where I volunteer is there. Until the beginning of the year I’d only driven through the downtown area a few times and now it’s one of my favorite places.
Every two hours we have to move our cars or put more change in the meters which gives me a chance to enjoy a few walks during the day. I love seeing the people on the streets, some in their business attire walking briskly to make an appointment on time, some taking a stroll enjoying the sights, a couple walking their dogs, a young athlete getting her run in, or those lingering at the outdoor tables after a nice lunch.
I especially enjoy walking past all the old churches. They’re magnificent. The downtown area is dense with old churches like this Methodist church. It was originally built in the early 1800s but was burned down during the Civil War when Federal troops were quartered in the basement. The church burned down due to an act of carelessness. The troops built fires on the wooden floors to cook their food. But with courage and faith the congregation rebuilt the church and finished it in 1868. Several additions have been completed since then.
I walk past other churches too. Another Methodist church, Catholic, Episcopal and a Baptist one too.
If I’m having an exceptionally good Monday, my walks happen at the same time the church bells ring. I’m not sure which churches are ringing the bells but oh what a joyful noise it is!
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 100:1
Every year we go to the beach to gather with friends and family. One of our favorite things is to look for shells. The shells that catch my eye are the broken
pieces….like these. The ones that have been broken so long and been tumbled around in the ocean so much that their edges are smoothed out and rounded.
God notices the broken too. Broken ones like you and me. The ones with shattered dreams and splintered lives. Those of us wondering what’s next because everything we’ve known before is gone. The weary ones and sick ones and those of us asking what it’s all for. The ones of us with doubts and fears. Those with regrets and mistakes and failures stacked up high. Those of us on the edge of something new but scared to take the leap.
He sees you. But more than that….He loves you.
Give Him your broken heart. All of it. Your questions too. All of them.
He makes beautiful things out of broken ones.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. ” Psalm 51:17 NIV
Here’s how I repurposed
some of the broken shells I’ve found…….a frame for one of our beach pictures.
Part of the enjoyment of something is the anticipation of it. Like a birthday or Christmas or a vacation.
I’ve noticed that younger ones burst with anticipation over the simplest things and aren’t shy about expressing it. An expected package can cause excited watching for days and days with my kids. And the excitement over Christmas or our annual family vacation starts months in advance.
With this anticipation comes joy and laughter and a readiness for the thing that is being eagerly awaited.
And then the day before the day comes……..Christmas Eve…….or the day before we leave on vacation……and the kids are so excited that it’s almost as good as the day.
And finally the day has come and the hearts of the ones who have joyfully anticipated it are enlarged and ready to take it all in. Then they delight in every moment and treasure it forever.
This is a close up of a bud on the fig tree in the backyard. You can see the “velvetiness” on the young newly opened leaf. Soon, more buds will sprout……more leaves will fill the branches. Then the fruit will come and grow and ripen. That’s the expectation.
That’s what’s supposed to happen.
But what if it doesn’t.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
Today is Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. Epiphany is an ancient celebration of the revelation of God to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ. It is commonly linked to the story of the Magi’s visit to Jesus.
This is celebrated all over the world in a variety of ways. In Greece, swimmers dive for a cross in a ceremonial blessing of the waters. Epiphany is celebrated with Three Magi pageants or parades in Lithuania and Poland. “Wise men” meet and greet children in Manila, Philippines.
In Germany, children dressed as the three Magi go around singing and asking for donations for charitable causes. Festivals take place in Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other countries. And until three years ago I had never even heard of this uniquely wonderful celebration!
How fitting is the name of this observance? Epiphany. A moment of sudden revelation, insight or leap of understanding.
Matthew writes that the Magi came to Jerusalem and asked about the King of the Jews. The star, his star, led them to where they needed to be and when they saw the child, they bowed down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:1-12)
In a leap of understanding, they realized that this child wasn’t only King of the Jews but Savior to the world. Their journey had brought them to this place of worship and rest.
This sudden revelation or leap of understanding isn’t just for wise men. It is for ALL who seek Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…..”
Love is here.
Hope has a name.
The good news and great joy the angels told the shepherds is true.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls….” Matthew 11:28-29 NIV