Beauty for Ashes

A woman sits on a park bench crying. Not sobbing, but softly allowing tears to stream down her face. Some passersby take notice. A young couple pushing their baby in a stroller glance. Unsure about approaching the woman, they awkwardly hurry by. An older woman stops and sweetly tells the woman she’s too pretty to be crying and that she’ll ruin her makeup. Finally, an elderly man takes a seat on the bench with the woman. Such a gentleman, he offers his handkerchief and asks why she’s crying? What makes her so sad?

The woman turns and looks at him with sincere eyes, stating her tears aren’t from being sad or angry. She explained that as she sat on the bench, basking in the sunshine, enjoying the cool spring day, she began to reflect on how much her life has changed for the better; the challenges she’s overcome, the experience of feeling truly loved and the willingness to show compassion and love towards others. The woman went on to say that her life changed when she obtained a deeper understanding of who she is – a child of God, a daughter of Christ her King. The challenges and setbacks she faced in life equipped her to walk out her purpose and be of service to others.

She assured the man there was no need to feel sorry for her because she was finding fulfillment and peace unlike she’s ever known. Who cares about a perfectly made up face when you’re sitting awestruck before a perfect God.

     and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of    ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. –  Isaiah 61:3 (New International Version)

 

 

 

The Unexpected Lunch Date

I stopped into one of my stores to grab a quick lunch before beginning my store call. With lunch in hand, I made my way to a table and who did I see? My friend Bill.

Bill is a World War II veteran. He comes to the store for coffee while surfing the web on his laptop before shopping and catching up with the many friends he’s made throughout the store. I’m lucky enough to be counted among those numbers. Bill and I met one day as I worked. He stopped me to ask about my job. From time-to-time, I run into Bill and have brief, but pleasant conversation.

I took a seat at the table behind Bill so we were sitting catty cornered from each other. With wide blue eyes, Bill whispering for me to come closer like he had a secret to tell, only to give me a kiss on the cheek. I bet Bill was something else when he was younger because at 91, he’s something else now! Bill is always neatly dressed, proudly wearing his World War II veteran cap.

While I ate lunch, Bill and I chatted about love, life and how he planned to cook the baby back ribs he would share with neighbors later in the day. As Bill bid me goodbye to do his shopping, I couldn’t help but think about how much he reminds me of my grandfather. A twinkle in eye and a spring in his step, his zest for life unmistakable. I bet those baby back ribs were amazing.

Chronicles of Nadia; Don’t Fence Me In

We use a baby gate for Nadia to keep her from getting into trouble, like being able to climb up the steps but not knowing how to get back down (if she’s upstairs, we carry her back downstairs).

This morning, I went upstairs with the intent of coming back downstairs right away, so I propped the gate up without fastening it down. Once upstairs, I decided to get dressed. I remembered I didn’t fasten the gate. I didn’t worry because I knew Nadia would walk to the gate, but she wouldn’t touch it or knock it down because the resulting noise would scare her (she’s still timid when it comes to certain sounds and objects).

How many times have I approached a barrier in my life, accepting the gate was locked, not recognizing the latch was undone? Fear kept me from touching or knocking down the barrier that would allow me to get to the other side.

Needless to say, I went back downstairs to fasten the latch. Nadia is still timid, but she never ceases to amaze me with her ever-growing courage.

 

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  

                                  2 Corinthians 5:7

   

Cooler Than a Fan

My mom bought a couple pedestal fans for the house and asked me to put them together. So I did, in five minutes flat, without reading a single direction. I was pretty proud of myself.

 I turned the fan on, nothing. I tried every setting and speed, still nothing. With one hand gripping the side of the fan, in my frustration, I spun it like I was spinning the wheel on The Price Is Right. The blade spun, but it was more of a flop with a whining sound than the quiet hum of cool air being generated. Mom and I looked at each other and busted out laughing!

So I took the fan apart, since I clearly missed a step or two. After reading the directions, I found there was a part I needed to unscrew to better secure the blade in place so it would spin mechanically as it was made to, not by me spinning it with all the hope and might of making it to the showcase round. It’s amazing what happens when you slow down and read the directions.

Chronicles of Nadia; Ain’t to Proud to Beg

In the first story I wrote about Nadia, one of her many attributes mentioned was her expert level begging. It’s epic. Plain and simple, the girl loves treats and will stop at nothing to get them. We’ve given in and indulged Nadia to the point that her Yorkie strut was starting to turn into a waddle!

Nadia’s treats have been replaced with smaller, healthier ones, the bacon flavored goodies going to the wayside. The new treats elicit the same response; jumping up and down, spinning around in a circle and doing the equivalent of the doggie moonwalk (M.J. would’ve been proud). Nadia’s love for food isn’t limited to treats. She eats her food with the same level of excitement and gusto, but is just as excited when we’re cooking and eating our food. Nose in the air, taking in the aroma, sometimes sniffing so hard that she spins in a circle. It’s a sight to see.

We don’t feed Nadia table food, but that doesn’t deter her campaign. Her method of begging; standing with one of her front paws raised with big brown eyes lasered on you. Even though the answer to table food is no, it doesn’t stop her from making her request known. Hope springs eternal.

Sometimes timid, always tenacious and adorable in all of her ways, my little Nadia is always up for the challenge (and usually wins).

Every Life Matters

“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule seems to have been shoved to the back of the jewelry box, becoming entangled with worthless pieces such as, prejudice, rage and intolerance.

Some ascribe to an “eye for an eye” mentality, but that’s just a poor excuse to inflict the pain one feels onto someone else. It only proves to make us blind to the fact that every person is valuable, every person deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. Every person matters. If God took care and delight in making us black, white, brown, yellow and every shade in between, who are we to decide that one is better than the other?

Despite the color of skin and ethnicity we represent, we have this key commonality; we all bleed red. It’s disheartening to see that the needless spilling of blood has become a daily occurrence. It needs to end. RIP Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, the five Dallas police officers and countless individuals that lost their lives because their value wasn’t seen by another.  You all matter.

They Don’t Know Who You Are

A little girl, fearless and strong, with boundless ambitions and dreams was plucked like petals from a flower by cruel and hungry wolves. The wolves sought to devour the little girl’s dreams and self-worth because they lacked their own. The little girl fought for a while, but soon outwardly conceded due to the continual mounting attacks. But inside, she continued to believe her dreams would come true. She retreated to the only safe place she knew; inside herself. The wolves didn’t know who she was…

The little girl, now a young lady, met a handsome prince who promised to love and cherish her. What the young lady didn’t know was that the prince would transform into a toad with many insecurities and that the condition of his love was that the young lady never grew or took risks.

The toad desperately needed to keep the young lady to himself because if he allowed her to see who he really was, she would run away. So the toad told her mean and untrue things about herself and her hopes for the future, locking her away in a dungeon. She was isolated from people who truly loved her. When the young lady would rise up, the toad struck back with reinforcing blows. The toad didn’t know who the young lady was, and soon, she didn’t either. She tunneled deeper within herself…

Then one dark, cold night, the dungeon was flooded with a marvelous light. In stepped the most beautiful and majestic king. The young lady recognized him instantly, though it had been a long time since she last saw him.

The King told her wonderful and hidden things she did not know and more importantly, who she was. Encouraged by this knowledge, the young lady pleaded with the King to help her escape her current circumstance. The King reassured her that everything would be alright and the dungeon door was unlocked; she could’ve left a long time ago. Seeing the fear and confusion in her eyes, the King lovingly took her hand and led her out of the dungeon, past the toad. His worst nightmare come true, the toad threaten the young lady physically, but she kept move forward, with her eyes on the King.

The King knew who she was and now she had to rediscover it for herself…

Little by little, the young lady grew into a young woman who learned to weld the weapons given to her by the King; truth dipped in ink and parchment as her sword and shield. She slayed many dragons and demons outside and within the city walls. Though the process was painful and the young woman would have been comfortable keeping the walls around her heart erected, she wanted more. She remembered what the King told her all those years ago.

The young woman encountered more wolves and toads, but the difference now was that she submitted to the King and his thoughts about her meant more than anyone else’s.

The King knew who the young woman was and now so did she…his daughter.       

Allison’s Closet

Allison stood in front of her closet, french doors wide open, contemplating what to wear to the party.

Nervous excitement buzzed through her as she thought of the people she’d meet and the short speech she would deliver. Allison thought to herself, “Lord, all eyes will be on me. Let me keep my eyes on you.”

Thumbing through the rack, there were so many choices. She selected a lavender dress so new, the price tag hadn’t been cut off yet. A mid-length column dress adorned with iridescent pearls cascading down the center, from the neck line and stopping a little above the waist. It was perfect; elegant and contemporary, but not uptight. Now for the accessories!

“How should I wear my hair?” Allison thought. A quick decision made with little consideration could be dangerous. Haste worn as an accessory, even worse. Allison decided on an updo; a slightly messy low chignon, secured with a silver clip.

High heels worn in judgement can lead to a tumble when trying to teeter on their heights. Shoes with a platform base are just as cute and provide a firm and wide base on which to stand. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. If it’s snug, try a larger size. There’s nothing worse than walking around in tight shoes!   Allison checked her progress in the mirror. “All eyes will be on me. Let me keep my eyes on you.”

“It’ll be chilly tonight. I’ll need a coat.” Again, Allison goes to her closet. Faux fur is politically correct, but a faux attitude is always a “don’t”.

The cloak of criticalness is heavy and cumbersome, making the wearer hot and unbearable. Throw it off! Instead, put on the coat of grace, whose value is immeasurable. In this case, one size truly does fit all! Allow the warmth of grace and mercy to thaw the chill to your bones, so you can extend your hands to those stung by the bitter cold.

Dressed and ready to go, Allison passed by the looking glass one more time, pleased with her ensemble. “All eyes will be on me. Let me keep my eyes on you.” she said aloud as she closed the door behind her.

Delays of the Day

What a day. Getting ready for a client visit, there was so much to do and I had my agenda set. That was until traffic was so thick that I was late to my first store call.  As I straightened, filled and tweaked product sets, all the while trying to dodge shopping carts driven by customers on a mission to pick up food for Easter Sunday and being stopped by people looking for Velveeta and milk with the green lid, my time seemed to be swallowed by the busyness of the day. Between crowds and the work, I was late to almost every call I scheduled, which caused me to freak out internally.

Finally, the end of the day. I treated myself to well- deserved Mexican wedding cookies and a Cherry Coke. As I stood in line waiting to pay for my treats, I watched men lift hams out of their carts and moms chatting with their kids about coloring eggs. All I could think of was being smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic. My cookies and Cherry Coke would get me through!

Well into my ride and with treats devoured, I was about 20 minutes from home, singing and unwinding from the day. Cars in front of me were slowing and switching to the farthest left lane. Only as I approached did I see a four car accident; a pick-up truck t-boned a little Honda, leaving the other two cars flung to the side of the road. At that moment, the light turned red. I saw crash survivors out of their cars, on the phone to police, family and friends, no doubt. A woman staggered out of the driver’s side of her car in disbelief.

I had a close-up view of the Honda; driver’s side airbag deployed, the side and front end destroyed. The former insurance professional in me couldn’t figure out how it happened, based on the position of the cars. I said a prayer for everyone involved, especially whoever was in the Honda.

Then I thought, “What if my day had gone smooth, according to my plan?” What if the line at the grocery store had been a littler shorter, moved a little faster? Could that have been me on the side of the road or could my Mitsubishi have been in the Honda’s position? At that moment, when the light turned green, I was thankful for the delays of the day.  

Nadia

My dog is a rescue dog. Nadia, a yorkie with big, brown eyes and a sweet disposition.  Stealing looks when she thought no one was looking at the rescue shelter, there was something special about her. So we brought her home. She shook like a leaf when I held her, but there was no squirming in my arms like she wanted to get down. Nadia was scared, but allowed herself to be held.

As expected, she stayed in her crate at first, venturing out to eat, drink, go potty and explore her new surroundings a bit. As she saw that we love and wouldn’t hurt her, her trust began to grow. In two months’ time, Nadia was like a different dog. The scared, withdrawn dog seemed light years away.

Nadia has always been afraid of men, but recently, she went through a period where she was afraid of everyone! One morning, when I attempted to pet her good morning, she shook and tried to hide. I’m not going to lie, it was hard not to take it personal (had I done something to upset her, unbeknownst to me?), but I remembered something a guy at the rescue shelter said. He said that we had to be prepared (and patient) because while Nadia may make progress, she may also revert back to old behavior. I had to remain the same in showing her that I love and would protect her no matter what.

One morning, as she was trying to take one of her toys out of her shoebox, Nadia would gingerly try to grab the toy and jump back when she was unable to pick it up. I decided to help her. As I walked towards her, she froze, looking at me with wide eyes. I took the toy out of the box and placed it in front of her. Nadia looked at the toy, looked up at me and came towards me so I could pet her. I rubbed behind her ears and stopped. Nadia came closer and put her head down for more. My little Nadia was back; nosy, inquisitive, world class beggar and lover of treats. She was back!

I finished breakfast, Nadia played with her toy and then she looked up at me. I held out my hand to her and called her name. At first, she started to run towards me, but stopped and turned around. This went on for the next five minutes or so; Nadia coming forward, then getting distracted by a coat sleeve or whatever else, retreating back to the living room in uncertainty. When Nadia turned around to look at me, she saw that I was still standing there, my hand stretched towards her, waiting for her. That’s when she came, half-run and half-walk, allowing me to pet her. This went on for the next few minutes; Nadia running from the living room back into the kitchen so that I could pet her.

It made me think about how my relationship with God has been from time to time. Basking in His presence without a care in the world, only to withdraw in apprehension because I was remembering past hurts and paralyzed by present insecurities. Through it all, God doesn’t move. He stands with hand outstretched, calling my name, so that He can gather me to Himself and love me. Through all my distraction, hard-headed stubbornness and insecurity, He’s always there, reassuring me that His love is everlasting, unfailing and never changing. His love so great for me that He’ll never let me go. All I have to do is come.

 

Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Jeremiah 31:3 (New Living translation)