Beautiful Day

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lord of This Ring

Call me sentimental.  It's very true.  I admit there are some aspects of it that get me into trouble, especially when I am wanting to declutter my house!  So I am working on not attaching sentimental value to things that really aren't useful or necessary.  They are only THINGS, after all.  And I'd much rather be surrounded by the people I love than the things that remind me of them.  Not saying that those things don't sometimes have a very good purpose.  Just saying my focus needs to remain on the truly valuable.

But THIS......Lord?  I had to ask again and open my hand and let go and be taught. 

The last two weeks have involved a lot of thought, a lot of wrestling, and a great reminder of Ephesians 6:10-18.  I wrote about this here.  And in the midst we have been clinging to one another and to the Word, yet feeling darts thrown our way rather consistently.  It has been very evident that we are in a spiritual battle.  Marriages in this country (and around the world, I dare say) are at the top of the list in this battle.  Why?  Because marriage is God's covenant communication with the world about His own love for His bride, the church.

At the end of a really rough week came one particularly rough day.  My Tender Warrior had been "hit" from many sides that day.  Then he said those words....."I lost my wedding ring today."  Down came my own tears and a flood of emotions.  It wasn't just that the ring was gone, though it was that.  It felt like some symbolic attack at a time of vulnerability.  I struggled through my own emotions, searching for how to encourage my husband.  We had a planned date for the evening, so I took Baby Warrior to my beloved rocking chair to settle him for bed, and I prayed.  I believe God said to me, "Think upon what you do have, not what you're missing.  He needs to know your love for him especially right now."

With the peace from that small time alone with the Lord, I could sincerely and lovingly tell Warrior, "I don't care about the ring.  I would much rather have YOU and no ring, than a silly ring without YOU."

It took me awhile to start remembering how many miracle stories we have regarding our wedding rings.  We have each lost our rings at least twice and had them miraculously returned.  And I'm not kidding when I tell you these stories are miraculous.  But I was starting to think that this one might just be outside of the realm of a miracle.  It seemed most likely somewhere on a college campus and I had visions of a poor college student finding it and pawning or selling it.  Not so full of faith, am I?

But I prayed.  I prayed He would somehow return it to us.  I prayed that if indeed someone found it, it would come into the hands of a believer and an honest person who would at least make an honest effort to find its owner.  I prayed to have it back most of all because, in the midst of this challenging time, I felt keenly of how much I wanted our marriage to stand as a testimony in this dark world full of broken relationships that there IS such a thing as covenant commitment and lifetime love.  I know it is merely a ring and a token.  And not even everyone wears a wedding ring.  But to me, in this world of brokenness, the token means something powerful.

Over the next few days I kept reflecting on the moment I put that ring on his finger, declaring my forever love for him.  Even more so, I kept hearing the words of our pastor at the time, who married us.  He gave such meaning to our ceremony all throughout it, that I have never forgotten his words.  I heard him giving his own testimony that he said he would never wear a ring, but that when he married his wife he changed his mind.  He wanted the world to know that he had a special relationship with one person in the whole world that can never be broken.  And that it was a symbol of Christ's love, which is unbroken for his bride.

The last time Warrior lost his ring, it was while hiking a mountain.  Ironically, it was a mountain in the town in which we were married!  How we got it back was nothing short of a miracle.  Since he was hiking a mountain, and it was in the era of the "Lord of the Rings" films (and my husband is a GREAT fan of LOTR, both the books and films), I came to affectionately say that God had shown Himself to be the true Lord of the Ring for us.

I recalled that and I prayed.  We would pray together at night, sometimes in tears, that God might once again return it to us.  But with each day, it grew easier to resign ourselves to thinking we might not see it again.  I had even started thinking about what I would do to creatively replace it.  But I so wanted that confirmation from Him and I so wanted the miracle.

The next morning, Warrior was making his lunch for work.  He opened his lunchbox and there it was!!  He was convinced that he had lost it amidst his gym workout and he had last remembered it in his pocket (yikes, now I'm starting to hear Smeagle/Gollum saying, "pocketses!").  It was a shallow pocket and so he figured it just had to have fallen out somewhere by accident.  He has no idea how it could have landed in his lunchbox.  He even took the same lunchbox to work the previous day and had not seen it in there, but had searched everywhere around his office for it.  After four days, my Beloved's wedding band was back on his finger and oh, how delighted we were and how thankful we are that He chose to give it back to us!

Most of all, I felt this amazing confirmation from the Lord, again telling us He wants us to stand firm as a testimony of what marriage is intended to be, showing us He cares about the smallest of things in our lives, and saying once again that He is indeed the Lord of This Ring...the Lord of This Marriage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What to Do with Ideals

Each year I make it a point to revisit one title among the books I own by Sally Clarkson.  They just renew my vision for motherhood and I really need that to keep me focused and encouraged!  So I am keeping company with this book this year.
The Mom Walk: Keeping in Step with God's Heart for Motherhood

Last week, we returned from a sweet mini-vacation time to a shocking revelation in a small part of our community.  It ripped through us with a great deal of pain and left us asking so many big questions.  Questions we still don't have answers for.  Questions that have to do not only with the situation itself, but with life, faith, relationships, community, and I find myself often asking, "What do I do with all of this?"

I think some of the difficulty is wondering why, within the church itself, relationships are fraught with pain.  It feels like we have been on a road for about 3 years in which there has been a succession of broken relationships due to either natural circumstances  or just plain sin.  This has not been easy.  It has honestly even brought me to moments of questioning our ideals.  Do we just give them up? (I really know the answer to this question.  But I find myself asking it anyway).

Then I read this.  The Lord must have known.  I mean, I really could have written the majority of these words myself.  So, since some of my readers know of what I speak, I am going to share these words.  Both to minister to you and to let the Lord use them to minister to me as well. 

The context here is that some dear friends had wounded Sally and her husband deeply by misinterpreting their motives and accusing them after a conference.  She writes:

     "It was during that time of grief that I realized how deeply my heart desires to live apart from struggle.  My expectation had always been that somehow, eventually, we would get to a place where we could finally rest.  I had felt that way with the conference; that finally, we had reached a point of victory.  So something in me was shaken to find that there was still struggle and grief.  The more I thought about it, I saw that struggle seems to be constantly, pervasively present, even in the midst of our greatest joys.
     The reason I am sharing this story, though, is not to focus on the struggle itself, but to understand the nature of reality and how to find joy in it.  If there is always going to be struggle, then there must be a way to accept it and move beyond it, a way to redeem it.  Yet how?  How do you redeem dark and broken times?" ("The Mom Walk," p. 56)

Yes, sisters, I could have written that all myself.  My heart REALLY wants to live apart from struggle.  I REALLY want to be in a place of rest...often.  She continues...

     "There are an endless number of painful scenarios that have come to each of us in the midst of walking with the Lord and seeking to please Him.  I am still not used to going down the road of righteousness and faithfulness only to be broadsided violently and unexpectedly in a new place where my defenses were not up.
     Yet I have come to realize (after many more years of struggle) that it is at this very moment when the character of my heart and life will most show.  (Ouch!  Emphasis mine.)  These times illustrate graphically what I actually believe about God.  These times portray a picture of what it means to believe in Christ, to trust a redeemer.  And it is especially in these moments of life, these blind, struggling times, that our children need to see what integrity of heart and life really look like." (p. 56-57)

So then we must ask ourselves what it means to walk in integrity and righteousness.  I love her honesty in the following statements.  They are echoes of myself.

     "As contemporary Christians, we so want our life to be like Cinderella's--and she lived happily ever after.  We want rewards--now!  We want prosperity and ease of life--now!  We want answered prayer and blessed families and peaceful years--now!
     At least I do.
     I am a deeply romantic womaan....I write about my ideals.  I breathe my ideals in the secret moments of my life.  I want a picture-perfect marriage where I am adored and appreciated.  I want my children to be healthy, happy, and harmonious.  I want strong friendships and a stable community with friends.  I want an extended family to be close to us and to provide my children with love and support and lots of godly input.  I want there to be money for all the bills, a home that isn't always exploding with messes, and time to sit and read a good book and ponder life.
     These longings are not wrong.  Ideals and the desire for beauty are simply the echoes of God's design in our hearts.  He was the one who designed the world to be a masterpiece of wonder and life.  The yearning for peace, health, and comfort is natural to our souls and comes from the depths of our hearts where we can still feel and imagine what God created life to be before the fall.
     And yet there was a fall." (p. 57-58)

Yes, it's true.  There was a fall.  Much as I don't like to acknowledge it sometimes.  But I have seen it over and over.  And I saw it keenly last week.  It is our enemy, Satan, who is the corrupter of beauty, who comes to steal, kill and destroy life and love.  We may expect hardship in this world.  It's written all over Scripture.  We will have to vigilantly fight the good fight and run the race like Paul and Timothy in the struggle for righteousness, beauty, and all that is true, noble, right, pure, excellent and praiseworthy.

So we labor for our ideals.  Which I hope and pray are truly Christ's ideals for us.  We labor to bring His beauty back into this world.  I don't know about you, but I am starting to feel that in our high-tech, plugged in, screen-addicted generation we are only seeing the beginning of some huge pitfalls for even Christians.  We must labor to be self-controlled, godly people in a godless generation.  We must stay attuned to real relationships with both their heavenly moments and their times of strife.  We must raise sons and daughters who have a vision to be these kinds of people.

We follow Christ...the great REDEEMER!  My Webster's 1828 dictionary has about 11 definitions for the word "redeem."  Among them are these:

redeem:  To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability to suffer or to be forfeited, by paying an equivalent; to regain possession of a thing alienated, by repaying the value of it to the possessor.  To rescue; to recover; to deliver from.

This inspires me.  We can overcome the ugliness and the darkness, because He already has!  We can be instruments in the hands of a Redeemer, to bring back beauty to the broken places in this world. 

So while I know it sincerely is a time to ask hard questions, I also know it is a time to resolve to stick close to my Savior and light a candle in this dark world.  I read this last week and it gave me great inspiration.  It happens to be written by Sally Clarkson's daughter, Sarah, a gifted writer as well.  Speaking of how she was ministered to in the beauty of Scotland's Skye, she writes,

 "I hope that one of the main things God allows me to do is offer such times to other people. To somehow make a home and life (preferably in some lovely corner of the earth) that offers the people who seek its shelter a taste of beauty that bears a promise, a whisper, of all the beauty that is to come."

This is really what I hope to hold onto when the dark clouds seem to surround and we're asking the tough questions.


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