The Sweetest Gift

Prayer Closet project

It was tempting for me to show the “after” first because the “before” though functional, is not the prettiest to look at. It stood in Elaine’s Mom’s room to hold adult diapers and miscellaneous stuff while she was in the care-home. Her name, which you can still see the shadow of, had to be kept on it because she forgot that it was hers to from time to time. When Joyce passed two weeks before Christmas this year, Elaine just couldn’t part with it. Then a vision began to take shape.

These are her own words on the Facebook post she made when she posted the pictures of the finished product, my incredible Christmas gift:

Lori has used my little shop for her prayer closet for years. When I go to do a project I have to clear Bible’s candles, pens, reading glasses, little pieces of paper with names on them. I never say a word. Well maybe once, for I am sure she has prayed and shed many a tear there for me. When my Mom passed I had her little chest of drawers to take home. Lori said just donate it. I said no!. I have a plan for that… And here it is. Took me many hours in the little shop.

I had an inkling of what she was doing, because she had mentioned seeing “Prayer Cabinets” online and on Pinterest. I was ordered to stay out of the shop until it was done.
Finally, the day before Christmas Eve it was complete. That night, a sheet covered dolly was wheeled in from outside by Elaine, looking much like one of Santa’s mischievous elves. She could hardly contain her excitement, she said……”You are gonna cry.”
Cry, I did……and you can see why:
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It was beyond my expectations. Standing before me was a labor of love born out of the deepest kind of sorrow. That was why it meant so much. She could have chosen any old chest to refurbish but she wanted this one. Now when I go out to pray, I see a vision of someone who looked inside her heart and refused to cave in to despair, but instead made an unspeakable thing of beauty for someone else…….and I got to be the recipient. I will cherish it the rest of my days, because I know what it took to make it.
I had stood in her Mom’s room and seen those drawers slide in and out, her looking for socks that her Mom had stashed in her purse, and marking the backs of “Depends” with permanent markers. I love that those drawer liners weren’t wasted. And the crosses……those crosses were made out of driftwood we collected from Moss Landing, one of our favorite places to go in California. It’s personal through and through.
I see it, and I think of how so many times in life God brings hope and beauty after our deepest times of despair. I think of that Psalm that talks about joy in the morning.
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And God looks at us “castoffs” by the side of the road and sees what He will make us into, because He sees what we can’t. And He’s determined to make a thing of incredible beauty out of us, even when we can no longer believe in ourselves.
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And He says:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6,7
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And someday, when we are on the other side……..He will nod approvingly and say, “I do good work.” Come inside now and see what I have prepared for you…….

Creativity and our DNA

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Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:6

Whether you believe the account in Genesis or not, (I do) you can’t deny that creativity is a part of who we are. Even before we can walk or run, we are stacking blocks. Why are we not content to let the sand just lie there and be sand? Because the truth is the act of creating is part of our DNA handed down from our Father in Heaven.

I remember craft time in school when they handed out the clay or the paint how excited we all were. And not just the ones with the natural talent, everybody. And back then no one worried if we were good enough, we just wanted to join in and watch the colors mix, splash over the page, feel the clay warm under our kneading hands. My Mom still has one of my projects from first grade and I still remember that feeling of seeing my finished product; a teal colored fish with a roped piece of clay for a smile.

This morning, after hearing about the Nuke deal, I was kind of bummed out honestly. I thumbed through my phone at the news flashes and threw it back down on the bed distractedly. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I turned my attention to the blank paper that was going to be a card for my Dad’s 87th Birthday. I decided to draw a simple sketch of a place that holds deep significance to our whole family. I crouched on the floor with a few pencils and working from a photo, I sketched a scene.

Soon the cat came in and thought it was play time so he started batting the pencils out of my hand. They both wondered why I was on their level so they hovered around, curiously watching. I found that in those minutes I lost track of time and all the worries of the world outside. For those few minutes I was doing something Holy. I was a partaker in creating something from nothing and even though it’s just a simple drawing, I know my Dad will love it because he is an artist. He understands the joy of the creative process.

When we share our art with someone we are actually joining with God in the creative process He started when He created the world, the cosmos and us. And when we pass it on it becomes a kind of benediction that makes them want to reciprocate in their own way.

Art is a way of keeping our sanity when the world outside seems anything but. Art is a way of building a bridge of hope that lifts us above and beyond ourselves and points to something and someone greater. It says that there is much that is still good. To much to give up.

Turns out there is a world of adults out there who long to go back to those coloring and finger painting days. There are whole workshops now devoted to distressed, depressed, burned out adults who long to get back into the rhythm of doing something they left behind long ago and turns out they shouldn’t have.

So push aside those thoughts that you’re not good enough.

Or do that thing you secretly have always known you were good at.

Paint, draw, sing, build, write. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time or even worse, that it’s childish.

You spend enough time in your day being an adult. Now take a break for awhile and enter into what you were really made for

You won’t be able to stop smiling, I promise.

(This post is an abbreviated version that was swallowed up earlier in the day. It is out there in the cloud somewhere)

I started writing on this theme from a prompt I heard about over at The High Calling, though I missed the community link up. Read some great articles on this theme right here.

It’s a “God Thing”

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The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

This beautiful cross you see above comes with a story. It’s one I have great pleasure in sharing because it is a perfect illustration of how the Holy Spirit brings strangers together and makes them friends. The maker of this very special cross happened across my blog one day and something I said struck a chord because he wrote a beautiful comment of encouragement which blessed me tremendously. It was one of those “God Things.”

Time and time again I marvel at how the Holy Spirit uses people and circumstances to give us just the encouragement we need at just the right time. It’s happened over and over again and it surprises me, even though I should know better by now. Now I will tell you a little story about how this particular cross came to me. It’s another “God Thing.”

I had expressed an interest in these handmade crosses made by Mark McCullough via his Etsy website which you can find here. Then, right around Christmas time, I get a surprise email saying that one of these crosses was going to be shipped to me as a gift! In the accompanying message he asked if he could share the why and how of the story. I was like, “Hello…..of course you can!” He described how he wanted the crosses to go to three individuals for specific reasons. One of whom was me. Here are his words:

You told me in our first email exchange that you sometimes wondered if you shouldn’t just leave the blogging to others, which is something that I think would be a terrible loss for our world.  I wanted you to have a cross, something like a combination of potential inspiration and an expression of my gratitude.  I know that a cross that comes to live with you will find a way to reach out into the world—that’s what I want for all of my crosses, that wherever they go, they touch someone, somehow, and carry the message forward.

So I knew who I wanted the crosses to go to, but I told everyone that it would be a random drawing, and I felt that I had to honor that. I also decided that I was willing to make more crosses if I needed to, to ensure that these three people each got one.

I wrote all the names on little pieces of paper, folded each one up, and dropped them into a gift bag that was sitting next to my desk.  I wouldn’t say that I actually prayed–more like just a “Okay God, here we go” statement.  I shook it up and pulled out a name.  It was Friend #2, whose father is ill.  I drew a second name—you.  I drew the third name, and it was Friend #1.  It would seem that God approved of my choices!  I sat here at my desk for a long while just marveling at the way it had worked out.

After I read his note, it was my turn to marvel. Here is a man working in his workshop miles away, using his talent and creativity for God’s glory and to bless others, and here is me at my computer hammering out words, all because we can’t stop the flow of gratitude that the message of the Cross brings. It’s all about God’s grace and how it flows through each and every one of our lives, and through each other via the Holy Spirit.

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The pictures don’t do it justice, friends. But each time I look at it, I will think of the hands that fashioned it just the way He fashioned all of us. And how wood from all over the world was lovingly joined together to make one perfect whole. Just the way He longs to redeem not just part of the world, but the whole wide world. The cross is the bridge that unifies all people into one Holy family.

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This little cross giveaway became a much bigger thing for me that I ever imagined it would. I figured that a few friends would say, “Sure, I’ve got a place on the wall. Why not?” I thought the whole thing would be lighthearted—just good fun on Christmas. Mark McCullough (The Cross Maker)

It was a “God Thing” and I am humbly grateful.