Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Simple Things.

I have vivid memories of my childhood summers. Constantly at our neighborhood swimming pool from its opening hour until booted out by the teenage-angst-filled lifeguards at closing time, my olive skin became very dark. I would be stopped regularly by the nosy inquirer who wanted to know if I was Brazilian or from some other far-off exotic place. But no, I was merely a little southern small town girl. As I think about that memory, I find it comical. I was not an exotic foreign heir to fortune or fame. I was a simple girl from a simple town with simple taste. And I was the luckiest girl alive (and still am), because the values instilled in me by my parents were based upon recognizing the extraordinary in the simplest pleasures in life.

God has blessed me with the most incredible earthly father a girl could have. He oooohed and aaaahed when I twirled in my new dresses, he graciously pretended to eat elaborate imaginary platters of food I designed with little plastic “pegs”, and he never once forgot to leave me a beautiful heart full of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Every Saturday morning, we had breakfast together at Kay’s Drugstore…it was our date every week. And every single day (no exaggeration), I would wake up to a handwritten note from Dad wishing me a good day, affirming me, and telling me that he loved me “very, very, very, very much”.

My most treasured memories with Dad, though, are the ones framed around those Georgia midsummer days that were so humid you could barely breathe. He and I would sit out on our deck in the hot sun, and we would share an ice cold can of fruit cocktail. Two forks. We would sit and talk and laugh with the sweltering sun beating down on us as we took turns reaching into a fifty-cent can of ice cold fruit. At the end, one lone cherry always awaited…and Dad always gave it to me of course. We would stay and talk and talk and talk until the sun came down. Dad worked hard to support our family. But he and a silly can of fruit cocktail always had time for me. From my perspective, there was no finer cuisine. There was no X-box or Playstation or designer jeans or fancy trips or cameras or computers. There was just me and my Daddy, and an aluminum can of processed fruit between us. I was content, satisfied, and loved. I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas or my birthday every year, but I can tell you about my time with my Dad like it was yesterday. That, I remember. And that, I treasure.

If you look in my refrigerator today, you’ll notice a can of fruit cocktail on the top shelf. And if you know me well at all, then you know that there is always a can in my fridge. Always. Because I need to be reminded that there are opportunities every single day to find the extraordinary in the simplest of things.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Secret Place.

This past weekend I took some time alone. Sometimes I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget just to be still. And as I’ve chronicled my journey over the past week or so…a place where I don’t want to go…I have learned the value of surrendering to solitude. First, it meant turning off my TV and music. And I have been amazed at how uncomfortable I am in the silence. As I have embraced it, though, my pull toward spending time alone in deep reflection and prayer has become more and more intense. Scripture tells us in several places to go to the “secret place” to pray to the Father. I decided to find a secret place outside of my home this weekend. I did, and it was incredible.

I found a small, quiet cove off of the lake. It was a beautiful date with my Father. No one does romance like He does. He woos me like no other.

I thought about a long list of things and prayed about an even longer list of things. As I looked out on the water, I caught a glimpse of something beautiful. The water was perfectly still and smooth, like glass. The reflection in the water was perfect…a gorgeous blue sky…heaven. If the water had not been at rest, I could not have seen this incredible picture. In that moment, I realized that only when we are perfectly still … when we are at rest in Him … only then can we reflect heaven. Only then can we reflect Him.

There are so many times when God speaks to me through other people, and of course through serving others. And I am moved to incredible heart change during corporate worship at times. But nothing can replace the intimate time I spend alone with my God. He says things and shows me things in the silent solitude that I cannot hear or see in any other place.

God, the more I seek You, the more I find You. The more I find You, the more I love You. I want to sit at your feet and drink from the cup in Your Hand. I long to lay back against you and breathe, to feel Your heartbeat. This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand. I melt in your peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I’m a sappy card person. I love sending cards and writing notes and letters. I suppose that shows my age a bit, but many times an email simply won’t do. When I receive a handwritten note or card from someone, it lifts me up in a way that an email or text message will never be able to. I love to think about the way that the person’s sentiment to me flowed from the heart to the hand to the paper, and made its way to me. I just love that. And when those moments come when the love I feel for someone overflows, then my pen comes out. If you get a card, a note, or a letter from me, then it means that I love you. It means that I “overflowed” for you so I had to express it. It’s a gift that comes from a deeper place than anything that I would purchase for you. And it’s usually a little long, mushy, and well…maybe a little sappy. Because that’s just me.

A couple of years ago, I saw a pile of words that I had written…words of love and encouragement to someone I loved deeply … tossed away in a trash can. That painful image was burned into my memory. And I didn’t write again for well over a year. I decided that I would never again make myself vulnerable in my words – not to anyone for any purpose. I had often been asked to write devotions for various meetings, and I stopped doing that. No journal entries, no more cards, notes, or letters to anyone. Every time I sat down to write, the image of the pile in his trash can flashed before my eyes. Opening myself to being vulnerable through words of love, confession, or encouragement was no longer an option for me.

Today, I burned some words. Lots of words. Pages of them. Words that proved deception and betrayal. Not my words, but tangible reminders of pain. The pain that God has been calling me to so that He can lead me to the doorway of hope. It had been ages since I’d read them, but for some reason, they followed me through two moves. They remained in a special box designated just for them. I held and guarded them for some reason…probably for many reasons. But they are no longer here. What I didn’t expect, however, is that the vision that I had been carrying for 2 years -- my words laying in the trash can -- was also in the flames. As the flames grew high and the heat intensified, it, too, burned away.

As He is always faithful to His promise, He will bring beauty from the ashes. Every single time.

Beautiful forgiveness.
Beautiful restoration.
Beautiful healing.

So check your mail. You might just be getting a letter from me very soon. I'm sorry it took so long.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Simple Truth.

A former coworker and good friend called me recently. She is a precious woman whom I have known for about 3 years. I had been on my new job for about three days when she came into my office, closed my door behind her and said, “I don’t know what it is that you have, but I want it.” Keep in mind that I barely even knew her name. We had been introduced on my first day, and that was the extent of our direct communication. Her cubicle sat outside of my office, and she told me that she had been observing how I handled myself in certain stressful business situations. At first, I must admit, this conversation felt a little creepy. But she was persistent as she sat there, continually asking me where I got my “sense of peace”.

So I told her. I explained to her the role that my faith plays in my life. I didn’t yank out my King James Bible and hammer her with it. I simply shared my story with her in a very real and honest way. I didn't present myself as perfect. I shared my junk and my struggles with her, too. As we talked, I learned that she was an atheist. But I also learned that she was hungry for truth.

I have been sharing the Gospel and answering her questions for all of those 3 years. We’ve talked for hours upon hours, and I’ve given her books and she’s read all of them…twice. She is so close. I mean, she is right there…hovering just on that line. You know the one...the one that separates us from needing "one more bit of evidence" to faith. That moment when, really, it all comes down to one single choice. The choice to believe.

There have been times that I have been so frustrated that she hasn’t responded. There have been times when I wanted to give up. There have been times when I felt as though I was failing God and her. There have been times when I wished God would pass this challenging task on to someone else. There have been many times when I have wept from my core over what this precious friend is missing out on. I love her. I want this for her so much that it physically hurts.

We have experienced a lot during the past 3 years. She was a dear friend to me as I endured one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life 2 years ago. I have held her hand and prayed over her as she has endured a failing marriage. We have also laughed until our sides hurt. We have eaten way too much cake together and consumed more lattes than I can count. Her children call me “Aunt”. And I love her deeply.

Her call this week was to request a retreat with me…a time for the two of us to talk. So, we have a sleepover planned for next week. I am considering installing outside locks on my house just to keep her in until she responds. =) OK, maybe not.

So here we go again. More questions. The same questions she has had for three years. But maybe, just maybe, this time the Truth will conquer her heart. And I will share the Gospel with her again, answer the tough questions (as best I can), love on her, tell her what God has done in my life (and remind her that she’s been on a front row seat for much of it). I will do this as many times and for as long as it takes.

Because someone did it for me.

Bridgette is my best friend from college. Bridgette lived out her love for God in a way that I had never seen before. I met her during my sophomore year at Kennesaw State University . Bridgette didn’t know me as you all do, though. Bridgette knew me as a lost young girl, seeking validation and fulfillment in my own selfish desires and addictions. During the countless hours we spent together for all-night study sessions, enduring difficult classes together, and traveling across the globe for international debate team competitions, she took every opportunity to share the love of God with me. I wasn’t interested in any part of it back then.

Oddly, despite our different journeys spiritually, we were inseparable. I had tasted “religion,” and I had been badly burned and deeply scarred, so I had no interest in anything that resembled "religion". We had a weekly tradition to meet at IHOP for sharing and prayer on Thursday evenings. Somehow, she was the one person – the only one -- in my life then who could convince me to pray or even think about God. Even with her difficult schedule and many other demands on her life, she was faithful every week to make time for me. Those few minutes talking with her each week were the only time that I thought about or talked about God at all, and even then, my heart was skeptical. But Bridgette kept it simple. She merely told me her story … simple ways that God was moving in her life.

As we said goodbye in the IHOP parking lot on December 18, 1995, she hugged me more tightly than usual and said “God is going to do great things in you, you just have to let Him,” and she quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I had no belief at all that God could or would do anything with my wretched life, but it was evident that God had called her to great things. On her way home that evening, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and took her life. She died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Her last words were directions to her doctor to relay a message to the man who hit her…“tell him that God loves Him, and that he is forgiven.” Her final moments in death reflected her life’s legacy…investing in others. At her funeral, her mother showed us the inscription in her Bible. She had written on the front flap…“I want my life to bring lost hearts to You.” Oh, how God answered this prayer in my life and I am certain in the lives of so many others touched by her.

You see, Bridgette would not know the unexplainable impact that her bold, unwavering and unapologetic witness would bear on my life. She would not know that years later, the seeds she planted in my heart would come to harvest by my submitting my life to Christ. She would not have known the incredible impact that embracing God’s promise to us in Jeremiah 29:11 would have on my life. She did not know then that the legacy of God living in and loving through her would live through me for His glory. She did not know any of this. God had not given her a “written guarantee” that her efforts would be successful. But she invested in me anyway. Because she believed. And God knew what would be born in me and others she touched with her life.

Her last journal entry (the day before her death) read:
“I had my ups and downs and I fell a few times, but I did not give up. Don't give up, because God's reward is worth it all. I challenge you to listen, and see what God will do. Take a risk, chance it, trust in God. You will see what God can do with a willing heart."

Sometimes we make it harder than it is. We don't need a theology degree. Let’s just tell our story. For as long as it takes.

Tell them He loves them.
Tell them He died on the cross for you and them.
Tell them your story, how he made you new.
Tell them He’s the best thing that’s happened to you.

It’s really that simple.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

With Flowers In His Hand

Anyone who knows me probably knows that one of my favorite verses is Hosea 2:14-15:
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. (NIV)
God lures us into the desert sometimes…deliberately, and with a purpose born completely out of His unwavering love for us. He speaks tender words of comfort to us there, and when we have found our rest in Him, He returns us to our vineyards. But here's the best part...he promises to make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. The Valley of Achor was once a place of judgment and destruction. But He promises to turn that land of pain into a doorway of hope, healing, and promise. I love this passage. I’ve been moved by this passage for several years now. But its meaning is engraved even more deeply in my heart during this particular season of my life.

God has been calling me into the desert. A place of deep and unresolved pain. Old pain and wounds that create a barrier to the "next level" of what He has for me. A place I don’t want to go. And I have been running hard, for months. For a while, I used the excuse “Well, I think that’s what He wants me to do, but I’m not sure, so I’ll keep praying about it.” That wasn't true...I knew what He was calling me to do, I just didn't like it. I have been hiding behind “praying about it”. (I’m not saying it’s not good to pray about things…but when we know what God is telling us to do and we use prayer as an excuse to delay obedience, that’s still just plain old disobedience). I have been hiding behind keeping myself “too busy”. I have been hiding behind a legitimate series of health issues. I have been using every excuse imaginable to avoid the grief and hurt in the place where He is calling me to go. I have been walking in blatant disobedience. And I’m worn out.

Over the past few days, I have had a recurring vision of Christ standing in the desert, waiting for me, with flowers in His hand, wooing me and luring me to the place of healing. Shielding the darkness of the pain with the beautiful brightness of His light. He stands calling out my name, whispering words of comfort and reassurance to me, and patiently waiting for me to trust Him enough to meet Him there.

I have been fearful about being transparent about this with others, for fear of what they would think of me…what would people think if they knew I really wasn’t as “together” as I appear to be? Would I still be enough? Would they still love me? The enemy wants us to isolate ourselves and believe we are alone, and somehow gradually I fell into that trap. There is one person in particular that I was especially concerned about revealing this to, but I knew that the time had come to be completely authentic and transparent. So over Thanksgiving, I first spoke it out to my family…who, can I just say, is the most amazing family anywhere? I am so blessed. I then shared it with a very close friend, who offered sweet prayers and encouragement.

But the last 24 hours have been so powerful and so packed with the presence and confirmation of God’s presence that my head is spinning and my heart is so full that I don’t know what to do with myself. Honestly, it’s a bit surreal and I’m still taking it all in. He has revealed so much to me about Himself. He has done this through His Word and as I sit quietly and listen for His voice on my heart. That would have been enough, but He is an abundant God. He is lovingly crafty enough to use a gathering of friends at a Christmas party last night to confirm His voice on my heart (and they had no idea!).

Also, only a handful of hours ago, with sweaty palms and a shaky voice, I finally opened myself up to the one person I was most concerned about. This person’s response was not at all what I expected…it was not critical, harsh, hesitant, or distant. It was gracious, compassionate, understanding, encouraging, merciful and loving. And when I returned home from church this morning, there was a special delivery waiting for me on my doorstep:

With flowers In His hand.

God revealed Himself by bringing to life the vision that He planted in my heart…the beautiful sight of Him standing in the desert, pursuing me, wooing me, and waiting, patiently, with flowers in His hand, for me to trust Him. And loving me in spite of my brokenness and baggage. Bringing beauty from ashes.

I’m ready to go to the desert now. I trust Him to heal me. The journey feels unsafe. But so, so worth it. Because on the other side of the Valley is a doorway leading to acres upon acres of hope. And I choose hope.