Butterfly Sparks Designs

Monday, December 24, 2012

The New Story.

Tomorrow morning, many of us will gather around to read a story.  A beautiful, miraculous, true story.

The story of a man and woman obedient to the Lord when they hadn’t a clue what to expect.  The story of the baby who was born to die.  The story of the birth of the Savior of the world.   The story of a baby King who frolicked and played, just as any other boy made of flesh and bone. 

The story of the birth of Christ is beautiful, powerful and indeed most deserving of glorious celebration. But as we celebrate, may we also remember that the birth-story of the Messiah was only the beginning.  There were new stories to be told.  

That baby boy King grew up to be the blameless God-man who felt every single emotion that I do.  He laughed…and he cried.  He had a mind to think and reason, and he had a tender heart.   That birth story became the story of the King who humbled Himself to understand me, to love me, to die for me.  And (Hallelujah!), the new story both ends and begins with my Jesus rising again.

I’m so glad the story didn’t end in the manger.  

Stories are powerful.  They have an amazing ability to change not only the listener but the teller.  In listening to a story, whether read or spoken, it’s easy to get lost in it, and often that story becomes a part of who we are as it changes us.  There is also release in telling our stories, as there can be hope and encouragement given to those who hear them.  

But my question both to you and to myself is this.  Are we looking for the new story?  As compelling as our “last” story may be, do we open our eyes and ears and hearts wide enough to receive the next one?

What if we had been so fixed on the story of the beautiful birth of Christ that we missed the rest? 

God, as we celebrate our "last" story, help us to see the new stories You are writing in us.  

Help us, Lord, not to miss the resurrection.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have To Laugh.

I was a serious kid.  

Mom says that I usually seemed to be in deep thought, even as a baby.  Others often called me a kid with an “old soul”.  

As I grew up, I developed more extroverted aspects of my personality and definitely inherited my parents' sense of fun and humor…but even so, that serious kid was still there.  And she still is.  

I love to think, to study, and to connect with others in very deep and meaningful ways.  There’s not much I love more than a deep conversation with meaning and substance.  But if you know me well, then you know I can also be a great big goofball who (i) sings silly songs in the shower at the top of her lungs and off key; (ii) makes sad attempts at joke-telling, uncontrollably laughing before she can even get the punch line out; and (iii) wheezes and snorts when she laughs – well, it’s more of a cackle, really.  

But that thinker, that “old soul” who still makes up more of me than the goofy part … well, she is my comfortable place.  Sometimes I wonder why.  I mean, that doesn’t make sense.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around, like it is for most others?  Maybe it’s because I’m confident in my intellect but not in my ability to make you laugh.  Or maybe it’s because I hate the sound of my laugh.  Or maybe it’s because I think I can hide behind a deep conversation in order to keep you at a safe “distance” from me yet still allow me to connect to you. I mean, don’t most people start off by being lighthearted at first and then when trust is built in a relationship, the deep stuff comes later?  Nope, not me.  I’m the opposite. Because if I don’t feel safe or trusting in a relationship, then it’s very, very hard for me to laugh with you.  

So if I can be goofy and silly and cut up around you -- well, it means that I’m comfortable enough with you to let you in.  It's me, making myself vulnerable.  I know -- weird.  

One of my most treasured friends stopped me in my tracks in a conversation earlier today.  I was getting a little frustrated with my friend's attempt to tell a joke after I shared something that I considered heavy.

“Melissa, don’t you know that I just want to make you belly laugh right now?”  

Whoa.  There, across from me, was someone who loves me enough to genuinely want me not only to chuckle, but to belly laugh.  That was his only concern in that moment.  He couldn't fix my obstacle.  He couldn't change my circumstance.  But he could lead me back to joy through the simplicity of laughter.  What a simply beautiful gift to want to give someone.  

In that quick moment I felt the presence of one of the most special gifts there are  – one that I had taken for granted not only in this relationship but in my relationship with the Lord.  And in that little minute I felt so grateful, so loved…as the voice of God spoke through my friend’s voice.  

God just wants to make me belly laugh, too

I love the depth and substance of my prayer and study time.  But it’s so easy to find myself so caught up in the academia, the meanings, the general “heavy stuff” and to forget to just … laugh.  I was reminded so lovingly today that He wants to make me belly laugh as He directs my heart and my life.  But for someone like me…well, that means I need to trust Him and let Him in more. 

And in my relationships, it’s so easy for someone who loves to connect with depth and substance to forget to breathe in and exhale a wheezy snort-filled belly laugh even when things are heavy.  So thank you to my amazing friend for reminding me. You know who you are.  I love you much, and I promise to trust, relax, and let you in a little more, too. Thank you for loving me with the love of the Lord and reminding me of what is possible with Him! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

In the Garden.

Virginia Driggers (1919-2006)
Today marks a special anniversary in our family.  Six years ago, my sweet grandmother (my Mama) went to the Great Throne Room…the day she lived her entire life for…the day when her faith became her eyes.

I still remember so many details about my last night with her. I remember the love and unity in my family as my father made the long, prayerful, heartbreaking decision to remove her life support. We were so proud of him, and I have never felt more honored or blessed to be his daughter. He led our family through a very difficult time with tenderness, compassion, and humility. The way he honored his mother while he and Mom were caring for her at home for those last years, and the way that he honored her during her last days on earth demonstrate the type of man my Daddy is...and the type of mother my Mama was to him. The selflessness of my parents during those years of caring for her in their home is something that I will forever admire and stand in awe of.

Everyone was utterly exhausted on that last night. But I had come to the hospital a little later than the others that day, so I stayed overnight to allow the others to get the extra rest that I had been able to enjoy the night before. Her life support had been removed earlier that day, and by that evening, her vitals were still in the normal range but were falling very, very slowly. The doctors were telling us that we probably had another day or so. That was so typical of her fighting spirit! Mama had several health problems, but the one that ultimately took her life was respiratory failure. As the body fights for every breath, there is a sound that I will never forget. I will hear it every so often when visiting a hospital, and it brings chills every single time.

After everyone had left the hospital that night, I lay next to my sweet Mama as she fought for every breath. Over and over and over. I talked to her through the night, read from Isaiah and the Psalms (her favorites), and sang to her. The only times her breathing calmed was when we sang one of her favorite hymns to her... “Amazing Grace”, “I Surrender”, or her true favorite, “In the Garden”.

I sensed that Mama had already begun her journey that night to her King. While I longed for her, one last time, to talk to me and tell me her stories as she had done so many times before, I wondered what she must be experiencing and seeing. I stared at her face for hours, stroking her cheek, longing to capture every memory I could of her face and her hands.

Mama had fallen down her front steps three years before, which prompted her moving in with Mom and Dad because she could no longer walk, go to the bathroom, or care for herself. She was in severe pain for a long, long time. Her mind and her heart were as alive as when she was fifty years younger, but her body was just giving out. She loved the outdoors so much but could no longer get outside, so we created a garden room for her with a rocking chair next to a big window, and her bed positioned by the window also. Dad placed bird feeders and plants right outside her window, and she had every single squirrel named. There was “Greedy Gut” (the bully of the bunch) and “Walter”. And she loved watching the birds. She would sit for hours and watch, and read from her Bible. Every so often, she'd squeeze in a little Judge Judy, too. She LOVED Judge Judy. Ha!

Mama was born into poverty and lost her mother as an infant. She was raised under severely adverse circumstances, yet still developed a strength and a spirit of perseverance that simply could not be broken. My grandfather suffered from addictions that made Mama’s and my Dad’s lives very difficult on many levels. Yet, as my Dad shared on the day of her funeral, she never made her children feel as though they were a bother… he testified that she always made her children feel important, valued, and loved. I am forever grateful to her for what she instilled in my Daddy so that he could, in turn, give the same to his children.

As a little girl, I remember when she lived in Florida and would visit us each summer. I would sit in the car anxiously on the long ride to the airport to pick her up, and I remember the butterflies I felt waiting for her to exit the gate to catch the first glimpse of her sweet face. And the hug that followed was so tight that I couldn’t breathe! When Mama hugged you, you KNEW you’d been hugged! When we arrived home, she would always pull three gifts from her bag, one for each of my sisters and me. Mama drank Sanka instant coffee, and she would save her little Sanka jars. She would fill a jar with change, and bring it to me when she would visit. Dad and I would sit at the kitchen table and he taught me how to count it out. I would get so excited, that you would have thought that $3.00 in change was a million dollars. Then, a fun shopping trip with Mama would follow as I chose my treasure.

When I was little, I was also fascinated with all of her night creams, potions and makeup. Mama would sleep in my room when she visited, and I would sleep with her. My most fond memory of my Mama is the way she would smell. During those last weeks, when it appeared she wasn’t coming home from the hospital, I found myself in the drug store buying a box of her Coty face powder. Mama always wore it, and I longed to smell the familiar sweetness of her beauty. And you can still find that box of powder in a very special place in my dressing area today, for those times when the memory of her consumes me.

Of course as I grew up, I began to see her differently. I began to see her from an adult’s perspective, and began to recognize that along with the soft qualities I knew of her as a little girl, she held a great deal of strength, resilience, and faith. Her life was not about material things, glamour, or impressing anyone. She was so very content with so little.

Mama’s love for her family was unshakable, unquestionable, and unrelenting. And her faith, trust, and love in the Lord were also unshakable, unquestionable, and unrelenting. She had coffee with Jesus every day, she was a prayer warrior, and spoke boldly and unapologetically of her love for God. The mere mention of the name of Jesus brought a smile and a twinkle to her eye.

After our last night together, the next afternoon, with her family standing around her as she took her final breath, her once gray and lifeless face became bright, radiant, and exquisite. Holding her hand and witnessing this moment as she set her eyes upon her God was one of the most incredible blessings that I have ever been given, and I praise God that He allowed me to be a part of that moment.  There was no noise. No fight for her last breath. There was simply peace. Beautiful, beautiful peace.

About 2 years before her final day with us, we were sitting in her garden room in Mom and Dad's house, just talking and talking about everything under the sun. At that time, she was in a great deal of physical pain and had been for a long, long while. 

She had looked intently at me, not with sadness, but with excited, eager anticipation, and said “Melissa, I’m ready to go. I want to be with Jesus. I am sure of my salvation. I have my ticket to Heaven, I just need a ride!” Mama, I'll bet that ride was amazing. And I’ll bet the Garden is just beautiful.

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I'd stay in the garden with Him
'Tho the night around me be falling
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known