Fall smells fill the house. Spiced cider simmers on the
stove. I taste it and feel deliciously warmed. On the counter next to
the mulling cider sits an apple. The apple makes me think.
I have a mental list of things I want to change about me. I
want to be more loving. I want to be less self-focused and more generous and caring
of others. I want healed relationships. And joy. I want my life to count, my words to matter.
But I sit here with these wants—like an apple longing to be
warm, sweet cider. Powerless to effect change.
Not that I don’t try. I read verses on
loving. I try to be nice. I attempt “fake it ’til you make it.” But nothing seems to last.
that apple, I need to surrender to an outside force. I need to admit my
inability to change myself or others, and let God do the work. Let him press me into his “wants” for my situation.
It never ceases to amaze me what God can do with a
surrendered heart. I think back on two relationships on the verge of ruin—people
who irritated me because they were too something. Too controlling, too critical, too self-centered. I tried the fake smile, I
tried avoidance, I tried whining to my husband or a friend. I thought of simply
walking away. And then I thought of surrender.
I told God I couldn’t fix it. I admitted
I’d walled off my heart and confessed my critical spirit. (Funny how the things
that bug us about other people are often our own eye-logs.)
And then I waited.
And he acted.
Once, he changed my heart. He helped me see where that
person had come from and what she had gone through. And he gave me a tiny glimpse of what he sees, a small dose
of his compassion. This human vessel couldn’t have handled too much of his
white-hot holiness and unfathomable mercy. But it was enough to
change a friendship.
Once, he changed the other person’s heart toward me. I had
surrendered—just that morning—and by mid-afternoon she stood at my door. We
hugged. We cried. We said we were sorry. Not long after that, God took her. It’s
made me wonder, over and over since then, why I wait. Why I try to do it on my
own. And fail. And maybe miss a chance at reconciliation.
I want to be an apple in the hands of God. I want to let Him
squish me into cider, sweeten and spice me into something that warms and
The process can be painful. And we avoid pain. But it’s
So here I am again, admitting I can’t do it. Tomorrow morning at 3 a.m. my husband and I leave for a nine-day mission trip to Belize. I've never been to a third world country. Never seen poverty up close. Never come face-to-face with things that crawl out of the jungle. Never had to speak before fifty or more women whose culture I don't yet understand.
Nevous? Yes. Excited? Absolutely. Totally inadequate? For sure.
So I surrender.
And I wait . . . for God to bring
something sweet out of this pressing time.
Is God squishing you right now, or has he in the past? I'd love to hear about it. If I don't reply right away, it's because I'm on my way to Belize--and probably being squished.
Earlier this year we
had the bittersweet task of emptying my father-in-law’s house after he passed
away. Sad, of course, but sweet because he’d lived 90 productive years and
loved the Lord. and his house was filled with testimonies to both. Hard as it was
to divide up the physical treasures of a lifetime, it was also a bonding time
of sharing family memories.
One of the keepsakes
we brought home was this scarred and battered table. It had originally belonged
to my husband’s grandfather, so it could easily be well over a century old. The table sat at his grandpa’s bedside when he lived in a one-room house on his
farm in Osseo, Wisconsin. (More on this house in a future post.)
When I first brought
the table home, I planned on painting it, then sanding a few spots to give it
that homey, shabby chic look. But the more I stare at it, the more I want to
leave it just as it is—scuff marks, paint spots, ugly nails and all. I love that my grandchildren can touch the grooves and dents—and maybe add their own—to a piece that
belonged to their great-great-grandfather.
Friends and family seem
to agree that it would be a shame to cover up evidence of a long and useful
life. So I’m ignoring the chic and keeping the shabby.
So why can’t I do the
same when I look in the mirror? Why do we (speaking for all of western
womankind here) look at the lines that give proof to years of love and tears and laughter as something
we need to cover up?
My husband and I went to see The Intern last week. How refreshing to watch a movie that respects and honors the life experience of senior citizens! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. I did some research on cultures that venerate age. Did you know that in Greece, the word for "old man" is a term of endearment? Their culture identifies old age with wisdom and closeness to God.
I also looked up the definition of shabby chic: A form of interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique.
The older I get, the more I wish I lived in a society that CHOSE people for their signs of wear and tear! Even better would be a culture where younger people copied our appearance rather than the other way around. This isn't likely to happen, but I think we should be telling ourselves and each other how valued we are.
I’m trying to learn a
lesson from the life-worn table that greets guests by my front door. When a
chubby, smooth little hand touches my face, I want to celebrate the life that
has left telltale signs on my skin and be grateful it has given me treasures of
experience and wisdom to pass on to future generations. As the Velveteen Rabbit says, “Once you
are real, you can’t be ugly.”
How are you doing at embracing your shabby?
For the past few weeks, my son and daughter-in-law and
their four children and puppy have been living with us while they’re between
houses. A houseful of homeschooling kids has given me the opportunity to search
out new writing places . . . and led to some fun discoveries.
I’ve created a comfy little nest on the floor of our
bedroom with massive pillows, laptop, place for tea, and a stack of
books—Bible, devotional, study books, journal.
There’s something earthy about floor-sitting. Makes
you feel like a kid again. Okay, it makes you feel like you wish you had that
kid body back again! When I realized how much my hip joints rebelled against
sitting cross-legged, I started doing some stretches . . . which led to some
actual stair-step-therapy-ball-Shake-Weight-toe-touching exercise. And then I
found myself sitting on the floor (somewhat comfortably cross-legged) to read
to the grandkids. If I do this every day, I can keep it up for another 30 years, right?
A little research brought me to some of the other health benefits
that come from occasionally rejecting furniture . . . and also showed me I
might not actually have those next 30 years if I don't shape up! Try the Sitting and Rising Test for yourself!
Another sweet thing I discovered in this cozy new
writing place was the view. After 11 years in this house, I’ve never seen the
trees in my backyard from quite this angle. As gray squirrels chase each other
up tree trunks and across branches, as hickory nuts fall and oak leaves turn
the color and sheen of rich, tanned leather, I have a front row seat. It is a
view both inspiring and serene. When I close the blinds to the afternoon sun, bars of light transform my neutral carpeting to a work of art.
Even though my kids will be in their own house
by the time the snow flies, I’ll still be spending hours in my corner on the
floor, watching snow pile on the balcony, frost crystallize on the window, and icicles shimmer in
All I wanted was an out-of-the way writing spot, but I
ended up with a beautiful view and a healthier body. These are small things,
but this experience seems symbolic of all the times we start out in search of
one thing and God surprises us with so much more than we dreamed of looking
I’d love to hear about some surprise discoveries—Divine
or ordinary—in your life!