Aug 172009
 

I recently had my feelings crushed by a friend with good intentions and bad timing. I shared a personal story with her and in response, she shared a personal criticism of me. The criticism was valid. But that never really matters, does it?

I used to drink and eat when I felt sad or confused, but now I pray and write. And eat. So I dragged my bag of chips and heavy heart upstairs to the computer that day. This is what I came up with:

Cracked Vase

Each of us, at our essence, is a beautiful bouquet of flowers … God living in us. Unfortunately, if we’re brave enough to offer our bouquet to the world, we have no other choice but to present it in the cracked vase that is our own self and has seen better days.The world has knocked us around, and has left some of us a little chipped and others in pieces on the floor. Miraculously, regardless of the degree of damage to our vase, our bouquet remains unscathed… as pristine and breathtakingly perfect as the day God gave it to us, on our first day. So when my neighbor offers me her bouquet why do I notice the imperfect instead of the perfect? Why do I need to see the broken instead of the unbreakable? Why can’t I see the bouquet for the vase? Is it because I think if I focus on how broken her vase is, she might not notice that mine is shattered?And am I even aware that all the while I am missing out on the beauty, the offering, the blessing of her bouquet? Each time I point out her cracked vase I suggest that maybe her bouquet would be better back there on the shelf, where not so many people will see it. And she starts to doubt that she ever even had a bouquet…she remembers that she’s just a cracked up old vase after all. That’s all she’s ever been, really.

I am going to ask God to show me the bouquet instead of the vase.I want to see and respond to the flowers, and to say thank you to the neighbors who offer them. Because it’s so brave to keep offering your bouquet, what with being so cracked and all. It’s like showing up at a bridal shower out of love for your friend even though you’ve spilled a latte in your lap in the car, and it appears that you’ve peed yourself. So brave.Then maybe, if my neighbor asks, I’ll try to help her patch up her vase a bit…make it a little stronger, to hold in more water and keep her bouquet fresh…but only if she asks. Otherwise I’ll just thank her for her courage and tell her how beautiful, colorful, and perfect her flowers are. How they, like everyone else’s, are the most beautiful flowers I’ve ever seen, and how they made my day. Then, if I’m feeling brave enough, and she has time….I’ll offer her mine. And I’ll ask God to shine the light on his bouquet instead of my cracked vase. And He will, but maybe he’ll also remind us both, my neighbor and I, that the cracks are where the light sneaks out. And in.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4 7-9


 

 

Aug 172009
 

We’ve been members of lots of churches on our faith journey.

Right after Chase was born, we started going to a cozy little Methodist church. The congregation was old, wise, and gentle. The elegant minister peppered her simple sermons with “God is good,” to which the whole church replied musically…“All the time.” I think this may have just been her way of keeping those closest to heaven (the kids and elderly) awake, but I loved the steady reminder. I also loved the part during the service when people would stand up and ask for prayer about whatever was on their hearts…a granddaughter’s piano recital, a daughter in-laws breast cancer, a lonely friend. We were doted on like grandchildren there, and we felt valued and adored, like everyone should feel at church.

There were too few children to teach a separate Sunday school class, so the minister would call the kids to the altar and use a parrot puppet to teach them a simplified version of the day’s message. After the parrot lesson, the children scurried back to their parents in the pews and the minister delivered the adult message.

One Sunday, during the grown up sermon, I looked down at Craig’s hand in mine and his fancy church shoes and my mind started wandering.I marveled at how handsome he was and how fantastically mature we were to be in church, together, by choice. Like I always do, I felt like I was just playing grown up, complete with my costume of lipstick and heels .My day dreaming caused me to lose track of the sermon, and when I tuned back in, I was lost.

I leaned toward Craig’s ear and whispered. “I’m lost. What is she talking about?”

After a long pause, Craig whispered out of the corner of his mouth:

“I have no idea. I only listen to the parrot part.”

Aug 152009
 

This is Amanda- our youngest.

When Amanda was born, she flew through the birth canal at such breakneck speed that she was a little…rough upon arrival. Actually, she was dark purple and quite swollen from head to toe. All the nurses looked down at her and cooed and pretended to notice that she looked like me, or Craig…but it was painfully obvious that the only human she came close to resembling yet was Rocky Balboa.

Besides the little appearance glitch, I assumed that all was well until Amanda returned from her first bath with a sign on her bassinette that said, in huge block letters:

“I HAVE A BRUISED FACE.”

When I asked the nurse why mine was the only baby with her shortcomings advertised, she told me that since Amanda was so purple, they were afraid that a nurse might panic and start to perform CPR on her. I was distraught. Every time I looked at that sign I felt like Amanda was being forced to wear a baby dunce cap. I imagined all the other babies pointing at her and giggling in the nursery, scootching their bassinettes away from hers so as not to be associated with the “bruised face chick.” Stupid Snotty Jerk Babies. When the nurse suggested that I might be over-reacting, I asked her why Amanda would be crying so much if not for the fact that she was terribly embarrassed.

Clearly, the Percocet hadn’t kicked in yet.

But Craig was smart enough not to suggest more drugs when I talked to him about it. He had a more creative approach to the problem. The next morning when I woke up, I noticed that another sign had been added to Amanda’s bassinette. Now above her teeny purple face it said:

“I HAVE A BRUISED FACE”

“BUT YOU SHOULD SEE THE OTHER BABY.”

And since Amanda was named after the most relentless and graceful fighter we’ve ever known- this was a fitting start to her little life. More on her namesake later..when I can find the words.