Blue, White and Yellow = The Goodness of God

It all started in my parents’ basement; the part of the basement that was used for storage of boxes of old stuff, stacks of newspapers, flowerpots with dirt still in them, tomato stakes, and odds and ends.

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I found this lovely example of blue and white china down there, and I claimed them as my own.  I placed them in my room among my eclectic collection of all things I considered pretty as a young girl.  It was one of the only decorations I took with me when I got married and moved into my first apartment.  It took an honored place on my grandfather Beyer’s old bookshelf, one of the only actual pieces of furniture we owned in those early years.

Somehow that piece of china took hold in my mind as a representative of a happy home.  I developed a picture of my dream home over the course the next few years.  It was a big farm-house with a wrap around porch, a happy place for our happy family.  The most important rooms of the house (the kitchen and dinning rooms) were painted a warm, sunny yellow and adorned with white trim and white shelves.  And what graced those white shelves?  Blue and white china!

We lived many years in rentals or in a home we thought we would soon sell.  I lived with the Realtor beige and white, still seeing those yellow walls in my mind.  In 2007 we purchased a nice home in Pennsylvania.  It wasn’t a farm-house, but it was big with a porch in front.  I didn’t have “THE dream home” or the yellow walls…or the white shelves, but I started to collect the china.  My in-laws purchased my next few plates at an antique store for my birthday.  I had nowhere to display them, so I carefully packed them away.  I started picking up pieces here and there, at thrift stores or yard sales.  A tea-cup with delicate blue flowers, a plate with a cozy cottage and a bridge, a pitcher with an unusual design of blue triangles.  A dollar here, fifty cents there.  Each one a treasure, each one unique, each one a representative of God’s goodness to me.  He has the entire universe to run, yet I felt Him share my joy with each special find.

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Some friends had a china cabinet in their basement that they didn’t use, and they offered it to us.  I was overjoyed!  I had a place to store my treasures where I could see them each day.

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It was my birthday in February of 2010.  That was the glorious year that IT happened!  My husband bought me bright yellow paint!  I could hardly believe my good fortune!  Our weird sage/aqua walls in the kitchen and dinning room were going to be transformed to yellow!  We still had many young children, so we  had to prep and paint after they went to bed.  We continued to paint until 3 o’clock in the morning.  Chris was a trooper.  I was high on excitement and hardly felt tired.  I was getting my yellow walls!

It was quite a shock at first.  It wondered if I had picked the correct yellow color.  But the sun was shinning inside my home 24 hours a day, seven days a week!  “Daffodil” yellow grew on me until I couldn’t keep from saying, “I just love this!”  It is amazing how small things can make such a dramatic different.  Slowly I acquired some white shelves and more blue and white china.  Now I am surrounded by beauty everyday, and it has improved the quality of my life.

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Some days I marvel at the fact that we are still dwelling here, in this beautiful home.  We were close to foreclosure during the hard times.  While we were living through those difficult months, we thought back to the miracle that this home was.  We knew that God had given it to us, and we knew that He could take it away. Chris was walking on our porch one night, feeling the heartbreak of loss, when God spoke to him.

This is YOUR home, and you will sell it when YOU want to.

When Chris told me that, I was so touched by the loving heart of my Father.  He owned everything, everywhere.  He had bought our very lives with the blood of His son.  He did the miracle to get us this house.  Yet He said that it was ours, and that we could choose when we wanted to sell it!

God was true to His word and worked out the details so we could continue to own this house, our dream home!  He has done many more miracles to enable us to put food on the table day after day, pay all our bills month after month, and go shopping for blue and white china year after year.

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Each piece reminds me of His incredible concern for every small detail of my life.  Here I am, living my dream!  My husband doesn’t care a thing about blue and white china; but to me, it symbolizes the amazing, unending goodness of God.

 

 

I Love My Tribe

 

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The music washes over me.  It is not just melody and rhythm…it is the very atmosphere of heaven.  The lights are bright, the stage is full of musicians, and I am surrounded by my tribe.  Almost every Sunday morning I find myself here, in the sanctuary of Life Center and saturated with the swirling presence of God and humanity.  There are so many worship leaders that share the stage, so many musicians that rotate from week to week.  They are full of talent and resurrection life, and I love them all!  They have birthed an abundance of CDs out of the overflow of their lives of praise.

I watch the senior pastors in the front row, boppin’ to the rockin’ music.  They are in their sixties, but they enjoy the youthful expression and energy as much as anyone.  They actually lead the rest of us in radical, “out of the box” thinking! They have served this church for over twenty years, and I love them! I see one of the younger worship leaders, passionately singing a song that he wrote; and I think about how I used to babysit him when he was a boy.  I look over and see his parents in the front row, beloved pastors who raised me in the youth group; still loving, still serving, still standing for all that is true.

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Some folks are out of their seats, dancing.  Some are swaying to the music.  Others are sitting with their eyes closed.  Others are kneeling on the floor.  My teenage daughter is up front, worshipping with her friends.  I observe many gray heads in the crowd, faces lined with wisdom and love.  I see parents holding their little ones.  I see children twirling scarves and prancing on bare feet.  Life is always bursting forth at Life Center.  There are more pregnant women than I can keep track of, and I love them all! I long to be able to tell each one of them how gorgeous they are and how precious they are to God, carrying His little children of promise!

I notice women running to each other in joyful reunions, laughing and hugging.  I see people spontaneously begin to pray for the person next to them, passion and concern on their faces.  I see others exchanging gifts or notes.

It is time for the offering and one of the “newer” pastors takes the microphone.  He and his family have become so precious to me.  Every time I see him take the stage, I am alert with anticipation.  I know that some stunning revelation will spill from his lips that will rock the way I see the world.

The music subsides and there are announcements of births and deaths; family business that herald joy and tears all at the same time.  How we each know that thrill and that pain, and how we each long to share those with our brothers and sisters.  I walk to the back of the sanctuary during the meet and greet time, and I am enveloped in a warm and healing hug by a beautiful black mama.

“Look at you!   You’re beautiful!  Just beautiful!” she always says to me with her eyes shining and her amazing, white smile blazing.  She is the beauty! I wish I could describe the indescribable, how dark and lovely she is…but her beauty is so deep and so true, I am at a loss for words.

It is time for the message and another pastor comes up.  He and his wife are treasures to me, having led countless youth events, missions trips and prayer times that I was apart of.  We have even lived with them a couple of times.  Some folks in the crowd are a little confused because he talks too fast, as though he has 4 hours worth of revelation to impart in 45 minutes.  Chris and I are fluent in “speed talk” since we grew up under his tutelage, and we just chuckle to ourselves.  In his message, he talks about a mission trip that he led 20 years ago.  I was part of that trip, and how I cherish those memories!

After the service, I hug my dear and longtime friends.  I greet friends I grew up with and friends who were in my wedding.  I talk with my children’s pastor, who I went to school with.  I see more recent friends, who have quickly taken residence in my heart.  I identify new acquaintances as well.  I notice many fresh faces and hope to call them my friends someday too.  So many personalities, so many gifts, so many stories, so many ways that God reveals Himself to me; represented by these precious people.

“I love my tribe!” I always think to myself on a Sunday morning.  The love wells up within me, along with pride.  I love my tribe!  There are children of God all over this earth, in different denominations, different countries, varying cultures and traditions.  But I am so glad that my boundary lines have fallen here, at Life Center.  I started coming to this church in 1989, when it was meeting in the old casket factory.  My husband Chris started coming earlier than that, in 1985.  We left for a time and moved to Colorado Springs.  In the eight years we were there, we couldn’t put our roots down, no matter how hard we tried.  Now we are back in our promised land, surrounded by family.  How good it feels to watch our family tree grow tall and strong with a wide trunk and thick bark, an oak of righteousness, a planting for the display of His splendor.

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How glorious it feels to let our roots descend into the rich and fertile soil of Central Pennsylvania! How refreshing to drink the deep, deep waters.  How thirsty we had been for those waters!

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There are wonderful people of God all over the world, but this family is mine…my clan…my tribe.  I am so glad!  How I love my tribe!

Beauty

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It makes life worthwhile.  It makes a house a home.  It makes ordinary moments dazzling.  It is beauty.  We can find beauty almost anywhere if we really look.  Yet the place that the American woman is least likely to find beauty?  In her own reflection.  Why is it hard to see beauty in ourselves?

Years ago my daughter posted a sticky note on my bathroom mirror that said, “You are beautiful Mom!”  I saw it, read it, and thought, “How sweet!  I love my sweet daughter!”  But did I take the message to heart?  Did I look at my reflection and think, “Yes, I am beautiful!”  NOPE!  I immediately dismissed it as the foolish sentiments of a child who did not yet recognize true beauty. I was the adult, and I had lived with my not-so-beautiful self for a long time, and I knew that I wasn’t beautiful.  One little sticky note was not going to change the facts.

Yet I began to consider this – perhaps children are the best judge of what is beautiful; being young, innocent, and having no hidden agendas. Perhaps if my daughter truly believed that I was beautiful, then I should believe it too.  Interesting idea… but it takes time and effort to change those ingrained thought patterns.

Awhile after the birth of my seventh child, I was looking at myself in the mirror and lamenting.  I wasn’t back to the shape that I wanted to be in.  In fact, I suspected that my body would never be the same.  Not that it was perfect to begin with.  I was feeling quite sad and disgusted with myself.  Then I heard the soft voice of God speak into the mess that was my own thoughts.

Do not direct hatred toward that which I love.  Do not despise that which I call holy.”

He said it with love and a solemn seriousness.  I felt a holy fear of the Lord, and suddenly I realized several things.  I despised and hated the way that I looked.  My attitude towards myself offended God because he created me, loved me, and valued me so highly. He said that my body was his temple and his temple was holy.  His temple required honor and I was not giving myself that honor, therefore I was dishonoring him. But more than anything else, I realized that he loved me…and his love made me beautiful.

After that I would practice loving myself the way that God did.  I would speak beautiful words over me like, “Body, you are the temple of God!  The almighty God lives inside of you!  You are holy!  You are a wonder!”  I wanted to speak blessings over myself rather than curses.

Sue Monk Kidd wrote about a touching scene that she had witnessed.  A young girl was sad and ashamed after someone had made fun of her freckles.  Her Grandmother tried to get her to see the truth.

“I love your freckles!   What could be more beautiful than freckles?” her grandmother told her.

With all sincerity, the child turned to her grandmother and answered, “Wrinkles!”

Why were wrinkles so beautiful to the young girl?  Because the face that loved her had wrinkles.  And what is more beautiful than the face that loves you?  My own grandmother was one of my favorite people when I was younger.  She was fun and spent endless hours reading comic books to me, playing games with me, and taking me on hikes.  She loved me, and I thought her wrinkled, tan, and slightly leathery face was beautiful!  She did not agree with me, however.  I would find family photos, taken during our fun adventures together, with small little circles cut out of them.  I would study them more closely and realize that the holes were always in the place where Grammy should have been.  I asked her why she did this, and she would  answer, “I didn’t like how I looked in that picture.”

My Grammy, LaVera Gisselman

My Grammy, LaVera Gisselman

To me, a photographic memory that contained an empty space was ruined!  And for what?  So Grammy could feel better that no one else would see her looking less than perfect.  But she was beautiful to me!  Love, gentleness, and kindness make us beautiful.  We need less make-up and more love!  I need to scowl less at my children and smile more!

Are you having trouble finding beauty in the mirror?  Believe what your children know about you! When you are looking into the face of your baby and thinking that this child is the most beautiful sight in all the world, I bet your baby is thinking the same thing about you!  Believe your husband when he gives you a compliment.  When he refers to you with that special term of endearment, open your heart to it and let it in!  Chris likes to call me “Cutie”, and I love it.  I am pretty cute, now that I think about it!

Beauty is always found in the face of the one who loves you!  If you can’t seem to find beauty in yourself, gaze into the face of Jesus.  In his face you will find perfect love, perfect peace, and perfect beauty.    His love makes us lovely.  As we behold him, we become like him.  And if you look long enough, you will realize that the perfect beauty…is who you really are!