Lessons from a Domestic Disaster

Smashed china

This week, as I was packing up our china cabinet for an upcoming move, the cabinet detached from the wall and everything still in it fell out on the floor.  As you can see from the photo, there was a lot of china and glass smashed into little bits.  There is nothing quite as shocking as watching shelves full of breakable things fall in front of your eyes while you stand by, helplessly watching the destruction.

There were some things saved in the fall.  One was a set of four glasses that we received as a wedding present.  They were made of thick glass and although they were on the top shelf of the cabinet, they merely bounced and rolled when they hit the pile of debris.  What a great wedding present–something we can use for the duration of our marriage as these glasses are obviously going to endure!  They remind me of people who are able to stand without falling  through the trials of life.  They seem to be naturally strong and resilient like these glasses.

The other thing that did not break was my English teapot.  My parents bought it for me many years ago in England and I think of my mother, who is now with the Lord, every time I use it.  Amazed, I picked up the teapot and its lid, which had fallen in different spots on the mound of shards and inspected them.  There wasn’t a crack or even a chip in either of them.   How could this teapot have survived when the rest of my teapot collection had smashed to smithereens?!  How do  frail, weak people who we think will fall and be destroyed in difficult circumstances, stand strong and prevail?  The only possible explanation is that they, like my teapot,  are protected, saved by the hand of our Heavenly Father.   They are like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress who was saved from the City of Destruction.  They aren’t strong in themselves but the Lord is their Helper and Shield in the raging tide of life.

Another lesson I learned from this event was that it is necessary to separate the things I really need and love from the jumble of things that I own.  Every time I attempt to weed through my things, whether they are china and crystal or clothing or books, I struggle with knowing what to keep and what to give away.  So often I keep far too much.  This domestic disaster helped me to see that the Lord can sift through my material possessions and save the truly important (glasses that will have much use;  a much loved teapot) while ridding me of the rest, even family antiques which I’m sorry to lose.  He will also sift through my heart and my mind, ridding me of my chaff, my sins, and only saving the righteousness of Christ in me.

I’m sure that there will be more lessons learned from this breaking of precious things.  For now I will rejoice in what was saved and work on letting go of what I lost.

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Finding Peace

Every contradiction of our will, every little ailment, every petty disappointment, will, if we take it patiently, become a blessing. So, walking on earth, we may be in heaven; the ill-tempers of others, the slights and rudenesses of the world, ill-health, the daily accidents with which God has mercifully strewed our paths, instead of ruffling or disturbing our peace, may cause His peace to be shed abroad in our hearts abundantly.
E. B. PUSEY.

Alone with One’s Thoughts

Are you afraid to be alone with your thoughts?  Does the thought of being still and quiet with no outside distractions turn you off?  Are you bored when your cell phone dies while sitting at a doctor’s office?  When you are alone in the car, can you drive without the radio or phone or audiobook and just think?

According to a study done by a professor at University of Virginia, a large majority of Americans would prefer not to be distraction-free for even a few minutes.  Even more amazing is the fact that many of them would choose to give themselves an electric shock rather than be alone with just their thoughts to keep them company!

This amazed me because I yearn for time alone–to pray, to think, to write blog posts in my head, to simply be.  Part of the charm of gardening to me has always been that I am alone outside and don’t have any distractions (as long as the children don’t need me).  When I worked in a molecular biology lab, I used the many hours of running gels and preparing for experiments alone in a little room and used the time to memorize poetry, hymns, and Scripture.

My son and I discussed this study and wondered if the reason people these days seem to need constant stimulation is due to the fact that our culture, as a whole, is on the downswing and there is a lack of wholeness in our culture, our communities, our families, and our own person.  That lack of wholeness, of integrity, leads us to want to flee our thoughts because we don’t know what to think or how to think it anymore.  We also wondered if there was a difference in results between introverts and extroverts or if the results were spread evenly as they were in age group (although not in gender).

And yet, part of me understood these results.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I too am easily distracted these days– by outside noises, electronics, and busyness–and will often pick up a book rather than be completely still. I rarely stop and just think.

However when I do set that time aside, even for ten minutes, I am refreshed and enriched as I pray and ponder things in my heart.  I think there is a reason why the Bible exhorts us to pray and meditate.  Through prayer and meditation on truth and goodness and beauty, our hearts and minds are reminded of what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of good virtue and praiseworthy.

I am slowly adding in time to write letters and journal.  I am finding that forcing myself to slow down and write with pen on paper allows my mind to dwell more deeply on what I am writing and thus meditate more on the truths I am copying or communicating.  Meditation and prayer time is a time to be alone with my thoughts and with God.  I believe that as my thoughts are more focused on the “things above“, my life will be fuller and more whole and richer for me and for all those around me.

Like a River Glorious

 

I was thinking about my grandmother tonight as I was driving through town.  An old hymn came to mind and while I was singing it softly to myself, I remembered that it was a favorite of hers.  Her name was Gladys but everyone called her “Glad.”  I think that she was the happiest, most cheerful person I’ve ever known.  We had a joke in our family that when someone exclaimed that they were glad about something, the answer was always, “You’re not glad, Grandma’s “Glad.”  The name fit her so well that no one else could claim it.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that while part of her cheeriness was personality, a lot of her “gladness” was due to her love for Jesus and what He had done for her.  She used to sit at her piano and play and sing hymns, she always talked about how much she loved the Lord, and I believe that He put that gladness in her heart as a result of her great faith and trust in Him.   She was only about five feet tall but while her physical stature was small, her faith was enormous.

It wasn’t until tonight that I paused to wonder if my parents named me “Joy” in part because of Grandma.  I was a bubbly, cheerful child who loved to laugh and play music and sing, like Grandma.  My parents could not have known my personality before I was born and just like Grandma, part of my cheerfulness was due to personality, but I, too, have a depth of joy and gladness that comes not just from my personality but from my relationship with my Lord.  His goodness and mercy and love towards me fill my heart to overflowing with gladness.  I inherited more than my love of music, recipes for “Grandpa cookies” and authentic New England clam chowder, memories of climbing roses, johnny jump-ups and a hillside of sweet-peas, knowledge of basic crochet stitches, and a pin with photos of my father and grandfather; my heritage is a rich one of generations of people who know the deep, abiding joy that comes with knowing Christ.

So, as I sang the old hymn, I remembered Grandma and how she loved this hymn and it reminded me of how much the Lord has given me, not only from my grandmothers and grandfathers, father and mother, and other family members but perfect peace and rest and trust in Him.

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way.

Refrain

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Refrain

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

–Frances Havergal

 

Wednesdays with Words on a Thursday – July 3, 2014

 

From To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Handwriting by Simon Garfield:

 

This is a book about a world without letters, or at least this possibility.  It is a book about what we have lost by replacing letters with email–the post, an envelope, a pen, a slower cerebral whirring, the use of the whole of our hands and not just the tips of our fingers. It is a celebration of what has gone before, and the value we place on literacy, good thinking and thinking ahead. I wonder if it is not also a book about kindness.

 

On reading this paragraph in Garfield’s book on letters, I was reminded of the box of letters from my mother I have tucked away in my garage.  My mother died several years ago but every time I read one of those letters, she is with me again.  I can hear her voice in those words and I enjoy looking at her handwriting and at the writing paper she has chosen for me and the fact that, at one point in both of our lives, she too handled that letter.  I can’t say that about emails and although I still have some emails from her, it is her letters I cherish.

Or sometimes I think about the little packet of letters from a boy I knew in high school.  Our fledgling love affair did not come to fruition but those few letters remind me of what it was like to be in love when I was very young–the thrill, the hopes and dreams, the songs I sang in my heart, the sweet words he said to me.  The letters are tied up with ribbons and hidden away in a drawer like so many love letters in the past.  I can’t do that with an email.

Writing an email is quick and easy but I miss the beautiful paper and cards, filling my pen, writing slowly and evenly across the page, crossing out the wrong word and wondering how many errors would require a rewrite (usually only for invitations and business letters; personal letters rarely were re-written).  I miss going to the post office and carefully choosing which stamps to use for my letters. I miss sealing the envelope and rushing madly to the post box before the mail was collected that day and then haunting the mail box daily for a reply as soon as I thought one could come.  I miss rifling through the mail and tossing aside bills in search for a letter.  I miss brightly colored postcards from far away places that came a week after a friend came home from vacation.

I love reading collections of people’s letters.  Some of my favorite books have been memoirs, stuffed with copies of letters.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Jane Austen, Thomas Jefferson, and Galileo are just some of the people whose letters I have read and enjoyed.  One of my very favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, is a book of letters.  Somehow I don’t think we will see collections of famous people’s emails being published and what a loss that will be as letters reveal so much about a person.

I think we’ve lost something dear since we have replaced writing letters with emails and texts.  I look forward to reading Mr. Garfield’s book about letter-writing.  I suspect he will be a “kindred spirit.”