Choosing the Necklace

hands2Crocodile tears, these were not.

These were leaky eyes. Panicked eyes. The visit to the dentist for this little one had not gone as planned.

It first involved x-rays that mama bear had to put an end to. Then the scraping. And the electric tooth brushing. It tickled, in that uncomfortable way. I felt his pain as I held his sweaty, stressed-out, clenched hands in mine.

All this and finally clean teeth.

But there was hope in the goodie bag. The prize: a gold token. In the hand of this babe, he looked like a gambling man upon seeing the Vegas strip for the very first time.

The prize machine held so many choices. He popped in the token and out dropped a necklace. (to be continued…)

**I am honored to be guest posting over at (in)courage today! Click here to continue reading.**

necklace

Unraveled

photo credit: Lhopfan via photopin cc

photo credit: Lhopfan via photopin cc

Today. Sharing space with my Soul Sister on her birthday. Her friendship and words are a gift to me and I know she is to many others as well. Help me wish her a blessed day?

But first, a note from her: Recently my husband and I moved our family halfway around the world. Now I’m trying to figure out what being a wife and mom looks like in this new culture. Learning a new language, hearing life stories and sharing tea with women are privileges that make up my new life. I am so humbled to share my stories and experiences here at Operation: Leap of Faith and thankful to my sister at heart, Katie, for giving me the page as often as she does. -SS

It’s confirmed. We’re a mess. A total and complete mess.

A mess that I’d really rather keep hidden from curious, watching eyes. But that doesn’t seem to be possible.

We share a house with another family, and while we have our own space–the entire bottom floor–we share a yard. And we live a good bit of our life in the yard. For some reason, our faults and cracks are revealed in this yard.

I love our yard. It’s a beautiful haven in a very broken, scary place. It provides respite and protection for us. And most of the time, enjoyment for both families’ children. However, the other day, it all seemed to be unraveling. And the more I pulled at the ball of string to try to contain the mess, the faster it unraveled.

Our daughter has a mind of her own. She is very assured of herself and uses words confidently. It was a battle of wills between her and the adults God unwisely put her in the care of. Unfortunately, she picked the moments that we were on
display to assert her longing for independence. As any parent, I wanted to hide the ugly conflict from an audience. But sometimes, life goes on display. A little more of the string comes undone.

As we left to walk to a friend’s house for dinner, she continued her diatribe about how long it would take to walk, tears streaming down her face. The guards that stand at the gate next door were fascinated. Yes, thank you, this is our family. Take a good look. We’re messy.

I had a crisis of heart, right there in the middle of the muddy road. I really wanted to escape. Pretend that I wasn’t fighting for the moral integrity of my family. Have you ever wanted to leave a crying, arguing, fussing child in the middle of a road and walk away? Well, that was me.

But for some reason I continued to hold her hand and put one foot in front of the other. Isn’t that how it is sometimes? We push through, because really, at the end of the day, we know that bedtime is coming and tomorrow will start new.

I feel sometimes like standing in a circle of friends and raising my hand and saying, “my name is Soul Sister. I am a mess. My children are messes. If you want to be my friend you must be comfortable with less than perfect. And love us anyway.”

Who might need your love this week because they are desperately trying to hang onto an unraveling string? Is it you? If so, embrace the pile of string around you and know you are not alone. Your mess, my mess, shows that we are redeemed sinners.

We cannot do this without a rescuer. It gives hope to those watching, that do not yet know. When we continue walking, striving, seeking, accepting, loving one another, and living in the yard, we show that He is able to make something worthwhile out of our unraveled ball of string.

A Man in a Mirror

photo credit: an untrained eye via photopin cc

photo credit: an untrained eye via photopin cc

He stood there, looking in the thrift store mirror, staring. He was trying on a used suit. Out of date. Too big. I couldn’t take my eyes off his left hand.

He stood, staring at the reflection. His left hand grabbed at the thrift store tag, keeping it from his mirror view, helping him get a glimpse of what could be. The suit didn’t fit. But I think for some reason I knew it had to.

My friend and I were shopping–no real purpose, perusing deals but no deals really needed to be found. I vividly recall finding a set of wooden salad bowls and I declared it right then and there that it would be my first purchase for my new life come graduation. I was moving to California to pursue an invisible thread that pulled at me and these salad bowls marked the first tangible step in the many that would lead me there.

Wooden salad bowls. A quarter a piece.

But this man, this man. He weighed that suit through his eyes and it cost plenty. He stood there for a disconcertingly long time, focused beyond the cloth that hung off his body. Something important was happening between those eyes and that mirror. Something. He held that tag in that left hand as a man might rattle dice before risking it all.

Our frivolity started to feel like an invasion of sacred space and I pulled away from my friend and I watched. I carried my bowls in my arms, he stretched out his to check the length of his sleeves.

We all came into that one store for something. I have no idea what invisible thread he was pursuing or grabbing onto at that moment. For me, the bowls, they were a start of something exciting. An inexpensive gamble, a minor investment. Nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things.

For him, that suit, I couldn’t help but think it meant more. The tag, hidden, didn’t leave his hand. His eyes, focused, didn’t leave the mirror. I wish I had done something important before I left–paid for his suit, left a few bills, something–but such is the clarity of looking backward. I didn’t think of it at the time but I knew I was struck down, like a quick flash of lightning, by this man on a random Saturday. I also knew I didn’t have any idea why.

My friend and I slowly left the store, me glancing over my shoulder, our simple purchases in bags. We moved onto the rest of our day in a city that beckoned us to be young and fun and carefree. But I quietly tucked the image of that man away, as if he were a secret just for me, a snapshot that would linger awhile.

Why do I still remember that man? Why does he still pull at my heart? Why, if I think of him hiding a thrift store tag in his left hand while studying a suit that would never fit, do tears come to my eyes? Fifteen years later. A man from Milwaukee that I never knew.

Why? Why?

Why not?

We’re given these snapshots for a reason, I believe. To learn. To see. To realize that this big world we live in is made up of individual people, struggling, trying, growing, living. We are not just a group of anonymous breathing creatures that coexist together, taking up our fair share of oxygen and soil. We are images of our Creator, beating hearts, who love and lose, who buy salad bowls and try on suits. We are people who need jobs, who have failed, who have succeeded, who are trying to turn it around, are trying to point everything to Him.

We need to realize we are images of our Creator. We are meant to love Him and love them.

We are meant to live with our eyes open. And it starts with looking at one person at a time. In our homes. In our neighborhoods. In our schools. In our thrift stores in Milwaukee.

All this time later the man still holds sacred space in my head. I hope his suit served him well that day and every day after that, for whatever purpose held his gaze in that mirror.

He’s one of my snapshots. An image, a blessing.