Monday, April 29, 2013

Abba never wastes a thing...

India is her name, but we call her Indigo or Indie or sometimes even Indiglo.
A pretty calico cat with vivid black, white, and orange striped patches; she's striking in appearance.
Sweet beyond words. Not the typical “catty” personality, she always comes when called, talks (meows) constantly as if she understands us and we understand her. She's a dear. She overflows with gentle-kindness everyday. When days are hard, Indiglo is a great furry-friend to talk it over with.
But last October Indigo was wounded. Perhaps it's more fair to say she was likely attacked. No one saw it. Steve, Peter, and I were away at missionary training in Colorado when it happened. Maggie found her on our back lawn lethargic, and bleeding from one ear. She would open her mouth to meow her precious greeting, but nothing would come out. She lay for several days. Maggie and Mike loved on her, doctored her up as best they could, and from Colorado Springs I fervently asked God if i could please still keep her.

We never knew for sure what happened to Indiglo, but we had a pretty good idea. From the marks left on her, we were certain another cat had been cruel to her.

She has fully recovered now – we are a family most grateful. She is loved by us all --- even the non-cat-loving head of our house. But now, as a result of the serious injury, Indie holds her head sideways, always. She hears fine, and talks constantly again, but when she looks at us, her sweet head is always crooked, cocked as if she is continually saying “hmmm??”.

The lady sat across from us on the rail car traveling from Amsterdam to the airport. She was a sharp, European type lady, we could tell she was an impressive person. She folded up her nifty bike (full size bike folded 4 ways into something small enough to carry in her arms), and sat quietly. We talked lightly. We chatted about her life in Amsterdam and Rome. She owns two homes. One near the Hague and one with her children in Rome. She never mentioned a “mister”. When we had exhausted conversation about her, she asked about us. We shared that we were headed to Kenya to look for a house to rent and meet people we would be serving and working with. She looked intrigued and inquired if we worked with an NGO. We answered her question and lightly explained we felt called to serve the people of Kenya by helping them understand God's plan for marriage and how blessed a home can be if husband and wife follow God's instructions found in His Word.
She paused ------
---- and cocked her head.
We paused -----
---- and I hoped the spark in her eye was friendly “fire”.
She looked ready...

Intimidated, I held my smile. And then God amazed me once again.
Right in front of my eyes, He brought sweet Indigo's face, cocked to the side --------because something had injured her --- almost killed her.

And as if a whisper came down from Heaven I knew.
---- “Be gentle here daughter, even if she is not. Remember dear Indie, i've taught you something important through her. Indigo suffered, she was attacked and brutalized, by something no one else even saw (much less understood). You will meet many people who have been injured; sometimes wounded so deeply a part of their heart may have died. They will look at you with confused, almost addled eyes, because they can not mesh together their pain with Truth. And if you try and force them --- they might push back hard with a fury compatible to what they endured. So be gentle always. Always. Be patient and kind and willing to be rejected. It will be unresolved pain and deep scars that will be used against them, to try and hold them in dark places rather than step into the Light. But remember you are a carrier of My Light. And I have chosen to send you to some dark places. So rejection or rage ----- they are Mine to address, you my daughter are called simply to carry my Truth and walk in the Light.”

And as the tender message rolled through my mind clear to my heart, I thanked God for the picture of my sweet Indigo.
Sometimes people will make light-hearted jokes about her cocked head and her confused look. But I, I love her because I know the only reason she looks that way is because she was wounded and survived. And even though she suffered, she chooses to remain gentle and kind, she does not deliver sufferable things to others. She teaches me.

Today on the train passing through Amsterdam, God used Indigo --- my cat. And I went deeper into the learning.

Abba never wastes a thing.

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

They were in a boat --- with their father... and then...

His days had been beside his boys. Strong sons, what every man hoped for; sons that would be called Boanerges, meaning Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). As these two had grown from boys into men, he had come to know them as working companions and possibly even friends. They could haul in the catch, dry the nets, and prepare the boat for the next day's work; they understood working with their hands and providing for their family.  Zebedee had seen many days on the water with them.
The dry salty smell of the wooden fisherman's rig smelled like home to the father and
sons. They knew how to read the water, the breeze, the weather, and each other. His
sons had grown up watching him, learning. They knew what their father wanted
before words were spoken. Years of silent work does that.  He'd trained them since they could walk ---- fishermen know how to raise fishermen --- it puts food on the table, coin in the purse,
and companionship in the boat.

Today, the fishing had been just like every other day. Nets hauled in the needed
amount, his sons' laughter in the air, winds blew in expected ways, the sun
followed its familiar path. But as their boat touched shore, familiar faded.
Did Zebedee know the Nazarene who called out to his sons?

The stranger, the one who had been teaching nearby called out to James and John.
Was he looking to buy fresh fish? Was this wandering teacher hungry?
Then the words came clear to his old ears.
"Follow me..."


..."Following him means leaving me..." --- the thought must have surely rolled through the old fisherman's mind.
And just as the understanding fell on his heart ---  James and John immediately went.
They left.
They stepped away from the world they had always known, from what they were
comfortable doing, from the place of nets and fish and family and father ----- and they
followed the one who called them.

"and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him..."

Did the hearts of sons and father and mother and others feel as if a cyclone had blown
in from the sea that day?
In moments ---- everything changed.

He backed his shiny black truck into our drive. Positioning the trailer outside the garage doors. Is it possible he is a living example today of how Zebedee himself reacted when the Nazarene called out to his sons.
He helped as we filled his truck and trailer with the few treasures we hold dear to our
hearts but can no longer  be kept close. We talked lightly as we strapped in tubs filled with
age old quilts stitched by great-grandmothers hands, and baby shoes worn by our little ones, and wedding pictures tucked in beside grandfather's glasses, and the baby bed that held each of our babies each night as they slept -- (what a blessed piece of furniture indeed). Then we headed to his house, where mom waited for our arrival. We did not let ourselves melt --- on the outside.
Mom worked at it, she didn't want to make it harder.
And just that same morning Steve's father had walked through our home -- we had asked all the family to come to choose something for themselves --- from all the things we can no longer keep, we wanted to share with family first. He too had held back tears. Zebedee would understand.
Did Zebedee's wife feel the same when her net bearing husband arrived back home
that day, without sons beside him?
Mom had prepared a wide open space in their home for the stored wedding dress and baby bed
and dearly loved quilts. The men worked unloading, we ladies talked...
There's a great joy and deep sadness ---- He has called, we will leave...

What did Zebedee say when he walked in the house that evening?

Hearts mattered then too.
But what mattered most of all???
This -----

it mattered that Zebedee and his wife had sons...
it mattered that the men-sized-sons were willing to obey...
it mattered that Zebedee held his heart, trusted God...
it mattered that the sons did not hesitate -- they did not cling
--------- they had been raised with a level of courage that helped lift them out of the boat...

Obedience can cost much ----- valuable things always do.

Obedience requires something of everyone near ----and God sees it all.

We are watching our parents surrender and obey and bless and trust ----- and we pause much longer now when we read "They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.
called them,
and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."

We know Zebedees today...

My mom and dad, Donald and Kathryn Glover, picture taken in Dahlonega, GA on a fun family outing this past Christmas

Steve's dad, Richard Taylor, picture taken at his birthday dinner last year, with our sons Michael and Peter

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called
Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were
fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his
brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus
called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."
Matthew 4:18-22

"When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother
John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their
father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him."
Mark 1:19-20 

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This do... in remembrance of Me...

Sitting on the front porch of this sweet place we have called “home” ---- we talked.
Talked of the years.
Talked of the real pain of stepping away.
Talked of the need to be honest with ourselves and each other.
Talked of the value in acknowledging loss but focusing on what can be received into hands that have been emptied.

He has been tooooo silent for too long.
He holds his angst like a horseman holds reins. Not letting go, not looking to another. Just holding on and riding, hoping the horse has strength to carry on.
This oldest son of ours is a man full now --- he knows what wounds from the world feel like. But much more important, he knows his Father, his Savior, he knows whose he is.
I see his broad shoulders and scruffy beard. I know he has his father's strength in his man sized arms --- but I remember when...
… chubby, sticky hands refused to hold mine crossing the street.
… small, dirty hands held flowers up to me, smiling with pink cheeks.
… growing hands held handle bars, basketballs, shoestrings, birthday gifts.
… steady hands held steering wheels, girlfriends hands, shaving cream.
… muscled hands learned to swing axes at logs and stacked firewood on this same porch.

I will not impose his childhood days on this man breathing beside me. He is no longer a child. I will not insult his years of growing or grieve my empty womb --- there is no “good fruit that will last” in that sort of living.
Instead, I will choose to see the one beside me who now walks with God much more often than he ever walked with me. And I will embrace gratitude to Abba --- who will walk with this dear one who came from inside, beside my heart. Abba will walk with him all the days of his life and beyond.
We mothers are there when they “begin”. The Father will be present at the beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega for us all.
This dark haired, warrior poet will never walk apart from the One who chose to place him in my arms ----- oh what a joy, the day he was laid in my empty arms. My cup overflows.

She stares at herself in the triple mirror. Raised platform under her dainty wedding shoes, she gleams of goodness and purity and joy and Light. I hope she sees it too ---- she is surely most pleasing in the eyes of the One she does love most. She has never been a mirror monger, what she looked like mattered little compared to what she carried inside. But oh she is a beauty. 

Her beauty reflects the realness of Your touch, Your gentleness in her heart --- perhaps that is why she has always shined more brightly than the painted maidens. During her pony-tail-tom-boy days another mother expressed concerns to me, saying “she doesn't seem to try and 'look pretty', i'm worried she doesn't think she's beautiful...”? I prayed, and asked God – “am I called to teach her to focus on the outside first and the inside second”? His soul-whisper came through intense... “you teach My girl to focus on the beauty of ME within her, help her to grow in My ways, with My eyes. Help her see the world around her and love others... then, her beauty will be a product of Me overflowing... do not listen to the empty words of another.”
You've done it Lord. Just look at her now. She radiates You as she stands before me in her chosen wedding dress. She is a bride to be --- adorned in white --- preparing to love in Your ways. Thank you for allowing me to witness this lovely one transform from girl to woman --- wearing white. She chose to step away from the ways of this world. She sat with YOU for an entire year, reading Your Word. She wanted more of You than anything else she saw or heard or felt or held. 
And during that year you brought to her ---- the one you chose to care for her. Thank you for this. I feel your smile in the marrow of my bones.
These bones that ache a bit --- wishing for one more day of little chubby hands delivering wildflowers picked for “momma”. Those same wildflowers still grow just there – by the road in front of our age-old cedar tree.

These bones that can hardly imagine they will be able to hold themselves together when the moment comes to step away.
But they will...
My bones will release her into the Hands that made her and have a most lovely path ahead of her --- the mirror before me reflects your joy, her joy --- you are with her --- always.

He sits perfectly still, he must.
The Words he has chosen to rest on his shoulders for the rest of his days, he wants them to be right, straight, clear. So he must … hold.
As the man behind him works steadily, permanently writing Your Word on his broad shoulders, I look at this one who has grown tallest of all in our home.
He sits, arms crossed, head down, breathing slow and deep, only one foot moves – releasing the flow of pain he feels as the needle places color. This mother's heart knows, some will judge him for inking his skin, others will applaud him. But I, I adore him --- You do too. And Father, the words that he will now bear on his shoulders will be the last thing others see when he walks away from them. --- TRUTH will follow behind him. 

Weeks ago...
Sitting at our table, leaning over Your Word, he pointed, and what he said went deeper than he realized, “Hey mom, I know what I want my next tattoo to be.” “What's that son?” “It's right here, right here in Matthew, it says, 'I am with you always, even to the end of the age...' What do you think about that?” “Oh son, are you sure you want another tattoo, they hurt, it'll be there always, are you sure, some people won't like it son, are you sure...?”
He smiled --- that kind smile he has that many don't so easily hand to their “moms”.
“Mom, it hurts for a little while, and then it's gone ---- but what i'll carry with me, that will matter forever, wherever I am.
Oh my weeping soul.
Those words. They minister to me, his mom, even now --- weeks later. As i sit and watch those Holy Words etched into his broad shoulders. The muscles of his shoulders will forever be able to bear more upon them ---- if he will always remember --- You are with him, even to the end of the age...
Father – God, when I step away from this great gentle giant in my home, when the air I breathe is far from the air he is breathing, when his smile won't be before me every morning, when his tall-self won't walk into my kitchen looking to fill up again --- roll his words through my soul again please Lord --- “it hurts for a while, and then it's gone ... but what i'll carry with me, that will matter forever, wherever I am.”

I'll carry You with me Lord --- and the remembrance of his tiny newborn warmth lying in my arms --- because You, in your goodness, chose to share him with me. Thank you for being such a good, good God.

Yesterday, tears gushed again.
I try and be strong, I try and be the picture of confidence and courage. I'd rather they see me as eager to obey You... not weak.
But may they see obedience laced with great love ---- and be inspired to love greatly in their own obedience to You.
After more tears early this morning --- I sat with You and held Your Word --- and reading through Zechariah --- you handed me this...
“I am their very own God, I'll do what needs to be done for them.
...their lives brimming with joy.
Their children will get in on it, too ---
oh, let them feel blessed by God!
I'll whistle and they'll all come running.
I've set them free ---
oh, how they'll flourish!
Even though I scattered them to the far corners of the earth,
they'll remember me in the faraway places.
They'll keep the story alive in their children,
and they will come back...”

Zechariah 10: portions from 6-12 (The Message)

Oh my soul ---- what a beautiful Father You are.
I trust YOU.
I choose YOU.
Thank you for sharing them with me.
Thank you for the promise that “You will be with them (and me) --- even to the end of the age”.
I'm reminded every time I look at his shoulders.

You are with me...
... and you are beautiful Abba.

©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God has His hand on the skein of me...

We'd sit quietly in her small, poorly lit receiving room. But for this little girl, there was "light a-plenty" --- it sort of spilled out of her. Colorful skeins of yarn resting in a basket nearby, she had chosen the one she wanted to transform, the one that would soon become a blanket wrapped around a baby not yet born. Her hand would reach and choose, my child-heart would always feel a bit sad for those left in the basket. They were destined to remain skeins in a basket. At least for a few more days.

Perhaps it's just the way i remember it, perhaps it wasn't this way at all. But God in His goodness allows me to remember in ways that let Him teach me today through moments long gone by.

My mind's eye remembers how she was always busy, always working away at a long daily list of tasks, but with no written checklist in front of her. Biscuits and cornbread in the oven before sunrise. Chickens to "tend", gardening to do, clothes to wash, floors to sweep. Meals to prepare, clothes to take in off the line and fold, beets to boil or peanuts to pick or corn to shuck, on and on and on. But on wintry days, when we'd find more to do "indoors", those were the days she was most likely to choose a pretty skein of yarn and scoot my chair up close to hers.

I would hold the skein in my tiny hands, feeling as if my job was of greatest value to her. She would methodically pull the yarn from the center of the skein and gently roll it round and round into a ball. Only when she was about to transform the yarn would she reform the skein into a neat, tidy ball. I thought nothing of the simple, peaceful task during those childhood days. But now full grown and listening more closely ---- i see the lesson God had for me in the workings of her hands.

We'd sit there quietly. I liked it best when no television or radio played. Just the sound of our breathing and the feel of belonging. For those moments always, i felt needed, wanted. She surely could have done it without me. Her many knittings proved she had succeeded often on her own. But she made me feel like it mattered that i was with her; as if her work was made easier by my busy little hands. I remember well.

The moments i remember hold visual lessons for today ----- as God has His hand on the skein of me.

Pulling the yarn from the center of the skein went smoothly and easily as long as no knot formed inside the roll. But from time to time, it would feel to my hands as if the skein almost belched when a wad of yarn would come from its center. Her hands would take hold of the knotted section and work it carefully until it lay unsnarled in her lap. Quickly she would roll it all into the neat ball forming in her hands. The knot straightened, peaceful work could continue.
But ---- if she had not paused to straighten the kink, what would have happened?
She would have had a mangled mess rolled tightly within her yarn ball --- which would have altered the shape of the sphere in her hand, it would have bulged.
And perhaps even more important, she would have to face the knotted wad of yarn again when her tedious knitting inevitably brought her once again to the snag. Hiding the mess would not make it go away. Out of sight might allow out of mind ---- until she came to that knot again --- and she would if she ever wanted to make something useful with the yarn.

Another option, she could have laid the warped ball of yarn, distended by its unattended, mangled sections in her "someday" basket. She could have left it for someone else to deal with, while she chose another less tedious and tangled skein for her next knitting endeavor. She could have avoided the "mess" and moved on. But --- she didn't. I watched.

Sad it is when we toss to the side, the knotted messes that could be straightened if we were willing to pause long enough to gently untangle them. Sadder still, is when we leave it to others to try and deal with the mess left behind us. It should never be.

How do you do it Lord? How do you bring to mind memories long past, and use them to teach me today what i did not fully see then?
I hear your whispers Lord in my soul --- i see what i could not have seen on my own.
Her hands represented You Lord, and the steady, methodical, peaceful work you do on me, on us.
My tiny little girl hands represented the hands of the many You send into our lives to "help" us, to hold us, to assist YOU while You transform us from what we were in the "basket" to what You have seen us as all along. We see ourselves as just another "skein of yarn" in a basket beside many others. Sometimes we find ourselves at the top of the heap, and then everything shifts and we feel as if we've been moved to the bottom most corner of the basket. We are the yarn --- in Your hands. You choose when we are lifted up, and pulled apart, and reformed, and made knew. You know when and how and why and for what purposes. You know, You can...

You pull us gently from where we were. You reform us initially into something You can more easily work with. You form us into a ball that will easily roll and glide ---- wherever Your working hands need us to go. Skeins only roll in one direction --- not so with a nice round ball.
And as You pull us from the very center of ourselves, sometimes knots emerge.
Tangled messes sometimes resulting from careless handling of others.
Sometimes knots form when pressure is applied.
But sometimes knots were there all along, and if the skein had never been touched by Your hand, they might not have shown up. But You knew they were there, You knew they needed to be untangled.

And You Lord, like her with her yarn, would never ignore a tangle emerging from us.
You would never choose to conceal it quickly in the newly formed ball.
You know the bulge will deform us from what we could be.
You know the knot will have to be dealt with for Your transformation to carry us fully from what we were to what You see us becoming in Your hands.

You choose us. You will untangle us. You lovingly touch every inch of us ---- with hands of One who knows the potential in a willing skein of mess.

She never became angry with the knots that emerged.
Neither do you Lord.
You never become angry with all that needs to be cared for in us.
Attention is given --- grace --- gentleness.

We may become frustrated with ourselves.
We may want desperately to hide the snarled tangles.
We may think the bottom of the basket was a more comfortable place to be.

But when we begin to get a glimpse of what You can transform us into ---- we long for Your hands to find all the knots. Your hands. And we realize we are just as incapable of "fixing" ourselves as the strand of yarn. We need Your hands to touch us, help us, and make us knew.

The skein became a ball with time and patience.
The ball became a blanket with skill and vision.

Thank you Abba ---
You are the King of Kings, God of the Angel Armies ------
... and yet You are willing to lift us and transform us.
We are amazed ...

... and for the knot(s) you straightened in me this last week, and the week before, and the week before that --- oh how i do thank you...
i would have huddled in the bottom corner of the basket surrounded by other skeins. i would have worked to keep my wadded messes concealed. But then Your hand came near the skein of me, and Your work began...
Untangling knots hurts. Ignoring them hurts worse. But in Your hands, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance brings about character, and character gives birth to Hope.

All from unspoken lessons sitting beside her in a dimly lit room... and a quiet reminder in my soul...

"...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5 

 ©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe