Design

IMG_5091.JPGThe masked faces of the dental surgeon and his assistant seemed to float above me.  She braced my chin; he pushed and pulled.

“That one’s being a little stubborn, huh?” she asked.

“Well, they’re not really designed to come out,” he responded.  “Hand me 105 please.”  He was trying to be discreet, but it wasn’t hard to guess what “105” was code for.  The whine of a tiny saw buzzed inside my mouth, cutting the stubborn tooth in pieces.  I closed my eyes, breathing deeply of the laughing gas that made it all seem like a dream, floating far, far away.

Maybe I wasn’t at the oral surgeon’s office having all four of my wisdom teeth removed, after all.  Maybe I was in the red leather rocking chair at home, dozing off while I nursed my baby.  Wasn’t that the whine of my dad’s saw down in the basement, painstakingly cutting pieces of flooring to fit in the grid of the space he was helping us renovate?

And wasn’t that his voice, using that word “design”?

How would you like to design the cabinet space? 

What design should the ceiling tiles be? 

How would you like to design these shelves?  IMG_5097.JPGI’ve been answering room design questions all summer, so you can hardly blame the word for having a decided ring of familiarity.  It started with how big the room should be, where the walls should go.  It moved on to how many ceiling fixtures there should be, where the light switches should go, how many outlets I wanted.  Then it was questions about door styles, and trim styles, and cabinet styles.  And stain colors, and wood types, and hardware styles.

And finish choices.  Satin, semi-gloss or glossy?

And paint colors.  You want white?  Which white?

And flooring choices.  How durable?  How water-proof?  How smooth?  What color?

And ceiling tiles.  Me:  Seriously?  There are choices of ceiling tiles!?

And so many measurements.  How deep should this shelf be?  How high should the counter top be?

Wait—about those measurements.  I still had to decide about that.

Perhaps I furrowed my brow as this realization floated through my foggy, wandering mind.  “You’re doing just fine,” the surgical assistant reassured me cheerfully.  I acknowledged her kind effort to encourage me with an unintelligible grunt around the apparatus bracing my mouth open in a perpetual yawn.  The unpleasantness of reality seeped in.  That’s right.  I was at the dental office, in a black leather chair, not a red one; not napping in the late afternoon sunshine while snuggling a baby, but beneath the artificial lights of surgeon’s office.  That wasn’t my dad’s saw whining, and it certainly wasn’t cutting anything as pretty as espresso colored flooring in pieces.

My mind sorted through all this, and finally circled back to one positive thought relevant to my current state: the surgeon’s passing comment about design.  I knew from our pre-surgery consult that the root of the stubborn tooth he was currently whittling out was dangerously close to a nerve, and I had received all the disclaimers about worse-case scenarios.  Teeth aren’t designed to come out; nerves aren’t designed to be exposed.  All these bad things could happen.  Et cetera.

But, in that moment, his chance comment brought peace to my heart.  My teeth were designed—and I knew the Designer.   “O Lord, designer of this body, protect that nerve that You created and designed, guide the hands of this surgeon and the blades of his saw.”  Right then, silently praying, I was grateful that I had opted out of general anesthesia in favor of the Novocaine and laughing gas that still left me vaguely conscious of the proceedings.  I had been granted the privilege of acknowledging the Creator whose hands had formed my body in a most unexpected moment.img_5093.jpgTwo weeks later, I sat at a picnic table beneath a canopy of gilded autumn leaves, and took a cautious bite of the bread tucked in next to my bowl of wild rice soup.  Smiling ladies and a few husbands milled through the woods nearby, cocking their heads to admire the dozens of stunning quilts suspended among the graceful white birch trunks, commenting to each other over steaming cups of apple cider.  I chewed slowly, careful of the still tender incisions in the back of my mouth, then swallowed.  And marveled.  After two weeks of smoothies and soup, I was chewing again!

I cannot fully express how satisfying it was to finally be back to productively moving my jaws and swallowing without pain.  While the teeth had not been ultimately designed to come out, God had designed my body to heal.  Can you imagine designing something so stunningly complicated as the human body?  Ha!  Considering the fact that I was feeling mentally taxed after designing one small, simple room in my basement, I guess not!  Certainly that particular design experience had given me a much deeper appreciation for the work of designers, God the Creator most of all.

Thank you, Lord, for your perfect design, I whispered in my heart.

Just then, a lady in a straw hat flashing a ready dimpled smile approached our lunch table.  She handed us tiny slips of yellow paper and pens, and warmly invited, gesturing towards the display of quilts:  “Would you like to vote for the best design?”

There was that word “design” again!

Off we went to wander critically through a maze of color, creativity and splendid design.  Would it be the whimsical bicycle with the Dresden plate wheels and meticulously fussy-cut floral basket?    The mesmerizing log cabin in which squares made of stripes became stripes made of squares?  And did you see that dizzying-ly magnificent portrait of a snowy owl crafted of thousands of tiny squares?IMG_5100IMG_5085-1IMG_5110

I voted for the bicycle on paper.  But in my heart?  The human body—and the One who designed it—won “Best Design”, hands down.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.(Acts 17: 24)

 

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An Autumn Hike

 

IMG_5179Where do you look when you are hiking through the autumn forest?

Do you look up at the soaring arms of the great pines raised to the sky in praise?  At the sunlight filtering in soft curtains of light down through the crimson and salmon maples?IMG_5190.JPGDo you look straight ahead, at the path winding mysteriously out of sight and beckoning you on?  At the receding layers of craggy barked tree trunks marching along its edges, with the occasional surprise mushroom accessory?  Or at the jaunty straw hat and satisfyingly fall-ish plaid shirt of a walking companion ahead?IMG_5193Or do you look down?  Down at the dainty trailing vines between the tufts of orange pine needles, and the tidily capped wee mushrooms springing whimsically up along the damp mosses of aging stumps?  At the calico of autumn leaves softly layering over the creeping cedar and wintergreen?IMG_5187While I was hiking with relatives recently, we talked about this, and discovered that our answers differed.  Some in our hiking party were more inclined toward one than the other, therefore each bringing their own unique perspective to the commentary that enlivened our exploration of the forest.

As I was thinking about this the next day, I realized that it was actually a pretty accurate picture of the body of Christ, particularly that living, breathing organism that is the local church body.  We walk the same trail as believers, reading the same Bible, loving the same Savior, but our perspectives can be astonishingly different.

Some are more likely to look ahead, seeing with vision and wisdom.

Some watch the edges and condition of the trail, wary of spiritual pitfalls.

Some are more likely to look up, calling attention to heavenly perspectives when other’s eyes waver toward the earthly.

Some look down, noticing the details that others forget or overlook, like the lonely newcomer or the overflowing garbage can.

IMG_5146 IMG_5181The Bible calls these things gifts, and they are.  Sometimes, though, I think we can lose sight of this in the nitty-gritty of real life.  It can be easy, for instance, to get annoyed with that other person who is always worried about mowing the grass (looking at mushrooms) when you’d rather be discussing the accuracy of the latest Bible translation (looking down the path)—or vice versa.  However the fact is that each perspective is valuable and needed, and they’re all meant to weave together in harmonious balance, not at odds with each other.

Or sometimes, even if we do appreciate the unique contributions of each person, we just forget to say so.  So since I’m being reminded, I’d like to say thank you myself.

Thank you for being you.  Thank you for the very special, irreplaceable gift that your gift is to your brothers and sisters as we walk with Jesus and endeavor to make Him known to the world.

Thank you for the things you do in private, the mundane and not-so-glorious, often unseen and unacknowledged.  Thank you for the things you do in public, against the odds of criticism, embarrassment, and greater scrutiny.  Thank you for speaking out to say the hard things, the kind things, the wise things.   Thank you for the quietness of your inner prayers, wordless hugs, silent generosity.  Thank you for perseverance when you’re misunderstood, for faithfulness when no else is.

And if you’re one of those hiding shyly in the corner, hesitant to use your gift, perhaps afraid to share it because it’s different or less popular than someone else’s, I hope this will be a gentle encouragement to you to be hold back no longer.  Please, in love, let it flow out for the enrichment of the Body of Christ, because it surely will.

We need you!IMG_5205“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another.

We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If someone’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:4-8)

“And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)

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Feeding Frenzy

IMG_4931.JPGLately there’s been a lot of extra activity around my flower pots and garden.  Maybe it’s because they all know that cold weather is right around the corner, and aren’t lulled into complacency by the recent heat wave like the rest of us.  At any rate, the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees have been busier among my flowers than they’ve been all summer.  In fact, they’ve been so absorbed in the accumulation of nectar and pollen that they’ve hardly seemed to mind when I came by with my camera.

Is this what it’s like to hunger and thirst, as the Scripture says, after God and His righteousness?  IMG_4908.JPG“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:2)
IMG_4936-1.jpg IMG_4957.JPG“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
IMG_4958.JPG“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
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“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

I want to be like these little creatures.

Not lulled into complacency by the fleeting comforts that surround me.  Not distracted by those who stand at the sidelines looking on.  Free of the fear of what others may think.  So utterly consumed with the desire to know God and His righteousness, that all else fades away in my pursuit to know and be filled.IMG_5073-1.jpgTo drink to the fill and be completely satisfied, as He promises.

How about you?

Rowan Tree

IMG_6336.JPG Orange has been one of my favorite colors for a long time.  It’s an accent color used quite sparingly in nature, though—and that’s why I was so pleased to find a rowan tree growing in our own backyard. It’s lacy pinnate fronds are ever graceful and attractive in their own right, but the fruit clumps that ripen to a vibrant orange in late summer are certainly my favorite feature.

The first year we lived here, I thought I was being clever, and tucked bunches of them into a fall wreath I had made of dried flowers and grasses for some instant, non-artificial pops of color.  It really did look lovely on our front door!  By the next day, however, the berries were completely gone and my wreath was in shambles.

Lesson learned: never hang bird food on your front door unless that’s what it’s intended for.  Now I just leave them on the tree and sit back and watch the clumps of orange berries disappear into the bellies of happy little birds fueling up for their upcoming journey south.

That’s what they were created for, after all.

“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:29-30)

Farewell, Golden Autumn

img_8161This was a November unmatched for beauty, as autumn lingered gloriously long—and these are the quintessential pictures of it in my mind.

The landscape awash in rich browns and golds…img_8002the rustle of drying grasses in the gentle breeze as the sunlight gilded it all to royalty…IMG_8121.JPG the frosty mornings…img_7920img_7911followed by warm and golden days…img_8119But kind as it’s been to us, November is still a month of transitions as it must be, a split personality, if you will, bridging the gap between autumn and winter—and “they say”, whoever they may be, that the time of the inevitable change is at hand.  There’s a winter storm warning for the weekend, and it’s time to finish that project of putting small girls’ mittens on strings that I’ve been putting off because we just haven’t needed them yet.

So, gladly anticipating the approach of a new season and a world of white on its way, I take a moment to bid one last adieu to autumn.  It’s been lovely—see you next year!

“O God…You have established all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)

(And the seasons in between—and I’m grateful!)


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Playing in the Reflections

IMG_8062-1.jpgIt was possibly the most gloriously beautiful November day we’ve had yet—and if the playful antics I observed this morning are any evidence, apparently the otters knew it, too.

There was a whole family of them, three frolicsome pups and their only slightly more sedate parents, all playing lively games of dive and chase together in the liquid reflections.  The surface of the lake roiled wildly with underwater fun, occasionally erupting into sparkles of splashes, and the curves and shimmers of sleek brown bodies.

As I watched their joy-infused antics with pleasure, it occurred to me that there is more than one way to compose a psalm of praise.  To some is given the gift to string words together and put them to music…

“All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing…
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!” (Francis of Assisi)

But to others it is given to write their praises to Creator God by the way they live their lives.

For my sleek little neighbors, it is dancing through the water to make poetic ripples on a blue hole of a lake on a sunny day.  What is it for you?

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

P.S. Go here to hear a worshipful acapella version of the above quoted hymn and infuse your day with a beautiful note of praise!

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Forest Floor

img_7288img_7311In the early autumn evening, we wandered through a forest of giants still dripping from the previous night’s rain.  The wind rustled through the leaves still tenaciously clinging to the underbrush and whispered through the tops of the soaring pines.  My eyes, however, were drawn far more often to the forest floor than its grand ceiling.img_7233img_7275img_7341img_7321img_7347img_7249img_7268Sometimes the most wonderful things are not the most immediately obvious, but require one to pause, stoop down and look with care—but ah, how much beauty there is to discover!

“And I will give thee the…hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3)