Broken Pieces or a Masterpiece

When I was in the fourth grade, my class created a large mosaic mural of the Nativity. We used scraps of colorful paper that my teacher, Ms. Peterson, had painstakingly cut up. I remember, while working on it, not knowing what we were creating. We were just instructed to paste our scraps here or there. But as the project progressed over the weeks, we began to see the picture that was being formed. Suddenly those bits of paper became a masterful work of art. It wasn’t until we took a few steps back to see the whole thing that we could see what was happening.

Traditionally, mosaics are made from bits of regular and irregular pieces of glass, stone, tile, etc. Individually, these pieces don’t create much beauty. But in an expert’s hands, a magnificent masterpiece can be created.

Looking at the broken and misshapen pieces of my own life, and I’m sure yours too, it can be difficult to envision anything beautiful coming out of it. Just like the pieces used in a mosaic, in the wrong hands, these pieces can be, at best, discarded trash, and at worst, jagged shards that can cause harm. But in the right hands, they can be fitted together into something beautiful.

These broken pieces are being expertly and lovingly placed into the beautiful mosaic God is creating in my life. But I have to remember that I’m not the center of the artwork, Jesus is. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV, emphasis added).

Forgetting whose image I am being conformed into (Romans 8:29) makes it easy to become disappointed with what I see being created. Isaiah 45:9 says, “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (ESV).

Like my fourth-grade self, I can’t always see the full picture of what God is accomplishing in my life. I can become so focused on the one little section that looks like a mess of mismatched pieces. But I’m so thankful that the Master Artist knows the vision and sees where each piece fits.

Quieting the Noise

I am an introvert and a homebody by nature. So when the pandemic began and we were all put under stay-at-home orders, it was like a dream come true: You mean, the government is telling me to stay away from other people and I get to be home all day without anyone thinking it’s weird?!

But as the stay-at-home order was extended, I found myself battling loneliness. This is not really an emotion I’ve struggled with in the past. Sure, I’ve had my moments, as we all do. But this time has been different. And as you may recall from a previous post, we had an uninvited guest in our home. Suddenly, my place of security was not only lonely, but it felt unsafe.

When I first started living by myself, I struggled a lot with fear when I was home alone. I would practically barricade myself in my room, not leaving it until morning.  The pandemic and mouse sent me back to that very bad place.

A quiet house became scary to me. So I became pretty good at avoiding the quiet. I would constantly have some distraction going, whether it was music or TV. And if I wanted to paint a “spiritual” face on it, I’d listen to a Bible teaching. But all of it was to avoid the quiet.

But what if this loneliness isn’t a curse, but a call from God to my heart? What if being in a place of isolation isn’t a punishment, but an opportunity to remember where true comfort is found? Second Corinthians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (ESV).

Paul, speaking about the hardships he and Timothy faced said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received a sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV). I won’t be so dramatic as to say I “despaired of life itself.” But there have been times when I’ve wondered how I would make it through the day. I love how Paul says that they were put in their predicament so that they could learn to rely on God. In the same way, I choose to believe that God has allowed this time of being set apart for a greater purpose.

So I’m learning not to avoid the silence. I’m learning to quiet the distractions so that I can hear what the Holy Spirit wants to speak to my heart during this season. This mean less TV and an extended break from social media. It means, being comfortable enough to sit quietly, without background noise, and wait for God to come visit with me. It also means more time digging into the Word.

It’s still a little scary to have so much quiet time on my hands. But I’m hopeful that this is a season of preparation for whatever God has for me next.

Eucharisteo

Eucharisteo is a Greek word, meaning to be grateful, feel thankful; give thanks. I keep it on a post-it on my monitor, as a reminder to always be thankful (because it’s not always easy). But today is my birthday and I can’t think of a better word to describe how I feel besides grateful.

As you know, the past few years have been the most challenging of my life. There were times when I thought pain would define my life forever. But today, I can say that, even though things aren’t always easy and I wish some things were different, I am more whole than broken. And that’s definitely something to be grateful for.

I’m also so thankful for all the love I have in my life. I have a beautiful family and amazing friends who have loved and supported me through the worst. And continue to do so to this day. I have been by myself most of the day (my kids will join me later). But not for one moment have I felt alone this birthday.

So today, on my birthday, I want to simply say, “Thank you!”

“Give thanks [eucharisteo] in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

When fear is the loudest voice you hear

I set out to write a very different post today. I had a plan and a schedule. And then life happened. I had hoped to tell this story on the other side of victory, but I’m struggling to get there.

You see, we had a minor mouse problem. For some, this may be a small thing. But for me, it’s been paralyzing. I always knew I wasn’t a fan of furry little critters that belong outdoors. But it wasn’t until I had to deal with one in my own home that I realized how incredibly afraid I am. I know it’s irrational. But here we are.

Can I be honest? I have had to fight against feeling let down by God. I’ve found myself questioning Him, “Why this? Why now? With everything else that I’ve been through, can’t I just get a break?” I even told a friend, “This feels more stressful to me than my divorce.”

I find myself easily believing the lie of the enemy that says God is either impotent or indifferent. I should know better. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in more ways than I can count. But yet here I am trying to combat these age-old lies.

I wish I had a magic bullet for these moments of doubt. But the only way I know to silence fear is to actively oppose the lies of the enemy. And the only way I know how to do that is with the Word of God. So for my sake and yours, I’m going to share the truth of who God is.

  1. He’s a promise keeper. Joshua 21: 44-45 says, “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (ESV, emphasis added). God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you read the book of Joshua, you can see the fulfillment of that promise. But I don’t need to look much further than my own life to see that God is a promise keeper. He promised, “I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). That’s a promise I have walked out. I remember when I was meeting with a lawyer regarding my divorce. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing by meeting with someone. I was afraid and confused. But it was as if God sat with me and took my hand and guided me through the choices I had to make. His promise to never leave me was so palpable in that moment.
  2. He loves me. All I need to do is remind myself of the cross to remember that I am loved more than I deserve to be. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believers in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV). Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV). Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (ESV). Not only does God love me, He sent His Son to this broken world so that He could understand and empathize with me. If I can hold on to this truth, I won’t ever believe the lie that God is indifferent to me or my pain.
  3. He’s in control. God is sovereign, which means He’s in control of everything that happens to me. I’ve heard it said like this: “Anything good or bad, must pass through His fingers first. There are no accidents with God” (Dr. Tony Evans). Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows” (ESV). Lamentations 3:37-38 says, “Who do you think spoke it and it happened? It’s the Master who gives such orders. Doesn’t the High God speak everything, good things and hard things alike, into being?” (MSG). He uses all of it, good and bad, for our good and His glory. Which leads to my next fact about God.
  4. He is working all things for my good. The Bible is full of examples where things looked pretty bleak and as if somehow God wasn’t working. One of my favorites is the story of Joseph. It seemed that everything in his life was working against him. But I love what he says at the end of his story, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV). The Resurrection is another example. I can only imagine how hopeless the disciples felt after Jesus had died on the cross. I’m sure those three days felt like an eternity. But just as He promised, Jesus rose again. Once again, a dark and seemingly hopeless situation was miraculously turned around for the blessing of those involved and the glory of God. An often quoted verse is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). In my younger days, I always thought this meant, “God will make your life good.” But that’s not what this verse is saying. It’s not saying that everything I encounter will be something good. But it does promise that it will bring good out of my life. Verse 29 goes on to say, “For those whom he foreknew he predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (ESV). I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a greater good than for everything I walk through in life, good and bad, to conform me into the likeness of Christ.

I wish I could write and tell you I’m not afraid anymore. But what I can say is that I know God is working on my behalf. I feel less afraid now than I did a few hours ago. And I know I will be okay as I continue to rehearse for myself the truth about who God is and who I am to Him.

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