Monday, April 29, 2013

Under the Weather

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross
 Circumstances in our lives change continually. Good things happen. Bad things happen. I've written on how through it all, God is with us. And He is. 
The quote above by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross declares that it's during those dark times of our lives that our true beauty is revealed. If we add the caveat that it is God's beauty that is revealed in us when times are dark, I agree with it.
I was sick this past weekend. The first warm weekend of spring, and I had a fever and headache that kept me indoors! I wasn't happy about that at all. I have been looking forward to riding my bike, kayaking, and playing outside with our wee one.
It wasn't a truly dark time in the big picture, but it was enough of a dark time to bring out some of my crabbier tendencies. It was difficult for me to maintain my balance when I felt so crummy. 
I would love to say that I allowed my love for Christ to shine through, but I probably didn't. I'm hoping and praying that Christ's perfect love for me shone through me. Both the Old (e.g. Psalms 117:2) and the New (e.g. Romans 5:8) Testaments assure us of God's love for us. 

The two photos on the left are of the same piece of glass art. One is lit from the front; the other is lit from the back, through the glass. They look totally different, don't they?

I pray that God will continue to work in me, that He will grow me into a woman through whom He can shine during the darkest of times... and when I'm feeling punky on a nice weekend. 
That His glory will shine through and around and in my life. Amen.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Something New

This glass piece was delivered to me a while back, with the intention that I was going to restore it and another like it.The windows had been removed from a family farmstead, and the owner wanted to use them in the home he was remodeling. There were some broken squares, but most pieces were in good shape, aside from paint and dirt.

After some discussion, it was decided that instead of restoring these pieces into these (fairly unstable) frames, I would create something new from the unbroken pieces. The new panels would be installed into doors in the new house.

So I started disassembling the original windows. Cleaning the glass pieces will be a chore, involving steel wool, some chemicals, and lots of elbow grease. But the end result will be something better than a restoration~it will be something built from the historical glass, but it will be something new.

That's what Jesus does for us: takes our history, as dirty and stained as it is, and makes us into a new creation. The truly broken pieces he can heal, whereas I can only replace the glass.

God's new creation in us can share His glory in this broken world, just as the new glass panels will spread beautiful light in the owner's home. May I cling to Jesus and His work in me, making me whole and new and beautiful.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Finding "We."

"In some places, they have no water!"

 "Why do they act like that?"

"They're ruining the environment."

"How could they do that?"

"They are from(somewhere else)!"

"They're soooo loud!"

"They are (different religion)!"

I, like all Americans, had a difficult week  this week. After all, someone bombed the Boston Marathon. A plant blew up in Texas, killing many. There were gun battles in the streets of Boston. At least one police officer was murdered. The entire city of Boston was "locked down." It was a challenging week.

This morning I went to swim at my local Y, as usual. Other than being hyper-aware of every (seemingly frequent) emergency siren, I was pretty much in my normal routine. When I got to the locker room, though, there was a very loud and boisterous group of teenagers preparing to swim. I was mildly irritated, but not offended. I knew the language they were speaking and recognized them to be a relatively recent immigrant group to our city. Another frequent swimmer and I exchanged a look, but neither of us said anything. I went down to the pool and swam my laps...

And thought...

About Boston.
About the swimmers.
About the world.
About me.

About how I was thinking, using they to separate myself from some of God's created people. I realized that we humans do this all the time. It relieves us of blame, of connection, of responsibility...

So, how does "we" apply to the world's problems, to tragedies in Boston, Texas, and elsewhere? How can I use "we" in connection with terrorists and immigrants? If we expand our thinking until they and I are all part of the same we, does that help?

As in: We don't have enough clean water. That changes a lot! In the Midwest, where underground aquifers are plentiful and clean, water is abundant. If I lump myself in with the African village where drinking water can be a death sentence, I, too, am in crisis. If I think globally, there is a water shortage. Does that change my behavior in the plentifully-watered Midwest?

As in: Why do we act like that? Why do people act selfishly? Isn't it just as self-centered of me to think that all people should conform to my expectations in a locker room as it is of the teenaged immigrants to think that their loudness and boisterousness is "normal?" When has it been that my behavior has made someone else uncomfortable? Did I care? Was I even aware?

As in: How could we do that? How could we, as a society, be so non-inclusive that even after a decade in our midst, two young men were estranged enough to set bombs off in a crowd?

Now, don't get me wrong: I do NOT accept responsibility for the choices made by others, but still... it makes me think about the choices I do make: How I see things. How I interact with "them."

And of how Jesus would have me interact with "them." Jesus didn't separate himself from the unclean, the ill, the poor. He didn't keep himself "pure" by avoiding contact; in fact, He sought them out.

He sought them out.

 Do I?  Do you? To steal a cliche: What would Jesus do?

"What God Has Joined" is one of my favorite pieces; I created it for my husband as a wedding gift. I "tricked" him into letting me trace his hand by saying it was for a project at school. I love how our hands are reaching together for the cross.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Plugging Away

 I am in the middle of building several pieces that have been ordered. I'm amazed that I am getting orders from people I've never met! It's God's blessing that people have seen my pieces online or at a friend's home and pursue purchasing one from me.

None of these orders is for an original piece, which is fine. I have one artistic piece I've worked on some, but I need to finish up these pieces that are ordered first.

So, it kind of feels like I'm plugging away at an "assignment" or something. Homework, maybe? The pieces have some technically difficult spots, but I don't have to redesign them. Not much innovation or creativity needed!

I've had times in my faith life that felt like that. Nothing incredibly exciting, but just steadily engaging in the tasks that are in front of me: Reading the Word, praying, worshiping with God's people, completing my devotional activities, etc.

Is there something wrong with me at those times? Am I farther away from God than I am when I am excited and enthusiastic? The corollary is "Am I less of a stained glass artist when I am completing pieces like these pictured today?"


I don't think so in either case! When I am completing pieces like these in my glass studio, I am still pursuing my art. I am still selecting glass and completing the technical work necessary to create the piece. Plus, they're my designs in the first place.

And when I am plugging along with my spiritual disciplines, I am still seeking God. Plus, I am God's woman in the first place. He chooses to be close to me; it is not my work that puts me there!

Therefore, as I'm "plugging away" at life, there is nothing missing, nothing wrong. It's just a day in my life in which I get to be an artist and am loved by God.
Such Amazing Grace.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"What it Feels Like"

 Lots of things in glass work are done, at least in part, by feel. Cutting glass, breaking glass, glazing... all have a component of feel to them.

And then there are our emotions, our feelings. Those nebulous fears, joys, and anxieties which governed so many decisions earlier in my life.

But the song title above, "What it Feels Like," (by FFH) refers to something completely different. I had a difficult time finding this song today because I thought the title was something like "To Be Led" because the most important line in the song is "so this is what it feels like to be led," as in, led by God.

How does a person know when something is God's will?  I can only speak from my own experiences, and others may have completely different ideas about it.

My first distinct guidance from God came at a particularly dark time of my life. I had just driven to the juvenile treatment facility to tell my 13-year-old son (who lived there at the time) that his father had sexually abused his 12-year-old sister, and we were getting divorced. On the dark, rainy drive home, with my daughter asleep next to me, I was crying out in grief for my marriage, my children, and myself. Then I "heard" (no audible words, but clearly from outside myself and my own thoughts) God say, "Someday you will have a marriage relationship that will make this one seem like nothing." I couldn't imagine such a thing! This was the marriage of  my youth, of my children. The one that was supposed to last forever. But it was so clear that this was from God that I trusted it.

Quite a few years later, following another divorce (which involved escaping into the night because of fear), I had given up on relationships. I told God that if He wanted me to marry, He would have to drop His chosen man in my lap! I also promised that I would have a relationship that honored God, if I were ever given the opportunity.

Not long after that, God did  "drop His chosen man in my lap!" Through unlikely circumstances, my now-husband, Brad, came into my life. He, too, was committed to having a relationship that honored God. We even prayed that God would make it clear if He didn't want us to marry. Both of us became quite convicted that our marriage was God's will. There was an incredible sense of peace in our decision. And no fear. For me, that was amazing, as I had never had a relationship without some fear. That was over five years ago, and I have never regretted our marriage, not for a nano-second.

Then came our daughter. Our decision to adopt her was very much God's leading. We had an extremely comfortable, pleasant life, and the call to add our then-granddaughter to our family was a surprise. Through prayer, we received such a sense of peace and joy in accepting our role, first as foster parents, then as adoptive parents. There has been no regret at the "loss" of freedom; indeed, there has been only gain! Our daughter has brought a fullness to our lives that we didn't even know was missing.

And so here I sit, in a marriage relationship that is beyond anything I could have imagined on that dark, rainy night so many years ago. A marriage relationship that has blossomed into parenting together in joy and love. So this is what it feels like to be led...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Love One Another

Jesus said many times, "Love one another." You can find this statement (or something similar) in many places in the Bible. Here are a few: John 13:34, 1 John 3:11, Romans 12:10, and 1 Peter 4:8.

Christians base much work on these sentiments: missionary work, work to eliminate poverty, general  kindness to strangers and those in need. Good work. Good works.

This glass piece, "Love," speaks to a love that's closer to home, though. I'm stunned by an attitude I find more than occasionally: "How can you homeschool your daughter? I would go CRAZY!"

Go crazy? Because I spend most of my time with my child? This little person with whom God has trusted me? This precious image-of-God that I am blessed to parent?

Now, I'm not some Pollyanna-Mom who doesn't have moments of frustration with my imperfect child. And when my older children were young, I shared some of the sentiment above, but I'm not proud of that. I am in NO WAY perfect at loving my children, far from it.

But this attitude still puzzles me as a Christian. The "love" Jesus commands isn't just about others! Sometimes that's easier than loving those in our own home. However, Jesus doesn't command us to love just the easy ones. He says, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

"Love," the glass piece, was designed to remind me that love and home are intertwined. The one above is finished and ready to go to a friend. The one to the right is more like my life: a work in progress! Can you see the words "LOVE" and "HOME" in these pieces?

So, on those days when homeschooling is not fun and easy, when loving my children, my husband, and/or our parents pushes me to my limits, I ask God to sustain and strengthen me. To help me see that this/these person(s) were formed in the image of God Himself.  That I am commanded to love them. That they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and worth loving.

That's what this piece reminds me. If you would like me to make a version of "Love" for you, the size is 12x6 inches. It is framed in zinc, with rings for hanging. The cost is $60.00, plus tax and shipping, if needed.