Friday, February 26, 2010

Treasure in Jars of Clay

"If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at." 2 Corinthians4:7-10 (The Message) Another words, treasure in jars of clay. I reflected on this passage after hanging up with my sister, Jeneen, on the phone. Just yesterday we were chatting on Facebook and she began to share with me some words she kept toying around with for a possible song. I knew she was musical, but didn't know she did any writing until then. The creative juices were flowing within and we actually signed off so she could get to writing and I could get to mine. Today, when I talked with her she told me she started a blog, Trinkets From the Heart. Her sharing made me think. Jewels of creativity, I did not know she had, were now beginning to shine forth. This led me to review the passage about Treasure in Jars of Clay.
Whether, it's my neighbor Miss E from the laundry room with her long, thin wisps of white hair diminished from chemo. treatments, Philene, the single mother of two, who works at Wal-Mart, or my beloved sister, Jeneen, a wife, homemaker and mother of 4, they ALL contain this treasure. Treasure carried in the "unadorned pots of (their)ordinary lives". There is softness, honesty, creativity, love, spunk, but most importantly, faith. Faith that says, "Life can really stink sometimes, but I know God still loves me."
Isaiah 45:3 states: "I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places,.." I am beginning to realize more and more that treasure and creativity is sometimes cloaked in the very secret places of people's ordinary lives. There is great treasure and gifting in each one of us. Great faith seen through the simple steps of continuously moving onward and upward, in spite of great challenges and difficulties.
How pertinent to our own growth and faith to slow down, take notice, and get to know people more and what they carry within. To share, rejoice, and yes, even weep. How simple, secret, and ordinary the pots. How bright, unyielding, and valuable the treasure of creative jewels and faith held within them, these unadorned jars of clay.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Diamond in the Rough

If I passed her on the street and didn't know her, I probably wouldn't have noticed or paid much attention to her. A middle aged woman with short hair usually combed back, sweat pants, sneaks, and bundled up in a warm winter coat with a large pocket book draped over her shoulder. There's nothing in particular that stands out about her. Nothing to draw us in, but there is her sweet demeanor and radiant smile.
I met Philene a few months ago when she began coming to our home group meeting. Over the past few months, I have grown to love her. She is a single mom of two, her son, diagnosed with autism. She works at Wal-Mart in the customer service department. She attends church weekly.
Two weeks ago she came to our home group meeting, bursting with radiance, boasting of her son's most recent accomplishment. He was voted student of the month. Last night, she came with gifts for everyone. Mine was a small plaque with the poem "Footprints In the Sand". AND she encouraged us with a poem. A poem she wrote testifying to God's love and grace. She always says, "He's got my back!" Her faith is deep, her love is real. She extends her arms to hug and welcome all who are near.
There is so much more to her than what you see just in passing on the street. Countless times she's responded to questions in our studies with the answers she's discovered in secret. Secret time with her Savior and King. She is another inspiration. Always shining, always smiling. Sharing God's kindness and peace. Philene, a blessing, a diamond in the rough, and yes another token and sign of God's goodness.

Philippians 1:3 "I thank my God every time I remember thee."

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Spitball of Energy-Miss E

Saturday afternoon, I had just enough time to head across the mud and snow to the laundry room to do one load before dinner with friends that evening. I pushed open the door and there waiting for her clothes to finish drying, was Miss E. "How much you got?," she asked while resting her arms on the dryer, engaged in a book. "Just one load," I responded. We began to chat about the weather. More snow might be coming. E was excited about that. She's hoping for Thursday, so she won't be able to go to her next appointment. Her next chemo. appointment, that is. "I'm just annoyed with it now! It's been since October and I'm ready to be done with it," she vented. I'd seen her in the laundry room before this and wondered if she had cancer. I recalled noticing her long, thin wisps, of white hair poke from beneath her warm fuzzy hats before now, but never dared to ask. This day, I didn't need to. Miss E, very matter of factly, proceeded to give me the whole story. She explained how she had cancer 11 years ago and they found it again, floating inside her. Yet she was much too busy for all the rig a more all involved in treating it. For almost the whole cycle of my clothes swirling away in the washing machine, she held my attention in amazement, as she informed me of all her activities. She exercises at the gym every day, plays for a church every Sunday, and currently plays piano for a nearby school's upcoming production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She's a retired music teacher, but at seventy-one hasn't slowed down a bit. She tells her doctors when she will take the chemo. because as she put it, "I don't want any drugs in me clouding my head when I do this play. God called me to do it and I'm going to do it. This (the cancer) isn't going to run my life. I won't let it."
"You're an amazing woman," I commented with a smile.
"What a wonderful surprise for the day," I thought to myself. What a spitball of energy!
Miss E tossed her clean clothes in her basket and turned to head out the door. "You want the light on or off?," she asked.
"Off. I need to go get more quarters," I answered. She turned around and offered me hers, "Here take as many as you need. Don't worry about it."
"Oh, thank you. I'm in the next building over if you ever need anything." How could I ever repay her? She gave so much more than quarters this day. Her feisty attitude and tough as nails determination inspired me. Pray every day, eat healthy, exercise, and do what God calls you to do. That's her life's philosophy, my neighbor, Miss E.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Consider It ALL Joy???

Not at 1:53 a.m. in the morning, I wasn't. After dozing off in a rather contorted position while awaiting my next flight to Houston, I was abruptly awakened by the US Airways representative's announcement that Flight 1402 was now cancelled. I sat straight up and jerked my head around in shock. "What?!?!"I blurted out. I came all this way in hopes of getting to my mother's 60th birthday celebration and now this! My principal had suggested I fly out Wednesday night, after work so I could have Thursday through Sunday with my family, before returning the following Monday. Now what??!?
People threw their arms up, wailing in disgust. For the past three hours we kept being told that the flight was delayed due to mechanical problems and a new crew from Hartford would be there to take us onto Houston. The crew from Hartford had indeed come, but they were not taking us anywhere. I frantically called my mother who was supposed to be picking me up, to tell her the flight had now been cancelled. "What? What happened? Leighann, you paid for those tickets they have got to do something for you! I am so sorry this happened! You are never going to visit me again after this," she lamented.
"I'm never flying at night or flying US Air again," I retorted back. By this time, additional customer service reps had spread out between three gates to find people alternate flights. "Everyone is going to the counters. I'll have to call you back when I get something," I explained.
I heard 7:40 a.m. announced as the first flight out of Charlotte, but that was only for those fortunate enough to fly first class. One older man began to cry out in angst, "We've got a funeral to get to. We paid over $1600.00 for tickets, you've got to do something!" The service reps were trying to accommodate people, but there were only so many seats and so many flights. "I'm sorry sir, the soonest flight we have is 11:45 a.m.," the rep. informed him.
"That's too late! We'll miss the funeral. You might as well take us back to Detroit. We came all this way for nothing!" the man vented. I just stood in line, waiting my turn, thinking, maybe I should just go back to N.Y. . I came all this way to honor my mother for her birthday and celebrate, but now God only knew when I would get there. God. Yes, He knew, and I trusted Him, but now I didn't know what to think. James 1:2-4 (The Message reads:"Consider it a sheer gift friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
I thought back to the time in my early twenties when my vehicle broke down on a dimly lit road at about 12 midnight. God had provided for me then. My Pop Pops came to get me, and took me home. This time was vastly different. I was stranded in Charlotte, NC, alone, and with no one to come fetch me. No one to stand next to and offer an encouraging word or hug. I stepped up to the counter and handed the middle aged, African American woman my ticket. She began to type away, searching for another flight for me. "You can either go on stand by or there is a flight at 2:45 p.m. in the afternoon," she explained.
"I've never had this happen before, I don't know what to do. What are my chances on standby?" I questioned.
"There's going to be a lot of people on standby," she answered. The tears brimming in my eyes, began to overflow, and trickled down my cheeks. I so wanted to just go home. "I'll take the 2:45 p.m. ," I responded. She wrote the 800 number for a shuttle to the nearby Sleep Inn Hotel and handed it to me, along with a meal voucher ticket. "You just have to call the shuttle and they'll come pick you up. The meal voucher you can use either at the hotel or the airport," she explained. I accepted the tickets, nodded, and walked over to sit down as I brushed away the tears from my cheeks. I would not get to Houston until 5:00 p.m. later that day.
I called my mother back sobbing, "The only thing they had was 2:45 p.m. in the afternoon. I just want to go home. I don't know if I should stay here or go to the hotel. I don't know what to do."
"Go to the hotel. It's safer. There's gotta be someone else who's going, too," she encouraged.
"I don't know anyone. I just want to go home," I rambled on. By this time, I saw an older woman go into the ladies restroom, so I told my mother I would call her back, and followed. "Did they give you a voucher for a hotel, "I inquired.
"Yup, the Sleep Inn," she answered.
"Do you mind if I go with you? I've never been here before," I said.
"Sure, that's fine," she responded. I finished washing my hands, while the woman dialed the number for the shuttle. They would be there in about 20 minutes. We walked down to the baggage claim area, chatting along the way. She was older than me, but rather pleasant, and not the least bit rattled at all by the events of the past few hours. Her demeanor was most reassuring. I looked at my cell phone for the time and saw I had a new message from someone. My brother's girlfriend, Nikki had called. I called her back as soon as I found a seat. My mother called her because she remembered Nikki's mother had grown up in Charlotte. Nikki encouraged me greatly by saying, "Trust me, I've been stranded hundreds of times, this is just a setback. As far as Charlotte goes, my mom grew up there and you are in the safest place in the world. Your mom said you were thinking about going back to N.Y., but we really want you to still come. We're going to have a great time and really want you to be there."
I breathed a sigh of relief. What comfort! Shortly after that, the shuttle had pulled up along side the curb and I along with five others, were on our way to the Sleep Inn Hotel. The driver was most polite and friendly. "Here, let me get that for you," he offered as he took my bags and welcomed us to Charlotte with a big smile. By 3:30 a.m., I had climbed into the big, comfy, queen sized bed after a relaxing hot shower and drifted off to sleep.
By 9:30 a.m. I was dressed and sitting in the lobby, waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the airport. Another older African American gentleman, very friendly, began chatting with me. Somewhere in the midst of the conversation, he began to admonish that the secret to life is to be content and enjoy the moment in spite of its ups and downs. Easier said then done. I was relieved that God had brought me this far and provided words of encouragement and a nice hotel to get a hot shower and few hours sleep, but I was still lamenting internally over the inconvenience and time lost with my family.
During my next few hours in the airport, I discovered a book entitled, "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith" by Lysa Terkeurst. After purchasing it, I meandered over to one of the several white rocking chairs which lined the food court, and sat down to read. Terkeurst started her introduction with a reference to the Israelites moving through the desert. She pointed out that even when Israel was moving in the direction God wanted them to, they still faced obstacles. They needed to trust and press through. My eyes filled with tears once again, this time from conviction. Somehow, I had surmised that because I was doing what God wanted me to do, which was to honor and bless my mother, then surely everything would go smoothly, and I would reach my destination worry free. Thoughts of, "Why the delay? Why the lost time? The aggravation? Why God why?" had circled in my head for the past few hours. I could not see any purpose in this and was both angered and frustrated by the time lost. Time that would never be restored. Yet, now I was being admonished to press through because obstacles are part for the course.
By 2:30 p.m. I had boarded the plane and was finally on my way to Houston; relieved and grateful. I would still be able to be there for the festivities on Friday and Saturday to celebrate. I lost one day in travelling, but upon returning to N.Y. my mother had been deeply touched by my presence there. When I called her to tell her I had made it back safely, she began to cry. With a strained voice all choked up, she said, "I really appreciate you coming down. You don't know how much it meant to me that you came all that way for me." I was able to respond with, "I'm glad I came. I'm glad I did it! It was well worth it. I don't want to have any regrets."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

As Per Request- Laughter is Great Medicine

'A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones' Proverbs 17:22 2(NAS) It was my first full week back to work from visiting my mother in Texas for her 60th birthday celebration. I had begun to wind down from all the festivities, settle in to normal routines, and catch up on lost sleep. My friend, Rita invited a bunch of people over for some snacks and music at her house. In between singing and snacking we began to exchange stories. Rita shared how her mother had accidentally walked into the men's room once and then returned to the table to sit down very non-chalantly. Boy, did that take me back in time.
I shared about the dreary Saturday morning,I ventured over the bridge to meet up with my friend, Michelle and her mom, Audrey at a craft fair. After paying the $2.00 fee to get in and shaking the rain from my jacket, I headed for the photography display. Beautiful photos of the Hudson Valley, all nicely framed and matted, caught my attention. Some color, others black and white. I spent about 10 minutes or so perusing and asking the rather nice looking young man about his art. I wrapped up the conversation, thanking him, and met up with Michelle. "Is he single?," she whispers in my ear.
"I don't know. He looks pretty young though. I think he's only in his twenties," I responded with the attitude of "Who cares?".
"No, I don't think so. You never know. Hey, my mom is waiting for us. We haven't checked out the gym yet, "she said. We turned the next corner while browsing over the Christmas decorations and hand made novelties. About 15 minutes or so later, I asked her mom, Audrey, "Where's the bathroom? I need to go."
"Down the hall on the right. Just look for the sign that says "Faculty only'," she directed. I made it through the maze of people and spotted the black and white sign on the door. "Finally," I thought to myself. I pushed open the door to be confronted with another blue door. That gateway led me to the man from the beautiful photography display, standing right in front of the urinals!"OH MY GOD!!!!," I blurted out with a face as red as tomatoes.
He very calmly responded with, "I'm sorry." I spinned myself around, out the door and bolted into the little girl's room one over. AGHHHHH! I'd never done that before, EVER! After regaining my composure and using the facilities, I returned to my friends awaiting me in the gym. I could barely get out what happened without keeling over in hysterics. The men's sign rested just below the faculty only sign, but half the size, and it was almost the same yellowish brown color as the wooden door. What a lesson in reading fine print. What a great time remembering and being able to laugh. My friends got a real kick out of it and the hustle and bustle of the week and travelling had soon melted away. Laughter really is great medicine for the soul!