The Garden

In the fourth grade, I was given “In The Garden” to sing for the hymnal concert.

I wanted to choose a different hymn. So badly. I had one picked out. But, this one seemed to choose me. So, I sang it with a smile and a just a hint of bitterness.

Years later, though, my childhood disappointment, would turn into one of my greatest appointments.

This time last year, I attended an event that swept me out of shadows and into the radiant light of Christ. The name of it? The Garden. My Jesus drew me in with color and life and spring and flowers. Enchanted me like a Rose of Sharon.

After the event, I hear the strum of a soft guitar and the voice of Johnny Cash fill the room, singing “In the Garden.”
I weep. The hymn I once rejected became the image I now clung to in hope and delight.

I come to the garden alone 
While the dew is still on the roses 
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear 
The Son of God discloses 
And He walks with me 
And He talks with me 
And He tells me I am His own 
And the joy we share as we tarry there 
None other has ever known.

I need the steps of Jesus, bidding me go, through the voice of woe, unto to green pastures.
I need the voice of Jesus, so sweet the birds hush their singing, reminding me I am His.

And while He walks with me and talks with me, I find that my joy, once stolen, is full.
Abundant.
Complete.

Recently, I came back to it after I found myself face to face with thorny disappointment.
The color of floral goodness dim and covered by brier.
Having tossed to and fro through the night, I lay restless under my quilt this morning.
While the dew is still on the roses, I hear my invitation in the ever quickening beat of my heart.

Come to the garden.

I roll back the covers and pull on my robe, noticeably covered in pink roses.
Sleepy eyed, I put the kettle on and pick up my tea cup, realizing it, too, had delicate pink roses painted on it (if you’re interested in learning more about the sweet back story of this tea cup of mine, I wrote a little something in I’m A Little Teacup on how it serves as a unique image of hope in suffering and disappointment).

I, quite literally, come to my own little garden. Alone.

And I think of Mary waiting beside the empty tomb early in the morning. Alone.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

We may not be quick to catch His presence in the midst of our pain, but He’s there.
Walking. Talking. Alive. Calling us by name.

Reminding us that every disappointment melts in light of the sweet truth of being completely and securely His.

This truth is magnified in His Word, but also in the words of Teresa of the Little Flower, which I rest upon this morning.

I wish to suffer for Love’s sake and for Love’s sake even to rejoice; thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without shedding its petals for Thee…and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns – and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song.

And so, in the garden this morning, while the dew is still on the roses, I gather them among the thorns.
Even as they sting me with their prick, I will always sing.
I fill my little living room with the same soft strum of the guitar and the voice of Johnny Cash, singing “In the Garden.”
I go back and whisper to my fourth grade self, “Hear. Listen. You’ll need this.”

But now, I sing, with not even a hint of bitterness.
My smile, wider.
My song, sweeter.

Praise be to Him who turns our disappointments into provident appointments.
And turns our suffering into sweet, sweet songs.

 

 

I’m A Little Teacup

We all remember the tune of this nursery rhyme, the way we’d bring our hands to our sides and play pretend we as tipped over like a bubbling pot of tea.
But today, with anxieties swirling about, it resonated with me.

The Lord has been abundantly gracious this week to reveal Himself in the most tangible ways while I wrestled with anxiety something fierce.
In the ways He knew my heart would take notice to and garner with delight and thanksgiving. In the form of words and gifts.

The language of love He crafted uniquely in my heart.
Each day has brought about a new word. A new and actual gift.
And today seemed to be the most precious of all the days thus far.
This morning, I wrote down specific prayers, to grant peace in worry, to strengthen trust when doubt rises, to offer perspective when my eyes cannot make sense of what is before me.
I closed my journal.

Not a moment later, I received a call from my mother. I’m amazed how the Lord continues to use this woman and her sensitivity to the Spirit to speak to me in such specific times of need.
At the Throne, I find grace upon grace for a well-timed help.
She had a story to read to me.

I forgot the comfort of being read to by my mother.

She felt no need to explain her purpose behind this particular tale, and she simply began to read. To some, it is well known. But my ears heard it afresh today. And it resonated deep, deep, deep within the caverns of my soul. And it begins with a teacup.

“Once upon a time there was a quiet little shop tucked away amongst the busy streets of London. This shop was magic because from time to time, items in the shop ~ like wooden horses and over-stuffed elephants ~ would briefly come to life. One day a little girl and her mother were visiting London and got lost. They stumbled into the quiet little shop and began looking at the varied items found there.

The mom noticed high on a shelf sat a beautiful teacup. It was lovely! The mother reached for the cup to show her daughter. As they touched the delicate flowers and ran fingers across the cup’s rim, something surprising happened. The cup began to speak!

“I have not always been a teacup. You see, there was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, patted and pounded me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.’ But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’”

“Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,’ I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’”

“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.’”

“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’”

“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited ——- and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?”

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!’”
Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up.
I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked.
I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Daughter, you are like that teacup. God is the Potter of your life. His plan and delight is to make something stunningly beautiful of you. But beauty doesn’t just happen. Beauty is shaped with intentionality. Beauty and purpose sometimes come only with force, fire, and discomfort.

If our teacups could talk to us right now, they would tell us it was all worth it. The shaping and the fumes, the fire and the heat. One day, you will be able to say the same thing.

For now, we must get to know our Potter. He is good, always… and always faithful. He knows what He’s doing.

In wisdom, He knows just what to bring into our lives to shape the beauty, color, and flavor He aims for us to have. He never takes His eyes off of you or forgets what you are going through. He never gets tired of His project or decides to quit. He promises to finish what He started in you. He even wrote you a letter so you can know for sure and never forget.

Oh daughter! I can see the beauty taking shape in you! I can see determination starting to shine through. I can see gentleness being formed. I even catch glimpses of compassion and service. Daughter, you are a masterpiece.
Whenever you are tempted to despair, whenever you are tossed about with doubt, this will be our tradition … we’ll pull out the teacups and reflect on our Potter.
Much love,
Mama”

I sat, listening to my own mother speak these words right to my heart, weeping at the sweet, sweet sound of it.
What peace, to hear her voice call me daughter again and again as truths are sung over me, reminding me of the good work my Father, our Father, is doing in my fragile heart.
I felt like a girl again. Tucked in next to my mother. Listening to her read me a story.
Only, I am far away. Not a child anymore. And the monsters under my bed now are bigger.

Yet, the Lord placed this story, this letter, right in her mailbox today.
For her to read. For me to hear. To soothe the ache that anxiety left.
She’s sending me a teacup in the mail. A tangible gift to go with her cherished words.
To pull it out whenever despair feels near and strong, and to remember the Potter.
And I feel His Spirit move throughout my entire being, like a whisper, saying,

“I see you. I feel how you ache. How you long. The work is not finished, still in process, but how much stronger you have already become, my Teacup. How you’ve taken form into the shape of whom I’m crafting you to be. You see in part, now, but then, you will see fully and completely. And you, when you finally behold the finished work, you will be amazed. Wait on Me and I will cheer your weary soul while I work. Wait while I work, my Daughter.”

And so I wait on my Potter, my Father.
The One who molds and loves me.
The One who shapes and sustains me.
The One whose hands are simultaneously creating me and holding me close.
For the glory of His name and for the good of my soul.

And so He does with you.
We are still but clay, yet we hold the immeasurable treasure of His Son, Jesus.
And one day, we’ll be finished work. Smooth, colorful, and complete.

Let us wait on Him, O Sons and Daughters of the Most High, for that day.
He’ll refresh our soul while we do.

*Excerpts by Arabah Joy from http://arabahjoy.com/when-you-need-some-perspective-a-tradition-for-difficult-times/