Legacy of a Teacup

IMG_2404-001She cradles the delicate porcelain teacup in her hand before placing it on a saucer in the china cabinet. Someday my daughter will inherit this set of heirloom china, so I tell her the story of how it came to be in our family. The fine Austrian dinner set was purchased by her great-great grandparents in 1923 to make a favorable impression on a suitor who was courting their eldest daughter. Preston Sharpe married Mabel Stevenson, my great aunt. I remember the stately old house they lived in, with a formal garden lush with roses Preston cultivated himself. He named a soft pink hybrid after his Mabel, as it reminded him of the old-fashioned roses trailing across the china she treasured. This tale is recorded in my grandmother’s beautiful script on sepia-toned paper tucked inside the elegant teapot. Perhaps the true heirloom is this story, a branch of the tree which is our family, green with love, rooted in rich relationships, sending out shoots now blossoming in the lovely face of my daughter.

How do I craft an heirloom to pass on to my children and their children, a legacy fashioned from what I value the most? What comes to mind are not physical treasures but the treasures of my heart and spirit, pebbles of wisdom collected on my long walk with God. If I could package these treasures to give into their hands, I could breathe a sigh of relief when the transfer is made. But that is not how this particular legacy is handed down. No, it is lived out minute by minute, word by word, spun in multi-colored strands of dark and light, communicated with hands and tears and long talks into the night, recorded in letters and looks and words unspoken.

“I will teach you hidden lessons from our past — stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.” (Psalm 78:2-4 NLT)

Trails of brokenness and hardship thread across my past like the cracks in a shattered teacup glued back together. These are a crucial part of my legacy because they tell how I learned of brokenness being the way to wholeness, weakness required to find strength and an empty heart leaving room for the fullness of God. I cannot imagine the grind and sweat of my battles to be for nothing. The cracks are not so much evidence of breakage but pathways carved out, leading to the truth. Most of all, I want to pour out the precious contents of this glued-together teacup. Christ glued me back together, healed and redeemed me, so I could be filled with the water of His Spirit — sweet, thirst-quenching love, overflowing like a reviving drink.

With every sip of tea from my heirloom china teacup, I remember the legacy of my ancestors. Theirs was not a perfect history but it is a part of my history and I am thankful for the good they left me. Author Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

May my legacy, dear ones to follow, be that you feel God’s love through me, poured out in a thousand different ways from this broken teacup.

 © Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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A Question of Love

IMG_1277“Why do you argue when all I want to do is bless you?”
The question dropped into my mind fully formed, almost audible. After years of struggling against a current of numerous personal crises, the tide had turned, bringing resolution and happier prospects. The let-up of relentless negative pressure felt strange, causing me to doubt the possibility of better days to come. So I argued with God.
Can this truly be your will? Do You actually want me to marry this man and start a whole new life or is it just my own desires taking over? Then He asked me the question which changed everything. I quit arguing and answered yes to His overflowing blessings.

The questions of God have a way of making those He asks look at their situation in a different way. God doesn’t pose questions to find out the answers. He is omniscient, all knowing, the One who looks into the heart and sees the end from the beginning. His questions are always succinct, probing and worded to challenge a present thought process.

The first question asked by God in His Word is still relevant to us now. Our reply to this question determines our present journey and our eventual destiny. Adam, a man previously free and unashamed before God, disobeys His command and goes into hiding. But God does not abandon Adam in his sin. He comes near, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9 NIV) God knows exactly where Adam is, physically and spiritually, but He asks this rhetorical question because Adam needs to see himself where he is. God’s question makes him realize he is hiding in shame … trying to cover up his wrongdoing … avoiding God for fear of punishment … making excuses … passing blame. And man’s first conscious awareness of guilt is exposed in the revealing light of God’s query.

If He asked you the same question, how would you answer God? The answers could be numerous but there are only two that really count. If you answer, “I am far away from You, not even sure You exist,” then remember how God walked in the garden to draw near to a man whose sin distanced him from perfect love, and know He provides a way through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His son, Jesus, to bring you close. If you answer, “I am here, Lord, close to your side as your beloved child, but You know how easily I wander away,” then remember He will never leave you or forsake you. No matter how fickle your heart is or how easily your eyes stray from His face, He never loses sight of one He calls His own.

God asks questions to help us see ourselves in light of where we are in relation to Him. Self-examination can be painful but when done in the presence of God’s redeeming love, it reveals areas of our life needing a touch from Him. We don’t have to find the answers alone, for He walks with us through the process, providing guidance in His Word and by His Spirit. God already has an answer for His own question. He just wants you to search and find it for yourself.
“He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” ~ Mark 8:29

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Not-So-Fond Farewells

IMG_1739The quicker, the better is my motto when it comes to saying good-bye to someone I love for a long time. I dread the moment when I will have to release them from my arms and watch them walk away. It feels like a part of my heart is being torn out, leaving a big aching hollow. I am not so fond of farewells.

This summer has been one of good-byes. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved to Africa for 3 years with little prospect of trips back home. And after I said good-bye to my son when visiting him in a distant city, he sent me a note within the hour saying he missed me already. Every parting takes a piece of my too-tender heart with it which, I’ve come to realize, is the price for loving completely.

Of all the imperfections and missed marks in the world, this is the one I find the most arduous, sometimes to the point where I don’t want to say hello because I know a good-bye must follow. We say too many good-byes in this transient society where jobs require transfers to other cities, and rending divorces result in constant partings between parents and children.

The truth is, we were not designed for good-byes. In the perfection of this world before sin entered, God made man and woman in His own image. And God walked companionably with His creations in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 1 – 3) God’s original intention was for an everlasting relationship with man, no good-byes required. Don’t you think it wrenched His heart to send Adam and Eve out of the garden? To say good-bye to the creatures He designed for relationship with Himself? The sin which broke man’s connection with God continues to throw good-byes in our path, causing hearts to break a little with each one.

So I wonder, how do I navigate those good-byes? Do I withhold myself, protecting my heart from painful partings? Not possible. I love those I love without reservation, making vulnerability part of the package. So I’ve decided to live in the good of the moments I have with each one I love. Some moments may be longer and some shorter before parting but each one is precious in and of itself. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days saying good-bye to His disciples because they were so slow to believe and understand what He had done. During that time He made special memories with them, walking and talking on the road to Emmaus, visiting them in the upper room, making them breakfast on the beach. The disciples would have those memories to warm their hearts when He was gone.

Good-byes are an infinitesimal portion of my time spent with those I love. I choose to make that time rich, full of love and laughter, shared experiences, long talks and lots of hugs. It will still be hard to say good-bye but only because our love for each other will have deepened in the time we are together. Good memories don’t need good-byes.

 

 

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Postcards from France —- Chateau de la Trousse

our humble acommodations, a suite in a French chateau, la Trousse

I knew we were staying in the countryside but that was all. This trip to France came as a gift from my family, with a few surprises included. Driving north from Paris through gently rounded green hills and red-roofed villages, we finally turned onto a narrow road paralleling a weathered stone wall. I caught a glimpse of a stately manor house set on a hill, the sun glinting off its numerous arched windows. I wondered aloud what it would be like to stay in such a grand place. “We are,” replied my daughter.

Chateau de la Trousse, 17th century home of Count de Mony, put bricks and plaster to my life long dreams of fairytale castles and long ago lifestyles. Flanked by rows of soldierly trees, the long drive led us to an ornate wrought iron gate framing the picturesque façade of the chateau. Beautiful in its proportions from a distance, it was even more elegant up close. And it would be our home for the next several days. I didn’t know it was possible to feel such excitement at my stage of life.

My daughters, son-in-law and I, all hopeless romantics, explored room after room, exclaiming over the lofty ceilings wreathed in cornices of cherubs and floral garlands, the ancient tapestries, sparkling chandeliers and marble fireplaces. Occupying only a wing of the extensive chateau still gave plenty to charm us. We climbed a winding staircase to our bedrooms, flinging open curtains on tall windows framing an idyllic view. Over 40 acres of well-kept estate grounds beckoned my city-raised granddaughter to run free on the lawns, throw pebbles in the pond and pet the stone lions at the gate. Bird song and the sough of the breeze in the treetops were the only accompaniment to the peacefulness of la Trousse.

Rarely in this life does the reality of a thing exceed our dream of it. My imagination had long wandered down corridors of castles, through gardens of days gone by, but a sojourn at la Trousse surpassed even my vivid fantasies.

A promise is given by God about a future reality which will far outshine anything our imagination can produce. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV)

Countless words have been spoken and written in an effort to describe what awaits us in our future with God but they are weak predictions of a reality beyond what we can ask or imagine. Even the apostle John struggled to describe the visions of the future given him in the book of Revelation because he was limited to mere human senses and comprehension. But by the Spirit of God we have been given a glimpse, a foretaste, a flesh and bone manifestation of what He has destined for our glory before time began. It is in the God-man, Jesus Christ. God has chosen to make known to us “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)

I experienced the magic of la Trousse with my senses, a gift I will always treasure. God’s gift prepared for me in eternity will be experienced with my spirit, when all earthly limitations to my relationship with Him will be removed and I will see Him face to face.
That will surely be heaven to me.


Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Anticipation

IMG_0275

 

The Advent season begins today, as does my gift to you, dear readers, using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of posts for each week it is celebrated. Enjoy this blessed season!

 

 

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Seasons of the Spirit

Four Seasons

 

Winter is waiting on the doorstep with a foretaste of snow and clear, black nights in its breath. I can’t say I mind, for with it comes a sort of hibernation from the activity of fairer weather. Long evenings wrapped in the cocoon of a warm room with a cat on my lap and a book to ponder, I relish the repose of the winter season.

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven,”  pens the writer of Ecclesiastes. (Ecc. 3:1 NKJV)   Then he lists what he sees as the cyclical events of human life set forth in the providence of God. Birth and death, planting and uprooting, speaking and silence, war and peace; all have an appointed time according to God’s purposes.     “And He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  (Ecc. 1:11)

If there is a season for everything and a time for every purpose, then my spiritual life has seasons as well. My relationship with God is shaped more like an ever-widening circle than a straight line. This infinite curve is never static; it undulates with the tides of growth and dormancy, mountaintop and valley, passion and complacency. I can not say I enjoy every spiritual season but I am beginning to understand that each one is useful and necessary, and that God has a purpose for it.

In my spiritual fall season I sense a need to prepare, to store up the things of God in my heart so I will be ready for whatever the future holds. As a farmer spends fall harvesting and storing his crops to prepare for winter, so God leads me to store up for myself treasures in heaven to strengthen me for the winters of my life. When I look back at difficulties I’ve experienced, I see that God always gave me a hunger to learn more and go deeper with Him in the time leading up to those difficulties. Fall can be cold and bleak but it does not need to be barren when God provides abundant harvest for the soul to store up.

The world appears inert in the deep cold of winter, when in fact it is dormant, in an inactive state in order to survive adverse environmental conditions. There is purpose in dormancy, even dormancy of the soul. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) If all I know when my heart is cold is that God is God, then that is enough. I remember when I was in such deep distress all I was able to hang onto was that one truth, God is. Those two words kept me from the abyss. There is life in spiritual dormancy, deeply hidden, inactive, yet life all the same. When God breathes warmth back into that miniscule spark of life, the ice of winter begins to thaw.

The words spring and hope go naturally together in my mind. When spring stirs and stretches, my spirit rejoices in the resurgence of life which speaks of hope and continuation. Spiritual hope projects all the way to eternity, not as a possibility but as a surety, an anchor of my soul because God’s promise in Jesus Christ is not a maybe thing. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” (Heb. 10:23) The hope contained in the prospect of eternal life with Christ, perfected in His presence, fills me with joy and energy, like a spring lamb bouncing around a grassy field. That kind of hope removes fear of death, opening up the endless possibilities of heaven. Although it is not always so, it should be spring in my spirit all the time.

I live in a fruitful farming area where summer reveals fertile land bursting with crops of vegetables and grain. I never tire of seeing the abundance of provision growing on the land. A spiritual season of fruitfulness can contain many aspects, like varied rows of vegetables in a garden. There is the personal fruit of intimacy with God, the fruit of selfless labor and sacrifice, the fruit of encouraging others in their spiritual walk, the fruit of sharing the truths of God with those who don’t know Him and the fruit of prayers offered up for those you love, to name a few. Spiritual fruitfulness depends on staying connected to Jesus. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) I know I cannot be fruitful on my own, so sometimes my spiritual summer is short or yields little because I have drifted from the Vine.

Even when the spiritual season I am in is difficult I try to remember that God has a purpose for me being there, then I try to discover what that purpose is. The thing about spiritual seasons is that they always come around again, bringing more opportunities to discover the things God has made beautiful in His time.

 

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.