Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My Life in Five Pictures

Recently I saw a picture of Albert Einstein. He was seated at his desk; his very large and very cluttered desk. The quote beneath it read, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” (A.Einstein)

I take comfort in this image now as I try to find a resting place on my desk for my forearms as I type this. I have many, many items of various sorts and of various levels of importance waiting their turn for my attention. I choose instead to type. I have learned to write when the wave of inspiration floods my mind.

In going through our photographs to sort them into creative scrapbooks I have found an interesting series of images of me throughout the years. As I lay them in chronological order, I see the story of my life.

Age 4
I am wearing the borrowed and terribly coveted bridal ensemble from Mrs. Fortunato’s Pre-school classroom. My mother brought me to the quaint and beautiful Bucks County stone home in the mornings and deposited me in the red barn-turned-classroom to play and to learn. I learned the “A Tisket a Tasket a Green and Yellow Basket” song here. It was here I had my debut as “Vixen” the reindeer in the Christmas play, and I always played the bride at dress up time. The dear Mrs. Fortunato, with her snow white straight chin-length hair and dark rimmed glasses, sweetly allowed me to take the outfit home on this particular day; a small but endearing act on her part. Here I stand in my bedroom, which I dearly loved, with its pink and green theme, ball-fringed curtain tie-backs and pink shag rug. I was a terribly happy child with only grand expectations for the wonderful and accepting world waiting to hand me my future. I smiled at the world and the world smiled back at me.

Age 18
It is my first day of community college. My car, my fashionable wide belt, my fluffy hair and my smile; I’m sure that’s all I’ll need. I’ve put on some weight over the last year as life begins to spin out of control. The white van in the background is the one my mother bought for her dried flower business. She is trying to earn money for the Great Departure. In one year, everything will change. I had already met my future husband two years prior to this image, but alas, in my 16 year old wisdom I moved him from “first boyfriend” status to “just a friend”. At this point in my life he is a dear friend to me.

Age 22
Honeymoon breakfast in Beach Haven, New Jersey. Ron stops to take a picture as we prepare to leave in our borrowed sports car.  I take a picture of him just before this one. I have shed my weight. I have also shed weights and plans in exchange for the rest that I trust will come from being with my friend for always. I trust all will work out. We rushed to plan a wedding in 6 weeks’ time. We are both 22 years old. In three short months I will become pregnant. I am unprepared. I keep smiling, looking hard for the world to smile back at me.

Age 33
Reality has come hard and in three years from this image I will battle fiercely with depression. The first years of marriage have had its trials and they seem to continue without sign of easing. Our normal life doesn’t seem to fit at all the one I ordered from the “This was Your Life” catalog. I’ve come to know the Lord and this has been a great help in anchoring my soul and in giving me purpose in my position as wife and mother, but I persist in trying to force my expectations of life onto the persistent circumstances and this tension produces an incredible strain.  Four children came in 7 years’ time. In this picture I am sitting on a stone wall at Fonthill, the location of our wedding reception. The four children are playing around a small pond in front of me just out of the lens’ view. This world couldn’t be more different and unfamiliar from the one just 11 years prior when I stood as a bride on this very spot. The Lord is using this time to break me and mold me into something I had never conceived. I know in my head and even in my heart that I am a blessed woman and these children that have been given to my husband and to me are gifts of incredible worth. I know that God will work it all out. I just can’t quite align my seemingly contrary circumstances to His apparent plan of good. I smile on the outside as I die on the inside.

Age 46
Thirteen years later. An event at church allows the girls and I to don our chapeaux. Grace takes this picture of me in the early morning light as we depart. I see a settledness in my features. In the years now past I have seen the perseverance of my husband and the consistent, faithful and benevolent care of my dear Lord. Though, at the time of this picture, the future is as unclear as it has ever been, I don’t seem to mind. I have seen how the Lord has led and I am content to walk by His side and not run ahead. I have seen one child married now, and at this point I am thinking it won’t be long until another flies, too. Little did I know how right I was. I love that I am dressed up and wearing a hat and that my sweet daughters are also decorated in their finery. Our children make us laugh and they make us proud. We have weathered the early storms and they have formed us.

We have built a home. We have sought to dispense love and wisdom to our children. We long for them to stand on their own with their eyes fixed on God and their hand in the hand of their very own loved ones. There is less, “I wonder…” now and more, “I see.” I worry sometimes how a quick burst into laughter at something poignant or sentimental melts right into a brief tearful fit of sobbing. Joy and sadness seem to dwell so closely now, but I’m okay with this. Love and loss, laughter and tears, victories and struggles all seem to be a part of this life and without the blessed mixture of them all we really wouldn’t be living.

At 22, when I was a new bride, I knew nothing of life, of determination, and of true wealth that is measured in that which has no price. I am as wealthy as can be. This reality, God’s economy, is the true reality and impoverished not am I. His custom made path for each person is right and true and just. I have, Lord willing, more miles to journey and am sure that more treacherous paths await me, but fearful not I choose to be. For He walks with me, carrying me when necessary, and teaches me, always teaches me, that His way is the blessed way.

Silly me, I was looking to the world to be so kind and benevolent. When I called out to Him, He accepted me and handed me my future. Now, I smile at Him and He smiles back at me. And His is the only smile I need.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Portals of Time

Two boards hang on our bedroom wall. Flanking my bureau they stand as two pillars, monuments of what makes us, us. On our wall we have placed printed reminders of why we are called a family and what that means forevermore.

The past and the present intermingle. Amazing it is to gaze into the eyes of a younger you, then step two feet to the left and stare into those same eyes in a mirror you purchased as a young bride never knowing of the reflections to come. Spring, winter, golden fall, pictures of my babies, my boys, my men; greenhouse with a youthful father of mine and his tender tomato plants; my young husband in his trademark jeans and blue flannel with his dog; weddings, graduations, a trip to the shore; armfuls of puppies; a yet-to-be first born in the womb of a na├»ve 23 year old woman hosting her first Easter; and sisters in dresses at 5 and at 12-- the same sisters in dresses again at 16 and 23; same chair, same shaded setting. 

Moments held suspended in time on photographic paper gingerly tacked to a board on our wall. In uncertain times it is good and right to fix one’s eyes on the solid and immoveable. Moments that have traveled through the bottleneck of the hourglass should be viewed with gratitude and as a window to our future. God frequently reminded the Israelites of where they had been, who they were and where He was taking them, which was invariably, closer to Himself. Likewise, images of the past remind us of God’s blessing and provision which, when meditated gratefully upon, serve to draw us closer to Him.

Therefore, it seems good to me to medialize; to bring the past, present and future together in one place; to draw together the pieces of what has brought me to this place in time. I look to see who I am and Whose I am by seeing where I’ve been and seek to envision where I am going. The particulars of where I am going aren’t as important as knowing that I must cleave to the One who is leading me there. There are clues from my past from which I may glean lessons and strength for my future.

I highly recommend finding the images of your past and placing them in your present; right before your face. I frequently stop and stare at these images and am reminded of my position as mother, wife, friend and daughter of the King. It reminds me why I want to improve myself and that I want to collect more memories to add to our wall. It reminds me to actively create the moments that we will want to capture and then pin to our wall.

Sometimes I find my husband stopping to look through these portals of time. My children, too, will occasionally be drawn to the boards as they notice a new image or two has been added. When they do, they stop and stare. Their eyes drift from one image to the next, with a smile upon their face. They will point one out and vocalize their perspective. Often these comments produce laughter and, inevitably, warmth between the spirits in the room.

As for the particulars, I found two pale mauve office boards, circa 1990 at a thrift store that must weigh at least 10 pounds each. They have cut outs in the back for use in mounting to the wall. They are made of a material that thumb tacks can be pressed into them. They measure about 18” x 36” x 1”. I purchased a yard of decorator fabric that complemented our room and used fabric glue and a staple gun to wrap the front side of the board. I use clear tacks to hold pictures to the board without piercing the actual picture. This is a truly simple craft for the non-crafty person. Any board will do that can be covered and that will hold a tack.

The images you gather are representative of the souls God has placed in your home. As governess of your home, please understand that, “Home influence may be estimated from the immense force of its impressions. It is the prerogative of home to make the first impression upon our nature, and to give that nature its first direction onward and upward. It uncovers the moral fountain, chooses its channel, and gives the stream its first impulse. It makes the ‘first stamp and sets the first seal’ upon the plastic nature of the child. It gives the first tone to our desires and furnishes ingredients that will either sweeten or embitter the whole cup of life…Our habits, too, are formed under the moulding power of home. The ‘tender twig’ is there bent, the spirit shaped, principles implanted, and the whole character is formed until it becomes a habit. Goodness or evil are there ‘resolved into necessity.’ Who does not feel this influence of home upon all his habits of life”  The Royal Path of Life, Home Influence.