Posts tagged ‘Faith’

The Wedding Rings–True story

We were like most people first starting out. When we got married, we were at the beginning of our careers. In other words, we couldn’t afford an expensive wedding ring, just an awesome one. It was a small marquis-cut diamond with rubies on either side. Beautiful. Both traditional and unique. I loved it.

Wish I had a picture of this ring, but this happened long before cell phones and phone cameras.

 

Six years later, we adopted our daughter. Beautiful. On my first Mother’s Day, she was ten months old. My husband, who loves me, handed me a ring-sized box. “Leah got you this with her allowance,” he explained.

My heart melted.

It melted again when I opened the box: A ring with a ruby in the center and diamonds on either side. The perfect companion to my wedding ring. Wife and Mother.

The two rings reminded me every day of my love for Rich and Leah, and their love for me.

Perfect.

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Then we attended the Navy Bean Festival in Rising Sun, Indiana. Yep. It’s a thing. A cool thing. It was a great time, enjoying the Indiana Fall and all the creative crafts and events. It was time to sit down for some bean soup and cornbread for lunch, and we found our place at a long, crowded table with open windows to let the gently brisk fall air stir our senses. Who knew bean soup tastes and smells like home? The inviting smell of the soup wafted out the windows.

Attracting wasps.

One of which made his way into the building, where my left-hand ring finger apparently bothered him.

So he stung it.

The paramedic hated telling me he was going to have to cut it off my poor swollen ring finger.

I did, too.

Rich did, too.

But that’s life.

 

We couldn’t afford to replace the ring, but I wanted a ring so we went to Walmart and got a cheapie, planning on buying a good one later. It was pretty. However, it didn’t take long for a prong to get messed up and get caught on everything; a diamond chip disappeared. I had to quit wearing it.

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Fast forward several years later. My husband, who loves me, decided enough was enough. He was on a trip to Juneau and decided to surprise me with a new ring.

Yet another melt-my-heart moment.

Only I am just 4’6”. The ring needed to be sized. Our local jeweler couldn’t do it, as he knew it would end up almost a square shape, as far down as it needed to be cut. The jeweler in Juneau said he could do it, but he was preparing to close up for the winter, so I had to make haste. We mailed the ring along with my old high school class ring which did fit, insured and all, to Rich’s co-worker in Juneau, who took the ring to the jeweler and returned it to us when he finished sizing it. Yeah, it’s the slightest bit square-ish. But not really. It fits. And I love it, and it reminds me of Rich’s love for me every time I put it on.

Perfect.

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Fast forward a couple of years. We were at the movie theater, and my hands were dry. As we waited for the movie to start, I took off my rings, put my lotion on, settled in to enjoy the movie…

And I noticed later…at home…No ring.

My heart dropped. I took it off for the lotion. But it was also cold that day, and I took gloves on and off as we went to and fro. It could have fallen anywhere. Especially with be-lotioned hands.

My husband, who loves me, did not get upset.

My heart stayed in my stomach for the next couple of days until the movie theater was open and I could call. But I didn’t need to call.

Someone responded to my Facebook message asking people to watch for it. That someone was the manager of the theater.

A teenage boy had found my ring when he went to watch the late movie that night.

And turned it in.

Hope for the world.

And my heart returned to its rightful place, beating away in my chest.

 

As our pastor reminded us yesterday, a wedding ring isn’t a marriage. It is just a symbol, just a thing.

So why have my ring(s) meant so much to me?

The same reason why stomping on a flag is more than stomping on a piece of cloth.

The same reason why a cross is more than just a decoration or something pretty to wear.

It’s the meaning behind the symbol.

A cross is not my faith, but it is a symbol of my faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice is why the cross means something.

The American flag is not my country, but it is a symbol of my country and its history and its rich legacy of democracy. That history and legacy is why the stars and stripes mean something.

A wedding ring is not love. But love is why my wedding ring means something.

I love you, too, Rich.

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What symbols mean a lot to you? What is behind the symbol? I’d love to hear!

Blessings,

Voni

Review: A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

A Portrait of Emily Price by [Reay, Katherine]

“Francesca sported a perfect American accent–one that stretched flawlessly from Chicago to Seattle, dipping down through Colorado rather than passing up near the Canadian border.”

This…this is why I loved Katherine Reay’s Book, A Portrait of Emily Price. These characters are friends to me, now. Emily simultaneously broke my heart and warmed it with her instinct to fix everything, whether it be a pan with a loose handle or a teenager whose home Emily was restoring from a fire, whether it was her sister or her mother-in-law. I don’t do spoilers, but this instinct to fix things comes from Emily’s childhood, and it is the very thing that brings her family to a boil. And solves their problems, in a way, ultimately through faith and family. I loved watching the art come out of Emily the way pizza came out of Ben, pasta out of Donata, and bread from Lucio.

And that’s the thing. Often in a Hallmark movie, a character has a job…something artsy or community-service oriented in some way. But the writers/actors fail to make that a real part of who the character is in their core. It’s kind of a token designation that a character is a florist or a poverty lawyer or whatever.

Reay has no such failure! The artsy, fix-it side of Emily, the food-and-family side of Ben made them who they are, and it made the story what it is. I want to be frowned at by Donata, given a book by Lucio, and fed by Ben. I want to help Emily fix something and watch Joseph paint. These are people I feel like I know. This is a family whose Sunday Dinners I want to join.

I was surprised not to find myself in Atlanta or Italy when I had to look up from the book…Oh, the field of sunflowers! I wanted to go sit there until they turned my direction. I want to go truffle hunting with their dog.

But the story of Emily and this family stopped my heart in places, as it frequently stopped Emily’s heart, left her not knowing what to do, panicked. As warm as these people are, as close as they are…the secrets buried in this family are heart-breaking. And heart-warming.

It’s that kind of book.

So what did I not like about A Portrait of Emily Price? The end. I literally flipped the page on my Kindle, desperate to read more, not conscious I had reached the end. But it was over. Reay does not tell us what happens with Joseph (oops, almost committed a spoiler there). She leaves us hanging, having to think it through for ourselves. Heart-warming. And heart-breaking.

Yep. It’s that kind of book.

Blessings,

Voni

SOFT PLAQUE VS. TARTAR

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Found on Wikimedia under Creative Commons license. Photographer, D. Sharon Pruitt Owner of Pink Sherbet Photography Official Website, www.pinksherbet.com Contact Email, pink@pinksherbet.com

File this in the category “They didn’t know they were teaching me something spiritual.”

My dental hygienist today explained to me that if you do not brush and floss, within 24 hours soft plaque will harden…

Into TARTAR.

Ew. No one wants tartar. It’s just gross. And it only takes 24 hours to happen.

24 HOURS!!!!!

In fact, it’s worse than she said. According to this website, it only takes 12 hours for soft plaque to develop…Guess that’s why they say to brush and floss twice a day.

It made me think about sin as I sat under the hot lights with torture devices, I mean, dental tools assailing my mouth.

Does God give us the law, then sit “upstairs” gleefully waiting to zap us with lightning bolts at the slightest infraction? Of course not. Any more than the hygienist wants to deliver a soft—or hard—lecture on flossing. Not that I would know. Ahem.

The law is there, like toothbrushes and dental floss and those dental torture devices, to keep our sin from hardening. Hygienists know what ultimately happens when plaque hardens; they don’t want that for us. God knows what happens when sin hardens our heart; He doesn’t want that for us.

Because hardening is what sin does. I think of when Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and it took plagues (spelled surprisingly close to plaque, just saying) for the Israelites to be released (Starting in Exodus 9). On the other hand, I think of Cyrus of Persia, who listened when God stirred his heart, and God’s people were released from exile and returned to rebuild the temple…with funds from Cyrus (Ezra 6).

I think of David, who committed adultery and murder in a kind of sin two-for-one. Yet, when confronted, he repented so deeply we have Psalm 51 to show us the softness of his heart for God. On the other hand, I think of Jonah, who refused to listen when sent to Ninevah and ended up in the belly of a whale, followed by a trip to Ninevah where he preached to the Ninevites with a pretty hard heart. (They repented, anyway–the story is told in the eponymous Old Testament book.)

Yes, with Jesus, our sins are forgiven. (But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgiveus our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9)

Yes, guilt comes from Satan, who is called The Accuser, while conviction, or conscience if you prefer, comes from the Holy Spirit.(And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. John 16:8–Jesus speaking about the Holy Spirit.)  It’s important to note from the Greek-Hebrew Study Bible that in the Hebrew “convict”–clenchos–means to expose, to rebuke, to show fault, rather than “find guilty” as in the sense of a modern-day court or a judgemental lightning bolt.

Yes, God, through the Holy Spirit, still uses the law to show us where we are going wrong so we can come to him in repentance before the soft plaque of sin turns to hardened tartar in our hearts.

Blessings,

Voni

Trail Leader or Command Leader?

Rich and I went on a short anniversary trip to Fairbanks this month, enjoying the beauty of the nearby Chena Hot Springs as well. While we were there, we signed up for a tour of Chena Dog Kennel, home to both retired and up-and-coming sled dogs as well as ones who love the trail, but just aren’t fast enough for the elite dog mushers.

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We didn’t tour the kennels too much. We were too busy enjoying the pup he brought indoors for us to play with and peppering him with a million questions. We loved it.

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(Rich is on the left, our tour guide on the right)

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It wasn’t even a spiritual conversation. Our tour guide didn’t mean to cut my soul to the quick during our “tour.” But he did.

He shared how there are two types of lead dogs: Command Leaders and Trail Leaders.

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Trail Leader dogs know the trail so well they could lead the dog team without the musher. They don’t get lost. They don’t run off. They are trustworthy. They know their job and do it with alacrity and joy.

Command Leader dogs have that same alacrity and joy, but they may or may not know the trail, or they may be entirely off-trail. It doesn’t matter. They listen for their musher’s voice and respond. They can be trusted wherever the musher takes them.

It makes me think of parenting. What parent wants their kid to be one who is just along for the run, pulling their weight? Who even wants their child to be a leader, but one who simply runs the trail correctly? A wise parent wants their child to be Command Leader, attuned to the values and morals they were taught, so that no matter what the trail of life brings them, they can respond with alacrity and joy.

Since when has the trail of life ever been simple and unchanging, anyway?

And what about my spiritual life? Am I a Trail Leader or a Command Leader?

Do I check off all the Christian boxes? Church attendance, check. Read Bible daily, check. Pray before a meal, check. Run the trail as usual, check.

Or do I feel safe when God leads me off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown, because I am attuned to His voice?

John 10:27 “My (dogs) listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” — Jesus refers to us as sheep, not dogs, but the point is the same, lol.

Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. —uh, Who else would we trust but our Creator?

May God lead you off the trail into glorious, beautiful, mysterious parts unknown as you listen to His voice!

Blessings,

Voni

PS. As an aside, life is like dog mushing…a leader is not the one in charge. The Musher is, as in Jesus Christ. Life is also NOT like dog mushing…a leader is not necessarily the one out front. There are many ways to be a leader and impact the world for good other than being out front.

PSS. After our “tour,” which lasted longer than expected as we asked question after question, we were invited to watch them prepare the dogs to take some tourists on a run. To keep the dogs healthy and engaged, they do this on wheeled carts year-round, even without snow. Rich was petting one of the dogs when she was not “chosen”—don’t feel sorry for her; her turn eventually came. The poor, silly thing literally climbed up Rich and began whining. These dogs LOVE to run.

 

 

When God Surprises

The other day, I was out watching the Coast Guard Youth Group playing soccer in the chilly Alaska fall. I looked around as the sunset covered everything with an aura of beauty.

House…House…Mountain!…House…House…

Surprise! It took my breath away. “I will lift my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121.


I remember one day about seven years ago when Rich answered the phone…

Surprise! We’re moving to Alaska! To an island in Alaska!


The other day, we drove past Barometer Mountain…termination dust! Yep, a beautiful, light white dusting of snow on the tip top of the mountain. Surprise!

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1


At a writer’s retreat recently, I came barreling out of my cabin and…

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Surprise!

Look how close she let me get.  She just looked at me and returned to eating. Winter cometh! “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42


Then, on a different day, I walked out on the deck of my cabin, and…

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Surprise!

“For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? Psalm 89


The other day, I was driving home from dropping Rich at work, the same old way (not too many roads in our small island town). Then the road curved…

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Surprise!

(Thanks so much Patricia for actually taking time to stop and snap this picture of it.) I keep thinking, If I’m God, I’m like *Boom! I created blue!* But not our Creator! So many shades of blue! –Psalm 89, again–


I know…

Sometimes the surprises aren’t good.

That’s when you remember what God said about his creation: “It is good.” God did not create evil; we did that. We chose that, as human beings, as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We choose that, as individuals.

God did not create dark.

He created light.

Time after time after time after time in my life, I’ve seen God use those dark moments. I’ve seen His light during those times.

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Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  Amen!

How has God surprised you lately?

Blessings,

Voni

Miss Pat’s Cookies

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” –Ephesians 6:7

Weeks ago, perhaps a year or more, I was in the airport. Kodiak’s airport is very small. Living-room-sized, if we’re talking about a large living room.

In most airports, there is an air of quiet, of staying to yourself, of minding your own business. Don’t want anyone to think you’re a terrorist. They take those things seriously these days.

But our living-room airport is a happy muddle of comings and goings, hellos and good-byes, chatting and waiting. (And TSA agents as well, don’t get me wrong.)

I was waiting. I don’t remember if I was waiting for a coming or a going, but I saw a group of gentlemen waiting to leave. I knew they were leaving, because they had what seemed like fishing equipment, and they were dressed for Alaskan fishing. Either an expedition or a commercial fishing venture awaited them.

Some talked amongst themselves or to friends that unexpectedly happened to be in the joyous muddle that day; others in their group powered up laptops or read a book.

Then one man from the group, with a plastic bag in his hand, walked up to one of his cohorts. “Want a cookie?”

The cohort looked up from his laptop. “No, thanks! I’m absolutely stuffed. I’m not hungry at all.” (Or words to that effect.)

The first man replied. “These are Miss Pat’s cookies.”

The second immediately set aside his laptop. I could swear he looked embarrassed. He immediately took a cookie and called to another member of the group. “Hey, he’s got Miss Pat’s cookies over here.”

To a person, they each stopped their conversations in mid-sentence or stuck bookmarks in their books and strode over for one of Miss Pat’s cookies.

Serious business, these cookies!

These Alaskan fishermen would not have stopped what they were doing to eat an Oreo. It was not about the cookies.

No, it was about Miss Pat and her obvious love for these folks.

It all made me smile. I filed it away in my writer’s brain, and even made notes, which I since lost. I could be wrong in the details, and if so, forgive me, but I don’t think so, given what happened next, last week. [Yes, my granddaughter’s funeral was just last week. Seems forever ago to my heart. Time tends to expand and compress at will in these situations.]

We were at a reception following the funeral. I walked over to the buffet, and my sweet friend began giving me a mini-tour of the table.

“We have some ham over here, and some fruit and vegetables over there,” she explained as I filled my plate. “These—” she pointed to some generous, plump cookies, “—are Miss Pat’s cookies.” She went on to describe how hard Miss Pat worked to get the recipe just so, and what some of the ingredients were. I don’t remember.

Because the way she said “Miss Pat’s cookies” forced me to set down my plate. It was exactly what I’d heard that day in the airport, with the same note of respect, fondness and love all mixed together in her voice as the man in the airport.

It rang true in my spirit. It had to be the same person, despite my loss of details. How many Miss Pat’s in our small town could there be who made cookies to be talked about? (And they were yummy, believe me.)

The very love that came through in her cookies was there, in my friend’s house, adding to the web of love this island drew around Leah and Caleb—around us and Caleb’s family, too—during our time of mourning that is closing off a painful year or two in our family.

I got to meet Miss Pat! I got to tell her the airport story, to hug her and be hugged by her, to talk with her. If you knew her, you would wish you had been in my shoes, to feel the warmth of her love and the depth of her faith in Christ.

As she said to me, “The Lord is the one who bakes these cookies, you know.”

It truly was not about the cookies.

Blessings, Voni

Word Nerd: Pregnant

Yes, I know this post is not timed right for my usual Word Nerd Wednesday posts. It actually should’ve been last Wednesday’s post. I’ve been thinking and praying about whether to post it.

It’s cutting a little close to the bone. It’s been a long while since I felt like I could consider myself either a Christian or a writer, much less a Christian writer. Now my writing is once again starting to flow. And, finally, my faith has allowed the truth–that Christianity is neither a protective bubble nor a panacea, but a simple and profound  relationship with Jesus–to sink its roots deep into my soul. The emotions have settled in my heart, and in my family. So here it is:

Today, the Word Nerd is focusing on the word pregnant. It is simple and straightforward, pre- means “before” and gnasci means “to be born.”  Before being born.

The Online Etymology Dictionary notes that it was a taboo word before 1500. (The list of euphemisms is long and silly-sounding to our 21st century ears; check out the OED entry for “pregnant.”)

I’m guessing the taboo was because of how you get pregnant, not because of the child itself, because every child is a blessing.

Every child.

It’s a bit of a hot topic around here, because we are dealing with teen pregnancy in the Harris household. We wrote this Christian homeschooling script for our daughter’s life, but the world intruded—I will not share here, for our daughter is precious, and the details of how she came to go down this road are private.

It’s enough to say my breathtaking daughter’s repentance is real and heart-felt, and she never descended down the path of drinking and drugs. As she said, “I realize I was actually making a choice.” A hard-won, but well-learned lesson. Her Christian faith is real, and in fact never wavered through all life threw at her. She is stronger, as is our family. The Christian family as a whole has come around us with support and love.

It is a blessing to see her energy, her bright and active mind, her sweet and passionate spirit back in evidence. She is a blessing to us!

I guess that, in the end, is why I’m posting this. We covet prayers from those who know us. But mostly, it’s time for joy, even celebration.

For this child, too, will be a blessing, come November 7 when she is due.

Blessings,

Voni