Every life has a story, & every story has a deeper story. Each day the pages of our story unfold & reveal little by little the mysteries of how our stories will play out. What we can not see are the workings of a GOD who dearly loves us working behind the scenes. These workings are like the back of a tapestry. Threads in apparent disarray. Hopeless situations in need of divine intervention. What I have learned from life is that there is always a bigger picture; a more meaningful conclusion to the surface situation; and GOD is always there in the mix whether we can see HIM or not. In the good times and in the bad and in the in-between HE holds our lives in HIS hands. & here is how I reached this conclusion:
Shanty stood on the front porch. Lost in her grief and inner turmoil. Clouds were painting the skies with white taffeta. She took no notice. The breeze danced softly sending autumn leaves flirting with the day. A leaf settled on her foot. She swept it away with an exaggerated kick. She had no time for playfulness. Mindful Only of the desire to release the scream that rose to her throat.
What had become of her innocence?
How had her world transformed from a world of dancing with butterflies to a world of chaotic despair?
Had it happened in a moment? Or… Had it crept up upon her so slowly, so covertly that she wasn’t even aware of it until it pounced . .. Upon her like a panther in the dark?
Alas, it had been so.
One moment she was a naïve girl falling into the embrace of a naïve boy, feeling the world spinning so headily. Believing that poor choices can be safe in the arms of human love.
The next moment she was a consequence older, under the impact of their choices.
Realizing that there was a price to pay for their errors… that there was an an accounting to this world’s judgments, even if God was swift to forgive.
It was years later when she stood upon this porch. The mistakes of her past had festered into a wounding of her very soul. These consequences were beyond her comprehension. They were beyond her problem-solving skills. She had nowhere to turn. There was only the scream.
Her innermost being cried out to the God of the universe. “How did I get here? Where do I go from here?”
Her three children were oblivious. They played together in the yard. Reveling in the beauty of the breeze and the earth beneath their feet; imagining stories of great adventure as children will do when they are young and free.
She ran out to the stream. To the oak that grew at the end of the field. Close enough to guard the safety of her children. Alone enough to give voice to the scream. There really were no words to speak. Simply embedded in this scream were the guttural sounds of a heart that had been broken, of a dream that had been shattered, of a life that had been changed.
It rose up up from the depths of her soul and expressed itself as an unrecognizable grief.
Her children did not hear it. But her GOD took notice.
And she wept at the base of that oak, unaware of the truth that she was not alone.
GOD looked down upon Chantilly Lace.
HE saw her sitting at the base of the tree. He heard the sounds of the cry of her heart. He felt the beauty of her essence. The notes of her brokenness were transformed into a symphony of love. HE gathered her tears into a bottle and HE saved them as HIS treasure. She had no understanding of their worth. She had no awareness of HIS presence.
Shanty returned to the porch. She felt so alone. There was no one to confide in. No helper in sight .
Only the company of her shame.
The love of her life had betrayed her, had in a moment of weakness forsaken her for another and this wound was so deep that it cut her to the very heart of her soul.
She cried out to her God.
“How can I survive this? “
How can I redeem this assault upon my shame?
Is it possible to love him who I love without forsaking my very own life?
GOD met Chantilly Lace there. At the place of her deep questions. At that place of honest choice. And He ANSWERED HER. “No. You cannot love whom you love without forsaking your own life” but you can forsake your own life and love whom you love”
Then . . . HE spoke clearly:
“& I will stand beside you. I will bear all of your shame. I will be your naked embarrassment. I will endure your lack of trust.
I will love you to the healing. I will restore to you that which was broken. I will revive that which has been lost.
Shanty rose up from the bench. She had been seated with her pondering. She had been struck down by her lack of hope. Weighted down by her terrific sadness.
Her children were oblivious. They continued to play in the grass. They continued to giggle in the sunshine. To dance in their joy.
They had no understanding of her tears. No knowledge of her sadness.
She raised her arms to heavens; to that great and glorious expectation. To the kingdom of her God. And she cried out . . . To her God. . .
“Are YOU truly there? Do YOU care for ME? What can YOU bring to me; – in this time of my great need?”
GOD came down upon her as an offering; as a gift of treasure from above.
HE pronounced an impression upon her soul that words cannot express.
HE spoke. . . And she knew . . . in the deepest parts of her soul. . . this TRUTH:
“My name is Chantilly Lace.
I AM YOUR work of art. I AM your Poema. Your tapestry of love.
YOU SEE ME . . . As Your intricate workmanship
I am the notes in YOUR song. The pulsing in YOUR joy!
YOU . . HAVE NOT forsaken me. You understand my pain.
I am beautiful!! I am loved! I can endure. There is nothing that can separate me from Your love.
YOU who created me in my mother’s womb as a unique and priceless treasure; – Are my confidence that . . .
There is no shame that can undo me. There is no sadness that I cannot bear.
I can love as I am loved. I can lose my life for the sake of another.
YOU WILL MAKE BEAUTY FROM-ASHES! YOU will be my strength!”
Tobias returned from his desperation, from that part of him that knew that there was no undoing of the destruction that he had wrought. His soul cried out to the GOD that he did not know. “
In his suffering he pleaded,- “Can you redeem the destruction of my soul?
Can you rescue me from the error of my ways? From the choices that I have made?
Can YOU bring me new life? Can you restore that which I have lost?
There were no spoken words uttered, but the LORD of the universe heard his deep despair.
God met him at this place. In the beating of Chantilly’s heart.
In her desire to forgive. In her belief of transformation
GOD met him at this place in the humility of his regret. In his hope of the impossible.
In his willingness to change. In his desire for so much more.
CHANTILLY, TOBIAS & GOD
Tobias fell to his knees. Chantilly waited in the eves.
Their children played hide and seek unaware of the glorious Light.
No one knew of this redemption, oblivious to the pain
They simply saw the transformation
And believed it was . . . Always so.
And so it is with the works of God.
How we revel in the glory
How we smile at the JOY
How we bask in the SON shine
How we sing in the new life
Thank you GOD for redemption.
Thank you GOD that YOU ARE LOVE
Shanty stood behind the lace curtains and gazed out upon the glory. Flowers so beautiful that they became an impression upon her soul.
Blue with vivid purple entwined upon the wood. Oooh! the discrepancy. What were they doing there?
Growing with abandon upon an outhouse?
Gorgeous morning glories! So tenacious in the morning, displaying glory among the putrid.
She wondered as one who delights in finding God’s grace in everything:
What was the significance of this morning’s perplexity? What was the message in its lack of congruency??
She turned her thoughts inward; seeking meaning through introspection and wondered. Who are you Shanty?
Who are you? Are you the wood and splinters of the outhouse? or . . . are you the morning glories upon the frame?
Her very name, spoke of sooooo much hope . Chantilly Lace.
A name of beauty, adopted from a melodic song by a mother stuck in the mundane but desiring so much more.
An intricate woven creation like the curtains that she hid behind.
But names become nicknames, and nicknames can become imprints upon a child’s soul.
Even innocent taunting can cast shadows upon a small person’ s understanding of worth
& an inner child is not always friendly. Sometimes she is full of misguided mischief and silly perspectives,
until childish games become identities and misunderstandings become signposts.
Skewed signposts that can cause a soul to forget, WHO she was created to be?
And so. .. it was that Shanty wondered, . . . Who am I?
Am I the the morning-glories? or . . . am I the outhouse?
She stood there alone in that moment, feeling so broken. So full of splinters; – She was a child of errors. Perhaps she was the shack;.
yet something within her rose up,- as a desire to be the glorious vine even as she was unaware of these very desires.
God smiled upon the outhouse. Upon the splendid vines that grew upon it.
To HIM, both were of immeasurable worth,- The outhouse so decrepit. The morning glory so splendid in the morning sun.
GOD knew the faded wood of the outhouse intimately. HE embraced the splinters with a passion.
With equal delight HE breathed in the beauty of the curling tendrils of the vine. Beckoning to the promise of the buds. Waiting in anticipation for that lovely moment when they blossomed into majestic flowers, opening to HIS light.
GOD recognized the beauty in the faded wood as sacred, as the necessary stretching of a soul.
In mercy, HE consecrated the painful splinters of disrepair as occasion for vital growth.
GOD painted the morning sky as the backdrop for the wonder of the glorious vine. He summoned the warmth of the sun to shine upon the face of buds in need of light to blossom.
GOD felt the inner need of Chantilly. HE knew her pain . HE understood her questions. – Her need to know who she truly was. He embraced her confusion, & her desire to uncover the truth of her own worth. HE perceived her deepest longing expressed in, “Am I the morning glory? or . . . Am I the outhouse?”
GOD answered Shanty.-
“Chantilly Lace. Beautiful child of mine.” “You are not the vine. Nor are you the outhouse.
You – Chantilly Lace, are the beautiful observer. The child in the garden. The delighted witness of glory. The ponderer of grief.
You – Shanty, are the innocent one, bewildered by adversity while struck in wonder by the beauty of grace. A ‘believer in more’ who rightly views the tenacious vine as a message of hope.- In wisdom, you cling to what it has to offer. & yet it is also in wisdom that you question MY allowance of the shack.
GOD & SHANTY
Shanty stood before GOD in her brokenness, in her disrepair and in her vulnerability.
And all that HE saw was her lace. So exquisitely transforming into a tapestry interwoven with the broken pieces of her life. Like the driftwood beholding such beauty. Like the sea glass that dazzled the surprise of its finder. She was a brilliant work of art as HE had designed her to be.
& GOD spoke the words that needed to be spoken:
“Well done my beautiful Shanty. Well done Chantilly Lace!”
Chantilly stood on the patio, observing the wonder; absorbing –this small piece of utopia that she had created. Beautiful flowers in whimsical pots. Rainbow umbrellas boasting bright-colored glass balls,. The magic of beauty glistened bright in the sun.
Life was perfect. Wasn’t life perfect? Her children were grown. They were happily married with magnificent children of their own. Sunny wonderful children dancing in the light.
Tobias was still, after all of these years, the “Love of her Life” . He was warmhearted & tender; a man replete with love & laughter. Both scarcity & abundance had served to strengthen their love. Their memories were engraved as a jewel upon their souls. Memories that faithfully bore witness to the goodness of GOD. Life had settled so sweetly into blessings upon blessings.
Chantilly had stayed home from work that day, a day to regroup. Sometimes a person needs to restore a little order. . in life. To pull together all of the small elements that can not resist falling apart. Those tiny pieces that seem to unravel even as they are knit together. Entropy. AHHHHHHH!- the plight of the ‘lover of order’. & for that brief window in time, as she cleaned & organized, & piddled about she thought to herself, for one blissful moment that she had conquered the unraveling.
Yet, how often it happens, that the unexpected comes in a moment. A moment when a person feels so safe. A moment when a person is thinking how life is so good & that control over this life is within their grasp. And this was that moment, when Chantilly said to herself, “GOD, I love my life!”
It’s funny how God can speak to you. In a rare moment. Inaudible and yet so clear; & Chantilly heard HIM on that patio that sunny day in that perfect moment of peace. She was basking in the warmth of the sunshine and in all of her life’s blessings; blessings beyond what she deserved when HE spoke into her heart.
“Chantilly. You know” . This can all be gone. Just like that.” & then, the hard question, “How will you handle it?” How will you represent ME?”
It is so easy to be brave; to feign bravado when there is nothing really at stake. When ideals are set before you without the reality of them attached. Chantilly was in such a moment.
“Oh LORD! she thought to herself. “I will represent you well! ” She declared this with aplomb , “I WILL WALK WITH JOY! even if, or when my ‘perfect’ life falls apart”.
Then she cast this idea far off into the distance where she expected it to land.
DISTANCE TOO SOON:
Gathered together in weakness & in strength simultaneously; learning that these elements can unexpectantly co-exist; Chantilly, her three children & their spouses huddled together in the hospital room, surrounding their beloved Husband, Father, & Papah as he lay silent in the bed. Appearing so peaceful, yet precariously balancing on the fence between the here and this life beyond. A man who understood what life was about. Family. Loving others. The simple ideas of kindness & love being the ultimate gifts.
Strangely, He was still so handsome; in a medically induced coma, as if he had not a care in the world. And maybe for him, that was so. They on the hand, were in their own tumultuous world of hoping, waiting, fearfully together, in the sad possibility of desires unfulfilled, knowing that even with a Sovereign God, we don’t always get what we want. Do we? NO. We don’t. Not even if we plead to this GOD that we trust; this God who is above all. We don’t always get what we want . . . We are human . . . We are frail . . . & we live in a broken world, where joy and sorrow are inextricably entwined.
Chantilly knew her GOD. She knew how many times that HE had interceded in her own life’s tribulations & deep wounds; and brought unexpected healing. But, she also knew HIM well enough to know that sometimes the ‘ultimate healing’ (though tragic on this side of eternity) is what HE delivers. So she stood on the precipice, & in the frightening canyon between hope and grief. And she waited. And her children waited with her. For seven days they waited, between the hopes for a miracle & the reality of deep sorrow.
And then they knew. They knew that their prayers were not going to be answered. Not in the way that they had hoped.
The time was at hand. There was to be no rescue. They had to release him. To release this man who meant so much to them. Loving Husband. Amazing Father. Wonderful Papah. Chantilly’s son placed his hand upon his father’s hand and promised to care for his mother. Chantilly saw a picture in her mind’s eye, a symbolic imagining of her children raising their arms together like an umbrella of protection over her, a promise of love to walk beside her so she would not be left alone.
And Tobias entered into ‘ECSTACY”, into the joy of the LORD, and left them in their sorrow..
Chantilly spoke into this moment and she made a promise to him, “Good-bye my Love. You mean everything to me. You will not be forgotten. Your love will live on; beating in the very heart of us. Your quiet strength will empower us. Your amazing wit will remind us to laugh. We will continue to welcome your memory, We will embrace everything that you mean to us. And I will greet you every morning as I look upon your portrait. I will talk to you every day. I will celebrate you every holiday. Your grandchildren will know who you are! Our family circle will remain intact.”
And as time went on, Chantilly kept her promise. First her promise to God to live joyfully, & to represent HIM well. for HE had taught her over the years- that life in this world is an odd mixture of joy and the mundane and sorrow like a Neapolitan experience. An experience that is well worth the adventure. She kept her promise to Tobias as well, to live as he had lived. And she remembered what she had learned so long ago, that strange unforgettable morning, when she had happened upon the unexpected; – life giving Morning-Glories growing on an outhouse.
There will always be Outhouses in life when you least expect them because this world is broken. & they are a necessary part of this life & of growth. But there will also, always be Morning-Glories if you will just look for them. Look for them in the most unexpected places, climbing on the fences, strewn upon the pathways. They are tenacious . Just as hope is ‘written into eternity’. They can direct you towards a path of life giving joy. “Remember Chantilly”. she repeated to herself that day and every day since. “Remember!” Even when the only thing that you can see is the outhouse. Remember that seeds of hope can pop up in the most unexpected places . . .
Like Morning-Glories on an outhouse. New every day!