No Blessings are Small

14 Comments

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23

“When I was little, I thought it was cool to live next door to an abandoned house,” my son smiled across the dining room table.

Every Sunday my husband and I have the family over for dinner after church.  I particularly enjoy it as we get closer to the holidays.  The house is decorated with red poinsettias in large vases and the wooden banisters are lined with pine garland, pinecones, and red berries. Laughter and holiday music travel from floor to floor, wood hisses in the brick fireplace, and balsam-scented candles burn in every bathroom. Outside is quiet, and the red metal sleigh and six reindeer light up our front lawn like noon. There are no sidewalks, the streets are wide, and our neighbors are not close enough to hear our private conversations. Things are so different than they were decades before.

P1080860

Early in our marriage we did not have as much as we have now, but we loved each other deeply, trusted God completely, and took care of our “small” blessings. And even though there was a row of abandoned houses to the right of us, we took care of our brownstone like it was a palace.

My son didn’t mind living next door to an abandoned house because he imagined he was Batman, hiding out in Wayne Manor. Besides, my husband and I often glorified our town, saying some of the greatest people in the world lived there, he and his sister, and we made life as enjoyable as we could for them in the place my son often called “Gotham City.”

215832_1689371359509_6273463_n

When a developer came in and finally restored the abandoned properties, my son thought it was an adventure when displaced rodents escaped to our house for shelter. It was a very interesting time in our lives, but I definitely would not describe it as “cool.”

Earlier on, I set the scene for how we live now because it is relevant for you to know how different it was in the early years of our family. There is a glaring contrast that is important to note, especially if your present situation at all resembles the scene I am about to describe.  If it does,  reread the beginning of this devotion and ask yourself if it is possible for your current situation to lead you to a better place.

1457658_10201309902214945_2133737341_n (1)

Our first home in “Gotham”

My husband and I were in our twenties. We owned our inner-city home and took great pride in it, but since it was over one hundred years old and next door to a row of abandoned houses, there were sometimes problems.

One night, I woke up because my husband had gotten up to go to the bathroom.  Our bedroom door was cracked, so there was enough light from the hallway to create shadows on the walls.  While in bed,  I saw something circling around the ceiling. In my delirium, I thought it was the shadow of a rat that was running around on the floor.

After my eyes focused, I realized something flying.   Of course, I thought it was a bird because I really wanted it to be a bird.  I gasped and pulled the covers up around my mouth and nose before I screamed, “Honey, there is something flying in our room!”

My husband ran from the bathroom and turned on the bedroom light.  It was a bat!  I had never said so many expletives in one sentence in my life!  I screamed, twisting and turning under the covers.  I figured the bat would have a more difficult time attacking a moving target. Every now and then I peeked out of the covers. It was no longer circling the room smoothly.  Its wings hit the walls, sounding like someone smacking leather gloves together erratically.

My husband was telling me to calm down, but I couldn’t hear him over my own cries. He eventually fetched me from the covers and guided me out the room as I screamed with a blanket over my head.  Once I was on the other side of the door I thought of every horror movie I had seen with bats attacking humans. I asked my husband if he were okay.

“Get me a towel!” He yelled. “Hurry Up!”

I opened the door just enough to squeeze the towel through.  A few seconds later, I heard my husband whipping the towel through the air. I envisioned him in his blue-stripped pajama pants, jumping on the bed and holding the fluffy lasso angrily with one hand. Every now and then, I would hear a crash.  It sounded as if he were in a battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17), someone much bigger than he.  The last crash I heard was the lamp being whipped from the nightstand onto the floor. There was silence.

“Oh God!  Are you okay?  You didn’t let him bite you, did you?” I had visions of black and white movies from my childhood with handsome vampires, wearing black capes.

“I’m fine, Dear.  I got him.”

I opened the bedroom door cautiously just as my husband was opening the towel. He looked into the bat’s face.  His leathery wings were still.  I had a moment of remorse.

223486_1688863346809_3008172_n

You think we would have moved after that ordeal, but we didn’t.  Instead, we lived through similar nightmares.  Not long after we got rid of the bat, there was a sewer rat in our upstairs bathroom.  We caught him sleeping in the wall behind the toilet.  He had eaten the paint and plaster.  Thankfully he couldn’t eat through the steel mesh that trapped him inside the wall like a cage.

Every night for a few days, I heard the rat chew through the wall.  I had no idea what it was at the time.  It sounded like a couple men trying to break in the house.  I only heard the sound at night when my husband went to work.  On the third night, my husband’s night off, the sound seemed to get louder and closer.  We walked in the bathroom, trying to determine where the sound was coming from.  We peered behind the toilet.  Its thick body slept exhaustively with its tan, black, and gray fur rising up and down between the mesh with each breath.  I was both sick and astounded.  Suddenly, it got up and stared at us with its fingers wrapped around the steel wire. I could not speak, and I struggled to digest my dinner.

“That thing is huge!” My husband yelled, noticing it was the size of a fat house cat. “Hurry up and get me the uh- Raid!”

I remember thinking, Raid is for ants, but okay

My husband shook the can of Raid a few times before removing its red plastic lid. He sprayed the creature in its face, thinking it would run back through its tunnel in the wall.  Instead, it clawed at the steal and showed its teeth. We both cussed like two teenagers discovering new words.

Convinced that we could not scare the rat off, we called my father-in-law.  Now, my father-in-law was not an exterminator, but he did have a gun. Unfortunately, we later discovered there were hundreds of rodents, looking for shelter.  To solve the problem, we would have had to shoot them all, so we eventually, called an exterminator.

1489284_10201309899894887_1409786223_n

1994

You have probably surmised that “Gotham” was not a safe place to live, but we were blessed there; God was doing great things for us (Proverbs 20:27). We didn’t have a ton of money, but we were able to save and take our children on trips because our mortgage was only $393 a month. We were not perfect, cussing and fussing under stress, but as contradictory as it may seem, most times we were joyful because God was with us then, just like He is with us now (Hewbrews 13:5). We didn’t feel that our lives were any less valuable because we lived in a depressed area. We knew God examined our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and not our finances.  He is not like people who determine your value based on your material wealth (Luke 16:15). God values you and loves you unconditionally.

No matter where you live or how you live, do not determine your worth based on your bank account.  Instead, ask yourself if you have the capacity to love.  Love is what is most important when you consider the quality of your life, so trust God, and do not fret about your “small” blessings. If you take care of them, bigger ones will follow (Matthew 6:33). However, bigger blessings are not always material.

You may be blessed with immeasurable things like freedom, peace, wisdom, and love.  If that does not excite you and you would much prefer huge houses and fancy cars, remember, those things are temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18). The danger in desiring worldly riches above everything else, is the danger of rejecting  Godly love. If money is your heart’s desire, you may turn people away who can only afford to give you love.  To turn them away would rejecting  love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), the greatest gift of all.

When I met my husband, he had more love in his heart than he had money in the bank. Had I rejected him when he told me I was going to be his wife, I would have missed out on a multitude of immeasurable blessings. Yes, we had to contend with rats, bats, and even more incredulous adversaries, but we had an unceasing love for each other and God, and I am grateful He has blessed our faithfulness.

1457509_10201268035368300_812928019_n

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

 

Advertisements

“We Thinking”

11 Comments

“We Thinking”

By Shawn R. Jones

             That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

1461767_689829997708314_850102685_n

 If you were to peek through my windows tonight, you would find me tapping lightly on the computer keys in a huge chair by the fire with a knitted white blanket across my feet.  My husband would be sitting a few feet away from me, flipping through Hemmings Motor News, occasionally adjusting his bronze-framed glasses.  If you were to listen closely enough, perhaps you would hear the jittery fire sizzle, pop, and crackle within its brick walls, and maybe you would even hear our black pit-bull’s teeth scratch across her large bone. There are no other sounds in the house, and it looks as if things have always gone smoothly for us.  Looking through our windows tonight, you only see the benefits of our investments. There is no hint of struggle.

1271688_10103101880887719_1087698119_o

Oh, but there was struggle of multiple kinds and varying degrees.  We did not always live where we live and how we live, and we did not always think the thoughts we now think (Romans 12:2) and speak the words we now speak. When you look through our windows tonight, you are looking at a couple who gradually learned to depend on God for everything and believe in His goodness regardless of their personal circumstances and the world’s condition. Tonight, for the most part, everything appears as it seems.  Because we trust God, joy fills our hearts and our home (Romans 15:13) even though we still have problems and the world’s condition has not improved. Although it took some time, we now realize we cannot allow our human perspective to weaken our faith. Our circumstances are not always going to be good, and there is nothing characteristically human about maintaining a positive attitude in difficult times, but since God is good all the time, hope, joy, and peace are always attainable (Romans 15:13). Like the Apostle Paul, we “have learned to be content” despite our challenges (Philippians 4:11), but there were moments in our marriage when contentment was not easily accessible.

Our first few years of marriage, my husband and I fought like toddlers throwing temper tantrums, physically destroying items that were within our reach, like plates, chairs, clocks, vases, and wall thermometers.  The only positive things about our arguments were that we only had them a couple times a year, and we never hit each other (mostly because I had a bad aim).  However, our tone and our language made up for six months of peace. Had we been two Hulks, we would have turned from brown to grass green in a matter of seconds.  I cannot imagine how we would have reacted had we had serious issues to fight over because we had full blown arguments over insignificant things, like dust, unwashed dishes, cluttered tables, and dirty laundry.

In actuality, we were just learning how to consider someone else other than ourselves.  It is not easy to transition from “me thinking” to “we thinking,” but decades later, I am grateful that we figured it out. If you were to look through our windows now, you would find it very difficult to believe that we are the same couple who once rattled the walls on Washington Street.  Becoming “we thinkers” took a long time.  It was an on-going process, but we relied on God completely, and there were a couple tough incidents that helped get us there.

P1060116

My husband and I would probably agree that the most difficult situation we have had to deal with in our marriage was our child’s illness.  Over the years, our daughter has had several appointments with pediatric specialists and a couple surgeries at Children’s Hospital.  At first we tried to tackle the situation separately, coping with the stress in unhealthy ways; I ate less and he ate more. However, what saved us both was my husband’s faith. I trusted God less and less with each unanswered prayer, and my husband trusted Him more.

At first, I didn’t understand my husband’s perspective, and I became angry with both him and God.  At the time, I felt that neither of them could have possibly loved my daughter as much as I did.  I figured (Proverbs 3:5-6), if God had loved her as much as I, He would have healed her, and if my husband had loved her as much as I, he would have cursed God for not healing her.  That was exactly how I felt until my husband convinced me that no matter what happened, we were living in God’s perfect will for our lives. He told me we had to be a team and remain a team whether our daughter lived or died. I wanted to hit him for thinking I could ever be part of anyone’s team if such a horrific event had occurred, but I also wanted to hug him because I realized I would never be alone in any situation, unless I chose to be.  I had him, and I had God, and the only one isolating me from my support system was myself.  Upon realizing this, I allowed the situation to make me, my marriage, and my relationship with God stronger. It was the strength of those relationships that got us through.

Prior to my daughter’s birth, there was another event that called for great strength, my father’s horrific death.  My father died when I was two months pregnant with my daughter. The circumstances around his death made me more vulnerable, not vulnerable to my dealings with others, but vulnerable to my own thoughts about death, unfairness, and God.  I was twenty-three when my father died from a drug overdose, and even though I knew he was addicted to heroin, at twenty-three, I still believed in happy endings.

After his death, my husband and I both had to deal with my guilt, depression, and dwindling faith.  I felt guilty because I couldn’t save my dad and depressed because he had lost his battle against his addiction.  In turn, I lost faith in God because I trusted that, after much prayer, God would deliver him. It took some time for me to realize that he was delivered.  When my father died, so did his addiction.

Ironically, there are situations that are much worse than death, like the excruciating pain of withdraw that makes an addict steal from his children, beat his loved ones, and harm whoever comes between him and his next hit.  Indeed, my father was delivered.  In fact, we were all delivered.  His addiction had put unbearable stress on our family, and after he died, God was there to help us deal with the aftershock and devastating residual effects of the tragedy.

Looking through my windows tonight, you do not see the weight of the burdens we have carried.  You only see the strength that is the result of carrying those weights and the relief we now feel after giving each burden to God.  My husband and I are not more or less human than anyone else.  We are no better or worse than any other couple God has put together. However, in order to make your relationship work, you have to pray consistently, together and separately. And most importantly, you have to be deeply committed to God and each other.

Christmas Baby Shower Dance Off 2010 004

Dear Lord, please allow us to be positive role models for other couples.  Through us, I pray they will see the beauty of the institution of marriage and build their lives together with you at the center of their relationships.  Thank you so much for your guidance and unconditional love. Amen.

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

1417533_10103274769961629_370856115_o

Fall 2013

Our Inheritance

2 Comments

Our Inheritance

 

I do not see the need  to

dine with Kings and Queens.

I am a queen

and my husband-

my king,

and we prefer

to dine alone.

Every glass – a goblet

Every chair – a throne,

and everywhere

we sleep – a royal bed,

and every place

we step,

red carpet red.

Shawn R. Jones (2013)

 

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

Faithful

Leave a comment

Faithful

By Shawn R. Jones

 

Yellow shines

between the blinds

lighting her brown skin

beneath her pale orange gown.

Dark hills stand

to greet the morning man

she spent the night warming

till the blue jay cried outside

the windowpane.

During the day, she

respectfully

sundresses her treasures,

saves his pleasures,

and honors

their name.

Writing on the Deck

2 Comments

Writing on the Deck at 55 Mountain Fern Drive

 By Shawn R. Jones

 

The small orange sliding board

has been sitting there

fifteen years.

I still see my daughter

walk up its blue ladder

in her purple coat and

pink, and lavender hat.

She is about four.

 

I look over at the

rusted snowmobile.

My son lifts its gray cover

and reaches his small hand inside.

A swarm of wasps whiz

from under its shiny red hood.

My son yells and joins them in flight.

Black framed glasses fly.

His sister cries for him.

 

I stare at the four-wheeler,

wrapped in worn tarp.

Debris from each season

lines its blue wrinkles.

My son walks up the red stoned driveway,

helmet in hand and head down.

He ran the quad into a tree,

showing off for a couple boys his age.

He is ashamed.

 

My eyes avert to the rock pit.

Yellow and blue flames

move like Hula dancers at dusk

as marshmallows crust over

bent twigs, like singed

pussy willows.

Charred goo sticks to our lips.

Brown faces glow with delight.

Snakes slither

from the pit of warm rocks.

 

But we do not worry.

We are not afraid.

The night is too perfect.

 

I stop writing and

walk back in the house.

It is quiet.

Our children are grown.

My husband and I

come up alone now.

 

We browse antique shops and

examine zithers, Roseville pottery,

vintage watches, and signed photos

of living and deceased stars.

We dine at Piggy’s

and enjoy foods

our grown children tell us

we should not eat.

 

We walk by the lake

and take pictures.

Butterflies are shy and

fireflies pose in midair

as black bears

fumble through trashcans

on the side of a wooded road.

 

In winter, we play cards by the fire

and swap secrets like candy

as snow piles up outside for hours.

 

But we do not worry.

We do not regret.

The night is still perfect.