The Playground and the Meadow

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The playground has a castle and a drawbridge and three slides and a climbing wall. There are tire swings and baby swings and regular swings and even big red chair swings the adults can sneak onto if there aren’t a lot of kids around.

When we’re at the playground, my kids are wild and rambunctious and run around yelling and playing and leave every ounce of energy there. The surrounding fence keeps them IN and they swing and slide and climb and run and there’s just so much to DO there.

The Meadow is a wide-open space with exposed granite and a gentle stream. It was made to be a ‘backyard’ for our mountainous neighborhood full of wild hills and forests of trees. There’s one pond and one picnic table and six Adirondack chairs. The stream has tadpoles and the pond has rocks at the bottom from two summers ago when my littlest toddled over, crudely tossing in every pebble he could find.

An army of trees circle the Meadow – more a protective shield than a boundary line – and cast long, lean shadows over the stream and the pond and the exposed granite. In the late afternoon, the sun peeks through with a wide smile like it’s trying not to get caught in a game of hide and seek.

In the Meadow, my kids imagine they are Susan and Edmund exploring Narnia, defeating the White Witch valiantly. They chase butterflies and bring me dandelion bouquets and pretend the big oak is their secret hide out. He chases after her, desperate to be big like she is, and she holds his hand as they cross the slippery rocks so he doesn’t fall and scrape his knee yet again.

In the Meadow, there isn’t as much to DO – there are no swings, or slides, or castles – but there’s so much to BE. In the Meadow, they are free to Be imaginative, Be together, Be relational, Be intentional.

They have fun DO-ing together at the playground, but love BE-ing together at The Meadow.

“He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.” Psalm 23:2-3

I get caught up in the doing of the playground, too. My playground is ministry and work and friends and family and home. It’s joyous and blessed and holy and necessary. It can become a playground of To-Do’s though, if I’m not careful.

Read the rest over at Compassion That Compels today!

Beauty in the Brokenness (A Beautiful Life: Week 3)

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WEEK 1 – INTRODUCTION

WEEK 2 – DANCING AMID DISASTER

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Say hello to my friend Allison. (Hi, Allison!) I asked her to send me whatever pic she wanted to accompany her introduction, but truth be told, I squealed with delight when she sent this one because it’s my most favorite ever. This picture — this is the picture where there’s hope behind her eyes and a little bit more ease in her smile and if you look closely, it’s almost as if there is a sweet relief of a recent exhale in her expression. I don’t know if taking the picture resembled anything like what I see — but it’s a message, I believe, from God right to her. 
 
Allison & I attended the same church in Atlanta, and while we knew each other, we weren’t close. Then I moved to the mountains and suddenly that changed. I don’t remember how it happened — I just know that it did (thank you Jesus) — and now it feels like I’ve known her forever because I can’t remember what it was like before I called her friend.
 
Allison loves her family and her Jesus and can’t do life without them. She identifies with the weary warriors in life and writes to give others comfort and hope that they are not alone. Her husband suffered a traumatic brain injury over 8 years ago, and she’s chronicled her families’ journey ever since over at www.dannyandallison.com. And she over-shares (her words, not mine) more personally at www.allisonmdiaz.com for her fellow comrades in the battles through life

It is never beautiful to find yourself unexpectedly standing at the end of a hospital bed. Your husband of almost four years lies there comatose and brain injured while his son is kept safely tucked under rib number 3 in your belly.

Yet, this was the beginning of a path, a journey that started with 80 feet and now holds more than eight years of endurance.

Ours is certainly not a path worth choosing, though I imagine the same can be said for many who find themselves living life on the parallel.

Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on Him completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions.Give Him the credit for everything you accomplish, and He will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Voice)

But, Friends, there is everlasting value in the suffering. There is comfort during the grief and there is a stretching of faith in the grasping of hope.

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He wakes me every night for help.

He leans on me to stand strong.

He calls me to be his hands, his mind, and his memory.

He relies on me to guide him.

He hopes in me for strength.

And, it is often too much for one person to bear.

The pulling, the leaning, the calling, being everything to even but one, is an understatement of challenge.

And, I think of Him, of Jesus, who came to be pulled, to serve, to love, to save, to die, to be everything for all and I am greatly humbled.

As I kneel at my husband’s feet each night to remove his shoes, my Savior postured himself a servant to the ones he loved.

Am I not called to do the same?

Am I not called to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Am I not to love as He loves me?

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21)

Oh, but, a bounty of joy can escape your view because of the clouds of loss.

I am not Jesus.

I am flawed and imperfect every moment of my wrestling. Yet, in my full blown weakness, I know that His strength is then revealed.

Sometimes the most terrifying test can bring about the most beautiful masterpiece. (click to tweet that)

Oh, Friends, life can be hard. Life can feel like a box of only black Crayolas, but He is oh so present in the darkest of places. He comes like whisper on the breath of your faith and he draws into you, covering and protecting you under his wing. He is the One whose joy, whose assurance of life abundantly comes storming mightily in to your brokenness.

You may find yourself on a path that is bleak and seemingly hopeless. You may find yourself in a wilderness of monotony, but I promise you, He promises you, that He will uphold you in his right hand. He promises to carry you through it. He promises to love, to cherish, and to keep you.

The God of Universe is the God of your circumstances. The same Father that sacrificed his Son for you, will sacrifice your planned path for His glory, to share in His suffering to make His name known to the masses.

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And, as I care for my husband, serving him and meeting his needs, I wonder are we not also called to serve those, to love those who know not of Him? Oh, Friends, understand that the greatest beauty is found in Jesus, the Way and in Jesus, the Life.

Bend then to the Truth and hold fast to the knowledge that one day this possibly tragic path of life will lead to the face of God.

And, it’s there at His feet, we can stand knowing that in all things we kept the faith, we finished the race and have found beauty everlasting.

I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept believing. (2 Timothy 4:7)

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Additional Resources: Looking for some tools to help? Check these out!

1. Glorifying God Through the Obstacles in Marriage. This is a 2-part broadcast from Focus on the Family with Mike and Renee Bondi, and how they found beauty in the midst of physical tragedy, celebrating 25 years of marriage.

2. BrainLine.org. Wonderful website dedicating to preventing, treating and living with traumatic brain injury.

Watercolor hearts photo ©iStock.com/beastfromeast (modified by Elevate Ideas)