Different But Beautiful

Ready to enjoy the beauty of Macedonia and some reflections on how change can still be good, even though we feel loss and don’t like “different”? Here is an encouragement for us as we wrestle with all the changes and loss caused by COVID, written by my dear friend, Lisa Walkendorf:

We traveled to Macedonia on a trip to visit friends to help with a summer camp on beautiful Lake Ohrid.

Our family enjoyed the people and the beauty of the country.

Lisa (left) with her husband, Mark, and her daughter, Laura

One day, we spent some free time in the shops of Ohrid and stopped in a handmade jewelry store.

We were attracted by the bright colors in the window.

We learned that Susan Sju made this stunning jewelry from polymer clay.
She had pendants,

an assortment of earrings in vibrant colors . . .

and matching sets, each handmade and unique!

We were enthralled with the beauty of her designs!

As a birthday gift, my husband bought me a pair of earrings. They weren’t overly expensive and served as a lovely and meaningful memory from our trip. I wore them frequently after we returned home until . . . I lost one!

The sentimental value drove me to research on Facebook to find the store owner and, with the help of Google Translate, I asked, “Do you have this same earring? I lost one and would like to buy another pair.” She answered in English, “Similar, not same.” Also I discovered that she does not ship internationally.

So I also reached out to our friends to ask for help since they lived in the country, although in Skopje, not in Ohrid. I explained the situation and sent the picture of the earring. She responded, “Let me see what I can do.”

She gave money to some teenaged girls who were going to that shop, and shared my request. When she came back to the US for furlough, she handed me a box. I opened it to see a new pair of earrings – and at first felt thankful that my face was turned down toward them, because, for that brief moment, I felt very disappointed. Why? The earrings were different . . . and I longed for the same.

Why that response over a seemingly small thing? At that time, I had experienced a major job change which drastically affected my lifestyle, and I felt like everything was changing. The earring represented for me what “was” that was lost.

However, within that quick moment, I was able to look up with sincere gratitude and thank her for all the effort, and repaid the monetary cost. As I reflected later in prayer, God reminded me that the new earrings were really beautiful, just different. And although my life looked a lot different, He could still make it beautiful.

I kept the single earring and put it on a chain to wear as a necklace often with the new earrings to remind me “different . . . but beautiful.” Now, each time I put them on, I am encouraged to trust God anew for grace in my daily journey and to look for beauty while seeking new rhythms as I walk with Him.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom the work that God has done from beginning to end” ( Ecclesiastes 3:11; BSB).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; ESV).

Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25; BSB).


A Masterpiece of Beauty

Brilliant, heart-shaped quilt,
Potpourri of symmetries.
You delight my eyes! 

At the Atlanta History Center, this gorgeous quilt caught my attention. It is an exquisite work of art, full of dazzling colors and images—mostly of brightly colored flowers, but also fruits, wispy insects, and other bits of beauty. I stood mesmerized, wishing I had time to ponder each tiny patch in this vast work of quilted art. Hundreds of individual pieces and thousands of tiny stitches. A lifetime treasure. A worthy legacy.

I wonder if the artist had any idea that their quilt would delight the hearts of countless strangers over the years. Wouldn’t you love to have a life as rich, varied, complex, and attractive as this quilt? I would!!

We are building our lives each day, and what we leave as a legacy is up to us. What patches are we choosing to add? Do we have a design in mind? Are we picking each square to depict something that will uplift others and bring them joy? Are we cutting our lines straight? Sewing with meticulous care? When we are gone, will others remember us with gratitude and meditate on what we’ve said and done?

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Find Us Faithful
—Steve Green

I used to sing this song when I was part of a ladies’ ensemble, and it still brings tears to my eyes to hear it, because it speaks of the longing in my own spirit!

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to god’s sustaining grace.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful,
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
may the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage…

Running The Race

The Race Film 2016You’ve probably already seen The Race (which was just released to video but has been in the theaters since February, 2016), but if you haven’t, consider it! Jessie Owens. Wiki. Public DomainThe Race is a soul-stirring, well documented account of James Cleveland “Jessie” Owens, who’s ranked by ESPN as the sixth greatest athlete in North America during the twentieth century and the first in his field, which was track and field. Jessie Owens ready to run. The RaceIn 1935, he set 3 world records and tied another at a Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has been since called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport.” Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R96374,_Berlin,_Olympiade,_Jesse_Owens_beim_Weitsprung_cropDuring the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals and was considered the greatest athlete at the games, clearly debunking Hitler’s arrogant myth about Aryan supremacy. Nazis uncomfortable duirng 1936 Olympics. The Race(And, I might add, any spurious notions that Caucasians or Mongolians might cherish about their own supremacy as well). The Race                                    At any rate, I found the movie deeply moving. The Race 2It makes me angry to see any race of people mistreated and demeaned, and I think there’s still a lot of prejudice in America based on unfounded pride and ignorant fear. God created all humans as equals. We’re all related! 1936 Olympics The RaceHis desire is to see us all become united as one family, where God is our Father, and we are all brothers and sisters. May His kingdom come and His will be done!

They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. Do you thus repay the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:5-7, ESV)  Broad jump during The RaceFor we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)  Jessie Owens on the track. The RaceThere is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4: 4-6, ESV)

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (Spoken by Jesus Christ in John 17:20-23, ESV)

(There is very objectionable profanity in the movie at times, but if you can forgive that, the message is great and needs to be heard.)

(All images are from the movie, The Race, except for the 2 black and white photos, which are from Wiki. The first B&W is in the public domain, but the second one is from Germany, taken during the 1936 Olympics, and needs to be attributed as follows: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R96374 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 )

The Piano Tuner

Playing MusicWhen my mother was a little girl (nearly 100 years ago now), she was so moved by her father playing his violin after dinner that sometimes she’d run outside lest anyone notice her crying. I believe music speaks the language of the soul: It can muster men to war or persuade them to peace. It can arouse love or lust, inspire courage or fear, and splash long shadows of light or dark across the canvas of our hearts. Like my mother, I find music’s energy and passion so evocative that I have  to be disciplined about what kind of music I hear, knowing its powerful influence can be used in both positive and negative ways. For instance, soothing music can lull me even when I’m wakeful, but epic themes arouse me even when I’m sleepy. Do you love music? How do you respond to it? Baby at Piano The musical centerpiece in our home is a piano that Alan bought me when he started his residency. It has weathered 35+ years of use and abuse as all 7 of our children learned to love, read, sing, and play music. During our “Second Sunday” years of having the youth group over, we had to move it to the basement, where there was more room for a band and 25 singing kids. 354 A Stephen Playing Piano (1) Our sixth-born, Stephen, fell in love with piano and practiced by the hour and year until he left this fall to work on his PhD at Eastman School of Music. Playing and Singing And so, 20 years later, we’ve moved our beloved piano back upstairs, where it can again be a part of our sunlit living room. Steve Jewell. Piano tuner However, after the piano tuner finished tuning it a few weeks ago, he mentioned that the action wasn’t right and the keys weren’t perfectly level. So, he came back again to repair that problem. However, just before he left, we noticed that the right pedal squeaks. Piano tuner tools He took some time trying to fix it by improvising with a piece of leather but was candid enough to explain that the piano might not be worth what it would cost to have it repaired properly, since part of it is broken and would require factory parts…which probably aren’t made anymore. Sigh. Piano keyboardWell, we still love our piano, but it is getting old. In our youth, we couldn’t afford the type of instrument that would have lasted for generations. Now Alan and I are trying to decide if it would make sense to try to have it replaced. Meanwhile, the thought came to me that even though our piano is getting old, when Stephen plays it, it sounds awesome! I feel like I’m living in a music hall when he’s home!Piano lessons? There will come a day when my aging body will no longer be worth repairing (not meaning to be macabre, and I hope not for another 25 years or so), but in the meantime, I’m thankful that under “the touch of the Master’s hand,” my life still has the potential to produce sweet music. Piano. Action repair“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

(P.S.—If you’re looking for a good piano tuner in the GR area, let me know. I can definitely recommend this man, who learned the business from his grandfather and has been tuning pianos for 50 years now!)