Fairy Wings and Forgiveness

danele-1When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to go to school! I had two older sisters, and each morning they would ride the big, yellow school bus into town. When they came home, they told wonderful stories about their adventures. One of my favorite stories was about the Halloween parade. It sounded so exciting! On Halloween, all of the kids dressed up, and at the end of the day, they’d parade around in a long line, showing their costumes off! I couldn’t wait to be old enough to join the festive parade.

Time passes very slowly when you’re a child, but eventually, I was in the first grade and eligible for my first Halloween parade! I was so EXCITED!!! All week, my friends and I discussed our costumes. I was going to be a fairy princess. My family didn’t buy costumes—they made them. And the night before the parade, my whole family sat down in the kitchen and worked on my fairy princess costume. I felt like a total star!!!

danele-fairy-princess-costumeMy father worked long hours as a dairy farmer, and every moment I spent with him was one to be treasured. That night, he sat at the table with a pair of pliers and carefully fashioned me a pair of fairy wings out of wire hangers. I can remember sitting beside him, watching him work. I felt so special! When he was finished, Mom took the wire wings and carefully covered them in pretty lace. She attached two lovely ribbons that could be crossed around my chest and then tied behind my back to keep the wings in place. I’d never seen anything as pretty as my fairy wings. They were simply beautiful!

As my parents worked on my wings, my two older sisters carefully fashioned a silvery, tinfoil crown and a lovely wand. Everyone worked hard—and they were doing it for me. I felt VERY happy and VERY loved. When the costume was finished, I dressed in my prettiest pink dress and had Mom help me put on my finery. As my family admired me, I FELT like a princess. I felt absolutely beautiful!

I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, Mom took a picture of me in my costume. I felt so proud. I felt even prouder when she told me that she and my aunt would be at the costume parade! They were coming to see me walk with my classmates. Life, at that moment, was perfect!

danele-2When I arrived at school, my friends and I showed off our costumes. Excitement was running high! When one of my friends asked me to put on my wings, I did it gladly. I had trouble tying the ribbon behind my back, but I managed it. After I pranced around in my crown and flourished my wand, I tried untying the wings, but the ribbon was in a knot. I asked my teacher to untie it. As she did, she told me not to put on my costume again.

School started, and the morning went SO SLOWLY!!! I couldn’t wait for the parade! I tried concentrating on my lessons, but my eyes kept wandering over to the counter where my fairy princess costume was waiting in a paper bag.

At recess, my friends talked about my wings. They wanted to see them again. We went into the classroom, and even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, I put them on. Once again, the knot wouldn’t come undone. Once again, I had to go to my teacher for help. Her lips formed a long, thin line. She seemed angry as she untied the knot. She told me firmly not to put on my wings again. Nodding, I went out to play.

The school day seemed to stretch on and on! It was taking FOREVER for the festivities to start! I tried keeping my eyes on my schoolwork, but they kept wandering over to the paper bag on the counter. Instead of paying attention, I pictured my family sitting around the kitchen table making my costume. Once again, I felt pride and excitement overwhelm me. I couldn’t wait to walk in the parade and wave at my mother and aunt! I was sure that I’d be the prettiest fairy princess that ever walked the face of the earth!

Danele in kitchenAs recess came again, I peeked inside my paper bag. My wings were just as pretty as I remembered. One of my friends came over and asked to see them. Reverently, I took them out of the bag and smoothed the lace. They were so beautiful!!! My friend asked me to put them on. Remembering my teacher’s words, I sadly shook my head. I was determined to be a GOOD, OBEDIENT girl. But when my friend asked again, I decided to do it. After all, if I was careful to tie the ribbon loosely, I’d be able to untie the knot myself. My teacher would never know. I carefully put on my wings and crown. I twirled in a circle with my lovely wand. I felt like a fairy princess! I felt absolutely beautiful!

Then disaster struck.

As I tried untying the wings, the knot became tighter. My friend tried to help me, but the knot became so tight that neither of us could budge it. My heart sank all the way to my toes. I knew I was in trouble. I knew my teacher would be angry. And I knew she had the RIGHT to be angry. I had disobeyed.

Feeling horribly afraid and terribly ashamed, I hid inside the classroom until recess was over. When the bell rang, I knew I had to face what I’d done. When my teacher walked into the room, she took one look at me and her face hardened. I tried saying I was sorry. I tried explaining. My teacher didn’t speak. She just took a pair of scissors and cut the ribbons attached to my wings. As my wings fell to the floor, she pointed at my desk and said the most horrible words I had ever heard: “You’re a BAD girl. Disobedient children can’t walk in the parade.”

danele-5I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! My mother was coming all the way into town to see me! My aunt was going to be there, looking for me! I had to walk in the parade! My father had made my beautiful wings! I couldn’t tell him that I hadn’t worn them! My sisters had made my crown and wand! What would I tell them?

I tried begging, but she wouldn’t listen. After all, I was a BAD girl. I didn’t deserve a spot in the parade. I didn’t deserve to take part in the festivities. After putting my destroyed wings in their paper bag, I slunk over to my desk, trying not to cry. I was more than just embarrassed—I was devastated. I felt like I’d let my whole family down. I felt like the worst sinner in the world.

When it was time for the parade, my friends rushed around putting on their costumes. I couldn’t join in the fun. I had to sit at my desk and watch. Once again, I tried not to cry. As my chin quivered, the principal entered the room. From my desk, I watched as Mr. Nero walked around, complimenting the kids on their costumes. Suddenly, he looked over at me. Smiling kindly, he sat beside me and asked why I wasn’t getting ready. I was so ashamed that I couldn’t look him in the eye. I told him that I’d been a BAD, disobedient girl. I told him that I was being punished. Gulping a little, I looked up at him. His kind eyes stared into mine for several seconds. Turning from me, he looked at my teacher and said seven beautiful words: “I want this girl in the parade.”

danele-6As he left the room, my teacher motioned toward my paper bag. My friends helped me put on my costume, but they weren’t sure how to tie my destroyed wings. Feeling scared, I went over to my teacher. She gave me a long look, and then she carefully pieced together the cut ribbons and tied the wings behind my back. As I walked in the parade, I didn’t feel as giddy or beautiful as I had before my wings were cut, but walking past Mr. Nero, I felt something even better—I felt forgiven.

I’m not a perfect person, and down through the years, there have been times when I’ve sinned. When regret threatens to overwhelm me, I always remember Mr. Nero and my fairy wings. Even though I had disobeyed and deserved punishment, I received mercy. Psalms 85:10-11 says, “Mercy and truth have met together. Grim justice and peace have kissed! Truth rises from the earth and righteousness smiles down from heaven.” I think those verses hold a very important truth. When we sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy meets our sin head on. Grim justice demands that we suffer for our actions, but grim justice and God’s peace have kissed. The truth of the sinfulness of our actions rises up from the earth, but God’s righteousness smiles down on us from heaven.

Clouds Blue skyWhen we sin, and we’re honestly sorry for our sins, God doesn’t pick up a big stick to whack us. He sends His mercy to meet our sin, His peace to kiss justice into submission, and His righteousness to smile on us. That’s the type of God we serve. He’s not a big, bearded meanie with a bad temper. He’s a loving Father. Back when I was in elementary school, Mr. Nero became a living example of God’s forgiveness. His kindness taught me a lesson about grace and mercy that I’ve never forgotten.

 

If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Pest Control and Problems

wasp-2One of the bad things about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is that you can’t use pesticides around the house. That means if you want a nasty, creepy bug killed—you have to squish it. In my opinion, standing at a safe distance with a can of bug spray is much nicer than approaching a yucky insect with a wad of Kleenex. Unfortunately, when I became ill, I no longer had a choice in the matter. For a while, I tried ignoring the growing insect problem around my house—I hoped it would just go away. But during my third year of quarantine, the insect population boomed. Wasps and spiders multiplied like crazy, and I knew that acting without delay was a necessity.

spider-webInside the house, I implemented a strict “see it—kill it” policy. This resulted in my home becoming fairly pest free. But outside was a different story. Wasps had come in droves and settled in every nook and cranny. The window frames, shed, eaves, and door frames were full of their nests. Along with the wasps, a horrible, freaky spider took up residence in the pine trees and bushes around the house. I was used to large wolf spiders, and I killed them quickly, but the new spider was a different type of arachnid. It could grow to the size of a half dollar. Its bloated body was HUGE, and it was the freakiest, nastiest thing I’d ever seen. By doing research I learned that my new interloper was relative of the cat-faced spider. When the cat-faced scourge moved in, it moved in with a vengeance. I started counting, and I found multitudes of spiders in my yard. I knew that if I didn’t act quickly, the cat-faced spiders would find their way inside my house. I couldn’t imagine having one of those freaky things in my bed or closet—the thought was unbearable.

wasp-3Knowing that chemical help wasn’t possible, I prayed for wisdom and then tackled the pests one at a time. Early on, I learned that each pest had to be approached in a unique way. If I knew the right method, I could get rid of the insect without being bitten or stung.

Wasps can be incredibly dangerous, but I learned a safe way to tackle them. At the crack of dawn, I would tuck the bottoms of my blue jeans into my socks, put on heavy tennis shoes, and grab a hoe. Wasps are slow and sleepy at daybreak. I found that I could knock a wasp nest to the ground, and step on all the wasps without them flying at me if I did the job early enough in the day. Unfortunately, I also learned that if the sun had risen too high, the wasps would dive-bomb me. Taking action early in the morning was the key to wasp control.

The wolf spiders were another proposition. When you kill a wolf spider, the time of day doesn’t matter. What does matter is how fast you move. When you strike, you have to be swift and decisive. You can’t hesitate for a second. Hesitation and second-guessing allows a wolf spider to get away. And believe me—you don’t want a wolf spider to get away. If you don’t kill a wolf spider when you see it, it grows quickly into a huge, horrible beast that enjoys living in difficult places to reach—like the ceiling. After balancing precariously on a rickety chair with a wad of Kleenex in an attempt to squish a giant wolf spider the size of Montana, I learned quickly that it’s much easier to kill a wolf spider when it’s small and on the wall.

spider-3Although I’d learned how to deal with wolf spiders, I had to learn a completely different technique when confronting cat-faced spiders. If I moved too quickly around them, the cat-faced spiders would drop from their webs and get away. I had to approach them slowly and deliberately. I learned that by moving calmly, I could take a broom, put it underneath a cat-faced spider, and scoop it off its web. Then, carrying the spider perched on the broom, I could move slowly to the sidewalk, dump the spider on the concrete, and step on it. Cat-faced spiders are very strange. If you use a black-bristled broom, they run away, but if you use a white-bristled broom, they will sit still and let you carry them. The year I attacked my pest problem, I killed over 100 cat-faced spiders using this technique.

Over the years, I’ve found a correlation between quarantine pest control and how I can control “pest problems” in my spiritual life. I’m not perfect, and there are some things that can really trip me up. Through consistent practice, I’ve learned that I can control the triggers to my spiritual problems just like I’ve learned to control wasps and spiders without pesticide.

wasp-4In my spiritual life, I’ve learned that worry needs to be addressed like wasps. Early in the morning, I need to come to God, laying my problems before Him. I need to do it immediately as soon as I wake up. If I don’t, the longer the day goes on, the more out of control my worry can become. Just like wasps, worry becomes stronger and more violent with each passing hour. I can’t allow my worries to warm up and linger throughout the day—if I do, they dive-bomb me.

spider-1In my spiritual life, Anger needs to be addressed like wolf spiders. When something happens that makes me mad, I must forcibly squash my desire to nurse a grudge. I must stop my angry train of thought quickly. Sometimes, I verbally tell myself that I’m NOT going to stay angry. And when an angry, bitter thought resurfaces, I pounce on it violently—refusing to let it roam free. I’ve learned that angry thoughts need addressed quickly and without hesitation. Allowing myself to stew over the “wrongs” I have suffered is a big mistake. I need to squash anger decisively—just like I squash wolf spiders. If I don’t, the anger I feel can grow into bitterness. And just like a giant wolf spider lurking on the ceiling, bitterness can be very hard to get rid of!

spider-2In life, I’ve learned that misunderstanding needs to be addressed like cat-faced spiders. When miscommunication occurs and feelings are ruffled, I’ve learned that I need to be calm—speaking slowly and with deliberate care. Quick words can easily cause a tense situation to spiral out of control. The last thing you want when scooping a cat-faced spider from an eave is to move too quickly and have it drop on your head. And the last thing you want when dealing with miscommunication is to speak rashly. Reckless words can make a small, insignificant problem mushroom into an uncontrollable, hurtful brouhaha. It’s very tempting to try and prove you are “right,” but it’s rarely effective in the long run. Cat-faced spiders run from a black broom, but they don’t mind a white broom. I’ve learned that people with ruffled feelings react violently to critical words, but they’ll calm down and listen when peaceful words are introduced into the situation—especially when the peaceful words aren’t condescending or being used in a passive-aggressive way. Cat-faced spiders need handled with slow, deliberate care—and so do people with hurt feelings. Pride is always the enemy of peace.

Quarantine has taught me many things. And one of the best lessons I’ve learned has come from tackling pests and applying pest-control tactics to difficult situations in my life. I believe that God uses nature as a teaching tool, and when we approach nature with open eyes, our spiritual eyes may be opened also.

 

leaf-1But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you… To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His.” Job 12:7-8, 13

 

Dancing in the Dark

star-clusterAfter I recommitted my life to Christ, there were still days when being in quarantine was very hard. It’d be nice to say that a commitment to Christ made my life magically easy in spite of my circumstances—but truthfully, that wasn’t always the case. I was still ill. I was still in quarantine. I was still facing an uncertain future in which indefinite isolation or deadly side effects loomed. Even though I knew Christ was with me, the solutions to my problems seemed far off. In truth, the solutions were far off—I was in quarantine for seven years.

yellow-starsIn the middle of those seven years, there were times when the challenges I faced seemed insurmountable. Sometimes, I would feel extremely claustrophobic at the limits of my existence. Sometimes, people would make unkind remarks about my condition that hurt. Sometimes, I faced health setbacks that were unbelievably discouraging. When those things happened, my course of action was clear. It was time to dance in the dark.

pleiadesDancing in the dark became a ritual for me during quarantine. It was something I did out of a desire to present the Lord with a “sacrifice” of praise. When I felt frightened or discouraged, and when sleep fled far away, I would get up in the middle of the night, go outside, and walk into the center of the hay field by my house. Then I would turn my face up to the sky and look at the stars. As their beauty seeped into my soul, I would begin to trace the galaxies and name the stars winking above me. Raising my hands toward heaven, I would whisper, “Thank You, God, for my life. Thank You that I’m not facing this alone. Thank You that You’re right here with me—even though sometimes the pain is too great to feel Your presence. Thank You that You have good plans in store for my life. Thank You that everything is going to be okay. I love You, Lord. Thank You for loving me.”

universe-personAfter my prayer, I would put on my earphones, crank up some praise music, raise my hands again, and begin swaying and twirling around the field. As I danced in the darkness, peace always came. Slowly—sometimes, very slowly—I would feel the weight of my problems fading away. I’m totally uncoordinated, and in the light of day, I can’t dance a step. But I’ve learned that in the darkness, under the light of the stars, I can dance beautifully. You see, in the darkness, coordination doesn’t matter. When I dance, I dance for an audience of one, and I know He thinks I’m lovely.

David danced before the Lord, and I’ve danced too. Dancing is my sacrifice of praise. It’s my declaration of faith. It’s my way of looking into the face of pain and finding peace. Each time I’ve danced in the darkness—somewhere in the middle of my uncoordinated moves—God’s peace has always come. His presence chases away my fearful torment and replaces it with joy.

star night personQuarantine taught me many things. It taught me that pain and discouragement never last. It taught me that things ALWAYS get better. And most of all, it taught me that when life seems too hard to bear, it’s time to strap on my headphones and dance in the dark.

 

purple starsWith Jesus’ help we will continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God.” Hebrews 13:15

Hallelujah! Yes, praise the Lord! Sing Him a new song. Sing His praises, all His people… Praise His name with dancing!” Psalm 149:1-3a

 

“Snow Days” and Still Waters

2016-autumn-color-6Have you ever noticed that sometimes life seems too hard? Even though you know God is in charge and things are okay, your mind feels like a snarled knot. You feel overwhelmed and incapable of handling a hangnail—much less the day.

My mother is a very wise woman, and as I was growing up, she’d allow me to have an occasional day off from school when things seemed too rough. She told me that sometimes a person needed to take a quiet day and recharge. She called those special days “mental-health snow days.” There was only one rule associated with them: during the day, I couldn’t think about any problems—I HAD to rest and recharge.

2016-autumn-color-9Recently, I found myself in need of an old-fashioned, mental-health snow day. My mother felt like getting away too, so we packed a cooler and went to the mountains. Colorado is breathtaking in the autumn, and I couldn’t wait to see the seasonal color. Before we left, we had prayer and figuratively put all of my worries into a basket and lifted them up to God, asking Him to take care of them. Then we got in the car and took off. It was a beautiful day! The sky was bright blue, and the aspens were every shade of gold imaginable.

2016-bear-lake-9After going through Estes Park, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park and drove to Bear Lake. I can’t begin to express how lovely it was! Some of the mountainsides were an explosion of color! When we arrived at the lake, we took our time and strolled the trail. The path completely circles Bear Lake, and as we walked, we were able to view the water from every angle. The delicious scent of pine was heavy in the air. Ducks were swimming in the lake, leaving streaming, silver trails in their wake. Aspen leaves—painted gold—sparkled around every twist of the trail. And above us, the wind whispered like music in the trees.

2016-bear-lake-3As we walked, my mother pointed out the beauty around us. Several times, she stopped and verbally thanked the Lord for our lovely world. She didn’t realize it, but her expression of praise was making an incredible impression on me. As I studied the huge, solid mountains that had stood firm for so many years, my problems shrank back to their normal, manageable size. After all, everything I was facing seemed extremely small in the big scheme of things. As I looked up at the aspen-fringed blue sky, I began feeling the presence of the Lord. Deep peace surrounded me.

God’s power is so IMMENSE! He formed the mountains and hollowed out Bear Lake with His hands. He’s an incredible Lord who’s capable of solving ALL problems and calming ALL fears. Walking beside the water that day, Psalm 23:1-3a kept coming to mind: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

2016-autumn-color-5My recent mental-health snow day served its purpose. As I put my problems aside and focused on the beauty around me, my soul was restored. I thank God that He leads us beside still waters! And I also thank Him for a wonderful mother who told me at an early age that’s okay to take a break and look for them.