It was one of those mornings. You know. When the sun wins a blue ribbon for a slow motion video of the darkness fleeing in every direction until it is overcome by the golden light that illuminates all of creation and wakes a sleeping world.
On this particular Summer morning, she felt drawn to every window in her small, country home, witnessing the transformation that appears when the darkness is chased away by the warm, soft sunlight. Walking from room to room, her senses brought to her attention how each room had a separate personality, feel, look and purpose. Stopping in the middle of her favorite room, her kitchen, where much life had been shared and many needs had been met, she gazed out at the farm fields and gentle hills in awe of how God had used his golden pen to highlight his most recent work of art. A sensation of gratitude passed through her body as she spoke. “My Lord, have you done all of this just for me, this morning? Why should I be so blessed to know such beauty, while others live without a glimpse of it? Thank you. Because of what you have already given me this morning, you’ve made my day!”
She stood for a moment, taking it all in, her eyes fixed on the stained glass heart, which hung in the upper corner of her kitchen window. Her grandmother made it especially for her and gave it to her on her 13th birthday along with a handmade card which read, “Now my dear, you are a teenager. Guard your heart with all your might and every morning give it anew to God. He will watch over you and direct your paths for you are precious in His sight. Just as you are to me. I love you always! Grandma.” She memorized those words her grandmother had written to her and treasured her gift more than any other. She smiled as she remembered all the wonderful times they had spent together. After school, the bus would drop her off at her grandmother’s house and they would spend hours together, talking, cooking, laughing, playing games and reading bible stories. In the summer, she would spend days there. Some of the most precious memories from her childhood, were the times with her grandma. Closing her eyes, visions of the two of them together floated in her mind and she wished they could be together just one more time. She spoke these words as if the two of them were working side by side once again, preparing a meal for a family in crises. “Oh Grandma, my life has not gone exactly the way I had planned or the way you had hoped. You always knew what to say, the right decisions, how to find the good in people and how to handle hard situations and you always took the time to listen to me, even when I grew to be a young women. You told me to keep trusting the Lord and to stay in his Word and I would find the plans he had for me. You were always there for me, no matter what. I miss you so much. I love you Grandma!”
As she studied the many pieces of stained glass, with beams of light from the heavens streaming through them igniting colors throughout her kitchen, she could feel her grandmother’s love and hear her sweet voice. She imagined her fingers, diligently working to cut the glass perfectly to fit the pattern and the look of satisfaction she must have had when she finished making this special gift for her granddaughter. Noticing how dusty it had become, she said to herself, “I should take it down and wash it”. As she reached up to remove it from the hook from where it hung, it slipped through her fingers, falling onto the counter and then to the floor. Gasping, she turned, only to see what was once a beautiful stained glass heart, now in pieces, scattered across the tile of the kitchen floor!
On the verge of tears and with feelings of anger swelling within her for not being more careful, she bit her lip and brought out the broom and dustpan and began cleaning up her mess. Not wanting to look at her broken treasure any longer and in disbelief of what she had done, she stood still, staring at the window where the heart once hung, wishing it to reappear, then taking a large serving tray, she slid broken glass onto it. Unable to bare the thought of throwing away this daily reminder of her grandmother’s love, she placed the serving tray on the counter until she could bring herself to dump it in the trash. Turning aside for a moment, she imagined the serving tray shouting out to her, “HA HA! This is your reward for your carelessness! Broken pieces, just like your whole life has been!” Pretending to be callused against such a familiar remark, she walked away. With feelings of disgust and sorrow taking over, she looked for the darkest corner of her house to sit and sulk, something she did well. As she sat, thoughts and visions of past failures and disappointments replayed in her mind. She began to doze off and dreamed she was on a merry-go-round that was elevated high and would not stop for her to get off. The crowd of people watching her from the ground were playing a game called, “Remember When”. They were calling out her name and laughing at her! She wanted to get off and hide but she couldn’t get her body to move. She just kept going around and around listening to the chants of the crowd.
Startled by the ringing of her phone, she sat up, thankful to have been jolted back into reality. A smile came to her face when she saw the call was from her neighbor, Angelica, appropriately named for she was like an angel sent to her from God. An unlikely farm wife. As a child she had dreams of being a singer, dancer and actress. Then she fell in love with a farm boy, Adam Anderson, and now they live down the road, doing their best to raise their family, livestock and crops. Angelica, though twelve years younger than she, was her best friend ever!
“Gooood .. ‘morning, Naomi!” The sweet voice of her friend rang out in her usual, bright, melodic way. Just hearing the sound of Angelica’s rich alto voice softened her attitude and had a way of magically dissolving her stress. She could hear the children playing in the background as Angelica asked,”How’s my sweet neighbor doing this morning?” Naomi visualized the children playing on the hardwood floor with their Lego farm animals, buildings and tractors. Just the thought of Angelica’s children warmed her heart. Chubby little two year old, Abe, with his bushy brown hair, dark eyes and fixed smile. Sweet Ariel, four years old, hair of blonde, eyes of the morning sky and dreams as wild as the ocean! And of course, Alisha, The big sister at eight. Always watching out for her younger siblings. Her light brown hair and eyes that changed with the light from emerald to brown made it obvious she was her mother’s child.
Trying hard to not give a clue to her poor disposition, due to the morning events, Naomi forced out a little laugh and a pleasant, “Good morning Angelica! Your neighbor, who could be sweeter, is doing fine this morning. ” Knowing her all too well, Angelica sensed that something was bothering her, however, since Naomi did not volunteer to tell her what it was, she decided not to ask just yet. After instructing her children to be quiet while she was on the phone, Angelica proceeded to tell Naomi of her plans for the day. “I will be out delivering this morning. Is it OK if I swing by in 30?” “Oh yes. That would be great!” Answered back, Naomi. “I’ll be here!” ” The children are going with Adam to the Farm and Ranch at Willow Crossing for supplies, Yeah!” Chimed Angelica. “So it will just be me this time. See you in a few!”
Do you have an, “Angelica”, in your life? I hope you do. As I am writing this story, based partly on people I have known in my life, I can’t help thinking of Naomi and Ruth, from the Book of Ruth in the Bible. If you recall, in the days when the judges ruled, Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, along with their two sons moved from Bethlehem to Moab to escape an extreme drought. During the years they lived there, the sons grew and each married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. In time, Naomi’s husband died and then both of her sons died, before having any children, leaving Naomi, Orpah and Ruth without any men to support them or give them families of their own. Now, Naomi worshiped the God of Israel, Jehovah, but her daughter in laws, being of the land of Moab, worshiped pagan gods. Naomi decided that her best option for survival was to return to her home town of Bethlehem in hopes a relative there would take her in. Naomi knew that two Moabite women turning up in Bethlehem would have little chance of finding husbands so she told Orpah and Ruth to return to their hometowns and to their own families in Moab where hopefully two men would choose them for their wives, since they were still considered young women. Obviously they had great love for each other for the Bible states, “they wept aloud” and then, “they wept again.” Reluctantly, Orpah returned to her family in Moab, however, Ruth was determined to stay with Naomi. The following words that Ruth spoke in her response to Naomi, possibly go unmatched in revealing the depth of love, loyalty, commitment and faithfulness that one human being can feel toward another. Ruth’s Resolve to go with and stand by Naomi, no matter what lies ahead, until death, is nothing short of an awesome statement of eternal friendship! As you read Ruth’s words, from one broken woman to another broken woman, place yourself in Naomi’s shoes. Upon hearing Ruth speak, what tremendous encouragement and boost in her self worth this must have given her. Do you have a friend who may need to know of your resolve to be the best friend you can be, no matter what, until death do you part?
Let’s open the window into thousands of years past and watch and hear this conversation between Naomi and Ruth. See them dressed to travel in simple clothes, carrying only a few possessions and enough food for 4 or 5 days. Naomi and Ruth standing on a hardened dirt path that will take them on a 40 mile journey, first North, then across the Arnon River, up around the North end of the Dead Sea, across the River Jordan and then South East to Bethlehem. In the distance you can see the back of Orpah as she is walking away. Finding it hard for words, Noami and Ruth hug one last time. Then with tears flowing, they look into each others eyes and with broken voices of emotion, they speak. Listen to their conversation as recorded in chapter 1 of Ruth. “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister in law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave or to turn back from you! Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me!”
Wow! Do you feel what I do when I read this? I believe there was much more that tied these two women together, like two strands that could never be broken, than just the fact that they were related through marriage. I see a respect and a love, one for the other, so great that it places the other’s needs before their own, not asking for anything in return. Isn’t this similar to the Agape’ love that our Heavenly Father extends to us? First as our creator and designer, then as our provider and then ultimately as our Redeemer! loving us with an everlasting love and wanting us to spend eternity with Him in the awesome place he has made for us called Heaven. Freely offering salvation for all who will seek forgiveness through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to show us how to live. Who was crucified to pay for our sin’s and then rose on the third day and is now at the right hand of The Father in Heaven. While on earth, Jesus told us that if we will believe in Him, where He is going, there we will also be. God even gives us the faith to believe in Him, asking little in return, but to love Him back and love others as He loves us.
Now, let’s watch as Naomi, in our story, meets Angelica at the door, loaded down with a box of milk, eggs, meat and her wonderful homemade yogurt. “Oh, I just love these warm summer mornings!” Commented Angelica, as she made her way to the kitchen with,”The good stuff”, as she liked to call it. Setting the box on the counter, she spotted the platter with broken colored glass over to the side and looked up to see the stained glass heart was missing from the window . Quickly assessing what had happened and knowing how much the gift from her grandma meant to Naomi, Angelica’s mind went into high gear trying to think of something encouraging to say to Naomi…. She turned and simply gave Naomi a hug and said, “I’m so sorry.” And then exclaimed,”Oh Naomi! How beautiful are these pieces of colored glass! You should make something out of them!” Naomi was silent, still unable to think past the ruin of her grandma’s glass artwork. Angelica, desperate to say something that would bring her friend out of this obvious state of self punishment, blurted out, “You could make another stained glass design out of these pieces!” Swallowing her tears, Naomi responded in a weak voice,”Me? I’m not an artist like my grandma and besides, I’m good at breaking things, not fixing them.” Angelica placed her hands on Naomi’s shoulders, looked straight into her eyes and said, ” Yes you, Naomi Swan! Your grandmother lives on in your heart.” She went on,”In our women’s Bible study we have been talking about how so much today is built to throw away when it breaks, but the really important things in life, when broken, are meant to be redeemed and made into something new! Re created! Naomi, that stained glass heart was important to you. What would your grandmother do with the broken pieces? Naomi looked at the platter of broken glass and then looked back at Angelica. “OK.”She said.”I’ll think about it.” Before Angelica went out the door, she turned to Naomi and said,”Promise me, Miss Swan, that if you think about throwing those broken pieces of glass away, you will give them to me instead.” Naomi laughed as she spoke, “OK, OK, I promise! Now go before I give them to you today!” Standing on the porch, Naomi yelled out as Angelica climbed into the old battered pickup loaded with coolers full of “the good stuff. ” Thanks!” Angelica gave her a thumbs up as she pulled away.
Naomi had to laugh just a bit. Her friend did not fit the role of a farm wife. But her heart was in it and she was determined to be the best wife and helper for Adam and the best mother to those kids. Chuckling, Naomi thought to herself, “Angelica would probably win hands down a best dressed farm wife in America contest! ” Then speaking only to her house and God she asked,”Lord, what would I do without her? Just being around Angelica helps me see what is really important in life. Here I am, sobbing over broken glass! Knowing Angelica has given me purpose to live again! I want to be a better person and I am learning again to walk by faith and not by sight.” She thought she could almost hear her grandma saying, “That’s my girl!” Walking back to her kitchen, Naomi stopped and contemplated what she could do with the broken glass. “Angelica is right. We live in a throw away world.” Realizing she had missed her quiet time that morning, she sat down with her notebook and pen and opened her Bible to where she had stopped reading the day before, Hebrews ch. 10.
“Yes!” Exclaimed Naomi. Reading again out loud, verse 24. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” She continued on as if someone was sitting there at the table with her. “That’s what Angelica has done for me! A few years ago my life was like those broken pieces of glass. Lord, by bringing Angelica into my life you have given me a new heart and have transformed me to reflect who you are, at least a little bit. Now, as a thank you, I will give her a new heart made of broken pieces of colored glass.!” Looking upward, Naomi spoke as if she was a child learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, ” You are going to have to help me with this cause I have no idea how to do it.”
Feeling good about her decision and being excited to follow in her grandma’s steps by making a stained glass heart for her friend, Naomi spent a couple of hours on her computer researching the art of stained glass. Already feeling overwhelmed and under skilled and with a list of tools and supplies she would need to do the job, she decided to head for town to see what was available locally. Seeing flashing lights of emergency vehicles up ahead near the Deer creek bridge, she took a detour into town. Judging by the number of lights flashing and all the volunteer fire department trucks that were still arriving, Naomi thought to herself, ” Something pretty bad must have happened. I should pull over and pray for everyone there.”
At the local craft store, after browsing for an hour, Naomi walked to the check out with a basket of promising tools and craft making items, armed with a smile and thinking of the challenge the task before her presented. Just then, she caught a glimpse of someone rushing through the front door of the store. She turned to see it was her friend, Judy. Naomi could tell something was wrong. Judy, what is it? She asked. It’s Angelica! A semi lost control on the bridge and took Angelica’s truck over the side with it! Catching her breath and taking hold of Naomi’s hand, Judy continued, Angelica is in critical condition in surgery at the hospital.
Who can measure the heaviness of our heart when we receive news such as this? Naomi reached over to the counter to keep from loosing her balance. She asked the clerk to hold her items for her and she would return tomorrow for them. How can we explain at times like this, how all of our problems and difficulties suddenly seem small and insignificant. Naomi’s first thoughts were of Angelica’s children. How thankful she was that they had gone with their dad that morning. She felt ashamed that she had wasted her tears over trivial matters earlier. Now her tears held value and overflowed with love and concern and were mixed with prayers for this one who’s life hung in the balance. Shaking her head, Naomi stopped herself short from thinking what her life would be like without Angelica. Where do the formalities of prayer go when everything in our mind, body and soul reaches up to God pleading for him to intercede? The moment Naomi sat down in her car and shut the door she dropped her head and cried out,”Oh God! Don’t let Angelica die! Her family needs her! I need her! Lord, she has so much purpose here. God, I know you would take wonderful care of her there in Heaven with you, but please let us have her a little longer.”
How our priorities change when someone we love is fighting for life. Over the next few weeks and then months, Naomi’s main purpose was to do whatever she could to help Angelica’s family. She made herself available as often as she could to take care of the children so Adam could be with Angelica or do farm work. Neighboring farmers and ranchers were incredible examples of love in action as they lived out their prayers for the Anderson family. With their help, along with many others, Adam was able to keep his farming operation going and still be with Angelica when she most needed him. Lonnie Batesman, the driver of the semi, did not survive the accident, leaving his wife and 3 teenage children to continue running their farm. Lonnie and his family were friends of the Andersons which added much weight to the pain of this tragedy. The community reached out in remarkable ways to help the Batesman family as well as the Andersons.
After months of recovery and rehab, Angelica was ready to come home! It was a day never to be forgotten by all who had gathered in the Anderson’s front yard to welcome Angelica with banners, balloons and cheers. With the help of friends and a local car dealer, Adam was able to acquire a later model pickup that would be easier for Angelica to get in and out of as she carried out her weekly deliveries of “the good stuff”, her favorite job on the farm. The shiny gold truck pulled slowly in the drive and stopped a short distance from the new steps, Adam had built, leading up to the front porch. For a few moments there was silence as Adam helped Angelica stand. Then carefully balancing herself between Adam and the truck door, she looked in amazement at her awesome support team who were now standing on either side of the children as they held a big sign which read,”Welcome home Mommy!” As Alisha, Ariel and Abe ran to hug their mother and then help her navigate up the stairs, the front porch was suddenly transformed into a beautiful stage and Angelica, the star of the show, as the sound of a standing ovation erupted from the audience!
Naomi, wanting to freeze this moment in her mind, studied the Anderson’s expressions and looked over the crowd. Her eyes were drawn back to Angelica. She thought to herself, ” Angelica has never been more radiant!” Her special glasses framed in fashionable pink and black accented her natural beauty. Turning to her husband, Angelica said, “Hold me tight!” Then looking toward Heaven, with both arms outstretched in praise position, she shouted, “I’m home!”
In the days to come the Anderson family traveled to the homes of all those who had touched their lives with acts of love since the time of the accident, offering them their choice of “The good stuff” as a thank you gift. Abe and Ariel were quick to point out to everyone that mommy had a new leg and they got to help her take it off and put it on while Alisha assumed the self appointed role of her mothers personal nurse and delivery assistant. Adam continued to find ways to update their old farm house making it easier for his wife to maneuver from room to room. They kept in close contact with the Batesman family, helping them however they could.
Naomi finished the new stained glass heart just in time for Angelica’s birthday. Now her mission was to find just the right verse to write in her card. Bible in hand, Naomi walked out to the back porch where she could watch God slowly wash the bright colors of the fields and the blue sky into various shades of grays and black. The clear full moon, in it’s magical way, must have slid a piece of chalk down it’s silvery beam to accent the edges of the metal rooftops of the out buildings and outlined the pond in the distance. Soon the entire back yard became as romantic as a 100 year old black and white photo that has a way of holding time in it’s place. “This is it!” Shouted Naomi! Loud enough to scare off a raccoon, who had crept in the yard in search of leftover cat food. With her finger on Psalms 147, Naomi spoke slowly and softly, as if she was learning to read, enunciating every syllable to savor the last drop of meaning from each word, “He heals the brokenhearted … and binds up their wounds … He counts the number of the stars … and calls them all by name. Amen! ” Laughing, she added sarcastically, ” And Lord, I think you know the number of glass slivers I got in my fingers! But it was worth it and you helped me all the way, just like you always do.”
Checking her voice mail, Naomi saw she had missed a call from Angelica, “Hey beautiful friend!” Angelica’s musical voice rang out, “My assistant and I will be rolling your way around 10:00 Saturday morning. Let me know if you need anything other than the usual. Love you tons!” Considering the history and all the feelings that went into the making of the new stained glass heart, Naomi thought it best if she wasn’t there when Angelica received her gift. Speaking to the gift and shaking her head, she declared, “That would be an emotional scene!” Calling Angelica, Naomi informed her that she needed to drive over to Eagle Ridge Saturday morning and to have Alisha put her delivery in the fridge. “Do you remember where the key is?” Asked Naomi. “Yes!” Exclaimed Angelica. “You know, it’s surprising with all I’ve forgotten, I still remember that! Yeah!” “Oh! And when you are here,” Naomi added. “I have a little something for you that will be on the kitchen counter.” “Oh boy! I can’t wait!” Angelica responded..”You know how I love surprises and what a coincidence, I have a little something for you as well and I will leave it in the kitchen .”
“God,” Naomi asked. “Why is it so hard to write what I want to say to Angelica? Please give me words that make sense.” Naomi spoke as she wrote. “Dear Angelica, It is my prayer that this heart made of many broken pieces will serve to remind you of how awesome our God is. Even the smallest broken piece of our lives is important to him and he will take it along with other broken pieces and make something beautiful of us! Redeeming us through the righteousness of Christ where we become forgiven and whole and useful once again. Angelica, when you found me, I was lost with no hope. I had made a mess of my life. Yet you saw something in me that was worth saving that I couldn’t see. I know now that Jesus had hold of your one hand as you reached down with your other hand into that dark hole I lived in and pulled me into the light! The good stuff you have brought into my life is not only the good food from your farm, but even more than that, it is the good stuff you have brought to my soul! You have taught me what living for God and others is all about and you have been Jesus in the real world to me more ways than you know.” Laying her hand on Angelica’s gift, Naomi continued. “Now, I echo the words of Ruth as she spoke to Naomi in the Bible. May the Lord deal with me severely if anything but death separates you and me. Amen.”
When Naomi returned from Eagle Ridge on Saturday, she walked directly to the kitchen to make sure Angelica had picked up her gift. Seeing the gift was gone she breathed a sigh of gratitude. Glancing up where her grandmother’s heart had once hung in her window she was surprised to see a beautifully framed photo of her and Angelica, standing arm in arm, hanging in it’s place. “Oh Angelica, you are too much.” Naomi said softly. She stared at the photo, remembering exactly where and when it was taken. Three times Angelica had stopped by to invite her to a women’s retreat and three times Naomi answered, “No way!” The fourth time she asked her, Naomi heard what she thought was her grandmother’s voice saying, “You need to go.” Before she realized what she had done she answered, OK, I’ll go.” It was the scariest thing she had ever done, but it became one of the best decisions of her life. At that retreat, Naomi encountered Jesus in a personal way like never before. Studying the photo, she saw that Angelica had hand painted, in small letters, a passage from Ecclesiastes ch 4 around the frame that read,”Two are better than one. If either falls down, one can help the other up.”
Walking outside to look up at the night sky, Naomi wondered how many stars were in the heavens and what names God called each of them by??? “Oh Lord,” Naomi prayed, ” once again you’ve made my day! … Oh who am I kidding…. You’ve made my life!”
If your life is anything like mine, your table has seen many broken pieces. The question is, have you asked the Lord to take those jagged broken pieces, clean them up, smooth the edges and make something new out of them? Why should you? Well, for one, you are precious in his sight. There is no one exactly like you, never has been, never will be. You are the only person who can offer back to him all that you are made of. Yes, it is scary to think about becoming a new creation, but when you allow God to do it, by using his Word and other people he brings into your life, you will be perfectly satisfied with who you are and he then will use you to touch others lives with his love.
I Wish You Godspeed! Bob