Dime Store Pearls

Mmm. Today was a good day for reflection. I spent a solid hour reading my journal from cover to cover, and I now I am just sitting on my bed completely amazed by the goodness of God. I was reminded of a story that the lovely Monica Steely (S/O) told me over the summer…

There was once a little girl. The little girl went to the dime store and bought a string of plastic pearls. The little girl loved and treasured her string of pearls. She wore them practically everyday and everywhere she went. One night when her father was tucking her into bed has asked her, “Can I have those pearls?” Of course she said no. That necklace was her prized possession. The next night, her father came in to put her to bed and he asked again, “Will you give me your pearls?” Again, she refused. Her father was persistent. Night after night, when he tucked her into bed, he asked the same question. Finally, one night, with teary eyes and a tight throat, the little girl unhooked the pearls from her neck and reluctantly handed them over to her father. If she couldn’t be happy with the pearls, she didn’t want them at all. Just as her father was about to reach for her lamp and kiss her forehead, he pulled a rectangular box from his pocket. As the little girl slowly opened the box, her weepy eyes turned bright, and a smile began to stretch across her face. The string of gleaming, white genuine pearls in the box was the reward of her exchange.

Reading through my journal today made me think of all the strands of pearls that God has gifted to me. Tear stained pages reminded me of the times when I gripped onto the dime store pearls in my life. Letting go is hard. But God will always honor your sacrifice. He always has something better. Every time that my plans for myself shattered, my God was there to replace them with new and exciting gifts. He gave me pearls. Praise God. He gave me pearls.

The Broken Tulip

This morning my alarm didn’t go off. Thankfully, and by the grace of God alone, I woke up at 7:30 all on my own. Miracle #1

Somehow I made it through four back to back classes, about 100 emails, and a mile long to do list alive and well. Miracle #2

Sometime in that whirlwind of a morning, I found myself in the back row of a classroom in the humanities building listening to my professor tell a story about tulips. Which I so obviously didn’t have time for. I mean, who keeps their class the entire time period on the first day of classes to tell a completely irrelevant story about flowers? Well. Guess again. This story is not about just any flower. In fact, I have a hunch it’s not really about a flower at all.

Apparently the Dutch are very proud of their tulips. In fact, back in the 1600s, the Dutch made a hefty profit selling tulip bulbs. They are reliable. In a field of tulips, you would probably see very little differentiation. Tulips almost look perfect. They stand up tall with their vibrant stems and even seem to smile at you with all six of their pristine petals.

tulips

Somewhere along the way the tulip developed a disease. The bulb, instead of producing a pure tulip, produced a tulip that was two colors in one. These tulips were an anomaly. They were flawed. They were unwanted. They were undesirable until, at some point, someone came along and saw beauty in the diseased tulip. However, they didn’t call it diseased, they called it broken. In fact, somewhere along the way, somebody looked down at this broken flower and saw immense beauty and worth. So much worth, in fact, that these tulips started selling for 20 times the income of a skilled craftsman at the time. People would essentially write IOUs using these broken flowers as currency. Rembrandt even created a series of famous paintings centered around these tulips. Today they are still often referred to as “Rembrandt’s tulips.”

rembrandts tulipstulips 2

I don’t think that story is really about flowers at all. I think that story is about me. I think that story is about humankind. Yes, friends, I believe that we are the broken tulips. Praise is due to God for the Love that has given us all of our beauty and worth. Straighten up that stem and bloom, for even in your brokenness you were bought at a great price. (1 Corinthians 16:20)

Open your eyes, dear one. You are the broken tulip, yet in you I have seen great beauty and worth. Miracle #3

And Then Sometimes

You just live your life. And then sometimes you meet a person or several persons who start living their lives in close proximity to you. And then sometimes they completely inspire you. You cannot really remember what life was like before your existence and their existence collided. There was a moment- right before the moment that you collided- but it doesn’t seem to be remotely relevant anymore because you did collide.

And then sometimes you start to care for these beautiful, extraordinary people whose existence has become so mingled with yours. You don’t know for how long this mingling will last, for we are not even guaranteed tomorrow. Sometimes you worry too much about when it will end, or how it will end. And then sometimes you just learn to trust. You learn to trust and believe that even if only for a season, God has meant this for a purpose.

And then sometimes you can’t sleep at 2am and the only thing you can think to do is tell God thank you. All you can do is thank him for the people, for the love He has given you for them, and for being constant. All you can do is cling on to Him, because unlike these beautiful, extraordinary people, He will never ever leave you. Not even in death. Sometimes all you can do at 2am is remember that God has never broken a promise to you. God has never turned His back on you. There were times when my load was actually too heavy to bear on my own, but that is why He came alongside me. He is my only promised future and in His presence is fullness of joy.

And then sometimes these beautiful, extraordinary people stay for a long time, but sometimes they go on to inspire other hearts with their own beautiful and extraordinary ones.

And then sometimes their leaving causes tears to fall from our weepy eyes onto our full and smiling faces, for these beautiful, extraordinary people have made our lives just a little bit more beautiful and extraordinary.

And then sometimes we just look up to the Beautiful and Extraordinary One, and we continue breathing and our hearts keep beating as he transforms us more and more into beautiful and extraordinary people.

Abide With Me

Today, I found this sweet hymn a perfect prayer. Above anything else, Lord, abide with me.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

2015, Meet Abigail.

Abigail, meet 2015. 2015, meet Abigail.

I was very hesitant to make a resolution this year. For me, resolutions have always just been so depressing. I don’t know about you, but for me resolutions have always involved incredibly specific, and unrealistic goals designed to please other people, that result in shame and disappointment. I totally understand that this is a completely distorted way to view making serious life changes, but hey. It’s the truth. At least I’m honest about it.

On my five hour drive home from Nashville on New Year’s day, the all too familiar feeling of striving and forming, and fitting this expectation I’ve made for myself just creeps into my mind. And all I can really say to myself and to God in that moment is, “I just want to be myself.” I just want to finally be Abigail. Without apology. Without trying to be anyone else. I want to love the person that you made me to be. I want to be able to love others well, because I will have loved them as I have loved myself. Loving myself comes from loving God, in whose image I was formed. In the stillness of that moment, I heard Him whisper back “I do too.”

So watch out world, because Abigail Hewins is finally going to be her full self. I resolve to quit trying and make people like me. I resolve to own my quirks. I resolve to accept compliments. I resolve to continue laughing at my own stupid jokes. I resolve to dance like a wierdo. I resolve to dress how I want to. I resolve to not wear makeup when I don’t want to wear makeup. I resolve to love my body and treat it with respect. I resolve to love the heart that God has created in me, and feed it with the word, and let it pour out a new song of worship. I resolve to not hate myself when I fail at loving myself, but I also resolve to keep on trying again.

So here is a picture of me being really weird and completely myself. Get used to it.

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