Grandma’s Scars

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.     1 Peter 3:3-4

Josie fell into the fire when she was four. She screamed in terror as her dress caught on fire. A family member pulled her from the fire yet she was badly burned over most of her body before the flames were extinguished.

A country doctor visited her home to care for her wounds. The salve he prescribed had her screaming in agony. Her father refused the medication. He wouldn’t allow any medicine that caused further pain.

Josie’s face, arms, and legs remained an angry shade of red throughout her childhood. Long scars marred her skin. Josie didn’t receive a lot of positive attention from boys.

Tom met her during a snipe hunt in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. He fell in love with her that night, seeing beyond the blotchy, red skin to the gentle spirit living inside. At seventeen, Tom was four years younger than Josie. He lied about his age because he rightly guessed that Josie wouldn’t marry a man so much younger. Josie didn’t find out about the age difference until the fourth baby was born.

Josie was my dad’s mother. He told me that her skin was still red and scarred when he was a boy.  By the time I knew her, the deep scars had faded to beige. Her skin was brown and splotchy all over, as if she were covered from head to toe in large freckles. In my humble opinion, the scars were part of her beauty.

Josie was beautiful. Tom recognized her inner beauty immediately. My dad was crazy about her. Her kind, gentle spirit and her sweet smile invited us all to look past the exterior and love her. And we did love her.

She had the unfading beauty talked about in First Peter. I will see her again someday in Heaven. Her skin will be restored, but I will know her when I see her.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Angels Watching Over Me

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-9

Ricky, my cousin, was diagnosed with brain cancer while in his early thirties. Surgery removed a brain tumor and the single man hoped to return to his career.

Unfortunately, the cancer did not go away with treatment. Another tumor formed. His condition worsened though his faith did not waver. Eventually he sold his home and rented a house with his parents in a small Tennessee city while they waited for a new home to be built.

Ricky loved his bedroom in the rented house because the wallpaper contained an angel pattern. Angels covered his walls, comforting him with the thought that they watched over him in his illness.

His parents, especially his mother, cared for him tirelessly. He never lost hope that God would cure his cancer and restore his health even as loved ones watched him grow weaker. His positive attitude and strong faith inspired all who knew him.

Ricky slipped into a coma and spent the final months of his life in intensive care. His mother was at his side as much as humanly possible, going without sleep, and skipping meals to hold her son’s hand. She told him funny stories and the good news of the family, hoping to draw him out of his coma.

One cold fall day, Ricky slipped into the arms of his Savior. His parents clung to each other and to God for support. The funeral service was filled with faith and hope of our Heavenly home, where there is no more pain, no more tears.

His spirit lives on in the hearts of those who loved him. We will see you again, Ricky. Look for us.

-Sandra Merville Hart

An Afternoon with my Dad

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 1 Kings 19:11a (NIV)

Crossing the covered bridge into the prayer garden, the serenity immediately welcomed me. I drank in the beauty of the blooming flowers in the midst of Mountain Laurel. The brook sang as it skipped over smooth stones.

How I wished I could share this moment with my mountain-loving dad. He had joined my mother in Heaven a mere five months after her death. Several years had passed since that earthly goodbye. I still missed them.

Always most comfortable outdoors, the surrounding mountainside beauty would have captivated Dad’s attention. We’d sit on a bench and he’d teach me about the plants and trees.

If I could spend one more afternoon with him, what would we talk about? What a gift that would be. He’d love this serene setting.

On second thought, I wouldn’t bring him to this mountain. No, we’d go instead to a clear stream near his childhood home in the Smoky Mountains. Maybe we’d hike along those paths he once loved. He’d show me the trail to the school yard and where they attended church, sprinkling age-old wisdom into old memories.

I’ve often wished for his wise council. His words had a way of pointing me in the right direction, helping me consider the costs.

Yet for all the questions I long to ask, if I could spend an afternoon with him, I’d simply listen to whatever he wanted to say. I’d not want to waste those fleeting hours with silly questions. Then he’d say what was most important, that fatherly advice I don’t yet know I need.

After a while, I’m sure we’d stop talking to enjoy the gentle rush of the stream as the birds serenaded us.

Even though my dad couldn’t meet me here, my Heavenly Father did.

God joins us wherever we are—serene gardens, quiet times on our knees, and when our world rips apart at the seams. He offers wisdom from His Word and from His Heart, freely given to His loved ones. That’s each one of us.

Like a parent with a toddler, He gently guides faltering steps. In times of prayer, He helps us count the cost of our decisions. Our choices matter since answering ‘yes’ to something may mean closing the door on another opportunity. God’s instruction is always just what we need.

God will be with us not only for an afternoon in the garden, but for all our days.

-Sandra Merville Hart

 

At the Foot of the Cross

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun had stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.   Luke 23:44-45.

I’ve had the pleasure of staying at a beautiful North Carolina Christian conference center built on the Blue Ridge mountainside. It contains a large cross visible from part of the campus.

A dear friend of mine loves to room at the building closest to the cross, where she has a clear view of the impressive symbol of death and life. “I feel like I am sitting at the foot of the cross when I stay here.”

The cross symbolizes peace, made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice. It symbolizes hope of eternal life in Heaven, a place with no tears. It comforts the grieving. It offers forgiveness to all willing to receive it and clears the path to eternal life in Heaven.

However, the cross was also a scene of death, agony, contempt, and derision. Soldiers, the chief priest, elders, and teachers mocked Jesus openly, now that He was dying. Those passing by hurled insults at Him. Even one of the robbers crucified at His side ridiculed Him.

The Son of God bled to save them from their sins even as they scorned His sacrifice.

Then God turned His back on His Son for the first and only time. The sun stopped shining for three hours as Jesus hung suspended between Heaven and Earth. Something momentous was happening.

God turned a cruel method of execution into a symbol of peace, hope, and forgiveness for all of us.

The power of the cross is love—a Son’s obedient love for His Father and God’s sacrificial love for all His children.

He wants us to spend eternity with Him so badly that He paid the price of our admittance.

At the foot of the cross. Sounds like a good place to begin our journey.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Written on His Hand

“See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”   Isaiah 49:16a

“Mom, do you know what this word says?” my teenaged daughter asked me, revealing a Hebrew word on her upturned palm.

I shook my head.

“It’s God’s name.  He wrote my name on His hand, so I wrote His name on mine.”  She explained that while on a retreat, she and the other girls put Yahweh on their hands using a henna, a kind of temporary tattoo.

My daughter inspired me. I thought about God’s huge hand that measured the waters of the earth (Isaiah 40: 12).  Surely the hand that marked off the Heavens could hold a vast number of names–that includes yours and mine!

Just like my daughter, it gives me a special feeling to know that my Heavenly Father thinks so highly of me that He etched my name on the palm of His hand.  It’s a constant reminder of how greatly God cherishes His children.

If we could grasp how precious we are to God, I think it would alter the way we view ourselves forever.  We are of great worth to God.

My daughter definitely understood that having her name engraved on God’s Hand makes her special in His eyes.  As I watch her faith grow, my own faith deepens.  As precious as she is to me, she is even more precious to God.

The current craze of tattoos has people placing symbols on themselves that are meaningful to them.  It seems God thought of this first.  His loved ones are written on the palm of His hand.

-Sandra Merville Hart