When We Feel Like Dirt

Some days we feel ready to take on the world. Other days, we struggle to make it through. But God is with us through our highs and lows, and even when we feel like dirt, He looks at us and says, “You’re beautiful.”
 
Today’s post comes from author and speaker Marlo Scalesky:
 
I’ve been thinking about this verse from Psalm 103 (verse 14) today: “for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Dust doesn’t seem very beautiful or important or desirable. In fact, it just seems kinda, well, dirty. But God sees dust differently. He loves His dusty children. So, as I’ve been thinking about the verse, and pondering the attributes of dust, I remembered this story that grew out of a scene from my very first book, Cry Freedom. See what you think:
 
Twilight tossed its gray mantle across the sky and into my newly dusted living room. Shadows crept over the floor, darted into corners, and settled in my mind. Weariness whispered through me. Why did I have to clean, and scrub, and do all this work anyway? I wanted to read a good book, watch a movie, anything else but clean the living room for the Bible study group that would meet there that night. Why did I always have to be the one who did the work?
 
I threw my cleaning rag onto the coffee table and melted into the recliner. In a moment, the oven timer would buzz, and I would have to leap up and finish preparing the cake for the night’s study snack. Why couldn’t I just be free, free to spend my evening however I wanted? Free to do as I pleased?
 
A butterfly flitted outside the window. I watched it fly high, then low, before it paused on the rosebush just outside the pane. Eggshell wings fluttered in slow motion. Up and down. Up and down. Then, the creature dropped from the branch and flew into the sky. I followed it with my eyes until it became only a black speck against the clouds. Then, it disappeared.“Make me like the butterfly, Lord,” I whispered. “I want to be free to fly into the sky, rest on the roses, and drink in the beauty of your creation.” I leaned back my head and stared up at the window that shone from our second story. “Lord, give me wings.”
 
I waited. And sighed. And shifted in the chair. But I felt just as tired, just as earthbound as ever.
 
Then, something happened. A shaft of light, as bright as a blade, sliced through the upstairs window and illuminated a path the floor. And in the light, I saw them – a hundred, a thousand tiny motes of dust. They drifted in the light like bright bits of glimmering gold.
 
I grabbed my dust rag, and started to stand. But then, I sat back again. I had worked for hours to eradicate the dark bits of dust that marred my furniture, countertops, and television screen. But this dust was different. These tiny motes weren’t dark, weren’t dirty, or ugly. They were beautiful, shining like miniscule stars in the last rays of day.
 
I dropped my rag, settled back into the chair, and wondered at the splendor of the dust. How could something that was no more than dirt be so beautiful? After all, it was only dust. I watched a few motes drift lower, out of the shaft of light. They turned gray again, just ugly little specks that floated onto an end table. Only in the light were they lovely. Only there did they shimmer like jewels.
 
As I sat and pondered the secret of the dust, I remembered a verse from the Psalms: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV).
 
I am dust, I thought. Not some winged butterfly, not a creature that flies wherever it pleases, but dust. Dirty, ugly dust. But in God’s light, I too am transformed. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8:12 (NIV). And like the dust, I am only beautiful when I am aloft by his power, illuminated by his love.
 
As pretty as the butterfly was, the dust that glimmered like sparkling gold was much more beautiful. It stayed, it shone, and as long as it remained in the light, it was stunning.
 
I had prayed for the ability to order my day as I pleased. But, God offers a freedom that’s more incredible, more real, and more wondrous.
 
In his light is the freedom to rest in his grace and love. That is the mystery, and the wonder, of true freedom. So now, I no longer pray for wings like the butterfly. Instead, I pray to stay within the light.

Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of seven books, including her latest novel, Shades of Morning, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist to create a new type of novel that she hopes will impact readers at their deepest levels.

Marlo’s other books include If Tomorrow Never Comes, Beyond the Night, Veil of Fire, a novel about finding hope in the fires of life, Empty Womb, Aching Heart– Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility, and Cry Freedom.

She’s had over 600 articles published in various Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, Decision, Moody Magazine, and Discipleship Journal. She has contributed to Dr. Dobson’s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndale’s Book of Devotions for Kids #3, and Discipleship Journal’s 101 Small Group Ideas.

She is a speaker and a regular columnist for Power for Living.

**If you loved today’s post and would like to see it make it to my top three of 2011, leave a comment, “like”” it, FB share it, or tweet it. And have a blessed day!

Faith in Fog

Oh, how I’d love continual clarity! Although God often speaks to my heart, and guides me through His Word, many times I’m baffled by circumstances and life-encounters. And yet, even during those times, when my “Why” rises up, God stays by my side, reminding me of His ever-present love. I’ve learned I may not always understand the things that happen in this world. I may not always understand God’s will. But regardless of the circumstances or my ability to comprehend, God never changes. When I’m peering through the fog, I focus not on the shifting winds but instead on the unchanging nature of Christ. He is good, even when my world is not. He is loving, even when I feel unlovable. He is sovereign even when the world appears to spin in chaos. Today, Marlo Schalesky, author of Shades of Morning, shares what it means to have faith in the fog.

Faith in Fog by Marlo Schalesky

A while back, the girls took a field trip to the beach, where the fog rolled in and made the day cool and the visibility small. As I walked the beach, thinking about the difficult things that many of my friends and family are going through, I was reminded of this story:

On some days, I can almost glimpse eternity. It stretches outside my office window (yep, that’s my view in the picture), reaching down the green valley lined with oaks, touching the distant, snow-frosted mountains. On those days, I gaze out over the tall Monterey pines and search out that special place where sky meets earth in a blaze of blue glory. And I know that God is real, that He created all this beauty, and that He shares it with me because He loves me. On those days, I have no doubts, no questions, no fear.

Too bad every day isn’t one of those days. On many days, I can see no mountains, no valley. Even the tops of pines are blotted from my view. Instead, fog is laced through the bottom branches and swirls in thick ripples across the ground. Grayness presses against my window and forms tiny water droplets on the glass. It covers the mountains, masks the oaks, camouflages the pines.

On one of those days not so long ago, I sat at my desk and peered out into the day, and saw nothing but waves of thick fog.

“So, how do you like your new office?” My husband’s voice sounded from the doorway behind me.

I turned and smiled at him.

“I love it. And the view out this window is incredible. You ought to see it.”

Bryan strode through the door and leaned against the windowsill. His eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, really. Oaks and pines, and snow-tipped mountains kissing the sky.”

Bryan’s eyebrows rose. “Very poetic, but it looks like a bunch of fog to me.” His voice lowered to a mutter. “Snow-kissed mountains. Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest. “You’ll just have to take my word for it. On a clear day . . . wow, you can see forever.”

Bryan shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so.” He dropped a handful of mail onto my desk, then turned and left.

In the moments that followed, I shuffled through the mail then allowed my gaze to again travel out the window. The fog wouldn’t lift today. And maybe not tomorrow. It could be days, I knew, before I caught sight of the mountains or valley again. But the vision of snow-topped mountains and the deep green of the valley oaks remained fixed in my mind. I knew the mountains were out there, even though I couldn’t see them. I trusted that the trees remained as green and beautiful, even when they were lost to my sight.

As I sat and listened to the silence tangle with the fog outside, I was reminded of the Bible’s definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I used to live as if faith was seeing the mountains. I believed that if I only had enough faith, I would see God clearly, I would always know what He wants, I wouldn’t have any doubts, any questions. There would never be any fog.

But these days, I’m beginning to see faith differently. Faith, I’m coming to believe, doesn’t dispel the fog, but is found within it. Faith isn’t about seeing the mountains. It’s about believing they are there when all my senses deny it. It’s about believing in that spot of blue glory when all I see is the persistent grayness.

There are times when I wonder if God really loves me, when hurt and confusion press against the window of my soul, when doubts creep in and twine around my thoughts as surely as the fog twists through the trees. That’s when faith flourishes. As surely as I can say I know the mountains and oaks and pines are there, even though I can’t see them, so I can say, I know God loves me even though I can’t see it now. I know that I am His and that He died for me. I choose to believe what I cannot see. For faith is not seeing, but believing, even in the fog. Especially in the fog.

***

Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of numerous books, including her latest novel, the RITA finalist Shades of Morning, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist. Marlo’s other books include the Christy Award winning Beyond the Night, and ACFW Book of the Year, Veil of Fire.  Marlo is also the author of over 700 articles, the mother of 6 young children, and holds her Masters in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  When she’s not changing diapers, doing laundry, or writing books, Marlo loves sipping Starbucks white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and talking about finding the deep places of God in everyday life.

Visit her website or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook to find out more about her and her writing: www.MarloSchalesky.comwww.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky,

www.twitter.com/MarloSchalesky