“MARK! WATCH OUT!”
My husband jerked the steering wheel but still grazed the parked motorcycle with our car. It was the second minor driving accident in two days.
Being the calm, soothing wife that I am, I asked, “What’s WRONG with you? You are driving like a mad man. Can’t you SEE????”
His negative answer surprised me. “Not really. I’m losing my peripheral vision.”
Several Taiwanese doctor visits later we received the diagnosis: Keratoconus: degeneration of the cornea.
We learned that although most keratoconus patients are able to have vision restored with rigid contacts, Mark’s eye couldn’t hold a contact. His right eye was shaped more like a football than an orb.
His cornea tissue was so thin that the inside of his eye was bulging outward, skewing his vision. Every time the optometrist placed a contact lens on Mark’s eye, his eye would spit it across the room. It is difficult to balance a convex lens on a cone shaped cornea.
“So what are our options?” we asked.
“Cornea transplant,” was the doctor’s shocking reply.
Mark’s Taiwanese doctor continued, “You don’t want to have it done here, as organ donation is rare. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and don’t want to go into the next life missing a vital organ.”
“I do perform some transplants, but I will be frank. The corneas that we receive are mostly ‘seconds’ from the states. Their quality is poor.”
Thus began a year and a half journey. We packed up our Taichung apartment, flew back to Texas and Mark was put on an organ waiting list. The sobering fact is that someone else must pass away before a transplant can be harvested.
Even after Mark’s surgery was complete, there were complications. The mother tissue didn’t bond with the foreign cornea. For 16 months, Mark endured misery as his eye attempted to reject the transplant.
It was a long sixteen months. We spent most of it hovering around a 15 watt light bulb.
Yet, as we walked together through those valley of shadows, we discovered something that the Psalmist knew thousands of years prior:
It’s in the valley that our Shepherd is nearest.
Go back with me to Psalm 23. When King David began his prose, he spoke of his Shepherd in third person.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
But when David descended into the shadows, his perspective changed. He spoke with the Lord, not just about Him.
“You are with me.”
Mark and I found this to be true not only through the transplant journey, but in each juncture where our road has narrowed and the shadows have deepened. Our conclusion?
Stop talking about prayer and begin talking to Him.
How about you? How does your conversation need to shift?
It was a glorious book cover. Nothing like the paper ones of purple ink and purposive advertising provided by Crosbyton Elementary.
Mine was of yellow muslin, heavy enough to take a beating, yet delicate enough to take a stitch. Like a personalized badge of honor, my mother made it for a small girl who resolved not to learn any of the spelling words inside. With a few hours of simple embroidery, Mama changed my aversion for spelling bees into a honey love of words.
Knowing I would rather be in the wonderful world of Peanuts than the workaday world of textbooks, Mama used tiny, even stitches of black, red, and green to alter my attention. With a simple outline of Snoopy atop his Sopwith Camel, Mama flew her own secret mission as she perforated the dustcover of my most dreaded textbook with pinpoints of love.
That spelling book and its World War I flying ace went with me everywhere. It rode with me in my bike basket as I sped along the dusty turn-rows of my daddy’s farm. It stared at me in the mornings as I awoke to mouthfuls of hot and buttery Malt-O-Meal. And Snoopy posed, still and breathless beside me, as I practiced my own sketches of him, Charlie Brown, and both of the Van Pelt siblings.
Like a bi-plane fighter during enemy fire, my dust cover suffered a few dings in the course of the school year. The heavy shelling of a yellow magic marker. The pelting of hand-drawn bullet holes on the doghouse. The peppering of a few stray pen marks from time endured in my book satchel on the daily, rural bus ride.
I spent a whole year clutching that book and it’s jacket. In time, I learned how to spell wrinkle and wrist; knife and knock; Tuesday, Wednesday and even Saturday. There were ph- words and -gh words. G’s that sounded like j’s, and c’s that sounded like s’s. All merely rules, valued first because of their cover.
As the days grew hot and the school bell sounded for the last time, I stacked my spelling book with the rest and turned my back on third-grade forever. But not without my book cover — safely buckled into my use-worn satchel.
I still have that book jacket. Aged and dingy, it evokes a lifetime ago when decisions were simple and duties small. But as I finger the fragment today, its reverse side speaks more to me than the bold flying beagle and his brilliant red scarf. There on the inside is the ragged blueprint of a work well-done. Ends of thread stray free where stitching began anew. Strands overlap in a tumult where a gap in the pattern necessitates. Only the back side of the book cover bears testament to the true labor of love accomplished by a mother’s hope for the best.
Like the reverse side of my mama’s embroidery, every life bears evidence of the messiness of daily existence. As the stitch of shame crosses the color of the moment and the tangle of anger balls into a knot, we wonder why the result looks nothing like our intended design.
We spend most of our lives looking on the wrong side of the work.
Take a moment to see your life’s tapestry from the viewpoint of it’s Maker. The more intricate the design, the more pierce points of the needle. Yet in His eyes, you are already a beautiful masterpiece of woven art.
He is able. Able to see both the completion of the work and the progress of it at the same time. What is knotted and gnarled from one perspective is perfectly according to the pattern of Another. The only responsibility of the piece is to remain pliable in the hands of the Master Embroiderer. Rest then, knowing that He Who began the good work is the only One Who has both finished it and is continuing to do so.