Washing windows

A few weeks ago I washed the inside and outside of most of the windows in our house. This is worth mentioning because I often feel like I don’t have enough time to do a thorough job of cleaning up. Sure, I’ll sweep floors and wipe countertops and do a little light dusting, but how frequently do I take the time and spend the energy to move furniture to wet mop the floors or wipe down the countertops and the cabinet doors and the tile backsplash or dust the ceiling fan blades and the baseboards?


Well, it was a pretty Saturday and we had no where we had to be until that night, so I started taking down window screens to hose them off. I even stood on a ladder to clean the transoms at the tippy top. I felt like Martha Stewart was whispering in my ear, guiding me through all the steps, and she was pleased with my labor. (Her magazines are chock full of cleaning tips, though I have to wonder how often she’s the one who’s actually Windex-ing the windows of her vacation home in the Hamptons.)


Once it was done, and the sun-dried screens were replaced, I sat in our sunroom and marveled at how clearly I could see the world outside. The dirt and dust had accumulated so gradually on all those windows, so that I had no idea just how hazy and obscured my view had become. It’s like the day I got glasses in the 9th grade. As we were driving home, I kept looking out the car window and seeing details I never would’ve been able to see before my vision was corrected. I kept remarking to my mom, “I can see each brick on that building!” or “There are separate, tiny leaves on that tree!” It was a revelation.


It’s incredible how easy it is to get used to living in a way that’s unnecessarily bad for us. Over time, we can stop questioning what we intuitively know to be unhealthy and just accept it like it’s our only option. Then there are some instances where, due to our past experiences, we don’t know that there is anything better.


It reminds me of the story of Saul (later known as Paul) meeting the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus on his way to persecute Christians. Saul was blinded and dropped to his knees in sheer panic. He asks, “Who are you, Lord?” and Jesus introduces himself. It’s an amazing story, and one which Paul (“Saul” no longer) recounts to King Agrippa years later as we see in Acts 26.


Paul tells the king that Jesus was sending him to go and bear witness. Christ told him, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” I love this scripture for lots of reasons, but also because these are the words we used in a prayer group I was a part of a few years ago. We’d randomly choose staff and students from our school to pray over, and that was what we’d pray. Without knowing any specifics about these precious souls, we’d ask that God would open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. We prayed that they would no longer peer through smudged, hazy glass and think that was the best life could offer. We hoped they’d experience their own eye-opening revelation.

Turn on the light

When you’re the youngest kid in a family, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with an eclectic treasure trove of toys/junk. At least that’s the case for our youngest son, Ezra. His three older siblings amassed plenty of plastic figurines during their early childhood, and now those Happy Meal toys and army men and Fisher-Price animals and Matchbox cars are in various bins and boxes in his bedroom, if not strewn across the floor waiting to be stepped on by my bare feet.


One of his favorite collections is a set he picked out when we traveled to Disney World a few years ago. It’s made up of figurines from the movie The Lion King. He likes pretending that the hyenas are attacking the lions with the ultimate fate of Pride Rock in jeopardy. Recently, he asked me to help him find Scar, the main bad guy from the movie. Ezra didn’t feel like he could satisfactorily play out the drama without him.


Now most moms know that they are often the only ones who can find lost things. It’s not uncommon for me to hear the following: “Where are my shoes? Have you seen my library book? I can’t find my jersey!” And apparently I’m the only one who possesses the unique ability to find these things that I don’t own nor am I responsible for. (Often, all that is required to find the lost item is looking under other things, and, for some reason, this is a difficult skill for kids to master.)


I instructed Ezra to comb through his bins of toys and his toy chest. After a few minutes, he came back to the living room and reported that he had been unsuccessful. He said that he had dumped all of his toys on the floor, but he still couldn’t find Scar. I walked back to his bedroom and saw the piles of toys, noticing that the light was off and the window blind was still closed from the night before. Ezra was standing behind me, so I asked him, “Did you look for Scar with the light off?” He answered, “Yes.” I told him that it’s difficult to look for something in the dark. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. Knowing my proclivity for finding things, he decided to believe me. We switched the light on and started digging.


The Bible mentions light and the goodness of light hundreds of times. We see that God made light at Creation, just as He is light with no darkness in him. The Bible says that we can’t simultaneously live in the light and hate a fellow believer.  It says that people can be walking in darkness, then they can be transformed once the light dawns. We read Jesus’ instructions not to hide our lights under a bowl or a bed.


Jesus also tells a story about a woman who has ten coins and loses one. She lights a lamp and sweeps her house, carefully searching for the lost coin. Once found, she rejoices, calling her friends and neighbors over for a party. (Jesus’ parable doesn’t specify that the woman was a mother, but it makes sense that only a mom would be able to find the lost coin.)


Light is essential, from growing plants to finding lost things. Just as a sunflower leans toward the sun’s rays as it climbs taller, we should set our sights on good things and allow the light to reveal what we’ve lost.

Stained Glass

For years, I’ve been fascinated by stained glass windows. Other than the obvious reasons for their appeal—the way they add an interesting element to a room and how they change colors according to the light shining in from outside and that they have limitless possibilities for artistic expression—I also appreciate how difficult they can be to construct.


There’s glass-cutting, welding and soldering, painting and sealing. There’s sharp tools and hot kilns and noxious epoxies and a material that can easily crack and break. No doubt being a stained glass artisan is a methodical and sometimes frustrating job with cut fingers and strained eyesight.


None of the outside windows in my home contain stained glass, but I do have seven old, discarded stained glass windows hung across two of my kitchen walls. I collected them over the years from antique stores, some pricey and some dirt cheap. Though they don’t catch the sun’s rays, they still brighten up a boring off-white corner above our kitchen banquette.


All of my collection are just for show. They have no practical purpose or function. They don’t keep out the winter cold or the summer heat. My windows are just there to look pretty. But the stained glass windows in ancient churches and cathedrals had a real purpose. Besides insulating the people inside from the weather outdoors, they were designed to tell a story.


In medieval times, artists would work with church leaders to create a Poor Man’s Bible. They would explain the narrative of the Bible to a mostly illiterate population through a series of pictures. One whole window might be filled with panes depicting the story of Jesus’ birth. Then the one next to it might have pictures only relating to the book of Genesis.


I can just imagine an uneducated laborer walking into one these Gothic structures and sitting down on a hard, wooden pew. He would look up in awe at the massive glass story boards surrounding him as he pieced together these epic sagas from God’s Word.


I am a window, in a way. Just like those complicated and exquisite stained glass windows in medieval churches, I have the ability to tell a story, too, but my story will be more effective if it isn’t just hung on an off-white wall—decorating without educating, adorning without informing, embellishing without enlightening. The story I have to tell will be so much more powerful if I allow a bright, sunny light to pass through the colored panes. If I can deliver my testimony from the point of view that God’s light has shown through every moment of my life, it will be a compelling story, for sure.

Chasing sunshine

Today was one of those Tennessee February days when everyone is talking about the weather.

“What a beautiful day!”

“Can you believe this sunshine?”

“Did you hear it’s supposed to get up to 70-degrees this weekend? Crazy!”

We stand under the sun’s rays and drink it in like we’ve lived underground for the last three months. We gulp it down with closed eyes, our retinas unable to withstand the brightness. For those of us prone to melancholy during gray, sun-less days, this is better than any antidepressants—Prozac from the heavens.

My youngest was just as excited about the pleasant weather. His heart still beats loudest for the sunny African days of his first five years of life so it took no arm-twisting to convince him to play outside. I pulled a camping chair from the garage and placed it strategically in a sunny triangle on the edge of the driveway to simultaneously watch him play and to read a magazine. (Moms are pretty awesome at this kind of multi-tasking.)

Our yard is blessed with several trees—mostly shaggy cedars and tall, tall pines—so it was only a matter of time before my sunny spot had been eclipsed by the surrounding shade. I felt the lack of sun before I saw it, shivering slightly in my t-shirt. So I moved my chair five feet to catch the sun again. Ten minutes later, I felt another chill. I scooted away from the house and right into the center of the driveway, a concrete square by the garage doors, the only warm spot not in our sloping, grassy front yard. My son rode his bike in circles around me like we were in a very boring circus act.

We spent the hour before it was time to pick up his older brother from school in this way: him peddling and me scooting. And my relentless quest for sunshine got me thinking about other pointless ventures.

King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, called these kind of meaningless activities “chasing after the wind” or in my case, the sun. (If you’re feeling overly happy, you should give Ecclesiastes a quick read. The narrator in my head for this book is Ben Stein’s monotone voice.)  Solomon calls everything meaningless: folly, wisdom, toil, pleasure. The reader might begin to ask: what’s the point?

In chapter 11, Solomon finally gives us something positive to consider amidst all of those warnings about futile pursuits.

Oh, how sweet the light of day,

And how wonderful to live in the sunshine!

Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted.

Take delight in each light-filled hour,

Remembering that there will also be many dark days

And that most of what comes your way is smoke. (The Message)

I need that reminder that too much of what I spend my energy on is “smoke.” Today, I will choose to live in the sunshine!