He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. ~Job 8:21
Okay, if this photo doesn't make you laugh... I just don't know about you! This is a picture of my grandmother a few years ago. She was spending time at her home outside of Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. She is one funny old lady! She sometimes goes there during the summer months, as she grew up in T.A. (as my family calls it.) It is one little dirt hole of a place! My sister and I spent a summer there the year before I started junior high. It was torture!!! It's poverty stricken, near-ish to a reservation, I believe. And it's DIRT! Oh, and alfalfa... and mosquitoes... Not the kind of place a girl heading into the maturity of Junior High wants to spend a summer. No Malls. No restaurants. No... nothing! Oh wait, they did have a drive in liquor store and an indoor public pool.
Anyway, the summer this photo was snapped had been a particularly rainy one. She and her brother, Pete, had stayed out way too late (10:00 p.m.) and they had to hurry and get back to the trailer (yes my great-uncle lives in a trailer house) before it started storming!!! But, in the moments before they opened the door to leave their friend's home, thunder rolled and then the lightening flashed. Now, mind you, I'm telling this story second hand as, after my second visit the year before twelfth grade I swore I would never go there again! My sister is the one who shared, so I hope I'm getting it right... My Gramma was beside herself when she saw that lightening brighten up the night sky. When she gets scared, she gets really, pickin' ornery; quite mule-headed! She turned to her friend at a total loss of what to do.
Pete tried to urge her into his pick-up, but she wasn't having anything to do with it! Now, I have no idea where the next idea came from. I've tried, every time I've pulled this picture from the box, to figure out the logic. I just don't get it. In their older-generation thinking patterns my Gramma, my uncle and their friend decided that if my Gramma put a plastic bag on her head and tied it really tightly, then there was no way she'd be struck by lightening. I know... I've tried... and then I laugh so hard I cry! She is just hilarious!!! And one of the nice things is, that when I last shared this photo with her, she laughed about it to. After she was really serious about it. I think she was trying to convince me it would work; that the bag was obviously the reason she was standing there, un-struck.
Oh my goodness, I really love my grandmother!
Recently my sister-in-law posted on Facebook an old photograph of her baby daughter and her daddy. It's a sweet picture. As I looked at it and thought about all that had transpired in life since then, admittedly, it made me a little sad. And then nostalgic. So I went and pulled out one box of my family photos and just... remembered. I found one of our little Scottish terrier, Schneider. He was so cute! The ones of my sister from her teen years are always good for a laugh because she was the queen of rebellion. If there was a way to bug, bother, irk, annoy or anger our mother, my sister knew it!
The fading photograph of my mom when she was maybe 6, dressed in a baby pink satin leotard, little black ballet shoes and beautiful satin butterfly wings attached to her little arms, well, it's one of my favorites. It reminds me of my oldest daughter when she was that age. There are ones of old friends and their children, holidays, celebrations; even one of me when I was a cheerleader in high school. And then there are the ones when I was in the middle of my addictions. Binge drinking, cocaine most every day... and things that are even more sad than those. Those were such angry years. I had so much pain in my soul that I sincerely doubt that I knew there was another way to be. Pain, sorrow, disappointment - these were my constant companions. They were what I was trying so hard to silence and to distract myself from.
I'm so thankful that those days are long gone. There are still things that can make my life difficult to varying degrees, but nothing like it was then. Sorta why I like today's verse; how it says that He will once again fill my mouth with laughter. What a delightful promise. The "beauty from ashes" is a lovely reference to triumphing over adversity, but it's so... I don't know? Serene? Picturesque? Sorta lacks the "real life" imagery; it's altruistic, soothing. But who thinks of laughter and fails to understand what it means to laugh? Or lacks knowledge of the feelings that evoke laughter? Who better to understand it's joy and abandon than the one from whom it hid?
I think of the things that have come from my mouth in my anger or hurt and there are times when they have been uglier than ugly. No doubt about it. Now, though, now God has healed the wounds from which those toxic things originated. Here's the part that astounds me: Yes, He cleaned me up, emptied me of all the "ashes," but He hasn't stopped there. He also fills those empty places with His goodness and righteousness. I see a picture in my mind's eye of a waterfall cresting and then cascading down to the depths, spilling out over the edges of the earth. This is the way He wants me to see His healing. From the barren emptiness, He places living water and as I drink deeply from it, I am filled until He-in-me cannot be contained any longer. It's then that it spills from me in laughter. Real laughter that springs from joy. I think this is what He means with this promise; this is how He once again fills my heart with laughter... and silliness... and just plain weirdness. He is so good.
In the next few days I encourage you to go through your old photos. I know you have one in mind! One that, even decades later, cracks you up! Maybe take the time to let that person know what a gift they are to you. What a gift they give you when they share their laughter with you. Just a thought...
In His precious love,