He gathers wood in the beginning of September and in the rain and the sun, as time allows, he heaves that axe over his shoulder and chops the rounds small and stacks them high and neat.
His son stands in the window and watches his Daddy. Watches the strength of a man.
The end of November creeps closer now, and my toes tingle in the cold of this old Victorian and I open the door to the wood stove and place wood that love cut in against the white-hot coals and I watch it ignite.
The middle of October, my eldest daughter stood near me quietly in the warmth of the kitchen. My Lyla, who prefers the background, the unnoticed places. She leaned in close as I leaned over the stove and said, Do you think I could be baptized? I just don’t want to have to say anything…
There is a house on the corner, a street or two away, that I pass as I drive kids home in the evening. For as long as I can remember, it’s been boarded up…an old Victorian like mine.
A couple of the windows on the top floor were missing boards over their broken glass and the glimpses I could catch whispered of a hidden beauty, flowered wallpaper peeling that made a house a home, once upon a time.
Two weeks ago I noticed changes…new siding had wrapped around the first story, new windows and doors hung in place. The boards taken off the windows all around and a transformation beckons us to witness.
Elias, he listens in on a conversation between his Daddy and Nana and me; he hears us talk about the inner city and the things we witness here, how the word ghetto gets tossed around with calloused ease.
And his big, hazel eyes looks up at us and he asks, What is a “ghetto?”
I want to wrap him in my arms and laugh or cry, I’m not sure which, and all I can do is whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for his innocence; for his eyes that see beyond what is right around us – for his tender heart that doesn’t notice the difference between this side of 16th Ave and that side.
I had told Lyla, before she went to meet with the pastor, that they said she could tell him her reason why for being baptized. That if she was truly that frightened to talk in front of the crowd, they would say the words for her.
She nodded seriously and took that to heart.
We sit right in the front row, the small crew of us and Zeruiah asks to be lifted up as we lift our voices in worship.
My eyes keep drifting to the baptismal and the water that awaits her, and my tears add to the flow.
I remember the water and the telling, the verses I used to mark my own declaration…
And then she steps down into the water and she bows her head as the pastor asks why she is choosing to be baptized and her voice comes out with a strength I have never heard before,
My name is Lyla Baker, and I want to serve Jesus.
And the dam breaks and I can’t keep back the tears and she is plunged beneath the water and rises again, her smile is radiant and the cheers around us all filling the space. And in sin she was born and in baptism she is raised – her obedience publically declares her new life in Jesus and our lives are meant to be an offering for the One Who died in our place.
I sit this morning with my Bible open and a wrestling deep in my soul. This seems to be the year for a redeeming of verses that have broken me. Verses used out of context; verses tied to tightly to man, rather than to the Word Who spoke them – that prayer of John Piper’s on my lips, Lord, open Your Word to my heart and please open my heart to receive what Your Word has to say. And I am reminded, once again, that I am not the central character here, but that Jesus is, and the lens to read Scripture with is Him.
And I think of that house on the corner – the one that wasn’t torn down. The house that is being redeemed and transformed – the process seems slow and overwhelming at times, I am sure, but the skilled hands of the builder are sure.
I look at my daughter and the wrestling that she has done, the brokenness she has overcome, the growing still ahead of her and the joy that flooded her whole entire being when she came up out of the water, marked as Christ’s.
And I ask for the eyes of my son – the ones that see beyond the brokenness of the areas around us to instead see the people made in the image of God. To see their worth and their beauty even while some are still lost in their sin.
Soon that house on the corner will be filled with life again, once again that old roof will provide shelter from the rain that is falling outside right now, reminding me…reminding those who have the eyes to see and the ears to listen that,
As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.
The mundane moments of my day, the quiet moments of mothering and ministry and loving my husband are all being used to sanctify me, used to transform my life that has been redeemed by the precious Blood of the Lamb and it becomes an honor and joy to offer this life given to me to point those purposely placed around me to the shelter and the salvation and the redemption of Jesus Christ.
It all reminding me of the precious grace and truth that my grandparents built their marriage on,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
It doesn’t matter what side of 16th one lives, the darkness can’t hide the beauty and the Light of Jesus, and what an honor and a privilege it is to live our lives reflecting Him to those around us.