The front desk of my building called to let me know a package arrived. I am in such a funk this year I almost didn’t go get it. Seriously, we all have those years…you don’t want to listen to the Christmas music and you don’t wanna watch the movies. You just wanna get through it! Well, I decided to briefly change out of my pajamas and walk down to the front desk, and pretended to be jolly. I picked up this large square box, and noticed it had my sisters return address in West Virginia.
I was confused, she usually sends me a small package of underwear from Duluth Trading Company! She and my brother-in-law enjoy imagining me opening up a gift, and finding neon green underwear with pictures of huge elk on them. I quickly realized this was something very different. I opened the box and inside was something square wrapped about 30 times with tape and bubble wrap. “Ha Ha very funny” I thought as I reached for scissors, a knife, and considered a chainsaw. And to be fully honest, with each cut of the scissors I was getting more pissed. “What in the hell could be so valuable that they would need to wrap and tape it a thousand times in bubble wrap” I asked out loud because I’m seriously losing my mind. Little did I know this was a gift from heaven!
Finally, about “17 feet” down into the bubble wrap I spotted an old frame, and my inner Grinch began to fade. My sister (the better child) was the executor of my parents estate, and thus has a garage full of their things. And she found a painting…my favorite painting by my mother. I quickly sat the picture out in front of me and looked at it as if I was looking through a window, and thinking about getting in the boat.
Look how peaceful the water is around the boat. In the distance are the mountains, and can’t you picture yourself sitting on the fence? I quickly sent a text to my sister to let her know how much I appreciated it. I honestly couldn’t talk. I kept staring at it and smiling while my heart felt as though it would explode. Childhood memories were flooding my mind of fishing on Sherwood Lake in the mountains of West Virginia. I could almost hear my dad saying, “Grab your life jacket.” And then my phone beeped letting me know I had a text. My sister replied, “Isn’t that note precious?” I thought, “Note? Did I throw away a note with all that damn bubble wrap?” And it was as if my mother said with a smile, “Turn the picture over.” I continued to hear her voice as I read the message she had written many years ago.
To receive a note from a loved one who has been gone for over a year is quite the Christmas gift. And as I turned the painting back over I once again got lost in the beauty. I smiled thinking about the breeze that would be coming off the top of that water. And in that breeze I heard a quiet voice say, “Go find that.” I heard it so clearly in my mind that I tilted my head, and looked at the painting strangely. And I once again soaked in the feeling of peace and joy that came from looking at the water, mountains, and trees. And again, I heard, “Go find that.”
For those of you who follow me on social media, you know that this has been the year I chose to return to my faith. I wish that I could tell you that since that moment my life has gotten amazingly better. The truth is, this year has ended with what feels like a crash landing! And as I type this I’m struggling to find both peace and joy.
And while life is difficult at the moment…I don’t blame it on God. A little confused and at times frustrated with Him, but not doing the blame game. Just because we love Jesus doesn’t mean life will be easy. It sure wasn’t easy for Him. However, I’m not trying to bring down the room or make you want to chase a Prozac with 7 shots of tequila! I want you to realize that maybe there is a message from my mother for all of us. Because you also need to, “Go find that.”
God has painted a picture for you. And if you will get away to a quiet place with no distractions and close your eyes…I believe you could visualize that painting. There is a picture that you have in your mind…a life that would bring you great joy, peace, and hope. And if you are like me, you keep making decisions that take you away from living that life. I realize that isn’t always the case, sometimes life just sucks! Things happen out of our control, but too many times we…we make decisions that take us away from the picture God has put in our heart and minds.
As you can see the note says, “Painted with love for my beloved son Anthony “Tony” Ray Russell. By his mother Carol Williams Russell.” The word beloved is only used when a love is so deep that it can’t be put into words. And it is used in scripture for you and I. We are God’s beloved.
When I was a pastor I always said, “When I preach to you…I”m also preaching to myself.” And today I hope you know I am writing this for both of us. I am challenging you and I to stop blaming God for an unfulfilling life, and start allowing that picture He has placed in our hearts to guide us in making better decisions!
I want you to close your eyes and get a picture of what God has painted onto your heart and soul. What has God painted for you? What life has He always been leading you toward? And now, I want you to envision a border around that life, and that border is one of fire. Begin to make sure anything or anyone who would keep you from living that life can’t get to you. They are not welcome. What habits are interfering with that life? Throw them into the fire! It’s time to cast them aside.
Is it any wonder your Creator calls you a masterpiece? You have his work of art on your heart and soul. A better life is calling out to you. Visualize the life God has painted for you beloved. And go find that!
I love you,
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