The sound of the respirator filled Donna’s ears morning, noon, and all night making it difficult to sleep well. Her chest hurt, actually her entire body hurt and life looked very, very bleak and hopeless.
Donna glanced out her door at the nearby nurse’s station, wishing she could trade places with any of the people she saw standing there instead of having to be tethered to a machine simply to breath. How she longed to be free of her chronic illnesses and to just live and be creative with the gifts God had given her.
It seemed like her life was in a wasteland of limbo and she was worried about her son who had had to put up with a mom who, through no fault of her own, had been chronically ill with respiratory issues most of his life.
Now all the medication she had taken to help her in the short term was taking a toll on her body in the long term.
A single hot tear of frustration rolled down her cheek, instantly dried by the air of the ventilation mask. At that moment she felt a gentle hand brush her cheek and remove the mask. For an instant she panicked, knowing that the removal of the mask spelled big trouble but when she looked up to see who had removed it, her heart nearly stopped. It couldn’t be. Was she dreaming? Did she just die?
The figure half sitting on her hospital bed smiled at her and that smile sent waves of glorious, intense love flowing over her like a mighty river. His eyes gazed upon her with a brilliance of pure, unadulterated love and total acceptance.
“Take my hand, Donna,” said the Savior, reaching for hers. She didn’t think twice but laid her small cold hand inside that of her Redeemer’s. It was warm and the touch of his hand upon hers sent a thrill coursing up her spine. “Come with me,” he said, standing. Donna stood, unable to tear her eyes away from his face, drowning in the pulsating waves of love that flowed outwards from Him and surrounded her in a warm cocoon.
Suddenly she found herself in a different place. She was in an art studio – a studio that made her pea green with envy for it was everything she had always imagined for herself were she healthy and rich enough to have it. It was filled with glorious light and had everything an artist would ever want or need.
“This is all for you,” said the Lord, putting his arm about her shoulders and turning her about so she could see everything.
“Lord,” said Donna, totally confused. “Did I just die? Am I in heaven?”
“No,” He smiled at her. “This is just a little vacation.” He gestured to all the art supplies. “Enjoy yourself and make something for Me.” He said, giving her a wink. In that instant He disappeared. Donna stood in slack jawed amazement and regarded her surroundings again, going from drafting table and then from shelf to shelf to inspect everything more closely. Outside birds sang and the breeze smelled of honeysuckle and orange blossoms. She suddenly jumped up and down in glee, rubbing her hands together. She felt great! No pain, no difficulty breathing, no aches! She had never felt so physically free in all her life! She got out the acrylic paints and a blank canvass and proceeded to paint something beautiful for her wonderful Lord. She soon lost herself in her work and painted with gusto.
After what seemed hours she paused and stepped back to see what her hands and wrought and frowned. This is not what she had been trying to paint! The colors were all different than what she had used and the painting made absolutely no sense. It looked an angry child had taken a bunch of finger paints and used every color there was until it all blended into one large blackish/greenish mess. She just couldn’t figure out what had happened! She set the canvass aside; there was no way she was going to give that as her gift to her Savior! It had turned out hideous!
Perhaps a different medium? She went to the cabinet and found stamping supplies, a heat gun, glitter, ink pens and embossing powders. She would do an elaborate Valentine card to Jesus to tell Him how much she loved Him!
She sat down at a different table and worked meticulously. She didn’t want to over do it and make it look messy and cluttered and she wanted it to express her heart of gratitude for this respite away from her sickbed in the hospital. Hours later, when she felt it was perfect, she looked upon it and cried aloud in pain and disappointment. It was hideous!! What was wrong with her? Nothing she put her hands to do to make for Him was turning out right!
Donna felt like crying with frustration. This surely wasn’t heaven! Heaven was not supposed to be a place of frustration! She looked around the room again.
She would try one last time to make something lovely and meaningful for Him.
She found a potter’s wheel and a lump of clay on it. She had never worked with clay before but since nothing had turned out right in the mediums she was good at, perhaps this time would be the charm.
She put on an apron, sat on the stool before the gently spinning wheel and began to experiment. First she tried a bowl but it came out lopsided. Then she tried a vase but her hand bumped the clay just as she had it almost the way she wanted and the entire thing collapsed into a misshapen mess. Donna was frustrated beyond belief and so disappointed with herself. Somehow she knew the time was quickly approaching when Jesus would return and she had achieved nothing but making a mess of everything she had tried to make Him. Her head hung low with shame and she began to sob hot angry tears of frustration and grief.
“Do not weep, my beloved,” said a gentle voice behind her. Donna half-jumped out of her skin in surprise but was instantly calmed as His arms circled about her and lifted the lumpy misshapen object from the Potter’s wheel to admire it.
“I’m so sorry, Lord!” she said, trying not to sound like a whiny baby. “I tried so hard to make you something beautiful because I love You so much and nothing came out right!”
“I do not know what you mean!” Jesus replied, his eyes looking at her with a knowing smile. “It’s absolutely lovely!” Donna looked from His face to the clay back to His then did a double take. In His hands the clay had become an exquisite long-necked urn with swan-neck handle from which to pour water from. Donna’s mouth hung open…not sure what to say. Jesus turned and went to where her painting sat on the easel, covered with a cloth to hide it’s ugliness. He threw back the cover and admired it with a great big smile. It was a lovely pastoral scene of sheep grazing peacefully in a flower bedecked field under a cloudless sky. “Beautiful!” He said, turning about to smile upon her. He then crossed to the drafting table and lifted the large Valentine card she had made for him. He read her words in silence, closed His eyes in sheer delight and then gave her such a grateful smile it took her breath away.
Donna did not understand what was happening at all! Jesus again reached out his hand to hers and she walked forward into His warm embrace.
Suddenly they were back in her hospital room and He was again sitting on her bed.
Lord, she thought in her head since she couldn’t speak with the ventilator over her mouth, this was a lesson of some kind for me, wasn’t it?
Yes, He nodded, holding both of her hands in His. Even though you think what you created as a gift for Me was a mess, because it was made with love, it was exquisite in My eyes. Now let us take your life…do you think your life is a mess?
Donna hung her head, nodding, feeling deeply again the depression and hopelessness that had been her companion for so many years.
In My eyes you are perfect! Gorgeous. Exquisite! He said, his silent words piercing her dark heart like a beam of sunlight. You are the clay in My hands and though the way I fashion you may seen harsh and ugly, it is beautiful in My sight. I am making of you a heavenly vessel. You may think you have become useless and decrepit but I see you as gold in the refining fire of my love. It isn’t pleasant and it doesn’t feel fair but when you come out on the other end, you will be My treasure. Can you now see what measure of trust I have placed in you to allow you to endure so much for Me?
For you, Lord? Donna responded. But I thought that this was all just bad luck and living in a sick sinful world. I could do so much more for You if only I weren’t sick all the time!
But you already do as much for Me as I would ever want! Said the Savior, cupping her cheek in His hand. Despite all the pain and all the suffering, you still demonstrate child like trust in Me. How could I want anything more than that?
Donna had no come back for that. Suddenly a nurse entered the room to check on her. She took no notice of the Savior sitting on the bed but before leaving, Jesus whispered something only she seemed to hear and she tucked the covers around Donna’s perpetually cold feet and legs and then paused to bow her head and offer a silent prayer before leaving the room again.
Did you give her the idea to do that, Lord?
Yes, of course! Came His gentle response. Every act of kindness, every thoughtful gesture, every visitor who comes to see You to offer their love and encouragement is my personal emissary so that you will know that I am acutely aware of you at every moment of every day. I will send them to you now and then as a gentle reminder of My eternal love and care for you. While I may allow you to have suffering in this life, it cannot be compared to the glory that awaits you in the next. Continue to trust in Me, beloved. I will never fail thee nor forsake thee and when this brief life on earth is over, that art studio you visited today will be waiting for you.
With those words of encouragement branding themselves upon her soul, Donna fell into a peaceful sleep, feeling as though her Savior’s arms were wrapped about her like a warm blanket with His warm cheek next to hers.