On Being Invited

IMG_1933 3
Photo: Devon Donnahoo Photo

I sent this set of gently water-colored, hand-lettered wedding stationery clear across the Atlantic to an elopement in France a few weeks ago. If you had told me last year this time I would have my own design studio and be launching my own paper co., I would have laughed.

In less than a year, I’ve created bespoke {that’s wedding world language for custom} stationery suites for 9+ styled photography shoots all over north and central FL (and this one in France).  Many of which were featured in national level online industry publications.  The encouragement and feedback has been overwhelming.  Now I am creating for brides and event planners, as well as businesses.  It gives a whole new meaning to my lifelong pretty paper obsession.

Last year in July as I played with paint while camping at my folks in between abodes, Jesus whispered, “You design wedding invitations.”  I replied, “Awww that is such a lovely symbolic picture Jesus.  How fun.”

Again He whispered: “No. You design wedding invitations.”

“Yes Jesus, living out Your love invitation to the world around me to come to know more of Who You are. What a beautiful thing.”

“Beloved, no, You.  Design.  Wedding.  Invitations.”

And less than 48 hours later, I had managed to stumble into the wedding industry with my first set for a styled shoot here locally.  I finally figured out He meant literally.

With every invitation suite I create, with each lettered line and painted page, the symbolism of Jesus’ heart of love for us seeps even deeper into my own.

I am reminded of another wedding invitation from the story Jesus told about a king who threw a wedding feast for his son.  But the guests who were invited scoffed at the invitation and went about their own business. They didn’t even bother to RSVP.

“Then he [the king] said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matt 22:8-10)

Being invited, like being named, is a deeply powerful thing. 

And we are invited. You are invited.  I am invited.

We’re invited to dance into the wild love story of eternity.  Into the embrace of the singing Father who has our names carved into hand.  Into the embrace of the Son Whose love held Him to the cross and then left death an empty grave.  Into the embrace of the Spirit who fills us and spills out God’s love into our hearts.  Into the love relationship of Trinity that is far deeper than any of us can even begin to imagine.  Into the adventure of the ages. We are invited.  Not because of what we have done or achieved or become.  But because of Who He is.  And Who He is, is Love.

Where ever you are on your journey, please know I am so grateful for you being here.  You are loved, invited, chosen, wanted and treasured so much more than you know.

How to Embrace the Sacred Now

pexels-photo-90832.jpeg

I’ve been wanting write this piece for some time.  I don’t usually write about my ongoing health issues because, well, truthfully the less mental real estate they take up, the better.  But sometimes the hardest won silent battles are the things that shape us the most.

Let me be really clear.  I do not EVER believe God sends sickness or tragedy to teach us a lesson.  That’s like saying it would be OK for parent to hold their five year’s hand down on a hot burner to teach them a lesson about obedience.  That’s not love.  It’s abuse.  But I do believe God never wastes our pain, the challenges of a broken world, the tragedies that split lives and families open wide. 

Four and a half years ago I came back to the USA from Africa with my health unraveling in almost every direction.  I was looking to hopefully find some answers that would put me back together.  While here, I had a routine dental check up from a former dentist who was substituting for my then regular dentist.  I had one questionable iffy spot so he suggested filling it as a precaution.

He did an old-school silver amalgam filling, right next to a molar with a gold crown.  That began a descent into hellish amounts of pain.  He unwittingly created a battery in my mouth and refused to fix it.  For three weeks, I had current running between those teeth.  I called and called in agony as the galvanic response was frying my trigeminal nerve.  First they told me to eat boiled eggs.  Then they stopped taking my calls at all.  Finally I found a new dentist who knew exactly what was happening and immediately switched out the filling for a non-conductive porcelain alternative.

But the damage had been done.

The second branch of my trigeminal nerve was fried.  A few weeks later I was in the ER after almost collapsing with the pain in a department store.  And this monster got a name.  Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia. a.k.a. the worst chronic pain disorder known to medical science.

Almost five years later, my mouth still feels like it has been scalded with burning hot coffee, some of my upper teeth still feel like they are abscessing and often it feels like I have an electric cattle prod jabbing my cheek.  Sometimes all at one time.  My face has fits and flares and there are days all I can do is take one moment at a time because that is all I can handle, and that barely.

And yes there are days I am angry.  Angry at the injustice and the arrogance that left me with yet another thing to deal with.  Frustrated that there was no legal recourse because our state laws seem to protect doctors more than patients.  There are days I want to pound my fist on the ground and rail against the pain and the fallen, broken cosmos that let it happen and trite platitudes thinly-veiled in spiritual veneer.

But fortunately that’s not most days.  I have to make a decision every moment to trust in God’s absolute goodness in between the now and not yet.  To focus on the beautiful unfolding around me. To stake my very existence on a radical stance of gratitude.

To choose to let that pain for as long as it is there drive me deeper into what I’ve started calling the sacred now.  Tomorrow has no grace.  Next week and month and year suck the grace and joy and strength out of today.

But by His strength, I choose to stay grounded in the sacred now.  Because present in this moment, in Him is an eternity of grace.  And I am learning that is enough.

Do you know the present is?  It’s a gift.

Staying present to the gift unfolding around me is one of the most profound journeys Jesus and I have ever taken.

“Now” sparks, burns brightly and then is gone. It is fleeting, frail and fierce all at the same time.  It is the gift of the sacred, infinite and yet so very fragile.

For me, it is no longer a question of what will I do with my one and precious life.  It is a question of what will I do with the only moment any of us ever truly have?  This one precious moment. This sacred now.

What will we do with the present we are given?

I want to unwrap it, savor its marrow, explore its depth, capture it in pixels and letters and learn every lesson it can teach.  To live boldly with no space for regrets.  To live fully, not frantically.

So that my friend is my prayer for you.  That in the middle of this moment you find the ocean of love and grace found in His eyes.

You who walk with chronic pain of any kind.  I’m still standing for healing for both of us.  You are not alone or weak or in any way less than.  You wage a silent war every day and all of heaven cheers you on.  And so do I.

Always remember. No matter what.  You.  Are.  Loved.

Save

The Power of Being Named

naming-001.jpg

There is power in being named and naming.  Names call forth identity and purpose.  Names can also shut down the same.  When critical seasons of change happened in the ancient world, often the person’s names changed as well because names and identity were understood to be inextricably entwined.

When I lived in South Sudan I had the honor to name quite a few little ones.  It was always something I took as a high privilege because it was a chance to call forth meaning, identity and purpose in profound ways.  Being named has power.  With our words we call forth things that are not into being and set boundaries for our lives.   With our words we speak life {or not} into those around us.

Words and names are holy, sacred, powerful things.

You who have been with me on this journey across continents, seasons and years have likely noticed seasonal re-namings of this place.  You can trace my seasons with their changing names From the Unpaved Road became Bravely You which became Illustrated Grace and maybe a few things in between.  These names have been a litany of mile markers on the journey deeper into His heart and to live more fully out of my own.

What you likely don’t know about me is that Michele is actually my middle name. My first name is Diane. My mom is also named Diane and she loved her name enough to pass it along to me. For years it was just the name that got filled in on legal documents and that I had to correct doctors offices from calling me.  I never went by it and it didn’t really feel fully mine.

But that has been changing.  Mom and I were chatting about what address I could use in social media land that was uniform and simple seeing as the obvious MichelePerry was taken and she off the cuff suggested, “Why not DMichelePerry? It’s how you sign your name anyway.”

I came home and did some digging to see it was universally available.  I started switching everything over and suddenly Diane had new meaning for me.  It was no longer the name I never used, it became a beautiful gift from my Mama that I get to carry with me always.  And it was the one letter that allowed my worlds to be aligned and tied together and completed.

Diane means a number of things, but a little research turned up some beautiful truths.  Diane can mean heavenly.  It can also be a reference to the top sail of a sailing vessel, which is the primary forerunner sail that drives the boat forward. Di– means double and Anne is grace so from a little more creative perspective it can also reference double grace.   And it is all grace.  Every little bit of it.

This site has been a travelogue of me finding myself. Owning our names and our story is one of the bravest things any of us will ever do.

Naming is a powerful thing.  And the most powerful name of all is the name God calls us.  Beloved.  Be Loved.  Be the Loved.  And no label or name of man can ever cancel out the purposes and promises of God written over our lives by His love.  His love is too powerful for that.

And so this site ceases to be about grand poetic themes, and has become about simpler, deeper moments that are as I am:  Here.  His.  Yours.  D. Michele Perry.

{But I still go by Michele… in case you are wondering. 😉 }