Painful Purification: Beauty from Ashes.


This is a guest post I wrote for a dear friend and fellow writer. Heather is soon to publish her first novel! I am so honored to be a part of that journey.

Originally posted on Tethered Together:

I’m so stoked, and honored, to share a special guest post from Deanna Brown. This dear friend has walked a difficult road the past four years. One most of us will never be challenged to experience. When I came across the quote (below) from Madeleine L’Engle, I knew I could not relate to the type of pain expressed in the passage with the same depth as others. Deanna naturally came to mind as I have watched her deal with varied, longterm affliction. Her raw honesty is beautiful. She takes her crumbling world to the feet of the cross and finds a gracious, faithful Savior that lifts her and enables her to continue to share His love and goodness with others. Deanna pours herself out and Christ fills her up! Read on and be encouraged. (This is Part 1 of 2 posts).

Thank you, Heather, for the opportunity to be…

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Silver and Gold

There is a man at my church who has recently taken up the hobby of making jewelry of sterling silver and gold plate. Having commented on the various pieces his wife has worn to church (and maybe begged a little), I was so excited when he gifted to me two bracelets he had made. (It’s amazing what you can get from people if your life is pitiful and you aren’t above a bit of manipulation). With this thoughtful token of his labors, he encouraged me to let them be a reminder of the passages in the scripture that talk of silver and gold. I thought that was a lovely idea. So with my jewelry in hand (or on arm), I came home resolved to search out and meditate on the many references to gold and silver in the Bible. As this was a great encouragement to me, I thought it might be helpful to someone else. Thus I will share what I consider to be the most significant findings of my study.

The Temple: During my study, I began to wonder just what makes gold and silver more precious than the other metals. A quick search revealed that gold is valued for its unique color, along with the fact that it does not react to other substances. It’s lack of reaction means it does not rust or corrode, and thus, has a staying power other elements do not. Another aspect that makes gold valuable is its relatively low melting point, which makes it easy to purify and mold. Silver also has a lower melting point, and is a great conductor, making it useful for other applications besides just pretty jewelry. These things coupled with limited availability give gold and silver their worth.

It is no wonder, then, that gold and silver were used for many of the temple accouterments. They were of great value, they were of lasting value, and they were easily molded into the various forms needed. The beauty of the gleaming metals would add to the overall splendor of this earthly building that was a type and shadow not only of the new heaven and earth, but also of the beautiful spiritual dwelling place of Christ with his bride, the Church. Think of it, the temple was greatly embellished with gold, silver, precious stones and the most luxurious materials. And yet, we are told that this is just symbolism of that which is of far greater value. And what would be the fulfillment? What were these symbols pointing to? The accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The accomplishment of peace on earth and good will towards man; the condescension of the Triune God to make a way of reconciliation for His people; the beauty of Christ and his Church.  John Bunyon, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, has written a work entitled Solomon’s Temple Spiritualized. I have not read it all, but have had my appetite whetted to read it just by having read the introduction by the editor of The Works of Bunyon, a Mr. George Offor, Esq.  He writes, “The cost of Solomon’s temple has been estimated at eight hundred thousand millions of money: if this is true, still how infinitely inferior is that vast sum to the inconceivable cost of the eternal temple, with its myriads of worshippers, for which the Son of God paid the ransom, when he made the atonement for transgression, and built that imperishable temple which neither human nor satanic malevolence can ever destroy, and in which every spiritual worshipper will be crowned with an everlasting weight of glory.” So the earthly temple in all it’s glory teaches us the great value of the gift we receive when the Triune God sets His heart on us and calls us into His spiritual kingdom.

There is another aspect to the gold and silver of the Temple that I think is fitting to remember.  Intense heat is used to refine these metals, and then hammers are used to pound them into the proper shape. They are engraved with sharp objects, and polished with much friction. Malachi 3 refers to the Messiah as like a refiner’s fire. His people are like that gold and silver that comes out of the ground full of impurities and looking for the world like dirt. It is through the heat of the fire, and the blow of the hammer, and the friction and poking of sanctification that we begin to shine like precious metal. While it is never pleasant to experience the heat of that fire, it is necessary to purify us that we might be the jewelry that adorns His bride, the church. Could there be a more beautiful picture?


What is more important: Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs we are told of things that should be more valuable to us than gold or silver. In Psalm 19 we are told that these things are more to be desired than gold:

1.     The law that converts the soul

2.     The testimony of the Lord that makes the simple wise

3.     The statutes of the Lord that rejoice the heart

4.     The commandments of the Lord that enlighten the eyes

5.     The fear of the Lord that endures forever

6.     The judgements of the Lord that are true and righteous.

Here I am reminded of the passage in Galatians 3:24 “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law shows us our sinfulness and our need for a Redeemer. So yes, it is more precious than gold. And beyond that, God’s word both written and in the person of His son (see John 1), is a gift beyond price to the heart of a believer. We see these truths echoed in Psalm 12:6, 119: 72 & 127.

Proverbs tells us that wisdom should be sought more than silver or gold. This idea is repeated in Proverbs2:4, 3:13-14, 8:10-11, 8:19, 16:16. Closely related to this is the wise rebuke being of more value to those with an obedient ear (25:9), as well as lips of knowledge (20:15) (10:20) and words fitly spoken (25:11).

I have to confess that I am a worrier about silver and gold. Despite my resolve as a young adult that I would not spend my life worrying about money, I have often done just that. We have always been taken care of, sometimes miraculously (see this post), but as I am now ultimately responsible for making our fixed income outlast our lives, I can get more than a bit flustered at times. I needed this reminder. Do I appreciate the value of what I have? Do I seek to store up wisdom the way I seek to hoard my money? Do I seek out and value the wise words of those who are knowledgeable of spiritual things? Do I have an obedient ear to the wise rebuke? When I need help on a particular subject is my first inclination to search the web for the wisdom of the world, or to search the Bible for the principals that should guide my thinking?

I live in a culture that is full of slurred lines and grey areas. We would all agree that stealing is wrong, but we are constantly looking for ways to get something for nothing. We would agree that murder is wrong, but are quite ok with hate and intolerance and the killing of unborn babies. Adultery is wrong, unless we can come up with a good enough excuse to justify our actions. It’s easy to find myself buying into the compromise that is such a part of the world I live in. And yet here I am told that the law of the Lord is to be desired more than gold. Is this my attitude toward God’s law? Do I seek to live a life of integrity that looks for ways to obey instead of excuses to disobey? Do I pick and choose which laws are important and which don’t apply to me? If I truly understand the value that God puts on them, then I will do my best to give them my utmost respect.IMG_1465

Outward versus inward: Because of the value put on gold and silver in this world, we have a tendency to give it higher esteem in our interaction with other people. We are warned in James 2 not to show deference for the man with the gold rings and fine clothing in the Assembly of God’s people. Both rich and poor should be treated with the same amount of grace and respect. In James 5 the other side of the coin is addressed, instructing those with much gold and all of the power that comes with it not to abuse that power or to expect certain advantages because of it. We are reminded that all the gold in the world will not save the oppressor in the Day of the Lord. As a woman I am instructed that I should be more concerned with my heart’s condition than I am my outward adornment of silver and gold and pretty clothes (1Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter3:3).

All these verses acknowledge the value of precious metals in our earthly economy. The possession of them is not the thing in question here. The obsession of them is the issue. This is a sort of application of the passages on the Temple and the ones on what is to be more important. If we understand the great price that was paid for us to become children of God (1 Peter 1:6-9) and to give us access to the Mercy Seat; if we understand the great value of the Word of God, both written and in the person of Jesus Christ, then we will not be distracted with the lesser economy of this world. If God has adopted me as His own, then I don’t have fear of need. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23). I am freed, then to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and know, without a doubt, that all these things will be added unto me (Matthew 6:33).

That last reference brings me to my conclusion. I think it is safe to say that when I put on one of my bracelets, I will, indeed think of the many references to silver and gold found throughout the scriptures. But I will also be reminded of the community of fellow pilgrims that I am privileged to be “boiling” with in the Refiner’s fire. I will remember the thoughtful gift from an old friend I have come together with week in and week out for 20+ years to worship the King. I will remember those who have rejoiced when I have rejoiced and wept when I have wept. I will think of those who have carried my burdens and shared theirs with me. I will remember the pastors who have taught me to value God’s word above all things: Men who have labored to keep the truth shining before me. This little group of believers that make up my earthly church: they are His Kingdom in part. It is their welfare that I seek. And I pray that God will keep his mouthpieces faithful to the truth that His kingdom may come and His will may be done here in our midst.



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How I Spent My Summer

It has been so long since I have written anything of substance that perhaps I should give a bit of an overview of what I have been up to. This has been a difficult summer in the Brown house. Strokeman has been plagued with many an ailment which resulted in visits to various doctors and testing facilities. Basically what we found out was a huge amount of nothing. The rash on his limbs is a vague contact allergy of which we hope to find the source after more testing. I have my suspicions that he might be “allergic” to too much contact with the bed, but I am not hopeful that this will show up on a patch test. Meanwhile, he is on a round of steroids to keep him from clawing himself.

The pain in his side is probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome that is presently being kept tolerable by medication. He watches the clock to inform me when the next dose is due (not all that effectively as he often misses the first digit, causing him to proclaim at 12:00 that it is 2:00). He has taken to not walking at all, other than to the bathroom and back.

Because of his discomfort, nights have been pretty rough. If it isn’t him shaking the bed rubbing his right arm against the sheet for relief from the itching, it’s his left leg jerking involuntarily for no apparent reason. Or there might be another round of perpetual hiccups caused by the anti-itch medicine. Then there is the insomnia, which results in his turning on the TV at odd hours and wanting to make a breakfast order at 4:00am.

Beyond the complications to life here at home have been grief and trials of loved ones that are just beyond comprehension. The weight of these things on my heart and the frustration that I am not at liberty to do anything to help beyond lending a sympathetic ear and praying for them has taken its toll.

Needless to say, I have not been at my best. In fact I became so depleted that I started having weird symptoms that precipitated my being driven to the ER by my daughter while I sobbed uncontrollably (I’m fine). Not exactly the way I would recommend a caregiver to conduct her life. It would have been better if I had been a little more proactive about taking care of my own body. I am surrounded by people who want to help me, but I could not even think of what to ask for.

The varying health issues had Strokeman contemplating worst-case scenarios. We have had discussions of life insurance, burial plots, nursing homes (“please just put me down before you put me in a nursing home”), etc. He has thanked me for his children and given me permission to remarry when he passes on. As bothersome as his symptoms are, it seems that none of these scenarios are in our near future.

Once again, my church family has rallied around me to offer meals, clean my house, encourage me and pray for me. My youngest son sent me away for an entire day while he cared for his dad. When I came home at 5:00, he told me it was too early and sent me away again. My designated deacon admonished me to set up regular sitter service again so that I can get away for some respite, and that it is ok to let my church family help me pay for it. I lamented to my sister how hard it is to accept this kind of help and she reminded me of my own words about being the stinky feet (you can read it here). Just like a sister.

In the midst of the various medical appointments, I have also compiled various and sundry financial documents to establish a formal relationship with a financial planner. I used this opportunity to bring order to chaos by setting up a proper filing system. I also have been dealing with a mistake made on my 2012 income tax form, a broken toilet, sugar ants and crickets in the house.

For the moment, we are on smoother water, so long as we don’t run out of pain pills or steroid cream. We are up to 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep at least once a night. I am working towards finding a sitter to come twice a month for 6-8 hours (hopefully one of those days will be a Sunday, so I can spend the day with my church family). I can tell I feel better, because I have enjoyed time in the kitchen doing more than the bare minimum, and had energy left to actually clean up after myself. I have even broken out in a dance a few times. But many of the habits I had – regular reading and writing to name a few- have to be re-established. So bear with me as I bring order to the mayhem over here. I will be back eventually.

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Three Years, A Journey- Part 1


This is my daughter’s blog. She writes of the same things but from a different perspective. I thought you might enjoy reading this in the absence of anything from me lately! It’s hard for me to read. I regret having abandoned my children during a time when they needed me. Thankful they have forgiving hearts.

Originally posted on faithelizabeth93:

It is crazy to think that just months ago my life was completely different. Just months ago I was living in an apartment. I was working 50 hours a week between 2 jobs. I had tons of friends and a completely different life style.

When I first got sick several months ago, I felt defeated. I felt everything I had slipping away and all I could do was lay in bed and kiss it all goodbye. I was angry. I was terrified. I was hurt. And I was bitter. I spent many hours crying out to God and many hours feeling like it was pointless to cry out to Him anymore. The longer I laid there in that bed the more I lost. God was stripping me of everything. I lost my apartment, I lost my savings, I could not work, I lost my “friends,” I lost my comfort foods….everything…

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My dear friend and fellow blogger, Abby, asked me to share with her readers about my blogging experience. Abby is a constant encouragement to me both as a sister in Christ and as a writer. She encourages me to write when what I would really like to do is hide in the closet under the stairs with a stack of novels, 5 pounds of salted caramel covered in dark chocolate, and 2 pounds of sour skittles. (Consequently, she should also get credit for the fact that I am not a toothless diabetic that has to be squeezed out from under the stairs by very strong firemen.) If you choose to follow this link over to her blog to read my guest post, you would be wise to stick around and read from her various offerings. She has something for everyone, and it is all good!

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Way Off Broadway

Recently, the Texas Traditions Chorus, of which I am a member, had their spring concert. One of the songs we sang, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, always transports me back to my elementary days at Arusha School in Tanzania. The role of Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz was my debut as an actor, and that was my first big solo. I can still remember the tryouts. I carefully braided my hair in two long plaits and sang from the depths of my heart, doing my best to reflect the lyrics. I don’t think I had seen the movie or read the book, but I understood the message of the song. I had a few years of thinking I had really knocked that audition out of the park until one day our choir director told me she had been won over by my big sad eyes (she should see them now, big, sad, and baggy).

I'm Toto and this is my dog, Dorothy.  And I have big sad eyes.

I’m Toto and this is my dog, Dorothy. And I have big sad eyes.

This role did not come without its problems. Becky Boyd had considered herself a shoe-in for it, since her mom was the director. And – let’s face it – Becky had a better singing voice and much more stage experience. Not long after I got news of my stardom, I got a note from Becky informing me that I had been un-friended (in the true friend sense, not the Facebook fake friend sense). Such sacrifices have to be made in the acting world. Little did we know that years down the road we would become best of friends and that her family would become my surrogate family when the borders between Kenya and Tanzania closed with my parents on the opposite side.

Thinking of my first taste of the stage, sent me down the lane of acting memories. I played one of the younger children in “Cheaper by the Dozen” in 7th grade. Being annoyed at my stage brothers didn’t take any acting ability whatsoever, because they were snapping us with rubber bands and pulling our hair. That look of pain really was a look of pain. Then I played Mr. Higgins’ mother in “Pygmalion”. I think I can say that my attempt at a British accent was almost as successful as Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins.

During my senior year of High School I was approached by Miss King to try out for an edited production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. This would be a travelling gig, as we would be using the Interim Class time provided for juniors and seniors to take a week to learn at some remote location from our boarding school campus. I landed the role of Puck, a mischievous sprite. I am not sure whose genius idea it was for us to perform Shakespeare to audiences that would be primarily non-English speaking (we were in Kenya). But since Miss King sometimes reads my blog (ahem!), I will assume her concern was more for our education than for that of our audience.

This trip was to be a series of unfortunate events. There were flat tires and luggage falling off the car, and a broken chassis. At one point we hitched a ride to a wheat farm, and I can’t help but wonder with whom. Towards the end of the week of performances in various parts of Kenya, we inched along home in a barely functioning van, under the supervision of a young single woman in the dead of night. If I had been Miss King, I think I would have been more than a bit flustered. As missionary kids who were raised in the wilds, we saw it all as a big adventure. But she was ultimately responsible for 12 teenagers in a country where auto mechanics and, well, places with functioning restrooms were not all that easy to come by. She does retain bragging rights to having her car worked on by a couple of guys involved in the East African Safari Rally, but still! Miss King handled it with the grace and tenacity of Karen Blixen.

Tarry Fairy

Tarry Fairy

We took turns sitting up front to talk to her while she drove. My turn riding shotgun stands out in my memory as one of those rare occasions from my years at boarding school when the formalities of teacher/pupil were put aside and we just visited like old friends. I don’t remember what we talked about (although my sketchy journal entries suggest she asked me what I looked for in a friend), but I have a sense of my words being valued by the listener.

At this point there arose such a ruckus from the back of the van that Miss King pulled over to the side of the road and said, “Alright! Everybody out!” And there we were: 12 tired, dirty teenagers jogging down the road in the beam of the headlights in front of a van going approximately 2 miles per hour on a deserted African road. The girls soon climbed back in the van to ride, but the boys held out quite a bit longer. I can still see their images in the headlights leaping like Impala down the dark road.

Interestingly enough, last Friday (after putting the finishing touches on this post) I encountered our Oberon (AKA Rob McNeely) at a funeral for another dear friend from Africa. We did a little reminiscing about the lifetime we lived that week as traveling thespians. He reminded me of the foamy heads (I don’t quite remember what that was about, but can assure you it was the most hilarious thing ever) and I reminded him of the phrase he coined that week, “Tarry, fairy!” We were amazed to find we live right down the street from each other. In fact, his family and mine have lived within about 10 miles of each other for the past 22 years without knowing it. We have hopes of getting together soon, if I don’t inadvertently run his bike off the road before then (it’s a new joke).

As I look back I can’t help but think what a rich life I have lived. I wish my journals held more details of trips like this one, and perhaps less poetry about teenage angst.

We have these moments to remember, vaguely.


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It’s the not knowing that’s a killer most days. I think I could rise to the occasion of just about anything if I could just know what I was supposed to do – what was going to happen – what my life was going to be like. But most days, I can’t tell you for certain the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know if “this” is normal for a stroke survivor or something that should have me rushing to the nearest emergency room. I don’t know if I will have time next month to sing in a choir concert or help with a wedding shower. I don’t know if a particular food will hurt or help my daughter’s condition. Some days my brain feels like it is going to explode as I try to determine the best course of action for any part of my life.

I believe in the system set up by my friend Abby, “first things first, and second things not at all”. But honestly, I spend a large part of my day scrambling to figure out what is the first thing. I know what the first first thing is – get up in time to eat my own breakfast before the wards start waking. If I sleep a little later, or take too long waking up and getting dressed before I eat, then there is a good chance I won’t get breakfast until lunch time. That motivates me to get out of bed no matter how tired I am. It is my version of, “please apply your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.” But after that, my day just kind of unravels one string at a time.

Last month was a particularly frustrating month where this was concerned. I was beginning to realize that all those things I signed up for in February (when I was a one person caregiver) had come to roost in April (where I became a two person caregiver). None of them were really big things in themselves (well, maybe that 60th wedding anniversary thing would be considered a big thing). But when you realize that somehow you have signed up for an average of 1 ½ extra things a week for the entire month, it gets a little hairy.

Suddenly I found myself getting speeding tickets and eating an entire bag of licorice without even tasting it. I realized, too late, that when I thought the first thing was to turn around at the ATM to go back home and attend to ward #2 instead of going on to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for ward #1; the real first thing was to retrieve my debit card from the ATM machine. It’s a downward spiral.

I text-lectured a friend of mine one week,

You need to learn to say, “when I agreed to make cupcakes, I wasn’t taking care of a sick family member” Walmart has cupcakes.

But I didn’t take my own advice. I don’t want to give up any of the things I have agreed to. It’s like going backwards. It’s regress instead of progress. But here I am, having to face up to the fact that life has changed once again. What I thought were easy little additions to my life became monumental achievements. I have to face up to the things I need to let go of.

In the thick of it, I forget that at the very foundation of first things are the “one another” passages we find in the New Testament. It’s kind of like the Hippocratic oath, “first do no harm.” I have to start with how I am treating the people around me. (As I type this I am reminded of a moment last week when I was yelling from one bedroom to the other, “I’M COMIIIING!” ugh). I have to think about how my words, my face, and my conduct are reflecting my trust in the Lord.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:38) Nothing could be more humbling than to think about how Jesus has loved me. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:3). So I must ask myself, “What is the way of love in this situation?” Often it does mean laying down my life for the sake of my friends (who happen to also be family). I don’t cling too tightly to the convenient or the indulgent. I give up my little luxuries and laziness to tend to the needs of those who can’t help themselves. Because I know my own tendency toward laziness and self-indulgence, I always start here. Are these things I am holding onto so tightly really that important, or do I just want to feed the flesh? But while I have to keep a healthy suspicion of myself, I don’t want to be lazy in the very act of trying to love. There are times when the example we have from Jesus is that of withdrawing from the crowds. He made provision for his own spiritual and physical needs. If I continue to expend myself to the extent that I collapse under the weight, then I have not only hurt myself, I have also left two needy people without adequate care.

It has taken me months to write this one blog entry. “This month” has been changed to “last month” and should really be changed to “in April”. About the time my daughter started getting back on some solid ground in her health, my husband has had a string of health issues. My army son came for a short visit. My chorus had their spring concert. Other loved ones are in the throws of difficult providences. I am weary. But I have had three nights of uninterrupted sleep. And Saturday, I slept most of the day. So things are looking up (despite the fact that I reduced two grown men to tears on Sunday with stories of my pitiful life).

The sermons at church this month (which might actually be last year by the time I post this) have been from the middle of 2 Peter 3 : the Day of the Lord. I have to confess for most of the sermon yesterday I was distracted by a conversation I had with Strokeman earlier this week on his DNR status and how he would like to go ahead and buy a burial plot. But at some point Pastor Eddie had us turn to Luke 21. During my distracted musings I glanced down at the page and saw this underlined in my Bible, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). I have been taught well by my elders not to lift a verse out of its context and apply a willy-nilly meaning to it. So I looked down at the bottom of the page in the study notes to see if it would give me a summary and found this,

“21:16-19 This Passage is a strong affirmation of God’s overriding control. For some of His followers there will be a martyr’s death, for others deliverance. Either way, God is bringing His purposes to pass.” Hmm.

So my thoughts are this. Whether we are talking about the Day of The Lord, or just the days of our life, the approach needs to be to remind ourselves that no matter how our earthly eyes may see things, the truth remains that God is bringing His purposes to pass. And I, as His handmaiden, need to be patient. He is not slack concerning His promise to come again and gather His people to himself. He is not slack concerning His promise to complete the work He has started in me. He is not slack concerning His care for his people.


I don’t have to know the answers. I am not ultimately responsible for righting the universe. It reminds me of when my nephews were young and my brother would say to them, “Tranquilo.” Calm down. Or when Jesus said to the roaring storm, “Peace, be still.” In the quietness of my house this morning, with everyone else still sleeping, and the sound of rain on the window, I am reminded not to try to possess what is not mine to possess. Whatever the question, my Jesus has the answer. My rest is in His arms. My confidence is in His plan. Let this world throw at me what it will. My Shepherd will supply my needs, Jehovah is His name.


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