“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
My weekend of traveling back to Greece started with this verse from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, known to us as the Book of Philippians in the Bible. I was writing my first email of the New Year to my sponsor child; I am given a section of pre-approved templates and verses to choose from, in which my letter gets translated to before being delivered. Out of my verse options, I thought this was encouraging for the start of the new and in my letter, I mentioned how I learned the verse when I was his age with a song that you sing in a round. I am sure just teaching him the tune would have made more sense than my explanation.
I had no more thoughts of Philippians–or Greece for that matter—until Mom asked me if I wanted to work on my scrapbook album of the time I spent there in May 2010. The trip was the last “Hoorah” of my college days, as we left a week after the graduation ceremonies. It was a once-in-a-lifetime journey for me and to prove it, I took thousands of pictures (quite literally.) My apartment in Denver was walking distance from the best local owned tea and coffee shops and Hobby Lobby. No more needs to be said on what I enjoyed visiting during my days off work. Between the start of painting days and the good intensions of the Greece scrapbook, Hobby Lobby could not have been located in a better place!
Then change began—chemo, moving and more moving, and before you know it, I hadn’t really touched my album but a few beginning pages completed and I had lost pictures. What a mess. Christmas 2012 was the first I touched the project again, but spent the whole family crafting time putting my pictures in order. Another year later, still no album.
At the turn of this year, when I first started noticing more change in my body—especially my eyes—I realized that there were things I needed or wanted to accomplish…some important files that needed thinking and praying about, painting projects, my Greece album, sorting my books and things like this. I want to do them while I can—especially just spending more time with my family. So when Mom offered to help me finish my album, I was excited! Saturday afternoon, we pulled out my scraps of a scrapbook album, sort of processed, and set to work. Because scissors and tape are now out of my usage vocabulary, I would go through my pictures and place them on the paper, explaining which to trim and such. I found the ruins fascinating…so of course, most of my pictures have lots of grey rock. “Does this look like it is facing upright or does it go this direction?” Poor Mom. Sunday I had the thought to use my hand-held magnify glass—I don’t know why I didn’t think of it the day before as it helped with clarification.
After a wonderful Saturday, I woke Sunday sort of grumpy…I felt pressed for time getting ready for church and was feeling the soreness of my Friday blunder fall into the closet after I lost balance closing my bedroom door. So as we get to church, I am a bit frustrated at how my morning started, how I just sit at in the pew not getting anything out of it because I cannot lip-read the pastor and have no interpreter. I am sitting there thinking I could just be home reading my Bible on Nook in better lighting, a cozier chair and eating breakfast. But this Sunday, the pastor was beginning a new study series: Philippians.
Although there were printed sermon notes, I could not read them…so I just opened my Nook app and read the first chapter of Philippians and then found my mind traveling back to Greece, as the pages Mom and I had finished the night before were of the Philippi ruins. Standing next to the columns and stones, it was this early church body of Greek believers that Paul wrote his letter to and it became more alive in my mind as I sat in memory of what I was blessed to experience during my travel days.
Most important, I sat thinking of how the book of Philippians goes hand-in-hand with where I am right now in life. It is both an encouraging letter and a challenging letter. Paul goes on to say that he has learned to be content in any situation (4:11). I know that Philippians 4:13, “I can do1 all things, through Christ, who strengthens me,” is the well-known verse…but in this recent time of reading, I personally found the words “rejoice” and “content” weighing on my heart. I can do all things through Christ, but am I also content in any situation…rejoicing in any situation? Physical struggles are hard, but these past few days in those struggles, I have been uneasy in mind…because I haven’t fully recognized my state, “I need more help.” Oh, I can say it, but rejoicing and being content is another. This is what I am learning, reflecting upon and viewing through the magnify glass into my heart.