“God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”
~ Psalm 46:5
(I’m not going to qualify or quantify my story by trying to prove to you that my brokenness was worthy of God’s intervention – I am just going to tell you of the part of the journey of one of God’s girls being made whole.)
Background on Camel’s and Straw
Most of us wouldn’t even know if a piece of straw stuck to a wool sweater – its weight is literally feather light – but for a few paragraphs, we’re going to talk about straw-light . . . because, you know, that feather-light piece of straw broke the camel’s back.
“. . . it’s motion, step long and elastic, tread sure and soundless–all certified its Syrian blood, old as the days of Cyrus, and absolutely priceless. There was the usual bridle, covering the forehead with scarlet fringe, and garnishing the throat with pendent brazen chairs, each ending with a tinkling silver bell; but to the bridle there was neither rein for the rider nor strap for the driver. The furniture perched on the back was an invention which with any other people than of the East would have made the inventor renowned. It consisted of two wooden boxes, scarce four feet in length, balanced so that one hung on each side; the inner space softly lined and carpeted, was arranged to allow the master to sit or life half reclined; all over it was stretched a green awning. Broad back and breast straps, and girths, secured with countless knots and ties, held the device in place” William Wallce, Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ, 10-11).
According to Wallace, pouches lined the interior of the cot. There were willow baskets that carried “platters close-woven of the fibres of palms; win in small gurglets of skin; mutton dried and smoked; stoneless shami, or Syrian pomegranates; dates of El Shelebi. . . cheese, like David’s ‘slices of milk;” and leavened bread from the city bakery.” (Wallace, 15). There were carpets, silk cloth to cover the knees of guests. That was from just one “cot” or box on one side of the dromedary. The other held “a circular cloth, red-and-white-striped, a bundle of rods and a stout cane, and carpets to line the floor of the tent. . . and bags of food for the camel (Wallace, 14-15)
The camel – or dromedary – had the strength and ability to carry the necessities of home and comfort with ease. . . he was designed to carry burdens. . . so was it the feather-light piece of straw that broke the camel’s back, or was it the weight of a burden? No opportunity to rest, to gather strength? A lack of nutrients to keep up its strength – is it possibly that one or all these possibilities caused a weightless piece of straw to break the camel? His back?
“Exactly at noon, the dromedary, of its own will, stopped, and uttered the cry or moan, peculiarly piteous, by which its kind protest against an overload, and sometimes crave attention and rest” (Wallace, 13).
We all face challenges – big challenges and little challenges. Maybe it’s the relentless busy, the schedule that doesn’t give a moment to catch your breath. Maybe it’s keeping up with littles or trying to keep a teen between the lines. Maybe it’s being a care-giver to an aging parent or a loved-one with cancer or Parkinson’s Disease. Maybe you struggle with autoimmune disorders? Whatever the challenge – life dropped that feather-light straw on you and you broke? Have you had moments like that? Where the silliest thing breaks you when the hardest of hard couldn’t?
You’ve heard of referred pain – where you feel the pain in one part of your body which is so far away from what is really causing the pain that you see no connection?
Referred Response is like that. Your response is seemingly unconnected to what provoked the response that neither you nor those who know you see a connection.
What causes you to take a moment, sit down, catch your breath, give your beating heart time to slow and your soul to refresh?
Do you need to be physically and emotional broken – is that the catalyst that brings forth out of yourself the call for time out? The call for stop? The call for help?
A few years ago, I found myself in a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back moment. Except it didn’t involve a camel or straw; it involved a Powder Puff.
Yes, you heard that right – a powder puff.
I’d been in a Merry-Go-Round season – from crisis to heart moments – not including the everyday ordinary ups and downs. 2019 started out with my husband having a heart-valve replaced, followed by a lobe of his lung removed two weeks later because of cancer found during the pre-op for the heart valve, followed by a seven-day stint in the hospital for a massive infection.
My youngest son was a senior heading into soccer season – and I was the unofficial team photographer trying to capture photos of all the players for the end-of-the-year video. I also helped keep my grandson during the week while his parent’s worked. Every few weeks, I’d make a three-and-a-half-hour drive to my hometown, visit my sweet aunt who had dementia – and drive three and a half hours back. Prom was coming up – and I’d been invited to do the photos at the prom dinner he was attending, so I thought I needed to put myself together – and that included looking in my make-up box.
I needed a new compact – you know, to minimize the shine into a glow? In a crazy rush, I picked up one from the department store. When I opened it, I had no words – there was no Powder Puff. How in the world is a girl to put on a dab of powder without a Puff? Did they expect me to buy a brush, tuck it into a tiny purse? I’ll admit – it put me out of sorts – I lost my temper. My poor husband listened to my rant – all about a Powder Puff.
At 4:30 a.m., after my son’s prom, I made the three-and-a-half-hour drive to the big city to visit my aunt – it was the only time until graduation, I’d have time, especially if the soccer team approached the road to state. Wearing yesterday’s makeup, yesterday’s hair, I made the drive. That’s what you do when you love your people! You make room for them all – even in day-old makeup and day-old hair!
The long drive gave me time to lean in to God, to pray for those things which needed praying, and thanking Him for those things which needed thanking.
I was still stewing about that Powder Puff, though. I just couldn’t seem to shake it off – and that befuddled me because, after all, it was just a Powder Puff! Right?
Someone asked how I was – and I ranted about the Powder Puff. They commented about the shallowness of my middle-class privilege problems.
I was taken aback. I’ll admit, it was shallow. I knew it was shallow. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. Neither of us considered Referred Response. . . that really that silly Powder Puff was a cry for help. . . . What did I need help with, after all? The crisis was over. The outcome for my husband everything we’d hoped for. A soccer season of which teams and players dream! Grandkiddos to brighten my day!
I spent the morning and afternoon with my aunt, and on my way home, I stopped at a Sephora – after all, my compact needed a powder puff – and maybe they sold one separately. That would solve my problem – and allow me to let it go.
Powder Puff Ministry
Sometimes the help and grace we need doesn’t come from those who should know we need it; sometimes it comes from a stranger God intends as a new friend.
As I walked in, a tall, gorgeous blond woman with a Russian accent asked me what she could do to help me. She looked like she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine.
Apparently, I hadn’t learned my lesson from the earlier rebuke. I remained incredulous that a compact came without a powder puff – could she help me find one?
She looked at me calmly. . . there I was, a fluffy 50-something Boys-only Mom, with day-old make up, day-old hair, travel worn, come into the Big City from a Tennessee mountain. . . all wigged out about a Powder Puff. Really. . . I couldn’t stop myself. . . I didn’t know then what she thought, but grace stepped in and this beautiful makeup artist took me in hand.
Within five minutes, we’d moved beyond The Powder Puff – and she had me sitting in a chair talking about my skin care regimen, make up needs – and lipstick (I love lipstick).
Through her, God was telling me to take care of myself – to slow down, to make time for a refreshing, a soul regiment from the inside out and the outside in – the warrior needed a rest. The battle, for the moment was over.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others;
for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness;
and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
The Powder Puff? It wasn’t just a Referred Response. It was a God-designed catalyst for a God-Designed Encounter.
It wasn’t about the Powder Puff at all – the rantings were really a cry for help. Because, you see, I couldn’t say I was worn out because of the people I loved so very much. I was and am so very grateful for God every minute of that season – for God saving my husband over and over. For the time with my aunt, the time with my grandson. For the baby of all my boys heading into graduation season and going to state in soccer.
God knew I needed mind, body, and spirit care – and he knew I wouldn’t ask for it on my own. Something had to break me to ask for help. The Powder Puff was my straw that broke the camel’s back.
Don’t ask me how I left revitalized, refreshed. I don’t know. All I know is I did.
The next time I was in my hometown, I stopped by again, hoping to run into my beautiful new friend.
It was like meeting an old friend. We both marveled about that day. She exclaimed that if anyone else had walked in complaining about a Powder Puff, she wouldn’t have given them the time of day. . . but God knew I needed help and she was the catalyst to that help.
Qualifying or quantifying a person’s challenge reveals more of an individuals prejudice or lack of knowledge about an individual’s situation than any actual interest in the condition of their mind, body and spirit. Do not be deceived; the straw that broke the camel’s back was not the single piece of straw but a totally different burden that is not readily seen.
“And he said to them,
‘Come away by yourselves
to a desolate place
and rest a while.’
For many were coming and going,
and they had no leisure even to eat.”
~ Mark 6:31
The next time you see a melt-down whether deserved or seemingly ridiculous, consider that maybe that response is Referred Response. Maybe they’re going through or have been through a challenge. Maybe it was a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it was a health challenge – your own or one you love.
Maybe it was a financial challenge, a dream challenge, a broken-down-car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.
Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure, don’t shut off conversation because it’s not something that you believe would challenge you. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.
In each challenge, also, God provides a space for refreshing, for rest, for recovery. Take that time. Catch your breath. Maybe then, you won’t need a Powder Puff Intervention or experience the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe you have experienced Referred Response – what triggered your response?
“Caring about beauty,
it is necessary to start with the heart and soul,
otherwise no makeup will not help”
~ Coco Chanel