By Gloria Nesloney
Knickknacks lined up on Mom’s shelf of collectibles from different parts of the world. One of those curios was a kaleidoscope from her childhood. As my older brother had first choice to look through the object, he kept oohing and awing about what he saw. I was getting anxious. What could be so exciting about what seemed to be a simple toy? Then it was my turn to look through. It was that day my world opened up to moving colors and shapes that transformed at the slightest turn of my hand. I was lost in the oohing and awing too as my eyes were fixed on the endless movement of fragments changing with my kindergarten fingers. I peered into a looking glass with pieces of colored glass and reflecting mirrors. What the kaleidoscope taught me was that even the simplest of toys can seem meaningless on the outward appearance, but one has to look inside to find the fragments of life that tell their own story.
As I got older, I can still remember the toy and the wonder it brought to my eyes. There are things I miss from my younger years, but the feeling I get when I go back to the days cleaning Mom’s knickknacks is nostalgic to me. One of those moments was when I was trying to be as careful as I could with the delicate glass figurine and just when I was putting it back, it came crashing down to the tile floor and shattered. Oh no! What my heart feared was the response of Mom who could have gotten angry because I ruined her beautiful keepsake. Instead, she and I got on our knees and picked up the pieces together as I cried. She spoke to me in a gentle manner. She said “It’s not your fault. Stop your crying, and let’s get the broken pieces into the trash.” I did as I was told.
Little did I know what impact those simple words from Mom would shape my outlook in life. I have been through some times that have been like knickknacks on a shelf. When I needed to be picked up, cleaned, admired, and treasured, there were times like the figurine, I fell to the ground feeling wrecked. Sometimes it was through my own clumsiness, other times, it was because someone mishandled me. Either way, the shards cut into my heart so deep that I felt like I had no purpose in life. I tried picking up the pieces only to find that my tears kept me from seeing clearly. I was trying to clean up the marred pieces by myself. Instead of picking them up and throwing them away, I would reminisce of what my life looked like before I was broken.
Elated to wake up early in the mornings to get ready for school, my feet jumped out of bed and would rush to the bathroom before my brothers. Enthusiasm used to be my friend. I was energetic and spontaneous. My grade school teachers would have reported that I was talkative, but I would defend myself and say I was inquisitive. I wanted to know things that were beyond what was being taught at the time. In my years of learning, I found more questions than answers. I had to put pieces together that didn’t seem to go together at the time. I would even keep little meaningless items that maybe I could use later. On the outward appearance, I was considered a normal little girl.
Inclined to live a little dangerously the older I became; I joined the military out of high school. I had imagined a career that I would eventually become a Drill Instructor. In my training, I learned how to fight the enemy. At that time, I couldn’t think of any personal enemies. It wasn’t until after I graduated from Boot Camp that I had an enemy. This enemy was a stranger who didn’t care for my fragile frame, who didn’t consider the permanent damage he would inflict, who didn’t handle me with care. Images like photographic memories would keep my eyes focused in a tunnel of darkness.
Depression crept in. I became unconcerned about the things the world had to offer. I was no longer interested in life. I needed to dream of something that would bring some kind of light. Shadows of hope lingered but didn’t stay long. I felt disconnected from my friends and family. I would have daymares and hallucinations that clouded my vision for life. I could recollect fragments of a happy little girl who longed to come out to play again, to live again. The longer I stayed in this state of stupor, the more delusional I became that the world was better off without me. Then like a blast from the past, Mom’s soothing words came back to me. “It’s not your fault. Stop your crying, and let’s get the broken pieces.” This time I didn’t hear to put the pieces into the trash. I heard, “Let’s see what we can make with the fragments.” What purpose can these pieces actually have?
Optical illusions ran through my mind as I tried looking for light. It wasn’t until I gave up on everything else that brought me to church. On my knees, I was on the floor trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered life. As I got up, my attention was directed toward the light that shined through small pieces of colored glass on the church windows. I was mesmerized by what seemed to be Eternity. I couldn’t look away. The longer I stared, the more the artwork seemed to come alive. I could see the dark lead outlines that made the dyes more brilliant. The faces seemed to speak to me as if they understood. They looked solemn and drew me closer to look into their eyes where I could see their true colors. If the glass mural could talk, I felt like they would say to me, “I can see the dark lines around your heart. Don’t throw away the broken pieces you were able to pick up. Put them in the Master’s hands. He can make your brokenness into something beautiful.”
Suddenly, I found the fragments had purpose. The dark outline of my crushed heart exposed the myriad of colors hiding inside. The mixture of emotions swirled the hues that could be seen with eyes that took time to study the beguiling section. With a little twist and turn, the hands of fate shaped my life. I had a new perspective. The reflection of my face revealed many facets of who I had become. I wondered if someone would pick me up and see who I really am. Who would ooh and awe at my various designs? Can someone tell me, “It wasn’t my fault that I was broken. You don’t have to throw away the pieces. Let’s see what we can make together.”
Courage to stand with my broken sections, I am no longer just being picked up off the floor of despair. Instead, I am put together in a form that is foreign to me. Maybe like the stained-glass slivers from the church will be my life to be viewed by all. Maybe like fragments of mosaics in the hands of a little child who can find the wonder of a whole new world of hope and life. I am thankful for the creative artist who took the shards and made me reflect His many facets. The glory of a kaleidoscope is not to stay on a shelf, but for those who have eyes to see, they can look deeper to find there is so much more than the outward appearance. I am not afraid anymore. Come look inside!
Optimism is my friend now. I no longer dwell on the darkest of my days, but rather the light that shines through me to bring out colors so vast, some indescribable, some with swirls. I can remember where the colors came from. The red color was from young scraped knees and elbows. Blue came from the times I would look up at Heaven. Green came from the fun times rolling down the hills. Purple was the color Mom liked. The browns came from mud pies made with rocks. White and bright colors came in later in my life from the one who saw me for who I truly am and loved me anyway. The blended swirls of bright and dark smears were from the emotions that paved a way into each of my experiences as I got older and more defined. Opaque, iridescent, translucent, metallic blends make for a more interesting view that can be understood by a life that has been forged by seasons.
Peeking through a kaleidoscope can be intriguing, as is looking into someone’s life. The phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” comes to mind. I did not want parts of my life to be known by others. The story I have to tell is not for everyone to hear. Instead, I wait on the souvenir shelf of patience. As I ponder the years that shaped me, I can now appreciate the oohs and awes that are waiting to be expressed by those who took the time to observe. What can my patchwork of cracked pieces offer? Who is willing to ask the questions of how the colors got their luster and shimmer? The prisms don’t lie. It reveals the truth of the parody of the true Master artist.
Embracing my past and present, I treasure the reminders of my decorative flaws. Who I am today is different than who I was yesterday. Though the outward looks the same, it’s the twists and turns to add perspective to my future. So many variations. So much to excite the eyes of wonder. I can exhibit the workmanship of the Master as someone reaches to look inside this work of art.
Pondering Point: The fragments you may have are not noticed when you look at the big picture of your life. Like a stained-glass window that decorates a cathedral or a looking into a small kaleidoscope, your fragments have purpose when you learn to pick up the pieces and put them into the Master’s hands.
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us—none can compare to You—if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count. Psalm 40:5 Berean Standard Bible