A Wineskin in the SmokeGuest blog post by Charlene Holsendorff
At this stage in her life she certainly didn’t expect this.
Hadn’t she paid sufficient dues with the trauma of her divorce? Not to mention the subsequent financial struggles as a single mom. Yes, God has been faithful, but it’s been difficult nonetheless.
Motivated by the Biblical principle of honoring one’s parents, taking her mother in has always been Frieda’s thinking even when she was still married. Mrs. Burton would have a place in the family home surrounded by people who loved her. That didn’t change after the divorce. When Frieda subsequently purchased a townhouse after the divorce, she had her mother in mind. She’d have a comfortable place to live out her days when she was ready.
Mrs. Burton was never ready.
Frieda’s mother was ferociously independent. For much of her life she lived alone in the city, right up to the day that a pulled leg muscle incapacitated her at 79 years of age. Frieda and her children, now young adults, persisted in convincing her that it bordered on perilous to remain any longer in her apartment by herself. She reluctantly allowed herself to be talked into moving in with Frieda.
Isn’t it intriguing that what we can’t perceive through the immature lens of childhood becomes acutely transparent with the enlightened perspective of maturity? Frieda was confronted with forgotten recollections of Mrs. Burton’s hoarding and debilitated housekeeping skills. ‘Eccentric’ is by any other word just plain bizarre.
Frieda resisted valiantly to keep her mother’s hoarding confined to her bedroom where the bed was perpetually unmade, containers were forever without lids, doors and drawers were never closed, candy wrappers were rarely trashed. Frieda furtively cleaned her mother’s room, making order of the chaos when her mother was otherwise occupied, only to peer into mayhem just a few days later.
Mrs. Burton’s mind was razor sharp, that certainly wasn’t the issue. Her frettings and rebuttals were lucid and appropriately belligerent. Frieda was forced to recognize that adapting her mother to an attitude of societal lucidness (that she’d discovered when she left home) was not to be a legacy her mother would embrace.
Respect and honor gradually regressed to consuming resentment and despair.
CAST DOWN, BUT UNCONQUERED
Frieda particularly loved Psalms for the honesty of David’s grievances – and the love that God so generously demonstrated in response. On this particular morning she came across Psalm 119:83, “For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, yet I do not forget your statutes.” (NKJ). Frieda didn’t recall reading this verse before; the words seemed so new to her! She re-read the verse, letting the visual embrace her…a wineskin in smoke… and it pierced right to unanticipated emotion. She found herself quietly sobbing.
Drinking containers in ancient times were usually made of goat skin. These skin bottles were often used out in the wilderness to hang in tents when the use of fire was needed inside and there was no chimney. With the absorption of smoke over a long period of time, the wine skin bottles would become hard and shriveled and eventually useless.
David with his poetic predilection is painting an experience in his life where he sees himself on the brink of ruin. He doesn’t stay at that point, though. David concludes Psalm 119:83 with, “…yet I do not forget Your statutes.”
At the same time that Frieda was working through this portion of Psalms, she’d also started reading II Corinthians in the New Testament, and this morning was at Chapter 4. (Coincidence? I think not.) What she read bathed her in God’s sovereignty and grace:
8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. II Corinthians 4:8-10 (NKJ)
She continued to read, reveling in how personally and in-the-moment God was ministering to her:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Corinthians 4:16-19 (NKJ)
We do not lose heart. Why? Because of who we are in Christ!
18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. Ephesians 1:18-21 (NKJ)
Several times during the day Frieda asks for strength to deal with her mother, acknowledging to God that she can’t do it by herself. Relying on God is exactly where He wants us! Is Mrs. Burton still fixing 9 p.m. dinners for herself? Yes (though Frieda is now more assertive about household expectations). Episodes of tension are farther between as Frieda keeps the situation in prayer – and perspective:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present timeare not worthy to be comparedwith the glory which shall be revealed in us. ~Romans 8:18 (NKJ).
God is ever faithful.
Charlene Holsendorff is an impassioned training and development professional with a focus in career management. She transitioned from the pharmaceutical industry to become an independent career management consultant, professional speaker and author. She currently manages a career center for 1000+ displaced pharmaceutical professionals.
Charlene has a reputation for providing insightful instruction in a stimulating environment. Her informal delivery style and positive energy quickly engages and holds the attention of audiences. Her areas of expertise include job search strategies; resumé development; interview coaching; interview skills for hiring managers; workshop facilitation and career-focused curriculum design.
As a born-again Christ follower, Charlene has a heart for helping God’s people to distinguish themselves in today’s competitive job market. She presents her career workshops to faith-based community institutions, and is particularly responsive to requests for personal coaching, consulting, speaking and writing within the Christian community.
Charlene can be reached at: