I woke with the thought, “Yet, not I, but Christ in me.” and began searching for the scripture. This is typical, it’s either a song or verse. This time a song by CityAlight. My friend texted me early another song by them. So my day started with the gift of worship.
I’ve been resting, revisiting and relishing Psalm 23 for going on three years. I could live and be led by the six verses.
Last week, as it often happens, I read verse 3 with a new clarity. I’ve been thinking/saying “God kept me for this time.” as an acknowledgment of the gift of being an artist and sharer of words.
Like most people, I can get tripped up on my own steps and I pray, less Lisa, more Jesus and little phrases like God, not glory. I gotta keep my steps in step.
Because when David wrote about restoration, he also praised the Lord for guidance and he remembered the most important truth:
This path of restoration and righteousness I am walking is for the making known the Lord’s name, not his, not mine, not yours.
Today has been the first day this week I’ve been able not to rush from my Bible to my to do list. Now, when I rise to do some things, prepare myself for obligations and the weekend, I rise lighter. I rise with a lifted spirit and a steadiness in my heart and steps.
A few months ago, I discovered an online publication, “Collected Magazine”. I connected and they connected in reply. The result includes some of my artwork and an interview about my Psalm 23 series. Here’s the link:
“…where have you come from, and where are you going?” Genesis 16:8
If I inventory my speculations, judgments, concerned observations and exchanges in chatty conversation last week or so, I could fill a page of my journal, the pages that typically contain personal/selfish prayers.
Like the practice of contour drawing, I laid down names on the paper. A simple free flow based on things I’ve heard, concerns I know and mostly, worries and hopes others have that only they know.
You can pray for others without “needing to know”.
Some names of people who have questionable behavior, names of some who’ve told me their woes and a really random one.
Facebook clamored yesterday around a sighting of a pretty girl on the loose, darting in and out of, in front of cars on the most cluttered and crowded road in our city, Whiskey.
Comments became jokes, a few worried, a few diagnosing the addiction she was caught in and one or two sincere worries over why she was running.
When I worked, I did my best to support families and friends of those who lost someone to a suicidal choice.
I learned that we ask a lot of questions, those of us who don’t know this tragically unique trauma.
I wrote an essay and titled it “The Tragedy of Speculation”.
Because, I noticed I needed a reason to know this wouldn’t, couldn’t happen to me.
I needed to justify the behavior of another from a distance, so that I could have assurance. In my time there, doing the work, the foundation of me living by “but for the grace of God, I go there” became solid, steady and strong.
I am grateful.
So, I rounded out my list of praying, with “girl on whiskey”, gave the page a header.
pray without ceasing
trust in the Lord.
I hope the pretty girl gone crazy on Whiskey is better today. I pray she finds her way and that it is safe.
And I pray for others who were the subjects of my speculation, snarky comments masked as concern and I open my palm to heaven remembering it’s God who knows the way I go.
Also, knows where I came from.
Now time for page two, I just remembered more names.
Last week, I asked someone “Are you hugging people?” Even typing that sounds ridiculous. But, she said yes and so, we hugged.
You probably know the research about hugs, how our body releases bad stuff, let’s good stuff take over when we hug.
Not, a cordial southern “how you doing? but an embrace; a hug that knows you need to be pulled closer and holds you tightly until they just know it’s good, it’s better, I can let her go.
If you know me, you know I love words.
I thought about strongholds this morning.
I’d dreamt of my mama and daddy traveling far for an art exhibit that didn’t go well at all, filled with criticism and two judges telling me in front of everyone what I’d gotten wrong. The fancy onlookers clearly reminding me, “Who were you to think you belong?”
Doubt is what you could call one of my “strongholds”.
So, I laid still and changed my thoughts once the dream was over. I remembered two essays I’ve recently written, I thought of the women I wrote about and their dilemmas, their deficit, their would be “strongholds”.
I will be the speaker for a women’s event very soon. The essay that will be my speech is written, the accompanying artwork is in progress on the easel. I’ve chosen several women from the Bible who left a legacy demonstrating a specific value, a value that is lasting.
Just now, I may have settled on what I am hoping mine could be
My value left long after me, that I never stopped remembering the gift of grace.
I heard a song that captured that hope with a substitutionary word for “saved”.
Your grace has salvaged me.
I hope you’ll allow yourself a few minutes to listen her and remember grace again.
“On different days, I’m different too, You’d be surprised how many ways.” Dr. Seuss, “My Many Colored Days”
Someone commented on Sunday, her love for the colors in my paintings. I smiled to myself. My palette has decidedly changed.
Formerly, I had a bend towards neutral, bland in conversation and tone. My aim was ethereal. I now see it was timidity.
Yesterday, I watched a tiny lizard fade from black to green to gray. I convinced my granddaughter to let him go as she clutched the caught creature, tiny thumb and forefinger keeping “the baby safe”.
Once set free, it scurried with a whip of a long tail into the sandy ground overtaken by green.
There was a time, I turned all the books exposing only the pages, clean and pristine, no color showing. My husband asked how we’d know the titles, I answered, “Pull it from the shelf and look and keep looking until you find one you like”.
Explore. Truth is, I felt comfortable with the quiet untouched arrangement.
It was safe, not noisy with color, uncluttered, avoidant of engagement.
Now, it appears I’m becoming vibrant, creeping towards but resisting crowded clutter.
Discovering wonder in tiny things again.
Like sunlight landing on spines of books I love.
Morning greeted me that way, touching the den’s corner and I saw the beauty, I saw the gift of a perspective change.
I lean my paintings against my mama’s white chair, the backdrop a mixture of blue speckled paintings and a splash here and there of yellow.
I’m layering color more boldly these days, still soft and easy, fluidly filtered but not at all shy.
Ebony paint fencing in water, creamy white shadows only slightly dulling the grasses.
Verdant green, velvet like a cool cushion.
Happy pinks and confident blues.
October 11, 2022, I paused to see if my memory was correct.
Then I tallied the years since my father passed away on October 11th, 24 years ago today.
I remembered the room where the decision was made and thought of how it seemed to be a circle of voting, “what do we do?”.
Hang on or let go?
I wondered, this afternoon, what might have been had we decided differently and for a minute I felt lonely. Then, a thought that might not be true for others; but, for me it quelled the useless wondering question.
Don’t waste your wonder over what might have been, only and always open your heart to the wonder of now and the wonder of them.
A cousin I haven’t seen in over twenty years wrote to me today. She said my daddy would check on her when he was in Savannah. It was always unexpected; but, sweet, so sweet when my daddy, her uncle came by to be sure she was okay.
I found myself like a child, filled with wonder and my day, one of many colored, was bright yellow dancing with indigo.
Not murky grey like regret, nor blah with grey from the dirty jar needing brushes washed.
No, blue like the eyes of a girl like me, filled with wonder. Coral like kindness, turquoise the assurance of hope for tomorrow.
These are the colors on this day, just one of my “many colored days”.
I have so many more.
“a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4 ESV
A noticer of people, on Monday I watched from my car in the Hobby Lobby parking lot. I noticed the clothing of others; vibrant yellow, a too long skirt on a woman, a man who walked beside his wife dressed as if accompanying her to the craft store was a hot date,
A young girl with black boots, arms covered in ink and every accessory a display of matching energy as she danced by, like a little bird on a mission.
A woman dressed completely in drab black, long skirt, shirt and too big cardigan, I watched her shuffling in orthopedic/athletic shoes that were so big I could’ve put my fist in the spot for her heels.
For a minute, I was sad, felt it was my place to fix her.
Should I offer to give her my shoes or give her money for a pair that fit? Thinking, here I sit, about to go and buy more paint as I enjoy my Chick-Fil-A and she needs shoes.
Or does she?
Who am I to know what defines “abundance” for her?
I thought about her all day. My thoughts went from sympathy to more of “I think she’s okay”.
And today, I wake to Job’s words again coupled with Ann Voskamp’s email, reminding me that I’m not the maker or measuring tool for abundance, only called to do what God created me for and to notice in places less obvious.
To see it in me, the abundant life through Christ, to quietly consider every moment just how abundance looks, feels, is expressed through me.
To see my little deposit of abundance in the faces of others.
God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job 28:23-24 NIV
The Creator knows us, us as artists, executives, teachers or skilled fixers of things…as creatives, makers of families, lovers of the beautifully crafted earth around us.
She plucked a few “babies” and I picked a branch full of blooms for inside.
The splendid color praising a very sweet Saturday.
Rarely do I pass by the patch of grass shaded by pines and hidden by high fence.
The place of the flowers showing their brilliant display.
Yesterday, I was moved in a sweet heavy way by the nearness of spontaneous praise, the connectedness to another who felt the words of a song and proclaimed in a way that was personal, something they only knew, were fearing or taking hold of in renewed faith.
Once, I sat beside a woman with a jawline changed by the ravaging in her body evidenced by the cloth covering her head.
I felt her being comforted by song. I embraced it beside her. We listened together.
I touched her arm in a goodbye as we exited. I hope my look said “I care”, words felt unnecessary.
She’d surely heard them in abundance already I was certain.
Another time, I sat next to a man about my age who looked like he’d been a linebacker in his day. He smiled as if he’d been lonely when I asked if the seat was vacant and he made affirming sounds during the message.
My favorite part was his singing, his abandonment to the joining with others maybe better at singing than he or I.
He sang along.
He sang loud enough to be heard clearly, his one voice in the crowd of others.
One Sunday, I found a spot next to a woman who was large and strong and dressed up for Sunday in a way that said confident joy. Once the music began, I saw my first impression was accurate.
Because she sang like the old cliche’ “like no one was listening”, like maybe she understood what Maya Angelou felt…
like a splendid bird who had been set free from its cage.
Together, we were in an old country church with the windows up in August. She swayed and her swaying body made me sway.
We became secret sisters.
Reluctantly, I went to church last night. Sullen over feeling alone, burdened by answers not coming soon enough and vulnerable over what it seems God is calling me to that I sort of wish He wouldn’t.
I listened to a podcast on the way, one hosted by a woman who is learned because of her scholarly credentials coupled with the dilemma of serious illness, typically an honest and helpful voice, interesting.
She is a researcher, well read and well respected, a historian of religion.
She once believed in “praise and worship” and has now decided she doesn’t. She is now quite critical of what she defines as manipulative.
Although she misses the beauty of joining others in worship, she’s just not “taking the bait” anymore.
So, I stopped listening as I began to feel conflicted and that “critical spirit” that’s not beneficial began to creep in.
I thought of her jadedness. I can relate.
I felt sad for her. Her scary illness had caused her to become cynical, to be expectant of bad things, to decide maybe, after all, God is “not good, not great”.
I switched to music and listened.
One hand on the wheel on the crowded interstate, the other raised in agreement to a song about prayers, circumstances and healing.
Three or four years ago, I too believed most people were faking praise, were desperate for attention or just liked it when church felt more like a nightclub than a sanctuary.
Then, I landed on the second row from the stage because I was late. Pondering on my drive there, my ambivalence over my commitments and asking God to help me know where I belong.
God answered that day.
A thought, a word,
the Holy Spirit.
“You resist most what you need most.”
I need to feel connected to worship, I need to be led by vocalists and musicians to do so.
Not manipulating me, rather encouraging me.
It’ll be rare for me to be seen raising my hands. I’m more private, more quiet. I believe made “wonderfully” that way.
My personality of praise is more receptive, more being alongside the extravagant praises of others and with eyes closed, a simple opening of my hand, palm towards heaven.
In a way, I suppose, an exchange.
Freely receiving the goodness of God and privately, quietly joining others in a praise that says “Thank you”.
I’ll never stop singing.
Steadily, and mostly in secret places.
Being so grateful to stand so close to others made different by God’s design, that the praise they give, I get to join in.
A spirit of grace, love and mercy, one that’s not critical.
May what you’ve been resisting find you today, my prayer.
And another, let there be a song that beckons the jaded, the reluctant, the uncertain of us today.
I was given an opportunity by Hayley Price, owner of The Scouted Studio and The Art Coaching Club of which I’m a member, to share my thoughts on being an artist and why I continue this intentional journey.