It’s both awesome and awful to realize just how completely we are known by God
From our first breath to here.
I stood at the kitchen window and noticed the lime green glow of Spring on the grass.
I remembered the sycamore tree, the hand sized leaves and the broken branches.
Thirty-plus years ago, I cut down branches heavy with green leaves and decorated a tiny cinder block room.
There was a grand plan. I’d be teaching children about the man who climbed the tree to get a chance to see Jesus, Zacchaeus.
It would be my first time as a Vacation Bible School teacher and I was intent on winning best decorated classroom.
The first night, a line of children trailing me down the hall, I giddily swung open the door to discover a disaster.
Leaves wilted and woeful covered the floor and the stench was unbearable in the poorly ventilated room.
I don’t remember teaching the children about a greedy man who got to see Jesus and then fed him supper.
I remember who I was then and am grateful to be not quite the same today.
Just as Jesus knew Zacchaeus was hated by many, was sneaky, corrupt and greedy, He knew I was just learning back then.
Just learning what matters to Him.
Not fully grown, but fully known.
We are already known. The secrets, the shame, the actions we take wrongly motivated,
Jesus is not surprised and doesn’t keep a record. It’s we who do.
My mama used to say, Lisa, stress’ll kill you. I’m here to say I believe its not so distant cousin, shame is more fatal.
The Woman at the Well in the heat of the day encounters a man who shouldn’t be there. She calculated her replenishing of her water to go to the well when she could go unnoticed.
She is surprised by a man who tells her he can help. He has a certain kind of water that won’t run out, she’d never have to be sneaky again in coming to the well.
“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 ESV
She’d never have to be thirsty again. She decides to accept the stranger’s offer.
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” John 4:15 NLT
And we know Jesus wasn’t talking about a cool drink of ice water on a humid day. He was talking about the refreshing peace of an abundant life.
Jesus tells the woman to go and get her husband and come back. She tells him she’s not married and he answers with “I know.”
Then he tells her what he does know. That she has a reputation and is well known for being with husbands of others and is now with a married man.
Whoa! or “How dare you?” she could’ve said.
She was brazen after all.
But he continued to enlighten her and she listened, connecting his gentle wisdom with the possibility he might be the Messiah.
So, he told her that indeed he was.
“The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!” John 4:25-26 NLT
Then she is overjoyed and goes to tell all the townspeople what they already knew about her she’d tried to avoid.
The reputation she tried to cover was now a proclamation…you’ve got to meet Jesus!
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” John 4:39 ESV
There was no shame anymore, only her story.
Only a tax collector’s, a disciple’s who denied and regretted, a woman’s wearing shame and a lascivious reputation.
A woman like me who didn’t know anything about the value of the story of Zacchaeus, only wanted to be noticed because of trees in a room.
God is patient. He already knew and knows our journeys.
Yesterday, I stood in the parking lot with a woman. As women our age do, we caught up on the lives of our children. We compared wisdom and we exchanged worries.
She asked me to keep writing.
Said she needed my storytelling.
My story of rescue and of tripping and getting back up gradually as I learn.
Today, when you recall your own mistakes, missteps and wrong motivations, will you pause with the truth of being known?
Will you accept the grace that has never said give up, go your own way or isolate in secret shame?
I stared out the window, the tops of pines golden in the early light. A mysterious sight, a dab of different color caused me to stare.
A pine branch must’ve splintered and the light color must be the underbelly of the bark. Then, I looked again. The object was gone.
I concluded it had to have been an owl or a hawk and naturally, that led to even more romanticizing this enigma in the trees.
Mid-morning, I looked again. With a baby on my chest, I discovered the object was a balloon that had gotten tangled and deflated and the wind had it dancing in and out of my sight.
Then, I began to get excited.
My granddaughter’s butterfly balloon had escaped her grip and “gone up to heaven” never to be seen again.
She arrived home with her mama and before I could tell her, her mama spotted it.
A hurried gathering of jackets began and I listened as she asked, “I gotta show you something, remember us asking God to help us find your balloon?”
She nodded with a smile that said she knew the surprise already.
Then baby boy and I watched from the window as they struck out through the hay field to the very back corner, a valley.
From a distance, I saw my daughter grab a broken limb and somehow dislodge the tangled ribbon and the flattened balloon.
Then, they took the long way back around the field, the walk I call “around the block”.
I asked my daughter, “Was it the butterfly?” anxious to join them in the mystery, the answered prayer.
“No, it was a Valentine’s one from who knows where.”
I watched my granddaughter, ever the listener as she quickly announced that it was hers anyway, just not the butterfly, it was her Valentine balloon (imagined).
She decided it was worth celebrating, special and unexpected even if wasn’t exactly the miracle we thought.
And then she moved on to something else, balloon adventure forgotten.
This morning, I discovered a pretty word I love and had big plans for I may have misused or slightly made wrongly “mine”. (I do this.)
I suppose it has nothing to do with feelings and mostly with science.
Like my granddaughter, I think I’m gonna think differently and decide on my own.
I don’t know why this happens. I decide to pull out the beginning pages of my long ago decided memoir and I go to the library and I run my fingers across the familiar words and the tenderness is so tender, I begin to cry.
I’m not sure what this means.
I’m not jumping to any conclusions as to whether it means close that door or throw every window and door back open. Step back in and don’t ever pack it away or fold it like a letter and seal the envelope forever.
It’s just an observation.
Library, window view towards the blue sky, laptop open, pages ready for pen and then…
Soft, never harsh tears.
I’m in the library, a place I love for two reasons though. My husband is painting cabinets and needed me not to hover.
More importantly, someone I know only through blogging is publishing her memoir and sent the manuscript to me. She asked me to read and endorse her book.
We’ve never met. I know her story and she knows mine through our blogs.
I’m forty pages in to her memoir which begins with a note to the reader, to women like me who’ve had their lives complicated by uninvited trauma.
An inaudible echo in my soul as I read her story, pause to be amazed by her knowing my feelings.
Resonance, a pretty word I love to decide is mine to choose sort of like the mystery balloon not being completely true and yet, choosing to believe.
Sort of beautiful really, the license love affords us to use when we decide life is and can be full and we fully immerse ourselves in the good, the bad, to the no way it’s true…we can choose.
I hope this is a soft echo for you.
Life lived fully known and open to the enigma of you and others who privately or not say “me too” adding to the resonance in ripples.
A sign of strength and a nudge to go on confidently, a messenger of sorts, this is what the red bird, the cardinal means to me.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” Luke 12:6 NIV
I opened the drapes to see if there’d be sun today. I had been thinking of the phrase…
You are mindful of me, thinking about how I’m seen and in the thoughts of God.
I watched this woman all dressed and ready for the day, a red jacket like the flash of a cardinal and leopard printed flats just like mine. She navigated the area in front of the hotel and her little terrier from a motorized wheelchair. I noticed her precision in keeping the little dog on the leash.
To think of the intention of rising early, caring for herself and her dog despite limitations humbled me. Tenacity and maybe, I don’t know, a passion for living might be her motivations.
Blessed beyond measure and God being aware of me are two thoughts I’ll carry into my day.
That and the grace of being someone who matters to God, as do you.
On the day everyone’s talking about love, I’m reminded of the “love passage” and a new thought I embraced over the past couple of years and am still embracing.
Let some things die.
It’s your choice not to keep a record of wrongs.
While it seems you may be giving cruelty or wrong a free pass…you’re actually opening wide the gates to you being joyful, free, arms spread wide to love completely.
You can forgive others without them knowing, that’s what safety is.
You can decide to forgive without it being a big face to face conversation.
It’s a decision of the soul, after all.
It’s a private quiet decision.
It’s therapeutic, self-helping.
You have grown now… you know what is safe. Respond lovingly to your own wounded heart known by no one on earth better than you.
You’re likely correct about your decision to forgive being met by more words that wound.
That’s on them.
They’re not where you are in deciding to live fully. They’ve perhaps not acknowledged their damaging role in your story.
So, just mull on the the decision to “let it be your life before” and not taint the life you’re making quite intentionally well now.
Try it. Decide to forgive.
See your capacity for genuine and healthy love expand.
Test my theory, see if you even feel less condemnation, less disdain of yourself.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV
On either side, grey with spattering of a heavier shade of green. Illuminated by headlights switched courteously to dim, the asphalt blended in and danced with shining specks.
The colors of the morning like a softly blended oil painting evoking thought, allowing questions.
I slowed to press the Audio button to resume my walking podcast, again, again. It didn’t work. Thought to find the charger wire and took the second or two struggle with the plug. Then, made the decision to travel quietly.
To have the only noise be the noise of my thoughts being easier to address, more approachable as emotions, less of a hurry to stuff them down, keep them hidden.
Have them buffered by chatty voices or lamenting songs.
In the early morning hours, I woke without alarm, lyrics waltzing.
“We will never the see the end of your goodness.”
I wrote in my journal, “Don’t lose heart.”
On the first day in February, I had a thought about emotions.
The emotions we wish were not ours, the ones that come back pounding on the door like an official bent on taking us away.
I thought wrongly at first.
Emotions must not go unaddressed, I thought and
then thought to be more truthful,
emotions will not go unexpressed.
They won’t allow being held back. They’re bullies that way.
Because we cannot choose emotion, only our behaviors that tend them, embrace them, coax them gently to go away.
What are those behaviors? I’m sure I can’t accurately say for everyone.
We can choose behaviors that allow the beneficial expression of emotions.
Walking (without advice or music)
Praying (unashamedly allowing your anxiety to be exposed privately to God)
Sitting quietly (unhurried for evidence of His attentiveness)
Drawing (pencil on paper, no skill necessary and no ideas for precision or perfection)
Here it is February 2nd and I have already forgotten how to prevent that squeeze in my chest over my not yet enoughness.
Then I remember the words of David that woke me.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12 ESV
I’m participating (at least for today) in a creative challenge called Artfull February. It’s a way to acquaint myself with other artists, to engage. Yesterday, I introduced myself, told my artist story.
Today’s prompt suggests we share our “studio”. This space in my home is called “my art room” by my husband. It’s an add on room that was built for my daughter when our family became “blended”.
It’s tiny. It’s deficient in natural light and the floor is covered in old rugs. The corners are filled and growing higher with works on paper and the walls all have paintings completed and not purchased leaning against them.
I catch my paint thickened apron hung sweetly on the easel and I see a recent piece newly edited, “Pursuit”.
I snap a photo of the beauty to me in the midst of the mess.
David penned this prayer after a big mess he made. He’d slept with another man’s wife and that secret he tried to keep was only a tiny part of his descent into remorse.
He asked God to give him a willing spirit. I suppose he could’ve justifiably given up, hidden, quit living altogether or decide there’s nothing in my future.
Nothing I’m worthy of pursuing or participating in.
Instead he was honest.
With himself and God. The anxiety that tried to catch me as I surveyed the place others call “studio” and added to it the pending works of art I’ve promised but can’t seem to start was unpleasant and stifling.
But, not for long. I acknowledged it. Decided to realize today I may not paint.
That won’t be disastrous.
I asked God to give me ten more years of the “late to the game” pastime that’s becoming vocation.
Still, today is just one day.
Restoration, Refinement and Redemption aren’t instantaneous.
Emotions stem from destruction deeply imbedded. Be hopeful that you have the guts to address them.
Listen to what they’re telling you and then bravely reply
“This is not that.”
It just feels like it.
Then embrace the restoration you know, hold it like a treasure, press its cheek against your soul.
You’re not fully grown; but oh how you’ve grown.
Believe. Continue and believe.
Choose loving kindness for yourself.
Remember to be willing to do what is your heart’s desire as well as your obligations.
Maybe remember the old sayin’
“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…”
Then exchange your grappling with graciousness, your tentative tasks with tenderness and your insufficient mindset with the certainty that we’re not the ones in control.
From the upstairs window, I watched their coming and going. The wife, tentative in her steps and the husband, with an armload of groceries, one hand against the small of her back. I noticed their commitment to one another, their quietness and settled joy.
I mostly avoided them. We, the upstairs tenants and them, below. My baby brother and I lived together. What a life it was. Barely getting by, outrageous behaviors, dangerous rendezvouses and mostly him being certain I was okay and I less caring and attentive to him, carried on in my reckless ways.
My brother and I were together, it’s an invitation to be safe I will forever treasure.
All the while, the diminutive couple surely observed us. Never confronted or complained about our noise up above, only nodded occasionally in a knowing way.
One Sunday I was brave. I watched from our window as their sedan found its spot. The gentleman had gotten his wife settled in and I walked lightly down the stairs and stood facing his caring eyes.
And he did not look away.
“How can I know the will of God?” I asked with timidity.
Close to forty years ago and I can’t say what he answered, only that his tone was gentle and he gave me a small book.
A book I only skimmed, a paperback long ago packed or trashed away.
The will of God is not a detailed plan, more a captivating pursuit.
I believe it is simply and profoundly a decision
to trust and to renew that trust as often as necessary.
To sit quietly waiting.
To consider how decades later, a church going senior citizen’s response matters.
There was no correction in his tone, no critical reply or even “come to church with us next Sunday.”
Instead, he instructed me to be a seeker. He gave me a book. He compelled me towards words and the Word.
This morning, I sat in the place I love. I pondered all of the voices of advisors…
Podcasters, those who believe they’re gifted with prophecy, experts on enneagram and such…people who are benefiting themselves by joining the trauma healing (bandwagon) force.
The voices are loud, lauding quick and exciting never known to be possible results.
Yesterday walking, I mentally answered a question.
Who is God to you?
I answered. “God is my creator.”
Remembering the sufficiency of that astounding truth, I watched the sun for more than a glance.
The golden light landed on my art. I watched it become more outlined.
Become a window.
So I sat for a minute more and answered my heart’s question.
The will of God is for me to see Him. To settle my search inviting other relief or rescue.
To see God on a chilly morning because I sat still long enough.
And to remember the value of a gentle response, never haughty and a hindrance.
Hopeful, always hope.
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT
I had to slow my steps, intent on only art canvases, make the beeline to the back and hurry on. No eye contact, small talk time, just me and my fast walking.
I needed to halt or bump into a woman with her son. She had a shuffle step that was familiar, I remembered a mama long ago who had an injury leaving one hip higher than the other. So, I thought this might be her and I’d be able to ask how she’s doing along with her now adult son.
Strangely, it wasn’t her, instead a younger version.
Still, our eyes met and she exhaled a big sigh. I asked “Been shopping all day?” And she replied that they’d been in the street since eight o’clock and she’d been takin’ her mama to all her doctors.
I saw her then, saw her loyalty and I added as I walked beside and then ahead of her,
“I remember those days. They are so hard. Get home and find some rest.”
She nodded, thanked me.
I bought eight 8×10 canvases and carried on.
I noticed the line was short at Chick Fil A and I was thirsty. I ordered my little indulgence, kids meal, fruit not fries and tea and answered “Lisa” as the young man calculated my change.
He asked how my day was going and I said “good” as I sensed the awkward in between, the task of giving me change and so I asked “Are you having a good day?”
His deep dark eyes met mine and the rising up of his chunky cheeks in a smile beamed as he happily answered, “Yes, I am.”
I rounded the drive thru line and watched a couple of boys/young men play “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who’d bring my order.
The one who lost sauntered over to my car and chuckled, “I just took your order!”
I smiled back and said that’s so funny because I was about to ask if you had a brother.
Serendipity, sort of, the chance to share kindness again.
Last stop, Publix for collards for tomorrow. Intentional here too, I have a short mental list and on a mission. The soup aisle is running low on chicken broth and my path intersects with a shopper who doesn’t hesitate to look up and say “Hey! How ya’ doing?”
I smile, realizing I don’t know her and she keeps talking and adds “I’m about to cook a big pot of soup for my family!”
“Sounds good!” I go my way and she goes hers until we’re both in the parking lot, cars loaded and I hear “toot toot” from her little SUV and my eyes meet her excitement in getting to wave goodbye to me, someone she doesn’t know.
I’d say it’s just accidental, this thrice encountering kindness from strangers and reciprocating.
But, since I have a thing for things in 3’s, I know it was heavenly, this afternoon of kind conversation and willingness to be seen.
Unknowingly, three people changed the course of my day from sullen to seeking, from deficient in hope to hoping.
Three people, working in community with my Good Father yesterday.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 ESV