On Grace

bravery, doubt, Faith, grace, Homeless, hope, mercy, Prayer, Redemption, Salvation, Trust, Vulnerability, wonder

If grace was matter, a substance to be measured, tallied, considered in a debate about comparables, how much would you say your cup would contain, how substantial would be the grace you’ve been shown?

I woke before light and stayed still until I saw the light coming across the hall, narrow slats on the carpet from the room with the silver tree.

I remembered the homeless one.

Three times I’ve now seen him, he finds spots to retreat in the woods near the abandoned mall. He looks to be mid-twenties, thin but not starving.

I first saw him camped in a shady spot. I shopped at Target then drove back to give him $5. I hurried my window down and sort of frantically thrust the money towards him. He said thanks and I drove away. I don’t know why I was scared of him or being harmed.

Then I saw him leaving all his bags in front of Target and dart inside and I worried someone might just take all his stuff and I wondered if he was worried. When I was done shopping, he and his stuff were gone.

I don’t know his story. I just want him to know what I know about grace.

It was 22 degrees in Carolina this morning.

I remembered the homeless one.

The third time I saw him, I had a back seat full of groceries and one last shopping stop. He was standing at the intersection, cardboard marked with a scrawl, “homeless”.

I looked his way, smiled that smile of mine that says worry, accompanies an inaudible moan.

I paid for my art supplies with cash and added a Hershey bar with almonds, wrapped in cash, $10 and headed back to the homeless man.

This time, I paused. I let the window all the way down. I gave him the candy bar and money, suggested he eat something good.

I looked at his eyes, he at mine.

And I told him strongly as if I was telling a long held secret to someone before you’re not sure of ever seeing them again.

God loves you.

And a second or two transpired that felt like hours and I repeated myself and added, “no matter what.”

I got the sense that he believed me or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he thought

Well, lady what good is that?!

I don’t know what he thought.

I just know my God is love and if I forget that I also stumble over the immeasurable gift of grace.

I fall into that pit of looking to others to determine my worth, to prove to myself that I’ve done enough and more to be worthy of this abundance of grace I’ve been shown.

Paul talked about this to people who continued to question their rights and their wrongs in an assessment of themselves and others to believe in their righteousness.

They believed and couldn’t fathom not believing it was all up to them to be good enough.

Paul told them he would never waste the death of Jesus by complicating it with his behavior.

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Grace matters, matters more than any effort we pursue, any accomplishment we know.

It matters more than our falters, our failures and thank goodness it matters so much more than our stubborn and strong or feeble and sad efforts to prove ourselves right enough not to be found wrong.

Here’s a song about such an incomprehensible thing, to know my God is love.

God is Love

My cup is full.

On Grace

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, courage, doubt, Faith, grace, memoir, patience, pride, Redemption, Vulnerability, writing
“Of Lasting Value” (final edit)

Grace is a small, even fragile word.

So delicate I forget the unseen power in its protection and provision.

Offered up to and by those we love.

Given by those who don’t know just how badly we need it nor do we until we’re surprised by the extension of it.

Small places on our paths are seen before we trip into “Oh, no”.

Players in the drama of our lives are setting the stage of our next act, quietly and unknowingly directed by our God who protects us from mess ups.

Here’s a little evidence, a hint of the kindness of grace.

I wrote a story about a painting. I thought to add it to my talk for women, mostly to lengthen my presentation.

But, I folded it, decided this is not for sharing even though I treasure the words.

Days later, a publication I thought had either lost or tossed it reached out.

An unexpected email, the same essay is read by an editor and they love it, but suggest a different tone.

The editor tells me which part she loves and which are wrong.

Ouch, a tiny sigh. I let the critique sink in and see it (eventually) as unexpected grace.

Less about Lisa, more about others.

(A familiar refrain, I’m afraid)😊

Now, I’m sort of iffy about it altogether.

I fear I’ve forgotten how to write as often as I fear I suddenly don’t remember how to paint.

But, grace says the road is wide for your walking, your words and your colors, whatever the thing that is for you to do.

And grace is right beside you as you go.

Come on.

Let’s go.

Start walking.

“and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭119‬:‭45‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You don’t have to go perfectly or suddenly.

There’s grace for circling back, rerouting, resting and letting “it” rest to come back to what has been patiently waiting.

Waiting for you.

Because it’s only grace, the grace of God that knows the true you.

Truly.

And that’s really cool.

I’ll sit and consider the edits to my essay. I’ll be grateful for the grace of course correction, for the opportunity to keep telling the story of “Blue Ribbon Girl”.

His grace will lead you in small things as well as great.” Jean Nicolas Grou

Continue and believe.

You be you, grace will lead.

It’s grace that’ll remind you, you’re not perfect; but, you’re getting closer.

Closer to the Father and His idea of you.

Value

Abuse Survivor, Art, contentment, doubt, Faith, grace, memoir, Redemption, Vulnerability, wonder, writing
Use Your Words, Canvases and Other Things

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.

On the Easel

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.

Grace Song

Maybe you have a “stronghold”. Maybe it’s fear, anger, worry, resentment, sadness or maybe a default rescue you turn to as a way to dull them.

I share honestly.

I often wonder if I should. I hope someone who needs to fall into God’s strong embrace and linger there long reads this today.

Remembers where peace is found, our God’s soft long enough hug never just cordial that won’t let go.

“But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭94:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No Regret

Abuse Survivor, Art, courage, doubt, Faith, grace, hope, memoir, mixed media painting, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability
“Wondrous Story”

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I woke with thoughts of Peter, the one who sat with the skeptics, naysayers and contrivers to crucify Jesus and said “Hey, I don’t know him, I’m not one of “those”.

So, I thought “Peter had a lot of stops and starts”.

I can relate. No big deal, you might think; but, I went very light on dinner and then caved around 10 because I really wanted my favorite comfort yummy thing.

Crunchy peanut butter on slightly toasted grainy yet soft bread and a tiny dollop of jelly, folded over, cold milk on the side.

And I slept like a baby only to wake with regret and “start again, start again, jiggity jig little fat pig!”

Regret.

Imagine if Jesus told Peter “I’ve had it with you! I mean, I even told you that you’d cave under pressure. You’d deny knowing me.”

You’d decide this calling I called you for was not possible. You’d deem yourself incapable.

Peter’s life wasn’t defined by regret.

Nor is ours. We are marked by love, by beginning again and continuing.

By redemption.

Creamy coffee in hand, I open my emails to see a reply. An online magazine is asking for photos of my art, specifically the Psalm 23 collection from over a year ago along with a newer piece, “Pool Party”.

The publication requires a bio and they pointed out what must have been a typo in the original submission.

The bio you added is pretty short – and also a little confusing? I think there’s a typo. It reads:

Artist and Author, hoping to regret redemption and hope through my words and artwork.

I smiled.

Smiled because they didn’t disqualify me because of a typo, smiled because I could never regret my redemption.

I mean, I’d be long gone, succumbed to regrets long, long ago.

It’s my redemption that calls me forward, beckons me to keep trying, put myself in places that invite my story.

Mostly, I’m smiling because all of this “reflects” the redemption and grace of God.

(Reflect not regret, the typo)

Clearly, I am imperfect; but, not unable.

Starts and stops, I can’t even begin to tell you how many.

Beginning again and again.

This is my wondrous story.

I was lost, but Jesus found me
Found the sheep that went astray
Raised me up and gently led me
Back into the narrow way

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me
. Frances H. Rowley, 1886

Only one of the five “Psalm 23” series sold. One is in my den, three are packed away and one is on display in a restaurant.

View Art Here

Now, I get to share how painting them connected me with the psalmist’s words, how my paintings came together to tell the story.

No regret, only and always

Everything has been and is being redeemed.

Slow To Sing

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, doubt, Faith, grace, hope, Peace, Redemption, Stillness, Trust, wisdom, wonder, writing

I fear the fog is heavy so I refuse to look.

With my back to the day, I fix my gaze on blanket wrapped feet,

toes circling, curling, clinching.

Habitual.

The birds are slow to sing.

I wonder why.

I had feared it was already morning at 2:00.

Frantic I’d forgotten my days, Thursday? No, it’s Friday, sleep a little bit, Lisa.

Sleep, please sleep.

I want to try.

I gathered my coffee, my bag, books and new fresh paint for Elizabeth, opened the door and saw it.

Whispered, wow

the moon.

Drove slowly.

Soft songs, no close followers.

Plenty of time.

“I want to try.”

The morning that follows the night of our lonely trial would, if we be faithful, find us new…” Henry Scott Holland

The Desert Place

bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, hope, memoir, Redemption, Trust, waiting, writing

“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
‭‭John‬ ‭11:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

She had been waiting four days.

She kept waiting. Jesus came. Her brother woke up.

Mornings Clarify

My faith has felt shallow lately in the vast place of waiting. I have zero sense of direction naturally. I depend on landmarks like trees and yellow doors on white houses and such.

I find my way by remembering. Crisis of faith is not an accurate assessment, more just a waiting in the unknown to remember.

I’m just waiting for a way forward, a clear answer, a settled decision whether to continue.

It’s not life or death. I’m seeking direction in where my writing life goes, set it on the shelf, write for personal pleasure and growth or to share with others.

I’m wondering why there are so many hoops to jump through and whether I’m up to all the jumping.

I wonder why to write a book I have to first be famous. I wonder why this type question feels taboo.

Overthinking it all? Maybe, likely to be honest.

Peace

I’m okay in the wilderness of desert waiting, just wonder how long I’ll need to linger to know.

How long uncertainty, a loss of intuition, of seeing, sensing, hearing God will evade me.

When Martha wondered what took Jesus so long to see about her brother, I imagine the waiting was heavy. I believe her senses were elevated. She listened for his arrival, she trusted her belief.

But, why didn’t he come sooner, after all Jesus loved her brother she thought.

Her sister, Mary sat at home. Martha set out to understand “why so long”.

I imagine me in the middle of not knowing, of counting on recollection to determine my direction. I’ll listen for a sense of flowing, I’ll walk towards the water rippling clearly, caressing amber stones. I’ll remember then.

This is the way to walk. I’ll remember, by faith that may not make sense to others

Sometimes to myself.

By faith, I walk.

By faith, I’ll find my footing and my steps will be certain then.

By faith, I wait.

Martha

Soon, my Savior will respond. I’ll see which way to go and understand whether the dream will die or be resurrected.

Continue and believe.

Yes, Lord; I believe…John 11:27

We wait for what we believe,

For what believes fully in us.

We find our footing, sense a certain direction and we breathe steady instead of shallow breaths.

We believe again in our hopes.

We wait as we trust.

One or The Other

Abuse Survivor, Art, artist calendar, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, fear, grace, hope, memoir, mercy, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Stillness, surrender, traumatriggers, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

When I think of David, I think he seems to have lived a life marked by thinking one way or the other. He was either desperate or joyous, defeated by his own sins or bravely standing on God’s character and promises for him, for us too.

Honest, David was honest.

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭31:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What are the thoughts you think about yourself, your value, your image, your light meant to be shared with others?

Are the things people say of you consistent with the things you think and say of yourself?

“You will look to Him for gladness and refreshment when depressed, for moderation and recollection when in good spirits, and you will find that He will never leave you to want.” Francois De La Fenelon (1651-1715), Joy and Strength

Last night, I dreamt of drowning.

I heard myself catching my breath as I came up from the deep, a frantic exhale. I found my soft heavy blanket. I let it rest over my torso and I processed the possibility that I’ve been pulled downward again by the unanswered questions of my past, the agony of being unable to piece it all together peacefully.

I’m not able on my own I’m reminded.

“I’m not sleeping lately.” I told my husband. “Did I wake you?” “No.”, he answered.

“Good.” I added, thinking there’s no need to trouble him with the dream of drowning.

Instead, carry on with the new day.

As I fed the cat my eyes went to the calendar and the verse I found fitting for January.

The theme is courage.

I sat with coffee, lit my candle although it was morning and secretly asked God to come and find me again.

Turned to January 21st in my devotional. There again, the verse about courage.

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭31:24‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I recorded three thoughts and let them lead me to process my worry, my concern over who I am, who I was, who I’m becoming.

I’m not who people think I am. I’m fragile. I’m faltering. I doubt the promises of God quite often and I exhaust myself with worrying.

Then, God brought reply.

Same type replies he gave the ancient souls like David and Francois when they found themselves despairing.

You’re not who you were and perhaps rarely who people say you are, but you are fully known and loved.

I am who Jesus says I am.

Three self-reflective questions led to honest self-assessment and the possibility of a different perspective according to Jesus.

Could it be the deepest place of questions can answer the longings you feel are best kept to yourself?

“In mercy you have seen my troubles, and you have cared for me; even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy, filled with praise for your love and mercy. You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy; you broke open the way to bring me to freedom, into a beautiful, broad place.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:7-8‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Possibly, we’re all one or the other quite often. We sense ourselves falling into questions and despair. We stay there longer than we’d hope. We acknowledge our position.

We’re brave like David.

We ask for help.

Continue and believe.

Take courage, the ceaseless gracious hand of God, take courage.

By Faith and Waiting

Abuse Survivor, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, hope, memoir, Peace, Prayer, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

Like a teenage girl twirling the tiny ring of promise on her slender finger, we wait anxiously, hopefully, and faithfully.

We keep waiting.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭94:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Between question and answer there is a void, a great abysmal place bordered by anxiety and affirmation.

The tension between doubt and deliverance is the required dwelling place for far longer than we would choose.

It’s our tolerance of the inner turmoil, of the unanswered plea and it is our posture that secretly and with subtlety, changes our course.

We wallow in the waiting or we wistfully wonder just how we will be changed, more wise, experiential difference makers in the telling of our waiting stories to others.

That’s what faith is for.

For changes in us that are best for us

And for others.

Necessary and best because God promises it to be so and His promises are kept even when it seems not so.

There can be joy.

We can choose it as our in the waiting posture.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
‭‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Like a promise ring on the left hand of a teenage girl, we know our future is marked by a commitment of love that will grow.

The love of our Father through Jesus for us.

So, we sit with our notes, our bullet list prayers and gratitudes and we mark our places in the place of waiting.

Maybe we turn our left hand to rest in our lap and with ink mark our wrist with a delicate cross, underneath it we write, “Believe”.

We wait with hope.

And when hope is not met by what we hoped for, we still have faith.

Because of the unseen things to come, we have faith.

We journey on.

We wait willingly.

His mercies fail not. He gives more and more grace.

Continue and believe.

Believe

Christmas, confidence, contentment, doubt, Faith, mercy, Prayer, Salvation, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder
Questions and Beliefs

Can this be the Christ?
John 4:29

I sang “O Holy Night” from memory, listening to those around me.

I sometimes wonder even in a setting surrounded by believers, how the miracle of Jesus could be so, if I’ll ever truly understand the complexities of the Trinity and how in the world there could be such immeasurably undeserved grace that I’ve been given, been shown, keep receiving.

In contrast, I wonder things like why my children had to be grandparentless so young. Why bad things like fatal accidents happen around Christmas, why the threat of violence and fear feel so palpable in our day.

I understand. This is earth not heaven and I know God has and had a plan for my parents I can’t yet fully understand.

Still, contemplating life with question draws me closer to steadfast faith. The woman at the well stood next to Jesus, Jesus who knew all her secrets and sins and yet offered her himself for a new way to live.

She walked away wondering “How could it be?” and shared with all the townspeople who then decided for themselves…it must be so! I, too choose belief.

We don’t always understand. Often, we won’t ever. But, choosing to believe in the one who hears and responds to my prayers, often in big ways, more often small, is the way to believing even more.

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Merry Christmas. May your questions always lead you back to believing what is humanly unbelievable.

Believe in Jesus, the baby, the boy, the man amongst men, women, and children. God’s Son, our Savior because of underserved crucifixion and a glorious resurrection.

Jesus, who is seated next to God, the Father and is seeing me, sitting on a quiet Christmas morning and typing words about Him, maybe saying…see, she’s growing. She’s believing more and more.
She knows she’s fully known and loved.

She believes in Jesus.

Continue and believe.
Merry Christmas!

Still, Believe

Advent, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, grace, hope, kindness, mercy, Peace, Prayer, rest, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

As Martha was met by Jesus, distraught over the death of her brother, she told Him she still believed in His goodness, in the purpose of Him.

Then, she went to get her sister Mary.

“She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Mary stood next to Jesus and asked why he waited so long. Jesus wept.

Then he told the sisters to take him to their brother although it had been four days.

“Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:40‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Lazarus was raised. Jesus told them both and all who had followed out of grief and curiosity, that this was the way God intended it, so that all would believe, not just the sisters.

All, like all of us.

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:41-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I woke up early, got my journal, books and pen and then felt the need, like a gentle call to read my (actual)Bible.

The Mary and Martha story is good. Always.

God’s timing is not ours.
Don’t give up hope.
Don’t stop believing in the grace, strength, mercy and presence of Jesus.
Look at your life, remember times you asked for help and help came. Times of desperation because of delay of some sort.

Sometimes I pray “God, show us your glory today, come through in a way that it’s clearly you…’cause I’m not able on my own.”

And Jesus has come, has remedied, relieved, given me strength when I am weak.

Believe in Jesus. Believe in his peace.

Happy Friday!