Windows and Will

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, creativity, Faith, grace, hope, memoir, painting, Prayer, Redemption, testimony, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

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

Edits

Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, hope, memoir, painting, Redemption, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

I’ve collected paintings from exhibits, shops and galleries. They are leaning strategically so as not to scratch the individual surfaces, against one wall.

“Still Waters” detail

One, I hung on the brick wall under the mantel.

Others I made stronger, brighter and more bold.

Yesterday or the day before, I thought of the word “sanctification”, how it sounds so much like procedure, like work, like reparation.

I edited one painting called “Joy”, made her softer and more satisfied with herself “where she is”, who she has become.

Change occurred and change was accepted.

“Let it Shine”

She became more like her in the eyes of her maker than she was before.

How did she not know?

Sanctification, such a strict sounding word, sort of medicinal, prescriptive.

No wonder we strive.

Photo by Drake White

We forget we’re all works in progress, canvases open to painting over,

being rethought.

Seeing ourselves as worthy as we are, as we were and even more worthy as we accept the edits as we grow.

As we see our very own souls growing easily, peaceably, openly…

Hands, hearts, eyes, souls and all.

Known and loved and led on.

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭13‬:‭5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Light Will Stay

Angels, confidence, contentment, Faith, family, grace, hope, memoir, Peace, Redemption, Stillness, Vulnerability, waiting, wonder

“Running away was not in her character.”, Google provided this definition for character, the word that settled as I’d read in Isaiah about Mary before there was Mary.

The Giver

Just now, I’ve named this windowsill decoration. I’ve been pondering why I love her, why she comes down from the attic every December.

She’s not an angel as angels are known. She has no wings, no halo, no aura. She’s holding a tray with an unadorned cypress and a few red apples.

I see her as one who brings, one who offers and loves.

Quietly

Irregardless and unrelentingly.

Silly me, it’s a ceramic statue.

But, she has no shoes on her feet, the garland of green crowning her head is only leaves and so, I see and

I sort of see me.

Little have I to give in comparison to others if giving is measured by grand or perfect.

Little am I in comparison to many, my gifts to the world pale in comparison.

25th

Last night, in the before bed tidying, I discovered some of the manger scene had gone missing.

The little felted figures, the angel, a wise man, a shepherd and Joseph were nesting like a family of birds in the tree.

I smiled with the discovery.

I’m not sure the reason, perhaps just boredom or longing for something I can’t know.

What the mover of these had in mind for these or for me.

They’ll stay there until packed away for next year and when I look at the intentional redecoration, it’s celebration that I see.

Celebration, not imperfection in my tiny bit tedious decorating this year.

The Manger Tree

How is it I’ve never thought of Mary as a “giver”, one who questioned the reason behind things; but, set her heart on her part in the story, her character in the scene at the manger.

Mary gave.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9‬:‭6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I have a canvas on the easel resting with edit number “several”. I’m envisioning the position of the figure sort of off center.

Now walking away, staring into some mysterious distant place, I see her being reimagined.

I believe she may be a “keeper” to remind me.

A settled soul facing forward, a gift of something fruit or flower cradled at her chest and she may be simply waiting.

She may have the stance of offering not taking.

And I believe I’m sweetly loving the thought of that.

The thought of giving, not expecting, of resting and not resisting.

Of waiting for what’s within me to create what’s meant for me not to be without.

“The Giver” will be the name of the painting.

This morning, by accident I found the words I thought might be in a book about the moon.

“The sun will beam and the moon will glow. The light will stay, little child. God is with you today and tonight. The light will stay, child. The light will stay.” Me (Look at the Moon) (?)

Light will stay, the giver has come.

Merry Christmas, all.

Continue and believe.

Stay. Good things are coming your way.

Little Lights

Abuse Survivor, Angels, confidence, contentment, courage, curiousity, doubt, Forgiveness, grace, hope, kindness, mercy, Redemption, Stillness, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

Someone in a prayer group I’m a member of commented, “Pray for me because of this root of bitterness trying to grow.” And the replies understood the concerns, the need for prayer…even urgency.

Because bitterness begins in secret and then the roots grow thick and stronger and threaten us until they take over.

What is bitterness? I could share my list of things that are secret and of things I’ve vented in conversation with others (about others).

Roots destroy fertile ground. Love and peace cannot thrive when bitterness keeps growing.

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12‬:‭14‬-‭15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

More importantly, our roots destroy relationships with others. Bitterness that makes sense only makes us sadder.

Sometimes I look around and see how very different I am and feel from others and I remind myself to bring peace not judgment, love not frustration and a subtle but steady light that points to the source of my joy (even if it’s dim on the days questions, doubt or bitterness crouch at my door.)

When Elizabeth was born, I sang “Deep and Wide” over and over and over. I can’t say why (other than God) I sang it over and over from the first moment I cradled her tiny head in my hands.

With Henry, it’s been “This Little Light of Mine” and like his sister, he doesn’t seem to mind that it’s the same words over and over. I want him to see my light as I want Elizabeth to know the depth of mine and God’s love.

Love one another.

Don’t grow bitter.

Your life has no space for hatred to take over. Only room for joy to grow high enough to create a canopy for all who stand near you.

“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13‬:‭2‬ ‭ASV‬‬

I’ve never met an angel or have I perhaps, only dimmed and unnoticed by distraction?

I believe I shall notice more gently, silence the bitter banter of all other.

Continue and believe.

You are loved.

Evidence of Hope

Advent, bravery, Children, contentment, courage, Faith, family, hope, memoir, patience, Peace, Redemption, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

I was invited to write about “Hope” for an Advent series last month. My thoughts were prompted by a surprise. You know that verse about how hope deferred can make us heartsick? Don’t throw away or feel ridiculous to still hope. One day, maybe today hope will be gifted to you.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13‬:‭12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paperwhites Popping Up

Here’s my contribution:

Fulfilling Signs of Hope

The reunification came as a surprise. My brother’s wife, whispered to me as we celebrated a new coming nephew,

“I found a Bible. It has your name on it.”

Going through the remnants of my mother’s abandoned home, she discovered it. A strange Bible it was, at least for a woman in her thirties, oversized rich leather, more than substantial in size words. Someone gave it to me, and I gave it to my mama once I “graduated” in my faith to a more proper women’s Bible.

Over the course of sixty plus years, I have owned four Bibles. One, a tiny little Gideon’s New Testament and Psalms, the hefty one I passed on to my mother, a pretty leather one suited for women’s groups and my current one, a fabric covered blue Bible for journaling, for telling myself truths and stories in the margins.

Last week, I misplaced my Bible. I felt lost.

I had been traveling and packed it to reference its importance as I spoke to a group of women. Unpacked and sorting, everything was placed back in its place, except for my Bible. Anxious and confused, how could I be without that one final item?

I decided to pray, and my prayer surprised me. Rather than simply “asking and knocking” for the door to be opened to me finding my Bible, I found myself so very broken and grateful. I thanked God for the desperation, the relentless longing for my Bible, for the broken-heartedness I was feeling to be without it. I found my Bible in the place I’d tucked it away for safekeeping.

I found my hope again, the “withness” of God beautifully demonstrated.

In the margin of the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah, I have written, “Who are today’s Isaiahs?” Isaiah spoke warnings of disaster. Isaiah spoke of sin that would bring judgment then he proclaimed beautiful redemptive promises for us through a “man of sorrows” who would make eternity with God possible. The pages of my Bible are strewn with notes, sketches of women and color to remind me of the words that were significant in some way and will continue to be. 

In the seventh chapter of Isaiah, we read of Ahaz, the King of Judah refusing to ask God for a sign. He announces he doesn’t want to put God to the test. Isaiah speaks up and questions his reluctance. He tells him you are testing the patience of your people, surely you won’t continue to test the patience of God as well. (Isaiah 7:10-13) Since God is not a God to be tested, a sign was given. 

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Immanuel, God with us.

How do you see evidence of hope?

Are you prone to tangible evidence being necessary or have you seen the dots connecting the scattered paths of your past to your present?

My sister in law could not have known the part she would play in my need of hope. I’d long considered the Bible I gave my mother to be lost or discarded. You see, I passed this Bible on to my mama, who believed in God but had reasons to not believe in hope.

A widow with little resources and an incapacitating illness, she’d begun to decline and spend most days alone.

As a child, we were not regular church-going people and so it was perhaps a bold gesture to give her a Bible; disrespectful, haughty or even judgmental, I suppose. I gave her my Bible with no explanation or expectation, only a hope that it may comfort. If it did, I cannot know.

I’d hoped it would be seen simply as love.

I wanted her to see I wasn’t afraid of church anymore, that I was taking a tentative chance on hope.

I cannot know.

But, the hope of it being gifted back to me, this is the evidence of God with me, seeing me, hearing the secret murmurs of my heart. The thick Bible is pristine. There are barely any marks of pencil and the pages barely looked thumbed. There are no places where pages have been turned down for later.

There is very little evidence that my mama read it.

Nevertheless, the underside of the front cover has my full name written in elementary school cursive, my daughter’s. There are construction paper faded Sunday school verses my son or daughter proudly delivered to me as we reunited on the wooden pews for worship.

There is one oddly compelling note on the very last page in my handwriting,

“When I give an account of my life…”

When I give an account of my life, I will include this Bible and its story as evidence of me being known by God and of hope. 

Perhaps, this Christmas, we should all sit quietly and consider the birth of Jesus, the evidence of hope, the gift of a knowing and loving God being with us. 

Where have you seen hope this year?

Has it been difficult to be hopeful in this vulnerable and bitter world?

Have you focused on the evidence of hopelessness all around us more than the hope in the miraculous although unseen, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world?

May you be surprised by hope this year, a resurgence of belief in what you long for and long to see. What have you yet to see that God long ago promised is coming?

The reasons to hope are immeasurable and too beautiful for us to fully know, the coming fulfillment or our hopes.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken to the prophet: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 ESV

Again, Begin

bravery, contentment, happy, hope, Redemption, Vulnerability, walking

This afternoon, I picked my pace up, legs heavy and feet oddly light.

I said to myself, “a minute or two, breathe.”

I felt the lifting up of my feet over knotted up roots bursting through the granite paved trail.

There was a moment I wondered who may be watching. Me, the fast walker turned awkward jogger longed for a trail in a forest, not a planned community of homes.

Still, I sprinted in a way a woman over sixty does and then I slowed feeling even though I was walking again,

My walking was making a greater difference than before.

I’ve been doing some bravery required things, things like being 62 and running again.

Who decides it’s too late, too long avoided to try again…

To run the way you’d run if you’d decided you could way back then?

I think I’ll pick it up again tomorrow.

I saw myself three years ago, lighter in disposition, easier in my movement and somehow optimistic in expression.

Again, I shall be less weighed down again.

A minute ago, I read something that felt like betrayal. I’m moving on, letting that go.

Setting my gaze steady and thinking about moving this body of mine forward and less weighted down.

Less heavy.

Again.

Stepping Forward

Abuse Survivor, anxiety, bravery, courage, curiousity, Faith, fear, freedom, hope, Peace, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, walking
Morning Thoughts

What ideas about your identity are ingrained deeply in you? Does it feel more safe to believe the hopeless parts of you instead of the hopeful?

I’ve been thinking about the lame man in the Bible who was afraid to figure out a way to move into the water. 38 years of being paralyzed. When we read of his encounter with Jesus (who he thought was just a man suggesting he simply try), we’re conditioned to label him as crazy, lazy or simply self-pitiful and disabled by choice.

What a label, “disabled by choice”. Maybe though, disability was what he knew, how he planned his day, accepted the unfairness of his condition. So, what seems crazy was really just fear of different. Unfamiliar.

“They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”
‭‭John‬ ‭5‬:‭12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The man who learned to walk couldn’t really explain it. I suppose he just thought less about who and how than he was astounded to be walking. I wonder how long or if it took him a bit to feel stable, stable in his steps and the miracle that began his embrace of faith. Maybe.

I wonder if he was tempted to lay back down, in a sort of awe and uncertainty life could be this way for him.

If we’re not taught that change can be possible and that even though it might be trial and error, we might “stay on our mat” too.

This is a truth not often expressed.

It’s safer to be the person you’ve called yourself or been called (even if fragile and floundering) than to see our very own growth, to acknowledge how far we’ve come and to slowly dip our toes in the water…the truth of God loving us…until slowly, intentionally and not without moments of backward sliding, we find ourselves lighter, floating, completely and confidently immersed in our healed identity.

If the toil and trials of life have a larger tally it’s likely loss feels more dependable than gain, more believable.

Knowing we are loved because God is love and is patient with those of us who are just learning to swim without the weights of our past keeping us only frantically floating.

Be easy on yourself; but, do step in the water.

It may feel foreign, this trusting the better.

Be easy on yourself.
Jesus is.

Continue and believe.

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.

Arriving

Angels, courage, Faith, hope, love, marriage, Prayer, Vulnerability, wonder
Horn Creek Church, est. 1790

At first, I felt feisty. I felt fearlessly intrigued and the winding, hill and valley narrow dirt road was pretty. I continued and looked to either side in careful glances so as not to slip from the narrow path to a deep crater ditch.

Either side of me, vast open and clearings, fields with little treehouses on stilts for sighting and shooting deer.

No sign of life anywhere.

Then, the drop into the valley followed by a sharp curve and another hill.

Stuck, bogged down and panicked, when I slowed over fear over when will this road be over.

This road Waze instructed.

My destination, a wedding.

My “grandma car” SUV adorned with stickers on the carseat window and Chick Fil A prizes strewn all over. My blue Toyota Highlander was trapped in thick play-doh like clay.

No cell service. No idea what to do. Who might ever find me?

My face began to flush and I prayed and prayed as I turned the wheel right then left then right then reverse then right foot pressed to the floor. My torso rocking in a rhythm that matched. My body and my will with all my heart was pushing.

Then inching, inching, inching.

I had not stopped trying.

I didn’t succumb and I broke free.

Tentatively, not taking for granted the rescue I’d achieved, I drove into the clearer, strewn with pebbles road.

I arrived with gift under my arm as the bride was stepping up into the chapel on her daddy’s arm.

Someone offered me a seat.

A precious wedding it was.

Joy, laughter, love, elegance and simplicity with an aroma of longstanding faith in a family.

I’ve told the story more than necessary.

About this road called Yarborough.

The scariest abandoned road, the adrenaline rush of a woman alone and inept, but rescuing herself.

The arrival.

The union of two precious souls, in a restored and resurrected building,

new again surrounded by unchanging old.

House of God by way of a wretched and dangerous road, a road taken wrongly.

And with uncertainty.

Nonetheless, I arrived.

And I continue.

Not So Serious Sunday

Children, family, grandchildren, hope, puppies, Redemption, rest, wonder

I lean towards the serious, it’s the design of me. Someone asked, “Why do you always look so sad?” I answered, “Not sad, just thinking.”

But, I sure did think about the candid observation.

sometimes serious one

Yesterday I positioned myself on a piece of cardboard alongside a three year old. We’d played Cracker Barrel tic tac toe over lunch and annoyed the other shoppers by giggling over a plastic toy chicken.

Last week, I sat on the driveway and played “marbles”.

Together, we slid down a high slope of a backyard hill moist from humidity.

Our faces glistened with the warmth of a Sunday in November. We giggled over choosing which puppy we loved best and we decided on the brown one, the one that nuzzled most.

Not so serious me later (on purpose) fell off the yoga ball repeatedly while being serenaded by Elizabeth’s uncontrollable cackling.

Laughter prompted by toddlers, puppies and Sundays.

I’m not so serious, thought you readers should know.

And I should remember.