A conversation about fear led to a thought. The thought led to paintings, vivid and strong in color. Some softer and cheerful and others heavy with darkness and harder emotion.
“The world is so scary…it makes lots of noises.”
Anxiety, uncertainty, anger and sadness are beginning to be noticed not as secretly kept struggles, instead as realities to consider more closely with kind and committed responses.
I’m hoping to traditionally publish this book for children to remind them that the earth and heavens were made by God just as they were and this truth can be an anchor in their storms that they are never alone.
“Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.” Psalm 74:16 ESV
Countless times I’ve known “goodness by surprise”, things continued and finished and left alone to develop or fizzle actually come back around to close the circle in response to that sort of open-ended question.
…let us run with patience the race set before us. Hebrews 12:1 KJV
I lifted the kitchen window. I’m home alone and it’s a Sunday morning rainy song.
Which do you think matters more
Skill or endurance?
Pursuit or acceptance?
I’m not a runner but I’ve heard pacing yourself is important.
Last night I dreamt I was running. It was a dream layered with threats and pursuit and one that ended with comfort.
Deeply personal and I guess likely will never be fully understood.
I opened my devotional to read an unknown author’s letter of encouragement to Christians during trials…words about endurance and about the things of life that entangle us and impede our ability to run the course set for us with peace and ease.
So many times, scripture seems nonsensical.
How is it humanly possible to run with patience?
I mean, isn’t the point of running to get there more quickly with faster dropping feet on the ground or pavement, of pushing past everyone else?
Or maybe the reason we run with patience is because there are no competitors in our race of life marked by our faith. It’s just us on our own pre-decided by our Maker trail.
The spirit of God invisible to others, but within and beside us.
A solitary race, an especially intense one not because of its importance, rather because of the very tender and personal reward.
Peace, often by surprise.
Peace that sometimes awes.
Run with patience the path that has been set for youalone.
Now, here’s the story of this I know.
This painting came to life after being layered and pondered many times. I’d been asked to “live paint” as an accompaniment to my artist story for a women’s event.
I was wise enough to choose the better, to not talk and paint at the same time. I’d tried that before and I decided to learn from what was not me nor easy.
So, this large piece traveled as a backdrop to my story of what had been not so easy lessons in my artist as business endeavors.
I spoke of how God was teaching me that my value was not acclaim, gallery shows, representation or sold out collections.
Rather, my value is my story of continuing.
Fast forward, I get all excited and choose this piece for a prestigious exhibit and am thrilled and a little too obviously excited when a couple decided it should be in their home…and then reconsidered.
Then, I submit “Of Lasting Value” as a part of my portfolio for an Emerging Artist Show.
Again, giddiness over the possibility of acceptance and “fame” convinced me I’d be “in”.
Not selected though and I’d actually decided not to enter this piece in a local show. I was so confident, I’d decided…well, I can’t enter it if it’s committed someplace else.
A simple decision, an afterthought led to entering it in the local show because of the tenderness of its story and it came full circle, a tearful surprise.
My husband and I entered the gallery for the opening reception and I scanned the room to find my paintings.
“There’s a ribbon on one of mine.” I said quietly, almost a whisper.
Then discovered and later heard the juror’s reason why
My painting had been selected, “Best in Show”.
Congratulatory chats continued and I told a friend, “There’s such a bigger significance to this for me.”
Later, I made a promise to myself, or I guess I should say a request of God.
Don’t let this fade, the blessing of this honor, the many layers to the story of me written by You
This affirmation clearly that I am your beloved, that I am loved by you, God.
I don’t know where the story of this painting will go from here, whether I’ll stop by the gallery to see a red dot saying she’ll be gracing someone’s home or whether she’ll be coming back to me.
I don’t know yet. I’ll be patient. I’ll keep walking with a stillness I can’t create or maintain on my own. I’ll be shepherded on this path I am on.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” Psalm 23:2 ESV
We stopped by the gallery, my granddaughter and I. We love to decide on a “favorite”.
We had the whole space to ourselves and after she’d pointed out “my angels”, said “Hurry, hurry, look” and turned the corner to gaze long at a brilliant painting of the ocean.
A textured piece with vividly and perfectly rendered sea grass with a background of water and sunset.
And this one, she told me was her favorite because it was “shiny”.
And I told her, my little artist and watcher of all things, just how spectacular I found it to be too.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Run with patience the path made for you.
Others are watching, not following, not chasing you.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV
My friend, Susan gets me, the way I share a story that goes down every path possible and then I circle back around to the point of my sharing.
God has placed wisdom in the form of listeners and those who notice me and mostly unbeknownst to them lead to clarity.
Many years ago on a Thursday morning, a question lingered, had been lingering long. I asked God what to do and added that I knew me and I’d be confused and conflicted forever if He didn’t show me in a big and clear way.
And He did and the course of my life changed.
I accepted that I would be a single mother.
I may never have a prayer answered so promptly and sure again. Or I may.
Wednesday morning, the country road was quiet, the half moon moved with me and fields on either side, sprinkled with cows and crops were striated by thinly layered fog.
Like a canvas changed by an artist who intentionally used light spectacularly well.
I’d been thinking of that same sort of application in new paintings.
I thought of my words in a journal, the research into what the phrase “honing my craft” truly means.
I was happy. I love words and I love when they are like little secret gifts.
A term I used as a nonprofit professional came to mind, “mission creep”. New to the leadership field, I inherited a mess of misuse of many things. Funding was failing, the agency facing catastrophic losses and necessary changes.
I had no skillset for this position other than compassion for others and a commitment to that call.
There were talks of “adding programs” for which grant funding was freely distributed. If we did more, there might be more money.
But, we had two employees and no capacity to carry out additional programs. I said no and I had a board who trusted me.
I offered, “No, let’s figure out what we are known for, what matters and what we do well and let’s get better at that.”
That naive assertion on my part redirected the course of the agency I oversaw for ten years and I suppose as I write this, it’s the actual first time I have given myself credit for that courageous “no” to chasing after new at the expense of forgoing good.
Choosing better over bigger.
Lord, I see you refining my jagged edges.
A prayer I offered on Wednesday morning, the fog striated in the sky, layered like paint in varying thickness on the canvas of an abstract painting. The sky wrote a beautiful note to my soul that morning,
told me to slow down, settle into what you love about writing and painting and do what is you, not anyone else.
A friend later surprised me with what she’d been seeing in me.
“With your painting -it is beautifully abstract-it does not have to be “perfect”. I sense you feel that your writing has to be “perfect” whatever that is for writing which trips you up. I see Holy Spirit lovingly pouring what looks like liquid gold over and into your mind. I feel that as you continue to explore God’s unconditional love for you. His words are going to flow out of you.” K.
My friend’s response to the question that wears me out (and probably others).
Should I just paint and not write?
If you’re still reading, you may be tired of this old weary question.
Me too. ME TOO!
I stopped by the gallery of a friend. If you’re anywhere near Augusta, Georgia, you must stop in to CANDL on Broad Street. The photographer and curator, Drake White is someone I described as just “happening upon me and my art”. I am honored to have been photographed by him.
I committed to seeing the current exhibit of the acclaimed artist, Ed Rice on the final night of the show and so I drove over yesterday evening, scurrying into the gallery without an umbrella in the sprinkling rain.
I was greeted by two gentleman, one an artist and the other Mr. White. Fascinated by the works, I commented on the emotion of the subjects, not people, rather 18th century dolls.
Still, I decided one was demure and another had been “harmed”.
I was introduced to the other artist with words about three things…
I stood quietly and accepted the kind commentary of me.
The me I’d been losing, sort of like a “mission creep” in creative endeavors seeking to be known.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15 NLT
I hadn’t lost my faith; but, maybe I was losing “faith in me” as in the Holy Spirit answering in the most unexpected ways and quietly, a ripple of wisdom that barely changes the stream.
Involving others as teachers, as witnesses of you.
For the sake of you.
For goodness sake and to contribute to the question…with the surest and sweetest answer.
Faith, writing and art, Lisa Anne…for the goodness of others, share my goodness in you.
Is there a place you’ve ventured away from what is for you?
Are you missing the goodness because of grabbing for grander?
Pay attention to what others notice in you and be reminded by a certain little phrase my granddaughter is quite proud of saying…
Walking, exhausted and walking, I thought about a storm I must’ve missed.
Fragments on the pavement, objects fallen and scattered.
I’d been away for three days.
Fern fronds, one facing upward the other folded, wilted. Similar, of the same family
I’d just gotten home from two days with family, the aunt like my mama, cousins, siblings, nephews, nieces.
Shown off on social media, the celebration.
It happened again.
Someone said “she’s your mini me”, referring to my granddaughter, Elizabeth.
And it prompted me to think again
I have two children, a daughter and a son.
One is fair, blonde hair, blue eyes and porcelain complexion prone to freckles.
The other, dark almost coal hair, brown eyes and a more easily bronzed complexion.
Still, I’ve heard through the years.
Oh, he/she looks so much like you!
Of course, I love the assessment.
Last week, I smiled as I saw the light in the eyes of an adopted child on her birthday.
This child, brown in complexion, parented by blondes I was fortunate to meet and be a part of their story.
I saw her mama’s smile. I recognized her father’s confidence in her shoulders.
Not genetic, not inherited.
I see my granddaughter and I see the glimmer of her grandmother, “Gamma” in her eyes. I see her daddy’s expression in her confident answers. I see her cousins’ smile in hers.
I see her mama in the freckles sprinkled across her nose and in her stubborn tenacity.
I see my heart when I see hers and I also see the heart of others.
And that’s what I’ve decided about resemblance…
It’s the heart that shows and the heart that knows.
One child can be seen as the echo of so many all at the same time.
Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, caregivers and protectors.
All of us, imparting resemblance.
It’s not the curve of the cheek, the tip of the nose, the color of the eyes or the way the lips turn above the chin.
Instead, it’s the imprint of love.
Less severe the likeness, more sweetness and nuance.
Love is the reason for the resemblance.
And resemblance is the evidence of that love.
Wildflowers, oak leaves and children.
The remnants of rhododendron.
All the same and on their own on display.
When others say my granddaughter is so much like me in her sweet little face
I know the resemblance is so far from physical and every bit
The heart of me in her alongside the heart of others who love her.
A high compliment, I was once given and until now have kept secret,
“Your Bible could be in a museum one day.” D.W.
I paused in awe of his assertion, this skilled photographer who discovered me through the sketches I share from the margins of my Bible was quite convinced of this possibility.
I can only hope that if my Bible is found by someone when I’m long gone, that the gift of it finds them in the same lasting way.
That their response to God’s word catches them by surprise, that their reaction is a quiet and lasting one, a reaction that resembles mine.
On page 576 of my Crossway Journaling Bible they will find a sketch of a figure facing forward, she’s not small and her shoulders are bent in either thought or simply aged posture. Her hands are cupped in front of her and cascading behind her is a flow like a river that curves and grows larger.
She is pouring out all that’s within her, joy.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3 ESV
She is giving to others what she has gone searching for, drawn up from deep wells.
I pray I resemble her.
That I focus less on the outer aging, conflicted and overly burdened by activity me and that I consider the gifting inside me, not my gifts, talents, words or physical abilities.
Instead, I hope my life is a resemblance of joy.
Babies are born and bystanders ooh and ah as they decide who the nose, the eyes, the hands are from like a fun little challenging trivia game.
What matters less is who they resemble and more the ones God puts around them to contribute to the best of our ability what joys and gifts and graces deep within us that we embody and get to give them.
When someone says “ELB” looks like me, I smile because I know in that moment caught in a photo it’s not at all that we resemble.
Rather, it’s that the person who caught the moment on film also captured my joy and it was joy, not looks that were mirrored in a toddlers face.
Who resembles you?
Who do you resemble?
Years from now, a grandchild may flip through the thin pages of my Bible and I hope they find a drawing in the margin and say sort of quietly to themselves.
That’s me. That looks like me in that same story.
And rest in their hearts in this,
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 NIV
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV
What are the desires of your heart? Or as Jesus asked,
“And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Matthew 20:32 ESV
I keep a very old dictionary next to my morning spot. Its pages are thin from age and dark like dried clay.
I researched “delight” this morning, it’s a word that is defined as “to gratify or please greatly”, “high satisfaction”.
So, the psalmist tells us we will have whatever our hearts desire when we delight ourselves in God.
How do we delight in God? I think we set our hearts on pleasing Him and we couple it with joy that expresses to Him and others…”I’m satisfied with God.”
Then over time, our desires might surprise us or they may continue to be deeply important and personal, may seem like an impossible hope.
I get that.
I have a couple of those. But, my heart is at peace knowing, God knows and He has heard my prayers.
God knows the desires of my heart and He desires that I delight in Him…not just what I want. Maybe in a little while, what we desire most will be God and maybe that’s the discovery God knows we need and He’s so sweetly patient as we discover this ourselves.
He’s gentle and loving that way, isn’t He?
We can hope,have hope.
Not long ago, someone devastated by an injury and a woeful prognosis for her son had a tone of hopelessness in her voice.
And God brought a verse to mind.
I can tell you, this astounds me. Much of the Bible is still a mystery to me and I can’t recite the books in order or articulate truth accurately with confidence.
Still, there are things that pop up and I share them, the promises of God.
I told this mom that she could not stop hoping, that she couldn’t postpone, pack away or defer her hope.
That if she did, she would only be more heartbroken, heartsick and well, hopeless.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NLT
And as with every word I speak or write, every canvas I create, I’m telling myself the story first, the story of hoping.
The truth of a God who loves us, the embrace of a greater understanding of His faithfulness to love, protect and guide.
Desire and hope, such precious and fragile,
Don’t let go. Keep hope, wear it like a necklace. (I think that’s a verse). Treasure the knowing that your desires are fully known by the Maker who knew them way before you could.
“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.” Matthew 28:5 ESV
The rhododendron, magenta in soft color cups its petals upward from a thick branch, thick as a tiny tree.
The leaves that flare around and about it are dark green, thick and waxy. I believe it’s a rare flowering shrub. Three years ago, like a child finding a treasure, I found it. Now, I wait with a blissful anticipation to see the display again.
The spectacularly elegant flower, I believe a cousin to the azalea but so much bolder.
I had lunch with a friend not long ago. It was a first time sit together, want to know you better sort of thing.
She is an artist. She and I shared our stories, the alikeness and the differences.
I admire her strength, her intelligence and what I see as a determined grace to flourish.
After talk of art, childhood and what comes from the heart more…writing or art comparisons, we began to talk about what it means to be female.
How we’d like in our lifetimes to see women not seen as less capable, less worthy, “less than”.
I thought of this conversation for days.
I thought about what feels like futility in efforts and endeavors if one is a woman not man.
Today, I discovered why the conversation lingered, the one that wondered why we are valued.
Here we again, that whole seeking value conundrum I’ve been trying to quit.
Last week, I wrote myself a very honest note.
“The more you achieve, the more you receive, the more you are known for your art, your writing, your appearance, your family or some other surprise special thing…the more you are known for these things, the more it will never be enough. Because the “more” of you, the value others need is the true story of you …you seeing your value according to Jesus.”
Because, Jesus is more. Jesus is better.
In a flash of clarity, I almost heard my very thoughts.
Women need to know that their value is according to God and they need to know sooner than later.
I need to somehow tell them.
Then, I thought of the women Jesus empowered.
I thought of Mary Magdalene, the woman healed from evil debilitating spirits. I thought of how there were no requirements of her to be the one standing beside the empty tomb, to hear Jesus say
Mary, it’s me, go tell all the men.
And I’m thinking now of the woman at the well, the woman sick for years, the women who in those days were supposed to be little and be belittled never were seen that way by Jesus…so, why must we think we’re supposed to feel small?
Or worse even, find our value in any other effort or acclaim.
I’m a work in progress here. Today, I painted a piece with women scattered “At Rest” and I rested too.
Strong like a rhododendron, beautifully fragile in its display, held up by strong branch, deep, deep roots,
Seekers of strength, light and love us all.
May we settle and sit quietly and remember the peace that never leaves and the value decided by God of us all longer before than we can ever know.
“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
Yesterday, I read about the truth that with the death of Jesus and our acceptance and belief of this, not only our sin but our shame died too.
I’ve been thinking about the word “acceptance”. All my years I’ve heard the term “accept, believe, confess”.
As I grow, age in every way, I think acceptance becomes a different choice.
Maybe acceptance is allowing ourselves to believe the truth of God’s plan for us…not for others who appear more perfect, others who have lived less damaged lives.
I added red to the woman in the margin, I suppose a banner of my past, my sin, my struggles.
But, I see this woman less often than before and to me, that’s the precious gift of today…the day in between. The day reflecting the horror of before and resting sweetly in the precious promise of new life tomorrow.
We have a long stretch of in between…who we were before we chose to believe in Jesus and who we will be in eternity.
It’s really a precious gift, a beautiful offering that says take this time to get to know me fully because as you know me…you will truly know what I saw and see in you.
Happy day in between.
Consider the gift of the grace of growing.
Consider the acceptance of simply becoming. That’s why they call it grace.
I finished a short book, a memoir I was asked to endorse. I committed to read in its entirety at first because I’ve heard endorsers of books rarely read the book fully.
And then, because I couldn’t stop reading. I’ll share more about this book soon.
For now though, a little about this little prayer, the graphic I offer you here.
Maybe, I thought, a more acceptable prayer, one more able to help tie the loose ends of unanswered questions, to heal wounds still festering, a prayer more conducive to strength and with less shame.
“God, turn it for good.”
The book I finished caught my breath with its honesty, made me pause overwhelmed by the author’s words of wisdom and mostly, empathy.
It’s a memoir about child sexual abuse, a woman detailing her faith and counseling journey as she bravely reveals her secret, confronts her abuser, her father.
Intertwined in her coming to terms with the abuse by her father, she comes to terms with her questions about why she wasn’t protected by God and how the ripple effect of her sexual abuse separated her even farther from the God she was raised in every Sunday morning church to know.
Because she wasn’t protected, she believed less that she was “wronged” and that all along it was her that was “wrong”.
As I read, many comments were added for my benefit. I became teary eyed when I read of her circling back and back again to the why of God, where and why and how was it allowed?
Her counselor gifted her with words I’ve learned to treasure.
God was there too. God was not pleased. Evil took over. But, God was there with you.
Just as He is today.
Still, it is close to impossible for this truth I choose to be less mystery than reality.
I am learning. God saved me for this.
I’m learning to hold in one hand my questions while balancing in the other the evidence of God in my life, the promises that have been fulfilled.
All of the trauma, the unfair treatment, the less than storybook childhood, the abuse, the grief, the slander of my name by others.
The lack of rescue until I was numb to having a hand clench my neck or throw me against a wall. Stunned, I was stunned into submission of things that should never have happened at all.
That I did not cause.
These hurts are long gone and the thoughts they’ve birthed that I share here are for your hope.
These redemptive thoughts.
So, I offer you this little prayer, a phrase you can say on repeat for whatever wrongs you’ve known.
God, turn it for good.
Once, a few years ago (I’ve thankfully come so far) my counselor asked me if I ever asked Jesus where he was.
So, I asked and He answered slowly, not audibly or enormously, instead so fittingly, an image like a painting.
A familiar place where hard things happened and beside me in a grassy place, Jesus kneeled.
Jesus was with me.
I offer you this prayer.
A precious one, really and not an attempt to right wrongs, a gift of retribution, or a magic eraser of pain.
No, a leaning really. Just a leaning as you learn, as you see God with you.
I asked my friend to counsel me. She invited me to dinner instead and we counseled, consoled and decided some things.
Considered why there’s no 12 step type group for those who are questioners, often to the point of despondency, despairing and the other “D”, depression.
There was healing in our agreement, there was laughter over our recognition of that need.
There was the knowing of ourselves and of one another.
I had dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in close to two years. I was scurrying to make it and almost cancelled. My hair was dirty, I didn’t feel too “spunky” and well, I’m older than the last time I saw her. I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking about aging.
But, I made it to the spot, dry shampoo and mascara plumped eyelashes with blush on my cheeks.
I beat her there. She arrived and we held each other long, long, long. “I love you” was the greeting as well as the goodbye.
We talked, we laughed, we counseled one another. We ate pizza over a glass of good wine.
When I woke the next morning, my first thought was “God’s not disappointed in you.” and as the day became sunny and pink with azaleas, I took to heart that I shouldn’t be either and I smiled as I remembered my friend’s hands in mine as we caught up with each other and decided.
“We’re gonna make it after all.”
Two days later, I’m recalling the likemindedness in our chatter. I’m remembering her inquisitive patience. I’m reminding myself of the gift of affirmation, the bravery of listening when listening is more important than adding to the conversation.
Early today, I rethought a familiar prayer, the one prayed by Jabez, (I Chronicles 4:10) the son who was labeled by a name that made his future seem grim.
Lord, help me to trust you to enlarge my boundaries, extend my reach and keep me from chasing after things that will lead to pain, things fueled by insecurity and fear.
I readied myself in the dark for my day, interrupted by the nudge to pray.
A prayer with a shift in perspective.
Jesus, help me to accept fully your befriending.
Because all sorts of songs and trendy Christian talk will proclaim friendship with Jesus.
But, oh to be honest, it’s not up to us at all.
No effort will sustain the relationship.
It’s really much more simple.
Be befriended by Jesus.
I’m not sure where I’d be if there were an expiration date on my understanding of such things.
I’m old and I yet young in this friendship actually.
You’ll likely hear this song soon or hear about it. Lauren Daigle’s tender voice and truth admitting she’d be a mess without the friendship of Jesus.