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
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?
You know it’s yours to tell and yet, you can’t bring yourself to share it. One of mine is about a well-loved one eyed teddy bear.
I have deadlines for writing and art opportunities. They’re looming.
Tuesday, an old question about a title resurfaced and God answered. God gave me the subtitle for the book idea I’d decided to forget.
Last year, I was given a t-shirt with the word INFLUENCER across the chest. It’s in my closet. It’s not me to proclaim such a label. I imagine people thinking,
“Really, who does she think she is?”
But, I am and you are too. Influencing others.
Whether it’s your faith or your confidence in anything else. You, by your beliefs lived out in what you do, are an influencer.
“Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you.” Job 22:21-ESV
Job is influential because it made no sense to agree with God in his plight, but he remained committed to God being God.
You likely will never know all the people you influence.
I keep procrastinating writing and sending my Artist portfolio to two places I recorded as goals. The reason is an honest one. I don’t want to do it halfway. Because haphazard is my “go to” set up to accept rejection.
A way to ease the I wasn’t good enough anyway.
This is my truth. I do not like rejection. Thankfully, I am getting better at accepting it…of understanding that offering my art and words to the world is so much less about me than two things:
My confidence in me being made by God to be a creative.
And bravely understanding that my patterns of sabotaging my opportunities are not personal defects, only ingrained ideas that are being gently unlearned. (This is a biggie, hold it closely if it resonates for you.)
A prayer, maybe you have something to do and you’ve been afraid. It’s okay. We’re learning.
Go gently as you pray.
Dear Lord, Help me not to be haphazard or half-hearted. Help me to be fully me and present knowing that you are the maker of me, the intricacies and hopes that stir fear. Help me to know that you’re the Creator and I’m just the sharer.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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) (?)
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.
I pulled the brittle brown fronds from the weary looking ferns in the heavy heat of the day.
I’d watered the hydrangeas that bloomed rich cobalt blue last summer, but not so this season. I paused and looked out at the open field of green grass that was a sandy field last year. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but it seemed my granddaughter was instructing the dog “Eli” in some sort of life lesson.
And a thought came to me about me.
This season will soon be past, this Fall you’re gonna see its worth and it’s going to feel like an end to your grieving.
The thought seemed important, the timing of it unexpected, but welcomed.
I’m weary of myself. I think it’s time to acknowledge, I am here. This is now. I am not there or back then.
I am here.
Yesterday, God had me thinking about the man who couldn’t walk for 38 years and couldn’t get in the water to be healed. Today, I woke thinking of this healing after a night with a crazy/heavy dream…a dream that caused me to wonder (again) why “those things” happened to me.
“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” John 5:5-9 ESV
Just because I’m curious, I always want to know things like…well, once he walked after all that time did he think he might be a cripple again or like the woman bent over with a disability or the woman with the flow of blood for so many years…did they ask Jesus…why’d you allow this horrible thing in the first place and why’d you let it handicap me for so long?
These questions are nowhere (at least I haven’t found them) in my Bible.
Maybe the reason is simple, these questions are not beneficial to our strength and sanctification.
Maybe it’s that God knows we waste the purpose and value of our redemption when we gaze at our damaged places so much more than our deliverance.
When we think of our deliverance instead of God’s delay, we can live out our own healing and that healing offers hope to others…it never hinders their believing in that very same hope for themselves.
God is changing me here, sometimes it feels like I’m kicking and screaming in a gentle sulky rebellion; but, it’s a change that’s needed, a change that forgets the former and believes in the truth of promised new things.
One last thought, it’s not easy to stop focusing on your self in a time and culture that promotes self-obsession, self-promotion to be the best, and for me, self-absorption with the ever looming “why me?”
For a time, all the books were shelved with the pages, not the spines facing forward. Another time, prompted by some sort of famous person, all the spines with titles were organized by color.
Often, I take the book covers off a new book, curious over the color chosen by the publishers. The colors are typically soft, often blue, tan or yellow.
They’re muted, not noisy.
The star quilt is the one I chose. My grandmother died and we all gathered around the cedar chest to pick a quilt from the perfectly folded pile. Three quilts came back to Carolina that day. My daughter chose a soft blue sort of willowy with a ring pattern. My son chose the largest with a spattering of vivid, I decided, story telling squares.
There’s a sweet spot on my walking road that caused me to stop long ago. Sometimes with the Labrador, often alone. The vast valley of green field bordered by forest always caught the sun going down and the weeds, grass, wildflowers seemed to be wearing halos.
I’d stop, neighbors maybe looking on and I’d capture the blue sky scattered with clouds over the splendid field.
Then someone, a young couple, decided to put a double-wide home in the space on the end.
It seemed an intrusion to pause there to think. It wasn’t the same place, the field felt somehow disgraced by the change.
But, yesterday evening, I approached the hill that curves around to the big open field. The sky reminded me of waves building, like the tide’s rhythm. I paused for a photo.
As I continued towards home, I saw a girl hurrying down our driveway. I met her. She told me she had mail that might belong to us and then asked for an egg. She told me she lives in the trailer, has a baby, a boyfriend who works too much and a mama who is sick with a second bout of cancer. Then she told me she can’t find the people who should have this handful of junk mail, coupons and such and then asked again, “Do you have an egg?” She wanted to make some cornbread.
So I gave her two eggs, told her my name and that I would pray for her mama.
And she crossed the road back to her home, the robin’s egg blue trailer in the field I loved.
And now, love again.
My star quilt is used to cover a hole in the arm of my then new loveseat. The Labrador we love beyond measure ate a chunk out of the arm as a wild and excited puppy, home alone.
So, I folded my clean quilt, beige and blank side showing to match the furniture and to disguise the damage.
The stars’ colors never showing.
This morning, I’m seeing the change, the quilt folded before bed with the star pattern showing. The colors are dancing next to the cobalt blue of a pillow and the rich green of a painting I painted and framed before I ever had the guts to use the word “artist”.
The same green of the field with tiny new pines is the same green of the grass on this painting and the moss from so much rain, a pillow for a feather I spotted walking.
I suppose I’m noticing God again after a season of just continuing towards what we all felt might soon be better.
I’m considering all the places I’ve missed in the interim and acknowledging some grace I can give myself.
Get chances to give others.
Because the places of goodness in my life hold the promise of more; even more lines, color, and interruptions that aren’t misdirections, detours or disasters.
Simply colors added to my story.
Just so pleasant, the peace of accepting them.
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 ESV