I saw the white of crescent moon against the azure blue at dusk yesterday. I began today looking up and knowing a photo could never capture the beauty of the current constellation.
Now the place in the back corner is orange fading towards grayish blue.
“Good Morning, God” we will say.
I read last night of someone being uncertain of life after death, of eternity meaning Heaven or Hell, of thinking only what we do in the present matters. The good we do towards our neighbor is more to be believed in than Hell or Heaven.
I felt a tear begin, I sat still on my mama’s old chair, sad that others don’t believe in heaven and tender because I do.
Tender, because I didn’t always.
It’s hard to imagine. I think of loved ones long gone. I want to imagine how it will be when I see them in heaven.
I believe, even though I don’t fully know how heaven will be.
Lately, that feels like courage and I’ve never really thought myself to be courageous.
Courageous enough to know everything I’ve prayed for, prayed about, prayed broken and burdened has been heard.
Jesus, seated beside God the Father has seen my sorrows, successes and haphazardness in belief.
It’s almost impossible to know it’s the same for every single human who has decided to be courageous is to simply believe.
Even when believing doesn’t take away the hard, the bitter, the devastating circumstances.
It’s hard to believe in heaven, easier to believe “above us only sky”.
I look up. We hear the breeze in trees, call out to the birds, examine the clouds and occasionally close our eyes in a silent, listening prayer.
A toddler and I.
Above me are my sorrows surrendered, my questions presented, my likemindedness with Jesus.
If heaven is hard, even impossible to imagine for you, try picturing all your secret sorrows, anxious questions, angry disputes, and tender moments when you prayed and you felt certain something bigger than you knew what no one else was allowed or could.
Imagine, above you only mercy, only grace, only strength to endure.
Imagine your secrets being safe.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.” Jeremiah 29:11-12 NLT
It seems my art is becoming more story-like as I continue painting. Although I have a website for my paintings, occasionally I’ll add photos here and along with the photo, a little bit of what the colors, the brushstrokes, the sway in the pose of the subjects mean to me.
Here is a painting inspired by a beautiful woman named Ruth. Ruth was an employee, Ruth was my friend. She prayed with boldness and she was well spoken. She spoke of God and she often spoke of prophecy. I wonder what she’d say if she were here. I wish I could hear her voice in a prayer of hope, telling me all will be okay.
This piece is currently available. Comment or email to purchase.
She told me a heartbreaking story and how she came to accept it.
“God said, ‘that was my intention’.”
I woke today and met rejection. An email quickly skimmed and moved on to the folder marked trash.
I’d told myself submit and if it is for you, it will be.
I wasn’t at all destroyed over it. The not being chosen for my writing was sort of an answer to some recent questions of God.
One in particular, do I just blog and let that be enough?
I don’t know yet.
But, I’m open either way.
Not on the edge about it. I know that God’s intentions for me are always good. I find it brave to believe this.
Wish I’d believed it sooner.
Wish I’d seen the verse with the words “returning and rest” the way my friend explained it.
“Daughter, come back.” is what she told me the prophet Isaiah wrote, as instructed by God.
“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
My friend is biblically wise and I’d always felt the words about running away felt like chastisement.
She read farther back and told me God is just reminding me rest means closeness and confidence and strength are from staying near.
We talked a little more and we began to share worries over our world, the evil motivations of people and the bravery required to stand strong and speak up about God.
She became quiet. She shared of a high school classmate she’d heard through others had suffered a stroke.
She told me they weren’t close friends, hadn’t run in the same circles way back then.
Using the connection of another former classmate, she contacted the ailing friend and asked to drop off food, say hello.
The stroke victim said no at first and eventually allowed my friend in.
And I’m not sure how many visits there were, if meals were shared or if conversation became natural.
My friend shared that the woman she’d been visiting did not believe in God. She had her reasons.
My friend asked God to keep her alive until she could change her mind about Jesus.
My friend ached for that assurance. She is aching still.
The former classmate died too soon.
Tremendous pain prompted her to get any pill she could get off the street and my friend heard that the stroke victim who said there was no God, died while sending someone a text.
My friend heard later, the pill was tainted, a deadly ingredient added.
I sat and sensed the ache of question. I saw regret in the posture of my friend.
Months passed since the passing until one day in the shower, she longed to know why she’d not been able to help the former classmate believe in Jesus.
She looked over at me and said,
“God said, ‘that was my intention’.”
And the truth of God’s intention for my friend’s friend and for me caused tears to begin slowly.
Peace permeated the space between us.
“So, you have peace about her?” I asked and she nodded.
Then, I smiled and I cried and I told her something I don’t think she knew would be for me.
What that means is that those horrible things that happened to me were not what God intended, the evil just won the battle.
And maybe, just maybe the stuff I longed for that had not happened was not God’s intention for me.
Come back, daughter. Yes, I now see.
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18 ESV
What makes no sense to you if you believe in a God that is good?
My friend found peace when God told her, I was on your team, I was fighting alongside you.
You having more time with her was my intention.
Evil broke in. Broke in too soon.
On earth there is evil.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
Heaven, though, is God’s purpose.
Our hope and future.
Come back. Stay near. My grace to you is intentional.
Seems like yesterday, but it was I guess, twenty or so years ago. I cut the big branches from the sycamore tree and laid them in the back seat. Leaves as big as my two hands together. I had a plan for my room. I was assigned the lesson on Zacchaeus.
The branches touched the ceiling in the tiny room where I created a scene to tell the children about how a man moved from the top of a tree hoping just to see Jesus, to having him as a guest in his home.
On the night I was to teach the lesson, the room disappointed. The church trying to save electricity had turned off the air conditioning. I was met by wilted leaves and a room that was consumed by humidity, a swampy smell. The “tree” I built in the corner was wilted, not special or impressive for the little children at all.
The tree was no longer a part of the lesson. Ten or so boys and girls sat in front of me in a circle on a rug we imagined was the tax collector’s home.
I taught them about the man who said yes to Jesus coming inside. They listened as I told them of the man up in the tree who never thought he’d meet Jesus, he just wanted to see unnoticed by others, the one who was spreading hope and love, a healer.
Then Jesus said, I’m not just passing by, I’m headed to your house today, climb down from that (ridiculous) tree.
The story continues with the criticism of others who knew Zacchaeus as a rich man, a cheater, a scoundrel you may say.
None of that mattered to Jesus. He set his sights on people unworthy from others’ perspectives.
I’m one of those.
Later, we’ll be having a big crowd at our house. We will celebrate a birthday. Children will swim in our pool, cousins will feel like it’s a reunion party. There will be noisy conversation, peach cobbler, baked beans, popsicles, etc.
My husband asked me if I was ready just now. He knows I’m an introvert, he’s familiar with the mystery of my yearning for quiet.
Almost a year ago, I began to wear this little bracelet. It’s paint covered sometimes, it’s a little soiled from my walking in this southern heat. It is stretched and weathered.
A tiny charm adorns it. One side says “faith” and the other, “my saint, my hero”. I don’t consider myself a saint nor a hero.
I do know that faith is my mainstay. I don’t need to know if the giver of this bracelet considers me her hero. I just need to continue in my faith and hope others who come around me see it. I need to remember Jesus as my hero. I need to live in a house of faith.
That when others come to my house, they might get a sense that Jesus had been by too, either in the waking prayer of morning, the first step outdoors to see the sun leave layers on the green or in the way I welcome them in.
Where I lack in hospitality, may there be the evidence of my faith.
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 ESV
Zacchaeus, a rich man met Jesus unexpectedly in his home and then carried on from there more honest, more generous, more unashamed.
My friend chastised me gently when I shared how I despise the money part of being an emerging artist. I underprice my work because in my mind at least I’m not giving it away.
Although I have before.
My friend, the same person who told me my gift is “mercy”, corrected me when I told her promoting my work felt uncomfortable, not godly.
She believes my art and writing are talents God gave me to impart hope to the kingdom. She told me my work is “kingdom work” and so it should be as big and impactful as possible.
I have battled big time the skills to build a website. WordPress is not the right platform, others overwhelm me.
“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.” Elisabeth Elliot
God has blessed me with many things. Paintings that touch lives and are sold, art on a gallery wall, art in a featured magazine article, art that is influenced by strength and hope.
Still, I have a hard time with some parts of it all and God tells me to just keeping creating even if your steps feel bogged down, incapable or slow.
Crawl before you walk kind of thinking. I need a website but before I take that step, I need more of a business perspective on my Instagram… So follow my art page on Instagram if you haven’t already. Numbers of followers and prices that represent the hours of work are a thing and as my dear friend told me, if you’re doing kingdom work, you want to touch a big wide kingdom with your work!
For now, I’m inviting others to follow my art page on Instagram. lisa_anneart
Happy Monday, Memorial Day, another week towards better, y’all!
Here’s a granddaughter inspired post about “wonder” I wrote a few weeks ago.
Today is her 1st birthday. I call her “morning glory” among other little things. A baby who changes a day from gray to blue, a baby girl who has changed our world. Happy Birthday, sweet little curious thinker, “ELB”. We thank you for making us so much more sure of every single thing. You cause me to rest. You increase my joy. You are a gift. You are the embodiment of certain hope. You are silly, you are wise.
What We See
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12 ESV
As if our bodies were synchronized, our necks craned and faces tilted towards heaven, we stared through the sheer drapery and we tried to find the opening. We wondered if it was as tiny as the point of a pin. We longed to see and were left questioning, “What is up there, what is causing the lingering of her stare?” We were fascinated. We were perplexed.
The baby was tiny then. We decided the veil must surely be thinner between babies and heaven. Occasionally, as her mama cradled her after feeding and before sleep, she raised her tiny arm towards the ceiling in a newborn hello wave. Something was there, someone, a presence only baby girl was capable of seeing. We were captivated by her vision. We researched angelic explanations and discovered mystical and somewhat biblical explanation. My daughter and I agreed, she is in awe of her new world, she sees either angel, God or we hoped, her great-grandma.
Then, she began to grow and curiosity for other was all about what she could touch, feel, manipulate, and discover. We noticed her looking towards heaven less often. She became more fascinated with the cool earth beneath her knees and feet.
Her longing for understanding seemed to be bigger than simply seeing. I watched as she discovered discovering.
I began to discover again.
We sat together in the cool grass of Spring. I watched her fascination with leaves, pine straw, and the big dog.
We sat together.
So serene. I braided the pinestraw in a way I may braid her soft hair one day. She watched me and her chubby fingers tried the same.
“Bird”, I said and she looked at me and then towards the sky. For a moment or two she was enthralled, we looked up together. I held her hand and we sat still.
I am thinking now, posing a question, sermon to self-type evaluation, “Where will you see God today, Lisa?” because it has been something I’ve been wondering in this pandemic. I have taken stock of the things God has not stopped. Babies are born. Birds are cavorting. Even the wind seems more melodic. The flowers are brilliant. The clouds are puffed and fully inflated. I find it confusing these spectacular symbols of living in a time of speculation and dread of death.
How is there such splendor in such a time of fear? How is my wonder over such beauty so fulfilling? What is God’s intention in this juxtaposition of grief and beauty? Are we to hold both, one hand clutching uncertainty and the other, splendor? Possibly, I believe. Perhaps wonder is simply faith we see only through childlike eyes.
The baby will be here momentarily. I’ll spread an old quilt on the grass in the back corner. All the toys will be toted out and she’ll play until she is bored with blocks and colors. Then she and I will look and listen. We will mimic the crow. We will toss the ball to the dog and we may sing her favorite song, “Deep and Wide”. She’ll guide my hands because she knows the words now. She’ll remember long ago when her grandma opened her arms, deep and then wide and sang to her over and over about the fountain flowing, one full of love for her and me.
We will look together. We will listen and then have a lunch of sweet potato. I’ll be attentive to her seeing and she will be to mine. We will look in wonder for God today, the sweet baby girl, and I will remember our creator, the one who gave us our eyes and our ears and our favorite thing of all, our wonder.
Where will you see God today?
May your seeing be as mysteriously clear as a baby’s.
Happy 1st birthday, Elizabeth Lettie, we love you more than any words can express. We love you for changing our seeing. We love you for increasing our wonder.
What have you learned about yourself since March whenever when you were scared to death by being told to wash your hands, don’t touch your face?
I’ve learned I can’t blame lack of time for my lack of effort. I’ve learned to understand my resistance to taking chances is for fear of something not happening.
If you’ve read my blog, you may be thinking well, that’s no secret.
I learned that God made me to be merciful and that I have what is called a mercy gift, that this is my redemptive gift. The day after a very wise person told me this, thinking surely I already knew, I received this In Touch publication, their final issue. The issue’s focus?
I’ve learned there is a reader for stories born of trauma. There are authors who are honest and long for their readers to be changed by our stories.
One such author is Jake Owensby, the author of “A Resurrection Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth”.
Jake is a blogger and a minister. He also grew up exposed to violence. He developed a fear reaction. He cowered when he felt that was the only way to feel safe. He grew up being told he was worthless in so many ways. His book is written to convince the reader, God made you for different. You can believe you are valued.
I haven’t even finished the book and I’ve not been asked to review or mention it. It’s just a part of my learning during pandemic.
I admitted a big hard and better understood truth about myself.
I am a blamer. I look for places to lay blame for the trauma of my past, the way it has and continues to stymie my living.
Jake Owensby defines it this way, a way I am embracing,
You see, I’m a blamer. Or, more accurately, I’m a recovering blamer given to occasional relapses.
On the bottom page of this chapter’s second page are almost unreadable notes left by me, the truth of them so true, I had to hurry and leave it recorded.
If you can blame someone or someones for the hurt you felt, the fear unresolved and the physical harm that went unprevented…you won’t have to feel the deep heartache of not wanting to have to blame God.
Mr. Owensby led me to this, it is valuable like a revelation long needed.
I’m only half through the book. The chapter after blame and shame has other underlined and margin notes. One more that lingers is the retelling of an English teacher who believed in him and convinced him to write competitively. His fear and comparison of himself led to failure. However, he writes of the redemptive value of the instructor seeing that in him, seeing him measuring his lack against another’s arrogance.
She yearned for me to see things, to see the world and myself in a different light. In retrospect, I realize that it was my dread of failure that undid me that day. Failure, even perceived failure, would set loose in me an avalanche of shame.
I’m remembering now how Jake Owensby and I connected through writing. I remember the time he offered me prayer. I believe he prayed.
Prayer is yet another thing I’m learning more deeply.
Last weekend, I sat with my mama’s sister on her patio. She told a sweet story about how my mama was a teenager when she first heard my daddy singing in a tiny little country bar. She was a high schooler and he had come home from Korea.
I asked her to retell the story. How had I never known it? Then we turned the discussion from life to death. My uncle and my aunt asking me to remind them how old my parents were when they met death. The perspective changed along with the mood when I compared my upcoming 60th birthday with the corresponding too soon years of their dying.
I thought about the scribbles in my Bible, a book I gave my ailing mama entitled “What God Can Do”. I thought about how I believed she would live, that God would do what the Book of Luke records, she would live if I would believe. I thought of how I never prayed that way for my daddy, felt I was not eligible to pray, not equipped back then.
Now, on this Tuesday morning I’m listing answers to prayer because I am still praying and I will pray, continue unrelentingly.
So, why pray when people die anyway, when abuse continues for some and if it ends at last, the deep pain often comes back to visit?
I pray because I know God is far too big for me to know why and why not.
I pray because I know His love and power and knowledge in increments when I continue.
Lost keys found, an old car that started, a baby protected in a storm, a heart condition healed, a softer tone from the heart of one that used to be harder, an opportunity to write about redemption from trauma for others, waking up well, tiny twins a little early yet, healthy, little answers to questions and requests not really life altering but good offering ups of yes”, the bravery to send photos of paintings to a gallery.
Knowing God so much more than before, so much that it’s unimportant the reactions of others when you say you still believe in miracles.
God is not logical. We can’t use a chart like a logic model to list our prayers and our acts of mercy and kindness and line them up in a flow chart kind of way towards a corresponding list of outcomes.
God’s ways are not ours to fully understand.
Only fully believe.
So, what have you learned during this time called unprecedented?
Maybe it’s just that, all of our times are in the hands of a God who promises unprecedented miracles, unprecedented new mercies, unimaginable grace.
Fix your mind on that, not your missteps, the prayers you prayed that left you questioning, or the long held fear of failure and shame that holds you back.
Learn of God in tiny grasps; but, keep longing for steady learning. There is more than enough time to get closer to grasping the truth of Him, the truth not made for us to wrap our minds around completely, simple to be drawn closer every moment to the possibility of it.
The immeasurably confounding and generous love of God.
“from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15-19 ESV
Like the prayers God answers, I’m enlightened by the possibility of them, not the end result. The book about a Resurrection Shaped Life, written from the perspective of someone hampered by shame was not written specifically for me and its author had no preconceived takeaway for me. I’m simply a reader as I am simply one who is praying. The revelation, redemption and peace in response are God’s answers.
I encourage you to follow the writing of Jake Owensby and to order this book if you’re stuck in your past or if you are prone to shame as a handicap. You can learn more here: Jake Owensby
I intentionally leave the blinds open now. The morning light and the shift of the sheers is my gentle waking alarm.
I’ve been thinking about fear and the contradiction of such beautiful occurrences as light through the window and when will this fear inducing pandemic uncertainty end.
But, I talked about fear the other day with my friend as we sorted out the hurtful and inappropriate behavior of another. I told my friend
At the core, it’s fear. Every unwanted behavior spills over from the fear brought on by something the other person has kept and is fighting to keep secret.
Since then, I’ve been contemplating fear. How so many of us are allowing our fear to go unacknowledged. We are afraid of things we can’t name on top of our already debilitating fears.
We are justified in our fear.
After all, there is no page in this book we’re all currently reading to tell us which chapter we are in.
Are we still reading the introduction? Have we moved into the mix of characters’ conflict, resolution and either an ending that leaves us unfulfilled and angry over giving time to its finishing or the final chapter in a really honest memoir that leads us to feel satisfied in the reconciliation of the author’s story?
We know little about this epic story called Co-Vid. I suppose we keep reading the book of it.
As needed. Only.
Otherwise, there are too many plot twists and too many arguments to make it pleasing or informative, to get pulled in, sleepless night reading birthing crazy night terrors.
I bet you can tell, I’m unschooled when it comes to this pandemic or anything else global or political.
This is by choice. Knowing everything is potentially harmful to catastrophic story writing me.
Today, I opened my Bible and decided to focus on fear.
Then I journaled each of them, as if taking notes for an upcoming test.
The section in my Bible that is called “What the Bible says about…” lists seven scriptures on fear. I googled “how many times is fear mentioned in the Bible?” The answer was “over 500” with a little more about the statement “do not fear” being in the Bible 365 times.
Many of us already know this cool fact. Many of us know God does not want us to be afraid, reminds us He is our strength and any fear we feel is from man not Him.
The greatest gift of reading my Bible is reading a verse I’ve read before but it being different, God being intentional in my receiving of it. Today, it’s 4 words from Isaiah 41:13
I am your God.
God is not just the God I believe, the Heavenly Father who desires eternity for me and so He gave His only Son. He is of course, those things.
But, He is my God. Yours too, as if we could be the one and only and He belongs to each of us with the same amount of love, of power, of protection, of fighting for us in a gentle way…as if to say, know this love I have for you more fully, better.
I am yours. God
The other verses are just as good. This thing called fear in this time called Corona has me thinking. Fear is complicated now. We can’t name the reasons for it because we’re overwhelmed with questions and information and a non ending to this chapter and book.
I do know God says don’t fear.
So, I’m sure fear must be coming from somewhere I’m not supposed to be seeing, hearing, absorbing into my thoughts. Maybe if there is one teaching and promise we can all wrap our minds around, it is this.
Do not fear.
Maybe it’s our heart and mind’s stubborn and faithful incomprehensible to others decision not to live in fear.