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

The Strength of Grace -A Collection

Art, courage, grace, mixed media painting, painting, Redemption, wisdom, wonder

I’m launching a new collection tomorrow. It developed over a few weeks of easy and uncomplicated painting.

Strong and yet, gently postured women. Graceful and strong.

The works are mostly small pieces and will be available on my website at noon on January 9th.

Artist Website

Here’s a glimpse…

I loved painting these and hope they remind you of grace and strengthen you too.

Always Peace

Angels, Art, bravery, Children, courage, daughters, Faith, family, grief, love, memoir, Motherhood, Peace, Prayer, tragedy, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

We talked about ferns, pansies, mums, babies, children and prayer. I’d waited until past 8 to call, afraid she may not answer.

We talked about sunshine and husbands. We talked about my art and hers and we decided that we would “share a booth” in a “show” this Spring.

I found the obituary earlier.

My cousin, her daughter died unexpectedly 42 years ago.

I walked around with the reality of that all day long and with the question of whether to call, whether it would be something she’d like.

My aunt, I describe her beauty and I always think of Grace, the princess. Her voice is slow and draws gentle circles as she talks about peace, about flowers, about family.

She chooses acceptance, she goes after peace. She knows peace is her friend.

I had a reason to call her. All the pretty pansies and ferns froze over Christmas and the brittle evidence of a hard and unwelcome death were left on my daughter’s porch.

All the brown leaves and blackened blooms would have to be thrown into the woods.

“What should she start over with?” I asked my “Aunt Boo”.

“Ferns and if you can find some that aren’t all stringy and overgrown, some more pansies. If it gets freezing hard and cold, just drape a towel over them and let ‘em stay warm.”

Then she thanked me for calling as if she knew it wasn’t something I knew I was up to.

She told me it helps to talk to me.

Unexpectedly adding the memory of the last time she saw her daughter on New Year’s Day at the convenience store out by Zaxby’s.

And that was all, leaving me wanting to hear more about that day and yet, knowing that knowing more doesn’t make it better.

Knowing rarely brings peace in unknowable things. Instead, an embrace of accepting that thing or things we cannot always understand always does.

Acceptance brings peace.

Knowing more doesn’t make it better.

Today, I’ll look for ferns, asparagus hopefully. The bright green prickly fronds that seem delicate are actually thick and strong.

Feathery and fragile and yet, they endure as long as they have sunlight, water and necessary protection from the frigid cold.

I’ll share my aunt’s advice with my daughter and add it to my treasure trove of her sweet lessons for my living.

Peace, today I shall go in peace. Stay with it.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭24‬-‭26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This one’s for you, my precious Aunt Boo.

Encircled

bravery, courage, Faith, family, grace, love, mercy, Redemption, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder, writing

I will go before you and level the exalted places. Isaiah 45:2

I dreamt I attended the funeral ceremony of a kind and giving man, a steadfast friend of our community. I suppose I’d seen the photos of others who attended, who shared their thoughts on being there.

The faces of the family left to live without him, the dignitaries who gave thoughts and tributes and other individuals there to witness the event and offer support.

I noticed the posture of some, shoulders slightly bent, carrying a burden and I noticed downcast faces on some who stood at the podium.

But, I saw strength in many; perhaps, they told of how this gentleman taught them to be stronger.

So, I dreamt that I was there and after the ceremony was over, one of the speakers approached me to say hello. It was then that we shared our own experiences of knowing the man who passed away.

It was then I shared,

He always spoke with the kindness and sincerity in hoping the best for me every time I had the chance to talk with him.

The listener listened with the same kindness as I added, “He was like a father to many, I believe.”

Every morning, I add thick circles around my prayers. One in particular might be circled until I’m gone.

Because when I think “no need” life shows me I could be wrong.

I’ve told a very few people on rare occasions that someone felt like a father to me.

It’s super personal and often uncomfortable to express that you wish you’d had your father a little longer or worse yet, that he had been a different person.

Now, I’m seeing why I dreamed that dream. Often, writing helps me unravel the causes. It wasn’t the FB photos of the funeral attendants, it was a thoughtful documentary about redeeming our days and the days we decide were all wrong.

Yesterday, I watched “Love, Tom”, a documentary about the life of songwriter Tom Douglas.

The story is told as his response to a younger man struggling who says beseechingly so in a letter to Tom.

You’d think he might not even respond.

After all, he’s famous, the recipient of many awards.

He lives in Nashville and is beyond the early angst of a creative’s struggle. I’ve commented on Instagram to writers when feeling a likemindedness…no reply. You realize they’re famous and you are not.

I’ve promised myself if I write again, a book more well-known or become a better known artist, I’ll engage with the curious and kind followers who simply want to be closer to my craft and me, the creative behind it.

Tom wrote the young songwriter close to giving up an authentic letter.

The letter became this documentary.

And, I suppose because he’s a creative he told some beautifully, tender and honest things about himself.

About redemption and about a sort of rethinking his father who struggled’s reputation.

I won’t spoil it for you. I hope you’ll watch it for more than a couple of reasons:

A well-known responding to another who feels invisible, a parent relating to a child, a child forgiving a parent and a creative who learned not to pursue creativity harder than he pursued the Creator.

Redemption, he suggests we keep after it until we’re gone.

Now, I see that the dream wasn’t really about the man laid to rest, it was about the other prominent person who listened when I expressed my feelings over the loss and with his response and his eyes, he agreed and together our grief was encircled.

More here:

Love, Tom

Love and Mercy

Abuse Survivor, bravery, Christmas, courage, curiousity, daughters, Faith, family, grace, memoir, mercy, Motherhood, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, sons, waiting, wisdom, wonder
Then and Now

Of all the scribblings and sketches in my Bible that chart my hopes, prayers, dreams and instructions, there are a couple I prefer not to read, that cause a sort of wrestling.

Make me wish I’d used a pencil, not a pen.

One word, “mama”.

“Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭8‬:‭50‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus had just been interrupted on his way to heal an important official’s daughter. He stopped in the throng of curious people when he felt a touch, I think more a desperate, still gentle tug and he healed a woman who’d been ostracized because she couldn’t stop bleeding. He looked her in the eye and called her “daughter” and said carry on now, go and live freely and well.

A few sentences later, he raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead in front of a group of mourners, saying she was just sleeping.

My doubt has fled; my faith is free.” Harriet McEwen Kimball, “Joy & Strength”

I’m curious about Harriet. How she came to this freedom and how she remained doubtless. Maybe it was an exercise in returning to the faith, of reminding herself in a comparative sort of fashion why she chose to believe.

Yesterday, I thought of prayers it seems I’ve been praying for quite a long time and I thought about waiting and about the wonder of prayer.

I could bullet list mentally the answers to some seemingly unrealistic and rapid responses and I could list the times I fall back to my knees and say “Here I am again, Lord and it’s the same thing.”

I can list the times I’ve been reminded by God’s spirit, give it to Him.

On Monday, I thanked God for the privilege of surrender, not being responsible for everything or maybe not much of anything at all.

I’ve written about this before, about the country preacher who came to visit when a long fought battle forced surrender.

The preacher didn’t lecture, didn’t condescend, didn’t direct me to a Bible, didn’t say he’d send the women’s ministry to see me.

He turned to me in my fragility and spoke softly,

“Just pray for mercy.”

The itinerant preacher from Poplar Springs Baptist Church saw me and responded.

And thereby started me on my tentative path towards believing, of refusing to doubt no matter the dilemma or delay.

When I wrote “mama” in my Bible, the lowercase letters resembling a middle school diary entry, I was a different woman than I am today.

If there was an assignment, I said yes. If there was a need, I volunteered to fill it.

If the church lights were on, I was seated in my pew or I was dutifully down the narrow hall, teaching or getting ready to sing.

I didn’t listen, only now cringe remembering, the Sunday morning my son said to me, “Mama, just sing with your voice.”

Oh, the ways my children endured me!

Because of my steady efforts, I was certain my mama would not die, like the daughter of Jairus, she’d rise up strong again.

But, she did not.

There were some things, I decided, my faith could not do.

I see “mama” on the page in Luke in my Bible as a gift now, a retrospective glance at the striver I was rescued from being.

I see “mama” and I still believe.

Because wellness, healing, a life without serious illness or chronic conditions is not completely up to me.

No amount of striving, performance or gut wrenching protective prayers or isolating will guarantee a life without sickness.

Circumstances will come, that’s a given.

Still, it is with certainty that I know belief is not circumstantial.

If it were, the woman with the flow of blood wouldn’t have had to wait so long or worse yet, she’d been overlooked or assumed too far gone.

Just pray for mercy.

Mercy will be given.

Perhaps not as expected and likely not without question of “if”.

And certainly not because of or despite your performance.

Mercy is given, not rewarded.

Just pray for mercy.

Use your voice.

Continue and believe.

This one’s for you mama, Merry Christmas.

Lisa Anne

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

More Brave

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, Children, confidence, courage, Faith, fear, grandchildren, memoir, mixed media painting, painting, Redemption, testimony, Vulnerability, wisdom
So moved by this opportunity

On the morning the editor of Fathom Magazine emailed me saying she loved the requested rewrite of my article, I found myself thinking about how I hoped my grandchildren and children would remember me.

I imagined young adults now toddlers saying, “Grandma was brave.” I imagined their parents saying “She sure was.”

The final edit echoed that very hope. I wrote an article prompted by the theme of Affirmation”.

You can read it here as well as so many other compelling essays, poems and articles.

Fathom Article

I’m honored to be included and happy to introduce you to this deeply thoughtful publication.

Brought to Light

Abuse Survivor, anxiety, bravery, courage, Faith, freedom, memoir, Redemption, traumatriggers, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder
Black Jacket Symphony, Newberry Opera House

Because we had credit for two concert tickets close to expiration, we chose Led Zeppelin, the Black Jacket Symphony tribute band.

Our choices were limited. We love the vibe of the venue; but, knew we didn’t care to hear a faded country musician or a comedy show, certainly not a magician.

A couple of senior citizens who at one time loved Van Halen, Van Morrison, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin chose an overnight trip with a concert reminding us of “the days”.

The performance was spectacular. My husband asked earlier what I expected and I answered, “Well, at least I expect depth and you know how I like deep.”

But, I kept one thought to myself, no need to have him wonder the same.

I wondered if the soundtrack of some scary and hard years might be triggering, the room rocking bass, the woeful way the lead singer sang in a moan.

I kept quiet. Had a thought, an answer to my fear,

“I’m with Greg, this is now, not then.”

This sustained me, confirmed my wellness.

We can’t rewrite the lines in our stories.

We can only realize and remind ourselves that book that told your truth back then has been shelved, packed up or better yet, trashed in the bottom of a mountain of nothing by now.

Led Zeppelin? Lisa?

Music is a gift, even more so when you allow yourself to be open to the songs in another key, a better day, a different you.

Take what’s beneficial from your past.

Welcome experiences akin to what you thought you had to forget,

Let them touch you and leave new marks.

with Greg

I hadn’t expected a concert to create another path toward clarity and healing.

I’m writing it down to remember that it did.

The old bandages gotta be stripped away so that what needs healing can be brought into the light.

Be brave. Be expectant.

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord…Jeremiah 30:17