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
“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.
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?
I stared out the window, the tops of pines golden in the early light. A mysterious sight, a dab of different color caused me to stare.
A pine branch must’ve splintered and the light color must be the underbelly of the bark. Then, I looked again. The object was gone.
I concluded it had to have been an owl or a hawk and naturally, that led to even more romanticizing this enigma in the trees.
Mid-morning, I looked again. With a baby on my chest, I discovered the object was a balloon that had gotten tangled and deflated and the wind had it dancing in and out of my sight.
Then, I began to get excited.
My granddaughter’s butterfly balloon had escaped her grip and “gone up to heaven” never to be seen again.
She arrived home with her mama and before I could tell her, her mama spotted it.
A hurried gathering of jackets began and I listened as she asked, “I gotta show you something, remember us asking God to help us find your balloon?”
She nodded with a smile that said she knew the surprise already.
Then baby boy and I watched from the window as they struck out through the hay field to the very back corner, a valley.
From a distance, I saw my daughter grab a broken limb and somehow dislodge the tangled ribbon and the flattened balloon.
Then, they took the long way back around the field, the walk I call “around the block”.
I asked my daughter, “Was it the butterfly?” anxious to join them in the mystery, the answered prayer.
“No, it was a Valentine’s one from who knows where.”
I watched my granddaughter, ever the listener as she quickly announced that it was hers anyway, just not the butterfly, it was her Valentine balloon (imagined).
She decided it was worth celebrating, special and unexpected even if wasn’t exactly the miracle we thought.
And then she moved on to something else, balloon adventure forgotten.
This morning, I discovered a pretty word I love and had big plans for I may have misused or slightly made wrongly “mine”. (I do this.)
I suppose it has nothing to do with feelings and mostly with science.
Like my granddaughter, I think I’m gonna think differently and decide on my own.
I don’t know why this happens. I decide to pull out the beginning pages of my long ago decided memoir and I go to the library and I run my fingers across the familiar words and the tenderness is so tender, I begin to cry.
I’m not sure what this means.
I’m not jumping to any conclusions as to whether it means close that door or throw every window and door back open. Step back in and don’t ever pack it away or fold it like a letter and seal the envelope forever.
It’s just an observation.
Library, window view towards the blue sky, laptop open, pages ready for pen and then…
Soft, never harsh tears.
I’m in the library, a place I love for two reasons though. My husband is painting cabinets and needed me not to hover.
More importantly, someone I know only through blogging is publishing her memoir and sent the manuscript to me. She asked me to read and endorse her book.
We’ve never met. I know her story and she knows mine through our blogs.
I’m forty pages in to her memoir which begins with a note to the reader, to women like me who’ve had their lives complicated by uninvited trauma.
An inaudible echo in my soul as I read her story, pause to be amazed by her knowing my feelings.
Resonance, a pretty word I love to decide is mine to choose sort of like the mystery balloon not being completely true and yet, choosing to believe.
Sort of beautiful really, the license love affords us to use when we decide life is and can be full and we fully immerse ourselves in the good, the bad, to the no way it’s true…we can choose.
I hope this is a soft echo for you.
Life lived fully known and open to the enigma of you and others who privately or not say “me too” adding to the resonance in ripples.
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.
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.
Friday night, two weeks ago, I sat in my friend’s den. We’d had a yummy and not without funny incident meal in a tiny town nearby. The night was cool. The Labrador and cats had been fed. My friend sat on the “Elvis” velvet green sofa and her husband faced me, each of us in the ivory armchairs.
My friend suggested, I “give my talk” as a practice for Saturday morning. This would be my third practice reading.
I made it through and my friend and her sweet husband approved. Then, she added,
“Lisa, it is beautiful; but, try to talk instead of reading. Look up.”
“Okay, okay.” I assured her and went to bed scared and vulnerable.
Tossing and turning but waking to a pink morning sky, I journaled and landed on the passage in II Timothy that tells us not to have a spirit of fear. I found another verse I’d only skimmed over before.
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:8 ESV
We arrived at the gathering place, women preparing and chatting; I found a pen and reviewed the words I’d be sharing.
Added in places that I felt needed it
LOOK UP HERE
I’ve decided to share the essay/speech.
You’ll likely recognize the paragraphs or two that led me to choke up, lose my place and for the life of me not want to look up.
Places that caused me to stare in an awkward vacantness.
Still, I knew someone might benefit from my sharing. I didn’t know I’d be given such a gift of acceptance in their kind expressions that morning.
“Your slightest pain finds response in his sympathy.” Handley C.G. Moule
Here are my words:
Of Lasting Value
Lisa Anne Tindal
Louisville Presbyterian Church, October 22, 2022
I suppose it was over six months ago. My friend called me by surprise which is her nature. The call is always genuine, the conversation always for my betterment. I have a friend who is closer than a sister. She is why I am here.
This friend who is both soft and strong, hilarious and humble has influenced me towards courage all along the way. And so, this phone call from my splendidly southern friend was a gift and then, an idea shared in an unexpected request.
I am here with you today because my friend believed I should be. She shared that she thought of me and my journey and felt I’d be the just right speaker. I told her I would think, I would pray, and I thought…
Well, I don’t have to worry about this now, October is a long time away. August came and then September and I began to be very afraid.
And the fear became heavy and close to paralyzing. I couldn’t be quite sure why or rather I couldn’t decide which was the most accurate reason. After all, I’d spoken publicly in many places, business, philanthropic or civic engagements and I’d spoke about much less pleasant topics, homelessness, suicide, mental illness. Why the fear over sharing about my life, my journey, and least of all, art? Why did I feel so deficient? Why did I regret saying “Yes”?
On a Saturday afternoon, just before dusk, I made a list. Lists help to organize my thoughts, give understanding of my worry, spur me on. This list with a column for opportunities over the past year or so lined the left side and the right was absolutely nothing at all as I tried to respond to my mind’s question.
Why is this not enough?
What more could be proof?
Will it matter if you’re in a gallery, a solo show, if all five paintings in the current Charleston show are sold?
My soul was sullen. My mind knew the answer.
It would not matter at all; you’d still be trying to prove to yourself that you are “enough”. You’d still be trying to win the next marathon, jump unhindered through the next circus hoop of culture and comparison.
You’d still feel unqualified.
Later, I prayed before sleep and there were tears. The prayer, not one of request or providential goodness, instead I asked God to forgive me for trying to be anything other than his plan and his idea. I acknowledged I’d been striving to succeed, to fly on the wings of my own, wings that aren’t broken, no not broken at all…just marked by fading scars and not fully grown.
I sat in my morning spot the next day, recalling my cry. I reviewed the list and remembered a couple or three wonderful things I had omitted.
The list is long. The list is truly amazing; but neither sufficient nor satisfying on its own.
As a woman, a little girl, a mama or wife, how do you measure significance? Is it in the success of your children? The accolades in your profession or maybe in the longevity of your marriage that has endured some stress? Or is it smaller, more insignificant things that matter so much more?
I am a woman from south Georgia, raised by a mother who loved through cooking and often masked depression with achievement, a father who was broken and as kind as a southern breeze on a humid day until he needed relief from whiskey and then he could express his brokenness and anger. It was hard many days, thankfully not all of them.
My parents were human.
A girl who was “daddy’s” who became a young woman broken by the weight of that label. A young woman who loved the quiet comfort of art and longed to love God but was afraid she couldn’t measure up.
A young woman who suffered harm, overpowered by strong and angry hands on more than one occasion. A college student who lost her way and began to starve herself to gain control.
A woman who became a single mother to two and found the wherewithal to support them through keeping Georgia’s children safe as a DFCS employee.
I am a woman who is now married to a man who understands me (although it was an effort) and the mother to two adult children I treasure, a grandmother to four, very soon five grandchildren.
What’s your story? Have there been debilitating detours or even small dilemmas? How have you tried to redeem them?
Has it been tough on your own?
I love to imagine being alongside women in the Bible who found themselves in places and situations that didn’t masquerade their disadvantages.
Their stories are ours.
They are in our Bibles. These women I call “Colors of My Bible”, figures that began to develop in the margins of a Bible gifted to me in 2016. I began to see myself in their stories, at times not sure the reason, and yet, as I continue, their stories, their colorful lives continue to change mine.
They are women who came to understand, it is God who decides we are valuable.
It is God who positions us in places to remember this and to add value to the lives of others by our embrace of this truth.
Of what value are you?
Maybe we are similar to the women with ancient stories,
We are strong and have value.
Esther, an orphaned young woman raised by her uncle found herself in an unlikely position. Her beauty, I suppose we could say was her ticket. More so, it was her commitment to her people, her family that made her courageous. I like to imagine her clothed in purple, diminutive in size and in the background are the other competitors for her place in the palace. I remember Esther for her bravery. Her allegiance to her family and her courage to protect them became her value.
Martha, a favorite of mine because she did what I do. If there is angst, an unanswered prayer, a rescue or remedy I’ve decided isn’t coming, I have the answer. It’s control, cleaning, rearranging.
Once I painted the bathroom cabinets, replaced the mirror and changed out all the towels in the bathroom. I was waiting on a call from The Citadel to see if my son in his Freshman year first week would be coming home. I think of Martha and her plight of “needing to know” or being sure all would be well. I like to envision her finally sitting down to rest beside her sister Mary and being gently reminded things like a cluttered kitchen don’t matter. I remember Martha for her anxiety. I remember Jesus telling her to rest, all will be well. Her learning to trust and rest became her value.
The Woman at the Well, known by many for her lascivious ways, I relate to her story. Admittedly, I am not a theologian; but I’ve read that is was not unheard of for women to “serve” more than one man. This was the culture back then. This is why I love the approach of Jesus. He didn’t have to say to her “your secrets are exposed; your lifestyle is well known”.
Instead, he offered redemption in the form of I know, and I still care.
I like to build on the story of when she ran back into town to tell everyone she’d met the Messiah and he too knows all about me. Here’s an even sweeter part of this story to me, the townspeople knew her. They thought less about her messy life than they did the message she brought them. Her living past her shame became her value.
The Woman Caught in Adultery I believe was despondent. I believe she expected to die by stoning that day. I see her with eyes cast down, numbed by the reality of her exposure. Although she was prepared to be stoned, I somehow see her as suicidal. When Jesus confronted the accusers, she must have been surprised. I suppose he could have told her to hurry home, to go her way; instead he asked her to take notice…you are not alone, “Go and sin no more”. Her life was changed despite her imperfections, it was changed as she acknowledged her wrongs. Her humble admission in the face of punishment expected leaves me with a beautiful image of her walking away, eyes lifted up and shoulders strong in faith. Her humility although despondent became her value.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, so young and unprepared. As I speak to you today, my beautiful treasure I call Heather Analise is ripe with the soon birth of her second child. I recall the first days of my granddaughter, helping any way I could and the preparations her parents had in place, things like schedules, feedings, monitors, sound machines and cradling swings that lulled her to sleep. Mary, surprised by an angel, simply believed and continued in her appointment arranged by God. I wonder about her questions, if she shared them with Joseph. She pondered ( a word I love) and I wonder if her ponderings were sometimes fearful worries over the mysterious and unfathomable delivery she was chosen for. Belief in what made no sense, confidence in what she couldn’t have predicted, and a quiet resolve to believe in what she did not yet see. Occurs to me now, the similarity of the life of Mary and the definition of faith. Her faith in a time of unknowns became her value.
Hagar, (Am I the only one who wonders, couldn’t God have at least given her parents a prettier name?) the mistress of Abraham and Sarah who met their needs and fulfilled their wish for family. A maidservant, who with the wife’s permission, slept with the husband so that in their old age could carry on the lineage with a son. Here’s where I used to find myself on “Team Hagar”, relating to her condition as a result of abuse and manipulation. Again, culture in these ancient days allowed this. Sarah resented Hagar and Hagar hoarded over Sarah the benefits she brought to her husband and to them, a child.
Jealousy between women has apparently been around for ages.
Hagar ran away, not broken and afraid as I once believed. No, I believe she was just angry. She had enough or maybe the “maidservant with benefits” was not proving to be as beneficial as she thought.
So, she ran.
The angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness and confronted her fleeing. More than a confrontation though, it was an acknowledgement that you may not feel it but “God sees you.” Being seen by God changed her, not so much her living situation or positioning in life; but, knowing God saw and sees her strengthened her to carry on. Hagar’s words, the first to give God a name, “El Roi” has become her value, we too are seen and known.
The woman who spent over a decade in hiding, unable to be cured from her uncontrollable flow of blood, despairingly decided to simply give the healing of Jesus a try. How many of us have had to leave work, tie our sweater around our waist or worse, agree to surgery to remove the source of flow? What a personal thing a period is.
What a last resort to try anything for better. So, the crowd was thick that day, the scene perfect for her to go unnoticed and to simply be near this man who’d been healing so many desperate others. She touched the hem of his garment and she was made well, and Jesus felt the sensation of the miraculous leaving his body and he stopped in his tracks.
He sought the seeker.
When he found her, He called her daughter and she began to live unhindered and unhidden that day. She didn’t expect to meet Jesus, only hoped for healing. Her resolve to seek healing and to keep seeking. This is her value.
Esther, Martha, the Samaritan Woman, the Adulterous, Mary the Virgin; Hagar and The Woman in need of healing, these are just of a few of the figures you may find in the margins of my Bible. What began as a tentative practice with color moved to canvas and from canvas to local shops and galleries. From galleries to pages on social media, articles in magazines, a website, a children’s book and an invitation to be photographed for a national exhibit.
I stand before you an example of a woman sort of lost and found.
You see none of these accomplishments were solid enough for my soul’s standing as far as my value and worth to be unshakeable. It made sense to me that my childhood was so deficient in encouragement and notice that I’d set my mind on achievement and unrelenting aspiration in the confidence that one day, some way, I will believe I am enough.
And yet, I had to understand, accept, on my own I am never enough.
Rather, I am a work in progress, a sailboat shifting in the winds of God’s direction, a woman who asked God to cancel this event, deciding for God that I was not qualified, not attractive enough and not skilled eloquently as far as speaking.
Hmmm, I wonder did Moses have a sister?
Thank you for the invitation to choose the braver as Martha chose the better, as Esther chose the more courageous, Hagar chose God’s knowing, the three women defeated, scorned and or wrongfully living chose the joyous gift of living differently, Mary chose not knowing and yet, believing and because she chose our story continues,
a life of value according to Jesus.
My prayer is that you know this choice, that you’re easy on yourself as you try to remember.
Your value is not accomplishment or acclaim. Rather, it’s a quiet thing, a life that leaves an example, one that is lasting even if often scary.