A deer jumped from the field onto my path and I slowed. I expected another and then, yes, a young one skirted on wobbly legs all by itself into the woods.
I thought of the season, not being a hunter or having knowledge of why they were out walking so early, feeding I assumed, preparing for something, going some set aside place or looking for seclusion.
Later, instead of the regular “walk around the block” I saw an opening. A deeply wooded path, narrow with a valley and then a slight curve that made me curious about where it might lead.
I stepped in with the baby. Very quiet, very careful to watch my feet. We looked together up towards heaven in an enchanted gaze.
The brown ground was covered in seasoned oak leaves. I moved slowly with intention and walked unafraid.
Standing still to see a pair of cardinals and hear the rustling in the branches of others, I listened.
I thought. I am sixty-and a day years old today. It’s okay.
I saw God there and I felt him see me. Thinking towards the next things because of uncertainty of where the path may take me if I choose the more wooded way at the top of the hill.
I turned back, the peaceful way called my name. I chose to take the simple route, the one I had barely begun to know.
I turned and was greeted by the view of an opening like a garden entrance, a glow of gold and green that begged me to see.
You discovered a new way today, now step back into the old path forever changed by your seeing.
The settled way, the way without accomplishment, goal or agenda.
The trusting way, the way to allow God to show me instead of anxiety’s need of always knowing, forever second guessing and harboring remorse because they did and I didn’t.
Mary, the sister of Martha chose to be settled, to choose the better in a time women were expected to be fixers of things, holders of it all together, preparers of perfectly orchestrated outcome things.
Perhaps, I may be exaggerating here. Naturally, I didn’t live in the days of the sisters who had Jesus come to dinner.
But, I have lived in days of huge expectations and pressures and I am beginning to understand, allow, most of all believe in the better.
“There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 NLT
To linger longer in the places God calls me, to slow down and believe he sees me.
Late in the afternoon, I watched from the windows. The trees that were far from me reminded me of a stormy ocean tide rolling on. The rhythm of their sway and the brushing up of the trees was a dance with the wind.
Synchronicity. I had said a quiet prayer, a pause and I opened my eyes and sat still.
I sat and rested my eyes on the horizon of dark cloudless sky, the gathering of trees.
Knowing it’s impossible to stay here for long, there are many things to do.
But, for a moment, and more moments later.
I can choose the new and the better, redemption this side of heaven.
This thought became a decision this morning. I woke happily relieved of a restless night that included a horribly realistic dream.
I was pleasantly awakened by the slight sound of “ding”. It reminded me of a whisper, maybe a mama coming close, saying “Sweetie, it’s time to get up.”
Expecting a photo of my granddaughter, I reached for the phone, slid it under the covers so I wouldn’t wake my husband.
Instead of a photo, it was a message from someone who messages me each year a couple of days before my birthday. Each year, the message includes “Toward”.
I open it to enjoy a video of Schroeder from the Peanuts at the piano playing a classical version of the birthday song. Lucy barges in and wants to sit next to him. He says no and she huffs away complaining something akin to creatives needing their space!
I turned towards the glow of morning and opened my palm to give God today, to ask for His guiding.
The birds were uplifting in the tone of their chirping as I sat to journal. This too, I welcomed.
It was time to make sense of the nightmare, time to process it and take what good I could from a vivid story, someone trying to once and for all kill me and me imploring them.
“No, things are better. Things are different.”
I spoke those words to the evil in my sleep.
I woke and remembered the horrible parts along with the prayers I’d prayed just yesterday in my private place.
I’d listened to a podcast about miracles. It stuck with me that we can be bold in our asking; but, first we must let go any unforgiveness.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:24-25 ESV
I prayed that way yesterday, forgiving people and forgiving behaviors.
Forgive me for my failures as I forgive those who failed me.
The day continued well and then the inability to sleep followed by the scary reminiscent dream.
I steadied my mind and set my intentions on “toward” as I wrote a note to myself. “What can I take from this?”
In the quiet, God answered.
I have no doubt it was Him.
In the nightmare, my words were clear. I was not silenced by the offender.
I spoke firmly and said. “But things are better, you don’t have to harm me anymore.”
Hearing my own voice was significant, I realized and different than the nightmares of before.
Better is believing God.
Better is believing in my very own prayers, my voice. Better is being confident that God has more power than the forces of harm.
Two separate podcasts and a birthday message sealed the deal of this hopeful conversation between God and me.
A podcast on the Lord’s Prayer reminding me of God as my loving father, a podcast about deciding to be “with” God, a God of miracles in every endeavor.
Both were reassuring of the good God I love and who loves me.
My heart danced with joy when Allen Arnold (author of “The Story of With”) spoke of deciding on a dream with God’s agreement and beginning to flourish.
This was confirmation. This is the story of “Look at the Birds” a soon to be published children’s book about worry. A story God spoke so clearly one morning and then kept speaking, “don’t just let this go.”
But, I almost did. Yesterday, I found a note to myself. I almost gave up on the book. I’d added to my to do list, “just hang the bird paintings in Elizabeth’s room.”
That very day the publishing company called to discuss moving forward. I said “Yes, I’ve decided. I’m ready to publish.”
Knowing that there’s no clear measure of success monetarily or simply the book having readers.
However, the success is in the continuing towards a calling, the creativity of God in me.
The memories of last night’s terror have completely subsided. It’s midmorning and I’m looking forward to an early birthday celebration later. I’m thinking of another heron painting. I’m remembering the prayer I believe.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27 ESV
This is one of those posts that needs a disclaimer: Memoir type personal plus possibly all over the place rambling, one of those that simply recording it cements the value of it all coming together.
Oh, and about aging and accepting it and not being caught up in regret.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16
I made a scribbled list of verses that comforted and confirmed my hopeful thoughts. I read a familiar passage, one used to reassure or comfort others after a disappointment, tragedy or just acceptance of unexpected change.
“God will make good of it.” Christians are known to say.
I cried the night before in front of my husband, not a horribly uncontrollable weeping, more a soft release. Tender, it felt.
We were catching up on things, I needed a few minutes of his attentiveness. Earlier, I pulled into the driveway and he greeted me and the only reply I gave was, “That did not go very well at all.”
He asked for an explanation. I said “later” and realized I was worn out from sharing how this unexpected thing made me feel, exhausted over trying to have another person understand my needs, my secrets, my reasons for anxiety.
Psalm 107 caused me to say softly this morning, “Wow”.
I’d found one verse and it fit and then I turned to read the chapter entirely, the one with the header in my Bible, “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So”.
“Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless.” Psalms 107:4 NLT
I still have things to say, the optimism of this truth met me.
I thought of my years of wandering, most of them not a misleading of my own making, but of being caught up, trapped, lost and to this day surprised to be a survivor.
I paused to pray. I thanked God for keeping me safe, for preserving my life.
Some things have happened in these pandemic panicked days that have triggered me.
Felt similar. There are requirements of this time that remind of control, of powerful demand, of being silenced; the mask I wear as mandated shields me for my health and others yet, reminds of being held down, told not to yell.
Last month, my dental woes began. A bridge that made up for four lost from damage teeth shifted and broke from one tooth that was an anchor.
I stood up in my art room, felt the slight change and it fell into the palm of my open hand.
“Bewildered” is a word my precious cousin used to describe me as a child. At gatherings she says she remembers seeing the expression in my preteen eyes and thinking, bewildered.
I was relieved that someone had seen it.
Here I find myself, a few days from 60 and bewildered again. Having to be reminded of the blows to my face and the hard slaps on my cheek over thirty years ago. The dental surgeon displayed the elaborate 3-D images of the jawline, the place where the cheek makes a little circle when I smile, the place that is now in resting mode as I prefer not to smile due to this gap of only gum because of broken bridge that covered missing teeth.
The surgeon seemed empathic, so I felt I should give an explanation as to why due to past trauma I was not a viable candidate for dental implants.
Why someone who looks pretty okay now at one time was not.
So, I spoke of my past. Soon after, wishing I hadn’t. It was not safe to share. Not that it was taken lightly or not heard, it was not safe for me to hear my own sharing.
It reminded me of being unseen and unheard in my past and deciding to stop asking, to change my expectations.
So, that night my husband sat and I told him how I felt in the dental chair and how the trauma of my past was being reborn and fighting to be thought and overthought. Saying this to him helped.
I cried a little and then decided to change my thoughts. I decided to resist the downward plummet into always a victim.
This is transformation, this intention to be aware of my safety, to begin to see that this is what Paul meant when he wrote all things God makes good.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance and He chose them to become like His Son. Romans 8:28 NLT
I saw this often quoted verse differently. It is not that God wants me to accept that the bad things were bad and somehow I am to accept that they will be made good. It is not that we don’t have sorrow, are expected to hide our longings for our mother and father who died before seeing a grandchild. It is not that we are naive thinking a crisis that leads to pain will magically feel better, be considered a good thing.
No, this passage is about the good that comes with acceptance of the bad and to continue to thrive, to continue to move towards a likeness of Jesus, to decide not to be pulled into misery over trauma, to be intentional in your speaking to your self, “You are safe. You made it and you have so much more making. You have still more story of redemption to tell.”
You can feel it. You are being called towards God’s purpose.
The purpose? Transformation
Your body is aging, shifting, even moving towards failing. All the while your spirit is blooming like a wildflower spread!
You were lost in a sad wilderness long ago. You decided on a different path, there were helpers but you set out at first on your own. You were and remain found!
A blind beggar lingered roadside as Jesus walked by. He and the disciples had just discussed which of the twelve would be most important of all. Jesus did not entertain the conversation as they continued on, only telling them not to be surprised that the last will be first.
The blind man spoke out, shared his plight and asked for mercy. The onlookers told him to be quiet. Jesus heard him and told him to come near. He jumped up from the dirt and went straight to Jesus. Jesus asked him how he could help and the man, blind Bartimaeus told him he wanted to see.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:49-51 NIV
There are many stories of healing in the Bible with similar endings, people in need are made well. People who’ve been harmed are healed. People who have been wronged or been wrong receive mercy.
Their faith, our faith has healed us.
And so they move forward in that very faith as followers, not backward glancers filled with regret or question of why and how and what was that sorrow’s purpose anyway?
He brought them out of the darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Psalm 107:14 ESV
Shortly, I will be back in the dental chair. I will begin the process to choose a partial (oh, that word!) over implants and I will accept what seems, feels and sounds so bad is best for me, is better. Better, than I expected.
I woke up and remembered, I had the very best dream.
I told my grown up children, with me because of our beach vacation.
We were all together the night before. They both know my ways. My son, for years slept across the hall, sometimes heard my night terrors. Morose recollections typically triggered by the slightest unintentional fear created dramas in my sleep.
So, when like a breath of fresh clear air, I had an optimistic dream, I had to tell them.
The night before we’d all sat together around the table. Adult children joining in conversation about Co-Vid, the election, the changing world known as America.
My son-in-law shared a video being shared all around. A county or city meeting somewhere in Florida and an invocation to something, anything other than God that led to six or so people standing and leaving.
The person giving the invocation prayed to nature and the earth and the only mention of Jesus was that he “might” forgive us.
I wasn’t particularly bothered by the video, I’d been in similar meetings, I told them.
I recalled a time I chaired a coalition I initiated to understand the issue of homelessness. I added that a member of the coalition decided each meeting should begin with a “good thought”, a sort of prayer.
I told my family, I never left the room, I simply did not bow my head. I did not join in the prayers that forbade the mention of Jesus.
Then I said to them,
It’s really going to be different for your children, an effort really to keep talking about Jesus.
Then my husband added that it will be okay, our parents probably felt the same worries.
Then we all said goodnight and exhausted from heat and beach went to bed.
I dreamt of a group regathering. I must’ve been invited as if a charter member or ex-officio sort of thing.
Three days after the dream, the details are skewed.
Like a reunion, we all spoke of what we’d been up to.
I stood in front of twenty or so people and I talked about my relationship with Jesus. I told the people who prayed the prayer excluding God and Jesus why I prayed differently.
I’d been with these people before. This time I felt welcome.
I felt free to be me.
I spoke with clarity. They were enthralled and actively listened. In the dream, there were men and women encircling me, attentive.
I recalled my days of being afraid of God, of being certain of my unworthiness, my days of working hard as a teenage peddler of paper booklets called tracts. I convincingly told of my God whom I believe in.
Someone, a well-dressed theologian sort asked,
“When did you decide to believe in God?”
In the dream I answered “about twenty years ago”.
And the questioner added, “that’s a long time, a long time…where are you now” as if I shouldn’t still be increasing my believing.
And I answered.
I’m just still growing and I’ll keep growing in my knowing of God.
It was the best dream. I’d been in meetings, spoken to large crowds, detailed our need for support and hinted occasionally of my faith.
But only hinted.
Tonight after unpacking sandy beach coolers, clothes and stuff, I had a good walk and thought of the dream that sang of freedom.
As I walked, I opened my palm easily upward to heaven and I thought, prophetic dream.
Not having a clue if that’s a possibility of me…for me.
My friend says these are not the days to lean into Jesus, rather these are the days to press ourselves to Him.
I couldn’t help but think of impression, allowing God’s impression to be made on me.
No longer overthinking it, not being afraid of it not being true.
Simply believing that it is just as Jesus said, He is the way. He is the answer to His Father’s plan so we have hope, experience peace and eternity with Him.
Google the sinner’s prayer or search the Bible or if you’re fortunate like me, a kind voice will tell you if you ask how it can be…
“Just pray for mercy.” they may answer.
Understand you were born a sinner, admit it. Confess that realization in a prayer to your Creator and then believe in Jesus and keep believing despite the world finding it irrational or a silly offensive fairy tale.
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT
Allow Jesus to begin your transformation, as you press in.
Left forever, that mark like a print from an original masterpiece making.
Four days without journaling other than scribble marks with the baby, I read my Bible this evening.
“Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.” Deuteronomy 13:4 KJV
These are old words with timely discovering by me.
Cleave, to unwaveringly believe.
Cleave, not a word you might use usually.
This is me. This was me in my happy dream, being brave and contentedly certain of being loved by God, cleaving.
I saw God today in the tiny hand that reached for mine, the searching and saying “yellow” as we spotted leaves lying in late summer sand ready for new season.
My morning drive, an early one considering the four months of no rushing necessary, was a good one. A podcast I love on Tuesdays, ended with a gentle recitation of Psalm 23, The Message version.
“GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.” Psalm 23:1-6 MSG
Today included some garden hose water play followed by chalk art on the porch and then coloring with fat crayons on an old cardboard box.
Then lunch, then counting the seventeen stair steps together, then a book and then her midday slumber.
A house so quiet.
I remembered a time when the phrase was common, a question meant to bring self-assessment.
Where did you see God today?
I knew for sure I’d seen God in the sweet sleepy eyes of Elizabeth and in the light landing on the wild fuzzy fern. I saw God first thing as I drove up the hill to their home, listening to the 23rd Psalm.
I had lowered the window to capture the sunbeams through the lean early morning trees.
Later realizing that wasn’t the most beautiful thing.
The most beautiful sight captured was the little image of the mirror and the winding road behind me, the place I’d come from on my way to where I was going.
Beauty and love have been chasing after me all the days of my life.
I’ve taken some advice I used with others making their way towards change, women working to steady their lives after losing their footing.
I remember suggesting,
“Look in the mirror, you’ll know how you’re doing. You’ll see if you’re changing.”
“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.” Proverbs 15:30 ESV
I see the signs of aging, the crinkly look of already used tissue paper is the texture of the skin on my neck.
My nose is wide, not graceful or balanced below my eyes.
My lashes are short and somehow my actual eyes appear tiny.
This was the observation early morning after sleep not coming and my frustration over it.
I’m one who needs my sleep and very well knows it. I woke up to the problem when I got up close and peered into the bathroom mirror.
I remember just days ago an acquaintance and I talking about not recognizing each other after a few years because of the mandatory mask.
The old friend disagreed, told me he’d recognize my eyes anywhere, that they are very intense.
I wonder how it can be when age and life it seems are dulling their blueness so rapidly.
No amount of wrinkle cream or remedy seem to make a difference.
The difference is deeper, it’s the soul of me I am learning.
Two days after fixating on the size of my nose I visited the early morning mirror and now, it’s daily. I compare me to that sad selfie I won’t be sharing, thank you, as a tool to assess what I believe.
Beauty is born in the soul. Clarity and hope will not shine through if the source of them both is sought outside the place that inhabits God in us.
To be honest, it’s the approaching sixtieth that has me accepting my appearance and racing to catch up with time wasted not caring about my health or caring too much obsessively towards harm.
So, Monday has me focused on what I know now and what I’m doing that is good.
Because I can’t circle back on life’s walk and erase unhealthy choices. I can’t run ahead and anticipate or offset dreadful aging.
I can live today.
Begin again every morning knowing God keeps no records of wrongs only watches and nudges us toward learning.
I can look in the mirror and marvel over its honest reflection. I can be happy over my current condition trusting my eyes will tell me what is different as well as what choices I make that need to be different.
God is with me.
All the way. Good things are coming with brave choices and gentle faith in myself as I wait.
As He waits for me not to undo my past or catch up, just to join alongside Him.
“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” Isaiah 30:18 NLT
Want to know the condition of your soul?
Look into your morning mirror first thing and then continue.
Last week, I asked a question of someone I never thought of asking. I reminded myself of times leading and training others, how I’d tell them if you ask a question, that shows you are committed to learning and it also shows me you’re okay with not knowing as long as you trust that you can learn.
I asked three precise questions to help me with a writing decision and the person who answered, answered with “No problem, that’s what I’m here for”.
And I didn’t think it until today, this lost and listless morning, I should ask God to help me unravel these feelings, this lost exhaustion.
And He did.
“And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Matthew 20:32-33 ESV
Being honest with God about the empty and boring angst my morning began with led to a gradual shift.
Numb due to the daily same no indication of change because of pandemic, discord and lack of good sleep due to dreams about Christmas, I’m barely moving as I go towards the coffee.
I sit with pen, open my Bible, circle boldly the word “trust” and then add the same letters on the place below my thumb, add a cross where the big nail pierced Him.
Flat, unmotivated, agenda-less and only pending set aside for later ideas kind of days.
I decide fresh air may enthuse me and I see the sunlight on the wild purple flowers.
I find the tomato sweet granddaughter discovered and dropped. It seems a rabbit took a bite out of its side, left it near the porch.
I find the new red bloom on the daisies and I see the geese crossing the road slowly, unconcerned over the big truck lightly tapping a beat with its horn.
The geese take their time, their plans for today are the same as the days before.
I saw the acceptance of rest in all of it. The empty slate day that welcomes restoration in a gradual way, the renewing of my mind, a required reminder.
Today, a summer Sunday perfect for quiet supplication of a clean slate, anxious clutter cleared and a willingness to be okay in the widening expanse of waiting.
These are not days of “finger snap” make all things better.
The realization of this, at first is exhausting. Still, these days that represent dwindling hope are only doors to more trusting.
If I could, I’d go stand in the widest open field I could find secluded from all eyes and I’d open my arms way, way wide.
I’d celebrate a realization.
I trust you, God.
I’d celebrate the change quiet brought me on Sunday morning when I woke so depleted. I’d thank God for answering when I asked for restoration. I’d thank Him for new ideas ready to be followed up on. I would thank him for answering all my questions.
I’d be grateful for the dream that kept me thinking although sleeping, I’d thank God for dreams about Christmas.
Because, Christmas is my favorite.
Thank you, God, for correcting my vision.
“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19 ESV
This morning I found a child’s name in my Bible. A singular word, her name up in the corner of a page of Psalms with no details, no other information.
I must have prayed for her on that unrecognizable date.
An adolescent with fiery strawberry hair and a presence either marked by anger or the need for attention.
She and her siblings lived in the women’s shelter. She was the child in the middle. She was one of the three found homeless due to the mother’s dilemma.
She tried her mother and she tried us. She could not contain her emotions, her fear, her anger, her lack of being able to make sense of her current condition.
Most likely, I jotted her name the morning after a day that staff and I spent trying to manage her, hold her together, quell her violent temper.
I see her name in my Bible moments before turning to today’s Matthew reading.
Matthew 14 includes a favorite account of Jesus.
Jesus walked on water. Told the disciples not to be afraid.
“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ” Matthew 14:27 NLT
I read on to the fifteenth chapter and as happens often, I’m pulled in by just a phrase.
Jesus healed many.
I read of the mama who had a daughter she could not settle. Her outbursts were loud, unavoidable, her spirit unwell, even angry and stricken by evil.
I thought of the name in my Bible, just a name written in faint cursive in the corner of the page.
I remembered the last I heard, the child is in chorus, the family lives on land near horses. The mother is better, the sisters are well.
The disciples felt Jesus should avoid the woman and her daughter. The mother begged for different. Jesus paid attention.
Never thought of it before, the absolute gift we give by paying attention to another’s dilemma, disaster or simply discomfort.
“But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.” Matthew 15:25-28 NLT
There are many lessons I kept from my work in the “helping profession”. One stands out though, the desperate cry for healing is a common thread between us. “Detours” I used to call them, the choices and circumstances that led to homelessness.
Jesus, on his journey, was often met by unexpected intersections with people in need and bold enough to take a chance on believing in possibility.
The child in the shelter, her mama, the men, women, mothers and children in the Bible.
One thing in common, they decided to believe in the possibility of healing.
And they found it like me, through believing in Jesus, no matter the story my past had already written, seemingly laid out in a fatal ending.
I pray it’s the same with you, this everyday decision not to be bound by your pasts, to continue.
To continue and believe.
To remember, your name is likely scribbled in the corner of someone’s Bible.