The Personality of Praise

Faith, Trust, courage, Vulnerability, praise, mercy, bravery, Redemption, contentment, confidence, wisdom

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A flowering bush hidden by the fence is so exotic it seems more fit for another country. The blooms like tiny cups of strawberry buttercream on a tiny spoon, the center a plop of darkness.

My granddaughter decided

“These beautiful flowers, Grandma…they’re blueberry blooms”.

She plucked a few “babies” and I picked a branch full of blooms for inside.

The splendid color praising a very sweet Saturday.

Rarely do I pass by the patch of grass shaded by pines and hidden by high fence.

The place of the flowers showing their brilliant display.

Yesterday, I was moved in a sweet heavy way by the nearness of spontaneous praise, the connectedness to another who felt the words of a song and proclaimed in a way that was personal, something they only knew, were fearing or taking hold of in renewed faith.

Once, I sat beside a woman with a jawline changed by the ravaging in her body evidenced by the cloth covering her head.

I felt her being comforted by song. I embraced it beside her. We listened together.

I touched her arm in a goodbye as we exited. I hope my look said “I care”, words felt unnecessary.

She’d surely heard them in abundance already I was certain.

Another time, I sat next to a man about my age who looked like he’d been a linebacker in his day. He smiled as if he’d been lonely when I asked if the seat was vacant and he made affirming sounds during the message.

My favorite part was his singing, his abandonment to the joining with others maybe better at singing than he or I.

He sang along.

He sang loud enough to be heard clearly, his one voice in the crowd of others.

I listened.

One Sunday, I found a spot next to a woman who was large and strong and dressed up for Sunday in a way that said confident joy. Once the music began, I saw my first impression was accurate.

Joyous.

Because she sang like the old cliche’ “like no one was listening”, like maybe she understood what Maya Angelou felt…

like a splendid bird who had been set free from its cage.

Like me.

Together, we were in an old country church with the windows up in August. She swayed and her swaying body made me sway.

We became secret sisters.

Reluctantly, I went to church last night. Sullen over feeling alone, burdened by answers not coming soon enough and vulnerable over what it seems God is calling me to that I sort of wish He wouldn’t.

I listened to a podcast on the way, one hosted by a woman who is learned because of her scholarly credentials coupled with the dilemma of serious illness, typically an honest and helpful voice, interesting.

She is a researcher, well read and well respected, a historian of religion.

She once believed in “praise and worship” and has now decided she doesn’t. She is now quite critical of what she defines as manipulative.

Although she misses the beauty of joining others in worship, she’s just not “taking the bait” anymore.

So, I stopped listening as I began to feel conflicted and that “critical spirit” that’s not beneficial began to creep in.

I thought of her jadedness. I can relate.

I felt sad for her. Her scary illness had caused her to become cynical, to be expectant of bad things, to decide maybe, after all, God is “not good, not great”.

I switched to music and listened.

One hand on the wheel on the crowded interstate, the other raised in agreement to a song about prayers, circumstances and healing.

Three or four years ago, I too believed most people were faking praise, were desperate for attention or just liked it when church felt more like a nightclub than a sanctuary.

Then, I landed on the second row from the stage because I was late. Pondering on my drive there, my ambivalence over my commitments and asking God to help me know where I belong.

God answered that day.

A thought, a word,

the Holy Spirit.

“You resist most what you need most.”

I need to feel connected to worship, I need to be led by vocalists and musicians to do so.

Not manipulating me, rather encouraging me.

It’ll be rare for me to be seen raising my hands. I’m more private, more quiet. I believe made “wonderfully” that way.

My personality of praise is more receptive, more being alongside the extravagant praises of others and with eyes closed, a simple opening of my hand, palm towards heaven.

In a way, I suppose, an exchange.

Freely receiving the goodness of God and privately, quietly joining others in a praise that says “Thank you”.

I’ll never stop singing.

Quietly.

Steadily, and mostly in secret places.

Being so grateful to stand so close to others made different by God’s design, that the praise they give, I get to join in.

A spirit of grace, love and mercy, one that’s not critical.

May what you’ve been resisting find you today, my prayer.

And another, let there be a song that beckons the jaded, the reluctant, the uncertain of us today.

May we not be resistant.

My Artist Story

Art, artist calendar, bravery, confidence, courage, curiousity, Faith, family, memoir, painting, patience, Redemption, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

I was given an opportunity by Hayley Price, owner of The Scouted Studio and The Art Coaching Club of which I’m a member, to share my thoughts on being an artist and why I continue this intentional journey.

In progress

A journey in progress.

You can listen here:

Art Coaching Club podcast

It’s a wonderful podcast for artists. You should subscribe for both technical advice and encouragement from other artists.

Middle You

Art, confidence, contentment, courage, memoir, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom

Where your steps have shown themselves level, your progression easy and sweet.

This is the way.

Keep it easy.

Little landscape Christmas ornament thoughts:

I’ve been asked to teach (I say guide) a landscape workshop and so, today I was thinking of how I’d start…

“Decide what you want bigger, the land or the sky and then we’ll start.”

I recognize that’s simplified, or is it?

Paint from your heart, layer color and take color away. In the end, you’ve painted what is you and yours.

Second thought.

Random, I know.

Someone who loves to play the piano or guitar or gets joy from juggling (yes, I thought this) doesn’t stop playing because no one paid the price of admission to the show.

What shuts down creativity in less than a minute? Me, getting too high and mighty or me, pouting over lack of attention.

“Stay in the middle, middle, middle…” my granddaughter and I made up a song.

Not only to be safe on the country road, but because the view is clear, we get to follow to the end where the sharp curve sheds the straightest beam of light.

We walk to the pretty place, the beautiful completion.

Stay where your heart says you belong.

The sweet skillset that is you only.

The way you know by heart.

September Hope

confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, hope, patience, Prayer, Redemption, rest, Trust, waiting, wonder
Hold On

Mid-September mornings are striated light on the thick green floor. The mysterious vine spills over, bent branches scattered with once purple blooms now fading to lavender.

The season is changing, the blooms done with their blooming and I’m torn between acceptance and longing for longer.

Does hope have a season? Will we need to wait for it to make sense again? Will I embrace the soul of hope and not pack it away like a summer dress, move it to the back of the closet, knowing it’s there and yet wondering if it makes sense?

I greeted someone this morning to ask a favor and I began with, “Good morning.” Ready to send the message, I paused and rewrote it

Adding, “I hope you’re feeling hopeful this morning.”

Hope is important to my friend and I.

Weeks ago, I typed a message more like an essay telling someone jolted by bad news that we don’t stop hoping, we don’t give up on hope.

We don’t “put off our hope”, don’t defer it like asking for more time to make good on a debt or commitment.

We don’t procrastinate hoping, I told her because that makes our hearts even more broken.

Instead, we keep hoping and we see the beautiful bloom, the tree of life.

Fulfillment.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I hope you’re feeling hopeful this morning.

“But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭70:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I hope you remember all the times you’ve seen hoping bring fulfillment and I hope you will believe, believe again or simply start hoping it may just be true.

Jesus loves you.

You can hope.

Continue and believe.

Surface Things

anxiety, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, grace, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom

The older I grow, the more I know smaller things matter most of all.

A quilt your grandma made, a way of prayer that waits instead of begging and a sense of listening only age can grant you.

It’s no secret, I love words and I pay attention to their timing. I write first thought prayers every day.

Today, I thought of sorrow.

A word describing the emotion of heavy grief, loss, regret or dismay.

But, it wasn’t that way, felt softer like another favorite, “melancholy”.

I remembered a time a confident colleague challenged my assertion

“Everyone has a secret sorrow.”

He answered with, “Not me, I had no hardship or regrets at all.”

It puzzled me. I suppose it’s possible.

Not for most of us. Most of us long for different stories, past and present.

I believe it’s good to say so.

To those you love and trust or maybe a safe and objectively trained professional.

Or just a prayer.

Father, I surrender my sorrow. I will walk with my head lifted and my feet steady in your protection, your provision and the fulfilled promise of the redemption and unrelenting grace I know.

Amen

Secret or spoken sorrows become hope and healed joys when we believe it can be so.

What surfaces when you allow yourself to sit a minute in your thoughts?

Surrender what surfaces. We have a God who listens to our private prayers, whether sorrow or song.

Continue and believe.

Your needs are known.

Acquiescence

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, memoir, mercy, Peace, Redemption, rest, self-portrait, Vulnerability, wisdom
“Blue Ribbon Girl”

Months ago, we reintroduced ourselves in the parking lot. They were a family. She had a baby in her arms and another on her hip. The oldest, a boy was clinging to her legs, locked arms holding with all his little might.

A man stood by. He allowed our brief catching up, listened as she answered timidly, not meeting my eye, that she was okay. I watched all of them pile into a tiny car and slowly drive away.

She was a tough one, struggled to make up her mind that life could be better. She didn’t stay long, only enough time to bring her tiny firstborn into the world.

Then, she left the shelter, starry-eyed over her aims to try to have a “family”.

The next time I saw her, she was running the register and she saw me before I saw her. Face down and eyes of a child who’d been discovered in the wrong, she tentatively said hello.

Again, “Is everything okay?”

“Yes.”

“I’m working here now and I like it and the babies are okay.”

Smiles and see you soons were exchanged.

Yesterday, she sat on a pale pink bicycle, its basket loaded with groceries. I hurried up to see her. We talked about her bike, how much I loved it, old fashioned cruiser, no gears, simple and sort of cool.

She told me she needed it for work and how she’s not too far away but had been missing work, just came back after her daddy passed away.

Her face was stoic. He had been in a bad car accident and he never got better. I told her I was sorry.

I noticed the box of “Nutty Buddies” and thought she better get home, but she kept talking and the resolve despite her grief and trials was in her eyes, meeting mine and wide opening up with determination.

She told me she’d seen another of the shelter’s residents, this woman I thought had successfully moved on in work and raising her daughter.

She told me, “No, I don’t know what happened.”

“Well, I hope I see her too.” I said as I thought of how I wished she’d been able to stay stable, to stay in the “better than before”.

We said goodbye and I watched her cross four lanes of traffic towards her home.

I wondered about the man/father of the babies. I wondered about the other woman who has fallen back into hardship. I wondered if I should have driven her home.

For a second, I thought about the one I thought would make it, the old language of programmatic inputs and outcomes and for another second, I felt I’d failed her.

Then thought of a word God woke me with a few days ago, “shifting” and how everyone grows and then maybe dries up, withers and then along comes a little grace and rain and look it’s breaking through the hard earth, the left alone to rest soil.

Growth.

We shift to better in a moment, an hour, a day or sometimes after a long hard season of barrenness or mistakes of our making.

Acquiescence, a beautiful (even if reluctant) acceptance that may not make sense to others, but brings light and peace, resilience to our faces.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Blue Ribbon Girl” was painted a few years ago to remember the college girl who left art and after a bit of life and shifts, is finally home.”

What’s your story? Your home?

Find your way back.

Grow as you go.

Gethsemane

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, courage, curiousity, Faith, hope, mixed media painting, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Vulnerability, wonder
The Dock my Husband Built

Last week, the horizon greeted me like a welcome rescue as I turned to the skinny road from the wider, more busy highway.

Both frustrated by my anxiety over the big white ghost of a Tahoe with headlights like a cat following me closely all the way and determined to breathe and be okay, thumbs on the places 4 and 8.

So, the sun rising wide over my granddaughter’s home?

Redemption. Relief.

A whisper, a sigh.

I could go on.

“Dew on the Roses”, 2019

Thoughts rose up from an article or post I’d skimmed over, the question posed,

What is your Gethsemane?

Meaning, I supposed,

What did you ask God not to allow that He did anyway?

At first, I thought, how can we dare to compare our falling apart and asking to be spared with the request of Jesus?

Then, the mental list developed.

And then, another in contrast.

“Things that happened despite the things that happened”.

Angela’s Bible

I turned the ancient wisp of pages to Mark 14 in the Bible with penciled “sermons to self”. Angela, an educator from Bibb County, Ga. added her wisdom and thoughts back in 1937, became mine because of an estate sale.

Curiously, a page is torn down the middle.

I think now of the veil torn in two.

The darkness midday.

The verses that describe Jesus being anointed with a costly ointment by a woman who was chastised is no longer here. Neither, the Lord’s Supper.

The garden scene is preserved, the plea of Jesus face down in broken supplication remains.

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it be possible, the hour might pass from him. Mark 14:34 , KJV, Oxford

And we know what happened next, the agony, the death and the resurrection.

We know what happened because of and despite the fear in the garden.

What are your “Gethsemane moments”?

What is “scaring you to death”?

Look up, redemption will find you

And, in time pale in comparison to the unwanted anguish.

I believe. I do.

Surprises and Courage

Art, bravery, confidence, courage, Faith, memoir, painting, photography, Redemption, Vulnerability

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” e.e. cummings

Photo by Drake White

Last month, I noticed a new follow on Instagram. A talented photographer with an affinity for capturing beauty in found objects fresh or ancient and in spaces you’d think too battered, but made brilliant.

His images compelled me, their stories.

An invitation came to be photographed.

Surprised. I was surprised.

Photo by Drake White

I studied his work, admired the portraits of others and felt drawn to each of them through his retelling of their time together, their stories of being themselves, artists.

He must be observant, a good listener I decided.

And so, I said yes to this beautiful surprising invitation to sit and be captured through his eye and his lens.

He listened as I responded to how I began painting. Then, he listened some more to the story of the ill-fitting art scholarship recipient who lost her chance and her way because of hardship, horror and harm-filled days.

Then, the always answer to my return to painting came.

Photo by Drake White

“It began with the gift of a Bible in 2016. Subtle sketches in the margins of women who understood me and I, them.”

And I sat for him twice, occasionally worried I’d overshared and yet, deciding that’s not for me to say.

It’s up to the listener.

The photographer.

The artist.

The capturer of me now, the shadow of the old fading to barely there grey.

I am grateful.

And surprised.

Courageously.

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength…Isaiah 30:15

Follow Drake White on Instagram to view the other artists’ portraits and his website to view his other work.

Drake White, Photographer

Just My Thoughts

curiousity, Faith, hope, patience, Peace, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability

But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.
Luke 22:32

Walking last week without music or advice in my ear, I thought about Peter and I thought about how years ago I could never imagine I’d think of such things, be moved to contemplation from a passage in a Bible.

In the margin, there’s a woman and the words Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for you.”

Jesus knew Peter would tell people “I don’t know him, that’s not me.” and so what was the reason he assured Peter of his prayers?

I began to think of a couple of possibilities, just my thoughts.

Maybe Jesus was praying, you’re going to live with the memory of telling the others seated around the fire that you weren’t associated with me and that memory can do one of two things…spiral you into shame and self-hatred or remind you that you’re human and yet, grace covered everything.

He also told Peter that he prayed he’d be stronger for his brothers when he came back to believing.

There’s a message here for us who are imperfect, whose lives were once “deniers of the love of Jesus”. We can use our stories of being found wrongfully acting and thinking to make our light even brighter and our belief in Jesus undeniably strong.

There’s such hope in the words Jesus said to Peter…”I have prayed for you.” Hope and assurance, He knows and yet loves us so.

Just my thoughts.