“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”
Ephesians 5:8 ESV
Early morning drive and I look to my right. I say to myself
The light is returning.
I chase it down all day long, the view from the porch perched in a slightly sloping country valley.
The sunlight on tops of the leaves. My granddaughter and I walking together.
She doesn’t know or does she?
Her grandma is new.
Her grandma is breaking old cycles.
She laughs in the early morning, first thing every morning happy baby.
The dark had been pursuing me, dogged pursuit that left my soul and body ill.
Unrelenting in its battle, the enemy was allowing an encounter to trigger old thoughts old ways and old questions.
God, why did you allow this to happen?
This is a personal story, it may help someone, my sharing the surprise boldness of a conversation.
And what followed.
My response and my reconciliation. Brief parlay into dark and return to light.
I had to, darkness was not going to take from me all God had me tangibly becoming.
It was a Friday night, a rare date with my husband, “GT”.
Cool enough for jeans and long sleeves, a chance to wear jewelry, a time to feel pretty.
Downtown crowded because of a festival, we chose a sports bar and delighted in an old fashioned, made like your mama, cheeseburger. We split the fries.
He had a beer.
I had a glass of Merlot.
It was memory making, the ambiance, the lack of concern over no fancy seating, no fanfare for my birthday, belated.
Content and enthused. That’s how the night felt.
I’m Still Standing
A relationship of almost twenty years,
Content and enthused, a good place in a marriage.
We find our seats in the old restored concert hall. The music is good, the night continues as I watch my husband infatuated by the talent of the band, he leaned up in his seat, toe tapping and an occasional, “that was good” and rowdy applause.
It was my birthday gift, the Eagles tribute concert. He really wanted to go. It was his idea, his choice of “my” gift. He told me it would be good. He really wanted to see the show.
Me too, because there’s no call for pouting over such things when you’re eighteen years in.
Committed and secure.
Intermission came and we joined the mass of others. Selfies and restroom lines. He ordered a beer. For me, a wine and a bottled water.
I heard my name “Lisa, how ya doing?”
Puzzled, I turned. Vague recognition of the man but really no idea.
He identified himself. Small talk began, words with no relevance exchanged.
I was in shock. After 30 plus years, I encountered the brother of my abuser.
I was shaken. I fought against the feeling. I numbed it with downing my ice cold Dasani water, something to do with my hands. Help me feel safe.
I was thirsty and nervous.
I felt like I was drowning, still, so thirsty.
The concert continued. Two rows behind us was where they were sitting, the brother and his wife.
I’d been spotted like a sharpshooter, I was a target.
The enemy had a ready participant, this brother set on setting me off course of my recent and joyous healing.
The encore was done, we rose to go home. My husband’s hand on the curve of my back, I paused on the stairs.
I said his name.
I looked at him, his wife’s face unsettled, a little caught off guard and I said out loud.
You know your brother abused me…it was very bad.
He responded and his response made sense, so long ago, maybe we all were a mess back then. The conversation softened trying to make impossible amends.
I’m not sure. I backpedaled a little after seeing him try to reconcile his brother’s wrong.
I said I’m okay now.
Just wanted to be sure you knew.
But, that wasn’t my reason. I felt strong in that moment like a fighter or a skilled and confident hero.
This is your chance, take it, was my thinking.
It left me off kilter. I busied myself for the rest of the weekend.
Asked my husband on Sunday, what would be his answer about my confrontation,
Would you say that was strength or weakness?
Naturally, he said “strength”.
But, the real question I asked of myself, “was that the behavior of a survivor or a victim, the conversation of one reconciled with her past or one still hindered”?
Monday came and the trauma triggers were tightening their chains.
I fought it.
I fought in the quiet. I was physically ill, every joint and muscle ached.
It is not up to me, restoration, only God.
I knew the response for me. I wrote one note then tore it apart, a second more brief and not a word of defense, not a word about me.
“Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”
Psalms 80:3 ESV
Briefly wrote, I apologize for my words, I saw they were upsetting for your wife. You’re not responsible for your brother. My behavior was not consistent with the place God has brought me. I wish your brother nor your family any ill will.
Then I mailed to an address that may or may not be his and left the corner blank that would have given my place.
Many would disagree with my choice to apologize.
The note was not necessary.
Or was it?
Many would say that I was weak, I had been victimized again.
I thought the same things.
I listened to God’s spirit and chose the less popular way.
Reason to Believe
On Tuesday morning, I drove back to the country. I’d been trying to capture the crescent moon all morning at home.
Told myself, there’s a reason you love the crescent. When you were a little girl, someone surely told you stories about God and the moon.
You don’t remember the conversations.
Someone surely talked to you though, left an impact on your soul.
Someone cultivated the God in you, the one who chooses to ponder, to bravely pursue better things. Take chances when left alone your behavior would be forgotten, might be seen as acceptable.
The sky opened up with tangerine light and the clouds were like an evolution from under, all clustered together as if to say,
I see the light. I’m getting closer. I am so happy you found me and I, you.
I set out to write about hope after trauma, key word, “after”.
I asked God repeatedly over the past several days.
Why did you let this happen?
Over and over, I found myself thinking, you’ve come so far, this is a real setback.
Why such a setback?
Why after all these years would I be called out by this brother?
He didn’t have to speak, there was no need for friendly or otherwise reunion.
But, he did.
I’m farther along because of it.
God knew I would be.
No setback now, only cause to move on.
For months I’ve written, prayed and thought about committing myself to a mindset I call “forward not before”.
What made sense to set me back has only beckoned me forward.
Because it wasn’t strength that led me to confront the brother, it was hurt and harm and opportune place.
The enemy had a hand in this. There’s no reason to believe otherwise.
It was weakness hoping to be strong by succumbing to weakness.
Strength, I believe, is recognizing the encounter as a lesson.
A lesson with a quiz I didn’t pass right away, took upon myself to initiate a retake.
Crazy choice, and uncalled for some might say.
But I’m better. I made right my wrong, the only behavior I can control.
The light has been shining in new places. I’ll not allow the darkness back in.
My part in my trauma story is now redemptive.
Redemptive and light.
Light that lingers, returns, dispels the encroaching darkness.
The light of believing and continuing.
Continue and believe.
I’m still standing. I’m still here.
I could have been different, there were moments I’m surprised I survived.
Good, not harm.
Light always returns.
Elizabeth’s grandma and her restoration, her legacy.
The morning air is chilly. The sky is cloudless. I missed the sun coming up. The day begins.
I’m up with pup again and longing for the days I could sleep past 10.
Who remembers the way that feels, the decision to stay in bed, cool sheets and just waking only to decide to turn the pillow, pull the sheet up and languish?
Linger? Lay longer? Joining the others to realize “oh, man I needed that!” ?
The tallest of the pines in our backyard, clustered with two others and encircled by azaleas is going to have to come down,
I look up and notice a glimmer and think the sun is resting on the top pine needles. Instead, it’s the turning of their green to rusty brown, the tree is dying.
Weeks ago I came home from my time with Elizabeth. A storm had come through, pine needles littered the ground and floated in the pool.
Long stretches of bark had been stripped from the tree, bark shaved off the length of the trunk, wide deep stripes.
For a second I thought, “squirrels?” because we’ve had an overwhelming presence of them this summer.
No, lightning it was. The tall tree had been struck, had been beaten.
Soon, it will be cut down. Soon there will be an expanse of space, a clearing of backyard view, less shade on the pool.
It will be a chance for new.
I sat on the sofa and out of nowhere or maybe because I talked with my son yesterday, he’ll soon be sitting for the CPA exam.
From what I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest.
I thought of other tests, examinations that measure our knowledge, measure our faith, call upon us to dig deep into our recall of provision and know without question.
I’m still standing. I am well.
Come what may, we will endure. We’ll excel on the test that measures our believing all things are for good despite life’s batter or beating.
I remembered college professors who allowed you to “exempt” an exam or graded “on the curve”.
I remembered neither of those were ever enough grace for me when it came to biology or trigonometry.
I’m glad God’s grace is not like that. I’m thrilled to have a story that includes survival.
When it could have gone the other way.
I have a very good life despite a history of battered and beaten.
I am well.
I am here to tell. What have you endured that gives you reason to know the grace is real?
What did you feel momentarily or maybe a period of months or years, there’s no way I’ll pass this test, there’s no way I’ll endure unchanged, unhardened, secure?
The choice is ours. The choice is yours. You frame your days around the grace that never ends, the nearness of God, the truth you’ll find in the stories of ancient victims who endured.
On Saturday, I spoke with a friend about the woman cured by Jesus of her discharge of blood lasting twelve years.
A well known passage for me, filled with possibility and hope.
The woman was ashamed and so secretively she sought healing. She just touched the bottom of his robe.
The part I missed before that my friend settled on is the purpose of her being seen by Jesus.
Jesus wouldn’t let her remain unknown.
He asked her to identify herself and when she did he saw her face to face and told her, Go in peace.
“When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
Luke 8:47-48 NLT
Let’s not forget that Jesus interrupted his plans. He’d been called to heal a wealthy leader’s daughter and paused to give confirmation to a woman who’d been living in a very bad, incapacitated way.
I believe she was healed even if she’d hadn’t been told so by Him that day.
I believe Jesus wanted to see her, wanted her to allow herself to be fully known and seen.
Because maybe, if she’d walked away healed but still hidden, she’d be prone to fall back towards shame.
Jesus knew that.
Knows the same with us.
Is there something you’re enduring and half-heartedly hoping He knows?
Kneel to pray and imagine the hem of his garment. Rise to endure knowing you’re seen.
The roots of the tall pine were the nesting place for babies this year. Perfectly secluded, the baby bunnies were born and they frolicked all summer.
I loved the surprise of them, loved to call them “jackrabbit” like my granddaddy did.
They brought me joy.
The tiny roses keep spontaneously blooming bright red regardless of harsh pruning.
They are survivors.
What test are you facing? What situation a challenge of your truth of God’s grace, provision and equipping of you to endure?
His love never ends.
Provision won’t run out.
Nor does the grace he gives for endurance.
“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:4-5 NLT
Now to research trees.
I’ve always wanted a mimosa, the tree with fuzzy dark green leaves like velvet and blooms so brilliantly fuchsia, you can’t help but be hopeful, cannot help but believe!
Researching the mimosa tree, I learn that gardeners consider them a nuisance, the seeds, the pests they inhabit and such.
Matters not to me because when they decide to bloom they are so very beautiful, fragile and brilliant, a color you can not deny.
Lord, I’m in need of some sort of confirmation, small something to say, keep waiting for it or keep writing or no.
Big things attempted, proposal and query, how embarrassing to walk away…
Decide it’s okay to stop or to persist?
A story came through scripture about the little boy with the little bit of bread and what Jesus told the disciples to tell the thousands.
“Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
John 6:10 ESV
Then he multiplied the loaf, a miraculous sight.
The people were well fed.
Before the panic began, Jesus assured their need was met.
I’ve stopped tracking my followers and I’ve stopped asking for subscribers to my newsletter.
I’ve never been great at asking for things, I’m content with slipping back into my safe place.
The place that says find me if you need something, I’m always willing to listen and to help if I’m able.
I can pray.
This is not effective according to many in the community called writing. Not effective or conducive to being published, to being read.
To being valid, being noticed.
I get that. I understand and yet, small feels safe now.
Being okay with small seems a significant decision for me.
If one person reads a blogpost or an early morning relatable “sermon to self” that I share and feels more at peace or intrigued.
Isn’t that ministry?
Isn’t that me?
Wherever your life touches another life, there you have opportunity. George S. Merriam
Out of the blue, a friend asked for prayer, said she feels dismissed, sort of lost and empty.
I sent her a message back, a prayer.
We long for significance.
We look to outsiders and we long to belong somewhere, to be amongst the fancy others we decide have more purpose, are fulfilling theirs.
I’m thinking now about a woman in the Bible who has no name.
She is a widow.
She walks through the crowd to deposit two copper coins, amounted to a penny.
I’m thinking the others all around were comparing their donations and maybe some were humble or all were haughty.
They probably didn’t hear the coins as they fell from her hand into the place called the treasury.
I imagine the widow quietly turning to go her way, back to her solitary home.
Jesus saw her.
He saw that she gave what she could.
All she had.
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4 ESV
I’m more emotional now.
My throat is tight inside as I type and think of the worth of these words, the gift of what Jesus did.
We don’t know her name. We only know what she gave.
Yet, so significant.
I will check in with my friend later, hope she’s found some rest from her seeking to fill the emptiness.
Because I pondered whether we’re even supposed to believe we’re significant. I mean aren’t we supposed to be servants, meek and lowly
I learned a while back, a young preacher who called me a hero called out my idea of staying humble, staying hidden, not drawing attention.
Told me that was false humility, not God’s idea.
And I didn’t tell him then because it has taken me a while to believe it.
For a long time, very long time, we all remembered and talked about the time.
I’ve never been to New York City nor D.C.. I’ve never travelled by plane although I’m beginning to entertain the possibility, romanticize the big “6-0”.
I do remember the morning of 9/11. I remember I was at DFCS in my little square office with a window on a hallway with other “welfare” workers who I considered friends.
I loved working with these people. I did.
My mama called, the children were in school an hour away and I cannot remember whether we closed the office and all of us went home.
Eventually, I was with them, home and safe with my husband.
Changed, not because I knew anyone there nor remotely understood their trauma, fear, tragedy. I had no idea.
I have no idea.
Yesterday evening, social media informed me of the death of a popular young pastor and mental health pioneer,
I felt afraid because of his story, suicide and its occurrence is to me “scary”.
Because it’s happening more and because I’ve been with those who have been knocked down by the tragic reality.
I find it scary.
I’m following the journey of a child named Eva, in an induced coma now and it all started with a tumble to the ground, a simple fall.
Her mama wrote about hope this morning in her Instagram.
I began to think about life and hope.
About tragedy interspersed with triumph because it seems to me this is life in this world, in most of our worlds.
I remember my mama calling on 9/11.
I remember the morning my brother called to tell me my mama was gone.
The loud moan that came up from my belly that morning must have frightened my admin, the others in the office next door.
She was gone.
I had prayed so very hard she’d be healed. I had talked with her about faith and hope, brand new and uncomfortable things for me.
Things I thought were real, my mama’s death like a test I failed, my hope was either wrong or not enough.
I stopped believing.
Because, she was gone.
Mornings like that, losses and tragedies linger.
Tragedy is interspersed with triumph though.
This is life.
I believe it.
So, how did I continue, they continue…the ones for whom today brings fatal remembrances?
I believe we must choose as best we can with God’s help.
To be well.
Be the one who is able to say.
It is well. Even so, it is well. Even though, it is well. Although and even if, it is well.
I have this hope in God, in Christ Jesus.
It is evident.
Hope that says despite the very worst scenarios…
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:”
Lamentations 3:21 ESV
Not a vacant or mystical hope, there are reasons for my hope.
A baby I call “morning glory” because it fits, evidence of long and woeful answered prayers and a new sense of God being near me, of Jesus being personally acquainted with me, in spite of tragedy and triumph and every mistake , silly or serious misstep in between.
It is well.
Decide to fight for yourself, to believe without the full understanding of why.
That God is sovereign.
It is well.
It is well with you.
All of us often out of rhythm, rocked by loss of life, out of kilter because of uncertain outcomes,
We are dwelling between two spaces, tragedy and triumph.
But, glory, new glory comes every morning and often if you notice, it’s interspersed in the midst of moments.
Does not understanding raise her voice? Proverbs 8:1
I heard them off in the distance and decided they were traversing through the warm fog towards the expected pond down the road.
I stood as the puppy followed his pattern, checking out the corner shrub, sniffing at the dirt; he is so slow in the mornings to do “his business”.
The sound of the geese came closer and I expected to see them fly over the four homes down subdivision.
Instead they were sounding very close.
I stood as the sound approached and there they were, two sets of geese perfectly positioned over me. So very close, I could see the pattern of their feathers and their soft curved bellies, their beaks breaking up the fog.
Two sets of seven or eight or so in their arrow design making their way to must be a new destination, course change, following new directions today.
The puppy scurried towards me and was startled, his little face looking up towards the sky as he hurried.
This is new for him, I thought; he has to figure out if he should run away or be okay, trusting their kind and sweetly patterned arrival.
Being safe and simply noticing.
Like the random occurrence of the dragonfly perched on my cup poolside, it rested until I noticed and because I noticed, I captured it on my phone.
Someone asked, “You’re taking a picture of a dragonfly?”
I don’t believe I responded.
Because I had no idea the symbolism and I didn’t know how beautiful it and its traditional meaning would be.
Until this morning.
Until the meaning lined up with my prayer.
The Dragonfly normally lives most of its life as a nymph or an immature. It flies only for a fraction of its life. This symbolizes and exemplifies the virtue of living in the moment and living life to the fullest.
I’m back to bedside prayers in the morning. To be honest it’s sometimes more like a long low downward dog pose, hoping for relief in the ache of low back.
I tumble from my bed to the floor determined to at the very least start well.
I think of the invalid who’d been so very close to healing waters but waited over half his life for someone to help him get well, help him from the ground into the water.
He waited to be noticed, for maybe someone to care and he used the excuses that well everyone else is beating me there, the line’s too long or perhaps, he felt the waters had lost their strength because of all the help they’d given everyone else…
Could there still be healing enough left in the water for me?
After all those years, he was paralyzed, not only his limbs but his mind and his soul.
Oh, man! I understand.
Stay where you are, settle in your place of thinking you can but never will.
“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”
John 5:5-9 ESV
It’s no coincidence, the geese flying over, the visiting dragonfly and my different prayer this morning.
Lord, can my life truly be different? Help me live today in pursuit of the difference in me that only you know. Help me to be moment by moment today instead of rushing towards this evening, tomorrow or even next year. Can my life really be different? I’m willing to see.
I don’t think we know at all, even an ounce of what God might have planned if we are patient, persistent and willing.
I don’t think we see the magic and power of getting up from our “mats”… our places on the ground or the floor and embracing the change and changes God says are possible when we forget all the barriers, the doubts, the distractions and the pull of life backward or in unhealthy directions.
It may be slow. I’ll try to be steady.
I’ll go slow.
I’ll follow unknown paths perhaps.
Moment by moment, change will come and I’ll find myself in small yet surrendered places.
Positioned with Him because I moved from my worn out tattered and sad place and into the healing water.
My husband described it as a “testament”, my description of my day.
And I didn’t correct him. I knew he meant testimony. Hey, that’s progress for me, the not correcting of word mistake.
He wasn’t there on Sunday, he had been called to work. I shared with him once I settled in back home standing in the kitchen.
He was at a loss for words.
If I’m honest, he and others sometimes are surprised by me and so, I leave them with a task, figuring out what it is that Lisa wants them to say. (Enneagram 4 indeed, me) 😊
So, I texted him the copied post from my Instagram, expressing the joy of my “beautiful day”.
Here you go:
So, today was baptism Sunday at True North. I’d forgotten about it. I usually try to prepare myself for the emotions it stirs. I watched people publicly professing their Savior, Jesus and my gut began to stir, asking myself when, why not already? Did that this morning and then actually “took my thoughts captive”, thinking it hasn’t been the right time yet, you don’t need to know the reason. I’d told my family, I’m going to get baptized, I am…the first time I was a little girl, scared to death of God, knew who Jesus was, didn’t know Jesus!
Thank God for mercy and a country preacher, I gave my life to Jesus when my children were little. My path hasn’t always been straight; but, I’ve known him beside me. Grace has kept me and grown me beyond all expectations based on my past and the human in me.
So, today I knew I’d be baptized soon, I would and because of God’s great kindness it would be the right time. I was at peace.
The pastor surprised the church today at the end, the baptism waters welcomed me and close to twenty others. I, as you might know, love words. But, words failed me other than “beautiful day” “can’t even express it”…God’s powerful timing.
I don’t anticipate anything now other than God’s continued provision of His plans for my life. I’m no more perfect because I was baptized today, I’m still a learner. I’m still a listener. But, oh my goodness thank God I’m not who I was, not last year, last month or even…before church this morning.
Early morning, it felt like an odd prayer, I asked God to help me understand obedience. He answered in my Utmost devotion. Obedience is simply knowing we were created to live a life in pursuit of God, to choose holy every time the choice is ours. Today, I told HB when the surprising opportunity to be baptized was given “I got to do this.” I believe she said “I knew you would.” I can’t be sure. My emotions were high, the Holy Spirit was powerful, it was to be honest, overwhelming.
Thank you to those who came to greet me, who smiled from your seat, called from Charleston when you heard.
Thank you, Jesus.
#beautifulday #madenew #faithful19
A “Testament” he said,
Wow, what a testament.
I’m googling testament, curious over its meaning.
I find he may have been correct.
I was wrong.
…something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact, event…
Yes, mytestimonyof last Sunday is indeed a testament.
A story worth retelling.
The Five Minute Fridayprompt today is “testimony“, so many stories, one loving God.