Hold Fast to Good

Mostly people are talking today about the wedding, the biracial American actress not walked down the aisle by her father.

The Bishop who shouted out imagine love changing our world and the bride’s mother sitting alone amongst the spectacle and the spectacular.

Oh, I love a wedding! Gonna miss a bridal tea tomorrow but hope we get an invite to the wedding.

I’m trying to catch up now. I didn’t set my alarm and wake up in the dark for the nuptials. I’m catching up and I’m so sorry, but it only took a minute or two.

So, I scroll and I’m reminded of the ten students. Oddly, I thought how difficult it is to fathom, how impossible to relate.

The front page of our small town paper’s headline said, “Its real!” referencing the shouts of a teacher towards children, not a false alarm, a prank or a threat.

It’s real.

I had the strangest revelation today. Facebook has become the instigator, the shallow sharer, the ” Enquirer”.

Satisfied and informed over the Bishop’s exhortation, I turn away, searching for writing instruction and example.

I scroll Twitter and retweet, finally feeling to some extent how they must be feeling, parents

teachers

friends, grandmas, grandpas, custodians, coaches

boyfriends and girlfriends.

A student comes to America, to Texas from Pakistan and she’s soon to return home.

But, she’s been shot. Her life is over, I stared at the picture, a beautiful girl and I felt closer to feeling the thing that makes no sense.

Because the 17 year old with the hair in his eyes made me sad, made me wonder, made me unable to believe.

He could be a killer and how no one had noticed.

But I believe and I grieve only a hint of what they are grieving.

I see the face of a child thinking life was only beginning and yet it has ended.

Everybody woke to watch the royals and it had been less than a day passing when 10 people were shot to death by a boy who himself wanted to die.

And I, not normally political was changed and I’m grateful for it finally, by the face of a pretty girl in a country foreign to her.

Quite possibly believed to be safe, secure, American-ish home.

While everyone was watching a wedding, families in Texas were just trying to breathe.

And some were numb and ceremonially engaged in the plans to bury their babies, their daughters, sons, wives.

I cannot even.

I don’t know the answer; but, it may in fact start with love. May start with intentional notice and knowing.

Everyone is taking about the dress and the choir.

The outspoken spoken word, the lyric, the call to love.

If you don’t believe me, just stop and think and imagine, think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way.

Bishop Michael Curry

What an odd contrast, a high school massacre and a royal wedding.

I’d be naive to believe it.

But, believe it still.

Jesus

and love,

the answers.

Hold fast. Love is still at least a part of the answer.

Bird on a Limb

There’s a bird on the branch of the old pine tree. At first it sat sideways on the fencepost. I turned from my coffee and it caught my eye, it’s belly so full and white,

I could see from the window. It waited it seems for my turning.

I stared.

It sat.

I walked outside and naturally it flew away and then it crossed my path to perch in the crepe myrtle. Again, until I got too close and it took up to the sky to rest on the thick limb of pine.

I just read what I know in my morning devotional, a confirmation that my contemplation over seemingly insignificance is never as I’m described “too deep”.

Nothing in our life is random or meaningless. Even when we don’t understand…

In Touch, Dr. Charles Stanley

The strangest thing it seemed occurred on Sunday. I’m traveling the interstate and notice what appears to be cloth of some sort, a red ribbon I decide.

I continue on expecting to see the breeze created by speeding cars lift it up and away.

Instead, I see a “red bird”, the bright red male of the couple, lifting itself frantic and fiercely hoping to avoid the white monstrosity of metal, my bumper.

With a loud bump the bird, failing to fly quickly enough meets my car and from there I presume lands someplace else most likely not surviving.

The thing is, it’s Mothers Day and my heart was looking for birds and feathers and such already, thinking of my mama long passed.

Melancholy over the void, determined to not be miserable.

However, I’m met with a bird’s tragic intersecting of my car.

“Ohhh no.” I moaned low and longing. My son’s reply, a knowing chuckle over my reaction, what other response could he give? Must be tough to be 20 with a mama who can be so thought-filled. Who knows, maybe he’s the same, my daughter too.

Deep thinkers us all, perhaps.

Surely knowing I’d not be able to let it go, this not at all happenstance happening to me on Mother’s Day, noticing.

Initially, I thought the worse, the vibrant male cardinal telling me disaster is near, someone’s passing is to be expected.

What a dreadful thought, an immediate conclusion, that “this is your sign” get ready for the taking away of someone you love.

Momentarily, we arrived and I entered the big sanctuary with my daughter and son having prayed prior, “Father, help me to be attentive to your presence, open my mind and heart to the Holy Spirit.”

The music was moving, the sermon meaningful. My eyes filled with warm tears to be reminded that I matter, when the statuesque young woman, oblivious to all the congregants opened her hands in rhythm with her soul and voice and sang and I cried quietly, understanding.

No one needed to know.

But me.

All these pieces

Broken and scattered

In mercy gathered

Mended and whole

Empty-handed

But not forsaken

I’ve been set free

I’ve been set free
Amazing grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me, oh

I once was lost

But now I’m found

Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see it now

Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes.

Broken Vessels, Hillsong

I can see it now.

“Pay attention.” I’ve decided the red bird was sent to say, from my Father.

“There are things you’ve stopped noticing as profound, the sightings of the birds and the sounds of their song, you’ve allowed them to be common, you’ve lost your keen longing to notice and be still in that notice.

You’ve considered like most, that it’s silly to believe this way.”

This morning, the bird with the fluff of fat white feathers for her belly and I had a staring contest. She sat, I watched. She moved and then returned and it’s not the bird who knows my need, nor anticipated my steps, impossible for that to be so.

It’s God who knew and knows.

Who reminded me to notice and made my pitiful and woesome imagining of the worst possible story into a reminder of what I’d lost, what I’d forsaken for other pursuits, distractions and decidedly doubtful dances with the devil.

A bird positioned in the middle of my interstate lane, mistaken for a ribbon, otherwise I’d have swerved to avoid and met God knows what.

Instead, it’s message so unavoidable and attention seeking…notice.

Pay attention.

Notice, again.

You forgot for a bit, needed to see.

God is everywhere.

The red birds and the fat mama birds and the voice of a woman who reminded me that He makes beautiful things of us.

God is everywhere.

Don’t forget to notice

His ways.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Happy Way of Life #8

I was outside literally two minutes or less, finally finished, I made my way to the spot I sit and watch the blue cool pool water paint patterns on my feet.

I’d been cleaning like crazy, Friday night instead of Saturday morning.

I was raised that way.

On Saturday morning, nothing happened until we cleaned.

My mama handed out assignments and by noon you’d have thought our house on the poor side of town was tucked away behind stately gates.

I adhere to her pattern, my daughter and son do too. We like things straight.

We like our places put together and pretty.

Now, it’s morning and I have Saturday’s day about to unfold. I’ve been awakened by a text, “You up?”

“In bed, awake”, my reply.

“Get ready.” her instruction.

Last night I tried to remember my mama’s particular words and I couldn’t. I tried to bring to mind her philosophical response, fashioned in blunt reply.

What I miss most of all are Saturday morning calls, coaxing me not worry…to let these two be, to know that they are good.

I can’t recall what it was, the thing I said just like her. I wanted to remember, tried so very hard.

I had to let it go hoping it comes back when I least expect.

Because last night, I sat in my spot, magazine by my side with a splash of wine in pretty glass. Relax, Lisa Anne.

Relax now.

Don’t stress. Let it be. Pick your battles. It’ll be fine. The truth always comes out and again, stress’ll kill you.

Momentarily, I heard the sound.

The arrival, I was ready.

Closer to me, at just the right time, I tilt my eyes towards heaven, and there are three.

The geese, the geese.

Mama always said, “Here they come.”

And yes, they did.

Again.

Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow in heaven. I’ll keep looking for you, mama, in my every single thing.

I’ll be listening for your reply.

Book Review : A Place to Land, A Story of Longing and Belonging

I believe empathy should have another name, a word that’s descriptive without the clinical tone. I believe empathy, the word, should sound softer, a whispered acknowledging tone.

Empathy, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, an exchange really, is human hearts trading places.

I’ve finished Kate Motaung’s book and considered the technique of allowing the pages to fall open, deciding this is the place I should write of my connection with this story.

Still, each time I sought redirection, I wound up in the same place, the place we had in common, the place and time when grace filled the room.

Years ago, it was the most pitifully powerful memory I’d ever known.

Still is the most powerful, not pitiful or pity filled any longer.

The day was Christmas and the drive was three hours one way. My husband, the children, there was no discussion, we were going to see mama.

We arrived at the hospital and the nurse said, “She’s waiting.”

Her body was weak, her organs were weaker; but, she was expecting us. Her hair had been styled and she had on the most delicate of nightgowns I’d ever seen, more beautiful than any I’d ever known her to own.

She smiled. She “made over” my daughter and my son. She encouraged them, she reminded, she laughed a little, she gave them direction.

We gave her the gifts we’d brought and I remember that she thought my siblings might come later and my aunt had come and she had an expression of pure love and acceptance of whatever gift or not might be given.

She grew tired and it seemed we grew awkward, like clumsy adolescents not being sure what to do with our hands, none of us knew what to with our hearts.

A hospital room on Christmas Day and an hour or so with my mama and then three hours back home with little talk only uncertain sadness.

This was my mama’s last Christmas. I have never seen her more glowing, never seen her so resigned and simply open to come what may or may not.

I read Kate Motaung’s account of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and of her longing to be with her but, committed to stay on God’s course, a missionary in another country.

I was overjoyed by her telling of her mother’s travels to visit. I envisioned her love for Kate and her family and her maybe stubbornness to be with her daughter, to welcome babies, to leave them with good words and wisdom.

I smiled as I read of the trips for ice cream and the times her mama, weak and unable to be strong on her own, had a zest for life and humor, I could see them together making memories.

The mother giving all she had until she could give no more all for the sake of her children. I understood.

I struggled to imagine being so very far away and then realized prayer has no limits. God doesn’t set parameters as if to say oh, no the prayer you said well it’s way too far for the one you want it to help.

No, God is Sovereign. A mama three days away is no different from one three hours away when our living Father hears the supplication of a loving daughter, asking for mercy for her mama, and grace for the times together.

Towards the end of the book, Chapter 20 is titled “Grace”.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s a surprise trip to visit her, to return from Cape Town, Africa to Michigan.

Her mama’s condo smelled of cookies. The machinery all around, sustaining her breathing and yet, there were fresh cookies.

I wandered then if her mama baked cakes and made pot roast and potatoes and I decided for myself, I believe she did.

The chapter ends with celebration; she, her mama and her sister, memories, more laughter, hysterical laughter.

And a realization.

And it was grace. Kate Motaung

“A Place to Land” is a comfort, it’s consolation and it’s a telling and retelling of a daughter’s unwavering confidence in God.

Mostly, for me it’s a beautiful gift of grace, grace her mother gave, and grace that surrounded her and guided her home.

Guided her daughter through grief to be able to share.

To have other “motherless daughters” understand, be understood.

This book to me, it was grace.

Empathy’s new explanation, I’ve decided.

It’s grace, grace from one who understands shared with another.

Thanks for understanding, Kate.

Purchase your copy here:

Trusting More

I barely heard him over the crowd. He mentioned “trust” to her as she shared their big plans and hopes. “You know the place, Proverbs 3:5-6…” he said.

Mentioned trust, then looked towards me, and added, “Of course you do, you’ve got her.”

It was a gift, to be known as one who talks of God and trust and love to my children so that they know.

They know.

Such a pretty night, just the slightest breeze and the aura of a singer and a guitarist had me optimistic.

The singer’s voice gritty, heart and soul in his movements and melodies. The guitarist, honed in on his part; both, phenomenal talents.

Doing their thing, for us; but, seemed mainly for themselves, the satisfaction of sharing their souls’ song and string.

The vibe was easy, the night was soulful and my soul was full.

Leaving the day behind to happen upon a friend, see an acquaintance in the distance, people who’d otherwise be postured with just a nod of notice, reaching out arms for an embrace and saying more than ever before, glad you’re here.

I was taken to a place of letting go.

She took me there, my daughter. The night was splendid, turned my day around.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A mom stopped by yesterday to pick up a painting, a gift for her mother.

I’d leaned it against an empty chair and had two days with “her”.

Checked it over to be sure the paint and layered words were sealed, added a card denoting my life verse and contact info to the back.

Then, saw the place where trust had been revealed from under layers of paint.

And smiled, fascinated by my creation.

“I love this girl.” I told the buyer when she arrived and explained I love her not in an accomplished way or even satisfied over technique or tradition.

I’d realized earlier that whether it’s a paragraph or a painting, there’s a joy that comes that I’m not sure I can explain.

You step back, sit back and you know.

“This is me, this is mine. I’ve conveyed something that is sincere, genuinely me.”

Then you trust it more, you trust this thing God made you to discover.

You trust that painting, writing, singing or strumming unfettered and unfiltered are a part of His plan.

‘Tis so sweet…trusting more.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to take Him at His Word

Just to rest upon His promise,

Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!

O’ for grace to trust Him more.

Daughters Made Well

I’ve been surprised of late, pleasantly so. I’ve put my voice out there, I’ve laid bare my insecurities and I’ve told stories about God and me noticing Him or not.

I’m relatable, understandable, it seems. I’ve some things in common with other women. I feel I fit in, likeminded, like hearted.

All of us persistently if not haphazardly pursuing Jesus, a closer walk.

If you can imagine being wrapped all nice and soft in a big embrace from people you have no idea you’ll ever truly meet, this is how this enlarging of my borders that God is doing makes me feel, the reply to my morning prayer.

“Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border…the prayer of Jabez

Feeling embraced real steady, not a quick barely connected hug, saying “take care” and then skipping on on their ways.

I’m not too acquainted with relationship as in lunching, shopping, “weekends with girls”.

I’m cautious of being known, cautious of being flattered, even more cautious of expectations and commitments of me I don’t meet and then get left behind, alone.

Cautious of what hints of luring me in to cast me aside.

Maybe because I was a sister amongst brothers or the quiet one choosing alone, book or pencils or at the hem of my grandma’s apron. High school girls found me sweet, kind, smart and quiet, smiled at me in my outfits all wrong.

College girls brought a challenge, who might. allow me in, how far might I go to belong?

Faced with choosing to try hard to make it into the good group or avoid the shame altogether, I chose the easier path as opposed to the higher, righter one, the road not taken and I’ll forever be changed by the difference it made, the course of my life it changed, hardened and brought harm,

Gave me my story, my sharing, my song.

I was blindsided by the college girl melting pot, not at all prepared for joining in or standing out.

I chose the misfits, the rowdy girls, the ones quirky and the rebellious on purpose.

It wasn’t right, it wasn’t me; but, acceptance felt better than rejection by the pretty ones, the perky, the preppy and pristine.

I couldn’t bring myself to risk not being chosen, to not be invited over, so I made myself like them, created reasons to be considered wrong enough to belong.

The eighth chapter of Luke begins by introducing us to women who were followers of Jesus. Three women whose names are listed along with others who became a part, women who followed in the community of the disciples and Jesus.

Can you imagine the time? Can you fathom being asked to join in, to come along and see?

“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve read this opening paragraph, the first few verses in this chapter, the parable about seeds sown and about us not hiding what’s been brought to light, that there is no, not ever a need to hide the secrets we worry might be uncovered, we are to let them be our light!

And the chapter continues to describe the way Jesus healed as they went from place to place together.

Tells of how Jesus interrupted healing one rich man’s daughter to heal a woman filled with shame hiding for good reason and then healed and he called “daughter”.

Jesus told her it wasn’t so much He who made her well; but her faith.

I imagine the expressions of the others, recalling their own encounters remembering for themselves their own healing, their own “made wells”.

“And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:48‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Still, all I can think of is the women standing by, the women who accompanied Jesus , the ones who were now free and joyous observers of other women

Because, I understand this. I understand the women coming forth, the women standing near and the women coming closer to say to me, to remind themselves and to show others the way…

Go in peace, daughter you are well.

Your faith,

It has made you well.

Linking up with other stories of Jesus tellers at Tell His Story. Read here about being motivated towards kindness while watching the Olympic Games!

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/

Wonder Why

I’m prompted to write in response to “Why” and hope to stay concise, hope more to make sense of wondering why.

I agreed as I have before to meet a parent who was considering joining our suicide bereavement group; but, wasn’t quite sure.

My role in this exchange is to listen. I acknowledge I do not fully understand, I just listen, make my workspace their safe space. So, I listened to a father talk about his son and say he had no idea why, why his son decided to complete suicide.

Years ago, I escorted a parent from my office and the issue over believing in God or not came up.

We both wondered how you get by without God, without believing in His comfort and His knowledge. As if it’s an answer to no answer. We don’t know; but, God knows.

So, if there’s anything good about never knowing it’s at least a certainty to know that only God knows.

I suppose when there’s no answer, you eventually maybe can rest in “only God knows”.

That was my rationale and I wished I’d recorded it back then ’cause right now I’m not getting it quite so clearly the way I meant and felt. (reader, you can agree)

A father shared how the mother was worried about heaven or hell. The child had never believed; parents always questioned, maybe believed some things and wavered on others finally giving up altogether because of what circumstances in their lives it seemed God turned a blind eye to.

I responded because I felt he waited for me somehow to reassure, brush off the concerns or as if I, not only was a listener but some skilled and astute theologian.

I’m neither astute nor very theologically skilled. I base my belief on my life experiences with God and God showing me I matter significantly to Him.

I’m a beaten and battered ever questioning sinner saved by grace who believes because of answers to prayers and because I know the me that not believed and I’d not ever want to be her again.

The father waited.

I said what God gave me. “What happens between God and people is personal and there may have been a decision he made, a change in heart and choice to toss out the intellect for the faith and hope and mysterious grace.”

What I intended as consolation caused an expression of concern, confusion and the tone of our talk changed and I went with the change as was appropriate.

But, it bothered me it was not my “place” to say more. It bothered me that I’d never know if that relationship with God happened for his son. It bothered me that the father did not have the Father as a comfort for himself.

The comfort of the only thing that might make sense be the sense made by God.

“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The truth of His peace, tangible and ever-present, the truth of His Sovereignty and His abhorrence of evil, evil things, evil people and the power through which they touch us.

Touch some so much more than others.

I don’t know how it feels to lose a child. I cannot say I can feel the emotions I should feel as I’m drawn to the photos of children outside their school, surviving but forever traumatized. I do not know how parents feel who were looking for their teenager, frantic, their chests surely caving into their backbones only to be told what they imagined coming true, their son, their daughter, one of the victims in a school.

I do know; I too, I’m afraid would wonder why.

Why God allows terror and tragedy.

But, I pray I’d not wander far, I’d remember His peace and I’d not abandon or question or dispose of what I believe, what I know. What I’m reminded of every minute, every day.

I pray I’d be at peace with not being all knowing and that eventually, the grief would be less evident, less debilitating and dreadful if I was able not to wonder why.

Would it be sufficient for me to remember some things are secret, are not to be known here on earth by me?  Perhaps, knowing not knowing might ease the pain.

The secret things belong to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 29:29

I really can’t say, for I’ve not experienced secrets like these.

Ever.

One thing I do know; God would know and be okay with me wondering why and He would welcome my desperate and pleading complaint.

Responding with a peace only He can give, I suppose like a “secret” peace I’ve committed to knowing, not always understanding, often wondering why it’s mine to embrace, still committed to know it more.