The Personality of Praise

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

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.

In Private

Art, confidence, contentment, courage, curiousity, memoir, painting, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Vulnerability, wonder

Pay attention to the thoughts that surface, bubble up to overflow in private.

Certainties.

Morning Song

Yesterday morning, I closed the door and prayed on the bathroom floor.

No magic, no set expectation, just a plea that was private.

I humbled myself and asked for ease, for help.

Humbled, but not afraid, not cornered by my delay in praying nor in my honest admission of asking for help, for grace.

And, my prayer was answered. I was without pain, still am.

But none says, “Where is my Maker, who gives songs in the night?” Job 35:10

Around 3:00 a.m, I turned and wondered, why did I stop praying as much as before?

Praying in private, mostly.

Again, humbled by the tender realization, but not all the feeling of being punished or afraid.

More like, “I miss praying. I miss the peace of honesty and of talking to God about others and things that only we know”.

I miss me, humbled and yet, unafraid.

And so, God told me so. Told me in a way, I suppose,

I miss our conversations,

I miss the heart of you.

Painting Crosses

I delivered a painted cross yesterday, a housewarming gift that according to my friend was “extra”, other gifts and favors already given. I told her I’d like to gift another, for her office.

She gave me permission to choose the color, she’d be fine with white, she offered.

I’m thinking now about the depth in her eyes, pools of thought and kindness.

How I’ll capture that color, I don’t know yet.

I’ll pray.

I can pray. I am certain in that.

Unafraid and so very humbled.

Strong But Quiet

bravery, Children, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, family, memoir, Motherhood, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder
Does he not see my ways and number all my steps? Job 31:4 ESV

A family of seven walked the trail together. Up ahead they kept in a slow rhythm, a man, a toddler, a few adolescents and a woman with a stroller.

One looked back, heard my catching up to them. The man smiled and commented on the humidity. The woman pushing the stroller I noticed was empty, corrected one of the children about something. Her voice was loud, her face so serious.

I smiled and looked back at the group, told them,

“My children laughed when I tried to be mean, I was never good at getting their attention that way.”

The girls and boys looked at me and stayed in step with their mama who added in a way that her children know she can be “mean”.

Not in a fearful or threatening way, I sensed the children understood.

It’s a matter of how we’re made, how we convey our truth.

Job argued defensively with his friends and with God for whole chapters and yet, never disrespected or disavowed his Father.

He was quiet, but strong.

Distraught, but not demanding.

Frail, but not frightened.

The Book of Job is poetry for the introspective and honest. It is comfort amidst woe.

It is quietly strong.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Quietly strong, a tone I love.

In the mornings, I find a smoothly writing pen and I write the names of my children side by side, circle them on their own and then add an embrace of a larger encircling together.

A quiet practice.

Strong and soft, unwaveringly committed.

A way of trust.

The way I know.

Wisdom found in quiet confidence.

“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.”
‭‭Job‬ ‭28:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Think of Others

birds, bravery, contentment, curiousity, family, hope, memoir, Peace, Redemption, wisdom, wonder
Blackbird and Vine

Think of others today, not peers, competing or measuring up comparatively people.

Sort of an exercise in out of the norm noticing or remembering.

Do you ever think about your grandma, your great-grandma, the legacy of their strengths and stories? The untold struggles, the pains they learned to comfort in their own quiet and unique ways?

I have an image of my grandmother all layered down in blankets, lamplight to the right, Bible in her lap, a pen for cursive notes in the margin.

On her screen porch, looking towards the crops, the winding path to Aunt Marie’s.

Looking for light, was she okay?

Had she gone to bed?

I walked out in the rain to see the bloom on my mystery vine and thought how very simple a joy!

What images make you smile, bring joy that doesn’t require scrolling, effort or comparison?

Think of others today.

I’m a fan of 3 word reminders.

Do hard things. Ask for help.

Continue and believe.

You are loved.

“Pass and re-pass.” my grandmother

Think of others.

Especially those gone on.

Sunday Seasons

Art, Children, confidence, contentment, daughters, Faith, family, hope, Peace, Redemption, sons, wisdom, wonder
“Feels Like Fall”

With the songs and sermon, prayers and passages, I had church today while I painted.

The thought came to do both just as I’d decided to stay home. You’ve been running, racing and getting to do lots of things.

You’re learning, that kind of running will catch up, put you in slow motion.

Take your peace away.

Funny thing, I’d never painted while “going to church”. But, I felt compelled to do it and so, I listened as I prepped tiny canvases for color.

Just as I’d listened to a new take on an old favorite, Psalm 139. Whole house silent and I heard it differently, more clearly.

The Holy Spirit’s presence.

My soul knows it very well.

I wrote just these words beside my name in the margin. This beautiful psalm is one we read to remind ourselves we are known beyond our mind’s comprehension by God who made us.

Mostly, I’ve read this psalm to remind myself of God’s intentional love and to confirm that I’m here on purpose, not an accident.

Today though, in the quiet, I saw a little deeper meaning. God knew and knows that it’s our soul that guides and informs us, that the things we need to “hear” from him, we will hear with the nudge of conviction, correction and the deepest of joys that can’t be described in words, only the pure reaction in our core/our soul. Some say gut or conscience.

How do you describe the most intimate joy of being surprised by the ease of something you feared would go wrong?

How do you describe the peace in an unexpected emotional response to something as simple as a hug from a child?

A greeting at the door with a flower and a request for a jar?

“It’s For You”

How do you describe knowing what God wants you to know that you’ve been avoiding or are afraid it can’t possibly be true?

It’s close to impossible to fully convey the soul.

That may be why David ended this Psalm this way. Sort of a brave request of God.

I’m often afraid to ask such a question.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Because God knows all the beauty of us, He also knows the ways we get wrong.

Since He knows us so very well, wonderful creations, complex and complicated, we can trust that we’ll see the parts we sometimes get wrong.

If we’ll simply ask Him.

We don’t have to be afraid of the answer. It will come gently. After all, our Father is the maker of our very tender souls.

Today, I took my time, walked outside to breathe in the coming season, check on the mysterious morning glory and just because.

I stayed home.

Remembering lunch with my daughter and son on Saturday, rounding out my birthday celebrations, I recalled the sweetness of togetherness and the ways they’re so very different and deciding that’s quite okay.

Wonderfully made.

My hopes for them, always been the same, are the very evidence of that very thing, hope.

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