Heart Like That

confidence, contentment, courage, Easter, Faith, Forgiveness, grandchildren, Holy Spirit, mercy, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Salvation, Trust, Vulnerability, wonder

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Prayer and Patience

On Monday I happened upon this stack of rocks while out walking with my granddaughter.

I asked, “Did your mama do that?” She replied with an answer like a song, “uh-huh!”, a big smile and a tilted nod.

Then she commenced to rebuilding, working to rearrange the balance, to add a small stone to the middle and to substitute new rocks for what her mama had built. Satisfied after a few minutes, she left the rocks, similar but not her mama’s stack. She made a new one.

I thought of the joy of the simple activity, the modeling of what she’d seen and the way her perspective was a little different.

Pure.

Purest intentions, no comparison, not destroying what her mama built, only deciding…hmmm, I think I’ll try.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Earlier, I searched for this verse. God had awakened me to consider the condition of my heart, to understand why it’s so important to guard it. Why it is not always beneficial to rely on my thoughts born of an aching or angry heart.

Rather, to trust in the Lord with all of my heart, not to lean on my understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

A heart that is divided, split up into separate rooms inhabited by fear, anger, doubt, dread, jealousy, strife, bitterness, seemingly innocent suspicion or comparison.

A heart like that can’t bring clarity, doesn’t give God enough space to illuminate it, to defuse the dark.

A deceitful heart is one unchanged by Jesus. A deceitful heart is the heart of human intent, not one guided by the holiness of the invited Holy Spirit in.

The heart unchanged by the belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ is hard and prone to conspire and conclude negative things.

A deceitful heart is a heart that’s forgotten goodness.

I sat in the Target parking lot eating Chick-Fil-A and noticed the shoppers arriving or leaving.

Two spaces over, a man sat alone. I presumed waiting. I could say he was sullen; but, maybe just settled. Waiting for someone, patient or maybe just not wanting to wear his mask.

A woman with green hair passed in front of me, short like mine but a neon pine green. She was dressed in shorts and nothing matched.

Earlier, the loud boom of speakers shook my car and others as we eased to the place where we’d be given our food. The young man had taken my spot in line and I thought to make his mistake known but thought to let it go.

I heard him remark to the cashier, “A girl like you don’t like tattoos…” and I watched her young face drop with an emotion I can’t name.

Maybe embarrassment or excitement, I can’t say.

My mind is not privy to what the heart of another might believe.

I sat and watched the Target shoppers a minute more, people of different races, different beliefs, different orientations, different longings, different fears, different staunch determinations.

It occurred to me then,

who are we to believe we can change people?

The heart after all is human, human in nature, not intended by God to be so, but bent towards sin.

Today I pray, “Change my heart in the places that are growing dim. Lighten my thoughts, my fears, my speculations. Remind me of your Spirit within. Guard this vessel of mine that before a single beat, you decided would be a precious place for you. Because of your great mercy, I say, Amen.

Guard my heart so that it guides my thoughts and responses to those around me.

John 10 ends with a verse of consolation. Following much dispute over the validity or blasphemous behavior of Jesus as well as the loving words He used to explain the purpose God gave him, to be our Good Shepherd, not the hired hand who’d mislead or neglect us. Chapter ends with “the one thing” that is needed, belief.

“And many who were there believed in Jesus.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I pray it’s the truth you know today.

Continue and believe.

Sounds of Silence

birds, confidence, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, Holy Spirit, mercy, Peace, Prayer, rest, Stillness, Vulnerability

I remember the Paul Simon song that tells the darkness “hello” as he comes to talk to his old friend.

Unintentionally maybe, it sure sounds like prayer. Prayer, in the way the morning sounds soothe me, similar to nighttime solitude.

The Labrador is sprawled out in front of me, his legs lifted up in the air. I don’t disturb him. He’s circled the back yard and been fed and now reclining, a routine.

The ceiling fan whirs above me, the motor, the rhythm of the blades like a chorus of humming.

The birds are harmonious today, not just one or two near the window but gathered someplace in the periphery.

Their song is subtle.

It compels quiet pause.

Later, I’ll lunch with a new friend and attend a funeral.

I’ll listen. I’ll savor the words someone who reads my words without knowing me has to offer.

I’ll be teachable. I won’t see another’s wisdom as criticism.

I will listen to the words that will honor my friend. He was wise. He was kind. Words shared of him will be worth remembering.

I’ll sit a little longer here with plans to read John’s accounts of Jesus healing unlikely people.

I’ll savor the silence that’s not really silence, just a time of gratitude for mercy again this morning.

Mercy that keeps me teachable, makes me open to others and keeps my heart open to good change.

The sound of silence, my old friend.

The atmosphere that conjured morning prayer.

Lord, help me to listen.

I’m linking up with others prompted by the word “savor”

Five Minute Friday

Sunday Words

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, Children, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, Forgiveness, freedom, hope, love, memoir, Peace, rest, Salvation, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

The following is an essay submitted for consideration. It was not accepted. I, because I am me, decide it was too vulnerable, not uplifting enough, grammatically errant or biblically inaccurate. Or, maybe it was meant to be here, maybe rather than trash it from my desktop, someone may feel a little resonance with these not chosen words.

Continue and Believe

Sunday morning woke me with new content for my story God has been editing. The message, that His thoughts of me are far more important than my own. Recent years of angst over when things will be better again led me to define my emotion and it presented itself as dismay. I searched the dictionary for its definition, and I sat in my morning spot for a minute, both enlightened and ashamed. The meaning of dismay is “a loss of hope”. The accuracy shook me and then I sat and wrote a note to myself, recording the clarity and truth that this certainly did not define me nor describe my present life. I thanked God for the timeliness of the morning message.

I hoped this time I’d believe it past noon.

Timely, because I found my thoughts overtaking me again, revisiting trauma of childhood and of longing to understand. I told myself a lie one morning, prompted by the silliest of reasons. I needed a new printer, some socks and we needed oranges. I stood in the checkout line and gazed into the buggy. I am an artist and I needed the color printer; the other items were trivial. The line was long, forlorn faces glancing my way and I glanced again into the cart. I turned and abandoned the cart in the women’s department, and I walked away. I told myself I hadn’t asked my husband; I should do that before buying.

I left the store and pulled through and got myself the biggest cheeseburger I could and devoured it. I drove clouded by sadness and I allowed my belief to speak. I had left the shopping cart and walked away because I believed,

“You don’t deserve it.” and I let that lie the enemy planted linger for several days. I ached to erase the conclusion that began as a little girl who made certain not to bother her parents and led to a teenager who excluded herself from all possibilities and an adult woman who settled for abusive relationships because, “you don’t deserve a good man.” I found myself step into the foray of a fight to never win the battle against my past and I hated it although it felt so very true. After all the years, I figured out what held me back, the belief that I don’t deserve good.

I am letting the revelation change me now with God’s help.

Not long after the Sunday trip, one miserable evening I drove home from another shopping trip meant to comfort. The heaviness lingered like the thick grey clouds about to erupt into a storm. I paused. I asked myself,

“What does God say you deserve?”

Grace, mercy, love, freedom, peace.

Grace.

What a beautiful question, a breakthrough began! God woke me with new hope the next morning and I woke with the words to a hymn about the name of Jesus being written on my heart, the hope of earth and joy of heaven.

I made note of this day in my journal, listed the things I had been wrongly believing:

You didn’t deserve love as a child, didn’t deserve relationships that didn’t include abuse, don’t deserve now to be finally, all God designed you for. I realized the burdens I carried daily were never meant to be achingly carried alone. I deserve the help of Jesus walking in tandem with me and my woes.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 4-5 ESV

I sensed Jesus telling me to stop walking all alone, to believe in possibility again. However, to understand I will always strive when I try to be His idea of me on my own. I decided I deserve hope. I deserve joy.

I deserve peace.

Peace, in spite of cultural concerns, fears over our world’s future, anxiety over illness all around me and another that’s heavy, guilt over your own wellness when so many are suffering.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29 ESV

Sunday woke me with a word. I lingered in a state of rest I hadn’t experienced in weeks, the sheets soft and the weight of the covers safe, I allowed the thought to sing,

“The mind at rest is peace, the mind at peace is rest.”

I moved through the morning with coffee in hand towards my morning spot. Using my Bible app, I searched and hoped to find the words to make even stronger God’s message to me about being at peace. Was this scripture or just a thought? Either way I knew it was God continuing to connect things for me, like a seamstress following a pattern, scissors cutting away the unnecessary, God is creating a new outfit for me.

The garment he sees me wearing is one that is light and airy, allows the freedom of His love to move through me. My new garment is a pleasure to wear, unrestricted and quiet in color, a confident statement.

This is God’s design for us, a life of rest and peace.

I wonder what your waking thoughts are. I’ve begun to see them as a gift of God’s presence to set the tone of my day. Admittedly, my afternoons are often cluttered. My evening time is either a deep breath to welcome an indulgence of something that comforts or an endeavor to finish a painting or other endeavor I started. Just as I believe I do not deserve good, I often succumb to another lie, the one that tells me at sixty years old, it is too late. 

To allow quiet to come is to allow peace. To recognize the constant plot of the enemy to hijack our thoughts is simply smart.

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30

My Father knows I compare myself to others. He knows this has long been a stronghold of a little girl who grew up poor and afraid and became a woman who compares herself to others in an attempt to dispel the lie that says it will not happen because you don’t deserve it. I now recognize this as untrue.

New ways of thinking are ours to embrace. I hope you will consider when asking yourself what God desires for you, what it is that Your Father has decided you deserve.

Along with redemption, it is love. It is freedom, it is peace.

I treasure my morning meetings. May you find time, sense the Spirit of God in and with you and be renewed as you listen and begin to think in new ways.

May we all linger here a little longer.

May you discover the big lies you’ve told yourself are true of you and may you believe only what is true, only what God says of you.

May you and I continue to believe.

Beauty, Earth and Everything

Art, Children, confidence, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, heaven, hope, memoir, painting, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, rest, Salvation, surrender, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder, writing

I’ve removed the fifteen or more books from my nightstand.

Some of them read, some recommended, others opened and skimmed and set aside.

I’m hard on myself as a reader. I’m distracted and mostly too sleepy. They say a writer must be a reader.

Maybe that’s why I’m less afraid to paint.

To simplify. The nightstand now has one framed photo, a lamp, a pen with paper and a paperback collection of Psalms and Proverbs.

“How he satisfies the souls of thirsty ones and fills the hungry with all that is good!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭107:9‬ ‭TPT‬‬

I’ve taken to the practice of reading at least one verse as soon as I’m settled in bed.

Some nights more. I thumb to the passage chosen by the date and the pages from notes compiled through the years are becoming my sedation, my self-help.

There are pencil scratches, black or blue ink faded to soft grey. There are bold underlines and tiny little star asterisks in places.

The summary of supplication, of suffering questions, or redirection of myself in an achingly sorrowful way.

Remorse, regret, confusion and occasionally a determined commitment to peace, the words warn, these are best kept secret.

Much like Job may have felt, I imagine if he sat with the pages that detailed his friends calling out his wrongs and his reply incessantly saying,

But, none of this makes sense. Why me?

I feel like Job was just that honest.

If you find your old journal or Bible, do you find your honesty to be hard or do you see it as simply honest?

Do you see how far you’ve come or are you hard on yourself that some days you still hurt to comprehend some things?

I fell asleep with a revelation the other night.

I’d read my prayers scrawled in the old book. Concerns so very intimate that only God and I knew and know the reasons.

I realized I had such a yearning for God back then.

I realized I still do.

The thought of my laments and longings documented with pencil or pen gave me a new idea, a different peace.

I was a seeker. I still am.

My soul ached with yearning.

It still is.

I decided it is a good thing to be still yearning, to not be satisfied in who I’ve become, to be certain God’s still what my heart yearns for and the goodness of His gifts to me, to my family, beauty made of so many hard things.

The words to a song you won’t hear on the radio seem to pop up on my Pandora quite often lately.

I drive the morning road, make it to the hill and curve on the dirt one and I slow my arrival because it happens!

The voice of Paul Beloche, so gently and assuredly reminding me of all the beauty God has made of my life already.

In A Million Years

Causing me to imagine the beauty of eternity that is heaven.

Have you pondered heaven more this year and last?

Maybe not, unless you’re 60ish like me. Have you clung less tightly to earthly hopes knowing they pale in comparison to the promises of heaven?

Do you believe in heaven or does it seem like a mysterious place that might be so?

Do you want your life on earth to be forever because there are so many hopes that haven’t come true just yet?

I do sometimes. There are some earthly things I hope to see come true.

You’d find those hopes in my little book if you had the chance to hold it, you might even find your name there.

On Tuesday mornings, I listen to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, “The Next Right Thing”. Her voice is easy. Her tone is directive as well as gently suggestive. I tell myself “Listen”.

This week’s episode was more practical than prose, a night time ritual that would better our sleep. I recommend it, listen here:

The Next Right Thing

She gave a helpful list with one thing being to ask yourself at the end of the day,

“Where did I see God today?”

Naturally, I loved this, it’s might kind of deep thinker thing.

Tuesday was a “grandma day”. It was so sweet and easy and it was a gift the way the simplicity of the day fell into place.

The moment?

We sat together in the cool castle building dirt spot. To pass the time ‘til Mama drove up, I taught the baby to sift sand from one hand to the other. Teaching maybe the wrong word, I just did it and she followed.

From one hand to the other we just passed the sand between our hands. She looked up, longer than usual, looked deeply into my eyes in a way that said, “This is sublime.”

Yes, this was when I saw God.

God with us.

Heaven met earth and situated itself with us in the Springtime dirt.

Yearning for me not to miss such a beautiful moment on a blue sky day.

And I didn’t and I pray I don’t from now on.

“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭7:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, may our earthly days cause our longing for you more every day even as we yearn for the incomprehensible promise of heavenly days promised by you.

He keeps his promises.

Continue and believe.

Yearning is peace.

Already Known

Abuse Survivor, Art, birds, Children, Children’s Books, contentment, courage, Faith, family, grace, grandchildren, hope, Redemption, rest, Stillness, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wonder, writing

It’s become the norm for me to wake with a lyric or a verse. I know the song and it sets my tone. I open my Bible app and search for the verse if other thoughts don’t get me off course.

The promise of today is bright sunshine and the Labrador returns with the ball jammed into his cheek. I step outside and decide just a couple of tosses. It’s still too cold, early Friday morning.

Fully Known and Loved

He’s satisfied and so am I. I turn to go inside, my feet numb from the cold hard ground and I see the beauty of what seems to be an overnight changing to green.

I find myself wondering if God is aware. Of my waking on a Friday morning after sleeping hard from unacknowledged exhaustion.

Did God know I’d wake up with the words to a song by J.J. Heller, “You Already Know”? (Yes, I adore her.) Did God know I’d be standing barefoot and I’d listen to Him reminding me of the dangers of comparison?

Does God know how many blades of grass surround my feet? Is he aware of every rain drenched fallen camellia? I believe so.

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are important to God. Courage and trust are the evidence of our embracing this as belief.

Hagar, a pregnant mistress in the Old Testament, used by others to fulfill a longing, felt abandoned, rejected, unnecessary. She longed to escape the bitter condemnation of Sarah. She fled into the wilderness.

God met her there. He pointed out the water she’d been thirsting for.

I wondered this morning if she’d been standing near the flow of water and couldn’t hear it or if she’d become so worried, afraid, confused and maybe angry over how her life’s direction had pointed towards self-destruction, that she couldn’t see the provision of God waiting there.

So, God pointed it out. She was changed by seeing that she’d been seen herself.

“So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭16:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In a few weeks, a children’s book illustrated and written by me will be available. I may have chances to share its backstory, a story I only recently realized but God already knew.

“Look At The Birds” is a book born of talks with my granddaughter about birds and talks between God and me about worry, worth and trust.

The Birds

It’s a book with a mission of helping children understand their value is determined by Jesus and no one or no place else.

It’s a message God longed for me, the wife, the mother, grandmother, the author, the artist, to begin to finally embrace.

Maybe other adults too.

Solace There

Children, confidence, contentment, daughters, Faith, family, grace, grandchildren, hope, mercy, Peace, sons, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder
Welcoming Peace

I drive the trio of two lane roads to my morning destination, a right turn, a right turn and another and a final sharp right that leads me on clay road with deep moss covered ditches holding up deeper rooted trees.

I think of my children. Mamas of adult children do this, just are less apt to share so much.

More inclined to keep the thoughts to ourselves as if we’re not supposed to have them.

I think of the vast differences of the two, a daughter and a son. Different locations, one like the mouse called country and the other called city.

Likeness in their initiative, their determination, their deeply instilled must have passed from parents and grandparents, work hard, work is a representation of you.

It’s an odd thing to want to quell honorable ambition, to encourage them not to do too much, to not exhaust themselves.

Hard because you remember the you they saw as a professional, the little girl and boy who didn’t quite understand it all maybe, just knew their mama worked hard at hard things.

So, you encourage self-awareness, you hint at balance, you warn of self-care and of being certain you know it’s not work that gauges your value, it is peace at the end of the day and again the next morning.

My mornings have a pattern now. Read something in my Bible, sip coffee, write some things down, circle the names.

On two or three days I drive in the dark and on good days I’m not tailgated or blinded by truck lights undimmed. I arrive and situate myself for the day, a visitor and helper.

If there is time and the Spirit leads, I pray. I watch the windows and listen for the waking child.

I anticipate the sun rising across the wide sky. I step outside and say “Good Morning, God”. Later, I do the same with the baby.

“For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭108:4‬ ‭KJV‬‬

On Tuesday, the sky was only grey mixed with clouds dispersing to bring the morning. Clouds like in a children’s picture book, fat white fluffs with underbellies defined with thick crayon.

Made me think I could grab one.

The clouds that shifted all day that began with not a whole lot of tangerine hue, instead a spew of sparsely filtered white either coming down from heaven to us or reaching back up.

Either way, I noticed. I noticed God.

I stood and honored it, the way God substituted happy orange for quiet iridescence.

Solace.

I woke remembering today.

Remembering conversations with my children, the authenticity of them, the timing, the words unafraid to be spoken, the replies of gratefulness and of

you’re welcome.

Welcomed in.

There is solace there.

Gratitude immeasurable there.

Mercy for mothering mistakes, the truth of us now with God’s grace covering them all and the acceptance of new days.

Continue and believe. Continue towards peace today.

There’s just so very much of it waiting.

Mud and Moon

Abuse Survivor, Children, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, grandchildren, Peace, Redemption, rest, Stillness, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

The moon is my favorite along with the color blue, the crescent curve and the hue called cobalt.

Crescent moon like a tilted uncertain smile, saying okay hang on, hang on.

And the cobalt like the ink from a broken pen, the thick fluid, jam from a jar.

I love the others, the sky, the teal, the baby; but, the strong cobalt calls me closer.

The half moon or the full in its brilliance are spectacular.

Still, I favor the crescent one.

Today, I watched a toddler persist. The country path that leads to her home had puddles of rain yet to dry up.

We walked towards one, I reminded her of her shoes, not her boots and she approached and then walked on.

One puddle, the largest of all and she paused.

She turned to find a pebble and then “plop” it went in the water and then she found a big brittle oak leaf.

Intent on tossing it into the puddle, she carefully skirted the edge of the muddy water.

But, the wind swept lightly across her little knees and then again and again, the brown leaf was swept up in the wrong direction.

I heard a little sound, like “umph” but, I saw her not frustrated, simply understanding.

Then she came from a new angle and she dropped the brown brittle leaf in the center of the puddle.

There!

Then, we walked on, “ready set go”.

I’m wondering now if there’s a color of water that I love, a thick colored watery taupe.

An oak leaf resting as we walk back by,

The cobalt of the morning sky allowing a strip of coral in.

My day began this way.

I welcomed the beauty, flipped my phone towards the windshield and I sensed the tone for my day.

Persist.

But, persist calmly. Consider what you value.

What you’ve decided decides your value.

Muddy water mid-morning then a cloudless blue sky against white spindly trees, I am reminded of the value I place on things decided by others.

The things I believe might mean my arrival. I remember now the persistence of a toddler when the wind was against her.

The wind picking up the leaf so lightly and the little hand that decided quietly,

keep trying.

Thoughts of an expression, “lightly child, lightly” reminding me to not try so hard that my trying becomes striving, obnoxious, an idol, not a quiet and important mission.

I am remembering the first time I read this thanks to a blogger friend, David Kanigan.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.” Aldous Huxley

A collision of faith, nature and wisdom plus the plucky persistence of a toddler.

What are you chasing? What have you not valued that is yours?

The writer of Ecclesiastes sounds much like Huxley to me.

Small matters matter.

More than chasing other, anything other than moon and sun and birds and mud puddles.

“I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Once More

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, Faith, Forgiveness, freedom, love, Peace, Redemption, rest, Vulnerability

I wear a T-shirt quite often, lots of times under a sweatshirt. Soft in color and fabric, across the chest are the words, “known and loved”. Wearing it feels like my little secret, the one thing I want to remember once more.

Known by God

Once my life was different than it is today. Once there were reasons to fear. Now, there are reasons to embrace not being afraid.

The woman caught in adultery found herself on display, a crowd had shown up to see her stoning. She waited. She knew the law of Moses. She anticipated the punishment.

The men invited Jesus into the discussion, into the abuse. He invited them to consider their own wrongs and sins of a sexual nature.

Telling the group, the one of you who’s never committed such acts, you can go first, I give you permission to commence the stone throwing.

Jesus waited. He wrote in the sand as the tension must have surely risen and the onlookers waited to see which among these men was perfect.

Jesus knew.

“And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”
‭‭John‬ ‭8:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The men turned and walked away, maybe the crowd dispersed. Jesus asked the woman if she realized what had just happened.

Her sin of adultery was known and yet, she escaped death by stoning.

He made sure she understood that she was known and loved, not known and condemned.

Once my life was different. Now I am known and loved.

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
‭‭John‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Walk in the way of forgiveness. Know your heart in light of mercy. Who we are now matters more than who we once were.

Linking up with others prompted by the word “once”.

FMF Writing Prompt Link-up :: Once