After three days with no writing or painting, I returned to my “sanctuary” on Sunday afternoon.
It was as before, it was life giving, the losing track of time and paint on my hands and forehead.
All afternoon, I painted.
I followed my husband’s suggestion. He noticed I was isolating and told me to stop spending so much time in “that room”.
When I did, I thought of other things. Things other than the canvases piling up, other than hopes that seem to have no place to land in this seemingly hopeless land.
I noticed the hardships of others. I paid attention to sorrowful eyes on masked faces. I observed the way we all seem to be walking together reluctantly, like lambs headed for slaughter.
I recalled my work with depression and suicide. I recalled the one thing more important than any other.
The one in need asking for help, and the listener being committed to listening and helping.
I thought of situational depression in comparison to chemical.
I realized, maybe now (I’m not an expert) it makes no difference. Isolation, depression, anger or sullenness, no respecter of persons.
And I revisited my career long reminder.
Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Here we are on another Monday feeling like the never ending mystery of our days.
I turned to Matthew, today marked Chapter 7, about not judging others wrongly, considering their conditions could be yours.
I read ahead, drawn towards a healing story.
Longing to remember the healer, longing to remember the one needing healing.
Wanting to feel touched by another’s story.
This one, a single soul held captive by an ugly disease. He was a leper, one others avoided.
He was brave enough to believe and saw the throng of people along with Jesus descending from the mountain down into the valley where he stayed hidden.
He asked for help.
“And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Matthew 8:2-3 ESV
Today, I’ll remember those who are struggling more than most, more than me.
I’ll pray they find a listener, are able to express their pain and that the ears that welcome their anger or dismay, offer a heart and hand of patient compassion.
I pray that I am able to offer the same, whether words or canvas or eyes that smile instead of look away when I meet another seeking soul, a gentle lamb trusting God and in need of healing.
May we find each other in our quest for healing. May we continue to believe in the audacity of believing.
I walked into the backyard early to see the tree that bore no blooms last summer dripping now with magenta fluff.
Again, the side by side are good and bad. The lack of understanding of when things will be better next to the complexities of a lavish creation.
Last week, or maybe it was two days ago, I prayed. I’m practicing quiet and praying guided by an app called “pause”. I recommend it highly.
The guider of prayer and meditation posed a question,
“What about yourself can you thank God for right now?”
The answer came with a tender upturned of my lips into a smile, I thanked God for my mind.
A mind that loves words, stories, loves wondering about the stories of others, a mind that doesn’t overthink, just really loves thinking.
Most of my life, I’ve wished for different. Why am I so odd, why am I captivated so by all around me? Why do I think so deeply, so often?
I smiled. Acceptance of my thinking as a gift seemed like an actual unwrapping.
Outdoors, a word came to mind as I thought of the lull of discontent I’m beginning to embody.
Ambivalence, that’s the word I felt summed it up. I quickly googled and confirmed it to be accurate. I used my Bible app and discovered no mention of it from God’s perspective. Interesting.
Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.
After admiring the crepe myrtle in full display, I sat in my morning spot, writing an honest note to God.
I’m lulled into helplessness and beginning to accept a life of dismay. I am growing numb to the news of more numbing.
Then, I closed my eyes and sat.
You are helpless on your own but I am your helper. You are dismayed with your vision alone, see things through my eyes. You are unable to understand everything, trust me for answers.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 ESV
God continued: You are discouraged by all that you are hearing and seeing. Open your mind, eyes and ears to me and my calling.
Stay faithful to being found faithful.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” I Corinthians 4:1-2
And God continued with a suggestion. You don’t see the way forward and the burden feels heavy, walk with me and we’ll carry it together.
“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
In the midst of morning quiet, my phone dings with a message asking I pray for young man injured by diving into a pool.
I answered I would pray along with “these days are unbearable but God is still good”.
And her answer made me feel okay with the honest complexity of me again.
Yes, you are right. I will continue to pray for you as you inspire others even when your heart is heavy. Thank you!
What have you learned about yourself since March whenever when you were scared to death by being told to wash your hands, don’t touch your face?
I’ve learned I can’t blame lack of time for my lack of effort. I’ve learned to understand my resistance to taking chances is for fear of something not happening.
If you’ve read my blog, you may be thinking well, that’s no secret.
I learned that God made me to be merciful and that I have what is called a mercy gift, that this is my redemptive gift. The day after a very wise person told me this, thinking surely I already knew, I received this In Touch publication, their final issue. The issue’s focus?
I’ve learned there is a reader for stories born of trauma. There are authors who are honest and long for their readers to be changed by our stories.
One such author is Jake Owensby, the author of “A Resurrection Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth”.
Jake is a blogger and a minister. He also grew up exposed to violence. He developed a fear reaction. He cowered when he felt that was the only way to feel safe. He grew up being told he was worthless in so many ways. His book is written to convince the reader, God made you for different. You can believe you are valued.
I haven’t even finished the book and I’ve not been asked to review or mention it. It’s just a part of my learning during pandemic.
I admitted a big hard and better understood truth about myself.
I am a blamer. I look for places to lay blame for the trauma of my past, the way it has and continues to stymie my living.
Jake Owensby defines it this way, a way I am embracing,
You see, I’m a blamer. Or, more accurately, I’m a recovering blamer given to occasional relapses.
On the bottom page of this chapter’s second page are almost unreadable notes left by me, the truth of them so true, I had to hurry and leave it recorded.
If you can blame someone or someones for the hurt you felt, the fear unresolved and the physical harm that went unprevented…you won’t have to feel the deep heartache of not wanting to have to blame God.
Mr. Owensby led me to this, it is valuable like a revelation long needed.
I’m only half through the book. The chapter after blame and shame has other underlined and margin notes. One more that lingers is the retelling of an English teacher who believed in him and convinced him to write competitively. His fear and comparison of himself led to failure. However, he writes of the redemptive value of the instructor seeing that in him, seeing him measuring his lack against another’s arrogance.
She yearned for me to see things, to see the world and myself in a different light. In retrospect, I realize that it was my dread of failure that undid me that day. Failure, even perceived failure, would set loose in me an avalanche of shame.
I’m remembering now how Jake Owensby and I connected through writing. I remember the time he offered me prayer. I believe he prayed.
Prayer is yet another thing I’m learning more deeply.
Last weekend, I sat with my mama’s sister on her patio. She told a sweet story about how my mama was a teenager when she first heard my daddy singing in a tiny little country bar. She was a high schooler and he had come home from Korea.
I asked her to retell the story. How had I never known it? Then we turned the discussion from life to death. My uncle and my aunt asking me to remind them how old my parents were when they met death. The perspective changed along with the mood when I compared my upcoming 60th birthday with the corresponding too soon years of their dying.
I thought about the scribbles in my Bible, a book I gave my ailing mama entitled “What God Can Do”. I thought about how I believed she would live, that God would do what the Book of Luke records, she would live if I would believe. I thought of how I never prayed that way for my daddy, felt I was not eligible to pray, not equipped back then.
Now, on this Tuesday morning I’m listing answers to prayer because I am still praying and I will pray, continue unrelentingly.
So, why pray when people die anyway, when abuse continues for some and if it ends at last, the deep pain often comes back to visit?
I pray because I know God is far too big for me to know why and why not.
I pray because I know His love and power and knowledge in increments when I continue.
Lost keys found, an old car that started, a baby protected in a storm, a heart condition healed, a softer tone from the heart of one that used to be harder, an opportunity to write about redemption from trauma for others, waking up well, tiny twins a little early yet, healthy, little answers to questions and requests not really life altering but good offering ups of yes”, the bravery to send photos of paintings to a gallery.
Knowing God so much more than before, so much that it’s unimportant the reactions of others when you say you still believe in miracles.
God is not logical. We can’t use a chart like a logic model to list our prayers and our acts of mercy and kindness and line them up in a flow chart kind of way towards a corresponding list of outcomes.
God’s ways are not ours to fully understand.
Only fully believe.
So, what have you learned during this time called unprecedented?
Maybe it’s just that, all of our times are in the hands of a God who promises unprecedented miracles, unprecedented new mercies, unimaginable grace.
Fix your mind on that, not your missteps, the prayers you prayed that left you questioning, or the long held fear of failure and shame that holds you back.
Learn of God in tiny grasps; but, keep longing for steady learning. There is more than enough time to get closer to grasping the truth of Him, the truth not made for us to wrap our minds around completely, simple to be drawn closer every moment to the possibility of it.
The immeasurably confounding and generous love of God.
“from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15-19 ESV
Like the prayers God answers, I’m enlightened by the possibility of them, not the end result. The book about a Resurrection Shaped Life, written from the perspective of someone hampered by shame was not written specifically for me and its author had no preconceived takeaway for me. I’m simply a reader as I am simply one who is praying. The revelation, redemption and peace in response are God’s answers.
I encourage you to follow the writing of Jake Owensby and to order this book if you’re stuck in your past or if you are prone to shame as a handicap. You can learn more here: Jake Owensby
I intentionally leave the blinds open now. The morning light and the shift of the sheers is my gentle waking alarm.
I’ve been thinking about fear and the contradiction of such beautiful occurrences as light through the window and when will this fear inducing pandemic uncertainty end.
But, I talked about fear the other day with my friend as we sorted out the hurtful and inappropriate behavior of another. I told my friend
At the core, it’s fear. Every unwanted behavior spills over from the fear brought on by something the other person has kept and is fighting to keep secret.
Since then, I’ve been contemplating fear. How so many of us are allowing our fear to go unacknowledged. We are afraid of things we can’t name on top of our already debilitating fears.
We are justified in our fear.
After all, there is no page in this book we’re all currently reading to tell us which chapter we are in.
Are we still reading the introduction? Have we moved into the mix of characters’ conflict, resolution and either an ending that leaves us unfulfilled and angry over giving time to its finishing or the final chapter in a really honest memoir that leads us to feel satisfied in the reconciliation of the author’s story?
We know little about this epic story called Co-Vid. I suppose we keep reading the book of it.
As needed. Only.
Otherwise, there are too many plot twists and too many arguments to make it pleasing or informative, to get pulled in, sleepless night reading birthing crazy night terrors.
I bet you can tell, I’m unschooled when it comes to this pandemic or anything else global or political.
This is by choice. Knowing everything is potentially harmful to catastrophic story writing me.
Today, I opened my Bible and decided to focus on fear.
Then I journaled each of them, as if taking notes for an upcoming test.
The section in my Bible that is called “What the Bible says about…” lists seven scriptures on fear. I googled “how many times is fear mentioned in the Bible?” The answer was “over 500” with a little more about the statement “do not fear” being in the Bible 365 times.
Many of us already know this cool fact. Many of us know God does not want us to be afraid, reminds us He is our strength and any fear we feel is from man not Him.
The greatest gift of reading my Bible is reading a verse I’ve read before but it being different, God being intentional in my receiving of it. Today, it’s 4 words from Isaiah 41:13
I am your God.
God is not just the God I believe, the Heavenly Father who desires eternity for me and so He gave His only Son. He is of course, those things.
But, He is my God. Yours too, as if we could be the one and only and He belongs to each of us with the same amount of love, of power, of protection, of fighting for us in a gentle way…as if to say, know this love I have for you more fully, better.
I am yours. God
The other verses are just as good. This thing called fear in this time called Corona has me thinking. Fear is complicated now. We can’t name the reasons for it because we’re overwhelmed with questions and information and a non ending to this chapter and book.
I do know God says don’t fear.
So, I’m sure fear must be coming from somewhere I’m not supposed to be seeing, hearing, absorbing into my thoughts. Maybe if there is one teaching and promise we can all wrap our minds around, it is this.
Do not fear.
Maybe it’s our heart and mind’s stubborn and faithful incomprehensible to others decision not to live in fear.
I caught a glimpse of one of the last pink camellias. The bushes that border our home and the ones along the driveway had been spectacularly brilliant.
Then with the temperatures and rain were suddenly bloom-less. The grass wore a skirt of decaying flowers, their edges rusty with color and the petals limp and fading.
I paused when returning from walking and a glint of pink popped out from the deep green. One camellia was tucked away. I picked it.
I brought the flower inside and filled the vase with water. This was three days ago. The color remains and the bloom is strong on the stem. I can’t decide what I love the most about looking over to see the simple flower.
From every perspective.
Up close, the underlayer of petals are changing from pink to shriveled golden brown. Standing over it, I am drawn to the fragile innards, the bright yellow heart of it. From a distance, I love the contrast in color against our brick.
Why this one camellia caught my eye feels like a sweet secret, something God knew I needed.
I see beauty.
Lately, I’ve thought of how distinctly different every individual’s perspective is in this coronavirus crisis. It is based on their views, their experiences, their current emotional and physical as well as spiritual state.
I’m reminded of a long held truth. No one truly knows how another feels.
Secrets are our truth.
They are tender. They are hard. They are transparent.
I like the definition of perspective that is synonymous with “outlook”. I believe this.
Before we see, we feel and what we feel inwardly leads to our outward view, our perspective.
I asked myself this morning, How can I be more intentional and sure of the way God wants to use me, to continue rather than decide, oh, you must’ve been wrong?
It all begins with and comes back to belief.
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:13 ESV
Believing is the perspective changer, the perspective keeper, the level ground during doubtful times, confusing ones like these.
God’s perspective of us, His creation?
He believes we are able.
He made us this way.
But, what about your secrets that tell you otherwise, ones that say to your soul, don’t try, don’t be sure, don’t step out in faith…you never know, you may discover you were wrong?
What if deep down you’re afraid you will learn, you were wrong about God’s believing in you, you were wrong about trying?
What a shameful secret this is. The one that hinders, the one that feels safer to be the same not take any more steps believing.
I may be wrong, I don’t think I’m alone in this occasional and yet, so overwhelming feeling.
This is why I own it, call it out, really look closely at its defeatist agenda! I speak to it! I tell it otherwise.
“God created me to be creative. God believes in me.”
Continue and believe. Your heart will find truth when you confront your secrets. You perspective will follow.
Linking up with others on the prompt, “perspective”
I thought the craziest thought the other day. Leaving the grocery store again after having to pep talk myself into going, I notice all of our differences. I sit and watch the other shoppers’ arrivals and departures. I inventory the wearers of masks in comparison to the full faces.
“Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” Psalm 90:13 ESV
I notice the efficiency adapted by the store. I am grateful for the smile of the one who wipes down my cart. But, I notice it is ambivalent, the welcome that ushers me to be the next shopper in.
The same expression, same as my thought,
“How long? How long?”
I wear my mask although I don’t like it. I feel it is the respectful of others thing to do.
But, it makes me feel horrible, makes my chest ache in the way that only sparks worry and imagination of diagnosis. The grocery store is symbolic, I decide.
Symbolic of our differences as expressed on masked and unmasked faces.
I imagine God looking down, all of us scattered and separate and still learning this “togethering”.
I notice an older man dressed casually in shorts because our weather is splendid. His eyes meet mine as if me being female reminds him of his promise to his wife. He reluctant huffs as he pulls up his mask. Another older gentleman and the most crisply dressed older woman walk in separately, heads held high, maskless.
They make eye contact with me and their reaction is a mixture of life lived wisdom and pity. I wonder what they think of me.
This may not be a popular noticing of mine I am sharing here.
The people who are wearing the masks, including me, appear to be so much more afraid than the ones whose faces are free.
I’m very fond of a word that describes our expressions. It is the best word I know of as the gauge of feelings, outward indications that bubble up from our souls.
It is countenance. I consider it a tool. Stand all alone and face your bathroom mirror. What do your eyes tell you?
The curve of the lines that border your mouth? The rise of your cheeks towards the meeting of your lashes?
What do you see that cannot be hidden? Often, I’d use this assessment when I worked with troubled women. I knew it was truthful and easy to do. I’d tell them, look in the mirror, you’ll be able to see the truth of how you’re doing, what you’re believing, what you’re trying to disguise.
I know this to be true.
I drive home with my groceries feeling more curious. Curious over the choices of some to go without masks. Were they confident or just stubborn? Are they more brave than the rest of us or do they just feel the masks do no good, what’ll happen will happen anyway.
And the ones like me who wore the masks, are we afraid or are we respectfully cautionary? Are we just a “follow alonger”?
I don’t know. Once home, I’m better. I flicked the mask from my face before I even put my cart away. I know it has a purpose; but, I despise the fear it represents to me.
I wake and I open my journal and I think of how scattered my days have been feeling. How some days I see calm as my countenance in the mirror, others a questioning blank gaze.
I ask God to keep me gentle, to keep me observant, to keep me intrigued by the expressions of others.
I ask God to keep me noticing, to be my teacher, to turn me towards the mirror in my car when I’m afraid to get out, to show me my countenance and help me fix it before entering. To allow the light to be shown through my eyes when there’s nothing else uncovered.
I ask God to preserve the gentleness of me, to keep me meek not distressed and bitterly questioning.
These things we do until we realize they don’t serve us well and that we really are together even when we are “un-together” here.
To help me consider the countenance of others although not fully seen. To acknowledge we all struggle differently, many of us numb by now to the fearful pandemic, many of us walking around in what feels like armor. We do what we can and we tell ourselves to stay in our bubble, ignore the statistics and predictions and hope tomorrow will be different.
What are we that He is mindful of us? We are His creation and we matter. To God, to each other.
Our eyes cast down, our chests heavy with question. He knows. Or our confidence in pushing onward moment by moment til this storm has subsided or at least become more understandable.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalms 42:5 KJV
We turn our attention towards the hope and the laments, the questions without answer, the admission of troubled mental struggles and errant behaviors, the book called Psalms.
It is there we find relatable stories, honest words of David, of singers and psalmists, that we find our countenance changers, our togetherness with others and with God.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5 ESV
We are together even in our un-togetherness. We are covered although scattered in our thoughts and souls.
We are all together in God’s strong hold. We are together with both masked and unmasked faces God sees fit to have intersect us. I hope my eyes contain just a bit of Him, the one who sees us all, unmasked, scattered and yet, together souls.
I’m a stickler for continuing things I begin. Oh, wait that’s not true. I’m scared to death to get back at rewriting that manuscript, the one that felt too honest and now not honest enough. A wise friend named Ray reminded me this idea was born eight years ago!
For now, here’s the link to my April Newsletter, a much easier write and read.
It’s been said of me, “you think life is a fairy tale, Lisa”. Maybe I’m not cautious enough, don’t plan for disaster, take hardship as it comes and don’t worry too much until I have to. I accept that. After all, I told God yesterday just how much I’d love to see an angel.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalms 91:11 ESV
It’s also been said and it may be true that I avoid the tough questions, I disassociate to feel safe from truth.
Seems to me this way is closer to faith than a companion of fear. So, I’m unlikely to change, if I do I hope it’s an even stronger bend towards faith in what’s not clear. Faith in God nurtured through quiet prayer and observations of His creation, birds, trees, moon and sun.
From my front yard I only get the remnants of the setting or rising of the sun. Our house rests hilltop and the view across the road is a wide open field, a gift to me making me feel like I still live in the country.
I walked out to see the pink glow spread wide like a veil across the horizon. There’s been a steady breeze, the trees with brand new leaves are rubbing against each other and in the quiet of very early, I sit on the steps to listen. I hear the chorus of birds, remembering something I read that said it’s the birds that tell the sun to come up. I love the idea of that, a happy alarm in birdsong saying “Get up!” we have another day.
I ventured to Target yesterday. Needing to go the grocery store but not having it in me to face other faces. It is our granddaughter’s first Easter. I needed a card and maybe a new sleeper. Target felt odd and I got tentative looks for wearing my mask. Something about our serene little city is either in denial or choosing to be hopeful more than careful. I’m not sure. We love our independence and we lean towards caution or careful hope. We decide which place is best to live. A little girl looked at me in my mask and I smiled and waved; but, she only looked afraid and wrapped her arms around her mama’s leg. She couldn’t tell I wasn’t scary. My smile was masked.
Back home, I’m reminded I’m less scary and less scared here. The dog to greet me, my walk to enthuse me, my art to invigorate and the stability of now to be enough. Shielded in my abode. I’m not scary here.
A question keeps lingering about what this pandemic means to our futures and our faith. What I’ve noticed is that the flowers keep blooming, babies keep excitedly growing, new ones keep being welcomed into the world.
Birds keep singing, dogs keep welcoming us home, Springtime keeps being pretty. God keeps giving us reason every morning to believe.
Naive? Uninformed? Maybe. I don’t watch the news. It’s too hard to decide on what is truth. I’d rather just trust the morning sun. The sunrise that caught me this morning and gave answer to my question as to why I woke so doggone early.
“As sure as the sun will rise, His mercy will not end.” Ellie Holcomb
Later, just before sunset, I plan to set up my laptop, listen to words about what today meant to Jesus and then have some juice or wine and a cracker as I join an online community in Communion.
“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”” Mark 14:22 ESV
Then tomorrow, Good Friday, as the sun rises I’ll set my heart and mind on doing my best to increase my understanding of the death of Jesus, to better live in a loving way what I believe. Not to be scholarly or an expert writer of Jesus, to be more like Him more often.