“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” John 14:5 ESV
Last night, this verse kept coming back up in and out of my sleep. I didn’t have it correct though, I thought the “soul at rest”.
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6 ESV
I made a list of ways I try to quiet my soul when I’m troubled or worried. There was a trend; overthinking, overeating, over drinking that glass of wine, over exercising, over scrolling on my phone, over comparing my life to others, over imagining catastrophic things.
I remembered the peace of adding thick paste on tiny canvases and manipulating the shape into crosses.
There, in the messy place scattered with stop and start paintings and in progress projects, I sat the small crosses aside to rest.
Anything I use to rescue myself becomes so noisy, I can barely hear, sense, remember God’s Spirit in me, much less imagine him holding my left hand with his right.
We add noises, actions, resolutions and solutions to our lives intent on well-intentioned improvements.
We forget we were never expected to nor are we able on our own. The flesh is so weak, but the Spirit so strong and sweetly longing to be stronger.
“It is not He who is far away from us, but we from Him.” Mother Francis Raphael
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:26-27 ESV
Once I was a member, although not fully eligible to join, of a community of people who gathered over grief.
I was the leader, though never feeling equipped. Often, I thought to advise or redirect which led to empty gazed expressions from those mourning a loss due to suicide.
It was simply better that I just sit with them, that I listen.
Often listening lasted too long for me.
Moments between a gut-wrenching story and the responses of others stretched out long around the conference table.
Still, sitting still together in silence was best.
On Tuesday, my granddaughter who’s two and a half going on twenty asked to get closer, get closer to the little birds.
I saw one bird on a thin branch. She spotted its companion nearby. We walked carefully, me instructing her, “Step up high, high knees, watch your feet, be careful!”
We walked over limbs, pine tree remnants and broken up soil in the place where the land is being cleared for changes, her future and her family’s.
I thought of, am thinking of David, of the psalms. One in particular I cling to and others so honest we’re reluctant to say we can relate.
“I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.” Psalm 102:7 ESV
We found our footing atop a little high place she called the mountains and we saw the sparrows before they flitted away.
In the margin of my Bible there’s a sketch here, a rooftop with a solitary bird brings me comfort, tells me others understand.
I have a very old Bible, an estate sale find. Once I thought to find the owner’s family, now I have decided it’s mine.
In this old Oxford Bible, a leather woven cover soft over the thin yellow pages, I find papers, a teacher’s identification card, and a lesson plan marked “January”, a typewritten script for 5th grade students on the color wheel.
The owner of the Bible I found was an art teacher.
Underlined in faded red, she must’ve wanted to express the importance of colors developing, merging, being strengthened when placed alongside or blended together.
I found it fitting to tuck the funeral pamphlet of my mama’s service here.
Here in January.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” Psalm 138:7 KJV
Today, I journaled prompted by more ancient words, the quote in my “Joy and Strength” devotional.
Let them be strangers, your dark thoughts. Believe them not. Receive them not. Know them not. Own them not. (Joy and Strength, Isaac Pennington)
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT
Continue and believe. Share your sorrows. Listen and agree.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:7-8 ESV
Whatever you can depend upon, think of such things.
Last night, I realized I hadn’t shared “lovely” things in a while. I started posting pics with the simple words from Paul…whatever is lovely, think about such things, way back in 2019.
I get to watch the sun come up while the toddler is stirring. This morning, it made me want to add a phrase to Paul’s instruction…
Whatever you can depend upon
because I remembered my Father in heaven is as dependable as the sunrise and sunset He made.
The closer I get to Christmas, the more frantic I feel and I remind myself of the hope, the internal goal…peace, joy that is evident in me whatever room I enter. I’m a work in progress, I’m thinking it’s evident.
I recalled my life verse (Isaiah 30:15) early today. I jotted it down…paraphrasing. I’m best when I’m quietly confident, when my repentance leads to rest. I’m at my worst when I strike out on my own, either running from something or trying to rush something on my own.
But grace waits. Grace returns like the tangerine sunrise in the country.
I don’t know what has you fretting or forlorn. Others may think you should’ve long let it go or may consider it trivial. But, your secret concerns are yours as are mine and others’.
It is yours and it’s heavy, there’s no good in comparing our struggles.
As sure as the sun will rise, you are loved by a dependable God. Me too.
and the kitten climbed the skinny crepe myrtle higher,
leaves fell like feathers and I underlined, then reread.
“Doing those deeply unfashionable things…slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting…is a radical act now, but it is essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin.
If you do, you’ll expose all these painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while.
If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.”
“Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May
I lost my glasses on Monday, the cute ones, the ones a little bolder than my typical tortoise or black. Like most people my age, there are spare pairs everywhere. But, not on Monday.
We drove down the pretty road bordered with deeply rooted trees. Her mama had left a forgotten treat in the mailbox.
So early in the day, my readers must have slipped from my pocket or fell from my lap.
It’s an interesting dependence I now have on them, like a security blanket for a baby.
I catch myself thinking I have a pair like a headband only to pat the top of my head to be sure they’re there and find only hair.
On Monday, I was without them. I warned people I responded to in texts. They were unbothered by my typos.
By the end of the day I was managing just fine. My daughter didn’t find them on the road and I decided, oh well they’re just gone.
I gathered my things in the passenger seat once I was at home. Glanced down in the space between seat and console and saw a strange sight. I decided my husband had left some stuff in my car.
A little glass case, black with faux fancy logo with a pair of readers in the color peridot. I lost them so long ago.
Not as fancy as the blue, but I loved them and missed them.
Why am I writing about finding reading glasses?
It’s the thought that came after, the clarity in a sweet message from God.
About good in God’s time and God’s way, about the way answers come when we accept we don’t know, can’t be in control of everything.
The way God is the very best at the “art of surprising”.
On Tuesday, my granddaughter wanted another treat. It was close to lunchtime and she had a slight runny nose, but would never tell her grandma she was feeling bad.
(Memories of her strong mama here, rarely voicing a need or trouble.)
I let her lay on the floor, not flailing but fussing. Let her let her mood play out, allowed her to reconcile what she wanted with what her person in charge decided was best.
From the kitchen, I heard her whine change to elation.
“I found Gamma’s cross! Grandma, I found Gamma’s cross!”
She ran over and handed me the tiny gold cross, the one Gamma lost months ago and we all searched until we settled on not finding and stopped searching.
I called Gamma. Told her “Guess what?” and quoted our precious granddaughter.
She found the cross.
Under the couch, found when a little toddler tantrum decided to get quiet and lift the fabric of the couch to hide underneath. How she spotted it is really nothing short of a miracle.
No one else would’ve looked there.
Yesterday, we had a sweet day together. The back seat of my car strewn with a used pull-up, tiny books, little cards and juicy cups, and “guess what?”
My fancy blue glasses.
Hmmm, a surprise.
I had a thought yesterday as I listened to the words of a popular song “My Jesus”.
I thought “I don’t feel the nearness of Jesus now.”
I told God that very thing, asked Him to help me see what’s blocking my view or maybe, just to show me it’s okay to not always be searching, rather to wait for his revealing.
Gamma and Grandma both wear crosses, I suppose it’s one of our granddaughter, Elizabeth’s favorite things, our necklaces.
And our bracelets.
Yesterday, she sat in my lap and asked about every charm on my bracelet, the tiny artist palette, the little girl and boy silhouettes, her mommy and her uncle. She spotted the tiny angel, a gift from my husband prior to her birth. She said “That’s like my angel”, an angel her mama’s grandma gave her when she was just a baby.
One charm she skipped over is the circle with the missing charm, a tiny mustard seed enclosed in glass. Lost so long ago, I stopped searching.
When I called Gamma, teary with excitement, she called our granddaughter “my angel” and I agreed.
She added, “Now, let’s wait for her to find your mustard seed!”
“That would be something!” I said.
The sketches on the thin pages of my Bible often overlap with faded color, the Psalms especially.
After the sleepover, I discovered my granddaughter had placed the little heart in the little hand.
I remember being captivated by my grandmother’s things, wanting to hold them.
Longing to understand their worth, her little trinkets, her jewelry, her talcum powder and Jergen’s cherry lotion.
They were her.
I woke this morning with a few words
“Choose this day, choose life or death.”
I found the passage in the Old Testament, the historical account of Joshua’s life.
The battle of Jericho, the passage telling us to be strong and courageous, God is with us.
And this one, with the last few words you may find in a home, often a gift for newly married.
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 ESV
These are strong exhortations to people in battle, to choose God’s way or the other gods of their history.
For me, they mean simply “choose life” today.
Choose love or fear. Choose trust over doubt. Choose bravery over insecurity.
Choose to not forfeit your day to anxiety or depression over uncontrollable circumstances.
Choose to be light rather than heavy.
To let be what will be with a satisfied spirit.
Grace is enough. The grace you’ve known and the overflow that is promised.
Choose forgiveness over fretting.
…incline your heart to the Lord. Joshua 24:33
The little heart still rests in the hand.
The heart left on my doorstep by my pastor as a love offering in sympathy of my mama’s passing tells me
Love goes on.
I notice my orchid, revived and repotted has tiny tissue paper buds this morning.
But, as for me, it is good to be near God. Psalm 73:28
Changing my morning spot with the season means I’m facing the morning sun. I’m not able to linger as long. I’m motivated to move forward, toward the new day, the give and take back cycle of surrendering its way to God’s control.
The longer I stay, the more unavoidable is the glare. My face looks towards my journal, the three words on focus.
Waking today, to a one step forward and three back kinda feel.
So, I ask simply for more grace.
Look up again, the sunlight now dappled through the pines.
Turn my face towards the sun, Lord. Empower me to let the shadows fade away. All knowing, Father, you are good and only do good. Settle my mind and heart on this truth.
“The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon.” Psalms 74:16 NIV
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21 ESV
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I sketched an oak tree years ago, green grass water colored and a blue sky with the words above added in a sort of filigree.
I worked for the Department of Family and Children Services aka DFACS aka The Welfare.
I gave this sketch to my first real boss, the County Director back then, thirty something years ago.
Something in me has always understood the something in others that causes harmful, negative, risky behaviors.
Causes giving up or succeeding.
And so, I had work to do, very hard work, but I tried to be kind.
Because, I’m certain every single person in the world is battling something.
Many times it’s something they’re hoping to outgrow or to not hand down to their children.
As I age, I’m beginning to see the battle of becoming, either fear of what I may become or a greater fear of what I will not.
I knew a woman once who should’ve been a chef. Her meals were spread out like royalty when family came on Sunday. She retired from professional management type work and she immersed herself in cooking. She became the cook at a little campground type place where men shot dove. The tips were good, the encouraging compliments invaluable. She was on top of the world and then, she just couldn’t or decided she couldn’t anymore.
Sometimes, I’m asked in these days of either anxious anger or languid depression, how I stay motivated, how I keep painting, I wish I could be like you, have a calling and purpose.
And I’m honest. I say,
I’ve seen what happens when you stop doing what feeds your soul. I’ve seen how quickly you don’t leave your house, grow weak and weary and weaker and worn out.
I’ve seen how becoming what you longed to be only lasts for a minute. I’ve seen how one sweet hope that gets stolen or is forced to be given up because of hardship or loss can break a strong soul.
I keep painting because like probably you, I want to become the mama who lived life fully not the one who decided she couldn’t keep on.
Feed your soul. Cook. Write. Paint. Sing. Dance. Plant your roses.
Every bit of you is the beauty you’re becoming.
The battle we all fight, the hard one?
The battle not to let ourselves quit, not to let our hopes go.
Here we are on day 8 of the year with the number that sounded hopeful, a cadence in the sound of its number as opposed to 2020. 2020, the one step forward and one back sort of feel, stuck on the side of the road or bogged down in a farmer’s field.
A year I’d hoped to feel more confidence than persistent dread.
So, it’s gonna be slow growing, the moving into what 2021 has to offer and what I’m gonna need to acknowledge, adjustments to be made with me, within mostly.
No more of this snap of the fingers, all is well and good. No, it’s a practice, an intentional setting my intentions on growing with and at God’s pace.
Changing that leads to blooming and replanting to bloom year after year. Growth that’s not a result of impatience or self-condemnation.
And it’s in the darkness that the growth begins. Dark heavy thoughts that ask why not yet and long to shake off doubtful patterns and to be one and done with habitual self-sabotage to avoid disappointing results.
With God, I’m beginning to know myself well, the things I’m up against, the behaviors that are not for me, are against me.
And Jesus agrees with me so gently.
“Thy faith and thy love and thy hope will grow, the more thou seest the work of God with thee; thou wilt joy in sorrow, and thy sorrow will be turned to joy.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength Devotional
What feels like trudging forward with no evidence of better, quite possibly worse, causes a heaviness in me this morning.
I turn to another devotional, a popular one, “Jesus Calling” and I’m lighter from reading just one sentence.
“The weaker you are, the more gently I approach you.” Jesus Calling
I know this to be true.
I’m never corrected so harshly by my Savior as I am by myself.
I write the sentence in my journal and my thoughts go to the woman who should’ve been pelted with rocks with Jesus as the witness to her deserved punishment.
I know the passage very well. I imagine her waiting to be punished and gawked over by a large group of better than her in their minds gawkers.
Jesus surprised her, surprised the ones holding the rocks. They all walked away after being told to consider your very own wrongs. The crowd dispersed hearing Jesus tell her to go and be free.
“Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” John 8:10-11 TPT
The bulbs on my daughter’s table are covered in bright green moss. They were the same for days, left beside the kitchen window.
The expected brilliant bloom for Christmas festivities didn’t happen, maybe I’d planted them in too shallow soil, maybe over or under watered.
Then, she moved them to a more open space, she cushioned the soil with soft pillows of moss that she and her daughter collected. The moist earth caused the stems to reach up.
Two bulbs now have little baby bumps, flowers soon to burst forth.
I’m believing. Tiny white flowers will flourish. I expect to see them on Monday and I’ll tell my grandchild, look what you and mama and God did! You waited and you helped the little flowers to grow.
Never having planted the winter flowers, “forcing” their indoors blooming, my daughter and I are learning. Once they’ve bloomed, you dig the bulbs up from the dirt and you put them in brown bags.
You save them to bloom again. You anticipate the hope of beautiful future (next year) growth.
Today, when I don’t know about tomorrow and especially not next year, I’ll think of the most quiet thing I know now, these flowers called paperwhites that decided to wait to bloom in January rather than a “forced” December.
The storms of my thoughts are stilled when I remember my strength comes from unseen joy, beckoning me back to a place that is rest, is a haven for sure peace.
“God stilled the storm, calmed the waves, and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper. We were so relieved, so glad as he guided us safely to harbor in a quiet haven.” Psalms 107:29-30 TPT
God’s love is constant. His rescue is sure. His cultivation of us for His glory is patient and gentle.