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.
Last week, I asked a question of someone I never thought of asking. I reminded myself of times leading and training others, how I’d tell them if you ask a question, that shows you are committed to learning and it also shows me you’re okay with not knowing as long as you trust that you can learn.
I asked three precise questions to help me with a writing decision and the person who answered, answered with “No problem, that’s what I’m here for”.
And I didn’t think it until today, this lost and listless morning, I should ask God to help me unravel these feelings, this lost exhaustion.
And He did.
“And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Matthew 20:32-33 ESV
Being honest with God about the empty and boring angst my morning began with led to a gradual shift.
Numb due to the daily same no indication of change because of pandemic, discord and lack of good sleep due to dreams about Christmas, I’m barely moving as I go towards the coffee.
I sit with pen, open my Bible, circle boldly the word “trust” and then add the same letters on the place below my thumb, add a cross where the big nail pierced Him.
Flat, unmotivated, agenda-less and only pending set aside for later ideas kind of days.
I decide fresh air may enthuse me and I see the sunlight on the wild purple flowers.
I find the tomato sweet granddaughter discovered and dropped. It seems a rabbit took a bite out of its side, left it near the porch.
I find the new red bloom on the daisies and I see the geese crossing the road slowly, unconcerned over the big truck lightly tapping a beat with its horn.
The geese take their time, their plans for today are the same as the days before.
I saw the acceptance of rest in all of it. The empty slate day that welcomes restoration in a gradual way, the renewing of my mind, a required reminder.
Today, a summer Sunday perfect for quiet supplication of a clean slate, anxious clutter cleared and a willingness to be okay in the widening expanse of waiting.
These are not days of “finger snap” make all things better.
The realization of this, at first is exhausting. Still, these days that represent dwindling hope are only doors to more trusting.
If I could, I’d go stand in the widest open field I could find secluded from all eyes and I’d open my arms way, way wide.
I’d celebrate a realization.
I trust you, God.
I’d celebrate the change quiet brought me on Sunday morning when I woke so depleted. I’d thank God for answering when I asked for restoration. I’d thank Him for new ideas ready to be followed up on. I would thank him for answering all my questions.
I’d be grateful for the dream that kept me thinking although sleeping, I’d thank God for dreams about Christmas.
Because, Christmas is my favorite.
Thank you, God, for correcting my vision.
“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19 ESV
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.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” Job 24:13 ESV
I could easily stay in my soft cushioned chair, feet propped and fan creating a breeze overhead. The worn quilt from many washings is as soft as a feather and cool against my feet.
I could stay here all day. It would be no matter, and maybe I should.
Stay in this morning spot that is the place where I’m met by mercy and reassured it has no end.
The place of the promise, begin again. The place that is quiet. The place where God informs me through my Bible or the words someone else has recorded.
Or just through the allowing myself to stay, just through my patient sitting.
Job answered his friend’s advice to agree with God and be at peace (Job 22:21) with bitter honesty. He was exhausted over not knowing why or when.
Job was confused over how God would allow his condition, how it seemed to him God was not looking or worse, looking away.
“From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.” Job 24:12 ESV
The chapters of the Book of Job continue with Job’s debate with God, relentless in both his longing to understand and his commitment to believe in the majesty and knowledge of God.
Job stayed and God answered with redemption and life again.
He listened to his friends’ advising and rebuking and he implored them in his own defense.
Then, he listened to God.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 ESV
I’m letting that truth linger, lessen the pressure of overthinking or demanding quick answers. I don’t need to have nor am I able to have every answer.
I’ll move from my morning place to other things God is calling me to finish.
Paintings and stories of birds and marshes and laundry.
I could easily stay in this quiet spot with God. No television and no habitual social media checking. No news debates and no high pressured conversations nudging my thoughts to write catastrophic stories.
Instead, I’ll continue.
Job gives us permission to be honest with God. To ask how long and still believe.
To continue and believe. To know the light, keep coming back and staying as long as you are able.
Linking up with others with the prompt “stay” from Five Minute Friday’s Kate Motaung
The bystanders recognized the beggar up walking around. All of a sudden he could see and they began to dispute the truth of Jesus, they began to argue over the day of the week and were certain the beggar was mistaken in some way.
I’m wondering how he became a discarded one at all. Scriptures say he had parents. Had they given up on being his support system? He was an adult after all, he’d have to fend for himself.
Or was he so downtrodden by his lifelong blindness, he just grew tired of being their burden? He could beg others for money instead of his parents.
I love the Gospels, the Books of encounters with Jesus. There are many people who stir empathy in me. There are relatable stories to my healing by Jesus.
Jesus came along and he noticed the man blind from birth. The disciples, always looking to learn from Jesus, asked what had caused the blindness, were his parents neglectful, had they been bad people before they became parents, or was the little boy born with some sort of predicted worthlessness that led to him being born blind?
They wanted to know who or what was to blame.
Jesus told them it was God’s plan. The blind man would be an instrument for God’s glory to be real, for the mysterious to be memorable.
“Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 ESV
Jesus made a paste of mud and his own spit, pressed it against the blind beggar’s eyes and then said go down to the water and wash it all off. The man did and he could see.
Everyone asked how, the man said I did what Jesus said and that’s really all I know.
His vision restored, the interrogations continued. The parents were questioned, they confirmed their son’s blindness as well as his current condition. Told all the skeptics to ask him, not us, he will tell you! According to scripture, the parents were keeping their distance because they were Jews and they would be disallowed from the synagogue if they acknowledged Jesus, if they acknowledged their own child’s healing.
These were the times I suppose even a parent of a son who was healed was careful about boldly agreeing and believing in Jesus.
Seems it was safer to be a skeptic, to know there are people who believe in Jesus because of their own healing; but, they were not ready to believe for themselves.
Maybe it seemed too impossible, too unattainable, too supernaturally “magical”.
Same as today really.
The man who could see could only speak for himself, hope with all his heart that his testimony mattered.
“So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” John 9:24-26 ESV
Centuries later, I sit in my mama’s covered chair with my Bible, the margin on the page has a pen and pencil resemblance of me, my face turned towards the words and a slight listening tilt.
I understand the blind man. I can relate to his dismay over Jesus initially. I can sit with my Bible and know beyond doubt that I too have been healed when many for valid reasons discarded me, left me to fend for myself.
And like the blind man who couldn’t explain mud and spit restoring his vision, I often wonder how me simply believing in a cross, the likeness of which I now add to my wrist could have altered my life so very significantly.
It is not my place to understand it all, to know every how or why God found me worthy of healing. It is mine to believe. To be able to rest in this:
But, you do know, God, You do.
We’re all in a state of not knowing now. On Sunday, I knelt in the place by my mama’s chair. I was distracted, I admit. Still, I joined in the prayer of Pastor Steve Davis with many others. I prayed and am praying in agreement with him that this time will bring people who don’t really understand God, maybe just hope in the possibility of Him being real closer to believing. The prayer closed with that very request of our Heavenly Father, that during this pandemic stirring panic, countless people will come to know God, will believe in Jesus as their healer.
I pray this as well. I know healing that saved not just my soul but my very life from risky, dangerous, threatening to kill me situations.
Like the blind man, I believe in Jesus.
“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” John 9:35-38 ESV
Continue and believe, moment by moment if necessary.
Acknowledge/Admit you were born a sinner. Believe in Jesus, God’s plan for us to be with Him in heaven. Confess your sin and begin to live healed.
I watched the soloist in worship, saw timidity in a way that led to her being brave. Fairly new to the stage, I’ve been attentive to her growing. I long to know her story.
Has she always sang so bravely, was it a thing she knew she’d always do? Was it a path that opened before her and at last she agreed she was able?
I watched as her hand held the microphone in its stand. I listened as she told me it’s God’s breath in me that led and leads to my breathing. She opened both hands towards the ceiling as her voice was elevated, “Great are you Lord!” I joined in agreement.
I’d still love to know her faith story. I’d like to know her journey as a woman.
I sat in the white chair later, the chair that was yellow when my mama got it. She had it in her den and I don’t recall her ever sitting there. It was positioned in front of her place for sitting, a place she could simply see it.
It faced the wide windows that opened the view to the field, the skinny lane that announced visitors. My mama lived alone for a bit and her yellow chair is only one of a few things she gave me. The others, ceramic roosters and a bracelet, now broken and not really jewelry, “costume” the jeweler said, “not worth anything”.
The yellow chair now recushioned and covered white, the little roosters and the bracelet, all yard sale discoveries.
My mama had very little.
Her legacy is wisdom. Wisdom and spontaneity, gifting herself with an occasional treat!
I thought of her as I drifted into a nap on Sunday. The yellow chair now creamy white facing my own wide windows.
I found solace in the soft chair, curled like a baby in my mama’s not made for sleeping chair.
I rested in the certainty of her joy when she found the fancy to her yellow chair. I celebrated her deciding she was worth it, something her life had never told her.
No wonder I find comfort in my mama’s yard sale chair.
It’s a side of her story she really didn’t tell. Her story of strength, of being worth something other than what life had shown her. A story of the bravery in believing, to wake to your very own beauty.
To believe in yourself because of God’s plan. I sit in my mama’s humble chair and feel the softness of her wisdom, I feel able to keep believing I am more than what my hard years have told me.
Continue and believe.
There is wisdom in quiet joy. There is wisdom in pursuits that are tentative.
There is safety in remembering another’s very own wise path, as far back as when the writer of Proverbs called wisdom a “her”.
“When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” Proverbs 4:12-13 ESV
I hope to ask her one day, the new solo singer in worship, “How did you get to this place of using your voice to strengthen my faith?” There is wisdom in her journey I’m certain. I long to know why.
Who are the wise women in your life? The humble ones, the overcomers, the singers, the confident business owners, the young mamas, the elderly still with us, the teachers, the artists, the singers?
Life makes us either hard or wise. Stay soft if you can, wisdom comes not from hardening.