Behind the grill, in the corner there’s a collection of leaves, dirt, dust and a moth or two.
I paused this morning to see the sky. The air fixated, it seemed on one leaf. Brittle fern fronds on the floor like rose petals left for a lover and the one leaf, edges upturned and a little bigger than the others,
Sort of shimmering.
I know it’s strange, to be fascinated by a dried up leaf on a sleepy Saturday morning.
Was it healthy or close to decay? Was there a notice of it over the others that caused it to be the lonely one taking in the breeze
While the others were still?
Had given in to decay.
I turn 62 next week.
There are unforeseen health things.
All in a matter of a couple of weeks. There’s the dental stuff that triggers childhood shame. There’s the inflamed knee that pains me and odd or maybe not, I’m unable to kneel to pray.
There’s the diagnosis of high blood pressure that I’m disputing, watching and waiting.
Because I think it’s anxiety.
There’s all this stuff that points to aging and old things and to the trauma of losing parents before they were old.
Someone I love told me of an emergency room visit and how it triggered her. I told her “no wonder” and asked how she recovered.
She told me it was just a few days ago. She’s getting better.
And not by crazy shaming of self “get it together” because
It’s not the same and that was so long ago.
Instead, by accepting her emotions and not shaming herself about them.
Letting the sorrow and fear revisit and then go their way.
This is now.
You are here. This felt like that, but it isn’t.
All the leaves have now been swept away together. The resilient one mixed in with the ones unbothered by the wind are in the yard with the pine straw and mulch.
Strange that I’d notice a crinkled leaf first thing.
When the peace of Jesus finds us, it is a gentle collision. “Gentle collision” is how my morning words began, hurried and half asleep.
I wrote that faith meeting fear is and will always be a gentle collision.
Loosely but never unraveled is the tether that connects us to believing.
Never dragging us along.
Nor yanking us into attention in a sort of frantic wake up call.
A walk that’s never perilous, always patient.
Like a walk together when one is the older or younger one.
Not at all like my walks alone, the walk of a stubborn and wide stride stepping, a walk either going hard and proud or walking hard and fast away from something that keeps catching up.
This is not the walk of a child who wonders. Wonders not where or how we’ll go, only wonders as she wanders.
Before Jesus spoke of the gentle way of walking, of carrying the good things or junk we’ve taken as our own, he talked about little children, about their wisdom and their understanding.
Children who have a greater grasp on the divine, a more tangible understanding.
An understanding not garnered by incessant questioning.
The wind blew our hair yesterday. The sky was periwinkle blue and the warmth of Spring landed on bare arms and freckled our faces.
“Thank you, Lord, for the breeze.” she said.
We walked together. Me, occasionally pointing out of the hills of ants and noticing the ground as we went, scanning for baby snakes that might scurry close to our toes.
She, close beside or freely ahead, “let’s dance”.
Together, gently. I fell into the rhythm of a child with steps slow with going and then resting.
Waiting and then walking.
Going and then resting.
No rush, no worry.
“At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” Matthew 11:25 ESV
I handed her the yellow flowers and lifted her from behind to my back.
Shifting the weight until she laid her cheek on my back, her tiny legs belting my waist.
Then we walked together, her weight pushing me forward.
Together, we walked back home.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30 ESV
A gentle collision it is, the meeting of faith and fear, of melded together walking, of simply saying yes to the soft beckon not to walk alone.
I stepped over the circled place in the sand where we’d stopped to dance.
“Ring around the rosies, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes…
You are able, God, to redeem every fear, the unspoken ones, the ones that include mystery, the ones we say we don’t have, but we surely do. The ones that threaten you at the depth of your core, the ones thought of silently that suddenly make sense. The ones we should sit with for a bit and write our Father a note.
Maybe you just say “Help.” or even say “Help me here, now the reason for this fear makes sense.”
The ones you decide to have the courage to believe are redeemable based on how much your loving Father has already redeemed, the ones that lead to the extending of your heart and hand to ask “Lift me up again, Father.”
What are you afraid of? Don’t believe it can’t be understood and then for your good.
“Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalms 94:17-19 NIV
Here’s a real life story about anxiety for so many who don’t “get it” and a revelation that that’s okay because “you understand me, God. You understand me.” (Passion Music, “Bigger Than I Thought You Were”.)
Early morning darkness only illuminated the garage and I wondered what made the motion that led to the light. An animal, a person, a man?
I tapped the wrong button and I locked the truck three times before I heard the open click. My husband’s prized truck, my transportation for the day. Hoisted myself up to the seat and saw the light flashing “oil change needed” which reminded me to take off the brake.
Couldn’t find the pedal on the floorboard and instead found the lever to “pop” the hood, then turned to jump from the truck and felt my left side move with a tease of vertigo.
Carefully, quietly as I could, I opened and then closed the hood. Then, I sat in the driver’s seat wondering where the brake release was located. Switched on every light and guessed on the one beneath the steering wheel. Success!
I left the driveway for the empty road and determined myself to not be angry, stressed or feel stupid.
But, the highway was busy, cars and trucks headed to industry or interstate flashed their brightly lit eyes at me in a hovering and then sweeping by me stare.
The windshield had fogged, continued to fog as I found defrost and then, panic again and a weight on my chest as I couldn’t figure out the wipers.
But, I continued. I drove on.
I took my deep faith in fear out breaths and it got better, the panic in my chest, the anxiety locking up my breath.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy. Psalm 94: 19
I thought to tell my daughter, but didn’t. No need to have her busy morning challenged by the perplexity of her mama.
Rehearsed telling my husband later, but decided no use.
He doesn’t understand anxiety, hates it for me, but doesn’t understand it really.
The windshield cleared, I had the country road to myself, quiet because the radio was another challenge, and I got there in plenty of time to see a toddler already smiling on her mama’s bed.
Peace was there.
“It’s foggy, but so beautiful this morning.” I told my daughter.
Peace of all is and was okay.
Will be always.
Peace was with me all day yesterday and will be today.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Psalms 23:4 NLT
When I think of David, I think he seems to have lived a life marked by thinking one way or the other. He was either desperate or joyous, defeated by his own sins or bravely standing on God’s character and promises for him, for us too.
Honest, David was honest.
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!” Psalm 31:1-2 ESV
What are the thoughts you think about yourself, your value, your image, your light meant to be shared with others?
Are the things people say of you consistent with the things you think and say of yourself?
“You will look to Him for gladness and refreshment when depressed, for moderation and recollection when in good spirits, and you will find that He will never leave you to want.” Francois De La Fenelon (1651-1715), Joy and Strength
Last night, I dreamt of drowning.
I heard myself catching my breath as I came up from the deep, a frantic exhale. I found my soft heavy blanket. I let it rest over my torso and I processed the possibility that I’ve been pulled downward again by the unanswered questions of my past, the agony of being unable to piece it all together peacefully.
I’m not able on my own I’m reminded.
“I’m not sleeping lately.” I told my husband. “Did I wake you?” “No.”, he answered.
“Good.” I added, thinking there’s no need to trouble him with the dream of drowning.
Instead, carry on with the new day.
As I fed the cat my eyes went to the calendar and the verse I found fitting for January.
The theme is courage.
I sat with coffee, lit my candle although it was morning and secretly asked God to come and find me again.
Turned to January 21st in my devotional. There again, the verse about courage.
“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24 KJV
I recorded three thoughts and let them lead me to process my worry, my concern over who I am, who I was, who I’m becoming.
I’m not who people think I am. I’m fragile. I’mfaltering. I doubt the promises of Godquite often and I exhaust myself with worrying.
Then, God brought reply.
Same type replies he gave the ancient souls like David and Francois when they found themselves despairing.
You’re not who you were and perhaps rarely who people say you are, but you are fully known and loved.
I am who Jesus says I am.
Three self-reflective questions led to honest self-assessment and the possibility of a different perspective according to Jesus.
Could it be the deepest place of questions can answer the longings you feel are best kept to yourself?
“In mercy you have seen my troubles, and you have cared for me; even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy, filled with praise for your love and mercy. You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy; you broke open the way to bring me to freedom, into a beautiful, broad place.” Psalms 31:7-8 TPT
Possibly, we’re all one or the other quite often. We sense ourselves falling into questions and despair. We stay there longer than we’d hope. We acknowledge our position.
We’re brave like David.
We ask for help.
Continue and believe.
Take courage, the ceaseless gracious hand of God, take courage.
Story one in the series of “Weak Made Strong” monthly blogs
Recently, I heard someone speak of the “Strengths Finder” assessment and I remember years ago taking the test, being given the guide book to better understanding your strengths and making changes to make your weaknesses less weak.
I can’t recall my scores, but I began to think of attributes of mine that I considered weaknesses.
Naturally, I made a list. Just as quickly, I countered each trait with a contrast, a different view.
Sensitive, too transparent and “in my head” became empathetic, authentic and contemplative.
I reframed my barriers to the real life evidence of my tools. I rethought the hardships life had caused me to be avenues towards resilient strength.
Esther was orphaned by both parents and raised by a cousin. She found herself amongst a bevy of beauties competing to be chosen. She was a listener and an observer. She paid attention. She recognized that courage often cannot often be delayed.
I think of the well known verse,
“…Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”” Esther 4:14 NLT
A verse that’s prompted many of us to be brave, be wise, be responsive because we believe whatever circumstance that is calling forth our bravery
We were chosen for it.
And that acceptance of whatever brave thing it is, is strength.
Is weakness moving towards strength.
I am far from a theologian, even less a historian. I simply love reading the stories of women who had lots to overcome or lots to move beyond. I rarely expound on the interpretation of scripture. I’m not wise enough, but I sure do love seeing myself in others.
Women who had weaknesses, but became strong.
What holds you back?
For me, it’s age.
I decide I’m not “on my mental game” enough to be the things God keeps telling me not to pack away. So, I keep them close, I don’t give up. However, I am very slow to try again.
What can you resume or bravely begin that you’ve convinced yourself it’s not yours to do, you’re just too weak, too old, too unskilled
I hope you’ll follow me here for a new story of a woman in the Bible each month.
These words gave me permission to consider my wandering, validated a truth I see in myself and wondered how many others wrestle with the same question.
Where is God today?
Why do I feel I’m in this battle alone?
What if my faith is fleeting?
Faint, yet pursuing. Judges 8:4
This verse describes a throng of warriors’ commitment to battle with their leader, Gideon.
“And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.” Judges 8:4 KJV
I jotted down three verses from my Bible one day last week, folded the paper and put it in my “to do list” book.
The passages were from Psalm 42, Luke 2, and this Old Testament text.
Often, a trio like this will wrap me in its embrace of understanding, acknowledgement of question, and offering of clarity and peace.
Gideon, David and Mary share a theme that resonates. They wavered in their confidence and faith, maybe in a way like me, asked God to be near, asked Him to show evidence that their faith wasn’t without hope. That they can wander away and wonder in a questioning way and they can be themselves.
We can be ourselves.
God welcomes that.
David gives countless templates for questioning conversations with our approachable God.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 42:11 KJV
Today, I pray you notice the Christmas around you. That you feel a nearness with Jesus, God’s intentional gift for us.
Nearness, more near than any humanly possible things.
Jesus Christ, the baby, little boy and man who dwelt among others and now, if you’ll allow Him dwells within, His Spirit
Strength and peace.
I pray that you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, not just the idea of Him, although it surely is the most beautiful idea on its own.
A baby born to then die for us. A baby born without sin to become a man crucified cruelly although without sin.
I pray you believe and that you begin to pursue and never stop pursuing even on dismal days, days when you’re battle weary and days when you being invited to participate in such a miraculous truth seems unbelievable.
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45 ESV
Continue and believe. If life leads you to question, continue and be at peace.
Among a crowd of frenetic students changing classes, a presence walked up behind me. I’d found myself caught up in a crowd that made no sense, I was just searching for the hallway to the laundry room in what others said was a nonsensical place.
I lost the landlord, a woman with a snarky pride over her Air BnB that she denied was in disrepair. She scurried through dark hallways and then she wasn’t there. I returned to the place where the others had complained about my clothes left in the dryer. There another led me through the toddler nursery. A cat slipped by my feet and joined in our fast walking. Suddenly, I’m in a room filled with cats and dogs. We pause to confront the property manager who asked “Where the hell did you go?”
I gave no reply. A cat vomited on my foot and the frustrated helper sighed.
I struck out on my own again, ready to gather my laundry next to my chest and begin the long trip back home from this less than idyllic weekend getaway.
That’s when the students were thronged together, they chattered and marched or had heads down persevering.
The man measures his steps to match mine. Asks, “Why the sad face, are you lost?” He comments about the owner, agrees with the rooms being in disrepair. He walks beside me.
I’m hesitant, but turn to see an easy smile, a jawline in need of a shave and a glint of hazel eye.
He points me to the door that leads to the laundry, has my warm clothes in the dryer.
Quickly and cautiously I say, “I gotta hurry, gotta get back to South Carolina.”
He walks on his way.
I gather my laundry and think of describing the encounter with the stranger who showed me the way, of the satisfaction of finding words to fit emotion. In my dream, I wrote a story about the kindness of a stranger.
The kindness that gave me comfort in the finding again of just the right words.
I decided to write here about this dream not as an invitation to interpretation or to cause you to consider how deep or a littlecrazy I might be. On both I concur. No, I had a dream that made me think of writing as beauty and I woke to think, maybe, just maybe I will write. I haven’t shelved that dream altogether. It’s still a joy.
“Follow on, and thou shalt never lose track of that light.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength
I sort of remember the first time I told myself that painting and writing are “my calling”. Several years later, I still question the label that leads to an assessment of whether my work represents such a strong word.
Once I called it my “treasure”, felt that was better. A “gift” may be even easier to accept as the description of what’s more than hobby but less than calling.
“Allow God to cultivate your calling.” Hosanna Wong
I heard these words while walking, having told myself to take a break from podcasts, that I once again had way too many voices in my ear telling me how to finally be at peace with me.
I am prone to quitting a whole thing rather than being patiently selective, giving up rather than testing the waters.
Not finishing things I begin for fear of failure.
The shape of a bird waits on a wood panel. Vibrant colors of green, azure, a little coral brushed boldly to complete the suggested work are only thoughts. Although I’ve painted these before, what if I can’t again?
What if I’ve forgotten how to paint and write?
That would mean what you thought was your calling was wrong all along.
I consider the words of Hosanna Wong again this morning. Like a middle school diagram sentence, I broke apart the words.
Allow – give someone permission to do something Cultivate – to develop a quality or skill Calling – a strong urge towards a particular way of life
Allow God to cultivate your calling.
There is relief here, this freedom from effort, comparison, numbers of followers, readers, collectors and validators of my work…
Of whether it is or ever was “my calling”.
Because, I’m closer now to understanding
my calling is the calling of every single one of us, to let God lead, show us the way, place us in the places we are needed by others, not the esteemed places of what fulfills our needs
recognition, praise or even kind words.
The pressure is off.
I’ll adjust to this new understanding of calling. It may take some time. I may still fear rejection and thus, hesitate in offering my words and paintings.
Or I may settle in, paint and write because I love it and love the way God made me to love doing it.
Of the seven paintings inspired by Psalm 23, a Bible close by as I painted and breaks in between colors to comfort myself in reading, only one has sold.
A tiny one, “All I Need” will be shipped today.
I allowed my Bible to fall open in my lap just now. The margin sketch reminding of words from another day.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
There’s so much I don’t know, don’t fully understand about God’s ways, His love for me, the places He has for me, my words and art to go.
I will follow. I will stay close beside Him. I will find my calling in the listening to His gentle, guiding voice.
I have everything I need.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 ESV
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:2-6 ESV