“Let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes…” Isaiah 27:5 NIV
This morning I wrote three pages worth of notes without lifting my pen. This practice, “morning pages” is something I’d heard about and thought maybe.
I am often stubborn as a student, slow to be trained by the wisdom of others.
Yesterday, the entire third page chronicled grace, the preceding two were questions of self and God.
Today, I expressed my confusion over my cat, “Georgia” suddenly and frantically obsessed with the water in my painting jars.
I tracked her movement as my pen moved swiftly blue. Committed to this morning pages practice, day two, I found a lightness in my thinking, a sweetness in allowing the freedom to write about my “just fine Georgia” cat.
She’s frantic and sneaky, moaning in her meowing to get my attention. I wonder if she knocked over the jar on my desk and drank the blue muddied water.
I continued to examine the meaning behind her behavior and transitioned to make it relatable to mine.
Unsettled seeking it seems we have in common. We have a frantic inquisitive nature and little patience with lingering question, longing for fulfillment.
I’d become apathetic about writing. Ambivalent, not just yet because I’ve not lost my love for creativity, just wondering if I’m still able.
Page three of three today asked God about delay, delay in the question I keep asking that remains unanswered.
The more I asked the question in all sorts of way, I began to feel attended to, I began to be okay with not yet knowing, instead continuing while waiting.
I settled down and ended page three wishing there were space for more.
Pages lined with swirly words and Georgia settles. Help me to settle, God. Resting. Confident in your ability meeting my willingness.
Day 2, morning pages complete. Writing more like process than performance.
Who can you think of past or present who is famous because of their peace, the most indescribably unknown person you know?
“These are treasures no bird of prey can see, no falcon’s eye observe.” Job 28:7 NLT
I spoke with an author of three books recently. I sensed the ache in his voice as he told me about his writing after I talked about mine, the children’s book inspired by Matthew 6:26. We agreed to sell a lot of books, you must be famous, have a website with a bookoo of followers and be good at talking about yourself.
Just the conversation between us about self/book promotion was hard.
Before sunrise today, I thought of just how contradictory that seems. I’ve read lots of Christian books, some sort of trendy and insubstantial and some very resonant and worth returning to.
I thought of how we, as far as I interpret the words of Jesus, are not supposed to want to be famous.
When we say
“Make Jesus famous, not me!”
We’re supposed to be able to mean it.
And yet, an agent won’t return an email and a query goes unread because you have less than 5000 Instagram followers.
A few weeks ago, I had a skip in my step, a sense of a really cool possible art opportunity.
Time passed and it faded to “oh,well…”
I’ll reference trauma once here and that’ll be it.
If your needs went unnoticed as a child or young adult and you get well enough to try expression of your needs and talents again and nothing happens…
You decide it’s better to be invisible again.
Because invisible is what you know.
But, now this self-awareness feels less achingly deficient and more like
a better fame.
A realization of what I decided was my “treasure” was not my treasure at all.
Years ago, when I began writing, my heart set on a memoir about the possibility of hope, I was starry-eyed and optimistic and I told myself don’t be a chatty little woman who writes about Jesus.
Be authentic. Be real. Be truthful but not so truthful you hinder another’s hope.
And I thought I’d write a book about it all.
Now, I realize I may not.
Because the truth, my truth I am learning to be okay with is,
I don’t think I want to be famous. I think I’d rather be quiet.
That admission may be the kiss of death to being a published author or it may be the breath of heavenly fresh air to a weary striving soul.
Because writing, painting, being a published author are not my treasures, my peace and my peaceful sharing of my healing are. They are the treasures I hold and occasionally share in hopes of stirring curiosity over the same treasure for others.
I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop painting, often with crayon.
I’m just certain being a person who can be found by name on Amazon as an author or who has art that can be searched for and purchased has given me a taste of fame.
But never has fame made me famous, instead only made me wanting more.
Thirsty for recognition, parched for praise and aching for a dollar sign saying success next to something I made.
Eight years blogging. I suppose it’s fitting to write honestly today.
That feels like a quiet celebration.
Keep writing. It’s good to continue quietly and to believe.
Because healing is not dependent on fame, only on believing, believing like the lame man on the banks of the Bethesda.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time. Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath.” John 5:6-9 TPT
“He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” John 9:11 ESV
Two passages have held my interest in August, my writing sparse because of a desperate longing to correctly understand one and to linger in the hope of the other. Plus, my brain’s been a bit fuzzy, like a dull swirling of what next.
The passage about the man blind from childhood whose parents were interrogated by the Pharisees about the cause and the remedy has captivated me.
“His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.” John 9:20 ESV
The other is the passage that contains the words to “carry your cross” used often in sermons or songs. It always intrigues me. More so now because I believe I’ve been believing it wrongly.
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38 ESV
Once I heard a woman sing a song she wrote about her cross. Her voice was strong as she began and then wilted in weepiness towards the end. The lyrics told of her personal battles, her depression. These burdens she told us she had decided were her’s to carry, they were “her cross”.
I caught myself now thinking, “albatross”.
I remember how hopeless it left me, her disclosure, and how I pondered the weight I’d be expected to lay across one shoulder for the rest of my life.
I’d be bent permanently by the burden of my traumas.
If my past was my cross I’d be like the aged and decrepit beggar on a back street barely carrying on.
The road I often travel passes by the County jail. Men and women are leaving to walk towards town with paperwork in hand or they’re sitting at the exit, heads bent towards their laps, hoping soon their ride will be there.
“Change their life for better, God, today.”
Last week, a young man I guessed to be in his late twenties stood on the corner waiting. He was dressed in clothes that didn’t seem to match a night spent in jail. He stood and then paced and I watched in my rear view mirror until watching was no longer possible.
I noticed something different. I sensed his deep contemplation and so I opened my hand to heaven and prayed, “Lord, let today be his turnaround day. Be near him in a new way.”
When Jesus passed the man who’d been blind from birth, the disciples asked him, whose fault is this?
Is he blind as a punishment for his wrongs or is he blind and it’s his parents’ fault?
Jesus told them no, it is because God wants others to see the possibility of hope, of healing.
“Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle.” John 9:3 TPT
Now I see.
“The healed man replied, “I have no idea what kind of man he is. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life!” John 9:25 TPT
And now I see, the cross I carry is not the cross of my past wrongs or wrongs done towards me. My cross is not a burdensome visible and invisible reminder of what Jesus healed me of and from.
My cross is the very cross Jesus died on, the sacrifice of surrender to His Father’s plan, the hope of eternity for all of us who would say like the blind man.
It was “the man called Jesus”. (John 9:11)
Who said , I can’t comprehend it all, I just know what I experienced and I won’t debate with anyone on how or why or if.
I’ll carry on healed and I’ll carry the cross that made possible my healing, the good shepherd’s brutal cross.
I will follow.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11 ESV
I most likely won’t know what happens in the lives of the prisoners who’ve been set free.
I know hope is possible.
Healing is a moment away for any and everyone. Jesus is still near and miracles are still the evidence and purpose of the cross, the cross waiting for us to carry in exchange for every weighty sin, shame or trauma.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 ESV
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 ESV
I wonder if anyone on a summer morning would pause there as well. Or just me, my eye drawn to nature, the way an old bent root is exposed through what once was the ground, now eroding to give way for the road.
For our morning walking.
We noticed the pillowy green moss covering the border and we’d never not touch it, the invitation to see new life juxtaposed with trees barren because of age.
We stopped and cupped the evidence of life in the palm of our hands, caressed the smooth earthen wall.
It was a small thing, gloriously small.
Like clouds thickly shifting, my thoughts are of the majesty of God’s hands swooping down to stir them up.
I am convinced of this actually and often.
I’m in a group of women called “The Alabaster Girls”.
I joined this group of others I don’t personally know because I wanted to be one, one with other women who would if given the chance, pour out all I’d been saving up in my own vessel or jar and in the face of resistance, express my relationship with Jesus.
“…what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13 ESV
Today, the leader suggested members of this group share our testimony. I paused like I’ve paused many times before.
My testimony of deciding to believe in Jesus is really small, sort of private, sort of “not sure it took” because my path forward has been imperfect.
So, I typed it in the comments and I saw my salvation in the truest way.
I thanked the group’s moderator for asking me to tell the story of my salvation, the one I sometimes felt was too small.
The story of my quiet day, quiet choice and quietly steady faith.
Jesus came to me gently and I welcomed Him in, in a quiet way.
I sat alone in my home, a single mother with two children. My Sunday morning thing became watching Charles Stanley, In Touch. I decided to believe what I still believe, Jesus died for me so that I could have life. It wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare and so, many times I’ve questioned the simplicity of it…now, I know that’s the greatest gift and truth, the decision to believe in Jesus can happen anywhere and I should never discount my testimony…deciding to follow Jesus, alone on a Sunday morning with a journal in my lap. God knew me even when I was so lonely and lost and He met me the most gentle way, knowing I was afraid of “being pushed around”. Wow. I’ve never actually written this out until today. God is using you, sweet Nan Trammell Jones.
The seed was planted way back then although not always meticulously tended or consistently fertilized by choices, prayer and worship.
Quietly, quietly and persistently I have grown and in my often “quiet about it” way, the way God made me, He is using my story.
I am growing and others see Jesus in me in the very way God made me.
Quietly like the persistent beauty of green moss covering the ground, the evidence of goodness, of peace, of quiet confidence in God, the earth and all things knowing Him made more glorious.
Decide to accept Jesus. You will never regret what can never be taken away.
I read or heard the other day, a warning, don’t let your “quiet time” just be an empty habit or a trendy phrase. I thought about my mornings, my most treasured time of all, of waking up early just to be quiet and alone with God. I’m needy in that regard. I’m needy in a lot of ways.
I need this “need thee every hour” commitment.
I returned to one verse that feels like proof of God really knowing the me I am lately. The Passion translation of the Psalms is tender, brave and honest. I grab ahold of the words, hold them close.
“You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!” Psalms 138:8 TPT
I’ve long loved Psalm 139 and now I’m fixed on 138 too. Psalm 116 has a header “I’m saved.” I’ve been loving this too because most of all lately, I’m resting in the sweet reality of God’s love of me. Notice, I said “of” not for. God loves me, loves you.
“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love.” Romans 8:38 TPT
So, I’ll keep waking every morning God keeps me able. I’ll read. Not always everything and not always the same book or Bible. But, I’ll be quiet because I can’t make it on my own. I need to be reminded.
No one ever cared for me like Jesus. There’s no greater promise of unwavering love. To love others well, I need the reminder that I am loved. I need it every hour, every day,
Something in me longs to find a quiet old church with wooden pews and streams of sunlight in every hue laying down strips of color at my feet on old hardwood floors.
To sit in the quiet. To listen to God.
I’m in the spot I call quiet in my home. It is very quiet, only the mockingbird mama’s protective song in the distance calling for my attention.
I woke thinking about being drawn to the wars others are warring as a distraction to what God knows needs my attention according to Him.
Yesterday, I grabbed a $5 pillow and dropped it in the cart. I sensed my daughter wondering where I’d put it. I’m not one to decorate my home with pillows adorned with trendy sayings. I think I mumbled.
I need to remember this.
See good in all things.
First on the loveseat, then between the bigger ones on the couch, then in my mama’s reupholstered chair, I centered it. It seemed too contrived, a pillow pointing out words I needed to remember, seriously silly.
So, I fluffed a pretty one woven with navy and added it as a background for my much needed words. I angled the pillow to meet my gaze from the place I sit in the evening, the place I begin my day.
The wisdom of a book of lamenting words lining up with mama’s and the embroidery threads on a pillow.
“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26 KJV
Good comes from waiting, seeking quietly.
Distracted by culture, conflict and confusion, it seems I have made lesser the most important things.
Grace, mercy, peace, surrender.
Attentiveness to God’s purpose for me.
Remembering the gift of redemption.
So that I can be a presence inviting question rather than spewing comments.
Understanding we all have wars within, we are all pulled astray by the personal battles and patterns that deter the transformation that is a witness to the light of God within.
A compelling cause for others to seek salvation.
The salvation that can never be taken from us; but, must be treasured with every breath of our body so that we don’t fall back into warring.
So that we don’t miss the glory of the quiet voice of God in the quiet places.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24 ESV
May my quiet confidence in God be more evident than my constant questioning over what is not mine to understand, only be available when called to offer peace in the knowledge of my Savior.
Linking up prompted by FMF, Quiet (smile, Kate likes pillows too).
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT
On Monday I happened upon this stack of rocks while out walking with my granddaughter.
I asked, “Did your mama do that?” She replied with an answer like a song, “uh-huh!”, a big smile and a tilted nod.
Then she commenced to rebuilding, working to rearrange the balance, to add a small stone to the middle and to substitute new rocks for what her mama had built. Satisfied after a few minutes, she left the rocks, similar but not her mama’s stack. She made a new one.
I thought of the joy of the simple activity, the modeling of what she’d seen and the way her perspective was a little different.
Purest intentions, no comparison, not destroying what her mama built, only deciding…hmmm, I think I’ll try.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9 NLT
Earlier, I searched for this verse. God had awakened me to consider the condition of my heart, to understand why it’s so important to guard it. Why it is not always beneficial to rely on my thoughts born of an aching or angry heart.
Rather, to trust in the Lord with all of my heart, not to lean on my understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
A heart that is divided, split up into separate rooms inhabited by fear, anger, doubt, dread, jealousy, strife, bitterness, seemingly innocent suspicion or comparison.
A heart like that can’t bring clarity, doesn’t give God enough space to illuminate it, to defuse the dark.
A deceitful heart is one unchanged by Jesus. A deceitful heart is the heart of human intent, not one guided by the holiness of the invited Holy Spirit in.
The heart unchanged by the belief in and acceptance ofJesus Christ is hard and prone to conspire and conclude negative things.
A deceitful heart is a heart that’s forgotten goodness.
I sat in the Target parking lot eating Chick-Fil-A and noticed the shoppers arriving or leaving.
Two spaces over, a man sat alone. I presumed waiting. I could say he was sullen; but, maybe just settled. Waiting for someone, patient or maybe just not wanting to wear his mask.
A woman with green hair passed in front of me, short like mine but a neon pine green. She was dressed in shorts and nothing matched.
Earlier, the loud boom of speakers shook my car and others as we eased to the place where we’d be given our food. The young man had taken my spot in line and I thought to make his mistake known but thought to let it go.
I heard him remark to the cashier, “A girl like you don’t like tattoos…” and I watched her young face drop with an emotion I can’t name.
Maybe embarrassment or excitement, I can’t say.
My mind is not privy to what the heart of another might believe.
I sat and watched the Target shoppers a minute more, people of different races, different beliefs, different orientations, different longings, different fears, different staunch determinations.
It occurred to me then,
who are we to believe we can change people?
The heart after all is human, human in nature, not intended by God to be so, but bent towards sin.
Today I pray, “Change my heart in the places that are growing dim. Lighten my thoughts, my fears, my speculations. Remind me of your Spirit within. Guard this vessel of mine that before a single beat, you decided would be a preciousplace for you. Because of your great mercy, I say, Amen.
Guard my heart so that it guidesmy thoughtsand responses to those around me.
John 10 ends with a verse of consolation. Following much dispute over the validity or blasphemous behavior of Jesus as well as the loving words He used to explain the purpose God gave him, to be our Good Shepherd, not the hired hand who’d mislead or neglect us. Chapter ends with “the one thing” that is needed, belief.
“And many who were there believed in Jesus.” John 10:42 NLT
The followingis an essay submitted for consideration. It was not accepted. I, because I am me,decide it was too vulnerable, not uplifting enough, grammaticallyerrant or biblically inaccurate. Or, maybe it was meant to be here, maybe rather than trash it from my desktop, someone may feel a little resonancewith these not chosen words.
Sunday morning woke me with new content for my story God has been editing. The message, that His thoughts of me are far more important than my own. Recent years of angst over when things will be better again led me to define my emotion and it presented itself as dismay. I searched the dictionary for its definition, and I sat in my morning spot for a minute, both enlightened and ashamed. The meaning of dismay is “a loss of hope”. The accuracy shook me and then I sat and wrote a note to myself, recording the clarity and truth that this certainly did not define me nor describe my present life. I thanked God for the timeliness of the morning message.
I hoped this time I’d believe it past noon.
Timely, because I found my thoughts overtaking me again, revisiting trauma of childhood and of longing to understand. I told myself a lie one morning, prompted by the silliest of reasons. I needed a new printer, some socks and we needed oranges. I stood in the checkout line and gazed into the buggy. I am an artist and I needed the color printer; the other items were trivial. The line was long, forlorn faces glancing my way and I glanced again into the cart. I turned and abandoned the cart in the women’s department, and I walked away. I told myself I hadn’t asked my husband; I should do that before buying.
I left the store and pulled through and got myself the biggest cheeseburger I could and devoured it. I drove clouded by sadness and I allowed my belief to speak. I had left the shopping cart and walked away because I believed,
“You don’t deserve it.” and I let that lie the enemy planted linger for several days. I ached to erase the conclusion that began as a little girl who made certain not to bother her parents and led to a teenager who excluded herself from all possibilities and an adult woman who settled for abusive relationships because, “you don’t deserve a good man.” I found myself step into the foray of a fight to never win the battle against my past and I hated it although it felt so very true. After all the years, I figured out what held me back, the belief that I don’t deserve good.
I am letting the revelation change me now with God’s help.
Not long after the Sunday trip, one miserable evening I drove home from another shopping trip meant to comfort. The heaviness lingered like the thick grey clouds about to erupt into a storm. I paused. I asked myself,
“What does God say you deserve?”
Grace, mercy, love, freedom, peace.
What a beautiful question, a breakthrough began! God woke me with new hope the next morning and I woke with the words to a hymn about the name of Jesus being written on my heart, the hope of earth and joy of heaven.
I made note of this day in my journal, listed the things I had been wrongly believing:
You didn’t deserve love as a child, didn’t deserve relationships that didn’t include abuse, don’t deserve now to be finally, all God designed you for. I realized the burdens I carried daily were never meant to be achingly carried alone. I deserve the help of Jesus walking in tandem with me and my woes.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 4-5 ESV
I sensed Jesus telling me to stop walking all alone, to believe in possibility again. However, to understand I will always strive when I try to be His idea of me on my own. I decided I deserve hope. I deserve joy.
I deserve peace.
Peace, in spite of cultural concerns, fears over our world’s future, anxiety over illness all around me and another that’s heavy, guilt over your own wellness when so many are suffering.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29 ESV
Sunday woke me with a word. I lingered in a state of rest I hadn’t experienced in weeks, the sheets soft and the weight of the covers safe, I allowed the thought to sing,
“The mind at rest is peace, the mind at peace is rest.”
I moved through the morning with coffee in hand towards my morning spot. Using my Bible app, I searched and hoped to find the words to make even stronger God’s message to me about being at peace. Was this scripture or just a thought? Either way I knew it was God continuing to connect things for me, like a seamstress following a pattern, scissors cutting away the unnecessary, God is creating a new outfit for me.
The garment he sees me wearing is one that is light and airy, allows the freedom of His love to move through me. My new garment is a pleasure to wear, unrestricted and quiet in color, a confident statement.
This is God’s design for us, a life of rest and peace.
I wonder what your waking thoughts are. I’ve begun to see them as a gift of God’s presence to set the tone of my day. Admittedly, my afternoons are often cluttered. My evening time is either a deep breath to welcome an indulgence of something that comforts or an endeavor to finish a painting or other endeavor I started. Just as I believe I do not deserve good, I often succumb to another lie, the one that tells me at sixty years old, it is too late.
To allow quiet to come is to allow peace. To recognize the constant plot of the enemy to hijack our thoughts is simply smart.
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30
My Father knows I compare myself to others. He knows this has long been a stronghold of a little girl who grew up poor and afraid and became a woman who compares herself to others in an attempt to dispel the lie that says it will not happen because you don’t deserve it. I now recognize this as untrue.
New ways of thinking are ours to embrace. I hope you will consider when asking yourself what God desires for you, what it is that Your Father has decided you deserve.
Along with redemption, it is love. It is freedom, it is peace.
I treasure my morning meetings. May you find time, sense the Spirit of God in and with you and be renewed as you listen and begin to think in new ways.
May we all linger here a little longer.
May you discover the big lies you’ve told yourself are true of you and may you believe only what is true, only what God says of you.