The situation was dire. His friend Lazarus had died. His arrival to save him was delayed.
I am thinking of a young woman who bravely told her story of domestic violence on social media.
Photos with captions of what was happening instead of what her posed by his side and pretty face portrayed.
Photos hard to look at for long, one dark purple encircled eye balancing the other’s vacant expression and her arm marked by a bruise from grabbing.
This young woman is from the place I call home.
She is brave, was brave.
Most likely very afraid.
I fell asleep with private tears puddled near my ear. I fell asleep with the acceptance of my own truth.
A truth I’d been over and over rethinking.
Certainly, there was good.
For some reason, I just don’t remember it. Surely, your years all running together could not have contained that much hurt, that much fear, that much abuse.
I breathed deeply again and tried to rewind my life in my 20’s movie. I longed to believe the trauma had simply erased the happy like they say it does the hard,
As sort of our brain’s protective role.
But, that made and makes no sense at all. Why would the brain and its memory reservoir dry up the good, deny the times of love?
Two nights ago, tears came and my soul felt sad and then gently at peace, relieved.
Yes, physical and emotional abuse by a man who began as a date is a part of my story.
Being a captive and being brainwashed into keeping it secret is a chapter in my life.
Now, even more healing will have its chance to do what it has been preparing me for, what God kept me alive to do.
I see the waking up slowly of me and I see the tears that were not brought on by long ago pain, rather the welling up of hope, I see the beautiful things that have already begun and will now be free to finish.
As I turned the long clay lane to my granddaughter yesterday morning, a song came.
I crept up the winding hill, turned on to the sandy path we walk and hold hands. I careened in slowly to my place on the hill.
Safely I arrived and safe I shall be.
I hope you’ll listen.
Josh Garrel’s rendition of “Farther Along” makes me happy every time.
Makes me hopeful. Makes me content in not being all knowing.
Father, thank you for the honesty you allow, the truth of us you slowly guide into revelations with sweet, never bitter tears. Thank you for words, for bravery even if new. Thank you for helping me continue, to continue and believe. Thank you for my present love and safety, the embrace of family.
Because of mercy, Amen
I am thinking still of the young woman and her photos, meant to share her truth and to help others. I’m thinking of her bravery and the way I still hesitate to say that I was a victim of abuse.
I think of how some days, like yesterday, I’m still ashamed and afraid to tell. And I’m grateful for days like today when I choose “publish” instead of “trash”. I choose believing there is so much good to see.
“Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 ESV
A deer jumped from the field onto my path and I slowed. I expected another and then, yes, a young one skirted on wobbly legs all by itself into the woods.
I thought of the season, not being a hunter or having knowledge of why they were out walking so early, feeding I assumed, preparing for something, going some set aside place or looking for seclusion.
Later, instead of the regular “walk around the block” I saw an opening. A deeply wooded path, narrow with a valley and then a slight curve that made me curious about where it might lead.
I stepped in with the baby. Very quiet, very careful to watch my feet. We looked together up towards heaven in an enchanted gaze.
The brown ground was covered in seasoned oak leaves. I moved slowly with intention and walked unafraid.
Standing still to see a pair of cardinals and hear the rustling in the branches of others, I listened.
I thought. I am sixty-and a day years old today. It’s okay.
I saw God there and I felt him see me. Thinking towards the next things because of uncertainty of where the path may take me if I choose the more wooded way at the top of the hill.
I turned back, the peaceful way called my name. I chose to take the simple route, the one I had barely begun to know.
I turned and was greeted by the view of an opening like a garden entrance, a glow of gold and green that begged me to see.
You discovered a new way today, now step back into the old path forever changed by your seeing.
The settled way, the way without accomplishment, goal or agenda.
The trusting way, the way to allow God to show me instead of anxiety’s need of always knowing, forever second guessing and harboring remorse because they did and I didn’t.
Mary, the sister of Martha chose to be settled, to choose the better in a time women were expected to be fixers of things, holders of it all together, preparers of perfectly orchestrated outcome things.
Perhaps, I may be exaggerating here. Naturally, I didn’t live in the days of the sisters who had Jesus come to dinner.
But, I have lived in days of huge expectations and pressures and I am beginning to understand, allow, most of all believe in the better.
“There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 NLT
To linger longer in the places God calls me, to slow down and believe he sees me.
Late in the afternoon, I watched from the windows. The trees that were far from me reminded me of a stormy ocean tide rolling on. The rhythm of their sway and the brushing up of the trees was a dance with the wind.
Synchronicity. I had said a quiet prayer, a pause and I opened my eyes and sat still.
I sat and rested my eyes on the horizon of dark cloudless sky, the gathering of trees.
Knowing it’s impossible to stay here for long, there are many things to do.
But, for a moment, and more moments later.
I can choose the new and the better, redemption this side of heaven.
This is one of those posts that needs a disclaimer: Memoir type personal plus possibly all over the place rambling, one of those that simply recording it cements the value of it all coming together.
Oh, and about aging and accepting it and not being caught up in regret.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16
I made a scribbled list of verses that comforted and confirmed my hopeful thoughts. I read a familiar passage, one used to reassure or comfort others after a disappointment, tragedy or just acceptance of unexpected change.
“God will make good of it.” Christians are known to say.
I cried the night before in front of my husband, not a horribly uncontrollable weeping, more a soft release. Tender, it felt.
We were catching up on things, I needed a few minutes of his attentiveness. Earlier, I pulled into the driveway and he greeted me and the only reply I gave was, “That did not go very well at all.”
He asked for an explanation. I said “later” and realized I was worn out from sharing how this unexpected thing made me feel, exhausted over trying to have another person understand my needs, my secrets, my reasons for anxiety.
Psalm 107 caused me to say softly this morning, “Wow”.
I’d found one verse and it fit and then I turned to read the chapter entirely, the one with the header in my Bible, “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So”.
“Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless.” Psalms 107:4 NLT
I still have things to say, the optimism of this truth met me.
I thought of my years of wandering, most of them not a misleading of my own making, but of being caught up, trapped, lost and to this day surprised to be a survivor.
I paused to pray. I thanked God for keeping me safe, for preserving my life.
Some things have happened in these pandemic panicked days that have triggered me.
Felt similar. There are requirements of this time that remind of control, of powerful demand, of being silenced; the mask I wear as mandated shields me for my health and others yet, reminds of being held down, told not to yell.
Last month, my dental woes began. A bridge that made up for four lost from damage teeth shifted and broke from one tooth that was an anchor.
I stood up in my art room, felt the slight change and it fell into the palm of my open hand.
“Bewildered” is a word my precious cousin used to describe me as a child. At gatherings she says she remembers seeing the expression in my preteen eyes and thinking, bewildered.
I was relieved that someone had seen it.
Here I find myself, a few days from 60 and bewildered again. Having to be reminded of the blows to my face and the hard slaps on my cheek over thirty years ago. The dental surgeon displayed the elaborate 3-D images of the jawline, the place where the cheek makes a little circle when I smile, the place that is now in resting mode as I prefer not to smile due to this gap of only gum because of broken bridge that covered missing teeth.
The surgeon seemed empathic, so I felt I should give an explanation as to why due to past trauma I was not a viable candidate for dental implants.
Why someone who looks pretty okay now at one time was not.
So, I spoke of my past. Soon after, wishing I hadn’t. It was not safe to share. Not that it was taken lightly or not heard, it was not safe for me to hear my own sharing.
It reminded me of being unseen and unheard in my past and deciding to stop asking, to change my expectations.
So, that night my husband sat and I told him how I felt in the dental chair and how the trauma of my past was being reborn and fighting to be thought and overthought. Saying this to him helped.
I cried a little and then decided to change my thoughts. I decided to resist the downward plummet into always a victim.
This is transformation, this intention to be aware of my safety, to begin to see that this is what Paul meant when he wrote all things God makes good.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance and He chose them to become like His Son. Romans 8:28 NLT
I saw this often quoted verse differently. It is not that God wants me to accept that the bad things were bad and somehow I am to accept that they will be made good. It is not that we don’t have sorrow, are expected to hide our longings for our mother and father who died before seeing a grandchild. It is not that we are naive thinking a crisis that leads to pain will magically feel better, be considered a good thing.
No, this passage is about the good that comes with acceptance of the bad and to continue to thrive, to continue to move towards a likeness of Jesus, to decide not to be pulled into misery over trauma, to be intentional in your speaking to your self, “You are safe. You made it and you have so much more making. You have still more story of redemption to tell.”
You can feel it. You are being called towards God’s purpose.
The purpose? Transformation
Your body is aging, shifting, even moving towards failing. All the while your spirit is blooming like a wildflower spread!
You were lost in a sad wilderness long ago. You decided on a different path, there were helpers but you set out at first on your own. You were and remain found!
A blind beggar lingered roadside as Jesus walked by. He and the disciples had just discussed which of the twelve would be most important of all. Jesus did not entertain the conversation as they continued on, only telling them not to be surprised that the last will be first.
The blind man spoke out, shared his plight and asked for mercy. The onlookers told him to be quiet. Jesus heard him and told him to come near. He jumped up from the dirt and went straight to Jesus. Jesus asked him how he could help and the man, blind Bartimaeus told him he wanted to see.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:49-51 NIV
There are many stories of healing in the Bible with similar endings, people in need are made well. People who’ve been harmed are healed. People who have been wronged or been wrong receive mercy.
Their faith, our faith has healed us.
And so they move forward in that very faith as followers, not backward glancers filled with regret or question of why and how and what was that sorrow’s purpose anyway?
He brought them out of the darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Psalm 107:14 ESV
Shortly, I will be back in the dental chair. I will begin the process to choose a partial (oh, that word!) over implants and I will accept what seems, feels and sounds so bad is best for me, is better. Better, than I expected.
After 45 minutes listening to an interview with someone discussing the idea of “faith over fear” and her testimony, I encountered real fear.
The interviewee shared of loss due to cancer, her mother’s death and her own diagnosis from which she recovered.
She recalled those fears and the interviewer asked about her testimony. She laughed and shared her stable faith driven upbringing and the path towards believing in Jesus that seemed, some might say, a boring story.
I silenced the podcast as I took the main road when approaching the hill, a sedan cut it close at the curve and forced me to walk in the overgrown ditch.
I thought little of it, said to myself you shouldn’t be on the pavement, this is not a quiet road.
I walked on as the high weeds brushed above my ankles. Tired and almost home, I looked down to see my shirt wet with sweat and saw the waiting snake. The snake with the markings my daddy taught me, the snake with the metallic like tail raised up in the weeds. The snake with its eye focused on crossing the road.
I was scared.
And then I wasn’t.
I had not been struck by the car, the snake did not turn and strike me.
Later, I wrote my June Newsletter to include what I’m learning about fear and its part in my story. Read and if you’d like, subscribe here.
More than focused on what could have happened, I thought of how I’d been protected. I remembered what I was learning about fear in relation to faith.
This is progress for me. My husband had been so nonchalant, “But, you didn’t step on the snake, you are okay.”
I agreed to agree with him. I let the fear go.
Fear of everything has always been a theme in my story. Fear of catastrophe, of rejection by those I love, of illness. But, my story of redemption has no place for that old chapter, those old characters.
Which story will I choose?
Like being in the middle of a thick rope in a tug of war game, fear is strong with the brute force to pull me back. Redemption is a more strategically played strength, the pull more steady with necessary breaks and balance leads to a sustainable victory.
Redemption will win because it won’t wear itself out aggressively like fear that’s so angry, so unpredictable, so mean and devilish.
Fear is an emotion. Faith is a committed choice.
I woke this morning wondering why more of us aren’t telling our redemption stories, our testimonies. The timing is good. Our fear fighting redemption story may lessen another’s fear. The time is opportune for sharers and for listeners. Dare I say, our stories of Jesus are not only more important but more sustaining than yet another commentary on the virus or the heartache of societal unrest.
Fear is a distraction, these times are skilled at using it.
Dare I say that? I suppose I should be afraid. My faith says don’t be.
“Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that I’ve ever heard.” an old hymn
The woman in the podcast interview was raised in church, began to believe at church camp around age 11.
Me, at age 11 is a story I’d love to forget. My Jesus story, my testimony began when an elderly pastor told me, a new single mama, that all I had to do was ask for mercy, Jesus died for me and grace and forgiveness is a gift called salvation.
It was mine for the asking.
So, I asked and received.
I’ve never doubted God’s love for me through Jesus, only doubted I’d ever simply believe I deserve it. This is the never withdrawing pursuit of grace. I am redeemed because of it. God doesn’t see my struggle to believe, He simply sees my continued pursuit of a deeper belief and loving communion with Him.
I sent the newsletter last night never mentioning the reckless car or the rattlesnake. I could hardly believe it! A day spent focused on faith and choosing to fight off fear was ended with a walk at dusk and tangible fear.
But, I was kept safe. I am safe. I am here to tell the story of it.
Just a thought, if there were not in us, this inner spark, a fervor to run farther, a desire to see little things that set our souls to trust once and so we go looking again…would there not be a source of that motivation?
How can we say we were not purposefully created when we seek, despite all this fear and all encompassing strife, to feel that fire again?
I added color to the somber piece I called melancholy. Changed its name again. Now, it is finished and the name is settled, “Returning to Rest”.
I heard a familiar tune from the hallway. Must’ve been stuck in his head from the Sunday service we watched on the TV in the den. Neither of us sang along. Church at home still weird.
I told him, I heard you can’t be sad or angry if you’re humming or whistling.
No response really.
But, he did resume his whistling as he walked away.
“Nobody loves me like you love me, Jesus!” Chris Tomlin
I woke up with this lyric. God wakes me up with songs some mornings. I think it’s sweet. I’m not a singer except in my car or the shower. I’m not even one to sing loud if someone’s in the car with me. I’m too self-conscious to raise my hands in church but I have found myself lately walking through my neighborhood with my palm to heaven, have driven down the road with one hand lifted in praise.
Maybe it’s God saying I know you’re longing to sing and you’ll be singing very soon. Maybe it’s just a truth I need.
Truth is, nobody knows me and loves me like Jesus. I can tell him my deepest regrets and He is gentle, not a harsh critic or a negative reply.
More importantly I can tell Him the sweetest possibilities I hope for and He knows the significance. He’s not surprised by my surprise over me being blessed in some way, chosen for something that is a deep deep longing, so deep a desire it’s kept secret.
But, He knows.
I stand in awe of His amazing ways.
“Nobody loves me like You love me, Jesus I stand in awe of Your amazing ways I worship You as long as I am breathing God, You are faithful and true…”Chris Tomlin
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
It’s trendy to choose a word for the year in some circles. Make a hashtag, tag it onto your posts, think about what it means to you.
So, when I chose endurance it was a subtle choice. Not working out with a buff trainer flipping tires and doing burpees kind of intention.
No, I chose endurance because it seemed to be the mindset to the phrase I like to live.
Continue and believe.
It felt like a soft determination to put action and patience and steps forward. No destination or goal, just keep going.
And I liked the idea of it. It was doable.
Then the pandemic crept in and took over and I laughed a little cynical giggle, what was I thinking to choose the word endurance?
But, I didn’t let it consume me. I decided it meant what I meant it to mean.
Months have passed and the days are written in my journal with the word “surrender” written daily and circled, the thick circle somehow making me believe I could and should do it.
Because I love words I found myself not really understanding the purpose of the word and my daily circling.
I began to feel it was something different God wanted me to embrace.
Today marks the return of my very old and reliable friend.
Today, I return to trust. The word surrender can be found in the Bible in the context of battle. Not once is it found in the New Testament, only the idea of it.
I’m fully on board with idea, the idea of giving my concerns, my goals, my worries to God in surrender and letting Him filter the outcomes. I am for this for sure. I’m just more certain that now more than anything I need to recommit my mind to “trust”, the word and decision I used to scribble on my wrist before making a speech or decision.
Yes, I am returning to trust today.
And I’m sticking with endurance in my own unique way.
Believe and continue.
Trust, a good word. I hope I’m known for not quitting, not striving to be the grand winner, simply staying in the race.
I intentionally leave the blinds open now. The morning light and the shift of the sheers is my gentle waking alarm.
I’ve been thinking about fear and the contradiction of such beautiful occurrences as light through the window and when will this fear inducing pandemic uncertainty end.
But, I talked about fear the other day with my friend as we sorted out the hurtful and inappropriate behavior of another. I told my friend
At the core, it’s fear. Every unwanted behavior spills over from the fear brought on by something the other person has kept and is fighting to keep secret.
Since then, I’ve been contemplating fear. How so many of us are allowing our fear to go unacknowledged. We are afraid of things we can’t name on top of our already debilitating fears.
We are justified in our fear.
After all, there is no page in this book we’re all currently reading to tell us which chapter we are in.
Are we still reading the introduction? Have we moved into the mix of characters’ conflict, resolution and either an ending that leaves us unfulfilled and angry over giving time to its finishing or the final chapter in a really honest memoir that leads us to feel satisfied in the reconciliation of the author’s story?
We know little about this epic story called Co-Vid. I suppose we keep reading the book of it.
As needed. Only.
Otherwise, there are too many plot twists and too many arguments to make it pleasing or informative, to get pulled in, sleepless night reading birthing crazy night terrors.
I bet you can tell, I’m unschooled when it comes to this pandemic or anything else global or political.
This is by choice. Knowing everything is potentially harmful to catastrophic story writing me.
Today, I opened my Bible and decided to focus on fear.
Then I journaled each of them, as if taking notes for an upcoming test.
The section in my Bible that is called “What the Bible says about…” lists seven scriptures on fear. I googled “how many times is fear mentioned in the Bible?” The answer was “over 500” with a little more about the statement “do not fear” being in the Bible 365 times.
Many of us already know this cool fact. Many of us know God does not want us to be afraid, reminds us He is our strength and any fear we feel is from man not Him.
The greatest gift of reading my Bible is reading a verse I’ve read before but it being different, God being intentional in my receiving of it. Today, it’s 4 words from Isaiah 41:13
I am your God.
God is not just the God I believe, the Heavenly Father who desires eternity for me and so He gave His only Son. He is of course, those things.
But, He is my God. Yours too, as if we could be the one and only and He belongs to each of us with the same amount of love, of power, of protection, of fighting for us in a gentle way…as if to say, know this love I have for you more fully, better.
I am yours. God
The other verses are just as good. This thing called fear in this time called Corona has me thinking. Fear is complicated now. We can’t name the reasons for it because we’re overwhelmed with questions and information and a non ending to this chapter and book.
I do know God says don’t fear.
So, I’m sure fear must be coming from somewhere I’m not supposed to be seeing, hearing, absorbing into my thoughts. Maybe if there is one teaching and promise we can all wrap our minds around, it is this.
Do not fear.
Maybe it’s our heart and mind’s stubborn and faithful incomprehensible to others decision not to live in fear.