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,
If she could go without a soul knowing, she knew where she’d run off to. Down Highway 80 through Savannah, through the mossy oaked canopy, and over the bridge crossing grassy low tidewaters. She would find that old place, the place she felt known. She would take what she needed, chill some water in the Frigidaire, and have crackers and peanut butter wrapped in her Kleenex, food for the road. All would be well. She’d venture down to the lonely October shore and sit on the sand; she would be on the beach. She would wash her feet in the frothy tide. She’d sleep soundly with the breeze, the little clapboard house by the shore, the place she longed for, left her art there, the place where her dreams began. The place where someone else now lives, strangely she decided they would just welcome her in. She would wake with the autumn crispness and move towards the kitchen, avoiding the tiny room, space where she used to stay. She ached to be there again. She longed to have her fingers, arms. elbows covered in paint, to forgo the brush, blending colors in. She would consider painting again, maybe later. She might allow herself to be taken away, to be lost in the translation of her concerns to thickly layered colors. “Iris”, she might pencil in in the corner, always signing that way. Maybe this evening she thought when the light comes through the sheers just before the day gives way to night. She might settle in then, lose all track of time and heartache. Wouldn’t that be something? Everyone would talk! Iris has up and left Earl, she always had an independent streak! She smiled, thinking of all the women at the factory, the gossip, the whispers.
Instead, she drove back home, the little white house, tin-roofed and porch screened in. It was Friday, no telling what was waiting. Her husband, a carpenter, fisherman, a rounder, and rascal would be waiting. About thirty minutes away, longer if she could drive like she wanted, slow and smooth in her silvery-blue Impala, if she could she just keep right on going she would. She’d like to take longer before easing up the hill and cruising, her foot off the gas and over the bridge that marked the creek. She flipped on the blinker, she had to get on home. The highway changed to sandy dirt; the first curve was the sharpest as she passed his cousin’s place. She cracked the window and let the other one down all the way, Remer’s wife would be peering through the parlor window, same time every day, making sure she had come back home. The one perched on the tractor slowing to see her, his baby brother was watching too, knowing he’d made it home from wandering now and waiting for his wife to get her “sorry self” back home. She smiled, satisfied in her last moments of alone. Creating pretty things, little flowery dresses, gingham checked and ruffled, her art, the products made by her hands. Only three days into October and she had made production.
Her fingers were bent and achy, their tips flattened smooth. One hundred little Christmas dresses from four different patterns and each of them the same except their velvety hue; cobalt blue, rich red, emerald green, or ivory. Some with broad white collars and some with wide sashes for tying bows cinching perfectly around tiny waists. For ten hours a day and a Saturday, she had been taken away to a place that was hers, a place she could be proud of, a place close enough to feel free, free like the painting she used to do.
She turned onto the path that led her back home. He might be sitting out back on the steps or she might hurry in past the sight of his broad back in bib overalls, bent over the old table cleaning his fish. She wouldn’t ask him what he had done today, only go about her business, get herself out of her slacks and cotton blouse and into her housedress and slippers, he’d been waiting for his supper. She knew his expectations. She understood her role.
As she headed towards the kitchen she remembered, there was no rice for supper! Oh, Lord have mercy! She had forgotten to cook that morning. Her husband had gone without, no rice for dinner and none waiting for his supper. She turned back towards the hallway and she saw it there, the old rice pot that was always sittin’ on the stove, it had been thrown up against the sitting room wall. Laying there with the sun coming through the picture window, shining like a flash of warning or a lost coin, either way, the rice was not ready, supper would not be on time. There was nothing for her to do now. She would have to be prepared. Sooner or later he would barrel through the door, overalls half on and half off and the stub of sucked-on cigar loping sideways from his lip. She would know right away; she would detect the smell or not of Pabst Blue Ribbon. She could only hope there wasn’t a deeper smell, the thick scent of warm bourbon or the belligerent tone of clear liquid, meaning there might be anger and she was surely too tired to take him on. Oh, how she wished her girls were there. But, long gone they were and with husbands of their own, one feisty and determined and the other followed not too far behind. She hoped the other brother who lived beyond the cornfield might pass through. They would talk of the weather or the crops or the President, move to compare their sorry-ass women, and how their lives should have turned out differently. But it was looking like a lone night, just the two of them and she had no idea when he might decide to come inside.
She turned to listen, as still as she could be, and decided he must be occupied with cleaning fish or digging bait or maybe brooding in a close to drunken state. She had time maybe, time to get the rice ready, time to pretend she had not forgotten before leaving for work, leaving her husband here. She reached for the Tupperware and opened its lid to scoop out the white grain into the soon-to-be boiling pot of water.
She startled when the screen door creaked. She stood still to measure his mood by the weight of his feet on the porch. She listened as he grew closer, seemed somehow more spring in his step. She’d grown accustomed to the heaviness of his stride, his feet like cinder blocks, the way they seemed so thick, pushing himself along in despair. Her heart was pounding. She listened. He stepped into the kitchen and ambled towards the sink and there he lingered. She felt his breathing on the back of her neck, she noticed the scent of his labor and decided today, maybe he had been working. She opened her mouth not sure what to say or which way she should begin. Before she could speak, he came even closer and then turned, his hand on her shoulder, the other one circling around her waist. He cradled her for a moment and then turned and walked away, left her standing there. Butterflies rose up in her belly and fluttered in dance at her throat.
She was frozen in front of the stove; the sensation of his touch had overwhelmed her. She looked at the pot waiting for the boiling water and listened as he ran the bathtub water, longer than usual. What in the world, was he not worried anymore about the well running dry? She realized she had more time. She opened the icebox and pulled out a chicken and the beans. If she hurried, the Crisco would be ready about the time the rice simmered down and the leftover lima beans, she would season them with a fresh “strick o’ lean”. She listened as she worked, his odd behavior allowed her more time. She thought of slipping past the tiny bathroom to the bedroom mirror to check her hair and her face, but she decided not to chance it, he would hear. She never knew really; she was careful not to wake her sleeping giant of a man. Something might set him off and he’d holler loud from the other side of the wall, probably then he’d let her have it, did she just expect him to go hungry again?
Supper was nearly done ‘bout the time the sky changed from blue to dark and thundering grey. The wind was whipping the loose tin on the back shed and pine limbs were threatening to come through the windows, thick and green they pushed against the windows and then moved away just long enough for her to see where the storm was headed, how long it was staying, the hard rain, the threatening thunder the flash of angry lightning. He’d be back in the kitchen any minute and he’d tell her he knew it all day, he knew a cloud was making up, he saw it coming. She waited and then continued. She floured the chicken and dropped it carefully in while the beans were warming and the rice was filling up the pot, the water making it thick and the way he liked it, thick and fluffed, not mushed together. The aroma filled the room, a later than normal supper. She was scrambling to move the cast iron from the heat for the gravy when he came around the corner. He walked towards the table, pulled his chair out, and told her, “You ain’t got to make no gravy.”
He surprised her when he said softly, “I was thinkin’ all day, I sure hope we get a good hard rain.” then asked her how her dressmaking went today. She answered that it was good, he nodded and then just looked away. He told her he had gone to town and that he talked with a man about helping a man with some carpentry. Rumor had it that there were new houses coming in just out past the grocery store, that a Yankee from Carolina had bought up all the land and that somebody told them if you need a good carpenter, well, Earl is your man. He told her that he was sure the rich man had been warned, “You just have to catch him sober or not fishin’”. She listened as he continued, remembering her daddy and how she had been warned about his reputation, his family was good people, but the son was rowdy. He was a charmer she remembered, his swagger swept her away, upturned lip with an “I got you girl” smile, he reeled her in. They finished their supper and she rose to clean the dishes as he leaned back in his chair and told her, “You better get on to bed, they’ll be expecting you early again tomorrow.” She paused, “Good night.” she said, and then she barely heard him mumble in reply. She did not remind him she would not be working tomorrow.
The storm had passed, and the windows only open a tiny bit, she listened to the birds in an exchange, singing sweetly one to another, the crickets and the frogs down by the pond would soon join in. Tomorrow she decided, she would go to town, it was Saturday, she might see if he wanted to ride along. She drifted off to sleep, slept like a baby. She woke to the sound of coffee percolating and a strange sense of mystery, of newness, and of intrigue. Coffee and cream and the corn flakes and evaporated milk were placed on the table. No words were spoken between them, unfamiliar and awkward, this new way of them. Not his way to think of fixin’ breakfast.
“I think I’m going to town today.” she offered. He grunted. He had grown accustomed to her independence, gave up on changing or caging her in. She did what her preacher man daddy raised her to do, she was dependable and gave in to most everything, knew when to leave him alone, stay out of his way. He let her veer off on occasion, it gave him his space. He didn’t know what she was up to, what was happening between them? He said okay when she out of nowhere asked, “You want to ride to town with me?” then he instantly regretted his answer. What in the world? That would mean changing his overalls, changing his plans, putting on clean boots, sitting closer to her than he had in years, all enclosed in her car and barely an arm’s length away from her body. He would be the passenger in her beloved Chevrolet. “You ready?’ she asked. He looked out the window and walked away, never gave an answer. She waited. She wondered. She regretted asking. Then she heard the rusty creak of the old Nova’s door, the pumping of his foot on the gas to give it the boost it required, and the beat-up old chassis backed up and bolted through the field and down the roads, swerving she knew it, barely keeping it between the ditches.
She sat as morning changed around her. The corn flakes flat and floating, the coffee cold and the house was again silent. She thought of her life, how it could have been. She remembered the cousin who left Georgia and moved to California, became a designer, famous in a way she supposed. She rose to wipe the counters, poured the coffee out the back door, took the corn flakes down by the edge of the woods, scraped her bowl, left it all there. She promptly returned to the bedroom, made her bed, knelt down, and prayed. She rose to gather the white blouse starched and waiting and navy slacks, flat shoes. She found her blue cameo pin. She washed her face, took the bobby pins from her hair, added red lipstick then blotted it to fade to barely there. Dressed and ready, she grabbed her pocketbook and her keys, her little list, her memorandum and she slammed the door behind her. It was only 8:00 in the morning and she knew he would be down by the river; she had the whole day.
Iris slid into the seat of her car, glancing down through the field, corn on either side, the road that led to his family. She popped it in reverse and glided back before turning the other way. She had no idea where she was going, she just knew she was going away. She made it to town too early for lunch, barbeque had been the plan for the day. She decided on the café, found a booth, and sat to listen, watch, pay attention to others. A pattern of hers it has always been, comparison of her life to almost everyone everywhere, she was an observer. The waitress served her coffee, toast, and jelly as she lingered. She thought about the possibility, of her husband sitting across the table having a pleasant conversation. She remembered the night before, the glimmer of different, a slight change in him, for them. No idea what to do next, she paid her bill and left, walked out into a perfectly cloudless day, and then started her car to go on her way. Windows down and a scarf tied at her neck, she drove towards the beach and then turned back the other way. Unsure whether to be angry at herself for not going or satisfied that she chose the better thing, she remembered her memorandum and made her way to the McConnell’s Five and Dime.
Barely noon, she still had a lot of day. She opened the door, welcomed by a sharp clanging bell. “Well, hello Iris”, she heard someone say and she turned to see an old classmate; the one who left the country and made her way to the big city. She smiled, dreading the questions of how and what in the world have you been doing. She anticipated grand stories of her successful husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brick home, a garden with brilliant flowers, a display of pride, and better than. Small talk of family and weather led to nosy interrogations she endured. Inquiries of her husband, of her daughters, of their home, and whether she had ever decided to pick back up on painting.
She answered all of them, made excuses to hurry up her shopping, nice to see you again, say hello to your mama. She watched her walk away, listened as her heels clickety clacked down the aisle, and overheard her words to the cashier, condescension over an apparent mistake in her change. Iris stood for a moment and then decided on a change. She slowly pushed her buggy down one aisle and then the next, forgot about the Pine-Sol and the detergent, continued on her search until she found it, the small section with the thick ivory papers, the colors, and the brushes. A box of crayons, she opened them and smiled over all the colors before closing tightly the lid and setting them down in her buggy. A large brush for backgrounds and a small for details, two or three more for blending and then tubes, oh so very many happy tubes of paint! She inventoried her list, best she could remember she had all she would need. She paid for her items and danced through the exit doors; going back home, not running away.
As fast as she could, she made her way back home, mapped out the afternoon, time allotted her for solitude. She thought of what she might do for a bite to eat, enough to get by until supper, she was excited, so very excited. Barely turning to notice the sister-in-law, the cousins, the brother in the field, she pulled in and unloaded quickly, laid her beautiful things out on the porch. She grabbed the peanut butter and the crackers, ice water, and a banana. Remembered the rice then and considered not cooking but decided it’ll only take a minute, might as well do this for him. It was expected and it required so very little of her, put the water in the pot, the rice does the boiling, cover it with a lid and just leave it there. It will be there for him, whenever and however he comes back in. It was such a little gesture, somehow, she saw it now, as a gift.
All of that accomplished, she found a big old sheet, spread it out on the floor, and made a place for her paper. She found an old piece of wood, leaned it up against the screen, and with a rusty nail positioned her idea of an easel for her paper canvas. A jar filled with water and brushes soaking, she found an old broken dish and made herself a palette. Vibrant blue was her background and greens, red and purple followed. With no idea of how to begin, what to paint, she simply layered colors. She stood back and admired the symmetry, the way one color spilled over to another bordered by heavy tint turning to faint shade and shadow. She found the box and crayons and added flowing lines in length and layers, she decided they reminded her of gowns. So, she quickly added shoulders, gauzy sleeves over arms, and shapes of faces titled one way or another. She added ruddy cheeks and pale hollowed ones made barely noticeable bridges of noses and only just hints of blue, brown, or green where the women in flowing gowns eyes would be. She sighed, an audible “Ah!” escaped from her lips, and then she felt it, the smile, the filling up because of it of her cheeks. She gazed at the colors, the freedom of them, thick paper flamboyant and joyous colors, all types of stories. She rested then realized the time had escaped her. The dusk of the day was approaching. She gathered her jars and her brushes, stuffed crayons back in the box, and careful not to ruin the extras, gingerly picked up her papers, picked up the unpeeled banana, and nibbled a stale cracker. She scrubbed the brushes and laid them on a dishcloth to dry, turned on the pilot light, and then the burner, the rice, oh, Lord, the rice had to be ready! Hurriedly she finished, put everything away, and decided chicken from last night would be enough, would be okay. She walked out onto the back porch to see the coral sun setting and she breathed deeply, sat down in the place where he’d be pulling in, and rested her bare feet in the soft cool dirt-like sand. Her husband would be home eventually; but she wasn’t worried, not afraid.
She made a choice today when she could have chosen another way. She could have chosen rebellion, a trip to Tybee, and come what may. She surely did consider it. She could have chosen pity pouting in the discount aisle and she could have chosen to be a fighter for her freedom. Instead, she chose to gently open her own door. Iris was daydreaming when she heard the familiar sound of him coming around the corner. She thought to get herself together, to hurry back in, stand waiting in the kitchen in a wifely way. She stayed still, she waited. He pulled into the driveway and turned to look her way, puzzled for sure, he smiled, and then he shook his head. He walked over to see her and asked, “How was your day?” Before she could answer he told her he was sorry, that he knew she wanted him to go to town today. She smiled and asked about his day, about where he had been. He answered with a grin, told her he drove towards the river then came back to check the pond dam, decided to see the plot of land where the fancy houses would be, and ended up back at his brother’s, just sitting around mostly. She told him supper was about ready and that she had just wanted some air. She reached for her shoes, brushed the sand from her feet, and headed back in. He walked beside her, straight with no sign of stagger and he reached for her hand. She did not know what to make of it, she allowed it, she accepted him then. As they stepped towards the porch, she saw the makeshift easel, she remembered the painting. He opened the door and held it for her, and he turned, and he saw it and said nary a word. Supper was different because he kept on being different and when it was done, he pushed his plate to the table’s center and got up out of his chair.
She watched as he stepped towards the porch; listened as he stepped back towards her. He carried the piece of wood made into an easel and tenderly placed it with its still moist colors on the sill of the window that looked out towards the field. Then he shifted it left a little before saying, “That’s somethin’ else! A real pretty paintin’ Iris, why don’t you make another one for here.” She stood up from the table and met him in the middle and she knew in her heart, everything would change from here, her independent streak not broken against her will, but gently set free and blended, the color returning to her story.
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).
“And if anyone doesn’t listen to you and rejects your message, when you leave that house or town, shake the dust off your feet.” Matthew 10:14 TPT
I can hear it clearly. My mama would say “Turn the page.” and if necessary, repeated just those words.
Move one, let go, carry on kind of thinking, no need to linger here thinking of the wrong.
I’ve learned to pay attention to waking thoughts. After filtering the crazy dreams (last night my mama was napping while someone else cooked supper, pork chops) I wait to see what resolution of yesterday’s woe comes to the surface.
A question came today, “Am I difficult to work with or were they?” An honest assessment of my part and another’s led me to realize, I’d done my part and they hadn’t. I could see this issue, unmet expectations in many areas of my life.
I’m not great at advocating for myself. It’s a learned behavior. I’m even less good at moving on past doors that didn’t welcome me.
I am learning this stems from unmet childhood needs and it’s a tough thing to identify, am I needy or are they not meeting my needs?
It’s a trauma wound and a trigger, a very good thing to know how it affects you and whether your appraisals of others are accurate or if you’re needing longed for acceptance.
“You’re very good at understandingyour flaws.” someone told me.
Yes, I’ve gotten better and it has led to growth and wholeness. It has led to this truth and even more seeking:
“God will continue to bring people, circumstances, behaviors of others into your life until you consistently know the approval, acceptance, and applause of others will never compare to His love. Notice of others will never be enough, won’t last long, and often will disappoint. People who court you can’t always be trusted. People who promise may forget they promised and people will forget they knew you or might not open their door.”
Turn the page. Walk away. Walk towards God’s call.
Jesus told his disciples to shake the dust from their feet, head to a new city, away from those who didn’t receive them or their message.
You will not be accepted by everyone.
Be smart. Be astute observers. But, be gentle. It may be scary to “put yourself out there”. You’ll feel vulnerable, being vulnerable is a sign of authentic faith. Doing things you can’t see clearly resulting in acceptance or rejection.
Be remembered as kind and gentle; but, exercise the accuracy and wisdom God gave you.
If you’re rejected, continue on another way. But, don’t give up. (my takeaways)
“Now, remember, it is I who sends you out, even though you feel vulnerable as lambs going into a pack of wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes yet as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 TPT
I write about what God brings me in my own process of healing from past trauma.
I write reluctantly often.
A voice on one side saying no one wants to hear that and another saying your honesty about your continued healing and clarity about your triggers and negative patterns may help someone else.
I write because I’m simply continuing as I believe in redemption through Jesus, a prettier story of hope and wisdom comes every single merciful morning.
I hope so for you too. Shake the dust of yesterday’s defeats off your shoulders and carry on.
Carry on today.
“He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall. God is my keeper; he will never forget nor ignore me.” Psalms 121:3 TPT
This tiny bird is a keepsake from my daughter’s pre-wedding weekend. A small shop in the mountains filled with cute trendy things and I chose a bird as small as the cup of my palm.
A sparrow danced on the porch yesterday. Instead of hurrying my granddaughter outside, I watched through the window as it watched me. It rested on the ledge, turned to face me, and then flew away.
As if to say, remember.
You are seen and known.
You are cared for fully.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
Today, my devotional included this verse. It’s a verse you might see on a greeting card, a coffee mug or framed words written in pretty black flowing letters.
It occurred to me, not sure why not before.
God is not small at all.
His voice is mighty.
It calms me and calls me.
It protects me with warnings.
It soothes me with song.
God’s rejoicing over me may cause me to think of beautiful birds.
But, God is not that small at all.
Nor is His presence, love and power.
I pray you remember with me.
God is singing over us and His voice overpowers all other songs, all other voices that threaten or sing worrisome songs.
Look up. Notice God.
He is with you.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
Twice I saw the man with the cross. Once on the southern part of town, the busy places, the reckless and impatient drivers, the scurrying about grocery shoppers in the days before Easter Sunday.
Then again downtown, on the northern side, blocks from the pretty shops, the sidewalk strollers, he was at an intersection.
The first time, he walked with the wooden cross, a display of his allegiance. He carried the beams joined together and he’d decorated the center with Easter colored florals. I seem to remember he himself was dressed in a jacket and was intentionally put together in a way that seemed to be his best.
At an intersection, two days later, he stood next to a bicycle. The bike, the big cross and this man.
I’d never seen him before.
I waited at the light and glanced to my left. Waiting as well to cross was a man in shorts, unshaven and gazing down at his work-boot clad feet, a faded backpack slipping down from his shoulder.
I didn’t recognize him either. In my years of homeless work I’d seen many like these two, just not them. I thought of their condition, I assumed mental illness and addiction.
I woke with regret over that supposed reason for their condition, their behavior and decision.
I drove downtown and across town yesterday hoping to see one or both.
The Book of Mark’s introduction in the back of my Bible tells me that the writer is possibly anonymous, theological experts say he wrote his gospel based on Peter’s teaching. I love the tone in Mark’s words. I’m certain I would have been fixed on the words of Peter preaching too.
I read Mark’s description of John the Baptist and I immediately thought of the man on the bike with the flower adorned cross.
“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”Mark 1:6-7 ESV
John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth, the unborn child who was moved by the presence of Jesus while in his mother’s womb.
It was his purpose to go first and then point to the one others like me should follow.
Maybe the man with the cross and the man crossing the intersection began a conversation as I drove home.
Maybe the assumed “crazy” countenance of the one honoring Jesus that day led to questions and then to answers.
Maybe the one I assumed would speak of Jesus was all wrong, maybe the man without the cross was the giver.
Maybe the man worn and weary, walking alone from somewhere had a story to tell.
Maybe the two shared their affection for Jesus.
Andrew Peterson has a voice of comfort, a call to consider love and understanding in most of his songs. Honestly, he beckons us to understand ourselves and then better understand others.
This song, this morning beckons me to consider the ways I don’t understand Jesus’ love for me and then to decide it’s not for me to understand completely, only to accept and believe it.
“And even in the days when I was young There seemed to be a song beyond the silence The feeling in my bones was much too strong To just deny it. I can’t deny this. I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection Seized by the power of a great affection.” Andrew Peterson
I took time to listen this morning, the song Pandora plays for me often. I remembered telling my first real boss that I chose to work in careers that helped others because of a little girl decision. I remembered being certain that I understood the burdens of other children and as a little girl, I knew I’d be called to help them.
I had no idea back then, that was Jesus calling me tenderly towards today, the notice of other tender hearts, the prayers for people as I see them on the street or downcast in the grocery aisle. The sharing of a book filled with birds for children that closes with the assurance of Jesus.
Not just for children.
I hadn’t thought of that shy little girl that I was for a very long time until I listened.
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.
I wear a T-shirt quite often, lots of times under a sweatshirt. Soft in color and fabric, across the chest are the words, “known and loved”. Wearing it feels like my little secret, the one thing I want to remember once more.
Once my life was different than it is today. Once there were reasons to fear. Now, there are reasons to embrace not being afraid.
The woman caught in adultery found herself on display, a crowd had shown up to see her stoning. She waited. She knew the law of Moses. She anticipated the punishment.
The men invited Jesus into the discussion, into the abuse. He invited them to consider their own wrongs and sins of a sexual nature.
Telling the group, the one of you who’s never committed such acts, you can go first, I give you permission to commence the stone throwing.
Jesus waited. He wrote in the sand as the tension must have surely risen and the onlookers waited to see which among these men was perfect.
“And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.” John 8:8 ESV
The men turned and walked away, maybe the crowd dispersed. Jesus asked the woman if she realized what had just happened.
Her sin of adultery was known and yet, she escaped death by stoning.
He made sure she understood that she was known and loved, not known and condemned.
Once my life was different. Now I am known and loved.
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11 ESV
Walk in the way of forgiveness. Know your heart in light of mercy. Who we are now matters more than who we once were.
Linking up with others prompted by the word “once”.
I sat alone in the silent house and prayed along with the new meditation on the “Pause” app, the guided prayer I’ve tapped in to about 600 minutes of based on the book I’m now in my second reading of, “Get Your Life Back” by John Eldredge
Two times I welcomed tears before my day had hardly begun. I felt better because of them.
The day was full. It was good and late last night I took mental inventory of it all, all of the promises fulfilled and the ones sure of fulfillment.
My granddaughter and I visited our County library, a first for her. We had the big open room with art on the wall and every other space books on shelves. We settled with a few and then she’d excitedly go for more.
An older lady came in, found a few for herself, smiled at the baby and said “Precious” and the baby lifted her little hand and said “Hey”.
Next on the agenda, a grocery pick up of needed diapers and the person who showed up at the window.
A daughter of a friend, I was happy to see her. She smiled when I told her just how powerful her voice is. I believe she only recently decided to sing. I was moved by her talent shared on social media.
Her mother had asked to purchase a 2021 calendar and then didn’t get back to me. So, I said “Hey, tell your mom to send me her address and she can just use PayPal to pay, I’ve marked them down, just $20 now.”
Then I changed my mind and told her to open the back of my car and just grab one, tell your mother it’s a gift.
She smiled and we headed to pick up our Chick Fil A, the baby still content, taking it all in.
All morning I’d been calling my friend’s pregnancy care center, no answer and I’d hoped to drop off a donation. Oh well.
With our lunch and after lunch plans, we headed for home; but, on the way saw the cars outside Life Choices and decided now they’re here.
In the parking lot, a gentleman turned from the door, confused I guess as to why they weren’t open. I lowered my passenger window and asked.
His eyes met mine, a similar blue with a little more sparkle. He introduced himself as a retired pastor and a friend of the Director and I smiled and said “Me too, I was hoping to drop off a donation.”
I asked if he had someone in his family who might like a calendar. Told him I had lots left over, I guess this year wasn’t the year for calendars and my donation is what I have left of them.
I didn’t tell him what I’d decided, the calendars hadn’t done very well because I was wrong, I wasn’t good enough.
He took a calendar for his adult daughter who had to move back home along with her baby as I explained to him the inspiration for the illustrations.
He offered to pay for it. I said no thanks and we talked a little more about art and the children’s book about to be available. I gave him the big stack of calendars and he assured me he’d deliver them.
His presence of peace for my granddaughter and I was evident as he offered and I accepted his offer to pray.
Last night, I settled down and recalled the day. A thought came, God’s presence was evident. I told myself, remember the times of today, these are the places you should be focused…making art, writing about Jesus, talking about it with others.
I thought of the calendars and how they weren’t successful. I remembered my angst over getting it wrong, the text on the back cover. I’d written a little note telling those who bought the calendar why I loved the passage about the alabaster vase. I referred to the woman who showered her affection on Jesus as immoral and later, for some reason, I decided you were wrong to say that, you’re not a biblical scholar and what if you assumed she was immoral, you just wanted her to be relatable, took liberties with her story to sell your calendar.
My thoughts went back to the God who is critical, not comforting, the one who points out wrong until you’re right enough for grace.
While the baby napped, I read the passage for the day, Luke 7.
The recording by Luke of the woman with the alabaster vase is here and I read from the Passion translation, a Bible I only recently purchased. The words are more vivid, descriptive, different.
Here I am on Wednesday after very good restful sleeping.
The amaryllis bulb I bought as a gift for myself is rich in color, leaning slightly towards the window and I wonder if I sat here all day, would I witness its bloom?
Instead, I’ll conquer a few things peacefully today without hurry. I’ll tackle the tasks that seemed made no difference anyway.
My Tuesday closed with “This Is Us”, the most beautiful depiction of God restoring broken hearts and long held hard sorrow I have ever seen. Tune in if you haven’t.
I’ll see again today and tomorrow the evidence of God’s goodness all over my life. I will not fear and I will not dread. I’ll not decide I’m not worth it.
I will continue and believe in the possibility of victorious days.
In a year that was “novel” in so many ways that robbed our peace, being at peace was my solution, at least my constant reset.
I didn’t and don’t watch the news, I stopped scrolling when something was being proclaimed about Jesus that contradicted what God’s word said. I avoided conflict and although I shared my opinions and beliefs at times, I ended up realizing people who disagreed would counter with comments that hurt.
At some point, I decided that people who disagreed and spoke up were just trying to maintain control. I mean, in a year that meant so little control, being ticked off and being outspoken was, I suppose the one thing many people could control.
But, in conversations with others, only just one or two, I kept going back to “being at peace, so that I can be peace for others.” And I learned this was something impossible on my own.
Today, the last day of 2020, God brought it all together. Peace is accepting your present knowing God is protecting you from being damaged emotionally by revisiting your past, saving you from stepping back into it, and trusting that He knows your tomorrow, that your future is providentially good, better than you could create without Him.
So, be at peace in your present. Look for evidence in nature, happenstance and the faces of those you love that say…Jesus is here.
“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 30:21 ESV
Thank you for encouraging me this year. Be certain of one thing, the things God tells me to share here quite often astound me! Also, feel like way “too much Lisa”.
Still, someone needs peace too, otherwise God wouldn’t give me words about it.
Happy New Years Eve, be at peace.
Continue and believe.
Think less of what you didn’t accomplish, follow through to completion and more on the things that surprised you as givers of peace picked for you.
I love a vignette! Here’s the third word in the trio of “yearly words”
Makes sense although it feels mostly only like “I hope so.”
Tying up the words, “hopeful2019” and “endurance2020” with a stronger faith, one I’m cooperating with towards “victorious2021”