The crescent moon reappeared after a week of enormous full one. Its beauty is subtle, causing the eye to be discriminant towards the heavens, the evidence of cycle, of God in a quiet and sure way.
If courage had an expression I wonder what it would be.
If someone had the inability to hide their thoughts from their facial expressions.
What would the face of courage reveal?
Would courage look like tragedy, would the countenance of courage be downward glances, forlorn faces or broken distressed mouths formed in a grimace to convey the pain that courage represents?
Would it be like the joy of a love for another that’s met in an equal exchange or like the glee of a surprise causing a wide and spontaneous smile.
Not that way, I don’t think the expression of courage would show in that way.
Courage has a countenance more solid, more settled, more internal.
Steady, a secret formula.
Courage keeps a record of profit and loss and has tallied up the cost.
The value is underneath the layers, immeasurably personal and for the most part.
Courage is secretive.
Is a secret.
I sat on the pew marked for friends of the deceased. Family on the right side and us on the left, we were a sparse group.
Five of us spoke. The summation?
Each of us in our individual ways remembered this individual as courageous.
If courage had words to share, I wonder what it would say.
Not very much, I’ve decided.
Courage is just that way.
Not a braggart or an instructor.
Courage is more.
Courage is a quiet conqueror who given the chance will tell of the agony, the distress that brought them to bravery.
Give its testimony.
Otherwise, courage stays quiet.
Stays quiet as a way to cherish and guard this inner resolve and immeasurable source.
Courage is the evidence that we know and believe in God’s love.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Romans 8:35-37 ESV
The cost of courage?
Impossible accounting, irreplaceable, its value and the places from whence it comes.
Individual trials, personal triumphs.
Continue and believe.
I’m linking up with others, prompted by the word “cost”.
For a long time, very long time, we all remembered and talked about the time.
I’ve never been to New York City nor D.C.. I’ve never travelled by plane although I’m beginning to entertain the possibility, romanticize the big “6-0”.
I do remember the morning of 9/11. I remember I was at DFCS in my little square office with a window on a hallway with other “welfare” workers who I considered friends.
I loved working with these people. I did.
My mama called, the children were in school an hour away and I cannot remember whether we closed the office and all of us went home.
Eventually, I was with them, home and safe with my husband.
Changed, not because I knew anyone there nor remotely understood their trauma, fear, tragedy. I had no idea.
I have no idea.
Yesterday evening, social media informed me of the death of a popular young pastor and mental health pioneer,
I felt afraid because of his story, suicide and its occurrence is to me “scary”.
Because it’s happening more and because I’ve been with those who have been knocked down by the tragic reality.
I find it scary.
I’m following the journey of a child named Eva, in an induced coma now and it all started with a tumble to the ground, a simple fall.
Her mama wrote about hope this morning in her Instagram.
I began to think about life and hope.
About tragedy interspersed with triumph because it seems to me this is life in this world, in most of our worlds.
I remember my mama calling on 9/11.
I remember the morning my brother called to tell me my mama was gone.
The loud moan that came up from my belly that morning must have frightened my admin, the others in the office next door.
She was gone.
I had prayed so very hard she’d be healed. I had talked with her about faith and hope, brand new and uncomfortable things for me.
Things I thought were real, my mama’s death like a test I failed, my hope was either wrong or not enough.
I stopped believing.
Because, she was gone.
Mornings like that, losses and tragedies linger.
Tragedy is interspersed with triumph though.
This is life.
I believe it.
So, how did I continue, they continue…the ones for whom today brings fatal remembrances?
I believe we must choose as best we can with God’s help.
To be well.
Be the one who is able to say.
It is well. Even so, it is well. Even though, it is well. Although and even if, it is well.
I have this hope in God, in Christ Jesus.
It is evident.
Hope that says despite the very worst scenarios…
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:”
Lamentations 3:21 ESV
Not a vacant or mystical hope, there are reasons for my hope.
A baby I call “morning glory” because it fits, evidence of long and woeful answered prayers and a new sense of God being near me, of Jesus being personally acquainted with me, in spite of tragedy and triumph and every mistake , silly or serious misstep in between.
It is well.
Decide to fight for yourself, to believe without the full understanding of why.
That God is sovereign.
It is well.
It is well with you.
All of us often out of rhythm, rocked by loss of life, out of kilter because of uncertain outcomes,
We are dwelling between two spaces, tragedy and triumph.
But, glory, new glory comes every morning and often if you notice, it’s interspersed in the midst of moments.
“You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you.”Hannah Whitall Smith
Work is in progress behind my window.
Heavy machinery harvesting timber.
The wide field that welcomed a spontaneous “capture the flag” adventure on a memorable New Year’s Eve is becoming more empty day by day.
The place where the cousins cavorted, that’s a memory nothing will take away.
Memories, such beautiful yet onerous things.
We discussed the motivation behind the new landowner’s intentions.
My husband added “Yeah, they’re raping the land.”
He paused for a minute when I gave no reply and I saw in his eyes that he regretted the word.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O’ bring Thou me out of my distresses. Psalm 35:17
And that’s progress.
That knowing of me by him.
This morning I opened my devotional to read and felt seen and known.
He made you and understands you, and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it. Hannah Whitall Smith
I move to put my books away and see I’ve been moved by words for the 29th of August rather than July.
There are no accidents with God, the truth meant for a month from now is what is needed today.
The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. Hannah Whitall Smith
Smith was an author, a Quaker, a fighter for women. She was a mother to seven children with only three who survived. Something she fought for resulted in “scandal” and I am thinking it had to do with women.
She wrote about God as a God of comfort and one to be trusted.
She died in 1911. I’m glad she left her footprint through words.
For me by accident this morning.
The lot across from my home is changing. The place that kept me feeling like I was still back home in Georgia will be nothing but vacant and leveled soon.
Empty space for consideration.
A place for new. And it’s not up to me what it becomes, only how I decide see it.
Same with struggle, with grief, with open wounds waiting to be healed.
Grief must be complete before life can be full.
Oddly, I’m grieving what’s happening with the strong and lovely trees across the way.
I love someone who’s dealing with the same, an unwelcome change in the space she felt still, felt safe.
Causes me to consider and to welcome that maybe hard consideration.
What is it that you’re not allowing in?
What is it that you’ve not fully grieved.
What do you harbor that’s only been allowed God’s peeking in for a sort of intake session, pre-intervention, taking from you?
What are you avoiding revisiting because you abhor the ugliness and truth of what it includes?
What are you not inviting a closer and clearer look at and in doing so, only prolonging the splendid healing?
Allow your knees to hit the floor, tell God your secret sorrow.
Let the tears flow.
Welcome the clearing.
Welcome the hard seeing that feels so achingly self-destructive of your wounded soul.
No one likes to cry.
But, if we’re honest it leads to better.
Embrace the joy that is waiting but cannot arrive til you’ve let the sorrow begin and be done.
Not happenstance that July 29th would also include a HWS quote and a verse about God as our maker, the Father we can trust.
And a question from Isaiah about to whom we belong and who He is…
“This is what the Lord says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator: “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command.”
This morning I cleaned out my “Saves” on Facebook, stuff I thought I may read later, there were over 50 various things I considered useful at the time.
Same old same, healing from trauma, posts about family, even more expert recommendations to grow my blog, have my voice heard, write the book, don’t give up…
I deleted almost all. I have to be honest, I am on writerly advice overload.
At the bottom was a note, the Facebook kind, I suppose my idea of blogging before I blogged and it was called 30 Randoms…things I’ve learned since mama died.
It is a list compiled 10 years ago come November.
Much of it is the same.
I suppose the ache began when someone said change your profile pic to your mom’s, one of those FB things that make you either go along or rebel.
I rebelled in a kind of pitiful, mulling over pondering way, my way.
I don’t have a photo I haven’t shared before and the one I have is dated and it doesn’t portray the mama I want to portray.
Grief changes its hold on you over time.
I miss my mama, see the cardinals all the time that say she is near.
I’m afraid though it’s simply not enough. Well meaning people will say oh she sees you, she’s looking down and you stand silent like a big dumb block not replying to their little kind words or something to say remedy.
I believe my mama is in heaven; but, I do not fully understand what it’s like for her there.
Possibly her spirit still lingers near me, possibly it’s my memory and longing for her involvement that manufactures this comfort and assurance for me.
Here we are over 10 years and there’s so much she should know.
Updated here are 30 randoms I’m offering up as prayers to heaven in hopes that someone else up there runs out to find you and you sit together and you laugh and cry happy heavenly tears over what is going on, how we’re doing without you and daddy down here:
1. The grandchildren are something else altogether and individually, they are just enough you to be stubborn and outspoken and often irreverently rebellious in being themselves!
2. We are all still married to the ones you saw us with before you passed away.
3. Baby Brown is due any moment of a very soon day. This will mean three great grands. Our home has a baby room.
4. Your grandsons are strong, just enough cockiness of your daddy cushioned by the gentle handsome ways of our daddy.
5. I left my job that was destroying my health. I am an artist. I get “pissy” and I’m sure have a certain look when someone says a painting is “cute”.
6. I am a writer. I will be going by “grandma” just like you and I will be helping my daughter with her baby, just like you.
7. I am less afraid but still prefer to stay hidden.
8. I left the church that made me feel I’d never be enough.
9. I sit every morning with my Bible, a pencil and a memorandum book.
10. When I’m sad or angry or anxious, I clean the whole house, rearrange stuff.
11. People call me an open book. I reply with only certain stories.
12. I reunited with Melanie and revisited the times I fell apart and she helped you and daddy hold me together.
13. I regret going home the night you passed away.
14. I understand you probably wanted it this way.
15. I love Jesus the way you lived it, love everyone the best you can, not more than you should to those who love themselves so much they don’t need yours.
16. Be kind to your husband, as he ages you become everything to him.
17. Love a dog, this love will sustain you.
18. Love food, not its control over you.
19. Delicious things are only delicious if savored not embellished or used to satiate empty bottomless places.
20. Accept God’s grace.
21. Being pitiful is not pretty or permitted.
22. Wear more red. Paint your toenails red, learn to wear a hat.
23. Don’t stress.
24. Stress will kill you. (I’ve told you before, Lisa Anne).
25. I’m going by Lisa Anne now mama, occasionally “LT”.
26. I sold three paintings last week and I gave one expensive one away.
27. One painting found a new home, it was inspired by your high school photo and I called it “Heaven Meets Earth”.
28. Today, I will believe there are better days ahead, I’ll not long as much to have you here to have your hand touch mine, to see your face when you see ours.
29. Today, I’ve decided I’ll ask again and if you’re listening, maybe you can soften the way. For Mother’s Day, I want a dog.
Yes, how fitting, how perfect, how precious it will be. A puppy or a rescue, a new home with me to represent and honor you. Yes, I’ve decided, I’ll ask again.
Don’t you think it’s time, Greg? Time for us to get a dog? If not now he might say soon and I’ll let it go, trust it’s just not a good time.
30. Better now, I’m better. Grief is a mystery and an unexplainable thing. Words from others who don’t truly know are better left unsaid.
There’s really no right response other than remembering.
When Mother’s Day is without a mom, a mother, an outspoken and gone too soon mama!
The greatest gift is to allow all of the remembering you can stand!
P.S. I joined the Artist Guild and there’s an exhibit tonight I don’t think I’ll be attending. One, possibly two of my pieces will be displayed. Some artists will have ribbons on their works. I’m not going because I still don’t care for spotlights or attention.
Remember the time you and daddy drove four hours because a piece I created was chosen for a blue ribbon?
I remember it well and the years that followed dulled my shine and the gift of your being there.
So, if I didn’t say so then, thank you for telling me back then that it was possible,
I could become an artist according to you!
I finally believe you.
Happy Mother’s Day. I feel you near, do not fully understand it, I do believe you have become an angel.
There was no inspiration in the sky above me, its color was thick and like taupe mixed with gray.
The color of old water left in the kitchen sink, murky from faded suds and dirty plates.
No music seemed to suit me. The podcast I was moved to hear again had strangely gone away.
I walked on with the bounce of a trendy and sort of tired old song.
Next one and the next the same.
They were not working, the songs that usually drive me, keep me distracted from the pain of my hips, my feet.
Songs about grace and Jesus too trendy for me today, too much like radio pop.
Twelve or thirteen minutes I told myself, just a brief bit, you can endure it.
So, I picked up my pace and I listened to my feet hitting the ground and I know it’s not possible but I could describe the sound of my own breath coming up from my core.
And I felt it, the way my body changed as my breathing weaved up and past my ribs and into my particularly patterned exhale.
Control, keep control. Focus on the release.
I kept on and got to the place with the dangerous curve and the steep right bending hill.
The geese had congregated on the water and were conversating loudly.
I slowed and felt the wind sweep across my face making me realize the warmth I’d created on my chest, caused by my own private version of running my race.
For about a minute, maybe seconds more, there was this bliss caused by God’s grace.
In a less than spectacular sky I couldn’t find Him and so, grace found me.
And I ran up the hill, all the way this time.
Although I’d decided I might not be able, I kept running.
Last week, I sort of analyzed my life using the big chunk of moments, days and years that were either sorted and stacked as either joy or fear, as either mistake or reconciliation.
My husband and I recalled the dog adopted and where he peed, pooped, what he destroyed, and how difficult he was in the beginning.
I asked him to compare the joy of the Labrador being with us to the initial hassle and adjustment.
He agreed he was worth it.
Worth it to sit in your spot at end of the day to have a big dog plop down and prop his big face across your feet.
Worth it to be greeted at the door with his goofy eyes and happy tail.
If you look closely at your life, all the happenings that you know were true trauma, the interruptions that you remember and think that was it, that’s what totally blew my chances of being complete, you might be justified in never believing you should believe.
You might not take chances with new things.
Perhaps, the trauma that began it all has never been fully grieved, a grievous grey sky that you haven’t faced fully, haven’t accepted for what it is and so you’ve not felt it, not allowed the grace to be greater than the fear.
In college, my first year, I was raped.
I blamed myself. I hid in shame.
The big and grotesque figure of an athlete loomed behind me the next day in Chemistry lab, elevated just over my shoulder, he was enormous and so powerful in his seat.
I blamed myself because my sweater was way too tight and glaringly hot pink. I know better now; but, only recently realized this thing that made me live so very long in fear and defeat.
It was unresolved grief for the artist in me that died there that night, accepted the disbelief of me.
But, even better than the realization that this trauma was not invited by me is the realization that this incident makes up really only an hour or two of me…of my whole 58 years!
I don’t minimize the damage, I’m just choosing to line it up beside the other things:
I was the middle child, shy girl who went to college on an art scholarship.
I drove myself through Atlanta all the way to the beautiful mountains of Rome.
I tried something new and I made a great friend who was beautiful and statuesque and intelligent who still remembers me.
I learned to love running there, running uphill every day.
We dined at a splendid restaurant where my friend worked on Friday nights, my choice always, Chicken cor don bleu.
I won an award for a painting and my parents came up to see my blue ribbon.
I began, just a little, to see Jesus differently and it challenged me.
I was brave there even though interrupted in this horrible way.
I was harmed in many ways by that night at a party; yet, that’s only a tiny bit of my experience, of my life.
The greater experience is that I was held even then and I am still held by the grace of my Father’s hand.
I was His child then. Didn’t believe it but that didn’t matter.
So, I choose looking back only to be certain of my worth from His perspective and of the importance in believing there is always so much better I have seen and been given, even when I line it up to the most unjustified of my griefs.
I pray if you’ve known trauma you’ll see the freedom of deciding daily that you are more at peace when your recall is one of the evidence of grace, not a harsh gauge of resentment over someone who harmed you and thus, kept you from all that might have been.
There’s truth in that sentiment. It just won’t take us anywhere, certainly no new places.
You’re so much more than the stain of your pain.
When the cool evening breeze brushed my face yesterday it was God saying to me, I saw you keep going.
I saw you turn your attention to me.
Continue and believe.
Don’t let the pain of your past cut short your beautiful race.
Luke recorded the healing of a woman bent by her pain for close to twenty years.
For me, my frame of reference for all my defeats or my failures has always been the harm done towards me by others, the hurtful choices made for me and the ones I made.
Disabled for far too long by my pain until I decided to welcome a change.
Like the woman Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath, I am free.
“And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”
Luke 13:11-13 ESV
Leave grief behind, notice the unrelenting grace of your God.
This perspective of forward not former thinking is the direction God is guiding me towards memoir. If you know someone who has lived hampered by harm, share my words. I pray God increases each reader’s awareness and embrace of His grace as He is with me, moment by moment, daily.
I almost interjected this possibility to one and then to another.
One distraught and rightly so, I listened and became exhausted over my lack of anything I may be able to do.
I sat and simply took it all in.
Her dismayed lack of peace.
Another so burdened by wrongs and unable to live without fear, so protective and unbelievably afraid yet so very ready for something to change.
Both unable to know what might change their directions, what might help them understand the unfairness of their fate.
I have no real answers other than the three words seemingly from nowhere that are clinging to me and I, clinging to them.
Continue and believe.
I’m prone to storing up my interactions, sort of disengaging emotionally as I am present in my professional role and yet, the stories linger and they don’t stay buried for long.
I believe that is God’s way, to not waste any exchange meant for me to grow, to continue on and give words to feeling, maybe help another to grow.
I wanted to tell the mother grieving and in dismay that I still believed God is faithful and that I believed she could have some peace. But, I didn’t. It wasn’t the right time or the place.
I wanted to tell the one homeless with her daughter, terrified of everything, that life can be simple, dependable, peaceful I believe.
But, I didn’t. It wasn’t yet time, it seemed best to wait until she begins on her own to see.
See, peace comes to us in different ways, in our own separate time and place.
Jesus was the object of speculation and of disbelief and disenchantment, much the same way was John the Baptist.
The disciples were learning as they followed while the onlookers and the intellects were set on deliberations of who they thought the Son of God should be. I guess much of who Jesus appeared to be was not their idea of a “prince” or one able to bring about peace.
Jesus essentially said and continues to say, just walk with me.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
I imagine me alongside Jesus. We are going forward, we are making clear the path through muck and mud and I am smiling as I am looking straight.
I am content in the steadiness of Jesus’ steps.
So, I walk with Him.
He is doing the bulk of the work of getting us through the rough places, keeping me out of the ditches, breaking up the ground for the goodness and growth that will rise up behind us.
Advent: arrival, appearance, emergence or occurrence, the arrival of a notable person or thing.
What are you waiting for, still?
What is the light at the end of the way that you keep pursuing, going towards?
Like the shepherds followed a star, is there a possibility you hope to see still?
My word for 2018 has been “still”. In the beginning, it represented a courageous decision to pursue a certain writing goal.
That I could still, it wasn’t too late.
I’m still writing; but, changes came my way and my book idea will never be the same.
I’m in the phase of stillness, resting and listening to know, which way God, do you want me to go?”
Tell me what to say, Lord.
Continuing in the Book of Luke today, another chapter full of guidance and illustration, historical retelling of what Jesus did before he died.
My spirit has been a little weary, thoughts around trauma trying to take over. I’m recalling today that this is the year I, with the help of some strong therapy, decided I could live healed, that I could let go and be healed.
The year it became my choice to forgive.
My friend said yesterday, that evil still comes back to try to play.
I think she’s quite right, it’s Advent, the season of light and peace, it’s only natural evil creeps in, shows up even louder, harder, mean and determined.
Has to, it is harder now than before to take my peace away. I’m no longer disabled.
“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”
Luke 13:12-13 ESV
Able to seek light and freedom, to not revisit the darkness.
To God be the glory for my emergence year, still.
I’m linking up with others here at Five Minute Friday, prompted by the word, “Still”.
Few chances come anymore to feel as if others are one.
Last week we had to bring in more chairs. People I had not seen in a good while and some who I had spoken to by phone but never met all arrived around the same time.
One person I had never encountered walked in bravely.
Alone, she entered a room full of strangers and found a seat cornered between two others at the corner of the table.
One other arrived a little late and I was happy he made it, told one of the regulars he’ll most likely “saunter” in.
This one elderly man, a father grieving his daughter, seated close to me smiled as if he and I shared an inside joke and whispered that was a good description of him.
I consider us friends.
The sauntering and kind gentleman called later to comment on the meeting, concerned over some of the new people, wondering if he can be available to them.
I told him I appreciate the way he helps guide the discussion and the way he’s both truthful even if hard to hear, his words as well as compassion and concern.
He thanked me.
I told him that the diversity in the stories that night, the circumstances that led to suicides and the contributing factors as well as starkly contrasting personal struggles and family make ups were evident.
But, not evidenced in any of the faces of the listeners, the words offered in comfort, comparison or even explanations possible.
It’s level ground, it’s like a mercy table, one meeting I am a part of that sees past differences and looks at the one thing.
The one thing of suicide.
One of many things I do not fully understand.
One thing I do not know.
And so I’m one with them only in my presence, one only because I am there and I’m one because neither do I understand.
I’m one with this group I lead, this group of solemn yet, steady and supportive encouragers.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
The man who sauntered in closed in prayer after asking permission.
In the pause of his, I presume thinking, two ladies added their supplication. I considered being the third and all my heart could come up with was “Thank you, God for bringing these people to my life.”
I knew God would understand what I meant. I was afraid they would not.
I sat silent and I listened as the gentle man closed out his prayer for the others around the table.
Bringing the support group for those bereaved by suicide, “a club no one wants to be a member of” to a close.
Today, I’m linking up with others here, prompted by the word “One”.
I am thankful God brought these people to me. They’ve grown me, taught me that silence is good, that I don’t always have to give my insight and that we are all one in God’s eyes, all of us humans down here.