Happy Way of Life #8

I was outside literally two minutes or less, finally finished, I made my way to the spot I sit and watch the blue cool pool water paint patterns on my feet.

I’d been cleaning like crazy, Friday night instead of Saturday morning.

I was raised that way.

On Saturday morning, nothing happened until we cleaned.

My mama handed out assignments and by noon you’d have thought our house on the poor side of town was tucked away behind stately gates.

I adhere to her pattern, my daughter and son do too. We like things straight.

We like our places put together and pretty.

Now, it’s morning and I have Saturday’s day about to unfold. I’ve been awakened by a text, “You up?”

“In bed, awake”, my reply.

“Get ready.” her instruction.

Last night I tried to remember my mama’s particular words and I couldn’t. I tried to bring to mind her philosophical response, fashioned in blunt reply.

What I miss most of all are Saturday morning calls, coaxing me not worry…to let these two be, to know that they are good.

I can’t recall what it was, the thing I said just like her. I wanted to remember, tried so very hard.

I had to let it go hoping it comes back when I least expect.

Because last night, I sat in my spot, magazine by my side with a splash of wine in pretty glass. Relax, Lisa Anne.

Relax now.

Don’t stress. Let it be. Pick your battles. It’ll be fine. The truth always comes out and again, stress’ll kill you.

Momentarily, I heard the sound.

The arrival, I was ready.

Closer to me, at just the right time, I tilt my eyes towards heaven, and there are three.

The geese, the geese.

Mama always said, “Here they come.”

And yes, they did.

Again.

Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow in heaven. I’ll keep looking for you, mama, in my every single thing.

I’ll be listening for your reply.

The Stranger

On my way tonight to workout, he was walking.

On my back home, I saw him too.

90 minutes passed and the place on the side of the road, barely off the road in the high weeds, where he was again made no sense at all.

He should’ve been farther along; yet, there he was again, on my way.

I remembered, I thought if I see him again, I’ll know it’s true, true like my son suggested one day in a little boy whimsical way,

“What if he’s Jesus?” Childlike chastising my questioning comment directed towards someone standing on the edge of the exit ramp holding a cardboard sign.

Now, I’m thinking again, yeah…what if?

You should know I only tell true stories and you must know I find all sorts of stuff significant when I see it. I consider it God.

About three weeks ago, I stopped by our local printer to collect items ordered for work.

“What is he doing?” she asked, “walking up and down the sidewalk with that stick?”

I told her I’d ask him and I did, asked him if he was okay.

He needed to be pointed in the direction of the soup kitchen, so I directed him four blocks down and two over.

He smiled, said, “Do I know you?” “Did you go to high school in Hepzibah?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

Then he told me his name, adding angel as a surname. Told me he was an angel and then said: “Jesus loves you.”

I smiled, said, “I know, you too.”

Then on a drizzly Sunday one week ago, Colt and I were out back. All my day’s plans go awry because of an emergency with an employee, I’d be going to work.

Tennis ball toss, the command given “drop” and again and again until I turn towards the back porch.

I see him, a male form bent over shoulders heavy, walking down my road, holding a big shepherd like stick.

“Oh…it’s him.” The Labrador sees and hurries up to the fence, makes a squeaky sound, not at all resembling bark or growl.

He never barked, sort of sighed, pulled the sound of dog startle back in as if he knew him, knew there was no need for noise.

There was no call to fear threatening.

Then he watches body next to my hip and his nose on the cold link of fence. I watch, feet tiptoed and neck craning as the man who says he’s an angel crosses in front of my house and on down the road.

I know right away, I’ll turn that way instead of my normal when I go. I’ll leave for work and I’ll hope on my way he’s there.

Cheese crackers, granola and a Cliff bar in my lap, I drive down the hill and turn the curve and he’s there.

He’s making his way up the hill. No one around on Sunday morning church time, I slow my car, window eases down and I say,

“Good morning.” My hand through the window meets his and he’s surprised by my giving, he thanks me for the food and then stores it in deep pockets of a jacket dragging down by so much wear.

“Jesus loves you.” He says and then adds,

“I love your hair.” I smile knowing no way he could know the gray I’d just felt depressed over, the flatness of strands due to age and the daily angst over cut or grow out.

I drove on remembering the time before when he said he was an angel.

Tonight, I saw him the third time I told myself would “seal the deal” if it happened, make me sure of providence and certain of angels.

I wondered why he’d only walked a block or so in the 90 minutes between seeing him and seeing him again.

I considered why he’d kept appearing on my way and then I pondered all who might avoid him and worse yet might not see him in the very close to dark dangerous road.

I hoped he’d be okay. I hoped he has headed someplace safe.

Then I realized he’d be one Jesus would pause to notice. He, one of the least of these, a wandering soul and lost mentally maybe.

But who am I to say He’s not already done so; this man walking tall with a stick the height of his shoulders and telling me, others, whoever that he’s “Angel John” and that Jesus loves us.

Who’s to say who’s angelic or not or why I might see him and believe more wistfully, more surely and more unexpectedly that there are angels among us and that those angels know Jesus?

Who’s to say who knows?

Yesterday, I gathered up my angel figurines. I’d been noticing all the clutter collected and decided they no longer belonged on the desk. My eye drawn to them seems it has begun to feel their placement was all wrong.

I moved them to my bedroom, tucked them together collectively on the shelf just above my pillow.

I’m believing more than before and unafraid to say so, believing because of who and what and where I’ve seen God and probability of angels, love, and grace among us.

And strangers with contagious smiles despite missing teeth who make confident proclamations of Jesus and love and not at all coincidentally cross my path.

Some would say homeless or crazy or not worth much at all…

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

But, who are we to say

or he, a stranger?

 

I’ve just read a post from Jennifer Dukes Lee about helping another along the way. Who’s to say when we might need help up or when we get to reach down.

Vist here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/learned-movie-can-imagine/

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Book Review : A Place to Land, A Story of Longing and Belonging

I believe empathy should have another name, a word that’s descriptive without the clinical tone. I believe empathy, the word, should sound softer, a whispered acknowledging tone.

Empathy, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, an exchange really, is human hearts trading places.

I’ve finished Kate Motaung’s book and considered the technique of allowing the pages to fall open, deciding this is the place I should write of my connection with this story.

Still, each time I sought redirection, I wound up in the same place, the place we had in common, the place and time when grace filled the room.

Years ago, it was the most pitifully powerful memory I’d ever known.

Still is the most powerful, not pitiful or pity filled any longer.

The day was Christmas and the drive was three hours one way. My husband, the children, there was no discussion, we were going to see mama.

We arrived at the hospital and the nurse said, “She’s waiting.”

Her body was weak, her organs were weaker; but, she was expecting us. Her hair had been styled and she had on the most delicate of nightgowns I’d ever seen, more beautiful than any I’d ever known her to own.

She smiled. She “made over” my daughter and my son. She encouraged them, she reminded, she laughed a little, she gave them direction.

We gave her the gifts we’d brought and I remember that she thought my siblings might come later and my aunt had come and she had an expression of pure love and acceptance of whatever gift or not might be given.

She grew tired and it seemed we grew awkward, like clumsy adolescents not being sure what to do with our hands, none of us knew what to with our hearts.

A hospital room on Christmas Day and an hour or so with my mama and then three hours back home with little talk only uncertain sadness.

This was my mama’s last Christmas. I have never seen her more glowing, never seen her so resigned and simply open to come what may or may not.

I read Kate Motaung’s account of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and of her longing to be with her but, committed to stay on God’s course, a missionary in another country.

I was overjoyed by her telling of her mother’s travels to visit. I envisioned her love for Kate and her family and her maybe stubbornness to be with her daughter, to welcome babies, to leave them with good words and wisdom.

I smiled as I read of the trips for ice cream and the times her mama, weak and unable to be strong on her own, had a zest for life and humor, I could see them together making memories.

The mother giving all she had until she could give no more all for the sake of her children. I understood.

I struggled to imagine being so very far away and then realized prayer has no limits. God doesn’t set parameters as if to say oh, no the prayer you said well it’s way too far for the one you want it to help.

No, God is Sovereign. A mama three days away is no different from one three hours away when our living Father hears the supplication of a loving daughter, asking for mercy for her mama, and grace for the times together.

Towards the end of the book, Chapter 20 is titled “Grace”.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s a surprise trip to visit her, to return from Cape Town, Africa to Michigan.

Her mama’s condo smelled of cookies. The machinery all around, sustaining her breathing and yet, there were fresh cookies.

I wandered then if her mama baked cakes and made pot roast and potatoes and I decided for myself, I believe she did.

The chapter ends with celebration; she, her mama and her sister, memories, more laughter, hysterical laughter.

And a realization.

And it was grace. Kate Motaung

“A Place to Land” is a comfort, it’s consolation and it’s a telling and retelling of a daughter’s unwavering confidence in God.

Mostly, for me it’s a beautiful gift of grace, grace her mother gave, and grace that surrounded her and guided her home.

Guided her daughter through grief to be able to share.

To have other “motherless daughters” understand, be understood.

This book to me, it was grace.

Empathy’s new explanation, I’ve decided.

It’s grace, grace from one who understands shared with another.

Thanks for understanding, Kate.

Purchase your copy here:

Morning Glories

I woke up in the country and threw back the curtain to this wide open sky.

Yesterday, we saw the workers pruning the branches, making ways for the bright growth soon bursting through. I’ll ride these roads to my girl’s a month from now or so and I’ll be barely able to close my eyes because of all the majestic beauty of peach season!

Isn’t that what God does?

He holds our hand through the enduring, makes us new and strong in our growth, promises us a glorious new season if we’ll let him cut us from the old.

To stop wearing our old tattered and faded garments, to dress in his newness.

Morning glories, realizations filled to the brim, awaiting my drinking in and feeling led to pouring out like cream in warm coffee.

I’m without my devotionals, three of my daily ones; but, I’ve a new one called “Joy and Strength”. The quotes and the verses are ancient wisdom. The numbers, numeral and Roman, causing a longer pause.

So far, two days in and aligning with my season.

Preparing me to be re-planted in God’s freshly broken up ground.

My cousin gifted me the new one, maybe knowing I needed my soul made new.

No, most assuredly I know, it was God knowing, prompting her to know.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The wisdom of the new little book I’ll open to find daily words, words that focus on after here and about what will matter then.

The truth of not just earth; but, heaven too.

Heaven more.

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Without my set routine, not in my morning spot, my books, pencil and my Bible.

I began to wonder how I might otherwise find what God would have me know.

I looked through the wide and uncurtained kitchen window and decided it will be good to look to the day to hear, to see and to know.

And because the kitchen, the pots and the bowls, none of them were familiar or like mine,

My daughter made us oatmeal, the old way, on top of the stove.

And I tasted and saw that it was good.

So good.

So new and morning gloriously good!

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and others who “Tell His Story”

You can join us here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/

Shown the Way

A skinny stretch of sunlight lays across the rug and I’m captivated by the idea of a path, a choice, a plan and its leading.

I do this. I’d not say so, were it not true. I wake with slow unveiling and I soon find my confirmation in the unfolding.

“Follow that thought…there’s more for you to see, follow that train, that starting point, that pointing of the way through me.”

God, to me on this pretty morning.

This morning, I woke with the thought “How do I know the way?”

Then I read a friend’s blog post about walking in the deep spaces in the snow, her teenage grandson’s footsteps.

He lead the way, not wanting her to slip and fall.

I searched for the passage in John about “the way” and found Thomas asking Jesus what they’re supposed to do, how are they to know the way?

I continued on in Chapter 14 and found another question, Phillip asked Jesus to show him the way. I love this little epiphany God planned for me this morning, that the writer ended Jesus’ reply with an exclamation mark!

I tried to imagine Jesus reassuring me, so adamantly it would merit exclamation.

I began to sense the urgency, the hope that they, that I, that we might finally believe based on what we’ve seen, what we’ve survived, what we have made it through and all the stories of Jesus all around us through others whose lives Jesus touched, lives held in His embrace.

Like Phillip, I’m honest about my doubts, I keep asking to be shown more as an indication that all will be well.

Phillip wanted to see God the Father, wanted to be sure and Jesus said you’ve seen Him fully, faithfully through me already

and all around.

Yes, I have.

“Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Our lives are nothing short of miraculous if we consider all we’ve been given, been brought through, most of all been promised. All the times we’ve been “shown the way” through Jesus to the Father.

Cats, Cards and Christ

Christmas cards fastened by clips to twine looped like a garland and no idea why, but I left this little kitty cat on the shelf.

Except it’s where it’s always been and I believe I brought it home from my mama’s or I picked it up when we all went “junkin'”.

I pulled a piece of greenery from my centerpiece and decided the cat should wear it around its neck.

Made a little circle, too small and decided oh well, I’ll add some twine, make it fit.

Now the black cat with polka dots who lives on my shelf looks different, looks like Christmas.

This morning, I read a verse from John. Lots of people know it, children can recite it; it’s a simple one that has another that follows and expands its meaning.

So many times I read only part, retain only a portion, there’s always more for me to know, more to surprise me by my knowing.

About God’s ways, His love, His wants for me, for us all.

This verse is best left simple, best brought to mind at Christmas. We may revisit Luke or Matthew or Mark; maybe Isaiah, looking for the story of Christmas.

We might remember the prophecies of old or cling to and listen more with an idea of hopeful truth that yes, a baby was born a long time ago and it was a sweet, sweet story, so spectacular it seems a fairy tale.

But, simply not so. Spectacular yes.

But fairy tale, no.

Our lives are changed because God made it possible for them to be changed, made new.

Because God loved the world He created.

And since it all got and gets a little sideways still

And He knows it. He gave His Son, His only Son.

Jesus.

Christ.

So, we could have eternal life, not perish in the mess we’ve made of what He created.

In the Book of John, Jesus explains his purpose to a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was a ruler and had a very hard time believing what Jesus made so simple to hear.

What is still so simple to hear. But hard to believe for some, hard to accept.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I sent a few cards this year, not nearly as many as I should.

Small and simple little cards with a sweet tree on the front unadorned with lights, just a tiny tree.

I added to the message of Merry Christmas

only the beginning,

For God so loved the world…

And then I signed, “love in Christ, Lisa”

Hoping I’d left room for longing to know more or that I reminded all who already know and like me can always, always use reminding.

That God is love and that Jesus was born to save all who will believe.

believe, life will surprise you…

Brandon Heath

(lyrics I rest with)

Us and the Angels

She arrived before anyone else, at 10 instead of 12, dropped off in the parking lot and then wouldn’t accept our offer to wait inside.

We walked past and past again unloading our cars, setting up the luncheon and Christmas festivities.

She waited, her notepad propped carefully, her arms balanced on the arms of her rolling walker.

She waited, I began to sense her an observer.

“Was she making notes about her observing of us now?” I wondered.

Today is the fifth day of Advent, the focus on the hopeful waiting for Christ and Christmas.

I painted last night, it was a must.

Because the woman who arrived two hours early was left without a ride home and we were together for more hours as she called those who’d promised to be there and then called again to be met by straight to voice mail answers.

We were together, she and I and another person left without a ride.

We were together in the parking lot of the place where the promised person said they’d meet us.

So, she asked about my children and I asked about hers. This led to asking about my life and then, finally led to asking about Jesus and her telling me about heaven.

You see, she said she died once. The doctor said for 17 minutes. She went to heaven; she saw her family and yet, she said she was given the chance to come back and live.

Now, if you know my job and know this event, you may be thinking, I pray not, “Well, that woman’s crazy.”

I pray you don’t think that, say that.

Ever.

Because, here’s where our talk went next.

After reaching a family member late in the afternoon, we moved from one parking lot to the other and were confident she was on the way to meet us.

Her telling me of heaven continued, she told me about the angels.

She said they are beautiful; but, have no wings and that’s because they’re not nearly as far from earth as we’d assume.

They have no wings because they’re only just a little above the ground.

I looked towards her, she’d rarely looked my way, her conversation a retelling, a divine appointment, I am sure.

I sensed her calling, her calling to be with me.

I, with her, not my normal way.

Because I’m guilty of being grouchy at the end of the day and I’m sorry to admit, I’m the first to accept an offer for someone else to stay behind, handle the loose ends like giving rides to stranded people.

But, not yesterday, I decided to be the one who helped this woman.

Help, not the best choice of words, more like simply being with, seeing it to the end, not so much like helping at all.

More divine, my day had been ordered by God I began to see, see even better looking back on.

I’m sure I was beaming when I told her I painted and that my angels have no wings and most often no expression on their faces.

She smiled only slightly like “Yes” and I looked towards the car to our right, “Is this you ride?” I asked and it was, she answered, how did we miss them pulling in?

Her daughter thanked me, her grandson smiled, said “Hey, Nanni” and we unloaded her gifts and helped her from my car.

I walked over and hugged her softly,

“Merry Christmas.” I said.

She paused and finally, she turned and saw me straight on and open, told me she will be praying for me, that she is going to pray for my angel paintings to become as God has planned.

She meant it, I know.

I thanked her.

Then went home, dark by now and changed from Christmas red outfit to paint splattered apron.

I painted a new layer over the frantic looking wings I’d painted on a new piece, thinking I’d try something new; but, certain it was all wrong.

And now I understand.

Understanding what it means to have God mindful of me, of us down here amongst one another, just barely below or maybe even sitting beside the angels.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭8:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬