Wonderful Souls

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. Proverbs 31:17

What will you notice in others today other than the surface of them, their predicament, their imperfect and even offensive behavior?

Will you consider what’s within?

Will it occur to you that your interaction with others is invitation to ministry, to the wonder of it all, our souls?

Yesterday I woke with the ache of an unpleasant dream. It was early morning and the drift of extra falling asleep led to remembering the news of Saturday.

A woman had been found by her son, unexpectedly she passed away. The dream had me rolled up knees to chest while my friend sat close by letting me cry. Letting me express the regret over not intervening, not being close enough to the sweet elderly woman’s need.

The dream was beneficial. I texted my friend told her I was praying for her because the measure of her grief is greater than mine. My friend had been much closer, like a daughter, like a fighter for this woman’s good, my friend was up close to the survival of this sweet tiny little spitfire survivor of abuse and valiant victor over the bottle despite being homeless woman.

Yes, I had a small part in helping but my friend had one much larger.

Still, both of us were engaged, captivated and humbled by the tenacity of Miss G. because she taught us both to be better, she taught us to keep keeping on.

As tiny as a child she was and on her very best days just as excited over living.

Miss G. was diminutive. If she ever felt diminished or delicate she kept that hidden.

The weak places she buried in the shadowy silence of her soul.

Let us in only a little, me much less than my friend and co-worker, Michelle.

Miss G. saw the wonder of life, love, believing in possible things and she lived, she lived in light of that wonder.

Monday morning now and I’ve switched off the lamplight. I am with God.

He alone knows the sadness of my soul.

Only He knows the benefit of sorrow’s visit.

Sorrow is grief’s measurement.

I allow the rivulet to lay on my cheek, I am thinking of my relationship with Miss G., the petite pulled together woman who fixed her hair to show up to clean the rooms in the emergency department of our hospital.

She was a hard worker, inspired others, was awarded for her attitude.

She came to check on me as I cautiously turned to see her, my condition still shaky, the vertigo and its nausea.

I don’t recall what she said, her look was not one of pity, no it was all her, her philosophy.

Never missing a chance to promote strength over pity.

Stay strong, don’t fall and don’t ever let yourself believe that God is not able.

She left me with this, this instruction as she looked long and directly before leaving.

This was not a verbal exchange. It was her heart seeing mine, this was her ministering to my soul.

So, I allow the tears to fall and let them seep below my skin, to dry on their own. I consider them a gift, drops on my cheeks like the resting rain on the last rosebud.

If I could I’d leave them much longer, evidence of love.

I thought of this sweet woman and of others.

Thought of the work I did before.

Then gave myself permission to see it as it had always been, ministry.

The work of overseeing a program that welcomed a woman in because she was without a home.

That’s not social or administrative or not for profit outcomes based work.

No, not at all.

This is and was ministry of the soul. I see now, clearly.

The encounters, the obstacles, the run ins with not ready for change people.

This was not hard work.

No it was soft, softening of all of our souls.

Me and they, all of us souls.

“Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭13:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The wonder of it all!

God intersecting our lives with others, all of us with burdens undeniable or hidden.

May I never lose my wonder!

There’s a tiny brick house I pass twice a day on the way to Elizabeth and back home.

A tiny porch bordered by mounds of garbage is lit by a bulb. Often the front door is open and a woman sits in a plastic chair that faces sideways, never turned towards the road, the passing cars, people.

I long to know her story.

I’ve decided it’s enough to simply see her as a soul.

To pray for a need not mine to know.

My friend’s grief over Miss G. is much more than my own. I texted her after my Sunday dream.

This morning I walked outside and I thought of how much you loved Miss G. how much she loved you. I know you are grieving. Miss G. is celebrating in heaven and she was greeted with “Well done thou good and faithful servant!” and I just see her grinning at Jesus and saying…”oh but you just wait til you meet Michelle!” You loved her well, God saw it all. Love you. Praises today, only praises.

What souls are yours to see?

Give yourself permission to go deeper than passing interaction or fulfilling vocation or expectation.

The soul is secret and yet so open.

Let your grace toward someone do unrequited things today.

Be satisfied beyond anything that you noticed and your work became ministry, became the work of seeing souls.

See them more clearly, love when opportunity comes.

Rest In Peace, Miss G. Thank you for ministering to my soul, the souls of so many others.

I will remember you well.


“Fill us with wonder
May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child…”

Bethel Music

Encumbrances

I like words that make you feel their meaning, words like “encumbrance”.

Words that cause pause, make you want to be sure you honor their meaning.

I told my husband what to say to the puppy and how. “Good Boy” or “No”.

Same tone I told him.

“Don’t make him cower.”

“Cower?” He paused and then understood.

I like words. That’s why I like that he calls me an enigma. It’s descriptive, a little mysterious.

Me.

I landed in the word encumbrance in devotion this morning. Accurate and timely in a time I find myself intentionally less burdened and more aware of useless stories of shame.

When I read encumbrance, I can almost see myself bent over and trying to trudge on exhausted and hopeless with my carried way too long bag full of bad choices and less than certain trust.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Where I walk has lots of hills and turns and the steps back home are up a final steep hill. I push myself til I’m done, sometimes try to jog it. Rarely do I just ease back home. I want to finish strong, get all the benefits of the exercise.

I like the message it teaches me, yeah you made it back home, you finished today’s walk; but, your walk has only just begun and so the steep hills and the struggle causing curves, keep taking them, they are good. They are teaching you to endure and to throw off the heavy holding you back things…the thoughts that say oh, it doesn’t make a difference anyway and the physical choices that make you not fit, lazy and unable, body and soul.

God wants us to be able to keep climbing higher, he knows we gotta be lighter, we gotta let go of our encumbrances, our heavy loads.

Less us, more Him. Less heavy junk like shame and worry and more freedom from constant prayer and trust. He wants endurance from us, finished races and joyful victories are what He purposed us to see.

#finishwell #thecolorsofmybible #quietconfidenceartandword

Grown and Growing

In Progress

Today a woman I love who I’d never have met were it not for my work and a shelter, a temporary home.

She stopped by with her girl who was born there, now 3.

Just stopped by to see me.

We talked about a young woman who is helping her, a beautiful girl the age of my daughter.

We both agreed. She is special.

“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

Then the woman who used to live in our shelter said, “I want to be like her when I grow up.”

I said, “me too”.

Then I told her and I meant it.

I’m not there yet either.

Not in the place of joyous all the time hope and freedom but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

And so is she.

Then, I reached for the paper under my keyboard with Isaiah 43:19 and I told her about my Sunday, how I prayed and cried and prayed to finally believe.

I am free.

She held the little slip of paper and then said, “I hope I can remember.”

I told her to keep it.

I don’t need it.

She reached across my desk for a pen.

Then we told each other goodbye and keep praying, no stressing and don’t give up or give in.

I noticed the paper when she laid it on the table to put the jacket on her baby.

In blue ink she had added.

“Finally, free.”

Forgetting the former.

Tonight, I read just a sentence or two of someone’s blog. The idea of God being our nourishment, otherwise we’d never grow.

I thought of my existence, of my faith being like long ago designed genetics, like deep roots I’ve only just begun to allow to be fertilized.

I thought of how I am growing at a rate lately that seems to have been after a stagnant stretch of nothing happening too long.

Yet, I’ve been cared for and I’ve been attended to and now finally, I will grow, my growth is beginning to have an ease about it, a natural bloom.

Not forced.

Finally free and thus, able to grow.

God Appointments and Rain

I did not want to hear her response through a text as I shared my day only two hours in.

God appointment, she texted.

Okay. Oh, okay.

There was an empty wheelchair in my office parking lot this morning in the cold drizzling rain.

What in the world??? , I said.

I didn’t get out of my car right away, ready yourself, ready, be ready.

I saw him in the lobby.

A homeless man and without his bicycle and now with crutches and a hand me down wheelchair.

Okay, I told myself.

Hands and feet, hands and feet.

Breathe, see this as an opportunity.

When he said he’d not eaten since Sunday, we bought him two cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake.

He looked around my office, saw the photos of my children, chuckled over one of my husband and me, told me he looked like a “pretty cool dude” and then because we needed to do what the system said, I convinced him to go for a mental health assessment and I told him we haven’t done this before.

It may be the one thing that will turn the key.

He kept talking about hope. I told him to continue.

Hope.

Then I found out they wouldn’t, couldn’t help him and he still said thank you, Lisa as my eyes met his as they loaded his wheelchair I brought to the van in the rain.

And I do not understand.

I don’t think I understand systems that push people through only getting a glimpse of their stories, I’m not sure I understand our present humanity at all.

I’m very regretful over resenting that I gave this man the bulk of my day and how I kept saying to myself “hands and feet, hands and feet” yet, I got him no remedy, no relief.

Such is life when it hits you to commit to the last few words you said.

I will pray for you, I told him.

I will. I pray I remember.

Least I can do when my hands and feet, do little at all, seem to be for naught.

I can pray.

Least of the things I can do when my hands, my feet, my heart falls short of relief.

Hope and pray.

Continue and believe.

The Book of Luke, 24 Days of Jesus – An Advent Experience

My morning will not be boisterous with unwrapping, celebration won’t come until later.

Children are adults and we’re laid back and flexible, open and accepting. I’m anticipating the day, anticipating spirited appearances, nuanced moments of Jesus in it.

The angels told the shepherds not to be afraid when God’s glory illuminated the sky, an announcement of a Savior.

And Luke ends his beautifully researched compilation with the words of Jesus, again saying fear is something you should never feel.

Of what are you afraid today?

Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Luke ‬ ‭24:38‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What are you doubting on Christmas morning?

Everything changes at Christmas except for Jesus.

Jesus stays the same, do not be afraid.

Merry Christmas to you.

Do new things, you can and you will, I’m remembering now my mama, she came to me last night in a dream.

Angelic, she was as she waited for me and without a word guided my continuing, gave approval of my plans.

Finally fading into the distance after nodding, smiling, giving her okay of who I am.

A beautiful vision, angelic it seemed.

Do not fear, Lisa Anne. Do not be afraid.

Merry Christmas to you.

Merry Christmas to me!

The Book of Luke, 24 Days of Jesus – An Advent Experience

The Time of Becoming

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.

Becoming me.

I’m linking up with others here at Five Minute Friday, prompted by the word, “Still”.

http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/12/13/fmf-link-up-still/

Changes in Just a Moment

When I told her I realized clearly a name for the feeling, I believe she knew, was surprised but she knew. I told her I’d been doing all I could with very little coming back in return.

I couldn’t name the feeling, fatigue like emotional drudgery.

But, on the way to work this morning, God named my feeling. Things happen a lot of times, you, alone in your car. Clarity comes.

I felt useless.

Now for no other reason than to chronicle the way it all was so momentary, I record it here.

We’re close to broke. I’ve been asking for money like the boy crying wolf.

All the helpers and helping places are asking now.

I understand the conclusion drawn that we don’t really need it, it’s just time to ask.

I had a letter to write, the year-end appeal. I was circling round our homeless shelter, looking for angles to capture in a photo.

Our need is great. Our hopes are high.

An image that would convey:

We need you now.

I stopped in to the shelter, barged in, worried again over budget. I realized my tone was less than helpful.

I thought I bet she wished I hadn’t stopped in.

Her demeanor was slightly solemn, her posture different in a tired sort of surrender.

I listened. She was worried about someone she loves. I had no words. I felt compelled to hold her.

We hugged.

I returned to my desk to see a message left for me.

The Foundation funding representative calling, asked that I return the call.

I dialed the number then regretted not pulling out the application, anticipating clarity needed, budgetary explanation.

Instead, we’re fully funded, are you available for a pre-press conference?

My legs felt it first, the emotion and a sizzle-like current ran up and back down and I felt my eyes water, I felt the fullness.

The fullness of feeling useless, doing all I could with a less than favorable, feeling ignored return.

I called her, shared that the reviewers of the grant found her to be “phenomenal”.

She paused. I listened, her joy.

“Oh, I’m so full.”

And I added, it is not me alone.

Remembering the way the reviewers of the grant on our site visit were entranced by her sharing and her speaking from her heart about our work, I told her, it’s you, it’s us together that has made this program so strong.

Then I added. Well, I thank God for making me able to write about our work and for making you able to talk so beautifully and passionately about it.

I’m lying down this evening feeling significantly surprised by my usefulness.

If you’d like to know about my work, visit Mental Health America Aiken County.

If you’re compelled to do so, please donate.

We really do need you now.

Your Glory Today

All day long she sat alone.

Waiting for me to figure something out, fourth, fifth, maybe the sixth day the same.

Something or some things happened to change her, cause her to hear noises not there, to believe harm was always beating hard against her windows.

My friend asked yesterday why I thought God had given me this assignment. I don’t believe I answered.

I don’t know.

In the beginning, I thought God had sent my mama, this woman who calls me “lady” had a similar helpless tone.

Like my mama did when she was very sick and very sad. I thought maybe here’s your chance again, save this situation, make right the failure of the one before. She’s so difficult to deal with but she’s human. She’s a soul.

But, no, there’s some other reason, I believe, I don’t know.

She continues to come back, waiting every morning at our door.

Countless calls for collaboration, asking family to take her in, to others to put our heads together, just suggestions or ideas.

No solution so far.

Other than hotel rooms for a couple of nights to know she’s not outside, not curled up on someone’s porch, or walking in the night, just walking.

She told me people see her. She’s afraid she’ll be arrested. Some drivers slow down to speak, ask if she’s okay and others look away.

She’s a pleasant sight, really. I smile when I see her resolve, I find it meaningful that she wears her earrings.

I’ve yet to see her without her gold “hoops” in, complementing her high cheeks.

She’s a mystery, how her condition came to be, the way she served others before, the way she engaged in community.

Before she got so afraid.

Today, she told me I won’t see her, said she could handle herself today. We paid for her one night of sleep and I gave her cash for some minutes on her phone and bought her a double when she said she’d take a single, no fries, a baked potato instead.

She’d asked the lady checking her in for a safe room, the lady said they’re all safe here and asked her not to complain about the noises again.

I listened, piecing more of her mystery together.

I’ll call others today, I’m praying for a resolution or at least someone to pay for another night in the hotel.

I woke in my warm bed, the chill of the room against my face and I prayed “Thanks, God”.

I slept so very well.

I turned to kneel beside my bed.

Again, “Thanks, God.”

For assignments, for opportunities

For interruptions and issues like homelessness, like suicide, like budgets that never have enough to cover and ideas I can’t get back when I want to so I consider throwing in the towel.

You order my days.

You, God, not me.

Enlighten me, Lord.

Show me your glory. Cause me to stick with something as long as you find it necessary to bring you glory while being humbled by the assignment.

Help not to despise your assignments.

Help me to see you in them, just like the day so very long ago when I was chastised by a boy who happened to be my son. I questioned the validity of someone’s need, and the boy spoke up to say…

“What if he’s Jesus?”

“”With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.”

‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭22:26-29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Show me the way, Lord.

Show me the way.

31 Days, Freely – Whole

I kept working because I wanted to finish what I’d begun, I suppose.

Only partially complete, it would have maybe worried me all day as to what the ending might be, I needed to finish.

I needed to treasure the whole thing, the pleasant dream that blessed me with blissful sleep past seven.

Oh, joy, I’ve slept til almost nine!

I dreamt I was living in my grandma’s house and it was all mine, the whole place.

It was standing tall and mine for the taking, for the living.

The room across the tiny hall from my grandma’s room, it was exactly the same as before.

The hall, like a bridge we were warned not to cross, just a little hollow place between, its occupants, the phone on the wall and the gas heater caused crowded passing through to the little bathroom congregating.

I was there again and I could hear the long clangy echo of a ring and my grandma answering to talk to maybe my mama, my aunt or one of her sisters.

She’d pull the long curly cord around the corner so she could see. She’d talk a long time sometimes.

But, it was mine in my dream, the whole place, last night. The place not standing now was there for me.

So, I set my mind on fixing up my granddaddy’s room, the one that seemed such a secret, his “Chester” drawers all piled with loose coins, papers and cigars, I started and I cleared and cleaned and made it fresh, different than before, a place to lie down and rest, inviting and bright.

A place I’d been afraid to pass through, it was mine to make new.

To make whole.

Being Taught

There’s just something about God’s ways that cause the constant return to quiet.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When you’ve had and have so many irons in the fire and you’re persisting, persisting, persisting because you believe not persisting would be giving up and well giving up might be quitting altogether once and for all.

And then you’d have to fake being fine with the oh, well I tried and it wasn’t meant to be for me facade.

I’ve been creating like crazy, so much that there’s no more space for my pieces and a crazy little children’s table I’m determined I’m gonna be stuck with because, no one thinks it’s worth what I’ve put into it and oh,

Well, you’re not really an artist, Lisa. You have talent but you don’t have what it takes to take you anywhere.

And you’re not really a writer except that people actually like your words and you like sharing them and a few people take something with them from their reading. And they tell you and you smile, thinking oh that’s kind of you but I wish I could be more, more, more.

Because you’ve got five or six possible places and ideas and they’re absolutely all over the place and all overdue soon.

You fathom a community changing idea for suicide prevention but you’re naive to believe you can do it your own and you know that so that knowledge joins in the conversation and question of them all.

Give up or try?

Then you realize, just stop.

Just stop for a day or maybe two.

Stop and remember your why that got crowded out by your what if and why not me or the big one for me, “How can I, How should I and mostly How could I not?

Because there’s always the place inside that won’t let you forget God told you these things are your purpose, He made you for these.

Landscapes were painted because the angels seemed less charming, amateurish, I discerned.

Others wanted color, I adjusted my technique and my brushes.

I wrote bravely and hurriedly to comply with a deadline and four days later reread the folded and put away copy and found a sentence that made no sense, a whole paragraph that had no flow.

Obsessively checking emails to see if they chose to publish it anyway. Crazy!

Crazy ever seeking more for me.

Too much, Lisa. Too much Lisa.

Grace upon Grace

You lost your why again.

Art had become a chore, my quiet space an obligation, counting down time ’til I was done with one and then finish three more to be complete, a series I called “Spirit”.

I suppose such is life when you’re teetering over deciding your worth from what you create instead of from your creator.

The things that have always been your sweet spot of comfort become a frantic and frazzled focus, an ever futile challenge.

It is miserable when you veer off the path of what had become your peaceable and pretty place.

So, you take a break, maybe just an hour, a day or two and you ask God to speak before you close your eyes.

You wake and there’s barely light outside, the soft and gradual I’m not gonna overwhelm you revelation of day.

Feels like God saying,

Come now, let’s begin again.

This time be disciplined. Be disciplined not in your doing.

But, be disciplined in your believing.

Make things of beauty because I’ve given you the ability, the hands, the thoughts, the words.

Make them for me, allow me to take them where they belong.

I’ve begun a new piece, returned to my beginning place, the quiet pieces resting on lyrics from old hymnal pages. The works I call “my girls” and some have called my ministry.

I’m at peace again.

Back to my soul.

I’m linking up with the Tell His Story community along with Mary Geisen and this beautiful story: https://marygeisen.com/there-goes-my-heart/