“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.” John 15:4 ESV
Today, the sun was bright in South Carolina, the Labrador was content but it seemed wrong not to walk him.
I’d gone to church, kinda worried but masked and attended, immersed myself in the rich voices of the singers and I joined in the emotional prayer offered by our pastor.
I opened my palm to heaven in agreement. It felt weak and timid, still, I felt myself hoping …
God please help us all.
I heard the ache in the pastor’s tone. I wondered if he might cry.
A prayer about pandemic and the fears about our country.
Every one is fighting hard battles and there seems no bunker in which to hunker down til the war is done.
My walk that was supposed to be a jog in this time of resolutiondecided to be take it easy, take the dog.
On the trail I spotted the ebony berries. I remembered the sermon I heard and the one my cousin suggested.
I thought if those berries weren’t on the branches they’d be dried up, bitter and wrinkled.
I thought of the two Sunday sermons.
One about remaining and the other, flourishing.
One talking about connectedness and abiding and the other talking about planting ourselves in the place most likely to keep us growing, make us strong.
And I’m thinking now, I’m staying close, even growing closer and as odd as it may seem if it came from my very own lips.
God is still good and he’s about to become good for so many more.
And my thoughts on that?
Welcome to a life led by your Heavenly Father.
Welcome to a life that makes no human sense, welcome to God in you, a quiet sense when nothing makes sense, a whisper in the breeze, a pausing to notice simple berries against green leaves and be reminded.
God is near. I am loved.
Continue and believe.
Planted seeds are about to burst forth. The season to come is one of sweet and miraculous growth.
If you’re curious and need more of these Sunday words I heard:
Search YouTube for TrueNorth Church and Seacoast Church. You can hear both sermons.
Here we are on day 8 of the year with the number that sounded hopeful, a cadence in the sound of its number as opposed to 2020. 2020, the one step forward and one back sort of feel, stuck on the side of the road or bogged down in a farmer’s field.
A year I’d hoped to feel more confidence than persistent dread.
So, it’s gonna be slow growing, the moving into what 2021 has to offer and what I’m gonna need to acknowledge, adjustments to be made with me, within mostly.
No more of this snap of the fingers, all is well and good. No, it’s a practice, an intentional setting my intentions on growing with and at God’s pace.
Changing that leads to blooming and replanting to bloom year after year. Growth that’s not a result of impatience or self-condemnation.
And it’s in the darkness that the growth begins. Dark heavy thoughts that ask why not yet and long to shake off doubtful patterns and to be one and done with habitual self-sabotage to avoid disappointing results.
With God, I’m beginning to know myself well, the things I’m up against, the behaviors that are not for me, are against me.
And Jesus agrees with me so gently.
“Thy faith and thy love and thy hope will grow, the more thou seest the work of God with thee; thou wilt joy in sorrow, and thy sorrow will be turned to joy.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength Devotional
What feels like trudging forward with no evidence of better, quite possibly worse, causes a heaviness in me this morning.
I turn to another devotional, a popular one, “Jesus Calling” and I’m lighter from reading just one sentence.
“The weaker you are, the more gently I approach you.” Jesus Calling
I know this to be true.
I’m never corrected so harshly by my Savior as I am by myself.
I write the sentence in my journal and my thoughts go to the woman who should’ve been pelted with rocks with Jesus as the witness to her deserved punishment.
I know the passage very well. I imagine her waiting to be punished and gawked over by a large group of better than her in their minds gawkers.
Jesus surprised her, surprised the ones holding the rocks. They all walked away after being told to consider your very own wrongs. The crowd dispersed hearing Jesus tell her to go and be free.
“Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” John 8:10-11 TPT
The bulbs on my daughter’s table are covered in bright green moss. They were the same for days, left beside the kitchen window.
The expected brilliant bloom for Christmas festivities didn’t happen, maybe I’d planted them in too shallow soil, maybe over or under watered.
Then, she moved them to a more open space, she cushioned the soil with soft pillows of moss that she and her daughter collected. The moist earth caused the stems to reach up.
Two bulbs now have little baby bumps, flowers soon to burst forth.
I’m believing. Tiny white flowers will flourish. I expect to see them on Monday and I’ll tell my grandchild, look what you and mama and God did! You waited and you helped the little flowers to grow.
Never having planted the winter flowers, “forcing” their indoors blooming, my daughter and I are learning. Once they’ve bloomed, you dig the bulbs up from the dirt and you put them in brown bags.
You save them to bloom again. You anticipate the hope of beautiful future (next year) growth.
Today, when I don’t know about tomorrow and especially not next year, I’ll think of the most quiet thing I know now, these flowers called paperwhites that decided to wait to bloom in January rather than a “forced” December.
The storms of my thoughts are stilled when I remember my strength comes from unseen joy, beckoning me back to a place that is rest, is a haven for sure peace.
“God stilled the storm, calmed the waves, and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper. We were so relieved, so glad as he guided us safely to harbor in a quiet haven.” Psalms 107:29-30 TPT
God’s love is constant. His rescue is sure. His cultivation of us for His glory is patient and gentle.
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”
I’m certain God is intentional. On Monday, I believed this. My body tight and my soul sullen, I bundled up to walk.
My pace is swift I’ve been told. There’s motion in my movement, I swing my arms. I reckon there’s a rhythm in my ample hips. I walk on. It has its benefits.
I exited the trail onto the last cul de sac. The yellow leaves fluttering from the trees, adding to crunchy cushion under my feet. I turned the curve and a leaf affixed itself to my sleeve. I smiled and walked on.
“I’m with you.” I was certain of the message, the brilliant interruption. Around the bend and back uphill, the brittle yellow leaf lingered despite my pace. It wanted to be seen, it wanted my acceptance of its message.
“God is everywhere. Don’t forget to notice.” me
It’d been months since I jotted that sentiment, a long stretch of days just walking to let go worry and angst. God said “See me, I see you.”
“You are so intimately aware of me, Lord. You read my heart like an open book and you know all the words I’m about to speak before I even start a sentence! You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.
Yesterday, I walked again. Accompanied by my daughter and her daughter, the baby in her wagon all dressed in pink and her mama matching, her cap was pink.
We talked about Christmas, talked about random things.
Then my daughter looked at her child and shared a little story.
Sitting outside or walking I can’t recall, my daughter said a giant yellow leaf cascaded down from a tree and in front of the baby’s face before resting at her feet.
My daughter said she told her, “Look at that beautiful leaf, Elizabeth, just for us from God”.
And then together they gave thanks, the baby and her mama said,
Thank you, God.
I imagined her sweet little toddler tone. I remembered my yellow leaf of Monday. I knew then, why I didn’t settle down and write about it and then yesterday I knew again.
Now I know. Now I know.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past.
With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me.” Psalms 139:2-5 TPT
On this evening before Christmas, I pray your pace is slowed enough to notice.
To notice your path even though exhausted or uncertain is fully known and most of all, I hope God sees you, you see God and that you hear Him comforting you with the sweetest tone of all, the words,
“The pace of peace is easy, it’s slow, it’s me with you as you go. Come back, daughter. Walk with me.”
Merry Christmas friends!
Peace is a promise God keeps. Remember this with me.
I sat with one last piece of watercolor paper in the pad, a pencil sketch of a woman’s face I had started was faintly there, not completely erased.
I added oval shapes of angel faces, a few more realistic and scattered to give an idea of angels all over the page, floating above the baby Jesus with his mother, Mary in the corner.
I’d had a moment earlier when a friend wrote about the “multitude” of angels and I couldn’t stop myself from the thought
Could it be? It seems so unbelievable, there are angels, they are real and as much as I prefer not to borrow a song’s lyrics, “there are angels among us.” (The band, Alabama)
And now I’m inspired again. It’s just that simple, no it is splendid, this new fervor.
My beliefs in such things mysterious to me are easy to hold as hope and not as reality.
Someone used the word “resplendent” in a message contrasting their feelings and faith as tender and yet, resplendent.
What a beautiful word, an adjective meaning brilliant, shining, impressive or magnificent.
I again thought of that unbelievable night, the night that Jesus was born.
I am thinking now of its significance.
The significance of seeing and believing in a way that is so much more than a poetically written ancient story of a mysterious man born to a young virgin.
The weight of believing or not. Faith that is not fiction.
“Redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus must be considered fact, a deeply personal unwavering belief, otherwise that very gift of mercy, redemption will never be fully experienced, only vaguely hoped for.” me
So, I cradle the ceramic baby in a basket and I see it more than decoration, I see it truly, fully.
An old man in the Bible, Simeon had been waiting for the prophesied Messiah. He met Jesus with his parents and he worshipped, praised, and acknowledged.
“Lord and Master, I am your loving servant, and now I can die content, for your promise to me has been fulfilled. With my own eyes I have seen your Word, the Savior you sent into the world. Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied, saying:
He will be glory for your people Israel, and the Revelation Light for all people everywhere!” Luke 2:28-32 TPT
An elderly woman named Anna, both had been waiting their whole lives to see the Jesus their God had promised.
“While Simeon was prophesying over Mary and Joseph and the baby, Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child. And from that day forward she told everyone in Jerusalem who was waiting for their redemption that the anticipated Messiah had come!” Luke 2:38 TPT
Resplendent, the aged faces of these two must have been, like the sight on that angel and starry filled night of Jesus’s birth.
Resplendent were the colors, brilliant and vivid on another evening, the rich reds of the Son of God’s blood covered body, the darkest daytime night before the curtain was torn and God illuminated for all the reality of what occurred, a death for our sins, the reality of God’s offer of mercy. A vivid scene that must be believed and remembered.
Many doubted, many still do, honestly admitted needing proof.
“Then, looking into Thomas’ eyes, he said, “Put your finger here in the wounds of my hands. Here—put your hand into my wounded side and see for yourself. Thomas, don’t give in to your doubts any longer, just believe!”
Then the words spilled out of his heart—“You are my Lord, and you are my God!” Jesus responded, “Thomas, now that you’ve seen me, you believe. But there are those who have never seen me with their eyes but have believed in me with their hearts, and they will be blessed even more!” John 20:27-29 TPT
I suppose the choice is up to us, us earthly people. We can choose to believe or not.
A life of faith only faintly evident or one fully committed, resplendent!
Thankful today for the angels, the believers, the doubters like me.
Very surely grateful for redemption, for mercy unmerited, for grace.
Thankful for words and the peace of mind, presence of the Holy Spirit gently nudging my using them.
Continue and believe. He’s not finished with you yet.
All sorts of people and places are all conniving it seems in a way to keep me pressing on.
Unbeknownst to most, they are cooperating with God.
Yesterday, I turned my phone towards the window and captured this candy color view, the dashboard angle now making me think an angel must’ve been my passenger.
I parked my car, turned to one side to see the same orange horizon laced with branches and turned to see the brilliant circle of moon shining.
“I’m bordered, one side sun and the other moon. I’m secure.”
Some point I stopped waking up with one palm raised and the prayer, “Woke up well, thank you God”
I’m afraid I must’ve grown tired of the affirmation.
Or it’s just shifted.
In my journal instead I scribbled.
I’m still here.
God is still with me.
Then opened the Passion translation of Psalm 136 and I John, the Book.
Scripture of the day now also messages from God just for me.
“Give thanks to the Lord over all lords! His tender love for us continues on forever! Give thanks to the only miracle working God! His tender love for us continues on forever! Give thanks to the Creator who made the heavens with wisdom! His tender love for us continues on forever!
Praise the one who created every heavenly light! His tender love for us continues on forever! He set the sun in the sky to rule over day! His tender love for us continues on forever! Praise him who set in place the moon and stars to rule over the night! His tender love for us continues on forever!” Psalms 136:3-5, 7-9 TPT
Then, the tone of continuing continued. A post on FB from a wise man:
“The greatest regret for a child of God will come from finding out that Jesus had to use someone else to do what He told you to do.” Cleve Walker
“Wow.”, my comment.
I sit in the warmth of Wednesday morning. The light landing the way I love it and I wonder if others agree, I love my home so much more at Christmas, I love the peace of the sparkle and soft light. I love the glimmer of blue against gold all mingled with evergreen. I could gaze there all day, accept this gift of peace.
“Woke up well, thank you.”
I’m still here, God is with me. I have things to do.
My new journal has a place in the corner for the date and subject. This invitation to narrow my focus has given space to pause, minimalistic it seems my quiet time is becoming.
It kind of astounds me the depth of thought God rouses me with every morning. I say I’m not deserving of it and He says, “Yes, you are, think on it a little and then share it with whoever.”
Today, grace was and is the subject. Grace that longs for strong holding, grace that says hold on.
So, in my journal under the word “trust” encircled and the names of my children, up above a question, “God, what is mine to do today?”
Then, a summation
From God’s perspective it’s always who we are becoming, the life we accept, His invitation of grace to enter into. Who we are becoming matters so much more to our Holy and SovereignFather thanwho we were or even at this very second who we are. Maybe, I’ve decided that’s a better description of faith than my pen has ever recorded.
Today, I will go with grace towards greater faith.
Grace that responds to my floundering with flourish.
Leads me to places that bring sweet examples of others who knew grace and who were quietly bold.
Three places in scripture, the woman who anointed Jesus is mentioned. The words he used to defend her, to exhibit love and grace because in His eyes she deserved it, caused a sigh in my chest, a tear in my eye. I thought this is what grace sees us capable of, becoming people who never question devotion, aren’t stingy with our love.
“I promise you that as this wonderful gospel spreads all over the world, the story of her lavish devotion to me will be mentioned in memory of her.” Jesus Mark 14:9 TPT
Grace says keep coming towards me, keep learning, keep becoming, you’re not yet home and I’m not done with showing you love and courage.
Someone said we shouldn’t have a bucket list if we believe in Jesus, believe in heaven.
Made sense, the whole reality of the mysterious truth of eternity, incomprehensible, some might say fantastical idea of God’s original plan, perfection.
That was a relief at least for me, me who’s never flown. I don’t possess a passport and have zero income except the occasional art purchase and a tiny retirement check.
In case you’re curious, it’s Italy.
Someone else reminded me of counting my many blessings, naming them one by one, noticing things, noticing God. I can do this again, a practice to revisit.
Golden leaves on my headlight lit path
One golden leaf spinning down
A sky sprinkled with stars
A leftover cheese straw wrapped prettily
Watching Elizabeth waking up and talking to her crib friends
Walking together, saying “Hey” to the sunshine and our shadows
Several birds, very small flying upwards into the sky blue sky
Elizabeth sitting all dainty in her chair ringing her little Christmas bell, her smile, pure glee
The sunrise just now and birdsong causing me to go see where they’re nesting
Calming babies holding them close on their first grandparent visit
Listening to adult conversations between children and not adding my two cents, just being enthralled by their wellness, their voices, by them.
Waking up to rain on Thanksgiving and deciding it makes sense, 2020 and all
Stepping out anyway, my eye noticing the puddled up drop on the magenta rose
Clouds like puffs
Finding my children’s baby stuff
Not ruining the steaks or letting the bottoms of the cookies burn
I could go on, the infinite list, none of it “bucket”.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about mercy or grace, about God.
I wonder if I’m qualified at all.
I’ll wait and see and continue to listen.
Continue and believe.
I’m not listless after all.
“You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise. Come right into his presence with thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to him and affectionately bless his beautiful name! For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you! And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for he keeps his promises to every generation!” Psalms 100:4-5 TPT
So, I began again.
I thought of heaven again this morning, thought of the spectacular mystery just like faith, like hope, intangibles.
Invaluable treasures, the list I’m returning to
The smell of sausage in the kitchen
The thrill in the voice of a child over Christmas and drinking from a Santa mug instead of sippy cup
The sound of frenetic keyboard tapping as my son, home all week but a professional, passionate about his work, working.
A gift for no reason, a luxurious blanket that brought security, represented love
My husband’s announcement as he comes down the hall, “another beautiful day”.