This tiny bird is a keepsake from my daughter’s pre-wedding weekend. A small shop in the mountains filled with cute trendy things and I chose a bird as small as the cup of my palm.
A sparrow danced on the porch yesterday. Instead of hurrying my granddaughter outside, I watched through the window as it watched me. It rested on the ledge, turned to face me, and then flew away.
As if to say, remember.
You are seen and known.
You are cared for fully.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
Today, my devotional included this verse. It’s a verse you might see on a greeting card, a coffee mug or framed words written in pretty black flowing letters.
It occurred to me, not sure why not before.
God is not small at all.
His voice is mighty.
It calms me and calls me.
It protects me with warnings.
It soothes me with song.
God’s rejoicing over me may cause me to think of beautiful birds.
But, God is not that small at all.
Nor is His presence, love and power.
I pray you remember with me.
God is singing over us and His voice overpowers all other songs, all other voices that threaten or sing worrisome songs.
Look up. Notice God.
He is with you.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
The followingis an essay submitted for consideration. It was not accepted. I, because I am me,decide it was too vulnerable, not uplifting enough, grammaticallyerrant or biblically inaccurate. Or, maybe it was meant to be here, maybe rather than trash it from my desktop, someone may feel a little resonancewith these not chosen words.
Sunday morning woke me with new content for my story God has been editing. The message, that His thoughts of me are far more important than my own. Recent years of angst over when things will be better again led me to define my emotion and it presented itself as dismay. I searched the dictionary for its definition, and I sat in my morning spot for a minute, both enlightened and ashamed. The meaning of dismay is “a loss of hope”. The accuracy shook me and then I sat and wrote a note to myself, recording the clarity and truth that this certainly did not define me nor describe my present life. I thanked God for the timeliness of the morning message.
I hoped this time I’d believe it past noon.
Timely, because I found my thoughts overtaking me again, revisiting trauma of childhood and of longing to understand. I told myself a lie one morning, prompted by the silliest of reasons. I needed a new printer, some socks and we needed oranges. I stood in the checkout line and gazed into the buggy. I am an artist and I needed the color printer; the other items were trivial. The line was long, forlorn faces glancing my way and I glanced again into the cart. I turned and abandoned the cart in the women’s department, and I walked away. I told myself I hadn’t asked my husband; I should do that before buying.
I left the store and pulled through and got myself the biggest cheeseburger I could and devoured it. I drove clouded by sadness and I allowed my belief to speak. I had left the shopping cart and walked away because I believed,
“You don’t deserve it.” and I let that lie the enemy planted linger for several days. I ached to erase the conclusion that began as a little girl who made certain not to bother her parents and led to a teenager who excluded herself from all possibilities and an adult woman who settled for abusive relationships because, “you don’t deserve a good man.” I found myself step into the foray of a fight to never win the battle against my past and I hated it although it felt so very true. After all the years, I figured out what held me back, the belief that I don’t deserve good.
I am letting the revelation change me now with God’s help.
Not long after the Sunday trip, one miserable evening I drove home from another shopping trip meant to comfort. The heaviness lingered like the thick grey clouds about to erupt into a storm. I paused. I asked myself,
“What does God say you deserve?”
Grace, mercy, love, freedom, peace.
What a beautiful question, a breakthrough began! God woke me with new hope the next morning and I woke with the words to a hymn about the name of Jesus being written on my heart, the hope of earth and joy of heaven.
I made note of this day in my journal, listed the things I had been wrongly believing:
You didn’t deserve love as a child, didn’t deserve relationships that didn’t include abuse, don’t deserve now to be finally, all God designed you for. I realized the burdens I carried daily were never meant to be achingly carried alone. I deserve the help of Jesus walking in tandem with me and my woes.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 4-5 ESV
I sensed Jesus telling me to stop walking all alone, to believe in possibility again. However, to understand I will always strive when I try to be His idea of me on my own. I decided I deserve hope. I deserve joy.
I deserve peace.
Peace, in spite of cultural concerns, fears over our world’s future, anxiety over illness all around me and another that’s heavy, guilt over your own wellness when so many are suffering.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29 ESV
Sunday woke me with a word. I lingered in a state of rest I hadn’t experienced in weeks, the sheets soft and the weight of the covers safe, I allowed the thought to sing,
“The mind at rest is peace, the mind at peace is rest.”
I moved through the morning with coffee in hand towards my morning spot. Using my Bible app, I searched and hoped to find the words to make even stronger God’s message to me about being at peace. Was this scripture or just a thought? Either way I knew it was God continuing to connect things for me, like a seamstress following a pattern, scissors cutting away the unnecessary, God is creating a new outfit for me.
The garment he sees me wearing is one that is light and airy, allows the freedom of His love to move through me. My new garment is a pleasure to wear, unrestricted and quiet in color, a confident statement.
This is God’s design for us, a life of rest and peace.
I wonder what your waking thoughts are. I’ve begun to see them as a gift of God’s presence to set the tone of my day. Admittedly, my afternoons are often cluttered. My evening time is either a deep breath to welcome an indulgence of something that comforts or an endeavor to finish a painting or other endeavor I started. Just as I believe I do not deserve good, I often succumb to another lie, the one that tells me at sixty years old, it is too late.
To allow quiet to come is to allow peace. To recognize the constant plot of the enemy to hijack our thoughts is simply smart.
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. Proverbs 14:30
My Father knows I compare myself to others. He knows this has long been a stronghold of a little girl who grew up poor and afraid and became a woman who compares herself to others in an attempt to dispel the lie that says it will not happen because you don’t deserve it. I now recognize this as untrue.
New ways of thinking are ours to embrace. I hope you will consider when asking yourself what God desires for you, what it is that Your Father has decided you deserve.
Along with redemption, it is love. It is freedom, it is peace.
I treasure my morning meetings. May you find time, sense the Spirit of God in and with you and be renewed as you listen and begin to think in new ways.
May we all linger here a little longer.
May you discover the big lies you’ve told yourself are true of you and may you believe only what is true, only what God says of you.
I wear a T-shirt quite often, lots of times under a sweatshirt. Soft in color and fabric, across the chest are the words, “known and loved”. Wearing it feels like my little secret, the one thing I want to remember once more.
Once my life was different than it is today. Once there were reasons to fear. Now, there are reasons to embrace not being afraid.
The woman caught in adultery found herself on display, a crowd had shown up to see her stoning. She waited. She knew the law of Moses. She anticipated the punishment.
The men invited Jesus into the discussion, into the abuse. He invited them to consider their own wrongs and sins of a sexual nature.
Telling the group, the one of you who’s never committed such acts, you can go first, I give you permission to commence the stone throwing.
Jesus waited. He wrote in the sand as the tension must have surely risen and the onlookers waited to see which among these men was perfect.
“And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.” John 8:8 ESV
The men turned and walked away, maybe the crowd dispersed. Jesus asked the woman if she realized what had just happened.
Her sin of adultery was known and yet, she escaped death by stoning.
He made sure she understood that she was known and loved, not known and condemned.
Once my life was different. Now I am known and loved.
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11 ESV
Walk in the way of forgiveness. Know your heart in light of mercy. Who we are now matters more than who we once were.
Linking up with others prompted by the word “once”.
“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.
“But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:33 NLT
A trusted friend with a windowsill full of orchids has told me to let it be.
It will bloom again. I’ve allowed the fallen petals to stay, evidence in some way to me that my orchid will flower again.
One morning, I’ll be greeted by the beginnings of a bloom nurtured from the strong green stem that I’ve kept watered although it does appear hopeless.
If you could see my friend’s orchids, you’d trust in her confidence too.
Today, my guide in the back of my Bible had me start again. Psalm 1 and Matthew 1 along with I Chronicles, the lineage of Jesus.
I added Proverbs 1 because I felt the need for wisdom.
Joseph is met by an angel who assures him being married to a pregnant woman does not mean shame or fear.
Rather, it is a grander thing. It is a conception by the Holy Spirit. It had nothing to do with the humanness of him.
“Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:19-20 NLT
Joseph believed the voice that assured him, God has made you a part of a long ago established promise.
Joseph listened and continued beside Mary.
He was alone, quiet, considering “cutting and running” when he heard a voice he was certain of.
Yesterday, something I thought was wonderful happened to me. A dream come true, evidence of God’s goodness, a blessed thankful answer to a deep longing. A legacy, a book for Elizabeth.
But, I misunderstood. I misread the agreement. I felt stupid, a novice, naive.
And then, I didn’t.
I listened to the Holy Spirit. I turned my attention towards the way forward. I decided to continue, just more informed and learning.
I decided to believe, not yet but soon and surely.
Like the orchid that has been bare for the same six months of dread and pandemic, the strength is in its roots, the up flow of nutrition from the hidden place within.
The leaves are bright green.
The tangle of grey in the pot is getting thicker.
I can’t see any evidence of it, I must trust the uncertainty of my part, watering it.
Much like my confidence in these days. It will topple if I’m overwhelmed by every argument towards dread. I am not capable of keeping my hope if I listen to the voices of fear, conflict, condemnation and death.
I must stay quiet, quiet enough to be reassured by the Spirit of God in me, the voice that says don’t join in the fear.
The voice that gave me the prayer yesterday, a simple one, a request for relief and assurance.
Relief and assurance.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 KJV
Listening to voices other than the voice within me, my “soulmate”, the Holy Spirit leans towards discontent, disgruntlement, dismay over a dreadful next day.
The longing of my heart begs my return to listening intently to my Heavenly Father.
I will listen today to the voice that promises new growth, a flowering of my bitter and often dried up thoughts and hopes.
I will believe.
I will continue.
“Thy longing is the faint response of thy heart to His call.” F.B. Meyer, Joy and Strength devotional
Seems like yesterday, but it was I guess, twenty or so years ago. I cut the big branches from the sycamore tree and laid them in the back seat. Leaves as big as my two hands together. I had a plan for my room. I was assigned the lesson on Zacchaeus.
The branches touched the ceiling in the tiny room where I created a scene to tell the children about how a man moved from the top of a tree hoping just to see Jesus, to having him as a guest in his home.
On the night I was to teach the lesson, the room disappointed. The church trying to save electricity had turned off the air conditioning. I was met by wilted leaves and a room that was consumed by humidity, a swampy smell. The “tree” I built in the corner was wilted, not special or impressive for the little children at all.
The tree was no longer a part of the lesson. Ten or so boys and girls sat in front of me in a circle on a rug we imagined was the tax collector’s home.
I taught them about the man who said yes to Jesus coming inside. They listened as I told them of the man up in the tree who never thought he’d meet Jesus, he just wanted to see unnoticed by others, the one who was spreading hope and love, a healer.
Then Jesus said, I’m not just passing by, I’m headed to your house today, climb down from that (ridiculous) tree.
The story continues with the criticism of others who knew Zacchaeus as a rich man, a cheater, a scoundrel you may say.
None of that mattered to Jesus. He set his sights on people unworthy from others’ perspectives.
I’m one of those.
Later, we’ll be having a big crowd at our house. We will celebrate a birthday. Children will swim in our pool, cousins will feel like it’s a reunion party. There will be noisy conversation, peach cobbler, baked beans, popsicles, etc.
My husband asked me if I was ready just now. He knows I’m an introvert, he’s familiar with the mystery of my yearning for quiet.
Almost a year ago, I began to wear this little bracelet. It’s paint covered sometimes, it’s a little soiled from my walking in this southern heat. It is stretched and weathered.
A tiny charm adorns it. One side says “faith” and the other, “my saint, my hero”. I don’t consider myself a saint nor a hero.
I do know that faith is my mainstay. I don’t need to know if the giver of this bracelet considers me her hero. I just need to continue in my faith and hope others who come around me see it. I need to remember Jesus as my hero. I need to live in a house of faith.
That when others come to my house, they might get a sense that Jesus had been by too, either in the waking prayer of morning, the first step outdoors to see the sun leave layers on the green or in the way I welcome them in.
Where I lack in hospitality, may there be the evidence of my faith.
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10 ESV
Zacchaeus, a rich man met Jesus unexpectedly in his home and then carried on from there more honest, more generous, more unashamed.