Story one in the series of “Weak Made Strong” monthly blogs
Recently, I heard someone speak of the “Strengths Finder” assessment and I remember years ago taking the test, being given the guide book to better understanding your strengths and making changes to make your weaknesses less weak.
I can’t recall my scores, but I began to think of attributes of mine that I considered weaknesses.
Naturally, I made a list. Just as quickly, I countered each trait with a contrast, a different view.
Sensitive, too transparent and “in my head” became empathetic, authentic and contemplative.
I reframed my barriers to the real life evidence of my tools. I rethought the hardships life had caused me to be avenues towards resilient strength.
Esther was orphaned by both parents and raised by a cousin. She found herself amongst a bevy of beauties competing to be chosen. She was a listener and an observer. She paid attention. She recognized that courage often cannot often be delayed.
I think of the well known verse,
“…Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”” Esther 4:14 NLT
A verse that’s prompted many of us to be brave, be wise, be responsive because we believe whatever circumstance that is calling forth our bravery
We were chosen for it.
And that acceptance of whatever brave thing it is, is strength.
Is weakness moving towards strength.
I am far from a theologian, even less a historian. I simply love reading the stories of women who had lots to overcome or lots to move beyond. I rarely expound on the interpretation of scripture. I’m not wise enough, but I sure do love seeing myself in others.
Women who had weaknesses, but became strong.
What holds you back?
For me, it’s age.
I decide I’m not “on my mental game” enough to be the things God keeps telling me not to pack away. So, I keep them close, I don’t give up. However, I am very slow to try again.
What can you resume or bravely begin that you’ve convinced yourself it’s not yours to do, you’re just too weak, too old, too unskilled
I hope you’ll follow me here for a new story of a woman in the Bible each month.
Who can you think of past or present who is famous because of their peace, the most indescribably unknown person you know?
“These are treasures no bird of prey can see, no falcon’s eye observe.” Job 28:7 NLT
I spoke with an author of three books recently. I sensed the ache in his voice as he told me about his writing after I talked about mine, the children’s book inspired by Matthew 6:26. We agreed to sell a lot of books, you must be famous, have a website with a bookoo of followers and be good at talking about yourself.
Just the conversation between us about self/book promotion was hard.
Before sunrise today, I thought of just how contradictory that seems. I’ve read lots of Christian books, some sort of trendy and insubstantial and some very resonant and worth returning to.
I thought of how we, as far as I interpret the words of Jesus, are not supposed to want to be famous.
When we say
“Make Jesus famous, not me!”
We’re supposed to be able to mean it.
And yet, an agent won’t return an email and a query goes unread because you have less than 5000 Instagram followers.
A few weeks ago, I had a skip in my step, a sense of a really cool possible art opportunity.
Time passed and it faded to “oh,well…”
I’ll reference trauma once here and that’ll be it.
If your needs went unnoticed as a child or young adult and you get well enough to try expression of your needs and talents again and nothing happens…
You decide it’s better to be invisible again.
Because invisible is what you know.
But, now this self-awareness feels less achingly deficient and more like
a better fame.
A realization of what I decided was my “treasure” was not my treasure at all.
Years ago, when I began writing, my heart set on a memoir about the possibility of hope, I was starry-eyed and optimistic and I told myself don’t be a chatty little woman who writes about Jesus.
Be authentic. Be real. Be truthful but not so truthful you hinder another’s hope.
And I thought I’d write a book about it all.
Now, I realize I may not.
Because the truth, my truth I am learning to be okay with is,
I don’t think I want to be famous. I think I’d rather be quiet.
That admission may be the kiss of death to being a published author or it may be the breath of heavenly fresh air to a weary striving soul.
Because writing, painting, being a published author are not my treasures, my peace and my peaceful sharing of my healing are. They are the treasures I hold and occasionally share in hopes of stirring curiosity over the same treasure for others.
I won’t stop writing and I won’t stop painting, often with crayon.
I’m just certain being a person who can be found by name on Amazon as an author or who has art that can be searched for and purchased has given me a taste of fame.
But never has fame made me famous, instead only made me wanting more.
Thirsty for recognition, parched for praise and aching for a dollar sign saying success next to something I made.
Eight years blogging. I suppose it’s fitting to write honestly today.
That feels like a quiet celebration.
Keep writing. It’s good to continue quietly and to believe.
Because healing is not dependent on fame, only on believing, believing like the lame man on the banks of the Bethesda.
“When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time. Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath.” John 5:6-9 TPT
Something in me longs to find a quiet old church with wooden pews and streams of sunlight in every hue laying down strips of color at my feet on old hardwood floors.
To sit in the quiet. To listen to God.
I’m in the spot I call quiet in my home. It is very quiet, only the mockingbird mama’s protective song in the distance calling for my attention.
I woke thinking about being drawn to the wars others are warring as a distraction to what God knows needs my attention according to Him.
Yesterday, I grabbed a $5 pillow and dropped it in the cart. I sensed my daughter wondering where I’d put it. I’m not one to decorate my home with pillows adorned with trendy sayings. I think I mumbled.
I need to remember this.
See good in all things.
First on the loveseat, then between the bigger ones on the couch, then in my mama’s reupholstered chair, I centered it. It seemed too contrived, a pillow pointing out words I needed to remember, seriously silly.
So, I fluffed a pretty one woven with navy and added it as a background for my much needed words. I angled the pillow to meet my gaze from the place I sit in the evening, the place I begin my day.
The wisdom of a book of lamenting words lining up with mama’s and the embroidery threads on a pillow.
“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25-26 KJV
Good comes from waiting, seeking quietly.
Distracted by culture, conflict and confusion, it seems I have made lesser the most important things.
Grace, mercy, peace, surrender.
Attentiveness to God’s purpose for me.
Remembering the gift of redemption.
So that I can be a presence inviting question rather than spewing comments.
Understanding we all have wars within, we are all pulled astray by the personal battles and patterns that deter the transformation that is a witness to the light of God within.
A compelling cause for others to seek salvation.
The salvation that can never be taken from us; but, must be treasured with every breath of our body so that we don’t fall back into warring.
So that we don’t miss the glory of the quiet voice of God in the quiet places.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24 ESV
May my quiet confidence in God be more evident than my constant questioning over what is not mine to understand, only be available when called to offer peace in the knowledge of my Savior.
Linking up prompted by FMF, Quiet (smile, Kate likes pillows too).
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.
She told me a heartbreaking story and how she came to accept it.
“God said, ‘that was my intention’.”
I woke today and met rejection. An email quickly skimmed and moved on to the folder marked trash.
I’d told myself submit and if it is for you, it will be.
I wasn’t at all destroyed over it. The not being chosen for my writing was sort of an answer to some recent questions of God.
One in particular, do I just blog and let that be enough?
I don’t know yet.
But, I’m open either way.
Not on the edge about it. I know that God’s intentions for me are always good. I find it brave to believe this.
Wish I’d believed it sooner.
Wish I’d seen the verse with the words “returning and rest” the way my friend explained it.
“Daughter, come back.” is what she told me the prophet Isaiah wrote, as instructed by God.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15 NLT
My friend is biblically wise and I’d always felt the words about running away felt like chastisement.
She read farther back and told me God is just reminding me rest means closeness and confidence and strength are from staying near.
We talked a little more and we began to share worries over our world, the evil motivations of people and the bravery required to stand strong and speak up about God.
She became quiet. She shared of a high school classmate she’d heard through others had suffered a stroke.
She told me they weren’t close friends, hadn’t run in the same circles way back then.
Using the connection of another former classmate, she contacted the ailing friend and asked to drop off food, say hello.
The stroke victim said no at first and eventually allowed my friend in.
And I’m not sure how many visits there were, if meals were shared or if conversation became natural.
My friend shared that the woman she’d been visiting did not believe in God. She had her reasons.
My friend asked God to keep her alive until she could change her mind about Jesus.
My friend ached for that assurance. She is aching still.
The former classmate died too soon.
Tremendous pain prompted her to get any pill she could get off the street and my friend heard that the stroke victim who said there was no God, died while sending someone a text.
My friend heard later, the pill was tainted, a deadly ingredient added.
I sat and sensed the ache of question. I saw regret in the posture of my friend.
Months passed since the passing until one day in the shower, she longed to know why she’d not been able to help the former classmate believe in Jesus.
She looked over at me and said,
“God said, ‘that was my intention’.”
And the truth of God’s intention for my friend’s friend and for me caused tears to begin slowly.
Peace permeated the space between us.
“So, you have peace about her?” I asked and she nodded.
Then, I smiled and I cried and I told her something I don’t think she knew would be for me.
What that means is that those horrible things that happened to me were not what God intended, the evil just won the battle.
And maybe, just maybe the stuff I longed for that had not happened was not God’s intention for me.
Come back, daughter. Yes, I now see.
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18 ESV
What makes no sense to you if you believe in a God that is good?
My friend found peace when God told her, I was on your team, I was fighting alongside you.
You having more time with her was my intention.
Evil broke in. Broke in too soon.
On earth there is evil.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
Heaven, though, is God’s purpose.
Our hope and future.
Come back. Stay near. My grace to you is intentional.
I thought of the words to describe myself and two friends last week. I smiled to myself knowing I’d not find these three referenced in my Bible, just an idea maybe of them.
Spunk, Dainty and Floundering.
I thought of my friend who goes by “Mel”, of her unwavering devotion to those she loves. I thought of her allegiance to me, although unnecessary. I thought of her sorrow in the aftermath of the untimely death of her husband. I hoped for resilience to remain her strongest quality. I longed to hope she’d rely on the smallest bit of spunk she is known for.
Still, I knew the days ahead would unsteady her. I cried when I told her I couldn’t find the word spunk in my Bible. She listened to me struggling to articulate my lost for words rambling over her loss.
My friend, the merciful one. The one with “spunk”.
Another friend, as gentle as a dove joined me for lunch and we caught up. I shared the decision to publish the children’s book, the journey from looking at birds on walks with my granddaughter to deciding to say “yes” to the commitment for it to become a book.
She listened and faintly smiled, not with excitement, just acknowledging what she knew was significant. I noticed her hands as she listened, diminutive and folded. I thought oh my goodness, she is so dainty.
I wondered later if the word “dainty” could be found in my Bible. I looked and as expected, no mention.
My friend who has much in common with me, an artist, a quiet friend who is longing to see how far life will take her.
She asked me to guess what she’d taken a chance on doing. I gave no answer because she was giddy to tell me.
She told me she’d learned to paddleboard, no idea why, she just decided to try.
I imagine her balanced amongst the other lake people, her petite frame having lots of room on the board but I shook my head and asked, “How on earth did you do it? I guess you must have good balance or strong legs, I could never do it!”
I thought of how I’d always thought of her so dainty, so delicate, not physically strong, more emotionally fit…dainty.
She answered that it is not dependent on your strength or your being able to balance, it is about trusting the board, allowing your body to let the board be in control.
Trust more than skill.
Days ago, I watched my granddaughter pick up and put down her little pink shoe clad feet.
The land that surrounds her home is bordered by paths, some grassy, others a mixture of sand, roots, big rocks and pebbles.
We walk together. I allow her independence with reminders of “careful” or “hold my hand” when her excitement for living causes her to prance ahead and risk tripping on rocks or over her own precious feet.
I bring my hand down to meet her tiny fingers, “Hold grandma’s hand.” I say and she either latches on or with a big girl motion huffs and shoos me away.
I smile. I watch. Soon she turns towards me and finds my hand and then lifts up in a surrender to be carried by me for part of the way.
She is learning independence and accepting assistance, the play of the two.
We walk together. We scamper. We dance. We sing and we gather pretty things, no hurry. No pressure, a rhythm of acceptance, balancing independence and surrender.
Holding accomplishment in one hand and humility in the other.
“Floundering”, the word I assigned to how I’d been feeling, the third word not found in my Bible; yet, the perfect description for my confusion, my unsteady thoughts, my leaning one way and fearing falling or leaning too far the other and tripping over my impatience.
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 ESV
Floundering thoughts, death compromised spunk and resilience, and assumptions about the fragility in our feeble dainty frames.
Each of those telling me, steady yourself, your heart, your trust.
This is one of those posts that needs a disclaimer: Memoir type personal plus possibly all over the place rambling, one of those that simply recording it cements the value of it all coming together.
Oh, and about aging and accepting it and not being caught up in regret.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. II Corinthians 4:16
I made a scribbled list of verses that comforted and confirmed my hopeful thoughts. I read a familiar passage, one used to reassure or comfort others after a disappointment, tragedy or just acceptance of unexpected change.
“God will make good of it.” Christians are known to say.
I cried the night before in front of my husband, not a horribly uncontrollable weeping, more a soft release. Tender, it felt.
We were catching up on things, I needed a few minutes of his attentiveness. Earlier, I pulled into the driveway and he greeted me and the only reply I gave was, “That did not go very well at all.”
He asked for an explanation. I said “later” and realized I was worn out from sharing how this unexpected thing made me feel, exhausted over trying to have another person understand my needs, my secrets, my reasons for anxiety.
Psalm 107 caused me to say softly this morning, “Wow”.
I’d found one verse and it fit and then I turned to read the chapter entirely, the one with the header in my Bible, “Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So”.
“Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless.” Psalms 107:4 NLT
I still have things to say, the optimism of this truth met me.
I thought of my years of wandering, most of them not a misleading of my own making, but of being caught up, trapped, lost and to this day surprised to be a survivor.
I paused to pray. I thanked God for keeping me safe, for preserving my life.
Some things have happened in these pandemic panicked days that have triggered me.
Felt similar. There are requirements of this time that remind of control, of powerful demand, of being silenced; the mask I wear as mandated shields me for my health and others yet, reminds of being held down, told not to yell.
Last month, my dental woes began. A bridge that made up for four lost from damage teeth shifted and broke from one tooth that was an anchor.
I stood up in my art room, felt the slight change and it fell into the palm of my open hand.
“Bewildered” is a word my precious cousin used to describe me as a child. At gatherings she says she remembers seeing the expression in my preteen eyes and thinking, bewildered.
I was relieved that someone had seen it.
Here I find myself, a few days from 60 and bewildered again. Having to be reminded of the blows to my face and the hard slaps on my cheek over thirty years ago. The dental surgeon displayed the elaborate 3-D images of the jawline, the place where the cheek makes a little circle when I smile, the place that is now in resting mode as I prefer not to smile due to this gap of only gum because of broken bridge that covered missing teeth.
The surgeon seemed empathic, so I felt I should give an explanation as to why due to past trauma I was not a viable candidate for dental implants.
Why someone who looks pretty okay now at one time was not.
So, I spoke of my past. Soon after, wishing I hadn’t. It was not safe to share. Not that it was taken lightly or not heard, it was not safe for me to hear my own sharing.
It reminded me of being unseen and unheard in my past and deciding to stop asking, to change my expectations.
So, that night my husband sat and I told him how I felt in the dental chair and how the trauma of my past was being reborn and fighting to be thought and overthought. Saying this to him helped.
I cried a little and then decided to change my thoughts. I decided to resist the downward plummet into always a victim.
This is transformation, this intention to be aware of my safety, to begin to see that this is what Paul meant when he wrote all things God makes good.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance and He chose them to become like His Son. Romans 8:28 NLT
I saw this often quoted verse differently. It is not that God wants me to accept that the bad things were bad and somehow I am to accept that they will be made good. It is not that we don’t have sorrow, are expected to hide our longings for our mother and father who died before seeing a grandchild. It is not that we are naive thinking a crisis that leads to pain will magically feel better, be considered a good thing.
No, this passage is about the good that comes with acceptance of the bad and to continue to thrive, to continue to move towards a likeness of Jesus, to decide not to be pulled into misery over trauma, to be intentional in your speaking to your self, “You are safe. You made it and you have so much more making. You have still more story of redemption to tell.”
You can feel it. You are being called towards God’s purpose.
The purpose? Transformation
Your body is aging, shifting, even moving towards failing. All the while your spirit is blooming like a wildflower spread!
You were lost in a sad wilderness long ago. You decided on a different path, there were helpers but you set out at first on your own. You were and remain found!
A blind beggar lingered roadside as Jesus walked by. He and the disciples had just discussed which of the twelve would be most important of all. Jesus did not entertain the conversation as they continued on, only telling them not to be surprised that the last will be first.
The blind man spoke out, shared his plight and asked for mercy. The onlookers told him to be quiet. Jesus heard him and told him to come near. He jumped up from the dirt and went straight to Jesus. Jesus asked him how he could help and the man, blind Bartimaeus told him he wanted to see.
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:49-51 NIV
There are many stories of healing in the Bible with similar endings, people in need are made well. People who’ve been harmed are healed. People who have been wronged or been wrong receive mercy.
Their faith, our faith has healed us.
And so they move forward in that very faith as followers, not backward glancers filled with regret or question of why and how and what was that sorrow’s purpose anyway?
He brought them out of the darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Psalm 107:14 ESV
Shortly, I will be back in the dental chair. I will begin the process to choose a partial (oh, that word!) over implants and I will accept what seems, feels and sounds so bad is best for me, is better. Better, than I expected.
I woke and remembered the rainbow from yesterday evening and the bluebird that flew from the mailbox and up towards heaven. Such beauty all around me. Then I remember uncertainty remains and uncertainty is still scary.
David lamented over the enemies of his soul, the tyrannical threats he felt despite knowing God’s love was steadfast and unmovable.
There’s a trendy group of words lately amongst others talking about these times. It’s an expression of question I guess “both and”.
I asked my cousin (my no cost therapist, a reciprocal arrangement), how can the earth be so splendid and yet, so scary?
How is there such joy alongside such sorrow?
I haven’t really used the expression and I hesitate to use it incorrectly. I guess it really is “both and”.
My thoughts begin with “why” and end with “still”. Today’s Psalm is a psalm of David, “My Soul Thirsts for You.”
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.” Psalm 143:1-12 ESV
A prayer: My soul longs for you God. In this dry and thirsty land compromised by fear. My soul longs for you. Remind me of the truth of your love. You are a giver not a taker. You are a sustainer of peace. Because of mercy, I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen and Selah.
My friend chastised me gently when I shared how I despise the money part of being an emerging artist. I underprice my work because in my mind at least I’m not giving it away.
Although I have before.
My friend, the same person who told me my gift is “mercy”, corrected me when I told her promoting my work felt uncomfortable, not godly.
She believes my art and writing are talents God gave me to impart hope to the kingdom. She told me my work is “kingdom work” and so it should be as big and impactful as possible.
I have battled big time the skills to build a website. WordPress is not the right platform, others overwhelm me.
“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things. It is we, of course, to whom things look ‘little’ or ‘big’.” Elisabeth Elliot
God has blessed me with many things. Paintings that touch lives and are sold, art on a gallery wall, art in a featured magazine article, art that is influenced by strength and hope.
Still, I have a hard time with some parts of it all and God tells me to just keeping creating even if your steps feel bogged down, incapable or slow.
Crawl before you walk kind of thinking. I need a website but before I take that step, I need more of a business perspective on my Instagram… So follow my art page on Instagram if you haven’t already. Numbers of followers and prices that represent the hours of work are a thing and as my dear friend told me, if you’re doing kingdom work, you want to touch a big wide kingdom with your work!
For now, I’m inviting others to follow my art page on Instagram. lisa_anneart
Happy Monday, Memorial Day, another week towards better, y’all!