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…”
Yesterday, the birds were gathering outside the window. I saw their shadows and the way they intersected the sun, a flash and dimming of the light coming in.
I didn’t turn to watch them, I missed their morning dance.
Instead, I was intent on the details, I was recording my fear. There were three nightmares and three pages of journal, trying to decipher the power and realistic terror of each of them.
Now, they’ve faded away, their scariness has passed and their power over my day, finally waned.
Jesus, God’s Son came to eliminate our fears. There’s no fear in love and His love came to take away our fears.
He told the disciples to fear one thing, evil, the authority that keeps us in fear, tries hard to keep our thoughts from heaven, to cast us into Hell.
To keep us kept by our nightmares, our minds pulling out the bad stuff in our sleep and it dancing dirty dances all night long. It is crazy, evil’s power making buried stuff come out to play, to mess with our peace , to derail our good days.
It is evil.
Jesus said fear is never from me, be assured, you’re worth so much to me.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 ESV
There’s no fear in love.
Grief, like a terrible nightmare makes me afraid, a different and try as I might, unavoidable afraid.
Christmas comes with grief. It would be wrong not to long for those we lost; yet, that longing turns to sadness. We imagine times when we’d all love to just sit around and laugh and be happy over our happy times with those we miss, those we loved. It’s not that simple, that simplifying of grief.
All the more reason to draw near to Jesus, no masks are worn in His presence. He alone sees our anxious and sad, pretending not to be, hearts.
Do not be afraid. He knows grief sometimes feels like fear.
“”Fear not, little flock.”
Luke 12:32 ESV
No one ever told me grief felt so like fear. C.S. Lewis
I avoided the dancing birds. I was hoping not to see the red bird. I longed to see them most days, but, for a little while I felt different than before.
The bird rushing past my work window, a flash of brilliant red or the subdued female hue, I looked away.
This time avoiding the reminder that it’s not really you, only symbolic of you, my father and my mother.
I’ll see them again I know and I’ll accept the gift of their appearing.
A gift of love, a gift that holds no fear.
If I listen closely I might hear “Stop being afraid, Lisa Anne” and I may see my daddy looking over at her before nodding a yes, quietly and simply nodding “yes”.
I’ve just given a chunk of my evening, finally settled into my spot for an hour or two, to the perusing of quotes on grief that might be descriptive of what I’ve come to know.
Nothing quite right.
I’ve decided grief moves from an acknowledgement embraced all together of tightly knit mourning mourners to an individually and uniquely personal honoring of the one missed and longed for.
After a while, the void is always present when the all together gatherers gather; but, it’s not elaborated, opened for discussion, no longer any value in discussing the sorrow over the absence.
We’re all together in our longing, have the sense and sensibility not to invite it take over our hearts, our minds.
It doesn’t serve us well. Thank the Lord we know this, we know not to open wounds healed sort of like skin pinker than the other places where the deepest cut occurred. We’re okay each of us, to care for our own wounds, comfort our own souls.
There are new ways to grieve, after a while, after all.
I didn’t know when the morning had us listening to a sweet silver haired woman peddling plants, that I’d have cause and occasion to remember.
I didn’t know when my daughter said, “Come early, we’ll go the Farmer’s Market” that this same sweet lady would correct me when I called one plant something other than what it was and that she’d remind me not to over water.
Didn’t know I’d think of you then, had no idea how I’d be so happy I’d bought the three new tiny and tender plants later.
Tonight, I spent some time taking the old dirt out and adding new and I put the tender thick leaved plants in a semicircle design and just a little water, not too much, I put it back in the place next to the book I made to remember you.
To remember, the very first year after you were gone.
Little green plants in a shallow pot with broken edges, my sort of special way, the way I make sure to honor my mama, to remember.
Grief, after a while moves from a sorrowful stance to acceptance that honors, from remembering to keeping quiet your spirit and cultivating small reminders. Me
I believe empathy should have another name, a word that’s descriptive without the clinical tone. I believe empathy, the word, should sound softer, a whispered acknowledging tone.
Empathy, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, an exchange really, is human hearts trading places.
I’ve finished Kate Motaung’s book and considered the technique of allowing the pages to fall open, deciding this is the place I should write of my connection with this story.
Still, each time I sought redirection, I wound up in the same place, the place we had in common, the place and time when grace filled the room.
Years ago, it was the most pitifully powerful memory I’d ever known.
Still is the most powerful, not pitiful or pity filled any longer.
The day was Christmas and the drive was three hours one way. My husband, the children, there was no discussion, we were going to see mama.
We arrived at the hospital and the nurse said, “She’s waiting.”
Her body was weak, her organs were weaker; but, she was expecting us. Her hair had been styled and she had on the most delicate of nightgowns I’d ever seen, more beautiful than any I’d ever known her to own.
She smiled. She “made over” my daughter and my son. She encouraged them, she reminded, she laughed a little, she gave them direction.
We gave her the gifts we’d brought and I remember that she thought my siblings might come later and my aunt had come and she had an expression of pure love and acceptance of whatever gift or not might be given.
She grew tired and it seemed we grew awkward, like clumsy adolescents not being sure what to do with our hands, none of us knew what to with our hearts.
A hospital room on Christmas Day and an hour or so with my mama and then three hours back home with little talk only uncertain sadness.
This was my mama’s last Christmas. I have never seen her more glowing, never seen her so resigned and simply open to come what may or may not.
I read Kate Motaung’s account of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and of her longing to be with her but, committed to stay on God’s course, a missionary in another country.
I was overjoyed by her telling of her mother’s travels to visit. I envisioned her love for Kate and her family and her maybe stubbornness to be with her daughter, to welcome babies, to leave them with good words and wisdom.
I smiled as I read of the trips for ice cream and the times her mama, weak and unable to be strong on her own, had a zest for life and humor, I could see them together making memories.
The mother giving all she had until she could give no more all for the sake of her children. I understood.
I struggled to imagine being so very far away and then realized prayer has no limits. God doesn’t set parameters as if to say oh, no the prayer you said well it’s way too far for the one you want it to help.
No, God is Sovereign. A mama three days away is no different from one three hours away when our living Father hears the supplication of a loving daughter, asking for mercy for her mama, and grace for the times together.
Towards the end of the book, Chapter 20 is titled “Grace”.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,”
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
There’s a surprise trip to visit her, to return from Cape Town, Africa to Michigan.
Her mama’s condo smelled of cookies. The machinery all around, sustaining her breathing and yet, there were fresh cookies.
I wandered then if her mama baked cakes and made pot roast and potatoes and I decided for myself, I believe she did.
The chapter ends with celebration; she, her mama and her sister, memories, more laughter, hysterical laughter.
And a realization.
And it was grace. Kate Motaung
“A Place to Land” is a comfort, it’s consolation and it’s a telling and retelling of a daughter’s unwavering confidence in God.
Mostly, for me it’s a beautiful gift of grace, grace her mother gave, and grace that surrounded her and guided her home.
Guided her daughter through grief to be able to share.
To have other “motherless daughters” understand, be understood.
This book to me, it was grace.
Empathy’s new explanation, I’ve decided.
It’s grace, grace from one who understands shared with another.
It was audible. The whole house, empty and I’d heard it once already. A peaceful type awakening of thought wrapped up securely, held safely down deep.
The bottom of the soul’s well, causing a welling up.
That’s what a sigh sounds like, I believe. A bringing up to our surfaces, the soul’s regrets, letting them see the light and to leave us better, leave us in peace.
John was born for that, to show others Jesus as peace, Jesus as redemption, not regret.
Someone saying they had so much more to say and I remembered my regret.
My “ohh” came out all gravelly like the sides of my heart somehow roughed up the edges of my words and my voice was a sad sigh tarnished by memory.
I remembered regretting coming back home that night. And I remembered what I said by her bed.
I sighed, my understanding audible.
My voice muffled by the knot in my throat as my daughter shared what her friend said her husband said, his father gone before he had the chance to say more.
I sighed; but, not for long, I listened instead, stopped my taking of another’s grieving thunder.
My sigh changed then, from oh I know to hopefully more, I understand.
Same morning, I’m thinking of what I missed finishing the day before, good intentions stolen by circumstance and once again, I regretted not painting, not writing, not following through.
I opened my little book called “Joy and Strength” to the place chosen for the 2nd of March.
And again, the sound of sigh, this time a sigh of affirmation and of hope.
This one, “Ohhh”, more like “oh, my goodness, oh, my soul,
Oh, how amazing, oh, the love of God”
I sighed, “oh” again, the sound softer then, a validation.
I believe that love reigns, and that love will prevail. I believe that He says to me every morning,
“Begin again thy journey and thy life; thy sins, which are many, are not only forgiven, but they shall be made, by the wisdom of God, the basis on which He will build blessings.”
“Oh”, I sighed, a prayer, again today.
Heavenly Father today I begin again.
Steady my heart, give me opportunity to remember and sweetly sigh, “oh” as I walk along the path of peace that you have made so amazingly free and possible despite my past sins worthy of many regrets.
In Jesus’ name and because of mercy.
I’m afraid I never can finagle all my thoughts into words in five minutes. I’ll link this post with the others though. I’ve already read so many very good posts on regret from others, I’m joining the conversation.