A few weeks ago, a dear friend and counselor was honest with me.
I had been chasing my trauma rabbits again. They are fast and very persistent in telling me I should catch up, latch on, hold one I might catch and cling ahold of and carry it around, allow it to rest on my chest, a familiar companion.
The trail had gotten treacherous. The call to explore new healing methods. To abandon the promises of my faith.
Everything and everyone an unknowing trigger in some stance or posture.
My friend told me I had begun to make my trauma an altar. I cried without reservation. I welcomed her declaration.
If you’ve read this far, you’re thinking, why doesn’t she stop sharing this stuff?!
Or, you understand.
And maybe say thanks.
If the latter is the case, I want to bring you comfort, a little self-talk, prayers and assertions that are keeping me from kneeling at the ill-intentioned altar of my significant, but, no longer present trauma.
“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?
It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” Galatians 5:7-8 NLT
You are safe. God is making sure.
Thepeople who prompt reminders of your horror are not harming you.
This is not that.
Lord, I thank you for seeing the potential in me and my story. It’s why I get to write and paint and love others. Thank you redirecting me, thank you for placing people in my life who catch me when I’m falling, when I’m bending on scarred knees to lie funeral flowers on the grave of my past, the memories of my abuse, the altar of my trauma. Thank you for not allowing fear to cut in.
I wonder if we’d talked about Heaven would I have been better at it.
There’s a memory of my pre-pubescent days that lingers, leaves a lot of questions.
Saturday morning, my older brother and I and maybe the baby brother reported for duty.
(Here’s where I note, the memories are my own, my siblings’ are sometimes different, less or more.)
But, we’d arrive at the church and there would be a little preparation, pep talk, bellowing prayer sort of meeting.
No pants for girls were allowed, only skirts or culottes. I was shy, I was uncomfortable in my female skin. I wanted to do right, be loved and accepted.
We were transported to some big parking lot of a store and we paired up or if we were bold, we approached strangers alone.
We gave out the gospel tract that may have had a ruby faded flame depicting Hell on the front or a big bold question mark, prompting us to confront others about their salvation.
I don’t recall being very good at it. I hoped somehow I was good enough.
Last week or the week before, I felt afraid again. Someone mentioned the rapture. Another wrote about being certain those around you are certain of heaven.
I felt my spirit crouching, looking for a safe corner. Fear rose up.
I thought about why.
“The faculty of memory is particularly exquisite. I think there’s a secret to why God provided it.” John Eldredge, “Get Your Life Back”
I am certain of heaven, talk of it doesn’t scare me. It was simply the Saturday school of witnessing to strangers that scared me, a subtle trauma.
I began to think of a better approach. Although we were young people, little soldiers, what if we had begun our conversations with heaven?
I envisioned us all being schooled in a circled gathering. Inquisitive ones, looking towards our teacher. I see myself captivated by the hope of heaven, inspired, uplifted, casting off my despair.
Excited and at peace simultaneously. God smiling.
What if, way back then I had been trained in hope instead of fear?
Some things may have been different. My story not as meandering to be where I am today.
“Your story matters. Your story will not be lost.” John Eldredge
Years ago, I bought a Bible from an estate sale. It bothered me that it had been left so long. I decided I would find the family of this woman, I was confident they’d be thrilled to be discovered.
I’ve kept the soft worn leather Bible that belonged to a young woman who was an art teacher and became a school principal.
Treasures in her Bible are her membership card as a National Educator, her PTA card, a litany for children, a lesson plan on color, a newspaper clipping announcing her promotion and a photograph of my mama at my wedding I decided belonged here.
A Red Cross membership card
In 1939, Angela renewed her Red Cross certification. My mama was born that year, January 30th.
I’ve read all the notes Angela wrote about her journey of faith in the pages of her Bible.
“We have to open our hearts to the workings of God.” Angela
Heaven is restoration. It is no longer needing to revisit old stories. We don’t see yet; but, in heaven we will see them as God intended. God, both the author and finisher of us.
“Lest we despair, God has given us a “future and a hope” and to be quite specific, it includes the restoration of every precious day of our lives. Heaven is not a memory wipe.” John Eldredge
If I had a do over from my childhood evangelist days, I pray I’d have the courage to look another in the eye. I pray I’d have the sweetest soul penetrating eyes and that my voice wouldn’t quiver a bit.
I pray I wouldn’t be wearing culottes.
And I’d say “Hey, how are you…wanna talk about heaven?”
Today marks the year eleven since my mama went to heaven. Too soon, I’m nine years away from that age.
I’m certain she is joyous. I’m sure every pain and heartache she experienced no longer remains.
I thought of heaven in a new way yesterday. I pray I continue.
I envisioned the reunion with someone who harmed me, brought havoc and years of pain.
I saw us seeing each other and I heard myself say.
“I’m so very happy you’re here.”
“For the Lord himself will appear with the declaration of victory, the shout of an archangel, and the trumpet blast of God. He will descend from the heavenly realm and command those who are dead in Christ to rise first. Then we who are alive will join them, transported together in clouds to have an encounter with the Lord in the air, and we will be forever joined with the Lord. So encourage one another with these truths.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 TPT
I am certain of heaven. I believe in the rapture because I believe the pain and redemption of Job, of Paul, of the woman caught in adultery, the short man who stole from others, the flooding of the earth and the obedience of Noah, and the gracious decision of God to make heaven possible by giving His Son as a sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.
So, I believe in the rapture. Believe in Jesus. I am anticipating heaven.
I’m aware of the angels today, Angela and Bette. I see them celebrating my choice to see hope and no longer despair.
Wanna talk about heaven with me?
It would be great joy. I want to know you’ll be there too.
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.
The two homes on the cul de sac are inviting Christmas early. One changed overnight from a massive friendly ghost inflatable to a same size “Frosty” snowman waving at me as I walk by. The second, more subtle a view, the front door open to allow my peeking in, a tree lit simply in a corner. One reminding me of great big joy and the other a decided upon peace.
The tree is up early in my granddaughter’s room. My daughter, a teacher exhausted over what may come next for her students, watched Christmas movies with her baby, sang songs about jingling bells and dressed her in pink peppermint pajamas.
All of it, beauty!
The deciding to celebrate Christmas in November and groaning in our hearts and souls for a star, a sign symbolic of hope.
Jesus was born and everything changed.
And now centuries later, we are still longing for Christmas. We are so very weary, so very.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” O’ Holy Night
The air was crisp on our walk this morning. We danced along with music in my pocket, looked towards the sky and we rubbed our hands on the cool ground and moss pillows on the hill.
Christmas, I wondered last night before sleeping, how will it be? Will the animosity over politics, vaccines, mask wearing or not wearing ever end?
Will Christmas be quiet this year, requiring less frantic buying and limited travel, limited dining together?
Will we be home alone?
If so, will we know this is God’s will for this time, His idea?
Will we trust in Jesus? Will we keep believing God sees us?
“Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah” Psalm 77:9 ESV
Will we open our Bibles, find comfort in the likemindedness of the psalmist? Will we be reassured of His goodness because of the evidence of more goodness than we can possibly recall?
Will we see ourselves in the Gospels as we reacquaint ourselves with the birth to resurrection story of the baby born in a manger, Jesus?
I pray I am able, pray I avoid the trap of worry, of not knowing the last word in this season’s book and I pray the book becomes one of lessons with resolution not a cliffhanger waiting for the sequel.
Christmas, come early. Come sooner than later. We long for your star. We long for the peace it promised then and promises still.
“I love Thee, Lord Jesus Look down from the sky And stay by my side ‘Til morning is nighBe near me, Lord Jesus I ask Thee to stay Close by me forever And love me, I pray…” Away in A Manger”
Be near us Jesus, as we continue on the paths you place us.
Christmas, come soon. Find us as we find you again. Find ourselves remembering the meaning of Christmas, you, a Savior born for every single soul.
Do you make mental lists of things you’d like to be remembered by? Maybe that’s just what a sixty year old person does.
It happened again. Yesterday, my friend asked if my hair color was natural. It took a minute, I realized she was asking if I had happily resigned to go grey.
My hair is grey? Again, how did I miss this? I don’t spend a whole light of time on hair or makeup to be honest.
Makes me wonder if others say to themselves, well, Lisa retired and she just let herself go or
Maybe she relaxed into being herself.
We were outdoors on this beautiful day. I met my friend and her brother to take notes and hear the love story of the couple I’d be creating art for.
Ideas were shared, preferences in size and style. Mentions of things God has me doing through art and likeminded casual conversation about the goodness of God.
My friend’s brother listened as I shared the meaning of my life verse.
“In quietness and confidence is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15 NLT
There was a pause and he spoke up, “I want to see your Bible.”
I thought of my Bible and smiled.
This morning I’m thinking of the weight of his wish, I’m thinking I may be remembered by the sketches in my Bible.
No better wish.
On this crisp morning, full moon later, Halloween and time change tomorrow, the shift is building, the tension mounting, the crucial critical day of Tuesday, voting.
But, I sit quietly. I open my Joy and Strength devotional to October 31. I read the ancient words from Deuteronomy.
Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee. Deuteronomy 8:2
This portion of a verse in a chapter headed “Remember the Lord your God”.
Words used by Moses as reminders of the forty years of wilderness, the humbling and then the provision of manna.
The chapter ends with a serious warning, timely for our day.
“And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 8:19-20 ESV
I’m not qualified to argue politics. I love people and I love God. Loving God, though, is my priority, my calling, my navigation.
I understand the sound of God’s gentle warning that He gives before He needs to speak more boldly.
I will heed the warning of Moses. I will take care lest I forget the Lord my God by not keeping His commandments and his rules and statutes. (Deuteronomy 8:11)
I will remember the wilderness He pulled me from and I will treasure an unexpected hope of another who reminded me of what matters when he sweetly said, “I want to see your Bible.”
Me too, Tommy,
Me too. I want to always be able to see my Bible. Even when my eyes are squinty and my hair fully silver. I want to hold my Bible in my lap, underline the exhortations, sketch in the margin faces of women like me, women God found. Women who remember.
“We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold,” Hebrews 6:19 TPT
Hope is the thing that gives us permission to imagine, more than imagine, be sure of when there seems so little clarity, even less certainty.
Hope does not, cannot disappoint us, the hope of things not seen, heavenly things.
Hope is not a visible thing and at times makes little sense. Hope is internal, it is God planted, it is that tiny idea of a seed that begins with believing.
Then it grows when God comes close through His Spirit in our soul.
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Romans 8:24-26 ESV
Hope, like God’s Spirit in our souls is an advocate, a guide, a loyal friend. We question the worth of our hope in tragic or trying times.
We catch ourselves falling into the trap of despondency, dismay, anger, doubt or heavy grief.
We stay there maybe, it’s okay. Hope never leaves. We gradually find it, it finds us again.
Because hope does not disappoint.
“And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” Romans 5:5 TPT
I’m not sure we can make it without hope. I’m certain actually, that I could not.
We cannot see hope, can’t put it on the calendar, hold it in our hands, display it in our homes.
It’s visible only to the soul tethered to God. It’s visible in sometimes secret ways. Other times it holds hands with others and we join in our feeble grips in being anchored together.
We are hopeful. We’ve been promised eternity. We believe it.
I walked midday, a change from my schedule. No music, no podcast wisdom. I’d adjusted my shoes, the ankle pain lingering.
Hereditary maybe plus jumping from the steps in my 20’s instead of stepping.
My ankle compromised by my choices.
I walked and prayed and thought, remembered about a week ago I returned from walking, sweaty and breathless because I’d added in jogging, my husband sat waiting in the chair he likes in the garage.
He’d been again, watching the news.
So, I spewed all my thoughts on lives mattering and he let me. He listened, I bet was entertained, my talking with expressive hands.
I’m not typically vocal. Even less often assertive. I’m extremely conflict avoidant.
I told him how I felt about the “all lives matter” cultural trend.
People who I thought believed like me are widening the meaning of sanctity of life to include lives lost to violence, poverty, other.
Likening a life that never had a choice to other lives ended in adulthood, still too soon.
I said, “A woman gets pregnant and decides on abortion. Maybe there’s addiction. Maybe there is fear. Maybe there’s a father or a parent because of secrecy, coercing. Maybe there is selfishness, plans for something other. Maybe there is worry that there will be no roof to cover baby’s head. Maybe there are other reasons.
The woman sees a doctor, clinician or other. Woman’s choice leads to destruction of life, disposal.
And the baby had no choice.
In the beginning, God created… Genesis 1:1
I asked my husband to think of times he skirted with wrong places, wrong time, to consider our own sons might have easily made choices that led to criminal ways.
Could’ve been influenced by drugs, alcohol, anger or even bitter resentment. Could’ve decided to get in the face of an officer and not let up, not let go until force led to extreme response.
Unfortunate choices made by young people and adults often lead to lives cut short.
A few weeks ago, I heard my friend tell of what God had spoken, “That wasn’t my intention.”
When babies were announced despite Co-Vid, I found myself thinking, saying,
“Babies are evidence that God is saying, ‘Keep living’.”
Children are God’s creation.
We were all children once.
Created uniquely by God and for a purpose, to live fully while living closer daily to Him.
“In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Acts 17:28 ESV
I’m perplexed over the lumping of all lives together, lives that never had a choice to see what God could do and lives cut short in angry, wrongful, ugly ways.
But, those are different tragedies.
They are not the same. I prayed today, that more influential and articulate voices than mine would cause the bending of ears, the stirring of souls, the returning to the beginning, the intentional beginning of us by God.
In the beginning, God created.
We can be sorrowful over injustice. We can shake our heads over how long it has gone on. We can pray for the difference that’s beginning to be strong. But, we can’t compare a life with no chance at all, to a life cut short, gone wrong or taken tragically. To one with no chance at all.
Receive grace, we need it. We’re going to need it. Regardless of November, hopelessness is a wound not even close to being healed, the result of our lack of control, uncertainty, the open-ended question of the coming year, the apathy towards each other, the numbing that’s happening to us to the extent we don’t yet know.
“That’s a lot, Lisa…I thought you were a person of faith?”
I know. Today I prayed beside my bed, no words, just a position.
Surrendering the moment.
…and by Him, everyone who believes is freed. Acts 13:39
Belief is a very personal thing, prayer is too. God, knowing each of us completely and individually knows us “down to the very bones” and yet, sees us worthy of the very grace we received when we accepted the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. We decided then I can’t fix this, in fact in my humanness I am unfixable.
Still, I work hard and with intention and a word we love, “perseverance” to see the measure of my faith be represented by works. It’s how we’re wired and we forget that physical wiring never is enough.
Praise, prayer and worship with music rein me back in closer. I find myself opening my hands to heaven when a song touches my tender wounds, thrilled to be uninterrupted on my knees beside my bed or joining others in prayer with both hands palm up to God.
Giving God the hopes, fears and thanks.
Today, I read “Receive His grace all day.” It struck me that the hands I open to give are rarely opened to receive from God. I forget that I need His grace all day long, every moment. More importantly, I forget that His grace is a reservoir that never runs dry. I forget that it is ours simply for asking, just by saying, I need you every hour. Again, I’m not able on my own and you know it God, still you wait patiently for me to remember.
We cannot put our hopes in this country. I’m sorry if that sounds unpatriotic. It hurts to know that and I worry that hopelessness is outpacing the destruction of the pandemic. Without hope, without God and His grace, none of us can sustain our own manufactured hope.
Open your hands as needed today. Receive grace.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 ESV