The Audacity of Believing

After three days with no writing or painting, I returned to my “sanctuary” on Sunday afternoon.

It was as before, it was life giving, the losing track of time and paint on my hands and forehead.

All afternoon, I painted.

I followed my husband’s suggestion. He noticed I was isolating and told me to stop spending so much time in “that room”.

When I did, I thought of other things. Things other than the canvases piling up, other than hopes that seem to have no place to land in this seemingly hopeless land.

I noticed the hardships of others. I paid attention to sorrowful eyes on masked faces. I observed the way we all seem to be walking together reluctantly, like lambs headed for slaughter.

I recalled my work with depression and suicide. I recalled the one thing more important than any other.

The one in need asking for help, and the listener being committed to listening and helping.

I thought of situational depression in comparison to chemical.

I realized, maybe now (I’m not an expert) it makes no difference. Isolation, depression, anger or sullenness, no respecter of persons.

And I revisited my career long reminder.

Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.

Here we are on another Monday feeling like the never ending mystery of our days.

I turned to Matthew, today marked Chapter 7, about not judging others wrongly, considering their conditions could be yours.

I read ahead, drawn towards a healing story.

Longing to remember the healer, longing to remember the one needing healing.

Wanting to feel touched by another’s story.

This one, a single soul held captive by an ugly disease. He was a leper, one others avoided.

He was brave enough to believe and saw the throng of people along with Jesus descending from the mountain down into the valley where he stayed hidden.

He asked for help.

Jesus listened.

“And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭8:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today, I’ll remember those who are struggling more than most, more than me.

I’ll pray they find a listener, are able to express their pain and that the ears that welcome their anger or dismay, offer a heart and hand of patient compassion.

I pray that I am able to offer the same, whether words or canvas or eyes that smile instead of look away when I meet another seeking soul, a gentle lamb trusting God and in need of healing.

May we find each other in our quest for healing. May we continue to believe in the audacity of believing.

House of Faith

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.

My prayer

“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.

I get it. May my faith be like the tree climber.

Continue and believe.

Sing Your Song

I heard a familiar tune from the hallway. Must’ve been stuck in his head from the Sunday service we watched on the TV in the den. Neither of us sang along. Church at home still weird.

I told him, I heard you can’t be sad or angry if you’re humming or whistling.

No response really.

But, he did resume his whistling as he walked away.

“Nobody loves me like you love me, Jesus!” Chris Tomlin

I woke up with this lyric. God wakes me up with songs some mornings. I think it’s sweet. I’m not a singer except in my car or the shower. I’m not even one to sing loud if someone’s in the car with me. I’m too self-conscious to raise my hands in church but I have found myself lately walking through my neighborhood with my palm to heaven, have driven down the road with one hand lifted in praise.

Maybe it’s God saying I know you’re longing to sing and you’ll be singing very soon. Maybe it’s just a truth I need.

Truth is, nobody knows me and loves me like Jesus. I can tell him my deepest regrets and He is gentle, not a harsh critic or a negative reply.

More importantly I can tell Him the sweetest possibilities I hope for and He knows the significance. He’s not surprised by my surprise over me being blessed in some way, chosen for something that is a deep deep longing, so deep a desire it’s kept secret.

But, He knows.

I stand in awe of His amazing ways.

“Nobody loves me like You love me, Jesus
I stand in awe of Your amazing ways
I worship You as long as I am breathing
God, You are faithful and true…”Chris Tomlin

Love, The Way

“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When I’m not certain how to join a conversation, I sometimes don’t say anything. I linger with my questions, I gather information.

I acknowledge my lack of understanding. I tell myself this is just too much for a well meaning but insufficient response. Situations over lives lost violently and unnecessarily weigh heavy on my heart. I am not equipped with words to make a dent in the dismay.

I turned to John today, led by my ancient Roman numerically referenced devotional, “Joy and Strength”.

A drawing in the margin illustrated the question asked by Thomas, “How can we know the way?”

I realized Jesus had told them, shown them, modeled it along.

The way is love.

John, chapters 13 and 14, tell the touching story of the love of Jesus.

Jesus, confusing the disciples by sitting at their feet with a basin of water, choosing the dirtiest of their parts, feet familiar with dirt, and he washed their feet.

He was teaching that you do what seems unfitting for you to do, you take it a step farther than telling about Him or giving food or shelter or telling their own Jesus story.

No, you love others if they’re different, you love people who walk on different roads other than your own.

You acknowledge that their steps are led by God enabled feet and journeys, joys and woes.

Feet like your own.

Made by God, loved by God.

Led by God.

Led by love.

All sorts of words can be said about choosing love.

It’s the choosing that matters, not really the words we’ve known so very long and already know.

It’s the choosing to love when that’s all you know or when that’s “all you got” in unthinkable ungodly situations.

“And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:4-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Love is the way.

Love, the way to God.

Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, the washer of our faltering feet.

Gonna Be Okay

It may be just me.

I caught just a bit of the Billboard Music Awards last night.

Flipping channels and asking myself, why do I even watch television anymore? I’m out of so many loops, especially those about thrones and people who walk around dead.

I’ll watch “A Chef’s Table” fascinated by the stories of phenomenal cooks or HGTV, try to guess which house they choose.

I am drawn to seeing a little of people, somehow drawn to knowing them from their facial expression or their conversation.

I’ve always been this way.

So, I paused in my channel flipping.

Kelly Clarkson announced that Lauren Daigle would be next to perform her breakout crossover hit, “You Say”.

It’s a song really for everyone and I abhor conflict so I’m not too fixated on how people are angry over her crossing over in lots of ways and in places she’s been invited to sing her song.

Her song is an anthem, one meant for all.

So, I watched and listened as her voice began, coming in at the right time prompted by the crystalline sounding piano intro.

She started softly, a little reserved or nervous.

Shaky it seemed she was.

It was a live performance and it seemed to me she felt a bit hemmed in.

Awkward even as she continued.

She continued into the chorus backed by three singers who as they added their echo their reply to her “and I believe!” , their arms raised up in rhymes, like a self embrace.

They, it seemed were each owning, demonstrating and saying to the world.

I believe.

As she continued she grew stronger it seemed to me, more free, more her and more confident of her calling on this different than her usual stage.

I scanned the audience. Many were connected to her performance. Other faces seemed not to understand, either questioning what is the message of this song or

Maybe they felt a sense of being loved by her being there, her singing her song she is now known for.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

‭‭John‬ ‭13:34‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Maybe there were cynics. Maybe there were those who had no idea who and what she was referring to when she sang her statement lines:

Taking all I have now and I’m laying it at your feet. You have every failure God, you’ll have every victory.

Maybe some wondered what in the world does that mean?

Or wait, I thought this song was about believing in yourself or having a relationship with someone who says you should.

It does.

The song ended with an noticeable “ohh” in Lauren Daigle’s raspy tone.

It was a worthy ending as if to say, from my perspective at least, I’ve done this God.

I’ve performed the song you gave me on this huge scary stage.

I have gotten through this. I was scared as I started; but, you helped me through.

You helped me continue and finish the thing you aligned for me to do.

Maybe others didn’t see what I saw. That’s okay, I was impacted by her presence and her performance.

In case you’ve not heard or need to be reminded, here it is:

You Say

Prompted me to know I’ll be put in places I might be afraid to go.

I will go.

God will be with me.

It’s gonna be okay.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to pray the prayer for families at this evening’s National Day of Prayer event. I was asked I was told because of my lifetime of working with families.

I do not know what my prayer will be. I am imperfect in my own family experiences. I could freeze as I’m introduced, thinking what if everyone knows how I haven’t always been a prayerful girl, mama, wife or woman? I could have the words choke me when I try to summon them up. I’ve been a single mama, not always the best one at it.

But, just like Lauren, God sets the stage, we just step forward.

About a month ago, I was interviewed by a local magazine about my choice to retire. The question was posed “What do you want your grandchild to know?”

I answered

I want my grandchild to know that the most important thing is love, is loving one another.

A couple of weeks later the request came, that I pray the prayer for families. It was followed by a letter with the agenda and the header on the letter featuring 2019’s theme.

Love one another.

There are no accidents with God.

There are no opportunities brought our way that He will not equip us to carry out.

You and I are loved by a loving God. A God that takes hold of our shaking hand until we can breath without pressure and waits until we are ready to speak, to sing, to pray.

I believe what you say of me!

It’s gonna be okay.

Wash Your Hair! an Early Story

It was early and I had a plan.

“What is wrong with my hair?” I demanded to me in the mirror, nobody else there!

I’d been mistaken for old enough for the 60 senior grocery store discount and I still can’t decide if I looked that crazy or just that worn out.

I mean, I chatted with the young man about how sweet it was to see all the men putting so much thought into Valentines flowers. He smiled. I thought he was agreeing.

Now, I know he must’ve been reminded of his grandma, he was thinking in a sweet grandson kinda way about me.

Am I becoming a crazy old lady?

That must’ve been it, I sounded like a sweet little old lady, crazy and sweet.

I should’ve said yes, I mean I could’ve used the discount considering all my little “Valentine fairy” treats I had for grown ups and for Colton Dixon aka the “living the life, Charleston dog”!

But, on the morning of Valentines Day I had a good plan.

And it was early.

I got up and got moving.

I didn’t sit with my coffee, my words, my not a single sound space but birds waking up to sing so I’d notice God there.

I looked for something red to wear then settled on black then tossed that aside for pink and then blue then back to black.

All black. Monochrome mood, I can’t help it, that’s just me, always been, not geriatric, just me.

I downloaded the app for Chick-Fil A, that was the plan, surprise my staff with heart shaped biscuits.

Completed the order, added my card, got in the shower and planned I’ll press “complete” when I get in the car and pick up on the way to work, get there on time today!

It was early! All was looking okay.

Hot shower running and a song in the steamy room, I lathered up my hair and the phone interrupted my flow.

I stepped from the shower to see what was the matter.

It was an emergency, a friend of my admin’s had an emergency and she wanted to tell me about it and asked me to pray.

Oh, okay.

So, wrapped in a towel I went to my room and knelt by my bed and prayed.

Returned to the bathroom, scattered stuff all over the counter and the biscuits were still waiting, still waiting for me there.

So, I hurried to get my black sweater fluffing from the dryer but got sidetracked by white roses in a red vase and a hot pink card with my name written fancy with little curlicues at the corners.

Like a teenage boy putting extra time in to make it so cute.

I smiled, read my card, moved the vase of flowers to a pretty place, my morning place.

It was early! I was still doing okay.

I applied my make up, penciled in my brows in the space there are now only remembrances of hair.

Added mascara to thin lashes and considered more blush and lipstick a hint of more red.

Then began the process with product to make the best of my thinning hair…but, it wasn’t like it should be, no volume could be created, no curve around my cheek and no lift at all on top at the crown.

That’s when I shouted to nobody there,

What is wrong with my hair?

when nobody answered, I remembered, you forgot to finish, you didn’t rinse.

And I had begun early, for once I was early!

I cancelled the biscuit order, took off my jewelry and rewashed my hair.

We laughed so hard when I told them, I tried y’all I had the best intentions and I pointed towards heaven more than twice or three times to tell the truth.

It was early!

I just forgot to wash my hair.

Now I’m laughing to myself, Hmmmm…were they laughing over my crazy lady story or laughing over my insisting it was early?

Get yourself some employees and friends who know you and love you and more than just a few times.

Believe you when you tell them it was early and even if they don’t believe you because they know you so well, they still laugh with you.

And they always, always show you grace!

This one’s for you ‘Chelle!

Understanding and Tone

I don’t like to write about things that I feel I lack the understanding of.

I’d never write about the building of “the fence” or is it a wall?

Or on the subject of how the Democrats and Republicans differ and why one is more right than wrong.

Political discussions don’t ever hear from me, I’m uninformed, would need a middle school refresher on the different houses and representatives.

I apologize. I just don’t remember.

I just don’t know.

But, I do know that some things should be different by now, that there should not be hatred and discounting of another because of tones of skin color.

Today, I was piddling around, killing time until dinner in a little shop of old things tucked away.

There was some rearranging, I stepped over furniture and tables that were left out in the way.

I walked through the shop and turned back towards the entrance, the shop laid like a U.

I heard her voice complaining, the one with all the stuff left out in the way…put this here, no, that is wrong, just get out the way…

No, you know I told you to do it this way!

Her voice was sharp, critical and chastising, her tone.

I imagined him being her husband standing with head down waiting to be redirected, told next what not to do wrong.

Then she mentioned a “Mr.” so I realized I was wrong.

She, dressed in soft cardigan and her pearls, continued to correct and I heard her and I heard his surrendered tone, oh, okay, okay.

Then I saw him as he waited for her instructing. His back was towards me, he was a small and thin older black man.

It bothered me suddenly.

I thought, this is wrong.

It really bothered me so, the way she spoke to him, her overbearing tone.

She saw me see her and her face turned away.

But, too late, it didn’t matter now, her unnecessary mistreatment had happened all the same.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Not now, not today.

And I have no special words that might lead to once and for all reconciliation of race.

Only that someone created by God with skin tone like me saw my face and corrected herself, at least for then.

She’d either been caught or recognized her wrong and although I know there’d be likely many, many years to be undone.

For a minute today, I saw her and I believe she saw herself.

My only regret is that his eyes did not meet mine, I’d love my notice of his surrendered situation to have met the notice in my eyes.

To have him see, not all of us are the same, none of us the same.

Not in every way,

But thankfully, some.

Cake with Your Mama Day

I’d love to tell you just a little about my mama, on this day, her birthday!

And then I’d love for you to make cake a part of your day!

She passed away nine years ago.

Too soon for us all.

There were more cakes to bake, more commentary to be made on the politics of the day, more acceptance to be given over her sometimes sullen, stubborn and set ways.

More big meals together with some variety of homemade cake.

It may have been my coconut or my brother’s red velvet, maybe caramel, maybe thin layered chocolate so good the sugar melted more sugar on your tongue as you allowed it to linger.

It may have been her pound of everything pound cake or it may have been the fancy cream cheese with pecans creamy carrot.

Today, I am planning to have cake!

You should too.

I give you not permission, but a virtual nudge-like nod to say yes to love, to loosening your control!

To enjoy cake alone or with someone, somehow with your mama.

To have cake and not stress over anything at all!

Stress’ll kill you, Lisa! My Mama

Happy Birthday in heaven, Mama!

Your love has brought us to who and where we are!

I celebrate you today.

Last year, I went “junkin’” and bought this little dog that looked like “Sunny” and then my friend Dana surprised me with cake!

Little did she know she’d be starting a tradition…your birthday will be remembered from now on by enjoying some sort of outrageously delicious cake!

I am officially declaring January 30th “Cake with Your Mama Day”.

If you still have your mama, go see her or call her and catch up over cake!

If your mama is in heaven like mine, sit with someone you love and let love lead your reminiscing or just your making time to be together.

Whatever you plans today, make time for cake!

Then share the love and yumminess of your day!!!

Yay for cake!

#cakewithyourmamaday

Unfettered By Rain

I saw myself in the kitchen window, the grey of rain darkened and made the glass a mirror.

I laughed, ha! surprised by my reflection. My hair was flat against my forehead, unattractive, like cafeteria lady or a shower cap.

I didn’t expect it, I thought it was just a misting rain, the driveway puddles barely rippled by the sprinkle.

I took a chance and the weather changed.

I was oblivious to the shower and ran without stopping all the way up the hill.

Ran with just a slight nod to the concerned neighbor who paused and the one turning in and braking, unsure whether I might be relieved by their allowing me to jump in.

I never slowed my rhythmic steps.

My face straightforward with the rain.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No change in the depth of my breath, no adjustment of my pace or my mindset.

No thinking of not go on.

The rain showered cold against my face as I tucked my phone in a pocketless place, steady sound piping through thin cords swaying as I pushed on through.

In my ears, a chorus, “Break every chain, break every chain…

Break every chain.”

Sloshing through the puddled grass, I was back home, burst back in

Unchained and wet,

unfettered by the rain.

Its breaking of my chains.