There’s the Sunday paper, the section with the column written weekly by a scholarly and kind, solid in the faith, teacher of the faith man.
I’ve not read it.
I opened my daily things and read the Utmost for His Highest daily devotion on the phone.
Left it there, walked out with the dog and thought it too much for me, I’m very deficient, I’m not far enough along to learn from this spiritual compilation of a master of God’s word, Oswald Chambers.
Often I wonder about those who read mine and maybe others’ blogs that either proclaim or hint at our faith.
Do I make it seem so doggone hard that a reader might decide, good gracious I’m better off on my own?
This morning, I opened my tiny and edge torn book, Joy and Strength, a collection of verses and very ancient quotes.
First line was the wisdom of Paul, the murderous villain who was a hater of Jesus, the closing chapter of Philippians, a book marked heavily by my pencil
a note under the header: “Read the book of Philippians, God will reveal what you need to remember.”
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.”
Philippians 4:11 RV1885
The words I have learned are my takeaway today.
Because it tells me Paul wants me to know, this deciding to surrender your life and your knowing to God,
It is not easy.
I love it so much that he says he had to learn and that he learned through the good and the bad, the celebration and the disappointment.
He learned through circumstances.
He made it through.
Before Paul spoke of contentment and learning he wrote about mindfulness.
Mindfulness meaning, think of all the good, don’t let your thoughts go towards what you’re lacking.
Think about what elicits praise.
Maybe Paul kept a little gratitude journal.
practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9 ESV
The decision to believe wholeheartedly in Jesus is not like the “poof…snap of the finger”!
It’s commitment with doubt occasionally on the edges.
It is certainty that the life you have now is significantly more peaceful than before and it is a patient endeavor, a decisive continuation towards knowing God more.
Baby steps. Always baby steps I believe it should be.
Content in the valley and peak, the ebb and flow.
Spurred on by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, strength in our core.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:12-13 ESV
Thank you, God, for your rescue of Paul, a teacher for me and for every human who may have stumbled, fallen, been wrong or done wrong.
Paul, now compared to Kanye and Bieber, a bad, bad man who Jesus believed in, believed could do better, be better, begin again.
I don’t really know the hearts of either of them. Only God and they know whether it’s true, whether they have chosen the way of peace.
I turn now to the column called “Faith Words” by Fred Andrea.
In the column, he writes about the stubborn Jonah, his ideas about worthy or unworthy people, his decision to run the opposite way of God’s leading and then learning a big lesson only to have to be taught again.
We are all learners, stubborn at times, pitiful and even pious.
This is why it jumped off the page this morning, will stick with me as meant for me.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
On Monday, the weather was cool and all day long, the sky was grey with thick theatrical draping, the clouds seemed so heavy.
I watched through the windows that day, we stayed inside.
A beautiful bird visited.
If we’d have ventured out, we might have walked for miles, found ourselves in the place where the cornfield was being cut down.
We might have worried the neighborly man plopped in the big machinery, the one who’d been working all morning tending his field.
You could hear it all day muffled, way off from the back porch, the machinery and the voices, someone giving instructions.
A pause and then the noise of work again.
Getting the season’s work done.
If Monday morning had been led by different thoughts, I would have jumped from the couch, waking up a startled and half asleep five month old.
She, most likely would have gazed towards me and her blue eyes would have softened all at the same time they met the face of mine, her grandma.
She would have smiled.
We might have hurried out onto the porch. I’d have had her little bottom cupped under my arms, holding tight in the way I like to hold her.
The way that lets her see the whole wide world.
We might have watched and then kept seeking, walking quickly and carefully into the open field.
But, we didn’t.
We didn’t go chasing hoping to be closer to what got my attention.
We didn’t follow and end up lost in the deep country woods.
A hawk was on the porch that morning.
Elizabeth slept and I saw it. It lingered only long enough for me to see its shadow and the broad wing.
I only experienced the knowledge of its presence, not close enough to capture on my phone and share or to sit close beside.
The hawk made its presence known.
I noticed God.
We rested, didn’t go off crazy chasing a photo for Instagram.
I was content that the grand bird was near.
That’s how God is.
You will see, not everything all at once, tiny glimpses and assuring hints.
Things you will never fully know.
Touch or see up close.
God is always near.
On Tuesday, the day was different, warm and bright blue.
We walked down pine needle littered trails and the baby dozed while I pushed through dry dirt down the familiar road.
We ended up at the back porch and her eyes opened when I rested. The snoozing baby awakened, looked up.
We lingered outside long enough to see the wide and majestic dark wings against the heavens.
The hawk returned and was content above us and us, content below.
I’m moving slower now.
The vertigo episode of a couple of weeks ago with no determined cause requires a thoughtful pace.
I still am humbled by it all, the way of God getting my notice.
Causing me to take nothing for granted.
Strange, the lesson of it, the clean bill of physical health causing consideration of mental.
It makes no other sense.
A word came, “frenetic”.
A word I do not think I’d ever used.
As I thought it, eventually said it, it felt extreme.
After all, I am retired, have no heavy responsibilities or pressured roles.
Or do I?
I worry that my hope will run out of time, be cut off.
The list I made today, it surprised me, pressure self imposed.
The idea of do everything now, you are aging, you might never see your dream come true, the dream of your private soul, the ones involving art
And words. The ones your mind is all tangled up in, dangerously entangled maybe.
fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way “a frenetic pace of activity”
Where was this pace?
In the place between my ears that led to that incapacitated dizziness?
I’m not sure what I’ll accomplish today.
It’s already mid morning.
I have many irons in the fire of my creative passion. Sparks are sparking, wheels turning.
Slow down, don’t let them fall off the rims, note to self.
I have a following now.
I have orders and commissions and I have writing opportunities.
I will proceed at a pace that doesn’t say wait or quit or run harder, just says keep going, keep going.
Pause and rest.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. Don’t have it your way or nothing at all…you might find you’re moving too fast.
I love the mind God gave me.
One that writes stories of adventures that tell the tale of chasing after a hawk then settles itself for the lesson from God and verses…verses from the Bible and R&B, the “Book of TLC” and Simon and Garfunkel.
I ease up slowly and turn to plant my feet, sockless, on the floor that my husband warned of germs. I don’t sleep well in socks, have to have space for moving my toes, can’t be entrapped.
It is not lost on me that the day before I lose my footing, I listen to a podcast about trees, about God’s plan for trees to be meaningful, have significance for us like they do in the Bible.
To not be cut off. Like hope in God, rooted deeply, strong and reaching.
It is not lost on me that I’d been pondering how mysterious is our God, how necessary my dependence on Him is, and that for days I’d been encircling the word “Surrender”.
It is not lost on me that I’d become a little entitled, sure and pompous over my good and strong health.
Everything happens to have us consider the lesson of it.
Yes, I believe everything does happen for a reason.
On Tuesday morning, vertigo came like a hurricane.
I was leveled. Sick, panicked, scared. I was unable to regain my footing, I was swept away on the waves of nausea and sad, sad frantic anxiety.
You’ll maybe laugh over the simplicity of my conclusion.
I was humbled.
Two nights in the hospital to be sure the panic wasn’t cardiac related chest discomfort.
I fell asleep aware of my standing.
Across the hall, a man with dementia who kept prompting the nurses with the erratic pressing of his button.
He cried loudly through the night.
Maybe next door, or close at least, another loud shouter, violent and a threat due to mental condition, he prompted announcements across the hospital speakers of a particular code.
The man with dementia had a visitor with a peace lily in hand and then later a quiet uncertain visitor, looked to be his same age, he knocked timidly and then entered. A third visitor told the cafeteria people the door was closed because we were praying.
I listened. I considered my condition.
Somehow the other man calmed down eventually.
At night I pray for my family and friends. I recall them by using the alphabet and I include all the M’s I know for example, before moving to “N”.
It’s not lost on me that until the scary vertigo episode, I’d never included my well being in the “L” request.
I never pray for my own health other than in a way that always calls to account how I’m certain I don’t deserve to be here.
Or is it because I felt others needed it more? A bit of pride, a big mindset of control?
So, I prayed God would help me navigate this new condition and that He’d forgive my thinking I was “all that” because “I’m 59 and all I take is melatonin!”
Don’t you wish you were so lucky, so fortunate, so fit?
It’s not lost on me that for weeks I’d been getting closer and closer to really seeing that
I’m not able on my own.
Don’t you see it all comes together?
God has been weaving my path to this current understanding for longer than possible for me to comprehend.
You can be strong but you can’t stand alone. You can be stubborn in your perseverance but you’re not without vulnerability nor are you invincible.
You’re not completely well all alone, independence, a fault.
The sunrise on the second morning of hospital waking was so splendid I just waited. I postponed my experimental testing of my balance, my rising to stand and walk and I simply stared, gazed, considered.
You’re still standing. Still standing strong.
Even if you had to be shaken to attention.
God holds out as long as possible to teach an important lesson.
He’s more patient than I deserve.
The lesson? Rest and trust.
Slow down, Lisa. Your body cannot keep up with your erratic physical schedule and not enough rest mind!
In the book Reforesting FaithMatthew Sleeth, a former medical professional, atheist, carpenter discusses trees and their significance in the Bible. He shares his seeking and beginning to believe in God on the Annie F. Downs podcast. You can listen here:
I can’t decide if my favorite part of the conversation is that he stole a Bible and began reading with Matthew’s book or the quote that describes how God had been with him all along even when he didn’t believe.
If you don’t believe in God it doesn’t mean God doesn’t believe in you. Matthew Sleeth
I woke at home this morning having slept okay after falling asleep with a Proverbs verse.
“In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.”
Proverbs 24:14 NLT
I walked with puppy, back on routine and I paused at my little spot with one chair under the pine situated in the corner.
I hadn’t thought of it until this morning, this not so grand pine is growing, enough for shade and to be the arm outstretched for a bird feeder.
This very pine, the source of me questioning my husband to myself. Why does he insist on replanting, why is he putting that puny little branch in the ground…I mean, the whole back yard is filled with strong pines?
Why can’t he stop adding new growth? Why does he insist on keeping every tree?
But, now, now this one is mine and it is still growing. It is not towering; but it is strong.
Strong standing, after all and welcoming the surrender to sun and rain and whatever wind might blow.
Planted a long time ago and quietly surrendered.
Walking on level places, not stoic in the steadiness of my own feet.
Strong standing because He made me, kept and keeps me.
“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”
Psalms 30:11-12 NLT
It’s exactly as surprising and joyous as they say, being a grandparent. Some may say, it’s what I’m learning, an infant requires of your attention, a full percent and it’s never a demand, it is a precious gift.
Complement it with an idyllic setting, open field, blue sky wide, leaves changing colors and a quilt on a back porch situated perfectly for a breeze.
I sing with abandon. She listens, smiles. The acoustics are so good. My voice carries. God is near.
Being a grandmother, big chunks of uninterrupted peace. My granddaughter is privy to God’s refining of me.
Perhaps, it’s her and God’s idea.
How can I keep from singing your praise?
I welcome the unlearning of the traumatized me, I acknowledge it may take a bit.
I envision clarity like a treasure I bring up to my chest or it’s a tug of war, the big mean boy grabbing at what’s mine and me, scared of being overpowered.
I used to give it away.
Now, I’m angry over its thieves.
My little bit of peace and clarity jerked from my arms and the aggressor running away, turned back towards me, sneering and laughing his ass off!
I’d have used asterisks for the s’s but I decided not to veil the truth of this thought and image, the abusive act of my peace being stolen.
In the dim light of day as a way of escape, a rescue for my hurting heart came this morning.
All things are possible with God.
I thought it over and over.
This! This is real.
Not with self-care, not a new counselor, not a community or “tribe”, not a webinar or self-help book.
Not some instructor, well intentioned but profiting from my naive determination shadowed by doubt and discontent.
These are the things that draw me in, make me prey to promises only God and I together can fulfill.
Bold revelation, you may say.
When I write this way, I’m a little worried and then I decide someone else may need to explore this, this self-handicapping behavior, this lesson in knowing our weak places, being uncomfortable with settling there.
The closer we get to God’s gracious idea of us, the more miserable we are wearing any other garment or expression.
Clarity came and may be the less traveled road to peace.
This leg of my journey will lead to peace.
A rarely talked about truth for victims of trauma, I’ve heard it spoken many times by my kind and skilled counselor friend.
People return to negative patterns because this is familiar, this is safe. The sometimes unhealthy behaviors are the most fail-proof remedy we know.
Thankfully not return to allowing physical trauma, more the insidious spread of subtle abuses to self, the power of our thoughts, our mindsets that
Sabotage our freedom.
Compile all the days you lived under the thumb of something or someone, succumbing to the control, manipulation or unfair, cast aside treatment by something or someone.
The undoing doesn’t just happen like the snap of a finger and thumb.
Take it easy on you.
Then do two things, Lisa Anne.
Now that you understand what you’re doing, be grateful not debilitated, give yourself grace.
Stop seeking validation, support, or yet another conversation in which you expect another human to fully understand your distress.
It’s not possible and it’s not their place or fault.
Your wounds and your beautiful hopes are far too deeply layered for another human being to understand.
Something about early morning, God always speaks as if to say:
I filtered your fears overnight, here’s what’s left, the sure thing you must now know. All things are possible with me.
This place God has brought me to, saved me from, kept me safe…how on earth could I think it’s possible to continue on my own?
I jot the “Jabez prayer” every morning.
“He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”
1 Chronicles 4:10 NLT
Today, I added little check marks next the lines in the beginning: I’ve been blessed, check, I’ve had my territory enlarged, check!
The last two things, I am still very much in need of, keep your hand on me God, keep me from self-harm, the thoughts that betray me, so that I won’t revisit, get caught up in my pain.
You see, I spoke of newfound freedom, the choice to live with hope not remorse. I made it seem so easy.
Yet, I didn’t give a thought to the multiple layers of harm that very hope would have to fight daily with the devil to stay real every minute.
The one thing just a glimpse of freedom will give, a strong and renewed will to fight hard against repeated entrapment!
An awareness that it is hard not to be a victim when you were one for so long.
It is hard not to be who you were.
It’s easier to be weak and manipulated than to be newly strong.
I boasted of hope, forgot I am not able on my own.
God is my counselor, my advisor, my strong encourager of looking forward not before.
This is not a grim post, only honest. I’m afraid honesty’s in my bones, got that from my father, God rest his quiet soul.
I rise now to continue the things He started in me, blessed me, continues to enlarge my territory through happy brave opportunities.
I’ve designed a 2020 calendar, available soon, each month, an image of a woman strengthened by hope and God.
(Hope to share by next week, tell you more about ordering.)
Some told me they were proud of me, well intentioned comments and I suppose make sense.
What I’m doing though, is just following through on a God-planted seed, an idea, God’s work through me.
Please don’t be proud of me. Together, let’s be proud of God.
I rise now to clean my “art and writing room”, to ready it for what is possible today.
Are you a victim of trauma, physical or emotional abuse?
My thoughts…be strong, believe in your freedom; but, don’t walk it out alone, without the one who knows you completely, God.
“Jesus looked at them and said,
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
I sit with the puppy, my mama’s quilt turned to the side with color, the puppy ate a rubber toy, the red ink of duck lips I concluded.
I flip it over, will wash it today. It’ll wait.
I think of my daddy when I think the word, “Idle”.
This daughter of his was altogether unprepared for independence and yet, I could charge my battery with a jump and when my little blue Celica wouldn’t start, I knew where to spark its start using a screwdriver to beat on just the right wire.
Crazy to think.
Resilience began late for me.
It hasn’t finished just yet.
On a Monday following a post about time chasing after things, I’m happy to have put my pen down, new to do list complete.
I’m sitting on the sofa, moving slowly into Monday.
The puppy is in heaven, our bonding getting better.
Positive reinforcement, not negative, consistent reward and maintaining my cues. What a job! He’s smart and according to the trainer, he really wants to please.
Full disclosure, I wanted a dog but chose a puppy.
Everything in life, a lesson…
Stay at it.
Someone said to me yesterday, resisting change and decision.
“Let’s just idle a little longer.”
I wonder what is their fear of moving forward.
I remembered my daddy telling me before the days of daughters stranded on the interstate with cell phones…I remembered his instruction.
Once you get it started, let it idle but not for long, give it the gas and keep going…My daddy, gone 21 years, this month on the 11th.
Warmth fills my eyes at the thought of me on the side of the road just outside of scary to me Atlanta, remembering how to start my car with a flathead screwdriver.
Wishing this morning I had thanked him for making me see that I was capable.
Capable combined with ideas.
Not able to be idle for long.
I’m learning it’s true what they say about confident waiting, about taking your hands and heart from a situation.
To be surprised when God shows up, shows out or simply gives a nudge.
Because I love understanding words, I compared “idle” to “waiting”.
Found “idle” to be not such a good thing: doing nothing, wasting valuable time, inactive or avoiding work.
Waiting lends itself to a more hopeful stance: expecting, anticipating, to pause or my favorite, “stand by”.
I can visualize “stand by”.
It is evidence of believing truths like God fighting for me when I stay still. It’s indicative of faith, you know the whole enduring in hope of what you haven’t clearly seen.
Like the screwdriver in the hand of a scared and naive young woman about to flunk out on her art scholarship private college…
Waiting only takes a spark, a connection, one thing affecting another
And your engine is started.
You don’t idle. You put your hand and heart to the tasks, you know your ideas are like the pedal to the metal in the dark journey all alone, back home.
Back to you.
I think of a quote, knowing I don’t read nearly enough, so very grateful for recall.
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Mary Oliver
New this morning?
Dare I share that secret sweet hopeful maybe idea?
A coffee table type book of illustrations, my art, my “Bible girls”, each girl, a story about hope.