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.
“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.
“But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:33 NLT
A trusted friend with a windowsill full of orchids has told me to let it be.
It will bloom again. I’ve allowed the fallen petals to stay, evidence in some way to me that my orchid will flower again.
One morning, I’ll be greeted by the beginnings of a bloom nurtured from the strong green stem that I’ve kept watered although it does appear hopeless.
If you could see my friend’s orchids, you’d trust in her confidence too.
Today, my guide in the back of my Bible had me start again. Psalm 1 and Matthew 1 along with I Chronicles, the lineage of Jesus.
I added Proverbs 1 because I felt the need for wisdom.
Joseph is met by an angel who assures him being married to a pregnant woman does not mean shame or fear.
Rather, it is a grander thing. It is a conception by the Holy Spirit. It had nothing to do with the humanness of him.
“Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:19-20 NLT
Joseph believed the voice that assured him, God has made you a part of a long ago established promise.
Joseph listened and continued beside Mary.
He was alone, quiet, considering “cutting and running” when he heard a voice he was certain of.
Yesterday, something I thought was wonderful happened to me. A dream come true, evidence of God’s goodness, a blessed thankful answer to a deep longing. A legacy, a book for Elizabeth.
But, I misunderstood. I misread the agreement. I felt stupid, a novice, naive.
And then, I didn’t.
I listened to the Holy Spirit. I turned my attention towards the way forward. I decided to continue, just more informed and learning.
I decided to believe, not yet but soon and surely.
Like the orchid that has been bare for the same six months of dread and pandemic, the strength is in its roots, the up flow of nutrition from the hidden place within.
The leaves are bright green.
The tangle of grey in the pot is getting thicker.
I can’t see any evidence of it, I must trust the uncertainty of my part, watering it.
Much like my confidence in these days. It will topple if I’m overwhelmed by every argument towards dread. I am not capable of keeping my hope if I listen to the voices of fear, conflict, condemnation and death.
I must stay quiet, quiet enough to be reassured by the Spirit of God in me, the voice that says don’t join in the fear.
The voice that gave me the prayer yesterday, a simple one, a request for relief and assurance.
Relief and assurance.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 KJV
Listening to voices other than the voice within me, my “soulmate”, the Holy Spirit leans towards discontent, disgruntlement, dismay over a dreadful next day.
The longing of my heart begs my return to listening intently to my Heavenly Father.
I will listen today to the voice that promises new growth, a flowering of my bitter and often dried up thoughts and hopes.
I will believe.
I will continue.
“Thy longing is the faint response of thy heart to His call.” F.B. Meyer, Joy and Strength devotional
I walked into the backyard early to see the tree that bore no blooms last summer dripping now with magenta fluff.
Again, the side by side are good and bad. The lack of understanding of when things will be better next to the complexities of a lavish creation.
Last week, or maybe it was two days ago, I prayed. I’m practicing quiet and praying guided by an app called “pause”. I recommend it highly.
The guider of prayer and meditation posed a question,
“What about yourself can you thank God for right now?”
The answer came with a tender upturned of my lips into a smile, I thanked God for my mind.
A mind that loves words, stories, loves wondering about the stories of others, a mind that doesn’t overthink, just really loves thinking.
Most of my life, I’ve wished for different. Why am I so odd, why am I captivated so by all around me? Why do I think so deeply, so often?
I smiled. Acceptance of my thinking as a gift seemed like an actual unwrapping.
Outdoors, a word came to mind as I thought of the lull of discontent I’m beginning to embody.
Ambivalence, that’s the word I felt summed it up. I quickly googled and confirmed it to be accurate. I used my Bible app and discovered no mention of it from God’s perspective. Interesting.
Ambivalence is a state of having simultaneous conflicting reactions, beliefs, or feelings towards some object. Stated another way, ambivalence is the experience of having an attitude towards someone or something that contains both positively and negatively valenced components.
After admiring the crepe myrtle in full display, I sat in my morning spot, writing an honest note to God.
I’m lulled into helplessness and beginning to accept a life of dismay. I am growing numb to the news of more numbing.
Then, I closed my eyes and sat.
You are helpless on your own but I am your helper. You are dismayed with your vision alone, see things through my eyes. You are unable to understand everything, trust me for answers.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 ESV
God continued: You are discouraged by all that you are hearing and seeing. Open your mind, eyes and ears to me and my calling.
Stay faithful to being found faithful.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” I Corinthians 4:1-2
And God continued with a suggestion. You don’t see the way forward and the burden feels heavy, walk with me and we’ll carry it together.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 ESV
In the midst of morning quiet, my phone dings with a message asking I pray for young man injured by diving into a pool.
I answered I would pray along with “these days are unbearable but God is still good”.
And her answer made me feel okay with the honest complexity of me again.
Yes, you are right. I will continue to pray for you as you inspire others even when your heart is heavy. Thank you!
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.
After 45 minutes listening to an interview with someone discussing the idea of “faith over fear” and her testimony, I encountered real fear.
The interviewee shared of loss due to cancer, her mother’s death and her own diagnosis from which she recovered.
She recalled those fears and the interviewer asked about her testimony. She laughed and shared her stable faith driven upbringing and the path towards believing in Jesus that seemed, some might say, a boring story.
I silenced the podcast as I took the main road when approaching the hill, a sedan cut it close at the curve and forced me to walk in the overgrown ditch.
I thought little of it, said to myself you shouldn’t be on the pavement, this is not a quiet road.
I walked on as the high weeds brushed above my ankles. Tired and almost home, I looked down to see my shirt wet with sweat and saw the waiting snake. The snake with the markings my daddy taught me, the snake with the metallic like tail raised up in the weeds. The snake with its eye focused on crossing the road.
I was scared.
And then I wasn’t.
I had not been struck by the car, the snake did not turn and strike me.
Later, I wrote my June Newsletter to include what I’m learning about fear and its part in my story. Read and if you’d like, subscribe here.
More than focused on what could have happened, I thought of how I’d been protected. I remembered what I was learning about fear in relation to faith.
This is progress for me. My husband had been so nonchalant, “But, you didn’t step on the snake, you are okay.”
I agreed to agree with him. I let the fear go.
Fear of everything has always been a theme in my story. Fear of catastrophe, of rejection by those I love, of illness. But, my story of redemption has no place for that old chapter, those old characters.
Which story will I choose?
Like being in the middle of a thick rope in a tug of war game, fear is strong with the brute force to pull me back. Redemption is a more strategically played strength, the pull more steady with necessary breaks and balance leads to a sustainable victory.
Redemption will win because it won’t wear itself out aggressively like fear that’s so angry, so unpredictable, so mean and devilish.
Fear is an emotion. Faith is a committed choice.
I woke this morning wondering why more of us aren’t telling our redemption stories, our testimonies. The timing is good. Our fear fighting redemption story may lessen another’s fear. The time is opportune for sharers and for listeners. Dare I say, our stories of Jesus are not only more important but more sustaining than yet another commentary on the virus or the heartache of societal unrest.
Fear is a distraction, these times are skilled at using it.
Dare I say that? I suppose I should be afraid. My faith says don’t be.
“Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that I’ve ever heard.” an old hymn
The woman in the podcast interview was raised in church, began to believe at church camp around age 11.
Me, at age 11 is a story I’d love to forget. My Jesus story, my testimony began when an elderly pastor told me, a new single mama, that all I had to do was ask for mercy, Jesus died for me and grace and forgiveness is a gift called salvation.
It was mine for the asking.
So, I asked and received.
I’ve never doubted God’s love for me through Jesus, only doubted I’d ever simply believe I deserve it. This is the never withdrawing pursuit of grace. I am redeemed because of it. God doesn’t see my struggle to believe, He simply sees my continued pursuit of a deeper belief and loving communion with Him.
I sent the newsletter last night never mentioning the reckless car or the rattlesnake. I could hardly believe it! A day spent focused on faith and choosing to fight off fear was ended with a walk at dusk and tangible fear.
But, I was kept safe. I am safe. I am here to tell the story of it.
“You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:3-5 ESV
I lost my earrings, figured I left them in another city or in my exhausted unpacking mistakenly added them to the laundry or trashed them with the junk at the bottom of my purse.
I can be haphazard. I tend to hurry up the getting every thing together, keeping what I can keep under control.
I told my husband I lost them. My way of saying these are very special to me, marking a time of love expressed, rough patch made smooth. I’d misplaced them before, he didn’t seem worried.
Tiny little diamonds, not really of a great amount of worth in dollars, just a memory, their value.
I decided to accept they were gone. I’d really messed up this time, no more mercy in finding what was lost through carelessness.
And then I returned to the place of safekeeping and there they were. The dependable and habitual little tucked away spot, I found them.
The place I hadn’t thought to check in my hectic and hopeless searching, I didn’t go there.
One day this week, I thought about prayer and its worth. I asked God and myself, “Am I even worthy of your hearing my prayer?”
No answer came other than the upward pull of an invisible cord saying, “You are. Continue”.
Continue even if you feel you’ve depleted your mercy reserve, if you feel you’re not steady and straight enough in your path to clearly encounter me and your answer.
Continue to pray even though I know what you need before you plead.
Continue to return to your hopeless/hopeful stance that is an admission of your need for connection with me.
Return to the place you last left me. Return to the place where you found me.
The tiny earrings are still safe. I may wear them today although I have no place to be.
I’ll think of their value to me and I’ll think of my value to God.
I’ll pray in relationship with Him. I’ll pray in a conversation that thanks God for my worth according to Him.
I’ll find my hand touching my earlobes to be reminded that I found what I was certain I had lost.
My room will be quiet and the conversations between God and me will be unspoken, a melody of Him singing to me, a conversation of worth.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Psalm 139:14-17 ESV
I pray it be so with you, that you embrace the preciousness God knows of you. That you find Him in the place of wherever and whenever prayer. He is open to your conversation.
“There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” Job 24:13 ESV
I could easily stay in my soft cushioned chair, feet propped and fan creating a breeze overhead. The worn quilt from many washings is as soft as a feather and cool against my feet.
I could stay here all day. It would be no matter, and maybe I should.
Stay in this morning spot that is the place where I’m met by mercy and reassured it has no end.
The place of the promise, begin again. The place that is quiet. The place where God informs me through my Bible or the words someone else has recorded.
Or just through the allowing myself to stay, just through my patient sitting.
Job answered his friend’s advice to agree with God and be at peace (Job 22:21) with bitter honesty. He was exhausted over not knowing why or when.
Job was confused over how God would allow his condition, how it seemed to him God was not looking or worse, looking away.
“From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.” Job 24:12 ESV
The chapters of the Book of Job continue with Job’s debate with God, relentless in both his longing to understand and his commitment to believe in the majesty and knowledge of God.
Job stayed and God answered with redemption and life again.
He listened to his friends’ advising and rebuking and he implored them in his own defense.
Then, he listened to God.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 ESV
I’m letting that truth linger, lessen the pressure of overthinking or demanding quick answers. I don’t need to have nor am I able to have every answer.
I’ll move from my morning place to other things God is calling me to finish.
Paintings and stories of birds and marshes and laundry.
I could easily stay in this quiet spot with God. No television and no habitual social media checking. No news debates and no high pressured conversations nudging my thoughts to write catastrophic stories.
Instead, I’ll continue.
Job gives us permission to be honest with God. To ask how long and still believe.
To continue and believe. To know the light, keep coming back and staying as long as you are able.
Linking up with others with the prompt “stay” from Five Minute Friday’s Kate Motaung
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!
What have you learned about yourself since March whenever when you were scared to death by being told to wash your hands, don’t touch your face?
I’ve learned I can’t blame lack of time for my lack of effort. I’ve learned to understand my resistance to taking chances is for fear of something not happening.
If you’ve read my blog, you may be thinking well, that’s no secret.
I learned that God made me to be merciful and that I have what is called a mercy gift, that this is my redemptive gift. The day after a very wise person told me this, thinking surely I already knew, I received this In Touch publication, their final issue. The issue’s focus?
I’ve learned there is a reader for stories born of trauma. There are authors who are honest and long for their readers to be changed by our stories.
One such author is Jake Owensby, the author of “A Resurrection Shaped Life, Dying and Rising on Planet Earth”.
Jake is a blogger and a minister. He also grew up exposed to violence. He developed a fear reaction. He cowered when he felt that was the only way to feel safe. He grew up being told he was worthless in so many ways. His book is written to convince the reader, God made you for different. You can believe you are valued.
I haven’t even finished the book and I’ve not been asked to review or mention it. It’s just a part of my learning during pandemic.
I admitted a big hard and better understood truth about myself.
I am a blamer. I look for places to lay blame for the trauma of my past, the way it has and continues to stymie my living.
Jake Owensby defines it this way, a way I am embracing,
You see, I’m a blamer. Or, more accurately, I’m a recovering blamer given to occasional relapses.
On the bottom page of this chapter’s second page are almost unreadable notes left by me, the truth of them so true, I had to hurry and leave it recorded.
If you can blame someone or someones for the hurt you felt, the fear unresolved and the physical harm that went unprevented…you won’t have to feel the deep heartache of not wanting to have to blame God.
Mr. Owensby led me to this, it is valuable like a revelation long needed.
I’m only half through the book. The chapter after blame and shame has other underlined and margin notes. One more that lingers is the retelling of an English teacher who believed in him and convinced him to write competitively. His fear and comparison of himself led to failure. However, he writes of the redemptive value of the instructor seeing that in him, seeing him measuring his lack against another’s arrogance.
She yearned for me to see things, to see the world and myself in a different light. In retrospect, I realize that it was my dread of failure that undid me that day. Failure, even perceived failure, would set loose in me an avalanche of shame.
I’m remembering now how Jake Owensby and I connected through writing. I remember the time he offered me prayer. I believe he prayed.
Prayer is yet another thing I’m learning more deeply.
Last weekend, I sat with my mama’s sister on her patio. She told a sweet story about how my mama was a teenager when she first heard my daddy singing in a tiny little country bar. She was a high schooler and he had come home from Korea.
I asked her to retell the story. How had I never known it? Then we turned the discussion from life to death. My uncle and my aunt asking me to remind them how old my parents were when they met death. The perspective changed along with the mood when I compared my upcoming 60th birthday with the corresponding too soon years of their dying.
I thought about the scribbles in my Bible, a book I gave my ailing mama entitled “What God Can Do”. I thought about how I believed she would live, that God would do what the Book of Luke records, she would live if I would believe. I thought of how I never prayed that way for my daddy, felt I was not eligible to pray, not equipped back then.
Now, on this Tuesday morning I’m listing answers to prayer because I am still praying and I will pray, continue unrelentingly.
So, why pray when people die anyway, when abuse continues for some and if it ends at last, the deep pain often comes back to visit?
I pray because I know God is far too big for me to know why and why not.
I pray because I know His love and power and knowledge in increments when I continue.
Lost keys found, an old car that started, a baby protected in a storm, a heart condition healed, a softer tone from the heart of one that used to be harder, an opportunity to write about redemption from trauma for others, waking up well, tiny twins a little early yet, healthy, little answers to questions and requests not really life altering but good offering ups of yes”, the bravery to send photos of paintings to a gallery.
Knowing God so much more than before, so much that it’s unimportant the reactions of others when you say you still believe in miracles.
God is not logical. We can’t use a chart like a logic model to list our prayers and our acts of mercy and kindness and line them up in a flow chart kind of way towards a corresponding list of outcomes.
God’s ways are not ours to fully understand.
Only fully believe.
So, what have you learned during this time called unprecedented?
Maybe it’s just that, all of our times are in the hands of a God who promises unprecedented miracles, unprecedented new mercies, unimaginable grace.
Fix your mind on that, not your missteps, the prayers you prayed that left you questioning, or the long held fear of failure and shame that holds you back.
Learn of God in tiny grasps; but, keep longing for steady learning. There is more than enough time to get closer to grasping the truth of Him, the truth not made for us to wrap our minds around completely, simple to be drawn closer every moment to the possibility of it.
The immeasurably confounding and generous love of God.
“from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:15-19 ESV
Like the prayers God answers, I’m enlightened by the possibility of them, not the end result. The book about a Resurrection Shaped Life, written from the perspective of someone hampered by shame was not written specifically for me and its author had no preconceived takeaway for me. I’m simply a reader as I am simply one who is praying. The revelation, redemption and peace in response are God’s answers.
I encourage you to follow the writing of Jake Owensby and to order this book if you’re stuck in your past or if you are prone to shame as a handicap. You can learn more here: Jake Owensby