“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4 ESV
Today, the sun was bright in South Carolina, the Labrador was content but it seemed wrong not to walk him.
I’d gone to church, kinda worried but masked and attended, immersed myself in the rich voices of the singers and I joined in the emotional prayer offered by our pastor.
I opened my palm to heaven in agreement. It felt weak and timid, still, I felt myself hoping …
God please help us all.
I heard the ache in the pastor’s tone. I wondered if he might cry.
A prayer about pandemic and the fears about our country.
Every one is fighting hard battles and there seems no bunker in which to hunker down til the war is done.
My walk that was supposed to be a jog in this time of resolutiondecided to be take it easy, take the dog.
On the trail I spotted the ebony berries. I remembered the sermon I heard and the one my cousin suggested.
I thought if those berries weren’t on the branches they’d be dried up, bitter and wrinkled.
I thought of the two Sunday sermons.
One about remaining and the other, flourishing.
One talking about connectedness and abiding and the other talking about planting ourselves in the place most likely to keep us growing, make us strong.
And I’m thinking now, I’m staying close, even growing closer and as odd as it may seem if it came from my very own lips.
God is still good and he’s about to become good for so many more.
And my thoughts on that?
Welcome to a life led by your Heavenly Father.
Welcome to a life that makes no human sense, welcome to God in you, a quiet sense when nothing makes sense, a whisper in the breeze, a pausing to notice simple berries against green leaves and be reminded.
God is near. I am loved.
Continue and believe.
Planted seeds are about to burst forth. The season to come is one of sweet and miraculous growth.
If you’re curious and need more of these Sunday words I heard:
Search YouTube for TrueNorth Church and Seacoast Church. You can hear both sermons.
Here we are on day 8 of the year with the number that sounded hopeful, a cadence in the sound of its number as opposed to 2020. 2020, the one step forward and one back sort of feel, stuck on the side of the road or bogged down in a farmer’s field.
A year I’d hoped to feel more confidence than persistent dread.
So, it’s gonna be slow growing, the moving into what 2021 has to offer and what I’m gonna need to acknowledge, adjustments to be made with me, within mostly.
No more of this snap of the fingers, all is well and good. No, it’s a practice, an intentional setting my intentions on growing with and at God’s pace.
Changing that leads to blooming and replanting to bloom year after year. Growth that’s not a result of impatience or self-condemnation.
And it’s in the darkness that the growth begins. Dark heavy thoughts that ask why not yet and long to shake off doubtful patterns and to be one and done with habitual self-sabotage to avoid disappointing results.
With God, I’m beginning to know myself well, the things I’m up against, the behaviors that are not for me, are against me.
And Jesus agrees with me so gently.
“Thy faith and thy love and thy hope will grow, the more thou seest the work of God with thee; thou wilt joy in sorrow, and thy sorrow will be turned to joy.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength Devotional
What feels like trudging forward with no evidence of better, quite possibly worse, causes a heaviness in me this morning.
I turn to another devotional, a popular one, “Jesus Calling” and I’m lighter from reading just one sentence.
“The weaker you are, the more gently I approach you.” Jesus Calling
I know this to be true.
I’m never corrected so harshly by my Savior as I am by myself.
I write the sentence in my journal and my thoughts go to the woman who should’ve been pelted with rocks with Jesus as the witness to her deserved punishment.
I know the passage very well. I imagine her waiting to be punished and gawked over by a large group of better than her in their minds gawkers.
Jesus surprised her, surprised the ones holding the rocks. They all walked away after being told to consider your very own wrongs. The crowd dispersed hearing Jesus tell her to go and be free.
“Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?” Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” John 8:10-11 TPT
The bulbs on my daughter’s table are covered in bright green moss. They were the same for days, left beside the kitchen window.
The expected brilliant bloom for Christmas festivities didn’t happen, maybe I’d planted them in too shallow soil, maybe over or under watered.
Then, she moved them to a more open space, she cushioned the soil with soft pillows of moss that she and her daughter collected. The moist earth caused the stems to reach up.
Two bulbs now have little baby bumps, flowers soon to burst forth.
I’m believing. Tiny white flowers will flourish. I expect to see them on Monday and I’ll tell my grandchild, look what you and mama and God did! You waited and you helped the little flowers to grow.
Never having planted the winter flowers, “forcing” their indoors blooming, my daughter and I are learning. Once they’ve bloomed, you dig the bulbs up from the dirt and you put them in brown bags.
You save them to bloom again. You anticipate the hope of beautiful future (next year) growth.
Today, when I don’t know about tomorrow and especially not next year, I’ll think of the most quiet thing I know now, these flowers called paperwhites that decided to wait to bloom in January rather than a “forced” December.
The storms of my thoughts are stilled when I remember my strength comes from unseen joy, beckoning me back to a place that is rest, is a haven for sure peace.
“God stilled the storm, calmed the waves, and he hushed the hurricane winds to only a whisper. We were so relieved, so glad as he guided us safely to harbor in a quiet haven.” Psalms 107:29-30 TPT
God’s love is constant. His rescue is sure. His cultivation of us for His glory is patient and gentle.
In a year that was “novel” in so many ways that robbed our peace, being at peace was my solution, at least my constant reset.
I didn’t and don’t watch the news, I stopped scrolling when something was being proclaimed about Jesus that contradicted what God’s word said. I avoided conflict and although I shared my opinions and beliefs at times, I ended up realizing people who disagreed would counter with comments that hurt.
At some point, I decided that people who disagreed and spoke up were just trying to maintain control. I mean, in a year that meant so little control, being ticked off and being outspoken was, I suppose the one thing many people could control.
But, in conversations with others, only just one or two, I kept going back to “being at peace, so that I can be peace for others.” And I learned this was something impossible on my own.
Today, the last day of 2020, God brought it all together. Peace is accepting your present knowing God is protecting you from being damaged emotionally by revisiting your past, saving you from stepping back into it, and trusting that He knows your tomorrow, that your future is providentially good, better than you could create without Him.
So, be at peace in your present. Look for evidence in nature, happenstance and the faces of those you love that say…Jesus is here.
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 ESV
Thank you for encouraging me this year. Be certain of one thing, the things God tells me to share here quite often astound me! Also, feel like way “too much Lisa”.
Still, someone needs peace too, otherwise God wouldn’t give me words about it.
Happy New Years Eve, be at peace.
Continue and believe.
Think less of what you didn’t accomplish, follow through to completion and more on the things that surprised you as givers of peace picked for you.
I love a vignette! Here’s the third word in the trio of “yearly words”
Makes sense although it feels mostly only like “I hope so.”
Tying up the words, “hopeful2019” and “endurance2020” with a stronger faith, one I’m cooperating with towards “victorious2021”
Because my mood highjacked the majority of my day yesterday, I said to myself.
“Set the tone today, self talk that’s harmful not allowed, only hope.”
So, I was awakened by a phone call that didn’t alarm as was my startled assumption.
I made extra creamy coffee by mistake; groggy, I added half and half and honey times two.
I sat with the soft blanket and then invited more comfort,
Threw off the throw pillows, spread smooth the quilt, patted the couch cushion and invited the dog.
Stretched out now almost the length with his nose near my hip, I breathe, tell myself to trust, not go all despondent and frustrated over what people are saying, showing in their vacant glances about our coming days.
Sip my coffee, rest my hand on the labrador and journal loosely today’s plans.
Sit with comfort more than a moment.
Beyond this sweet sitting, remember your words.
Now turn to today’s Advent Book, one that was gifted, one you’re wondering if it’s too late to order a bunch as gifts.
Embrace the day’s offering.
The one you loved on this date last year, underlines and sweet red circled words.
Sit a minute more and then, maybe breakfast then art with God, an overdue haircut later.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1 ESV
The book may be out of stock, it’s worth searching for.
“O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness.” 2 Samuel 22:29 NLT
Early mornings, I travel towards the unveiling of day. On cloudless days the color is thick as I turn from the main road to the more obscure. When I arrive and allow my car to rest on the hill, I gather all my “grandma day” things and pause with the view.
I have so many pictures of this place. On Wednesday, I decided there was no need for another, like most everything now, different day, same thing, I am apathetic over the view.
I looked away, no longer fascinated by the morning, the warm orange and one dot of star up above.
The sunrise held no promise that day, not for me.
Later, I opened the mailbox and was surprised by the gift of a book I’d not ordered but had been helping to launch, “The Advent Narrative” by Mary Geisen
I opened it and thought, the place my eyes land will be the light I need, the lifting of this heavy fog, lingering dull headache that refused to let up. Earlier, I talked to someone who is depressed, recovered from COVID but still very compromised by these days, lingering is his malaise.
I told him, “All I can offer you is to rely on your faith, have faith.”
As I spoke those words, I heard my own tone, a tone of uncertain belief in faith as the answer when the wait for God’s reply has been too long.
I held Mary’s book in my lap, imagining hours and days of compiling her thoughts into words, interspersing scripture as reference and deciding to present the book as a play with three acts, three scenes in each. How unique, how intentional to write this way I thought, pulling the reader in, promising us that if we trust the process, “wait for it”, the story will make sense.
“For it is in the middle, the not yet, the in between, that God does some of His greatest work.” Mary Geisen
The wait is lingering longer than any of us expected, the wait for relief from worry over family and frustration over unresolved conflict and division.
I had grown quite weary. Bored, even of the sameness and stupor caused by this pandemic. I just wanted it all to be over and I told God so.
He answered slowly, an unveiling in quiet ways. A conversation via text led to my summing up my feelings in a way that finally felt honest, helpful.
Because ever since I’d told my brother to have more faith, I’d been wondering exactly where mine had gone and just how small it had become, had become nothing more than a vacant word.
My cousin and I were in agreement, we both longed for our dead mamas’ comfort food. We wished for the impossible to be, we longed for what we remembered to represent goodness to be good for us again.
I remembered when my faith felt that way, like the sweet embrace of a kind adult telling me everything would be okay, the hand of my grandmother against my cheek with no words just assurance. I knew then, in this time of waiting for better, my faith is growing.
That must be why it felt so tiny, my recognition of it expanding to take me to bigger things. When I told my cousin I wanted the comfort of my mama too, it led to clarity, the pain I was feeling ached from growing.
“I know. These are very hard almost nonsensical days. I’m not a prophet or anything but I do believe God is requiring of us a new kind of faith, a faith that doesn’t expect any evidence of its worth at all…I’m beginning to see just how shallow my well is…maybe I’m all pretty words and no substance.”
And the day improved from there. Errands needed to be fulfilled and the mask requirement was still in place. The line stretched long at the post office as I stood in my tape marked place. I looked at the other masked faces wishing I knew their feelings. Were they angry, afraid, cocky over their fancy masked protection?
The eyes are not telling stories in the way they used to. Have you noticed?
The crescendo is building, the day we hope for by faith. My faith is growing. I know this for sure. No wonder it felt so little, I needed to allow it to grow. I am seeing myself more clearly.
I waited and I said Psalm 23 to myself over and over, the passage that quells my chest tightness, contains the promise I know is God’s. My favorite clerk called out “Next!” and his eyes greeted mine as I asked if he was doing okay. He was tired, he said and I thought to myself as he coughed, turning away, I really hope he will be okay, hope relief comes soon, relief of the tiredness of these days.
“Peeling layers of life back to reveal our innermost being is demanding work. The harder we push away from what is good, noble, pure, and lovely (Philippians 4:8), the more God gently loves us. He has a way of softening the edges, sliding through the cracks, and entering our darkest places. God is the image bearer, light-keeper, and grace-gifter.” Mary Geisen, “The Advent Narrative-The Life You Didn’t Know You Were Already Living”
The Saturday morning sunlight is creating a pattern of undeniable hope on my lap. I’ll not ignore it, the glorious sameness of grace, of hope, of faith.
I am growing, God is waiting with me in the waiting.
Purchase this book filled with truth, inviting wonder here:
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.
Last night the dreams did that filtering thing, bringing all the half processed thoughts to the surface so that morning’s arrival could have a blank slate.
Angry encounters, loneliness amongst others, worry, an almost real sense of illness and a vivid place of being taken advantage of.
I understand the purpose of dreams when they are this threatening, this vulnerability revealing.
What was heavy becomes evidence now of false narrative and a waking up to return to truth.
“I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us.” Romans 8:18 TPT
Last weekend my husband and I stole away for a couple of days in a time it seems we’re supposed to be hunkering down, getting ready to fight, a time of yet more uncertain events.
We were among the leaves, the curving hills and valleys, the powerful rush of water, the sound of leaves tousling under our feet and dancing downward.
In the afternoon I sat and rocked alone on the old porch shielded by camellias. The inn was uncrowded because of pandemic.
I simply sat. Several minutes into the comfort of nothingness, I turned to see an oddity.
In the corner of the porch, the shape of a dark bird sat. I turned away and then looked again, still there.
I puzzled over the shape. Had somebody left a carved bird there for sweet decoration, was it one of those country birds people put on a shelf, the legs dangling?
I waited, no hurry to decide what it was.
I began to be sure that it was there just for me. My soul was stilled. The world around me a mess and yet, I am sitting quietly with a simply beautiful view and I’m rocking gently in an old wooden chair.
All was good, was well.
Sunset approached and I quietly decided to see more closely the figure in the corner.
I stepped gingerly and I saw it, a sparrow who allowed my visit and then fluttered away.
I went to tell my husband and to dress for dinner. As we stepped towards the porch I shushed him, maybe we will see it.
And we did. Back in its safe place, we both saw the bird.
“It’s roosting.” my husband said.
The bird wasn’t there when we returned after dinner nor on Sunday when we departed.
Only Saturday as I sat resting from hiking and in between a good long call with my son and a FaceTime with my daughter and hers.
I knew it was God.
I know it was His nearness in a visit with a roosting bird.
Now I know roosting is different than nesting as far as the pattern of a bird. Roosting is sitting still, finding a place to rest and returning there for comfort, for safety.
Maybe we roost when we allow our souls to rest in God’s tender but massive hand. Maybe we confidently return to our little place.
“A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, A wonderful Savior to me; He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, Where rivers of pleasure I see. He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, That shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand, And covers me there with His hand.”
I pray you know God’s nearness today, that the noise of all other is quieted by a view, a song, a sound and that if sleep awakens buried fears, you wake with assurance of being never alone and you rest in the safe place of that knowledge.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Yesterday was a good day, restful but productive until I paused with early sunset on the sofa and allowed my thoughts to catch up.
The annoying squeeze of the unnamed anxiety was realized. I walked down the hall to use the stretch, “legs against the wall” and I felt the rope loosen, the one that was tight around my chest.
Stretching and then praying made it better, the place that my soul inhabits was opened up, restored, clearing out the clutter, making more room for my Father’s spirit to be fully known by me.
I’m beginning to believe God. Beginning to believe the prayer that children say has words that are more than a pretty promise, are true.
“Ask Jesus to come into your heart.”
Not as a child but as a thirty something year old, I said what is called the “sinner’s prayer”.
Jesus came near, planted His Spirit in my soul. It has been gradual, often half-heartedly that I believed this mystery to be so.
This mystery that by grace and patience is no longer so obscurely mysterious at all.
Because I’ve been asking God to come near, to fill me, to allow His river to flow to me and through me and it has begun to be so.
It is becoming well with my soul,
Will become even more so. I am certain. I continue to believe.
Believing God has good things for me, not just for others is a closer truth than before.
A couple of weeks ago the nearness of God astounded me. I’ve kept it to myself except one wise other person until now.
On a regular morning walk with my grandchild, music she loves coming from my pocket and stops and starts to dig in the sand followed by her bouncy steps running, I had a thought.
Surrounded by trees, I remembered the scary vertigo episode almost exactly a year ago. I thanked God for wellness, for no further episodes.
I looked on either side, trees with leaves falling, old tall ones and new branches and I wondered to myself, what would I do if one of these trees fell, if my grandchild was safe but I was trapped?
I imagined calmly, the dog would look after Elizabeth and I’d be able to call for help.
Although scary, it would be okay, I would be safe.
Strange, I know.
Even stranger or as I now believe, not strange at all, occurred the next morning.
I arrived to care for my granddaughter in the dark of morning. My daughter said her husband wanted to know,
“Did your mama see that big tree that fell overnight?”
“No”, I answered. She continued with the way it fell, not a loud sound and the tree with the trunk at least seven feet around, it fell perfectly against the fence row, didn’t block the road.
“Oh” I mumbled.
We walked later to see it, the baby and I. I saw the massive oak severed by something unhuman lying on the ground.
I admit, I thought heavily of it all day, wondering over the weight of my thoughts the day before. It felt very scary and then, supernatural in a kind and loving way.
I texted my friend, wise in spiritual strengths and truth.
She wasn’t astounded or afraid. She simply told me God wanted to show me He is protecting me. That wherever I am, He is; I embody His Spirit. I have an advocate. There was no shock in her tone, she didn’t think I was crazy or what happened was scary.
Later, I realized I could believe it too. God is very close to me.
He is answering my most tender prayers.
Before sleep last night, I read five psalms, a proverb and a message.
I remembered the random text from the friend mentioned above, the way her words sent a chill down my calf.
I slept with the certainty of being known and loved and when I woke I repeated what God told me overnight.
“You are a masterpiece. Keep creating.”
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” Psalms 4:8 NLT