“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
“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.
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:1-2 ESV
Before I felt the truth of belonging there, I observed the setting. Twice in my life, a very long time ago, it was offered to me, possibility.
The high school art classroom, the teacher who spilled her very own love of painting all over the room, she started my believing.
She was less instructor, more demonstrator of art as a comfort, as a passion. She was evidence of the balm of creativity.
The English Honors professor who was a tiny force of expectation, a petite woman
She refused to accept my errors.
I remember the desk I arrived early to take, first row, third seat back. I hated my poor appearance, I avoided the walking across any classroom.
The room was so small, desks barely able to allow my thick to me frame. Classmates so close, it was uncomfortable to have another’s skin so near. But, my grades categorized me as Honors and I had no idea why, only that this class was significant, I was taken seriously. This exclusive group now included me.
The professor scared the mess of out of me until she convinced me, it was my writing that got me there, that qualified me. Not my parents, not my appearance. My writing was my how.
Four decades in between the idea of belonging and possibility are hard things, heavy losses and other type accomplishments.
Chronicling the years between what could have figuratively and literally killed me, the question of how is not of importance.
The answer of now is the result of believing I belonged in both classrooms and in what life and God knew were my possibilities.
“…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV
Hope and possibility, words we value so vaguely, minimizing their power.
Think of someone, some thing in your history that pulled you close enough to listen, to believe that tiny voice of ideas and dreams unsought, unfulfilled, set aside would always be there. Then, pick it back up again, unconcerned with how, knowing you’ll treasure the day in the very near future when you decided on the possible.
In us, is the glorious hope of heaven because of Jesus. When we will fully believe, the details of our how are no issue.
Only today will matter, the day of grabbing hold of our set aside possibilities.
I’m linking up with others in a time when the “how” question is heavy and complex. How did we get here? How can we fathom it ever getting better? How can I be a difference maker? I don’t provide answers to things I don’t fully know. I can only hold fast to hope and possibilities and to be more like Jesus in all my encounters.
The sound of a riding mower doesn’t obstruct the birdsong. The birds in the big high palm outside the window with my view have done their daily thing.
They’ve made sure that I have seen them before they go their way.
Off kilter because of allowing myself to go back to slumber, my mind is struggling through the mud it seems my soul is in.
Not quick to journal or to read my dailies, I just sit with coffee heavy with cream and honey.
That sitting, I allow myself to see, that sort of sitting is not idle.
Sitting in slow silence with God and morning.
It is joy.
“You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!” Isaiah 55:12 NLT
The birds in the back are now excited. The lawn mower has moved to the far corner of the next door yard.
I step out to do what my mama taught. On hot days I water the plants before the sun is high in the sky and later, just as it fades.
I love the little things she gave me.
The man on the lawn mower is from one house away. He is cutting the widow’s grass perhaps unrequested. It seems an unspoken agreement that began when her husband got suddenly sick and then sooner than expected went to heaven.
We all were together in communication through texting as he grew closer to passing away.
The neighbors who are black and have two spunky twin girls and are expecting a third baby I believe very, very soon.
The mama watches out for me as I walk towards the safer place. She cautions me on the sharp curve knowing people avoiding the main road use our road as a hidden cut through.
Occasionally, the little girls will wave as they see me. Then they’ll wave again and again as if our waving towards each other is the happiest part of our days.
It always feels that way to me at least.
Excited, we are, to encounter each other. The mama and I talk about our children. We talk about our city. We talk about God. We talk about how we’re glad in a crisis that we know it’s mutual, the phone call away if we need anything.
It had been a while since I’d heard the giggling, the girls playing in their backyards on the fort their daddy built them. I hadn’t seen them at the driveway nor had I walked by and seen the mama taking care of her flowers.
I thought of walking to the back door. I’d done that before when the puppy got out or to drop off something.
I wanted to see my neighbor.
I longed for connection. Told myself, I’d stop that day, the day when most people changed their screens to just black.
Instead, I sent a message and I asked for her honesty. I asked just one question and said take your time with your answer.
I wanted to ask this of someone and I knew I could trust you to be honest.
I asked, “Have you ever felt my kindness to your family to be insincere?”
She answered that I should continue to be the person I’ve shown her, kindhearted and spiritual.
Then, she thanked me for being open minded and willing to have a candid conversation.
I felt she was thanking me to care enough about our differences of which neither of us had any control, to ask an honest question and then accept her answer.
You won’t find me joining in political dialogue. You won’t find me following the bandwagon of others. You won’t find me defending myself in an argument that doesn’t include a perspective I know.
Because none of us can ever know fully the heart of another.
Yesterday, I arrived early for grandma duty. I was worried my daughter would notice I’d been crying. I was serenaded by a song all the way down the long road before her road.
It’s a song about how I want to be remembered, to be remembered that I knew nobody on this earth had or would be able to love me like Jesus.
It’s a song about a legacy of that being enough. I’m so very far from that but so much closer to it than before.
Watering the plants this morning with the kind neighbor circling the widow’s yard, I notice the bright bloom stretching up from the grey leaves I only added to the pot on a whim. Brilliant yellow little flowers have grown from the hard soil of a given up on plant.
What good will come?
What good can come from all of this halfway through 2020 distress?
Maybe, we should change the question slightly.
What good has already come?
I pray you find all sorts of little evidences of that.
I pray you know you’ve been cared for by Jesus all the way, his faithful hand.
I pray you find your joy alone in Him. I pray it for me too.
Continue and believe.
We are one in Jesus. No one here on earth will ever love us His way, only be our example to follow.
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!
Here’s a granddaughter inspired post about “wonder” I wrote a few weeks ago.
Today is her 1st birthday. I call her “morning glory” among other little things. A baby who changes a day from gray to blue, a baby girl who has changed our world. Happy Birthday, sweet little curious thinker, “ELB”. We thank you for making us so much more sure of every single thing. You cause me to rest. You increase my joy. You are a gift. You are the embodiment of certain hope. You are silly, you are wise.
What We See
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12 ESV
As if our bodies were synchronized, our necks craned and faces tilted towards heaven, we stared through the sheer drapery and we tried to find the opening. We wondered if it was as tiny as the point of a pin. We longed to see and were left questioning, “What is up there, what is causing the lingering of her stare?” We were fascinated. We were perplexed.
The baby was tiny then. We decided the veil must surely be thinner between babies and heaven. Occasionally, as her mama cradled her after feeding and before sleep, she raised her tiny arm towards the ceiling in a newborn hello wave. Something was there, someone, a presence only baby girl was capable of seeing. We were captivated by her vision. We researched angelic explanations and discovered mystical and somewhat biblical explanation. My daughter and I agreed, she is in awe of her new world, she sees either angel, God or we hoped, her great-grandma.
Then, she began to grow and curiosity for other was all about what she could touch, feel, manipulate, and discover. We noticed her looking towards heaven less often. She became more fascinated with the cool earth beneath her knees and feet.
Her longing for understanding seemed to be bigger than simply seeing. I watched as she discovered discovering.
I began to discover again.
We sat together in the cool grass of Spring. I watched her fascination with leaves, pine straw, and the big dog.
We sat together.
So serene. I braided the pinestraw in a way I may braid her soft hair one day. She watched me and her chubby fingers tried the same.
“Bird”, I said and she looked at me and then towards the sky. For a moment or two she was enthralled, we looked up together. I held her hand and we sat still.
I am thinking now, posing a question, sermon to self-type evaluation, “Where will you see God today, Lisa?” because it has been something I’ve been wondering in this pandemic. I have taken stock of the things God has not stopped. Babies are born. Birds are cavorting. Even the wind seems more melodic. The flowers are brilliant. The clouds are puffed and fully inflated. I find it confusing these spectacular symbols of living in a time of speculation and dread of death.
How is there such splendor in such a time of fear? How is my wonder over such beauty so fulfilling? What is God’s intention in this juxtaposition of grief and beauty? Are we to hold both, one hand clutching uncertainty and the other, splendor? Possibly, I believe. Perhaps wonder is simply faith we see only through childlike eyes.
The baby will be here momentarily. I’ll spread an old quilt on the grass in the back corner. All the toys will be toted out and she’ll play until she is bored with blocks and colors. Then she and I will look and listen. We will mimic the crow. We will toss the ball to the dog and we may sing her favorite song, “Deep and Wide”. She’ll guide my hands because she knows the words now. She’ll remember long ago when her grandma opened her arms, deep and then wide and sang to her over and over about the fountain flowing, one full of love for her and me.
We will look together. We will listen and then have a lunch of sweet potato. I’ll be attentive to her seeing and she will be to mine. We will look in wonder for God today, the sweet baby girl, and I will remember our creator, the one who gave us our eyes and our ears and our favorite thing of all, our wonder.
Where will you see God today?
May your seeing be as mysteriously clear as a baby’s.
Happy 1st birthday, Elizabeth Lettie, we love you more than any words can express. We love you for changing our seeing. We love you for increasing our wonder.
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
I’m a stickler for continuing things I begin. Oh, wait that’s not true. I’m scared to death to get back at rewriting that manuscript, the one that felt too honest and now not honest enough. A wise friend named Ray reminded me this idea was born eight years ago!
For now, here’s the link to my April Newsletter, a much easier write and read.