Esther

bravery, confidence, courage, Faith, fear, hope, obedience, Redemption, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder, writing

Story one in the series of “Weak Made Strong” monthly blogs

Recently, I heard someone speak of the “Strengths Finder” assessment and I remember years ago taking the test, being given the guide book to better understanding your strengths and making changes to make your weaknesses less weak.

I can’t recall my scores, but I began to think of attributes of mine that I considered weaknesses.

Naturally, I made a list. Just as quickly, I countered each trait with a contrast, a different view.

Sensitive, too transparent and “in my head” became empathetic, authentic and contemplative.

I reframed my barriers to the real life evidence of my tools. I rethought the hardships life had caused me to be avenues towards resilient strength.

Esther was orphaned by both parents and raised by a cousin. She found herself amongst a bevy of beauties competing to be chosen. She was a listener and an observer. She paid attention. She recognized that courage often cannot often be delayed.

I think of the well known verse,

“…Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?””
‭‭Esther‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A verse that’s prompted many of us to be brave, be wise, be responsive because we believe whatever circumstance that is calling forth our bravery

We were chosen for it.

And that acceptance of whatever brave thing it is, is strength.

Is weakness moving towards strength.

I am far from a theologian, even less a historian. I simply love reading the stories of women who had lots to overcome or lots to move beyond. I rarely expound on the interpretation of scripture. I’m not wise enough, but I sure do love seeing myself in others.

Women who had weaknesses, but became strong.

What holds you back?

For me, it’s age.

I decide I’m not “on my mental game” enough to be the things God keeps telling me not to pack away. So, I keep them close, I don’t give up. However, I am very slow to try again.

What can you resume or bravely begin that you’ve convinced yourself it’s not yours to do, you’re just too weak, too old, too unskilled

too ___________.

I hope you’ll follow me here for a new story of a woman in the Bible each month.

Women (and men) like us,

Weak made strong.

In Peace I Go, Again

Abuse Survivor, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, freedom, grace, grief, hope, memoir, Peace, Prayer, rest, traumatriggers, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom

After a very long time, I pulled the stubby stems from the dirt. The four times or more repotted “lipstick plant” was not thriving.

The plant sent by my fellow choir members at the time of my mother’s death. Inside, then outside, repotted and revived, try and tried again until it was decidedly time to let it go.

The forest like ferns in the window box were just there, not thriving either. My master gardener cousin suggested them and I liked that she called them “Fall ferns.” To me they looked like a walk in the woods, a reminder of creeks and pine trees.

My husband’s recent hospitalization (he’s greatly improved) reminded me not then, but yesterday, I’m good at operating on auto-pilot.

I’m skilled at begin subtly hyper-vigilant, of draping myself in sort of an emotional bubble wrap.

And praying throughout it all, praying believing in the power of prayer and the nearness of God,

Until I’m not.

Until I remember, “this feels like that”.

While I believe in my healing because of my faith in Jesus, the physicality of past trauma and memories are remnants and threads in my tapestry. I’d love to believe I’ll one day not be affected, but I’m more hopeful in knowing my hopefulness in this regard is real progress.

Is peace, is going forward in peace.

Again.

Still, conversations about options for life, long days hoping for turnarounds, ICU waiting rooms with siblings taking turns to visit and calls with the announcement “gone” are realities I have experienced.

No wonder it all came back to knock me off my feet when I quit trudging forward in a fog, when I finally slowed down.

Grief catches up. Trauma is skillful in its tactics.

It’s best that we not avoid it, rather go down the road again and again to the place where the view is more clear, better, an invitation to known peace and comfort.

Allowing the intellectual revelation that my life has been affected by trauma and loss, I have an understanding of the fallout rather than falling apart because of it.

I am in tune with myself.

I can grieve what happened back then in a way that brings a tender resurgence of sadness, but not one that destroys me.

Because I know Jesus told many “to go in peace because you’re now well, you are healed”, but the brain often rebels.

I’m not a clinician.

I believe understanding leads to disciplined healing and I don’t think remembering our hard things is always detrimental. I believe it leads to both understanding and to gratitude for who we are now

Despite what happened then.

Remember my mama’s broken pot with the miraculously spreading succulents from her funeral?

Well, they withered like an old flattened tire. The December frost took them. I brought the pot inside, too late, maybe.

I ran my fingers across the soil and tried to help the plants perk up.

Just one tiny plant like a miniature palm is standing. I’ll wait before adding more. I’ll hope more will rejuvenate on their own, find the nourishment to keep on.

The window box ferns are limelight green in the terra cotta pot. They’re happier on the porch in new soil. They must love the chance to grow in the place where death was accepted to invite new flowering.

Life continues. Life reminds.

New days bring new acceptances of our responses that hinder our acceptance of hardship or hope and invite us to know which are best.

To be brave enough to know ourselves and even braver to invite a new perspective.

Or not so new, just remembered.

Redeeming our days, because we’ve been redeemed.

Knowing ourselves in light of knowing the God who knows even more deeply and says I’m with you here, I was with you there.

Go in peace, daughter.

Go in peace.

Be gentle with yourself. Keep growing.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Keep On

Abuse Survivor, confidence, contentment, courage, depression, hope, Peace, Stillness, Trust, Vulnerability, walking, wisdom

The cold air was dreadful. I’d made a mistake in choosing to walk.

Halfway up the trail and I wondered why I had no cap, no jacket.

Even the couple with the dog dressed in a jacket must have known.

I walked on.

I thought of what was to come.

Up the hill, round the curve.

My body warmed.

I conquered the cul de sacs.

Again, I think of my son saying walking’s not exercise.

Caring less than before as my thoughts unravel in a rhythm that I know.

The rhythm of release. The crossing paths with those who know my walking.

Never pausing for chit chat.

They know me, fast and determined.

I walk on.

Strong and with intention.

An object lesson in perseverance.

A better than before every single time, can’t think of a time I wasn’t better for choosing.

Walking, fast and steadfastly.

Continue, I do.

Continue and believe.

Believe

Christmas, confidence, contentment, doubt, Faith, mercy, Prayer, Salvation, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder
Questions and Beliefs

Can this be the Christ?
John 4:29

I sang “O Holy Night” from memory, listening to those around me.

I sometimes wonder even in a setting surrounded by believers, how the miracle of Jesus could be so, if I’ll ever truly understand the complexities of the Trinity and how in the world there could be such immeasurably undeserved grace that I’ve been given, been shown, keep receiving.

In contrast, I wonder things like why my children had to be grandparentless so young. Why bad things like fatal accidents happen around Christmas, why the threat of violence and fear feel so palpable in our day.

I understand. This is earth not heaven and I know God has and had a plan for my parents I can’t yet fully understand.

Still, contemplating life with question draws me closer to steadfast faith. The woman at the well stood next to Jesus, Jesus who knew all her secrets and sins and yet offered her himself for a new way to live.

She walked away wondering “How could it be?” and shared with all the townspeople who then decided for themselves…it must be so! I, too choose belief.

We don’t always understand. Often, we won’t ever. But, choosing to believe in the one who hears and responds to my prayers, often in big ways, more often small, is the way to believing even more.

““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Merry Christmas. May your questions always lead you back to believing what is humanly unbelievable.

Believe in Jesus, the baby, the boy, the man amongst men, women, and children. God’s Son, our Savior because of underserved crucifixion and a glorious resurrection.

Jesus, who is seated next to God, the Father and is seeing me, sitting on a quiet Christmas morning and typing words about Him, maybe saying…see, she’s growing. She’s believing more and more.
She knows she’s fully known and loved.

She believes in Jesus.

Continue and believe.
Merry Christmas!

Tender Mercies

Advent, Christmas, contentment, courage, Faith, freedom, grace, hope, mercy, Peace, praise, Prayer, Redemption, Salvation, surrender, Truth, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

Because of the tender mercy of our God…

Luke 1:78

I didn’t realize it at the time, but yesterday on a couple of occasions, I felt God seeing me. I felt Him near. The veil between earth and heaven was translucently thin.

In my car, with a list of places to deliver art and calendars, in between being among hurried and intent on shopping people, a playlist emerged. Songs I hadn’t heard before both caused me to pray and to praise. A deep connectedness to God’s spirit within me, led to warm tears and others to a lifted open hand.

No wonder, I’ve been resting with the words, “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay.”

My favorite people in the Bible are the vulnerable and uncertain ones. I’m drawn to Job. I’m strengthened by David. I adore Martha and can relate to Jonah. Thomas, the one who needed proof and wasn’t afraid to admit it. I love the ones who wondered.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Who believe and cling to times when their belief was solidified, made tangible evidence.

The Lord is near.

Believe. Accept the freedom of a sweeter commitment, the language of the heart, not rational.

Heavenly.

Lord, I believe.

I believe in your tender mercies.

In moments so tender,

So tender, a hand on mine, a strong hug.

Love so true, a touch of your hand in mine.

Still, Believe

Advent, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, grace, hope, kindness, mercy, Peace, Prayer, rest, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

As Martha was met by Jesus, distraught over the death of her brother, she told Him she still believed in His goodness, in the purpose of Him.

Then, she went to get her sister Mary.

“She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Mary stood next to Jesus and asked why he waited so long. Jesus wept.

Then he told the sisters to take him to their brother although it had been four days.

“Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:40‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Lazarus was raised. Jesus told them both and all who had followed out of grief and curiosity, that this was the way God intended it, so that all would believe, not just the sisters.

All, like all of us.

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:41-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I woke up early, got my journal, books and pen and then felt the need, like a gentle call to read my (actual)Bible.

The Mary and Martha story is good. Always.

God’s timing is not ours.
Don’t give up hope.
Don’t stop believing in the grace, strength, mercy and presence of Jesus.
Look at your life, remember times you asked for help and help came. Times of desperation because of delay of some sort.

Sometimes I pray “God, show us your glory today, come through in a way that it’s clearly you…’cause I’m not able on my own.”

And Jesus has come, has remedied, relieved, given me strength when I am weak.

Believe in Jesus. Believe in his peace.

Happy Friday!

Conviviality, Despite All

contentment, coronavirus, courage, Faith, family, hope, kindness, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom, writing

I follow an author, Priscilla Garatti, who lives nearby. I imagine meeting one day. There are a handful of authors, bloggers, artists with whom I feel kindred. Their creativity is like I hope mine comes through, with depth, honesty and a belief that we can still hope.

On this sunny Sunday morning, I wake groggy from cold medicine and I read Priscilla’s most recent post about a dream I’ve found to be teachable for me. It contains the word conviviality which I had to look up.

I’m glad I did, glad I can now hope for togetherness despite pain, angst, differences or simply changes in relationship.

Conviviality despite perhaps unkind words, taking into consideration the pain of others before distancing myself or adding to their distress.

I encourage you to follow Priscilla.

Priscilla K. Garrati

Happy Sunday!

Continue and believe

Time To Grow

Advent, confidence, contentment, doubt, Faith, hope, love, memoir, Peace, praise, Prayer, rest, surrender, Trust, wisdom, wonder

The orchid, delicately teasing me with the buds barely visible, has been nothing other than knotty branches since I (read the instructions) shook the dust off the gnarled roots and repotted it.

God will help her when morning dawns.

While the dollar store Christmas cactus is popping out fuchsia shoots.

Left alone, barely watered since a Christmas last year with no blooms even hinting.

I thought “cease striving” last week, worried over the decision to order an extra 100 calendars from the printer.

I told myself, based on your history, forget about it, let it go, it’ll come back around, the interest in the calendar with your art.

Today, I woke at 5:00 and thought again, “cease striving”.

Let come what may.

Let things grow in their own time and way, not yours.

These are words I tell myself with regularity.

I opened my Bible to find Psalm 46:10 to read the psalmist’s same recommendation.

It wasn’t there. Instead, the words are “be still” in every translation I searched for comparison.

Somewhere I, and I believe others decided we may need a tone more disciplined, more direct.

“Cease striving”…with perhaps, once and for all added for emphasis, at least for me.

Psalm 46 is about rest. It is an exhortation to remember the strengths of God, his handiwork and plans.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Selah”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭46:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Continue and believe.

Be still. Cease striving.

Love and Light

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, grace, memoir, mercy, Redemption, testimony, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder, writing

“That your joy may be full.” Jesus

Imagine being with the most prolific teacher, one you’re humbled, challenged, encouraged and fascinated by.

Grandma Mornings

I had an English professor, Honors English in my Freshman year. She saw my timidity and yet, she gave no mercy when it came to writing. Honesty, brevity, tenacity were her standards, more so than grammar.

Write with honesty. Don’t copy.

Don’t quit.

I left that college and that Honors English professor after barely eight months. Art scholarship and English were sidelined by events uninvited.

I wish I could remember her name, that tiny framed woman who commanded the room.

She taught me about doing hard things. She spoke of choices that would bring joy.

It’s crazy really, the forceful tone she used to cut no corners and instruct me has been my motivation for as long as I can recall.

I was afraid of her. I was unsure.

She told me I belonged in her class and I should never forget it.

I have been writing all my life in one way or another.

My writing lately is cursive, blue ink in my journal and most days an early morning Instagram post.

Honestly.

I honor that petite professor who never played favorites. Shy poor girl me or sorority blonde, she taught us to write and to continue writing.

She left us all with what was important.

Most important.

Jesus left the disciples with many commands that he hoped they’d honor. He told them doing so would lead to joy.

Most of all,

He said, “Love one another”.

Some mornings I read a verse or more and I write a sermon to self. Mornings like today, I share it:

Look for light today, where the love of Jesus falls and changes the simple or hard things.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Years ago, I concluded that God made us all so different, so uniquely difficult in our ways, so individually changed by our circumstances in not always so easy to love ways, so that we’d be challenged to obey the command to love one another.

The greatest commandment isn’t a suggestion.

The other day I “vented” with a friend about difficult people. She listened. I listened. We had things in common. I didn’t feel better for my venting. Wished I hadn’t.

Notice how you feel when it’s a challenge to love others, choose the way of Jesus to do the best you can.

You’ll feel better for trying, for doing what the teacher instructed.

Remember, we don’t know the experiences that lead to the behaviors of others. It really is all about perspectives formed by circumstances.

We just can’t know the whole story of anyone other than the portion they share.

Sometimes that portion is the best or the worst.

Love one another.

Continue and believe.

Write, paint, sing, dance.

Every Place Exposed

Advent, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, mercy, Peace, praise, Redemption, Salvation, Stillness, Truth, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder

What we allow to be influenced by Jesus, by love, by vulnerable secret places exposed to light, lends itself to our stories being rewritten.

We begin to believe the vastness of God’s grace is for us, not just for others.

We loosen the bitter, cynical ropes that tether us to making sense of past wrongs and in a gradual epiphany type way, we see hope as more than a sweet little word.

We may wonder why it took so long and we may fear falling back into the questioning pattern tattooed on our soul by trauma.

We may wonder over this change causing glimpses of heaven.

Or we might decide to embrace it.

We may just move this Christmas season from believing and accepting Christ Jesus

To fully embracing Him.

We’ll be easy on our fragile human hearts when they try to grow stiff again.

We’ll pivot towards the soft light of love, we will reset our hearts on hope again.

We will say to ourselves, maybe on little post-its or with pen on our wrists.

“healed”

…by his wounds, I am healed.

We’ll continue seeing God. We’ll be amazed where He is.

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What a joyful way, to live enlightened.

Can you feel it?

God is near.