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
I hope you’ll follow me here for a new story of a woman in the Bible each month.
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.
Imagine being with the most prolific teacher, one you’re humbled, challenged, encouraged and fascinated by.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Among a crowd of frenetic students changing classes, a presence walked up behind me. I’d found myself caught up in a crowd that made no sense, I was just searching for the hallway to the laundry room in what others said was a nonsensical place.
I lost the landlord, a woman with a snarky pride over her Air BnB that she denied was in disrepair. She scurried through dark hallways and then she wasn’t there. I returned to the place where the others had complained about my clothes left in the dryer. There another led me through the toddler nursery. A cat slipped by my feet and joined in our fast walking. Suddenly, I’m in a room filled with cats and dogs. We pause to confront the property manager who asked “Where the hell did you go?”
I gave no reply. A cat vomited on my foot and the frustrated helper sighed.
I struck out on my own again, ready to gather my laundry next to my chest and begin the long trip back home from this less than idyllic weekend getaway.
That’s when the students were thronged together, they chattered and marched or had heads down persevering.
The man measures his steps to match mine. Asks, “Why the sad face, are you lost?” He comments about the owner, agrees with the rooms being in disrepair. He walks beside me.
I’m hesitant, but turn to see an easy smile, a jawline in need of a shave and a glint of hazel eye.
He points me to the door that leads to the laundry, has my warm clothes in the dryer.
Quickly and cautiously I say, “I gotta hurry, gotta get back to South Carolina.”
He walks on his way.
I gather my laundry and think of describing the encounter with the stranger who showed me the way, of the satisfaction of finding words to fit emotion. In my dream, I wrote a story about the kindness of a stranger.
The kindness that gave me comfort in the finding again of just the right words.
I decided to write here about this dream not as an invitation to interpretation or to cause you to consider how deep or a littlecrazy I might be. On both I concur. No, I had a dream that made me think of writing as beauty and I woke to think, maybe, just maybe I will write. I haven’t shelved that dream altogether. It’s still a joy.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 NIV
I’ve been searching for the best description in words for an idea for I’m guessing…years. I prayed this morning asking God a simple thing, not a God-sized problem, really just a task.
I have an Artist Market on Sunday. I don’t know what or how much to take for my display. I thought of asking the question in an Instagram story, a little poll. But, I’ve not had much success with this, I don’t think my graphics are fancy enough.
What would be wonderful is if I had a friend to help me say,
“Okay, this best represents you, so let’s decide what you should display so that not you so much, but your message is on display.”
See, here’s the thing. I prayed with coffee and a kitten on my lap. I prayed that very thing.
God, help me to choose what best represents your redemptive work in me and conveys that very grace to others.
I let the prayer rest, the one that came with such accuracy. The word I’d been searching for, “representation” came like a friend with flowers at the door, a “surprise” with her hello.
A representation, a portrayal of someone or something. May it be so, Lord.
May I be so.
And may I remember this chilly morning when an answer came quickly.
May I remember the one that came in the swirl of leaves at my feet yesterday. Even in the flurry of thoughts, a gift of clear comfort came.
May I remember your presence.
May I remember the one that came in reply to sullen surrender of a situation, with honesty over my muddling through the motions of trust. May I remember when I accepted what is not mine to change, a happy unexpected gift came.
May I remember the unrivaled power of the secret prayer spoken honestly with a friend.
“Follow on, and thou shalt never lose track of that light.” Edward B. Pusey, Joy and Strength
I sort of remember the first time I told myself that painting and writing are “my calling”. Several years later, I still question the label that leads to an assessment of whether my work represents such a strong word.
Once I called it my “treasure”, felt that was better. A “gift” may be even easier to accept as the description of what’s more than hobby but less than calling.
“Allow God to cultivate your calling.” Hosanna Wong
I heard these words while walking, having told myself to take a break from podcasts, that I once again had way too many voices in my ear telling me how to finally be at peace with me.
I am prone to quitting a whole thing rather than being patiently selective, giving up rather than testing the waters.
Not finishing things I begin for fear of failure.
The shape of a bird waits on a wood panel. Vibrant colors of green, azure, a little coral brushed boldly to complete the suggested work are only thoughts. Although I’ve painted these before, what if I can’t again?
What if I’ve forgotten how to paint and write?
That would mean what you thought was your calling was wrong all along.
I consider the words of Hosanna Wong again this morning. Like a middle school diagram sentence, I broke apart the words.
Allow – give someone permission to do something Cultivate – to develop a quality or skill Calling – a strong urge towards a particular way of life
Allow God to cultivate your calling.
There is relief here, this freedom from effort, comparison, numbers of followers, readers, collectors and validators of my work…
Of whether it is or ever was “my calling”.
Because, I’m closer now to understanding
my calling is the calling of every single one of us, to let God lead, show us the way, place us in the places we are needed by others, not the esteemed places of what fulfills our needs
recognition, praise or even kind words.
The pressure is off.
I’ll adjust to this new understanding of calling. It may take some time. I may still fear rejection and thus, hesitate in offering my words and paintings.
Or I may settle in, paint and write because I love it and love the way God made me to love doing it.
Of the seven paintings inspired by Psalm 23, a Bible close by as I painted and breaks in between colors to comfort myself in reading, only one has sold.
A tiny one, “All I Need” will be shipped today.
I allowed my Bible to fall open in my lap just now. The margin sketch reminding of words from another day.
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
There’s so much I don’t know, don’t fully understand about God’s ways, His love for me, the places He has for me, my words and art to go.
I will follow. I will stay close beside Him. I will find my calling in the listening to His gentle, guiding voice.
I have everything I need.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 ESV
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:2-6 ESV
On Sunday, I felt the tone in my voice change to excited, the chance to tell again how it all started, women in redemptive poses, muses of my art.
The story of a new Bible for Christmas, the trend catching on of filling margins with notes, colorful stickers or maybe drawings.
I was reluctant. I remembered warnings of never let your Bible touch the floor, leave it somewhere safe, underline some things and write on little pieces of paper tucked away, the sins you keep sinning.
That’s what you need to remember most, I was raised to think. Keep track of your wrongs, only consider the tiny chance you are worthy of grace.
I was in awe of the mysterious unattainable gift of the Holy Bible for many years.
Gradually, when time alone brought comfort, I began timid sketches of women and stories I could see myself in comparable pain, joy, messes made or willingness to learn.
Willing to come nearer to God.
Brave enough to trust His love.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14 ESV
I heard love in my voice on Sunday, felt it in the fluttery words lifted into the air as I stood surrounded by my art.
This thing I get to do that leads to stories of a Bible filled with drawings, the word “trust” in dark pen to greet me.
Listening as a passerby stops to say, “This one speaks to me.” I listen and am grateful for the gift of their emotion, their interpretation of the canvas.
Thank you seems insufficient and to add “it means so much” seem like the reply of an amateur, not a “real” artist.
But, I tell them. I tell the ones who see themselves in my art that their purchase, their kind words are a gift.
Because, I mean it and rare is the occasion I say something I don’t mean.
Share your thoughts, words and trust.
You never know what a gift to them it may be.
The gift of you sharing “your Bible”, your life.
Open your Bible, let it speak then speak it through your story.
“We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Proverbs 16:33 NLT
Barely awake, I opened my email account. Scrolled past random messages from people, groups, companies I don’t know.
Rather than swiping to delete, I took a bolder step. I unsubscribed. Many of these emails are about writing, about platform, about getting published. They land in my inbox with the greeting of either “Lisa” or “friend”.
Naively, I once thought they were interested in me, my writing, my ideas.
Because, I’m a combination of starry eyed optimist and strategic thinker.
I’ve always believed if I follow the guide, if I understand the steps, the result will be whatever I pursue.
It’s just not the case and it’s disheartening to hope that a stranger who I gave my email address is going to guide me, be my advocate.
So, not with bitterness or any bad feelings towards these groups, I unsubscribed.
I’m going into seeking to be a published author sort of hiatus.
I’m gonna let my writing hopes get the underground growth in the roots of my ideas. I’m gonna pray more than voraciously read experts’ steps. I’m not shredding my draft or proposal nor my hopes.
Just letting them breathe on their own for just a bit.
Because it’s not rejection that I fear as much as before, it’s the striving to be noticed, to see results of my effort, to stand in Target beaming with my book in my hand in a selfie for Instagram.
Yeah, that’s why I’m letting it rest.
I’ve thrown the dice of my idea towards a few agents and publishers.
For now, I’m loving smaller ideas. Being influential in the lives of others albeit in obscurity in terms of what some of these now unsubscribed emails promised me.
Because, early this morning I got this message from a friend:
“I hope you understand how people see, respect and admire you.” Ray V.
I replied “Thank you.” thinking this is enough for now, more than enough.
Then I thought of coming Christmas and just like that, an idea, Advent prayer cards for either Christmas decorations, gifts, or for thoughtful meditation.
I sketched a pear, added the number 7 and referred to my Advent tradition book, “Waiting Here for You, An Advent Journey of Hope” by Louie Giglio. I saw that Day 7 asks us to consider the value of giving rather than receiving.
Found the photo of my granddaughter’s first Christmas and said to myself, these are things of great significance, waiting quietly rather than striving and offering what I can to others in hopes they do the same.
Please comment if you’d be interested in an Advent Set of illustrated cards. I need to know if there’s interest in my idea or just another of my many ideas. Cost will be under $20. If you’d like to view other art, visit here http://lisaannetindal.me
Remember when you refused to say “diet”, instead lifestyle or good choices for my health? Maybe you’ve counted calories, drank smooshed up vegetables in a pretty glass, restricted cream and sugar in your coffee.
All in an effort to be well, to be satisfied with yourself, body and soul.
Yesterday, I gazed at the casserole dish of cheesy baked spaghetti my daughter made. I remembered the day I would’ve gone for thirds, if by myself eat the rest of it.
I let the memory help me, I let it fade into the shadows. I left it there.
I woke up early unnecessarily today. I prayed beside my bed that God would help me keep learning, keep listening, keep strengthening my spiritual health.
I see the word prompt for today is “taste”. Rather than think of passages like kind words being sweeter than honey or tasting and seeing that the goodness of the Lord is good.
I rested for a few minutes, soaking up a passage I never tire of,
The passage about the woman who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years and had gone broke trying to get well, to find a solution to her blood saturated clothing.
The crowd was thick. She could get close to Jesus without being noticed. She did. She touched the hem of his robe and instantly everything changed. She got well.
Jesus knew it. Knew she was there. Knew she was desperate and called her out from her chosen obscurity, her hope to keep herself secret.
“When the woman realized she couldn’t hide any longer, she came and fell trembling at Jesus’ feet. Before the entire crowd she declared, “I was desperate to touch you, Jesus, for I knew if I could just touch even the fringe of your garment I would be healed.” Luke 8:47 TPT
All eyes and ears were on her then, Jesus didn’t just heal her, He gave her the voice to invite healing for others.
I haven’t thought of it this way until today.
Others see and hear us. See how we’ve changed and keep seeking to be healed.
On Sunday (isn’t Sunday always okay tomorrow I start the diet day?) I considered doing Whole30 again.
The diet that restricts certain foods as a way for you to learn what is specifically not good for you is work. It takes effort, makes you feel like a brave fighter or a competitive something or other.
But, there’s no cheese allowed, no cream in my coffee, no chocolate, no red wine, no bread, no sugar, no peanut butter (!!!). The “no” list is long.
Earlier this week, I embraced a friend in a funeral home. I didn’t expect to hear her words through tears. I just know they surprised me, sweetly and certainly she spoke.
“I’m gonna need you.” she said before I spoke a word. On the way to this visitation I almost decided against I decided I’d offer myself as a person to call.
I’d tell her “If you run out of friends to call or no one’s available, you can always call me.”
You see, we know each other but not dining together or visiting each other’s home sort of friends.
Her greeting me with “I’m gonna need you.” surprised me and then it didn’t.
This thing called blogging, posting what God tells me on Instagram, this sharing of sitting on the sofa sketches at night, this creative thing God so graciously made me to do.
It has an audience of listeners, seekers, “needers” like me.
It’s just me being vulnerably, being honestly me.
My “sermons to self” sometimes become hopeful words for others, I suppose.
I pray this anyway.
So, on this chilly quiet morning, I make myself breakfast. I don’t skip it thinking I’ll eat later. I am intentional with starting the day filled with possibilities and errands well.
I take the English muffin top and toss it. I like the bread, but I just choose the bottom. I add sharp cheddar to the egg white and turkey sausage and let the broiler make it bubbly. I add a dollop of cherry preserves to balance the savory. I place it on the pretty china.
I sit and enjoy it.
Like I told my friend who is grieving and I continue to tell others and myself,
“Take it easy on yourself.”
Offer as much mercy you’ve shown others to yourself.
Cease striving, seek wellness.
Be humble when convicted, but don’t punish yourself, don’t let bitter regret or self-hate simmer.
Continue and believe.
Believe you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and so fully known and loved.
Be well. It is well.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 ESV
Thank you for sustaining me Lord, for keeping me well, for reminding me of what harms and what helps me, what makes me a beautifuloffering, a vessel to pour out newlife, love and listening. Thank you for showing me gently what limits my abilities, takes me from your Spirit. I am listening. I am learning. Thank you. Because of your mercy, Amen