After three days with no writing or painting, I returned to my “sanctuary” on Sunday afternoon.
It was as before, it was life giving, the losing track of time and paint on my hands and forehead.
All afternoon, I painted.
I followed my husband’s suggestion. He noticed I was isolating and told me to stop spending so much time in “that room”.
When I did, I thought of other things. Things other than the canvases piling up, other than hopes that seem to have no place to land in this seemingly hopeless land.
I noticed the hardships of others. I paid attention to sorrowful eyes on masked faces. I observed the way we all seem to be walking together reluctantly, like lambs headed for slaughter.
I recalled my work with depression and suicide. I recalled the one thing more important than any other.
The one in need asking for help, and the listener being committed to listening and helping.
I thought of situational depression in comparison to chemical.
I realized, maybe now (I’m not an expert) it makes no difference. Isolation, depression, anger or sullenness, no respecter of persons.
And I revisited my career long reminder.
Be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Here we are on another Monday feeling like the never ending mystery of our days.
I turned to Matthew, today marked Chapter 7, about not judging others wrongly, considering their conditions could be yours.
I read ahead, drawn towards a healing story.
Longing to remember the healer, longing to remember the one needing healing.
Wanting to feel touched by another’s story.
This one, a single soul held captive by an ugly disease. He was a leper, one others avoided.
He was brave enough to believe and saw the throng of people along with Jesus descending from the mountain down into the valley where he stayed hidden.
He asked for help.
“And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Matthew 8:2-3 ESV
Today, I’ll remember those who are struggling more than most, more than me.
I’ll pray they find a listener, are able to express their pain and that the ears that welcome their anger or dismay, offer a heart and hand of patient compassion.
I pray that I am able to offer the same, whether words or canvas or eyes that smile instead of look away when I meet another seeking soul, a gentle lamb trusting God and in need of healing.
May we find each other in our quest for healing. May we continue to believe in the audacity of believing.
“But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:33 NLT
A trusted friend with a windowsill full of orchids has told me to let it be.
It will bloom again. I’ve allowed the fallen petals to stay, evidence in some way to me that my orchid will flower again.
One morning, I’ll be greeted by the beginnings of a bloom nurtured from the strong green stem that I’ve kept watered although it does appear hopeless.
If you could see my friend’s orchids, you’d trust in her confidence too.
Today, my guide in the back of my Bible had me start again. Psalm 1 and Matthew 1 along with I Chronicles, the lineage of Jesus.
I added Proverbs 1 because I felt the need for wisdom.
Joseph is met by an angel who assures him being married to a pregnant woman does not mean shame or fear.
Rather, it is a grander thing. It is a conception by the Holy Spirit. It had nothing to do with the humanness of him.
“Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:19-20 NLT
Joseph believed the voice that assured him, God has made you a part of a long ago established promise.
Joseph listened and continued beside Mary.
He was alone, quiet, considering “cutting and running” when he heard a voice he was certain of.
Yesterday, something I thought was wonderful happened to me. A dream come true, evidence of God’s goodness, a blessed thankful answer to a deep longing. A legacy, a book for Elizabeth.
But, I misunderstood. I misread the agreement. I felt stupid, a novice, naive.
And then, I didn’t.
I listened to the Holy Spirit. I turned my attention towards the way forward. I decided to continue, just more informed and learning.
I decided to believe, not yet but soon and surely.
Like the orchid that has been bare for the same six months of dread and pandemic, the strength is in its roots, the up flow of nutrition from the hidden place within.
The leaves are bright green.
The tangle of grey in the pot is getting thicker.
I can’t see any evidence of it, I must trust the uncertainty of my part, watering it.
Much like my confidence in these days. It will topple if I’m overwhelmed by every argument towards dread. I am not capable of keeping my hope if I listen to the voices of fear, conflict, condemnation and death.
I must stay quiet, quiet enough to be reassured by the Spirit of God in me, the voice that says don’t join in the fear.
The voice that gave me the prayer yesterday, a simple one, a request for relief and assurance.
Relief and assurance.
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 KJV
Listening to voices other than the voice within me, my “soulmate”, the Holy Spirit leans towards discontent, disgruntlement, dismay over a dreadful next day.
The longing of my heart begs my return to listening intently to my Heavenly Father.
I will listen today to the voice that promises new growth, a flowering of my bitter and often dried up thoughts and hopes.
I will believe.
I will continue.
“Thy longing is the faint response of thy heart to His call.” F.B. Meyer, Joy and Strength devotional
“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.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
It’s trendy to choose a word for the year in some circles. Make a hashtag, tag it onto your posts, think about what it means to you.
So, when I chose endurance it was a subtle choice. Not working out with a buff trainer flipping tires and doing burpees kind of intention.
No, I chose endurance because it seemed to be the mindset to the phrase I like to live.
Continue and believe.
It felt like a soft determination to put action and patience and steps forward. No destination or goal, just keep going.
And I liked the idea of it. It was doable.
Then the pandemic crept in and took over and I laughed a little cynical giggle, what was I thinking to choose the word endurance?
But, I didn’t let it consume me. I decided it meant what I meant it to mean.
Months have passed and the days are written in my journal with the word “surrender” written daily and circled, the thick circle somehow making me believe I could and should do it.
Because I love words I found myself not really understanding the purpose of the word and my daily circling.
I began to feel it was something different God wanted me to embrace.
Today marks the return of my very old and reliable friend.
Today, I return to trust. The word surrender can be found in the Bible in the context of battle. Not once is it found in the New Testament, only the idea of it.
I’m fully on board with idea, the idea of giving my concerns, my goals, my worries to God in surrender and letting Him filter the outcomes. I am for this for sure. I’m just more certain that now more than anything I need to recommit my mind to “trust”, the word and decision I used to scribble on my wrist before making a speech or decision.
Yes, I am returning to trust today.
And I’m sticking with endurance in my own unique way.
Believe and continue.
Trust, a good word. I hope I’m known for not quitting, not striving to be the grand winner, simply staying in the race.
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
Worth caring for. Cared for. Worth resets of neglected places and grace in the rearranging. Worth “beginnings again”.
Sitting in my studio (there, I said it!) that I call a “sanctuary”, the room that was Heather’s, the room with every momento of my children or creative inspiration on the walls before, I feel renewed.
Today, I cleared the walls of unnecessary (almost every space was push pinned with something!) and only left a little. I left the cow Heather painted, an empty frame to get me thinking, and a color wheel Austin must have done in a school assignment. Other things on tables, just a very few to keep my focus on what matters.
I exchanged a pretty chair for an old one and added a forgotten pillow. I repositioned the desk to the window, no longer facing the wall. I cleaned up my messy painting desk, layers and layers of dust, pencil shavings and paint. I felt a little embarrassed by all the paint tubes without lids, how I’d been so careless. I let it pass and I kept at it. Because, I knew the result would be fresh, it would be a “begin again”.
I woke with that thought today, begin again. I wake with it often. Today, just maybe it’s sticking.
My space had gotten totally out of hand. It had a vibe of disrespect. It did not represent the love I have for writing and art and it was a glaring contradiction of a “sanctuary”. Nothing but claustrophobic info overload was its loud unmotivated voice.
On Friday, a friend purchased three paintings. We talked for a bit in the center of my room and I saw my “sanctuary” from her perspective. An outsider seeing in would never know that these things in my room are my treasures.
She certainly didn’t say it. And she didn’t make me feel it, I felt it because I knew it.
I guess in this pandemic season I just let things go, lots of things, thinking well does anything matter anymore? It can be easy to think that way, to let things go, when all around you are questions about life going on and if and how and when it will.
So, begin again, I am, Yay!
Reluctant for sure, tomorrow morning I’ll step on the scales. I haven’t since October. October told me to eat sandwiches again and I have been since then and it is showing, the excess “uncaringness” of it all.
I’ll accept the number and I’ll acknowledge its causes and I’ll begin again in this body God says is His temple. Begin again. We matter to God, every little thing about us does. We matter.
Treasured we are, treasured spaces for God’s use.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV
I caught a glimpse of one of the last pink camellias. The bushes that border our home and the ones along the driveway had been spectacularly brilliant.
Then with the temperatures and rain were suddenly bloom-less. The grass wore a skirt of decaying flowers, their edges rusty with color and the petals limp and fading.
I paused when returning from walking and a glint of pink popped out from the deep green. One camellia was tucked away. I picked it.
I brought the flower inside and filled the vase with water. This was three days ago. The color remains and the bloom is strong on the stem. I can’t decide what I love the most about looking over to see the simple flower.
From every perspective.
Up close, the underlayer of petals are changing from pink to shriveled golden brown. Standing over it, I am drawn to the fragile innards, the bright yellow heart of it. From a distance, I love the contrast in color against our brick.
Why this one camellia caught my eye feels like a sweet secret, something God knew I needed.
I see beauty.
Lately, I’ve thought of how distinctly different every individual’s perspective is in this coronavirus crisis. It is based on their views, their experiences, their current emotional and physical as well as spiritual state.
I’m reminded of a long held truth. No one truly knows how another feels.
Secrets are our truth.
They are tender. They are hard. They are transparent.
I like the definition of perspective that is synonymous with “outlook”. I believe this.
Before we see, we feel and what we feel inwardly leads to our outward view, our perspective.
I asked myself this morning, How can I be more intentional and sure of the way God wants to use me, to continue rather than decide, oh, you must’ve been wrong?
It all begins with and comes back to belief.
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalm 27:13 ESV
Believing is the perspective changer, the perspective keeper, the level ground during doubtful times, confusing ones like these.
God’s perspective of us, His creation?
He believes we are able.
He made us this way.
But, what about your secrets that tell you otherwise, ones that say to your soul, don’t try, don’t be sure, don’t step out in faith…you never know, you may discover you were wrong?
What if deep down you’re afraid you will learn, you were wrong about God’s believing in you, you were wrong about trying?
What a shameful secret this is. The one that hinders, the one that feels safer to be the same not take any more steps believing.
I may be wrong, I don’t think I’m alone in this occasional and yet, so overwhelming feeling.
This is why I own it, call it out, really look closely at its defeatist agenda! I speak to it! I tell it otherwise.
“God created me to be creative. God believes in me.”
Continue and believe. Your heart will find truth when you confront your secrets. You perspective will follow.
Linking up with others on the prompt, “perspective”
A friend commented that I followed through on a painting idea, a still life with pears, an avocado and an orange.
I delivered this painting, acrylic on old wood, to a young buyer today.
She said she loved the way the rocks were all around her body but, not a one caused her harm.
We talked about “The Scarlet Letter” and I told this young woman who could be my daughter, that this is when in college, oh my goodness decades ago, that I finally knew others had felt called out and misfit.
Then, now, and even tomorrow the red letter novel will be important to me. Now, the account of the woman caught in adultery and facing them all, standing tall, her would be stoners, this story matters even more.
“Yes”, I told the young woman, I had to paint her gown red.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.” John 8:3-4 NIV
I love that part too. The boldness of her brave acknowledgement of wrong. She never expected to walk away unpelted.
I love the way we face the ones who’d have reason to stone us and Jesus tells them, tells us all…if you’re without sin, go ahead, you get the first throw.
And nothing. No stones.
Yet another redemption story waiting to be told.
I’ll be faithful to the telling of mine as well as the ones I treasure.
“No Stones” prints are available. Comment to inquire.