Grace, I Pause

This morning the tiny icon shaped like a bell said, “Congratulations, it’s your anniversary. You’ve been blogging four years!”

Oh my! I don’t dare read the first year or so, convinced I’ve made no progress or worse yet, I’m in the same old place.

The timing of the announcement collided head on with seven or so paragraphs in draft where I’d once again belabor the significant or insignificant challenge that battled back and to.

Got a little taste of accolade occasionally and I found myself hungry, starving for me, miserably full, filled.

Full of myself.

So, that piece, it’s staying in the draft for now, hopefully forever, while I come to terms with the reality of this space I write, what it’s been, what it should be becoming.

I came home tonight on wet roads and under little pockets of orange behind thickness of dark clouds.

This morning the Rose of Sharon plant towering late summer, brought me back to a place I’d been missing, the pause.

I was intentional, opening myself to the beauty that should fill me again, not striving to see; instead, finding what might come in the pause.

The place where I remembered not to seek, instead waiting to have little thoughts come to mind with no expectation, only patience.

Like falling from above, landing ’round my feet, scooped up and brought to my chest, allowed to rest near my heart.

I’d gotten away from simplicity, I’d been sipping the juice of significance and I was thirsty, so desperately thirsty for more.

My longing for notice becoming impossible to quench.

I wondered what is this blogging I do if nothing more than a pink diary and your sister found the key?

I considered the way I’ve reacted to a tiny bit of glory.

Paintings selling, guest posts and strangers saying they hope I never quit writing.

Too much, Lisa.

Having a taste of it made me strive to be filled and in that scrounging for another little morsel of praise, I lost my voice, the thing I call treasure. I’d made joy ugly effort; I’d pressured myself to be measured by most everything other than my worth decided already by my Heavenly Father.

Too much Lisa

So, I sat.

I thought, I slept and prayed. I stumbled upon truths and began to believe in what I’d decided a “treasure” again.

Stepped back and away to come back not better, not broken, or made hard from shame.

Instead, softer like glow, welcome home.

I pray I learn to write this way, a soft but, still brave way…that I not spill my angst all over the page, contradictory to my declared quiet confidence.

I pray I wait.

Wait to be filled, my heart bursting with longing to tell, so that my writing be so graceful and grace-filled it will be quite clear it’s only grace

Grace that’s brought me thus far.

And there will be a reader or two or three who might have heard of grace ad nauseam; but, maybe might all of sudden wonder…

Could grace be for me? Could the grace that found Lisa Anne find me too?

That will be glory, that will be glory to God.

To know my words cause wonder, cause another to wonder…What is this mercy? Who is this Jesus?

Perhaps, I should know.

This is how I shall write I pray, not tripping over self into the abyss of bottomless searching for significance, for notice.

Satisfied in the place of pause, abandoned and found again in the place I remember to whom goes the glory.

From whom I’ve become acquainted with the knowledge of grace.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Where I’m Going

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Out of the blue,

Sleepy from the weekend, falling into half slumber and

I couldn’t stop thinking of her,

my cousin who died too soon.

It’s not that her birthday’s this month.

Nor my lack of recall of where I was in my life when she left or why I on earth I couldn’t remember.

Well, yeah it was that for a bit. So much that I googled her pretty name and began to remember again, sort of.

Then right away turned to thoughts of her life lived wide open and how I might feel to see her there.

Waking this morning, thinkin’ about the way I’m walking now and where I’m going.

My “In Touch” devotion today tells me I’ll know I’m growing in the measure of my spiritual walk by 3 things:

A deeper hunger for Jesus,

a sharper discernment of my sin,

my sphere of loving others without reservation will enlarge.

These are true, not as inconsistent.

But,  there’s a 4th.

I’ve become more captivated by the promise of heaven.

Before, I think sometimes I thought of heaven vaguely,

a distant place of maybe.

All the good and hopeful things to come here on earth sometimes blurring my vision of the unimaginable greatness there.

So, my prayer Lord, thank you for the grace here on earth that astounds me,

literally astounds me

over the ways you’ve poured your love over and around me through most everything I know.

Thank you God, for the certainty of heaven!

 

 

Time to Give

It’s 5:59, so I just have time to slide the screen with the index finger that has memorized the way to my phone.

Silence the 6:00 a.m alarm.

I’ll drink from the yellow cup on Saturday morning feeling better about the day, doing a thing I’d decided was not mine to do, nor did I want to do it any longer.

Naturally, blamed every frustration on someone other than me…that’s what we do, decide against an opportunity, stay in the comfortable place we’ve only slightly begun to abandon.

And we feel proud, no that’s not for me, maybe even declare “God wants me to spend my time and talent elsewhere.”

Walked around with that decision for a bit, essentially the run like the devil from it and back to the place of hiding.

Decided, though as God would have me decide, I’d made a selfish decision.

Who was I to think I’d already done enough and nobody cares at least they’ve not shown me they care?

Let somebody else try to get this going…not me, God, I’m not the one to lead this, grow this, know this enough to be in charge.

Then, I heard of Jonah in a new way on Sunday morning. I’d always thought he ran and hid to escape his fears over doing what God had sent him, given him the opportunity to do. Honestly, I thought Jonah was very depressed.

And he was once he found himself sitting alone in his misery in the belly of a whale, begging for a do over.

“Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.””

‭‭Jonah‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jonah ran not from fear of his calling, but because he thought this responsibility perhaps, below him, maybe, even the ones he’d be impacting unworthy of his time.

Oh.

So, today, I’ll do the thing I said no to and then sat for a bit in the belly of rebellion, thinking “I’m proud of myself for telling, them …Hey, find someone else.”

Today, with agenda, a plan in hand and heart, I’ll welcome others as the Missions leader in my church, not because I felt guilty over my no, but because I’m now excited over my yes.

Knees bedside in the dark I said, the seemingly habitual but sincere. “Thank you, Lord for all you’ve done for me.”

Then, like another “Oh…” I added, “Now it’s time for me to give to you.”

Telling Myself a Story

Summer is turning blooms brittle, the beauty fading and soon, Autumn will scatter all about the fullness of planted and grown, the seeds made complete.

Every day has been a day closer to surrender of my dream, the seed planted I know for sure in the soil of my soul.

Until I remembered what I’d written, a very long time ago, a note in the back of a book.

A declaration on the back page, why out of nowhere I remembered, no clue.

I was quiet, must have been the getting quiet, finally.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…I Thessalonians 4:11

And the idea that’s pending completion had not been thought of back then, not at all.

I’ve circled ’round and ’round asking how, what, when to begin and keep going and what direction to take.

Blamed it on time, less than the best of computers and distractions welcome and otherwise.

Circling around chasing my tail, looking behind not ahead nor even now.

But, last night I decided it will be letters, the chapters I write, a manuscript made book by letters.

Because I thought of it and breathed an all alone and audible, “oh, yes, yes”.

And I decided they’ll be brave and true, the chapters.

But, not too, too hard to read.

And I’ll know this because if I can hardly handle the words that tell my story, it will surely be misery, laborious for another to read.

Yes, I’ve decided that and feel quite “writerly” in the decision.

I will write, honorable and honoring tributes to the ones I’ve called the “colors of my Bible”, women who loved me, still do.

I’d been so critical, calling myself lazy, a failure and then last night, driving home towards orange horizon, remembered the note in the back of a book I read every single morning.

If I could write a letter to them, the ones who remember, it would be about how God has changed me, saved, me kept me. I’d want them all to know and that would be my book. Me 8/1/13

And almost two years ago this idea I call my “treasure” began with a letter.

Surely, I believe it should continue just the same.

 

Linking up with other storytellers…Telling His Story.

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/put-dukes-happiness-hard-find/

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Today, a Good Day

Today, someone stopped by and assured me she’s doing every day what I told her to do.

Just take the next step, look for something good every day.

“That’s why I keep doing it because you said so.”

Another friend suggested I begin to place value on my art, described me as emerging.

What a hopeful word.

Still another commented, “It’s good your children have you as their mother, so in tune with them”

She was genuine, her words spilling over. I held them close to my chest, still am.

I saw a high school friend of my daughter’s, her face beaming beauty, and answered when asked about my girl “She’s the same as you, so in love, it’s evident” and she smiled a smile I know her mama loves to see like me.

My age was disputed by a happy young woman at the grocery checkout, no way you could qualify for the senior discount.

I walked today, music in my ears, swiftly and with a passion.

Not pressing, pushing, I’m so much stronger now.

Back again to the place of being amazed by the sky and the places where the clouds hang majestic until I turn my corner home to notice the going down pale pink in the pines, end of day.

I’d not forgotten the good, had just not remembered the joy in keeping account of the day.

Until she stopped by to see me and we both remembered.

“I’m praying God brings something good to you today, so good, impossible not to notice.”

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭107:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It was good, today a good day.

View from Above

Less than a few days ago, I read about the meaning of the times that wake us up from sleep. The 3:00 a.m to 4:00 or 5 is symbolic of a word, a message, a spiritual point needing our attention.

God is speaking, His view, from above.

This morning I dreamt of a deep and grey, muddy ocean, the water becoming wider and the shore, a distant angle I couldn’t decide how I’d reach, why it continued to grow more narrow.

I stood searching, one side and the other, the space before me and all around and I wondered might I finally drown.

Instead, I began to swim.

I rose up heavy because of Saturday morning and prayed bedside;

“God, help me pay attention today.”

Because like Samuel as a child, I question whether it’s you.

“So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

My morning dream, a deep ocean, an elusive shore, deciding to swim.

Linking up with other writers prompted by the word “Speak”

Stronger for Trying

I’ve committed to this. I told someone today, it’s more my soul than my body.

My body has changed, but it’s not that change that’s changed me.

It’s the change of after that causes me to anticipate the again.

My drive home, regardless of the sky, signals new and good and strong, stronger.

Every single time, I’m better from going. The challenge, the release of good and serene, the sense of building new from brought down, old and low.

At the end of a long day, the fourth day not Friday yet, a whole lot of unexpectedness coupled with not sure how to respond and missing information along with misinformed.

In the work of helping others, things come to light, gradually unexpected, we learn more as we go.

We press on. We know there are some chances to intervene and there are some doors slammed hard shut.

There are those who see we care, there are those who decide we don’t because it’s easier to blame us than look closely at themselves.

So, workday ends.

I change into workout clothes.

I walk in hesitant, small group of us, we laugh. We engage. I’m better gradually.

Stronger as I go, laughter over my strength from another.

Weights lifted, challenges met and gone through again, less afraid.

A small community I’ve been allowed to join.

And stronger now.

Have Mercy

Today would have been Day 4 of my 40 day fast from social media, if I’d stuck with the grand plan, the idea to step up my game while freeing my mind and being able to say “Oh, I’m fasting from Facebook.”

Which I imagined would have been followed by, “Oh, wows” and wonder why’s and possibly edge of the seat waiting to hear how I’d come to this decision.

And I’d anticipated how some great and flowery after the fast enlightenment would result from 40 days without following and even more anticipated how people would be waiting to hear and consider a fast themselves.

Wow.

Lord, have mercy.

Oh, my goodness…”too much Lisa!”

Yeah, I did that, recognized it, thank you Lord, and then shifted my focus to how I might navigate the days and how they might make more narrow my wide and distracted path.

I’d not be seeing all the people selling all sorts of things to better me, convincing me to try something amazing.

I’d not be bogged down by information overload about the glasses I need to look at the sun and oh, I better make plans, everybody’s doing something somewhere.

I’d not feel different from most in that I’m not anticipating the eclipse; but, am more quietly considering spending the couple of moments in a quiet place at home.

I’d have been able to avoid the commentaries, people taking sides, analyzing, criticizing, sneering and opportunists seeking a place to expound their opinions.

But, I’d have missed out on the good words and goodness of people asking for goodness from others and for that I’d have been sorry.

Because I did that,

Said, “I’m sorry about Charlottesville.”

Acknowledged I could never fully understand and we embraced, both of us nodding, holding our hands up to heaven.

I believe she believes me because we’ve left it at that.

I digress, though.

Last week, I  was captivated by the idea. I announced that I’d be fasting soon, had calculated the days and I’d abstain from social media and two other distractions that I’d decided were dulling my sense of God.

And I was right, five days later…I am able to do without those things, discipline and moderation are refreshing, almost

effortless.

But, social media, I’ve decided not to abandon or restrain.

The reason? Wise words from women.  One, my daughter, one, my cousin and the others, two sisters. One said, “Oh, that’s trendy, everybody does that!”  The other, surprised me. She paused, leaned back in her cushy armchair and said…”You need to pray about this, I’ve been reading your words every morning…you’ll have to figure this out.” So, I replied that I’d just limit myself, maybe just post my thoughts about faith and God and things I’m being shown in the mornings, nothing else all day, leave it alone.

She again said, “You are going to need to pray about this, I just don’t know.”

“Okay, I will.” I said, confused and two days later sat in my morning spot and as clarity does, it came slowly, rested with me there a bit, making sure I gathered up its message.

 

The thing is, I opened my Bible to the Book of Luke. The first day, I refreshed my memory of Luke and his take on the life of Jesus. I read the first chapter.  I noticed the tone, a more gentle approach, the opening lines more of a beckon to read than a command.

“It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you…” Luke‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So, I continued to read and revisited again the two sisters, Martha and Mary.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 ESV

I read of Martha’s frustration and her pointing out her efforts, her preparation and her lack of help to Jesus.

I’ve been searching; but, can’t find an answer. Did they know that Jesus was coming and bringing along the disciples?

How much time did she have to get the house ready, maybe cook a meal?

The last time I had company coming, a first time ever I’m excited to have person, I took a day off from work. There were linens to wash, little flowers to put in tiny vases, carpets vacuumed, dusting done, options for meals and pillows fluffed.

Making the best of what I had to welcome someone. I was worried we might not have a home good enough to impress her, to hopefully have her return.

I had the whole house to myself, me and the dogs, I was a flurry of stress and striving, driven to perfection, to making an impression.

I believe Martha was feeling this way.

I imagine she lost her sense of composure, her efforts trying to impress this visitor everyone had been talking about and she demanded to know why she didn’t matter…why is it that you’ve not noticed me? I imagine her, hands on her hips, her sister oblivious.

She was a mixture of keeping tabs and keeping up. Everyone a measurement of her value, every effort an opportunity to be satisfied with self, a contrast in diligent servant and frustrated martyr. She was disappointed, but oh so very determined in her display.

She wanted to be enough.

I understand.

And while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening, Martha made sure He knew, to be certain He noticed all she’d been doing.

So, I abandoned the grand plan of the 40 days without Facebook.

We’d talked about the giving up of things, my cousin and I, of striving in our focus, of being more disciplined, of denial of any and all in hopes we might be a little better.

I listened as she explained what she believes and is learning.

We punish ourselves hoping finally, deprivation will lead to acceptance, to acceptance of the love of Jesus.

Her words I stored up. I can’t remember exactly; oh, I wish I could, because it took root, the truth grew and changed my mind, her words, my thoughts of them.

What I do to make up for before does nothing more than validate my shame, my guilt, my doubt.

My efforts only keep me where I believe I must stay, never stronger, only shrinking back to the place I feel most comfortable and guilty.

Grace is not punitive, doesn’t sit waiting for a show, never demands evidence of its due.

 

Grace, the grace of Jesus just shows up and stays, hopes we will rest a while in its presence.

Mercy, the mercy of Jesus reminds us to choose the better and gives us time to see it as better.

Love, the love of Jesus accepts our anxious ways, beckons us to linger, cares little about perfection and looks beyond our imperfections, and notices even less our idea of perfection so that it can show us the way.

The one who told me to pray called today.  I told her, “Oh, I’m not doing the fast. I was looking for affirmation, attention, I was hoping to be a bright and shiny blogger girl who could boast of her accomplishment. I was hoping to be good enough not to go unnoticed.”

To which she replied, languishing in wise southern cousin Peacock way…”Good, good, Oh, that’s good, oh…”

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee at Tell His Story…read about a beautiful mission here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/

 

Talking About Georgia

Last night he asked, "I took you from your home, didn't I?"

And I waited for my words to form.

Answered, a soft sigh, "Yeah."

But, my answer was slow in coming because I thought of all the good in this place.

And I was happy to be asked, to have Georgia remembered.

Driving home from boot camp, I'd stretched myself even more, things like planks, crunches and mostly the people around watching me try had worn me out.

The sun was setting as I turned up the hill that meets sharp curve and the sky a mixture of dark and light after a rain.

I decided, the sky was God to me and God, the sky.

I glance upwards often, it has become my place to remember where I began.

I begin each morning in the same spot. My journal in my lap, pretty pencil in my hand.

Everyday, the prayer of Jabez, the one I've seen answered. That God would bless me indeed, enlarge my borders and keep His hand on me so that I not be in pain.

Then, I read and I think and add penciled prayers to pages.

Today,

Father, thank you for mornings.

For not giving up on me.

For making me fearfully and wonderfully and for calling me towards you so that I every day I'm beginning to know surely and more fully and more well the way you made me for this time

This place.

Thank you for Georgia, the place that made me and thank you for mornings and my morning place in this place.

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Linking up for Five Minute Friday and thankful God made me to love words and gives opportunity to write and read and grow.