Last week I told someone I just felt so “invalidated”. Now, I don’t know if the passage about the man held back for 38 years by his disability was planted in my mind OR if God knew on this day, I would wake up and read John 5 and understand it more clearly.
More clearly as in, it is time to stop taking on the burden of others’ behaviors and spoken words. It is time to stop owning the responsibilities of anyone’s choices other than your own. It is time to move on and sin no more, look on to new things. No if’s or buts like the man who said everyone either beats me to it or is blocking my way.
Jesus was ridiculed for leading this man to healing on a Sunday. Jesus wanted them to know that God is always working and so will be He. (vs. 17). The chapter continues with the questioning of his authority. Jesus told them even greater things will happen, things they will marvel over.
Chapter 5 is about Jesus doing His Father’s will regardless of naysayers and critics. It is still God’s desire that we be healed, changed, walk towards new life because of Jesus.
The Chapter closes with lines I underlined two or three times. About what I seek and through whom. Convicting for me!
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people.”
John 5:39-41 ESV
We can’t wait for people around us to move us from our helpless places to the healing pool. We move from being invalids when we know our validity is through Christ. We can read every self-help book on our shelves and even daily sit with our scriptures. We’re surrounded by good and well meaning advisers who we may want to impress, gain their approval. We won’t know liberation from the oppression of our maladies until we seek the glory that only comes from God. At least, I believe God is saying, Lisa Anne…this truth is for you.
Maybe you too.
The Book of John is a powerful book, a great read if you want to be closer to Jesus.
Every day this week, the robins have said “Good Morning.” As if they are thrilled to see me return, they fly from the cedar tree to the oaks and back again, as if announcing, “She’s here, she’s here, come and see!”
And I pause before entering my office door, I pause in the parking lot longing to discern their meaning, their message, being so captivated by them there.
I heard a podcast speaking of change in habits, change in mindset and how most of us make it about four days.
Good morning Day 4 of 40 and my observation of Lent!
Someone chuckled when I announced my decision to fast, added we’re not Catholic or Episcopalian or anything like that.
She watched as I chose water over wine.
Had little to say when I told her I had to choose my favorite indulgence, my favorite reward or as we both know so very well because I used to belt the lyrics loud in my powerfully independent voice,
My favorite mistake.
My girl grew up on the anthems of Sheryl Crow.
So, we continued as I shared with her why I chose my indulgent red wine in the pretty stemless glass that my hand hurried home to cup after life and work had worked my nerves and took from me more than I had to give.
How could I not choose to give up the thing that I decided was my worthy reward, my justified balm for my weary soul?
How could I not sacrifice in an effort to find perhaps the true balm that was being perhaps, ignored?
For some it’s social media, others it is sugar or bread or chocolate or maybe stronger drink, intoxicating the heart and mind.
For me it could have easily been Instagram or peanut butter.
Because, I’ve taken to peanut butter in excess again.
Made up for the break from red wine by mindlessly cleaning out the jar of especially crunchy and sweet salty amber colored cream while waiting for dinner to be done.
Then I had my dinner with water in the wine glass and I was satisfied until it came time for something more…my pattern, I am learning.
So again I go to the kitchen and I finish off the chocolate almond Halo Top that boasts of being harmless.
The wine stayed corked in the cabinet and I began to learn what I know now.
I look for reward in things outside of myself to be told that I am enough and when I feel unnoticed, I indulge in the first “good” thing I can get my hands on that is waiting there for me.
To burst through the back door, tell my husband it was a horrible day and reach for my reward.
Maybe three days in, I’m learning already about that “heart shaped hole” people speak of that we try to fill.
The place of our souls where Jesus wants to be enough.
Maybe by day ten I will have fully exhausted all of my immediately gratifying rewards and I’ll sit with Jesus and myself just quietly.
Maybe I will be filled not from the immediate things I seek to gratify me, food, drink, a device in my hand or a reader that likes me and says “you’re good”.
Maybe my needs will be less and my soul’s wants, becoming more will be seen more clearly.
They’ve been so fully met all along.
What you need has always been here.
I chose to fast from red wine for 40 days for two reasons, one of them selfish, I admit.
I see it as sort of a spiritual experiment. I am curious to see how my faith will change, what I will hear and see more clearly.
How I will know myself and God when I surrender intentionally.
The other reason as I told my young assistant when she, seeing all the conflict of work these days announced…”Oh wow, you really chose wine?”
Women and wine, it’s obviously a thing.
To which I answered.
How could I not sacrifice something that will be hard when Jesus died for me…sacrificed His life on the cross for me?
She smiled sweetly.
So, Lent for this not churched that way poor country girl, I am learning and I am allowing your lessons.
It may be more than wine as the wind down “waiting to comfort me reward” that’s been buffering God’s voice.
It may be that and other things I am only just beginning to hear.
It may be finally that all the mistakes I casually named my favorites because you don’t tell your little daughter dancing in the kitchen about your shame.
You masquerade your shame with reckless sometimes funny mommy behaviors.
It may be that three days in,
I am at last understanding
It will be joy for me, fully believing.
It will be like resurrection morning!
Last night, I drafted a post about the robins, deleted and started over three times. Went to bed thinking, well I don’t know why…but, I may be losing my writing voice. It seemed so unnecessary, for me to tell again about my love of a bird.
So, I woke and I journaled and I decided to be brave and share my choice for Lent. Like most writing, the words just came. And it is about me; but, it may be for someone else, God said. “It is my will that you be brave.
It’s your part to be real at the risk of being ridiculed, this is what you should surrender, your fear of being shamed and allow your truth to go the places I say, Lisa Anne.”
About forgiveness I’m learning more every day, every new day I am becoming more free.
“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.”
In a matter of twenty minutes, these are my thoughts upon waking:
Set your intention.
Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender.
Resilience can be developed, the effects of trauma can be undone. It is like exercise, my choice.
First, I roused from a heavy like cinder block sleep that finally came about 3:00.
Mind you, I had been sleeping, just not resting.
Years ago, I had no sleep apnea but my mind was found to be a racer, a wrestler all night, the report told. But, I woke and from I don’t know where, thought “set your intentions.” thinking of my friend the gentle, Dana and how I rarely make it to her class. Still, this might be a worthy goal for me, every day.
Set your intention.
Then, a song you won’t hear on the radio and rarely on your favorite subscription, the lilting tone in the voice of a man I decide is surely kind, sings of tomorrow’s freedom being today’s surrender.
Lord as we turn to You
Come free us from our sin
We only have today
So let us now begin
From dawn to dusk
We are waking up. Dawn to Dusk, All Sons and Daughters
Thirdly, I’m scrolling twitter and land on an article on resilience. I decide, this may be good and so as I’m waiting for the coffee press to do its little trick, I read.
Wouldn’t you know it?
It’s about focus and choices in our mindsets, our turning negative to good by deciding to look for the “silver lining”.
The article describes Bradley Cooper’s character remembering a song that sparked his outburst, his sadness and his potentially defeatist again mindset. Jennifer Lawrence tells him it is just a song. (By the way, did you see the greatest moment in my opinion of the Oscars, only second to Regina King’s acceptance? Bradley Cooper exited the stage with Lady Gaga on his arm and lifted his hand to his forehead as if wiping the sweat from his brow in a whew of relief.”
Saying, at least to me,
I did the thing I thought I couldn’t do.
The choice to not be led down a path of negativity towards depression and dismay signifies not allowing your past to dictate your future.
It is not easy, patterns are embedded. It’s safer to be the you that you and everyone else has always known.
To set your intention on that little tiny pinpoint light calling you forward, not the murkiness of the darkest traumas of before.
To measure your life in a dawn to dusk way, to wake up and surrender every morning, believing over time tomorrow will only know freedom, no longer waking to unravel your nighttime tragic dramas.
To look for the silver lining, tell about the silver linings you never imagined would be. The biggie for me, stop saying oh my goodness I never thought it could be, still letting the past have its undeserving part in my story.
Instead, celebrate with intention and boldness the good, all of the good!
Try not to include the bad in as many of your stories!
Be amazed at the lining up your morning, take it with you all day.
A waking thought giving you a new way to think about healing.
A song about freedom.
An article about the power of the mind and the way we drive our days, our lives, simply by choosing the optimistic road.
The steadfast love of God endures all the day. Psalm 52:1
There was no inspiration in the sky above me, its color was thick and like taupe mixed with gray.
The color of old water left in the kitchen sink, murky from faded suds and dirty plates.
No music seemed to suit me. The podcast I was moved to hear again had strangely gone away.
I walked on with the bounce of a trendy and sort of tired old song.
Next one and the next the same.
They were not working, the songs that usually drive me, keep me distracted from the pain of my hips, my feet.
Songs about grace and Jesus too trendy for me today, too much like radio pop.
Twelve or thirteen minutes I told myself, just a brief bit, you can endure it.
So, I picked up my pace and I listened to my feet hitting the ground and I know it’s not possible but I could describe the sound of my own breath coming up from my core.
And I felt it, the way my body changed as my breathing weaved up and past my ribs and into my particularly patterned exhale.
Control, keep control. Focus on the release.
I kept on and got to the place with the dangerous curve and the steep right bending hill.
The geese had congregated on the water and were conversating loudly.
I slowed and felt the wind sweep across my face making me realize the warmth I’d created on my chest, caused by my own private version of running my race.
For about a minute, maybe seconds more, there was this bliss caused by God’s grace.
In a less than spectacular sky I couldn’t find Him and so, grace found me.
And I ran up the hill, all the way this time.
Although I’d decided I might not be able, I kept running.
Last week, I sort of analyzed my life using the big chunk of moments, days and years that were either sorted and stacked as either joy or fear, as either mistake or reconciliation.
My husband and I recalled the dog adopted and where he peed, pooped, what he destroyed, and how difficult he was in the beginning.
I asked him to compare the joy of the Labrador being with us to the initial hassle and adjustment.
He agreed he was worth it.
Worth it to sit in your spot at end of the day to have a big dog plop down and prop his big face across your feet.
Worth it to be greeted at the door with his goofy eyes and happy tail.
If you look closely at your life, all the happenings that you know were true trauma, the interruptions that you remember and think that was it, that’s what totally blew my chances of being complete, you might be justified in never believing you should believe.
You might not take chances with new things.
Perhaps, the trauma that began it all has never been fully grieved, a grievous grey sky that you haven’t faced fully, haven’t accepted for what it is and so you’ve not felt it, not allowed the grace to be greater than the fear.
In college, my first year, I was raped.
I blamed myself. I hid in shame.
The big and grotesque figure of an athlete loomed behind me the next day in Chemistry lab, elevated just over my shoulder, he was enormous and so powerful in his seat.
I blamed myself because my sweater was way too tight and glaringly hot pink. I know better now; but, only recently realized this thing that made me live so very long in fear and defeat.
It was unresolved grief for the artist in me that died there that night, accepted the disbelief of me.
But, even better than the realization that this trauma was not invited by me is the realization that this incident makes up really only an hour or two of me…of my whole 58 years!
I don’t minimize the damage, I’m just choosing to line it up beside the other things:
I was the middle child, shy girl who went to college on an art scholarship.
I drove myself through Atlanta all the way to the beautiful mountains of Rome.
I tried something new and I made a great friend who was beautiful and statuesque and intelligent who still remembers me.
I learned to love running there, running uphill every day.
We dined at a splendid restaurant where my friend worked on Friday nights, my choice always, Chicken cor don bleu.
I won an award for a painting and my parents came up to see my blue ribbon.
I began, just a little, to see Jesus differently and it challenged me.
I was brave there even though interrupted in this horrible way.
I was harmed in many ways by that night at a party; yet, that’s only a tiny bit of my experience, of my life.
The greater experience is that I was held even then and I am still held by the grace of my Father’s hand.
I was His child then. Didn’t believe it but that didn’t matter.
So, I choose looking back only to be certain of my worth from His perspective and of the importance in believing there is always so much better I have seen and been given, even when I line it up to the most unjustified of my griefs.
I pray if you’ve known trauma you’ll see the freedom of deciding daily that you are more at peace when your recall is one of the evidence of grace, not a harsh gauge of resentment over someone who harmed you and thus, kept you from all that might have been.
There’s truth in that sentiment. It just won’t take us anywhere, certainly no new places.
You’re so much more than the stain of your pain.
When the cool evening breeze brushed my face yesterday it was God saying to me, I saw you keep going.
I saw you turn your attention to me.
Continue and believe.
Don’t let the pain of your past cut short your beautiful race.
Luke recorded the healing of a woman bent by her pain for close to twenty years.
For me, my frame of reference for all my defeats or my failures has always been the harm done towards me by others, the hurtful choices made for me and the ones I made.
Disabled for far too long by my pain until I decided to welcome a change.
Like the woman Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath, I am free.
“And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”
Luke 13:11-13 ESV
Leave grief behind, notice the unrelenting grace of your God.
This perspective of forward not former thinking is the direction God is guiding me towards memoir. If you know someone who has lived hampered by harm, share my words. I pray God increases each reader’s awareness and embrace of His grace as He is with me, moment by moment, daily.
I did not want to hear her response through a text as I shared my day only two hours in.
God appointment, she texted.
Okay. Oh, okay.
There was an empty wheelchair in my office parking lot this morning in the cold drizzling rain.
What in the world??? , I said.
I didn’t get out of my car right away, ready yourself, ready, be ready.
I saw him in the lobby.
A homeless man and without his bicycle and now with crutches and a hand me down wheelchair.
Okay, I told myself.
Hands and feet, hands and feet.
Breathe, see this as an opportunity.
When he said he’d not eaten since Sunday, we bought him two cheeseburgers and a chocolate shake.
He looked around my office, saw the photos of my children, chuckled over one of my husband and me, told me he looked like a “pretty cool dude” and then because we needed to do what the system said, I convinced him to go for a mental health assessment and I told him we haven’t done this before.
It may be the one thing that will turn the key.
He kept talking about hope. I told him to continue.
Then I found out they wouldn’t, couldn’t help him and he still said thank you, Lisa as my eyes met his as they loaded his wheelchair I brought to the van in the rain.
And I do not understand.
I don’t think I understand systems that push people through only getting a glimpse of their stories, I’m not sure I understand our present humanity at all.
I’m very regretful over resenting that I gave this man the bulk of my day and how I kept saying to myself “hands and feet, hands and feet” yet, I got him no remedy, no relief.
Such is life when it hits you to commit to the last few words you said.
I will pray for you, I told him.
I will. I pray I remember.
Least I can do when my hands and feet, do little at all, seem to be for naught.
I can pray.
Least of the things I can do when my hands, my feet, my heart falls short of relief.