The Wednesday Writers: Lisa Brittain

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my friend Lisa Brittain. (Post written in December 2017).

Welcome to Our Real

I didn’t feel like decorating the house for Christmas.  In fact, without all the exterior cues – store shelves stocked with Christmas, houses lit up, and city light poles decked in festive notifications – I would have barely noticed the season was upon me.  It was the sudden recognition I would soon be on Thanksgiving vacation, which squarely slapped me into reality. Christmas is almost here and it would happen with or without me.

The weekend after Thanksgiving I began dutifully pulling boxes up out of the basement.  It was simply time management.  Do it now or don’t do it at all.  Along the way, I opened each tote to peek at the contents.  My intent was to look for the bare essentials.  “There’s nothing wrong with a minimalist Christmas,” I continually assured myself.  My husband agreed, “Just enough so no one thinks we’re ‘skipping Christmas” – a reference to one of our favorite holiday movies, Christmas With The Kranks.

Please don’t leave… This isn’t an indictment of Christmas or the American way.  It’s not a judgment on those who are enjoying a festive season.  Please don’t feel or receive any condemnation for your choice to love Santa and display the Nativity.  

The peeking led to digging through and pulling up thirty years of Christmas memories.  Our walk down memory lane felt like an extension of Thanksgiving.  Both my husband and I benefitted from the activity.  Each uncovered item testified to the wealth we possess in family relationships, the full variety of life seasons and rich experiences of our past.

Though I had not the enthusiasm for producing a traditional Hallmark kind of Christmas around our house, I also had no intention of pretending Christmas was a figment of everyone’s imagination.  My heart yearned for the celebration of The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  The tug of war was and still is, real and intense.  I wonder, in a Charlie Brown kind of way, is this really all there is – commercialism, Pinterest worthy presentations and perfect pictures posted on social media, even giving to every conceivable cause known to man?

I would love to feel festive right about now.  It would be a relief to my soul to feel a sudden urge to don a pair of Christmas socks and gaudy Christmas sweater as official garb for baking Christmas cookies for our entire neighborhood.  Perhaps if I could feel the giddy joy of doing the stuff, it would signify a much-desired change of life seasons – out of the desert and into a lush meadow.

For this moment in time though, it would be fake.  In fact, our precious neighbor saw me outside putting red and white and gold shiny ornaments on our Dogwood tree.  Passing by she mentioned, “You must be feeling festive.”  I looked her straight in the eye, this one whose husband passed away in March just the day before my mother in law walked into Jesus’ welcoming arms, and responded truthfully, “No, I’m truly not.”  I saw relief flood her countenance as she confessed her lack of desire to set up her Christmas tree, which sat in a box in the living room.

Often, my heart screams out to the Lord, and sometimes to my husband, “I don’t know how to do this! I’ve never lived here before. Help me…”

I don’t understand Parkinson’s Disease.  And guess what, medical professionals don’t really understand it either.  We never saw it coming.  Too young, my man, to be hampered with such a life-altering, energy draining, and uncertain disease.  I don’t want to welcome PD into our lives.  In fact, I want to slam the door shut, and shout at the top of my lungs, “There’s no room in this inn!”

A new normal?  Sure, I get it.  Why not us?  Awful life circumstances happen to people every day. Younger older, richer and poorer, the ones who mean well, and those who don’t.

Just tell me the rules.  Where are we on the game board?  How do we avoid the pitfalls?  Did we somehow land on the square indicating we have start over?

Ok, so we can start over.  We have each other, and relationships with people who love us.  So, how do we start over?  And how do we move forward?  Because my man needs to work.  He loves to work.  So, we pray. “Lord, we’re asking for a path and an open door… Your Light to show us the new way in which You are leading…”

Surely, this is a grieving season.  We exhibit all the symptoms of grieving the death of a dream… the death of our vision for our future.  That’s what it is for me – the realization life isn’t going to be for us as we hoped and dreamed.  This is easier for me.  I’m the optimist in the family, and I’m not the biggest loser.

For my husband, the loss has been overwhelming.  First the diagnosis.  Then the job loss.  Now three years in, we are questioning the resurrection of his career.  During the same three years, his mother languished in hospice.  Her strong heart refused to quit after the stroke took the rest of her capacity for living.  Now she is with Jesus, for which we are abundantly grateful.

He’s not quite Job, though Job is frequently mentioned around our home.  I remind my man often, “I’m not leaving.”  We’ll learn to do this new normal together.  Our lives are full of blessings for which we are daily reminded to be grateful. 

My suntanned feet man having grown up in church and regularly fed on the Word of God from a young age, he knows the right answers.  Yet, somehow in the tremendous pit of pain and darkness, black writing on white pages isn’t enough.  He is in need of the real presence of God holding him, catching his tears and listening to his brokenhearted questions.

This Christmas, this is where we’re living.  I want real.  My insides are clawing for an understanding of what it really means to welcome the King of Kings and Lord of Lords into our home.  What if Joseph had come knocking at our door, his wife about to give birth?  Would we help them… give them a place to rest… watched as she birthed the Word incarnate?  Would we have believed Mary’s story?  The real of what God selected them to do was messy and hard and heartbreaking and lonely at times. 

My method for regaining equilibrium – finding my bearings in unsettling circumstances – is to ask myself questions: “What do I do when I don’t know what to do?”  And then I answer myself: “Go back, Lisa, to what you know is true.”

I go back to tried and true Scripture for a foundation.  Lately, I’ve found comfort in the 37th psalm.  As I read it again and again, I feel peace wash away the fear and anxious thoughts.  Here it is simply stated:

Trust in Him.  Do good.  Dwell in the land.  Enjoy safe pasture.  Delight myself in Him.  Commit my way to Him.  Trust Him.  Be still before the Lord and wait for Him. 

– Psalm 37:3-7, paraphrased

Other times I go back even further to where I started with God.  That time in college when He found me in the deepest pit of despair.  All was dark and I had no power to fix anything.  In the depth of my soul, I was simply trying to disappear.  I didn’t call it ‘wanting to die’, but my behaviors were leading me in the direction of death.

But God had His eye on me – many loved ones were praying, I now feel sure.  One night, in a dream, the most trustworthy person I could imagine, my great-grandma Becky, sat on the edge of my bed and spoke simple truth to my aching heart.  I dreamed it, yes, and please don’t make it weird. 

God spoke into the deep darkness His rescue plan for me.  When I awoke, I knew three things:  1) God loved me  2) He had a good plan for my life  3) I needed to follow Him.  This was the unlikely and humble place of God choosing and calling little me to be His ambassador and receive the mission He has for my life.

Perhaps this is the heart connection I have with Mary – not that God pulled her out of a pit, but that He sent a messenger to personally meet with her.  She knew when Gabriel left, stunned as she must have been, she had been chosen by God for His purpose.  Surely, she had more questions than answers. 

The real of her situation was that God’s calling put her reputation on the line.  Suddenly, Joseph was forced to choose between what seemed a plausible betrayal and the glorious gift of God.  The couple had to have been reeling as they too may have grieved the death of a dream for their lives.  Nothing would be as they planned at the beginning of their betrothal.

Yet, God intervened.  He confirmed to Joseph the truth of Mary’s situation.  They were affirmed in their calling.  Step by step, they lived the current day, no longer certain of what the future held for them.  They chose faith.  Trust.  Hope.  Obedience.  And God was there with them.  God, the Father, led the way.  He, the Son of God, came to live with them. 

With all my questions, I’m certain of this: 

The real of Christmas was hard, scary, uncertain and raw.  And out of darkness, the Light shone confirming the truth of God’s word and His presence with us.  Emmanuel, welcome to our real…


What about you, friend?  Are you seeking the real face of God in the middle of your circumstances?  I pray you will, like me, simply pour out your questions.  Be real with Him.  He knows.  He sees.  He’s been in every feeling, thought and circumstance alongside you.

  • What comfort do you find in the real of Scripture?
  • How might the real of your circumstances add Light to your celebration of Christmas this year?

Eyes on Jesus…you’re shining!


Lisa Brittain CBS profileLisa Brittain and her husband, Randy, will soon be married 30 years.  Together they are parents of two adult sons, and share their home with three adopted pups. By day Lisa works as a receptionist in the local middle school. However, her mission is to reveal the important voice of each woman and teach her how to share her overcoming God stories.  It is Lisa’s true passion for Jesus and introducing women to Him, which flows in and through and around all the open moments of her everyday life.

Connect with Lisa on her blog, Eyes on Jesus and Shine, or on social media (Instagram / Twitter  / Tumblr)


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Just Like an Israelite


Gentle Reader,

He is a boil on the butt of humanity.

– Ouiser Boudreaux, Steel Magnolias

Do you ever wonder why other people exist?

I do.

Because I am a ray of sunshine. I never do anything annoying. I am never ungrateful or ungracious. I am the epitome of all that is good and lovely. Polish my halo, nominate me for sainthood.

Eyeing the sky now, waiting for that lightning bolt.

Of course I’m just as irritating to others as they are to me. That’s who we are, what we do. All knocking against each other. Bouncing and pushing and poking. God, in His infinite wisdom, works in the midst of that jostling, patiently shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Easy to forget when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Hard to see when our eyes are clouded by the anger that always follows being mildly inconvenienced.

One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

It’s funny, how we read the Old Testament and wonder how those people could be so stupid. They saw the sea split, the food fall from the heavens, the cloud and the fire. They experienced the Lord in great, mighty and amazing ways. The evidence of His existence and role as ruler was before their eyes each day. How could they complain? How could they doubt Him?

I wonder if we ever have the clarity to see ourselves as we really are.

We are no better than the Israelites who lived so long ago. They had the chance to step out in faith. The choice to live each day in the midst of mystery, trusting that He would always protect and provide. And sometimes they did so. Sometimes they got it right. Yet an entire generation died in the desert because the sometimes became rarer and rarer. That doesn’t mean that none of that group experienced the forgiveness of God. Scripture tells us that He always responds to sincere, heartfelt repentance with grace. That does mean that they didn’t get to experience all that He had for them.

Me today.

I’ve been cranky for awhile. Could be the weather. Could be the not sleeping well. Could be because I can. Really don’t know. All I could do today was complain. And complain. Ugh, I have to take care of this? I have to go do that? I’m so annoyed. I don’t want to. Stupid person on the road in front of me get out of the way. Mumble, grumble, definitely not feeling humble.

I wonder what I missed today. Since I kept my eyes down, on my problems (that aren’t really problems), it was impossible to see anything good. Impossible to notice the little drops of grace and peace that I know are scattered throughout the hours.

The Lord heard them and became so angry that He destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.

– Numbers 11:1b (CEV)

That’s something, isn’t it?

We don’t talk too much about God’s anger. It’s uncomfortable. If God can be angry, then that means we have some responsibility in this situation we call living. We make choices and they have consequences. While I truly believe in the love of God and will preach it until my dying day, part of that love is His anger. Not the reckless, fickle kind of anger we feel because we have to run an errand and we’d really rather take a nap. His anger flows from love. His affection for us is so fierce, deep and unending that He roars when we reject Him. He convicts us when we stray not because He delights in it but because He wants us to be safe, happy, fulfilled.

He’s destroying the outer edges of my camp with fire. My soul is squirming under His gaze because I know. I know I’ve been selfish today. I know I’ve focused on the wrong things. I know I’ve been whining about the provision and opportunities He has placed in my lap not because I’m amazing but because He is. I have dared to think that there could, perhaps, be something better.

When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out.

– Numbers 11:2 (CEV)


At any time, we can turn around. We can talk to God. We can say, “Lord, I know I’ve been an idiot today. Please forgive me. Please help me.” And He will. As quickly as the fire begins, it dies out. The hand of conviction becomes the hand of mercy. Really, it always was, for conviction is a mercy in and of itself.

I am just as they were. I really can’t say that I wouldn’t have complained about manna or longed to go back to Egypt and slavery. I’d like to think that I’d be just like Caleb and Joshua, confident and brave in their faith, but I know myself. As I sit here, eyes heavy because I am writing this later than I usually do, I am hit once again by the enormity of God’s grace. He could have wiped me clean off the planet today and been more than justified (not that He has to justify any action, because He’s God). But I’m still breathing. I get another chance.

May I learn to never take that lightly.


Photo Credit: Andre Hunter

Review: I Will Not Fear

I Will Not Fear

Gentle Reader,

I would learn that God is everywhere… His love exists without limitations of color or race…

Their very special acceptance and love would become a life-changing experience for me. They would remain my primary family throughout my life until this very moment. Living with the McCabes and being welcomed so completely by them also would initiate a major shift in my perspective of my place in the world and my sense of humanity.

– p. 86

In the fall of 1957, nine African-American students enrolled in the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Melba Pattillo Beals, just fourteen, was among them. Surrounded by an angry mob, the students were denied entry that first day. The hostility and resistance to integration rapidly necessitated intervention by the federal government. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne division were brought in, escorting the nine to and from each class. Yet the violence, the natural child of racism, continued unabated.

Beals was slapped, punched, kicked and even had acid thrown in her eyes. She, along with the others, received death threats. In 1958, Governor Faubus shut down Central High and the other high schools, resulting in a year lost to the Nine and to all the African-American students in the town. Eventually, Beals was forced to relocate to California, with the help of the NAACP, for her own safety. The white McCabe family, Quakers who were active in the Civil Rights movement, opened their arms to this young woman who had experienced little in the way of kindness from white people.

One cannot be an honest student of history and believe that racism never existed, doesn’t exist today or that it was/is “not a big deal.” Nine teenagers wanted the chance for a better education. They chose to put themselves on the line so future generations would not have to suffer the “separate but equal” nonsense. Ignorance and evil exploded in their faces. Why? Because someone, somewhere, long ago decided that the color of their skin made them inferior.

Racism is idiotic and anti-Gospel. Beals makes this clear as she shares bits and pieces of her story. I Will Not Fear is not told in a strictly chronological format, which is really my only complaint about the book, because I love a tidy timeline. She invites the reader to share in her experiences with hatred and violence. There is no hemming or hawing in her words. Black type on white pages force the reader to grapple with the very real evil done to a very young woman.

Throughout, Beals returns to the lessons her Grandmother India taught her:

Are we a faith family or have we given up on trusting God for His protection? Isn’t that the bottom line? When you go, Melba, God will be with you.

– p. 40

That is the bottom line, isn’t it? God is with us wherever we go. He will empower us to do whatever He has called us to do.

This is not a light read, despite the page count coming in at just 200. It took me several weeks to make my way through, because I had to step away and think about what I was learning. We are just 60 years removed from these terrible events. We would be naive to think that “it’s all over” and “everything is fine.” This country has yet to truly come to terms with its past or its present. While nobody needs to take on guilt that isn’t theirs to own, it is important that we listen to the stories. That we take it all in. That we let God expose what needs exposing.

I Will Not Fear is well worth your time.



Five Minute Friday: Regret


Gentle Reader,

Sometimes, I mentally check out of life a little bit. Been a rough two weeks, physically-speaking, thanks to unstable weather patterns. Some tough days with anxiety and the really irritating thing that my brain does in getting fixated on a topic, which means I must learn everything I can about it, to the exclusion of all else. (I genuinely hate that. People with OCD know that our obsessions and compulsions are irrational and impact us negatively). My house has been a wreck and will continue to be in various stages of disaster for probably forever because once you start replacing the flooring, it’s the domino effect.

But, anyway. Climbing out of the hole.

Kate says: regret.


If you say you have no regrets, then you’re probably lying.

Almost fourteen years ago I had the chance to attend a prestigious university. The credits I had accumulated at our local community college would have transferred easily. There was a scholarship on the table. The university is close enough to home that I could have commuted, thus avoiding dorm life. (I would have been a terrible roommate). My application had been accepted. I had a great meeting with the Dean of Admissions.

I didn’t go.

I was afraid. To make the drive. (Yes, I hate driving that much). To leave behind the environment I knew so well. Of failing. Also, of succeeding.

But nobody can live in the regret.

If I had attended this university, I might not have met my husband. I might not have figured out that I didn’t want to pursue a career in journalism. I might have ended up somewhere else entirely, a different person. And while none of that may have been bad, it may not have been good, either. I might not have been happy. I might not have developed in my relationship with God, which is the truest treasure of my life.

Now, today, is all we have. It’s pointless to ponder “what might have been.” Pointless to dwell in the past or to attempt to predict the future. Yes, we all have regrets, but we all also have the ability to look to Heaven and say, “Lord, teach me to see the beauty in this moment. What do You have for me right now?”

Acknowledge the regret and feel the pain, but don’t let that keep you from moving forward.