"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
Logan has asked me several times this week-
"Do I look pretty?"
"Do you like my drawing?"
I see her pleading for the reassurance that we all like to hear now and again to the question- "Am I good enough?"
Even as adults we ask ourselves these questions- wondering if the next thinks we 'fit in,' if our friends see our sincerity, or if our report is worthy enough at work. I've often times asked myself similar questions about my paintings, wondering if when I hand over a commissioned painting- 'Do they think it's good enough?"
We doubt ourselves so often I believe because we know our flaws. We see our imperfections, hope others don't and too many times have simply felt the ugly judgement of others to not want to feel it again. Do you ever ask yourself though- "God, do you think I am good enough? Worthy enough to receive your grace?"
My Dad was giving my Mom a hard time over some silly habit she has and lightly I asked him (him, the most humble, honest. loving man I know)- "Dad, how many times has God given you Grace?"
"Every day. Every single day," he answered.
My light question brought a deep answer that also brought a tear to my eye. "Me too," I thought.
How about you?
You see we are all imperfect, all underserving, all in need of Grace. The beautiful thing- God tells us not to pray to remove our imperfections, but better yet He tells us- 'Hey my child, My grace is enough for you and I will be glorified in your weaknesses.' Therefore Paul tells us in Corinthians that he decided to no longer ask them to be removed but he will wear them proudly- knowing that with weakness comes God's grace upon our soul.
So I looked at Logan and told her that the dress she was wearing wasn't what made her pretty. I told her that her kindness, big heart, continuous willingness to be helpful and the sole fact that she is a loving child of God makes her beautiful. I told her that there is always someone in the world better at art or something else you want to be good at but the great thing is that God designed each of us to do what we love and be who we are in a way that no one else can.
So thank Him for your flaws, for being right where you are today and feel the warmth of His grace come over you. Ask Him to glorify your weaknesses in a way only He can, and throw your hands up this morning and thank Him for such grace.
"Why are all of the leaves off of the trees?" Logan asked, on the way to church this morning.
"Well, it's because it's really cold outside and in the colder seasons most trees lose their leaves. Then when Spring comes again, things warm up and the sun and rain hit those trees- the leaves will come back fresh and lively and even prettier than before. Some trees keep their leaves through the Winter though, Logan did you know that?" I asked with excitement.
"No, really? I didn't. Like that one?" she asked pointing to a tall cedar in the distance.
"Sure thing, just like that one. Those are Evergreens. They stay green forever, even in the cold, wind and snow." I answered.
"Just like one's faith when they are rooted in Me. Through the cold, brittle months- when their roots are in me they will stand strong like that Evergreen." God whispered in.
Not that God needs proof when He speaks, but I have testimony in His word. And many times, the test of life creates our testimony. See when cold comes- when you are in shorts and a tank and it's freezing outside, your feet are numb from the frost and you have to keep walking to get back home because your car is out of gas 20 miles back- God pulls up in his Chevy and hands you a cup of cocoa and asks you if you want a lift.
Here in Kentucky at least, I am guaranteed four seasons. No matter where you are or what kind of job or support you do or don't have around you-at some point, Winter is sure to come for all of us. That part is promised, and not exempt even for an Evergreen. But the real question is-
Do you lose your leaves when Winter comes?
This year is much like most of our lives are and the weather here can sometimes even change daily. We can forecast all we like, but at times it is unpredictable. The important part is that we clothe ourselves with the armour of God every single day. Be ready when troubles come and stand humble and firm when they do, staying confident in His promises, forever.
Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
There is a story in Genesis (Chapters 23, 24) where Abraham asks his servant to travel to his hometown, which is far away and find his son Isaac a wife and bring her back. The servant travels all this way on his camel and when he gets to his destination he sees a spring and prays to the Lord to show him the future wife of Isaac. In his conversation with God, he prays that He will answer in this way- he’ll ask the women who come to gather water from the springs- ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink and I will water your camels, too!’- he prays, ‘let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife.’
So he asks the first woman he sees and she answers in just that way. He tells her what he’d prayed before hand, and so she instantly runs to tell her family. Her family invites the servant into their home and the servant shares his prayer with them also. No hesitation- they say “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go.”
I giggled out loud and looked over at Luke after reading this. Luke and I had known each other for years and both felt called by God to marry one another when we did. My dad didn’t hesitate to bless his request to marry me, but we laughed at the thought of what he would have said if Luke sent a friend of his to ask my Dad before he’d ever even met him in person. I won’t tell you our thoughts on that and my Dad is a God fearing man!
Soon after laughing, I was praying- praying for faith that doesn’t fear when God answers. I pray for faith that doesn’t fight when I hear His calling and responses in my heart. I think God sends us opportunities, friendships and answers all the time without us listening- or perhaps giving Him the credit.
So I’m listening more,
Praying more intently,
And my ultimate goal-to act without hesitation.
I want my faith to get to that place like of that God fearing servant and like Rebekah. I pray. God speaks. I listen. I act.
What is God telling or asking of you that you should listen without questioning?
A new year means the start of new things, new challenges, fresh goals and the chance to build on memories and dreams. It is opening a door to innovative ideas, days and opportunities. A new year is another reason to count blessings.
I don’t know about you but each time a new year rolls around, I reflect on the one past. I think about all the memories made and wish for things I’d like to see coming in the future. This year has reminded me that no matter how hard we try to plan our steps, the Lord is in control. The beautiful thing about that is, if we just keep our focus and trust in Him, we can walk those steps without losing sight of our journey. And when we do that, we can relish in the moment and soak into the character God has designed us to reflect.
My quiet prayer is that this year marks the start of something great for all of us. There will be good days and bad days and 365 days ahead to be exact. My goal is that no matter what happens around me through each of those days to keep my head high and my heart cheerful as I try to be the best person I can be and genuinely love everyone around me.
“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” Psalm 18:30
I’m inviting you to a recent challenge that I’ve embarked on: Thank God continuously throughout your day.
I just realized something about myself the other day that I suppose I never stopped to analyze. Let me explain and bear with me for a moment while I share some boring facts about myself. On my way to heat up my lunch yesterday I began to think about heating the food up before I even got to the microwave. I was hungry, sure but for more reasons that this. I’m walking and deciding which way would be more efficient: To hit the 30 seconds button eight times to equal four minutes or the Time Cook, then 1, 3, 0 and start key. Which is quicker, most efficient?
As I’m thinking this I realized something about myself. No not that I’m a total nut or even good at math because I was air counting on my fingers trying to decide which way would take less time and effort. No- I realized that there isn’t a thing about my life that I do freely. I’m constantly trying to perfect my performance. I’m persistent in finding a better way, more precise design, most appealing tactic and resourceful with all things. I began to think about how many areas of my life I do this as second nature and began to recognize the fact that the part of my life that should be most important: I don’t spend a lot of time trying to perfect.
We all do it. We map out our days, our routes to work around school traffic, and schedule our grocery shopping around our children’s naps. We think about preparing dinner before its time (ok sometimes) and we plan our workday and sometimes week out before it even begins. We make a bad recipe and leave out an ingredient to make it better the next time. We choose our words more wisely in the next conversation with our spouse. We laugh more often and live harder when we lose someone we love-realizing life is so tender and so short. We are all analytics, planners, and perfectionists in some way or another.
So I stood in front of that microwave asking myself: How can I improve my relationship with God and strengthen my spiritual walk? What steps can I take to make me most likely to succeed in my goals to be more like Jesus? And for you- what does that look like?
I’m taking small steps here but am starting by being thankful and I challenge you to do the same. Thank God continuously throughout your day. When you catch yourself saying something negative or thinking something anything other than uplifting: Thank Him.
Spill your coffee and curse? Thank Him for arms to clean it up.
Work in overload? Thank you Jesus for my career.
Can’t find your keys anywhere and realize your husband has them (both sets) in his pocket 20 miles away? And yes, this actually happened this week. Thank you Jesus for slowing me down and preventing who knows what: a wreck? Thank you Jesus for always keeping me safe.
Just try it until next week and see how your heart feels. As much time as we put into perfecting our every move- let’s walk together and take small steps to perfect our walk and thank God for our legs along the way.
“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Psalms 118:1
I had a miscarriage.
Driving home that day I cried out to God. “I don’t what this to be my story.”
From the moment I knew I was to bear a child, my heart envisioned every milestone imaginable. In a flash all those dreams and anticipations were wiped away.
Over and over I kept telling God, “I don’t want this to be my story.”
I heard Him then and although I didn’t want to hear it- looking back over the past 11 weeks I see that even in the midst He was comforting me. Over and over pictures of everyone I love began sinking into my mind. “Of course I’m thankful, God.”
“I still have Luke. Yes, Lord I’m thankful.”
“My parents. Thank you Lord.”
“Logan. Thank you Lord for blessing me with her.”
“Even Luke. Thank you for not taking both the baby and I, and protecting his heart.”
I won’t name them all, but if you are in my life. I thanked God for you that day. Don’t get me wrong here. There wasn’t a light that came over me and the burden lifted. I didn’t wipe my tears and say, “Thank you Lord for all I still have.”
That is not faith. That is not life. No- I went through every emotion you can fathom: anger, bitterness, sadness, despair, depression, fear. I don’t want to sugar coat this a bit. It was hell.
Just days before this, I was browsing Facebook when I saw a video post from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday’s Page where she interviewed Glennon Doyle Melton.
In the video, here is what Glennon had to say about pain: “It knocks on everyone’s door. The smartest people I know say- ‘Come in and just don’t leave until you’ve taught me everything you need to know. ‘”
This stuck with me. Though I wasn’t in pain then, see, that is how God prepares our hearts even when He knows they will be crushed. Two days later and I’m sitting on my couch remembering those words after I lost my baby and it allowed me to pray the wisest thing we can do when we are suffering: ask for wisdom in the midst of the pain. See I didn’t want to continue with all of those ugly emotions throughout my healing. I didn’t want to look back on my miscarriage as a time I pushed God to the side and allowed myself to be angry and bitter as my instincts called me to be. No. I wanted God to look back and say “Well done, my good and faithful daughter.”
So how do we learn from our trials?
I will tell you first this one is not over but there’s proof in the pudding when I say just weeks ago I would have never imagined sharing the story I was angry at God for giving me. There is proof in the healing of God. I prayed. I prayed for my Faith and over my child in Heaven. When I didn’t feel like praying for myself, I asked my dear friends and family to do so. That’s something I have never been able to do before- ask for help. God allowed me to see in going through this that He puts those people in our lives for that very reason. Secondly, I read God’s word. My loving husband purchased a daily devotional for me (Jesus Calling, Morning & Evening by Sarah Young), and that’s just what I did and still now- morning and evening I fill myself with the Holy Spirit by reading his scripture. There were times I didn’t want to. Times I felt so engulfed in my own sadness that I didn’t want to even turn a page. But I did. I did it because I know that this world can empty us, and the only thing that can fill us again is God.
As I said, I’m not one to share my story. As a matter of fact, I have always been one to keep quiet even with something wise or powerful to say for fear I’d seem to be ‘the know it all’ or fear of being the Christian who seems to pressure her faith on those around. So what have I learned thus far in this trial? That is the biggest lie Satan has ever told me. God tells us to share our trials so that we may help others. He has shown that to me through this. God has placed countless women in my life that seemed to flock from nowhere to share their stories with me about their miscarriages and give me hope and encouragement. Letters, calls, food, prayers, some received from complete strangers. When I would normally bottle up and keep my trials to myself (cause that’s what a strong, Christian woman is supposed to do, right? Ha), this time I hear God telling me- “Tell her. Ask her. Share with them.”
In turn when I think I hear God nudging me to spread His word, in my faithfulness of doing so I find they have something to tell me. In a time of feeling so alone, God showed me how loved and comforted by many I am.
The second of many things I have learned through this is to share. Share your story even when it’s not good. God will be faithful and comforting by sending what or who you need at exactly the right time. We are all in this life together. I don’t know what is to come from here, but I’m learning not to dwell on those fears. I’m learning to live now and seek his grace and faithfulness in every moment. I’m learning not to reach for the potential happiness I may find from bearing another child, but instead clinging to the faithfulness God has given me in this moment. That, my friends is Joy. And no one, thing, event or suffering can steal that joy inside us when it’s there.
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way to bring you to the place I have prepared…and none will miscarry or be barren (infertile, NLT) in your land. I will give you a full life span.” (Exodus 23: 20, 26)
As I was packing up my paintings this week for the Christmas Market I felt myself wishing a few of them wouldn't sell. Crazy, right? I spend time, effort and cash into my work hoping for return and when I package and ready it for the moment it was born for-I hesitate in letting it go. I have vision for most of my paintings but truth is I usually start slapping paint and layer by layer I watch it form in a picture beyond what I'd dreamed up. I'm not bragging here. I'm seriously amazed sometimes that it's possible to create something from a bunch of colorful nothing.
I heard God whisper as I stared at that painting I didn't want to let go of- If you think you love what you created that much, just imagine how I feel about you.
Do you guys know that whisper? I hope you do. God has quietened my heart in so many ways the past few months and I find when I quiet myself and soak in the still, I hear more of Him. I imagine in a far more majestic way than I can fathome God sits at his easel at the prime of our existence, creates us from nothing and sits back in awe saying now WOW that's something. As little pride that I take in each of my paintings, well I imagine its just a small splat of paint in comparison to His view on each of us.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT
As I was painting one of my puppies this week, as I sometimes do, I got a little chuckled in the process. In the first two layers of outlining my pups, it's pretty comical if you can't envision the outcome. I sometimes wonder what people would think if I sent them updates as I paint until waiting until the finished product. I imagine them being worried the painting will turn out awful or canceling the order altogether. Yes, without the imagination or confidence knowing what will come of it, looking at my paintings in the first stages is pretty darn awful.
To prove it, I have piles of paintings I started as a teenager in my early years of painting. I'd start a painting and not be happy with how it was coming along, so I'd give up and toss it to the side. Only after years of discipline and with constant support from those who believe in me most, did I develop the confidence that "yes it looks rough now, but just wait until it's finished!"
That fear of messing up while painting is gone because I know that if I do, I'll let it dry and paint over it. And the lesser my fear becomes, the lesser my mistakes.
Isn't our faith like this? As I'm painting, I thought this- and I chuckled. I looked at the barely shaped, dimensionless face of this pup and I laughed thinking about how my life used to be. Without knowing God, knowing His faithfulness even when life is not pretty- we may not be able to envision His outcome for us. But the truth is- and I say this because I've witnessed it in my own life- is that God has a masterpiece of a place waiting for us to live in. And in the here and now- rough days, rainy days, death and despair- God is saying, just wait. Keep painting. Keep fighting. You can only see now but I know the end. I know the masterpiece that awaits you, that will come of this mess. "Trust in me," He says.
I can't show you the finished product yet, but after Christmas check back and I'll show you what God can do with a few brush strokes into a painting, or a few steps into Faith.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Seven years ago I started my journey as a new nurse. Unlike most of my peers who had gained experience in the health care setting while earning their degrees, I waited tables. I walked into nursing like a fresh high schooler on her first day. The great thing is, I walked into a smiling, cheerful preceptor who was willing to walk me under her wing for the next six weeks while she showed me the ropes. Beyond the expertise on IV starting and patient assessments, my time with Candice led to the confidence I needed to pursue the part of nursing that makes me most passionate.
I walked into my patients room, which for this story will be named Anne, because despite HIPPA , this woman was too special to not have one even if its undercover. Anne was in her mid 70s, but so active. She loved family. She loved God, and she loved her grandbabies. She told me all about them with a smile on her face, but her new diagnosis still taunted her. Glioblastoma. It was the first time I’d heard it despite my fresh nursing studies. It’s Brain cancer in its rare form to put it simply, and Anne had it. I remember walking back into the nurse’s station to tell Candice about Anne. My heart was heavy as I had envisioned her entire family and coworkers and what they must feel also (yes Anne still worked at a sewing factory!). It was Candice’s idea. She was already walking to get a wheelchair before she finished telling me. “Let’s take her to the chapel.”
Minutes later, we were there and to spare you a soggy keyboard I’ll just tell you this. We prayed, cried, and cried some more with Ms. Anne. In the end, her heart seemed less heavy and in her words she told us she was prepared to fight or die, whichever came first and that it was all in His plan.
Five years later, Candice said the same. Ironically enough, my beloved friend received the same diagnosis two years ago at only age 30. The beautiful and powerful thing about it all though is the inspiration that she spread to the world through what most would allow to debilitate them. She found strength in her weakness and shared it with everyone around her in the meantime. The story I tell you is only a glimpse into what Candice did for others, what she did for me. The smile on her face lit up any room. Even in the end when the cancer and steroids changed her body and the disease was still winning, she smiled.
With this story, I bring you not sadness but enlightenment into a life that despite hardships found joy and peace. Whatever is on your mind this morning, whatever your worries, if your mouth still works, then smile at someone today and think of my friend Candice. At any moment life can be taken away from us. We live and die my friends, it’s the circle of life and sometimes a bitter thing to face. You are not immune from this either, so live life to your potential. Touch others and shine your light that God has placed within you, on the world.
The world lost a beautiful spirit yesterday, but forever will Candice live in the hearts of everyone who was ever graced with her presence.
Somewhere between kindergarten and 1st grade I started craving communion. Yes literally- I wanted it in my hands. I wanted to experience the taste, the act of receiving it in service, and even wondered what it would be like to get it stuck on the roof of my mouth like I'd heard people say it always does. I can't say I remember actually knowing then the significance of communion but I knew it was special and that I wanted it. After choir practice one day, I decided to talk all my other kindergarten friends into trying it. My memory isn't good enough to remember our shared words but I imagine my plea sounding something like this
"Everyone says it tastes so good! I know exactly where it's at, too. Come on guys!"
One of the wiser of us three kindergarteners told us it was a bad idea, but they followed me anyway. Sure enough, we made it to the pulpit and there stood an entire tray of fresh wafers. We went to town. I wish I had a number for you but I'd say I ate around 6. You'd think Jesus would've allowed for a stomach ache after that to teach me a lesson but these days I think I know Him well enough to say He was probably chuckling.
Truth is, I was craving the goodness of God before I knew exactly what it was. We all do. Aren't there so many people in our lives who are lost, lonely, depressed and constantly seeking gratification in a gazillion ways a day other than God? There is a still small voice inside all of us that whispers when we are scared, begs to comfort us in our sadness and rejoices with us in our joy. It saddens me to say that I even have lots of friends- grown ups now, not kindergarteners- that do not know Jesus. I wonder this week what would happen if I asked them to try communion with me, try Jesus with me. Friends we have one life here on earth. Seek Him. Know Him. Let Him love you and I promise you will fall right back in love and in the arms of Jesus. I promise it tastes so good.
28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28
13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John4:14