When God Paints Portraits Through People

Maybe God can paint portraits not just with a sunset, but with my personality too, when I let Him live through it.

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There are those moments. Playing our part, we do it ever so carefully, and, if we really try, we can do it without our mistakes being noticed. Because, well, messing up feels uncomfortable, exposed, like I just showed people that I might not really know exactly what I’m doing.

I felt like that last week. I was in my little corner at the keyboard playing along with the guitars, our small group of friends singing worship with the band. I do it most every Wednesday night. And this particular night as I watched my fingers hit the keys, I thought on the little insecurities of this moment more than usual. I thought of the people who do this on a grander scale. In the church auditorium on Sundays, sometimes the distinct way a note is played can be used to stir my soul to my own need for God. In my own small way, I wanted to offer my playing that night to be used that way. I was trying to offer that, and it was coming out messy.

Playing with the band, I have two options. I can blend in and play the basic chords with no mistakes and very little notice, or I can venture with my fingertips up the keyboard and risk wrong notes. The first option is the safest. But the second option opens to the possibilities of bringing unique beauty to the hearers through my fingers. One option closes off an opportunity and the other opens to it.

There as I was playing that night, I was given this truth small and simple, a message delivered through my insecurity.

My life goes the same way.

My tendency is to try to stay safe from those insecurities. And, sometimes the little things seem even harder than the big things. I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, as a girl who has often struggled with being very shy, it looks like being willing to play my little part in the conversation going on around me. That was where God spoke to my heart in that moment, telling me to be willing to offer myself as the person He made me to be.

It’s easy for me to sit and listen, to let my friends offer themselves to the conversation and hold myself back for fear of doing something I’ll regret. I can play the simple chords – nod in the right place, laugh when it gets funny, and say enough to get along. But what would happen if I let go a little and surrendered to let God come out of me, even if it be in something as small as adding my quirky perspective to the conversation or my simple thought that might give someone a laugh?

Maybe God can paint portraits not just with a sunset, but with my personality too – when I let Him live through it. Something happens when I open to those things. The people around me seem as if they were blessed in some small, mysterious way, as if maybe the spirit inside me communed with the spirit inside them and offered an unspoken joy to us both. Maybe there are secret passageways through small talk where a part of us runs through and blesses the other.

I know it happens. I see God shine through a friend’s personality when she says that thing that only she would say, and it stirs my soul to see my own need for the kind of freedom I just saw. She took the risk and said the quirky thing and the words didn’t have to be spiritual, to be used to bless my spirit.

These are the moments where freedom lives. This is where the mystery whispers hints into our lives and we find it true – Christ in you.

May we listen for the mystery in those moments we face today and freely allow God to live through the personality He gifted us with, even if it looks like a quirky comment to a friend.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Because the job you do right now is sacred

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A couple weeks ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office. Holding my crying toddler, I was told she had double pneumonia and to take her straight to the hospital. And I am relatively new at parenting and when I hear words like that about my toddler I have no idea how to take it. And my mind did not hold to hope and I didn’t know how to respond and I went in and out of worry… worry that escalated when my seven month old woke up with a fever. I ended up caring for them both from home, one with pneumonia, one with bronchitis, nine days of fevers, two ER visits. Though I hear most parents go through similar things, and much more serious things in their parenting journey, it was a brand new experience for me to process. These were words written a couple days after our first ER visit when caring for them felt a bit glorious.

“Today I write from an overarching calm that has found a place, if but for these moments, to nestle deep into my soul. This week my girls are sick and I have worried too much and prayed not enough. This week I held my Amayah, weak and drowsy, while the IV gave her back the strength she needs to get well. This week I made the 4am WalMart run to get the medicine to lower Liesel’s temperature.

Today I was texting my husband a play-by-play of the events here at the house. From the comforting of the tears this morning, to Amayah crying till she fell asleep this afternoon, to Liesel spitting up, to warm baths and delirious words from my daughter… he got a play by play with pictures. And the girls fell asleep and I wonder why I felt the need to speak those things to him all day. And then I realized why and it felt so wonderful…

Partly, of course, I just wanted to let him know how they were doing, but there was something so energizing about what I was doing today.

Largely, I think I’m excited to let him know what’s going on, because what I’m doing feels so important.

Today my shirt is a spit-up catching, boogie-wiping, tear-soaking mess and it feels so sacred.”

And had my daughter not begun crying I think I was going on to say that maybe in the mess of comforting my two feverish ones through nine rounds of days and nights, I could feel the weight of something so meaningful. That right in the middle of those days, God delivered something that isn’t as easy for me to see in the every-day normal when what I do can feel so very small. It was a simple knowing that in order for these girls to get healthy someone had to care for them and keep track of their medicine and ensure their nourishment and I was the one to do that. It wasn’t that someone else couldn’t have done it for me, because they could have. It was just knowing that God had chosen to give me this task right here, right now. It was the sacred beauty of knowing the health of these little lives was laying in my hands. It was the art of rising to that call. There was a sacred beauty in my filthy shirt that day and the real beauty is that the same sacred call is given to me today. It’s not just the health of their bodies but the growth of their soul that is given to my charge. It may not sound as significant as shepherding a church as a pastor, or shepherding a community as a missionary, but I am indeed an under-shepherd to the true Shepherd. I am a shepherd to these two girls in my care. And though that might sound small, it is extraordinarily significant. These two souls in my care hold the greatest value to Jesus. For this day, these girls are the largest scope of my mission field and the task I am chosen to carry is infinitely glorious.

May we all feel the glory in it. We are all privileged with the mission of pointing souls to grace, wherever we may be. May we live out that calling with the greatest dignity in carrying Jesus’ victory, whether we carry it today to one thousand souls who hear the gospel preached from a pulpit or to one soul who sees the gospel preached in the way we match socks.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Conversation with a Prayer Warrior

My husband’s picture! Creation reaching up to its Creator.

This is a book review on Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer

Prayer. It’s not tangible by any means. It happens in your head. It’s a part of your thoughts. You can’t see it. You can’t measure it. You can’t grade yourself on it… Sometimes, in a mix of pride and guilt and hoping I can produce my own good, I’ve wanted too, but I miss the point… The point of being given the name of Jesus to pray in, the point of this constant grace that gives me the right to come bold to the Father with every privilege, every birthright, every tender part of being His very own child. This, this direct access to the Father, through Jesus, in the Spirit, is the weapon, the grace-given, grace-driven weapon, that can tackle the threat of anything the enemy throws my way.

I want to use it, but yet, I trivialize it. I set my prayer time, but when I fail at that I toss the prayer “time” and try to make it an on-going conversation throughout my day, but then I get busy and… oops.

I want to sit down with a real prayer warrior for a few hours and get all the inside scoop. I want to hear the ins and outs of how they’ve made this a habit, of what they’re prayer life looks like on a daily basis, to see the way that they pray. How do you find the words? What do you do when you’re so overwhelmed you can’t think of what to pray? How do you hold to your commitment to prayer when the day throws you all the curve balls? When babies kept you up all night and you can hardly think? When they woke up earlier than they were supposed to? When you slept through your alarm? When kids keep you on your toes all day? How do you make it work?

Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent is like that conversation in book form. She sits down with you as a kind friend who knows victory, who enjoys the power of God’s presence and is willing to be used to help you enjoy it. She gives you the inside scoop. What she offers is not the only way to develop a strong prayer life, but it’s a powerful way. She’s honest and shows you her imperfections, but goes on in victory assuring you of victory. She hands you the tools you need to build a firm prayer strategy, the wisdom of experience to know how, and the most loving and graceful kick in the pants you’ll ever get to pursue habitual prayer as the lifeline it is.

Fervent has honestly become one of my very favorite books that I plan to turn to time and again. I feel like I’ve had a good long talk with a dear lady who cares for my soul. And in longing for me to access the mighty power God provides His children, she’s pleaded with me to identify the places where Satan has his targets drawn on my life and strengthen my prayer there… to know the importance of praying Scripture, in putting that into practice. Priscilla has guided me into the process of creating my own personal prayer strategy for each area the enemy tries hardest to get me. She’s helped me find the Scriptures and form the words I’ll need in the midst of temptation for the times I can’t think of what to pray, and she’s given me the prayer cue cards to mark up and post where I need them so I can’t forget to pray. I’ve been handed the excitement of meeting Priscilla’s own sweet, battle cry of prayer. I have no reason not to pray from the same victory that she does. Neither do you!

I’d love for you to read her book and have one copy to offer to the first person who claims it. The first person to claim it in a comment will have a brand new copy from Lifeway. :) For everyone else, you can buy the book here.    

And whether you’ve read the book or not, may we pray boldly in all the victory that became ours the moment we received Christ’s gift. If you’re in Christ, you’ve been given all you need to be as fervent in prayer as anybody and that is a glorious truth!

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When I feel like I do it all wrong

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Prov 16:3 KJV)

This is Proverbs 16:3 as I first learned it, a younger me. I read it from a heart wanting so much to learn how to establish my thoughts. I copied it down and chewed and chewed on it’s words. And I was confused. I wanted so much to learn more about what it looked like practically.

The last few weeks the words keeps rolling back through my mind trying to take a seat there. They show up when I make decisions that I regret, when I decide to go and end up wishing I would have stayed, when I hit publish and end up wishing I hadn’t, when I don’t say anything, and end up wishing I had. They show up, Spirit bidding listen to the secret, the secret to established thoughts and fruitful plans.    

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” Prov 16:3 AMPC

In practice, it’s true. When I commit it to the Lord before I take that step, I’m at peace and I am free to move on with my day. When I don’t, I am afraid – wondering what I could have changed, wondering if I should have done it at all. When I commit my steps to Him, He gives me confidence to live them knowing that He is the One living through me. When I don’t commit my steps I have fear.

Am I committing the decisions I am making right now? Am I bringing my plans to Him before I do them? Or am I living from my own fleshly wisdom in which I will never have true confidence?

May we take the next step of our day bringing it to the One who has the power to make our thoughts agreeable and our plans successful. May we confidently trust the One who tells us He is able to shine His light through our broken bodies.

This is Day 18 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

That Scary Next Step

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I’ve made one big step chasing a dream in my heart. Step taken, I look at how big the step in front of me is… I want to shrink. I want to ask myself why I ever took the first step to begin with. Is this really something I was made for? Was this the way I was supposed to go? Is it even possible for a person who struggles with insecurities like I do to travel this path? Is me doing this a joke?

The words of the day identified the fear in me so well…

“Fear says I’m going the wrong way. Doubt says I won’t find it at all. But hope? Hope says, Wait. It’s just a little farther. You are not alone and this is not just your idea.”

Emily P. Freeman talks about the art that comes out of us in a million little ways, the art of who God made us to be, the things God made us to do. She talks of traveling the paths to let that art come out of us.

“I am uncovering it, a piece at a time. The work is finished somewhere invisible. My task is to uncover it, to find it…”

She inspires me to trust that He already has the art waiting for me, to trust that He is the One putting the steps in front of me, that He is able to live through me to take the next step.

“I take hands filled with hope and ideas, clasp them together, muddy. Sometimes what comes out is a mess. Other times, it fits like velvet on skin. Somehow, the whole process is art but it doesn’t come from me. Not exactly, anyway.”

The mess of me must allow the art to come through and at the same time stand aside, because there is a greater Artist at work. The art that pours through this mess in me, might be most visible in the peeling back of that mess… Most gladly therefore, will I glory in these weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)

May we rebuke the fear in every imperfection. May we let our own mess point us to the hope, to the One who has allowed every imperfection with the purpose of giving us the gift to live His art into the world.

This is Day 17 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

How Babies Might Hold the Biggest Secret to Life

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Seeing Liesel express her needs is something so free and beautiful. She has a boldness to express herself that I do not.

I’ve been thinking on 1 Peter 2 this morning… “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk…” It was part of Nano’s lesson in class a few weeks ago.

He taught on Matthew 15 and the lady who asked for the “crumbs” from Jesus. The application of that story never made more sense to me than it did after hearing Nano teach on it. I’ve been wanting to hold on to this thought and explore it more, the pleading for crumbs, the little things that Jesus gives and letting those little things work through our hearts as He creates a big picture of love in us one little piece at a time.

Longing for spiritual milk as a baby longs for milk, chasing after the crumbs we can get from the Lord… maybe it’s saying that there’s value in pouring over the simple pieces of truth we find, the simple steps of faith in front of us, the simple prayers and words of worship that we can give Him. This longing for milk… it’s connected to tasting the Lord’s goodness.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3) Maybe it’s in savoring the crumbs from Jesus that we taste His goodness the most.

“…if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.” It’s in this, tasting His goodness… the more we taste how good God is, the more we know how valuable we are.

“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (Verse 5 and 9) When we taste His goodness and know ourselves to be valued, it is there that we offer acceptable sacrifices. It is there that we proclaim the excellencies of His grace, because it is there that we most know it ourselves.

Becoming like babies and being willing to drink the milk, that is where we live most freely. Laura C. Robb talked on her blog this week about looking for something big when God is offering the small things right in front of us. And maybe this is what He needs me to hear today, that maybe the biggest secret to living free is in opening my hands to the crumbs from His table. Opening hands to the crumbs will look different with every moment and maybe for me now it looks like being willing to pray the simple prayers, and simple words of worship.

Maybe babies hold the biggest secret after all. They have the simplest, most child-like longings, yet they express themselves the most freely. Maybe when I am most like my little Liesel, maybe there I will be most confident to trust the Spirit living through me.

This is Day 14 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

How God is Bold and Free to Shepherd His Children

Bible study fellowship today was on the Revelation letters to the churches. So needed. Studied Ephesus and Smyrna this week, on rekindling love and persevering in suffering.

The statement was made by the leader today: “Has your love for Jesus become secondary to what you do for Jesus?” (Marsha Holmes) I need to be asked this question every day.

It’s tempting to measure myself by the things I do, because my works are what I can see. Those are the tangible things. But I can’t measure my love and sometimes it’s hard to pursue something when it isn’t easy to see your progress. I obsess with seeing my own progress now, when in fact Jesus is offering rewards much greater and much more motivating than what I look for…

“To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7) It’s so wonderful to have a God who realizes how much I need reminders of the reward at the end of the race. He has compassion on my human need for extra encouragement. I’m so glad He’s not anything like me – I debate over whether I should offer my daughter an incentive because I don’t want to be seen as a bribing mother. But in His Word, He boldly tells me about the reward. It’s refreshing to be shepherded by a God who is free of all my human inconsistencies. He doesn’t debate over whether it would be too forward to remind me to love Him. He doesn’t hesitate to show Himself to me as the God I need in my moment. (Like Jesus introduced Himself differently to each of the seven churches. He knew exactly what each one of them needed from Him.) He comes to me offering exactly what my soul needs.

May we be reminded of the greatness of our God who Fathers us unhindered by all we are limited by. He finds me where I am, the God I need, and reminds me to rekindle the love for Him that my soul desperately longs to know.

This is Day 13 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Truth to hold in times we want to hide

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“Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

Today I’m telling you how I am blessed by Aliza Latta’s blog post: A prayer for the timid and terrified

My humanity keeps repeating itself and my fear comes right along with it. Even if you removed my fear, I know after some length of time I’d simply rip out the stitches from where you unfastened it, and shove it right back inside of me. (Aliza Latta – Choose Brave)

These words I read this morning express the feelings of my weekend so well.

Yesterday, at church I listened to words about guilt and sin that won’t leave, and I thought about my own fear, my own shy. Shy habits have been built into my thoughts with my repeated practice. Sometimes I look at the confident and wonder where they came from that they have so much freedom. But my Nano reminds me that confidence is something that is grown into, not something that people are born with.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Confidence can be grown into, because with repeated practice truth can renew shy habits. Aliza’s prayer reminds me of God’s truth.

I do this so often: asking you to take my burdens, and you do. And then I yank them back and clutch them tighter than before. I trust my burdens and fears more than I trust you. Why is this? Why do I convince myself they’re comfortable?

You are not comfortable. But when I search my heart I know I would never be satisfied with serving a comfortable God. (Aliza Latta – Choose Brave)

Comfortable. It describes the place that provides the greatest ease.

When I chase shy, when I hide, this is God’s truth I have to hold: Though living in my shy fears might be the easiest place, easy is not what my soul longs for. When I choose easy, I am refusing to experience the beauty of what happens when I trust the Spirit moving through me.

May I listen to truth in the moments I’m tempted to fear and shy away. May I live confident in the joy that His presence in me brings.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

This is Day 12 in 31 Days of Listening.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Words for Insecurities

I read this today. I so needed to hear it…

Were you made on purpose? Is there a unique blend of interests, desire, wisdom, quirks, insecurities, and loves that are within you? Can we agree those things are not a coincidence?

Do you believe that the Holy Spirit of God, the same one who moved over the surface of the waters and moved out of heaven onto the surface of the land, has also moved into you, to take up residence in the innermost seat of your personality? (Emily P. Freeman – A Million Little Ways)

It made me want to read Romans eight. The Message paraphrase of this passage really is beautiful and I think it explains the Spirit in us so well.

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. 

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8:5-11 MSG)

I hadn’t read this whole passage in the Message before tonight. It makes me want to cry. It’s often that I forget the truth and look at myself. May my mistakes there be something to glory in though (2 Cor. 12:9-10). His grace is perfect in my weakness, even in this. May He use my weaknesses. And may I look to the One inside me, and let the Person He’s trying to be in me come out.

This is Day 9 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

The Balancing Act

Yesterday was full and the writing I had planned didn’t happen. Yesterday, I was frustrated with the fullness of the day. I didn’t take time to hear the blessings. I was on a mind rant, a bad attitude, mad at anyone and everyone who ever said you could have an organized home and life with a newborn and a toddler in the house. In imaginary land, I was accusing them all because they had to be lying to me.

Today I’ve been thinking on Proverbs 31 and two blog posts that both sort of touched on yesterdays struggles and attitudes.

The first post put into words a little bit of the balance my soul longs for.

“A clean house might help your soul breathe, but a clean house doesn’t give you value.” The cleanliness of my house usually takes the back burner. When my house is clean, it’s usually always because I’ve neglected the people in my life and focused too much on clean. So, I tend to try to lean on that idea that a clean house doesn’t give me value, and prioritize everything else above clean, but sometimes I put it so low on the priority list that life feels out of balance. I forget that a clean house helps the soul of those who live in it. And I can’t figure out how to pull the great balancing act between relationships and responsibilities. Maybe this all speaks to more than just my house.

Proverbs 31… it’s such a perfect description of a woman. Certainly, the Proverbs woman doesn’t label housekeeping as a low priority, and keeps her house while managing to put the truest value on relationships. She looks to have it all together and it feels like an unattainable standard.

I read this today (another article) that helped it make better sense. Another lady who felt the same way about that passage…

I have… come to realize that this passage is not the description of a woman who has had it all together from the start, but of a woman who has grown in character and spiritual maturity through life’s experiences. Wisdom is not just timeless; it takes time.

I like her words. And maybe this is a piece of what He’s telling me. Simple things… knowing that wisdom takes time, trusting that He is providing the things I need to grow in wisdom, being earnest in prayer, asking for wisdom… maybe these things are my simple call for the present.

And tonight I read these words, that help me hear more.

Maybe you have certain ideas about what it means to do your thing the right way… but you are stuck in a pattern of defeat… In the midst of all your try-hard effort to do love right, you are missing out on loving well. Are you allowing your own expectations to hinder you from freely expressing yourself? Is your idea of the right way keeping you from your best way? Are you too distracted to show up?  (Emily P. Freeman – A Million Little Ways)

Her words make me realize that I look too much at my own self. I think I’m the one who has to do it. I try to do the balancing act, looking at my own feet, looking at all the reason I could have to fear. I’m like Peter looking at the waves tossing at my feet. 

I pray I live free, trusting He’s already done the balancing act for me. Knowing that while I can’t, He can. There I am free, and there, while I still can’t balance it myself, He can live it through me and that is the most beautiful thing I could ever ask for. May He live in me.

This is Day 8 in 31 Days of Listening

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.