Monday, August 14, 2017

A Wisdom Seeker and a Heart Keeper

Oh, how I want to be a "wisdom seeker and a heart keeper." Below, I share the ways I'm being led to practice just that in my life. Do I fail? Oh, yes. But I'm determined to keep practicing! 

  • Seek wisdom. 

In times of conflict, confusion and chaos no matter where it's played out - in my own heart, family or community - I want to pray & receive wisdom. Then, use that wisdom to determine what and when to speak up or when to keep silent. 

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17 

  • Examine motivation. 

Everyone is motivated by something. Don't be blind to this. The motivation may be pure and loving or it may be self-serving and attention seeking. More often it's a mix. But before I'm too harsh with what I perceive the motivation of others, I ought to examine my own.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23 

  • Detest pride. 

I'm not talking about healthy confidence but "pride" in oneself that causes you to have a "know it all" or "never wrong" or "my way's better" attitude. First, I ought to deplore that kind of pride when I see it in myself. 

"A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them." - Proverbs 14:3 

  • Don't rush to judgment. 

Rarely is truth revealed right away. When we rush to judgment before a matter has unfolded, we usually end up falling in a ditch - either on one "side" or the "other." It's tempting to jump up on my little soapbox and spout off what I perceive "all ya'll" ought to do. It's better to "pause and pray before I sway" others with my words. I could be wrong. Possibly. It happens. 

"Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” - John 7:24 

These are disciplines I'm trying my best to work into my life. I've been guilty of snap judgments in the past. Then I've needed to repent. I've been guilty of opening my big ol' mouth when I should have remembered sometimes silence really is golden. I've been guilty of getting my dander stirred when I should have walked away.  But maybe that's just me. All I know is, as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit IN me can make me better than "me."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When You Can't Feel Your Way Out, Behave Your Way Out!

I'm convinced that every person who has lived a few years has, at some point, felt passed over.
You didn't get the job, the promotion, the role, the recognition...the (fill in the _________).

Whatever it is you want, desire, or feel is "right" that you don't get, hurts. The feeling may be disguised as anger but at the heart - it's "hurt."

And hurt is hard to just get over. And yet you must. Because worse than "hurt" is "bitter." Hurt that is not dealt with can easily lead to bitterness.

Bitterness is divisive, destructive - dangerous.

For a Christian, the priority must always be a pure heart before God AND right relationships with other believers. These two issues are so much more important than any other single thing.

When "pure" is used in the New Testament, it is the Greek word, "katharos" and it means "clean," "blameless," and "unstained of guilt." It can refer to that which is purified by fire or by pruning.

Cultivating a pure heart > real hurt. 

Regardless of how you feel, no matter if you're right or wrong or simply have a different viewpoint, if you don't deal with your "hurt," in a godly way, you risk the root of bitterness destroying any fruit you've produced.

Read that again.

Regardless of how you feel, no matter if you're right or wrong or simply have a different viewpoint, if you don't deal with your "hurt," in a godly way, you risk the root of bitterness destroying any fruit you've produced. 

So, you're dealing with your hurt feelings and possibly confusion and, yes, even anger. You can't help how you feel but you can help how you respond. You've heard that a time or twenty, right?! It's easy to spout but oh so hard to walk out.

I've been praying about the "walking it out" part, myself!

When you can't "feel your way out" of a bitter attitude, BEHAVE your way out!

I've prayerfully listed ways to help myself (you, too!) when hurt feelings threaten to turn bitter.

  • Own up to your feelings - to God and perhaps a trusted confidante.

Pour out your heart before God. He made you. He knows you better than anyone. He gave you the desires of your heart and He can give you new desires in new seasons.

  • Give God the "go ahead" to change YOU even if the situation does not.

  • Determine that no matter what, your priority is a pure heart and right relationships.

  • Pursue peace within yourself. You may have to take your thoughts captive often. Do it as often as you must.

  • Pursue peace with others. "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18 NJKV).

Pursuing peace often requires setting boundaries in place. Pray about what those might be. But pray in humility - not going into prayer with preconceived notions. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you what those boundaries should be. 

  • Detest pride. Put it down in whatever form it may creep into your head and heart.

Are you handling your "hurt" in a godly way? Are you battling bitterness? I've been there, friend.

Just this morning I prayed, "God, You are the One who gives and the One who takes away...but if this  "taking away" is not of You, then do something for me." Yes, I prayed that way. After all, God is my defender and the battle is His.

My desire is a pure heart and I'll confess that it's often a fight with my flesh.

I can't pray away what is my responsibility to slay away.  

Crucifying the flesh is my job, albeit a painful one. But it must be done.
Because above all else - greater than what I perceive as fair...more than what I feel is right - is my desire to "see God."

Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," (Matthew 5:8 NKJV).

More than anything, I want to see God - see Him moving in my life and know His anointing on me. And that is worth every effort to put aside hurt feelings, prevent the root of bitterness and pursue peace and a pure heart.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

At Ease

It all started as it often does - in restlessness. I was looking around for something new...something different...something hot off the presses to inspire me in a fresh way spiritually.

I scanned my bookshelves, gave Amazon a quick once-over and resisted the urge to ask facebook friends for a recommendation.

After meditating on it for a few days, I decided to go to The Book of all books - the Bible. From experience I knew that the ancient text was as fresh as the daily presence of the Holy Spirit within me. I decided to simply read the book of John and not only that, but to write the book of John. Even then I had to resist the urge to create a John Journal and "art" it up. I mean, that would be really cute and creative, right?! The problem is I'd tried that in the past and ended up focusing on cute and creative and letting the Scriptures slide.

I see all those amazing Bible journals on Pinterest and Instagram and once I almost ordered a special Bible with wide margins just for the purpose of having fun with colored pencils and watercolors. But I know me. And me is the kind of gal who would get too caught up in the margins and lose sight of the meat in the middle!

So I went with simple. I grabbed a note pad, the pen within reach and began reading and writing. I'm still not finished with John. I read. I write. I make some notes along the way. Because there's an ease to it, I do it. Any pen, any color, any time of day - just read and write it down. It's not cute. It's not art. But it is authentic to me. Oh, I do admire the Bible journals with all the pretty watercolors - 'cause you guys know I love my watercolors - and I enjoy all the creativity of combining Bible chapters with such color and line! Maybe one day, I'll give it a try and be able to still focus on the faith-filled words on the page - but #nottoday.

Julie Gillies writes about walking through this life "with authentic dignity and holy ease" in her latest book, From Hot Mess to Blessed . I wrote about my take on "authentic dignity" a few days ago. I hope you take five minutes and read it. 😘

Holy Ease - From years of Bible teaching and studying, I know that "holy" is to be set apart and "ease" is the absence of difficulty or labor.

Just typing the word "ease" allows me pause to breathe deeply and gain fresh insight into the discipline of taking time to simply read the Bible and write it down. Both the reading of the physical page and the writing by longhand (rather than the staccato tap, tap, tap of typing on my laptop) slows me down and helps me listen to The Teacher and absorb the old text that is ever new.

One bit of insight I've gained from reading and writing from John is a phrase from chapter one. John (the Baptist) is questioned by the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem. They arrive to scope out what in the world is going on with all his preaching about repentance and a greater One coming after Him because He came before him! 

They ask the Baptizer, "Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" (John 1:22 NJKV)

What do you say about yourself? 

Well...what do you say?

What do I say?

What do we say about ourselves?

Admittedly, sometimes I say mean things about myself. I talk ugly to me.

I say things to myself about myself that I'd never say to someone else. I try to guard my heart when it comes to what I hear. There are certain stories I don't read when I see the link on social media. I guard my eyes and my ears and I really try to watch the words that come out of my mouth about others.

But what do I say about myself to myself?

Do I unwittingly, or perhaps just carelessly, play right into the hands of my enemy when I talk ugly to me?

What if I took a cue from the man wearing camel's hair clothes and eating locusts and wild honey?
John said the truth about himself. He knew his purpose and his place in the Kingdom of God. I don't think John wasted his breath berating himself or saying mean things about himself. Can you imagine? It sounds pretty silly, doesn't it?

John didn't respond, "I'm the weirdo wearing the hand me downs from a camel." Ridiculous, right?

But how ridiculous have I been lately? I've said things like this in the past month alone: "I guess my time is over." "Maybe I'm just not good enough for that anymore." "I'm being so terrible! What's wrong with me?"

Typing those words makes me feel pretty silly. What do I say about myself? <insert tears>

When I, or you, start saying those kinds of things about us, maybe it's time to go to God and ask Him to give us some better words.

Oh, God! That you would remind us of our place and our purpose in Your Kingdom! Let us not waste the breath you gave us in berating ourselves but in bettering our hearts to honor You in every word we speak. May the words of our mouths be acceptable in Your sight. And that includes the words we say about ourselves.

Lovingly Yours,

Sunday, July 30, 2017

For Real

There's a phrase that I've been meditating on quite a bit since I read it in the latest book by Julie Gillies - From Hot Mess to Blessed.  At the end of each chapter is a section with the heading, "Your Personal Proclamation - Say It. Know It. Believe It." Chapter two's personal proclamation ends with, "I will walk through life with authentic dignity and holy ease, and I will value myself because I am precious in His sight." 

For days after reading page 53, I find myself silently repeating the refrain, "authentic dignity and holy ease." So caught up with the potential impact of these five words, I consulted Merriam Webster (my favorite dictionary) and found that "dignity" may be defined as "the quality or state of being worthy." As a human being, I have worth and value - dignity - simply because I am. I exist.

As it pertains to a relationship with God, and as one who believes in and puts her trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, knowing that my spiritual worth is based on how God sees me "in" Christ allows me the perfect balance of that definition. My life is hidden in Christ. God does not see me without seeing His Son and all of the righteousness inherent in Him.

I am IN Christ; I am worthy. That worthiness gives me the right to "walk through this life with authentic dignity." I have not always done that. Even though I was raised in a pastor's home and grew up in church, I hid an awful lot. Once, I even hid under a pew in the sanctuary! I hid myself. I hid the things I was ashamed of. I hid because I believed my worth was conditional upon my behavior and even my secret (hidden) thoughts. Even now I have to remind myself that sometimes thoughts are just thoughts and not an indicator of my character. Some thoughts just land on us. It's up to me (and you) what we do with them.

I hid when I felt ugly because I was ashamed. I hid when I felt pretty (too much attention and again...shame). I hid when I was broke (embarrassed) and I hid when I had plenty (again, embarrassed).

A hider is not authentic. A hider does not feel worth in just being.

It's taken me a long time to be okay at being "me." Too many years were wasted in camouflage - not the kind I'm prone to wear today like when I wear my favorite hat! (That's another story for another day). The camouflage I wore was of an invisible fashion designed to prevent very many people from seeing or knowing the real me. And the reason for that type of camo usually stems from self-protection. If I am not really seen and known, I will not be rejected and hurt for being the real me.
In retrospect, I can look back from childhood through adolescence (and unfortunately, beyond!) and share things said, things done and things I most likely misconstrued to mean that "just me - the real me" was "just not quite worthy." Not worthy of inclusion, Not worthy of friendship. Not worthy of a seat at the table.

Before this reeks of a pity party, I need to add that I have no doubt many of you could share much of the same. Your history may sound a lot like mine with the exception of the fine details. We've all faced the "not enough's" the "too much" the "almost" the "if only's" that feel like a big ol' pile of rejection. After all, people aren't perfect and we're all guilty of saying some really dumb and thoughtless things to each other.

Usually, those dumb words are more about the "dumb word say-er" than the one to whom they're said. It would behoove each of us to recognize our little issues and seek healing and lasting wholeness for ourselves so we don't thoughtlessly dump those on another. Seriously.

I'm going to continue to mull over and meditate on these words, "I will walk through life with authentic dignity and holy ease..." for awhile longer...and I haven't even talked about the "holy ease" part, yet!

I imagine that if at any time throughout my day that I am physically walking - on my daily walking workouts, walking the dog, walking across a store parking lot, walking to my mailbox - triggers "I walk in authentic dignity," how that might impact my thinking, my interactions, my relationships!

To live with the rock solid belief that you have TRUE WORTH has the power to change everything that needs to change for you. EVERYTHING.

I choose to believe it. Will you?

Yours, TRULY...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Gratefully, Yours

It's not new. Maybe you first heard about it from Oprah. But it's actually been in your Bible all along.

Being grateful. Giving thanks. GRATITUDE, BABY!

So, what's so great about gratitude?

There are numerous studies on the benefits of gratitude. You could spend hours reading all the articles!

My bottom line take on it is this: 

Being grateful in my life may not change my life but it changes me and, in effect, that changes my life!

 A scripture I memorized years ago is Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV). 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks is the expression of gratitude for benefits received. One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. But I'll be honest - I've never been good at keeping a gratitude journal or even a list for more than a few days. I'm kind of lousy at journaling. It's a task that does not come easily to me unlike my habit of drinking coffee in the morning! But I've decided a daily notation of gratitude is important to me. I just need a way that works with my personality and my dailies - those things I do on a regular basis as a matter of habitual practice - like morning coffee! 

What works for me may not work for you but here's what I'm going to do. My planner has lovely little boxes for each day of the month. I'm going to couple my morning coffee with writing at least one thing that I'm grateful for in the daily box. Today I wrote three.

I figure if I combine a new thing with an old thing, I'm more likely to be successful in the new thing. Because, seriously, I never miss morning coffee. Skipping it would make me pretty grouchy and nobody wants to spend time with Mrs. Grouchy! That brings me to this - grouchiness stems from a bad attitude and battitudes are catchy. But so are great attitudes! 

I'm convinced the way to have a great attitude is to express gratitude! 

Wanna join me in having a great attitude through GRATITUDE? Starting today through the month of August, I'm going to make this one change in my morning routine. But I'll give myself grace, too, and if I slip up, I'll start over. After all, if the good things of God are are new each morning (mercy, faithfulness, grace), I'm going to receive those - with gratitude! 

Gratefully Yours,  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Some People, Some Paint and Finally Flowers

I'm not sure where the old mirror originated. I feel like I may have inherited it with the house twenty years ago! 
Maybe you've seen one like it - odd goldish plastery looking frame with an obviously older mirror. In mirror years, she would have been hiding her grays with box color bought with a coupon. 
When I was going through my paint everything in aqua chalk paint stage, she got a new color. Then I dropped her and cracked the frame and shattered the mirror. 
After that, I wasn't quite sure what to do...purchase a new mirror...toss the frame (I know. Can you believe I even considered that?!)...ask Husband to cut a piece of wood to fit. I chose the latter. 
So, I asked Husband and he said, "Sure thing, fancy wife!" To be transparent here...I think he just said something like, "Okay." And then he disappeared into the garage and a little while later, came back handing me an oval shaped piece of wood. 

For months, I stared at the empty frame hanging from a wire on my foyer wall. Remember the first time you ever heard a lady pronounce it "foy-YAY" when she was talking about the entry area at the church? 
After that, I hesitate to even say the word. Never mind my college degree in French and the second syllable is not to be emphasized like that! 

Last night I was toying with the idea of just painting the thing. If I made a mess...I'd just paint over it. That's the charm of acrylic paint. You can just PAINT OVER a mess or a mistake - kind of like using an eraser. 

So here she is! I think I like her. I did have to walk away for awhile as I was not totally feeling it. 
I laid her aside and went on to do other things. About the time I forgot she was just lying on the tile at the front door, I caught a glimpse of her. Love! 

That's the way it is sometimes...with people and with paintings - when it or they are right in front of your nose and you're focusing on some little part of the may not be too sure. Not too sure about this or them at all. 
But then, you go about your business and completely unaware, you see them in a new light. You see the whole and not just some minor part. And your heart beats a little faster and there's that feeling of love all over again. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Wild Hair!

When March marches in (heehee), spring is at hand! Easter, The Cross, colored eggs and baskets and bunnies! I do love the bunnies but not so much when they are munching on my backyard roses.

I painted this rabbity fellow a couple days ago. You might say I had a wild hair to paint a hare! I usually have several primed boards stacked in the garage waiting on my next wood sign workshop (one of my Coastal Color Studio art classes). With said hair waving wildly, I grabbed a board (5 1/2" x 17 1/2")  from my stash, pulled out brushes, paints and a water jar, tied on an apron and placed the board on my easel.

Here is the google image I used as a reference.

A few weeks ago I used this same image for a watercolor.

My process in painting the rabbit on the board was first to sketch a loose outline of the rabbit in the reference photo.
Using a mechanical pencil I quickly drew a simple outline of the rabbit right on the primed board. I began painting using both inexpensive craft paint as well as my Liquitex and Golden acrylic paints. Obviously I was not going for a replica of the photo image but rather an artsy interpretation. I
am more drawn to an expressionist view rather than a literal interpretation so that is what I most like to paint.
I love the playfulness of blush pink in the body and ears of the rabbit and also the turquoise that bounces like light from the sides and nose of the bunny. I wanted whimsy and a playfulness in this painting but also a touch of the dramatic which led to the black background.

I just love him!

I asked my husband to make a frame for my bunny from some of our pallet wood - also used in my wood workshops.

Here he is all framed up for spring! I especially like how the red oak of the wood complements the blush and orange in the rabbit.

original acrylic on board, framed rustic style in pallet wood, hanger attached
5 1/2" x 17 1/2" - $55 and free shipping within the contiguous U.S.
Payment via Paypal - Leave a comment if you want to purchase. 
What do you think? Does this ignite a creative spark in you? Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question about paint, brushes or technique.