It is enough

Hey you!  I don’t know where you are this morning but I find myself here in my kitchen typing unexpected words onto my computer while coffee brews in the background.  Lights twinkle on our Christmas tree and I’m trying to drink a full glass of water before breakfast because of something I heard someone say on a podcast last week about being an “I drink a full glass of water as soon as I wake up” kind of person. I can’t for the life of me remember what podcast it was or who said it but after a quick -and failed- google search, because I know you are all dying to hear where I attained this water information, I decided to not let myself get too distracted because this morning during my devotions I heard the whisper of God.  I know, it sounds weird to me too.  There was no audible voice like little Samuel heard in 1 Samuel 3, or a big booming one like when God talks to Charlton Heston in “The Ten Commandments” movie that plays on TV every Easter, just a still small whisper that spoke truth and peace into my morning.

Three words.  It. Is. Enough. 

This year – well most of my life actually – I’ve been fighting the hardness of my own heart.  Wanting to go my own way.  Thinking that I know best, or maybe a more accurately explained as thinking that what I want is best.  Let me clarify here because usually my own way isn’t bad.  Normally I want to do ministry related things, God things, things that are good, holy, and righteous things like foreign missions, adoption, ‘christian’ artwork, teaching, and discipleship.  For whatever reason God has closed the door on most of those opportunities over the years and kept me here, a stay at home mom who home-schools our kids.  Most of my life is spent corralling four unruly children between the walls of our 1100 sq. ft. home.  If I’m being completely honest, this is a source of contention between me and God.

I’m not one of those women who dreamed their whole childhood of becoming a mother.  It is something I wanted to happen eventually but not something I pined for.  Don’t misunderstand, my kids have shaped me and sanctified me as a person, I love them more than I have words or time to describe here but motherhood itself was not my dream.  Like those crazy Disney movies I obsessed over as a kid I always felt I was meant for something more and like cancer that idea infects every part of my heart if I let it.

It’s not just mothering though.  Last year we left a church that I had been a part of for ten years and my husband has been a part of since his adolescence to help and encourage a small church nearby.  It was where we felt God was calling us but I miss my former church family terribly.   The small group we are a part of now averages 30 people on a good day and while I love those people I can also feel isolated and lonely there.   We have so much peace as a family that this is where God wants us but sometimes I ask why?

Over the last several months I’ve taken a kind of social media hiatus reevaluating what I think the Lord wants of my business.  I’m in the process of closing the art portion of my El Roi Artistry shop to focus entirely on the bible study materials.  It seems like He is pushing me specifically in the direction of children’s study helps at the moment which I am excited about but also a tiny bit disappointed.  I really wanted my art shop to become something.

So, yesterday morning while our family was driving to church I confessed the way I felt to my husband not in specifics like I just explained here but the deep true reality that God feels far off and part of me doesn’t want Him.  I want my own way.

I want Him to bless what I think He should bless and
I find myself like Jacob, wrestling.

This morning as I began to pray for a sweet teenage girl that our family loves who wants to go into missions and as I attempted find words for her I felt resistance.  Just to be clear, I want God to do great things through this friend wherever He leads her, but it was hard for me to say that outloud.  I was supposed to do missions work.  I committed to that when I was young.  I want to have what she might have.  I realized what was happening and like a child who hasn’t got their way I decided to tell God what I thought of His plan for my life, not in a rebellious angry way but more defeated and honest.  I hadn’t been honest with myself or with God for a long time.  James 3:10 says “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”  It’s easy for us to lie to ourselves about our own pride and arrogance.  Like the Pharisees, who Jesus called white washed tombs, we parade ourselves around as friends of God but inside we are far from Him.  Friends, as I prayed I could feel the Lord uncovering the bitterness, jealousy, and selfish ambition that I had been trying to cover up for so long.

The truth is, I want to do great things for God and this morning once again I was reminded that that is exactly what I’m doing.  I pictured the Widow of Zarephath standing before Elijah with her handful of flour and tiny bit of oil at the bottom of a bottle thinking “I can’t give this to you, this is not enough” (1 Kings 17) and Phillip looking at a little boy with five loaves and a few fish thinking “we need so much more” (John 6).   But David spoke truth in Psalms 16 when he said:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    You hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

As I laid out all my complaints and unmet expectations before God in the middle of my sentence I heard Him whisper “It is enough.”  And even though this isn’t the first time this year I was reminded of this truth I think I may be the first time I actually believed it.  In her book “The broken way” Ann Voskamp calls us “the remembering people”  and I am so quick to forget.  There is so much “not enough” in our culture.  We are reminded everyday through our friends and our Facebook feeds that we need more but quickly we discover that the search for more always ends up with never enough.

My mothering, homeschooling, nursery working, bible study with a friend life may seem little but just because something is little doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  There is an old song I used to sing in church as a child “Little is much when God is in it” that I had forgotten until today but the truth rings clear.  Little things and small obedience can be big before the God we serve.  He works big in the little things.  This season we celebrate the small, humble, and quiet coming of our savior.  God elevates and exalts the humble.

So this morning as I listen to my kids play in the living room and finish this last cup of coffee the words from 1 Peter I read in the dark and quiet earlier today reverberate in my heart “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”  I don’t claim to be suffering but I know there are those within the reach of these words that are.  In any situation friends whether that means we are really hurting or simply wrestling with God about His plan for our life.  He is trustworthy.  We can entrust our souls and our days to him.  His faithfulness doesn’t end.  He isn’t finished with you yet and He is blessing your obedience whether you see it or not.

In this season of much let us never forget that what we have is enough.

Gracelaced Book Review

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.
~James Bryce

About six weeks ago I opened up a box with one of the most beautiful devotional books I’ve ever had the privilege of holding.  I immediately began to thumb through page after page of gorgeous artwork and photography kind of enamored with the thought and skill laid into each one.  Design wise everything about it called out to me.  It made me want to curl up on the couch with some coffee and chocolate because chocolate and coffee are two things that take a book from great to amazing. 

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While l as an artist would like to judge this book solely on how pretty it is I know I can’t.  A book is not measured by how beautifully it was designed, I have read some pretty terrible beautiful books, it’s measured by the truth we take away from it.  A good book, any good story really, should feed our souls and reveal truths that sometimes get lost in our day-to-day realities.  

This book in particular, Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons, delivers on ever count.  Not only is it beautiful, it is authentic and overflowing with the deep truth, think coffee table book meets devotional book.

I’ve read Ruth’s writing for several years and have always been impressed with her ability to use words not only to convey truth but to point us to the Truth Giver in a way that is not demeaning or self righteous but encouraging and equipping.  The book is laid out into four seasons winter, spring, summer, and fall with each season serving a different purpose.

Winter is for “Resting in who He is”

Spring is for “Rehearsing the truth” He says about you

Summer “Responding in faith” to those truths

Fall is for “Remembering His provision”

Lately I’ve been wrestling with being overwhelmed while preparing for our school year which begins next week.  I’ve taken the last month away from social media so that I might get some clarity and focus but when I think about all I’d like to do:

  • grow a small business
  • minister to women
  • raise my kids
  • love my husband
  • home school
  • church
  • keep the house clean
  • get to know my neighbors
  • pour into friendships
  • have time in the Word

I can almost immediately feel my chest tightening and anxiety take over.  I’ve never been an anxious person but here dwelling in my list of to do’s I realize how short I fall and I begin to measure myself by those bullet points.  They scream at me “failure” and in that moment I want to throw in the towel and just give up.

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A few weeks ago as the overwhelming anxiety once again began to creep in I was reading the fall section of Ruth’s book.  I turned to that first devotional and read the words:

“God makes us needy that we might find him generous; He allows us to feel to weak to handle all of the details that we might delight in His sovereignty.” *

There it was.  I was needy.  I felt crushed and broken under all of the priorities I’d made for myself and in a moment My forgetful heart was reminded of the One who holds the world together.  She continues later,

“You’re held, not because you can handle it all, but because Jesus can.” *

I can’t handle it all.  I can’t juggle anything really, I’m a terrible juggler, but I don’t have to.  I needed the reminder that I am not measured by how much I can accomplish my Savior has already finished the most important work and He can more than handle these burdens I carry.  They aren’t mine to bear.  I am a finite person with a limited bandwidth but I serve an infinite God.  

Over and over throughout the book Ruth reminds us of who God is because, when we know who He is we can fully understand who we are.  We get real clarity when we look at life through the lens of God’s character.  We see what matters most.  I realized a few weeks ago while lying in bed reading this book that most of the things causing me anxiety were not the most important things and that if God calls us to something He will equip us for it but friends, He is not always calling us to all the things.  There are seasons, life ebbs and flows, so today breath in His grace.  Let Him carry the burdens that feel to heavy for you.  Remember you are not measured by your to do list, likes on Facebook, Instagram, or how outwardly successful you are here. 

You are measured by Christ’s finished work on the cross.

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I would highly recommend Ruth’s book to everyone.  Find it on her website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Christian bookstore.  

P.S.  I also loved that I felt like this book gave me permission to doodle all over it.  Seriously, you need this in your life.  You’ll thank me later 🙂


*All quotes from Gracelaced book by Ruth Chou Simons Copyright 2017

Joy Surrendered. An Easter Recap.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”  – Philippians 3:1

Two weeks ago on Thursday the first of my kids went down with what I thought was a nasty cold.  For five days she had a fever and as she calls it a “seal cough” along with sinus congestion, watery eyes, and a headache.  Finally, on Tuesday afternoon when I took her baby brother in for his physical therapy it looked as if she was through the worst of it.  She still had a little bit of a cough but her fever was down and her eyes looked clearer and brighter.  Then on Wednesday my other son began to cough and my oldest began to get a stuffy nose.  The next morning my oldest woke up with a fever.  Thankfully my son never got anything worse than big green boogers but after 5 days of a 100 degree temp my oldest fever finally broke last night but baby woke up yesterday morning with a fever as well.  So today we went to the doctor and… (drumroll please) my youngest tested positive for influenza A.

This weekend was rough.  Easter, holy week, Resurrection Sunday, which ever you prefer to call it usually conjures up images of daffodils, lilies, sweet little girls and boys in bow ties and hats, egg hunts, and baskets brimming over with candies.  With the exception of the daffodils which randomly sprung up next to our front door that I thought I’d taken care of last fall, and the bag of fun size candy bars my husband brought home Saturday night from the grocery store, our Easter festivities were lack luster this year.  There were no new beautiful Easter outfits, no baskets with chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, and no family pictures (because it never fails EVERY year I forget to take pictures).

It was on Saturday night when my oldest daughter still wasn’t feeling well and probably wasn’t going to feel well the next morning either I realized that we were going to have a problem.  My husband and I were in charge of the Kid’s Easter Program.  We had no back up, no one who knew what was going on if we couldn’t be there.  My husband had picked up groceries for us that afternoon while I took care of all the snotty noses and at about 10 after finishing up the last of our last minute Easter Program preparations I looked at him and asked “OK, where is all the stuff you got for the baskets?”  He looked at me, smiled, then proceeded to throw a small bag of fun sized candy on the table.  “Here.”  I looked at him baffled.  Where was the rest of it.  Where were the chocolate bunnies or crosses, the grass, the sidewalk chalk, crayons, coloring books, or anything that would make these baskets seem special?  Things to make it seem like Mommy and Daddy had put thoughtful love into each one.  Where were the baskets, we didn’t have baskets!  He could tell I was silently freaking out.  “What?” He asked.  I broke the silence and all the inner freak out was unleashed.  Which, unsurprisingly, led into an argument, which ended up leaving both of us angry with each other.  Me, for having a husband who couldn’t possibly understand the importance of the perfect thoughtful more than just candy basket and Him, for having a wife so wrapped up in the materialistic portion of Easter that she was neglecting to focus on what was most important.    I had no baskets, no grass, no sidewalk chalk, or chocolate bunnies.  So I did the only think I could.  I took paper grocery bags folded the sides down to look like baskets and found some left over tissue paper, then I dumped 1/3 of the bag in each “basket.” It was a proud mom moment. I can’t remember where I first heard the saying  “Gratitude turns what we have into enough” but I remember seeing it all over social media a few years ago and as I divvied up the candy I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering those words to my heart.  So then, guilt ridden, I begrudgingly apologized to my husband for unleashing the crazy.  After all what I had was enough wasn’t it?

A couple weeks ago I posted on Instagram about a John MacArthur quote I had read that week.  In the quote he talked about surrendering joy.  Up until that point I always thought of things or people stealing my joy.  I hadn’t ever actually considered that I gave up my joy willfully to lesser things.  But that was the truth of it.  Every day I willfully trade my joy in the Lord for things that are unworthy.  Saturday night was no exception.  Having perfect baskets for the kids as they woke up in the morning may be nice but the truths behind Easter were changeless.  Regardless of whether or not our kids had Easter baskets or grocery bags, Christ died, the final atonement for our sins, and then three days later He rose again, defeating death and therefore giving us eternal life through Him.

It’s funny how we cling to the trivial things and end up surrendering what is most precious.

At approximately 3:30 am my oldest threw up in the toilet and in my sleepy haze all I could think was “Seriously, I have things to do today.”  Not my most spiritual thought for Resurrection Sunday.  In fact, to be honest, I didn’t have many super spiritual moments over Easter this year.  I finished cleaning my daughter up, gave her more medicine, and sent her to bed.  Then I fell asleep trying to figure out all the logistics of that morning with a sick child.

I had signed up for biscuits and gravy and juice for the breakfast our church was serving.  I made those the day before so that was taken care of.  As long as one of us could bring them to the church on time.  But what about the program, my husband was playing guitar, I was leading the kids and had a video presentation I’d designed to go along with the program.  In hindsight I probably could have stayed home and showed him how to show someone to do the presentation.  But the control freak in me wouldn’t allow someone else to handle that.  So we decided to bring my phone, sequester my daughter to solitary confinement somewhere in the church, and let her watch movies.  Because I wasn’t about to be ‘one of those people’ who bring their sick child to church and infects the whole congregation (insert eye roll here).  I may or may not have ranted the previous week about a family who did this and now here I was not only contemplating doing the same thing but actually following through with it.

My focus was on so many of the wrong things that day.  I was sad picking out their Easter outfits the night before because they didn’t have anything new.  They all looked adorable Easter morning and I wish I could say it was me intentionally letting go of unimportant extra’s in order to embrace what is right and good but it wasn’t.  So we all got up late rushed to get ready forgetting the juice in our fridge and bringing our tiny germ factory and my bad attitude into church that morning.   Then not five minutes after we step through the door someone complements my daughter on how cute she was and the first thing she says is “Yeah, I threw up this morning.”  I needed to find a hole to crawl into fast.

The rest of the day was uneventful.  After church we all came home and fell asleep for three hours then my husband took our 3 and 4 year old to Grandma’s for an Easter egg hunt and dinner.  All through service and that afternoon as a perused social media I tried to figure out what was going on in my heart.  This past week was Holy week, we usually observe a Passover meal as a family, we usually have communion at church, it usually felt special.  This week is different, it’s supposed to be different than other weeks.  I’m not supposed to be distracted by my to do list I’m supposed to be reflecting with wonder on the mystery of the gospel, the beauty of redemption.  But instead I was stuck on the couch perusing social media, reading everyone else’s profound posts on Easter.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalms 51.  David had just been called out by the Prophet Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba.  It is a psalm of contrition.  In it he cries out to the Lord to not only purify his heart but restore the joy of his salvation.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
-Psalms 51:10-12

Over and over on Sunday I asked myself the question “Where is my joy in Your salvation?”  Why do all of these other people have it?  Why don’t I feel like I’m supposed to feel?  Then on Monday I began listening to Trillia Newbell’s book enjoy (which I love so far) and I was immediately confronted with the truth behind my problem.  Discontentment and unmet expectations.  Not just in how the whole weekend played out but even in my expectations of how I should feel this weekend.  Friends, let’s just be honest we don’t always feel like we have “the joy of His salvation”  In truth there is nowhere in the Bible that we are told we will always feel like anything.  Joy is commanded not because God wants us to be happy but because it is as Paul says in Philippians “a safeguard for us.”

Joy stands guard over our hearts.  When we choose joy we choose to believe God’s truth over the lies we are fed by our desires, the world, and the enemy of our hearts.   Choosing joy when life gets hard or maybe just exhausting doesn’t mean we slap on smiles and go around acting like everything’s wonderful.  Enjoying life and delighting in the perfect gifts we are given from heaven doesn’t mean life is always delightful.  It just means we live in the reality that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)  and that like Trillia Newbell says  “There’s much to lament about but we can and should enjoy, delight, and rejoice.”

So friends, I hope you all had a blessed Holy week.  There are so many things I’m finding now that I can rejoice in.  Once I got past my desires for a perfect week I’ve found that I’m thankful for warm weather where I can open the windows and Tamiflu.  The beauty of the gospel is that God reached down and pursued our souls while we were still enemies of Him.  I’m incredibly thankful that even in my weakness He pursues me still.

Renew Sermon Journal

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So for the past eight months I’ve been working on something.  It started early last summer with the idea of creating a sheet to help my kids get more out of Sunday morning services.  We had recently moved to a very small church where they needed to sit through service.  Out of the desire to help my children pay attention I created a downloadable sermon notes page in my still water shop.  I was amazed at the response to that little sheet and had a friend ask for something similar but in book form that would last a whole year.  So after carrying that idea around with me for months I’m finally ready to print.  The cost of printing and binding is high so I currently have the books up on my Still Waters Etsy shop available for pre-order.

The Book Includes:

Book includes:
-216 pages to keep your hands and mind engaged during church service.

-Old and New Testament books listed for reference and to keep track of what you’ve studied this year.

-4 maps to fill with color, names, and places for better understanding of where and how things happen in Scripture.

-An original bookmark with instructions on how to use the book and to keep your place throughout the year.

So stop by the Still Waters Shop and purchase your copy of the “Renew Sermon Journal”

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Exciting news here today!  After about 6 months of praying and preparing I am finally opening my second Etsy shop!!!  Still Waters Bible Study Materials will be the part of my business wholly devoted to helping people study the bible!

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I’ve posted a lot on here about my journey through bible memorization.  I just finished memorizing the book of Philippians.  Last year I did James and it changed the way I think about bible study.  You can find my thoughts on that here.  It’s taken me MUCH longer to get through Philippians even though it is a slightly smaller book.  Over the last year and a half the Lord has been planting seeds in my heart to try and help other people memorize the Word of God as well.  Last year I released my first scripture memory pack of James.  It has been discontinued in my main shop and a new updated version is now available on Still Waters but the vision for this part of my business is much bigger than just Bible Memorization.

Early this spring I read Jen Wilkin’s Book Women of the Word.  I would highly recommend it.  Her heart, like mine, is to encourage women to Bible literacy.  In our social media christian conference culture we have all kinds of devotionals and books at our fingertips.  Don’t get me wrong many of them are wonderful but my fear is that as believers we soak up so much of other peoples opinions about the bible we (myself included) often neglect to search out the scriptures for ourselves.

In the book of Deuteronomy God is commanding His people Israel concerning His word.

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. 22 For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,”

-Deuteronomy 11:18-22

Like Israel we are to treasure the commandments and words in scripture that God has given us.  It is my hope that the tools I provide might be an encouragement and help to accomplish this.

I hope you can visit the shop today and check out some of our new resources.

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WORTHYBANNER

This word.  Worthy.  The question of what it actually means to be worthy has been playing over and over in my mind all week and just like many other questions the answer usually depends on who you ask.  So naturally I asked google.  “What is the definition of Worthy?”

worthy

adjective wor·thy \ˈwər-thē\

Simple Definition of worthy

  • : good and deserving respect, praise, or attention

  • : having enough good qualities to be considered important, useful, etc

There it is, good, deserving respect, considered important, useful…so who decides that?  Who decides what is good?  Well, let’s think about our options.  If my worthiness depends on the culture than it will change depending on what society values at the time.  If my circumstances, family, and environment determine my value then all of these things are outside of my control and there is nothing I can do to affect how worthy I am.  If it is my actions that are the determining factor  than what decides which actions are “good” and which are not.  Is it even possible to know what my worth is?  A simple answer, yes.  Your value, my value, anyone’s worthiness really doesn’t depend on us.  It depends on something far greater than us.

When we look at the world around us we see hate, bigotry, natural disasters, death, homelessness, starvation, childlessness, the shear magnitude of evil around us can be overwhelming and when we compare ourselves to that we seem like we’ve got things pretty well in hand.  Compared to everything that’s happening in the world I’d say my life looks pretty good, but let’s take a minute and separate ourselves from the fallen conditions around us.  Let’s just look at us… or no, me, my own heart,  lets look at that because my worthiness does not depend on what’s happening in the world, it depends on what’s happening in my heart and when I look at that I see everything in a different light.  In my heart there is pride, jealousy, and hate, just to name a few off the top of my head.  Now, I’ve never killed anyone and overall I’ve done some OK things in my life so with that in mind I’d say I am a pretty good person overall.  I have some bad things but hey who doesn’t.  I’m still good enough, that doesn’t make me unworthy, or does it?

Well that depends.  If there’s no standard of what is good or bad, right or wrong, than absolutely!  Live however you want because ultimately it really doesn’t matter, except that it does.  There are standards.  The bible clearly lists standards that we are supposed to attain to.  They lay out the perfect life, how to live without sin.  The only problem is this: No one qualifies (Romans 3:10).  What does this mean?  It means we are lost.  We are a people without hope struggling in vain to be good and attain a standard which in the end is like treading a stormy sea.  We are cold, wet, exhausted, and alone.  We feel as if the strength in our body is failing and soon the sea will overtake us.  Only to our surprise someone has thrown out a life preserver.  There is one who is worthy.  One who has managed to rise above temptation and the evil that surrounds us to live perfectly.  God came down in human flesh to be one of us.  It was His plan all along.  He saw His creation, humanity, and knew we would never be able to attain to this standard, but the standard could not be changed.  God is not only perfectly good but He is perfectly just.  He must judge sin and He is holy so he cannot be near sin.  In order for God to be Holy and still be able to love His creation, to draw near to His people, than payment must be made, the sin had to be atoned for.  His solution, to leave the glory of Heaven and be Emmanuel “God with us.”  He lived perfectly so that in the end He would be the final sacrifice, the perfect lamb to offer as payment for the sins of a dying world.

Today, my friends, is Good Friday.  The day we look back and clearly see the death of a man who committed no crimes, the sinless Son of God “who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  He is what makes us worthy because He is worthy.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

Revelation 5:12b

Can I just be honest for a moment friends?  I really think part of our problem as a culture especially as believers in our culture is that we focus way to much attention 0n this question, our own worthiness.  We remind ourselves constantly that we are enough, we are beautiful, and worthy.  We buy prints, mugs, t-shirts, and books that tell us what we need to feel better about ourselves.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love many of those prints, mugs, t-shirts, and books.  Hey, I even sell some of them, but I think many times our focus is wrong because it is on ourselves.  In the end what makes us confident is not our own self-worth but how much value we find in our Creator.

“for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,”

Philippians 3:3

So today sisters let’s remember the One who is worthy.

New Lock Screen Download

Hi friends!

I thought it might be fun as this Passion week as Easter approaches to have a my own little downloadable egg in your grown up basket.  So here is a free lock screen for you phone or other mobile device.  Happy Easter Everyone!

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Looking Back

“Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.”

Proverbs 8:34

Listen.  Last year around this time I was racking my brain for a word for 2015.  It was the thing to do.  Instagram was a buzz with people picking words for the year.  Big profound post were written, images were curated, and as usual people were ready to start 2015 fresh.  It’s always exciting beginning a new year and ending an old one.  There have been years I don’t want to end and years I’ve wept with joy at the opportunity to start over, to forget what was and move forward.  Not to be outdone by all of this “word of the year” stuff I decided to seek the Lord out and see what He wanted me to learn in 2015.  I was expecting something profound,  beautiful, and original.  Something that would deeply impact peoples hearts and get lots of heart eyed emojis!  Instead the word that kept popping up into my head over that week was Listen.  I remember thinking “Listen Lord?  Really?”  Instantly a few of the really beautiful posts I had read recently popped up into my head.  This wasn’t like those.   This was simple, straight forward, something most people already know they’re supposed to do.  This wasn’t at all what I had in mind.  So naturally I tried to think of something else.

It wasn’t that I really minded the word it was just I was sure I could think of something better but as usual I was wrong.  It’s silly really.  Nobody needs a word to sum up their hopes and expectations for the year ahead.  I didn’t need to compete with all of those wonderful people I followed who were deep and profound.  I’m just not.  I try, oh boy do I try, but great expositions on scripture and incredible fresh insights from the Word of God just don’t flow from these fingers.  I’m simple.  I used to think it was a bad thing to be simple.   I used to think that in order to be effective I had to always have the right words (which seldom happens).  I thought I needed to be relevant and fresh.  That if I could only think and write like many of the authors, bloggers, and IG posters I follow then I could finally touch peoples lives and encourage their hearts.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (see Psalm 139:14).  I believe that God uses simple, humble, even foolish things to confound the wise (see 1 Corinthians 1:27).  That He knows the depths of hearts, He understands our needs in a way no one else does, and the really foolish thing is to pretend like I know better than He does.

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So, long story short, I chose the word Listen.  I decided to give up on my plans and go with God’s and am incredibly thankful I did.  The word listen this year was a constant reminder especially when I was struggling.  God brought that word to mind and then led me to His word.  He helped me to remember that true wisdom is from Him and when I am stuck in a hopeless situation, when I feel deserted, the word of God is like water for my soul.  I needed that reminder.

This year was not easy.  I am glad for the opportunity to start fresh but I am also thankful for all of the things God taught me.  If it wasn’t for His encouragement to listen I would have never thought I could memorize an entire book of the bible and yet through Him I did.  I memorized the book of James and am half way through the book of Philippians.  I understand now the importance of carrying the word of God in our hearts.  Many of the verses I memorized just “happened” to be exactly what I needed that day.  This year God helped me to see past my own foolish pride and begin to think like He does.  I am not special, I am broken, forgetful, and oblivious.  But God is good and He fills up and heals my own brokenness.  He reminds me of His truth if I am only willing to listen.

Reflections on James

01da9787ce0be21857595525d95bd4f868a17235a2Six months ago I wrote my last blog post. I informed you all that I was going to attempt to memorize the book of James and about four weeks ago I memorized my last verse, James 5:20.

I’ve spent the last four weeks doing some small devotionals and going over the whole book out loud and in my head over and over just making sure I remember it all. The last six months have not been easy. Memorizing scripture is most definitely a discipline, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding.

I’d like to preface all of this by saying I have a terrible memory, I am normally completely oblivious to what’s going on around me, and I am terribly unorganized and undisciplined. All of these things make really good excuses not to memorize. Frankly, I’m just not good at it. But God has shown me over the first half of this year that writing His words on the tablet of my heart has less to do with my personal strengths and weaknesses, and more to do with cultivating an appetite for scripture. I need to be hungry for the Word of God.

That hunger doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes, most times for me, it comes from consistently (daily) reading the Word. The more I read, the more I want to read, the more I want to read, the more I learn to lean in to God and depend on what He says. The Bible is not just another book in our library. It’s the living word of the only God who loves us deeply. It’s His love letter to us. Each word is incredibly important and is meant to be treasured and remembered.

My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.
Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 7:1-3

I’m not going to lie memorizing this book was tough for me. There have been days I got so caught up in my to do list or the drama going on at home that I completely forgot to even glance at my verses and because I had replaced my daily devotion time with just scripture memory that meant on those days I got nothing! Which for me is a big deal! It’s funny because I actually found that it took more self discipline to focus on a single verse than it did for a passage. It forced me to sit still and just think about one thing instead of continuing to read and moving from one idea to the next. Which for this ADD momma was hard! I am so used to going and going being still with the Lord with only one or maybe two verses took work!

Even though my journey through the book of James was far from perfect I wouldn’t change it for the world. Learning each verse in its context helped me understand the book in a way I wouldn’t have if I simply read through it in a couple days. I now know that He is writing primarily to Jewish believers and I understand more deeply popular verses that are quoted a lot like “faith without works is dead” and “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Because I know what else he was saying. Memorizing single verses of scripture kind of reminds me of a nightlight in a dark room. It’s good to have, helps us to get around, it lets us know a little about what’s in the room, but we can’t really see the room until we turn on the light. That’s what happened when I began to finish chapters in James. It was like lights were being turned on throughout the room one chapter at a time.

Though understanding James better was wonderful it certainly wasn’t my favorite part of the process. The best part of spending all of my devotions memorizing was that in my darkest moments God used what I had memorized to minister to my heart. When I was angry, or hurting, or being completely selfish the verses I was studying would pop up, even when I didn’t want them to, but almost always exactly when I needed them.

Studying the bible in this way helped me remember what the bible means when it says;

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited about scripture than I am when I’m memorizing. Now that doesn’t mean I’m endorsing memorizing just for memorizing’s sake. There are a lot of people that know a lot of the bible by heart but don’t let their hearts be affected by it. I want to be clear. It’s not enough just to remember what verses say. We need to understand them and believe them. Deep study of the word is vitally important and without saving faith in Jesus Christ neither memorizing or studying scripture will earn you salvation. The only way to be right with God saved from an eternity in Hell is through grace by faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus. These last six months have been an incredible blessing. I’ve loved memorizing James so much now I’m chomping at the bit to figure out which book or section of scripture I’ll do next! If any of you would like to memorize James and could use some helpful tools I have downloadable scripture memory kits now available in my etsy shop. Complete with printable memory cards and scripture artwork!

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