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.

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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

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.

This year I’m Not Studying the Bible

“Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
Psalm 30:5

Like that title?  Yep, you read it right.  This year I’m not going to do devotionals or bible study.  I had planned on reading through the bible in a year but I am tired of reading through passages of scripture superficially.  I no longer want to just read my devotional each day and forget what I read after I close my bible so this year I’m going to do something a little bit different.  Each year in January we all make resolutions, choose words, make goals.  Last year my goal was to keep a bible journal for one year.  It’s one of the few resolutions I made that I actually kept and it changed the way I studied the bible. It forced me to reflect on the words I was reading.  This year I’m going to do something else and I’m asking you to join me if you like.

Late in December I was thinking about words, one word specifically, I was trying to think of a word I would use for 2015.  The holidays are always crazy and when you are a homeschooling mom trying to run a small business sometimes life feels like absolute chaos.  So, after a month of craziness I decided that it was necessary to slow down and see what God wanted for me in 2015.  After trying to think of something profound like all the other people I follow in the social media scene I decided that I would forfeit my own self righteousness and pride and just pray, read my bible, and see what the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart.  After lots of thought the word I came up with was listen, real profound right?  It’s something I’m terrible at, really good at talking, not so good at listening.  This year I’ve decided to commit my time to really listen to God and His Word.  Then last week I was listening to Janet Pope on Revive our Hearts with Nancy Leigh Demoss, find the programs here (I highly recommend listening to all three).  I was sitting in the car running errands, like a chicken with my head cut off per the usual, and I was stopped dead in my tracks by these words:

Janet: Well, if I might share this story. I want to share it in the most loving way that I possibly can. Recently, I was teaching a conference to a small group of women, a group of friends. They actually call themselves “The Bible Girls.” I’ve been speaking to them for the last three years.

On the final night of the conference, one of the girls said in front of the group, “My problem is, I’m just not disciplined.”

And I said, “Penny, can I say this to you in the most loving way? And I mean it with all my heart. What if I said to you, ‘You’re so disciplined in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. You rarely miss a day.'”

Nancy: Most of us could say that.

Janet: But you would say, “No, it’s not discipline. I’m hungry.” And so I would say to you, it’s not that you are lacking discipline. It’s that you are not hungry.

And in that moment God gave her a teachable heart, and she said, “You’re right. Thank you.” And so what we all decided as a group was that our prayer would not be “God make me disciplined,” it would be “God make me hungry. Make me so hungry for God’s Word that discipline is not the issue.” 

-Courtesy of Revive Our Hearts

That was me, not undisciplined, just not hungry.  So I decided that I was going to change that.  For the last few weeks I’ve had a verse from James running through my head.  I’m not sure why but it just kept popping into my head;

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  -James 1:22

So I read through the book of James and it resonated with my heart so deeply I decided this was it.  This was what I was going to do this year.  I’m going to let scripture permeate my life and memorize a whole book of the bible!  I’ve done chapters and verses but I have yet to do anything like this and at first It was daunting and then I broke it down.  There are one hundred and eight verses in the book of James if I started today and memorized one verse a day I could have the whole book memorized by May 5th.  Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen.  It might take longer (it probably will) but if I want to live out God’s word in my life what better way than to fill my heart with His words.  Not the voices of great christian authors (even though I like those) but the real words of the living God.  His truth.

So far I’ve memorized the first 8 verses.  It has been a challenge but a blessing.  What has worked for me is as soon as I wake up I either look up the verse on my phone or in my bible then I write it in my bible journal.  Writing things down always seems to help impress it in my mind.  Then I just repeat that verse throughout the day, alone and in context with the other verses I’ve memorized.  Whatever I’m doing whether it brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, driving around, it only takes a minute to repeat a couple words and if I don’t remember I just check my journal.  01ac071d9ca01b40f3bc9cf844d34aa22d1eee3313

This practice over the last week has really changed my heart.  Instead of just spending 10,15, or even 30 minutes in God’s word each day I am thinking about it all day.  I would love to have a group of people come alongside and memorize with me so at the bottom of this post is a downloadable .pdf with instructions and a checklist of verses.  So you can keep track of your progress.  There are two tracks on the sheet.  The fast track is one verse a day for those of us who really want to just focus on memorizing James but if you would like to continue your normal bible study routine and memorize you can do one verse every three days.  This way the memorization doesn’t interfere with your studying.  I can’t wait for you to join in this journey with me!

MemorizeJames1yr

Giving Tuesday

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This year in an attempt to fight the tide of mass materialism that unfortunately comes with this time of year someone had the idea to name today Giving Tuesday and use it to focus on donating our hard earned money to people and organizations who need it. After all we have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday so why not have a day designed to make us think about what we can give instead of what we can get. I personally think it’s brilliant.

To help you in your search for credible organizations you can donate to I’ve made a list to make it easy! Now I realize there are a lot of us who won’t be able to make a large donation today. I’ve been there, behind on the bills, not knowing where your next check will come from, $800 overdrawn, little bitty mouths to feed, no savings, and it feels like your suffocating. But something I’ve learned in the lean moments of life is that even if I have nothing financially to give there are almost always other ways to give. Giving doesn’t necessarily have to be money. It can be so much more. As Americans we almost always give out of our abundance. Which isn’t bad. God has blessed us so much. But we shouldn’t only give when we have. Sometimes like the Widow in Luke 21 we give out of our poverty. We give when we feel like we don’t have anything to give because that’s how Jesus gave. When our schedules are full and we have no extra time but we give it anyway. When we just bought something we really wanted and we see someone who actually needs it. When we are depressed, grieving, heart broken and encourage others even when we feel broken and weary. This, sacrificial giving, this is what true giving is.

So even if you can’t give money to one of the organizations on this list give something today.

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
-Matthew 25:40b

Organizations:

Samaritans Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/donation-items/where-most-needed/

Show Hope
http://showhope.org/give-hope/donate/#donate

Bible League International
http://www.bibleleague.org/

Women’s Rights without Frontiers
http://www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/

Compassion International
http://www.compassion.com/

Voice of the Martyrs
https://secure.persecution.com/projects_feature.aspx?categoryID=72&source=WEB

Upendo Home Kenya
igg.me/at/upendohomekenya

EKUBO Ministries
http://compassinmyheart.blogspot.com/

Businesses Where Your Purchase Gives:

Noonday Collection
http://www.noondaycollection.com/

Beautiful and Beloved
http://www.beautifulandbeloved.com/

Project Hazina
http://www.projecthazina.com/

Go Shout Love
http://www.goshoutlove.com/

She Does Justice
http://www.shedoesjustice.com/

Better Life Bags
http://www.betterlifebags.com/

And of course us! 50% of each purchase goes to the ministry listed here!

Grace in Love

So yesterday I did not post. I failed the challenge. I didn’t forget. I had one of those “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” kind of day. You know the kind of day that nothing seems to go the way you plan. Pretty much everything went wrong most of the day and when I finally had a chance to sit and write a post which was at about 11:15 last night I decided to sleep instead. It’s amazing though, because while on the surface the day appeared bad God broke through, as He usually does, and revealed His boundless grace.

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I try to keep my feed positive and mostly work related but today has been a battle. Homeschooling was ridiculous this morning and I experienced possibly one of the worst grocery shopping trips of my life this afternoon… After changing back into sweatpants when I got home (I had basically given up at this point) I went to pour myself coffee and noticed my mug from the lovely @pnzdesigns . Grace, that was exactly what I needed. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9‬ ESV) #grace #HisGraceIsSufficient #bestmugever

A post shared by Cassandra Zook (@elroi.artistry) on

I was reminded yesterday, in the midst of everything, on my fifth cup of coffee, of grace. The definition of grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.” (Oxford Dictionaries, Bing) I remembered how short I had been with my daughter when we were doing her school that morning. I thought about how I had pushed and pushed when I was trying to get things done that afternoon and how defeated and angry I had been at the grocery store. My poor kids. I had been complaining and storing up these self-centered emotions completely absorbed with what was happening to me.

In those moments God reminded me of my weakness. This month I am writing on love and yesterday I neglected to show love to the little people that mean the most to me. I wasn’t hateful but I definitely wasn’t loving. I forgot about grace. I forgot that as a parent my kids see Christ in me. I’m shaping their view of love! One of the most beautiful aspects of God’s love is that it is undeserved. It doesn’t matter what my kids did yesterday. Showing God’s love in the midst of disobedience is so important. I wasn’t calm by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t think through my words and my actions. I was controlled by my circumstances and not by the Spirit. In my brokenness God always shows me grace and I was unwilling to do that with my children.

I love 2 Corinthians 2:9:

“But He said to me,
‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I’m incredibly thankful that God can use my weakness for His glory. Today if I can encourage you in anything show grace. People need to know that our love is not contingent on the things they do. We are Christ followers and that means by His grace we can love like no one else and through that love we can lead others into a relationship that will literally change their lives forever.

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