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

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.

Abiding Day 16

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I was struck by the truth yesterday that abiding in love is abiding in God because God is love.  So I wish I would have thought of this earlier in the month but there will be days (like today) that I simply have a verse.  Something to meditate on because meditating on God’s truth is part of daily abiding.

Today’s verse is from 1 Peter.

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren,
fervently love one another from the heart.”
1 Peter 1:22

So spend some time with your Savior today.  Dig deep into scripture and find out what it means to purify your soul and be obedient to the truth.

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Love and Fear

Last week I wrote that this 31 day challenge was harder than I thought.  I never imagined just writing once a day for 31 days could be so difficult.  It has stretched me in a lot of ways and the last four days have been especially difficult. I spent a wonderful weekend out of state with my family and unfortunately got sick.  I’m just beginning to get over it and with quite a few orders and homeschooling I’ve been swamped to say the least.  I made the decision when starting this small business that my family would always be my first priority.  This week has tested that and I’ve tried to focus on getting well and taking care of things on the home front.  But that has meant the blog was pushed aside for a few days.  So, here I am again attempting to finish well.

For the last few weeks Ebola has been in the headlines.  The news today of the latest patient, a nurse, has really hit home because where she traveled in Ohio was not to far from my family.  A virus can be a terrifying thing.  It isn’t something we can cure or control.  It’s easy to let the fear immobilize us.  So today I chose to focus on truth.  The truth that we serve a Heavenly Father who cares for us.  That He is in control of all things and this did not take Him by surprise.  He loves my family more than I do and I can trust Him with not only my life but also my husband’s and the lives of our children.  He is good in every circumstance and He has a plan.

When I meditate on what is true it helps put that fear into perspective.  This month my focus is on abiding in love.  1 John 4 talks about abiding, love, and fear.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another,
God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us,
because He has given us of His Spirit.

14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God,
God abides in him, and he in God.

16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.
God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment;
because as He is, so also are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

1 John 4:11-18

We have nothing to fear.  We are His and He “abides” in us.  The very thought of this gives me chills.  The God of the universe abides in me.  And I do not have to be afraid.  Instead of focusing on the fear of this so called “oubreak” maybe we should focus on what this means for us as believers who abide with the Heavenly Father, because abiding in love means abiding with Him.

As believers this virus should be a wake up call for us.  No one lives forever and all being diagnosed with a terminal illness does is take away the illusion that we control our lives, we don’t, no one does.  Eventually everyone will die and face judgement.  Thankfully as believers we can have “confidence in the day of judgement.”  There are many others however who don’t have that confidence.  In light of this epidemic I pray that we would not cower in fear but instead stand up as witnesses of real love and hope because we were sent to “testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”  Through Him they can have confidence.  There is no more noble or loving thing to do for someone than to show them a means to salvation.

So don’t be afraid any longer.  I believe fear is a tool of our enemy.  Instead be reminded of what the Lord told Joshua, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

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