Thursday, November 29, 2018

Keep Choosing to Believe

How long is too long to wait? A year isn’t long, it seems like only yesterday I typed this post about my word for the year.

God gave me a word - restore.

It felt like honey on my lips.

It felt like a promise in my heart.

It felt like encouragement to my weary soul.

I’m still waiting, still clinging, still hoping.

And, there was this:

“He has also given me another word, a word I have not yet uttered out loud to anyone. It is the rope I'm clinging to. It's a word, so endearing, so full of promise my heart can't yet believe that He said it to me, but it's only January.”

After hitting publish on that post I had an appointment with a woman I had never met and you know what? She spoke the word, she said, “God is going to rescue you.” I sat in awe and silence as she uttered the word I was not yet ready to.

It was only January, now it’s almost December and I'm still waiting. There's an eerie, deafening, silence so palpable it feels like it could crush me.

I hold out hope because it’s only November and He is an on time God, a faithful God.

I listened to Annie F. Downs’ Remember God audiobook and as soon as Kevin Queen started with the intro I knew it was going to be water to my weary soul.

I sobbed at the end of the book because my heart grabbed hold of Annie's year-long wait and her rescue just after the new year and it swelled with hope for my word, the same God to come through for me.

This year my life has looked more like peril than rescue, and I'm a little worse for the wear. Some days I look and feel trampled by life, but I am still hoping in His Word. 

It’s my story today (and I’m sticking to it).

If you haven’t checked out my #supershortstories on Facebook you should. They are four line stories, I publish every day for fun and encouragement.
Once upon a time
They were happy to see me
Because I hoped in His word
THE END #supershortstories
In Remember God Annie is painfully transparent about her year of waiting and believing. I relate to her struggle. I wrestle with fear and hope daily, sometimes momentarily. I question if this word is nothing but my fabricated desire and He never really had any intention to restore or rescue me. My past is also quick to remind me that when someone makes a promise they won’t come through.
"My expectations mix with my fears, and my past failures mix with this life I can build in my mind's eye, and I'm just so scared to hope. I'm so terrifed to picture joy and good things coming from that word when getting let down has become my normal." Annie F. Downs
But His Word is always true! Truth is who He is and restore is what He does, or should I say what He did on the cross?

I have a choice!

It’s simple and complicated all at the same time. It's my choice to believe or not. With my mouth, I say “I believe” - my heart is slower to catch up. I will keep choosing. 

Every time fear says, “He isn’t going to show up, just like so and so.”

Every time my circumstances feel like a piano dropped on me from an 11th-floor apartment.

Every time I want to hide, run and pretend I didn’t hear it.

I will choose to believe.

I will choose to trust.

I will choose to love God.

Because love believes the best and God always believes the best about me.

God isn't waiting so He can punish or taunt me. He is waiting for the perfect time and perfect way to rescue me. Only He knows how that is going to happen. He knows the way that best speaks to my heart. And from what I know of Him there will be growth and healing on the other side. That is a little hard to say right now and a little harder to type, but experience tells me so. He. Will. Come. Through. When all is said and done I will be different and I will be better for having gone through it.

For now, I just keep choosing to believe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Letting You in on a Little Secret

Months ago when I began my intentional creative ministry journey I felt guilty for staying in my studio or painting all day. The Lord was gracious and told me that this was part of my preparation. So, when I heard that artists should be in the studio every day I was ready to put it into practice.

For over a month I have been in my studio every day, sometimes just to straighten up, but in there.

My studio is in my home, which is good and bad. Good because it’s always accessible and conveniently located, but bad because I can get too caught up in the studio and neglect the house or vice versa.

During my creative times, I have been giving myself permission to be freer. To experiment, to not overthink things. Just get something on paper, canvas or whatever I may be using at the moment. I have also let myself “just create” - not for Pinterest, Facebook or even anybody else’s viewing, somethings I just keep to myself. That was a huge revelation for me.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep. - Scott Adams
I'm creating my second play journal, I mentioned the first one last month and since then, I am really allowing myself to just play and have fun. It is such a relief!

When I talk about creating every day I’m usually talking about something artistic, but there are different forms. What are you creating? In your everyday world, whether at home, in an office, a school or other arena? Created things have the power to give life. So, if you are creating a beautiful space for your family to relax, or a more pleasant work environment or sitting with the new kid, you are giving life.

If you haven't started yet, it's okay. Is there something you have wanted to try? A new meal plan, a filing system or a new friend group, just do it. Give yourself the freedom to try and fail. The freedom to play. The freedom to not have it all figured out before you start. The freedom to create.

Giving myself permission to be imperfect, to be who I was called to be has changed me in ways I never imagined. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom, but I had to receive it. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Creative Collective

If you have been around for any length of time you know my passion for creativity. The last several months I have been launching my creative ministry center, Artistry 61. I have been holding classes in my home studio since July and plan to teach in other locations soon.

Our mission is to:

CULTIVATE a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in an atmosphere of freedom and healing
CREATE meaningful and healing art that will awaken gifts, dreams, and talents
CONNECT people to the Father and others through art classes and personal prayer

We have started a Facebook group called Artistry 61's - Creative Collective where creatives can communicate, share and encourage one another. If you'd like to join click on the link below or share with your friends.

Saturday I graduated from Bethesda Coaches Association's Life Coaching Certification program. I'm excited to see how the Lord will use that piece for the creative ministry center.

Thank you for your faithfulness to read Redemption's Champion and support my creative endeavors.
Artistry 61's - Creative Collective
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The Creative Collective is a place where we can share ideas, get feedback and constructive criticism and offer encouragement for each other's creative...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Relief is not Redemption

Often I’ve sought relief, reprieve if you will, from uncomfortable circumstances. Having dealt with difficult circumstances for long periods of time, I just wanted out. Make the pain, fighting, discomfort, etc. stop. Just a moment seemed like a welcomed escape.

It always worked, temporarily.

Relief, it was my drug of choice in my 20s, do anything necessary to get a respite. It felt good momentarily, but whatever I was escaping was always there when I returned from my temporary sabbatical.

As a maturing adult, I’m learning that emotions, situations and difficult circumstances are really gifts. A present, to be present. To address issues that need to be dealt with, strengthen my endurance and grow through difficult circumstances. Dare I say even make me more like Christ.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

As a forty-something I can honestly report, I don’t often seek relief in these short-lived ways. I still deal with the temptation of wanting out, wanting instant gratification and freedom from feeling or experiencing pain of any kind.

But relief is not freedom, it’s a counterfeit.

Perpetually seeking relief kept me from growing, maturing and experiencing any real or lasting joy. It stunted my growth.

Those who sow with tears    will reap with songs of joy.Those who go out weeping,    carrying seed to sow,will return with songs of joy,    carrying sheaves with them. Psalms 126:5-6

I was anti-pain, so relief was my go to, but I’ve learned you must experience all emotion for lasting health, change and joy. Seeking relief kept me imprisoned.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ― Brene Brown

Relief kept me from having to be vulnerable with others or myself and produced no fruit, no love. Fear kept me running from solutions, but I found the courage to deal with fear head-on.

We can't let temporary solutions keep us from lasting joy. Redemption is ours, but we must be present to receive the prize. Only in running toward the solution, no matter how scary, can we discover truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Redemption is at the heart of everything I do, so I can no longer seek relief. If He is to be glorified in my life I need to allow Him to do His perfect work in me and seeking relief allows no room for that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

We Must Emerge

As I put the finishing touches on a commissioned piece of artwork a question popped into my mind, “Do butterflies eat the same things as caterpillars?”

The artwork was a gift for someone I had never met. I knew two things about her, she liked butterflies and the book of Isaiah. I scoured the book of Isaiah for the scripture that the Lord highlighted to me for her. By the time I had printed the scriptures and collaged them onto the canvas I was near tears, moved by His heart for this woman I didn’t know. There was promise and hope and vision for a future calling.

What was all this about? The artwork, the question?

The first thing that came to mind for the butterfly when I was asked to do this piece was a keyhole for the body. Interesting, right?

Then a scripture came to me, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3

Searching on Google did not provide the answers I was looking for, so I called our local butterfly center. I spoke to Jennifer, at Callaway Gardens Day Butterfly Center. I asked her if butterflies and caterpillars eat the same things and she was more than happy to share her knowledge with me.

Jennifer explained that butterflies lay eggs on host plants, the plant variety depends on the type of butterfly. The caterpillar then hatches on that plant and that’s what it eats. The caterpillar finds a tree, or wall or something similar and forms a chrysalis and the butterfly emerges and the cycle starts over again. While a caterpillar eats host plants, a butterfly drinks nectar. 

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14
The Lord was teaching me something through all of this. I have to fully leave behind what I did in a previous season when I enter a new one. I can’t create the same, write the same or behave the same. I have transformed or “emerged!”

When the gift was received the recipient said, “every word, every scripture, the art have no idea how spot on all of it was!” Even the name of her new ministry fit with the keyhole! I was in awe! 

This is the art titled "SOAR" that led to this post
I created this piece completely relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me and He showed up in a big way. Ministering just what this woman needed. In a prior season or “stage” I might have consulted my client for more details. I even resisted the urge to send her progress pictures. I had grown from that stage, I no longer was eating a host plant (relying on others input), I was drinking nectar straight from the flower (being led by the Holy Spirit.)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
I am grateful for lessons in the midst of creating, art has been a powerful teacher.

It reminds me of a podcast I listened to, Art & Faith Conversations with Libby John when she interviewed artist and worship leader Aeron Brown. He shared part of his creative journey when he created collages with his deceased father’s memorabilia and pictures. He came to a point when he could no longer create from that place. He said, “I found out in my 20s that that led me to burnout and grieving and depression.” He had emerged.

We are all familiar with the term "tortured artist." Could it be that the stereotypical "tortured artist" is simply an artist that has not emerged? Someone who has not moved past the host plant to drink nectar? Someone who has been made whole, but still lives as if they are broken?

Artists create from deep places, places of joy and places of sorrow. The temptation is to stay in the place where the creativity is flowing, but there is always more, always healing. When God heals us, artist or not, we need to move on from that place and consume a new diet. We Must Emerge!
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,... Hebrews 6:1

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Treasures in Darkness

Growing up I looked for treasure. Things were dark in my world, so I searched for light, not even sure what I was looking for. I was always hopeful but kept hitting brick walls. The darkness remained and eventually led to days, weeks and even months of depression. Years of counseling and medication and talking about the same things over and over again.

By the grace of God, a suicide attempt at the age of 22 did not take my life. It was the turning point that began my journey toward healing and redemption. I had no idea what any of that meant at the time, but I was seeking something different or better then what I was experiencing.

I found God.

Turns out, He had been patiently waiting for me. Never moving or wavering. Waiting for me to come to Him - sure that I would.

Even after finding Him and developing an intimate relationship I still struggled. Old patterns and ways of thinking got me into some of the same situations as an adult and the more I learned about God the more that way of life became intolerable.

He healed me in dramatic and miraculous ways and eventually I was off all medication and no longer in counseling. It was a whole new life for me, the life I had truly always believed in and dreamed about.

Years later I found myself as a single mom of four children nine and under with a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s when I got serious! Serious about conversations with the Lord. It was also the time I began asking Him to not let me miss anything He was doing.

He answered that prayer!

In the midst of the struggle and emotion, I could see and feel Him all around me. I began to rediscover things about myself and began to truly love myself for who He created me to be instead of who I thought I should be. Even my kids noticed. They would remark on how our life was changing as God was blessing us.

I remembered my favorite flower and things that had made me come alive as a child. In some ways, it was like meeting myself for the first time.

Last year I took my kids to see my childhood home in Atlanta and it looks like a different house. If the number weren’t on the mailbox I wouldn’t know it was the same place. Pretty symbolic if you ask me. As we drove out of the neighborhood I saw some trees to my right and I turned to get a closer look. This is what I found.

I was in awe of these trees. I didn't even know what kind they were, but I had never seen anything like it. Someone had made a little pathway and installed a doggie bag box and made a little park out of this area next to the entrance of the subdivision.

Recently as I looked at these pictures, I realized those trees were always there, they were just hidden. In the struggle and chaos of my childhood, there was beauty, I just hadn’t seen it. Sometimes life can be like that because of circumstances and we focus so much on the bad that we miss the good. But God promises in His word to give us “the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” Isaiah 45:3

I have never been more sure that He is absolutely who He says He is.

And not only does He give treasures in darkness, but He heals too. That diagnosis, rheumatoid arthritis, it’s a thing of the past. It no longer exists in my body and believe me those doctors keep checking and the results are the same - negative. I believed Him when He said He’d restore the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). He healed my body and my mind and gave me “hidden riches of secret places” and come to find out some of the places were within walking distance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Impact Your Story Makes

We often talk about doctrine in regards to a church or a denomination, but it is simply “teaching” - something we’ve learned about a particular subject or topic. Church doctrine is usually formal, written down, taught and preached, where personal doctrine I believe is more experiential. I am continually impressed by the power of our own personal experiences with Christ and how they impact others lives.

If I’ve ever had a divine appointment it was three weeks ago in North Carolina. A friend and I were at the firepit after our evening session and there was a couple in front of us. My friend asked them if they were there for a conference, they answered excitedly, “Yes, a marriage conference.” They told us they had seen a comedian that night, but couldn’t remember his name. They pulled out their program and I asked if I could see it. That’s where I saw her, a long lost acquaintance. I remembered how fond we were of each other so long ago, but hadn’t had any contact for seven years.

I thought to myself, “If she is here in North Carolina at the same retreat facility, I need to see her.” I pulled out a business card and asked the couple if they would give it to her and tell her I’d love to see her.

The next day I received her animated text. She said, “I’m freaking out that you are here. We have got to meet up.” We agreed to meet after our evening sessions ended.

I knocked on her hotel room door and the first words out of her mouth were, “Wait till I tell you what God did through you!” I cocked my head a little not sure what to think of her statement.

We made our way to a sitting area next to her hotel room. Another couple walked by and she pulled them into the space and said, “Look at her face! Because tomorrow I am going to tell you a story about her and I need you to see her face.” Again, I wasn’t sure about all the excitement.

We finally sat on the couch and she brought me up to date on her life. She had received a diagnosis and had been in extreme pain for four years. She said every time she had wanted to give up she saw my face telling her not to do it. I asked if she knew my story? She said I had told her at a retreat. At that moment the impact of sharing my story hit me. God used my story, His redemption to save her and I didn’t even have to be there.

Walking to her hotel room I that night I was hit with anxiety because I had been divorced since I’d seen her last and felt a little ashamed, after all, she was here teaching a marriage conference. But, I didn’t let that stop me. I knew enough of her to remember her love and knew enough of God that if we found each other at a conference center states away from our homes He had orchestrated it.

Then yesterday a friend posted this verse:
So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. Luke 1:1-4 The Message
In the Amplified version it says, "so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught [that is, the history and doctrine of the faith]."

Our stories matter!

Our "doctrine" matters!

I don’t know why I told her that part of my story at that retreat, I honestly don’t remember telling it, but God! He knew she needed to hear it and I’m glad I was faithful to tell it. My story impacted her repeatedly years later, to God be the glory.

We are “eyewitnesses” to the Word being made manifest in the earth and people need to hear the “truth” about what is being taught. Just hearing the truth isn’t sufficient any more people want to see it, hear it and experience it. If you’ve done any of that, share it.

I could have easily held back, in my mind she was in a different league, a pastor’s wife. Pride or fear could have kept me from opening up to her, but I’m glad that at that moment so long ago I pushed all that aside and shared what God did for me. How He saved me!

The truth is He doesn’t play favorites and what He does for one, He will certainly do for another!