Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Secret of a Winter Garden

Brown shriveled hydrangea flowers taunted me from the garden. A panoramic glimpse of the yard brought me to a quick conclusion, it was hideous. Bare and brown stems peeking up from the ground where beauty once was.

God tenderly reminded me of my current winter season that looks much like the garden, but there wasn't sorrow, only hope. As He whispered, "This is you," faith welled up in me like a spring. No matter how bad that garden looks right now, no matter how bad things look in my life, in a couple of months, I'm going to be enjoying the beauty that comes and fills the empty spaces.

I remember the hard work I did last spring and can trust that the time and care I took to nurture my garden during the growing season will sustain it through winter and when spring comes the investment will pay off. March will bring the first signs of life with little buds shooting out of the ground and on bare stems. I will anticipate the April showers, that inevitably bring May flowers.
"If you bury a seed, something will come up." -  Annie F. Downs
The same goes for my life. I have done the hard work, planted the seeds and even though I can't see it now, there will be fruit. I didn't wait until winter came, during the plentiful months I took time and care to nurture my soul. Everything may appear dead now, but I know life is lurking beneath the surface.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
If we are honest these barren winter gardens teach us a lot about the winter seasons in our lives. Although the spiritual seasons don't come with dates preplanned on the calendar, we have a thoughtful and timely God and the waiting can yield trust in Him.

In this winter season that doesn't have much to show for itself, I await the plentiful rain, the spontaneous and abundant blessings from the Lord. I know it will come, I've been here before.
Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance when it was weary. Psalm 68:9
A winter garden keeps its secret hidden well for months beneath dry, brittle stems and even plants that have withered in the ground. What I know to be true is that life is just beneath the surface. In my current winter season, I have the same hope, some things have died, but experience tells me that resurrection is coming.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
"Life was good.Death was brutal.Resurrection was worth it." - Annie F. Downs 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An Unexpected Gift

Without fanfare or prompting a word dropped into my heart. If I had not heard it from Him it would be too much to hope for. I believe He gave me the "word" for our family and wants to give my kids words that feed into the bigger picture, like trickling streams flowing into a rushing river. 

"Ask God what He wants to do in your life this year," I proposed to my kids late December. Two have told me, two have not and the youngest is too little to participate. 

God gave me a word - restore

It feels like honey on my lips.

It feels like a promise in my heart.

It feels like encouragement to my weary soul.

We are in a transitional season in our family full of change and uncertainty, but my word, restore, keeps me looking to Him. Continually tuning my ear.
The unfolding of Your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130
God doesn't send us into the battle unprepared or defeated. He sends us in victorious. This word is part of my preparation and it is the promise of the victory.

I asked one of the kids last night who had not yet shared a word, if he had one and he said, "No." I encouraged him to really seek God because that word could bring him great comfort right now.

This "word of the year" has been around for years, steadily gaining popularity, it could easily lose its significance. Don't let it. God will never give you something that He doesn't fully plan to deliver on.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5
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.

We have done something similar before, it still hangs in our living room. You can read about it here.

Do you have a word? Do you need one? Ask Him, He gives generously. And you know what? You don't have to share it.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Train Your Weakness - Part 2

Two days ago I shared my revelation to "Train Your Weakness" and was feeling good from a long overdue workout. That was two days ago. Yesterday, I embarked on session two of the total body workout to train my weakness, just like they said, "Every other day for 30 days." Well, today, I'm sore. Really sore, everything hurts. All those muscles that were weak and I didn't know I had, well I know it now.

The more this revelation takes root and I actually live out the experience with my weakened muscles, the more I understand how this applies to all of life.

As I mentioned Tuesday, I have embarked on a 100 Days to Brave journey. I haven't been training my fears, no, those were quite strong. I have been training my weakness, bravery. It was similar to this workout experience. The first time I did a brave thing it felt great and I knew it's what I needed then the backlash and fear started talking - it hurt!

When a muscle isn't used and then it is, there is pain - the same with character traits. It doesn't mean you should give up or give in, it just means keep at it.

In both areas, fear and muscle weakness, I have set myself up for success. I have recognized the weakness, stopped coddling it, started training it, started to maintain it and most importantly have accountability. Tuesday I gave you helpful tips to make this training "stick." I hope you'll join me in this adventure.

Even though I was sore yesterday and didn't want to train my weakness, I had accountability through an online Facebook group.

When I didn't want to send that brave email, I had encouragement from my book club. I don't think I would be sitting here telling you that I am still pursuing this journey if it weren't for those things that I have put in place to keep me moving forward.

The truth is I didn't want to work out yesterday. I have been extremely tired, I have kids with the flu and last night when the house was quiet for a rare hour I did not want to work out, but I knew someone was going to ask. So, I did. Also, I made a commitment and that seems to be key in my journey of overcoming.

The reason my hip comes out of place is that there are muscles that are not strong enough to work in conjunction with my hip flexors, etc. to do their job. It is my responsibility to train them.

The reason fear robs me of so many things is that my courage isn't strong enough to pull that fear into submission. It is my responsibility to train it.

The Bible is clear, a spirit of fear did not come from God. When I train the weakness, fear, and make it come into line with His Word I am actually utilizing my sound mind and strengthening it. It's a win-win!
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]. 2 Timothy 1:7
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,... 2 Corinthians 10:5
Frend, you can do this, whatever your "this" is. You are not alone. Your Father has made every provision for your success, so will you join me in training your weakness?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Train Your Weakness

I found myself floored, mid-stretch during a total body strengthening video. The trainer said, "Train your weakness," and I felt as if he shared an ancient secret with me.

For several weeks I have been struggling to keep my hip in place, it's painful, to say the least. I have tried chiropractic, ice and stretching with little to no relief.

This revelation to "train my weakness" was as much for my spirit as it was my body.

I have been leading an online Facebook group for 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs, it hit me this morning, after the workout video, we have been "training our weakness" for 69 days today. Eleven other ladies and I have committed to do little brave things every day to become "our bravest selves" and you know what it's working!

I find myself doing braver and braver things without thinking about them. While I'm training this weakness, I'm thinking about the weakness less and the source of my strength more. The result is doing brave things and doing them afraid, as Annie likes to say.

Whatever your battleground (or weakness for the sake of the post) is where you need strength. Of course, we start with looking to God and then allowing Him to help us train those areas. So, what does this look like in our day to day lives?

1. Recognize Your Weakness

Most of us are probably all too aware of what our weaknesses are, but don't let that stop you from looking a little closer. It may or not be what you think. I was surprised this morning how my body responded to this "training" and some of the weaknesses surprised me and how they relate to my hip discomfort was even more surprising.

For example, if your "weakness" is fear, you may be clear where it shows up, but it might surprise you to see how it affects other areas you weren't aware of.

If you don't know your weakness, ask God or a friend. Now that's brave!

2. Stop Coddling Your Weakness

Sometimes even after we see our weakness, we default to coddling it. We treat it tenderly, walk on eggshells or just plain baby it. We don't want to upset our weakness, oh no! We must get to a point where we are willing to stand up to our weakness or it will become our stronghold.

When my hip comes out of place it hurts, so you know what I have been doing?  Coddling it. Today that stops. I am going to strengthen it and everything around it so it can do what is supposed to do in my body.

In the past when I was afraid I would coddle it, nurse that fear and anxiety. Avoid those scary situations, so I wouldn't "feel" afraid. Not anymore. I'm doing it afraid and strengthening my courage!

3. Train Your Weakness

Start small. This is not a go big or go home moment.

I didn't push myself this morning. I did what I could and I already feel better. The trainer said to do this every other day for 30 days, that sounds doable to me. I can carve out that time for a month to "train my weakness", so my body will feel better and even function the way it supposed to. Ahem, my hip staying in place!

I tend to really exercise my strengths, but often overlook my weaknesses because of fear, denial or even laziness. It's hard, terrifying and sometimes even painful to work on your weaknesses, but the payoff is worth it!

4. Maintain Your Strength

Once you've "trained that weakness" don't hit cruise control. Check in every so often and see how you're doing. Are you still doing brave things or whatever your case may be? If there is any resistance, it's time to start training again.

If we will realistically check in with ourselves, our weakness will never return in the same way. Now, if we totally let ourselves go physically, emotionally or spiritually, there will come a time where we will be at square one again.

We have the God of the universe on our side and we know that His strength is always made perfect in our weakness. He has given us great authority in our own lives to "train these weaknesses" and make them obedient to Christ.

4. Tell Someone

Maintaining strength is easier in numbers. Tell someone. Make sure it's someone you trust and preferably someone who doesn't have the same weakness or did but overcame it. Ask them to hold you accountable as you defeat your weakness once and for all.

Remember, it's a healing process. These areas became weak from lack of use so it will take time to strengthen them once you start using them again.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where Will You Be Found?

Bad news. 

Jobb loss.



Things we would rather not talk about and definitely would rather not experience, but they are a part of life.

What you do when they happen is key.

Do you hide?


Get angry?


What if you nestled into Him?

What if you could only be found in Him?

What if others were looking to you and found Him because that's where they found you?

If you say you follow Christ, people are watching, even in the church. They want to know, do you believe what you say you believe? Is your God gonna catch you this time? Is your God good now?

The older I get the more I realize how little it matters what happens to us, it's what we do with it that counts.

Nobody wants bad news, but we have Good News.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Nobody wants to lose a job, but we have hope.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Psalm 34:5
Nobody gets married planning to divorce, but we have redemption.
For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. Isaiah 54:5
Nobody wants to be sick, but we have strength.
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Psalm 18:14
Seems easier said than done, I know, but it's a discipline, a lifestyle if you will. If you practice being in His presence a little every day, when those hard times come you will naturally default to your hiding place, your safe refuge, your Father's arms and there in that secret place is where you will be found. Not only by men but by Him.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sticky Tape


That's how many different kinds of adhesives I have in my "adhesive box." 

There are tape runners, glue sticks, double-sided tapes, various washi tapes and many, many others.

Each one has a specific purpose.

I'm an artist. As an artist, I use different kinds of glue for different things. The more I learn about art, the more adhesives I acquire. 

As I pondered my adhesive obsession today it dawned on me that my "adhesive box" is a lot like the Bible.

When something ceramic breaks - I have a glue for that.

When I need to adhere pieces of wood - I have a glue for that.

When I'm making a card - I have several types of glue for that.

Just like I have an adhesive for everything, I look to the Word of God for a verse for everything.

When my heart is breaking - there is a verse for that.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted andsaves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 ESV
When I'm weary - there is a verse for that.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galations 6:9 ESV
When I'm lonely - there is a verse for that.
God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:6 NIV
Just as my "adhesive box" is an often used resource in my craft room, the Bible is an often used resource in my life. As I mature as a daughter of God the more verses I store up in my heart. I learn which verses are best for each situation. 

Don't wait until tragedy strikes to find a verse to see you through.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 ESV
My favorite adhesive in my box is called "sticky tape" - no joke this stuff could probably adhere a toddler to a wall. The Word of God has power, to hold us together in the tough times. Not just bandage us, but truly hold us together. I have my go-to adhesive for the tough jobs and I have my go-to verses for the tough times that life throws at me.

When hard times come He will bring His Word to remembrance to comfort you and speak to you. He will then comfort others through you using the same comfort, His Word.

Lots of people say they don't hear God, but I know He speaks to all His children. He's no respecter of persons. One way He speaks is through His Word, so if you are not hearing Him open up your Bible and hear what He has to say.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Wrestling with Weakness

Old habits die hard. 

The one word that has been used against me more than any other word is weak. If someone said, or even implied I was weak they could manipulate me to do almost anything. Something inside me would kick in, puff up and determine to be strong and prove them wrong. 

It took me years to grow out of that. 

It felt like a personal attack on my character and by definition, on, it means an inadequate or defective quality, as in a person's character; slight fault or defect.

I already felt defective I didn't want others to see it, but this insult, this word confirmed they did. Calling me weak was just adding fuel to the fire of my low self-worth, self-esteem, and self-image. Pride said, "Prove them wrong. Do more. Try harder. Strive. Wear yourself out."

That was until I understood weakness.

God's strength is made perfect in my weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9

When I cry out to Him (in weakness) He delivers me from all my troubles Psalm 34:17

When I don't know what to pray (when I am weak) the Spirit makes intercession for me Romans 8:26

It has taken years of wrestling this old habit. I had to learn to stop reacting to a word, a person, a perceived insult to rest in my weakness. To find joy in His strength and allow His power to be made perfect. 

There is much to be gained from this dichotomy, wrestling with weakness.

Accepting my weakness forced me to acknowledge His strength. 

Accepting my weakness made me more aware of His power.

Accepting my weakness made me confident of His love for me.

I can say with all confidence, I am weak. Thank God I am weak! I have seen His power, His miracles, and His mighty hand more than ever, since humbling myself and submitting to the blessings of my own weakness.
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)
There isn't a more intimate place for a relationship than to acknowledge your own weakness and lean on someone else's strength.