When I do write a blogpost, it is generally about something that has touched my life or is a little personal revelation that I feel I need to share. I suppose that can be an excuse as to why I don’t write consistently. That’s right, I called it an excuse. I could, and often say, I should write more, but I find I write in spurts of truth. Little showers of ideas come down and I have to write fast before they dry up. That’s not to say I only get ideas, experience things, or discover truths once every two or three months, but this is one outlet of many, and when I feel like I need to plug into this outlet is when a post is produced. Other than that, it is my art that gets poured into, or it is my personal journal, or even a sketch pad, or it is personal letters being written or read.
I received a letter recently that encouraged me in the same way that the imagery of the regal moth I wrote about in my last post did. The writer affirmed and encouraged me with prayer that the seeds I’m sowing will find fertile soil.
These words of encouragement brought to mind a verse in Isaiah and I scrambled to look up the words that echoed in my head which were something like:
“If the word goes out, it won’t come back empty, but will accomplish something.”
But when I looked it up using my cellphone, it pulled up the verse that precedes the exact verse I was looking for, so all together I read:
Isaiah 55:10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Rain and snow.
All these little ideas and thoughts tied together. From the moth weathering the storm in the earth to seeds being sown and finding fertile soil. I had to smile. All the time we get hung up on big signs coming from our big God, but if we only train our eyes to look for big signs, we will miss the little ones that still shout out loud God is here and God is listening.
I have been doing the online Bible study “Defiant Joy” by Candace Payne and doing the YouTube live videos on Monday nights with Mandisa, the singer. The online study began August 13 and will end September 24. It has been joyful for certain, but it has been thought provoking too. Yes, I could be doing this study by myself, and you could too, especially if you missed the window of dates it was offered online. But, I encourage you to do it with your ladies class, study group, or friends because just a little bit of discussion over things that are in the study guide make them become more real when talking or listening to other people.
I had one of these “more real” moments last night when we were discussing the homework, or “funwork” as Candace refers to it in the study guide. One of the things you could do was simply write down big hopes or dreams in the space provided because last week was about hope and how it is the anchor of joy. Mandisa asked for people to share their hopes and dreams if they did that section, and in the live comments feed became a blur with people writing down trips they wanted to take, places they wanted to see, things they wanted to do and things like that. A few people shared hopes they had written that had already come true with in that week, like hoping their house would sell and it did.
I sheepishly wrote, “I did write down hopes and dreams, but sometimes I get worried that if I get hung up on my hopes and dreams, that I won’t follow God’s will. Anyone else?”
No one in the comments whizzing by really answered me, but Mandisa spoke wisdom that was a direct answer and it gave me a whole new perspective on my hopes and dreams. I’m not sure how it even started, because I don’t think she read my comment out loud or anything, but she said the verse that said God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight in him.
Psalm 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart
The big thing was if you take delight in the Lord, or if you are seeking first the kingdom of God, another verse someone brought up quickly in the comments, your hopes and dreams can become your reality. It is so simple, yet so profound, that if we are putting God first, then our hopes will line up with God because we are desiring what God desires. Why had I never thought of it that way?
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
She probably didn’t linger too long on that point, but it was long enough that I could just breath this sigh of relief. My hopes and dreams may not come to fruition in the way that I picture them today, in this very moment, but I shouldn’t be afraid to dream them. Right about then, someone brought up the song “Dream Small”, which is now echoing in my ears, so I’m going to share it here:
As I reevaluate my hopes and dreams and I can say with confidence, “None of these are against God’s kingdom, they are good things, and I am trying to figure out this life and what God intends, desires, and has planned already.” This is where free will comes in, and this is a turn the discussion didn’t take last night. The great part is, being part of the group chat and this discussion got me thinking of free will after realizing that beautiful truth about God fulfilling desires.
I have a lot of big hopes and dreams, but I know not all of them can happen all at once. Since I am chasing the kingdom of God, should a door open, it is up to me to choose whether or not to go through. God may open several doors, and I might have to figure out what my greatest desire is. Or God might make one door really big and obvious, but it will still be up to me to go through or not. That, to me, is kind of cool that we are given those choices.
It is like when someone hires me to do their graduation photo’s for them. I know they will want portraits and some unique shots. Then I get to know them a little, and I take pictures or give up ideas that line up with their hobbies or personalities, things they hadn’t thought of.
I actually just hired an artist to create a logo for me and my sculpture work. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and the message I wanted to get across. In the end, she is the one who is creating the work. Just like I am the one who takes the photographs during a senior shoot and edits them later.
In either case, if the client decided to micro manage, you can bet it would probably hinder the artists abilities. If I had a teen telling me exactly the pictures they wanted, and never took my advice of trying a new angle, or letting me add a vignette to the photo, sure, they would get what they want, but they would miss out on even more options and ideas that would still have them at the center of it. If I micro managed the artist creating my logo, I might never get to see it with the options of different fonts or colors that ultimately might look better than what I had in mind. My idea would still be center, but it would be lacking the options and talent of the graphic designer whose specialty is to create something like that.
If I try to micro manage God, because I am so set on my hopes and dreams, then I might miss out on doors he is opening for me because I have tunnel vision on the wall I have to knock down instead. It becomes a delicate balance of hoping and dreaming and keeping my eyes open for all the options God, the greatest artist of all, wants to give me as I am chasing after the kingdom.
And by the way, here is a preview of my logo. What do you all think?
To start off our season of giving, I was inspired to take home a tag from the giving tree that was set up at our gym. I spun the tree round and round, and a bright orange tag caught my eye. It isn’t so much the blazing orange that grabbed my attention, but what the child had requested.
Construction paper and a fishing pole were the items printed in black and white under the capital M, age 10. I smiled when I saw those two words. How perfect for Shane and I, construction paper up the art alley, and a fishing pole. I sent Shane on the mission of finding the fishing pole, which he did, and I collected the construction paper and a wooden fish that came with paints.
I couldn’t help but in my heart to sort of dedicate this gift as a memorial to Scott in a way. Shane and him love fishing, and to pass on that love for the outdoors, well, it just seemed like a perfect fit this year to honor his late friend. I dropped the gift off, unwrapped like requested, but built a narrative in my mind of what that little ten year old would think on Christmas morning getting to unwrap something he asked for.
The same day and place I dropped off the giving tree gift, I ran into a pop-up art show. It was a delightful surprise, and though the pieces weren’t all necessarily seasonal pieces, it just added to my afternoon of Christmas cheer. After having been involved in the local art scene back in my hometown, this was a sweet discovery for me and hopefully a future outlet I can participate in.
All of this coincided with the beautiful, thoughtful Christmas bouquet my dear Shane had gotten me the day before. It was a fan of red, greens and white bursting out of a seasonal coffee mug with a sweet handwritten note on it. Feeling so thankful to have such a sweet man in my life inspired me to again pass the love along. So before I had headed out to deliver the fishing pole and happen upon the art show, I secretly sent a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to my mom who had just gone through surgery on her hand.
Needless to say, it was easy for me to get excited when I got the text from her that she had received her Christmas bouquet. All in all I had a Friday bursting with love, and it was easy to share as I ran my errands, smiling at strangers, helping someone find a spirograph, delivering two secret gifts, one to the giving tree child and the other to my mom, and enjoying other folk’s art.
So now I pass the love along to you by leaving you with this verses from 1 Corinathians 13 to help inspire you in passing on the love this holiday season.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 I may be able to speak the languages of men and even of angels, but if I do not have love, it will sound like noisy brass. 2 If I have the gift of speaking God’s Word and if I understand all secrets, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I know all things and if I have the gift of faith so I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give everything I have to feed poor people and if I give my body to be burned, but do not have love, it will not help me.
There are just things I could not live with out. Bird chirps and tweets waking me up, bright yellow coltsfoot sprouting up from the gravel filled burms, horses tails gently tossing about in the breeze. It has been a blessing to have these things fill my spring days. I have to look at each thing sometimes and deliberately say, “That is a blessing.”
Spring just is an especially hard season for myself, despite all the promise every new start represents. From crisp green blades of grass growing, to birds carrying twigs to their nests, sometimes it can seem like the world is moving on, and it can feel like I am not. Or sometimes worse, I feel like, if I move on like the little birds building a new nest, that I am leaving behind a part of me, and I don’t want to.
I lost my son in the spring time, and most recently, Shane and I lost our dear friend. Here we are, in a most promising part of the year, visuals of new beginnings all around, but the gash left by loss is so painful. Part of me doesn’t desire moving on, fearing the distance that will surely come, the days that will stack up between the time of knowing the ones I loved and have lost and the present. I don’t want it to be almost four weeks, then five, then six, then a year since Scott was here.
But we cannot live in winter for forever. Spring must come. With it comes beautiful things, and even though those beautiful things can be hard to look at, they are a blessing. They are a reminder that beauty can come from the dirt and mud and once frozen soil.
Revelation 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” and He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
So I have been watching the birds. It has been a delight. We live in a place surrounded by water and woods, so to our feeder comes a fun variety of winged creatures. I am most excited by our little Eastern Wood Pewee couple I was able to identify, though they look like other flycatchers, their song set them apart. The little couple decided to build a nest on our home, and Shane was going to knock it down thinking it was just some sort of swallow, but I convinced him otherwise since Mr and Mrs Pewee are in the flycatcher family.
A cardinal couple has been flitting around our porch very often as well. They sit on our cars and chirp as they bounce from side mirror to ground and back again. I knew their nest had to be nearby, and after observing Mrs Red, I found her nest indeed was close. Right in the bush by our stairs to our porch. She has recently started sitting on her three little speckled eggs.
Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Of course, it may seem overly cliche to bring up Jesus talking about the birds, or to put a few lines from the classic hymn “His Eye is On the Sparrow”, but how beautifully true it all is. Here we are, my husband and I and those who loved Scott, in the midst of grief, and God is not overlooking it. If he can supply little Mr and Mrs Pewee and Mr and Mrs Red a spot for their nests, then how much more will he supply for us if we just trust.
Just like he can turn around and make new things from the frozen, colorless mud winter left, he can make our colorless, sad days new. The days will come, we can’t stop that, but what we can do is trust the God of the universe to take care of our days. We can keep our eyes open for blessings and reasons to be thankful for each new day. He knows our pain and sorrows, He knows our relief and joys. Here it is, if His eye is on the sparrow, then you’ve got to know, His eye is on you!
Repetition. We cast, we reel, we repeat. We cast into the water over and over, even in the same spot, hoping, waiting, reeling, and casting again. Then, by some miracle, we catch something. That thing we knew was beneath the ripples, we pull in, we hold, we take pictures of, we sometimes release, we sometimes hang on to.
Repetition. We pray, we say amen, we repeat. We pray to the heavens over and over, even over the same exact thing, hoping, waiting, saying amen, and praying again. If we listen, if we truly live with open palms, we can catch whispers of blessings, answers, guidance sometimes trickling down from heaven, other times rushing like a great flood. We soak it in, we hold onto it, sometimes journaling about it, other times telling others about it.
Repetition is seen in the bible in many places, such as Psalms 136. Right there, repeated, is the same phrase over and over. Other places we are told to give thanks constantly, that is a type of repetition if every prayer we give is peppered with thanks.
Vain repetition is the thing to be avoided. Mindless, numb repetition, casting with out even checking your line to see if your fly or bait are still attached, with out even checking where you are at, you will surely come up empty handed. It takes effort, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but with effort, you can see results.
Vain repetition, mindless, numb prayers said with out even thinking about what you are praying for and who you are praying will come up as fruitful as casting with out bait. God is asking for effort from our side, our hearts, so he can give us all the wonderful things He is, a God full of love, merciful, compassionate, and the Prince of Peace. This doesn’t mean put on a show, it doesn’t mean you have to even be wordy. The intention should be to have relation and to share your heart with the God of the universe.
Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standingin the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
And isn’t it amazing we can have such a relationship with our creator? He craves relation with us, to hear from us, even if it is the same thing over and over again.