doodle

Oh How He Loves Us So

Jesus really, really loves us.

And He cares about every single thing we care about…the big and the small.

About thirteen months ago, I asked Jesus for just one thing.

“Make me a woman of the word.”

I knew I was a woman of worship.  Worship sets my soul ablaze.  I connect with Him in music, in song, in the midst of the guitars and the piano and the drums and the bass and the other singers. God’s people singing together, hands lifted, eyes closed. My friend Nicole once said- “It’s your happy place.” And it is. It’s where I feel most whole.

It’s where I feel close to His side. Drawn up like a beloved child, safe in the shelter of Abba’s wings.

How He loves me.

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I knew I was a woman of prayer.  I’ve been talking to God all day everyday for as long as I can remember.  Back when I was little and I didn’t quite understand who God was and what it meant to be His…still I prayed.  I chatted.  I gave Him a to do list and I gave Him a  wish list.  I asked Him questions.  When I was a bit older and traveling dangerous paths…I still found Him in my days, still offered Him my to do list and my wish list.  Still asked Him hard questions and even though I feared the answers…I didn’t stop asking.  I’ve worked and lived as a prayer missionary. A handful of years of prayer and worship as a vocation.  What sweet years, what an honor to live that calling for a season.  As a mother, goodness knows I’ve prayed and I pray.  Salvation, joy, peace, knowledge of Jesus over my sweet six.  As a wife I’ve prayed.  Through a hard marriage, through a divorce and now with my second marriage and for my sweet husband…the priest of our home.  I have prayed.

I’m a woman of Prayer.

And how He loves me so.

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But I was not a woman of the word.  I did not love to study the Bible, to read it…And though I tried and tried…I just couldn’t make myself a woman of the word on my own steam.

I did so many different devotionals.  I tried so many Bible plans.  But my eyes just glazed over and I just could not get there.  And I was ashamed of that.  Embarrassed by it.  Shouldn’t a lifetime, career Christian love the Bible?

And it’s not that I didn’t love it.  I cherished the word of God and loved to go to classes where someone else taught me about the Bible.  Just couldn’t get into that whole “Eat the Scroll” thing.  I didn’t crave it.  I didn’t even really want to read it.  In fact, given the choice, I’d choose “Chopped” or basically any HGTV show over Bible time.

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And I cringe even writing that because what will people think???? But I have to live as though I don’t care what people think because I just really don’t want to care about what people think.

And maybe I’m not the only one.

So.  About 13 months ago, I heard two women say these words:  “I am a woman of the Word.”  And these are two real, authentic, honest women who love Jesus with real love. And something about the way they said that stirred something in me.

I prayed, “Make me a woman of the Word.”

And I continued to doggedly try to make myself a woman of the word the same old ways.

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It didn’t work.

May became June, the summer zipped by, then the fall and the winter. Christmas came and went in a whirlwind.  It snowed way too much.

Two things happened.

1.  John accidentally bought me a journal with no lines.
2. I got the flu.

I was stuck in bed for TEN DAYS.  As a mother of any number of children will tell you, be it 1 or 10, momma in the bed for ten days is super impractical.

But God used that time for good.

He met with me there, in the quiet of my room and we communed and something happened.

I read a book called Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet and I journaled like crazy.  In color.  With a pack of pens that John got for Christmas.  And I found that I liked it. I liked all that color on the page.  I liked what the book did to my heart.  Through tears, God and  I worked through so much hurt.  (P.S.  If you have ever suffered in any way, read that book.)

I would show you a picture but I’m not entirely sure where I’ve laid that journal.

I showed John my journal and we talked about the happy “accident” of the unlined journal…so that I could write in color and all over the page.

And he showed me this:

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He had seen it on interest but it came from Here.

I was intrigued.  And I began a Pinterest search for “Bible journaling”, “Bible Doodles”, “Illustrated Faith”, “worship art”.

I learned about Valerie Wieners and her artwork.

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I learned about Shanna Noel and Illustrated Faith

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I learned about loads and loads of Mommas just like me who were loving this idea of meeting with Jesus through creativity.

And something clicked in me.

The old ways didn’t work for me because my brain doesn’t work that way.  But this new way was just what this crafty, flighty, ADD, creative brain needed.  And I was in love.

In love with the word.

And my first attempts were…well, Lila or Claire could’ve done a better job.  But I didn’t care.  This was me, the Word and God and I was having a ball.

I drew and drew and drew.  I filled a sketchbook.  I got myself a journaling Bible with plenty of space. I  began to play with paint and colored pencils and every kind of pen you can imagine.

I found out that I love watercolor paints and Micron pens.  I found that Inktense pencils are my favorite. I found out that I love drawing and painting on paper and in my Bible.  And, it got better and better.

My extremely artsy twenty something daughter told me that the work was good.  My husband (who, among many other things has an art degree) said the same.  People began to ask me to make things for them.  People began to offer me real dollars to make things for them.

And I just kept right on drawing and painting and all of that.  My Bible is getting full and I know I will need a new one soon.  I love it so much.  The great illustrations and the really awful ones…they all speak to this new love I have for the Word.

It’s such a gift.

And here is the absolute best part.

This gift came along when I was sick and in bed.  Forced into rest.  This gift progressed as the arthritis in my knee grew worse.  I was forced into rest.  This gift sustained me every day when I was forced to slow down, to be still, to rest.

Because He loves me so.

He’s given me this, this study of the Word in images and in color…He’s given me this to make those times when I must be still sweet.  He has given me, at forty two and after years of walking with Him, a new way to meet with Him.

It’s infinitely sweet.  It shows how He cherishes me and delights in me.  Because he knew how it would trouble me to have to be still.  He knew how hard it would be for me to rest.  He knew how I would absolutely loathe slowing down.

So he gave me this.  I could not draw a circle in December.  Did not know watercolors from acrylics.  But now it’s part of my everyday and I look forward to my quiet time.  I look forward to opening up the word and seeing how it will come alive today.

He’s made me a woman of the word.

See many of my Doodles here.

It Is What It Is

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I know this statement meets with mixed reviews.  Some will say it’s a cop out- a way to be rude without being rude.  Some will say it’s giving up.  Some will say it’s lazy.

But I say this…there is something holy in accepting where you are.

I’m in a place of acceptance about fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia steals hours from me.  Days from me.  Experiences from me.  Fibromyalgia is forcing me to change who I am. It’s forcing me to reshape my day to day life.

It is what it is.

There are things I’ve found that help. Yoga, walks, good rest.  Essential Oils.

But sometimes…I just have pain.

Pain that makes no sense.  Pain that debilitates.  Pain that forces me to triage the needs and wants of my family, of myself and pick and choose those things that are truly important.

I’m realizing the truth here.

I have to let fibromyalgia be heard because it is what it is. It’s going to steal time from me, whether I make space for it or not.  But if I make space for it…there is so much less stress and striving.

I’m learning.

If I shrink my world down…If I carve out margin…If I just schedule time for rest and stillness…then fibro doesn’t win.

Turns out, there are just hours that I need to spend in the chair of healing, Bible open, paints nearby, markers, pens and pencils and crayons…I spend these hours in the Word or with my eyes closed.  These have been holy hours.

So…I’m not losing out on life.  I’m gaining Him.  It is what it is. And I could turn it into hours that I cry for what I can’t do.  I could turn into hours that I feel guilty and ashamed for all that I can’t accomplish.  I could turn it into hours where I’m filled with resentment and self pity and grief.  And yes, sometimes all of that and more….

But I count it as gain when I spend these hours like Mary at the feet of Jesus.  Choosing the better thing.  It will not be taken from me.

These hours spent with the One who made me and who holds my health in His hands are sacred.  They are a gift.

It is what it is.

Behold and Be Loved, Beloved

I wake on Day 5 of this miserable flu achy and uncomfortable.  I stand and stretch, hoping for a glimmer of hope that today might be the day this thing starts on its way out.

Nope.

I curl into bed with Pandora singing praise to Abba Father, a fat orange cat at my feet.  A daughter brings me coffee and tells me of the morning’s adventures.  I feel at peace and I feel loved because there are so many good things in this morning.  Flu aside.

It’s been a slow pace but I’ve been at rest in my soul because of all the time for pauses to Behold and Be Loved.  I pray a quick prayer- Help me to find my way to your feet when the days get busy again.

And I suddenly have this realization.

He never meant for us to go at this breakneck pace, trying to achieve, striving to cross all the things off of our to do list, doing all the tasks that society insists we must do.  Here we are, trying to outshine that tireless Proverbs 31 gal.  And it leaves us so tired and feeling so passed over.

Because no matter how much we do…it is never really enough for that barometer of accomplishment that lives in our heart.

I read through Proverbs 31 again.  Is there something I’m missing?  Something that makes it all work for that busy Proverbs 31 girl?

shelaughsShe is clothed in Strength and Dignity.  How did she get that way?  How did she wrap herself in Strength?  How did she clothe herself in Dignity?  She wrapped herself in God.  She clothed herself in who she is in Him.  This is why she laughs with no fear of the future.  She is God’s own.  She is like Mary at His feet, wrapping herself in His love and peace and strength and majesty, surrounding herself in His goodness.

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She sees her God as the true God that He is.  He is the only Holy One, the only Uncreated Being, the one who holds us and everything else in His hands.  He is the One who goes to war for us, He is the One who quiets us with singing.  He is the One who Sees, who Plans, who will not fail.  And this is why…this is why she has a whole chapter of Proverbs devoted to her.  It’s not because of all that spinning or field buying or food making or planting or helping the poor or loving on the needy. It’s not because she is amazing at loving her husband and her kids and her servants.

It’s because she knows who He is…and she makes a place in her heart and her day to honor that.  

Yeah, she gets her stuff done, but she’s laughing while she’s doing it because she knows what makes her heart sing.  She gets the mystery of Deep crying out to Deep.

And so all of these years of my feeling annoyed with this woman I’ll see in eternity because she’s such a busy bee…they are wasted because her greater legacy was missed.  Oh comparison…such a tool of the Enemy.

My prayer today is that I will pause and take a sacred breath and just stand in His holiness…all throughout every day.  Not just sick days.  I will Behold this One who made a way for me to come to Him.

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Everything Beautiful, In Its Time

I’ve been stuck in bed with the real live flu since Saturday.

It has been a big reminder of way back when, when I was so sick in the hospital after Nora was born.  That fevered, frantic feeling that I’ll never Be Well Again!  That horrible stomach churning nausea and then the chills that shake my bones and the sweats that melt me down.  Aches, pains, and loads of time to think…

And through it all, a Still Small Voice has reminded me that nothing is by accident and that I ought to consider that this time, this time of quarantine and cocooning could just be a divine appointment.

I’ve filled 15 pages in my brand new Christmas journal, joyously and tearfully filling every inch of the page with colorful ink, honest thoughts, heart deep prayers and feeling, feelings, feelings.  I’ve logged about 4 to 8 hours of International House of Prayer live feed every day.  I’ve listened to loads of music that stirs my soul.  I’ve spoken down deep and true to the One who holds my heart.

And I do call it good.  Even though there has been suffering in it.

He has written new old words on my heart.

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LOOK. New things have come.  New things are coming.  I feel it in my soul and spirit, that He is doing a new thing and here is the Word that says it is so.  All those old things that have fettered my Inner Me to the ground, that have held my heart in bondage…those old things go away and LOOK!  New things come.

I don’t know what that will look like or what it will mean.  But I know that it is true.

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I know that the Depth of my heart and soul cries out to the Depths of His heart and soul.  I know that the Depth of His heart and soul cry out to the Depth of my heart and soul.  He longs for the deepest parts of me and even when I resist, my soul longs for the deepest parts of Him.  Because I was made, because I am made to love Him and know Him.  This sang so strong in me, a Scripture I’ve read countless times and a Scripture I’ve sung out over and over.  But it sinks in this week, in the midst of sickness and vulnerability, my open heart is soft.

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It is okay to need help.  It is okay to tell Him the truth.  I believe…and my heart struggles to believe.  I Know Truth.  I can quote truth, I can speak truth, I can live truth.  And my heart struggles to believe.  But nothing is impossible for Him and He can handle my need.  I utter this prayer and feel no shame in it.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.”  Because both things, the belief and the unbelief, can be true at the same time.  And I am not too much for God.

This is only the tiniest corner of a small piece of what God has been doing in my heart as I lie in the bed, grumpy and miserable.

I write in my Gratitude Journal. I write down my graces, my blessings, my gifts.  I am thankful for this time, even while being quite put out over having the flu.  I am thankful for the Diving Meetings, even while cranky and unwell.  I am thankful for His presence all in this room, even while I miss my husband and my kids and my LIFE.  He gives what is needed at the appointed time.  Not too early and not too late.  At the appointed time.

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Whatever You Have Done…

The rain pours this morning as I hurry children to the car.  It pours and pours.  We wait at the bus stop, jumping out at the last moment and I am grateful I can do this for them, that they don’t have to get wet.  Michael and I talk about what we would do with 15 billion dollars.  We talk about how we wouldn’t go crazy, just get the necessities, put some in savings and then help the world.  Feed the hungry, clean up the water, make sure all have what is needed.

I get home and pour coffee, grateful for its warmth and readiness.  My eyes fall on the chalkboard that John has written words on in his art-tastic way.

The words there strike me.  Tug at my heart.  Sit on my conscience.

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I know this verse, I know it well.  It’s part of Christian experience, it’s a thing we say…it’s a thing we often do.  But what I wonder is…do we only think of it in terms of the good we do for the least of these?

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When we feed these small ones that God loves, we are feeding Jesus…but how did we let them get so hungry in the first place?

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When we give water to the thirsty, we are giving water to Jesus.  But why are we allowing fellow humans to be thirsty?  How did we let it get so bad?

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We give a homeless person a $20 or a sandwich and we are feeding Jesus.  But why are our brothers and sisters going to sleep outside?

I am thinking about this, about my own response to doing for the least of these and doing for Jesus…I am thinking about how apathy ruins us.  How choosing to do nothing is the same as neglecting Jesus.  How ignoring the problem is ignoring Jesus.  How choosing ourselves means not choosing Jesus.

Because if giving someone a drink equals giving Jesus a drink, then not giving someone a drink means letting Jesus be thirsty.  Because if giving someone food equals giving Jesus food, then keeping our food for ourselves means letting Jesus be hungry.

And that’s not loving like He loved.

This epiphany shakes me this morning and my thoughts turn to Ferguson.

I am grieved over Ferguson.  I am grieved by Facebook and the flippant, the ugly, the choosing sides, the minimizing of what is a tragedy on every side.  The brushing off and ignoring of the fact that there is a much deeper problem running below the surface of our nation.

There is so much more to this than what just happened in Ferguson.  It’s a symptom of a systemic, deeply rooted disease.

And all this vitriol that is directed at those involved is disturbing.

But more disturbing than that is the detachment, the apathy.  I am seeing the weighing in, the choosing sides, I’m seeing opinions. But where is the grief?  Lives are forever changed, a family lost a son, a young man lost his life, a police officer will live in unwanted infamy.  Ferguson is in turmoil.  There should be grief.

But I just see finger pointing, side taking.  I see people who are sick of hearing about it but the crisis is real and isn’t going away.

And all of this…all of this is unto our Lord Jesus.

I know he grieves and I want to choose to grieve with him.

I am praying for Ferguson.  I am praying for everyone in Ferguson.

Just Bring It, November 18th.

It is true that I don’t blog as much as I used to.  There are a handful of reasons:

1. I am unspeakably and ridiculously busy. Daycare, my own family, care of the home, baking, cooking, preparing, errands, school stuff, DoTerra business, crafting, friends and family…there is little time for introspection and writing. Besides, it’s hard to type with children in your lap.
2. I am working through things on the fly. Instead of processing through blogging, the pace of life means that I am processing as I wash dishes, drive to preschool, the space between services at church, as I drift off to sleep.
3. I am not in my chair as much I used to be. I am a true Emerson, go-go-going. I like busy, I like active, I like people and bustling around and doing. I am feeling So Much Better and it is such a Dramatic Difference that I just don’t sit if I can help it. That means less time for writing. It’s the best of the reasons.
4. Here is the worst, or maybe just my least favorite reason. I am in a desert place with God. These are normal, common to the Christian experience, but no fun. I seek and I find, but it is an effort and I feel my relationship with God changing. My revelation of Him changing. Someone said to me recently that you can not receive comfort without the desert place, without the wilderness and here am I.  There’s just not that much to say right now…but I know that there will be.

But today, I have to blog. Because today is Nora’s second birthday. If you’re new to the story, you can catch up by reading literally all of 2012…but especially here and from 2013, here.  Even if only to say, again, thank you to all of you because you have stood with us through it all.

My first meeting with Nora

We’ve come a long way, Nora and I.

Last year, at one year old!

At one year old

In September

Just in September

I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that one day we will be together in heaven with all who have gone before us, AC whose birthday Nora shares…AC would’ve gotten such a kick out of that.

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And Nora’s twin, Asher.

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I’m grateful for all the life we have lived in these two years- we have laughed and cried and laughed some more. We have asked why and we have said that it doesn’t matter why.  We have struggled and we have soared…but most of all…we are here.

Nora

Nora is a joy and a light.  Tenacious and smart, stubborn and mischievous.  She is worth every tear, every ache and pain, every stitch, every drop of blood that fell, every single thing that happened.

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I’m just so grateful.

So yes, bring it on, November 18th. Tears will flow today because it still takes me by surprise.  I almost died.  I had a baby eleven weeks early.  Nora had a twin and he is not here.  Tears are okay.  Grief is okay.  Gratitude is okay.  Joy is okay.  And having all of those feelings at once…it’s more than okay.  All woven together…they make something beautiful and bigger than us.  Something with God’s fingerprints all over it.

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He was with me then.  He is with me now.

Bless and Keep, Lord

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The other day, as we drove home from Roanoke, our conversation turned to heavier things (as it always does on long drives).  John said something about the day he was saved by Grace, the day he reached out to Jesus and his life was changed forever.  And I don’t have a day like that. I grew up knowing the God of the Universe lived in my heart.  I made a decision for Him so far back, I don’t remember it.  I’ve had to reaffirm that decision over the years, but God just has always been a real Presence for me.  I can remember feeling Him all around me, even at a very young age.

So, that bottom lines to almost 42 years of being a Christian.

But all of a sudden, my faith has become so much more simple.  All of a sudden, I am learning all these new things.  And all of a sudden, I’m figuring out that I have always made it more complicated than it really is.

I read the Word as though i’ve never seen it before and truth leaps out at me.

I pray these simple, simple prayers.  Lord, be my helper.  Lord, bless them and keep them.

And that Numbers 6 prayer is what is on my mind.

I’m the mother of many, as you know.  Six souls that mean the world to me.  Six people who delight and irritate and bless and cause angst.  They are six of the most exquisitely made, creative, interesting and lovely people there are in the world.  I would want to know them even if they weren’t mine.

But having six pieces of your heart growing up and wandering around unattended in the world causes fear and that is what I’m thinking about this morning.

On Facebook, I see scared mommies sending their sweet babies to kindergarten for the first time.  To high school.  To college.  Kids gaining independence and growing older and as they grow…we have to trust the work we’ve done and God on High to bring fruit.  We have to let go more and more and let them try to fly.

And it scares us.  Because we are more invested in their futures than we ever were in our own.

And we know that sometimes they will fall down.  And they may fall hard.  And we don’t want that for them…never mind that we know in our hearts that falling down is sometimes where we’ve learned most.

God has given me a peace in this prayer I pray over my six, every time they come to mind.

Lord bless them
And keep them
Cause your face to shine on them
Lord, be gracious with the light of your countenance
Give them peace

Because that covers it all.

Lord, bless them.  Bring good to their lives Lord.  Bring fruit.  

And keep them.  Is there anything we want more for our babies than that they know the Lord?  That they know that true love and mercy?  God, let them know you hold them in your hand and will not let go.

Cause your face to shine on them.  Lord, let them experience your glory in their lives.  Let them know that they walk in the light.  Use your Holy Spirit to keep them in the light.

Be gracious with the light of Your countenance.  Lavish your love on them God.  Pour out who you are on their lives.  Bring so many opportunities to know your light and your love.  

Give them peace.  There is no peace without Jesus.  Jesus has redeemed. He is true peace.  He is the peace that passes all understanding and that is what i want for my six.

It’s happening.  They are growing up.  It is happening in every moment that goes by.  Every year, another birthday, another grade in school, more and more independence.  It’s happening.  It’s good.  But it’s scary and it’s hard.  Holding a newborn, up all night…it suddenly seems somehow easier than waving good bye as that very same baby drives away in a car.  We are in this place, no matter what, because signing up for that newborn means signing up for the kid off to college.  No getting out of it.

We don’t have to just wave good bye.  We can pray and release them and trust them to Him who loves even more fully and more deeply than we do.

Light of Your Face