Pure Joy

It’s difficult to describe just how good it feels to celebrate God’s faithfulness every.single.day. so I thought I’d just show it instead! God is really moving! Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared a devotional & words of encouragement faith art (below) at a local pregnancy center, I’ve been asked to lead a faith art session at an upcoming women’s retreat, AND I’ve been asked to create faith art coloring pages for a children’s ministry!

Isn’t God grand? Gosh….even the word grand doesn’t begin to describe God! The latter part of 2017 and early part of 2018 were more challenging as the trickle-down effects of cancer and its treatments wreaked havoc on my lungs, but God still has work for me to do! Thankfully, I’m feeling much, much better these days and pleased to report current scans & markers show the cancer remains stable! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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The thing is, God has a plan that far exceeds anything I could dream up for myself…. the desire to create faith are came as a byproduct of cancer, and the  opportunities to share God’s love through art came before I received results of my latest scans… I didn’t hesitate to accept because…

I know God’s got this!

This past year, I’ve learned to live like I am always HIS and not just after He proves I’m His in a particular situation…. does that make any sense? In other words, I don’t wait until I see proof of His faithfulness to step forward….

Today I attended a Bible Journaling Group: H.I.S. (Houston’s Illustrating Sisterhood) and we discussed the perils of spiritual amnesia – God is ALWAYS at work and ALWAYS working for the best in our lives…especially when it may not “feel” that way!

Living in gratitude is a choice and testifying to the daily miracles of faithfulness He is working in our lives is a must!

 

Joy in the Journey!

More often than not, folks will say,

“how do you do it? how do you stay so positive? how do you always seem to be so happy?”

The answer is truly simple and yet seemed so elusive most of my adult life….God worked very diligently to prepare me for a cancer journey!

In 2013,

  • my daughter endured two debilitating bouts of meningitis
  • I moved my dad to assisted living as Alzheimer’s was taking its devastating toll
  • my job went from crazy stress, to off the charts insane stress
  • I experienced the brink of physical and emotional collapse

Being soooooooo close to that edge, I knew something had to change….and that’s where God took my trust in Him to the “liberating place.” A place where I set aside my overly analytical mind. A place where He was my sole focus. A place where I confidently said goodbye to the corporate world where I was dying. A place where miracles happen.

It was a time when I had NO IDEA as to what was next and a time where I wasn’t scrambling to come up with a “plan” of my own. It was a time of the most wonderful peace I’d ever experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, the crazies were still present in 2014 – they just weren’t dictating my steps! It was a time when my feet didn’t move without God’s influence.

  • It was a time when I began experiencing serious pain with no idea as to the cause.
  • It was a time when I enjoyed visits with my dad and eventually said goodbye.
  • It was a time when my mom & stepdad came for a visit that resulted in them staying.
  • It was a time when my relationship with my oldest sister went to a new level as we spent countless hours together helping my other sister transition her life as we packed up my parents life in California.

With God as my focus and sole compass, I began seeing each day, each challenge, so differently. Anxiety diminished and peace reigned. I began to more fully receive God’s no matter what precious love!

So later that year, when the doctor said, “you have stage IV cancer that has spread extensively through your bones,” I didn’t panic. I knew God was still with me & prepared me for the battle ahead.

Have there been really tough days? Definitely. But God is faithful. He’s my go-to guy and gets me through every single challenge – every single day.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This past weekend I experienced a first – I attended a Bible Journalers group! I was like a kid in a candy shop for the first time – all these like-minded women in one place – at the same time – with more art goodies than I could ever imagine!

As we were about an hour in, the coordinator stopped by my table and asked what I was planning…. you would’ve thought she’d asked me to explain some vast scientific thoughts on the universe….of which I haven’t a clue!

I soon discovered that I’m really challenged to focus with so much external stimulation… granted I was probably a BIG distraction to others….I chatted incessantly…a combination of nerves and excitement…. but somehow God settled me long enough to create this page, which I now “see” as the preface to a Bible study by Lisa Harper on Job that I started this past Sunday – isn’t God grand??????

Sunday’s message is still filtering through to my heart…

Last night I started reading through Job – I may have read a verse or two before and knew the 50,000ft view (sort of)…. and as I read, it seemed as if Job certainly was affected by initial losses, but not dissuaded in his faith. Then in chapter in chapter 3, after the boils, loss & pain started taking it toll…

Pain & Circumstances….it’s something we’re all familiar with… when my focus is narrowed through my imperfect lens, I can’t focus to see what God is doing IN the circumstance.

For example,

– I have an aggressive type of cancer. check.

– I experience physical pain every single day. check.

Sure, I can get bogged down in the muck – I’m human! I have to nurture my Holy Habits – to KNOW and EXERCISE God’s promises…most importantly? BELIEVE His promises. God has promised my healing.period.

If my focus is constantly on ‘when’ or ‘how’ God’s healing will come, then I’m at risk to miss out on everything in between!

It’s the “in-between” where God shows Himself & is glorified

it’s the “in-between” where my relationships are enriched

it’s the “in-between” where I get to be extraordinarily grateful for sunrises & promises of a new day

it’s the “in-between” where I get to share His love in the midst of life’s storms

it’s the “in-between” where my love for Him grows with each breath…

Oh, precious readers…my prayer is that each of you experience and treasure the liberating place!

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#write31days – Day 29

imageThe past two years have been filled with opportunities / lessons for letting go.  Saying goodbye to expectations, a job/career, & my dad.  As hard as it was facing the changes in my dad’s health, today I’m thankful for the opportunity of time.  It’s a commodity so easily taken for granted.

Not that we’re all a bunch of statisticians, but whether we realize it or not we plan based on probabilities. We assume we will have the luxury of putting things off for another day – at least I did… and the thing is, we know there are no guarantees.

But look how perfectly things aligned…sure the journey had some really rough spots…in a way that makes the memory sweeter…to witness the gracious hand of God at work on such a truly personal level is incredible.  Before my dad’s stroke, he longed for the opportunity to see family one more time.  By the grace of God, he did.  I longed to be available for family without the constant work battle of feeling forced to choose otherwise.   By the grace of God, I did.  My mom & stepdad were scheduled to return to California just as hospice was called in for 24hr care.  In the past, I had a habit of pushing people away when life got really hard.  It was time to let family & friends in to help me through the days ahead, and by the grace of God, I did. I’m so thankful for that choice because it gave me the opportunity to be vulnerable & strengthen my relationship with my mom & stepdad.

imageBefore my dad moved, he loved woodworking.  He made HUNDREDS of these little wooden rooster note holders – HUNDREDS.  For his service, I wanted to have something to remind folks of his passionate hobby that helped him maintain a sense of independence.  Along with an article written by the local paper, my daughter, mom, & stepdad all worked together to make a special memory wreath – the wreath consisted of eight roosters: one for each child / stepchild and one at the top.  My daughter added the dual cross in the center with one of my favorite verses, Psalm 143:8

“Let the morning bring me word of
Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul.”

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P.S. Oh yeah…I hurt my back (again) the week before my dad passed – I thought it was from catching an elderly woman from falling 😕

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#write31days – Day 19

imageOne of my primary goals in writing for 31 consecutive days is transparency… so here I am… being transparent.  I REALLY did not want to write this evening… I did exactly what I wrote about in my last post… thinking too far ahead (or perhaps behind…) of the posts to come… and I didn’t want to go there.

Well, of course I wrote…reminding myself of baby steps…two sheets of paper at a time… the great thing is that I was able to recall some really hard decisions and have peace over them vs my usual “could I have done more” mental interrogations.

And yes, that’s where God and His gracious healing power comes into full view… because of those hard days and seemingly impossible decisions, I was learning to receive God’s glorious embrace and willingly take refuge in Him… if only for a short while… make no mistake though, He was teaching me how to lean into Him for the days too difficult to imagine.

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#write31days – Day 11


I did it again… I fell sound asleep waiting for the image to upload! I woke up around 2am…lights on… iPad and notebook in lap…a jar full of markers at my side… glasses on… as if I’d closed my eyes for a few seconds vs few hours…

Once upon a time I would’ve rushed to add a few notes, hit “publish” and call it good…check it off the list.

Sunday’s writing isn’t so much about events of 2013 as it is God’s faithfulness – how He provides peace during the storms of life… I am continually taken aback by how much God loves us… it’s so BIG!

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Beautiful, isn’t it?????

And although this should have posted on Sunday, perhaps it’s a great way to start the work week…the often crazy, chaotic work week…every single day is a new day – a day filled with opportunities and possibilities – even a day with struggles that seem insurmountable…but God IS there…we will not be consumed by this world…wait for Him.

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It’s a WIN – WIN – WIN Situation – Part 2

Before my diagnosis, I’d already experienced one heck of a year… wait…whoa…let’s back up the horses… actually, 2012 & 2013 were monumental growth precursors…

In 2012, I learned a HUMONGOUS lesson… although I didn’t realize it at the time (do we ever?????) I was trying to fast forward  the growth process in my relationship with God.  We’ve all been there in the learning process when we’d much rather know than learn – and sadly, my relationship with God wasn’t really any different.  During 2011, I knew I wanted more in my relationship with God – I just wasn’t sure how to get there.

Clueless at the time, my biggest obstacle was receiving love – in turn, I was trying to give something I didn’t fully understand.  Although my love for others was genuine, there was a blind component – at times, I inadvertently attached a sense of self-worth to love.  In hindsight, I can see I was a tangled mess that only God could and would take the time to unravel and weave into a beautiful tapestry.

StepsToPeace_03My first realization of short-changing my relationship with God was a broken engagement – on Valentine’s Day no less (God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t He?) – a sense of betrayal that cut deep through years of personally applied duct tape to my fragile heart.  You see, I put a man on a pedestal in between myself and God – a good enough go-between of sorts.  I knew I wasn’t good enough (sinless) to approach God – my mistake? My actions completely trumped Jesus for another man – and yeah…that’s hard to admit.  It’s no surprise now how much of a mess I was – I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing… the good news? I am thankful EVERY DAY God shut the door on that relationship to help me  finally understand and believe what the Bridge of Faith really means (click HERE to read the original post). Three years later and God is still providing greater revelation!

Of course, God uses every situation to teach us something – whether we realize it or not!  You see, during my engagement there were plans for me to move out of Texas… yeah…this homegrown 50+ deeply rooted Texas gal… away from family – away from my precious daughter – away from siblings and my aging widowed father.  Pretty bold, right??? PRAISE GOD that did not come to fruition – I was willing – but again, for all the wrong reasons.  Never doubt it folks, God may call you to leave where you are today, but He will ALWAYS meet and use you exactly where you are!

Indeed He did!  Not two weeks after the engagement was called off my dad fell ill – the beginning awareness of a much bigger health issue: dementia / Alzheimer’s – we never had a clear diagnosis, but in my mind they were equally debilitating.  During 2012 my dad, who lived about three hours away, was hospitalized several times.  And each time I was there for him – and each time it was emotionally painful.  You see, I still wanted that non-existent fairytale father-daughter relationship.  But just as God meets us exactly where we are – He was teaching me to meet my father where he was: aging – fragile – frightened.  Let me tell you, IT WAS HARD.  The good news? God is faithful!  He didn’t send me out on that battlefield alone – my dad’s neighbors were absolutely wonderful – as my dad said time and again “I got two good neighbors” – actually, he had a great community of caring individuals!  I remember on one visit in particular, standing on the front lawn crying my eyes out…and here were the neighbors, coming to lift us up in prayer – providing words of encouragement and assurance to watch over my dad when I wasn’t there.

2012 wrapped up on a high note.  In late October I attended a Walk to Emmaus hosted in northwest Houston.  To read more about this extraordinary experience, click here.  During this weekend, I finally began to understand what it meant to receive God’s love and how critical it is to every facet of my life (that’s a post in and of itself!).  The following week I was scheduled to visit family in California – my mom, stepdad, and sister.  I’m gonna be super transparent here – my relationship had been pretty superficial to this point and I was on such a ‘believer’s high’ following the Emmaus weekend, the last thing I wanted was to spend a week with distant family who couldn’t begin to grasp the extent of my recent experience.  Of course I was clueless God would use this time to firmly root the newfound understanding of His love.

In a heart-to-heart with God, I voiced my hesitancy and said, “Lord, you’re just gonna have to love them through me!”  I’m sure God was cheering, aren’t you?  To think…Miss ‘I Can Do it Myself’ willingly turning a situation over to God before I was knee deep in the muck of a mess I’d created!  And let me tell you…it was the BEST six days I’d ever spent with each and every one of them!!!!  The biggest blessing was walking through the door to a new relationship with my stepdad – the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet – a guy I hadn’t really given the time of day to for over 30 years.  Yes – another not so proud transparent moment.  My quiet childish attitude of “he took my mama away” faded into oblivion as he welcomed me with open arms.  Imagine that – God using this new relationship to show me fatherly love – no strings attached.

Yes, I’m gonna say it again… stay tuned! Til then…

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