My “Mess” is My Message

Today I received my copy of Stephanie Ackerman’s latest book Faith Journaling for the Inspired Artist. Did I need another book on Journaling or Art? Well, apparently I did! Not five pages in, the photo to the left smacked me upside the head…kinda crazy, right? Stephanie, among other wonderful women, have encouraged me from afar with their zest for art, an insane love for God, and the desire to intertwine the two.

For the past month, God has really been working on me & my obedience factor… at the forefront has been a host of new cancer challenges…. but those challenges have been the catalyst to realizing I haven’t consistently been giving God my best.  I’ve been giving what’s easy and through numerous experiences… sermons especially ….(thanks Pastor Jim!), I’ve been convicted as to how I’m living my life I’m for God.

Stage IV Cancer, like so many other chronic diseases, is HARD.  It doesn’t go away.period. and more often than not, you get new challenges… like wonky lungs, blood clots, and such.  I am very thankful though – just think if God allowed cancer to hit you with everything all at once? No bueno!

While I thought I’d learned my new normal, I was still entirely too focused holding tightly onto the things I could still do.  Like grocery shopping, housekeeping, or walking the dog… yeah, call it what it is….PRIDE.  Don’t get me wrong, staying active is essential, but holding too tightly onto things is a slippery slope and sets you…me… up for missing great God opportunities.

As it is today, I’m in a season where those types of activities aren’t necessarily adding value to my days. Instead, little things, like going out to the grocery store, have the potential to set me back vs propel me forward.  So I’m learning to choose more wisely and it’s definitely a process!

My 2018 goal (starting now!) is to be more mindful and dig deeper in my relationship with God.  While cancer isn’t exactly what I may have chosen, it has given me the opportunity to focus more time on Him by not trying to balance a demanding and stressful full time job….HE is my full time job…and that is pretty darn amazing – not many get that opportunity!

If you’ve read my blog, the consistent thread has been my lack of consistency in writing. And writing is a big part of my relationship with God…to be vulnerable and transparent, and to share how He leads me daily to walk closer with Him.

If I had to choose ONE thing that propelled me into deepening my relationship with God, it was a little book you may be familiar with called The Love Dare by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. It is a 40-day Christian devotional designed to strengthen marriages.  No, I’m not married – I’m not even dating or in a relationship.  God brought me the book as a dare to strengthen my relationship with Him.  Weird? Odd? Perhaps.  But I hope you will follow me as I share, and possibly help,  precious readers do the same… coming soon… My Love Dare with God.

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#write31days – Day 22

imageThe odd thing about pride is that you don’t (well…I didn’t) realize how it’s like self-applied handcuffs and a blindfold, and then throwing yourself into a deep, dark pit.

However, that’s when you have a divine opportunity to see God right in front of you…waiting to help…if you ask.

I was truly in the “do or die” moment…the “do” was taking the biggest leap of faith I could possibly imagine and banking everything on the assurance that God specializes in cliff-catching.  The winds of change seemed like a category five hurricane…I would either crash into the stormy sea below and drown or God would catch me.

Spoiler Alert! He caught me! He showed up and taught me what it looked like for me to take the armor of God into the workplace…meeting me exactly where I was and leading the charge.  The workplace was my most challenging battlefield and I needed constant reminders surrounding me! Folks may have thought I’d skipped right over the edge of the cliff into the abyss…and honestly I had – I took the full on leap from what life was trying to steer on my own to what could be by allowing God to step in and lead.  Those constant reminders I mentioned???? Not an exaggeration….and yes…if you look closely, that is a Keurig in the background between the monitors…what can I say? This gal enjoys her coffee!image

 

I’m so thankful I have this photo because I never ever want to forget this time in my journey…it was pivotal to God taking me to a totally new level in my relationship with Him.  And once again, He patiently taught me what it was like NOT to seek approval from man.

Just you wait…2014 was equally as crazy, but now I was learning to use my crazy deflector shield… GOD!

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Shattered

So often when I visualize the impact of witnessing, I see shattered glass. I find myself mesmerized by the beauty and intricacy of the design….how one act can have such a far-reaching impact.

 

Picture with me:

  • Zoom in – our perfect model is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins…His crucifixion, burial and resurrection is at the center; you can literally see the impact of those closest to Him!
  • Zoom out – not only can you can see impact from the initial act of sacrifice, look at how every one and every thing is connected…even the furthest shard (person) is connected to another shard (person) and yet still connected to the center (Christ)! I envision the bursts as willing vessels allowing God to work thru them to reach others…can you just imagine Paul?????

Now…picture your life….what kind of glass does it represent? Regular run of the mill glass that shatters with minimal pressure or heavy duty safety glass?  With Christ, we have security.  Although broken, we are held steady at the center…the Holy Spirit in us…with the ability to work thru us to reach others. The thing is, for God to work thru us, we have to act! Does it have to be some grand gesture? Absolutely not.  Every little act of faith exercised has a far reaching impact when used by the Holy Spirit.

What holds you back from exercising faith?  We all have struggles of one sort or another.  Me? I’ve often struggled with validation – acceptance – whatever you want to call it….doubt creeps in….ususally when I’m trying really hard to carry out God’s call on my life to share a journey of faith through writing.  My head knows Truth, but pieces of my heart faulter and stumble.  In retrospect it’s also clear to see that’s when I’m relying on my own strength – see how easily the glass can shatter without Christ as the center?! Thankfully God is so merciful to provide encouragement when confidence wanes by sharing a glimpse of how authentic obedience can impact another life.  The thing is, we rarely get to see how God uses our acts of obedience.  What to do? Choose to rest in His Word for guidance, assurance and affirmation

5 I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor come from God alone.  – Psalm 62:5-7

What about God’s call on your life? The big and small – how do you choose to respond?

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It’s all about the Pace…

Lookie what I found!!! A post I started almost SEVEN months ago!

As I’ve been focused on Embracing a New Norm and now reading back over the draft, I’m not sure what I thought needed to change…maybe it was me…maybe I wasn’t ready (or willing) to pace myself and enjoy this new norm!

There’s a popular song out…not sure of the exact name or the artist, but the chorus goes something like, “it’s all about the bass, ’bout the bass…” – while I may be naïve to the meaning of the lyrics, they are catchy and the phrasing stuck with me.

image found on Google - since I'm not sure who owns image I kept the link!

image found on Google – since I’m not sure who owns image I kept the link!

 Contrary to my plan, the first round of chemo (4 2-week cycles) from late October to early December knocked me for a loop and landed me in the hospital, so the second round was postponed to allow my system time to recover. Pride and lack of patience tends to get the best of me far too often! I wanted to drive myself places… I wanted to go grocery shopping by myself… I wanted to change the linens myself!  The list of wants were stacked high and perceived accomplishments were non-existent. The problem? Unrealistic expectations.

And like a boomerang, the words I’d spoken a gazillion times to my daughter and others were being echoed back to me from every direction: pace yourself.  

 I was so focused on what I wanted…when I wanted it…sound familiar?

The thing is…our spiritual journeys aren’t so different…at least that’s been my experience.  Again pride and a lack of patience gets the best of me…being patient with God’s timing…not just knowing His timing is perfect, but believing God knows what He’s doing and not allowing doubt and fear to creep in while I’m waiting… oh, and then there’s the dilemma  of not getting so caught up in the doing that pride rears its ugly head and the once clear sight of true motives get muddled.  So what does pace have to do with it? Everything.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Finding balance through consistency…a spiritual pace where I’m not running so far ahead focused on my plans and goals – and not frozen in fear to the point I do nothing at all. You see, both tend to have the same result: God gets squeezed out of the equation. 

 So exactly how do I do that? Well, for me it starts with simple obedience…start by ending my day with God.  Ideally, I’d do that through prayer and/or journaling….but since I’m really getting back to basics, I’ve made it even simpler! I go to bed with a pocket cross – I absolutely adore this cross! It’s small and smooth and comforting…God naturally comes to mind and my spirit is soothed in a way that’s difficult for me to explain.  Once I settle down (that still thing again!), I’m drawn to pray, read devotionals, and jot thoughts.  Since I’m still dealing with a good bit of bone pain, I usually awake during the night – the cross is still in my hand…I chat with God a bit and off to sleep I go.  When I wake up in the morning, the cross is still in my hand! As I rub my fingertips across the smooth surface, I can’t help but think of Christ on the cross…dying for me…encouraging me to begin my day with prayers of thanksgiving.

For me, it’s a pocket cross….for you, it may be something totally different.  I encourage you to find something tangible that draws you into a quiet place to enjoy God’s presence – perhaps scripture cards by your bed, going to sleep & waking to instrumental Christian/gospel music – whatever works for you…just keep it simple….and remember….it’s all about the pace.