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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God’s Guiding Hand

It’s still mind boggling to me to think back ten years ago….to a time when God was barely on my radar – thankfully, He never lost sight of me!  And I f you asked me five years ago how I expressed my faith, art was the last thing that would’ve come to mind – and yet, here I am today…thriving spiritually by creating and sharing faith art!

As a child (and adult!) I loved to color – it provides such a calming effect – the cares & concerns of everyday life melt away allowing my spirit to quiet and open the door to hearing God.  What started as an effort to help me relax and remain positive through chemotherapy, quickly developed into an untapped passion. Today, I combine my love of God’s Word with fun art supplies like watercolors, markers, gel pens, and my trusty iPad Pro.  

But as much as I enjoy the process of creating faithart, it’s sharing that really makes my heart smile!  I’m so blessed to share God’s promises through both social media and homemade items like bookmarks and small cards.  What does tomorrow hold? Only He knows, and my confidence lies in His Word as I  open myself to learning new ways to share God’s love. 

God’s Mighty Love

My goodness it’s been a busy crazy summer! So different from last year, yet equally insane.  

Last year I was feeling pretty lousy – cancer complications were problematic and I was coming off four weeks of intensive radiation, followed by a case of shingles that landed me in the hospital, all the while planning a wedding!

This year has truly been a great year cancer-wise – I’ve felt great & much more physically active. Over a period of six weeks I made multiple 6+ hr (one way) drives to visit my daughter & family tucked in between a super condensed 4-day trip to California to help pack my sister as she moves forward in her journey there. 

Somewhere in the mix, I overdid (yes, that’s a big DUH!) ….things were going so well… until they weren’t. All of a sudden I was constantly tired, sleeping more, and simple short walks weren’t so simple. A middle of the night trip to the ER revealed I had a blood clot that moved to my lungs – no bueno – especially when you have stage IV cancer. An ambulance ride, meds, days of extremely thorough doctor checks, and I was good to go….slowly!  

When I’m feeling good (aka not constantly reminded of physical limitations), I wanna be like the other kids! I wanna go for brisk walks, water aerobics, long trips, play time with my grandson….but, I’ve got to remember the pace… and be mindful what a blessing that I’m able to do those things! But maybe….just maybe, I do them in moderation so I decrease the risk of setbacks and increase the probability future fun. 

The absolute best part???? It’s so wonderful to feel well enough to spend time expressing faith through art again! Hands down, the Thrive Bible is my all-time favorite  – I love how God speaks to me through the devotions, causing me to often say to myself, “wow! I never thought about it that way!” and to continually be in awe of His Mighty Love for us

Saying “Yes”

Measuring StickIt’s been a crazy week…a crazy year…and it often seems the enemy is working overtime…I still say YES Lord, YES! Often when we say yes, the picture gets muddy and those of us (that would be me) inadvertently pull out the measuring stick to see what we (me!) haven’t done…

I haven’t completed the past week’s bible study assignment…I haven’t finished the revised book proposal…I missed an important training session for an upcoming Emmaus Walk…all exciting ways to show God I mean business

I haven’t done those important things, but I still choose YES – yes in the daily circumstances of life…yes, in serving as an advocate – yes, by being an encourager…  I will be by my daughter’s side as she fights through the fiery furnace of health challenges…yes, I will be there both physically and emotionally for those viewed as outcasts…yes, I will encourage friends and co-workers through their personal struggles and most importantly, YES I will praise my loving God who gives me strength for the battle, courage to persevere, and confidence to know He has everything under control.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Lost in the Woods

Fair Breeze 040Last month I was visiting friends at their property in the country.  I’d been several times before, so I’d developed a sense of the layout.  I’d been on several walks, but never on my own.  My friends were working on a project where I was of no particular use, so I decided a walk through the woods would be nice before I set out on my way back to Houston.

There were numerous managed (i.e. mowed) trails to choose from – I chose the one I thought would take the longest – off I went with Buddy (their dog) leading the way!

In no time at all, we came to the end of the mowed path…the path ahead was still there…it just wasn’t clearly marked.  Buddy appeared confident in the direction we were headed and so I followed. Continue reading

Construction Zone – Yield Ahead…

Still catching up on blogs!

Jan 2, 2012

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

Following my last entry about God’s faithfulness, I had a deeper revelation about my old thoughts of being ‘enough’ – rejection – acceptance… it’s okay to be weak when I have God…HE IS MY STRENGTH!

As I laid my head on the pillow that night, tears flowed as I surrendered yet another part of myself to Him.  I may not be at a place of complete surrender – yet – actually, I may not realize all the parts of me I’m holding back – so much has been suppressed and buried for so long it’s difficult to know how much more there is to be revealed.

I am certain, however, God will reveal the hidden pieces of heart as I continue to seek Him.  Day by day, He is refining me, calling me closer to Him.

The best part of change is when we (me!) think it’s our idea! Here’s a good one:  last year I had an idea to save money (at least that’s what I thought!)…I have always tried to control my hair – it’s curly and unruly – the more there is, the wilder it is!  For the past 20+ years I have kept it short and even went so far as to have it chemically treated in an attempt  to control the curls.  And then there’s hair coloring – or what I called camouflage – how telling is that????  Now, I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way to manage hair…and yes, I’m aware of varying beliefs – that’s between you and God.  For me, it was the underlying issue needing attention – the issue of control.

God is slowly teaching me it’s a lot of work to be something / someone He hasn’t designed me to be and hair is just the tip of the control iceberg.  He’s also teaching me I can’t really move forward until I have purged the past.

I receive a newsletter from Be in Health and there’s a series on Personality Mis-Profiles – I read one titled “Fabricated Personalities” – I couldn’t help but wonder if it was describing me.  Am I driven by perfection as a way to preserve some sort of identity?  Have I not made allowances for weakness or failure?  What defense mechanisms have I put in place to accommodate things I have difficulty facing?  Ouch.

Of course I want to move forward, but as ridiculous as it may sound, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe God is moving me in the right direction…  OR is it more likely a part of me has decided the direction and I’m trying to fit God into the equation?

In my mind to move forward – to marry, leave the corporate world, etc., means I have to sell the house, which if that’s what I’m supposed to do, I have to get it on the market.  To get the house on the market, I have to get it market-ready.  To get the house market-ready, I have to clean out the clutter…

Could it be my hesitancy has nothing to do with de-cluttering my physical house, but actually my spiritual house?  Am I ready to yield my will to His?  It’s my choice – will I choose to rest in His grace and mercy or will I keep trying to be someone other than who He intends for me to be?

Boot Camp

When last wrote, I talked about moving into the next phase of My Love Dare with God: Living My Love Dare with God...here we go..

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,    my God, in whom I trust.’  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence..” Psalm 91:1-3 (ESV)

Allow those words to sink in  a bit…refuge – fortress – deliverer

I’ve known for some time 40 days of developing a deeper relationship with God was, for the most part, an outline of sorts – still an essential, integral part the journey; but a critical part..a connection with my heart and in my spirit, wasn’t there yet.

The real work was only beginning – taking the concepts introduced in the initial 40 days and putting them into practice – application is always a critical step of development.

My initial confrontation/realization came  last Fall —  my life was changing dramatically and the chain reaction was much more than I could have imagined.  The range of emotions seemed almost too much to bear at times.  I went from certainty to uncertainty  to greater uncertainty day after day.  I felt more alone than I had in a long, long time.  I would soon learn the loneliness I felt had nothing to do with a man – it was about me attempting to venture down a path without completely trusting  God as my guide.

At the time I wrote this entry, I believed I was planning to marry and embark on a new journey.  But the plans were falling apart.  In the blink of an eye, the wedding moved from 60 days away to an undetermined date.  I went from my future husband moving to Texas  to me moving away.  I went from transitioning away from the life I’d known with the help of a partner to feelings of abandonment – on my own to sell  a 30yr old home in need of much repair, moving away from a full-time corp career, being near family and friends, and most of all, remaining in close proximity to my daughter.   In other words, moving from my comfort zone to something unknown.

I was now being thrust into a position where all of the “things” I cherished would be stripped away and I would be responsible for the execution – no one here to physically push me forward.

It had to be intentional surrender and I was in a tailspin of emotions.

I felt abandoned by the man I trusted as a future partner and it was excrutiatingly painful – I kept thinking to myself, “I could do this if he were here.”

You see, even  though God provided great revelation in the 40 day Love Dare, the principles were still theorectical – I had no life application (yet!) and my old tendancies readily moved into play.

I found myself trusting a man…loving a man…an imperfect human more than God.  My instincts weren’t honed yet to look to God first and foremost for my motivation, strength, and support.

You see, God had shown me what was necessary to really take my walk deeeper two years before…

08/04/09: For God to effectively use me, He has to take me completely out of my comfort zone…that way I will be forced to lean on Him.

What does this mean to me? BIG change.

Interesting…I hadn’t read that note since I wrote it 2+ years earlier.  Am I  willing to embrace what God has ahead even if I don’t have a grasp on what the picture looks like?  No one else can do this for me – someone pushing me through won’t achieve God’s objective.

This leg of my journey is intended to be bonding time with God – much like the initial bonding between parent and infant.  In spite of past experiences, in spite of past perceived successes, this is a time of trials where establishing complete trust and dependence on God is critical – and no human can provide the incentive or fuel.

And so, God is providing me with opportunities to trust Him and depend on Him in every single facet of my life – to take refuge in Him when weathering the storms of life changes….

    • Relationships: uncertainty will inevitably create strain – can I trust God to manage it all?
    • Career: it’s not the career I love, but the confidence I have gained – will I surrender so God can redefine my sense of self-worth?
    • Possessions: I must de-clutter my life – voluntary purging of the past is essential for me to be fully available to God

I’m sure there’s so much more I haven’t recognized yet, but it is overwhelmingly apparent I’m not just moving into a new phase – I’m in boot camp to serve the Most High!

©  Celeta’s Journey & My Love Dare with God, 2012. All rights reserved.