Sweet Days: Being a Good Steward of Now

Do you ever think about that? How now is all we have? It kind of sounds like a line from a Nicholas Sparks movie trailer, but it’s true! And do you ever consider that looking back at particularly sweet memories- whether of good times or struggle- is like looking back at our past “nows”?

Sometimes I think about this during the week, when there are crumbs all over Lucy’s high chair seat, and they look as apathetic about moving as I feel about moving them.

Or when it’s bath time and I find myself thinking, “Really? Didn’t I just give her a bath like- last night?” Don’t worry. The ridiculousness is not lost on me. It’s always like coming to a fork in the road- I can either choose to savor or to begrudge the moment.

It’s especially tempting to begrudge the moment when faced with a whole weekend of moments that you didn’t realize you planned to all happen within the same 48-hour time frame.

That’s what happened this past weekend. An event at church Friday night, driving two hours to family friends’ house (and by house, I mean farm) for Lucy’s first Easter egg hunt, then driving another couple hours to be with my mother-in-law’s family to celebrate my grandma-in-law’s 80th birthday, then driving more hours and getting home late Sunday night. (Grandma-in-law. That’s technically correct, but it just sounds weird.)
IMG_5754 But in spite of it being Weekend of All Plans Converging, it was truly a wonderful weekend! I confess, so many of the best weekends in my memory are like that- full of food, family members we rarely see, and special events.

The Easter egg hunt probably felt like the most exotic experience Lucy has ever had, since we live on a third-floor apartment and the most exotic landscaping here is… grass.

Side note: Is she not the MOST adorable thing ever?!?! I mean, it shocked me that she let the Easter bunny look at her, let alone hold her!

It’s a unique kind of delight watching your little ones discover.
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She did a great job finding eggs. Of course, it may have helped that she had four adults pointing her in the right direction…IMG_5757

After each egg, with her brow furrowed and her blue eyes laser-focused, she’d say, “More,” and move on, scanning the terrain like a trained hunter. It was all very dramatic.IMG_5758IMG_5759
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When she found out there was candy in the eggs, it basically blew her mind. Papa kindly obliged by unwrapping some pieces for her.
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(And for himself, too.)IMG_5756

What a blessing to spend time with my parents as well as my husband’s! As well as both of Lucy’s great-grandmas. I love that we had that opportunity this weekend!
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Naturally, all the grandmas and grandpas and mimis and papaws were only too happy to spoil and play with all the grandkids/cousins. (Which is only right.)

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I also managed to sneakily snap this picture of Lucy with her first cousin. She went and found him watching a show in the corner behind the dining room table and promptly sat down with him.

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She adores him and thinks he’s hilarious.

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Somehow, I did not take more pictures. But sometimes, isn’t it more exhausting trying to capture a moment instead of just living it- or savoring it? I think I begrudge moments more when I feel obligated to document every single one.

Whether a weekend is chock-full of plans or simply consists of long hours laying on the couch in pajamas, it can still be challenging to be a good steward of “now.” As I looked at the agenda for this weekend, I confess I felt tired just thinking about it.

But as the time came for each event or gathering, I felt myself savoring the moments of all of them. Because moments are a privilege. “Now” is a privilege. It reminds me of that verse that says we’ve received “grace upon grace” through Christ.

This weekend was full of moments- a full schedule, full tables, full bellies, full houses, full hearts. Grace upon grace. I need to remember these rare occasions where it occurs to me to savor and cultivate gratitude for now, whatever it looks like. Maybe you need that reminder, too?

Whatever our now looks like, I pray that you and I can be good stewards of it, and of the grace upon grace we are given.

Artist of the Month: Favorites!

Ok. So maybe this isn’t a post of my favorite previous artists of the month so much as as recap.

Artist of the Month

I just thought y’all needed to remember some of the wonderful people we’ve welcomed here at the Long Live Beauty cottage over the past 8-10 months! Remember when I first announced we’d be starting this monthly feature?

  1. Erin Elisabeth Aubrey.  10672222_616158333230_550600183772033997_nRemember her? Sweet-singin’, guitar-strummin’ Tennessee girl? She shared with us her story of creating and making music, both as a music therapist and as a human, how creating is integral to living life whether society deems it “worth something” or not. (By the way, Erin creates beautiful music herself, which you can find here and here.)
  2. Bailey Roberts. january-8-5Her photography. Wow! And her heart for beauty found in the story, one reason why she loves wedding photography. Her story of God working through her in spite of obstacles like OCD and social anxiety is so encouraging! And her skill is excellent.
  3. Heather Knudtsen. untitled (14 of 14) Her brilliance. Her heart. Her articulate words that light the dark places that art tries to go so often. Those are rough waters to navigate for Christ-following creatives. My favorite quote (well, one of them), from her post is, “We must live in the tension of the world we hope for and the world that is.”
  4. Andrew Peterson. theburningedge Yeah, there was that one time I took it upon myself to write a post about an artist whose work I love and admire. (Admittedly, I never asked Mr. Peterson if he’d like to write the post himself… maybe I should do that sometime?)
  5. Aimee Brown. 1551609_10202193226584670_1552926476_n “The Art of Motherhood” remains one of my favorite posts ever of all time. This woman knows the art of loving people into thriving children of God (not just her own kids). I love her spirit of dwelling in palpable gratitude for right now, for treasuring every moment with her children in their current season.
  6. Brooke Reed. IMG_3910 When she writes, my soul cries, “Amen!” Especially when she shared about the struggle to bottle beauty and take ownership forever out of a fear of losing it, which of course means you miss out on just savoring and enjoying it at all. “Beauty begs enjoyment, not ownership,” she succinctly illumines for us. And she connects this to stories, and their power to “crack open the universe.” (AH. So good, right?!)
  7. Humiltea Design by Kara Clinewindblown KaraA multi-talented as a gifted photographer, potter, writer, painter, hand-letterer, and musician with a marked spiritual gift of hospitality, with bold humility, she reminds us that the voice telling us we’re alone, that we’re deficient as creatives and artists, that we have nothing of value to give compared to others- that voice is a liar. It’s so good to remember that we make the Holy Spirit heartsick, as she says, when we reject our gifts and view them as “filthy rags.” Re-reading her post recently reminded me that my gifts are from God, and their value comes from him.

If you missed any of these posts, I encourage you to go back and read them! This is one of my greatest purposes in continuing this blog: cultivating community among believers who are creatives. I don’t just do these posts for fun. I include them because they are crucial for all of us.

Be encouraged and empowered by their stories; invest in whatever gifts God has given you. Any gift! Whether you are a business-person, an IT guy, a mom,  a painter, a cashier at a grocery store, a preacher, a mentor, a friend, a butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker. You have capacity to bring the kingdom of God into right now, where you are.

That is the greatest beauty of all.

Free Printable: He Is Risen Indeed!

Growing up, we had a saying on Easter. In fact, it’s a saying that has a long history of being proclaimed on Easter.

As I’ve grown older, the words taste sweeter and sweeter, starting deep in my soul and- often- traveling up and out through my tear ducts (because if I can cry about something, I will). Maybe you know the words, too?

My pastor-father would stand on the stage, calling, “He is risen!”

And the congregation would reply with joy, “He is risen indeed!

This is decidedly my favorite moment of Easter. Just the other day, I found myself tearing up just thinking about it. It compelled me to create a piece featuring the response. It’ll be in the shop eventually, but right now I offer it as a free printable for you.

He Is Risen Indeed

(Just click and save to print off your copy! This is an 8×10 piece.)

Because it’s the least I can do. Because he- Jesus- accomplished something greater than the greatest possible thing I could even imagine accomplishing. Even that would be wretched and rejected compared to what he did, what he gave.

Something I read in 1 Kings 8 struck me as I consider what Easter means. It’s the dedication of the temple, which Solomon’s workers had recently finished. This was presumably one of Israel’s greatest moments as a nation. It was a culmination of everything that had happened to them since the Exodus, 500 years earlier!

Now, the holiness of God would commune with them from a tent no longer, but from the temple. God had established Israel, given them a homeland, and this dedication was something akin to the Olympics, according to commentary author, David Guzik. (If you don’t use the Blue Letter Bible app, it’s wonderful for quickly accessing resources about Scripture. That’s how I encountered this commentary specifically.) Solomon sacrificed “so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted,” aka he wanted to be over-the-top to honor and praise God on that day.

The priests carry the ark of the covenant and take it to the Holy of Holies. After they do this, the cloud of glory- the Shekinah glory- of God fills the temple, such that they can’t even keep ministering. Guzik mentions it being hard to define the glory of God (kind of an understatement right?) but that “we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence.”

Wow.

To be in the Holy of Holies was intense enough (I’m inferring this from other stories of that temple), and this, as Guzik says, “intense sense of the presence of our holy God is not a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling. Men like Peter (Luke 5:8), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), and John (Revelation 1:17) felt stricken in the presence of God. This was not because God forced an uncomfortable feeling upon them, but because they simply could not be comfortable sensing the difference between their sinfulness and the holiness of God.”

I have to pause here because what he says next is what I’m really getting at:

“We can also think of the priests as those who ministered unto God under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant- the covenant of grace and truth (John 1:17)- offers us a better access to God.”

I confess, after reading that, I felt a little stricken myself. Better access to God? Better access than that granted to the line of priests especially chosen to minister in the house of the Lord? To carry the ark of the covenant? To enter the most holy place?

Yes. Because of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, yes. His perfect blood and perfect love satisfied what countless sheep or goats or bulls never could.

It makes reading Hebrews 4:14-16 all the more powerful:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Approach the throne of God’s grace- with confidence? Yes. And not only this, but this:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We are a royal priesthood. That is a striking fact. Less striking, more comforting is that in the same sentence we are called “God’s special possession.” All this so we may declare his praises- Jesus, who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.

No wonder this call and response of “He is Risen”- “He is risen indeed!” prevails throughout the church at large. You can look it up yourself to see how many church denominations hold this tradition, often called the Paschal greeting.

Risen Indeed

I remember my dad telling us about visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem several years ago.

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He entered the part of the church that houses what is thought to be the burial place of Jesus. The Greek Orthodox control this area and have priests stationed inside the doorway, which is followed by a smaller door to the tomb itself. He told us how it occurred to him as it has to so many who visit this site, that Jesus isn’t there; he is risen.

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As he walked out he passed one of the priests, to whom he offered the Greek greeting, “Khristós Anésti!” Sure enough, the priest replied, “Alithós Anésti!” It gives me chills hearing about it. Like the old hymn says, “Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble.”

This is what binds us together. This is the new covenant of Christ’s blood, shed for you and me and the whole world. It gives us a spring of the soul- new life. Doesn’t that make the annual coming of spring even more beautiful?

Don’t forget, when you feel the brokenness telling you otherwise, that you have better access to the throne of the Lord- to intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- than even the old priests of Israel. You and I? We’re Easter people. Because of the blood and because of the resurrection of Christ.

He is risen indeed.

Pregnancy: What 1st Trimester Teaches Me About Jesus

If you didn’t know, I’m pregnant with my second baby right now. (Oh, did you miss the super cute pregnancy announcement last week, featuring my super cute child??? Well, here it is:

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For more cute pictures in that post- and some tips on using chalk markers- click here.)

And let me just say, first trimester was way worse this time than it was with Lucy. Admittedly, I didn’t have any really horrible, outright morning sickness, but I did have nausea bad enough to make me want to curl up in the fetal position for the first 6 hours of the day for several weeks.

Yuck. It was the worst. Not only do you feel like crap, but you can’t explain to anyone why. It seems like when you’re pregnant, that’s one of the few seasons of life when people understand that sometimes, you just can’t be a functional person right now. But so early in the pregnancy, I didn’t want to tell everyone, so I was left isolated in the disgusting feelings.

And I felt it seep into everything from food to weather, from clothes to decisions about staying home or going somewhere. Everything disgusted me! Including the thought of writing posts every week.

Ok, they didn’t disgust me exactly. I just felt like all I could do is consume without mentally having anything to give. I even shared with with the amazing group of Hope*writers (if you’re a writer of any sort of who loves Jesus and has something to say, you should absolutely join this group!!!) about my difficulty in publishing anything at all, let alone biweekly posts.

I was met with resounding encouragement by so many in that particular community that first trimester? It’s no joke, and it’s a time to show yourself some grace. Being pregnant in general is a time to show yourself some grace. (I know that being human in general requires grace, but here we’re talking about a specific category of grace-needing.) 

My new friend, Heather shared what was maybe the most encouraging thing of all- this awesome post called “Things I’m Not Doing” from her own experience of first trimester + baby #2.

I love this list of things, because when I read them I felt myself breathe a sigh of relief. And I thought to myself, “Yeah. I don’t have to do all the things! I can just eat donuts! And it’s ok.”

Because it is.

My favorite items on her “things-I’m-not-doing” list are as follows:

  1. Cooking a lot. Because let’s face it, so far I’m not amazing at cooking and I just can’t seem to get a lot made or prepped in a manner that works for my family right now. So, sometimes we eat Taco Bell for dinner. Or just super easy things that you can assemble or microwave or bake for 20 minutes or something. (I welcome anyone’s advice here who has great menu ideas… just make sure they fall within those guidelines. Otherwise forget it.)
  2. Coming up with creative things for my toddler. Because a) I don’t like coming up with crafts to do, and she’s not in a season where she needs a lot of that anyway. And b) there’s plenty of fun stuff that’s free around here- like a story time at a local coffee shop (that even has kids books and toys, you guys!!! It’s like a coffee shop for moms! Provided I am motivated enough to actually go… see item #3). Feeling badly about not coming up with crafts? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  3. Doing lots of social things. People. I love being social. I do! But the amount of effort it takes to get my 25-pound child up and down 3 flights of stairs, and into the car, and somewhere else, and also being pregnant? Sometimes it’s just not worth the back pain, y’all. I promise we’ll hang out. Just as soon as I stop feeling sick and/or dead after 5:00 pm.
  4. Planning and goal setting for the year. Can I get a witness? Because I super love planning and goal setting. And they’re important. But until my brain de-fogs a little, I don’t think I’ll have mental capacity beyond finding something to eat and finding something for my people to eat. For now, my goal is to eat some waffle fries. (I’m really good at accomplishing those types of goals.)

I could list more things, but I won’t, because you should just go read Heather’s list. (Girlfriend makes her own chicken broth. You know, pre-Kroger style. I think it’s downright impressive that she does that when she’s not pregnant…)

The point is, I just needed to let go of some things. A lot of things. Can you relate?

From January through about the beginning of March, I felt like I was walking through a fog of nausea, cravings, and a daze of obligations.

I’ll say it again- Yuck. And I just felt like a taker. You know what I mean? I felt guilty about how incapable I was at- well- anything beyond sitting on the couch drinking ginger ale.

Why go into all of this? Because I just want to encourage you that it’s ok if you’re a taker sometimes. A consumer. We all have seasons where all we can do is receive. Or at least, where we feel empty, unable to give of ourselves at all.

That’s ok.

You might remember this post from February where I included this print:

Lengthen the steps

I love this verse from the Complete Jewish Bible version, because this was and is a time where I need God to lengthen the steps I can take. I need the hope of Jesus to shield me.

I love that God cares about our relationship with him and our growth, no matter what season we’re in. In my yucky first trimester, He sent so many blessings.

For example, just when I was feeling so disgusted with our living room I couldn’t stand it, he gave me the gift of support from my husband to change it, and a visit from my mom which yielded simple and beautiful things like new accent pillows, a lamp shade, and a rearrangement of a room to breathe new life into it.

God gave us what we needed at that time- he gave me what I needed. (Beyond that- what I wanted!) He went above and beyond what I even thought to ask for, pouring out blessings in the midst of my yuckiness.

A friend of mine commented recently about the difficulty of loving the church when faced with its imperfections, like how it feels so forced sometimes. And I know you can relate to that. Anything filled with imperfect people is going to be imperfect. But that’s not the end of the story.

Jesus came because of his love for us, for all people, so that we could become one body of believers who would one day dwell in the fullness of his presence.

And he didn’t wait until we were perfect to do so.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

This is more and more humbling as I get older and have various seasons of yuckiness, pregnancy related or otherwise. Because being a “grown-up” often means seeing all your bad as well as good. It means failing and falling on grace, while standing once again on truth over and over again. It also means letting go and receiving. After all, we are powerless without Christ.

So, when you feel like a pregnant woman in her first trimester, don’t let the yuck fool you. Be a taker for awhile; receive what God offers. It won’t be given conditionally or passive aggressively or begrudgingly. You probably need to take what he’s giving before you can be a giver again anyway. As the song says, he’s a good, good Father.

And he gives abundance even now.

New Life & Chalkboard Signs

I have an announcement! We’ve decided to renovate… our family. Get it? Too cheesy? Never mind, we all know there’s no such thing, because a) cheese is awesome, and b) cheesiness is always hilarious in that classic humor kind of way. (Right?) 

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Regardless, our new addition will be here in late September! And I say “we’ve decided” as if we were planning on another baby. The truth is, we were just thinking about trying for another baby… someday soon. (Apparently thoughts are powerful things, people.)

Lucy thought it would be a great idea for her to tell you, since it’s one of those big milestones on her to-do list/2-year plan. Also, she got to wear this fabulous dress purchased by her Mimi.

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I put in a good bit of work into that chalkboard sign. I put slightly more work into growing the small human on the right.

I found the idea for this pregnancy announcement on Pinterest, because isn’t that where all ideas come from? And I’ve used this chalkboard for so many fun things already, I knew it would be great for this.

Here’s a closeup:

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Fyi, I used chalk markers instead of actual chalk, in case you couldn’t tell. They’re great to work with! I just get them at Walmart, because they’re much cheaper than craft stores (usually). Also, for some reason the pink looks slightly brighter in the pictures than in real life.

I’ve used them several times in the last 6 months, including for my grandma’s 95th birthday back in August:

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This was so fun to do! I’m pretty sure my mom got this idea off of Pinterest too… possibly Etsy, but definitely also Pinterest.

When using the chalk markers, they will dry and be semi-permanent on the board. I mean, if you really REALLY scrubbed with like, a magic eraser, you might be able to get it off… But I just use chalkboard paint and painted over it after I scrubbed the majority of it off.

I used the chalk markers again for this chalkboard as well as two smaller chalkboards at a good friend’s baby shower last month:

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It was basically the rockingest baby shower that’s ever been thrown…

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Obviously, I worked on making the pregnancy announcement photos prettier, but in the other pictures’ defense, they didn’t know they were destined for this blog-post until like, 20 before I started writing it.

I realized it might be helpful to know about these chalk markers if you want to try a chalkboard design, but need to do it fairly quickly and without chalk dust and in such a way as it can’t get wiped off easily. 😀

I’d recommend having a wet cloth handy as you’re working, because I frequently have to wipe off little problem spots and re-do them. If you wipe it off right away, it won’t leave anything behind!

I also have this cute little pretend chalkboard that isn’t really a chalkboard but I don’t know what material the black part is. So, I call it a chalkboard. It’s been part of my island centerpiece for awhile now. The chalk markers wipe off of that one fairly easily and I don’t have to paint over it, which is great! It’s fun to doodle something new on it as the seasons change.

Here it is freshly re-doodled for spring!

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I can’t believe we’re leaving the world of single-child soon! January and February were rough, let me just tell you. And if you’ve noticed my posts slowing down, or being posted much later in the day (I’m fairly confident you haven’t, unless you’re really type A or just really attentive to my posting habits) it’s because of the amount of time I’ve spent in the fetal position on my couch, or gagging when I look at any of the food in my house, and/or spontaneously running an urgent errand to get french fries because I must have french fries RIGHT NOW. Etcetera.

Finally, second trimester is in sight! Praise. The. Lord. I’m finally starting to feel like a functional human again, which is working out well for my poor family, who has had to deal with me. (Shout out to my AMAZING, WONDERFUL, CHARMING, HANDSOME husband who has been treating me like my requests are perfectly reasonable and even deserved, instead of whiny and hormonal and fickle like a tumultuous ocean in a sailor’s song from the 1700’s.)

These aren’t perfect photos. But I love them. Especially this one, the farthest from perfect one of all, since the shower-curtain-backdrop I used was blowing to far to the left, so you can see the street of the apartment complex behind it.

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But look at that cheesy smile!!! As I previously pointed out, cheese is awesome, and I think this is a great example of that. I’d just told her we were going to get a treat at Starbucks after we took pictures if she gave me a big smile (because I think bribery is a characteristic of good parenting). Clearly, it worked.

I hope this was helpful or fun or entertaining or made you excited about spring! Or all of those things. I’m SO excited about spring, which is probably obvious from my doodling flowers and birds’ nests on everything…

Do you create fabulous chalkboard signs? Or have any additional tips? And/or are you a barely functional pregnant woman trying to make it through your first trimester? Girlfriend, I am with you!!! We can do this together!

 

George Müller Weeks. {What Creativity Should Do.}

Do you remember George Müller? If you don’t, you really ought to spend some time reading about him. He was an incredible man. Put simply, he was an evangelist and director of an orphanage. But that is the tip of the iceberg that was his ministry.

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This won’t be a comprehensive look at that iceberg, nor even the at the tip, but at a small story about him I’ve always loved that impacts me even now.

While he was running the orphanage (which was also a thriving school because of his oversight), there came a day when there was no food for breakfast- not for him nor the staff nor the 300 children in their care. At being informed of this, Müller insisted that all the children be seated at the table as usual. Once they were settled, he prayed, thanking God for the food… You know, the food that wasn’t there? The Breakfast That Wasn’t?

Surely, the children had to be giving each other looks; maybe the housemother was on the verge of tears. But within minutes of his prayer, a baker knocked on the door, saying he couldn’t sleep the night before, and just knew somehow that they would need bread. So, he’d baked three batches and brought it in for them.

But that’s not all.

There was soon another knock, this time from a milk man, whose cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would’ve gone bad by the time it would be fixed, so the milk man offered milk to the orphanage as well.

And breakfast was served. If anyone has ever literally tasted God’s providence, I think it was those who enjoyed that bread and milk.

I know that countless stories just like that abound around the world; I have my own stories of God providing exactly what we needed right when we needed it. Because it’s happening all the time!

If you live paycheck to paycheck, you understand the back-and-forth feelings of we-have-plenty and a couple weeks later somehow-we-have-to-stretch-$200-over-two-weeks. This is a common reality for a lot of people. Even if you are thrifty and only spend your money on essentials, it’s tricky sometimes to navigate those periods of waiting for the next paycheck.

So, I decided I would dub those times- for as long as we have them- as “George Müller Weeks.” Because I want to think like George did. I want to thank God for how He’s providing and provided when there is no food in front of me, or seemingly no way to put gas in the car, or to replace that car part, or what have you.

I want to count myself rich- and abundantly so- even on days when buying a cup of coffee would be exorbitant. Because for one thing, I know that I’ll have food. I know that I will still have indoor plumbing. I know that I’ll have a place to sleep tonight. And that’s way more than many people in the world can say.

No matter what level of “rich” or “poor” we are, we are bankrupt apart from Christ, and dependent on him for everything. And when we dwell in him, we are rich, having everything we need. In every sense of the word- emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, mentally…

Maybe it’s sounds trite to say it again, but the statement, “You can be a victim or a victor, but not both,” has always rung true whether I like it or not.

George Müller chose to be a victor. Because he knew that in Christ, we are victors. And because of Christ’s victory reigning in his life, Muller had an “expectancy” as a friend of mine called it recently. I guess another word for that would be hope.

I want to live expectantly of what God will do, how He will provide. On the edge of my seat, filled with gratitude, I’ll be ready for wonder. That’s basically what a childlike faith is, isn’t it?

Remember? “Your answers make me great… you lengthen the steps I can take…”

Lengthen the steps
If this verse is true, we always have what we need. In every season, we can set up a place of worship in our hearts, families, homes- and name it “God Will Provide” just like Abraham did, and “Ebenezer” (stone of help) like Samuel did.
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That’s what creativity should do. It should redeem. It should yield hope. It should be a lens that corrects your eyesight and gives you a vision where there was none. God is the most creative being in the universe. When all was darkness, God made light. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.

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There was no evidence that the ungodly would receive godliness. Kind of like there being no evidence you’ll have enough money to pay for your car breaking down or that something good could come from a bad circumstance.
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Let there be light. That’s what God said at the beginning, and that’s what he is still doing today. He is bringing light to dark places, and creating something where there was nothing… or maybe it would be better to say- he’s creating something good where there was nothing good.
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My hope for us all is this: be creative, like the Creative God who made you intended you to be. It’s something we have to cultivate and work hard at. It doesn’t just happen. But ask anyone who has ever grown any garden or harvested any crop and they’ll tell you; just because it’s hard work to cultivate something good doesn’t mean it’s not organic.
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So, that uncomfortable place we’re in? Let’s acknowledge that God is using it to dig deep and till the soil of our souls, preparing us for a harvest. In the meantime, He cares about you where you are. He will provide what you need.
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Let’s pray and thank God for the abundance before us, and wait expectantly for a knock at the door.

Gracious & Interesting {Even in an Election Year?}

We watched some of the election coverage last night. And as usual, I had mixed feelings when the TV turned off. I remembered why I don’t like watching election coverage. Usually, it just ends being this convoluted mess with every news station blaring this poll and that result and this guy’s worst remarks and that guy’s best and crowds that cheer and boo and regardless of which party you identify with, isn’t there part of you that is unnerved by the mob mentality at these things?

I know it’s normal. If I were at one of those, I’m sure I’d clap and hoot and holler like the rest of ’em. (Apparently, I was a cowgirl for that sentence.) 

And I won’t pretend to sit here and say, “I hate politics” because that’s too convenient, and gives permission to disengage with important things happening in the culture around us. (I also won’t pretend I’m a quarter as knowledgeable as I probably should be. At least, as knowledgeable as someone who can have an intelligent conversation about any of this.)

That said, I hate politics. What I mean is, I hate what we let politics do to us. Especially in the church. It’s like people become these snarling, rabid versions of themselves. I think it’s partly because of fear. Whatever “side” you’re on, don’t you have a modicum of fear about the future of the country? Fear that your guy (or girl)  won’t win, that the other guy (or girl) will, and what will happen if they do?

I get that. It’s always scary when you think of handing someone a lot of power.

But you and I must remember- whoever ultimately wins an election is not the one who holds everything in his control. Whoever is president for the next four years is not also in charge of eternity.

Maybe it would be good to read Isaiah every time we watch political coverage? That way we’d remember Who it is we worship.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LordAlmighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6: 1-7

 

Or Revelation:

 

10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit,and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[d] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

– Revelation 1: 10-18

 

Maybe we ought to remember where our fear really belongs. A reverent fear that falls down in awe of the King of kings. John can barely even describe Jesus, because of the wild, beautiful, terrible glory he beheld. Jesus had to tell him not to be afraid! Is it any surprise?

And how can I help but add this:

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

My soul is not American. It belongs to the Lord. It yearns for the far country he is preparing. For now, he has placed me in this country, so I will ask him to help me navigate all the hubbub and speeches and bumper stickers with a renewed mind as the cacophony intensifies over the coming months.

Along with this, I will maintain kindness (relying on His help, which I will need) towards other people, even when opinions fly like flaming arrows across Facebook threads and online articles.

Because our mission hasn’t changed just because it’s an election year. Our calling remains as solid and clear as it was when Paul first wrote these words:

“…let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so you will know how to respond to any particular individual.” – Colossians 4:6

That’s what Wendy is always quoting whenever we’re doing our If Then Move work. It’s the foundation of all we do. This doesn’t mean we can’t have debates with other people. It just means we can’t turn into snarling, rabid wolverines.


Gracious landscape 1If Jesus could maintain grace even with people whom he knew would kill him, surely we can do it within our own body of believers?

Maybe if we thought of that the next time we prepare to strike the keys with our fiery retort, maybe if we start with remembering who Jesus is; recalling the beautiful, terrible, overwhelming glory that made Isaiah and John fall to the ground. Maybe our posture could be more like this:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

God is sending us now. He’s sending us to be gracious and interesting to everyone, so we can “make the message clear” as Paul says in Colossians 4:4. Even in an election year.

 

Gracious portrait 1