Abide: How “Emmanuel” Means a Bold Christmas

I am adding one last, new, simple piece to the shop. This one:
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(Remember, from now through January 1st, only digital prints will be available for purchase.)

I love this line in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” And really, I love that song. (But I don’t have time to letter the whole thing… though that would be a super fun project… I’m thinking large-scale canvas- NO! No more. At least, not this year…)

My most favorite verse is this one:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

That Jesus would come down, cast out all the darkness and replace it with his light- being born in us, is such a beautiful picture. But the reason they are great, glad tidings is because it wasn’t only a picture. It wasn’t only a nice metaphor.

Jesus came down and put on our skin… “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” The Word. I think about words, especially as I doodle and swirl them onto paper, as I see others doing that on Pinterest and Instagram, often sharing truths that cheer and encourage.

But sometimes? I think I get hung up on the presentation. The sparkle. The polish. The shine. And I miss the message. I read words like “joy” and “peace” and I hear them scattered throughout Hallmark Christmas movies as if they had as much meaning as a Christmas bauble.

But joy and peace are not ambiguous, shiny objects that only exist to be nice thoughts at Christmas time. In light of Christ, they are warriors that ready us for battle- no- for victory.

The Word came down and dwelt among us and gave all words true meaning again.

Even unbelievers sometimes unknowingly proclaim his good news. “Merry Christmas” everyone says. Did you know that the word “merry” means bold? I remember my dad talking about that one Christmas Eve service growing up. At the end of the service, he wished everyone a “Bold Christmas.”

I wish for a bold Christmas, for one that calls the darkness what it is and prepares room for Jesus. I need the Christ of Christmas to bring joy and peace to me- on December 25th? sure- but every other day of the year, too.

To call God by the name of “Emmanuel” feels bold to me. “God with us.” It’s a name only God- out of his deep love and unbelievable grace- could’ve given himself. And God- out of his deep love and unbelievable grace- he gave us Jesus. Emmanuel.

At Thanksgiving, my parents took my husband and I to see Indianapolis Repertory Theater’s renown production of A Christmas Carol. (And my word, if you can, GO see it next year!! It’s as good as it’s reputed to be!)

And among many incredible Dickensian quotes, I had to look this one up later:

But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!

God is with us, friend. Let’s let him come to us, break down the doors of our “shut up hearts” and abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.

Abide: When You’ve Run Out

Once upon a time, I spent a most satisfying hour at my favorite coffee shop, Cavu Coffee, sipping something delicious and planning out my Christmas Etsy projects.

IMG_4062Oh how I savored that hour! I lovely place, a lovely drink, and a lovely plan full of lovely intentions.

And then, December. What is it about this month that turns on the crazy in the world?? And I know you’ve probably experienced similar moments.

A Thrill close up

You know- when you walk into your house in the middle of a week that ended up full of commitments, which somehow all ended up happening within the same 48 hours, and now your standing in the middle of debris comprised of unopened mail, a mish-mosh of Christmas and fall decor (yet to be put away), various and sundry laundry, papers, and you don’t even know what else? You know what I mean?? When you’ve already had 3 cups of coffee and just feel like another 2 might get you through? Oh, and that there’s still more to go?

Yeah. I’m with you. I can’t even pretend to have new/cute pictures of anything to show you today. But I think it’s good. Because the chaos begs the question- what was I relying on again? My own capability? Responsibility? Ability in general?

Oh, yes. It was Jesus… at least, I’d intended it to be. But I’ve realized in a couple of weak moments this week (today… 2 minutes ago…) that even in weakness, his strength is made perfect. Meaning- not my strength. Like when I get home to my family and feel like I have no good thing left to give them after a full day of work- just utterly lacking- the abundance of Christ is still there.

Prepare Him RoomWhen I run out of time? God provides. Energy? God provides. Kindness? God provides. Money? God provides. Hope? God provides.

When I inadvertently default to the shabby shelter of myself and it collapses around me (like it always does), God provides a shelter in himself. As Colossians 3:3 says,

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

In light of this, the Christmas Story expands with the fullness of Jesus, the vast expanse of glorious implications for us.

I also just so happen to read this verse this week:

You give me your shield, which is salvation; your answers make me great. You lengthen the steps I can take, yet my ankles do not turn.” -Samuel 22:36-37

You lengthen the steps I can take. Doesn’t your mess look much smaller now?

Everlasting Light 2

Let’s remember today, in the fray of December, that the peace of Christ is available to us even now- that we can abide in him. After all, there’s this:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

God with us.

Artist of the Month: Dogwood and Oak! {Becca Woodbury}

It’s time for December’s Artist of month! I’m SO thrilled for you to hear from the heart and art of my dear friend, Becca, the creator behind this lovely wreathery on Etsy called Dogwood and Oak(Is wreathery a thing? Never mind, I’ve decided it is. I mean, what else do you call a shop that sells wreaths? Plus it sounds fancy schmancy.) Becca and I go way back to our days as lowly baristas in tie-dye t-shirts (ick) in East Tennessee. Her quiet but honest spirit always encourages me; her humor and sass always surprise me (don’t let the quiet thing fool you- she’s hilarious).

And if you’ve ever struggled with justifying making time for creativity in your life, this post is for you. Welcome, friend. Enjoy! (And P.S. There may be a gift of the discount variety just for you at the end of this post…)

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As a kid, I loved art in so many forms; you name it, and I was into it. I sketched, painted, made Christmas ornaments, scrapbooked, wrote short stories, read like it was my job, and played piano. As I got older and had more claims on my time, I gradually let many of these hobbies fall by the wayside in order to take care of my responsibilities. The creative activities that still found a place in my life went from activities I got to do to things I had to do, such as reading for school or practicing a piano piece for a recital. Before long, as is often the case with necessity, the joy was gone.

When I had the option, I dropped the things I had once loved. Music had become so stressful and full of outer expectations that I begged to quit taking lessons — and then went years without even touching a piano. I read what I had to for school assignments and nothing more. My life had become so structured that I didn’t feel like I had the mental capacity for creativity. My free time went to mindless activities that numbed me and passed the time, but did nothing to heal or refresh — often the opposite (hello, Facebook).

I lived a life virtually devoid of art — my own or anyone else’s — for years while I worked to reach my academic and professional goals. I immersed myself in three and a half years of undergrad and two years of grad school, allowing myself very little outside activity. As I neared the end of my masters program, my professors talked to my class about the need to have hobbies, particularly creative ones, in order to prevent burnout once we began working. I was surprised, but I made a mental note. It was only when everything came to a screeching halt that I realized how important their advice was.

Long story short, a move to a new city that was supposed to bring plenty of opportunity has been a huge disappointment. I rarely work, spending most days at home while my husband is at his job, and I don’t know anyone. I realized several months ago that I had two options: I could (continue to) spend every minute of every day agonizing over job applications and wondering what was wrong; or I could give myself some grace and allow myself to have hobbies in this unique period of waiting.

(Click the pick to see the Etsy listing!)

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For the first time in a long time, I picked up a book simply because it interested me — and finished it quickly. One book turned to 26 as I began (and soon finished) a reading challenge, my enthusiasm growing with each book. This kickstarted a memory of my interest in writing, the fact that I had considered journalism in college, and I soon began my blog. I remembered the joy of physically creating something, and my Etsy shop was born.

(Click the pic to see the Etsy listing!)

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I wish I could say it’s been easy to tap into my creative side again, but those muscles were severely atrophied. It has been a joy, absolutely, to pick up where I left off all those years ago and to discover new outlets that I love. But, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been scared. There have been times — so many times — when I didn’t feel good enough to do anything creative. You know how “comparison is the thief of joy” and all that jazz? It’s easy to read all about it in an insanely gorgeous font on Instagram and say yes and amen until you actually do something that makes you feel vulnerable.

(Click the pic to see the Etsy listing!)

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The comparison game is far too easy to play, despite the fact that we all know nobody wins. And yet, I sometimes can’t stop the thoughts… I’m not as creative as this other person. I’m out of practice. How will anything I do matter?

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Gradually, I’ve realized that creating, in and of itself, is a thrill. It’s an expression of the God-given heart that is uniquely yours. Your creations may never hang in a gallery or soothe hipsters while they mull over life in a coffee shop, but even if another soul never sees/hears/experiences what you make, it matters for you, the creator. It matters when you pour your heart into something that moves you. It matters when you use your abilities to make something beautiful for God’s glory, whether it’s shared or private. It matters when your whole body and mind feel refreshed and ready to face life, even if all you’ve done is get lost in a coloring book.

(Click the pick to see the Etsy listing!)

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There are always reasons why we shouldn’t create. Time. Resources. Stress. Lack of confidence. But you don’t have to be Taylor Swift to make something important and refreshing for your soul. Love and nurture your inner creator.

It matters.

I know you probably loved reading Becca’s thoughts about this seemingly impractical act of being creative (or even just, you know- reading a book!) as much as I did. So thankful for her and her beautiful shop!!!

And guess what- EXCLUSIVELY for readers of her post today, Dogwood and Oak is giving a 10% discount with the code longlivebeauty at her shop! (Plus, currently ALL Christmas wreaths are marked down!!!) Also, follow @dogwoodandoak on Instagram for further festive additions to her shop and sales!

Abide: Prepare Him Room

Last week, I talked about how I’ve been hand-lettering some dear, good quotes from Christmas hymns, and we talked about having the fullness of Christ- a thrill of hope- in the middle of darkness and winter.

A Thrill close up

Today, I am SO excited to share this very merry print with you:

Prepare Him Room

These words have been rolling around in my heart for a long time, and when Christmas draws near, they inevitably surface again. Which is such a good thing! It’s like someone showing up at my house with a homemade pumpkin roll (arguably my favorite baked good made at this time of year). 

Prepare Him room. 

Isn’t it delicious? Christmas time often makes me able to slip into this message like a cozy sweater on a winter night, or hanging extra twinkle lights (because people, I have them up year round) to brighten the house.

It’s a very fitting lyric found in the middle of “Joy to the World.” And a very key element of why Jesus was born to begin with. Emmanuel- God with us- came down to dwell here. Not just to spend some time with us, but to abide in us. (It says that exact thing in “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Maybe I should doodle that one next…) 

We will go and visit loved ones for Thanksgiving, and enjoy the unique hospitality that only comes from family (in my case, this is an immensely good thing, though I recognize it’s not for everyone). They will prepare some space for us and for Lucy.

When we come back, we will probably spend a good deal of time preparing our home for Christmas cheer (again, with the twinkle lights). And in both cases, there is a preparing- a making room- for something good.

But the joy spoken of in “Joy to the World” is obviously so much deeper than homey comforts and twinkle lights (though they are delightful); joy comes from Jesus.

“Christ in me, the hope of glory,” right?

I’ve got to make room for that to happen. To receive my King, I must rest in him, clear out the clutter in my soul, and adorn my heart with hope and trust in Jesus.

I know I’m being so overtly metaphoric, but I don’t care. Because you know what? Humans need overt metaphors sometimes… We aren’t always the brightest baubles on the tree. And something about the literal action of hanging ornaments and decorations helps lead our hearts to the manger where they should be. And ultimately- we end up at the cross.

No, wait. We end up at the empty tomb.

He’s not there because he’s dwelling in us, now. My prayer this week is that as we brace ourselves for the world’s head-on collision of commercials, coupons, and calendars that spread our sanity thin- may we slow instead. May we let hope quiet us, love fill us, and faith to make space in our souls.

Prepare Him Room closeup

Let’s prepare him room together.

 

This print will be in the shop tomorrow!

 

Some holiday housekeeping for Ebenezer Designs:

  1. Remember, every print in my shop is a downloadable, digital print (unless otherwise specified). Obviously, these you can download and print yourself. BUT, if you decide you’d like to order a physical print to be mailed to you, you’ll notice that’s a separate listing for both 8×10 and 5×7 prints.
  2. Don’t forget about the Christmas cards!!! I’m SO excited about these, friends, and I only have about 12 sets left! And those are NOT downloadable. Remember each set comes with 4 different card designs. Rejoice Wreath Love Hans Comfort and Joy A Beautiful Sight
  3. Any item to be mailed- i.e. Christmas cards, physical prints, etc.- needs to be ordered by Wednesday, December 16th at the very latest. 
  4. There may be a special Christmas gift package on sale in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eye out for that!

Abide: The Sower’s Song {Andrew Peterson Concert!}

Last week, I talked about bearing fruit and performing, and how they are often seemingly at odds with each other. And also- that “perform” often conjures ideas of self-promotion and self-glorification.

Which is icky, right? And I don’t want to be icky. I just want to create meaningful beauty that somehow- impossibly- becomes more than it is.

I want the beauty of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because when He is present in the moments of our art, heaven breaks through to earth a little more.

Art is a Bell Mockup

I know it, because that’s exactly what happened on Sunday night.

A few weeks ago, my dear kindred spirit friend, Brooke, discovered free tickets to an Andrew Peterson concert outside Indianapolis, and texted me asking if I wanted to go… And then we indulged ourselves in much all-caps and exclamation points and emojis in our seismic excitement!

I left after church Sunday morning, drove the two hours to Indy, had lunch with my parents and some friends, and waited about an hour in which I attempted to pretend I could “rest” (at which I mostly failed) for awhile before leaving to meet up with Brooke.

We headed in the direction of the concert, stopping for an exceedingly fancy dinner at McDonald’s (as per McDonald’s usual), and found that eating was basically superfluous in light of our excitement and joy at being together and getting to experience such a soul-filling event together.

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(This is our we’re-so-excited-we-can’t-hold-the-phone-steady selfie.) 

It ended up being one of the last concerts on his Burning Edge of Dawn tour. If you haven’t looked up this album, STOP READING THIS and do it ASAP.

This is my favorite song from the album right now, namely because it is all about abiding. When I first heard it a month or so ago, it was such a kairos moment. (You know, the spiritual version of that epic moment in a story when you’re like, NO WAY- That was THAT GUY?!?! Oh, if you click that link, you mostly need to just skip to 1:39… Anyway, you know what I mean? Like, when the whole intricate plot is revealed? Harry Potter fans will here understand what I mean.)

 

 

He talked about gardening, and how much he’s learning about God and humanity through it. He mentioned the way you literally have to tear open the earth- like a wound- but that the wound is not the last step. It’s the first. Then comes the seed, which must die in order to bear fruit. And then seasons of waiting and winter and rain must come before the sun warms the earth, before the yield that the gardener harvests.

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(Oh, and that’s his 15-year-old son in the middle. How awesome is that?!)

That’s what God does with us, too. And as Andrew (Peterson? Mr. Peterson? Why is that always so weird for me?) said, you don’t often hear a lot of sermons about God the Gardener. We often hear about God as the shepherd, or the fortress, or the savior. All of which are just as true!

But gardener. That paints such an articulate picture of patience, of the steadfast love that tends the rocky soil of the heart.

If we don’t let him dig down deep- if we don’t let him open us up, we can’t let him plant seeds in us. And if the planting happens, so must the dying- of something.

What must die in me, God? Let me give it up! Let me be soil that receives everything from you as good.

Right now, for me, it starts with an inhale. And then an exhale. And then a reading and rereading of these words:

[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5

Contents you with good. In all my frazzled, frenetic tendencies, God reminds me to breathe. To let Jesus show me himself in each moment- even and especially my ugliest darkest ones. It’s helping me dwell in this garden, which is more than a season of peace- it’s a place of peace. That doesn’t pass away.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to reorganize and rearrange everything in my home. I realize this sounds like it’s unrelated, but once you start reorganizing, you start Pinteresting organizing methods and looking up the endless cavern of organizing bins and carts and whatnot at IKEA  (insert the onslaught of impossible expectations). 

And I keep seeing with the sight of scarcity. Looking at what I don’t have and feeling like if only I did have x,y,z then I could achieve what I want. But a) I already have the means to rearrange and reorganize with my current possessions (which number too great for our two-bedroom apartment as it is), and b) even if I did get the things I “need” God has reminded me that it won’t satisfy.

As Brooke and I talked about these things on our way to and from the concert, she said, “Jesus is the ultimate goal.” And it’s SO true! Jesus is the only thing that will satisfy. Not things, not systems of organization, not perfect appearance or perfect performance, not even my “wildest dreams” which I’d imagine look considerably tame next to what God can do through me. He contents me with good.

All this is not just what happened in my heart at an Andrew Peterson concert. But rather, the concert was all part of this movement that God has orchestrated around me lately.

And along with that? I got to witness what it looks like to allow God to bear fruit through a person’s story, through their times of darkness and light. Andrew is a singer-songwriter. And many of the songs on this album were born out of seasons of winter and rain and darkness. But he always proclaims the hope, too. He said, “There’s always a good end to the story.”

This is where a performance is so much more than a performance. It becomes something holy, a safe space for the soul to listen for the Holy Spirit. When a lot of souls do that at once, it’s a kind of communion.

This is so encouraging to me as an artist! In light of it, I feel unencumbered by all the whys and worries about my motives and my appearance and my results. Turns out, the pressure really is off, because results are the business of the Father. My business is to be a faithful, available servant, and to continue creating. Sometimes, what you create isn’t only about you. (Often it isn’t.) Just look at The Sower’s Song, and how God has used it in my life.

And that’s just one song!

I hope this encourages you and me- not just as artists, but as humans- to allow God to tear open our sometimes rocky, sometimes barren, earthy hearts; to plant a seed; to allow a dying so that we can give way to new life. His work does not return void.

Remember- I am not the gardener. And neither are you. Here’s what He has to say to us seedlings, waiting for the sun:

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

 

Will you abide with me in this today? May our souls be tilled with the tender hands of our Father; may we bear fruit.

Bearing Fruit {Or: Is Perform a Dirty Word?}

I’ve been doing some studying. Some reading. Some puzzle-piece-together-putting.

And it’s been about as unwieldy and awkward as that hyphenated mess I just typed. But I think it’s an unwieldy and awkward step in the right direction.

In this season of peace, this abiding, God has laid out some truths for me… some dots that I’m connecting.

First, I started with John 15. Okay God, I said, Let’s read this again… And I read verse 16, which says,

“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.”

Did you catch that? (No, I’m not talking about Jesus’ copious use of the semicolon, which just makes me feel like my run-on sentences are justified.) Well, I guess there was more than one thing really…

What first stuck out to me was that he says he has commissioned us to go and bear fruit. I felt like that was a little wink from God, just because it called to mind someone commissioning something from an artist. And as a creative whose abilities lie in performance, whether on a stage or a piece of paper or on this blog, I feel hope.

Performance has become a dirty word in certain circles, and for good reason.You’re cringing a little just reading it, aren’t you? The idea of performing tends to call up images of pandering for approval, or showing off, or being insincere in your faith, or just going through the motions. And a performance (usually…) intends to incite positive response of some kind from someone.

It’s one of the biggest pebbles in my shoe. I’m always stumbling over things like motives- why am I doing this? Why do I create- and then feel compelled to share my creation with someone else? Shouldn’t delighting the eyes of God be sufficient for me?

To answer this, I’ve realized we must walk a fine line as artists. We must remember that what we create isn’t really ours. I mean- it both is and isn’t. (Isn’t our faith full of delightfully baffling paradoxes?) But the part that isn’t ours is the gift it comes from. God gives us abilities, gifts, whatever you want to call them- to glorify Him. 

I put that in bold as if I know what it means to do that.

But a big grace of God’s is that he’s leading me into a new season of learning. Graciously, generously, he knows I’ll fail over and over. He knows that taking a brave new step will test my mettle.

And he knows that my mettle on its own will fall short- without Jesus.

That’s why the other piece of that verse that sticks out is that we’re commissioned to bear fruit- fruit that will last. Wow. I don’t know that I’m capable of producing that kind of fruit.

Scratch that- I’m definitely not capable of producing that kind of fruit. Like it says back in verse 4,

“Stay united with me, as I will with you- for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.”

Another way to say “Stay united with me” is “Abide in me, as I abide in you.” Can you feel your soul breathing a little easier?

I can. And I’d read some verses from our churches Brave series a few weeks ago that reminded me who God is and what God does.

[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” – Psalm 103:11

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” – Psalm 46:10-11

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord?… It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle… You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” – Psalm 18:30-36

 

God reminds us that he is a shelter, he is a fortress, he is a shield. And if he is all those things, then it follows that we are not. 

My issue is forgetting that truth and going about my life as if I’m the fortress. I’ve got to make things happen, hustle, hurry, worry, strive… perform. And when I’m doing all those things? My purpose quickly deteriorates into building up my own counterfeit kingdom, exalting myself.

But if I’m not the fortress, and if I’m not God, then I can’t protect. I can’t produce.

And I most definitely cannot bear fruit. If performing is all we have, it’s more like wax fruit, as one of the commentaries in my Blue Letter Bible app put it.

But the pressure is off, dear friends! We aren’t saviors, we are the Beloved of the Savior. Our fortress, our shelter, our true vine. Come inside- it’s safe to dwell here in Jesus.

I know it’s hard. For me, it’s hard because I’m so distracted by others who seem to be running a faster, better, more beautiful and Instagram-able race that I am. And for that reason, I’ve decided to follow less people on Instagram. It’s not a big deal, I’ve just realized that, as my friend, Kara said to me this morning,

Too many voices clouds your calling.”

Right?! (I liked it so much, I whipped up a free printable for you! Which you’ll find below. Okay, so it’s kind of rustic, but this is just for you- not for my shop or anything other than just being free encouragement. Especially because I just noticed I added an unnecessary “s.” Or does it still work, grammatically? Ah, well. Either way, it just goes along with acknowledging my imperfections. Maybe I’ll make a nicer version of this quote some time.) 

So, it’s ok if you need to do that, too. I’ve decided I don’t need to be incessantly Instagram-able. And my goal isn’t to manufacture success- or something that looks like the success of others. I don’t really want their life.

Clouding Your Calling 2

I want abundant life- that comes through Christ. Amazing how much I’ve talked about longing for abundance here. To bear an abundance of fruit will mean abiding in Christ.

So, let’s stop performing. At least- let’s stop performing in our own power. Because as creatives, sharing your creations often technically is a performance. But when we abide in Christ, he does amazing things through us.

We’re wired to perform in some way. Let today be a day that we surrender our gifts to the Lord, who will complete the work he began in us, even if/when we try to take it from his hands.

Let’s run our own race. As dear Aimee reminded me recently,

Here’s the deal… Let’s all just stay in our own lanes running hard after Jesus within our own gifts. Let’s also cheer loudly for the folks running their own race in their lanes.

Comparison is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. It belongs in exactly no one’s lane.

Be your own kind of beautiful.”

When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what I’m getting at today.

kara quote

If you need encouragement, I’ll tell you- you’re looking good over there in your lane, my friend! Let’s abide in Jesus together today.

Abide Vs. Strive

I picked this verse. During this series called “Brave,” we were challenged at one point to first choose a verse that stuck out to us from among a handful, then memorize it. Additionally, we were challenged to take a “brave new step” towards something called our heading (i.e. where we feel God is calling us to be brave/grow/etc). 

God of Hope

So, I picked this verse. My method of memorizing it was to swirlify the letters and words and doodle all around them, forcing me to face each word with whole-hearted attention.

And it actually worked! This isn’t the first time I’ve done that. It’s actually one big reason I started my shop. Because if I need the Word to have pockets all over my house and my life, then maybe someone else does, too. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a very real thing for me, friends. (You can see it on Etsy, here if you need this print for yourself.)

Over the past few months, the Lord has persistently laid this word “abide” before me, along with Jesus’ words in John 15. I realized it’s because I was running on the fumes of other things, rather than the fuel of the Spirit’s love and abundance.

What does it actually look and feel like when God fills you with all joy and peace? Or when you overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit?

I desire to know and experience those things for myself. And sometimes, I’ve wrestled with feeling like I couldn’t fill up with God’s joy and peace on my own. Which I then realized is absolutely right.

We can’t do that on our own.

And I gained hope again, because there’s a key phrase in the middle of all those swirls: as you trust in him.

The only way I can fill with joy and peace instead of my own striving is to trust in the Lord. I guess it’s part of the whole relationship thing. But I forget that Jesus desires a relationship, not a checklist.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel, quite frankly because my mentor was reading it and kept telling me how she was wowed by seeing the difference between David’s heart and Saul’s heart, and how David’s exemplifies a heart that is seeking (emphasis on the “ing”- it’s a continuous process) God.

The crazy thing? It goes completely with this whole abiding vs. striving thing. (Also, the reason I named the shop “Ebenezer Designs” is because of 1 Samuel 7:12)

I’m desperate to learn what a truly abiding heart- like David’s- looks like, and though I’ve read it before, it’s almost as if I hadn’t really. Remember this verse?

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7

It hit me hard this time around. Because it turns out that a war of Appearance rages in me. More often than not, I overflow with appearance-driven striving instead of hope.

It is- quite literally- a look-alike hope. A counterfeit abundance that leaves me with mountains of not-enough. A joy-stealing wreck.

Saul knew this struggle well, I think. He was a striver. Constantly, exhaustingly, indomitably striving, his white-knuckled reign fostered a nation filled with fear; his leadership- though often performing the outward actions of worship- in reality sacrificed all on the altar of Saul.

David was a shepherd, a true leader filled with bold humility (most of the time), a psalm-singer, a friend, who- instead of chasing after his throne (he was anointed king after all)- chased after God. He was still human, of course, and made some pretty big boo-boos (that whole Bath-Sheba debacle for one), but his heart was always the most important part of him. Even after he sins, he repents, he returns, he remembers who is truly King, and finds God can redeem and sustain him still.

Reading through 1 Samuel has revealed multiple instances where it talks about David finding his strength in (trusting in, putting hope in) God. He didn’t just strive for joy, peace, hope. He couldn’t manufacture them. He trusted in God first.

So this week, I’ve begun to navigate a little more slowly, more intentionally in the things I do, in the people I’m with, in moments God gives.

I’m letting myself abide.


Abide desk

I pray this prayer for you- that God will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Abide: Season of Peace

To say I enjoyed October, is to put it mildly.

And I’d been joyfully praying over and planning what to write about in November (and possibly December). It’s kind of an odd phenomenon to be this plan-y for me, you guys. But I really like it!

Especially, because it gives me an opportunity to look at what God is saying to me lately.

The message has been overwhelmingly, abundantly clear: abide. 

I’ve longed for peace.

I’ve asked for clarity.

I’ve prayed to know the Lord better.

And I keep hearing the answer: Abide.

Amidst all of the swirling questions about things that do and don’t matter, I find I mix them all up and require an anchor. The answer keeps repeating like a sounding joy, Abide. 

To my shock (not really), abiding doesn’t fall within the spectrum of things I’m good at. And it’s grown more evident, like a whisper that rises to a shout, that passage in John 15:

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Abide

So, that’s what we’ll be exploring around here as we enter into my absolute favorite time of year! Abiding in Christ to cultivate a season of peace.