October- I am Victorious

 

What is Victory really? The last few days, my mind has reflected on what our society or even the world perceives as victory, and what God perceives as victory. Is it our accomplishments, achievements? Accolades we have received? Or is it in those moments of pursing your lips, gritting your teeth and pushing onward? For if life is a stage, the show must go on, even through the bad days. With any victory, something must be won, which means there was a battle, and a breaking point, a fall of some sort that gave way to allow a victory to take place. Victory is defined as the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist; an achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties.

I could peruse the catalogs of my mind and recall my hard work, my accomplishments, the things I have fought so hard to succeed in. Like running races and winning ribbons, being a league champion, running at state finals in my high school years. Like art, and contests I’ve won, touring across America and live painting, teaching art for the past 12 years, marketing and putting my heart and soul into modeling an inspired and creative life. These are the resume-makers, the things you gladly share with an acquaintance, a colleague, a close friend.

But what about the failures I’ve faced? What about the lost relationships, heart breaks, the friends or loved ones that have become a once-upon-a-memory from another time, an ache of a life that seemed so long ago? What about the tears that every now and then sneak out of my eyes, from the deep caverns of my soul? Tears that hold the fears of failing, not being enough, not measuring up to what my friends want or need from me, what owning my business demands of me, what society expects of me, and what God hopes for me? And what about those paint covered, working hands, that have created and made so much in this life already, that quickly smear those tears away, and grab ahold of a brush to paint a beautiful something from the tears, or grasp a broom and sweep to tidy up the studio in an attempt to tidy my mind? What about the messy side of life that all of us have lived through in one way or another, but want to pretend it isn’t there?  We are trained from an early age to impress, and not to digress. The desire to be loved, appreciated, and respected for the good parts of who we are stays with us.

Two things society wants from you.

One. Society wants to hear that you are great, life is good. It feels good have a smile to share and something to offer this world, but be careful not to show your tears of vulnerability, or the grit it took to get there. Two. Society wants to hear the dirt, the latest scoop, the gossip, “what REALLY happened”, and if the story feeds their ravaging ears just right, they are ready to cast you out to the wolves. Just look at this past year in the media, in politics, in the news. Society polarizes. It’s as fickle as a flip of a coin. The human heart is really more complex than all that, and unfortunately, we as humans often forget to look where God does- the true Heart. The Heart, where we keep who we are inside, our deepest core of who we are. The place from which the rhythm of our life flows. The place we carry our feelings, our journeys, the place from where our passion is birthed.

Four years ago, I stood on the front steps of my milk barn turned art studio I was renting, and stared at a broken vase. Those familiar tears ran a trail on my cheeks. Any other broken vase would quickly find its way to my dustpan and broom, but this one- the clay peacock-blue-green vase with the textures- this one- was from my wedding day I shared with my first husband, and it had become the day I now was supposed to forget. As I melted into a puddle on the steps, I held one of the pieces of fractured clay, and said, ” I’m going to write about this one day. It’s just a vase. But there is going to be a day when this vase won’t carry the pain it does now.”

And that day has come. Over the last four years, I have pictured that busted vase, glistening in the sun, it’s glory splintered unrecognizable. The shattered vase became a my symbol of the battles I had faced, even to the breaking point. The place of brokenness, where fragmented places of my life had scattered. But one by one, I picked up those pieces. God softened new clay for me. Slowly, but surely, He started molding and making a new life for me from the new clay, and I started understanding what being in the Kingdom of God really meant. And I began again, with new understandings of what failure was, and it wasn’t to fear, but to persevere through and learn from.

Begin Again.

I love how God speaks to our hearts if we are willing to listen. Two years ago, I was continuing to work and sort through the wreckage of a tumultuous few years, and those tears came back. I decided to go for a drive through the country and flipped on the Christian radio station, praying for some kind of relief. A song came on the radio, and as if God wrote it just for me:

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Beginning
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
‘Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Right then, I passed a big sign in the shape of a horse, with the words Begin Again. I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried! God is so good. Even in those Valleys, those depths of the hardest times, He sees our hearts. He listens to our cries. He knows what we need.

Within that season of my life, God used people to bring me close to Him, to victoriously “wreck me” for His Kingdom. During this season, I had a wonderful new friend speak God’s truth over me that empowered my life to where it is today, a stranger-turned-friend prayed for me in their family’s store, and a simple phone call of encouragement from a stranger I will forever remember.

This, my friends, is Victory. The place where our deepest pain, sorrow, heartache, and failure is transformed to strength, built into perseverance, fashioned into purpose. It is from this place that we rise again; Begin Again and God renews, restores and redirects our lives. It is giving up the facades. Relinquishing all that we strive to be. Its raw, honest,  come as you are, and allowing God to breathe new life into you. I am Victorious, because He goes before me; He is my Victory.

Life Verses for this month:

Jeremiah 18:3-4

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Isaiah 29:16

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Isaiah 45:9

“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?

Isaiah 64:8

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Romans 9:19-21

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Philippians 2:16

Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win

Matthew 12:20

20 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.

 

2 Corinthians 4 

Present Weakness and Resurrection Life

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The godof this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a]made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[b] Since we have that same spirit of[c] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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September- I Am Healed

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“A Healed Heart”

The muffled beeps keep a rhythm as the nurses buzz from room to room in the cardiac unit. We sit 5 days after surgery, thankful that my father-in-law’s heart has found its new normal and is now on the road to healing well. It has been a long, weary week with ups and downs, not knowing what the next moment might hold; spaces in the days of comic relief and also of tears holding pain and sadness, as we diligently pray that the hardest part is behind us.

They don’t tell you how hard heart surgery is. Telling you is one thing; living through it is a completely different story. The complications that may arise, the amount of tubes that are placed within the body to save a life, but also cause excruciating pain. They don’t tell you all the details, because if you knew, maybe you wouldn’t go through with the very thing that would save you. It’s kind of like our journey with God. He doesn’t tell us what is before us; we must rise up and conquer the trials we face, we must push through the walls that hinder truly living. But we don’t do it alone; He promises to be with us through it and to never leave our side. And through this, we grow, we learn and develop perseverance, and even strength in our newly healed state.

The definition of healing is to become sound or healthy again. To make better, make well, cure, treat, restore to health. Oftentimes when illness hits, whether it be in the body physically, or wrecking havoc on our mind within us, we feel vulnerable, weak, alone, and even downright scared. Because at that point, we are no longer “in control.” What may have been just a nuisance early on, a nagging cough, pressure in one’s chest, an obsessive thought or disordered thinking can change a person’s life once illness sets in. It can bring a wrecking ball that changes our life drastically in a moment.

This month, our family had much to be healed from, and so it took a while to even write this, as I felt God was teaching me more through our moments of rest within our family. I needed time, patience and to wait for the Lord to teach me before I shared any thoughts on Healing.

This month, our family is learning the importance of true rest. Not just the idea of closing ones eyes and sleeping. I am talking about the honest rest, where you remove the panicky anxious thoughts and allow the peace of God to take over. That is the place that true healing actually happens. It is not a belief in faith in itself, or the practice of naming and claiming if you will. It is the honest surrender to the heart of God, and through His Peace we are made well as He allows. It is never by our own doing. By His Grace we are saved. And that’s more than just eternally. If we allow Him, He is able to transform us, but it takes our surrender.

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“Beauty from the Ashes”
Earlier this month, my husband Matt came down with a nasty case of strep throat. I had learned a Native American remedy for colds, flus, sore throats a few years back when I had been sick 14 times in one year. Cedar tea, harvested from a wonderful tree God gave to us on this beautiful planet, when mixed with honey and lemon does wonders. So I pulled my boots on and made the trek to the back of our field where the cedar grows. As I walked, I thanked God for being faithful, and always providing through whatever we face. And in that moment, three beautiful hawk feathers lay in the path through the wheat like arrows pointing. My eyes looked to the place where they pointed and there, in the middle of our huge burn pile, in amongst the ash that smoldered early in the summer, was the biggest sunflower I had ever seen. I walked past the cedar as I had to see this flower. It was one stock, one stem, but on that stem grew twenty-two blooms. Twenty two sunflowers- some as little buds, some as beautiful blossoms, and a few ending their vibrant bloom, fading back to seed. It was Beauty from the Ashes right before me. In life, you walk through a fire, you see nothing but ash left, you wonder what healing may come from this pile of rubbish. But then, Beauty happens again, this time stronger, and in ways you weren’t expecting.I broke off one of the sunflowers to bring in, collected the cedar for Matt’s tea, and hiked back to the house with a huge smile on my face. We were facing an illness in our home, but what was to come after healing was a promise so good. I held on to that sunflower, and knew God planted it. Here I thought that soil- that pile of ash was our “pit” of ugly on our property, but I learned that day, that sometimes the most ugly of circumstances in our lives, if we are willing to surrender to God, allowing Him do the healing and sowing into our lives, will produce the most beautiful things of life.

Today Matt’s dad gets to come home. We are so thankful for the prayers, the wisdom of the doctors, and God’s faithfulness to journey alongside us all. We still have a journey ahead, but I am trusting the hope and peace God has placed within me. For I know the Healer of all, and couldn’t imagine facing life without Him.  I am holding on to the promise of beauty, a miracle even of true restoration.

Life Verses for this Month:

Isaiah 61:3

…provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 43:1-4 Israel’s Only Savior

43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 41:13

13 For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.

 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Psalm 94:19

19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

 

James 5:14-16

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Psalm 107:19-21

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

Psalm 30:2

Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.

Isaiah 53:4-5

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

Mark 5:34

34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Matthew 11:27-29

Rest for the Weary
27 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…

 

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August- I Am a Journeyer

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I sit weary, next to my husband Matt, 30,000 feet in the air. We are traveling across several states to a happy occasion- a dear cousin’s wedding; yet a series of events has left these travelers weary today. This morning we got the news that a dear family member – is needing a complex surgery very soon on his heart, so that he may continue to live. A couple weeks ago, my close friend and partner in business chose a different direction, and we closed our brand new business, “A Vintage Inheritance” we slaved for months to build, and consequently, my quaint little art studio “Blue Plume” has yet another new location and town as of this week. Bracing for the changes and journey yet again it seems.

I am a journeyer like most; we humans travel through passages from one stage to another. We chart and plan our course, but through the journey, life directions and plans may change. Such is life. We dream a little dream. Sometimes life transforms them, repurposes them,  rearranges them. It’s our journey to move towards them with hope and faith, and see the great adventure before us.

The beginning of this year, I felt called to write out snapshots of my life, reflections of what I have learned this far. “Share your Journey in My Favor” I sensed the Lord say to me. Little did I know how much this year would hold. So many life lessons, successes, failures, joys, heartaches all wrapped up in the not-so-perfectly organized path we call life.

A few weeks ago, Matt and I hiked a full day hike in Glacier National Park. We chose a trail called the Highline. We were told it would be long- 11.8 miles to be exact with a 1,950 elevation gain at 331 foot gain per mile. But, we were told the view was worth it.

And so we set out. The first two miles wrapped along the side of a cliff plummeting down a mountainside resting in a valley of wildflowers. There was a wire cable to hold onto to steady one’s footing, and we filed single file to hike the narrow path before us. We hiked for hours only stopping to catch our breath from the 8,000 ft altitude or to rehydrate and refuel with our packed water and snacks. We forged through creeks, observed  mountain goats, bighorns and deer with no fear of humans, climbed over snowpacked glaciers and cooled off in the glacial waterfalls. Although the journey was thrilling, it was not for the faint of heart, the weak or the complacent. The path we chose to walk was difficult, strenuous in fact- at times treacherous- and my body ached towards the end. We ran out of water hours in, and were thankful to find a waterfall to refill for the final leg of the journey. A momma bear and her cubs ran ahead of us, as fellow hikers clinked along with their bearbells. Dangerous? Maybe at times. But was the journey worth the view? Absolutely. Because the masterpiece painted into my mind is worth more than I thousand pictures someone else took, for I stood there and walked the path myself.

Through that journey, I tasted a glacial waterfall. I smelled a handful of rocky mountain wildflowers. I heard the sounds of wildlife- and stepped inside their world for a moment in time. I touched the icy snow of a glacier. And I saw one of the most incredible places, and I could paint it for days.

I sit exhausted on the plane from recent news and life events. But, I know deep with my heart that if we choose to not fully live and choose not take the Highline in life, we may never journey well enough to enjoy the view. What I have journeyed through this far in life has been endurance training for the path yet before me. God does not promise easy. He promises to never leave our side. I can plan, but the Lord God will direct my steps. And I will finish well, no matter the charted trail, because He goes before me, and makes my way a well traveled one.

Life Verses this month:

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Joshua 1:5

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalm 18:33

33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 
Though the fig tree does not blossom
And there is no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock is cut off from the fold
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
18 
Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord;
I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!
19 
The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];
He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet
And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Psalm 42:7

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

 

 

June- I Am Worthy.

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Some days are easier than others. There are days when joy and a zest for life and inspiration seam to radiate from my soul like the sun, and then, there are days where I wonder where that energy for purpose has escaped to, and perhaps maybe I could elope with it. In my life, being worthy has been an inner battle of the mind, a crusade to establish order, to find the balance of a fully lived and valuable life.

Worthy is defined as having or showing the qualities or abilities that merit recognition in a specified way and having value, being desirable or of importance.

Our society has ravaged our souls, on a quest to gain power, knowledge, wealth and status, and has left hurting and struggling souls in its wake. We have traded a cup of tea with a lonely friend for a hundred clicks on facebook calling it a friendship. We have replaced a restorative hike in the woods picking wildflowers, for a quick check-off-the-list-don’t-forget-the-selfie gym workout. We have swapped an afternoon of reading a good book lying in the grass for a sitcom rerun sitting on the couch, because we are just too tired to make our brains process the words. I think we’ve all become guilty of this depreciated way of living, calling it the societal norm.

Most of us have sacrificed the things that bring us true rest, honest fulfillment, for the sake of fitting in, keeping up, and staying current with the times. But is this what worth has come to? I should say it’s quite the opposite. Most of the time, it’s in the still moments of life that being worthy radiates through.

I think of my neighbor Grace, she was in her 70’s when I was three. She taught me to love tea at a young age, as I would go to her pretty little quaint house next door, and pick out my favorite spoon from her spoon collection. She had bought me my very own cup to use when I was at her house.  We would sit and talk about flowers, or animals, or school, or all the dreams I had for the future. And she would tell me stories. If her husband Ernie wasn’t working on the garden, he would join us watching the news quietly in the background. Ernie would have sweet peas every spring for me, and tell me to make sure I brought them home to share with my family. There were some days that Grace didn’t feel like having tea; I got to know those days when the blinds were drawn and the house went dark. I didn’t know until years later, that sweet Grace, one of my best friends in the whole world, struggled with worth like many do, and some days staying in bed seemed to be the only way to get through that day.

Grace and Ernie taught me so much about value, God and life. Grace shared that when she was in her 20’s, she came to know God in a personal way, and she changed her name to Grace legally to honor Him. Although to our world, Grace may have just seemed like a sweet old woman and that’s about it; to me, Grace changed my entire world. She showed me love, grace, honor, and respect even when our friendship started when I was only three years old. I feel blessed to have had her in my life- and to recognize the worth that she placed on our friendship. And Grace was not the only one that helped form value in those young years- There was Ruth and Erik, Duane and Marie, all lovely couples that loved and adored the little person I was then and who was becoming.

Our society cheapens our value so quickly at times. I found myself defending a friend the few weeks ago, because of the journey she has lived through. A woman whom I had just met had thoughtlessly said about our mutual friend, “I pray for her, how many times will she go through divorce before she finds Mr. Right?” I happen to have walked a similar journey to this mutual friend, and was scheduled to speak at a church retreat that night, to share my story of brokenness to wholeness.

So I responded, “Well, for me it took three marriages, and I’m 31. I had to deal with the brokenness I carried into relationships, and much of what I journeyed through were not only my choices, but my spouses’ brokenness as well. Only when we face our deepest hurts and walk through the storm is Jesus able to calm it.”

That night, my voice shook as I shared my story, for I knew that opening up my life could result in people writing me off, thinking less of me, lumping me in the “cast aside” category. But I knew that my story was meant for a select few who were there at the retreat. They were the women who had walked the journey that I had. Those who had been married, and watched their “forever love” fall apart. They were the women who too had struggled to get out of bed, to face the day before them. They were the women who had wondered why they were still here, what their purpose was and what God was going to do with their lives. My story was NOT for the women who prayed for “those kind of women”, my story was for the women who journeyed and had been truly redeemed, and they knew what they had been saved from.

“Jesus is like soap.” I thought to myself a few days ago. The world is filled with soap and most of us have access to it. The trick is, if we want to get clean we have to actually hold on to the soap and scrub away the dirt. It is not by our work, but the soaps work that gets us clean. If we accept the soap, but just stare at it for days, we don’t get any cleaner. If we have the soap somewhere in our house, but don’t ever take it out to use it, I’m sure we would start to stink. It’s only when we engage with the soap, can it do it’s job to purify, to make fresh, make us renewed. So, I similarly have found that when I struggle with my worth, with value in life, it simply means I need time with Jesus. He makes me new. No matter what I’ve journeyed through, Jesus is the answer to our heart change, our new mindset. It’s not more antidepressants or therapy to talk about ourselves, our problems or what we wish our lives were. Nope, Jesus is our soap. We are washed clean by spending time with Him, training our minds to focus and rest in Him. We are all broken people. If we only focus on ourselves, what a dirty mess of looking for value in the dirt and grime! Why not wash the dirt away, and find the value underneath it all? When our focus can be on Him, that is when who we are in Him radiates crystal clear. I am worthy because of Him.

What is a Mother?

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What makes a woman a mother?
Is it the birth of a child, the badge of victory over labor pains and carrying to full term? Is it feeding hungry mouths, tucking in sleepy eyes? Is it holding a baby in her arms?

What about those who have held their baby and given it to another? Or those whose child has left this earth?

I held a baby once in my womb. It was only for a handful of days, a few weeks, but I felt a mother’s love well up from within. I knew it was a boy; I felt it deep within my core. I felt my body softening, changing to house this precious gift, and just as quick as the joy of motherhood begun, it retreated, as my body purged the beautiful baby to be. Doubled over for a few hours in excruciating pain, I wept for my child- at the thought of my precious baby going down the plumbing, to join the sewage and waste.

The day I miscarried I read Matthew 1:23, “Behold a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means ‘God with us’.” I had cried out, “God why are you hurting me?” And within a half hour my friend showed up with a verse from Jeremiah: (29:11) “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” We cried, prayed and named my baby, Emmanuel Jeremiah.

I still love Emmanuel. I never knew the feeling of holding him in my arms, but I know the feeling of letting him go. I have dreamed about him in heaven, and those are wonderful dreams to awake from, as I know one day I will hold him close with a mother’s love. I have drawn his picture- I know his smile, his laugh, his eyes. I recently lost a baby dove named Galilee, and the night she died, I dreamt that my grandpa handed Emmanuel the dove and said, “here is a gift from your mother, she loved this dove and she loves you. She wants you to care for this bird now.”

To science, my body had a fetus within it for a little while. To friends, I shouldn’t worry, I can try again and one day be a mom and celebrate Mother’s Day with them.

Yesterday, I filled my schedule with plans celebrating all the “real moms” but in the quiet moments, my mind would drift to knowing Emmanuel would have only one more month to go before he would have been born, and yesterday I would have been a mother to be. Only, I am not a mother to be.

So, I try to focus on the things I do well, teach art, love kids, love others, and as I go to sleep each night, I secretly hope for those rare glimpses into Heaven to see my dear, sweet Emmanuel.

May- I am Enough

I traveled to visit my mom and dad for Easter a few weeks ago. As I was getting ready for the Easter day in the guest bathroom, one of my art pieces caught my eye. A modest size leather weaving, stretched between a patina turquoise frame adorned the wall behind the mirror. The image was a soft landscape, painted and burned lines created the image as the word “Enough” was stamped within the sky. Last year, I had an influx of sales for these sweet weavings I called “The Blessing Memoirs.” Each held a blessing for the person that received each piece. My mom had ordered three; Faith, Beauty, and Blessed. Another woman had ordered; Enough. Several other orders were going out that day for shipment and I accidentally switched Faith and Enough- so when the women opened their art they were “blessed” with a different piece than they ordered! They both decided to keep the one they had been sent, and I sent them each another piece of art for their trouble. As I stood in the bathroom a year later, little did I know this “accidental” art piece would be ministering to me.

Sometimes life can be weary. We have the “should-haves”, or the “oughts to’s” that seem to carry a weighted expectation of where we should be and what we should be doing with our lives. Sometimes those voices come from outside ourselves; people holding judgements as they watch our lives unfold, while others being loved ones carrying the expectations of what they hope for us. Sometimes that voice rattles from within ourselves aching for more, demanding for perfection or something close to it.

My heart has ached to be enough most of my life. Enough’s definition reads as, “adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire.” It seems like such a simple thing to ask for or even to achieve, but how does being enough to our society, to our world, and to ourselves seem to evade us so often?

I was born to a nurse and an engineer with a definitive need for extreme cleanliness and hard work ethic. You can imagine the fits and disasters they had raising an artist daughter and mechanic son as their kids! I remember as a small child, laundry needed to be sorted, shelves dusted, my room vacuumed and bed made with the corners folded just so. My mom would almost glow as she taught me orderliness in the realm of the house. As a child, I was full of imagery and fairytales seemed as real as breathing. Coloring pages filled my room as I drew out the stories in my imagination, and once I was done with “play time”, I would attempt to consolidate the wondrous chaos created in a neat pile in the right corner of my desk. In order to handle the structure, the regimen and chores, I asked my mom to sew me an apron, out of an old hand-towel and left over lace from one of her decor projects. I presented her with an educated speech of how it would efficiently help my productivity, and how I would be able to keep “cleaning items” in the pockets. So she willingly sewed me the apron- and as I put it on I could enter my fairy tale world as I cleaned and sang, dusted and hummed, imagining myself as Cinderella as my mother barked out orders for the next task to be achieved. Imaginative play allowed me to creatively flourish in a home that seemed foreign and sterile to me. If I didn’t look so much like my parents, I would have thought I was not their child. My little creative mind made connections and ways of interpreting the “order of how things should be”, and I was able to abide, for the most part, with the rules of the home.

My mom’s life is orderly, meticulous, and safe. I could only imagine what she feels as she sees my brother’s hands covered in oil and mine covered in paint. Not even to mention the way our brains process and think through life and the journeys we have each traveled. I commend her for putting up with our  “disasters” for 20 plus years in her home. Her home is her canvas, her restoration project; just as my brother and I have projects, her place is where she can have everything in its place.

Flash forward to Easter visiting my mom and dad this year. I still feel foreign. We have memories and things we connect on, my dad’s hard work ethic, and my mom’s knack for interior decor, textures and colors, as well as our love for the outdoors, and gardening. My dad and I share a common love for animals. When it comes to my life, my business, or even the way I connect with God, it is as if we are speaking two different languages- and that is okay. My mechanic brother lives in California, my artist self lives in Oregon, and my mom and dad have retired to Arizona.

I asked my mom this trip, “Mom, do you ever miss your kids?”

She thought for a moment and answered, “I guess I do, I’ve just realized I can’t control them.”

I asked my dad the same question, ”Dad, do you ever miss your kids?” and he answered, “All the time! I miss my kids every day!”

I realized then that I receive love through affirmation- that is my language. I have to admit my heart ached with my mom’s answer, because I wanted her to give me a huge hug, and say “of course I miss you!” But that would be me wishing for her to be different than who she is. She has been fashioned and created to be her, not who I want her to be. So, I take her answer as a good and honest one. That it is not her job to control her kids. I was impressed by her openness and acceptance this trip. We had much conversation that helped me understand how life was when she was growing up, where she is in life and what she values. I admire her for taking on the task of raising two very different kids, even when they did not make sense at all to her. When we scared her, stressed her out, and more often than not, frustrated her- she did the best job she could, and that in itself is enough.

For so long because I was so different than her, I thought something was wrong with me, that I was not enough. I wasn’t clean enough, careful enough, organized enough. What I’ve realized is I am enough, just as I am. My brother is enough, just as he is. The same with my mom and my dad. The method we go about to create each of our lives is just different. We still all love God, but we each connect in a different way. We still all love each other, but feel and show our love in a different way.

I am thankful for my little art piece that hung on the wall on Easter, reminding me that we all fall short at times, but through Jesus we are all Enough. Easter is the day to celebrate His rising and victory over sin- victory over “missing the mark.” I thank Him for being my everything, so that being me is enough. No more striving to fit a mold. Enough is enough.

April- I Am Treasured.

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Life is a peculiar thing- looking back, it’s a fog to try to remember places and dates and times; not to mention the order of events. And then, the memories come- trickle in slowly one at a time; images, colors fill me as if a dam has broken. I search the flood for the valuable recollections – the ones that will create my memories. Trouble is, I am an artist. I see value in each passing thought, each shifting cloud in the sky, each fragmented memory, no matter the feeling attached. So, I will share with you what I can, in the ways the memories beckon to be shared.

“She is a prodigal…” I read in a curvy font; in someone’s handwriting I did not recognize. I felt the anger rise up within, fighting to keep the welled up tears at bay. My heart pounded, as I knew he would be pulling in the driveway, arriving home to our little yellow house we had purchased together a couple years prior. I found the divorce papers outlining the division of assets in a pile on the desk we once shared, my heart once again plummeting towards my stomach- a feeling I was getting far too used to. My dachshund-yorkie mix yelped and scratched at his crate door, as he heard me in the other room, while our other dog sighed aloud, so patient in this time of crisis and turmoil. My heart broke leaving them again, in our once cozy home, now walls that seemed to grow even taller; reflecting a jagged heartbreak- a fortress holding up the pieces of a failed marriage. “I will come get you soon, Toto and Foxy, I promise.” How do you rationalize divorce to a dog? Two for that matter? Truth is, they felt it coming long before I even realized. I slipped out of the house, gently fixed the handmade wreath on the door as I locked up my house, my once-upon-a-dream, and let the tears release as I walked away from what I knew as home. Learning to breathe in, learning to breathe out.  Letting go of the anxiety within, and ready to learn valuable life lessons in the journey to come.

Tragedy through divorce will do a number on you. Any heartache will, actually. But through the pieces and the wreckage- one comes to see what their heart treasures, holds close, and what the heart desperately NEEDS to treasure. God went to work right away on my heart, because He knew that I desperately needed Him. When I couldn’t even bring myself to attend church, God brought himself to me, as a good shepherd seeks after the lone lost sheep. About the time my world seemed wash away before me, I started hearing a little voice of hope. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my own thoughts as my brain always seemed to be racing; but soon, the words played over and over in my mind, so I started writing the words down. One of the many letters read:

Jennifer Rose-

You are good. You are good. You are strong, you are wise, you are loved. You are independent, but need me. You hope for tomorrow. I love you. In the stillness we meet, so balance is essential. Persevere, you are my daughter, and I always love you. hear my birds, they are blessings I put on this Earth for you. Know my words, meditate on them in my gardens, in my woods, as they are also gifts to you. Your name is not to label you, but to call you close to me. You are not alone in this life. I love you. When you stop thinking for a moment, and rest in me, you are at your best. Despite critiques or criticism around you, you shine bright. Negative words destroy the spirit, but gentle words in love spur the spirit to do good, to live well. I have a plan for you. I love watching it unfold, surprising you with coincidences, connections. Joy fills me up when you see really, they are miracles happening. Go to the woods more. Meet me here, in this place. In the calmness, stillness, know that I am here. Leave opinions and critiques of life at the entry of the woods. Enter my sanctuary, let me fill you with my peace. Just be still, and know that I am God. I love you my daughter.

– Your Abba.

It definitely took time to reposition my thought patterns and how I approached my memories, what I held close and valuable. But over time, these letters I started writing down seemed to reflect the love from the Father above, and lined up with the way love seemed to be outlined in the Bible. I once held fast to attending church every Sunday, being “nice” always, doing my daily devotions, and holding up a reputable life standard. What I realized was that aligning my life to Jesus meant so much more than all that. It meant receiving His love. Truly knowing and acknowledging His saving grace, and finding an overwhelming tidal wave of joy, peace and healing, no matter what life brought. The point I reached in life one year ago today, when I had the absolute least of “things”; nothing left of monetary value to treasure, was the point in life where I finally understood Christ’s fierce love for me. I finally FELT the letters I had written down for three years. I finally saw the magnitude of a lost lone sheep the shepherd brought back to the flock, finally felt the GRACE for the prodigal; the one who had found her way home, because she had learned to treasure the thing that mattered the most of all in this life: Jesus Christ as her Lord.

Yes, it had hurt to read that note about “the prodigal” amongst the divorce papers. But what I’ve come to realize is that every single one of us has been a prodigal somewhere in life, and we have a Father who desperately loves us, that sent His son to redeem us, to bring us back to Him. The greatest love letter ever written. And it is up to us to see how treasured we are, and to answer back that love the God of the Universe has given.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

1Tim 6:19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Malachi 3:17 “On the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

Proverbs 2:4

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

turning your ear to wisdom

and applying your heart to understanding—

indeed, if you call out for insight

and cry aloud for understanding,

and if you look for it as for silver

and search for it as for hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

Job 22:25 the Almighty himself will be your treasure. He will be your precious silver!

March- I Am Free.

“I am set free in you- the current that brought me so far away, has brought me back to you. The beaten path I trudged alone, I no longer face with fear. You are near, you are here, and that is all I need.”- Lyrics from Set Free, one of my songs.

As I sit to write today, I am listening to country hymns, cozy on my couch, with my gentle little dove Georgia snuggled up with me. I reflect on all this little bird has been through in her sweet 4 years of life. I never thought much of her name, or what it meant. She was named Georgia O’Tweet, after Georgia O’Keefe, the famous painter, known for her vibrant flowers, bones, and desert scenes. I have discovered today, Georgia means “tiller of the soil, farmer, a worker of the earth.” Amazing how we have come to recently live on a farm. All of me and Georgia’s journeys, have led us to a place where we have become free.

In 2013, I was in need of peace. I felt unsettled in my spirit at the time, not knowing I had been holding years of life troubles in my heart, and it had become heavy. I didn’t know how to acquire the thing I had prayed daily for, so I went online and found a dove breeder in our area. I figured if doves were the symbol of peace, and were often featured in the Bible, then that could certainly help set me free to the peace I desired.

I went to meet “Gramma Rose’s” beautiful birds, and came home with a beautiful male tangerine pearl dove. But as I got home, I could not get another tiny white female dove I had seen there out of my head. She had flown to me three times in the open atrium, and had perched on my heart. A few days later, I called Gramma Rose to see if I could come back and purchase the sweet baby girl , and she told me she had already gone to another home that week. I was sad, but knew I wanted another friend for my new male dove, so I told Gramma Rose to let me know when another would be available. About a week later she called me and said she had traded two birds for the one that perched on my heart, because she felt that she had belonged to me. And then she shared Georgia’s story with me. Her momma had abandoned her eggs, so Gramma Rose had incubated the egg, and when she hatched, she dropper fed her- and miraculously, this sweet little bird survived. Her attachment to humans was amazing, as she would fall asleep snuggled in my sweatshirt pockets, or fly to me when I played guitar to sing along.

Georgia and my life paralleled, as we both lost our “first mates”, and eventually were blessed with a God given gift of another that so perfectly fit us. I knew after the passing of my first dove, Ansel, Georgia had been sitting at the bottom of the cage, sad. A few months went by and the only time I saw her light up was when I brought her a baby dove to foster, and when I played my guitar and sang. Vincent, Georgia’s new mate, came through prayer. One day, I prayed that God would provide another dove for her, and within 30 minutes a friend had texted saying, “Know anyone who wants a dove? I’d like to re-home mine.” Tears of joy welled in my eyes as I knew this dove was a gift from God. I rushed over to pick up “ Angel Sparkle” who was certainly a boy- and is now named Vincent Van Dove. Almost a year ago I met Matthew, my now husband, a miraculous story of its own, and I find it amazing that his name means, “gift from God.” Parallels:)

Georgia has had an incredible story of overcoming. She was abandoned before she even hatched and lost her first mate; but has also birthed 16 baby doves, cared for 3 foster birds from the wild, and moved several times with me during my transitions. One of the most amazing things this sweetheart has overcome happened just this fall. She was attacked by a huge rat in our barn while she was in the fly coop. When Matt and I found her, she had lost a lot of blood, and was severely wounded. My parents happened to be in town that day, and I had taken the day off work. We were able to all work together as a family and save Georgia, and mend her disfigured and wounded wing. The next couple of days I sat with her, cleaned her wounds and prayed for her. I knew that God wasn’t going to take her that way. I knew that she had more life to live and that she could overcome. Although Georgia has one wing smaller than the other and cannot fly any distance- she is well, at peace, and happily living in our living room, singing every time we play music.

I find it amazing how God cares for the birds, and for us, throughout our lives. It is incredible to me of how I got this little bird as a symbol of peace, strength and freedom in my life, and how He used her to teach me many lessons.

Although I had been a Christian my entire life, I had been weighed down by the burdens that seem to happen to many of us. What I’ve realized now is that we are not victim to those circumstances, or what comes our way, it is Christ who can set us free from all that burdens us in our life. We can be released from the cage we had thought was “safe” but really bound us, and we learn to fly above our circumstances. It is through Jesus, that all has been made right again. Forgiveness, is the key that unlocks the cage. I have learned such grace, strength and peace from this quiet dove named Georgia as I have watched her live out her days in grace, strength and peace- no matter what each day seemed to bring.

I symbolically see metaphors through the gifts God places within our lives. The greatest gift of all was through His Son Jesus. As the hymns play as I write this, my heart is filled with freedom, and Georgia snuggles so peacefully free. “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, sin had left a crismson stain, he washed it white as snow…”

A few of my favorite freedom verses:

Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,

John 8:31b-32

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2 Corinthians 3:16-18

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

A few of my favorite dove verses:

Genesis 8:11

When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.

Psalm 55:6

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.

Psalm 68:13b

the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver,
    its feathers with shining gold.”

Luke 3:22

22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 

February- I Am Lovely.

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Music in the morning is much better than makeup. Here is a video of my creative process- before I step into the studio to teach or create paintings, this is behind the scenes just as I am.

I was born to a midwestern, pigeon-raising, paper-route-carrying good ole farm boy from Iowa turned Engineer, and a Texas gal full of hospitality and all-things-nice who moved to Chicago and became a nurse. These two fell in love, married and started a fresh new lovely life together in Southern California. 10 years later, I was born. And life was still lovely when I was young.

But as time went on, the idea of what lovely actually is became clouded. At 10 years old, the bullying began. The kids in my class started wearing designer clothes due to our affluent suburb of Los Angeles. The success of the doctors, lawyers, stars, and the socialite culture sheltered our little society from the realities of urban life.

We had enough growing up, we were blessed. My parents did well, but they didn’t buy into the full material life that others were saturated by. I became an outsider- never really fitting in. Kids can be mean- cruel even. Soon, names like weird, odd, not cool, and ugly flooded the vocabulary of my classmates. Lovely would not be how I described myself. For several years after, I became shy, embarrassed of how I dressed, and what I looked like. I even stopped making art and writing for a season, because my sketchbook and journals were ripped to pieces in a circle of laughter. I became too ashamed to make eye contact. I banded together with the few other kids that didn’t make the cut of the perfect cookie cutter mold society had built for us.

My parents, disheartened by the bullying, truly had enough when I came home not only with a bruised spirit, but with a broken black and blue finger. So they enrolled me in a private all girls middle and high school. I was so used to not fitting in at this point that although the bullying stopped, I still was living in the effects of feeling unwanted, ugly, and weird.

One day, when I was 15 years old, I was at my locker grabbing the books for my next class, and one of the popular girls from my grade stopped by the water fountain. She said, “Jen, did you know you are really beautiful?”

I couldn’t believe it! I had been teased, felt alone and believed I was hideous. Yet, all of the ugly lies I had carried inside ceased to matter in this moment, for this one statement from a truly lovely young woman in my class, became the undoing of years of shame I had held for simply being me. I knew I had been kind and thoughtful; attempting to include those who had been forgotten, abused, or left out – because I knew how they felt. But Beautiful? That was something I’d hear from my elderly relatives, because after all, they HAD to say things like that.

Not being popular and being bullied had hurt, but it actually taught me so much about life; about building substance and character. I learned that lovely people are indeed lovely BECAUSE of their enchanting and pleasing character. Coming from a society that thrives off the latest botox treatment, or the next refining surgical enhancement that is sure to get superficial attention- to me, all of this seemed meaningless.

The definition of lovely reads: “delighting in beauty, harmony and grace; love by moral or ideal worth.” There is not much in that definition on outward appearance. In fact, most of it reflects a beautiful character of LOVE, HARMONY (the internal calm), and GRACE (a charming virtue coming from God).

Over the years I have learned that each one of us is lovely- a beautiful reflection of the Creator. The One who fashioned us after Himself, and blessed each one of us uniquely in the goodness of who He is. When we are showing up to live life lovely- we then reflect our God-given character, a beautiful harmony just as it was intended. It’s about radiating love- even when the odds are against you, when life has beaten you down and you still carry on in perseverance. Being lovely is courageous and strong, lovely is a way of life. I choose to step into loveliness; join me, for I Am Lovely, and you are too.

 

I’d like to share a few verses that have taught me a thing or two about exuding true loveliness from the inside out.

Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Proverbs 3: 15-18 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Proverbs 31:25-31 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things,     but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Matthew 6:28-29 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.