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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