The Cross

When I was a little girl, I would hop up onto my comfy window seat in my room and have conversations with Jesus. I would tell Him about my day, ask Him the big questions I knew my mom or dad didn’t know the answers to. “Why is the sky blue? Why did God choose the colors He did? What is heaven like? Can you send me a postcard of it? ”

Having Jesus by my side as a six year old was like breathing or blinking. So easy, I didn’t even think twice about it. Or question it. He was just always there. Sure, I couldn’t see Him, but there was a comfort; a knowing. I had a friend with me through every skinned knee, every sprint to the school bus stop, every deep thought as I played in my sandbox or sat snuggled up on that window seat. When we are little, so much of our young lives are made up of big reflective questions, dreams for our future “grownup” selves, and much of the the time, just the act of play, or “being”. We aren’t worried that we may offend someone, we aren’t afraid to learn more about life. We hold a creative curiosity that begs to be explored and in that, I believe so many answers to life’s questions are right there, in just that. In the curiosity.

I commissioned the building of this cross this summer, after this past year’s journey of “into your hands I commit my spirit.” These were the final words Jesus spoke on the cross before He died. Little did I know, these words that were repeating in my mind in the beginning of 2018 were preparing me for a season of loss in our lives. As we lost pets, loved ones and family members last year, I pushed myself to face the difficult moments head on, no matter how painful because I knew there were lessons through the tears. The heart ache. Growth was happening. New direction. And from death comes new life.

Sometimes, I look back at the little girl sitting on the window seat nook and think- of all the things I could share with her to encourage her through all the twists and turns her little heart could never possibly imagine facing. The heartaches of losing friends, losing family members, losses of marriages, loss of homes, a failed business and working through family issues and dysfunction to have a healthier life forward. There’s one thing I would share above all else. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.”

We all make mistakes. Screw up. Intentionally. Unintentionally. The word SIN is not a dirty, nasty word. It simply means to miss the mark in Greek and Hebrew. So if that’s the meaning, then we all sin. And sometimes because of that, we feel it. We feel down, depressed, anxious. (Maybe, just maybe, mental health is not only a mental issue, but a spiritual one, since we are a wholistic being; made of body, mind and spirit. Food for thought.) Sometimes we feel down, not from us missing the mark, but because others in our lives miss the mark. And we can also feel down from life circumstances that come our way.

This is why there is brokenness in this world. There is a sense of a yearning for better, for change, for justice. Political, social justice groups, teens, adults, even kids ache for better days, better social climates. There is a yearning in all of us to want things to be better, repaired, more healed, am I right?

There are only two things I have experienced that bring about better change for all of us. The first, is for the one who missed the mark to express their regret for the error and to turn away from the thing that is causing the anguish, and step in the direction of good. Call it positive change, repentance, or therapeutic steps forward, you decide.

For me- it took two failed marriages to realize I had some baggage to sort through. Some therapy to help heal some things. Some disfunction to address so my life would have a better future. Some ways I had missed the mark, some ways others close to me had missed the mark.

So, if others miss the mark, that is where the second catalyst for change happens: through grace for them. Grace: enabling power and a spiritual healing. The most amazing story I’ve heard of creating spiritual healing is that of Jesus. He laid down his life. He was whipped, beaten, crowned with thorns, mocked and then put up on a cross to die. And in the end, He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He gave everything he had, and gave His personal power away so that humanity then and today can find a whole new healed life. Through death comes new life. Regeneration. Restoration. And we, as believers, have faith that He rose on the third day of death and is alive and well in heaven with God. We believe death could not hold Him.

We all carry around brokenness either by our own doing or by others’ doing. And sometimes, it’s not things that are missing the mark, but circumstances in which we live through that damage us. Some may hurt so bad it feels irreparable. But even if it doesn’t feel like it, grace and healing can be done. It took me over 30 years to face and heal from damage in my childhood and life. I am still that sweet little girl sitting on the window seat talking to Jesus, just a little older, hopefully wiser and definitely more seasoned.

I commissioned this cross for a reminder to have here at the Ranch. For healing. For a wellness for my soul. As a visual reminder that my life has been restored. Made new and whole from the healing that was so needed. There are days I still miss the mark. But I know the One who has gone before me. The one who’s arms were wide open on the cross, as the heavens were opened to Him. The One who joined my heart on the window seat 2,000 some years later as I asked him questions about life, love, and heaven.

There are many mysteries that I don’t have room to answer here, but I know the One who has the answers. Talk to Him. He will meet you right where you are at. And you are always welcome to come visit the cross.❤️

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Barren.

EBFC385E-24EF-4152-A9D1-2DF0673E6194.jpegBarren.

The first time I heard this word, I was a small girl in Sunday school listening to the Bible stories of Sarah and Hannah, the childless, who ached for babes of their own.

As I grew older, “barren” was a spelling vocabulary word, that made me think of a desert; the “void of life” spaces that inhabit bits of our planet.

When I was 14, I had a conversation with God, that left me with a strange prophetic knowing in my spirit- that I would not have my own flesh and blood children. Although I did not feel comfortable with this deep knowing with no physical proof, I accepted it as a means for a future child to become a part of my family through another way. I assumed the path would be adoption.

Years of life ensued, I lived. I loved. I lost. I learned. I laughed. I cried.

Through the trials and blessings; hopes and fears, I flourished.

By God’s blessings and ever present grace, I was able to make beautiful things from mere seeds. Thousands of paintings furiously were born, a teaching art studio and gallery were birthed. I’ve designed hundreds of classes, created places and spaces of hope and life giving strength for those who have entrusted their art and part of their life journey with me as a teacher, mentor and friend. I’ve made countless bowls of popcorn and cups of tea for the ones who sit and visit with me. And, as I have nurtured this growth of my thriving studio, my physical womb remains barren.

We have tried. And, I believe, I have carried a few lives within my womb for just a moment, a brief few days, few weeks.

“Sometimes  fetuses aren’t viable,” the doctors say. But I dream at night of my babies that did not make it in Jesus’ arms. I’ve seen them there in my dreams of Heaven. I’ve brought them to life through drawings of the dreams, an easing of my aching, silent, mourning momma’s empty hands.

I know in the depths of my being they live on- safe and sound in Heaven; while I live on too; as I toil and learn, laugh and cry on this beautifully broken earth; the place we call home for now.

Barren.

It’s our diagnosis, but not our heart’s true beat. For with every beat, we continue to hope, continue to trust that we will one day be a papa and momma. For we have lived. Loved. Lost. Found. And have journeyed far. We are ready to share the wisdom we have learned with a little one. Or two. Perhaps three. I don’t know the future, but I know the One who does.

For we may be labeled medically as “barren”, but our lives are full.

So full; life and all it’s adventures pour out through the cracks of our hearts, oozing through every facet of our lives. And if our hearts are so full, then maybe it’s time to become parents.

Perhaps it’s in a different way- not in a way we imagined when we said “I do” to each other and to the dreams of our life and family to be. Perhaps it’s a weaving, a stitching, a fusing together of each of us genetically unique individuals; for we each start out as an individual embryo once upon a time. Perhaps to become a family, it will be loving one another not because of blood, not in growing a family in the traditional way, but simply because we choose each other. Love each other because we are uniquely woven together. Choose love everyday.

But friends, have I ever been traditionally basic in my methods of approaching most of life? No, I’ve always heard another drumbeat and walked towards that. I am an artist; a maker. An out of the box thinker.

There is a life, maybe a few, that are soon to come. A life that will quench the thirsty parts of my mid-thirties momma-in-waiting’s soul. And if the astronauts launch into space and defy gravity, then we as a couple can certainly create space in our hearts and defy the state of “being barren”.

Friends, prayers are much appreciated for this next journey: Our voyage of Hope Onward.

Choosing Life.

(Sign Art created by Wendy Malcomson of Creative Sister and Heaven’s Gates painted by Jen Harlow Smith of Blue Plume.)

 

I don’t like all the political stuff on Facebook and social media. It weighs heavy on my heart to see the brokenness and the fractions in humanity as a whole. I attempt to spend my days (and my posts I usually share) building a life inspired with hope and joy and encouraging this with all who come though my studio. Friends, family, clients- I do my best as a human to navigate where we’ve come as a society, do my best to honor God, stay true and respect the human lives before me each day. I too have had my seasons of brokenness, poverty, severed relationships and heartaches. 

But one thing that I cannot “rise above” in our political climate is the recent approval of full term abortions in New York. As a teacher who has worked with children for the last 13 years almost daily, my heart has ached to be a mom. I share the joys of what inspiration and art I have and send the children home to their loving families. 

My body tried a few times to hold a child. My heart and soul desperately wanted the babies to stay. But time too soon beckoned them out of my body. As I was violently ill miscarrying my children, each time, my mind was clear  and sharp as I ruminated on the tragedy of mothers’ actually choosing to end their sweet baby. My heart mourned for all the unwanted ones, the ones who would have been viable, but human nature can sometimes be a selfish thing. Yes I said it. It is selfish to play God. And dangerous for one’s soul. But, I guess at times we all are selfish and can play God. My heart merely aches for those unborn, who didn’t have a say.

I had a series of dreams not long after losing my first child. In one of the dreams, I was looking over a series of meadows and grassy hills. Light was radiating though the sky, but it wasn’t from the sun, rather almost like a prism or kaleidoscope effect. I realized I was in Heaven. I saw children, beautiful children running and laughing and playing. Among them were animals. Dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, birds and more.

I whispered, “Who are all these children and animals?” 

Jesus stood next to me and said, “ These are all the children that have been miscarried and aborted. They find refuge here. Their job and joy here is to care for the animals- these beloved pets.”

The animals were all shades of crystal white, all almost had a prism glow to them. 

“Why are they all white?” I asked. 

Jesus answered, “You do not yet have the eyes to see all the colors of Heaven.” 

So the animals, I could only imagine, were the most beautiful colors that we don’t have on Earth. 

I watched a little girl aged about 5 years old in “our time”, sparkling golden eyes, freckles, and shiny blond hair giggle and squeal as a couple children and dogs chased her. 

“What’s her name?” I asked. 

“She was given up before her time” Jesus replied. “She is waiting to be named.” 

It was then I wanted to stay and be a momma for all of them. To hug them, give them each a name and to show them a momma’s love. 

I saw my baby boy I had miscarried, Emmanuel (as I had named him), running and laughing with the others. Aged about five as well. But, the children were all safe now, in the arms of Jesus, protected from the selfishness of humanity, the darkness of sinful hearts and the utter wreckage our world can bring. 

I awoke from this dream, desperate not to leave Heaven and it’s peace, warmth and love. I wanted to stay, but I awoke in the wee hours of the morning, in my dark room, knowing I had been given an incredible gift. I had seen something I could not unsee. And my job now was to make the best of my remaining time here on Earth the best it could be, not for me, but for all those who need the love Heaven has to offer. 

My heart aches on the decision to legalize murder. There is no denying that is what it is. I saw my “fetus” I had wanted to keep. He was a darling boy, wavy sandy brown hair, blue-green eyes and the most beautiful smile and laugh that would melt a momma’s heart. I saw many women’s children who had miscarried or aborted. And there was a reason the fields seem to go on forever. For there were too many children to count. 

I choose to teach inspiration and art in hopes of sharing vision with others. Vision in a blinded world- a world which feels angry, dark and depressed. 

Every animal we rescue here at the ranch has a story, a purpose, just like each of us. Whether we are on the inside of a womb or out. 

Motherhood (from what I hear) is the most selfless act a woman can do. It is one of the deepest acts of love, to give life and to nurture another before oneself. 

As my mom told me, “It is your highest highs and your lowest lows.” 

But that deep love must be worth so much more than the hard shell of self preservation no matter the circumstances. I choose life again and again, even if it’s only for 7 weeks. 

Thoughts on Loss.

05532325-80BE-43B2-8F31-D3F27EBABD25(Just a few of the animals we love that live here or have been a part of life here at the ranch.)

My sweet little Foxy girl, cuddles her old sore bones and fluffy wild blond doggy curls next to me. She’s a good girl, she’s trying so hard to still fight on, to still do her job of being my loyal pup. But her eyes tell a different story tonight, one of weariness, and surrender; her body weak from no appetite. I cuddle her close, as I mentally prepared for this day to come and yet I don’t feel ready to say good bye at all. So I bring her to my side of the bed, my eyes puffy from the well-known tears of loss, and I will fall asleep tonight with her next to me for at least one more night. 

A little snapshot on loss lately…

It was 4 months ago I took the last picture of my playful barn cat. Just as quick as the picture snapped, capturing his curious face that brought me smiles and joy, a week later he was gone. Found hit on our road, leaving his brother lonely, and my sad heart with one more scar. 

3 months ago, my beloved peahen (after loosing a clutch of unhatched eggs), wandered across the road to the baby chicks she heard peeping. She wanted to be a momma. Unfortunately, on her third trip over to check on the neighbor’s baby chickens, she was hit full force, and the suv continued to speed down the road,  leaving us in a puddle of feathers and tears holding our dead bird. 

2 months ago, the day of my birthday, we found ourselves sitting in a hospital room 5 hours from home, holding Matt’s grandma’s hand for the last couple days of her life. We cried, sang and played music for her, talked about heaven, and the important things that most people shy away from discussing because they are “too busy living life.” But sitting in the same room where life was passing to death, where one could feel the angels’ presence and see her transition from this life to the next was difficult; yet a sacred experience. 

1 month ago, a week after Matt’s Grandma’s beautiful celebration of life service, we lost our sweet Kiya, our Alaskan Husky dog to a seven week battle  with cancer. 12 year old Kiya was our sweet matriarch dog who felt more understanding and loving than almost any human I’ve met. 

And, a mere 4 days after Kiya passed, I lost my sweet Hope, the tiny baby I had been carrying for seven weeks. In pain physically, my heart and brain went numb emotionally, as I went about a day filled with a photography shoot for the local paper, and teaching a class. My mind drifted in the quiet moments to my miscarried baby whom I lost a few hours before. 

I never know how to answer people who mean well and ask the question, “Do you have children?” Or “Are you going to have kids?” I want to answer, “Yes, I do have children, although I’ve never gotten to hold them in my arms, for heaven holds them now.” And the answer to the second question, “ I’d love to have to opportunity to be a mom here on earth. We will see if that is in God’s plan. For now, I love my babies in Heaven with a true momma’s heart.” 

The day after I miscarried Hope, we brought home a puppy. We needed some joy. Our sweet Koa, is an Alaskan Malamute. She is my first puppy I have ever owned, as I always had adopted adult dogs. She is truly a gift from God, a blessing in the midst of incredible loss and storms. 

And so that brings me to tonight. I have learned much about how to carry on, despite what battles one may face. In the past 6 years, I have lost friends, marriages, babies, pets, family members, homes, a business and just plain things. But the one I have found through it ALL is God. When life aches to much to bear, and you must go on despite all of your heart wanting peace, God provides the peace in the midst of the heavy, hard storms. (There is a reason Jesus calmed storms in the Bible) It’s not cliche, or cheesy. When you are face to face with death itself, (and I have seen death 6 times in the past 4 months), you begin to realize that the most important thing of all is our life-giver, our Lord Jesus. 

So tonight, I think of the ones who will read this and say, “Wow, Jen must have done something to deserve all this, better steer clear of her, don’t want to catch any of that in my life.” 

There will be others that say, “Too uncomfortable for me! Give me a glass of wine and a paint instructor that doesn’t make me think or feel!” 

And yet, others will say, “I’ve been there- I get it. And I see that God is there through it all, bc you know what? Though my losses, He’s been there too.” 

The truth is, we all have loss. We all face life and we all face death. You would have never known what I walked through the last 4 months with my full studio schedule, joy-filled classes, and vibrant art shows the last few months. I wanted to share the hard stuff too however, as we are all on a journey, and our journey through experiencing life and death and everything in between is the framework of what challenges us, strengthens us, molds us and makes us.  

By the way, our new puppy Koa, is a Hawaiian name meaning “brave warrior”. 

Matt and I have been facing a battle it seems; our hearts still aching from the last loss, before we can mend, another one seems to come. We looked in one another’s tearful eyes tonight as we pet our dog Foxy, wondering why so much loss in so little time. There must be something God is showing us through it all. We will fight on for loving all we hold dear, and loving still even when we face loss. Because in the end, love covers all. Life, death and everything in between. And just in case no one has told you today, God loves you more than you’ll ever know. Now go hug someone you love my friends, and tell them how much they mean to you. Because that’s what really matters. ❤️

December- I Am Joy-filled. 

The Christmas season enters our hearts and minds here in Oregon as the leaves one by one fall to the ground. The evergreens seem to stand taller to provide the green to our landscape. Winter comes and turns the air sharp and icy to the touch; a white haze settles in the atmosphere where cold meets the clouds. Certain days, snow and ice blanket the ground. The pond and waterfalls freeze over, fish settle into hibernation, and here on the Ranch, the winter birds flit back and forth from the naked trees to the evergreens. Our little farm goes into a dormant season, as we spend more time indoors, venturing out to check on our outdoor animals, the occasional check in on the starts the greenhouse, and of course trips to the barn for more firewood to keep our fireplace going in our home. I find it interesting that in this time of dormancy and quiet stillness, the Savior of the World entered our world, birthed in a lowly barn, 7,000 miles from our own barn, and over 2,000 years ago. The brightest joy we can carry comes from Christ entering our earth during the harshest and darkest of seasons within nature.

A friend of mine recently mentioned it was interesting that my art studio moved from a cute little storefront to a barn. My husband and I worked hard to convert the rustic space: we cleaned, insulated, painted, built trim, installed heat, and proper lighting. And when the space was ready, I created my first painting nestled in the peace the space held. And I knew God had called me home. Here in the barn to create and make. For it wasn’t what I had planned, or thought of for the future of my studio. But I knew it was so much better that what I could have planned myself. God’s way is always better and always good. He doesn’t promise easy, but He promises good.  It was not in the chasing after my own happiness, but through the quiet stillness, reflection, hard work and trust that God had a plan. Joy fills me as I know there is a reason why He made my hands eager to create, inspired my mind with endless ideas, and gave me a heart for those who need encouragement and hope for their own journey. My friend reminded me that Jesus began his life and mission in a barn, and there was a reason God called me to have my own studio within our barn. It all made sense. The true joy, found within God’s provision and grace, is described as “delight; the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”
The deepest joys I have felt in life, are sometimes in the seasons of deepest sorrow, or seasons of waiting for what is to come. As I paint and create faithfully in my studio here at the Ranch, my heart fills with joy as I wait and see what is to come when the winter season melts into the spring.  God is doing something sacred here, and I feel honored to partner with the Maker to create something good, something beautiful, something Joy-filled. What ever season you may be in, know that the Light of the World will show you the way, if you let Him, this I promise you.
LIFE VERSES FOR THIS MONTH:
John 8:12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Genesis 8:22″While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.”

Isaiah 9:6  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting  Father, Prince of Peace.

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

John 1:9-14  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him,  who believed in his name,  he gave the right  to become  children of God, who were born,  not of blood  nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of  grace and  truth.

John 3:16  For God so loved  the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

VERSES ON JOY:

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

John 16:22

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Psalm 4:7

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

 John 15:11

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

1 Peter 1:8-9

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 Psalm 16:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

November- I Am Grateful

As we are in the midst of the holidays, the season rushes all around us. We are flooded with marketing campaigns, shopping and sales, parties and events. Schedules get booked and our daily norm can become frenzied as we push onward through the festivities.

Over the last few months, life has changed since “coming home” not only to live at Wounded Knee Ranch, but to work from home. A certain quiet has settled in. A calm amongst the chaos; the busyness my business life used to hold has subsided.  A steady, reflective way of living has begun to take place. And with it, a thankfulness has occurred. An approach from a heart of gratitude for the blessings God bestows, rather than living in the fast- paced cycle of striving for more and lacking what we need most.

This month held within it the Thanksgiving holiday. To be grateful means feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; to be thankful. This month was a true lesson for me. I always thought I was a grateful or thoughtful person. Being an idealist, I have always held appreciation for others, blessings, talents, hopes, dreams deep within my heart. But did I verbalize what was on my heart- did I share that gratitude aloud? Did the people I love know that I cherish them? Did they know their value in my life and in the lives of others?  I questioned these things, because it had been brought to my attention through a series of friendships that had gone by the wayside or seemed to fade throughout the years. Had I not loved them well enough? It was time to mend what had been hurt by my lack of proper communication.

Over the last four weeks, I have started writing letters to friends, past coworkers, and many whom life circumstances carried us separate ways. This choice, this act of thankfulness has actually been challenging, at times heart wrenching. And I am not done yet. The letters, hand written with small calligraphy pens on metallic card stock, have been a journey of Love. Repentance. Forgiveness. A Humbling of Self, a Lifting Up of Another.  What I’ve realized, is that for all the thoughts I openly share with others, sometimes my heart forgets to share how much my loved ones do mean to me. Despite differences, situations, or circumstances, a grateful heart can be discerned through any tribe and tongue.

As I write, some letters are a page, others could be a book! One thing I know, whether or not these letters ever receive a response, I have done what I can to Love. To Mend. To Make Peace. To Lift Up. But most of all, to thank another for journeying next to me, even if it was for a season.

After every letter writing session, a burden eases. Self protection gives way, and melts into compassion. My heart is filled with a bursting of gratitude for the one to whom I wrote. So much of the time, especially in the last five years, I found myself in a survival way of life,  not knowing what was to come the next day; Self preservation if you will. The truth is, we don’t even know what will come any day that is before us. So, why not enter each day, our relationships, our everything with a heart of gratitude? And trust that God’s got the whole world in His Hands.

Oh, the things I’ve learned, I wish I understood 10 years ago! But my sweet friends, then I may have not journeyed to the place where I met and were blessed by you! We learn, we teach, we grow.

So, as I continue this journey through these letters, my hope is that Thanksgiving will not just last this quick, busy holiday season. My hope, is that Thanksgiving and gratitude become a fluent, daily language from my heart to yours. For this journey, I am grateful.

Life Verses this Month:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18

    18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15

    15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
  • Philippians 4:6

    6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
  • Psalm 28:7

    7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
  • Psalm 100:4

    4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
  • Hebrews 12:28-29

    28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:15-16

    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.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11-12

    11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

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.

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.