I don’t know how you’re doing right now, but if you’ve hit a wall and need some encouragement, I’m here to tell you, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, WE CAN DO THIS! By no means am I riding a wave of constant optimism. In the midst of COVID-19, I have felt all the emotions … anger, frustration, fear, joy, disappointment, peace, satisfaction, annoyance, and the list goes on!

If you’re like me, perhaps you have so many questions. Will everything be like this for ever? Is social distancing our new norm? When will I be able to visit my parents? Will we be able to have a family reunion again?

You might feel like everything is changing… and who likes change?! I’m certainly not an immediate fan of this c-word. I don’t go looking for change and in fact, I try to avoid it, if at all possible. Why change a good thing or change what isn’t broken?

But when I open God’s Word, I see that good can come from change. The Bible gives a glimmer of what change can mean for our lives and has inspired me to embrace change in the art I make.

I Samuel shows the Israelites settling into the Promised Land under new leadership. There is one common thread in the stories of Israel’s leaders… Naomi and Ruth, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, and David, to name a few, each of them experienced significant change and transformation in their life.

There was a point in which these individuals were called out of their everyday lives and asked to make a critical choiceto leave their life and follow God’s calling. What a difficult choice. How do you give up the familiar, the norm, the expected… your everyday life and embrace a change into something new and foreign? Gideon, Saul and David had no advance notice that their lives were going to be uprooted. They had no reason to believe that they would be doing anything different than tending to their family’s responsibilities. They were not the first in line for any “promotion,” in fact, they were the smallest and least of their family. Yet, God called them out and chose to transform their lives. 

When they arrived (to David’s house), Samuel saw Eliab (David’s brother) and thought, “Surely, the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I Samuel 16:7

Is it unheard of that God would choose you, like he did David, and transform you for a mighty purpose? Perhaps this is crazy talk to you, but not to God. It’s natural to think someone else might be better suited than you. When we focus on external appearances, the grass is always greener elsewhere. However, the truth is, God has already chosen you … despite who you are and what you have to offer. 

Could this unprecedented pandemic and change to our everyday life be a signal for the start of something new? Being stripped of our everyday norm might be a way to bring us one step closer to surrendering to what God wants for your life. Don’t be afraid. Let God lead you into your future. While things are changing all around, God does not change, and He is good, faithful and trustworthy. His very first act was creating the most perfect world for us to inhabit with All.The.Things. Don’t you think He’s got more incredible ideas up His sleeve? Our God is a creative Maker. He created us for a purpose and has chosen you to be part of His work. Lean into your changing world and like Samuel, try responding with, “Here I am. Speak, for your servant is listening.”

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind. I Samuel 15:29

let’s get creative

If you’re not quite convinced that change can bring about something good, take a minute and try this creative activity with me. Take a beautiful picture and change it up. Inspired by Alisa Burke’s Magazine Makeover, I took portraits from fashion magazines and began transforming them with pens and paints.

I traced over existing images, made new repeating patterns, added simple doodles, and layered text in bold, print and cursive lettering. I used gouache paints to add color to a black and white portrait and to “black out” areas of the portrait that I wanted to change. Keep in mind that if you don’t like something, a new coat of paint gives you a blank slate and lets you have a whole new look. I prefer to use gouache instead of acrylic paints, because they are incredibly vibrant with a bit more translucency. Using white and gold signo gel pens, I created striking outlines and contrasts for a truly transformed portrait. Take a leap and transform something today. Changes can bring about something beautiful and unforeseen if you let go and embrace the journey.

At Home with God

It doesn’t feel like Easter is this coming Sunday…. anyone else feel the same? It’s so surreal isn’t it? We’re not running around finding gifts for our kids’ Easter baskets, grocery shopping for a big Sunday gathering, picking which friends or family we’ll hunt Easter eggs with, packing for a long weekend out of town or making reservations for a special Easter brunch. 

We’ve been stripped of so much … our independence, our plans, our routines, our work, our… (fill in the blank). We’ve been forced to stop and surrender. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really built for surrender. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to make a plan, to execute plans, to lead, to strategize and implement….lots of active involvement in everything. But surrender means letting go, yielding and giving up my possession of All.The.Things.

Is it ironic then (or perfect timing) that this is Holy Week, and I’m confronted with Christ’s surrender for me? When you’re given His ultimate gift of life, you can’t NOT take it. It’s a humbling gift… one that reminds us, 

we are not alone,
surrender is possible,
sin and death have been conquered, 
and giving up our plans isn’t the signal of the end. 
It’s simply the beginning of something else.

We’ve already given up so much because of the circumstances around us. But have we given what’s most important in our lives to God … our priorities, our time, our hopes, our family…? Perhaps you might think it’s a weird time to consider more surrendering, but I was reading something in Joshua this week that brought to my attention to the juxtaposing positions of fear and a wholeheartedness towards God.  

Joshua had accompanied scouts to check out the promised land for the Israelites, however when they returned, the scouts came back fearful and spread intimidating news of the promised land, which ultimately caused the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. He shares, 

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. Joshua 14:8-9

Every day I am confronted with anxiety. I can not control it and I don’t know when it will hit. I just feel it in my heart. So while surrender seems to be the last thing I want to do, it is the only thing I can do to settle my fears. When I start seeking God wholeheartedly and place my trust in Him, peace follows. In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this again and speaks about fear and a wholeheartedness towards God.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34

Will you join me this week in yielding, letting go and surrendering to God? God has something in mind for you and me. It’s OK that our days aren’t unfolding in the ways we had imagined. Remember, in the “unlikeliest” circumstances, God shows up. In the midst of a plague, He passes over with protection. During the enemy’s pursuit into deep waters, He parts the sea to walk through. In the despairing wilderness, He provides manna to eat. After a moment of complete darkness and abandonment, He shows up to bring life and light. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can follow His leading. He will roll away the stone. 

Remember, the Lord is our God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Let’s get creative

We’re going to make a mixed media home (or many individual homes) as a marker of where we are now… surrendered with Christ at home. Together let’s celebrate the Passover and God’s ultimate deliverance, Christ’s life given for us. Pull out your scrapbook paper, old books or hymnal pages. Cut your special papers into geometric shapes… a triangle for the roof and a square or rectangle for the base of the house.

It’s fun to use the patterns of your decorative paper to find ways to enhance your mixed media house collage. Perhaps there are flowers on your paper… use that for a garden scene around your house or as flower vines crawling up your home. Perhaps there is a scroll design on your decorative paper… use that as a door knob. Perhaps there are circles on your decorative paper… use that for your house windows. Cut out the wordsInspiration and decoration can be found anywhere.

In the Wilderness

When the world “shut down” on Friday, March 13, it seemed like I internally shut down too. That first week I had a really hard time getting motivated to do anything. I was tired and anxious and stayed close to the couch for the majority of the week. I found myself in a dry place where I had no desire to do anything, let alone the activities that usually make me happy, like crafts and creating. Week 2 rolled around and my communications duties at work ramped up.  I found myself working around the clock and my work-home life got very off-kilter. My mind and time were pulled in so many directions as I remained constantly on Zoom calls juggling demands and helping others to communicate in our new “normal.” As life progressed in quarantine, I finally took time to get off my screen, go outside, breathe in and slow myself down to match the standstill pace of the world. Needless to say, I experienced a spectrum … from non-activity to full activity, from self-absorbed worry to helping colleagues in need, from anxious stress to abiding peace. Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these things yourself. The journey that we are now walking may feel lonesome and one that we must bear on our own. However, that is not the case. Wherever this finds you, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

The One Year Chronological Bible that I’m reading through currently has me finishing up Deuteronomy. I’ve been following the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness and the things God speaks to them in their journey are speaking to me in my journey now. We are navigating our own wilderness much like the Israelites… unsure of where we are going and feeling anxiety about our future. Will God really continue to provide? 

Yes, God will provide. No matter what our circumstances are financially, physically or emotionally, keep seeking and trusting God.

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything(Deuteronomy 2:7)

Heaven forbid that our wilderness journey last 40 years, but if it did, I am confident that we will not lack anything. God has already demonstrated that He is a Provider. He provided clothes, food, shelter, and all of life’s necessities for the nation of Israel for 40 years, and He will do it again for us. We may not understand our wilderness, we may cling to our stubborn disbeliefs and be quick to forget the wonders God has done for us personally, but God will not forsake us. 

With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. But to this day, the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. Yet the Lord says, “During the 40 years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet… I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 29:3-6)

What does it mean to know that the Lord is our God, Provider and Savior? I think it means we can exhale and start with a prayer from Psalm 90. This prayer is what Moses offered up at the end of the Israelites journey through the wilderness. It captures what we need next: Joy and gladness.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:12, 14-17)

Don’t miss the “all our days” phrase in this prayer like I did. At first I thought Moses was asking for at least as many days of joy as his days of trouble. But no… Moses is asking for gladness in all our days, every single one, even on our afflicted and troubling ones. 

So this is my prayer for us. May God satisfy you each morning with His love that you might sing for joy and be glad even as you walk through these troubling times. May He establish the work of your hands and may the favor of God rest upon you.

Let’s Get Creative

Succulents are trending everywhere now… in plant stores, in home decor and even on napkins! I found some succulent napkins and used this as a base for my bible journaling to illustrate a desert wilderness scene.

“Napkinizing” is an easy technique. Give it a try! Take any 2 or 3 ply napkin and peel it apart to 1 ply. This leaves you with a decorative napkin to work with that is thin and fairly transparent. Apply the 1 ply napkin to your surface with gesso or mod podge. Once applied, the napkin nearly disintegrates while leaving the decorative image intact and on your surface.