My best is yet ahead

Christmas morning snow

Incredibly, it has been over six months since I last posted. And what a full six months they have been!

For those that may not know, my family is caregiving for my widowed paternal grandmother. Caregiving is a journey…and that’s the only way to say it. You learn lessons (often hard ones) all the time whether you want to or not–because every day, every action is determined by the next right thing. The last six months have been full of those lessons for my whole family, including my grandmother.

To be perfectly frank, I let myself flounder for much of the last year. Spiritually, physically, I let my personal responsibilities slide and simply did what I felt like doing. I learned so much the hard way through this, but I’m so glad I did:

  • I am utterly miserable when God is not the focus of my life
  • I feel sick inside when I spend too much time on my own entertainment
  • My body and mind feel like stagnant ponds in the middle of August when I decide I “don’t feel” like exercising…for months

Yeah, you could say I made some bad decisions. And suffered for them, inside and out. However, I also learned some very wonderful things, about myself, my life, and God:

  • God LOVES me, and He is my Father, not just my King
  • I am made for simplicity and quiet, inside and out (will be talking about this in future posts)
  • I’m made to create art, and the pursuit of that is clearly my life calling (how awesome is it to be able to say something like that?!)
  • He WILL deliver me out of deep waters, when I turn to Him and repent with all my heart
  • Praise is an amazingly powerful weapon! 🙂

I’m so looking forward to 2017. I firmly believe it will be my best year yet, like Michael Hyatt says in his Best Year Ever course (which I did, and cannot recommend highly enough). There’s so much I want to do and learn, and can’t wait to see what kind of progress I make on my goals for the year.

Here’s to a new year of blogging about God’s goodness!

Laurie

Saturday Smiles

A few things that made me smile this week:

1. These girls.
 

They’re part of my Living History group, and I got to see them last week at the Folk Arts Fair at my work. Who says friends have to be your same age?! I took pictures of them as they slaved away in the heat, hand-cranking ice cream, laughing all the while.

Here, they’re scraping every last iota of cream off the mixer. That ice cream was good on a 100-degree day.

2. Late-night rain.
 

This year, like always, June has swept in with cloudless brilliance and a parched heat. I try not to cringe at the barren skies, and pray that the monsoons arrive early. Last night, they did! It rained as I fell asleep, with that cool perfume sweeping in the windows. Today, we have massive cumulus clouds rolling across the sky, giving us shade and beauty. My soul feels quite refreshed after this break from that relentless Arizona sun!

3. Swap-meet treasures.
 

This morning I joined my dad and uncle on a trip to the local swap meet, and was not disappointed. My finds of the day: an 1875 copy of Lord Byron’s poetical works, and a 1921 first-edition Scaramouche. Sabatini doesn’t pop up just everywhere, so I nabbed this one.

I also found a lovely tunic for church tomorrow–perfect for layering over capris to help out in Sunday school. I’ll try to get an outfit post up for you soon…I always appreciated modest fashion inspiration from others, so I’ll try to reciprocate a little!

4. This pretty birthday bouquet my grandma received.
 

‘Nuff said.

So that’s my Saturday in a nutshell for you. What made you smile this week? I’d love to hear!

~ Laurie

…And He Shall Strengthen Your Heart

Rose in garden

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Psalm 27:13-14
These verses have spoken so much to me lately, and today I began memorizing the whole psalm. It’s so full of promises that bolster and embolden. Psalms is by far and away my favorite book of the Bible, and I find myself there often, savoring the sweet reminders of the Lord’s provision, protection, love, majesty, and beauty. No need to fear, for He is confidence; no room for weakness, for He is strength; no place for emptiness, for He is boundless love. Oh, it’s wonderful to read!
I’m reviving this blog after more than a year–in the blogosphere, I am nothing short of flaky, and I apologize. But I’ve been busy–I have a new website for my professional life as a graphic designer and illustrator, with a blog to go with it, and though I initially planned for it to replace this blog, I realized that it only really had place for my art. I missed my lifestyle blog, with my everyday thoughts and pictures! So it seems that my art blog over there is sufficient place for my sketches and art musings, and over here I can do everything else. I apologize to everyone who’s been putting up with my flitting from blog to blog, but this finally seems to “sit right” inside me. 
Keep an eye out for more fresh content coming soon here at My Heart Shall Rejoice!
~ Laurie Elise

The Issue of Pride (In Myself, Namely)

This post may seem a little ramble-y, as I don’t have a completely clear and stated thought on the whole thing yet, but so much of my spiritual growth lately has been centered around this area that I felt I had to post about it before talking about anything else. 😛

Anyway, the Lord has been convicting me of an area of sin in my life that I hardly knew was there. Yes, I had been aware that some part of this sin is in all of us, but never recognized it so plainly in myself.

I am speaking, naturally, of pride.

But this pride was not an honest pride in me, like the sort that makes you glad about something you did well, or even a pride that admires itself, and then laughingly admits it does so. This pride was that sneaking, insidious variety that patronizes its fellow man and then calls itself humble.

Yes, I have been a willing victim to thinking too much of myself…and that’s dumb. So let’s start with the intellectual superiority bit.

This sort of thing starts with perhaps a more knowledge-based mindset. I love reading, history intrigues me, I enjoy learning new things (especially new information about things). None of these is wrong! But then I started to see the society that busies themselves with these pursuits, and was mentally put myself among them because of my interest: they are the wealthy, the intelligent, the philosophical and philanthropic (usually self-proclaimed). But usually they have let this go to their heads and it ruined them: in short, they are the snobs.

Add to this the currents fads of poetically helpless melancholy and introversion, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for intellectual superiority. For me, it didn’t start hard or fast, but rather with a thought: “I prefer thus-and-such music, and they listen to so-and-so. My choice is more educated…heh. Bully for me.” And so it went, though not often in so many words.

But here’s a question—who are “they”  in the thought above? Well, mostly anyone who didn’t share the same tastes and interests as myself. Yes, it’s embarrassing to say, but I have been a fool, and it feels good to admit it.

The funny thing about pride is that letting one kind in often opens the door to another. This is what has happened to me. After watering and weeding my sweet little garden of “I’m-so-smart” for a while, those weeds (for that’s what they really are) began creeping into other areas of my life and thoughts, tainting almost every area, it would seem. (More posts on these areas later.)

The problem is that sin is rarely a clearly-stated thought in my head: “I think I am better than everyone, yet somehow still humble. Indeed, I am a miracle of godliness.” It is rather a feeling, or a sub-thought, or a sneer. I’ve pandered to it instead of yanking it out by the roots or just walking away when it shows itself.

So the Lord has been showing me this sin and gently leading me away from it. It’s hard, having to stop at each thought, and then pull it out and replant it if it’s wrong. But I have honestly been so disgusted with myself that it almost feels good.

And you know what? It feels so good to be a fallible human again. It feels good to see how wrong I’ve been, and to make a fresh start of it. I’m normal again—I need my Father’s help as much as the next person, and know I can’t do it by myself. But He always can.

Off to re-learn the love walk,

Laurie

Today I Am…

DSC_8232
Today I am…
…drinking: Chamomile tea, which fit the day’s mood just right. I’ve always had a weak spot for chamomile, and sometimes crave its mild, soothing cheerfulness.
reading: P.G. Wodehouse’s The Catnappers (I do love a good Jeeves-and-Bertie), Elizabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be A Woman (outstanding, and at just the right time for me), and various homework bits about photography.
…photographing: The thin-but-warming winter sunshine, and a little dog who lives for those few hours of warmth in the afternoon.
DSC_8204 DSC_8195
…enjoying: The zephyrs of fresh air that keep slipping into the living room from the deck door. There’s a certain lovely magic in letting the first springish air into the house…if I could, I would drink it by the cup. It has such a perfume.
…wanting: Spring to arrive for real! Of course, where we live, it usually appears in late February, so I won’t have long to wait. I do so love Spring.
…praising Jesus for: The answers to prayer He is speedily bringing about in many areas that need it, both in my life and others’. Also for His consistency, beauty, gentleness, and unending love towards myself, who least deserves it. His love staggers me.
…wondering: Which of my friends will succumb this spring to the curious love-sickness going around. 😉 I kid you not, they are falling like flies! Engagements, weddings, new relationships on Facebook…it simply doesn’t end! But I don’t begrudge them their happiness…it makes me dream happy dreams of my own special days of bliss as a mother and wife that I trust are yet to come.
…loving: Being able to wear skirts with impunity in the milder weather.
…trying: A modified Curly Girl method for my hair. I’ve been rather abusing it with heat and hairspray recently, and have enough wave to make it worth encouraging. I’m on Day 2, and am surprised at the curl already appearing. It makes me wonder what kind of potential it actually has! If you have any kind of naturally curly/wavy hair, I’d encourage you to visit the Curly Girl website: naturallycurly.com. They have tons of fabulous tips and tricks in their articles and forums. I’d like to try one of the protein treatments today.
Off to massage gelatin through my hair,
Laurie

Trials are Normal in the Christian Life

Today has been a rather heavy day in the process of rooting fear out of my life, but in the midst of it all, the Lord reminded me of something very good that I thought I’d share with you.

So often when I go through a trial, I find myself thinking about where I might have gone wrong. What path did I take that led me here? Why do these wretched problems keep plaguing me? How do I make them stop?

Then the Lord reminded me of this:

Trials are normal.

Trials are right.

Trials are good.

They are normal and right and good because they are the Refiner’s fire. If we wish to become gold, but never want to brave the fiery furnace, we will never be anything more than a bit of unusable ore.

So today, in whatever you’re going through, remember that the Lord is using it for good in your life, and you will come out on top, because He has promised it. You are being refined…rejoice that you have been judged worthy to be!

Laurie

Do Wise Men Laugh at “Internet” Humor?

This will be a shorter post, since I’m still lazing around in my pajamas and have to leave for class in an hour and a half. (I like the later start time…and I’ll be home for lunch! Just perfect.)

This morning, the one passage I highlighted in my Bible was Proverbs 13:20:

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

I love the first part, as I personally long to grow wise, especially in inter-personal situations, the way my mother is. It even sounds like wisdom come by osmosis, which makes things easier. Right?

Well, I’d like to think so, but I’ve discovered that’s it’s often a hard choice to hang out with the wiser people. And not just people in the flesh–people/communities online. As young people, foolishness is sooo tempting simply because it’s easy. And not just easy, it’s also fun and amusing.

For a case in point, look at Tumblr, Pinterest, or YouTube. Internet humor is addictive, at the least, and I have spent many an hour giggling at the insane and inane. But recently, the Lord opened my eyes one evening to what I was really laughing at, and I realized it was nothing short of stupid. And I was spending so much time on this, listening to these “invisible people” online, instead of even doing something I truly enjoy, like reading a good book or doodling in my design journal. In short, I was the companion of fools.

Don’t get me wrong, I love humor and think it’s one of the greatest gifts God gave us. Clean entertainment that includes a good laugh is an awesome way to unwind and relax. But when I realized how much brain-space I was devoting to this empty, poor-quality humor, avoiding anything serious that might require me to actually *gasp* think about something, I saw that this was a problem.

So I went on an internet break to help break myself of that, and also flush out the general slime I felt covered in. It’s been a smashing success, and now, when I spend a few hours poking about online researching something or catching up on social media, my brain doesn’t quite feel like my own when I’m done. Instead, I’m trying to stay with “wise men”, listening to good spiritual teaching, reading the Bible more (I’m getting addicted!), reading good books, and making/doing artsy stuff.

So that’s my little encouragement for the day. While writing this post, it’s started to snow outside (!!!) and I need to puzzle out an accordingly wintry outfit for school. What was your verse for today? Do share!

Newness in 2015

As you can see, I’ve spent some time updating my blog look, and am pretty happy with it. There may be some more tweaks in the future, but for now I’ll leave it be.

So what’s new in my life?

– I’m working/interning at the local museum and loving it. Although we’re small, we’re at the heart of the community, culturally and geographically. There’s always something happening, and I’m surrounded by the nicest people day after day. It was an opportunity truly crafted by God and dropped in my lap with the greatest nonchalance, and as there’s no real end in sight, you’ll likely be hearing quite a bit about it!

– Graphic design at college! I have definitely found my place. Graphic design is such a beautiful blend of science and art…not too squishy-feely, not too cut and dried. Just right. And my professor rocks.

– Less internet. I went on an internet break at Thanksgiving, and loved it so much for two weeks that I decided to simply continue! My rules have relaxed somewhat, but I try to keep internet at a minimum, checking FB once a week and email once (or twice) daily. Pinterest happens randomly, and YouTube not much at all. Now it’s more or less habit, and my fear of being bored is nowhere in sight—I have so much to do and think about, and more time to concentrate on the people in my life. (I want to dedicate a post to this experiment and my findings!)

– Newness with the Lord. 2014 was hard and good, stretching me inside and out. It seems like the Lord is bringing things to the surface in me to deal with, mostly old childhood fears that (however silly) managed to get a root in me and stayed. Though each pulling-out is a painful process, it feels so good to let go of these weights. Sometimes you don’t realize how heavy something is until you put it down.

So what are my goals for 2015? Well, I’ve tried to keep it realistic and true to where I am. Here’s some of them:

  1. More blogging. Let’s just face it: I’m a pathetic blogger. My blogging life resembles that of a flaky lover: I disappear, come back for a visit, vow eternal devotion, and depart again, not to be heard from for another six months. Yup. It’s bad. But this year, with less “floofy” internet and more time for serious recreation (an oxymoron, to be sure), blogging will (hopefully) happen more. I hope I’m not just swearing eternal devotion again.
  2. More Bible. In the latest process of rooting out fear, I was talking/praying with my mom and she brought to my attention the fact that I have not been spending enough time in the Word. She didn’t say it in so many words, but in my new, busier, post-high school life, I somehow managed to abandon my habit of a morning quiet time. For one thing, I felt like I never read enough (here, have a nice helping of legalistic works), so I just avoided it. I’ve let go of that now, and am happily embarked on the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Program. It feels sooo good to be really reading and studying each day.
  3. More exercise. Yes, cliché, I know, but so true! I’ve never been “sporty”, and duck if a ball is thrown at me. So that left me with workouts, cause you have to move sometime. But I was horribly unmotivated, so I didn’t. Move, that is. After feeling general yuckiness for some time, I’ve decided to break the mold, and started running last week! Also, I researched how to breathe when you run, as my aching throat has always given out long before my legs. I tried the tips I found, and it made a huge difference. Running is now possible, interspersed with normal workouts for other muscle groups. I already feel better!
  4. More reading. I rediscovered reading during my formal internet break, and devoured The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe (book reviews forthcoming). I haven’t picked up a new one yet, since I’m busy enough with more Bible reading and the new semester starting tomorrow. But it’s progress.
  5. More homemaking. With work and school, I’m home a lot less, which is sort of a roadblock to my Proverbs-31-ly aspirations. My problem is that I can clean anything…I just can’t cook to feed myself or anyone else. I’ve always avoided it b/c it’s the first learning curve that’s so tough…I’d like to get further over that hump this year, or my future family will live on scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. 😛

So, my list was pretty short this year, but sort of all-encompassing…we’ll see how I do. Maybe I’ll even update you on my progress!

And now it’s picture time. Step right up, ladies and germs, to the Abbreviated Pictorial Summary of Laurie’s Generally Camera-less Life, Because She Burned Out On Photography, Except For The Times She Took These Pictures And Then Spent Too Much Time Editing Them…oh, forget it. Just look at the pictures.

DSC_8095

DSC_8102

DSC_8105

DSC_8124

DSC_8133

DSC_8135

DSC_8145

Looking at these again, I realize that they make for a very bad Pictorial Summary of my life, as they are mostly leaves and flowers. You probably think I’m a garden fairy, if plants are a summary of my life. Oh well. I tried.

Living the life as a garden fairy in 2015,

Laurie

“Write What You Know” Applies to Spiritual Lessons

“Write what you know.”

It’s a common piece of advice in writing communities, something I’ve heard many times. As far as fiction went, it felt very limiting, like I could never write a story that didn’t have a teenage girl as the protagonist and took place in the real world (neither of which I was fond of as a young writer).

But what about writing devotionally?

I was listening to a sermon by Eric Ludy last night (listen to it here) and he spoke of a commitment he and his wife Leslie made to each other early in their ministry: that they would never write about something spiritual that they hadn’t lived out.

I have always been inclined to do the opposite. I’ll be going through some trial of the faith, and suddenly, in a moment of Spirit-led clarity, I see what the whole thing is about and what I’m supposed to be learning. And I stop there. Once I know what I’m supposed to learn, it’s like I think I’ve learned it, and am therefore completely qualified to encourage others on the topic. Not so fast, feisty-pants.

So I’ve been thinking, and I’ve reached a similar decision to the Ludys’ for my own life and little blog here. From here on out, as far as spiritual matters go, I’m going to write what I know, and nothing more. I write here for the encouragement of others, and how can I encourage them in things I don’t fully understand myself?

All right, Lord, it’s up to You now…I’m going to need some help living this out!

Becoming a Woman

window_wash_25707_md
“To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous and fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly, and she is giving. You and I have the gift of femininity…the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified. Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God.”
Elisabeth Elliot

As an only child, much of my life has been spent in pursuit of my own pleasure, with little thought of anyone else. But now that I’m older, I’m seeing every day what exactly a real woman is supposed to be. She is selfless, serving, gracious, and kind—an impossible list of virtues, most of which I don’t seem to have. Do I want to help clean or cook? Not really. But this isn’t about me—and that’s what womanhood is about.
One positive about being older is that I’m far more willing than I have been to shoulder the responsibilities of womanhood, and actually apply myself to learning those beautiful character traits of a godly woman.
Learning them is, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. Learning self-sacrifice in particular, especially the practical sort usually required of a woman, is painful in every way, but its reward is a deep and lasting loveliness and strength that nothing else brings. I’m not very good at it yet—only recently have I really realized how important it is to relationships, especially in a family. And since I’m not married yet (and probably won’t be for a while), my family is my mission field.
Graciousness and kindness are also sacrifice, in a way, and can be very uncomfortable. Usually it’s much easier to be sarcastic, or sharp, or funny in a slightly cruel way. Words have always come easily to me, and sometimes it’s very hard to simply smile, and say something soft and sweet instead. Another disadvantage to being an only child is that I tend to be unaware of what people around me need, whether it’s a hug or a glass of water. However, these little kindnesses go so far—another thing I’m just now realizing.
So, I really feel like I’m in a new chapter of life, with an entirely new mandate from the Lord: becoming a woman, a strong, godly one. It’s an exciting journey that never ends.
How about you? What are your thoughts on becoming a godly woman (or man)?