Draw Because You’re Afraid

Sketchbook page with studies of arms

The white paper glows under my hovering pencil and I hesitate at its blank perfection. An idea dances in my mind, waits in my fingers. But there it stops, caught in mid-air like a bird in a net.

Why do I wait? Why is drawing a line so difficult?

I know the answer before I ask–I’m afraid to fail. Simple as that.

Art is a singularly cruel lover: she takes every one of your ideas and dashes them against the merciless bedrock of your own skill. If it meets the concept’s requirements, good! You have a success on your hands. If not…woe betide the artist who did not take time to practice.

But too often, fear of failing shackles you from practice–the sharpest sword in an artist’s arsenal. Oh, fear draws a very convincing spectacle. You know the color will be too bright–the line will go wrong–the drawing will not be accurate. Why even try, if it is to be so bad?

Sketchbook page with thumbnail sketches

Hogwash. (And the fear knows it.) In reality, the chance that the line comes out wrong is only proportional to your own skill, or lack of it. To be sure, your first few (hundred) attempts might be ghastly–just ask me–but as surely as harvest, your skill will sharpen and the line will come out right.

It just takes practice.

So, draw because you’re afraid! Put your pencil on paper and spit in fear’s eye. Practice for all you’re worth and expect results, as seed produces sprout. They will come.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

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

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

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

“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

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“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)?

The Morning Struggle

The monster rose to its full 10-foot height, crimson eyes narrowed down at her, ropy saliva hanging from its chipped fangs. A low, menacing growl rumbled in its throat and it took a step towards her, its massive bag of a stomach lurching from side to side as it moved.

She sighed. Surely it was too early for this. She hadn’t spoken to her Commander yet, hadn’t showered, hadn’t brushed her hair. Shucks, she hadn’t even taken her retainers out.

She unsheathed her sword, the faint light hovering around the blade flashing to life as she gripped the hilt. The monster paused, blinking in the sudden light, its growl fading to a puzzled silence.

“Shoo!” she cried, abruptly brandishing her sword in the creature’s direction. It stepped back with a whimper. Its costume of shadows dissolved, the monster seemed smaller now. “Thcram!” she yelled, lisping around her retainer. The beast scowled at the bright blade in her hand, turned its dirty back to her, and fled.

She waited to sheath her sword until the dark form had disappeared into the horizon. Well done, a voice echoed in her heart. And so early, too!

She smiled and tightened the belt on her bathrobe.


I think trying to live a Christian life in this world is the hardest thing a person can do; it’s a constant struggle at any given hour of the day or night. So to all of you fighting battles right now, be encouraged! The Lord is on your side, and He is faithful to bring victory!

Blessings,

Laurie

Dancing With The World

As I sat down to my evening Bible reading, I realized I had crossed off the wrong thing on my chart and had gotten quite confused as to where I should be reading. I flipped through the precious Book, trying to find my proper place and check where I had really left off, different from what the chart now told me.

As I looked, I once again noticed the odd, slightly empty feeling that had been plaguing me for a while, like there was something not quite right. I hoped my Bible might rectify the situation, as it so often did.

I turned to my place in Psalms and my eye fell upon chapter 45, which was scheduled for tomorrow. Yet the words seemed to reach out to me, inviting me to read them.

“Listen, O daughter, Consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him.”

Psm. 45:10-11

The phrase “daughter” caught my eye. In a Bible full of metaphorical sons, it was refreshing to find this single, meaningful word. Daughter. He was writing just to me.

But what was He saying? Forget my family? Well, this was obviously a figure of speech, but how was I to interpret it? That I was to abandon this life and sail to Africa as a missionary?

I scanned my footnotes for something regarding these verses, and found the commentator’s note, which read:

Forget means more than leaving parents as in Gen. 2:24. The bride of a king was often from another nation, and so she had to break with her own culture to marry, just as Christians mow must forsake marriage to worldly things in order to be part of the bride of Christ.”

Oh, so that was what He was saying; the idea He wanted me to get. Makes sense.

Oh.

The knife suddenly twisted in my heart. So that’s what’s wrong. The separation from Him, His love, the beautiful righteousness and right living He longed for.

I had been “dancing with the world.” Nothing blatant, just a minor flirtation here and there. One too many secular videos, three too many secular songs, four too many hours on the internet. Time I should have spent with Him. Time that added up to something I had hardly noticed, tugging me away from the Prince I so loved.

I needed to stop this illicit affair before it went any further. I’m already taken, betrothed to Someone far greater! Who was I to break such a sacred trust?

So, here’s to a fresh start as I approach my 17th birthday (a month away now), making better choices in the small things, keeping my heart pure for my King. It’s constant fight; the world’s allure is powerful. But entirely defeatable with His Word.

Will you join me in this challenge to live for Him with all our hearts?

Thoughts on a Friday Morning

In my Bible reading, I read Deuteronomy 16 this morning. I especially noticed verses 21-22, which talk about idols. That got me thinking.

In today’s society, which is filled with atheists, agnostics, don’t-cares, and leave-me-alones, we don’t really have that many tangible idols. We talk mostly in metaphors, i.e., “the idol of sports,” or “the idol of the media.”  But we don’t have altars and poles and pillars laying around.

Or do we?

At a certain little Asian store which we visit to purchase tea and rice, I’ve consistently noticed a small shrine in the corner of the store. It’s a little gold idol. A bowl of fruit lays in front of it—fruit that these people paid good money for to lay in front of a lump of deaf, dumb, dead metal that can’t do anything for them. Incense sticks are crammed in a little vase, mute reminders of blind (oh, so very blind!) devotion.

That idol makes me so sad. These people are in bondage to it, thinking that it, a created being, can satisfy that God-shaped craving for love and acceptance inside. They’re blind.

But why are they blind? Perhaps some of them rejected the Truth, the offense of Christ being too great (though how such a wonderful Person could offend is beyond me).  But others are blind from not having been told. That is what breaks my heart.  We take so much for granted—including our faith! And those people have probably never heard of a Man called Christ.

I think I’ll bring some tracts next time we run out of tea.

Morning Thoughts

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We were blessed with some beautiful snow this morning…I’ve always thought snow was such a wonderful thing. It covers up all the dirt and muck of this world, transforming it into a clean, fresh, wonderland of beauty. Actually, it’s a lot like our Savior’s grace and love in us!

I was thinking this morning about idolatry. The Lord led me to read 1 Cor. 10, and that was certainly interesting! (Not that I haven’t read it before, but it just hit me different.)

I’ve been convicted recently of having some idols in my own life. Chief among them is the computer and internet. It seems like every effort I’ve made to cut back on it has failed. But really, every aimless hour I spend wandering around the world wide web is my choice.  So, I was much comforted when I found this verse:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

So, because Christ has made me able, I will start limiting my time on the computer to actually useful, productive stuff.  I’ve taken note of what I actually do on the computer…checking my email, social networks, and blog doesn’t take that long! After that, I have much better things to do. Like spend time with my poor neglected family.

In case some of you are wailing piteously at the very thought of me leaving, I am not.  I’ll still be on daily, just not for hours on end. And now, I will challenge you: is the computer an idol in your life? It’s a hard question…