A Penny for My Thoughts

Well, I haven’t been here since Thanksgiving! And I had planned to write at least one post about the new year, “thundering newness,” and other esoteric feelings about 2018 (it’s probably better I didn’t). Happy March, anyway!

I’ve been thinking about…

…Amazing new opportunities as a graphic designer at our church. I’m actually a ministry “intern” now, and am shortly starting an Assemblies of God Bible school program (which is combined with the internship). I had looked at this program a couple years ago, but it wasn’t the time yet. Now, it is! The Lord has pulled me into a group of awesome people that love Him, and I’m excited to start my first real ministry experience with them.

…How much fun it would be to write a travel blog. But first you have to travel. Hmm.

…Having stripped my phone down to the barest essentials of being a “phone.” I’m tired of its technological tyranny over my life…so I deleted every app I don’t need for work or true convenience. Even the email app went. Crazy, I know.

…But have you read Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”? If you haven’t, you need to. You might chuck your phone out the window when you’re done. Or at least delete your social media accounts, like me.

…Except for my art-focused Instagram account (my own sketches, preview-able at the bottom of my blog in a handy-dandy widget!). I actually started it around Christmas in an effort to keep myself accountable with daily practice of my art. It worked! However, app access for it went “adios” in the phone purge as well…now I’ll only be able to update by transferring the photos to a computer. Less distracting. (Goodbye, Instagram “Explore” page!)

…How I want to read more. My reading life has dwindled to almost nothing in the last couple years, and it nags at my conscience every time I walk past my “half-finished book” lineup. Reading is too slow for the 21st century, too sober and wise and peaceful. But how I crave that wisdom of centuries past to seed and shape my own life!

…Our last two GORGEOUSLY cloudy, rainy days. Maybe people in Seattle are tired of rain. Not me! Not here! (We live in Arizona.)

…The saying my Papa has: “Simplicity is the keynote of art.” The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I am convinced that simplicity is the keynote of life. I crave it in every corner of my days, from the inside out. Simple thoughts, fewer belongings, unmuddied focus. Why? Because simplicity brings peace and depth. The fewer things you run after, the farther you’ll be able to go. I want to go far.

…The difference more Bible reading makes. A devotional email from Kim Potter prompted me to take my Bible reading plan seriously (9 chapters a day, people!) and I’m already seeing the change in my thought life and desires. It feels so good!

…The fact that I haven’t finished today’s reading yet. Oops. Better get on it.

Go in peace,
Laurie

Little Blessings of Late

flowers on branch

Odd as it seems, God’s goodness in our lives can be easy to lose sight of. I cringe even saying it, but it’s true–between the busyness of each day, we let thankfulness fall in the cracks. So, I’d like to dig it back out and spend a few moments reviewing some of my blessings of the last week.

  • My wonderful young adults group. It not too small, not too big, filled with people who love the Lord and His Word. We have awesome spiritual discussions, and play games that make us laugh ourselves sick. And we do it every week! It’s pretty cool.
  • An impromptu video chat with dear friends I haven’t seen in forever. Seriously, there’s no pick-me-up like old friends that you miss! It was super spur-of-the-moment, completely unexpected, and so much fun.
  • Doing a quick drawing that just “clicked.” Like I was made to do it. And maybe I was.
  • Sticking with my workout program…and seeing results! I’ve actually lost weight (not necessarily what I was looking for, ha!), but am already stronger–and it’s so cool to see that each day in my workout. And it feels so good! I’m starting to understand the whole “I want to go work out” thing…it’s addictive.
  • My Living History group. This week, by a bizarre turn of events, I ended up cooking part of our lunch on the wood burning stove…there was much laughter and the worst cooking fail of my life (or, nearly). Details to come in a post. It was nerve-wracking and hilarity-laden.
  • Getting a new sketchbook! And then hacking it in half, b/c you can extend the life and get double the use (thanks for the idea, Papa!). Can’t wait to start the first half. (Lol!)
Well, it felt good to think back on the recent blessings in life. Thanks for listening…I leave you with Andrew Peterson’s song “The Magic Hour”, which I have been enjoying of late:
(If you can’t see the video, click here)
Time for a quick sketch before bed. Good night!
Laurie

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

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

“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!

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.

Jesus Had It Worse!

Read this verse in the Bible this morning:

“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

Hebrews 12:3

I see this as saying that whenever you’re discouraged, just look what Jesus went through! Sarcasm, disbelief, rejection, hate, physical torture….you name it, He got it. But still He was able to say at the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  I want to remember that whenever something doesn’t go quite right or the way I want it to today:  1.) Jesus had it worse, and 2.) forgive immediately.

Civil Twilight

Have you ever heard of civil twilight?  I have, usually from the weather man, but it’s always mystified me. No idea what it means. So, today, I finally had the sense to go to Wikipedia and look it up. The summarized definition, as best I can tell, is that civil twilight is that period during early morning/late evening when you can see the horizon and other objects pretty clearly, but it’s still dark out. If you’re the nerdy science type and want more info, go check out the Wiki page here. 🙂

In my research, I also learned that civil twilight is the time when the brightest stars come out–most notably, the “morning star” and “evening star” (the planet Venus).

For us, Jesus is the “morning and evening star.”  I thought about when our visible star appears in the sky: the morning and the evening. I like to think that this is a reminder that Jesus is there for us when we go to bed and when we get up!  There’s so much to learn about Him from nature…isn’t God good?!