Find me regarding You

with each falling leaf;

even in the lake’s clever fish.

Find me anticipating Your unique goodness

in faith, not merely a wish.

Find me considering

Your glory all around;

encompassing my everyday life.

Find me acknowledging Your presence;

no longer searching in strife.

Find me conversing with You

as with a cherished lover,

clinging face to face.

Find me conforming to You,

passionately stirred by Your grace.

Find me provoked

by the dreams You have shaped

and called down over my days.

Find me moved

to inhabit Your righteous ways.

Find me reliant

on every ardent promise

You’ve spoken.

Find me fearless in compassion;

vulnerable for the lost and broken.

Find me declaring Your hope

to those who cross my path

awaiting to hear.

Find me wildly challenged,

for it’s Your wisdom I revere.

Find me audaciously praying

on my knees

calling out for others.

Find me listening for Your voice

as a new baby for it’s mother.

Find me singing

with arms in unabashed reverence,

the words from my heart.

Find me humbled by the mystery

of You never being off guard.

Find me entirely amazed

by Your unending mercy

and delight.

Find me fully awaken

to your peace-loving light.

Find me stubbornly standing

like Moses,

designed to part the sea.

Find me ever vigilant

as Your faithful trustee.

Find me watchfully expectant

for You every single day.

It’s my only impatient need.

Find me utterly starving;

on Your word, I crave to feed.

Find me devoted to stretching

in this new year

ripe with a wealth of rebirth.

Find me unwaveringly obedient

to be Your hands and feet on earth.

Find me endlessly grateful

for Your eternal finished gift:

A life so generously animated by Love.

Forever find me overwhelmed

by praise, You alone are worthy of.

Find me seeking

Find me, finding You.

Just wanted to humbly thank all of you that supported my feeble attempt at blogging in 2019. I still have no idea how to start a blog, how to successfully operate one, nor how to write one under 6000 words so thank you for hanging with me.

My main goal was to provide myself with a creative outlet to fill a spirit void when life demanded a sabbatical from my paint studio. Writing has taken me down a road of healing that I never imagined. Through writing, I have found peace that I would have never happened upon had I not been encouraged by those who have left sweet words of reassurance. Sharing my heart with you has brought an exciting adventure and loving warmth to my life and has very much become a road to recovery and truth for me.

It’s a daunting task to be transparent in a world of judgement but I have tried my best to just be brave with my everyday. I’ve had critics I never imagined but I’ve also experienced support from people I never imagined and have loved every conversation we have started because of your vested interest in my heart. THAT is what I’m utterly humbled by.

I can only hope THE hope I have tried my best to express, has in someway inspired someone to contemplate a different perspective…maybe even contemplate the love of Christ. I sincerely appreciate those who have taken the time to read, like and even share with someone else. I take that as a sign of love and for that, I love you right back and I am so very thankful to you.

Last New Years Day I stumbled across the following writing and kept it close to my heart all year long. I share it here in gratitude for your encouraging me to fall deeply in love despite my reluctance, and with hope that on this New Years Day…

“I hope you all fall madly in love this year…in love with someone who unhinges your tired trajectory, in love with a spouse of several years who might be aching for lightening, in love with demanding children and crazy relatives, in love with the particular pedigree of genius insanity that has perhaps claimed you in spite of your reluctance, and certainly in love with an animal, a cloud, a redwood, the wild…these at least once a day. May you fall in love with this fragile jewel of a world, with hard work, real learning, just causes, petitioning and prayers. May you fall in love with wonder itself, with the grand mystery, with all that feeds you in order that you may live…and with the responsibility that that confers. May you fall in love with heartbreak and seeing how it’s stitched into everything. May you fall in love with the natural order of things and with tears, tenderness and humility. May this be a magnificent year for you. May you fall deeply, madly, hopelessly, inextinguishably in love.” – Rachel Lamb

P.S. If you’d like to follow along in 2020, you can sign up via https://pollystoutspenceart.wordpress.com to have my blog posts delivered to your email….I think.

A baby changes everything. Whether a teenage girl who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, a couple anxious to start a new family, a woman who has been battling infertility only to discover she has finally conceived, or wide open hearts that learn their adoption request has been granted, I think we can all agree that a baby can profoundly change everything we think we know about life.

It’s Christmastime so naturally the story of Jesus’ birth is on my heart. It’s a beautiful story and one that over two thousand years later, we are still talking about and celebrating. But what if baby Jesus was born in today’s time? What would He be born into?

The same exact things he was born into thousands of years ago; times racked with unthinkable violence and horror, every evil injustice you can imagine, mixed with unhealthy doses of rebellion and sin. A time where everyone was a part of the problem. Everyone suffered in the problem but no one could fully solve the problem.

But mercy…

Graham Greene writes: “You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.” Imagine what it must be like for God; watching the lives He created with His very hands and breath unfold so…off course…of His original and indescribably creative plan.

As an artist, if a painting of mine goes south, my first instinct is to quit and walk away in utter disgust. Only reluctantly will I come back to start the creative process over nonetheless disappointed and annoyed by the time and effort wasted. Lucky for us, I’m not God! Thank God, He is fixed on His purpose and perspective of us and has everlasting faith in our God-given potential for rebirth.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3: 22-23

God knew that generation after generation would cry out for the shalom of His kingdom. How could He, once and for all, affect a rebirth within each of us in an all-encompassing yet, non-confrontational way?

His primary objective was to overcome evil in the world and redeem His creation. What merciful strategy could He possibly come up with that would hold power above all power, yet soften the most hardened of hearts? What would cause the proud to lower their stubborn guards and the humble to raise their reserved voices? What would make us feel vulnerable, yet find us righteously covered at the same time? How in the world could God show a strong arm of discipline over everything He created yet, still be known as an adoring and loving father?

“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.” Isaiah 9:6

But grace…

In a world desperate for an honorable example of authority and power, God chose weakness. He chose to wrap Himself in a baby, not a divine being but a human being.

Emmanuel, God with us. Even as a totally dependent infant lying in a manger, God managed to turn all notions of power upside down. The birth of Jesus should always remind us of the radicalness of God’s love for us and the extent He is willing to go to, to save each of us from our own humanity.

A baby changed EVERYTHING! A tiny bundle of love and light so perfect in every way, including the way he was delivered; by purity and innocence. Jesus was the world’s very first Christmas gift. Not a gift that could ever be purchased, but one that would end up purchasing us.

With reverence, we focus on the resurrection of Jesus, but do we contemplate the meaning of His birth with the same devotion? Christmas marks the day so much was born. The baby was awake and within an instant, everything changed!

With Him our freedom was born. Our hope was delivered, our peace was released, our faith was formed, our grace was sent, our mercy was provided, and our restoration was created. His authority birthed our redemption because our adoption was always emminant. Our inheritance became a birthright to live under the highest and most beautiful name; Jesus. Love incarnate…and in His name, your every oppression shall cease. Everything good about this world was born the day Heaven came down.

But Jesus…

I heard something yesterday and it took me a minute to wrap my head and heart around it’s truth: The angels that proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the shepherds keeping watch in their fields are eternal beings. They are still alive…and they are the very same beings that are actively proclaiming YOUR rebirth at the foot of God’s throne, right now! I mean…come on! It’s just so stunning to even imagine, right?

So go ahead and own your imperfect record…but then accept God’s invitation to let it die. According to His word, every ounce of it will be used for His glory. It’s not only the gospel of salvation but it also points directly to God’s goodness in our every day lives. Cultivate peace within by living in awareness of that and of the non-refundable gift of His unwavering love and devotion.

Christmas; the most holy night where all of creation was holding it’s breath for Jesus’ first cry. When the silence of that Bethlehem night was broken by that precious sound, it meant more than just life; it meant life eternal was born. The instant Jesus took His first breath, He inhaled and then exhaled Love, freely offering a new genesis for each one of our lives.

But Love…

It epitomizes God. It captures the climate of His kingdom. But it doesn’t stop there, it also explains why we were created and how we are to live; as living and breathing revelations of His heart.

In the new year, what if we all made one resolution to not blend in with a critical and destructive world? What would happen if we lived fully in the knowing that our words and actions have the power to reflect the healing hope and redeeming promises of Jesus? His birth awakens the expectation of that certainty, also known as hope. It awakens the restoration of all things and that promise stands firmer than firm.

Jesus is proof that God is the most unselfishly genius, indulgently gracious and deliberately contemplative gift giver. All that God has done is worth celebrating! It’s a gift worth giving and one to wholeheartedly receive! Jesus: the gift worthy of rearranging everything in order to prepare Him room to fully enlighten us to the knowledge that He’s awake and was born to come alive within each of our hearts.

But God.

Merry Christmas to all! Wishing you so much love and peace in the beautiful New Genesis of 2020! May each and every day of it be inspired by the generous work of Christmas and with a singing heart, eager to fulfill every hope God has ever held. God bless us, everyone. ❤️

*Written with gratitude and in loving remembrance of the gift of those that have gone before us, and holding those that are waiting to see them again in my heart and prayers.

I love seeing all the snapshots from the decade challenge. I mean, do you people even age? I have not seen one set of photos where I thought someone should have re-thought their participation. Every single one of you grows more beautiful with age!

Despite my distrust in having my photo taken, your photos inspired me to jump in and play along. With ease, I found a snapshot from 10 years ago that was ok, so the only thing left to do was to snap a selfie of today. But I found myself deleting them as fast as I could take them, like a machine gun firing off rounds of nope, nope, and nope. All for different reasons; mainly too many prominent wrinkles, too many grey and wild hairs sticking up, etc., etc..I finally just gave up and went about my business at The Walmart.

It soon realized that one innocent selfie session was instigating an entire dialog I was having with myself. “Your face looks like it’s been etched deeper than Grand Canyon.” “You walk around looking like the living dead that hasn’t known a good night’s rest in over a decade.” “Yoga pants, really?” “Everything on your body seems to have fallen an octave or two…..some three.” I was incidentally on the coffee aisle when I snapped to and heard myself think “Everything about you is ugly.” ….Really? Eeevvvrryyything? At that point I decided to disengage. Good heavens!

Here’s the thing: sometimes we have a tendency to focus a lot of energy on what and where we are lacking. Whatever we’re missing, whatever we need, whatever isn’t measuring up—that’s what we pay attention to, perhaps even obsess over. The glass may be half full—or even 90 percent full—but we really aren’t very happy with any degree of emptiness that’s there.

That was a wake up call to me so I forced myself to refocus on the cards I was actually holding.

Here are the top ten really great hands that have been played well in my life over the last decade:

1. Jesus. I’ve learned about the greatest love that life…and death…has to offer.

2. I’m still alive to tell the story. I’ve learned to never hesitate when I should act.

3. I’m 23 years and counting, still married to my partner in crime. I’ve learned that sometimes, good things don’t come easy but are so worth a good fight.

4. I’ve helped raise five wonderful and kind human beings. I’ve learned the importance of investment and the meaning of purpose.

5. I became a grandmother x 2. I’ve learned that the cycle of life is a gift and all we truly need is love.

6. I have the greatest tribe of friends that have individually faced some of life’s most difficult circumstances. I’ve learned that we don’t get to control life but together we can raise each other up and grab ahold of it’s healing goodness.

7. The days have taught me to be intentional with my time and my calling. I’ve learned to have patience with time. I have also learned that we all have a choice in what we choose to do with it.

8. I have failed and made a fool of myself too many times to count over the last decade but I’ve learned that sometimes the most profound failing can bring about the greatest success.

9. I’ve traveled and scattered pieces of my heart in many wonderful places around this world. But I’ve learned that no voyage is sweeter than the one home and home is the only place my heart should ever be planted.

10. I’ve started page one of that book I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to fight yourself for a dream. I’m learning everyday that nothing is impossible.

So ok, ok, perhaps the scales hit a little differently than they did ten years ago. That was the end and lasting result of broken bones after having a really fun time with my two best friends. I’m not sure I would trade that time in lieu of said end result. Sure, I have wrinkles, my slap back is that I refer to them as worthy battle scars. No my body isn’t gonna win fitness completions, but it did carry, nourish and continues to provide. I can still dance and laugh like it’s 1999 but I admittedly have no desire to hang with the big dawgs.

So at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with what’s seen on the outside and absolutely everything with what’s on the inside; our hearts. I like to think of mine as an old cast iron skillet, worn but better with time and seasoning. I’m not gonna get twisted over a little rust or missing ingredients but rather, excited about the scrubbing down and the refining fire that will always be brewing. I’ve learned to look forward to the unknown deliciousness that will be thrown into the mix next.

Today, I failed for a few minutes. But I understand that God will never ask us how much faith we lack but looks instead at the mustard seed we do have. He starts with whatever is there. It’s a profound lesson, and life and it’s perspective changes when we learn it.

Miracles come in whatever God does through the offerings you give him, however insufficient they are. All that’s required for His power to work in your weakness is for you to have weakness. That’s a piece of cake. We all automatically qualify because we all have them.
 

So for all of you struggling to find your beauty over the last decade, remember this: faith, friendships, laughter, empathy, well-being, wisdom, happiness, storytelling, blessing counting and love are the some of the smallest mustard seeds that, with God’s grace, only get better with time.

Faithfulness in small things—in bringing God whatever you have with the expectation He’ll do something with it—leads to greater things. Never lament what you’re lacking. Offer what you have. Then watch what God does. Here’s to the next decade of life and growth in realizing what a beauty YOU truly are!

What’s the greatest thing life has taught you over the last decade? Share with me!

Below is my answer to the delimma of the Decade Challenge; a few snapshots from some of the most beautiful moments in my life over the last 10 years.

For the record, I did not go to Seminary, nor am I an ordained preacher girl. I’m sure my tribe is cracking up by the mere notion but just to reiterate: I skipped the majority of my high school classes and then majored in having a wonderful time while partying my way through college.

I’m divorced and remarried. The best thing I’ve ever done is to raise five outstanding human beings and I have the body and wrinkles to prove it…and I don’t work very hard at all to fix any of that. I’m not driven and I don’t worry about things like I probably should. More often than not, I use unbecoming words as sentence enhancers and I enjoy a glass of celebratory Pinot most days of the week.

I’ve done things and made decisions that would probably make your hair curl like they did my moms. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a model Christian. I am a tattooed work in progress…but for a very long time, I was very ok with being good enough without regard to said progress work. I’m still working on that…

Now, I’m simply a daughter, wife, mother and grandmother on a quest to bring meaning to my purpose and the world around me. I have no special abilities above anyone else to think, study, reason, and openly speak about what I believe a deeper and higher understanding, but I’m understanding how to use my abilities more effectively. I’m in the process of understanding how to adapt to my environment. Sometimes, understanding doesn’t always connect with reason. I don’t think it is suppose to. I believe it’s the not always understanding that brings us to faith.

When I write, it’s simply an artistic expression in sharing from a place in-between the “I’ve experienced this to be true so I want to tell my friends” and the “I’m leaning in to learn from what I believe to be the highest source of wisdom”. I write to share personal findings of healing from my personal journey of discovery….which stem from devastating losses and the buttkicking hardships of a blended family marriage that the two of us were only enduring…until Jesus stepped in. I write to open the door of conversation between fellow explorers.

I make no bones about it; my healing and peace have been found because of and through Jesus. What I share about that is very much akin to me sharing a recipe I have found to be particularly delicious. If it doesn’t appeal to your taste buds, I hope you’ll just take a minute to read a different perspective. If it does, I hope you understand I’m not a gourmet chef, I’m just a person who enjoys the process of breaking through to meaningful truths that help to adequately describe the indescribable. Either way, stirring up hope is where my heart is centered.

On that note, a particular thought has become a reappearing theme. It’s notably shown up in scripture, different devos, and now in a conversation I just had with a girlfriend. I took that as motivation to dig a little deeper. By dig, I mean I dig picking apart words used in scripture, study their origin to then collectively assemble them in their context in an attempt to elevate a notion into solid truth.

The thought-to-truth I’m now dismantling revolves around how much we tend to unwittingly embrace complacency in our lives. We are ok with things being just ok. We are satisfied enough with the way things are going. At times, we tend to sit down in the “good enough” of our spirituality, our callings, our relationships, our involvements, even the lack of conflict we are experiencing, that in return enable us to just prop our feet up and settle in.

Sometimes we don’t feel compelled to examine a problem with being too comfortable because we don’t really feel like we have a problem, which is precisely the problem! Our obstacle is being cozy and content with the ok. We occasionally get too fulfilled and satisfied with the good enough.

“None of us is yet a grace graduate, but we’re satisfied. We all give evidence that we still need to grow, but we’re satisfied. And because we are satisfied, we are resistant to the grace that is our only hope. If you are able to convince yourself that you are healthy, even though there may be indicators that you are not, you are probably not going to the doctor asking for his diagnosis.” – P. Tripp

But here’s the thing: As Christians, we serve a dissatisfied Redeemer who isn’t ok with our ok-ness. Nah. He wants us to crave more than what’s good enough. He wants us to crave more, much in the same way a nursing baby craves it’s mother’s milk. In 1 Peter 2, he likens the craving of mother’s milk to the craving of the pure and spiritual milk of God’s word. The life offering and power sustaining word of God coming from His very breast, to nourish our inner beings. For this “milk” will cause you to grow into maturity, fully nourished and strong for life. (1 Pet. 2:2)

The passage goes on to say that God calls us His chosen treasures. The Hebrew word is segulla which means “a possession”. It’s used in 1 Pet 2:9 to describe “a guarded wealth” indicating placement of the king’s jewels, treasures, etc., in a protected place because of their extraordinary value. God says that each believer is royalty in His eyes. His special treasure of importance – a treasure above all treasures.

The Bible states we have been set apart; our individual purposes are protected under God’s lock and key. Our purposes aren’t found in the ok or good enough. They are powerful resources that are being held in the invisible realm of His kingdom. They are not easy gifts to understand but they are waiting for us to decided that where we truly are…. isn’t where we truly long to be. BUT, the good news is that God knows that. He knows what we need. He knows that we need the motivational work of His powerful grace. Isn’t it the greatest thing to know that out of His gracious dissatisfaction, He won’t leave us hangin’ out in our complacency?

He sits down with us, assuring us again of His love, drawing out from us, love for Him, love for others and love for ourselves. He fills us with excitement to keep pursuing the work He has chosen for us to do. He doesn’t sit up on His throne and say “eh….that’ll do, she’s exceptional enough”. He’s dissatisfied with our indifferences and in my experience, doesn’t always wait around on us to come to Him.

He gets us and our limited potential satisfactions therefore, He comes to us, eager for us to get back to growing and evolving into the supernatural gifts that only those with eyes of faith can see, much less learn how to use. Which explains why we are in lifelong training. It’s a living, breathing, and working process.

It’s the nature of His grace as our Redeemer, to be so uncomfortable with our places of passivity, that He starts stirring our hearts as a way to motivate us to get up and move. Nothing can stop the movement of His transforming grace. I think the portion to grasp is that our faith is not our hope; His dedicated and impassioned commotion of grace is the only source of hope for our sometimes stagnant and idle faith.

So I believe we should pay particular attention to the gentle commotions of dissatisfaction within our hearts, not being so quick to write them off as “being ok”. I think we should examine and confront the blatant complacency associated with our numbered days. Maybe we should even intentionally record the subtle opening and closing of doors, becoming watchful and awake to the clicks of the heavenly codes that have each of our names on them.

We are the keys He uses to swing open the door in revealing the marvelous light of His glorious wonders to the world. It’s one reason why so many of us call Him, Master. He’s the Master that holds every key to everything we are searching for, even if we don’t fully realize we are searching for something.

Do you tell yourself things are good enough? GOD’S agenda is change. Are you anticipating or working towards change or are you complacent in things remaining as is? Maybe, like me, your need is a soul reaching and spirit electrifiying change.

Friends, first of all, if you’ve made it this far, thank you for staying with me….I clearly do not have the gift of editing.

Secondly, and with much passion I say to you: you aren’t called to be a passive observer of the world, God calls you to be an influencer of it. His instructions are clear; to be the living expression of the culture of the Kingdom that is coming. It’s not up to you to save a soul because Jesus is life, but you do have the power of Jesus living inside of you and that power has the potential to influence redemption, regeneration and restoration. To execute that power requires us to get up off our comfortable couches of complacency and resolve to be instruments of His grace, restoration and development of all things good.

Wanna know what restores change and beauty to treasures like silver, ivory, leather….and most importantly, you?

Milk.

It’s often alluded to in the Bible, as a symbol of pure, simple, and wholesome truth. The “pure spiritual milk” is the Lord himself dispensed to us in the Word of God.

Go on, get up and put your cup on the table. You are the overflow of His pouring out. There is no sense in crying over spilt milk. Why bemoan what has already been decided and will never be recalled? His kingdom came in His Son, it is now coming through His sons and daughters; THAT’S YOU!

Don’t wait until tomorrow because I can tell you from witnessing, tomorrow may never afford you the privilege. Live and ask from your position of privilege to abundantly exercise your inheritance for His purpose. Bless the world with the good and perfect gifts He has offered to YOU. (James 1:17)

To me, the only thing any of us should ever get comfortable with, is an uncomfortable resolve to be anything less than the continuous overflow of the beckoning cup He has already placed before each of us.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4 (via Billy)

And Jesus cried out in a loud voice and breathed His last breath. (pneuma- Breath of Life) Matt 27:50

And when the He, The Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. John 16:13-14 (pneuma – Breath of Truth/Spirit of Truth)

Having said this, He breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”John 20:22 (pneuma-Breath of Life/Breath of Truth/Holy Spirit)

A couple months ago, the Holy Spirit asked me to take a journey into the unknown that would forever change the course of my life. The travel invitation was something so foreign to my way of reasoning, my way of doing, and my way of rectifying that it called me to question if the voice I was hearing in my heart was actually of God. The intimidating request would cause me to confront a few of my biggest fears: rejection and abandonment.

I couldn’t wrap my heart or mind around the risk he was asking me to take so I asked for several confirmations. The confirmations were immediate, clear and came with a certain sense of peace, so I eventually boarded ship and set sail for the land of unfamiliar. I felt completely unprepared and exposed to the elements so I wrapped myself up in the only provisions I had; blind faith and determination. Out of sheer disorientation, I set my sight on where the wind of the Spirit was leading and that’s the point where my course began to turn.

It took me a minute to get acclimated to the the waves but once I did, I realized they truly didn’t matter if I kept my focus. I was steady, thanks to the love that surrounded me. Because of that, the pressure was off. I knew that Jesus is, was, and always will be good, so I stood firm in the radical booking and waited for instruction regarding the next stop. I had hope and confidence that the voyage would lead my family to a better place even though the journey was unclear.

To be perfectly honest, I thought the one thing I needed most in my life was missing. I was intent on having something completely different. After twenty three years of enduring an unanswered prayer, the missing link had begun to shape the way I viewed my life, the way I experienced joy, and what I believed about the goodness of God. Without being aware, I had been existing within an ever evolving spiritual battle for my heart. I tried everything I could to make things work until I grew too tired to make one more plan.

Here’s the thing with having your own plan; sometimes our step by step strategies don’t always line up with the Holy Spirit’s leading. Sometimes, God’s means of change and escape is not your choice. Sometimes it’s a very strange trip. Friends, don’t ever think Jesus won’t throw you a curve ball that spirals upward into a plot twist. Think about it….the most inconceivable, yet beautiful plot twist? The cross. Who would have ever initially thought that the cross would become consistent with a vision of glory. For us, more often than not, having a cross to bear plays a pivotal role in our stories of that kind of glorious and redeeming love.

The point is, sometimes God’s plans seem senseless and daunting because they don’t always line up with reason. That’s where grace steps in. Grace was God’s idea. He created grace so that we can have an undeniable encounter with a pure and dependable love that can be trusted no matter how reckless it may appear. Grace sets us free from the bondages that will never give us what only God can: the most unrestrained breath of life you will ever inhale.

So I spent 40 days adrift in The Wind. The symbolism of the 40 days was not lost on me. But unlike Jesus, I didn’t find I was tempted in the wilderness, but rather like Moses on the mountain, challenged by the authentic and confronted by a calling. During those 40 days, God unraveled everything I thought I needed and spoke truth about His sovereignty over my family. He eventually called me back to the same familiar place I had departed from but everything about it was completely different. Perfect? No. But definitely better; a new and exciting place to work from. During my absence, He stepped in, flipped the tables and rearranged them all…but it required my obedience in doing the unimaginable in order for Him to work His imaginable.

I fell asleep to the song posted below every night during those 40 days. It became my anthem that taught me to have courage when God calls me to make a difficult move, to speak up even if my voice is trembling and to take tiny steps forward in the faith of knowing….even if I had bits of doubt. The truth is, we serve a dissatisfied Redeemer who will never turn from His work of grace in our lives, even when we fail to esteem it or even work hard to resist it. With patient grace, He will call us to tune in, again.

Listen, God always knows what He’s asking us to do. It’s His intention to take us to a place we’ve never been before. He is asking us to explore and embrace the dazzling mystery that surrounds all that He is. The problem is, we want certainty, but that’s not how faith works. The promptings aren’t to prove anything to Him, it’s to unearth something in your heart that you’ve yet to discover: deeper faith, holy confidence, and richer understanding…..a powerful determination in your spirit to be braver than you have ever been before because you now realize you just totally survived and overcame the hardest thing He has ever asked you to do!

To this day I can’t listen to those lyrics and not be reminded of all that He is. He is all that I need. He can most certainly do the extraordinary and the incomprehensible. He can move every impassable mountain that blocks our paths and calm every impossible wave that feels like it might crush us.

I know Him as The Wind in my sails; the visionary that knows how to push me along in His current towards my truest purpose. The thing is, The Wind will always take us where we want to go, but rarely on the path we expect. We have to embrace the unexpected and live with a sense of adventure. We are meant to be, ….designed to be….driven by The Wind.

When The Wind finally drew me home, I understood that things had to happen the way they did. It took me getting out of the way so that God could answer that prayer. And it came as no shock at all to find that in God’s perfect timing, The Wind had blown in the rain….an unprecedented and torrential downpour of God’s faithfulness.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

**The song “The Voyage” appears on Amanda Cook’s new album ‘Brave New World’

https://youtu.be/Jd3vuxpMKUM

***These paintings hang together in my home and were painted by my precious Grandmother-in-law, Doris McDowell. She was the epitome of strength and grace. After she passed into eternity, we found several paintings tucked away in a back closet and were amazed to find that they were her works. I treasure my every memory of her as well as these paintings. I especially love the middle one because she left it unfinished….like me, like you, like faith, like our journeys, and like love.

Hung together, they tell the story of grace.

Stephanie Payne was my friend. She was my sister in Christ and she was a glowing beacon of light and a fierce warrior to those of us that have been affected by tragic loss. She gave this hurting world hell and she did it with grace and one heck of a sense of humor.

After I learned of her passing, I took a minute to go through some of our old messages and listened again to her testimony from start to finish. Her common denominator in all of it was always joy. Stephanie could make me laugh like no other. I imagined her wasting no time in blasting straight through the pearly gates, right past God to get to Savannah, only to then sheepishly turn around with that thousand watt smile to receive her “well done.”

While I was sitting there listening to her recorded voice, I saw hundreds of dragonflies darting around outside my window. I think they had been there all morning but I was just then seeing them. Every single one of them, golden in color. I’ve seen them before. Swarms of them, just like this and right after I learned of another dear friends passing. I remembered their spiritual significance.

The dragonfly represents growth. It is strongest when it stays close to its source of strength—the sunlight. She absorbs it’s warmth and reflects light back onto the world through her wings.

The dragonfly is said to be the keeper of dreams. They symbolise understanding of the deeper meaning of life. In some legends, the dragonfly is a symbol of resurrection and renewal after hardship.

Stephanie was like a dragonfly to me. She truly declared the deeper meaning of life by using her wings for purpose and duty. She understood that she was created to grow and develop into all God had planned for her and with a heart wide open, willingly shared the wisdom learned from her travels. Like a dragonfly, she absorbed the light of Jesus and drew so many hurting souls to Him by simply being golden.

Freedom in Christ was her lead. Love was her sidekick. Time was her energy and loyal friendship was what she offered with destiny in her heart. She walked through the deepest pain a mother could ever know yet refused the hardening. Her heart stayed soft to the dawning of peace that brings a quiet knowing of true strength, courage, and laughter.

Stephanie changed my life for the better. She taught me how to find joy in the face of death and to channel that energy into something meaningful. Thank you, Father for the precious gift of Stephanie. The world is and forever will be a better place because of her. Her legacy of delight will live in our hearts until the day we get to meet again. ‘Til then, rest easy my once in a lifetime gift of a friend. Fly high, dragonfly.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6

***Please keep Stephanie’s family in your prayers, especially her Tim and Isabella. I pray that God will sustain them as He holds them close and that the stories of how deeply Stephanie touched other lives will bless them in the hard days ahead.

 

I’m walking out of a four month season of fogginess. I’m not exactly sure from which direction the fog came, why it showed up when it did, or how it managed to stick around for so long. All I know is that God’s timing is perfect and the fog rolled in because it was ordered to and it left me with no other option but to just roll with it.

The truth is I was mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. I think my creator knew I needed a minute. So for the first time in a very long time, I took one. While there, I decided to unpack.

Piece by piece, I began unpacking the heavy bag that I had the propensity to carry around. The thing is, my bag was on these super awesome rollers so I wasn’t aware of how heavy it had become. I mindlessly grabbed it everyday and allowed it to glide alongside me.

I was waking every morning, unconsciously throwing lies on top of fears, fears on top of lies, and lugging around a carryall that was so full I could barely zip it. No wonder I was so tired…I was toting that mother load around every. single. minute. of. every. single. day.

That’s when Jesus said “sit.” Something inside of my heart knew He meant it. Then He rang in the fog. I’m enchanted with a good fog. To me, it’s a visual representation of quietness, coziness, and security. This proverbial fog had a very loving and protective feeling about it, but it also had a warning aspect, wanting me to stay put and just be.

I’m no good at just being; I’m driven by purpose. I’m addicted to the sense of accomplishment. I enjoy having a full plate with several others spinning in the air above my head. But I knew I wouldn’t be going anywhere or doing anything until I took some time to uncrate.

So I put the bag down. At first, I just shoved it in a corner where I wouldn’t notice it. I would catch it repeatedly glaring back at me so I moved it to another space in time, ignoring it for a while longer. I was too drained to deal.

I’m not implying that I’ve been laying around in bed for four months just staring at a metaphorical suitcase. What I’ve been doing is nothing…but so much more. I’ve been at home, unpacking and doing things that I’ve needed to do…like painting, being fully present, facing down a few giants, silencing a few lies, slaying a few dragons, adopting a kitten, getting off the grid, and overseeing a renovation project we started on our house.

Really by “oversee,” I mean hang out with the workers. I made new friends with all of the unique craftsmen that came into my home. They provided me with lots of lingering smiles, deep laughs, fresh perspectives, new enlightenments, and great conversations (mostly tales about fishing and coyote whispering).

I love and miss them all now that the project is complete, especially Roy. Have you ever felt someone’s energy before you actually laid eyes on them? That’s how my connection with Roy went. I felt him coming up the driveway before I ever turned around to physically see him. Roy ended up being one the most genuine and solid souled guys I’ve ever had the honor of making sick with my cooking. He is the real deal; what you see is what you get and he makes no apologies or excuses about any of it. I admire that. I learned a great deal from Roy.

After the guys finished up, our newly renovated empty nest got really quiet. I knew it was time to address the ignored suitcase and toss out all the junk I’d been lugging around. Jesus promised that if I would stop procrastinating and tend to it, He would give me new things. What woman doesn’t love new things?! So I found myself somewhat inspired to let it all go….in order to be able to start over.

Listen, we all have heavy baggage we tend to lug around. Some of it comes from prior trips that we keep adding more stuff on top of. Things like regret and shame get shoved to the bottom, waiting for the day when we are able to get home and with great intention, unpack and address.

But we are always in such a rush that sometimes we throw things on top of those dirty clothes. Things we are comfortable in, like t-shirts and yoga pants that are full of snags and hang ups but are still somewhat good enough and presentable for the day. I would even venture to guess many of us have thrown in a few extra items for future trips–like worry and stress–just in case there might be unforeseen bad weather.

We each have a bag but we all pack so differently. Some of us pack light and others are secret hoarders. Either way, the spirit of God never asks you to bear the weight of the load alone. So don’t ever beat yourself up for growing weary. Is there a battle? Of course there’s a battle. Are you surprised? The good news is that there is also victory, and it is certain.

It’s the promise of the gospel. You can completely start over–every day if you have to! The gospel gives you full permission to toss out the heaviness of guilt, regrets, frustrations, unfulfilled hopes, and more. In their place, you can pick up the new and start living in that identity.

The new is not just an improvement on the old. It’s an exchange. It’s Jesus within you. Sit down in the fog with all of your things and ask Him what He wants you to take with you and what He wants you to leave behind.

I have found that in laying down the weightiness of life, taking the time to truly communicate with the one who knows the number of hairs on your head, will wake you up in the day break of beautiful break throughs. Things can and will be new, different, and better, and you’ll find yourself living in the lightness of resurrection—where every day is new.

This is our surrender to the seasons of life, storms and all. Where we proclaim it like the sunrise speaking to the fog. This is where the sunshine shakes you awake again. Where we learn to reach out for love and let it in to a room that is filled with moonlight and where the walls are as warm as our skin.

Where we are content to just listen for the music by the water, creating space as we pull ourselves up. Where the memories of singing and dancing fill the air like fireflies living for the only forest floor left. Where our burn returns our fire and the cold can have our worn out clothing. Where the wind is our direction and the waves invite you in. Where we raise a hallelujah to the soul-comforting awareness that we are never alone and that there is always a symphony being sung above our heads.

This is where the fog starts to lift from the soft side of the heart because the faces of our friends and family will forever live on. This is the lightness of being. This is peace.

WHY?

ME: “Norah, close the door.”

NORAH: (my 4 yr old grandbabe) ”Why?”

ME: “Because the moths will fly in.”

NORAH: “Why?”

Me: “Because they love the light.”

NORAH: “Why?”

ME: “They think it’s the moon.”

NORAH: “Why?”

ME: “Because our light shines like the moon and they think it is showing them where to fly; like a big compass.”

NORAH: “Why they need a compass, Miko?”

ME: “So they can find what they are looking for.”

NORAH: “Why can’t they just come in?”

ME: “Because our light will hurt them.”

NORAH: “Why?”

ME: “Because it’s not really the moon or a compass. They get confused by it and will keep banging up against it until they just fall to the ground.”

NORAH: “But why Miko?”

ME: 😩😩😩😩

Me: ”Sweet Jesus…let it be ok with You that I just direct her little mind back to the Play-Doh so the firing rounds of “whys” will stop!”

JESUS: ”I feel your pain. You use to ask me that same question over and over again.”

It’s so true! I spent many a night asking Him “why?”. Like the moth, banging my head up against the light trying to make sense of all the traumas. I kept flying head on, looking for definitive answers to the ”whys” that I thought were pertinent to survival. My brain needed to neatly piece life’s puzzle together. My heart needed there to be a noble reason why. My soul needed God to tell me why they had to happen in the first place.

I found myself looking for answers that I could highlight in my Bible to make me feel better. I found reasoning in verses that made everything fit. I searched for certainty and promises that I could control, so I found parables that really didn’t fit at all, but I forced them to. All in all, I found what I was looking for….temporary band aids to cover the heartache.

The truth is, all the head on collisions left me wounded and exhausted. Not only from the pain of the losses themselves, but from the unacknowledged resentment I felt towards God. My efforts in forcing square pegs into round holes was taking a toll on my courage to just have faith.

Was He really as good as He said He was? I was highly doubting it because I, emphasis on I, couldn’t fathom the good that He is capable of. I couldn’t come up with an (earthly) scenario that made it all make sense. I was trying my best to put God in a tidy little box that there was just no way He could ever be contained in. In doing so, I was beginning to lose faith in what I had had so much faith in. So like the moth, I was getting disoriented in a season of spiritual confusion. That’s when I came across a little verse in Mark….

“why do you let your faith be overcome by fear?” (Mark 4:40)

Disorientation, disconection, busyness, fear and confusion, all tactics satan uses to capture our heart’s devotion. He can use wounds from your own story to whisper lies of neglect. He can be counted on to call something that is good bad, and bad good. He uses your questions against you to call your trust in God into question.

But God’s plan is to capture your heart, again and again if need, to lead you back to The Truth because if you embrace the truth, it will set you free. (John 8:32)

God hasn’t given me a direct answer to my original questions of why. Honestly, He doesn’t owe me answers. Yes, it’s true, He doesn’t follow me, He asks me to follow Him for a reason. He is Lord over all. To this day I don’t have all the answers but God delivered me right back into a huge revelation; Jesus; the True Light.

I am the Light to the world and those who embrace Me, will experience life-giving light, and they will never walk in darkness. (John 7:12)

Jesus met me in my questions. He sat with me when I didn’t want to talk to Him. He comforted me with His presence. He sang over me in the sleepless night hours and walked with me while wandered around in the desert looking for truth. He called Himself my deliverer, protector, provider, defender, healer, comforter, and asked me to rest. He assured me that He was not shocked or disappointed by my humanity of fear of just having faith.

I think God uses our questions for us to gain a better understanding of who He truly is. The questions are sometimes just an invitation for Him to draw us in closer to the personal and life giving compass and that provides a clearer path.

So, I think we have be ok with not having all the answers. It’s ok to question, and it’s ok to just sit with grief for a minute. It’s ok to surrender the pain to Him vs. flying around trying to find a beautiful and meaningful way around it. lt’s even ok to be mad about it. It’s all ok …but it’s even better to wait for the answers to come in faith.

Right now, if you are in a season of questioning, I think Jesus just wants us to stop and have faith in who He is. He is the RISEN King. The one who came back from the dead to save us from ourselves….even if that means saving us 15 times a day. By His grace alone, He is up for the task.

When you can enter into knowing before fulfillment comes, you can exercise greater faith than ever. It’s truly impossible to walk in faith while being stuck in disappointment. But a celebration of the goodness of God in dry seasons leads to greater celebrations on the other side of the desert. That’s what true faith and hope look like. God’s promises come to those who can celebrate the fulfillment long before seeing it.

Take comfort in that, and make no apologies for it. According to His own promises, He has committed Himself to your well-being and abundance. He doesn’t undermine His relationship with you; He pledges to intimately sustain it and meet all of your needs. Whatever you’re facing today and in whatever you may face in the future, know He really is unimaginably good and is passionately fighting for you.

He calls us to have faith in that; to look to Him in faith and find Him faithful. Have faith that He does indeed hold all the answers and is working them for good. His desire is that we rest in the knowing that His sacrificial love for us is perfect in ALL ways. He invites us to stand firm in knowing that our resistance to believe Him is never as great as His persistence to love us. His empty tomb, a perfect and impassioned example of what we can always expect…

A love so exquisitely perfect and one that can never be overcome by anyone or anything. So death where is your sting? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated. FOREVER!

So, for now, I rest in the fact that the answer is more than I could ever imagine. Why?

ME: …Jesus. ❤️

This week, I have all kinds of studs showing up at my house. Tall, strong, rugged, towering studs. I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey kind of stud, I’m talking about the load bearing kind, the type that hold my home together.

We are in the process of renovating our new home. That’s the end of the good part. The idea of a remodel is really fun. The reality is a reno project is NOTHING like the HGTV shows depict where everything is immaculately finished and in perfect working order in under a week. Nope. This process is going to take months upon months, upon months….

I’m finding that I identify with the process. Spiritually, I relate to the renovation. The whole course speaks to me as I’m in a new physical space where our new-but-old home and I are growing, stretching and reaching for something new and different, together.

This dated home still has the ability to be something beautiful. Her renovation is a painful process of pulling out things that function just fine in the world but there is a proven better way. It’s hard to see her completed in her glory but my trusted contractor has the vision. He can see her potential. He can envision the beauty of her outcome.

My own life’s construction options, to a certain degree, have been limitless. Some of my choices have lead me to design disasters. Early on, those poor choices left me with a shifting foundation. I understood I had great potential but was crumbling under the weight of my rusty heart, dusty soul, weakened will and fading facade….in a word, I was unfinished.

Midlife, I had an intense desire for an overhaul. I longed for a professional to come in and just gut the place… start over from scratch. I was reaching for anything and everything that would fill the aching and empty square footage; everything until the day I came across a carpenter’s ad printed in red.

His area of expertise was just what I had been searching for: Restoration. His business motto? Guaranteed to make all things new. His design plan? To co-invest for the restoration of His redeemed image-bearer. His work was guaranteed! All I had to do was show up and knock on His door. Not only did He open up after hours but He invited me in and spoke to me about His very specific and intricate remodeling plans. Plans to give me hope for a future.

What I didn’t know at the time was that His Father was a brilliant architect who He had spent 20+ years of His life apprenticing under. This humble carpenter broke it down for me in explaining that every building must have an architect and that in this world, I would find two different types, God and man.

Truly, man made designs are created to withstand harsh and environmental conditions that have the potential to stand the test of time. But God is the designer of life built with the purpose to withstand all of time. The bible says every house is built by someone but God is the builder of everything. Ultimately, I decided to go with God’s blueprint, mainly because I was perusing the market for a towering shelter. A place of refuge with a solid foundation that would provide peace and security for a lifetime.

I struck gold in finding an honest and reliable contractor; one true to His word. Whether an individual life, a dead and decaying dream, a failed relationship, a broken heart, or an entire planet, He has a plan for restoration. He transforms broken things back to their original design. He can fix broken bodies and relationships. He is more than capable of bringing beauty from the ashes. I’ve seen Him turn mourning back into dancing, and give back double blessings to the places that the storms of life left devastated. In every area of life, He has a solution and that’s about as load-bearing studly as you can get.

We have to know the heart of God well enough to hope beyond measure. Well enough to not place restrictions on His hope infusing building plan. We are called to participate in our restoration process by submitting to being under construction by the Master Builder. To quote John Eldridge ”when the disciples saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, they got a peek at His glory. He was radiant, beautiful, magnificent. He was Jesus, the Jesus they knew and loved—only more so. And you shall be glorious as well. Jesus called himself the Son of Man to state clearly that He is what mankind was meant to be. What you see in Jesus is your personal destiny.”

So here’s the thing: You get to be yourself – only more so. Because God had a very definitive and unique person in mind when He built you. For you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them. You are His masterpiece and rest assured He doesn’t make design mistakes.

You are a beautiful work in progress, prefabricated to be just like Jesus. Hang on to that promise. Let him knock down the walls, lay down new flooring and bring you back to life with a fresh coat of paint and windows built for freedom. Trust the process that flows from His very nature knowing that His nature is unchanging. He has the vision and He knows exactly how to handcraft you to your greatest potential…. as a grand city on a hill, shining as His superstructure of glory. Stand on that firm foundation and nothing less. ❤️