Oh Baby!

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Imagine if you were to immediately become a baby, what do you think that would be like?

What would you have to give up to do this?

What would you no longer be able to do?

How would your life change?  What would your life suddenly look like?  How do you think that would feel?

Now imagine being God and immediately becoming a baby!

Just think, The Word suddenly couldn’t speak!  The one who made the world needed someone else to wipe his bottom!  After being omnipresent for all time, suddenly He’s constricted into the form of a baby, present in just one place at a time!

Pondering this can sure give us a taste of what it must’ve been like for Jesus to become human!

This year as I’ve been seeking to prepare my heart to celebrate Christmas, I’ve been camping out in Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.  Not at all.  When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.  It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.  Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.

It’s mind boggling to consider what Jesus experienced when He became human!  And if that’s not enough, there’s that next phrase: “He stayed human.”

I bang my toe on the wall and I’m like, “Lord, you can take me home anytime!”  I can get so tired of living in this broken fallen world.

But here is Jesus, fully man, but also fully God – can you imagine dealing with the daily brokenness of the world and the sinfulness of every single person around you, and in a moment because you’re God you can check out and go back to Heaven where you reign over all and are respected and there’s no sickness or pain or suffering!  Can you imagine what a temptation that would be?  Every. Single. Day.

But Jesus didn’t check out.  He stayed human.  And in doing so He persevered through much tougher trials than I will ever face.  I’m so thankful He did…

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends.  John 15:13

In the past when I’ve read this verse I’ve always thought of Jesus dying on the cross.  This year as I see pictures of Him in a manger, I realize in so many ways, He laid down His life the moment He was born.

I’m looking at nativities with whole new eyes this year

What an incredible picture of His love!

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Art Journal Processing Project:

  1.  Contemplating life as a baby
    1. Find a picture of a baby  (I google “baby drawing image”  but you can also use a photograph of your children if you’d rather)
    2. Draw a half inch grid over the top of the picture  (Hint: If you put the picture on top of the page you’ll be drawing your final picture on and start the grid lines on that page, you won’t have to measure twice to draw a grid on the final page. Just lift the picture once you’re done with the grid on it, and then connect the overextended lines that remain on your drawing page which was underneath)

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2.  Then focus on one square at a time and draw the lines you see in that square. Remember it’s not just about art but contemplate what a baby’s life is like – and what yours would be like if you suddenly reverted back to being a baby!

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It’s amazing how this can help you reproduce the image fairly accurately – even if your drawing skills are a rather lacking like mine!

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3.  Now consider Philippians 2:5-6.  Highlight the part of this verse that stands out to you.  Write that down beside “Look” then under “Listen” dialogue with the Lord about this, writing down any questions or thoughts that come to mind.  Then at the bottom of the page next to Live it Out write down, what do you think the Lord would have you do in response to what you’ve read here in His Word?

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4.  I just purchased some Derwent Inktense colored pencils and ink blocks so we had fun drawing diagonal lines with them…

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Then used water brushes to blend the colors together. IMG_9785

I loved the stain glass effect we ended up with. Then we each finished creating our own pages based on what the Lord laid on our hearts.

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I added black ink using the tips of my fingers to distress the page a bit – like a stain glass window that on the inside had dirty finger prints on it from people reaching up seeking to touch the beauty.

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A Year of Pondering?

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Late in 2014 a friend asked if I had a word for the upcoming year. Right away I knew it to be “Ponder.” This is something The Lord has been laying on my heart, calling me to invest more time in doing: Pondering what He’s teaching me, pondering His Word more deeply, pondering how all this relates to my life right now… And yet, here it is the end of January – a month that has flown by, packed full of activities… I can’t say I’ve spent much more time doing this than I normally would. So when asked to create a page highlighting my word of the year I made it a busy one, with empty pots at the bottom. Pots that bring to mind the potential for much growth, but so far…

Then this morning in my quiet time I was reading in Matthew 9:13 where The Lord tells the Pharisees who are questioning him, “Go and learn what this means…” and then he quotes Hosea 6:6. Now that verse caught my attention because I thought “Go and learn what this means…” is like another way of saying “take time to ponder this.” But when I went to Hosea and read the quote in context it took my breath away, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Here The Lord clearly states what He desires ~ steadfast love, and to be known. Am I living my life in a way that honors His desires? Not just doing things for Him, but taking time to really know Him even more?

Earlier in this passage we see Him calling Matthew, inviting him to “Follow me.” As a tax collector I bet Matthew’s life was super busy and his schedule incredibly full. He couldn’t just squeeze Jesus in. He had to be intentional, to totally change his life to respond to this invitation! And he did! I can only imagine how eternally thankful he is he did so! So I’m noting for the ones willing to step out of ordinary life, to make a radical change to be with Jesus, he offers the invitation “Follow Me.” For those focused on other things He says, “Go and learn what this means…”

So as I created the cover for my latest art journal (which is a converted cookbook coated in gesso with every three pages glued together) I created a texture that reminded me of those first fishermen by the sea who left their nets and life as they’d known it to follow Jesus (I pressed torn pieces of gauze into the wet gesso, then covered that with mod podge, painted with acrylics, and the sand texture came from coarse texture medium mixed with a light tan paint, then lightly applied). I put on the front cover Jesus’ invitation, “Follow Me” then put on the back what He said to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means…” along with Hosea 6:6.

IMG_0084.JPGWhat sweet time I had actively pondering this verse as I created my cover – though I must say, making the cover didn’t come easily. Many times throughout the process it really looked like a mess! And I wasn’t sure what to do. It took a number of attempts to get the lettering the way I wanted it. In fact that sand look, originally was me applying the texture because when I tried to paint letters on the gauze that turned out horrible! Then I painted the letters on top of the thickly applied coarse texture medium and well, that just didn’t look right so I used an old credit card to scrape that off which resulted in the “sandy” appearance that I liked!

Now I could’ve been super frustrated but what a difference it makes if you keep looking at things that don’t work as opportunities to discover something new. Worse case scenario you can always paint over the whole thing! ;0) Did I ever learn a ton experimenting with new techniques!

But the best benefit of all wasn’t the art, wasn’t the outcome, but what happened inside as I creatively meditated on Jesus’ words! I find myself asking, “Lord, what do I need to leave behind so I can respond to your invitation to follow you in pondering?” What radical life change may be needed to make this happen?

I’m face to face with the reality just trying to add it in isn’t working. So I’m praying through my schedule… Because I so want those pots full of growth and all the goodness The Lord wants to bless me with! And I so want to do what The Lord desires ~ to keep growing in knowing Him even more!

And the crazy thing is through my hearing loss and being now limited to listening just about 4 hours a day, The Lord is carving out that time – but I’ve been resisting those boundaries, instead overdoing it until my head feels like it’s about to explode. I wish I could just rewrite my schedule and that’s that! But I expect there are underlying issues that need to be dealt with and growth that needs to happen inside before I’m able to fully do this. So it’s good to remember when I fail to follow Jesus in taking time to ponder and realize I’ve blown it, now I know what I can do that will hopefully help me respond more readily the next time. Go and learn what this means: For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. And yes, that is a call to ponder… and as I do my prayer is it results in even more pondering “with Jesus” ~ bringing even more delight to both of us!

Plein Air Promises

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I’ve been hosting an art journal club for girls ages 9-12 for the past six months and what an adventure that’s been!  ;0)  We’ve been working our way through Genesis – getting to know God as He introduces Himself in the first book of the Bible, enjoying incredible discussions about how what we’re learning relates to our lives and has it ever been neat to see the pages the girls keep creating in response!  We meet approximately every other Saturday and it truly is one of my favorite things the Lord has me doing!  

This past week we were to dive into Genesis 12 and I was so ready for the discussion as I’ve been leading another Bible study that’s also been going through Genesis, but even the night before I was feeling rather clueless about what to do with the girls art-wise (this truly lets you see how much I fly by the seat of my pants!  And how all I do is only by the grace of God!!!)  As I went to bed Friday night I asked the Lord to give me an idea and promptly fell asleep!

The next morning when I woke one of the first thoughts in my head was “Plein air painting!”  And I was sooo excited!  I’ve never done this before but always wanted to.  This is where you head outside and paint what you see.  And since we live in Colorado and have a great view of the entire front range from our neighborhood and it was a beautiful clear day – and since Abram and Sarai had to traverse mountainous terrain when the Lord called them to leave Haran, I thought “this will make a great backdrop for this week’s art journaling and get our day off to an interesting start!

Since we had to hike a couple blocks to get the best view and I was going to have to carry whatever water we’d need I decided to have them do watercolors (believe it or not these take less water than acrylics – at least when we are painting!) and I loaded up my backpack with all the Nalgene’s I could find filled to the brim and crammed art supplies into whatever nooks and crannies remained.

I asked the girls to paint a full two page spread for their background and they dove in with gusto!

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As we were discussing Genesis 12 it hit me how the Lord commanded Abram to “Go!” and gave him five promises. To his credit Abram believed Him and went!  After painting mountainous terrain did it ever hit home how daunting God’s command had to be – especially as the Lord didn’t tell him how far or how long he’d be going!

But what a comfort those five promises had to be:

I will make you into a great nation.

I will bless you.

I will make your name great

I will bless those who bless you

Him who dishonors you I will curse.

If I was heading out into unknown territory, I would feel so vulnerable and scared. So when I art journaled on the left hand page about Abram and Sarai I wrote out those five promises across the landscape before them, imagining the comfort they would provide as they pressed on.

Then I asked the girls to take the right page and use that to represent their journey and what they could learn from this chapter in Abram and Sarai’s life.  As I sat down to create my page I drew a tiny picture of me in the lower left hand corner and the Lord brought to mind how lately I’ve been exclaiming, “I can’t do this anymore!”  over and over.  Honest, it’s been driving my husband crazy!  But it’s like an involuntary statement erupting from of the depths of my heart.  It seems the more I lose my hearing the more the Lord keeps asking me to go out of my comfort zone and do and to be honest at times it just feels overwhelming!  As I looked at the landscape I’d painted I thought what a fitting picture of how my life feels right now.

But then clear as anything I sensed the Lord say, “Just as I gave Abram five promises, so I’ve given you five.” And He brought to mind Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear for I am with you.

Do not be dismayed for I am your God.

I will strengthen you

and help you

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

So just as I’d placed the promises the Lord gave to Abram across the terrain they’d have to cross, so I wrote them on the terrain before me.  And I sensed the Lord laying on my heart, “Every time you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do this anymore!”  I want you to quote this verse aloud to remind yourself of these promises I’ve given to you.”

And you have to know – the second part of Genesis 12 highlights the mess we can make – both in our lives and the lives of others around us – when we forget God’s promises!  So yes, I was very motivated to start doing this!

Has it ever been having a HUGE impact in my life!  Yes, I’ve quoted Isaiah 41:10 more times in this past week than I think I have in the past 30 years since I first memorized it!  But here’s the kicker – It’s one thing to have a verse memorized and periodically review it.  A whole other when you are actively applying it in your day to day life!  And has the Lord ever been giving ample opportunities to apply…!

A week and a half later, I find I’m not exclaiming “I can’t do this anymore!” as much.  But when I do, as I quote that verse and choose to trust what God has said for my journey, it’s amazing the peace that’s coming!

It’s not just the girls who are benefiting from our art journal club!  ;0)

 

 

Prison? Or A Garden Enclosed?

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“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  Proverbs 25:11

It’s been a difficult summer.  You’d think after thirty years of dealing with a progressive hearing loss I’d be use to making adjustments.  

But it seems while my hearing continues to steadily decline, the way I live is more like stair steps.  I make the needed adjustment to a new level of hearing and live that way for a while until a progressively greater loss makes living that way impossible and I usually end up crashing, struggling to deal with the loss of what I can no longer do as I adjust to a new “normal” which works well… until the next crash.  

Trust me, this is not a fun process for me, or anyone around me ~ especially as I “learn” my new normal mostly through failure.  

Up until this point the adjustments have not impacted my ability to interact one on one with people.  And in truth my ability to interact one on one hasn’t been directly impacted.  Even though I only retain 3% of my hearing, and that’s no longer normal, through lip reading and filling in the blanks I’m usually able to understand as long as someone is close enough.  

The problem is my brain is having to work a lot harder to do so.  (It really is a myth we only use a portion of our brain and there’s unlimited potential just waiting to be drawn on.  In fact, people with severe hearing loss have a much greater incident of dementia and researchers suspect it’s because the brain is having to work so much harder. Yikes!)

I’m fine when I’m with someone – or as is often the case a series of someones!  But it’s the next day when I really feel it!  When I wake up and my brain is mush and I feel like you can barely scrape me off the carpet.

After a week of crashing like this every other day:  I’d meet with people back to back for about 11 hours, then be dead the next day, unable to do much of anything all day long, then the next day I’d be with people for another 11 hours, and the following day my brain and body is mush and then two 8 hour days with people after that only to be half dead as we’re traveling to Austin to meet with our son and his new bride and I almost break my foot going through security because I’m so dead tired and distracted and then end up eating something I’m allergic to and sick all night because I’m not really able to think clearly to ask about ingredients in advance.  

My husband states, “This isn’t working Deb.  You can’t keep doing this.  You’ve simply got to start setting some limits. Like only meeting with two people a day…”  And I feel my world start to cave in.  You see, I love what I do meeting one on one with people. I’ve seen the Lord use this over and over again to make a difference in people’s lives, and to help advance His Kingdom.  And now I have to give a large portion of that up?!

I was so not liking the story He’s writing in my life.

Recently I was sharing with a friend that it feels like I’m in a prison as my boundaries constrict, like I’m trapped inside this jail of my limited brain and all I can see are the good things I use to be able to do on the outside.

The words were barely out of my mouth when she began to type “SS: A garden enclosed.” 

When I asked if she was referring to Song of Solomon, she nodded yes.  And as she did, a little bit of hope began to ignite in my heart.  What a different perspective!

After our time together I went home and looked up the verse. It’s found in Song of Solomon 4:12

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.”

The next three verses go on to describe how fruitful and wonderful this garden is!  And in verse 16 it says, “Awake, O north wind, and come, wind of the south; Make my garden breathe out fragrance, Let its spices be wafted abroad.  May my beloved come into his garden and eat its choice fruits!”

Now originally when I first realized I was going to have to cut down on the time I spend one on one with people, I thought the Lord wanted me to devote the time I was no longer spending meeting with people to writing.  Like having a literary one on one with whoever would be reading what I wrote.  And I was excited!  

But after two weeks of trying and my writing feeling so dry, I had to conclude that simply wasn’t God’s plan for this season.  So that left me even more discouraged than before.

Then the Lord reminded me of a comment Carole Mayhall shared with me, “Some people are writers, others are communicators.  Writers can put ink to paper on any given topic, but I’m a communicator – I can only write when the Lord gives me something to communicate.”  That is so true for me, too!

And I began to wonder, perhaps I need to be spending that “extra” time with the Lord?  So I can listen to hear when He has something He wants me to communicate.

But when I read verse 16 a few days later, it hit me – while a wind may come and blow the fragrance and spices from my garden so it can be a blessing to others, the primary purpose of my garden, and specifically it being enclosed, is to be set apart for the beloved’s delight!

And I sensed the Lord saying, “That “extra” time when you can no longer meet with people, I want you to invest in going deeper with me, listening to me, responding to me.  Remember the joy you felt as you watched your son grow?  Does it ever bring me joy to watch you grow!  There may be times when I want you communicating something and then you can focus on writing, but never forget the main purpose of the garden being enclosed is for it to be set apart so you can go deeper with me and bring me joy!”

Considering I receive the most joy in my life when I spend time with the Lord, well, my perspective shifted from feeling deprived to realizing how truly blessed I am!  He wants more time with me!  And He’s orchestrating circumstances so I won’t be tempted beyond what I can bear and miss out!

What a difference a word aptly spoken can make!  

 

I Shall Come Forth As Gold!

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Painting still scares me!  But desperation is great for getting me to run to the Lord and rely on Him.

A week ago my neighbor invited me to join her Red Hat club as they were going to Paint the Town for an afternoon of painting!

Now at this studio you can either paint a copy of a picture on the wall, or create your own.  As I sat there staring at a blank canvas I asked the Lord if He’d bless me with a picture that would continue to help me process what He’s been teaching me and be honoring to Him.

Again, when I went to get paint, I focused on dark colors but the gold paint also caught my eye.  As I began applying the first dark brushstrokes the woman painting next to me said, “Ooooh, going through a dark time, eh?”

Then the words came to mind, “When He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.”  I guessed they were from Job but was amazed when I looked them up to find they came from the exact same place I’d been camping out in this past week, only I hadn’t focused on that part of the verse… yet.

So I decided to paint a woman dancing as the verse, “He has turned my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11) came to mind.  But I decided to paint her all gold.  I applied the paint thickly thinking how when someone comes forth as gold, it’s not a thin veneer but they’ve become a person of great substance!

Next I thought it’d be neat to have the gold dripping down from above making it clear this has all come from God, but when I started applying the paint – well it was super thick and didn’t do much dripping!   So I got more and applied more on top thinking if I put enough on it would force it down…  by this time a small crowd gathered around and people were commenting on the texture.  Did it ever provide a great opportunity to share how I’ve been struggling over my hearing loss, grieving the loss of what I can no longer do, yet how the Lord’s been meeting me, rekindling hope.

The precious woman next to me put her arm around me and said, “You’ve got to grieve to heal.”

Now I was terrified of putting words on this painting, but then people began to help me.  First my neighbor walked with me around the studio and we examined the different ways others had painted on words, selecting the techniques and forms we liked best.  Then another woman showed me how I could use chalk and wipe it off until I got the words the way I want them.

As I began painting them on another woman asked, “Is that from the Bible?!”  Got to love how art provides such neat opportunities to share!

Then I finished taking a copper red color and applying it around the outside of the frame, realizing such hope is only made possible because of Jesus’ blood shed for me.

Was my soul ever nourished and my heart abundantly encouraged as the Lord enabled me to express this precious truth He gave me!

Hemmed In!

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Ever have one of those times when it doesn’t seem to matter where you read in your Bible but a certain phrase keeps jumping out at you?  Did that ever happen recently!

First as I was sharing a quiet time with a friend in Psalm 139 verse 5  jumped out at me,  “You hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me…”  Then a few days later during my evening Bible reading, I was reading from the NET Bible and Psalm 4:1b jumped off the page at me “Though I am hemmed in, you will lead me into a wide, open place.”  And then later that week as I was spending some extended time alone with the Lord, I read in Job 3:23 “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden and whom God has hedged in?”  And then in Job 19:8 “He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass and He has set darkness upon my path.”

And to be very honest, I do feel very hemmed in by my hearing loss – and not in a positive way!  It feels like I’m constricted into a narrow place where all the good stuff is outside – and can that ever be frustrating!

But as I spent time with the Lord I shared my heart, “I know that isn’t what you do!  You aren’t a withholder!  (Psalm 84:11-12) You aren’t keeping me from things that are good, so would you please give me your perspective on this idea of being hemmed in?”

First, he brought to mind being at a friends condo on the beach.  Their place is on the fifth floor, right on the water.  One of my favorite things to do is sit out on the porch enjoying the view (I’ve even been known to sleep out there!  ;0)  But you know I wouldn’t go out there at all if there wasn’t a railing! I’d be too afraid of falling off the edge and being seriously hurt.

And then the Lord brought to mind a picture of being in Afghanistan where there are mines hidden underground all over the place.  Before going out, our troops have to send someone out to test the area.  Once an area has been determined safe then troops can occupy it but if they go beyond…!

Then what came to mind was a lush tropical area that looks super inviting, and in the center of it is a fenced in area where I’m standing.  The Lord has determined that fenced in area to be 100% safe.  Now outside the fence it may look safe, but that’s only because the mines are hidden!  You better be certain I’d be thankful for that fenced in area where I can freely enjoy being outside without danger!

And I sensed the Lord saying, “Yes, through your hearing loss I’ve established boundaries for you, and they may feel constricting at times, but it’s only because I love you and want to protect you from what you can’t see that can destroy you.  They aren’t going to get in the way of anything I have for you to do!  But they are there because I love you! Trust me!”

Then I read Job 23:8-14, “Behold, I go forward, but He is not there and backward,but I do not perceive Him; on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him.  But He knows the way that I take… He will complete what He appoints for me.”  Just because I can’t see God at work, doesn’t mean He isn’t!  And oh the joy it brings to realize that no matter how handicapped I become God will complete what He appoints for me!

Now as I art journaled this later I didn’t end up making an enclosed fence, because I feel like while I am hemmed in, I’m not staying stationary, the Lord has me on a journey, one that will end up with what He’s appointed for me being completed!

If it was up to me I’d certainly make the route straighter!  We could save so much time and get there so much quicker!  But the journey isn’t just about reaching the destination, but about me being transformed in the process.  And do all those twists and turns ever give ample opportunity for my faith to be stretched!  And through it all, especially when it doesn’t make sense, He keeps asking, “Will you trust me?”

Am I ever thankful He’s with me every step of the way!

Brought Back Empty?!

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The day after New Years I met some friends at the Glen to spend a half day in prayer.  We come together to encourage each other to get started (often the hardest part of doing this!) and to pray together – then head off on our own for four hours alone with God.  It is wonderful!!!

It was a super cold day, but I piled on the layers and hiked up to the top of a mountain where I have a special spot for spending time with the Lord.  Did He ever meet me in a powerful way!

We were using the format Lorne Sanny outlines in his article “How to spend a day in Prayer” so I began my time focusing on three verses related to waiting on God.  Usually this is just a small intro to the time but not this day.  I spent the next two hours camping out in Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 27:14 and Psalm 62:5 and as I did, the Lord convicted me on how I haven’t been trusting Him, about my unbelief.  As I confessed each thing He brought to mind, oh the sweetness as He exposed the lies I’ve been wrestling with and gave me His truth to replace them.  With each revelation I couldn’t help but rejoice and sing!

Then I skipped ahead to where Lorne advises you pick a book of the Bible to read.  Immediately the book of Ruth came to mind so I dove in – but abruptly stopped when I came to Naomi’s words in Ruth 1:20, “Do not call me naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.”

Could I ever relate!  My life use to be so full and now because of my hearing loss it can feel so empty.  Yet the Lord laid on my heart, she lost her husband and her sons and all hope – but the story wasn’t over!  In fact, the best was yet to come!

Oh did that ever encourage my heart!

Now some friends are diving into the book of Ruth with me and we’re beginning to study it inductively.  To get started, we read through the book together then art journaled a page to further process what stood out to us.

For me, it was the irony of her words, “the LORD has brought me back empty” spoken as she’s accompanied by an amazing daughter in law!  I sure wouldn’t call that empty!

Yet in her grief, she can’t see even this.  And I felt like the Lord was encouraging my heart, “Your hearing loss hasn’t left you as empty as you think!”

Got to love how He directs our steps (and our reading!) to rekindle hope!