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!

In Everything Give Thanks!

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At the start of each year I often ask the Lord to give me a verse that I can focus on during it.  New Year’s Eve He laid on my heart 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” and gave me an idea for a picture to go with it.

So the next night I ended up in my art room again with the black paint, but this time I was making waves with it until the whole page was covered.   Then I picked up the red paint and started making waves with that, covering over the black until the whole page was filled.  Now the wonderful thing about good paints, when they are layered you often end up with a totally different color!  Was I ever surprised to find my page ended up looking the color of rich soil.

So after I took out my white paint and wrote “In everything give thanks” at the bottom of the page, I mixed up some green and started making squiggly lines on the page – and you know, they ended up looking like a garden with new shoots just starting to poke through!  And as I painted it was on my heart to write under “In everything give thanks”  you never know what the Lord might be growing!

What a thought!  I can’t even begin to tell you the hope and joy that filled my heart!  What an incredible encourager the Lord is!

Do I ever love how He’s meeting me through art journaling giving me a whole new perspective!  This really is a powerful tool for helping to process grief, listen to Him and embrace hope!

And it really is amazing how the pictures help these truths stay with me.

Now you have to know I can barely hear anything in church.  If our pastor didn’t go out of his way to give me his sermons typed out each Sunday, I’d just be sitting there for most of the service.  And while I take my Bible and the Lord is so faithful to meet me through it directly, it can feel very lonely and isolating to be in a large group of people and you’ve no idea what’s going on except when you get to sing words which are on the screens overhead.  That next Sunday our pastor was out of town and after such an intense week it was extra hard to not be able to “hear,” especially when the Scriptures were being read and they weren’t listed in the bulletin so I couldn’t even follow along with that – I felt so shut out!

But then the Lord brought this verse to mind, “In every thing give thanks…” and laid on my heart, instead of being down because of what you can’t hear, why not let this spur you on to be even more thankful that most Sundays you do get to “hear” because of receiving the sermon typed.  Did that ever bring a quick perspective shift!

You see, there’s a new book out by Andrew Davis entitled An Infinite Journey which I’ve just started reading and it has been highlighting for me there are two journeys we are on – one is to help advance God’s kingdom and His gospel, but the other is a journey of personal transformation.  You don’t grow in gratitude by memorizing a verse, but by applying it…

Oh the depths of the wisdom of God!   Does He ever know just what I need to grow and traverse that second journey well!