Who Am I (AYFH wk 34)

Believe it or not, I have enjoyed writing my testimony (categorized under “My Story”) the past few months. Not only has it reconnected me with and given clarity to a calling God gave me years ago, but it has also allowed me to connect with some amazing people!

Through comments as well as private conversations, God has opened doors for me to use my voice and experiences to encourage others who are still walking “through their valley of the shadow of death”.

“What happens to you in life does not change the Word of God; but if you will hold fast to your confession (profession) of the Word, it will change what happens to you in life.”  ~Charles Capps

I recently sat with a friend who wept with longing for the “seemingly accomplished” deliverance she sees in my life and testimony (while she is still in the process of laying hold of hers). She might be surprised to know that I wept into my own pillow that night … because there are still many areas in which I struggle with unfulfilled longings and (yet) unmet needs.

Breath of Heaven - Robed In His Righteousness www.puttinghopetowork.com
Breath of Heaven – Robed In His Righteousness http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

Last week I revealed my “Victory Painting”. I think it’s easy (especially, I think, on the heels of my testimony) to look at “Miss Hope” with head bowed down in worship, enrobed in Christ’s Righteousness, being spoken over by the Spirit of God … and think to ourselves …

She made it!
She conquered!
She has arrived! (at the place of rest and rejoicing)

To which I think she might say, “Please don’t look at me that way.”

And to all of you reading this post I also say, “Please don’t look at me that way.”

Meaning please don’t look at me like I’ve now living a life without challenge, without disappointment, without heartache. If you do, not only will you be disappointed when you find out the truth (when you find out that neither my life, nor I (myself) am “all that and a bag of chips”), but it will also short circuit your faith for what God is doing in your life … right now … today!

But neither let us focus on our (neither yours nor mine) shortcomings and current struggle points (or ‘messy spots’).

“Faith is confidence that God’s Word is true, and conviction that acting on that Word will bring His blessing.”   ~Warren W. Wiersby, BE: Mature

Instead, let us look into the mirror of the perfect Word of God, and see ourselves how God sees us. If you are a Christ-follower (have made Jesus the Lord of your life), then guess what … this lovely image of Miss Hope robed in Righteousness, breathed upon by the Breath of God … that’s you too!

Perhaps even more importantly, let us say about ourselves what God says about us! Let us put in the work to “true up” our internal image of our true Identity.  

To the lie that says you are a broken mess and always will be, open your mouth and respond with this:

I am healed and whole in Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

I am complete in Him Who is the head over all rule and authority—of every angelic and earthly power (Colossians 2:10).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression and will not live in fear (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I am the righteousness of God—I have right standing with Him—in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I have been rescued from the domain and the power of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

My life is rooted in my faith in Christ and I overflow with thanksgiving for all He has done for me (Colossians 2:7).

My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; I belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19).

To the lie that says you are fearful and fragmented of mind/spirit, open your mouth and say boldly:

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me (1 John 4:4).

I am born again—spiritually transformed, renewed and set apart for God’s purpose—through the living and everlasting word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

I have received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my heart enlightened, so that I know the hope of having life in Christ (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I am merciful, I do not judge others, and I forgive quickly. As I do this by God’s grace, He blesses my life (Luke 6:36-38).

The light of God’s truth has shone in my heart and given me knowledge of salvation through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

I am not ruled by fear because the Holy Spirit lives in me and gives me His power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit and He can do miraculous things through me. I have authority and power over the enemy in this world (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).

To the lie that says you are never going to change – never going to gain the victory, open your mouth and shut that voice up by declaring:

I am renewed in the knowledge of God and no longer want to live in my old ways or nature before I accepted Christ (Colossians 3:9-10).

I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ Jesus who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

In Christ, I am dead to sin—my relationship to it is broken—and alive to God—living in unbroken fellowship with Him (Romans 6:11).

As I hear God’s Word, I do what it says and I am blessed in my actions (James 1:22, 25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I have everything I need to live a godly life and am equipped to live in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

“Stand up to your full height; worry can not do for you (grow and mature you) what only faith can do.” ~Jeremy Pearsons

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the head and not the tail, and I only go up and not down in life as I trust and obey God (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am strengthened with all power according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11).

I humbly submit myself to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on each day to fulfill God’s plan for my life because I live to please Him (Philippians 3:14).

“Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21 (Amplified)

And all the people said …… Amen!

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

 

Memories In The Making

In June 2018, I found an article published by The Birkshire Eagle entitled “‘Memories in the Making’ helps people with Alzheimer’s and caregivers”.   My grandmother suffered with Alzheimer’s and my mother with dementia, so this resonated with me on a very personal level.

Like a coffee house, a carefully curated soundtrack of easy listening and soft jazz standards relaxes everyone in the room. On one recent April afternoon, Billie Holiday’s voice evoked nostalgia as she crooned, “I’ll be seeing you / In all the old familiar places / That this heart of mine embraces / All day and through / In that small cafe / The park across the way …”

In no time, aging fingertips flutter to life, swirling brushes between water and paint, pressing lines and curves of color onto a once empty page, creating a tangible new chapter to remember life by.

This is “Memories in the Making,” a program of the Alzheimer’s Association internationally used as a tool to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and other similar forms of dementia. It’s designed to give those with impacted cognitive abilities a creative and emotional outlet that could improve self-esteem and focus; reduce isolation and reconnect loved ones by providing a new avenue for communication to tap into new discoveries and past memories.

This was exactly the type of organization I was looking for, praying for, to partner with and donate product to.  So I reached out and scheduled an appointment to join them one lovely morning earlier in the summer.    I actually had the opportunity to paint with several of the artists described in the article! ❤  It was an absolutely fantastic experience and I look forward to painting again with my new friends in the early fall.

I just got an update from Sharon about the watercolor brush pens donated.   You can read about her update here in the attached PDF (Testimonial August 2018 )

If you have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or know a caregiver looking for additional support, please encourage them to explore local art therapy outlets such as Memories In The Making (you might need to Google for a location near you), or contact the Alzheimer’s Association for other resources.

And if you would like additional information about Inspire! Art products, please feel free to visit us at www.puttinghopetowork.com/inspireart/

#puttinghopetowork #InspireArt #InspireArt_phtw #brushpens #watercolor #watercolorart #sketching #calligraphy #calligraphypen #colorbrushpen #nontoxic #acidfree #professionalwatercolors #blessed2beablessing #arttherapy #charityinbusiness# fruitfulendeavors #sanctioned4success  #WOSB

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 33)

For the 13 weekly posts in which I shared my testimony with many personal details (Weeks 20-32) I had created some rather dark art pieces, to match the darkness of what was taking place in my life during that timeframe.   As I neared the end what I felt prompted to share as “my story”, I wanted to create a new piece – a victory piece.  I can’t tell you how many versions I tried … probably nine or ten … none of them conveyed what I wanted to convey.    After another failed attempt over the weekend, I was getting discouraged.

And then Sunday night, I got another idea.  I actually got out of bed and sketched it out before I forgot.  In the morning, I wet my paints and started framing it out.  Later in the afternoon, I did a little more.  By the following evening, I thought I messed it up and almost tossed it … even began working on a second piece … but a little voice said “keep going” and so I painted a little more and set it aside to see how it looked in the morning.   Surprisingly, it looked far better than I expected so I kept going …

 (there’s a lesson in here)

… and much to my surprise, what looked like such a mess “in the moment” actually dried into something quite lovely.

Would you do me a favor? In your minds eye, would you change the image of Miss Hope so that it is instead YOU who are kneeling down on the plateau … YOU robed in purple, YOU encircled by the Breath of Heaven.

“He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the LORD.  Tell them that I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life.”” ~Ezekiel 37:4-5 (GNT)

Breath of Heaven - Robed In His Righteousness www.puttinghopetowork.com
Breath of Heaven – Robed In His Righteousness http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

“Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” ~John 20:22

What do you hear the Spirit say to you? Is He speaking to you through the remembrance of certain Scriptures? What loving words is your Heavenly Father speaking to you, over you?

Please share in the comment section what you heard and let it not only be an encouragement for you today, but let God encourage others through you.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 32)

When I started writing my testimony in Week 20, I quoted a favorite passage from “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hanna Hurnard.

The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That’s my special work,” he added with the light of great joy in his face.

And that’s exactly what The Good Shepherd was doing from the moment I surrendered (re-surrendered) my life to Him on the carpet of my bedroom floor (Week 31) and as I continued with Counselor John, God brought greater and greater levels of healing. At first, the focus was reconciling and reconstructing the broken parts of myself because you can’t deal with the present when you haven’t dealt with the past. Then we worked on learning skills for conflict resolution, and understandably “T” and “She’s” continuing behavior were a daily source of conflict. By Christmas 1990 I was no longer listening to his assurances that “She” was his distant cousin. I became more adamant that “She” leave our house, and he would promise to do so by “x” period of time, but they were always empty promises.

When you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice.

Finally I insisted he move her out! But “T” had a knack for keeping me off balance, and his next maneuver was a doozey. That’s when he revealed the “secret” truth; that when he went back to South America in 1984, he discovered he had another child and that “She” wasn’t his distant cousin … but (in his exact words) “his illegitimate daughter”!

“T” said it was guilt that drove him to spend so much time with “She”, and that he was desperately trying to make up for lost time with her. Surely I could understand that! And to prove his integrity, he told me to go ask Counselor John, who confirmed that this is what “T” told him on his 3rd and last visit. (But of course, John was unable to disclose to me himself due to patient confidentiality).

Well! Even if that were true, it still didn’t explain their not-very-father-daughterly relationship! But then again, maybe I was misreading things.

It sounds so simple! Anyone with eyeballs could see that my husband had brought his girlfriend into our home and was having an affair with her, right in front of my face and in front of my children! But somewhere in my upbringing, I’d concluded that if you couldn’t prove it, you could be wrong. I think that’s the main reason I stayed in my first marriage so long … because I couldn’t prove “M” was having an affair. Same with “T” … I never actually caught him with her (thank God!!), and he had a special talent for always making everything seem like it was my fault, my misperception, my brokenness that was the real issue. The point is, when you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” (pretending it doesn’t exist, or dissociating from it) … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice. Even one so idiotic as that “She” was his long-lost daughter!

Besides attending BV Bible Church, I was now reading through and studying the Old Testament with a hunger I’d never known before. It was fascinating to me to read (for example) the story of the Exodus and then review the journey on a Bible Atlas or study book. I was opening my heart to the Word of Life, and I was being transformed from the inside out!

I was also learning new coping skills. By July 1991, I had finally gotten strong enough to give “T” an ultimatum. Like I did with “M”, I told “T” that I was moving out the end of the month unless he removed “She” from the house. That weekend, he took “She” and the older kids to go play soccer while I loaded up our old van with 2 twin beds, an ice chest, a few lamps, our clothes, the CD-player/boom box and my two precious little girls. Our destination was the old rental house on the east side which was currently vacant but had no refrigerator (thus the ice chest 😊).

I had worked my way up to Isaiah by that time. I clearly remember pouring my heart out to God in that dreary old house (in what used to be my step-daughters bedroom because I refused to stay in the master bedroom) and encountering Isaiah 40:11 for the first time. It was so comforting to me, so tender.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

The following night I read Isaiah 42:16 and it seemed as though Jesus Himself was sitting on the edge of the bed with me, speaking so softly to me, promising me …

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” ~ Isaiah 42:16

And from that moment on, I knew that He would walk us through whatever challenges were ahead. That even though I was terrified, I would be safe because He was with me. That He would let nothing happen to me, and that He would work all things together for my good and for the good of my daughters. He would not forsake us!

While camping out in that old rental “T” visited once to tell me he had moved “She” out and ask me to come home … but all he did was move her a few blocks over. Once he realized I wasn’t taking the bait, he quickly moved her back in. For the next few weeks, I drove across town to bring the girls to “She” for daycare while I worked. All the while, “T” waited patiently, fully expecting me to weary and move back. After all, I had always relented in the past.

But as soon as I got my next paycheck, I moved the three of us into a small apartment near the elementary school and near our church. I was 30 years old, and my daughters were 4 and 7. Then, as quickly as I could, I hired Attorney Casey (a GIANT of Christian attorney) and filed for divorce.

StickMan
“The Stick Man” http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

It was while living in that sweet little apartment that I wrote “Jenny P” a letter. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, for her willingness to take on the abuse and be the caretaker for my pain, so that “Little Jenny” wouldn’t have to see and feel what she was unable to comprehend and cope with.

With tears streaming and in loving words on paper, I held “Jenny P” close to my heart and comforted her in the way that I wish someone had done for me back then.

And I invited “Jenny P” and “Little Jenny” to come abide in me … to re-integrate with the whole and healed woman I’d become.

[I kept that letter for many years following … until one day I no longer needed record of it. I could let it all go.]

Needless to say, “T” did not like this new woman … the one who wasn’t buying every stupid thing that came out of his mouth, the one who stood her ground, the one who defended her children, the one who had the aid and support of Counselor John and Attorney Casey.

Within just a few months of being served, “T” announced he was marrying “She”. He also said he was going to file for custody of our daughters.

Oh SNAP! Attorney Casey quickly depositioned Counselor John about “T’s” earlier confession that “She” was his “illegitimate daughter”. (Let him try to explain THAT to the Family Court System!!)

Undeterred, “T” began using my daughters as pawns in a chess game, sometimes exhibiting very bad behavior towards them in the process. But I was now documenting things, bringing them up during Mediation. And tensions continued to rise.

One Sunday morning, on my weekend with the girls, one of the Pastors pulled me out of the sanctuary to tell me that “T” was had come to take my daughters out of Sunday School. Thankfully, their Sunday School teacher was one of my dear friends and she refused to let him take them, instead sending for me. By the time I cleared the church foyer, I could see “T” and my friend out on the front lawn – “T” had already gotten my oldest daughter into the car, but my friend was still holding onto my youngest daughter to keep him from taking her too. I confronted him. I tried to get my daughter from him (there were now 2 women fighting him). He was so strong, and somehow, I’d ended up on the ground around, holding onto his leg while he held my daughter and my friend held him. It all happened so quickly … I did the only thing I could think to do to make him let go … I craned my neck up and I bit him in the _alls.

The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”. puttinghopetowork.com

As you can imagine, by now we had attracted quite a crowd … and as soon as “T” released my daughter, others stepped in to keep him corralled until the police arrived. After explaining that “T” tried to remove the kids from church without permission, and of his threats to take the girls away from me and leave for South America if I ever dared to leave him, the Police urged “T” to leave the premises and encouraged me to take more formal actions regarding custody (as they were limited to what they could/couldn’t do).

That Sunday, my daughters and I went into hiding for a few weeks. First, we stayed nearby with friends from our Church, and then I drove us a few hours away to stay with my cousins J&C. In the safety and sanctuary of their home, I wrote an approximate 20-page statement chronicling my marriage to “T”, the arrival of “She”, and all that had taken place since. With that, I filed for sole custody of my two daughters.

We spent the a total of 3 ½ years in the court system. When “T” dragged one of my daughters by the hair across the floor – we went back to court. When “T” upset them with claims that mommy “made daddy have to pay money to see them” – we went back to court. When “T” quit paying child support – back to court. “T” threatened me – back to court, got a restraining order. “T” violated the restraining order, kicking/banging and threatening me through the door of my apartment (while my daughters hid in their bedroom) – yup, back to court. And so on, and so forth.

It was a process, a long and painful one … but by his own actions and by his own behavior not only did “T” loose custody of our daughters, but eventually he lost visitation rights.

By the time my girls had hit their tweens, “T” had lost all power over me.

“But now, this is what the LORD Says –
he who created you Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
And because I love you…”
~Isaiah 43:1-4 (NIV)

Within these 13 posts (starting with Week 20 and ending here in week 32), I’ve done my best to truthfully reconstruct my journey “from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat” …, not for the accolades of man but testify of and give glory to the power of God to rescue, deliver, and transform!

And what He did for me, He is well able and willing to do for you. It may not happen overnight, but if you will fix your eyes on Him and entrust yourself to Him, He will get you through whatever needs to be gone through to get you to the place of joy and peace that He has prepared for you. He is faithful! He will not forsake!

TAKE COURAGE
Bethel Music, Kristene DiMarco

Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

In the years that followed, more ugly truths came out – but those stories belong to others and are not mine to tell.

Instead, I shall share with you of His promises to the broken hearted, of His ability to go to the deepest places and bring healing, His strength to snatch the captive right out of the teeth of the wicked, of His willingness to breath life on dry bones! He will finish all that He’s begun – stay steadfast and trust Him!!!

I’ve been honored by your following along with me these many weeks. I hope you’ll join me again, for in my next post I’d like to tell you about veiled rememberances that surfaced years after my divorce and the onset of a new set of recurring dreams and nightmares that plagued me from my mid 30’s to mid-40’s, and how God delivered me from them.

But for now, please comment and share with me one or two of your favorite Bible passages – the ones that keep you going even when the night seems blackest.

Here is the one I have held on to from July 1991-present:

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV)

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

Morning Sip

“Go take for yourself a wife of harlotry”…”for the land (Israel) has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.” ~Hosea 1:2

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Nah, don’t bother. Because if you’re breathing I know you have the same problem I do. You are unfaithful. So am I.

My attention waivers.

My loyalties wear out.

I often like to do what I want more than I like to do what I ought.

I don’t keep my vows.

This morning while reading Hosea I see too much of myself and his Harlot bride. The Mirror of the Word reflects back to me a willful and undisciplined child, who hears the instruction of the Father yet thinks she can disobey with no consequences. Fool. There are always consequences.

But continue reading…

“And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. ~Hosea 2:14‭-‬15 MSG

Thank you, Father. Thank you that you are always calling me back to you, cleaning me up, and re-extending to me the promise of Hope contained in your love for me.

Morning Sips

 

Inspired by my last name, I'm on a journey to better understand the intertwining of FAITH & HOPE.

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