Tag Archives: inspiration

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 20)

It’s not something I think much about anymore, but in recent weeks the Lord has brought to my remembrance the great tragedy that was my second marriage. Take courage, male readers – this is not a post trashing the male species. Rather, this post is a reflection upon my own brokenness at the time. For sure, my ex was a terrible person (ever see the movie “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”? Yea, it was a lot like that). But had I not already been such a walking-talking-emotional-and-spiritual-train-wreck, I would not have been such easy prey.

In fact, I remember saying something along those lines to my sister years after my divorce. Oh, she was so made at me!… because she witnessed all of what he had done first hand, and most siblings would, she hated him for the way he mistreated me and our children. To her ears, my acknowledging I had some part to play in the insanity that took place was akin to giving him a pardon. No so. But we all have to own our stuff, and I brought stuff to the table too.

This is not an easy subject, nor a pleasant remembrance for me. I’d much rather stay focused on HOPE and FAITH and maintaining a positive outlook even in the mist of difficulties. But I am feeling prompted to reveal a little more of my story – in a more complete way than I have in the past via little bits and pieces.

“You said, ‘Now shalt thou see what I will do,’” she answered, and then, looking at him reproachfully, added, “But I never dreamed you would do anything like this! Lead me to an impassable precipice up which nothing can go but deer and goats, when I’m no more like a deer or goat than is a jellyfish. It’s too-it’s too-“ She fumbled for words, and then burst out laughing. “Why, it’s too preposterously absurd! It’s crazy! Whatever will you do next?”

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. “Transforming things – to take Much-Afraid, for instance and to transform her into-“ He broke off and then went on laughingly. “Well, we shall she later on what she finds herself transformed into.”

It was a really extraordinary scene. In the place where just a little while before all had been fear and despair were the Shepherd and Much-Afraid, sitting on the rocks at the food of the impassible precipice, laughing together as though at the greatest joke in the world.”

Hinds Feet on High Places, Hanna Hurnard

My story – and transformation – from a wounded young girl trying to survive a dysfunctional and abusive home, to a young woman looking for love and acceptance in the arms of all the wrong men, to a young wife-turned-single parent desperately trying to rebuild a life, to today. Wow. As I write that, I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to tackle all this. It really is the material for a book or a movie 😊. But that’s not my objective! I just want to share enough of my story so as to encourage others who might be on a similar journey, and I want to give praise and honor to my BIG GOD who transformed me from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat, and from complete brokenness to a woman who learned to Swing Again!

Hope you come back next week to take the journey of remembrance with me.

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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 19)

As mentioned in my last post, I recently attended a women’s event at my church.  Shayla McCormick of Coastal Community Church was our guest speaker.  On Day 2, still gleaning from the story of Gideon, she shared that she often feels both overwhelmed and underqualified to do the thing(s) that God has called her to do.  I totally relate to that, and I’m sure you can too.

We hear the whisper of God prompting us to do something new.  Something totally out of the character with our usual way of acting or reacting. Something brave and daring and exciting.  And while our spirit may be quick to say “Yes, Lord.  If you say so”, our awareness of our own shortcomings (with fear along for the ride) speaks up and says “Uh, Lord … I think you have forgotten who you’re talking to.  The person you probably want for this job lives three doors down to the left.”

Right?

Which is probably why this particular bullet point really caught my attention … as well as my imagination.

Building up strength requires exertion of strength.”  ~Shayla McCormick

Or as I rephrased it in my notebook:  You won’t experience your victory until you step up to bat.

And that got me thinking, and as usually happens, one thought leads to another.

We know from Judges, chapter 6, that Gideon was called by God, from his hideout in a winepress, to rise up and lead the Israelites in battle.

cropped-gravitar-image.jpgSpaghetti Thought #1: The fact that Gideon was threshing wheat reminds me that the promise of Deuteronomy 28:12 is that He will “bless the work of my hands”.  Therefore, my hands are required to actually be doing something practical in order to be blessed.   To state the obvious, wheat can’t get threshed until someone first puts in the work to plant the seed, and later harvest the crop.  And last time I checked, if no one goes fishing, no one eats fish.  But a garden hoe doesn’t catch fish, nor will a fishing pole till the ground.  So if I want to enjoy the reward, I had better be putting in the work and using the right tools for the job.

Mighty WarriorSpaghetti Thought #2: When Gideon went into battle, he would of course be wearing armor.  You and I need to wear armor too, spiritual armor, every day.   And in the same way that Nehemiah counseled the Israelites to rebuild the wall with a weapon in one hand and a tool in the other, we greatly increase our success when we are not only busy doing the work, but are also wearing the Armor of God to keep us protected (offensively and defensively) from that rascally old devil who is always trying to steel, kill and destroy God’s plan for our lives.

“From then on half of my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armor and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to their waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me.”   Nehemiah 4:16-18 (GNB)

But it’s not the image of Miss Hope wearing the Armor of God while tending her fields with rake and wheel barrel that stirred in my imagination that day.  It was the thought of her with a baseball bat.

 

Take A Swing, PuttingHopeToWork.com
“Take A Swing!”  http://www.puttinghoptowork.com

 

Spaghetti Thought #3:  Sometimes you just have to “take a swing“.

Life can be hard sometimes.  Disappointments will come.  My heart will hurt.  But no matter how hard the fall (be it of my own doing, or from circumstances completely outside my control), because of Jesus Christ, I don’t have to stay down.  I can be washed clean of the gunk all over my face and clothing.  I can return to the well of HOPE for refreshment when I’m weary of spirit.  I can release my pain into the care of Jesus and instead choose to forgive.  I can, in His strength, get back up and take another swing.

And another!

And another, and another, and another, and another!!!

Friend, what is your faith swinging for today?  Healing?  Finances?  A new job?  A spouse?  Deliverance from an addiction?

Remember that “building up strength requires exertion of strength”, so exert those spiritual muscles and take another swing!

And keep on swinging until you get your victory!!

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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 18)

She slowly walks up to the front of the room, smiling as she moves past the familiar and unfamiliar faces monitoring her progress. She tries to steady her breathing. Everything rides on this, her entire future! As she turns, the room quiets and all eyes are on her. She silently prays her voice to calm, and then she begins to deliver the most important speech of her 18 year life.

I should know better, for I have been here -in this place- countless times before. Dreaming, pursuing, preparing, envisioning my success.

• The powerful delivery of a presentation or speech
• Hitting my weight loss goal
• Landing that promotion
• Winning back territory from the enemy
• Making the final payment on an old debt
• Arriving at a place of financial security
• Residence in ‘the land overflowing with milk and honey’

At the beginning of the process … the dreaming, pursuing and preparing part … enthusiasm is high. My imagination soars with visions of what life will be like when ______. And usually, if I really pause to examine my thought life, there is an undertone or underlying theme in my visions of victory and success: “Then I’ll be able to rest for a bit.”

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” ― Jim Henson (The Labyrinth)

And yet time and time again, even though I know full well it’s not true – I continue to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment that will be when reality smacks me in the face and I’m reminded once again that there is always going to be another presentation, another goal, another challenge, … another mountain/valley/ocean to cross over!

Can anyone else relate?

Admittedly, I was in a bit of a funk the end of last year. There was a lot of change taking place in my day-job, and it was quite stressful. And so I did what I always do … or what eventually I always do. I took my battle-weary heart to the Lord, and received HOPE from Him that 2018 would be a year of favor and blessing. That’s why this particular blog series is entitled “2018: A Year For Hope” … because I knew He was instructing me to keep blogging, and I needed a reminder (and anchor) for the HOPE that He had given me in December.

“I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.” ~Psalm 32:8 (The Passion Translation)

In January I spread my wings and took flight on this series, I even began painting again. I had gained a little altitude in February. I soared for a little while in March, until I hit the turbulent winds of April. Some personal disappointments got the better of me and I lost altitude.

Sounds rather like a recurring theme for me, doesn’t it?

Rest and Refresh! Hope! Vision! Expectation! Fearlessness! Boldness! Persistence! Fatigue! Wobbly-ness! (repeat)

And as I’ve been making my way back to the starting place these last 2 weeks, I asked myself “What in the world makes you think life is going to be gumdrops and lollypops when ___ happens! You should know better!”

Sometimes I write my blog posts for you – to encourage you like we were friends sitting across from each other over coffee.

But most times, my write blog posts are for me – something I’m working through and/or need to be reminded of. Yup, I’m a HOPE-filled blogger in desperate need for another shot of HOPE!

And today, the encouragement I’m clinging to comes from the women’s event I attended at my church this past weekend. Through the story of Gideon, our lead Pastor’s wife and guest speaker shared a one-liner that really resonates with me.
“God wants us to be Brave so that He can write our stories.” ~Ginelle Payne

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Oh yes, that’s right Lord. My story is still being written, by You!

And there is no finish line this side of heaven (because I have an enemy who is always sabotaging me by moving flags and markers, setting traps, etc), and so it is a waste of energy to pine for the day when I can ‘put my feet up and rest a bit’.

Instead, I need to keep coming back (hourly if necessary) to the starting place of Rest & Refreshment so that You can revive my Hope, give me Vision, build my Expectation, make me Fearless, increase my Boldness, with greater Persistence! And when fatigue comes, I would do well to return to the starting place A.S.A.P. rather than waiting for wobbly-ness to set in. (I tend to get into trouble by making poor decisions when I’m wobbly.)

Regarding that enemy – the one who is always sneaking around to steal the Word from me, kill my dreams, and utterly destroy God’s plan for my life? In the words of Jim Henson … let me loudly declare this!

You have no power over me!


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside. Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
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 17)

I had a dream last night. It was so explicit that I felt, as I have at other times, the dream was given to me for a reason. Perhaps it is for you.

“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.” ~Rick Warren

Everyone wears masks. Some masks are as simple as answering a no-nonsense “Fine” to the question of “How are you?” instead of giving the long and drawn out honest answer of discouragement and brokenheartedness. Some masks are more complex and worn as a means of self-protection. This was the case in my dream.

She touches up her curls and puts on her mascara. She smiles in the mirror for a final inspection. It will do, she is ready. So is he.

They walk in together, smiling across the foyer to welcoming faces while also being purposeful to stay just far away enough to avoid direct conversation with much of anyone. Too much familiarity puts them at risk of questions they don’t want to answer; and answers most people don’t really want to hear.

There are only a few, a very few, people at this church who know the truth about them. They had expected complete rejection, just like they had experienced at countless churches before this one. But to their surprise, they found understanding and acceptance from people who looked beyond their “differences” and who saw them. Seeking. Hurt. Hungry. And they were welcomed just as they were, just where they were in their journey of learning more about Jesus.

“We all have sin in our lives”, they were told. “My sin might look different than yours, but it doesn’t make it any better or yours any worse. We all fall short – which is exactly why Jesus went to the Cross. To pay the sin debt for all mankind once and for all. If Jesus can be patient with me in my state, who am I to judge you about yours.”

I think it grieves the heart of God when we rank some sins as being worse than others. And let’s face it, we have a very ugly habit of doing so – especially within the walls of the Church. It should not be.

Sadly, I’m old enough to have seen many “messy Christians” (those who didn’t look like or act like they were supposed to) being made to feel so unwelcomed in church that in short order they simply stopped coming altogether. And why? Because they wore jeans or shorts on a Sunday morning? Or they had blue hair? Or they were suspected as gay? Or her belly button showed? Or he had a mouth full of rotten teeth and his breath smelled?

The sin of stealing a few manila folders from the office supply cabinet ranks way below the sin of embezzlement – but both are thievery. Gluttony vs drug addiction. Venomous words vs physical abuse. Somehow, it all too often ends up that the sins that you and I struggle with fall to the lesser end of the ranking system (downgraded with words like “issues” or “struggles”) while someone else’s sins (that are not a temptation to us and therefore with whom we can’t relate) are ranked higher and are undoubtedly more offensive to God.

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)

As I lay in my bed processing, I felt the Lord invite me to look intently at the woman and the man in my dream. From other details of the dream, I knew the secret they worked so hard to keep concealed from general knowledge.

But I didn’t feel like that was what God wanted me to see. He was asking me to look at each person individually. To see beyond their sin-struggle, and to see the person.

“Who are they?” He asked me.

We all wear masks. I get it. I wear them too.

But God sees each of us from behind the masks we wear. He knows us individually, completely, and His blood was shed just as much for the murderer as for the occasional pencil thief.

“Look closer,” He said. “Who are they?”

A son. A daughter. A creation.
His son. His daughter. His creation.

Who Am I
Who Am I

When I started blogging in 2014, I painted a word-picture for the post “WHO AM I”. I think it is fitting for this post as well, (Besides, I ruined my work in process and so I must now start it all over again) because this is at the heart of what I felt God was pointing me to see or observe about these two people in my dream. Their IDENTITY is not based on the type of sin they struggle with. Their IDENTITY is that of a son or daughter. And if they have reached the point of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, their IDENTITY is that of His son or His daughter.

When we accept Jesus as Savior, all our issues don’t magically go away overnight. We all know that! But we have so much more tolerance for some kinds of messiness than other kinds. But if the Father can be lovingly patient with me as I continue to work through my food-issues, and temper-issues, and jealousy-issues … can He not be equally as lovingly patient with someone else as they work through their issues – no matter what those issues are?

“Where is the HOPE for them?” He asked. “If not from you, then from who?”

I realize some might read this post and think I’m being “soft on sin”. I am not. I just don’t see it as my job assignment to be the measurer (is that even a word?) of which sin is worse than another. My Bible says that ALL have fallen short of God’s standards for holiness (Romans 3:23). I believe God is well able to do the work Himself of convicting and developing and maturing us individually, so that we can focus on the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and in need of a Savior.

“Beloved, when you correctly understand your identity in Christ, who you are – and what is yours (the power, the authority, the dignity, the calling) as children of the Living God – it will change the way you think about yourself. And that “right standing” will change the choices you make on a daily basis, and will ultimately change the course of your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.”

Pretty deep thoughts for a Monday, I know. If this touched your heart in some way, please leave a comment below. And for something a little lighter, follow the link to the first of a 2-series post entitled “Who Am I”. I hope it will encourage you.

 

 


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside.  Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
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 16)

We have been hit by sickness this week … my special needs granddaughter came down with Strep and it’s been an all-hands-on-deck kind of weekend.   Praise God she is feeling better today, even perking up enough to eat a bit of dinner tonight.  But it’s been a busy past couple of days and … well, I didn’t have the time (or desire) to break out my laptop until just now.

So we go to Plan B.

And Plan B is to share from another’s blog post that touched my heart and complements the theme of “2018: A Year For Hope”.   So without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to “Beauty Beyond Bones“.

I was taken aback by my own daughters eating disorder in her teens.  Through a wonderfully terrible beautiful collision of heartbreaking circumstances, I overheard her mentioning to a doctor that she had been throwing up her food after meals.  How was this happening?  How did I not know?  

“I know that God’s standards are spiritual, but I have a corrupt nature, sold as a slave to sin. I don’t realize what I’m doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate.”  Romans 7:14-15 (GWT)

Maybe you’re the mom, brother, sister or friend of someone with an eating disorder.

Maybe you are the one wrestling with these demons.

Or maybe the issue isn’t food, it’s something else.  Another inner suffering.

“But if there’s one thing that shows, it’s that “desert periods” will occur in life. We will go through the desert. We will feel alone. And forgotten. Maybe inadequate. Possibly despairing. But our suffering doesn’t negate the Father’s love, as hard as that is to believe. And when we find ourselves in the middle of that desert, it’s even harder to believe that one day, we will ever be whole, or useful, or thriving again.”   ~Beauty Beyond Bones

My world turned sideways that night, in more ways than one. And thus began our (hers and mine) journey back to honesty, forgiveness, acceptance and finally healing. But it was a process. And that’s just from my side of the fence … I’ll probably never really know how difficult the journey was from her side … I’m just grateful that she made it through.

So did Beauty Beyond Bones, and this is Her Unseen Recovery

 

 


I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside.  Come back next week to watch the word-picture emerge.
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.