I read this out of my morning devotional, and it hit home.
“In some parts of the country there are Lumberjack competitions where the biggest and strongest compete by chopping down trees and sawing through thick logs. In one such competition, there was a match between a young, strong ax man and an older, slimmer one.
By the end of the day of competition, the old man had cut down double the amount of trees that the young man had cut down. Frustrated, the younger ax man finally confronted the older and said ‘I don’t understand. I never stopped swinging. I never stopped. You know, I never stopped cutting down trees and yet you took two breaks every hour. How could you cut down more trees?’ The older man, with humble eyes and a kind reply said ‘Every time I stopped, I sharpened my axe.”
You and I can chop until we’re blue in the face, but if our axe has lost its edge, it won’t matter.
I feel like I spent much of 2019 swinging and swinging and swinging … but with a dull axe. How about you?
Praising God that He is always willing to “resharpen our edge” … strengthening us by His Spirit and sharpening us by His Word to make us productive again.
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.” (Isaiah 35:3-4)
How can I pray for you today?
===== 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.
When I wrote my “Jail Break” post in April 2019, I was recalling a conversation I had recently had with a dear friend. As we shared our hearts and more than a few cups of coffee at her kitchen table, I prayed the Lord would give me the right words to inspire her with revived hope and faith for a jail break… but this time with help of the Escape Guide, Jesus Christ.
Little did I realize at the time that she was not the only one who needed a jail break. I also needed a jail break, except that I hadn’t yet realized I was being held captive!!
Did you take some hard hits in 2019? I did, and while the enemy of my soul was unsuccessful in his ultimate goal (to get me to deny my faith in God and turn away from the One who sustains me), he did land enough sucker-punches to have me “tagging out” and sitting on the side lines for a while. A long while!
I was weary of soul. I was saddened in my spirit. I was low in my faith for certain areas and concerns of life. And so I sat; catching my breath, licking my wounds. And the longer I sat, the more comfortable I was sitting in my small-but-known little resting place. My wounds healed, but there I remained in my now familiar and somewhat comfortable (or at least tolerably comfortable) surroundings.
I knew I wouldn’t (couldn’t) sit forever, but I was in no hurry to get back up. And while I sat, perhaps mildly depressed in my self-reflection, the enemy built up bars around me!
Turns out I was actually writing to and about myself back in April! I’m the one who needed a jail break!!!!
We all get sucker-punched from time to time, and when the hits are especially hard, we may need to take a little time to recover. That’s what I have been doing, and maybe you are too. But let us not stay there, seated on the sidelines! And let us not get so familiar with being pressed upon that we forget that we have a Champion Friend who will not only help us bear up under pressure, but helps us through to the other side!!
“Do not be afraid-I will save you. I have called you by name-you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through the fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2 GNT)
Thank God for the turning of a calendar page, for as 2019 drew to a close, a restlessness awakened in my spirit and a still small voice whispered to me “speak to the bones”.
Friend, God has called us (you and me) to a life that is full of purpose, joy and victory! So let us speak to the dry and dead bones in our lives, and let us get back into the game!! There is just too much at risk if we don’t – victories that won’t be tasted, destinies that won’t be fulfilled, lives that won’t be changed by the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ!
“He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the LORD … I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life.” (Ezekiel 37:4 GNT)
Truth be told, I’m still a little weary of spirit – a little “wobbly” (wobbly-ness circles back to all of us from time to time). And as much as I long for and pursue spiritual confidence, I am learning to appreciate wobbly-ness as well. Wobbly-ness reminds me of my need for a Shepherd, a Shelter from the storm, and a Savior.
As I prayed about “getting back into the game” in 2020, among other things I felt prompted to commit to write 2 blog posts a month throughout 2020. More as inspired, but at least 2/month. So here’s the first. I hope it speaks to you. And I hope you come back to read one or two more (I will publish the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month), especially if you’re also a “wobbly” soul with “dead bones” buried in the backyard.
Not literally, of course! That would be creepy!!
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.
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”. www puttinghopetowork.com
“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world,
but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.
Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good
and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”
(Romans 12:2 GNB)
A dear friend shared an image with me that she found via Google (yay Google!!). I followed the link and was utterly delighted to read the associated post “Daily Affirmation: Take Every Thought Captive” by Jenny (a different Jenny), author of “The Littlest Way“. I highly recommend you read it through … lots of resources on her site too!
Every time I read this, I can’t help but smile! It’s not my artwork, but it does rather feel like she created it just for me. Don’t you think? 🙂
I’m so grateful that God did the work of “transforming me inwardly by a complete change of my mind.” (YAY GOD!!!)
Learning and Unlearning.
They are both required for true transformation.
Over the next few days I’ll be gathering some of the resources I’ve created over the years and share them with you in an upcoming post (or maybe on a new tab?). In the mean time, please feel free to comment below with a prayer request or to share of your own “transformation / change of mind.”
Have you ever been hoodwinked? I know, I know. It’s an old term that no one uses anymore, but I like the sound of it.
hoodwinked: bamboozled, duped, hoaxed
Of course you have! So have I! I’ve lost count of how many pieces of exercise equipment or magic pills or other resources I’ve purchased over the years that promised to help me loose 10-15 pounds in four weeks while burning away belly fat like it was wax thrown into a raging fire. Or what about that “very reliable and in excellent condition” used car that seemed like such a wise (even frugal) purchase at the time but turned out to be a money pit of repairs! Snookered! Hornswoggled! Deceived!
Generally speaking, “hoodwinked” isn’t a term used in the context of something positive. But when GOD is doing the hoodwinking … well that’s another story.
And that’s exactly what I feel happened to me this year … I got hoodwinked by God!
This same time last year, as is my practice, I was talking with Daddy God about the ups and downs of 2017 and questions I had about 2018. In truth, I was a little bit discouraged on a few fronts – particularly the blogging front. I’d been inconsistently posting throughout 2016 and 2017, in part because I was very busy launching a WOSB, and in part because I was discouraged by a low readership. Questions like “who am I writing this for?” and “if no one is reading this, why am I still writing?” were at the forefront of my mind. I asked the Lord if I should just shut down the blog altogether – and obviously, His answer was no. In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard Him clear His throat (ah-hem) and say “I never told you to stop writing”. Ouch! And that’s how I came about committing to a weekly blog post throughout the year 2018 – and since HOPE was what I needed to experience, I chose the subject “2018: A Year For Hope”
HOPE: a desire accompanied by confident expectation
Fast forward to April 2018. Readership was increasing (what a balm to my heart!) and I was painting again. “OK Lord, I think I can keep this up … what is the next subject?”
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Wanting to honor my commitment to Him to post weekly, I did my best to listen to what He was impressing on me and then post about it … but I still felt there was a bigger subject, something that would take a few weeks to cover (like some of my 2014 and 2015 posts). But I wasn’t hearing what it was … so I just kept doing what I was doing.
And then, after a chance encounter with a young woman at a BigBox store, the Lord impressed upon me to tell my story (top to bottom) in chronological order. There was a part of me that quickly said “Yes, Lord. If that’s what you want me to do, I’ll do it.” But then there was another part that was slightly less enthusiastic about that whole idea. I mean it’s one thing to reveal all your warts and bruises within the context of a known audience (be it a group of trusted friends, or a group of fellow believers, or in a setting where there is still some level of intimacy and perhaps even anonymity). But to put the whole mess out there in cyberspace for anyone to read?? That caused me to pause, and to prayerfully think about it.
I have shared bits and pieces of my story many times over the years, but rarely (if ever) from start to finish. Lets face it, it’s a long story! 🙂
I started sharing my story in week #20 and it took to week #34 to get my story out, and to week #41 to wrap up some loose ends. That’s 21 weeks … about 5 months! That’s a lot of time to be digging around in the dirt of the backyard of your life. But I did it. I obeyed.
When I wrote the prologue for this blog series last December 2017, I had absolutely no idea what God was going to ask of me in May. If I had known, I might not have been so quick to say yes – might not have said yes at all – but by May 2018 I had already committed to writing a weekly blog post and was in desperate need of new subject matter.
Funny, God! Really funny!
He pulled the old bait-and-switch on me!
I got hoodwinked!
And how glad I am about it! As a result of this blog series, and more specifically the posts between #21 and #41, I’ve connected with many amazing people (some still walking through their journey, some on the overcoming side of the fence) who were blessed and encouraged by my candidness in sharing about a neglected and abuse childhood which set the stage for my disastrous choices as an adult. I never would have made these soul-spirit connections if I hadn’t have obeyed.
I also think God has an incredible sense of humor! He must have been smiling big when I prayed for multi-week subject matter in April! (Oh don’t you worry, daughter. I’ve got a subject in mind for you alright!!!!)
He is also extraordinarily kind to me, because never in a million years would I have imagined how healing (even after so much healing already) it would be to chronologically lay out all these pieces of my life. But it was, and in doing so I was able to put some pieces of the puzzle together in a way that I had never seen or understood before. Thank you for that Father!
My prayer in December 2017 was that 2018 would be a year for hope to come alive again in new and exciting ways. That dormant areas of my life would spring to life. That victories prayed and believed for would manifest. That breakthrough would swallow up constraint, and that my eyes would behold in 2018 the marvelous works of God in my life and that of my family.
It truly has been an year of hope for me and I pray it was for you too!
And where we need more hope still for 2019, let us be encouraged that He who began a good work is always (and I mean ALWAYS) faithful to complete it, through Christ Jesus! (Philippians 1:6)
Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year. See you in January 2019, writing about … well, I’m praying about that now 🙂 God bless!
I didn’t post last week. Instead, I celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends. I hope you did the same!
In my last post, I was telling the story of when I heard God “clear His throat”, calling me on the carpet for my attitude. I had been moaning and groaning and complaining … having a very un-Christlike attitude towards my coworkers and managers. (If any of you are reading this, it’s an ugly confession that I’m not proud of, but you know it to be true regardless if admitted or not).
“You are not living up to your name”, He said.
It was sobering moment, like having the mirror turned towards me so that I could see my own reflection … and I did not like what I saw!
“The mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart.” Luke 6:45
Instead of speaking out hope for the goodness of God to be seen in my life (in spite of temporary negative circumstances), I was speaking out words of failure and oppression and mean-spiritedness of the overflow of negativity that I had stored up in my heart as a result of being uncomfortable and frustrated by circumstances and the behavior of others.
So after apologizing to God (for being such a lousy representative of His character in the workplace), I committed to doing some repair work on my heart … because if my heart (mind and spirit) weren’t filled to the point of overflowing with the live-giving promises of God that are well able to turn around any situation I might ever face in life, then there was absolutely no hope of my ever speaking anything but fear and death and failure over my life. And I’d already experienced enough of that!
It didn’t happen overnight, but God is so kind!! He will always make Himself easily found to those who sincerely seek Him. He graciously met me where I was, and as I fed myself on Scripture and scripture-based teachings to encourage my faith, not only did my attitude elevate but my circumstances began to change. And not in the way you might expect.
My Pastor had recently preached a message and in it asked “What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up at night?” He encouraged us that the answers to these questions would help provide insight into the way God had wired us individually to serve God and serve others, and were often were indicators for the profession God had uniquely equipped us for.
I’d long been dreaming about becoming self-employed, so I prayerfully tried to answer those questions with hopes God would reveal a new career path for me. Knowing that I’m hard-wired to help other people, at first I thought to try offering coaching services for professional development on LinkedIn. I led a few workshops within my church, and started envisioning how I might transition that into a part time career.
In the meantime, pressure in the workplace was mounting – and it was evident that something had to give. I had been looking, and had a few positive interviews under my belt – but I was still waiting for a formal job offer.
Then came a women’s weekend event at my church, and my prayer and expectation was that God would give me instruction during the event on what to do. Do I stay (and risk being pushed out of the organization), or do I leave (even before I secured a new job). And in ways that only God can do, He spoke to me through multiple means that weekend (through whispers of the Spirit during worship, through conversations with women during the event, and from the podium from the guest speaker) and I was absolutely confident that He was inviting me to quit my job and take a leap of faith out into the deep waters of the unknown and trust Him to make the way for me.
So I did! The next Monday, I went in and gave my two weeks notice!
“What you ‘SEE’ is where you will go; change your vision, change your life!” ~Bill Winston
And He did! Before the two weeks had run out, He whispered to me to call one of my old managers and ask about representation. Honestly, I really didn’t understand the implications of that at the time … I was simply responding to an inner prompting by the Holy Spirit. I made the call, and within just a few days I had a verbal agreement to become an Independent Sales Rep for them. BOOM!
Which necessitated my incorporating under an LLC.
Me: “I can’t do this Lord. I’ve never owned my own company before. I don’t know anything about how to do this.”
The LORD: “Can you learn?”
And this is how HOPEWELL Companies LLC was born. It’s been 5 years since my first steps towards self-employment, and over 4.5 years since incorporating as a WOSB. What a journey of faith this as been!!
“Your words are the forerunner of the events that are to come.” ~Charles Capps
But back to the painting (completed piece below). Back to the garden spot. Back to the power of the seed sown to either bring life and blessing, or death and cursing into my life. I’ve been so busy trying to run my business, and blog, and lead small groups, and pursue a few personal interests that I’ve become a sloppy gardner. I gotten tired, and distracted, and have been burning the candle at both ends … and as my reward I’ve now got weed-seed growing in my garden.
Time to go back to the basics! Time to pluck out those nasty old seeds of fear and doubt and discouragement and fatigue … and instead plant Living Word-Seeds like PERSISTANCE OF FAITH, DILIGENCE, HOPE IN THE PROMISE, and LOVE.
“Faith is what keeps those dreams alive, even when it seems as though they are dead and buried. That is the very nature of seeds. They go underground. They disappear. And while it may seem like they are dead, they are not. They’re just germinating, beneath the surface.” ~Mark Batterson, Draw The Circle
Have you been tending your garden? Are you harvesting what you want (because you’ve been sowing what you want to reap), or have you been harvesting what you don’t want (because you’ve not been mindful to guard your heart and guard your mouth)?
It is out of the overflow of your heart that word-seeds are planted in the garden spot of your soul. What’s growing in your garden?
It would greatly bless me to hear from you. Please take a moment to comment, encourage, or ask a question below.
======= 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.