Life Giver

My very first photo as a mom right after giving birth to my 1st in a tub.

I helped create a human- 6 humans to be exact; one just met our Maker in paradise sooner than the rest of us.

I try to remind myself of that fact as I look in the mirror picking apart every flaw I see staring back at me.

My newest little beauty is only 4 days old. 4 DAYS old. I’m 30 now. I haven’t slept probably more than an hour and a half straight since she was born. Her nights and days are reversed. My usual birth weight loss accompanied by water weight of about 20 pounds the first half a week just didn’t happen this time. It’s a good morning now when I’ve lost at least her birth weight in pounds. Instead, I’ve experienced more swelling- I didn’t even know that was possible without an IV & having an all-natural birth with no interventions. My usual dark circles under my eyes have grown darker, my puffy face paler. My once, the only thing I can usually count on eyes seem smaller, and my hair limp. My once small midsection with a visible 4 pack of abs has long been separated & what has taken its place is more like a deflated air balloon that sadly hangs over. While I was hoping my screwed up back that I had at least the last 3 months of pregnancy would magically heal when I birthed my baby, it realistically didn’t & still causes such pain that I can barely walk or get up at times. I gained more weight this pregnancy than any of my others, and I’ve always gained a lot no matter what I’ve done to prevent it. Frankly, I don’t want to be seen. I find my body and myself embarrassing. When I think about having to show up places, I just cry. I keep telling my husband that someday I won’t always look this way and find myself crying all over again. Talk about embarrassing.

However, when I look at the beautiful 8 pound, 7 ounce human being I brought into this world, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. She was worth it. She was worth every pound I’ve gained, every battle I’ve faced along the way, and the slow-motioned finish line crossing I envisioned as I tried to breathe through the ring of fire pain of her crowning so that I wouldn’t experience another pro-lapsed uterus like I did during the one forceful push I got her brother right before her out in.

You see, these human beings I birthed into this world have birthed a warrior out of me. They made me realize I’m stronger than I could ever imagine. That I could push through and cross those finish lines even with abs separated, a screwed up back, and all odds against me. They’ve made me realize that the best, most beautiful and worthy treasures come not only on the opposite side of the most laborious pains, but through them. That the rainbows wouldn’t come without the storms. That the closest I could ever come to relating to what Jesus felt and how much He loves us was when I allowed my body to be a living sacrifice through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth, and how worth it I’ve thought all my kids were even on their worst days.

I looked into the mirror again tonight and I saw that I’m not what I want to be yet. I won’t give up where I’m at and look this way forever. My body will heal, and I won’t give up. If I were looking at someone else in the same situation as me, I’d tell her to look at all she’s gone through and what she’s brought into the world because of it. I would tell her, “You are not to be pitied. You are fierce; and you’re a warrior. You just went through a tough battle, and you need to be gentle on yourself. The enemy wants you to feel defeated and pitiful because that’s the only thing he has to throw your way now, and his lies are only powerful when you agree with them. You’ve already won when you brought life into this world, and the enemy hates any bearer of His image. Now’s not the time to back down now. Someday, the circumstances will change, and the life bearers you brought into this world will bring forth life in so many different ways, and all this time will be but a mere shadow that was quickly passed in the grand scheme of things. For now, please be gentle with yourself. God gently leads those who are with young, little lamb. Hold your head high. You would never see others the way you see yourself now.  You, beautiful life giver, are an image bearer of the King who brought life into this world. Enjoy the lives you helped create, and embrace the life giver that you are.” 

Random Thoughts

625449134810a0c8ae7be761a0ed627dI had a very vivid dream this morning followed by some random thoughts that I can’t get out of my head so thought I’d share. It was just going to be the first paragraph or so on a status & kept growing so here it is on my site. 😉 This is to no one in particular-for real- just in general & to myself even.

If you feel like you HAVE (meaning you have absolutely no desire to, but feel the need to, not that you must because of a great desire) to share the gospel, maybe you still need to hear it yourself. The gospel by its very definition means GOOD NEWS. If what you have to share isn’t good news, then it’s not the gospel & could very well be intermixed with the shackles of a religious mindset. I don’t know about other people, but when I have good news, I have a really hard time holding it in. The people who were touched or healed by Jesus in the Bible did too- even when He told some to try to keep it to themselves or just share with their family. That’s just what good news does. It begs to be shared. The people who have it have a hard time keeping it in & the people receiving it usually want to hear it.

Jesus is the desire of the nations (Haggai 2:7). The nations DESIRE Him. If you’re a Christian; at one point, you did too. Remember the darkness you were in when you first heard of Him, & put yourself in other people’s shoes. We were comforted in order to comfort others. Share what He did for you, & in so doing, wants to do for somebody else. There is NO one too far gone-even yourself. If you have a hard time believing it over yourself, but would never tell that to anybody else, maybe you need to forgive yourself. I know I do & have had to many times.

“The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” In Revelation, the saints overcome the accuser of the brethren (Satan), by the blood of the Lamb & the word of their testimony. Nobody can take your testimony from you. That’s your personal experience. Many would love for it to be shared! As I’ve shared before, when I was around 6, I broke my collarbone so badly that the dr. told me he wasn’t sure if it would fully heal. I went to a church that night with my mom & people were sharing their testimonies how after being in a drought, their nation repented & God healed their land. They had vegetables bigger than people’s arms from what I remember. Nobody even prayed for me. I just thought while watching it that if God could do that for those people, surely He can heal my arm. As soon as I thought that, He did. I felt it & raised my arm with no pain & excitedly yelled without thought of where I was, “God healed me!” & remember the whole church gathering around me praising God for what He had done. That’s the power of the testimony of Jesus. If God did it for someone else, He can & wants to do it for you. Don’t be jealous over God’s blessings; receive them for yourself! God is no respecter of persons!

It’s not God’s will that ANY should perish. Jesus’ name means “God saves”. God doesn’t need us, but He WANTS us. God cared about us so much that He stooped down to our level & came in the form of a baby- Jesus, for the very reason to seek & save those who are lost. We’re ALL lost without Him. If you don’t believe that, then you’re believing a lie.

Also, if you’re wasting time accusing people who could be your brethren, you’re wasting your energy & might just be following the one you call your enemy as he is the accuser of the brethren. Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” My pastor just spoke about sectarianism yesterday & it’s probably the best word I’ve ever heard on it & a little of what I’ve been talking to my husband about lately after seeing different Christians accuse others of being false teachers. He shares it so much better than I could so please listen (part 6 when it’s added- it is OH SOOO GOOD, everything I’ve heard has been though-so feel free to listen to others as well!).

C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I’ve seen a hurtful, manipulative status shared that has accused others of not being Christians just for disagreeing with the way to deal with Syrian refugees. Honestly, I’m on the fence with that one. I see wisdom on both sides regarding the issue. I don’t believe it’s ever been the government’s job to take anyone in. It’s the government’s job to protect us. I can see why so many people don’t trust our leader (though I do believe that God calls us to respect him in his position) & seeing his reaction to different governors wanting to protect their states has felt really manipulative. I do feel it is our Christian duty to love others & do unto them what we want done to us & maybe God is calling different Christians to invite others into their homes & love on them. If God is calling you to do that, please do. I don’t think it’s okay to force that on others though or to say they’re not Christian if they don’t feel the same way as you do on that. God has called different people to do different things. The legs of a body aren’t called to do the same things as the hands. We as Christians are the body of Christ. To say someone isn’t being a part of the body because they don’t feel called to do the same thing as another part of the body is just silly. If you’ve seen “Inside Out”, you should know that all the feelings are an important part of the body. 😉 We all need to work together & love each other. When we pick apart each other, we’re doing exactly what Satan wants us to do & isolating each other so he can attack easier. We lose our strength. There is strength in love, strength in joy, & strength in number. Don’t isolate others just because they’re called differently than you.

Along the lines of what my pastor shared yesterday, God is so big, we can’t even comprehend Him fully. We’ve only seen glimpses of God. Surely He can give others a different experience than we’ve had. Surely He can speak to others different aspects of Himself than He has to us. That’s why we need each other & to hear others’ testimonies to see more of the whole picture. Honestly, I’ve had a hard time understanding how God can give different people so much love for the refugees but not their own brothers & sisters in Christ. Frankly, if I were others looking in at how we’re treating our family, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it. Maybe your brothers & sisters are being Pharisaical. Maybe you are. Maybe I am. Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Maybe we should stop wasting our energy trying to decide who’s being what & doing the job they’re supposed to do & just focus on what we are called to do. I feel like I have to tell my kids that on a minute by minute basis at times! “Stop focusing on whether or not others are doing what they’re supposed to be doing & just make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” I know I struggle with that at times, but I’m trying to improve & maybe these thoughts are doing the same things I’m saying not to do. I don’t know. I just know I’m called to love God & love others & share the things I feel like God wants me to share. I couldn’t shake these thoughts this morning & thought maybe I should share them. Maybe we are supposed to allow refugees over here, & maybe we aren’t. I don’t think calling other people who don’t agree with us not Christian is going to change anybody’s mind, & even if it did, it would be in a controlling, manipulative, unhealthy way & nobody would enjoy being led that way. We’re better than that. We’re God’s children & Jesus’ brothers & sisters as He’s the firstborn among many brethren. Maybe we should just do our best to follow His example, & in so doing, people will want to follow us, just like they wanted to follow Him. We just need to be making sure WE are following the way, the truth, & the life & leading others to Him. All else is just meaningless, joyless, perverse (devoid of truth). The truth sets people free. We are supposed to set people free as Jesus did.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Who doesn’t want to be free? I know I do. I think others do too. 🙂

Embrace Your Mess

     ~*Art grows out of each particular situation, and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up.*~
                                                                          -El Anatsui (Artist)

As an artist, I normally have a vision in mind when I create something. It’s that vision that always gets me started, and it’s that vision that carries me through the tedious, monotonous, and often draining process that creating can often have. Sometimes I embrace those times and enjoy the process, but part of me gets so excited about my vision finally coming together that sometimes it can just seem so draining during the long process it might take to make the best masterpieces. Often, I get a vision and think, “I can do this. If it can be done, I can do it. God’s given me that gift.”

As with any piece of art, before it really starts coming together, it doesn’t look anything like the vision I had in mind. Sometimes it looks nothing short of a big mess. If anybody else sees my unfinished piece, I often find myself either feeling like I need to explain my vision or reassure them and myself, it won’t look like this in the end. Often, I start doubting myself and my abilities during that time and wonder what in the world I got myself into. Thankfully, the vision I had in mind and the passion God has given me or sometimes even just the fact that I have to get my artwork done helps push me to finish the final steps of my creation. I never regret it when I do.

There have been times that the piece might not be entirely what I had in mind, but I’ve grown to learn during those times that they can always be corrected and perfected. All artwork can be. Some of the greatest masterpieces in museums were done over an old piece of art due to the lack of money an artist might have had during their time- as the term “starving artist” didn’t come out of nowhere and most artists weren’t made famous until after their lifetime.

As a perfectionist, there have been times I’ve feared my mistakes or the messy part of art. There have even been times I’ve dreaded my gifts or hated that other people knew of them. I grew to resent them because when you create something great at a young age, then people just expect greatness all the time or expect you to get even greater. Sometimes it was myself and my own expectations- which can lead to a fear of mistakes and the process it takes to get better.

However, to become a great creator, you can’t fear the mistakes and the messy process. Often, as mentioned before, the greatest masterpieces come from the worst beginnings. I experienced this firsthand when I created my latest piece, “The Heavens Declare” when I decided to do acrylic underneath of oil. Paintings often require many layers and it was my first time using acrylic paint on canvas and I decided to use it originally because I knew that it dries faster and I had a quick-approaching time frame, but also grew to realize I could use it with the oil paint to create the effect I want for the angels. However, the first few layers looked like a huge mess and I was embarrassed when we had two different visiting families at our house during the unfinished process and kept reassuring them and myself that it wouldn’t look like that in the end. Thankfully, it doesn’t and ended up being better than I could fully envision. Here’s the final product:

THE HEAVENS DECLARE. Original is 36" x 36", 2013. Oil over acrylic on canvas.

THE HEAVENS DECLARE. Original is 36″ x 36″, 2013. Oil over acrylic on canvas.

 

My husband- who hasn’t always appreciated art- thinks it’s my best piece. *smile*

Sometimes I forget that God’s a Creator too. Obviously, He’s the Creator of the universe, but sometimes I think people forget that He’s not just the Creator of the universe, He functions as a Creator as well. Only He not only has a vision for each of our lives, He also has the whole picture in mind. Each of us are His masterpieces. Often, we go through messy times in our lives or we might go through a tiresome or draining season where we forget the vision of ourselves He has in mind. We forget that we are His creations and He has our best in mind and we get fearful of the messy process He’s leading us through or the fact that He has our whole picture laid out before Him and has the passion and vision to carry Him through our messy process. He will always finish a work He’s started in us.

Oftentimes, during these seasons, others who can’t see the vision over their own lives or who just have a hard time believing the visions God has spoken over them try to discourage others from believing God’s vision. Maybe it’s because He started a work in them in the past and the difficult seasons were too much that they couldn’t see the visions He had in mind for them anymore. Maybe their unbelief caused them to doubt the new creations God was starting as they were once new creations and they felt the need to speak their unbelief over the new creations. Maybe it was jealousy over another creation’s beauty after not seeing the beauty God had in mind for them. Maybe it was just not understanding God had to bring others through a messier season to create the work He had in mind for them. Maybe it was just hurt.

The messy seasons are HARD. So hard. It’s hard to keep the vision God has in mind for us sometimes when nothing in our lives looks like the vision He has spoken over us. It’s hard to see ourselves the way God sees us when not only do we have a hard time believing, but others are speaking their doubts over us and have a hard time envisioning the final picture as well. People often act out what they believe about themselves and it can be a very harmful thing to speak words of death over God’s creations no matter the reason. God wants us to trust Him with the process- even with the messy seasons…especially with the messy seasons.

suffering quote

It isn’t always other people though. Obviously, it normally comes off as an attack from a person, but we often forget that we’re fighting in a spiritual battle and we take what others say to heart not realizing they’re fighting their own battles. In case you haven’t noticed, Satan hates God’s creations and seems to especially hate new life/creations, creators, and life-givers (you can be a life-giver without being a physical mom. I believe that with all my heart.) It seems like during the messy seasons, he uses his army and others to try to take away the vision God has given us. Unfortunately, with how discouraging these seasons can be, many of us place our trust in what Satan or others speak over us rather than continuing to trust in God.

I know I did for a time. Like the prodigal son, I stopped believing in my Father’s love for me. There were a lot of people believing and speaking lies over me and I was in a really oppressive environment and I started believing them and acting out those lies spoken over me. I stopped hoping for the vision God had for me, and I know I had a hard time at times even being around other people who were already beautiful creations or who had the joy that new creations have, thinking that if only they experienced what I had gone through, they would understand. It was very dangerous and very harmful. I don’t know that I actually spoke those lies out loud, but I know I believed them over myself and others at times. I wanted so badly to believe what God had spoken over me during other seasons of my life, but I lacked the vision He had. I couldn’t see the whole picture.

When God started restoring my husband’s life, he said he was praying for me and he felt like God was saying how all these hard things I was going through were needed for me to become God’s beautiful bride He had in mind. At the time, I wanted so badly to hope for that and loved the thought, but was also so hurt by the messy seasons in my husband’s life, it was so hard to see. However, my husband’s extreme transformation started getting me to hope again. One of the greatest changes I saw and felt in his life was how much freer he was to be around. He didn’t feel the need to be controlling anymore and realized God can use anything. It was that freedom that I experienced that helped set me free.

While I wouldn’t wish upon anyone some of the things I’ve gone through (not just in my marriage)-and I know some others have gone through worse- and would have a hard time choosing to go through those times again with how hard it was to keep God’s vision, I’m so so thankful that nothing I did ever worked. While I know I’m a pretty good artist at times, God is the absolute best. I couldn’t have created the masterpieces He has given me with my husband and kids and I’m so thankful for them.

Sometimes, it seems that the more we do “for God”, rather than allowing God to do the work in and through us, we forget that He makes all things new. We limit Him to creations He’s already done, to books He’s already inspired, not realizing that He only included the testimonies and stories that are in the Bible to show us how vast His creations can be and how nothing’s impossible for Him. John 21:25 says:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

So, please allow Him to write a new story in and through you. Ask Him to give you His vision for yourself and others. Be a life-giver, not a life-taker. Be a visionary like Him, not an accuser of the brethren. God wants to free us and help us free others-not hold others captive by our fear of the messy He’s working in us or other people’s lives. He doesn’t fear it and neither should we. He makes all things new and some of the greatest masterpieces start out with the messiest lives.

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P.S.~ I just stumbled upon this video and it has so much that God’s been laying on my heart lately and went so well with this, that if you have 40 or so minutes, it is so worth it! *Not for those listening to a religious spirit, or maybe especially for those with a religious spirit.*

Flesh and Blood

I think one of the hardest and most important things to remember is that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. There’s a real enemy out there that has so easily deceived us into thinking that people are the problem. Somebody cuts us off in traffic, and we go off on them (not that most of them can hear us anyway). Somebody hurts our feelings, does something we don’t like, or just is somebody we don’t like or that we don’t agree with, and how many times do we find ourselves gossiping about them as if we’re better than them or if they just didn’t exist or if we weren’t around them, we would be happier and life would be better?

Sometimes I find myself wishing people or problems away and of course, it just doesn’t work. I’ve not only fought or tried to run away from people or problems at times, but also God. I thought God brought this person into my life and He knows the beginning and end and everything in-between, so why didn’t He just not bring someone into my life who’s going to hurt me so badly?

God doesn’t work that way. He cares too much about us to work that way. He cares too much about me to work that way. I always have to remind myself that. Since when has life been just about being happy or easy? Since when has it even been about me?

If you go into life or marriage or anything really thinking it’s all about making you happy; I’m guessing you’re going to be sorely disappointed. To be honest, I knew this was going to be hard work. Everything good in my life has come from either hard work or blessings or both. Honestly, if I really thought about it, and I didn’t dwell on how hard everything would be, how hard everything is, I’d want it that way. There’s no growth with no challenge. But also, we’re in a great spiritual battle. Not just when we want to be. Not just when we’re ready to be. But always. Always. With each and every decision we make, we can choose to be on God’s side or Satan’s. Seriously, it’s as simple and yet scary as that. Those voices we hear telling us to lie or cheat or look at porn or steal, or basically anything outside of God’s will aren’t necessarily our own fleshly voices, and they’re not necessarily a part of us.

It’s amazing how easily we forget:

 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
-Ephesians 6:12

If you know what it’s like to be tempted, to give into that temptation, and then feel so ashamed afterwards, do you really think it was you telling yourself to do those things? We are in a war! Do you really think our enemy that goes to and fro throughout the whole earth (Job 1:7) is going to let you off that easily-I mean, especially, especially, if you’re doing anything for God, His enemy, or are even in a marriage, what’s meant to be a picture of Christ’s love for the church? He HATES that picture and will do ANYthing and everything to destroy it. If you’re being attacked constantly, maybe you’re doing something right. After all, why would our enemy feel the need to really attack someone who’s not a threat?

And here I am. I’ve been attacked. I’m worn. I’ve been hurt more times than I can even count or even care to at this point, because every time I even think back on it, I just get angry. And I want to hurt the person who’s hurt me. Or leave them. The person who’s sided with our enemy so many times and hurt me deeply. The person I should be able to trust more than anyone and yet I have no safe haven to rest in. Sin ALWAYS hurts and affects people. ALWAYS. There are no exceptions.

But then I’m reminded of all the times I’ve messed up. All the times I’ve hurt God deeply for siding with our enemy, whether I realized it at the time or not. All the times I thought my ways were better than God’s ways and have had to face the consequences. How utterly lonely I was when I would turn from God and have no one to run to, nowhere I felt safe and at home. How completely devastated I was in myself for screwing up again. And again. “Would I ever get this right?” The feelings of being completely ashamed of not being the person God created me to be and running away from my purpose. I could go on and on. Not to mention, all the people I hurt in my path during those times. And how much I needed someone, an anchor, a safe haven to rest completely in then, when I deserved it the least. And God was and is ALWAYS there for me then. When I’ve screwed up the most, and deserved His love the least. And that’s exactly what our enemy wants us to forget. He wants us to forget the One who loves us. He wants to trip us up and then have us be so ashamed that we run away from the only One who can bring us back. The only One who truly, deeply loves us.

And that’s part of what love is. Accepting someone completely after they’ve made so many mistakes you’ve lost count. L O N G suffering. Being there for the person after they’ve hurt you deeply and even when it hurts to be in the same room as them. Doing what’s best for them and others and not giving up despite feeling like you’re going to fall apart and looking to the only One who can hold this fragile cord together. And still giving them your best whether you’ll get it in return or not. This life has never been about me. It’s never been about my happiness. It’s never been easy; and at this rate, I don’t even know if I can hope for it.

But as I make the tough choice to love someone who’s betrayed me once again, dwelling on who God is and what He’s done for me, I can’t help but think of all the times He’s felt this same exact feeling, from me and others. And how hard it must have been. How it would have been so much easier for Him to take away our free will and make us love Him; and yet He knew we would betray Him over and over again, and He still loved us enough to give us the choice to choose Him. He believes in us that much. His love is so strong for us that it can win us over. And I have to believe that when I allow His love to shine through me, it’s strong enough to win this battle.

I’m not giving up. Love never gives up. Love never fails. And while at times it’s easy to forget who the enemy is, and I may direct my anger at the wrong person; I’ve been trying to remind myself that we’re all people. We make mistakes. Sometimes constantly. If we didn’t make mistakes, we’d be God. And we all desperately need Him. Myself included. Especially myself. But God has always loved me in spite of it, and maybe at times because of it. He completes me and He’s transforming me. And when I place my trust in Him, not only is my love unshakable, it’s strong enough to win not only the battle for myself, but my family. And what better picture of Christ’s love can there be?