Even If…

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These last few months the words resonating in my heart are, “Even If.”

We have had many changes in our life recently and I hate change. My body reacts even when I tell myself everything is fine and all the changes have been for a great purpose and plan.

One of those changes involved us leaving a church of the last five years and follow the Lord in His leading to our next. We knew that we were called but not the why, to our calling.
I told the Lord, even if I don’t have the answers, I will listen to your voice. So in faith, we stepped forward in the plan for our life.

Even though leaving the team of people we had grown to love hurt my heart, I had to obey what I knew to be true and serve my God and husband first. Even if it meant uncomfortable change and new people, a new place and a new level of finding my self in the midst of ministry, I had to say yes.
Even if it means admitting that I took on roles at our previous church that were not my own to take on, in order to try to fill up the restlessness within me.
Even if it meant stepping into a new realm of vulnerability. Even if.

I know there are many purposes for following the Lord in the Even If seasons of our life.
I know that God has done many amazing things in the last 4 months and He has not even touched the surface. But in this process, He has stirred a call I had felt at 15 years old in youth group. Life happened and the leading faded but was never gone. I had begun a collection of paintings in the last few months and titled them “Women of the World.” Little did I know I was painting the very call within my heart…
The call to serve with mission teams.

Here the thoughts would rise up as the stirring would come, but then so would the excuses. Most of which was linked to how I am doing in this season physically. But the thought would not leave that I was called to go and serve.
The stirring rose afresh as I sat with the new church congregation and heard about the heart of serving in Baja Mexico at the Door of Faith Orphanage.
I had every excuse, but the tugging kept coming.
We had no money in savings and the trip was coming fast. I have been in an unbelievable flare physically. We just received additional fees to add to a huge bill from hospital tests and then a few days before DHS sent a bill for overpayment when we were foster parents. This doesn’t account for all the other life needs on hold at the moment.
But mostly my heart I didn’t want to hurt over leaving the orphans and I felt as if I had nothing to offer.
I felt that with my physical limits Dan would have to go and he has absolutely told me over the years this was NOT his area of calling. All these thoughts and excuses rushing my head and I still felt my heart-tugging… EVEN IF. Even if there is no way, God can make the way. Even if there seemed to be too many obstacles, God is able to move those obstacles. Even if I have my doubts…HE is faithful despite them.

So I prayed. I said, God if you truly want me to move in faith as your word says, faith without works is dead, then I am going to be as Gideon and request that you show me without a doubt that it is you that I am hearing and not just my over compassionate mama heart.

These were my conditions as I spoke to the Lord:
I need Dan to go with me. I will not ask.
I need the leader to come to me directly who I have not yet met and tell me that He feels I am to join the team.
I need the provision.

Service was over and Dan leans to me and says, ” I feel like I may be called to go on the mission trip.” I kid you not my mouth about fell to the floor. I may even have laughed out loud. You have to know this is absolutely a tugging from God. He would have not been opened to the idea otherwise.
I was stopped by a friend and visiting after church. I looked over at Dan and He was talking to the leader. Dan called me over and as I was introduced, the team leader said, “God highlighted you to me, I feel you are called to go on this trip.” (paraphrasing as I can’t remember exact words). At this point, I knew and I just nodded my head and said as much.
Now we are waiting on provision and believing for the plan to unfold as we walk out the little hiccups of life in the planning process. The trip is coming fast!
With my lack of knowing where the funds would come from and a time crunch, we had started a go fund me even though I felt so foolish in doing so, I said again…Even If.
The fees for the passport came in first at the Go Fund Me site as well as the cost of plane tickets that were mailed to us. I saw how it was exactly what we needed when we needed it.
We are over halfway to our goal and I know the rest is already accounted for. We are praying for the paperwork we need to move forward will come quickly as Dan had to order his birth certificate before getting a passport. We are on a time crunch. But of course, God already knows this.

I am excited. I know there are many purposes for following the Lord’s leading. But I am still reminded to hold fast to those words… Even If… because often His call does not match my human understanding. Even If I don’t see it, I can rest assured that HE knows it. Even… If.

Jeremiah 29:11 – 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.

 

Love them… Lead them…Let them

67093324_2790312467710925_1143867284050149376_n By: Awakened_Arts 

The first and greatest commandment is to love. So often we hear that Christians are despised because they are judgemental and do not show kindness. Christians often confuse their role of loving someone as they think that because of the love they want to show them the way so much that they do in fact become judgemental.

Looking at the definition of LOVE according to Corinthians…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is THE standard of love. So first and foremost we are to love others as God loves His children. We are to be kind and patient and not dishonor.

With that being said, when we have someone we love we are called to lead when we see a pattern of living in destructive choices. Whether they are a Christian or not, we can lead them. Lead by example, lead by action and lead by sharing wisdom. Sharing is not judging. Sharing is not shaming. Sharing is being honest in love with the hope that abundant life will be the result.
I lovingly shared how I saw all the destruction addiction was having on my loved one.
I lovingly shared that there was a better life. There was a life of goodness waiting. I shared how valuable and loved they were.
Same with my loved ones living an unhealthy lifestyle. I also shared how much I mess up my own walk of healthy choices. Being exposed, real and vulnerable.
The snag here is, often when you lead by sharing a better life, those that are not interested or not wanting a change can get defensive. But I ask you, have they become defensive because you mentioned something that concerns you in love with someone you have an established relationship, or are they defensive because you are pushing an issue that they have given you no place to speak into? Also, are you pushing the issue every time you see them?  There are times you must speak out, no matter the response because you are looking at a 911 situation. But, I admit that I have over spoken when it has not been my place (shocker I know ). I have been so excited for another to receive freedom, that I neglected to see the heart. I neglected the loving them first and foremost. Instead of loving as the father I rushed into the fixing and that is not my place.

We all have choices in this life. We all have the right to live how we choose. There comes a point that when you share what you feel may be healthier and produce abundant life, that if someone chooses not to follow your lead, that you let go.
Love them…lead them…let them.
By insisting someone makes the choices you make and then if they don’t you condemn them, you are giving the very opposite of true love.
This brings to mind, however,  that there are times you have loved, lead and then people living in their choices are in fact destroying you. They may destroy your peace, they may destroy your safety, they may just break you personally because your heart is so attached to them. Again… let them. Let them be in their choices and move on.
Jesus himself said (Matthew 10:14) if they do not receive the message you bring to dust your feet and move on. Invest where the investment is welcomed.

The painting above is titled “Goodbye”. The darkness represents all the hurts and blows from those that have rejected her, shamed her, left her, and not received what she had to offer. But the beautiful colors represent what is ahead as She has loved… She has led…. and now She must Let. It is not her place to carry the weight of an other’s unhealthy choices. It is her place to settle in the JOY of knowing that she did as she was called.
May she never forget that first she was called to LOVE.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Painful

65769712_10219427624986306_3604755773676060672_n Artwork by: Awakened_Arts

Tearing away from old habits can be uncomfortable and even flat out painful.

In my search for a healthier life both physically and spiritually, I have had to cut away people and things that I held on to for comfort that was not healthy for me. In fact, it was painful to let the very people go that were in the long term hurting me far greater than I had known. I cried and I prayed, I missed and wanted to reach out, but these relationships were causing a dependency in my life that was not healthy, for I held the opinions and attention of those people, much higher than I ever should have.

I’ve had to let go of medications that had side effects far greater than their worth, but I had formed a dependency on them after 10 years.  When I stopped taking them, I thought my skin was crawling and my legs were so restless. I had chills and cramping and the reason I took these medications was for pain, and the pain came flooding back in an assault as I was withdrawing. The experience was absolutely painful and the craving to just cover it all up was strong.

Most recently I am having to change my diet (again). I have tried this numerous times but old habits are hard to break and for me, indulgence in food has become one of the hardest. This is very much an uncomfortable process and even at times painful. I am overweight and have diet sensitivities. But man I crave all the wrong things and my emotions are attached to those cravings!
I know I must make a change now before my abilities decrease even more physically. I know when the hard part is over and I have adjusted I feel better mentally and have benefits that far outweigh that cookie or frosting. I must fight all the urges just like anyone else making any lifestyle change. Making a change for the betterment of our life is often uncomfortable in the least, if not outright painful.

I need to build my stamina, I need to regain my physical strength and endurance. I already know from past attempts, this is painful. It is not easy. It is work. My body fights me and one day of working five minutes can hurt for three days. Recovery time, I think to myself, recover from what? What did I really accomplish? But I know, those five minutes can turn into fifteen minutes, then a half an hour, then an hour. I just have to get over the flesh desire to always be comfortable.

And I ask myself, how can I believe for my healing, and continue to do all the wrong things? My very treasure of health is being robbed, and I am absolutely allowing it to happen.
Proverbs 25:28- A  man without self-control, is like a city broken into and left without walls. 


The reward of growth with disciplined lifestyle is far greater than any of the pain that must be walked through. The uncomfortable is a moment but the rewards can be lifelong. Healing, strength, peace, joy and so much more can come from the practice of being disciplined and seeking your best health above all unhealthy habits, despite the painful process.

What have you been fighting because you are afraid or unwilling to go through a period of being uncomfortable? Will you consider that it is time for the best and the uncomfortable will not last forever? Or will you continue to sit in sickness or an unhealthy situation and lifestyle choices because it is not worth the painful process to have better?

I am seriously speaking to my self in this situation. Even now I am craving a candy bar like no one’s business and I am hungry to my core following my recommended calories. I would love to slather a piece of sourdough bread with butter and stuff my face. I know in the past I have tried and failed and tried again.
BUT…

Today, I am choosing one more time to be self-disciplined. Today I am choosing a better life even in my moment of uncomfortable. Tomorrow, I will face the painful workout again even when this body wants to fight me. Because I know that with each victory I gain strength. No longer a slave to the painful, but an overcomer in the uncomfortable. I will not fear, I will not worry and I will not give in to defeat before I have even tried.

Perhaps you have something that needs to be changed in your life. Perhaps you have some things you need to let go of that you hold dear. Patterns, habits, and comforts that are more hurtful than life-giving. It is time to walk through the painful and uncomfortable moments to obtain your best physical and spiritual health, so that not only can you live victoriously but be the most impactful.

 

 

 

 

 

The Empty Box

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I got this prayer box necklace from my aunt years ago and recently it got me to thinking.

Looking at the empty box, I could have worn this as just a pretty necklace over the years, or I could take my prayer and place it in the box, close to the heart. I chose to write my favorite scripture and put it in the box and whenever the necklace moved or I saw it in a reflection I would meditate and believe that word was qualified in my own life.  The empty box did not remain empty.

I use this, as an illustration, to show how we may take the time for our empty box during our downtime. We have spent all day, pouring out our energy and when we stop we are depleted. When we take the time to recharge,  we make choices. Those choices are to leave that box empty, fill it with distraction, or fill it with life.

For a season I found myself filling the empty box with distraction. Such as binge-watching Netflix or spending hours on my social media accounts when I wanted to just ‘chill’. Not before too long it became habitual and without any thought, I pick up my phone first thing in the morning and throughout the day, all day, and mindlessly scroll.
Then there is the other box in the room that grabs my time. As soon as I sit on my couch I would reach for my remote and scroll for an hour looking for something to watch.
Then one day it hit me, did I really just waste an hour (or hours)  scrolling nothingness?

There is a danger for me personally to use ‘nothing’ or distraction during down time. Before too long it becomes same old’ same old’ and if not careful I slip into the melancholy of nothingness and the empty box turns into a life of meh.

Think of your own life, are you working and going home and doing nothing? Is the place that you want to be in 5 years? I ask this because if you are filling your free time with nothingness or distractions, then in 5 years time, you will accomplish only keeping your box empty.

I know this may be an extreme thought, but for me it became extreme. I was created to write, paint, minister and to be present, yet I filled up a season of my life with nothingness and wondered why I was not getting anywhere. It all turned so quickly and without notice went from a few minutes of decompressing daily, into a lifestyle.

I am being exposed here. Not because it is fun to admit it, but because I know I am not alone and my hope is that others will see before the melancholy or time thief sets in. The thief of your time can also be a thief of your joy.

So what can you fill the empty box with?

I am determined to fill my life with things from the Lord through prayer, worship of all forms and pursuit of my future that He has planned for me. I want my empty box to become filled with life. So that I may pour it out onto others and not be running on a nothingness.  So that I may remain young and strong.

Psalm 103:5- He fills my life with good things so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.  

COMMUNITY

54730098_10218592822756772_3689364288650084352_o Awakened_arts 

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller.

I had started a very basic purple painted canvas on the first day of spring.
I asked my social media friends, to share what color they wanted on the picture, fully intending to see who matched what was on my mind for the painting. The interesting thing, everyone had a different idea for the secondary color than mine. As I stood and stared at the purple canvas, deciding which color I would pick, the name of the piece came to me, “Community”. 

This painting wasn’t about one or two solid ideas, but about combining the creativity of many into something of beauty. I took each color that my friends had suggested and I thought of them and prayed as I painted their color. I sought where the Lord would have them impact the piece and prayed for individual situations. A few friends had chosen teal, it didn’t matter, as I applied the color again, a new friend came to mind. Another, shared her idea for the technique to add dimension and direction. This was a wonderful example of community, each contributing, every individual uniqueness adding a new depth and detail as we collaborated. 

This piece alone reminded me of how important it is to be in community with one another. I could have said, ew I don’t like that color, it would never look right, but looking at this painting, it needed every single color whether at first, I thought it would belong or not. As I looked at the painting with each layer I was timid to place more colors, yet a sense of belonging came over me as I saw the work coming together. 

You would not know that two years ago, I had my self hidden away, shying away from the world, from being hurt, from being ignored and passed over. I had a horrible sense of my self. I had lost the knowledge of my worth somewhere on the journey of surviving grief and illness that had reared its ugly head like never before and the depression wanted to take over. In the past, I was swallowed by that depression. I cut everyone and everything off and literally wanted to die.

The amazing thing, this time, depression could not stay! While I started blocking people out of my life, there were the solid, the community that would not let me. There were the people who reminded me of who I am. There were the people that pointed out when I was being flat-out ridiculous and that I needed to stop identifying with what I was facing and start identifying on who God says I am. It was my community that picked me up and reminded me how much ground I have gained and even in this hiccup, it was safe to spread my wings and fly again. 

Community: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Romans 12:5-
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Do I always agree with everything they do? No. Do I enjoy every single personality within my community at every moment? No.  Do I share every single belief and value? No. 

Do I drive people in my community crazy at times? Ah, YAH! 

However, when in the community, despite our human differences we can choose to stay united with a common goal. Intentional to build together, to hold one another up by carrying each other’s burdens and remind each other there is hope in a sea of unknowns.

When the going gets tough, we can be tempted to run from our communities, but all that brings is isolation and loneliness, which in turn becomes bitterness and anger. I think this is why the Lord mentions not forsaking the gathering of our brethren. He knew that we needed far more than to hear our own voice whisper silently to the wind. 

Hebrews 10: 24-25-
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

 

A different lens: Perception

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I recounted a story that changed my perception years ago, at Shaey Anthony on YouTube.
If you are interested, give it a view as it places this blog in a fuller context.

Who am I really? An opinion on Identity.

IMG_0410 Instagram: awakened_arts 

 

Years ago, I was in a bad head space. I constantly measured my identity based on how I felt others saw me: forgotten, sickly, snob, embarrassment, unwanted, boring and whiny to name a few. Now, these thoughts were seeded by the words and actions of a few. But I took those labels and let them take root as a truth that was how most people saw me.

Finally, one day I realized how much other’s thoughts of me were playing on my mind and actions. I was holding back out of fear of how others would label me. As I was praying, I felt the Lord start to work on my heart on the truth of my identity. This got me to thinking, how do people really see me? So, I asked my friends on Facebook to be completely honest, even brutally so, and that it was because I was working on a project.  Their response truly did surprise me. They saw me as Godly,  prophetic, gentle, kind, loving, strong, tender-hearted, caring, worshiper, youthful, bubbly and playful. I did not get one, negative thought pointed out at me. Now for some that did not surprise me, but others that I thought for sure had labeled me, had some of the most encouraging things to say. This lead to an evaluation of the lenses I viewed my identity through.

  • Situational
    What I do or own: Homeschooling mother, Preschool teacher, Worship team member, homeowner, etc.
    Abilities: Illness left me feeling unable to do much and what I did do was not amazing.
    Labels: This has shifted often over the years. But the ones that I was battling were the labels I put on myself. Worthless, weak, depressed, sick, etc.
  • Word of God-
    (was not walking in this as my identity at the time)

The problem with the measuring identity on circumstances is that they are ever-changing and contradicted what the word of God says about my identity.
I learned I was living in a situational identity. What happens when your identity is based on your situations and then things shift in a way that you absolutely hate? You no longer can identify with that part of you that you loved or took pride in. This is often the source of ‘midlife crisis”. Things shift and all of a sudden you have lost the identity you once knew because it was set on a situational foundation.

So imagine how my life felt like it was spinning out of control and I had nothing and was nothing when everything shifted. I was no longer a home school mother, my boys didn’t need me that way anymore, I could no longer be a preschool teacher and I had seasons of not being able to serve on a worship team. I couldn’t and still can’t drive more than a few miles at a time.

When my situation was that I was sick, walking in a season where my illness was everything in front of my eyes, so that is all I saw in my identity, how life-giving is that?
Basing my identity on what I had, imagine how it felt when I lost it all. We lost our home and were no longer homeowners. How does this thought process on identity measure up? What would those like myself now feel when they ‘own’ nothing? No business, no home, or like me if they are even more like me what they do own is debt?”

For many, if things are going well and they find their identity in what they do, they are looking to achieve more, and when they don’t see the progress they hope for they feel defeated.

If we find our identity in what we think about ourselves or what others think of us, we will aim to please people and not our heavenly father.

Thoughts and labels, like I said earlier, were the biggest battle I was walking in with my identity. When I was young, others always told me I was skinny and pretty, but when I got older my face sagged and wrinkles are arriving, hair became thin and straw like and you know it, I grew ‘fluffy’ over time. This hit hard, as I saw value in my younger self but not as an older woman. I took the label ugly.
Secondly, in the labels department, because I had a biological father that didn’t want me born (abortion), and an adoptive father that made statements I wasn’t really his after the divorce, I was always waiting for the next person to leave and constantly had a thought that I was not enough. If I was a boy like my adoptive father always wanted, maybe I could have liked the things he liked more and when he divorced my mom, I would have still had a connection. He would have at least called me to go hunting or fishing, or something, but he didn’t and I again took on the label unwanted. The constant thought ran through my mind, what if I had lost my husband, like the two fathers that thought I wasn’t enough.

Most of my identity being skewed was because of a lack of true understanding. Now, I knew the things that the word of God said that I had been taught over the years, but I knew them in my head, they were not a deeply seeded revelation that I was LIVING.

And the crazy thing is, I viewed others through the lenses of Jesus. I saw their identity of worth and value, but I could not see my own.
Over time, I learned how to go from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
In order for the word to become deep seeded in my life, I have found I need to read the word and pray for the revelation to become real to me. When I  am finding I still struggle, I need to spend time in prayer and fasting. This is preparing the soil for strong roots to take hold.

WHO GOD SAYS I AM: 

* Created: 
Ephesians 2:10- For we are Gods masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

God made me uniquely His. He gave me my very own fingerprints and DNA. He wanted me here on this earth and has a purpose set aside for me! My identity is created, this will not change!

* Chosen Child of God:
Ephesians 1:-5- Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

1 Peter 2:9- But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, Gods very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into the light.

John 1:11-12- He came to His own people and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.

Chosen, He will not leave me abandoned. He has filled the place in my heart crying out for adoption. He has made me His own with my belief and acceptance of Him! My identity is chosen and His, this will not change!

*Loved:
1 Thessalonians 1:4- We know dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and chose you to be His own people.

Understanding the Lord’s love for me has helped me to love myself. All that I am and all that I am not, I can love every part of me. My identity is loved, this will not change.


*Restored:

1 Corinthian 1:30-31- God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit, God made Him to be wisdom itself.
Christ made us right with God. He made us pure and Holy and freed us from sin. Therefore as the scripture says, if you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.

I am freed from sin! Through Jesus, I can walk in grace and strength. He has made me right before God and I don’t need to hide in shame and worthlessness. I was living in a lie. My identity is that I am restored, this will not change.

*New Creation:
2 Corinthians 5:16-17- So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ as merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone. A new life has begun!

1 Corinthians 6:11- And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. 

New! Let that sink in.
I have been made new! I do not have to live in the old lies that I am not enough. I do not need to live bound by the old lies. I have freedom. My identity is that I am a new creation, this will not change.

He has established all of His word in my heart. Everything, His word says about me, applies to me as His child. If you have excepted His truths in your heart and walk in His ways, Your identity to is secure and steadfast, never changing. All these truths I discovered apply to you as well.
Created, chosen child of God, loved, restored and a new creation. This is my identity and it will not change!
When we see ourselves as God sees us, we walk in confidence in Him, not our own abilities. We are able to pursue the things He has called us to, knowing that He has equipped us with all we need. We do not waiver in our authority because we know where it is firmly found.
He gives us the ability to change our circumstances when we are fighting battles, not for our circumstances to change who we are. We can be steadfast in Him.

Let His word settle into your heart and give a listen to this encouraging song:

You Say: By Lauren Daigle

View my LIVE on this topic at my Channel Shaey Anthony

Follow up scriptures to meditate on this week:
John 1:5
Jeremiah 2:21
Romans 6:6
Romans 8:14
Romans 12:2
2 Corinthians 12:9
1 John 4:17